Outstanding Directing Training: AFI Conservatory
A two-year MFA program in any of AFI’s six disciplines inducts you into an exclusive group of creators: 140 fellows in total per year, to be exact. The competitive and hands-on directing program focuses on narrative, visual language and performance. The school is at the forefront of inclusion (47 percent of the current cohort are female), and is grooming a diverse new wave of moviemakers. Revolutionary directing alumni include Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins, Terrence Malick, Andrea Arnold and Darren Aronofsky. AFI is the least expensive graduate opportunity for an institution of such reputation—no other school has accumulated more Academy Award nominations and wins.
Accomplished Faculty: California College of the Arts
When a two-time Oscar-winner is the film program’s co-chair, it’s safe to assume standards are high. At this San Francisco- and Oakland-based school, documentarian Rob Epstein, who received his statuettes for The Times of Harvey Milk and Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, spearheads a team of educators that range from accomplished independent director Chris Mason Johnson (Test) to expert sound mixer Dan Olmsted and Emmy-winning Guggenheim Fellow Jack Walsh.
Outstanding Animation Training: California Institute of the Arts
Top-Notch Equipment and Facilities: Chapman University
Accelerated Industry Access: Loyola Marymount University
The application of classroom theory in a real-world environment is what elevates the student to the professional. LMU has strong ties to industry heavyweights such as 20th Century Fox, Disney, Nickelodeon, Sony, DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures. Each year the Los Angeles school places 200 of their best students at internships with these companies. To ensure that these opportunities are as personalized as possible, students have access to career development staff, who counsel them on their transition into the moviemaking workforce.
Outstanding Editing Training: National University
Because its MFA programs, including the popular Digital Cinema Production, are offered in a hybrid online/on-site format, National University is viable option for students whose studies coincide with other commitments. (Alumni often cite this flexibility as a crucial draw—though the program also includes an intensive one-month residency in Los Angeles.) While the Digital Cinema curriculum touches on all aspects of production, it features five separate courses on editing and sound design. Though he had “managed to accumulate the knowledge necessary for a career editing television,” one student says, enrolling in NU was crucial to “bringing my career to the next level.”
Outstanding Theory and Criticism Training: Portland State University
Forget about basic “film history”—the in-depth courses at PSU are sure to inspire academic curiosity. Suzanne Gray, marketing and communications manager at the school, calls the “strong curriculum and faculty” in the criticism arena a major attraction. A sample of course options: “Forbidden Love in Israeli Film,” “Transnational Stardom,” “Danish Films from Dreyer to Dogme” and “Disney: Gender, Race, and Empire.” There’s a class on the theory and practice of the remake, another on music videos, one on mockumentaries… and the list goes on.
Outstanding Screenwriting Training: University of California, Los Angeles
Outstanding Cinematography Training: University of Colorado, Boulder
Founded by iconoclastic independent moviemaker Stan Brakhage, the CU-Boulder film department is the place to experiment with the medium. The school offers courses emphasizing the technical and aesthetic aspects of both digital and analog cinematography, making sure students cut their teeth on 8mm, Bolex, 16mm RX and (later) Blackmagic Pocket Cinema cameras. Complementing these are classes dedicated to lighting and an immersive camera workshop. Students can also work as a projectionist at the school’s very own art-house theater, home to its International Film Series, established in 1941.
Outstanding Producing Training: University of Southern California