U.S. Midwest and Southwest
Columbia College Chicago – Outstanding TV writing and business studies
Writer-producer-actor extraordinaire Lena Waithe (Master of None, Them) studied at this school, which offers a unique BFA combining the art of television writing with the business of managing productions. This hybrid education produces graduates with high-level writing skills and sound business acumen and entrepreneurial thinking, allowing more control over any creative endeavor they take on in the industry. “Students are mentored by working professionals in world-class facilities, provided with opportunities to work on production lots in Chicago and Los Angeles, and enmeshed in an active and engaged alumni network,” Thelma Vickroy, chair of the Cinema and Television Arts department, tells MovieMaker. “Graduates grow to become visionaries in their fields and are represented in a multiplicity of roles in narrative film, television, documentary, screenwriting and new media.” The four-year program concludes with a capstone thesis project, collaborating with students pursuing other disciplines in the medium, while intensive workshops provide a taste of “writer’s room” life. And advanced classes in executive management and digital media strategies prepare students to become the showrunners of tomorrow.
DePaul University (Chicago) – Outstanding animation training
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan) – Outstanding film and media studies
University of Missouri, Murray School of Documentary Journalism (Columbia, Missouri) –Outstanding documentary training
Whether you’re an aspiring auteur or want to pursue a more commercial path, nonfiction opportunities are plentiful: Documentaries are more popular than ever, thanks to the explosion of reality television and streaming services’ seemingly insatiable appetite for multi-part deep dives. This focused master’s program was launched back in 2014 after a $6.7 million gift from UM alum Jonathan B. Murray, an Emmy-winning producer and chairman of Bunim/Murray Productions, and is spearheaded by filmmaker-in-chief Robert Greene — director of the Sundance award-winning doc Kate Plays Christine — and award-winning journalist Stacey Woelfel. Both bring a wealth of experience to guide students through a very thorough 40-credit program exploring theory, ethics and research methods, along with the production skills required to bring stranger-than-fiction stories to life through long-form documentary storytelling. The visiting artist program connects students to major moviemakers like Garrett Bradley (Time), Kirsten Johnson (Dick Johnson Is Dead), and Yance Ford (Strong Island). “For us the idea is to help our students gain a deep understanding of the complex aesthetics and ethics of documentary filmmaking while they also learn who they are as filmmakers and people,” Greene tells MovieMaker. “With the world’s oldest and best journalism school as our backbone, we apply the hands-on ethos known as the Missouri Method to go out and create original, daring, personal and impactful documentary films.” Woelfel adds: “The center builds on the 113-year history of the Missouri School of Journalism, which has always put experiential learning first. Just as the school runs a daily city newspaper and a commercial, network-affiliate television station, our program operates a film production company, Method M Films, to give students the opportunity to make documentary content that audiences will actually get to see.”
The University of Texas at Austin – Outstanding film and media production training
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee – Outstanding cinematic arts training
Whether you’re preparing to study for a bachelor’s degree or want a master’s in cinema, this school offers an outstanding education for career-minded cinephiles. The Film, Video, Animation & New Genres department, made up of passionate artists, makers, professionals and scholars, is tailored toward cultivating independent artistic expression over commercialism. Students receive a holistic education, participating in every aspect of the filmmaking process to better understand how every role works together. The curriculum balances essential theory courses with production, offering a variety of facilities to shoot and edit projects. It also offers classroom and creative space in Oscar winner John Ridley’s 40,000-square-foot Nō Studios filmmaking hub in the historic Pabst Brewery complex. Students who want practical professional experience have the opportunity to work with Doc|UWM, which functions like a small production company, producing short and feature-length documentary films for hire. “Our students think through doing and do through thinking,” Stephen Wetzel, the chair of the film department, tells MovieMaker.
Continue for the U.S. Northeast schools of our Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada 2021