San Francisco State University 

The foggy setting of Vertigo and The Game is also home to reasonable tuition and a uniquely broad MFA track. The Master of Fine Arts in Cinema offers rigorous, professional training in cinema production that also emphasizes history, theory and aesthetics. SFSU is also part of the Western Regional Graduate Program which allows MFA students from 16 states and territories the ability to enroll as non-residents while paying the lowest in-state tuition costs. And SFSU’s on-campus club, Cinema Collective, meets weekly and helps student-filmmakers gain tangible tools through pitch deck and screenwriting workshops, as well as invaluable inspiration and feedback through film screenings.


Santa Monica College

(Santa Monica, California)

Located just blocks from the ocean, SMC is the perfect school for those seeking an affordable but robust education near the heart of the industry. California is known for strong community colleges, and SMC is one reason why: There is a well-worn path of aspiring filmmakers who save money by attending SMC for two years, collecting filmmaking and general education classes before they earn a B.A. elsewhere. SMC credits transfer to University of California or Cal State schools. Salvador Carrasco, head of SMC’s Film Program, has created an associate’s degree and certificate program that charges in-state tuition of only $46 per unit. In their first three semesters, students receive “boot camp”-style hands-on training,  Carrasco says. A fourth semester is dedicated to making a collective short film sponsored by SMC, Keslow Camera, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.  “We want our students to stand out based on their talent, attitude, hard work and reliability, none of which have anything to do with socioeconomic background,” says Carrasco. Amen. 


University of Southern California 

(Los Angeles)

The largest private employer in Los Angeles also houses one of the oldest film schools in the country. Its unimpeachable results speak for themselves, with an endless list of notable alums: Jon M. Chu, Ron Howard, Judd Apatow, Ryan Coogler, Rian Johnson, Matt Reeves and Jason Reitman are among many who went through the school’s prestigious directing program. John Ira Palmer, who graduated from the program in 2017 and is currently an adjunct faculty member at the school, tells MovieMaker: “One of the best things the School of Cinematic Arts offers its directors is a deep dive into the collaborative process and all aspects of filmmaking, so you leave with a solid understanding of all the creative tools at your disposal and the ability to communicate effectively with everyone on your team.” Palmer is also a founding partner and producer — along with Sean Penn and John Wildermuth — at Projected Picture Works.


Stanford University

(Stanford, California)

An MFA in Documentary Film from Stanford University is one of the most exclusive film degrees in the country. Films from the program have gone on to screen and win awards at major festivals like Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca, and have been featured in The New Yorker and The New York Times’ OpDocs section, and on PBS’ POV and Independent Lens. The Documentary Film program values independent media with an emphasis on artistic expression, aesthetics, social awareness, and an articulated perspective. Over two years, students direct four films in collaboration with their peers. By the end of the program, they are prepared to teach at the university level, and hold innovative careers in mass and independent media.  

Best Film Schools CU Denver

Seasoned Hollywood director and CU Denver professor Eric Jewett teaches on set of a student production. Photo credit: Sebastien Chiu, CU Denver Class of 2020, courtesy of CU Denver, one of our Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada.


University of Colorado Denver 

When you attend the Film & Television department at the University of Colorado Denver, you could find yourself with a paid Hollywood internship or even headed to Mumbai, India to work on Bollywood productions with Whistling Woods International. The Hollywood internships are competitive and go to 15 qualifying students. (Faculty member Eric Jewett — 1st AD on shows such as Dexter and True Detective — coordinates the Hollywood-based projects for the university.) CU Denver’s Film & Television is a production-based BFA program. Undergraduates take two film history and two film theory courses, but the bulk of their coursework involves creative writing and productions. Upper-level programs receive up to $3,500 for productions, to give students experience with budgeting and expenditures on set. CU Denver Film & Television produces cinematographers, producers, and many small production company owners in the industry. While actors also come through the program, most alums find work in the production side of the industry. In-state tuition is a reasonable $11,804 per year. 

Our list of the Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada continues on the next page…

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