U.S. Midwest and Southwest

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING TRAINING

Columbia College Chicago  

(Chicago)

In the Cinema and Television Directing MFA program at Columbia College Chicago, master’s candidates learn to craft character-driven narratives and become leaders. Graduates include Janusz Kaminski, long-time cinematographer for Steven Spielberg on Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, and Lincoln, as well as Lena Waithe, the Emmy Award-winning writer, actress, and producer known for Dear White People, Master of None, The Chi and Queen & Slim. Students become thoughtful filmmakers by training in Columbia’s Media Production Center and through constant collaboration with their peers. It has a massive alumni base, and its Semester in L.A. is one of the only year-round academic programs on a Hollywood lot. 

OUTSTANDING FILM PRODUCTION TRAINING 

DePaul University   

(Chicago)

Interested in taking an ARRI Alexa Mini for a test drive, or mixing in a top-notch studio? You’ll love the facilities and equipment at DePaul’s School of Cinematic Arts. Students have access to DePaul’s 32,000-square-foot professional production facility at Cinespace, next door to the production of high-profile series like Chicago P.D. Cinespace includes three professional soundstages, green-screen cycloramas, a scenic shop, ARRI and RED cameras, a grip truck, stop-motion and motion-capture stages, high-end editing suites, and mixing studios. For more real-world experience, students can get involved in Project Bluelight, a professional motion picture production company within the DePaul Cinematic Arts program. It was founded in 2004 with the twin goals of creating high-quality independent films and providing film production experience for DePaul students. It draws on actors in DePaul’s Theatre School, alumni of which include Gillian Anderson, Ann Dowd, Joe Keery, Kiki Layne and John C. Reilly. 

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY TRAINING  

University of Missouri, Jonathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism 

(Columbia, Missouri)

Have you heard of the Missouri Method? It’s the Jonathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism’s name for its approach to a real-world journalism education. From the minute they arrive in the program, students learn theoretical and field documentary practices they immediately apply toward a competitive portfolio. Robert Greene (Kate Plays Christine, Procession) is an associate professor and the filmmaker-in-chief, and Emmy winner Stacey Woelfel is a professor emeritus and the director. Both founded the Jonathan B. Murray Center. Students in the program work closely with their instructors so the final products are professional and ready for public consumption when complete. The program relies heavily on connections to the documentary community through its visiting artist program, which brings in important filmmakers and other documentary experts. The program welcomes both undergrad and graduate students, and has an active alumni network based in New York City that extends across the country and the world.

OUTSTANDING AUDIO PRODUCTION TRAINING 

Northwestern University

(Evanston, Illinois)

Northwestern’s master’s degree in Sound Arts and Industries teaches students the art and science of sound, preparing them to work across many fields of sound production. “They are ready to add their voice to a new wave of sound art that is echoing across media industry sectors from podcasting to Hollywood sound design to major museum exhibits,” says professor Jacob Smith, the department’s director. Its Hobson/Lucas Soundstage is a newly renovated 1,700-square-foot sound studio and performance space, the Northwestern SoundTank is a computer editing lab with 12 workstations, and the Virtual Sound Room (ViSoR) is packed with microphones, speakers, and subwoofers using studio simulations to mimic real-world scenarios. Throughout the program, staff coordinate to put students to work with “alumni and industry advisors that include executives at major Hollywood film studios and Academy Award-winning sound designers,” says Smith. The school encourages collaboration across the MFA in Documentary Media and the MFA in Writing for Screen and Stage programs. 

Best Film Schools

Francis Ford Coppola’s “Live Cinema” performance piece at Oklahoma City Community College, one of our Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada. Photo courtesy of OCCC

OUTSTANDING FILM PRODUCTION TRAINING

Oklahoma City Community College

Gone are the days when Oklahomans had to go east or west to work on top-notch television and films: OCCC graduates and students worked on Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, and are currently working on Paramount’s series Tulsa Kings, starring Sylvester Stallone. With just under 200 students, this hands-on program boasts faculty members like Gray Frederickson, who won an Oscar as co-producer of The Godfather Part II. In 2015, Francis Ford Coppolla workshopped his concept of “Live Cinema” – a movie performance piece created in real time – on OCCC’s soundstage, working with its students. The Digital Cinema Production Program lasts two years, and after one semester, students have access to some of the best, industry-level digital camera and lighting equipment, as well as sound and editing equipment and software. All courses are taught by working professionals. With inflation touching everyone in the country, OCCC is far more affordable than many film programs, at $125 per credit hour. The soon-to-launch workforce development program at the new million-square-foot Prairie Surf Studio in Oklahoma City means plenty of film production opportunities when the program ends. The school likes to say that students bring their dreams, and OCCC brings everything else. 

OUTSTANDING SCREENWRITING TRAINING 

University of Texas at Austin

UT Austin pulls from the area’s vibrant moviemaking community for guest speaking opportunities, so students will learn from locals like Richard Linklater and Jeff Nichols, among others. “I feel like I found my voice in Austin while learning the fundamentals of film craft. UT’s program is really great for students who want the freedom to make their own work within a structured environment. The program is also incredibly affordable,” says UT Austin MFA graduate Katherine Propper. Originally from Los Angeles, she now lives in Austin, making award-winning work. With a few exceptions, students can be teaching assistants in their second year, which affords them in-state tuition rates — that lowers tuition costs down to an unbeatable $597 per semester. Austin is one of the top cities on our 2022 list of the Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker, and the school offers screenwriting MFA students passes to the Austin Film Festival’s annual Screenwriters’ Conference, run by one of our 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee

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

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