Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada

Before we get to our list of the Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada in 2023, a few words. Film school may be the doorway to the future you’ve dreamed of, but just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you’re entitled to a job after graduation. Employers aren’t going to care about that piece of paper in your hands — they want to know what you can do with those hands. 

The following 25 film schools, many located in production and cultural hubs around North America, are places where you can learn the priceless skills required to make it in the ever-evolving entertainment business, while building a portfolio that will turn heads and make industry professionals take your talent and ambition seriously. 

Wherever you go, whatever you do, take full advantage of what can be a fairly pricey investment in yourself. Learn from everyone around you, shoot and edit on every piece of state-of-the-art equipment provided, listen to industry guest lectures with ears wide open, and make and collaborate with as many friends as possible — because a wide network is a filmmaker’s best asset. Your fellow students may very well be titans of industry one day. Or they might at least recommend you for a paid gig.  


AFI (Los Angeles, California)

Wally Pfister (Inception), Rachel Morrison (Black Panther) and Robert Richardson (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) are among the cinematographers who graduated from the AFI Conservatory, a two-year program offering MFA degrees in cinematography, as well as directing, editing, producing, production design, and screenwriting.

Fellows accepted into one of the world’s most prestigious filmmaking academies have access to state-of-the-art camera equipment, sound stages and AVID editing rooms, and are regularly introduced to influential artists in the field and major industry players, often alumni, who speak, mentor and teach. AFI offers a practical curriculum centered on learning through doing, which guarantees that fellows make at least three films, if not 10, by the end of the program.

Their thesis films screen at AFI Fest, one of the world’s most respected film festivals. The many notable alumni illustrate the strength of the curriculum, and the school is committed to decreasing the gap between students and professionals through its Bridge to the Future office, which helps recent graduates find career-launching opportunities.


Antioch University MFA in Creative Writing (Los Angeles, California)

This screenwriting program is only a few years old, but it has already attracted the attention of guest speakers Jon Landau (Avatar), Stephen McFeely (Avengers: Endgame), Billy Ray (The Hunger Games), Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge), and Dorothy Fortenberry (The Handmaid’s Tale), who share their wisdom with students attending this two-year, low-residency MFA program at the private university’s campus.

(L-R) Angela Carlyle, Ty Halton, Emily Hagopian take part in a screenwriting workshop at Antioch, one of our Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada. Photo by Colette Freedman, courtesy of Antioch.

An MFA semester consists mostly of working from home — or wherever students like to write — with an intensive 10-day hybrid residency of online and in-person classes, followed by a five-month online project period, during which each student works under the supervision of a faculty mentor. What really distinguishes this program is its emphasis on social justice, which, if you haven’t noticed, is a major theme in projects getting the greenlight from studios and indie film investors.

Students don’t just talk about it, either — they’re required to complete a field study, putting their knowledge and skills as writers to work in service of something they personally value. Each field study must address at least two of the three aspects of the MFA program’s unique purpose: the education of literary and dramatic artists, community engagement or service, and the pursuit of social justice.

A school representative tells MovieMaker that MFA field studies have changed the lives of not only students, but also those they serve.


Chapman University, Dodge College of Film and Media Arts / MFA Film Production Program (Orange, California)

This esteemed film school is just a short drive away from Los Angeles, giving students easy access to the epicenter of the film business and internship possibilities galore.

Faculty include director-producer John Badham (Saturday Night Fever, WarGames) and senior associate dean Michael Kowalski, an expert in sound design and documentary filmmaking. Editor Addison Donnell (Julia, Get Shorty) tells MovieMaker:

“Having four years to study editing under professors who were long-term established editors in L.A. was invaluable to my career when I graduated. …My experience at Chapman University is one that I highly value, from the long nights in the editing lab to the close bonds forged with my classmates, who I now call colleagues.”

Students choose between directing, cinematography, editing or sound design as an area of specialization, and the programs are focused on mentorship and practical, hands-on experience, two of the best ways to learn any craft. They instill in-depth understanding of the fundamental components of visual storytelling, story structure and story analysis.


Columbia University (New York City, New York)

If you want to be a producer, not only must you have a knack for organization, an eye for talent, and a thorough understanding of the ever-evolving entertainment business models, you’ve also got to understand story structure and development, and have great relationships with the writers and directors that bring them to life on screen.

Behind the scenes of “ApHasiA: Describe the city you live in,” written and directed by film student Shan Jiang and produced by film alum Joyce Yueyi Xing, class of ’21 at Columbia University, one of our Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada. Courtesy of Shan Jiang.

This three-year creative producing MFA, taught by a faculty of working producers in film, television, and digital media, throws students into the mix with those in the Writing for Film & Television and Screenwriting & Directing concentrations during their first year in order to facilitate friendships and professional collaborations that last throughout the program and beyond. Network is a producer’s strongest tool, and Columbia students start building an expansive rolodex on day one.

Jack Lechner, chair of film at the Ivy League university, is a producer himself, with credits including the excellent Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams drama Blue Valentine and the Oscar-winning documentary The Fog of War, so students are in good hands. “Columbia Film is distinguished by its constant focus on story,” he tells MovieMaker.

“Our faculty are working professionals, who convey up-to-date information to students about their own experiences in the current media marketplace. The Film program is part of Columbia University, with endless opportunities for students to learn and to make creative connections.”


Columbia College Chicago Cinema and Television Arts (Chicago, Illinois)

With graduate, undergraduate and minor degree options available, as well the opportunity to spend a semester in Los Angeles, immersed in the entertainment capital of the world while learning in the heart of Hollywood on the Sunset Las Palmas Studios lot, this school is a wonderful place to learn all aspects of the craft.

Students at Columbia College Chicago get hands-on experience behind the camera. Photo courtesy of Columbia College Chicago, one of our Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada.

BFA students can choose pathways for studying directing and cinematography, and students may want to stick around for an MFA in Cinema and Television Directing.

The program has trained former president of the American Society of Cinematographers Michael Goi, as well as Emmy-award winning cinematographer Christian Sprenger (Atlanta, GLOW), who said in a testimony on the school’s website that the curriculum’s “fundamental education is still something that I rely on today, and in a lot of ways it’s universal to whatever the technology is that you’re using.”

Students receive a well-rounded education through intensive study in screenwriting, cinematography, editing and sound, while those on the directing track write and direct their own scripts, as well as material written by others. 


Concordia (Montréal, Québec, Canada)

In addition to a fine animation program that MovieMaker highlighted last year, as well as an ample film production program, Concordia offers a rich, intellectually stimulating environment to pursue a BFA, MA or PhD in film studies.

Concordia aims to arm deep thinkers with the tools and visual literacy necessary for aesthetic, historical and cultural analysis of cinema and audiovisual media. Students develop critical thinking as well as a thorough understanding of the history and traditions of the moving image, while actively researching individual scholarly goals under the mentorship of acclaimed faculty.

They will also will find themselves at the forefront of new scholarship in the field by attending screenings, workshops and seminars hosting distinguished guest speakers, and can immerse themselves in one of Canada’s great cultural capitals. Concordia is on proud display to the world each summer as Fantasia, one of our 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, takes over many of its comfortable, ultra-modern facilities. 


DePaul University (Chicago, Illinois)

Documentaries were always one of the most produced formats of the film and television industry, but ever since Netflix’s Making a Murderer captivated the world over a decade ago, mainstream viewers have been craving docs about anything and everything, so there’s never been a better time to learn to be a documentarian.

DePaul’s demanding MFA program mixes theory and production to instill a deep understanding of the genre, as well as the skills to create compelling stories within it — including research, development, aesthetics, post-production workflow, and even how to find an audience.

Students learn from outstanding professionals in the field, including Sundance Documentary Cinematography Award winner Dana Kupper, whose credits include the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself, and Brenda Robinson, an entertainment attorney with 19 executive producer credits.

The school also brings innovative industry leaders to campus for film screenings, on-stage conversations, and professional panels, and offers a Bollywood study abroad program in Mumbai. 


Emerson College (Boston, Massachusetts)

Perhaps the best endorsement of Emerson is that it was here that Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert — this past year’s winners of the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay Oscars for Everything Everywhere All at Once — got their start together.

A less prominent but still significant cause for celebration is Emerson’s two-year, full-time Writing for Film and Television MFA. It’s a low-residency program, meaning mostly online coursework, with the exception of six-day residencies that kick off each semester at either the Boston or Los Angeles campuses, where students participate in workshops, screenings, lectures, and a master class with a guest lecturer of significant accomplishment in the field.

The school’s Semel chair in screenwriting meets with students, and leads an evening screening and discussion of their work. Previous Semel chairs have included Emmy winner Joey Soloway (Transparent), Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black (Milk), and three-time Emmy nominee Krista Vernoff (Grey’s Anatomy).

In addition to learning from exceptional industry talent, graduates join a vast alumni network with a major presence in the industry, thanks to a long-running internship program, where senior undergraduates spend one semester studying at a state-of-the-art campus on Sunset Boulevard and then their last semester interning at a company relevant to their area of focus. 


Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema (Brooklyn, New York)

This Brooklyn College program is young and small, with just 80 students accepted last year, but it has really hit the ground running under the guidance of two-time Oscar-nominated producer Richard Gladstein (The Hateful Eight), who serves as executive director, using his and the faculty’s other connections to bring in industry guests to speak to students about their work and journeys.

“It’s about bringing these filmmakers, music makers and media makers to just talk about their craft and de-mystify it for everyone; this is attainable, they’re just like you, they’re just a few years ahead,” he says in a recent promotional video for the program.

The cutting-edge facilities provide access to premium equipment, four soundstages, seven Avid Everywhere post-production suites, four DaVinci Resolve color grading suites, ADR studios, mixing rooms, a construction shop and a prop room. Feirstein covers the gamut for those interested in learning directing, cinematography, post-production, digital animation and VFX, producing, screenwriting, sonic arts and media scoring.

It’s a great low-tuition option for students from New York who want to live and learn in the Big Apple, a glorious nexus of cultures, people and ideas.

“What’s slightly different about our school is the community we serve: we’re extraordinarily diverse. More than half the students are people of color,” says Gladstein. Another attractive perk of the school is its location at Steiner Studios, so students are immersed in the hustle and bustle of a working production lot. 


Full Sail University (Winter Park, Florida)

The school’s 12-month Film Production Master of Fine Arts is an accelerated degree program designed to build and strengthen visual storytelling skills through developing technical skills and theory. It guides students through all stages of the process, including film festival submission and securing distribution.

The trademark Project LaunchBox package equips students with the necessary gear to create their projects, with access to a Hollywood-style backlot and soundstage, as well as high-end camera and lighting packages.

Just last year, the school opened Studio V1: Virtual Production — one of the nation’s largest and most technologically advanced virtual production studios on a college campus, bridging traditional studio filmmaking with live production and real-time 3-D creation, allowing students to create visually stunning projects on a smaller budget.

Though this program is short and sweet, Full Sail promises to support students throughout their entire professional journey, offering a robust Career Development department with an advisory team made up of degree-specific industry professionals. They assist graduates with personal brand development, while also hosting recruitment events, alumni events and guest speaker engagements.


Nashville Film Institute (Nashville, Tennessee)

NFI is a vocational oriented program, offering a nine-month hands-on diploma in film production, or a two-year Occupational Associate’s Degree — a 60-credit program that also dives into psychology and cultural anthropology to create well-rounded filmmakers who understand how to depict the depth and nuances of the human condition.

The accelerated program teaches what students will need to know to work on set, and the location in America’s beloved Music City offers no shortage of artists to work with on music videos, while production companies, like Tim McGraw’s shingle Down Home, are also starting to plant their flags in the area.

Justin Vesci, the vice president of development and production at global film and television production label PZAJ, tells MovieMaker that Nashville isn’t an epicenter for the industry yet — but he adds that it’s growing bigger and bigger every day.

“Currently, if you are open to all aspects of filmed content, you could find a job in some fashion as a PA, director of photography, lighting, sound, set decorator, et cetera,” he says. “There are plenty of opportunities for commercials and music videos.” Vesci relocated to Nashville from Los Angeles in 2020.


New York Film Academy (New York City, New York and Los Angeles, California)

NYFA’s locations in two of the largest filmmaking markets in the world provide students with lots of options: Those interested in independent film, for example, can choose to earn a BFA in filmmaking in New York, the indie filmmaker capital of the world.

Students study directing, screenwriting, cinematography, editing, and producing through hands-on exercises and coursework, with the goal of graduating with a great reel and lots practical experience. “The only way you’re going to learn how to direct films is by directing films, and there is no way around that,” says NYFA filmmaking chair Andrea Swift in a Q&A on the program’s website.

“The networks people create at school are some of the most important things they come out with. Additionally, don’t wait for someone else to give you permission to start making films. Just start.”

It’s that kind of mindset that thrives at NYFA, pushing students to make the most of their time at the school, which also emphasizes the art of pinching a penny. “I love to teach filmmakers how to make films with no budget so our students can make films without spending a lot of money,” Swift adds.

Expect additional coursework in liberal arts, cinema studies, arts and humanities, and science that strongly relates to filmmaking, as well as the opportunity to listen to leading directors, actors, producers, cinematographers and distinguished NYFA alumni who drop by for speaking engagements.


New York University (New York City, New York)

If you’re exploring film school options, then NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts is probably already on your radar, because it’s one of the world’s preeminent centers for the study of the performing, cinematic and emerging media arts, with more than 45,000 alumni working out in the field.

They include directors M. Night Shyamalan, Joel Coen and Spike Lee, who is a professor of film and artistic director. More than 5,000 films a year are made here by both students and faculty, who provide outstanding undergraduate and graduate education in the study of film and media arts.

“Our students are part of a community of young, passionate artists who grow together, support each other and succeed together,” says Undergraduate Film & Television chair Ezra Sacks. “Our credo is learning by doing. Students are actively creating work and encouraged to take risks as they discover their own individual voices.

Students leave the program having developed an excellence in their craft and a strong conviction in the unique stories they have to tell.”


Oklahoma City Community College (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)

This affordable, two-year program is now called the Gray Frederickson Digital Cinema Department, in honor of the Oscar and Emmy Award-winning producer of the Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now, who passed on last year. He created a curriculum that mixes theoretical foundation and practical application, as well as state-of-the-art technology and professional faculty.

Austin Taylor, an Emmy-award-winning filmmaker and member of OCCC’s advisory board, looks into a camera alongside OCCC students Mathew Parmer (L) and Brent Billingsley. Photo courtesy of OCCC, one of our Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada.

OCCC says it draws people from all over the world in part because it’s a people’s film school: If you apply, you’re in. Professors Greg Mellott and Sean Lynch, who coordinate the program, tell MovieMaker that “the program gives students greater access to a much higher level of equipment and technology and facilities than most schools at a fraction of the cost-— and lets them be taught by Oscar and Emmy Award winning faculty.”

One of OCCC’s facilities is a 6,000-square-foot studio from which Francis Ford Coppola streamed the first-ever Live Cinema production, earning students priceless experience and an impressive IMDb credit.

With major film and TV productions coming to Oklahoma, like Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon and the FX series Reservation Dogs, OCCC’s program is customized to funnel students and alumni into the state’s industry. “Making moviemakers is Gray’s legacy to our school and our state, now and forever,” add Mellott and Lynch.


Ringling College of Art and Design (Sarasota, Florida)

Ringling’s four-year BFA in branded content gives students the chance to specialize in making dynamic video content that cuts through the clutter, taps into consumers’ passion points and engages them through entertainment.

Its narrative film concentration, meanwhile, immerses students in all aspects of the process, including cinematography, production design, editing, sound design, screenwriting, post-production, directing, and producing — all on an 8,400 square foot soundstage, using state-of-the-art gear and editing suites.

1st AD CJ Callins, actor Jordan Woods-Robinson and cinematographer Jeno Broschofsky on the student film “Blinds Wide Shut” by Ben Sutherland at Ringling, one of our Best Films in the U.S. and Canada. Courtesy of Ben Sutherland.

During a recent visit by MovieMaker, we watched hypnotic clips of Ringling student Ben Sutherland’s “Blinds Wide Shut” under the oversight of sound faculty advisor Nick Palladino in the school’s impressive Dolby Atmos Theater. The film was shot almost entirely on Ringling soundstages. The school also owns an entire home available for film shoots.

“It’s been said that Ringling College is Hollywood’s best-kept secret,” a Ringling representative says. “In addition to our top-ranked academics and the 17 Student Academy Awards won by our animation department, our production-intensive program that our live-action undergraduates enjoy puts our students ahead and industry-ready upon graduation.” 


Rutgers Filmmaking Center (New Brunswick, New Jersey)

Situated between two major filmmaking markets, New York City and Philadelphia, students in this four-year undergraduate program are close to plenty of internship and production gig opportunities.

The goal of the curriculum, roughly 80 percent practical and 20 percent theory, is to teach skills that can be applied to both narrative and non-narrative modes of filmmaking, but those particularly interested in the latter can take advantage of in-house production unit, the Documentary Film Lab — considered one of the university’s biggest draws.

It gives students the opportunity to create feature docs ready for the festival circuit or to show prospective employers. And with Netflix building the Fort Monmouth Studio in the Garden State, as well as Lionsgate developing a $125 million Newark studio complex, New Jersey is becoming an increasingly attractive filmmaking hub.

Faculty at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts include Academy Award winners, Documentary Film Lab director Thomas Lennon (Sacred, Knife Skills) and Guggenheim Fellows. Regardless of concentration, students can expect to have a camera in their hands during their first week and access to top-notch gear and technology.

Every week, students gather for the Friday Filmmaker Series, where notable directors screen and discuss their films. Uncut Gems directors the Safdie brothers were guests this past spring semester, and previous speakers have included Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse) and documentarian Nanfu Wang (In the Same Breath).


Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, Georgia)

Nestled in one of the most charming small cities in the country, SCAD offers a hands-on, practical educational experience, mirroring the productions found in Hollywood, or nearby studio hub Atlanta, with access to a Hollywood-style film backlot on the campus.

Students shoot the recent film “Quandering Questions” as part of a Collaborative Experiences in Film & Acting course on SCAD Atlanta’s new LED Volume. SCAD, one of our Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada, is the only university with two LED volumes. Photo courtesy of SCAD.

In fact, a major expansion of SCAD’s film and digital media studios is currently underway, making the studio the largest, most comprehensive university complex in the nation. “All of our students are mentored by faculty who are ripe from the industry and still working in the industry,” Andra Reeve-Rabb, dean of the SCAD School of Film and Acting, tells MovieMaker.

“We even structure classes that meet on sets of movies like May December, which stars Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore.” Last year, the school launched the first 560 Collaborative Experiences course in film and television, placing students on professional feature film and television sets shooting in Georgia’s multi-billion-dollar industry.

Also Read: SCAD Lacoste Film Festival Brings Southern Hospitality to the French Countryside

Aspiring directors have access to the only full-time, in-house university casting office in the nation, securing on-screen talent for their student projects, while getting to pick the brains of top filmmaking talent who frequently stops by to speak. With all of these opportunities on campus or close by, it’s no wonder over 145 SCAD alumni contributed to 18 Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning films in 2023.

The fast-growing Atlanta campus is spectacular as well, offering hands-on learning about every aspect of filmmaking, with no detail overlooked. It’s so immersive that it includes an airline setup where students can practice networking on long flights. SCAD also hosts the SCAD Animation Fest and SCAD Savannah Film Festival in the fall, as well as the SCAD TV Fest in the winter. All give students the chance to meet and gather advice from A-listers and other industry veterans.


Temple University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Temple alums have a strong presence in the film, television and media industries, with many graduates working in post-production as assistant editors, editors, post-production supervisors and associate producers on major productions.

The BA in Film and Media Arts provides a more general approach to the field, giving students a strong, broad foundation in media studies throughout the four-year undergraduate program, which focuses on one of four concentrations — cinematography, producing, screen studies and post-production.

The latter program includes courses in 3-D modeling, compositing, digital animation, making documentaries, screenwriting, three levels of editing, two levels of audio, and videography. Juniors and seniors have the option to participate in the university’s semester-long L.A. Study Away Program.

Dan Flesher, an editor whose recent work includes History of the World: Part II and Netflix’s Murderville, credits it with launching his career. “I can truly trace every job I’ve had back to their internship program,” Flesher tells MovieMaker.

“Temple University gave me the foundational knowledge I use every day as a professional film and television editor. Their emphasis on creating actual films and not just academic exercises gave me a competitive edge upon graduation.”


Toronto Film School (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

This 18-month, six-term program in one of the largest production hubs in North America is designed to prepare students for the realities of working in the field, skipping any general education electives in favor of hands-on learning under the guidance of expert, working professionals.

Toronto Film School’s 17,000-square foot Studio Campus in downtown Toronto features five studios, a vocal booth, a spacious student lounge, classrooms, and an industry-grade equipment room stocked with the latest cameras and lenses. Photo courtesy of Toronto Film School, one of our Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada.

The school’s president, Andrew Barnsley, has an Emmy, a Golden Globe and six Canadian Screen Awards to his name, and executive produced the beloved hit sitcom Schitt’s Creek. In addition to world-class technology and the tools at students’ disposal, they’re treated to the school’s Inner Circle Club, featuring distinguished industry professionals in term-long residencies who spearhead transformational learning through unique networking and experiential events.

Film and television producer Andrew Gunn (Cruella) and writer-producer Katie Ford (Miss Congeniality) were recent ICC residents. “Students choose Toronto Film School for world-class faculty, specialized curriculums, hands-on training, and industry relationships from day one,” a representative from the school tells MovieMaker. “They graduate having mastered their craft— confident, savvy, and connected.”


UCLA (Los Angeles, California)

UCLA is another entry on this list that should be obvious to anybody seriously considering film school. But for those particularly interested in screenwriting, a two-year MFA from UCLA is one of the best educations you can get.

Recent alumni currently making a splash in the industry include Amy Aniobi (Insecure) and Steven Canals (Pose), while blockbuster screenwriter David Koepp (Jurassic Park) and cinematic legend Francis Ford Coppola also studied here. The instructors are also industry veterans, including Oscar nominee Phyllis Nagy (Carol) and television writer-producer Jill Goldsmith (Law & Order).

They teach disciplined, professional writing skills in a workshop-style setting. “The workshop model of small class sizes ensures that students’ work is meaningfully heard, analyzed and critiqued,” program manager Andrea Davis tells MovieMaker. “The program is writing-intensive, rigorous, and offers students two years to focus on developing a portfolio of polished, professional scripts.”

UCLA also deserves special recognition for the School of Theater, Film & Television’s Professional Programs, offering graduate-level certificate programs in disciplines like Acting for the Camera, Producing, Screenwriting, Writing for Television, Directing and Writing for Late Night Comedy. 


University of Colorado Denver (Denver, Colorado)

This affordable option, in one of the coolest cities in the country, gives students access to industry-standard, professional-grade cameras, as well as sound, lighting, and grip equipment, to make projects — from script to screen — on the campus’s three sound stages.

The hands-on curriculum includes classes in screenwriting, production, acting, directing, editing, visual effects, set design, and cinematography, producing well-rounded young professionals ready to jump into a wide variety of careers within the industry. The Hollywood internship program sends students to Los Angeles to work on studio lots and in production houses and offices where they can secure priceless real-world experience while building their resumes and networks.

For those who prefer to stay local after graduation, the Industry Pathways program provides apprenticeships in Denver’s thriving film, TV and production scene, while well-connected faculty and alumni also share networks and opportunities. Students learn from experts like Ozark writer-producer Alyson Feltes and Eric Jewett, whose TV directing credits include Weeds and Party of Five.

The program also offers a “performance for the screen” area of study, giving the aspiring filmmakers in this four-year undergraduate program the chance to work with lots of up-and-coming actors eager to bring their stories to life.


University of North Carolina School of the Arts (Winston-Salem, North Carolina)

Acclaimed and affordable, with tuition that is less than half that of other preeminent film schools, UNCSA offers an intensive hands-on production program intertwined with film history and theory.

UNCSA student Sophia Williams in a cinematography masterclass. Photo by Wayne Reich, courtesy of UNCSA, one of our Best Film Schools in the U.S. and Canada.

Alums includes directors David Gordon Green (Halloween), Jeff Nichols (Mud) and Craig Zobel (Mare of Easttown), but since the UNCSA School of Filmmaking has been majority female for the past three years, programs are creating a pipeline of extraordinary women in an industry that is historically predominantly male.

Students can expect close relationships with faculty mentors, as well as visits from industry guests and successful alums, plus annual trips to both New York City and Los Angeles, where graduating seniors also network with alumni in “Reel Talks” programs.

Aspiring directors mix and mingle with students studying a broad spectrum of other disciplines — writing, directing, producing, editing, production design, cinematography and more — creating a well-rounded network to collaborate on projects before and after graduation. Additionally, the curriculum is equal parts art and commerce, so students are both creative and prepared to navigate the businesses.


University of Southern California (Los Angeles, California)

USC is another entry on this list widely recognized as one of the world’s great film schools, but we want to especially highlight the Peter Stark Producing Program. The rigorous, two-year MFA program trains students to become producers and executives of film, television, and new media under the close guidance and mentorship of working professionals.

The institution recognizes that industry experience is absolutely essential, so the degree requires 2,800 hours of internships or work experience, in addition to intensive coursework and group projects, as well as an individual thesis project. “I would describe it as the best producing program in the country, probably in the world,” says Stark alum Blake Pickens, whose credits include the acclaimed 2021 film Wild Indian, in a promotional video for the program.

Pickens credits the Stark program for his successes in an uncertain business that requires a lot of motivation, ingenuity and persistence, as well as the right network. “It basically made my entire career. It gave me the tools and the stepping stones to get to what I want to do today.”


University of Texas at Austin (Austin, Texas)

The affordable but highly selective MFA program in Film & Media Production only accepts 12 students each year, guaranteeing close guidance from a faculty of working professionals, as well as extensive production opportunities — resulting in at least two portfolio-quality films by graduation. The program covers all aspects of production, but is intent on training directors.

Its great alums include the Duplass Brothers (Jeff, Who Lives at Home), Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) and Michael Zinberg (NCIS) as alumni. (UT Austin is also where undergraduates Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson became friends and collaborators, as Wilson recounted in our last issue.)

In the past five years, students have taken top awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Student Academy Awards, BAFTA-LA and Slamdance.

The city’s film scene is hotter than ever, too, with iconic annual festivals SXSW, the Austin Film Festival and the ATX Television Festival back in full swing after pandemic disruption, allowing students to immerse themselves in vast networking opportunities while studying.

The first year is spent working on a range of media production exercises and experiences to develop creative expression through the medium, while the second year focuses on refining technical skills and strengthening aesthetic, theoretical and conceptual abilities on a pre-thesis film. Students spend their third year making a thesis.


Vancouver Film School (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

This top-notch film school in one of Canada’s coolest cities is a good option for any concentration of study — including writing, acting, film production, sound design, VFX and animation— but it may stand out the most for makeup design.

Katie Middleton, who worked on the summer blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, calls it “the most intensive program” available for aspiring makeup artists.

“They covered such a wide range of makeup techniques and materials that made me feel prepared and comfortable to start working on my own,” she says in a testimonial. “The makeup industry is always changing and improving, so it’s important to learn personally from experienced professionals who are also familiar with the most current processes.”

The 12-month, six-term program has produced some of the most successful and sought-after professionals in the entire industry, and has the employment stats to prove it: VFS cites 61 alums who worked on Zack Snyder’s Justice League, 77 who worked on Black Panther, and 105 who worked on on Game of Thrones.

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