Overview of our MFA in Filmmaking
The Academy makes the accelerated two-year schedule possible by creating an extended academic year allowing students to complete three full-length semesters in each calendar year.
New York Film Academy MFA degree programs are offered at our Los Angeles and South Beach Campuses.
Qualified students have the option of completing course work at the New York Film Academy in New York City in a one-year non-degree program and then applying their course work to be accepted for advanced standing in the MFA Filmmaking degree program.
Each student writes, shoots, directs, and edits 8 films and works on 28 more in the first year.
Two-Year Accelerated MFA Film Making Degree
The Academy's Master of Fine Arts in Filmmaking Program is a two year accelerated course of study that gives students the all-around filmmaking experience necessary to make their own films.
In the 69 credit program, students receive over 2,000 hours of hands-on instruction and actual production experience.
Students shoot projects on 16mm film, 35mm film, High-Def, Super 16mm, and the RED Dragon camera system. All projects are edited digitally.
The curriculum integrates intensive study in all the major filmmaking disciplines including directing, cinematography, screenwriting, producing, and editing. Our program is for people who have the passion to plunge into full-time filmmaking, and to commit themselves to a focused and demanding curriculum.
No previous filmmaking experience is required, however, participants must work with self-discipline, energy and mutual respect. Our program is for people who have the passion to plunge into full-time filmmaking, and to commit themselves to a focused and demanding curriculum.
As in all New York Film Academy programs, hands-on learning is emphasized.
Film directing classes are not theoretical explorations; they are practical classes designed to put students in the director's chair as quickly as possible. The New York Film Academy encourages students to take creative risks and find their own voices as visual artists.
Students complete two years with skills in all the filmmaking crafts, an enormous amount of production experience, ten films of their own and an expanded awareness of themselves and others.
Students' films are celebrated in school screenings open to cast, crew, friends, family, and invited guests.
Beginning on day one, students participate in an intensive sequence of classes in Film Directing, Screenwriting, Cinematography, Digital Editing, Directing Actors and Production Workshop. They extend and deepen their in-class learning by producing their own short 16mm films. Working in crews of three or four, each student writes, produces, directs and edits four films of increasing complexity.
In addition, each student fulfills the essential roles of Director of Photography, Assistant Camera Operator, and Gaffer (Lighting Technician) on the films of her/his crew members. Thus, everyone has the extensive hands-on experience of working on sixteen short films in the first two months. Students then progress to new digital video technology. With its ease of use, the digital video cameras allow the students to delve deeper into the director's craft.
Each individual directs two digital projects. These projects and in-class production workshops challenge students to explore the dramatic mechanics of motion picture story- telling and the critical collaboration between actors and directors. The supporting classes include Screenwriting, Directing Actors, Directing, and Digital Production Workshop. The combination of these classes and projects prepare students for the second and third semester and production of their intermediate films.
In the second and third semester students move into more advanced topics of directing, cinematography, screenwriting and producing. Students learn the more advanced equipment including 16mm sync cameras, dollies, 35mm cameras and cinematography. Each student completes the semester by filming their own intermediate film, a project of up to fifteen minutes incorporating all of the skills learned thus far in the program.
- Write, direct, and edit 10 films of increasing complexity and length including a master's thesis film.
In their first film, students are introduced to mise-en-scène, or directing a shot to visually tell a story. Once they create a dramatic moment, they concentrate on the dynamics of the shot that will best express it. This project teaches students how the visual relationship between the subject and the camera creates drama. Each student designs and shoots a scene that has a beginning, middle, and end. Students will learn to pay close attention to the choice of lenses, distances, and angles.
Since the story will be told within one long shot, it must be staged to express as much as possible about the characters and their actions. Students should rehearse the shot for blocking of actors and camera until the scene works without needing to stop; only then should they roll film. Students each shoot one roll of black and white reversal film, then edit and screen their films for critique and discussion.
- Allotted shooting time: 3 hours
- Editing time: One 4-hour slot
- Screening time: 30 seconds to 2 minutes
Continuity is one of the fundamental principles of modern filmmaking. By making a "continuity film," students learn the way cuts can advance the story while sustaining the reality of the scene. They learn the difference between "film time" and "real time." Students are challenged to make a film that maintains continuity in story, time, and space. The action in these films unfolds utilizing a variety of shots (10–15) in a continuous sequence (no jumps in time or action). In the continuity films, students must produce a clear, visual scene while maintaining the authenticity of the moment. It is essential that the audience believes in the reality of the scene. Students write, direct, shoot, edit, and screen a film of up to three minutes.
Students must thoroughly pre-plan and complete the following pre-production elements:
Students shoot two rolls of film then edit and screen their films for critique and discussion.
- Location Scout
- Script Breakdown
- Floor Plan
- Schedule of shots
- Allotted shooting time: 4 hours
- Editing time: Two 4-hour slots
- Screening time: 1-3 minutes
- Music & Montage Film
The third project introduces students to the relationship between sound and film, as well as to narrative tools like montage and jump cuts.
In this project, students are encouraged to explore a more personal form of visual storytelling. For this film, students choose a piece of music. In the editing room, they cut their images to work in concert with, or in counterpoint to, the music. Students should experiment with rhythm and pacing. Each student writes, directs, shoots, edits, and screens a film of up to four minutes. In addition to storyboards, students may use a still camera to plan their films. This assists them in their choice of locations, angles, and lighting.
- Allotted shooting time: 5 hours
- Editing time: Three 4-hour slots
- Screening time: 2-4 minutes
- Quarter Film
From the first week of the program, students begin developing their scripts in Writing class for their fourth film.
Each student must complete a production book that includes the following:
This fourth film is more ambitious in scope than the previous exercises. It builds upon the foundation of skills and knowledge gained in the first part of the semester. There is a pre-production period during which students meet with faculty for consultation. There are two weeks of postproduction. Students may use sound effects, music, voice-over and ambient sound to help tell their stories. The final project may be from 3-10 minutes in length, keeping in mind, "less is more."
- Statement of Objective: idea of the film and stylistic approach in a concise statement.
- Scenario, shooting script, storyboards and floor plan.
- Analysis: Intention, realization, mistakes, crew work.
Films may be of any genre, and can be narrative, documentary, or experimental. The fourth film project may be shot on 16mm film or digital video.
- Allotted shooting time: two days
- Editing time: 40-60 hours
- Screening time: 3-10 minutes
Each shot in a film expresses a point of view, and in narrative film, the point of view changes often, sometimes with each new shot. For the most part, point of view-- which is often called narrative stance-- is largely invisible to the audience; though the accumulated effect of the changes profoundly affects the way the audience interprets any scene. Students will analyze different ways to create a point of view through visual means: POV Shot Construction, Camera Placement and the 180 Degree Rule, Shot Size, Shot Constructions such as Over the Shoulder Construction, In Depth and Linear Staging and Blocking, Lens choice, and Sound Design, etc.
The POV project is designed for students to explore the various techniques directors use to create a character's point of view in a scene. Students create a short twominute scene containing minimal dialogue and no more than two characters with conflicting objectives. The Director will create two versions of the script and edit two distinct versions of the scene. Each should visually present the viewer with a clear and distinct point-of-view.
- Allotted Shooting Time: 5 hours
- Editing Time: One 4-hour slot
- Screening Time: Up to 2 minutes
- Semester One Film
This Digital Dialogue Film is a narrative digital film project of up to ten minutes. This film should build on the lessons and techniques students have learned in their Acting for Directors classes, production workshops, and the POV film. It should be a performance driven film with no more than three characters and one or two locations. The "story time" of the film should be limited to minutes or hours not days, weeks, years. Students also have the option of producing a documentary film as a digital dialogue film.
- Allotted shooting time: 2 days
- Editing time: 40-80 hours
- Screening time: Up to 10 minutes
- Year One Film
This project is the culmination of the year's work. Each student's goal is to produce a fully realized short film that demonstrates his or her own artistic vision and point of view. Student's work with larger crews and with more time allotted for pre-production, production and post-production than the previous projects. Students prepare for this project with the assistance of all classes in the second semester, including the producing class, which is specifically designed to guide students through the preproduction of this project. Students must prepare detailed production books and receive a "green light" from the faculty to check out for their shoots. Each student can choose to shoot this film in one of three formats - high definition digital video, 16mm film or 35mm film.
- Allotted shooting time: 5 days
- Editing time: Up to 4 weeks
- Screening time: Up to 15 minutes
- Advanced Directing Project
Each student writes and directs a selfcontained short scene from their upcoming thesis film on digital video. Throughout the course of the semester, each student presents these scenes in class using professional actors from the community. Advanced scene work and performance techniques are refined in each class session with the directing instructor. This project allows the students to refine their integration of script analysis and directing actor's skills before embarking on their more ambitious thesis projects.
- Allotted shooting time: 1 days
- Editing time: Up to 1 week
- Screening time: Up to 4 minutes
- Advanced Cinematography Project
As part of the class cinematography III, each student will conceive of a complex shot to be executed on a sound stage using the advanced equipment package that includes the Red Camera, HMI lights and industry standard dollies from Chapman or Fisher. This project challenges the student to incorporate the new equipment into their creative tool kit as they bring their command of lighting, composition, camera movement and blocking to a higher level. These advanced cinematography projects are conducted on a Universal Studios Sound Stage using complete sets and production design.
- Allotted shooting time: Half a day
- Editing time: Up to 1 week
- Screening time: Up to 2 minutes
- MFA Short Film Thesis
Direct and edit a short up to 30 minutes in length, and fill essential crew positions on short form films directed by fellow students.
The final capstone project of the MFA program, this film combines all of the skills learned thus far into a single project of up to thirty minutes in length. These thesis films function as the calling card project for MFA Filmmakers enabling them to demonstrate their creative vision and professional skills to the world of film festivals and the larger community of the entertainment industry. Filmed using the entire advanced equipment package that includes, Red cameras, HMI lighting and industry standard advanced dollies, these projects have the necessary equipment and longer production period to allow filmmakers to work on both a more detailed and nuanced level and with a larger scope.
- Allotted shooting time: 10 days
- Editing time: Up to 8 week
- Screening time: Up to 30 minutes
- MFA Feature Thesis
Direct and edit a feature length film in a paid fifth semester of study at the end of Year Two, and fill essential crew positions on short form films directed by fellow students.
Due to the extremely demanding nature of this thesis option, students must pass a rigorous review by faculty before being granted entrance into this track in semester 3. This option requires that students enroll for a fifth semester with an additional tuition payment.
In semester four, students must achieve specific milestones in order to maintain active status in the feature film program. If these milestones are not met, students will revert back to Option A and make a short thesis in semester five.
These milestones will include a clear template of delivery dates for script deadlines, casting calls, production meetings, budget breakdowns, location lockdowns and a demonstration of financial responsibility to obtain approval to shoot. Students must receive a "green light" before beginning production on their feature thesis films.
- Perform key crew positions on your classmates' films including: cinematographer, gaffer, sound recordist, assistant director, and assistant camera.
- Write a feature length script of 90-120 pages
- Learn the art and technique of visual storytelling including directing, cinematography, editing, and postproduction sound design.
- Learn the fundamentals of digital video production and digital editing.
- Fundamental training in acting craft and directing actors.
- Immersion in screenwriting craft.
- Fundamental training in acting craft and directing actors.
- Immersion in screenwriting craft.