MA or MFA Filmmaking: Which is Best?

January 21, 2015

Those who are interested in taking their acting studies to the next level may well be considering an MA or MFA in Filmmaking program – after all, both qualifications are of the highest standing recognized by the industry and other filmmakers working within it.

The question is, which one is best?

MA or MFA Filmmaking: Which is Best?

MA or MFA Filmmaking

To a certain extent, there’s no catch-all answer to the MA or MFA Filmmaking conundrum given that it largely depends on the filmmaker’s background and chosen career goals. However, it is a major decision (and quite possibly one of the critical decisions a filmmaker might make), so it’s well worth understanding the fundamental differences between the two programs before diving in.

Firstly, let’s discuss what each program offers to prospective students, and what’s required in order to complete the program.

MA Filmmaking

What It Is: The MA in Film and Media Production offered by the New York Film Academy is a professional graduate program that is designed to immerse students deep within the filmmaking process. This is achieved primarily through practical coursework – over the course of a single extended academic year (comprised of three semesters per year), students will create no less than 8 films and collaborate on many more.

MA Filmmaking degree

The film creation process doesn’t just hone the student’s shooting prowess – on each of the film projects embarked upon, the filmmaker will also have their writing, directing, and editing skills pushed to the limits. Intense classroom-based learning focusing on cinematography will kick off each semester, with the theory learned being put into practice in a series of short films. The latter half of each semester will predominantly cover the finer aspect of screenwriting (particularly dialogue) and advanced editing practices, all of which culminate in a further four films being created from scratch.

Who Should Apply: The MA in Film and Media Production is ideally suited to students who have a natural aptitude for writing and filmmaking, but are looking to gain advanced skills in order to better execute their ideas in a way that does them justice. It cannot be understated, however, that the MA program is a very intensive course and only those who are willing to immerse themselves fully in the hands-on nature of the craft should apply. It is also more theoretically focused than the MFA program, which is something to keep in mind based on your goals.

MFA Filmmaking

What It Is: The MFA in Filmmaking is an extremely comprehensive program. Even more so than the MA in Film and Media Production.

Difference between MA and MFA

The Master of Fine Arts is, as the name would suggest, a highly specialized degree and arguably the most revered qualification a filmmaker can achieve. Although the MFA Filmmaking program differs from the MA in that it is a two-year program and more focused on hands-on learning; during the two years of accelerated study, those in the program will use industry-grade equipment under professional tuition in order to write, direct and edit 10 short films (and work on around 28 others).

At the end of the MFA program, students will have created a polished final film as part of their master’s thesis and will have written a full 90-120 page script. In addition, students will graduate with a knowledge of not just ‘how’ to apply the numerous skills necessary to make a great film, but also the ‘why.’ This deep, theoretical understanding of the craft – along with what works and what doesn’t – will follow the MFA graduate with them for the duration of their professional career following the program.

MFA filmmaking program details

Who Should Apply: This is a fully comprehensive study program geared towards filmmakers who wish to explore every facet of the filmmaking process. Those looking for in-depth and first-hand knowledge of not just the latest filming and editing equipment but also the techniques used in modern cinematography should definitely look into the MFA filmmaking program.

So Which is Best… MA or MFA Filmmaking?

Make no mistake about it – this is a great crossroads in your life as a filmmaker, and what you choose to do next might change the trajectory of your pursuit of filmmaking. Ultimately, however, the decision as to which program to go for lies with the individual. Ask yourself what you want from your filmmaking program, and choose the one which best matches your personal goals.

Ready to take your filmmaking to the next level? Check out NYFA’s Film and Media Production Masters Program and take it there!