'Se Shin Sa' by Eunhye Hong Kim
'Se Shin Sa' by Eunhye Hong Kim

This unique MFA program in narrative filmmaking fosters the individual voice of the filmmaker in developing innovative approaches to narrative in cinema. Students work closely with FDP faculty, guided principally by their mentor, who helps guide their course of study as they create a body of work that best illustrates their vision and voice. 

We embrace narrative filmmaking as a tool to describe and depict the world and celebrate its potential to create new realities, new systems and new relations.

Grounded in the history of narrative cinema, the FDP curriculum provides a rich understanding of the fundamental aesthetic and technical components of narrative filmmaking, including staging and visual design, scriptwriting, acting and working with actors, narrative theory, cinematography, sound and editing, and a broad variety of graduate-level seminars in contemporary and historical cinemas and practices. 

The program embraces a diverse range of aesthetics and traditions, encouraging students to find their voice within a constant questioning and expansion of the definition of narrative cinema itself.  The work our students make is aesthetically diverse, exploring a variety of methodologies from independent dramatic filmmaking to hybrid and experimental narrative practices.

Students in the FIlm Directing Program are intensely diverse in identity and perspective; over 70% of our community comes from outside the United States, from such countries as Iran, Iceland, China, Taiwan, Colombia, South Korea, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil (among many others).

This multiplicity of perspectives deepens our conversations and awareness of the multitude of experiences, realities and voices that surround us. It is an essential part of the experience of the program and central to our understanding of the practice of creating images, constructing stories and questioning representation.

During their time at CalArts FDP students work closely with the faculty, guided principally by their mentor, who helps guide their course of study as they create a body of work that best illustrates their vision and voice. 

Students are required to create a deep portfolio of work. In the immersive first-year curriculum, they make several short films while investigating a diverse range of filmmaking techniques and strategies. Throughout the program, students’ projects are accompanied by a rich slate of classes and workshops, independent studies, and rigorous mentorship for the students to continue developing and making films that hone an original approach. The program culminates with a thesis film that demonstrates a distinct point of view.

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Student Story

Tariq Tapa
Tariq Tapa Film Directing MFA 08

When I came to CalArts I had limiting preconceptions about how to achieve the kinds of dramatic effects I wanted in my films. The faculty helped by pointing out precisely where I had missed opportunities in editing a scene, or possible moves for the characters that I hadn’t considered—always pushing me to look deeper at the mechanics of a story, at the consequences of my casting choices, and to think 10 moves in advance when staging action for the camera.

Most other schools teach skills, which are important, and are, of course, taught at CalArts, but these are only a means to an end. You can learn technical skills almost anywhere, but I think only CalArts seeks out students with something to say and helps them find ways to say it. You’re not just encouraged to take risks here—you’re expected to. And the Program helps you find the courage.

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