MFA

3-Year Program

The Film Directing Program’s three year course of study is structured into 7 metier categories the faculty considers intrinsic to the exploration of narrative cinema: performance, structure and form, image and sound, theory and context, critique, professional development and interdisciplinary practice. 

FDP students are required to create a deep portfolio of work. Within the first year, students make 3 to 4 shorts films in a series of structured blocks designed to immerse the student in a diverse range of filmmaking techniques and strategies.

In subsequent semesters, the program provides 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 to narrative filmmaking. 

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The MFA-1 and MFA-2 years include specific foundational course requirements. Students fulfill the remainder of requirements by selecting from courses in each metier category which are designed to deepen and expand the definition of narrative form. With their mentor, the student designs a pathway through these courses that best suits their development and practice.

In addition, FDP students attend the ongoing Guest Artist Workshop. (Recent guest artists have included directors Nicolas Pereda, Chloe Zhao, Sean Baker, Matias Pineiro, Alfonso Cuaron, Josephine Decker, Eliza Hittman, Tenzin Phuntsog, Matthew Porterfield, Jennifer Reeder, Lucrecia Martel, Catherine Hardwicke, Charles Burnett, Matthew Weiner, Pratinha Parma, James Mangold, Ramin Bahrani, John Greyson; actors Ed Harris, Ewan McGregor, and Annette Bening; composer David Shire; and producer Effie Brown, among others.)

Each student’s residency culminates with an MFA thesis film that demonstrates a distinctive point of view, as well as the practical ability to lead a team of performance and production artists toward the shared goal of a finished work and the knowledge of the historical and political context the work exists within. 

In support of the development of the thesis project, students work with their mentor and committee to develop their project. Before proceeding to the thesis project, FDP students must have a Preliminary Thesis Review and obtain Project Approval in the third semester of residency. Once the thesis film is completed, each filmmaker must then pass a Graduation Review in order to graduate. In addition, they must have fulfilled all Program course requirements.

Full Curriculum

Detailed curriculum and academic requirements can be found in the online course catalog.

View Curriculum Requirements


Interdisciplinary Opportunities

In addition to CalArts' rich and diverse community and naturally collaborative atmosphere, the Institute provides several programs of study that can be pursued concurrently with a student's chosen metier.

Center for Integrated Media

The Center for Integrated Media concentration is designed specifically for MFA students whose creative use of technology—in particular digital media—goes beyond their primary areas of study.

Center for Integrated Media

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