April 15, 2011 by Peter Debruge with Ilyse Kaplan
40 of the nation's leading media programs
A primer on 40 of the nation’s leading film, music and emerging media programs.
AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE
Where: Los Angeles
Alumni: Darren Aronofsky, David Lynch, Drake Doremus (writer-director)
Tuition: $38,416 (first year)
Tucked away in the Hollywood Hills, AFI’s fellowship program is used as a stepping stone for experienced filmmakers to enter into the professional world of film by emphasizing storytelling fundamentals and partnering directors, editors, producers and d.p.’s into teams that often continue collaborating after school.
Where: Washington, DC
Alumni: Barry Levinson (director), Nancy Meyers (writer-director), Barry Josephson (producer)
Tuition: $36,697 (undergrad)
Though not in L.A. or N.Y., American uses its D.C. location to its advantage. The film program reflects American’s rep as the most politically active campus in the country, emphasizing documentary and TV coverage, and is home to the Center for Environmental Filmmaking.
ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGN
Where: Pasadena, CA
Alumni: Roger Avary (writer), Ralph McQuarrie (designer), Mark Whiting (production designer)
Tuition: $32,592 (undergrad), $34,440 (grad)
Great for directors with visual flair who want to go into such fields as advertising and musicvideos (Michael Bay and Tarsem Singh are grads). Students are encouraged to work with colleagues from other concentrations to get an idea of how each branch of the film industry works.
BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC
Alumni: Quincy Jones, Howard Shore, John Mayer
Tuition: $33,460 for degree program
A leading name in music education, Berklee sets its student body on track to industry careers with majors in film scoring, composition and many other areas. The undergrads enjoy internships that integrate them into the biz, while alumni boast more than 200 Grammy wins.
Alumni: Jim Gianopulos (Fox Filmed Ent. topper), Richard Gladstein (producer), Joe Roth (producer)
Strong liberal arts foundation with multiple internship programs, including one in L.A. Though alums tend to do well in the industry, students must be self-motivated to fully utilize what the school has to offer. Grad students can spend as much time as needed on their thesis without being charged.
Where: Valencia, CA
Alums: Tim Burton (director), Dave Bossert (Disney Animation exec), Peter Chung (animator)
With the motto “designed by artists, for artists,” CalArts encourages individualistic visions for Film/Video and animation majors. Though students are expected to be experienced in film and animation prior to acceptance, they must take classes in the fundamentals of drawing and film.
Alumni: Paula Wagner (producer), Mike Duke (soft ware engineer), Jon-Paul Dumont (game designer)
Tuition: $43,160 (undergrad), $38,000 (grad)
Renown for its drama and computer science departments, CMU offers a one-of-a-kind Entertainment Technology Center grad program that combines left- and-right brain disciplines. With no cinema track per se, the school outsources film classes to Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
CHAPMAN, DODGE COLLEGE
Where: Orange, CA
Alumni: Jason Richmond (Paramount music exec), Sukwon Park (layout artist), Raffi Adlan (producer)
Tuition: $39,200 (undergrad), $31-$41,000 (grad)
Focused less on theory than practical lessons in filmmaking, Dodge puts cameras in students’ hands the first day and encourages them to learn by shooting. Courses put a strong emphasis on marketing and the business side, while bringing in working industry pros to lecture/teach.
Alumni: Karyn Bosnak (writer), Charles Robert Carner (director), Everett Downing (Pixar animator)
Tuition: $20,094 (undergrad), $45,060 (grad)
An intensive program divided into three phases, with students having to pass each one to advance. Though it is possible for grad students to fail or be dismissed, Columbia offers more assistance in students’ future careers than most film schools.
Where: New York
Alumni: Kathryn Bigelow, Nicole Holofcener, Anna Boden (writer-director)
Tuition: $41,160 (undergrad), $34,364 (grad)
NYU’s biggest rival for Gotham-based film education, the college
boasts a number of power profs, including James Schamus, Andrew Sarris and Annette Insdorf. Known for its strength in both studies and production, the school has a great track record turning out award-winning indie helmers.
Alumni: Dennis Dugan (director), Theoni Aldredge (costume designer), Eugene Lee (set designer)
Tuition: $30,000 (undergrad)
Rather than offering a specific focus, DePaul provides students with an education encompassing all aspects of the film industry, including TV and new media. Through the B.A./M.A. program, students can earn a master’s degree in media, culture and society in just five years.
Alumni: Alex Tse (screenwriter), Max Mutchnick (TV producer), Bill Fiala (studio exec)
Though best known for its strong writing program, many other majors within film studies are offered, including cinematography, documentary production and directing. Each program strongly focuses on the creative aspects of the film industry.
FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
Where: Tallahassee, FL
Alumni: Alan Ball (writer-director), Jonathan King (producer), Jamie Linden (writer)
Tuition: $19,692 (undergrad), $45,116 (grad)
Through FSU’s Torchlight Program, students are placed into internships and help promote independent films such as “The Cove.” The school also helps to fund graduate thesis films, but only admits freshman during the fall semester.
FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY
Where: Winter Park, FL
Alumni: Gary Rizzo (sound mixer), Greg Silverman (vfx artist), Culley Bunker (motion graphics)
Tuition: $77,500 (full degree)
A school completely dedicated to showbiz careers, Full Sail provides students with an intensive program to help them become familiar with the highly demanding entertainment industry. Students spend 40 hours a week in programs which help them graduate and start their careers in half the time a common university would.
GNOMON SCHOOL OF VISUAL EFFECTS
Alumni: Ryan Calloway (3D modeler), Chris Perkowitz (animator), Erik Halsey (3D modeler)
Tuition: $3,750-$8,250 per term
Located in the heart of Hollywood, Gnomon has several certificate programs to train students in the art of visual effects. With a 93% placement rate for students after program completion, Gnomon’s two- to three-year and 10-week fast-track programs are a great option for students interested in vfx.
THE HARTT SCHOOL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF HARTFORD
Where: Hartford, CT
Alums: Thesps Keir O’Donnell, Janelle Anne Robinson, Marin Ireland
Though Hartford may seem an odd place to start your acting career, the school’s undergrad conservatory provides many opportunities for stage actors to step out of Connecticut and into the spotlight, from a 10-week study of Shakespeare in London to senior showcases in Gotham and L.A.
Where: Ithaca, NY
Alums: Bob Iger (Disney topper), Bill D’Elia (TV producer-director), David Boreanaz (actor)
Though tucked away in the small town of Ithaca, the school is host to an intensive cinema and photography program. Students are trained not only in their focus, but also digital culture as a whole. Students have a chance to spend a semester or summer in L.A., where they often intern for major production companies.
Where: New York
Alums: Robin Williams, Kelsey Grammer, David Lindsay-Abaire (playwright)
Tuition: $32,180 (undergrad)
Through the BFA program in acting, students spend four years perfecting their craft a stone’s throw from Broadway. Juilliard’s super-selective graduate playwriting fellowship picks four fellows for a tuition-free, one-year program, which may be extended for a second year, culminating in a showcase performance of their work.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY
Where: Los Angeles
Alums: Sean McNamara (producer), Dave Meyers (music video director), David Mirkin (TV producer)
Tuition: $36,404 Though you can clearly see the ocean from the west L.A. campus, film students spend most of their time in the soundstage and editing rooms of LMU’s constantly updated film facilities. Being in Los Angeles, students also participate in LMU’s film internship program, working for top studios.
MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
Where: Cambridge, MA
Alumni: John Dakss (NBC exec), Phil Bangayan (Disney exec), Tom & Ray Magliozzi (radio hosts)
Tuition: $52,900 (Sloan School), free (Media Lab)
For tech-junkies, MIT’s Media Lab
boasts a $25 million annual budget and researches a broad range of technologies, including those with film industry application. On the business side, MIT’s Sloan School of Management trains future execs.
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
Where: New York
Alumni: Spike Lee, Ang Lee, M. Night Shyamalan
Tuition: $43,998 (undergrad), $44,992 (grad)
Though marquee names like Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese give NYU’s Tisch the appearance of a big-studio prep school, the curriculum is actually geared more toward fostering independent voices (think Scorsese’s early films), attracting many international students to its program.
Where: Evanston, IL
Alumni: Zach Braff, Stephen Colbert, Warren Beatty
Tuition: $40,247 (undergrad), $42,776 (grad)
Dubbed a radio-television-film program, Northwestern’s film school marries a liberal arts education that focuses on the theory and history behind media with the rigors of hands-on filmmaking courses. Classes range from Understanding Media Contexts to Computer Animation: 3D.
Where: Oberlin, OH
Alumni: Mark Boal (writer), Alex Blumberg (radio producer), James Burrows (TV producer)
Tuition: $38,012 (undergrad)
This top conservatory provides a stellar music education in a liberal arts environment. Students are required to join at least two of the many music ensembles on campus, with opportunities to work on film projects, thanks to partnerships with the school’s budding cinema studies program.
Where: Athens, OH
Alumni: Ed Lachman (d.p.), Megan Griffiths (writer-director), Todd Rohal (writer-director)
Tuition: $17,742 (grad)
First year of Ohio’s MFA program is boot camp: everything from Avid training to acting class. With foundations locked, most grad students choose the directing track, relying on each other to collaborate and crew. Facilities are equipped, but old-school.
Alumni: Peter Ahern (writer-director), Daniel Clowes (writer, cartoonist), Harvey Fierstein
Tuition: $37,090 (undergrad)
With an unbeatable New York backdrop, Pratt offers an art-school education better suited to below-the-line disciplines, such as set and costume design, as well as animation, visual effects and other artistic pursuits. Film majors must also take classes in painting, sculpture and photography.
RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN
Where: Providence, RI
Alumni: Seth MacFarlane (writer-producer), Gus Van Sant, Martha Coolidge
RISD’s Film, Animation and Video (FAV) program expects each student to take hold of the creative reins and work independently from start to finish on projects that delve into his or her own specialty areas, emphasizing filmmaker second, artist first.
RINGLING COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN
Where: Sarasota, FL
Alumni: Student Academy
Award winners: toon helmers Bevin Carnes, Meng Vue, Josh Beveridge
High ranked for their computer animation major, Ringling starts students out with basic drawing and 2D toon courses before exposing them to computer-assisted techniques. The school, which also offers a strong digital filmmaking major, is known for the accessibility and skill of its faculty.
SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY
Where: San Francisco
Alumni: Craig Baldwin (director), Jay Rosenblatt (artist), Christopher Boyce (sound designer)
Tuition: $8,928 (full-time undergrad)
Less focused on studio-style technique than developing voices in experimental and social-issue docs and narrative by integrating critical thinking and theory with production practice. The grad curriculum offers a strong animation component.
SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN
Where: Savannah, GA
Alumni: Rose Ibiama (visual f/x), Stephen Winters (production services), Rebecca Tower (animator)
Tuition: $30,510 (undergrad), $30,960 (grad)
Noted as “the Ivy League Univeristy of animation” by 3D World Magazine, SCAD offers BFA and M.A. students access to tools used primarily by professional animators, putting them ahead of the game for future careers. Top toon studios often recruit from SCAD, knowing grads have key skills.
Where: Palo Alto, CA
Alumni: Cynthia Wade (doc helmer), Kim Roberts (writer-editor), Rachel Maddow (TV host)
Tuition: $40,050 for three quarters (one year)
Nonfiction enthusiasts will relish Stanford’s MFA in Documentary Film, where grad students hold public screenings and have a track record of winning Student Academy Awards. But the competition is steep: Only eight students are accepted to the program each year.
Where: Purchase, NY
Alumni: Stanley Tucci, Chris Wedge (animation director), Brian MacDevitt (lighting designer)
Located slightly north of Gotham, Purchase’s conservatory teaches students to make all films from docs to fiction. While the program mostly focuses on directing, students are allowed to petition for a different emphasis after their junior year.
Where: Syracuse, NY
Alumni: Rob Light (CAA head of music), Brian Fons (TV exec), Danny Zuker (TV producer)
Newhouse’s communications programs are now complemented by the Semester in L.A., a study-abroad program that not only rescues students from the perils of upstate New York winters, but also offers individualized attention along with relevant electives and internship opportunities.
Alumni: Thesps Norman Fell, Jesse Williams, Bob Saget
Temple has a strong doc program and offers industry-level equipment and an intense senior-year project that’s completed under the guidance of a faculty professor. Don’t let the remote location get you down: Temple offers L.A. internships for those looking to test the Hollywood waters.
Where: College Station, TX
Alumni: Jean-Claude Kalache (Pixar d.p.), Dave Walvoord (digital f/x supervisor), Gracie Arenas (EA Tiburon technical artist)
Tuition: $23,686 (undergrad), $6,328 (grad)
Though it offers a minor in film studies, this research school’s real interest to the industry is its innovative Viz Lab, which mixes artistic and computing disciplines in a studio environment. Instructors provide direction and critique as students solve complex design problems with classmates.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES
Where: Los Angeles
Alumni: Alexander Payne, Dustin Lance Black (writer), David Silverman (animation director)
Tuition: $33,181 (undergrad), $27,682 (grad)
A leading film program housed within a major state university, UCLA is strong in most disciplines, including animation. Proximity to Hollywood and a long line of supportive alums gives UCLA a competitive advantage in job placement, with many courses taught by working professionals.
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL OF THE ARTS
Where: Winston-Salem, NC
Alumni: David Gordon Green (director), Jeff Nichols (writer-director), Aaron Katz (writer-director)
With five separate BFA tracks and an MFA program that includes film composition, UNCSA boasts a highly competitive conservatory-style program, where students shoot a lot of film, while benefiting from guest artist presentations and a faculty-student mentor program. Warning: Stragglers seldom survive “sophomore slaughter.”
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (USC)
Where: Los Angeles
Alumni: George Lucas, Matthew Weiner (TV producer), John Singleton (director)
Tuition: $41,022 (undergrad), $27,776 (grad)
The 800-lb. gorilla of film schools, USC’s School of Cinematic Arts gives students access to facilities/equipment more advanced than many pro shows use, boasting working faculty across nearly all disciplines, from screenwriting to animation to its top-ranked videogame program. Downside: USC owns all student films.
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
Where: Austin, TX
Alumni: Gary Winick (director-producer), Matthew McConaughey, Jay & Mark Duplass
Tuition: $31,990 (undergrad), $16,000 (grad)
After years of sending entry-level talent to Hollywood, this Austin-based school has succeeded in creating a healthy Texas-based film community, thanks to local champs such as Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez. UT’s Michener Center also provides top training to grad screenwriters.
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MILWAUKEE
Where: Milwaukee, WI
Alumni: Chris Smith, Peter Zinda, Owen Klatte
Candidates must take hands-on foundational courses and build a portfolio that meets departmental standards in order to declare the film major. Once in, students learn to please their “inner clients” — themselves — with each project.
Where: Middletown, CT
Alumni: Mike White (screenwriter), Carter Bays (TV producer), Paul Schiff (producer)
While the school doesn’t offer a specific production degree, Wesleyan gives students the chance to study film under a strong liberal arts and critical studies foundation. The school is well represented in Hollywood through a support group of alumni widely known as the “Wesleyan Mafia.”