How Do Distance Learning Filmmaking Degrees Work?

For those desiring to get behind the camera to participate in creating meaningful films, earning a degree in filmmaking could provide vital technical skills. This area of study is obviously hands-on, so fully online programs are rare.

Online filmmaking degree programs utilize online learning platforms and hybrid study formats to provide educations for aspiring professionals. Programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels.

Inside Online Filmmaking Degree Programs

Because filmmaking is a hands-on process that requires a great deal of interaction and, often, technique, there are very few online filmmaking degree programs available. A few do exist, however, and many other filmmaking degree programs are hybrid programs that allow students to complete a portion of the degree via the Internet and the rest of the degree in a classroom on the institution's campus.

Filmmaking degrees are often available from colleges that focus specifically on art or media programs, though some public colleges do have filmmaking degree programs; general colleges are often more likely to have online study options than traditional art institutes because of the nature of the subjects that an art institute presents.

Learning Methods

Hybrid filmmaking classes and degree programs include some online work along with the traditional classroom work. Because of this, hybrid programs usually follow a fairly normal academic schedule, not allowing for as much flexibility as fully online classes and degrees do. Hybrid classes normally have a set of assignments that are distributed online that students must complete in order to present to the class at one of a series of set meeting times throughout the semester. Fully online degree programs are usually more flexible, with a set of guidelines for when assignments must be turned in that are looser and may simply have a requirement for all work to be submitted by the end of the class.

The online portions of a class, or fully online classes, are normally presented via educational software that allows students to login from any Internet connection to complete classwork and interact with the class via forums, email and instant messenger, all of which are combined into a single interface. These virtual classrooms also normally allow students to take tests online via a built-in testing system and may grade assignments in real time as students complete them. Some education software also includes video or voice conferencing capabilities.

Technology and Equipment

Distance learners need an up-to-date computer with features that support software programs used for digital filmmaking. They also need to be equipped for general distance learning requirements, such as downloading coursework, submitting assignments and communicating with instructors and other students. Therefore, they may need computers with the following features:

  • An up-to-date operating system
  • High-speed Internet connection
  • A certain amount of memory
  • Office software, such as word processing programs
  • Web camera
  • Headset with microphone
  • CD/DVD drive

Hybrid programs that include on-campus studio courses usually have their own cameras and filmmaking equipment for students to use. In some cases -- particularly in totally online programs -- students are required to have their own equipment to work on film projects at home or in their area.

Degree Options

Students can find distance learning or hybrid degree programs in filmmaking at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels.

Associate of Arts Degree

Associate of Arts (AA) degree programs typically last for two years and provide students with a basic introduction to the field of filmmaking. Students take liberal arts courses alongside introductory filmmaking courses. The minimum educational requirement is usually only a high school diploma or GED. In general, students learn about fundamental topics such as:

  • Visual storytelling
  • Professional communication in the film industry
  • Editing
  • Lighting
  • Cinematography

Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree

As in associate's degree programs, students in bachelor's degree programs take both general education and filmmaking coursework. Over the course of the program, they develop a portfolio of film work, which they may use to demonstrate their skills to future employers or graduate admissions officers. Some of the specialization options within the field of filmmaking that students might choose include:

  • Cinematography
  • Directing
  • Editing
  • Production Design
  • Producing
  • Screenwriting

Master of Fine Arts Degree

Master of Fine Arts degree programs typically include less general education coursework than undergraduate degrees, enabling graduate students to focus on honing their filmmaking skills. In order to gain admission, students are often expected to submit a reel or portfolio of their work, as well as a resume. In total, master's degrees take two to three years to earn. The programs culminate in a thesis project that demonstrates the student's skills in their particular area of specialization. Other areas of study within master's degree programs help students build their skills in:

  • Storytelling
  • Communication in the film industry
  • Making films in teams
  • Creating career and self-marketing plans

In a degree program in filmmaking, students can expect to utilize online platforms as they take courses in the art of filmmaking, as well as general education and liberal arts classes. Both undergraduate and graduate-level programs are available, depending on the student's previous experience in the field.

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