Top Schools for Cinematography and Film Production

Learn about cinematography and film production programs, which can usually be found in a college communications or fine arts department. Get a snapshot of what's available at four leading schools, and find information about other film institutes and universities with top programs. View article »

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94% college-bound high school students
…said it was important to communicate with colleges during the search process. (Source: Noel-Levitz 2012 trend study)
  • 0:03 School Information
  • 0:34 New York University -…
  • 1:16 University of Southern…
  • 1:54 UCLA
  • 2:31 Columbia University -…
  • 3:11 Top Film Schools

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Video Transcript

School Information

Students around the country may find a number of top colleges and universities that offer programs in cinematography or film production. Curriculum emphasizes hands-on training in the development of personal and team projects. Let's profile four schools that received exceptional rankings from U.S. News & World Report in 2016. Three of the four schools offer undergraduate and graduate programs in film and television production. Admission to the programs is highly competitive, particularly for graduate students.

New York University - New York, NY

In 2017, New York University ranked 36th among national universities according to U.S. News and World Report. The Tisch School of the Arts has one of the largest film and video production facilities in the East, where students can earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in film and television production. Once enrolled, students become familiar with every step of the film and video production process, including the use of the camera (cinematography), editing, and sound production. They also have the opportunity to showcase their work through annual student film festivals, such as the First Run Film Festival. A dual Master of Business Administration and Master of Fine Arts program for TV and film production students is also available.

University of Southern California

A private school located at the center of the U.S. film industry in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California ranked 23rd among all national universities per the U.S. News and World Report in 2017. At the School of Cinematic Arts, students can earn a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, or a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Film and Television Production. The MFA takes about three years to complete. In the second year of study, MFA students specialize in one area of film production, such as writing, editing, directing, and cinematography. The University of Southern California is also home to the Peter Stark Producing Program.


According to U.S. News and World Report, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ranked tied for 24th among national universities in 2017. UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television offers a four-year MFA in Cinematography program that includes courses in lighting, directing, digital cinematography, and production. In preparation for their theses, students in the cinematography and directing programs have the opportunity to collaborate on their own productions. UCLA has the second largest film collection in the country behind the Library of Congress.

Columbia University - New York, NY

In U.S. News & World Report's 2017 edition, Columbia University tied for fifth in top national universities. Undergraduate students in the art school may major in film studies. This program covers the art form, technologies, and cultural significance of cinematography and film production. At the graduate level, students have the option to pursue a Master of Fine Arts focused on the creative aspects of filmmaking, screenwriting, directing, and producing or a Master of Arts focused on the history, evolution, and impact of filmmaking. The faculty in the film program at Columbia University School of Arts are active in producing major motion pictures.

Top Film Schools

Let's take a few snapshots of other top cinematography and film production schools in the nation.

School Name Distinction Location
American Film Institute Conservatory Hosts the Harold Lloyd Master Seminar series Los Angeles, CA
California Institute of the Arts Students present their films at the school's Bijou Theater Valencia, CA
Florida State University Honored by the Director's Guild of America Tallahassee, FL
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Home to the Gene Siskel Film Center Chicago, IL
University of Texas - Austin Has the Master Class guest lecture program Austin, TX

We have looked at some of the top programs in the country for cinematography and film production, including several located in the heart of the film industry, Los Angeles. Students can also find top film programs in New York and other regions of the country.

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