California Film Schools with Course and Program Summaries

Aug 01, 2019

California has more than 60 schools that offer film programs. Learn about the degree programs, tuition info and program options for the ten largest schools to make an informed education decision.

Essential Information

Graduate and undergraduate film degree programs are available at 4-year and 2-year colleges and universities throughout California. These programs may have different tracks available within them to help students personalize their education. Film programs tend to be hands-on, allowing students to work with the tools they will use in their careers through workshops and internships. Students may be required to complete a thesis, dissertation, project, or film at the end of the program.

There are more than 60 colleges and universities offering film programs in the state of California. Below are summaries of the 10 largest schools with film-related degree programs, including some of the required courses, as well as a comparison table showing individual school offerings and tuition info.

California State University - Sacramento

This Sacramento- based, public university is home to more than 24,000 undergraduates. The school offers a Bachelor of Arts in Film, with emphases in film studies or digital film/ video production. Regardless of selected emphasis, students complete core courses in film theory and criticism, America and Hollywood, digital film production with a lab component, media aesthetics and Avant-Garde cinema.

In the film studies emphasis, students complete a capstone course, which consists of a senior seminar in film; in the digital film and video production emphasis, the capstone course is a video production practicum. All students in the film studies program have access to the campus' cameras and other production equipment, AVID and Final Cut editing stations, a digital audio lab, a video studio and a sound stage.

City College of San Francisco

San Francisco's City College of San Francisco offers an Associate in Science in Cinema Production. This 2-year program requires 37 credit hours of film-related courses, including fundamental film production, motion picture sound, directing or documentary filmmaking, film editing and digital finishing. Students in the college's Cinema Department have access to video, Super 8mm and 16mm cameras; lighting and grip equipment; and computer labs.

Long Beach City College

Located in Long Beach, this college's Department of Theatre, Dance and Film awards an Associate in Arts in film. This 60-credit program includes 22-24 credit hours of film-related courses; students complete stage and screenwriting, film exploration, production fundamentals and acting basics. They must also choose from a production workshop or an intermediate production course.

San Francisco State University

Located in San Francisco this state university offers three relevant degree programs, including a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema, a Master of Arts in Cinema Studies and a Master of Fine Arts in Cinema. The bachelor's program offers students a choice between emphases in media and culture, animation, filmmaking or screenwriting.

The master's program in cinema studies requires 30 credits of coursework and is designed for individuals interested in a scholarly career researching and writing about films. Students in the 60-credit MFA program take hands-on production courses and complete a final creative project.

Santa Monica College

Santa Monica College, in Santa Monica, offers an associate degree program in film studies. Students take at least 21 credit hours of film courses, including society and film, motion picture history and cinema fundamentals. Additional elective courses are offered in areas like film criticism and interpretation, directing the short film, popular film genres and women in film. This degree program requires completion of 60 credit hours, including general education requirements.

University of California - Berkeley

The Department of Film and Media at this Berkeley -based institution offers an undergraduate and a graduate option for individuals interested in studying film. The bachelor's program requires students to take courses in film theory, documentary film and avant-garde film, in addition to courses in film history. Students must meet a foreign language requirement and may be able to participate in an internship.

To enter the Ph.D. program, students must hold a master's in film or complete the program at Berkeley. The school's M.A. program is only offered in conjunction with the Ph.D. program. In addition to three graduate seminars, the master's requirements include courses in film theory and film historiography. Students also complete a Master of Arts examination in their third semester. After earning an M.A., students can proceed to the Ph.D. in Film and Media during their fourth semester of study. By the end of the sixth semester, a student must have advanced to Ph.D. candidacy by passing a qualifying examination. Over the next 4-6 semesters, Ph.D. candidates create a prospectus, conduct research and write a dissertation.

University of California - Davis

This University of California campus, in Davis, has a Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies, offered through its College of Letters and Sciences. Students in this major have a choice between writing a senior thesis and creating an original film. From film theory and history to the film traditions of different cultures, students learn about a range of film-related issues. There are several areas on which students can focus studies, from visual and popular culture, to production and performance, to sexuality and gender. Students with a grade point average of 3.50 or higher can complete a senior thesis for eight of the required 20 credits in a specific thematic emphasis.

University of California - Irvine

Situated in Irvine, this university offers a bachelor's program in film and media studies. Through the School of Humanities, students can join 300 others in the study of film and society and gain hands-on filmmaking experience. After completion of courses in digital technologies and new media, film basics and history of broadcast media, students can choose from other courses including genre study, narrative, screenwriting, studies of culture and media. The school also offers internships for qualified students.

University of California - Los Angeles

This Los Angeles school is home to the largest university-based film and television archive in the United States. The school's Department of Film, Television and Digital Media offers several undergraduate and graduate degree options for film students. The Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television requires courses in video and television production, fundamentals of screenwriting, experimental film, documentary film and other film-related topics.

At the graduate level, production-oriented students can choose from a Master of Fine Arts in Cinematography, Screenwriting or Producing. Those interested in film studies can enroll in a Master of Arts program or a Doctor of Philosophy program.

In the cinematography program, students participate in introductory film workshops, courses in lighting for television and film, as well as intermediate, advanced or digital cinematography. During the third and fourth years, students photograph three films directed by MFA students and complete a critical thesis on a chosen aspect of cinematography.

The screenwriting program emphasizes skill building in plot and character development and narrative storytelling. Students complete coursework in intermediate and advanced screenwriting and choose from a series of film electives that cover topics such as European film studies, television history and film theory. For the master's thesis, students complete a minimum of four feature-length screenplays.

Students who enroll in the production MFA program can select an emphasis in directing. The curriculum covers directing, postproduction, editing, screenwriting and film analysis. The thesis requirement involves developing and producing a short film that is 30 minutes or less in length.

University of Southern California

In Los Angeles, the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California offers competitive programs for film students, including bachelor's degree options and an MFA program. The Bachelor of Arts program offers tracks in film and television production and critical studies. The production track incorporates hands-on instruction in screenwriting, producing, cinematography, directing, sound, editing and student film collaboration, while the critical studies track provides coursework in the history of film, film theory and film criticism. The Bachelor of Fine Arts program offers advanced workshops in a student's area of choice, based on their major, such as production or screenwriting.

The school offers MFA programs in Film and Television Production, Writing for Screen and Television and Producing, as well as a master's program in critical studies. The production program is a 3-year program focusing on all aspects of cinematic production, while the writing and producing programs are two years in length and require coursework tailored to the selected discipline. The critical studies program entails seminar and survey courses on various genres of film and television history.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting Film Degree Programs Offered Undergraduate/Graduate Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)*
California State University - Sacramento 4-year public; large city Bachelor of Arts in Film $7,310 (in-state)
$19,190 (out-of-state)
City College of San Francisco 2-year, public; large city Associate in Science in Cinema Production $1,696 (in-state)
$10,372 (out-of-state)
Long Beach City College 2-year, public; large city Associate in Arts in Film $1,174 (in-state)
$7,750 (out-of-state)
San Francisco State University 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Arts in Cinema,
Master of Arts in Cinema Studies,
Master of Fine Arts in Cinema
$7,260 (in-state)
$19,140 (out-of-state)
$8,694 (in-state)
$18,198 (out-of-state)
Santa Monica College 2-year, public; small city Associate in Arts in Film $1,142 (in-state)
$8,918 (out-of-state)
University of California - Berkeley 4-year, public; midsized city Bachelor of Arts in Film,
Doctor of Philosophy in Film and Media
$14,184 (in-state)
$43,176 (out-of-state)
$14,131 (in-state)
$29,233 (out-of-state)
University of California - Davis 4-year, public; small suburb Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies $14,402 (in-state)
$43,394 (out-of-state)
University of California - Irvine 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Studies $13,700 (in-state)
$42,692 (out-of-state)
University of California - Los Angeles 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television,
Master of Fine Arts in Cinematography,
Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting,
Master of Fine Arts in Production,
Master of Arts in Cinema and Media Studies,
Doctor of Philosophy in Cinema and Media Studies
$13,226 (in-state)
$42,218 (out-of-state)
$12,946 (in-state)
$28,048 (out-of-state)
University of Southern California 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Arts in Cinematic Arts with a track in film and television production,
Bachelor of Arts in Cinematic Arts with a track in critical studies,
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Cinematic Arts, Film and Television Production,
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing for Screen and Television,
Master of Fine Arts in Cinematic Arts, Film and Television Production,
Master of Art in Critical Studies,
Master of Fine Arts in Producing,
Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Screen and Television
Undergraduate: $56,225
Graduate: $45,561

Sources: *NCES College Navigator.

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