Film Schools in Los Angeles with Degree Program Options

Feb 26, 2019

Research film programs in Los Angeles, which currently has several schools offering programs. Read an overview of degree programs, admission information and program requirements for three schools that are less than 20 miles from downtown and decide which program is right for you.

Los Angeles Schools Offering Film Degrees

As might be expected, several schools in and near Los Angeles offer degree programs related to film making. This article looks at three schools, none more than a 25-minute drive from downtown L.A., and the programs they offer. A table of information about each school, such as enrollment, tuition, acceptance rates and graduation rates, is included. This may help prospective students decide which is their best school choice. At the end of the article is a little information on some other area schools with film programs.

  • Just under four miles from Los Angeles' downtown is the University of Southern California (USC). It offers two bachelor's degree programs and a master's degree program in cinematic arts, film and television production.
  • The American Film Institute Conservatory, 9.5 miles from downtown, offers Master of Fine Arts and certificate programs in six areas related to film making.
  • The University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) is in the Westwood region of the city, about 13 miles from the heart of L.A. UCLA offers a bachelor's degree program in film, and a master's in production with an emphasis on directing. It also offers master's and doctoral programs in cinema and media studies.

Comparison of Schools

The following table presents facts about each of these schools in a format that allows for easy comparison. Individuals looking for a school can use this information to make a sound decision.

University of Southern California American Film Institute Conservatory University of California - Los Angeles
School Type University; private not-for-profit University; private not-for-profit University; public
Total Enrollment (2017) 45,687 341 44,027
Campus Setting Large city Large city Large city
Tuition & Fees (2017-2018) $54,259 (undergraduate) $55,402 (graduate) $13,261 for in-state; $41,275 for out-of-state (undergraduate)
% of First-Year Students Receiving Any Form of Aid (2016-2017) 64% N/A 65%
Acceptance Rate (2017) 16% N/A 16%
Retention Rate (2016-2017) 96% for full-time students; 50% for part-time students N/A 97% for full-time students; 80% for part-time students
Graduation Rate (began studies Fall 2011) 92% N/A 91%

Source: NCES College Navigator.

University of Southern California

The faculty at the University of Southern California's cinema school places an emphasis on hands-on learning. Programs are structured in such a way that students take classes in several disciplines, regardless of which area of specialized study they're pursuing.

Bachelor of Arts in Cinematic Arts, Film and Television Production

Group and individual filmmaking experiences are an integral part of the program's curriculum, and students have the opportunity to learn about both the aesthetic and technical aspects of filmmaking. Out of the required 128 units for this degree, 42 must be taken in cinematic arts courses. In total, students can only apply 40 units of upper-division units to the program's total 128 units.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Cinematic Arts, Film and Television Production

Along with a liberal arts focus, this 128-unit program includes 64 units of classes in the cinematic arts. Students can take coursework in interactive media, writing, animation and critical studies, but the majority of classes focus on production experience. Additionally, major courses for this program are primarily sequential.

Master of Fine Arts in Cinematic Arts, Film and Television Production

It normally takes students three years to complete the 52 units required to graduate. The curriculum includes several film seminars and film history courses. Students also receive experience in advanced production and script analysis. They have the opportunity to create short films working within small groups.

American Film Institute Conservatory

Every year, this school awards professional filmmakers for their achievements in television, film and other moving image arts. This process helps to create a yearly almanac for the moving image arts. Students also are given awards in the form of scholarships.

Master of Fine Arts or Certificate

Students who enroll in this conservatory program can pursue either a Master of Fine Arts or a certificate. Both program options require at least 60 credit hours. The curriculum centers on students creating a fully realized and planned production from start to finish.

Individuals who enter the program can select from six specializations, including screenwriting, producing, editing, production design, directing or cinematography. The first-year curriculum of each discipline has similar coursework in topics like cycle production and narrative analysis. At the end of the first year, a portfolio review is required to stay in the program. The rest of the coursework varies based on a student's chosen specialization.

University of California - Los Angeles

Faculty and alumni associated with the School of Theater, Film and Television have won awards including Tonys, Emmys and Oscars. Students can pursue production-oriented or analysis- and research-focused degree programs.

Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television

Students enter this program during their junior year, and double majors are prohibited. The junior year provides an overview of television, film and digital media. The senior year is spent focusing on a student's specific interest, chosen from the following specializations: film production/directing, editing/post-production, cinematography, screenwriting, animation or digital media. Additionally, students are required to complete an internship in their final year.

Master of Fine Arts in Production with a Directing Emphasis

This 3- to 4-year program is designed to help students learn the craft, theory and history behind film production. During the first year, students complete a production workshop and create two short films. The second year requires students to complete an advanced film project under the supervision of a faculty mentor. The third and fourth years are spent developing a thesis project, which consists of a finished film or video.

Master of Arts in Cinema and Media Studies

At least 36 units are necessary to graduate. Students complete required classes on bibliography and methods of research in film and television, television history, classical film theory and American motion picture history. Depending on which courses are offered in a particular year, students can take classes on fictional film, animated film, documentary film, classical film theory, experimental film and/or contemporary film theory.

Ph.D. in Cinema and Media Studies

This doctoral program is intended for students who are interested in pursuing research and theoretical work in cinema. Students are encouraged to pursue a plan of study tailored to their individual interests. While enrolled in this program, many students find a research or teaching position at the university. They also have access to the school's film and television archives.

Other School Options

A cinema and media arts program also is available 14 miles from downtown Los Angeles at Biola University, while 20.1 miles out from the downtown area is Loyola Marymount University, which offers undergraduate and graduate programs in film and television production; film, TV and media studies; animation; and screenwriting.

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