Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

A New MFA in Film and Television Production at SDSU

New MFA in film production results in high-quality student films that can be seen at SDSU film festivals throughout the semester

A New MFA in Film and Television Production at SDSU

By Elizabeth Allison

February 5, 2019

San Diego State University’s Television, Film, and New Media (TFM) program is now offering Master of Fine Arts in Film and Television Production. The first MFA class graduated in Spring 2018, and a new cohort will be graduating at the end of this semester.

The MFA is built around the production of two milestone film projects: a qualifier film, and a thesis project. The thesis film, which takes four semesters over the course of two years to complete, is a festival-worthy calling card for students to use to enter the filmmaking industry.

Each incoming class ranges from 8-10 students per cohort, with between 24-30 graduate students total in the program. Each student is able to create films and build course loads around his or her own interests, as the program equally emphasizes both documentary and narrative films.

Finding Student Storytellers

“We look for a point of view and the ability to tell a story,” said David Morong, professor and graduate advisor in the Television, Film, and New Media Program at SDSU. “Our program is focused on the storyteller and people with something to say.”

To help the student filmmakers tell their stories, the SDSU Film and New Media Program has professional level equipment from every area available for student productions. This results in high-quality films that are ready for festival submission upon their completion.

A practice that sets SDSU apart from other film programs nation-wide is that students own the rights to their films after they graduate, which is often not the case at other universities. As they remain the owner of the films, students are able to submit their films to festivals, representing both themselves and their academic experience at SDSU. By controlling the rights to the film, students have the opportunity to develop a festival strategy or a plan to distribute it for generating income. These entrepreneurial endeavors further educate film students about the industry.

Morong recognizes the importance of having the students own their films, especially when they have brought their own unique voices to their work. “SDSU emphasizes the independent filmmaker,” he said.

Student Collaboration

The bulk of the courses in the graduate program are in film production, making several small films throughout the three-year program. Student filmmakers work collaboratively to complete their films, often drawing on the talents of the undergraduate film and television production students.

From screenwriting to post production, students can select their areas of specialization. The program offers a creative, collaborative environment in which directing students direct their own films and select peers, specializing in cinematography, design, editing, and other production components, for their production teams.

“The collaborative dimension is a huge part of the process,” said Greg Durbin, area head for SDSU’s TFM program. “The film students at SDSU really know to value their work in different craft areas such as editing, sound design, or production design.” This emphasis on building professional skills facilitates a collaborative spirit in classes that allows students to work with and learn from each other.

“We have a tremendous undergraduate program, filled with students who bring high-level technical skills,” said Morong. “We really encourage the graduates to take advantage of this pool of talented undergrads, and their thesis films will largely be staffed by these students.”

On Campus Film Festivals

Three film festivals will celebrate student work throughout the Spring 2019 semester. The Best of the Best Film Festival (Feb. 6 and 7), the Valentine’s Day Film Festival, (Feb. 14), and the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase (May 15 - 16), take place at the Don Powell Theater on SDSU’s campus.

The festivals feature films are written, produced, and edited by film students at San Diego State University. Collectively, the graduate and undergraduate students in the TFM program produce over 100 films per semester, making SDSU one of the most productive on the West coast. Faculty members select student work as part of a curating process for each individual film festival. The Valentine’s Day Film Festival showcases films about the topic of love, representing a wide variety of subjects and tones. While viewers can expect to see traditionally romantic short films, they can also expect to see work that takes a different thematic perspective.

Ticket Information

Each evening of the film festivals runs roughly 90 minutes, featuring a different collection of films each night. General admission tickets cost $10 and can be purchased online or at the Don Powell Theatre box office.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

News List