close-up of directing slate

The first three semesters for all MFA candidates in Film and Television Production consist of common-core courses that provide foundational knowledge and experience. Prior to registering for the fourth semester, students declare one of five areas of specialization. From that point on, courses taken during the final three semesters of the program are tailored to the student’s specialization and to the thesis requirements. Read more below about each area of specialization.

  • Creative producers have the vision for a project from inception to final presentation; knowledge of all aspects of getting projects made (production, post-production, business and legal issues); and a skill for finding like-minded collaborators to bring projects to life. The creative producing specialization will prepare students for this exciting career path.

    During the three-year program, students will identify creative content (whether TV pilots, feature films, documentaries, streaming series, or other content), and will learn about all of the issues that affect how content is made. Topics include procuring the legal rights to intellectual property such as novels; financing films and other projects; identifying buyers and content distributors; hiring for creative roles; and producing content from start to finish. Click here to see coursework requirements.

    Students will graduate with a portfolio that includes one fully developed proposal for a feature film or television show, and one proposal for a documentary or a streaming series. These proposals will include detailed plans for rights, development, sales, financing, budgeting, packaging, marketing, distribution, and exhibition.

    Creative producers work with both MFA directing students and MFA screenwriting students so that all can experience first-hand how these disciplines support each other on a project. These collaborations also ensure that creative producing students gain practical experience in production and in working with writers.

    Students in this specialization are required to have internships and to work with a professional mentor to ease the transition from graduate school to employment.

  • Narrative fiction directors work closely with a project’s writer, producer, cast, crew, and editors to bring a story from page to screen. Their creative vision plays an important role in interpreting the scripts to enhance a story’s characters, themes, tone, and point of view. The directing fiction specialization will prepare students for this career path.

    Coursework focuses on developing a broad understanding of all aspects of visual storytelling from pre- to post-production, with specialized electives in responsibilities that directors of fiction often tackle, such as script analysis, working with actors, and directing the camera. Students will work closely with other MFA candidates to support their creative visions. Click here to see coursework requirements.

    Students will graduate with a portfolio consisting of three films they have directed, including an 8- to 15-minute short thesis film. The portfolio will also include promotional materials and a plan for pitching their thesis film to festivals.

  • Directors of non-fiction and documentary work closely with their production team and subjects to construct and convey their subjects’ stories with skill and artistry. Non-fiction stories evolve during filming, and thus directors must be mindful of changing opportunities and the access of resources available. To craft compelling stories, directors employ sophisticated techniques of narration, shot selection, editing, and sound design to craft a story with a strong point of view. The directing non-fiction specialization will prepare students for this career path.

    Coursework focuses on developing a broad understanding of all aspects of visual storytelling from pre- to post-production, with specialized electives in responsibilities that directors of non-fiction often tackle, such as working with non-actors, directing the camera, and post-production. Click here to see coursework requirements.

    Students will graduate with a portfolio of three films, including a 15- to 30-minute thesis documentary that they have directed. The portfolio will also include promotional materials and a plan for pitching their thesis film to festivals.

  • Cinematographers oversee the creative direction of photography and visual storytelling for films, TV series, and other media content. They collaborate closely with directors to achieve a creative vision. From camera and lens selection to determining shot composition and camera movement, cinematographers are integral to the visual development and mood of a story. The cinematography specialization is designed for students who wish to pursue a career in this fast-changing discipline, where evolving technology offers the opportunity for constant learning and innovation.

    Coursework focuses on cultivating a deep knowledge of camera technology; a mastery of the elements of cinematography such as framing, lighting, color, focus, exposure, and depth of field; and an understanding of how cinematography choices affect story, tone, and mood. Students will have the opportunity to hone their skills using the many types of cameras, lenses, lighting, and other equipment available at SFTV. Click here to see coursework requirements. to see coursework requirements.

    Cinematographers will collaborate closely with MFA directing candidates to help them realize their creative visions for projects. At the end of the program, students will have a portfolio of work to show to prospective employers, including a cinematography reel, an online portfolio, a personal marketing package, and links to four or more short films that they’ve shot.

  • Editors are responsible for reviewing all the footage filmed during production and choosing the shots that best tell the story—then assembling them artfully into scenes that bring the story to life. Editors work closely with directors to realize their visions for a project, and the choices they make play a pivotal role in shaping a creative work, be it TV, film, or other content. The editing specialization is designed for people who wish to pursue a rewarding career in post-production.

    Coursework focuses on developing a deep understanding of smart storytelling through editorial choices across all modes of media. Through deep dives into each stage of the picture and sound editorial processes—two separate but parallel efforts—students will also hone their technical skills with industry-standard software and tools. The program allows for further development in a sub-specialty area such as scripted content, music video editing, documentary editing, color correction, or sound design. Click here to see coursework requirements. to see coursework requirements.

    Editors will collaborate closely with other MFA candidates at SFTV to serve as principal editors on their projects. At the end of the program, each student will have a portfolio of work to show to prospective employers, including a demo reel; trailers for completed films; edited content for at least two graduate thesis films; and schedules, budgets, and workflows for each project. 

    Internships in post-production will be required to support each candidate’s area of expertise and to ease the transition from school to employment.