For more than a century, motion pictures have been the dominant form of entertainment for people around the world. From major studio blockbusters like The Avengers to small independent films like Paranormal Activity, movies are a collaborative art form. Dozens of people, from actors and directors to lighting and sound crews, must work together to create the two hours of escapism we see on the silver screen.
Each of these professionals must study their craft before they can work on a movie set. Many universities offer programs, everything from certificate courses to the best online masters programs in cinematography, dedicated to the cinematic arts for those wishing to pursue a career in film.
School: California Institute of the Arts
Alumni: Allison Brie (“Community”), Don Cheadle (Ocean’s 11, Iron Man 2), Paul Reubens (“Pee-Wee’s Playhouse”), Katey Sagal (“Married with Children”)
Degree Program: BFA, Acting
The CalArts School of Theater at the California Institute of the Arts prepares actors for stage, film and television work. Its Southern California location and connections with major movie and TV production companies give students access to the Hollywood power brokers who can jumpstart their careers.
School: American Film Institute
Alumni: David Lynch (“Twin Peaks”), Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Degree Program: Two-Year Conservatory Program, Directing
AFI has produced some of the most gifted and unique directors working in film today. Although neighboring schools USC and UCLA get more attention, AFI is much more focused on the art of filmmaking. AFI students work with professional, experienced actors, along with their classroom instructors, to assemble their thesis projects.
School: University of Southern California
Alumni: John August (Go, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), Pete Chiarelli (Eagle Eye), Russel Friend (“Roswell,” “House, M.D.”)
Degree Program: MFA from Peter Stark Producing Program
While many film schools offer opportunities for actors, writers and directors, very few provide programs for aspiring producers. The Peter Stark Producing Program is one of them. This program, which is housed at USC, helps students combine the creative vision of filmmaking with the entrepreneurial feel of a top-flight MBA course.
School: New York University
Alumni: Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911!,” “Funny or Die”), Keir Pearson (Hotel Rwanda), Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Degree Program: Certificate in Dramatic Writing: Screenwriting from Tisch School of The Arts
While Southern California film programs tend to focus on the performance and visual aspects of filmmaking, this prestigious program at NYU helps writers hone their storytelling skills. From the offbeat stories of Joel Coen (O Brother Where Art Thou) to the wacky comedy of Todd Phillips (The Hangover), some of the silver screen’s most memorable scenes owe their roots to the training offered in the Tisch program.
School: University of California at Los Angeles
Degree Program: MFA in Cinematography
The art of cinematography is more than just pointing the camera: it also requires the skill to bring the director’s vision to life. The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television is one of only a handful of film schools in the country to offer one-on-one instruction in how to shoot a film.
The continuing demand for filmed entertainment, whether on a movie screen, TV panel, or computer monitor, means that career opportunities in the cinema arts are likely to remain popular. Actors and directors may always be the most popular and sensational players in Hollywood, but the real art of filmmaking requires a wide range of skills and attendant training programs. Students can pursue their education at these and other stellar institutions to take their first steps towards their dreams of Hollywood success.