School of Motion Pictures & Television Graduate Degrees

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Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree

The School of Motion Pictures & Television's MFA program offers advanced, multifaceted study of the film arts. Areas of emphasis include story structure, cinematography, directing, editing, and various producing aspects. Students produce a reel of work that reflects their refined talent and professional readiness.

MFA Motion Pictures & Television Unit Requirements

Major 27 units
Directed Study 18 units
Graduate Liberal Arts 12 units
Electives 6 units
TOTAL 63 units

MFA Motion Pictures & Television Degree Requirements

  • Successful completion of Final Thesis Project
  • Minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA
  • Minimum grade of C in all required 63 units

Additional Information

MFA Program Learning Outcomes

Graduate students will meet the following student performance criteria:

MFA Thesis Project

  • Propose a thesis worthy of the MFA degree
  • Demonstrate the feasibility of the thesis
  • Complete an approved body of work which represents an advanced level of achievement in their area of focus (cinematography, directing, editing, producing, production design, or screenwriting)


  • Apply their specialty skills to communicate stories and ideas effectively in films


  • Conduct necessary research for film projects.

Communication Skills

  • Explain their projects and thesis proposal clearly and specifically to a review committee, using professional terminology.
  • Produce comprehensive Midpoint and Final Review Books that include all required elements for their focus area.

Collaboration Skills

  • Demonstrate evidence of working in creative teams on multiple projects.

Professional Readiness

  • Create a compelling demo reel or portfolio to market themselves for industry opportunities (as appropriate to their professional goals).
  • Develop marketing plans for their careers.

Specialty Skills: Cinematography

  • Work effectively with various film and digital cameras, lenses and accessories.
  • Design and execute creative lighting schemes and choices that serve the story.
  • Apply principles of composition and camera movement to enhance the story (working with the director).

Specialty Skills: Directing

  • Guide a crew in preproduction, production, and postproduction to execute effective choices that serve the story.
  • Elicit engaging and believable performances from actors.

Specialty Skills: Editing

  • Demonstrate proficiency in the technical skills involved in editing.
  • Creatively problem-solve to assemble scenes and sequences that generate interest and emotional impact.
  • Organize the proper workflow and demonstrate basic trouble shooting skills and professional responsibility.
  • Apply high level analytical skills to make creative decisions about such areas as editing for performance of an actor, genre cutting and stylistic elements.

Specialty Skills: Producing

  • Acquire or originate and develop material on two approved projects, acting as creative producer; OR
  • Assemble the creative team and produce 6 television spec commercials for multiple professional clients in close collaboration with the School of Advertising; OR
  • Assemble the creative team and produce 3 spec music videos for professional recoding companies and their contract performers.
  • Supervise complex film projects from development through exhibition, ensuring delivery requirements have been met.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with negotiating film contracts (for actors, crew, locations, equipment, lodging, transportation, and catering).
  • Demonstrate understanding of the legal aspects of film production, including copyrights, trademarks, music licensing, working with minors, unions, finance and distribution.
  • Demonstrate understanding of film marketing including market research, target audience, promotional tie ins and product placement, press kits, and social marketing. Supervise appropriate publicity campaign.

Specialty Skills: Production Design

  • Competently communicate design concepts through basic drawing skills and visual presentations
  • Collaborate with the cinematographer and director to develop a cohesive visual style
  • Assemble and lead art department crews
  • Effectively manage department budgets
  • Design effective sets and locations including creating and dressing sets, choosing locations, and selecting and managing props
  • Supervise day to day operations of the art department, set decorations, props, and locations; oversee costume, hair, and make-up design to support the “look” of the film set design, locations, props, costuming, hair/make-up to ensure visual continuity in the film
  • set design, locations, props, costuming, hair/make-up to ensure visual continuity in the film

Specialty Skills: Screenwriting

  • Write shorts and features that demonstrate compelling story and character development.
  • Pitch their stories effectively.

Academy of Art University Learning Outcomes
Graduates of the Academy of Art University will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Produce a body of work suitable for seeking professional opportunities in their chosen field of art and design.
  2. Solve creative problems within their field of art and design, including research and synthesis of technical, aesthetic, and conceptual knowledge.
  3. Communicate their ideas professionally and connect with their intended audience using visual, oral, and written presentation skills relevant to their field.
  4. Execute technical, aesthetic, and conceptual decisions based on an understanding of art and design principles.
  5. Evaluate work in their field, including their own work, using professional terminology.
  6. Recognize the influence of major cultural and aesthetic trends, both historical and contemporary, on art and design products.
  7. Learn the professional skills and behaviors necessary to compete in the global marketplace for art and design.


Please see Degree Breakdown for requirements for the program. Explore our course catalog and take classes based on your interests, either online or in our world-class facilities in San Francisco.

Graduate Degree Breakdowns

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

The MFA degree provides advanced study for students pursuing a career in Motion Pictures & Television. Studio courses focus on the techniques necessary to develop and master technical skills. Graduate Liberal Arts courses promote the expression of ideas and effective communication utilizing visual, oral and written presentation skills. The program culminates with an independent final project. Students will graduate from the program equipped with a portfolio of work and prepared for professional opportunities in the field of Motion Pictures & Television.

Gainful Employment Information

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