Where a Film Studies Degree Can Take You

Has someone ever asked you what the best movie you ever saw was, but you couldn’t give an answer because you honestly have numerous favorites in mind? You have a list of what you believe are perfectly created films that you can re-watch all day!

Movies: A Quick Rewind

Movies, films, and products from the entertainment industry are now part of our daily life! Needless to say, the stories, experiences, and truths behind such works of art have highlighted some realities.

So how did movies become so popular? Let’s do a bit of a rewind.

A movie is a picture in motion that usually tells a particular story and can be viewed on various platforms such as television screens, computers, or mobile devices. Movies started as still images projected through a device called the kinetoscope. Individuals can take turns peeping through this device, viewing concise stories of images within a minimal amount of time. It was the invention of the great Thomas Edison, together with his assistant, William Dickinson. Creative minds went on to reinvent the device to what we now enjoy as the big screen.

Fast forward to years of development with technology and innovation, the still images from a single peephole device are now transformed into a multi-billion dollar business, complete with high-level cinematography, special effects, Hollywood cast actors, and blockbuster chain outlets. So you’re now probably thinking, how can you get started with such a big-scale enterprise? Well, earning a degree in a Film Studies program is your answer!

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What is a Film Studies Degree?

If you are into the arts and have a passion for movies, storytelling, or video editing, then you are a prime candidate for a degree in Film Studies. This such degree focuses on film theories, history, and critical analysis of such materials. It also covers the techniques and strategies in movie production, starting from the pre-production, production proper, and post-production stages.

Film Studies might not be one of those standard college or university courses like business administration, engineering, or science degrees. However, there is evidence of a fast rise in the number of enrollees in this area of study since the 1970s.

Creating a name in the film industry can open many doors for you. The Bureau of Labor Statistics saw a 14% increase in wages within the motion picture and video industries in 2019. Fame and fortune are most likely your trophies once you hit the jackpot and land a big project.

Here are the core subjects of a Film Studies degree program:

  • Film History – This field covers the historical milestones in cinema. It involves studying how films and movies started and evolved with the advancements in technology and the changes in the economic landscape. Film History students watch historical films and analyze their context.
  • Film Theories – This area studies the bits and pieces of movies and how such elements convey their intention. Knowing this will make you more critical of the concepts in all film genres and how they are beneficial to society.
  • Film Genres – If you’re a movie geek, you must have seen numerous movie genres. Here are the 13 main genres of movies:
    • Action – The scenes in this type of movie are mostly composed of fast-paced shots such as fighting sequences, car chases, and exciting stunts.
    • Drama – These movies are emotionally driven and present a lot of conflicting plots. Most of the stories depict real-life situations where characters are very much relatable.
    • Adventure – Similar to action movies, the main difference with an adventure-filled film is that the setting or environment takes place in a far-away land or exotic surrounding.
    • Horror – This genre establishes the feeling of fear to its audiences. If stories about monsters, serial killers, or ghosts are your kind of entertainment, then this is the genre for you.
    • Comedy – If you love a good laugh, then comedy films are the way to go. These movies involve humorous scenes and plots.
    • Mystery – For people who love to solve puzzles or play detective, this is the perfect film genre. It generally presents a story that can significantly trigger your curiosity.
    • Fantasy – This movie genre highlights supernatural beings, the out-of-this-world world environment, and non-existent creatures.
    • Western – For lovers of stories involving cowboy shoot-outs in the desert, this is the recommended genre.
    • Musical – If you arere into singing characters, musical performances, and big set productions, then a musical genre is the best movie for you. The development of the characters is weaved into musical numbers within the film.
    • Thriller – This genre blends mystery, curiosity, and excitement in a story. There are unexpected plot twists that keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
    • Romance – Love stories? Why not? The romance genre presents the main characters experiencing and overcoming relationship challenges.
    • Science Fiction – These movies usually show the concepts of alternate realities and impossible imaginations that come into life. Usual topics include themes about time and space travel. 
    • Sports – In this genre, a specific sport is the movie’s central idea, usually representing the players, the sports fans, or both.
  • CinematographyThis subject covers all the essential elements of combining photography and visual storytelling concepts. Within this core subject, you will be learning how to deal with lighting, camera positioning, angle framing, choice of camera lenses, color, focus, and more.
  • Film Production – Another one of the core courses of Film Studies. As the actual process of creating movies, it involves multi-level steps in the production of a full-length film. Movie production has five major stages:
    • Development – This is where you craft the central concept of the movie’s story, coming up with a draft for the script and identifying the financial needs of the whole production.
    • Pre-production – Once the script, movie concept, and financial requirements are finalized, preparation for production comes in. This involves organizing your shoot schedules, procuring the film equipment, casting roles for the actors, and following the production budget.
    • Production – This is the part where the actual shooting of a film begins. This section is also called principal photography. The staff and crew covering all the shooting aspects include the props and set coordinator, camera and audio men, lighting crew, billing, catering assistants, and many more!
    • Post-production – Once the production proper is complete, the people in charge of the post-production process edit the scenes, add the special effects and audio voiceovers, and finalize other post-process touch-ups.
    • Distribution – After everything has been edited and finalized, preparation for promotions and marketing will take place. The movie will be released in theatres or on digital platforms.
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What Skills Do You Develop with a Film Studies Degree?

Film Studies has five main skill categories:

  • Theoretical analysis – These are the skills that are developed by studying film theories, film analyses, film histories, genres, and cinematography. Once you are able to hone this skill, you can critically analyze films of various categories. Such research can help you find movies’ proper placement into society and what benefits they can bring to the people. This can also open awareness and increase appreciation of the material. Theoretical skills require a lot of focus in understanding the elements, concepts, and factors of movies. This changes your view on how films are produced, primarily if they are serving their purpose.
  • Artistic creativity – Creating a film, right from establishing the storyline up to the final output distribution, is impossible without an artistic touch! A great filmmaker creatively imagines the film concept, re-imagines the characters, and visualizes the storyboard.
  • Technical knowledge – Such skills require more on the application of specialized techniques, especially in film production. The capabilities included in this area are video editing, camera placement, audio and sound manipulation, etc. Getting yourself updated in the most recent tech, especially the ones required for film production, can make you a master within this area in no time.
  • Leadership – Depending on your role, your leadership skills could significantly improve with a Film Studies degree. As film making requires many personnel and crew, and all the processes involved must be managed and monitored by a leader. For the most part, each department has a leader to ensure that all objectives for the film are running according to plan.
  • Communication – As there are many instructions and processes to keep in mind in film making, it is essential to communicate effectively with your team. Whether you’re part of the production crew, the actors, or the director itself, you should know how to speak openly to bring the whole team’s vision into life.
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Professional Organizations for Film Studies

Like other career fields, Film Studies also has a set of professional organizations that push the advocacy of films, their purpose and highlight the creative works of deserving and talented people. It is incredible to know that several groups support many artistic individuals in Film Studies, especially as they are now using technology and innovation as platforms for the film industry’s growth. Here are some professional organizations with their purpose and advocacy:

  • Society For Cinema and Media Studies – Also called SCMS, they are the top scholarly organization that pushes for understanding and appreciating the works in film, television, and other kinds of media. They mainly advocate this through research and education. They not only cater to media advocacy within the US but also promotes international works as well. Their scholarships are centered around students that can significantly see the value in media contexts of history, theories, culture, art, society, and psychology. 
  • Independent Film and Television Alliance – For independent filmmakers, this particular organization, also called IFTA, supports the independent television and film industry. An independent film is produced outside the limits of a famous movie production company. They are mostly start-up filmmakers, novice actors, and rising talents. Shying from the mainstream production houses, those who opt for independent filmmaking often start with low-budget films. This is where the IFTA comes into play and helps out newbie filmmakers with promotion and finances.
  • Broadcast Film Critics Association – This is the most prominent film critics’ organization across the US and Canada to provide valuable analysis and critiques of every film released. They are one of the largest sources of great movie reviews, which shape the way movie consumers interpret and appreciate movie outputs.

These professional organizations play a significant role in strengthening the advocacies of filmmakers across the entire globe. With that said, it is more encouraging to pursue a degree in Film Studies, knowing that these groups exist for a better industry in films. But what makes such associations more extraordinary is their partnership with colleges and universities that offer degree programs in Film Studies. With this, the schools can highlight their program’s talents, the students who have a lot of potential in becoming legends in film making. They can also present how their degree programs are structured and how their courses and subject offerings stand out from the rest.

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10 Best U.S. Colleges Offering Film Studies Degree Programs

So you might now be curious as to what are the best schools offering a Film Studies degree. Well, worry no more! College Cliffs has done the work for you! Check out the list below where we have gathered the top ten places to obtain a File Studies degree.

The University of Southern California
School of Cinematic Arts

If you are looking for a technologically advanced degree program, then UCLA is the right fit for you. Their School of Cinematic Arts has a wide array of courses that cover traditional media and combines a focus on digital media and animation. One type of innovation that their enrollees and students all love is the Virtual Reality Lab. It helps them create visionary 3D Animations and special effects. Moreover, their location is just a mere neighbor away from Hollywood, so students have fewer hassles connecting with the industry’s biggest names.

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New York University
Tisch School of the Arts – Kanbar Institute of Film and Television

New York houses a lot of prestigious schools, and they did not skimp when it came to the film industry. The Tisch School of the Arts has the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television as their undergraduate program for Film Studies enrollees who want to master the art of film production. They have notable alumni, including renowned director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Night at the Museum) and Jon Watts (Spiderman: Homecoming). Their program is deemed as the best in the United States because it offers dual degrees with business courses from their elite business program of Stern School.

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Loyola Marymount University
School of Film and Television

Based in Los Angeles, California, Hollywood’s premiere site, Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television offers students a great advantage. If you want to have an in-depth and intensive study about films, they have a 12:1 student to teacher ratio. They currently have almost a thousand students enrolled in their program, which means they have many dedicated faculty to support them. What makes them better is that they have more than 400 plus partnerships with movie and production companies for their internship programs. This can significantly open doors for their students to connect with the right people in the industry.

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Boston University
College of Communication Film and Television Program

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, this university has a complete range of courses for you to master film making. Such a course offering is under the College of Communication Film and Television Program. They start with the essentials and foundational principles of film theories, storytelling, and creative visualization. What makes them unique is you can choose your majors depending on what career goal you want to pursue in the future. According to Hollywood Reporter‘s 2020 top Film School list, they have also been consistently featured in the Top 25 American Film Schools.

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University of California Los Angeles
School of Theatre, Film, and Television

As with other top-notch film schools, UCLA’s prime location makes it an excellent ground for those who want to pursue filmmaking. They have the School of Theatre, Film, and Television, where they have various majors and course offerings. What makes them unique is having a Virtual Reality laboratory with 360-degree camera heads, perfect for excellent shots and film angles.

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Chapman University
Dodge College of Film and Media Arts

Also located in California is the Chapman University. This university has the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts program that allows students to excel at enormous rates. Here, students are continually expected to perform as the best, and in everything they do. It is because of this internal drive and push that they are consistently rated among the top American Film Schools, according to Hollywood Reporter’s 2020 list. Aside from their state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, they also have outstanding advocacy supporting underrepresented locals in their community, such as people of color and race.

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Florida State University
FSU Film School

As they ensure that their students get the best jobs right after graduation, 97% of their graduates land a job position within one year. This assurance encourages enrollees to try the program. You can also access their equipment and facilities on a 24/7 scale, with all of their student films financed by the degree program itself. Most of their notable works revolve around documentaries, animations, and research films.

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University of Texas at Austin
Department of Radio-Television-Film in the Moody College of Communication

As one of Texas’s pride schools, the University of Texas at Austin is home to talented alumna Matthew McConaughey, where he is also an instructor in their advanced production classes. They also have one of the gigantic green screens aside from Hollywood’s production studios which can significantly help their visual editing effects.

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Ithaca College
Roy H. Park School of Communications

Located in New York, the school’s Film Studies program has diversified not only in film but also in photography and visual arts. One of the best things that their program offers is a summer internship in Italy that exposes students to different photography techniques. They also encourage international film screenings to promote diverse cultures and ethnicities in film concepts.

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Wesleyan University
College of Film and the Moving Image

When it comes to resources for films and documentaries, the College of Film and the Moving Image has a vast library of valuable cinematic files. Students can maximize the Wesleyan Cinema Archives – a massive library of excellent cinematic and film materials. Great filmmakers and researchers also access the library as it has an in-depth collection of precious files and research papers about cinema.

Aspiring filmmakers and creatives have such a wide array of options for schools and colleges offering degree programs in Film Studies. It is also integral to emphasize that such universities’ tuition fees might be more expensive than other courses due to the availability of production equipment, hands-on training, and international internships.

ALSO READ: Celebrities Who Went To College

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Film Studies Career Options

Many are not aware, but there are plenty of career options once you pursue a Film Studies profession. However, it is also good to keep in mind that competition in such areas is very fierce as people have the same goal in mind – to land a big project. What is important when building your portfolio in the film industry is to have a lot of work experience and connections to known names, just like any other job career. But of course, creating that network with the right people takes some special skills and perfect timing to make sure your name will be recognized. Some of the best career options that you can focus on in this field are:

  • Film Producer – As the movie’s primary producer, you are in charge of overseeing a film’s whole production. This means that you will be the one monitoring the storyline, hiring scriptwriters, and ensuring that there is a financial game plan for the filming. Essentially, a film producer:
    • develops a material that is either already existing or conceptualizes a film concept on their own,
    • looks for movie financing options and pitches the project to entertainment companies,
    • set the budget and plan for production,
    • oversee the pre-production, production proper, and post-production processes,
    • manage the advertising, promotion, and distribution of the final material.

Some famous Hollywood producers include Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List, Transformers, E.T. Extra-Terrestrial) and Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs).

  • Film Director – Your central role is to lead your team of production staff, talents, and creative crew in creating a cohesive film. As you spearhead such a project, you will need to communicate your ideas and vision to the broader team. You will need to continually check the scripts, camera angles, acting, shoot locations, and video editing. The average pay of a film director is around $69,500 per year. Here are the skills required for you to be a great film director:
    • Creative taste
    • Initiative
    • Finds resolutions and prepare alternatives
    • Prepared for adjustments
    • Team player
    • Able to work under pressure
    • Has the good visual and technical foundation
    • Excellent communicator

Some famous directors include Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands) and Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception).

  • Movie Actor/Talent – If you want to be widely known as a movie star or TV personality, then being an actor(ess) would be the recommended career path for you. An actor’s job is to effectively deliver a character’s role in a film or entertainment medium. They use their body, facial expressions, and reactions to communicate with other actors during filming. Very famous actors and actresses get millions of dollars in contracts with big production houses such as in Hollywood. If you want to perfect your acting skills, here are the best ways on how to do it:
    • Internalize scripts and familiarize yourself well with the story of the movie. Your emotions are based on how you interpret your lines, so you need to absorb and feel every emotional element conveyed in the film.
    • Get to know the other casts and actors as well. Understand their lines for you to adjust your emotions and how you respond to a scene.
    • Make it a habit to practice facial expressions in front of a large mirror. If you want your acting to shine through, you can train your facial features such as your eyes and mouth to deliver reactions and emotions suited for your role.
    • Explore related sceneries that are associated with your character. Interview or talk to real people who are similar to the roles you act out. Having a perspective of their experience can make you stand out in delivering your lines.
  • Screenwriter – This is one of the critical job roles in film production. You are responsible for creating characters, dialogues, conversation sequences, and the film’s overall storyline. Scriptwriters can choose their specializations, and some of the common ones are for television shows, blockbuster films, or digital video materials. Here are the prominent roles of being a scriptwriter:
    • As you will be writing the characters’ dialogue, you will need to do extensive research on the film’s perfect screenplays.
    • Work together with the producer and director if any adjustments are needed to align with the film’s concept.
    • Work closely with the actors and help them deliver the dialogues you have presented in the script.

One of the most famous scriptwriters today is James Cameron. He is the award-winning writer for Avatar and The Titanic.

  • Video Editor – This job role is mainly essential for the post-production part of filming. This means that as a video editor, you will be in charge of editing the sequences of the final shots, add special effects, fix audio settings, adjust the lighting, and many others. There are about 10 – 50 film editors in big films, especially when it comes to animations or fantasy films. You will also need to master technical skills in using editing software such as Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, Final Cut Pro, etc. Keep in mind that to be a great video editor, you must:
    • Know the latest and most upgraded equipment and editing software. This might include knowing the specifications of certain computer types to be used in editing. Read user reviews and explore video tutorials if the editing program is new to you.
    • Be meticulous in the files and items that you would need to arrange and segregate. Being an editor is a tough job as you will need to know the proper sequences of the shots, what effects are appropriate for a specific scene, and what settings are required to reach maximum experience in watching the film.
    • Communicate well with the film director and post-production team. There might be sudden changes that need to be applied to certain parts of the movie, so you need to understand what the other team members are trying to say.
  • Production Designer – As the visual arts is one of the main elements being noticed in films, it takes a master to develop the best set design, props, costume, and location styles. If you love this type of creativity, then this is the right job for you. As a production designer, you need to have the right eye for identifying different film styles. Having a fair judgment on what looks best on camera is also helpful in this kind of profession. Here are some skills that you might like to check if you think this job is suited for you:
    • A good foundation in art history, art disciplines, and cinematic art
    • Imaginative and creative
    • Resourceful
    • Keeps in line with the film budget
    • Has a keen eye for design
  • Camera Operator – As a camera operator, you are responsible for handling all camera equipment, adjusting their placements and angles, and operating other machinery to integrate with the camera settings. Camera operators know about film scripts and storylines, and understand the film director’s instructions. You may also need to have a background in using different cameras used in television, documentaries, and research films as the camera type depends on the video content category. Here are some pro tips on how you can master being a camera operator:
    • Always practice your shots and camera angles. You can never go wrong with practicing and preparing yourself for video shoots and filmings. Decide ahead what are the best camera positions for you to take before filming so that you can alert your mind and body for coordination during the shoot.
    • Camera operators are great multi-taskers. Adjusting the perfect headshot while waiting for the director’s cue can be quite confusing for some. But if you’re good at doing several things at once, then being a camera operator might be your calling.
  • Advertising Director – Your primary duty is to conceptualize and produce artistic ideas to advertise the film. Such materials that need to be covered under your watch are film posters, cinema and TV teasers, internet ads, press releases, and radio plugs. Being creative is the key to release the best advertisement for film promotions. This can significantly affect how the film will be promoted, especially if you have a big movie sales target. If you want to be good at your job as an advertising director, then you will need to read some tips below:
    • Know your film’s target market. If your film is produced and created to satisfy children, make sure to use lots of happy colors in your materials. Fine-tune everything according to your audience’s demographics so that you can receive a great response from them.
    • Utilize all kinds of media platforms to advertise your content. Make sure to publish ads in TV, internet spaces, radio streams, and event releases.
  • Event Manager – If you have an upbeat attitude and love to communicate with people, this job role is definitely for you. An event manager is the one who manages the business, promotional and social gatherings. Your responsibility will include organizing business meetings for the executive team of the production. You will also be in charge of handling promotional tours, film screenings, and even meet and greet events, especially with celebrities. If you want to pursue such a career, then here are some suggestions for you to take note of:
    • Create lots of connections! As an event manager, you will be communicating to a lot of third-party suppliers, venue managers, food and beverage staff, and many others. Booking an event is easy if you have already established a professional relationship with the business’s right people.
    • Always bring your organizer or planner with you. Multi-tasking is your middle name if you are to be an event manager. Answering phone calls, arranging schedules, and sticking to your event budget all need an organized mind.
    • Have an event checklist. One of the great ways to ensure that you’re on top of everything is to list down all necessary to-do’s and check them one by one once done.
  • Talent Agent – If you have a vast network of talented individuals and/or actors in your contacts list, then you might want to try this profession. A talent agent is someone who sources out skills in film production or a creative project. They can be individual contractors or employees working under a talent agency. They have a vast list of people to contact whenever a new project comes up. They are also aware of the casting auditions schedules and usually have established connections within the film industry. As someone who has a big network, you need to master the following skills:
    • You know how to filter the best talents on your list. Once you have confirmed what movie role is needed for the audition, you need to develop a quick judgment on who is best for the casting within your network.
    • There are cases where some talent agents who have friends in production companies get to be contacted first for auditions. It is always good to establish a good working relationship with such companies.
    • Always have a reserved talent in case something urgent comes up and your first contact backs out. This is a great troubleshooting tip whenever talents or actors suddenly leave without prior notice.