Students in film production programs demonstrate their skills and creativity through class projects. All these programs offer broad overviews of the film production process and give students hands-on experience in many areas of the film making process. Master's programs may require more academic and theoretical study and often call for a thesis paper or project. Undergraduate applicants need to have graduated high school or earned a GED for admission. Some programs also might request a writing sample or portfolio. Prospective graduate students must have earned a bachelor's degree. Most of these programs require demonstrated creativity and skill as a film maker. Online courses and programs are available.
Associate's Degree in Film Production
A 2-year associate's degree program in film production introduces basic concepts in visual storytelling, as well as technical skills in lighting, shooting and editing films and videos. Instead of learning isolated skills, students typically engage in every stage of production from conception to completion to gain a full understanding of the process. Productions generally are structured to provide opportunities for collaboration between students. Liberal arts courses in English, mathematics, psychology and sociology usually are components of associate's degree programs. The portion of a curriculum devoted to film production is likely to include classes in the following:
- Introductory film technology
- Digital media and motion graphics
- Introduction to film lighting
- Editing fundamentals
- Set design
Bachelor's Degree in Film Production
A 4-year bachelor's degree program in film production generally covers the same introductory and intermediate-level material as an associate's degree program, while providing more opportunities to take part in productions and examine film theory, film history and film as a business enterprise. Some programs have students choose among specializations in editing and post-production, screen writing, acting or cinematography. Students are expected to learn to function as part of a crew, recognize different cinematic styles and demonstrate technical competency. Courses in communication, composition, the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences are required in many bachelor's degree programs. Schools might organize their production courses into a small set of core courses and a larger set of elective courses. Classes might include the following:
- Film history
- Cinematography fundamentals
- Sound for film
- Digital editing and post-production
Master's Degree in Film Production
A master's degree program in film production provides degree candidates with the means to define their conceptual orientation, hone their technical skills and refine their aesthetic sensibilities. Programs often require students to work in multiple forms, such as fiction, documentary and commercial, even if they're primarily interested in one over the others. Students also accumulate more experience working in assorted crew roles on projects initiated by fellow students. A film production master's degree program generally can be completed in 2-3 years. The first 1-2 years of courses in a film production program typically emphasize academic and technical preparation for a thesis project. The final year is devoted to completing the thesis. Some courses in a master's program might include:
- Film criticism
- Narrative theory
- Line production
- Visual design and story boarding
Popular Career Options
An associate's degree can facilitate access to entry-level freelance work in film production. Earning a bachelor's degree opens a wider range of career possibilities, but graduates should expect stiff competition for production jobs. Degree holders might find employment with major film, television, and audio production studios, independent production companies, and equipment rental businesses. Possible job titles might include:
- Camera assistant
- Production assistant
- Set design assistant
- Post-production technician
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Graduating from a master's program in film production usually qualifies degree holders to seek positions as directors and producers. For the decade of 2019-2029, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) projects a 10% growth in employment for these workers. Growth is expected to derive from increased cable and satellite broadcasting, worldwide demand for U.S. films and continued development of interactive media. In spite of industry growth, the supply of qualified professionals is likely to exceed demand. As of May 2020, producers and directors earned an annual median salary of $76,400.
Continuing Education Information
Many colleges and universities that offer bachelor's degree programs in film production accept credits earned in associate's degree programs. In some locales, 4-year schools have partnerships with community colleges to streamline the transition for associate's degree holders. People who pursue a master's degree in film production can enhance both their production skills and employment prospects. Master's degree programs are available across the U.S., particularly in large markets such as New York, Southern California, Florida and Texas.
A film production degree may help students find work in positions such as production assistants, directors and producers. Coursework typically provides students with hands-on experience in producing film.