Situated in the Department of Art & Art History as part of Stanford’s program in Film and Media Studies, the Master of Fine Arts program in documentary production provides a historical, theoretical, and critical framework within which students master the conceptual and practical skills for producing nonfiction film and video.
The MFA degree is designed to prepare students for professional careers in film, video, and digital media. Graduates are qualified to teach at the university level. The philosophy of the program is predicated on a paradigm of independent media that values artistic expression, aesthetics, social awareness, and an articulated perspective. Students become conversant with the documentary tradition as well as with alternative media and new directions in documentary.
In addition to the core production courses, students take a range of film studies, documentary film history, art history, and art practice courses, helping them situate their documentary film practice within a context of critical engagement with the world. The MFA degree is designed to prepare students for professional careers in film, video, and digital media. Graduates are qualified to teach at the university level. In their first year, students learn the fundamentals of visual storytelling, working in a range of media, from black and white 16mm film to digital video. Each film is made within a collaborative partnership, and while students serve as directors of their own projects, the partnerships encourage collegial interaction and foster community, one of the strengths of the program. A testament to the success of this approach is the number of long-standing professional relationships among our graduate alumni. In their second year, the students produce a 15-20 minute thesis film over the course of the academic year. The films engage with pressing social issues while taking a bold, cinematic approach to documentary storytelling. Thesis films from the program have gone on to screen at major festivals (Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca, among others), have been broadcast on PBS’ POV and Independent Lens, featured on the NYTimes’ Op-Docs, and have won major awards. Stanford films have garnered more Student Academy Awards in the Documentary Category than any other college or university.
Size of the Program
The Department admits 8 students each year to this program.
Time to Completion
Two years; students are required to be in residence at Stanford for the full two years of the program.
Documentary Film graduate students receive a generous amount of fellowship support. In the past several years this fellowship support has covered more than 90% of the full tuition costs. If admitted, students are notified of any tuition fellowship we are able to offer in the first year of study. Additional information about graduate financial aid, including a student budget and tuition calculator are available at http://financialaid.stanford.edu/grad.