History of TFT
The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television is already a creative force recognized the world over. Its students, faculty, and alumni showcase their work at premier festivals and research conferences and win awards spanning every medium, platform and discipline. Its alumni have participated in a host of other major festivals and research conferences worldwide. The world looks to TFT for talent, thought leadership, and cutting edge research.
The School began over 60 years ago in 1947, when William Melnitz, an émigré German theater director who had worked with the legendary Max Reinhardt, became founding dean of the UCLA College of Applied Arts, with dramatic critic and film producer Kenneth Macgowan as chair of its Department of Theater Arts. For its first two years the department offered undergraduate study across three divisions: Theater, Motion Pictures, and Radio.
Developed in cooperation with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the four major radio broadcasting networks in Hollywood, and the Associated Committee on Television, this program marked the first time a major university had brought together these disciplines under a single administration. It remains groundbreaking.
Melnitz spearheaded the building program that enabled the renamed College of Fine Arts to grow quickly in stature and move each of its two Departments into separate facilities. In 1963, Theater took up residence in Macgowan Hall, and in 1967 the Department of Motion Pictures, Television and Radio moved into Melnitz Hall. Gradually, the Departments became more specialized across disciplinary lines in educational, research, and production activities.
In 1987 the College of Fine Arts was dissolved, and in 1990 the School of Theater, Film and Television was created with Gilbert Cates, eminent film, television and Broadway director, as its Founding Dean. It was the aim of Dean Cates to create a professional conservatory environment within UCLA, which by then was a major research university. Dean Cates greatly expanded the curriculum, faculty and outreach to the entertainment industry.
Distinguished professor and film historian Robert Rosen became the School’s second dean in 1999, after spearheading the growth of the UCLA Film & Television Archive into one of the largest collections of moving image material, second in the US only to the Library of Congress. Rosen built upon the foundation and successes of Dean Cates and expanded the School’s international influence with robust alliances in China, in particular.
Over the two decades of Dean Cates' and Dean Rosen’s respective tenures, the school grew in stature with the arrival of new faculty, tremendous student and alumni success, and innovative programs.
In 2009 the school welcomed the arrival of former award winning feature film producer, founding Dean of the LMU School of Film and Television and UCLA alumna, Dean Teri Schwartz who launched an exciting new vision and long range plan for the 21st Century that not only builds upon the rich legacy, traditions and successes of her predecessors, but differentiates TFT by re-imagining entertainment and performing arts education as an interdisciplinary enterprise grounded in humanistic storytelling, technology and innovation, global diversity and social responsibility.
Under Dean Schwartz’ leadership, TFT is creating new and innovative interdisciplinary programs and curriculum, recruiting outstanding faculty, staff and students, re-imagining its facilities and technology and connecting TFT even more robustly to its alumni, the entertainment and performing arts industries, the campus, city, and world.
This comes at a time of incredible change and transformation to the entertainment and performing arts industries and the disciplines that TFT serves. Embracing this change and our place as a leader in a globalized and digitalized world is an appropriately evolutionary step for TFT and, in fact, as its exciting history and story makes clear, such an interdisciplinary approach is inherently in TFT’s DNA.