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Production / Directing – Documentary MFA

Explore the intricate world of documentary production, where imagination, risk-taking, and boundary-pushing come together.

A MFA in Production with an emphasis on Directing – Documentary invites curious and imaginative individuals ready to revolutionize documentary storytelling, harnessing innovative technology and blending disciplines. The documentary program is committed to preparing our students for the profession while pushing and experimenting with new forms. This interdisciplinary program understands documentary as a dynamic practice that includes critical studies, research, creation, and collaboration, but also distribution, exhibition, and marketing to bring your story to the world. We are located in Los Angeles, international center of the media film industries and among the most diverse cities in the world. We are driven by a dynamic faculty working at the crossroads of documentary practice with state of the art equipment. We are enriched by an international network of artists, alumni, collaborators, and supporters. We believe the best training is through working closely with our faculty who are actively contributing to the field.

Alumni for the program include Garrett Bradley (Time) Alex Gibney (Going ClearTaxi to the Dark Side), Grace Lee (American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee BoggsThe Grace Lee Project), Laura Gabbert (City of GoldNo Impact Man) and Caveh Zahedi (The Sheik and II Am a Sex Addict).


The first year of the program is an intensive workshop in the collaborative processes of production. The curriculum includes directing, cinematography, editing, preproduction and postproduction.

The second year of the program provides further development of the student-mentor relationship in collaborative workshops as the student writes, directs, and develops their creative vision while taking critical studies and advanced craft courses.

In the final year, students create a documentary thesis production, a significantly researched and articulated vision for a film with a distinct voice and opportunity for social impact.


Please note: We are currently undergoing a comprehensive curriculum review. The courses listed below represent a sampling of the kinds of courses that we expect to offer in relation to the Documentary concentration. Program requirements are currently under revision and will be updated as we complete our process of curriculum review.

Students in the Documentary concentration take a combination of courses that are specific to documentary making and others that are congruent with the Directing or Cinematography concentrations. These may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Documentary Research Methodologies
  • Advanced Documentary Workshop
  • Introduction to Immersive Documentary
  • Business of Documentary
  • Introduction to Directing/Coverage
  • Direction of Actors for Film and Television
  • Advanced Direction of Actors for Film and Television
  • Advanced Coverage
  • Directing Actors for Camera
  • Writing Short Screenplays
  • Advanced Writing for Short Film and Television
  • Advanced Narrative Directing Workshop
  • Advanced Abstract/Experimental Media Workshop
  • Costume Design
  • Design for Film and Television
  • Film Analysis
  • Introduction to Cinematography
  • Intermediate Cinematography
  • Advanced Cinematography
  • Digital Cinematography
  • Lighting for Film and Television
  • Cinematography and Directing
  • Emerging Techniques and Technologies in Cinematography
  • Digital Workflow
  • Digital Manipulation on Set and Post
  • Avid Editing
  • Advanced Film Editing
  • Postproduction
  • Postproduction Sound Design
  • Digital Audio Postproduction
  • Introduction to Feature Film Writing
  • Introduction to TV Writing
  • Feature Film Writing
  • Contemporary Topics In Theater, Film and Television
  • Special Topics: Transnational Cinema
  • Special Topics: Realism
  • Special Topics: Alternative Media Praxis
  • Digital Imagery and Visualization
  • Introduction to Virtual Reality
  • Advanced Digital Media Workgroup
  • Thesis Preparation
  • Career Strategies


In addition to required and elective coursework in Documentary, students also have the opportunity to take courses in other specializations within FTVDM. All program and departmental requirements (such as Cinema and Media Studies seminars, classes in outside specializations, and/or shared departmental classes) must be completed no later than the quarter when the advancement to candidacy takes place.