Home > Programs > Department of Film, Television and Digital Media > Graduate Degrees > Production/Directing - Documentary Program

Production/Directing - Documentary


The Film and Television Masters of Fine Arts in Production with an emphasis on Directing - Documentary seeks students with imagination, curiosity, and a desire to take risks and cross boundaries in order to reach farther and dig deeper. We believe in reinventing documentary, using new technologies and cross-pollinating between disciplines. We believe the best training is through working closely with faculty actively contributing to the field.

Alumni for the program include Garrett Bradley (Time) Alex Gibney (Going Clear, Taxi to the Dark Side), Grace Lee (American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, The Grace Lee Project), Laura Gabbert (City of Gold, No Impact Man) and Caveh Zahedi (The Sheik and I, I Am a Sex Addict).


The graduate Production/Directing - 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.


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.

MFA: Film and Television, Area: Production/Directing - Documentary

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.

Seminar courses in Cinema and Media Studies may include:

  • 203: Film and Other Arts
  • 204: Visual Analysis
  • 206A: European Film History
  • 206B: Selected Topics in American Film History
  • 206C: American Film History**
  • 207: Experimental Film
  • 209A: Documentary Film
  • 208B: Classical Film Theory**
  • 208C: Contemporary Film Theory
  • 209B: Fictional Film
  • 209D: Animated Film
  • 217: Selected Topics in Television History**
  • 217A: American Television History**
  • 218: Culture, Media and Society
  • 219: Film and Society
  • 220: Television and Society
  • 221: Film Authors
  • 222: Film Genres
  • 223: Visual Perception
  • 224: Computer Applications for Film Study
  • 225: Videogame Theory
  • 246: Electronic Culture
  • 270: Film Criticism
  • 271: Television Criticism
  • 277: Narrative Studies
  • 298: Special Studies (topics vary and must be selected in consultation with the graduate counselor)

Please note that not all courses are offered every quarter. Students should consult the registrar's schedule for available courses and class times.

**These courses are sometimes taught as a core course for MA students and may not be available to MFA students in any given quarter.

For information on the program and the full Application Process for the Production/Directing - Documentary please refer to the main Production/Directing Program site and select the "APPLY" Tab.

Please visit the FAQ page for additional information, call 310-206-8441, or email

** Please do not contact the department to check on your application, as we cannot update you on your application status or materials.

For Prospective Students:

For Current Students:

Film, Television and Digital Media Counselor: Laura Campbell

Film, Television & Digital Media Staff

Film, Television & Digital Media Faculty