What is a Film Production Degree?

Strictly speaking, the five components of ‘producing’ a film are finding and developing the script, recruiting a film director and actors, finding sources of funding, managing the budget, and managing the production team. The typical film production degree program, though, covers more than just these responsibilities of the film producer. It covers aspects of all of the key disciplines of filmmaking, which are listed below.

  • Screenwriting – writing a script: story structure, dialogue, character development
  • Directing – how to tell a story cinematically
  • Cinematography – essentially, this is the ‘photography’ of the film: camera angle, framing, shot duration, movement, and lighting
  • Producing – oversight and management of a film’s production
  • Production Design – the principles of how to develop a visual concept, design the set, create the budget
  • Editing – picture editing, sound editing, sound mixing, music, color correction

These topics may be taught from the perspective of narrative/fiction films, documentaries, and/or experimental/unconventional films.

Program Options

Before reviewing the degree options that exist in this field, it is important to note that programs are typically designed around the seven stages of film production. At each degree level, coursework generally falls into one of these stages:

  • Development – finding a script or being pitched a script or story outline by a screenwriter or a director
  • Pre-Production – planning the shoot locations and schedules; creating the budget; hiring production staff director, production designer, art/set design director, costume designer, cinematographer, editor, talent director, actors, and music supervisor
  • Production – daily shoot planning; ongoing coordination with the set/location team, office staff, production company, and distributors
  • Principal Photography – the filming of the bulk of the movie
  • Wrap – striking/dismantling of the set, clearing of the location, returning of rented items or ‘props’ to suppliers
  • Post-Production – reviewing the footage shot throughout principal photography; editing and assembling the movie; finalizing of visual effects, music, sound design
  • Distribution – finalizing of details with distributors and platforms (examples: Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures, HBO, Netflix)

Associate Degree in Film Production - Two Year Duration
A two-year associate degree program provides students with a basic background in film production and often prepares them for roles as production assistants. The typical curriculum includes both classroom instruction and hands-on studio sessions. Common courses are:

  • Fundamentals of Film Production
  • Introduction to Screenwriting
  • Introduction to Directing and Renowned Directors
  • Introduction to Cinematography
  • Introduction to Video and Sound Editing
  • Film Eras – study of the history and evolution of film over the decades

Bachelor’s Degree in Film Production - Four Year Duration
Graduates of a four-year bachelor’s degree program in film production have wider employment opportunities, both directly within the film industry and in related fields. They may find employment as camera operators, film and video editors, producers, directors, sound engineering technicians, scenery supervisors, broadcast journalists and news correspondents, and art directors.

The curriculum at this level is comprehensive and gives students the opportunity to work on individual and group productions. This hands-on experience exposes them to the demands of all aspects of filmmaking. Courses expand upon the topics listed above in the associate degree section and also typically include:

  • Contemporary Films
  • Documentary Storytelling
  • Acting / Monologue / Dialogue
  • Film Production Budgeting and Scheduling

Master’s Degree in Film Production - Two to Three Year Duration
A Master’s Degree in Film Production, which takes between two and three years to complete, prepares graduates for senior roles in the field. At this level, students may choose a concentration and earn a degree such as Master of Fine Arts in Cinematography or Master of Science in Film Production.

Master’s degree coursework covers:

  • Advanced Film Theory
  • Advanced Script Analysis and Editing
  • Advanced Cinematography
  • Advanced Sound and Lighting
  • Short Film and Documentary Production

Doctoral Degree in Film Production - Four to Six Year Duration
There are no jobs in the film production industry that require a doctoral degree. The Ph.D. programs offered in the field are targeted at students who want to teach filmmaking at the university or college level or to conduct film research.

The doctoral curriculum concentrates heavily on these areas:

  • The History of Film
  • The Psychology and Philosophy of Films
  • The Social, Cultural, Political, and Economic Impacts of Film
  • International Cinema

Degrees Similar to Film Production

Degree programs in this field teach students how to create animation for film, television, video, and computer games. Coursework includes 3D modeling and animation, drawing, sound design, and storyboarding.

Art Direction
Like film producers, art directors are concerned with design, visual style, and imagery. Majors in the field include the magazine, newspaper, product packaging, movie, and television production sectors.

Broadcast Journalism
Students of broadcast journalism learn how to report, produce, and deliver the news for television, radio, and other broadcast media. Their studies typically include communication theory, electronic media production, mass communications law, and media and society.

This discipline looks at how people collect, share, and use information. It combines elements of the social sciences and the humanities to study how humans communicate. While the field explores traditional and new interactive media, it also examines language and how we use it.

Exhibit and Set Design
The world of set and exhibit design for large exhibitions and movie, television, and theater sets offers yet another option to students with a visual/design bent.

Cinema Studies
Degree programs in film studies combine film history, theory, and criticism. Students learn how to discuss and write about films critically and examine how films are connected to national histories and identities.

Graphic Design
This degree field is concerned with design theory, color, photography, typography, and commercial design. Visual communication is the common thread between film production and graphic design.

Photography degree programs teach the technical, creative, and business skills required to be a professional photographer. Typical coursework includes history of photography, black-and-white photography, color photography, lighting techniques, materials and processes, two-dimensional design, and digital photography.

Skills You’ll Learn

Film production is a multidimensional art and science. It therefore leaves its graduates with a considerable skillset:

  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Multitasking
  • Flexibility
  • Self-discipline
  • Decision-making
  • Leadership
  • Research
  • Writing for different audiences / Storytelling

What Can You Do with a Film Production Degree?

Film Production
Of course, the goal of most film production graduates is to work directly in the film industry. Because filmmaking is a complex art and science, it offers various kinds of employment opportunities. Please refer to the sections above for specific positions.

Advertising / Marketing / Communications
Film production skills may also be adaptable to the advertising, marketing, and communications fields in roles such as art directors, account managers, market researchers, and copywriters.

Arts / Culture / Design
The artistic and design skills gained by film production graduates can be put to use in roles with companies that produce and manage festivals and other cultural events.

Broadcast Journalism
The field of broadcast journalism offers creative roles such as television/video editor, camera operator, TV producer, and program researcher. Employers include local, national, and international broadcasting and production companies.

Curating and Archiving
Museums and galleries, as well as publishing and publicist firms hire curators and archivists to produce exhibits and preserve historical papers, letters, diaries, clippings, documents, maps, films, videos, sound recordings, and other records.

With the appropriate teaching qualification, degree holders can use their knowledge to teach the discipline, either on a freelance basis or with a film school, art institute, college, or university.

Photography / Videography
Photographers and videographers use their artistic eye and technical knowledge to capture images on film, digitally, or on video. Specific occupational categories include portrait studios, television, film making, and freelancing.

Photojournalism / Print and Digital Journalism / Publishing
The artistic and creative skills that are taught in film production degree programs are applicable in photojournalism – taking and editing photographs for use in magazines, newspapers, and online. Print and digital journalism, as well, present opportunities to write about films and filmmaking.

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