Mount St. Mary’s College is broadening its array of film degrees by launching a new master of fine arts degree in film & television. The two-year, co-ed program will be held on weekends to accommodate both working professionals and aspiring young filmmakers and includes acting workshops as well as lectures from visiting industry professionals.
“We will have a very low student-to-instructor ratio and students will have tremendous access to filming and editing equipment right away,” said Pam Haldeman, chair of the MSMC’s Department of Film, Media & Communication. “They’re not going to have to wait to do real production work.”
The college’s film degrees have previously been concentrated on the undergraduate level. The MFA program shares a focus on human stories with MSMC’s bachelor of science degree in film, media and social justice. However, MFA coursework will be tailored to a student’s specific interests, from directing, producing and screenwriting, to cinematography, editing, special effects and sound.
Haldeman says the hallmark of the MFA program will be its mentoring model. “Upon graduation, our goal is to ensure that the graduate has landed a job or selected a job in the industry and has something lined up,” said Haldeman.
Each MFA student will be issued a high-resolution, production-quality camera, which they will be encouraged to use outside of class in projects of their own. The department uses RED cameras, the same ones used to shoot high-profile films The Hobbit and Thor. Students will also have access to Alexa, Blackmagic and Canon cameras, and will earn their certification in cutting-edge Avid software including ProTools.
Instruction and production will take place at two historic Hollywood studios. The MFA’s primary headquarters will be based on The Lot, a studio built in 1919 during the Silent Era of film. Through the years, the studio served as home to United Artists, Warner Bros. and Samuel Goldwyn. Films shot or edited on The Lot range from classics such as Some Like It Hot and Porgy & Bess to contemporary hits like The Green Mile and the Austin Powers trilogy.
“We’re thrilled to have a home at The Lot,” said MFA program director Ron Fernandez. “This is a studio that holds an important place in Hollywood history and it continues to serve as a vibrant filmmaking locale today.”
The state-of-the-art facility currently hosts companies such as Oprah Winfrey‘s OWN and popular shows like True Blood and Game of Thrones. Students in MSMC’s MFA program will have access to The Lot’s full gamut of offerings, including production offices, carpentry shops, screening rooms and more.
MSMC has also inked a deal for its own 4,400-square-foot sound stage, complete with a three-wall green screen, at Hollywood Center Studios. There, Stage No. 12 will be home to both instruction and filming for students in the program. The modernized Hollywood Center also dates to 1919, and has been the home for classic Laurel & Hardy films, TV hits like I Love Lucy, movies such as When Harry Met Sally and current TV clientele Comedy Central, Disney and NBC.
Instructors signed on to develop students include producer Chris Wyatt of Napoleon Dynamite; director Tommy O’Haver of Ella Enchanted and An American Crime; screenwriters Don Whitehead, Smallville and Beauty and the Beast, and Becca Topol; cinematographer Byron Shah of Mercy and Prom; film marketing executives such as Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Catherine Paura, CEO of Capstone Global Marketing & Research Group; and MFA program director Ron Fernández, a writer, director and member of the Writers Guild of America and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Fernández recently was awarded a Title V grant to develop coursework exploring the role of Hispanic Americans in early Hollywood cinema.