Master of Fine Arts in Cinema

This is an archived copy of the 2016-2017 bulletin. To access the most recent version of the bulletin, please visit Any changes will appear on our errata page.

The 60-unit M.F.A. program is divided into three distinct parts and is designed to be completed in three years. During the first year, students build a foundation through the study of technical crafts, aesthetics and theory; develop their creative process; and, begin to integrate conceptual frameworks into their creative work.

In the second year, this foundation is broadened through advanced courses that lead to the production of short film projects demonstrating original thinking, conceptual clarity, technical skill, and the refinement of a personal aesthetic. Second year work also is geared to prepare each student to successfully complete the thesis proposal.

In the third part of the program, students complete a thesis that is a culmination of previous work and a reflection of the development of the student's creative voice. M.F.A. students are also expected to gain teaching experience as teaching assistants or teaching associates in the School of Cinema.

Admission to the Program

The School of Cinema accepts new M.F.A. students for the fall term only.

Application for admission requires two distinct processes:

The graduate admission application to San Francisco State University is a two-part process. Part One is the university application submitted to the Division of Graduate Studies. Part Two is the academic department application submitted to the Graduate Coordinator for your intended degree program. You must submit Part One and Part Two of your graduate admission application simultaneously by deadline to be considered for admission. Applicants may only apply to a single graduate program per application term.

Part One:
  1. Apply online through CSU Mentor for a Graduate Program. The Office of Graduate Admissions no longer accepts paper applications to graduate programs.
  2. Pay the 55.00 USD application fee. We recommend that you pay online by credit card at the moment you submit your application. If you selected the option to pay the application fee by check or money order, make the check payable to “San Francisco State University”
  3. Send all required documents noted on your online SF Gateway Portal “To Do List” to the Division of Graduate Studies:

             Graduate Admissions
             San Francisco State University
             1600 Holloway Ave., ADM 250
             San Francisco, CA 94132

Official Transcripts:

Submit official transcripts from every college or university ever attended, including study abroad coursework, community college coursework even if transfer credit appears on your degree transcript to the address listed above. Make sure your financial obligations are settled at previously attended institutions so they will release your transcripts. (Please note: If you previously attended SF State University, you do not need to submit a SF State transcript.

Part Two:
  1.  Submission of the M.F.A. application (found on the School of Cinema website) and materials specifically requested by the School.

Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 in the last two years of undergraduate study. Applicants with degrees in areas other than film who show exceptional potential will be considered for admission to the program.

Applicants must meet all general university requirements for admission. Prior to admission, all candidates must have completed two courses in cinema studies beyond the introductory level. One of these courses must be in critical theory, stressing critical approach or methodology; the other must be in cinema history. One introductory course in film production and a basic course in non-linear digital editing, or equivalent experience is required. Students will be expected to use Adobe’s Premiere Pro for initial course work.

Application materials specifically requested by the School include:

  • A one to two page résumé summarizing the applicant’s education, awards or recognition, work experience, travel, languages, and special skills.
  • A personal statement (three pages maximum) discussing aesthetic influences, creative interests, and professional objectives as a filmmaker, including comments on: the areas of film on which the applicant would like to concentrate, how theory informs his/her work as a filmmaker, and the goals he/she intends to pursue upon completion of the M.F.A.
  • An example of academic writing (7 to 12 pages) that illustrates the applicant’s ability to make and support a thesis as well as familiarity with scholarly form and expository style. Papers from the film discipline are most useful, but other academic work is acceptable. No journalistic “review” essays or scripts are accepted as supplementary materials.
  • An example of moving image work is required. In addition to film/video work, examples of other creative work, such as photographs, paintings, or creative writing are also accepted.
  • Two letters of recommendation from individuals who can attest to the applicant’s creativity and aptitude as well as to the quality of past work and potential of future achievements. At least one letter from a former professor is recommended. (Note: the School does not provide an official recommendation form).
  • Official transcripts: Send two official transcripts to the Division of Graduate Studies with the CSU application.

For further information about the M.F.A., School of Cinema procedures and activities, production costs, and other advising matters, write:

Graduate Assistant
School of Cinema
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco CA 94132

Additional information about submitting application materials is available on the Cinema Department website:

Completion of the Degree

In addition to successful completion of the course of study, each student must meet School requirements that include a formal script review at the end of the first semester, a formal progress review at the end of the first year, a formal presentation and faculty evaluation of the creative work project proposal at the end of the second year (upon which advancement to candidacy is contingent) and a documented public screening of the student’s creative thesis project.

Under certain circumstances, up to 24 units of graduate credit from a M.A. program in film production may be applied toward the M.F.A. Before any such request is considered, all admission requirements must be met and all previous course work must be reviewed and approved by the Cinema graduate committee and the dean of Graduate Studies.

Enrollment in an upper division or graduate-level cinema course must be continuous until graduation. Registration may be in a regular university course, summer session course, or College of Extended Learning’s LCA 499, which satisfies the University’s continuous enrollment requirement for graduate students.

Written English Proficiency Requirement

Level One

First level proficiency is assessed by means of written work completed in the critical theory course taken in the first semester in the M.F.A. program. This course must be completed with an overall grade of B or better.

Level Two

Second level proficiency is assessed by means of the creative work proposal normally prepared in CINE 770.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students must meet all general University requirements for advancement to candidacy, and receive a B or better in all required courses for the M.F.A. degree, as well as successfully pass all formal reviews (first year script review, first year progress review, thesis proposal review, and thesis committee review).

Required Courses

All M.F.A. students must complete 42 units of required classes and 18 units of electives. First and second year required courses must be taken in sequence. Advancement to second and third year of the program is contingent on faculty review and approval by the M.F.A. Coordinator.

Cinema (M.F.A.) — 60 units

Plan of Study Grid
First YearUnits
CINE 701 Creative Process I 3
CINE 710 Production Practice I 3
CINE 711 Production Practice II 3
CINE 712 Production Practice III 3
Select two 700 level cinema (CINE) critical theory elective courses (See details below) 6
Second Year
CINE 702 Creative Process II 3
CINE 770 Film Production Research 3
CINE 726 Cinema Theory II 3
Select a 700-level cinema (CINE) critical theory elective course (See details below) 3
Select two of the following in the second or third year 6
Directing for Cinema  
Advanced Cinematography and Lighting  
Projects in Advanced Editing  
Feature Screenwriting  
Animation Workshop  
Third Year
CINE 852 Directed Experience in Film Education 3
CINE 894 Creative Work Project 3
 Total Units42

Elective Units (18 units)

Elective units chosen upon consultation with the graduate advisor from upper division production courses (up to 6 units), animation courses, graduate film studies seminars, and approved courses from related disciplines. May be taken in any year.

MFA Critical Theory Requirements

MFA students must take a total of four critical theory graduate-level courses, according to the following guidelines:

  • Students must complete three critical theory courses in the first two years.
  • Students must take CINE 726 during the spring semester of their second year.

Not all courses will be offered each semester; please check the School's schedule information for the relevant semester for availability.