Filmmaking Core Curriculum

The Filmmaking program provides students with a progressive interdisciplinary education through production and theory-based courses in digital video, screenwriting, film history, and related arts.

For information on graduation requirements and academic curriculum, please visit Academy Academics.

Required Courses: Filmmaking

This course introduces students to the mindful exploration of their identity in the arts. Students reflect on personal influences, mentors, and aspirations, synthesizing them into an Artist Statement. Forum challenges students to use the Artist Statement as a compass of values with which they examine their creative work in the attempt to keep it consistent with their ambitions, influences and priorities. Forum meetings are made regularly, by appointment, with Film Faculty Advisors/Yodas.

This course introduces students to the fundamentals of cinematic storytelling and motion picture arts production. Through assignments and projects, students learn the basics of composition, sequencing and shot design, including the basics of cinematic language and grammar.  Students learn the basics of camera operation, audio recording and editing and Film set etiquette, including the responsibilities of various crew.

In this course, students explore the historical eras of cinema from its birth in the late 1800s through current trends, focusing on Hollywood’s formation and transformation as well as major International movements. Students gain an understanding of how technological advances, business practices, and cultural influences have changed the art of filmmaking, and how cinemas of different countries have influenced each other.

This course is a continued introduction to cinematography and intermediate skills in camera usage, building on the foundations of technical skills and visual literacy learned in Production and Lighting.

Resident Artist courses are special electives for Film and New Media  students designed by the current artist-in-residence and based on the artist’s specific field of interest or knowledge. These offerings are one-of-a-kind in nature, and are rarely offered again after the artist has completed their residency. Past topics have included sound, documentary, cinematography, and animation.

This class is a hands-on introduction to skills and techniques in cinematic location lighting. Through discussions, guest artists, demonstrations, and class exercises, this class explores the artful use of light, with emphasis on aesthetics, exposure, instrument placement, rigging, safe use and motivation.

This course introduces the concepts of writing for the screen from an analytical and creative viewpoint. Students learn about screenplay structure and format; explore the creation of character, setting, conflict, theme, tone, dialogue and subtext; and gain an understanding of how to use the tools of the filmmaker to create filmic language and write visually. Students are also given an introduction to some of the professional aspects of screenwriting and resources for the writer.

This course rotates topic yearly, giving students an opportunity to immerse themselves in a specific movement, genre, or area in cinema. Critical examination of the subject may be explored through screenings, readings, discussion and written analysis.

This class is designed to guide students through advanced skills in pre-production, production and post-production, in order that they may complete a Thesis Screenplay and a Thesis Project.

This course offers students an in-depth examination of film as an art form, analyzing specific elements of film to discover how they create cinematic language. Students focus on the theories of narrative structure, mise-en-scene, color, sound, space and editing, and  learn to identify how filmmakers use each element to communicate story, character and theme.

Short films are a unique story form with their own rules, limits and opportunities. Scenes are the crucial building blocks upon which feature films are built. In this course, students sharpen their analysis of short films and scenes. Issues of drama and dramaturgy – character, conflict, escalating action, climax and resolution – as well as story, tone and meaning – are examined from a screenwriting, directing and acting point of view.

This course is designed as an intense workshop for screenwriting students who are ready to work on projects of their choice. Having learned the basics, students are now expected to further develop their voice as a screenwriter, create their own goals, and actively engage in analysis of professional screenplays. This course also includes further exploration of the professional aspects of being a screenwriter.

This course is designed to guide students toward a clear understanding of digital workflow and the essential techniques used in narrative film editing. Exercises help students organize post-production assets. Students apply creative strategies with their cuts by paying close attention to sequence, tone, rhythm and/or collision of images and sound to clarify and heighten their visual story’s meaning.

Students have the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of directing for the camera. Students work collaboratively to create 2-3 minute films in which each student participates as both actor and director. Focus is on the clear articulation of movement and story through performance and shot design. This course focuses on single camera directing techniques with emphasis on filming the narrative script and the director’s relationship with the actor. Through exercises in class, student directors learn script analysis and methods which increase their ability to penetrate a text and communicate with actors. Visualization skills are introduced to help students discover the most effective means of telling their stories.

In this course, students learn advanced techniques of Directing for the Camera. The clear articulation of movement and story through script analysis, script breakdown and shot design continue to be emphasized. Additionally, students explore more advanced techniques of expressive camera, mise-en-scene and sound as well as other tools and skills needed to direct film. As much as possible, students use the exercises from this course in tandem with or as preparation for their thesis projects.

This course introduces students to the fundamental techniques, programs, and possibilities of Editing and Motion Graphics. Through a variety of projects, students will learn about both the theory and practice of editing video and integrating motion graphics and special effects. Students will cultivate problem solving skills by working through projects that require group participation and creative solutions. With emphasis on flexibility, this course will utilize different programs and techniques to create projects that challenge and further our creative practice. Students will learn how to use industry standard programs like Premiere and After Effects, while also learning about the core theory of editing with purpose.

This course continues our exploration of non-fiction filmmaking through the process of developing and producing a feature documentary film about the scientific process of regenerative agriculture & its importance for human heath & the environment. Additionally, central to the course and film, is a reflection on the concept of regeneration in a wider sense. Through a 1 year-long field-based investigation we hope to discover how, in N. Michigan, local farmers, indigenous & minority communities, food distribution organizations, NGOs, and government entities are learning to work together to create a sustainable and equitable alternative to industrial agriculture that prioritizes food sovereignty over profit. Students will assist in researching topics, filming film participants and editing footage, while learning about the genres, ethics and techniques of documentary filmmaking.

The Capstone project is a way to stretch and play with the skills learned in the Film and New Media division, applying them to new, unexplored territory, with in-depth research and practice in arts and academics. It is a pilgrimage of sorts, an agreement to embark on a difficult journey toward a clearly articulated, creative destination. The path should be surprising, challenging, and ripe for successes, failures and growth. A response to the student’s research/exploration, the Capstone outcome can take the form of new media, non-fiction or narrative production, or scriptwriting. No matter the medium/format, the Capstone student is required to present a project proposal for faculty review, demonstrating plans for presentation, execution and a public performance of the project, upon its completion.

Curriculum Guidelines: Filmmaking Majors


  • Year-long - Film Forum,
  • Semester 1 - Visual Story, Lighting
  • Semester 2 - Production Workshop, Film History

Sample Academic Courses
Algebra I; Biology; English I; French I


New Sophomores

  • Year-long -  Film Forum
  • Semester 1 - Visual Story, Lighting
  • Semester 2 - Production Workshop, Intro to Screenwriting, Film History

2nd Year Sophomores

  • Year-long -  Film Forum, Production Workshop
  • Semester 1 - Director of Film will place
  • Semester 2 - Intro to Screenwriting

Sample Academic Courses
Geometry; World History; English II; French II


New Juniors 

  • Year-long -  Film Forum
  • Semester 1 - Intro to Screenwriting, Visual Story, Lighting, Film Aesthetics
  • Semester 2 - Production Workshop, Film History, Directing I

Returning Juniors

  • Year-long -  Film Forum, Production Workshop
  • Semester 1 - Directing II, Producing, Film Genres
  • Semester 2 - World Directors, Advanced Screenwriting (choice)

Sample Academic Courses
Algebra II; U.S. History; English III; Chemistry

New Seniors & PG’s

New Seniors & PG’s

  • Year-long -  Film Forum
  • Semester 1 - Intro to Screenwriting, Visual Story, Lighting, Film Aesthetics
  • Semester 2 - Production Workshop, Film History, Directing I (choice)

Returning Seniors & PG’s

  • Year-long -  Film Forum, Production Workshop, Capstone
  • Semester 1 - Producing, Capstone, Film Genres
  • Semester 2 - World Directors, Producing, Advanced Screenwriting (choice) 

Sample Academic Courses
Precalculus; Ecology; English IV