Film MFA

Film MFA Program Information

Degree Details

The MFA in Film Production, a terminal degree, is a two-year program, which provides graduate students an immersive experience in narrative storytelling. The program’s flexible curriculum offers training in producing, directing, cinematography, screenwriting, and editing, and fosters an environment of collaboration and professional practice. This program will offer students an opportunity to grow and expand their skills, increase their knowledge, develop their aesthetic and contribute to a very competitive and constantly evolving film industry.

Flex Schedule

The MFA curriculum is being designed as a “flex” schedule, that is, core courses will be offered on evenings and weekends.  This will allow working professionals to enroll while continuing in their jobs.  Additional electives will be offered during week day daytime hours and opportunities are imagined for the summer for students to complete courses including independent study, internships and an independent feature/series project.The first year curriculum must be completed before moving on to the second year. At the end of the first year, students will undergo a Portfolio Review and be assigned a mentor for their thesis project.

Plan of Study

Watkins’ MFA in Film Production will be a 2-year program, focused on a select number of students who exhibit the desire to grow and develop as expert filmmakers. Classes will be small and scheduled in the evenings and on Saturdays allowing for full time students and working professionals to attend.  Students will have the opportunity to create narrative and non-narrative (documentary, experimental, thematic) film projects.  Thesis screenplays or films will be automatically entered or showcased at the Nashville Film Festival.

First Year

FLM 501 Evolution of Media                         FLM 502 Film Theory & Criticism

FLM 570 Graduate Cinematography           FLM 503 Graduate Directing

FLM 589 Graduate Editing                            FLM 529 Graduate Screenwriting

FLM 580 Non-narrative Project *                FLM 581 Narrative Project *

(15 Credit Hours)                                            (15 Credit Hours)

Second Year

FLM 511 Thesis Production I *                         FLM 512 Thesis Production II *


FLM 530 Thesis Script Project I *                   FLM 531 Thesis Script Project II *

FLM 551 Film Industry, Bus. & Finance        FLM 549 Professional Practices

Film Studio Elective                                           Film Studio Elective

Film Elective                                                        Film Elective

(15 Credit Hours)                                               (15 Credit Hours)

* 6 credit hours


Students interested in focusing their studies in one of the following areas are encouraged to look at:

Directors: FLM301 Production Fundamentals; FLM 504 Actor/Director’s Lab

Producers: FLM301 Production Fundamentals: FLM 552 Micro-Financing

Cinematographers: FLM 372 Pre/Post Digital Imaging; FLM 571 Advanced Lighting

Screenwriters; FLM 430 Writing Serialized Stories; FLM 532 Script Rewriting Lab

Editors: FLM 392 Sound II; FLM 590 Post Production Workflow


Course Descriptions

FLM 501 The Evolution of Media

Lecture, 3 Contact Hours, 3 Credit Hours (Fall Only)

A study and analysis of the pivotal moments in the evolution of media from the invention of motion pictures through today’s applications in the areas of 3D, virtual reality, gaming, and viewer directed programming. Each revolution in technology is studied as it relates to its social/historical context. The changes in content and delivery of media will be examined as it reflects and informs the societal changes surrounding its emergence.


FLM 502 Film Theory & Criticism

Lecture, 3 Contact Hours, 3 Credit Hours (Spring Only)

An in-depth study of film aesthetics and philosophies including auteur theory, cinema verite, “found” footage. What defines certain genres? Is this an invented theory of critics or is it integral to telling certain stories? What is the audience’s expectation? How do style and content relate to each other in filmmaking? This course will also examine how historical, cultural and scientific developments influence the content and approaches to filmmaking.


FLM 503 Graduate Directing

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 3 Credit Hours (Spring Only)

An advanced class intended to further the skills of storytellers. Exercises and assignments will focus on the interpretive elements of directing, encompassing design, cinematography, and editing styles. Students will be challenged to think outside the box in designing and executing their interpretations of various scenes. 


FLM 511  Thesis Production Project I

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 6 Credit Hours (Fall Only)

In this class, graduate students prepare their thesis project by refining their scripts and prepare for production, which includes scheduling, budgeting, pre-visualization, location scouting, concept meetings with all creative contributors and casting. (FLM 501, 502, 503)


FLM 512 Thesis Production Project II

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 6 Credit Hours (Spring Only)

In this class, graduate students complete their thesis projects by filming their scripts and completing postproduction, which includes a complete mix, and color correction. Entrance into film festivals and a plan to distribute and market their projects should also be undertaken. (FLM 511)


FLM 529 Graduate Screenwriting

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 3 Credit Hours (Spring Only)

This class is an in-depth study of the art and craft of writing for visual media with a concentration on longer form projects. Students will study the Campbellian 12-step model of mythic structure and how it works in contemporary visual storytelling. The craft of creating effective dialogue, conflict, plots and subplots, character archetypes and other aspects of screenwriting will be explored.

Students will also study various genres. Films and scripts will be analyzed and critiqued and student scripts will be work-shopped.


FLM 530 Thesis Script Project I

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 6 Credit Hours (Fall Only)

This course serves as the thesis project for screenwriters. Students will focus on the creation of a feature-length script. The first semester involves writing an outline and first draft. The second semester (FLM 531) involves further development of this screenplay.

Note: In the semester prior to enrollment, students must complete and submit a plan for their proposed thesis script, which includes a defense that supports the project using artistic and historical references and includes a critical analysis of their own project. (FLM 501, 502, 529)


FLM 531 Thesis Script Project II

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 6 Credit Hours (Spring Only)

This is a continuation of Thesis Script Project I (FLM 530) where students proceed with multiple drafts of their screenplay and prepare a 20-minute pitch that can be used to entice producers, development executives, and others to jump on board. Entry to screenwriting competitions and festivals is encouraged. (FLM 530)


FLM 532 Script Rewriting Lab

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 3 Credit Hours (Fall Only)

This is a class that focuses on rewriting other writers’ scripts. Any script scheduled for Production III, IV or a thesis production is eligible. The class will also examine the process of adapting scripts from other sources.


FLM 549 Professional Practices

Lecture, 3 Contact Hours, 3 Credit Hours (Spring Only)

This class taken in the last semester in the program will focus on the transition to a professional career. The focus will be on creating a resume, “reel”, website and items needed for promotion – project development, “pitches”, how to find financing and create an online campaign. SAG-AFTRA, DGA, WGA and IATSE contracts will be studied, along with requirements for membership. This class will bring in guest speakers – agents, casting directors, directors, and others.


FLM 551 Film Industry, Business and Finance

Lecture, 3 Contact Hours, 3 Credit Hours (Fall Only)

This course focuses on the business, legal and financial aspects of the motion picture and television industries. Students learn about both the creative and business aspects of production. The course emphasizes the role of the producer, and the various ways that features, documentaries, non-scripted and scripted television series get funded, developed, produced, distributed and marketed. A business plan will be produced.


FLM 552 Micro-Financing

Lecture, 3 Contact Hours, 3 Credit Hours (Fall Only)

As the costs have come down and the equipment needed for filmmaking more accessible and the distribution more available, there has been an explosion of film projects being financed and made. It is now possible to make a film with sweat equity and as little as $10,000. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Rocket Hub and other peer-to-peer sites will be explored.


FLM 570 Graduate Cinematography

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 3 Credit Hours (Fall Only)

Advanced principles and techniques of cinematography, camera operation and lighting are examined. Principles of cinematography – camera systems, workflows, composition, exposure, optics and lenses, filtration, developing looks, on-set time management and recording codecs are detailed. Lighting schemes and lighting instruments are explored.


FLM 571 Advanced Lighting

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 3 Credit Hours (Spring Only)

This class focuses on applied techniques and advanced technical considerations. Organizing and shooting narrative material, style and substance, genre, the use of metaphor is explored. Camera settings and postproduction manipulation. Camera platforms, and tools available for large and small settings will be investigated. (FLM 570)


FLM 580 Non-Narrative Project

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 6 Credit Hours (Fall Only)

A study of the various forms of filmmaking outside the tradition of narrative films. Films that are documentaries, music videos or experimental, and those whose principle purpose is exploratory, informational or educational will be examined. These types of films may include a narrative but will be looked at for their use of other paradigms and organizing principles. Students will create a project of their choice that utilizes one of these other forms.


FLM 581 Narrative Project

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 6 Credit Hours (Spring Only)

A short film project that is based in the narrative tradition will be the focus of this class. Students will organize and execute a completed film of approximately 15-20 minutes in length. Students serve as the director/producer on their projects. Scripts must be original, written by the student or acquired from another source.

All projects will be screened at the end of the semester.


FLM 589 Graduate Editing

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 3 Credit Hours (Fall Only)

Students work on an advanced production (a Production III, IV or a thesis film), joining the project during preproduction and then taking the film from dailies to a final cut, prepped for sound editing. Extensive work will be done on the Avid Digital Editing system employing its advanced nuances. Specific attention will be paid to the relationship of editors to directors, producers and the studio as well as to visual effects artists and sound designers.


FLM 590 Post Production Workflow

Studio, 3 Contact Hours, 3 Credit Hours (Spring Only)

This class provides an overview of the entire postproduction process. Students will be responsible for serving as a post-production supervisor on an advanced project (Production III, IV or a thesis project). This class includes training in preparing the audio tracks necessary for a final mix, including ADR, foley, music score and sound design. Students will also plan and supervise the final mix, as well as oversee color grading and all visual effects. (FLM 589)


FLM 623 Graduate Internship

TBD, but includes 130 hours of work as an intern, 3 Credit Hours

The Film School looks to partner with businesses to provide valuable opportunities for you to engage in internships which will further your education, help you transition from the classroom to the professional world and give you the opportunity to learn, practice and improve your skills. Businesses are vetted to insure that they meet all requirements and follow guidelines. Many entities advertise for interns without understanding the obligations and federal guidelines. Registering for credit insures oversight and protects your rights.


FLM 680 Independent Study

TBD, Contact hours determined by advisor, 3 Credit Hours

This is designed for the student who wants to pursue an area not specifically taught in the curriculum. This can be an opportunity to explore a film related topic in depth by researching and writing a critical paper. It can also be an opportunity to execute a project. A concrete proposal needs to be submitted a semester prior to enrollment and a mentor selected.

(Students need a 3.25 GPA and advisor approval to enroll.)


FLM 682 Feature/Series Production

Studio, Contact Hours determined on a project basis, 6 Credit Hours (Summer Only)

The focus of this class is the planning and completion of an independent feature or series. Students will be assigned to major roles and mentored by faculty and seasoned professionals. This class is subject to the availability of material and funding. Students must be able to commit to a 6-8 week schedule of full days.