Wednesday, September 07, 2016

A Guide to the Best Summer Filmmaking Programs


One of the questions parents of teens interested in film often ask is, what are the best summer camps to attend?  There’s no perfect answer, and each student’s experience will vary, but here are the details on some of the top programs out there. Please note — this list is not comprehensive, nor is it meant to be. This is a list of well-regarded, long-standing programs.  Also note that many of these programs are competitive, so a strong application will be necessary to get in.


AGE: 10-17
LOCATION: New York City, Los Angeles, CA, Harvard University, Paris, France, 
Walt Disney World® Resort, FL, South Beach, FL, Florence, Italy, Gold Coast, Australia, Sydney, Australia
TUITION: $1140 -> $7240
DESCRIPTION: In all New York Film Academy film camps, each student writes, shoots, directs and edits his or her own films. Our film camps are designed for people with little or no experience in making films. The programs focus on the fundamental elements of visual storytelling that enable the students to direct their own projects. 
During NYFA’s teen film camps, each weekday is split between in-class instruction and on-set production. The below subjects are taught both in-class and on set, where students get to apply the lessons they learned in the classroom to a real film set.
REQUIREMENTS: Students must fill out an application.

AGE: 16-17
LOCATION: Orange, CA, Shenzen, China
TUITION: $3000 or 18000 RMB
DESCRIPTION: For two weeks students are immersed in the world of film through class discussions, film screenings, guest speakers, field trips, and filmmaking in small groups. They live, breathe and eat filmmaking around the clock while being taught by Chapman faculty who are industry professionals and mentored by current Dodge College grad students and alumni. All of this will be shared with their peers as they work in groups to complete projects to create short digital, narrative projects which are showcased to parents and relatives on the final night of the program in our 500-seat Folino Theater.
REQUIREMENTS: Students must have a 3 or higher GPA, must send in an essay, letter of recommendation, resume and transcript. The program is competitive — about 35 percent of students get in.

AGE: 6-17
LOCATION: Austin, TX, Bryn Mawr, George Washington University, Harvard University, McGill University, Northwestern University, St. Mary’s College, Stanford University, UCSD, U. British Columbia, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Toronto & Washington, Stony Brook, Houston, etc.
TUITION: $1200 -> $3200
DESCRIPTION: Founded in 2002 at Stanford University, DMA offers programs in a wide range of disciplines, teaching anything and everything from experiencing Indie Film Production firsthand, all the way to learning how to surf and make films at the same time! The company’s vision is to be a diverse haven for excellent young filmmakers to hone their craft.

AGE: 7-17
TUITION: $0-$1000
DESCRIPTION: The Maysles Documentary Center offers comprehensive, year-round documentary educational programming for filmmakers of all ages. This includes on-site production and media literacy programs for adults and young people, as well as school-based partnerships where our experienced teaching artists work with students to develop storytelling, film production, and community engagement skills. We have partnered with a range of high school schools throughout the city, and currently host six education programs at our documentary center in Harlem including our Filmmakers Collaborative for Adults producing course, our Teen Producers Academy for high school students, our Junior Filmmakers for youth ages 10 to 13, and a film club for ages 7 to 11. All programs are free or low-cost, with scholarships available for those with a fee.

AGE: 20+
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
TUITION: $3500-$6400
DESCRIPTION: The UCLA Film & Television Summer Institute gives students from across the country and around the globe an unparalleled opportunity to study filmmaking at one of the most prestigious film schools in the world. The UCLA Film & Television Summer Institute shapes the filmmakers of tomorrow right in the heart of Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world.

AGE: 14+ (High school is separate from undergraduate and graduate)
LOCATION: North Carolina
TUITION: $4510
DESCRIPTION: During the summer at Studio Village, UNCSA’s unique on-campus movie set, high school students and rising college freshmen immerse themselves for five weeks in the exciting world of narrative filmmaking. The conservatory’s dedication to developing the whole filmmaker extends to this comprehensive summer program. Students here will experience all elements of filmmaking first–hand: screenwriting, cinematography, directing, producing and digital editing.

AGE: 15-17
TUITION: $4306-$9099
DESCRIPTION: Filmmakers Studio offers rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors an opportunity to explore concepts and practices in film production. Applicants selected for the five-week program train in the art and technique of single-camera digital film production or 16mm film production.
Film production students gain extensive production experience including, but not limited to, creating story structure, cinematography, lighting, sound recording, and editing. Participants develop strong and practical story ideas, visualize those ideas in storyboards, and realize those ideas in short films. Rising juniors and seniors are welcome to apply to either the 16mm Film Production Track or the Single-Camera Digital Film Production Track. Rising sophomore applicants will be considered for admission to the Digital Film Production Track, only. College credit offered in some programs.
REQUIREMENTS: Admission is selective. Students must apply via Slideroom with a portfolio and essay.

AGE: 16-17
TUITION: ~$9300
DESCRIPTION: The curriculum for the Summer Filmmakers Workshop for High School Students, offered through the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, is similar to that of the undergraduate degree program. It combines intensive professional training with a comprehensive understanding of the techniques and theories behind the art of film and video production. Prior experience in film or video is not required.
REQUIREMENTS: Admission is selective. Students must apply via Slideroom with a portfolio and essay.

AGE: 14-17
LOCATION: New Zealand, Switzerland, France, New Mexico, Arizona, Iceland, Alaska
TUITION: $5700-8600
DESCRIPTION: National Geographic Student Expeditions are nine day to three week summer programs for high school students that blend hands-on learning and adventure. These unique programs are crafted to cater to each high school student's interests, including Film & Video. Students can choose to focus on filmmaking, working in production teams to document their journey and the people they meet while traveling. The expedition culminates in a final video project. Our Experts and trip leaders help students learn the art and craft of filmmaking, including using production cameras in the field, creating time lapses, capturing great GoPro footage, or even using their phones to craft short digital stories. A National Geographic expert joins each trip to lend an insider's perspective as students explore.

AGE: 18+
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
TUITION: $1666 per credit
DESCRIPTION: Summer Program classes are taught by leading industry professionals during two separate six-week sessions. Spend time on our state of-the-art campus taking classes focused on feature filmmaking, editing, animation, writing, computer graphics, interactive game design, and the business of the industry, among many others. Besides having access to the School's unparalleled facilities and equipment, Summer Program students will have many unique opportunities. Several classes take place on major studio lots such as Warner Bros. and Walt Disney Studios.
REQUIREMENTS: Essay and application. The process is selective, not all students are accepted.

Interested in knowing more about BFA film programs? Check out our deep dives into USC and NYU.

Have questions about the application process?  Want to let us know something we missed?  You could always Contact us, or read more about the ways we help aspiring filmmakers. 

Article by Ben Feuer. Photo by Bob Bekian & Marco Bellucci.

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When it comes to getting into a top film MFA like NYU Tisch, not all materials are created equal.  What can you do to make your application stand out?

NYU Tisch is a top five film school in America, producing graduates like James Franco, Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone, along with many recent independent and studio filmmakers.   So what does it take to join their hallowed ranks?  Well, first, you have to get into the school -- no mean feat, as top film schools have become more selective every year, with Tisch's hovering at around 15 percent.

The most important component of your application is going to be your creative portfolio.  Simply put, if it's great, you're in.  Here are the required elements for the 2014-2015 Tisch MFA in filmmaking.

  1. Visual Submission: a sample or samples of your work presented visually. Material done in collaboration with other artists is acceptable provided you were the major creative force (i.e., director, producer, writer, camera operator or editor) and you explain in detail the exact nature of your contribution. Choose ONE of the following formats (i.e., do not combine video and photography):

    Video: The submission can contain one or more selections as long as the total running time does not exceed 30 minutes.  Video footage of staged plays or theatre performances are not acceptable. Please be clear about your specific contributions to the video sample. You may upload up to ten minutes of video on to the media page within Slideroom. If the total running time of your video sample exceeds ten minutes,  a link to your work must be provided on the media page. Please test your video prior to submission.  If you are submitting a link, please be sure no downloads or passwords are required.


    (Stills): no more than 10 prints on any subject, black and white or color, with or without commentary. The photographs may also be a presentation of work in other media, such as painting, illustration, sculpture, set design, costume design, etc. (Still images and scans uploaded to should be a minimum of 72 dpi).
You see that phrase, "major creative force"?  That should be your mantra here -- love it, live by it.  This material is being used to assess your abilities, not whether you were peripherally connected to something famous or interesting.  Don't waste this submission on attempts at name dropping or self promotion!

Another important warning here -- ONLY SUBMIT YOUR ABSOLUTE STRONGEST WORK.  This might sound obvious, but you'd be amazed how often people are seduced into thinking more is better. It's not.  Less is better.  You can make a remarkable short film in five minutes or less.  Many people have.  Heck, you can make a great short film in 30 seconds -- just watch the super bowl ads if you don't believe me!  Show your ability to tell a story with pictures, and take advantage of your time limitations.  Embrace them rather than struggling against them.

 Don't get too bogged down in technical details like production value.  If your sample looks amazing or stars that kid from that show, hey, that's nice, but its ultimately beside the point.  Tisch wants to see that you have the raw materials and capabilities to be a storyteller, so that they can then mold you into their KIND of storyteller.  Particuarly a visual storyteller, someone who knows how an image can send a message.

2.  A story synopsis for a four-minute silent film. Only exterior settings should be used, without description of camera angles. There should be a visual story line and characters, but no voice-over, dialogue, or music.  No more than three double spaced pages describing only what we can see designed to play as a four-minute movie.

One important principle in screenwriting is the ability to limit one's writing to what one can see and hear, present tense.  That skill is what is being tested by this prompt.  Simple pictorial storytelling.

You could almost think about this as a picture book project -- give yourself a short, limited story to tell, and don't push yourself to be new or original, just focus on being clear, direct and specific.  Originality grows out of limitation and specificity.

Listen up, post-MTV generation -- this is not, or at least should not be, an exercise in fast cutting and showmanship.  No one cares that you know what a dolly shot is, and there should not be any camera angles.  Instead, your sentences should correspond to shots, and your paragraphs to scenes.  Think of something evolving step by step.  Include detail.  Slow the pace.

3.  A dialogue scene between two people. Write an interesting conversation that reveals something about the two characters.  You can give a one sentence description of each character, but please only essential details.  No back story. A maximum of two pages, in screenwriting format.

There is a principle in dramatic writing known as a 'fulcrum' -- the idea that every scene is a miniature conflict, and that it resolves (in one way or another) at the fulcrum, or climax of the scene.  It's imperative that the scene COULD have gone either way, but it WOUND UP going XYZ direction.

Whether or not you agree with the idea that every scene functions in this manner, for THIS assignment and this scene, you should write in this manner.  It will give you a framework, an objective to reach, and quickly -- don't waste time with introductions and setting the stage.  Get to the meat!

4.   Describe one concept for a feature-length script, narrative, or documentary that you would like to develop. No more than one page, typed, double-spaced.

Concepts, or treatments, should be written in present tense format, just like screenplays.  They should be limited to what we see and hear.  

The other distinctive and important aspect of writing concepts is that they must be segmented, IE broken down into acts and sequences.  This not only helps your reader to understand the order of events, it also helps YOU to understand them.

Another challenge of concepts is deciding what to include and what to leave out.  The most important things to include are key characters, including descriptions, and important locations and plot transitions, which typically grow out of characters.

A personal statement.

 The personal statement is easy to overlook -- after exhausting yourself trying to come up with amazing creative samples, who has the energy to devote to explaining one's personal background and motivations?  You do, that's who.  You do.  

The thing that you are forgetting is that YOU are a character.  YOU have an important story to tell, and it's yours, the path you took to arrive at NYU's door.  There should be twists and turns, surprising revelations.  Exciting and dramatic insights.  And of course, there should be strong and plausible reasons why this, of all things, is what you have chosen to dedicate your life to.

 You might be thinking, yeah, but my life is really not that exciting of a story to tell.  I beg to differ.  You just have to learn to look at it like a screenwriter does.  Start pulling out the little conflicts and conversations inherent to each life and teasing them into longer pieces.  You'll have yourself a rich story in no time.

And that's about it!  If you have more questions, of course, you can always ask me -- happy submitting!