Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts

Here are some answers to questions you may have about the Film BA (Cinema) Program. If we have not addressed your question here or elsewhere on the site, please feel free to contact Mary Beth Reed at mbreed@vcu.edu.

What sets VCUarts Cinema apart from other programs in the country?

VCU Cinema focuses on filmmaking tradition rooted in the independent spirit. Independent films tend to emphasize complex character relationships and unusual situations rather than action, and rarely fall under the action or science fiction/fantasy genres (The Blair Witch Project is a notable exception).

Although this program is set up to emphasize, as a basic foundation for knowledge, theory derived from early European movements like the French New Wave, students should not feel constrained to the independent/art-house genre. This being the case, we still strongly believe that it’s important for students to be able to appreciate critically acclaimed works regardless of which direction they pursue individually in the future.

What is the difference between the Cinema program and Photography & Film program?

The Photography & Film BFA degree emphasizes the filmmaker as an artist. Students learn to write, direct, shoot, and edit individual and small group projects using various formats. The goal of the concentration is to cultivate a refined vision and a singular voice.

The Cinema degree offers students the opportunity to create narrative films in a collaborative environment using professional equipment and undergo intensive preparation for employment in the professional movie making industry. During the second year, students select a track within a specific department to specialize in (writing, directing, camera, editing, sound, producing, etc).

Cinema students are not required to submit a portfolio or complete the VCUarts Art Foundations program.

It’s very important, as a prospective student, to understand your own interests and choose the program you believe is best for you.

What do you look for in an application?

We pay attention to your high school GPA, how your grades may have changed during your high school career, your SAT or ACT scores, advanced placement courses, extra curricular activities, your interests outside of school, what you tell us in your essay, and recommendations from your high school teachers. The program is academically minded, so good standing is important. Above all, we’re looking for passionate and driven students.

Are there high school courses I could take to increase my chances of admission?

We pay attention to courses that foster critical thinking. Film production is demanding, both physically and mentally. We’ll look at anything in your academic history that demonstrates your willingness to go the extra mile and put in more than the minimum amount of work: i.e. higher level classes and AP and IB courses, if they were available to you. We are also always interested in your foreign language experience.

Am I at an advantage if I made my own films, or took film/photo courses in high school?

Prior experience in filmmaking might be useful, but it isn’t required for admission. We’re partial to students with a strong interest in filmmaking, students who have interests in other fields and present themselves as compatible fits for the overall philosophy of the program. For this reason, we do not necessarily favor applicants with extensive past experience over applicants who do not.

Do I need drawing skills to apply for Cinema?

No. Independent filmmakers who know how to draw find these skills helpful in creating storyboards for pre-production, but there are many ways to create storyboards.

Why is a second major required for Cinema students?

Filmmakers need to have something to say before making a film! Students are required to pursue a second major, or a double minor, in the College of Humanities and Science to ensure there is a source for inspiration and active academic stimulation.

We are always open to allowing a coherent combination of minors for students who want to explore a variety of fields without having a formal second major, but only for students who are able to present a well thought out and compelling proposal.

Which specific majors would be most helpful for someone pursing a career in film?

Any second major can be valuable for a filmmaker: the more you lean about other fields, the more interesting your films will probably be. It really depends on your interests. For future screenwriter or directors, perhaps English, Sociology, Forensic Science, Anthropology, or Religious Studies. If you’re interested in producing and the business side of filmmaking, Economics could be a good bet. If you’re interested in documentary and journalistic cinema, then History, International Studies, or Political Science would be worth doing. If the “look,” or style of a film is your passion, we’d suggest Art History.

Can I transfer into Cinema from a different BA major at VCU or another institution?

Yes.  You can use the “Change of Major” application to begin the process.

What kind of housing should be considered for Cinema students?

On campus 9-month housing is recommended for first year students. During the following two summers after your sophomore year, you are required to participate in the summer intensive shoots. For this, it may be most convenient to find year round housing.

Do I have to pay for my own film and equipment?

No. Student shoots are funded entirely by the Cinema program.

What kind of equipment will I be working with?

Because this is a relatively young program, we are lucky to have new equipment. In class, we typically shoot with Zeiss prime lens sets on professional Panasonic HD cameras. During the summers, the films are shot with 35mm film on Arriflex BL3 and BL4. For more information on gear, please visit the equipment page.

What are the computer requirements?

Please see the computer requirements page.