×

Community Colleges Expand Their Cinematic Tracks

With the cost of attending public and private national universities rising tremendously over the past two decades, the families of students who want to become filmmakers are facing difficult choices in the pursuit of their children’s dreams. What many aspiring auteurs may not realize is that the option available to low-income and middle-class students earning degrees in other fields — community colleges — is also viable for them. Community colleges across the country, such as Santa Monica College in California, Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland and Michigan’s Delta College, offer associate’s degrees in filmmaking, digital and media studies, as well as professors and facilities that can rival those at major national film schools.

Most significantly, the cost of attending these institutions can be significantly lower than national private and public schools, offering what Matthew Moore, chair and associate professor of Arundel’s Visual Arts and Humanities department, calls “a four-year degree at half the cost without sacrificing the quality of the education.”

Film students at many of these colleges are exposed to a wide variety of disciplines within the program: at Santa Monica College, they take specialized courses in cinematography, editing, sound and screenwriting as part of a three-course track that, according to filmmaker and professor Salvador Carrasco, allows students to gain “skills to learn the craft of filmmaking, shoot scenes on a state-of-the-art soundstage and produce original content.”

Arundel offers two associates’ degrees — an associate of arts in film studies and an associate of arts and sciences in media production — and provides both technical and critical thinking courses and considerable hands-on production experience, as well as access to visiting artists. Others, such as Mesa Community College in Arizona, offer an expansive and diverse menu of classes, including contemporary cinema, women in film and foreign film, through several departments, including English and theater.

Students at these and other community college film programs have gone on to success in the industry: Carrasco notes that SMC students have been accepted at NYU and the American Film Institute, and work at companies like Village Roadshow Pictures. And he has high hopes for four shorts by SMC grads that are currently being developed into feature films.

“Not that these accolades should be the ‘yardstick’ of success, but they help give legitimacy to students’ creative work,” he says.

The legitimacy of such programs, especially when compared to more widely known film schools at USC, UCLA and NYU, can be an issue for students weighing their options. But Kimberly Wells, an Emmy-winning filmmaker and assistant professor of electronic media at Delta, maintains that starting your film career at a community college is “a smart choice. You will save thousands of dollars and yet still get a film school experience. Our class sizes are also much smaller than a university setting, so you’re getting more one-on-one attention from the professor.”

“Being a community college makes us accessible — anyone can come here — and affordable,” says Moore. “We provide all the tools, all the bells and whistles — a state of the art Mac lab, sound booth, and the photo program is sponsored by Nikon. We give them an in-depth, quality experience.”

For Carrasco, who has also taught at USC and Pomona College, among other institutions, the options available to film students at community colleges speaks directly to the yearning that brought them to study film in the first place.
“Our students will receive a high level of education for a symbolic tuition, and the experience will be so varied and intensive that by the end of the program, they will know whether this is what they want to do with the rest of their lives or not,” he notes. “To be able make this choice without having gone in debt is a blessing.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

    Film Review: 'A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon'

    No asteroids are hurtling toward Earth in “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon,” though a flying frozen pizza does softly slice the top off an elderly shopper’s hairdo: That’s roughly the level of quirky peril we’re talking about in the latest outing from Aardman Animations, and as usual, the British stop-motion masters cheerfully prove that [...]

  • Slam

    Film Review: ‘Slam’

    The disappearance of a fearless female Palestinian-Australian slam poet triggers suspense and powerful social and political commentary in “Slam,” an outstanding slow-burn thriller by expat Indian filmmaker Partho Sen-Gupta (“Sunrise”). Starring Palestinian actor Adam Bakri (“Omar,” “Official Secrets”) as the missing woman’s conflicted brother, and leading Aussie performer Rachael Blake as a troubled cop, Opening [...]

  • Igo Kantor

    Igo Kantor, Producer and Post-Production Executive, Dies at 89

    Igo Kantor, whose Hollywood career took him from Howard Hughes’ projection room to supervising post-production on “Easy Rider” and producing B-movies like “Kingdom of the Spiders” and “Mutant,” died Oct. 15. He was 89. Kantor, who was born in Vienna and raised in Lisbon, met “Dillinger” director Max Nosseck on the ship to New York. [...]

  • The Lion King

    Average Movie Ticket Price Falls 4% in Third Quarter of 2019

    Average ticket prices for the third quarter have dropped 4% to $8.93, down from Q2’s $9.26, the National Association of Theatre Owners announced today. However, compared with the third quarter of 2018, ticket price has risen 1.1% from $8.83. The summer box office is down 2.13% from 2018, though the third quarter box office is [...]

  • Tilda Swinton to Preside Over The

    Tilda Swinton to Preside Over Marrakech Film Festival

    Tilda Swinton, the iconoclastic British actress and producer, is set to preside over the 18th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival, succeeding to American director James Gray. Swinton, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA award for best supporting actress for “Michael Clayton,” has been leading an eclectic acting career. She has collaborated with [...]

  • The King Netflix

    Middleburg Film Festival Brings Hollywood to Virginia

    For the last seven years, audiences have flocked to the Middleburg Film Festival. Running October 17th – 21st, and situated in the wine-country hills of historic Middleburg, Virg., the festival usually highlights some of the year’s buzziest titles, and 2019 is no exception. “We’re a smaller festival with fewer overall screenings than other events, so we [...]

  • Kelly McCormick and David Leitch'Fast &

    'Wheelman' Director to Helm 'Versus' From David Leitch, Kelly McCormick (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Wheelman” director Jeremy Rush is in negotiations to helm the action movie “Versus,” with Kelly McCormick and David Leitch producing. Rush will direct the Universal movie from a script penned by “Three Musketeers” scribe Alex Litvak and “American Assassin” writer Mike Finch. Plot details are being kept under wraps, though it will follow the genre [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content