Residence Requirements

The four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts and Certificate of Fine Arts programs in the School of Film/Video require a minimum of two years fulltime study in residence. The Master of Fine Arts and Advanced Certificate of Fine Arts programs require three years in residence (see CalArts Residence policy). On rare occasions, the program faculty may recommend an earlier graduation (see Accelerated Graduation policy), based on that program's specific policies (accessible in the School of Film/Video office).

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Curriculum Requirements

Bachelor of Fine Arts and Certificate of Fine Arts

46 semester units of Critical Studies coursework are required of all BFA candidates. Specific Critical Studies requirements are detailed in the Critical Studies section of this Course Catalog (see Critical Studies requirements). Certificate of Fine Arts candidates are not required to complete Critical Studies coursework; all other curriculum and course requirements for the Certificate of Fine Arts are identical to those for the BFA.

All required courses must be completed satisfactorily. Students must complete the program of studies agreed upon by the mentor and the student, and all required courses herein specified.

Students are required to complete a mid-residence review and a graduation review (see Reviews policy). Work-in-progress must be submitted for faculty review at the time of the student's Mid-Residence Review. Final project(s) are submitted at the time of the Graduation Review. Information regarding mid-residence and graduation review procedures and timing is available in the School of Film/Video office.

Master of Fine Arts and Advanced Certificate of Fine Arts

Graduate students must demonstrate proficiency in graduate-level techniques and concepts. Students must pass the required courses or the equivalent before being allowed access to the facilities and equipment needed for independent work.

Graduate students must submit a thesis project proposal at the Preliminary Review, during the third semester of residence. The proposal must be approved by the faculty review committee as sufficiently challenging to merit the Master of Fine Arts degree or Advanced Certificate of Fine Arts.

Completed graduate thesis works must be presented, and the students must participate in a Graduation Review. Final approval for graduation is awarded by the faculty review committee.

Information regarding Preliminary Review and Graduation Review procedures and timing is available online.

Integrated Media Curriculum (Graduate Only)

See Center for Integrated Media curriculum.

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Program in Film and Video Requirements

Learning Goals

The Program in Film and Video has a required core curriculum for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. The BFA program is designed to provide students with a full range of technical and practical skills, to teach them to think critically about their chosen mediums, and to guide their artistic growth as they experiment with different forms of cinematic expression. To this end, undergraduate students must successfully complete a series of required classes during each year in the program. Academic and artistic progress is assessed at a Mid-Residency Review during the student's 3rd semester. In order to graduate, undergraduate students are again fully evaluated and must successfully complete a Graduation Review in their final semester.

The MFA program offers an intense and intellectually charged curriculum which inspires and requires students to immerse themselves in the production of new work. During the course of three years, graduate students are expected to achieve technical expertise, to gain historical and critical perspective in their area of focus and to produce a substantial body of work.

In their first year, graduate students are required to take a full schedule of foundation classes which include technical and production workshops as well as classes in history, theory and criticism. Students are expected to meet regularly with appropriate faculty as they begin to produce work. In their 3rd semester, graduate students must propose and gain approval for their thesis project at a Preliminary Thesis Review. This provides the next year and a half for the production and completion of their thesis film, video or installation. Graduate students are encouraged to work closely with faculty by taking a number of independent studies in their final year. Graduation is contingent upon the successful presentation and evaluation of their thesis project during a Graduation Review at the end of their final semester.

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Required Courses for Undergraduate Students

The following courses are required but do not constitute a student's entire program.

BFA1

  • FPFV101/102* Filmmaking Fundamentals (Fall and Spring) (2 credits each)
  • FPFV203* Cinematography (Fall) (3 credits)
  • FPFV134* Digital Editing (Fall) (2 credits)
  • FPFV285* Production Sound (Fall, 2 credits)
  • FPFV286* Post Production Sound (Spring, 2 credits)
  • FAIC420 Film History (Fall and Spring) (3 credits each)
  • Winter Session (1 credit)

Recommended: FAIC400 Film Today, FPFV424 Aesthetics of Sound and Image

**For the academic year 20-21, Post-production Sound will be taught in the Fall semester and Production Sound in the Spring semester**

BFA2

  • FPFV204* Film Production Workshop (Fall, 2 credits)
  • FPFV153 Cinematic Voices: In Person (Fall and Spring) (2 credits each)
  • FSFV420J Color Correction & Grading (Spring, 2 credits)
  • Winter Session (1 credit)

Recommended: FAIC400 Film Today, FPFV448 Advanced Production, FPFV447 Under 15 Minutes

BFA2 or BFA3 Transfer Students

  • FPFV203* Cinematography (Fall, 3 credits)
  • FPFV134* Digital Editing (Fall, 2 credits)
  • FPFV204* Film Production Workshop (Fall, 2 credits)
  • FPFV153* Cinematic Voices: In Person (Fall and Spring, 2 credits each)
  • FPFV285* Production Sound (Fall, 2 credits)
  • FPFV286* Post Production Sound (Spring, 2 credits)
  • FAIC420 Film History (Fall and Spring, 3 credits each)
  • FPFV101/102 Filmmaking Fundamentals (Fall, Spring optional, 2 credits each)
  • Winter Session (1 credit)

Recommended: FPFV424 Aesthetics of Sound and Image; FAIC400 Film Today; FSFV420J Color Correction & Grading

*Satisfactory completion of these classes is a prerequisite to individual access to equipment and use of facilities for independent projects.

BFA3 and BFA4

Undergraduate students are required to take Undergraduate Critique (FPFV340) for at least 2 semesters during their final 2 years of residence. Under 15 Minutes (FPFV447), Edge of Narrative (FPFV441) or Dangerous Filmmaking (FPFV485) may substitute for one semester of Undergraduate Critique (FPFV340). During these final two years, undergraduate students are expected to either produce a senior project or demonstrate substantial collaborative contributions to a number of student projects in one of the following capacities: cinematography, editing, production or sound design.

Incoming Undergraduate Students are required to take both semesters of Film History (FAIC420/FAIC421). Students who enter as BFA1 are required to complete at least one film/video history, theory or criticism course each semester for 6 semesters and are required to take Aesthetics of Sound and Image (FPFV424) in either the BFA1 or BFA2 year. BFA2 Transfer students are required to complete at least one film/video history, theory, or criticism course each semester for 5 semesters. 

BFA3 Transfer students are required to complete at least one film/video history, theory or criticism class each semester for 4 semesters. BFA3 and BFA4 level students are required to take 1 credit during each Winter Session. A list of classes that satisfy this requirement is available at registration each semester.

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Required Courses for Graduate Students

MFA-1

  • FPFV503* Cinematography (Fall, 3 credits)
  • FPFV534* Digital Editing (Fall, 2 credits)
  • FPFV504* Film Production Workshop (Fall, 2 credits)
  • FPFV501 Filmmaking Fundamentals (Fall, 2 credits)
  • FPFV553 Cinematic Voices: In-Person (Fall and Spring, 2 credits each)
  • FPFV585* Production Sound (Fall, 2 credits)
  • FPFV586 Post Production Sound (Spring, 2 credits)
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
Recommended courses: FPFV624 Aesthetics of Sound and Image; FAIC620 Film History or FAIC600 Film Today for either Fall or Spring.

*Satisfactory completion of these classes are a prerequisite to individual access to equipment and use of facilities for independent projects.

MFA-2

  • Film/Video theory, history, or criticism course/s
  • FPFV699 Independent Study MFA-2
  • Winter Session (1 credit)

MFA-3

  • Film/Video theory, history, or criticism course/s
  • FPFV799 Independent Study MFA-3
  • Winter Session (1 credit)

Graduate Students are required to take at least one semester of Film History (FAIC620 or FAIC621) and one semester of Film Today (FAIC600 - Fall or Spring). They must also complete at least one Film/Video theory, history, or criticism class each semester for 5 semesters; they are required to take at least one Visiting Filmmaker Workshop (FPFV650); and they are required to take one semester of Graduate Critique (FPFV625) in the second or third year. It may be repeated for credit.

History, Theory or Criticism Courses (BFA/MFA)

Course Options (not all courses are offered each semester/year)

  • FPFV424/624 Aesthetics of Sound and Image (2 credits)
  • FPFV433/633 Shame and Trauma in Cinema (2 credits)
  • FPFV442/624 Radicalizing Sound and Image (3 credits)
  • FPFV478/678 Cinema of Resistance (3 credits)
  • FAIC400/600 Film Today (3 credits)
  • FAIC410/610 History of Documentary Film (3 credits)
  • FAIC412/612 Documentary Inquiries (3 credits)
  • FAIC415/615 Questions of Third Cinema (3 credits)
  • FAIC420/620 Film History (3 credits)
  • FAIC425/625 History of Sound in Animation (1.5 credits)
  • FAIC426/626 Cinema in Exile (3 credits)
  • FAIC430/630 History of Video Art (3 credits)
  • FAIC422/622 History of Film: Women Directors (3 credits)
  • FAIC450/650 Special Topics: Realist Style (3 credits)
  • FAIC454/654 Special Topics: Utopia and Its Shadowlands (3 credits)
  • FFDP458/658 Special Topics: Coming of Age (3 credits)
  • FAIC465/665 Chantal Akerman: An Intimate Passion (3 credits)
  • CSOC442/542 Film, Video & TV in Latin America
  • CHMN487/587 Classical Film Theory

This list may be subject to change.

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The Film Directing Program (MFA Only)

This unique MFA program in narrative filmmaking fosters the individual voice of the filmmaker in developing innovative approaches to narrative in cinema. Students work closely with FDP faculty, guided principally by their mentor, who helps guide their course of study as they create a body of work that best illustrates their vision and voice. The program’s concept of narrative is expansive and aesthetically diverse, exploring a variety of methodologies from independent dramatic filmmaking to hybrid and experimental narrative practices. Grounded in the history of narrative cinema, the curriculum provides a rich understanding of the fundamental aesthetic and technical components of narrative filmmaking, including scriptwriting, staging and visual design, working with actors, narrative theory, cinematography, scene study, sound and editing, and a broad variety of graduate-level seminars in contemporary cinemas and practices. 

FDP students are required to create a deep portfolio of work. Within the first semester, students make 3 to 4 shorts films in a series of structured blocks designed to immerse the student in a diverse range of filmmaking techniques and strategies.

In subsequent semesters, the program provides a rich slate of classes and workshops, independent studies, and rigorous mentorship for the students to continue developing and making films that hone an original approach to shaping stories. The Film Directing Program culminates with a final thesis film that demonstrates a distinct point of view. In the 3rd or 4th semester, students propose and gain approval for this project at a Preliminary Thesis Review. Graduation is contingent upon the successful presentation and evaluation of the thesis project during a Graduation Review at the end of their final semester.

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Film Directing Program Course Requirements

The Film Directing Program’s three year course of study is structured into 7 metier categories the faculty considers intrinsic to the exploration of narrative cinema. The MFA-1 and MFA-2 years include specific foundational course requirements. Students fulfill the remainder of requirements by selecting from courses in each metier category which are designed to deepen and expand the definition of narrative form. With their mentor, the student designs a pathway through these courses that best suits their development and practice.

Requirements

STAGING AND PERFORMANCE – Minimum requirement 3 courses

  • FFDP600 Symposium
  • FFDP504 Acting 1: Required MFA 1 year
  • FFDP512 Scene Study
  • FFDP535 Visual Design
  • FFDP513 Advanced Scene Study
  • FFDP604 Advanced Acting
  • FFDP616 One Act to Cinematic Event
  • FFDP632 Advanced Staging

STRUCTURE AND FORM – Minimum requirement 3 courses

  • FFDP520 Narrative Fundamentals: Required MFA 1 year
  • FFDP521 Narrative Structure and Form
  • FFDP524 Cinematic Storytelling
  • FFDP523 Screenwriting: Long Forms
  • FFDP625 Advanced Scripting

IMAGE AND SOUND – Minimum requirement 4 courses

  • FFDP529 Post Production Workshop: Required MFA 1 year
  • FFDP580 Production Sound: Required MFA 1 year
  • FFDP680 Post Production Sound: Required MFA 1 year
  • FFDP530 Cinematography for Directors

PROCESS AND METHODOLOGY – Minimum requirement 2 courses

  • FFDP682 Project Development
  • FFDP672 Fictions of Completion
  • FFDP675 Thesis Workshop
  • FFDP677 Narrative Editing
  • FFDP627 Narrative Rumble

HISTORY AND CONTEXT – Minimum requirement 4 courses

  • FAIC620/621 Film History 1 and 2: Required MFA 1 year
  • Special Topics: FDP Courses or equivalent per mentor permission

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT – Minimum requirement 3 courses

  • FFDP540 Guest Artist Workshop: 2 Semesters Required
  • FFDP690 Film School to Film World
  • Credited Internships

CROSS DISCIPLINARY WORK – Minimum requirement 2 courses

  • Electives chosen from outside the School of Film/Video

WINTER SESSION – 3 units (1 unit each Winter Session)

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Program in Experimental Animation

The Experimental Animation Program offers both BFA and MFA degrees. The degree programs emphasize the creative development of a personal aesthetic in an artist-centered environment. A broad range of animation approaches, processes, and techniques are covered in lecture courses, seminars, workshops, visiting artist lectures, internships, and independent studies. The program supports 2D animation, stop-motion, multiplane, digital production, installation, stereoscopy, motion capture, performance animation, programming, and other approaches. Students work closely with a mentor in developing skills, course schedules, and projects, and also benefit from working among artistic peers in a studio environment. To support development of each student’s creative voice, we offer technical and critical skills within a wide range of production courses, as well as history and theory. Students are also required to take production courses in other Schools at CalArts (Theater, Dance, Music, and Art), in order to develop interdisciplinary approaches. Study abroad opportunities are also offered, mainly for BFA students.

Bachelor of Fine Arts Program in Experimental Animation

BFA students in Experimental Animation leave the program with a well-developed artistic identity and varied abilities, and establish careers in studio production and personal practice, often forming creative partnerships with fellow students. In the program, students are provided with a comprehensive education in the history, styles, techniques, and technology of animation arts. As a culminating project they conceive, design, and produce a graduation project that reflects the student’s personal artistic sensibilities.

The Experimental Animation Program accepts BFA-level students in one of two tracks: 1) at the BFA1 level with a four-year residency or 2) at the BFA2 level as a transfer student with a three-year residency. In the Experimental Animation Program, residency requirements cannot be altered after admission, regardless of the number of credits earned. Students must attend full-time; part-time attendance is not allowed.

Learning Goals for BFA Students

  • Individual voice: Student's style is recognizable and compelling. This distinctive voice extends through their creative process, resulting in conceptually complex works that display competency with technical skills.
  • Contextual knowledge: Student is aware of and can critically discuss current developments in time-based art and is cognizant of past developments in animation and live-action media history. Student is able to demonstrate his/her understanding of the historical/cultural/social context of their work.
  • Interdisciplinary approaches: Student is aware of production practices in other métiers, such as art, theater, dance, and music, and has participated in one or more of these areas while at the Institute.
  • Technical skills: Student has a working knowledge of digital media used in animation production, and can apply that knowledge effectively in realizing projects. Student is able to use technology creatively and with an experimental attitude.
  • Collegiality: Student is an active participant within critiques, applying knowledge and experience effectively in their arguments and valuing other people’s opinions. Student understands the value of mentorship and works closely with faculty to achieve personal goals. Student values collaboration with others.
  • Professionalism: Student’s personal work is outstanding, fulfilling their potential as an artist. Student is able to give cogent presentations about their work and is prepared to enter the professional world. Student attends visiting artist workshops, makes contacts through internships or various projects, and participates in portfolio presentations, and they are sought after for professional opportunities.

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Track 1 Requirements: Student Accepted as a BFA1

BFA students accepted as a BFA1 complete a four-year residency. In this track, the first two years provide the student with an understanding of principles and techniques of animation, as well as the history of animation, digital methods, and elements of sound development. An animation project is produced in both the BFA1 and BFA2 years. The BFA3 year is left relatively open, so students can take practice-related courses in other Schools at the Institute; they must take at least three courses totaling six credits or more in another métier (Art, Theater, Dance, or Music) practice (not history or theory) during the four-year residency. A mid-residency review occurs during fall of the BFA3 year, when the student presents work they have produced within the program to a faculty committee. This review is scheduled by the student through the Film/Video office, after meeting with their mentor to assure that the required métier and critical studies courses have been taken. BFA students are required to complete a graduation project during their BFA4 year as part of their requirements for the Undergraduate Critique course. That project, along with other significant work, will be presented during the student's graduation review in the last semester of residence. The student arranges this review with the Film/Video office, after getting a graduation check from their mentor and having critical studies requirements signed off by the Registrar’s office. The faculty committee gives permission to graduate. 

Required courses:

The following courses are required for students accepted at the BFA1 level in the Experimental Animation program, but they do not constitute a student’s entire program. In addition to the Experimental Animation requirements below, BFA students are also required to take production courses in other métiers.* Consult the online catalog for critical studies and other requirements. Students schedule regular meetings with their mentors throughout each semester to discuss the development of work and progress through required courses. The student will be asked to provide documentation of academic progress when they schedule mid-residency and graduation reviews. It is the student’s responsibility to fulfill all graduation requirements. Any requests for a substitution must be approved by the mentor before the course is taken.

BFA1

Fall Semester
  • FVEA107 BFA Animation Workshop (4 credits)
  • FVEA255 Hybrid Imaging (2 credits)
  • FAIC170 Animation History (3 credits)
  • Critical Studies (3 credits)
  • Elective (3 - 6 credits recommended)
Spring Semester 
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
  • FVEA108 BFA Animation Production (4 credits)
  • FVEA145 Motion and Meaning (2 credits)
  • FAIC171 Animation History (3 credits)
  • Critical Studies (3 credits)
  • Elective (2 - 5 credits recommended)

BFA2

Fall Semester
  • FVEA202 BFA2 Concept Development (3 credits)
  • FVEA240 Sound Acquisition for Experimental Animation (2 credits)
  • FAIC420 Film History I (3 credits)
  • Other métier practice* (2 credits)
  • Critical Studies (3 credits recommended)
  • Elective (2-4 credits recommended)
Spring Semester 
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
  • FVEA203 BFA2 Production (3 credits)
  • FVEA241 Post Production Sound for Experimental Animators (2 credits)
  • FAIC421 Film History II (3 credits)
  • Critical Studies (3 - 6 credits recommended)
  • Elective (3 - 5 credits recommended)

BFA3

Fall Semester 
  • Mid-Residency Review
  • Other métier practice* (2 credits)
  • Critical Studies and electives as needed (13-17 credits recommended)
Spring Semester 
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
  • Other métier practice* (2 credits)
  • Critical Studies and electives as needed (13-16 credits recommended)

BFA4

Fall Semester 
  • FVEA382 Experimental Animation Undergrad Critique (3 credits)
  • Critical Studies and electives as needed (8-14 credits recommended)
Spring Semester
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
  • Graduation review/Submit Senior Project
  • FVEA483 Experimental Animation Undergrad Critique (3 credits)
  • Critical Studies and electives as needed (9-15 credits recommended)

*over a four-year residency, BFA students must complete at least six credits in another métier practice (not history or theory): Art, Theater, Dance, or Music. These courses must be completed at CalArts, not transferred in. They can be taken in any semester. Recommended timing for courses is indicated above.

Track 2 Requirements: Student Accepted as a BFA2 Transfer Student

Most BFA applicants are accepted at the BFA1 level, but in some cases a student may be accepted as a BFA2 transfer student. Transfer students who begin in the BFA2 year complete a three-year residency. In this track, the first two years provide the student with an understanding of principles and techniques of animation, as well as the history of animation, digital methods, and elements of sound development. An animation project is produced in both the BFA 2, BFA3, and BFA4 years. During the BFA3 year, these students also should take practice-related courses in other Schools at the Institute; they must take at least two courses totaling four credits or more in another métier (Art, Theater, Dance, or Music) practice (not history or theory) during the three-year residency. A mid-residency review occurs during fall of the BFA3 year, when the student presents work their has produced within the program to faculty committee. This review is scheduled by the student through the Film/Video office, after meeting with their mentor to assure that all required métier and critical studies courses have been taken. Students are required to complete a graduation project during their BFA4 year for the Undergraduate Critique course. That project, along with other significant work, will be presented during the student's graduation review in the last semester of residence. The student arranges this review with the Film/Video office, after getting a graduation check from their mentor and having critical studies requirements signed off by the Registrar’s office. The faculty committee gives permission to graduate.

Required courses:

The following courses are required for students accepted at the BFA2 transfer level in the Experimental Animation program, but they do not constitute a student’s entire program. In addition to the Experimental Animation requirements below, BFA students are also required to take production courses in other métiers.* Consult the online catalog for critical studies and other requirements. Students schedule regular meetings with their mentors throughout each semester to discuss the development of work and progress through required courses. The student will be asked to provide documentation of academic progress when they schedule mid-residency and graduation reviews. It is the student’s responsibility to fulfill all graduation requirements.

BFA2

Fall Semester
  • FVEA107 BFA Animation Workshop (4 credits)
  • FVEA255 Hybrid Imaging (2 credits)
  • FAIC170 Animation History (3 credits)
  • FAIC420 Film History I (3 credits)
  • Critical Studies and electives as needed (3-6 credits recommended)
Spring Semester
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
  • FVEA108 BFA Animation Production (4 credits)
  • FVEA145 Motion and Meaning (2 credits)
  • FAIC171 Animation History (3 credits)
  • FAIC421 Film History II (3 credits)
  • Critical Studies and electives as needed (2-5 credits recommended)

BFA3

Fall Semester
  • Mid-Residency Review
  • FVEA202 BFA2 Concept Development (3 credits)
  • FVEA240 Sound Acquisition for Experimental Animation (2 credits)
  • Other métier practice* (2 credits)
  • Critical Studies and electives as needed (8-11 credits recommended)
Spring Semester
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
  • FVEA203 BFA2 Production (3 credits)
  • FVEA241 Post Production Sound for Experimental Animators (2 credits)
  • Other métier practice* (2 credits)
  • Critical Studies and electives as needed (8-11 credits recommended)

BFA4

Fall Semester
  • FVEA382 Experimental Animation Undergrad Critique (3 credits)
  • Critical Studies and electives as needed (9-15 credits recommended)
Spring Semester
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
  • Graduation Review/Submit Senior Project
  • FVEA483 Experimental Animation Undergrad Critique (3 credits)
  • Critical Studies and electives as needed (8-14 credits recommended)

*over a three-year residency, BFA transfer students must complete at least four credits in another métier practice (not history or theory): Art, Theater, Dance, or Music. These courses must be completed at CalArts, not transferred in. They can be taken in any semester. Recommended timing for courses is indicated above.

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Master of Fine Arts Program in Experimental Animation

Graduates of the MFA Program in Experimental Animation become creative leaders in the field, establishing careers in studio production, teaching, and personal practice, often forming creative partnerships with fellow students. In the program, students are provided with a comprehensive education in the history, styles, techniques, and technology of animation arts. As a culminating project they conceive, design, and produce a thesis that reflects the student’s personal artistic sensibilities.

The Experimental Animation program accepts MFA-level students in one of two tracks: 1) at the MFA1 level with a three-year residency or, in rare instances, 2) at the MFA2 level, with a two-year residency, an option that may be offered only to students who already have a BFA from the Experimental Animation program. In the Experimental Animation program, residency requirements cannot be altered after admission, regardless of the number of credits earned.

Learning Goals for MFA Students

Individual voice: Student's style is unique and developed over a body of work. This distinctive voice extends through their creative process, resulting in conceptually complex works that display competency with technical skills. Students develop creative methods that serve their personal styles.

Contextual knowledge: Student can discuss current developments in time-based art as well as past developments in animation and live-action media history. Student is able to demonstrate their advanced understanding of the historical/cultural/social context of their work convincingly in presentations, discussions, and writing.

Interdisciplinary approaches: Student is aware of production practices in other métiers, such as art, theater, dance, and music, and has participated in one or more of these areas while at the Institute. Student draws upon these disciplines as appropriate to expand their own creative approaches.

Technical skills: Student has an advanced knowledge of digital media used animation production, and can apply them with confidence in realizing projects. Student projects reflect the creative use of technology and an experimental attitude.

Collegiality: Student is an active participant within critiques, applying knowledge and experience effectively in their arguments and valuing other people’s opinions. Student works with others on projects. Student understands the value of mentorship and works closely with faculty to achieve personal goals. Student finds opportunity for leadership and collaboration within the program and the larger animation community.

Professionalism: Student’s personal work is outstanding, fulfilling their potential as an artist. Student gives cogent presentations about their work and is prepared to enter the professional world. Student attends visiting artist workshops, makes contacts through internships or various projects, and participates in portfolio presentations, and they are sought after for professional opportunities. Student is familiar with leading film festivals and has submitted their work to them as appropriate. Student attends professional gatherings and events and/or is a member of related organizations. They contribute to the advancement of animation production, history, and/or theory.

Track 1 Requirements: Three-Year Residency

The three-year residency MFA track in Experimental Animation provides time for students to participate in the full range of studies necessary for artistic and professional growth. MFA1 year level courses provide students with a comprehensive understanding of production techniques, including both visual and sound elements. In seminar-type settings, students are encouraged to engage in critical discourse as a means of developing and articulating personal aesthetics. The spring semester culminates in completion of a first-year project, which is developed within supporting coursework. Through the study of animation history and continued conceptual investigation, MFA 2s further their understanding of the creative possibilities of animation and are encouraged to take courses from other métiers (Art, Dance, Theater, and Music) to develop in interdisciplinary ways.

During the MFA2 year, students develop a proposal for a thesis project that is completed in the MFA3 year, within courses and in consultation with a mentor and other faculty. This proposal is presented within a preliminary review during the spring semester of the MFA2 year. The student schedules this review with the Film/Video office after meeting with their mentor to assure that all course requirements have been met. During the preliminary review, the student receives feedback and establishes an agreement with their faculty committee on the goals of the project. The creative development of the thesis parallels studies focusing on advanced technical and conceptually oriented courses that support its production.

During the MFA3 year, students focus mostly on producing the thesis project under the tutelage of a mentor and other faculty, while continuing to participate in supporting coursework. After checking graduation requirements with their mentor, the student schedules a graduation review with their committee during the spring semester of the MFA3 year. At this meeting, they present the completed thesis project for review by the faculty committee. MFA students are required to complete an approved thesis project in order to graduate.

Required courses:

Following is information about courses that are required for the Experimental Animation MFA, but they do not constitute a student’s entire program. Students must take at least 60 credits at the graduate level to graduate. Consult the official curriculum online for other requirements. Students schedule regular meetings with their mentors throughout each semester to discuss the development of work and progress through required courses. The student will be asked to provide documentation of academic progress when they schedule preliminary and graduation reviews. It is the student’s responsibility to fulfill all graduation requirements, including at least 6 graduate-level credits of history/theory coursework in residence at CalArts. To fulfill these requirements, students take FAIC570 Seminar in Animation History, FAIC675 History of Experimental Animation, and FPFV553 Cinematic Voices: In Person. Any changes to the schedule of required courses must be approved by the required course instructor and the student’s mentor.

MFA1

Fall Semester
  • FVEA502 The Digital Path for Animation (2 credits)
  • FVEA525 First Year Shorts (3 credits)
  • FSFV540 SoundImage One (2 credits)
  • FAIC 675 History of Experimental Animation (2 credits)

At least one of the following:

FVEA515 Drawn Techniques for the Experimental Animator (3 credits), FVEA555 Hybrid Imaging (2 credits), FVEA620 Stop Motion Basics (2 credits), FVEA538 Introduction to Cinema4D (2 credits), FVEA610 Interactive Media (3 credits)

Spring Semester
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
  • FVEA526 First Year Shorts (3 credits)
  • FVEA541 Post Production Sound for Experimental Animators (2 credits)
  • Electives (5-8 credits recommended)

MFA2

Fall Semester
  • FVEA520 Experimental Animation Thesis Concept Seminar (3 credits)
  • FAIC570 Seminar in Animation History (2 credits)
  • Electives (4 - 13 credits recommended)
Spring Semester
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
  • Preliminary Review (before Spring break)
  • Electives (9-13 credits recommended)

MFA3

Fall Semester
  • FVEA530 Experimental Animation Thesis Production Seminar (3 credits)
  • Electives (6-15 credits recommended)
Spring Semester
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
  • Graduation Review/Submit Thesis Project
  • FVEA531 Experimental Animation Thesis Production Seminar (3 credits)
  • Electives (5-6 credits recommended)
  • To graduate, a total of 60 or more credits is needed for MFA students in a three-year residency.

Track 2: Two-Year Residency

The two-year residency MFA degree in Experimental Animation is offered to some applicants already holding a BFA degree in animation. It allows students time for development of additional, more complex animation projects and additional study of both interdisciplinary and historical/theoretical frameworks. Students in Experimental Animation leave the program as creative leaders in the field, primarily finding careers in production and teaching, often forming creative partnerships with fellow students. In the program, students are exposed to a comprehensive education in the history, styles, techniques, and technology of animation arts. They also further the skills necessary to conceive, design, and produce a thesis project demonstrating continued development of personal aesthetics.

Through the study of animation history and conceptual investigation, MFAs further their understanding of the creative possibilities of animation and are encouraged to take courses from other métiers (Art, Dance, Theater, and Music) to develop in interdisciplinary ways.

During the first year, MFA students on a two-year residency complete a first year film and develop a proposal for a thesis project that is completed the following year, within courses and in consultation with a mentor and other faculty. This proposal is presented within a preliminary review during the spring semester of the first year. During the preliminary review, the student receives feedback and establishes an agreement with their faculty committee on the goals of the project.

During the second year of the two-year residency, the student focuses mostly on producing the thesis project, while consulting with their mentor and continuing to participate in supporting coursework. After checking graduation requirements with their mentor, the student schedules a graduation review with their committee during the spring semester of the final year. At this meeting they present the completed thesis project for review by the faculty committee. MFA students are required to complete an approved thesis project in order to graduate.

Required courses:

Applicants with a BFA in animation degree or comparable experience are eligible to request the option of a two-year residency. This two-year residency MFA degree is meant to supplement the BFA experience by allowing time for the development of additional, more complex animation projects and more study of both interdisciplinary and historical/theoretical frameworks. An applicant's eligibility for the two-year residency will be determined by the faculty only at the time of admission; changes in residency will not be made after the student has started the program.

Students in the two-year residency track complete 40 or more graduate-level credits, at least 4 of which should be graduate-level credits of history/theory coursework in residence at CalArts. To fulfill these requirements, students take FAIC570 Seminar in Animation History (2 credits) and FAIC675 History of Experimental Animation (2 credits). Any changes to the schedule of required courses must be approved by the required course instructor and the student's mentor.

MFA1

Fall Semester
  • FVEA502 The Digital Path for Animation (2 credits)
  • FVEA520 Experimental Animation Thesis Concept Seminar (3 credits)
  • FVEA525 First Year Shorts (3 credits)
  • FSFV540 SoundImage One (2 credits)
  • FAIC675 History of Experimental Animation (2 credits)
Spring Semester 
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
  • Preliminary Review (before Spring break)
  • FVEA526 First Year Shorts (3 credits)
  • FVEA520 Experimental Animation Thesis Concept Seminar (3 credits)
  • Electives (6-9 credits recommended)

MFA2

Fall Semester
  • FAIC570 Seminar in Animation History (2 credits)
  • FVEA530 Experimental Animation Thesis Production Seminar (3 credits)
  • Electives (4-7 credits recommended)
Spring Semester
  • Winter Session (1 credit)
  • Graduation Review/Submit Thesis Project
  • FVEA531 Experimental Animation Thesis Production Seminar (3 credits)
  • Electives (5-8 credits recommended)

To graduate, a total of 40 or more credits is needed for MFA students in a two-year residency.

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Character Animation Program

Learning Goals for the Character Animation Program 

  1. Create compelling time-based and static work, including films that reveal a breadth of advanced skills in visual observation, conceptual framing, technical knowledge, and directorial vision;
  2. Display strong proficiency with 2D and CG animation, as well as skillful use of animation principles;
  3. Exhibit in-depth knowledge of storytelling and narrative structure;
  4. Demonstrate advanced abilities in drawing and design;
  5. Show evidence of understanding how to function effectively as a professional artist in a variety of work settings, along with the ability to view how skills are applicable across a range of creative areas;
  6. Relate critically and creatively to one or more other artistic disciplines at CalArts, as well as to the history of animation and its artistic/cultural contexts.

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The Character Animation Program is limited to undergraduate study and offers a comprehensive four-year curriculum for traditional and CG animation artists. Required courses are:

First Year / BFA1

Fall Semester
  • FVCA-100 2D Character Animation I
  • FVCA-110 Life Drawing I
  • FVCA-132 Design I
  • FVCA-150 Story I
  • FVCA-160 Digital Methods I
  • FVCA-180 CG Foundation I
Winter Session
  • FVCA-151W Story I
Spring Semester
  • FVCA-101 2D Character Animation I
  • FVCA-111 Life Drawing I
  • FVCA-140 Perspective I
  • FVCA-151 Story I
  • FVCA-161 Digital Methods I
  • FVCA-181 CG Foundation I

Second year / BFA2

Fall Semester
  • FVCA-200 2D Character Animation II
  • FVCA-210 Life Drawing II
  • FVCA-220 Film Workshop II
  • FVCA-240 Animation Layout
  • FVCA-252 Story II: Storyboarding
  • FVCA-260 Digital Methods II: Sound
  • FVCA-280 CG Foundation II
Winter Session
  • FVCA-221W Film Workshop II
Spring Semester
  • FVCA-201 2D Character Animation II
  • FVCA-211 Life Drawing II
  • FVCA-221 Film Workshop II

Third Year / BFA3

Fall Semester
  • FVCA-300 2D Character Animation III
  • FVCA-311 - FVCA-316 Advanced Life Drawing (select one class; 1.5 units required)
  • FVCA-320 Film Workshop III
  • FVCA-334 Professional Preparation III
Winter Session 
  • FVCA-321W Film Workshop III
Spring Semester
  • FVCA-301 2D Character Animation III
  • FVCA-311 - FVCA-316 Life Drawing (select one class; 1.5 units required)
  • FVCA-321 Film Workshop III

Fourth Year / BFA4

Fall Semester
  • FVCA-400 Character Animation IV
  • FVCA-311 - FVCA-316 Life Drawing (select one class; 1.5 units required)
  • FVCA-420 Film Workshop IV
Winter Session
  • FVCA-421W Film Workshop IV
Spring Semester
  • FVCA-401 Character Animation IV
  • FVCA-421 Film Workshop IV

In addition, all Character Animation students are required to take Acting for Animators (FVCA-290) once during their BFA degree.

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