Documentary Media Degree Requirements

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.


Program requirements include:

  • Eighteen credit units of study, maintaining at least a B average. A mid-program review at the end of the first year will be used to determine whether students can continue to the second year of study.  Students failing to meet the requirement of a B average will not be permitted to progress to the second year.
  • An MFA Portfolio containing:
    • 20-45 minutes of edited material or 2-3 interactive projects, including the 12-20 minute or interactive thesis project.
    • A written artist statement regarding: how submitted works are connected; who applicant is as a developing artist; what applicant hopes to accomplish, creatively and professionally, through continued work in the field; why applicant thinks their work will make an important and significant contribution to the field.
    • A distribution plan for getting their completed films/interactive thesis project distributed/displayed and for "getting to the next level" professionally as an artist
  • Completion of all thesis requirements and successful defense of the MFA thesis project before a faculty committee.
Coursework Requirements Units
Core Courses  
RTVF 551 - Documentary Techniques: Intro to basic camera and sound recording for traditional small-crew documentary filmmaking; interviewing; ethics; successful story structure that engages and innovates. Product: 6-8 minute documentary film. 1
RTVF 552 - Narrative Techniques: Intro to small-crew narrative sync- sound filmmaking; “hybridization,” narratives that use doc techniques, docs that use narrative techniques; advanced digital camera formats. Product: 6-8 minute narrative film. 1
RTVF 553 - Interactive Techniques/Emerging Forms: Intro to basic interactivity platforms and how to apply documentary methodology. Product: One interactive project. 1
RTVF 554 - Thesis 1: Development and production of documentary media thesis project. Product: concept, treatment, production begins. 1
RTVF 555 - Thesis 2: Continued production with emphasis on transitioning from fieldwork to assemblage. Product: Rough-cut or prototype. 1
RTVF 556 - Thesis 3: Finish thesis project; organize final public screening and exhibitions; intro to the business of documentary media production. Production: Thesis project, artist statement, and business plan. 1
Topics courses, RTVF (300 level or higher) with director of MFA approval

Sample courses include:

Editing Lighting Cinematography SFX Cinematography Designing for the Internet Directing Actors Producing Advanced Audio Production Advanced Sound Design Color Correction 2D Computer Animation 3D Computer Animation Stop Motion Animation Animated Infographics Interactive Comics Conceptual Design Advanced SFX Recording Approaches to Video Game Design Gaming Narratives Experimental Media Production Placed Based Documentary Problem Families/Family Problems Secrets and Lies Computer Code as Expressive Medium Layout and Storyboarding Sitcom Production Romantic Comedy Rebels, Misfits, and Losers Making the Bromance Making Reality TV Love Hurts Romantic Triangles Webisodes

1 each, for a total of 5
Theory/history/culture courses (300-level or higher)
From Screen Cultures/RTVF, Performance Studies, Art Theory and Practice, Theatre, or other departments with approval of MFA program director. A course in the area of nonfiction media, documentary history/theory, or reality television is especially encouraged. 1
From Production, Screen Cultures, or Writing/RTVF, Performance Studies, Art Theory and Practice, Theatre or other departments with approval of MFA program director. 1 each, for a total of 5
Internship, RTVF 349 or equivalent at the discretion of the director of the MFA 1
Total credits: 18

Other MFA Degree Requirements

MFA students will be allowed to take a maximum of 20 credits.

  • Grade average: you must maintain a B average. If your average is not a B or higher by the end of the first year, you may be asked to leave the program.
  • First Year Review: The academic and professional progress of all first year MFAs will be reviewed in early June by the director of the program in consultation with production faculty. If weaknesses are identified, a formal interview with that student will be conducted by the director and production faculty to determine an appropriate course of action. Subsequent to that interview, at the discretion of the director, the grade for the spring core 500-level production seminar may be used to determine whether that student will be allowed to continue in the program, with a grade of C+ or below resulting in possible removal.
  • Final Portfolio Review/Defense: In consultation with the director of the program, you will choose a committee of two faculty members (both part of the Graduate School faculty) to review your final portfolio (20-45 minutes of edited material or 2-3 interactive projects created in classes -- including the 12-20 minute or interactive thesis project) and to assess your final defense of that portfolio, which will include a written artist statement and business plan.