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Major in Radio/Television/Film

As an undergraduate in Radio/Television/Film, you’ll become fluent in both media production and analysis.

You’ll receive hands-on training in creating, editing and producing innovative media—films, computer animation, and video installations. Student work regularly wins awards in the U.S. and abroad.

You’ll examine media’s role in cultures around the world—past, present and future. You’ll study the history of cinema and broadcast media as you study the social, economic and political dimensions of radio, television and film.

Our faculty, which boasts both practicing filmmakers, screenwriters, and leading cultural theorists, will challenge you to hone your own original vision and make you conversant with the important ideas of our times. As you learn, your technical skills, critical skills and social senses will be transformed, preparing you to reinvent the media of the future.

A degree in Radio/Television/Film prepares you to continue working in areas such as:

  • Directing
  • Screenwriting
  • Media content creation
  • Media production and post-production
  • Arts and entertainment management
  • Media analysis and criticism
  • Cultural scholarship

Areas of Study

In addition to a rigorous and comprehensive study of media cultures and screenwriting, Radio/Television/Film students can develop and hone their filmmaking craft through a variety of production opportunities within the curriculum and outside of the classroom.

Opportunities Include:

Producing the TV Sitcom
This two-course sequence is a unique opportunity for students to conceive, write, and produce a brand new TV comedy. Under the faculty leadership of a seasoned television writer, students pitch ideas and craft three full scripts based on their selected premise. Production students, with a grant from the School of Communication, then produce the episodes using talent from across the university.

Advanced Directing Sequence
Tied to the Directing for the Screen module, the directing sequence is a two-quarter sequence for students creating advanced artistic production, with critique of work throughout the production and post-production process.  Students may work in any genre (documentary, narrative, experimental) and any medium.  Admission is based on a portfolio of previous media work and a proposal for the project, including script and budget.

RED Cinematography
Students have an opportunity to learn how to operate the RED One, a cutting-edge high-end HD camera and a digital cinematography standard used throughout the film and television industry. Students experience both the production and post-production workflow through hands-on, technical instruction while continuing to develop their own unique visual storytelling style.

SFX Cinematography
The Special Effects Cinematography course emphasizes in-camera, analog, first generation special effects.  Students learn several effects techniques, including miniatures & landscapes, reflection, forced-perspective, models, front-silvered mirrors, the Shuftan process, front projection, and matte painting/photography.

The department offers a wealth of courses in writing taught by our eminent faculty of professionals who write for screen and stage. Once a student has taken the Foundations of Screenwriting course, the upper-level topics courses are numerous and diverse, allowing students to construct a rich portfolio of their writing which clearly demonstrates their unique talents.

Recent course have included such topics as:

  • Writing the Suspense Thriller
  • Writing the Romantic Comedy
  • Writing the TV Pilot
  • Writing the Feature Film
  • Writing for the Tween Market
  • Writing Fantasy, Horror, and the Supernatural
  • Advanced Scene Work
  • Improv for Writers

Courses offer students a comprehensive, critical study of media cultures and the history of film, television, and development of new media.  Students can study media in cultural context, authorship, genre, national cinemas, globalization, technological innovation, film and TV criticism, among other approaches. 

Recent courses have included:

  • Exploitation Cinema
  • Indian Film Industry
  • Films of Kubrick & Scorsese
  • Middle Eastern and North African Cinemas
  • Vampires in Film & TV
  • Graphic Novels
  • Nostalgia & Popular Culture
  • Hollywood Cartoons


Modules are structured learning experiences built around a series of 4-6 courses that focus on a subject and set of skills.  Modules provide opportunities for students to focus on and master these specific skills, and to demonstrate proficiency through a capstone project – usually a portfolio of polished, professional-quality work.

Completing a module is another way to lend focus and meaning to your undergraduate education and to emerge from Northwestern with marketable skills and a professional portfolio.  The successful completion of a module could give you an edge when it comes to internships and job applications.  As a member of a module, you will have closer access to faculty in your field, and you will join a communication of undergraduate peers that share your interests.

For more information about the modules, visit the SoCiety website.

Co-curricular Opportunities

Block Cinema
The Block Cinema, located on-campus, screens classic and contemporary films, providing the students  with interests in classic and experimental films an opportunity to view cinematic masterpieces projected on film. Each quarter, Block Cinema offers a wide-variety of films on a specific theme, place, or filmmaking genre; and frequently invites influential filmmakers to screen their work for the Northwestern community.

Writing Collaborations with Production Courses
Occasionally, RTVF students not currently enrolled in either production or writing courses will have an opportunity to contribute original screenplays to production courses. Recently, such collaborations have included the following topics: Bromance, Horror, Romantic Comedy (Love Hurts), and Directing Actors. These collaborations provide our talented writing students another chance to see their work produced on-screen.

Studio 22
Studio 22 is an entirely student-run production company that exists to provide extracurricular filmmaking opportunities outside of coursework. Visit the Studio 22 website for more information.

Northwestern Sketch Comedy Television (NSTV)
NSTV is the University’s premier sketch comedy group. Comprised of over sixty students, NSTV students write, direct, shoot, edit, promote, and act in their own sketches throughout the year. In addition to making content for the Internet and our annual premiere, NSTV produces two live comedy shows on campus, organizes educational comedy workshops/speaker events, and produces an annual video for Dance Marathon, Northwestern’s largest philanthropic organization.

Northwestern University Women Filmmakers Alliance (NUWFA)
NUWFA is a student group dedicated to unifying, educating, and promoting female filmmakers at Northwestern, as well as in the Chicago area. NUWFA encourages the development of visual media created by women, aids women filmmakers in production, and engages women as leaders in the Radio/Television/Film community.  Each year, NUWFA provides a grant to a short film project with a woman as the writer, director, or producer. NUWFA also hosts an annual industry panel, drawing professionals from the L.A., New York, and Chicago entertainment communities. Visit the NUWFA website for more information.

Inspire Media
Inspire Media is a student-run organization that produces and funds socially conscious media, engaging topics on local, national, and international levels. Believing that all media platforms have the power to motivate and create social change, Inspire Media’s programming provokes discussion, engages audiences, and inspires action in the global community.

Annual Writer’s Panel
Each year the School of Communication, in collaboration with the MFA in Writing for the Screen + Stage Program, hosts a Writer’s Panel featuring notable Northwestern Alumni as well as influential writers from around the country.  This past featured talented artists: Kia Corthon (writer for The Wire and The Jury); Brad Hall (C80), writer, actor and director and creator of The Single Guy and Watching Ellie; Julia-Louis-Dreyfus (C83), actress and producer for shows such as Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine and Veep; Jacquelyn Reingold, playwright and writer for TV shows Smash and In Treatment; and Amanda Watkins, actress and producer, including Broadway shows Sweet Charity and Cabaret.

Study Abroad

Working with Northwestern’s Study Abroad Office, Radio/Television/Film students have the opportunity to pursue their study of media cultures and cinematic storytelling in the global community. Our majors have participated in programs in Denmark, Prague, England, France, Brazil, and New Zealand, among others.

For more information visit the Study Abroad website or make an appointment with a Study Abroad Adviser.


Radio/Television/Film students are strongly encouraged to pursue internships in order to gain invaluable work experience and network with professionals in the entertainment industry. Radio/Television/Film students intern with some of the most well respected companies in the media industry in locations all around the country, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Our majors regularly hold internships at media companies, institutions, and organizations such as

  • Big 10 Network
  • Clear Channel Media and Entertainment
  • Conan
  • Disney/ABC Television Group
  • Endgame Entertainment
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live
  • Lionsgate Entertainment
  • MTV / Viacom
  • NBC Universal
  • Nickelodeon
  • Showtime Networks
  • VH-1 / Viacom
  • Warner Brothers Records

For more information about internships, visit the School of Communication website for EPICS (External Programs, Internships, and Career Services).