Skip to main content

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, soundtracks, and video installations. Student work regularly wins awards in the U.S. and abroad.

You’ll examine media cultures around the world and throughout history. You’ll study the social, economic, and political dimensions of cinema, television, audio arts, and interactive media.

Our faculty, which includes both practicing filmmakers, screenwriters, media artists, and leading cultural theorists, will challenge you to hone your original vision and make you conversant with the important ideas and debates 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 major 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:

SOUND:

RTVF 383: INTRODUCTION TO SOUND PRODUCTION
An introduction to the principles of basic sound production. Through demos, lectures, readings, screenings, and exercises, learn the basics of sound recording technology: the physical properties of sound, microphone techniques, recording technology, mixing, and effects. 

RTVF 384: INTRODUCTION TO SOUND POST-PRODUCTION
This course focuses on audio storytelling and communication, using post-production skills to create complex, imaginative, information-rich sound worlds. Students are introduced to a variety of Digital Audio Workstations as they learn film sound techniques like dialogue editing, ADR, foley, and underscoring, to tell stories both with and without images.  

PRODUCTION AND CINEMATOGRAPHY:

RTVF 190: MEDIA CONSTRUCTION
Introduction to hands-on collaborative processes in production and project conceptualization in the making of media for film, television, and interactive media. Students will develop fundamental skills in lighting and cinematography, sound, editing, and screen performance in the context of collaborative creative projects.

RTVF 370: PRODUCING
Learn the fundamentals of film producing, from development and pre-production through distribution and marketing, primarily through the lens of independent filmmaking. Emphasis is placed on both on research/analysis and applied hands-on practice through scheduling, budgeting, and pitching a short film project to a mock grant panel.

RTVF 380 LIGHTING AND CINEMATOGRAPHY
Learn the techniques, aesthetics, and technologies of lighting and camera skills, including the fundamentals of lenses, exposure, light, and on-set procedures. Camera placement and movement and fundamentals of coverage are explored in studio and through study of selected works. Work together on short projects, either on video or super 16mm film, as you develop your personal visual style.

RTVF 476 ADVANCED CINEMATOGRAPHY
Continue to develop your unique visual style through more advanced lighting and camera techniques. Emphasis is placed on lighting for depth, movement, and skin tones. Explore visual metaphor and non-verbal storytelling, advanced coverage, and communicating ideas and themes cinematographically. When possible, guest cinematographers and field trips enhance the understanding of the art and craft of cinematography.

VIRTUAL REALITY / ANIMATION / GAMING:

RTVF 376: INTRO TO GAME STUDIO
A workshop course covering fundamental skills in game development through solo and group projects, analyzing game design theory by analyzing its elements contextualized across various media, and providing and receiving critical feedback. This course will give insight into the technical aspects of game development while highlighting its creative process. Game-making experience not required; all levels of experience welcome.

RTVF 393: 2D COMPUTER ANIMATION
An introduction to the art of animation, with a specific focus on 2D character animation. Complete several assignments designed to develop skills in character animation and a final project that will cover the animation work pipeline. 

RTVF 376: VIRTUAL ALTERNATE REALITY STORYTELLING
Merge virtual and physical worlds and design fiction or non-fiction storytelling, game, or art pieces that create or benefit from virtual reality or alternate and fragmented reality. This production class will include tutorials about 360-degree filming and editing for VR, creating virtual environments and meaningful interactions for VR / WebVR, and using VR for media art installations. Design a short virtual, alternate, or fragmented reality experience that purposefully blurs reality and fiction and narrates a story.  ​

POST-PRODUCTION:

RTVF 372: EDITING
Explore and develop skills in the technique and art of editing for film. Topics include editing for continuity, controlling pace and rhythm, and editing nonlinear narratives. Examples are studied for traditional and non-traditional techniques. Work on mining footage for performance, crafting dialogue with subtext, expanding and compressing time, delivering Point of View, and enhancing drama / comedy through the edit.

RTVF 378: COLOR CORRECTION
An introduction to the art of color correction. In addition to learning the technical processes of working with many types of camera footage in the post-production pipeline, develop a critical eye for color balance and contrast, match looks from shot to shot, and reveal the beauty and power of the moving image. 

The department offers a wealth of courses in writing taught by our eminent faculty of professionals who write for screen and stage. Once students have taken the Foundations of Screenwriting course, the upper-level writing courses let them construct a portfolio that demonstrates a deep and wide-ranging understanding of screenwriting craft and showcases their own unique voices.

Recent course have included such topics as:

  • Writing the TV Pilot
  • Writing the Feature Film
  • Writing the Musical
  • Writing Fantasy, Horror, and the Supernatural
  • Writing LGBTQ+ Narratives
  • Writing the Micro-Budget Feature
  • Writing Video Games
  • Writing Stand-up
  • Writing Climate Change
  • Advanced SitCom Writing
  • Improv for Writers

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

Recent courses have included:

  • Exploitation Cinema
  • Beyond Bollywood: Indian Cinema After 1947
  • Romantic Comedy
  • Science Fiction
  • Race, History, and the Biopic
  • Media and the Environment
  • Digital Cinema
  • Musical Media
  • Haunted Media

Modules

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.

Internships

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).