Director's Welcome

The MFA in Documentary Media, Where Reality Begins

Our program is designed for those who want to create work derived from the real world. Our graduates will define themselves not just as documentary mediamakers, but as artists who aren’t afraid to tailor techniques and forms to the particular stories they are passionate about telling. Some will make traditional documentaries. Others will blend fictional and nonfictional methods. Still others will expand upon the typical cinema or television experience, embracing the interactive or immersive.

Our students will learn to navigate an evolving media landscape, understanding where the opportunities are and how to pursue them. Rather than dreaming about being a professional filmmaker, our students will make that dream come true by forging lifelong professional relationships via our small cohort environment.

Being part of our MFA means being part of a top-tier institution with numerous high-profile alumni in film, stage, and television who have a reputation for helping their own. Additionally, Northwestern students have the advantage of being in Chicago, a city with an active documentary scene including filmmaking, film festivals, and programming, as well as amazing theatre, feisty politics, world-class art, colorful neighborhoods, and complex characters. All good fodder for documentary-based work.

The MFA in Documentary Media revolves around six core courses, which introduce participants to foundational concepts and techniques. Students build a significant portfolio -- at least one short documentary, one narrative film and one interactive project that either utilize documentary techniques or are rooted in actuality. Students also direct an advanced yearlong thesis project while learning about the media industry from world-class faculty and visiting filmmakers, all actively engaged in making work.

In addition, students have the opportunity to take Radio/Television/Film screenwriting or screen cultures courses and have access to a guaranteed $5000 grant to help with their thesis projects. Our equipment and facilities include state-of-the-art cameras, lighting, sound, and computer labs. Every MFA student also gets the chance to apply for an earmarked internship in Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago, receiving a firsthand look at the “real world.”

Finally, each MFA is assured one quarter of graduate assistantship support, either teaching, TAing, or assisting one of the MFA faculty members in their mediamaking or research.

We're excited about this program and hope you are too. Whether you're looking for a traditional MFA in documentary media or an MFA in documentary that incorporates fiction and interactivity, our program will serve you well. We look forward to receiving your application.

If you have questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Let reality begin.

Debra Tolchinsky
Director, MFA in Documentary Media

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