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Innovative Media with Impact

The American University School of Communication (SOC) Master of Arts in Film and Media Arts will give you a professional skill set in film, video, and digital media for a successful career in the media industry. During your first year, you will receive a formal overview in media production so that you can focus your second year on refining your skill base.

Not only will you acquire professional competencies in scriptwriting, cinematography, lighting, sound recording, and editing, you'll also learn the historical, conceptual, and aesthetic foundations and frameworks of the art form and the industry. Extensive exposure to the latest in new media will go even further to help you tell your stories in the most effective way possible.

The flexibility of the program allows you to explore a broad range of aspects of video and filmmaking or to concentrate in one area of expertise. Stimulating internships with national media companies and networks and a semester intensive in Prague are just a few of the main opportunities you'll have access to. AU's Center for Media & Social Impact and Center for Environmental Filmmaking offer special courses, seminars, and screenings that will enrich your experience here.

You'll learn from faculty whose work regularly appears on television and movie screens, in bookstores and newspapers, and online. Emmys, Oscars, and a multitude of awards adorn the walls of their offices. Even more important is their intense dedication to advising and mentoring our students, helping you to forge connections within the industry.

If you're seeking to build your skills and your network so that you can go on to a successful career in the media industry, SOC's MA in Film and Media Arts is for you.


The School of Communications operates on a rolling admissions basis for our graduate programs. Applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis until programs reach capacity.

While previous exposure to film study, film and video production, or script writing is not required, you'll need to demonstrate a serious commitment to a career in this field. Your essay on your desire to and reasons for pursuing graduate study in the program will be essential, along with the other required application materials.

Our Film and Media Arts master's is a full-time program. Students are generally expected to complete the 36-credit-hour program within 24 months. First year students are required to attend our Film & Media Arts Boot Camp in August before their first semester. Boot Camp teaches you the essential building blocks for production. Focusing on a digital skill set, students will work on practical exercises to get up to speed with equipment and orient those with experience to the expectations of the programs in SOC.

Faculty Research Fuels Creativity

AU School of Communication faculty actively help you shape our world in positive ways. You'll engage in meaningful work with a profound impact as you strive to expand the constructive power of communication and media.

Our faculty members creative efforts range from dramatic films and documentaries to photojournalism and social advertising campaigns to interactive and immersive media for museums and national historic sites. Their award-winning work has been shown through national and international cable and network news outlets, on public broadcasting stations, and in films markets and film festivals around the world.

Their academic and professional engagements play key roles in raising awareness and shaping media messages. They use their years of experience in the field and their professional contacts to help launch the next generation of communicators.

Here are just some of the prestigious awards our faculty have won:

  • Academy Award
  • Emmy Award
  • Peabody Award
  • Mountain Spirit Award
  • Kavli Science Journalism Award (American Association for the Advancement of Science)
  • Distinguished Achievement Award (International Television Association)
  • LAWEBFEST (Los Angeles Web Series Festival)
  • Best Director and Best Scriptwriter (Washington Peer Awards)
  • CINE Golden Eagle Award
  • Pinnacle Award for Excellence in Media Education
  • George Stoney Award for Service to Documentary (University Film and Video Association)
  • Woman of Vision Award (Women in Film and Video-Washington, DC)
  • Fulbright Fellowship
  • Career Achievement Award (International Digital Media and Arts Association)
  • Research Award (International Communication Association)
  • Scholarship and Preservation Award (International Documentary Association)
  • Guggenheim Fellowship
  • Bronze Palm Award (Mexico International Film Festival)
  • Gracie Allen Award (American Women in Radio and Television)
  • Best Selected Juror Film (Small International Film Festival, Berkeley Art Center, California)
  • Nickelodeon Screenwriting Award

Financing Your Education

The MA in Film & Media Arts is a 36 credit program. To estimate the cost of tuition, please see the current cost per credit hour for graduate students.

The School of Communication (SOC) offers graduate students both merit-based and need-based financial aid. Merit awards are administered by the SOC Graduate Admissions Office, while need-based awards are administered by the American University Office of Financial Aid. A number of scholarships are also available for students in the Film and Media Arts program. Additional financial support is available for veterans.

All merit awards are based on your academic merit and professional experience, specifically your undergraduate grades and leadership activities as well as career-related accomplishments. Merit awards are valid for one year—they vary in amount, are typically divided evenly between the fall and spring semesters, and are not typically renewable.

Some merit awards come in the form of graduate assistantships, which consist of graduate tuition remission, a stipend, or both. Tuition remission will vary in the number of credits offered. If you are offered a stipend, you must be employed as a graduate assistant for a SOC faculty member for 10 hours per week.

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Film and Media Arts Scholarships

The Mavis and Sidney John Palmer Scholarship is awarded annually to an outstanding graduate student in the School of Communication with an interest in environmental, natural history, or wildlife filmmaking. Scholarship recipients are selected by a faculty committee based on an essay detailing the student's aspirations and interest in the field. Named for the parents of Professor Chris Palmer, the scholarship was established in 2013 by Professor Palmer and his wife Gail Shearer.

Center for Environmental Filmmaking Scholars are chosen annually in order to further the Center's mission to produce the next generation of environmental and wildlife filmmakers. Scholars are selected during the second year of their graduate program, when they have accumulated at least 18 credit hours and are about to embark on their thesis projects.

The Center for Environmental Filmmaking Challenge Prize is an annual competition open to School of Communication second-year graduate students who have overcome (or are overcoming) challenges and adversity in their lives such as poverty, marginalization, racism, or personal tragedy, and who plan to use environmental and wildlife media to influence personal behavior or public policy and make the world a better place.

The Neel Foundation Fund in honor of Professor John Stephen Douglass was established in 2015 to support one or more outstanding graduate students studying Film & Media Arts (FMA) or its successor program in the School of Communication (SOC) whose focus is documentary filmmaking.

Income from the fund will be awarded to degree seeking FMA graduate students to assist them in completing their film to the appropriate level for them to enter it in a film festival or to use it as an example of their work as part of a professional portfolio. The Dean of SOC will appoint a faculty committee to select recipients who will receive support from the Fund. It is suggested that the committee composition consist of the FMA division director and two or more additional faculty members or an alternate composition as determined by the Dean. Funds will be used to offset expenses incurred for finishing purposes; e.g. audio mix, color correction, sound correction, titling, editorial consulting, etc.; or to offset expenses associated with entering competitions or festivals, including duplication costs, shipping expenses and entry fees. If, in a particular year, there are no qualified applicants, the University shall reserve the funds for subsequent years when qualified applicants are identified.

The Pedas Family Foundation Fund was established in 2016 by the James and Theodore Pedas Family Foundation to provide scholarship support to one or more outstanding graduate students studying Film & Media Arts (FMA) or its successor program in the School of Communication at the University. Income from the Fund will be awarded annually in accord with the University's financial aid policies to deserving full time second or third year graduate student(s) with demonstrated financial need and in good academic standing who are enrolled in a degree program in FMA at the University. The Scholarship will be administered by the University's Office of Financial Aid. Recipients of the Scholarship will be selected from a pool of qualified applicants by a panel of representatives selected by the Dean of SOC. Panel members may include the FMA division director and two or more additional faculty members or an alternate composition as determined by the Dean.

The scholarship is awarded for one academic year and may be eligible for renewal. If, in a particular year, there are no qualified applicants, the University may choose to award the scholarship in a manner that best follows the Donor's original intent or to reserve the funds for subsequent years when qualified applicants are identified. Scholarships awarded by the Fund will be applied to the cost of attending the University.

Confidence and Capability Behind the Camera

My skills, confidence, and determination all reached a new high.

When Ashley Holmes, a Center for Environmental Filmmaking Scholar, signed up for Classroom in the Wild, she wasn't entirely sure what to expect. She knew she would get hands-on experience in a natural setting. What she didn't know is that she would be walking away with more knowledge and capability than she'd gained from any previous class…and a compelling PSA. Producing "Meet George" boosted her technical skills and her confidence. Ashley went on to win the 2017 Eco-Comedy Video Competition with her entry "Planet B."

Frequently Asked Questions

Our MA in Film and Production Media is a 36-credit, 24-month program that will help you build a solid professional skill set in film, video, and digital media. You’ll acquire professional competencies in scriptwriting, cinematography, lighting, sound recording, and editing, while also learning the historical, conceptual, and aesthetic foundations and frameworks of the art form and the industry.

Our MFA in Film and Media Arts is a 54-credit, 36-month terminal degree that prepares you to teach at the university level. The focus is more on how meaningful stories are constructed, in an artistic sense, for public knowledge and action. You will also focus your studies in one of four concentrations: Environmental and Wildlife Filmmaking; Political, Cultural and Social Impact; Art in Entertainment; or Games and Interactivity.

The Film & Media Arts division of American University's School of Communication is a leader in visual storytelling and integrating the latest and evolving technologies into production and distribution.

As a result, we are pleased to partner with Apple to provide you with recommendations for your laptop needs. Remember that we have an all-digital tapeless production workflow, which means that the central tool for managing media is your computer. Read about the specific computer requirements for this program.

Applicants with prior experience in visual media, who wish to be considered for a substitution of the required COMM-610 Principles of Video Productio and/or COMM-663 Techniques and Aesthetics of Editing courses, should submit a written request illustrating relevant coursework or professional experience. Those requesting a substitution of either or both of these required courses will be required to take and pass an exam. Students granted substitutions for either, or both, of these required courses take advanced coursework in order to fulfill those academic credits. It is up to the discretion of the faculty committee to allow students to proceed to fall courses even if they pass either, or both, of the required bootcamp courses.

The School of Communication offers a number of opportunities for hands-on learning that also allow you to showcase your own work. The Visions Awards celebrate the best in student visual work—documentary, fiction, digital and new media, screenwriting, and photography. Our partnership with the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague helps students develop their skills and portfolios in photography and super 16mm or 35mm film. The Center for Environmental Filmmaking inspires a new generation of filmmakers and media experts whose commitment to environmental stewardship drives them to produce creative work that is informative, ethically sound, and entertaining. And our Center for Media & Social Impact empowers media that matter as an innovation incubator and research center that creates, studies, and showcases media for social impact.

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