Film Studies

Administrative Information

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Prof. Annette Insdorf, 513 Dodge; 854-1682;

Departmental Office: 513 Dodge; 854-2815

Loren-Paul Caplin
Leon Falk
Geoffrey Fletcher
Jane Gaines
Molly Haskell
Annette Insdorf

Nelson Kim
Sandra Luckow
David McKenna
Stephen Molton
Richard Peña
Marie Regan
James Schamus

The major in film studies is scholarly, international in scope, and writing-intensive. Students choose to major in film if they want to learn more about the art form, from technology to cultural significance; want to work in the film industry; or are interested in a major that combines arts and humanities. Students usually declare the major toward the end of the second year by meeting with the departmental adviser; together, they create a program of twelve required courses within the major, supplemented by three related courses outside the department. In the lecture courses and seminars, there is often a mixed population of undergraduate majors and graduate film students.

Students have the opportunity to gain additional experience by taking advantage of internship opportunities with film companies, working on graduate student films, and participating in the Columbia Undergraduate Film Productions (CUFP), an active, student-run organization that provides filmmaking experience to Columbia undergraduate producers and directors. In addition to careers in screenwriting, directing, and producing, graduating seniors have gone on to work in film distribution, publicity, archives, and festivals, and to attend graduate school to become teachers and scholars.

The trajectory of the major is from introductory-level courses (four are required), to intermediate-level (three are required), to advanced-level (including two labs and the senior seminar), plus two electives from the approved list. Film studies majors take workshops in screenwriting and filmmaking, but the course of study is rooted in film history, theory, and culture.

The prerequisite for all classes is Introduction to the study and theory of film, offered each term and open to first-year students. Subsequently, majors take a combination of history survey courses; specialized courses, many of which are prerequisites to the lab courses; and advanced classes in theory, genre study, national cinemas, auteur study, screenwriting, interdisciplinary studies, and the writing of film criticism. In addition to the history, theory, and culture courses, students with a particular interest in fiction filmmaking should plan on taking Film theory I followed by the Lab in fiction filmmaking. Students interested in nonfiction filmmaking should take The documentary tradition followed by the Lab in nonfiction filmmaking. Those students who wish to focus on screenwriting should take Script analysis followed by the Lab in screenwriting, the Senior seminar in screenwriting, and Narrative strategies in screenwriting in that order.

The educational goal is to provide film majors with a solid grounding in the history and theory of film; its relation to other forms of art; and its synthesis of visual storytelling, technology, economics, and sociopolitical context, as well as the means to begin writing a script and making a short film.

Via the senior seminar, each student writes a thesis reflecting mastery of cinematic criticism—which is submitted after the winter break. Students decide upon the topic with the professor and develop the essay during the fall semester.

Since film courses tend to be popular, it is imperative that students attend the first class. Registration priority is usually given to film majors and seniors.

Departmental Honors

In order to qualify for departmental honors, students must have a GPA of at least 3.75 in the major and distinction in their overall achievements in film study. The department submits recommendations to the College Committee on Honors, Awards, and Prizes for confirmation. Normally no more than 10% of the graduating majors in the department each year receive departmental honors.

For honors in the major, a student must have an average of A- or better in film courses, and a thesis deemed worthy of honors.