“After careful consideration, comparing and contrasting the top 20 film schools in the United States, I chose San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking. It has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life.”
Digital Filmmaking Program Overview
The Digital Filmmaking Program is our most comprehensive and intensive hands-on program designed to prepare students for a career in the motion picture industry. Offered on a 12 or 18 month schedule, this program teaches the art and craft of independent filmmaking by using an innovative project-based curriculum taught by award-winning filmmakers. Students create five of their own films and crew alongside professionals on a feature-length motion picture.
Through traditional classroom learning and innovative practical training, students produce work in a variety of genres – fiction, documentary and commercials. Film production is structured around small teams in which students produce their own movies and crew on team member projects. In this way, students get personalized instruction, maximum experience with the equipment, and create material for their demo reels.
On the feature film set, students fill in key crew positions and continue to develop their craft by working side-by-side with professionals. This on-set experience allows students to gain critical real-world knowledge and invaluable contacts in the movie business. Crewing on the feature film is recommended for all students, but is not a requirement for graduation.
Students that successfully complete this program receive the three essential tools for launching their career: a demo reel built from their best work, industry respected credits on a professional film project, and contacts in the industry. People enter the program as aspiring filmmakers and leave with the skills necessary to pursue their career goals.
All students in this program follow the same course of study combining classroom learning, practical exercises and hands-on film production. There are five CORE classes that students take: Producing/Directing, Cinematography, Screenwriting, Audio and Editing. Students apply these core skills and techniques by writing, directing, shooting, producing and editing five short films. Each film project is progressively more challenging in demand and scope.
PROJECT 1 – Visual Montage
Film is a visual medium. There is a maxim in filmmaking – “show, don’t tell.” The first project that students create is a two to three minute visual montage designed to develop their skills as visual storytellers and build a firm foundation in the language of cinema. Students learn the basics of professional cinematography by studying composition, shot terminology, HD camera basics, and painting with natural light. For this project, students work in teams of two, shooting in the studio and on location. In post-production, students learn the fundamentals of non-linear digital editing, history & montage, professional workflow, titles, sound effects and color correction. Upon completion, student work is reviewed and critiqued by faculty.
“As a student I have been afforded many opportunities. I have worked on corporate projects, independent films, and even contracted my own gig as a producer for a fantastic non-profit organization.”
PROJECT 2 – Short Fiction Film
Building upon the foundation of the visual montage, the second student project is a 4-6 minute narrative fiction film. Students begin by learning the fundamentals of screenwriting including dramatic structure, character development and dialog. In cinematography, students learn the DSLR camera (one of the new industry standards) and three-point lighting for film. As directors, students study storyboarding, coverage, casting, rehearsing, working with actors and developing their unique voice as filmmakers. In addition, students learn the basics of location sound recording and team logistics.
PROJECT 3 – Documentary
A primary goal of the Digital Filmmaking Program is to give students a firm foundation in all aspects of the language of cinema, so for their third project students develop and produce and 4-6 minute documentary film. The class begins by studying the history of the documentary and its basic cinematic elements including the interview and B-roll. As directors and producers, students learn how to develop a non-fiction story idea, write a documentary proposal, and work with non-actors. In cinematography and sound, students learn advanced HD camera, depth of field, production audio, and lighting and shooting the interview. During filming, students again work in small production teams as producers, directors, cinematographers, gaffers, sound recordists and assistant directors. Most of these films are shot on location in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, and sometimes even with students traveling to different parts of the world.
PROJECT 4 – Commercial
How to tell a compelling and effective story in :30 or :60 seconds is the primary focus of this fourth project. Students explore the language of the commercial and work with real clients (of their own choosing) with real products or services. As writers and producers, students learn how to develop and write a creative brief, how to work with clients, and how to pitch. As directors, students study advanced storyboarding, shot design and blocking actors. In cinematography, students shoot with the RED camera (an industry standard) and learn how to light and shoot green screen, as well as, how to light product and move the camera effectively with dollies, jibs and sliders.
PROJECT 5 – Thesis
This fifth and final film is designed to solidify the students craft as a filmmaker and to be a showcase piece for their talent and skill set. Students produce a 10-15 minute film that will go to festivals, be a centerpiece of their reel, and may be developed into a longer project after graduation. In conjunction with writing, producing, directing and editing their thesis film (which can be in any genre), students are deeply exposed to the business of filmmaking and learn producing independent features, fundraising, budgeting, festival strategy, and fundamentals of distribution. In addition, film theory and criticism is explored. As screenwriters, students refine their craft in character development, three act dramatic structure, treatment writing, and dialog. Scripts are workshopped in every phase of development and writing. As directors, students learn and practice advanced techniques including: casting, script analysis, blocking, locations and production design. As cinematographers and sound recordists, students have a series of advanced lighting and sound workshops, often on location. Industry professionals are brought in as guest lecturers for many of these classes. The production of these thesis films are the most complicated of the program and students spend 3-5 days shooting in teams as producers, directors, cinematographers, gaffers, sound recordists and assistant directors. In post-production students learn advanced techniques in narrative and documentary editing, motion graphics, sound design, sound mixing and creating a demo reel. Completed student work is reviewed and critiqued by faculty, as well as, screened in a real movie theater as part of the students’ graduation ceremony.
Spring 2017 Start Date
March 20th, 2017
Early application deadline: January 13, 2017
Final application deadline: February 27, 2017
Fall 2017 Start Date
September 5th, 2017
12-Month Day Schedule
18-Month Evening Schedule
Every other Saturday, 10am-5pm
Personal Cover Letter
Please include an essay (1-2 pages) containing a brief personal history, the inspiration behind your desire to study at The San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking, the skills and experience you would like to acquire, and why you think this program is right for you. This part of your application is very important to the admissions process and will be a key factor to your potential acceptance.
Professional Letter of Recommendation
High School Diploma (or GED)
Must be at Least 16 Years of Age
Tuition & Fees
Tuition – $31,200
Application Fee – $45
The San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking is a fully accredited, vocational art school licensed by the California Bureau of Private and Post-secondary Education (BPPE) and nationally accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE) and is approved to participate in all Federal Student Financial Aid Programs by the Department of Education.
Students who are accepted into the Digital Filmmaking Program are eligible to receive Title IV funding, including Pell Grants and federal loans.
How to Apply
Submit Completed Application Packet
Professional Letter of Recommendation
Academic Transcripts and/or Proof of Degree
San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking
Attn: Admissions Department
155 Sansome Street, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA
Please note there is a non-refundable $45 application fee