skip to content

Bulletin Archive

This archived information is dated to the 2011-12 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Film and Video

University requirements for the M.F.A. are described in the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin.


The program requires residency for two consecutive years. The admissions committee seeks applicants who have some work experience beyond their undergraduate years and can articulate why they want to learn documentary film and video production. The committee looks for evidence of the likelihood of success in a rigorous academic program that emphasizes creative work. The conceptual and technical skills required for documentary work are sufficiently different from fictional narrative to make the Stanford program inappropriate for students interested in narrative filmmaking. Each year, eight students are admitted to the program. Applications and portfolios must be received by January 10, 2012. Students accepted into the program at this time must enroll in Autumn Quarter of 2012. The program does not allow for deferred admission or a mid-year enrollment.

Portfolio—The department requires a DVD (NTSC only) copy of film or video work for which the applicant has had creative control. The sample work must be well labeled and accompanied by a brief synopsis, running time of the clips, the circumstances of production, and the applicant's role. Total running time for the work sample should not exceed 15 minutes and may consist of more than one project. Work on which the applicant had only a production assistant role is not appropriate for submission. Student work, however, is appropriate for consideration. Applicants who have had only minimal film or video production experience should submit an example of their best creative work in any medium.


Fields of study for the M.F.A. degree are offered in Documentary Film.


  1. Residency—Completing two years (six quarters) of graduate work in residence at Stanford.
  2. Units—A minimum of 80 units is required for the M.F.A. degree. In the production core, students are required to conceptualize and visualize their ideas in a series of writing and producing courses that focus on documentary story structure. These courses are taken in tandem with project-based production courses that provide training in the technical and conceptual aspects of cinematography, sound recording, and editing. Discussion of form and content is a signature component of the writing and production courses. The production core is complemented by a series of required film studies courses in documentary plus elective courses in the history, aesthetics, ideology, and theory of all genres of moving image media. Core film production courses are offered S/NC only. All other courses must be taken for a letter grade.
  3. M.F.A. Thesis Project—In the second year of the program, each student produces a 20-minute film or video documentary that constitutes the thesis project. In FILMPROD 405, students choose a topic, research and develop their project, and write a proposal for submission. A project may not begin production until the final proposal has been approved. Most of the production and post-production occurs in FILMPROD 406A and 406B in Winter and Spring quarters.
  4. Required Courses—
    1. Core Production courses (eight courses, 32 units)—Core courses must be taken in sequence.
      • FILMPROD 400. Film/Video Writing and Directing
      • FILMPROD 401. Nonfiction Film Production
      • FILMPROD 402. Digital Video
      • FILMPROD 403. Advanced Documentary Directing
      • FILMPROD 404. Advanced Film and Video Production
      • FILMPROD 405. Producing Practicum
      • FILMPROD 406A,B. Documentary MFA Thesis Seminar I and II
    2. Core Film Studies courses (six courses, 25 units)—
      • FILMSTUD 302. Theories of the Moving Image
      • FILMSTUD 315. Documentary Issues and Traditions
      • FILMSTUD 316. International Documentary
      • FILMSTUD 410A,B. Documentary Perspectives I and II
    3. Electives (seven courses, 28 units)—To be chosen in consultation with the student's adviser.
      1. Art History—one course, 4 units
      2. Studio Art and/or Communications—two courses, 8 units
      3. Film Studies—three courses, 12 units
      4. Choice Elective—one course, 4 units

© Stanford University - Office of the Registrar. Archive of the Stanford Bulletin 2011-12. Terms of Use | Copyright Complaints