The Master of Arts in Film Studies (MA-FILM) degree program at Sonoma State University is a unique interdisciplinary degree designed to develop students' knowledge of film as an aesthetic medium and an agent of social change. The program is dedicated to providing students with the tools to understand film as a mode of communication and as a distinct art form. It will also show how film and digital media can be used as tools for advocacy.

The MA-FILM at Sonoma State University is one of the most affordable graduate film programs offered in California. Sonoma State University, part of the California State University system, is located north of San Francisco in Sonoma County, which has been a favorite location for filmmakers since the silent era. SSU offers a safe, friendly and vibrant learning environment in which students can pursue their educational and career goals.

Program Highlights

  • 30 units taken over two years (four semesters)
  • Afternoon and evening classes to fit busy schedules
  • Collaborative learning in a small seminar setting with filmmakers and screenwriters
  • Students work with film and digital media scholars from across campus and the larger community
  • Coursework includes digital editing and post-production
  • Choice of culminating experience: academic Master’s thesis or creative film project

Program Objectives

The MA-FILM program prepares students for employment in the film and media industries and lays the groundwork for a career in higher education and the arts. Through completion of the MA-FILM degree, students will:

  • Integrate knowledge from multiple interrelated fields to develop interdisciplinary projects
  • Analyze film and media texts in a rapidly changing world
  • Understand the social, cultural, historical, and political perspectives of film
  • Interpret and express concise arguments in oral and written communications
  • Apply their knowledge of film theory and history towards larger collaborative enterprises
  • Develop critical and analytical skills to evaluate emerging new media forms
  • Collaborate with filmmakers on larger projects including documentary features
  • Formulate new areas of media research and design independent media projects

Program Outcomes

  • Students prepared to be independent film and media scholars and practitioners
  • Educated students who are leaders in their professions
  • Engaged media professionals committed to enacting and documenting social change

How long will it take to complete the program?

The program is designed for the typical graduate course load, two courses per semester (8 units), which can be completed in two years (four semesters). In this time, you will complete 30 units: 24 units of content classes and the final 6 in a capstone course in the form of a creative project or a traditional thesis. Students may take additional electives as desired.

Can I take more courses in a semester?

Given the amount of reading and number and depth of assignments involved, we do not recommend taking more than two courses per semester. However, students will have the opportunity to complete additional elective graduate coursework during Winter and Summer Intersessions.

When are classes offered?

Classes will normally be offered in the afternoons and evenings to accommodate full-time work schedules.

How does this program fit my specific interests?

We offer two tracks, Film Studies and Digital Media. The Film Studies track gives students the tools to understand film as a mode of communication and as a distinct art form. The Digital Media track is designed to give students experience in production.

The Digital Media track sounds interesting. Will I get to make my own film?

Yes! If you pursue the Digital Media track, you will have the opportunity to make your own short film or complete your own screenplay as your final creative project.

Can I take classes in both Film Studies and Digital Media?

Yes. The program is uniquely designed to allow students to take at least one introductory graduate course in digital filmmaking during their first year. Students then have the option of pursuing either the traditional Film Studies track or the track in Digital Media to engage in advanced coursework in these areas. You can even pursue both tracks; however, this would delay your graduation date as extra time would be required to complete the coursework.

Will I have the chance to complete a film-related internship?

Yes. Our program will actively work to place you in film-related internships during your second year in the program. Internship possibilities include working with local filmmakers on film and digital media projects; helping to program and run local film festivals; and working with local arts and cultural centers, including museums and film institutes.

How much does the program cost?

Program classes are offered at a per-unit fee, currently $550, payable at time of registration. Each four-unit class costs $2200; two classes in a semester come to $4,400. The total for the 30 units is $16,500.

Is financial aid available?

Yes, federal and State aid are available. See the SSU Financial Aid website at for details. The State priority deadline is November 30 and the Federal deadline is March 2. You may also want to check with your employer about educational benefits, and veterans can check with the SSU Veterans’ Affairs office.

What are the basic requirements to apply?

You must have a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, with a grade point average (GPA) of at least a B (3.0) over the last 60 units/90 quarter units. Strong candidates with a GPA of 2.5 or above will be considered.

Can I be working on my requirements at the time I apply?

Yes, as long as your degree is awarded by the end of the Spring semester/quarter preceding enrollment. If you still have work in progress, you will be given conditional admission contingent on completing your degree.

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Last updated December 18, 2018
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Sept. 2019
2 years
550 USD
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Sept. 2019
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