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The Practical Visionary: Create a major project and kickstart your career

The plan for the David Lynch MA in Film is to support each student in a voyage from ideas to completion of a major collaborative project in one academic year.

The goal is to give aspiring filmmakers the time, equipment and the guidance to follow their own vision and create films that have an impact and transform the world. Students may create films for the Web, television, cable, or theatrical release. In the ever-changing media environment, there are many new opportunities for distribution arising, including Netflix, Amazon, Vimeo, and Hulu, among others.

The program is about having a year to go deeply into a creative experience that will transform both you and your career.

David Lynch MA in Film – student work                Why Fairfield, Iowa?

The David Lynch MA in Film Courses

MC500 Advanced Narrative

Firm is cool. Yeah yeah yeah! Here are some people and a camera.

Professor Stuart Tanner and students, shooting with one of the department’s RED ONE cameras.

Through a series of collaborative group projects, this course examines the essential role narrative plays in the creation of media. With an eye toward creating works of lasting value, students will have the ability to develop several projects from concept to completion, and work collaboratively with each other, alternating roles during the process.

MC520 Advanced Screenwriting

Students will delve deeper into the craft of screenwriting, with the goal of developing the concepts of their thesis film project. The course will utilize a number of models, including analysis of published screenplays, film screenings, and group discussions. Additionally, guest lecturers who are currently working in the industry will share their experiences with the students in class or via Skype. Students will also learn how to market their script to prospective producers and investors.

MC560 Advanced Pre-Production

The ever changing landscape of modern filmmaking, and in particular low/no budget filmmaking, has created new opportunities for filmmakers to produce works that even a decade ago would not have been possible. The first step in the path to take advantage of these new opportunities begins in pre-production. Topics to be discussed during this course include casting, script breakdown, fundraising/crowdsourcing, distribution methods, marketing with social media, and assembling a crew. Students will begin the process of developing their projects from Advanced Screenwriting at this stage.

MC580 Advanced Film Production

On the set of a student feature film

On the set of a student feature film

While the students continue to develop their thesis projects, this course reinforces skills in acting/directing actors, cinematography, production sound techniques, and on-set production roles/etiquette, to bolster the student’s previous working/academic knowledge. Master classes involving active participation with faculty and visiting guest lecturers will provide advanced techniques invaluable to each student’s upcoming thesis film project.

MC581 Thesis Film Project

The thesis film project is a three-month course in advanced filmmaking. Students will work on a major project (or several projects) with continuing advice, mentorship, and guidance from faculty. The course structure will replicate the internal operations of a movie studio, further preparing students for their career after graduation. Thesis film projects can be narrative, documentary or experimental.

The course gives students the opportunity to form creative partnerships with each other and with the wider Fairfield community. The University is at the center of a vibrant arts community, which continues to grow in depth and diversity. Students are encouraged to collaborate with companies and entities outside of the university, allowing them to gain a deeper working knowledge of the process.

MC590 Advanced Post Production

After principal photography, students will work on assembly, rough cut, fine cut, music, color grading, sound mixing, special effects, etc. Faculty will continue to advise, mentor and guide students during this process, with an eye toward successful completion of the project before graduation. A showcase screening of thesis film projects will take place in a movie theater at the end of the David Lynch MA in Film Program.

The David Lynch MA in Film Faculty

Faculty in 2013-2014 included:

  • Stuart Tanner, an acclaimed producer and director of documentary films for the BBC, National Geographic, The Discovery Channel, and others. His projects include The Mahogany Trail (1996), Death on the Silk Road (1999), Profits of Doom (2001), Children of Vengeance (2002), Time Team (2004), and, most recently, Saving The Disposable Ones (2011), a documentary that takes you to the heartbreaking streets of inner city Columbia, where Father Gabriel Mejia, a Catholic priest, is transforming the lives of thousands of children by providing shelter, love and Transcendental Meditation.

Mentors in 2013-2014 included:

  • David Lynch, four time Academy Award nominee. David connected to the class via Skype, and the students met with David in his studio in Los Angeles for two mornings.

Visiting lecturers and guest speakers in 2013-2014 included:

  • Leigh Badgley, award-winning documentary filmmaker for A&E, CBC, and Canada’s National Film Board
  • Richard Beymer, filmmaker, actor in West Side Story, Twin Peaks, and many more
  • Bill Borden, producer of Mission Impossible 3, High School Musical, An Officer and a Gentleman, and many others
  • Jim Carrey, actor, four time Golden Globe Award nominee
  • Ellen Chenoweth, casting director for The Natural, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Ruthless People, Broadcast News, Good Night and Good Luck, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Men in Black 3, and many others
  • Peter Farrelly, writer, producer and/or director of 15 films, including There’s Something About Mary, Me, Myself & Irene, Shallow Hal, and Dumb and Dumber Too
  • Jeremy Kagan, director of Heroes (film), The Big Fix, The Chosen, and 41 other films and television shows
  • Louise Levison, author of Variety Presents: Filmmakers and Financing — Business Plans for Independents
  • Dara Marks, script doctor, author of Inside Story
  • Anthony Meindl, acting coach, three time Backstage magazine winner
  • John Raatz, promoter of What The Bleep Do We Know? and many others
  • Lisa Wilson, international film distributor of Academy Award winners On Golden Pond, Crash, and Hugo, and many others

Graduation Requirements for the David Lynch MA in Film

To qualify for the David Lynch MA in Film degree, students must successfully complete the general requirements for a master’s degree. Students enter the program at the beginning of the fall semester and can complete all coursework in two semesters. The following 30 credits of coursework in film are required:

  • MC 500 Advanced Narrative (2 credits)
  • MC 520 Advanced Screenwriting (4 credits)
  • MC 560 Advanced Pre-Production (4 credits)
  • MC580 Advanced Film Production (4 credits)
  • MC 581 Thesis Film Project (12 credits)
  • MC 585 Advanced Post-Production (4 credits)