April 15, 2015/For Immediate Release, high res. photos available

Media Contact: Lauren Whitaker, 336-734-2891, whitakerl@uncsa.edu




Two year program will begin fall 2016

(WINSTON-SALEM) The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) will offer a new Master of Fine Arts in Filmmaking in fall 2016. The UNC Board of Governors approved the new M.F.A. program on Friday at its regular meeting in Greenville.

The new two-year M.F.A. program will offer concentrations in creative producing and screenwriting, in addition to the existing M.F.A. concentration in film music composition. The Film school also currently offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts program with concentrations in animation, art direction, cinematography, directing, editing and sound, producing, and screenwriting.

Susan Ruskin, dean of the School of Filmmaking, said the focus of the new M.F.A. will be “discipline-specific programs that are about generating content and producing that content in an entrepreneurial way. These programs will prepare entrepreneurs, executives, producers, department heads – the kind of professionals North Carolina needs to move beyond providing labor for productions, and become a hub for the creation of original content of all kinds.

“We will be training the job creators of tomorrow.”

UNC School of the Arts Provost David Nelson, who worked with Ruskin and others to spearhead the new program, said, “We identified this need in the industry and found that the student demand is there. A survey of our own current and former film students reported that 76 percent value an M.F.A. in Filmmaking and 79 percent would recommend an M.F.A. at UNCSA to others.

“The new M.F.A. program is great news for the Film school, and for the state of North Carolina,” Nelson added.

RRuskin said she anticipates the new M.F.A. program will attract experienced professionals seeking an advanced credential in the field and/or specialized instruction in feature film, television and new media producing, writing, or film music composition. The program’s target enrollment will be approximately 35 students.

The Film school has five core faculty in place to launch the program, with expertise in the concentration areas. However, another three faculty members will be needed by Year Four.

Students in the new M.F.A. program will interface with students in the existing Bachelor of Fine Arts program in Filmmaking. For example, students in the existing master’s program in film music composition will continue to create scores for undergraduate student films as part of their thesis. And undergraduate students could fulfill practicum experience by producing marketing shorts that would launch graduate creative producing student projects.

Susan Ruskin

In its report to the Board of Governors, UNC General Administration noted: “Motion picture content has infiltrated nearly every form of communication, commerce and entertainment. The opportunity for economic development, revenue generation, and job creation in North Carolina, in the rapidly expanding marketplace for film and video production, is significant. In2011, arts and cultural production accounted for $504 billion of the Gross Domestic Product; the largest share worked in the motion picture and video industry, which employed nearly 310,000 workers at $25 billion in compensation. The North Carolina Economic Development Board showed a 33 percent increase of arts and entertainment jobs between 2000 and 2013 in this state, and has identified ‘film’ as an important engine of economic growth that can help ensure the state’s prosperous future.”

The M.F.A. program “will enable the state of North Carolina to be at the forefront of that trend, and to train the next generation of film and video professionals who will help create this future marketplace,” the UNC report concluded.

Dean Ruskin said, “Graduates of the new M.F.A. program will have the skills to start their own companies or be prepared to become executives in a larger production entity with a slate of projects. The new media landscape is an ideas-driven economy, and UNCSA’s graduates – as content developers, marketers, distributors, and financing experts – will have the expertise to successfully execute those ideas beyond the production itself, from the inception of an idea to the completion of a professional pitch package and business plan.”

Ruskin noted that adding a new M.F.A. program in the “business” end of filmmaking is not an original idea. “I also know that both Dale Pollock and Jordan Kerner (former Film deans) wanted to start M.F.A.s. But the entertainment world has changed significantly in a short time. Content generation is the next big thing. In addition to the motion picture theatre, network and cable, there are now a multitude of platforms for dissemination of original content, many of which are online: video on demand, direct to consumer distribution, Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and other social media as well as immersive entertainment, to name a few.”

The UNC Board of Governors also approved a new M.F.A. film program at UNC-Wilmington, which will be in addition to that school’s existing undergraduate film studies program. UNC General Administration said that the new M.F.A.s are complementary, and noted that UNCSA and UNC-W planned their programs together to avoid duplication. In fact, both schools have identified several opportunities for collaboration, including sharing instruction via online courses, sharing internship and employment information and recruitment, and sharing resources such as library services, facilities and equipment.

Only 20 years old, the UNCSA School of Filmmaking was ranked No. 13 in the nation by The Hollywood Reporter last year.



Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is America’s first state-supported arts school, a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system when it was formed in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.