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About the Program

Key Information

Residency Dates

  • Fall: October 22–29, 2022
  • Summer: July 22–30, 2023

Admissions Info »
Alia Quart Khan (Schedule a Meeting »)
ali[email protected]

Who is it for?

This program is ideal for filmmakers, screenwriters, and media artists who want to earn an affordable MFA while expanding their bodies of work and maintaining continuity in their professional and personal lives. Our highly self-motivated students have creative vision that defies a cookie-cutter approach.

How will your practice develop?

Throughout your two years at VCFA, you’ll actively and dynamically expand your body of work and creative resources, with self-designed projects in screenwriting, documentary film, narrative film, animation, and/or new media. You’ll emerge from the program with powerful new work and a more distinctive artistic voice.

The faculty–this institution–have begun to change the culture of film education. It has been one of the most important things I think I’ve ever done, and I can’t think of a better gift to have given myself.
Michael Staffieri | 2017 MFA in Film


Each semester begins with a week-long residency packed with lectures, workshops, screenings, discussions, critiques, and social events. Students, faculty, and visiting filmmakers share the campus and learn from each other.

On Campus

The heart of VCFA’s MFA in Film is expert mentorship, innovative production, and critical assessment.

Our program’s six-month semesters operate year-round, consecutively. During residencies, students are paired with faculty advisors for the upcoming semester. They work closely with advisors to develop a customized semester study plan to direct and inspire their upcoming work. They set goals and milestones that are both ambitious and achievable, addressing relevant research, development, and production requirements.

(Above: Darren Aronofsky discusses his first feature, PI, with VCFA students at the April 2020 Virtual Residency.)

Following residency, students return home and devote at least 25 hours per week to their projects, sending work to their faculty advisors monthly and then meeting (via Skype, phone, or in person) to discuss in depth. Our program emphasizes concrete deliverables for each monthly deadline, in the form of works-in-progress and/or finished pieces. A student’s work will also involve readings, film viewings, assignments, and other forms of research and preparation.

Faculty provide a deep level of individual attention that spurs intensive development. At the midterm, students upload work to their personal Project Sites to share their progress with fellow students. Once connected through VCFA, our students exchange ideas and frequently collaborate and travel to work on each other’s projects.

When VCFA realized in March that we would not be able to gather for residencies on campus, staff and faculty came together to create remote residencies, making sure students would not miss either the intense learning and sharing that happen during residencies or the meaningful opportunities to connect. Visit our Remote Residencies page to learn more!

Individualized Semester Study

A VCFA student’s home workspace can take many forms. Students tailor their studios to their own creative needs and available space, and the results are inspiring.

Marq Evans | 2020 MFA in Film

“Here is a shot of me in my home workspace (my garage). In this shot, I’m using notecards to outline the structure of the feature-length documentary I’m working on, WELCOME TO MY DAYDREAM. During the edit, I’ll often find myself going back to the notecards for rewriting and restructuring purposes before trying out some ideas in the editing software.”

Tamara Perkins | 2019 MFA in Film

“I was recently awarded a residency with SFFILM for my new documentary project, THE WAITING LIST, in their beautiful space in San Francisco’s North Beach. I use the space for creative and business meetings for this film and two additional doc projects I’m working on, as well as development and writing for my sci-fi screenplay. My fellow residents and I have access to editing suites, offices, and conference room space, have set up additional supports including a monthly screenwriters meeting, and participate in ongoing professional development and mentor meetings.”

Jessie Ewing | 2020 MFA in Film

“Here I am with my editor, Erik Uy, working on short documentary about an 80-year-old agoraphobic women who has chosen to live her entire adult life, since her twenties, in custodial care institutions.”


Marya Cohn

Core Faculty, MFA in Film

Risa Mickenberg

Faculty, MFA in Film

Stefon Bristol

Visiting Faculty, MFA in Film

Samuel “Blitz” Bazawule

Visiting Faculty, MFA in Film

Hubert Sauper

Faculty, MFA in Film

Jessica Gorter

Faculty, MFA in Film


Damon Davis

Visiting Filmmaker

Malika Zouhali‐Worrall

Visiting Filmmaker

Denis Maloney

Visiting Filmmaker

Hampton Fancher

Visiting Filmmaker

John Valadez

Visiting Filmmaker

Adrienne Weiss

Visiting Filmmaker


John Valadez, 2019 MFA in Film

John Valadez, filmmaker and the director of the Documentary Film program at Michigan State University, has been making and engaged with film for over 25...

Sara Barger, 2020 MFA in Film

Sara Barger's thesis film, LITTLE BUT FIERCE, advanced to the finals of the 2020 Student Academy Awards.

By the Numbers

graduates since the program's inception in 2013
visiting filmmakers (from Darren Aronofsky to Lucrecia Martel to Yance Ford)
students awarded scholarships

Frequently Asked Questions

How many classes per semester am I taking?

There are no “classes” in the traditional sense. The curriculum is project-based individualized learning, with all of your academic studies informed by the specific project(s) you choose to undertake. Each semester is 15 credits, and you are expected to devote at least 25 hours per week to your work.

Learn more about our low-residency model.

What is the semester study plan?

Your study plan will serve as your roadmap for the semester’s work. At the start of each semester (towards the end of your residency week, with guidance from your advisor) you will write and submit a semester study plan outlining what work you will be completing for each of the five monthly deliverables and your ultimate semester plans/goals. Based on your individualized project scope, your advisor will suggest areas to concentrate on and books, films, and other resources to help supplement your studies.

Learn more about our low-residency model.

How do students and faculty get paired?

At residency you will be asked to pick your top three faculty choices. Assignments are made based on seniority (fourth-semester students getting first priority), but most students will get one of their top choices. In the rare instances that this is not the case, students should know that all of our faculty are tremendously talented and well versed in all aspects of filmmaking; no matter who you are paired with, we are confident you will have a fruitful and positive experience. At residency there is ample opportunity for informal conversation with faculty and scheduled pitch sessions where you sit down with various faculty members, pitch your project idea, and hear how they can help guide and inform your work.

Meet the Film faculty!

Do I need my own equipment?

Yes. Since we are only on campus for two weeks per year (the residencies are not “making” weeks) and our students are scattered across the globe, you will need the necessary equipment and/or software in order to carry out your semester’s work. The equipment required will vary from student to student depending on their specific projects.