Film Studies offers degrees in filmmaking (BFA) as well as a critical studies (BA); the BFA is focused on the art of independent filmmaking, and the BA emphasizes the critical study of film as an art form. Film Studies offers an interdisciplinary MFA degree with the Department of Art and Art History. Film Studies hopes to begin a critical studies MA track within the next few years. International film is an important component of our critical studies and we offer a wide range of courses in this area.
Founded in 1972, the Film Studies Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder is known for its special emphasis on the study of film and the visual arts. The late Stan Brakhage taught with the Film Studies program for over twenty years. His creative legacy remains central to the vision of Film Studies. Our program has a large collection of 16mm film prints for classroom use as well as a wide array of cameras, film and digital video editing equipment, and optical printers which are available to students from the Film Studies equipment check-out facility. Film Studies also supports two major regional film exhibition venues: The International Film Series and First Person Cinema. Film Studies is housed in the new $34 million Alliance for Technology, Learning & Society (ATLAS) building. Our teaching facilities include a state of the art 35mm and 16mm film and HD screening theatre, HD computer labs as well as digital and analogue optical printing and transfer capabilities, and a well-equipped cinema check-out facility.
A minor is offered in film studies. Declaration of a minor is open to any student enrolled at CU-Boulder, regardless of college or school. To obtain the film studies minor, students must:
The minor helps students interested in the study of cinema history, culture, and aesthetics, but too busy to pursue the full major, the opportunity to develop their interest by acquiring critical and comparative skills and understanding the place and importance of cinema as a cultural and social phenomenon. Students in the minor have access to lower and upper division courses on film history, aesthetics, criticism, social and historical contexts, classical genres, and groundbreaking directors from the US and International traditions, acquiring an edge in visual analysis and media literacy.
Sample 4 year plan for BA
The BA in Film Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder emphasizes the critical study of film as an art form. The critical studies BA is designed to give students a solid knowledge of the history and aesthetics of international film, as well as exposure to the various methodological approaches of cinema studies as an academic discipline. Critical studies courses take a multi-faceted approach comprised of film screenings, readings, and lectures, while students are expected to practice their film analysis skills in writing assignments and class discussion. Like many programs in the Arts and Humanities, the BA Program in Film Studies aims more broadly to teach two fundamental skills: critical thinking and writing ability. These skills are developed in our program specifically through the examination of films, but they are also broadly useful well beyond the realm of film studies. The BA program enrolls approximately 425 majors.
The relationship between critical studies and film production is complementary. Most of our BA students take some film production courses, and all of our BFA students must take critical studies courses. Our program adheres to the philosophy that it’s crucial to understand the history and aesthetics of your medium, whether one is a filmmaker, an editor, a screenwriter, or a writer of film criticism. We encourage our students to be well-read and knowledgeable about film history, aesthetics, and theory, which allows them to make informed decisions regarding their artistic and intellectual choices.
Critical studies courses span a wide range of topics in history, theory, and criticism. BA students begin their course of study with Introduction to Film Studies (FILM 1502), which explores the basic formal and narrative structure of film and lays the groundwork for all critical studies classes to follow. Students are next required to take a year-long film history series, Film History I and II (FILM 3051/FILM 3061), a rigorous, screening-intensive overview of silent cinema, the transition to sound, classical cinema, and national cinemas that involves approximately 60 film screenings over the span of two semesters. Students are also required to take one course in Film Criticism and Theory (FILM 3104), which surveys the range and function of film criticism and theory by focusing on a series of rotating topics.
Beyond these basic courses, BA students are required to take 18 hours of critical studies electives, at least 12 of which must be upper division courses. Several other courses are also required in Literature and the Arts, and other elective courses are encouraged. Critical studies courses are regularly offered on film genres (melodrama, film noir, horror, comedy, the musical), documentary, and avant-garde cinema, as well as courses in film criticism and theory (narrative, psychoanalysis, gender studies), various auteurs (Hitchcock, Kubrick, Antonioni), and historical periods (Post-War American Film/Culture/Politics, American Film in the 1980s and 90s). International film is an important component of the program, and we offer a range of courses in international cinemas (British, Italian, German, Russian, Major Asian Filmmakers). A wide range of other courses are also offered, such as Film Trilogies, Transcendental Film, Color and Cinema, Sound and Vision. See Course Descriptions for further course listings.
A BA in Film Studies prepares students for a wide range of career possibilities following graduation. Many CU Boulder Film Studies BA graduates have gone on to careers in the film industry as writers, producers, and developers, in production and post-production, or in film archives. See our alumni page for some specific examples. Others have gone on to attend graduate school in Film Studies or other Arts and Humanities programs at numerous prestigious universities. The BA degree in Film Studies gives students a solid background in critical thinking and writing, skills that serve students well in any career they choose.
SECRET STORY (Janie Geiser, 1996)
via Film Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
The BFA is a competitive degree program requiring an appliction and selection procedure. All students begin their Film Studies career declaring the Bachelor of Arts in Film as their major. Students wishing to declare a BFA in Film Studies–the Production track–as their major must first satisfy specific prerequisites. The mission of the BFA is to prepare artists who will be competitive as independent filmmakers. To that end, a central aim of our curriculum is to help prepare students for advanced graduate degrees beyond the BFA degree.
In addition to acquiring the skills to make creative films and video works, students completing the BFA degree will also acquire the ability to analyze and interpret films critically and to communicate such interpretations competently in essay form.
Students following the BFA track are strongly discouraged from taking three or more production focused classes per semester.
Virgil Grillo Memorial Grant in Film Production
The University of Colorado Film Studies Program is proud to announce the call
for applications for the Virgil Grillo Memorial Grant in Film Production. The fund
was established with gifts from several sources, including the Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences and The Learning Channel, thanks to the vision and
entrepreneurial spirit of Dr. Virgil Grillo (1938-1994), Professor & Founder of the
University of Colorado-Boulder Film Studies Program.
The Film Studies/Art & Art History Bachelor of Arts/Master of Arts critical studies degree gives highly-motivated BA students the opportunity to earn an MA degree using an accelerated undergraduate program in combination with a fifth year of study.
The BA/MA degree in Film Studies (FS) is a critical studies track under the auspices of the Art and Art History (AAH) MA program. This collaboration between AAH with FS is an extension of our common interests in visual art and grows from our current shared MFA in Filmmaking. The Film Studies tenured and tenured track faculty also has graduate faculty standing within Art and Art History.
The FS /AAH BA/MA track prepares students for professional careers in teaching & criticism, from the perspective of innovative critical approaches and in preparation for a Ph.D. track at another university. The aim of the BA/MA Film program is to aid in the advancement of the scholarly understanding of film art, with emphasis on theoretical and research approaches and their role in academia. The BA/MA will, therefore, prepare our graduates to assume the responsibilities of the academic study of cinema as one of the fine arts and to pursue careers in teaching, research, curating, and the overall advancement of the study of cinema as art.
The program offers studies leading to the M.A. in the areas of film criticism & theory. Advanced students are encouraged to explore interdisciplinary approaches as well as to enhance their program of study with cognate courses in other departments such as History, Comparative Literature, Anthropology, English, Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, Spanish & Portuguese, French & Italian, Germanic & Slavic languages and literatures and others. Film Studies offers a broad selection of seminar topics on their current faculty research interests and in response to student demand. The Visiting Film Artist program brings additional distinguished, innovative film & video artists and critics to campus and students are encouraged to register for their seminars.
The Graduate MFA degree in Filmmaking is integrated with the Art and Art History MFA program in much the same way as the other arts practices of painting and drawing, ceramics, sculpture, media arts, integrated arts and printmaking. The interdisciplinary nature of our MFA program allows graduate students to work in various areas, in addition to their area of specialization. The aim of the MFA Filmmaking program is to aid in the advancement of the practice and understanding of moving image art.
Honors in Film Studies
To obtain Honors in Film Studies students must have a GPA of 3.3 or higher. In general, Honors are awarded according to the following GPA designations: 3.3-3.49 (cum laude), 3.5-3.79 (magna cum laude) and 3.8-4.0 (summa cum laude). However, exceptional work may cause the Honors Thesis Committee to recommend a higher designation than is usually associated with the candidate’s GPA, while inferior work may cause the Committee to recommend an Honors designation lower than is associated with the candidate’s GPA. In rare cases, the Committee may decide not to recommend Honors. All designations recommended by the Honors Thesis Committee are subject to review by the CU Honors Council when it meets as a whole at the end of the semester. Final designations are awarded at that time and posted in the Honors office in the days following the meeting. Honors designations are final and may not be appealed.
Students wishing to pursue Honors in Film Studies must begin the procedure no later than the semester before graduation. At that time, the student must select an Advisor from the Film Studies Program whose area of expertise best fits that student’s selected topic or project. Advisors are usually full-time faculty members in the Program, either tenure-track or tenured professors or instructors, but adjuncts may also serve as Advisors pending Program approval. A Critical Studies Advisor must supervise Critical Studies theses, and a Film Production Advisor must supervise filmmaking projects. In general, a student receiving a BA in Critical Studies will pursue a written Honors Thesis in Critical Studies, and a student receiving a BFA in Film Production will pursue an Honors Thesis in filmmaking. However, it is possible for a BFA student to elect to do a written Honors thesis. Students pursuing two majors (BA and BFA in Film Studies, or a major in Film Studies and a major in another discipline) may choose to do an Honors Thesis for either or both majors. Students seeking two distinct Honors designations must do a separate and different Honors Thesis for each degree.
Every Honors Thesis Committee must be composed of at least three faculty members: an Advisor (from Film Studies), the Film Studies Honors Council Representative, and a faculty member from another department. In rare cases, and with the Film Studies Honors Representative’s approval, the student may select an advisor from outside the program, in a cognate discipline. Ideally, the entire committee should be assembled early on in the Honors process, but must be in place no later than three weeks before the oral defense of the thesis (the final step in the Honors process, approximately one hour in length). Committee members must be given at least two full weeks to read the finished thesis.
The semester before the student graduates, he or she must go to the Honors Office in Norlin Library (room M400L) to obtain the list of pertinent deadlines and the required form for the Honors prospectus. Each student must write a prospectus, a preliminary bibliography and timeline for research, writing and/or filmmaking and submit that prospectus to his or her Advisor for review. Both the Advisor and the Honors Council Representative must approve and sign the prospectus. The Advisor should make a copy for his or her own files as well as one for the Film Studies Honors Representative. The student should also make a copy, and then submit the signed prospectus to the Honors Office in Norlin library (for a student graduating in May, the prospectus is usually due the preceding October; for a student graduating in December, the prospectus is due the preceding March or April. In either case, the prospectus must be submitted the semester before Honors is received. The last minute submission of a prospectus and/or beginning of an Honors project is not allowed). It is the student’s responsibility to meet with his or her advisor and honor the deadlines for drafts, rough-cuts and final revisions described in the timeline on the prospectus. Rushed projects completed without supervision are not allowed.
Please note: because an Honors thesis often transforms over the course of writing and filming, it is common to have to re-write the original prospectus for inclusion in the finished thesis. Sample theses and prospectuses are available in the Honors Office for your perusal.
A written Honors Thesis is usually approximately 30-35 pages in length, but may be longer or shorter depending on the nature of the project. It may develop from a shorter paper written for another class, but must expand upon the initial ideas put forth in that paper and demonstrate originality of thought and breadth of research. A paper or project written for another class may not be submitted for the purpose of obtaining Honors without revision or expansion into a new Honors Thesis.
To obtain BFA Honors in Film Studies, a student must make a film and write a paper. The film may be either a substantial revision of a 4500 film or a new film. The 15-20-page paper must be both scholarly and technical. It must demonstrate considerable research, place the film in a personal, historical and aesthetic context, and include an analysis of the film’s form and content. Contact Associate Professor Melinda Barlow to see a sample of this kind of essay (contact info below). Students who make a new film must enable Honors Committee members to view the film before the defense by giving each committee member a copy of the film on DVD a full two weeks before the defense. Students who choose to make substantial revisions to an existing film must also give all committee members a copy of the revised film on DVD a full two weeks before the defense. In either case students may be asked to screen examples from their new or revised films during the defense. Students who have revised a 4500 film as an Honors thesis must bring cued-up copies of both the original film and the revised film to the defense in order to clearly demonstrate the nature of the revisions to the Honors committee members.
Students may register for three Honors Independent Studies credits the semester he or she is working on either a BA or a BFA Honors Thesis. Students will be graded for these Independent Studies projects. Because Film Studies is currently seeking its own Honors Thesis Independent Study course number, students who wish to register for such credits next semester should check with the Film Studies Honors Representative to see what course number to use (one may be obtained from the Honors Program if our own is not yet in place). The Honors Thesis Advisor also serves as the supervisor of the Honors Thesis Independent Study. Students must fill out an Independent Study course form and have it signed by the Chair of Film Studies, making clear that the credits in question pertain to an Honors Thesis project.
For more information, see the CU Honors website or call the Honors Program at 303-492-6617. Information on pursuing General Honors is also available through these two sources.
Associate Professor Melinda Barlow is the Honors Representative for Film Studies. Her office is ATLAS 333, and she may be reached at 303-492-3291 or