FAQ's - Film Program

There is a lot of discussion within the film industry about the value (or lack thereof) of film school. Here at the SFP, we offer a four-year accredited BA or BFA degree from a public, land-grant research university. The film industry is a highly competitive and collaborative field. Success in the film industry is based on a combination of skills, networking, and work ethic. We will teach you the skills, and your peers, faculty, and alumni become your professional network. If you’re willing to work hard, you’ll go far.

All of our faculty are working filmmakers whose work is consistently shown at major festivals and via broadcast and streaming. To learn more about our faculty’s recent adventures, please visit our Award page or checkout the Faculty Directory

We have 16mm film cameras, HD handi-cams, HD ENG-style cameras, and 4K cameras that record in ProRes. We have sets of prime lenses, plus zooms. We use industry standard audio recorders and microphones along with tungsten, LED, fluorescent light kits, and a wide variety of grip gear. The Edit Bay, prepped with Macs, Adobe Creative Cloud, Final Draft, DaVinci, and more for 24/7 access. All our gear, studios, and rooms are well-maintained and staffed. To learn more, check out our Equipment & Facilities page

Class sizes vary, but production class sizes are limited to 16 to maintain a high teacher/student ratio.

Students create short narrative, documentary, and experimental films. We work to create an environment that allows students to create the types of films they are interested in, within the requirements created by a class. To learn more about which classes might interest you, please visit the Film Catalogue.

Um, no. However, one of our alumni was the Special Effects Supervisor for the ABC TV show "Criminal Minds." He blows stuff up for a living. Info about his career can be found on the Television Academy's YouTube channel

Equipment Checkout is staffed with a full-time and a part-time manager along with many student workers. Access to gear is dependent on the courses you’ve taken. During your freshmen year, you’ll work with the Black Magic Cameras. As you move through the program, a wider variety of gear will be available. By your senior year, you’ll have access to all of the gear Equipment Checkout has to offer. Most seniors choose to shoot their senior film on the Arri Alexa. Because technology is constantly changing, we advise against purchasing your own camera. Equipment Checkout has a wide variety of cameras available to students. Of course, if you’re interested in working for an internship or job that requires a camera, you may need to purchase your own. School equipment can only be used for school projects.

All freshmen are required to take FILM 112 and PHOT 113RA- each of these courses require a $100 lab fee. Once accepted through the gate, all film majors pay a standard fee of around $320 per semester for access to equipment and labs. Once you reach your junior year, creating fiction films in FILM 372, non-fiction films in FILM 371, and your senior thesis film may require additional financing. Most students are able to run successful crowdfunding campaigns (via Indiegogo or Kickstarter) for their junior and senior thesis films.

The film program has enrollment controls (a "gate") so we can keep our classes small and ensure everyone has the equipment they need to be successful. Typically, we take 48 students after the Freshman year to move on in the program. Enrollment within the Film program is based upon your GPA in film-related freshman level classes. If you take a core class or elective and don’t do well, you won’t be penalized. Student also must submit one of their class projects (created in FILM 112) in case of a tie.
Apply again next year! Our recommendation is not to get overwhelmed by the gate: if you work hard in your classes, you will most likely pass through the gate.
Umm no. Not even if it is "lit." Or has "sick air." Your film for your gate application must be created in FILM 112. This class has specific requirements for equipment allow for a standard expectation for each student’s work.
Yes, it is very possible to double major or add a minor. The SFP requires 65 credits for the film program, while MSU requires a total of 120 credits to graduate. We see a lot of students who add a Business minor, or a foreign language, or even Writing to make up for the difference in credits. Other students double major in Engineering and Film, Entrepreneurship and Film, and so on.
Yes! There are university-wide scholarships that you may be eligible for. The Office of Admissions has more details on the application process. Within the College of Arts & Architecture and the SFP itself, competitive scholarships, grants, TA opportunities are available to advanced film students. Details are announced during the school year via The SFP Snapshot (a weekly newsletter emailed to students) or listed on our Scholarships page.
Yes! Our biggest piece of advice for incoming freshman is to work on Junior and Senior film sets during the semester. In the first few weeks of the semester, the SFP Student Board throws the annual Film Mixer. At this event, you’ll have a chance to meet with the Juniors and Senior who are creating films and sign up to be on their crews. Filmmaking is a highly collaborative field, so get involved early to start building your network.
During your freshman year, one of the required foundational courses is FILM 113 – Understanding Photography. We find that many film students enjoy their time in this class and want to continue working with photography. The Film option does not allow students to take any additional photo courses after their first year, but sometimes students are able to take a photo class as an elective. If you’d like to consistently take upper-division photo courses, we suggest you look into the Integrated Lens-Based Media option.
We love having student employees! Equipment Checkout is always looking for work study students to work at both Film and Photo Checkout. If you’re interested in applying, please visit our Equipment Checkout page. If you don’t want to work for the SFP, but you still need a job, check out Hire A Bobcat.
Internships are not required, but strongly encouraged. Internships allow you to gain real world experience and create a network of connections within the industry. Often times, people in the community contact the SFP in search of students to help with local projects. Many of these opportunities can be structured to fit the internship requirement. Internship opportunities will be posted on the SFP’s Facebook and Instagram, or in The SFP Snapshot (the weekly newsletter emailed to students).
Many of our graduates move to LA or NYC to work in the film industry. Every spring, we offer students the opportunity to travel to LA where we introduce our seniors to the alumni working in the business. Our students have a reputation for hard work, technical skills, and positive can-do attitudes. That said, you should be very realistic about how competitive the film industry is. There are no recruiters from Hollywood coming to campus. (Not just our campus -- any campus!) Getting your first job as a PA may not be that hard, but it can take 10 years to "move up" into a position with more responsibility. Many of our alumni have found success in film related industries, internet-based media projects, in non-scripted television, and in executive level positions in the entertainment business. 
The university transcript evaluation team makes the majority of these decisions. In the case of courses specific to the Film program, it depends on what was covered in the class (it really helps if you have a syllabus from the class). Your advisor will help you apply previously taken classes, where possible, to the Film degree. If your credits don’t match up with our course requirements, sometimes we can count courses as SFP electives. Please contact Katie (katherine.gahagan@montana.edu) if you have specific questions about your credits.
Bozeman provides a wonderful environment to practice filmmaking. Our faculty and staff are professionals with industry standard expectations for their students. We believe that filmmakers learn from doing, and we make sure to give each student as much hands-on experience as possible. We might not be in LA or NYC, but our SFP network has connections around the globe! 
It's a hard decision to make! But we suggest you come for a visit -- we can arrange a tour of our facility where you can talk with our current students, meet the faculty, and explore MSU. You can make arrangements to visit through the Office of Admissions (1-888-MSU-CATS) or by emailing admissions@montana.edu. We look forward to meeting you in person!

 


The purpose of a 4-year liberal arts education is to develop your mind and broaden your exposure to more than just a single area of technical knowledge. We encourage you to take classes throughout the university, a minor in another area, or a second major to broaden your horizons and experience more than just photography during college.

Though our classes apply to professional practice, the program’s strengths are in fine art. Our purpose is to train students to become visually and conceptually “literate” in an increasingly visual culture. To view a list of the current photography courses we offer, please visit the Photograph Catalogue.

All of our professors are professional photographers whose work has been shown in a variety of galleries. They are friendly and always willing to guide motivated students. To learn more about our Photo professors please visit the Faculty Directory

In Photography there are two large 20-station gang labs, a large finishing room equipped with lockers, film and print dryers, dry mount presses, and matting equipment. There is a digital lab equipped with Mac computers, another with large format printers, and film and flatbed scanners. There is an alternative process lab “dimroom” equipped with digital negative printers and extensive wet and dry space. There is also a 2500 sq. ft. studio with a large white cyc wall.

We have 75–100 sophomore, junior, and senior photo majors at any one time. Class size varies, but production class sizes are limited to 16 so we maintain a high teacher/student ratio.

Yes! The freshman foundations year is analog/film based. Digital is introduced in the sophomore year. After sophomore year, with the wide variety of junior level course, it is possible to be fully digital, fully analog, or both.

The portfolio review gives the SFP the opportunity to keep class sizes small. During spring semester of your freshman year, you will complete a cohesive project created in PHOT 213. In order to be eligible, you will also need to take and pass US and WRIT 101W cores before spring semester portfolio review. On portfolio review day, the faculty will give each project a numerical score. Your GPA and work ethic throughout the semester will also be taken into account. The top scoring students (up to 36) are given priority in the program. If more than that apply, the remaining students are waitlisted until the first two weeks of fall semester, in case anyone drops during the summer and an opening occurs.

Apply again the following year! That said, portfolio review is nothing to worry about if you take your studies seriously. It is the student who tends to, what we call, “self-edit”, who doesn’t succeed—they don’t spend the required amount of time their freshman year devoted to their coursework, don’t maintain an acceptable GPA, or don’t spend enough time on their portfolios.

Our Equipment Checkout is staffed with a full-time manager and student workers to maintain and check out 2000 pieces of equipment to students, including view cameras, medium format cameras, 35mm digital and analog cameras, a variety of lenses, lighting equipment, other types of cameras such as pinholes and Rolleiflexes, and, of course, all enlarger equipment, contact printing frames, and film developing equipment. Owning a digital camera is not required, but most students end up purchasing one anyways. If you buy a camera, keep in mind that your lenses are an investment. Buying a digital SLR camera body that matches your film SLR camera body so your lenses will fit both would be efficient. If money were no object, we would suggest buying a speedlight attachment as well.

When entering the program as a freshman, you will need a bare bones 35mm SLR film camera. In your sophomore year, upon acceptance into the program, a MAC laptop computer is required. If you are in the market for a computer now, buy MAC. Otherwise, most equipment can be checked out from our program.

All freshmen are required to take FILM 112, PHOT 113RA and PHOT 213- each of these courses require a $100 lab fee. Once accepted through the gate, all film majors pay a standard fee of around $320 per semester for access to equipment and labs. Majors are assessed a program fee of $320 per semester. Class costs vary, anywhere from $100-$300 per class for books, photo paper, film, matting supplies, etc. as a rough estimate.

The photography degree only requires 63 credits of the 120-credit requirement for a 4-year degree. An additional major or minor might fill in the rest of your credits. Students have enjoyed studying Business, English, Anthropology, Psychology, Philosophy, and many more.

Yes! There are university-wide scholarships that you may be eligible for. The Office of Admissions has more details on the application process. Within the College of Arts & Architecture and the SFP itself, competitive scholarships, grants, TA opportunities are available to advanced photo students. Details are announced during the school year via The SFP Snapshot (a weekly newsletter emailed to students) or listed on our Scholarships page.

We love having student employees! Equipment Checkout is always looking for work study students to work at both Film and Photo Checkout. If you’re interested in applying, please visit our Equipment Checkout page. If you don’t want to work for the SFP, but you still need a job, check out Hire A Bobcat.

Internships are not required, but strongly encouraged for real world experience. Faculty will not find internships for you, but opportunities will be posted on the SFP’s Facebook and Instagram, or in The SFP Snapshot (the weekly newsletter emailed to students).

Photography requires hard work in the beginning to establish oneself—it is not a "get rich quick" profession! If you are willing to put in the hours, you will have success. Our students have also become gallery managers, camera store employees, teachers/professors, workshop assistants, lab managers, photo magazine editors, website designers, marketing designers, and the list goes on. About 50% of our students stay in the field over the next decade, but more than that remain in related visual fields That said, photography is never a wasted degree because it increases one’s visual literacy in an increasingly visual society.

The university transcript evaluation team makes the majority of these decisions. In the case of courses specific to the Photography program, your advisor will help you apply previously taken classes, where possible, to the Photo degree. You may still be required, or recommended, to take PHOT 113RA during fall semester and PHOT 213 during spring semester.

The Photography Option at MSU — fully analog, digital, and alternative process — is one of the few “full meal deals” in the country. The facilities are incredible. We have an intimate yet large photography student body. We cross-pollinate with film. And we have a “program within a program” of theatre with our Black Box theatre, acting opportunities, and Shakespeare in the Parks. Bozeman is a trendy college town nestled in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, 90 miles from Yellowstone Park, 36 miles from Big Sky, and 16 miles from the Bridger Bowl ski area. Thus, outdoor activities and photographic splendor abound. And did we mention skiing?

It's a hard decision to make! But we suggest you come for a visit -- we can arrange a tour of our facility where you can talk with our current students, meet the faculty, and explore MSU. You can make arrangements to visit through the Office of Admissions (1-888-MSU-CATS) or by emailing admissions@montana.edu. We look forward to meeting you in person!

 


FAQ's - BFA Program

 

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Integrated Lens-Based Media provides students with the opportunity to specialize in both film and photographic media. Students have the opportunity to take upper-level film and photo classes without double majoring in Film and Photography.

The BFA allows students to create a flexible learning path that gives them the opportunity to focus their learning on topics that interest them. Instead of taking only film or photo classes, BFA students have the opportunity to take a mixture of classes.

Lots! There’s a mixture of upper division courses BFA students can take. Some classes include Color Grading, Advanced Lighting Practices, Cinematography, Advanced Scriptwriting, or Experimental Photography. To see the breakdown of classes, please visit the BFA Catalogue.

The BFA gives students the chance to explore both film and photography without double majoring. This means students have the flexibility to take film and photo classes as a single major. This opens up opportunities to combine the BFA with another major or even add a minor. By giving students the opportunity to explore all aspects of the SFP, the BFA provides a well-rounded experience. The BFA also provides a Bachelor of Fine Arts, (unlike the Bachelor of Arts that film and photo students receive) which can help students stand out when applying to grad school.

BFA students have the unique opportunity to interact with both Photo and Film professors. All of the professors are professionals within their given industry, whose work is displayed at galleries, printed in books, shown at festivals, or available to stream.

The Visual Communications building is full of state-of-the-art equipment. The photo side works with over 2000 pieces of equipment including a variety of cameras, a photo studio, and all of the necessary equipment for developing film. The film program has dedicated grip gear, cameras, sound equipment, an editing lab, and a studio. To learn more about the equipment available to students, please check out the Equipment & Facilities pages.

Class size varies, but production class sizes are limited to 16 to maintain a high teacher/student ratio.

Equipment Checkout is staffed with a full-time and a part-time manager along with many student workers. Access to gear is dependent on the courses you’ve taken. As a freshman, you’ll need a bare bones 35mm SLR film camera for PHOT 113. After acceptance into the film or photo programs, additional equipment will be dependent upon your choice of study.

All freshmen are required to take FILM 112, PHOT 113RA and PHOT 213- each of these courses require a $100 lab fee. All students, once accepted into the program, pay a standard fee of around $320 per semester for access to equipment and labs.

Admission into the program is limited to students who have already been admitted through into the Film program or Photo program at the conclusion of their freshman year. At the time of admission to the film or photo program, students will declare their interest in the BFA. There are no additional requirements to switch to the BFA program. Students admitted into the program are assigned two advisors–one photographer and one filmmaker–with whom they design a customized curriculum for the final two years of the degree.

Apply again next year! There is no formal gate for the BFA degree, but students must be admitted into the Film or Photo program before declaring the BFA degree. Our recommendation is not to get overwhelmed by the gate: if you work hard in your classes, you will most likely pass through the gate.

Definitely. The BFA program meets the university’s 120 credit requirement. 24-29 of these credits are classes that can be taken outside of the SFP. Double majoring could be a little difficult because it would require additional credits, but a minor would fit within the programs credit requirement.

Yes! There are university-wide scholarships that you may be eligible for. The Office of Admissions has more details on the application process. Within the College of Arts & Architecture and the SFP itself, competitive scholarships, grants, TA opportunities are available to advanced BFA students. Details are announced during the school year via The SFP Snapshot (a weekly newsletter emailed to students) or listed on our Scholarships page.

We love having student employees! Equipment Checkout is always looking for work study students to work at both Film and Photo Checkout. If you’re interested in applying, please visit our Equipment Checkout page. If you don’t want to work for the SFP, but you still need a job, check out Hire A Bobcat.

Internships are not required, but strongly encouraged. Internships allow you to gain real world experience and create a network of connections within the industry. Often times, people in the community contact the SFP in search of students to help with local projects. Many of these opportunities can be structured to fit the internship requirement. Internship opportunities will be posted on the SFP’s Facebook and Instagram, or in The SFP Snapshot (the weekly newsletter emailed to students).

There’s lots of opportunities! Alumni have opportunities to work in the film and photography industries, create their own production companies, write magazines, run social media platforms, and many more. The flexibile course path of the BFA allows students to create their own career path. 

The fields of film and photography are a constantly changing and adaptive industry. As technology develops, each field expands and new opportunities for success develop. While having a degree in film can be helpful for filmmakers because it gives them experience with industry standards, many filmmakers have found success without a degree.

The university transcript evaluation team makes the majority of these decisions. In the case of courses specific to the Film program, it depends on what was covered in the class (it really helps if you have a syllabus from the class). Your advisor will help you apply previously taken classes, where possible, to the Film degree. If your credits don’t match up with our course requirements, sometimes we can count courses as SFP electives. Please contact Katie (katherine.gahagan@montana.edu) if you have specific questions about your credits.

It's a hard decision to make! But we suggest you come for a visit -- we can arrange a tour of our facility where you can talk with our current students, meet the faculty, and explore MSU. You can make arrangements to visit through the Office of Admissions (1-888-MSU-CATS) or by emailing admissions@montana.edu. We look forward to meeting you in person!

 


School of Film & Photography

Montana State University
P.O. Box 173350
Bozeman, MT 59717-3350

Tel: (406) 994-2484
Fax: (406) 994-6214
E-mail: sfp@montana.edu


Location: Visual Communications Building at the corner of 11th & Grant