Columbia University announces expanded MFA in Producing

cu_logoIn my capacity as  Professor in the Film Division of the School of the Arts at Columbia, I’m very proud of the announcement below. As independent producers the world over continue to fret about how new technologies and the internet are affecting their ability to create sustainable careers, it becomes paramount (excuse the unintentional pun) that we prepare the next generation for the challenges ahead. If, as has been noted elsewhere, makers must also become marketers, we have to give them the knowledge and the tools to make that happen. And in the process, we may all learn something.


New Focus on Creative Producing at Columbia
University School of the Arts Film Program

MFA program taught by award-winning faculty

NEW YORK, October 15, 2009 — Building upon a strong record of faculty and alumni recognition at the Oscars, Sundance and other film festivals, Columbia University School of the Arts is expanding its master of fine arts film program. Film: Creative Producing, a newly introduced course of study, will train the next generation of filmmakers in the modern complexities of professional movie production.

Applications for the three-year MFA program are being accepted now. The deadline for the fall 2010 semester is December 1.

“A strong and gifted group of producers has come from Columbia, including Albert Berger (Little Miss Sunshine) to Ben Odell (Padre Nuestro) to current student Bridgette Liebowitz, producer of the acclaimed student short Cigarette Candy,” said Jamal Joseph, associate professor and chair of the film department. “Our new program will build on the success of our unique approach that immerses students in the creative, business, history and practical aspects of producing.”

Unlike other film producing programs, students will take a completely integrated core curriculum in their first year, including courses in directing, directing actors, screenwriting and film history. In these courses they will connect with students pursuing a focus in directing and screenwriting. The cross-disciplinary approach is designed to emphasize aspiring producers’ knowledge of all aspects of the film making process. The small size of the producing program — 24 students — will ensure individual attention from faculty and encourage the development of a close-knit community of students.

In the second year, the program offers a broad curriculum that is defined by Columbia’s presence in the New York independent filmmaking community, but is comprehensive in its scope. It includes instruction in the nuts and bolts of producing, but is steeped in Columbia’s traditional emphasis on storytelling as an art form. The expanded focus will also cross over into producing for related art forms, such as theater and the fast-growing area of new media studies.

Students in the program study with professors like Maureen Ryan, co-producer of Man on Wire; James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features and producer of Brokeback Mountain; Ira Deutchman, CEO of Emerging Pictures; and other prominent producers such as Richard Brick, Michael Hausman and Anthony Bregman. Columbia faculty and alumni were associated with 12 Oscar nominations at the 81st Annual Academy Awards, and two winners. Thirty seven Columbia filmmakers were involved with 28 films and shorts screened at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Recent film producing alumni have established themselves as prominent members of the film producing community. Their films have been awarded the Special Jury Commendation at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Philadelphia Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Aspen Film Festival, and Best Film at the Shanghai International Short Film Festival. Producing alumnus Ben Odell and directing alumnus Christopher Zalla’s film Padre Nuestra (titled Sangre de Mi Sangre, in U.S. release) won the 2008 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

The introduction of the creative producing focus is the result of the growing popularity and interest in producing among School of the Arts MFA film students. The program will provide unparalleled educational tutelage and opportunities for its graduates.

“It’s been clear for many years that Columbia is uniquely positioned to be the best training ground for future producers due to our incredible faculty and our complete integration with the writing and directing concentrations,” said Ira Deutchman, producing faculty member. “With this new expansion, we hope to have a major impact on an art form that is in dire need of new approaches.”

About Columbia University

A leading academic and research university, Columbia University continually seeks to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to foster a campus community deeply engaged in understanding and addressing the complex global issues of our time. Columbia’s extensive public service initiatives, cultural collaborations, and community partnerships help define the University’s underlying values and mission to educate students to be both leading scholars and informed, engaged citizens. Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia University in the City of New York is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.

Media contact:  Nick Obourn, 212-854-8336,


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