Dramatic changes in the film industry—as an art, as a business—have opened a unique opportunity for Stony Brook to create a high-profile, innovative, MFA in Film Program, built around an association with Christine Vachon and Killer Films, her highly regarded film production company.
The MFA in Creative Writing and Literature has been offering screenwriting courses since its formation at Stony Brook in 2006.
In 2008, Screenwriter/Producer Annette Handley-Chandler launched the Southampton Screenwriting Conference, a cluster of intensive, 3-credit, graduate-level writing workshops held every July, bringing to campus such luminaries as Robert Benton (Kramer vs. Kramer, Bonnie and Clyde), Frank Pugliese (House of Cards, Copper, Borgia), Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me), film critic Molly Haskell, Gene Saks, actor Alec Baldwin, Peter Hedges (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), Alexander Payne (The Descendants, About Schmidt, Sideways), and Chris Weitz (About a Boy, New Moon—The Twilight Saga).
In 2011, with Writer, Director, Producer Mitchell Kriegman, we began to offer courses in digital filmmaking. In 2012 we brought Christine Vachon’s Master Class in Independent Filmmaking to campus, and seized the opportunity to work with her to develop a stand-alone film MFA program in Digital Filmmaking.
In 2013, Stony Brook Southampton granted 20 full scholarships to 20 students to make 20 short films in 20 intense days (July 8-28) at its new Southampton Arts Summer program, where a community of world class filmmakers, novelists, poets, playwrights, directors, and actors gathered in a cutting edge—and uniquely bucolic—arts incubator.
Visiting guests included James Schamus, Tom Kalin, Rahmin Bahrani, Jane Berliner, Effie Brown, John Sloss, Doug McGrath, Ellen Kuras, Edward Burns, Tony Gerber, Mary Harron, Ilene Landress, Dylan Leiner, Ashley Havey, and more. The yield of this experiment in filmmaking was extremely high, with the resulting short films garnering awards at various film festivals around the country.
Spring 2014, 20/20/20 migrated to Stony Brook Manhattan and expanded from 20 days to 20 weeks. Starting in January with Master Classes, we added development workshops. Here Writer/Directors pitched their stories and brought in lookbooks, developed their stories into from first drafts into final drafts, and generated production documents. In Summer, the class followed the scene change to Stony Brook Southampton for the 20-day production intensive. These students produced their short films and crewed on 10 others.
In Fall 2014, the 20 week sequence expanded to two semesters and included Writer/Directors AND Producers. Production plans were completed by December 2014. Films will be shot in Manhattan in Winter/Spring 2015.
In Fall 2015, we will be admitting our first MFA candidates in Film.
The exorbitant cost of higher education is now drawing national attention. Those costs have always been a concern to students pursuing the arts. We're proud that at Stony Brook Southampton we can offer the kind of education that is typically available only to the one percent, at a price that the 99 percent can afford.