MFA in Film


bankI became a groupie the first time I heard Lenny talk.  I'd written a screenplay about a brother and sister shortly after their father’s death, and Lenny suggested I think of the camera as their father watching over them.  When I told him how amazingly helpful his advice was—keep in mind I’m a fiction writer trying to translate narrative voice into film—he shrugged it off, saying he could do what he did because “luckily,” he wasn’t “burdened by talent.”  Which is hilarious:  He is insanely talented in a hundred ways, a genius at collaboration, and the most inspiring teacher I’ve ever had.  I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to work with him.

- Melissa Bank

marxI thought I knew a thing or two about filmmaking (I taught screenwriting at Princeton and sold scripts to Hollywood) but it wasn’t until I met the stupdendously smart and delightful Lenny Crooks that I understood how little I understood.  Now that I am somewhat enlightened, I hereby apologize to my former students and to Sony and Paramount.

- Patty Marx


I couldn't have asked for a better professor to work with in strengthening my abilities as a screenwriter! Annette has that educator's magic approach to writing which makes me feel  limitless. Focusing on vision, tone, and structure, she has  the experience to guide you through your thoughts to the ultimate truth and essence of your characters. Always supportive in developing a consistent writing practice, she understands the roadblocks we put up for ourselves and is able to challenge you in getting out of your comfort zone to fully be present in your writing and in the lives of your characters you are trying to create. Her tough love attitude helped me to strengthen my voice through a series of short films.  And now with the confidence built from working closely with her, I am now completing my first feature-length screenplay.
- Tonilyn A. Sideco

I took Annette Chandler's class as it was required for my degree. I walked in with the belief that writing couldn’t be taught. After half a semester I fell completely in love with the process. The following semester I signed up for another class with Annette. Annette's class offers the safety of being in good hands. She's mastered the craft as well as how to teach it, which is a rare combination; one that not every professors achieves.
- Borna Jafari

Entering the MFA program as a fiction writer and poet, I initially scoffed at the idea that screenwriting was both a legitimate literary pursuit, and that it could have such a profound effect on my writing ability. However, from my first week in Annette Chandler's class, I realized I was sorely mistaken. Stony Brook's screenwriting program challenged me in ways that previous writing workshops had not - teaching me to give careful consideration to narrative arc, character motives, tension, and plot before penning a single word of script - a practice I largely neglected in the past. An emphasis is put on story-planning, which has a direct carry-over to other literary genres, and the creative process in general. Through the readings, movie assignments, and Annette's in-class discussions, I began to not only think as a screenwriter, but also a filmmaker, learning how to convey a story through images. My dialogue improved dramatically, as did my ear for pace, tone, and excess - all of which have paid immense dividends.

Because of the profound influence Annette's initial course had on me, I not only took her class a second time, but decided also to focus on screenwriting as my thesis, producing two scripts under Annette's guidance. Her mentorship, generosity of time, passion, keen eye for the craft, and industry experience helped shape me into the writer I am today.

The screenwriting program at Stony Brook in Southampton is unique. The tight-knit and accessible community of professors, speakers, and professional contacts, combined with the diversity of the graduate students, both in terms of demographics, originality and skill, makes for an invigorating, supportive and productive academic home. I made life-long friendships, connections, and experiences that have served me well in 'life after graduate school.' I say often: attaining an MFA degree in Creative Writing from Stony Brook with an emphasis in Screenwriting was the best educational decision I ever made.
- Brian Adams
2013 Thayer Fellowship in the Arts awardee



SBKFilmmaking offers an immersive program that combines creative practice with practical guidance in film production. The partnership with Killer Films guarantees an unparalleled instruction by top industry professionals. Powerhouse duo Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler take a matter-of-fact approach to the ‘business we call show’ as it evolves right before our eyes.

Their approach to academia reflects the longevity of their thriving careers; the aim is to protect the artistic integrity under strict financial guidelines. The access to these professionals is invaluable as we get an insider look at in-development Killer projects as they evolve from script to screen.

Better yet, the program is a collaborative effort that gathers artists with different backgrounds. The learning experience is tailored towards hands-on opportunities. Students have the chance to conceive ideas and work together to bring each vision into reality. It becomes a close-knit network of storytellers that I for one am proud to be a part of.

From the picturesque grounds of Southampton to the hub of the world art market, New York City, these settings themselves are prone to ignite creative thought.

It’s a unique and truly ‘Killer’ experience.

- Dejan Pavlovic


lehmannThe 20/20/20 film program delivered on its promises - advanced training in all aspects of filmmaking, hands-on instruction from working/award winning professionals - all at an affordable SUNY tuition rate.

The forward-thinking/innovative team at Stony Brook University and Killer Films provided invaluable insight, not only pertaining to the nature of effective visual storytelling, but also into the murky waters of the industry’s future. I had such an enlightening, transformative experience, that I chose to come back for more.

- Aaron Lehmann


bellucciWhat can I say about Stony Brook’s 20/20/20 Film Program?  It was immersive, and collaborative, challenging and inspiring.  It was worth it.  I met amazing people and learned from them all. It’s an experience I am very grateful for.  

Although it’s a young program, it offers a tremendous wealth of filmmaking knowledge and experience that can only make you grow as a filmmaker.  The bonds you form with your classmates extend beyond the program and I’m excited to continue the collaborations and make more films. Check it out!

- Danielle Bellucci


ally turner-kirkpatrickWhen I moved to Brooklyn in the fall of 2013 I came seeking a creative community of filmmakers and writers. What I found instead was a 9-5 office job, a long a commute, and limited resources for making my creative aspirations a reality. Then I heard about Stony Brook and the 202020 film program.

I asked my boss for the three weeks off for the summer workshop in Southampton and took the plunge. In the spring, for the semester-long classroom component, I left my office every week at 5 on the nose and sprinted to the 6 train to make it to class on time. I would show up breathless, sweaty, and one time nearly missing a shoe. 202020 is definitely worth running for. It was there I finally had the chance to connect with my peers and learn from the people working in the film industry I admire the most.

202020 was hands on. It was experiential. It was creative and fluid. It was a wild ride, and I would do it again and again if I could. 

- Ally Turner-Kirkpatrick



What was most rewarding about 20/20/20 was the 24/7 intensity. The first week we worked on our scripts while attending workshops and mentoring sessions with some of the most brilliant minds in the entertainment business. The second week we crewed on our collaborators films while preparing for our own, and the third week we edited non­stop in preparation to screen our short films.

My my mind was stretched in directions I had not thought possible. I was pushed hard, happily so, all the time knowing that I was part of a uniquely curated experience geared to propel all of us towards excellence. The knowledge gained is now embedded deep within, and I can’t begin to describe my gratitude towards my talented collaborators, the program mentors and the administrators who passionately strived to make it a success. I am a better artist because of it.

- ­Jill Campbell


stergiouI’m not one for hyperbole, so how do I put this....

The 202020 Program was life-changing.

I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity by Stony Brook, Southampton Arts, Killer Films, and Canon. They have managed to create something truly unique: an alternative, egalitarian film program dedicated to producing quality cinema across all genres.

The community that has been created is one that will leave its mark.

- Alexandra Stergiou


ngoI feel so fortunate and humbled to be part of the 202020 Summer Film Program.  In my 10 years of working in production, this experience was by far the most challenging, most diverse, most collaborative, and most rewarding in my career.  Stony Brook Southampton, Killer Films and Canon may have created a new film movement.  They were not joking when they promised to turn the old film school paradigm on its head.  

It was an arena to allow visionary hard-working people to dive in to create high-quality work distinctively in their own voices.  Feel totally revitalized about my place in the field of visual storytelling.  This is proof positive that creative collaboration is still alive and well.

- Michelle Ngo


kuoIt’s rare to find a program that teaches, inspires, and humbles you while still leaving you grateful and eager for more, but that was my experience with the 202020 program.  There’s something about getting a group of very talented, enthusiastic and hard working creative spirits together in one place for three weeks that produces an experience that has the potential to change the way you think about your dreams and the means by which you pursue them.  Stonybrook Southampton and Killer Films have stumbled on something truly special with this inaugural program, allowing us all to experience for three weeks the freedom of plunging fully into the creative life with little fear of the consequences.  I don’t know if it’s possible to put into words the meaning this opportunity has had or will have on my creative life, but I’ll do my best to make some films worthy of the experience.  

- Kevin Chester Kuo


pinckneyHow awesome is it to feel like I can get whipped into film buff shape in a matter of three weeks?! This program taught me more about my artistic vision, and bringing others’ visions to life. I am so grateful to have been surrounded by such talented people, awesome equipment, and produce a work that I can share with confidence. I cannot wait to see how this program will grow. I will never forget my experience as a 20/20/20. Go team go!


- Kareema Pinckney


arvanites"Move over Sundance Lab, the 202020 Digital Film Fellowship is now THE place to learn the business and filmmaking; you get an education, industry relationships and a KILLER (pun intended) short film."

- Steven Arvanites, 202020 fellowship recipient/founder,




applegateThe 20/20/20 program was a whirlwind adventure and after three short weeks I came away with a bounty of knowledge, experience and a short film to boot. The program organizers, guest speakers and the other filmmakers were all incredibly talented and inspiring. I feel lucky to have been a part of the inaugural program and I would encourage anyone looking to navigate the changing landscape of film, TV and web storytelling to participate in this program.

- Jeanne Applegate




evansThe staff of Stony Brook Southampton, led by Magdalene Brandeis and Christine Vachon, have put together a very special film program; an immersive 20-day project, that stays with you long after you're finished.

It's been two weeks since we finished the Stony Brook/Killer Films 202020 Program and I've still got a creative hangover from all I experienced. Aside from the technical skills acquired, which were put to the test over a week of rigorous back-to-back film shoots, the fluid interchange of ideas, between participants, visiting supervisors and guest speakers, was invaluable.

Thank you specifically to Ashley Maynor, Lauren Wolkstein, Sunrise Tippeconnie and Matt Yaggy who worked closely with us all, tirelessly around the clock, to get the best out of our films. It was a luxury to have access to such incredibly talented filmmakers, who are all active within today’s film industry.

Thank you to a magnificent crew of filmmakers, who gave me energy and hope, and who I look forward to collaborating with again soon.

- Jason Evans


hirschbergWhen asked about the 20/20/20 program, Christine Vachon said, “The goal is to match the reality of the film business today. That means turning the traditional film school on its head.”And that’s exactly what was masterfully executed by Christine and the Killer Films team, Southampton Arts, and the filmmakers in the program.

I formed invaluable professional relationships and had a wonderful experience directing a short film based on my feature screenplay. I would highly recommend 20/20/20 to any filmmaker who has a keen interest in the “business” of “show business” as well as a vision he/she wants to transform into a short film.

- Jeffrey Hirschberg
20/20/20 participant - Writer - Director
Film Professor and Director Television and Film Arts: SUNY Buffalo State


ragotRight now, the 202020 program is probably the best opportunity for any inspiring filmmaker to get a true idea of the industry they want to be in. I learned in 20 days what it would have probably taken me years to really understand. The program empowered everyone of us, regardless of our background, with priceless assets and confidence into our work.

I'm not gonna lie, this intensive program will challenge you in ways you probably never thought were possible before. It will bring you to your knees and eventually bring you back up, stronger. It won't give you any answers but it will deliver the right questions to ask yourself. It will push you to your limits, “up to the edge” of your vision to better help you embrace it.

Life-changing is the least to say about the 202020 program. It personally changed my thought process when it comes to my writing and visualization. But more importantly, I feel like it made me a better creative artist in line with today's high stakes. More confident and prepared, I am now also more excited to get out, share my vision and face any challenges.

I believe this program will contribute to shape tomorrow's filmmaking trends and talents. Up to you to decide if you want to be a part of it!

- Cécile Ragot


sosaIt was a pleasure to work with, and learn from, so many filmmakers. 20/20/20 was a unique and wonderful place, the experience of learning felt so natural I didn't even know it was happening. And let's be honest - nothing beats being able to crew on five films in less than a month.

So much of art is voice. Finding your voice. Accepting your voice. Knowing when a voice isn't really your own.

Take 20 days with 20+ dedicated people. Add time constraints. Throw in heat, physical exertion, and long hours. What can I say? The formula works.

- S. Iturri Sosa



baileyI cannot begin to thank Killer Films and Stony Brook Southampton enough for the incredible filmmaking experience they've given to me this summer. In three weeks time, I learned more about filmmaking–through the fascinating lectures and the hands on experience both crewing and directing–than I did in two years as an undergrad film major. To simply say "life changing" doesn't capture the confidence the program provided, the insight, the relationships, the intensity, the support, and yes, the grueling hard work. I would highly recommend 20/20/20 to any person looking to gain real-world filmmaking experience in a structured, supportive, and intensely creatively engaging environment.

- Hannah Bailey


steinThe 20/20/20 Killer Film program was intense, presenting a realistic presentation of how USA Independent film is produced, created and distributed today. The best part was the creation of a film community. In our colloquium we met like minded creators and thinkers while working on each other’s projects. It was exciting and humbling to see so many different approaches, philosophies and directing styles. It was an optimal collaborative zone and I hope to make films with these chaps in the future while reflecting upon the insightful master classes with the brilliant artists and thinkers — Tom Kalin, Greta Schiller, and Tony Gerber among others.

- Julia C.K. Stein



This summer experience was a dream come true for any aspiring filmmaker. Never in a million years would I think that we could pull off shooting 20 films in a week, but with the immense support and help from Christine Vachon, Magdalene Brandeis, and Bob Reeves, we were able to accomplish this otherwise insurmountable feat with a feeling of great personal triumph. I have been to several film classes, took part in multiple workshops, listened in on a myriad of panels and master classes, but I've never been so illuminated as I was by the 20/20/20 experience this summer. The 20 talented students, the wonderful crew and team of visiting specialists, Killer Films, and all the other collaborators, each brought their absolute best to the three intense weeks of filmmaking boot camp in Southampton. This was my first camp experience and definitely an unforgettable one. I wish that this kind of training existed when I started making films ten years ago. The cameras and equipment that were donated as well as the expertise from Christine Vachon were essential for making these films with the utmost production quality, technology, and determination. Students were given hands-on production training as well as advice from the real world of the thriving independent film scene. In only three weeks time, Stony Brook Southampton 20/20/20 gave you everything you could ask for, and more, in a graduate film program. And, we have all gained life-long collaborators in the process -- teachers and students alike. I wouldn't trade this past summer for anything.
- Lauren Wolkstein

From the mentors:

maynorI wouldn't have attempted, much less even imagined, producing 18 short films in a mere 20 days. But Christine Vachon, Magdalene Brandeis, and Bob Reeves somehow seemed to think we could, so who was I to second-guess? Miraculously, we did what I had thought impossible. And this feat would not have possible without the extraordinary generosity of Canon USA, the staff of Stony Brook Southampton, and a talented, tireless, and enthusiastic inaugural class of students!

I wish such a program had existed for me before or during my traditional film school degree--the guest master classes, hand-ons learning opportunities, and equipment access were far superior to programs I have seen or taken part in in the past!                              

- Ashley Maynor, award-winning producer-director


magdaleneI was blown away by the extreme commitment the 20/20/20 students made to each other. How tirelessly and uncomplainingly they worked in extreme heat, on early mornings and late nights. How much courage they showed in stepping up to DP, or stamina in holding the boom pole… As a person setting up a program, you can only hope the students will rise to meet it. And boy did they ever! I learned from each and every one of them.

- Magdalene Brandeis, Associate Director 20/20/20





dane20/20/20. For an inaugural year, things couldn’t have gone better. The selection of candidates, mentors, visiting artists, and staff, was a perfect mix. As a staff member who worked on planning throughout the year I was prepared for a titanic disaster somewhere during the three week program, gratefully…….nothing but smooth sailing. The program was such a great success it erased years of horrifying memories of my own experiences in the film industry, and now I’m anxious to step back into the professional fray. Film rehab camp really worked!

- Dane Pizzuti-Krogman




yaggyThe amount of creative and personal growth I saw in all the participants over the course of the 20/20/20 program was staggering.  We were dealing with some people who had never directed before, who had never shot with a camera before, and who had never edited before yet at the end of the three weeks everyone had a piece of work that they could be proud of.  Each participant poured everything they had into their films as well as the films of their colleagues.  It was inspiring to see everyone rise to the challenge and coalesce around each other.  

The fact that the 20/20/20 program gives these filmmakers the access to the resources needed to make  a solid short film AND gives them a comprehensive overview of the current state of the film industry directly from the mouths of professionals is beyond valuable.  

Watching the participants develop and grow in strength from preproduction, to production, to editing was amazing.

I can tell that we will see many more great things from this year’s group of participants as well as the participants in the future.  It was an honor being a part of 20/20/20’s mission.

- Matt Yaggy


crooksIt is very rare to find a program where the challenge/nurture balance is just right. For me the organization was exemplary and hats off to you and the team on the ground. I look forward to further collaboration and to catching up in September.

- Lenny Crooks





I want to pass along a sincere tip of the hat to the entire department at Stony Brook for creating such a focused and positive culture for learning. The Stony Brook students I’ve interacted with are the real deal. I have taught twice before. At my alma mater U Penn in 2006 and at LMU in Los Angeles last year. Without disparaging the students at those two institutions, I must tell you that I think the Stony Brook MFA candidates are without a doubt head and shoulders above them.

Could be the NYC influence. Maybe a certain State School hunger. Who knows?

But, it has frankly been so refreshing to be able to mentor emerging artists who are so hungry to learn, curious about improving their skills while increasing their understanding of the creative process.

I truly enjoyed myself and hope - to paraphrase “Casablanca” - that it is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

- Alec Sokolow, Spring 2016

(Toy Story, Cheaper by the Dozen, Garfield, Garfield II, Evan Almighty, Daddy Day Camp and Money Talks)