MFA in Film

Undergraduate Filmmaking at Stony Brook

Our filmmaking courses invite students from all disciplines to engage in the power of the cinematic image and its relationship to storytelling. The undergraduate filmmaking program at Stony Brook immerses students, hands-on, in the art of narrative filmmaking.

Students who want to tell stories on film need a firm understanding of the power of images and sounds, a solid grasp on how to develop a compelling storyline and the technical know-how to manipulate and transform these images in a way that can inform, educate and persuade audiences of the 21st century.

Created in the spirit of the innovative MFA in Film, a program with a “roll up your sleeves and dive in” approach, the undergraduate filmmaking courses help students develop the narrative, analytical and technical skills needed to make films that tell the stories they want to tell.

We begin with harnessing what students already know – their smartphones and their everyday interaction with social media and movies – and build their understanding of filmmaking through workshops that immerse them in screenwriting, film analysis, cinematography, editing and production.

As visual literacy becomes increasingly necessary in a world of moving images, workshops in the craft of filmmaking enable students to develop their capacity for creative and critical thinking as well as the technical acuity necessary to create compelling stories and images as filmmakers.

View our Fall 2017 Course Offerings

FLM 101  Introduction to Filmmaking: Visual Storytelling
S03 (Class #96190)
Tue and Thu, 7:00-8:20 pm, SOCBEH N110, Instructor: Cathy Zimmermann

Cameras do not make films: filmmakers make films, not by adding more equipment or personnel but by using what you have to the fullest capacity. The most important equipment is yourself, your mobile body, your imaginative mind and your freedom to use both. - Maya Dernen

This course focuses on telling a visual story with the most basic of video tools – the smart phone or tablet.  You will script your own stories and shape them with your directing and editing. You will experience firsthand the collaborative nature of filmmaking. You will learn the mechanics of smart phone filmmaking, the aesthetics of good visuals and the craft of storytelling.  You will serve as cast and crew for each other’s film projects.


FLM 101  Introduction to Filmmaking: Visual Storytelling
S01(Class # 96188)  
Tue, 5:30-8:20 pm, SOCBEH N111, Instructor: Ethan Scarduzio

This class will serve as a hands-on introduction to filmmaking and will focus on the fundamental elements of the process. Using smartphones and iMovie, students will make short films and employ basic filmmaking tactics to realize their vision.  Mise in scene or “staging,” can be broken down into many elements including lighting, camera angle, shot composition, color palette, framing, etc. Understanding these choices and how they can be manipulated will aid in telling a story, thus creating stronger narratives and more effective storytellers.  To help illustrate the employment of these tactics, students will also be expected to analyze scenes from classic and contemporary films to inspire as well as encourage critical thinking.


FLM 101 Introduction to Filmmaking: Visual Storytelling
S02 (Class # 96189)
Tue and Thu, 5:30 - 6:50 pm, SOCBEH N110, Instructor: James Evans

This course will be a hands-on introduction to the craft of narrative filmmaking. Using smartphones or comparable devices, students will learn the skills necessary to tell a visual story. We will become familiar with the ideas, materials, and technical skills needed for creative expression in this medium. Participants will learn how to use images in conjunction with sound, an original script, and editing theory/technique as a basis for communicating their ideas in film.


CWL315 Scriptwriting
S03 (Class #96148)
Mon and Wed, 2:30-3:50 pm, SOCBEH N105, Instructor: Adam Armstrong

SO…you want to write a film? Then let’s get to it! In this course, students will be introduced to feature film screenwriting.  By studying screenplays and screening films, students will explore basic theory and format aspects of story structure, character development, use of conflict, scene writing, and dialogue. We will then apply these basic cinematic principles to the development of your own original screenplay. So much of screenwriting is done before you even type the first word of the script, so this class will focus specifically on the process of screenwriting: from the initial premise, through character exploration to treatments and outlines, and then finally writing the first half of your screenplay. By understanding the structure and dramatic elements of visual storytelling in cinema, student will learn to think critically about the rules of narrative within the film medium, and, most importantly, how to tell a story, and how to tell it well. Pre-requisite: CWL 202:  Introduction to Creative Writing


CWL315 Forms of Scriptwriting
Wed, 4-6:50 pm, SOCBEH N104, Instructor: Helen Waters

In this class you’ll learn an intimate approach to screenwriting that is focused on character as opposed to plot. Formulaic guidelines are left at the door with an agreement that an interesting character will always be a pleasure to watch in any situation. All aspects of character will be explored, including physiology, sociology, and psychology, as described by Lajos Egri in “The Art of Dramatic Writing.”

Special attention will be paid to the environment your characters inhabit and how to translate the evidence of their six senses to the audio-visual medium that is film. You will practice to become an astute observer of the characters in your own life. Your writing will be in an effort to capture the characters that surround you and translate their experiences to screen in the form of two short screenplays. Through the viewing of films, reading of screenplays, and lots of writing practice (!), you will learn the technical mechanics of screenwriting, and the all-importance of character as the driver of story.

Faculty Advisor: Karen Offitzer

karen offitzerKaren Offitzer received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, and an MA from NYU.  She is the Founder and former Program Director of the MFA in Creative Writing at National University, where she also served as director of Writing Across the Curriculum.  Her short fiction and essays have been published by several literary journals and magazines, and she has received grants and awards for her short documentary work, most notably for her short, I Am Not Who You Think I Am, exploring the effect of a year-long free humanities education program on the lives of those who were homeless and working poor. She has held teaching positions at Loyola Marymount University and Antioch University, served as Assistant Professor at The Institute for Writing Studies at St. John’s University in Queens, NY, and currently lives in Manhattan.