Skip Navigation
Search

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 Spring 2018 Course Offerings

FILM 101 Introduction to Filmmaking: Visual Storytelling

FLM 101 Section 01 Mon/Wed 5:30-6:50 pm
Endla Burrows
"The amazing thing about any movie is not whether it’s good, but that it got made at all."
Frank Darabont, Writer, Director, Producer
Film 101 is hands-on introduction to the collaborative art of filmmaking. In this class, students will learn the fundamental roles on a film production (what the heck is a grip anyway?) as well as basic story development and structure (Character/Conflict/Climax, etc.). Working from these fundamentals, students will collaborate to write, shoot and construct original short films. Yes, you are going to make a film. Students will use smartphones equipped with Filmic Pro as well as the editing software iMovie, to realize their vision.

FLM 101 Section 02 Mon/Wed 7-8:20 pm
Cathy Zimmerman
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 you 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 Section 03 Mon 2:30-5:30 pm
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.

FLM 101 Section 04 Tue 2:30-5:30 pm
Amy Gaipa
AND AWAY WE GO… Film 101 is an introduction to basic filmmaking…with a twist. Using the video function on your mobile device and basic equipment you might find at any basic hardware store, we will work on capturing story visually through camera, lighting and sound practice. The fundamental principles of filmmaking include a basic understanding of story, shot composition, continuity, and montage. You will learn about and work together in the key positions as if on a film crew.

Film 101 Section 05 Tue/Thu 5:30-6:50 pm
David Schultz
Do you have a story that you need to tell? A movie that you just have to make? With all the tools we have at our disposal, there’s no better time to learn how to do it than now! This course is designed to introduce you to the world of narrative filmmaking through a combination of survey, lecture, discussion, reflection and hands-on experience. During our class, we will be exploring the basic elemental language of cinema to see how classic and contemporary filmmakers from all over the world speak this universal language. By dissecting their work, we will examine which tools and techniques they use to communicate their ideas as effectively as possible and apply that knowledge to our collaborative group exercises where you get to make your own films. By combining theory and practice, students will learn about the choices a filmmaker has to make, which include everything from camera angles and lighting, to sound design and editing. By the end of it all, you’ll be able to go into the world with nothing more than your smartphone, laptop and brain and be the best damn visual storyteller that you can be!

FLM 101 Section 06 Tue/Thu 7-8:20 pm
David Brett
Course Description The goal of this course is to instill the basic skills of filmmaking. Topics will span the production cycle, including working with a screenplay, shooting scenes, and editing. The core of the course is directing and cinematography––that is, how filmmakers tell stories visually. We will explore questions such as: –Where should we place the camera, and how do we know? –How do we shape a scene so as to bring out the most important elements of the script? –How to work with actors, and what role do they play in a director’s creative process? – How do each of the choices directors make create the emotional impact of a moment? Students will learn too shape stories visually; to learn about a directors’ shot choices; to effectively create and utilize shot lists; to analyze the structure of a screenplay; to understand filmmaking terminology; to be able to frame characters and subjects; and students will master the elements of film to create emotional impact. By the end of the course students will write and direct their own short film.


CWL315: Screenwriting

CWL315 Section 01 Wed 4-6:50 pm
Perry Blackshear
An introduction to feature film screenwriting. In class, we will investigate what stories are, why they matter, and how to make them awesome. Through application and practice, by the end of class students will learn the basics of formatting, the invisible power of narrative representation, and the fundamentals of long-form dramatic structure. Students will work to develop their own vision for what kind of storyteller they want to be and apply this vision to the creation of a full-length feature screenplay.

CWL315 Sec 02 Mon/Fri 1-2:2:20pm
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, students 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.

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
S01  
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.