Majors & Programs


Film & Media Studies

What is Film & Media Studies?

Film & Media Studies examines a vitally important aspect of 20th and 21st Century visual culture, namely the develop-ment of film, television, radio, and other electronic media as aesthetic and cultural forms. Like other areas of learning, the study of different film and media is broken down into more specific domains. These include:

  • Criticism — the close analysis of individual films, television programs, radio broadcasts, web pages, etc. Students learn to examine the various ways that the combination and interaction of image, sound, movement, and performance affect our experience of film and media. Why do some television shows make us laugh and others make us cry? How do specific films and programs shape our thoughts and beliefs?
  • History — the study of the historical development of film and media as art forms and as industries. Students consider film and media in both their aesthetic and commodity functions as well as the ways film and media reflect and influence the historical moments in which they are produced.
  • Theory — the investigation of the broader properties and aspects of the media. How do film and media communicate with audiences? What are the social, aesthetic, and political dimensions of media as cultural forms? How do film and media challenge us, amuse us, and make us see things in new ways?
  • Practice — creative courses in digital film production and screen-writing. In order to explore the film and media artist’s tools analytically, students in film and media studies need to gain something of an insider’s understanding of the tools of the trade. Creative courses aim to provide that understanding.

Why Study Film & Media?

As our world becomes increasingly dominated by visual culture, we acknowledge the need to study those forms that provide our chief sources of entertainment and information. This need speaks to our desire to become critical viewers, knowledgeable in the history of the most popular art forms of our time and possessing the analytical skills to understand and interpret visual forms of expression.

The undergraduate major in Film & Media Studies requires the rigorous study of history and aesthetics in an attempt to understand the creative force of an individual art work, its relation to other artistic production, and its place in culture. Furthermore, because film and media creations are most often produced within an industrial context, the study of industrial and business practices is also important.

Complementing the critical studies curriculum, courses in production and screenwriting will provide an intimate understanding of the kinds of choices that film and media artists confront, further refining students’ abilities to view critically and increasing appreciation for the creative and cooperative skills necessary to make moving image-based media. Courses in digitally-based film production do not aim to provide students instruction in film and media with the purpose of training them for industry work.

Film & Media Studies at Washington University

Receive Close Personal Attention

Students at Washington University receive close personal attention from our dedicated faculty of distinguished scholars, screenwriters, and video artists. Although we have a few large lecture courses, students usually get the opportunity to discuss individual texts or ideas in smaller sections. Most of our upper-level courses have limited enrollments of 15 to 25 students per class. As a Film & Media Studies major, your academic advisor will learn your specific interests and goals, and will help to make your studies at Washington University a rich and rewarding experience.

Enjoy Talented Visiting Scholars and Artists

Each year you’ll have the chance to attend lectures and screenings by one or more notable scholars, directors, or producers. Past visitors have included screenwriter/director Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, Analyze This); screenwriter/producer Lorenzo Carcaterra (Law and Order); and producers Michael Shamberg (The Big Chill, Pulp Fiction, Erin Brockovich), Howard Gordon (24, Homeland), and Martin Shafer (The Shawshank Redemption). Additionally, Film & Media Studies has co-sponsored guest lectures from some of our country’s pre-eminent film and media scholars such as Richard Allen, David Bordwell, Tom Gunning, Herman Gray, Michele Hilmes, Janet Staiger, and Jacqueline Stewart.

Explore Your Creative Side

Film & Media Studies offers several courses in screenwriting and video production that allow our students to fulfill their creative potential. Through exercises and projects, students receive hands-on instruction and professional evaluation of their work in a workshop environment. Past students have made their own music videos, public service announce-ments, and fictional and documentary shorts. Capstone experiences allow students to work on an even broader canvas creating their own feature-length screenplay.

Apply Your Knowledge to Interdisciplinary Areas

As the so-called seventh art, film has often been viewed as a synthetic art form that combines elements of several other kinds of creative expression. Film & Media Studies students are able to use what they have learned in the study of other art forms such as:

  • Creative Writing
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Sculpture
  • Theatre

Beyond that, however, the theoretical, historical, and cultural dimensions of Film & Media Studies make it relevant to several other areas of learning. Many of our majors choose to double major in a related field, and many of our courses are cross-listed with other departments and programs. You will find the opportunity to combine your interest in Film & Media with related studies in:

  • African and African-American Studies
  • American Culture Studies
  • Art History
  • Business
  • Comparative Literature
  • East Asian Languages and Cultures
  • Economics
  • English
  • Germanic Languages/Literatures
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Performing Arts
  • Philosophy
  • Psychological and Brain Sciences
  • Romance Languages and Cultures
  • Sociology
  • Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Find the Path to Many Careers

The knowledge and skills you learn in Film & Media Studies will help prepare you for many different kinds of careers. Because we emphasize writing and critical thinking skills as well as the body of knowledge that constitutes our discipline, students are trained to have the kinds of intellectual and communications skills that many employers seek. Your studies can help you become a/an:

  • Advertising Manager
  • Agent
  • Archivist
  • Artist
  • Art Historian
  • Attorney
  • Broadcaster
  • Business Manager
  • Cinematographer
  • Copywriter
  • Curator
  • Entertainment Lawyer
  • Film Critic
  • Film Editor
  • Filmmaker
  • Historian
  • Journalist
  • Librarian
  • Manuscript Reader
  • Preservationist
  • Production Assistant
  • Professor
  • Publicist
  • Publisher
  • Researcher
  • Screenwriter
  • Teacher
  • Television Critic
  • Television Producer
  • Web Designer

Senior Honors

Outstanding students in the Program in Film & Media Studies are encouraged to apply for honors during their junior year. To qualify for the Honors Program, students must have achieved a 3.65 cumulative GPA by the end of their sixth and seventh semesters, and must complete a larger-scale project. Typical honors projects include a 40-70 page critical studies thesis or a feature-length screenplay.

The Major

The Film & Media Studies major requires a total of 30 credits. The major consists of six required courses, one course in a national cinema other than the United States, and three advanced elective courses.

The Minor

A minor in Film & Media Studies requires a total of 15 credits. The minor consists of four required courses and one advanced elective.

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