Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Structure of the Program

Main content start

Students in the Documentary Film and Video Program become conversant with various documentary traditions, as well as with alternative media and new directions in documentary. In addition to the training in documentary production, graduates gain substantive research skills in film criticism and film analysis. The MFA degree is designed to prepare students for professional careers in film, video, and digital media, with the qualifications to teach at the university level.

In their first year, students learn the fundamentals of visual storytelling, working in a range of media, from black and white 16mm film to 4K digital video. Each film is made within a collaborative partnership, and while students serve as directors of their own projects, the partnerships encourage collegial interaction and foster community – one of the strengths of the program. A testament to the success of this approach is the number of long-standing professional relationships among our graduate alumni.

In their second year, the students produce a 15-20 minute thesis film over the course of the academic year. The films engage with pressing social issues while taking a bold, cinematic approach to documentary storytelling.

Stanford films have garnered more Student Academy Awards in the Documentary Category than any other college or university. Thesis films from the program have gone on to screen and win awards at major festivals (Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca). They have been featured in the New York Times’ OpDocs section and broadcast on PBS’ POV and Independent Lens.