1st Year of Film MFA at Howard University Completed, Semester Reflection

What a bummer?!?!  While I am elated the academic year at Howard University has come to a close and I officially completed the first year of my graduate film school experience, something about this still feels incomplete.

When classes started in January, there was no way any of us could have predicted a pandemic would sweep through the nation and change life as we know it.  Classes were migrated to a virtual format, the status of my unfinished film remains in limbo, the film I was scheduled to DP was permanently postponed and my freelance photography / videography gigs were suspended amid curfew and social distancing requirements. Oh, and it gets better … my positions at Live Nation and Landry’s were furloughed as businesses closed. I’ve yet to see a stimulus check or unemployment check and sadly, I’m stuck in a lease in Washington, D.C., one of the most expensive places to live in America.  Putting it mildly, my life sucks right now.

Zoom classes are cute and all, but NOT when you are a film student. The program is collaborative in nature! We want access to equipment; we want to crew shoots. Working on group projects remotely with behemoth sized files and varying degrees of software access and system capability is no fun at all. I would have sat this semester out had I known it would wind up online. With talks of additional COVID phases, the likelihood of next semester being online, no program funding for the film program and graduate assistant positions reportedly slashed … an upcoming gap-year seems imminent.

Howard University Film MFA Graduate School - Spring 2020 Grades
Howard University MFA Film Student – Graduate School, Spring 2020 COVID-19 Grades

8 thoughts on “1st Year of Film MFA at Howard University Completed, Semester Reflection

    1. Hello JB, the program is 3 years. There are two years of coursework and you have one year for the thesis film. The theory courses are online (film history, analysis). The production courses are online, however, we’ve been completing the shoots locally using university equipment.

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    1. The application process is comparable with most MFA programs; no GMAT or GRE required. Competitive GPA, recommendations and portfolio required. I am enjoying the program, great diversity with instructors who are all very accomplished and engaging. COVID changed the format, so theory courses are all synchronous on Zoom. Production courses are hybrid or hyflex as they call it. We are still able to use university equipment, although COVID testing is required to go on campus, and a COVID manager is required for all shoots to ensure adherence to safety protocols. My only gripes are scheduling and cost. Scholarships and funding are reserved for undergrads it seems. The only way to get full tuition remission is with a TA position and there are a limited number of slots, so expect the entire cohort to apply. Scheduling makes it tough to gain steady employment as classes times are spread. You can have day and evening classes, spanning across three days of the week. Many of us freelance or have our own editing, video or production companies. I recently secured a local position in broadcast news which thankfully has scheduling flexibility.

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      1. Thank you so much! I am someone who is looking to become a screenwriter/director , do you believe Howard can provide the necessary tools have a long successful career?

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      2. Absolutely! Provided you are networking and taking advantage of available resources (above and beyond coursework), Howard can certainly prepare you. Howard is located in DC and you’ll notice many local opportunities are with politics, news outlets and the federal government. Geographically, for TV, one may consider NYU Film School since you’ll be in NY. For film, USC would place you in LA. Just some items to consider. However, from a cultural standpoint, Black cinema, and international film perspective, I would pick Howard all over again.

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    1. Howard University’s Tech Center has been very useful during my time here; the equipment isn’t dated. They manage screening rooms, studios, video and audio editing labs. MFA students are using RED and Blackmagic cameras on productions. My undergrad program at Rowan used mostly Panasonic and Canon C300 series cameras, although we also had BMPCC. Many of the students freelance and also invested in their own equipment.

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