Top 50 Film Schools of 2017 Ranked, From USC to Full Sail

In its second annual list, TheWrap rates the institutions that will help launch the entertainment industry’s future

This ranking of top film schools first appeared in the college issue of TheWrap magazine.

For TheWrap’s second annual ranking of top film schools, we interviewed industry experts and academics and compiled a list of the top 50 schools. Then we asked 1,457 film educators and industry insiders to rank each one in terms of prestige in an online poll in which the schools’ order was randomized for each voter. All votes were anonymous.

The list inevitably compares apples with oranges — some programs are undergrad, some solely for grad students, some for future academics or critics, others for practical filmmaking. But like a director or a studio or an actor, a school has a reputation, and in the court of public opinion, schools really are judged against each other.

In the end, you could throw a dart at the list and hit a school that could make one’s career outlook brighter. For those in Hollywood seeking talent that can make art and money, look no further. Kids from these schools will be running this town one day. Soon.

Will Ferrell USC speech

1. University of Southern California
If Hollywood had to choose just one feeder school on earth, it would be the behemoth USC, whose alums inundate the industry. Grateful grads keep coming back, like 2017 commencement speaker Will Ferrell, and giving back, like John Wells, who poured some winnings from “ER,” “Shameless” and “The West Wing” into USC’s new Division of Writing for Screen & Television.

The forecast is always the same at USC School of Cinematic Arts: It’s raining money. But it’s not just that some grads get rich and nostalgic. USC is interwoven with the social and professional fabric of the entertainment industry today, as evidenced in new partnerships like Zynga’s with USC’s Interactive Media & Games division.

Expect more of these programs soon, because they’re not just for students’ benefit. Zynga can afford to do creative experiments at USC it could never risk otherwise, and of the three mobile games each class invents, one hit could make them all stars. The Zynga program also has a diversity angle, proving that doing good and making a killing have never been seen as incompatible in Hollywood’s favorite school.

NYU's Kanbar Institute of Film and Television

NYU’s Kanbar Institute of Film and Television

2. New York University
NYU is up two places on this year’s poll. Maybe it’s good buzz from the new free-film-equipment loan program for grad students, the first graduating class of the Film BFA/Stern School of Business dual degree. Or maybe it’s the students’ new access to historic Kaufman Astoria Studios, where Marx Bros. flicks were shot.

Or could it be widespread gratitude for alum Jon Watts’ salvation of one of the last cash-cow franchises standing with “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” or the extraordinarily timely social commentary of Emmy-winning BFA grad Reed Morano’s work on Hulu’s “Handmaid’s Tale,” or Sam Esmail’s scarily au courant “Mr. Robot”?

Yes, people still flock to NYU inspired by the legends who began there so long ago one might question their relevance for today’s grads: Joel Coen, Ang Lee, Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese. Yet NYU’s unknown newbies sometimes find themselves riding a fame rocket, like Film Independent Someone to Watch winner Anna Rose Holmer, Sundance Audience Award winner Matt Ruskin or Cannes winners Jonas Carpignano and Chloe Zhao — not even out of school, and Zhao took top honors at Directors’ Fortnight for “The Rider.” Not only did Faraday Okoro get to study with NYU mentors Spike Lee, Sam Pollard and Biyi Bandele, he won $1 million at Tribeca Film Festival to make a film with them in Nigeria. Who does he think he is? An NYU alum, baby.

3. American Film Institute
AFI educated David Lynch, but what has it given us lately? Besides Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” reboot? How about alum Patty Jenkins shaking up the superhero universe with “Wonder Woman?” Directors Lesli Linka Glatter (“Homeland”), Rachel Morrison (“Black Panther”), Sarah Gertrude Shapiro (“UnREAL”) and Melina Matsoukas (“Insecure”) are shaping minds through film.

And the male AFI students are a credit to their gender, too. At the Emmys, 52 AFI alums worked on 26 nominated shows (up from last year), and 16 got noms, including Jay Cassidy for “The Night Of” editing, Lee Metzger for “The Voice” and Michael Zam for writing “Feud: Bette and Joan.”

Subtract AFI, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, and it’s chilling to think what Hollywood history would be. This year alone, AFI grads took three Student Emmys, two Daytime Emmys, a Grammy for music video, an Oscar nom for live-action short, three PGA Awards and WGA and Critics’ Choice awards (two each).

James Franco's UCLA class project, The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards.

James Franco’s UCLA class project, “The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards”

4. University of California, Los Angeles
UCLA grads grossed $3.2 billion during the last academic year from films like “Inferno,” “Jason Bourne” and “Sully,” and the executive board has swelled to 46 members, with cloutmeisters like Lionsgate TV chair Kevin Beggs, ABC Entertainment boss Channing Dungey and former Microsoft CMO/SVP Mich Mathews-Spradlin.

At Sundance, Toronto and SXSW, more than 100 alums screened work. Faculty and alums collected 33 Oscar, Emmy and other top awards and noms, bringing the all-time total to 1,809 honors. Students won 17 award honors, and four projects sold, including Mitchell LaFortune’s “Burn Run” to Thunder Road and Steven Canals’ “Pose” to Ryan Murphy and FX.

UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television is all about partnerships between those three departments, unusually located under one roof. And it’s also about industry partnerships, like the new Storytelling Institute on the Cote d’Azur, where graduate screenwriters get classes with Cannes Film Festival moviemakers and first-look opportunities with Vivendi/Canal+. Eighty UCLA students have taken meetings and instruction from the creative and business bigwigs at the Telluride Film Festival, cosponsored by alum Frank Marshall.

There are other programs with Oculus, Time Warner, CinemaCon, and Sony Crackle, which developed student scripts, optioned three and is producing one, “Absentia,” with the student credited as creator. Where else but UCLA can students in James Franco’s class make a movie (“The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards”) starring Franco, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Kimmel and Natalie Portman?

5. California Institute of the Arts
Feature films directed by alums of CalArts’ Character and Experimental Animation Programs have grossed more than $40 billion, which means that this Valencia school that feels like a safe but isolated island or a distant planet — students are called “Calartians” — is actually at the heart of Hollywood.

It’s been called the Harvard of animation schools, but it is ranked No. 1 in the nation far more consistently than Harvard is. Plus, people are infinitely nicer than they are at Harvard.

In 2017, alum Sofia Coppola won best director at Cannes, Rich Moore (“Zootopia”) won CalArts’ 10th Oscar for best animated feature, indie darling Andrew Ahn’s “Spa Night” won the John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awardss, and — arguably most prestigious of all — stop-motion animator Kirsten Lepore’s “Hi Stranger” inspired a “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” segment. This fall, there are new courses in VR, immersive experience, new media, gaming and coding, and CalArts is planning a new center dedicated to them all. Whether they’re 2D or CG animators, alums are flexible, practical and deeply steeped in art practice.

LMU SFTV Grad Students in action

LMU SFTV Grad Students in action

6. Loyola Marymount University
For about seven years,  LMU’S film school has been on a roll, placing one third of its students in internships at 400 top entertainment shops, from Sony to Disney, and collecting a $13 million gift from the Walter Lantz Foundation. Some years, applications go up 47 percent; other years, it’s 300 percent.

Its growth is about to explode onto a new campus down the hill from its idyllic Westchester location, which boasts the most inspiring L.A. view of any film school. With the Playa Vista Campus opening in 2018 in the Brickyard, a landmark building designed by Michael Maltzan, LMU styles itself as the University of Silicon Beach, connecting graduate filmmakers driven by a 500-year-old philosophical sense of mission (and informed by film dean Stephen Ujlaki’s years as HBO doc czar) with the next-big-thing tech inventors just downhill from LMU’s green fields.

The new 425,000-square-foot facility will contain centers for marketing, entrepreneurship and urban resilience, as well as community creator spaces where students jazzed by the Oscar winners who regularly speak to them can put their fresh advice to work. The creative collisions and cinematic results bear watching.

7. Chapman University
If Chapman’s Dodge College of Film and Media were in Hollywood instead of Orange County, its 132,000-square-foot film studio, digital arts center and immersive-media Institute for Creative Reality would be world famous. Still, Hollywood goes there: Filmmakers-in-residence like Rob Cohen, VFX sorceress Joyce Cox and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs mentor students one day a week, and bigwigs attend Chapman’s Women in Focus Conference and the First Cut Screenings of each year’s best student films in New York, San Francisco and L.A., where grads Matt and Ross Duffer were snapped up by Tony Sella for Fox Atomic.

The Duffers are “young visionaries with deep knowledge of the creative and business challenges,” said Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, “and I attribute much of that to their studies at Chapman.”

UNC alum MIchael Shannon and Jeff Nichols

UNC alum MIchael Shannon and Jeff Nichols

8. University of North Carolina School of the Arts
UNCSA, whose applications are up 35 percent this year, is run by film dean Susan Ruskin, who worked in development for George Lucas and produced for Gilda Radner. UNCSA’s Studio Village resembles a Hollywood lot, and students get a shot at the RiverRun International Film Festival. It worked for David Gordon Green (“Stronger,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal), who is rebooting the immensely important Halloween horror franchise. Jeff Nichols (“Loving”) and Michael Shannon got famous together after an UNCSA prof hooked them up.

This year, alum Vera Herbert won a WGA award for “This Is Us,” Emmy nominee “The Keepers” had a producer and sound designer from UNCSA, and the school announced a $10 million Institute for Performance Innovation, which will include the creation of a new concentration in immersive content and virtual reality within the M.F.A. in Filmmaking, starting next fall. Ruskin hosted a panel on VR at Sundance, where 15 alumni screened work this year.

9. Columbia University
Since 1966, Columbia filmmakers have been killing it at Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Tribeca and the Academy Awards. This year, Kathryn Bigelow completed her landmark American violence trilogy of “The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Detroit.” The Upper Manhattan school’s strength in story and character development is helping to save Hollywood from its worst tendencies with hits like Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” by grad Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi, and “House of Cards,” whose co-showrunner is Columbia associate prof Frank Pugliese.

Nicole Holofcener and James Mangold made their mark after Columbia left its mark on them. In 2017, Columbia grads nabbed BAFTA student awards for the second year in a row, and grad Lisa Rubin created “Gypsy,” starring Naomi Watts as a shrink who needs her head examined. Rubin was noted at Columbia for writing great sex scenes, and now she’s hired “Fifty Shades of Grey” director Sam Taylor-Johnson to make them sizzle.

10. University of Texas at Austin
Dollar for dollar, UT may be the best value among U.S. film schools. The school brought you Matthew McConaughey, the Duplass brothers and Sony Pictures Classics co-founder Michael Barker, the man who launched 163 Oscar nominees and came back in triumph to teach a UT master class. McConaughey teaches courses that give the inside creative skinny on how his films were made. Alum Jennifer Howell has produced “South Park” and helped launch “School of Rock” and “The Truman Show.”

Robert Rodriguez says he’d be nobody without UT. “It was a life-changing experience,” he told students, who regularly clean up at Cannes, the Student Academy Awards, BAFTA, Slamdance, the International Documentary Association and, of course, SXSW and Austin Film Festival, a big influence on screenwriting nationally. Alums return to share wisdom and contacts, most recently Owen Shiflett, who helped develop “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead.”

11. Emerson College
Launched way back in 1880 and boasting a home campus that sits right across from Boston Common, Emerson has recently added the new high-tech architectural masterpiece Emerson L.A. building on Sunset Boulevard, designed by Thom Mayne to look like a gleaming space ship that has landed in Tinseltown’s formerly tawdry outskirts.

This school has brought you Jay Leno, Viacom’s Doug Herzog, Norman Lear, Denis Leary, Spalding Gray and “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” writer Eric Drysdale. Pamela Abdy, who produced “Garden State,” became an Oscar magnet (“12 Years a Slave,” “Birdman”) and is developing the Black Lives Matter limited series “They Can’t Kill Us All,” owes her Film Independent Spirit Award and her entire career to Emerson, which got her an internship at Jersey Films, and then a paying receptionist gig. Emerson is industry-connected, and with its modest endowment, it has to be. Powerful alumni friends in the Emerson mafia are one way to pay for that $110 million ELA building.

Northwestern alum Stephen Colbert

Northwestern alum Stephen Colbert

12. Northwestern University
When a boldface name shows up on Chicago’s annual NewCity Film 50 list of the top talent in town, there’s a good chance the talent has Northwestern School of Communication’s Department of Radio/Television/Film on his or her hot resume. And when four top auteurs did a panel at Northwestern on late-night TV’s amazing renaissance this year, three were alums: Jen Spyra, writer/performer for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”; “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” executive producer Jill Leiderman; and Jenny Hagel, writer/performer for “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”

Alums like Colbert, David Schwimmer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus help attract future stars, as do the six Guggenheim winners on the faculty. “Our deepest strength may be in writing, with more courses offered per quarter in screenwriting, playwriting and television writing than perhaps any other media department in the country,” says dean David Tolchinsky. Chicago’s theater scene, second only to New York’s, enriches Northwestern and its Comedy Arts program (improv, standup, comedy pilot writing). Horton Foote Prize winner Zayd Dohrn helps connect students to China’s burgeoning cinematic scene and has shows in development at Showtime and BBC America. RTF kids long to be like him, or Amazon’s “I Love Dick” creator Sarah Gubbins. Some of them will be.

13. Savannah College of Art and Design
SCAD occupies most of Savannah, Georgia, arguably the best-preserved colonial town in the Western Hemisphere. The school rebirthed the town as a veritable plantation of visual culture. The old train station for slaves and tobacco is now a gleaming design museum and film-festival location.

Alumnus David Karlak, creative director at the VR company Nurulize and alumni mentor for SCAD during the making of the film “Say It With Music,” was hired by Ridley Scott to develop the VR experiences for the Alien franchise. SCAD’s Casting Office, run by Dean Andra Reeve-Rabb, claims to be “the only full-time, in-house university casting office in the nation,” according to spokesperson Jamie Britsch. It’s certainly put some kids on the map.

14. Columbia College Chicago
Big and ambitious, CCC aims to churn out cross-platform storytellers able to thrive in a convergent media environment and “prepared to realize fundamental change in their communities.” One example: Kyle Heller, whose Cinematique was named one of the nation’s top 10 video digital image organizations by Fast Company. Professor and former film chair Bruce Sheridan, a filmmaker and philosophy scholar from New Zealand, wants every grad to hit the industry ready to deliver on day one — because, he says, you might have five years max to make it or make people wonder whether you’re too old to do so. Alums include HBO Films President Len Amato and “Transparent” writer Arabella Anderson.

15. Boston University
Like Emerson, BU has a big mother campus on the cold coast and an outpost in L.A., right across from the SAG HQ, where 200 students plot Hollywood conquest like alums Joe Roth, Lauren Shuler Donner, Nina Tassler and Oscar-winning “Imitation Game” producer Nora Grossman. Pulitzer finalist film critic Ty Burr turned his BU course into an important book, “Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame.”

16. Stanford University
It’s not easy to get into Stanford’s small, elite film programs — as you find out when you ask what it means that the number “5.05” is emblazoned on the wall of its dazzling new McMurtry arts building. (Stanford accepts 5.05 percent of applicants.)

The undergrad film studies and film production program are crowned by an MFA program focused on documentaries, led by director Jan Krawitz, a frequent PBS contributor who’s had five retrospective exhibitions of her work and jets between Stanford Berlin, Stanford Washington and Stanford Menlo Park. The teensy program’s alums earned six Fulbrights, two DGA awards, one Oscar nomination and 26 Student Academy Awards.

17. ArtCenter College of Design
New board member Zack Snyder, the $2.4 billion auteur, recently plucked Joel Bryant out of Pasadena’s illustrious design school to work with editor David Brenner on “Justice League.” ArtCenter kids earn $12,000 per year more than competing grads of other schools, according to Money magazine. DreamWorks concept artist Celine Kim got hired weeks after graduation. Guillaume Aretos, new Entertainment Design chair, hooks students up with China’s Base FX.

Film chair Ross LaManna, a rare screenwriter who’s an American Society of Cinematographers associate member, brings in cool stuff like HDR cinematography and the Academy and ASC’s new Academy Color Encoding System.

18. Florida State University
For a young film program, FSU popped up on TheWrap’s radar in a big way this year. Maybe it was “Moonlight,” which won Best Picture and 207 other awards and was created by director/co-writer Barry Jenkins and six other FSU alums.

Or “Spotlight,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Lincoln,” made partly by alums, or the 2,000 other awards FSU students have won, or the 400 feature films and academic honors earned by faculty, or FSU’s stat that 97 percent of its film grads are employed in the industry within one year of graduation. The student-faculty ratio is five to one, and the state legislature requires FSU to cover production costs for each student.

19. Rhode Island School of Design
RISD is the reason that Gus Van Sant maintains parallel careers as a filmmaker, painter, photographer and novelist — it’s about all the arts, not just one. Seth MacFarlane, Martha Coolidge and “Bosch” DP Eric Edwards went here.

Laika, the Oregon studio that made the Oscar-nominated “Coraline” and “Kubo and the Two Strings,” has a relationship with RISD; the company hired Katy Strutz, who won the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Competition in New York, as a puppet, prop and set maker.

20. University of Arizona School of Theater, Film & Television
Jerry Bruckheimer, John Hughes and Greg Kinnear learned part of their art at the University of Arizona School of Theatre Film & Television, though not every future UA showbiz success studied in the Film & TV Program’s BA and BFA tracks — Kristin Wiig started here as a visual artist.

UA also hosts an important non-degree program, the UA Hanson Film Institute, which focuses on Mexican and Native American film and brings figures like Chris Eyre, Charles Burnett and Christine Vachon to campus.

Kevin Smith in production on Killroy Was Here with Ringling students

Kevin Smith in production on “Killroy Was Here” with Ringling students

21. Ringling College of Art and Design
Ringling students get to work with Justin Long, Tim Blake Nelson, Roman Coppola and Werner Herzog, who says the Sarasota, Florida school has “the best digital effects program in the country.”

On Ringling’s huge, brand-new soundstage, 26 students are working on Kevin Smith’s new “Creepshow”-like anthology series “Killroy Was Here,” the school’s biggest-ever project, with effects makeup by Robert Kurtzman and Creature Corps.

22. California State University Northridge
You won’t meet as many rich kids at CSUN as you do at some film schools, but some of them will get rich in Hollywood. The school’s rising profile just got bigger with a $2 million grant from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which paid for this summer’s upgrade of CSUN TV facilities and funded a major diversity initiative.

HFPA gets a good return on its investment: CSUN’s first Hollywood Foreign Press Association Scholar, Amanda Nieto, helped on social media for the Golden Globes, watched by 20 million people.

23. Art Institute of Chicago
The Film, Video, New Media and Animation department (FVNMA) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) boasts the Gene Siskel Film Center, with 1,500 screenings, 100 guest artists and 65,000 attendees each year.

The arts grad program, rated No. 2 by U.S. News, is led in part by film dean Bruce Jenkins, the author of books on Dennis Hopper and Abbas Kiarostami, who did wonders at Harvard Film Archive and the Walker Art Center. Alumni and faculty include Michelle Grabner, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Murray, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cynthia Rowley, Nick Cave and LeRoy Neiman.

24. Syracuse University
SU’S College of Visual and Performing Arts offers BFAs and MFAs focused on the filmmaker as artist and scholar, while the BS/MA programs at the upstate New York university’s Newhouse School cover production, management and writing.

How connected is SU? Students intern at Hollywood studios, Chief Justice John Roberts was the speaker at the Newhouse dedication, and alum Dick Clark donated a 360-degree studio. Students study with Bela Tarr in Italy; alum Ioana Turcan got a retrospective at Cannes.

25. Wesleyan College
It’s a smarty-pants liberal-arts college in Connecticut, not a proper film school, but it’s had impact in Hollywood, as in alum Michael Bay’s fresh mitt-prints at the Chinese Theater, or June’s seminar with alums Brad Fuller, “Project Runway’s” Sasha Alpert, “Will & Grace’s” David Kohan and former CAA co-chair Rick Nicita.

Geremy Jasper scored at Sundance with “Patti Cake$,” and Sebastian Junger and Liz W. Garcia had films at Tribeca. Joss Whedon and the “Beasts of the Southern Wild” auteurs launched here, and the Wesleyan Cinema Archive is film-scholar nirvana.

26. San Francisco State University
There’s a theater named after former Creative Arts dean August Coppola, brother of Francis and dad of Nicolas Cage, and plenty of big names come out of this socially conscious school. Alums include Steve Zaillian, Jonas Rivera, Delroy Lindo and assorted Oscar and Peabody winners.

27. University of Miami
UM’S Cinema & Interactive Media Semester in L.A. program offers classes with Brett Ratner and Jon Landau, studio visits and internships. In Miami, students get mentored in film, TV, games, immersive experience and an interdisciplinary documentary program.

Chair Christina Lane is an authority on feminist film and Paul Thomas Anderson. Alums include Dwayne Johnson, Sylvester Stallone, Barry Waldman and David Nutter, the king of TV pilots and Emmy-winning “Game of Thrones director,” who funds narrative features.

28. Ithaca College
Bob Iger and David Boreanaz came from the New York school, whose Park School of Communications connects students with the industry in semester-long programs in New York and L.A. From year one, students pitch ideas with mentoring and funding by industry pros like Saw producer Dan Heffner.

29. Colorado Film School
This film program, improbably located in Denver’s Community College of Aurora, is taught more by industry pros than academics; as founder Frederic Lahey noted, a film degree here can cost less than one-fourth of many rivals on this list. Yet alums like Chad Herschberger win Oscars, and Lahey nabbed a job to start Cleveland State University’s film school, affiliated with PBS.

30. University of California, Santa Barbara
Film nerds love UCSB for cool journals Screening Noir and Camera Obscura and the AFI Routledge book series, plus the $20 million Carsey-Wolf Center for Film, Television and New Media, with teaching, production, screening rooms and archives from here to eternity.

31. Los Angeles Film School
LAFS hosts an important panel of annual Oscar-nominated screenwriters, attracts lots of students from the military and turns them into pros: Grads worked on “Fences,” “Arrival,” “Moana” and “Land of Mine.” Eight grads sent work to Sundance, and seven shared eight Emmy nominations (for “Modern Family” and other shows).

32. University of Pennsylvania
It’s a cinema/media studies liberal arts major with programs in London, Cannes and the National Film Archive. And consider Penn’s alums and backers: Stacey Snyder, Jeff Berg, Warren Lieberfarb, Geoffrey Gilmore, Shari Redstone, Doug Belgrad, Jon Avnet, Richard Lester.

33. University of Michigan
This is a place to study movies and maybe make your own. Two good books sprang from UM lately: Screen Arts and Cultures chair Johannes von Moltke’s study of Siegfried Kracauer and Owen Gleiberman’s “Movie Freak,” about life as EW’s film critic.

Ira Deutchman, former indie exec and Columbia film school chair, this year donated his papers to UM’s Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers collection.

34. University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley has produced Film Quarterly, Pauline Kael, the Pacific Film Archive and — last year alone — 27 journalism professors, lecturers and alumni nominated for the 2016 News and Documentary Emmy Awards.

There’s an M.A. in documentaries, and the Film and Media Department’s undergrad and graduate programs are heavily connected to UC’s performance, drama and art practice departments and the UC Digital Media Labs Consortium. This year USA Today claimed that Berkeley film grads earn more than those of any schools except USC, NYU and UCLA, in that order.

35. Arizona State University
ASU’S School of Film, Dance and Theatre is on a roll, now that film production prof Janaki Cedanna has wangled student access to Sun Studios, more than quadrupling the school’s soundstage and studio space. Profs can yo-yo in from L.A., getting students internships via ASU’s Film Spark program.

With two Arizona schools on TheWrap’s list and GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons giving a nine-figure sum to Arizona’s Office of Film and Digital Media this year, more film may bloom in the desert.

36. DePaul University
Ambitious film students used to have to go to L.A. or New York, but now that production in Chicago has doubled, generating $1.3 billion in economic activity (over five years), some come to Chicago from the coasts — as do up to 20 percent of DePaul’s students. DePaul, with a 32,000-square-foot production facility, is also all over the 52-acre Cinespace Film Studios, where cash and magic pour forth from shows for Dick Wolf, Amazon, Netflix and Showtime. Ninety percent of students in DePaul’s L.A. Quarter who stay in L.A. work in the industry.

37. Northwest Film Center
For 46 years, plucky film scholars and makers have kept this school, which grew out of the Portland Art Museum, vital. Gus Van Sant’s fellow judges of the school’s Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival include Portland’s Todd Haynes and Matt Groening, Amy Taubin and B. Ruby Rich. People stand in lines around the block in the rain to see Iranian and local movies at NFC.

38. Purdue University
Purdue’s School of Interdisciplinary Study Film/Video Studies majors hone skills in an Indiana location bigger than Radio City: Elliott Hall of Music, where 1,000 events a year require students to make the show happen. Hall of Music Productions has won Telly and Addy awards for graphic design and effects for sporting events, DVD covers and promotional posters. Film students also win prizes, like Mallory Gieringer’s award for best experimental short at the last Hollywood Short Film Festival.

39. Ohio State University
Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who greenlit “The Lord of the Rings” at New Line, recently optioned Ohio State screenwriting prof Angus Fletcher’s “Middle Earth,” about J.R.R. Tolkien in love and war. Fletcher is part of an interdisciplinary program that reaches across the College of Arts and Sciences, with undergraduate and graduate majors and minors, including a new major in moving-image production.

40. Stony Brook University
The MFA in Film at New York’s Stony Brook makes you an indie entity, plunging in to make films with wise advice from the likes of Christine Vachon, maker of a baker’s dozen Oscar nominees and two winners. Would the founder of Killer Films steer you wrong? Or into some Todd Haynes arthouse hit?

41. University of Colorado, Denver
The College of Arts and Media’s film and TV programs do not look down on the latter, perhaps accounting for the recent Emmy nomination of producer alum Matt Kinsey (“So You Think You Can Dance”) and Aaron Kopp’s Emmy and Oscar for “Saving Face,” a short doc about acid attacks in Pakistan. Profs get Emmys too, like David Liban, and “Northern Exposure” veteran writer Craig Volk made a PBS show with his students.

42. Mount St. Mary’s University
Others complain about the paucity of women throughout the industry, but MSM’s Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, in partnership with Google and USC Viterbi School of Engineering, developed the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient (GD-IQ) to measure it precisely. The Los Angeles school includes its findings (e.g., actresses are asked to strip three times more often than men) in its annual Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California

43. American University
AU School of Communications in Washington, D.C., hooks up students with internships among the local, global media elite (NPR, NBC, Discovery, etc.) and can train them for business-side power or a creative career in film, TV, gaming or scholarship. Jason Gold did an L.A. internship and got input from alum Barry Josephson and Nancy Meyers. After a classmate got him a gig at AMC in 2008, he became VP of production, revolutionizing TV with “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul.”

44. Cornish College of the Arts
John Cage and Martha Graham taught at Seattle’s art school, founded in 1914. Recent instructors include four-time Oscar winner Colleen Atwood; Kyle McAuley, chair of the New Filmmakers Los Angeles On Location competition; and Robinson Devor, a prize nominee at Cannes, Sundance and the Spirit Awards and a winner at SXSW. The Cornish student shorts at the Seattle International Film Festival are often better than the features they play before.

The Cogswell-sponsored SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival

The Cogswell-sponsored SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival

45. Cogswell Polytechnical College
Computer animation luminary Jerome Solomon (“Avatar,” “Madagascar,” lucrative games) heads a film school in the heart of Silicon Valley, where students get practical experience at Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar, Blizzard, Microsoft and Apple, putting their names on “Frozen” and “The Avengers.” Solomon chairs L.A.’s SIGGRAPH Conference on Computer Graphics, where University of Washington experts unveiled their scarily realistic synthesized Obama fake-news tool and Disney animator Floyd Norman told what he learned from Steve Jobs and Walt Disney.

46. University of Cincinnati
Ten films were made in Cincinnati last year, and UC Digital Media Collaborative students helped make them: 15 interned on Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Killing of a Scared Deer” with Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell. UC’s acting program has more grads on Broadway than any school but Juilliard; student actors are paired with filmmakers in a 48-hour filmmaking challenge. Nicholas Lipari went straight to Hollywood and became assistant editor of 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

University of Cincinnati

University of Cincinnati

47. University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
Willem Dafoe and “Lord of the Rings” Oscar-winning VFX man Jim Rygiel went to UWM’s Peck School of the Arts. In the film/new genres program, prof Tim Becker (“The Simpsons”) assigns animation students music videos to ensure they’re immersing themselves in all the arts, not just film.

48. Southern Methodist University
With fewer than 100 majors, this Dallas school’s Film and Media Arts program teaches industrial skills, media theory and film history — and it also offers extensive connections to pursue careers in production (thanks to an alumni base in Los Angeles). Faculty includes Hollywood historian Sean Griffin, sound scholar/filmmaker Mark Kerins and feminist artist and documentarian Amber Bemak.

UI alum Robert Ebert

UI alum Robert Ebert

49. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Roger Ebert graduated from UI, and his EbertFest, attended by Isabelle Huppert and others, continues under widow Chaz Ebert’s aegis through UI’s College of Media. Only one UI prof has screened at EbertFest: Jay Rosenstein, a triple Emmy winner whose films are also seen on PBS and at Sundance and SXSW. His doc “In Whose Honor?” caused a crackdown on Native Americans as athletic-team mascots.

50. Full Sail University
Full Sail grads come back to the Florida campus to share their lessons in the new Behind the Scenes series–most recently, “Baby Driver” production coordinator Steve Cainas and Microsoft Mixed Reality Experiences director Cordy Rierson.

Maybe next year it’ll be Steven C. Miller, who started his career the minute he graduated, shot his debut “Automaton Transfusion” in nine days, sold it to Dimension Films and now works on Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s “Escape Plan 2” and his third film with Bruce Willis, “First Kill.”

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TheWrap College Issue 2017