Film Studies MA

The MA in Film Studies at the National University of Film and Theatre in Bucharest is the only Romanian-language graduate program focused on cinema & media studies.

The program is 4 semesters-long and at the end of the MA studies the students are expected to write an original research paper.

Designed around the most recent trends in the study of cinema and contemporary visual media, it provides the theoretical tools required for analysing films in connection to film traditions and beyond. By situating film in a rigorous historical perspective and in light of its philosophical substrata, the program aims to develop the necessary skills in understanding an ever more complex mediascape.

Studying in a vocational institution such as the National University of Film and Theatre ensures a lively, dynamic and interdisciplinary environment, fostering a creative interaction between scientific research and praxis.

The courses are meant to approach film from a variety of theoretical and thematical perspectives, by taking into account the aesthetics of cinema (“The Film Canon: Debates and Revisions” – Andrei Gorzo, “Film Form” – Irina Trocan), questions concerning the sociology of cinema (“Cinephilia in the streaming era” – Andrei Gorzo), historical contextualisation (“Romanian film during the Socialist era” – Gabriela Filippi) and its philosophical implications (“Media Philosophy” – Christian Ferencz-Flatz).

See the full presentation of the courses

Screenwriting MA

The Masters Program addresses those who wish to deepen their knowledge of screenwriting, both theoretically and practically. Over the course of two academic years, the students go through the history of screenwriting, the specificity of writing for film and the different angles of analyzing a screenplay.

The MA also has a strong practical component. Classes combine theory and practice, allowing students to familiarize themselves with various narrative structures, experiment with film genres, analyze possibilities of literary adaptation and explore television and VOD formats (series, mini-series etc.).

During the program, the mentorship system used in the BA program is replaced with a script doctoring system, where teachers guide the student-authors towards finding their personal theme, style and storytelling tools. The students undergo a process similar to the one used in professional screenwriting, where writers usually work with script doctors during story development. The script doctors help ease the sometimes bumpy and lonely road from a short synopsis to a final draft. Therefore, by the end of each university year, students can include in their portfolio at least one feature film script.     

Throughout the two years, the students also meet and work with professors, consultants and screenwriters who are not part of the academic system, script theorists and internationally acclaimed practitioners. The MA aims at familiarizing the students with the role, context and possibilities of taking on their future profession. We believe the diversity of perspectives that the Masters Program offers is the best way to help them step into a future screenwriting career.

More details on the Screenwriting Masters Program can be found here.

Screenwriting & Film Studies BA

Screenwriting (1st year): CREATIVE WRITING

In their first year, students develop their creative writing abilities: they read a lot and they write a lot. They learn how to reveal through their writing: situations, places, characters, descriptions, dialogues – sprouts of visual, “cinematic” storytelling, as we call it during this first year. This is why we avoid using any type of cinema or screenwriting jargon. The students learn that what matters the most is the story, the essence, not the shape, and that screenwriting is nothing more than a narrative technique, the customization of a story for the purposes of an audio-visual industry. In their first year of studies, our students write short stories.

Thus the class is, to a very large extent, a practical one, a writing workshop composed of exercises developed in class and through weekly assignments, under the close mentorship of the teachers.  Discipline matters a lot during this year when students learn the rigors of their profession: seriousness, sustained work, respecting the imposed format, meeting deadlines. Our main principle in setting the weekly deadline cites the title of a famous Romanian film: „Sunday at 6” (a.m.).

Beside intensive practical work, during this first year, students read short stories, confessions,  memoirs, journals and interviews, which help them on their way to becoming short story writers.

Apart from that, in their first year students familiarize themselves with the history of screenwriting, discuss schools and modern methods of writing, undestand the role of a screenplay in the production process of a film. 

By the end of the first year of studying screenwriting, students will have developed abilities such as:

  • the capacity to write short, original fiction
  • the capacity to realistically portray a character
  • the use of pertinent visual descriptions
  • the capacity to develop credible dialogues
  • the capacity to emotionally explore various situations
  • the capacity to handle characters placed in a given narrative context
  • the capacity to avoide clichés
  • the capacity to overturn a point of view
  • the capacity to switch from abstract / conceptual definitions to concrete / real life situations
  • the capacity to understand feedback from teachers and colleagues
  • the capacity to offer pertinent feedback on the work of their colleagues

End-of-year portfolio: a minimum of 3 medium sized texts (5 pages / semester), as well as all the other texts that result from weekly assignments.

Screenwriting (2nd year): SHORT FILM

This year of Screenwriting transitions from the freedom of personal storytelling to the limitations of an imposed format. During this year, guided by their teachers, the students must find the answer to a difficult question: what is a short film? Therefore, throughout the year, students combine theory and practice in an attempt to define the specifics of a short film script.

The 2nd year students also familiarize themselves with the basics of film narration (character construction, protagonist, antagonist, conflict etc.), with ways of constructing a strong premise, with the industry steps of script development (synopsis, treatment, outline, draft) and with the notion of theme (as well as possibilities of thematic expansion). They also analyze variations and dichotomies of the short genre and the specificities of writing a short film. This is the year when students assimilate basic elements of narratology (elements and layers of a narrative text, narrative speech and narrative mediums).

The discipline implemented in the 1st year is reinforced in this second one. Therefore, “Sunday at 6” (to quote the title of a classic Romanian film) the students will send in their weekly texts, under the close guidance of their teachers,  aiming towards developing a short film script.

In the 2nd semester of this 2nd year, the students undergo a practical exercise: writing and directing a short situation, within imposed conditions, which limit the space, time and production means. We encourage our student-writers to wear the director hat for a while and thus help them understand the limitations of film directing, which they should acknowledge in their writing, stepping away from writerly exuberance and moving towards visual strength, simplicity and efficiency.

At the end of the 2nd year, the students have developed abilities such as:

  • the analysis and the assimilation of elements associated with cinematic short-form narrative.
  • the understanding and application of the short film–feature film dichotomy.
  • the capacity to generate a theme, to perfect it and to present it in the shape of a text that respects the industry standards.
  • the capacity to undergo the development stages of a short film script: developing the theme into a synopsis, writing a treatment and polishing a final draft of a script.
  • the capacity to deconstruct a script by offering constant feedback to their colleagues.
  • the capacity to write and rewrite, the capacity to receive and implement the feedback and to constantly improve the drafts.

End-of-year portfolio: synopsis, treatment and final draft for a minimum of two short film scripts/semester; portfolio of creative writing exercises which continue this year, to support the understanding and writing of a short film script; a theoretical paper (5-10 pages), focused on defining a short film and a short film script.

Screenwriting (3rd year): FEATURE SCREENPLAY

The 3rd year is dedicated to the writing of a feature screenplay, following all the necessary development steps:  log line, 10 lines, (dramatic and thematic) synopsis, exposé, character bone structure, treatment, outline, step outline, draft, rewriting plan, second draft, fine-tuning.

The course presents a panorama of screenwriting schools and methods, with ample monographic highlights and applies these teachings and techniques in the seminars and practical classes. The students are exposed to multiple definitions and points of view (scaletta vs. outline, vectorial opening vs. the American canon), theme and subject, motif, artistic meaning, author’s themes vs. spectator’s or critic’s themes, methods and paradigms, pitching and selling. Fundamental theoretical elements are presented in parallel: 3 acts vs. 5 acts vs. 5 rhythmemes vs. anti-structure, no structure etc.

The seminars are concentrating on typologies (sequence, suspense, endings, dialog, subplot) and cinema genres (social, political, western, film noir, policier, SF, horror, road movie, dramedy, musical, low and no-budget).

At the end of the 3rd year, the students will acquire the following abilities:

  • A good knowledge of the fundamental narrative theories and a strong command of multiple methods of writing a feature;
  • The capacity of moving from writing shorts to a feature, fiction and non-fiction;
  • A solid understanding of the roles and responsibilities in a film crew and the ability to apply the theory in industry procedures;
  • Showing maturity in defining the theme, choosing the subject, the style and the genre for the feature screenplay, the capacity of generating a strong story, with profound human values, the wish to improve from one draft to another according to the international industry standards;
  • Imagining, editing and formatting the final draft of a feature screenplay (dialog continuity script / 90 pages) using a screenwriting software (a good command of Final Draft, Celtx), pitching and packaging.

End-of-year portfolio: intermediary presentation packet (log line, theme, synopsis, treatment/20 pages) for graduating and final draft/dialog continuity. The screenplay is to be accompanied by a correlated theoretical paper.

Collaborative Writing. Screenwriters-directors (Undergraduate 2nd year, Screenwriting-Film Studies & Film Directing)

How can a writer-director team become greater than the sum of its parts?

The collaborative writing course offers a theoretical and practical base for teamwork when it comes to developing a screenplay. The course addresses Screenwriting and Film Directing students. It is taught by two expert teachers – a screenwriter and a director – who guide their teams gradually, from choosing the subject to completing the scripts. The assignments are accordant with the curriculum of the Film Directing department, therefore the screenplays which result in the 1st semester are produced and directed by the student-directors in the 2nd semester and those completed in the 2nd semester are followed up with during the next year. Apart from its practical purpose, this course aims for further objectives: an academic framework that allows students from the two departments to familiarize with each other, strong writer-director teams that can continue to collaborate, subsequent to their graduation, a full comprehension of the writer’s and director’s role in the creative core of a film, the development of a new set of tools for presentation, analysis, negotiation, collaboration and consensus, brainstorming techniques, various approaches to working in a team. Some of the benefits in being part of a collaborative writing project are: learning, socializing, exchanging ideas and points of view, building work relations, communicating, listening, developing objectivity, debating, negotiating, reaching common grounds, integration, inclusion, pitching.

Copywriting. Advertising formats (Undergraduate 3rd year)

Beside history, technique or entertainment, advertising is rooted in storytelling. During the two semesters, the students are trained to apply their screenwriting aptitudes in commercial formats. From brand creative strategy to different methods of advertising storytelling, via the specificities of each medium, the students are prepared for an ulterior activity in copywriting. The classes and seminaries include presentations, team exercises, live presentations in class, one-on-one and/or group feedback, weekly coursework.

Film Analysis and Criticism (Undergraduate, 1st, 2nd and 3rd years)

Being able to express an idea is understanding it. This course helps students understand what cinema is, how film works as a constructed object (through writing, mise-en-scène, lighting, acting, editing, sound…) and how it can be understood in various contexts (of production and reception). Through exercises written at home and discussed in class, students are helped to become increasingly aware of how their judgements are formed, as they are encouraged to develop and express their personal, increasingly nuanced and richer understanding of cinema. 

We work on:

-the development of critical thinking and research skills;

-the accumulation of a vocabulary of film analysis;

-familiarization with the different ways of writing about film (journalistic, scholarly, literary-essayistic);

-understanding of different analytical grids (aesthetic, ideological).

In the 1st year, students train their ability to observe how the different components of film work together to affect the viewer, to shape his or her viewing experience. At the same time, they are given the foundations of a historical perspective on certain cinematic tools and effects. Students have to write weekly critical articles on particular films, focusing on the particular aspects they learn about in that particular week’s class. For the end of each semester they have to prepare a longer essay. At the end of their 1st year they would have completed the first stage of their development from occasional to professional film viewers.

In the 2nd year, the course (part lecture, part discussion) undertakes to further clarify the diverse perspectives from which a film can be analyzed. By following the transformations undergone by a film genre (the western, the screwball comedy) in different eras and cultures, students gain a deeper understanding of how tropes and conventions can morph in different contexts. Students study some of the most historically influential critical paradigms and, for their assignments (two film reviews and an auteur-centered essay for each semester), they are encouraged to experimentally choose the particular critical lens – auteurist, camp, gender studies, etc. – through which they look at specific films. 

In the 3rd year, students read landmark texts from the history of film criticism, while receiving weekly guidance in the elaboration of a 30-to-40-page academic paper – a critical study or a piece of historical research – which can serve as the first draft of a bachelor’s thesis.  

Film History (Undergraduate, 1st, 2nd and 3rd year)

Only those who know their history can make smart calls towards the creation of a better future. The course aims to acquaint students with major films, movements and film schools. In order to thoroughly grasp a film, the work of an artist or an entire artistic tradition, it’s important that we know the political, economical, industrial and cultural contexts in which they were shaped.

For this reason, the Film History course focuses not only on a chronological depiction of the evolution of film styles, but also on highlighting how cinema has always been influenced by its time. The approach of the course goes beyond a mere review of major filmmakers and films as it is designed as a fascinating immersion in the complex histories of the transformation of a field emblematic to our era, be they affectionate and mysterious or callous and prosaic ones.  

For each class, students are required to read texts (20-100 pages per week) and to watch 2-4 feature films essential for the understanding of the phenomena and stylistic movements taught.

1st Year – the evolution of filmmaking in countries active in this field during the silent era (1895-1930)

2nd Year – the evolution of filmmaking in the first decades of sound cinema (1930-1960)

3rd Year – the shift of cinema to modernism and how it has evolved in Europe and influenced other national cinemas worldwide up until recently (1960-2000) 

History of Romanian cinema (Undergraduate 2nd year, all Film School profiles):

Before getting acquainted with the New Romanian Cinema, more familiar to young cinephiles, we intend to guide the students to discover with fresh eyes the different stages of the development of the Romanian film industry: from the first screenings and the first newsreels filmed in Romania, to the first local feature films from the silent era and the challenge posed by the introduction of sound to motion pictures, to the establishment of film studios during Socialist era and the adoption of the Socialist Realism doctrine into cinema, to the  dismantling and the restructuring of the Romanian film industry during post-communism. The course also delivers broader knowledge regarding economic, cultural and political factors that conditioned certain aesthetic practices, as well as a comprehensive knowledge of canonical Romanian films.  

Film Theory (Undergraduate, 1st and 2nd years)

The student is invited on a rigorous journey through the history of thought about film, which it incessantly puts in the context of larger histories – the history of discourses on art, the history of modernity – while permanently trying to make it address the present moment. The course interrogates both the original meaning and the posterity of key concepts like “photogénie”, “pure/impure cinema”, “Bazinian realism”, “medium specificity”, “auteurism”, “counter cinema” or “the male gaze”. It explores classic, yet sometimes still ongoing debates about the emancipatory potential of cinema and mass media, as opposed to its manipulative uses. It revisits a foundational opposition like, for example, that between montage and the long take, exploring the metaphysical and political assumptions sometimes underlying the preference for one or the other.

Every week, students have to read a text – usually by a classic author like Walter Benjamin, André Bazin, Susan Sontag, Peter Wollen or David Bordwell, among many others; students also have to watch one or two films per week, chosen for their capacity to illustrate the week’s text. The course is part lecture, part class discussion of the week’s films and readings. There is a midterm test consisting of multiple-choice questions. At the end of the semester, students either have to pass a written exam or they have to create a video essay based on the semester’s filmography and bibliography.   

On Manipulation in Film and TV (Undegraduate 1st year)

What does “manipulation” mean? How does ethics come into play in the production of an audio-visual object? How do we produce audio-visual objects that communicate our ideas in effective ways? How do we find the ideas that represent us? This course is built around such questions. The first two-thirds of each semester are dedicated to the close analysis of a selection of fiction and non-fiction films. Towards the end of the semester, the course refocuses on discussion of the video-essays produced by teams of students who have been encouraged to appropriate pre-existing images in ways that decisively modify their original meanings. 

Film journalism in the festival circuit (elective, Undergraduate 2nd year)

In the two semesters, the course expands on recent developments with major influences on film criticism. On the one hand, the shift of film criticism to the online sphere and the capacities of multimedia have given birth to an audiovisual form – videographic criticism – of Film Studies, with peculiarities and benefits which are carefully weighed during the first semester. On the other hand, the film festival circuit shapes, in ways we illustrate and debate in class, the critical reception of recently released films as well as the collective idea of what makes a „good art film”. Through readings and discussions on these facets of criticism, students begin to grasp the bigger picture concerning the state of film criticism and the directions in which it evolves in our time.