Course Sequence & Descriptions
MPI Course Sequence
Term 1 Schedule: 2021 School Year Classes
Next Start Dates: April 5, 2021 and September 27, 2021
Class schedules are provided to each student at the start of each term. Schedules detail
the weekly times, days and dates of class.
Term 1 | 12 weeks
BCS 100 - Basic Camera and Sound
This course introduces students to basic DSLR camera system designs, formats, types and how to operate them for filmmaking. This course also introduces students to basic audio recording and mixing devices used for capturing wild sound tracks, foley, room tone etc. Emphasis is placed on the students obtaining the necessary skills to identity and use common DSLR cameras and digital recorders.
SCN 112 - Scripting the Narrative Short
Every feature film, short film, music video, commercial or any film project starts here. This course introduces students to the critical elements of storytelling. The emphasis in this course is the story being physical and visible, and not relying on sounds or words. The focus is that film must not only tell, but show. Key concepts include: the importance of character, goals, rising conflict and obstacles, tension, suspense, turning points, resolution and finally format. In short, students will begin to learn how to write stories that are visual and dramatic.
DIR 114 - Directing the Visual Story
The film director must bring the printed words of the screenplay to life and capture the resulting action in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and intellectually engaging. This course teaches the tools the director uses to stage a scene on paper long before the camera rolls via the Directors Notebook. Lab exercises allow students to practice and demonstrate these skills through short films projects while learning the function and role of the director. By the end of the course each student will have write, direct and edit a silent short film.
CIN 116 - Cinematography
Cinematography is the art of image creation. In order to control an image students are first taught the fundamental processes of image capture. Technical studies establish fundamental skills in format, sensitometry and color. Also covered is the role of the director of photography as a visual translator for the film director. Students put this knowledge into practice during the course by producing short photographic projects.
PRL 118 - Production Lab
The Motion Picture Institute's soundstage comes to life as students crew up on an in-class film production. Sets are constructed and actors are brought into class. Students light, shoot, and record audio in a simulated production environment. This course provides immediate "hands-on" training with students learning to run a film set. Students become proficient in camera operation, studio lighting, and digital sound recording. Students learn key set commands, interdepartmental communications, paperwork related to camera, sound, script continuity & assistant directing. Small group tutorials, production assignments and departmental rotations offer students crucial production training.
EDL 120 - Film Editing
This course trains students how to edit picture and audio using the latest Davinci Resolve software. Topics include workplace configuration, ingest, edit preparation, picture and audio syncing, editing titling, and output. Students also learn advanced technical skills from edit styles to the rule of sixes to draw the audience in. Students are graded
on editing assignments.
PRM 122 - Preproduction
Producing a film, large or small, requires an understanding of how a film is organized and the legal aspects surrounding it. This course teaches the standard industry processes for organizing and managing film productions. This includes an in-depth study of the stages of production. Students are taught to use Entertainment Partners Movie Magic Film Scheduling software for breaking down a script and creating a shooting schedule.
Term 2 | 12 weeks
SCN 212 - Screenwriting for Features and TV
This course advances the visual storytelling concepts by employing dialogue to develop character, plot and motivations. Emphasis is placed on how to use three-act structure, symbols and metaphors, and the value of outlines to develop story. From this, they learn to analyze story dynamics, the three-act structure, plot points, subplots, paradigms, characters, themes, dialogue, and many other feature screenwriting basics. This course translates the short narrative structure and applies it to a feature length and episodic television scripts. Topics covered include: Writing log lines and treatments. Students are given the option to write a thesis script or a five to ten page treatment for a feature or television pilot. Students are graded on writing assignments and in-class presentations of written material.
DIR 214 - Directing and Staging Talent
Students are assigned advanced level storytelling projects to develop their individual directorial styles. Through this course students explore the relationship between the director and the actor. Studio exercises allow student directors to work with both seasoned and inexperienced film actors to learn the delicate art of acting for the camera. Student directors will learn how to articulate character motivations, pull performances, or properly execute eyelines and the axis. Blocking and staging techniques train students to direct their work within the confines of the cinematic frame.
Students conduct a large scale casting call through which they learn techniques for strategic casting. From there,read-throughs and rehearsals give the student director a “real world” and practical experience to mold their film projects. Each students directs a short 3 to 5 minute dialogue film which they are graded on.
This course explores the creative depths of cinematography. The latent image is always at the service of the story and an approach must be developed. The careful choices a cinematographer makes with respect to composition, color, light and texture affect the overall look and mood of the film. Students explore the impact of the visual language of film and related topics such as design principles and forces of visual organization. The effects of scene direction and lines of action on the editing process are explored. Students learn cinematic composition, the rule of thirds, spatial relationships and proper framing. Students are graded via exams and a cinematography shooting assignment.
PRL 218 - Lighting For Film
Lighting a film requires both an artistic and technical understanding of its application. For this reason, this course teaches students how to use specific small and medium size fresnel, florescent, LED, HMI, practical and reflected light sources and modifiers to achieve a desired look. The most commonly encountered lighting scenarios, problems, and solutions are explored through the lighting of an actual film set or location. Students learn to handle grip and electric gear including frames, a Matthews and Fisher dolly with track, and set up a power distribution grid. This course utilizes specific clips from well known films as a model to demonstrate how a particular look is achieved using light and instrumentation. Students are graded on lighting assignments.
PRL 219 - Motion Picture Sound
This course teaches students location sound recording techniques. Beginning with the tech scout of locations, student select hardware for the job and prep gear. They learn on set skills for slating, microphone placement, using wireless and time code systems, boom operation, monitoring, setting levels, dealing with difficult location situations, proper care and maintenance of equipment, detailing sound logs, and sound mixing techniques. Using Davinci Fairlight students learn to edit and mix audio tracks for dialgoue, fx, foley, ADR and music. Students learn the entire audio pipeline for delivering a completed stereo mix for film. Students are graded on equipment proficiency and short audio recording assignments.
EDL 220 - Advanced Editing Techniques
This course begins with approaches for making a better edit and how to immerse viewers into your story, fix problems incurred during production and give the project a fresh edge. The course takes students through the film finish pipeline of color grading using Davinci Resolve. Students learn what it takes to create a quality controlled deliverable of a high resolution film master for legal video broadcast, digital media publishing and theatrical projection.
Term 3 | 12 weeks
PRL 316 - The Camera Team
This course provides advanced training as a motion picture camera operator, camera assistant or data manager. Students learn to identify the latest in motion picture camera and lens technologies in the professional market. Special attention is given to the various features of specific camera models and the critical factors for selecting a particular system for a production. This also includes techniques for checking lens quality and how to evaluate the lens before entering the field.
Students learn essential field skills for conducting a camera prep for both film and digital cameras as well as the daily set routines for the camera operator, 1st and 2nd assistant camera positions. Emphasis is also placed on evaluating color rendition in the use of reference field monitors and LUTs (look up tables). Students learn how these tools are used and their impact on maintaining the vision of the cinematographer from exposure to post production.
PRL 318 - Film Art and Design
Every element in a the frame should be intentional. The job of the production designer is to interpret the script and the director’s vision for the film and translating it into physical environments in which the actors can develop their characters and present the story. This course takes students into the world of the production designer and art director as they learn the various job duties and responsibilities of these roles and the craftsmen that work under them. Topics include: art department personnel, script breakdown, finding a look, researching, concept drawings and art references, color palettes, color theory, location scouting, transforming locations, set design, set construction, set dressing, propping, prop and mold making, scenic art, costume design, planning and scheduling, and working on set. Students are tasked with applying these skills to in class assignments and thesis film projects.
PRL 319 - Commercial Production Techniques
There are a multitude of productions that film professionals will do in between the larger projects when they are just starting out. These types of productions range from low budget commercial spots for the web, weddings, music videos, testimonials, depositions, local sporting events, charities, corporate communications, recitals, and how-to videos. These types of productions have slightly different dynamics and require a modified approach to make them both efficient and profitable. This course teaches students a variety of techniques for planning, shooting and delivering a quality project for these small scale productions where the crew size ranges from one to ten persons.
In this course previous student work is reviewed. Camera work, lighting, and sound is analyzed to teach students to develop a critical eye for evaluating how a shot was achieved and why it worked or didn’t.
PRL 350 - Capstone Thesis Project
Each student is required to work on a capstone project. Students are given the option to direct a thesis film, write a feature length or episodic television pilot, or work in a key crew position on a thesis film where they will develop and improve essential production skills. This course is conducted in a conservatory style curriculum as students will select their area of focus and must work independently outside of class in that role. As students must work on each others’ film projects, class time is devoted in part to production meetings and producing topics.
Course lecture topics include: location scouting & management, casting, assistant directing, production coordinating, transportation, managing a production office, cast and crew deal memos, start paperwork, time cards, writers’ agreement & copyright assignment, clearance and copyright. Students are graded on in class participation and reports related to their capstone projects.
Thesis projects (film, screenplay or crew) are scheduled outside of class during the third and fourth terms. Students are REQUIRED to attain greenlight status before they begin principle photography. Thesis films can be of any type (narrative, documentary, music video, commercial, experimental, etc.
Term 4 | 10 weeks
SCN 312 - The Business of Screenwriting
This course focuses on the business of screenwriting as it pertains to optioning and selling scripts. Students are taught how to develop a marketing plan for their scripts and the different venues available for selling their work. Topics include submission formats, query letters, pitches, agency solicitation, option agreements, and copyright/WGA registration. Students are required to pitch their script in a conference setting. They will also meet with the instructor to review written assignments and make sure they are continuing to rewrite their screenplays properly.
By the end of the course the student will have a completed a pitch for their idea(s), treatment or script , and understand the proper steps for launching their career as a screenwriter. This course as a component of The Motion Picture Production Program enables students to obtain work as freelance screenwriter, script editor, or script reader.
DIR 314 - Capstone Test Screening
Students present the results of their capstone project that is either a thesis film, script or work accomplished in a key crew position. Thesis film rough cuts are test screened for the class for creative, technical and constructive feedback so that improvements and adjustments can be made before moving onto a final cut and color grade.
Additional lecture topics include: Self promotion, entering film festivals, contacting film distributors, marketing, film markets, obtaining a sales agents, identifying exhibition platforms, negotiating distribution deals, identifying revenue models and providing deliverables for domestic and foreign buyers.
EDL 320 - Intro to Visual Effects
Davinci® Fusion® software is a widely used and compelling motion graphics and visual effects application. Students learn to navigate the main interface and work space of this program. Of the many possible uses of Davinci® Fusion® this course focuses on primary color grading, animated titling and compositing capabilities.
FCP 400 - Film Career Preparation
Having valuable filmmaking skills is only part of the equation for getting work and making money. The other is building your reputation, putting yourself out there so people can find you, and nurturing work relationships that turn into job offers. And that is only part of the equation for success. This course delves into the world of the freelancer and what it takes to earn a living and having a grasp on expectations. Students work on developing social networking skills, resume writing, job search strategies, building a solid work ethic, developing skills on the job, managing their time and the money they earn, and negotiating their deals. Students learn life skills as it applies to film and television in a below-the-line position.
For those creatives intent on helming their own productions this course also teaches the basics for forming a company, capitalizing expenses, drawing up basic agreements, hiring, taxes, managing others from the top, building a show reel, and securing and agent or publicist.
Additional topics include: Deal memos, contract terms, union rules, joining and jurisdictions, pay scales, work place safety, booking, and when to turn down a job.
FCP 410 - The Film Business
This course focuses on the legal, accounting and managerial processes required to form a production company. Whether the intent is to finance, produce and distribute a film project or to develop a business to serve commercial clients, the knowledge required for how an entrepreneurial enterprise is created is the same. Students learn from the ground up the steps for corporate formation, bylaws, reporting, liability, capitalization, taxation and crafting a mission / vision statement.
Topics segue into independent film finance, marketing and distribution to drafting bid proposals for commercials, music videos or other corporate film work. Additional lecture topics include: Budgeting, market research, pitch decks, presentations and pitches, film markets, exhibition pipelines and platforms for films, hiring a sales agents, negotiating contracts, identifying revenue models and providing deliverables for distributors or clients.