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The MFA in Social Documentary Film program guides and supports emerging artists to fully explore the social documentary film form.

  • Trains students to find innovative ways to examine and communicate the core experiences and events that define us
  • Open to qualified students at any level—no filmmaking background required
  • A tailored curriculum designed for students to attain artistic and technical fluency in documentary filmmaking

“Documania”—that’s how The New York Times recently referred to the stunning proliferation of documentary film made possible by the signature technologies of our time. In short, it has never been easier to make a documentary. But producing a film that stands out is another story, another challenge altogether. As more and more non-fiction films crowd the marketplace—competing for limited resources and audience share—true fluency with the form increasingly confers a vital edge, a crucial advantage that makes one film rise above the rest.

Our MFA program in Social Documentary Film fosters filmmaking that is skillful and sure—not just technologically, but artistically, socially and critically as well. With every shot composed, cut made, and interview question asked, our students learn to make the motivated creative decisions that result in impactful films, ones with the power to truly shift our consciousness and change the way we see our world.

Located in the heart of Manhattan, we are part of the most active, productive documentary film community in the world. Students work directly with inventive, accomplished nonfiction storytellers and visual journalists—as faculty, mentors and collaborators. Over the course of the two-year program, as “SocDoc” students learn the fundamentals of nonfiction filmmaking in a supportive, inclusive environment, they are also introduced to the wider industry through internships, film festivals, guest lectures, closed screenings and a host of other networking events in the City.

When it comes to making their own films, however, our students are in no way confined to New York. In the past two years, students in the MFA program have produced films in China, Indonesia, Guatemala, Nigeria and Vietnam. And regardless of their geographic coordinates, they have been able to rely on the department for equipment and solid advice, both practical and artistic.

Dedicated to instilling the apparatus and ethics of the professional documentarian, our program is open to qualified students from varying backgrounds—some have prior filmmaking experience, others do not. Ultimately, we are looking for passionate, insightful individuals who are eager to learn how best to share the stories they have a compulsion to tell.

No matter the subject matter or style—be it personal, political, comical, revolutionary—social documentary films increase our awareness of ourselves and the world we inhabit. They are a window into who we are. As such, they have a unique ability to engage, illuminate and inspire. At SVA, we are committed to realizing that potential.

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