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Cinema and Media Arts

The Program in Cinema & Media Arts (CMA) at Vanderbilt is an interdisciplinary program that combines filmmaking with the study of media theory and global film history. Offering both a 30- credit hour major and an 15- credit hour minor, the CMA program emphasizes cinema as a modern aesthetic form and a hands-on cultural practice.

While the program encourages new ways of thinking, looking, and making, it also develops the traditional learning skills of a liberal education. A core curriculum covers film and media theory, history, and both fiction and non-fiction filmmaking, including training in both 16mm and digital cinematography. Elective classes are offered in screenwriting and advanced topics in production, history, and theory. Additionally, affiliated faculty from all over the university coordinate their course offerings in film and media-related topics to create an intellectual and creative environment that uses cinema to bridge the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Honors Program in CMA

The Honors Program offers exceptional students the opportunity to undertake a high-level independent research and/or creative project during the senior year. A CMA honors thesis may be creative, critical, or a combination of both. Projects must be rigorous, in-depth, and demonstrate a student’s ability to sustain an argument, an aesthetic principle, or narrative arc in a substantial form. Students will consult with their honors thesis advisor while designing their individual projects in media production and/or studies.

Keeping in mind that every project will have its own parameters and justifications, in general, we offer the following guidelines: critical theses should be between 50-70 pages; screenplays should be feature-length; film and video work should be either of a substantial length (at least 30- 50 minutes) or comprised of a suite of thematically-related shorter works. Students may devise a project that combines creative and critical modes of writing and filming, as well. Other formats are welcome and should be discussed with the advisor before submitting the application. All final theses must be accompanied by a ten-page minimum written statement that situates the work within the context of extant scholarship, film & media theory, history, and aesthetics (as is appropriate to each project) and describes the project’s ambitions.

Undergraduate Research

CMA students undertake individual research projects in the capstone senior seminar and the honors program. Recent projects include: web-based comedy series, senior thesis on representations of the law and legal theory, senior thesis on disability studies and film, 16mm short film on Nashville’s Mexican immigrant community, a full-length screenplay on a fictional Chicago gangster. 

Recent Courses

Recent courses in Cinema & Media Arts and related disciplines include: Creating the Web Series, New Media: New Identities, The Social Issue Documentary, Cinema and Islam, Film & Media Theory, History of World Cinema, Martial Arts Cinema, Writing for Stage and Screen, Cinema in Dark Times: The Twentieth Century of Billy Wilder and Roman Polanski, History of Postwar Japanese Science Fiction, Documentary Production Workshop, The Cinematic Essay, 16mm Filmmaking, Digital Cinematography, Fiction Film Production: The Horror Film and Film Noir.

After Vanderbilt

Recent CMA majors have found jobs in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and New York. Others are pursuing advanced degrees in law, film and media studies, film production, and composing film soundtracks.


Professor Jennifer Fay
Director, Cinema & Media Arts
132 Buttrick Hall
(615) 343-8724

Cinema and Media Arts Website