Asian students with international filmmaking aspirations have a couple of major avenues to choose from. They can give into the Hollywood paradigm and study in LA, where they will be encouraged to conform to the system and join the filmmaking masses. Opposite this, they can seek out smaller, counter-cultural schools that put a priority on the modern film as work of art.
For those intent on pursuing the latter, a school like York University is an excellent option. Based in Toronto in Canada, it offers all of the advantages of a North American education without cornering aspiring filmmakers in the Hollywood mindset.
York’s Department of Film is Canada’s first, largest and most comprehensive university-based film school. The film programs are taught by 40 award-winning filmmakers and prominent scholars, all active in their field. Students benefit from comprehensive, professional training that blends theory and practice in a free-thinking and creative environment. Five hundred-plus students work in modern learning, production and screening facilities in Toronto, one of the world’s leading film capitals.
York University offers a mix of graduate and undergraduate programs through the Faculty of Fine Arts’ Department of Film. These cover a range of topics, and students explore everything from the role that film and television play in society to genre-specific topics such as the vampire in cinema or crime film. It is also possible to piece together independent study programs. Students can take between one and five classes per year, depending on how quickly they plan on completing their program.
There are three major degree programs at the undergraduate level. At this phase, the emphasis is either on studio work (which includes screenwriting and production) or theoretical programs in film criticism or film history. The Bachelor’s Degree programs offered through York University’s Film Department are: Bachelor of Arts (Honors), Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honors), and Bachelor of Arts.
York’s graduate program in film is Canada’s largest and most comprehensive. Grad students have access to cutting-edge facilities that help develop advanced skills in diverse mobile screen interfaces, 3D filmmaking and augmented reality. Students earn MAs, MFAs and PhDs.
York offers degrees in three areas at the graduate level:
Cinema and Media Studies
Students study cinema and media through a variety of historical, critical and theoretical perspectives.
Students work in state-of-the art facilities to make films and develop specialized skills in directing, cinematography, editing, sound, and production management.
Students explore the craft of moving-image storytelling in Canada’s only degree-granting screenwriting program.
The studio courses nurture films and screenplays that are committed to richness of content, creative vitality and mastery of technique. All three areas benefit from engagement with one another, a unique strength of the department.
The curriculum also includes a spring/summer internship program that provides students with the opportunity to work hands-on with leading professionals in the Canadian film and media industries.
Throughout the academic year, the Film Department’s Norman Jewison Series and York Film Downtown industry panels feature public talks and screenings leading filmmakers, producers, screenwriters, curators, critics and theorists. The annual Summer Institute in Film offers York’s graduate film students and the wider community the opportunity to engage with prominent international guests in seminars, workshops and public lectures.
Success On The World Stage
York student productions compete – and regularly win prizes – in film festivals around the world. Recent festival success stories include Joyce Wong’s Banana Bruises (2006), which was shown at the Hong Kong International Film Video Awards, San Francisco International Asian Film Festival and the closing night gala of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival.
Jamie Cussen’s Rock Paper Scissors (2007) won Outstanding International Short at the Beijing International Student Short Film and Video Festival and screened as an official selection at the Austin and Atlantic international filmfests. Pouyan Jafarizadeh Dezfoulian’s Morning will Come (2008) played at the Los Angeles and Montreal film festivals and won the audience vote for the Vtape Award at the 2009 Images Festival in Toronto. Mark Pariselli ‘s After (2009) was shortlisted for the prestigious Iris Prize and has screened at high-profile festivals all over the world including Paris, Athens, Toronto, Montreal, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and in Germany and Switzerland.
Study Film in Toronto
Toronto has emerged as one of the leading film production hubs in North America. Many Hollywood films outsource their production to Toronto, partially because of the financial advantages of shooting in Canada, but also because Toronto has established itself as one of the most creative capital cities in the world. Toronto often appears on screen as New York City, because of its gothic architecture and skyline.
Toronto is also an important stop on the international film festival circuit. Student work regularly appears at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it is screened in front of international leaders in screenwriting and film production. There are also local outlets for student work. For example, undergraduates have the opportunity to showcase their productions at CineSiege. Films are presented at a cinema in downtown Toronto and judged by a jury.
Beyond this, Toronto is an exciting city for Asian students to live, study and socialize. The city hosts several thriving Asian communities, which means there is equal opportunity enjoy the comforts of home culture while getting acquainted with this North American metropolis.
Graduates from York’s film programs are making their mark in the film and television industries worldwide. Recent graduates include:
Cuong Ngo (BFA film 2009) Award-winning director whose accolades include Best Canadian Short, Toronto Inside Out LGBT Film and Video Festival 2009, Most Promising Cinematographer, Buffalo Niagara Film Festival 2010; World Cinema Cinematography Award, Amsterdam Film Festival 2010.
Luo Li (BFA 2005, MFA 2009 Film) Award-winning director. Rivers and my Father was the opening night gala screening and won the Images Festival Prize 2011
Julie Ng (BFA Film 2002) Director, editor, cinematographer, producer of award-winning documentaries and DVD special features. Credits include An Unconventional Love Story, Glen Morgan’s Willard, David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, The Year of the Rat