UC Berkeley Department of Film and Media

Department of Film & Media UC Berkeley

Programs / Graduate

Timeline & Requirements

A total of 24 units of coursework is required for the M.A. There are three specifically required seminars: Film 200 (Film Theory), Film 201 (Film Historiography), and Film 203 (Proseminar). The first three required courses must be taken during the first year of study; Film Theory and the Proseminar are only offered in the fall, and Film Historiography only in the spring.

In addition to the three core requirements, students must take three other graduate seminars with official Film course numbers for the M.A. With a minimum of two seminars per semester, students will typically complete the M.A. coursework in the third semester of residency.

Students entering with a Master’s Degree in a field other than Film Studies will be required to complete all requirements for the M.A. in Film, including the M.A. exam, before proceeding to the Ph.D program. Requests that equivalencies be granted for courses already taken in other programs or at other universities will be handled on a petition basis. Students should submit copies of previous course syllabi with a written request to the Graduate Adviser.

Students entering with a Master’s Degree in Film Studies from an equivalent program will normally be required to begin their studies by taking the three core M.A. courses (Film 200, Film 201, and Film 203) as electives, unless they petition for a close equivalency in coursework taken in the previous M.A. program. These students are not normally required to take the M.A. exam here before proceeding to the Ph.D. program.The Master’s Exam for Film Concentration students is based on the reading lists used in Film 200 and 201 in the year the student takes those courses. The exam questions are written and the answers evaluated by the two faculty members who teach those courses that year. If one or both of the faculty are on leave, the written question and evaluation will be submitted long-distance, since there is no oral component of the exam itself.

The exam is always administered in the first official week of Fall semester (the week before classes begin in August). Students will have taken the 200/201 sequence during the previous Fall and Spring semesters, have had the summer to review, and take the exam upon returning to school in the third semester. The exam may be taken before completing all course requirements and the first language exam, but students are encouraged to finish these requirements during the semester of the exam, if possible (but in any case no later than the fourth semester). Students cannot be advanced to candidacy until all such requirements are completed, even after passing the written exam).

The M.A. written exam is a take-home written exam, consisting of two parts, Film Theory and Film Historiography. Students choose between two alternative questions for each topic. The exam is emailed to students by 9 A.M. Responses are returned by email to the examiners and Graduate Assistant by 5 P.M. The questions and reading lists are the same for all examinees. Answers should be both synthetic and analytic, drawing on material from the two introductory courses.

There are three possible outcomes for the M.A. exam: Fail, Pass, and Pass with permission to proceed. Students may retake the M.A. exam one time in case of a fail. The decision on permission to proceed will take into account both the exam results and input from the core film faculty during the annual progress evaluation in the second week of fall semester. Students will be notified of the exam results in writing soon after that point.

In September of the third semester, all students taking the MA exam that semester will be asked to attend an M.A. Review. This is not an oral exam, but an advising session in which the student is officially informed of the results of the MA exam. There are three faculty members in attendance: the current Graduate Adviser and two Film faculty with whom the student foresees working most closely, one of which the student designates as the faculty adviser. The student should obtain the consent of these faculty members prior to the review.

When students have been given permission to proceed in the program, the MA Review serves as a planning meeting for the Ph.D. curriculum. Students should come to this meeting prepared to propose potential Qualifying Exam fields and committee members for his or her Ph.D program. Two of those fields should fall under the rubrics of Film Theory and Film History, and one should be defined as an outside field that creates an interdisciplinary profile for the student.

Language Requirement

The Graduate Division stipulates that students must satisfy two language requirements. Students may pass both by examination or one by examination and the other by completing a four-semester (or six-quarter) course sequence with an average grade of B or better. For one of the two languages, an upper division foreign language course that requires a four-semester (or six-quarter) course sequence as a prerequisite satisfies the requirement. Waivers can be granted for native languages other than English and a full undergraduate sequence to upper-division level in a foreign language. The exam is an open-dictionary exam and consists of translating a 300-word passage.


The following is the ideal timeline for progress through the Film Ph.D. program. This time frame must be adhered to if student wishes to receive two semesters of the Dean’s Completion Fellowship at the stage of writing the dissertation.

Semester 1: Film 200 and proseminar (possibly with Film elective #1 and/or Language course).

Semester 2: Film 201 and a Film M.A. Elective #2, (Language course). Pass off language requirement #1 if possible.Start of Semester 3: MA Exam (August) and MA review (September).

Semester 3: Deadline for passing off language requirement #1.Film M.A. Electives #2-3 if not complete. (M.A. requirements should all be fulfilled by this point, making possible the advancement to M.A. candidacy)

Semester 4: Outside Field Elective #1, Film Ph.D. Elective #1, (Language course)

Semester 5: Outside Field Elective #2, (Language course), and preparation of reading lists with committee members (independent study units are a good way to do this)

Semester 6: Seminar, Reading units, pass off language requirement #2 and take exams by the end of the semester. Meeting this time-line will qualify you for the Dean’s Completion Fellowship for a full year.

End of Semester 6: Advanced to Ph.D. candidacy

If you pass your Qualifying Examination and advance to candidacy for the Ph.D. within 6 semesters of beginning your program, if you have a satisfactory Annual Progress Report, and if you are on track to file the dissertation in a timely manner, then you are eligible to receive an academic year of Doctoral Completion Fellowship (DCF) support from the Graduate Division. For Film students who choose to accept the DCF, the possibility of financial support (in any form) from the University ends with year 7. (It should be noted that all candidates for the PhD in Film are expected to complete the dissertation within a maximum of 7 years, and even students who choose not to accept the DCF will not have priority for departmental funding and support after that point.)

The Doctoral Completion Fellowship is flexible in its timing, and could be taken in year 6. You will also be able to apply for a variety of competitive dissertation-year fellowships and additional teaching positions prior to accepting the Doctoral Completion Fellowship.

Semester 7: Prospectus

Semester 8: Research

Semester 9: Research and Writing

Semester 10: Writing

The dissertation may extend into semesters 11 and 12, but the first part of the program needs to be completed by the end of the third year. Every student is expected to hit the normative time mark exactly, within three years maximum to the advancement to candidacy.