Bachelor of Arts in Cinema

The School of Cinema provides its undergraduate majors with a broad liberal arts education focused on three core values: creative expression, critical thinking, and social engagement. Students interested in the major are welcome to visit the School and meet with faculty and students.

Learning Outcomes

The B.A. in Cinema’s learning objectives strives to enable students to:

  • Acquire basic skills in the formal and critical analysis of cinema (including representations of race, class, gender and sexuality), focused by the analysis of representative works from a range of periods and cultures.

  • Gain understanding of the relation of cinema to other arts, to the development of new technologies, and to the industrial-social basis of domestic and international cultural production.

  • Produce competent and sustained written essays evidencing knowledge of major topics, theories, and methods.

  • Acquire pre-production, production and post-production skills necessary for cinematic expression.

  • Develop basic skills in the organization and creation of meaningful form and content in cinema.


Cinema majors must have sophomore standing (30+ units) before they may take Cinema major classes.

The Cinema major comprises 45 units, consisting of:

  • Core courses (13 units)
  • Foundation/GWAR courses (7 units)
  • Cinema Studies courses (9 units)
  • Elective courses (16 units)
  • Capstone of 3 units (incorporated with the Cinema Studies or Elective units)

A minor is not required; however, Cinema majors pursuing the Animation minor may apply those units towards the total 45.

Core, Foundation, and GWAR

Core: All Cinema majors must complete the following 13-units with a grade of “C” or higher in each course before taking upper-division courses:

  • CINE 200: Intro to Cinema Studies
  • CINE 202: Intro to Filmmaking
  • CINE 204: Intro to Filmmaking Lab
  • CINE 211: Film History I
  • CINE 212: Film History II

Note: Upper-division students (junior or senior standing) may enroll in intermediate upper-division courses (i.e., 300/400-numbered) concurrently with one remaining Core course with explicit permission from the upper-division course instructor.

Foundation: Upper-division Cinema majors must complete the following two courses with a grade of “C” or higher:

  • CINE 340: Critical Studies
  • CINE 341: Critical Studies Discussion

These courses must be taken concurrently and normally should be completed during the junior year.

Note: Other upper-division Cinema courses may be taken concurrently with Foundation courses (specific course prerequisites apply). 

GWAR: The university strongly recommends that all Bachelor of Arts students complete the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) course in their major. Cinema offers several options, including:

  • CINE 302GW: Arab Cinema
  • CINE 303GW: Writing About Cinema
  • CINE 318GW: Art and Film
  • CINE 343GW: Perspectives on Documentary Film
  • CINE 350GW: The Art of Short Film

Note: Students who have completed a GWAR class in another discipline should consult a major advisor.

Cinema Studies, Electives, and Capstone

Cinema Studies: Students must complete nine units of coursework 300 and/or 500-numbered.

  • Note: CINE 340, CINE 341, and the first GWAR course do not satisfy this requirement.

Electives: Students must complete 16 additional units from 300, 400, 500, and/or 600-numbered courses. 

  • Note: Upper-division film production classes are NOT required in order to graduate. However, the School of Cinema offers a variety of courses in various styles of filmmaking as an option for students to explore.

Capstone Requirement: Three units from 500 or 600-numbered courses. These units may contribute to the Studies and/or Electives Requirement.

  • Note: Units for CINE 685, CINE 690, CINE 692, CINE 695, and CINE 699 do not apply to the Capstone Requirement.

Cinema Course Numbering

  • 200-Numbered = Introductory Core Courses. All are required.
  • 300-Numbered = Intermediate Critical Studies, Theory, and History, including Foundation and GWAR.
  • 400-Numbered = Intermediate Production, Animation, and Screenwriting. None are required.
  • 500-Numbered = Advanced Critical Studies, Theory, and History. Applies to Capstone.
  • 600-Numbered = Advanced Production, Animation, and Screenwriting. Applies to Capstone.

For a complete list of Cinema course descriptions and prerequisites, see the Cinema bulletin.

Transfer Students

  • Students should consult with a Cinema advisor about relevant transfer courses that do not formally articulate at SFSU.
  • Transfer students who articulate CINE 202 automatically fulfill the CINE 204 requirement. See a Cinema advisor to submit a waiver request. Note: Students still must complete 45 units minimum in the major even if CINE 204 is waived.  
  • A maximum of 13 units from a community college (articulated or with a faculty advisor’s approval) may be applied to courses in the Cinema major.  These are typically Core courses, but up to 6 of those units may be in screenwriting and/or filmmaking/video production electives. 
  • Transfer units may not count towards Foundation or GWAR classes.
  • If the minimum residence requirement of 12 units in the major is satisfied, credit for upper-division courses in the major from another four-year university is allowable if syllabi are comparable and with a faculty advisor’s approval.

Course Exceptions and Policies

  • With advisor approval, up to 12 upper-division units from other departments at SFSU may count toward the major. These are typically courses in the creative arts, humanities, and/or with a focus on film or media. Consult your faculty advisor for more info.
  • A maximum of 4 one-unit courses in any combination of CINE 325, 326, and 650 may count toward the major.
  • A maximum of 12 units of the following courses may count toward the major: CINE 376, 690, 692, 699.
  • A maximum of 9 CR/NC units may count toward the major.

Complementary Studies (12 units): This university requirement applies to all Bachelor of Arts students, including Cinema majors:

  • Students who complete a second major, a minor, or 12 units of a foreign language automatically fulfill the requirement.
  • All non-CINE prefix units are eligible for this requirement, including lower division, upper division, and transferred units.

Major Advising: Students should regularly consult with a Cinema faculty advisor or an available faculty member of their choice. Faculty advisors can assist with updates to the major portion of the Degree Progress Report.

Program Scope

The Animation Minor is open to all majors. The program is a production emphasis in creative storytelling, social issue documentary and artistic experimentation. 

Using techniques like drawing, stop-motion, 2D/3D digital and mixed media, students apply their research to short animated projects. Students gain a foundation in animation principles and methods applicable to fine art, creative, entertainment, industrial, scientific and humanities fields. The Animation Society welcomes all students to the club meetings. Visit the Animation Society website.

Students can email club officers at

Minor in Animation

Enrollment in the Animation Minor is limited and requires a portfolio review. Upper-division standing students of any major can apply. Five animation courses totaling 15 units are required. Students must maintain a grade of “C” or better in the required animation classes. It takes two years to complete the animation minor. 

Program learning outcomes are as follows:

  1. Students will acquire basic skills in the critical analysis of films, focused by the analysis of representative film texts from a range of periods and cultures.
  2. Students will relate animation to the production, distribution, and exhibition industries, to other arts, and to society.
  3. Students will identify contemporary technological, artistic, and industrial trends in the animation and cinematic arts.
  4. Students will acquire the basic technical skills necessary for cinematic expression with animation.
  5. Students will locate voice in the creation of animation as cinematic interdisciplinary art.

Animation Advisors 

Students whose last name begins with:

Animation Portfolio Review

The portfolio review is online in the spring semester (deadline April 20). Students should meet with an animation advisor in the fall and prepare their portfolios during their freshmen and sophomore years. Up to 14 students will be admitted after the spring portfolio review; they will receive permits to register for CINE 444, Animation 1. Others with strong portfolios will be wait-listed. All students must upload their application materials (application, portfolio, unofficial transcripts) to SF State Box by April 20.

Transfer Students Admitted After May

Transfer students admitted late to the university should upload their portfolios by August 15. Only transfer student portfolios will be considered in August. Upon successful portfolio review, transfer students will get permits to enroll in Cine 444, Animation 1; students on the spring waitlist will receive permits in August if there are available seats.

Portfolio Guidelines 

Portfolio Application (pdf)

Sample Portfolio (pdf)

Students should take a beginning drawing and a life drawing class before the review. Portfolios should include only students’ strongest work and be limited to 20 pages assembled as a digital pdf.

  • Required: 10-15 pages of human and animal life drawing, gestures & sequenced motion (not cartoons or doodles)
  • Each page should have several drawings (See sample portfolio)
  • Optional: 2-4 pages of color, design, painting, photography, sculpture or other art samples
  • Optional: Up to 2 animation or film samples (2-minute max each, include URL on the application for online streaming submissions

How to Upload your portfolio using an SF State Box account

  • Download application and sample portfolio
  • Sign up for an SF State Box account
    - A Box at SF State individual account is created for all current faculty, staff, students and community members the first time they access the service via the Web using their SF State ID and password.
    SF State Box Website
  • Make a folder for submission materials and submit the following:
    - portfolio
    - animation application
    - SF State unofficial transcript or DPR report
    -unofficial transcripts from other transfer schools (if applicable)
  • Share the folder with animation advisers Martha Gorzycki and Ben Ridgway
    - Locate the folder/file you wish to share and click once to see more options
    - Click the Share button
    - Select sharing type: Link
    - Set the link permission using the People in this folder dropdown
    - Copy the link and share, or
    - Enter email address(es) in the Email Address field to share immediately

Recommended Drawing Books

  • Mattesi, Michael D. Force. Dynamic Life Drawing For Animators. MA: Focal Press, 2006.
  • Hultgren, Ken. The Art of Animal Drawing. NY: Dover, 1993.

Required Courses / 15 units total for the Minor (3 Units Each) 

Enrollment in required animation courses requires a grade of C or better. It takes two years to complete the five required animation courses.

  • Cine 365 History of Animation (spring)
  • Cine 444 Animation 1 (fall)  Hands-on practice with animation principles using various techniques
  • Cine 445 Animation 2 (spring)  Sync-sound animation projects using various techniques
  • Cine 664 Animation 3 (fall)  Short animations exploring poetic design and creative storytelling
  • Cine 665 Animation 4 (spring)  Thesis short animation project

Optional Electives (3 Units Each)

  • Cine 440 Animation Pre-Production
  • Cine 443 Drawing for Animation
  • Cine 446 Stop Motion Animation
  • Cine 448 2D Digital Animation
  • Cine 651 Experimental Animation
  • Cine 652 Documentary Animation
  • Cine 660 3D Computer Animation I
  • Cine 661 3D Computer Animation II
  • Cine 667 Animation Professional Practice

Equipment Requirements & Recommendations

All animation production courses use computers and professional digital tools and software. Cinema computer labs have open access during specific hours M-F. The animation lab has digital tablets and stop-motion stations that are accessible to students enrolled in animation classes.

Tablet Recommendations for Animation

Pen Tablets

Laptop Recommendations

Use the Adobe After Effects system requirements as a benchmarking guide for your computer specs.  View the Adobe Help documentation.

Laptop Software Recommendations

 Filmmaking (Documentary, Experimental and Fiction)

Program Scope

Documentary, fiction and experimental pathways provide students with the opportunity to develop the various crafts of filmmaking — including cinematography, directing, editing, producing, production design and sound. Students apply these skills to the completion of well-executed short film projects spanning the genres of documentary, experimental and fiction.

Documentary Filmmaking 

Students interested in nonfiction filmmaking gain the necessary skills to craft compelling, socially engaging documentaries. Students who chose to focus their elective units in this area often graduate having produced three or more short documentary films.

Sample Documentary Production Courses

  • CINE 458: Writing for Documentary and Nonfiction 
  • CINE 472: Documentary Filmmaking Workshop 
  • CINE 626: Explorations in Documentary Production 
  • CINE 630: Workshop in Experimental Documentary
  • CINE 634: International Documentary Workshop
  • CINE 640: Advanced Documentary Workshop
  • CINE 652: Documentary Animation 

Experimental Filmmaking

Experimental filmmaking courses offer students the opportunity to reflect on the intimate relationship between experimental cinema, the historical avant-gardes, and contemporary art. Students who chose to focus their elective units in this area develop a practice of experimentation in cinema by creating and screening original work.

Sample Experimental Production Courses

  • CINE 476: Experimental Filmmaking 
  • CINE 478: Exploration in Interactive Cinema
  • CINE 480: Material Cinema Workshop
  • CINE 616: Immersive Storytelling Through Virtual Reality
  • CINE 630: Workshop in Experimental Documentary
  • CINE 632: Media Archaeology in Cinema 
  • CINE 651: Experimental Animation 

Fiction Filmmaking

Students pursuing fiction filmmaking gain the necessary skills to craft compelling films that challenge and entertain audiences. Students who chose to focus their elective units in this area often graduate having produced two or three short films and/or develop their craft in the areas of cinematography, production design, sound work or editing.

Sample Fiction Production Courses

  • CINE 412: Sound Production for Film
  • CINE 414: Exploring Sound Design for Cinema
  • CINE 416: Sound Editing and Mixing 
  • CINE 418: Production Design and Art Direction 
  • CINE 420: Projects in Film Editing  
  • CINE 422: Performing for the Screen
  • CINE 424: Directing Actors 
  • CINE 426: 16mm Cinematography 
  • CINE 428: Digital Cinematography 
  • CINE 470: Mobile Media Production Workshop 
  • CINE 474: Workshop in Fiction Filmmaking 
  • CINE 612: Directing Visual Style 
  • CINE 614: Advanced Lighting Techniques 
  • CINE 620: Advanced Fiction Filmmaking I
  • CINE 622: Advanced Fiction Filmmaking II
  • CINE 627: Producing and Financing Films I
  • CINE 628: Producing and Financing Films II
  • CINE 654: Writing and Performing in Film and Theatre


Students pursuing screenwriting gain the necessary skills to craft compelling cinematic stories. Students who chose to focus their elective units in this area often graduate having produced X. 

Sample Screenwriting Courses 

  • CINE 450 Fundamentals of Screenwriting  

  • CINE 452 Screenwriting: Focus on Genre  

  • CINE 456 Feature Screenwriting I  

  • CINE 642 Episodic Screenwriting  

  • CINE 646 Feature Screenwriting II  

  • CINE 648 Screenplay Revising  

  • CINE 656 Screenwriting Workshop: Special Topics 

  • CINE 658 Creating Story Worlds 

Program Scope

Through the study of cinema and media, students gain skills in critical thinking, writing, research, analysis, and digital-media presentation — preparing them for a wide range of employment opportunities related to moving images.


Foundation: Upper-division Cinema majors must complete the following foundation courses with a "C" or higher:

  • CINE 340: Critical Studies
  • CINE 341: Critical Studies Discussion

GWAR: All B.A. students must complete one GWAR (Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement) course with a "C" or higher. Students normally are expected to complete a GWAR in their major. The following options are available in the School of Cinema:

  • CINE 302GW: Arab Cinema
  • CINE 303GW: Writing About Cinema
  • CINE 318GW: Art and Film
  • CINE 343GW: Perspective on Documentary Film
  • CINE 350GW: The Art of Short Film

Cinema Studies Requirement:  Students must complete nine (9) Cinema units at the 300 and/or 500 levels.  Note: CINE 340, 341, and the first GWAR course do not satisfy this requirement.

Cinema Studies Elective Courses

These courses contribute to the nine (9) units for the Cinema Studies Requirement (see above).  Any courses beyond nine will contribute to the sixteen (16) units of Cinema Electives.

Intermediate Level

  • CINE 304: Gender in Film (variable topics)
  • CINE 305: Film and the Holocaust
  • CINE 306: Chinese Documentary Film
  • CINE 307: National/Regional Cinemas (variable topics)
  • CINE 308: Third Cinema
  • CINE 309: Latina/o/x Cinema
  • CINE 314: Israeli Cinema
  • CINE 317: Art and Film
  • CINE 327: Anthropology and Film
  • CINE 331: Hollywood Representation of Race and Ethnicity
  • CINE 332: Representation and Narration of Sexuality in Hollywood Cinema
  • CINE 333: Race and Independent Cinema
  • CINE 335: Art of Cinematography
  • CINE 342: Documentary Film
  • CINE 344: Film Genre (variable topics)
  • CINE 345: Auteur Cinema (variable topics)
  • CINE 347: Signs of Aliens: Semiotics of Film and Popular Culture
  • CINE 365: History of Animation
  • CINE 373: Film and Society
  • CINE 375: U.S. Culture and Cinema of the 1950s

Advanced Level*

  • CINE 502: Experiments in Cinematic Form
  • CINE 507: Topics in Film History (variable topics)
  • CINE 540: Issues in Film Theory (variable topics)
  • CINE 541: Race, Sex and Identity Online
  • CINE 549: Critical Practices (variable topics)
  • CINE 572: Film Theory (variable topics)
  • CINE 598: Senior Critical Studies Seminar

*500-level courses apply to the 3-unit Capstone Requirement.