Montana State University
MSU Catalog > School of Film and Photography

School of Film and Photograpy

School of Film and Photography
     Visual Communications Building
     Room 202
     P.O. Box 173350
     Montana State University
     Bozeman, MT 59717-3350
     (406) 994-2484

     Dr. Dennis Aig, Program Head, MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking
     (406) 994-6216

     Vicki Miller, Student Coordinator
     (406) 994-2484

     Dr. Robert Arnold
     (406) 994-7588

  • Arnold, Robert, Ph.D.
  • Aig, Dennis, Ph.D.
  • Tobias, Ronald, MFA
  •  Stillwell, Cindy, MFA
  • Lipfert, Theo, MFA
  • Watson, Tom, MFA
  • Ricciardelli, Lucia, Ph.D.
  • Anderson, Christina, MFA
  • Van Coller, Ian, MFA
  • Pike, Alexis, MFA
  • Joyce, James, MFA
  • Savoie, Gianna, M.S.

Degrees conferred

M.F.A. in Science and Natural History Filmmaking

The Master of Fine Arts Program in Science and Natural History Filmmaking at Montana State University is the largest and best known of only three programs in the world dedicated to this unique and rewarding field of filmmaking.  Students in the program have had their work broadcast on many major channels and programs such as The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, The Science Channel, CNN, Sixty Minutes II, Larry King, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News. 

Students have produced films for the National Park Service, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Agriculture, NOAA, NASA, National Geographic, Discovery, and such non-profit organizations as the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, the Field Museum and the Boston Museum of Science.  Students’ work has also been featured in numerous festivals internationally. 

Our students have won five EMMYS, been awarded five Fulbright scholarships, a Fred Rogers Scholarship from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, a Webby, and many other honors. Our students have shot on every continent in the world documenting the work of explorers and scientists. The graduate student podcast and website TERRA: THE NATURE OF OUR WORLD  ( attracts and distributes some of the world’s leading science and conservation productions to almost 100,000 viewers a month.  

Our mission is to provide filmmaking knowledge to students with formal education and experience in science, engineering and technology so they may create accurate, innovative, and exciting programs that advance the public understanding of science.

Candidates for the MFA take courses that include film and video production, the history and theory of science and natural history film, cinematography, production management, editing, and writing.  Almost all students also work at one or more production internships during their time as MFA students. The intention of the program is to prepare students with a contemporary and complete understanding of the media production process.


We seek candidates with at least an undergraduate degree in biological or physical sciences, engineering, technology, or the social sciences, and preferably with some research experience. Candidates are not expected to have any formal education or experience in filmmaking. Candidates with filmmaking degrees or degrees in other fields must have a minor in a scientific field or equivalent work experience.

Program Requirements

The curriculum consists of a minimum of sixty semester credit hours of study, written thesis, and thesis film taken over a minimum of three years. To graduate, a student should complete the course of study in good academic standing and produce and defend a written thesis or thesis film.

FILM 504

Film and Documentary Theory

3 Credits

FILM 505

Critical Approaches to Natural History Filmmaking

3 Credits

FILM 506

Critical Approaches to Science Filmmaking

3 Credits

FILM 510

Fundamentals of Filmmaking

 3 Credits

FILM 513

Advanced Cinematography

3 Credits

FILM 515

Science and Natural History Film Production

3 Credits

FILM 517

Production Management

3 Credits

FILM 518

Writing for Documentary and Non-Fiction Film

3 Credits

FILM 519

Post Production Workflow

3 Credits

FILM 521

Contemporary Trends in Non-Fiction

3 Credits

FILM 523

Second Year Film Prep

2 Credits

FILM 525

Second Year Film Production

3  Credits

FILM 526

Alternative Non-Fiction

3 Credits  

FILM 533

Adv. Problems TV & Internet
Series Prod (TERRA)

 1-9 Credits , Max. 9 Credits (May be repeated)

  • FILM 570           Independent Study   - 1-3 Credits,  Max. 3 credits May be repeated
  • FILM 576           Internship  - 1-12 Credits, max 12 Credits,  credits, May be repeated
  • FILM 580           Special Topics  1-4 cr., Max. 12 credits, May be repeated
  • FILM 581           Special Professional Projects, 1-3 Credits, Max 6 credits, May be repeated
  • FILM 590           Master’s Thesis – 1-15,  May be Repeated

Financial Assistance

Depending on the availability of funds, a limited number of teaching assistantships and research fellowships are available each year.

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