School of Visual Arts

MFA Social Documentary Film


209 E 23rd St.

New York City, NY 10010

United States





Program Information

Degrees Offered:

M.F.A.-Social Documentary Film

Format: Campus

Program Description:

“Documania”—that’s how The New York Times recently referred to the stunning proliferation of documentary film made possible by the signature technologies of our time. In short, it has never been easier to make a documentary. But producing a film that stands out is another story, another challenge altogether. As more and more non-fiction films crowd the marketplace—competing for limited resources and audience share—true fluency with the form increasingly confers a vital edge, a crucial advantage that makes one film rise above the rest. Our MFA program in Social Documentary Film fosters filmmaking that is skillful and sure—not just technologically, but artistically, socially and critically as well. With every shot composed, cut made, and interview question asked, our students learn to make the motivated creative decisions that result in impactful films, ones with the power to truly shift our consciousness and change the way we see our world. Located in the heart of Manhattan, we are part of the most active, productive documentary film community in the world. Students work directly with inventive, accomplished nonfiction storytellers and visual journalists—as faculty, mentors and collaborators. Over the course of the two-year program, as “SocDoc” students learn the fundamentals of nonfiction filmmaking in a supportive, inclusive environment, they are also introduced to the wider industry through internships, film festivals, guest lectures, closed screenings and a host of other networking events in the City. When it comes to making their own films, however, our students are in no way confined to New York. In the past two years, students in the MFA program have produced films in China, Indonesia, Guatemala, Nigeria and Vietnam. And regardless of their geographic coordinates, they have been able to rely on the department for equipment and solid advice, both practical and artistic. Dedicated to instilling the apparatus and ethics of the professional documentarian, our program is open to qualified students from varying backgrounds—some have prior filmmaking experience, others do not. Ultimately, we are looking for passionate, insightful individuals who are eager to learn how best to share the stories they have a compulsion to tell. No matter the subject matter or style—be it personal, political, comical, revolutionary—social documentary films increase our awareness of ourselves and the world we inhabit. They are a window into who we are. As such, they have a unique ability to engage, illuminate and inspire. At SVA, we are committed to realizing that potential.

Financial aid is only available for those who qualify.


The School of Visual Arts (SVA) has been authorized by the New York State Board of Regents to confer the degrees of Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Fine Arts, and Master of Professional Studies.

International Student Requirements:

Proof of English Proficiency (required of applicants whose primary language is not English) Nonimmigrant alien applicants are required to submit documentation of sufficient financial resources to attend SVA.

Facts & Figures

Financial Aid: Yes

International Financial Aid: No

Classification: Specialized Institution—School of art, music, or design

Locale: Large City

Size & Settings: 3,000-5,999

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