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 considered one of the best programs in the world dedicated to this unique and rewarding field of filmmaking. Our mission is to train aspiring filmmakers with an interest and background in scientific disciplines to develop the creative, technical, and critical skills needed to create work that will contribute to the public understanding of science.The pandemic, concern for the climate, and other policy issues relying on science have made this goal even more central to the way we all live.

Graduates have pursued successful careers as award-winning independent filmmakers, staff creators at major agencies and organizations, and production leaders at major channels and streaming platforms. They have contributed to the stellar reputations of National Geographic, PBS, Netflix, and the BBC among many others. Other alumni are communications executives with foundations, NGOS and government agencies. Several hold tenure-track and tenured professorial appointments at major universities.

While still completing their degrees, our students have produced films for the National Park Service, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Agriculture, NOAA, NASA, Discovery, and such non-profit organizations as the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, and the Field Museum and the Boston Museum of Science. Students and alumni have received several student Emmys and multiple National Emmy Awards along with numerous honors at festivals and juried competitions.

Our students have also been awarded Fulbright scholarships, a Fred Rogers Scholarship from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Webby awards, and many other honors. They have documented the work of explorers and scientists in almost every field from astrophysics to zoology and on every continent in the world including Antarctica.

Candidates for the MFA take courses that include film and video production, the history and theory of science and natural history communication, cinematography, sound, production management, editing and writing. All students must also complete one or more production internships during their time as MFA students. Our students are in great demand even before graduation and most leave the program with their first professional credits as well as their MFA degree.


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

FILM 504Film and Documentary Theory4
FILM 510Fundamentals of Filmmaking3
FILM 513Advanced Cinematography3
FILM 515Science and Natural History Film Production4
FILM 517Production Management3
FILM 505Critical Approaches to Science and Natural History Filmmaking4
FILM 518Writing for Documentary and Non-Fiction Film3
FILM 519Post Production Workflow3
FILM 523Second Year Film Prep2
FILM 525Second Year Film Prod3
FILM 526Alternative Nonfiction3
FILM 560Advanced Post Production: Info Design3
FILM 581Special Professional Proj1-3, max 12 credits, may be repeated
FILM 590Master's Thesis1-15, max 15 credits, may be repeated
FILM 591Special Topics1-3, max 12 credits, may be repeated
FILM 592Independent Study1-3, max 3 credits, may be repeated
FILM 598Professional Internship1-6, max 6 credits, may be repeated