Cinematic Arts

The sky’s the limit in terms of how broadly students can add to their filmmaking skill set and how deeply they choose to hone their particular filmmaking talents. The most successful students are those who experiment; who try new things; who teach themselves skills beyond those required in the program; who go beyond the standard assignments. Students will explore the art of storytelling through the medium of film. Utilizing project-based learning, they will develop story ideas and learn the craft of building stories with interesting characters and compelling plots. In parallel with this, students will be taught the technical elements of filmmaking necessary to tell their stories visually — shooting, lighting, directing, editing, sound and color correction. Guest filmmakers, producers and writers expose students to the real-world aspects of filmmaking, along with its techniques, challenges and solutions. In addition, they are encouraged to participate in film festivals and student films are showcased in an MSA film festival held at the end of the school year.


While exploring and discovering their craft, students also discover a bit about themselves. Please enjoy this brief sampling of our film students' work this year.

First year students spend the entire year making short non-dialogue films, allowing them to begin learning the techniques of telling a story visually. In addition, they learn the format of scriptwriting using the Celtx software program. Students learn how to use non-linear editing software on the second day of class using Final Cut X. As the year progresses, they continue to learn the techniques of editing. Though all of their films are non-dialogue, they learn how to choose and edit appropriate music and sound effects. Students learn the art of shooting their films, using the Sony NX-5U camera. This includes the technical aspects of camera operation, framing, camera movement and blocking of actors within the frame. Initial instruction on three point lighting is presented during the second semester, as well as techniques for ensuring proper exposure.

Students move to dialogue films as their primary style of filmmaking. They are taught the rudiments of sound recording and syncing during the edit process. Students deepen their knowledge of scriptwriting. The technique of writing the short script is emphasized along with character development, story arc, raising the stakes, the three act structure. And writing dialogue. Students further explore the elements of lighting for film, creating different styles of lighting to enhance their stories. Students begin using more advanced DSLR and mirrorless cameras to shoot their films and begin using Adobe Premiere as their primary editing software.

Third year students concentrate on enhancing their sound through the art of sound design and on fixing and sweetening dialogue using Adobe Audition software. Fourth year students explore the discipline of color correction using Adobe color correction software and/or Davinci Resolve. Special effects are an added element of all four years and each student determines the extent to which they want to learn this valuable skill. Though effects work can be done in both Final Cut X and Adobe Premiere, advanced effects are created primarily with Adobe After Effects. Beginning with the second year, all students are required to work on two outside, school-related projects per semester. Some examples: working on setup, shooting and editing of our chief fundraising effort (Showcase), recording and editing various MSA performances, recording and editing soirees, creating Leadership’s end-of-year video.

Awards + Accolades


  • Earned Spot in the Mill Valley Film Festival Youth Shorts, Fangs for the Memories.
  • Southern California Film Festival, A Silent Legacy, Best Original Screenplay.
  • Lark Theatre Youth Film Contest, Color of Music,  2nd Place.
  • Lark Theatre Youth Film Contest, A Silent Legacy, Honorable Mention.
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