Cinematic Arts


Cinematic Arts classes focus on the art of storytelling through the medium of film. Under the guidance of Cinematic Arts Director Philip Chidel, each course year utilizes project based learning in all aspects of the curriculum.
Students develop story ideas and learn the craft of building stories with interesting characters and compelling plots. In parallel with this, students are 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.
Students are also shown classic films from around the world, exposing them to a wide variety of cinematic expression. 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.

Students’ First Year Experience

  Students take a double period of Cinematic Arts and are divided into two classes of approximately 30 students each. The first class is comprised of first and second year students; the second is made up of third and fourth years. All students in each year of the program shoot short film projects throughout the 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.
  First years begin learning 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 – when to cut, why to cut and how to enrich their stories through editing.
  During the editing process, first years begin to explore the use of sound in filmmaking. Though all of their films are non-dialogue, they learn how to choose and edit appropriate music and sound effects for each film they make.
  First year 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.

The Second Year Experience

♦  Second year 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.

♦  Second year 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.

 Second year students further explore the elements of lighting for film, creating different styles of lighting to enhance their stories.

♦  Second year students begin using more advanced DSLR and mirrorless cameras to shoot their films.

 Second year students begin using Adobe Premiere as their primary editing software.

Advanced Filmmaking Experience

♦  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.


Students in Cinematic Arts are surrounded by a wealth of resources. 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. Successful students are those who are motivated. They are self-starters. They develop a filmmaking vision. The Cinematic Arts program offers a lot of freedom, and the payoff can be the creation of filmic artistry!

Find out more…

And see the MSA Cinematic Arts Facebook page, where students and their families find useful tips, informational articles, campus news and regular updates about MSA Cinematic Arts activities.

Check out the short films created by MSA students, like “My Dearest Joy” (right), which won the Fall 2017 Film Challenge hosted by MSA. There are more student films available for viewing on the MSA  YouTube channel.