In The Film School at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film, we endeavor to give artists an intellectual and practical framework to express themselves in their chosen field of art while preparing them for a number of opportunities for professional employment.
— Richard Gershman, The Film School Chair
The MFA in Film Production, a terminal degree, is a two-year program, which provides graduate students an immersive experience in narrative storytelling. The program’s flexible curriculum offers training in producing, directing, cinematography, screenwriting, and editing, and fosters an environment of collaboration and professional practice. This program will offer students an opportunity to grow and expand their skills, increase their knowledge, develop their aesthetic, and contribute to a very competitive and constantly evolving film industry.
Watkins’ MFA in Film Production is a 2-year program, focused on a select number of students who exhibit the desire to grow and develop as expert filmmakers. Classes are small and scheduled in the evenings and on Saturdays allowing for full time students and working professionals to attend. Students will have the opportunity to create narrative and non-narrative (documentary, experimental, thematic) film projects. Thesis screenplays or films will be automatically entered or showcased at the Nashville Film Festival. All MFA candidates who apply before May 1 are eligible for assistantships.
* 6 credit hours
Students interested in focusing their studies in one of the following areas are encouraged to look at:
We are very proud of our strong faculty and their impressive academic and professional experience. Study with experienced filmmakers who have worked for major Hollywood studios and Television networks.
Professor Gershman, who relocated from Los Angeles to assume the position of Chair of the Film School, has a long list of credits in theatre, television and film. Selected projects include: directing episodes of Chicago Hope and Judging Amy; working as an assistant director on Lost, Ugly Betty and Gossip Girl; serving as production manager on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer; and working in several production capacities on feature films such as The Hunt for Red October and Queen’s Logic. Extensive theatrical experience includes directing at Seattle Rep and the Mark Taper Forum (Los Angeles) and assisting on the Broadway and/or London productions of Children of a Lesser God and Neil Simon’s Fools. Recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Directing, he is a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Professor Womack’s screenwriting credits include the television films Volcano: Fire on the Mountain and CableAce-nominated Proudheart. A member of the Writers Guild of America, he is an award-winning author of 11 novels, including two crime series. His debut novel, Murphy's Fault (1990), was named to the New York Times’ annual List of Notable Books. Dead Folks’ Blues (from the six-part Harry James Denton series, also published in Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom) was honored in 1994 with the Edgar Allan Poe Award by the Mystery Writers of America, the highest award presented to writers in the field of mystery and crime fiction. He also co-edited and wrote the introduction for The True Crime Files of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Past chair of the Film School, he has served in leadership roles with the Tennessee Screenwriting Association, the Mystery Writers of America, and the Mid-South regional chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Founding Chair of the Film School, Professor Quarles has more than 20 years’ experience as a filmmaker and educator. For her creative work she has received numerous festival awards as well as several production and cultural arts grants from the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Florida Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She is a past president of the Nashville Film Festival and of the Film Nashville Board.
Professor Gordon has edited more than 30 Hollywood feature films, including Toy Story, Return of the Living Dead, The Blue Lagoon and Grandview U.S.A., plus many documentaries (World War II in Color, From Russia to Hollywood). Through his work on Toy Story, the first full-length film to be entirely computer generated, he is the virtual inventor of the process by which today’s CG animated features are edited. His credits also include directing the family comedy Revenge of the Red Baron, which starred Tobey Maguire and Mickey Rooney.
A film critic and teacher, Amy’s specialty is French cinema, but she is an avid cinephile for all types of film. A member of the Modern Language Association and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, she earned a doctorate in French, Cinema Studies, Women’s Studies and Spanish. Additional teaching experience includes the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee Technological University, Belmont University, TFLI (Tennessee Foreign Language Institute) and OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute).
For more than 30 years, Ron has worked professionally as a director of photography, first assistant cameraman, and camera operator on feature films, television movies and series, live concerts, sporting events, commercials, visual music projects, and documentaries. A member of the International Cinematographers Guild, he is experienced with 16mm and 35mm motion picture film, high definition video, and HDSLR electronic cinematography production. He is also an accomplished still photographer and has published three books of photography. He is a past contributing editor at FilmCrew magazine and taught for 10 years at the Maine Media Workshops.
As Media Center assistant, Brandon’s duties include introducing students to all available camera, sound, grip and lighting equipment. His professional production credits include NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? and MTV's The Ride.
Scott has worked as a sound editor on narrative projects, documentaries, and national and international commercials over the past decade. In addition to having developed the sound curriculum at Watkins, he is also an accomplished composer, creating award-winning soundtracks for movies, TV, video games, commercials, and the Internet (his projects have been recognized by Comic-Con, Park City Film Music Festival, and the Mid South Emmys). His previous life as a musician included live performances, world tours and/or studio recordings with notable artists such as Elton John, Donna Summer, Gloria Estefan and Aaron Neville.
Jonathan is an animation director who strives to break from the typical CGI aesthetic by integrating multiple media and processes generally not used in the industry. Adept with traditional media such as paint, clay, and casting materials as well as computer-based processes, he creates visuals that have the look and feel of the handmade and tactile. His client list includes record labels (Sony, Warner Bros, Interscope), film companies (Lionsgate, Miramax, Roadside Attractions), agencies (Foote, Cone, and Belding, TBWA\Chiat\Day), and entertainment entities (Blue Man Group, MTV networks).
Julian has worked as a director, cinematographer, and camera operator for film, television and music videos. He trained as a Steadicam operator with its Oscar-winning inventor, Garrett Brown, and became a recognized Steadicam master in 1988. His directing credits include the TV series Nash Bridges, The Strip and The District; the Lifetime movie A Mother's Testimony; the short film Heartburn; and music videos of all genres, including the critically acclaimed “City of Dreams: Artists for Tennessee Flood Relief.” Among his dozens of cinematography and camera credits are Cocktail, The Commish, Jericho and All About the Benjamins.
Leslie’s 25-year career in Hollywood has included serving as production designer, set decorator and art director on films such as Lost Highway, Stoker, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and Killing Them Softly, and on numerous TV series such as Rizzoli & Isles, Hawthorne, and Everybody Hates Chris. One of her several collaborations with David Lynch was as set decorator for the pilot episode of Twin Peaks, which earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Art Direction for a Series.
An actor, director, producer, playwright, and songwriter, Bill is also one of the area’s best known acting teachers. After relocating from New York in 1994, he co-founded Actors Bridge Ensemble and introduced Nashville to the Meisner Technique; since then, through classes at ABE and Belmont University’s Theater Department (he retired in 2014 as Assistant Professor of Acting and Directing), he’s trained more actors than anyone in town. He has directed for the Nashville Repertory Theatre and the O’Neill Theatre Center in addition to more than 60 ABE productions as director and/or actor. Among his six produced plays are the musical American Duet (written in collaboration with Grammy-winning songwriter Marcus Hummon), which starred Darius Rucker, and a drama about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Outside Paradise.
Joseph (J.) Kline is the president of Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. Formerly he held administrative and faculty posts at Eastern New Mexico University, DeSales University, and the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he introduced the major in dramatic writing. Dr. Kline is an active member of Actors’ Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, and the Dramatists Guild of America. Professionally he has worked as an actor, director, playwright, and producer in theatre, film, and television, including three years as the playwright-in-residence at Barter Theatre, the state theatre of Virginia. His plays have been produced across America and abroad.