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USC School of Cinematic Arts

Coordinates: 34°01′23″N 118°17′09″W / 34.023056°N 118.285833°W / 34.023056; -118.285833
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USC School of Cinematic Arts
MottoLimes regiones rerum[1]
Motto in English
Reality ends here[2]
TypePrivate film school
Established1929; 95 years ago (1929)
Parent institution
University of Southern California
DeanElizabeth M. Daley, Ph.D.
Academic staff
96 full time
219 part time[3]
Administrative staff
144 full time
499 student workers[3]
Location, ,

The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) houses seven academic divisions: Film & Television Production; Cinema & Media Studies; John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts; John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television; Interactive Media & Games; Media Arts + Practice; Peter Stark Producing Program.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts is led by dean Elizabeth Monk Daley, who holds the Steven J. Ross/Time Warner Chair and is the longest-serving dean at the University of Southern California, having led the cinema school since 1991.

Since opening, the USC School of Cinematic Arts has been ranked highly as one of the best film schools in the United States.[4] The USC School of Cinematic Arts currently has a 3% acceptance rate. [5]


The George Lucas Instructional Building (top) was demolished in 2009 after the opening of the new Cinematic Arts Complex (bottom).

When Douglas Fairbanks became the first president of the nascent Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927, one of his recommendations was that the academy should have a “training school”. As Fairbanks and his enablers reasoned that training in the cinematic arts should be seen as a legitimate academic discipline at major universities, given the same degree considerations as fields like medicine and law. Although cinema studies programs are now widely entrenched in academia, back then it was a novel idea and many universities turned Fairbanks down. But he found tepid acceptance at the University of Southern California that agreed to allow one class, called “Introduction to Photoplay” that debuted in 1929, the same year as the Academy Awards. Determined to make it a success, Fairbanks brought in the biggest industry names of the era to lecture, including Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, William C. DeMille, Ernst Lubitsch, Irving Thalberg, and Darryl Zanuck.[6] From that one class grew a Department of Cinematography (1932) in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, renamed the Department of Cinema (1940), which led to the establishment of the USC School of Cinema-Television (1983), which was renamed the USC School of Cinematic Arts (2006).[7] .

On September 19, 2006, USC announced that alumnus George Lucas had donated US$175 million to expand the film school with a new 137,000-square-foot (12,700 m2) facility. This represented the largest single donation to USC and the largest to any film school in the world.[8] His previous donations resulted in the naming of two buildings in the school's previous complex, opened in 1984, after him and his then-wife Marcia, though Lucas was not fond of the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture used in those buildings. An architectural hobbyist, Lucas laid out the original designs for the project, inspired by the Mediterranean Revival Style that was used in older campus buildings as well as the Los Angeles area. The project also received another $50 million in contributions from Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company.[1]

In fall 2006, the school, together with the Royal Film Commission of Jordan, created the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts (RSICA) in Aqaba, Jordan.[9] The first classes were held in 2008, and the first graduating class for the university was in 2010.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts announced it would remove an exhibit devoted to actor and former USC student John Wayne, after months of insistence from a small number of students denouncing the Hollywood star’s views and the portrayal of indigenous Americans in his films. The exhibit has been relocated to the Cinematic Arts library which has many collections for the study of figures whose lives and works are part of society's shared history. These materials are preserved for posterity and made accessible for research and scholarship as will the materials in the Wayne Collection.[10]


Film & Television Production[edit]

The current Chair is Gail Katz, holder of the Mary Pickford Endowed Chair; Vice-Chair is Susan Arnold.

Cinema & Media Studies[edit]

The Division of Cinema & Media Studies (CaMS) is the central hub for film theory at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. The current Chair is Priya Jaikumar. Notable faculty members of the Cinema and Media Studies department include Todd Boyd and Drew Casper. Prior to his 2019 retirement, Casper was the 3rd-highest paid professor in the University of Southern California's history.

John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts[edit]

The John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts teaches courses in animation and digital arts. These include classic character animation, 2-D and 3-D storytelling, performance capture, visual effects, motion graphics, stop-motion, experimental filmmaking, installations and multimedia, documentary animation, and visualizing scientific research. The current Chair is Teresa Cheng, who holds the John C. Hench Endowed Division Chair.

Interactive Media & Games Division[edit]

The Interactive Media & Games Division focus is on video games. USC has been a pioneer in teaching the foundations of games and interactive media while also moving the field forward with innovative research concepts. Since the start of its rating system in 2009, The Princeton Review has consistently ranked USC as the top school for game design in North America. The Chair at the moment is Danny Bilson.

Media Arts + Practice[edit]

The Media Arts + Practice Division (MA+P) creates and analyzes media for fields as diverse as business, medicine, education, architecture, law, urban planning, filmmaking. The current co-chairs are Holly Willis and Elizabeth Ramsey.

John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television[edit]

The USC School of Cinematic Arts offers Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees in Writing for Screen and Television for students who seek professional preparation for a career in screen and television writing. The programs emphasizes small, workshop-style classes. Students attend a variety of guest speaker presentations, take industry internships, are provided with mentors and are taught by professors who are actively working in the entertainment industry. Each fall, 30 undergraduate and 32 graduate writing students are selected to begin the program. The current Chair is David Isaacs.

Peter Stark Producing Program[edit]

The Peter Stark Producing Program is a two-year (four semester) full-time graduate program. 24 Peter Stark Program students are enrolled each fall. The curriculum is designed to prepare a select group of students for careers as producers and executives of film, television, and new media. The current Chair is Edward Saxon and Associate Chair is Nina Yang Bongiovi.[11]


The School of Cinematic Arts also has an active Board of Councilors who help guide the future direction of the School and work with the Dean to ensure the School is properly resourced.


Donations from film and game industry companies, friends, and alumni have enabled the school to build the following facilities:[12]

At the center of the new television complex is a statue of founder Douglas Fairbanks. He is seen holding a fencing foil in one hand and a script in the other to reflect his strong ties with the USC Fencing Club.


The Eileen Norris Cinema Theater, a 340-seat theater that regularly hosts film screenings, lectures, and special events.[13] It was where THX was first developed and installed.[14]
  • Since 1973, at least one alumnus of SCA has been nominated for an Academy Award annually, totaling 256 nominations and 78 wins.[15]
  • Since 1973, at least one SCA alumnus or alumna has been nominated for the Emmy Award annually, totaling 473 nominations and 119 wins.[15]
  • The top 17 grossing films of all time have had an SCA graduate in a key creative position.[15]
  • The Princeton Review has ranked the Interactive Media and Games Division's video game design program best in North America multiple years in a row.
  • Both The Hollywood Reporter and USA Today have ranked SCA the number one film program in the world, with its unmatched facilities, proximity to Hollywood, and numerous industry connections being the primary rationale.
  • The current acceptance rate for the USC School of Cinematic Arts is 3%.[16]

Awards for USC Cinema short films[edit]

Awards for USC Cinema feature films[edit]

Notable SCA alumni[edit]

See also List of University of Southern California people

SCA has more than 17,000 alumni.[3][26] Among the most notable are:

Other notable faculty members and instructors (past and present)[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Michael Cieply, A Film School’s New Look Is Historic, The New York Times, February 9, 2009, Accessed February 10, 2009.
  2. ^ The New York Times reports the motto as meaning "Reality ends here", but a more direct translation of the Latin approximates as, "The border is the regions of things".
  3. ^ a b c d e USC Cinematic Arts (PDF), University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts, 2013, retrieved January 27, 2017
  4. ^ Galuppo, Mia (2022-08-05). "2022's Top 25 American Film Schools, Ranked". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2023-07-14.
  5. ^ Gazette, College (2022-01-03). "USC Film School - Acceptance Rate, Ranking, and More". Retrieved 2023-07-14.
  6. ^ Rachel Abramowitz, L.A.'s screening gems, Los Angeles Times, Accessed June 16, 2008.
  7. ^ Stuart Silverstein, George Lucas Donates USC's Largest Single Gift[dead link], The Los Angeles Times, September 19, 2006
  8. ^ John Zollinger, George Lucas Donates $175 Million to USC Archived 2015-02-23 at the Wayback Machine, USC Public Relations, September 20, 2006
  9. ^ Jordan Signs Cinema Pact With USC, USC Public Relations, September 20, 2006
  10. ^ "SCA to Remove John Wayne Exhibit". Daily Trojan. USC. 10 July 2020.
  11. ^ Galuppo, Mia (2021-07-15). "USC Film School Names Ed Saxon Chair of Peter Stark Producing Program". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2024-04-13.
  12. ^ Facilities
  13. ^ Eileen Norris Cinema Theatre Complex, USC School of Cinematic Arts Facilities, Accessed January 3, 2009.
  14. ^ USC Self-Guided Tour Archived 2012-10-14 at the Wayback Machine, University of Southern California, Accessed June 8, 2009.
  15. ^ a b c Mel Cowan, Cinematic Arts Celebrates 80th Anniversary With All New Campus, University of Southern California, March 31, 2009, Accessed May 1, 2009.
  16. ^ "Amid deaths, students raise concerns over workload, culture and climate within the School of Cinematic Arts". 16 December 2019.
  17. ^ "The 28th Academy Awards, 1956". The Oscars. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  18. ^ The Student Movie Makers, TIME Magazine, February 2, 1968
  19. ^ Rinzler, J.W., The Complete Making of Indiana Jones; The Definitive Story Behind All Four Films, Del Rey, 2008, ISBN 978-0345501295.
  20. ^ Bapis, Elaine M., Camera And Action: American Film As Agent of Social Change, 1965–1975, McFarland, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7864-3341-4.
  21. ^ Alumni Profile: Cannes Do Spirit, Trojan Family Magazine, Spring 2002, Accessed September 19, 2006.
  22. ^ KAVI – a short film written and directed by Gregg Helvey » Cast/Crew. Retrieved on 2014-06-05.
  23. ^ "Samir". Journey West Pictures. Retrieved 2022-10-22.
  24. ^ "2019 Heartland International Film Festival Selections". 15 February 2021. Retrieved 2022-10-22.
  25. ^ "HIFF28 Archives". Heartland Film. Retrieved 2022-10-22.
  26. ^ Everett & Peterson, Dino & Jennifer (2013). "The moving image". USC Cinematic Arts. University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.
  27. ^ Weinraub, Bernard. "FILM; An Unusual Choice for the Role of Studio Superhero", The New York Times, July 9, 2000. Accessed November 27, 2007. "Mr. Singer attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan for two years, and then transferred to the University of Southern California."
  28. ^ "Passings: Dick Hoerner, L.A. Rams fullback, dies at 88; John A. Ferraro, actor, director and USC teacher, dies at 64". Los Angeles Times. December 19, 2010. Retrieved December 24, 2010.
  29. ^ Kaufman, Amy (October 9, 2012). "James Franco to teach a USC film production class next spring". Los Angeles Times.
  30. ^ David Kehr, Jerry Lewis, Mercurial Comedian and Filmmaker, Dies at 91, The New York Times, August 20, 2017.
  31. ^ "Respected Cinematographer, Professor and USC Alumnus obituary". USC School of Cinematic Arts. December 2, 2010. Retrieved December 12, 2010.[dead link]

34°01′23″N 118°17′09″W / 34.023056°N 118.285833°W / 34.023056; -118.285833