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Virginia’s history and scenery make it a popular backdrop for many films. In fact, Hollywood has made many trips to the state to film blockbuster movies such as Argo, J. Edgar, Lincoln, War of the Worlds, Hannibal, Minority Report, Mission: Impossible, Patriot Games, Silence of the Lambs, Dirty Dancing, and Coal Miner’s Daughter. Film productions, both big and small, have kept the state’s film community very busy over the years. A large number of television production studios, documentary filmmakers, and global ad campaigns play a significant role in the employment scene as well.
To get in on the action, Virginia-based filmmakers and related artists must have talent, stamina, experience, and a degree. Fortunately, a number of Virginia colleges offer competitive programs for aspiring filmmakers. Just a few include Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), George Mason University, and the University of Richmond.
Virginia Film Schools
Virginia is home to 129 Title IV colleges and universities. More than 400,000 students are enrolled, with thousands attending the state’s top art and design schools alone. Scroll through the list below to review Virginia’s best schools for aspiring filmmakers and what they have to offer.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) - Degrees Offered: BA Film, BA with a Concentration in Design and Technology, Cinema Production Studies, MA Film
University of Virginia - Degrees Offered: Minor in Film
George Mason University - Degrees Offered: BA Film & Video, Minor Film and Media
Hampton University - Degrees Offered: Certificate in Film Studies
Eastern Mennonite University - Degrees Offered:BA Digital Video Production, Minor in Digital Video Production
James Madison - Degrees Offered: BFA Media Art and Design with a Concentration in Digital Video and Cinema
Liberty University - Degrees Offered: BS Communication with a Cinematic Arts Concentration
Old Dominion University - Degrees Offered: BA/BS Communication with a Film Studies Concentration, BA Theatre with an Emphasis in Digital Filmmaking, Minor Film and Video Studies
Radford University - Degrees Offered: BA/BS with a Minor in Cinematic Arts
University of Richmond – Degrees Offered: BA Film Studies, Minor Film Studies
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) - Degrees Offered: BA Cinema, BFA Photography and Film
Mary Baldwin College - Degrees Offered: BA Film Studies, BA Film Production, Minor Film Studies, Minor Film Production
Regent University – BA Cinema-Television, Minor Cinema-Television
More programs to consider:
Employment and Salary Trends for Virginia Filmmakers
Virginia is home to 1,640 producers and directors down from 1,880 in 2009. Although the population decreased over the years, salaries are on the rise. In 2009, Virginia-based producers and directors averaged $58,400. Today’s average is $70,140 per year. It is important to note that most producers and directors work independently. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, independent producers and directors average $125,570 per year. As we all know, the world’s most famous producers and directors earn millions per year.
Besides the motion picture and video industries, the industries with the highest levels of employment for producers and directors are radio and television broadcasting; advertising, public relations, and related services; performing art companies, and (as mentioned) independent artists, writers, and performers. Average annual salaries are $106,440, $73,230, $109,780, and $61,100, respectively.
Salaried opportunities for filmmakers can be found in a number of cities across the state, but many of the most lucrative opportunities in multiple fields can be found in Virginia’s top five largest cities—Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Arlington, and Richmond. Other cities worth considering include Newport News, Alexandria, Hampton and Suffolk—home of New Dominion Pictures.
Awesome Animation Fact: A few things happened in the world of animation in 1957. Hanna-Barbera was formed, FORTRAN, a computer language, was developed, which in turn permitted designers to utilize the graphic capabilities of the computer, and The Association Internationale du Film d'Animation (ASIFA) was founded in France. -Bowling Green State University