DePaul’s growing film school: hands-on experience, devoted faculty hold key to success


Photo courtesy of the college of computing and digital media

School of Cinematic Arts students learn alongside experienced filmmakers at DePaul, including documentary cinematographer Dana Kupper (upper right).

DePaul University’s film school was ranked 15 out of 25 in the Hollywood Reporter’s “25 Best American Film Schools” of 2022. 

Anna Hozian, associate dean for the School of Cinematic Arts, said DePaul is “easily top 10” because of an approach that gives students more hands-on experience. 

The film and television major, which offers both bachelor of arts and bachelor of fine arts tracks, is housed in the School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), which is a part of the Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM).The college was established in April 2008 — it was formerly known as the School of Computer Science, Telecommunications, and Information Systems — and has been expanding ever since, according to DePaul’s website. 

Compared to other top American film schools, DePaul’s admission rate is higher at 69.5%, according to U.S. News and World Report. The rate of scholarship is also greater. Hozian said that DePaul’s Vincentian mission plays a role in the accessibility of the film program. Unlike most major film schools, DePaul does not require applicants to submit a portfolio. 

“We hope you have a creative spirit,” Hozian said. “We can teach you all you need to know.”

Accessibility is not the only reason DePaul’s School of Cinematic Arts has seen success. 

Katie Wright, a freshman majoring in film and television, noted that DePaul’s Cinespace Studio was a unique discovery. 

“All the other film schools I applied to, with the exception of NYU, had sound stages miles away,” Wright said.

Cinespace Chicago Film Studios is a professional production studio located minutes from DePaul’s Loop campus. In 2013, DePaul’s School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) partnered with Cinespace to create DePaul Cinespace Studios. Here, film students have access to professional equipment and often work on television shows like “Chicago PD” or “Shameless” that film there. Exposure to Cinespace emphasizes a model of learning by doing. Having access to a working studio is more than a perk. Hozian sees it as an unprecedented asset that gives DePaul students an industry advantage.  

 Hands-on experience offered so early in the program appeals to many prospective students. Film and television major Lucas Haviland can work as a production assistant on a commercial set because of connections he made in the SCA

“Just having opportunities pop up and being able to say ‘yes’ is kind of a big deal,” Haviland said. 

Wright and Haviland appreciate having professors who work in the film industry. 

“My teachers are very much professionals,” Wright said. “One of my professors has a major position at Second City, and on top of that, did work in the film industry.” 

This real-world perspective is integral to student success, according to Hozian. She said that if professors are not up to date on the constantly changing film industry then “we cannot be the best educators for our students.” 

The SCA’s faculty cares about helping students find and share their voices. 

“Supervisors or screenwriters, they’re all artists and they all have a voice,” Hozian said, emphasizing how storytelling remains at the heart of the program. 

When it comes to the SCA’s success, Hozian believes the key is trifold. She said the expertise and devotion of the faculty, the film community in Chicago and the industry experience students gain in the program are all reasons why DePaul has one of the best American film schools. The SCA has a holistic approach, teaching students the artistic, technical and business aspects of film, she said. 

Hozian looks forward to continued growth and innovations. 

“I don’t know of any schools that are teaching [students] how to do their voice, their craft and their business like we do,” she said.