New approaches to film and video are not just studied at SFAI—they are born here.

The distinguished filmmaker Sidney Peterson initiated filmmaking courses at SFAI in 1947, and the work made during that period helped develop “underground” film. From the 1950s to the early 1970s, filmmakers at the school such as Bruce Conner, Robert Nelson, Stan Brakhage, and Gunvor Nelson brought forth the American avant-garde movement. Our current faculty is internationally renowned in genres including experimental film, documentary, and narrative forms. 

As SFAI builds on this tradition of innovation, the curriculum continues to integrate new technologies and rethink the boundaries between film and other storytelling media. The department offers analog and digital studio production and post-production courses, specialized technical workshops, scriptwriting classes, and advanced courses in editing, animation, story-boarding, 3-D rendering, and more. Students also engage with the conceptual strategies, social implications, and future possibilities of web-based, mobile, and networked technologies as they relate to cinema. This cross-disciplinary approach, which extends to performance, sound, writing, and installation, broadens students’ practice as thinkers and makers.

The Bay Area is home to exceptional film venues and resources: the Pacific Film Archive, the San Francisco Cinematheque, Canyon Cinema, and the San Francisco Film Society; community organizations including Bay Area Video Coalition and Artists’ Television Access; companies such as Pixar and Industrial Light and Magic; and dozens of film festivals.


The Film Department is equipped to support work in 16mm, Super 8, DV, and high-definition video. Equipment for off-campus use includes a variety of 16mm, Super 8, miniDV, and HD cameras, DAT and SD audio recorders, a large selection of microphones, and grip and lighting equipment.

Private suites with 24-hour access are available for both analog and digital editing. Other facilities include a production studio, sound recording suite, and the SFAI Lecture Hall, which is available for professional presentations to large audiences. See Digital Technology Resources for more information.

Analog and Wet Lab Resources

-Hand processing of Super 8, 8mm and 16mm film
-Complementary B/W reversal processing of 16mm film
-16mm telecine film transfer machine- converts to Mini-DV or VHS
-Steenbeck flatbed film editors
­-Edit booths for editing and splicing celluloid film, Super 8, 8mm, and 16mm
-Animation stand with a 360 degree rotating compound table
-Optical Printer and contact printers