Keeping It Reel

Film Emphases: Best Advice to Help You Make Your Choice

You are at your favorite restaurant sipping on the water that got dropped off 5 minutes ago. You look up from your phone, and to your horror, your waitress is making her way to your table. Looking around, you realize all of your friend’s have their menus closed. They’re ready to order. You haven’t even glanced at your menu yet. You fling it open and frantically search for a suitable meal, but you’re too late.

“And what will we be having today?”

The words enter your ears; your head falls to the table in defeat.

At this point you may be wondering what exactly this has to do with choosing your film emphasis. Well, everything actually. Being unsure about what you want to study can be a lot like trying to choose between the burger and the wings as the waitress approaches…..except people aren’t telling you that your entree choice will effect the entire course of your human existence. In the words of Marty McFly, that’s “heavy.”

The good news is we have been in your exact situation and have some advice that might help.

What are you passionate about?

You have probably heard this a million times. We know. But if you want to decide what film emphases to pick you have to know (to a certain extent) what interests you. What part of film do you like best? What do you find yourself doing in your spare time? When working on a film project, what part seems to go the fastest, or is the most fun. Take note of what you are enjoying the most and go after it.

You might be thinking, ‘Well yeah, I have done these things, but I still can’t decide on my emphasis.”

If this is the case, we recommend you spend some quality time with each emphasis you are considering. If you think screenwriting could be for you, sit down and write a script. If you want to get a cinematography emphasis, get out their and film something. If you are considering acting as your emphasis….well act in something! It seems overly simple, but spending some real time on these things could help you realize which you enjoy the best.

What are your career options?

Okay, you are going to hate this one, we apologize in advance. You need to start thinking about a career. You are going to college to gain knowledge that you can eventually apply to some profession. You should consider what you want to do when you finish your degree.

“Woah, hold on, this is your advice? I can’t even pick an emphasis and you are telling me to decide what I want to do after college?”

Yes, college is an investment. We want you to be able to look back on it and know that it was the right choice for you. We don’t want you to finish your degree and realize you want nothing to do with the field you just studied! So give your life after college a little thought. Think about the careers each emphasis might lead to and think about which careers fit you best.

Once you do this, you should be able to narrow your options down a bit.

At Its Worst…

No emphasis is all fun and games. No matter how passionate you are, in every emphasis there will be work. One of our favorite quotes is, “Even art gets up at 8:00 AM on Monday.” Regardless of what you choose to do, there will be times when you are bored, tired, and frustrated.

So think about all of the different emphases you could choose. Picture them at their very worst and ask yourself, “Would I still be happy to do this?”

Maybe you can see yourself sifting through footage, Red Bull by your side, searching for just the right shot. Maybe you are bent over a desk surrounded by crinkled papers, pen moving furiously. Or maybe you’re running lines over and over again, but you just can’t get the delivery you want.

All of these scenes are frustrating ones, but put the right person into each of these moments, and they will be happy they are there. So what moment can you see yourself respecting. At its worst, what do you still love?


This is possibly the most obvious piece of advice we have to offer, but it can be one of the hardest things for people to do. It seems like it is something you always mean to do, but never get to.

If you can’t pick between two or three emphases RESEARCH them.

Figure out what classes you will have to take, what the program is like, what career options you will have, and what the employment rate is for graduates in that area. Get first-hand accounts from people who have studied the things you are thinking of studying, look online for program reviews, and studies, and pay attention to what professionals in the industry are saying.

Gather all of the information you can on the emphases you are considering and do something with it. Make a pros and cons table, a web graph, make a power point presentation on the benefits of each emphasis and present it to your family and friends! Do whatever you need to to make sure you research thoroughly, and apply that research!

Picking an emphasis…well it isn’t easy, but this advice should help you narrow down your options. And hey, if you want to get a jump start on your decision, we have just thing. Click below to take our Emphases Quiz and find out which emphases matches up with your personality and interests right now!

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This blog is a collaborative effort by CCH staff and administration who want to share their knowledge with the film school community and prospective students.

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