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  • Florida State University
    Location: Tallahassee, Fla. Program Length: Two years, divided into six semesters Tuition per Year: $6,900 (for residents), $24,000 (out of state) Number of Applicants: 350 Number Accepted: 24 The Pitch: Florida State's two year intensive program focuses squarely on Hollywood style production. Each student makes three short films within the first four semesters. At the end of the fourth semester, students pitch their thesis project to the faculty. The faculty chooses only five of these projects to finance. The students whose films are funded get to play director, and everyone else works as crew. Because the school pays for these films, it retains ownership; AtomFilms.com has a first look deal for Florida State student films. The Back Story: The school is well funded, and there's plenty of sparkly new equipment. Classes in film history and criticism are required. Students claim they are so busy making films they hardly notice that there's not much to do in Tallahassee. But the locals are excited about the up and coming rep of the school, and are generally happy to help student productions. Be sure to bring: Your alarm clock; students have been booted from the program for chronic tardiness. Leave Behind: Your beach chair -- no time for lounging Famous Alumni: ''Sugar Town'' cinematographer Kristian Bernier

    New York University
    Location: New York City Program Length: Three years Tuition per Year: $24,000 Number of Applicants: 700 Number Accepted: 38 The Pitch: Finishing on time and within budget is Hollywood's No. 1 mantra, and the same goes at NYU. The school just restructured its program to encourage students to work within smaller budgets and to finish within three years. During the first year, students make a number of short exercise films. In the second year, everyone completes a documentary on digital video, followed by a third year agenda that requires shooting a thesis film and writing a feature length screenplay. The Back Story: The equipment is good, though faculty film evaluations at the end of each project can be devastating. Between tuition, the cost of living in Manhattan, and the cost of making all those films, NYU is incredibly expensive, but how many other places besides a Hollywood soundstage can you get New York as your backdrop? Be sure to bring: A thick skin and plenty of moola Leave Behind: Your ''Out of Towners'' style innocence Famous Alumni: Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Ang Lee (''The Ice Storm''), Tamara Jenkins (''Slums of Beverly Hills''), Karyn Kusama (''Girlfight''), Chris Eyre (''Smoke Signals'')

    San Francisco State University
    Location: San Francisco Program Length: Three years Tuition per Year: $1,982 (for residents), $6,902 (out of state) Number of Applicants: 150 Number Accepted: 15 The Pitch: Low budget, independent filmmaking is the specialty at this low budget, independent film school. First year students make a short 16 mm film. The next year, several short projects are followed by such assignments as making a film inspired by Plato's allegory of the cave. Each student must draft a personal manifesto, and many experiment with other art forms. In year three, students focus on making a thesis film. Students make documentary, narrative, and experimental films in roughly even numbers. The Back Story: Emphasizes old fashioned film techniques: Students at SF State are learning flatbed editing, optical printing, and even how to hand process their own film. Tuition is surprisingly inexpensive, but students say equipment can be temperamental and the dotcom economy has made the cost of living in the heart of the city all but impossible for most in attendance. Be sure to bring: Warm clothes (the Bay Area is chillier than most East Coasters think) and a personal movie manifesto Leave Behind: Dreams of keeping up with your dotcom rich neighbors Famous Alumni: Christa Collins, director of the Sundance short ''She Smokes''

    Temple University
    Location: Philadelphia Program Length: Three years Tuition per Year: $8,448 (for residents), $11,616 (out of state) Number of Applicants: 200 Number Accepted: 15 The Pitch: A recent infusion of cash due in part to a new dean and a new president has meant new equipment. Students say there's slightly more emphasis on documentaries. Aspiring filmmakers make a number of short works on film and video in year one, then design their own programs for the next two years (which culminate in a final film, video, or feature length screenplay). The Back Story: While Philadelphia is not a traditional hotbed of filmmaking, local son M. Night Shyamalan has recently brought some high profile production to the city, and the Greater Philadelphia Film Office happily assists student filmmakers. Temple also boasts a diverse student body and very personal filmmaking, whether documentary or narrative. It is a commuter school as well, and most students live in other parts of town. Be sure to bring: Your DVD of ''The Sixth Sense'' Leave Behind: Your plans to diet (those Philly cheese steaks are deelicious) Famous Alumni: Radha Bharadwaj (''Closet Land''), producer Lise Yasui (''The Gate of Heavenly Peace'')


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