The country has premier institutes offering diploma courses in filmmaking. But City-based AISFM, has become the first to offer Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes
June 21, 2012 was a historic day for the Annapurna International School of Film and Media as it became the first institution in the country to offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes in film and media, when Nagarjuna, the president of AISFM, signed an MoU with Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University. Soon after signing the MoU, Nagarjuna told the media, “The Indian film industry has been pursuing a dream for decades — that students can gain film and media skills as part of a recognised degree. The partnership between AISFM and JNAFAU brings that dream to life.”
So far, all the elite film institutes in India like FTII, SRFTI have been offering only diploma courses in various aspects of filmmaking. Chris Higgins, vice president, admission and marketing at AISFM, tells us, “According to a government report, India needs 30 million talented professionals to meet the demand of the media industry over the next eight years. Fifteen years ago, there were hardly five TV channels and now we have 700. Radio and print media have witnessed a phenomenal growth. However, media education is yet to go full throttle in the country to meet this demand.”
It’s been a year since AISFM opened its doors to students and it already has become a brand to reckon with. “We are a non-profit organisation which means whatever money comes in goes back into the organisation to provide more value for the students. We have built an enormous academic advisory board which includes the likes of Mani Ratnam, Kamal Haasan, Karan Johar, Farah Khan and Anurag Kashyap. They know that no one’s making money and we are all working together to build a great film institute,” Chris Higgins adds.
We ask Chris why students should choose a degree programme in filmmaking over a diploma course and pat comes the reply, “A diploma programme is more focused on practical skills and less academically rigorous. Whereas a degree programme will introduce students to topics that provide insight in filmmaking. Having a degree is also beneficial in the long run if a student wants to do a Masters or Doctorate in media. Even having a diploma at a PG level still has its limitations. A degree in filmmaking is the biggest jump India has taken in the field of media education in decades.”
He adds that their collaboration with JNAFAU was a natural choice since it’s a fine arts university. “It was important that there’s some kind of relevance to the university offering the degree programme. JNAFAU offers courses like animation and painting. It’s already a creative school. So there was a natural synergy.”
Unlike colleges offering degrees in engineering or MBA, it’s incredibly tough to choose what’s the right film school to go to. “Different film schools serve different purposes. For example in the West, USC follows a more collaborative approach since it’s closely linked to Hollywood, whereas NYU is all about independent filmmaking. It’s not like an MBA where you learn a lot of theory; filmmaking is about creativity. You have to know what suits you more. The only way to evaluate a film school is to visit the school, meet faculty, management and students and sit in a class and understand what you want to learn,” he replies.
What’s the biggest challenge they are facing since it attracts students from all parts of the country?
“We have observed that most students have grown up watching a similar media diet. The challenge is to break that incredibly narrow focus because there are so many different ways of telling a story. That is why we are going to start exchange programmes in collaboration with international film schools,” Chris reveals.
Filmmaking is exhausting and Chris opines that students must understand what they want to do. “The film industry is an incredibly hard place to work in and it’s a place for only those who are passionate,” he says.
The road ahead for AISFM and its students is extremely promising, if their ambition to make it the centre of excellence for media education is anything to go by.
“Five years from now, we plan to become a media university that offers a wide range of courses,” he says. This may just be the beginning of bigger and better things to come.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Hemanth writes primarily about Telugu cinema, although he finds inspiration from the works of filmmakers like Woody Allen. Apart from writing, he spends most of his time on Twitter discussing about cinema, travel and life in Hyderabad.