USC School of Cinematic Arts

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USC School of Cinematic Arts
USC School of Cinematic Arts logo.svg
MottoLimes regiones rerum[1]
Motto in English
Reality ends here[2]
TypePrivate film school
Established1929; 92 years ago (1929)
Parent institution
University of Southern California
DeanElizabeth M. Daley, Ph.D.
Academic staff
96 full time
219 part time[3]
Administrative staff
144 full time
499 student workers[3]
Location, ,

The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts (SCA)’s seven divisions—Film & Television Production; Cinema & Media Studies; John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts; John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television; Interactive Media & Games; Media Arts + Practice; Peter Stark Producing Program—offer programs in the cinematic arts.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts is led by Dean Elizabeth Monk Daley, who holds the Steven J. Ross/Time Warner Chair and is the longest serving Dean at the University of Southern California, having led the Cinema School since 1991.


The George Lucas Instructional Building (top) was demolished in 2009 after the opening of the new Cinematic Arts Complex (bottom).

When Douglas Fairbanks became the first President of the nascent Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927, one of the more innovative items on his agenda was that the Academy should have a “training school.” As Fairbanks and his enablers reasoned that training in the cinematic arts should be seen as a legitimate academic discipline at major universities, given the same degree considerations as fields like medicine and law. Although cinema studies programs are now widely entrenched in academia, back then it was a novel idea and many universities turned Fairbanks down. But he found tepid acceptance at the University of Southern California that agreed to allow one class, called “Introduction to Photoplay” that debuted in 1929, the same year as the Academy Awards. Determined to make it a success, Fairbanks brought in the biggest industry names of the era to lecture, including Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, William C. DeMille, Ernst Lubitsch, Irving Thalberg, and Darryl Zanuck.[4] From that one class grew a Department of Cinematography (1932) in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, renamed the Department of Cinema (1940), which led to the establishment of the USC School of Cinema-Television (1983), which was renamed the USC School of Cinematic Arts (2006) [5] .

On September 19, 2006, USC announced that alumnus George Lucas had donated US$175 million to expand the film school with a new 137,000-square-foot (12,700 m2) facility. This represented the largest single donation to USC and the largest to any film school in the world.[6] His previous donations resulted in the naming of two buildings in the school's previous complex, opened in 1984, after him and his then-wife Marcia, though Lucas was not fond of the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture used in those buildings. An architectural hobbyist, Lucas laid out the original designs for the project, inspired by the Mediterranean Revival Style that was used in older campus buildings as well as the Los Angeles area. The project also received another $50 million in contributions from Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company.[1]

In fall 2006, the school, together with the Royal Film Commission of Jordan, created the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts (RSICA) in Aqaba, Jordan.[7] The first classes were held in 2008, and the first graduating class for the university was in 2010.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts announced it would remove an exhibit devoted to actor and former USC student John Wayne, after months of insistence from a small number of students denouncing the Hollywood star’s views and the portrayal of Indigenous Americans in his films. The exhibit has been relocated to the Cinematic Arts library which has many collections for the study of figures whose lives and works are part of society's shared history. These materials are preserved for posterity and made accessible for research and scholarship as will the materials in the Wayne Collection.[8]


Film & Television Production[edit]

The current Chair: is Gail Katz, holder of the Mary Pickford Endowed Chair; Vice-Chair is Susan Arnold.

Cinema & Media Studies[edit]

The Division of Cinema & Media Studies is the central hub for film theory at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. The current Chair is Priya Jaikumar.

The John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts[edit]

The John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts teaches courses in animation and digital arts. These include classic character animation, 2-D and 3-D storytelling, performance capture, visual effects, motion graphics, stop-motion, experimental filmmaking, installations and multimedia, documentary animation, and visualizing scientific research. The current Chair is Teresa Cheng, who holds the John C. Hench Endowed Division Chair.

Interactive Media & Games Division[edit]

The Interactive Media & Games Division teaches video games, which make up the fastest growing segment of the entertainment industry. USC has been a pioneer in teaching the foundations of games and interactive media while also moving the field forward with innovative research concepts. The Princeton Review has ranked USC the #1 Game Design school in North America every year since its ranking system began in 2009. The current Chair is Danny Bilson.

Media Arts + Practice[edit]

The Media Arts + Practice Division (MA+P) creates and analyzes media for fields as diverse as business, medicine, education, architecture, law, urban planning, filmmaking. The current Chair is Holly Willis.

The John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television[edit]

The Current chair is David Isaacs.

The Peter Stark Producing Program[edit]

Special programs include USC Comedy, which includes a minor in Comedy, and a biennial Comedy Festival; USC Games, a collaboration with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and home of the USC esports team; and the John H. Mitchell Business of Cinematic Arts Program, which oversees programs in entertainment business in collaboration with the USC Marshall School of Business.


The School of Cinematic Arts also has an active Board of Councilors who help guide the future direction of the School and work with the Dean to ensure the School is properly resourced.


Donations from film and game industry companies, friends, and alumni have enabled the school to build the following facilities:[9]

At the center of the new television complex is a statue of founder Douglas Fairbanks. He is seen holding a fencing foil in one hand and a script in the other to reflect his strong ties with the USC Fencing Club.


The Eileen Norris Cinema Theater, a 340-seat theater that regularly hosts film screenings, lectures, and special events.[10] It was where THX was first developed and installed.[11]
  • Since 1973, at least one alumnus of SCA has been nominated for an Academy Award annually, totaling 256 nominations and 78 wins.[12]
  • Since 1973, at least one SCA alumnus or alumna has been nominated for the Emmy Award annually, totalling 473 nominations and 119 wins.[12]
  • The top 17 grossing films of all time have had an SCA graduate in a key creative position.[12]
  • The Princeton Review has ranked the Interactive Media and Games Division's video game design program best in North America multiple years in a row.
  • Both The Hollywood Reporter and USA Today have ranked SCA the number one film program in the world, with its unmatched facilities, proximity to Hollywood, and numerous industry connections being the primary rationale.
  • The current acceptance rate for the USC School of Cinematic Arts is 8.8% for freshmen.
Awards for USC Cinema short films

Notable SCA alumni[edit]

See also List of University of Southern California people

SCA has more than 16,000 alumni.[3][19] Among the most notable are:

Other notable faculty members and instructors (past and present)[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Michael Cieply, A Film School’s New Look Is Historic, The New York Times, February 9, 2009, Accessed February 10, 2009.
  2. ^ The New York Times reports the motto as meaning "Reality ends here", but a more direct translation of the Latin approximates as, "The border is the regions of things".
  3. ^ a b c d e USC Cinematic Arts (PDF), University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts, 2013, retrieved January 27, 2017
  4. ^ Rachel Abramowitz, L.A.'s screening gems, Los Angeles Times, Accessed June 16, 2008.
  5. ^ Stuart Silverstein, George Lucas Donates USC's Largest Single Gift[dead link], The Los Angeles Times, September 19, 2006
  6. ^ John Zollinger, George Lucas Donates $175 Million to USC Archived 2015-02-23 at the Wayback Machine, USC Public Relations, September 20, 2006
  7. ^ Jordan Signs Cinema Pact With USC, USC Public Relations, September 20, 2006
  8. ^ "SCA to Remove John Wayne Exhibit". Daily Trojan. USC. 10 July 2020.
  9. ^ Facilities
  10. ^ Eileen Norris Cinema Theatre Complex, USC School of Cinematic Arts Facilities, Accessed January 3, 2009.
  11. ^ USC Self-Guided Tour Archived 2012-10-14 at the Wayback Machine, University of Southern California, Accessed June 8, 2009.
  12. ^ a b c Mel Cowan, Cinematic Arts Celebrates 80th Anniversary With All New Campus, University of Southern California, March 31, 2009, Accessed May 1, 2009.
  13. ^ "The 28th Academy Awards, 1956". The Oscars. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  14. ^ The Student Movie Makers, TIME Magazine, February 2, 1968
  15. ^ Rinzler, J.W., The Complete Making of Indiana Jones; The Definitive Story Behind All Four Films, Del Rey, 2008, ISBN 978-0345501295.
  16. ^ Bapis, Elaine M., Camera And Action: American Film As Agent of Social Change, 1965–1975, McFarland, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7864-3341-4.
  17. ^ Alumni Profile: Cannes Do Spirit, Trojan Family Magazine, Spring 2002, Accessed September 19, 2006.
  18. ^ KAVI – a short film written and directed by Gregg Helvey » Cast/Crew. Retrieved on 2014-06-05.
  19. ^ "History". USC Cinematic Arts. University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Retrieved January 27, 2017. Our over 10,000 living alumni include scholars in teaching institutions throughout the world, artists, technicians, writers, directors, and industry executives, many operating at the highest levels in their fields.
  20. ^ Weinraub, Bernard. "FILM; An Unusual Choice for the Role of Studio Superhero", The New York Times, July 9, 2000. Accessed November 27, 2007. "Mr. Singer attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan for two years, and then transferred to the University of Southern California."
  21. ^ "Passings: Dick Hoerner, L.A. Rams fullback, dies at 88; John A. Ferraro, actor, director and USC teacher, dies at 64". Los Angeles Times. December 19, 2010. Retrieved December 24, 2010.
  22. ^ Kaufman, Amy (October 9, 2012). "James Franco to teach a USC film production class next spring". Los Angeles Times.
  23. ^ David Kehr, Jerry Lewis, Mercurial Comedian and Filmmaker, Dies at 91, The New York Times, August 20, 2017.
  24. ^ "Respected Cinematographer, Professor and USC Alumnus obituary". USC School of Cinematic Arts. December 2, 2010. Retrieved December 12, 2010.[dead link]

Coordinates: 34°01′23″N 118°17′09″W / 34.023056°N 118.285833°W / 34.023056; -118.285833