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A Producer is the person who gets the project made. A creative and entrepreneurial self-starter, the producer has the talent for turning his or her artistic vision into a tangible product - and a good producer into a critical and/or commercial success. The Peter Stark Producing Program will expose an aspiring producer to the full spectrum of the entertainment business. Students will learn every step of the creative process, from development through distribution. Starkies discover and hone the creative, entrepreneurial, and managerial skills needed to succeed in their career path through classes in creating and developing stories, entertainment history, economics, studio management, budgeting, marketing, and independent producing. Starkies will know how to practically take a film, television or new media project from script to screen.


Stark Alum talks about his journey in the program

Blake Pickens
Alumni Profile

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Larry Turman
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Hear the Mary Pickford Recipient Speech from the mega producer

Tracy Oliver
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Student Stories

Rachel Allen

Rachel Allen
MFA in Peter Stark Producing Program '22

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Mic Patton

Mic Patton
MFA in Peter Stark Producing Program '22

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Mitchell Colley

Mitchell Colley
MFA in Peter Stark Producing Program '20

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Degree Programs

Masters of Fine Arts

The Peter Stark Producing Program is an innovative, two-year (four-semester) full-time graduate program designed to prepare a select group of highly motivated students for careers as producers and executives of film, television, and new media. There are no electives; all Stark students take the same classes at the same time in a mandated sequence. (For more details, click on "View Degree Requirements" below.)

View Degree Requirements External Site

View Faculty External Site

Learning Objectives

MFA in Producing for Film, Television and New Media

  • Understanding the history and present realities of the entertainment industry landscape with understanding and awareness of the dynamic evolving nature of the field.  The faculty of working professionals brings up-to-date information and strategies to the classroom, enabling students to develop a current and savvy skillset, knowledge base, and network of contacts.
  • The primacy of ideas and story (the “Art”) is our focus.  We also teach how to navigate the business to bring your ideas to life (the “Commerce”).
  • Broad and deep practical knowledge of the profession of producing for the variety of arenas within the entertainment industry (features, television, digital media). plus, knowledge of other creative roles in content creation, thus enabling the students to choose a specific direction and also remain flexible and broadly-skilled.
  • Always practical, especially as it pertains to their own specific career path, including internship experience, individual and group projects (from short films to film and television show pitches) culminating in the conception, development and completion of an individual thesis project. The individual thesis project is comprised of a detailed plan for a film, documentary, television or webseries project including a developed script and notes for improvement, a schedule, budget assumptions and a marketing/distribution plan. Students defend their projects to a panel of industry professionals with expertise in the disciplines a thesis project encompasses.  

Career Connections, Industry Experience, and Internships

Producing is an entrepreneurial endeavor, as is most of the entertainment business. Students must expect to exert considerable ingenuity and persistence to secure employment. Some jobs do come through contacts made directly or indirectly through the Peter Stark Producing Program, such as our graduates, our instructors and industry friends, or through initiatives like our mentor program or our internship advocacy.

One large family-friends, alumni and students of the Peter Stark Producing Program gathered for a group shot at the program's 25th anniversary celebration.
(October 2, 2005)

Producing is an entrepreneurial endeavor, as is most of the entertainment business. Students must expect to exert considerable ingenuity and persistence to secure employment. Some jobs do come through contacts made directly or indirectly through the Peter Stark Producing Program, such as our graduates, our instructors and industry friends, or through initiatives like our mentor program or our internship advocacy.

Industry experience is an essential component of the Peter Stark Program academic experience; it enhances both their course work and thesis research project. To facilitate as much industry experience as possible, the program endeavors to leave two free days in the students’ first year course schedule*, and holds all second-year classes in the evening. The Peter Stark Program requires 2800 hours of entertainment industry internships or work experience over the 2-year program, including in the summer semester between the first and second year. Students look for internships, per their own interests. In addition, though the Stark Program cannot guarantee it can procure internships, it does ongoing semester-by-semester internship advocacy for the students at many companies including studios, networks, production companies, and agencies. The Stark Program grants exceptions to the internship/work experience requirement on a case-by-case basis for other equivalent forms of industry experience that may better fit a student’s individual career goals – producing projects for film, television or new media, writing or developing screenplays – as long as the student completes at least one internship. At all times, students must attend all classes and maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

*International students can work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) while enrolled in a full course load during their first year. They may work full-time (20+ hours per week) in the summer. They may also work full-time (20+ hours per week) during their second year, so long as they are full time enrolled.

Guest Lecturers & Alumni

Peter Stark faculty invite guest lecturers with specific expertise to provide in-depth information. Typical guests range from award winning Producers, Writers and Directors to top Agents, Managers and Studio and Network Executives.

Peter Stark Producing Students in the Peter Stark Office.

Peter Stark graduates are important to the program. Some alumni teach or guest lecture for Stark classes, some serve on our Board of Mentors and others are panelists for Thesis Oral Examinations. Many make themselves available for student career counseling, while some contact the program if they are looking to employ a Stark student or graduate. Each year, the program updates and publishes a Stark Alumni Directory to facilitate contact and networking.

Mentor Board

The Mentor Board consists of distinguished industry professionals who advise about curriculum and special projects. It maintains a valuable, ongoing link to the film and television industry, helping ensure that the Peter Stark Producing Program remains cutting-edge in its teaching and philosophy.

Board members serve on a rotating basis as individual one-on-one mentors for about-to-graduate students starting in January of the final semester and ending December of that same year.  Mentors provide counsel and support as students plan and begin their careers post-graduation.

Special Productions

Each year the Stark Program selects up to three short films to be produced by Stark students with access to SCA resources and facilities. First year (second-semester) Stark students originate these projects. Special Productions are selected on a competitive basis from the submissions. Decisions are made by the Program Chair along with industry professionals who then serve as advisors on the productions. The Stark producers can “hire” a writer or a director from the Stark Program or other SCA programs. Completed films have screened at the School of Cinematic Arts First Look series and numerous domestic and international festivals.


Tuition and Financial Aid

The Peter Stark Program consists of 44 units of required course work, 12 units per semester in the first year and 10 units per semester in the second year.  Please refer to the “Tuition and Fees” page of the USC Catalogue to find the per unit cost for Graduate Cinema Session 037 courses. The tuition fee generally goes up slightly each year, so prospective students should plan accordingly. That cost is for tuition alone and does not include mandatory University fees, Cinema lab fees, living, or housing costs.

Unfortunately, student aid for M.F.A. degrees is, in general, underfunded.  Our advice to all applicants is to make a plan that will cover the full cost of the program, then apply to the various funding sources described below to reduce the cost as much as possible.

Many of our students take out student loans to cover costs.  Domestic applicants should file a FAFSA.  The USC Financial Aid Office will use that to determine any federal aid an applicant is eligible for (typically loans and sometimes work-study as well).  International applicants often look to their home government for funding, or scholarship groups that are specific to their home country or open to all international students (like the Fulbright Scholar Program).

All applicants can be considered for Scholarships from the School of Cinematic Arts: applicants must complete the SCA Scholarship Application questions in the SlideRoom application. Applicants who submit a scholarship application are considered for any awards for which they qualify. For more information about SCA Scholarships, please visit the SCA Scholarships page. The specific qualifications and dollar amounts are determined by the donors.  Be aware that scholarships are only granted to a small number of students from each division and are partial rather than full-ride scholarships, so they will not cover the full cost of attending the Program.  Prospective students can also research outside scholarships including those listed in this Outside Scholarship Guide. The Peter Stark Program also has a few scholarships available for continuing second year students, based largely on GPA from your first year.  Students will be notified when it is time to apply for these Scholarships, usually in the spring semester of the first year.

Each course has a Departmental Assistant (DA) position (to assist instructors in class preparations, but no grading). Departmental Assistants receive a tuition remission for 2 or 3 units (the number determined by the class) and also bill hours as a student worker.  They don’t cover the full cost of a semester, but can help. Admitted students apply for the first semester positions in the summer before they start the Program, then apply in each subsequent semester.  There are also two Teaching Assistant (TA) positions for 2nd year students, for which students apply at the end of the first year.

Also, many students look for on-campus employment or off-campus paid internships/employment (see previous section on Career Connections, Industry Experience, and Internships). 


Contact Information

Graduate Peter Stark Producing Program
School of Cinematic Arts
University Park, SCA 366
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211
Phone: 213.740.3304
Fax: 213.745.6652