BFA | 4-year program

FAV majors work in live action, animation or a hybrid of the two, and have the option of producing films in a wide variety of genres (such as documentary, experimental, narrative) and for diverse outlets (including installations and interactive media). Students regularly analyze and solve technical and aesthetic problems, and benefit from exposure to critical review, film festivals and visiting artists and specialists.

Learning outcomes

The program cultivates creative thinking, along with social and cultural awareness. Graduates are prepared to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the plasticity of time through techniques such as manipulating sound and visual rhythm to alter the feeling of time passing and convey narrative structure.
  • articulate their roles and responsibilities as mediators of information.
  • exhibit competence in at least one of the three forms of live action film, animation or open media.
  • design and implement individualized creative processes to plan, organize and execute complex projects.
  • recognize and assess their assumptions, and the implications and practical consequences of those assumptions.
  • understand experimentation as a form of research.
  • recognize, develop and refine narratives.
  • raise and clearly formulate vital questions and problems.
  • communicate effectively and work with others to find solutions to complex problems.

Inspiring community

An in-demand department, FAV is home to approximately 145 undergraduate majors, with students from other disciplines often taking selected classes and offering different perspectives from the vantage point of their major disciplines. Juniors and seniors get the opportunity to screen finished films to a wider audience via popular spring film festivals open to the public. FAV faculty members offer a wide range of expertise in various areas and work closely with students to help them develop as strong, well-informed artists with the conceptual and aesthetic vision to reach well beyond a technical facility with film production.

Learning environment

RISD's FAV facilities offer production studios for film, video, 16mm, 35mm and puppet animation; digital editing and sound mixing rooms; and CGI and Macintosh workstations with a full range of professional production and editing software. But unlike many other schools, RISD goes beyond teaching students how to use the latest technology. Instead, the idea is to master the use of tools by focusing on concepts, critical thinking and content development.

Undergraduate student work

Curriculum

Sophomores are introduced to the major through a series of short assignments designed to provide a basic technical foundation in film, video, animation and digital media. Skills are further developed the following year as juniors choose to specialize in live action, animation or open media while tackling more ambitious projects involving cinematography, lighting, sound design, character design, digital editing, compositing, producing, storyboarding and interactive programming.

Foundation year

Drawing I
Design I
Spatial Dynamics I
First-year Literature Seminar
Theory and History of Art and Design I: Global Modernisms
Wintersession
Non-major studio elective
Spring
Drawing II
Design II
Spatial Dynamics II
Topics in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences
Theory and History of Art and Design II: Premodern Worlds

Sophomore

Fall
Film Practices or Video Practices or Animation Practices or Digital Foundation
Studio elective
Time, Light and Sound
Liberal Arts electives
Wintersession
Non-major studio elective
Spring
Film Practices or Video Practices or Animation Practices or Digital Foundation
Studio elective
Liberal Arts electives

Junior

Fall
Intermediate Studio: Live Action or Animation or Open Media
Junior elective: Live Action or Animation or Open Media
Studio elective
Liberal Arts electives
Wintersession
Non-major studio elective
Spring
Intermediate Studio: Live Action or Animation or Open Media
F/A/V studio elective
Studio elective
Liberal Arts elective

Senior

Fall
Senior Studio
Studio elective
Liberal Arts elective
Wintersession
Senior Studio
Spring
Senior Studio
Studio elective
Liberal Arts elective

Degree project

In working on individual degree projects guided by faculty mentors, seniors need to meet the formidable challenge of conceiving of and producing a final live action or animated film. All films are screened at a public film festival held in May – and many go on to become award-winners in national and international festivals, helping students to establish their names after graduation.

Application requirements

  1. First-year applicants

    You’ll begin and manage your RISD application process by completing the Common Application. There is a nonrefundable application fee of $60 to use this service, plus a nonrefundable $10 fee to submit a required online portfolio via SlideRoom. Learn more about the first-year application here.

    Transfer applicants

    Submit your RISD application form, and all other credentials, through the RISD Applicant Portal. The application fee is $60, plus a nonrefundable $10 fee to submit a required online portfolio via SlideRoom. Learn more about the transfer application here.

  2. First-year applicants

    Applicants must provide official transcripts of all secondary academic work through the most recent grading period. Your counselor may submit your transcript through the Common Application, Parchment, email or mail. If your academic credentials are not written in English, they must be translated into English by an approved translator prior to submission.

    Transcripts can be submitted by school officials through Parchment, eTranscript, email or mail. 

    Transfer applicants

    Applicants must provide official transcripts covering at least the last three full years of academic work completed. This should include all college transcripts and, if applicable, your secondary school transcript. If you attend a school where the language of instruction is not English, your academic credentials must be translated into English by an approved translator.

    Transcripts can be submitted by school officials through Parchment, eTranscript, email or mail. 

  3. Test-Optional, SAT and ACT

    RISD is offering all applicants (domestic and international) the ability to be reviewed without submitting results from the SAT or ACT. Students may opt into this process by selecting the test-optional option under the "Testing" portion within the RISD section of the Common Application. For students who choose to submit test scores, RISD will superscore your results, looking at your highest outcome across multiple test dates.

    RISD’s institution code number for the SAT is 3726; for ACT the code number is 003812.

    Transfer credits

    Some Advanced Placement (AP), A-Level classes and International Baccalaureate (IB) credits can be used toward RISD liberal arts requirements. First-year students can transfer a maximum of nine credits from AP courses with a score of 4 or 5, A-Level classes with an earned grade of C or higher or Higher Level IB scores of 5, 6, or 7. RISD will not accept AP or IB credit from art or studio classes. View RISD's full transfer credit policy.

    English language proficiency tests

    All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from any one of these three options: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or Duolingo (an online English test). Since English proficiency is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants are required to meet a minimum score of at least 93 on the TOEFL, a 6.5 on the IELTS, or 115 on Duolingo.

    Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take three weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency. Duolingo test results may take up to four days to be received by RISD.

    The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who have studied in an institution where English is the language of instruction. You must email the Admissions Office at admissions@risd.edu to explain your school history and determine if you are eligible for a waiver.

  4. Portfolio Submission

    Your portfolio should present 12–20 examples of your most recent work that showcases your thinking and making. Once you've started your application to RISD in the Common Application, you will be directed to SlideRoom, a separate online platform, where you will upload your portfolio.

    What to include

    Your selected work should reflect a full range of your ideas, curiosity, experimentation and experience in creating and making. This can include work in any medium, in finished or sketch form, and can be the result of an assigned project or a self-directed exploration.

    We strongly recommend that you include some examples that involve drawing from direct observation (rather than from imagination, a photograph, or video). Drawing is a fundamental tool for visual makers from initial concept to execution, so it is valuable for reviewers to see examples of your experience with and approach to drawing.

    While the majority of your portfolio should feature finished pieces, we suggest including some research or preparatory work in up to three—but no more than three—portfolio uploads/slides. This helps reviewers better understand how you develop your ideas.

    Documentation

    Finally, we strongly discourage including excessive visual elements and text descriptions in a single slide submission. These are difficult to view and are likely to exceed the allowed submission limit. Additional angles or detail shots of some works can be submitted across multiple slide submissions, combined into one composite including no more than 3 images or in a single video upload. Editing is an important part of curating your portfolio. You may need to devise creative solutions to best show your work within the limits of submission guidelines.

    Our recommended file formats are: jpeg, png, gif, mp4 and mov. These formats are most compatible with SlideRoom. Google Drive or zipped files are discouraged.

    You may be interested in attending or watching the recording of one of our Portfolio Tips webinars for more advice on how to approach your RISD application portfolio. 

    The RISD Assignment is no longer part of the application

    After extensive research and discussion, it has become evident that requiring the RISD Assignment functions as a barrier for applicants and is in direct conflict with RISD’s Social Equity and Inclusion action plan. To provide more access and equity in our admissions process, we have made the decision to remove the RISD Assignment as an application requirement beginning with the 2022/23 application cycle. We will continue to prioritize the portfolio when evaluating the visual component of an applicant’s candidacy.

  5. First-year applicants

    If you are applying as a first-year, RISD requires the Common Application Personal Essay (up to 650 words). You will find the writing prompts in the Writing section of the Common Application.

    While we encourage you to adhere to the rules of good writing, we look for applicants who are not afraid to take risks in their expression. Please don't hesitate to use a writing style or method that may be outside the mainstream as you express a distinctive personal position in your essay.

    Transfer applicants

    Submit a written statement, up to 650 words, using the prompt indicated below. Remember, this is the limit, not a goal. Use the full limit if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so.

    • Provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve by joining us at RISD.

    While we encourage you to adhere to the rules of good writing, we look for applicants who are not afraid to take risks in their expression. Please don't hesitate to use a writing style or method that may be outside the mainstream as you express a dynamic position in the samples you submit.

  6. Letters of recommendation can be very helpful to your application. One letter is required, although as many as three may be submitted. Recommendation letters should be written by teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential as a student.

    First-year applicants

    Please use the Common Application to invite your recommendation writers to submit letters through that service. Letters may also be sent directly to our mailing address (see below) or emailed to admissions@risd.edu.

    Transfer applicants

    Please have your recommendation writers submit their letters directly to admissions@risd.edu. Letters may also be sent directly to our mailing address (see below).