Make your movie.
Governors State’s Master of Fine Arts in Independent Film and Digital Imaging (IFDI) facilitates the development of your voice as a professional filmmaker or photographer, helping you to reach your academic, creative, and professional goals. The IFDI MFA program is dedicated to internationally-recognized films and photography that draw on evolving technology to celebrate diverse visions, especially those currently underrepresented in film and the photographic arts.
The MFA-IFDI is centered on authorship. We guide each of our students through all the creative processes of photography and film. Our filmmakers are engaged in individual and small crew development, production, post, and delivery - we want you to focus on conceiving your thesis from the very beginning, so that your coursework dovetails in the writing, directing, and producing of a beautiful documentary or drama. Our photographers are working on techniques and aesthetics that will lead to a celebration of their work in a gallery exhibition. Our class sizes are capped at 12 and we maintain a strong emphasis on getting to know and nurture the development of each student on an individual basis. Our students range in age from their 20s to their 70s, but the majority are mid-career and looking for the opportunity to blossom in creative ways that they have never experienced before.
The MFA-IFDI has graduated accomplished filmmakers such as Seth McClellan and Mercedes Kane, and its students have been involved in the making of films like Chicago Heights, named to Roger Ebert’s last list of Best Art Films, and Hogtown, a New York Times Critics' Pick that the Chicago Sun-Times called "the most original film made about Chicago in Chicago to date." Several of GSU’s students with academic ambitions have gone on to tenure track positions at regional and national colleges, including McClellan, Pamela Planera, and the recently tenured Aaron-Daniel Annas, who is running the film program at SUNY Buffalo State. IFDI grads Keisha Dyson and Dirk Fletcher have gone on to senior administrative careers in Marketing and Communication at Canon USA and Columbia College Chicago. Jason Knade is thriving in advertising production. Uriah Berryhill is working in institutional and educational production. The MFA-IFDI has graduated several talented secondary educators from our program, including three currently serving at our region's highly rated Homewood-Flossmoor High School. Another graduate, Josh Young, is running GSU's own well regarded Chicago Southland International Film Festival.
Dollars and Sense
For recent IFDI students who have come from Harvard, DePaul, and Columbia College, the low sticker price for an MFA at Governors State, a public Illinois university, has been a shock.. It is perhaps the most affordable MFA in Illinois.
Training with Industry Leading Camera Technology
Our MFA program is excited to offer ARRI Alexa Mini LF training. The Arri Alexa camera is used in the making of a staggering proportion of films screened at Cannes and TIFF, not to mention multiple Oscar winners, and the training will help to provide our students with the advanced skills needed to enter and succeed in the current film landscape.
Reach your career goals.
With an MFA in Independent Film and Digital Imaging—a terminal degree—you can pursue careers in an array of settings, such as photography, filmmaking, graphic design, corporate communications, and teaching at the college level.
Are you already working as a filmmaker or photographer? We may be able to give you Advanced Standing.
Are you already a seasoned filmmaker or photographer, having worked in your field and wanting to add the MFA credential to your CV? GSU considers Advanced Standing for students who possess a bachelor’s degree and strong experience in the fields of film and photography. Students joining from the professions will have their prior work assessed in a way that may facilitate assigning credit for work experience, putting a significant dent in the number of credits needed for completion.
Why pursue the MFA in Independent Film and Digital Imaging?
Governors State’s 60-credit hour Independent Film and Digital Imaging MFA involves you in every facet of filmmaking and photography. Students on our independent film path conceive and write screenplays, master the art of cinematography, direct cast members in dramas and subjects in documentaries, see projects through post-production in Adobe Premiere and AfterEffects, then develop festival strategies and ways to secure streaming distribution. Our photographers are given free reign to develop Exhibition-worthy work, and each has the opportunity to hold a themed exhibition as part of their final stages of the degree. All of our graduates also leave with the "union card" that makes them eligible to apply for careers in higher education.
The IFDI program is seeking students who desire a nurturing, creative space, including students who want above-the-line experience after perhaps working for years in supporting crew positions in the film and television industry.
We are now accepting applications for the upcoming semester.
Additional Admissions Requirements
Application Procedure and Study Plan
Alumni Success Stories
Uriah Berryhill, Specialist, TV & Media Production
The MFA program encourages you to take your big ideas and turn them into a real production by providing you with the creative channels, skills, and knowledge you need to do it. My professors gave me the push to take strategic risks and follow my passion—that created confidence that I now implement in my current job where I use the skills I gained as an M.F.A. student in studio production, filming, and editing.
Dan Nearing, Full Professor of IFDI
The IFDI program is all about authorship and encouraging the creative growth of individual writer-directors and photographers. GSU student and alumni films have screened at hundreds of international film festivals and won multiple awards. Our faculty has received recognition from major entities such as the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Times, and Roger Ebert. To top it all off, an MFA at GSU is more affordable than one at other Chicago-area schools.
Beth Parin, Associate Professor IFDI
IFDI offers a unique Chicago based MFA experience where self-motivated, independent writer-directors and photographers come together to form an artistic community in which each individual develops their own artistic voice and vision under the mentorship of renowned faculty.
Meet Our Faculty
Click here to view a list of our faculty members.
IFDI Curriculum and Required Preparation
Click here to learn more about our curriculum and preparation requirements.
IFDI Student Handbook
Click here to explore the IFDI student handbook.
IFDI Additional Admission Requirements
Click here to review our Additional Admissions requirements.
Careers in the Field of Communication
Click here to view a list of career options in the field of communications.
Professional Communication Associations
Click here to explore a list of professional and academic associations connected to the communications field.