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Maharishi International University’s graduate program in Cinematic Arts, inspired by renowned filmmaker David Lynch, offers a US-based MFA degree in Screenwriting and a Global MFA path in Cinematic Arts.

How to work with international institutions to earn credits

toward an MFA from The David Lynch Graduate School of Cinematic Arts 



Maharishi International University’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Cinematic Arts is a 72-credit hour terminal degree in the applied arts of digital media conception and production. This international degree is offered through worldwide transfer agreements, some arranged with students on an individual basis, others through formalized institutional agreements, currently including two distinct production tracks in Shanghai, China, in association with the Shanghai Theatre Academy (STA) and Shanghai Vancouver Film School (SH-VFS). These latter agreements with China have been designed to satisfy requirements of China’s Ministry of Education.

In each of these articulation scenarios, 36 credit hours for the degree, largely rooted in production processes, are completed in the student’s home or chosen institution, and 36 are completed through Maharishi International University.


American and international students may complete their MIU credit hours online, maximizing flexibility for students who wish to continue to live, work, and study in their home territories. All MIU students are expected to complete course offerings in theory, aesthetics, and the science and technology of consciousness, as well as required thesis credit hours. All courses will be offered through Zoom, where they may be joined in real time (with full interaction with professor and students) or watched / reviewed later in a recorded stream. Credited internships and independent studies will also be arranged.


The Articulation Process for the Global MFA in Cinematic Arts of the David Lynch Graduate School of Cinematic Arts (DLGSCA)


Transfer of Up to 36 Graduate Credit Hours

The Global MFA in Cinematic Arts has been designed to forge progressive global and domestic alliances with film students and institutions. Students complete up to half of the degree requirements at an accredited university of their choice, anywhere in the world, then transfer these credit hours to the David Lynch Graduate School of Cinematic Arts.


All transfer credits are subject to approval by the Program Director for the International MFA. Any student interested in the degree path is encouraged to contact the International MFA Program Director directly to discuss the individualized path she may take to the degree through her home (or chosen) institution.


Completion of the Global MFA through Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa


Upon approval of transfer credits, a minimum of two semesters (and a minimum of 36 credit hours) of the 72-credit degree path are completed through the David Lynch Graduate School of Cinematic Arts (DLGSCA).


The credit hours undertaken through MIU include courses in aesthetics, theses, approved internships, and independent studies. This coursework includes classes in Creative Intelligence. The Transcendental Meditation® program is central to our approach to creativity, and to the working philosophy of the David Lynch School of Cinematic Arts. 


MIU provides expedient review of transfer credits and a one-to-one dialogue will students about individualized paths to the MFA in Cinematic Arts.

MIU is approved for the issuance of F-1 student visas for foreign students studying for two or more semester and provides institutional guidance to international students in securing visas for their time in the United States.

Qualified US residents may apply for Title IV US Federal Financial Aid through MIU.

MIU's Fairfield campus provides residence and meal options to all students, including orientation days at the beginning of each semester.


Each student will be individually mentored by the Global MFA Program Director or an assigned faculty member and will a) complete 15 credit hours in courses under Maharishi International University faculty, b) secure and complete an internship of at least 3 credits with an approved site supervisor, c) propose and complete a thesis project of at least 12 credits approved and overseen by a committee of three, at least two of whom must be MIU faculty or affiliated faculty.

Instruction in English

The international language of cinema is English, and this international MFA program will have many faculty who are English speakers. They will lecture in English. Where warranted, lectures may be simultaneously translated by a Graduate Assistant or by other means.


Online aspects of instruction in some courses will be conducted using Zoom and the Canvas learning management system. It will include, for example, Discussion Forums in which students may post short essay responses to the questions given by the professors. Students must post their responses in English, so students who draft their responses in languages other than English will need to use translation software or translation services, at their own expense, to prepare the English version for posting.


Some class assignments may involve research using sources outside of the required texts and readings. Students who want to use English-language sources must be able to read the sources in English or be assisted by their own translation software.


Students must submit their class assignments in English, either as the original language of composition or with the assistance of translation software. If a professor receives an assignment that is not sufficiently comprehensible in English, the professor will return the assignment to the student to seek assistance for improved translation.


For these reasons, students who have a good ability to read, write, and understand English will find it much easier to gain the full benefits of this global MFA program. Proficiency in English will give applicants an advantage in the admissions process.

Entrance Requirements for the Global MFA in Cinematic Arts

In addition to meeting university admission criteria, applicants must:


(1) Provide evidence of a four-year undergraduate degree, or its equivalent, in media, multimedia, communications, or the liberal arts. If the undergraduate degree is not in these fields, the applicant may provide evidence of equivalent work experience that demonstrates aptitude or proficiency in the techniques in filmmaking, and


(2) Submit an application package that includes:

a.   a portfolio: this entails a sample of a prior production on a streaming platform (such as YouTube or Vimeo), and/or screenplay (PDF), and/or alternate evidence of creative accomplishment

b.    a current resume

c.    a personal essay or statement of intent with respect to goals for the degree, and artistic philosophy


(3) Receive approval for the transfer of up to 36 credit hours through one of MIU’s articulation agreements or through individualized approval by the International MFA Program Director and MIU’s Office of Admissions.


(4) Proficiency in English will give applicants an advantage in the admissions process. We recommend, but do not require, that applicants submit an English-proficiency test score (IELTS or TOEFL).


(5) Students may be requested to participate in a personal interview conducted by the MFA admissions committee.


Graduation Requirements for the Global MFA in Cinematic Arts

Please note that the curriculum may evolve from one year to the next, and this will entail course changes. Students will graduate under the terms of curriculum of the catalog in place in the year of admission, with approved substitutions provided as needed.


Courses offered through MIU

In consultation with her advisor, the student is guided through the options available to attain the aggregate of 72 credits hours required for his MFA.


Waivers to required courses (identified below), based on previous professional experience or exceptional circumstances, will be permitted only by petition to the Global MFA Program Director.


Required Courses at MIU

  • DLCA 500 Survey of the Global MFA in Cinematic Arts (2 credits)

  • DLCA 510 The Creative Process (1 credit)

  • DLCA 511–515 Creative Intelligence Seminar (minimum of 1 credit per semester, may be taken up to 4 times)

  • DLCA 720 – Capstone Development (3 credits)


Elective Courses at MIU

  • DLCA 519 - The Films and Philosophy of David Lynch (3 credits)

  • DLCA 580 - The Business of Festival Strategy, Delivery and Distribution (3 credits)

  • DLCA 670 - Documentary Filmmaking (2-4 credits)

  • DLCA 675 - Producing: Low Budget Filmmaking (3 credits)

  • DLCA 701 - Producing: Transnational Cinema (3 credits)


Study Abroad Options

  • DLCA 708 - Study Abroad: The Cannes Film Festival residency* (2)

  • DLCA 709 - Study Abroad: The Toronto International Film Festival* (2)

  • DLCA 710 - Study Abroad: Sundance and Los Angeles residency* (2)

* this course option requires payment of supplemental fees


External Elective Courses (not required; 9 credits maximum)

Up to 9 (nine) credit hours in graduate level courses taken on campus or online in other disciplines at Maharishi International University may be undertaken and counted toward the total credit hours allowable for graduation.


Note: while the provision of the elective category is intended to allow flexibility in the degree path, students are not required to choose courses outside the curriculum of the Global MFA in Cinematic Arts.


On a limited basis and solely with approval of the advisor, MFA students may also undertake a registered Independent Study in lieu of a regularly scheduled course:

  • DLCA 690 Independent Study (1-9 credits after first year)


Required Internship in Cinematic Arts (3–15 credits)

All students are required to undertake internships in the minimum aggregate of 3 credits (or 3 weeks).


The student must identify a field-related internship topic or project and secure the commitment of an on-site supervisor for the project. The student will submit to the Global MFA Program Director a petition for the internship that states the educational objectives of the internship and identifies a full-time faculty member who will be the internship evaluator. In special circumstances, the internship may be conducted at an on-campus location. Upon approval of the faculty evaluator and submission of the Internship Petition, the student may register for DLCA 692/792 Internships.

  • DLCA 692 Internship (2–6 credits)

  • DLCA 792 Internship (2–9 credits). May be repeated for credit.


Required Thesis (9–15 credits)


In the thesis/project, the student actively participates in an aspect of the design, production and/or delivery of a film project undertaken at a graduate standard. Project scope and duration must be approved prior to registration by the faculty advisor. For thesis credit, the student must serve in one of the following roles:

  • Producer

  • Screenwriter

  • Director

  • Cinematographer

  • Editor


Credit for any other function on a thesis project will be permitted only with the approval of the Global MFA Program Director.


The student selects a Thesis Committee consisting of a thesis chair and two additional faculty members, then develops a proposal acceptable to the committee. The faculty chair must be drawn from full-time faculty; the other committee members may come from part-time faculty and may include an external evaluator, subject to the chair’s approval. 


As MIU does not have unlimited equipment and production facilities, in the second year, students are encouraged to bring their own equipment, including cameras and computers for editing. It is recommended that thesis projects undertaken on campus at MIU are rooted in screenwriting, producing (production development), or editing of a work filmed prior to arrival at MIU. Approvals for production theses started and completed at MIU will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


The thesis project is a significant piece of work. Except in special circumstances subject to rigorous approval, the thesis registrant’s role in the related production(s) may not be a shared credit. The function must be clearly defined in writing and approved by the faculty advisor prior to registration. Students are otherwise encouraged to collaborate with their classmates, colleagues in their workplaces, and with the community as subjects, cast, and crew in the making of thesis projects.


As students proceed through their own thesis work, and that of their classmates, they register for the following courses as appropriate to their role in the project at that time. At the end of the program, each student will exhibit their film and defend it in an oral examination.


  • DLCA 730 Thesis Screenwriting (1–15 credits)

  • DLCA 740 Thesis Pre-Production (1–6)

  • DLCA 750 Thesis Production (1–15)

  • DLCA 760 Thesis Post-production (1–15)

  • DLCA 790 Thesis Exhibition (1 credit)


Students may register for capstone courses only after the committee has approved the student’s proposal.  The student then completes the thesis project/production with the guidance of the thesis chair.  An 8-10 page paper taking the form of a production diary must accompany all projects submitted for evaluation. The purpose of the accompanying paper is to speak reflectively on the student’s experience of the production process and to facilitate insight into the experience that cannot be observed through reviewing the thesis project in itself.


Upon completion of the thesis requirement, a student will possess either a) a portfolio of work carried out in the disciplines of screenwriting, producing, cinematography, and editing, with other subjects to be considered by the Global MFA Program Director, or b) a thesis film in which the student has functioned as auteur – the writer, director, and editor.


Each credit of DLCA capstone work must be substantiated by at least 45 hours of project-related work with periodic supervision and feedback from the faculty.

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