Online Certificate in Film Studies

About the Online Certificate in Film Studies
The Certificate Program in Film Studies offers undergraduates a comprehensive course of study in the history, criticism, theory, aesthetics, and production of the moving image in the unique context of an interdisciplinary program.
Since the Program began in 1991, Film Studies graduates have used the Certificate to compete successfully for admission to prestigious film schools and graduate programs; for positions in film and video production; for employment in film and video distribution and exhibition, digital and new media, and as editors, producers, actors and independent filmmakers.
As of 2018 Film Studies offers an online version of our face-to-face certificate.

Whether you want to complete the 18-credit certificate or take a single class, this online program offers you the opportunity to study with award-winning professors and national or international professional filmmakers at the top of their field. You’ll find classes in general and specialized filmmaking, screenwriting, film theory, film criticism, and other subjects.

Admission to all classes is open, and anyone can enroll. You do not have to be a UMass Amherst student. There is no admission procedure. Students may register for courses up until the course begins, but we strongly suggest you enroll at least two weeks before the class starts because many classes fill up quickly.

All courses are offered online through Continuing & Professional Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Classes in the online program are designed to be the online equivalent of undergraduate courses and serve diverse student needs. Students who complete the requirements listed below will earn a Certificate of Film Studies. 

University of Massachusetts Amherst students are welcome to enroll in online classes. The online courses earned through the Certificate count fully toward the face-to-face UMass Films Studies Certificate and will satisfy the GenEds and Global Eds their in-the-classrom versions normally satisfy. Online courses are not, however, covered by regular UMass tuition. Limited financial aid applies. (More info on that here).

Check out the requirements for earning the Certificate.

Here's how to enroll in a course.

Certificate Requirements:
Minimum course requirements to obtain the Certificate: 6 courses (of 3 credits or more),
in the following 5 Categories (each course counts for only one category):
Category I. Introduction Course (1 required):
-Introduction to Cinema Studies FILM-ST 297C  (Summer 1)
Category II. History/Theory (1 required)
Choose 1 of the following:
-Film Theory FILM-ST 497T (Summer 2)
-Women's Cinema FILM-ST 497W (Summer 2)
Category III. Genre/Director/National Cinema (1 required)
-Alien Encounters FILM-ST 497A (Summer 1)
Category IV. Upper Level Course - 400 level or above (1 required)
Choose 1 of the following:
-Film Theory FILM-ST 497T (Summer 2)
-Women's Cinema FILM-ST 497W (Summer 2)
-Alien Encounters FILM-ST 497A (Summer 1)
Category V. Elective/Production (2 required)
Choose 2 of the following:
(one of these 2 courses must be from Category II or III)
-Screenwriting FILM-ST 297S (Summer 2)
-Marking Short Films FILM-ST 497S (Summer 1)
-Film Theory FILM-ST 497T (Summer 2)
-Women's Cinema FILM-ST 497W (Summer 2)




The fee is $404/credit, which makes it $1,212 for a 3-credit course. There is an additional non-refundable registration fee of $47 per term.  The registration fee is paid only once each term, regardless of how many courses a student enrolls in. Summer counts as one term. Please note that CPE limits number of credits in Summer  to a maximum of 15.

The total cost for the entire Certificate depends on which courses you take and how many terms you take to complete the courses. If you were to take the 6 courses (18 credits) over 2 terms (for instance Summer and Fall), you would have to pay a total of  $7,366. 

Please find more information about class fees here


The Certificate of Film Studies is not a degree-granting program. That means that if you are not otherwise enrolled in a matriculating degree program at a university or college, you cannot use federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants, toward individual Certificate of Film Studies classes. 

If you are currently enrolled at UMass Amherst, including the University Without Walls program, please contact  the University of Massachusetts Amherst Financial Aid Office to determine your eligibility. If you are a student at another university, please contact your financial aid officer there for information.

If you are not currently a student, you can also explore personal loans.

If you are a veteran, the GI Bill might pay for your online credits, but you will need to verify that before you enroll. Please get in touch with the UMass Veteran Services Offices to discuss elligibility.

For more info on financial aid, check out this info sheet.

SUMMER Session I (May 21 to June 29)

FILM-ST 297C (3 credits)



Barry Spence

This is an introduction to cinema studies and to the analysis of film. The course explores the complex nature and cultural function of cinema by focusing on the interrelationship between film form and the full range of stylistic elements (mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, sound). Each week we will watch a groundbreaking movie from the diverse cultural history of global cinema and use it as a basis for analyzing the various component parts of the filmmaking process as manifested in the finished film. Among these concerns, we will consider film as both a storytelling act (with unique time-based resources) and as a technological medium that forms cultural meaning. For it is within the interplay of these dimensions that film finds its unique and culturally preeminent voice.

FILM-ST 497A  (3 credits) 



Daniel Pope


Could there be extraterrestrial life in the cosmos?  Scientists say yes, possibly on billions of planets in our galaxy alone, according to recent discoveries.  What would happen in an encounter between humans and alien beings?  In this class, we will examine cinematic engagements with themes of alien encounters and ask how the cinema envisions and constructs the alien other, as well as how it both reflects and shapes our experience of the alien.  Since the beginning of cinema, the figure of the alien has visited the big screen with its promise of otherworldly wonders and its threat of unthinkable perils.  Why do we find alien movies so alluring?  How do we understand themes of alien encounters in relation to the realities of our human world?  This course will also explore how alien encounters reflect the haunting of historical realities (such as European voyages of discovery, conquest, and colonization) as well as contemporary issues, such as international conflict (war or global migration), questions of identity (race, gender, sexuality), and the power and perils of emerging technologies (nuclear weapons, artificial intelligence, space travel). Imagining encounters with intelligent beings beyond our own cultural and ideological sphere provides powerful new perspectives on what we think we know about the world, about ourselves, and about others.

FILM-ST 497S (3 credits)



David Casals-Roma

Making short films is a step by step course that goes through the basic aspects you need to know in order to make a film. We will start with the preproduction process and how to find engaging stories. You will learn how to break-down scripts, cast actors, find crew, scout locations, prepare budgets, shooting plans, call sheets and other important paperwork. For the production process the course will focus on shooting, blocking, lighting, directing actors, cinematography, sound and other important aspects to be aware of when you are on set. In the postproduction process you will learn the basics of editing images, sound design, music, effects and color correction. Finally, we will analyze the film market and the possibilities that new filmmakers have in the industry.

(Important: There will be some practical exercises appointed by the professor. As film equipment is not provided for the class, you will need to have access to a camera)

SUMMER  Session II (July 9 to August 17)​

FILM-ST 497T (3 credits) 



Barry Spence

This course provides an in-depth overview of the key theoretical approaches to the study of cinema by examining historically significant ways of analyzing film form and its social and cultural functions and effects. The course seeks to equip students with a command of the diverse history of theoretical frameworks for understanding the medium and experience of cinema, from early concerns over film's relation to other arts to the way the movie as a cultural form has been reconceptualized within the contemporary explosion of new media. The pressing relevance of film theory becomes clear once we stop to consider--taking just one small example--the many implications of a society-wide movement away from the collective experience of movies in a public theater to private viewing with earbuds on the tiny screen of a cell phone or tablet. We will explore a wide range of questions (concerning the nature of the cinematic medium and its apparatus, aspects of the spectator's experience of film, and the aesthetic and ideological dimensions of film genre, to name just a few) as a way of putting ourselves in dialogue with various film theoreticians. And we will ground our examination by looking at cinematic practice in relation to theory. This will be done through regular film streaming throughout the semester. Feature length films drawn from various points in the history of cinema, as well as a selection of film clips will be used to illustrate and discuss the various theories.

FILM-ST 497W (3 credits)



Barbara Zecchi

A close examination of films directed by women from around the globe through the viewpoint of gender and film theories. This class will engage several of the most recurrent topics that shape women’s films in comparison with how these same themes surface, if they do, in mainstream Hollywood and in national male-authored productions. By tackling the so-called gender-genre debate, it will address how women use (or subvert) different male-dominated cinematic forms (i.e. if there is a female version of the comedy, a women’s road movie, film noir, etc.). Finally, it will address whether and how these films reflect a female idiosyncrasy, a woman’s language, a female gaze. Class will include recent films by women filmmakers such as Chantal Akerman (Belgium), Isabel Coixet (Catalonia), Lucia Puenzo (Argentina), Claire Denis (France), Alankrita Shrivastava (India), Deniz Gamze Ergüven (Turkey), Nadine Labaki (Lebanon), among others.


FILM-ST 297S (CAP. 15) (3 credits)

SCREENWRITING - Idea to Outline 

Instructor: Tom Benedek

Four-week intensive screenwriting class, with 2 options:

1) Online only  2) Blended: Online + 2 weekends in NY


Develop your film idea into a well-structured outline and write the first ten pages of your script. Using written lectures, script readings, streamed/recorded video lectures, writing assignments and online class discussion, learn the art, craft and creative fundamentals of screenwriting. Instructor Tom Benedek will provide individual feedback on all writing project assignments.

Weeks 1 and 2: Total immersion in the foundational principles of screenwriting: Dramatic structure, script form, character, story/plot, subplot, theme, genre, scene structures, dialogue and creative brainstorming methods for developing ideas into finished scripts.

Weeks 3 and 4: Workshop your idea or story concept into a structured script outline and write the first ten pages of your script. Using a series of structured sets of questions/writing prompts, class members will brainstorm characters, plot, images, back stories to build their film idea.

Students who choose the blended option will take a LIVE NEW YORK CITY WRITING WORKSHOP at NYPOP UMass space in Chelsea (Two Weekends: July 21-22 and July 28-29). Workshop will be streamed for Online students.


Please check out  the making of the teaser

for David's feature film "The Flat"


Year-Round Schedule, Online Certificate Program


Please note that this schedule might change at any time due to shifting program or instructor priorities.

SUMMER Session I (May 21 to June 29)

Instructor: Barry Spence


Instructor: Daniel Pope


Instructor: David Casals-Roma

SUMMER  Session II (July 9 to August 17)​


Instructor: Barry Spence


Instructor: Barbara Zecchi

FILM-ST 297S  SCREENWRITING I- Idea to Outline  

Instructor: Tom Benedek

FALL Semester 2018

Instructor: Barry Spence


Instructor: David Casals-Roma


Instructor: Tom Benedek


ONLINE Faculty  2018


Tom Benedek

Tom Benedek is a renown screenwriter nominated for prestigious awards such as the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic PresentationWriters Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay, among others. He has completed more than thirty-five writing assignments at major studios, independent production companies and TV networks, including the screenplay for the film Cocoon. Along the way, he has worked with Robert Zemeckis, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Sydney Pollack, Richard Rush, Harold Ramis, Lauren Schuler Donner and many other amazingly talented filmmakers. Tom earned his Bachelor’s Degree with an Individual Concentration in Film at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and  attended L’Institut de Formation Cinematographique in Paris and is a graduate of the Director’s Program at the American Film Institute.


David Casals-Roma

Originally from Barcelona, David Casals-Roma received a BA in Film & Media from the Birkbeck University of London. He has extended his studies in direction, screenwriting and production in Spain, United Kingdom, France, Italy and the United States. He has written, produced and directed short films and documentaries, and his work has received more than 100 awards worldwide. He teaches directing and screenwriting at different film schools in Spain and France. As a script doctor he worked on Death of Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw) by Belgian director Tom van Avermaet, a short film that was nominated for the Oscars as Best Fiction Short Film. As well as filmmaking, he has written two novels and has been a screenwriter for other projects. He speaks fluent Catalan, English, French, Italian and Spanish


Daniel Pope

With a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, and a focus in visual culture, Daniel Pope pursues a broad array of research and teaching interests across genres, national boundaries, and cultural histories.  His film courses engage national cinemas, including American, French, and Italian cinemas, as well as topics in transnational cinemas, questions of film realism, modes of film criticism, including new media, such as videographic essays and podcasts.  His recent teaching centers on such film genres as apocalyptic cinema, enigmatic or “puzzle” films, psychological thrillers, “poetic” and experimental documentaries, and speculative cinema.  Daniel Pope’s research explores photography, realism, and figural approaches to nonfiction narratives.  As Assistant Curator of the Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival, he interviews prominent filmmakers and artists from around the world, including Can Candan, Diana Groó, Lech Majewski, Signe Baumane, and Kevin Everson.  Pope is a Fulbright Scholar who has published work in Studies in East European Cinema as well as a chapter in Searching for Sebald (2007).

Barry Spence

Barry A. Spence, Ph.D., has taught film at Smith College as well as at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is currently Undergraduate Program Director and Chief Undergraduate Advisor in the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies. He teaches courses on film theory, introduction to cinema studies, cinematic time travel, cyborg cinema, dystopian film, French film, comedy, New York City as a cinematic city, and the cinematic reception of Ancient Greek tragedy. A specialist in narratology, Ancient Greek oral epic and tragedy, and the modernists James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, his current research focuses on modernist cinema and the films of Chris Marker, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Agnès Varda. He has published in Skenè: Journal of Theatre and Drama Studies, as well as in Phoenix and the Bryn Mawr Classical Review. He was recently invited to give a talk at the University of Verona, Italy, on the influence of Shakespeare’s King Lear and Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus on the theater of Samuel Beckett. He is a two-time recipient of a Five College Innovative Language Learning Mellon Foundation grant, joining Greek professors from Smith College and Mt. Holyoke College in the development of a website on Homeric Greek learning resources.

Barbara Zecchi

Professor Barbara Zecchi (PhD, UCLA) is the Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her research and teaching interests include European and Latin American cinemas, feminist film theory, film adaptation theory, gender studies and aging studies and the use of technology in the humanities. In addition to over 50 articles and 6 edited volumes, she is the author of the books La pantalla sexuada (The Gendered Screen, Cátedra, 2015) and Desenfocadas: Cineastas españolas y discursos de género (Out of Focus: Spanish Women Filmmakers and Gender Discourses, Icaria, 2014), and of six edited volumes. Zecchi is the co-founder and vice-president of the international research network CinemAGEnder and the founder and director of the Digital Humanities Project Gynocine: A History of Spanish Women’s Cinema. She lectured extensively in the US, UK, Canada, Spain, Italy and Latin America and collaborates in the curation of the Catalan Film Festival and of the Latin American Film Festival at the University of Massachusetts. She is Associate Member of the Spanish Film Academy.

Contact Us

Interdepartmental Program in 
Film Studies
S448 Integrative Learning Center
University of Massachusetts Amherst
650 North Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA 01003
Tel. (413) 545-3659
FAX: (413) 545-0014