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Take College Level Film Courses for Free with MIT's OpenCourseWare

01.4.14 @ 9:41PM Tags : , , , , , ,

bolexFilm school is not for everyone and it is by no means required in order to make a movie. Plenty of great filmmakers decided to skip a formal education to go straight to making films, but if you’re interested in getting one, but either can’t afford it or don’t have the time or desire to sit in a crowded lecture hall, MIT offers their undergraduate and graduate level film coursework information online for free through OCW (OpenCourseWare), making quality (and very expensive) educational information, including lecture notes, videos, and exams accessible to anyone and everyone without the requirement of being matriculated. Continue on to find out what they’re offering.

For some, going to college just isn’t in the cards. Maybe it’s too expensive. Maybe you just don’t have the time. And while a good professor (as well as fellow classmates) can help you take your education to new heights and depths, a good textbook and a sharp mind can also do wonders (especially if that’s all you have money/time for). That’s what MIT OpenCourseWare provides.

When you go to the MIT OCW site and find their film coursework, it’s laid out like any college course selection, ranging from 100 to 400 level (and above) courses. They offer a pretty wide range of topics, from film history to avant-garde film — a few courses currently on the list are “Intro to Video”, “Philosophy of Film”, “German Cinema 1945 to Present”, and even “American Soap Operas”.


Each course webpage contains a syllabus, which includes an overview of the course, as well as required texts (that’s your golden goose right there), lecture notes with a list of films and pdfs of articles and topics covered in the course, and finally, a calendar and list of assignments (in case you just happen to like writing 3000 word essays for the fun of it). You can also download all of the course materials onto your computer.

Though I haven’t sufficiently vetted these sites, edX and OpenCourseWare Consortium also share coursework from many colleges, including the top universities in America. It’s pretty easy to find film courses on OCW Consortium, since they have a search bar, but navigating edX with its limited subject bar proves to be pretty tricky. (There isn’t a “Film”, “Cinema”, or “Fine Arts” subject available to select.)

When I was in college, I had quite a strong preference for “independent study” (legally it’s called truancy). Instead of going to class, I’d often opt for studying in a comfy chair in a discreet corner of a cafe with my textbook. This is essentially what you’d be doing if you used MIT OCW. You may not walk away with a degree from MIT, but you will be exposed to the materials required to complete the courses needed to get one. There may not be a professor, tutorial, or article to guide you through the texts, but if you’re hungry to learn, MIT’s OCW is an incredible resource. It’s essentially free film school!

What do you think about MIT’s coursework? Do you know of any other resources like this? Let us know in the comments.



We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Wow this is incredible. The iversity one was a bit weak, this ones look very thorough. Thanks.

  • I knew they had free courses, but I didn’t know they had them for film studies. Thanks so much for posting this!

  • Can’t wait to check it out!

  • jose jimenez on 01.4.14 @ 11:52PM

    I thought this was “No Film School” … Why would you be promoting a film school?

    • That’s just dumb thinking from your part…

    • dont take it literally bro

    • God forbid actually learning proper techniques in film through an education other than a ton of improper techniques (including lack of lighting) on the internet. So many new “filmmakers” and I use that word loosely, think buying a camera, pushing record and having a few lights can make a film. Yes it can make a film, but you do yourself a disservice just banking on talent to make a cohesive and beautiful one. Everyone can buy paints and as easel and say their art doesn’t need technique. Well, yea it looks like it, same goes with film. Most of the info on the Internet including this site, about how to make films, gives basic knowledge of how to make a film, but not on how to actually make cinema, I have yet to see it. Lighting is a great part in cinema, 3 point just doesn’t cut it. Please strive to make cinema, not montage and montage after montage and end up in tye grave yard of vimeo. Anyone who says paid or free education is useless, are the same people who just have a chip on their shoulder and are too weak to actually take advice or educate themselves on the realities of life. Please educate yourself, wether it’s going to school or a school giving out free info on a variety of subjects, not just film, don’t let a site called dictate not getting a proper education.

      • Joe Marine on 01.5.14 @ 4:56PM

        What a strange comment thread this has become. We’ve never said film school is bad, in fact, most of our writers have gone to film school. The reality is that at this point in time a lot of the information you can get in film school is available elsewhere and on the internet, and we try to bring it to you, including things you’ll never get in film school.

        The goal for the site is to provide as much information and news about making your own films and other creative video work as possible, simple as that.

        The industry is full of people who’ve been to undergrad and grad film school, and also full of those who went to school for something completely different – or maybe some or no college at all. Every person’s path is going to be different, and we recognize that, and there is a lot to be said for both going and not going to film school.

        • Edward Ornelas on 01.5.14 @ 8:24PM

          And for that I Thank You! I’m only 16, and for you and many others sharing this knowledge really aspired to become a filmmaker!

        • I will start of by saying “WOW”!

          As I read through these strings I can actually hear the passion in all of your voices as you write. Regardless of whether it appears as negative, positive or just a contribution to the conversation, the passion is there. Don’t ever lose it!

          I am 69 and just retired from my accounting profession. Some of my friends are in the “film” business; I’m glad I spent my career as an accountant. You’re in a tough business. My passion was/is designing accounting control systems; I still have the passion for creating things.

          I’ve always been a passionate photographer, but a few years ago I did buy a video camera and Premier Pro. I have no intention of becoming a film maker; I have a new granddaughter and want to chronicle her life over the balance of mine.

          I am being taught how to shoot by my friends in the film business, from sites like this and from all of the courses and information that is available on the net. My youngest daughter enrolled me in for Christmas. It isn’t MIT, but it is information that I need to learn because I don’t know.

          Not everyone, who reads this site, is in or wants to be in the film business. We just want to learn.

          Best regards,

      • I have personally viewed and judged many student films. I can say that an individual is not a filmmaker just because they attended film school. Many need to go get a regular job and pay their parents back for the money that they wasted. I have witnessed great films by students and I have witnessed atrocities. I have viewed films from people who have been trained and have been in the business for years. Many fall into the atrocity category. Neither a great education nor a great camera can make a filmmaker. Much of the craft is intuitive. Just as any other art form. I have seen many great creations from people who have never stepped foot into a classroom. I am not a painter and probably could never be one even with much training or the best equipment.

        I appreciate the opportunity to view any advice that might further advance my personal knowledge. I don’t feel that it is right to bash this site for trying to help people.

    • Claudinho Andrés on 06.20.14 @ 9:54PM

      No Film: the other side of filmmaking… Haven’t you realized yet why when accesing this site a DSLR Filmmaking Manual just pop out on screen????? I think you are reading wrong… it’s not No Film-School… but No-Film School!!! Got it?????!!!!!

  • More impressed with their other courses then the ones in film studies. Really, soap operas?

  • As I understand it, the NO FILM part refers to just that (we are talking Digital) not about not learning from any other source (SCHOOL). If you don’t want to learn, don’t call yourself a photographer. Those courses are options, if you don’t like soap operas don’t take it. Maybe they will add one for people who know everything and don’t need NO FILM SCHOOL either.

    • I guess it’s literally “no filmschool”. As in learning everything and ‘getting there’ without going to filmschool. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use courses offered in those schools…

  • Is it a new thing in USA? I found out many very interesting free online courses the last days. I just took a jazz course (Austin University) and I think I’m gonna follow the photography and film&video courses on this website you mention. I will probably not lear a lot as I’ve been studying cinema by myself for 20 years and did one year in a cinema school, but you never know, I might discover some good stuffs!
    Thank you!

  • I’ve been around some of these sites for a few years now, and I will say some are better than others, but as a whole the quality of the content is top notch. EDx (originally MITx) was an effort started by MIT to formalize their OCW curriculum with real teachers, real students, real assignments and deadlines just as if it were a class. However to date, the number of film classes are severely limited as most of the courses focus on sciences and technology. There may possibly be a few film studies classes, but no theory or production classes I’m aware of.

    Another great resource is Coursera, which has some media arts, image processing and film history and studies classes as well.

    This whole idea of a massive open online class (MOOC) is still relatively young, but we should expect some incredible potential out of them in the future.

    • I just finished a MOOC from iversity in Germany. The material might have been a bit weak, as it tried to be more general than specific, but the medium is very interesting. I have gone on to study more about Transmedia Storytelling. It is an interesting method to tell a story.

      I am just about finished a Manual on “How to number video and audio files for editing”. I am doing this in concert with a leading, award-winning Canadian Learning Designer. If the edit of this Manual proves fruitful, then it is our intention to turn it into a MOOC. If it can’t be a MOOC, then it will be a PDF Manual on my site.

      I’ll keep you posted through NFS.

      I just signed up at to read and study their courses. It’s only USD $79.95 for the year.



  • WOW this is blowing my mind. You guys do so much good.

  • I can not find the free readings, I have to buy the books from amazon. Or are the readings not free. Great post none the less.

  • I knew MIT had free courses and I was Iooked at one of them, but that was a couple of years ago. I didn’t take the class because it appeared that much of the work required instructor intervention. I will look again now that I’ve seen this post.

  • I meant to write “I looked”

  • I looked at the courses offered now and I was most interested in DV Lab: Documenting Science Through Video and New Media. However, I counted about 33 books for graduate students to purchase beyond the 3 listed at the top. I will probably buy 1 or 2 books and go through the course.

    Any opinions on which is a better book? – How to shoot video that doesn’t suck by Steve Stockman or The Fimmaker’s Handbook: A comprehensive guide for the digital age. The Stockman book was not on the course reading list.

  • Hi

    I don’t see any link to start the course. Am I missing something. The download is tha same as what is on the site. Any ideas?

  • issah ghana on 01.11.14 @ 9:06AM

    i have learn t so much in such a short time. And i appreciate the effort done by this film school. Coming from africa where where we must pay for almost everything. Nofilmschool has given us an opportunity to pursue our dreams for free.Had it not been for them i would have given up .

  • this course is so great m nt able going to any film school becouse of mony but htisa guys providead me totaly free its ossm…………..

  • THOMAS TILLE on 06.20.14 @ 7:26PM


  • So they’re not offering courses, just all the texts and sources for their available courses?

    Bit of a misleading article title…

  • Jed Darlington-Roberts on 07.8.14 @ 10:15AM

    Until just before christmas i wasn’t planing on going to University (film school, what ever you wanna call it) but then suddenly changed my mind. I think theres great benefits to it, for instance it gives me a reason to leave where i live now and move to a place where theres more chance to get film work, it gives me a definite 3 year plan, whilst i can also get work in-between. It also gives me the option to use a range of equipment and meet a great range of people, i know a second year on the course I’m doing works for Vogue! I don’t think film school is for everyone, but its a great way to meet people and learn more in depth knowledge on why to move the camera and why light it in that way, I see too many DSLR films that think a sliding shot adds production value, even if it’s completely un motivated. Being shown what makes something motivational can be a great option! also, you get to meet and work with lil emended people in Uni that you might work with into the future.

    Anyway, thats why i chose to go int hat path, and I’m super excited, however, I’ll always read blogs like this!

  • This is a great idea, many tanx to MIT