In SCI-Arc’s Master of Arts in Fiction and Entertainment one-year program, students work with world-renowned professionals in the worlds of film, fiction, animation, marketing, games, and documentary making to build new forms of creative practice.
What we think the world looks like is largely determined by fiction and entertainment—extraordinary shared languages through which we exchange ideas and engage with our environment. It is impossible to underestimate the importance of media in the production of culture.
Given the critical role contemporary media plays in our lives, it is urgent to widen the scope of architecture beyond just buildings alone. Why shouldn’t architects design the next Hollywood blockbuster? Virtual reality environments? Viral videos? Political campaigns? In SCI-Arc Edge’s Fiction and Entertainment program, we engage the techniques of popular culture to imagine and visualise alternative worlds. Deeply embedded in the entertainment industry of Los Angeles, this program is a place to start telling new kinds of stories about the emerging conditions of the twenty-first century.
The program requires attendance in the fall, spring, and summer terms.
The Fiction and Entertainment program is organised as a year-long thesis project. The three-semester sequence begins with a focus on worldbuilding, moves into storytelling in the second semester, and ends in the final semester with a focus on production. Within this framework, students are encouraged to develop their own unique body of work that may take the form of short films, animations, music videos, documentaries, video games, VR environments, theatre experiences, or performances. The core of each semester is the design studio in which students develop their own project through group and individual work with program coordinator Liam Young and program faculty Alexey Marfin. The studio is supported each semester by a design lab which is a platform for supplementary workshops, talks, and mentoring sessions led by world renowned filmmakers, concept artists, screenwriters, and animators from the entertainment industry.
The Fiction and Entertainment program incorporates industry partners and intellectual collaborators drawn from companies such as Framestore, the Sundance Institute, Disney Imagineering, Vice Media, Netflix, Digital Domain, and Imaginary Forces. Instructors and lecturers in the program include:
Ben West, Creative Director of Framestore Los Angles, the Academy Award winning Production Company behind the visual effects for films such as Gravity, Blade Runner 2049 and Ghost in the Shell.
Hajnal Molnar-Szakacs, coordinator of the Documentary Film Program for the Sundance Institute.
Christian Lorenz Schurer, concept artist for blockbuster films including Justice League, Suicide Squad, The Matrix, The Fifth Element and Dark City.
P.G. Morgan, Emmy winning writer and producer for documentary film and television series.
Ruthie Doyle, Program Manager of the Sundance Festival New Frontier Labs.
Matt Warburton, Emmy award winning screenwriter for the Simpsons, Community and the Mindy Project.
Geoff Manaugh, author of BLDGBLOG and the New York Times bestseller, 'A Burglar's Guide to the City.
Alexandra Holcomb, Director of Development at production company Platinum Dunes.
The Fiction and Entertainment program is an invitation to the forefront of storytelling. Students of the program gain an intimate understanding of emerging workflows while also learning how to tell compelling stories, a combination of skills which other programs can’t offer. Fiction and Entertainment’s broad focus on worldbuilding allows students the opportunity to focus on any point of the process that they choose including modelling, animation, game design, writing, and concept development. The course has positioned me perfectly for work in the field of creative direction. I now have a comprehensive knowledge of emerging narrative mediums at a technical level and understand the ethical urgency associated with mediating the future. Working in futurist writing and narrative development I feel confident in my ability to steer projects and move culture in a desirable direction. Through connections established in the program I am now currently working with world builder and award winning production designer Alex McDowell on a new project that involves embedding narratives in a near-future context for an immersive installation, and I have begun preliminary work with Netflix and the New York Times on a documentary project.
As part of the Fiction & Entertainment program, I made the short hybrid documentary “The Endless Market.” The film is based around the design of a fictional tower that forms an archive of stories from an important market in Mumbai that is now threatened by gentrification. My architectural approach to the project gave me a different perspective towards a particular place, it’s people, culture but it was with the guidance of Liam Young and Alexey Marfin that I learnt how to speculate and visualize an alternate world within this existing context. In the year long course I have learnt and developed a completely new pallet of skills. The curriculum gave us the opportunity to learn from and receive feedback at every stage of the process from some of the great professionals in the industry. Furthermore, it enabled us to make connections and work with them in the future. Currently, I am working with production designer Alex McDowell on a world building project imagining the city of tomorrow and the urban possibilities of driverless cars. This program opened up innumerable possibilities for me and definitely added a great deal to my skill set.
Every short film that I made in Liam Young‘s studio at SCI-Arc pushed me to learn new tools to better tell a story. We travelled through India with the studio and I worked with local actors and producers to develop a speculative fiction set in a hybrid Los Angeles and Mumbai cityscape. We developed skills in both traditional in camera cinematography and digital visual effects. Ultimately, through the studio I developed the knowledge and professional connections that helped me to get a position as a compositor at Framestore in Los Angeles. I had the opportunity to work on AAA games titles, Hollywood blockbusters and various commercials like the cinematic trailer for Destiny 2. I have now transitioned to Framestore’s HQ in London to work on concept designs and environment art for National Geographic TV series Mars 2.
The studio helped me to cultivate the skills I learned in architecture as a vehicle to explore my interests as a designer and filmmaker. The guidance, dedication, and tireless tutelage I received from Liam Young and Alexey Marfin instilled a determined work ethic and sense of wonder in me; giving me the tools to visualize and realize my short film ‘Neville’—a story that follows an autonomous lawn mower doing its daily rounds in a post human, special economic zone of downtown Los Angeles. The curriculum’s rich exercise in world building; development of speculative narrative through research and story boarding; and intimate workshops with leading film professionals were an invaluable opportunity to learn and gain access to one on one feedback from the best. I submitted my film to the Sundance Film Festival and through the professional network I met in the program’s design lab I am working as a researcher on an upcoming documentary series for a major network. This program is truly inspiring and a mind-blowing experience. It opened up real opportunities to pursue a future as a filmmaker.