Best Summer Film Programs – 2023

June 8, 2023

Many of us never move past the cringe-worthy productions recorded on our parents’ camcorders with terrible lighting and disinterested “actors” (i.e., younger siblings costumed in pillowcases). However, if you survived that phase and went on to develop a true passion for studying, creating, and producing films, you’ll know that the artistry, skill, and patience required to make it in the industry are high. Moreover, top-notch filmmakers are persistent, creative, collaborative, and technologically savvy, and outside of self-study and film electives, one of the best places to develop such skills is at a summer program. Since filmmaking is a medium that is learned by doing, the best summer film programs for high school students give teens the opportunity to produce their own projects, receive mentorship from industry professionals, and learn how to collaborate with others. Read on for a list of the best options.

1) Filmmaking Summer Program at the Interlochen Center for the Arts

  • Location: Interlochen, MI
  • Residential?: Yes
  • Program Length: 3 weeks
  • Cost: $6,550
  • Eligibility: Rising freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors
  • Application Deadline: January

A selective pre-professional boarding school, Interlochen offers several summer film programs for high school students.

During the Filmmaking program, students produce their own projects. In the process, they take a variety of workshops, which include production, screenwriting, and film history. Since the focus of this program is on cinematic storytelling, students are involved in everything from writing scripts to editing. Additionally, through a mixture of lectures and experiential learning, students practice different types of production skills. Love Mad Men or Breaking Bad? Recent guest artists have included Janet Leahy and Peter Gould. Finally, at the culmination of the program, students showcase their films at Interlochen’s state-of-the-art theater.

To apply, students must submit a portfolio comprising a personal essay as well as a 3-5 page screenplay, 5-page piece of short fiction, 10 photo stills, or a short video/film or animation.

Interested in other areas of film production? You’re in luck. Interlochen offers an Animation summer program as well as three one-week intensives in Film Scoring, Screenwriting, and Storyboarding.

2) Camp Flix

  • Location: Atlanta, GA (Kennesaw State University–Marietta Campus or Emory University)
  • Residential?: Residential and commuter options available
  • Program Length: 1 week
  • Cost: $785 (day students); $1,495 (residential students)
  • Eligibility: Students aged 11-17
  • Application Deadline: First-come, first-serve

Whether you’ve been making movies for years or have never picked up a camera, Camp Flix is a fantastic option. Over the course of these summer film programs, students work in small crews to create short films. As such, they’ll experience every stage of the process. Workshops include Screenwriting, Lighting, Editing, and Marketing, among others, and are taught by industry professionals. Additionally, each student will have a role–Actor, Director, Writer, Cinematographer, or Editor—and they’ll spend at least eight hours per day working on their projects. Moreover, the program culminates with a Red Carpet Premiere. Networking opportunities with filmmakers, movie screenings, and plenty of collaborative group work complete the experience.

Been to Camp Flix before? Returning campers work on larger projects and take more advanced classes. In addition, residential students (whether new or returning) work on two films whereas day students work on just one.

Summer Film Programs for High School Students- Continued

3) USC Cinematic Arts Summer Program

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Residential?: Residential, commuter, and online options available
  • Program Length: 6 weeks
  • Cost: $2,137 per credit, plus housing if necessary ($2,100-2,600)
  • Eligibility: High school students aged 16+
  • Application Deadline: Rolling, but the final deadline is in June

As one of the most highly regarded film schools in the country, USC is an incredible place to study the art of film. In addition, students who successfully complete these summer film programs earn college credit.

In-person students choose from over thirty courses in filmmaking, screenwriting, computer graphics, animation and gaming, and film & television business. These include options like Documentary Filmmaking, Creating the Dramatic TV Series, and Animation Fundamentals. Moreover, students can take up to eight credits worth of classes (most classes are between 2-4 credits each). Each course has its own objectives but all are hands-on. For example, Documentary Filmmaking students create their own films after developing skills in directing, writing, editing, and producing.

Prefer online classes? There are three options available: Beginning Screenwriting, Filmmaking, and Visual Effects.

The program is academically rigorous—USC expects students to spend most of their free time completing homework and projects. As such, they do not schedule extracurricular or community building activities. However, there are some optional activities and seminars that include industry meet-and-greets and pre-release movie screenings.

In addition to a general application, students will need to submit a thirty-second video introduction as well as a writing sample and transcript.

4) Emerson Digital Filmmakers Studio

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Residential?: Residential and commuter options available
  • Program Length: 3 weeks
  • Cost: $3,744 + housing, if necessary ($2,875)
  • Eligibility: Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors (must be between the ages of 15-18)
  • Application Deadline: March

Hoping to learn the art of single-camera digital film production? Emerson’s summer film programs for high school students might be right up your alley.

During the program, students are expected to complete a number of projects. Consequently, these could include montage films, short films, and 24-hour films. While developing and creating their projects, students hone skills in cinematography, lighting, sound recording, editing, and storyboarding. Moreover, the program culminates with a Filmmakers Showcase, and a major goal is for students to walk away with skills that enable them to create films for their college applications.

Interested applicants should know that these summer film programs are incredibly time intensive. Students spend six days a week and eight to ten hours a day attending classes and working on projects.

To apply, students need to submit a statement of purpose, essay, and teacher recommendations. Additionally, they’ll need to submit a project–either a video (5 minutes max) or a script (10 pages max). The admissions committee looks for students who are excited to develop their skills and capable of receiving constructive feedback.

5) Core Filmmaking at SOCAPA

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; Burlington, VT; or East Burke, VT
  • Residential?: Residential and commuter options available
  • Program Length: 2-6 weeks
  • Cost: $2,745-$7,090, depending on length & location, plus housing (which ranges from $725-3,225 per week, depending on location & number of roommates)
  • Eligibility: Rising juniors and seniors (must be at least 16 years old)
  • Application Deadline: Rolling

At SOCAPA–the School of Creative and Performing Arts–students have access to a unique structure. Although the “Core” program is three weeks long, students can opt to attend for just two weeks or extend the experience with 1-3 weeks of screenwriting and producing classes. Moreover, students who have already completed the Core Filmmaking course have access to Advanced Filmmaking.

The three-week summer film programs for high school students are most popular. Here, students have the opportunity to write, direct, and edit their own films. As such, they’ll take classes in Writing, Directing, Cinematography, and Sound where they’ll develop their ability to create stories, construct shots, and record audio, among others. They’ll then put their knowledge to the test by creating three films: a Lumiere Film, Porter Film, and Kubrick Film. The Lumiere Film will develop their knowledge of mise-en-scéne and narrative while the Porter Film is a practice in continuity. Finally, the Kubrick Film challenges students to create a 4-5 minute masterpiece that incorporates everything they’ve learned.

In addition to producing and directing their own films, students experience other filmmaking roles—such as photography director, sound technician, and production assistant–as they work on their classmates’ projects.

Although these summer film programs have a rolling deadline, they are competitive. Interested students should plan to apply early. Finally, each location offers a unique set of extracurricular activities, so be sure to evaluate those options before making a final decision.

Final Thoughts – Summer Film Programs

If becoming a filmmaker is your ultimate goal, attending a highly regarded summer program can not only supercharge your skills but also strengthen your college applications. And if you’re not sure whether film is the right career for you, an intensive deep dive into the discipline should clear up any lingering questions. Last but not least, the skills learned from attending summer film programs–such as creativity, collaboration, communication, and time management–will be an asset in any future career you choose.

Looking for summer film programs in your area? Consider checking out the following: