WQED Film Academy
Questions & Answers
We’ve put together an extensive list of common questions and answers. Take a look below. However, there may be something unique to your situation. Please feel free to reach out to Program Director Mary Ann McBride-Tackett at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Program Manager, Ian Altenbaugh, at email@example.com.
WQED Film Academy Programming
How does Film Academy work?
Students begin their time at Film Academy in what we call, The Learning Level. In this first semester with Film Academy, you will learn all of the basics of filmmaking – from storytelling to lighting to camera to editing and everything in between!
Students who successfully complete The Learning Level are eligible to apply for a next-level internship opportunity. In order to move up to this level, students will be tested in their technical knowledge, as well as interviewed by our teaching artists and staff. At the intern level, students will work with, and being mentored by, our advanced Teen Film Crew members, assisting in their projects and learning what it is to be a valued production assistant.
In order to complete the intern level, students will be tested on more advanced filmmaking skills, log 100 internship hours, participate in a peer mentoring training session provided by The Mentoring Partnership of Pittsburgh, and complete a Teen Film Crew interview with teaching artists and staff. Students may complete their 100 hours in one semester or they may choose to spread it out over time.
Students at the Teen Film Crew level are paid content creators and paid above minimum wage. The students are paid to produce promotional videos for clients and their own content for our web series: “The Reel Teens.” Students at the paid level may remain there through the summer after graduating high school.
When is Film Academy offered?
WQED Film Academy is offered three semesters of the year: fall (12 weeks), Spring (12 weeks), and a summer intensive (6 weeks).
When are the semesters?
There are three semesters throughout the year: Fall (September-December), Spring (January-April), and Summer (June-July).
What time does Film Academy meet?
During the fall and spring: Tuesdays and Thursdays 4 to 8 PM. Additional flex time may be offered on Wednesdays.
During the summer: Monday through Thursday 10 AM to 3 PM.
How long am I committed to Film Academy when I sign up?
Students sign up and commit to one semester at a time. Registration is required to attend your first semester of Film Academy. We will survey for subsequent semester participation at the conclusion of the current semester.
Is food provided?
During the fall and spring semesters, snacks will be provided (what we in the industry call “crafty!”). During our summer intensive, lunch will be provided. Students are also permitted to bring their own snacks and/or lunch.
How is communication handled?
Teaching artists and program staff frequently communicate with students and families via email. Student and guardian emails are bcc’d in order to protect privacy.
Students are also requested to communicate via the Slack app. Occasionally, phone calls are made as necessary.
Will I have to be in front of the camera?
While we love for our students to experience every side (and we mean that literally!) of filmmaking, we understand that many of our students join our program because they prefer to be behind the camera. That said, we welcome students who are interested in flexing their thespian skills and are interested and learning what it takes to act for the camera.
How many students are in Film Academy?
Our program caps at approximately 30 to 35 students across all three levels. This ensures an individualized and enriched experience for our students.
Are COVID vaccinations required to attend Film Academy?
While we encourage students to be vaccinated in order to keep our community safe, exceptions will be made for those students and families with religious, cultural, and/or medical exemptions. All unvaccinated individuals must wear a mask while participating in the program. For our vaxed students, proof of vaccination will be requested at the start of your first semester.
Is there transportation provided to students from school to the program?
Students are responsible for their own transportation to WQED studios after school. Most of our students rely on public transportation. Additional transportation for events like shoots and field trips will be provided by WQED at no cost to the students. If you need assistance with transportation costs, please contact our Program Manager or Program Director.
What is the attendance policy for students?
Students are expected to attend every session. However, we understand that many students may miss classes due to other commitments or emergencies. In those situations, students are expected to notify the Program Manager and any other staff as directed, at the earliest convenience. Paid Teen Film Crew members must abide by these protocols or face warnings and potential subsequent termination.
What if a student is late?
Being late is never an issue as long as it’s communicated effectively. If they will be late every day due to transportation or other obligations, that must be communicated ahead of time.
Can I take a semester off and then return to Film Academy?
Yes! We understand that student life can be very hectic. Sports, musicals and music programs, and after school jobs and responsibilities can all take away from students’ free time. We like to be as flexible as possible and allow students to take semesters off to pursue other interests and obligations.
If I return to Film Academy after taking time off, will I be forced to restart from the beginning of the program (Learning Level)?
No! There is no return to start. You will be able to resume the program exactly where you left off.
WQED Film Academy Registration & Tuition
Do I need to register for every semester I attend Film Academy?
No. At the end of their current semester, students and families will be given a form to communicate their interest in attending subsequent semesters. If a student would like to take a leave and kept on the mailing list to join a future semester, that option will also be presented.
Are there limited spots available?
Yes. We are generally able to take 10 to 15 new students per semester. Summer tends to be our highest-attended semester. Interested students are encouraged to register early.
A deposit is due at the time of registration in order to secure your spot. Scholarship applicants are exempt from this deposit.
Who should fill out the registration form?
Parents/caregivers or students are able to fill out the registration form. We ask that guardians fill out any financial information requested for financial assistance. We ask that students complete any and all scholarship questions.
How much does a semester of Film Academy cost?
The cost of the program is $2,000 per student for in person and $2,500 per student for virtual (Virtual Film Academy includes a $500 “film at home kit” to keep). Sliding scale and full tuition scholarships are available due to the generous support from foundations and the Pittsburgh community. Please reach out if money is a barrier.
The cost of the program only applies to a student’s first semester in Film Academy (Learning Level). Subsequent semesters at the intern and teen film crew levels do not require tuition.
How do I apply for financial assistance and/or a scholarship?
Financial assistance and scholarship applications are built into the registration form.
How is financial assistance determined? What about scholarships?
Sliding scale assistance is based on Federal income poverty lines as they relate to the free and reduced lunch program. Scholarships are based on both financial need and scholarship question answers.
When will I know if I received a scholarship or financial assistance?
Scholarship and financial assistance recipients Will be notified approximately two weeks before the start of the session. These students must confirm their spot via email in order for it to be held.
When is payment due?
An initial deposit of $100 for in-person students and $200 for virtual students is due at the time of registration in order to hold the student’s spot. Any balance remaining is due by the start of the semester. Payment plan options may be available on a case-by-case basis.
Do I have to pay for each semester I attend Film Academy?
No! Cost to attend the program only applies to the first semester.
WQED Film Academy Virtual Program
What is Virtual Film Academy and how is it different from in person?
Virtual WQED Film Academy is held via Zoom so that students anywhere may be able to attend. Virtual instruction mirrors our learning level curriculum. Students are shipped a film-at-home kit (valued at $500) that is adaptable to their mobile device. This kit is theirs to keep. Virtual students meet for approximately half the time as in-person students. The second half of their time is given so that they may be away from their computer screens and have time to film their projects. Virtual Film Academy is currently offered at the Learning Level only, although special accommodations may be able to be made. Ask our Program Manager for more information.
WQED Film Academy Additional Opportunities
Can I take the gear home with me?
While our Virtual Film Academy students are shipped a $500 film-at-home-kit, which is theirs to keep, in-person students may check out Film Academy production gear once they have finished and successfully tested at the end of their Learning Level.
What type of enrichment opportunities are available to me if I sign up for Film Academy?
Opportunities for students to engage with other filmmakers through lectures, on-set settings, field trips to various production-related businesses, organizations, and educational institutions are consistently offered at all levels.
Are there other Film Academy-sponsored events that I am able to attend?
Yes! We offer several other community-based events throughout the year including our popular Film and Media College Fair, as well as events with Remake Learning Days, and WQED Filmmakers Crew Connect networking events.
Are teaching artists able to provide letters of recommendation and/or serve as a reference?
Absolutely! Our teaching artists and staff are often asked to write letters of recommendation and provide their information as a professional reference. Specific letters and references are at the will of the individual teaching artist.
Will Teaching Artists be able to help my student with their artistic portfolio?
While it is not guaranteed, teaching artists are often available to advise on a student’s artistic portfolio and provide informed guidance, based on their availability.
What is Film Academy Lite?
Film Academy Lite (FAL) is our intro level to Film Academy for middle school students. The program is open to seventh and eighth graders (rising seventh and eighth graders for our summer session) and serves as an abbreviated version of our high school program. This program meets Wednesdays from 6 to 8 PM for three straight weeks. Several sessions will be made available throughout the year, as well as a full one-day camp offered multiple times in the summer.
How is Film Academy useful for students outside of film?
WQED Film Academy’s programs are designed to teach professional and personal skills that are applicable across industries. No matter their goals, we ensure that students are equipped to take their next step in life.
Can my student actually get a job in this field?
We actually get this question a lot from parents. The answer is: yes! This is the absolute best time in history to pursue a career in film or digital media. Outside of the traditional filmmaking trajectory, there are many opportunities to be a digital media or contact creator (and not just for TikTok or YouTube).
Many companies employ their own team of videographers to stay in front of and engage their audiences and customer base. Media is literally everywhere we turn today. Opportunities range from working freelance, to union jobs on large film sets, to 9 to 5 occupations with a steady company or organization.
Furthermore, movie sets are a microcosm. Nearly any skill imaginable from construction and graphic design, to accounting to culinary skills; if there is a particular talent, there is likely a department that can utilize that skill.
Are outside or freelance opportunities made available to the students?
Yes! We are often approached by local filmmakers looking to supplement their crews. We frequently recommend our upper level (Teen Film Crew) or Film Academy graduates to work on these projects. Our teaching artists have even been known to hire current and former students on their own sets!
Can Film Academy alumni return to help with the program?
Yes! We love it when our former students come back to serve an internship as a Teaching Assistant in the Film Academy! Internships at the college level are available for all three semesters, both virtually and in person.
Who are the Teaching Artists?
The Teaching Artists (TAs) are professional artists and filmmakers that specialize in varying aspects of filmmaking. We are proud to have TA’s that are connected to the local industry and continuously working on their own sets and projects. Teaching Artists are carefully curated to represent different aspects of the industry in which we are teaching.
We are also mindful and proud to have teaching artists from many different types of backgrounds and across various sectors of race, gender, sexual orientation, identity, and ability so that we may foster and inspire a truly diverse pool of contact creators and create a framework for a more equitable industry in the future.
Do your teaching artists and staff have their clearances?
Yes. All teaching artists, college interns, and programming staff are required to have up-to-date background checks, Child abuse clearances, and FBI clearances, as required by Pennsylvania.
Why does my child need to sign an appearance release?
Appearance releases art tools commonly used in the entertainment industry. Students will become very familiar with these forms and collect them from subjects and actors.
We collect these forms from students when they start at Film Academy as we take lots of behind the scenes (BTS) photos and videos of our students hard at work, as well as include them as talent in some of the content created. The appearance release covers both still and video use of the student’s image on WQED curated social media, our websites, and in distributed video content. A student may still be able to participate in Film Academy even if they are not able or willing to sign the release.
Where can I view student created content?
Lots of places! Most notably, we host a family and friends screening at the conclusion of every semester. Finished content will also be posted on the WQED YouTube channel.
Additionally, WQED Film Academy will submit student created content to film festivals across the country on the student’s behalf. To date, over a dozen submissions have been accepted as official selections to various notable film festivals. These laurels are then able to be added to a student’s college application or résumé as an impressive accolade and testament to their work and talent.
What is next for students after finishing Film Academy?
Once a student graduates from Film Academy they are then considered part of our Filmmakers community at WQED and will be invited to join our Alumni Network. Filmmakers offers several resources for those working in the TV and film Industry in our community, including workshops, networking events, and resources and referrals.
Many of our students go on to a two- or four-year college or technical programs. Due to the experience gained from being a part of the film academy program, many of those students receive scholarships. WQED film Academy is also proud to be able to offer two $20,000 ($5,000/yr for 4 years) stackable scholarships to Point Park University’s Cinema Arts program, exclusively for our Film Academy students. Many other students go straight to working in the industry.
Occasionally, a student will decide to pursue an entirely different field. The goal of Film Academy is to offer all students professional and soft skills that will serve them well no matter what industry they decide to pursue.