Pitt in LA: The American Film Industry

The Pittsburgh in LA Film Program is a six-credit program that aims to give you unique exposure to various aspects of the entertainment industry. The program will be led by Carl Kurlander, screenwriter (“St.. Elmo’s Fire”) and TV writer/producer (“Saved by the Bell”) turned University of Pittsburgh Senior Lecturer Carl Kurlander.  Kurlander, has also produced three award winning films and documentaries with the involvement of Pitt students.  You will take two courses, one on the American Film Industry and another Making the Documentary. Through this program you will be connected with Pitt alumni who have gone on to work as directors, writers, editors, and cinematographers, and agents in the film and TV business. You will also meet other top film and television producers, directors, writers, agents, and executives. For the Making the Documentary class, students will conduct interviews with some of the guest speakers and produce a documentary. Students will also do a project, which is reflective of what they learned during the course of the program.  The courses will be taught at night leaving you time to seek an internship opportunity on your own. 


This program will be ideal for students looking to gain a deep experience of what it is like to work in the film and television business, and explore pathways into this industry.   A background in critical studies or film production could be helpful, but is not required as entertainment is a far-reaching industry which engages people from a variety of backgrounds.


What You'll Accomplish: 

As an engaged and active participant in this program, you will have the opportunity to develop:

  • Understanding of the American film and TV industry, the various roles in the industry and gain a feel for what it takes to enter the industry
  • An appreciation for the evolution from early filmmakers to the media companies managing today's creative disruption in the industry
  • Understanding of the process by which film and TV shows are made


Santa Monica, California is coastal town located approximately 13 miles from the heart of Downtown Los Angeles and only 8 miles from the Los Angeles International Airport. The city offers a laid-back beach town atmosphere with big city sophistication. The city is comprised of eight neighborhoods offering a diverse mix of shopping, dining, entertainment and outdoor recreation. The city is extremely walkable and the city offers many public transportation options. The city occupies a 3.5 mile stretch of coast line and it's 8.3 square miles are extremely accessible by foot. Santa Monica is a great homebase and is makes accessibility to Beverly Hills, Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles and the greater Southern California region attainable. 


Temperatures and precipitation vary based on the season. In June, the temperatures average 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Temperatures cool off at night. It is a good idea to pack a lightweight jacket and a variety of clothes to layer if needed.


Where You'll Live: 

Students will stay at shared apartments in the heart of Santa Monica. Your apartments will be within a 30-minute commute either on foot or by metro to where you classes will be held. It is also a short walk to shopping, dining, entertainment and outdoor recreation. The apartments are full of modern amenities that will make you feel safe and comfortable during your program. Exact housing location will be finalized later in the Spring semester and exact addresses will be provided a few weeks prior to departure. You can expect the following with your accommodations:

  • Double-occupancy bedrooms
  • Four to six students per apartment
  • Fully equipped kitchen with stove, oven, microwave, pots, pans, utensils, plates, glasses, silverware
  • Towels and linens provided
  • Central heat/air-conditioning
  • En-Suite Bathroom
  • Access to washer/dryer
  • Highspeed Wi-Fi
  • Gym access
  • Meeting space/business center
  • Controlled building access

We do our best to provide the most accurate information about housing and amenities but due to the nature of the locations in which we offer programs and limited availability, these items are subject to change.  Contact your program manager with any questions.


What You'll Study: 

You'll earn a total of 6 credits on the Pitt in LA Film Program. Everyone who participates on the program will take the same courses. The American Film Industry course and the Making the Documentary “Working in the Film Industry” course are taught by Pitt professor Carl Kurlander. The courses will be comprised of lectures, guest speakers including working producers, writers, directors, DPs, editors and other industry professionals, studio tours and more. The highlight is that students will get the opportunity to meet and interview Pitt Alumni who are in the industry and hear their story. Students will have the opportunity to interview, record, edit and produce their own mini docu-series. In these courses you will study:

  • American film and TV industry to learn about its past, present and future
  • Filmmaking process, hearing from key personnel about what goes on behind-the-scenes
  • What it’s like to work at a major studio and how creative/production decision are made.

If you are seeking to count these courses towards a major, minor or certificate, please meet with your academic advisor to discuss this program and what the courses will fulfill for you. Information about how the courses on this program count towards general education requirements for different schools and campuses can be found here.


Pitt in LA: The American Film Industry (ENGFLM1480)

The Pittsburgh-Los Angeles Film Program aims to give a unique exposure to various aspects of the entertainment industry, building on Pitt Film and Media program’s desire to offer “a liberal arts education with professional outcomes.”   The program will include a three credit course on the American Film Industry which will be taught two evenings a week, leaving students free to get internship and production opportunities during the day.  It will feature guest speakers including top film and television producers, directors, writers, agents, and executives.For the class, students will be required to do a project which is reflective of what they learn during the course of this month about the world of film and television.  Students may also earn additional credits through getting an internship, but please note, if students get paid for an internship, they are not able to also get course credit.   

Making the Documentary (ENGFLM1610)

This course will be a hands on learning experience in which you will be engaged working collaboratively with classmates in making a short film reflective of what you learn about the film and TV industry.   The subject matter will be determined once we get there, but right now the three subjects which are being considered are 1) doing a film made up of interviews you will have with entertainment professionals, many of whom will be Pitt alum who have had success in the industry.  2) a film about what it is like to intern at Lionsgate, as surprising the studio does not present have such a video and/or 3) a film interview our guest speakers and others about their own “early experiences breaking into the industry.”

Your Pitt Study Abroad Contacts: 

Tim Crawford

Hi Everyone! I’m Tim, and I am the Assistant Director for Domestic Study Away Programming. I have experience running international study abroad programs and programs here at home in the United States. I was fortunate to have many experiential learning opportunities, both international and domestic, during my college career. Being from a small town in Central Pennsylvania, my experiences opened my eyes to the rest of the world and helped open my eyes to different cultures and career opportunities I’d love to help you take advantage of the numerous experiential learning opportunities here at Pitt. Outside of the office, I’m always looking for the next adventure. I love traveling, hate sitting still and love doing anything outdoors, in all seasons. Personally, I’m on a quest to visit as many national parks as possible. I’d love to talk to you more about any of our study away programs, answer any of your questions and help you find the right opportunity. Please reach me via email at timcrawford@pitt.edu

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Your In-Country Contacts: 

Carl Kurlander

Carl Kurlander,  is a Senior Lecturer and faculty adviser of the student organization Pitt In Hollywood.  Carl is a screenwriter  and TV writer/producer who has worked on projects under contract for Disney, Universal, Sony, Paramount, Orion, Fox, CBS, and NBC Studios.  Since he began teaching at the University of Pittsburgh, his credits include producing "The Polio Story: The Vaccine that Changed the World" which aired on the BBC and Smithsonian Channel,  "My Tale of Two Cities", a comeback story about Pittsburgh which played 26 cities across North America,  "Burden of Genius" about transplant pioneer Dr. Thomas Starzl which won the Cleveland Film Festival, the feature "The Rehabilitation of the  Hill", and the Starz TV series "The Chair" which won Best Reality Program from the TV Critics' Association.  He is also the co-founder of the Steeltown Entertainment Project, a non-profit which since 2003 has been helping build a thriving film and TV industry in southwestern Pennsylvania.  



  In- State Out-of-State
Estimated Expenses Billed by Pitt  $8,500 $8,700
Estimated Additional Expenses $2,000 $2,000
Total Estimated Cost $10,500 $10,70

Remember that your lifestyle and spending choices can greatly affect the amount of money you'll need while away.  Visit our Budgeting page for more information.

The amounts above are for the 2019-2020 academic year and should be used as estimates only. Pricing for 2020-2021 will be posted and announced in the fall term.

What's Included: 

As a part of your program fee, the following are included:

  • Tuition for 6-Credits
  • Housing in Shared Apartments for duration of the program
  • All program related entrance fees
  • Studio tour(s)/visits
  • Uber credit to be used towards majority of academic program-related transportation
  • Welcome and farewell dinner
When You'll Go: 

Dates for the 2020-2021 academic year will be posted in the fall!

What Else You Need to Know: 
  • Due to the nature of the program, the schedule is subject to change. There may be instances where a guest speaker or visit needs to be rescheduled. We ask for your patience and understanding in advance.
  • Course meeting are typically at night in order to accommodate guest speaker schedules
  • Group work typically takes place during the day for your courses
  • Excursions are mandatory. All are required to attend. Some excursions may fall on a weekend. Keep in mind these are often visits that you would not have discovered doing your own research or be able to do on your own).
  • You will have adequate free time to explore but remember that this is an academic program and that you should expect to invest the same amount of time and effort on your courses away as you would on a course at Pitt. 
  • Schedules and housing will be finalized about two weeks before the program. 
  • You will need to bring a laptop or tablet with you
  • Pictured in the main banner is Nate Cornett, University of Pittsburgh, Film Studies Alumni and Cinematographer. His work includes: Ve Panayir Köyden Gider (2015), Ridicule (2013), Funny or Die http://cornettdp.com/ "The Sarah Silverman" "Show and "Drunk History". While at Pitt Nate worked at UPTV and on My Tale of Two Cities. Get to know him and other University of Pittsburgh alumni.