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Honors Program

The faculty in the Department of Film and Media invites hard-working film and media majors, passionate about the field, to apply to our Honors Program. Whatever the research area—film and media studies, film production, or photography—students must be committed to the thorough process of exploring the still and moving image in its many forms.

Completing a thesis requires a significant commitment of time and energy. It is incumbent upon the student to independently complete the work of the honors project. Your advisor and the rest of the faculty are here to serve as resources and guides.

Honors Requirements

To graduate with Honors in Film and Media, students must:

  • Have a 3.5 GPA overall and in their Film and Media major
  • Enroll in FILM 490: Honors Methods Seminar (4 credits with a set class time and screening) in Fall semester of your senior year
  • Enroll in FILM 495WR: Honors Thesis (variable credit; no set class time) in Spring semester of your senior year
  • Complete and defend a research or production-based thesis, due in early April
  • Fulfill any other requirements of the College of Arts and Sciences Honors program

Most thesis projects in Film and Media have been research-based. We also offer a production-based thesis for advanced filmmaking or photography students.

Because the Honors Program is a full single academic year, students graduating in the fall semester are not eligible.

Film and Media Studies Thesis "Tracks"

Students completing honors in this track create a substantial body of original work of at least 60 pages that investigates a singular concept or theme in film and media studies. The project is expected to engage extensively with existing research on their topic and make an original contribution to the scholarly discussion.

The thesis should conform to the highest standards of correctness in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage and must include proper citations in either MLA or Chicago format.

Culminating in a finished visual project, with support paper

The honors thesis in film production is meant for students who have focused on film production in their coursework at Emory and have achieved technical competence before their senior year.

Prerequisites: Students who pursue a film production thesis project must have completed

  • FILM 107: Introduction to Digital Video and two other production courses from the following options:
    • FILM 376: Narrative Filmmaking I,
    • FILM 377: Narrative Filmmaking II,
    • FILM 385: Documentary Filmmaking I,
    • FILM 386: Documentary Filmmaking II, or
    • FILM 213: Cinematography and Lighting.

Requirements for the film production thesis:

  • An original idea or concept that the student proposes to explore in visual form. If the work is to be adapted from previously written material, the student must have a strong vision as to how they will make it their own.
  • A detailed production schedule submitted before the end of the Fall semester that breaks down how the film production will be executed.
  • A finished visual project of no more than 20 minutes, with a public screening.

Culminating in a photography project with support paper (see below for expectations).

Students who choose to pursue a photography thesis project must have completed:

  • FILM 106: Photography I 
  • FILM 206: Photography II

Students must get approval from Prof. Jason Francisco to pursue this track. He is the only faculty member who can serve as your advisor. He will also outline the requirements for a project in this track.

Support Paper Requirements (for film production and photography projects)

The required support paper accompanying the film production and photography tracks provides the committee with an integrated synthesis of and reflection on the creative process. Readings, activity on set or in the darkroom, discussions, and reflection should reveal the artist’s thoughts, processes, and outcomes.

Additionally, the paper should comprehensively apply and integrate information attained from course work in the program’s curriculum (history, theory, criticism, mediamaking).

Support papers are required to be at least 20-30 pages in length and should conform to the highest standards of correctness in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage and must include proper citations in either MLA or Chicago format.  


Honors Coordinator

Dr. Beretta Smith-Shomade

Contact first with questions

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Dr. Daniel Reynolds

Film and Media Librarian

Dr. James Steffen

Undergraduate Program Administrator

Clare Sterling

How to Apply

To apply for the Honors program, you will need to submit a detailed proposal for your honors project via email to the Honors Coordinator, Dr. Beretta Smith-Shomade ( The proposal is due on March 1st. The proposals will be evaluated by a committee of faculty, and the committee will select a group of students who will be officially invited to complete the Honors Program. You will be notified about whether your proposal was accepted by March 23rd

As you prepare your proposal, we recommend meeting with a Film and Media professor (someone you might ask to be on your committee later) and/or the Film and Media librarian, Dr. James Steffen, to help you conceptualize your project.

Please provide the following, preferably in a single PDF document.

  1. A preliminary title for your proposed honors thesis project
  2. A multiple-paragraph description of the proposed project
    1. Be sure to clarify whether this is a research-based written thesis or a production-based thesis. In your description, please explain why you chose this project, what you hope to learn from completing it, how your project will contribute to the field of film and media studies, and how it will be an extension of your coursework thus far.
  3. A list of 2-3 faculty that you might like to have on your honors thesis committee. Please note if you have already discussed your project any of with them (not required).
  4. A list of any coursework that you have done that you feel has prepared you to complete this particular project. Please explain their usefulness or influence on your thesis project. (Production or studies courses as appropriate for your project.)
  5. Please add a sample of your work.
    1. For those writing research-based theses, please submit a paper completed for a class that is at least five pages long and is a good example of your writing. Research-based writing preferred.
    2. For those completing production theses, please send a digital file or link to a piece of creative work that you have completed. If it was created with other people, please detail your role in its production.
    3. You may submit more than one sample, but please clarify the order of preference (aka, which one the committee should consider first).

Accepted Honors Students: Expectations/Procedures

After you have been accepted into the Honors Program, you are expected to participate in the honors program throughout your senior year. This will require you to meet the deadlines set by the department and the Emory College Honors program.

In addition to fulfilling all of the requirements for the film or media studies major, you are required to maintain a 3.5 GPA throughout your senior year.

Specific deadlines for thesis submission will be given to you separately. Here is a rough idea of what your senior year will look like:

Over the summer, after project approval, the student should research and explore the topic broadly through readings, viewings, and/or production/photography work. The professor of record for the Fall FILM 490 course may ask you to prepare homework that will be due at the beginning of the Fall semester.

You are required to be enrolled in FILM 490: Honors Research Methods. This is where you will begin to work on the planning and execution of your thesis project. This class can count as your 400-level course or as an elective toward your major.

Students should be having regular meetings with their advisor while working on their thesis in FILM 490.

Students are required to attend the mandatory Emory College honors meetings that are scheduled throughout the Fall, usually in October. The program will e-mail you directly.

You are required to enroll in the FILM 495WR: Honors Thesis class in the Spring semester. This is not an official “class” with meetings but a way for you to receive credit for the work you are doing on your thesis. Depending on your registration status, you can choose to enroll in this class for anywhere from 1-8 credits. If enrolled for 3 or more credits, this course can count as an elective toward your major. See Clare Sterling for more information.

In January, students must submit a roster of their honors committee to the Emory College Honors program. In addition to their thesis advisor, the student must also secure a second reader from among the Film and Media Studies faculty and a third “outside” reader from another program or department. Thesis committee members are required to be full-time faculty members at Emory College.

Usually, the honors student receives comments from the thesis advisor as they progress throughout the project and waits until prior to their defense to submit the whole project to other committee members.

The Thesis Defense

Once the submission deadlines draw closer, you should check in with your committee members about a date and time that will be convenient for them for your defense. Defenses are usually 60 minutes long.

When you have settled on a date and time, you should contact Maureen Downs or Clare Sterling to schedule a room on campus.

When the final draft of your thesis is ready for distribution, you should ask your committee members in what form they would like it – paper or electronic – and then deliver it to them in accordance with their specifications at least a week in advance of your defense.

Generally, the thesis defense abides by the following schedule but this format is ultimately up to you and your thesis advisor.

  1. Once the group has gathered, the student is asked to leave the room briefly so that the committee members can discuss their general thoughts about the thesis and decide how they would like to go about asking the student questions about their work.
  2. The student returns to the room and makes a brief (5-10 minute) presentation about their project. This can include a visual presentation but this is not required.
  3. Each committee member takes turns asking the student questions about their project. This often leads to a general discussion amongst the committee members.
  4. The student is asked to leave the room so that the committee members can discuss the student’s ability to discuss/defend their project. They will then decide whether the student has earned honors and the level of honors given.
  5. The student is asked back into the room and informed of the decision made by the committee. More often than not, committee members will ask students to make revisions to their thesis before they submit the final version to the repository. They should submit these changes first to their advisor who will then give the final approval to upload the work to the repository.
  6. You should bring the committee approval form to the defense for your committee to sign. You will receive this form from the Emory College honors office.

Students who successfully complete the honors program will participate in the Emory College Honors ceremony, which is held the Sunday before commencement.