EXPLORATION + EXPRESSION
THROUGH A LENS
Image-making as a contemporary, evocative and evolving process draws students to the innovative program of study the Filmmaking major in KCAI’s Department of Converging Media. Aspiring filmmakers are taught by an internationally recognized faculty of practicing artists and imaging professionals that possess an inclusive breadth of expertise and experience in the fields of traditional and contemporary lens-based imaging media.
Filmmaking students develop a personal body of knowledge and applied skills as creatively innovative, technically accomplished and culturally aware participants in emerging fields of contemporary art and professional photographic and filmmaking practice.
The Filmmaking major’s strong sense of community and mentorship contribute to the development of an invigorating work ethic and the high quality of critical dialogs that take place in workshops and seminars. It also provides the potential for developing collaborative projects and many opportunities to exhibit work in both group and solo exhibitions in departmental and regional venues. Students receive critical guidance and exposure to a broad range of aesthetic perspectives and professional experiences from the faculty, visiting artists and critics, as well as from an excellent internship program that emphasize the development of personal visions grounded in strong professional development and a solid foundation in the fundamental processes of photography, filmmaking, and installation art. The program challenges student artists to search for their own aesthetic concepts and creative resolutions. The student artist’s growth is encouraged through experimentation, elective courses and exchange with other media and disciplines such as music, popular culture, science, literature, aesthetics, ecology and diverse cultural perspectives.
At the Kansas City Art Institute, the study and practice of Filmmaking takes place within a progressive multidisciplinary program of study that incorporates technical, critical, historical and cultural contexts of image-making, distribution and professional practice. Students are strongly encouraged to take electives in Animation, Interactive Arts, and Photography, according to each student’s individual interests.
When students enter the Filmmaking major they work for three semesters through an immersive experience. In their fourth semester, students enter the advanced workshops and begin an intensive critical dialog between these fields of study in accordance with the general tendency of contemporary art practice and emerging fields of professional development incorporating art and technology. Although most students will continue to produce work that is grounded in their major discipline, students become involved in a dialog with artists from Animation, Interactive Arts, Photography and other related disciplines.
During their senior year, all students produce a major thesis project that is presented in an off-campus professional art venue. Students in the Filmmaking program learn about technical, conceptual, and visual issues relating to traditional and digital photography, filmmaking, sound, performance, interactivity, installation and net art.
Take a look at some of our work.
Associate Professor & Chair
Tom Lewis is Chair of the Department of Converging Media including Photography, Filmmaking, Animation and Interactive Arts. He taught photography and new media at KCAI in 2001 through 2003 and joined the Foundation faculty in 2005, becoming Director of the School of the Foundation Year in 2012-2013 before moving to the Chairs position in the Department of Converging Media in 2013. He joined the KCAI faculty after having taught at the University of Washington School of Art, Seattle. While there, he also served as an assistant to Rod Slemmons at Crux Photographic Restoration and he assisted Michael Van Horn, curator for “After Art – Rethinking 150 Years of Photography,” at the Joseph and Elaine Monson Collection. He was co-founder and manager of CORE 317, an alternative space in Denver, and completed an internship at the International Center of Photography in New York. Lewis studied at KCAI on a Presidential Merit Scholarship and went on to earn a B.F.A. degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an M.F.A. degree from the University of Washington, where he held the Jane and David Davis Fellowship and Parnasuss Endowment. Tom is interested in the intersection of early lens based drawing and the materiality of photography. He works in both photography and large-scale graphite drawings. His work has been exhibited at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, among others and is represented in a number of private collections.
Dwight Frizzell, an alumnus of KCAI, is an internationally recognized artist whose interdisciplinary work combines video, performance, installation, music, audio art, and writing. His projects emphasize research and a commonality between the fine and performing arts. Frizzell’s work about his boyhood neighbor, Harry S. Truman, was featured in the Peabody-awarded “Lost and Found Sound” series broadcast on National Public Radio. His art pieces have been shown at major international galleries. Currently, Frizzell is developing an opera based on the life of Charles Darwin. In addition to his B.F.A. degree from KCAI, he holds a terminal fine arts degree in Sound Design from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Diana Heise’s practice engages video, photography, performance, installation, film, writing, sculpture, public intervention, and sound. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and festivals internationally. She is currently a resident artist at Review Studios in Kansas City. After receiving a research grant from Vassar College, she published research on Slovene art collectives in Global and Local Art Histories. Her curatorial projects include exhibitions with several acclaimed artists. Heise holds an M.F.A. degree in photography, video and related media from the School of Visual Arts and a B.A. degree in art history from Vassar College.
Trey Hock explores the markers of narrative through short film, screenwriting, installation, photography, performance and web-based social media platforms. His work interrogates the assumed physical and social constructions that surround us. These include narrative storytelling, the photographic frame, public and private spaces, and personal identity. His short films have shown at Sundance and other international film festivals. He is currently working across platform through Instagram, printed photographic works, and installation to explore the power of the Selfie. Hock received his B.A. in English, Creative Writing from Kansas State University in 1997, and his M.F.A. in Writing and Directing for Film and Television from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2007.
Cyan Meeks is a digital artist with a trans-disciplinary approach, blending installation, performance, filmmaking, sonic design, curation and media study. Both her collaborative and solo works have been exhibited internationally. She received first place awards from the American Film Institute and the New York Film Festival, and received a grant from the National Park Service. Her commercial work in music has received accolades by NME and Spin magazines. Meeks received her B.F.A. degree in new media from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1995; studied for her M.F.A. degree at the California Institute of the Arts in 1997; and completed her M.F.A. in media studies at State University of New York in 2003.
Visiting Assistant Professor Photography
Steve Rowell is a research-based artist who works with photography and moving image, sound, installation, maps, and spatial concepts. His transdisciplinary practice focuses on overlapping aspects of technology, perception, and culture as related to ontology and landscape. He contextualizes the built environment with the surrounding medium of Nature; appropriating the methods and tools of the geographer and archaeologist. Since 2001, Steve has collaborated with the Center for Land Use Interpretation. His work (collaborative and solo) has been exhibited at the 2006 Whitney Biennial, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Barbican Art Centre, Transmediale Berlin, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. He holds a B.A. in Photography from the University of Texas and an M.F.A. with Distinction from the University of Oxford.
Talbott L. (Tal) Wilson
For more than 25 years, Tal Wilson has owned and operated a commercial photography studio in the Crossroads Arts District in Kansas City. He has handled projects for many national clients and received the Outstanding Community Service Award for KCAI alumni. Wilson holds a B.F.A. degree in photography from KCAI. He helped to start a new Photography Certificate program offered through KCAI’s School for Continuing and Professional Studies.
Once you declare your major, filmmaking students take the following core courses as they progress from sophomore to senior year. For additional electives and liberal arts courses, download the complete Course Catalog.
- Intro to Filmmaking
- History of the Moving Image
- Intermediate Filmmaking
- Jr. Filmmaking Studio I & II
- Sr. Filmmaking Studio I & II
- Senior Thesis: Filmmaking
- Professional Practice
Professional practice is a compulsory component of the KCAI program in which students benefit enormously from insights provided by world-renowned visiting artists, scholars and professionals.
Jobs + Internships
KCAI filmmaking majors have worked or interned for Take Two Productions, Hint, Outpost Worldwide, Rush Wade, BranitFX, Liquid9, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Many artists visit the filmmaking and photography studios each year to share their knowledge and inspiration with KCAI students. Here are a few that have recently stopped by:
Jerry Spagnoli (in partnership with NAMA), Adam Long, Ross Sawyers, Priya Kambli, Mathew Higgs, Frederic Brenner ( in partnership with the Jewish Community Center), Patty Carroll, Kelly Richardson, David Shannon-Lier, Elijah Gowin, and Steve Rowell (in partnership with the Spencer Art Musuem).