What Can I Do With a Cinema and Digital Media Degree?

Two UC Davis students sit on a bench, smiling. The one on the right uses their phone to take a photo of the one on the left.
Lena El Gabalawy (left), who is double-majoring in cinema and digital media and international relations, smiles for a photo taken by fashion design major Aryn Morris (right). (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

When you think of a film major, the image that often comes to mind is a person glued to their camera wishing to become the next George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. However, Cinema and Digital Media is more than just movie-making. The Cinema and Digital Media, or CDM, Program at UC Davis aims to develop both technical and analytical skills, allowing students to understand the world around them through art. 

“I think CDM is good at two things,” said Kris Fallon, associate professor of cinema and digital media at UC Davis. “One is interpreting media in a broad way that draws in film and television as a dominant media and putting them in conversation with things like video games and social media. Second, it combines production with history and theory, because while it is exciting and powerful to make a thing, it is important to understand the sort of history and ethics involved in what you made.” 

What will you study as a cinema and digital media major?

Students take notes on their laptops while listening in class.
Theatre and dance major Gray Engstrom (wearing green) and Savannah Burger (in red), double-majoring in English and art studio, attentively listen during their “Vampires and Other Horrors in Film and Media” class. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Cinema and digital media majors can expect to delve into the study of digital media (film, television and video games to name a few), theories about media and the standards of artistic production. Classes like TCS 159: Media Subcultures and FMS 127: Film Theory foster an appreciation for the digital arts and technology while also discussing the impact of media and technology in the larger cultural sphere. Through the major, you can expect to gain skills in critical analysis from a central perspective — that is, what you read — and through a peripheral, or broad, perspective. When working in a visual field, it is important that you are able to focus on something and then put it in conversation with the bigger picture. 

Do not expect cinema and digital media to be completely analysis-based, though. When you are not looking into past media, you will be creating your own through a variety of production classes. For a chance to gain hands-on experience with multiple different technologies the major offers classes like TCS 175: Small Scale Film Production and CDM 131: Character Animation. In these production-based classes, you will also break down the craft of filmmaking or game design and work with others in teams to produce content. 

This major is all about allowing students to express themselves creatively. In fact, the major encourages students to pursue these personal projects, offering courses like CDM 199: Special Study for Advanced Undergraduates, which allows those passionate about producing content, like a documentary, to individually pursue them outside of the classroom for university credit. 

“I chose CDM because I love visual mediums for storytelling like film and video games,” said Nathan Green, an alum of the Cinema and Digital Media Program at UC Davis. “I originally was an English major because I like creative writing, but I knew I wanted to develop my storytelling ability in other mediums besides prose. I was already going to take a CDM class that overlapped with English, and I loved it, so I added the major.”

Opportunities for cinema and digital media majors

A UC Davis student works a record player in a radio studio while another student sits in front of the poster-filled back wall, smiling.
In the 2019-20 academic year, Ammar Vayani (left) served as the KDVS radio station’s assistant general manager and Emmanuel Fernandez (right) was general manager. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

The UC Davis campus offers a variety of opportunities outside of the classroom for students to further develop their creative skills. Aggie Studios, KDVS and the Davis Aggie Athletics program all offer positions in which students are introduced to a realistic media production environment. Outside of school, Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area offer many internships related to media and news production, which you can find through sites like Handshake and the Internship and Career Center

Clubs like the Davis Filmmaking Society and Aggiemation also help their members hone their skills through club productions and workshops. Alec Gossage, a fourth-year cinema and digital media major and president of the Davis Filmmaking Society said, “The club provides a way for students to use the skills and theories they’ve learned about in class in a hands-on way.” If you are committed to making something, these clubs help you surround yourself with people in your position who are passionate about creating. 

What can you do with a cinema and digital media degree?

Three UC Davis students review footage while an actor waits for instruction.
Three UC Davis students review footage while an actor waits for instruction. (Alec Gossage/UC Davis)

Graduates from the program often go into media-related fields like film, television and game development. However, the skills you learn through the major can be utilized in various fields. Alum Nathan Green is currently in the process of getting his teaching credential and uses his cinema and digital media degree to help in the classroom. 

“I’m always looking for ways to incorporate different literacies into my lessons, especially film,” Green said. “Students love watching movies, and I love watching movies. I also think the time I’ve spent being a director on various film projects for the major prepared me to speak to a class full of students. In both cases, projecting your voice and getting the attention of a group of people is important.” 

Even if you do not choose to pursue a job in the media industry, modern life is saturated with media, so it is important that you develop the critical framework to make sense of that.  

Advice for cinema and digital media majors 

A director sits in front of an electronic switchboard and points to monitors while explaining film strategy to a UC Davis student worker.
Director Eli Alfaro gets his board ready for the night’s basketball game as he talks with student Abril Cuarenta. ESPN has a team of students at UC Davis who work on production, direction, replays, expression (graphics) and camera work. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

With all majors, the most important thing to consider is what you want to gain from a program. The faculty and staff within the cinema and digital media department are all accomplished individuals who care deeply about sharing their knowledge with their students. 

Karla Ocampo, an undergraduate advisor for the cinema and digital media major, said her biggest piece of advice to those interested in the major is: “Connect with your peers and network. With any major, you can learn your course material, but you have to go beyond the classroom in order to see what opportunities are available to you.” Whether it be your peers, advisors or professors, it is important to take advantage of the people you have around you. This ability to create as you learn is what makes the cinema and digital media program so special, and finding a network of people with similar passions for the arts is ultimately what will make your experience in the major worthwhile. 

Jaylynn Velhagen-Dizon (she/her) is a fourth year English major and Cinema and Digital Media major. She is from Southern California, and it is her first year as a Majors Blog intern for UC Davis' Office of Strategic Communications. Jaylynn's favorite part of campus is the Arboretum and Public Garden, where she enjoys bird watching and admiring the poppies every spring.

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