Beehive-Stories_Zion_-Photo-2Capstone Projects are peer-mentoring environments provided by the Media Arts Department and initiated by Media Arts majors. While the student initiating a Capstone Project assumes the primary responsibility for interacting with the Department, the process is collaborative. These advanced projects are generally culminating experiences at the end of a student’s undergraduate work (similar to a senior project). Each capstone project comes with associated coursework, class credit, and departmental supervision. Capstone projects also potentially receive a large amount of departmental support, through equipment access and funding.


The applicant pitching the project (usually a Director or Producer) must be in good academic standing, on track toward graduation, and must have a strong record of collaboration and citizenship.

Additionally, applicants pitching capstone projects (Producers and Directors) must have completed the following pre-requisite classes: TMA 105, 112, 114, 185, 187, 273, 394

Editors and DPs must have taken (or concurrently taking) TMA 273 to participate in the project.

Project Size and Scope:

Nonfiction capstone projects must conform to a total runtime of at least 8:00 but no longer than 26:46.

Capstone Process:

Step 1: Getting Started

All capstone projects start with a documentary concept, and with a project applicant. Generally, the applicant may be a Director or Producer. The initiation of the project by the project applicant also designates this individual as the liaison between the project and the department. This capacity is slightly different than his or her actual crew role on set, and the task of Project Liaison is in addition to the student’s specified crew responsibility. The Project Liaison is responsible for making certain that the peer mentoring environment is maintained and that the project complies with the departmental conditions placed on the Capstone process—from start to finish. The Project Liaison should find and commit additional crew members as early as possible in the planning stages.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you plan your documentary concept:

  • Scope of project must be filmable in one term (either Fall or Winter 2nd term). This may eliminate distance travel or overly complicated content.
  • Project should be one where you can feasibly get access to the people/organizations you need
  • Total runtime may not exceed 26:46
  • Content needs to stay within the guidelines set forth by the TMA Viewing & Creation Policy
Step 2: Pitch Your Project

This first approval step is called the Development Pitch, which occurs in April for the Fall project rotation, and December for the Winter rotation. For this pitch, you need to prepare a proposal no longer than 4 pages which includes the following:

  1. Project synopsis & background
  2. Discussion on project theme, format, structure, style, and point of view (a quarter-to half page long on each of them)
  3. Intended audience and distribution
  4. Proposed crew members
  5. Source material. Bibliography.
  6. List of reference works (from cinema, television, web, etc) with brief description (1-2 sentences each) on how your project is similar or different from each

Applicants are welcome to ask individual faculty members to review their proposal before the pitch. To do this, proposals should be emailed to the Media Arts Production Coordinator, noting that the proposal is for capstone consideration, and they will be passed along to nonfiction faculty. This must be done in the month before the pitch.

To prepare for the pitch:

  1. Finalize a proposal.
  2. Make 5 copies of finished proposal and the Development Pitch cover-page (Download Here)
  3. By the last weekday of March or November, bring all copies to Media Arts Project Coordinator, who will distribute to faculty.
  4. All proposals will be evaluated by media arts faculty. Following this evaluation, students will be notified by email and informed regarding the status of their proposals. If the department passes on a proposal, it is not approved to move forward. If the proposal is approved, the individual initiating the project will be invited to attend the Development Pitch.
  5. At the pitch date, the Project Liaison will have a scheduled presentation with the faculty.  The presentation may be scheduled between 5-15 minutes depending on the number of scripts pitching that semester. Your verbal pitch should include:
    • Synopsis of the idea/story 
    • Why you think your project should be considered
    • How it might be executed
  6. Be prepared to answer questions regarding project scope, distribution, as well as your graduation plan.

Following the Development pitch, faculty will select no more than two non-fiction proposals to continue into project development. Applicants will be notified within a week of the pitch.


If the project is not approved, the applicant may continue to rework the proposal or another proposal and apply again at the next semester’s Development Pitch.

If approved, the project will continue to the Project Development phase. This phase includes crew assembly and pre-production. The process entails:

  1. Applicant should revise the proposal, particularly based on comments from faculty.
  2. Crew up. Find and begin assembling key crew members that will enroll for credit.
  3. Project liaisons should register for the TMA 474 class, and all other key crew members should register for the class corresponding to their roles.
  4. The project is given an initial $500 of funding at the beginning of the 1st Term for initial development.
  5. The project prepares for the second pitch, or the Greenlight Pitch. This involves pitching for Film Committee & Fulton funding, for equipment access, and to move into Production, based on the preparations shown in Pre-Production.
Step 3: Development

Begin forming your team.


Once approved for development, the applicant may begin assembling a crew. Key Crew Members should be advanced students with some production experience, as well as vetted academic eligibility. It is strongly recommended, but not required, that all key crew members should have taken TMA 187. You may also wish to invite lesser-experienced students in the program to join your team.


Key Crew Members could include: Director, Producer, DP, Sound, Editor

Additionally, your project may have need for a Research Specialist, Motion Graphics Specialist, etc.

Applicant and Key Crew Members must be in good academic standing.

“Good Academic Standing” means:

  • Students must be regularly attending class, maintaining at least a 3.0 GPA overall and a “C” grade in each of their TMA classes (this includes during production).
  • Students will be required to register for an amount of class credit corresponding to the amount of commitment and time required to fulfill each role. See grid below.
  • Involvement in this project must move Key Crew Members toward graduation. If the applicant or Key Crew Members are deemed to be unnecessarily delaying graduation, they will not be approved to serve on the project. Additionally, all access to University resources is terminated upon graduation, and each student must complete their role in conjunction with the project before graduation.

If any faculty member knows of any other reason for specific students not to be involved on capstone projects, they may need to remove them from the project.


All key crew members that work on a capstone project must register for class credit.  See table below for guidelines. This serves to reward them academically for their efforts, as well as make their crew responsibilities more accountable through a grading process.  Note that while it is discouraged, key crew members may apply for permission to enroll in credit for multiple capstones (fiction and non) in the same term.  You must receive permission to do this from both your team and the faculty advisor.

*Be aware that you will not be able register for 2nd term credit until after project approval at the Greenlight Pitch. This means that those needing to fill credit hours for scholarships, etc must find other ways to do so.


*Note on Sound Designer and Post Production Sound Designer: if you cannot find someone who can do both, the Post-Production Sound Designer can be a separate person from Production Sound Designer if needs be, though it’s not idea

To register for 372R/215R credit:

  1. Go to the TMA front office and pick up the “TMA On-Campus Apprenticeship/Internship/Project Application” packet.
  2. Fill out your “Specific Learning Activities” associated with your crew role.
  3. Get signatures from the 372 instructor as well as the Media Arts Production Coordinator.
Step 4: Faculty Review Pitch

At the end of the first term, the project pitches to invited faculty, in the Faculty Review Pitch. The purpose of this pitch is to provide an overview to faculty on the schedule, scope, and status of the project.


The 474 instructor will help prepare students for this pitch. These preparations include:

1. The project should be making substantial preparations to film, including all research, contacts, approvals, and test shoots.  Details will be outlined on your syllabus.

2. Filling out the Faculty Review Pitch Cover Page (Download here). Attach the cover page to the front of your pitch packet.

3.  Preparing a pitch packet.  In order to help prepare you for formal pitching and fundraising post graduation, we have based ours on guidelines from public television documentary programming (ITVS’ “Open Call” grant specifically).  Adapted for our needs, please prepare the following, with as much detail as possible.

PART I (3 pages max)

  • A synopsis of the project
  • A treatment specifying how you will translate your story from page to screen
  • A discussion of theme, format, structure, style, and point of view
  • The anticipated audience for the project. Are there specific communities (for example, defined by geography, ethnicity, class, or generation) who are the target audience for this project?  What is your relationship and access to this community?
  • Reasons the project is appropriate for BYU & TMA (see the 4 Aims of a BYU Education and the TMA Mission Statement)
  • Describe the current status of the project in this development phase.  Has anything changed since the Development Pitch?


  • A comprehensive line item documentary budget (you will be given a template to work with).  This will have much more detail than the one you turned in with your Development Pitch.
  • Production schedule (with any known specific events listed – interviews, verite scenes, etc).
  • Post-production schedule
  • All key crew members’ resumes and deal memos.
  • Any pre-production releases (as needed)

PART III (4-6 pages)

  • Updated references section from Development pitch
  • Comprehensive sections, one from your Cinematographer (1-2 pages), one from your Editor (1-2 pages).  Building upon the “references” section from your Development Pitch where you listed all your research of media with thematic similarities to your project, choose up to 2 or 3 pieces that show visual and stylistic inspirations.  Cinematographer section must include screengrabs from each reference work to complement written descriptions. (for Editor it is optional)
  • List specific festivals, student competitions, and any other venues you plan on submitting the finished project (along with their application deadlines and fees).  For some of them it may be helpful to briefly describe why it’s a good fit.

In addition to the 10 copies you turned in, be sure to bring at least one copy on the day of your pitch too for any faculty that want to see it there.


The Faculty Review Pitch takes place at the end of the 1st term of each capstone track. (Generally, at the end of February and middle of October.) For each capstone project, the Director and Producer should plan on being part of the pitch, with other select key crew members on standby.

The Faculty Review Pitch is a 15-minute pitch. You have 10 minutes to pitch your project (time usually split between a Director and Producer), and then another 5 for a question and answer session with the faculty.


Members of the project will continue onto the 2nd term, which includes finishing Pre-Production preparations and moving into Production. Specifically, students will:

  1. Set up a meeting with the Media Arts Production Coordinator in the TMA office as soon as possible. They are the liaison to help set up the transfer of money to your account, schedule shooting days, connect you to Access, MotorPool, etc.
  2. Have all crew members sign up for 2nd term credit immediately, before the 2nd Term Add/Drop deadline.
  3. Continue holding Production Meetings and moving into production.
Step 5: Production


Capstone Projects will be funded in the following ways:

  1. Development Funds (up to $2000). This fund comes from TMA endowment monies, and is awarded into a BYU account after it has been accepted into the capstone class.
  2. Fulton Funds grant process (up to $2000). This funding is associated with the TMA Department, but must be applied for separately. Details can be found here:
  3. Film and Digital Media Funds (FDMF)( up to $2000). Much like the Fulton Funds, this funding is awarded by the College of FIne Arts and Communications and requires an applicaiton. More information can be found here:
  4. Independent fundraising efforts. Fundraising is a necessary and expected component of the individuals working on the capstone project, to be overseen by the project’s Producer. Fundraising events of any kind (bake sale, concert, party, etc.) can be held anytime after approval at the Script Development Pitch. Often, tax-deductible fundraising can be securely accomplished through a project group-funding website, like Kickstarter or IndieGogo. Please consult with the TMA office regarding any donations given directly to BYU.


The Development Funds, FDMF, and Fulton Funds awarded to a capstone are all managed in an account at the school. Each capstone project will have it’s own account, managed in the TMA Business Office, located in the Department of Art office (E509 HFAC). Through this account, you will have access to:

  1. A purchasing card for your capstone. This is a credit card maintained by the school, but made available to be checked out for a few hours or few days at a time, to be used by a capstone project. It is imperative that all receipts be turned in for any purchases made on this card. All receipts need to be original, itemized, and turned in within 1-2 days of purchase. If students do not submit a receipt, they are responsible to reimburse the school for their purchase with their individual funds. It is the Producer’s responsibility to ensure that this policy is being followed perfectly.
  2. Reimbursements. In rare occasions,  students may make purchases on their own cards and be reimbursed by the business office. Please note that these reimbursements may take several weeks, and students need to know that they can’t be reimbursed immediately. Once again, it’s crucial that students provide all original receipts. Bank account or credit card statements do not suffice. Students will not be reimbursed for anything they don’t have a receipt for. We do not recommend students using their own funds for capstone purchases.
  3. BYU purchases through the account number. Purchases made through other BYU departments (such as MotorPool truck rentals, BYU Catering) will need to go through your project’s account number. Contact the business office for your project’s account code.


We recommend that your project shoot on no more than 10-12 full shooting days, and aim for a final shooting to edit ratio of no more than 20:1.

We strongly discourage crew members to skip classes for a shoot. However, we recognize that occasionally documentary events happen at times outside of your control. If this circumstance occurs, and you must miss class for your capstone, ask your TMA 475 advisor to help you obtain an excused absence form for your professors to sign.

Generally, please avoid shoot days interfering with holidays, reading days, finals, Sundays, General Conference, or General Women’s Meeting.

Additionally, shooting hours should be scheduled to ensure that BYU vehicles (including the truck/grip trailer, if used) are not driven between 12am-6am, and not at all on Sundays.


Every crew member who will be handling departmental equipment needs to be sufficiently trained on all equipment they use. For help in determining eligibility and proper training, feel free to contact Access managers. Every capstone project needs to go through the Access procedures to finalize equipment accessibility.

  1. Two weeks before filming, the Producer and their department heads in charge of equipment on the project should attend Access meeting. (This can be arranged through the Access manager.)
  2. Set up the project reservation through Ashwire with MAL area heads. If any equipment is damaged or lost, please report it immediately as per MAL Handbook rules. The school may ask whoever is responsible for the damage to contribute to help repair the item, or purchase a new one.


With your documentary capstone, it’s crucial to make sure you have all appropriate releases signed. You should plan on getting specific releases for:

  • Locations (to be signed by locations owner)
  • Personal Releases (to be signed by anyone interviewed or even featured on camera)

With locations, it’s important to be careful of distinguishing what you might need to get city/county approval for, and what is personally owned.

Depending on the nature of your piece, you may need to get releases from background extras. If their involvement or visibility is high, you might want to get a personal release.  When shooting in large public places, it may suffice to place large notices declaring that you are filming in the area and they give consent when walking through.

You’ll also need deal memos and/or releases from a composer, or anyone whose images, sounds, or other creative property you use.

The amount of and types of release you get will also be contingent upon your distribution plans with the final film. There can be different regulations if your piece is aired on TV with a network, etc. It’s a good idea to keep distribution plans in mind when you get releases, and always safer to have more releases on file than fewer.

Step 6: Post-Production

After production, some of your crew will be done with the capstone project. You need to make sure you keep their paperwork, including Crew Deal Memos. You also need to make sure they have completed all paperwork with the department, including their evaluations and paper for their 387, 372R, or 215R class.

The project has 1 term to complete its post-production processes, including picture lock, ADR, foley, color correction, music composition, final sound mix, final exports, and final deliverables due.


The TMA Department offers the following to qualified eligible students for Post-Production. access to some of these areas will need to be approved/scheduled in the MAL Access Meeting:

  • Open Lab: contains basic post-production and editing software (open to all)
  • The Pocket: contains a sound booth, and can be scheduled to record ADR, Voice Over, or Foley
  • The Cave: includes high-end editing, color-correcting, DVD printing/duplicating, and other software needed for post-production and distribution
  • Studio E: contains high-end sound editing and mixing software


• Please acknowledge your 474/475 advisor as an Executive Producer

• In your “Special Thanks” section, please list Ira & Mary Lou Fulton, and any other endowment donors or monies you may have received. (For example, BYU Film Committee funds, Alan Stock funds, etc.)

• End with “Theatre & Media Arts Department, Brigham Young University, © (year)”

(Final closing credits must to be approved by your faculty advisor.)

Prior to finishing the film on DVD/BluRay and before using the University’s name with relationship to your film, please review your distribution plans with the TMA Department. This may require additional meetings with BYU Creative Works, and others. Talk to the Media Arts Production Coordinator to set this up.


Ultimately, the project needs to submit all deliverables to the Media Arts Production Coordinator, at the end of each corresponding production phase. All materials need to be turned in the last day of finals of the Post-Production Term.

  • A copy of your greenlight pitch materials
  • Final budget (with all purchases and balances)
  • Copies of signed Release Forms, Crew Deal Memos, and Locations Agreements
  • All other licenses and clearances (for music, must include royalty-free, unlimited use in synchronization with the Project in perpetuity)
  • Final crew list
  • HD Master Quicktime file (to be on the XSAN, then put on an LTO tape)
  • 3 Blu-rays of final cut of film
  • Any behind-the-scenes videos or high resolution still photographs for promotional purposes


After the completion of the capstone project, the department will help schedule a Cast & Crew Screening for your capstone in the term following Post-Production, which will feature a discussion with critical studies faculty as well as your advisor. This event should be kept a “Cast & Crew Screening,” rather than a Premiere, as to not conflict with film festival submissions that require a premiere at their Festival.


We invite capstone projects to submit to our own BYU annual film festival, Final Cut. This festival is held in October, with submission deadlines usually in June.

Step 7: Distribution Policies


Instated Fall 2015

A film’s promotion is as important as its creation, and students should be encouraged to think about and plan for finding ways for varied audiences to see their work.  TMA supports local screenings through Final Cut and other on-campus opportunities; however, students should be participating in the broader festival venues. TMA is not in the position to support every project’s wish to attend every potential festival, thus we believe that the following policy provides is measured and equitable.

TMA Film Festival Funding Principles/Policy

  1. Submitting and attending a festival is highly recommend as long as it weighted against the student’s educational experience. Experience in promotion and festival attendance is valuable to student learning; it should be student initiated and driven and be closely connected to project planning.
  2. Promotional plans should be put in place during the project development and budgeting phase. Students are responsible for developing a promotional plan and identifying festivals (i.e. a rationale regarding best festivals, costs, etc. should be put in place; this festivals is more viable and valuable than that one, etc.). This is the student’s responsibility and connected to his/her educational experience. Faculty mentors should be consulted and counseled with, but it is not the responsibility of the TMA department to provide a plan or function as the student’s agent.
  3. Department support for festival or promotional funding should be considered part of department’s pre-production contribution, and students should plan accordingly. However, once the production team receives their final grade, student producers are free to raise additional funding for festival submissions through their own initiative without TMA support, oversight, or approval.
  4. If a project is accepted into a festival, students can request travel funds from the department by submitting a RFP to Fulton Funds. Their proposal will be vetted by a department-wide committee and approved at the Ex. Committee level. The festival size, prominence and distance will be weighed against the students learning experience.


In some cases, students may want to distribute/monetize their student film trough online streaming, television, DVD sales, Etc. Prior to finalizing any negotiations, students must contact the BYU Creative Works office and work any distribution agreement with them. See STUDENT OWNERSHIP OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY policy below.


Students (a “student” is a person enrolled in BYU courses for credit) who independently develop intellectual property arising out of their participation in programs of study at the university will retain the ownership rights to such property when the intellectual property does not result from their employment at BYU and/or where there is no written agreement to the contrary. Students employed by the university will be treated in the same manner as similarly situated university personnel. However, any student not employed by the university, but either (i) engaging in research or development of intellectual property under the supervision and direction of a faculty member in connection with a program or activity subject to this policy or (ii) using substantial university resources in connection with a research program or activity agrees to grant and hereby does grant to the university, as a condition of being allowed to participate in the project and/or use university resources, a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free, paid-up, irrevocable license to exploit, use, and sublicense the resulting intellectual property. Faculty using students, whether volunteer, non-employed, or employed, in their scholarly work projects should have the students sign a “Student Assignment of Ownership and Nondisclosure Agreement” form, available from Intellectual Property Services.

If in the event that either the Student or the Department would like to distribute a student’s project with the purpose of gaining revenue, the two parties will meet to discuss how revenue is distributed or shared.