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Guidelines and Application


In the Pritzker Pucker Studio Lab (PPSL) course, we will creatively interrogate how mental illness/health has been represented in cinema and on TV. Students will develop a more nuanced understanding of the underlying issues and media representations and will apply these critical insights towards their own creative projects.

The next PPSL course will only be offered during the 2024 winter quarter. Please note that unlike in previous years, this is no longer a 3-course sequence.

Students will develop, write, produce, direct, record and edit short individual projects that center on mental illness/health. Final projects can be 5-10 min. in length and need to be completed by the end of winter quarter. Projects will be screened publicly and students will participate in a Q+A at a culminating PPSL event either at the end of the course or during the following quarter.

Students’ short individual media projects may take any form – including fiction, documentary, animation, experimental, docu-fiction/hybrid, essay film, staged readings, sound installation, podcasts, and more. Diversity of storytelling, perspective, form, style, genre, and even technology are all supported in this next iteration of PPSL.

The course will meet twice a week on Tuesdays (daytime class) and on Thursday evenings. Class meetings on Tuesdays will focus on students’ projects and presentations, feedback sessions, discussions, workshops, and more. Thursday evenings will be dedicated to select public events, screenings, lectures, visiting artists etc. Students are required to attend and participate in both Tuesday and Thursday sessions.

Project funding

Each project will be supported by $1,000 in funding that can only be applied towards project expenses. PPSL will provide detailed guidance on financial processes and paperwork.

Eligibility for future grant funding from PPSL

Students who have completed the PPSL course and the accompanying short project, will be eligible to apply for an additional, potentially larger grant for a project that centers on mental illness/health. The application process will be structured similarly to other grants available for students’ extracurricular projects in the RTVF department. Guidelines on the grant process will be forthcoming.

Technical competency

Students need to have foundational technical media-making skills to enroll and succeed in the PPSL course. Each student will direct their own individual short project but is also expected to crew on their peers’ class projects.

Northwestern undergraduate students who are not RTVF majors and have not previously enrolled in the foundational RTVF 190 Media Construction course will still be considered for the PPSL course if they can demonstrate technical competency or are planning to enroll in RTVF 190 at the same time. Please note that graduate students are not eligible to take RTVF 190, so will have to prove technical competency in a different manner.

Equipment Access, Crew, and Collaboration

Students will have access to standard equipment via the RTVF Cage, depending on each student’s individual authorization level. A $50 refundable deposit is required and all regular Cage policies apply. PPSL students may use their project funds to rent additional outside equipment from a rental house.

Although students will direct their own individual projects, they are expected to crew on each other’s projects as needed. The majority of crew positions should be filled by students in the PPSL class. The goal is to create a supportive and collaborative environment for creative exploration. We encourage a small footprint for PPSL projects and are not able to support large scale projects.

Application Timeline and Process

Tue, Sept 26, 11:59pm: online application deadline
Mid-October: Semi-finalists will be selected for interviews
Oct 15-30: Interviews
Early Nov: Final selections will be announced and selected students will be issued permission numbers prior to registration.


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Is this opportunity open to freshmen/first-years?
Alas, no, but you can apply as a sophomore, junior or senior. The good news is that some of our Thursday evening class sessions will coincide with public events and screenings related to mental illness/health. Please consult our events page for upcoming listings.

Is this opportunity open to graduate students?
Yes, graduate students are eligible to apply!

Will there be comprehensive technical instruction related to all aspects of filmmaking?
No, this is an intermediate-to-advanced level course, so foundational technical competency is a pre-requisite. You should feel comfortable recording and editing your own projects. However, PPSL can arrange for additional tech workshops depending on the skill level and needs of the cohort.

How psychologically challenging will this course be?
Students should be prepared to watch and discuss contemporary and historical fiction films, documentaries, experimental works, TV shows etc. that foreground mental health concerns, illness, and trauma. Some of these media art works will be difficult to watch and may involve violence. Please consider how viewing this material will affect you and if this is the right time for you to apply.

Students should be ready to present and discuss their own work, which includes receiving constructive feedback from instructors, visiting artists, and peers. For students who want to tell personal, autobiographical stories, please consider if you have enough emotional distance to receive feedback on your work.

I have a script ready to go. Should I apply to PPSL?
If your script is finished and you’re ready to begin filming and aren’t in a place where you want feedback or additional perspectives, the PPSL course is not the best match.  The expectation of this program is that you will be creating a new work based on what you’ll be learning about media representations of mental illness/health. We recommend for you to apply for one of the RTVF Department’s MAG grants or one of the student group grants instead.

I want to apply to PPSL and create a film with a larger crew model. Is that doable?
Large crew model projects will not be accommodated in the PPSL course.

Other questions? Please email