How to Apply to Columbia University's Creative Producing MFA Program for 2024 Entry

Columbia University's Creative Producing MFA program helps graduate students master every element of producing for small and feature films. Columbia University is located only a short distance from some of the best film studios nationwide — particularly for independent productions. Faculty include producers in film, television, and digital media; head of creative producing and associate professor Mynette Louie is a Spirit Award-winning, Emmy and Critics Choice-nominated producer (Black Box, Catch the Fair One).

Before you apply, read the year-by-year curriculum breakdown for the Creative Producing MFA program and application requirements taken directly from Columbia University’s website.

Year 1 (fall)​

Film students begin with Columbia’s Core Curriculum. These courses emphasize essential elements of directing, narrative storytelling, and production, and they are taken by students in all graduate degree programs:
  • Directing I
  • Directing Actors I
  • Fundamentals of Directing
  • Elements of Dramatic Narrative
  • Ethics & Inclusive Storytelling
  • Practical Production I
  • Screenwriting I

Year 1 (spring)​

  • Directing II
  • Directing Actors II
  • Practical Production II
  • Role of the Producer
  • Screenwriting II
  • Script to Screen
  • Analysis of Film Language (recommended)

Year 1 (summer)​

Creative Producing MFA students complete an 8-12 minute film production.

History-Theory-Criticism (HTC) Requirement​

All graduate students must take at least one course in Film Studies (generally referred to within the School as “HTC,” an abbreviation for History-Theory-Criticism) within the 60 credits required for the degree. Students planning to apply for teaching assistant positions should take more than one HTC course.

A representative list of HTC courses includes but is not limited to the following. The asterisked courses are specifically recommended for MFA students but any of these courses fulfills the HTC requirement:
  • Analysis of Film Language
  • Cinema History 1: beginnings to 1930
  • Cinema History 2: 1930 - 60
  • Cinema History 3: 1960 - 90
  • Cinema History 4: after 1990
  • Cinephilia: Theory and Practice of the Moving Image
  • Documentary Tradition
  • Film and Media Theory
  • The Moving Image in the Museum
  • Seeing Narrative
  • Sound and Image Theory
  • Topics in American Film (Horror, Comedy, Cult, Western, etc)
  • Topics in World Cinema (Latin America, China, Arab and African)

Year 2​

Creative Producing students must take the following required courses:

The Business of Film
Feature Film Development
Feature Film Financing
Post-Production Supervising
Pre-Production of the Motion Picture
Writing and Script Analysis for Producers

Elective courses include:

The Business of Television
Digital Storytelling I: History and Theory of Interactivity
Digital Storytelling II: Building Storyworlds
Digital Storytelling IV: World-Building
Documentary Producing
Entertainment Law
Film Festivals: Theory & Practice
First Features
Visual Experiences
Writing for the Screen

Year 2 (summer)​

D4 film production – a more ambitious short film, directed by a member of the Directing 4 class. After completion of concentration requirements and 60 credits in the first two years of study, the third year and beyond is devoted to thesis work and to special classes contributing to the completion of the thesis. There are also several advanced non-credit workshops that are open exclusively to students in their thesis years.

Year 3​

Year 3 (and beyond) I devoted to thesis work and to special classes contributing to the completion of the thesis, also known as the Research Arts years. There are also several advanced non-credit workshops that are open exclusively to students in their thesis years.

Creative Producing MFA students must take the following required course:
  • Producing Thesis Advisement
Elective courses include:

Digital Storytelling 3: Immersive Production
How to Start Your Own Production Company
Writing for the Screen – Research Arts

How to Apply​

ALL applicants MUST submit the following in 12-point Courier font:

  1. Autobiographical essay: Four to six double-spaced pages. (Tell us something about yourself and your background, artistic experiences, creative influences, and professional objectives.)
  2. Dramatic Writing Sample: A log line must be included. No more than 10 pages. Must be in screenplay format and must contain dialogue. This can be a complete short screenplay or the first ten pages of a screenplay. It must be original; it may not be an adaptation, except of your own work in another form. Please do not submit writing in prose form and no theater plays. The story cannot be the same as the one in your feature film treatment or your optional video submission.
  3. Film prompt: Read the following openings, choose one and imagine the scene that might follow it. The scene you write must include both dialogue and description. It should be no less than two and no more than three pages long. It should be written in screenplay format. These prompts change every year. The prompts listed below correspond to the Fall 2023 application. You may change the gender of any character in these prompts, but do not change ages or relationships:
    1. INT. APARTMENT - NEW YEARS EVE: With a smile plastered firmly into place, the woman begins backing away from the chaotic party down a darkened hallway. Intending to make a hasty exit, she locates her coat on a bed – but is shocked to discover just who is underneath it.
    2. INT. DORM ROOM - LATE NIGHT: The two students sit side by side admiring their handiwork: a pail of water sitting atop the bedroom door, rigged to fall on whoever enters next. They peer at a wall clock and then lean forward, straining to hear any approaching footsteps.
    3. INT. HIGH SCHOOL LOCKER ROOM - DAY: Long after the other students have left for home, one student remains in the locker room, frozen in place, staring into the grimy mirror. Just then, a janitor enters with a mop and pail – startled to find anyone still at school.
  4. Feature film treatment: On one double-spaced page for a film you might wish to write, direct or produce based on your application concentration(depending upon the concentration you will be applying to). The treatment must concisely relate a complete dramatic story sufficient to sustain a feature-length film, including major characters and plot developments and a clear statement of the resolution. The story cannot be the same as the one in your dramatic writing sample or your optional video submission. You must state the genre of your treatment and a log line. A log line is one or two sentences that describe the protagonist(s) and the story of the film.
  5. Visual Submission (optional). Your visual submission should be uploaded to the Video Upload section of the online application and cannot be linked to a third-party such as YouTube or Vimeo. Submit one of the following:
    1. Film/Video Work: All Film MFA applicants may submit up to 30 minutes of film/video work. It is advisable to put the best work at the beginning of your visual submission.
    2. Visual Exercise: Applicants for Directing who have not shot prior visual material are encouraged to shoot and submit the following OPTIONAL VISUAL EXERCISE: Write and shoot a 2-person SILENT SCENE (no dialogue), between one and two minutes long, which deals with the idea of "COMING TOGETHER." It could be two strangers who make a connection, a fighting couple who then make amends, or two people who 'come together' in anger, physicality or any other dramatic situation you choose. You may use subjects of any genders or ages, and any locations and props, etc. that you have available to you. Elaborate production expense is NOT the goal of this part of the application. You may shoot in any format.
  6. Resume: Creative Producing applicants must summarize their professional and academic achievements in an easy-to-read resume. admitted student perspective​ member @thep2k2 says:

"Columbia was my strongest application and my favorite from the start. My two page script was based off of a conversation I had had at my Uncle’s wedding and the first ten pages of screenplay were based on a Western I wrote with my screenwriting friend from Chapman."

Learn more about their academic background.

Ready to apply?​

The Columbia graduate application for film students opens on October 1, 2023. Click here to start your application before the deadline (see “Columbia University Application Deadlines and What to Expect After Applying”).