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So you've been denied to grad school, now what?

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  1. It's nearly the end of March and for the second year in a row, I have not received any acceptances for the MFA screenwriting programs I applied to. Of the 4 programs, currently I have two denials, one interview, and one I have not heard anything from. So now what?

    First, I admit to myself that I'm taking a second round of rejections a lot harder than the first. It hurts. I'd be a liar to say otherwise. It filled me with self doubt. Why not me? What am I missing? What did I mess up? Where did I go wrong?

    And after a few days of tears and frustration, I snapped out of it. I've been working in film for 7 years and writing my entire life. Acceptance or denial to film school doesn't affect my ability to create. So I completely throw myself into prepping a short film I've been talking about shooting since the fall.

    When I attended the University of Michigan for my undergrad in screen studies, I directed all my own projects. It was a requirement of the program and by my professors. But since my big senior project in the spring of 2011, I haven't directed anything. My entire academic and professional career I spurred any notion that I might want to direct. I focused on producing (even formulating my own independent study in producing) and screenwriting. I would say directing didn't appeal to me. I was lying to myself. Everyone in film has a fantasy of directing their own projects. I finally indulged mine and I loved it. I consider myself a first time director. It has changed everything.

    It took roughly a month to prep the 2 day shoot for a 10 page script. I produced the entire project in prep by myself. I researched the camera I was loaned, how much data I would create, scouted locations, announced and held casting calls, arranged travel for actors, organized all my own paperwork, schedule, budgets... All while preparing my students at U of M for their 48 hour film projects. In fact, I was only able to shoot my own project because I had to re-work my schedule to be available for my students during their 48 hour weekend. My dates were chosen out of necessity and availability of crew - deadlines motivate me so I obsessively worked on producing my short right up to the last minute.

    (If anyone is interested in a more detailed blog post about how I produced my own short, leave a comment and I'll follow-up with one!)

    On Wednesday March 15th around 9pm, shooting wrapped on my project. I could not be happier. The challenges of producing my own project and pushing myself to direct the short reminded me why I applied for my MFA and why I don't need to get admitted for an MFA to achieve my goals. For me, an MFA in screenwriting is self-indulgent; I want to be able to dedicate 2 years of my life to focus on only on writing without the distractions of working as a PA or an AD. An MFA would also enable me to teach one day because education is my other passion. But my short reminded me that I do not have to get my MFA now. What I have to do, is write, create, repeat. That is what matters. And I can write and create without an MFA. It's harder to fit into my schedule, harder to afford, harder to focus, but if my years of balancing school and work has taught me anything it's that there if there is no other way, then I'll stick with my passion because eventually it pays off.

    So what's next? I'll try to be patient while I wait to hear back from UCLA and Northwestern. Maybe it'll wind up being good news, maybe the cat won't be dead inside the box. I can't know until the box is opened and unfortunately the box is out of my hands. For now, I've got post-production and a crowd-funding campaign to start. I entered my pilot Somnia in more film festivals and competitions too. In between all of that I will starting to write a new pilot in April. If no acceptances come, I'll have some hard decisions to make. My job is fantastic and it would be hard to leave (especially the great insurance), but I'm far overdue to move to LA and if I do, I'll be attending the UCLA Professional Program for TV Writing.

    The great thing about writing is I can always write and will always write. I can always shoot a short for a couple grand or less by putting it on my credit card. I can always create regardless of getting any recognition, funding, acceptances into grad school or film festivals. I don't write to win awards or impress anyone, I do it because it's part of who I am and how I express myself. I don't write to make money, although some money would be nice. As long as I get the chance for one singular person to feel a little less alone when they read or watch something I made, then I've done everything I've ever wanted to do. Basically you can consider the conclusion to this blog post the interview given by Jeff Bebe during Almost Famous. He's right. All the benefits of having a career in something you're passionate about are great. It makes life a lot easier, but at the end of the day, it's not why we do it... even when it is why we do it.

    About Author

    IndecisiveElle
    Miraculously graduated from The University of Michigan in 2012 with a degree in Journalism and Screen Studies while working full time as a production assistant, then an Assistant Director during the former Michigan Tax Incentive on some movies you've heard of and even more you haven't.

    At present, applying for MFA in screenwriting for the second time while working as an educator at U of M in the department TV studio.
    Iuli Dia, Jules, bimshine and 7 others like this.

Comments

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  1. Giddy
    It is really inspiring to read how upbeat you are even in the face of rejection. And you are absolutely right, why judge yourself by decisions that are made by other people and out of your control. I know its not the same but even JK Rowling got 12 rejections for Harry Potter and loads more for her other work. Do what you love, never give up and know in your heart that you're on the right path. That's what I got from your blog, so thank you!
      IndecisiveElle and Chris W like this.
  2. IndecisiveElle
  3. Kira
    Wonderful post and yes, really in the end what matters most is just to keep creating. I would love to hear what was included in your independent study of producing!
      IndecisiveElle and Chris W like this.
    1. IndecisiveElle
      Well sounds like there's more than a few people interested in hearing about it! I'll post about it tomorrow. The lecture is today and I have to wing it a little bit after being out of town all weekend due to a very unfortunate situation. (Death of my boyfriend's 8 month old god-daugther - which may also serve as part of a blog post. This life-work balance stuff is real!)
  4. BadouBoy
    Great post- thank you for sharing your experience with us. And congrats on wrapping up production on your short, would love to hear about it also. I hope this doesn't sound trite but from your posts I sense that you are passionate, resilient and open-minded about your career path. To me, that's more important than what any film school can give you. I wish you all the best, however things turn out.
      IndecisiveElle likes this.
  5. Chris W
    Great post! Hang in there with the other apps... and I'd love to hear more about your short.
      dvxdm and IndecisiveElle like this.
  6. Septopus7
    Great, inspirational post. And I'm not sure how much comfort this will be, but have you considered the fact that you weren't accepted to your grad schools of choice because you were TOO experienced? I've heard from various people that certain programs only accept people they can "mold" into the film industry. You already look like you have a pretty firm foot in the door (more than many of us, at least), so that might have been a factor. Either way, I wouldn't take it as a personal sleight. It's hard to say what goes into any of these acceptances, honestly!
      IndecisiveElle and Chris W like this.
    1. IndecisiveElle
      It's a thought that crossed my mind. I had hoped that changing gears from being an AD to writing would be considered a fresh start - it certainly feels like one for me! I'm disappointed after getting waitlisted last year at LMU, but the show must go on. Glad you enjoyed my post!
      clairewitchproject and Chris W like this.