Cal State Northridge (CSUN) - MFA in Screenwriting Program

Degrees Offered
2 Year M.F.A.
Concentrations
Screenwriting
Tuition Range
$10k to $20k
Alumni
1.00 star(s)
Campus
4.00 star(s)
Career Assistance
1.00 star(s)
Equipment
4.00 star(s)
Coursework
2.00 star(s)
Professors
3.00 star(s)
Financial Aid & Scholarships
5.00 star(s)
Pros
  • Friendly staff
  • Nice campus
  • Great amenities
  • On-site script library
  • TA opportunities
Cons
  • Lack of networking opportunities
  • Lack of job opportunities
  • Strictly pedagogic in academic approach (as opposed to practical)
  • Repetitive coursework & lessons
I was accepted to the CSUN MFA program in 2018 and took part in in for a full year; however, I recently decided not to go back and complete the program's second year... for a number of reasons.

1) LACK OF NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES. This was my main peeve with the program. Networking opportunities were non-existent, unfortunately. I asked a few of the professors and the head of the program about this aspect of the MFA many times - as it is crucial to a career in screenwriting - and I was never given a solid answer. I happen to know a few people/execs in the industry as well, who asked me to reach out to CSUN on their behalf because they had internship/job opportunities that they wanted to share with the school. When I gave them the dept. head's contact info, two of them told me they reached out to him and never received a response whatsoever. I followed up with the dept. head and he simply said, "Oh, yes, I do remember seeing that name... Please have them email me again." But by that time, the opportunities were long gone. This is key because not only are you required to find an internship and take an internship course during your last semester of the MFA, but it's also a very important part of the job and working in Hollywood. I know the UCLA and USC have amazing opportunities in this regard; but, alas, I applied to each of those schools and couldn't get in.

2) STRICTLY PEDAGOGIC. The program is much more tailored to those who want to teach screenwriting at the college level than it does for those who actually want to be screenwriters. I say this not only because of my previous reason - lack of networking - but also because I spoke to one of the profs who's been there since the inception of the program who told me as much outright. Additionally, there was a lot of repetition in many of the lessons we learned.

3) VERY STRUCTURE-BASED COURSEWORK. I'm all for studying structure and form, but I also think that people entering a screenwriting Master's program should have a fairly good handle on that before joining. One of the professors who taught two of our courses over the first year taught his very-specific, step-by-step breakdown of how to break a story using his unique concept. It was very specific and odd, and we spent a LOT of time focusing on only his method, when there are dozens out there, many of which have proven to be great! I actually really liked this prof on a personal level, but I do not like that 2 of the 7 course I paid for dealt entirely with his methods and didn't allow for exploration of the many other forms.

4) LOOSE SYLLABI. Unfortunately, about 2 of the 7 courses that were taught didn't have syllabi at all, or really seem to have much of a purpose. In our teaching for screenwriting course, there were 14 of us. Basically, two of us came in each class and gave a lesson each week, and the prof provided very minimal feedback at the end of each lesson. It was like we weren't being taught anything at all. The lessons were all lead by other students in my peer group, and while some of them were great, I didn't expect to have to pay for and take valuable time (driving and attending) out of my nights to listen to other students speculate on what the best way to do _____ might be.

TAKE AWAY: If you don't know anything about screenwriting at all at this point in your life, OR if you're set on teaching screenwriting someday, this might be a good program for you. But if you're looking for industry connections and opportunities, save your money and look elsewhere (unless they revamp the program sometime in the next few years). The best part of the first year of the program, in my opinion, happened to be the two courses we took with adjunct professors who had real-life experience working in writers rooms. They were able to provide excellent feedback and guidance while we were working on our one-hour spec and half-hour original comedy pilots, and I feel that I can take those samples away and actually put them to use.

When I joined this program, I'd already studied screenwriting as an undergrad a bit, and worked some in the industry. I'd written a few episodes for an Emmy-nominated show and sold three concepts to a streaming network as well. I got a tip from a working writer that CSUN's film dept. had just gotten some kind of $8m influx via donations or something, but that wasn't evident in any part of the program, which was fine. That said, I was really hoping that the CSUN program would provide the networking opportunities and the chances to collaborate with other talented student directors, actors, producers, etc.--and it did not.
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