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California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)- Film Directing (M.F.A.)

Film School details

Degrees Offered
  1. 3 Year M.F.A.
  1. Directing
Yearly Tuition
$40k to $50k
Application Deadlines
January 6, 2020
A unique three-year graduate course of study, the Film Directing Program (FDP) enables students to develop innovative approaches to storytelling based on examining the broad spectrum of narrative cinema. The curriculum covers the fundamental aesthetic and technical components of film directing, with additional emphasis placed on screenwriting, acting, scene study, and critical thinking. In the process, FDP students hone their powers of observation, create visual strategies, and discover methods for shaping stories—both invented and adapted—that are dramatically convincing and emotionally credible.

Every FDP student works closely with his or her mentor, a faculty member who guides that student’s artistic journey through the three-year program. Mentors help design the slate of courses best suited to advance each filmmaker’s individual development, provide practical advice, and serve as collaborators in the making of the MFA thesis film.

The FDP residency begins with two semesters of required classes in filmmaking fundamentals by the end of which every student must have completed a film. The requirements throughout the following four semesters include six métier directing classes, two special topic seminars, and three elective courses drawn from across all of CalArts. In addition, FDP students must attend the ongoing Guest Artist Workshop. (Recent guest artists have included directors James Mangold, Ramin Bahrani, John Greyson, the Polish Brothers, Rodrigo Garcia, Lance Hammer, and Jim Finn; actors Ed Harris, Ewan McGregor, and Annette Bening; composer David Shire; and producer Effie Brown, among others.)

Each student’s residency culminates with an MFA thesis film that demonstrates a distinctive directorial point of view, as well as the practical ability to lead a team of performance and production artists toward the shared goal of a finished work. Before proceeding to the thesis project, however, FDP students must pass a Preliminary Thesis Review and Project Approval in the third semester of residency. Once the thesis film is completed, each filmmaker must then pass a Graduation Review in order to graduate. In addition, he or she must have fulfilled all program course requirements.

FDP artists are encouraged to learn experientially by creating work beyond that assigned to them by faculty and by participating fully in the CalArts community of artists and discovering their own creative processes. The mission of this program is to excite, challenge and nurture artists who go on to make personal and genuinely compelling films.
School URL
GRE Required?
Portfolio Required?
Letters of Reference Req.
Internship Opportunities
Application Requirements
1) MFA Interview,
2) Three Moving Image Materials: Narrative Directing Sample (5 minutes), Storytelling (2 minutes), and Artistic Portrait/Personal Essay (2-3 minutes), and
3) Five Written Materials: Artistic Statement (2 pages), Writing Sample (5 pages), Project Idea , Commentary on Influences (5-8 with a few sentences explaining each), and Resume/CV

DISCLAIMER: The information on this page is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time it was last updated. PLEASE verify with the school ALL due dates and requirements as they may have changed since our last update. If any info on this page is incorrect please let us know and we will update it. We are not responsible for missed deadlines or rejected applications due to out of date information on this page. Please do your due diligence.

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Application Statistics

Acceptance Rate
Lowest Accepted GPA
Earliest Int. Notification
February 3
Earliest Interview
February 22
Earliest Decision
March 4

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