Chapman University - Dodge College MFA in Film Production (Directing)

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The graduate programs at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts Conservatory of Motion Pictures are designed to empower you with
Degrees Offered
  1. 3 Year M.F.A.
  1. Directing
  2. Film & Television Production
Yearly Tuition
$40k to $50k
Application Deadline Types
  1. Regular Decision
Regular Decision Application Deadline: Dec 1, 2021

Film School details

School Website
What is the Application Fee? $ 60
Is a GRE required for admission? No
Is a portfolio required for admission? Yes
Who owns the copyrights of the films made at the school? The Student
The three-year MFA in Film Production is a mentoring-focused, hands-on program that explores all aspects of film production through the use of visual storytelling techniques, industry standard tools and best professional practices. Students must choose an area of specialization at the point of application in either directing, cinematography, editing or sound design.

Application Requirements

Application Requirements:

  • Statement of Intent: Submit an essay expressing your reasons for wanting to join the MFA Film Production, Directing emphasis program. What are your personal and career goals, and how will this particular degree from Chapman University help you reach those goals? Your essay should be double spaced, size 12 font, and 1-2 pages in length.
  • Resume
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation
  • Creative Supplement
Other Required Materials:

  • Official copy of your undergraduate transcript from your degree granting institution
  • International Students: Please see "International Applicants" tab below for additional requirements
No additional information should be sent to Dodge College or the Office of Admissions outside of what is required on the application. Any outside work sent to either office will not be reviewed as part of the admission process.

Please note that you may only submit Creative Supplement materials for your 1st choice major selected on the application. No other materials will be reviewed as part of the application process.

The requirements below are for students applying for Fall 2022

Creative Portfolio List

Upload a one (1) to two (2) page list of activities that demonstrates your potential in your area of chosen specialization focusing on creative accomplishments. Include in this list specific items that you could submit, if requested, to Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. Each listing should include a brief description of the work and your role in its creation.

Example of Portfolio listing (use this format):

Title: Roger's Car
Position: Writer/Director
16 minutes, Video 2005. Valley College
Log line: Unusual circumstance allows a sixteen-year-old to get his first car. I wrote this story for a creative writing class and produced the film with the help of my friends.

Transformational Moment Essay

Submit a two (2) page essay describing a transformational moment in your life that fundamentally changed you as a person. Explain how you gained wisdom and greater understanding of the human condition as a result of this experience. Essays should be typed, single-spaced, 12 pt. Times New Roman font, one-inch margins on all sides.

Thesis Film Essay

The MFA Directing program requires students to direct three short films. In no more than one (1) page, tell an original story for a thesis film that would run approximately 15-20 minutes in length. Tell the entire story, beginning, middle and end and go into detail. Describe each turn in the plot and what specifically brings it about. Try and tell an original story, ideally inspired by personal experience. It should be your original story and not adapted from material authored by someone else. Bear in mind your budget and shooting schedule will be limited. Essays should be typed, single-spaced, 12 pt. Times New Roman font, one-inch margins on all sides.

Narrative Scene

Pick one (1) of the scenarios below and write a compelling dramatic scene. This may be written in no more than two (2) pages as a short story, single spaced, or in no more than five (5) pages as a screenplay. We are looking for the strength in your storytelling ability.

  1. Two siblings who have not spoken to each other in ten years await the start of their father or mother’s funeral and there is a monumental shift in their relationship.
  2. A couple whose marriage is on the verge of falling apart gets stuck in the snow bank together without a working mobile phone, and the best and the worst of their relationship comes out.
  3. Three strangers waiting outside a hospital emergency room, meet by chance, and it changes their lives.
Visual Sample:

Self-introductory Video Essay

Create a self-introductory video essay between two (2) and five (5) minutes in length. Your video should visually highlight something about yourself, your personality, your interests, etc. The only rule is that you may NOT appear in the video in any way (including any photographs of yourself), so be creative. We are primarily looking for your strengths at conveying a story visually and for evidence of your creativity rather than your technical abilities.

Narrative Work-Complete one (1) of the following:

*We prefer candidates to submit original Narrative work, unless they have not directed a narrative film, in which case they should submit the Photo Narrative.*

1.) Original Narrative Film:

You may submit as many of your complete narrative movies (not short reel clips) as you wish. If you have mentioned narrative work in an essay or on the creative resume, please provide those samples by uploading them or providing a link.

2.) Photo Narrative:

In no more than twenty (20) still photographs, tell a story based on this prompt: A character is wandering in a city and encounters a situation that drastically changes his/her life. The photos should be uploaded in the order you wish to convey your story. The submission should be photographs only, and cannot have any writing or descriptions included. We are looking for your ability to tell a visual story without the use of dialogue or description.

Class Size

15 to 17

Internship Opportunities

Yes (required during summer)

When do the decisions go out according to the school?

end of April

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.

Latest reviews

Reviewed by
  • Small, amazing, supportive student body
  • Incredible opportunities to work on great projects
  • Industry grade gear and equipment
  • Everyone is superbly committed to their discipline
  • Stellar producing, editing, sound design, cinematography track
  • Students support one another with scoring great internships
  • Non-competitive environment
  • You can do whatever you want with your film when it's done
  • Films suffer from form over function
  • Prettiest films from any film school, but our stories often suck
  • Weak directing/film studies track
  • Faculty is a mixed bag: The best teachers are adjunct faculty
  • Students don't seem very passionate about WATCHING films
  • Very annoying Thesis Committee approval process that often stifles creativity
  • Almost TOO Hollywood-centric at times.
  • Chapman prepares you for the industry, not auteurship.
  • Little to no collaboration between Screenwriters and Directors. SAD!
I did my undergrad at Chapman, earning a BFA in film production. The MFA production program is also quite good, having pumped out some really prestigious award winning thesis films as of late (ITS JUST A GUN and ROCKET both won the student Academy Award), but the MFA students on average seem a little less committed compared to the undergrads: it really feels like a BFA school more than anything. The Film Studies program is pretty wonky to be completely honest. Many of my favorite teachers aren't there full-time or have been fired as of late. But regarding my BFA in production: It was a great experience overall, especially in my junior and senior year where my workload really picked up and I made a lot of amazing friends that I still creatively collaborate with to this day. Everyone is here to help you. Making art never feels like a sport here, which is great.

Having said that, if you aren't naturally predisposed to putting your blood, sweat and tears into your projects, THEY WILL SUCK. Your teachers can only help you so much (and some teachers are outright buzzkills). The resources are out-of-this-world good, but it's up to you to take advantage of them, learn them, and really be in the thick of it. Students very quickly rise to the the top, so if you aren't on set each weekend you probably won't learn the technical side of things all too well.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you is never to forget the importance of watching films. Just because you're in film school doesn't mean the only stuff you should be watching is what the curriculum assigns you. Chapman's biggest misstep is that it never teaches a course on MAKING/WRITING SHORT FILMS, something that's very different from feature films. I highly encourage all new students to an hour or two each day to watch a feature and a short film, it's the best way to learn after doing.

Note for Directing hopefuls: Making film's gets expensive, so obviously it's important to be smart about where and how you spend your money. Because directors usually fund their films entirely, DP's get greedy with fancy lenses and cameras, but don't let yourself be discouraged. Remember that what's in front of the camera is most important (especially your screenplay and the actors performing it). As such, it's essential that you watch films in order to learn how to do this well. Don't let that shiny ALEXA and those anamorphic lenses distract you.

Finally: Chapman has some phenomenal courses in film studies, but they aren't mandatory (teachers that stand out are Kelli Fuery, Ethan Thomas Harris, Andrew Erish, etc.) but many of them are adjunct. It's a shame that directors aren't forced to take these courses, because the thesis films are so aesthetically polished that they ought to be more conceptually daring.

Remember: there is no such thing as a perfect film school. Chapman teaches STYLE over SUBSTANCE so make sure to teach yourself what your classes aren't providing. At the end of the day, it's somewhat of a craft-school, but that's not a bad thing: if you're a director it means you'll work with the most talented DP's, editors, sound designers, etc. you'll ever meet, and if you're any of the aforementioned emphases you're likely to get really good at your job and will be in high-demand post-grad.
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