USC Cinematic Arts - Writing for Screen & Television (MFA)

Degrees Offered
2 Year M.F.A.
Animation & Digital Arts, Writing for Screen & Television, Screenwriting
Tuition Range
$20k to $30k

Film School details

Application Deadline
November 15th
The Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing for Screen and Television, is an intensive two-year degree program that concentrates on writing for narrative film and television. During the course of their studies, students benefit from a wide array of internship and mentorship opportunities available as a result of the university's close links to the Los Angeles film industry's top screenwriters, directors, production companies and studios.

Course work includes practical instruction in everything a working writer needs to learn about the filmmaker's art and craft. Writing is taught in small workshop-style classes. The approach focuses on the visual tools of storytelling, developing stories from characters and then on an Aristotelian three act structure. Fractured narratives, ensemble stories, experiments with time and points of view, as well as other idiosyncratic styles of storytelling, are also addressed. The curriculum covers other professional concerns, including legal issues, agents and the Writer's Guild, as well as the history and analysis of cinema and television. Classes are taught by working writers with a wide variety of skills, experience and approaches.

Each fall 32 students are selected to begin the Graduate Writing for Screen and Television Program; there are no spring admissions. Applicants must submit a supplemental application and materials to the Graduate Writing for Screen and Television Program. For specific instructions, contact the Cinematic Arts Office of Admission, University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211, (213) 740-8358 or online at
School URL
GRE Required?
Portfolio Required?
Letters of Reference Required
3 ( 1 must be from academic reference)
Portfolio Requirements
1) Autobiographical Character Sketch (1-2 pages),
2) Creative Challenges (2-5 page scene),
3) Most Challenging Moment (1-2 pages),
4) Writing Sample (10 pages of creative writing), and
5) Creative Portfolio List
Internship Opportunities
Y (possible)

Latest reviews

  • esteemed faculty
  • talented cohort
  • successful mentors
  • guest lecturers
  • easy to question your skills when compared to successful cohort (big fish, big pond)
  • not much flexibility with the 2-yr program (for writer/dir/producers)
  • compartmentalized
It's tough to rate the pros and cons, since I'm still early in Writing program.

I will say that the benefits of being in LA, in a prestigious program, with working professionals as professors and mentors far outweigh any anxiety about tuition or eventually making it as a working writer (tongue-in-cheek).

I was personally apprehensive about being at a private school in the land of the "super-fake", where everyone's scheming to exploit you (I'm from the Midwest). I originally favored the NY schools because I wanted to be a "pure writer" and focus on developing my "voice", but USC SCA provides that by vouching for you and your talents.

And luckily, the screen/tv writing program isn't cutthroat... but our guest visitors and lecturers never hesitate to remind us that the industry can be a tough nut to crack. And the cohorts bring a wide array of talent and experience. A lot of lessons that would take years to learn alone in the industry are expedited through the decades worth of experience shared.

Plus, let's be honest: It's USC film school. Even though there are other GREAT programs out there to choose from, The Industry is out here and there's a lot of Trojans making big moves. It's highly encouraging to know that many alumni are finding success in various facets. From being staffed within years of graduation, to linking up with other students to develop pilots, web series, and short films.

Yet, with only one semester to "judge/review", it seems like each program is compartmentalized. We spend a lot of time writing, while the other depts. focus on their projects. The writing program is only 2 years, while the production program is a 3yr MFA and they admit in the spring for their program too. There's probably more chances to collaborate later on, but there's also value in distinguishing yourself first and working on your individual craft.

All in all, I feel like I'm in the best program to help prepare me for a long career in film/tv. Even the cons are valid for specific reasons. There's no perfect program out there, but USC definitely makes sure to challenge you, while also preparing you for a long career. I'm much more confident in this program, LA, and producing good content.

(feel free to ask more specific questions if this is still too vague)
Current Student
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Film School information

United States
Added by
Chris W
Last update
5.00 star(s) 1 ratings
900 West 34th Street Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211

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