USC School of Cinematic Arts Reviews & Admissions Statistics

4.00 star(s) 4 Stars (12 Reviews)
School Website
Degrees Offered
  1. 4 Year BA
  2. 4 Year BS
  3. 4 Year BFA
  4. 2 Year MFA
  1. Film & Television Production
  2. Film Studies
  3. Producing
  4. Screenwriting
  5. Writing for Screen & Television
Tuition Range
$60k to $70k
Undergraduate Deadlines
December 1
Graduate Deadlines
November 15
I have a question for current or former students of the MFA program: I was told that students have to be selected to make a film in the second year of the MFA program, and that the thesis film is optional. What are you coming out of the Film Production (Directing) program with if you don't get selected to make your film, and if you don't make a thesis? What sort of opportunities do you have to create a body of work? How many opportunities do you have to make short films that are of such high quality, intentional, and deeply thought out (the way you would work on a thesis film for at least a year, for example) that they can potentially compete on the festival circuit?
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Yeah it's really tricky, and has also changed (the requirements for projects as a directing track student) within the 2 years I've been here. So coming out of the program their hopes are that maybe you've found a different discipline that interests you other than directing, lol. It's not impossible to make a thesis honestly, as long as you have everything together for it. But yes, when we're talking about the possibility that you won't make a FILM per se, there is also the television track and they get a lot of money and there's opportunities to direct there.
In your first year, second semester you do make a 5 and a half minute film and that's the only only guaranteed film you get to make that's given the full filmmaking process but you're in a trio and have to help your other trio mates make their films as well.
DEFINITELY weigh out if USC is the right school for you because it's a great school for becoming a well rounded director, but they do not want you to think there's a directing program. They want you versed in multiple disciplines. You can also learn a lot about producing and writing within the program, I know other film schools don't have as good of writing programs if you're a directing student.
Super interesting - thank you so much for your detailed answers, I learned a lot here. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to attend an info session for USC during the application process in the fall so I haven't had a chance to learn more in depth about how their curriculum is set up - I just have been going off of the presumption that you know, USC is one of the top film schools in the country and I'll probably get a stellar education there. But you definitely shed some light on a lot of things for me and there's a lot to I have to think about (depending on if I even get in or not! haha). Thank you thank you!
I am curious about people's advice for selecting good recommenders. I got into screenwriting after college and don't have a great academic reference who could talk about me in a writing context that well. For people from non-traditional backgrounds, how did you choose your recommenders? Any advice? Thank you!
Moved my question to discussion thread.
Hi! I've been following along some applications on the page and I've seen that USC and AFI have already started interviewing. I applied to those two and I haven't been reached out to for an interview yet, should I be worried?
I'm not sure if they notify everyone they want to interview at the same time or does this happen along a period of time in a more gradual form? Please let me know if you know about this! Thank you!!!
Just Tommy
Each program is going to reach out separately and it seems like most do it on a rolling/gradual basis, so if you haven't heard back yet I wouldn't worry. Some programs admit without requiring an interview while others interview some, but not all applicants. There's really no way to know what they're doing behind the scenes, so keep the faith!
USC undergraduate tuition is expected to be $60,000 for Fall 2021, but this page shows only $30,000 - is it a different tuition for SCA?
The USC Cinematic Arts admissions website says that you do need the GRE. Is this new?
Were you looking at The Division of Cinema & Media Studies major? Cuz this one do need GRE, but Film and TV production don't.
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No, they only need your $$$.
Does USC still open the application for 2021 spring? Cuz today is June 20th, they should've opened the application but I checked the application website and they didn't.
Chris W
Chris W
When will cinematography students learn how to shot with the film? when will production students have courses of their selected area?
I believe either Intermediate or Advanced Cinematography class has a project shot on film. Both classes happen in your 2nd or 3rd years of the MFA program, depending on when you want to take them.

Production students choose their own classes after the first two semesters. For instance, I'm taking a lot of producing and directing classes now that I'm in my 2nd year.

As a future applicant I have a question regarding the admissions. In my undergraduate degree I switched from Computer Science to Business and my GPA has suffered a lot during this process. Although in my last semesters I got better GPA scores my cumulative ended up 2.4 (on a 4 scale). I pursued my studies and took a Management masters degree and graduated with a much better GPA. I wanted to know whether this could boost my chances for getting accepted to USC Film and Production or is my undergraduate GPA still a major drawback? Is it common for Business students to apply for a MFA degree or is it more common to have an arts bachelors degree for a higher chance to get accepted?
Little known secret. Grades barely matter. The USC application is hugely dependent on your Personal Statement

If you come across as someone new, unique, and individual, you are the sort of person a film school wants, because you have perspectives that can translate into movies. Your personal statement is where you communicate what makes you stand out from the crowd.

The Masters degree is a big positive for you. Try to include those numbers wherever you can. The undergrad GPA is annoying, but it shouldn't knock you out.

Also, it's normal for students with 0 film production experience to get into USC. My cohort had people with backgrounds in architecture, acting, communications, finance, game design, theology, history, philosophy, and many more, none of whom had a film production degree.
Hey guys. I have a specific question regarding the Directing/Film Production MFA program.

My ultimate goal is very specific and obvious - I want to shoot a feature movies. But not a huge-blockbuster-Hollywood type of movies, but rather a movie that would someone classify as indie. Existential horror or maybe some provocative cinema or both - with visual and narrative experiments etc. In the perfect scenario of my future I'm working with A24 entertainment company on my own feature film - something like Hereditary, Lighthouse or even Lars von Trier-type of cinema.

And in a few articles I found a disturbing information about the USC that it's not actually a place for "future indie filmmakers" and I'm wondering why would someone say that. I heard that AFI is a better place for my goals but I did not apply to it because they require two films and I had only one. But it's not a case - I know that USC is one of the best (if not the best) film schools in the world, so why how it can actually be a bad choice for someone who maybe wants to make "indie" films? I hope that it's not true and, if anyone knows, someone can help me understand what is the actual difference between the programs and why USC sometimes referred to as a place that I would not fit in with my specific goals.
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Avec Love
Avec Love
This is a pretty common myth about USC. It doesn't really matter what type of movie you want to make. The program at USC is not about what kind of art you should make or what space you should work in - it's about how to actually get that project made.

The student population has a bad wrap for only being interested in "Big Hollywood Blockbusters", some people are interested in that - but overall I find people's interests are pretty eclectic. A majority of the professors work on independants and a majority of student directors go on to do either Television or Indie work.

Furthermore, I'd consider A24 a commercially successful distribution company - being that USC's focus is "industry", that is WELL within USC's wheelhouse. After all, "Industry" and "indie" are not mutually exclusive.

Beyond that, plenty of students here are fans of A24's output and I'd say their mindset is not so far off from your own.
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Thanks so much for such a detailed response!
Are there any statistics about getting a full-tuition scholarship for international students at USC?
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Virtually impossible afaik. Every single international student here who I know comes from a wealthy family. Their parents are paying a lot of money to let them be here. There are some scholarships USC offers, but they tend to be partial scholarships for merit, and the only full rides I've seen were given due to health issues or need based requests.
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Hey, I'm wondering whether you can also apply as a (19-year-old freshman) for this program. I'm asking because I'm not really familiar with the US Education System.. and a lot of people state that they major in a subject, tho they are freshman themselves.
Julie Lew
Hi @FilmNerd00, the Stark program is an MFA program, so you need a bachelors or bachelors equivalent to get into the program.
How many students get admitted to Directing MFA program each year? And does everyone in the major have the chance to make their thesis film?
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Chris W
Chris W
USC unfortunately doesn't officially share this info but I'd check the tracking sheets from previous years to see the stats that our users have tracked. In 2018 out of 12 out of 36 (33%) site members were accepted to Film/Television Production for example.
If by Directing MFA you mean the Film & TV Production MFA, then the USC admissions info session presenter, Victoria, told us that 60 are accepted in the Fall and 60 in the Spring.
I was wondering if anyone knew what they are really looking for in the application? Grades? Experience? Other?
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I'm entering my first year & my answer is 'sort of, yes but not just film, and Definitely'

USC draws the best: more applicants than they can accept will have great grades & a long film resume. Everyone also has 'other', but I think many don't embrace it.

I've got okay grades from an okay university, but my degrees werent in film-- Pure Math & Theatre-- and I have a lot less film experience than many rejected applicants. I was honest about this on my app but I was excited to talk about the past 7 years I'd spent in NYC Theatre (acting, directing performance art, touring an opera, and 4 years running a theatre out of a garage-punk-venue). I explained how these experiences led me to where I am & why I want to LEARN from them-- you shouldnt be coming in having learned it all.

USC stresses storytelling & thats your job on the app. Tell them the STORY of you. Don't worry about making it impressive-- the faculty is much more intimidating than any applicant-- make your story interesting.
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