2nd year MFA Screenwriter @UCLA - AMA!!

Shade

Member
Hi! Thanks for your question, @Shade. I was accepted to LMU - I don't know that much about the program so I can't really compare. Personally, if I was rejected from UCLA but thought I had a decent shot, I would apply to UCLA a second time and see what happened.


Hey @Septopus7! Hope you are doing well. It's all about that grind. Just keep writing and keep applying - to schools or fellowships or competitions. I've been told time and time again in my program - persistence is key. Just keep at it.
Hi, @Kira, would you mind if I send you a direct message to ask you a question about this?
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA
So Kira, this question is really broad, but I'm wondering, from an insider's perspective, what the future looks like in terms of work opportunities? And whether UCLA matches other top tier schools like USC and LMU in connections and entry-level jobs? Or it is mostly what you make of it? In other words, in terms of chances at getting a job, does the school matter that much, or one's own persistence, skill, willpower, etc?

I have been researching this on my own for a while but always hear things second or third hand so even though the question must be hard to answer perhaps you could shed a bit more light on this matter :)

Thank you (again).
UCLA matches other top level schools, but don't expect UCLA to do all the work ;) If you do the bare minimum, don't expect too much back. However, if you take the initiative and do well, then a lot of opportunities will come to you.

Hey Kira,

Thanks for sharing and taking the time to do this! Your schedule sounds insane and rewarding, and I was wondering if you could break down your schedule a bit more (particularly when you had internships) so we could get a better sense of what the day to day looks like?

I also saw a Quora post (Why would someone choose the UCLA Film School over the USC Film School? - Quora) which mentioned an additional $10,000 fee you had to pay, which isn't included in the tuition cost posted on the website. Were there any other significant fees you weren't expecting?

Thanks so much!
My schedule and day to day changes by the quarter. Last quarter I had a relatively heavy schedule with 2 writing workshops, 1 producing class, TA, and an internship. I had class or my internship from 9am-10pm Monday, all day Tuesday, Thursday evening, and all day Friday. I was able to write on Wednesday, Thursday, and the weekend. It was hectic but definitely doable :) You have to be super disciplined and can't really slack off.

I wasn't surprised by the additional fee - the MFA is considered a professional program and comes with the professional program fee, unfortunately. I don't think there's any other large fees though.
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA

BuddernScotch

Active Member
UCLA matches other top level schools, but don't expect UCLA to do all the work ;) If you do the bare minimum, don't expect too much back. However, if you take the initiative and do well, then a lot of opportunities will come to you.
I definitely want to make the most out of filmschool. And am recently leaning more towards UCLA. Re-reading some of your posts, and others' posts on the subject of UCLA vs USC for example, made me rethink how important school connections are. It's one of the primary reasons I want to flee Canada and go to an LA school, and that's why my mind was always: USC USC USC. But if UCLA is quite comparable in that aspect, and add to that the more intimate workshops and mentorships that I have come to really crave as I have gotten older, and add to that UCLA does interviews and I got to speak to a faculty member (George!), it's so TANGIBLE, and... and... and... USC started sending out letters and my poor mailbox is so empty, so I'm about to take all my eggs away from USC and throw them into the UCLA bucket.

Thank you for your insight!
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA
I definitely want to make the most out of filmschool. And am recently leaning more towards UCLA. Re-reading some of your posts, and others' posts on the subject of UCLA vs USC for example, made me rethink how important school connections are. It's one of the primary reasons I want to flee Canada and go to an LA school, and that's why my mind was always: USC USC USC. But if UCLA is quite comparable in that aspect, and add to that the more intimate workshops and mentorships that I have come to really crave as I have gotten older, and add to that UCLA does interviews and I got to speak to a faculty member (George!), it's so TANGIBLE, and... and... and... USC started sending out letters and my poor mailbox is so empty, so I'm about to take all my eggs away from USC and throw them into the UCLA bucket.

Thank you for your insight!
Of course! I think that USC does a great job at marketing their students (you only have to look at the websites to see the difference), but UCLA has a great reputation as well - esp in television. We get emails all the time about internship opportunities - most of my friends have internships either via the school or their peer network. Even highly coveted ones like Conan - two of my friends have it this quarter and it's three days a week.

I'm not sure how big the workshops are at USC, but I do love the intimate ones at UCLA. I also like the faster pace, just because it mimics real life. I LOVE GEORGE. I haven't had him yet but I've heard so many great things about him. I hear he is wonderful.

I know there's a lot of talk of USC vs UCLA etc etc. I did too, but that was only in my wildest dreams. Both schools are GREAT choices. If I didn't get into UCLA, I would've gone to USC in a heartbeat. It was actually my top choice and I would've been happy there. I've met some USC students through my internships and I think they're pretty comparable - and rivals - for good reason. At the end of the day, we're all screenwriters facing a world of producers, directors, and actors, after all :p
 

Chupacabras

New Member
hi Kira,
First of all, a million thanks for all the advice and information you have shared on this forum. It's been extremely helpful. I was wondering if I could bother with a couple more questions (just got the acceptance letter from UCLA last night--super excited!). I'm primarily a writer but also interested in directing--have made a couple short films etc. and I was wondering if screenwriting students at UCLA are able to take classes in directing too? I know that you can take a few electives in production and directing, but are other, more advanced classes (like Directing the Actor etc), open only to directing students, or do screenwriting students with more of a writer-director focus able to take these as well? Do you know people who have done this/are doing this @UCLA?

The second question is about funding/fellowship support in the first vs. second year. I'm guessing from what I've seen and what is in the letter that most fellowship support in the first yet is restricted to some sort of departmental fellowship (i.e. to TAships). But in the second year from what I've seen in your threads, people do TA is that right? Do those TA positions come with tuition remission or a stipend or both? And is the main source of financial support for second year students in the screenwriting MFA, or are there other avenues too, like, I don't know, research assistantships or internal departmental scholarships for students that are already a year into the program etc.?

Thanks for any info you might be able to share with me! UCLA seems to be by far the best...
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA
Hi @Chupacabras! Congrats on the acceptance to UCLA! I hope you are thrilled :D

For your first question - sort of? There are a few elective courses that require you to submit a reel as a screenwriting student and some of my friends participated (one of them already has a MFA in film production from FSU).

These are the directing courses on the website:
  • 188B INTRODUCTION TO THE ART AND TECHNIQUE OF FILMMAKING (Fall)
  • 188D FILM EDITING; OVERVIEW OF HISTORY, TECHNIQUE AND PRACTICE (Fall)
  • 400 FILM IMAGE DESIGN LAB (check registrars schedule)
  • 403A ADVANCED DOCUMENTARY WORKSHOP (check registrars schedule)
Unfortunately, it is harder for screenwriting students to take directing classes than it is for directors taking writing classes. However, there's a difference in those writer-directors in the screenwriting program than say, one in a directing or producing program.

As for your second question, the fellowship is a scholarship. Second year students usually get 1-2 TA'ships in TFT - which come with in-state tuition remission and a stipend. However, many friends and I have found other TA'ships in Classics, English, Communication, Philosophy, International Relations, and other specialties like languages, etc. Also - if you are out of state but not international, you can qualify in-state tuition for your second year. And then with a TA'ship, it's only the professional program fees. There are also a list of scholarships that you can apply for during the end of each academic year - and then the amount is retroactive for that year.

Congrats again!
 

BuddernScotch

Active Member
Kira! I know I've asked many questions already and here is yet another.

Does UCLA guarantee 7k-10k funding for each student or is it a possibility? I called the department and they said it is exacrly as the letter sent out says, without clarifying whether I interpreted the wording correctly, and the exact line is this:

"In recent years, each of our incoming MFA students has received between $7,000 and $10,000 in department funding during the first year..."

Wondering if you might know and clear things up? Thank you again Kira.
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA
Kira! I know I've asked many questions already and here is yet another.

Does UCLA guarantee 7k-10k funding for each student or is it a possibility? I called the department and they said it is exacrly as the letter sent out says, without clarifying whether I interpreted the wording correctly, and the exact line is this:

"In recent years, each of our incoming MFA students has received between $7,000 and $10,000 in department funding during the first year..."

Wondering if you might know and clear things up? Thank you again Kira.
I've heard that the amount varies on how much the department has available (it's only a small program at UCLA, which is even smaller compared to the UC system) so it can vary. My year received some $ and the year before/after me did as well. I don't think they guarantee a certain amount so you don't bank on having an extra $10k when you accept and then later are left scrambling.
 

amlena

Storyteller
Hey @Kira!

Looks like you answered most my questions, but now I'm coming in late with a few more.

So your second year schedule sounds pretty intense. What is a typical first year schedule like?

What opportunity is there to actually produce the scripts you're writing? I've done a lot of auditioning at the various film schools and while writers are involved at several, it seems like at UCLA the shorts being produced are not products of collaboration across departments.

Any help is super appreciated! Thanks!
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA
What is a typical first year schedule like?

What opportunity is there to actually produce the scripts you're writing? I've done a lot of auditioning at the various film schools and while writers are involved at several, it seems like at UCLA the shorts being produced are not products of collaboration across departments.
Hi~ thanks for your question!
The first (and second) year schedule is as intense or as light as your want it to be. 12 credits is the minimum, which consists of your one writing workshop and one other class. However, some first years I know are taking three or four classes and interning / TA'ing etc.

There are one or two classes that have short scripts produced across departments (so about twice a year screenwriters can apply to these cross-program courses). However, outside of those classes, many shorts that the directors produce are of their own scripts since many consider themselves writer-directors.

Hope that helps a bit!
 

phoangg

I write when I'm asleep, I dream when I'm awake.
Hi Kira,

First off, thanks so much for answering the prior questions in this thread. They've been a great help! I also have a couple questions, if you don't mind answering them. :)

1. Did you go straight into the grad school screenwriting program right after finishing undergrad? And if not, in your opinion, did time off help you in terms of shaping a statement of purpose?

2. Do you have any advice for writing a statement of purpose?

Thank you so much!
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA
Hi Kira,

First off, thanks so much for answering the prior questions in this thread. They've been a great help! I also have a couple questions, if you don't mind answering them. :)

1. Did you go straight into the grad school screenwriting program right after finishing undergrad? And if not, in your opinion, did time off help you in terms of shaping a statement of purpose?

2. Do you have any advice for writing a statement of purpose?

Thank you so much!
Of course! I'm glad that you've found them helpful :)

1. Yes, I did go into grad school straight from undergrad. I actually applied to grad school while I was studying abroad in London, haha. missed out on some pub nights for writing nights! I don't think that an extra year would have benefited my statement of purpose for UCLA. I weaved a fairly unique childhood and coming of age story into my statement of purpose and would have used the same story a year later.

2. Oh jeez haha the big question :p I suppose first off follow the direction of the film school admission! If they say one page, don't go onto page two. Show that you can follow basic directions.

A statement of purpose should tell UCLA / the school why you are interested in their program, what you would like to explore, and why you. It's different from a personal statement (which is more personal, shocking I know) but should still be unique to you in some way. What do you bring to the (literal) table?

I would say don't talk about your favorite childhood film and how from "that moment on I knew I wanted to be the next George Lucas / Christopher Nolan / etc". I'm pretty sure the admissions committee gets a ton of those. What stories and life experiences / angles do you bring and want to tell?

Hope that helps a bit!
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA
Hey guys!

(Just cross-posting here for those that follow this thread.)

I know how hard it is when starting out to find good readers -- friends and family don't always give the most helpful notes and it can be weird asking strangers on the internet. I hope to fill that gap, even just a little bit.

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This is all that I'll post of this. Thank you!
 

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