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Anyone applying to MFA Screenwriting Programs for Fall 2018?

Discussion in 'Graduate Film School Discussions' started by Johnella18, Aug 20, 2017.

  1. Johnella18

    Johnella18 New Member

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    I'm starting the application process for a few schools and I just wanted to know if anyone else was as well.
    Also, if anyone has applied before and has any advice that would be great, too!

    I'm applying to USC, UCLA, Loyola Maramount, University of California, Riverside and UNO (University of New Orleans).
     
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  2. Kira

    Kira Active Member

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    Hi @Johnella18!

    I am a first year mfa in screenwriting student at UCLA. If you have any q's about the application process, just ask (open for everyone else as well)! This site helped me a lot during the application process so I'd be more than happy to give back.

    Good luck!
     
  3. Johnella18

    Johnella18 New Member

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    Ahh thank you so much! I have tons of questions honestly, but I don't want to bombard you with them so here a few.

    Is it true that UCLA is looking for more experienced writers? Like people who've been involved in more projects or have "real world" experience?
    I'm coming straight out of undergrad so other than college and independent productions, I don't have a whole lot of experience and I'm a little concerned about that.

    What kinds of writing samples did you send?

    How important do you think the letters of recommendation are? Should I stick to the professors that know me and can actually write about me or seek out more "esteemed" folks and just help them fill in the blanks? Lol.


    Were you creative with your statement of purpose (less formal, more personality) or was it pretty formal?

    Did you apply to any other schools ?
     
  4. Kira

    Kira Active Member

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    I actually wrote this post that will answer many of your questions (so I will not repeat myself here).

    I don't think UCLA is looking for more experienced writers. Just good writers with life experience. I applied while in my final year of college and my screenwriting background was limited to two screenwriting classes and an internship - so not that much (but quality > quantity!).

    I will tell you that out of my 35-40 people cohort, it appears only one other student and I are fresh out of college. However, there is a wide range from our age to people who are married and with children. It varies (which is good)!

    Show them that you can weave together a story. Keep them intrigued from page one and don't let them go. That's the most important. GPA, recs, etc are secondary.

    For my LORs, I used my literature professor, screenwriting professor, and screenwriting tutor (a current MFA student). Pick people that actually know you. Make sure the writers can make a complete picture of you. My lit professor and I were friends (could write about me being a good person), my screenwriting prof could speak to my abilities / potential as a writer, and the tutor did both the "good person" thing and "strong writer". LORs may not mean a whole lot overall, but I'm sure admissions can tell when someone is filling in the blanks off a resume.

    If you have more Q's, send them my way. I don't mind answering. I must've asked a dozen different MFA students a dozen questions each :p
     
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  5. Anushka Kartha

    Anushka Kartha New Member

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    Hey! Been loitering around here and reading past threads to get a feel for the application process. Just starting mine now (I graduate from my undergrad program in July 2018) and applying to NYU, USC and UCLA!
     
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  6. T See

    T See New Member

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    hi kira! i'm applying to USC for screenwriting. i'm having trouble deciding what i should include on my creative portfolio... i was wondering what you did and if you have any suggestions?
     
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  7. Operator

    Operator Active Member

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    Yup! USC, UCLA, University of Georgia, Emerson College, CalStateLA and AFI.
     
  8. snoopdog

    snoopdog New Member

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    Yes, I will be applying to screenwriting: USC, UCLA, Chapman, Loyola, AFI, and NYU (filmmaking)
    I have started preparing my applications as well!
     
  9. Kira

    Kira Active Member

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    I'll answers this two ways.

    Are you discussing the USC Creative Portfolio List? In that case, they just want to see that you've been "creative" for a while. I listed my scripts, some plays I acted in during high school, some poetry, etc. If you have any creative awards, you can list them there.

    For a real portfolio, turn in your best work. For UCLA (200 page max), I turned in a spec script and a couple of shorts (~80 pages total). When considering a piece of writing, I asked myself "if this was the only piece they read, would I be happy with the result?". If the answer was no, it wasn't included.
     
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  10. hopefulstudent

    hopefulstudent Member

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    Hey everyone! I just wanted to piggy-back off @Kira , as I also found this community an immensely helpful resource and will be joining Kira as a first year student at UCLA. I applied to a bunch of programs (USC, UCLA, Chapman, LMU, NYU, Columbia, AFI), and, as you all probably know, each has different requirements for the application. That said, I'll provide some general advice based on my experience, and others I've talked to:

    Writing Samples: Provide your best work. It's that simple. Don't think too hard about what the committee wants to see, page length, genre, etc. Yes, UCLA accepts up to 200 pages of your best work, but it probably doesn't take them more than 10 pages to know if you're a strong writer. Like @Kira , I submitted around 80 pages. This included an original comedy pilot, a short (20 page) sci fi, an animated short script, and a psychological thriller script. I did not diversify my writing samples purposefully - it just so happened that I felt my strongest samples were from a few different genres. What they are most concerned with is knowing your voice. That's what matters. For that reason, whoever was working the phone the day I called discouraged me from including spec scripts. That said, @Kira included one and she got in. So who knows... haha. I'd say if you do include a spec script, make sure it's in a similar vain to your original work, so it emphasizes your voice. Again, I was told committees simply want to know who you are as a person, through your writing. What is your world view? What is your voice? And this can only come from staying true to yourself, not trying to anticipate what any committee wants to see.

    Letters of Rec: Based on what I've read, these don't matter a ton. That said, they're still required, and a stellar recommendation can make a difference. More than name recognition, position, or anything else, what matters is that the recommender knows you. Like really knows you. Committees see a thousand boiler-plate recommendations each year, and they don't mean dick. I'm pretty sure Richard Walter (co-chair of the screenwriting MFA program at UCLA) has even said they passed on a student with a recommendation from Steven Spielberg because it came across as standard. So I'd say more important that who your recommendation is coming from, and what they're position is, make sure it further tells a specific story about you as an applicant.

    Experience: Don't think for a minute that you are not experienced enough for any program. I won't lie - I've heard it is much more difficult to get accepted straight out of undergrad. As @Kira said, she and one other student are the only in our class of appx. 40 who were accepted out of undergrad. But... they were accepted! So you can be too! Why are the odds stacked against younger applicants? It's all about experience. Not just film/screenwriting/storytelling experience, any experience! And being out of school for a year or two bolsters experience and perspective. The applicant who worked in an office for a year, taught english abroad, became fluent in Latin, tried to become a chef, was an amateur wrestler, etc. is going to have more life experience to draw from as a storyteller than yet another applicant who studied film in undergrad and wants to immediately study film in grad school. I myself never took a screenwriting, storytelling, or even film course in undergrad. I was a journalism major, who upon graduating, worked as a freelance writer in Chicago for a year, then moved to Colorado to work in digital advertising for a couple years. I loved Colorado. I hated my job. But hey, there's a story. There's a perspective. What's yours? Programs want a diverse group of students, so how are you going to fit in? If you're coming straight out of undergrad, show how you're different! Do that through top-notch writing and a killer personal statement that tells the story of you.

    If you are out of school and looking for experience to help your application, consider taking a screenwriting course or workshop. While working in Chicago, I took a couple screenwriting courses at The Second City, which were workshop style. Those courses furthered my interest in screenwriting, and gave me something to talk about in my essays and interviews. I think workshop style courses can be especially helpful as many programs structure their courses as workshops, so to know you have experience giving and receiving feedback as you craft a story can only help you.

    Any other questions? Feel free to ask. I'd love to help the next round of applicants, as I know it's a daunting and uncertain process. PS... make sure to have fun :) Whatever that means to you, I think having fun with your writing makes the best stories.
     
    #10 hopefulstudent, Sep 13, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2017
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  11. BuddernScotch

    BuddernScotch Member

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    Hey Kira. I remember you... :D from last year.

    My question is to anyone, really. I know there are a lot of greatly reassuring words here about "experience" or lack thereof, but I remember that USC specifically calls for a CV - now, is this the creative portfolio that johnella was asking about? Or was that UCLA's portfolio?

    Either way, I only have some high school projects to put on my CV. Nothing close to professional or even internship-level. And I'm a year out of university. What else could I put on there, just other creative ventures? If I created things by myself, do I even write those down? Like a short film script that no one has ever even seen. In last year's app., I just put those high school projects and some personal projects on the CV.

    :S
     
  12. hopefulstudent

    hopefulstudent Member

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    Okay, so typically a CV is like a beefier resume - or at least that's what a CV is in the professional world - and that's how I interpreted it for my applications. Whereas a resume is typically limited to one page with your most relevant information regarding education, jobs/internships, activities/clubs, memberships, etc., a CV can be as many pages as you wish and includes everything you've done.

    This is not the same thing as a creative portfolio. I would not list scripts or personal projects you've completed that were completed solely on your own time - by which I mean not as part of a more formal club, class, etc. If an application asks for a creative portfolio, that's a good place to list scripts you've completed (yes, even if no one has ever seen them). I don't know if other applicants approached their CVs vs. creative portfolios the way I did, but that's how I went about it. If you're looking for example CVs, I would Google "CV example" and follow the templates that pop up.

    I'm guessing you're a bit worried that your CV may not highlight your creative-writing side? I would say that's okay. Remember, schools aren't necessarily looking for the most seasoned writers, but writers with interesting experiences. If you participated in your school newspaper and mock trial in college, that tells a program something about you, even if it's not "creative" in the screenwriting sense. Of course, if you did do anything formally screenwriting, film, or acting related, it's certainly a huge plus to have that on a CV. Just don't force it.

    Remember, your application is greater than the sum of its parts. Even if your CV doesn't have loads of activities directly related to screenwriting/film, your creative portfolio, writing submissions, and personal statement will still showcase your creative side. Ultimately, your writing submissions and personal statement influence the bulk of the committees' decisions anyway.

    Hope this helps :)
     
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  13. Kira

    Kira Active Member

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    Couldn't have said it any better myself.

    I divided my CV and Creative Portfolio similarly.

    The Creative Portfolio included things I had written on my own time. On my CV, I listed my relevant coursework and internship, but included other things like being an officer of a community service organization and an english teacher. Some of it was film related, but 75% was other.

    I heard that schools (at least UCLA) are looking for a diverse group - that includes age / gender / ethnicity AND experience with screenwriting. So I wouldn't fret all too much :)
     
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  14. BuddernScotch

    BuddernScotch Member

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    Love this forum. And you guys. :) <3

    Edit: what about overlaps, like school papers? Should that be in both in different formats?
     
    #14 BuddernScotch, Sep 19, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
  15. Kira

    Kira Active Member

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    Not school papers, but scripts. I'd list them in the Creative Portfolio and then list the class on my resume.

    My resume had:
    Name
    Major / GPA
    List of relevant classes: Introduction to Screenwriting, Writing for Television, Film Structure, European Cinema, etc.
     
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  16. Kira

    Kira Active Member

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    Just wanted to edit what I wrote earlier about age, now that I've met my peers.
    My year is skewed both young and old. We have at least 4 students straight out of undergrad. There are a good amount of us are under 25. On the flip side, we also have a solid handful (4-6) that are probably 35/40+.
    TLDR: Don't worry about age.
     
  17. Stopnchat

    Stopnchat New Member

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    Question for people who've previously applied to UCLA - in addition to the Statement of Purpose required by TFT, the general grad school application asks you to complete an optional "personal history statement", which is explicitly not meant to duplicate the specific Statement of Purpose. Assuming this is not new to 2018, did any of you write this additional statement, and how did you approach it compared to your TFT Statement of Purpose?

    Thanks a lot!
     
  18. Kira

    Kira Active Member

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    We had the optional personal history, but I honestly don't remember if I had filled it out at all. I don't have a document saved under that name so I assume not.
     
  19. Stopnchat

    Stopnchat New Member

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    Thank you Kira—I think I'm going to omit it too.
     
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