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Columbia Screenwriting/Directing Interview FALL 2017

Discussion in 'Graduate Film School Discussions' started by Aliza Brugger, Feb 27, 2017.

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  1. Aliza Brugger

    Aliza Brugger New Member

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    Hey all-

    I thought it would be helpful to create threads revolving around the interviews coming up. I plan to share my interview experience with AFI, NYU and Columbia, but I wanted to get this thread up here for people who might have interviews earlier and want to share their experience in each of the interviews. Hope this will be helpful!
     
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  2. cyy

    cyy New Member

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    Has anyone interviewed at Columbia for Screenwriting/Directing and if so, could you please tell us who interviewed you? Thank you!
     
  3. Juli Jackson

    Juli Jackson New Member

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    I interview at Columbia tomorrow and am NERVOUS! Love to hear about your experiences.
     
  4. mr.wanderer

    mr.wanderer New Member

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    Hello, all. I interviewed last week, over Skype. I'll admit I was a little nervous (three rejections, and two to go — ha!), but the interview was very easy-going, and more like a conversation. They asked about how I have remained creative, and also about some elements in my autobiographical essay. A particular question was about my writing process. They seemed especially interested in my first 10 pages submission, and we talked in some detail about that, and what interests I have as a writer. I was a bit surprised by how much they wanted to know *about* me, and not just necessarily what they wanted to know *from* me, if that makes sense. Overall, I felt very good about the interview. I wish you and everyone else the best of luck going forward.
     
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  5. Juli Jackson

    Juli Jackson New Member

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    Thanks so much for the insight! It's a relief to hear positive things from those who have gone through it! Wish I had found this site months ago. I have apparently been living in a film school bubble.
     
  6. Zeno

    Zeno Member

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    I'm guessing you are the person (JJackson) who just got off the waitlist? Mr. Wanderer and a couple of us have been commiserating about being on Columbia University's screenwriting/directing waitlist. Just checked the google tracking sheets and noticed what I'm assuming is your notation. Be curious to know what date they contacted you and how. Did you find out how many openings are left or other useful info? Did you happen to write a formal continued interest letter when you were first notified about being on the list? Congrats! We hope to join you.
     
  7. Juli Jackson

    Juli Jackson New Member

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    Yes, that would be me. I have been on pins and needles this entire time and had finally lost hope. ( I did not write an additional letter of interest due to a negative experience with that at NYU.) But last Friday I missed a call from a man in the department. Kept calling back until I got him on Saturday. He was very polite and told me I had been accepted, to email him with any questions, and the official notice would be coming by Monday.

    As you can imagine, I was completely useless at work waiting for an email. It came late in the day as a notice that my application status had changed. I logged in, and there were all these lovely and very validating letters of acceptance and welcome. Which honestly made me cry a bit because the stress of being rejected elsewhere and waiting with baited breath for so long.

    While I was given no information that indicated where I was on the waiting list or how many spots remained, if you are on the waiting list, take heart. Because there is a very big possibility I will not be able to afford to attend. So there might be at least 1 more spot opening up.

    Probably the worst part of this entire process was trying to access the financial aid information linked in the acceptance letters. The "Getting Started" link/booklet will not load (despite different browsers, different laptops, and different connections) and it still won't this morning. I was unable to get logged in to the Columbia Financial Aid page because it claimed my login info was incorrect but I was using the exact info sent with the acceptance letters. Of course it was far to late at night to be able to contact anyone. I just continued to try to log in like a crazy person over and over again. Even on my phone as I went to bed. And magically, at 11:30pm it logged me in using the same info I had been trying all that time.

    So I looked at the award / loan offers and there was nothing from Columbia. I suppose the coffers are empty this late in the game. But devastatingly I was only offered $10,500 per semester in unsubsidized loans from Federal. As you can imagine with just tuition at almost 30k a semester, this drop in the bucket isn't even close to possible for me with additional fees & living expenses. I certainly demonstrated need when applying and don't understand why I wasn't allowed more loans. My credit is slightly above "good" according to TransUnion & Experian. Some research told me that creditworthiness wasn't even wasn't a factor in federal loans. But if I had to get personal loans for the remainder, there is no way I could get approved for so much.

    My heart is broken.

    Will call the Financial Aid offices today and see if I am understanding the info correctly. And see if there is anything at all I can do.

    I wish you all the best of luck. Because at this point it very much is feeling like the luck of the draw. And unfortunately, my luck gave out awhile ago.

    Thanks for listening. I'll try to remember to post when I find anything out.
     
    • Hang in there! Hang in there! x 1
  8. Zeno

    Zeno Member

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    That is a thorough response! First, I googled you and watched the trailer for your film, 45 RPM, and the fact that this is a feature and it is beautifully executed means you should keep this up no matter. Suffice it to say, I was humbled. Thought to myself: this woman has vision. It's no wonder you got accepted at Columbia University. You didn't elsewhere?!

    Sorry to hear about your financial aid challenges. And it gives me no pleasure knowing a spot will open if someone as talented as you cannot get the aid she needs to attend. Frankly, I'll be in a somewhat similar boat but, maybe, being an older student with a longer history, I would be okay. I'm still cautious. Also have a patron who might help. Might is the operative word. It's a racket, tuition costs and financial aid.

    I think you should definitely contact the financial aid office, research personal loans, and contact your patrons. You might be surprised how much you can cobble together. And know that once you are in it is easier to find more opportunities for aid via grants and scholarships. I'd say look at it as a long game. Someone like you would go far in a program like this so it's certainly worth the uphill climb.

    As for my/mr. wanderers, etc. chances, guess we will see. I do know that they went back through the list and reevaluated everyone from scratch which means you were probably one of their first choices. In all likelihood, you were probably close to getting in on the first go around. I think you definitely should go whole hog re-applying this fall if you cannot rectify things now. Apply to a bunch of screenwriting and directing programs as I'm convinced you will not only get in, you'll get the money. Hell, I'd even double up and apply to screenwriting and, separately, directing at certain schools like AFI, UCLA, and UT Austin. Dollars to donuts, things are going to work out.

    Be curious to know about your experience at NYU re: writing a continued interest letter. Only reason I wrote one for Columbia is because they suggested it as an option when they responded to my inquiry about submitting additional materials, like more recommendations or films, not being an option. I had sent the electronic reply about remaining on the waitlist a month or two prior before coming around to writing a formal letter of continued interest to Dean Rossi. Hoping that I came across as humble, confident, and interested. One worries it comes across as presumptuous. Hope it helped rather than hurt my odds.

    Anyway, I wish you the best of luck because you deserve it. Definitely continue to share your stories about this process moving forward. I started a post about being on the waitlist a few posts ago.
     
    #8 Zeno, May 16, 2017
    Last edited: May 16, 2017
  9. Juli Jackson

    Juli Jackson New Member

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    I can't thank you enough for such kind encouragement at what is proving to be a very difficult time. My previous response was coming from a rather frantic place so having a person who understands the intense desire to attend make such thoughtful comments means the world to me.

    Thank you for checking out 45RPM! Making that film was an education all on its own. I'm proud of it. And relieved it finally got DVD & VOD which took longer than planned. That long journey also taught me that I can do better next time and showed me where I need work which is one of the reasons Columbia was on my list. I feel I would greatly benefit from their program and hopefully give something new to the community.

    My experience contacting NYU was meeting someone in department admissions when I visited the campus and after applying and not hearing anything for weeks after the filmschool.org list kept growing with acceptances & denials, I wrote what I thought was a short, polite, humble email directly to that person (who I had positively corresponded with previously) asking if everything was in order and if they needed additional materials. I received a curt response that made me wish I hadn't reached out. Of course it is easy to misinterpret the tone of emails and the response could have been rushed or copied and pasted. But it didn't leave me with a good feeling so I refrained from contacting Columbia directly. I was rejected without interview from NYU and University of British Columbia (not on the list) so I imagine the competition was stiff or I just wasn't what they would looking for. No idea.

    I contacted financial aid today and talked at length with a very nice staff member. However the situation looks bleak. I will be taking your advice and digging deeper. Also asking myself some hard questions.

    I am considering reapplying in the fall at the earliest available time to see if I have different financial aid results. However, I feel shy about sending in the same portfolio. I will have perhaps 1 maybe 2 new projects I could add and of course I could provide new writings but I worry they will just recall the bulk of my materials from last year and pass again. Am I overthinking this?

    You are located in England? What has been your international application experience? Very curious about that. Best of luck and thanks again for the support! You are too kind.
     
  10. Patrick Clement

    Patrick Clement Active Member

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    You need to apply for a Grad Plus Loan. This is an income-based replayment plan loan that will cover all of your remaining need, including cost of attendance and living expenses. You will qualify if you have no bankruptcies or serious delinquencies. This is how all of us poor kids do it :)
     
  11. mr.wanderer

    mr.wanderer New Member

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    Hi, Juli. First off, congratulations on your acceptance, and I truly hope that you will find a way to go through with Columbia this upcoming year. I also went and looked up "45 RPM," and Zeno really said it all best: it seems like you not only have tremendous vision, but also drive. A spot shouldn't have to open up because the aid isn't there. I hope you check out the Grad Plus Loan, as Patrick suggested.

    Sort of an open question, to Patrick, Juli, Zeno, anyone — do most people applying to these programs have full-fledged work like Juli and Zeno? Getting confused about this. Columbia, USC, UCLA, especially NYU... they all say they're open to students with little to no background (NYU explicitly stated on its website it preferred applicants such as this). My portfolio contained bad shorts from high school and whatever I managed to write during my time in the military. I've only recently separated, and have nothing like you two have. That's not going to change between now and the next admissions cycle.
     
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  12. Patrick Clement

    Patrick Clement Active Member

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    I find in my year the experience level is all over the map. I don't think they are as interested in very experienced candidates. What would they be able to teach them? We even have quite a few people that had little to no film experience and/or came from completely different careers. We have a reservist, a former investment..um, thing. So I'd guess experience is a factor, but maybe not a decisive one.
     
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  13. Boethius

    Boethius Member

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    Truth. It's unfortunate how expensive it is, and the faculty recognize this too. But it's the way it is at Columbia, and most film MFAs in general. The sticker shock really made me question whether or not to accept, but after looking into the kinds of income-based repayment plans, my mind was set more at ease. Finally, if you end up dirt poor and can never make a payment, the terms allow the loan to be forgiven after 25 years, so there's that safety net, I guess.

    Patrick's right. It's all over the map. I thought I had a strong visual sample, only to discover that it was my writing and autobiographical essay that set me apart; they could have cared less for the sample.
     
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  14. Zeno

    Zeno Member

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    I never responded to your question. I am not located in England. Does New England count? Ha. I'm based in Connecticut. Applied to NFTS for undergrad rather haphazardly and did not get accepted. All good because I ended up at the University of California at Santa Barbara. It was more of a theory school than a production or storytelling program. That said, I learned a lot about film history.

    I see that you officially took yourself out of the running at Columbia University which is a shame. Really and truly, that is their loss. Did you try to go for the Grad Plus Loan like Patrick suggested? If I get an offer from Columbia and cannot get the Grad Plus, not sure if I can go either. Either way, you are overthinking. Sounds like you'll have plenty of new with the old. Again, 45 RPM is a stunner so definitely get as much mileage out of it as you can. And a lot of these schools keep recommendation letters on file so you can cross that off when applying.

    My advice is to apply to more schools in a couple months and apply earlier. And not just directing/screenwriting but screenwriting only too. And definitely hit up all the brand east and west coast schools (UCLA, AFI, NYU, Columbia, Cal Arts, USC, UT Austin, LMU, Champman, and NFTS in London for good measure. Think you can do NFTS now. Be sure to update your essay and talk specifically about how you've grown and what you want to do. You have a unique point of view and come from a distinct cultural background (and are a female writer/director) so play that up more.

    Wish you the absolute best of luck and, please, don't get down about this. It's just a numbers game and, trust me, there are people they let in and shower money on who don't have half the talent you have. As a great friend said: water finds its own level. You and I are going to be congratulating one another soon on getting into the schools we want with the resources we need. Either way, adapt and overcome.

    Most importantly, don't dare stop making films because the world needs your voice.
     
    #14 Zeno, May 22, 2017
    Last edited: May 22, 2017
  15. Juli Jackson

    Juli Jackson New Member

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    Wow. I'm so grateful for this response. You have no idea. Thank you so very much. I have been quite unmoored recently, throwing myself into work, and I didn't see this post. Very happy for the good thoughts and good advice.

    I did look at all my options for Columbia, including the Grad Plus Loan and commuting from NJ where I have relatives. It was still out of the realm of possibility for me.

    I have decided that I will be applying again in the fall, applying to more schools (although I will be sticking to the east coast for the most part. I have lived in the south and in LA for enough years to know my heart is in the east. Ha! Although I would consider CalArts. And will definitely be checking out NFTS) and hopefully getting at least one short completed to add to my reel. And more writing. Lots of writing.

    Water finds it's own level. I must remember that.

    Thank you sir. And the very best of luck to us both.
     
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