CSUN Screenwriting MFA - Current Student AMA!

I am currently attending CSUN's screenwriting MFA program and going into my second year. At this point, I feel like I have a pretty solid grasp on the program and just wanted to offer to answer any questions about the classes, teachers, or program as a whole. Anything to help people deciding whether to apply!

I remember this forum being very helpful as I was applying to film schools and making my decisions so I wanted to contribute back (and express my thanks to all who have shared their insights about screenwriting MFA's on here in the past!)
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
BU
Thanks for joining the site! (And I love your username) Thanks for starting this post and offering to answer questions.

When you can please post a review for the program as well on the page linked below if you can. :)

Cal State Northridge (CSUN) - MFA in Screenwriting Program

Cal State Northridge (CSUN) - MFA in Screenwriting Program

The CSUN Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting Program offers an intensive, pragmatic terminal degree experience that prepares career-minded students..
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
BU
And now for a question.... How is CSUN handling COVID?
 
And now for a question.... How is CSUN handling COVID?
All of the screenwriting MFA courses are fully online for this fall semester. Spring 2021 details haven't been announced yet but I imagine will be either fully online or hybrid.

It's a bummer since I really like my cohort and we had great in-person discussions, but I'm glad the school is acting decisively and communicating well in advance with us. The mid-semester transition to Zoom this past Spring was handled as well as possible, too.

Overall, I do feel like we lose some things by having classes online, but relative to other disciplines (film production, directing, etc) screenwriting is affected much less and we're able to more or less cover the same ground as we would otherwise.
 
Hi! I'm an incoming student to CSUN's program. How are you liking it? And how insane is the workload? (Asking as someone who is attempting to maintain a full-time job while starting an MFA...haha)
 
Hi! I'm an incoming student to CSUN's program. How are you liking it? And how insane is the workload? (Asking as someone who is attempting to maintain a full-time job while starting an MFA...haha)
Hello and welcome to CSUN!

Overall, I'm really enjoying the program. I like the range of classes and all the professors I've had so far are terrific. My main goal going into the program was to come out with a polished, diverse portfolio of scripts and I feel like I'm on track to do that. Industry networking wasn't my top priority going in but I have met and connected with a handful of industry screenwriters through my classes as well (the first year is more focused on writing than business / networking, which you'll likely have 1-2 classes on in your second year).

As far as the workload goes, fall semester isn't too bad. I think you'll be able to balance your full-time job and the courseload. Spring semester is much busier in comparison - I still think it's possible to balance a full-time job with classes but the crunch to deliver pages / papers for multiple classes might hit you a little harder. The good news is that you'll be more familiar with the pace of the program by then and what it's like to balance your job and classes.

For Fall Semester, my assumption is that you're taking the same 3 classes I took my fall semester (Feature Film Analysis, Screenplay Scene Writing, and Hour-long TV Writing).

Of those three classes, Hour-long TV writing is the one where you do the most writing and the most work in general. When I took it, we wrote two-ish drafts of an hour-long spec script as well as developing pitch documents for an original show / workshopping verbal pitches in class. If you're new to hour-long TV writing or the network five/six act structure, then this class will be a learning experience. You might not come out of it with a great portfolio-worthy sample, but you'll have definitely learned a ton (Professor Patti Carr is fantastic, too, and has tons of industry experience / insights).

The other two courses are less work, imo. Film Analysis is more or less what it sounds like - you'll be watching, discussing, and analyzing feature films. I imagine the class might be structured a little differently for you because of COVID, but all the major assignments when I took it revolved around breaking down feature films into the Professor's "Hero Goal Sequence" story structure paradigm. Some people loved his paradigm, others not so much - but the discussions and analysis you do will be valuable regardless of how you feel about the paradigm! My advice is to be open-minded, and if you find yourself not liking it, try re-framing the parts that you don't like

The Screenplay Scene Writing course was actually more focused on writing a draft-or-so of an original short film than scene-writing specifically. It's a great chance to get to know your classmates as writers and to think about what sorts of stories you want to write about / your voice as a writer. As far as the workload goes, it's similar to the Film Analysis course. I found myself spending more time on the hour-long writing course than the other two combined (just based on how much work was expected).

Hope this helps, and if you have any other questions or follow-ups I'm glad to answer them!
 

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