Current 1st year Chapman Directing MFA student - AMA

Cody Young

Tattoo/Film Enthusiast
Supporting Member
How much collaboration is there between the writing divisions and the directing division?
 

IndecisiveElle

Active Member
Supporting Member
Contributor
There's some required collaboration but it is what you make it. For me, I collaborate with the screenwriters a lot - I'll explain...

Starting with my class, our main production exercise in the fall must be written by a screenwriting student that's in our fundamentals of screenwriting class. The class is also attended by producers. (There's multiple sections to keep class sizes small). However, there are no producers on that project because it's considered an exercise.

Then in the spring semester we shoot our 8 page short films (a $1,500 stipend from the school) and those must be written by a screenwriter also. We chose the scripts from a pool submitted by all the 1st year screenwriters and work with them throughout the process of development. We're required to have development meetings with a production professor - my screenwriter was traveling so she Skyped in. That is what we are working on currently, the first weekend of filming rapidly approaching for some teams.

I've been working with the same screenwriter since last fall and we have a fantastic collaborative relationship. I adore her. Some of my classmates don't feel that way about their writing partners. Although I'm a writer myself and even applied for 2 years to screenwriting MFA programs, I love having someone to work with on scripts. My writer and I will likely pair in the fall as well although that is not mandatory. I've also had a team of writers approach me ask me to direct a webseries they're writing.

Most of the 18 first year directors see ourselves as writer-directors, but as Chapman has grown and developed a lot of the industry feedback that's been given about Chapman student films was that the writing wasn't up to par with the visuals. This new screenwriter and director pairing process is the current attempt to strengthen our writing. So far I think it's helping. But there are plenty of screenwriters that prefer to focus on building their portfolio too and we get a sense of who they are because they phone in the scripts they submit into the pools. Those writers have quickly gotten a reputation.

Chapman is incredibly receptive to student feedback, which means things do change year to year, so it's likely there will be some adjustments from this process next year. At the end of the day, like most film schools, the directors wield a lot of power over how projects are paired and who works with whom. I'd say be mindful of that if you want to find a creative partner... and be mindful of what kind of director you want to work with too in terms of process more than genre.
 

kid_a2

Member
As a potential Chapman MFA student for 2019 this is very informative, thank you!

Do you have an idea of how the facilities stack up against some of the other programs out there aka Columbia, NYU, UCLA, etc.?

Chapman is the only program I've personally visited so far, as the rest have been remote interviews. Chapman's facilities seemed really impressive but I don't have much to compare it to.
 

IndecisiveElle

Active Member
Supporting Member
Contributor
Our facilities are far superior. A lot of money (donations) has been poured into our tech. I have friends who went to Columbia and their jaws dropped when they saw what we had to offer. I've spent time at UCLA and AFI, we have more gear, stages, technology than either of those campuses. I can't speak on NYU. Nothing at Chapman/Dodge is older than 2007, most of it was built post 2012 and we are building and updating more stages as we speak. There's a camera list somewhere in the cinematography area of the information websites I think. Undergrad programs offer VFX and 3D animation courses you can audit too. You also have lifetime access to gear and stages as an alumnus (but are considered low priority if classes are in session).

The downside is that you are about a 45 min to 2 hour commute to LA.
 

kid_a2

Member
I have friends who went to Columbia and their jaws dropped when they saw what we had to offer. I've spent time at UCLA and AFI, we have more gear, stages, technology than either of those campuses. I can't speak on NYU. Nothing at Chapman/Dodge is older than 2007, most of it was built post 2012 and we are building and updating more stages as we speak. The downside is that you are about a 45 min to 2 hour commute to LA.
Oh wow, that's pretty impressive. I just assumed that it was probably on par with some of those other programs that seem to be more recognizable/greater public perception.

What's the living situation like? Do most of the MFA students live off-campus in apartments/houses, and what's the campus community like?

Thank you again for sharing your insights!
 

Cody Young

Tattoo/Film Enthusiast
Supporting Member
There's some required collaboration but it is what you make it. For me, I collaborate with the screenwriters a lot - I'll explain...

Starting with my class, our main production exercise in the fall must be written by a screenwriting student that's in our fundamentals of screenwriting class. The class is also attended by producers. (There's multiple sections to keep class sizes small). However, there are no producers on that project because it's considered an exercise.

Then in the spring semester we shoot our 8 page short films (a $1,500 stipend from the school) and those must be written by a screenwriter also. We chose the scripts from a pool submitted by all the 1st year screenwriters and work with them throughout the process of development. We're required to have development meetings with a production professor - my screenwriter was traveling so she Skyped in. That is what we are working on currently, the first weekend of filming rapidly approaching for some teams.

I've been working with the same screenwriter since last fall and we have a fantastic collaborative relationship. I adore her. Some of my classmates don't feel that way about their writing partners. Although I'm a writer myself and even applied for 2 years to screenwriting MFA programs, I love having someone to work with on scripts. My writer and I will likely pair in the fall as well although that is not mandatory. I've also had a team of writers approach me ask me to direct a webseries they're writing.

Most of the 18 first year directors see ourselves as writer-directors, but as Chapman has grown and developed a lot of the industry feedback that's been given about Chapman student films was that the writing wasn't up to par with the visuals. This new screenwriter and director pairing process is the current attempt to strengthen our writing. So far I think it's helping. But there are plenty of screenwriters that prefer to focus on building their portfolio too and we get a sense of who they are because they phone in the scripts they submit into the pools. Those writers have quickly gotten a reputation.

Chapman is incredibly receptive to student feedback, which means things do change year to year, so it's likely there will be some adjustments from this process next year. At the end of the day, like most film schools, the directors wield a lot of power over how projects are paired and who works with whom. I'd say be mindful of that if you want to find a creative partner... and be mindful of what kind of director you want to work with too in terms of process more than genre.
Thanks for replying! It sounds very exciting and very collaborative
 

Fernando González Ortiz

Member
Supporting Member
I might visit Chapman in the next couple of weeks. I want to audit some classes to know how it feels like and how classes are. Any recommendations? (MBA/MFA applicant)

My other option is the Creative Producing program @ Columbia University. Any classes that can give me the best impression on the producing track?
 

IndecisiveElle

Active Member
Supporting Member
Contributor
Oh wow, that's pretty impressive. I just assumed that it was probably on par with some of those other programs that seem to be more recognizable/greater public perception.

What's the living situation like? Do most of the MFA students live off-campus in apartments/houses, and what's the campus community like?

Thank you again for sharing your insights!

Orange is adorable AF - it's like walking into a west coast version of the town the Gilmore Girls lived in or a non-serial killer version of the little town in Scream. There's lots of options. Most MFA students are off campus but the campus is nestled into the city of Orange so some are within walking distance. Anaheim is nearby as well which is were Disneyland is. It's a lot more affordable than LA or NYC certainly, but if you're coming from elsewhere in the country be prepared for a higher cost of living than you may be used to. There's lots of links and info on the Chapman website to get you started in researching, but if you can visit before moving you'll have better intel.
 

IndecisiveElle

Active Member
Supporting Member
Contributor
This is amazing information! Thank you.

I'm wondering what made you want to make the switch from screenwriting to directing?
Haha that's a very long personal story. There was no 'switch' really. I'm still a screenwriter. But, I love being on set and you can read some of my blog posts on this site I've written if you're curious about my personal experiences in the film industry and filmmaking before I started my MFA.
 

IndecisiveElle

Active Member
Supporting Member
Contributor
I might visit Chapman in the next couple of weeks. I want to audit some classes to know how it feels like and how classes are. Any recommendations? (MBA/MFA applicant)

My other option is the Creative Producing program @ Columbia University. Any classes that can give me the best impression on the producing track?
I have no experience with producing programs so I can't make suggestions specific to that track. But you can look up the classes on the Chapman website - each discipline lists the required courses for graduation. I'm sure you'll have plenty of generous students when you visit that can give you more specific information to that program. Maybe I'll see you around campus!
 

IndecisiveElle

Active Member
Supporting Member
Contributor
What did your portfolio consist of?

I've answered this else where - there's a thread that has links to some of my videos - but one short from 2011 that I did in undergrad, a short I directed/produced on my own in 2017 (I think that was when we shot, I honestly can't remember but as I said this info is available in other places on the forums) and then threw in the short required for my AFI application for good measure. I think I may have thrown in a pilot script I wrote too.
 

Chris W

As You Wish
Staff member

IndecisiveElle

Active Member
Supporting Member
Contributor
What is the 531 Production workshop like?
All the production students are divided evenly into several sections. I really liked all the professors for this class and sat in on the other ones regularly when I could. There are 3 filmmaking exercises - I talk about those in some detail in the profile I just did. First one is solo, second is assigned team and the 3rd you pick your team. But this could all change by fall. Chapman created that design based on student feedback and we were the first students to do two - 3-2-1 assignments (again see the profile I did for more details on those).

In general these production classes are designed to further your knowledge of how to make a good film, receive feedback and criticisms, discuss other short films screened and are very workshop like in nature. I'd highly recommend checking out the course descriptions on the Chapman website. They're really useful.
 
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kid_a2

Member
Hey so I have a question about Chapman health insurance. I'm currently trying to sort out what to do while in school, and was wondering how competitive the rates and plan is compared to what you may have experienced either privately or through work plans?
 

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