Current 1st year Chapman Directing MFA student - AMA and I'll try to give you the best info I can
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.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.
Thanks for replying! It sounds very exciting and very collaborativeThere'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.
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!
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.This is amazing information! Thank you.
I'm wondering what made you want to make the switch from screenwriting to directing?
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!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?
What did your portfolio consist of?