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Film School MFA Application advice from Accepted Students

  1. Chris W

    Chris W FilmSchool.org Owner Staff Member

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    Chris W submitted a new Article:

    Film School MFA Application advice from Accepted Students

    Read more about this article here...
     
  2. Chris W

    Chris W FilmSchool.org Owner Staff Member

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    To all successful applicants from this round...

    @dvxdm @boopthatnose @ireneyang @Comedynerd @germbug @revolotus @Zeno @Kira @yellowbeauregard @Nathan_Drake @Briona Mornam @Rochelle Pascale @raechen @SaltyDornishman @August @Nikhail @Heisenberg91 @hopefulstudent @paolz317 @turburr @Cecil @clairewitchproject @HBG @Tony Yang @Guac @fayelll @glebski @Fiober @TingYu @kremchi @mr.wanderer @JoanHolloway @moni4liberty @mbosma @Exal Iraheta @lolfilmstuffok @Nar @Spielberg777 @leicafan1990 @coffeeteaandme @YMK @Bruin17 @JAY JAY @turburr @bimshine @Operator @Yunzhi @cinebella @Cortezbros. @Tianzuo Shi @veratin @gargamel @msleslieknope

    Would you be willing to give responses to these questions in this thread to help future applicants?

    1. To which schools did you apply to?

    2. To which schools were you accepted?

    3. If you were not accepted to certain schools why do you think that was the case?

    4. To what school did you decide to attend and why?

    5. In your opinion, what did you do in your application or interview that caused you to be accepted?

    6. If you submitted a portfolio what did you submit? What aspects of your portfolio do you think caused you to be accepted?

    7. If you were interviewed during the application process how did the interview go? What interview questions were you asked? How do you think your interview went?

    8. Do you have any advice for future applicants?

    9. If you are now attending the school, how do you like it? (if applicable)

    10. What has surprised you the most so far about the school?
     
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  3. moni4liberty

    moni4liberty Member

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    Hey Chris and other Filmschool.org folks. Hoping I can offer a couple of shreds of advice.

    One thing to keep in mind when starting this process--you're almost certainly going to be disappointed in yourself at some point, angry and frustrated. But, it seems, that's just part of the process. Use the negative energy as best you can, channel it into productivity. And hopefully at the end, you'll leave feeling proud of what you've done.

    I'm also attaching my personal statement and one of the USC writing prompts so that you can get an idea of what I used to apply. Hope this all helps!
    1. To which schools did you apply to? I applied to USC, NYU, UCLA, and Brooklyn College for a screenwriting MFA.

    2. To which schools were you accepted? I was accepted to USC and Brooklyn, denied from UCLA, and accepted off the waitlist for NYU.

    3. If you were not accepted to certain schools why do you think that was the case? UCLA requests a writing portfolio of up to 200 pages, and I submitted about 70 pages worth of shorts and one pilot. I think a better option would have been to submit a feature in addition to the other things I submitted.

    4. To what school did you decide to attend and why? I decided on USC over NYU and Brooklyn College. It was a tough choice because I've always wanted to live in New York, but I'm interested in writing for television, and USC was definitely the best program for that.

    5. In your opinion, what did you do in your application or interview that caused you to be accepted? The only rule I tried to follow during the application process was "don't show them anything they've seen before." So, for my personal statements, I completely avoided all talk about why I like filmmaking and what's special about it. I didn't even mention film until the last quarter of my statement. I focused on things that were totally unique to me, that no one else would say. Same for the writing samples. Just don't be cliche. Be as uniquely you as possible!

    6. If you submitted a portfolio what did you submit? What aspects of your portfolio do you think caused you to be accepted? For USC, they require specifics. My goal there was to not be cliche about it all. For UCLA, I submitted my USC samples (I don't recommend doing that, probably not a good idea), a pilot, and a handful of shorts. For NYU, I submitted the same pilot and a spec of Another Period. I think it comes down to having something unique to say, and trying as much as you can to avoid sounding generic.

    7. If you were interviewed during the application process how did the interview go? What interview questions were you asked? How do you think your interview went? I was interviewed by NYU via Facetime and it was very short and informal. Got waitlisted after that, and then accepted in May off the waitlist. For Brooklyn, the interview was much more formal and serious. They asked about what screenplays I was reading, what I've been doing other than film stuff. Generic interview questions.

    8. Do you have any advice for future applicants? Try your hardest to be unlike other applicants. Your experience in the industry doesn't seem to matter, why you're passionate about film doesn't seem to matter (as much as you think it does). What seems matters is your unique voice.
    Best of luck, and please feel free to reach out if you have any more specific questions!
     

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  4. Chris W

    Chris W FilmSchool.org Owner Staff Member

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    This is great advice. :)
     
  5. Chris W

    Chris W FilmSchool.org Owner Staff Member

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  6. Chris W

    Chris W FilmSchool.org Owner Staff Member

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  7. Chris W

    Chris W FilmSchool.org Owner Staff Member

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  8. BadouBoy

    BadouBoy Member

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    Well, here goes...

    1. To which school did you apply to? I applied to NYU, AFI and the Kino Eyes European Movie Masters. All for directing.
    2. To which schools were you accepted? I was accepted to AFI.

    3. If you were not accepted to certain schools why do you think that was the case? I think my portfolio for NYU was just not strong enough. I didn't spend enough time working on it. I literally changed an entire essay on the night of the submission deadline. Don't change an entire essay on the night of the submission deadline, guys.

    4. To what school did you decide to attend and why? I decided not to attend AFI because I couldn't afford to.

    5. In your opinion, what did you do in your application or interview that caused you to be accepted? I was confident in the quality of everything I had submitted, and what I wanted it to reflect about me.
    6. If you submitted a portfolio what did you submit? What aspects of your portfolio do you think caused you to be accepted? I submitted two 5 minute films, one of them an excerpt of a longer work. I think my portfolio showed diversity in my storytelling. One of them was a social drama and the other an dystopian sci-fi esque concept.
    7. If you were interviewed during the application process how did the interview go? What interview questions were you asked? How do you think your interview went? My interview went okay. I was asked about my favorite films. I was asked to talk about what I felt I could improve about my submissions, and I was honest about it. I think it went generally well.
    8. Do you have any advice for future applicants? Applying to film school is not easy. It's competitive. There are hundreds of applicants, a lot of them gifted storytellers, who all want the same spot as you. Remember that when you set out to start an application. Don't half-ass it. Make sure everything you submit was crafted to the best of your ability. Share it with people you trust and get feedback to improve it. Also - this is important- try to reach out to people who are attending/have attended the school, to learn more about the program and get application advice. I can't stress this enough. There's only so much you can learn from a school's website (not very much) and from the admissions office. And I will say that site is an invaluable resource in that respect. There are great people here who are willing to help you, if you look hard enough. Take advantage of it. And good luck!
    P.S. Nothing is more agonizing than the waiting period.
     
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  9. Kira

    Kira Active Member

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    1. To which schools did you apply to?
      I applied to UCLA, USC, BU, and LMU for the MFA in Screenwriting program.

    2. To which schools were you accepted?
      I was accepted to all the schools I applied to.

    3. If you were not accepted to certain schools why do you think that was the case?
      N/A

    4. To what school did you decide to attend and why?
      I wavered between UCLA and USC, but ultimately picked UCLA. The program requirements are more elective heavy (sort of like design your own program) and the quarter system also worked in their favor. In addition, I knew I would live on or near campus and felt safer at UCLA (thanks Westwood).

    5. In your opinion, what did you do in your application or interview that caused you to be accepted?
      I tried to show two things throughout the application process: diversity and potential. Not only is my background diverse, but what I submitted was diverse as well. If my personal statement was serious, then my supplementary essay was lighthearted. Regarding potential, I believe in this quote by Steve Martin: be so good that they can’t ignore you. I tried to be the best screenwriter in that application pile, or at least show the most potential to becoming the best.

    6. If you submitted a portfolio what did you submit? What aspects of your portfolio do you think caused you to be accepted?
      In my arsenal, I had a Hannibal spec and a bunch of short scripts. The shorts were all diverse in both theme and tone: a sweet romcom, a Gotham-esque heist, a lighthearted camp, and a dark psychological thriller.

      I believe that my home run was Hannibal - I received comments throughout the process on how it read like a professional script. However, every script must be able to stand on its own. Even though each program asked for at least 2 different scripts (if not 200 pages), I asked myself “if this was the only piece they read, would it represent my best work?”.

    7. If you were interviewed during the application process how did the interview go? What interview questions were you asked? How do you think your interview went?
      I had an in-person interview at UCLA. I prepared by going through and answering most questions on the FilmSchool interview question list. I didn’t memorize, but I knew what information or aspect I wanted to convey. After the interview, I could tell that my interviewer was impressed by my work, but I could also see that he was concerned with my young age (I was still in uni). From my POV, it could have gone either way. I just did my best to show that my life experiences and writing should define who I am, not my age.

    8. Do you have any advice for future applicants?
      If you are the best screenwriter in the room, get out. Especially since we are baby writers! Find someone with more screenwriting knowledge than you and work with them, not with your best friend or parent. They mean well but it will not help you as much as someone with a little more experience. The worst thing though, is writing in isolation. If you can’t find a mentor, then another pair of eyes is a necessity. Sharing your work is like sharing a bit of your soul: it’s hard. Yet if you can’t share it with a person you trust, then maybe you should reconsider applying to a program whose foundation is on work sharing.

      Be unique!!! When coming up with an idea, I NEVER go with my first idea. Or the second, third, or fourth. Everyone will think of those, so don't write them! My ideas don't get good until at least #12 or so.

      Have something to work on while waiting to hear back. The waiting game is excruciating! I was happy to be busy during the months of waiting. I had a new job, exercised a lot more, and wrote a Brooklyn 99 spec script. If I didn’t have those things going on in my life, I would be refreshing my email every minute like a madman.

      Whether or not you are accepted, it’s okay to take a month or two (or a few) off. If you are like me, you were probably on writing mode or waiting mode for 6 months with various amounts of stress. It’s okay to ease off the gas peddle. After I was accepted in March, I didn’t write anything for a couple of months. I read scripts, read books on screenwriting, watched films, etc., but did not write.
     
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  10. Zeno

    Zeno Member

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    1. To which schools did you apply to? UCLA, Columbia University, AFI, UT Austin, Art Center-College of Design
    2. To which schools were you accepted? Invited to interview at all but UT Austin and Art Center. Was accepted at Art Center.
    3. If you were not accepted to certain schools why do you think that was the case? Since all grad arts programs say that an undergrad GPA is less important than portfolio I'll say: my interviewers questions implied that my portfolio needed to be more vertically integrated. Basically, your statement of purpose, writing, and resume should have a strong through line. And, most of all, talk about life experience other than film. I leaned harder on my film experiences. In retrospect, I should have talked about having assisted a stone sculptor as a polisher and my being a fine artist in my statement of purpose. Multiple interviewers asked me about it.
    4. To what school did you decide to attend and why? Decided not to put down my deposit for Art Center because I was waitlisted at Columbia which was/is my first choice. Waited until the end of August and did not get off Columbia's wait list. Then discovered that my spot at Art Center had been given away a couple months before. Wanted a writer-director based program that has the institutional muscle and reputation to back my efforts. Art-Center does not have that as strongly as the others even though it's a great school. For these reasons, will reapply again this year.
    1. In your opinion, what did you do in your application or interview that caused you to be accepted? My application was strong enough to get interviewed at the competitive schools I applied to so maybe that equals acceptance at a school like Art Center. Again, great school but more an outlier as film schools go.

    2. If you submitted a portfolio what did you submit? What aspects of your portfolio do you think caused you to be accepted? Had a statement of purpose that read like a story and dovetailed with my portfolio, writing that tried to take risks and was specific to my experiences and topical, and my videos were carefully conceived and made. Moreover, I got no bull feedback on all of it from both friends and colleagues.

    3. If you were interviewed during the application process how did the interview go? What interview questions were you asked? How do you think your interview went? Interviews got better as I went. Started with AFI and got some odd personal and portfolio questions that were indelicate. Never recovered from there. Frankly, turned me off to them. UCLA was very professional. Was surprised how interested they were in the fact that I worked for a stone sculptor. They wanted to know everything about how it is done. Was not prepared for that because it was only an anecdote on my online form. And I figured I'd leave my fine arts background out initially because it's film school and I have lots of film experience. In retrospect, maybe a bad call. They asked me my three favorite films and books and why. My pitch was wonky because I'd prepared it one way and, yet, they wanted it another way. They did say most were doing it wrong. Needed to be what you see on screen and not like a typical professional pitch with a logline, etc. Columbia was a great interview and was on the same wavelength with the interviewers. I chalk that up to luck as Trey Ellis is both a warm individual but his work is also somewhat similar to mine. We are both filmmakers interested in social commentary. He even grew up in the town I live in. We talked a lot about the kind of films I make and why. He asked me what filmmaker would be complimentary to me. He offered Taylor Sheridan before I could reply. Was going to say this but wish I'd said it first. Ironically, was rattled by how casual and extemporaneous it was. It was just a conversation and onus was on me to spin it. They liked when I said that while I like a message in film, character and story must be first. He said, that's what they do there. Not a flawless interview but solid compared. It's said that most don't get into Columbia on the first try.
    4. Do you have any advice for future applicants? Simply, you need to portray what makes you uniquely you and have it all vertically integrated in your application. Helps if what makes you uniquely you dovetails with something topical. Get lots of feedback on your materials before you apply. Prepare for the interview by being ready for any question about you and dig deep for something about them. Heard an anecdote about a UCLA applicant getting an edge in because he'd somehow unearthed and familiarized himself with an out-of-print book by his interviewer. Suffice it to say, the interviewer was blown away. It's not a perfect meritocracy, they just want to distinguish you from the rest of the applicants. Finally, applying again when you've been rejected from certain schools is often a plus. UCLA said they think it shows grit which makes you more attractive as an applicant. There are only a few spots and many great applicants. It's a numbers game at a certain point. So, stand out and hopefully beat the odds.

    5. If you are now attending the school, how do you like it? (if applicable): N/A

    6. What has surprised you the most so far about the school? N/A
    Feel free to message me if you guys have more questions or need feedback. Hope this helps and good luck to all of us applying this year!
     
    #10 Zeno, Sep 2, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2017

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