How I Got In To Film School: Application / Interview Process Information and AMA

BuddernScotch

Active Member
AFI
Chapman
UCLA
(As with all information, take with grain of NaCl)

Hello there potential filmschool applicants!

The application / interview process can be stressful and confusing. Information online is scattered around in bits and are often third hand or from a decade ago. You may feel like you're trying to climb a mountain blindfolded.

That's how I felt as an international applicant to screenwriting mfa programs in LA. It took 3 sets of applications before I got into my first choice, and after all that portfolio-building and interview-prepping, I feel pretty well equipped to give information and answer questions (went through the full process with UCLA, USC, LMU, AFI, and Chapman, interviewed with all that required interviews).

Just a few things I wish I knew/truly understood to start things off...

MINDSET:
So, to be honest, I believe most filmschools are not looking for pure talent per se. Based on my experience, what is much more valuable are these things, and each school will be a little different in which takes priority:

Ability to work with others
Perseverence and drive
Unique story to tell (life experience)

I went in this year knowing that I am not the best writer in the world. Duh, I'm applying for school so that I can become that ;) even if you are the best, it is SO difficult to show that, based on personal preferences of the readers and portfolio requirement limitations.

It can come down to luck how "talented" you seem. So, focus on things that are less subjective, like the 3 points above. The easiest place to do this is with your STATEMENT OF PURPOSE.

How can you be as undeniable as your drive, how can you get that across to people that have read 100000s of applications all spouting the same thing? It's a cliche and that's why it often goes over our head, this "be you and be unique" type of thing, but really think about it. Who are you? Why do you want this so much? What do you have to offer that no one else does? And how do all these things tie together? Look into yourself and you will find these answers, my friend.

For the first two years, my SOP was something like: Garbage boring human who loves movies and can probably write goodish seeks entry into top film school please let me in.

That didn't work.

The final year, more along the lines of: Immigrant gamer girl with sad lonely outsider past seeks sense of belonging through books movies and the online world.

I realized that filmschool wasn't my actual goal. My actual goal was to tell stories in order to understand myself and others. Filmschool would help me get there.

And there are MANY wonderful schools at that, so please please do your research and apply to several choices and understand that even if you don't get into any of them there are so many paths to success it's overwhelming (and why I defaulted to filmschool). I tortured myself by being dead set on one program and wasted so much energy and time... I won't go into it.

There's not a program in the world that guarantees you success, so look around at the options!

In summ: Are you trying to tell stories so you get into film school, or are you trying to get into film school to tell stories?

APPLICATION:
Start early and revise, revise, revise. Heard this a million times but for the love of Jove please do it this time. You'll be waking up at 4am in a cold sweat thinking... "can't believe I used a semicolon when it should have been a normal COLON!!!!"

Double check all documents are correctly labelled, formatted, and submitted. Many schools require PDF only and won't read a docx file. USC has a ridiculous second "submit" button hiding from you after you complete the app and pay...

Clarity is likely better than newness when it comes to your pieces. Although your life experiences may be unique, don't have to force yourself to produce stories that are new and out of this world. I mean, unless you can effortlessly do so, in which case you may already be Alex Garland.

INTERVIEW:

- I shall update this if this thread gets any readers interested, as we get closer to interview times (Jan-March. Yup big window)
 
Last edited:

BuddernScotch

Active Member
AFI
Chapman
UCLA
@BuddernScotch Hey friend, I hope UCLA life is everything you hoped! Would you mind sharing your perspective on the interview process? ?
This may be a little late, but for any future viewers - UCLA's interview was very fun! Like many other schools you interview with one of the primary faculty members. Mine interviewer ended up being my "academic mentor", and also my prof for the first workshop, George (the best!).

The actual interview was very technically challenged. We had in total maybe 10 minutes of speaking time broken up by maybe 2 hours here and there of connection issues. Yet I got in! I have this feeling that they liked that I kept trying to reconnect and never gave up. Or maybe they liked broken robotic voice? Who knows...
 

dbmchugh

New Member
Supporting Member
Thank you for this great nugget of information! I second BigSpeaker12 and wanted to ask if you could share your statement of purpose with me? Not trying to rip any material, just want to see how you conveyed the nuances of personality through your essay :)
 

Jwhite62

New Member
Is it possible that you can share a little bit about your educational or professional experience? Thank you for this anecdote and its really helpful it does feel like your climbing a mountain blind while getting hit with dodge balls barefoot, which is to say that the process is harrowing and any clairity on what they find valuable in applicants resume would help.
 

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