How much work is a screenwriting MFA?

Dan

Member
Weird question to ask, as it goes without saying thst anyone pursing a masters needs to be prepared to make a big ass effort...im just wondering, how much time do you spend doing work that isnt actually writing? Is it like a shit load of essays and volumes upon volumes of reading and research, or is it really just about writing, editing, and exchnaging feedback? I just have No experience with grad school at all and am curious about what to expect. Thanks friends.
 

JEC

Member
Yeah, I'm curious about roughly how many hours a week are spent in class and how many hours are spent studying/prepping for exams/writing. I'm sure it varies depending on the school and the classes you take outside of straight seminars but if anyone has a ballpark, I'd be grateful. FYI, I can write scripts fairly quickly so I'm talking more about essays or work beyond turning in pages on screenplays/plays/pilots, etc.

Also, is scheduling fairly flexible so that you can stack all of your classes into a couple of full days or are you kinda stuck getting what you get?
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA
I can only speak for the MFA in Screenwriting program at UCLA---

The workload is generally up to you. Your first quarter it's a little more set, but after that you can take the minimum of 12 credits or up to 30 or more (ha).

Scheduling isn't super flexible if you're taking a lot of classes, but with a lighter schedule you can probably only come to campus 1 or 2 days a week.

Some of my peers only have a workshop and an elective (which can vary in workload), but if they're both on the same day, they have classes for 6 hours and then a 6 day "weekend" (great for those working other jobs). You don't get a lot of flexibility in your writing workshop, but can pick whatever electives that work best for you.

You can go the opposite way - a la me - and take 2 writing workshops (a feature and tv pilot), an elective, TA, and intern. I was on campus or at my internship 5 days a week and only had Sat / Sun and a couple of mornings to write, but that worked for me. Also set aside 2-3 hours per workshop to read your peers' material and give good notes each week.

Also -- you might be doing a lot of outside research for your scripts. I did a historical piece and every free moment I had I was reading books, watching films from that time period, and watching modern tv shows set in that decade.

As for academic papers -- that's pretty minimal in my program. Easier CMS classes (film / tv theory) usually only have a 30 min presentation and a 10 page paper due at the end of the quarter. A harder CMS class might have a 10 page reading response due every week - but again, you get to pick which electives you take.

Hope that helps a bit?

Some writers work best with a lot of free time to ponder and think and write and rewrite. Others (like me) like being busy. Both options are possible.
 

Dan

Member
Thank you for that detailed response it is definitely helpful. Im sure it will vary by program but knowing that that’s how a top school does it is good to keep in mind as a rough idea of what to expect elsewhere, thanks
 
I'm at UT and it depends on your classes.

first semester I took an elective in the AA studies department, so I had to read 4 novels and write 2 papers. This term , our elective is Histoyry of Film so we have research and assignments outside of class.

But for our writing class, the bulk of our work was writing, reading other classmates work, and perhaps watching movies/tv shows
 

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