Little film experience, seeking help with MFA in Production/Directing Fall 2021 applications to UCLA & FSU

Chyneazy

New Member
Hi everyone!

I'm a Wyoming native, about to get my BFA in Theatre, conc. Acting. I'm seeking advice for resumes and portfolios for the MFA at FSU and UCLA in Production and Production/Directing respectively.

Since I grew up in Wyoming, I don't have much film experience and I'm not sure how to format my resume. What exactly do they look for? Some say to lean towards a professional resume and others say a creative resume.

My academic and professional experience is in publicity, social media, and directing for theatre. I've made 2 videos. One is 1 minute narrative short and the other is a recruitment video for the theatre department. I also had a brief screenwriting independent study with a professor here and I've been a PA for one professional short film.

I don't have references or connections rooted in the film world either. I could use any and all advice or help.
 

jorge92

Member
Supporting Member
UCLA
Although I haven’t started at UCLA, I can say many of these top programs do not require any professional experience in film. However, I would definitely begin working on a short narrative film that you can submit with your applications.

UCLA is probably the only school I know of that does not require a visual sample for the application. Instead, you submit a short film treatment and your statement of purpose. They focus heavily on storytelling ability and less so on the technical aspect of filmmaking, at least during the application process. The idea is they can teach you the technical stuff once you’re admitted.
 

dkimg21

Member
Supporting Member
UCLA
Hey neighbor!

So a little background: As of this fall, I will be a Production/Directing student at UCLA. Coming from Colorado, I definitely know what it's like to have a lack of a film scene. I moved to Rochester, NY for my undergrad and NYC for a couple of internships. I did a lot throughout my undergrad in terms of film, but I definitely do not have as much professional experience as other applicants. I practically threw a hail mary when I applied to NYU, Columbia, and UCLA (still made it though 🙃)

So while I can't say anything about FSU's program, I can definitely say a lot about the application at UCLA (and a couple of other programs).

For UCLA, you do NOT need to send in a video/photo portfolio. And that was the most shocking thing to me! You will need 3 letters of recs, including an academic one, and a CV.

However, the three main parts of the application are: Personal Statement (PS), Statement of Purpose (SoP), and Creative Supplement (CS). Focus most of your time on these! The PS and SoP are about one page single-spaced, and my CS was about 3-4 pages (I think?). Basically, all three of these will be the deciding factors, along with a possible interview. To keep it short, think of the prompts this way: the PS is WHO you are, the SoP is WHY you're going, and the CS is WHAT you'll be doing in grad school (as in, what sort of topics will you be tackling in your films and stories).

Quick breakdown: PS and SoP are really simple at first, but it's really about condensing the most interesting aspects of yourself and telling a story. Start brainstorming this immediately because they are much more difficult than you'd think. The CS, if I remember correctly, needed to be in a treatment format. I don't know if it changes year to year, but double-check and learn the structure. Then, write something interesting that is feasible to shoot.

One of the most important things to remember is that you will be competing against hundreds, possibly thousands, of applicants. And this is for around 20-30 spots. Tell something interesting, and give compelling reasons as to why you want to go to film school.

Sorry if this was a long post! Hopefully, this info helped and good luck on the application process!
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
BU
I'm seeking advice for resumes and portfolios for the MFA at FSU and UCLA in Production and Production/Directing respectively.
Although it's USC... The advice in the following interview should apply to most film applications:

How to get Into USC Film School: An Interview With an SCA Admissions Committee Member

How to get Into USC Film School: An Interview With an SCA Admissions Committee Member

Considered by many to be the best film school in the world, it’s no wonder why the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) is so sought after by prospective undergraduate and graduate students alike. However, the film school’s prestige can often make the application process particularly stressful and...
 

cseckman

Member
Hi everyone!

I'm a Wyoming native, about to get my BFA in Theatre, conc. Acting. I'm seeking advice for resumes and portfolios for the MFA at FSU and UCLA in Production and Production/Directing respectively.

Since I grew up in Wyoming, I don't have much film experience and I'm not sure how to format my resume. What exactly do they look for? Some say to lean towards a professional resume and others say a creative resume.

My academic and professional experience is in publicity, social media, and directing for theatre. I've made 2 videos. One is 1 minute narrative short and the other is a recruitment video for the theatre department. I also had a brief screenwriting independent study with a professor here and I've been a PA for one professional short film.

I don't have references or connections rooted in the film world either. I could use any and all advice or help.
Hey, these answers have covered a lot of it pretty well I’d say, but I’ll add some from my own experience! I‘m about to start at UCLA this fall in the MFA Producer Program. I come from a similar background to yours as well. I’m from a small town in West Virginia, no connections to anyone in film, and not a lot of film experience either. I also worked on a couple shorts and was a PA on one professional feature.

It sounds like you have more experience than you’re giving yourself credit for, honestly. You’ve got some experience in film and performing arts in general, and your professional job is also creatively rooted.

As far as a resume goes, I actually didnt know there were different types lol. The one I submitted was just a standard professional resume.

I agree with what was said about Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, and Creative Supplements being hands down the most important aspect. It’s cliché for sure, but be honest and use your own voice to write the two statements. Use each of them to tell a story about who you are. If you’re anything like me, you probably worry about sounding as professional and perfect as possible, but I was rejected from Columbia twice before getting into UCLA. On the Columbia apps I always tried to sound academic and professional (if that makes any sense), then I decided to sort of wing it and have some fun with lower expectations applying to UCLA. Rather than trying to write very formal and professional, I wrote it more conversational. Try to make it something that they’ll enjoy reading and it’ll stand out.

Theyre not kidding when they say they want people from all different backgrounds. Don’t try to be what it is that you think they want, just be who you are and best of luck to you!
 

jn0pe

Member
Supporting Member
American University
Chapman
Emerson
FSU
University of Miami
Hi everyone!

I'm a Wyoming native, about to get my BFA in Theatre, conc. Acting. I'm seeking advice for resumes and portfolios for the MFA at FSU and UCLA in Production and Production/Directing respectively.

Since I grew up in Wyoming, I don't have much film experience and I'm not sure how to format my resume. What exactly do they look for? Some say to lean towards a professional resume and others say a creative resume.

My academic and professional experience is in publicity, social media, and directing for theatre. I've made 2 videos. One is 1 minute narrative short and the other is a recruitment video for the theatre department. I also had a brief screenwriting independent study with a professor here and I've been a PA for one professional short film.

I don't have references or connections rooted in the film world either. I could use any and all advice or help.
Hi! I was in much the same position as you last fall. In fact, I probably have less experience than you do. But happily I am getting ready to start the MFA in Film Production at FSU next month! With the resume, I'd try to tailor it to reflect your creative abilities; even if your work experience isn't film related, in the job descriptions you can point out attributes that will be applicable to film (i.e. collaborative work, problem solving, etc.)

I agree with what everybody said about letting your voice come through in the Statement of Purpose / Personal Statement. You can use your background of being from Wyoming to talk about some different perspectives or insights you might have gained that someone on the East or West coast may not have. (Coming from Kansas, I did this somewhat.) I think that those essays are a hugely important part of a successful application, and you can really make a case for yourself as to why this is something you want to do, even if it isn't reflected in your past work experience. It's also your chance to explain how your experiences (professional or not) influence you creatively. I'd highly recommend telling a story in the Personal Statement (perhaps even just 1 paragraph) to tie in; it gives the committee something more to remember you by and allows them to experience what you're like as a storyteller.

FSU: You'll need to have a writing sample based on the given prompt (ours was a 2-page non-dialogue scene about killing a spider), film a 3-minute video pitch, and submit some sort of video portfolio. Honestly, my videos were the weakest part of my application, so I think the writing is what helped me stand out. Either way, highlight your strengths as much as you can. In my interview, I openly criticized the work I had done on the short film I'd submitted and explained what I learned from the mistakes I made while making it.

If you have any other questions or would like to see some of my application materials, feel free to send me a direct message. Good luck!
 

jn0pe

Member
Supporting Member
American University
Chapman
Emerson
FSU
University of Miami
Hi! I was in much the same position as you last fall. In fact, I probably have less experience than you do. But happily I am getting ready to start the MFA in Film Production at FSU next month! With the resume, I'd try to tailor it to reflect your creative abilities; even if your work experience isn't film related, in the job descriptions you can point out attributes that will be applicable to film (i.e. collaborative work, problem solving, etc.)

I agree with what everybody said about letting your voice come through in the Statement of Purpose / Personal Statement. You can use your background of being from Wyoming to talk about some different perspectives or insights you might have gained that someone on the East or West coast may not have. (Coming from Kansas, I did this somewhat.) I think that those essays are a hugely important part of a successful application, and you can really make a case for yourself as to why this is something you want to do, even if it isn't reflected in your past work experience. It's also your chance to explain how your experiences (professional or not) influence you creatively. I'd highly recommend telling a story in the Personal Statement (perhaps even just 1 paragraph) to tie in; it gives the committee something more to remember you by and allows them to experience what you're like as a storyteller.

FSU: You'll need to have a writing sample based on the given prompt (ours was a 2-page non-dialogue scene about killing a spider), film a 3-minute video pitch, and submit some sort of video portfolio. Honestly, my videos were the weakest part of my application, so I think the writing is what helped me stand out. Either way, highlight your strengths as much as you can. In my interview, I openly criticized the work I had done on the short film I'd submitted and explained what I learned from the mistakes I made while making it.

If you have any other questions or would like to see some of my application materials, feel free to send me a direct message. Good luck!
Also: I heard that the video pitch has potential to be a really important part of the applications process at FSU. Try to get creative with how you pitch your story; I've seen some of my classmates' videos where they filmed in multiple locations, added in sounds, etc. Mine was pretty boring, but again, I'm aware that it was a weaker part of my application in particular.
 

Chyneazy

New Member
Hi everyone! Thank you SO much. You guys are rockstars and my heart is so full. This is like 10x more expertise than I expected from this post.

At UCLA I didn't know that there was a PS and a SOP. I've always only seen the SOP on their application materials page. I only saw the PS required for the Eugene Cota-Robles scholarship. I am definitely confused about the differences between the SOP and the PS and I think I combined them for my UCLA SOP.

Also, a lot of people have been discussing unique perspectives. TBH everything about my background is kinda unique and influences my passion for filmmaking. I was actually born in China, adopted, and raised in a suuuuper white community in WY so all of that kind of fuels my creative energy.

Thank you again! I feel like I understand the process and the materials a lot better now!
 

dkimg21

Member
Supporting Member
UCLA
Hi everyone! Thank you SO much. You guys are rockstars and my heart is so full. This is like 10x more expertise than I expected from this post.

At UCLA I didn't know that there was a PS and a SOP. I've always only seen the SOP on their application materials page. I only saw the PS required for the Eugene Cota-Robles scholarship. I am definitely confused about the differences between the SOP and the PS and I think I combined them for my UCLA SOP.

Also, a lot of people have been discussing unique perspectives. TBH everything about my background is kinda unique and influences my passion for filmmaking. I was actually born in China, adopted, and raised in a suuuuper white community in WY so all of that kind of fuels my creative energy.

Thank you again! I feel like I understand the process and the materials a lot better now!
I would definitely consider separating the PS and SOP, but if you have a good draft of the combined version, I HIGHLY recommend applying to Columbia. They have an autobiographical essay requirement that kind of acts as both a PS and SOP.

Also, super cool to meet a fellow Asian-American who wants to study film! Good luck on both apps!
 

dkimg21

Member
Supporting Member
UCLA
:eek::eek:

Errrr that is SHOCKING

Chris is right. There is plenty of other fish in the sea, so keep at it and I'm sure you can get in!!!
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
BU
Because of COVID I'm not even able to direct a 5 minute film.
Nonsense!

You can easily shoot a film. Use the camera on your phone. Shoot it yourself. Heck you could make an entire film using inanimate objects if you needed to.

Use your limitations as your inspiration for a good story.
 

Chyneazy

New Member
I'm debating between applying to a couple of the top film schools: NYU, Columbia, and USC.

Does anybody know if any of these schools value diversity at all? That's really important to me as a person and an artist, and that's why I loved UCLA so much.

Also, I know everyone here is super encouraging but I don't think I can afford the application fees for all 3 so are any of them more known to accept a person without professional film experience? I want to be realistic. If I can't apply for these schools, I totally get it!
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
BU
NYU, Columbia, and USC
Check out the interview with @Patrick Clement on Columbia:

COLUMBIA FILM SCHOOL STUDENT PROFILE: Patrick Clement -  Screenwriting & Directing MFA

COLUMBIA FILM SCHOOL STUDENT PROFILE: Patrick Clement - Screenwriting & Directing MFA

"I went to Columbia because I wanted to be a better storyteller and understanding structure... and I do think my storytelling has gotten better and more complex and deeper and I'm really grateful to Columbia.... they delivered exactly what I expected them to deliver." Recently I had the...

He's also very helpful if you have questions.
 

dkimg21

Member
Supporting Member
UCLA
I'm debating between applying to a couple of the top film schools: NYU, Columbia, and USC.

Does anybody know if any of these schools value diversity at all? That's really important to me as a person and an artist, and that's why I loved UCLA so much.

Also, I know everyone here is super encouraging but I don't think I can afford the application fees for all 3 so are any of them more known to accept a person without professional film experience? I want to be realistic. If I can't apply for these schools, I totally get it!
From what I researched, Columbia is the closest to UCLA. NYU is kinda close too, but USC is a very different program.

Like UCLA, Columbia's film program heavily emphasizes the storytelling-side of film. Their program is also incredibly small (25-30 students I think, possibly a little more), so diversity is key, especially for a school in NYC. Also, I should mention that there are 2 tracks (Screenwriting and Directing) in the program, and you basically decide by your 2nd year.

On the other side, NYU and USC focus heavily on specialization to improve your chances of getting a job. Set design, audio mixing, editing, costuming, etc. I'm pretty sure up to 100 students get accepted to those programs, perhaps more, so expect a lot of heavy competition if you hope to become a director, DP, or writer.

I think, at the end of the day, it really depends on what you're looking to become and what you look for in a program. I haven't started grad school yet, but I can already tell that I picked a program that fits my career and personal needs. I'm hoping to become a director/writer, and what I seek is a close community of artists that will help each other succeed.

PS: If UCLA is your dream school, or if you want to explore other options, it does NOT hurt to take a year off, especially since you can't apply to UCLA this year. In the long term, UCLA is HALF of the other schools' tuitions and offers great scholarships after a year. I took 6 months off after my undergrad to decide if film school was right for me, and in that time, I just explored different avenues before committing. I tried my hand at YouTube, entry-level film positions in CO, music production, and even banking! Talk with a mentor or advisor, get to know what other film students are doing, and research the schools. Patience will help you make a better decision without hurting your career!
 

sa96

Active Member
I'm debating between applying to a couple of the top film schools: NYU, Columbia, and USC.

Does anybody know if any of these schools value diversity at all? That's really important to me as a person and an artist, and that's why I loved UCLA so much.

Also, I know everyone here is super encouraging but I don't think I can afford the application fees for all 3 so are any of them more known to accept a person without professional film experience? I want to be realistic. If I can't apply for these schools, I totally get it!
I got into USC and FSU without any professional film experience. The only experience I had was making my short film for the application, DPing a friend’s short, and Art Directing another friend’s short. The only thing that came up in my application interview about my experience was that I had worked with others in a film capacity. They didn’t care that it was very indie/not professional - they wanted to know that I could collaborate and get along with others. USC is apparently known for accepting based on perspective vs. experience.

Also, as a POC, during USC’s ‘Admitted Students Day’ I felt the people accepted were diverse (across all ages, regions, ethnicities). In regards to tuition, I don’t know how much UCLA is but for the production program, USC is $37k a year (3 years) and FSU is $49k an year (2 years). However, at FSU if you get a TA position which all accepted students get to apply for, it covers 60% of your tuition. Similarly, USC also has SA positions, scholarships, and financial aid to help with tuition. Lastly, in terms of class size FSU takes 24 students and USC takes 60. Feel free to message me if you have any questions!
 

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