USC MFA in Screenwriting Applicants 2018

Jaida Rukiya

New Member
Hey everyone, so after getting over the anxiety of having submitted an application that could drastically change the rest of my life I'm curious to meet those people that could become my fellow cohorts and also share this stress inducing journey as we wait on admission decisions.

A little bit about me:
USC is my dream school and actually the only one I applied to. I have always been a writer but fell in love with screenwriting in college, I'm mostly interested in feature films and interactive media. Most of my favorite films are Japanese :)
 

snoopdog

Member
I was looking for this thread! Thank you for creating one!
USC is my dream school as well. I re-applied to the screenwriting program this year after getting denied last year.
USC is the only screenwriting program I applied to this year. I also applied to Chapman and NYU for filmmaking.

This is always the most anxious time of the year. It's still a couple weeks away to hear from USC, though can feel the nerves dropping in.

Anyone else applied to USC and/or other programs?
 

MacAndEs

Member
Ayyyy, a board has been made for USC! I'm tempted to make the UCLA one.

Either way, I'm anxious as hell to hear back from any of the schools I applied to. Based on what I read in last year's forums: UCLA sends out interview requests around now, then USC does in the beginning of February.

Note that USC admits some students without an interview so don't feel like you're out just because you don't get an email or phone call.
 
“John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television review committee places considerable importance on the autobiographical character sketch, story ideas, writing samples, portfolio list and letters of recommendation during the application review process. There are no admission interviews. The committee ensures that all applicants are judged equitably by limiting evaluation to the items listed.”

Other SCA departments do admission interviews, for sure, but the John Wells department explicitly doesn’t for fairness’ sake.

Just wanted to let you guys know, I wouldn’t want you worrying over an upcoming interview that’ll probably never come! We worry enough as it is.
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA
“John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television review committee places considerable importance on the autobiographical character sketch, story ideas, writing samples, portfolio list and letters of recommendation during the application review process. There are no admission interviews. The committee ensures that all applicants are judged equitably by limiting evaluation to the items listed.”

Other SCA departments do admission interviews, for sure, but the John Wells department explicitly doesn’t for fairness’ sake.

Just wanted to let you guys know, I wouldn’t want you worrying over an upcoming interview that’ll probably never come! We worry enough as it is.
No interview for USC, but everyone who was accepted to UCLA (for Fall 2017) did have an interview.
 

Septopus7

Moderator
Staff member
Supporting Member
Hey everyone:

Excited for the "fun" of waiting around for acceptances/denials again! I too am a second time applicant, although I'm going into this year's scuffle with shall we say mixed expectations.

On the one hand, I think the samples I submitted this year are quite a bit better than the first time. My mind was more clear this year, and I played it less safe, ultimately choosing to submit stories that were more interesting and unique. HOWEVER, I am something of an idiot, and ended up writing a huge portion of it the day applications were due. In fact, I didn't even get a chance to read through the second half of my 10 pages before I submitted them. I refuse to read them now out of fear for the typos and mistakes that could potentially be in them. This is in contrast to last year, in which all my material was picked through literally dozens of times, and had very minimal errors.

So my material this year is better on a creative level, but I have to imagine less refined on a purely fundamental level. It's an annoying spot to be in, ESPECIALLY when you know all it would have taken was a couple of read throughs to clean things up...if they are flawed to begin with, of course. Once again, I haven't reviewed the material I submitted so, for all I know, they could be flawlessly written. But considering my track record, I doubt it.

In any case, I've spilt my guts enough. What about the rest of you? Any war stories from the application phase? How are we all feeling about our application packets this year?

UPDATE: I purposely submitted this comment without reading through it first. In these three paragraphs alone, I had three typos and misused words. Yeah...I'm screwed! :confused::confused::confused:
 

MacAndEs

Member
Hey everyone:

Excited for the "fun" of waiting around for acceptances/denials again! I too am a second time applicant, although I'm going into this year's scuffle with shall we say mixed expectations.

On the one hand, I think the samples I submitted this year are quite a bit better than the first time. My mind was more clear this year, and I played it less safe, ultimately choosing to submit stories that were more interesting and unique. HOWEVER, I am something of an idiot, and ended up writing a huge portion of it the day applications were due. In fact, I didn't even get a chance to read through the second half of my 10 pages before I submitted them. I refuse to read them now out of fear for the typos and mistakes that could potentially be in them. This is in contrast to last year, in which all my material was picked through literally dozens of times, and had very minimal errors.

So my material this year is better on a creative level, but I have to imagine less refined on a purely fundamental level. It's an annoying spot to be in, ESPECIALLY when you know all it would have taken was a couple of read throughs to clean things up...if they are flawed to begin with, of course. Once again, I haven't reviewed the material I submitted so, for all I know, they could be flawlessly written. But considering my track record, I doubt it.

In any case, I've spilt my guts enough. What about the rest of you? Any war stories from the application phase? How are we all feeling about our application packets this year?

UPDATE: I purposely submitted this comment without reading through it first. In these three paragraphs alone, I had three typos and misused words. Yeah...I'm screwed! :confused::confused::confused:
I feel like I was way too calculated in what I submitted this year for my packet (it's my first time applying to USC). I'm like halfsies on my material. For the autobiographical sketch, I relayed my story in the third person (which is pretentious but some of my professors loved it). The two creative challenges were off for me. I did a gay AF one for New Year's stuck elevator based on my own experiences (different names) then a weird "bugs took over the world" one for the two people stuck in a place one.

I thought my most challenging one was too first world problems-y and melodramatic and my writing sample was shaky.

BUT... my letters of rec were solid and killer and personal.

I think they prioritize creativity and candor (that's what a friend of mine who got in 3 years ago told me) so I worked off those guidelines but I'm so worried my optional stuff (like the finaid essay or the script pieces for that section were stronger than my actual stuff)
 
I had the same worries as you, Mac.

The first scene I wrote about a depressed 2016 meeting a devilish 2017 in the elevator, and for the other scene I wrote about a couple where one of them is a special agent with the mission to kill the other before he leaves the house. Tried to go for dramedy in the first one and comedy in the second one.

In retrospect, maybe not as creative, but I tried to be as enthusiastic as possible and convey my love for the medium through my writing.
 

Dorothy

Member
@Septopus7 it was interesting to read your comparisons of what you submitted last year compared to this year. I am sure your second go around really made a difference in your packet. Try to be positive. Maybe there aren't any typos to be worried about.

@MacAndEs I am sure that the advice you were given about creativity and candor made a difference in your creative challenges. I follow someone who went to USC in the screenwriting program. When I was preparing my writing samples she just so happened to release videos and actual material from her samples and sketches. Her sketches were written like a fictional short story. Without reading her samples I understood right away why she was admitted.

Instead of trying to recreate her writing style, I followed her instinct to take a chance with the written material. I wrote essays, one as a creative nonfiction essay and the other as a more lyrical piece. For the elevator scene, I wrote about an angel and a demon meeting in an elevator for a fun scene filled with banter. For the following challenge I really took a chance and wrote about an older and younger siblings at home during a heated black lives matter protest. I tried my best with the financial aid samples, writing something intended to be bilingual. My materials were diverse but I have no idea how they will be received. I tried my best and that's really all we can do, right?
 

Septopus7

Moderator
Staff member
Supporting Member
Yeah, to comment on the whole originality thing that @Michel Lichand brought up: It's tough. On the one hand, you want to be as creative and unique as you possibly can in order to get the committees attention. On the OTHER hand, you don't want to get too weird with it, and risk losing the reader or, even worse, your very own plot/themes/characters.

And, on the detached yet important third hand...these people have probably read many thousands of short scripts that are all tackling the same creative scenarios (Elevator story, two hander story, etc.) As much as I would like to think my basic concepts are new and unique...It's likely that SOMEONE at some point wrote something practically the same. My elevator story was a drunk talking to his past self in a mirror. My two-hander was about a girl and her dog. It's likely these basic ideas have been written about by applicants in the past, if not THIS VERY YEAR. There are only so many ideas, after all. So rather than focus solely on how unique I could be with the concept, I figured the execution (i.e. the way I set up the scenes, the dialogue between the characters, etc.) would best sell me as a strong candidate.

...That being said, as always, I have to preface this on the fact I am a failed applicant, and 95% having no idea what I am talking about. But, hey, if I didn't have my own philosophies on what to aim for when writing these, I probably would have gone
crazy long ago.

On a related not, your elevator story sounds fascinating, @Michel Lichand. Are they like human personifications of the year going at it, or like metaphorical beings or something ? Are they actually called "2016" and "2017" in the script? Just the pitch alone left me curious, so that's probably a good thing!
 

GoAndLoveSomeMore

Active Member
Hello everyone!

I’ve been constantly lurking these board since last December when I started working on my applications. I just got the courage to post and I’m happy that we are in this boat together, even if it is a rocky one! :)
 
Oh, thanks for the compliments, @Septopus7 . To answer your question, they were personified, and I tried to cast 2016 as a somewhat tragic figure who couldn't control the events that happened during her tenure. I quite liked the final result.

If it helps, I ended up writing the Scholarship essay on the day I submitted my application. It was a two-pager about how I saw a lot of paranoia and tendencies towards xenophobia coming from the older side of my Jewish family and how that might have been a reflection of the military dictatorship in Brazil. I was running against the clock and didn't get a chance to refine it, but I was okay with how it ended up.
 

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