Want to know one of the biggest application mistakes? IFI is answering your film school questions.

Int Film Institute of New York

IFI Director - Misael Sanchez
The International Film Institute (IFI) supports all aspiring filmmakers as they work towards an education in film. During the application period for film schools, we're here to take your questions!

We have seen one of the most common mistakes when submitting an application to a school is focusing the personal statement on "why you have always wanted to be a filmmaker". Instead, focus the personal statement on a challenge in your life that has inspired personal growth or change. The program already knows you want to be a filmmaker. Take this opportunity to inform the faculty about your experiences outside of film and focus on how to tell that story in a way that will highlight your storytelling ability.

What else do you want to know? I'll respond to your questions in this thread until November 1! - Misael Sanchez
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Md Masud Bin Monsur

Video Editor & Producer
Filmmaker is a kind of dream we know.Your objects was fantastic for me mind.And the other hands without filmmaker you could be accepted new idea as like strong hard in their life.


Fall 2017 Applicant
Hi Misael, I have a Q on personal statements. In terms of overcoming challenges, how do admission committees generally feel about the challenge being a commonly misconceived mental disorder? Without being specific, something that could hinder the filmmaking process and social life. I've read that some like to hear of adversity, but is it possible that might actually hurt someone's chances of admission? And what if mental illness is an actual theme in one's film and artwork? Thanks!
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Int Film Institute of New York

IFI Director - Misael Sanchez
Hi Coded,

That is a great question. Before I get into the possible thought process of the admissions committee on a personal statement I would like to first discuss the second part of your question.

The filmmaking process aside, I want to be clear about a very central aspect of making movies. It is an absolute social experience. Filmmaking is that one career path that cannot be done on your own. The entire business is based on relationships. No matter what your situation, before you decide to go into the business, it is imperative that you evaluate how much your specific situation will affect your ability to not only work with others, but really, how you cultivate and develop the relationships you will make from the very first day you step into school or work life.

With my students I am constantly advising them to be mindful of how to work with others. The industry, as big as it is, in actuality is very small. How well you work with others and interact will get around. Those that understand this will achieve more opportunities for advancement and success. So, before you get into 3-5 years of school debt, take some time to evaluate yourself and how you think your situation might affect your time after you leave any program of study.

That said, unless you have to include a letter to the school outlining your medical situation, you should assume that your personal statement will be taken as an expression of your ability to tell a story. And that story, of course, will be your story. Yes, it is true that overcoming a challenge or situation goes a very long way when it comes to having faculty read your application. The worst thing to do is just go on about how you’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker. A clear personal statement with a beginning, middle, and end will help you stand out. If the mental disorder is something that is misconceived, and you plan to make that the focus of your personal statement, then it is imperative that you help with making the reader understand that misconception and how you will work on, through the films you develop, help support your mission of clarity.

If you write an essay outlining points that support you clarifying the misconceptions, and if you share how you plan to work toward avoiding road blocks to your success as a film student and community member, the next step for the program will be to invite you in for the follow up interview. That will be your opportunity to help the committee understand your personal situation and, hopefully, see you as a prospective student with a great story that will be a productive member of the community.

The personal statement is very important. The most important part of your application, in my regard. That said, make sure all your other ducks are in a row. Grades, GPAs, letters of recommendation, sample work, etc. Finally, keep in mind, those letters of rec can go a very long way in supporting your essay.

In the end film school admissions are looking for great candidates to fill their seats. They should also be mindful of providing prospective students the best possible experience and path to success once admitted into a program. This is where, if it were me reading your application, and everything points to you being a possible choice for admission, I would want to meet in person to evaluate if “YOU” think my program would be the ideal choice for you. Applicants need to be honest about themselves and their abilities. Telling your story at the start of the relationship, of course, is a risky endeavor. Especially, as you say, your situation involves is a misconceived disorder. There is no 100% way to predict how a particular admit board will evaluate candidates. Personally I would prefer to learn about you sooner than later.

I really do hope this helps and I wish you the very best of luck as you apply and work toward furthering your academic experience. Remember, once admitted anywhere you are paying tuition. Make sure it’s worth your money.


Fall 2017 Applicant
Wow, I wasn't expecting such a great, thorough answer! Thank you very much for the in-depth response. It really does help a lot.
One of my recommenders suggested that the personal statement is a space to talk about what you will bring to the discipline and area of study. It is not a time to discuss personal challenges or talk about what you want . She explained that the personal statement is where you tell how you're a great fit and what you can offer the program. What are your thoughts? I think she fails to see that admissions into an MFA program is different from admissions into med school or a ph.d program.

Also what are your thoughts on applicants who specify that they only want to work on a specific genre in tv/film/screenwriting?

Will that look bad if the school is focused on well rounded candidates?

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