The mission of the Film MFA in Screenwriting/Directing is to rigorously train story-tellers in film, television and digital media. The course of study at our film school includes two years of creative workshops and related courses, followed by one to three years of thesis work. Students are immersed in the principles and working methods of a variety of genres and dramatic forms. Through multiple exercises and short film and script projects they are encouraged to explore their understanding of the medium, with the ultimate goal of establishing each student’s personal voice.
Students in the Film MFA: Creative Producing Program share the first-year curriculum and some of the second-year electives. In bringing these programs together, the faculty actively encourages the development of professional collaborations that last throughout film school and beyond, and fosters the environment of mutual support that we have believe is essential to the creation of film.
Course of Study
The first year courses include workshops in producing, directing, screenwriting, and directing the actor, reflecting the faculty's belief that the best training for screenwriters, directors, and producers must include experience and knowledge in all of these disciplines. Studio classes are comprised of about 11 students and the emphasis is on hands-on, process-oriented creative work.
The first semester culminates in a 3-5 minute film which each student writes and directs.
The culminating projects of the first year are 8-12 minute films. Each student directs a film, using a screenplay originally written by another student in the program. For each of these films, director and writer work together during the spring semester, with the guidance of several faculty members, to prepare the final script. Additionally, every student must act as producer on a film other than the one he or she directs. The films are shot over the summer after the first year.
A critique of all the finished films begins the second year of study and is open to the entire film school.
After the initial year, students choose a concentration - screenwriting or directing - but may take courses in the other concentration as electives. Electives may include writing, directing, producing and cinematography courses, or courses in other programs of the School of the Arts, or throughout the University. Every student must take two courses in film history/theory/criticism prior to graduation.
Both second-year directing courses, Directing 3 and Directing 4, culminate in the creation of short films, adding to the portfolio with which the student eventually leaves school.
The principal second-year screenwriting sequence, Screenwriting 3 and Screenwriting 4 requires the student to structure and write a feature-length screenplay. Students may also write half-hour or one-hour television scripts in elective courses.
The required 60 credits of course work must be completed in the first two years, after which the thesis period - lasting from one to three years, at the student's discretion - begins. For screenwriters, the thesis is a feature-length screenplay or an equivalent amount of writing for television. For directors, the thesis can include up to two completed short films directed by the student. Additionally, students in the screenwriting concentration may direct a film (the optional non-thesis film) prior to their screenwriting thesis. Likewise, each student, regardless of concentration, may polish one or more feature screenplays in our workshop on Script Revision. (Students concentrating as screenwriters are required to take Script Revision at least once.)
Students in the thesis period are no longer taking courses for credit, but they meet regularly with their advisors for intense developmental work on their thesis ideas, take thesis preparation classes, and may take master classes with guest filmmakers. Topics regularly offered in master classes include television directing, directing the first feature, comedy workshops, advanced editing, film scoring and adaptation. Shorter master classes are offered by a range of internationally recognized filmmakers.