How to get into the top film schools

I wrote this article for my internship with online publication Dream Row. It was published on May 17, 2012.

How to get into the top film schools

Written by Nicole LaChance

While modern technology makes it possible for anyone to be a filmmaker, there is still no substitute for a good, old-fashioned film school. Having access to the resources, equipment and experience of a film school and its faculty helped start the career of greats like Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and Spike Lee. So once you have decided to go to film school, what schools should you consider? And how do you get in?

California Institute of the Arts

Located in Valencia, California, CalArts (as it is commonly known) is less than an hour away from the movie capital of the world. The school was founded in the 1960s by film great Walt Disney as the first degree-granting institution created specifically for students of the arts and offers BFAs in a variety of film disciplines, as well as an MFA in Film Directing. The school counts Tim Burton and Pixar’s John Lasseter among its alumni.

Applicants to the School of Film/Video are required to submit their best video work, preferably less than 10 minutes, along with other creative work that helps the school understand their filmmaking process. They are also required to submit an artist’s statement describing their reasons for applying, their artistic goals and concerns about their film-making practice, along with two letters of recommendation. For more information on admissions requirements visit the school’s website “Apply to CalArts” page.

University of North California School of the Arts

UNCSA, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is unique in that it offers courses for high school, undergrad and graduate students. The school offers BFAs in several film-related disciplines as well as an MFA in film music composition. Notable alumni include actor and director Danny McBride and Observe and Report director Jody Hill.

All applicants to the School of Filmmaking must have a minimum high school GPA of 3.0 or an equivalent GED test score. Applicants must submit a two-page artistic statement and a resume detailing their professional experience and education objectives. All applicants are also required to have an on-campus interview to which they must bring a portfolio. Requirements for the portfolio vary by specialty and can be found at the school’s website admissions page.

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University’s location in Los Angeles provides a great setting for film students.  The university’s School of Film and Television offers BFAs and MFAs in production and screenwriting and provides students use of a wide range advanced equipment, such as a sound stage and a screenwriting lab. Sandlot director David M. Evans and X-Files director and producer James Wong are among the university’s alumni.

Applicants apply to the university in general, rather than directly to the School of Film and Television. Applicants must submit official transcripts and ACT or SAT scores as well as one letter of recommendation from an official at the last school they attended. More information on admissions can be found on the school’s website admissions page.

University of Southern California

Just like Loyola Marymount, USC’s Los Angeles location can not be beat for those studying film. Founded in 1929 with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, USC’s School of Cinematic Arts is the oldest film school in the country and considered one of the best in the world. The school offers several undergraduate and graduate programs in varying disciplines. Among the school’s many notable alumni are Judd Apatow and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner.

Applicants must submit a personal statement of no more than 1,000 words and short statement of what discipline interests them and why. They must also submit a writing sample and either a five-minute video sample or six-photo series narrating a character, along with three letters of recommendation. More information on admission requirements can be found at the School of Cinematic Arts’ webpage.

Columbia University School of the Arts

This New York-based arts school offers MFAs in screenwriting/directing and producing, as well as an MA in film studies. The film program is considered one of the best in the world, but only accepts about 6 percent of its applicants.  Kathryn Bigelow and Walk the Line director James Mangold are among the school’s alumni.

Applicants must submit three letters of recommendation and a 2-3 page film scenario based on prompts from the school’s website. Applicants must also submit writing samples and film treatments, depending on their desired major. More information about admissions and writing samples can be found on Columbia’s website.


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