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Columbia University Course/Program Name
Application closes on
National :01 Feb
International :01 Feb

MFA Screenwriting/Directing

 Course Level
Masters / PG
Full Time

3 Years
 Start month

 Tuition fee

28680 USD
28680 USD

Application fee

International 110 USD
National 110 USD
School of Arts
Scores accepted
IELTS (min)7
TOEFL-IBT (min)100
GRE (avg)315

World University Ranking

About this course

The mission of the Film MFA in Screenwriting/Directing is to rigorously train storytellers 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 and Research Arts 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 (both short and feature-length), they are encouraged to explore their understanding of the medium, with the ultimate goal of establishing each student’s personal voice.

Students in the Creative Producing MFA concentration 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.

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Eligibility Criteria

International applicants should have the equivalent of a U.S. baccalaureate degree, and should understand idiomatic English and speak, write, and read English with a high degree of facility.

Check further details on University website

Course Modules

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 of and knowledge in all of these essential disciplines. These workshop classes are anchored by lectures covering the fundamental principles of directing, screenwriting, and producing.

Workshop classes are comprised of not more than 12 students and the emphasis is on hands-on, process-oriented creative work.

In the first semester, each student works on short scripts in screenwriting, and directs a 3–5-minute film in a directing class.

The culminating project of the first year is the creation of an 8–12-minute film. Each student directs a film, from his or her own screenplay or one written by another student in the program. Several courses in the first-year curriculum help to generate and prepare these scripts for filming in the summer of the first year. 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, and a critique of all the finished films begins the second year of study.

Students will also complete their first feature-length screenplay during the first year of study.

As the second year begins, students in the Screenwriting/Directing concentration continue their course of study in these disciplines.  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 the School.

The principal second-year screenwriting sequence, Screenwriting 3 and Screenwriting 4, requires the student to structure and write a feature-length screenplay, working with the same instructor and the same classmates for both semesters.

Also in the second year, students interested in television writing may take an introductory television writing class in the fall semester, and television writing workshops in both the fall and spring terms.

Electives for the second year may include writing, directing, producing, and cinematography courses, courses in other programs at the School of the Arts, or throughout the University.

Every MFA student must take one course in Film History/Theory/Criticism (HTC) during the first two years of study. Students planning to apply for teaching assistantships should take two HTC courses.

Students are asked to confirm their plans for thesis work by mid-year of the second year. In the spring semester of the second year, students will be assigned an advisors from their chosen concentration and area of specialization, and that advisor will supervise all thesis work.

The required 60 credits of coursework must be completed in the first two years, after which the thesis period—lasting from one-to-three years, at the student and advisor’s discretion—begins.

All Screenwriting concentrates take Script Revision in their third year of study, and TV Revision is also offered for students doing television writing thesis work.

Screenwriting also offers elective courses such as Advanced Feature Writing and Advanced Pilot Writing, which are open to all students in the concentration.

Thesis work for Screenwriting concentrates can be an original screenplay, or a television writing or new media thesis package of at least 90 minutes of original pilots of new media writing.

In addition to the thesis script(s) Screenwriting concentrates submit one of the following as part of their thesis work:

  •  A revised and polished second feature screenplay (with or without a short film)
  • 90 minutes of revised and polished television or new media writing (with or without a short film)
  • A short film, PLUS sixty (60) minutes of revised and polished television or new media writing

For  Directing concentrates, thesis work can include up to two completed short films directed by the student.

During the thesis period from the third year onwards, students 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, pitching seminars, advanced editing, and film scoring. Shorter master classes are regularly offered by a range of internationally recognized screenwriters, television writers, directors, and producers.

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How to Apply

1.Completed Application: Must be submitted online.

2. Undergraduate Transcript:
Please upload a scanned copy of your undergraduate transcript to the online application system. No other transcripts are required, though applicants may submit transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended if they wish. Do not mail official paper transcripts prior to an offer of admission. Official Transcripts are only required after an applicant has been admitted to the School of the Arts, and must be received by June 30, 2017. To be considered official, transcripts must include the institution’s seal or stamp and must be submitted in an unopened envelope, signed or stamped across the seal. If an applicant’s name has changed since the undergraduate degree was received, the Admissions Office must be notified of the change at [email protected], so that the transcript can be correctly added to the applicant’s file. Any offer of admission will be provisional until we receive your official undergraduate transcript showing conferral of your undergraduate degree. Applicants must have a baccalaureate degree or the equivalent from an accredited undergraduate institution at the time they matriculate into the School of the Arts.

3. Three Letters of Recommendation: Online submission of the letters of recommendation is preferred. If you are not utilizing the online submission method, the letter of recommendation form may be downloaded here. Fill out the applicant portion of the recommendation form, and provide it and a self-addressed stamped envelope to each recommender. Recommenders can be undergraduate, graduate, or professional contacts; they should be people who can speak to your creative ability and potential. Request that they: (1) enclose the recommendation; (2) seal the envelope; (3) sign their name or place their stamp across the seal; and (4) mail or give the envelope directly to you. All recommenders must meet the deadline. If they do not, the applicant will incur a late materials fee. If your recommender does not wish to send the envelope directly to you, they must send it directly to:

Columbia University School of the Arts
Admissions Office
305 Dodge Hall, MC 1808
2960 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

They must write your full name and date of birth on the letter. Again, all recommenders must meet the deadline.

4. Creative Materials Required for Application: Please click below for a list of creative materials that are required for each program. All submitted creative materials must clearly bear the applicant's name, date of birth, name of program to which he or she is applying, and title of the material (dramatic writing sample, autobiographical essay, etc). The School of the Arts does not provide portfolio or application material reviews.

Film MFA
Film Studies MA
Theatre MFA
Visual Arts MFA
Writing MFA
Interdepartmental Program: Sound Arts

5. $110 Online Application Fee: This may be paid by credit card when submitting an application online; or by check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank and denominated in U.S. dollars. Checks and money orders must be made payable to Columbia University. . We cannot accept postal money orders. Applicants should be sure to write the program and, if applicable, the concentration to which they are applying on the check or money order; if the check is that of an individual other than the applicant, the applicant's full name must be included as well. Application fees are nonrefundable and cannot be waived; no application can be processed without the application fee.

Presentation of Materials
Our Admissions Committees take note, among other factors, of the professionalism of your presentation and the appropriateness of your materials to our specific requirements. Do not add or substitute items and do not exceed length limitations. Please do not use permanent bindings, notebooks, or oversize paper. Unless requested, please also staple together the pages of each requirement, but do not staple all requirements to each other.

Responsibility for Materials
Please keep copies of all materials submitted. Do not send your only copy.

All materials included in a School of the Arts application become the property of Columbia University. The School of the Arts will not return any submitted creative materials. Applicants should note that the School is not responsible for the transportation and safekeeping of materials submitted for review; applicants send all materials at their own risk.

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