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  • #2
    Other universities may work this out a bit differently than what I did at California State University, but I know if I'd applied for grad school in Screenwriting, they would have wanted to know that I already had a "body of study" in that field. Not sure of that's the right way to put it.

    Screenwriting teaching begins at the freshman level and continues on to advanced classes by the time you graduate. In addition to taking all of those required courses, I did many "senior projects" and "independent studies" that consisted of writing and critiquing my screenplay with a faculty advisor. I was also allowed to substitute some classes in the major with yet another screenplay project.

    Then, and only then, could I have applied to get a Master's and go beyond the B.A.

    It sounds like your major was film theory. How many actual screenwriting classes did you take that involved writing a whole screenplay? What I'm getting at is that if you just now want to take up the study of screenwriting, some universities may not allow you to do it at the graduate level. They just might require you to re-enter as a lowerclassman seeking a B.A.

    That's merely a guess on my part. I do not really know what answers you might get and you will never know until you ask. So contact those departments and ask away. Good luck to you.

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    • #3
      I believe at least UCLA's grad program for Screenwriting doesn't require you to have been a Screenwriting or Film major. It is the only place I really read about so far. That being said, one feature script under a professor's instruction, and two on my own time.

      I've been writing for years and have gotten reads, the whole she-bang, but I just was thinking going to grad school might be helpful.

      Thanks, though. I'll try to talk to specific departments.

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      • #4
        USC and UCLA both have graduate screenwriting programs.

        USC's grad program started up (they already offered a BFA in screenwriting at the time) when I was there getting my MFA in filmmaking in the late 1980s. I briefly considered switching programs, but after looking at the proposed curriculum, decided to stay in the production program. There weren't enough requirements for production classes in the screenwriting program.

        I went to USC in order to become a filmmaker--the whole package--not just a screenwriter. So I stayed in the filmmaking MFA, and just took an extra buttload of advanced screenwriting classes, too. I could pretty much study that craft with all of the screenwriting teachers who were also teaching the screenwriting MFAs. There were maybe two instructors who were only available to the screenwriting MFAs, and not to the production MFAs. That's all. So I don't feel I missed a thing in screenwriting when I stayed in the production program.

        USC is horribly expensive. I think UCLA isn't that far behind in regard to $$$ per semester. But you could always go the student loan/grant/scholarship route in order to attend.

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        • #5
          I understand the State Universities in California aren't exactly cheap these days, either.

          And when I enrolled at CSUN, "Screenwriting," per se, was not an actual major. Our Department was the Radio-Television-Film Dept. and when you got your B.A., your "major" was listed as Radio-TV-Film Production even if you never took a single radio or film class and even if you majored in Media Management or Government Regulation of Broadcasting or Screenwriting. I think they've changed things since that time.

          It's good for any film student to know where all the AV facilities are on a college campus and to network with anyone connected to any of them.

          Our university had a full TV production studio in the basement of the library that was totally a "university moneymaker" and unrelated to the TV studio the TV production students used in the Speech and Drama building. In fact, all TV production students were officially banned from using that facility.

          But that didn't stop me from buddying up with the guy who ran the thing and he even altered a TV commercial for me to insert into one of my productions - the old John Houseman Puritan commercial where his last line is, "Puritan wants you to win?" This guy had John Houseman say in an evil deep voice, "Puritan wants you to sh*t." It was hysterical when my program ran for final judging by my classmates.

          I also cut film student costs by going to the local camera shop in my college town and cutting a deal with the guy for free camera rental and developing (with special effects) in exchange for talking him up to my fellow film students and posting flyers for him and handing out business cards.

          Film school is DAMN expensive. You gotta do what you gotta do.

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          • #6
            Postal:

            your best resource is the web. There you will find everything you need regarding course req, cost, etc. What exactly did you want to know?

            One plus for UCLA over USC that you might not glean from the net is the neighborhood: UCLA's campus & Westwood blow USC's away.

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            • #7
              >>One plus for UCLA over USC that you might not glean from the net is the neighborhood: UCLA's campus & Westwood blow USC's away.

              So true (having survived USC and South Central L.A.) But if you have a car, just try to find parking at UCLA or in Westwood--parking that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, that is!

              Well, now that I think of it, the same problem is true of USC...

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              • #8
                I don't remember paying for parking at UCLA but I always had to go to this one huge structure, the same one every time. And then walk across campus to where my classes were and there was some sculpture garden that was fairly creepy late at night. Maybe I did pay, but I don't remember that.

                My Mom also went to UCLA and I took her back there once and she was shocked that it had turned into its own little city. She remembered Royce Hall and some of the older buildings and this one staircase, but nothing else was familiar to her.

                I liked that there were lots of places to get coffee and a snack on campus during breaks. And if you ever could find a place to park in Westwood, it was fun to walk around the place on a Friday night. Alice's Restaurant was one of my favorite places to go. And Ship's Coffee Shop on Wilshire and Westwood. That place is gone now but it was a landmark.

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                • #9
                  My main suggestion, based on what I've read and people I know, is to NOT go into debt for graduate school. While you might make some connections at an LA school and get a sale out of it, most people don't. Look at an MFA program for what it really is: two to three years to work at your craft in a community of like-minded people. If this helps you write better screenplays, then you of course increase your chances of selling a script. This perhaps is contrary to what Hollywhooped recommends on this site, but if you come out 50 or 100 grand in debt -- well, you'd better sell a script mighty fast.

                  I found this article informative and interesting:

                  www.austinchronicle.com/i...creen.html

                  While it's about the screeenwriting program at UT Austin, the principles included in it apply to lots of places. Of course, all the screenwriting MFA students at UT get big-ass fellowships.

                  Generally speaking, most grad programs don't require a film major to get in. They require mostly a good script/other writing samples (in many cases you have to submit, along with a script, an academic essay, a creative assignment, etc.) Many programs advertise the fact that they look for students with diverse educational/work backgrounds.

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                  • #10
                    >>Look at an MFA program for what it really is: two to three years to work at your craft in a community of like-minded people.

                    You don't just work in a community. You're being taught, in the case of USC and UCLA, by some of the best instructors in the business. Yep, you've got to be in class. You aren't just hanging out with fellow filmmakers. You not only have to shoot and edit your projects, you've got homework, papers, exams, etc.

                    >>If this helps you write better screenplays, then you of course increase your chances of selling a script.

                    When I went to film school, I was a good prose writer. But I didn't know how to write a feature screenplay UNTIL I'd taken years of screenwriting classes. Even then, that learning and honing stretched beyond school. It took me four or five years to really learn the craft.

                    >>Generally speaking, most grad programs don't require a film major to get in.

                    True. My B.A. was a double major in English Lit and Art History. Which, as one of my filmmaking professor's noted, was an excellent background for a filmmaker--words and images. It really did help, as did the fact that I do a lot of drawing and painting, and had done my fair share of still photography up to that point.

                    >>They require mostly a good script/other writing samples (in many cases you have to submit, along with a script, an academic essay, a creative assignment, etc.)

                    I don't know about other programs, but when I applied to USC, they didn't require a script at all. That's what you were going to the school to learn! They didn't expect you to already know. They required other types of writing samples (if I recall correctly, one was a critical essay, one was a personal essay. Hey, it was a long time ago.)

                    I don't know what USC's application requires today, but that's what I had to provide, along with a portfolio list and all of the academic stuff like undergraduate transcript and Graduate Record Exam scores, plus personal recommendations, etc.

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                    • #11
                      I wasn't sure if your comments are intended to support or rebut my comments -- I think we're more or less on the same page. But just to clarify an important point:

                      >>You don't just work in a community. You're being taught, in the case of USC and UCLA, by some of the best instructors in the business. Yep, you've got to be in class. You aren't just hanging out with fellow filmmakers. You not only have to shoot and edit your projects, you've got homework, papers, exams, etc.

                      I think we're talking about the same thing here. Certainly when I said "to work at your craft" I didn't mean to imply to slack off or just hang out. I'm not sure that the word "work" has a secondary meaning that implies such a thing. I assumed that any person serious enough to apply to graduate school would assume that "working at one's craft" meant going to class and taking it seriously.

                      As far as community: effective writing programs always nurture a sense of community, the backbone of which is the workshop. You are working and writing with and critiquing the work of other people -- work that's so important to them that they have made it their lives, at least for two or three years. A feeling of community necessarily springs from this. While the specific act of sitting down and writing a script or critical essay may be solitary, nothing else about filmmaking is.

                      >>When I went to film school, I was a good prose writer. But I didn't know how to write a feature screenplay UNTIL I'd taken years of screenwriting classes. Even then, that learning and honing stretched beyond school. It took me four or five years to really learn the craft.

                      Again, I think we're on the same page. My main point was that a screenwriting program is supposed to make you a better screenwriter (whether you've written zero or twenty screenplays by the time you start). And it's true, school is only a start or a mid-point to learning one's craft. But what I meant to address was the notion that many people have that "Hey, I'll go to screenwriting school and sell some screenplays and be rich," and while that happens sometimes, it's not the norm, and it's not the point of school. If you become a better writer, or if you make friends who become successful, then you have a better shot of selling a script; but "making a deal" isn't what school's about (though the possibility is of course always in people's heads). I think people who go to school with the basic goal of "I'm going to study writing for three years, and learn it (or start to learn it)" get more out of grad school then those who think school is merely a means to make money.

                      Again, if I misread the tenor of your post, I apologize; hopefully this clarifies my original comments.

                      And of course, the best advice that any writer of any genre should take is from Bottom, in A Midsummer Night's Dream: "Take pains; be perfect."

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                      • #12
                        BP, I was just expanding and trying to clarify some things. I feel so strongly about some issues, I imagine it sounded a little strident. I didn't mean it to be.

                        I don't want to leave the impression that USC was all hearts and flowers, because it wasn't. When I graduated, the film school did nothing, repeat N-O-T-H-I-N-G, to help place its graduates into industry jobs. That still chaps my hide. Their policy may be different now, but it was their indifference when I was attending (and graduating) that left a bad taste in my mouth.

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                        • #13
                          That's cool. I totally understand the frustration of putting in a lot of work and feeling like it's not fully appreciated or rewarded. Actually, I think your clearly strong emotions about the subject should be pretty useful to the person who started the thread and anyone else checking in, because they help paint a realistic view of both the intellectual challenges but also the possible frustrations of grad school.

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                          • #14
                            TwelveMile, your USC experience with regards to getting help and intros into the industry was very different from the experience I had at CSUN (California State University, Northridge). My department and my professors all but held my hand and packed a lunch for me in focusing and channeling me along the right path to finding at least entry-level jobs and internships. Some made the connections for me. And in networking, you keep expanding those connections outward and outward.

                            Speaking of networking and how it's a small world... [ALL NAMES HAVE BEEN DELETED TO PROTECT THE GUILTY] I applied for a "receptionist" job at a Hollywood casting agency (no, I won't name it) and while waiting for my interview, I sat in the lobby. The long table in front of me had a large bowl of marijuana and some zig-zag papers and I was invited to partake as I waited. I did not. I admit to a pot-smoking summer when I was 15 years old, but that's about the extent of it for me.

                            The on-duty receptionist decided she wanted to go out for lunch and asked if I would answer the phone for her. She showed me how to look up auditions for clients (most of this casting agency's "work" that they charged people money to do consisted of reading trades the clients could have read for themselves for free).

                            After two or so hours of giving this place some free labor, the receptionist came back and told me I could go on in to the boss's office. OH? HE WAS THERE? I never saw him or heard from him in the two hours I was "working."

                            I go in and this guy is a cartoon of 70's macho-ness with silk shirt open to show the graying hair on his chest and all his gold chains. He was smoking a joint and offered some to me. I very nicely thanked him but no thanks.

                            He told me the "job" consisted of me working for free for three months as a "probationary" employee and if they liked my work, they would keep me and hire me as paid from then on.

                            D'oh. So they were ripping off their own workers - firing them after three months and "hiring" a new free employee for their no-brainer work.

                            The Boss said we were going to continue our "interview" at some chi-chi bar in Beverly Hills and from there he was taking me to a party and he hoped I was into cocaine because that's all they did at this party.

                            So I very politely said I didn't do drugs. At all. Ever.

                            And the guy said, "You know, I don't think you're going to fit in around here."

                            We were happy to see the last of each other.

                            A year goes by and I'm on the location set of a movie (my first PA job where I made such dumb goofs people couldn't wait to see what I'd screw up next) and I'm talking to one of the actors and got around to telling this casting agency story and he says, "Oh wait, don't even tell me the guy's name. I'll tell YOU." And he did.

                            Seems the actor had early on made the mistake of going there and was offered the same "fringe benefits" I was offered with the same implication that he would also share cocaine with and have sex with the same guy. Nice.

                            Small world. Hollywood is a very small town so I won't be mentioning the guy's name, but if there are any actors around here and they've made the casting agency rounds, they probably know who I'm talking about.

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                            • #15
                              Ugh! I would have walked out when I saw the bowl of pot! I'm not a drug user, never have been, never will be. I'm the ultimate square, and went to Hollywood because I foolishly thought I would be able to write and direct some good movies. Silly me. I never did learn how to play the sex-drugs-let's-do-lunch game, because I had no intention of learning it. I find the "Hollywood" lifestyle absolutey putrid and despicable. All I wanted to do was actually work and make films. Again, silly me. I think my only goal now is to find independent financing and make small films.

                              One day, you will definitely need to tell this story about the casting agency (with all the names included) in a book about H'wood!

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