Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

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  • Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

    I know there have been a lot of posts about whether film school is worth it - I don't care, I want to go. I love studying screenwriting and surrounding myself with people that love it and care while being guided by amazing professors and working individuals.

    So, that said, would anyone who pursued an MFA in screenwriting from USC or UCLA be willing to share their thoughts on how best to stand out/ apply? Maybe via PM in a somewhat mentor style, or here if you would prefer to share with the rest of us folks that are applying?

    The deadline isn't until next Nov/December, so I have time, but want to be as prepared as I can be. Thank you!
    www.JustinSloanAuthor.com

    http://www.CreativeWritingCareer.com
    http://www.MilitaryVeteransinCreativeCareers.com

    Twitter: @JustinMSloan

    Want a free book?

  • #2
    Re: Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

    I graduated from UCLA's MFA program and I can tell you--going through that program was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I got a few years to focus on the writing and develop a body of work, and I made a LOT of connections with both classmates and instructors (most of whom work in the industry), and have won or placed in several competitions with scripts that I wrote there. It also led to me getting my manager. Yes, it's expensive. However, it's a great experience, and you'll learn a lot and become a better writer. You'll also leave with a lot of meaningful connections. If you go, be sure to get to know your fellow classmates well. Those are going to be your strongest and most supportive professional contacts when you get out. Of my friends from UCLA, four have sold TV pilots, six others are staffed on televisions shows, seven have made it into fellowship programs (ABC/WB/CBS/ScreenCraft, etc.)...and at least seven others have sold scripts or been hired on assignment. We're all rising in the industry together--and we are helping one another along the way. So...it CAN lead to things if you take advantage of the networking opportunities.

    My best piece of advice for the application is to emphasize your life experience. They need to know that you have something to say. And of course, work on your samples and your essays. When it comes to admission for UCLA, the writing comes first. Show why your voice is unique and why you are different than the other 2,000 people that apply for those 20-30 spots.

    The other "tip" I have is to also apply for the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting. It's a one-year certificate program that's structured very similarly to the MFA. Think of it as an unofficial feeder system. You get a year of instruction from MFA professors in workshops similar to the MFA, and if you do well, you can get a recommendation for UCLA from a UCLA MFA instructor. You also get to see first-hand if the UCLA program is what you want--before you shell out serious money for the MFA (it isn't cheap--but they do have scholarships available). They also want to see that you can make the intense deadlines of the MFA program (you write a full feature-length script every 10 weeks, and if you're like I was, a tv pilot or spec in that time as well). But here's the kicker (and the main reason I mention it): about HALF the incoming UCLA MFA class each year are professional program alumni, so you increase your odds a lot by doing the Professional Program.

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    • #3
      Re: Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

      Thank you for the advice! I actually sent in my application for the UCLA professional program yesterday

      I will certainly take your advice to heart. As I prepare my application, are you open to me PMing you if I have an specific questions?

      One question I have - it looks like you have the opportunity to take a couple electives as well, right? Like a directing class or animation?
      www.JustinSloanAuthor.com

      http://www.CreativeWritingCareer.com
      http://www.MilitaryVeteransinCreativeCareers.com

      Twitter: @JustinMSloan

      Want a free book?

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      • #4
        Re: Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

        Sure. PM away.

        Yes, there are lot of opportunities for electives (across the university--not just within the film department), but many TFT classes require instructor consent. I wouldn't get your heart set on getting into many directing classes. Unless they've changed their policies since I graduated, they aren't very open to writers getting into directing classes. In my years there, two MFA writers were allowed to take several directing classes, but so many others complained that they stopped allowing anyone else after that. The only exception to that was one "directing the actor" class. They let a number of writers into that one. Animation classes are easier to get into, but again typically require instructor consent.

        MFA producing program classes are the easiest electives to take--they let in a number of writers--and I recommend taking as many of them as possible. Not only do they offer classes with some amazing guest lecturers, but it's also important to get a feel for what the person on the other side of the desk is looking for.

        They also let you into acting classes (which I recommend because it will help you get a feel for how an actor approaches a script and what characters actors want to play) and playwriting classes.

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        • #5
          Re: Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

          Great, thank you again! I actually used to act back in the day too, so look forward to doing some of that again (I'm forcing some friends to let me act in their short films, to get the juices flowing again).

          It sounds like a great program, and I suppose I can always just go shoot my own stuff and learn about directing that way anyway, so I'll follow your advice and look forward to some producing and maybe animation classes (but on that side I mostly want to improve my storyboarding skills, and write for animation, which I imagine would be on the writing side of classes anyway if they have something like that).

          Thank you!
          www.JustinSloanAuthor.com

          http://www.CreativeWritingCareer.com
          http://www.MilitaryVeteransinCreativeCareers.com

          Twitter: @JustinMSloan

          Want a free book?

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

            Originally posted by celticbeauty View Post
            But here's the kicker (and the main reason I mention it): about HALF the incoming UCLA MFA class each year are professional program alumni, so you increase your odds a lot by doing the Professional Program.
            You just made my Sunday. I just got into the professional program a little over a week ago.

            Stainjm, which professional program did you go for, TV or film? I'll be in the TV/Drama track. A friend just completed it last year and was very impressed by it.
            "The intrepid Spaceman Spiff is stranded on a distant planet! Our hero ruefully acknowledges this happens fairly frequently." Calvin & Hobbs

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            • #7
              Re: Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

              Congratulations, Willoughby! It's a great program. You'll love it.

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              • #8
                Re: Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

                Great, I'll be in the comedy tv program - let's compare notes!

                I considered drama, but only watch comedy, aside from Game of Thrones and Parenthood, so figured it made sense. Oh, and Boardwalk Empire and Entourage of course...
                Last edited by stainjm; 02-09-2014, 04:38 PM.
                www.JustinSloanAuthor.com

                http://www.CreativeWritingCareer.com
                http://www.MilitaryVeteransinCreativeCareers.com

                Twitter: @JustinMSloan

                Want a free book?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

                  The film industry is a weird machine. I was fortune enough to attend the school of the arts in North Carolina for awhile and also a community college program. While you can learn a lot from film school I would have to say go! While you can learn what they teach almost anywhere you get to meet and make connections with others who will inspire you and who might just make it big and take you with them if they make. However I have also seen some become discourage because of others opinions, but just be strong and know why you are there and try to connect with those who think and love the same movies and things as you do and you will be fine. Out of all the above the line schools I would only recommend USC because of the networking you can do there, but if you can't get into USC I would seriously only recommend an below the line school because getting a below the line job in this industry is much easier to get your foot in and meet working professionals! But yes do film school, if anything you can get a bunch of grants to work on your award winning script for awhile. Best of luck and if you go the best thing you can do is be out going and initiate friendship and start writing groups and physical productions the professors and other students will definitely notice and respect you more!

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                  • #10
                    Re: Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

                    Originally posted by stainjm View Post
                    I know there have been a lot of posts about whether film school is worth it - I don't care, I want to go. I love studying screenwriting and surrounding myself with people that love it and care while being guided by amazing professors and working individuals.

                    So, that said, would anyone who pursued an MFA in screenwriting from USC or UCLA be willing to share their thoughts on how best to stand out/ apply? Maybe via PM in a somewhat mentor style, or here if you would prefer to share with the rest of us folks that are applying?

                    The deadline isn't until next Nov/December, so I have time, but want to be as prepared as I can be. Thank you!
                    You're right, you shouldn't care what anyone else thinks.

                    Do what's right for you.

                    Good luck, Justin.
                    FA4
                    "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

                      Thanks all!

                      - I do the 'start writing groups and phsyical productions' stuff now, so as long as I can keep the momentum going...
                      www.JustinSloanAuthor.com

                      http://www.CreativeWritingCareer.com
                      http://www.MilitaryVeteransinCreativeCareers.com

                      Twitter: @JustinMSloan

                      Want a free book?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Mentor for applying to USC/UCLA

                        Hi, I'm also interested to enroll in this Writer's Program, sadly I just received an email from UCLA which said my MFA application was unsuccessful. (But after seeing this thread I was resigned to my fate -- 2000 applicants for 20-30 spaces!? And half of these slots are from the Professional Program? Holy crap.)

                        Besides, I'm not from the States so I'm curious about how this J-1 int'l visa works, it seems that I need a non-personal sponsor for 51% of the course. Why is that, anybody knows? It's kinda weird.

                        I emailed them last Friday but no reply so far. Also applied for USC MFA but not too hopeful there either. Guessing there also were 2000 applicants for it?

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