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Film Directing Program Requirements

MFA only

Film Directing applicants must submit the following portfolio and written materials. Candidates who have passed the preliminary selection process will be notified in mid-February. At that time, selected candidates will be invited to visit CalArts in March for an interview and to meet faculty and students. The interview is required of invited candidates and is an important component of the final selection process. Video chat interviews can be arranged, however attending the interview in person is highly recommended. The Film Directing program requires three letters of recommendation.  

The Film Directing Program is interested in your sense of storytelling and will consider students both in the beginning stages of filmmaking as well as more experienced directors. Please understand that we are not concerned with your technical skills. We would rather see a piece on a DVD with low production values that tells a strong story well, than an expensive 16mm production that does not. Submit a portfolio containing a DVD, Blu Ray, VHS or Mini-DV including the following three items:

  • A film or video of dramatic narrative work or an excerpt from a piece you have directed. Please limit the piece to five minutes; if your work is longer than this, excerpt the section you would most like us to see. Submissions should NOT take the form of movie trailers, compilations, or show reels.
  • Your telling of a true story based on a personal experience particularly important to you. Please do not “perform” the emotions of the event. Emphasis is on the content of the story. Simply record yourself telling your story on-camera. Do not script the work, but be aware that the recording will not be reviewed past two minutes. Think carefully about your story before you tell it.

Submit one of the following pieces:

  • A short personal video documentary -- essay film, approximately two to three minutes long. The piece should reflect elements of your personal history and interests. It can include visual materials such as still photography, drawings or designs you have made, or it can be a formal study of your aesthetics. Use as many of your creative skills as possible in the making of this work (for example, music you created, writing, etc.) The review committee should have a strong indication of your point of view on artistic and personal topics from this piece.
  • Your memorized performance of a short dramatic monologue, one minute in length, from a published play. The Film Directing Program does not attempt to train actors. Rather, the emphasis of this requirement is on the clear understanding of text analysis delivered in a truthful manner.
In addition to a visual portfolio, applicants to the Film Directing Program must submit four copies of the following written materials:
  • A résumé of your training, performance, and/or production experience. Also include a brief job history of work outside film, video, or theater.
  • Samples of original written work such as a play, story or screenplay no longer than 6 pages total.
  • An outline or brief paragraph describing a project (or projects) you have in mind. This is intended to give the faculty an indication of the type of filmmaking in which you are interested. It is not necessarily work you will produce at CalArts.
  • An Artist Statement is required by CalArts and should be submitted with your application.  In addition to the CalArts Artist Statement, The Film Directing Program asks that you expand the general requirement to reflect your artistic potential in relationship to the Film Directing curriculum and articulate what specifically draws you to apply to this program. The program is comprised of a small, lively ensemble of artists. Carefully consider what you would bring to this type of art making environment both as an artist and a member of the community. Craft a personal statement that allows the review committee to learn about you, as an artist and an individual, by discussing subjects that compel you and anecdotes that give information about you. These interests may include, but should not be exclusive to, the arts. The committee is also interested in your personal and professional goals, as well as your artistic influences and how they resonate for you in terms of formal choices, aesthetics and/or emotional content. Allow this portion of the portfolio to create as complex and full a picture of you as possible.  
  • A list of four books that you have enjoyed in the past year. Include both authors' names and a few sentences explaining what you admired about each book.
  • A list of three to five films or plays you admire with brief comments indicating how they have influenced your thoughts as a director.

The Office of Admissions will return your portfolio to you by mail only if you send a prepaid self-addressed package for return mailing. Be sure to complete and include any of the necessary forms required by your service provider. Prepaid mailing labels and packages from USPS, UPS, FedEx, FedEx Ground, and FedEx International are all acceptable. If necessary, your local post office will be able to provide you with an estimate for the return postage amount.

Learn more about the program, faculty, facilities and view student work.

Last edited by mryan on Sep 18, 2014
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