Film Directing

Application Guidelines (MFA Only)

Before applying, please make sure to familiarize yourself with the Film Directing Program, faculty, facilities, curriculum and view student work.

In addition to the general application requirements (online application and application fees, artist statement, three letters of recommendation, and transcripts), Film Directing Program applicants must also submit an online portfolio. The faculty is interested in what motivates or inspires each individual applicant and looks for evidence of this in both the portfolio and the artist statement. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

Please note that the Film Directing Program requires three letters of recommendation

If you have any questions, please contact your Admissions Counselor directly. 


MFA Interviews

Applicants who have passed the preliminary selection process will be notified in mid-February. At that time, candidates will be invited to visit CalArts in March for an interview day to meet faculty, staff, students, and fellow shortlisted applicants. The interview is required of invited applicants and is an important component of the final selection process. Video conference interviews are available in exceptional cases; however, attendance at the in-person interview day is preferred. In addition to giving the faculty a better sense of who you are, it gives you an opportunity to see the school, and meet and talk to many members of the CalArts community. 


Portfolio Guidelines

In order for your portfolio to be seriously considered by the faculty reviewing your work, it is important to follow these guidelines. Please read through the requirements carefully, and direct any questions to your Admissions Counselor.

The Film Directing Program has an expansive definition of narrative. We are interested in how your work uses narrative and cinematic practice to explore ideas and express your individual voice. We are more interested in the ideas you bring to your practice than we are in your technical level or skill. You should submit your best, most recent work that demonstrates the direction in which you'd like to take your practice.  

Your portfolio must be submitted in the online application. Please make sure your videos play properly, and proofread your writing. All work submitted in a language other than English must be subtitled. No changes or additions can be made after the final submission of your portfolio.

Please make sure your videos play properly, and proofread your writing. All work submitted in a language other than English must be subtitled. 

Portfolio Requirements

Moving Image Materials

Please submit the following three items as individual movie files. Do not submit a composited reel. Label each uploaded item with the title, date completed, and running time.

REQUIRED: Narrative Directing Sample (5 minutes maximum)

Submit an example of narrative cinematic work you have directed. This should be a work you played a critical role in creating and that you feel best exemplifies your interest in narrative film. This part of the portfolio can be no longer than 5 minutes. This can either be a standalone piece or an excerpt from a longer piece. If you decide to submit an excerpt, provide a link to the full length version in the description section. Please note that the full length version may or may not be viewed.   

REQUIRED: Storytelling (2 minutes)

On camera, record yourself telling a true story based on a personal experience. We are interested in the content of the story and your ability to tell it. The story should be captured very simply, no staging or editing the recording. Do not script the story, or read it from a written text. The recording will not be viewed past 2 minutes. 

OPTIONAL: Additional Work Sample (5 minutes maximum)

If you choose, you may also submit one additional work sample of your choosing that gives us a further sense of your artistic practice and training. Our program has a broad idea of narrative: this work sample can take whatever form you wish, but should be from a different piece than the other samples.   

Required Written Materials 

Artist Statement (500-1000 words)

Discuss the subjects and inquiries that prompt your artistic work and reflect on how your background, influences, experiences, and views as an artist and individual resonate in terms of formal choices, aesthetics, and content in your filmmaking practice. Explain why you've chosen to apply to the CalArts Film Directing Program specifically and how you imagine contributing to the community of artists here. You should also include your professional artistic goals, and how you think this program will help you accomplish those goals. 

Project Idea (500 words)

Describe the basic idea of a future project, focusing on its concept rather than its technical aspects. This is meant to give the faculty an idea of the type of filmmaking that interests you and is not necessarily a project you would make at CalArts. 

Commentary on Influences (1000 words maximum)

A list of 5 to 8 films, plays, or books you deeply appreciate. Include a sentence or two explaining why and how these works have influenced you. Include the titles of the pieces and the names of the filmmakers or writers. Avoid writing plot summaries.  

Résumé/CV

A CV/resume of your training, performance, production and/or artistic experience. Include your educational background as well as any professional and relevant experience you have had. You may include a brief job history of work outside film, video, or theater if you would like us to know about it. 

Creative Writing Sample (2500 words maximum)

One sample of an original written work such as a piece of critical writing, play, short story, treatment or screenplay. This may be an excerpt of a longer work, if you choose.