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 is interested in your sense of storytelling and how elements of sound, image, performance, music, temporality, and dramaturgy will coalesce into a cinematic practice. We are more interested in your capacity to tell an engaging story, and your eagerness to learn, than we are in your technical prowess at this state. You should submit your best, most recent work that is exemplary of the direction in which you'd like to take your practice. 

Your portfolio must be submitted through the online portfolio website SlideRoom. Use the same email address for both the online application and SlideRoom so they link properly. Please be advised that CalArts is not able to view your work until the final submission is made and your payment is received. No changes or additions can be made following the final submission of your portfolio, you may send an email to for technical assistance. 

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. Click here for information about file sizes and types.

    • Narrative Directing Sample (5 minutes maximum)
Submit an example of narrative cinematic work you have directed. This piece should show an understanding of cinematic tools such as collaboration, dramatic structure, performance, sound, image, and timing. 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 not that the full length version may or may not be viewed.  

    • Storytelling (2 minutes)
Record yourself telling a true story on-camera. The story must be based on a personal experience. Think carefully about your story before you tell it, but please do not script, read, or perform it. Emphasis is on the content of the story and your natural ability to tell it. The recording will not be reviewed past 2 minutes. 

    • OPTIONAL Additional Work Sample (3 minutes maximum)
One additional work of your choosing that gives us a further sense of your artistic practice and training. Our program has an expansive idea of narrative practice: this work can take whatever form you wish, as long as it is distinct from your other submitted work.  

Required Written Materials 

Submit all written materials to the text boxes in SlideRoom. Submit the artist statement to both the online application and SlideRoom. 

    • Artist Statement (500-1000 words)
Discuss the subjects and inquiries that prompt your artistic work. Expound upon how your personal 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. 

    • Creative Writing Sample (2500 words maximum)
One sample of an original written work such as a play, short story, or screenplay no longer than 5 pages total.

    • Project Idea (500 words)
Describe the basic idea of a future project--not the technical aspects of how you  would arrange to have it made. Keep in mind that such a plan is meant to give the faculty an idea of the type of filmmaking that interests you, not an idea of a project you will necessarily produce at CalArts

    • Commentary on Influences (1000 words maximum)
A list of 5 to 8 films, plays, and/or books you deeply appreciate. Include a few sentences explaining why and how these works have influenced you. Include the titles of the pieces and the names of the filmmakers/writers. Avoid writing plot summaries. 

    • Résumé/CV
A résumé of your training, performance, and/or production experience. Include your educational background and brief job history of work outside film, video, or theater.