Film Directing

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

You must complete all admissions requirements as well as the following specific portfolio requirements to be considered for admission. Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.


Film Directing Program Application Guidelines (MFA Only)

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.

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


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 chat 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 will consider applicants both in the beginning stages of filmmaking as well as more experienced directors. 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 stage. 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. Any materials that are not uploaded as part of your SlideRoom portfolio will not be considered as part of your application. 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 or less
Submit a 5-minute example of narrative cinematic work you have directed. If your piece is longer than 5 minutes, do not submit the full piece. Create a stand alone 5-minute excerpt of the section you want us to see and include a link to the full length version in the description. Submissions should NOT take the form of movie trailers, compilations, or showreels. 

    • Storytelling – 2 minutes
Record yourself telling a true story on-camera. The story must be based on a personal experience that was particularly important to you. 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. 

    • Artistic Portrait/Personal Essay – 2 to 3 minutes
A short cinematic work about you as an artist. The Film Directing Program explores the elastic boundaries of narrative cinema and looks to see aspects of your work you feel is not represented elsewhere in your portfolio. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your creative ideas beyond your more formal work sample. This piece can include visual materials such as photography, drawings or designs, music or sound pieces, performances you’ve participated in, or other film work. All work included by be must be created by you. This piece, like the narrative example, should not take the form of movie trailers or reels. 

Written Materials 

Submit all written materials to the text boxes in SlideRoom. Submit the artist statement to both the online application as a .pdf file and the text box on SlideRoom. 

    • Artist Statement
In two pages or less, 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 to accomplish those goals. 

    • Writing Sample
One original written work such as a play, short story, or screenplay no longer than 5 pages total.

    • Project Idea
Regardless of the work you have done to date or the practical skills you have developed so far; outline an example of a project you have in mind. Describe the basic idea of the 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
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.