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 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 Assistant Director of Admissions directly.

MFA Interviews

Applicants who have passed the preliminary selection process will be notified in mid-February. At that time, select candidates may be invited to an interview day at CalArts in March to meet faculty, staff, students, and fellow shortlisted applicants. An 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 we like to emphasize the importance of having an in-person interview as part of the application process for prospective students. Additionally, attending an in-person event gives you a unique opportunity to see the school and meet and talk to the faculty.

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 Assistant Director of Admissions.

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.

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)

Submit an example of narrative cinematic work you have directed. This should be a work 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 List of Works document. 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)

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. 

List of Works Submitted

Include a brief one or two-sentence synopsis of each piece submitted in your portfolio. Please list your role in the production and links to full length pieces if applicable. Be sure the order of the synopses and the work samples are the same.

Future Project Plans (500 words maximum)

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)

Brief comments on 5 to 8 films, books, plays, artworks, television shows, etc., that you feel have influenced your thoughts as a filmmaker/video artist. It is important to say why and how these works have influenced you. Include the titles of the pieces and the names of the artists, filmmakers or writers. Avoid writing plot summaries.


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. 

OPTIONAL: 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.