SDSU’s low-residency MFA in Screenwriting program helps students become stronger writers and empowers them to take a more active role throughout the entire production process — from first draft to final product. Created in collaboration with the San Diego State University School of Theatre, Television, and Film, SDSU’s new Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Screenwriting program is a low-residency graduate program that will help you develop and elevate your craft as a script writer and share your visions in fields that thrive on visual storytelling. This two-year hybrid program is the first of its kind in the CSU system in this format and one of the few in the nation from a major, accredited university.

We’re excited to announce that applications for Fall '21 are now open! If you're interested in applying, please complete your application to Cal State Apply here.

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Try Our Screenwriting Program This Spring

Register for our Screenwriting Course
Open to All, No Admission Required

Register Here

 

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all in-person components of this program have either been paused, rescheduled, or moved into a virtual format until further notice.

Please email srmontano@sdsu.edu or call (619) 594-2707 to learn how these changes affect your program. SDSU will continue to monitor the situation and follow the guidance of our local and federal health agencies.

 

SDSU’s low-residency MFA in Screenwriting program helps students become stronger writers and empowers them to take a more active role throughout the entire production process — from first draft to final product.

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About the program

It begins with a story you need to tell.

You have a unique vision to share on the media screen. You want to excite, enthrall, move, and perhaps transform the audience with your captivating characters, vivid dialogue, and riveting twists and reversals of plot. You strive to communicate that experience on the page of the script you write.

But do you know what form your story should take? Which platform should you use to communicate your vision? Will your story best thrive on the stage, or as a television series, or in a gaming experience?

What if you had the opportunity to learn how your story moves through the film production process? Knowing that process first-hand influences the way you weave your stories, and how you craft your vision on the page.

Estimated CostTotal Estimated Cost
$38,682
Completion Time Completion Time
As short as 2 years
Course Format Course Format
Hybrid

Created in collaboration with the San Diego State University School of Theatre, Television, and Film, SDSU’s new Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Screenwriting program is a low-residency graduate program that will help you develop and elevate your craft as a script writer and share your visions in fields that thrive on visual storytelling. This two-year hybrid program is the first of its kind in the CSU system in this format and one of the few in the nation from a major, accredited university.

Through workshop classes, you’ll work with your cohort and instructors, professionals in the field, to hone your writing skills and creative instincts to engage and excite audiences across the many forms of performance arts. You’ll also learn the basics of production, which will help you produce screenplays and written materials that are more readily adaptable to a variety of digital media formats, including film, television, and the web. You’ll develop your craft and vision in television, film (short and feature-length), stage, webisodes, gaming, and more. Upon completion, you’ll be better prepared to create stories designed for the next new media.

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Try Our Screenwriting Program This Spring

If you’re interested in screenwriting, but you’re unsure if you’re ready to commit to a two-year master’s degree program, we’re opening two courses for early registration this spring. Both courses are fully online and open to everyone, no admission to the MFA program required.

These courses are open to anyone who’s considering a career in screenwriting. Please click on the course name to register.

Big Bucks: The One-Location Script – Horror – Drama – Thriller
Register here for TFM 610: Seminar in Writing for TV and Film
Dates: March 14-May 8
Instructor: Jennifer van Sijll

One-location scripts in any genre have long been recognized as the ‘sweet spot’ many Hollywood producers seek for their low cost and potential for high returns. In this class, you’ll study four one-location scripts, each of a different genre, to help prepare you for writing your own original script. You’ll explore different genre conventions and expectations, and learn how to connect with your audience on a deeper level. You'll exit the class with a logline, character bios, outline, and the first ten pages of your 'One-Location' script.

Program is perfect for

This graduate-level screenwriting program is designed for twenty-first century storytellers who want to bring their ideas to life. The curriculum is applicable to those who currently work in media production, as well as those who are interested in launching a career as a professional screenwriter.

As screenwriters are being asked to take on more active roles in the production process, this program will also empower you to be effective on set and in post-production by helping you master the basics of the production process. These skills are necessary in today’s environment, as writer/producers are required to manage more than the words on the page.

The program is low-residency, which means that the majority of your courses will be 100% online. This makes the program ideal for working professionals who don’t have the time or the resources to participate in a full-time graduate program on a college campus.

What you can learn

SDSU’s Master’s degree in Screenwriting program examines current industry trends and delivers a by-the-minute curriculum that’s invaluable to those interested in a career in the increasingly competitive, highly diverse world of media production.

Students will study screenwriting, television writing, playwriting, and film production as geared toward the writer. The MFA in Screenwriting program not only captures current trends of television writers with playwriting backgrounds, it empowers writers to be effective on set and in post-production, teaching them the basics of the production process.

You’ll develop an advanced ability to write complex, gripping narratives for film, television, theater, and other media. You’ll learn how to create characters that are original, relatable, and compelling, and you’ll learn how to use those characters to drive your stories. You’ll also strengthen your screenwriting skills with comprehensive examinations of film theory, film history, and critical theory as it pertains to storytelling.

This two-year degree program utilizes a blended instructional model in which courses are in an online format, and intensive face-to-face sessions during a six-week summer residency in San Diego.

During the six-week summer residency, you’ll develop close relationships with your classmates and your instructors as you get invaluable hands-on experience working with production and post-production equipment, including cameras, lighting, soundboards, and in-studio editing software.

Upon successful completion of this program, you’ll be able to:

  • Create original screenplays, teleplays, and scripts for new media.
  • Use camera, sound, lighting, and post-production equipment in order to shoot, edit, and self-produce a short film or webisode.
  • Effectively communicate your ideas in written and verbal form, then utilize production skills to sell your creative products in the television and film marketplace, move them forward in the film festival circuit, or through online distribution.
  • Effectively articulate literary analysis that applies the concepts of film criticism, film theory, and dramaturgy to help develop, write, and rewrite your own scripts and those of your peers.

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The curriculum is delivered in a two-year, cohort-based format that will help you foster meaningful relationships with your classmates throughout the program. Courses focus on writing, production, and the business of media production. In the final portion of the program, you’ll have the opportunity to choose between two culminating experiences: a Master’s thesis and a public performance of one of your projects, or a capstone project paired with a performance.

Outcomes

Labor Analysis
Writers/Authors - Nationwide

Job Postings
Job Postings
In 2019
131,200

Projected Growth
Projected Growth
Over 10 years
-2%

Salary Range
Salary Range
Average
$33,660-$122,450


Source: BLS & Burning Glass Technologies, 2020

 

In 2019, there were more than 130,000 writers and authors employed across the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these writers develop content for various types of media, including advertisements, blogs, books, magazines, and movie, play, and television scripts. In the past 12 months, there were more than 2,559 job postings nationwide seeking poets, lyricists and creative writers; in that same time period, there were nearly 26,000 job postings for copywriters.

Nationally, writers and authors make a median annual salary of $63,200. For writers and authors who work in performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries, the median annual salary was $70,990.

Writers Guild of America, West (WAGW)
The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) published their Annual Financial Report in July of 2020. More than 6,300 writers reported employment in all work areas in 2019. Total earnings reported for dues purposes for those members rose 3.1% to $1.68 billion in 2019. This growth is attributed to the industry-wide increase in original production for streaming services.

Television And Digital Platforms

Employment Numbers

5,118

Employment Growth

4.7%

Total Earnings

$1.17 Billion

CATEORY_TITLE

DATA_NUMBER

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DATA_NUMBER

Theatrical (Film) Projects

Employment Numbers

2,188

Employment Growth

4.0%

Total Earnings

$493.1 Million

CATEORY_TITLE

DATA_NUMBER

CATEORY_TITLE

DATA_NUMBER

Television, Radio News, & Promotion - Informational/Interactive Programs

Employment Numbers

167

Employment Growth

6.0%

Total Earnings

$14.1 Million

CATEORY_TITLE

DATA_NUMBER

CATEORY_TITLE

DATA_NUMBER

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Why Choose SDSU?

Diversity

SDSU is committed to serving a richly diverse population of students from all backgrounds. More than 54% of all SDSU undergraduates are students of color who come from many different backgrounds, which means that every classroom is a unique collection of personal and professional experiences. In fact, Forbes ranked SDSU in the top 30 universities nationwide for ethnic diversity. We’re also a proud Hispanic-serving institution, with more than 25% of our student population coming from Hispanic backgrounds.

Expert Faculty

Our faculty are industry veterans and active professionals with the real-world experience, credentials, and connections that will help you build the skills you need to succeed in today’s screenwriting industry. Faculty members include television screenwriters, executive producers, and directors of prime-time television series, films, and Tony Award-winning Broadway productions.

Practical Experience

In addition to online lessons, you’ll have the opportunity to visit San Diego State University’s beautiful campus for six weeks during the summer between the first and second year of the program. You’ll get invaluable hands-on experience working with equipment in a studio and on a soundstage.

Accessibility

Other than the six-week summer intensive, the entirety of the program is 100% online, making it ideal for busy working students who want to earn a master’s degree without putting their professional commitments on hold.

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To successfully complete the program and earn your Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting, you must complete 42 units of graduate level coursework, which consists of the following:

  • Core Writing Courses — 12 Units
  • Production Courses — 9 Units
  • Elective Courses — 15 Units
  • Culminating Experience — 6 Units

Core Writing Courses (12 Units)

TFM 0610: Seminar in Writing for Television and Film (3 Units, taken twice)*
TFM 0625: Seminar in Writing Short Narrative and Documentary Films (3 Units)
THEA 0515: Playwriting (3 Units)

Production Courses (9 Units)

TFM 0590: Directing for Film and Television (3 Units)
TFM 0607: Seminar in Intensive Television and Film (3 Units)
TFM 0627: Film Editing and Postproduction (3 Units)

Critical Studies, Film Business, and Writing Electives (15 Units)

TFM 0530: Selected Topics in Genre Studies for Television and Film (3 Units)
TFM 0601: Business Aspects of Film (3 Units)
TFM 0612: Seminar in Writing for New Media (3 Units)
TFM 0798: Special Study (1-3 Units)
THEA 0673: Advanced Graduate Playwriting (3 Units)

Culminating Experience (6 Units)

Plan A (Thesis)
TFM 0793: Capstone Public Presentation (1 Unit)
TFM 0797: MFA Research (1-3 Units)
TFM 0799A: Thesis or Project (3 Units)

Plan B (Non-Thesis)
TFM 0792: MFA Capstone Project (3 Units)
TFM 0793: Capstone Public Presentation (1 Unit)
TFM 0797: MFA Research (1-3 Units)

*Courses offered during Spring 2021, open to all

 

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Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the requirements outlined below that applicants for graduate study at SDSU submit scores for the GRE or GMAT are suspended for the Spring and Fall 2021 admissions cycles.

Admission Requirements

If you’re interested in applying to SDSU’s MFA in Screenwriting program, you must meet all the minimum SDSU requirements at the time of enrollment:

  1. Hold an acceptable baccalaureate degree earned at an institution accredited by a regional accrediting association, or have completed equivalent academic preparation as determined by the graduate dean
  2. Have attained a grade point average of at least 2.85 in an acceptable earned baccalaureate degree, or at least 2.85 in the last 60 semester (90 quarter) units attempted, or hold an acceptable post-baccalaureate degree earned at an institution accredited by a regional accrediting association
  3. Have been in good standing at the last institution attended
  4. Achieved satisfactory scores on all sections of the GRE or GMAT for degree seeking applicants (not required for credential or certificate applicants).

If you’re already pursuing a Screenwriting or Dramatic Writing MFA from an acceptable accredited institution, you may transfer up to 18 units upon review and recommendation by the graduate adviser and with approval of the dean of the Division of Graduate Affairs.

Application Instructions

SDSU admits students to the MFA in Screenwriting program in the fall semester only. To apply for SDSU’s screenwriting master’s program, you must complete the following steps:

  1. Apply to the University through Cal State Apply
  2. Create your SDSU WebPortal Account after receiving your Red ID number
  3. Submit materials to SDSU Graduate Division by March 1

    The following materials should be submitted together directly to:
    Graduate Admissions
    Enrollment Services
    San Diego State University
    San Diego, CA 92182-7416
     
    • Official transcripts (in sealed envelopes) from all postsecondary institutions attended
      • Students with international coursework must submit both the official transcript and proof of degree. If documents are in a language other than English, they must be accompanied by a certified English translation.
    • GRE scores (ets.org SDSU institution code 4682)
    • English language score, if medium of instruction was in a language other than English (ets.org SDSU institution code 4682)
      • All graduate and post-baccalaureate applicants, regardless of citizenship, whose native language is not English and whose preparatory education was principally in a language other than English must demonstrate competence in English. Those applicants who do not possess a bachelor’s degree from a postsecondary institution where English is the principal language of instruction must submit official TOEFL or IELTS results.
        • The minimum TOEFL required score for admission is 80 for the iBT test or 550 for the PBT test
        • The minimum required IELTS score for admission is 6.5
        • Please note scores must be recent (within the past two years)
  4. Submit a program application and program specific documents to the SDSU School of Theatre, Television, and Film by June 1
     
    • Essay #1: Personal Statement
      • A short essay (1000 words or less) describing your creative and career goals and how you think this program will benefit you. Please submit this essay in a PDF format.
    • Essay #2: Favorite Films/Plays/TV Programs
      • A list of three films, plays, or television programs you admire. Please write one paragraph for each that describes the ways they inspire you. Please submit this list in a PDF format.
    • Essay #3: List of Hobbies/Interests
      • A list and a brief description (in a sentence) of your hobbies and interests outside of film, television, and theatre. Please submit this list in a PDF format.
    • Résumé/CV
      • A curriculum vitae (CV) or résumé that includes any writing experience you have had in a PDF format.
    • Letters of Recommendation
      • Three letters of recommendation from academic and/or professional sources who can speak to your ability to achieve artistically and creatively in screenwriting and an MFA Program. At least one letter must come from an academic reference and at least one letter must come from a professor or professional acquainted with your creative activities.
    • Creative Writing Sample
      • A writing sample that demonstrates your level of craft with techniques of dramatic structure, character building, dialogue, and the visual language of film. Please submit one completed original narrative script between 25 to 120 pages in length (feature screenplay, teleplay or play script) in a PDF format.
      • Please submit original creative work — do not submit a television spec of an existing television show. As mentioned, in rare circumstances, authors may gain approval to submit a short story or excerpt of a novel.
    • Dramatic/Comedic Scene
      • A 2-5 page dramatic or comedic scene, written in screenwriting or playwriting format, that addresses this year’s prompt.
      • This Year’s Prompt: Write a 2-5 page scene between two very different people on a blind date. One doesn't want to be there initially. The other needs this to be a success. The characters use something in the location to negotiate what they need. Value both dialogue and visual elements. Please use a screenwriting or playwriting format and submit your scene in a PDF format.
      • Please submit this sample in a PDF format.

Admission to the program is competitive, and satisfying these requirements does not guarantee admission. The decision to admit is based on consideration of the entire application file; promising applicants in unusual circumstances are encouraged to apply.

Students accepted for graduate study in the Master of Fine Arts Degree in Screenwriting are fully matriculated in the university and meet all university requirements as established by the Graduate Council.

If you have any questions regarding the application process, please contact Stuart Voytilla, the program director, at svoytilla@sdsu.edu.

Cost

  Unit Cost Program Unit Range* Cost
Tuition $860 42 $36,120
Fees
Associated Students $19 42 $798
Technology $21 42 $882
Student Engagement $21 42 $882
Total Estimated Costs $921   $38,682

* Everyone is unique, your admissions advisor will work with you to determine the right path that suits your needs.

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Contact Information

Courses

2021 Winter2021 Spring2021 Summer2021 Fall
TFM 0610 Seminar in Writing for TV and Film (The Writers' Room: Creating a TV Series )
Writers’ rooms, long a staple of TV, are making inroads into screenwriting and other venues, so it’s necessary to understand the social and creative dynamics from the inside. Starting from zero, students in this eight-week intensive course will take part in the creation of a theoretical TV series from concept to the development of characters, situations and stories, culminating in teams being selected to write the first three scripts of the series. (This is strictly an academic exercise, not the creation of an actual series.) Non-dramatic and dramatic structures as they apply to non-fiction and fiction television programs and films. Writing full length script or scenario.
Course Date(s)

Register
2021 Spring
TFM 0610.01 Seminar in Writing for TV and Film (Big Bucks: The One-Location Script - Horror - Drama - Thriller)
One-location scripts have long been recognized as a sweet spot for first-time directors and Hollywood producers for their low cost and potential for high returns. Recently, Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” (2017) catapulted into the critical stratosphere winning both the Oscar and the Writers’ Guild Award for the Best Original Screenplay. In this class, you’ll choose a genre, and examine how this subset, the one-location script, works with respect to story conventions, genre theory and spectatorship via script analyses and critical readings. You'll exit the class with a logline, character bios, outline, and the first ten pages of your ‘One-Location' script. Non-dramatic and dramatic structures as they apply to non-fiction and fiction television programs and films. Writing full length script or scenario.
Course Date(s)
March 14 - May 8