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MFA in Screenwriting: Interview With UCLA Professor Richard Walter


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by Script Reader Pro in Movie Industry Interviews
August 17, 2016 3 comments
Screenwriting MFA Richard Walter

Why should aspiring screenwriters decide to study writing at UCLA (University of California, LA)?

We have the best record for writers moving through our program and into professional careers in the industry.

UCLA-trained screenwriters have solo or shared onscreen writing credits on eleven projects for Steven Spielberg: Jurassic Park I, II,III, Indiana Jones II, III, Munich, War of the Worlds, Lincoln, Eagle Eye, Amazing Stories, The Terminal.

They have won five Best Screenplay Oscar Nominations in the past seven years alone and during that same period five Best Screenplay Oscars.

UCLA is unique among film schools in that it is closely tied to the university’s Theater Department. Our faculty are all working writers. None of them has given up writing for teaching but integrates one into the other and other into the one.

Each brings not only an intellectual vantage, though we bring that too, but also a hands-on conversancy with the day-to-day life of successful practitioners.

How do you prepare graduates for a career in screenwriting?

Our program is writing-intensive and heavy on seminar/workshops, that is, small groups of writers around the table with their instructor, each receiving the kind of personal attention and consideration that is essential to learning the art and the craft and the business.

Do you know percentage-wise roughly how many of your graduates find work in the business after graduating?

We’re in the process of trying to figure that out right now. It’s hard to track our graduates’ success other than anecdotally. That said, there is general agreement that the top three films schools are UCLA, my own alma mater USC, and NYU.

There is general agreement furthermore, for example in the NY Times, The LA Times, The Times of London, The Wall Street Journal, Variety, and the Hollywood Reporter, that with regard to screenwriting, UCLA is Number One.

Our graduates are enjoying professional careers in all platforms and media.

How much are the student fees?

UCLA offers the most affordable graduate tuition across US News & World Report’s top 25 ranked National Universities of 2016: $15,829 /yr CA-resident.

And the 4th least expensive graduate tuition for out-of-state students: $31,012 /yr non-resident.

Do you run a scholarship for talented applicants?

There is increasing support for students through various programs, and positions for nearly all interested parties as paid Teaching Assistants and Special Readers, who receive not only cash stipends but also fee remissions.

Almost every student enrolled in the MFA can count on some fee support from the Dept. from the very start of their tenure with us.

Could you name a few successful screenwriters who graduated from your university?

Dustin Lance Black, David Koepp, Eric Roth, Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Schrader, Carol Ballard, Leata Kaligredes, Shane Black, Ed Solomon, Gregory Widen, Ben Kopit, who are not merely the tip of the iceberg but the tip of the tip.

Some professional screenwriters say you shouldn’t have to go to film school to learn how to write. What would be your answer to them?

There are various ways to learn the art and the craft and the business other than going to film school.

That said, however, the best teaching, the best opportunities for networking, the greatest resources in available workshops and screenings and seminars and exposure to a parade of professionals sharing the wisdom they’ve garnered through their experience, makes film school hands-down the most effective way to learn and to make the transition to the professional community.

What is your number one tip for aspiring screenwriters applying for a place on your MFA?

I can’t say one but two:

  1. Success is based not upon ideas but stories. It’s all about telling great stories.
  2. Write anything you want but Don’t Be Boring.

How can people apply or get to know more about UCLA?

Apply here: Screenwriting MFA Page


Twitter Richard Walter: @RichardWalterUC

Facebook: UCLAtft


  1. Makanan says:

    Hello. I hope one day to come to America and study screen writing principals at UCLA.

  2. Kristina Wilkes says:

    Very interesting interview with Mr Walter. Thank you for posting.

  3. Sarah Jenkins says:

    Thank you for this. I am thinking of applying to film school and this was really helpful.

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