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MFA Screenwriting Insider Interview With UCLA Professor Richard Walter

Should You Go to Film School or Go It Alone?


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by Script Reader Pro in Screenwriter Career
August 17, 2016 5 comments
MFA Screenwriting

MFA Screenwriting Insider Interview With UCLA Professor Richard Walter

We were honored to chat recently with Richard Walter: famed MFA Screenwriting professor and author of the book, Essentials of Screenwriting.

Here’s the interview in full. If you’re considering applying to UCLA or any of the other best screenwriting courses available, it will give you a great insight into the process.

Q1. What Sets an MFA Screenwriting Degree at UCLA Apart From the Rest?

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

Our MFA Screenwriting graduates 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 and many more.

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

The UCLA MFA Screenwriting degree 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.

Q2. How Do You Prepare MFA Scriptwriting Graduates for a Career?

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

We’re in the process of trying to figure out exact percentages of how many graduates from the MFA Screenwriting program end up as working writers. It’s hard to track our graduates’ success other than anecdotally but our graduates are enjoying professional careers in all platforms and media.

And they include Dustin Lance Black, David Koepp, Eric Roth, Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Schrader, Carol Ballard, Leata Kaligredes, Shane Black and Ed Solomon and many other world-class screenwriters.

Q3. What’s Are the Fees for Enrolling on an MFA Screenwriting Degree?

A. 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.

Q4. Does UCLA Run a Scholarship for Talented Writers?

A. 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 on the MFA screenwriting degree can count on some fee support from the department from the very start of their tenure with us.

Q5. Some Say You Don’t Need to Go to Film School. What’s Your Answer to That?

A. There are various ways to learn the art and the craft and the business other than going to film school and gaining an MFA in Screenwriting.

That said, 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.

Q6. What’s Your #1 Tip for Writers Applying to an MFA Screenwriting?

A. I can’t say one but two:

1.  Success is based not on ideas but stories. It’s all about telling great stories.

2.  Write anything you want but Don’t Be Boring.

Q7. How Can People Apply or Get to Know More About UCLA?

A. Apply here: Screenwriting MFA Page


Twitter Richard Walter: @RichardWalterUC

Facebook: UCLAtft


Thanks again to Richard Walter for taking the time to answer questions on UCLA’s MFA Screenwriting program. Have you attended UCLA or any of the other big film schools? Did gaining a degree kick-start your screenwriting career? Let us know in the comments below.

Screenwriting MFA UCLA

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  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.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Kristina.

  3. Sarah Jenkins says:

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

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      You’re welcome, Sarah. Best of luck!

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