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Do you need experience in Film before Undergrad?

cashflocashflo 1 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
Hi everybody, I'm a senior in high school who is interested in screenwriting and film production, and I'm hoping to attend a college strong in both film theory and production for Undergrad. This is lowkey a silly Q but I'd feel better just to have the confirmation -- do I or do I not need to have a portfolio of work to show a school in order to major in film production/screenwriting as an Undergrad?

(While I've written a screenplay (and am working on another) and have made one, very short little video, I really don't have much experience yet.)

The main schools I'm looking at for film right now are Columbia, UC Berkeley, Northwestern, and UCLA, mostly. Can anyone speak to whether I need some sort of portfolio for these schools??? As well as possibly how solid those film programs are and maybe some suggestions as to others? Thank you so much!
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Replies to: Do you need experience in Film before Undergrad?

  • HImomHImom 34312 replies391 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    The big Q is to find out how much your family can afford to pay towards your college and run the net price calculators for the Us you may be applying to.

    You can check the requirements of each U. I know someone who transferred into USC Cinema without any background in cinema a decade ago. Getting into specific specialties within the College of cinema has specific requirements (which change over time) and each U is different.
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  • GumbymomGumbymom 27813 replies155 threadsForum Champion UC Forum Champion
    UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and TV has around a 3% acceptance rate which is highly competitive. It is possible to have little to no film/writing experience but with such a low acceptance rate, I would want to have the best overall application including a portfolio/supplemental showcasing your accomplishments.

    Here is the application information: http://www.tft.ucla.edu/filmba/freshman/
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  • JBStillFlyingJBStillFlying 6743 replies23 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Many undergrad programs will require a portfolio for admission; others might allow you to enter as a pre-major and have you portfolio into your major during sophomore year. You will need to check with each school in order to figure out what the procedure is. Keep in mind that film is incredibly popular and competitive. Regardless of when you need to produce that portfolio for review and admission into the program, more will be dinged than get in (usually).

    You might check on SCAD. They may not require a portfolio for admission; however, they are a weeder school and usually the kids who make it through the top majors there (animation, film, etc) are either extraordinarily talented to begin with (and submitted a portfolio) or haven't slept since they began the program (my own kid). Oftentimes it's both.

    Check with your schools of interest.

    Something else to keep in mind: production tends to be a BFA or equivalent degree. But many top univesities will have a dynamo film studies/analysis major (usually a BA), in case that sparks your interest.

    Good luck!
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  • JBStillFlyingJBStillFlying 6743 replies23 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    OP - a bit more info. See this link for latest film school rankings. Just one opinion but still helpful:

    https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/top-25-american-film-schools-ranked-1231343/item/2019-top-25-film-schools-afi-1231351

    You can see that UCLA/Columbia are tops and NU quite respectable. My D at SCAD did Cherubs at NU for screenwriting a few years ago, and it was a majorly intense program. All the instructors were Columbia faculty.

    I'd also check out Columbia College of Chicago. They have an impressive facilities for film and that might be another school that doesn't require a portfolio for admission. DePaul might be yet another option.
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  • CAtransplantCAtransplant 531 replies12 threadsRegistered User Member
    @JBStillFlying @cashflo note that the Hollywood Reporter article linked indicates Columbia University does not have an undergraduate film program, only an MFA. It actually does seem to have a film studies undergrad program but perhaps not a full film production major for undergrads. OP, some schools only have a film and/or media studies major for undergrads while others have a film production type major. So you need to decide which of those you wish to pursue. Generally, those only having film/media studies don't require a portfolio submission though USC is the exception - they require a supplemental submission for all the majors in their School of Cinematic Arts but they requirements are different depending on whether you are applying to Screenwriting, Film and TV production, Film/Media studies, etc. within that school.

    @Gumbymom is right that UCLA has a supplemental app required. Do you have a particular reason for the schools you are looking at applying to for film? Just curious.
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  • JBStillFlyingJBStillFlying 6743 replies23 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^ Good point about the lack of a film production major at the undergrad level at Columbia. Isn't Cal-Berkeley the same? So those attracted to the film/media studies majors might have independent film experience and then pursue a production specialization at the master's level or continue on in the industry w/o the BFA/MFA credential. In other words, they are running with their natural production or writing talent/experience informed by a liberal arts education.
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  • cashflocashflo 1 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    @CAtransplant @JBStillFlying first thanks so much for your comments this is really helpful -- from what I can tell when I look online at these schools, Columbia and Northwestern have been rated highly in both film theory and film production, with Northwestern having more classes directed toward production, and Columbia having classes geared more toward theory but also offering excellent opportunities for production around campus. As far as I can figure out for UC Berk, they have excellent theory, but very, very little in the way of production. Honestly if I could confirm that UC Berk had solid opportunities for production around campus (and by that I mean programs geared toward Cal students), it might be my top contender.

    Also, these schools constitute my list right now bc of a combination of things: my test scores/grades align well with them, I like the vibe/attitude that the schools claim their students have (artsy, driven but not cutthroat competitive), what type of film opportunities they have (combined w their english/history programs), and finally location -- UC Berk/UCLA lead in that regard as I'm currently on West Coast and they'd thus have the least financial strain on me, but I'm really liking the things I hear abt Columbia (cool city, weather will have fog/rain a solid amount of time, museums/art/concerts available often).

    Northwestern is my last contender out of the ones listed, and that's bc it lacks a coast (tho it does have a lake!) and the majority of student reviews I read about it tend to say the same thing: "eh. it was ok." I'd like to go somewhere where students feel happy and fortunate to be attending!

    Again thanks so much for these replies, to @Gumbymom & @HImom also, this thread has been really, really helpful to me!!
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  • JBStillFlyingJBStillFlying 6743 replies23 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Wow. those NU students seem filled with ennui. Most SHOULD feel very fortunate to attend, given its overall ranking and admit rate. And most I know have enjoyed attending. It's a lovely campus, the School of Communication is highly regarded, and Chicago alone has a ton of film opportunities. It'd be a shame to pass up taking another look just because of a few reviews.
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  • CAtransplantCAtransplant 531 replies12 threadsRegistered User Member
    @cashflo thanks for explaining your thought process. You may want to also look at NYU - the Tisch School Film & Television department. One of the highest rated film schools in the country (after USC and UCLA) and it's in NY of course and I see you like the idea of being on one of the coasts. Also though it's extremely hard to get in, like some of the other top-rated film schools. My daughter and I were at a presentation for USC SCA (School of Cinematic Arts) recently and the admissions officer said it's about a 3-4% admit rate for their Production major. About 1900 apply and they are aiming for a class of 54. These are really tough odds but hey, someone's gotta get in!
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