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How hard is it to get accepted at film school?

bird rockbird rock Registered User Posts: 869 Member
edited September 2013 in Visual Arts and Film Majors
I know it's hard to quantify because the portfolio/audition is important and can't be rated numerically. But still, there must be some info that's worth passing along.

For instance: acceptance rates. In general, or at specific schools.

Or anecdotal evidence. Any examples about people you know. How talented are they? Where did they get accepted/rejected?

Finally, rumors. There's probably something to them too. For instance I always seem to hear that NYU and USC are the best and hardest to get into.
Post edited by bird rock on

Replies to: How hard is it to get accepted at film school?

  • originalcrushoriginalcrush Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    I just got into NYU with very average SAT scores and no SAT subject tests (As they are not required). I don't think i would have been as lucky applying to USC or UCLA where Standardized tests are taken into more consideration than your creative portfolio.
  • bird rockbird rock Registered User Posts: 869 Member
    originalcrush, could you say a little bit about your film qualifications?
  • paying3tuitionspaying3tuitions Registered User Posts: 13,330 Senior Member
    Two years ago by phone, someone (could have even been an office secretary) from Chapman U/Dodge College of Film and Media Arts quote "8-12% admit rate for Dodge" which is much harder than the general admit rate for Chapman U, by the way. 8-12% more resembles odds of getting into Harvard.

    BUT, I still don't know if that "8-12%" meant for the undergrad and grad division of the Dodge film school, or just their undergrads.

    And later, I heard two different stories from Chapman.Dodge parents of freshmen, regarding which majors were harder to enter than others! One heard clearly that "25% of all Screenwriting majors get in" making that sound, at first, like an easier major to enter than Directing. But another family heard a tourguide at Dodge say Screenwriting was HARDER to get in than Directing.

    So think about it: Chapman took 20 freshmen that year as Screenwriting Majors (one seminar-size classroom, in other words) but had several such seminar groups for Directors. Wouldn't the "admit rate" percentage for each major also depend on how many raw numbers apply to each major in the first place? (Answer: Yes.)

    To make it even more complicated (not that you needed that): some applicants write one major as their first choice yet get into their second choice major; others won't put down a second major so might not get in at all. These are different strategies and each has its merits and authenticity for the applicant. Very confusing.

    Sometimes new majors offer better admit-rate odds, too. For example, at Chapman they started a "DIgital Arts" major two years ago, and an "Acting for FIlm" major last year. I don't know how it all played out, but it sounded as though the newly opened major might afford a better chance for admission, just because not many have heard of it yet. Such opportunities vary by school, initial funding, number of faculty and so on.

    But I always thought it a good strategy to seek out and consider a New Major in any school.

    All I've given you here are one family's anecdotes, from one film program, from 2 years ago. It can't be generalized to other schools, obviously.

    In general, however, you're well-advised to consider it HARD and COMPETITIVE to get in to film school. At the same time, they ARE admitting people. So you're on a good track to ask what it takes, so you can meet those levels in your own application. Then you'll have a shot at it.

    Also, look at some schools that aren't immediately mentioned (NYU, USC) because those that get fewer applications might admit more by percentage.
    Take the same CC strategy of finding "reach, match, and safety" situations, including 2 financial safeties as well.

    One kind of "safety" is a lesser known film school or in an offbeat location.l Another kind of "safety" is a college where they don't ask for a portfolio but let "anyone" declare film as their major as they enter junior year. But it'd have to have a film department that you feel is good enough at least that you want to be at that college.

    When you size up a film department in a college or uni, don't just count the number of film courses. Also notice which are "Film Studies" versus "Film Production" courses. Film Studies is criticism/analysis/film history, while Producttion is the hands-on lab/making of short films.

    Our household was pretty stressed a few years ago because portfolios added roughly one-third more time to each college app. So when you make a List, also remember not to stretch yourself tooo thin with too many schools to apply, either. Some find that a list of around 8 schools where 3 or 4 want portfolios is doable, but you'll be working harder than your classmates just applying to academic schools, believe me.

    Coming up with a personal list that has a range of safety, match and reach opportunities is really worth the effort, so I commend you for looking ahead.

    Here I'll share with you my general parental cheerlead for going into performing arts: figure half of the others who apply are slipshod, careless, throw-offs. Figure the other half are JUST AS SERIOUS AS YOU ARE, and never underestimate one's competition. There. That just cut the anxiety in half, and
    also challenges you to put together the best possible portfolio so you do have a serious shot at what you want.

    I think colleges look for some combination of "does s/he have potential and can we teach her/him something" as well as looking for the very most accomplished. In other words, sometimes a faculty review team just sees something raw in a portfolio that is original and they know they can take that student to a higher level. So if you worry yours isn't as polished as someone who's had a gazillion opportunities at age 16, worry less about that. Put forward what you have got, make it the best you can (allow plenty of time for polish, copy-edit your essays; no last-minute editing and such...). I actually believe there's a bit of magic and chemistry between what a faculty looks for and what they see in the student's portfolio. The fact taht you ask so seriously is to your credit already. Good luok.

    PS, Check out the currently running thread, "Practical Realities..Jobs on Every Hollywood Set" for resources that include a list of 700+ filmschools (in addition to the 2 you named ;), and another point-of-view.
  • originalcrushoriginalcrush Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    bird rock, I believe that my short film was the strongest element in my application. (you can watch it here :) YouTube - The Howl & The Blood of a Charmless Nut) Other than that, I submitted a long resume with all short films i have done during high school but nothing serious apart from it.
  • SherlockianSherlockian Registered User Posts: 23 New Member
    I'm not sure where my SAT and GPA stood in relation to their averages, but I got into the NYU and USC film schools with absolutely no experience. I ended up declining both of them to attend (what I believe to be) a better film school, but when I applied I had never shot a single thing in my life. So, really, prior film experience is not a necessity.
  • bird rockbird rock Registered User Posts: 869 Member
    Sherlockian, do you mind if I ask what is the school which you believe to be better. Also, did you have any kind of art portfolio to show?
  • Georgia GirlGeorgia Girl Registered User Posts: 3,771 Senior Member
    Please take some time and look at the website of the School of Cinematic Arts at SC. George Lucas, through his foundation, donated $175 million to build an incredible cinematic arts complex.
    Cinema is not just a building but a combination of facilities, faculty, internships, connections in the industry, creative collaboration with classmates and alumni interaction. Please check out the website as many alumni have videotaped interviews as well as short examples of their work.
    Here is the website: www. usc.edu . Click on School of Cinematic Arts in the search box. You are there.
  • SherlockianSherlockian Registered User Posts: 23 New Member
    bird rock - Sorry for the delay in response. I'm currently attending the North Carolina School of the Arts, and when I applied there and to the other schools, the only portfolio I really had was of writing I had done in high school and on my own; stories and all that. I've never been very good at drawing, and I've only just gotten into photography now that I'm at school. Other people had very extensive portfolios, of course, but previous experience is pretty clearly not a requirement in order to be accepted.
  • bird rockbird rock Registered User Posts: 869 Member
    Georgia Girl, we're going to USC tomorrow. We were at UCLA the last two days. I agree about the website. Definitely professionally done.

    And Sherlockian, thanks for the info.
  • coptermamacoptermama Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    I'll assume you were impressed by the SC facilities during your tour. Pretty sweet. As for getting in ...

    Our son is a freshman there and is loving it. He was accepted at NYU and USC and went with the campus/facilities/industry connections/weather/football etc.

    We can't be sure what got him into SC, but our hunch is that essays and recommendations played a big role. SC did NOT ask to see any of his high school films (though we hear that may change) but its essay questions required a fair amount of storytelling. Concentrate on those. We're on the East Coast, so his recommendations were not from industry big-shots, just teachers, principal, and so on.

    Though SC doesn't ask to see your films, it does ask for a list of work. In our son's case, that meant a lengthy list of documentaries he made, and the awards they won.

    He was a better than average student, several AP classes but no brainiac, and very creative and musical.

    Our advice: make movies, enter film festivals, demonstrate you're serious about filmmaking, and be creative with your essays.

    NYU is very impressive, too, especially when you see its roster of graduates. The Tisch School asked for a sample of work, so you'll have that going for you.

    Good luck!
  • dadunidaduni Registered User Posts: 55 Junior Member
    My daughter is very interested in UNCSA. Now that you have been there for a awhile, what do you think? Was it the right choice? What are the good and the bad?
  • brisingrbrombrisingrbrom Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    hey just curious, does anyone know how hard it is to get into the ucf, university of central florida, film school? i have no previous experience and want to major in film production. thanks
  • PeakExperiencePeakExperience Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    I am in the process right now of applying to the USC School of Cinematic Arts for Film & Television Production. I as well have to submit my own short film, and I am trying to get an idea of what they are looking for. I tried clicking the link to view your film on Youtube, but it says that the video is private. Could you give me access to this film? Thanks!
  • maddenmdmaddenmd Registered User Posts: 389 Member
    PeakExperience: This is the first year that USC is requiring films as part of the application. But it has been optional in the past. If you google "USC Cinematic Arts application youtube" you will be able to watch some of those submitted in the past. Some people say if they were accepted, others don't. Chapman has long required a two minute film, with a twist: you may not appear in- but it needs to be about you. You can also google those. My son is also applying this year, and we've had a lot of fun watching films for both of those programs.

    One of my pet peeves about applying to a major or program in a university or college is they don't publish their acceptance rates. If you want to see that info for most colleges and universities, that information is readily available. But when you get to specific areas of interest, the numbers are harder to come by. When we went on all of our visits I asked that question directly, and at some places got answers, and at others didn't. We visited USC in April 2011, and were told that for film production they had about 1000 applicants, and they accepted 30 into the major. They said not everyone had sent in a completed application, so the numbers were not quite as bad as they sounded. But still... that seems rather daunting.
  • OhioMom3000OhioMom3000 Registered User Posts: 2,063 Senior Member
    ^ That's interesting they would say 30. I thought I read on their website a while back each catergory (Film Production, Screenwriting, etc.) had either 50 or 75 slots, depending on the program.
This discussion has been closed.