Radio-Television-Film > Graduate > Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting

Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting

M.F.A. in Screenwriting

Welcome!

Our nationally ranked MFA Screenwriting program is one of the most affordable, unique and successful programs of its kind in the country. It is surrounded by a city in love with storytelling — Austin, TX, home to great film festivals, some of today’s hottest feature filmmakers, and many of today’s top TV show runners. It’s where you can write the next Hollywood blockbuster, original television pilot, or small indie gem.

Program Highlights

  • Excellent education. The UT RTF program is ranked as a top 10 U.S. film school by The Hollywood Reporter and MovieMaker Magazine.
     
  • Low tuition and feesWe offer small class sizes at a small price, leaving our students with enough spare change to enjoy Austin's breakfast-taco-and-coffeeshop culture that writers and filmmakers can’t get enough of.
     
  • Broad curriculum. Our curriculum covers both television and feature film writing as well as classes in production, film and television history and media studies. 
     
  • Innovative opportunities. We have the only hands-on TV Writers’ Room workshop class of its kind: students collaborate and create an entire season of a series that is shopped to all the major networks, giving students an immediate foot in the door. Working with a veteran Hollywood showrunner, the class also collaborates with producers and executives from companies such as Sundance Productions and Pilar/Segan/Shepherd Productions.
     
  • Access to working filmmakers. MFA screenwriting students have opportunites to collaborate with our award-winning MFA production students to see their words come alive on screen and are also encouraged to take production classes to make their own films. 
     
  • Real world experience. We facilitate internships in L.A.—for such companies as Miramax, UTA, Mad Men, WM/Endeavor and Scott Free Productions—as well as in Austin—at places such as the Austin Film Festival, Detour Films and with screenwriter/television producer Rob Thomas. Resident Austin filmmakers Richard Linklater, Terrence Malick, Robert Rodriguez, and many others offer our students internships, bridging the worlds of Hollywood and independent filmmaking.
     
  • Conference & networking access. Our students are given passes to the Austin Film Festival’s Screenwriters’ Conference as well as the ATX Television Festival and South by Southwest.

Program Achievements

We’re winning major awards. Our screenwriting students have won the 2017 Humanitas Prize in Screenwriting and the 2010 and 2014 Academy Nicholls Fellowship. They have also placed highly in other prestigious screenwriting competitions, including the Austin Film Festival and HBO Access Writing Fellowship.

Our faculty are not only topflight instructors, but are also working screenwriters, having sold screenplays to HBO, Warner Brothers, New Line Cinema, Walt Disney Studios, Dimension Entertainment, MGM, National Geographic, Paramount Pictures, Sony Entertainment, The Disney Channel, Lionsgate, Happy Madison Productions, Gary Sanchez, and many other studios and networks.

Our former students and faculty have written for television programs such as iZombie, Hemlock Grove, Greek, Archer, Generation Kill, Chasing Life, Haven, Being Human, Everwood, Brothers & Sisters, Jericho, and Livin’ Loud.

2017 Nicholls Quarterfinalists

  • Caroline Keene (MFA '16)
  • Nathan Patton (BS '16)
  • Magdalen Silberman (MFA '16)
  • Max Kaplow (MFA '17)

2017 Humanitas Prize Winners in Screenwriting

  • Magdalen Silberman (MFA ’16)
  • Munis Rashid (BS ’14)

2017 HBO Access Writing Felllowship Winner

  • Kat Craft (MFA '17)

Program Details

The Master in Fine Arts (M.F.A.) program in Screenwriting is a two-year (including one summer), 45-hour program designed for creative individuals with a strong commitment to storytelling for the screen. The program provides a foundation of narrative skills that enables writers to succeed in both film and television, in either the Hollywood or independent arenas. Only seven students are admitted each year, a number that optimizes the workshop environment and makes it possible to provide maximum guidance. Students graduate with polished feature film screenplays, original TV pilots, TV spec scripts, and the tools to be a working professional screenwriter. 

Upon entering the program, students are introduced to the principles of writing for the screen, focusing on characterization, story development and narrative structure. Students leave the program with three original feature-length screenplays that have undergone significant revision. Students also do extensive work in television, writing specs of existing TV shows as well as original pilots. In addition to their core writing workshops, students enroll in required courses in Film History, Production for Writers, and Adaptation. During their final semester, M.F.A. candidates work one-on-one with a senior faculty member on their thesis project, leaving the program with polished work suitable for submission to agents, producers, studios and other financing entities. Degree requirements include a written report describing and analyzing the creative development of the thesis script.

In addition to writing courses, students are encouraged to use their electives to broaden their critical knowledge and filmmaking experience via the department's film studies and production offerings. The department strongly encourages collaboration between its student screenwriters and filmmakers, which has resulted in award-winning films screening at major festivals worldwide. An internship in the film industry is required as part of the program of work, and past students have interned both in Los Angeles (at such companies as Miramax and Pixar /Disney), and locally at the Austin Film Festival and with Austin-based filmmakers Richard Linklater and Terrence Malick.

Faculty

Our diverse permanent faculty are all working screenwriters who cover the gamut from experienced television showrunners to feature film writers to produced writer/directors to TV staff writers. 

Felicia Henderson
Stuart Kelban
Richard Lewis
Cindy McCreery

Lecturers:

Beau Thorne
Tom Willett

From Our Alumni

I'd never taken a screenwriting class before UT Austin, and so it wasn't surprising that I was one of the worst writers in my first screenwriting workshop. But the class was designed to provide a foundational understanding of screenwriting, and by the end of the semester - with the help of my amazingly supportive professor Cindy McCreery - I was given more than enough to understand the mechanics of the craft. The whole UT screenwriting program is structured in such a way: every class builds on top of the other, and my skills improved noticeably every semester. It helps of course that the professors are fantastic: good at screenwriting, great at teaching, and always available when you need to quietly (or not so quietly) agonize over your work. Aside from the traditional writers workshops, the other classes in the curriculum such as Beau Thorne's Adaption class and Cindy McCreery and Scott Shepherd's Writer's Room class ensured the students had a well-rounded skill set useful in any writing career, such as pitching and collaborating together on a single idea.
—Jessica Chou, 2016 CBS Writers Program Fellow and staff writer on CWs, No Tomorrow.

 

"The program was instrumental in helping me move out of my comfort zone as a writer. It was a safe space to explore and experiment with different types of stories and genres. I went into the program thinking I was only going to do comedy, but I left with a strong passion for horror and drama. The program helped me zero in on my strengths while also working out my weakness. Every single class had something extremely valuable to contribute to my writing arsenal. Prior to UT, I had never written a feature. I wrote my first one in Stuart's first-semester screenwriting class where I learned the basics of screenwriting structure. It was a revelation for me. That, combined with Beau's excellent rewriting class, laid the foundation for my writing process. Additionally, Cindy's TV writing class gave me the tools needed to understand the mechanisms of the constantly evolving medium of television. In Richard's third-semester screenwriting class, I wrote my first one-hour pilot and discovered that it was a format that really suited my sensibilities. One major advantage of the program is The Writer's Room class. This class allowed me to experience what it's like to work in a professional writer's room. I got to write an episode (from outline to revision) of an original series that we developed as a class. It was a unique opportunity that contributed greatly to my growth as a writer. In the end, I left the program with a strong portfolio and confidence in the skills I had acquired over the course of two years."
Renier Murillo, National Hispanic Media Coalition 2016 Fellow
http://www.nhmc.org/programs/writers-program/meet-the-writers/

The MFA screenwriting program at UT has made me a better writer. The faculty helped me develop and refine my voice, while also teaching me the ins and outs of feature and television structures. I wouldn't have been able to write the scripts I wrote with them on my own. This program really prepares you to write a lot at a high quality. I loved that the screenwriting faculty basically has an open-door policy, and they are always happy to discuss your ideas and stories with you. They are really dedicated to making you a better writer while still letting you find your own voice.  The screenwriting program at UT pushed me in great ways to become a better writer. I'm so glad I went through this program it's really prepared me for the professional world.
Kat Craft - HBO TV Fellowship 2017 Fellow