As some of you may have discovered, I've been pretty terrible about keeping up with emails the last few months. Part of this is due to me being over-extended and part of it is the result of me putting an email aside if I don't think I have enough experience to answer it effectively. But a few of these are good questions that I imagine others would be interested in, so for now, I think I'll feature some of these questions on Tuesday Talkback.
Today's question comes from Malcolm:
I'm a 20-something, inexperienced, aspiring writer, and I'm hoping you can shed some light on MFA screenwriting programs.
Specifically, do you think there's much value in the opportunities presented by these programs, in terms of getting a "foot in the door" upon graduation?
When someone tells you "I got my MFA in screenwriting from AFI," does that really mean anything to you or anyone you know? Any insight on the topic of film schools would be much appreciated.
For me personally, hearing someone got an MFA in Screenwriting doesn't impress me. There are great screenwriters who are self-taught, plenty who didn't go to grad school, and some who didn't even study writing in college.
Having said that, I have no direct experience with MFA writing programs. I can see the value in going to a graduate-level film school if you're looking to be a director or a producer, but I think it's less essential if you're aiming just to be a screenwriter. I don't doubt that those programs offer some great insight into the writing process and probably offer a structure that many aspirings find valuable. And if that works for you? Great!
But would it be necessary? Would the mere credential open doors for you? My gut says no. (Well, unless your goal is to teach screenwriting.)
But as someone who hasn't gotten his MFA, I'm willing to entertain the notion that I'm way off base here. So if you've got something to add to the conversation, please do so.