Majors & Programs

Writing for Film and Television (MFA)

We are the screenwriters of today and the award winners of tomorrow.

To stay competitive in today’s market, film and television writers need to be able to work across platforms and genres. Designed with this in mind, our low-residency Writing for Film and Television (MFA) program emphasizes the art and business of film and television writing, as well as innovative writing for other emergent forms of media, from long- and short-form films to series television and webisodes. By graduation, students will have a complete portfolio of professional-caliber work. Each semester begins with a six-day residency, alternating between our Boston and LA locations, where students engage in:

  • Master classes;
  • Seminars;
  • Screenings;
  • Intensive workshops;
  • Peer group workshops; and
  • Guest lectures, staged readings, and pitch sessions.

At the end of each residency, you will return home ready to begin writing, participating in online workshops, and attending virtual meetings with your advisor and peers. You will enroll in one online topics course per semester to supplement and contextualize the skills learned in your writing workshops.

Apply Now


Request More Information

Loading...

Program Summary

Structure

Each semester includes:

  • A six-day on-campus residency (alternating between Emerson's Boston campus and Emerson Los Angeles)
  • One online screenwriting workshop
  • One online topics class

Learning Outcomes by Semester

Semester I: Story and Shorts

Semester I begins with a Boston residency. The focus of this semester is to learn the fundamentals of storytelling and writing short screenplays. Based on the semester plan agreed upon by you and your advisor, you will work on short screenplays of varying lengths.

The writing will be critiqued in an online workshop environment by the instructor and the other workshop students. You will then have a comprehensive online meeting with your advisor to discuss the progress of your creative work and the feedback you received in the workshop.

The Semester I topics course will be: Film Genres

Semester II: Pilots and Series Television/Cable/Streaming

Semester II starts with a residency in Los Angeles and has series television writing as its central theme. During this semester, you may complete an episode of a current cable, streaming or network television show (spec script), or a pilot for network, cable, or streaming platforms.

The writing will be critiqued in an online workshop environment by the instructor and the other workshop students. You will then have a comprehensive online meeting with your advisor to discuss the progress of your creative work and the feedback you received in the workshop.

The Semester II topics course will be: The Writer’s Room

Semester III: Features and Cable Movies

Semester III begins with a Boston residency and will focus on the art and craft of writing for long-form film. Working from step outlines created during the residency, you will complete the first draft of a feature screenplay.

The writing will be critiqued in an online workshop environment by the instructor and the other workshop students. You will then have a comprehensive online meeting with your advisor to discuss the progress of your creative work and the feedback you received in the workshop.

The Semester III topics course will be: Television Genres

Semester IV: The Entertainment Industry

Semester IV begins with a Los Angeles residency and will focus on how to navigate the film and television industry as a working writer.

Creative work during this semester begins with step outlines written during the residency. You will complete a second feature screenplay or a pilot and post your creative work in installments online for discussion in the workshop sessions. You will then have a comprehensive online meeting with your advisor to discuss the progress of your creative work and the feedback you received in the workshop.

The Semester IV topics course will be: Writers In Development
 

Residency Overview

Note: Due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and Massachusetts Stay-at-Home guidelines, the Fall 2020 Residency will take place in a remote format during the originally planned dates. This decision was made out of an abundance of caution and with the health and safety of our students as our top priority. We want to assure our accepted students that we are making every effort to create a remote residency experience that is as engaging, productive, and meaningful as any other.

Each residency week begins on Sunday afternoon with orientation, a campus tour for new students, and a welcome dinner.

During the residency week, you will engage in master classes, seminars, intensive workshops, and peer group workshops. Evening sessions include screenings, guest lectures, and staged readings from student work. Seminars, lectures, and workshops will reflect residency themes. 

You will also meet with advisors to form the work plan for the semester. Before each residency ends, you will have clear deadlines for the semester’s creative work, reading and viewing lists, and a schedule for all online meetings.

It is important to note that due to the credits earned during the residency, attendance is required, and residencies cannot be made-up. 
 

Sample Residency Schedule

Residency schedules vary day to day and semester to semester.

Morning Session

  • Lecture: History, Theory & Analysis
  • Seminar: The Art & Craft of Screenwriting

Afternoon Session

  • Seminar: The Art & Craft of Screenwriting
  • Writing Workshops
  • Peer Group/Advisor Meeting

Evening Sessions

  • Screenings
  • Guest Lectures
  • Staged Readings
  • Pitch Sessions
     

Academic & Management Guidelines

The sense of community you build during each residency with your faculty and peers continues both within and outside of the online platform, allowing you to form lifelong working relationships and friendships. Students in each cohort have their own way of connecting outside of the structured courses via texting, emails, in-person meetups, or virtual group calls. The program provides a real classroom experience where you will interact with your teacher every week. Faculty members are available for virtual and in-person office hours to support your writing and growth.

Given the high-touch nature of the program, students should expect this course of study to be as rigorous and demanding- with respect to scholarship and creativity- as any on-campus graduate program. MFA students in this program should expect to spend a minimum of 7-8 hours per week on writing and coursework.

The Low Residency MFA in Writing for Film and Television program requires of its students a self-directed and disciplined approach to time management in order to meet the weekly demands of the lectures, readings, film viewings, and discussions, as well as time devoted to writing.

The on-campus class experience provides a guideline for determining time management. For example, weekly on campus classes are held for 3.5 hours and cover the course lecture, demonstration and discussion. The online student may apply this timeframe as a model to schedule 3.5 hours per week for online participation. In addition, time required for weekly film viewings is on average 2 to 4 hours.

Lastly, consideration must be given to time set aside each week for screenwriting, the length of which is subjective in nature.

Faculty

Semel Chair in Screenwriting

The MFA in Writing Film and Television brings award-winning film and television writers to its Boston and Los Angeles campuses. The Semel Chair in Screenwriting is a working screenwriter who will conduct master classes during the residency, meet with students, and lead an evening screening and discussion of the speaker's work. Previous Semel Chairs have included:

  • Alex Cox, writer and director of Repo Man
  • Courtney Kemp, creator and showrunner of Power
  • Jill Soloway, creator, director, and writer of Transparent
  • Graham Moore, writer of the Academy Award–winning screenplay for The Imitation Game
  • Krista Vernoff, showrunner for Grey’s Anatomy
  • Dustin Lance Black, writer of the Academy Award–winning screenplay for Milk
  • Cheo Hodari Coker, creator and showrunner of Luke Cage 
  • David writer of Life of Pi

Meet the Graduate Program Director

Residency Overview 

Note: Due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and Massachusetts Stay-at-Home guidelines, the Fall 2020 Residency will take place in a remote format during the originally planned dates. This decision was made out of an abundance of caution and with the health and safety of our students as our top priority.  We want to assure our accepted students that we are making every effort to create a remote residency experience that is as engaging, productive, and meaningful as any other.