SDSU Global Campus’ new Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting is a one-of-a-kind program.
This low residency, two-year hybrid program is the first of its kind in the CSU system in this format, and one of the few in the nation from a major, accredited university. The graduate program, created in collaboration with SDSU’s School of Theater, Television, and Film, develops screenwriters’ writing and storytelling abilities while helping them learn skills in production.
Exploring a variety of media storytelling forms is the focus of the program. Screenwriters in today’s industry need to be equipped with both storytelling and production skills. With a changing media landscape, screenwriters now must be effective both on-set and post-production in film, television, theater, web, and other media. The MFA in Screenwriting program prepares students to adapt in an evolving industry.
“What makes the program unique is writers are not only honing their craft as writers, but they’ll also come away with some production skills and some familiarity with editing, working the camera, framing,” said Stuart Voytilla, program sponsor from the School of Theater, Television and Film. “Getting them on set and developing these skills will make them stronger writers on the page.”
Proven Screenwriting Courses
With SDSU being just over 100 miles from Hollywood, the program brings access to some of the best Hollywood writers and instructors. Jennifer Van Sijll, seasoned screenwriting instructor and author of the best-selling book, “Cinematic Storytelling”, is experienced in TV, independent film and documentary. She’s teaching a course titled Big Bucks: The One Location Script — Horror — Drama — Thriller.
The course gives students an opportunity to create a script with a few or a single location, making it an inexpensive project to shoot. This project is just one of the few projects students will graduate from the program with and can develop post-graduation.
Van Sijll highlights the advantages of the program’s location and the global community the cohort creates. “Not only do students connect with the entertainment industry in Southern California through their instructors online,” said Van Sijll, “. . . but they meet fellow writers from all parts of the globe enabling them to forge writing partners and lifelong professional relationships.”
Joe Straczynski is another program instructor who knows Hollywood, and SDSU, very well. Straczynski is an SDSU alumnus who is now a working writer in TV and film. Straczynski has written almost 400 TV episodes and was a showrunner on multiple series including “Babylon 5,” “Jeremiah,” and “Sense8.” He’s also written and worked on films such as “World War Z,” “Thor,” and “Changeling,” which received eight nominations at the British Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay.
One of Straczynski’s courses, Surviving the Writer’s Room, offers students the opportunity to develop their writing skills in a realistic Hollywood setting. The course is designed to present all of the challenges and scenarios that could happen when working on a real set.
“The class will be run as if a (fictional) series had just been ordered, and everyone in the group is a writer working on the project,” said Straczynski. “It’s a direct simulation of the TV development process, with all the fun, difficulty, anguish and pain that goes with sudden shifts in the project, network notes, and the like. Having worked in many writers’ rooms, I want this to be as authentic and often maddening as possible.”
Graduates will finish the program with a well-rounded, unique skill set and ready-to-go scripts they can take straight to industry leaders.
“The design of the program is one in which you’re coming in with specialty in one type of writing form, so it could be playwrights who are coming into the program and realizing they can now hone their skills across a lot of different forms,” said Voytilla. “They’re going to be coming away with several works they’ve created throughout the two-year program, so they could be taking away a screenplay, a television pilot, a design for a game, a podcast, etc.”
Build Your Screenwriting Career with SDSU
It’s an exciting time for creatives with a story to tell. SDSU Global Campus’ MFA in Screenwriting program is looking forward to welcoming the first cohort in fall 2021. Applications for the program are open now.
“The industry is evolving . . . and the evolution is both decentralized and global,” said Van Sijll. “With the massive impact of streaming, a lot of the old paradigms have been challenged and new platforms and opportunities abound. With so many new players needing to fill their product line-ups, it’s a good time to be a scriptwriter.”