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Master of Fine Arts in Professional Screenwriting

Lead Faculty: Ms. Bettina Moss, M.F.A.

The MFA in Professional Screenwriting program provides an in-depth study of the art of film, TV and transmedia writing wherein students learn to create compelling, well-structured stories with memorable characters. Students will also acquire a foundational understanding of how to market themselves and their work in the entertainment industry.

This program is hybrid, with the majority of classes delivered online. There is a two week required on-site residency in Los Angeles. Graduate candidates develop skills in advanced film, television and/or transmedia writing, the ability to critically evaluate film, television and/or transmedia scripts for practical and commercial outcomes and critical acumen in the area of media studies. Students may choose one of three tracks: screenwriting, television writing or transmedia writing. Students may take courses within the three areas and produce thesis projects in more than one area. Graduate candidates will complete the program with a minimum of two feature length screenplays and/or teleplays and/or transmedia projects, an aesthetic statement reflecting their artistic development and a marketing plan and pitch.

The program prepares graduates to work in a variety of capacities in the following fields: commercial, industrial or independent film, TV and transmedia writing and/or development, digital entertainment media and communication, and educational or instructional media programs. Course work covers screenwriting, television writing, transmedia writing (graphic novels, comics, web narratives, etc.), script analysis, script development, pitching and marketing as well as business aspects of entertainment programming. Internships and special extra-curricular electives are also available.

Upon completion of the Master of Fine Arts in Professional Screenwriting program, students will possess the knowledge and skills needed to write professional level scripts, to participate in the ongoing scholarly and critical discussions of issues in the field of film, TV and Transmedia writing and to present their work to the entertainment industry.

Application Requirements and Program Prerequisites

To be considered for admission, prospective students must meet the University graduate admission requirements listed in the catalog under general information for graduate degrees. There is no separate application process for this program.

Students are expected to possess or have reliable access to a high- speed Internet connection including an email account outside of National University for course projects and assignments. Students need to have access to a DVD rental service or other reliable source for obtaining access to films, television shows and transmedia. Students must have personal access to a computer that meets the system requirements for viewing films and film clips online and other relevant media. The following software (at a minimum) is required: Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer) or comparable software capable of outputting PDF documents, and a variety of standard browser plug-ins (i.e. JavaScript, Flash, Shockwave, QuickTime, Real player etc.). Students must also have reliable access to a headset and microphone capable of supporting online course technological requirements. Students must also acquire and use approved softwares specific to the creation of film, television and transmedia scripts.

Students enrolling in the program are expected to have written and spoken proficiency in English at the graduate level. If in doubt about your English language skills please contact the faculty advisor for the program.

Program Prerequisites

The Professional Screenwriting MFA is a rigorous, graduate level program. Prior to entry it is expected that students have acquired the knowledge and skills needed to write, evaluate and engage in critical thought at the graduate level. Students who do not have such experience or skills should take appropriate courses before entering the program. It is recommended (although not absolutely required) that students have had undergraduate courses or experience in one or more of the following areas: communication, film, television, English, literary or media studies, history, philosophy, psychology or sociology or other relevant areas. For more information contact the program lead faculty advisor.

Faculty and Content Creators

Instructors bring the benefit of professional film and television experience to their teaching. Faculty, content creators and guest speakers include executives, agents, and producers who have worked in affiliation with DreamWorks (The Help, War Horse), Jerry Weintraub Productions (Oceans franchise, Karate Kid), Dan Lin Productions (Sherlock Holmes franchise), Lawrence Bender Productions (Inglorious Basterds, An Inconvenient Truth), Cruise/Wagner Productions (Mission Impossible franchise), Forward Pass (Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, Miami Vice), HBO, Showtime, PBS, Sony Pictures, ABC, CBS, NBC, Miramax, Disney, Warner Bros, Harpo Productions, and Fox Studios, among many others.

Faculty, content creators and guest speakers include Emmy, Humanitas and Nichols Fellowship award-winning writers who have worked on such diverse projects, as Masters of the Universe, Little Fockers, Ray, Life As We Know It, Red Eye, Disturbia, Wall Street, Source Code, and series such as From Earth To The Moon, Band Of Brothers, Deadwood, The District, Nip/Tuck, Picket Fences, Law And Order, Camarena Drug Wars, among many others, and transmedia projects such as, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (graphic novel), and Todd, The Ugliest Kid on Earth.

Program Delivery

The program is offered as a Hybrid, online/on-site low-residency program. The core courses, the electives and advanced courses with l the specified time period must retake the course. Any thesis course that receives an unsatisfactory evaluation must be repeated. For thesis portfolio students are expected to: a) independently develop, write and revise a minimum of two projects (i.e., screenplays and/or TV scripts and/or transmedia projects and/or critical paper.) b) independently develop and write an aesthetic statement documenting the artistic choices that resulted in the student s thesis projects; c) create a marketing plan and audio or video pitch to introduce the student s work to the entertainment community. dquo;studio practica are delivered online. Students select three electives to be completed prior to taking the 2-course thesis sequence.

The low-residency component of the program consists of two advanced courses which are taken concurrently.

  • SCR 670P - Development-Production Practicum (online for one month)
  • SCR 675 The Business of Screenwriting (on site for two weeks at National University s Los Angeles campus)

The residency courses provide students with the opportunity to learn in a collaborative environment which introduces them to working professionals and to synthesize crucial elements of film, TV and transmedia writing, pitch presentations and how business is conducted in the entertainment community. The two residency courses are educational opportunities to create relationships with professors and industry professionals and learn about the entertainment industry by direct experience. They are not designed to serve as venues for sale of creative material, for obtaining agent or manager representation or to procure employment.

Program Fees

All fees are financial aid eligible.

Residency Fees:

SCR675: $750

SCR670P: $250

Additional fees may apply to residency workshops including purchase of film or tour tickets, expendables, supplies and some meals. These can vary and are determined at the time of each on-site residency. Costs for accommodation and transportation are not included in the tuition or fees. Students are responsible for arranging their own accommodations and transportation as well as any meals not provided. For more information contact the program lead faculty advisor.

Thesis Fees:

SCR690: $350

SCR691: $350

These provide compensation for thesis committee members time and attention to thesis projects.

Thesis Sequence

To qualify for the Master of Fine Arts in Professional Screenwriting thesis sequence the successful MFA candidate must demonstrate her/his ability to work under the guidance of a thesis advisor(s), and have successfully completed all prior courses by maintaining a “B” average. Candidates who do not meet these criteria will be required to successfully repeat a course and/or complete an approved “guided study” or “professional internship.”

The Professional Screenwriting thesis portfolio is developed during a two-course sequence that may last from 4-12 months and students should anticipate the longer timeline. The courses are SCR 690 Screenwriting Thesis and SCR 691 Thesis
Qualification & Review.

During SCR 690, a candidate works with a thesis advisor and/or committee to identify and develop their projects which may have previously been developed in advanced writing classes and/or develop new material. In addition, a rough draft of
an aesthetic statement is crafted along with a rough draft of a marketing plan and pitch. After demonstrating successful progress of these components as determined by the thesis advisor and/or committee, the graduate candidate is cleared to
take SCR 691.

In SCR691 the candidate continues work on thesis projects and ultimately submits them along with the aesthetic statement and marketing plan for evaluation. Based upon this review the candidate may be required to revise the portfolio and meet
the standards for qualification review.

The thesis advisor and/or thesis committee determines whether or not the student has met or exceeded the qualification requirements for the Professional Screenwriting Master of Fine Arts. Both Thesis courses are IP (In Progress) grade eligible. A candidate must satisfactorily complete each thesis course within the maximum specified time period. A candidate who is unable to satisfactorily complete each course during the specified time period must retake the course. Any thesis course that receives an unsatisfactory evaluation must be repeated.

For thesis portfolio students are expected to:

a) independently develop, write and revise a minimum of two projects (i.e., screenplays and/or TV scripts and/or
transmedia projects and/or critical paper.)

b) independently develop and write an aesthetic statement documenting the artistic choices that resulted in the student’s
thesis projects;

c) create a marketing plan and audio or video pitch to introduce the student’s work to the entertainment community.

Program Learning Outcomes

  1. Differentiate critical points of view in the analyses and interpretation of films, television shows, screenplays and other entertainment content.
  2. Using films, television programs and transmedia IP’s analyze the principles of writing in these varied media.
  3. Demonstrate critical reflection and viewpoint in evaluating the work of peers and others.
  4. Generate original and/or adapted narrative screenplays, TV Scripts or transmedia IP’s employing the principles of these respective disciplines through various stages from introductory level to mastery.
  5. Articulate a critical understanding of self in relation to creativity and the influence of cultural and societal issues.
  6. Analyze and/or design and generate a marketing plan/pitch using the principles of entertainment industry marketing.
  7. Collaborate with others in achieving writing and/or pitching goals.


(19 courses; 74.25 quarter units)

To receive a Master of Fine Arts, students in the Professional Screenwriting program must complete at least 74.25 quarter units of graduate work, of which a minimum of 60.75 quarter units must be taken at National University. With approval of lead faculty advisor, students may be able to transfer up to 13 quarter units at the graduate level from a regionally accredited institution in the areas of screenwriting, communication, film or media studies, or other appropriate areas of study provided the units have not been used to satisfy the requirements of an awarded degree. Students wishing to transfer credits into the program should contact the program lead faculty advisor. Refer to the section in the graduate admission requirements for additional specific information regarding application and evaluation.

Core Requirements (7 courses; 27 quarter units)
Note: Practica are the “Studio labs” generally associated with writing workshops.
Core Requisite(s):
Advanced Core Requirements (8 courses; 29.25 quarter units)
Core Requisite(s):
Graduate Electives Requirement (2 courses; 9 quarter units)
Core Requisite(s):
Thesis Sequence (2 courses; 9 quarter units)
Core Requisite(s):
Special Electives (extra-curricular or substitute for elective) (2 courses; 6.75 quarter units)


Program Information

Online Education

This program is available online.

Program Locations