Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting

Students gathered around a camera checking footage

CSUN’s Master in Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting is a two-year, 42-unit program dedicated to writing for television and film. Our focus is on developing the tools with which you will tell your original stories in your unique voice. And our full-time and lecturer faculty are all current or former industry professionals teaching in their area of expertise. 
Your first semester starts with breaking a full season and writing a one-hour spec in a course run exactly like a professional Writers Room. You’ll also analyze structural and story-telling techniques employed in the creation of compelling, entertaining feature-length films in various genres. And you’ll outline and write the first act of an original feature screenplay. 
In your second semester, you’ll complete the first draft of your feature script, write a half-hour spec comedy and outline an original pilot and take a course in the history of cinema and television. And in our pedagogy course you will create a screenwriting class and teach one lesson from your syllabus. 
The third semester includes writing an original one-hour pilot. You’ll also write the first act of a second feature. And you’ll begin developing your thesis script for either television or film. You’ll also take a course in producing for film or TV, both taught by former production/development executives. 
Your final semester focuses on completing and polishing your thesis. You’ll also do an internship* and take a “Business of Screenwriting” course in which you’ll create decks and hone your pitch. The course also brings in writers, producers, executives, agents, attorneys, etc., via Zoom or in person to share their experience and thoughts on the life and craft of a professional screenwriter, how the business works, how to start and sustain your career and other relevant industry topics.

Applications are accepted once a year, from October 10 through March 1, for the following fall semester. We do not offer spring admission.

*Industry professionals may substitute another course for the internship class.

CSUN Master of Fine Arts Screenwriting Application for Fall 2024
Ends on Fri, Mar 1, 2024 11:59 PM

Welcome to CSUN's Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting application. The CSUN MFA focuses on developing each writer's unique voice and mastering the foundation of all cinema and television narratives – the script.  You will learn structural concepts, character creation, the art of writing great dialogue and other essential techniques used in creating compelling stories for half-hour, one-hour and feature-length scripts.

Our two-year program is an intensive, collaborative writing and educational experience that equips you with all of the tools you need to pursue rewarding creative professions in the entertainment industry. It also prepares those, including experienced industry professionals, who intend to teach at the college and university levels. All of our courses are taught at night from 7:00pm - 9:45pm to accommodate working professionals.
Applications are accepted once a year, from October 10th through March 1st, for the following Fall semester. We do not offer spring admissions. 

Application instructions: Applications are completed and submitted online. Paper, email, late or incomplete submissions cannot be accepted.

M.F.A. in Screenwriting Application

1st Semester Fall    

  • CTVA 505 Contemporary Film Analysis     
    • Feature Film Analysis: structure, themes, techniques
  • CTVA 510 Screenplay Scene Writing    
    • Intro Feature Screenplay, outline feature/write 1st act
  • CTVA 595D Writing Episodic Television     
    • The Writers Room, Break season, write spec 1-hour

2nd Semester Spring    

  • CTVA 500 Theory and History of Cinema    
    • Film & Television Media Studies, content varies
  • CTVA 510 Writing the Screenplay Comedy     
    • Half-hour television, write spec/outline original pilot
  • CTVA 525 Graduate Screenwriting  
    • Complete feature begun in CTVA 510
  • CTVA 595G Screenwriting Pedagogy     
    • Design a Screenwriting Course / teach one class

3rd Semester Fall    

  • CTVA 625 Writing the Feature Screenplay     
    • Develop new feature film; can be used for Thesis
  • CTVA 692 Thesis Script Preparation     
    • Deeper character, theme, scene development for Thesis
  • CTVA 595A 1-hour Original Pilot     
    • Develop 1-hour Original Pilot; can be used for Thesis
  • CTVA 482 Network Program Dev      
    • Network Program Development OR
  • CTVA 483 Media Programming    
    • Business of Emerging Media Programming

4th Semester Spring    

  • CTVA 595F Business of Screenwriting    
    • Speakers, develop decks and pitches for Thesis, etc.
  • CTVA 694A/B Graduate Internship    
    • Internship (can sub another course if industry experience)
  • CTVA 698C Thesis Screenplay     
    • Workshop Thesis Writing class

NOTE: Thesis must be ONE of the following:     

  • Feature-length Screenplay    
  • One-Hour Pilot with 1st-Season Outline    
  • Two Half-hour Pilots with 1st-Season Outline    


Frequently Asked Questions

We are a Top-25 film school in the heart of the entertainment industry. CSUN MFA faculty are all professional screenwriters in film and/or television and dedicated teachers and mentors.

Full-time professors and many of our lecturers earned their MFA degrees from USC, UCLA, AFI, CSUN and other top film schools and bring that experience to their classrooms. Our curriculum is designed to give you the skills needed to write professional film and television scripts. We bring top industry writers, directors, producers, executives, agents and attorneys to your classrooms to share their experience and advice.

Our unique pedagogy course gives you the opportunity to design your own class and develop your professorial skills. Our internship program opens doors for you to gain industry experience and connections. And we’re affordable. CSUN’s Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting degree costs a fraction of other comparable programs.

An MFA degree is a 42-unit terminal degree. "Terminal" in our field of the arts means there is no degree higher. It’s required for teaching at college and university levels. Our program focuses on the source of storytelling for cinema and television art – the script. Your scripts will be your industry calling cards. They will launch your careers.

Hollywood is always looking for original voices. Our MFA gives you the opportunity to dedicate yourself to your craft, collaborate with a small group of committed, diverse writers and develop your unique voice and stories. You will gain deep skills in writing half-hour, one-hour and feature-length screenplays. And you will forge life-long relationships. You’ll also learn to pitch, take meetings, give and receive notes – essential skills for succeeding in the entertainment business.

The B.A. or B.S. degree is required but not necessarily in a field related to film. You can have a background in any undergraduate or graduate discipline and have compelling stories to tell. History, Anthropology, Theater, Psychology, etc., are some of the undergraduate degrees we’ve admitted with great success. However, we do recommend applicants complete at least one or two basic courses in screenwriting before applying to our MFA program in order to have some facility and familiarity with the form. Many community colleges and university extension programs offer these classes online or in person. The UCLA Extension Writers Program offers numerous screenwriting classes and is very popular. 

Financial aid opportunities can be explored on CSUN’s Financial Aid website or by calling the CSUN Financial Aid Office, (818) 677-4058.

You will need to file for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) early in the year:

California residents pursuing a Cal Grant award must be sure to file for FAFSA before the Cal Grant March 1st deadline. Note: out-of-state students become eligible to file for residency after one year.

Cost of attendance is different for in-state and out-of-state and international students. To calculate your cost of attendance, click on Cost of Attendance. Then click on Graduate/Post Baccalaureate where you’ll find the in-state tuition along with estimates for housing, food, etc. For out-of-state and international students, the cost increases by $396 PER UNIT or approximately $16,632 over the 42-unit, 2-year program. Cost of tuition is subject to change.

We offer a number of scholarships each academic year. Upon acceptance in the MFA Screenwriting Program, you will receive information on current scholarship opportunities. The university offers scholarships and loans as well. The amount and availability of university scholarships can be found on CSUN’s Financial Aid website at

Up to two out-of-state/international-student fee waivers may be available. Students are automatically considered for this upon acceptance and will be notified by mid-spring.

We also offer two Teaching Associate positions to second-year MFA students who must apply and be selected to serve as the instructor-of-record for an undergraduate CTVA 220 Foundations of Media Writing course. These positions offer a fee waiver (amount will be based on your financial package if any) and a stipend.

We also offer two Student Ambassador positions in our Script Library for at least two semesters. This is a paid position (up to 20 hours per week at $15/hour) in which MFA students supervise CSUN's script collection, provide department tours to prospective students and tutor undergraduate film students.

NOTE: The availability of all of the above is subject to change.

We admit graduate students annually in the fall semester. Applications are accepted from October 1 through March 1 for the MFA program start date each fall semester. We do not offer spring admissions.

We require three writing samples. One is a statement of purpose. This is an opportunity to tell your story. It should provide information about professional or creative activities relevant to your application and state your goals as they relate to earning an MFA in screenwriting.

Applicants must submit an original sample script. This can be an original full-length screenplay, a one-hour or half-hour episodic pilot, a complete shorter script of at least 30 pages for film or television, or the first 30-35 pages of an original feature screenplay in progress.

Applicants must also write and submit an original dramatic scene based on a prompt that will be provided on your Submittable application.   

You will submit three letters of recommendation. At least one must be from a professor with whom you have studied. The others can be from someone with whom you’ve worked. All should objectively assess your potential as a graduate student and screenwriter.

Official transcript(s) are required. Instructions for submitting these will be on the Submittable application. All transcripts will be sent electronically or by mail directly to California State University, Northridge.

Official English Proficiency Test Scores are required.
Please see the following link for more information:

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