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Admissions Requirements

Ranked as one of the top film schools in America, the AFI Conservatory is searching for the next generation of filmmakers with individual artistic voices to apply as Fellows to one of the six disciplines in our MFA program. The AFI Conservatory does not offer any undergraduate degree programs and only admits once a year for fall terms.

AFI Fellows come from a diverse background and are represented by the majority of states in the US and over 40 countries around the world. Fellows at the Conservatory bring to life our mission and vision by serving as artists and leaders in the art of storytelling and influencing culture through their contributions to film and television.

This information on this page is for applicants to learn how to successfully apply to the MFA program, as well as provide instructions on material submissions for the Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design, and Screenwriting disciplines.

We understand applying to graduate school is a lot of work, and we appreciate the time and attention every applicant puts into their materials. Should there be any questions about the admissions requirements, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Admissions office for clarification at [email protected].

 

BEFORE YOU APPLY

  • Learn about the AFI Conservatory program and how the discipline you’re interested in will make you a better storyteller.
  • Read the FAQ as it provides answers to many frequently asked questions.
  • Learn about tuition, fees, and estimated living expenses by reviewing and understanding the cost of attendance.
  • Review the admissions requirements and discipline-specific requirements to prepare for submitting the online application.
  • Prepare all your application material well in advance of the application deadline as all material is due on the application deadline date.
  • If you anticipate needing tuition assistance, please visit the Scholarship page to learn more about our donor-based scholarship opportunities.
  • Add [email protected][email protected], and the domain address AFI.com/AFI.edu to your email settings as communications about your application will come from [email protected][email protected], or a staff email address. Check your spam/junk folder as well to ensure you receive all important communications. AFI is not responsible for any missed communications if applicants are not checking their spam folders or adding our domain addresses to their approved list of emails.

 

2023–2024 Admission Requirements

All applicants for admission to the MFA or Certificate of Completion at the AFI Conservatory must submit the following:

ONLINE APPLICATION

AFI uses the GradCAS application system. Because AFI is looking for passionate storytellers that want to deepen their knowledge and skills in a particular discipline, you will only have the option to apply to up to two disciplines.

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There is an application fee of $110 per application.

The narrative statement is a very important part of your application for admission. It’s our chance to get to know you better as a storyteller and as a person. This is your chance to tell us your story. Your statement should be no longer than 3 pages in length, and it should contain the following.

The majority of the narrative statement should tell us:

  • About your own unique story. What shaped you as a person? What is important to you about the stories you want to tell? The goal is to get to know you as a person and as a storyteller outside of your resume and professional accomplishments.

We’d also like you to touch upon the following questions in a meaningful way in your statement as well:

  • Why are you applying for this specific discipline? What people/movies/art inspire you in that field?
  • The AFI Conservatory is a hands-on collaborative learning environment. What is your experience as a collaborator in the filmmaking process?
  • How do you see the AFI Conservatory benefiting your long-term career goals?

If you are applying to two disciplines, we recommend writing a unique statement for each of your applications that is tailored to and reflects your thoughts and passion about that discipline.

Please make it easy on our diverse admissions committee members and keep your narrative statement easy to read with a conventional font (Times New Roman), size 12, double spaced, and normal margins.

Your resume should detail your professional work, set experience, education level and degree(s) earned (please see additional information in the TRANSCRIPTS section about listing education in your resume).

We ask that applicants submit the names of two individuals who will provide a professional (academic or artistic) recommendation. The recommenders will be e-mailed a link from the GradCAS application portal. No personal recommendations are allowed.

Applicants are responsible for ensuring their recommenders have completed the online recommendation by the application deadline date as your application cannot be reviewed without them. AFI will only accept letters directly from the recommender and not from the applicant. Submissions provided by the applicant will not be considered. No hard copy letters are accepted.

Letters of recommendation are due before or on the application deadline date.

The AFI Conservatory Admissions Office accepts unofficial transcripts* during the admissions process. A transcript is a document that provides a list of courses and grades earned by you at an institution. Unfortunately, diplomas cannot be accepted in lieu of transcripts.

In the online application, please only list schools of higher education where a transcript can be obtained. A transcript is required for any of the schools listed as part of your admissions application. Please note, a school cannot be removed or deleted from your application once you submit it so please keep this in mind when listing the school(s) you attended. If a transcript cannot be obtained, a letter from the school stating so will be required.

If you attended other schools that may be pertinent to your application (for example, you attended extension courses or a workshop), please list these on your resume and not in the application system. Should the AFI Conservatory need additional information about your academic background, we will reach out to you directly.

For international applicants: please submit all credentials and transcripts with an official English translation (if applicable). A bachelor’s equivalency report will be required for Admitted Fellows who decide to enroll at the AFI Conservatory. For more information, please visit our International Applicants page. The Registrar determines final evaluation of applicants’ records.

Certificate of Completion applicants: if you have some higher education history, please list that school in the Academic History section. If you do not have any higher education post high school (primary school), please list where you received your high school diploma and answer the academic history questions to the best of your ability.

All transcripts and credentials are due before or on the application deadline date.

*Admitted Fellows who decide to enroll at the AFI Conservatory will be required to submit official transcripts. Transcripts are considered official if the AFI Conservatory receives them directly from the issuing school either digitally or by post mail, or if the Admitted Fellow sends a physical copy in a signed and sealed envelope.

Applicants who do not hold an earned undergraduate degree or equivalent may be eligible to apply to participate in our program as an Associate Fellow. Eligibility to apply to the program as an Associate Fellow is based upon the applicant having demonstrated exceptional skill through a track record in his/her/their field, and a required number of years of applicable experience, as determined by the Conservatory.

Applicants must:

  1. Complete the full application including discipline specific requirements;
  2. Document a minimum of 3 years of professional experience and accomplishments;
  3. Demonstrate the maturity to participate in a graduate level program (and apply a minimum of 4 years post completion of his/her/their high school in the US or secondary education abroad)

Associate Fellows are required to meet all the requirements and obligations of degree-candidate Fellows. Associate Fellows are awarded Certificates of Completion upon successful completion of all requirements of the AFI Conservatory program within their respective discipline.

The AFI Conservatory is a need-blind institution. Scholarship or financial need is not taken into consideration during the admissions process and would never be used in hindrance to an applicant’s admissions decision.

After you submit your admissions application, if you wish to be considered for a scholarship, please submit this form by February 1, 2023. This form will be submitted directly to the AFI Conservatory’s Office of Financial Aid. Notification of scholarship awards will be sent out after an admissions decision has been rendered and admitted Fellows will receive notification if they have been awarded a scholarship or not.

AFI Scholarship consideration is open to domestic and international applicants. Late applications may not be considered.

International applicants must submit an English proficiency score if English is not the applicant’s native language. The AFI Conservatory accepts the following tests TOEFL (iBT, MyBestScore, and Essentials), IELTS, and Duolingo.

The minimum scores required are:

  • TOEFL score requirement is 100 for Internet-based (iBT)/MyBestScore or 11 for TOEFL Essentials.
  • IELTS score requirement is 7.0.
  • Duolingo score requirement is 125.

Applications will not be reviewed without the minimum test score. No exceptions. For testing information, go directly to the testing sites: TOEFLIELTS, or Duolingo. Test results must be taken within 24 months of the date you apply to the Conservatory, or they will be considered invalid. AFI only accepts official test results and not results submitted by the applicant. Please send official test results to the following:

  • For TOEFL, please send scores to code B886. TOEFL scores are sent to our application system, GradCAS, and not directly to AFI for processing.
  • For IELTS, AFIis registered to receive IELTS scores electronically through GradCAS. Applicants must contact the IELTS test center where the IELTS test was taken to request the official Test Report Form be sent electronically to the GradCAS E-Delivery account, thereby granting permission to share test results with CAS services. We do not accept unofficial copies of IELTS Test Report Forms from applicants. An institution code is not required to send scores through GradCAS. If necessary, to send scores directly to AFI, please use code 9760.
  • For Duolingo, when logged into your Duolingo account, please send test score directly to the American Film Institute for processing. The GradCAS system does not process these scores.

We recommend international applicants take the TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo well in advance of the application deadline to report the qualifying minimum score. Please allow appropriate time for test scheduling and the distribution of results.

Qualifying test scores are due before or on the application deadline date.

International Applicants — click here to learn more.

DISCIPLINE SPECIFIC SUPPORTING MATERIALS/PORTFOLIO REQUIREMENTS

Applicants are required to submit material that best fits the discipline requirements. Please make sure any of the following material requested meets these criteria unless otherwise noted:

Films:

  1. Do not exceed the TRT (total run time).
  2. Only one film example is allowed per link.
  3. The AFI Conservatory is a narrative filmmaking school, and films submitted must show your narrative ability.
  4. It’s easier for us to view links submitted via YouTube or Vimeo. Due to limitations, please ensure they are not password protected, and that any professional accounts are up to date. It’s a bummer when links do not work!
  5. Keep all links active until August 2023.
  6. All films should be in English or subtitled in English.
  7. Film links cannot be updated after an application is submitted. This makes it fair to all applicants.
  8. Please consider any health and safety requirements related to the ongoing pandemic when shooting AFI Conservatory specific prompt films.

Essays

  1. All essays should have your name, discipline, Fall 2023, and page number as a header.
  2. Do not exceed page requirements.
  3. Essays must be in PDF format. PDFs cannot be updated after an application is submitted. This makes it fair to all applicants.
  4. We love when applicants have so much to say, but please make it easy on our diverse admissions committee members and keep any essays easy to read with a conventional font (Times New Roman), size 12, double spaced, and normal margins.

Cinematography applicants are required to submit the following:

  1. One example of original work that best demonstrates talent, ability and experience as a Cinematographer. The moving image submission can be no longer than 20 minutes in length, and you must be the sole Cinematographer on the project. The submission should demonstrate your narrative ability. The project should be in English or be subtitled in English.
  2. Complete a “Ten-Sixty” narrative film assignment about “jealousy”: 10 frames of video in a total duration of 60 seconds. No audio, dialogue, words, significant text, fancy transitions or color effects allowed in any form, but music is allowed. This should be a narrative moving image film of 10 images, up to 60 seconds maximum TRT. We are interested in seeing your storytelling skills. Please submit a moving image film and not stills for this project. Creativity is key and does not have to have large production value. This exercise does not require you to spend any money or have a large production value so you may use your cell phone for the project, if you wish.
  3. Still photographs portfolio of 8-12 images provided on a merged PDF which should include a few formal portraits. One image per page. No montages, screenshots, set stills, or frames from a motion picture original allowed. The presentation of your images is noticed, so please be thoughtful. Please limit the file size to 15mb or smaller.
  4. A cinematography “reel” of up to three minutes

Supplemental Submissions (optional):

  1. A second example of an original work that best demonstrates your talent, ability, and experience as a Cinematographer. The moving image submission can be no longer than 20 minutes in length, and you must be the sole Cinematographer. The project should be in English or be subtitled in English.
  2. A short sample of documentary work you may have done

All film submissions should include whether or not the project was completed at an educational institution and the format(s)/camera used for each in the description.

Directing applicants are required to submit the following:

  1. Submit an example of a fictional narrative moving image project that you have personally directed and that best demonstrates individual talent and ability. You may submit the best 10 continuous minutes from a feature or a short whose TRT is longer than 10 minutes, or you may submit a completed short that is less than 10 minutes TRT. Submissions longer than 10 minutes will not be considered. Only work that the applicant has directed (not co-directed) will be considered. The project should be in English or be subtitled in English.
  2. Direct an original short moving image project for the AFI Conservatory about “a conflict.” The project should be no longer than 5 minutes in length. Only fictional narrative submissions are allowed. Submissions that are not narrative (i.e., documentary, experimental, commercial, etc.) will not be considered. We are interested in seeing your storytelling skills. Creativity is key here – not production value. Compelling stories can still be told within these limited conditions, and evaluations will be made in this spirit of appreciating the production value (and performance) limitations. This exercise does not require you to spend any money or have a large production value so you may use your cell phone for the project, if you wish. The project should be in English or be subtitled in English.
  3. Describe why you made the moving image project in #1 and the lesson(s) you learned from making it (one page maximum).
  4. Describe why you made the moving image project in #2 and the lesson(s) you learned from making it (one page maximum).

Editing applicants are required to submit two examples of original work where you are the sole editor. The moving image submission cannot be longer than 20 minutes per sample and should demonstrate editing skill and knowledge of narrative storytelling. Only one piece of work per link allowed. No editor reels are accepted. The projects should be in English or be subtitled in English.

Producing applicants are required to submit the following:

  1. Vision Statement— Please submit a statement (2 pages maximum) on a story you would like to create as a feature or TV show. Whether an original idea or an adaptation based on a novel, play, magazine article, current news event, or historical event, please include:
    1. Be mindful of the clarity of the storyline and delineation of the character arcs.
    2. Articulate the theme(s) that drew you to the story, character details, and style.
    3. What sets this story idea apart from others that might be similar?
  2. Short Answers— Please answer two out of four of the following questions. One-page maximum total; please devote a half page to each of your two questions only.
    1. Tell us something about an incident in your life when you acted in a way that surprised even you.
    2. What two qualities do you possess that would serve you well as a producer?
    3. What is one quality that you need help with to learn and grow to be a better producer?
    4. Is there something we should know about you, besides your love of film, that is not represented by your resume or undergraduate studies?

Supplemental Submission (optional):

Submit a link to any visual work which you think best represents your endeavors up to this point. Please specify your role. The project should be no longer than 10 minutes in length and should be in English or subtitled in English.

Production Design applicants must submit samples of work that demonstrate evidence of your design process as the committee wishes to see your ability in the following areas and not just the finished project.

Your portfolio must include at least one example of each of the following skills:

  • Architectural, theater or industrial design hand drafting
  • computer drafting (Vector Works, Rhino, CAD, SketchUp)
  • hand and computer model-making skills
  • perspective, sketching and life-drawing ability
  • set and prop construction experience
  • graphic design (Photoshop and Illustrator)
  • set decorating ability

Show before and after photos from the same angle of any location design transformations you have done. This helps us understand the amount of work you and your art department did to make this space work for your story. Set the mood and define the character that lives there. Please be clear about what your role was in the projects you are submitting within your portfolio. If you cannot demonstrate any of the skills listed above, please briefly address what skills you are missing as a page in your portfolio.

Portfolio materials must be formatted as PDF files at 72ppi. Please limit content to a maximum of 24 pages. There is a file size limitation of 15mb when uploading your portfolio.

Supplemental Submissions (optional):

  1. A link to your personal design website
  2. a link to a moving image production featuring your design work

Screenwriting applicants are required to submit the following:

  1. A screenplay in professional format (20 pages maximum) of which you are the sole screenwriter. If the sample is from a longer script, select what you feel is the best portion of your script. It could be the first 20 pages, or some other section. Give us (briefly) enough context to know where we are in the story if it is not the first 20 pages. Co-authored and adaptations will not be considered.
  2. Write a scene in professional format about “another chance” (5 pages maximum). Make sure the scene contains three characters. It should introduce a main character, contain a turn, and an ending that points to further story and makes us want to know more.

Be sure to include a title page with your name, 2023-2024 SCR, and e-mail address on both scripts.

Online applications and portfolio requirements must be received by 8:59 p.m. PT (11:59 p.m. ET) on the designated date below.

December 1, 2022: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting

For your application to be considered complete and eligible for admissions, all application material including letters of recommendation, transcripts, and/or qualifying TOEFL/IELTS/Duolingo scores (if applicable) must be received by the deadline, or your application will be considered incomplete and not eligible for admissions.

Only an applicant’s completed application will be reviewed by the Admissions Committee to determine if a candidate will be invited to participate in an interview.

Interviews for all disciplines take place via Zoom.

Due to the high volume of applications that are processed, the Admissions Office does not provide application status updates. All decisions will be communicated via email on the pre-determined notification dates. Application materials are not returned to the applicant.

The review and interview process will determine acceptance.

Applicants will be notified of their final admissions status via e-mail on March 15, 2023.

The Admissions Committee does not provide individual critiques of any applicant’s work. The decisions of the Admissions Committee are final and not subject to appeal. Individuals who are denied admission to a program of study are not entitled access to materials relating to the denied application. Application materials are not returned to the applicant.

Please check your spam/junk folder if your emailed letter is not received on March 15, 2023.

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