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Tips for Applying to NYU Film School

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 4/16/2010

Take a look at some of these tips to help you prepare a great application for NYU's film graduate program.

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    The Best Film School

    Though tied with the University of Southern California on many lists, New York University is widely considered the best film school around. The Master’s of Fine Arts program in film is the best mix of creative vision, technical skills, and professional know how. For any aspiring film student NYU is legendary and has birthed filmmakers at the top of their field like Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, and Oliver Stone. NYU also marks itself as one of the most difficult graduate film programs to be admitted to, mainly because of its incredibly high application rate. Here are some tips for preparing your application to the graduate film program at NYU.

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    No GRE

    The first thing you should note is that NYU, unlike USC, does not look at GRE scores. If you plan on applying to NYU and are not concerned with the giant on the other coast then you can save your time and money and focus on the other parts of the application instead.

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    Written Portfolio Materials

    You are allowed limited portfolio materials to send in for consideration at NYU, so make them as good and concise as possible. One of the early projects you will complete at NYU film school is a short, four-minute silent film. One of the assignments for applicants is to write a treatment for this. This is going to be one of the most important items on the application list, so try to be as clear as possible. Do not over complicate this project, as that is the first sign that you do not understand the process of visual storytelling. The dialogue scene is also important so you should make sure to allow time for several revisions. As is true when writing any script, get some actors and work through the lines. Do not be overly focused on what this scene would mean in a larger context or film, but instead work to make it a compelling scene all on its own because that is the only way that the admissions committee is going to see it. When you are putting together your feature film treatment you should again focus on clarity and concision. Try to arrange a simple, yet important story and know how it ends before you begin writing the treatment out. You are going to need to work through two or three drafts on the treatment as well.

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    Video Portfolio

    With the video portfolio you are going to want to pick your best work and keep it short. Anything too long may not get watched and may say that you are not ready to work within their program. Do not assume with arrogance that you have your own distinctive style that they should conform to as they have the most recognized film graduate program in the world and they know that it breeds successful artists. Put together the DVD in the most complete way possible that way you present yourself in a professional light. Try to send a VHS copy along with the DVD copy.

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    Keep the application material organized and professionally prepared. There is nothing worse then receiving application materials that are loosely packed into an envelope. The best way to do this is to present a portfolio binder with a table of contents and all relevant written materials. You should then put the DVD portfolio into a properly labeled jewel case.

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    Letters of Recommendation and Transcripts

    Letters of Recommendation and Transcripts are going to be important to NYU, as they are to all graduate film programs. Work on these early, as you never know what can happen in the process. The authors of Letters of Recommendation can drop out and Transcripts can get lost before they arrive in the mail, so begin months in advance. Make sure to have all of these items sent to you instead of directly to NYU, that way you can arrange them together and make sure they all go to the same location. Never open sealed envelopes for your Letters of Recommendation or your Transcripts.

Specific Film Schools

Here are tips for applying to specific graduate film scools.
  1. Tips for Applying to NYU Film School
  2. Tips for Applying to USC Film School
  3. Applying to Columbia Film School
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