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Applying to the American Film Institute Conservatory

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch•updated: 4/27/2010

Interested in attending the American Film Institute? Check out some tips for putting together a great application for the AFI Conservatory.

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    AFI Conservatory

    The American Film Institute is not just one of the top film schools in Los Angeles and the United States, but it is an institution in the film industry. The American Film Institute is one of the most respected film communities in the world as its awards, "top" lists, and commemorative nights are looked to internationally. The AFI conservatory is a film school that is truly like no other, mainly in that it follows an intensive conservatory program and its curriculum is position specific to what you want to do in the feature film world. Though the American Film Institute is one of the top film schools, it is not perfect for everyone, and its application process is unique and difficult compared to others of the same film school caliber. Here are some tips for applying for the American Film Institute's Conservatory Master's of Fine Arts program.

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    Best Director Film School

    The first thing to decide is what your focus is going to be when applying to the AFI conservatory. The AFI breaks down into sections for Producers, Cinematographers, Directors, Screenwriters, Editors, and Production Designers. These are all incredible programs, but the Directors program is what the AFI is best known for and what top film schools are usually identified with. If you are going to be applying to the Directorial program, you need to look at these requirements specifically and match them. You have the option to send one or two items to support your application, and at least one of them must be a narrative film project. Make sure this is absolutely your best work and it may be best to have both of them be narrative in nature. This is not as important as showing the highest level of your directorial work, but the AFI is a top film school with a focus on narrative storytelling. This is why you need to show them that you can tell a clear story in your filmmaking.

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    Applying to the AFI

    All standard applications items are going to be important to the AFI Conservatory. You will need your transcripts from every school you went to, and it is best to send in two copies of each. Since you will likely be sending a large package of all of your materials, you may just want to have your transcripts sent to you and then you can send them to the American Film Institute yourself. Your grades are not going to be the most important feature of your academic transcripts for this or other top film schools, but instead the type of coursework you have taken. If you are still in school, try to take supplementary courses in writing, film and video, and communication. Any technical and creative skills you have received from an academic institution will benefit you during the AFI application process. The same is true of internships, which you should include on your resume. Any internship you can possibly have in this field is going to make a major difference, so make this a top priority before applying. Make sure that it is all on your resume and have a professional adjust this document. The film industry is all about how you can market yourself, and the top film schools will see your ability to do that in your resume.

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    Other Materials

    Send no more than three letters of recommendation, but make sure that at least one of the letters you send is from a reputable filmmaker or someone in moving image based media. This is going to be important as many of the people you will be up against have worked in the industry or have family connections. The American Film Institute Conservatory does not require that you take the GRE or any other standardized test for graduate film school, so this is one thing you can eliminate from your list.

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    Narrative Statement

    The American Film Institute's graduate film school, like most top film schools, requires you to include a narrative statement. This is somewhat self indulgent and essentially asks you why you want to be a filmmaker, why the AFI Conservatory is your choice, and what your general story is. This is going to be incredibly important, but you do not want to over do it. Try to select some personal experiences that reflect you and may make you look unique to the AFI admissions committee. This should be the document that you spend the most time on when applying to the American Film Institute Conservatory.