A comprehensive guide to applying to a film program.
Contact Them Soon
It is important to contact the letter writers far before you are actually going to need them. They may take quite a bit of time to do them so you need to allow them this period. Tell them that the day you need to send out your letters two weeks before you actually do. This gives them an imperative to get it in with enough space for you to send it out. You may want to try and get a back up letter in case someone pulls out at the last minute.
The second difficult part is the transcripts you have to send. If you only went to one school as an undergraduate this will not be too difficult, but if you transferred around this can be troublesome. You can have the transcripts sent directly to the schools in question, but this is somewhat disorganized. You may want to have them sent to you personally and then you can send them with your entire package.
No Video Work
Though it may seem odd, many programs will not ask to see any of your video work. This is mainly because the time it would take to watch the films of over a thousand candidates. Instead you may want to just include a list of portfolio work, and they may even ask for this. You may feel tempted to put work on there that you have not actually completed but they may ask to see them on a later date so you should avoid this.
If they do ask for some work then you need to choose quality over quantity. Put your best two or three pieces on there and try to not have items that are under five minutes. Many of the programs are going to require you show a narrative project, which means not experimental or documentary. Make sure to include at least one of these on your reel.
Put together a DVD instead of just a VHS copy. This will allow you to show your abilities in DVD authoring by constructing a fully creative document. Also send a VHS backup copy in case they are unable to view DVDs for some reason.
The resume is going to be important so make sure it is comprehensive and up to date. Put information about your education, including all student groups, extracurriculars, internships, majors and minors. Put all professional work that is even remotely connected with film or creative production that you have done. Also put all applicable skills, like software you have worked with and production equipment that you have used.
Each school is going to have its own specific supplemental documents that you are going to need to produce. The most standard of these is the personal or narrative statement. This usually makes you elaborate about yourself and your goals as a filmmaker. Be as personal and honest as you possibly can, but try to be concise. They will usually give you a page limit, and going one page less then that is usually a good rule. Usually you can use the same one for each school as long as you change all the academic references in the text.
They will likely make you write creative samples, such as short screenplays or film treatments. Take your time with these because they are well considered by the admissions committee. This means doing lots of revisions and making it as well curtailed as possible. The film treatments need to include a full story arc, including a resolution of sorts.
When arranging everything to send off it is important to keep it organized. Put each separate element into its own envelope, and label them clearly. Your organization will earn a number of points with the person that finally has to go through it. It will also reduce the chance of things getting lost. Make sure each separate thing has you name on it for the same reason. Place all things into one large envelope to send off, and make sure that the address is specified to the program within the department you are applying in.
It takes quite a while to hear back, but programs that require you to have an interview will tell you even sooner. Make sure that you send things off before the due date, and if they have a priority date it must be sent by then so you can keep yourself available for scholarships and fellowships.