This is an archive of the 2019-2020 University Catalog.
To access the most recent version, Please visit

This is an archive of the 2019-2020 University Catalog.
To access the most recent version, please visit


Program: M.F.A., Screenwriting

Program Description

The California State University, Northridge Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting degree is for students who seek a rigorous, professionally oriented education in writing for film and television. The Department of Cinema and Television Arts prepares highly skilled and motivated individuals for careers in the entertainment industry and for careers as artist-teachers in college and university film and television departments. Only applicants who demonstrate an exceptional level of talent, creativity and commitment to personal intellectual development will be admitted into the program. The highest academic and artistic standards, as well as professional decorum, will be expected throughout the course of study. Forty-two units of graduate work are required, including the writing of motion picture screenplays and narrative television scripts; directing for TV; and a culminating experience writing a feature-film screenplay as the M.F.A. thesis for this terminal degree.

Application Requirements: A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher, and an original screenplay or original teleplay work sample in English, in standard American film format or TV industry format. The work sample can be a complete script of between 20 and 120 pages, or the first 25- to 35-page section of an original feature-length screenplay. A complete stage play script of similar length also is acceptable. With international applicant work samples, American professional script formatting is preferred, but the professional formats of other nations will be considered. Free American standard screenplay formatting programs are available at various sites online. Applicants whose native language is not English must pass the state TOEFL exam with a score of 80 or higher.

Program Requirements

A. Program Admission Requirements for Classified Status

  1. A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, and a proven record of success in courses focused on narrative or dramatic writing (with at least one or two such courses taken and a “B” average or better achieved in them).
  2. Students lacking a sufficient academic or professional background in film or television may be expected to expand their knowledge of those fields through enrollment in courses assigned by the graduate advisor before admission into the program.
  3. A 2.5 grade point average or higher in all undergraduate courses completed, including lower division and community college classes, and a 3.0 grade point average or higher in all cinema and/or television arts courses taken.
  4. Candidates with outstanding professional records may seek, with substantial justification, an exception to these admission requirements.
  5. Completion of general university requirements for classified graduate status, which means satisfying the CSU Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) in one of two ways: by earning an undergraduate degree at a California State University since 1982, or by taking and passing the CSU Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam with a score of 8 or higher; additionally, international applicants must take and pass the TOEFL exam with a score of 80 or higher.
  6. Submission of three letters of recommendation, including at least two from professors/instructors under whom the applicant has previously studied, a 500-word statement of purpose, a résumé, and all other completed forms and material as required by the CTVA department, including an original screenplay or stage play work sample.
  7. Applications to both California State University, Northridge, and to the CTVA department are required. (See both the CTVA department Graduate Program in Screenwriting webpage and the Cal State Apply website for further information.)

B. Program Course Requirements

A minimum of 42 units of approved graduate work is required for the degree. The 42 units shall be comprised of the following:

1. Required Courses (36 Units)

CTVA 428 Writing Screenplay Comedy (3)*
CTVA 500 Theory and History of Cinema and Electronic Media (3)
CTVA 505 Contemporary Film Analysis (3)
CTVA 510 Screenplay Scene Writing (3)
CTVA 525 Seminar in Screenwriting (3)
CTVA 595D Writing Episodic Television (3)
CTVA 595E TV Production (3)
CTVA 595F Film Practicum: The Business of Film and TV (3)
CTVA 625 Writing the Feature-Length Screenplay (3)
CTVA 692 Thesis Script Preparation (3)
CTVA 694A/B Internship (1/2)**
CTVA 698C Thesis Project Screenplay (3)

*Possible substitution with advisor consent.
**Must be taken concurrently.

2. Elective Courses (6 units)

Students shall take elective units with the prior approval of the graduate advisor. These must be 400-, 500- or 600-level courses in an analytic, professional or methodological area in CTVA or related disciplines. No more than 9 units of 400-level coursework may apply to the M.F.A. degree. Among the courses that can fulfill the elective requirement are:

CTVA 410 Advanced Film Theory: Studies in Film Style (3)
CTVA 412 Analysis of Classic Filmmakers (3)
CTVA 413 Women as Filmmakers (3)
CTVA 415A-Z International Cinema (3)
CTVA 416 The Documentary Tradition in Film and Video (3)
CTVA 420 Screenplay Adaptation (3)
CTVA 421 Writing the Short Film (3)
CTVA 425 Advanced Screenwriting (3)
CTVA 482 Network Program Development (3)
CTVA 487 Social Controls and Regulation of Electronic Media (3)
CTVA 696 Directed Graduate Research (3)

Total Units Required for the M.F.A. Degree: 42


Department of Cinema and Television Arts
Chair: Thelma Vickroy
Manzanita Hall (MZ) 195
(818) 677-3192

Graduate Advisor: Scott Sturgeon
(818) 677-4508

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate advanced writing proficiency appropriate for entry into competitive professional screenwriting and teleplay-writing careers.
  2. Demonstrate critical thinking, research and analytical skills appropriate for accomplishing professional and personal goals.
  3. Demonstrate the practical communication and technical skills required for entry into a competitive professional field.
  4. Demonstrate insight into and objective understanding of screen story structures when analyzing scripts or outlines, and the ability to offer positive, ethical solutions for story problems.
  5. Demonstrate understanding of the issues of cultural inclusiveness and diversity in creative work, along with a basic understanding of creative ownership law.