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The UCLA Professionals Program

The UCLA Professionals Program

Articles - Education

Stephanie Moore

Stephanie Moore

Long known as one of the world’s top film schools,
UCLA’s dedication to education doesn’t end with each semester’s
incoming class. Realizing that the limited number of spots in their
graduate program meant they were turning away some extremely talented
people, school administrators decided to implement the Professional
Programs-graduate level certificate courses that allow working professionals
the chance to receive a UCLA education while keeping their day jobs.

UCLA Professional Programs Coordinator Stephanie Moore
(who received her MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA in 1999) chatted
with MM about the curriculum, their continued advancements
and how the Internet is revolutionizing the way film is seen-and
taught-today.

Jennifer Wood (MM): When was the idea for
the Professional Programs first conceived? Why the decision to offer
a program in addition to your traditional film school program?

Stephanie Moore (SM): The Professional Program
in Screenwriting is the brainchild of a wonderful man, Lew Hunter,
chair emeritus of the Screenwriting Department at UCLA. Every year
there were (and still are) literally hundreds of applications to
the MFA Program, and there are only 20 to 25 students accepted each
year. The School was faced with the unhappy prospect of turning
away a great number of very talented writers. Lew Hunter had the
idea of creating a graduate level certificate program, and offering
it to students who were not admitted to the MFA Program simply because
of lack of space. He felt that these writers should be given the
opportunity to study screenwriting at UCLA… and the Professional
Programs were born.

MM: What makes the program different from
other certificate programs, or even a number of workshops that are
widely available to people in the LA area?

SM: The main difference is that the Professional
Program is modeled after the MFA Program. Both permanent and adjunct
MFA faculty also teach for the Professional Program. We feel that
we’re offering an educational experience as close as possible to
the MFA Program at UCLA-the best teachers, small classes and a teaching
philosophy that helps aspiring writers learn what it takes to be
working screenwriters. UCLA’s track record of turning out students
who ultimately become working screenwriters is arguably the best
in the world. Our programs are graduate level and there is a selection
process before students are admitted.

MM: What are some of the success stories
you’ve been happiest to report?

SM: We’ve had some amazing success stories.
Two of our “superstars” are Lisa Schrager and Travis Wright; both
have had numerous six-figure sales. Fernley Phillips, who was a
winner of our screenwriting competition a year ago, recently sold
his spec script The Number 23 to New Line and a pitch, Turn,
to Radar Pictures for low six against mid-six figures. Josh Bycel
has worked as a staff writer on series including Veronica’s Closet and is a writer/producer on a new show for the WB called Do Over.
He’s also doing a pilot for MTV. Produced movies include Kissing
Jessica Stein
-directed by alumnus Charles Herman-Wurmfeld; Van
Wilder
, written by David Wagner and Brent Goldberg; and Trick,
written by Jason Schaefer, also a staff writer on Queer as Folk.
These are but a few examples-there are dozens of other success stories.

MM: What percentage of students go onto
a more formal film education curriculum after completing their certification?

SM: Several students do decide to continue
their education, and enter MFA programs, either at UCLA or at other
universities. Each year since the Professional Programs have been
in place at least 25 percent of the incoming UCLA MFA students are
Professional Program alums. The percentage continues to increase,
and this year 17 out of 25 new MFA students are graduates of the
Professional Programs.

MM: You are one of the first institutions
to attempt to bring education to a worldwide base of students by
offering the program online. What are some of the advantages-to
the school-of being able to do this? What are some of the advantages
to the students? And the disadvantages?

SM: Our Online Screenwriting Program gives
students who can’t relocate to Los Angeles an opportunity to study
screenwriting at UCLA through the Internet. The classes take place
in real time in a designated chat room. We have an online campus
with a library, resources for students, a lounge and student mailboxes.
The lectures and workshop sessions are automatically logged, so
that students can have a verbatim transcript of everything that
was discussed in class. No need to take notes in class.

Because the students must post their assignments the
day before the class meets, the instructor and everyone in the class
has already read the assignment and is prepared to discuss it. An
obvious advantage for the school is that we don’t need to limit
the screenwriting program just to students who can come to UCLA-we
offer it to students around the world. There is, of course, not
the opportunity for face-to-face interaction… but this can be
weighed against the fact that students don’t have to fight the traffic
and pay six bucks to park!

MM: Can you talk about the enrollment process
for the programs: who is eligible? How does one apply? Are there
different requirements for Internet learners?

SM: Our Programs are graduate level programs
and we require that students have an undergraduate degree (in any
subject). Screenwriting students must send a writing sample and
statement of purpose. Recommendation letters are not required. The
application forms can be downloaded from our Website, which is www.filmprograms.ucla.edu,
and then sent or faxed to us. We’ll also send our brochure and enrollment
forms to anyone interested in the Programs. The application procedures
are the same for Online Program students. The tuition cost is the
same for all students-local, out-of-state and online.

MM: Any more ideas you’re looking to pioneer?
Are there plans to test the waters in any other form of long-distance
education?

SM: This is being discussed. Also, the Global
Film School offers online courses. These are not graduate level,
but geared to a wider audience.

MM: The program offers mentorship opportunities
for anyone interested. How does this differ from the number of script
coverage or notes services that are out there now?

SM: Our mentorships gives anyone with a completed
screenplay the opportunity to receive feedback from one of our instructors.
The writer gets a second read and second set of notes after completing
a rewrite.

MM: Do individuals get to choose their mentors?
Do they sit down with these individuals, or is this facilitated
some other way?

SM: Writers can request a mentor; the availability
would depend on the mentor’s schedule. It’s great if the writer
and the mentor can sit down together, but if the writer is not able
to come to Los Angeles to meet with the mentor, this can be done
over the Internet or by mail.

MM: Can you talk about the Program’s faculty?

SM: Hal Ackerman, a professor on the MFA Screenwriting
permanent faculty, teaches the lecture class. Many of the adjunct
faculty who teach for the MFA Program (including Linda Voorhees,
Fred Rubin, Tim Albaugh, Valerie West, Robin Russin and Neil Landau)
also teach for the Professional Programs. Other faculty consist
of working writers. All our faculty have produced credits.

MM: Do you maintain any sort of alumni group?

SM: We have a list for the Program alumni,
and we offer a second-year program for students who wish to continue
at UCLA.

MM: Anything new we can look forward to
in the coming year?

SM: We have some potential programs in the
planning stages. And we’ll have a new Website in the next few months.

For more
information on the UCLA Professional Programs, log onto:

http://www.filmprograms.ucla.edu

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