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Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting: Writing for Film and Television

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The Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting: Writing for Film and Television is a two-year terminal graduate degree designed for students who are passionate about developing the professional-level skills necessary to create narratives from concept to production. Students prepare for their careers as professional writers by learning how to think critically about society and how to approach current issues such as diversity, inclusion, access and modern theatre theory. With a focus on the collaborative process, students develop advanced storytelling techniques through writing-intensive coursework and in co-curricular programming. Creating production-ready content is at the core of this program and to this end, students have many opportunities to witness their work being brought to fruition by AMDA’s student performers on the stage and screen. Graduates complete the program having created a portfolio of professional pieces, preparing them to enter the business of screenwriting for film and television.

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Master of fine arts
  1. Completion of the AMDA Graduate Degree Application +

    Students who are qualified to apply for this program will:

    1. Have a passion for the arts and a strong desire to contribute to the field
    2. Be committed to actively supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion amongst our community and beyond
    3. Hold a completed undergraduate degree at time of enrollment
  2. Statement of intent for graduate study +

    In 250 words or less, please explain your goals for engaging with the program, if admitted. Please submit your statement to or click the button below.

  3. Writing portfolio +

    Please submit a sample of writing materials that includes examples of original dramatic work. A minimum of two completed pieces, which could include written work from undergraduate degree or independently written pieces. Please submit your documents to or click the button below.


    In 300-500 words, please respond to one of the prompts below. Please submit your writing sample to or click the button below.

    1. Option 1) What is the role of the artist in society and what makes you want to be a storyteller and creator?
    2. Option 2) Tell us about a powerful work of theatre, film or television that has inspired you to create and describe its impact on your artistry.
    3. Option 3) What type of stories do you want to tell and through which artistic mediums?
  5. Interview with an AMDA representative +

    Once you have completed your application, an AMDA representative will reach out to you by phone to discuss your interests, background, and experiences related to the focus of this program.

  6. Reference letters +

    Three reference letters from people who have known the applicant for two years or longer, such as instructors, directors or faculty advisors, or employers (but not a friend or family member). Reference letters may be emailed to or mailed to the address below and should note the relationship of the writer to the applicant.

  7. Official transcripts +

    Please submit transcripts for completed undergraduate degree and any graduate coursework attempted or completed. The minimum grade point average (GPA) expected for AMDA's graduate programs is 3.0 out of 4.0 or its equivalent in other grading systems.

    AMDA Records
    211 West 61st Street
    New York, NY 10023

AMDA students within the MFA in Screenwriting: Writing for Film and Television program will achieve the following program learning outcomes.

    • Advanced skills in dramatic construction: Demonstrate the ability to create texts that effectively incorporate dramatic strategies and structures.
    • Concept to script: Demonstrate the ability to cultivate an idea from concept to finished product.
    • Script to production: Demonstrate the ability to edit a script through the process of collaboration to final production.
    • Interdisciplinary competency: Demonstrate a command of interdisciplinary research and practice through written and oral presentation.
    • History, theory, and criticism: Acquire an advanced understanding of theatre history, theory, and criticism as it reflects current and historical discussion and debate and apply knowledge to the production of creative pieces.
    • Cross-cultural responsibility: Exhibit a command of cross-cultural analysis, demonstrating a grasp of global perspectives and cross-cultural conversations.
    • Research: Engage in original, focused research pertaining to their field of study.
    • Professional writing: Demonstrate key professional capacities related to writing for performance, including effective communication skills, technology literacy, and an understanding of professional ethics and best practices.
  • Summary of Required Courses

    Program Category KeyCredits
    Creation & Presentation Credits45.0
    Theater Studies Credits12.0
    Internship Credits3.0
    Total Program Credits60.0
  • Sample curriculum

    Year One

    Fall Semester

    THR521Graduate Seminar: Film and Theatre Genre Analysis3.0
    WTM516Short Films, One Acts, and Webisodes3.0
    WTM521Advanced Dramatic Writing 1: Story Analysis and Ideation3.0

    Spring Semester

    THR551Advanced Motion Picture Scene and Script Analysis3.0
    WTM511 Advanced Dramatic Writing 2: Practicum in Screenwriting6.0
    THR560Seminar in Critical Race Theory3.0

    Summer Semester

    WTM580Media Practicum: Business of Writing for Movies, Television, and Theatre3.0
    WTM531Advanced Hour-Long Drama Series Pilot3.0
    WTM512Advanced Dramatic Writing 3: Practicum in Screenwriting3.0

    Year Two

    Fall Semester

    WTM552Advanced Half-Hour Comedy Series Pilot3.0
    WTM553Film and Theater Pedagogy3.0
    WTM513Advanced Dramatic Writing 4: Practicum in Screenwriting6.0

    Spring Semester

    THE570Seminar in Queer and Gender Theory3.0
    WTM514Advanced Dramatic Writing 5: Thesis Preparation and Ideation3.0
    WTM562Advanced Seminar in Screenplay Adaptation6.0

    *Optional teaching assistance experience available.

    Summer Semester

    WTM572Thesis Graduate Project6.0
    WTM582Professional Internship3.0

    *Optional teaching assistance experience available.

Course Descriptions

THR521 Graduate Seminar: Film and Theatre Genre Analysis
This course provides a dramaturgical investigation into film and theater genres, including action and adventure, comedy, drama, fantasy, horror, science fiction, war and western, as well as relevant subgenres (e.g., romantic comedies, spy thrillers). What are the obligatory scenes (dramatic beats storytellers use to fulfill or subvert expectations) within each genre? What are the aesthetic and thematic concerns? Students screen several films and recorded theater productions, as well as read dramaturgical theory, reflecting on their insights through brief written responses and in-class discussions. Students cocurate seminar topics by bringing in excerpts from each genre. The investigation culminates in a subgenre research project workshopped within the final weeks of the course.

WTM516 Short Films, One Acts and Webisodes
This course provides students with an opportunity to craft their writing voice by telling short stories for the stage in the form of one acts, 10-minute plays and monologues— as well as experiment in writing short webisodes for the screen. We read and watch relevant examples and dive into structure models and some dramatic structure theory. Several classes are devoted to workshopping works in progress. At the end of the course the student will have written drafts of three major projects, including one finished play (one act or 10-minute), one webisode and a historical, research-based series of monologues or letters (Voices from History) that tell a tale from the past through a series of voices.

WTM521 Advanced Dramatic Writing 1: Story Analysis and Ideation
Students investigate the techniques and dramatic tools used to write powerful scenes for the screen. Emphasis is on the creation of fully dimensional characters and use of visual elements, tempo, timing, descriptive style and dialogue. This workshop course is product oriented; students ideate a screenplay then complete the first act.

THR551 Advanced Motion Picture Scene and Script Analysis
In this course, students explore screen story structure and the screenwriting tools of dramaturgy used in contemporary motion pictures to impact audiences emotionally and intellectually. Effective story outlining paradigms are investigated, and story strengths and weaknesses are analyzed. Students engage in film analysis projects that help them better understand story structure and how to apply these principles to screenwriting.

WTM511 Advanced Dramatic Writing 2: Practicum in Screenwriting
In this course, screen story structure creation undertaken in Dramatic Writing 1 is continued to the completion of a feature-length screenplay. Students revise their scripts from Dramatic Writing 1, making a focused pass that centers on character, structure or story world.

THR560 Seminar in Critical Race Theory
This course identifies and analyzes existing power structures that perpetuate white, heteronormative ideologies and the marginalization of people of color. It investigates race and racism as a social construction and highlights the ways these theories are supported or condemned in the performing arts. Topics include Afro-pessimism, Latinx race theory, Orientalism, Native American race theory and multiculturalism.

WTM580 Media Practicum: Business of Writing for Movies, Television and Theatre
The building blocks of maintaining a career as a writer in media or theater are analyzed. The acquisition of representation, the writing of a query letter, the acquisition of an internship and employment and the building of producing skills (budgeting, independent cinema, webisodes) are also explored.

WTM531 Advanced Hour-Long Drama Series Pilot
This course is designed to explore the fundamentals of hour-long television writing while allowing students to develop their skills in creating compelling characters, dialogue and plot. This course surveys the basic elements of dramatic structure and the parallels and differences between writing for television and writing for film. The final project consists of an original, one-hour pilot script and the outline for six subsequent episodes.

WTM512 Advanced Dramatic Writing 3: Practicum in Screenwriting
The student writer’s creative strengths and weaknesses are identified and analyzed. Format includes exercises and original screenplay material specifically designed to strengthen narrative skills. Students will further explore the creative process and the various types of research (grounded, personal, imaginative and book-centered) to develop a new feature screenplay idea with provocative, three-dimensional characters.

WTM552 Advanced Half-Hour Comedy Series Pilot
An examination of the theory, spectrum and structures of comedy, as well as the writing of comedy scenes, teleplays and pilots. Students create a comedy one sheet, producing a detailed character list, ideas for subsequent episodes and a well-structured log line for both the pilot and the series.

WTM553 Film and Theater Pedagogy
Students gain skills in the teaching of screenwriting, television writing and theater writing by preparing syllabi, lesson plans and in-class practicum. This class is held conjointly with opportunities for graduates to assume teaching assistant positions.

WTM513 Advanced Dramatic Writing 4: Practicum in Screenwriting
Ideation in the development of a full television or movie outline to be completed as a thesis project. The first act of a feature-length thesis script is also written as preparation for final thesis completion and publication in Thesis/Graduate project.

THE570 Seminar in Queer and Gender Theory
This seminar offers an intersectional approach to understanding identity and its relationship to sex and sexuality. It is a post-structural analysis of heteronormative power structures that promote heterosexuality as the preferred sexual orientation and institutionalize patriarchy. It examines the ways these analyses and theories are supported or condemned in the performing arts. Topics include identity and performance, queer theory and intersectional feminism.

WTM514 Advanced Dramatic Writing 5: Thesis Preparation and Ideation
Instruction in the steps of thesis publication and individual guidance in developing original story ideas into full outlines for thesis screenplays. The first act of a feature-length thesis script is also written as preparation for final thesis completion and publication in Thesis/Graduate project.

WTM562 Advanced Seminar in Screenplay Adaptation
Advanced development of student screenwriting and playwriting skills and techniques, with emphasis on the adaptation of a published literary work. Students write adaptations of short stories, young adult novels and a literary source of their own choosing. A full outline of a feature film based on this literary choice will be added to the student’s portfolio.

WTM572 Thesis or Graduate Project
Students complete a page one rewrite of their feature film draft written in Workshop Lab 4. Rewrites include a pass for character, structure, plot and dialogue, based on notes from the professor. All thematic, creative, personal and book research into character and world is presented with a final, polished script. Students choosing a television show for their thesis complete a rewrite of pilot scripts written in Workshop Lab 4 and include a full outline and character list and five subsequent episodes. The final television pilot also includes a full analysis of series, seasonal and principal character arcs.

WTM582 Professional Internship
Using research and skills acquired in the Business of Screenwriting, students acquire internships in line with their creative sensibilities. These internships include opportunities to strengthen their writing skills and hone their creative voices by writing script coverage and observing writers’ rooms and in-house story consultation meetings. Students further explore skills learned in advanced writing workshops to make meaningful contributions in the television, film or allied industry of their choice.

TA Experience Teaching Assistant Experience
Students are offered full practicum experience as a teacher's assistant attending to any requirements of the lead teacher, including the reading and grading of all class assignments, teaching individual lessons and answering student queries.