From the writers' room
MFA screenwriting program develops award-winning writers, scripts
The secret to the success is that there is no secret.
If you want to be a writer, start writing.
And if you want to be a working screenwriter, start at the Moody College of Communication.
The nationally-ranked MFA screenwriting program in the Department of Radio-Television-Film attracts talented writers, who are hungry in their pursuit of industry breakthrough. Working screenwriters populate the faculty, so classrooms are converted into workshops and writers’ rooms.
With the guidance and mentorship to develop scripts that are polished and marketable for a variety of platforms, MFA students consistently win major awards and land prestigious fellowships, including the 2017 Humanitas Prize in Screenwriting and the 2010, 2014 Academy Nicholls Fellowships.
The Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference opens this week, and two of the 51 scripts chosen for the final round of the script competition were written by MFA screenwriters.
“We offer everything – a feature class, TV specs class, pilot class, adaptation,” said Cindy McCreery, head of the screenwriting program. “Everything (the students) create here is theirs.”
McCreery instructs the writer’s room class. She works with a co-writer to develop a pilot script, which is delivered to students in the summer, and then the class hits the ground running at the beginning of the semester, during which they write an entire season of episodes.
“In that class, it’s about us as a collective,” McCreery said. “It’s about working with others, being creative and learning to work among different personalities.”
The class is a semester-long simulation and practice for handling notes from executives, directors and other professionals. Students also learn to write characters they didn’t necessarily create while plotting an entire season of television.
“Practicing pitching in the classroom setting has also been invaluable to me, and gave me confidence to be in those rooms,” said recent MFA graduate Kat Craft.
Craft recently concluded an HBO Fellowship. HBO developed her pilot script, Halfway, which will be premiering on HBO platforms this spring, and Craft also developed a script for Snapchat.
“Acceptance into the fellowship opened up so many doors for me. It’s how I found my manager, who helped level up my career,” said Craft, who signed with CAA.
Craft symbolizes what is possible. Less than 10 students are accepted each year, so they “won’t get lost in the shuffle,” McCreery said, and can uniquely take advantage of the Austin environment.
“Austin is a town people are excited about. It has a nice vibe for a grad school. The LA industry folks like to visit and enjoy our beer and barbecue,” McCreery said.
2018 MFA Screenwriting Highlights
Brittany Worthington & Davia Carter, both MFA ‘18, got accepted to the The Black List & Women In Film Episodic Lab.
Maritza Avelar (BS '14) on being named to the National Hispanic Media Coalition 2018 Television Writers Program.
Nathan Pesina accepted into the Sundance Episodic Lab.
Kat Craft was granted the HBO TV Fellowship – and got a deal with Snapchat!
Sarah Grodsky is a finalist for the NBC Writer’s on the Verge.
Noah Hawley hired Philip Balli to be his Writer’s Assistant on Fargo.
Davia Carter is a Screencraft TV Fellow, (MFA Screenwriters Brittany Worthington, Maggie Calton, and Michener Writer Nathan Patton made the quarterfinalist round).
Brittany Worthington got second Place for the Million Dollar Screenwriting competition (Nathan Patton came in fifth).
Max Kuplow was a finalist for the Universal Feature Fellowship.
Colin McLaughlin (RTF BS ’15) was one of 151 screenwriters to advance to the Semifinal round of the 2018 Academy Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting.
MFA Screenwriter Davia Carter made the semi-finalist round of the 2018 The HUMANITAS Prize David and Lynn Angell College Comedy Fellowship for her script "Double Time Dames.”