MFA in Film, York University: Information for Applicants
(Domestic and International)
Our MFA in Film is a 5-term, two-year program that offers specialized instruction in fiction, documentary, alternative cinema and screenwriting. Students are expected to complete six half-courses over the five terms, and then create an original thesis production (typically, a short film or feature screenplay).
- small intimate cohort of fellow filmmakers (17 per year);
- faculty of working filmmakers/artists/screenwriters across diverse genres/practices;
- our active role in Toronto's dynamic independent film community, and our ongoing partnerships with many downtown festivals and film/media organizations;
- strong alumni networks of fellow MFAs in Toronto and around the world;
- integration with our Cinema Studies MA, in terms of shared courses and projects;
- emphasis on innovative, independent production (fiction, documentary, alternative, transmedia, screenwriting, etc.)
- our location in a Fine Arts School (AMPD), with very close ties to York's grad and undergrad programs in theatre, dance, music, digital/computational arts, and design;
- interdisciplinary and interactive/collaborative opportunities through our Sensorium and Future Cinema Labs and courses.
- January 15, 2020.
(Note: we can be flexible about this deadline regarding some elements of your application, including reference letters and transcripts, accepting these as late as Feb 1).
Through the fall and winter, we offer once-a-month tours of our MFA program to prospective students—a chance to see our facilities and equipment, meet our Grad Program Director and Grad Program Assistant, have all your questions answered, attend a screening of recent MFA work, and meet current MFA students. Reserve a tour with Kuowei: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Per year, we usually accept 16 Domestic students (out of 50-60 applicants) and 1 International student (out of 30-40 applications). Successful applicants are typically emerging or mid-career film artists who have been making and screening films (or the equivalent) professionally for at least five years. While each year varies (and there are no quotas), we typically accept the following numbers of students who specialize in: Fiction (5-8); Documentary (4-7); Alternative (3-6); Screenwriting (1-2). Within a given year, the age range can vary from mid-20s to mid-50s or even 60s. Levels of technical skills can vary widely, from writers/directors with little or no experience shooting and editing, to filmmakers who work also work as DOP's or editors.
All MFA faculty review and rank all applications.
A faculty committee will evaluate your application's various elements, in order of importance:
- Portfolio: This is the most important element. Typically, it will consist of a list of links and descriptions for 3–4 short films (or equivalent) that you have written and directed, and that have had some public exhibition success, such as screenings/awards at festivals, etc. It's also fine to include documentation of works of cinema/expanded cinema that you have authored (VR or transmedia works, installations, performance/theatre works with a media component, web-based moving image works such as I-docs or web-series, etc.).
Works on which you have credits such as DOP or editor, or were a director for hire, can also be relevant. Make sure your role is clearly indicated as part of the link's description.
For screenwriters, your portfolio is an original feature screenplay or equivalent, as well as additional materials. See online application information for more detail.
- CV: Your arts CV, which profiles your achievements as a film maker/artist, including films you've made, screenings, grants, awards, jobs and professional experiences (particularly in the arts and film worlds).
- Thesis Proposal: Be as specific as possible. If you have two ideas, it's ok to describe them both within the 750-word limit.
- Statement of Intent: Focus on why you wish to do a degree in York's MFA program.
(Note: combine your Thesis Proposal and Statement together into one document, and post these under Statement of Intent in your application).
- Letters of Reference: We ask for three letters, which can be written by former professors, mentors, fellow filmmakers, critics, film programmers. They should focus on your achievements as a filmmaker to date.
- Transcripts: These are a York University requirement, even if your undergrad degree is from an unrelated field and/or was a long time ago. While your Grades and previous academic work are important to our evaluation, and we typically expect applicants to have a B- GPA or better, we also can make exceptions to this rule, in the case of applicants with strong portfolio. In such cases (or in cases where you don't have an undergraduate degree), make an Equivalency Argument in your Statement of Intent, demonstrating that your professional and creative achievements are equal to an undergraduate degree.
- Written Work: This is optional for Production Applicants, and could include: an essay authored by you; reviews of your work; background research related to your thesis project; a script; a visual treatment; etc.
Tuition for Domestic Students
Approximately $1800 per term, or $9000 over a 5 term/2 year degree (Canadian $). (There is no part-time option).
Tuition for International Students
Approximately $6500 per term, or $32,500 over a 5 term/2 year degree (Canadian $). (There is no part-time option).
You and your partner/family can enroll in our student health plan. The cost will be covered by the University's Faculty of Graduate Studies.
Living on Campus vs. Downtown
York University is located in Toronto’s North York suburb, and is fully accessible by public transit. The commute is typically 45 min. to 1 hour by subway, depending on where you live (and yes, the long-awaited York University subway stop finally did open in 2017 and it's really terrific!) or 30 min by car. Most grads choose to live downtown, in order to get involved with Toronto’s dynamic film community, and our grad/alum network is often a good resource for securing affordable housing.
Basic Funding for Domestic Students
We offer a basic funding package to all successful domestic applicants of approximately $3333 per term, or $16,666 over a 5 term/2 year degree (Canadian $)—so your tuition is covered, and there is some additional money left for living costs, etc.
Basic Funding for International Students
We offer a basic funding package of $2500 per term, or $12,500 over a 5 term/2 year degree (Canadian $). This covers approximately 1/3 of your tuition. In addition, you're eligible to apply for an OGS grant ($15k).
You are required to take (or show proof that you have taken within the last 2 years) an English proficiency test ONLY if your last degree was NOT conducted in English. You must obtain a MINIMUM score of ONE of these tests:
- TOEFL: (Paper-based: 600; Computer-based: 250; iBT: 100)
- IELTS: Overall Band Score: 7.5
- YELT: (York English Language Test): Band 1
Successful applicants (both Domestic and International) will be eligible for certain additional scholarships and grants during the course of their degree, which can possibly be worth an additional $15-25k in total (SSHRC, OGS, small cash grants, in-kind grants, etc). For instance, in recent years, our MFAs have achieved a 75% degree of success in securing either SSHRC or OGS grants (worth $15-17k).
You must complete six half-courses as a condition of your MFA degree. These include:
- Graduate Seminar (for all 1st year MFAs and MAs);
- A mandatory homeroom (either Fiction or Documentary/Alternative), where you will create a short 5-7 min. film as a final assignment;
- 3 production electives (these can be MFA production or screenwriting courses; an independent study; an internship; etc.). Again, final assignments are typically the creation of a short film or equivalent that you will write and direct;
- A Film Studies course, and/or an Academic graduate course offered in another program;
The program is purposely designed to be flexible and self-directed, with you creating a program of study that is best suited to your needs and interests. We encourage students to use their assignments in their courses to test-drive ideas, concepts and techniques that will possibly become part of their thesis projects;
While students often want to get their course work out of the way in the first two terms, it can be strategic (and more realistic) to stretch them over all five terms;
Note: it is possible to take more than six half-courses during your MFA, in consultation with your GPD.
You may do a one-term internship for credit during your MFA, in consultation with your GPD and committee.
Friday workshops are offered to support students who need to acquire/refine technical skills such as shooting with a DSLR, editing on Premiere, Sound Recording or Intro to lighting, for their classroom assignments. Other Friday workshops can include topics like blocking for the camera, directing actors, or grant writing.
For classroom assignments, students will typically help each other with crewing, as well as recruit from Toronto's independent film community or students in our BFA programs (highly recommended!). For thesis projects, students are responsible for crewing up their own projects, and often trade skills on each other’s projects in order to accomplish this. We recommend that all students (especially out-of-towners) join LIFT, Toronto's legendary film co-op, which offers a very inexpensive student membership and a great network of fellow filmmakers: www.lift.ca.
A TA-ship in your 4th and/or 5th term is optional and by application, where you will be helping to teach a production, screenwriting or studies course to undergraduates. Generally we are able to place every MFA student who wants to do a TA-ship in a meaningful position. You'll be paid $12,500 for a half-term TA-ship.
Research and Graduate Assistantships
There are a very small handful of these available to MFA's each year, and are by application.
Every TA automatically becomes a member of CUPE (the union for part-time and TA instructors).
Your supervisory committee consists of two members of our full-time MFA faculty, a supervisor and a reader. Committees are formed in November of your first term in a collaborative back-and-forth process between faculty and each student, and will work with you at every stage of your thesis, until your defence.
Our successful applicants are typically working filmmakers who find ways to continue their careers while attending classes and getting their degree. Within reason, our faculty make accommodations for absences due to professional conflicts, which can include: attending festival screenings of your work; directing-gigs-for-hire or equivalent; travel for film shoots; etc.
Workload Per Term
The program is flexible and self-directed, so you can shape how light or heavy your load is, term by term. Here are some planning guidelines:
- Term 1 (Fall): You'll have your homeroom, Grad Seminar, Friday workshops, and probably one other course, plus thesis development. Plan on 3-4 days per week.
- Term 2 (Winter): You'll continue with Grad Seminar, and probably take 1-2 more courses, plus thesis development with your committee. Plan on 2-3 days per week.
- Term 3 (Summer); Very flexible. You can take courses (including intensive Institutes) or not. You should plan on shooting your thesis project in this term, when grads have priority access to our studios and equipment.
- Terms 4 + 5: (Fall & Winter) Very flexible. You'll be editing your thesis project, plus possibly TA-ing, plus possibly taking a course or two. Plan on 1-2 days per week.
In addition to your thesis project, you'll write a 35-50 page scholarly support paper about the ideas, research, inspiration and production of your thesis project.
When your committee signs off on the picture lock of your thesis project and the final draft of your support paper, then your defence is scheduled by the GPD, usually 5-6 weeks after your committee sign-off. A defence is open to the public, and typically consists of your committee plus an outside reader (usually a full-time York professor from another department). A defence consists of a screening (or equivalent) of your thesis project) and then a 2-hour session of dialogue on all aspects of your thesis. The defence weights the thesis project at 75% and the support paper at 25%.
- Manfred Becker, Graduate Program Director—email@example.com (for academic)
- Kuowei Lee, Graduate Program Assistant—firstname.lastname@example.org (for administrative)
Thanks again for your interest in our program. We welcome your application!