FSU Film School Q&As

Feb 20, 2009

I got an email a while ago from a prospective Film School student asking some questions about the film program at Florida State. I figured a lot of people probably have the same questions so I’m sharing my answers below. If you have any additional questions feel free to ask.

(Note: The film program is constantly changing. I suspect the main structure of the curriculum will remain the same, but just keep in mind that by the time you go through the program, things could be completely different.)

1. How much free time do you guys actually have? I hear from absolutely none, to some, to…some more. Do you have enough free time to hang out with non-film students occasionally, or is it really just none?

It’s not as crazy as they make it sound. You’ll have plenty of time to hang out with non-film students. Maybe not as much if you weren’t a film major, but there’s still time.

You go through cycles. You might have a few months of class and workshops a few hours a day, and the rest of the time is free. But once you go into production for a few months, and you’re on set six days a week, 14 hours a day, then the time disappears. But making movies is why you’re here, right?

2. Is the male to female ration really 2:1 for pretty much all film years/classes?

It varies. My class was closer to 1:1, but still male heavy. I think for every class there’s always more guys, but I don’t think it’s been 2:1.

3. Do you get the summer off? One of the administrators on the tour said four consecutive semesters, or 3 and a half years or…something like that. It confused me.

Alright, here’s how it breaks down. If you’re accepted as a Freshmen out of high school, your first year is spent taking the required FSU classes for your degree (Math, English, Science, etc.). I think they started something where you have to volunteer a few hours on set, but for the most part, you don’t really do anything with the film school.

The summer before you start Film School you have off. Then when you start Film School in Fall, it’s full time (Fall, Spring, Summer…Fall, Spring, Summer…Fall) until you graduate in December 2 years later. You get all University holidays off, such as 3 weeks in winter, and 2 weeks before and after summer.

4. Did you and all your classmates really have a 4.0 in high school?

Maybe not 4.0, but most everyone’s was pretty high.

5. Semester abroad…is that not really plausible, or do you just have a specific time in your college career to do it?

Okay, this was one of the lies I was told. While you’re in Film School, you can’t do study abroad. You can either do it the summer before you start Film School (between Freshman and Sophomore year), or stay a semester after you graduate Film School. I heard they might be altering the curriculum to allow study abroad, but as of right now you can’t do it while in Film School.

6. That whole hot meal thing every six hours thing worries me. They say they pay for it, but then some student said they only give you 120 dollars, which does not sound like enough to cover hot meals for a bunch of male film crew.

So the school covers most costs for production (mainly film stock and processing), but it’s still going to cost money. Yes, you need to provide lunch for your crew, along with craft services. But this is only for your films (the ones you direct), and by the time you reach this point you’ll have been on about 20-30 sets, getting free food and lunch everyday, so in the end it all balances out.

And a few hundred dollars is a joke compared to the thousands of dollars the film would cost if you had to pay for everything yourself, like in every other film school.

7. Why did you pick FSU? I mean, do you feel you’re receiving a better education than the programs at USC or NYU or UCLA etc would give you? Their programs start junior year, and I was just wondering what the benefit of one starting sophomore year was.

So I wrote my answer to all the above questions weeks ago because I wanted to think about this one, and it’s funny rereading it because I just had a conversation with someone on how the majority of the students at the Film School never really wanted to go here. FSU was our backup choice, the one our parents made us apply to.

This has nothing to do with the school itself. For me at least, I just wanted to get out of Florida, and as a city New York and LA are much more appealing than Tallahassee.

But the main reason I ended up here, as well as most of my classmates, is price and quality. As a Florida resident FSU is pretty much free for me. But after being here I’m glad I didn’t go any where else.

FSU prepares you to work in the film industry. We’re on set our first semester and we learn everything and do everything. We work by union rules and follow common set protocol.

I wrote about how I was on the Burn Notice set and it felt just like being back on an FSU set, just more people and a bigger production. We’re all really well prepared and not in $100k debt.

8. Is it worth it? Hollywood is kinda terrifying, especially if you look at all the numbers, and the success rate, and all that scary stuff. I know it’s not worth getting into unless you’re 100% insanely obsessed, but…it’s still kinda horrifying to think you go through all this work and education to just direct a couple of Lifetime movies by the time you’re 35. No offense to Lifetime, of course…or their directors. Does the film school prepare you for that, though? Does their Alumni program kind of save you from that fate, assuming you’re talented and hard working?

FSU does have a really big alumni network, and when you graduate they pair you with a mentor to help you out. I can’t really speak to this since I’m not officially out there yet and don’t have a mentor.

The one thing we do lack is that few big name?alumni. We don’t have a Lucas or Scorsese yet. But we also haven’t been around as long as those schools. This is our 20th anniversary, and the undergrad program has only been around for 10 or so years.

Barry Jenkins with his film Medicine for Melancholy is getting pretty big, and he only graduate a few years ago. Right now a strategy the school is pushing is to take advantage of the digital revolution.

One thing Film School provides that is hard to find anywhere else is a great network of people you know and trust. With Medicine, about 5 FSU alum stayed connected, got together and made the film.

But the film industry is crazy and brutal, whether you go to film school or not. But there’s nothing else you’d want to be doing, so you have to do it, right?

Written by Joey Daoud

Joey Daoud is an award-winning documentary producer. When not filming he likes to climb mountains and brew coffee.

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58 Comments

  1. Deb

    If you are not accepted into FSU’s BFA film program as a Freshman, what is the likelihood that you will be accepted if you start at FSU as a Freshman,taking Gen Eds and elective Film Classes (whenever possible), and re-apply as a Sophomore? How may Students do they take sophomore year, and do you have a better chance if you are already at FSU?

  2. J.S. Tinarmod

    I received an email in which the film school invited me for an interview. What type of questions do they ask? Should I prepare? I mean, does presenting to the interview withought previous preparations and answering the questions with honesty enough? Is it recommendable to bring a portfolio?

    • Joey

      @Deb The class that makes up the BFA program is a mix of freshmen and transfers. Freshmen are accepted before they even get to FSU. Transfers are pretty much anyone else, from sophomore’s to 5th year undergrads. Two guys in my class were in their late 20s. I don’t know if where you go affects your chances of being accepted as a transfer. Some of the transfers in my class were at FSU, others actually transferred from USF or other schools.

      The ratio of freshmen to transfers changes every year. All the classes before me were an even 15/15. My class was 20/10. I think the classes after me have different ratios, so I don’t know what they’re currently doing. I’d say just keep trying. I know of people who applied 3 times until they finally got in, then ended up making some of the best films.

      @js Are you getting an interview after applying to the film school, as in you’re being interviewed to be accepted to the film program? Most of the questions are based off your application essay, so there really isn’t much to prepare – just be yourself. And you don’t need a portfolio, they won’t look at it.

  3. J.S. Tinarmod

    Yes, I am being interviewed to be accepted at the film school. Do you know how many people are called for the interviews? Does it mean you have a good chance of being accepted?

  4. Dayne

    I havn’t heard anything yet from the Film and I’ve read that a few people have been hearing from them since early February. Did I probably not get the interview, or do they just take time contacting everyone through the course of a few months?

    • Joey

      I want to say they interview 60 for 15 slots. Or maybe it was 30. It’s not a lot since it’s a lot of time for the faculty.

      And sorry Dayne, but they usually setup the interviews early on and mail the rejection letters. Hopefully I’m wrong. But keep applying. I know people that were rejected 3 times and then accepted and were phenominal.

  5. Ronald

    My daughter has her FSU interview this weekend and she is really worried about it. Your answers to the questions were really helpful. But do you have any suggestions to help her prepare? From what she told me, she is going to have to go to a thiry minute interview and she is wondering if you have any sample questions you think they will ask her. thanks for your time!

    • Joey

      Most of the questions are based off the essay you submitted with the application, so it’s pretty specific to each person. Just be yourself and honest.

  6. rae

    Currently being a junior in High School, and at your run of the mill one at that,are there any lesser known things about an applier that the program really looks out for. And since they don’t look at portfolios, would you say not having them at all (like say not taking an AP portfolio class) equals having them?

  7. Joey

    I’m not sure I understand your last question. I think whether you have a portfolio or not isn’t relevant. The experience might be helpful for the application. I’m not too sure if there’s anything that they look out for, or if AP classes make a difference. My own personal background – I only took 2 AP classes in high school and I never passed the test (but did pass the class, which says something about the teacher…).

  8. J.S. Tinarmod

    I received my notification and the committee said that I have been selected as an alternate, they told me I would received a letter shortly with the specifications, but do you know what being an alternate is?

  9. Joey

    Yeah, it means they’ve notified the people they accepted, but there’s always a few who decide not to go to FSU, so you’re next on the list to fill their spot.

  10. Christie

    I just recently found out about FSU’s film school. I didn’t really know about it at all. I want to go here now for the film program. I always wanted to do film but kind of did other things and didn’t think about it much. Does it matter how many art or film courses you took in high school? What do you put on the application when they ask for classes that “relate to the film major”? I’m a junior, so I only have next year to take more art classes to balance out my application. I mostly took lots of AP classes and academic classes. Do I still have a shot?

  11. j.s. tinarmod

    Do you know how many alternates are there?

  12. Joey

    They change what they look for every year, but the year I applied they shifted to look for students that had a strong academic background, so if they’re still going with that then you’re in a good position.

    But either way they always labeled themselves as an equal opportunity school, meaning some students might not have had access to a huge selection of video equipment whiles others did and could make films in High School, so they don’t look at work samples or anything. Art classes or relevant experiences wouldn’t hurt, so I say try to get a few in, or at least find some film projects in your area and work on them to get some experience and something for your resume. Either way, definitely apply and good luck!

    And JS, I don’t know how many but I’d say anyone they called in for an interview is potentially an alternate, right?

  13. Keenan

    Joey, it seems like you know a lot, so I feel like I can trust your answers. I am a junior in high school, about to be a senior, and I’m very interested in the FSU Film School. But, I have been reading some blogs about the film school, and I’m starting to get very worried about not getting in. I have a unweighted GPA of 3.3, and a weighted GPA of 3.6. I have not taken the SAT yet, so I don’t know that score. I just decided that I want to make film my major this past school year, but I have been doing video for a while. I have made documentaries for history fair and placed twice at districts, and made it to state once. I make many videos for my church and I’m the tech leader there, and I just entered a video competition. I work for a company called WAHI (Web Automated Human Interaction, check it out at http://www.wahimedia.com.) I am going to be taking a TV production class, and a Theater Tech. class next school year, and I am looking to dual enroll at TCC taking film classes. I have also heard that they look a lot at your essay, and frankly, I’m not the best writer. I really want to go to FSU Film School, but I’m worried I won’t get in. I guess I would like to know what I need to do, or if I am on the right track, or whatever else.

    • Joey

      It sounds like you’re on a great track. There is a lot of weight on the essay, because since you don’t send in a reel or work sample, that’s really the only way they can get a feel for who you are.

      I’d say it’s more important to be honest and genuine in your essay, because I feel like they’re looking at who you are and what inspires/motivates you rather then how well you write.

  14. Elizabeth

    I have been looking into FSU for a while now and I was wondering whether the general admission was different from the film school admissions. I mean, is answering both essay topics for the general admission and film admission required. Or is it one or the other ?

  15. Joey

    I’m pretty sure the two are separate. You have to get admitted to FSU in order to go to the film school, and the two are totally separate application processes. You should call the Film School to double check.

  16. Cole

    Hi Joey,
    I’m going into my senior year, I’m a Florida resident and I am really interested in the FSU film program, it’s definitely my first choice. I’m very involved in my school, I have excellent extracirriculars and leadership positions, and I have a 4.1 weighted, 3.8 unweighted GPA. Also, I will be earning 6 credits from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in screenwriting this summer.
    Where I’m lacking are my test scores, which are below the cutoff for the application on the website, I believe you have to have at least a 1200 SAT or a 25 ACT. Will the program look at my application if I don’t meet this requirement? Am I really just screwed because I didn’t do particularly well on some test? The chances of bringing up my scores are slim to none, and I’m really begining to worry.

  17. Dayne

    I did end up not getting accepted this year, but I plan to reapply for my sophomore year. Do you have any tips on what exactly they’re looking for in the essays, like what they want to hear and specific things they don’t want to here? Because I personally thought my essay was really good and I really put my whole heart into it.
    And I was wondering if you think that consistently volunteering to help on set and be an actor would help my chances at all?

  18. Manuel

    Hey Joey, I have to admit that I don’t have the highest SAT or ACT scores ( I’m not at a 1200 yet). I was wondering if FSU film school can still accept me when I apply even without high test scores. I do have a 3.7 GPA unweighted and 3.9 weighted. By the time I finish my senior year I’d have taken 3 AP classes and 5 honors and I’ve taken three classes in high school that relate to the film major.

    Would they accept Art as another class related to film since it does deal with some of the more photographic elements that you usually deal with in film and I’m still trying to write a really good essay, is there any advice on specific things I should include?

  19. Vin

    Great website and great Q/A. who reviews the entrance applications? And who conducts the interviews?

  20. Joey

    Thanks Vin. I think a few different faculty members review each application, so your application gets seen a few times. Interviews are conducted by the same faculty (I think). At the very least it’s done by at least 3 faculty people.

    Manuel, I have absolutely no idea. Your best bet for all current application questions is to contact Linda Hensley or Sabrina Reisinger.

  21. Savannah

    I am very interested in FSU film school, but I was a little intimidated by the part of the application that asks for a list film related classes; I haven’t had the opportunity to take any because my high school doesn’t offer any. I have taken high level courses in journalism and graphic design. Are these relevent to the film major?

  22. Justin

    How heavily does FSU take into account the GRE for their MFA program, my impression with who I spoke with led me to believe the biggest factor in the process was the interview and the letters of rec. but what is your take.

    Thanks in advance

  23. Joey

    @Savannah I don’t think the school will penalize you because your high school didn’t offer film classes. They’re more looking for intent and passion.

    @Justin I have no idea about any aspect on the MFA application process. You should contact the school.

  24. Rene

    Hey Joey I am from England but I have a Greencard and a VISA and my SAT’s’ are called GCES’s and I went to Full Sail couple moths ago and they said I don’t have to do them again. Just wondering if that applies here?

    I also went to College in England and I got a Diploma for media studies I was wondering if that might help, and spent some time time with the BBC and other small Film companys so I got some experience, but my main question is, the more experience the better I am getting into the course?

    Great website by the way

  25. Christine

    Hi,
    I’m the mom of an aspiring film director. My son, Adam is a sophomore in Tampa and his decision to pursue a career in the film industry has never wavered. Last summer I sent him to a summer camp with NYU, he takes sound and production in high school. I want to send him to a summer program at FSU, is there anything?? Is there anything during the summer that you can recommend? From everything I’ve read I think FSU would be the school for him. Thanks for your reply and good luck, Christine

  26. Joey

    @Rene Experience doesn’t hurt, nor does applying.

    @Christine There’s no summer film program at FSU. The only summer program I know some people went to was the NY Film Academy, but I don’t think they’d recommend it. I don’t think any summer programs are necessary if you end up going to FSU. I think experiences would be better, like travelling or getting world experiences.

  27. Lindsay

    hey, i want to apply to fsu’sfim program. (i want to be a director) im only a fresham, but hey cant be too prepared right? anyway, i was just wondering if it would be good to take acting claasses toofor fsu, and the the film industry in general?

  28. Mike

    I just got an interview with FSU’s Film School!!! I was just wondering if they expect you to dress in a certain way? jeans and a collard shirt?

    ^Lindsay, taking any type of film and performing classes can help, but not always worth the money. What got me an interview with FSU (I believe) is my world travel experience, my actual filmmaking experience (& awards), all the time I spent volunteering on thesis films, my “off-the-books internship” on Jodie Foster’s film “The Beaver” and my overall determination and dedication.

  29. Carlos

    @Lindsay… Definitely. Being able to understand what your actors are going through and the way they process and interpret information is very important. As director your actors need you for guidance, assurance and help to get to where they need to be with their performance.

    @Mike… I don’t know that there are expectations. During my own interview it varied. Personally, I think a nice rule of thumb for interviews is “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” And while a nice get-up might not be “you,” it certainly doesn’t hurt to show that you made an effort.

  30. Kandice

    I got my rejection letter a couple days ago. Now I’m wondering, would it be in my best interest to still go to FSU and just take their introductory film class and try to volunteer for student projects like their letter advised me to? I could apply again later on this year. But I’m an out-of-state resident, and I could go to another, much less-known school that offers some film courses and would save me money. But I also don’t want to stay there all four years and don’t think it would give me many job opportunities if I were to graduate from there. I just need more film experience, otherwise I seem like I’m all talk =x Which sacrifice should I make?

  31. Alejandro Guerrero

    I applied and got selected fot an interview for the MFA. Right now I have a good job and if I get accepted, I would like to push back my entrance to the school for fall 2011. Do you know if that is possible, or will I have to apply again? Please let me know if you know ASAP.

  32. Carlos

    @Kandice… Taking the intro to film class and volunteering definitely wouldn’t hurt (it’s what I did) but it’s a big financial commitment if you’re paying out-of-state tuition (I was not). Unfortunately, you’re going to have to decide whether the risk is worth the reward.

    @ Alejandro… Probably best to contact the Film School directly and ask, although I haven’t heard of anyone delaying enrollment in the program before.

  33. Nita

    I was hoping there was some information on financial aid for MFA students. Everywhere I look, they talk about FSU paying for films, which is a good thing but I will have to leave a 60,000 dollar job to pursue my dream of making films. FSU is the only school to which I applied. I will be interviewed in a couple of weeks. I know this is the next phrase of my life and I am willing to sacrifice the two years to get that done. The only thing I have no clue about is how to pay for it. Does FSU offer assistantships for MFA students? Will I have to take out more student loans to sustain myself since I cannot work? What can I do for money? Should I ask about this in my interview? What type of questions should I ask in my interview? I have so many questions and I do not want to get this wrong. I am putting ALL of my eggs in the FSU Film School basket. This is it…

  34. Joey

    Yes, the MFA program is more expensive and I’m not really sure what financial aid is available. You could always try private scholarships, but that probably wouldn’t be enough.

    You should contact the school to find out what’s available. I’d say you could ask about this at the interview if it isn’t answered beforehand.

  35. Myles

    So I’m not from Florida and I didn’t hear how excellent their film program was until after it was too late to apply. I have been accepted to some other schools and was considering going to Temple University (with an okay film program) and then attempting to transfer during my sophomore year. My question to you is should I just take my general courses or enroll in the film program at Temple? I only ask this because I fear that the film courses won’t transfer….

  36. Joey

    The film courses definitely won’t transfer. Once you’re in the film school you’re on a two and a half year track where everything is predetermined as far as what you take. Each semester they literally hand you a photocopied paper and say, “Put these course numbers in.”

    That’s not to say taking some film theory classes wouldn’t come in handy, since you won’t get that at FSU. But I’d also try to take random, interesting classes to get a broad general studies background.

  37. lori

    We recently toured the film school and I felt the purpose of the presentation was to talk anyone not completely crazy for this lifestyle completely out of applying. We were told you can hear the Football games but you will never be able to attend. You will know about extracurricular activities but never be able to be involved. How true to life is this? My daughter was definitely not talked out of it.

  38. Carlos

    I think maybe what they were trying to emphasize is that it will become a lifestyle more than anything. It’s fun but it’s a lot of work. You don’t get to pick your courses or times (with the exception of a few electives). All the classes are in the school which is at the stadium so if you want to get around and be on campus you have to make the effort. Some kids get in and leave after a semester or two when they realize it isn’t what they wanted or thought it would be and that’s a waste since the spot usually isn’t filled by someone else if it happens later on.

    As far as my college social life… I did all the extracurricular stuff. I can honestly say that I missed one home football game while I was there and it was cause we were playing Citadel at noon and it was really hot. I had plenty of time to do and experience everything. It gets tricky during the production cycles (when we’re filming each others films) but that’s only for a few weeks at a time and then it’s back to normal.

    If you’re thinking of rushing a frat or sorority I wouldn’t recommend it but I had plenty of friends who were in film school and Greek too. Other than that I did everything else that all the other students who weren’t in film did.

    Also: way cooler to stress about having to make a movie than having to write a research paper.

  39. lori

    Carlos,

    Thank you very much for you response. Is it possible to e-mail you directly?

  40. Geraldine

    Hi,
    I am curious as to who owns the rights to the films you produce at FSU. Does the school own them because they pay for all the production costs? Or do the students own them?
    I am looking at a variety of film schools, and this is something I am very curious about that it is hard to learn from many of their websites. Thanks!

    • Joey

      The school owns everything because they paid for it all. At first this might sound annoying but they’re willing to work with you if there’s something you want to do with the film and they’re open to different distribution options.

  41. Richard Alexander

    Good day, Mr. Joey
    I am currently attending The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. I am in the process of receiving my Bachelor of Science in the Visual Effects & Motion Graphics program. I would like to continue my college career and peruse a MFA in Film. Doing my research for some time now I have come to realize FSU stands out as one of the country top film schools. I would like to know what would be the requirements to be accepted at FSU Film School if I have already achieved a BS. Would a Portfolio be needed? SAT scores? Essays? Demo Reel? Film Scripts? Production Plans? I just want to take the opportunity to speak to someone who has the knowledge in what it will take to be accepted since the information found online is very limited.

  42. ninjaaaa

    is there a portfolio required at all or is it just the essay? and how is living in Tallahassee? boring or are there things to do?

  43. Claire

    I have heard that the admissions officers are more forgiving as far as a general lack of experience goes when deciding whether or not to interview prospective BFA students. However, does the film schools philosophy of accepting students who are highly motivated academically still apply to the MFA selection process or are they looking for more experienced students?

  44. Brandon Beaver

    Hello, I am a senior in highschool and I am aspiring to go to the FSU Film School. I am just wondering what type of student they look for. I have a 3.94 weighted GPA and most of my classes are AP. Sadly my school doesnt offer many film related classes. I am however involved in a lot of acting and i am part of the broadcasting team. Do I have a good chance of getting an interview and surviving the bulk of the cuts? My SAT is a 1910 composite and my ACT score is a 27 although i heard that FSU superscores it and in that case it would be around a 29 or 30. I am just wondering what my chances are, i am really stressing and I haven’t found many answers.

  45. Joey

    I really don’t know what they’re looking for academically. What I can say is a lot of weight is put on the essay, because that’s pretty much what they have to go on. Since the school tries to be equal opportunity, they don’t care so much if you made films (they wouldn’t watch them anyways) or if you had film classes at your school, since not all schools have the same resources. They’re more interested in your potential, so that’s where the essay comes into play.

  46. l

    Do you happen to know if they review applications as they come in or wait until they are all in choose applicants to interview?

  47. Joey

    No idea

  48. Brandon Beaver

    Thankyou so much. You’ve just made my day. I’ve been at school all day, furiously researching and stressing over this situation. Since my essay is definitely my strong point I am not worried at all. I was just worried that since I have little to no experience in actually making films, but I do write short stories and poetry and have many ideas swirling around in my head. Im just happy that they wont judge me based on what I’ve done film wise, unlike NYU where it seems that it matters a great deal due to their requirement of a portfolio. Are you a student at FSU Film by the way?

  49. Joey

    I was, I graduated in 2008. So my application experience comes from 5 years ago, but I don’t think it’s changed much.

  50. Rick Peitz

    Hey Joey, as I prepare my essay and such for the quickly-approaching deadline, IF one were to get an interview, what kind of questions do they ask? Is it in from of a single interviewer, or a board? Cheers!

  51. Max

    Anyone hear back yet about getting an interview? My email said early Feb. and pretty soon it’s not going to be early Feb. anymore so I am on the edge of my seat. I get my emails sent to my phone so everytime it buzzes I get excited, but haven’t heard back yet.

  52. Rene

    Hey Joey, I’m about to start my associate’s degree course.
    I was just wondering what courses do FSU Film reqire for me to take?
    Thanks

  53. Anonymous

    so if your in highschool and your wieghted gpa is like a 3.2 and act scores are like 18 do you have any chance of getting into fsu film school at all.