Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my school has one of the least grueling applications for screenwriting out of the many programs in London. A lot of the other programs required a long and short writing sample, synopsis for several other screenplays, and the soul of my firstborn child. Wait, maybe I’m thinking of something else…
Anyway, the hardest part for me was squeezing my original 600-word personal statement into 200 words. This took me hours of hair-pulling and six different iterations. I wanted to explain everything in my life that led me to pursue screenwriting, but I kept it to the things that best suited me for the program and why I chose that particular program. In the end, it was mostly just a test in brevity. Some people are good at being brief. Writers are not.
The other part of my application, aside from the actual form with my name and such, was my writing sample, which had a word or page limit, depending on the program. Since I was applying for script writing mine had a page limit. I had to submit a 20-page sample, which was a piece of cake once I cut one of my pieces down to the right length and had a couple people edit it.
Okay, I SAY it was a piece of cake, but as someone who has only taken a couple of screenwriting classes and rarely lets anyone read my screenplays, it wasn’t easy. First I edited it – about three times. Then I finally sucked it up and had my parents and a friend read it. Their notes were so minor that I felt sure I was missing something (call it creative writing workshop paranoia). Nevertheless, I read it over a couple more times, felt satisfied, and submitted it.
I only waited about three weeks for a response. I got an e-mail from the director of the program offering me a phone interview. I had a few days to prepare and spent hours looking up what kind of questions are asked in postgraduate interviews. I’m forgetful on a good day and a space cadet when I’m nervous, so I made a list of notes about key things. In the end, I probably over prepared a little bit. I expected them to ask questions about my strengths and weaknesses as a student, an experience where I worked as part of a team, or why I wanted to move to London.
My interview was held the day before Thanksgiving. I talked about the writing sample I had submitted, as well as my favorite playwrights and screenwriters (the notes came in handy here). Without specifically giving away other things I was asked, I think the ultimate purpose of the interview just to make sure I’m serious about screenwriting and didn’t just wake up one morning and decide I wanted to write movies.
At the end of the interview I was told I should hear back from them in a week. I settled in and tried not to dwell on it too much. I even told my dad that it was going to be the longest week of my life. Not even twenty-four hours later, as I was preparing Thanksgiving dinner, I receiving an e-mail offering me a place in the program. Of course, once the stress of getting accepted has abated, you start realizing all of the other things you have to do: visa, financing, housing…