Oklahoma City University has added a new Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting program that is one of just a handful of its kind in the country. Classes are set to begin in January for the spring 2015 semester.
The low-residency program will focus on theory and application of the screen narrative. It will include five residencies — four on the OCU campus and one in Los Angeles — over the course of four terms.
Fritz Kiersch, chairman of the Moving Image Arts Department, said the program is designed for people who require a flexible learning schedule, yet desire a close student/mentor relationship with their professors.
“Students will be able to continue working while completing the program, with just two required intensive residency sessions per year,” Kiersch said. “We want to ensure that our students receive a high-caliber education preparing them for a successful career, so we have included some innovative ideas in the curriculum. This is the only program of its kind in the state, and one of a very few in the country.”
Class sizes are limited so that professors can develop strong mentoring relationships with each student. Starting in the first term, the students begin to create a practice and research journal to track their learning and to provide an account of their creative development, their class work, two major narrative works and their thesis.
The first three residencies are held at OCU as 10-day intensives in January and May. The fourth residency meets in Los Angeles for a two-week residency after the fourth term of study, where students learn from working industry professionals in film institutes and at major production facilities. Kiersch, whose many film credits over 20 years in the industry include directing the original “Children of the Corn,” utilized many of his Hollywood contacts to enhance the learning experience.
Kiersch said the screenwriting trade is important in careers beyond movies and television shows.
“Moving images have become a primary global means for communicating values. As technologies continue to develop, cultural and individual reliance on visual and aural texts will only increase,” he said.
The screenwriting MFA program joins the Moving Image Arts Department at OCU. The faculty, which also includes production and history specialist Bryan Cardinale-Powell and film studies professor Marc DiPaolo, researched many low residency programs including the university’s Red Earth MFA program as a model for their program design. In fact, interest from Red Earth program students in the art of screenwriting was one of the reasons the Screenwriting MFA program is beginning mid-year in January.