Master of Fine Arts in TV + Screenwriting
Our mission is to bring more female and underrepresented voices – and female-focused stories – into mainstream media while studying film with a female gaze.
You have stories to tell. We’re here to make it happen. In our co-ed courses, you'll learn from some of the best working writers in the industry. Four 10-day workshops in Hollywood + online courses = your two-year MFA. Add your name to the remarkable record of success shared by our alumni, who have now written on shows such as Ramy, 13 Reasons Why, Seal Team, Generations, Station 19 and The Equalizer.
Top 15 Affordable Master's Degree in Film Studies Online Programs.
"Stephens College offers the #1 most affordable film studies online degree on our list!" -Best Colleges
Applications open in November of each year and offer rolling admissions, closing when we fill our (20-24) person cohort. To be eligible for our Jan Marino Scholarship applicants need to have been accepted and deposited by March 31st. Our Residency Workshop begins the first week of August, and online courses begin the last week of August.
Our program — with its bold, daring mission — has drawn the attention and the support of some of the most successful and well-known writers in Hollywood. Our faculty and mentors include some of the best working writers in the profession, and our curriculum includes an in-depth look at the business side of TV and screenwriting.
- Our community of professors and professional working writers are available to help you develop your vision, your voice and your career. And they’ll do it on your schedule, on your time and between all the other demands of your busy life. International students pay no extra tuition fees.
- Learning the craft of writing is essential, but so is learning the business of selling what you write. We will provide you with access to prominent showrunners, writers from the film world, development executives, agents and managers.
- Our graduates have a remarkable record of success, having written on shows such as "Ramy," "13 Reasons Why," "Seal Team," "Generations," and "The Equalizer."
Featured Panel Discussions
Anatomy of a Meet Cute: Writing Romantic Comedies
During each of our Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting Residency Workshops our Executive Director, Dr. Rosanne Welch, moderates a panel of WGA writers on a topic of interest to our MFA candidates. This January it was: Anatomy of a Meet Cute: Writing Romantic Comedies. Panelists included MFA alum Sahar Jahani (Writer, Hana Khan Carries On, The Bold Type, Ramy), Tracy Andreen (Writer, The Holiday Sitter, All Saints Christmas, Two Tickets to Paradise); Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith (Writer/Producer, Trinkets, Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You, The Ugly Truth); and Nia Vardalos (Writer/Director/Actor, My Big Fat Greek Wedding films, Larry Crowne, I Hate Valentine’s Day).
Transitioning to TV Writing from Previous Careers
During every workshop intensive, Executive Director Dr. Rosanne Welch moderates a panel of female screenwriters discussing various topics. Our 2021 Writers Guild Foundation panel featured TV writers who transitioned to television from previous careers. Panelists included: an alumna of the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting, Rashaan Dozier-Escalante (Staff Writer, "SEAL Team"; former career: Senior Physical Security Analyst for federal agencies, U.S. Army Reserve veteran), Calaya Stallworth (a former college English professor who's a writer on "Fear the Walking Dead"), Zoanne Clack (an M.D. who's an executive producer on "Grey's Anatomy"), and Akilah Green (a former lawyer-lobbyist who's a writer on HBO's "A Black Lady Sketch Show" and Showtime's "Black Monday").
More than the New 30: Writing Female Characters Over 50
Dr. Rosanne Welch moderated this Writers Guild Foundation panel of female television writers who discuss their experiences developing film and TV characters over the age of 50, how characters have been depicted in the past, and how shows and films are combating ageist stereotypes and subverting expectations. Panelists include:Marta Kauffman -- Creator and Executive Producer of Grace and FrankieLucia Aniello -- Co-Creator, Executive Producer and Director of HacksMeg DeLoatch -- Executive Producer of The Neighborhood and Family ReunionCindy Chupack -- Executive Producer of I'm Dying Up Here, and Co-Writer and Director of Otherhood.
Between the Sheets: Writing About Sex on TV
Dr. Rosanne Welch moderated this Writers Guild Foundation panel of female television writers discussing how to write sex scenes with a female focus. Featured panelists are: Michelle Ashford (Masters of Sex); Cindy Chupack (Sex and the City); Dayna Lynne North (Insecure); Gladys Rodriguez (Vida, Sons of Anarchy) and MFA alum Sahar Jahani (Ramy, 13 Reasons Why).<
Faculty + Mentors
- Our faculty and mentors include Writers Guild Award and Oscar and Emmy winners, showrunners, writer-producers from hit one-hour dramas and half-hour shows, and working writers with extensive teaching backgrounds.
- Between residencies, you’ll work online with at least four different mentors.
The Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting is the first low-residency program of its kind in the country and is the first to focus on the mission of bringing more female writers into mainstream Hollywood, and studying film with a female gaze.
Being a low-residency program means the MFA candidate is responsible for traveling to Hollywood for 10 days at the beginning of each semester (in the first weeks of August and January) for a workshop experience worth 3 credit units. We hold the workshops at the historic Jim Henson Studios. Their other courses are taken online across the rest of the semester under the mentorship of instructors chosen because they are all working writers and members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA). From the start we committed to provide high-quality online learning for our MFA candidates by hiring mentors with experience in online teaching and providing them with extra tools and training when needed.
Each semester, MFA candidates take 3 courses. In their first year they have one mentor for a television script and one mentor for a screenplay. The television mentors change each semester because in fall students write a spec script and in spring a pilot; the screenplay mentor is onboard for the whole year, as the fall semester is all about developing an outline and writing Act One of the screenplay, and then the spring semester is completing and revising the script.
In year two, there's a second screenplay written (with a different mentor) and a Thesis project, which can be anything from a web series to a limited series pilot and bible to a group of short films to a written academic thesis. By the time the MFA candidate graduates, they will have experienced, at minimum, four different mentors. Throughout the two years, they take a History of Screenwriting class. That's the most like an online classroom experience, with selected readings and viewing films each week, and then posting online responses to the material. At the end of each semester, MFA candidates turn in a profile of a screenwriter -- we compiled 22 profiles into the book WHEN WOMEN WROTE HOLLYWOOD, published by McFarlane Press in 2017.
When Women Wrote Hollywood: an award-winning book by the MFA Class of 2017
The inaugural class of the Stephens MFA in TV and Screenwriting collaborated on a collection of essays about the lives of female screenwriters from the Golden Age of Hollywood. These writers helped create unforgettable stories and characters beloved by generations of audiences, but their names have been left out of most film histories. Chapters trace the careers of such writers as Anita Loos, Adela Rogers St. Johns and Lillian Hellman, and explore themes of their writing in classics like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Ben-Hur and It’s a Wonderful Life. Along with bringing more female voices and women-focused stories into mainstream films and television, the Stephens MFA students’ mission is to bring more recognition to the women who came before them. Edited by MFA program director Dr. Rosanne Welch and published in 2018, the book was named runner-up for the Susan Koppelman Award honoring the best anthology, multi-authored, or edited book in feminist studies by the Popular Culture Association.
Read a review by the Columbia Daily Tribune: "Righting History: Book by Stephens students elevates women screenwriters."
In the News
- International Screenwriting Conference in Columbia, Missouri | Missouri Film Office
- Phil LaZebnik Keynotes at the Screenwriting Research Network 2023 conference | YouTube
- International Screenwriting Conference coming to COMO | COMO Magazine
- Dr. Rosanne Welch Interview – She Served Too | KOPN FM, Columbia, Missouri [Audio]
- Screenwriters and academics converge on Stephens College for international conference | Columbia Daily Tribune
- MFA Alum writes segment of Sesame Street and receives EMMY Nomination
- MFA program receives special commendation from the City of Los Angeles | YouTube
- Read Rosanne Welch's monthly column on Script
- Read the MFA Newsletter for the Latest Information