Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting

The Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting is a 48-credit-hour terminal degree. The workshop-driven program provides a rigorous creative environment to prepare students to craft compelling scripts for film, television, video games, and emerging digital mediums. Earn a terminal degree in screenwriting in two years with our accelerated, low-residency MFA program. Students can study anywhere in the world, joining faculty, guest screenwriters and filmmakers, and peers at three annual Texas-based writers retreats and events. A parallel MFA in Creative Writing is also available.

The MFA utilizes an accelerated, low-residency model designed to meet the needs of today’s students, while emphasizing a strong commitment to excellence in craft, analysis, and creativity. Three times per year, students and faculty gather for week-long writers’ residencies and events on HCU’s campus or at destination retreats, including at the annual South by Southwest Film Festival and Conference in Austin, TX. Each residency features workshops and extensive interaction with professional writers and filmmakers serving as guest instructors, as well as ongoing mentorship from HCU’s exceptional full-time faculty.

Between residencies, students work from home, maintaining connections with their cohort through online workshops and ongoing coursework. These long-distance classes preserve HCU’s apprenticeship model, providing frequent feedback and personalized direction from each student’s writing mentors and peers. While the low-residency model allows writers to continue to live and work in their home cities, students should expect to commit considerable time every week to practicing their craft in order to successfully develop and hone their creative skills.

The  accelerated schedule allows students to complete the MFA degree in two years. For professional screenwriters, the Master of Fine Arts serves as a terminally qualifying degree, allowing successful graduates to teach at the university level. However, the program’s primary goal is to nurture students’ creative potential, ensuring that their artistic craft is sharpened and developed.

Most importantly, the core of this degree remains HCU’s steadfast commitment to providing a learning experience that instills in students a passion for academic, spiritual, and professional excellence as a result of our Christian convictions. Students learn how this faith has guided storytellers, filmmakers, and artists throughout history and will be inspired by this rich heritage as together we seek to craft new cinematic works reflecting our Creator’s goodness, truth, and beauty.

Applications for our next cohort are now open.
A writing portfolio is required for admission.

Apply Now

View Degree Plan

Program Highlights

  • Workshop-Based Mentoring

    The MFA in Screenwriting places a strong emphasis on practice and feedback, using rigorous faculty-led workshops throughout the program. Students will work closely with writing mentors and receive valuable critiques from their cohort of peers.

  • Study from Anywhere

    The MFA in Screenwriting is offered as a low-residency program, requiring approximately three weeks of in-person, Texas-based instruction each year, supplemented by year-round online workshops that can be completed from anywhere in the world. (Learn more…)

  • Accelerated, Terminal Degree

    The Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting is a terminal degree, qualifying graduates to teach at the university-level. With intense, focused classroom instruction during the residencies and year-round online workshops, students earn the 48-credit-hour degree in about two years. (Learn more…)

  • South by Southwest Film Festival

    The MFA tuition includes registration and lodging at the annual South by Southwest Film Festival and Conference in Austin, Texas—the largest media gathering in the state, packed with incredible films, world-class speakers, and dynamic networking opportunities.

  • Learn from the Best

    Each residency features professional filmmakers and writers from a variety of disciplines. The focused retreat structure means students have extensive face-to-face interaction with visiting screenwriters, authors, and poets, while year-round online workshops also facilitate feedback from HCU’s exceptional faculty and distinguished adjunct instructors. (Learn more…)

  • Strong Christian Foundation

    HCU is committed to providing a learning experience that instills a passion for academic, spiritual and professional excellence as a result of our Christian convictions. MFA students explore the rich heritage of our faith, which has guided storytellers, filmmakers, and artists throughout history.


Since 2013, HCU has offered a wide array of dynamic degrees in Cinema & New Media Arts (CNMA), including undergraduate degrees in Cinematic Arts, Mass Media, Interactive Media, and Graphic Design. Graduates of these programs are creating compelling content in a variety of fields, from award-winning independent films to video games, health care, education, and faith-based ministries. At the heart of the CNMA program’s success is the School of Fine Art’s commitment to mentor and educate students towards excellence in artistic creation for the glory of God. We prioritize hands-on field experience, apprenticeship and mentorship, strong understanding of tradition and theory, a clear focus on emerging opportunities, and an essential spiritual foundation for every student.

The Cinema & New Media Arts program frequently hosts industry professionals as guest speakers and adjunct instructors, including:

Whit Stillman
Oscar-nominated screenwriter Whit Stillman meeting with a class of Cinema & New Media Arts students
  • A.J. Edwards (screenwriter/director of The Better Angels, Age Out; editor of The Tree of Life)
  • Scott Teems (screenwriter/director, Narcos, Rectify, The Quarry)
  • Patrick Fabian (actor from Better Call Saul, Agents of SHIELD, Veronica Mars)
  • Doug TenNapel (award-winning video game designer, comic book artist, screenwriter; Earthworm Jim, VeggieTales, Creature Tech)
  • Matthew Aughtry (filmmaker of Mothers of the Desert)
  • Mark Stolaroff (producer of DriverX, Pig, Following)
  • J.A.C. Redford (music orchestrator of Avatar, Wall•E, Newsies)
  • Jeffrey Overstreet (film critic and novelist, Through a Screen Darkly, Auralia’s Colors)

Recent Guests

We are pleased to host a wide array of experienced, industry veterans as guest speakers and instructors at each of our residencies, as well as through virtual discussions throughout the year. Our recent guests have included:

Julio and Marla Quintana

Julio & Marla Quintana
Filmmaking team behind The Vessel; collaborators with Terrence Malick on The Tree of Life

Nambi E. Kelley

Nambi E. Kelley
Screenwriter for Showtime’s The Chi, acclaimed actress and playwright (Native Son)

Whit Stillman

Whit Stillman
Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Metropolitan, Last Days of Disco, Love & Friendship

Walter Murch
Oscar-winning editor, sound designer of Apocalypse NowThe Godfather

German Michael Torres
Producer and talent agent (Moulin Rouge!, Proof of Life)

Elaine Loh
Screenwriter and actress (Dynasty, Gossip Girl)

HCU’s cross-disciplinary writing MFAs bring together screenwriters, novelists, and poets at multiple retreats throughout the year, providing unique opportunities for experienced writers to inspire and challenge a new generation of storytellers.

Apply Now

Accelerated, Low-Residency Model

Our unique model is tailored to fit the active schedules of today’s writers, allowing students to study from anywhere in the world through online workshops, while not sacrificing invaluable face-to-face instruction with faculty, guest instructors, and peers facilitated through Texas-based writers retreats.

With our accelerated, low-residency model, students earn a 48-credit-hour terminal degree in screenwriting in about two years. Across six residencies, students will gain 30 credit hours of intensive residential classes, providing essential foundations for the 18 credit hours of online courses that supplement the in-person instruction (learn more about the courses offered).

MFA in Screenwriting — Sample Schedule

August Residency (3 credit hrs)
week-long on-campus residency
July 30 – August 4, 2023
CINE 6331: Screenwriting Workshop I
Fall Semester (6 credit hrs)
online, Aug–Dec
CINE 6321: Cinematic Core Principles
CNMA 6320: Topics & Genres: Filmmakers on Film I
January Retreat (6 credit hrs)
week-long destination retreat
January 8 – 14, 2023
CINE 6310: Faith, Culture, & the Arts I
CINE 6380: Screenwriting Special Topic I
Spring Semester (3 credit hrs)
online, Jan–May
CINE 6332: Screenwriting Workshop II
South by Southwest (3 credit hrs)
online, Jan–May with week-long conference
in Austin, TX in March (during spring break)
CINE 6322: Art of Storytelling
Summer Semester (3 credit hrs)
online, May–Aug
CINE 6333: Screenwriting Workshop III
August Residency (3 credit hrs)
week-long on-campus residency
CNMA 6380: Production Workshop
Fall Semester (6 credit hrs)
online, Aug–Dec
CINE 6334: Screenwriting Workshop IV
CINE 6320: Topics & Genres: Filmmakers on Film II
January Retreat (6 credit hrs)
week-long retreat
CINE 6310: Faith, Culture, & the Arts II
CINE 6380: Screenwriting Special Topic II
Spring Semester (3 credit hrs)
online, Jan–May
CNMA 6392: Thesis Project I
Spring Semester (3 credit hrs)
online, Jan–May with week-long conference
in Austin, TX in March (during spring break)
CINE 6391: Media Industry & Business
Summer Semester (3 credit hrs)
online, May–August
CINE 6392: Thesis Project II

What to expect at the residencies…
Each writing residency is carefully planned to provide an ideal, concentrated creative environment for learning and lasting growth. Bond with peers in small, focused workshops and learn directly from seasoned professional writers and filmmakers through extended conversations in-class and over meals.

The residencies also provide an opportunity to be inspired and challenged by a wide variety of writers, as we bring together poets, fiction authors, creative non-fiction writers, screenwriters, and playwrights in cross-disciplinary discussions.

August On-Campus Residency
For six days in early August, students gather on HCU’s campus for classes and workshops with special industry guests. Working with HCU equipment and facilities, students also take part in production workshops with faculty, staging scenes they’ve written.

January Destination Retreat
For seven days in early January, students travel to a Texas-based retreat location. Be inspired by a fresh locale and the beauty of God’s natural world, as we take a break from our busy lives and gather together to focus on artistry and creativity. With special visiting instructors, the January residency dives into special topics and provides opportunities to explore how artists of faith can create in ways that reflect the goodness, truth, and beauty of our Creator.

South by Southwest Film Festival & Conference
During spring break each year, we travel to Austin for the largest media conference in Texas. Watch the latest in independent and studio films, network with fellow filmmakers, and learn from a wide array of industry experts. South by Southwest is a jam-packed, unbeatable experience for every student.

Meals and lodging for the August and January residencies are included in tuition, as well as registration and lodging for South by Southwest. Students are responsible for their own travel arrangements.

Courses Offered

The MFA in Screenwriting is a 48-credit-hour terminal degree. 30 hours of the degree are completed at six different residencies, while the remaining 18 hours are facilitated through online workshops throughout the accelerated program, which can be completed in about two years.

For additional information on MFA courses and for the current official degree plan, see the HCU Course Catalog or select any course below for more details...

  • CINE 6310 Faith, Culture, and the Arts I & II (6 hrs)

    This course explores the role of the Christian artist in culture. Students will study how great Christian thinkers have thought about culture and art throughout church history and be challenged to understand their vocation as artists and media creators from a biblical perspective. Students will also develop an understanding of how to live out their faith through their work as they seek to affect the culture around them.

  • CINE 6320 Topics & Genres: Filmmakers on Cinema I & II (6 hrs)

    Study with a working filmmaker or writer, exploring the artists and stories that have inspired or shaped their work. Topics will vary at each residency depending on the instructor and may also take into account the genres and mediums of interest to the current cohort of students. Cross-disciplinary courses in fiction and poetry will also be offered.

  • CINE 6321 Cinematic Core Principles (3 hrs)

    An overview and survey of the cinematic medium and its various forms, with an emphasis on historical foundations and developing opportunities. Includes an in-depth look at the fundamental components of the medium—writing, directing, acting, cinematography, and editing—and synthesizes these various roles so that students can experience how these components work together to create the end product and better understand how their work as screenwriters draft the blueprint for compelling cinematic stories.

  • CINE 6322 Art of Storytelling (3 hrs)

    An overview and survey of storytelling across multiple mediums, from ancient oral tradition to modern media. This class will explore the role storytelling plays in culture and help prepare students in the development, presentation, and pitching of stories.

  • CINE 6323 Media Industry & Business (3 hrs)

    An overview of the business and legal elements that will affect students’ work, whether as independent filmmakers or in industry careers. This class also examines the changing dynamics in the digital economy and trains students in the art of pitching and presentation.

  • CINE 6331–6334 Screenwriting Workshops I–IV (12 hrs)

    Writing workshops in which students will create and revise original screenplays (or select scenes, treatments, and pitch documents). Over the course of the semester students will learn to critically assess their own work as well as the work of their peers.

  • CINE 6385 Internship (optional)

    Credit is awarded for approved professional internships in media-related work in a variety of regions, including Houston, Austin, Hollywood, and in students’ home cities. If an internship is not available due to local availability or other factors, this course may be substituted for a variety of other MFA classes.

  • 9 hrs of CNMA Electives

    Students may take any two graduate-level CINE courses or, with permission of the director of the corresponding program, students may take appropriate courses from other graduate programs, such as the Creative Writing MFA, the Studio Art MFA, the MA in Christian Apologetics, or the Master of Liberal Arts.

    Special Topics (CINE 6380) may also be offered based on student interest and need, faculty availability, and subject matter that would be supportive of the MFA curriculum. This could include a course on acting, directing, writing for video games, or a topic suggested by the current cohort of students.

  • CINE 6391–6392 Thesis Project I & II (6 hrs)

    Under the direction of a faculty mentor, students will write or produce a faculty-approved cinematic thesis.

Admissions Requirements

  • Personal Statement – Please submit a personal statement, between 300 and 500 words, sharing your desire to attend the HCU Graduate School and how you feel a degree from HCU will assist you in your academic and professional careers.
  • Résumé – Email a current résumé to the Graduate School at
  • Writing Portfolio – Please submit a portfolio containing examples of your writing to The Graduate School. Your writing sample must be at least 30-50 pages in length and may contain multiple short scripts or excerpts. Additional work from other genres may be included as well.

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