TFT Professional Programs -- Growing into the Future

A proven track record helping a wide range of candidates hone their skills

As the August 3 admissions deadline for the enormously successful UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting rapidly approaches (click here for additional information), one of TFT’s most popular educational offerings continues to innovate.

The first of these programs to be created, the Professional Program in Screenwriting, originated in 1994, the brainchild of UCLA screenwriting stalwarts Lew Hunter, Richard Walter and Hal Ackerman. According to Eyal Alony, director of the Professional Programs, “The idea was to create a sister to UCLA's world-renowned and highly selective MFA Screenwriting Program, so that a larger number of promising screenwriters would be able to avail themselves of a UCLA screenwriting education.”

An online version of the screenwriting program soon followed, in 1995, as did the 10-week intensive Professional Program in Producing, which is modeled after the celebrated UCLA Producer’s Program MFA.

"I couldn't be more proud or appreciative of the outstanding work Eyal has done as Director of our Professional Programs," said TFT Dean Teri Schwartz. "Under his expert leadership, our Professional Programs have grown by leaps and bounds into the gold standard that they are today. Eyal and his team, and our amazing faculty, have provided exceptional, unrivaled course offerings which have positioned our students for great success throughout the industry. Without question, along with our strong strategic emphasis on entrepreneurship of which the Professional Programs play a significant role, and with Eyal Alony's dedication and commitment to excellence, our Professional Programs will continue to flourish long into an exciting future for TFT, which is looking very bright, indeed."

Because they attract a high percentage of highly motivated students, the Professional Programs have seen an exceptional percentage of their graduates go on to great success. The Programs' Screenwriting and Producing alumni are working in every branch of the entertainment industry, both in the US and overseas. A strong recent example is Professional Program in Screenwriting alumnus James Ponsoldt '10, who will follow his Sundance hit "Smashed," with "The Spectacular Now," a coming of age drama starring breakout "Descendants" co-star Shailene Woodley.

"The Professional Programs have grown considerably over the years,” Alony says. “Like the Masters programs, we have a selection process, but the structure of the Professional Programs allows us to enroll quite a few more students. We've been fortunate that we have the resources to admit a significant number of students, while maintaining the attentive atmosphere that the students deserve. Our primary goal is to help our students hone their talents and broaden their knowledge so that they become ready for a professional career in entertainment.

"The Programs appeal to a wide range of candidates, from ages 21 to 71. We have students who have only written scripts or made films on their own, and we have students who have already sold material or worked within the studio system in one aspect or another. We appeal to everyone from the young artist wanting to hone their craft, to the entertainment industry assistant looking to expand their knowledge and skills, to the doctor or lawyer or teacher wanting to start a second career or bring their pet projects to life."

As part of the Dean's strategic initiatives for entrepreneurship, the Professional Programs have greatly expanded their offerings and enrollment over the past 3 years. They have welcomed students from all 50 states, and from dozens of nations, from the UK to Germany and from India to China. France, Canada, Ireland, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Ukraine, Mexico, Russia, Israel, Colombia, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Norway, Japan, Greece, South Africa, Nigeria and Singapore have all been represented.

The Programs also give out an annual prize called the Nate Wilson Joie de Vivre award, which is presented to the screenwriting student whose screenplay is selected as best of the year. The 2012 winner is Duke Tran for his script "Gay Mom." The Nate Wilson Award is a generous cash award donated yearly by the parents of Nate Wilson, a Professional Program student who sadly passed away during the 2003-04 school year.

The Programs will celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2014, and show no signs of slowing down. The reach of current classes will be extended, and classes are already being drafted in new disciplines. "Expect to see our producing courses online," says Alony, "as well as an online and on-campus Professional Program in Writing for Television. We're also in talks to create a Professional Program in Producing Theater and an intensive Professional Program in Directing. We're very excited about the courses we're working on for the future.”

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