School of Film/Video
Frequently Asked Questions
Does CalArts have a Computer Animation major?
There is no program here specifically for a computer animation major. The School of Film/Video offers many classes in 3D computer animation in which the study of computer animation becomes an elective focus, which can be done in partnership with traditional studies. Many students from different programs have produced great computer animation work over the years. The traditional animation acting studies also utilize the "digital video editing" approach to 2D computer studies. Both are available to enrolled students.
What's the main difference between the Character Animation Program and the Experimental Animation Program?
Character Animation is a very comprehensive program of traditional, classical animation—basically using animated actors to tell a narrative experience. Although some Character Animation students, in their 3rd and 4th years, work with techniques like cut-out paper puppets, stop-motion puppets, or computers, most students do drawn work throughout their study at CalArts. The work done by students in Experimental Animation is more akin to fine art—some students draw, use characters and tell narrative stories, however all students are encouraged to explore different, new or unusual techniques and approaches to expressing themselves.
If I am accepted into one program of study, will I be able to take classes in another program?
Yes, provided the class is open to students outside the program, there is physical space available and you have permission of the instructor.
How much does it cost? Is financial aid available?
It turns out that innovative programs, great faculty and facilities, small classes, and personal attention don't come cheap. Tuition for the 2011-2012 academic year is $37,684, plus fees and living expenses, comparable to other high-quality private institutions. All students are actually subsidized, since student tuition revenues are significantly less than the cost of operating the Institute, with the balance of operating funds coming from outside donors and endowment. Tuition costs have historically increased each year, and this can be expected to continue, especially with sharp increases in California energy costs. Half of the yearly tuition is payable at the beginning of each semester when the student registers for classes.
Financial aid is available, usually made up of a combination of grants, loans, work-study, scholarships, graduate assistantships, etc., depending on the student's individual situation. About 80% of CalArts students receive some form of financial assistance, although financial aid doesn't cover ALL expenses for most students, especially during their first year.
To be eligible for assistance, it's important to get the required Financial Aid forms, fill them out accurately, return them by the deadline, and stay in contact with our Financial Aid office to make sure nothing is missing. Potential applicants can call the CalArts Financial Aid office toll-free at 800.443.0480 to get information and estimates, although accurate personal evaluations can only be done after the student has been accepted and all financial aid forms are complete. Many types of financial aid are available only to U.S. citizens or "green card" permanent residents, due to government policies.
The deadline for financial aid applications is March 1 of each year for the following academic year, September through May. Copies of Federal Income Tax returns for the immediately preceding year are required, so the timing is tight! Students must also be accepted by March 1 in order to qualify for Financial Aid, and since many of our programs fill up by then, admissions applications should be submitted by the January deadline. Click here for more information on financial aid.
The School of Film/Video awards a limited number of partial and full scholarships on the basis of talent and need. To be eligible for any scholarship funds, students must file a CalArts Financial Aid application by the above deadline.
One strategy used by students who really want to go to CalArts, but for whom four years would be financially unrealistic, is to develop their artistic ability and accumulate critical studies credits at a local college, and then transfer into CalArts.
Can I transfer to the School of Film/Video from another college?
Applicants may be eligible to transfer into the Program in Film and Video or the Experimental Animation Program at a higher year level. To do this, the number of Critical Studies transfer credits and strength of the applicant's portfolio must be commensurate to the year level applied to. Students are accepted into the Character Animation Program only at the beginning freshman level, because of the highly sequential nature of the studies. Applicants with previous college experience may be eligible for a year-level review during their third year in the program. Click here for more information about transfer requirements.
Program in Film and Video
What is the focus of the program?
The Program in Film and Video is designed for students who are interested in utilizing film and video as mediums for personal expression and exploration, for whom independent film and video is a vocation, not simply a mode of production. The program supports all kinds of personal work, from lyrical and abstract films to political or personal documentaries to dramatic narrative work.
What kind of access do students have to equipment?
Most equipment and facilities are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the school year. Some equipment is available to students upon registration and some equipment and facilities require workshops or classes to gain access.
May I choose the medium in which I work?
Yes. You can work in any and all media—whatever best serves your artwork. You will be required to take basic production courses that cover both areas, but your personal projects can be done in any medium that you choose.
May I apply to the Program in Film and Video without a film or video?
The program will review a portfolio that includes static artwork, however they are interested in seeing your personal art practice as it relates to film or video. As video equipment is more accessible now, it would be in your best interest to include this type of work in your portfolio.
I have done several films (or only long films). Should I submit all of my work?
No. If you have one long video or film, it would be best to submit a videotape of an approximately five minute excerpt of the work and then follow-up on the same tape with the work in its entirety in case the committee wants to see more. If you have several short videos or films, choose 2 or 3 of your best works and again, show excerpts if you must, then include on the same tape all works in their entirety. Please be sure to label your tapes with your name and your program. (Label all your tapes clearly!)
May I send a quick-cutting montage of all of the film/video work I've done?
No. In order for the review committee to get true sense of your artistic vision, it is better to show consecutive minutes of your best work.
I've done a lot of work on my friends' films/videos. May I submit this work?
If at all possible, it is best to submit your own work individually authored by you.
Character Animation Program
What are the admissions requirements for the Character Animation Program?
A complete listing of application requirements can be found on the Character Animation Requirements page.
I draw only (or mostly) cartoon drawings, anime, caricatures, super heroes, fantasy drawings, etc. Can I submit this kind of material in my portfolio?
You may include this type of material only as supplemental to the required observational drawings. Our program is based on animated narrative acting, which is based on observational draughtsmanship as well as the language of the human body. We feel that the stronger your life drawing is, the more believable your animated actor will be. At least 80% of your application portfolio should be drawings of real people and real animals from real life—these drawings ought to range from 1-minute gestures to longer poses. Landscape drawings, including interiors as well as exteriors, animal, bird, marine drawings and floral studies, both linear as well as color, are a plus.
Why is the drawing requirement so strict? I'm coming there to learn to draw.
No, you would be coming here to learn to act an animated actor. The Character Animation Program starts at very high skill level where students start animating almost immediately. We expect your drawing skills to be quite strong before you get here, so that as we fine-tune your drawing and show you how to communicate with your drawing, you can focus on mastering your acting animation.
Can/Should I submit assignments from a class I took in high school or another college?
It is best to submit your own artwork that you have done on your own. There is a difference between answering a problem that was given to you as an assignment and creating your own artwork. We are more interested in your own personal artwork.
Can I focus on computer animation?
Yes, after a time. The first 2 years of study covers a comprehensive, solid foundation in the basic essential vocabulary of the acting animator. The second two years focus on the student's particular interests and directions.
I don't want to do Disney animation.
We don't teach Disney animation. We teach classical animation, story telling through narrative acting animation, which is similar in style and structure to that used by all studios including the Disney studios. We encourage students to modify what they are taught and find their own voice and style.
I want to get a Ph.D. in Character Animation.
CalArts does not offer a Ph.D. in any program in any school. Character Animation offers a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) degree only.
What can I do to prepare my admissions portfolio for Character Animation?
Draw every day from real life. Draw everything you see around you—people, animals, architecture, landscapes, etc. Take figure drawing classes or workshops (attend at least once a week) and learn to draw real people (nude and clothed) from real life (not from pictures!) If you have animals at home, draw them every day. If you don't have pets, then get a season pass to your local zoo or animal park and go at least once a week to draw animals.
I can't draw to save my life, but I'm really good with computers. Can I still get into the Character Animation Program?
No. The review committee is looking for people with very strong drawing skills and observational skills. The program is very competitive to get in and your competition can draw well. Being "good with computers" does not demonstrate a strong sense of observation through drawing.
If I get accepted to the Character Animation Program, will I be guaranteed a job at [any major studio]?
CalArts is a school of fine arts—not a trade school. We can't guarantee what you will accomplish. You must apply for the position(s) in which you are interested and it is likely any position with any studio in the industry will require a portfolio geared toward that particular position.
Experimental Animation Program
I have never done any animation before. Can I still get accepted to the Experimental Animation Program?
Yes. The Experimental Animation Program looks to accept students who show potential to realize strong work in animation. Although at the MFA level we prefer to see students who have done work previously in animation we do consider students with backgrounds in architecture, art, science, and other fields that may create an interesting application to the field of animation. At the BFA level we are not really concerned. A strong portfolio with a foundation in art is most important.
Can/Should I submit assignments from a class I took in high school or another college?
Often students submit work that is part of a series of projects done in high school at classes or a college senior project. This is Ok as long as the portfolio reflects a student's passion and commitment. The review committee has found that work done independently most often demonstrates this.
I've done professional animation in the industry. Can/Should I submit my professional demo reel for my admissions portfolio?
Commercial work is not supported as the Experimental Animation Program is geared more toward fine art—it would be best if you submit examples of fine art work. If you feel you must submit your commercial work as it exemplifies your best work, please clarify what your contribution was to the work you submit.
Can I major in clay animation?
No. We do not have a major in clay animation. However, clay animation comes under the practice of stop motion. There is a series of classes offered that enable the student to do projects in clay.
What would be my expectations in the work field if I successfully accomplish this program? How is the job market compared to Character Animation?
The Experimental Animation Program has an excellent roster of alumni who have gone on to wonderful careers as directors. Please refer to the alumni section on the web for this. Most students find work in all areas of production including the industry.
Film Directing Program
How is the Film Directing Program different than the directing that goes on in the Program in Film and Video?
The Film Directing Program is solely an MFA degree program. The focus is film directing and writing, yet there is also a strong component of theater directing and writing. While directors are encouraged to explore new and more effective methods of dramatic story-telling, the curriculum is built on the more traditional dramatic descriptive structure.
Is a live audition required?
No. All evaluation is done from the required videotape and writing samples.
How long should my monologue and short story be?
They should each be no longer than three minutes.
May I perform a monologue that I wrote myself?
No. Please choose a short monologue from a published play. It is best to choose something to which you can relate on some level. You should be familiar with the play. Memorize and rehearse the monologue before videotaping your performance (do not read from the script or from cue cards). Do not edit your videotape or add music or effects.
Should I have actors perform my personal story?
No. Please do not script, rehearse, act or edit your story—simply videotape yourself telling your story as though you're sitting down and telling it to a friend. You may have another person running the camera if you wish, but this should be your own story told only by you with no direct involvement of another person.