Advice On Applying To Film School: Andrew Ruiz

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Advice On Applying To Film School

Andrew Ruiz

Andrew Ruiz

Columbia University

""Everyone's reason for selecting a school is half logic, half gut. I picked Columbia (MFA) because of the dedication to story over style, and the holistic nature of the education.

After attending Montclair State University with a BA in English, Andrew Ruiz graduated from Columbia University’s School of the Arts Film program, with an MFA in screenwriting. Ruiz’s short films have screened at festivals, including TIFF Kids, the Hamptons International Film Festival, and the Ajyal Youth Film Festival in Doha, Qatar. Andrew currnetly works as a writter for Universal Pictures.

We asked SOCAPA Screenwriting teacher Andrew Ruiz for his advice to high school filmmakers. Andrew received his undergraduate degree from Montclair State University, and his MFA from Columbia University.

Why did you choose Columbia?  How would you suggest a prospective student make an informed choice of film school?

Everyone's reason for selecting a school is half logic, half gut. I picked Columbia (MFA) because of the dedication to story over style, and the holistic nature of the education. When trying to find your best school, I suggest taking the time to seek out alumni, ask them real, pointed questions, and carefully consider the answers. Once you make a call, however, stick with it. Milk everything you can out of the experience.

How did you build your portfolio for your film school application? What advice do you have for someone putting their application together now?

I applied as a screenwriter, so my portfolio was entirely on the page. I've heard a lot of nonsense about "writing to what they want," like don't write comedy, or write about an issue. I think that's all crap. You should have a selection of pieces that reflect you, your sensibilities. Make sure they are polished, like exceptionally polished, but also that they represent the kind of work that draws you in. That said, understand that you are new to this, and what you like and what you want to do will likely change as you learn. Be flexible.

What has been your most exciting learning moment in filmmaking?

Making my short, Fish, required a huge amount of pre-production to get the locations. We shot in an airport, on an airplane, and in a fake TSA checkpoint. All these moving pieces barely fit together, and we walked into JFK without everything stamped and signed. Moving as fast as you can before a bureaucrat shuts you down, that makes you nimble with your shots.

What was your most challenging experience as a screenwriter/ filmmaker so far?

See above. Really, though, the most difficult part is rededicating yourself to the task every morning. New York is full of people that call themselves artists, but never make anything. In my opinion, the only defining characteristic of an artist is one who makes. So, keep working.

What advice would you give your younger self, just starting off on this path?

Make stuff. With your friends on weekends. KEEP A JOURNAL. You may think you will never forget any of this, but time will pass, and feelings will fade. As a writer, this stuff is your gold. Hoard it.