Specialization in »Screenwriting«
in BA Film
It all starts with a blinking cursor and a vision: a screenplay is the dream of a film.
But what makes a good screenplay and why is it indispensable in filmmaking? What are the stories that can, want, need to be told? In the balancing act between unbiased curiosity, meticulous research, and careful tact, good screenwriters can succeed in finding stories and turning them into visually vivid screenplays written in an expressive and articulate language.
In the Specialization in Screenwriting, young writers learn more than how to tell good stories using pictures, developing credible characters and writing convincing dialogues. Teamwork is considered equally important, as well as a solid basic understanding of all aspects of filmmaking – including the demands of the market. The focus, however, is always on the individual style of the author – and on the story. Because regardless of whether or not the screenplay includes dialogue, or whether it’s fully developed or a rough draft: without a screenplay, there is no film.
Degree: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
Duration: 7 semesters
Admission: every two years
New Start of Study: September 2023 (winter semester 2023/2024)
Application Phase: Summer 2022 until Spring 2023
Preselection (without presence of the applicants): April 2023
Entrance Examination (attendance required): May 2023
The 7-semester Bachelor’s program is modular and consists of:
- Specialization modules that convey the artistic and technical expertise for the aspired occupation.
- Project modules, in which students, both independently and through interdisciplinary collaboration, complete projects from the idea to the finished screenplay or film.
- Comparative Media Studies modules and personal skills seminars that transfer film and media theory knowledge as well as social and interpersonal skills
What story do you tell? And how and why do you tell it? Screenwriting students must possess a strong visual imagination, great curiosity, and a passion for people. Writing screenplays demands a conscious and sharp reflection on the world. It also requires an acute awareness of how stories and films not only depict the world, but also influence it–and sometimes even transform it.
During their studies, screenwriting students not only write scripts, they also gain deep insight into the various other crafts involved in making a film. They write literary and non-fictional texts, short film screenplays, serial formats, and material for fiction feature films. Students deepen their character development skills through scene work with actors, improvisation exercises, script constellations, and seminars on various narrative models. They also experiment with new narrative forms and interactive and trans-media storytelling.
Filmmaking is teamwork, and script writing is a collaborative process that involves producers, commissioning editors, and directors, among many others. Several meetings and gatherings with other filmmakers and professionals in the film industry during their studies will help them make their first steps in their professional life. Students also benefit from seminars on pitching and personal coaching, designed to prepare them for both their work as screenwriters and for the film market.
Scriptwriting distinguishes itself from all other film professions in many ways, but most of all in the solitary life of the writer. Because even when you develop a story together with co-authors, you must always write the first line alone. As a writer, you start with nothing. The director, the actors, the director of photography, the production designer – all of them have a script to work with that guides them. In fact, it’s this ability to formulate on a white, blank sheet of paper a first idea, draft, or exposé that essentially differentiates a writer from a non-writer. Screenwriting students will also be encouraged to reflect on these questions: Where do ideas come from? And how can I inspire others with my ideas and still remain open for my colleagues’ suggestions and the requirements of the film industry?
Comparative Media Studies
Comparative Media Studies explore the film medium’s relationships to other media and their presentation and narrative forms, and particularly to the competing audiovisual media of theater, television and digital games as well as to the fine arts, photography, literature and music. In both the theoretical reflections and the practical exercises, specific attention is given to the aesthetic and cultural consequences of digitization for production, distribution and reception of audiovisual, cross-media and trans-media content.
Film History and Film Analysis
This subject area explores the different dimensions and elements that touch, cross and merge paths in film: space and time, perspective and montage, picture and sound, light and color, on and off-screen, and the perspectives of the characters, the camera and the audience. The focus is on investigating the media conditions for cinematic aesthetics as well as reflecting on their historical transformation.
A significant part of the studies and the learning takes place in the project work, which is defined by an intensive and close collaboration between the 7 specializations. Each semester includes a project phase, during which students experiment, practice and produce work. The requirements vary as there are both fiction and non-fiction film projects. The project work consists of both independent components as well as interdisciplinary teamwork with other students and cooperation partners. The complexity of the project work increases during the course of the studies up to the final graduation films. The professor committee decides on the production of each of the projects. Students also have the opportunity to work on independent projects alongside their studies with the support of the ifs.
Personal Skills and Professional Career Orientation
All the semesters include modules for personal skills training and professional career orientation. Coaching sessions and teacher feedback on various studies and team processes promote personal and professional development. Students are encouraged to reflect on their own artistic work from an interdisciplinary perspective, in the context of other works of art, and as part of the social discourse. Students receive targeted support to develop and cultivate their own artistic personality, as well as their social and communication skills (negotiation skills, self-reflection, team cooperation, conflict strategies). Case studies exploring the various job profiles (national/international) and knowledge of the requirements of a business startup serve as guidance on future careers and professional opportunities. Visits to festivals and conferences promote the development of industry networks.
Bachelor Project and Thesis
Students prepare their Bachelor graduation project and thesis at the end of their studies, which is supplemented by an oral examination also known as a colloquium. For the Screenwriting specialization, the BA graduation project consists of writing an original screenplay for a feature-length film. The BA graduation project for the specializations in Film Directing, Creative Producing, Director of Photography, Editing Picture & Sound, VFX & Animation, and Production Design consist of a production project and a written thesis. The colloquiums will bring together the different parts of the BA project in a technical discussion and explore individual aspects in depth.
Fields of Study
The following fields of study at the ifs are represented by professors:
- Screenwriting and Dramaturgy
- Directing – For fiction narratives in audiovisual media
- Directing – For documentary narratives in audiovisual media
- Creative Producing
- Camera – Feature Film
- Camera – Documentary Film
- Editing Picture & Sound
- VFX & Animation
- Production Design
- Comparative Media Studies
- Film History and Film Analysis
- Serial Storytelling (MA)
- Digital Narratives (MA)
Our professors are experienced academics and professionals who, alongside their teaching responsibilities, also produce screenplays, documentaries and feature films as well as conduct research work. A wide range of lecturers from both the German and international film industries further supports the main academic teaching staff. An active involvement in the film industry and a professional participation in film and applied media discourses are requirements for a teaching position at the ifs.
Every module is completed with an examination, and is graded. The examinations can take the form of assignments, papers, work samples, written tests, presentations or oral exams.
After successfully completing the Bachelor Examination, students are awarded the »Bachelor of Arts« (B.A.) academic degree.
The study workload is assessed using a credit point system, according to the principles of the European Credit Transfer System. 30 credits are awarded per semester. In the standard 7-semester period of study, 210 credit points are required to achieve the »Bachelor of Arts« degree. The BA Film program is a fulltime study program. Courses usually require 80 percent compulsory attendance.
The Bachelor’s program Film offers the following specializations:
Screenwriting, Film Directing, Creative Producing, Director of Photography, Editing Picture & Sound, VFX & Animation, or Production Design.
full time / every two years
Bachelor of Arts
Number of Participants:
The Bachelor’s program Film accepts new students every two years starting in the winter semester. Admission takes place in a two-stage procedure.
The two-stage application procedure consists of:
– An online application with specialization-specific application tasks.
– An entrance examination to take place at the ifs.
Candidates are selected on the basis of the submitted online applications and invited to the entrance examination. In this two-stage procedure, applicants must demonstrate their artistic and creative aptitude in relation to the BA Film program and their desired specialization.
General college or university qualifications
In the case college or university qualifications are not available and the applicant displays strong artistic aptitude, the required general qualifications will be determined in a separate procedure. To ensure that the education certificates and diplomas acquired abroad comply with the admission requirements of the ifs (higher education qualifications), applicants can get information at the following link: http://anabin.kmk.org.
Very good knowledge of German
At the time of application, prospective foreign students must demonstrate at least a B2 language level. Once accepted to the program, students must successfully complete the DSH-2 exam (German language proficiency test for university admission).
Good English language skills
The application tasks must be completed in German.
The ifs is a cooperation partner of the University of Applied Science Cologne. As a BA student at the ifs, it is not generally necessary to enroll at the University of Applied Science Cologne. However, this can prove useful if you wish to take advantage of services offered by the University of Applied Science Cologne, such as the »Semester-Ticket« for public transport, access to the University of Applied Science Cologne International Office or to its sports facilities. Enrollment at the University of Applied Science Cologne is mandatory for non-EU citizens.
Students from certain countries need a visa and/or a residence permit. To obtain a residency permit, foreign students must demonstrate sufficient funds to secure their living expenses. The amount required is equivalent to the Bafög maximum rate of 861 euros per month, calculated for one year.
Study Fees & Financing
Tuition fees per semester:
One-time registration fee:
Contribution to the »Friends of the ifs Society« per semester:
Are there tuition fees at the ifs?
Yes, there are tuition fee for studying at the ifs.
For the Bachelor’s Program Film, these have remained unchanged since 2003 at 1,750 euros per semester. This includes 250 euros for the Sponsors’ Association of the ifs.
The overall tuition fees for the entire duration of the program of 7 semesters until receiving a bachelor’s degree are 12,250 euros.
ifs students receive a top-notch education, of which only a small fraction is paid for by tuition fees. The ifs‘ funding mainly comes from an allowance of the State of North-Rhine Westphalia as well as from the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, which is the sole shareholder of the ifs.
Every study place is heavily subsidized.
Why are there tuition fees?
– A maximum 8 – 12 students are accepted per department. This means that there is a maximum of 70 students per graduation class. Furthermore, the ifs only accepts students for the Bachelor’s Program Film once every two years.
– Studying in the BA Film at the ifs also means: individual and intensive mentoring through the small number of students and close contact to lecturers as well as fellow students. These contacts are particularly valuable for starting a career after graduation.
– Students of the ifs have access to excellent technical equipment, which is constantly updated and expanded. https://www.filmschule.de/en/about-the-ifs/technical-equipment/
– Classes are on the one hand taught by permanent professors, on the other hand by national and international lecturers from media practice and media studies, who are booked for courses.
– Students in the BA Film realize at least one project per semester, usually a short film. Final part of the program is the graduation film (or the graduation screenplay).
The ifs provides each team with a budget for these projects.
– Part of the curriculum are visits to business events such as festivals etc. Most of those costs are covered.
For financial assistance to cover tuition fees and/or living expenses, students may apply from their first semester for an interest-free loan from the Student Education Fund, which is run by »The Friends of the ifs internationale filmschule köln Society«. Approval of the interest-free loans is based on the applicant’s financial situation and the funds available. Repayment of the loans begins six months after graduation/termination of studies.
Students are generally eligible for BAföG, the Federal Student Financial Aid Program, if this is their first study program. The responsible Federal Student Financial Aid Office decides upon applications for student state loans or grants. A prerequisite for the application is the enrollment at the University of Applied Sciences Cologne, the ifs cooperation partner (tuition fee per semester: approx. 300 euros). This grant includes all the services of the University of Applied Sciences Cologne as well as the semester ticket. Both German and foreign students are eligible applicants. International students must observe: BAföG § 8
Another way to finance your studies is to apply for a repayable loan. The collection of links in the following is not exhaustive and is only sorted in alphabetical order.
Education and/or Student Loans:
- Career Concept AG
- DAKA – Darlehenskasse der Studentenwerke im Land NRW
- Deutsche Bildung
- Deutsche Kreditbank
- Erasmus+ Master degree loans (MA students only)
- KfW Bank
For the Bachelor’s program »Film«, »The Friends of the ifs internationale filmschule köln Society« offers scholarships for students with outstanding academic achievement or for those who require financial assistance. For year I, 2 scholarships will be awarded for the duration of three semesters starting in the winter semester 2021. For Year J, a minimum of 2 scholarships for the duration of five semesters will be awarded beginning in the winter semester of 2022. The scholarship covers the tuition fee. After successfully passing the entrance examination, interested students can apply for both a scholarship and a loan.
Several German and international foundations offer scholarships to support tuition fees and costs of living during studies. The requirements for the award of a scholarship vary between individual foundations. In any case, the enrollment at the TH Köln, cooperation partner of the ifs, is mandatory.
Overview of German Scholarship Funds:
- Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (SPD related)
- Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung (FDP related)
- Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung e.V. (CSU related)
- Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen related)
- Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V. (CDU related)
- Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung (Linkspartei related)
- Avicenna-Studienwerk e.V. (for Muslim students)
- Cusanuswerk (for Catholic students)
- Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerk (for Jewish students)
- Evangelisches Studienwerk e.V. (for Protestant students)
- Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst e. V. (DAAD)
- Hans-Böckler-Stiftung (DGB)
- Kölner Gymnasial- und Stiftungsfonds
- Stiftung der Deutschen Wirtschaft – Studienförderwerk Klaus Murmann
- Stiftung Begabtenförderung berufliche Bildung
- Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes e.V.
- VFF Verwertungsgesellschaft der Film- und Fernsehproduzenten
Working besides studies
Students must decide for themselves whether it is possible for them to pursue a job while studying. Our study programs are full-time degree programs. In the following you will find information on the specific scope of our study programs:
The study workload is assessed using a credit point system, according to the principles of the European Credit Transfer System. 30 credits are awarded per semester. In the standard 7-semester period of study, 210 credit points are required to achieve the »Bachelor of Arts« degree. The FILM program is a fulltime study program. Courses usually require 80 percent compulsory attendance.
Information for International Applicants
To ensure that the education certificates and diplomas acquired abroad comply with the admission requirements of the ifs (higher education qualifications), applicants can get information at the following link: http://anabin.kmk.org.
To obtain a residency permit, foreign students must demonstrate sufficient funds to secure their living expenses. The amount required is equivalent to the Bafög maximum rate of 861 euros per month, calculated for one year.
Citizens of member states of the European Union, the European Economic Area (EEA) – that is Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – as well as Switzerland have equal legal status on the labor market as German citizens. This means that they have the same access to the labor market as German students and are permitted to work as much as they would like to without having to obtain prior approval of German authorities. Students are advised, however, not to work longer than 20 hours a week, as you would have to pay social insurance contributions should you exceed this number of hours.
International students from countries which are NOT member states of the EU, the EEA or Switzerland are normally permitted to work 120 full or 240 half days per year if they are in possession of a valid residence permit for Germany. The immigration office will record these provisions in your residence permit. Should you wish to work more days per year, you will need to obtain approval from your immigration office and the German Federal Employment Agency.
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