What it feels like to earn my Masters in Writing for Film and Television MFA

My first day of grad school for Writing for Film and Television brought me right back to how I felt on my first day of kindergarten. I was jittery and queasy with a million irrational thoughts running through my mind as the hours to orientation grew shorter and shorter.

“What made me think this was a good idea?”

“Will they smell my imposter syndrome as soon as I walk through the door? Better put on extra deodorant.”

“Oh no- is my backpack too bulky?!”

The good news, of course, is that once I did “walk through the door,” I knew immediately that there was no time or need for any further questions. I was all in.  

I came into the Writing for Film and Television MFA program knowing full well that the purpose of the week-long residency at the start of each semester is designed as an opportunity for the students in the program to bond with one another, but I was still shocked at just how quickly my peers completely won me over.

Here was an extremely humble, bright, and truly fascinating group of individuals who all came to Emerson because they love stories and want to learn how to tell them well. Contrary to what one might perceive “film school” to be like, hubris and competing egos was replaced with curiosity, vulnerability, and an eagerness to collaborate and learn from one another.

It was so refreshing to spend a week with people who are just as excited by the prospect of analyzing and creating meaning through storytelling as I am. Getting to know them and hear about their experiences provided a foundation of deep admiration and appreciation for who they were as people, which is invaluable when it comes to workshopping our scripts online.

Burgeoning friendships aside, the programming of the residency was well-planned and engaging. Throughout the week, we attended lectures and screenings with our professors, and we also participated in a master class with Alex Cox, Director and Producer of the movie, Repo Man.

It was so inspiring to get to work with Alex and the Emerson faculty, all of whom had fascinated stories and insights to share about their experiences working as screenwriters, scholars, and producers in the industry. It was especially beneficial to be able to have our first couple of course lectures in-person with the professors who are teaching our online courses. Having met and socialized with them at the residency, they don’t feel like mere avatars who send assignments through the online platform; instead they are real-life creative colleagues, whom I feel I can call or email any time of day with questions or just to chat.

As grateful as I was for every moment of the residency, I was completed wiped out by the end of the week. Think back to childhood sleepovers where you and your friends challenged each other to stay up all night. Remember that feeling of satisfaction when you FINALLY did? Sure, you crashed the minute you got home, but you did it! That’s what Friday felt like.

Though I knew my body was tired from late nights and long days, my mind and creative spirits felt completely re-charged, and I could not believe that I was nervous even for a second before orientation just six days earlier! Now that I’m a few weeks into the online portion of my courses and balancing a full-time job, I continue to think back to the excitement I felt during the residency whenever I need a push or a burst of energy to get through my assignments. And, if that’s not enough, my peers- who continue to amaze me- are always a mere group text away.

Haley Bresnahan is a current graduate student in Emerson’s Writing for Film and Television MFA program. She graduated from Chapman University in 2014 with a B.S. in Business Administration and Finance. She currently works as a full-time employee at Emerson and has previously worked in public relations and communications roles. When she’s not using her spare time to write, you can find her performing improv comedy, reading, creating Spotify playlists, and petting dogs.