New York Film Academy
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New York Film Academy Admissions

Guidelines and Tips for a Successful Creative Portfolio

Our industry instructors across all our disciplines have come together to provide our future students with guidelines and tips for a successful creative portfolio, which is required during the application process.

Select your area of study for specific guidelines and tips:

3D Animation & Visual Effects
Acting for Film
Broadcast Journalism
Documentary Filmmaking
Game Design
Musical Theatre

3D Animation & Visual Effects

  • We are looking for the overall artistic abilities of applicants.
  • We realize that not everyone has access to animation software and base our findings accordingly.
  • We are looking for an overall artistic skill range of applicants. Please see below.
  • The Portfolio can consist of traditional art and sculpture, digital art, or a combination of both; animation; or visual effects shots.
  • It should contain primarily visual artwork and should be original pieces. Include work that shows your strengths. Works-in-progress are acceptable.
  • If submitting animation and visual effects, please indicate the work you did in the piece.
There are many ways to make your mark with your portfolio. We want to see innovation: maybe characters in motion, expressive poses, or character designs. You might show renderings of recent artworks done from the direct observation of life, or character development sketches such as cartoons, or maybe a combination of both. Show us characters in subtle and dynamic poses. Work can be rendered on paper or on a computer. Those students with animation experience are welcome to submit work highlighting their 3D models, animations, lighting, etc. Portfolios showing 2D animated scenes are also welcome.

Additional Requirements for Graduate Programs:
New York Film Academy believes that to be successful in the MFA 3D Animation & VFX degree program an applicant must have an intermediate skill level in 3D Animation and VFX. The portfolio will be used to assess this skill level and determine if the applicant has the prerequisite knowledge to meet the demand of the courses. If the applicant is assessed as not meeting the necessary skill level, detailed feedback will be made available to the applicant, recommending areas of improvement if the student wishes to improve and apply again.

1-Year Certificate-to-MFA Path:
For those applicants who do not have the requisite experience to enter directly into the MFA program and want help improving their proficiency in 3D Animation & VFX, NYFA may recommend enrolling in the 1-Year certificate program and re-applying to the MFA program after successful completion. Students who successfully complete the 1-Year certificate and are accepted into the MFA will enter semester 2 of the MFA program.

Acting for Film

Monologue requirements:

The creative portfolio for the Acting program should be a selection of work that shows the breadth and depth of your acting abilities. Each performance should have a strong emotional arc.
  • Please prepare two contemporary (published after 1960) monologues
  • Monologues should be contrasting: one dramatic, one comedic
  • Monologues should be approximately 60-90 seconds in length each
Choosing Monologues:
  • Read through different selections of material until you find something that feels like you: material that you can relate to and makes you feel something emotional as you read.
  • Choose pieces that fit you right now, not the person you might be in the future. Select monologues that are age-appropriate and allow you to express the uniqueness of who you are and speak to your strengths.
  • Choose monologues that are ACTIVE. This means that the character has to be clearly pursuing an OBJECTIVE with another character (Objective: what does my character want the other character to do, think, say or feel). It is the pursuit of the objective that gives the monologue action.
  • Monologues should take place in the present. It should not be a memory or a character telling a story.
How to prepare your Monologues:
  • Now that you've chosen your monologues, you have to make them yours. You should read the entire play or screenplay, as it will help you make specific choices.
  • You may also transcribe the pieces from a film and then work from the written text, rather than re-watching the original actor’s performance. We are looking for your unique interpretation of the material.
  • Ask yourself:
    • Who am I? What is my relationship with the other character?
    • Where am I?
    • What does my character want?
    • What is the obstacle to getting what I want?
    • How am I going to get what I want? (What action will you use? Will you demand, intimidate, flirt, convince them you are right?)
    • What is my character feeling? Does it change through the monologue? Are they angry, sad, happy? Does the emotion change by either them getting or not getting their objective? (The emotion should change.)
    • What just happened right before the monologue starts?
  • When auditioning with a monologue you will want to create the other character. You “create them” by putting them just to the side of the camera. Make sure you listen to “the other character” and take in their reactions.
  • Memorize your monologue; do not read off a script or a phone.
How to record your submission:
  • Start with a Slate. Please state your name and the title of the piece you are performing. Deliver this part to the camera.
  • Eyeline. You should be looking at a point next to the camera when performing the piece (or ideally, have somebody stand right next to the camera and deliver it to them.) Do not look into, above or below the camera.
  • Stand or sit? It is best to perform the monologue standing, as it will give you more energy. You can sit if you feel it helps ground you. Please do not sit in a swivel chair- you will end up swiveling during your performance.
  • Frame. When you film the monologue, you want to capture your whole body for at least one of the monologues, or at least ¾ of your body, not just your face.
  • Sound and lighting. Make sure we can hear you (good sound) and see you (good lighting) clearly.
  • Background. Do not have distractions in the background (posters, activity, etc.).
  • Wardrobe. Wear clothes that do not distract from your performance. This includes shirts with large logos or statements, hats, or anything that hides your face from the camera.
  • Props. The general rule of using props for auditions is NO, unless it absolutely enhances your performance and does not take our focus away from you. If you feel it helps you, simple everyday items like a cell phone, purse, sweater or jacket would be fine. Do not: smoke, use prop weapons, or mime anything in your performance.
Enjoy your performance. It will show us your passion and commitment to acting, and allow the true you to come through.

Broadcast Journalism

The Creative Portfolio for the Broadcast Journalism program can take many forms. It can be a short video, in which the applicant played an important part. It can be a collection of still images that the applicant took. It can also be a writing sample of up to 10 pages. We are not looking to see polished, sophisticated projects. After all, students come to NYFA to learn how to do that. We are looking for evidence of an ability to be a non-fiction storyteller. At the same time, we want to see if the applicant has the potential to develop a distinctive editorial point of view, an editorial “voice” that incorporates the applicant's unique perspective, while still adhering to a journalist's commitment to accurate and balanced reporting.


If possible, you are advised to include any previous cinematography work that you've created. Whether it's a short narrative film, a music video, spec commercial, documentary, or experimental film, any work you've created as a cinematographer will provide us with the strongest indication of your potential. It will also allow us to judge your ability to tell a story visually, using composition, lighting, camera movement, etc. to engage the audience with your characters using your unique point of view.

Professional cinematographers will have a "demo reel", consisting of the best shots from their different projects edited together. If you have already prepared a reel, this is an excellent way for us to assess your technical ability and your aesthetic sense. It will also allow us to see how you perceive your own strengths as a director of photography.

Another option is to submit a collection of still photos that demonstrate your best work as a photographer. You should be careful to select images that succeed both technically and aesthetically (good exposure, in focus, strong composition, etc.). Your photos should create a connection with the viewer, pulling us into to ask questions about your subject. The best photographs will tell a story.

Regardless of the medium, it is also important that you clearly state your role in whatever projects you submit in your portfolio. We will evaluate a project differently if we are analyzing the work of the director vs. the cinematographer vs. the editor vs. the writer, and so on. Often you will take on more than one job in your early projects, and you may have more than one credit on a project. This is great, but please be clear in telling us what job(s) you performed on each project.

Documentary Filmmaking

For portfolio consideration, the Documentary Department accepts both/either visual/film samples and written proposals or treatments for a film one would like to produce and direct.

First and foremost, we are looking for students who are passionate about the art of storytelling, regardless of whether the submission is a written sample or a visual sample, fiction or nonfiction.

Previous experience is appreciated but not necessary. We’re more interested in what you will do than what you have done. We’re looking for an applicant’s passion for the work or subject, a spirit of artistic exploration or a dynamic engagement with the use of nonfiction storytelling. Production values aren’t important for this piece. It’s fine to shoot something with your phone. Just create something you enjoy and believe in.

Below are the elements under consideration when assessing the portfolio:
  • Visual Sample
    • Story Consideration: The preference is that there is some story or point to any visual/film submission. First, the idea is strongly and clearly stated. Dialogue or sound bites are believable, motivated and support the style of the piece.
    • Structure, while not necessary to strictly follow narrative plot points, does need to be apparent in some way, either thematically or in following a character of some kind, and ideally supports the idea of the piece.
    • Technical Consideration: Images are properly focused and framed. If applicable: interview or narration dialogue/sound is clear and supports the story; edits are well-paced and motivated by story.
    • Portfolio is well organized and well presented for each item given.
  • Written Sample (Treatment or Proposal)
    • Substance Consideration: The story idea is clearly stated. The treatment has a clear beginning, middle and end and might include transitions to take us from one act to the next. The treatment explores conflict, character progression and arc. Bonus points if the Treatment uses metaphorical images to supplement the story.
    • Technical Consideration: Spelling, grammar and formatting are correct and enhance rather than impede the flow and impact of the story or idea.
The Documentary Department looks for an understanding and presentation of the story. So, for instance, if a candidate submits a short film showing "travels", within that film, it is ideal to show some kind of story arc that an audience can follow as opposed to a montage of "cool shots". The montage of "cool shots" edited together to music is not something that ranks high on the Documentary scale unless the viewer is treated to some thematic revelation or some interesting arc through its POV or metaphorical play of images.


When reviewing applicants for the NYFA Filmmaking Program, we are looking for students to distill their creativity into a variety of different works that will display their abilities as well as their potential as storytellers. Ideally, students would submit material they directed. That could be short films, video sketches, web series, taped plays or any other works they directed. If you don’t have content you directed, then any content that you contributed to creatively [screenwriter, editor, cinematographer, for example] is also acceptable.

If that type of content is not available, then writing samples are the next best artifact for us to review. Screenplays, teleplays, manuscripts, treatments--essentially anything that will show us your ability to tell a story.

  1. 1. Everything will always come back to story. Being able to articulate a story is the most essential part of the Filmmaking program. We want to see your ability to contribute to the storytelling process.
  2. 2. Quality is more important than quantity. We’d rather review one strong project that speaks to your ability to tell a story than several projects that have technical issues, production issues or story problems.
  3. 3. Artistic voice: Do you have a unique way of seeing the world? Are you trying to say something personal with the work you have submitted?
  4. 4. Visual style: Do you make truly cinematic choices in your work? Are you making conscious decisions about where to put the camera in order to best tell the story? And are you making use of all the elements of composition to paint the images you are creating?

When reviewing portfolios, we look for someone who is a keen observer of life and what it means to be a human being. We also look for sensitivity, the ability to feel things deeply and profoundly. We look for people with vision, who can take their thoughts and feelings and express them creatively in whatever medium they’ve chosen. And last, but not least, we’re looking for passion, the applicant’s ability to inspire others by sharing their love of the creative process.

Ultimately, we’re looking for candidates who have demonstrated a well thought out approach to the portfolio they have put together – works that allow us to see their potential and who they one day want to become as filmmakers.

Game Design

When assessing applicants to NYFA Game Design programs, we predominantly want to see that the applicant is a person who makes things. Some applicants are more visually oriented and submit things like scans of their hand-drawn sketches, character designs, storyboards, 2D art and animation, 3D art and animation, etc. Some applicants are more technically oriented and submit things like Unity prototypes, game modifications, Github profiles, and code samples. Some applicants are more game design oriented and submit things like pictures of their paper prototypes, level maps, design documents, skill trees, system diagrams, etc. We have had applicants who also submit business plans and marketing one-sheets. All of those works are valid for a portfolio submission to NYFA Games. It is a good practice to submit videos of your work so we can best understand it - e.g. a video of your Unity prototype or paper prototype in action; a video of you explaining your vision for a game using a sequence of images.

Note that most applicants submit one type of thing - e.g. a collection of character designs or a few Unity prototypes or a slide presentation showing pictures of people playing your paper prototypes. That is fine and expected. A small number of applicants are hybrid and submit multiple types of things - e.g. Unity prototype with animation and sound.

  1. 1. Don't worry if you don't have working software in your portfolio. Sketches, 3D models, level maps, design docs, photos of paper prototypes, and similar materials are all appropriate.
  2. 2. If you submit a game, include a short gameplay video from the game.
  3. 3. Most important is for you to demonstrate that you are a person who makes things - whatever that is.
  4. 4. The first 30 seconds of the play experience are the most important. Design your game to deliver on that.
  5. 5. Submitting multiple small games is better than submitting one big game.

Bottom line: Submit whatever it is you like to make and we will assess it on its own merit. You will be exposed to all aspects of the craft of game development in the program.

Musical Theatre

The Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre is looking for an audition that allows you and your voice to be at your best. We require two contrasting Musical Theatre songs and a one- minute monologue from a stage play (not musical or screenplay). Therefore, it is important to select songs that you love to sing and a monologue from a play that you love to perform. It is best to use songs that are in the musical key that allows your voice to be relaxed, vibrant and expressive. It is also important to let your personality and creativity come alive as you portray the circumstances of each song. Remember, just as in a monologue, songs from the Musical Theatre genre are almost always aimed at pursuing an objective; singing to achieve a goal or to persuade someone.

When preparing your audition, we recommend that you know and apply the five questions: Who? What? Where? When? and Why? Answer for yourself:
  • Who is the character? (Age? Temperament? Point of View?)
  • What are the circumstances? (Is the character in love? Falling out of love? Protesting against an injustice? etc.)
  • Where is the song taking place? (On a street? In a nightclub? Window of a castle?)
  • When is the song happening? (Is it a memory? Is it late at night? Is it in another historical era?)
  • Why is my character singing? (Why this song? Why sing the song to this person or persons? Why now?).
  1. 1. If auditioning live, have your music and any cuts clearly marked and in a binder that is easy for the accompanist to handle.
  2. 2. State your name clearly and introduce the songs and the monologue clearly. You should rehearse this part of the audition as well.
  3. 3. If doing a video audition, be sure to test the sound to be sure your vocals are coming through clearly and the accompaniment is not too loud.
  4. 4. Work to make your audition as pitch perfect as possible. If you cannot match pitch your audition will be weakened.
  5. 5. Pick music you like and that fits your vocal range and type.


The Photo Arts Conservatory at NYFA is looking for passionate photography students to submit portfolios for admission to our programs. We are particularly interested in work with a strong point of view, demonstrating authentic personal experience of the world, surprising or inventive strategies of composition, or engagement with conceptual thinking. The ability to inspire by telling a story, or sequencing a group of images that flow well together visually, is also valued. Digital, film and cell phone images are all accepted.

  • What do you want to say with your images?
  • Do these images represent you and tell us something unique about you?
  • Where is the song taking place? (On a street? In a nightclub? Window of a castle?)
  • Are you photographing what inspires you?
  • How can you be a storyteller to affect the world through your photography?
Do’s and Don’ts
  1. 1. Do think about what each picture means and submit your strongest work.
  2. 2. Don’t pick random images that don’t have meaning to you.
  3. 3. Do choose work that goes together--images that are in conversation with each other--so the viewer comes away knowing more about your overall interests and areas of concern.
  4. 4. Do write about your work and ideas in your personal essay
  5. 5. Do also include other mediums (drawing, sculpture, video, painting) if you have them (no need to have this, but if you do, please include).
  6. 6. Do not write about each image individually; we want to know your overall guiding interests--conceptual, historical, theoretical and otherwise.
  7. 7. Do think about the way you present the work: the sequence, the layout. We want to easily see them well. High resolution PDFs or user-friendly, well-designed websites are best. Avoid jpegs.
  8. 8. Do be consistent in your approach, so a style or process shows through.


The Producing Department at NYFA is looking for prospective students to submit Portfolios for admission to our certificate and degree programs. Specifically, we are interested in reviewing work that provides a window into the authentic interests of students in regard to vision, collaboration, communication and organization. We seek students who can show sheer passion for producing content that can inspire and move audiences, and who can identify with the Producers Guild of America's description that defines a Producer as "the visionary center of the creative industry and nothing more and nothing less than the curator of the world's imagination."

A writing sample is the single requirement for the Producing Department Creative Portfolio.

Originality, the organization of ideas, the articulation of specific concepts, and critical thinking are all hallmarks of a candidate suitable for the Producing program. Be yourself; we want to hear your individual voice. Applicants do not need to demonstrate a working knowledge of various film and television writing formats; spelling, grammar, and punctuation, however, are important.

All written samples need to be delivered in a .pdf format. Applicants should be mindful that any of the above mentioned written work should include:
  • A Title
  • The Applicant name and contact information
  • A short paragraph describing who is the audience for the Written Sample
  • A short logline
  • Written in present tense; the entire story in a three-act structure
  • Set Up: introducing the situation and characters and conflict
  • The Conflict: where it begins and expands until it reaches a crisis
  • The Resolution: the conflict rising further and then is resolved.
Producing applicants are also encouraged to supplement their Creative Portfolios with visual samples, but this is not a requirement. Please identify your specific role in any visual sample submitted.

  • Make sure that the material submitted is creative and looks professional. Consider it more of a presentation than a submission.
  • Make sure that you read carefully the submissions guidelines and comply with the requirements.
  • Make sure you take an ethical approach to your submission and that, if credit is due, anyone who has collaborated with you on the included project is appropriately credited.
  • In your personal statement, in addition to the questions indicated in the requirements, consider including a paragraph in which you explain how in the past you have encountered either a relational, communication, organizational, or producing problem and how you were able to solve it. Conclude the paragraph with a quick reflection on whether you would choose the same or a different solution today if you were to encounter the same problem again.
Submissions are reviewed by the department chair and faculty with the goal of identifying the creative and technical skills–such as overall theme clarity, correct deliverables, and communication, but also interests, abilities and potential of each applicant.

The Portfolio is expected to be adequately professional, albeit personal to show the motivations and goals of the prospective applicant.


When submitting a creative writing portfolio a few things are key. Be sure to show us your unique voice and have a specific point of view.

As an applicant, you are trying to define who you are through your writing and trying to showcase that you have something to say and an original way of saying it. Don't be afraid to tell the Admissions Committee who you are through your creative voice. Remember that your characters are just as important as your plot. Give them individual personalities and goals. Make them leap off the page. Also remember that every story needs conflict. The more, the better.

Another very important point is to proofread your materials. As a writer, words are your commodity. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation matter when expressing your stories and they matter when others read your stories. A misplaced or forgotten comma can completely change the meaning of a line. Be sure to triple-check that your writing is grammatically correct. This helps to express your professionalism and diligence, which are qualities we are always looking for. Lastly, and this goes hand in hand with voice, be creative. Be funny, or quirky, or gritty, or dramatic, or scary, or fantastical. Be you.

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