MFA (Writing for Performance)
- About the course
- Admission criteria
- NIDA FAQs
- How to apply
- Advanced standing
- Student work
- Further Info
About the course
This is a course for people who have already decided to call themselves writers and who see this as their primary calling.
While craft skills are important, more significant is the challenge of writing itself and the necessity of having something to say. It is the focus of these two major areas of writing, as well as the nurturing of creativity, that makes this course unique in Australia, and one of the few such courses in the world.
Students will have the opportunity to work in fields as diverse as film, gaming and digital media while writing their major work. Excerpts of this work will be presented at the end of the year, with the writers themselves directing actors in a rehearsed reading for a public audience.
Previous field trips and learning experiences include theatre companies, TV channels and festivals in Sydney, Adelaide Festival and Fringe Festival, the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts Brisbane, Perth International Arts Festival, London performing arts industry experiences and the Edinburgh Festival.
Want to know more about this course? Stephen Sewell, Head of Writing for Performance, Course Leader explains.
The duration of the Master of Fine Arts is 15 months and comprises six subjects with a total of 180 credit points, with a lead subject (60 credit points) which is the focal point.
The first year (from the end of January to the beginning of December) is spent at NIDA’s Sydney campus. The following three months are devoted to writing up the results of your research and preparing your journal article. With the approval of your supervisor this may be undertaken away from NIDA.
Applicants should note that the course may involve two or three interstate visits of one week’s duration, and may also involve a two week international field trip.
Course duration and contact hours
Students are at NIDA from 9am to 6pm from Monday to Friday. During production terms students may also be required for rehearsals after hours and on weekends.
Additional time also needs to be allocated to library work, research, preparation for classes and private study. For this reason it is difficult for NIDA students to maintain regular part-time jobs. Studying at NIDA is a big commitment so students need to manage their time and resources carefully.
All NIDA Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees are three-year full-time courses. All NIDA Master of Fine Arts courses, except for Cultural Leadership, are 15-month full-time courses.
2019 Dates (as an indication for 2020)
Orientation Week - (w/c 4 Feb 2018)
Contextualising Practice (Intensive) - 6-7 Feb
Perth Festival - 12-21 Feb
Generating Research through Practice (Intensive) - 4-5 March
Rouchcuts: Film Project - March-April
Contextualising Practice (Intensive) - 15 March
Contextualising Practice (Intensive) - 22 March
Contextualising Practice (Intensive) - 29 March
First Draft Readings - 1-5 April
Bilpin: Writers Well - 8-12 April
Easter Break - 15-26 April
Scripted Space: Props Project - April -July
Generating Research through Practice (Intensive) - 2-3 May
NAISDA - TBC
Queen's Birthday Holiday - 10 June
Second Draft Reading: Working With Actors - 24-28
June Study Break 1 – 12 July
Sonic Dramaturgy: Sound project - July- Sept
Third Draft Reading - 22-26 July
Generating Research through Practice (Intensive) - 1-2 Aug
Field Trip: Edinburgh Festival - 3-16 Aug
August Study Break - 19-30 Aug
Fourth Draft Reading - 4- 11 Oct
Labour Day Holiday - 7 Oct
Final Reading Showcase - w/c 14 Oct
Research Period - Jan - March 2020
- Writing for performance techniques
- Exploration of a wide range of literature genres
- Techniques to overcome blocks and difficulties in the writing process
- Writing for emerging technologies
- Understanding individual perspective within the wider cultural context
Writing with Purpose (60 credit points)
WFP9101 Writing with Purpose is the primary subject of the Writing for Performance course, and directs and supports students’ development as writers, be that in the genre of playwriting, writing for screen or radio, or writing for other kinds of performance, including gaming. Students explore the key techniques of writing for performance including dramatic structure, dialogue and characterisation. Each student identifies and defines a specific writing project aligned to his or her interests and ambitions, and is encouraged to demonstrate conceptual innovation, develop creative strategies within a broad contextual awareness of technological, social, cultural and economic change, and create and present new work within an appropriate public performance context. Each is encouraged to find and refine his or her individual voice.
Through strategic and consistent feedback, students learn to be constructively and productively reflective and self-critical, and develop skills and techniques for assimilating feedback into progressive drafts leading to the output of a complete cohesive work. Excerpts of this work are then presented at the end of the year in a rehearsed reading
Re-Reading the World (30 credit points)
WFP9102 Re-Reading the World is the key support subject and introduces students to a wide range of literature from many genres. It addresses a series of topics, explored in the form of lectures and seminars, on such subjects as Lacanian psychiatry and the contemporary philosophies of Salvoj Zizek, Alain Badiou and Gilles Deleuze, with the aim being to encourage critical thinking and re-examination of old assumptions. Intellectually demanding, the purpose of this subject is to stimulate debate and interest in the wider cultural field.
The Radical Imagination (15 credit points)
The Radical Imagination focuses on creativity and personal insight including how to overcome blocks and difficulties in the process of writing. Students develop practical skills and an understanding of techniques to overcome these blocks as well as an understanding of the creative process and its relationship with personal psychology. Each student writes up observations of their own creative process in a reflective journal. An important element of this subject are the field trips to national and international theatre/writers’ festivals. Attending and immersing oneself in both Australian and international theatre/writers festivals provides the Writers with the opportunity to experience a current and intra-cultural mecca as a basis for commenting on the power and limits of the creative impulse, and the creative boundaries being pushed in the works they see - or even the creative failures of the works. It inspires discussion on how their experiences of how others' work affects their own, and whether the simple fact of being in a different place, surrounded by different people has a positive or negative effect on their creativity. Taking Zizek's readings from "The Parallax View" on "The Loop of Freedom," where a very interesting account of consciousness - and by implication, creativity - is given, the Writers are asked to discuss the neuroscience of creativity taking into account what they have seen & heard while at these festivals. Writers are encouraged to draw on their experiences of these field trips as a way of exploring the questions surrounding creativity. These trips to national and international festivals are unique and unmissable opportunities to gauge the current state of writing for performance and to adjust the writers own work as they take aim at the international audience. This is a crucial part of the NIDA approach, emphasising not only the skillset required for a successful career, but also a clear understanding of the parameters and demands of the international market.
The Future is Now (30 credit points)
WFP9104 The Future is Now - New Technologies, New Opportunities looks at writing for emerging technologies. The subject explores the possibilities of translating a theatrical idea into alternative mediums, and rethinks traditional theatre ideas of performance within the context of the digital revolution. Each student will complete a short work in a new genre. This subject will enhance the students’ abilities to engage with a range of contemporary practices and evolving forms of the digital age, including digital gaming. The subject also includes interdisciplinary collaboration projects which include: a short video ‘rough cut’ project with the MFA (Directing) students and third year BFA actors which provides the fundamental hands-on experience and preparation in order to create a short film in collaboration with second year Properties and Object students as part of the ‘Scripted Space’ project.
Contextualising Practice (15 credit points)
Generating Research through Practice (30 credit points)
This subject introduces students to the concepts and methods of practice-based research as these apply to the exploration and investigation of the arts.
Initially students are introduced to the concept of research and to research skills and related issues, including ethics, as these apply to practice-based research. Subsequently, students identify their research topic and design the research project, undertake investigation and gather data, and process the data and other findings. The subject culminates in the writing of a journal article as the final research output. Journal articles arising from this subject are posted to an internally accessible research journal. Students whose journal articles are assessed as outstanding are encouraged and supported to submit them to externally published journals.
Essential requirements for admission
- All applicants applying for a graduate course at NIDA must have completed an undergraduate degree (in any area) or have five years relevant experience in a related area.
- Students must be proficient in written and spoken English, with international applicants required to have an English language proficiency equivalent to an overall band score of IELTS 8.0. Information on IELTS and testing centres in your country is available at http://www.ielts.org/
We select applicants who demonstrate commitment, capacity and willingness to advance their practice by:
- Working creatively
- Collaborating as part of a creative team
- Demonstrating a range of relevant skills and technical abilities
- Providing evidence of intellectual enquiry and reflection within their work
- Communicating clearly
- All applicants applying for the graduate courses at NIDA must have completed an undergraduate degree (in any area) or have at least five years relevant experience in a related area.
- Students must be proficient in written and spoken English, with international applicants required to have an English language proficiency equivalent to an overall band score of IELTS 8.0. Information on IELTS and testing centres in your country is available at www.ielts.org.
Domestic and international students are required to pay tuition fees by the due date each semester.
Domestic students are Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and New Zealand citizens.
Current students can also find 2019 fees in the NIDA Domestic Graduate Student Fees Schedule 2019 (PDF 1.1MB).
Fees and financial assistance vary for international students see International Students for full details.
Tuition fees overview
|Degree||Course duration||2020 Annual tuition fee $AUD*||Estimated course tuition fee*|
|Master of Fine Arts (Writing for Performance)||15 months||N/A||$32,220.00|
Tuition fee details
|Subject code||Subject||Credit points||EFTSL**||Tuition fee*|
|WFP9101||Writing with Purpose||60||0.418||$10,740.00|
|WFP9102||Rereading the World||30||0.208||$5,370.00|
|WFP9103||The Radical Imagination||15||0.104||$2,685.00|
|WFP9104||The Future is Now||30||0.208||$5,370.00|
|COM9102||Generating Research Through Practice||30||0.208||$5,370.00|
*The tuition fees are reviewed each year and you are liable for the additional tuition costs if the tuition fees rise during the course of your enrolment.
** EFTSL - Effective Fulltime Study Load: indicates the relative study load of a subject against a full time study load of 1.0 for academic year.
Administration and Other Fees 2019/2020
These fees are payable at the time the service is provided or item purchased.
|Binding supplies||1 comb,1 cover, 1 back||$2|
|Graduation||Academic Dress Hire (gown, hood, cap), and two guests||$35|
|Tickets for additional guests||$20 per person|
|Student ID Card replacement||Replacement of a lost student card||$25|
|Photocopying||B/W – single sided||$0.05|
|B/W – double sided||$0.10|
|Colour – single sided||$0.10|
|Colour – double sided||$0.20|
|Replacement of lost locker key||$25|
|Testamur replacement||1 testamur – domestic postage||$80|
|1 testamur – standard international postage||$90|
|Transcript replacement||1 transcript – domestic postage||$20|
|1 transcript – standard international postage||$30|
To access NIDA wireless (iWIRE) network, students are required to have access to a Laptop (Windows 7 and later), Macbook (Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or later) or a Tablet (less than three years old with wireless facility). All the devices should comply with 802.11a/b/g/n WPA-Enterprise security. All notebooks should be secured with a Kensington lock to help prevent theft.
For file transfers and data backup, a 500GB hard drive or higher and an 8GB USB stick are also recommended, as is a DVD burner, for optimum visual graphics on your computer(Laptop/MacBook/Desktop etc.) a 1GB dedicated graphics card is recommended but not required.
Australian citizens and holders of permanent humanitarian visas are eligible for an Australian Government FEE-HELP loan for all or part of their tuition fees. For more information about FEE-HELP please read the information below and visit Study Assist.
FEE-HELP is the Australian Government loan scheme that assists eligible students to pay their tuition fees, so that students do not have to pay tuition fees up-front. FEE-HELP can cover all or part of a student's tuition fees. In 2019, the FEE-HELP limit is $104,440 for most students.
The government pays the amount of the loan directly to NIDA. Students repay their loan through the tax system once their incomes rises above the minimum threshold for compulsory repayment.
For more information go to studyassist.gov.au
Who is eligible for FEE-HELP?
You are eligible for a FEE-HELP loan if you are either:
- an Australian Citizen; or
- hold a permanent humanitarian visa.
The following students are NOT eligible for FEE-HELP:
- New Zealand citizens - refer to the Study Assist website
- Australian permanent residents
- Overseas students.
Entry requirements FAQs
Entry requirements for each course are available under the ‘Interviews and how to apply’ tab on individual course pages.
Is there a maximum age restriction for students?
There is no maximum age restriction for any NIDA undergraduate or graduate course.
How do I apply for a full-time course at NIDA?
The first step is to fill in an application form, available online from July 2019. You must then prepare for your audition or interview, the details of which can be found on the course pages.
Can I apply for more than one course?
Yes, however a separate online application form and payment of application fee $75.00 will be required for each course you would like to apply for.
My application form isn’t working/loading!
Online applications are open from July annually.
If you are having difficulty using the online application form, check your internet browser: Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari are the recommended browsers. You should also turn off any security that blocks pop-ups, as this may prevent the application screen from opening.
What do I do if the interview dates are not suitable?
NIDA aims to accommodate all Australian states during the audition/interview period. If there aren't auditions/interviews scheduled in your state, please select "Other (Interstate)" and email email@example.com to discuss a suitable alternative.
International students (all courses other than acting) should select the option ‘International - Offshore Applicant’ a representative from NIDA will then be in touch via email to organise an interview over Skype which will suit both you and our staff.
What do I do if I haven’t received details of my interview?
Once you have submitted your application and paid your application fee you will be emailed a receipt as well as further details regarding preparation for your audition/ interview. If you do not receive any emails from NIDA please check your junk/ spam filter or promotions filter (Gmail). If you are still experiencing difficulties please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
What do I need to prepare for my interview?
Does NIDA give audition/ interview feedback?
Due to the large number of people being auditioned/ interviewed, it is not possible for NIDA to provide individual feedback, either orally or in writing. However, the audition/ interview are learning experiences, particularly through the opportunity in the auditions to observe the presentation of audition pieces by other applicants and any redirection suggestions provided to you or other applicants by members of the audition panel.
Where will my interview take place?
During your online application you will have the opportunity to select the date and location of your audition/ interview. The specific location details will be sent to you with your receipt once you have submitted a complete application form. You will also be sent further information for how you can change the location/ date of your audition/ interview if necessary. Please note that NIDA reserves the right to amend your audition/ interview date/ location at any time depending on availability.
What happens after my interview?
Final selections are made for each course by mid- December when study offers will be distributed to successful applicants via email.
Please note applicants who do not make it through to the recall stage for Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) and Master of Fine Arts (Directing) courses have not been successful for the 2020 intake.
Studying at NIDA FAQs
How are NIDA’s courses structured?
NIDA offers a conservatoire based method of education and training based around intensive practice-based learning.
There is formal class work, practical instruction, lectures and, for some courses, periods of placements in the arts industry. Each course has dedicated time to discipline-specific immersion, as well as common subjects undertaken by students of all disciplines.
NIDA Play Productions and screen work provides practical learning experiences, giving students the opportunity to apply learnt technical skills. Play productions are an important part of NIDA’s higher education courses with usually five productions being produced each semester.
More detailed information about course structure can be found on the individual course pages.
What facilities does NIDA offer?
NIDA’s award winning campus includes a range of facilities available to students:
- the Parade Theatre, seating over 700 people, is equipped with advanced technology in sound, lighting and scenery
- performance spaces of varying sizes. The Parade Studio, Parade Playhouse, Parade Space and Atrium are also utilised for productions
- the state-of-the-art Reg Grundy Studio is used for film and television recording
- the Rodney Seaborn Library, specialising in the performing arts
- computer-aided design (CAD) and multimedia studios
- rehearsal rooms, teaching spaces and music practice rooms
- and workshops for the manufacture of scenery, properties and costumes.
What student services does NIDA offer?
Because of NIDA’s close relationship with UNSW, in addition to the NIDA library, NIDA students have access to the UNSW Library, The Learning Centre, health services and the UNSW Fitness and Aquatic Centre, all located close to NIDA.
NIDA students have access to student counselling services provided through UNSW.
Indigenous students can also use the services of the Nura Gili Indigenous Programs Centre at UNSW.
Does NIDA offer credit transfer for study undertaken elsewhere?
Yes, NIDA grants credit for formal study undertaken in recognised higher institutions in Australia, including universities, colleges, TAFE and other post-secondary education institutions and for study at recognised overseas institutions, where the applicant has met the learning outcomes, attained the knowledge and/or developed the skills relevant to a specific subject. An application for credit must be submitted and approved prior to commencement of the course. For further information see NIDA’s credit transfer policy.
NIDA Student policies FAQs
Can I defer my studies at NIDA?
Due to the highly competitive nature of NIDA’s admissions process, you must enrol for the year for which you have been offered a place. You cannot defer acceptance of a place. If you want to enrol in a subsequent year, you will need to apply again the following year and go through the interview process again. There is no guarantee that you will be offered a place next time.
Application for leave of absence by continuing students must be made in writing with reasons to the Head of Course for consideration and recommendation to the Director/CEO. Approval for leave of absence can only be granted by the Director/CEO and only under exceptional circumstances.
Can students be suspended from NIDA?
In addition to cancellation of enrolment for non-payment of tuition fees, a student’s enrolment at NIDA can be suspended or cancelled on the grounds of misconduct.
See NIDA student policies for more information.
What are the tuition fees for accredited courses?
Financial assistance FAQs
Are there scholarships available for studying at NIDA?
NIDA is pleased that through the generosity of the Luminis Foundation, we will now be able to offer the Luminis Foundation Indigenous Fellowship in Cultural Leadership for the 2018 intake. This Fellowship will support the successful applicant by funding 50% of their Master of Fine Arts (Cultural Leadership only) course fee.
NIDA does not offer other scholarships that cover the cost of tuition fees.
NIDA students, who are Australian citizens, are able to access FEE-HELP loans for assistance with their tuition fees. For more information on FEE-HELP loans see www.studyassist.gov.au or the ‘Fees’ tab on individual course pages.
Is financial assistance available for Master of Fine Arts students?
The Master of Fine Arts courses are not approved courses for students to receive Austudy, Youth Allowance (student) and Pensioner Education Supplement through Centrelink. Master of Fine Arts students enrolled in a full-time course are eligible to apply for a NIDA bursary.
NIDA offers full-time students the opportunity to apply for financial assistance (bursaries) at the beginning of each year to assist with living costs. The bursaries are made available through the generosity of donors to NIDA and from bequests. Bursaries are paid on a fortnightly basis during the NIDA year, with the value of individual bursaries in 2019 ranging from $1,600 annually to $4,000 annually, depending on need and the year and course of study. Bursaries are only available to students currently enrolled at NIDA in full-time courses.
NZ and international students FAQs
Is there a limit on the number of international students accepted each year?
NIDA welcomes applications from international students. While there is no quota for international students, there are limited numbers of students in each course.
What are the English language requirements for international students?
Students must be proficient in written and spoken English, with international applicants required to have an English language proficiency equivalent to an overall band score of IELTS 8.0 for Acting, Directing and Writing for Performance, or IELTS 7.0 for other higher education courses. Information on IELTS and testing centres in your country is available at www.ielts.org.
International applicants who are short-listed for the Acting course after the recall audition must provide evidence of their English language capability by the end of the first week in December in order to be considered in the final selection process. International applications for other courses should bring evidence of their English language capability to their interview.
Where can I find more information about international students at NIDA?
How to apply
Returning 2019 applicants: Follow the link to reset your application account password.
How to apply
- Evidence of your most recent qualification (e.g. school report, Higher School Certificate, university transcript or testamur).
- Proof of identification (e.g. passport, driver’s licence, birth certificate; ID must show your date of birth).
- A passport style photograph (less than six months old, in colour, well lit, plain background).
- Academic IELTS or equivalent (international applicants only)
- Any course related documents/portfolios.
Below are the expected interview dates for 2019. Please note: NIDA reserves the right to amend and otherwise alter interview dates, subject to minimum applicant numbers.
w/c 12 November 2019
w/c 19 November 2019
What to prepare
SUBMIT WITH YOUR APPLICATION
The following should be uploaded with your application:
1. PROFESSIONAL CV
- You should upload a detailed CV highlighting your education and training, professional work and other relevant information.
2. ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT
- You will need to provide proof of your university degree/s or five years of professional experience in a relevant area. This can be a scan/photograph of your transcript or testamur from the awarding institution; if you are offered a place in the course you will be required to provide a certified copy.
- Prepare your writing portfolio according to the requirements below and submit it with your application.
What to expect on the day
Interviews are conducted by two NIDA staff members, in person or by video. Interviews will run for approximately one hour.
The interview is in two parts:
- First, there will be a brief talk about NIDA, the MFA (Writing for Performance) course and what will happen during the interview. There will be an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about NIDA or about the interview itself.
- Each applicant will then be interviewed for around 45 minutes. During the interview, we will discuss your portfolio; your ideas about theatre, film and television; your worldview, concerns, ambitions, creative process experience, and why you want to study Writing for Performance at NIDA.
- Preparation! The more time and effort you put into the project and interview preparation in advance, the more confident you’ll be and the more you will benefit from the interview and discussion.
- Come with a clear idea of why you want to study Writing for Performance at NIDA.
- Plan your journey to the interview. Give yourself plenty of travel time to allow for delays.
- We know that interviews can be stressful, but every effort will be made to ensure your experience will be as interesting and enjoyable as possible. The interview is designed to give you the very best opportunity to show your potential and readiness to study at NIDA.
The Writing Portfolio
Writing portfolio requirements
You should prepare examples of past work that you feel will support your application and demonstrate your suitability for a career in writing for performance, and the arts and entertainment industry
- Prepare your three best pieces of creative writing.
- They do not have to be plays or scripts for actors, but at least one piece should display dramatic qualities.
- At least one piece should contain a sample of dialogue.
- Each extract or example should be no more than 2000 words.
- Please merge your three pieces into ONE document, and upload as part of your application.
The collaborative nature of NIDA's conservatoire training means that NIDA does not encourage advanced standing/academic credit/recognition of prior learning, particularly for discipline based subjects. However a student can apply for academic credit or recognition of prior learning at the time of enrolment. Details are available on the student policies page.
See definitions for common terminology (PDF, 33KB).
See student work from productions, events, classwork and student projects.
Writers Readings 2014 gallery
The Master of Fine Arts (Writing for Performance) course produces artists of the highest quality and leaders in their field.More
Graduates have a range of employment options given the breadth of opportunity for exploration and development facilitated through the course. Nevertheless, Writing for Performance is normally a freelance occupation, and students will be equipped with knowledge and skills to access and navigate a rapidly changing landscape of contemporary textual practices.
- Writer in other performance genres
See NIDA's list of Alumni.
Read more about NIDA's Head of Writing for Performance, Course Leader Stephen Sewell