Screenwriting: Structure: Sequences Into Three Acts

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses
Open, Small seminar—Fall

This is a screenwriting course in which you develop a single, feature-length story outline and screenplay. The emphasis is on your imagination—not your capacity for invention but your ability to observe and develop what you see around you. You should come out of this course with a complete story idea: its breakdown into sequences of scenes, as well as three acts; a full, detailed outline; and the completion of your first and second sequence. The first phase of this course will focus on finding the story that you want to tell and knowing and understanding your characters. You are encouraged to draw upon people and experiences that are familiar to you and to find a character that excites your imagination. We will also examine the importance of creating conflict and the creation of emotional arcs as a way of letting your characters help you develop an organic, believable story. The next phase of the semester concerns the development of that story into sequences—the building blocks of feature screenwriting. We will explore issues of escalating action, the role and use of subplots, and some different ways to create narrative forward movement (use of events, advertising, planting/payoff, preparation/aftermath) as they relate to the stories under consideration. We will learn about the basic structure of traditional “three-act” movies: “the main tension,” culmination, and resolution as they relate to the stories under consideration. The final phase of this course is devoted to finishing the outline of your feature film and writing the first and second sequences. Some of the writers may go further, and that work will be welcomed. Here, particular attention will be paid to the introduction and exits of characters, creation of conflict, use of location, costume, lighting, etc.