Screenwriting: The Art and Craft of Film-Telling

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses

How does one write a screenplay? One word at a time, articulating the action (“the doing”) of the characters and thereby revealing the emotional moments of recognition in the characters’ journey. Pursuing the fundamentals of developing and writing narrative fiction motion picture screenplays, the course holds a focus on the short form screenplay. We’ll explore the nature of writing screen stories for film, the web and television. The course’s approach views screenwriting as having less a connection to literature and playwriting and more a connection to the oral tradition of storytelling. We will dissect the nature and construct of the screenplay to reveal that the document—the script—is actually the process of “telling your film” (or movie, or web series or TV show, et al). In Film-Telling, the emerging screenwriter will be encouraged to think and approach the work as a director, because until someone else (if it is not the screenwriter) emerges to take the reins, the screenwriter is the director, if only on the page. With the class structured as a combination of seminar and workshop-style exchanges, students will read selected texts and produced screenplays, write detailed script analyses, view films and clips, and naturally, write short narrative fiction screenplays. While students will be writing scripts starting in the first class, they will also be introduced to the concept of “talking their stories” as well, in order to explore character and plot while gaining a solid foundation in screen storytelling, visual writing, and screenplay evolution. We will migrate from initial idea, through research techniques, character development, story generation, outlining, the rough draft, rewrites, to a series of finished short-form screenplays. The fundamentals of character, story, universe and setting, dramatic action, tension, conflict, sequence structure, acts, and style will be explored with students completing a series of short scripts and a final written project. In conference, students can research and develop a long-form screenplay or teleplays, develop a TV series concept and “bible,” initiate and develop a web series concept, craft a series of short screenplays for production courses or independent production, rewrite a previously written script, adapt original material from another form, and so forth. Research and screen storytelling skills developed through the course can be applied to other writing forms.