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Screenwriting

  • Module code: FI5004
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 5
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: Successful completion of Level 4 Film Studies requirements or equivalent
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

This module requires a passion for film and a preparedness to watch and read widely. Through lectures, workshops and exposure to both Hollywood and European cinema, students learn how a rewarding screen narrative works - and how to create one. By the end of the module, students will have completed a short screenplay.

The course is founded on the principle that knowledge of structure and characterisation can generate ideas for screen fiction, assess their potential and develop them into effective narratives.

Consequently, we teach two strands, reflected in the final assessment. First, we deconstruct conventional narrative film, focusing in particular on structure and character, and why the film succeeds. Second, we guide students to the creation of their own short screenplay, providing models (in both film and script form) from a selection of successful short films.

 

Aims

  •  To explore and understand the source materials and techniques used by screenwriters;
  •  To stimulate and encourage student screenwriting activity;
  •  To identify key terms and structures in the analysis of the screenplay.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Understand and use key terms and techniques involved in screenwriting;
  • Demonstrate understanding of those key techniques and structures by applying them to a short screenplay of their own devising;
  • Appreciate and understand the visual language and economy of writing for the screen;
  • Complete and format an industry-appropriate document (script) to a professional standard.

Curriculum content

  • Three Act Structure - we examine the narrative principles of classical cinema, and show how and why they work.
  • Characterisation - we explore the relation between character and structure, and how characterisation and narrative are interdependent.
  • Genre - we look at genre from comedy to horror and everything between, and explore how genre defines story.
  • Dialogue - we explore the economy and style of screen dialogue, and look at some of its important functions, such as hidden exposition.
  • Screen language - we consider writing for a visual medium, through visual storytelling devices such as active cuts, the use of key objects and on-screen exposition.
  • The Short Film - we screen and study a range of short films and scripts, including an examination of the variations between final draft and final cut.
  • Formatting a script - we study industry-appropriate methods of presentation.
  • Narrative development - we use classical structure to develop students' own ideas from first premise to working narrative.

Teaching and learning strategy

The module is taught as a programme of two hour weekly sessions, consisting of a one hour full group lecture, followed by smaller one hour group seminars. These are supplemented by at least one full screening.

Lectures begin with in-depth studies of two feature films to demonstrate principles of structure and characterisation. We then cover all the significant facets of the screenwriter's craft - from dialogue to visual storytelling.

In workshops, we test and develop students' ideas for their scripts. Since feedback is a key aid to writing, we build a critically constructive environment in which to progress these ideas, with guidance from tutors and support from peers.

In the first five weeks of the module, students will have an intensive introduction to concepts of story structure and characterisation, which are the essential building blocks for the course. In subsequent weeks, lectures cover a range of aspects of the screenwriter's craft, while seminars concentrate on developing the students' own projects.

In the final teaching week, the lecture and seminar classes are given over to individual tutorials, in order to progress the students' projects on a one-to-one basis. 

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Lectures 11
Scheduled learning and teaching Seminars 11
Guided independent study Independent study 278
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Formative assessment will take place through discussions in lectures and workshops, and in tutorials. There will be two elements of summative assessment:

  • A 1,000 word written exercise in analysis of a professional, feature-length screenplay (50%). The screenplay must be from a list of films supplied in the module guide and the analysis must be written according to guidelines issued by tutors, to include reference to all the major structural turning points and aspects of the screenwriter's craft as taught.
  • A short screenplay of not more than 1,500 words, plus a 500 word evaluation [2000 words in total] (50%). The Screenplay must be original and not an adaptation of a novel or a short story, and must demonstrate understanding of the principles of structure, dialogue and characterisation as taught on the course. The Evaluation will identify how the screenplay adheres to these principles.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Understand and use key terms and techniques involved in screenwriting; Assessed formatively in seminars and summatively in the written analysis and the evaluation of a short screenplay
Demonstrate understanding of those key techniques and structures by applying them to a short screenplay of their own devising; Assessed formatively in the seminars and summatively in the written screenplay and the evaluation
Appreciate and understand the visual language and economy of writing for the screen; Assessed formatively in the seminars and summatively in the screenplay
Complete and format an industry-appropriate document (script) to a professional standard. Assessed summatively in the screenplay

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK Analysis of a Screenplay 50
CWK Short Screenplay 50
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Field, Syd (1982), Screenplay, New York: Dell Publishing

McKee, Robert (1998) Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, London: Methuen

Bibliography recommended reading

Aristotle (1996), The Poetics, London: Penguin (other editions are available)

Parker, Philip (1998), The Art and Science of Screenwriting, London: Intellect

Field, Syd (1987, re-issued 2007), The Screenwriter's Workbook, New York: Dell Publishing

Goldman, William (1996, 2nd rev ed), Adventures in the Screen Trade, London: Abacus

Vogler, Christopher (1998), The Writer's Journey, Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions

Snyder, Blake (2005), Save the Cat!, Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions

 

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