/ Graduate Catalogue / Writing / 2014-2015

Writing for the Screen


Screenwriting is not so much a writing discipline as it is one allied with the tenets of the oral tradition of storytelling. In the best scripts, you are telling us your film. — Paul Schrader, screenwriter/director, Telluride, Colorado, 1989

In screenwriting, you show; you don’t tell. —classic screenwriting adage attributed to just about every screenwriting guru

I wrote a beautiful script, but ‘they’ shot it full of holes and made a terrible film. — classic screenwriter lament attributed to just about every screenwriter unhappy with their produced work

In this graduate craft class, we will explore writing for the screen, be it silver, flat, computer, or smart-phone. The aim is to understand how to write a bullet-proof screenplay where a writer “tells” a film through prose that effectively “shows” what we see and what we hear, moment-to-moment, articulating the action (the doing) of the characters and thereby revealing the emotional moments of recognition in the characters’ journey. Structured as a combination of seminar and workshop-style exchanges, writers will journey through the nature and construct of the screenplay form. The fundamentals of character, story, universe and setting, formatting, visual writing, dramatic action, tension, conflict, sequence structure, acts, and style will be explored. Analysis of published screenplays and peer work within the context of a productive environment will help writers hone a critical eye and develop skills to apply to troubleshooting one’s own work. Overall, the writer builds a screenwriter’s toolkit for use as future opportunities may emerge in writing for the screen. Skills learned in this class can be effectively applied to other threads of writing.