Course Title: Write a screenplay

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2017

Course Code: COMM7319

Course Title: Write a screenplay

School: 345T Media and Communication

Campus: City Campus

Program: C6125 - Advanced Diploma of Professional Screenwriting

Course Contact: Program Administration

Course Contact Phone: +61 3 9925 4815

Course Contact Email: mctafe@rmit.edu.au


Name and Contact Details of All Other Relevant Staff

Chris Anastassiades
chris.anastassiades@rmit.edu.au

Alan Woodruff
alan.woodruff@rmit.edu.au

Nominal Hours: 140

Regardless of the mode of delivery, represent a guide to the relative teaching time and student effort required to successfully achieve a particular competency/module. This may include not only scheduled classes or workplace visits but also the amount of effort required to undertake, evaluate and complete all assessment requirements, including any non-classroom activities.

Pre-requisites and Co-requisites

None

Course Description

Write a Screenplay develops the skills and knowledge required to write a screenplay as a commissioned script or as a speculative venture.

 


National Codes, Titles, Elements and Performance Criteria

National Element Code & Title:

ASWFEA606A Write a screenplay

Element:

1 Prepare to write script

Performance Criteria:

1.1   Market is investigated and potential of story idea is assessed

1.2   Story background is researched and details of period or setting clarified

1.3   Copyright and legal issues are clarified and resolved

1.4   Structure of screenplay is determined

1.5   Script length is determined

Element:

2 Write a synopsis

Performance Criteria:

2.1   Story outline is developed from original concept showing set up, development and resolution

2.2   A strong inciting incident is demonstrated in the story

2.3   Dominant genre, basic premise and theme of the screenplay are established

2.4 A sustainable dramaticquestion is created

2.5   Dimensional characters are drawn up

Element:

3 Develop an extended treatment

Performance Criteria:

3.1   The main plot is written in definable sections with strong turning points

3.2   Subplots are integrated with main plot

3.3   Choices are created for characters which pose genuine dilemmas

3.4   Stakes appropriate to the drama of the story are established

Element:

4 Create a first draft

Performance Criteria:

4.1   Scenes that drive the story forward are written

4.2   Where appropriate, scene sequences are developed to create plot momentum and dynamic

4.3   Story is reviewed to ensure cause and effect are visible and plausible

4.4    Dramatic beats in the plot are further delineated

Element:

5 Revise draft

Performance Criteria:

to end

5.2   Turning points are further developed to ensure plot builds towards a climax

5.3   Exposition is dramatically integrated into dramatic action

5.4   Theme is effectively woven into narrative

5.5   Draft is examined for consistency and continuity

5.6   A transformational arc is developed for characters

5.7   Consultations take place with appropriate production personnel or informed critics

5.8    Feedback is used as basis for review


Learning Outcomes


On successful completion of this course, you will have developed and applied the skills and knowledge required to demonstrate your competency in the above elements. You will be able to write a synopsis of your screenplay, develop a treatment and draft your screenplay.


Details of Learning Activities

In this course, you will develop the skills and knowledge required to write a screenplay as either a commissioned script or as a speculative venture. Semester 1 will introduce you to the basic elements of scriptwriting, including character development and plot. You will also consider what motivates a screenwriter and how to give and receive feedback.

Semester 2 will provide you with the opportunity to identify a variety of script structures, formats and genres, and to develop the confidence and tools to pursue a screen narrative. You will develop a screen project that you can then take in to second year for further work.

Examples of learning activities:

  • class exercises – both written and practical
  • practical demonstrations
  • discussion regarding relevant web site and reading material
  • film viewing and analysis
  • group projects
  • guest presentations
  • research
  • independent project based work
  • ‘workshopping’ of student projects including peer/lecturer feedback


Teaching Schedule

Please note: While your teacher will cover all the material in this schedule, the weekly order is subject to change depending on class needs and availability of speakers and resources.

SEMESTER 1

WEEK

CLASS CONTENT

ASSESSMENT

1

Overview of Semester – The screenwriter’s role, differences between writing scripts and prose, working with principal collaborators, format examples, organizations, etc.

Summary of assessments.

Exercise - Write a simple scene from a prompt.

 

2

Exploring influences – Favourite movies/television/books, past-times/hobbies, recurring themes in our lives, people around us and how they influence our stories.

Using sensory triggers to create/influence a story or scene.

Assessment Task #1 Brief: Write a Simple Scene

Homework: Re-write Week 1 scene and bring in two printed copies for class.

 

3

Writing dialogue and action – Functions of dialogue, character voices, exposition, comedic dialogue, etc. Effective ‘big print’ – too much and too little, stylistic choices, etc.

Handing off re-written scenes to an editing partner.

 

4

Feedback and re-writing – The rules of feedback for the class are established.

Readings in groups. Editors to adjust and present feedback to writing partners.

Scenes to be polished and submitted by Week 5.

 

5

Finding characters – sourcing characters. The people around us. Archetypes. Finding character voices. Flaws and positive qualities. Using simplification, exaggeration and contradictions as tools. Incorporating backstory/history into action of story. 

Write a first person character breakdown.

Assessment Task #1 

6


Please note: there will be no class on Monday 14 March. Content for Monday’s class will be delivered in Week 5 and 7.

Goals and obstacles – The role of the protagonist in a screen story. Internal and external goals. Obstacles – physical, internal, other characters. The pursuit of the goal and the action of the film.

Viewing and breaking down of film.

Assessment Task #2 briefed: Write a first person account of an event.

 

7

Populating the screenplay – continuing on from Week 7. How story, function, genre and theme affect characters. The concept of the cast as an obstacle course. Allies, adversaries and shape-shifters. TV cast versus film cast.

Write a scene – character turn.

Readings of scenes.

 

8

Creating and generating a project – guest film-maker – feature film

Guest film-maker Q&A and viewing. Guest film-maker will discuss the generation of an idea, their approach to creating work, including working with collaborators, market considerations, approach to writing (eg. characters, story, theme and structure, etc).

 

9

Cause and effect – The “what if?”.  Your premise. The difference between a dramatic question and a thematic question. Causal links in story-telling. The ‘internal logic’ of your story.

Group work – Freeform plotting and establishing the logic of the story.

Presentations.

Assessment Task #2 

10

Writing a beat sheet – Defining story ‘beats’. Examining the process of breaking down a story into beats for film or television.

Exercise – Following on from Week 9 group exercise to identify essential story beats.

Exercise – Finding the story beats in your character’s journey.

 

 

Mid-semester break
There are no classes between Friday 14 April and Friday 21 April inclusive.

 

11

Please note: there will be no class on Tuesday 25 April. Content for Tuesday’s class will be delivered in Week 10 and 12.
Introduction to structure (1) – The major turning points of a story. Different ways of breaking down a story into multiple parts to create a screen story for film.

Script reading and analysis – Film.

Assessment Task #3 Briefed – Write a three to five page outline.

 

12

Introduction to structure (2) - The major turning points of a story. Breaking down a story into multiple parts to create a screen story for television.

Script reading and analysis – Television.

 

13

Short form projects – Identifying the differences/similarities of various short form works ie. short films, web-series, etc.

Viewing and discussion.

Students to have two copies of first draft of outline (Assessment Task#3) by Week 14.

 

14

Outline feedback – Work in pairs to provide feedback (as specified by teacher) on each others’ outlines.

Homework – Polish outlines for submission.

 

15

Writing For Money – guest writer – television and film

Guest writer Q&A and viewing. Discussion will centre on writing commissioned work. Creating work from other sources and to brief. Relationships. Elements of craft essential to this, etc.

Assessment Task#3 

16

Review of semester.

 

 

 

SEMESTER 2

 
 1

Documents – Examining the various documents produced during the creation of a script for film or television and what their function is – including a single sentence encapsulating the premise, a one page synopsis, a treatment or outline, a beat sheet or scene breakdown, etc.

Exercise – Writing through the stages.

Assessment Task #1 Briefed – Write a one page synopsis.

Handout to be read for Class 2

 
 

Writing Exercise – Letting the story find its form.

Exercise – From prompt, students work individually and in pairs to create a screen story through the various stages. 

Presentations and pitches.

Handout to be read for Class 3

 
 

Writing Exercise – Adaptation from another medium.

Exercise – From prompt, work individually and in pairs to create a screen story based on another work through various stages.

Presentations and pitches.

 
 

Working independently – guest filmmaker – television/film/web

Guest filmmaker Q&A and viewing. Approaches to generating your own work. Work habits, finding projects, finding collaborators, etc.

Bring in two copies of their synopses for Class 5

Assessment Task # 4 Due
 

Starting your script – Following on from guests, explores creating effective work habits and committing to an idea.

 

Exercise – present synopses to various writing partners for feedback as well as exercises focused on keeping your writing going.

 

Assessment Task #2 Briefed – Write a line by line scene breakdown of a feature film or television pilot.

Or

Write a short film script or web series pilot script.

 
 

Genre – Determining the effects of genre on a screen story including the ‘contract’ with an audience, key events, turning points, characters, etc. Genre and dramatic situation, etc. 

Exercise – Writing partners to research the genre of each others’ projects and re-examine stories, provide notes, etc.

 
 

Scene structure – Looking at the essential elements and functions of a scene. What they mean in terms of story, character and action. Settings, choices, sub-text, etc.

Exercise – Write a scene from a prompt.

 
 

Opening and ending – A discussion of why these scenes are key to establishing format, theme, character, story and genre.

Readings and discussion.

 
 

Set Ups – An examination of what occurs in the first act of a screen story to establish characters, stakes, situations, etc and propel the action forward. The inciting incident or hook. The first act turning point.

Exercise – Write an early scene from your film/TV script.

Readings.

 
10 

Key Moments – An examination of the concept of ‘turning’ a story, reversals, surprises and also some of the signposts in Hollywood films. Developing these organically through the action of the story. A discussion of the mid-point climax/reversal. Revisiting the ‘what if’ concept to re-think a story.

Exercise – Write a scene from your second act.

Readings.

 
11  

Climaxes/Resolutions – An examination of some key moments in the resolution of screen stories. Do you need a resolution? Your relationship to the audience. Determining, managing and challenging expectations.

Exercise – Write a scene from near the end of your film/TV script.

Readings.

Homework – prepare a pitch of their stories for Class 11

 
  

Semester Break

There are no classes between 18 September to 29 September inclusive

 
12  

Pitching/Choosing a partner – An examination of the importance of pitching in a variety of settings and ways. Some reasons to get ‘personal’ with pitches. 

Exercise – Pitch in a minute.

Exercise – pitch your projects and choose working partners.

 
13  

Plotting Workshop – Fleshing out the essential elements of the story by isolating the core of the dramatic situation and formulating the central dramatic question.

Exercise - work with partners on identifying dramatic question and dramatic situation.

 
14  

Protagonist Workshop – Using the protagonist’s journey to create a rough cause and effect beat sheet. 

Exercise – work with partners on creating their beat sheets.

 
15 

Beat Sheet/Script Review – review each others’ work using checklist provided by teacher and give feedback. 

 

Assessment Task #5 Due
16  

No class due to Cup Eve and Cup Day

 

 

 

 

 


Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts

Any prescribed reading material will be distributed in class and posted on Blackboard


References

You are advised to look at the course Blackboard site for ongoing updated information on relevant references.


Other Resources

Any resources will be made available to you by your teacher.


Overview of Assessment

Assessment is on-going throughout the course. Assessment will incorporate a range of methods to assess performance and the application of knowledge and skills and will include: participation in class exercises, oral presentations and practical writing tasks.


Assessment Tasks

To demonstrate competency in this course you will need to complete all of the following pieces of assessment to a satisfactory standard. You will receive written feedback on all assessment (refer to Blackboard for assessment criteria). 
 

SEMESTER 1

Assessment Task 1 – WRITE A SIMPLE SCENE – Students to write a simple scene from a prompt supplied by the teacher. This should not exceed three pages and contain no more than two characters in one setting. Due Week 5, Mon or Tues 6/7 March.

Assessment Task 2 – WRITE A FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT OF AN EVENT – Students to write a brief, first person account of an event. This may take the form of a letter, a diary entry, a formal statement to someone official and should not exceed 1000 words. Due Week 9, 3/4 April. 

Assessment Task 3 – WRITE A THREE TO FIVE PAGE OUTLINE – Students to write a brief outline of a screen story for a feature film, short film, television series pilot or web series. This should be no more than three to five pages. Due Week 15, Mon or Tues 22/23 May.


SEMESTER 2

Assessment Task #4 – WRITE A ONE PAGE SYNOPSIS – write a one page synopsis of a screen story for a feature film, short film, television series pilot or web series pilot. This should be a single page and not exceed 500 words. Due Week 4, Mon or Tues 24/25 July

Assessment Task #5 – WRITE A LINE BY LINE SCENE BREAKDOWN OF A FEATURE FILM OR TELEVISION SERIES PILOT – write a line by line scene breakdown with each line consisting of a sentence that describes the action of the scene, a sentence on how the scene progresses story and a sentence on what this reveals about character. Due Week 15, Mon or Tues 22/23 Oct.

Once you have demonstrated competency, your final assessment in each semester will be graded (refer to Blackboard for grading rubric). More detail on assessments, marking guides and graded rubrics will be provided in assessment briefs, which will be available in class.

Grades used in this course are as follows:

  • CHD Competent with High Distinction
  • CDI Competent with Distinction
  • CC Competent with Credit
  • CAG Competency Achieved Graded
  • NYC Not yet Competent
  • DNS Did Not Submit for Assessment


Assessment Matrix

The assessment matrix demonstrates alignment of assessment tasks with the relevant unit of competency. These are available through the course contact in program administration.

Other Information

Please refer to the RMIT student page for extensive information about study support, assessment, extensions, appeals and a range of other matters: http://www1.rmit.edu.au/students

How to submit work
Your assessment brief will specify how you should submit your work – as hard copy, digital copy or electronically through Blackboard. When you submit your work, you must include a declaration of authorship.

For submissions on Blackboard, you need to agree to an assessment declaration when you submit.

For all other submissions, you must complete and sign a submission cover sheet for every piece of submitted work.

http://www1.rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=x3ddsmsrwa1hz

Attendance
Your learning experience will involve class-based teaching, discussion, demonstration and practical exercises. We strongly advise that you attend all timetabled sessions. This will allow you to engage in the required learning activities, ensuring you the maximum opportunity to complete this course successfully.

We request that you speak to your teacher if regular attendance becomes difficult.

Assessment feedback
You will receive spoken and written feedback on all your work.  Where relevant, this feedback will also include suggestions on how you can proceed to the next stage of developing your projects.

http://www1.rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=qwxbqbg739rl1

Student progress
Monitoring academic progress is helps us to assist you in achieving your learning potential. 

http://www1.rmit.edu.au/students/acadprogress

Adjustments to assessment
If you are unable to complete any piece of assessment satisfactorily by the due date, you can choose to apply for an adjustment to your assessment. RMIT University offers a range of adjustments designed to support you in your studies, including an extension of time to complete the assessment.

http://www1.rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=kehn9bz22r41

Academic integrity and plagiarism
Academic integrity is about the honest presentation of work that is your own. RMIT University has a clear policy on plagiarism (see web page for more detail).

http://www1.rmit.edu.au/students/academic-integrity

Credit Transfer and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)
Credit Transfer is the recognition of previously completed formal learning (an officially accredited qualification).

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is an assessment process that allows you to demonstrate competence using the skills you have gained through experience in the workplace, voluntary work, informal or formal training or other life experiences.

Recognition of Current Competency (RCC) applies only if you have previously successfully demonstrated competence in a unit of competency, and now require to be reassessed to ensure that the competence is being maintained.

Please speak to your teacher if you wish to discuss applying for Credit Transfer, RPL, or RCC for the unit(s) of competency addressed in this course.

http://www1.rmit.edu.au/students/enrolment/credit

Course Overview: Access Course Overview