Course Title: Produce Writings - Screenwriting

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2008

Course Code: COMM5404

Course Title: Produce Writings - Screenwriting

School: 345T Creative Media

Campus: City Campus

Program: C4171 - Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing

Course Contact : Brendan Lee

Course Contact Phone: +61 3 9925 4368

Course Contact

Name and Contact Details of All Other Relevant Staff

Teacher:  Roz Berrystone
Contact Phone:  9925 4974
Contact Email:

Nominal Hours: 105

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


Course Description

This course covers the knowledge and skills required to complete a writing task and introduces students to the craft of Screenwriting. It explores the various components of film and television writing.

National Codes, Titles, Elements and Performance Criteria

National Element Code & Title:

VBP552 Produce Writings - Screenwriting

Learning Outcomes

Not applicable

Details of Learning Activities

Students learn through classroom-based lectures, workshopping and group exercises. Students are expected to do their own research and writing off-campus.

Teaching Schedule

Semester 1

2Differences between screenwriting and other forms of writing
Visual medium
Sparse use of dialogue
Getting ideas. 
Understand differences between writing for visual media and other forms of writing
How to recognise ideas which can be used to tell a visual story
3The basic/main story
Plot and subplot – differences in film and tv
Synopses – story and marketing   
Be able to construct the story spine of a screen story
Recognise the difference between plot and subplots – differences in film and tv
Know how to write the different types of synopses
4The classic (or 3-act) narrative structure   
Leaning how to create a screen story using the 3-act structure
Workshop draft synopses
Narrative techniques of foreshadowing and planting   
Understand how to convey backstory and on-screen information to an audience
How to create dramatic tension through foreshadowing
Setting up and paying off of plot and characterisation elements
7One-on-one tutorials with teacher   
Feedback on marked synopses
8Characters – creating screen characters, working out motivation, character arcs
The treatment (aka story outline)
Creating effective screen characters
Elements required in writing the treatment
9Character functions – exploring the 5 different groups
Creating character biographies and character notes – the differences   
Eliminating characters who have no function in screen story, thereby creating stronger dramatic pacing
Difference between character information required in film and tv
10Character biogs of 2 main characters, 250-300 words each    Workshopping and feedback from teacher and students
Guest speaker
12Revise work on treatments
Class workshopping on progress
Preliminary work on students’ own projects
13Basic genre
Point of view
Treatments – more work if needed   
Understand the basic principles of genre – an overview
How to use point of view in screen stories
Use of themes to create stronger stories – differences between film and tv
Workshop treatments – in groups   
Feedback from teacher and students
Workshop treatments – class as a whole   
Feedback from teacher & students
Non-fiction screenwriting   
Creating an awareness of the different forms of non-fiction writing
One-on-one tutorials with teacher    
Feedback on marked treatments
18Semester review

 Semester 2

1Introduction to screen dialogue
Group exercises – construct characters from photos and create/workshop dialogue   
Creating individual voices/dialogue
2More on dialogue
Class exercise – saunter up Lygon Street and eavesdrop
Group exercise: write screen dialogue from real dialogue    Learning how to condense screen dialogue from real dialogue
Group exercise: write scene/s with and without subtext
Use of non-sync. dialogue: voice-over narration, post synching    How to use subtext for effect
Learn about non-sync. dialogue
4Screen language
5Writing stage directions
Group exercise: reducing and re-writing stage directions.
Writing dialogue
Differences between film and tv dialogue.
Group exercise: reducing dialogue to create cinematic dialogue    Learning how to write stage directions and screen dialogue
6Creating scenes – scene breakdown
Scene structure and pacing
Class exercise:  students create scene breakdown of first 2 pages of their treatments   
Understand difference between a shot (or setup), a scene, a scene sequences
Starting the script process from treatment stage.
7Guest speaker
First 10 pages of script to teacher for copying for workshopping.
TV scripts – writing to commercial breaks
Difference between tv and film scripts/commercial breaks/layout
9Class workshop of first 10 pages scripts   
Workshopping and feedback from teachers and students
Each writer gets a change to hear own dialogue
10Class workshop of first 10 pages scripts   
Workshopping and feedback from teachers and students
Each writer gets a change to hear own dialogue
11Class workshop of first 10 pages scripts   
Workshopping and feedback from teachers and students
Each writer gets a change to hear own dialogue
12Scene functions   
Learn how to multi-layer scenes and to eliminate useless scenes
Scene functions   
Learn how to multi-layer scenes and to eliminate useless scenes
15Workshop scripts in small groups (3 maximum)   
Peer feedback
Use of themes to create stronger screen story
17Working in the industry
18Semester review

Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts

Students will be expected to make full use of the Carlton Street library in accessing scripts, and will also be expected to view films and tv programs in their own time.

There are no set texts for this course.  The following is a recommended reading list:

•    Screenwriting Updated, by Linda Aronson, pub. 2000, Allen & Unwin
•    Story, by Robert McKee, pub. 1999, Methuen
•    Television Writing: The Ground Rules of Series, Serials & Sitcom, by Linda Aronson, pub. 2000 AFTRS
•    Big Screen Small Screen, by Coral Drouyn, pub. 1994 Allen & Unwin
•    Making a Good Script Great, by Linda Seger, pub. 1987 Dodd, Mead & Co., Hollywood
•    The Writer’s Journey – Mythic Structure for Storytellers and Screenwriters, by C. Vogler, pub 1992, Michael Weise Productions
•    The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, pub. 1993 Fontana Press*
•    Elements of Style for Screenwriters by Paul Argentini, pub. 1998 Lone Eagle Publishing Co.
•    Writing Your Screenplay by Lisa Dethridge, pub. 2003 Allen & Unwin

(*highly recommended for storytelling purposes, rather than for screenwriting)


Other Resources

  • Internet access through RMIT Library
  • Final Draft program on several computers in RMIT Carlton Library and Main Library
  • Publications and dvds/videos through RMIT Library, community libraries, video libraries and other sources

Overview of Assessment

Assessment includes a story synopsis, character biographies, a treatment and part of a script.

Assessment Tasks

Story synopsis

Write 1-page story synopsis incorporating 3-act structure for drama of 20 mins or longer. Work must be in single-line spacing. Assessment includes workshopping.

Due date: Workshop – 13 March; Task – 27 March

Percentage weighting: 10%

Character biographies

Write character biographies, 250 words each, of 2 major characters from above synopsis story. Assessment includes workshopping. 

Due date: Workshop – 1 May; Task – 8 May

Percentage weighting: 5%

Treatment/story outline

Write a treatment/story outline from above story synopsis.  Length:  up to 10 pages double-line or 1.5 line spacing. Assessment includes workshopping.

Due date: Workshop – 22 May; Task – 5 June

Percentage wighting: 25%

First draft screenplay

Write the first 10 pages of a screenplay from your treatment, set out in industry-accepted format, for class workshopping.

Due date: 28 August

Percentage weighting: 20%

Revised draft screenplay

Write the first 20 pages of your screenplay.  This includes the revised first 10 pages plus next 10 pages. Assessment includes workshopping.

Due date: Workshop – 16 October; Task – 30 October

Percentage weighting: 25%

Film review

Present a review to the class of a film currently in release or re-release at cinema. Students should prepare a minimum 250 words to be read out in class and handed to teacher for marking.

Due date: Semester 1, at a time negotiated with your teacher

Percentage weighting: 5%

TV review

Present a review of a tv program either on tv or on dvd/vcr. The presentation comprises showing the first 10 minutes of the program followed by a 5–10 minutes review by the student.

Due date: Semester 2, at a time negotiated with your teacher

Percentage weighting: 5%

Script reading and class exercises

Due date: Throughout the year

Percentage weighting: 5% 

    Assessment Matrix

    Not applicable

    Other Information

    Handouts provided in class by teacher

    Course Overview: Access Course Overview