Course Title: Refine writing and editing techniques - Screenwriting

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2007

Course Code: COMM5411

Course Title: Refine writing and editing techniques - Screenwriting

School: 345T Creative Media

Campus: City Campus

Program: C5181 - Diploma of 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

Roz Berrystone
Tel:  9925 4974

Nominal Hours: 85

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

Enrolment into this course at RMIT requires the completion of Produce Writing - Screenwriting

At RMIT Refine Writing and Editing – Screenwriting is delivered and assessed along with the following competencies.
CUVCOR04A - Originate concept for own work and conduct critical discourse
CUVCOR13A - Research and critically analyse history and theory to inform artistic practice
CUECOR01B - Manage own work and learning
CUSADM03A - Manage a project
CUVDES05A - Interpret and respond to a brief
CUSRAD02A - Conduct Research

Through the development of these competencies, you gain the skills needed to manage your work and learning while responding to a project brief. You research the work of other writers and apply your findings to your own projects through the development of a concept into a written work.

Course Description

This unit covers the knowledge and skills required to research and experiment with writing and editing techniques to write for the screen.  It develops the skills used in film and television writing and examines storytelling methods and techniques used to engage audience emotions.

National Codes, Titles, Elements and Performance Criteria

National Element Code & Title:

VBP553 Refine writing and editing techniques - Screenwriting

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this course, you will be be able to use storytelling methods and techniques  to develop a concept into a piece of writing  suitable for the screen.                   

Details of Learning Activities

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

Teaching Schedule

Week 1    Orientation
Week 2   
Establishing learning priorities/needs in this course
Introduction to adaptation
Material sources
General techniques   

How to find sources for adaptation
Generic methods used by screenwriters
Week 3

Adapting novels
Identifying methods    Learn how to condense, identify cinematic structure, characterisation in novels
Week 4   
Adapting short stories
Plays & musicals
Identifying methods    Learn how to expand/invent from source material into screenplay

Week 5   
Progress report on projects
Legal aspects involved in print fictional adaptations
Acquiring rights/options    Touching base with students’ progress on projects.
Identifying legalities involved in acquiring underlying & film rights.
Approaching agents etc. for film rights.
Week 6   
Non-fiction – different sources    Identifying different methods needed to source material in non-fiction (current affairs, historical events, biography, magazine articles etc.
Week 7    
Completion of non-fiction.
Legal aspects involved.
Further discussion on students’ work

How to create marketing synopsis, adaptation notes    Identifying different methods needed to source material in non-fiction (current affairs, historical events, biography, magazine articles etc. Identifying legalities involved accessing works in public domain, etc.
Learn difference between story synopsis and marketing
Week 8   
Cartoon characters
Fairy tales
Songs & poetry
Legal aspects    Identifying methods used & legalities to be observed when adapting from cartoon strips (i.e. Batman), franchises (i.e. James Bond), etc.
Week 9
Workshop synopses, character notes, adaptation notes    Feedback from students & teacher
Week 10   
More workshop, if needed.
Completion of adaptation (if needed)
Creating scene breakdowns   
Guest speaker
Discuss progress on treatment/scene breakdowns   
Week 12   
One-on-one tutorials with teacher
Discuss progress on treatment/scene breakdowns    Feedback on marked assignments
Week 13    WORKSHOP
Hand in rough drafts of treatments/scene breakdowns too teacher for copying.
Heroes & villains
The anti-hero   

Matching protagonists with the right antagonists.
Identifying the anti-hero
Week 14   
Workshop treatments/scene breakdowns – groups    Feedback by peers and teacher
Week 15   
Workshop treatments/scene breakdowns – groups    Feedback by peers and teacher
Self-assessment assignment    To be completed in class
The 2nd Act Story    How to multi-layer the overall story by creating the 2nd act story
Week 17   
One-on-one tutorials with teacher    Feedback on market work
Week 18

Marks entry/review   
Week 1   
Transitions & manipulating of film time    Learning how to move between scenes & how to expand/condense time to create best dramatic effect.
Week 2   
Review scene structure/functions & pacing    Revision
Week 3   
Review 3-act structure
Action points – major ones & everyday ones
Their use in film/tv    Revision
How to use actions points to create best dramatic effect.
Week 4   
Different ways of starting a screen story
Exercise:  identifying & trying out different ones for your own story    Learn best way to start a screen story depending on genre & structure.
Week 5   
Screen stories which have no 3-act structure
Character-centred screen story
Group ex: writing non-3- act story & re-writing it as 3-act story    Learn components and structure of stories which don’t confirm to the 3-act structure & which genres are more suited to each
Week 6   
Hero’s journey in film & cinematic use of mythology & symbolism    Understanding the importance and universality of using mythology & symbolism in screen storytelling
Week 7   
Workshop/exercise: students to discuss how and what myth and symbols, if any, to use in their own scripts – working from treatments and/or script material from 1st semester (or new script)    Workshopping/conceptualising
Week 8

Guest speaker   
1st 10 pages of script to teacher for photocopying.
Industry practices   
Week 10   
Class workshop of 1st 10 pages script    Class & teacher feedback.  Writer to hear own dialogue
Week 11   
Class workshop of 1st 10 pages script    Class & teacher feedback.  Writer to hear own dialogue
Week 12   
Genre    Learn genre motifs & rules and how to apply them to create best dramatic effect in own work
Week 13    WORKSHOP
Genre    Learn genre motifs & rules and how to apply them to create best dramatic effect in own work
Week 14   
Group workshop of scripts    Peer feedback
Week 15   
Group workshop of scripts    Peer feedback
Self assessment assignment
Non-fiction scriptwriting    Assignment to be done in class
How to structure a doco.
The concept document
Week 17   
Favourite scenes from a screen adaptation – students’ choice   
Week 18   
Marks entry/review   

Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts


Other Resources

RMIT Library for various texts and audio/visual material
Final Draft program on several computers in RMIT Carlton & Main Libraries

Overview of Assessment

Assessment for this course is ongoing throughout the semester. Your knowledge and understanding of course content is assessed through participation in class exercises and workshopping and through class presentations and written assignments.                     

Assessment Tasks

Marketing Synopsis
1-page marketing synopsis (in single-line spacing) and 1-page story synopsis (in single line spacing) of adaptation from another source.
1-2 pages notes on adaptation on why this story was chosen for adapting, and what methods of adaptation will be used.
Character Notes
Character notes of 250 words each for 2 main characters in adaptation, taking into account psychological profile, character needs, etc.

Workshopping of all three documents is included in assessment. (25%)

Treatment/Story Outline
Up to 10 pages in double-line spacing of treatment/story outline from above synopses.  Workshopping is included in assessment (25%)

1st 30 minutes of script – either from above adaptation or from own original idea.  Assessment includes workshopping 1st 10 pages in class as whole, and workshopping 30 minutes script in small groups. (40%)

Film Review 
Film review:  10 minute class presentation with partner (David & Margaret) of film currently in release or re-release at cinema. (5%)

TV Review
TV review:  20 minutes class presentation with partner of tv program currently on air or on dvd/video, comprising 10 mins screening of material in class followed by 10 min verbal presentation & discussion. (5%)

Assessment Matrix

As above

Other Information

Handouts and recommended reading lists to be provided in class by teacher

Course Overview: Access Course Overview