Course Title: Assess a film script

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2010

Course Code: COMM5920

Course Title: Assess a film script

School: 345T Media and Communication

Campus: City Campus

Program: C6088 - Advanced Diploma of Screenwriting

Course Contact : Program administration

Course Contact Phone: +61 3 9925 4368

Course Contact

Name and Contact Details of All Other Relevant Staff

Nominal Hours: 70

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

Elements of Screenwriting.

Course Description

This course delivers the skills and knowledge required to asess film scripts which have been presented for production.  These scripts may have been commissioned or presented as speculative ventures.

National Codes, Titles, Elements and Performance Criteria

National Element Code & Title:

VPAU305 Assess a film script


1. Assess script construction, style and content.

Performance Criteria:

1.1 Film genre and the elements establishing it in the script are identified
1.2 Premise and plot are determined
1.3 Consistency and strength of story structure, characterisation and character development are analysed
1.4 Effectiveness of narrative elements is evaluated
1.5 Style and genre are analysed for effectiveness
1.6 Script format is examined for compliance with industry requirements


2. Evaluate changes made in various drafts.

Performance Criteria:

2.1 Any changes occurring in premise, theme or subject are delineated
2.2 Principal changes in plot, characterisation and character development are charted
2.3 Changes to narrative elements are identified
2.4 Effectiveness of changes is analysed


3. Write a script report.

Performance Criteria:

3.1 Overview of script’s strengths and weaknesses is prepared
3.2 Estimate is made of work needed to bring script to production quality
3.3 Strategies and/or options for re-writing are outlined
3.4 Report is formatted to company or funding body’s requirements
3.5 Report is provided punctually to agreed deadlines

Learning Outcomes


Details of Learning Activities

• lectures
• demonstrations
• guest lecturers
• peer teaching and class presentations
• exercises
• discussion
• group activities/projects
• workshopping

Classes will include planned lectures, class exercises to review what has been learnt in class, practical demonstrations, workshopping of students’ own projects, analysis/critique of screenwriters’ work.

Teaching Schedule

  • Week 1-8 : ELEMENT 1 - Assess script construction, style and content.

    1. Introduction
    2. Screenplay fundamentals. What are the special attributes. How do screenplays differ from other forms of writing?
  • Scene heading \
  • Action
  • Character
  • Dialogue

Classroom activity. Watch a short sequence. Identify the scenes and breakdown the element. Write a one liner of the sequence. Write the action elements of the script.

3. What a screenplay can and can’t do.

  • Requirement to be precise and concise
  • . Descriptive elements.
  • Action/reaction
  • Conflict/Drama
  • Cinematic attributes.
  • Where does the writer’s role begin and end?
  • Compare to novels, plays, short stories.
  • What do all forms have in common?

Classroom activity. Turn a prose scene into a screenplay scene.

4. Structure.
The 3 act structure.

  • Subplots
  • Scenes as part of sequences as part of acts as part of overall script.
  • Turning points
  • Progression.
  • Character development
  • Relationship changes.
  • Story Twists
  • Dramatic Tension
  • Themes.

5. Story.

  • What do we mean by it? 
  •  How does story differ from plot?
  • Do screen stories differ from stories told through other mediums? 
  •  How to turn an idea into a story?

Classroom activity. Take an idea from current events and adapt them to a story for the screen and for prose. How do the different modes of expression affect our thought processes?

6. Genre. What do we mean? What are they?

  • How would the same story be approached by different genre’s? What are the main characteristics of each genre?
    i. Rom-Com
    ii. Thriller
    iii. Sci Fi
    iv. Action adventure
    v. Western
    vi. Melodrama
  • How useful is the concept of ‘genre’? cf Wiki.

Classroom activity: Take a familiar story – eg Red Riding Hood and tell it in two different genres.

7. Character and dialogue.


  • . How does an audience get to know character?
  • What engages us about a character?
  • What are some of the great screen characters?
    i. Why?
    ii. How did they engage us?
    iii. Do they have anything in common?
  • Classroom activity. Look at the first 10 minutes of a number of films. What have we discovered to this point about the characters?
  • How has the script conveyed character?
  • How much of what we have picked up is script based and how much comes from the actor?
  • Compare the screenplays with the finished film.


  •  What is special about screen dialogue?
  • Is there a difference between TV and film dialogue?
  • What do some of the screenwriting gurus have to say about screen dialogue.
  • Does dialogue only refer to what is said? Or should we also consider what is not said?

Classroom activity: Summarise three theories of screen dialogue and apply them to the first ten minutes of a film.

8. Assignment feedback. And then.. ..........
What ‘works’ for you, and why?

  • Discuss a film you like a lot. What do you like about it? Look at the film in terms of the elements we’ve been discussing. Can you explain the film’s appeal objectively? Is there also some other ingredient that gives the film it’s magic?
  • Discuss a film you don’t like. Why?
  • Consider the following attributes:
    i. Breaking the rules.
    ii. Authenticity
    iii. Originality
    iv. A ‘vision’
    v. Worthiness – both negative and positive.

Classroom activity. Write about the two elements of a film that are most important to you.

Week 9-11 : ELEMENT 2 - Evaluate changes made in various drafts.

9. The script development process. Where it starts and where it finishes and the steps in between.

  • Idea/concept
  • Treatment/storyline
  • First draft
  • Subsequent drafts.
  • Classroom activity. Use Google or other sources to locate articles about the genesis and development of three films that you’ve seen.
    i. Is there a common thread linking each film or are they wildly different?
    ii. If you can find them, do the writer and others involved (actors, director, producer) have the same view of the process?

10. Compare and contrast. Early and late drafts of a completed film.

  • Use Google to find out what you can about the writing process in the film you’ve chosen.
  • How, specifically, do the drafts differ?
  • What do you think was intended by the changes?

Have the changes been effective? Ie, is the later draft an improvement on the earlier one? Why?

11. Compare and contrast.

Two screenplays on similar subject matter.
i. What do the two screenplays have in common? What are the major differences.
ii. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches?
iii. Can you differentiate between the way character, dialogue, plot have been used in each case?
iv. Classroom activity. Summarise what you think are the most significant differences between the two screenplays. Which is more successful?

Week 12-17 : ELEMENT 3 - Write a script report.

12. Assessing screenplays in order to give feedback to the writer.

  • Constructive v destructive criticism.
  • Craft issues v content.
  • ntent v delivery.
  • Ambition v practicality.
  • Exercise: Write an assessment of a short film script.

13. Assessing screenplays that have been submitted to a funding body or production company.

  • “coverage”
  • What is the purpose of the assessment?
  • Funding criteria
  • Potential
  • Current state of screenplay.

Production interest.

14. Practical issues. Part 1. 

  •  Film budgets.
    i. Analyse a sample film budget.
  • Assessing the cost of a script.
    i. Cast
    ii. Locations
    iii. Stunts
    iv. Night shoots
    v. Period
    vi. CGI
    vii. Music
  • Classroom activity. Look at a short film screenplay and isolate the major expense items.
    i. Are there ways to reduce the cost but not lose important script elements?

15. Practical issues. Part 2.
16. Discussion of assignments.
17. Course summary.

Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts


Other Resources

Extracts, readings and additional references are provided throughout the course. In addition to hard copy handouts, some readings are made available on the class website, Blackboard, and others can be accessed via the web.

Recommended books will be discussed in class.

Overview of Assessment

You will be assessed on your knowledge of current film industry requirements and script construction, your analytical and writing skills and your ability to provide written detailed analyses to agreed deadlines. 

Assessment Tasks



Week 4: Study a conventional 3 act screenplay (eg “Witness”). Identify the three acts and the turning points. Write a one-liner for one of the acts. Can you isolate the sub-plots? How do they relate to the theme? (1000 words).


Week 10: Summarise what you think are the most significant differences between two different drafts of a screenplay. Why do you think the changes were made? Is the later draft an improvement on the earlier one or not? Give your reasons? (1000 words.)


Week 13: Write an assessment of an unproduced feature film screenplay including a logline, one page or less synopsis, an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the script, the potential for further development and a recommendation as to whether the writer should be funded for another draft. (2000 words).

Assessment Matrix

1. Assess script construction, style and content X  
2. Evaluate changes made in various drafts X 
3. Write a script report   X


A detailed knowledge of current film industry requirements XXX
Funding body or production company requirements XXX
Current film market trends XXX
Film writing techniquesXXX
Script formats, conventions and protocols XXX
Screen writing terms XXX
Film genre XXX
Story construction XXX
Sophisticated analytical and writing skills XXX
Ability to provide written detailed analyses to agreed deadlines XXX
Report writing skills
Research skills XXX


Other Information

These assessment tasks are designed for you to demonstrate competency in the required skills and knowledge of this unit.
This unit will also be graded. Your teacher will provide a grading guide for you at the commencement of the course.

Course Overview: Access Course Overview