Course Title: Write a screenplay

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2013

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

Teacher: Cameron Clarke
Tel: 9925 4908
Email: Cameron.clarke.rmit.edu.au


Teacher: Chris Anasstasiades
Email: chris.anastassiades@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 dramatic question 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:

5.1 Draft is reviewed to ensure dramatic question drives the story from beginning 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 learn through:
1. In-class activities:
• lectures
• industry speakers
• teacher directed group activities/projects
• class exercises to review discussions/lectures
• peer teaching and class presentations
• group discussion
• class exercises to review discussions/lectures
• analysis/critique of students’ writings

2. Out-of-class activities:
• independent project based work
• writing and reading assignments
• online and other research
• independent study
 


Teaching Schedule

Semester 1

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.

 

WeekClass ContentAssessment DueElements
1Explanation of course content and assessment.
What do audiences want? Explores the connection between the audience and the writer, the writer’s responsibility to the audience and the audience’s need for an ‘outcome’. Through exercises we explore the idea of a ‘core’ theme and generate a simple story.
 
 1
2Premise/Genre – Explores the importance of identifying the genre of the piece on which we’re working by looking at the things we need to know about the genre and how to find them through viewing films. 1
3The Protagonist – Explores the protagonist as the prime mover in the story and defines him/her as the one who ‘makes’ the action of the story. Examining what this means, the importance of goals – interior and exterior, stakes, obstacles, voice, etc. Through exercises we examine the protagonist’s voice and attempt to frame the story in terms of their experience. The premise is re-written or refreshed to reflect this new information. Also looks at different models including ensemble and supposed ‘dual’ protagonist stories. 1
4The Antagonist – Identifies the role of the antagonist as the equal of the Protagonist. Looks at the confusion sometimes inherent in many stories where this character seems to ‘make’ the action. Also, we explore the use of an antagonistic force rather than a single antagonist. Through exercises we explore the antagonist of our stories in much the same way as the protagonist then re-work the premise to accommodate and reflect this new information.Assessment 1 due1
5Defining and refining a character ‘set’ – Explores the roles and functions of characters other than the protagonist. Defining each of the characters wants/arcs/goals in relation to the protagonist. How to identify redundant characters. Through exercises we explore creating characters through lists of flaws/attributes, imbuing minor and support characters with ‘real’ qualities and getting to know your characters through p.o.v. documents. You will be asked to produce a one page synopsis for use in class the following session. 1
6Story Structure (1) – Explores the different structural models that can be employed to examine your stories. Stresses the notion that structure is a tool to identify deficiencies in a story. The malleability of structure. Looking at story as a series of questions of action.
Exercise – You will work on a common story using a particular structural model then look at their synopses and ‘locate’ structure in their stories.
 
 2
7Story Structure (2) - Mapping your story – A workshop class in which you expand upon the work of the previous class, locking in the structure of their stories based on the resources they have created thus far, working in groups and individually.Assessment 2 due2
8Story Structure (3) – Constructing a beat sheet. Examines the story as beats of action, explores the idea of beats as units of story development with causal links to one another.
Exercise - “My story is about…” students to produce a number of documents in class that define and redefine their stories.
Homework is the production of a final draft synopsis for assessment.
 
 2
9Story and Plot ‘modelling’ – Explores the various ways in which a story can be ‘tested’ by looking at number of different sources including myths, theories regarding dramatic situations, ‘hero’ films. Exercises – you volunteer your work for whole class scrutiny and assessment.
Homework – you produce a ‘beat sheet’ of the key turning points in their stories for use in class.
 
 2
10Stages to Script - The Outline – We explore the structure of this document and how to turn the beats of our story into an easily digestible piece that can be read by anyone.
Exercise – you outline some key turning points in their stories, using your beat sheets as a springboard.
 
 2
11World Building – much of what your audience needs to know about the world of your script needs to be present in the first few minutes of your film. By looking at the beginnings some classic films, we examine the concept of world building.
Exercises – you will be asked to produce a draft of your first five pages in class. Homework – produce a final draft of your outlines and choose a ‘buddy’ to whom it will be submitted (as well as to the teacher), for feedback.

 
Assessment 3 due3
12Scene workshop. Explores aspects of scenes such as locating the viewer, dialogue, the structure of scenes.
Exercises - using prepared material, students will write and edit scenes.
 
 2, 3
13Scene Workshop 2 – Guest speaker – a performer will discuss working with and writing for actors, what actors look for in scenes. Believable dialogue, etc.
Exercises – Students scenes to be read in class and feedback will be provided.
 2, 3
14Consolidation – the check list. A summary of the class and an exploration of the kind of feedback that is useful to writers and feedback that is damaging or unproductive. A checklist will be presented as a tool for giving feedback. Also, we will explore how to give and receive feedback from other key practitioners in the film-making processAssessment 4 & 5 due2, 3
15Presenting feedback. This session focuses on delivering feedback to writers and also on accepting feedback from various sources including script editors, actors, directors, producers and distributors. It examines the kind of feedback likely from these sources and how to deal with it. Also, we explore the differences between being a commissioned writer and developing another’s idea to a brief as opposed to working on your original idea in conjunction with a team. 1,2,3
16Individual feedback sessions. Each student will book a session with the teacher to discuss their work through the semester and receive feedback on their projects. 1,2,3
    

Semester 2

In the second semester of Write Film you will be working independently on writing the first draft of a screenplay. You will be expected to work independently on this project, and to bring your work regularly to class for workshopping and to receive feedback from your teacher and your peers.

WeekContentAssessment DueElements
1Development of screenplay concept and ideas. Review of first semester’s work. Which ideas are worth pursuing and which can be set aside. Explore the notion of the ‘professional’ screenwriter and the need to be able to generate a variety of stories and to work to a brief. 1
2The feature premise. Research and the screenplay. Placing your premise in a ‘real’ world. This may be an imagined or historical place. Either way, parameters need to be addressed. How are these identified? How do they work? Are there historical (filmic or otherwise) precedents? How are audience expectations to be addressed? 2
3Key genre elements. A broad review of genre, examining types and rules, sub-genres and recent re-imaginings. Applying genre to your own work. How does the current sociopolitical climate impact upon your choices? What are your genres and do you embrace or subvert your genre conventions? 2
4The feature synopsis. Fine tuning the synopsis. Focusing in particular on synopses that have been generated in second semester. Can they sustain 90mins of screen time? Intensive workshopping to ensure that all students have a viable feature project with the potential to be taken into Second Year ‘Feature’ class if so desired.Assessment 1 due2
5Character refresher. Protagonist, antagonist, mirror, mentor and romance. How can archetypes serve your screenplay idea? 2
6Character revelation and development. How characters move from want to need, from hate to love, from false goal to true goal. Or vice versa. Applying these principles to students own work. 2
7Point of View. Whose story is it? Feature ideas are retold from a variety of character perspectives. How does this effect story? Drama? Audience experience? Do you have the right protagonist? 2
8In-depth character breakdowns. Character arcs. Dialogue. Building on work done in week 6, students examine their principle characters, their backstories and arcs. Characters are also ‘unpacked’ and rebuilt in terms of their interrelationships. Authenticity is key.Assessment 2 due2
9The Scene Breakdown. The purpose of the Breakdown and how to approach one. What is essential and what is not. Students will be given the opportunity to work on scene breakdowns for an existing feature before turning to their own. 3
10heme and subtext. The thematic question and thematic statement offer crucial insights into a screenplay’s ‘meaning’. Students will identify what theirs are before examining ways to present them in a subtextual way. Every scene also has subtext. An awareness of this is the key to turning craft into art. With this understanding, students will work on subtextualising key scenes in their own screenplays. 3
11The Feature First Draft. Getting the First Draft written, rather than right. Approaches to writing, what is expected of a first draft, habits (how to break and make them), writing your way out of writers block, why every first draft is (and should be) passionately awful.
Students will also look at script conventions and do a Final Draft workshop if required.
 
 4
12Plots and subplots. What constitutes a subplot and at what stage in the writing process should they be addressed, if at all. Students will identify subplots in their own feature projects and work on them as stand alone stories. They will then decide what elements best serve, and should be included in, the feature itself. 4
13Setups and payoffs – how to make the audience feel clever. Putting aside the writer’s ego and allowing the audience to have the insight. A sample of classic setup/payoffs will be studied before students turn to their own projects to find setup/payoffs for their own use.Assessment 3 due4
14Three Act refresher. Using the 3 Act Structure as a diagnostic tool, students examine their own projects in terms of Inciting Incident, First Act Turning Point, Point of No Return, Second Act Turning Point, Climax and Resolution. Findings are presented to the class as a whole. 4,5
    
15Alternative structure. There are many approaches to screenplay structure. This is an opportunity to examine some of them, to discuss their merits, and to find what works for you.
The Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell’s influential trope is reviewed and applied to student’s work. Is it useful? This is the question each student will be answering for themselves.
 
Assessment 4 due4,5
16Scenes and sequences. Students will break their screenplays down into acts, sequences and scenes. This will help fill in any gaps and inform their Scene Breakdowns.
Creating a visual style. All writers need a distinct voice, expressed through the screenplay. Screenplays are written visually - identifying a visual style for a given project can help that voice express itself. Students will have the opportunity to ‘find their voice’ through a series of written exercises.
 
 4,5


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


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

Assessment tasks in this course are either formative or summative. Formative tasks provide the basis for ongoing feedback and can be considered essential building blocks for the more substantial summative assessment tasks. Summative assessment tasks in this unit are graded.

To demonstrate competency in this course you need to complete each one of the following pieces of assessment to a satisfactory standard

First Semester Assessment
Formative Assessment

Assessment 1: One paragraph Story Outline. Due week 4.

Assessment 2: One page Synopsis of a feature film idea. Due week 7.

Assessment 3: One to two page Character Document. Due week 11.


Summative Assessment

Assessment 4: Four page Outline/Treatment and completion of a ‘Script Question Sheet’. Due week 14.

 

Second Semester Assessment


Formative Assessment
Assessment 1: Treatment / Genre / Element. Due date: Week 4
You may choose one of the following 3 options for your first assessment
1. Workshop and write a new treatment for a feature length screenplay. Five pages.

OR

2. Discuss the genre/s that best fit your screenplay. What is the genre’s history, how has it evolved and what audience’s expectations are associated with your genre? how do you propose to embrace / subvert your chosen genre conventions? Three pages.

OR

3. Research an element of your screenplay. Research may pertain to character, plot, theme, anything at all that will benefit you in the writing of your screenplay. How will you use this research in your screenplay? Provide references. Three pages.


Assessment 2: Character Arcs for three Characters Due date: Week 8

Describe character arcs for three characters drawn from your feature treatment. Include plot developments and how they affect your character’s journey. Half a page per character.

Assessment 3: Theme and Subtext Due date: Week 13
Identify and provide notes on thematic issues and subtextual layering inherent in a scene breakdown (to be workshopped in class) based on your feature treatment. Two pages.

Summative Assessment
Assessment 4: A scene by scene one line breakdown of the script of an appropriate length. Due week 15.

For further details on the assessments and information on the grading system and criteria used, please refer to the course blackboard site.

Grades used in this course are as follows:

  • CHDCompetent 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 administratio

Other Information

Attendance
The major learning experience involves studio based exercises, demonstration and production. It is strongly advised that you attend all sessions in order to engage in the required learning activities, ensuring the maximum opportunity to gain the competency.

Feedback - You will receive verbal and written feedback by teacher on your work. This feedback also includes suggestions on how you can proceed to the next stage of developing your projects.
Student feedback at RMIT

Student Progress
Monitoring academic progress is an important enabling and proactive strategy to assist you to achieve your learning potential. Student progress policy

Cover Sheet for Submissions
You must complete a submission cover sheet for every piece of submitted work. This signed sheet acknowledges that you are aware of the plagiarism implications.


Special consideration Policy (Late Submission)
All assessment tasks are required to be completed to a satisfactory level. If you are unable to complete any piece of assessment by the due date, you will need to apply for an extension. Special consideration, appeals and discipline
 

Course Overview: Access Course Overview