Course Title: Write a screenplay

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2014

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
1

Brainstorming and development of screenplay concept and ideas. 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. Explanation of course content and assessment. 

 1
2

The 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?

 1
3

Key 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 choice? What is your genre and do you embrace or subvert your genre conventions?

 1
4

The feature synopsis. Identifying the protagonist and fine tuning the synopsis. Can they sustain 90mins of screen time? Intensive workshopping to ensure that you have a viable feature project with the potential to be taken into Second Year ‘Feature’ class if so desired.

Formative Assessment 1 due2
5Labour Day Holiday  
6

Character. Identifying key character essentials and how they function within the screenplay and in relation to each other. Protagonist, Antagonist, Mirror, Mentor and Romance. How can archetypes serve your screenplay idea?
Character 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 your own work.

 1,2
7

Point 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?

 1,2
8

In-depth character breakdowns. Character arcs. Dialogue. Building on work done in week 6, examine your principle characters, their backstories and arcs. Characters are also ‘unpacked’ and rebuilt in terms of their interrelationships. Authenticity is key.

Formative Assessment 2 due

1,2
9

The Feature Treatment. The purpose of the treatment and how to approach one. What is essential and what is not. You will have the opportunity to work on treatments for an existing feature before turning to your own.

 3
10

Theme and subtext. The thematic question and thematic statement offer crucial insights into a screenplay’s ‘meaning’. Identify what yours 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, work on subtextualising key scenes in your own screenplay.

 1,3
 Mid-semester break  
11

The 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 writer’s block, why every first draft is (and should be) passionately awful.
Examine script conventions and do a Final Draft workshop if required.

 1,4
12

Plots and subplots. What constitutes a subplot and at what stage in the writing process should they be addressed, if at all. Identify subplots in your own feature projects and work on them as stand alone stories. Then decide what elements best serve, and should be included in, the feature itself.

 1,3
13

Setups 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 turning to your own project to find setup/payoffs for your own use.

Formative Assessment 3 due1,3
14

Three Act Introduction. Using the 3 Act Structure as a diagnostic tool, examine your own project 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.

 1,3
15

Alternative 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?

Summative Assessment 1 due1,3,4
16

Scenes and sequences. Break your screenplay down into acts, sequences and scenes. This will help fill in any gaps and inform your treatment.
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. ‘Find your voice’ through a series of written exercises.

 1,3,4

Semester 2

In the second semester 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
1Introduction – Aim – To produce Feature First Draft
Review – 3 Act Structure, Alternative Structure models, ascending and descending action, the eight key scenes we’ll be working on in class.
 
 1,4
2Structure – Work through of story – Whole class participation, then individually work through your stories finding the key scenes  1
3Review – Protagonist and function – Journey expressed as question of action
Character Arcs/Goals/Wants
Letter Exercise – Protagonist POV document
 1
4Dialogue/Scene Workshop – Review Semester 1 learning.
Introducing reading and workshopping scenes in a group context.
Bring in dialogue scene for workshopping.
 1
5Film opening/Ending Scenes – The first key scenes to consider. Thematic importance. The establishment of the “world” of the film.
Present a pitch for and write a rough first version of your opening and ending scenes in class.
Read as many as time permits.
 1,4
6Inciting Incident Scenes – The function of the inciting incident, cementing the story, disturbing the status quo. What should be happening between this and the opening scene.
Work through your treatments to create a one-line scene-by-scene breakdown leading to your inciting incident scenes and then write a rough version of inciting incident in class.
Read as many as time permits. 
 1,4
7First Act Break scenes – Explore this key scene and what should have occurred in the story up until this point, the role of the antagonist, etc.
Work through your treatments to create a one-line scene-by-scene breakdown leading to the first act break scenes and then write a rough version of first act break scenes in class.
Read as many as time permits.
 1,4
8Second Act To Mid-point – Examine the content of this section of the script. Break this into two halves and examine the introduction of new world, new characters, the plan “b” notion, the first major obstacle, point of near success, the mid-point twist, goal/need discussion, etc.
Work though treatments to create a one-line scene-by-scene breakdown of this section of their script.
Mid-point moments are pitched and delved into further. Write up as exercise for next week’s class as well as polished versions of earlier scenes.
 1,4
9The first set of key scenes – opening scene, inciting incident, first act turn and mid-point to be brought into class as well as one-line scene breakdown.
These scenes are read and workshopped in groups.

 

Formative Assessment 1 due.

1,4
10The worst thing that could happen – Explore the second half of the second act by jumping forward to the ‘dark moment’ the protagonist’s lowest ebb in the film.
Exercise – Write the rough draft of the ‘dark moment’ scene.
Read as many as time permits.
 1,4
11

Second Act to Act Break – Using the dark moment as a reference point, we examine the second half of second acts and the points touched on here, eg, the bad guys winning, the greater obstacle, new information, want becoming need, the new goal, etc.
Work through your treatments to create a one-line scene-by-scene breakdown from mid-point to second act break.
Read as many as time permits.

 1,4
 Mid-semester break  
12Second Act Scene Breakdown – Workshop
Bring in your one-line scene breakdowns for the entire first and second acts for analysis and group work.
Homework – Write your second act turn scenes and polished version of dark moment scenes for class next week.
 Formative Assessment 2 due.1,4
13The third act – An exploration of the third act, the climax, the culmination, the twist, the idea of a false resolution, etc.
Your dark moment and second act turn scenes read and workshopped.
Homework – Write your climax or twist scenes for next week’s class.
 Formative Assessment 3 due.1,4
14Climax/Twist Scenes – Read and Workshopped
Homework – Work through your treatments and create one-line scene by scene breakdown of act 3.
 Formative Assessment 4 due.1,4
15

Third Act Scene Breakdown Workshop
Bring in your one-line scene breakdowns for the third act for analysis and group work.
Review – Look at the work done so far, the pitfalls to watch out for when writing the draft, eg. repetition, flattening out, etc.
Complete one-line scene breakdowns and writer’s notes detailing list of changes from treatment to be handed in.

 Summative Assessment 1 due.1,4,5
16Cup Day Holiday  


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: Synopsis. Due date: Week 4
Workshop and write a synopsis for a feature length screenplay. One page.

Assessment 2: Character arcs for three characters. Due date: Week 8
Describe character arcs for three characters drawn from your feature synopsis. Include major plot developments and how they affect your character’s journey. Half a page per character.

Asessment 3: Theme and Subtext. Due date: Week 13
Identify and provide notes on thematic issues and subtextual layering inherent in your proposed feature treatment. Two pages.

Summative Assessment
 
Assessment 1: Treatment. Due week 15.
Workshop and write a treatment for a feature length screenplay drawn from your feature synopsis. Four to seven pages.

Second Semester Assessment


Formative Assessment

Assessment 1: Series of scenes. Due date: Week 9
Workshop opening and ending scenes, inciting incident scene, first act turn scene, mid-point scene.

Assessment 2: Scene breakdown. Due date: Week 12
Workshop one-line scene breakdown of Act 1 and 2.

Assessment 3: Two scenes. Due date: Week 13
Workshop dark moment scene and second act turn scene.

Assessment 4: One scene. Due date: Week 14
Workshop climax/twist scene.

Summative Assessment
 
Assessment 1 – Scene breakdown and writer’s notes. Due date: Week 15
Write a one-line scene-by-scene breakdown of entire film and writer’s notes detailing changes from treatment.

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 administration.

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

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.

Feedback
You will receive spoken and written feedback from teachers on your work. Where appropriate, this feedback will also includes suggestions on how you can proceed to the next stage of developing your projects.

Student Progress
Monitoring academic progress is an important enabling and proactive strategy to assist you to achieve your learning potential. See RMIT’s website for the student progress policy.

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. You can apply in writing for up to a week’s extension from your course teacher. If you need a longer extension, you wil need to apply for special consideration. Special consideration, appeals and discipline

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
RMIT University has a strict policy on plagiarism and academic integrity. Please refer to the website for more information on this policy go to Academic Integrity

Work Placement
It is a requirement of this program that all students participate in authentic work-related tasks. These may be either simulated or in a real work environment. On occasion, we are approached by industry and given opportunities for students to apply for short term placements. When these placement opportunities arise, students are required to negotiate the specific details with the relevant program coordinator or teacher. All industry placements require students, RMIT staff and host organisations to sign a written agreement prior to the commencement of the placement.

Course Overview: Access Course Overview