Course Title: Write a screenplay

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2015

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

Name and Contact Details of All Other Relevant Staff

Chris Anastassiades

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


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


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


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



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


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


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

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

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.

Semester 1

WeekClass ContentAssessment Due

What is expected through semester including assessment tasks. Discussion of backgrounds/skill levels/experience of participants. Industry accepted script format and length.
Research. Originality. Producing a ‘realistic’ script.
 Working relationships of a screenwriter including directors, producers, actors, script-editors and collaborators. 
Dealing with feedback. Good and bad feedback.
Creating a personal check-list for your writing.
Exercise – Prompt (supplied). Students to turn prompt into scene outline and present to class.
Exercise – Students to turn outline into script.
Homework – Two page script for next week’s class.           


Discussion - the fundamental differences between writing for the page and writing for performance. The writer as the camera. What is exposition? How do we achieve exposition through action? How much detail is enough? Too much?
Exercise – The rules of feedback. Readings of scenes from previous week. Feedback given.


Defining and exploring characters through their actions. How essential are clear goals – in story, in scenes. The importance of obstacles (internal and external) and conflicts. The first step towards understanding the causal links in a story.
Exercise – Someone you know. Taking about someone you know well, focus on one key trait (internal obstacle), develop one simple goal and one external obstacle. Outline a scene. Turn into into script. Readings to class. Discussion of exercise.

 ASSESSMENT TASK #1 – Write a short scene

The protagonist’s function in the story.  Protagonist’s pursuit of goal and the obstacles he/she faces IS the story. The importance of clear stakes. The initial goal versus the emergent need (internal and external obstacles). How this leads to the dramatic question. Definition of dramatic question. Expressing the protagonist’s pursuit of his/her goal as a question.
Exercise – Three films and their dramatic questions.
Exercise – First person story. Based on the character in Session 3 create a diary entry.
Homework – Continue diary entries (300-500) words for next week’s class.

5Introduces the main turning points that identify screen stories and a basic introduction to structure. Looking at the inciting incident, first act turn, mid-point, dark moment, second act turn, climax and resolution as the framework upon which most screen stories are built. Introducing the concept of these points as ‘reversals’.
Exercise – Prompt (supplied) is broken down in group session.
Exercise – Diary entry readings. Key points identified.
Homework – Students to break down Toy Story. Identifying the key turning points.

Structural models as a way of navigating a story. Exploring the three act/two act/five act structural model and eight sequence structure. Ascending and descending action.
Exercise – Comparisons of homework findings. Fitting Toy Story into the various models. Taking exercise from last week and doing the same.


The stages of script development: dramatic question, the synopsis, the outline, the treatment/beat-sheet/breakdown and the script.

Looking at each of these stages, the uses of each of these documents, how they differ, where different writers diverge and finding your own system or pathway through.

Exercise – Using diary entries already generated to explore these stages.

Homework – Take one of the documents during the exercise and polish at home for use in next class.


How genre impacts on every aspect of a story from the character set and structure to the audience’s expectations.  Examining the restrictions of genre but also the benefits of having a solid framework within which to create.

Exercise – Story lottery.



Mid-semester break: no classes from Friday 3 April through to Friday 10 April inclusive.


Examination of a variety of story spurs and exercises designed to help develop or kick-start stories. Students invited to discuss their own process or sources of inspiration.
Exercises – Seven Sins, Cluster Writing, Letters, Group Story, The interview.
Homework  - Students to bring in 3 single paragraph story ideas (150 words each).


Students bring their story ideas to class and work as whole class and in groups of three to identify the dramatic question of each of the story ideas and build a logline from this.
Exercise – Pitch in a minute – Students to pitch their two strongest ideas in an effort to further refine their stories.
Homework – Students choose one of the ideas and refine the paragraph and also the dramatic question and logline.


Looking at the dramatic question and how that translates into a question of action for the protagonist to pursue, then how the cause and effect of this journey builds into a story or how it can change a story’s premise.

EXERCISE - With the dramatic question in place, students will work in groups of three charting the consequences of the protagonist’s path towards his/her goal. Examine this document. Does it tell the same story as your logline?

 ASSESSMENT TASK #2 DUE - Dramatic question and logline

Approaching the synopsis via the production of three documents – relating to theme, plot and character arc – to determine the core of the story, then examining these documents in relation to the key turning points in the story. A rough synopsis will be produced in this class and refined out of hours.
Exercise – My story is about…
Homework – Polish the synopsis.


The structure and purpose of an outline is explained. Synopses supplied by students are broken down and expanded upon in class.
Exercise – Using the assets/documents the student has produced thus far to create a rough draft of an outline.

 ASSESSMENT TASK #3 Due - Five Page Outline

Students test their outlines in groups before finally submitting. Problem outlines used as whole class case studies (on a voluntary basis).


Reading and review of Outlines


Review of semester


Semester 2

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

WeekContentAssessment Due
1Introduction – Aim – To produce Feature Film First Draft
Review – 3 Act Structure, Alternative Structure models, ascending and descending action, the key scenes we’ll be working on in class.
2Structure – Work through of story – Whole class participation, then individually work through your stories finding the key scenes  
3Review – Protagonist and function – Journey expressed as question of action
Character Arcs/Goals/Wants
Letter Exercise – Protagonist POV document
4Dialogue/Scene Workshop – Review Semester 1 learning.
Introducing reading and workshopping scenes in a group context.
Bring in dialogue scene for workshopping.
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.
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. 
ASSESSMENT TASK #4 - Polished opening scene
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.
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.
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.



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.

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.

 Mid-semester break: no classes from Monday 21 September through to Friday 2 October inclusive. 
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.
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.
14Climax/Twist Scenes – Read and Workshopped
Homework – Work through your treatments and create one-line scene by scene breakdown of act 3.

Third Act Scene Breakdown Workshop
Bring in your one-line scene breakdowns for the third act for analysis and group work. 

16Review – 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.
ASSESSMENT TASK#5 DUE - Scene breakdown and writer’s notes

Learning Resources

Prescribed Texts

Any prescribed reading material will be distributed in class and posted on Blackboard


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

To demonstrate competency in this course you will need to complete all of the following pieces of assessment to a satisfactory standard. You will receive written feedback on all assessment (refer to Blackboard for assessment criteria). 
First Semester Assessment
Assessment 1: Write a short scene, based on an outline you have developed. This will be read and workshopped in class. You will be assessed on the reading. Due Week 3. 25 February

Assessment 2: In prose, present the dramatic question and logline of your story. Due Week 11. 29 April.

Assessment 3: A five page outline of your script. Due Week 13. 13 May. (This task is also graded.)

Second Semester Assessment

Assessment 4 – A polished opening scene of your script, formatted to industry standard. Due Week 6. 12 August

Assessment 5 -  One-line scene-by-scene breakdown of entire film. Writer’s notes detailing changes from treatment. Due Week 16. 4 November (This task is also graded.)

Once you have demonstrated competency, your final assessment in each semester will be graded (refer to Blackboard for grading rubric). More detail on assessments, marking guides and graded rubrics will be provided in assessment briefs, which will be available in class.

Grades used in this course are as follows:

  • CHD Competent 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

 Please refer to the RMIT student page for extensive information about study support, assessment, extensions, appeals and a range of other matters:


The major learning experience involves studio based exercises, demonstration and production. It is strongly advised that students attend all sessions in order to engage in the required learning activities, ensuring the maximum opportunity to gain the competency. Non-attendance may seriously jeopardise the chances of success in a course. Clearly, non-attendance at an assessment will result in failure of that assessment. Where visa conditions apply, attendance is compulsory.

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.

Credit Transfer and Recognition of Prior Learning (web link)

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process through which people can gain entry to, or credit in, recognised courses based on competencies gained. The competencies may have been gained through experience in the workplace, in voluntary work, in social or domestic activities or through informal or formal training or other life experiences. Recognition of Current Competency (RCC) applies if a student has previously successfully completed the requirements of a unit of competency or module and is now required to be reassessed to ensure that the competency has been maintained.

Assessment and Feedback (web link)

You will receive verbal feedback during scheduled class times, and written feedback from teachers on your work . Where appropriate, this feedback will also include suggestions on how you can proceed to the next stage of developing your projects.

Student Progress (web link)

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

Special consideration for Late Submission (web link)

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 will need to apply for special consideration.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism (web link)

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

Course Overview: Access Course Overview