Course Title: Write a screenplay

Part B: Course Detail

Teaching Period: Term1 2016

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:

Name and Contact Details of All Other Relevant Staff

Chris Anastassiades

Cameron Clarke

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


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


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 will develop the skills and knowledge required to write a screenplay as either a commissioned script or as a speculative venture. Semester 1 will introduce you to the basic elements of scriptwriting, including character development and plot.  You will also consider what motivates a screenwriting and how to give and receive feedback.

Semester 2 will provide you with the opportunity to identify a variety script structures, formats and genres, and to develop the confidence and tools to pursue a screen narrative.

Examples of learning activities:

  • class exercises – both written and practical
  • practical demonstrations
  • discussion regarding relevant web site and reading material
  • film viewing and analysis
  • group projects
  • guest presentations
  • research
  • independent project based work
  • ‘workshopping’ of student projects including peer/lecturer feedback


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.






Overview of Semester – the screenwriter’s role, differences between writing scripts and prose, working with principal collaborators, format examples, organizations, etc.

Summary of assessments.

Exercise - Write a simple scene from a prompt.



Exploring influences – favourite movies/television/books, past-times/hobbies, recurring themes in our lives, people around us and how they influence our stories.

Using sensory triggers to create/influence a story or scene.

Assessment Task #1 Brief: Write a Simple Scene

Homework: Re-write Week 1 scene and bring in two printed copies for class.



Writing dialogue and action – functions of dialogue, character voices, exposition, comedic dialogue, etc. Effective ‘big print’ – too much and too little, stylistic choices, etc.

Handing off re-written scenes to an editing partner.



Feedback and re-writing – the rules of feedback for the class are established.

Readings in groups. Editors to adjust and present feedback to writing partners.

Scenes to be polished and submitted by Week 5.



Finding Characters – Sourcing characters. The people around us. Archetypes. Finding character voices. Flaws and positive qualities. Using simplification, exaggeration and contradictions as tools. Incorporating backstory/history into action of story. 

Write a first person character breakdown.

Assessment Task #1 Due.


Please note: there will be no class on Monday 14 March. Content for Monday’s class will be delivered in Week 5 and 7.

Goals and obstacles – The role of the protagonist in a screen story. Internal and external goals. Obstacles – physical, internal, other characters. The pursuit of the goal and the action of the film.

Viewing and breaking down of film.

Assessment Task #2 briefed: Write a first person account of an event.



Populating The Screenplay – Continuing on from Week 7. How story function, genre and theme affect characters. The concept of the cast as an obstacle course. Allies, adversaries and shape-shifters. TV cast versus film cast.

Write a scene – character turn.

Readings of scenes.



Easter Break

25 March to 1 April inclusive



Creating and generating a project – Guest film-maker – Feature Film

Guest film-maker Q&A and viewing. Guest film-maker will discuss the generation of an idea, their approach to creating work, including working with collaborators, market considerations, approach to writing (eg. characters, story, theme and structure, etc).



Cause and Effect – The “what if?”.  Your premise. The difference between a dramatic question and a thematic question. Causal links in story-telling. The ‘internal logic’ of your story.

Group work – Freeform plotting and establishing the logic of the story.


Assessment Task #2 Due


Writing A Beat Sheet – Defining story ‘beats’. Examining the process of breaking down a story into beats for film or television.

Exercise – Following on from Week 9 group exercise to identify essential story beats.

Exercise – Finding the story beats in your character’s journey.



Please note: there will be no class on Monday 25 March. Content for Monday’s class will be delivered in Week 10 and 12.

Introduction to structure (1) – The major turning points of a story. Different ways of breaking down a story into multiple parts to create a screen story for film.

Script reading and analysis – film.

Assessment Task #3 Briefed – Write a three to five page outline.



Introduction to structure (2) - The major turning points of a story. Breaking down a story into multiple parts to create a screen story for television.

Script reading and analysis – television.



Short Form Projects – Identifying the differences/similarities of various short form works ie. short films, web-series, etc.

Viewing and discussion.

Students to have two copies of first draft of outline (Assessment Task#3) by Week 14.



Outline Feedback – Work in pairs to provide feedback (as specified by teacher) on each others’ outlines.

Homework – polish outlines for submission.



Writing For Money – Guest Writer – Television & Film

Guest writer Q&A and viewing. Discussion will centre on writing commissioned work. Creating work from other sources and to brief. Relationships. Elements of craft essential to this, etc.

Assessment Task#3 Due.


Review Of Semester.



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). 

Assessment Task 1 – WRITE A SIMPLE SCENE – Students to write a simple scene from a prompt supplied by the teacher. This should not exceed three pages and contain no more than two characters in one setting. Due 7/8 March


Assessment Task 2 – WRITE A FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT OF AN EVENT – Students to write a brief, first person account of an event. This may take the form of a letter, a diary entry, a formal statement to someone official and should not exceed 1000 words. Due 11/12 April


Assessment Task 3 – WRITE A THREE TO FIVE PAGE OUTLINE – Students to write a brief outline of a screen story for a feature film, short film, television series pilot or web series. This should be no more than three to five pages. Due 23/24 May

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:

Cover Sheet for Submissions:

You must complete and sign a submission cover sheet for every piece of submitted work, including online submissions.;ID=x3ddsmsrwa1hz


Your learning experience will involve class-based teaching, discussion, demonstration and practical exercises

It is strongly advised that you attend all timetabled sessions. This will allow you to engage in the required learning activities, ensuring you the maximum opportunity to complete this course successfully.

Assessment Feedback: 

You will receive spoken and written feedback on all your work.  Where relevant, this feedback will also include suggestions on how you can proceed to the next stage of developing your projects.;ID=qwxbqbg739rl1

Student Progress:

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

Adjustments to Assessment

If you are unable to complete any piece of assessment satisfactorily by the due date, you can choose to apply for an adjustment to your assessment. RMIT University offers a range of adjustments designed to support you in your studies, including an extension of time to complete the assessment.;ID=kehn9bz22r41

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.

Credit Transfer and Recognition of Prior Learning

Credit transfer is the recognition of previously completed formal learning (an officially accredited qualification).

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is an assessment process that allows you to demonstrate competence using the skills you have gained through experience in the workplace, voluntary work, informal or formal training or other life experiences.


Recognition of Current Competency (RCC) RCC applies only if you have previously successfully demonstrated competence in a unit of competency, and now require to be reassessed to ensure that the competence is being maintained.

Please speak to your teacher if you wish to discuss applying for Credit Transfer, RPL, or RCC for the unit(s) of competency addressed in this course.;ID=az8fl470ucg41


Course Overview: Access Course Overview