Module UXS-1024:
Introduction to Screenwriting

Module Facts

Run by School of Music and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Mr Mathew Owen

Overall aims and purpose

  1. To introduce students to the techniques, formatting and style of writing for film
  2. To provide a contextual history and overview of the short film
  3. To introduce students to the art of the short film, including techniques and approaches specific to this format
  4. To apply conventions of story structure and plotting to screenplay writing
  5. To introduce concepts of characterisation (protagonists/antagonists, heroes/anti-heroes etc) and dialogue as they apply to writing for film
  6. To provide an introduction to industry standard practices, such as the presentation of treatments and commissioning strategies, and the learning of pitching skills
  7. To develop skills in the critical evaluation of students' work and peer assessment

Course content

This module is an introduction to the basic underlying principles of screenwriting. It introduces students to key features of writing for film, and assesses them on their analyses of the screenplay form, plus the writing of a short film screenplay and treatment, and the pitching of an original concept. Students will primarily focus on writing for the short film format in order to facilitate their assessed short film screenplay assignment.

Workshops will deliver various aspects of screenwriting, broken down week-by-week so that students can digest specific aspects of the craft of writing a screenplay. These include script formatting, style, structure, genre, plotting, characterisation and dialogue. Students will also learn how to present their work in the form of industry treatments and outlines, as well as techniques for outlining a concept orally, in the form of a film pitch. Students will be encouraged to develop professional writing habits and to give and receive critically constructive comment and advice. Workshops will also include discussion of aspects of screenwriting, screened short films, as well as the opportunity for students to carry out creative screenwriting tasks in groups. Students will also be encouraged to critically peer evaluate the work of their cohort, and to analyse published screenplays, applying knowledge gained in the workshops. Students will also be required to read portions of screenplay extracts from published work prior to sessions (uploaded to Blackboard) in order to analyse them during the seminars.

Students will be encouraged to engage with formal screenwriting concepts such as the three-act structure, genre tropes, active protagonists and plot resolutions. However, they will also be expected to interrogate and challenge these elements of screenwriting craft, and are expected to display this engagement in their assessed work. Students will also critically peer evaluate the work of their cohort, and analyse published screenplays, applying knowledge gained in the lectures. Students will also be required to develop professional writing habits and to give and receive critically constructive comment and advice.

Assessment Criteria

threshold

D

  • Knowledge of key areas/principles only
  • Weaknesses in understanding of main areas
  • Limited evidence of background study
  • Answer only poorly focussed on question and with some irrelevant material and poor structure
  • Arguments presented but lack coherence
  • Several factual/computational errors
  • No original interpretation
  • Only major links between topics are described
  • Limited problem solving
  • Many weaknesses in presentation and accuracy

excellent

A

  • Comprehensive knowledge
  • Detailed understanding
  • Extensive background study
  • Highly focussed answer and well structured
  • Logically presented and defended arguments
  • No factual/computational errors
  • Original interpretation
  • New links between topics are developed
  • New approach to a problem
  • Excellent presentation with very accurate communication

good

B

  • Strong knowledge
  • Understands most but not all
  • Evidence of background study
  • Focussed answer with good structure
  • Arguments presented coherently
  • Mostly free of factual and computational errors
  • Some limited original interpretation
  • Well known links between topics are described
  • Problems addressed by existing methods/approaches
  • Good presentation with accurate communication

Learning outcomes

  1. Be able to identify and discuss specific elements of screenplays and script treatments, and understand key stylistic and textual characteristics of the short film format

  2. Be able to critically evaluate and utilise key texts on the art and craft of screenwriting

  3. Evaluate in detail the strengths and weaknesses of plot, structure, characterisation, dialogue, genre and visual storytelling in film screenplays

  4. Demonstrate an ability to apply these elements of screenwriting to a self-directed, original screenplay, and be able to critically reflect on the creative process of writing for the short film after completion of a self-directed screenwriting project

  5. Understand what is required for an effective concept pitch

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
1,500 word critical evaluation 40
Pitch for an original short film screenplay concept 10
Screenplay and Treatment 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Private study 180
Workshop

2 hour Workshop per week

20

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • An understanding of creative and critical processes, and of the wide range of skills inherent in creative writing. (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.1).
  • An awareness of writing and publishing contexts, opportunities and audiences in the wider world (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.1).
  • Artistic engagement and ability to articulate complex ideas in oral and written forms. (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • Ability to connect creative and critical ideas between and among forms, techniques and types of creative and critical praxis. (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • Awareness of how different social and cultural contexts affect the nature of language and meaning (English Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • Reflective practitioner skills, including awareness of the practice of others in collaborative learning (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • The ability to synthesize information from various sources, choosing and applying appropriate concepts and methods (English Benchmark Statement 3.3).
  • Ability to formulate and solve problems, anticipate and accommodate change, and work within contexts of ambiguity, uncertainty and unfamiliarity (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.3).
  • Ability to engage in processes of drafting and redrafting texts to achieve clarity of expression and an appropriate style. (English Benchmark Statement 3.3; NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • Ability to gather information, analyse, interpret and discuss different viewpoints (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.3).
  • Information technology (IT) skills broadly understood and the ability to access, work with and evaluate electronic resources (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.3).

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: