Module UXS-2058:
Writing for Film & Television

Module Facts

Run by School of Music and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Mr Jordan Glendenning

Overall aims and purpose

  1. Develop students' understanding of the practice of writing for film
  2. Introduce students to writing for television formats, including television drama, continuing serials, web series, anthology series, and the situation comedy
  3. Introduce students to techniques and approaches specific to writing for television formats
  4. Develop students' understanding of screenwriting conventions, by delivering advanced concepts of story structure and plotting
  5. Develop concepts of characterisation and character-led storytelling in film and television
  6. Utilise genre in storytelling for visual mediums
  7. Debate key theories on the use of dialogue in screenplays
  8. Interrogate the use of visual metaphor, creative use of sound and the semiotics of storytelling
  9. Develop industry standard practices, such as the presentation of Bibles, Greenlight packs, and commissioning strategies
  10. Develop skills in the critical evaluation of students' work and peer assessment

Course content

This module is designed to develop knowledge and skills in writing for film, and introduces key stylistic and textual characteristics of writing for television. Students will gain an awareness of the industrial demands of writing for television and film, in terms of budgets, audiences and the demands on first-time, early-career writers.

The module provides an overview of television writing, separated into television drama and the situation comedy, and outlines the specific features of these formats for screenwriters. Students are then assessed on their own original television concept in the form of a treatment and screenplay that conform to standard industry formatting. This assignment can be co-written.

The course then goes on to present advanced theories of writing for film - developing concepts of characterisation, structure, genre, visual storytelling and the use of dialogue and action. 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 consider strategies for restricted writing concepts, and methods of lowering the potential budget of a film script. Students will be assessed on their own original film concept in the form of a treatment and screenplay extract. Students should also demonstrate an understanding of the contemporary film industry and demands on first-time writers.

Workshops will deliver various features of writing for television and film, using screenings as contextual support material. Workshop time will initially present some basic concepts of screenwriting such as script formatting, style, structure, genre, plotting, characterisation and dialogue, before moving on to deal specifically with television drama, situation comedy and the feature film.

Students will be encouraged to engage with, and challenge, elements of the craft of screenwriting, and to carry out creative screenwriting tasks in groups. Students will also critically peer evaluate the work of their cohort, and analyse published screenplays, applying knowledge gained in the lectures. Students will be required to develop professional writing habits and to give and receive critically constructive comment and advice.

Proposed films and television programmes to be screened include: The IT Crowd (Linehan, 2006- ), Spaced (Wright, 1999-2001), The Office (Gervais/Merchant, 2001-3), Father Ted (Linehan, 1995-8), Breaking Bad (Gilligan, 2008-13), Life on Mars (Graham, Jordan, Pharoah, 2006–2007), The Returned (Gobert, 2012-), The Sopranos (Chase, 1999-2007), The Wire (Simon, 2002-08), Red Riding (Jarrold, 2009), The Singing Detective (Potter, 1986), The Prisoner (McGoohan, 1967-68), Oz (Fontana, 1997-2003), Twin Peaks (Frost/Lynch, 1990-91).

Festen (Vinterberg, 1998), The Devil's Backbone (Del Toro, 2001), Hunger (McQueen, 2008), The Disappearance of Alice Creed (Blakeson, 2009), Four Lions (Morris, 2010), The Third Man (Reed, 1949), Brief Encounter (Lean, 1945), Intacto (Fresnadillo, 2001), Dead Man's Shoes (Meadows, 2004), The Sea Inside (Amenábar, 2004), The White Ribbon (Haneke, 2009), Uzak (Ceylan, 2002), Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (Park, 2002), Let the Right One In (Alfredson, 2008), The Road (Hillcoat, 2009), Sexy Beast (Glazer, 2000), No Country for Old Men (Coen, 2007).

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

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

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

Learning outcomes

  1. Display an understanding of effective screenwriting, including characterisation, structure, genre, visual storytelling and the use of dialogue and action as expressed through own work and constructive commentary on original work produced by the cohort.

  2. Be equipped with the relevant skills required to develop and write effective screenplays for film and television that conform to industry standard formatting

  3. Understand key stylistic and textual characteristics of television writing (television drama or situation comedy) and writing for film (short film or feature film) and distinguish them from one another

  4. Be able to identify and discuss specific elements of screenplays and script treatments, and able to critically reflect on the creative process of writing for the screen, after completion of a self-directed screenwriting project.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Television Portfolio/Bible 45
Feature Film Portfolio 45
Writing Journal 10

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
 

3 hour screening per week for 11 weeks

33
Workshop

3 hour workshop per week for 11 weeks

33
Private study

Private, self-directed study

134

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • 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.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • 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
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Caring - Showing concern for others; caring for children, people with disabilities and/or the elderly
  • 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
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

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).
  • Knowledge of a wide range of canonical English texts, providing a confident understanding of literary traditions as well as the confidence to experiment and challenge conventions when writing creatively. (English 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: