Communication And Culture | The Screenplay
C562 | 1129 | Miller

> Screenwriting is being cross-listed between
> English (W680), and Culture and Communications (C562).
> Pre-requisites: Any graduate student with a love of narrative and writing
> is welcome to sign up, but the class is based on the
> assumption that everyone has (a) a solid  knowledge of a range of
> literature and film studies, (b) familiarity with twentieth century
> films and some criticism, (c) time and energy to write a full-length
> screenplay which will be shown and discussed in group
> critiques, (d) strong analytical and critical writing skills, and (e) an
> investment in participating in a self-generating workshop community.
> If you are not in grad school in culture and communications, and you are
> not in our MFA program, I request that before enrolling, you "apply" by
> email to me (, and describe pertinent info about
> yourself and your interests: e.g.,  background and interest in writing and
> film,  your expectations of the class, and  your understanding of a
> workshop, etc., so we can see if your interests match the goals of the
> class.
> While the  class welcomes  the aspiring, glitzy  Hollywood writer pursuing
> the big bucks to the casually curious to the "outsider indie" diehard to
> the film literate, we will be treating the screenplay not just as a
> "blueprint," but  as an art form. Keep in mind the old joke about asking
> 10 random people on the streets of L.A. how their screenplays are coming
> along, and 9 will answer, "Fine."   Don't order the swimming pool yet.
> This would be a good course for anyone writing fiction as well, since
> screenwriting has much to teach about story structure, scene, dialog, and
> pacing, not to mention what gets revealed, by whom, and how and when.
> Aesthetics and ideology (viewing postitions, narrative choices,
> subjectivity, etc.) will be of equal concern. In addition to looking at
> student work, we  will read several  screenplays, with an emphasis on the
> contemporary. The class will explore through original student work and
> discussion of the "grammar of film," various issues at stake in
> "translating" or adapting a piece of fiction into the screen idiom, and
> the challenges of creating visual pictures from an original idea. In
> addition to working on a full-length feature screenplay, you will be asked
> to write a 5-page treatment, and storyboard at least one scene. You will
> also be asked to give a critical presentation on a screenplay assigned in
> class, and turn in a short critical paper.  A standard feature-length
> screenplay runs around 90-120 pages.  No television or made-for-tv movie
> scripts (this is not snobbishness, it has to do with the artificiality of
> pacing suited  for "commercial interruptions," etc.). Likewise, no
> "shooting scripts."
> You will be assigned two books on the "craft" of screenwriting to help you
> out, but we will not spend in-class time "teaching" you format. Neither
> will we do exercises on "how to make your characters feel real," nor we
> will practice  how to pitch a plot line in 30 seconds.   If you want that,
> track down Robert McKee.
> We will discuss format and the elements of narrative as they pertain to
> content and meaning, but it is assumed all of you will already have a
> sense of format (from having already read a screenplay or two),  as well
> as familiarity with basics of narrative elements.Don't waste your money on
> pre-fab screenplays  (of the fill in the blanks variety)---they will not
> be accepted in this class. Neither will ideas gleaned from books on "plots
> for screenplays."  You're advised to familiarize yourself, before the
> class,  with some basic, handy film terminology, and to read at least a
> couple of screenplays of your choosing.  You can download some screenplays
> free of charge from the internet. Border's also carries a fair range in
> their film section.
> Assignment  for the first day of class:  We will discuss the screenplay of
> The Talented Mr. Ripley as it compares to the novel by Patricia Highsmith
> (both will be available through the bookstore--you can also get these off
>  Be  sure you've read both and seen the film for the first
> day, as well. Come prepared the first day  to discuss the challenges of
> adaptation,  cinematic choices made by Minghella--omissions, additions,
> changes, etc., and their effects, and their translation to the screen
> (even down to the choice of actors, etc.).  Consider issues of audience,
> the time  in which the novel was written and set vs. that of the film,
> translation from written to visual text, etc.