JACK LIPNICK: We're only interested in one thing, Bart. Can you tell a story? Can you make us laugh? Can you make us cry? Can you make us want to break out in joyous song? Is that more than one thing? Okay!
This course is designed for you to learn and practice the craft of screenwriting. It is broken into a series of 13 short lessons and assignments due each week.
Each lesson is a building block in understanding scriptwriting and story. Each assignment is to solidify your understanding of these lessons.
I will not release them prior to their week so that you aren’t overwhelmed and remain focused.
The first twelve (12) weekly assignments will be 2-3 pages long and the final assignment will be 3-5 pages long.
You will also be expected to offer feedback to your fellow classmate’s writing in class, and have a short weekly discussion with me.
For some of you, this may seem like an intense schedule, but it is designed for you to develop good writing habits.
This is a process-oriented course. Although we will discuss the basics of plot, action, dialogue, character, formatting, world-building, and theme, my belief is that the best path for understanding comes through usage. This means regular writing.
Trottier, David. The Screenwriter’s Bible. 7th ed. Beverly Hills: Sillman-James Press, 2014.
This text is chosen because of its extensive style guide regarding the formatting of scripts. Although many scripts (some of which may be discussed in class) will break these rules, consider this as a guideline for any issues of formatting.
If you have any questions about formatting, they will be reflected by this text. If you are serious about being a screenwriter, consider purchasing this book.
Weekly Class Structure:
A typical class week will operate like this:
- Assignment: Each Wednesday morning at 8 am (Saskatchewan time), I’ll unlock a new lesson and assignment. You’ll have five days to work on the assignment, which is due Sunday at midnight (Saskatchewan time). Anything submitted after this time will be considered late.
- Feedback: You will then have two days to read the scripts of your group and prepare feedback. Any comments posted after Tuesday midnight (Saskatchewan time) will be considered late.
- Weekly One-on-One Meetings: Except for the first week, you are also expected to schedule a maximum 10 minute call or video discussion (via Zoom) with me at a select times between Wednesday to Saturday. You will share your reflections on your previous week of work. I’m interested what went well, what went poor, and what you’ve learned.
Although we'll have regular one-on-one check-ins, I will always be available on Slack and email.
Each part of the weekly lesson (assignment, feedback, meeting) will be out of 2.5%. You will be marked on whether the work meets the learning objectives of the week (a full 2.5%), doesn’t meet all learning objectives (1.25%), or is incomplete (work not submitted by deadline: 0% on assignment).
The focus of your mark will be on completing the work, critical thinking, and evaluation. Learning objectives will be included with each assignment. There will be regular expectations such as proper formatting, grammar, punctuation and spelling, as well as showing an understanding of the concepts discussed in the lessons (such as theme or plot).
As well, you will be graded on the feedback that you offer each other, which requires that you read each other’s scripts, and offer ideas or suggestions that either improve the work or discuss the effect the work had on you as a reader. If the work is impeccable, then you can discuss why it worked.
You are also expected to have a weekly meeting with me where you will reflect on your own work. Consider this an opportunity to understand how you would possibly improve your writing, identify weaknesses and strengths, or think about the effects it has on others.
Finally, you will also have an opportunity for a final 2.5% after the last week of class to complete a rewrite of your final assignment.
Your overall grade of 100% throughout the semester will be broken down:
|Work Required||Mark over 13 weeks||Total|
|Assignment||13 X 2.5%||32.5%|
|Feedback||13 X 2.5%||32.5%|
|One-on-one meeting||13 X 2.5%||32.5%|
|Rewrite||1 X 2.5%||2.5%|
All work will be submitted by students via Slack as a PDF.
If you have to submit work and are having trouble, you must contact me 24 hours before the deadline. Don’t leave this to the last minute. Also, it isn’t my responsibility to submit your work.
Your writing assignment must be submitted by Sunday midnight (Saskatchewan time). All work submitted late will be considered incomplete (0%).
Never apologize for the work that you submit. The only criteria is that the work meets the learning objectives, is legible, and is checked for spelling, grammar, and punctuation before submission.
All work submitted for this class must be original to this class.
Please note that you may not incorporate any of the scene work that has been completed through previous writing assignments in class. Also, prior work that has been handed in and graded from other courses may not be used. I don’t want you trying to build a single script throughout this class by stringing each of the assignments together.
Any plagiarized work will be an immediate 0%. The instructor will also contact the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies in the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance and this may affect your academic record.
One of the central principles of this course is to share your writing with others, so that it may be read and discussed critically. This activity is invaluable in realizing how your writing is interpreted and allows you to learn from others and grow as a writer.
On the first day of class, you will be divided into groups. Each week, you will submit your writing to this group for reading and feedback.
This is not group work. Each student presents their own writing. The groups are only used to organize the discussion and help you not feel overwhelmed with the amount of reading.
Discussion of a script is not to consider what you how to be only what you like or dislike about the writing, but to think about it critically.
Do not tell a person how you would rewrite their work. Instead, ask yourself how the writing works on you, how it affects you, and what suggestions might produce different effects with further revision. Since 32.5% of your mark is based on your feedback, all students are expected to contribute each week.
Although the writers of the work can express thoughts, concerns, or issues when they submit their work, there is great value in listening.
Let your work speak for itself. There is immeasurable value in understanding what your writing is doing, even when you are not wanting those effects to occur.
All feedback must be submitted by Tuesday midnight (Saskatchewan time). If you are missing from the feedback or don’t participate, you will be marked incomplete (0%).
Weekly One-on-One Meetings:
The best way to improve your writing is to learn from your mistakes. Instead of retreading and rewriting your previous work, which may vary in size from small corrections to a full rewrite, we’ll focus on weekly reflections.
These discussions will be a place for you to consider how to improve your work and develop as a writer. Use this as an opportunity to highlight what you thought worked or didn’t work with your script and consider the critical feedback. What would you do differently next time or what lessons did you learn from the week?
The goal is to think critically and evaluate your work and your writing.
Occasionally, scenes from produced scripts may be shared in class. Although work on these scripts will not be for a mark, some students find it useful to consider the writing and the construction of these scenes.
It is also important to understand that key details of the plot may be revealed in these scripts, so spoilers of the films may occur.
Due to the intensive schedule of this class, there is very little leeway to fall behind in your work.
There will be no extensions considered for your work. Your failure to submit work, whether a script or feedback, is an inconvenience to the rest of the class.
If you have an unexpected emergency, please contact me immediately, so we can make arrangements about the work.
The classes have been designed as an opportunity for learning, discussion, and practice. Art and craft occurs through application, execution, and reflection. You are expected to participate in class regularly, to be on time for any scheduled assignments, to complete assigned readings, to participate in discussions, and to conduct yourself in a respectful manner.
It is your responsibility for your success in this class.
You have been given specific page lengths. Scripts not respectful of this requirement will be considered deficient and marked accordingly. Diligence, conciseness, and brevity are regarded as important skills by the instructor.
And again, any plagiarized work will be an immediate 0% and the instructor will contact the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies in the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance.
We will sometimes consider writing with strong language and mature themes that are deemed artistic in nature or commonplace in the commercial market. However, you must put warnings at the head of your submissions to indicate when there are such topics, language, or subject matter that may upset some readers.
I expect students to show discretion in what they use in their own writing. Students should speak to me prior to sending out writing for workshops that they feel might cross this line. If this cannot be handled in a suitable manner, restrictions to all assignments will be made.
While, I believe discussion and a difference of opinion is good, I expect it to remain in an objective manner, focusing on the technical form of the script, and not personal.
If you feel that the subject matter/language/etc. bothers you, you have the choice not to read the script and skip the discussion but please contact me beforehand.
As always, I am open to hearing your thoughts, so feel free to contact me via Slack or email, or schedule a meeting over Zoom to discuss (you will be emailed a meeting link once you schedule).
Last updated Nov 16, 2020
- Class 1 (Sept. 2–8): Introduction | Formatting
- Class 2 (Sept. 9–15): Story
- Class 3 (Sept. 16–22): Descriptions
- Class 4 (Sept. 23–29): Want, Obstacle, and Outcome
- Class 5 (Sept. 30–Oct. 6): Action and Response
- Class 6 (Oct. 7–13): Scene dynamics
- Class 7 (Oct. 14–20): Inner Want
- Class 8 (Oct. 21–27): Inner Obstacle
- Class 9 (Oct. 28–Nov. 3): Character and World Building
- Class 10 (Nov. 4–10): Rewriting
- Reading Week (November 9–13)
- Class 11 (Nov. 18–24): Theme
- Class 12 (Nov. 25–Dec. 1): Outlining and Work Habits
- Class 13 (Dec. 2–8): Real World
Academic Announcements for FALL 2020
Any student with a disability who may need accommodations should discuss these with the course instructor, and contact the Coordinator of the Disability Resource Office at 585-4631.
Student Responsibilities and Course Prerequisites
Students are responsible for understanding and following the academic regulations outlined in the University Calendar. The most important of these regulations and responsibilities are summarized under Student Code of Conduct and Right to Appeal. Your first responsibility is to ensure that you have the necessary prerequisite for this class. If you take a class without the prerequisite (or without the permission of the department head), you will not receive credit for it at graduation time, and you may have difficulty in completing your degree program.
Regular and punctual attendance is expected of students in their courses. Students who are persistently tardy or absent or who neglect academic work may be subject to disciplinary action and may be excluded from the final examination. Please note any specific requirements in attendance in this course.
Procedures and Dates for Dropping Courses
All changes to course registration must be made in writing to your Faculty of College. Students who are not attending but have not formally withdrawn are still considered to be registered, are liable for fees, and are assigned a failing grade of NP for failing to complete the course. Non-attendance does not constitute withdrawal.
- Last day to drop a course and receive 100% refund: September 16, 2020
- Last day to drop a course without a transcript record: September 30. 2020
- Last day to withdraw from a course and receive 50% refund: September 30. 2020
- Last day to withdraw from a course without a failing grade: November 16, 2020
Academic Misconduct – Plagiarism and Cheating
All students should be aware of the definitions of plagiarism and cheating, as well as the potential punishments (which range from a grade of 0 on the test or essay in question to expulsion from the University). If you have any questions about the proper methods of citing sources, the extent to which sources (including internet resources) must be cited, or what might constitute plagiarism, please discuss your questions with your instructor!
Procedures for Requesting Deferrals of Final Exams or Term Work
All students should be aware of the correct procedures for requesting deferral of final examinations or term work. If you are unable to finish your final exam or term work for reasons- beyond your control (e.g., illness, accident, death in the family), please contact the Records Office of your Faculty or College as soon as possible for advice. If you experience any personal difficulties during the semester due to such factors, we encourage you to discuss your situation with your instructor, and/or your Associate or Assistant Dean as soon as possible.
University Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Policy
All members of the University community are entitled to a professional working and learning environment free of harassment and discrimination.
Best wishes for the coming semester!