Syllabus for Film 210: Introduction to Screenwriting

Video and Audio Versions

Audio Version

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!
— From Barton Fink by Joel and Ethan Coen
Instructor: David Gane
Email: |

Course Structure

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 week’s writing assignment is to practice your understanding of the lesson.

I won't release the lesson or assignment 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 be expected to offer feedback on your fellow classmate’s writing in class and to send a weekly reflection to the instructor.

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. My belief is that the best path to understanding comes through usage. This means regular writing.

Class Textbook

Trottier, David. The Screenwriter’s Bible. 7th ed. Beverly Hills: Sillman-James Press, 2014.

Amazon (7th ed.) | Chapters/Indigo (6th ed.)

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 in this text. If you are serious about being a screenwriter, consider purchasing this book.

👉 This is not a required textbook.

Weekly Class Structure

A typical week will operate like this:

  • Class: Each Wednesday morning by 10 a.m. ( Saskatchewan time ), I’ll unlock a new lesson and assignment.
  • Writing: You’ll have five days to work on your scripts, which will be 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.
  • Reflection: You are also expected to send a short reflection (via Discord ) to the instructor by Saturday midnight about how the week went.

📅 Assignments are due on weekends to give you the maximum amount of time to work. If you use your week effectively, you can submit your assignments early so that you can enjoy the weekend.

You can see the full calendar here.


Each part of the weekly lesson (writing, feedback, reflection) will be out of 2.5%. You will be marked on whether the work:

  • meets the objectives of the week: 2.5%
  • doesn’t meet all learning objectives: 1.25%
  • is incomplete or not submitted: 0%

The focus of your mark will be on completing the work, critical thinking, and evaluation.

Assignment objectives will be updated each week, and will always include 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.

👉 Even if the work is impeccable, you can still discuss why it worked.

Lastly, you’re expected to send me a weekly reflection on your week's work. Consider this an opportunity to improve your writing, identify weaknesses and strengths, and think about how others respond to it.

Your overall grade throughout the semester will be broken down:

Work Required Grading Total
Assignment 12 x 2.5% 30%
Feedback 12 x 2.5% 30%
Reflection 12 x 2.5% 30%
Final Script 10% 10%
Course Total 100%


‼️ The weekly assignment will be released every Wednesday with the lesson. Each will have specific criteria that you must adhere to.

Your writing assignment must be submitted by Sunday 12 p.m. midnight (Saskatchewan time). All work submitted late will be considered incomplete (0%).

You will submit your work to your group via Discord as a PDF. I will download them from there.

💡If you are having trouble with PDFs, URCourses, Discord, or anything else, don’t hesitate to contact me at

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.

Never apologize for the work that you submit. The only criteria are 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 any prior work that has been submitted to or graded in other courses may not be used.

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.

Not only are you practicing the craft of writing, but you are also practicing the art of feedback. You want to help each other and encourage each other to continue creating.

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. The groups are only used to organize the discussion and help you not feel overwhelmed by the amount of reading. You will present your own work.

Discussion of a script is not about what you like or dislike about the writing but to think about it critically. If it doesn't seem to be working, articulate why.

During feedback, even if the writing is perfect, be sure to tell people what you like or love. Tell them what your favorite parts are. Be specific.

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 30% 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.

If you miss giving feedback or don’t participate, you will be marked incomplete (0%).

Weekly Reflections

These reflections 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 assignment and consider the critical feedback.

You will respond to these four questions via Discord in point form:

  • How did the week go for your writing?
  • What worked for you with your writing?
  • What are you struggling with in your writing?
  • How will you proceed with your writing next week?

The goal is to think critically and evaluate your work and your writing.

These will be sent to me directly in Discord.

Meetings with David

I will always be available for one-on-one discussions over Discord. To book a time, sign up here.

This is an opportunity for you to discuss your writing. We can look at your previous assignments, your upcoming assignments, or anything you have questions about.

You can also use these meetings as your weekly reflection and not have to write me anything.

My biggest expectation is that if you book a time, please show up. Otherwise, you will lose that week's mark.

We will meet on the Discord server.

Script Readings

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.

Script Content

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 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 on 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 Discord or email, or schedule a meeting with me.

Use of Generative AI

Students are permitted to use generative artificial intelligence and art generation software on assignments for this course

Unauthorized use of generative AI is considered a breach of academic integrity.

There is no need to reference sources—but if you're willing to share, I'd love to hear what tools you used, as well as prompts inputted to achieve the results.

However, I'd like to caution you to use this as an idea generator and not as a final draft for your assignments. AI-generated stories often read bland and boring and contain scriptwriting errors that work against you. Also, if I see too many AI-generated final drafts, I may add additional marking criteria in the weekly assignments.

Other Expectations

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 for the work.

If you are struggling with the work and assignments, please reach out to me. I'm here to help you succeed.

The classes have been designed as an opportunity for learning, discussion, and practice. Art and craft occur through application, execution, and reflection. You are expected to participate in class regularly, be on time for any scheduled assignments, complete assigned readings, participate in discussions, and conduct yourself in a respectful manner.

You are responsible for your own 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.

Course Schedule

Last updated June 24, 2023

  • Class 1 (Aug. 30): Intro and Formatting
  • Class 2 (Sept. 6): WOARO
  • Class 3 (Sept. 13): Descriptions
  • Class 4 (Sept. 20): Want, Obstacles, Outcomes
  • Class 5 (Sept. 27): Action and Response
  • Class 6 (Oct. 4): Scene Dynamics
  • READING WEEK (Nov. 7–12)
  • Class 7 (Oct. 18): Inner Want
  • Class 8 (Oct. 25): Inner Obstacle
  • Class 9 (Nov. 1): Character and World Building
  • Class 10 (Nov. 8): Theme
  • Class 11 (Nov. 15): Rewriting
  • Class 12 (Nov. 22): Outlining
  • Class 13 (Nov. 29): Real World

Academic Announcements for Fall 2023

Special Needs

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 306-585-4631.

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 the 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 a 100% refund: September 13, 2023
  • Last day to drop a course without a transcript record: September 13, 2023
  • Last day to withdraw from a course and receive a 50% refund: September 27, 2023
  • Last day to withdraw from a course without a failing grade: November 15, 2023

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!