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COURSE NAME: "Creative Writing Workshop: Screenwriting"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2017

INSTRUCTOR: Maurizio Marmorstein
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 10:00-11:15 AM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: EN110 with a grade of C or above
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

This creative writing workshop helps students to develop the creative, editorial and reading skills needed for the production of a screenplay, based on the following principles: focus on visual story telling using minimal dialogue, introduction to story analysis using published screenplays and clips, and the exploration of narrative development. Material will be presented in the form of lectures, discussions, handouts, writing exercises, as well as screenings. In the context of a creative writing workshop, students will complete in-class and at home writing exercises. Students will also be required to provide their fellow writers with thorough feedback. Finally, students will pitch ideas in preparation for a full script, to be presented and critiqued at the end of the term.

This class is designed to give the student an overview of how to write the feature film. Concepts to be introduced include: screenwriting format, concept development, plot development, writing treatments, scene and sequence construction, dialogue, character development, idea generation, outlining, and brainstorming.


At the end of the course, the students will be able to:


1.     Develop ideas for a short screenplay.

2.     Utilize proper structuring. formatting techniques, terminology in the creation of a 8 - 12 page screenplay.

3.     Gain hands-on experience by collaborating on, and writing, a screenplay.

4.     Recognize professional screenwriting techniques during film viewings.



Written Assignments (ungraded) The first (5) assignments will not be graded, but must be handed in to be checked off. Each assignment is worth 2 points. 10%
Graded Written Assignments (top 5 out of 6) 15%
Quiz  10%
Quick Quizzes: (top 3 out of 4)  15%
Oral presentation (midterm) 25%
Final (short) Script: (15 – 20 pages)  25%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


The specific attendance policy for this class:

1)  Students are expected to arrive on time. Three late arrivals equal one absence.

2) Each absence over 3 will be penalized by subtracting 2 points from your final grade. (e.g. 4 absences = -2 pts; 5 absences = -4 pts; 6 absences = -6 pts, etc.)

3) Take care of personal needs before or after class. You are not permitted to leave the classroom during lectures or class screenings.  

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Course schedule

Week 1             class 1              how to watch a film from a screenwriter’s POV

                                               Developing an idea into a film.  Your Premise

class 2:            Formattingmovies terms; scenes, sequences, 3 act structure, layering Action and Setting, and more…

·       weekend reading: WITNESS

·       Start Developing your idea

Week 2            class 3              Witness

View film to identify elements of film, conflict, story,  plot, theme, genre, etc.

·       discussion of WITNESS      

·       present your idea (verbally in class)

class 4              QUIZ 1 (film terms, formatting information

Witness:  continue viewing film to identify elements of structure, story, plot points, subplot, etc .  

·       weekend reading:  THELMA & LOUISE

·       assignment: [1]write your idea (a few sentences stating the premise of your story)

Week 3           class 5              Quick Quiz 1 (Thelma & Louise)

Exploration of Character, Protagonist, Antagonist

*    discussion of Thelma & Louise

                                                *    hand in assignment 1

class 6              short review of major plot points

Character functions. Motivation & need

                                                *    weekend reading: Matrix

*    assignment [2]Character List & major plot points  (bulleted)

Week 4           class 7             Quick Quiz 2 (Matrix)

Act 1:  Exposition

*    Creating Character (Bio) - Dialogue-setting up story

*    discussion of Matrix

*    hand in assignment 2

                       class 8              Text vs. Subtext

·       weekend reading:  Tootsie

·       assignment:  [3] Character Bios (your protagonist, antagonist, and at least two secondary character)

NO MAKE UP DAY on Friday, Sept. 22 (view a film)

Week 5           class 9             Quick Quiz 3 (Tootsie)          

Act 2:  conflict

·       discussion of Tootsie

·       hand in assignment 3


                  class 10          Act 2 :  rising action                                                                                                               

 *       weekend reading: Chinatown

·         assignment: [4] Plot Points fleshed out w/short description

Week 6        class 11         Quick Quiz 4 (Chinatown)

Act 3 resolution                                              

·       discussion of Chinatown

·       hand in assignment 4

·       present Film for Oral Presentation Midterm         

     class 12        Act 3 climax, crisis, denouement

·       assignment: [5] written story (1 or 2 page narrative)   

Week  7           class 13      Oral Presentation         

·       hand in assignment 5

class 14       Oral Presentation

Week 8            class 15      Setting up a scene, dialogue, characters, setting

·       (choose partner for) Writing original scenes

                        class 16     Analyzing  scenes and sequences

·       Graded assignment [1]: write an original group scene      

Week 9            class 17     loglines and synopsis

                         class 18    * present  graded assignment [1] in class

                      *   Graded assignment [2]: write Log & 1 page synopsis of your script

NO MAKE UP DAY, OCT 28 (view a film)                              

Week 10          NO CLASS WEDNESDAY, NOV 1

class 19      treatments, scene by scene Outline hand in graded assignment 2

·       Graded assignment [3]: write 4 page treatment for your script.                       

 Week 11       class 20          writing: montage, Intercuts, series of shots, vertical writing

·       hand in graded assignment 8

                        class 21         discussion of projects;  your first scene preparation

·       Graded assignment [4]: scene-by-scene outline of your script                                                                                            

Week 12         class 22       Critique and feedback session on projects                              

·       hand in graded assignment 4

·       Graded assignment [5]: first draft of your opening 2 pages

                        NO CLASS:  THANKSGIVING

Week 13          class 23     Present and discuss your opening 2 pages

·       Hand in graded assignment 5. (first draft of first 2 pages)

                        class 24     Present and discuss your opening 2 pages

·       Graded assignment [6]: first draft of climax and resolution

Week 14          class 25      Present and discuss the climax and resolution of your script

                                        *        Hand in graded assignment 6

                        Class 26           Present and discuss the climax and resolution of your script    

FINAL EXAM                       TBA