LEARNING UNIT 1 The big picture: Building a screenplay

It’s time for you to determine the best step forward as you begin your journey through the land of screenplay writing.

Assignment 1: Write an essay of any length to clarify your purpose–what do you want to do, say, and realize? What do you hope to learn in this course? Why are you taking the course? What do you want to do and learn? This essay is about you and your vision. Write clearly and help the reader to understand how and why you intend to move forward. Expressivity, flexibility and an open-minded response to new ideas and possibilities are the recommended best strategies at this point as you write about yourself and your work.



A film is visual with words and sounds. Your appreciation of the term VISUAL RHETORIC will be important as you move forward in screenplay writing.

Assignment 2: Describe your story in a few paragraphs (aim for about one page).

In this essay try to clarify your vision, understanding, ideas, and connections in your story. In assignments 1 and 2 I recommend that you identify and demonstrate relevant research and knowledge of your story, but it is also important that you write freely.

Printing the short description is recommended, but optional. Discussion in class

Assignment 3: Create lists, timelines. and/0r outlines about your characters and story. Whether you are writing a dramatic or a documentary screenplay it is always beneficial to create lists, timelines, and outlines of potential characters/interviews, basic storylines, areas of interaction, potential conflict, and emotional range. Lists and outlines are useful or your reference. Print and bring to class if you wish, but this is optional.

Extra credit: Watch/study a film, any film, and try to visualize and describe its story structure framework using Syd Field Three Act Structure. I also recommend you select a film that has its screenplay included in RESOURCES so you can do deeper analysis.

If you don’t know your whole story yet, that’s OK and that is probably why you are here in this course–

1) I advise you to do introspective writing (try proprioceptive writing!) to flesh out your main story, situations, and ideas for scenes. DISCUSSION OF BASIC COMMUNICATION THEORY IN FILM

2) continue your skills-building by writing two-person scenes with dialogue and conflict (assignment 4-5-6)

Try to experience CREATIVE FLOW as you write. Seek intrinsic motivation. Do your best to build a routine that allows you to keep going forward productively. This class is intended to help you at early and important points in the screenplay writing journey. The aim of this course is to help you work toward a plan of action that leads to intrinsic motivation, productivity, and creativity in your writing.

Have no concern about page length at this point–don’t worry about writing too much, but do aim to write plentifully–then edit those pages and paragraphs to one page. Continue to polish your project description for future use.

As you write about your project I suggest you consider the model of the Four Domains. This model could be useful as you generally locate and describe your project. It is important that you build knowledge and understanding by asking important questions: What is the intended audience? What is the anticipated market for your work? Is your story educational, commercial, entertainment, artistic, social development media, or something else? What are the differences and similarities in the various Domains? How do each 0f the Four Domains interact, intersect, or overlap in your project? For example, what does “entertainment” mean to you? Does entertainment infer mere diversion or folly, or something more? Think deeply and express your vision.

Perhaps you have you already clarified a beginning, middle, and ending of your story, and you know who are your main characters and what do they individually want or need? Through readings and rewrites is conflict palpable in each scene? If you have reached this advanced point, one way to move forward is by pitching your project and polishing your short description, rewriting scenes, clarifying the story structure, and continuing to make outlines of each Act (assignment 3). Whether you are a beginner or a master, scene-writing is a constant effort in addition to the descriptive writing.