Screenwriting

At the heart of any good film is solid screenwriting. The Department of Film & Media Arts offers a mix of on-site classes along with a series of intensive online screenwriting courses that build in 6 week master class increments. 

Screenwriting 4820 / 4830 / 4840

It’s been said that when a film is produced it is made three times. The first is on paper as a screenplay; the second is during production when it is shot; the third is when it is edited. This class focuses on the first time the film is made.

At the heart of movies, whether they are narrative or documentary, sits a story, and storytelling lives by certain rules. The purpose of our screenwriting program is to learn the rules and then use them to unlock each student’s creativity in a way that allows him or her to communicate successfully with an audience.

For many students, Paul Larsen’s screenwriting class is unlike any other class they’ll take at the university. Although there are certain basic formulas everyone is required to learn, the primary focus of the class is to develop the individual vision of each student. Any student can write whatever type of feature length script he or she wants. That means that students are given a tremendous amount of freedom in creating their own stories – they are in charge of what they write and the class and even the professor are there only in support. So this class is more about engendering creativity than anything else.

During Screenwriting One (4520) students start a feature length script and by the end of the semester reach page sixty (the half-way mark). There are no writing exercises except in the context of creating those first sixty pages. By the end of Screenwriting Two (4530) students are expected to finish their feature-length screenplay. For most, this will be the first time they have created their own feature-length movie (if only on paper) and the experience will open a whole new sense of what it takes to make the movies they’ve been watching all their lives. It will also move them closer to being able to successfully produce such a film. For this reason it is recommended that students take at least two semesters of screenwriting. Class attendance and class participation are required.

A FEW THINGS ABOUT THE CLASS: What we do on any given night: The class is a workshop where students write pages outside class and then have those pages read aloud by other students in class. A critical conversation follows in which the piece is analyzed, and often very lively discussions take place. Students run the discussion and the professor only adds his comments at the end. It is the goal here that, in a rather friendly setting, students get to see how their writing affects others, and the writer is allowed to disregard any or all comments, even those of the professor. YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF YOUR STORY! However, smart students learn to listen.

MIXING OF LEVELS: Despite what the catalog advertises, any Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday night class will have a mix of screenwriting one, two or three students. This mixing of levels helps everyone develop their skills much faster, and since there is no competition between students for grades, they don’t need to fear being at different levels of experience. New students benefit from older students’ knowledge, and older students get to learn how to teach writing concepts to the new writers. Students may request a certain night, but the professor will make the final determination of which night any student will actually attend. NOTE: since it can be unclear how many older students will return each semester, it takes a while to ‘construct’ these classes. Be patient and persistent in trying to enroll.

Many students find these classes to be fun, rewarding and among the best they take at the university. Screenwriting is hard work. However, it is a goal that students not only learn skills and develop creativity but that they have a good time doing it. Learning should be enjoyable.

HOW TO ENROLL:  Please call Paul Larsen at 801-322-5122 to select a night and get permission to enroll.

Online Screenwriting Courses 3905

Visual Writing: Online 6 week master class
Dialogue Writing: Online 6 week master class
Character Writing: Online 6 week master class
Dynamic Writing: Online 6 week master class
The Sex Scene: Online 6 week master class

All classes roll open on a Tuesday, around or before 3 AM, and there is a short written assignment due that Tuesday—students have all day to do that, up until 11 PM EST when the short written assignments are due.

All classes have Thursday night chats, which are one hour long and depending on the class take place at 8 PM EST, 9 PM EST, and 10 PM EST.

To register for the Online Screenwriting Workshop pdfplease complete the application.

The Art of The Pitch

GET READY & SELL: You will learn how to encapsulate your story into one compelling statement; the five essential elements your pitch must contain to sell to producers and studios; the two pitch models; action driven vs. character driven pitching; the six points an elevator pitch must contain to interest a potential buyer — and what an elevator pitch is; how to open; how to close; how to use a story’s turning points to make your pitch compelling; when film comparisons work — and when they don’t; how to address the specific concerns of different members of the entertainment industry; how to condense and expand a pitch to take advantage of new pitching opportunities and mediums, and more....

Visual Writing

MAKE READERS SEE YOUR MOVIE: You will learn how to use the visual elements space, light, and texture to create locations and scenes your readers can “see” and “feel”; how to establish and utilize perspective to make your script more visually dynamic; techniques to make your characters visually dynamic and “real” for readers; techniques to juxtapose exterior and interior visuals to create visually dynamic scenes and visuals; how to create visually dynamic motion and action in scripts using space and motion for the screen—and much much more....

The Sex Scene

MAKE SEX COUNT: You will learn how to portray sex on the page that is sexy to a reader—and audience. What to include, and what not to include, in a sex scene. How far is too far? And how far is just far enough? The difference between a character being hot and a reader/audience member being hot—and with you on the page. What to keep, what to lose, what’s gratuitous, and what plays into plot and works. And much much more.

High Concept Writing

UP YOUR GAME: You will learn techniques to identify and break down high concept — as well as build it up; how to kick start the five story elements that contribute to high concept; how genre can be used to increase your story’s concept level; how to recharge mundane story elements using arena, characters, and story stakes; how to use your story’s twists to heighten your story’s concept; how to utilize mental real estate while formulating your concept; how to take a mundane concept to an extreme concept — and how to use extreme story elements to up your concept game.

Character Writing

MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS REAL: You will learn how to create and use the two cornerstones of character; how to make characters “real” using the five visual elements of character; how dialogue and motion contribute to character reality; the do’s and don’ts of authorial intrusion in character introductions; when character arc is necessary and when it isn’t; why unlikable characters are sometimes favorite characters; the two aspects that contribute to character empathy; how to use subplots to contribute to character dimensions; what separates lead characters from secondary characters; what makes actors and actresses want to play characters; and how to use character goals to drive and focus your story’s plot.

Dynamic Writing

Dynamic Writing is a six week intensive online course on using motion and scene elements, both static and non-static, to make sure a writer does not end up with a “talking head” script, i.e. a script which is all just watching characters sitting down talking. Which is radio, not film.

Oddly, in a crowd of people allegedly writing cinema for a screen at least the size of a small house wall — and sometimes larger — this is the class most people don’t get, or understand the importance of, going in. Dynamic Writing however is the second class I created from scratch because motion is one of the most lacking elements in scripts I read coming in from students and competitions — and shouldn’t be. When a writer writes for film, a writer is writing moving pictures. Emphasis on “moving.” Motion is one of the core strengths of cinema. Augmented by sound. Dynamic Writing is about using the strengths of film, motion and time jumps, overcoming the weaknesses of stories that do not have strong visuals or make use of both open spaces and enclosed spaces, and making images and scenes move on the motion picture screen — the way movies are supposed to.

Dialogue Writing

Dialogue Writing is a six week intensive in depth class on writing dialogue. It is one of the newer classes. It is also one of the classes students have repeatedly asked for most. We will be covering realistic speech vs. dialogue speech. When to get in and when to get out of scenes and dialogue subjects in scenes. When monologues work and when they don’t — and why. How and why speech length vs. brevity reflects on and builds character. Using dialogue to create character and individuality and unique character. Why characterization cannot be separated from dialogue. How character reveals really work – and why. Why and when characters lie and how to use that to story advantage. How much information characters really want to give up and how that contributes to story and character as well. What in dialogue makes characters unique — and what doesn’t. Using rhythm and cadence vs. colloquialisms. Subtext. Voice over narration. And much much more.