Screenwriting Courses

Screenwriting Courses

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.