Fundamentals of TV and Film Writing Workshop Syllabus
THE IDEA. The basic element of any teleplay is the IDEA. The idea must be something that can be stated in one carefully worded sentence known as a LOGLINE. The effectiveness of the logline is critical to the success of any pitch, whether the pitch is written or verbal. Advance Assignment: Read Chapters One through Six of the text, and have an idea for a half-hour (or hour) teleplay you really want to work on and submit the logline in writing to be read and critiqued in class. (The teleplay can be for your own series or one currently on TV.)
THE SYNOPSIS. The idea must be given a general shape, with a beginning, middle, and end, and the characters through whom it will develop. This shape is in fact a SYNOPSIS of something which hasn’t even been written yet, and is generally referred to as a LEAVEBEHIND, a two or three page description designed to clarify the basic points of the story in the minds of all concerned with the project. Advance Assignment: Read Chapter Seven of the text and write a two and a half page leavebehind to be read and critiqued in class.
STORY STRUCTURE. Television has a set ACT AND SCENE STRUCTURE. The natural flow of character-driven story must be manipulated to allow for this structure, which is honed by writing an OUTLINE (also known as a BEAT SHEET) and sometimes by also writing a TREATMENT. Advance Assignment: Read Chapters Eight and Nine of the text and write a 3 page scene by scene breakdown of your story to be read and critiqued in class. (A half-hour drama will have approximately 10 scenes, an hour 25. A half-hour comedy will have approximately 6-8 scenes.)
WRITING THE FIRST DRAFT. Teleplays have rigid FORMATS. Being comfortable within them is crucial to being able to write an effective script. So is the ability to create credible CHARACTERS via both action and DIALOG that is clever, original, and realistic. Advance Assignment: Read Chapters Four, Six, Ten, and Eleven of the text and write a two and a half page scene from your teleplay to be read and critiqued in class in terms of format, characterization, dialog, and story logic.
WEEK FIVE REVISING THE TELEPLAY. RECOGNIZING your script’s FAULTS is another critical element in teleplay writing. You must be able to step back from your work and judge it as analytically as possible. When you receive criticism from others, called NOTES in the trade, you must be able to accept it and, most importantly, UNDERSTAND ITS UNDERLYING BASIS so you can IMPLEMENT THE NOTES and make the necessary improvements. Advance Assignment: Rewrite your two and a half page scene so the revision can be read and critiqued.
GENERAL SUMMARY, REVIEW, AND QUESTIONS. If we’ve fallen behind, this is where the class will catch up. It is also where any remaining questions, both general and specific, about what we have been talking about will be addressed.
Advance Assignment: Read the rest of the textbook!!!