MA Screenwriting

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Story and the Journey of Change

Unit code ENGL70701
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


The course will be taught through blended learning. Asynchronous lecture content will be available to view alongside  weekly two hour seminars. The taught course will focus on story theory with particular reference to contemporary theories of film and televisual narrative developed by John Yorke, drawing on work by Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler. Each seminar there will be a group story-breaking exercise based on Hollyoaks. To participate in this task you will be required to watch every episode of Hollyoaks each week. There will be weekly readings and film viewings and you will be expected to analyse, describe and critique significant examples of the contemporary genres, alongside popular television and to effectively apply the chosen examples of story theory to your viewing.



The unit aims to: give you a conceptual and critical understanding of the universal principles of story structure. By the end of the course, you will understand the five act structure, the particular content and purpose of each act and the relationships between them. You will be trained to use a vocabulary that will enable you to talk about screenwriting with a new degree of professionalism and sophistication. This course will also give you a conceptual framework to analyse the most successful, professionally written screenplays as well as those of your peers and equip you to talk about story structure in industry. On completion of the course, you will have acquired a set of diagnostic tools empowering you to identify where your own script has gone wrong, and giving you a roadmap to remedy.

Teaching and learning methods


Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the formal, technical and professional choices industry practitioners make when designing story.


Demonstrate a detailed and systematic understanding of story structure, and a critical awareness of contemporary innovations in the field.  


Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of the collaborative, project-oriented nature of story design when working in industry settings.


Demonstrate originality in the application of story structure and demonstrate self-direction in the planning and implementation of remedial re-drafting.

Intellectual skills

Be able to critically analyse, interpret and judge the work of leading industry scriptwriters.


Students will use a real or adopted professional perspective throughout to frame their discussions and reflections.


Demonstrate their understanding of the methods industry practitioners employ to edit, remedy and rescue scripts and apply this to their own work.

Practical skills

Be able to evaluate and critique their own work, with reference to the professional conventions of story design.


Be able to make presentations to the class critiquing work, and the lastest viewing assignments.


Use e-tools to collaborate with peers.


Be able to write original screenplays utilising crafted story-design.


Be able to remedy, and salvage more original ideas by using the diagnostic tools.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Communicate their ideas effectively both verbally and in writing.


Collaborate constructively in group dynamics with peers to develop ideas and understanding.


Manage their time and workload effectively in order to meet deadlines

Assessment methods

Story Treatment 1 – breakdown of popular screenplay 10%
Story Treatment 2 – breakdown of popular  10%
Original screenplay 80%
Oral feedback to class of viewing list/broadcast list 0%
Online e-tivity via Elluminate, collaborative breaking of broadcast story 0%


Feedback methods

feedback on summative work via Turntitin.

Formative feedback via individual meetings with course tutor, and in class peer review, summative written feedback at the end of the semester.

Recommended reading

Essential Reading

John Yorke, Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them (Penguin, 2014)


Further Reading

Christopher Vogler, Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (Michael Weise , 2007)

Joseph Campbell: Hero With A Thousand Faces (Princeton University Press 1973)


Background Reading

Syd Field Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting (Delta, 2005)

David Mamet. Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama (Methuen, 2007)


Essential Viewing:


American Beauty

Thelma and Louise

The Godfather Part 1


The King’s Speech

Finding Nemo

Toy Story

The Imitation Game

The Lion King


Pretty Woman


Knocked Up



Silver Linings Playbook


Force Majeure


Essential Viewing


Breaking Bad

True Detective


Six Feet Under




The Phone Call

About a Girl


This is John

Wish 143


Six Shooter



Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 267

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Tim Price Unit coordinator

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