MA Screenwriting

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
The Calling Card Script and Television

Unit code ENGL70712
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


The course will be taught through weekly three hour seminars. The first two hours of each seminar will be taught, and the final hour will take the form of a workshop where students will critique each other’s work. The first half of the course will focus on the critical analysis of pilot episodes of popular American, British and European comedies and drama, as well as new shows being broadcast concurrently with the course.  We will use contemporary theories of screenwriting and visual storytelling to understand and evaluate the success of this work while simultaneously extending and refining your understanding of the vocabulary of contemporary screenwriting through a programme of further relevant reading. In the second half of the course, you will begin to produce drafts of your own calling card script, these will be workshopped in class. We will continue to view and critically analyse examples of contemporary TV drama and comedy.



The unit aims to:  to develop and refine your existing knowledge of the principles of visual storytelling grammar, and to apply that knowledge to the writing of an original calling card television script. You will learn how introduce an audience to a dramatic premise with a view to a story unfolding over a series. You will learn how to introduce characters and convey story visually to maximize comedy and drama. You will also spend a day working at Hollyoaks in the storyline department. You will write a script/storyline for the Hollyoaks and have your work read by staff who will give you feedback. On completion of the course, you will be fluent in screenwriting language and will be equipped to translate your ideas and stories to dramatic and comedic screenwriting for television and you will have a piece of work suitable to used as a ‘calling card’ for industry. You will study and analyse numerous examples of the most successful recent television series. For your final assessment you will write the opening episode of an original TV series, under the supervision of tutors.

Teaching and learning methods


Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate a refined understanding of the technical language of screenwriting and of contemporary theories of story.


Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of techniques used in professional screenwriting, and its application.


Demonstrate a developed knowledge and understanding of the particular requirements and demands of working in television.

Intellectual skills

Evaluate critically and, interpret examples of recent and contemporary television comedy and drama.


Understand and imaginatively respond to the particular requirements and difficulties of writing a pilot episode of a TV comedy or drama.


Develop systematic approaches to visually interpreting original stories.

Practical skills

Fully understand and be able to use the full suite of tools in the Final Draft software package.


Communicate specialist understandings of screenwriting methodologies in a group environment.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Communicate their ideas effectively both verbally and in writing.


Give, receive and effectively respond to constructive criticism.


Exercise decision-making and personal responsibility in collaborative creative environments.


Manage their time and workload effectively in order to meet deadlines

Assessment methods

Treatment for original TV series 10%
Hollyoaks trial script/story
Plot Script. 60%


Feedback methods

Feedback on summative work via Turnitin.

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

The Calling Card Script by Paul Ashton


Recommended Reading:

Pilot scripts for: Breaking Bad, Being Human, Happy Valley, Life on Mars, The Americans, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Orange is the New Black.



Essential Viewing:


The Sopranos

Mad Men

Six Feet Under

Breaking Bad

Orange is the New Black

The Wire

Being Human


Happy Valley

Life On Mars


The Americans

 Eastbound and Down

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 18
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 249

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Tim Price Unit coordinator

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