MA Screenwriting

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Genre and Theme

Unit code ENGL70801
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

Overview

This module will explore the central importance of genre and theme within screenwriting.  You will learn that genre and theme are the foundations of every story and that they can be returned to during the writing process to help focus and stabilise the screenplay.  We will begin by considering primal themes and why they succeed with audiences. We will then consider the relationship between primal theme and genre - do some themes naturally fit with particular genres? How do you choose the best genre for your theme? We will then discuss in detail the structural and tonal 'rules' of various genres including romcoms, horror, and thrillers. We will look at how sci-fi is a shell which can be used to house many genres, and we will explore how dialogue, action, and violence are used differently in different genres. We will look at and discuss examples from the work of Martin Scorsese, Aaron Sorkin, Alien I and II, The Silence of the Lambs, Along Came Polly, Nora Ephron, Richard Curtis, Star Trek, Outlands, The Hunger Games, and Galaxy Quest and much other material as its relevance arises in discussion. Throughout the course students will be tutored in, and asked to provide, written assessments of scripts to reach an industry standard of coverage, there will also be a written document providing analysis of the ‘web’ effect of a specific film to show their understanding of how dialogue, incident and themes recur and are developed throughout a script.  The course will demand extensive reading of produced material as well as unproduced material which is currently in development within the industry.  Class interaction will also include regular oral pitching of projects to be honed to industry standard and for the students to be able to regulate these according to whom in the industry they are pitching.   The course will include showing examples of films that illuminate discussion and learning as well as inspiring the students with what cinema can achieve at its best.  The final assessment will be i) a written short film script in your chosen genre ii) two industry-standard script reports. Drafts of the scripts and sample script reports will be workshopped in class in the second half of the semester.

 

Aims

The unit aims to:         

Develop and deepen your understanding of the role and importance of genre in contemporary screenwriting practice.

 

Critically explore and examine the history and conventions of several currently significant film genres.

 

Develop and refine your understanding of the crucial relationship between theme and genre.

 

Encourage, support and enable you to work effectively within the conventions of a chosen genre.

 

Teaching and learning methods

 

Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate their understanding of the importance of genre and theme as ways of structuring and controlling a screenplay.

 

Demonstrate their understanding of the key conventions and tropes of a number of significant film genres and of the significant differences between them.

Intellectual skills

Critically analyse existing scripts/screenplays and comment effectively on their use of genre, and the relationship between genre and theme.

 

Analyse and discuss how character, dialogue and action are used differently in different genres – and understand what those differences imply.

Practical skills

Offer well-informed critique of the work of fellow students.

 

Write successfully within the inherited tradition and tropes of a chosen genre

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Communicate their ideas effectively both verbally and in writing

 

Manage their time and workload effectively in order to meet deadlines

 

Respond effectively to constructive criticism

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written assignment (inc essay) 70%

Recommended reading

Recommended Reading

 

Aristotle, The Poetics

 

William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade (Abacus, 1996)

 

Pauline Kael, Reeling: Film Writings 1972-75 (Marion Boyars, 1977)

 

Alexander McKendrick, On Film-Making (Faber and Faber, 2006)

 

Jule Selbo, Film Genre for the Screenwriter  (Routledge, 2014)

 

Blake Snyder, Save the Cat (Michael Weise, 2005)

 

William Goldman, Four Screenplays with Essays (Applause, 1997)

 

 

 

Recommended Viewing:

 

Casablanca

 

Lawrence of Arabia

 

The Godfather

 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

 

The Hunger Games

 

The Silence of the Lambs

 

Alien I and II

 

The Shining

 

Before Sunrise

 

Annie Hall

 

Red Road

 

Fish Tank

 

This Is England

 

The Social Network

 

Cool Hand Luke

 

 When Harry Met Sally

 

Juno

 

Along Came Polly

 

The  Piano

 

Master and Commander

 

Silverado

 

The Outlaw Josie Wales

 

Pan’s Labyrinth

 

The Lives of Others

 

Waltz with Bashir

 

The Departed

 

Goodfellas

 

Apocalypse Now

 

Howard’s End

 

Rain Man

 

Outlands

 

High Noon

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 267

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Emma Clarke Unit coordinator

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