Year of entry: 2021
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Course unit details:
Genre and Theme
|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|
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.
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.
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.
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
|Written assignment (inc essay)||70%|
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)
Lawrence of Arabia
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Hunger Games
The Silence of the Lambs
Alien I and II
This Is England
The Social Network
Cool Hand Luke
When Harry Met Sally
Along Came Polly
Master and Commander
The Outlaw Josie Wales
The Lives of Others
Waltz with Bashir
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Emma Clarke||Unit coordinator|