MA 550 Story

Pre/co-requisite: MA 500 or MA 501 or MA 800

Offered every Fall, 3 credits

An introduction to the principles of storytelling. Students explore narrative, dramatic structure, character development, dialogue and plot through the analysis of television and film narratives.

They complete a story treatment and short screen/teleplay as their final project.


MA 551 Screenplay

Pre/co-requisite: MA 550

Offered every Spring, 3 credits

An intermediate course for students to complete a full-length screen/teleplay. Weekly writing groups provide feedback and evaluation. Workshops for directing actors/readers; guest speakers.


MA 552 Playwriting Workshop

Pre/co-requisite: MA 550

Offered on occasion, 3 credits

This course begins with an introduction to the history and basics of dramatic writing, starting with Aristotle’s Poetics and assessing sections of two different texts and approaches to writing for the theater: The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lejos Egri and David Ball’s Backwards and Forwards. The second phase of the course focuses on scene + character development, through a series of written exercises and assignments, as each student begins drafting a one-act play. The final section of the course is devoted to work shopping each student play-in-progress.

MA 605 Script Portfolio

Pre/co-requisite: MA 550

Offered on occasion, 3 credits

In a workshop environment, students develop a portfolio of scripts suitable for a particular area of contemporary digital media.  Areas change each semester and may include: the ‘webisode’, digital radio projects, DVD or cross-platform projects, digital shorts, animation and other internet-based media.  Subject matter may range from social documentation to ethnography, to exhibition, to creative non-fiction.  This course may be taken more than once for credit.

MA 650 Writing Genre

Prerequisite: MA 550 or MA 551

Offered on occasion

An advanced course in writing scripts for a variety of genres: Hollywood formula, independent film, situation comedy, mystery/thriller/suspense, soap opera, television drama, animation, commercials. Students complete at least one script in a chosen genre. Genres include: The Women’s Film/ Melodrama; The Horror Film, The Serial Television Series, the Sit-Com; Crime/Thriller/ Suspense.


MA 651 From Page to Screen

Pre/co-requisite: MA 550 or MA 551

Offered annually, 3 credits

Students explore the work required to translate prose fiction to the screen, examining the differences and the similarities in the processes of writing an original screenplay and adapting a piece of fiction, discovering why some great books have never made great movies and why some mediocre books have made fantastic movies.  We look at what must be preserved for the screen, what must be left behind and what the screenwriter must create in order to build the bridge to screen. The students adapt a short story into a screenplay for a short film.

MA 652 Memory and Imagination

Pre/co-requisite: MA 550 or MA 551

Offered on occasion, 3 credits

The class examines a number of films including Diner, Mean Streets, Platoon and Annie Hall to study the writer’s use of personal experience to create story, dialogue, and character. Attention is given to the transformational process used to lift the story from private memory to public work. Emphasis is on the development of theme to extract meaning from experience.  Each student is expected to write a screenplay for a short film (30 minutes) utilizing the exercises explored in the class.  Both exercises and scenes from the scripts-in-progress will be read and discussed in class.

MA 653 Writing Documentaries

Pre/co-requisite: MA 500 or MA501

Offered on occasion, 3 credits

Contemporary documentaries and reality programming are gaining unprecedented popularity in this age of “global media.” This course is a practical guide to writing the documentary. It spans preproduction to the final stages of postproduction – from idea to execution. Topics include: research & planning, visualization, organization + structure, proposal writing, treatment, and script formats. Different documentary styles and genres will be explored via screenings, round-table discussion and writing exercises. Students complete a full-length documentary proposal/script as their final project.  

MA 654 TV Writers Roundtable

Prerequisite: MA 550 and MA 551

Offered on occasion, 3 credits

This course immerses students in the collaborative process of writing for TV.  Students create, write, refine and rewrite a half hour script for a prospective TV series.  Students are required to write scenes involving characters from TV series and from the scripts developed by the class.  A staged reading of the completed script will be performed at the end of the semester. Grades are based on each student’s participation in the collaborative process and the original writing in the assigned scene studies.