Master in Scriptwriting
The MA in Scriptwriting is a professional training course for working writers. Most scriptwriters work across several media, and the course reflects this. All our tutors are working writers. We aim to turn out writers who understand the structure and craft of drama, have a finished script they can use as a calling card, know the industry in all its variety, and can pitch and sell their work.
The MA is taught in seventeen weekends of intensive workshops. It is not, however, 'low residency'. There are as many hours of teaching as on Bath Spa University's established MA in Creative Writing.
The course is taught at our beautiful Corsham Court campus where we are developing performance, capture and editing facilities. We also work closely with the School of Music and Performing Arts, and their students will have the opportunity to help act in and produce our work.
Although this is an intellectually challenging postgraduate course, there is no 'academic' side detached from the working side. Everything theoretical is geared to help the students as writers.
Course Structure and Content
The course is full-time from October to September, or part-time over two years, and is taught in modules. The first trimester runs from October to January and there are two modules, each delivered in three intensive weekends.
One is the module on Dramatic Structure. This aims to give you an understanding of the full range of ways that plays and scripts can work. You are introduced to dialogue, character, genre, and the different media. But the emphasis is on how to tell a story - a well made plot. Students will read and view widely, but the academic side is not separate from the working side. This module is to help you write.
The other module in the first trimester is a workshop in Writing Theatre and Radio. This is delivered in three intensive weekends. All of the time is devoted to the students' own work, and much of the time we work on our feet. At the end of the trimester each student finishes a 45 to 60 minute play or radio script, and a 3,000 word essay that explains the structure of that script.
The second trimester, from February to June, also has two modules. One is Professional Skills, again over three intensive weekends. All our experience is that the ability to write alone is not enough to make your way in the various industries of theatre, television, film and radio. You also need to be able to pitch, and to talk intelligently and flexibly about your own work and others'. One of our tutors facilitates this module, and various industry professionals come in for a day each to inform, rehearse and challenge you.
The other module this trimester is Workshop in Screenwriting, also over three weekends. Here you write a script for film or television. We pay particular attention to genre, to the visual and time requirements of the screen, and to writing for particular markets. At the end of this trimester each student finishes 50 to 60 minutes of TV, or a short film script, or a treatment for a full-length film plus at least 45 minutes of polished script.
The third trimester runs from June to the end of September. Here there is only one double module, the Final Script Workshop. The workshops meet over five intensive Saturdays.
In this module each student writes a full length play, a full length film script, or the equivalent in television or radio. This script can be a development and reworking of earlier pieces, but will often be completely new work. At the end of September students submit this script.
The final assessment is based on three things. The most important is this script. The second is a 3,000 word essay explaining exactly where in the market it is aimed and how it is shaped to fit that niche. The third is a cold pitch for this script. When we speak of the market, we are thinking quite broadly. Some students will want to write for Hollywood, British independent films, soap operas, or theatre. Others will want to write radio plays, documentaries, puppet shows, theatre in education, training videos or school plays. The emphasis is, however, always on getting your work to a produceable form.
Teaching Methods and Resources
All courses will be taught by intensive workshops. Over the years we have found this is far and away the most productive way of teaching writing. It is particularly suited to scriptwriting, which is very much a social and collective art.
Assessment is by coursework only. In the first two trimesters work will be assessed as work in progress. The final submission will be examined on the script (60%), and the essay on the market and the pitch (40%).
Most students accepted onto the course will have either a first degree or a thorough professional training in acting, theatre, television, or film. Some students, however, will be accepted on the basis of equivalent life experience. Applicants are asked to submit one or two pieces of creative writing with their application form, about twenty pages in all. This can be part of a novel, short stories, poems, or script. Do not assume it has to be drama. Submit your best work rather than your best script.
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