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Screenwriting BA

College of Liberal Arts
Undergraduate major / Bachelor of Arts

The screenwriting major builds creative skills, offers critical perspectives, and provides practical preparation necessary to engage in screenwriting at a professional level.  The curriculum blends artistic growth with professional development.  Each student graduates with a market ready feature length screenplay representing a significant creative achievement and a professional building block.

An internship helps bridge the gap from college to career – no matter what field one may chooses to pursue. Students are prepared for graduate school in screenwriting and related fields. A bachelor of arts in screenwriting is a foundation for the future.

Student outcomes

  • Develop original cinematic voices as demonstrated by writing non-derivative, boundary breaking screenplays
  • Understand concepts of story and theme as demonstrated by effective use of these in screenplays
  • Able to write market ready screenplays, professionally presented, with identifiable themes and compelling stories as demonstrated by the written screenplays
  • Prepare students for graduate school and life long careers

Related minors

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Program eligibility requirements

Students must have completed a minimum of 30 credits before declaring a screenwriting major.

Course requirements

Requirements (120 credits)

Core: Area one (24 credits)

Five courses and one internship are required

SCRW 213 Beginning Screenwriting

4 credits

The process of writing narrative screenplays will be introduced through writing exercises, screenplay readings, film viewings and discussion. Writing exercises will explore creativity, individual voice and practical skills. Writing in screenplay format will also be covered. Students will finish with at least one complete short screenplay ready for production. This course provides a foundation for further study in screenwriting.

Full course description for Beginning Screenwriting

SCRW 314 New Screenplay Forms

4 credits

Through writing exercises and screenwriting assignments students will explore and practice writing in a variety of forms including adaptations, webisodes, scripted series, or other emerging episodic forms. Films and screenplays will be analyzed and discussed for critical and historical perspectives. Professional development opportunities will be introduced.

Full course description for New Screenplay Forms

SCRW 315 Film Production and Editing I

4 credits

The course introduces the principles and practices of electronic filmmaking as a personal and creative art form. Students will engage in exercises and projects to explore and understand editing, camera work, light, composition, and sound. A variety of cinematic forms will be examined. Student screenplays may be produced. Students will film and edit individual creative projects.

Full course description for Film Production and Editing I

SCRW 415 Advanced Screenwriting

4 credits

This course investigates the dramatic essence, creative demands, and craft of feature length screenwriting. Originality and distinctive voice will be analyzed and explored through readings and writing exercises. Students will write a rough draft feature length screenplay. Films and screenplays will be analyzed and discussed for critical and historical perspectives. Professional development opportunities will be presented.

Full course description for Advanced Screenwriting

SCRW 416 Projects in Screenwriting

4 credits

In a supportive workshop environment, students will complete a market ready screenplay and prepare a portfolio of previous work. Students will also participate in community engagement opportunities such as attending film festivals and related professional networking events. Career development strategies will be presented. This is an opportunity to enhance screenwriting skills at an advanced level, reflect, and participate.

Full course description for Projects in Screenwriting

SCRW 350I Screenwriting Individual Internship

3-4 credits

Students obtain internships in selected areas of study to gain deeper understand of knowledge, skills and the context of a given field. Faculty members serve as liaisons and evaluator between the internship sites and the university, providing information to students and potential supervisors and supervising the learning experience. Internships normally earn between one and four credits, required 40 work hours per credit, and may be served through a standard hours/work schedule or with flexible work hours scheduling, depending on the nature of the internship and site preferences.

Full course description for Screenwriting Individual Internship

Electives: Area two (12 credits)

Choose at least three of the following courses equaling at least 12 credits. No course can count in two areas.

SCRW 410 Film Production and Editing II

4 credits

Through a hands on, learn by doing experience, students will select a project, plan the production, audition actors, work as crew filming on location, and direct a short digital film. Each student will edit their own individual project. This course offers a complete package overview of writing and directing low budget, short narrative digital films. This course may be taken twice for credit.

Full course description for Film Production and Editing II

IDST 370 Cinema, Self and Other

4 credits

This course explores the ways identities are presented, fantasized, manipulated and politicized in popular films. We will look at how images of self and other are constructed according to social, cultural, ethnic, and gendered meanings within film narratives through categories of race, sex, class, and gender. Students will be introduced to the vocabulary and primary theories of film analysis and focus on both sociological and psychoanalytical film theories and conduct an analysis of a film of their choice. The aim of this course is to give students the critical tools for analyzing how film both constructs and presents identities, which affects how we define ourselves, experience enjoyment, and relate to others.

Full course description for Cinema, Self and Other

MDST 333 Cinema in the Cities:

4 credits

Whether the well-known Sundance Film Festival, well-respected Cannes Film Festival or less-appreciated LUNAFEST, film festivals are celebrations of film and public relations devices fostering broader respect and wider dissemination of films of all genres and modes of production. By attending a local film festival (often the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival) or several smaller film festivals students will gain an appreciation of the film festival experience and understand how festivals rely on film criticism to cultivate broader film appreciation, stimulate fan culture, emphasize auteur acculturation and contribute to social change. As students view films at the festival they will also develop acuity as film critics and hone their skills in creating film reviews in a variety of forms.

Full course description for Cinema in the Cities:

MDST 370 Contemporary Cinema

4 credits

This course uses currently playing films as entry points into a study of wider issues around film as an art form, cultural phenomenon and industry. Students attend various screenings of Hollywood blockbusters, low-budget art films and experimental works, and then analyze them and their significance relative to topics in film theory and aesthetics.

Full course description for Contemporary Cinema

MDST 371 American Film: Tradition and Trends

4 credits

This course surveys the development and growth of American popular film from the silent movies at the turn of the century through Hollywood's studio system to the modern age of the multiplex theater, home video and cable television productions. Using a variety of feature films, historical sources and critical essays, students explore how film recreates, reflects and influences American culture. Also, students gain a basic knowledge of the technology and language of film, and critical approaches to film study.

Full course description for American Film: Tradition and Trends

MDST 375 Women in Film

4 credits

This course introduces students to early conventions of representing women's lives on film, tracing how those representations changed and expanded the 1930s to the present. Focusing on the genre of "the woman's film," students will learn specific film analytic approaches and recognize how technical components of film-making affect narrative, character, subtext, and theme to influence how an audience responds to stories about women. The trajectory of the course ends in examining changes in the woman's film when representations of women become more diverse, and as more women participate in screenwriting and film-making. Assignments in the course will develop the student's ability to write critically about film, tying mechanical techniques to narrative analysis, using contemporary film theory to advance the student's own thesis on depictions of women in particular films.

Full course description for Women in Film

MDST 378 World Cinema

4 credits

An opportunity for students to explore the world, world cultures and film traditions, and world issues through films from around the globe. The goal is to enrich students' film and cultural understanding of selected parts of the contemporary world.

Full course description for World Cinema

MDST 561 Advanced Television Writing

4 credits

This independent study course further develops the techniques of writing for television with an emphasis on creating professional quality scripts that are ready to submit for artist fellowships, industry opportunities, agents and/or graduate school. All students must write at least two industry standard scripts for a current scripted television program (genre will be selected by the instructor). Familiarity with script software is required. Students will work independently with the instructor but will be able to utilize an active and engaging D2L site including opportunities for real time critiques and industry opportunities.

Full course description for Advanced Television Writing

TCID 383 Writing For Video Games

4 credits

In this course, students will learn how to write narrative, stories, and dialogue for video games. Video game writing is a unique kind of writing in the sense that dialogue and other visual-written feedback changes depending on the input of the player. By learning a writing for games style grounded in character creation, episodic structure, and dialogue, students in this course will learn the skills to become excellent game writers. Careers writing for video games, sometimes called game designers, are gaining in popularity and importance. In this unit, students will gain the background necessary to successfully write for video games and the video game industry. This course is part of the Game Studies Minor core.

Full course description for Writing For Video Games

THEA 321 Directed Readings in Theater

4 credits

This course uses full length play scripts, videos of plays and film adaptations to tour the rich traditions of the theater. Students are required to demonstrate reading knowledge of all plays on their individual reading/viewing list, through on line discussions, and the focused analysis of six short questions for each play read or seen. This class can be done at home or on site at the teaching center, and may be taken for a maximum of eight credits.

Full course description for Directed Readings in Theater

THEA 345 Acting III

4 credits

Actor training can be life enhancing. In this class, advanced students are guided to discover, explore and develop their emotional, physical and psychological resources using varied acting exercises and techniques. Prerequisite: Acting II (MCTC) or equivalent (Screenwriting students exempt from prerequisites).

Full course description for Acting III

THEA 400 Playwriting I

4 credits

Writing for the spoken word and for acting demands different skills than writing for the page. Develop your ear, your signature of voice, your sense of subtext. Through a variety of approaches, from improvisation to creative autobiography, students explore character, conflict and drama as metaphor. Writers with material they would like to explore or adapt for the stage are welcome. Expect to complete at least one short play.

Full course description for Playwriting I

WRIT 358 1000 Words or Less

4 credits

Writing Short Creative Works is a multi-genre workshop designed for creative writers who wish to work exclusively on very short pieces. Students will deepen their knowledge of the general craft of writing, expand their personal writing horizons by writing outside familiar genres, and work intensively on drafting and revising short works. The range of writings possible in this class include poems, prose poems, personal essays, sudden fiction, humor writing, short-short memoirs and creative non-fiction, and other genre-defying work. This course may be repeated for credit.

Full course description for 1000 Words or Less

WRIT 359 Boot Camp: Creative Writing

4 credits

This class is a hands-on workshop that explores, explains and discusses all the essential aspects of craft employed in the writing of poetry, short fiction, short memoir and other, less easily-definable works of short creative writing. Character development, point of view, tense, dialogue, chronology, voice, narrative arc, pacing, tension within both scenes and an overall narrative, creative use of language, and all basic literary terms will be covered, with the goal of helping students tell a compelling story no matter the genre.

Full course description for Boot Camp: Creative Writing