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Screenwriting Program takes students on industry journeys

Posted April 17, 2018

The screenwriting program at Metropolitan State University was recently redesigned to better meet the needs of today’s students and marketplace.

“The screenwriting major at Metropolitan State University began in 1999.  We were pioneers in the field then and we remain innovative leaders today.  The new curriculum positions our students for success,” says James Byrne, screenwriting program coordinator.

James Byrne

James Byrne

Metropolitan State’s screenwriting majors, alumni, and faculty are active in the field in many different ways. Current students write, travel, learn and invest in their futures. Alumni pursue many different paths within the industry. Faculty write screenplays and direct films, winning awards and bringing professional experience into the classroom.

Notable examples of professional and creative accomplishments of current screenwriting majors and screenwriting alumni include:

• Samuel Stiegelmeier, a current screenwriting major, was one of 25 film students selected from universities throughout North and South America to participate as a member of the student Mezcal Jury at the Guadalajara Film Festival in Guadalajara, Mexico.  The Screenwriting Program at Metropolitan State selects one student each year to be the Mezcal Jury Fellow at the Guadalajara Film Festival and to participate in 12 days of films, panels, and professional activities at the Guadalajara Film Festival, all expenses paid.  This not only serves as educational and professional development for the participants, but it is an important intercultural experience. Stiegelmeier was joined by previous fellows, Autumn Kisling and Annie Moua.

• Benedicta Cobbinah will study screenwriting and film history in Rome, Italy in fall semester 2018 as part of a study abroad experience.

• Ian Withey won Best Screenplay at the 2017 Z Fest Film Festival in Minneapolis.

• Andrew Mueller, Stiegelmeier and Adam Moyer attended Steve Kaplan’s Comedy Intensive in Los Angeles in March.  The trip was sponsored by Metropolitan State University.

Metropolitan State’s screenwriting alumni are also staying busy:

• Moua is a media developer at the Science Museum of Minnesota, and a 2017 recipient of a Knight Arts Challenge Grant for her dance company’s new project, CommUNITY: An Urban Dance Workshop.

• Jessica Bergren is the producer of the new feature-length film “Cold November” playing in theaters now. Bergren was also associate producer for the feature film “Virginia Minnesota” premiering at the 2018 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival.  She is also a post associate producer at Tremendous! Entertainment.

• Cole Meyer is currently in production for his new feature film “Chaste” which he wrote, produced, and is directing.

• Stephanie Shinn (’02) owns a production company, ShinnDing Productions, LLC. Shinn produces and edits promotional and instructional videos for Garmin Ltd.

• Evan Price (’06) was script supervisor for AMC’s “Mad Men”, then moved on more recently to serve as script supervisor for CMT’s “Nashville.”

The screenwriting program at Metropolitan State utilizes faculty comprised of working professionals, in the field of screenwriting.

For example, Cristina Pippa‘s short film, “Amelia” screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival Kids Festival.  Her screenplay “Questica” was top 10 for the IFP MN Screenwriting Residency and her television pilot “The Last Job” was a finalist for the Sundance New Voices Lab.

Byrne’s feature-length screenplay, “Things to Do Before Leaving,” won Best Screenplay at the 2017 Hollywood Verge Film Awards and was a finalist in the Screenplay Competition at the 2017 Catalina Film Festival.  His feature film, “Light of Each New Day (in five chapters)” was an official selection in the 2017 Director’s Cut Film Festival in Vancouver.  He is currently developing his screenplay “Things to Do Before Leaving” for a feature-length production slated for late 2019.

This program, mixing the fundamentals of story and writing, with real-world experience, leaves graduates ready to take on a tough industry.

“Screenwriting majors graduate with a market ready feature-length screenplay that is both a significant creative achievement and a building block for the future,” Byrne says. “The Screenwriting B.A. Degree at Metropolitan State University not only prepares students to become screenwriters but also provides a foundation to grow in many different directions.”

Please see for admission information or contact James Byrne, for information about the Screenwriting Program.