The programme is non-modular. It is composed of three units to be taken sequentially. The course is full-time only and lasts one year. Some of the component classes are term specific and others run continuously across the whole programme.
Unit 1: The Screenwriters Craft
This unit provides an introductory and theoretical framework for the practical work with an emphasis on the writer's personal development. It includes an overview of dramatic principles as applied to a distinctively cinematic approach to storytelling. It also encourages a critical evaluation of those principles in relation to the creative process and the development of original work for the screen.
Workshops on storytelling and film language, characterisation, scenewriting and step outlines, the development of original ideas for the screen and adapting material from another medium are based around practical writing exercises. Visiting professional screenwriters discuss their methods of working with practical examples of past and present work.
Classes on film style and history, including a programme of evening screenings in the film theatre, provide a context for the written work. In addition students have the option to work on film exercises produced by students on the Filmmaking MA - while their short and feature screenplays are a valuable resource for the filmmakers. Collaboration between writers and filmmakers is continually encouraged through joint sessions, social events and the posting of projects on the screenwriters' blog site.
Students' reflections on the relationship between theory and practice, screenwriting and filmmaking as well as establishing a partnership with a professional writing mentor, profoundly influence the outcome of their work and the preparation for their major project. This includes the writing of a Work and Research Journal which tracks their personal and project development through the inclusion of visual references and selfreflective notes on course and project work.
The main practical focus of this unit is the writing of a Short Film Screenplay and the production of a Feature Film Portfolio through small group and one-to-one feedback sessions with actors, directors and development professionals.
Unit 2: The Screenwriter's Practice
Students will normally have passed Unit One before starting Unit Two
The main focus of this unit is the development of a First Draft Feature Screenplay through small group feedback and one-to-one Mentoring. This unit continues to place screenwriting within the context of craft skills, film style and the filmmaking process. It also introduces the economic and industrial context for film production, distribution and exhibition and the role of the writer and the screenplay within that context.
Class work and exercises including the Writers Gym and a National Gallery day - focus on visualisation and cinema specific aspects of screenwriting - while workshops with actors, directors and editors demonstrate how a knowledge of the filmmaking process is essential to the developing screenwriter. Alternative models of screenwriting are explored through case studies of screenplays, screenwriters and filmmakers.
The Work and Research Journal continues to provide a transparent account of the writers' creative development and engagement with the course while the Feature Film Screenplay remains the practical, assessable outcome of that process.
Unit 3: Writing the Feature Film
Students will normally have passed Unit Two before starting Unit Three.
This unit continues the series of lectures on the history of cinema with evening screenings built around debate and contact with contemporary filmmakers. Visiting writers, producers and agents with specialist workshops on television writing and adaptation provides the industrial context.
The principle focus of this unit is on the key practical work of the Masters programme - the writing and development of a Feature Film project through two further drafts - supported by a professional writing Mentor. The final screenplay along with an outline of project development and the Work and Research Journal complete the assessable work for the MA programme.
Selected scenes from the graduate screenplays are presented at a Showcase event for industry professionals later in the year.