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New York Film Academy
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New York Film Academy Bachelor of Fine Arts

BACHELOR OF FINE ARTS (BFA) IN SCREENWRITING

A red pen sits upon a screenplay and laptop NYFA screenwriting school student supervises script on set Screenwriting school student makes notes to script by hand NYFA screenwriting school student reviews script on set

Overview of our BFA in Screenwriting

Our three-year Bachelor's is for highly motivated students who would like to enter an intensive hands-on professional course of study. By completing the Bachelor's degree in three-years students:
  • Save one year of expenses
  • Enter the field of their choice a year early
The Academy makes this accelerated schedule possible by creating an extended academic year allowing students to complete three full-length semesters in each calendar year. Students may also choose to complete the program in a traditional four-year time frame.

New York Film Academy BFA in Screenwriting program is offered at our Los Angeles Campus.

Qualified students have the option of completing course work at the New York Film Academy in New York City in a one-year non-degree program and then applying their course work to be accepted for advanced standing in the BFA Screenwriting degree program.

Though film is an audio-visual medium, it all starts with the written word. Without the screenwriter, nothing goes up on the screen.

At its best, film is a means for people to reach out to each other, to form a connection, to explore some complicated aspect of human interaction. The screenwriter is the one who begins this journey. Great screenwriters have a natural curiosity about themselves and the world, a love of storytelling, and a mastery of storytelling techniques to do all this in a compelling and entertaining way.

A screenwriter has a lot of power-and a lot of responsibility. Seeing a cast and crew of dozens work tirelessly to bring one's words to life is one of the most exhilarating things a person can experience. All of those people are there to serve the script, so the writer must make every page of that script count.

To that end, the BFA in Screenwriting students learn how to create great stories, and to tell them with a confidence and clarity that befits a professional.

The core screenwriting courses of the BFA in Screenwriting are supported by a full complement of courses in the liberal arts and sciences designed to broaden the writers' education, feed their inquisitiveness, and give them the critical, analytical, and communication tools needed not just to be great writers, but also more fulfilled human beings.

The eight-semester BFA in Screenwriting offers a well-rounded collegiate education in the Arts and Humanities, and Social and Natural Sciences, with a comprehensive study of, and practice in, the art and craft of screenwriting and related filmmaking disciplines.

Overall, the first six semesters concentrate on developing the tools required to create believable characters and stories in the three major fields of Screenwriting (Film, Television, New Media). The final two semesters concentrate on using these tools to create compelling, professional-caliber scripts and films.

In the liberal arts and sciences, students complete the majority of the required Foundation Studies in the first two semesters. Courses taught in the area of Foundation Studies focus on communications, analysis and deductive reasoning. Students practice critical thinking, scholarly research, writing and reading. These courses build a foundation for more specialized subjects requiring advanced written and oral communication skills in later semesters. The skills mastered will prepare students for the advanced coursework of constructing an authentic voice in their writing projects. Coursework in Physical and Mental Wellness provides focus on the theory and practice of lifelong wellness in a stressful workplace.

Subsequent courses in the liberal arts and sciences bolster students' understanding of world history, political science, art history, social and natural sciences, mathematics, English composition, and literature.

SEMESTER ONE OBJECTIVES

During the first semester, students will develop a foundational understanding of cinematic storytelling and the tools required to create a story in Elements of Screenwriting. The students are introduced to film theory and begin writing in their first week of class. They will write an entire first draft of an original feature film screenplay (90-120 pages) by semester's end. Students will also support their screenwriting with Foundation Studies courses in English Composition and Computing.

SEMESTER TWO OBJECTIVES

In the second semester, students will build upon what they learned in semester one. Courses continue to develop screenwriting skills through continued writing, this time taking a more in-depth approach to generating a new idea for a second feature film project. Students will also be introduced to television as a medium and as an industry. They will write a sample episode of a current one-hour television drama. The liberal arts and sciences curriculum continues to round out the students' knowledge base and analytical skills through Critical Thinking, Public Speaking, and a Math course.

SEMESTER THREE OBJECTIVES

In semester three, students will refine their feature film writing skills by drafting a second original screenplay based on the treatment written in Story Generation class, and then revising one of the two screenplays they've written up to this point. This revision will allow the students to work more deeply and critically on their scripts than they have so far. In addition, Script to Screen class will allow students to gain an understanding of how the written word translates to action on screen as they learn traditional and contemporary acting and filmmaking techniques. Students will practice these techniques as they write original material, which they will film. Students will deepen their understanding of cinematic storytelling conventions in Genre and Storytelling, and will round out their Foundation Studies with courses in Physical and Mental Wellness and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

SEMESTER FOUR OBJECTIVES

In semester four, students will expand their television writing skills by writing a half-hour comedy teleplay of an existing television series. In Sequential Art Writing, they will learn and practice the unique storytelling forms of graphic novels, comic books, and Manga, as well as learn about the state of the sequential art industry today. In The Great Screenplays, students will deepen their knowledge and critical understanding of Academy Award-winning screenplays from the 20th century, analyzing the techniques used by the great screenwriters. Students will broaden their studies into the natural sciences and arts and humanities, allowing their writing to take on a more mature aspect.

SEMESTER FIVE OBJECTIVES

Semester five will afford students the opportunity to learn about the current New Media landscape, in which content is delivered through ever-evolving channels such as web series, mobisodes, and branded entertainment. Students will continue their practice of television writing, this time by creating original television series and writing the pilot episodes of these series. Adaptation class will introduce students to the unique opportunities—and challenges—of writing stories based on pre-existing material. Studies in the social and behavioral sciences will give more depth to students' scripts, and The History of the Entertainment Industry Seminar will give students an understanding of the historical context out of which filmic storytelling emerged.

SEMESTER SIX OBJECTIVES

During semester six, students will use the outlines they created in Adaptation I to write and revise screenplays in Adaptation II. They will also produce pilot episodes of their original web series in New Media II. In The Great Playwrights, students will study the works of master dramatists in order to gain an understanding of how a unifying theme in a stage play dictates the story, and how that technique can be used to great effect in generating a compelling screen story. A natural science course further rounds out the students' education, while History of the Entertainment Industry Seminar II completes the survey of filmed entertainment history up through contemporary times.

SEMESTER SEVEN OBJECTIVES

In semester seven students will begin their thesis projects—to develop, write, revise, and polish an original feature film screenplay or original television series and pilot episode script. During the thesis process, students will meet regularly with a thesis advisor, as well as their thesis committee, comprised of Screenwriting faculty and the Screenwriting Chair. Each thesis committee meeting will be an opportunity for faculty to determine if a student is progressing with his or her project according to a written plan submitted by the student at the beginning of the process. Students may not move forward with their projects unless and until they show positive forward movement toward the finished product. Weekly deadlines will guide the students through the process of creating their final project. Character Development class will help students create believable, compelling characters for their thesis projects using techniques drawn from psychoanalytic and behavioral therapy. Using study of trade publications and via a guest speaker series, The Business of Screenwriting introduces students to the practices, conventions, and players in today's entertainment industry, and the role of the screenwriter in it. Students will develop valuable skills such as script coverage, pitching, and researching industry trends in order to prepare them for professional life after graduation. Arts and humanities classes and art and design history classes will further enrich students' writing and analytic skills.

SEMESTER EIGHT OBJECTIVES

The eighth and final semester sees the students complete their revised and polished thesis projects. In Advanced Writing Seminar: Scene Writing, students work more deeply than ever before to perfect individual scenes from their scripts. Whereas the focus up until now is mostly on overall story structure and character arc, Advanced Scene Writing affords students the chance to gain skills and confidence in making the actual beats of their scenes resonate more than ever. Actors are brought in to this class for in-class exercises during which the writers get to see their scenes played out in real time as they make adjustments. In addition, the students take part in internships at production companies, studios, television networks, or talent agencies, gaining invaluable industry knowledge and contacts. In Screenwriting Discipline and Methodology, students learn and apply techniques of goal setting, project management, workflow, and creating and adhering to productive and creative work habits. Finally, Business of Screenwriting II focuses more and more on the art of the verbal pitch, a crucial selling tool for any screenwriter. Students will also participate in industry internships at production companies, agencies, management companies, or studios. In place of internships, students may opt to complete a scholarly paper on some aspect of the entertainment industry, past or present, using primary source research. The program culminates in a pitch event in which invited industry executives come hear the students present their thesis projects in a round-robin night of pitching, an opportunity for the students to further develop their professional skills and networks.



Course Description

  • Elements of Screenwriting Through lectures, in-class exercises, outside readings, classroom discussions, and film viewings, this course introduces students to the craft of screenwriting. Screenplay formatting will be a focus, and students will learn how to write scene description, to describe characters and locations, and to develop action sequences. Topics will also include: Classic Screenplay Structure, the Elements of the Scene, Developing the Character, Character Arcs, Antagonists, Dialogue, Writing the Visual Image, Introduction to Final Draft Screenwriting Software, Theme, Conflict, Flashbacks, Fantasy Sequences, Dream Sequences, Voiceover, Text and Subtext, Developing a Writing Style, Tone and Genre, Visualization, Revealing Exposition, Creating a Compelling Second Act, Climaxes and Resolutions, and Scene Beats.
  • Writing the Feature Film Screenplay I Writing the Feature Film Screenplay I is a fast-paced, intensive workshop that introduces students to the fundamentals of screenwriting. The classes consist of in-class writing exercises, individual writing, reading aloud of student work in class, and workshop discussions. Students will apply knowledge gained from Elements of Screenwriting and apply it to the creation of their own feature-length scripts. By the end of the course, students will develop and write a first draft of a feature-length screenplay.
  • Story Generation Story Generation is designed to help writers become what the film industry needs most: prolific sources of movie ideas. Through in-class exercises and out-of-class projects, students will develop skills for generating viable stories for feature films of various genres. They will workshop ideas in class in order to come up with the best possible version of their stories. The idea is to become versatile, adaptable, and creative, providing the best “product” to the industry when called upon to generate new ideas to fill various needs. In the second half of the course, students will commit to one of their story ideas and develop it into a treatment.
  • Writing for Television I: The One-Hour Drama This television workshop introduces students to the fundamentals of the TV world and TV writing. The class work consists of individual writing, reading aloud of student work in class, and workshop discussions. By the end of the course, each student will have written a Studio/Network draft (which is a second draft, in the TV world) of a one-hour television spec script for an existing show. Students will be encouraged to write through difficult spots with the belief that getting to “The End” is more important than polishing along the way. Workshop sessions will simulate a TV writers' room, and will be an environment in which students evaluate their own and their classmates' work. A constructive, creative and supportive atmosphere will prevail, where students will guide and encourage each other in their writing.
  • Writing the Feature Film Screenplay II Writing the Feature Screenplay II builds upon knowledge gained in Writing the Feature Screenplay I and Story Generation, in which students wrote a feature-length film script and a treatment for a second feature-length film script, respectively. This course is divided into two components: in the first, students will take the treatment written in Story Generation and write a draft of that script. In the second half of the course, students will choose one of their two feature scripts and revise it more thoroughly than they have with any project in the program so far. Each week, students will bring in a sequence of their scripts to be workshopped.
  • Script to Screen Script to Screen is designed to help writing students see what happens to their words when actors interpret them in front of the camera. The class is divided into two components: Acting for Writers and The Digital Filmmaking Seminar. Acting for Writers introduces students to the theory and practice of the acting craft, using Stanislavski Method, improvisation, and scene and monologue work as starting points. By exploring how actors build characters and performances based upon the information provided in a film script, writers will learn how to write more powerful dialogue, develop more memorable characters, and create more effective dramatic actions. Through in-class acting exercises and writing, as well as filmed exercises, students will learn what truly makes for great dialogue and action writing.

    The Digital Filmmaking Seminar trains students in the fundamentals of film directing, which in turn facilitates an understanding of the filmmaking process as it relates to screenwriting. It is our belief that a student who actually picks up a camera, blocks a scene and directs actors from a script is far better prepared to then write a screenplay. If a writer has actually translated a shot on the page into a shot in the camera, then the writer has a much sharper perspective on the writing process. Hands-on classes in directing, editing, cinematography, and production cover the creative and technical demands of telling a story with moving images. Then, working in small crews, students will make short films or shoot scenes from one of their screenplays using digital video cameras. Afterward, students will edit their footage on Final Cut Pro.
  • Writing for Television II: The Half-Hour Spec Students will become familiar with the half-hour television landscape past and present, styles of half-hour television writing, and the current crop of viable series from which to draw the spec they will write. Each student will then draft a professional-caliber spec for a half-hour show. Students will learn from individual writing, group workshops, short lectures, television screenings, and story analysis to create two pieces of writing. The workshop portion of the class will be constructed to simulate a TV writers' room, with students reading, evaluating, and assisting each other from “breaking story,” building outlines, all the way to a completed draft. The primary goal of the class will be for students to leave with a full, revised and polished draft of a television half-hour spec script.
  • Sequential Art Writing This workshop provides a complete introduction to the medium and to the craft of writing stories for comic books in all their many forms. Students learn the various styles of formatting (loose or detailed scripts) and story structure (stand-alone stories, chapters in serialized stories, or full-length graphic novels), as well as how to tell a story visually and with the proper pacing. As students move to script, the workshop environment allows class members to help each other develop their ideas from pitch to outline to breakdown to completed project. The course goal is to produce a 22-page script, which can either be a stand-alone story or the first chapter of a larger tale. Also discussed is the industry and how to break in.
  • The Great Screenplays The Great Screenplays is a critical studies course focused on exploring Academy Award-winning American and foreign movies from the past ten decades. Through in-class screenings, readings of screenplays, lectures, and discussions, students will gain a deeper understanding of how the art of screenwriting has evolved since the 1920s.
  • New Media I New Media I introduces students to today's New Media landscape, in which web series, mobisodes, branded entertainment, and other distribution outlets provide opportunities heretofore unavailable to filmmakers. Students will learn how technologies, programming formats, and mediums influence New Media styles and genres. Also discussed is the business of New Media and its players. Sessions will include lectures, seminars, guest speakers, content analysis, and in-class and homework exercises.
  • Adaptation I In today's Hollywood, adaptation is everywhere-it's extremely common to see a “based on” credit ahead of the screenwriter's name. Historically, novels, short stories, plays, and magazine articles have served as underlying source material, but in the last decade, comic books, graphic novels, TV shows, board games, theme park rides, even old films, have increasingly become fair game. The end result is this: a tremendous number of potential jobs for new screenwriters involve adaptation. In this course, students will identify the challenges that surround translating a non-cinematic art form into a cinematic story by studying existing adaptations.
  • Writing for Television III: The Pilot Students will create an original episodic television series, including completing the script for the pilot episode. Topics will include: introducing your central character and core cast, creating a series "template," creative solutions to providing back story, and building the show's world and tone.

    Students will learn from individual writing, group workshops, short lectures, television screenings, and story analysis to create two pieces of writing. The workshop portion of the class will be constructed to simulate a TV writers' room, with students reading, evaluating, and assisting each other from “breaking story,” building outlines, all the way to a completed draft.

    The primary goal of the class will be for students to leave with a full draft of a television pilot script for an original show, either one-hour or half-hour.
  • Adaptation II Having studied adaptations of original source material into films in Adaptation I, students will now select a work to adapt or update and generate a 10-15 page treatment based on the material. They will maintain the essence of the original story while making sure to imbue the new screenplay with its own dramatic impact. From this treatment, students will write a complete draft of the screenplay.
  • New Media II New Media II picks up where New Media I left off. After having learned about the New Media landscape and the content that comprises it, students will develop their own web series and write the pilot episode of their series. Each student will then produce and edit the pilot episode. The pilot scripts that will be shot will not exceed five pages – and will be accompanied by a “bible” that will outline future episodes for a completed series and introduce the audience to the world that the show will create on the web. The class is broken down into both writing and directing workshops as the students progress from the scripting phase all the way through production and post-production. In the first portion of the course, students will develop their own original web series and will workshop pilot scripts and series bibles. Hands-on directing, camera, and production workshops will prepare students for the final portion of the course in which they will produce their pilot episodes.

    Students will produce and shoot their pilot episodes. Following production, students will attend editing classes, and will then edit their episodes, which they will present to the class in an in-class screening in the final week of the course.
  • The Great Playwrights Unable to rely on spectacle to entertain, well-written stage plays make the most of the fundamental elements of dramatic writing: character, conflict, relationships, and theme. Stage dramas, when done well, are tight, focused, lean, exploring a central question deeply rather than broadly. This sort of storytelling is often the most compelling, and screenwriters should strive to achieve this kind of dramatic action, even if within the context of a story that calls for big, sweeping action. This class will make use of filmed plays, in-class table reads, at-home reading assignments, and in-class and homework analysis and writing exercises. Playwrights examined will include but not be limited to: Chekov, Ibsen, Shaw, Miller, Pinter, Bond, Churchill, Simon, Mamet, Shepard, Rabe, Sorkin.
  • Advanced Writing Seminar I: Character Development & Topics By combining the disciplines of clinical psychology and screenwriting, Advanced Character Development will teach students to create characters that guide the development of their story. Just as the psychotherapist immerses him- or herself in the client's subjective point-of-view to lead the client to more meaningful paths of behavior, students will be encouraged, via small-group workshops and exercises, one-on-one interviewing, and analysis of movies and literature, to mine their unique points-of-view to find engaging characters that will grow and change, and inform narrative over the course of writing the screenplay. The class will take place during the inception of students' Thesis projects.
  • The Business of Screenwriting I The core of this class is mastering the “Art of the Pitch” in preparation for a major industry pitch event with agents, managers and producers. In addition, a heavy emphasis on guest speakers will illuminate every corner of the industry.
  • Advanced Thesis Workshop I: Film Option Advanced Thesis Writing Workshop I is designed to build on existing student knowledge about feature film writing and take it to the next level. As a whole, the course will mirror the majority of the writing deals being given in Hollywood today. Each student starts by working up a detailed treatment for his or her idea. From there, students take it to a first draft.

    Students will submit both their treatment and first draft to their Thesis Committee, which consists of the Chair of the Screenwriting department, the student's Thesis advisor, Thesis instructor and a core screenwriting instructor. The Thesis Committee meetings will provide the student an opportunity to present their vision of their feature screenplay and voice any issues they have executing this vision, thereby allowing the Committee to provide detailed notes and guidance specific to the student's strengths and weaknesses, and how they can master their craft in a professional level.
  • Advanced Thesis Workshop I: TV Option This advanced TV writing workshop builds upon the fundamentals of TV writing learned in the previous semesters. The classwork consists of individual writing, reading aloud of student work in class, screenings, and workshop discussions. By the end of this course, each student will have written an outline for their pilot episode, a draft of their series bible and a first draft of their pilot.

    Students will submit both their series bible and first draft to their Thesis Committee, which consists of the Chair of the Screenwriting department, the student's Thesis advisor, Thesis instructor and a core screenwriting instructor. The Thesis Committee meetings will provide the student an opportunity to present their vision of their feature screenplay and voice any issues they have executing this vision, thereby allowing the Committee to provide detailed notes and guidance specific to the student's strengths and weaknesses, and how they can master their craft in a professional level.
  • The Business of Screenwriting II While students have been introduced to the five-minute pitch, they have not yet perfected it. This shall be the primary focus of The Business of Screenwriting II, building to the Pitch Fest at the end of the program. In addition to honing their pitches, students will play a large role in identifying and inviting guests. Guest speakers will continue to be featured, with the focus moving away from “general knowledge” topics, to more specific topics in the field of screenwriting and omnimedia writing. As part of this course, students will take part in an industry internship or may instead choose to write an industry-related research paper.

    Students may intern at a film or television production company, film or television studio, management company, or talent agency. Students are encouraged to choose their internship wisely based on their interests and strengths honed during the program. The Business of Screenwriting instructor is responsible for approving internships. Any internship considered as enhancing and/or enriching the student¹s understanding of the film or television industry may be an option. Students will be expected to write reports on their internship experiences, and internship supervisors will assess the students' performance at the work site. Students should keep in mind as they choose their internship sites that this position is likely to be their entree into the entertainment industry, so it is imperative that they be responsible and recommended that they foster as many positive relationships as possible.

    Instead of an internship, students may write a Research Project. Students may opt to write a research paper that will investigate a specific topic related to the entertainment industry. All research papers must be approved by the Business of Screenwriting instructor, and must address a topic that directly relates to the field, such as the Studio System, histories of specific entertainment companies or movements, depictions of writers and filmmakers in popular culture, etc. Papers must be at least 15 pages in length and must reference a comprehensive list of research sources.
  • Advanced Writing Seminar II: Scene Writing and Topics This is the class in which students get to leave behind the big picture for a while and pull out the microscope to study their scenes in great detail. Using short excerpts (3-5 pages) from screenplays they have already written – preferably from their thesis scripts – students will focus on emotional progression, dialogue, action, character logic and motivation, scene beats, tone and tonal shifts, writing style, subtext, events, and transitions, in order to revise their material.

    During the first half of the course, a different type of scene will be covered each week, and sessions will consist of a combination of reading scenes aloud, critique, in-class assignments, lecture, and watching film clips. Actors will be brought in for the second half of the course to do cold readings of scenes and to provide their unique perspective on character development, motivation, and beats.
  • Screenwriting Discipline & Methodology Goal-setting, project planning, time management and project management skills are essential for the creative artist. It is crucial for screenwriters, and all create artists, to have the discipline to meet deadlines (especially self-imposed deadlines) and the tools and skills to complete the tasks they set. This course will explore different methodologies and the best resources for students to uncover the tools they need to meet and exceed their goals. Students will also meet with successful industry professionals during special guest lectures to uncover their tools and techniques.
  • Advanced Thesis Workshop II: Film Option This course continues where Thesis Workshop I left off. It will focus entirely on the rewriting process. This course will teach students to dig more deeply into their stories than most of them ever have. Through workshop and discussions, students will gain the insight they need to execute a rewrite and polish of the scripts they wrote last semester. Upon completion of this course, students will learn how to spot the things in their scripts that aren't working, develop a game plan for fixing them, and execute that game plan. We will focus on identifying and fixing structural problems as well as problems on the scene level. This semester is designed to build the skills of self-criticism, arguably the writer's most important tool.
  • Advanced Thesis Workshop II: TV Option The classwork consists of individual writing, reading aloud of student work in class, screenings, and workshop discussions. By the end of the first quarter, each student will have written a second draft of their pilot episode, a polished outline for Season One of their proposed series, a polished description of the show itself, and two polished, general outlines for subsequent episodes. By the end of the second quarter, each student will have a final, polished draft of their pilot script, and be ready to pitch it at the Pitch Fest. Television industry guests are also brought in to class, schedules permitting, to help students prepare for the professional world.

Dates & Tuition

Fees Per Semester

Tuition: $10,875 (USD)



Location & Available Dates

For Los Angeles:
September 2016 - May 2019
January 2017 - September 2019
September 2017 - May 2020

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NUMBER OF SEMESTERS: 8
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