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New York Film Academy Master of Fine Arts

MASTER OF FINE ARTS (MFA) IN SCREENWRITING

NYFA screenwriting student on location NYFA screenwriting student writing a script NYFA screenwriting students go over their script NYFA MFA screenwriting students

Overview of our MFA in Screenwriting

NYFA Spotlight on MFA Screenwriting Student Melarissa Sjarief


Starting in the Spring 2019 Semester, the New York Film Academy’s MFA Screenwriting Program will be extended to include a fifth semester. The program was extended to include several additional skill-building classes and to space project deadlines out to enhance student productivity.

Students enrolling for the Fall 2018 Semester, which will remain a four semester program, please follow this link.

The Academy makes the accelerated two-year schedule possible by creating an extended academic year, allowing students to complete three full-length semesters in each calendar year.

The New York Film Academy MFA in Screenwriting Program is offered at our Los Angeles Campus.

The New York Film Academy recognizes the critical role writers play in the creation of every film and television show. Yet writing talent alone is not enough to create successful work in these mediums. Screenwriting is a learned craft, and a writer must write every day to train for the demands of this field, and to truly understand the elements that make a screenplay or teleplay functional as well as engaging.

In addition to learning the conventions of the writing craft, students are given the support and structure to write and meet deadlines. Students write intensively throughout the program and complete several projects with the assistance of constructive critique from instructors, as well as peers.

WHAT MAKES OUR SCREENWRITING PROGRAMS UNIQUE?

Students in the New York Film Academy’s Screenwriting programs generate a lot of written material, building a portfolio of writings that span several mediums. There is a focus on film and television, but MFA students will also study comics, web series and games. Upon completion of the program, students not only understand story structure, character, conflict and dialogue, but also leave the Academy with finished products that they can pitch, produce, and try to sell.

In the MFA Screenwriting program, students are taught the art of screenwriting through workshop courses that have them learn by writing, but also in skill-building courses that focus on film history, film genres, and specific skills, like scene construction, adaptation, and character building.

Students also study filmmaking, acting and editing, to get a complete sense of how cinematic stories are told. In addition to stories, treatments and scripts, students will also create, direct and edit their own short film and their own web series pilot.

NYFA’s degree programs in Screenwriting have business classes that teach students the reality of the industry; how to find work as a writer, how to work in the industry to support yourself, how to find an agent or manager, and how to pitch your stories and story ideas. These classes require students to get an internship in the industry.

The MFA Program culminates in a Pitch Fest, where students get to pitch their thesis script to agents, managers, executives, and/or producers.

SEMESTER ONE OBJECTIVES

During semester one, students will be introduced to the tools and skills necessary for writing successful screenplays for both film and television. Students are encouraged to be creative, but are also taught to think of the screenplay as the definitive industry tool for articulating ideas or concepts to a production team, including producers, financiers, directors, and actors. Clarity can be as important as creativity. Standard formatting and industry expectations will be studied and analyzed during writing workshops and lectures. Students will study what makes for a good story, and learn to seek stories in the world around them. Students will write a short film screenplay and their first feature-length screenplay, and develop story ideas for spec episodes of existing television series. Cinema Studies will also provide students with a theoretical and historical perspective on the film industry and screenwriting over the past 100 years.

CLASSES AND LEARNING GOALS

In semester one, students take:

  • Elements of Screenwriting, where they learn the tools of writing, from format, to pacing, to dialogue, to theme, and put that all together to write a script for a short film.
  • Introduction to Television, where they study the history of television and learn television pacing and structure, and study existing TV shows and plot sample episodes of those shows.
  • Master’s Story Generation, where they learn where to find inspiration for stories and how to develop a story idea into a detailed treatment for a feature film.
  • Master’s Feature Film Workshop I, where they loosely plot and write a screenplay for a feature-length film.
  • Cinema Studies, where they study the history of film as a medium and an art form.
PORTFOLIO OF WRITINGS FOR SEMESTER ONE

At the end of Semester One, students will have produced:
  • A feature-length film screenplay.
  • A beat sheet for a one-hour television drama spec script.
  • A beat sheet for a half-hour television comedy spec script.
  • A short treatments for three possible feature-length films.
  • A script for a short film (3-5 minutes).

SEMESTER TWO OBJECTIVES

The second semester challenges students to develop their craft artistically and technically, and to progress beyond their first film project and their foundational studies of television. In an advanced workshop, students will take a treatment for a feature film written in semester one and build a detailed beat sheet before writing this as their second feature film screenplay. They will also take their television beat sheets and write spec (or sample) episodes of existing half-hour and hour-long series.

Students are expected to share material in workshops. Students will rewrite the short script written last semester, and will also study acting techniques and direct and edit their own short film, in order to achieve a better understanding of how the written word translates to the screen. Students will also explore the conventions and expectations of genre storytelling, and the principles of adapting non-cinematic source material into feature film ideas.

CLASSES AND LEARNING GOALS

In semester two, students take:

  • Adaptation I, where they learn the skills needed to adapt non-cinematic source material (books, comics, life rights, magazine articles, and more) into stories for feature films.
  • Master’s Television Workshop I: Specs, where they write “spec” episodes of existing television series for both hour-long and half-hour formats.
  • Master’s Genre Studies, where they learn the tropes and expectations that come with writing a feature film within several classic Hollywood genres.
  • Master’s Feature Film Workshop II, where they plot a feature film story in great detail before writing the screenplay.
  • Script to Screen, where they study acting, directing and editing, act in a scene shot on the Universal backlot, and direct and edit their own short film based off the short script they wrote in semester one.
PORTFOLIO OF WRITINGS AND PRODUCED WORK FOR SEMESTER TWO

At the end of semester two, students will have produced:
  • A second original screenplay.
  • A digital short film.
  • A spec teleplay for an episode of an existing one-hour television series.
  • A spec teleplay for an episode of a half-hour television series.

SEMESTER THREE OBJECTIVES

Semester three is where MFA candidates move their skills to a more advanced level. They learn the techniques and principles of rewriting, and put them to use on one of their feature screenplays. They broaden their understanding of the medium of television by developing material for an original TV series pilot script. They take their first business course, learning how to navigate the entertainment industry. They also begin taking classes in transmedia, learning about franchises, story worlds, and additional media that they will explore in-depth in later semesters.

The third semester is also a transitional semester, where any transfers from NYFA’s 1-Year Screenwriting Programs will be integrated into their new cohorts with curricula designed to get them on the same page as the MFA candidates in time for the final two semesters.*

CLASSES AND LEARNING GOALS

In semester three, students take:

  • Master’s Television Workshop II: Pilot, where they create an idea for an original TV series, create a proposal for it, and write the script for the pilot episode.
  • Rewriting Workshop, where they learn the skills involved in planning a rewrite based on feedback they’ve received, and then build a revision blueprint for one of their feature film screenplays, which they then rewrite.
  • Transmedia I, where they create a franchise idea that can contain a web series, comic book, and game, then write and direct the pilot episode of the web series they’ve created.
  • The Business Of Screenwriting I, where students learn about the entertainment industry and research possible internships for future semesters.
PORTFOLIO OF WRITINGS AND PRODUCED WORK FOR SEMESTER THREE

At the end of semester three, students will have produced:
  • A pilot script and a series proposal/bible for an original television series.
  • A short proposals for two additional television series.
  • A concept for an original transmedia franchise.
  • A footage for a web series pilot.
* Please note that semester three is different for any student who transfers into the MFA from the 1-Year Screenwriting Program.

THESIS OPTIONS:

In semesters four and five, MFA candidates begin working on their thesis. The thesis should represent the best work a student is capable of and, when complete, be of professional industry quality. Students will have a choice of medium between a feature film or a television pilot. They will choose their medium during class, so they will most likely have classmates working in both mediums, allowing them to focus their writing on one form while still honing their skills in the other form through workshopping.

During the thesis process, the students’ decisions -- from which medium they’ve chosen, to their plotting choices, to their revision plans -- will be explored in thesis committee meetings, where they will explain their reasons for the creative choices they have made. Students will also keep a thesis journal, chronicling their choices, their story, and their journey through the thesis process.

THESIS OPTION A: FEATURE FILM

Students may choose to write a feature-length film speculative ("spec") screenplay.

THESIS OPTION B: TELEVISION PILOT

Students may choose to write a pilot episode and bible (supporting materials) of an original comedy or drama television series.

SEMESTER FOUR OBJECTIVES

Early in semester four, students must choose a thesis advisor (a Screenwriting faculty member), who is central to their thesis committee, and works closely with the MFA candidate throughout the thesis process. Students will also work more in-depth with character development, building around their thesis idea’s cast of characters. Continuing with their transmedia studies, students will take a class in an additional medium which fits their franchise idea, taking either a class in comic books or games. The study of business will continue, and students will secure an internship to advance their understanding of the entertainment industry.

CLASSES AND LEARNING GOALS

In semester four, students take:

  • Master’s Thesis Workshop, where they begin work on their thesis project (either a feature film screenplay or a television series idea and pilot script) that will be developed with a thesis committee.
  • Advanced Character Development, where they learn about characters and character arcs in greater depth than was covered in year one.
  • The Business Of Screenwriting II, where they get an internship, hear from industry professionals, and learn pitching skills.
  • Transmedia II, where they edit their web series pilot, study comics, games, and other media, and build a presentation for their franchise.
One of the following classes:

Sequential Art, where they learn how to plot and write for comics, manga, and graphic novels. Interactive Narrative, where they learn how to explore story and story worlds through board games, card games, role-playing games, and video games.

PORTFOLIO OF WRITINGS AND PRODUCED WORK FOR SEMESTER FOUR

At the end of semester four, students will have produced:
  • An outline for a feature screenplay OR a proposal for an original TV series and a beat sheet for the pilot episode, as well as half of the first draft of either script.
  • A fully-edited web series pilot.
  • A transmedia bible that includes one-sheet proposals for a game or comic book, and a web series bible.
  • A presentation of their transmedia franchise and all its component parts, which includes one of the two items listed below:
    • A proposal for an original comic book, graphic novel, or manga, and a script for the first issue or chapter of a comic book, graphic novel, or manga.
    • A game proposal for a board, video, roleplaying, card, or other game.

SEMESTER FIVE OBJECTIVES

In semester five, students devote most of their time to their thesis requirements. An emphasis will be put on masterful scene writing, as students learn to bring scenes from their thesis projects alive at an even deeper level. This will include working directly with actors on scenes from their thesis. Students will also return to the process of adapting material into film ideas by creating a treatment for a feature film based on non-cinematic source material. Finally, in anticipation of the year-end industry Pitch Fest, students will perfect their pitches for their thesis projects and turn them into professional-grade selling tools.

CLASSES AND LEARNING GOALS

In semester five, students take:

  • Master’s Thesis Workshop II, where they complete a draft and a rewrite of their thesis project, working with their thesis committees.
  • Advanced Scene Study, where they learn about scene construction and scene beats in greater detail by taking scenes from their thesis apart and putting them back together, and then working with actors on the scenes.
  • Adaptation II, where they develop two ideas for a story adapted from source material, then choose one and write a treatment or breakdown for the story.
  • The Business Of Screenwriting III, where students continue in an internship or get a new one, and hone their pitching skills by developing a pitch for their thesis project.
PORTFOLIO OF WRITINGS FOR SEMESTER FIVE

At the end of semester five, students will have produced:
  • A first draft and revision of their thesis feature or TV pilot.
  • A treatment for an adaptation of an original source material.
  • A list of loglines for the portfolio of writings they have built over their five semesters.

NYFA PITCH FEST

To celebrate the completion of the MFA Screenwriting program, New York Film Academy hosts a pitching event for graduating MFA writing students in good academic standing, whose pitch and script is deemed industry-ready. Representatives from top Hollywood agencies, management companies, studios and production companies attend the event to hear NYFA students pitch their thesis projects. While this event has opened industry doors to students in the past, the primary intent of the Pitch Fest is to provide students with pitching experience and feedback outside the classroom walls.

Qualified students have the option of completing course work at the New York Film Academy campuses in Los Angeles, New York City, or South Beach in a one-year, non-degree conservatory program, and then applying their coursework to be accepted for advanced standing in the MFA Screenwriting degree program. Students who complete a one-year program in Los Angeles, New York City, or South Beach will have a slightly different semester three of the MFA, before fully integrating with the MFA Program in semester four.

Course Description

  • Elements of Screenwriting Utilizing 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 major 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, Theme, Conflict, Flashbacks, Fantasy Sequences and Dream Sequences, Voiceover, Text and Subtext, Developing Your Writing Style, Tone and Genre, Visualization, Revealing Exposition, Creating a Compelling Second Act, Climaxes and Resolutions, and Scene Beats.
  • Advanced Story Generation Advanced 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 to be used for writing the Semester 3 screenplay.
  • The Business of Screenwriting 1 There are many "angles" to understand when approaching "the deal," and they differ from one medium to the next. It is crucially important for a writer to protect his or her work both through Copyright Registration and registration through the Writers Guild of America. Next, the writer must strategize about how to get his or her script into the right hands, in the correct manner, and for the appropriate market. An overview of topics include: Agents, What Is Copyright?, How Do I Enforce My Copyright?, How to Register with the Writer's Guild of America?, Getting Your Script in the Right Hands, What To Do If You Don't Have an Agent, If the Deal Goes Through What You Need to Know, Options, Pay for Rewrites, Writing on Spec or for Hire, How a Television Deal Differs from a Film Deal. Classes will be supplemented with special lectures by industry professionals.
  • Writing for Television I: The One-Hour Drama This television workshop is a fast-paced, intensive workshop program that 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 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 featurelength scripts. By the end of the course, students will develop and write a first draft of a feature-length screenplay.
  • Writing the Feature Film Screenplay II Writing the Feature Screenplay II builds upon knowledge gained in Writing the Feature Screenplay I and Advanced 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 Advanced 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.
  • The Business of Screenwriting II Building on last semester's work, the second semester of Business of Screenwriting features a more in-depth study of the life of a writer. Guest speakers will be invited to illuminate a variety of areas in the world of the screenwriter, and practical workshops in pitching will give the students the tools they need to walk The Way of the Writer in the World of Hollywood.

    As part of this course, in the fourth and final quarter of the year, 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 individual 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 student's understanding of the film or television industry may be an option. Students will be expected to write reports on their internship experiences, and internship upervisors 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.
  • Writing for Television II: The Half-Hour Spec and the Pilot In the first half of the course, students will become familiar with the half-hour television industry, 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. In the second half of the course, 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.
  • 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 One-Week 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.
  • Critical Studies: Genre Genre and Storytelling is a critical studies course focused on exploring eight different genres of film. Through out-of-class screenings, lectures, and in-class scene breakdowns, students will begin to identify the models (and audience expectations) of these different genres.
  • The Great Screenplays The Great Screenplays is a critical studies course focused on exploring Academy Awardwinning 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.
  • The Business of Screenwriting III The Business of Screenwriting III picks up where the first year left off. The core of the class is mastering the "Art of the Pitch" in preparation for a major industry pitch fest with agents, managers and producers. A heavy emphasis on guest speakers will illuminate every corner of the industry.
  • Advanced Writing Seminar I: Character Development & Special Topics Advanced Character Development will focus on equipping students with essential psychological theory and tools to approach this potentially aunting element of screenwriting. By combining the disciplines of clinical psychology and screenwriting, students will learn 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 in the first quarter, at the inception of students' Thesis projects.
  • New Media I The New Media Production Workshop is an intensive three-month course that introduces students to New Media development. Each student will write, direct and edit a pilot for a scripted Webisode. 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. Handson directing, camera, and production workshops will prepare students for the final month of the course in which they will produce their pilot episodes.
  • Master's Thesis Workshop I: Film Option Advanced Thesis Writing Workshop is a full year course, split over two semesters, 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, after which they will do a Rewrite of that draft. And finally, they will give it a Polish.

    After each major threshold is completed (treatment, first draft, rewrite, polish), students will hand in their work to their Thesis Committee. This committee will give the student detailed notes and guidance on how to proceed with the next step.
  • Master's Thesis Workshop I: TV Option This advanced TV writing workshop is a fast-paced, intensive program that builds upon the fundamentals of TV writing learned in the previous year. The class work 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 full, revised outline for their pilot episode, a working outline for Season One of their proposed series, a working description of the show itself, and two general outlines for subsequent episodes.

    By the end of the second quarter, each student will have a first draft of their pilot script, a revised version of their Season One outline, a revised version of the show description, and revised versions of the two additional episode outlines.
  • Advanced Writing Seminar II: Advanced Scene Writing 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 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 the character development, motivation, and beats.
  • The Business of Screenwriting IV After three semesters of Business of Screenwriting, screenwriters should be skilled in the creation of log lines and the writing of coverage. While they have been introduced to the fiveminute pitch, they have not yet perfected it. This shall be the primary focus of Semester Four, building to the Pitch Fest at the end of the semester. 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. As part of this course, in the fourth and final quarter of the program, 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 individual 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 student's 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.
  • New Media II In this final month of the New Media course, students will produce and shoot their pilot episodes. Following production, students will attend editing classes, and will then have two weeks to edit their episodes, which they will present to the class in an in-class screening in the final week of the course.
  • Adaptation Workshop 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, we will identify the challenges that surround translating a non-cinematic art form into a cinematic story by studying existing adaptations. Students will also select a work to adapt or update and generate a 10-15 page treatment for the material.
  • Master's Thesis Workshop II: Film Option This course continues where Semester One left off. It will focus entirely on the rewriting process. This course will teach students to dig deeper 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.
  • Master's Thesis Workshop II: TV Option This advanced TV writing workshop is a fast-paced, intensive program that builds upon the fundamentals of TV writing learned in the previous year-and-a-half. 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 pitchfest. Television industry guests are also brought in, schedules permitting, to help students prepare for the professional world during this semester.

Faculty

Nunzio DeFilippis Nunzio DeFilippis
Chair of Screenwriting

MFA in Screenwriting, USC. Writer/producer on HBO's ARLISS and wrote for the Disney Channel series KIM POSSIBLE. Had features optioned at Hollywood Pictures, Process Media and Humble Journey Films. Developed a video game at Sony, and a TV movie (TWO STEP) at Oxygen. With his writing partner, he wrote for the comics NEW X-MEN, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, and BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL. They created the comic franchises BAD MEDICINE (in development at Closed On Mondays with NBC), THE AMY DEVLIN MYSTERIES (in development as a TV series at E!) and FRENEMY OF THE STATE (co-created with Rashida Jones, optioned as a feature film by Imagine Entertainment/Universal Pictures.)

Adam B. Finer Adam B. Finer
Associate Chair of Screenwriting
Transmedia, New Media and Business of Screenwriting


BS, University of Phoenix. Served as Director of Market Research at Universal Pictures. Co-founder of Arpil Entertainment, a literary management and production company. Consults individuals in career planning, as well as working with content creators, writers, directors, producers, and studio executives to design marketing plans, and business and branding strategies. Producer on WAR OF THE WORLDS: THE NEXT WAVE, THE DAY THE EARTH STOPPED and MEGAFAULT for Syfy.

Ashley Bank Ashley Bank
Art Of The Pitch, Script To Screen, Actor/Writer Workshop

BA, New York University. Graduate of The Second City Conservatory. Worked as an actress, stand-up comedian, producer, and writer. Has appeared in over 40 commercials, and guest stared on FAMILY TIES, MY TWO DADS, FRASIER and THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR. Has appeared in numerous TV Movies, with Henry Winkler, Dolly Parton, and Raquel Welch. Appeared in the feature film THE MONSTER SQUAD. Has produced several award winning short films, one of which won the prestigious NYU Wasserman/King Award, and another of which was sold to IFC. Also worked as a producer for CBS News/48 Hours, and for CBS News’ documentary department. Worked on documentaries for The History Channel, The Food Network, A&E, Discovery, and ESPN. Currently appearing with her sketch comedy group at the LA Comedy festival and in several plays, as well as performing stand-up at The Improv and The Comedy Store.

Christina Beck Christina Beck
Script to Screen, Writing the Feature Film

Writer/director of the feature PERFECTION. Has two upcoming features, EXPECTING GRACE and BUTTERSCOTCH. Began her career as an actor in SUBURBIA, BOYS NEXT DOOR and DUDES. Formed her own theatre company POW Productions and wrote, produced, and starred in FROM THE HEART.

Jessiline Berry Jessiline Berry
Elements Of Screenwriting, Advanced Character Development, Story Generation

MFA in Film, Columbia University. Founder of FemmeMaker Productions, an organization dedicated to the empowerment of women in film, both in front of and behind the camera. Written, produced and directed projects for PrimeCut Productions, Teachscape, Character Studies Productions, BET Networks, Bassett Vance Productions, and Lee Daniels Entertainment.

Dirk Blackman Dirk Blackman
The Art Of The Pitch, Story Generation, Feature Film Workshop

MFA in Screenwriting, American Film Institute. Writer and Executive Producer of OUTLANDER, starring Jim Caviezel. Writer on UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS. Has developed television pilots at SyFy, Showtime and Hasbro Television. Has sold features and pitches at Paramount Pictures, Tristar Pictures, RKO, Intrepid Pictures, and Signature Pictures. Has worked on rewrites for projects at 20th Century Fox, Marvel, Artisan, Intermedia and Media Asia. Has written comic books for Radical Comics.

Eric Conner Eric Conner
Writing The Television Spec, Writing The Television Pilot, The Great Screenplays, Master’s Thesis Workshop

MFA, USC School of Cinema and Television. Currently developing TV pilot for F.A.T. Productions. Assistant Director for Off-Broadway premiere of The Disputation. Winner of the Sloan Award & Hamptons' Writer's Workshop for feature script Just Enough. Production Manager of The Cutting Edge: The Story of Cinema Editing.

Alan de la Rosa Alan de la Rosa
Writing the Feature Film

MFA in Screenwriting, UCLA. Wrote and produced the feature film TARGETING. Has produced music videos, promos and stage plays at companies such as Vision Matrix and PeaceWalk Productions. Cofounder and Writer/Producer at Photoplay 434

Steve Desmond Steve Desmond
Business Of Screenwriting, Writing The Feature Film

BA in Film and Television Production, USC. Sold his thriller feature ON YOUR DOORSTEP to Oscar Nominated Producer Mason Novick. Has written, produced, and directed THE ST. VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE and MONSTERS. Wrote and directed LIFE OR BREATH. Also wrote or developed projects with Imagine Entertainment, Treehouse Pictures, Level 1 Entertainment, Haven Entertainment, Blacklight Transmedia, Preferred Film & TV, The Walt Becker Company, Dreamworks Animation, and The Disney Channel.

Margaret Dunlap Margaret Dunlap
Adaptation, Transmedia, Writing For Television

MFA in Screenwriting, USC. Co-Executive Producer and writer of more than 30 episodes of the Emmy, Streamy and IAWTV award-winning transmedia series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and writer on the Emmy award winning Emma Approved. Co-Executive Producer and Showrunner on Pemberley Digital’s follow-up project: Welcome to Sanditon. Has written for television on EUREKA and THE MIDDLEMAN.

Lisa Ebersole Lisa Ebersole
Writing the Feature Film, Web Series, Script to Screen, Transmedia, Playwriting

Wrote, directed and starred in the feature film PROBLEMS and the web series 37 PROBLEMS. Wrote, produced and edited apps at Disney Interactive. Founding writer and editor for Brainpop.com, an award-winning children’s education website. Her plays have been produced off Broadway in New York and regionally.

Joshua Eiserike Joshua Eiserike
Writing the Feature Film, Genre Studies, Sequential Art, Transmedia, Story Generation

MA in Journalism, University of Missouri; MFA in Film Production, USC. Has written for the HUB animated series G.I. JOE: RENEGADES and MAD Magazine. His first comic book CLASS OF ‘99 won an Ignatz award (the Independent Spirit Award of comics) and his subsequent graphic novel ANYONE BUT VIRGINIA is currently distributed by Alterna Comics.

Matt Harry Matt Harry
Master’s Thesis Workshop, Writing The Feature Film, Writing For Television, Great Screenplays, Script To Screen, Web Series

MFA in Film Production, USC. Has worked as a reality television writer, editor, director, and feature film producer on the following: THE BACHELOR, DESIGN ON A DIME, SERIOUSLY FUNNY KIDS, ROCK THE RECEPTION, and RED SERPENT. Wrote FUGUE, which won Best Horror Film at the Mississippi Film Festival. Written for Flynn Picture Co., Evolution Entertainment, and Fishbowl Films.

Sharri Hefner Sharri Hefner
Writing the Feature Film, Scene Study, Adaptation

MFA in Film, Tisch School of the Arts NYU. Co-wrote the feature film THE TROUBLE WITH ROMANCE. A member of the independent production entity Hyphentate Films, she line produced Joel Viertel’s STRICTLY SEXUAL and production coordinated Mora Stephen’s CONVENTIONEERS.

Ed Horowitz Ed Horowitz
Writing the Feature Film

MFA in Playwriting, UCLA. Wrote the feature films ON DEADLY GROUND (starring Steven Seagal), K9:PI (starring Jim Belushi) and EXIT WOUNDS (starring Steven Seagal and DMX). Wrote on the television series LA FEMME NIKITA. Has written over a half-dozen pilot scripts for various networks. Has also written over 50 short plays and one musical.

Terah Jackson Terah Jackson
Writing The Feature Film, Genre Studies, Playwriting, Great Playwrights

MFA in Screenwriting, American Film Institute. Nicholl Fellowship Semifinalist. Wrote and produced COUNTER, wrote and assistant directed on SPLENDOR, and was the assistant director on IT’S NOT ALWAYS SUNNY and FANTA FACE.

Greg Johnson Greg Johnson
Elements of Screenwriting, Story Generation, Writing the Feature Film

MFA in Film & Television, USC. Developed, sold and written projects with Gore Verbinski, Davis Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Fox, including an adaptation of DOCTOR DOOM.

Dan Kay Dan Kay
Writing The Feature Film, Great Screenplays, Business Of Screenwriting

BAS in English from University of Pennsylvania. Wrote and directed WAY OFF BROADWAY and directed STRAIGHT BASHERS and A DREAM LIKE YOU. Wrote the films TIMBER FALLS, PAY THE GHOST, starring Nicolas Cage, and I.T., starring Pierce Brosnan. Recently sold NOCTURNAL, a one-hour drama, to Warner Bros. studios.

George McGrath George McGrath
Writing for Television, Actor/Writer Workshop

Actor, writer, producer, and songwriter. Has been Emmy-nominated four times for writing and producing, and is the recipient of a GLAAD Award for TRACY TAKES ON and the TV Theme Song Hall of Fame Award for the theme song from PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE. Has written on numerous TV series including: HOPE & GLORIA, TINY TOON ADVENTURES, RIDERS IN THE SKY, ON THE TELEVISION, and KIDS INCORPORATED.

Brigitte Muñoz-Liebowitz Brigitte Muñoz-Liebowitz
Writing The Television Spec, Writing The Television Pilot

MFA in Film Producing, Columbia University; BFA in Writing For The Screen and Television, USC School of Cinema-Television. Staff Writer on BROOKLYN NINE NINE for two seasons. Worked on PERSON OF INTEREST. Former Director of Development at Open City Films.

Eric Nelson Eric Nelson
Master’s Thesis Workshop, Writing The Feature Film, Writing For Television

MFA in Screenwriting, American Film Institute. Developed film and television projects with Nickelodeon Original Movies, ABC/Disney Channel, 20th Century Fox, Smart Entertainment, and Underground Entertainment. Has written, developed and produced for numerous branded content campaigns and video games.

David O’Leary David O’Leary
Business Of Screenwriting, Art Of The Pitch, Genre Studies

BA in Arts in Film and Cognitive Science from Vassar. Served as the Vice President at Bellevue Productions. Worked in Development for companies such as Warner Bros., Industry, Rogue Pictures, Kopelson, and Valhalla. Story Analyst for Team Downey, Silver Pictures, and Village Roadshow. Has written and developed features for Sparkler Entertainment, Atlas Productions, Offspring Entertainment, and Original Film.

Derek Santos Olson Derek Santos Olson
Writing for Television

BA in Political Science, Yale University. Writer on the television series FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and THE UNUSUALS. Developed a pilot at Nickelodeon, and another directed by Michael Lange (the OC).

Doc Pedrolie Doc Pedrolie
Elements Of Screenwriting, The Great Screenplays, Writing The Feature Film, Writing For Television, Master’s Thesis Workshop

MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA. Written the features COME SIMI (Winner, Best Screenplay, Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, and Best Writing, Los Angeles Film Review 2015) and PALI ROAD (sold to Arclight Films at Cannes), and has written and directed THE LAST CIGARETTE. Has developed projects at Gerber Pictures, Crimson Forest, HWY 61, Unified Pictures, Royal Standard, IPG, Nala/RightBrain, and Circle of Confusion. Works as a story analyst for Amazon Studios.

John Zuur Platten John Zuur Platten
Interactive Narrative

Producer, lead designer, director and writer of FEAR EFFECT. Other games include TOMCAT ALLEY, JOHNNY MNEMONIC, SCOOBY-DOO 2005, CONSTANTINE, RED NINJA and TAXI DRIVER. With his partner, Flint Dille, is developing a number of original game titles for next generation platforms with major publishers under their joint label, Bureau of Film & Games. They also currently have a film, BACKWATER, in production at Dimension which is based on their original game property. Together, they wrote THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO VIDEO GAME WRITING & DESIGN.

Jenni Powell Jenni Powell
Transmedia

Producer on numerous Webseries, including THE LIZZIE BENNETT DIARIES (Emmy and Streamy award winner) and EMMA APPROVED (Emmy and Streamy award winner), WELCOME TO SANDITON, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF PETER AND WENDY and many others.

David Radcliff David Radcliff
Elements Of Screenwriting, Writing The Feature Film

MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA. Writer of EERIE HARMONY, THE QUIZLAR CYCLE, and the TV series FIRSTS. A member of the Committee for Writers with Disabilities at the Writers Guild of America, West. Has provided brand development, copy writing, and creative services for Hillshire Farm, Investigation: Discovery, and University of Phoenix.

Scott Rogers Scott Rogers
Interactive Narrative

Has worked in the video game industry since 1993 as a game designer, artist and creative manager on over 50 unique game titles including: PAC-MAN WORLD 20th ANNIVERSARY, MS PAC-MAN MAZE MADNESS, SOUL EDGE, MAXIMO: GHOSTS TO GLORY, MAXIMO VS ARMY OF ZIN, GOD OF WAR, DRAWN TO LIFE, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, DARKSIDERS, RED FACTION: ARMAGEDDON. Currently works at Disney Imagineering on an unannounced project. Has authored (and drew) two critically reviewed books on game design: LEVEL UP! THE GUIDE TO GREAT GAME DESIGN (2010) and SWIPE THIS! THE GUIDE TO GREAT TOUCHSCREEN GAME DESIGN (2012). His comic book, BEDBUG, was published in Spring 2013.

Crickett Rumley Crickett Rumley
Elements Of Screenwriting, Story Generation, Adaptation Workshop, Advanced Scene Study

MFA in Film from Columbia University. Author of the young adult novel NEVER SIT DOWN IN A HOOPSKIRT. Worked as the Director of Development for Scriptstar Pictures. Developed projects and adaptations at Killer Films, Gigantic Pictures, and Pink Slip Pictures.

Jerry Shandy Jerry Shandy
Master’s Thesis Workshop, Writing For Television, Business of Screenwriting, Writing the Feature Film

MFA in Writing for Screen and Television, USC. Wrote on the TNT/ABC Studios one-hour drama, PERCEPTION. Has developed pilots for USA Network, Universal Cable Productions, Hypnotic, Le Grisbi, Steve Stark Prods, and Kelsey Grammar's Grammnet. Sold the one-hour drama CROOKED CREEK to MTV Network. Has most recently been a writer on the SYFY series DOMINION.

Justin Sternberg Justin Sternberg
Writing For Television

BA in Mass Communication/Media Studies, University of Florida. Wrote on THE PAUL REISER SHOW. Wrote and was Co-Showrunner on the award winning TBS Micro-Series LOVEBITES. Sold TEENAGE WASTELAND to MTV and LOVE & APPLIANCES to FBC. Sold SWITCHED AT MARRIAGE to Reveille, YOU ARE HERE to Nickelodeon, and WHO WANTS $11,000? to ABC. Developed RULES FOR MY UNBORN SON for Lionsgate TV and HOOK CHAS UP with Luke Greenfield.

Ben Sztajnkrycer Ben Sztajnkrycer
Genre Studies, Writing the Feature Film

MFA in Screenwriting, UCLA. Wrote the feature film KAW (with Sean Patrick Flannery) and the TV movie A TRACE OF DANGER. Currently has a feature in development at Original Film, and has developed features at Davis Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, and Appian Way. Has worked as a Creative Executive at Walt Disney Feature Animation, Meridian Pictures, and Acapella Pictures.

Graham Tallman Graham Tallman
Writing The Feature Film, Great Screenplays, Script-To-Screen

MFA in Film Directing, American Film Institute. Has written and directed short films that have been in over 100 festivals, including Toronto, AFI Fest, and Palm Springs Short Fest. Black List featured script, CODENAME: SIMON, placed as one of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. Wrote and directed the thriller TURQUOISE for Act Four Productions, and produced and 2nd unit directed THE NEVSKY PROSPECT for Amazon Studios. Has also assistant directed for such filmmakers as Sofia Coppola, Francis Coppola, and Sylvester Stallone. Has adapted a comic book for Fox 2000 and New Regency and developed projects at all the major studios.

Jon Vandergriff Jon Vandergriff
Story Generation, Writing for Television, Writing the Feature Film

MFA in Screenwriting, USC. Co-Executive Producer on SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH. Writer/producer on HOME IMPROVEMENT. Wrote on COACH. Worked on AUSTIN POWERS: THE ANIMATED SERIES. Developed the feature film WILDWOOD INN with Applecart Productions. Started the board game company Try Try A Game.

Rachel Vine Rachel Vine
Elements Of Screenwriting, Writing The Feature Film

MFA in Film, Columbia University. Received the Comedy Central Award for Best Comedic Screenplay and the Arthur Krim Producing Fellowship while at Columbia. Produced dozens of music videos, commercials, branded content, and documentaries before focusing entirely on writing. Has rewritten and developed projects for Imagine Entertainment and Time Inc. Studios. Has written the features OFF THE RECORD and HOLDING OUT. Most recently wrote and developed a relaunch of the animated series RAINBOW BRITE for Hallmark.

Christina Weir Christina Weir
Writing For Television: Pilot, Sequential Art, Transmedia, Interactive Narrative, Advanced Character Development

MA in Mass Communications/TV Production, Emerson College. Helped develop the Transmedia Track at NYFA. Writer/producer on HBO's ARLISS and wrote for the Disney Channel series KIM POSSIBLE. Had features optioned at Process Media and Humble Journey Films. Developed a video game at Sony, and a TV movie (TWO STEP) at Oxygen. With her writing partner, he wrote for the comics NEW X-MEN, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, and BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL. They created the comic franchises BAD MEDICINE (in development at Closed On Mondays with NBC), THE AMY DEVLIN MYSTERIES (in development as a TV series at E!) and FRENEMY OF THE STATE (co-created with Rashida Jones, optioned as a feature film by Imagine Entertainment/Universal Pictures.)

Liz Fania Werner Liz Fania Werner
Master’s Thesis Workshop, Story Generation, Writing The Feature Film, Writing For Television, Advanced Character Development, Adaptation Workshop

MFA in TV and Screenwriting, USC. Founded Órbita, a bilingual literary magazine, while living in Chile. Has translated two books of poetry: The Collected Poems of Jimmy Santiago Baca and Nicanor Parra’s Antipoems: How to Look Better and Feel Great, both published by New Directions. Earned an Annenberg Fellowship from USC and wrote ASSASSINATION OF A MATHEMATICIAN. Wrote on RPM MIAMI for Mun2, a Latino driven member of the NBC/Universal family. Developed the feature adaptation of the novel BABYLON SISTERS by Oprah Book Club author Pearl Cleage. Currently developing an action-horror feature for DMG Entertainment.

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