So this semester I am taking a screenwriting class called “Writing the Hour-Long Dramatic Series.” It’s with Ron Friedman, the same professor I took my CTWR 412 intro to screenwriting class with, and it is definitely my coolest class this semester (or tied for coolest with EE202, which Gordy wrote about). Ron is an awesome professor, and he is so great at extricating greatness from his students. Early in the semester we wrote scenes from popular television dramas currently on air, and watched many in class. We were taught about structure, with an emphasis on creating conflict and “servicing” characters in appropriate ways based on their importance in a family unit and how much screen time they require. In class, we watched shows such as Starsky and Hutch, Boston Legal, and Damages. We even watched opening scenes of Snow White and Inglorious Basterds as great examples of introducing characters/creating conflict in simple ways. Once we were familiar with the format, and read several scripts from shows on air, we wrote scenes for many of these shows. I got a chance to write some Mad Men, Castle, The Good Wife, Law and Order: SVU. One week, I missed the memo about having to write for a show currently on air and even wrote some Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (went off air in 1997). Needless to say, I was made fun of and many jokes were made about shows I might choose to write about for future assignments:)
However, what makes this class so cool is that I get to learn about the screenwriting industry itself. Ron shares anecdotes from his personal experiences, gives us advice for securing jobs, and debunks a lot of myths (and sometimes reinforces the truth behind some stereotypes) surrounding writing in Hollywood. Furthermore, now our class is structured as an actual “writer’s room.” We are currently in the process of writing an episode of the show Once Upon a Time as a whole class/writer’s room. We work in teams of two and come together as a whole class to make it work. Every week, two students serve as show-runners for the class, and are in charge of breaking the story, assigning writing/editing, and throwing together/editing a draft of the script from all the parts individual teams write. Until I took this class, I had no idea that writing was even done in teams/in a room. It’s crazy how much collaboration goes into what seems like such an individualistic activity. The class has been a great lesson in creative compromise, creative control, and teamwork. I have learned so much, and I definitely feel like my screenwriting has become more clean and fluid. I feel like in 15 short weeks, I have picked up an entire new skill in the form of writing for television. This class is extremely cool, and ridiculously rewarding. I’m so excited to see our final Once Upon a Time script (it will be finished this Thursday!). It will be one of the coolest final projects I have from a class, and I know it is going to be a quality piece of work.