This week I’m going back to the debate of a few weeks ago about the usefulness or otherwise of a university education in screenwriting.
I run a regular annual day on ‘rewriting’ for the 1st year students on the De Montfort university, Leicester TV 2 year scriptwriting MA – which (although I may have a slight bias here) is definitely one of the better scriptwriting courses in the UK.
First Year tutor from De Montfort JIM HILL has kindly agreed to give his view of the course in particular and university screenwriting courses in general.
JIM has an impressive background in TV drama both as writer and director.
Creator of the hugely successful ITV series, BOON, Jim has written countless TV episodes (The Bill, Casualty, Harry, etc).
Over to you Jim…
‘The question often asked is ‘how can I get a job writing for television?’ The answer boils down to three basic elements: a good script, an agent and a network. Can enrolling on a scriptwriting course secure these?
Having a degree, a BA or an MA in script/screenwriting, is no guarantee of employment. However a well taught, comprehensive script writing degree course that makes you write, re-write and re-write again can make these elements a possibility. Therefore it’s important that you research into the degree courses offered to see what they offer by way of tutorial input, course work and access to industry.
The MA TV Scriptwriting at De Montfort University ensures that you write (and re-write) several scripts across all genres over two years. The course offers an impressive range of visiting lecturers on an almost weekly basis. Writers, agents, producers and script editors undertake lectures, illustrated talks and workshops on story structure, dialogue and character development as well as comedy writing, soap opera structure and writing for children.
The MA first year drama module follows the industry script commissioning process of synopsis; outlines; treatments and scene by scenes to bring students to a first draft within a twelve week period in year one. It’s a baptism of fire but it gets you to write – no excuses, no writers block and no procrastination. This is a script led course intended to improve students’ knowledge of the demands of script writing and to prepare them, through deadlines and re-writes, for a tough industry.
When you get a commission in this industry, as our graduates have done, it will most likely be on a long running drama or soap opera. Therefore it makes practical sense for our MA students to write shadow scripts of existing shows in order to experience the challenge of writing within a specified format. Writing a shadow script is another MA module assignment. Our graduates have gone on to write for Shameless; The Bill; Hollyoaks; Doctors; Casualty; Emmerdale and EastEnders. We have placed writers on the BBC Writers Academy and the ‘Doctors‘ (BBC) mini-academy.
Second year students are placed into groups for team writing – devising and developing original ideas collectively with each student writing an episode of that project. It hooks students up with industry people and offers every student an industry mentor – they’ve included Jimmy McGovern, Laurence Marks, Jed Mercurio, Tony Marchant, Barbara Machin, Nicky Lund (agent), Matthew Graham and many, many more.
Many graduates have agents; some have projects optioned while others have secured meetings with high profile independent production companies.
If you want to write for television (or movies) and you have the time and the money to place yourself on a practical, informative, script driven, industry linked university course, then do so.
Writing is a solitary, full time occupation. Contacting agents and industry professionals takes time and effort and a high degree of self confidence. Accepting rejection is a necessary requirement of the scriptwriting industry. Why do all this alone? Listen to experienced tutors; share a classroom with other aspiring writers and visiting industry speakers and build a network.
If a degree course is going to be of any help to you in becoming a script writer, it needs to empower you. Find one that does that.’
1st Year Tutor MA TV Scriptwriting De Montfort University Leicester
Thank you very much Jim!
THE AUTHORITATIVE GUIDE TO WRITING – AND SELLING – A GREAT SCREENPLAY
A reminder that we are taking bookings for our January and March 2013 versions of this course.
We have some excellent guest speakers lined up – in January top literary agent TANYA TILLETT from the Knight Hall agency; and in March Channel 4 drama head of development BEN STOLL and writer \ producer MATT BOUCH, who has just been working for C4, producing new series MY MAD FAT DIARY- and some places are still available for both weekends.
See the link for more details and a lot of great testimonials –
Until next week,
Dec 7th 2012