Tools of Screenwriting

Display Schedule

Code Completion Credits Range Language Instruction Semester
311TOS ZK 3 2 hours (45 min) of instruction per week, 57 to 72 hours of self-study English winter

Subject guarantor

Name of lecturer(s)

Kateřina KAČEROVSKÁ

Learning outcomes of the course unit

By the end of the course students will:

Mode of study

Seminars.

Prerequisites and co-requisites

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Course contents

This course offers a general overview of the essential screenwriting concepts and tools. Each lesson is structured around one of the key topic and other related themes. The themes are discussed not only separately but often revisited in other lessons from different angles and in another context - especially the character and the story as the most elemental and the most important topics - to achieve more complex understanding of their meaning, function and usage. Apart from theoretical scrutiny each of the topics is demonstrated on examples from well-known films and further explored in practical exercises and home assignments.

The goal of this seminar is to take the students on a journey from the beginning to the end – literarily and metaphorically - of the screenwriter´s world and examine the tools and techniques that are crucial for his craft. The outcome is a basic but thorough notion of the main screenwriting skills: How to create convincing and engaging character, how to plot a story and how to actually write a screenplay.

Lesson 1: Idea

Choosing an idea. The kernel of a story and how to make it grow. Principal rules of fiction. Specifics of a film story. High concept vs. low concept. Logline – and what is it for. Sources of inspiration.

Lesson 2: Story

What is a story - and what is not. Basic architecture of a story. History vs. story. Story vs. plot. Plotting a story. Causality. Curiosity. Form and content. Synopsis and treatment.

Lesson 3: Characters

What constitutes a hero. Characterization. The existing flaw. Types of main characters. Typical cast of supporting characters. Homo sapiens and homo fictus. Characters – types – archetypes – caricatures.

Lesson 4: Motivation

Exposition. Empathy - making the audience care. Inner and external motivation. Identification. Point of view. Want and need – the emotional conflict. Random and intentional. Raising the stakes.

Lesson 5: Conflict

Conflict as the fuel of a story. Dramatic conflict in drama and in film. Antagonist as a vital part of a story. Crisis. Dilemmas and crossroads. Inner and external conflict. Foreshadowing. Suspense and surprise.

Lesson 6: Genre

Contract with the audience. Rules of the classical genres. Comedy. Tragedy. Thriller. Horror. Romance. Detective story. Fantasy. Sci-fi. Western. Film noir. Melodrama. Musical. Fairy tale. Biopic. Parody. Genre mashup.

Lesson 7: Structure

Essential parts of a story. Various approaches to story structuring. Classical 5-stage dramatic structure. Three act form. Writer´s journey and its 12 phases. 7-parts method. Beats – scenes – acts.

Lesson 8: Scene

How to make a scene - basic architecture of a scene. What is a dramatic situation. Types of dramatic situations. Beginning and ending a scene. The principle of change. Pace of a scene. Cliffhanger. The left and the right side. Narrative description.

Lesson 9: Dialog

Film dialog vs. human conversion. Dialog in drama and in film. Mind your tongue. Narrator. Giving your character a voice. Different voices. Telling vs. showing. Pet peeves of bad dialog-writing.

Lesson 10: Time

What to do with the time that was given us. Catching and holding the attention. Attention span. Time lapse. Flashback and flashforward. Parallel action. Mosaic storytelling. Dreams, visions and delusions. Backstory. The length of the story - of the script - and of the film.

Lesson 11: Settings

Creating a fictional world. Types of fictional worlds. Setting as an actor in a story. The character and the setting. Cinematic storytelling. Atmosphere. Camera. Montage. Props. Costume. Colours. Visual symbols and metaphors. The unity of time and place.

Lesson 12: Theme

Conclusion. What is your story about? The moral of the story. Unity and harmony. Style and art. Formulaic writing. A writer who cares. The writing process. Revision. Choosing a title. Secrets of the screenwriting trade.

Recommended or required reading

RECOMMENDED LITERATURE AND VIDEOS

1.Syd Field: Screenplay - The Foundations of Screenwriting

2.Christopher Vogler: The Writer’s Journey

3.David Trottier: Screenwriter's Bible

4.Blake Snyder: Save the Cat!

5.Dean Movshovitz: Pixar Storytelling

6.Will Storr: The Science of Storytelling

7.Stephen King: On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft

8.Howard Suber: The Power of Film

9.François Truffaut: Hitchcock/Truffaut

10.Georges Polti: The Thirty-six Dramatic Situations

11.Marc Cousin: Scene by Scene – Paul Schrader (video)

12.Marc Cousin: Scene by Scene – David Lynch (video)

RECOMMENDED FILMS

1.Fred Zinnemann: High Noon (1952)

2.Alfred Hitchcock: Psycho (1960)

3.Francis Ford Coppola: The Godfather (1972)

4.George Lucas: Star Wars Episode IV. (1977)

5.John Hughes: The Breakfast Club (1985)

6.Quentin Tarantino: Pulp Fiction (1994)

7.John Lasseter: Toy Story (1995)

8.Joel Coen, Ethan Coen: The Big Lebowski (1998)

9.The Wachowskis: The Matrix (1999)

10.Peter Jackson: The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

11.David Lynch: Mulholland Drive (2001)

12.Steven Spielberg: West Side Story (2021)

Assessment methods and criteria

Minimum required attendance to the class is + 70%

The course grade will be calculated as follows:

25% - Attendance and participation on in-class exercises

35% - Home assignments

25% - An outline of a project - Practical writing exercise

15% - Final test on course material

Note

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Schedule for winter semester 2022/2023:

06:00–08:0008:00–10:0010:00–12:0012:00–14:0014:00–16:0016:00–18:0018:00–20:0020:00–22:0022:00–24:00
Mon
Tue
Wed
room 241
Room No. 3

(Lažanský palác)
KAČEROVSKÁ K.
17:20–18:55
(lecture parallel1)
Thu
Fri
Date Day Time Tutor Location Notes No. of paralel
Wed 17:20–18:55 Kateřina KAČEROVSKÁ Room No. 3
Lažanský palác
lecture parallel1

Schedule for summer semester 2022/2023:

The schedule has not yet been prepared

The subject is a part of the following study plans