MasteringTheMastersComposite.doc

MasteringTheMastersComposite.doc - Mastering The Masters A...

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Mastering The Masters: A Look At Graduate Screenwriting Programs By Ray Morton (Originally published in Sc(i)pt Magazin)e Fifty years ago, the idea that a serious person would go to university to study film was so far fetched it was almost laughable. That such a course could actually lead to a career in filmmaking was even more ridiculous. All that changed in the 1960s and 70s, when the so-called “movie brat” generation (Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Brian DePalma, John Milius and the like -- film school grads all) revolutionized Hollywood. All of a sudden film school became not just an acceptable way of beginning a career in filmmaking, but the primary way. Initially, most film programs were general ones, incorporating all of the individual filmmaking disciplines into a single degree. Most current undergraduate programs retain this general focus, but over the course of the last twenty-five years, the country’s major film schools have diversified their graduate programs and established separate Masters level professional degrees for each discipline, including, of course, screenwriting. These programs help students develop the skills they need to become competent craftspeople and to forge professional careers in their chosen disciplines. Many of the most important new screenwriters of the last twenty years have come out of these programs. With more coming every year, a Masters program is now one of the major entrees into a professional screenwriting career. With this in mind (and with application season rapidly approaching), Scr(i)pt thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the screenwriting Masters programs offered by the country’s five most prominent film schools: USC, UCLA, NYU, AFI and Columbia. To assemble this survey, we reviewed program materials and course catalogues, spoke with some faculty and staff and, most importantly, talked to graduates of all five schools to get their thoughts and opinions on the programs they chose to launch their professional careers. The result is, we hope, an in-depth look at each program and what they have to offer aspiring screenwriters. 1. USC Consistently rated (by U.S. News & World Report , among others) as the number one film school in the nation, the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television was also the first and -- with alumni such as George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis, Ron Howard, John Milius, et al -- arguably the most famous. Recent alumni include Andrew Marlowe, John Singleton, Amanda Silver, and David Veloz. The Program: The Master of Fine Arts with a Major in Writing for Screen and Television is a two-year program. In the first year, students take “Fundamentals” classes in which they learn the basics of narrative structure by writing scenes, short scripts, treatments and full-length feature screenplays. Students also take elective classes in producing, directing, editing, the history and theory of film and television and the business aspects of the entertainment industry. In one elective class students even have the opportunity to join the writing staff of episodic drama and comedy series produced at the school. Students also attend
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