Screenplays laid out on table

A Look Into What a Screenwriting Degree Will Teach You

If you want to bring stories to life on the big screen, what you learn in a screenwriting degree program can open doors for you in the industry.

Whenever you tune into your favorite TV shows or go to the movies, you’re watching the magic of screenwriting in action. By choosing the path of a screenwriter, you can also create the scripts used to guide film, TV, and digital media productions of all kinds.

If this sounds like the perfect career for you, then consider what an effective screenwriting degree program can teach you. But before we go into detail about what you’ll learn, let’s review what screenwriters are expected to do.

Understanding the World of Film, TV, and Digital Media

At its core, screenwriting is about creating the DNA of a film, TV show, or digital media work. It’s about creating a script—an emotional narrative—that forms the most basic building block of any movie or show. While a script might not spell everything out, it guides the decisions of the whole production team, from the actors to the director to the lighting crew.

To flesh out a story, screenwriters must do a lot of creative research. As vital contributors in the development stage, they’re tasked with creating original material that can be elevated with visual elements. Writing with these visual elements in mind is what separates screenwriters from novelists and those who write for print publications.

Moreover, screenwriters often operate in teams or partnerships, and screenplays are frequently a collaborative effort. In addition, as directors begin their phase of the project, screenwriters often have to edit the script, ensuring that the script aligns with the visual elements used in each scene.

Students on production set

Courses That Prepare You for a Screenwriting Career

Clearly, screenwriting involves a lot more than sitting at your keyboard and typing, though of course that’s a component as well.

A screenwriting degree can provide you with skills and resources that are harder to obtain on your own. Below are a few examples of important classes to look for in a screenwriting program:

Creating the Skeleton for a Feature Film

As a writing student, you’ll learn how to create engaging plot lines for feature films. However, before you can develop a whole screenplay on your own, you need to understand the outlining and drafting process.

Every script goes through several iterations before it’s finalized. Courses that walk you through the drafting process teach you how to incorporate feedback, accept critique, and evaluate storytelling decisions.

Student writing notes on script

Analyzing Great Screenplays

One of the best ways to become a better screenwriter is to dissect the work of screenwriters you admire. What did they excel at? Were any writing choices controversial? What lessons can you take away from the people who came before you?

In a screenwriting degree program, you’ll have classes devoted to deconstructing successful—and unsuccessful—screenplays. Under the guidance of your mentors, you’ll get an in-depth look at story, structure, and more. You’ll also get educated, nuanced opinions on why certain elements work and why others don’t.

Developing Authentic and Relatable Characters

Before you can get anywhere with your script, however, you need characters.

If you enjoy emotionally complex and character-driven narratives, screenwriting classes will teach you how to build a cast to populate your story. You’ll have the chance to explore everything from individual backstories to how different characters impact each other.

Students reviewing script on set

Keeping the Audience Hooked With Engaging Dialogue

Producing dialogue that conveys important information about the characters, their circumstances, and their motivations while entertaining the audience is a lot harder than it looks.

Screenwriting programs offer classes that will help you create engaging dialogue consistent with your characters’ personalities and goals. You will also have endless opportunities to practice crafting dialogue for a wide range of projects—some of which may find their way into your portfolio.

Exploring the Process of Bringing a Film to Life

Once you’ve covered the basics of screenwriting, the next step is to put it all to use. Courses on pitching and script development will teach you how to navigate the marketplace. You’ll learn all about how to market your ideas, where to focus your efforts, what makes a pitch appealing, and much more.

In addition, you’ll develop and adapt your own show material for class projects, allowing you to explore the process with advice from your instructors and peers. All in all, you’ll gain offer valuable insight into the workings of the industry.

Students on production set

Access to Writing Internships and Other Opportunities

Lastly, to round out your educational journey, you can benefit from becoming an intern at a screenwriting studio or other setting related to TV and film production. As an intern, you’ll have many opportunities to build your screenwriting skills and launch a strong career.

Many art schools enjoy partnerships or access to resources that can help students find suitable internships. In fact, some screenwriting programs even offer internship courses that allow students to work in professional settings for academic credit.

Interested in learning more about screenwriting degree programs? Visit our School of Writing for Film, Television, & Digital Media page or request more information today. On the other hand, if you’re ready to pursue a career in screenwriting, you can easily get started by submitting your application today.