• M.F.A. in Screenwriting

    Hone your craft and become a true screenwriting professional.

» M.F.A. in Screenwriting

Screenwriting is like any calling: It is who you are, not merely what you do. And like most callings, being a screenwriter requires three distinctive characteristics:

  • Passion. You live to write and are obsessed with perfection.
  • Perseverance. You’re willing and able to endure untold hours of hard work.
  • Patience. You can accept the inevitable criticism and rewrites as well as the time involved in going from script to screen.

Whether you’re starting from scratch with no prior screenwriting experience or you’ve already written a number of screenplays, Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts is an amazing place to hone your craft and become a true screenwriting professional.

Our 2-year MFA in Screenwriting is an intensive program designed to help you develop your individual creativity as you explore the intricacies of story structure and character development. You’ll work one-on-one with an outstanding faculty of Hollywood screenwriters who have countless years of experience in both film and television — and many awards on their shelves. And you’ll learn to write in a variety of art forms — short film and feature-length, episodic television and mini-series.

But just because we teach structure, doesn’t mean we’re bound by it. After all, too much structure often translates into too much predictability. Instead, we take a holistic approach to screenwriting with an emphasis on visual storytelling. Your work will be evaluated on its own merit as you cultivate your own voice, sharpen your personal sensibilities and refine your skills.

A screenplay is essentially a blueprint for a movie, and thus incomplete until produced. As such, a great deal of your time here will be spent collaborating with fellow students — actors, directors, editors and cinematographers — getting your stories produced. In addition, you will study the fundamentals of film production so you’ll have first-hand knowledge how these functions come together to produce a film. And when you’re ready to leave us, you’ll go with at least two complete screenplays as well as a list of contacts, ready to make your move in Hollywood

+ - Learning Outcomes

In mastering the curriculum of the M.F.A. in Screenwriting, students will gain competence in the following areas:

1. Foundational skills and storytelling tools: visual writing, screenplay format, dramatic scenes, exposition, time management, motifs (planting and payoff), dramatic Irony, telegraphing, dangling causes

2. Character issues: characters drawn from life, fully-dimensional characters, character arc, economical, fresh, character-specific dialogue, effective character entrances

3. Personal vision: development of a personal vision/distinctive voice, how this is expressed through theme

4. Feature screenplay issues: three act and eight sequence structures, notions of main tension, culmination and resolution

+ - Degree Requirements

Requirements for the degree

  1. Complete 48 credits at the 500 or 600 level.
  2. Successfully complete a thesis screenplay.

The following sequence of courses prepares students for successful completion of the thesis screenplay. The courses must be taken in the following order, during the semesters indicated. Any deviation must be approved by the film division chair.

first year (27 credits)

fall requirements (12 credits)

SW 527

Fundamentals of Screenwriting

3

FP 531

Production Workshop I

3

SW 557

Film Script Analysis

3

SW 627

Feature Screenwriting I

3

spring requirements (9 credits)

SW 555

The Short Film Form

3

SW 647

Feature Screenwriting II

3

SW 648

Seminar in Adaptation

3

summer requirements (6 credits)

SW 587

Short Script Workshop

3

FTV 690

Independent Internship

3

second year (21 credits)

fall requirements (9 credits)

FS 502

Evolution of Narrative Film I

3

SW 628

Seminar in Television Writing (Drama)

3

SW 698

Thesis in Screenwriting

3

spring requirements (12 credits)

FTP 562

The Development Process of Film and Television

3

SW 630

Seminar In Television Writing (Comedy)

3

SW 698

Thesis in Screenwriting

3

Elective (must be approved by screenwriting advisor or graduate chair)

3

total credits

 

48

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