The Development Term

I am now one week into Term 2 at VFS. The majority of my classes this term focus on developing stories so that I can write a strong first draft. In one of my classes I am developing a feature film that I pitched last term. It is a romantic comedy about two quirky English majors in their final year of university. Feature development class involves discussing a one-sheet synopsis and then writing and workshopping two drafts of a beat sheet, which is a break down of every major story beat. (A beat is one character trying to get something from another character. Different than a scene, because a scene can have more than one beat and a beat can stretch over more than one scene).

I also have a TV Spec course, which involves developing a script for a TV Spec. Basically, this means writing an episode of an existing TV series. Development for this script will include watching episodes of the show and reading teleplays of previous episodes to learn the format that the show follows. TV Specs are helpful for screenwriting portfolios because they show your writing ability and can come in handy when applying for TV writing jobs.

In terms of development, I am also collaborating with some writing classmates and some students from the Film Production program to write two episodes for a web series. They will be filmed next term.

My other classes include Dialogue, which focuses on–you guessed it–dialogue, and Crime Genre, which consists of reading and analyzing well-known screenplays in the genre of–you guessed it again–crime.

But as I said, the main focus of Term 2 is developing our ideas in preparation for Term 3, when the real writing begins.

And never ends.

Term 1 at VFS

I just finished my first term of Vancouver Film School’s Writing for Film & Television program. Woohoo! This term, I did not do very much screenwriting, but I feel like I learned a lot and set a good foundation for the rest of my time at VFS. My classes were like this:

Format–Learning the standard format for feature film speculative (spec) scripts, and the differences between spec and shooting scripts. (Shooting scripts are what the crew uses during production.) Also, TV writers can pretty much do what they want when it comes to format.

TV Genre–The main conventions of each TV genre, the challenges of writing each genre, and the pros and cons of each.

Script Genre–Reading and analyzing classic and well-known, respected screenplays, such as Some Like it Hot, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Graduate, Unforgiven, Planes Trains and Automobiles, and Juno.

Pitch–Practicing how to explain our story ideas effectively in preparation for pitching our ideas to instructors in later terms and, more importantly, to producers in the future. The trick is to be concise yet detailed and interesting so the producer will want to buy your story and/or pay you to write (and re-write) it.

Story–Everyone presented one feature film idea in a one page format answering specific questions about the main story beats. I presented a romantic comedy about two quirky English majors. More on that later.

Character–Everyone presented a second feature film idea, this time focusing on the details of the protagonist and antagonist. I presented a thriller set in a theatre. More on that later as well.

Short Script–We studied a number of good (and a few bad) short films, and learned about how short films can be a useful tool to start your screenwriting career, because a produced short gives you a produced writing credit that you can take to festivals. Working on a short will also help you make connections with directors, producers, and actors. Everyone wrote a short script (3-15 pages) and then workshopped and revised it twice.

That was Term 1 in a nutshell. I’m very happy with what I’ve done so far, and I like all of my instructors and classmates.
Five terms and ten months to go!