Saturday, 4 April 2009

MA Screenwriting, Bournemouth University - Intro

A developing theme of this blog seems to have been promising things and not delivering them.

Report on David Hare talking about TV drama at the BFI? Nah - although you can get the highlights here.

Reviews of the theatre productions I've seen recently? Well... I've thought about them quite a bit...

Some thoughts on the MA course I did at Bournemouth? That was one of the reasons I started the blog, but I've just never got round to it. However, given the lively debate on the value of screenwriting courses that keeps bubbling up all over the place I thought I should extract the digit and get on with it.

The course was two years long, based around three residential periods in each year (a week in July and three days each in November and February) and phone tutorials in between. The fees when I did it were around £2,600 a year (though you could get a discount for paying it in a lump sum at the start).

The award is based on a total of 1,800 hours work over the two years, which tots up to about 18 hours a week. My main concern was fitting the work around a full-time job, but I managed to set up routines and it worked out fine - I guess as much as anything, it's a test of your level of commitment to writing. I found my workrate improved when I stopped trying to immerse myself in every bit of recommended background reading and focused on the assignments themselves.

So how useful was it? Well, I definitely think I've become a better writer through it. The teaching wasn't dogmatic in terms of prescribing structure etc, but used a lot of clips and screenings to illustrate aspects of genre, theme, tone, narrative techniques etc. It was also very inspiring to get away from 'real life' for a few days and spend 12 hours a day just being a screenwriter.

However, I think the most useful aspect was the rigorous feedback given during the writing assignments. All of the tutors are broadcast/produced screenwriters, and each unit had a number of tutorials - script meetings, in effect - where the work in progress is given a right good going over.

I actually found this a bit bruising at the start, but there's no doubt that objective and informed criticism improves the quality of your work. The need to deliver new drafts for deadlines also sharpens your motivation and fends off procrastination.

I'll leave it there for now, but will come back again to look at each of the ten units in a bit more detail. I think the course has been slightly amended since I graduated, but these were the units I did.

1. Writing in Vision and Sound (10-min script)
2. Writing the Interior Monologue (15-min script)
3. Writing from Observational Research (30-min script)
4. Writing the Professional Script Report
5. Writing the TV Drama Episode (Life on Mars, Without a Trace or Heartbeat)
Analysing TV Drama (5,000-wd essay)
7. Study of Industry Practice
8. MA Major Proposal
9. MA Major Project (feature-length script or 60-min TV pilot plus bible)
10. Analysing the MA Major Project (5,000-wd essay)

1 comment:

mark said...

Cheers Tom, very interesting. As you know I'll be slcing off 18 hours of my week very soon, myself.