As a writer and movie lover, I decided to take a screenwriting class at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming earlier this year. Called “Screenwriting”, it spanned 15 weeks from January to May each Wednesday night from 6 pm to 9:15 pm except during Spring Break. Even though I never have had serious aspirations to see my screenplay made into movie, I took the class hoping to get more insights into how movies are made as well as improve my own writing skills.
My screenwriting class covered many aspects of the craft
Trai Cartwright, someone who had worked in Hollywood for many years, taught the class. The first week covered an introduction to screenplay writing, in which formatting of screenplays was shown to us students. We were encouraged to come up with an idea for our screenplays. Every other week, I was to read some eight completed pages of what I had written.
I got my idea for my screenplay during a writing exercise the first week involving a scene taking place in a bedroom. My screenplay, called “Two Cents”, is about a struggling writer who began to constantly dream about his high school sweetheart breaking up with him, throwing two pennies at him during the event. My protagonist was struggling in life with an unfulfilling job and decided to take time off to go visit his former hometown where his high school romance took place. Along the way, he’d encounter people from his past plus many flashbacks, often involving two pennies being around coincidentally.
I would pick members of the screenwriting class to be the characters, and they would read out loud what was written. Then members of the class as well as the instructor would give their critiques of what I’d written. Often, the criticisms centered on whether the scenes had a good narrative flow to it as well as if it made sense.
Before the readings would take place, the instructor would give a lecture about various aspects of writing the screenplay, which included characters, dialogue, the intended messages in the screenplay trying to be conveyed, and more, stressing that re-writes were a fact of life in this craft. Scenes from recent and classic movies were often used to help make the point of the instructor. Additionally, students were expected to analyze a favorite scene from a film of their choice. I chose a scene from the movie “JFK”, which like my screenplay, had lots of flashbacks in it.
I came away from the screenwriting class with more appreciation of how movies are made
As the weeks progressed, I learned more about building upon the structure of my screenplay. One week was devoted to the instructor giving her insights into how to break into Hollywood, for many of the students in the class had aspirations of seeing their works being made into feature films. One of my biggest issues was having a tendency to write long scenes for my dramatic screenplay, which the instructor admonished me about either in class or via email. I ultimately appreciated her patient feedback in trying to make my writing more to the point.
I completed a screenplay right at 90 pages, something I never would’ve done on my own. I came away from this screenwriting class learning more about how movies are made, watching films with more appreciation, and writing more to the point.
*Note: This was written by an Associated Content contributor. Sign up here to start publishing your own movie articles.