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SCREENWRITING: 



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Sincerely.To encourage students to use critical thinking. Filmmaking is by nature a collaborative process. sound and visual effects experts. creative designed to capitalize on students’ natural interest in writing and language skills as they learn how writers current films and the excitement generated by the contribute to the process of creating a motion picture. Since 1981. Oscar?. A four-color wall poster for classroom display with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts 4.com to comment world.000 Introduction motion picture craftsmen and women. feel free from around the to e-mail us at schoolroom@aol. art designers. the Academy Awards are your students’ needs. Program Components 1. secondary school English. many craft areas involved in creating a motion picture. please fill the top filmmakers out and return the enclosed reply card. In an age when awards shows seem as common may make as many photocopies as necessary to meet as nightly news programs. nomina- Roberta Nusim tions (of up to five selections for each category) are Publisher determined by a secret ballot of Academy members representing each category. include advancing the art and science of motion pic. broadcast coverage ever since. Because our space is limited.This instructional guide Dear Educator: 2. The awards nomination and selection process pro- vides a wonderful opportunity to teach your students This is the first in a series of guides that will focus on about the many craft areas—and the many communica- different branches of the Academy of Motion Picture tions techniques—that play a part in creating a motion Arts and Sciences. about the program at any time. and to develop visual medium of communication. and writers. fostering cooperation among creative leaders for asm was so great that a Los Angeles radio station did a cultural. art directors.The activities are 2. literacy skills. sound. film editing. directing. A response card for teacher comments and Sciences. educational and technological progress. in cooperation 3. one-hour broadcast.To help students become more visually literate. please with each craft area supporting and being supported by be sure to fill out and return the enclosed reply car the others. and fostering educa.To enhance student interest in and knowledge about for students in secondary school English. been presented for achievement in each of the following try’s actors. this kit focuses on just one of those areas—writing. film editors. and communications courses. foreign-language film and short-film categories. Although the material is copyrighted. documentary film.The question. directors. Students will learn about screenwriting as they com. All Academy members vote to select the final winners. best picture. Also. com.” is decided by a true jury of peers. recog. Awards of Merit—Oscars—have people who create movies—the cream of the indus. visual effects and your school.To engage students in an exploration of film as a thinking and creative writing.We welcome your “Who gets the thoughts and suggestions. With the excep- tion of the best pic- ture. 1929. foreign-language film. The Academy. is proud to present the first in a series of annual study guides that will Target Audience focus on the different branches of the This program has been designed for students in Academy. animated and live-action Please share this material with other teachers in short film. Program Objectives plete the activities in this kit. make-up. documentary. and the Awards have enjoyed nizing outstanding achievements. which has been designed 1. posers. unique because the judges—Academy members—are To ensure that you receive future mailings. . Academy members are the the years. music. organized in 1927. costume design. is a professional honorary organization composed of more than 6. costume categories or sub-divisions of categories: acting. If you would like to receive future picture. live. Four student activity masters Youth Media International. enthusi- tures. 4. just after the advent of “talkies. language arts and This guide focuses on the art of writing. direction. Its purposes The first Academy Awards were handed out on May 16.” By 1930. producers. Academy Awards to teach valuable lessons in critical 3. one of the communications courses. cinematography. make-up artists. tional activities between the professional community The number and types of awards have grown over and the public at large. kits from the Academy and its various branches. cinematographers. you writing. sound-effects editing. language arts the motion picture development and production process.

The script section on the activity Story (original screenplay. each approach takes into consideration Supplementar y Activity: Have students character descriptions.These T he creative process of writing is the same regardless of the medium—whether the writer is working on a book. in a place or places. Note: If your stu- without action. 1990). (A plot point is an incident or event that ties screenwriting and may be appropriate for your stu. you have no story. 1995). there are important differences in the technical Before your students begin to work on their scripts. identify and discuss the “plot points” in the film they The following films have won Academy Awards for viewed. if any.’” In a screenplay. dents have access to you have no screenplay. Driving Miss Daisy (adapted screenplay.Then.Selecting Films tributes to the dramatic whole. act three provides computers. and it follows a very definite form. The Extra- more detailed discussion of proper script format. and without story. and Breaking Away (original screenplay. Howards End (adapted the end of the second act. them to set up their Some writers begin their work by writing the ideas scripts according to the model provided. If computers for their scenes on index cards. Without conflict you have no approaches they took.org/ Activity 1. character. or first-draft scripts—do not include scene numbers and designate few. into the action in the first act of the film and connects dents: Forrest Gump (adapted screen. (original screenplay. they will develop for Student Viewing the treatment for their own original story. and analyze how each part con- . Still others start with a treatment—a narra. student to “script” the Like a play. doing time and ends up with a his or her or their ‘thing.T. might want to review the discussion on screenplay format that is included in the Nicholl Fellowships sec- tion of the Academy Web site (http://www. Act two contains the your students take conflict—the basis of any drama. Field of follow (parts of it have been abridged for space).) Have them incorporate plot screenplay. process of writing for a visual medium like film.” Finally. without character. think in visual terms—he or she must be able to two members of the homecoming court show up for show what is happening.oscars. you Terrestrial (original screenplay. 1979). the game in the same dress. sales scripts. describes a screenplay as being “like a noun—it’s laundry for the first about a person. 1996). students can approximate the format outline. basketball team does ing.Then.html). or the star forward on the Syd Field. you have no action. central story conflicts and key complete their scripts and hold a “screenwriter’s plot points. the writer must be able to visually. and connects it screenplay. encourage some kind of resolution. Toy pared. as they write by hand. or persons. 1995). you might want to give them some practice in writing haps most important. For a Dreams (adapted screenplay. 1992). Others begin with an are not available. Babe (adapted screen- sheet provides a good example for your students to play. a play or a screenplay. FORMATTING The following films were nomi- the SCRIPT T nated for Academy Awards and may he rules for screenwriting extend to be appropriate for your students: the format in which the script is pre- Shine (original screenplay. the screenplay unfolds in acts: In act one situation. Students may select the films they wish to view during the following activities. have the writer sets up the story. 1989). structure of a screenplay. Per. STRUCTURING Be sure to note that “shooting scripts” (the scripts you are most likely to find at the library) are not the a SCREENPLAY same as the scripts that screenwriters prepare. the story is pink jersey. turns explaining the “All drama is conflict. scripts—known as submission scripts. Another plot point occurs at play. Apollo 13 (adapted screenplay. Ghost (original to act three. author of several books on screenwrit. Dead Poets Society points into their treatments. showcase” where each young writer has a chance to In this activity your students will learn about the discuss his or her script with classmates. they will view a film. academy/nichollformat2. However. identify the three basic parts. it to act two. 1982). camera shots. Give your students a situation—for example. According to Field. 1989). and E. Regardless of format. Ask each told with pictures. tive synopsis of what happens in the story. Activity 2. or you may wish to suggest Supplementary Activity: Have students films that you believe are appropriate. 1995). 1989). 1994).

but his family dispproves. ask them to make the other Miss Dashwoods. “You may well be surprised. However. a screenplay ought to be explained. If you or the parents of “No. she said with a calmness of lack of fortune affects both young women’s chances for manner. the WINNERS E “Good heavens!” cried Elinor. have them read your family. a wealthy young woman whom she has only recent. Some are especially appropriate be_____?” And she did not feel much delighted with for families.—but the time may come—how and feeling. quite as his notes on how the book differs from the film. long standing?” The exercise on the activity sheet will require you or a “We have been engaged these four years. She looked down as she said this. “not to Mr. © 1998 YMI Ltd . who also wrote the film’s be so much surprised. because I know he has Sense and Sensibility—either as a class or the highest opinion in the world of all individually at home. own sisters. at so serious an inquiry into in the film. amiably bashful. because it was always meant Y outh Media to be a great secret. Jane Austen tells us a great deal about her character. “for ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES to be sure you could have had no idea of it before. that it I f a book is adapted to film. if I had not felt the greatest SCREENPLAY from dependence in the world upon your secrecy. dents can locate reviews in newspapers and magazines. we must rely “I dare say you are. and determine their not an immediate disbelief of the assertion attended it. she stood firm in nominees and winners appears at the beginning of this incredulity and felt in no danger of an hysterical fit. Stu- What felt Elinor at that moment? Astonishment. Her astonishment at what she their younger sister and mother are left in heard was at first too great for words. from past years to complete the exercises. but. had compare what the critics have to say.” said she. Activity 3.” Steele.They can view Acad- She turned towards Lucy in silent amazement. which tolerably well concealed her surprise marriage. but their and to speak cautiously. or even all. that would have been as painful as it was strong. And I do not think Mr. “what do you mean? ach year. you can modify this activity in several ways. The book and the film revolve around Elinor for a few moments remained Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. their father. But if I dared tell you all. geared toward adult audiences. A list of past and though her complexion varied. “to his elder brother. Ferrars also must be developed for it. reduced circumstances after the death of but at length forcing herself to speak. Elinor speaks first: acquainted till the other day. selections for this year’s winning films. “I did not know. some are appealing to teens. and looks upon yourself and the book. kept so by me to this hour.”—She paused. the film industry produces an array of out- Are you acquainted with Mr.” continued Lucy. In the film. a swoon.” “But really. Ferrars. Mrs.As they read. and some are the idea of such a sister-in-law. and I am sure I do not at all on the writer’s ability and the ability of the actress who wonder at it. soon it will come must depend upon herself—when we may be very intimately connected.” Activity 4. have your students view the film have trusted you. Robert Ferrars? Can you standing new releases. with only one side glance at her companion to LEARNING from observe its effect on her. and I am sure has been faithfully International Ltd. Not a soul of all my rela- tions know of it but Anne. when he knows I activity.They are taken in by a kindly cousin. of this year’s never saw him in my life. Elinor forms an attachment with the wealthy and solicitude— “May I ask if your engagement is of Edward Ferrars. and I really thought my behaviour in asking so many ques- a BOOK tions about Mrs. and I never should have DEVELOPING a mentioned it to you. Ferrars is certainly nothing Oscar-winning screenplay) to show us what she is thinking to me at present. and therefore I am a This passage is very similar to the corresponding scene little surprised.” what Elinor is thinking and feeling. must seem so odd. Robert Ferrars—I your students feel that some.” fixing her eyes upon nominees might be inappropriate for viewing by young Elinor. I confess.Then.” people. you would not plays Elinor (Emma Thompson.” student to read the following passage from the book aloud “Four years!” to the class. Elinor is talking with Lucy “Yes.” replied Lucy. or teacher’s guide. unable emy Award nominees and Academy Award-winning films to divine the reason or object of such a declaration. I never understood that you were at all connected with that family. In this passage. for I dare say he never dropped the smallest hint of it to you or any of your family. who with silent. “that you were even ly met.To begin this can be displeased.

where the action unfolds through the other side of the paper if you need room. the writer sets up the story and establishes the relationships between the characters. central characters and emotional sub. A treatment is a brief ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ synopsis that tells the core of the story. middle. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Pick a film that you would like to see. Finally. when the crises or conflicts are resolved. think about a story that you would like to tell. It is gen- erally 4 to 20 pages in length and includes the ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ plot. What conflicts will your characters face when the main character must face a series of crises or overcome obstacles that as the story unfolds? keep him from achieving his goal. The viewer must be able to see the action unfold. Make your rough notes in the space provided. It is an excellent tool to allow ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ the writer to see where story points work. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ning. develop the ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ conflicts or complications in 60 pages. How will you “set up” the story and The process begins when the writer develops introduce the characters? a “treatment” of the story. where the action unfolds in the mind of the main character. or visual story. film is a visual medium. Activity STRUCTURING 1 Reproducible Master a SCREENPLAY E very good film starts with a good screenplay. Use the space below to make notes. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ plots of the story. words of the characters. the screenwriter begins to work on the screenplay itself. Use the or a play. action. Unlike a novel. and end.Then. Next. and where they do not. there is a second act (usually about 60 minutes). ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ How is the conflict resolved? ______________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ © 1998 YMI Ltd . try to identify the begin. and resolve the conflicts and tie up the loose ends in the last 30 pages. One page of screenplay is equal to about one minute of time in the film. Use another sheet of paper to write a one-page treatment.That ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ means the screenwriter must set the story up in about 30 pages. he ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ or she uses a very specific three-act structure: In the opening act (usually about ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 30 minutes). In doing so. there is a final act (generally about 30 ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ minutes). As you watch. N ow. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Title of film: ____________________________________________________________________________________________ How will you resolve the conflicts as you end your story? How is the story set up? How are the characters introduced? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ What is the conflict in the film? How does the conflict develop? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Now you are ready to write a “treat- ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ment” for your story.

develop the script for the first 10 minutes of your story.** There is a PAINTING on the wall behind Sean. typed in 12-pt. script for the film. describe one or two scenes that you thought were N ow. Good Will Hunting. Descriptions of SEAN settings and the action Tell me what you really think. WILL Courier. and those that are adapted (Sean’s office is comfortable. SEAN’S OFFICE—DAY specifically for film. Now it’s your turn to become a screenwriter. Do you paint? characters’ names are typed in capital letters. You paint this? Dialog is centered on the page in lines of SEAN about 3 inches. Will studies it. Both by no means a masterpiece. Poor color composition. WILL Descriptions of how a No. see how dark it Notice how little dialog is? It’s interesting. The color here.  about. character is to speak the SEAN lines and what he or she Crayons? does as they speak are enclosed in parentheses. Each On the back of this sheet. WILL Scene headings (“slug This is a real piece of s____. But that s____ doesn’t This section of the really concern me. You ever hear setting has been omitted the saying “Any port in a storm”? where the ** appears. each character has at one time. and how much the SEAN characters convey by how What is? they say their lines and WILL what they do.)** for film from another It is a picture of an old sailboat in a tremendous storm— published work. Sean is seated behind a desk. watch another film that you would like to see.) use the same standard format.FORMATTING the SCRIPT Activity 2 CUT TO: Reproducible Master T here are two kinds of screenplays— those that are developed INT. SEAN shows the correct format What does? (Good Will Hunting won the 1997 Academy Award WILL for original screenplay). I think you’re one step away from log and description of the cutting your ear off. that takes place are typed in lines of about WILL 6 inches long. briefly explain what the story was page of your script should equal about one minute of screen time.Working from much do you learn from what they say? the treatment you developed in Activity 1. lousy use of space. at right. Keep in mind that a film is a Title of film:______________________________________________ visual story and that it isn’t necessary to have lots of dialog. lines”) appear in capital letters.The Yeah. © 1998 YMI Ltd . Some dia. How much do you learn about the story from what the characters do? How especially effective and explain why. Concentrate on the visual elements of the story.

How does the scene in the book differ from the scene in the film? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Pick another film you would like to see that was adapted from a book. Sense and Sensibility was adapted from the classic novel of the same name by Jane Austen. like Good Will Hunting. is a good example of a successful adaptation. Read the book and then watch the film. but it also captures viewers who have not read the book. • __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ • __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ • __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Why do you think the screenwriter made the changes he or she did?______________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Do you think the adaptation was successful? Why or why not? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ © 1998 YMI Ltd . but they begin with the previously pub- lished material as their source. which. Activity DEVELOPING a 3 Reproducible Master SCREENPLAY from a BOOK W hile Good Will Hunting was developed from an original screenplay. Use the back of this sheet if you need additional space. Adaptations are original works in themselves. Sense and Sensibility. Compare the scene in the film and the passage in the book where Lucy surprises Elinor with the news that she has been engaged to Edward for four years. play. won an Academy Award for screenwriting (1995). but he or she also must remain true to the original story. Title of original material: ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Title of film: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ List three specific ways in which the film and the book differed. short story or magazine article.Then. It is true enough to Jane Austen’s original story to please read- ers. Adapting a work can be a challenge because the writer must not only create a story that is compelling in its own right. answer the questions below.

H.The Foundations of Screenwriting. we learned that a good screenplay is a story told with pictures—we see more of the story than we are told in words. you be the judge. 1996. The nominees for best screenplay The nominees for best screenplay based on material previously written directly for the screen are: produced or published are: • __________________________________________________ • ________________________________________________ • __________________________________________________ • ________________________________________________ • __________________________________________________ • ________________________________________________ • __________________________________________________ • ________________________________________________ • __________________________________________________ • ________________________________________________ P ick one film that you would like to see from the list of nominees for best adapted screenplay. Holt & Co. Dell Publishing.oscars.We learned that a screenplay has three acts—a beginning. After viewing the film. Movie Magic: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Now. Draw a star Screenplay. by Syd Field.) How does the screenplay compare to the source? Why do you think the screenwriter made the changes that he or she did? Do you agree with the changes? Would you have made other changes? Which version of the story did you prefer—the film or the source material? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Now. Now it’s time to look at this year’s nomi- nees. How well did Academy of Motion Picture Arts and the writer set up the story? Did the writer maintain the tension as the story Sciences. © 1998 YMI Ltd .Then. either from seeing them or reading about them—predict the winners. describe why you think the nomination was given. a middle and an end.Touchstone. pick one film from the list of nominees for best original screenplay. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ From Script to Screen: Collaborative Art of ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Filmmaking. LEARNING from Activity the WINNERS 4 Reproducible Master I n the first three activities. by Robin Cross. After For more information about the viewing the film. by Linda Seger and Edward Jay Whitmore. how would you have • http://www. Using what you know about each of the nominated films— Filmmaking.Then. 1986. List the nominees for each category in the space below. tell whether you agree or disagree with the nomination.Vol. 1994. visit these Web sites: unfolded? Did you like the way the story was resolved? If not.. (Keep in mind that the nomination is based on the screenplay.They will be announced on February 9. Rizzoli. watch the Academy Awards on March 21 or read the paper the following day to Writing for Film and Television. not the source.oscar. by Jeanine Basinger. Sterling. by the film in each category that you think will win for best screenwriting. read the book or other source material upon which it is based. 1994.com ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Additional Resources ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ American Cinema: One Hundred Years of ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Filmmaking. 1.org resolved it differently? • http://www. we learned that screen- plays can be original works or they can be adapted from previously published material. And. by Stewart see how you did! Bronfeld. 1994. in the space below.