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SOCAPA offers one, two and three week intensives in screenwriting at our New York City and Los Angeles campuses. Students will have the option of developing two short screenplays (4-8 pages each), one longer screenplay (10-12 pages), or the first act of a feature-length screenplay. The course is designed to serve as a precursor to our filmmaking workshops with the idea that students will go on to produce and direct the screenplays that they write in this course during a SOCAPA filmmaking session later in the summer or the following year.
The two week screenwriting intensive provides students with the time, structure, feedback, and theory to hone their writing skills with a particular focus on story and character development. Students spend time workshopping and critiquing their own and each others’ work, as well as analyzing films to discover what works and what doesn’t.
In the three week intensive, students are able to work on polishing more than one short piece, or to strongly develop the first act of a longer story idea. In addition, students create a project as a group which they produce as a learning experience to understand what happens to a script when it is taken into the hands of directors and actors.
In the mornings, students have their main writing theory class. Through a close analysis of award-winning shorts and clips from feature films, students break down the key ingredients of a successful screenplay. A strong emphasis is placed on the classic Hollywood three-act structure and the rules of visual storytelling which, once mastered, are of course meant to be broken. Topics include idea and theme generation, character development/analysis, producibility, proper formatting, screenwriting software, genre study and marketing strategies.
There is a tendency among many of our students to want to write a feature-length script right out of the gate. This is only natural because feature-length films are what they know. Movie theaters and film channels show feature-length movies (generally considered any film over eighty minutes in length) almost exclusively. But in the film industry, the short film remains an essential career-building tool. Short films serve as calling cards, showcasing the talent of their writer/directors and garnering them the attention necessary to break into the business. Feature films cost, on average, in the multi-millions to make, whereas a short film can be done on a shoestring budget.
SOCAPA encourages our screenwriting students to set realistic goals by not putting the cart in front of the horse. All the great novelists and feature film directors started out by working in the short story format. SOCAPA strongly believes that our students should first experiment with and master the short film before moving on to feature-length screenplays. That said, if a student is dead set on developing an idea for a feature, the course will help them develop a full-length story treatment and the first act of a screenplay.
After lunch, students have supervised writing lab time and one-on-one writing advisements. Successful screenwriting is rewriting and writing lab is when SOCAPA screenwriting students buckle down and make their ideas come to life on the page. At the end of each lab, students come together again for their "writers colony workshop." They pitch their ideas, do script readings, critique each other's work and solve narrative problems with the help of their instructor and their classmates. This creative workshop is invaluable in that students learn from one another's successes and failures, and form a community of young artists who continue to support each other and nurturing collaborative friendships long after the summer comes to an end.
"SOCAPA is an awesome program that truly opens up your horizons when it comes to the arts. The people, the atmosphere, and the dining hall meals are great. I am very glad that I came here this summer!"
Dan F, Fairfield, CT