School of Cinematic Arts

Writing for Screen and Television

Bachelor of Fine Arts

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing for Screen and Television is a unique, four-year program for students who seek intensive professional preparation for a career in screen and television writing. This rigorous program emphasizes small, workshop-style classes, and attracts students from all over the world. Students attend a variety of guest speaker presentations, take high level industry internships, are provided with mentors and taught by world-class professors.

Each fall, a class of 26 undergraduate writing students is selected to begin the program. A total of 128 units is required for completion of the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree; 50 of these units are taken in a prescribed sequential order. Seventy-two units are required for the major. There are no spring admissions.

Applicants must submit supplemental application and materials to the program office. For specific instructions, contact Writing for Screen and Television, University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211 or telephone (213) 740-3303, or online at cinema.usc.edu.

General Education Requirements

The university’s general education program provides a coherent, integrated introduction to the breadth of knowledge you will need to consider yourself (and to be considered by other people) a generally well-educated person. This program requires six courses in different categories, plus writing and diversity requirements, which together comprise the USC Core. See The USC Core and the General Education Program for more information.

Required Production Courses

Undergraduate writing students are required to take CTPR 290 Cinematic Communication. This introductory production course is taken during the sophomore year.

CTPR 290 introduces that interrelationship of visuals, sound and editing in cinematic communication. Students participate in directing and producing workshops as well as individual and group projects. Approximately $1,000 should be budgeted for miscellaneous expenses, lab and insurance fees.

Four-Year Major Requirements (72 units)

Year One, First Semester Units
CNTV 101 Reality Starts Here 2
CTCS 190 Introduction to Cinema 4
CTPR 409 Practicum in Television Production 2
CTWR 106a Screenwriting Fundamentals 4
12

Year One, Second Semester Units
CTCS 201 History of the International Cinema II 4
CTWR 106b Screenwriting Fundamentals 4
CTWR 120 Genesis of the Screenplay 2
10

Year Two, First Semester Units
CTPR 290 Cinematic Communication 6
CTWR 206a Writing the Screenplay 4
CTWR 314 Writing to be Performed 2
CTWR 321 Introduction to Television Writing 2
14

Year Two, Second Semester Units
CTWR 206b Writing the Screenplay 4
CTWR 250 Breaking the Story 2
6

Year Three, First Semester Units
CTCS 464 Film and/or Television Genres, or
CTCS 469 Film and/or Television Style Analysis 4
CTWR 305 Advanced Screenwriting: The Relationship Screenplay 4
CTWR 416 Motion Picture Script Analysis 2
CTWR 434 Writing the Half-Hour Comedy Series 2
12

Year Three, Second Semester Units
CTWR 411 Television Script Analysis 2
CTWR 421 Writing the Hour-Long Dramatic Series 2
CTWR 453 Advanced Feature Rewriting 4
8

Year Four, First Semester Units
CTWR 418a Senior Thesis, or
CTWR 419a Senior Thesis in Dramatic Television 4
4

Year Four, Second Semester Units
CTWR 418b Senior Thesis, or
CTWR 419b Senior Thesis in Dramatic Television 4
CTWR 459a Entertainment Industry Seminar 2
6

Electives units
Suggested electives in Cinematic Arts include:
CTWR 404 Foundations of Comedy 2
CTWR 410L Character Development and Storytelling for Games 4
CTWR 417 Script Coverage and Story Analysis 2
CTWR 422 Creating the Dramatic Television Series 2
CTWR 430 The Writer in American Cinema and Television 2
CTWR 431 Screenwriters and Their Work 2, max 6
CTWR 433 Adaptations: Transferring Existing Work to the Screen 2
CTWR 435 Writing for Film and Television Genres 2 or 4, max 8
CTWR 437 Writing the Original Situation Comedy Pilot 4, max 8
CTWR 438 Linked Narrative Storytelling for the Web 4
CTWR 439 Writing the Original Dramatic Series Pilot 4, max 8
CTWR 449 Rewriting the Original Dramatic Series Pilot 4, max 8
CTWR 468 Screenwriting in Collaboration 4, max 8
CTWR 487 Staff Writing the Multi-Camera Television Series 4, max 8
CTWR 499 Special Topics 2–4, max 8

Grade Point Average Requirements

A minimum grade of C (2.0) must be earned in all required and prerequisite courses (a grade of C- (1.7) or lower will not fulfill a major requirement).

Master of Fine Arts

The Master of Fine Arts degree in Writing for Screen and Television, is an intensive two-year degree program that concentrates on writing for narrative film and television. During the course of their studies, students benefit from a wide array of internship and mentorship opportunities available as a result of the university’s close links to the Los Angeles film industry’s top screenwriters, directors, production companies and studios.

Course work includes practical instruction in everything a working writer needs to learn about the filmmaker’s art and craft. Writing is taught in small workshop-style classes. The approach focuses on the visual tools of storytelling, developing stories from characters and then on an Aristotelian three act structure. Fractured narratives, ensemble stories, experiments with time and points of view, as well as other idiosyncratic styles of storytelling, are also addressed. The curriculum covers other professional concerns, including legal issues, agents and the Writer’s Guild, as well as the history and analysis of cinema and television. Classes are taught by working writers with a wide variety of skills, experience and approaches.

Each fall 32 students are selected to begin the Graduate Writing for Screen and Television Program; there are no spring admissions. Applicants must submit a supplemental application and materials to the Graduate Writing for Screen and Television Program. For specific instructions, contact the Graduate Writing for Screen and Television Program, University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211, or telephone (213) 740-3303, or online at cinema.usc.edu.

A total of 44 units is required. A minimum of 30 units must be 500-level or above.

Required Courses (32–34 units)

Year One, First Semester Units
CNTV 501 Cinematic Arts Seminar 1
CTWR 513 Writing the Short Script 2
CTWR 514a Basic Dramatic Screenwriting 2
CTWR 572 Practicum in Directing Actors for Film 2
7

Year One, Second Semester Units
CTWR 502 Graduate Writing Symposium 1
CTWR 521 Advanced Hour-Long Television Drama, or
CTWR 534 Advanced Half-Hour Television Comedy 2
CTWR 514b Basic Dramatic Screenwriting 2
CTWR 516 Advanced Motion Picture Script Analysis 2
7

Year Two, First Semester Units
CTWR 515a Practicum in Screenwriting, or
CTWR 517a Thesis in Half-Hour Television Comedy, or
CTWR 519a Thesis in Television Drama 4
4

Year Two, Second Semester Units
CTWR 515b Practicum in Screenwriting, or
CTWR 517b Thesis in Half-Hour Television Comedy, or
CTWR 519b Thesis in Television Drama 4
CTWR 520 Advanced Scene Writing Workshop 2
CTWR 559 The Business of Writing for Screen and Television 2
8

A minimum of two units of course work with a production component is required.

courses with a production component (2 units) units
CTAN 448 Introduction to Film Graphics — Animation 4
CTIN 501 Interactive Cinema 2
CTPR 476 Directing the Comedic Scene 2
CTPR 479 Single Camera Television Dramatic Pilot 2
CTPR 484 Advanced Multi-Camera Television Workshop 4
CTPR 504 Fundamentals of Production 4
CTPR 507 Production I 4
CTWR 438 Linked Narrative Storytelling for the Web 4
CTWR 487 Staff Writing the Multi-Camera Television Series 4

A minimum of four units of critical studies course work is required.

CTCS courses (4 units) units
CTCS 464 Film and/or Television Genres 4
CTCS 469 Film and/or Television Style Analysis 4
CTCS 501 History of Global Cinema Before World War II 2
CTCS 502 History of Global Cinema After World War II 2
CTCS 503 Survey History of the United States Sound Film 2
CTCS 504 Survey of Television History 2
CTCS 505 Survey of Interactive Media 2
CTCS 510 Case Studies in National Media and/or Regional Media 4, max 12
CTCS 511 Seminar: Non-Fiction Film/Video 4
CTCS 518 Seminar: Avant-Garde Film/Video 4
CTCS 564 Seminar in Film and Television Genres 4
CTCS 569 Seminar in Film and Television Authors 4
CTCS 587 Seminar in Television Theory 4
Electives (10–12 units)

Students may choose from the following electives to complete their degree. Additional courses beyond the required 4 units of CTCS course work, from the critical studies list of courses, may be taken as electives, as can additional courses from the list of courses with a production component. Electives outside of cinematic arts are available with departmental approval.

ELECTIVES UNITS
CTAN 436 Writing for Animation 2
CTIN 458 Business and Management of Games 2
CTIN 483 Introduction to Game Development 4
CTIN 488 Game Design Workshop 4
CTIN 558 Business of Interactive Media 2
CTPR 486 Single Camera Television Dramatic Series 4
CTPR 506 Visual Expression 2
CTWR 404 Foundations of Comedy 2
CTWR 411 Television Script Analysis 2
CTWR 422 Creating the Dramatic Television Series 2, max 4
CTWR 430 The Writer in American Cinema and Television 2
CTWR 431 Screenwriters and Their Work 2, max 6
CTWR 433 Adaptations: Transferring Existing Work to the Screen 2
CTWR 441 Writing Workshop in Creativity and Imagination 2
CTWR 499 Special Topics 2–4, max 8
CTWR 518 Introduction to Interactive Writing 2
CTWR 541 Dreams, the Brain, and Storytelling 2
CTWR 550 Advanced Story Development 2
CTWR 555 Pitching for Film and Television 2
CTWR 599 Special Topics 2–4, max 8

WRITING Intensive ELECTIVES UNITS
CTWR 410L Character Development and Storytelling for Games 4
CTWR 435 Writing for Film and Television Genres 2 or 4, max 8
CTWR 437 Writing the Original Situation Comedy Pilot 4, max 8
CTWR 438 Linked Narrative Story-telling for the Web 4
CTWR 439 Writing the Original Dramatic Series Pilot 4, max 8
CTWR 453 Advanced Feature Rewriting 4
CTWR 468 Screenwriting in Collaboration 4, max 8
CTWR 487 Staff Writing the Multi-Camera Television Series 4, max 8
CTWR 553 Advanced Rewriting Workshop 4

Courses listed as writing intensive electives are considered heavy writing classes; students may take a maximum of three courses and 10 units of writing intensive courses per semester, required and/or elective.

Grade Point Average Requirement

An overall grade point average of 3.0 (A = 4.0) must be maintained in all courses. In addition, an overall grade point average of 3.0 in all units attempted is required to qualify for registration in CTWR 515ab, CTWR 517ab or CTWR 519ab. Courses in which a grade of C- (1.7) or lower is earned will not apply toward a graduate degree.

In lieu of a thesis the student is required to either complete a full-length screenplay, which will be developed in CTWR 515ab; or a pilot script and a series bible for a half-hour television comedy, which will be developed in CTWR 517ab; or an original one-hour drama television pilot, mid-season episode and series bible, which will be developed in CTWR 519ab; this final work must be accepted by the Division of Writing Graduation Committee.

Time Limit

Students must maintain satisfactory progress toward their master’s degrees at all times. The time limit to complete all requirements is three years from the first course at USC applied toward the Master of Fine Arts degree. Course work more than seven years old is automatically invalidated and may not be applied toward the degree.

Writing for Screen and Television Certificate

The Writing for Screen and Television Certificate is awarded for one year of study.

Applicants must be recognized writers outside of the field of screenwriting.

The course of study is no less than 16 units total, over two semesters. Writers, both U.S. and international, should appeal directly to the chair for admission in the fall semester.

Admission is granted to only one or two scholars a year, and is of the highest selectivity. Applicants must have earned an undergraduate degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. Additionally, candidates must show compelling reason for not applying to a formal degree program.

The general course of study is as follows:

first semester units
CTWR 513 Writing the Short Script 2
CTWR 514a Basic Dramatic Screenwriting, or 2
CTWR 515a Practicum in Screenwriting 4
CTWR 516 Advanced Motion Picture Script Analysis 2
CTWR 572 Practicum in Directing Actors for Film 2
8

Second semester units
CTPR 536 Editing for Scriptwriters 2
CTWR 514b Basic Dramatic Screenwriting, or 2
CTWR 515b Practicum in Screenwriting 4
CTWR electives 2–6
8