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EGL 42 W — The Art of Creating Narrative Surprise in Successful Screenplays (CANCELLED)

Quarter: Fall
Course Format: Online (System Requirements)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 26—Dec 9
Drop Deadline: Oct 4
Unit(s): 3 Units
Tuition: $850
Limit: 17
Status: Cancelled
Please Note: No class the week of Thanksgiving
Sep 26—Dec 9
10 weeks
Drop By
Oct 4
3 Units
Please Note: No class the week of Thanksgiving
Think of some of the most famous moments in cinema and you’re likely to come up with a list of well-known plot twists, such as the moment near the end of The Sixth Sense when we realize the truth about Bruce Willis’ character. Aristotle used the term “peripety” to describe such reversals, while much more recently the late screenwriter Syd Field preferred to use the term “plot point.” Whatever term you choose to use, the deployment of narrative surprise is vital for any successful piece of dramatic writing. In this screenwriting course, we’ll look at examples of successful—and less successful—narrative turns from a wide variety of genres. Films such as Fight Club and Donnie Darko will underline that surprise is a vital part of all genres, from mystery thrillers to indie comedies. In the first half of the course, we will watch several movies and read scripts for The Others, Chinatown, and The Usual Suspects, among others, using these as models for weekly writing exercises. In the second half of the course, we will create and workshop the first act (twenty-five to thirty pages) of a screenplay—up to the moment when the story undergoes its first significant reversal. We will cover the basics of screenplay structure and formatting as we go along. Students will complete the class with a screenplay opening—and a plan for where to go from there.

Although the time commitment for this course is dependent upon one’s degree of participation, students should plan on investing four to six hours per week in order to participate at a substantial level.

Jeff Hoffman, Screenwriter; Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford

Jeff Hoffman works in the film industry as a writer, and was formerly a development executive. He was a 2002 Chesterfield Screenwriting Fellow with Paramount Pictures. At Phoenix Pictures, he was the lead development executive on The Promise and co-produced The 33. His poetry book, Journal of American Foreign Policy, received the New Issues Poetry Prize.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Syd Field, Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, Revised editon (2005) (ISBN 978-0385339032)
(Required) Linda Seger, Making a Good Script Great, 3rd edition (ISBN 978-1935247012)
(Required) Christopher Hampton, Atonement: The Shooting Script (ISBN 978-1557047991)
(Required) Frank Darabont, The Shawshank Redemption: The Shooting Script (ISBN 978-1557042460)
(Required) Robert Towne, Chinatown and The Last Detail: Two Screenplays (ISBN 978-0802134011)
(Required) Christopher McQuarrie, The Usual Suspects (ISBN 978-0571191536)
(Recommended) Karl Iglesias, The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, 10th Anniversary Edition: Insider Secrets from Hollywood's Top Writers, 2nd Edition (ISBN 004-5079527898)