Spring 2020 - CA 238W E100

Screenwriting I (3)

Class Number: 8583

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 5:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    HCC 3122, Vancouver

  • Prerequisites:

    One of CA (or FPA) 136, 137 or 253 and prior approval.



This course introduces the methodologies of writing for the screen in various styles, including dramatic, documentary and experimental forms, with an emphasis on structure and the creative expression of visual ideas. Students will perform a variety of writing assignments and each will be expected to complete one or more short original scripts. Students with credit for CA (or FPA) 332 or 238 for credit may not take this course for further credit. Students with credit for FPA 238W may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


This course introduces students to the concept of screenwriting, with a specific focus on writing short films. While designed primarily to support the writing of scripts for projects to be made in the SFU film production courses, it is also suitable for non-Film majors already somewhat familiar with screenwriting techniques, who wish to augment their skills. The course will focus primarily on dramatic writing, but lectures and screenings will address documentary and experimental approaches as well, depending on the level of student interest.

The first weeks of the course will be devoted to exploring screenwriting styles and techniques, along with two short writing exercises. The primary work will be the writing and re-writing of an 8-12 page screenplay. In the second half of the course, the scripts will be read aloud and critiqued in class. Students will be asked to write brief critiques of each others’ scripts.

Students should have a relatively clear idea of the screenplay they want to write during the course by the second week of class, and be prepared to discuss it in class.


  • Writing Assignment #1 10%
  • Writing Assignment #2 10%
  • Screenplay Draft #1 30%
  • Screenplay Draft #2 20%
  • Script critiques 20%
  • Class participation 10%


Assessment is based on a combination of factors, including originality and artistic merit, but also a strong command of language and an understanding of the screenplay format. Not exceeding the maximum specific length of the assignment will be part of the grade determination. The nature of each assignment, including relevant deadlines, will be covered in class well ahead of time.

Deadline and Lateness Penalty:

All deadlines for the assignments on the course syllabus will be announced in class. The penalty for handing in an assignment late will be a deduction of 5% per day. Exceptions to the lateness penalties for valid reasons—such as illness, compassionate grounds, etc.—must be approved by the course instructor and require supporting documentation (i.e Medical certificate). Each absence from class without a justified reason will result in a penalty of 5% of the final grade. Additionally, if the student is more than 15 minutes late to class, they will be marked as absent for that class.



Patricia Cooper & Ken Dancyger, Writing the Short Film, 3rd ed. Elsevier Focal Press, 2005 (available on-line through SFU library)

There will be some (though fairly minimal) assigned reading from this text, especially in the first couple of weeks of class. As noted above, the book will be available online for free, via the SFU library.

ISBN: 0-230-80588-7

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html