Q: How many people are in the screenwriting program? Is it likely that we'll have most of the same classes together?
A: Last time I counted, there were around 60 students in the program-- the number is always in flux. You'll have occasional classes together with upperclassmen, but you'll get to know your Freshman cohorts pretty well-- you'll all be in the same section of Drexel Experience (taught by me), probably in the same English 101 class. The Playwriting class you'll take first term will be mostly SCRP majors, as will the Screenwriting class you'll take in Sophomore year.
Q: What will our classes be like?
A: Wow. Total range. Many will be really fascinating and relevant. But even the ones that seem to have nothing to do with what you want to learn are important: as a writer, you'll always need to be soaking up expertise in weird fields. Doing well in, say, Physics, is great prep for that.
You're welcome to come to campus and sit in on any of my classes this summer. Here's what I'm teaching:
Q: Can I sit in on a class?
You betcha. Contact me for details. Give me advance notice and I'll find a student to take you out to dinner before class.
Q: Is there any type of co-op that is associated with the BBC? Or are there any international co-ops for screenwriting majors that I should be aware of?
A: If you want a job at the BBC, we'll try to help you look for one. As far as international coops go, we don't have pre-existing slots; the idea is that we give you the training to search for a job and then you do it yourself, with occasional help from us re tactics, contacts, etc.
Q: What types of extracurricular clubs/organizations might I find appealing as a screenwriting/playwriting major?
A: First of all, honestly, acting is great prep for being a dramatic writer. If you acted in high school, you should try to get on stage here.
Other stuff: there are a few student organizations you should look into. Take a look at Mad Drama, Dragon Stage, Screen, etc.
Q: Do you really believe that acting is important for a screenwriter?
Short answer: yes.
Slightly longer answer: hell, yes!
Answer with explanation: Okay, two things. First, the more you know about every craft that goes into making movies/TV/theatre/etc., the better prepared you are as a writer. It's no coincidence that, among others, Shakespeare was an actor.
But, beyond that, there's the question of self-confidence and nerve. As a writer, you'd think that you'd just have to sit in your garret writing by the light of a single candle, then mail it off and just wait for the checks to arrive. In real life, you have to go into a room and pitch. For that, the more confident you are, the better. And, in my experience, there's nothing that builds confidence more than going in front of a large theater filled with strangers and doing something complicated in such a way as to get applause.
So, if you can act, you should act. If not, you'd better make sure that the reason you're notacting isn't shyness-- shyness is not a how biz survival trait.
Q: Will I learn how to direct? I love to write but I feel like that is something I definitely want to do, too.
A: Absolutely. There is a required class on directing for the stage, and you'll be able to take FMVD 202, Directing for the Screen.
Q: Any recommended summer reads/watches?
A: Want to read the best books I know about show business and screenwriting? Read "Adventures in the Screen Trade" and "Which Lie Did I Tell?," both by William Goldman. Want to find out what kind of people you'll be associating with? Read "What Makes Sammy Run," which, after almost 70 years, is still the best novel about Hollywood.
See a lot of movies, all different genres, and keep asking yourself-- why is the story unfolding this way? Why are they telling us this about this character? What's the point being made in every minute of screen time? What's the emotional takeaway from every scene?"
Do that and two things will happen--
- You'll begin the process of turning yourself into a screenwriter
- You'll lose the ability to enjoy movies.