There are only a few online degree programs in screenwriting at either the bachelor's or the master's degree level. Online courses usually allow students to download lectures and course materials at any time. They can interact with instructors and other students through online message boards and chat rooms.
At the bachelor's degree level, students can earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Motion Pictures and Television with a concentration in screenwriting. Students look at the basic elements of storytelling on the screen and learn how to compose a script. Putting together a storyboard and analyzing a screenplay to determine if it would be a good film are skills that are covered, as well.
Master's degree programs in screenwriting are often designed for people who are working in the industry. They may be required to write a screenplay for class and share what they've produced with other students during online workshops. Other courses may cover story development and adapting a screenplay from another medium.
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Motion Pictures and Television with a Concentration in Screenwriting
Online bachelor's degrees in motion pictures and television are available that offer concentrations in screenwriting. Students learn about the principles of film and discover how actors, writers and directors work together to bring a story to life. In acting and filmmaking classes, students learn how to incorporate the speech and actions of characters into a screenplay. The only prerequisite for such programs is a high school diploma. Online bachelor's degrees in screenwriting are quite scarce, but more general writing programs are fairly common.
Program Information and Requirements
An online bachelor's degree with a concentration in screenwriting consists of about 132 credits and takes 4-5 years to complete. Programs are available entirely online, but students are often encouraged to complete in-person writing internships. To access online course materials and assignments, students utilize the school's web application, typically according to their own schedule; coursework may include online lectures and step-by-step video instruction. Students can participate in online chats with classmates as they watch lesson videos.
Plug-ins, such as Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader, are necessary to access coursework and complete assignments. Software programs, including Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, may also be required.
Bachelor's Level Screenwriting Courses
In addition to general education courses, students complete screenwriting courses and general film classes. They learn the elements necessary to write an intriguing motion picture.
How a movie is filmed plays as much a role in bringing it to life as the acting or the screenplay; this course discusses the importance of filming techniques. Students create storyboards for plot, problem and resolution purposes.
Students study trends in screenwriting and storytelling in this class. They practice character development and ways to create opening hooks, use dialogue and integrate subplots.
What makes a story interesting? This class trains students to analyze a story to determine whether or not it would make a good film. They learn what to look for and ways to tailor a story so that it can be made into a successful film.
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Master's Degree in Screenwriting
Master's degree programs in screenwriting are designed for industry professionals. Students study specific methods for writing screenplays, marketing films, developing story lines and selling their ideas. A bachelor's degree is a common program prerequisite. Typically intensive to the arts, there are only a few such programs available online.
Program Information and Requirements
Online master's degree programs in screenwriting generally follow a school's on-campus curriculum. Such degrees take between three semesters and two years to complete, depending on the program and workload. Typically, all coursework can be completed online, without any residency requirements. Online programs are completed through video lectures and chats, using Skype, which allow students to participate in screenwriting workshops where they read and analyze one another's work. Students also view weekly video lectures and complete online assignments.
In addition to a working computer, students need high-speed Internet access and Skype. A microphone, Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office are also required for some programs.
Master's Level Screenwriting Courses
Students are expected to take part in regularly scheduled workshops, although other courses are completed asynchronously.
Formatting Your Story: Screenwriting
Students taking this class write their own screenplays, incorporating plot, characters and genre. They study influential screenplays and major Hollywood genres.
Adapting a Screenplay
Writing a screenplay is different than writing a novel or short story. In this course, students turn novels and stories into screenplays by adapting the story and incorporating story elements.
This class analyzes elements that make a successful screenplay. Students learn techniques for shaping stories and how to add or subtract elements to make a screenplay more successful.
Graduates of such programs generally pursue careers in screenwriting, but may be prepared to play other roles in the film and television industries. Screenwriters are most heavily involved in the preproduction process, but may also play a role in the production and postproduction of television series and films. In addition to creativity, screenwriters should be able to work under pressure to meet screenplay revision deadlines and work well with others due to the collaborative nature of the film and television industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), formal education can be an asset in this field, but creativity, talent and experience often play a larger role in employment (www.bls.gov). Screenwriters with previous writing experience may have more job opportunities, and some successful screenwriters move on to become producers or directions.
According to the BLS, the mean annual wage for writers in the motion picture and video industry was not released in 2015. Some companies offer benefits, including health insurance and vacation, but others expect individuals to acquire insurance independently (www.bls.gov). The number of job opportunities for writers and authors in the film and video industry is expected to increase 13% between 2014 and 2024. However, the BLS lists screenwriting among a short list of more glamorous jobs in the industry, for which keen competition for available positions is expected.
Online programs in screenwriting are far and few in between, but are available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. These programs train students in areas such as cinematic storytelling, screenwriting, formatting and adaptation.