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376202: Writing the First Screenplay II
SCRIPT-X 410.2

  • Fall 2020
  • Section 1
  • 3 Credits
  • 09/28/2020 to 12/07/2020
  • Modified 09/26/2020

Meeting Times

7pm- 10pm on Zoom


This second in a four-part sequence in writing a feature film script has you hit the ground running. You begin by pitching your story based on your outline and revising it to make sure the premise can carry the entire movie. Armed with a workable outline, you then flesh it out into either a beat sheet or treatment (at the instructor's discretion) and begin writing your screenplay. Personalized feedback along with mini-lectures on key craft points, including character development, story structure, and conflict, help you to meet the course goal, which is to write Act I (approximately 30 pages). May be repeated for credit.


The course goal is to complete the first act of your screenplay.


Cut to the Chase: Writing Feature Films with the Pros at UCLAExtension Writers’ Program

  • Author: Linda Venis (Editor)
  • Publisher: Gotham/Penguin
  • Edition: 1st
  • ISBN: 1592408109
  • Optional
  • Availability: Paperback or Kindle
  • Price: $16.20

Recommended Websites



Types of evaluations and related weights
Type Weight Topic Notes
Attendance and Punctuality 20 points
Class Participation 20 points
Attitude 20 points
Homework Assignments 20 points
First Act pages 20 points


A = 90 – 100 points

B = 80 – 89 points

C = 70 – 79 points

F = 0 – 69 points

Course Policies

The Writers’ Workshop

Instruction in the Writers’ Program follows the guidelines established by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) guidelines for the teaching of creative writing, which include a “challenging writers’ workshop” as a hallmark. They define this as

…a seminar in which students critique one another’s work under the mentorship of an accomplished writer-teacher. The workshop is writing intensive, offering each student multiple opportunities for submission and revision of creative work. (AWP)

This method of instruction is considered the gold standard for developing writers at all levels of expertise, and workshopping is a key learning tool in nearly every course offered by the Writers’ Program. Workshopping teaches you to read and respond to written work from a variety of perspectives, and hearing critique of your own writing will help you understand how successfully your work achieves your goals. Every student is expected to participate fully in workshopping activities as defined by and guided by Writers’ Program instructors.

Scope of Work for Instructors

Each Writers’ Program instructor has signed an agreement to teach the curriculum in their course, following a syllabus of their own design with approval by the Writers’ Program director. Instructors are never obligated to read, review, critique, respond to, or otherwise address student work that has not been developed for their course or in response to specific assignments in their course. Individualized instruction like this falls into the category of a consultation, which is a separate service your instructor can provide through special arrangement with the Writers’ Program.

Underage Students

As UCLA's principal provider of continuing education, the majority of UCLA Extension courses are designed for the post-baccalaureate professional-level student. Enrollment is therefore normally reserved for adult students 18 years of age and older. The Writers’ Program may consent to enroll younger students based on special academic competence and approval of the instructor. Minors who enroll in a Writers’ Program course without first receiving permission from both the department and the instructor are subject to withdrawal.  To request approval, please contact the Writers’ Program at 310/825-9415.

Critiquing Ettiquette

Feedback is an important part of my class (it's a huge part of the business of screenwriting too.) I encourage everyone to give

feedback following classmates’ presentations. However, the feedback must be constructive. It is imperative that the workshop

environment be one where students feel safe to experiment.

How to give feedback:

Tell the writer which parts of the presentation were most intriguing and entertaining.

Let the writer know if anything confused you.

Point out specific spots that dragged or felt redundant.

Remember that what you are saying is your opinion, not fact.

How to receive feedback:

Don’t defend your work. Some students spend more time talking during their critique than listening. This wastes

everyone’s time.

Listen to the feedback, write it down, and take time to mull it over. Don’t immediately reject a note. You’ll be amazed at how

many times a “stupid” note will become the key to all your problems a few days later.

When utilizing the notes, it’s up to you to decide which notes will help you and which notes won’t. Some students execute

every note given to them and end up with a jumbled mess. Some students reject every note given to them and their work

never improves. Do your best to find a happy medium.

Course Format: Web-Enhanced

This course is primarily conducted through in-person course sessions via Zoom, and Canvas (the learning management system at UCLA

Extension) to access materials provided by the instructor. Course materials delivered through Canvas may include:

Course announcements and communications

Readings, links, videos, and other media

Assignment submission areas and grades

Please note that no hard copies of course materials will be made available in class; please print any reference materials

necessary in advance of your course session. It is your responsibility to be aware of all assignments, due dates and guidelines.

Note the following points about online course components at UCLA Extension:

Students must have basic computer skills, including the use of word processing software, email, and the ability to use

internet browsers such as Firefox, Safari, or Chrome in order to complete activities and assignments in Canvas.

Students should familiarize themselves with Canvas and are responsible for meeting the minimum technical requirements for

using Canvas.

For more information about the Canvas learning management system, please visit:

overview/ (

For information about the technical requirements for web-enhanced courses, please visit: (

Institutional Policies

Student Conduct

Students are subject to disciplinary action for several types of misconduct or attempted misconduct, including but not limited to dishonesty, such as cheating, multiple submission, plagiarism, or knowingly furnishing false information to the University; or theft or misuse of the intellectual property of others or violation of others' copyrights. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with policy provisions which proscribe these and other forms of misconduct at:

Services for Students with Disabilities

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, UCLA Extension provides appropriate accommodations and support services to qualified applicants and students with disabilities. These include, but are not limited to, auxiliary aids/services such as sign language interpreters, assistive listening devices for hearing-impaired individuals, extended time for and proctoring of exams, and registration assistance. Accommodations and types of support services vary and are specifically designed to meet the disability-related needs of each student based on current, verifiable medical documentation. Arrangements for auxiliary aids/services are available only through UCLA Extension’s Service for Students with Disabilities Office at (310) 825-7851 or by email at [email protected]. For complete information see:


Your instructor may post the interim grade Incomplete/I if at the end of the class your overall work is of passing quality but a portion could not be submitted for understandable reasons (e.g. illness). It is your responsibility to petition your instructor for permission to submit work late and to provide an explanation, and it is his or her sole decision whether to accept the explanation. If permitted, the Incomplete/I grade will be posted and a time frame defined for you to submit the missing work, ranging from one to twelve weeks. Incomplete/I grades that remain unchanged after twelve weeks will lapse to F, NP or U. Receiving an I grade entitles you to submit only the missing work your instructor has agreed to accept late, and does not allow other work to be retaken or oblige UCLA Extension to provide continuing access to course materials via Canvas. The Incomplete/I grade is not an option for courses that do not bear credit, such as 700, 800, or 900-level courses. For complete information, see:

All Grades are Final

No change of grade may be made by anyone other than the instructor, and then, only to correct clerical errors. No term grade except Incomplete may be revised by re-examination. The correction of a clerical error may be authorized only by the instructor of record communicating directly with personnel of Student and Alumni Services.

Sexual Harassment

The University of California is committed to creating and maintaining a community where all individuals who participate in University programs and activities can work and learn together in an atmosphere free of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation. Every member of the community should be aware that the University prohibits sexual harassment and sexual violence, and that such behavior violates both law and University policy. The University will respond promptly and effectively to reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and when necessary, to discipline behavior that violates our policy.

All Extension students and instructors who believe they have been sexually harassed are encouraged to contact the Department of Student and Alumni Services for complaint resolution: UCLA Extension, 1145 Gayley Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90024; Voice/TTY: (310) 825-7031. View the University’s full Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence at

Additional Items

Protecting Privacy and Data During Remote Instruction

If applicable, live meeting sessions for this class are being conducted over Zoom. As the host, the instructor may be recording live sessions. Only the host has the ability to record meetings, no recording by other means is permitted. Recorded sessions will be posted in the Videos area of this class unless otherwise notified. If you have privacy concerns and do not wish to appear in the recording, do not turn on your video. If you also prefer to use a pseudonym instead of your name, please let the instructor know what name you will be using so that the instructor knows who you are during the session. To rename yourself during a Zoom meeting, click on Participants, click on your name, click on More, click on Rename. If you would like to ask a question, you may do so privately through the Zoom chat by addressing your chat question to the instructor only (and not to "everyone"). Additionally, chat may be used and moderated for live questions, and saving of chats is enabled. If you have questions or concerns about this, please contact the instructor via Canvas Inbox.

Pursuant to the terms of the agreement between Zoom and UCLA Extension, the data is used solely for this purpose and Zoom is prohibited from re-disclosing this information. UCLA Extension also does not use the data for any other purpose. Recordings will be deleted when no longer necessary. However, recordings may become part of an administrative disciplinary record if misconduct occurs during a video conference.

Course and Instructor Evaluation

UCLA Extension values your feedback on course and instructor evaluations. We ask all students to take a few minutes to complete an end-of-course evaluation survey. Updates to the course and instruction are influenced by your feedback. Understanding your student experience is essential to ensure continuing excellence in the online classroom and is appreciated by your instructor and the UCLA Extension academic leadership.

Your participation in a survey is voluntary, and your responses are confidential. After instructors submit grades, they will be given an evaluation report, but this report will not contain your name.

About Your Online Course Materials

Please note the following about online course components at UCLA Extension:

  • Students must have basic computer skills, including the use of word processing software, email, and the ability to use internet browsers, such as Safari, Firefox, or Chrome.
  • Students are responsible for meeting the technical requirements of Canvas and familiarizing themselves with the Canvas Learning Management System.
  • Students are responsible for keeping a copy of all assignments and work submitted, and to be aware of all assignments, due dates, and course guidelines.
  • Students are encouraged to keep and/or download a local copy of their assignment files, as access to the online environment of a specific course is limited to 30 days after the final course date, as listed in the course catalog.

    To download all your assignment submissions in Canvas, please refer to the online support guide. for more information or contact Canvas Support via the help menu within Canvas.

UCLA Extension Canvas and Learning Support

For immediate 24/7 Canvas technical support, including holidays, click on Help (located on the menu to the left) where you can call or chat live with a Canvas Support representative.

UCLA Extension Instructional Design and Learning Support
The UCLA Extension Learning Support staff assists both students and instructors with Canvas-related technical support, as well as general and administrative questions.

Learning Support staff is available Monday through Friday, from 8 AM to 5 PM (Pacific Time), except holidays:

Campus Safety Escorts

For students taking classes held on the UCLA campus and in and around Westwood Village, the UCLA Police Department provides a free walking escort service every day of the year from dusk until 1 a.m. Community Service Officers (CSOs) are available to walk students, faculty, staff members and visitors to and from anywhere on campus, in Westwood Village, and in the village apartments. CSOs are uniformed students who have received special training and are employed by the UCLA Police Department. To obtain an escort, please call (310) 794-9255 and allow 15 to 20 minutes for your escort to arrive. For complete information, see:


Course calendar and related activities
When Lesson Notes
Week 1


The Foundation: Logline, Genre, Tone & Title – what kind of movie are we talking about?

High-concept vs. Low-concept – be true to yourself.

Crafting loglines – a secret weapon for getting your screenplay headed in the right direction

The major beats

status quo

inciting incident

first act break


second act break

end place


Students pitch their loglines and a short description of their story – receive feedback.


Write down the major story beats for your story.

The major beats

status quo

inciting incident

first act break


second act break

end place

Start with your title and revised logline.

You may write several sentences for each beat.

The complete document MUST be less than one page, with 12 point font and normal margins.

You will present your beats in class next week.

Week 2


Character Intro

What's in a name?

Get the audience behind your main character

Building a character

Character arc/development – where are we going with this guy/girl.


Students present their major story beats to the class and receive feedback.

Time allowing, share some pages for feedback.


1. Fill out Unforgettable Characters worksheet (p. 7-11) for your lead characters.

2. Clarify your main character’s arc:

In one sentence, describe who your character is at the beginning of the story.

(Main character’s name) starts off (describe problem.)

In one sentence, describe who your character is at the end of the story.

(Main character’s name) ends up (describe how main char has changed.)

Week 3
Hook 'em in the Beginning


Hooking your audience

Opening set piece

The flash forward

Establishing a mystery

Format – How your script should look

Getting yourself to write


Students present their character study to the class and receive feedback.

Time allowing, share some pages for feedback.


Start working on your screenplay opening.

Please write in proper screenplay format. (It's best to use screenwriting software - Final Draft or Celtx)

Be prepared to present no more than 5 pages next week.

Week 4
Writing Style


How to find your voice.

How to find your writing style


Practice different voices and different styles.


Continue writing your first act.

Be prepared to present no more than 5 pages next week.

Time allowing, share some pages for feedback.

Week 5
Scene Sculpting


Beginning, middle and end of a scene – there's that structure again.

Cutting in deep

Get to the point and get out

Value change per scene

Move the story forward


Time allowing, share some pages for feedback.


Students present their pages; receive feedback.


Continue writing your first act.

Be prepared to present no more than 5 pages next week.

Week 6


How to find your character's voices.

Different characters should have different voices


Practice on the nose and off the nose dialogue.

Practice writing subtext

Time allowing, share some pages for feedback.


Continue writing your first act.

Be prepared to present no more than 5 pages next week.

Week 7
Money Moments


Money Moments

Going deep

Using theme to go deep.


Practice theme to go deeper in scenes

Time allowing, share some pages for feedback.


Continue writing your first act.

Be prepared to present no more than 5 pages next week.

Week 8
Stakes Vs. Believability


Stakes vs. Believability


Can we raise stakes? Can we ground story more? 

Time allowing, share some pages for feedback.


Continue writing your first act.

Be prepared to present no more than 5 pages next week.

Week 9
Giving Everything


Suspense vs. Surprise

The setup

The buildup

Something goes wrong


Students present their pages; receive feedback


Complete your first Act

Week 10



Meeting etiquette

How to deal with notes from producers and studio execs

Working in the industry


Rewriting exercise

If time, Students present their pages and/or turn in their 1 Act; receive feedback in class or via email.