Internet Explorer 7, 8, and 9 are no longer supported. Please use a newer browser.
Concourse works best with JavaScript enabled.
UCLA logo

376205: Writing the First Screenplay II
SCRIPT-X 410.2

  • Fall 2020
  • Section 1
  • 3 Credits
  • 09/30/2020 to 12/08/2020
  • Modified 08/12/2020


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 main thing we will be achieving in this class is to take your Story Outline that was developed in Writing the First Screenplay I, and write a full Beat Sheet for the screenplay from beginning to end.  The Beat Sheet will be the main resource you will use in writing the screenplay itself.  Once the Beat Sheet is complete, you will begin writing the Screenplay.  You will write approximately five pages each week and post those pages for critique by your fellow students and by me.  Our goal for this class is to complete all of Act I.  We’ll also be analyzing films and screenplays written by professional writers to learn aspects of the technique of screenwriting.  


As to outcomes, we will expect that by the end of this class you will have made significant progress in your development as a screenwriter, and have not just the beginnings of a screenplay (Act I) but the roadmap to complete the screenplay (the Beat Sheet).  You should also expect that as you write your screenplay and analyze the work of others that you will become more and more comfortable and familiar with the medium and on your way to becoming a professional screenwriter.


Office Hour Video and Audio Interface

Each week, we will have a one-hour live chat session during which time we will discuss the script of the week and any other topics of interest.  It is possible for you to participate in these sessions via text input, however it is much better to communicate live via audio and web-cam video. 

I've been teaching online now for well over a year and have found that the dialogue between instructor and students is far better if we can see and hear each other.  I will be live on a web-cam, and I strongly encourage you to activate this function on your computer.  As to audio, I've found that headset/microphones work better than built-in mics and speakers, but that is your choice. 

Office Hour will be each Wednesday at 7:00 PM Pacific Time, starting on Wednesday October 3rd.  The Office Hour is accessible via the Conference Room tab on the left column of Canvas. 

The Office Hour is recorded for playback in case you can't make it at that time.  But please make an effort to be there.  The class works best if you all participate with me live.

Homework Assignments

You're going to be doing a lot of writing in this class, so please allocate time each week to this task.  Writing the First Screenplay II is more writing-oriented than Writing the First Screenplay I, which was lecture-oriented.  As such, the lectures will be shorter, but the time spent on our assignments will be longer. 

Please do not fall behind.  I am not going to be as generous with deadlines in Writing II as I was in Writing I about getting your assignments in on time.  It is essential that you submit homework on time each week and also make comments on the work of your fellow writers.  

So make every effort to hit the deadline with your homework.  That's the way it will be in the real world, so it's a good idea to get used to doing it here.  Turn in your work, even if you're not happy with it.  Once it is written, it can always be improved.  So, get it down when it's required, and fix it later. 

(Required) Cut to the Chase: Writing Feature Films with the Pros at UCLA Extension Writers' Program

  • Author: Linda Venis

This is an excellent text written by instructors in the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension. We will be referring to sections of the book within our lectures, so please acquire this book (available on Amazon and many other places) and read the first few chapters prior to our first online lesson.

Recommended Texts

There are lots of good books out there on screenwriting. Here are a few I recommend.

Cut to the Chase by Linda Venis (this book is required for the course)

Screenplay by Syd Field

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet

The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri

Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman

The Screenwriter’s Workbook by Syd Field

The Art of Alfred Hitchcock by Donald Spoto

On Directing Film by David Mamet

Elements of Playwriting by Louis Catron

Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez

Hitchcock on Hitchcock Edited by Sydney Gottleib

Recommended Reading

Students should try to read one screenplay or teleplay every other week. There is a large library of screenplays available to you on the internet:,,, and lots of others that you can find. However, make sure that you are reading SCRIPTS and not TRANSCRIPTS. A script is written by the original writer, a transcript is an interpretation of the film by someone other than the writer.

We will generally be reading one script a week which we will discuss during our Office Hour.  These scripts will be posted to the Weekly Modules as PDF attachments.  Please make every attempt to read the script before our Office Hour. 

Recommended Viewing

There are a number of films that we will discuss during our weekly lectures.  Below is a list of films that will be discussed in class for structure, character dialogue, etc.  These are all pretty well known films from the past years that are successful both artistically and financially.  The ones at the top of the list are discussed more frequently than the ones lower down the list, so it is a good idea for students to try and view as many of these films as possible in advance of the class so that our discussions will have more relevance.

Star Wars (1977)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Titanic (1997)
Braveheart (1995)
Unforgiven (1992)
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
The Godfather (1972)
As Good As It Gets (1997)
Frozen (2013)
Gladiator (2000)
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Dirty Harry (1971)
The Fugitive (1993)
Rudy (1993)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Apollo 13 (1995)
The Verdict (1982)
Bullets Over Broadway (1994)

Recommended Films

We’re going to be doing plenty of viewing in this class, but if you want to know some of the films that influenced me, here is a link to my web site. You will also find some film analysis in the TV&Film pages on my site, but since some of this is material we will be covering in class, you may want to put off reading this until later on.


You will not be graded on each week’s assignment.  The only grade you will receive is at the end of the course.  I do not grade based on my estimation of quality – everyone has different opinions on what is good.  I grade on completion of all assignments and participation in making comments on the work of your fellow writers.  If you complete all the assignments and make at least three comments each week, you will receive a grade of A.  Anything short of that will earn a lesser grade.  Because some of you may not be able to make our Office Hour due to work schedules or time zone issues, it is not mandatory that you attend the Office Hour.  I do not give a lesser grade for missing an Office Hour.  But I strongly encourage you to attend.  It’s a lot of fun and very productive to be able to deal with your issues on story and structure in real time.


Grading in the course will be based on the following: 40%: your participation, effort and dedication. 60%, your work at developing and writing the assignments.

Course Policies

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.

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.

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

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:


Course calendar and related activities
When Lesson Notes
Week 1


Write the Pitch for your Story (200 Words) & Write a Brief Story Outline for your story (800 Words)

Week 2


Write a single page Story Outline description of Act I of your story (400 words max) Identify Character Defining Moment, Inciting Event, and Turning Point Decision (include the pitch at the top)

Week 3


Write a Beat Sheet for Act I of a film (use any of the films on the list above). Scene Headings and brief scene descriptions

Week 4


Write a Beat Sheet for Act I of your story: Scene Headings and brief scene descriptions

Week 5


Write script pages 1 - 5 for your story.

Write a brief 300 word description of Act II for your story

Week 6


Write script pages 6 - 10

Include pitch and pages 1 - 5

Write a brief 300 word description of Act III for your story

Week 7


Write script pages 11 - 15

Include pitch and pages 1 - 10

Week 8


Write script pages 16 - 20

Include pitch and pages 1 - 15

Week 9


Write script pages 21 - 25

Include pitch and pages 1 - 20

Week 10


Write script pages 25 - 30

Include pitch and pages 1 - 25