Cinema 439 writing the primetime drama pilot fall 2015 #19321

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CINEMA 439 - WRITING THE PRIMETIME DRAMA PILOT

FALL 2015 #19321
Prof: Lance Gentile lagmd@aol.com
CLASS DATES: AUGUST 26 – DEC 2, 2015

TIME: WED 1:00PM - 3:50PM Location: SCB 304


THE POINT: To write a one hour DRAMA PILOT… and get an idea what it’s like to do it for a living.
THE CLASS: A writing staff whose job is to produce the same number of quality episodic television pilots as there are class members. Collaborative script development and analysis are ESSENTIAL TV writer/producer skills.
** Verbal and written notes on your fellow writers scripts is as important as the writing itself -- participation in table discussions, active contribution to others work PLUS ability/willingness to listen to and apply notes to your material. Writing talent is a minor factor in grades.
THE TASK: You’ll choose (or invent) a TV genre, figure out how it’s written, pitch an idea for the series to class, then write a pilot story arena, outline and TWO SCRIPT DRAFTS: a writers draft and a first draft.
You’ll be responsible for getting E-MAIL of your written material to each member of class by MIDNIGHT SUNDAY NIGHT, three days in advance of workshop session. WRITERS DRAFTS OF COMPLETE SCRIPT will be due in class ONE WEEK before they're workshopped.
There will be a schedule of whose work is to be discussed in class each week. You’ll be expected to provide written notes on a HARD COPY of your fellow writer's material in class and to participate in table discussion of material.

A FIRST DRAFT of your PILOT (a revision of your writers draft) is mandatory in order to pass. This is your “final exam.” No exceptions.

Deadlines: Mandatory. Just like TV.


**Unexcused missed deadlines lose workshop time**
GRADES:

Attendance: Mandatory.

Beat sheets and bios: 10%

Pitch: 5% Written pitch analyses: 5%

Story arena: 5% Written story arena analysis: 5%

Story outline: 10% Written outline analyses: 10%

Script and revision: 20% Written script analyses: 20%

Class participation (verbal analysis of fellow writer’s pitches/beat sheets/outlines/scripts): 10%


Writing Division Attendance Policy: Students are expected be on time and prepared for each class. Two unexcused absences will result in your grade being lowered by one full point (ex: AB). A third unexcused absence will result in your grade being lowered another full point (ex: BC). Two late arrivals equates to one full absence. Four, request to withdraw from course.
SCHEDULE:

AUGUST 26 - Overview of YOUR course/Teacher’s background/Student introductions

Discussion: Character bios/e-mail and class “bible”/the primetime drama landscape/Choosing a genre for your series/combining genres/serialized vs. episodic event structure.

How do pilots get sold? In-from-the-cold vs. insider. What’s a series pitch – verbal and written?/character bio?/beat sheet? Sample series pitch to be emailed.

View and analyze DRAMA PILOT #1 (running beat sheet)

Assignment: 1) Watch TV!/Choose two shows that are in(or close to) the genre(s) you have in mind for your show, watch the PILOTS of both, write beat sheets/character bios and email to me by morning of next class 2) Prepare series concepts (1-3 max) to bring to class.

SEPT 2 – View/analyze DRAMA PILOT #2. Series choices/genres discussed and nailed down.

Discussion: How does the pilot define the trajectory of the series?/What are the necessary elements?/How does a pilot differ from episode 100?/Developing series pitch.

Assignment: 1) Read/view two more PILOTS of your genre(s), email beat sheets to me by Jan 26. 2) Work on pitches.

****LONG TERM ASSIGNMENT (all due OCT 7): watch pilot of existing show in all other writers genres and do beat sheet and character bios ****


SEPT 9 - View/analyze DRAMA PILOT #3. PRELIMINARY PITCHES Discussion: story source: theme (serialized character) vs. event (procedural) Email Sample pitch. Assignment: Read/view/analyze more episodes. Work on series pitches.
SEPT 16 - View/analyze DRAMA PILOT #4. SERIES PITCHES I

Discussion: Pitch to pilot story arena. Email sample story arena sample. Assignment: Read/view/analyze episodes. Series pitches/pilot story arenas.


SEPT 23 – Workshop SERIES PITCHES II.

Assignment: Read/view/analyze episodes. Story arenas.


SEPT 30 - Workshop STORY ARENA I

Discussion: Story arena to outline. Assignment: Story arenas/outlines.


OCT 7 - Workshop STORY ARENA II

Assignment: Pilot story arenas/outlines.

**LONG TERM BEAT SHEET/CHAR BIO ASSIGNMENT DUE BY EMAIL**
OCT 14 – Workshop PILOT OUTLINES I

Discussion: Pilot outline to writers draft. Assignment: Pilot outlines/writers drafts

OCT 21 - Workshop PILOT OUTLINES II.

Assignment: Pilot outlines/writers drafts.

OCT 28 - Workshop PILOT OUTLINES III.

Assignment: Writers drafts.
NOV 4 – Workshop SCENES/STORY CHALLENGES

Assignment: Writers drafts **WRITERS DRAFTS 1 DUE


NOV 11 – Workshop WRITERS DRAFT I

Assignment: Writers drafts/first drafts **WRITERS DRAFTS II DUE


NOV 18 - Workshop WRITERS DRAFT II

Assignment: Writers drafts/first drafts. **WRITERS DRAFTS (III) DUE

NOV 25 – NO CLASS – THANKSGIVING

Assignment: First drafts


DEC 2 - Workshop WRITERS DRAFTS III.

Assignment: First drafts.

DEC 9 – Finals Week. No class. ALL FIRST DRAFTS (I.E.: Revised writers drafts) DUE BY EMAIL FRIDAY DEC 16-ish, 2015.
RECOMMENDED READING: (non-required)

Theory: The Art of Dramatic Writing (Egri), The Tools of Screenwriting (Howard/Mabley), How to Write a Movie in 21 Days (V. King), Writing the TV Drama Series (Douglas)

The writing experience: On Writing (S. King), The Writing Life (Dillard), Bird by Bird (Lamott)
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Plagiarism – presenting someone else’s ideas as your own, either verbatim or recast in your own words – is a serious academic offense with serious consequences.  Please familiarize yourself with the discussion of plagiarism in SCampus in Section 11, Behavior Violating University Standards https://scampus.usc.edu/1100-behavior-violating-university-standards-and-appropriate-sanctionsOther forms of academic dishonesty are equally unacceptable.  See additional information in SCampus and university policies on scientific misconduct, http://policy.usc.edu/scientific-misconduct.

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A number of USC’s schools provide support for students who need help with scholarly writing.  Check with your advisor or program staff to find out more.  Students whose primary language is not English should check with the American Language Institute http://dornsife.usc.edu/ali, which sponsors courses and workshops specifically for international graduate students.  The Office of Disability Services and Programs http://sait.usc.edu/academicsupport/centerprograms/dsp/home_index.html provides certification for students with disabilities and helps arrange the relevant accommodations.  If an officially  declared emergency makes travel to campus infeasible, USC Emergency Information http://emergency.usc.edu will provide safety and other updates, including ways in which instruction will be continued by means of blackboard, teleconferencing, and other technology.

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