The first step in filmmaking is the screenplay. This is where the story takes shape. Screenwriters have the difficult task of determining the best way to tell the story, dramatizing it through character, conflict, setting, dialogue, tone, action and format, making it as real and powerful as possible. Through the Screenwriting degree program at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, you will learn all the tools necessary to make you a confident, professional screenwriter, ready to start a career in this first and integral step of filmmaking.
Students are not formally accepted into the Screenwriting program until the end of the second year. The first two years in the program are meant to hone your skills, and give the faculty the chance to witness your strengths and weaknesses in all areas of filmmaking. You will be required to take courses on the fundamentals of screenwriting, production design, directing, producing, picture editing, sound design and cinematography. Workshops in screenwriting, directing, cinematography, developing the short film and developing the editor’s eye will be offered in your second year, giving you more hands-on opportunity to explore your interests. Various arts and liberal-arts courses will also be required of you. At the end of your second year, a portfolio review by your faculty will determine whether or not you are accepted into the Screenwriting program, or if your skill set is better suited for another concentration.
Your third year will consist of two, year-long intermediate screenwriting courses. In one, you will work within classic genres to practice the screenwriting skills of setting, dialogue, emotional tone and resolution. You will work with a writing partner, editing each other’s scripts throughout the year. The other course will cover more varied styles and formats, such as documentaries. In your Feature Screenplay course, you will be expected to complete a rough draft of an entire feature-length script. You will work with a screenwriting mentor through each step, from the initial pitch to the act outlines and rough drafts.
Your fourth year will build on the skills and lessons learned in your previous years, adding to it the techniques for adapting original source material for the big screen, external and internal career strategies, developing action plans for launching career moves and preparing final drafts for the professional marketplace. The program will culminate in your Advanced Feature Screenplay Project, in which you will be expected to finalize your fourth-year script and present a polished outline for a second script for film or television.
Our Screenwriting Program graduates hold titles such as screenwriter, producer, writer’s assistant and assistant editor at companies like Pixar Animation and DreamWorks Animation. They have worked on animated films, television series and major motion pictures like “Your Highness,” “Pacific Rim,” “Clash of the Titans” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
The School of Filmmaking at UNCSA has been recognized by leading publications of the arts and entertainment industry. Variety ranked the school in its list of top 50 entertainment programs worldwide, and Backstage ranked UNCSA in the top eight film programs for aspiring cinematographers.
Discover how the School of Filmmaking's graduate programs prepare students to become skilled storytellers and strong collaborators in the industry.
This year's RiverRun International Film Festival includes 14 films with connections to UNCSA, including the documentary "Extraordinary People," written, produced and directed by Laura Hart McKinny, a professor of screenwriting, and her son, John.