Writing for Film + TV
Bring your passion for visual storytelling, story structure and character development to UArts, and we'll provide the opportunity to develop your creativity and skills in pursuit of those goals. Whether you have a dream of writing a web series, an Oscar- or Emmy-winning screenplay, a Sundance Film Festival indie, a documentary, or a TV show, UArts is the right place. Our writing classes are small and feature one-on-one story conferences with instructors who provide valuable feedback on your work. The workshop and revision processes are hallmarks of this program, where both students and instructors offer critiques and insights into student work.
UArts' well-rounded and collaborative coursework means you'll graduate with an impressive portfolio. Your work might include a feature-length screenplay, a television pilot, or spec scripts from existing episodic-television series. Or it could be outlines to develop as short film scripts or web series.
Our writers also learn from the beginning how to pitch their stories—a necessary skill for a career in the film-television-internet entertainment business.
A testament to University of the Arts’ fostering of interdisciplinary study, the annual Visiting Writers Series gives students and visiting writers alike a distinct creative opportunity.
For each series event—which occur in both the fall and the spring each year—accomplished writers share their work through readings and discussions with students. Since the onset of the series in 2013, Illustration students have created posters to advertise each event and to represent the writer and often, their work.
Carlos Rios BFA ’14 (Writing for Film and TV) returned to UArts in March, further underscoring the cross-collaboration that’s characteristic of UArts: The series features two screenwriters per year, benefiting Writing for Film and TV students in addition to Creative Writing majors. A Universal Pictures Emerging Writers Fellow, Rios has written for the TV series Colony on USA Network and is currently working for the forthcoming On Becoming a God in Central Florida.
For the poster promoting Rios’ visit on March 19, Illustration major Melita Tirado took inspiration from his inclusion in the 2016 Black List—a list of the most-favored screenplays not yet in production, voted on by Hollywood executives—for a Western-themed screenplay titled Let the Evil Go West.
“What I wanted to do with the poster was capture that Western look, as well as desolate space,” Tirado says. “And I decided that I wanted it to kind of resemble the person … so I created the environment to be a part of him.”
Tirado delivered a few sketches to Matt Curtius, associate professor of Illustration, who leads the collaborations each year. He selected a sketch, delivered some feedback and sent Tirado back to work.
At UArts, how we promote an arts event is itself a work of art. – Zach Savich, program director, Creative Writing
“I’ve had Matt before as a professor, so we know pretty well how we work with each other,” Tirado explains. “He had some feedback on placements and creating hierarchy, and from there I finished the piece.”
Given the general lack of visual attention afforded most writers, the experience of portraiture is likely a novel one. Creative Writing Program Director Zach Savich says visiting writers are usually surprised by the posters, which they receive when they visit. Savich has recently begun documenting writers’ reactions to students’ interpretations of them.
“These posters show that at UArts, how we promote an arts event is itself a work of art,” Savich says. “The posters help remind us that writers can inspire new ways of seeing. A literary reading isn't just a chance to see an author—it's an invitation to a live imaginative act that ripples across the arts.”
The next event in UArts’ Visiting Writers Series—Immigrant Voices: p.e. garcia, Nimisha Ladva and Afaq Mahmoud, moderated by author and Senior Lecturer Rahul Mehta—will be held April 11 at 7 p.m. in Terra Hall’s Connelly Auditorium. Learn more about this year’s Visiting Writers.
Deadline reported that UArts alum Darnell Brown ’10 (Writing for Film and TV) is one of only eight 2019 HBOAccess fellows, who were chosen from among 3,000 applicants. Also the 2019 winner of the ABFF/Turner TV Writing Contest, Brown will work on a pilot for HBO or Cinemax during his fellowship.
The HBOAccess Writing Fellowship began in 2014 in order to diversify writers’ rooms across the nation. New fellows are selected every other year and are mentored by HBO executives for eight months as they develop their scripts.
“Way beyond excited and legit still freaking out to be one of this year’s HBOAccess Writing Fellows!” he tweeted on May 23. “Can’t wait to get to work!”
What I appreciate the most about my time in the Writing for Film + Television major is the fundamental understanding of storytelling the staff instilled in me. Not only was the writing process fully immersive and the class size intimate, but breaking down screenplays, novels and even graphic novels on a line-level prepared me for the industry in invaluable and unexpected ways. Being able to speak with authority and confidence in a story meetings is largely the byproduct of my UArts education and the foundation laid by the instructors."
Kevin R. Wright ’12 is a creative producer of Production & Development at Marvel Studios located on the Disney Lot in Burbank California, where alongside his colleagues in the feature film division, he is responsible for creative oversight of projects on the studio’s slate. Kevin is currently Co-Producing the recently announced Loki series for Disney’s upcoming streaming service Disney+. He was Associate Producer on Ant-Man and The Wasp and previously served as the Sr. Manager of Production & Development on Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.
I’m a writer, but I’m also a director, performer, and photographer. I chose UArts because I knew I could strengthen and explore all of my talents. I wanted to go to a school where I could find my individual artistic expression and work on independent projects, that way I could bring my own well-rounded understanding of art and self into the industry.
Along with all of that, I wanted to spend my four undergrad years in a welcoming community. I grew up in a very small religious town, and being openly queer wasn’t easy. I knew UArts would not only be accepting, but flowing with allies and a vast LGBTQIA+ community. Every day I feel respected and cared for as a student. My ideas and feelings are taken seriously, and I feel comfortable and confident to move forward into my future.
Synonyms for Crazy (Writer/Director/Producer.)
An original web miniseries revolving around the spiraling sanity of a college student.
A Flower Hanging Upside Down (Writer/Director/Producer.)
A futuristic one act play tied together with experimental film/sound focusing on life, death, and trauma.
Blood, Hate, and Other Gruesome Things (Writer.)
A one act play about sibling relationships placed into the most extreme conditions of the apocalypse.
With Synonyms and Flower, I had acting, musical theater, illustration, film, and music majors collaborating one way or another. Blood on the other hand was part of the theater school’s home series, and we had actors, directors, producers, stage managers, prop masters, lighting, sound, and set designers. It’s important to know that together, each of our expertise helps create the whole, and the whole is the goal.
In addition to majoring in Writing for Film + Television, I minored in Film, and a big part of that was working with actors and other students from other departments, learning the nature of collaboration. I took acting and musical theater classes, and I married an illustrator.
Derek Dressler '05 is a writer of animated films and TV shows, and winner of a 2014 Emmy Award for Outstanding Short-Format Animated Program for his work on the Disney Channel Mickey Mouse short O Sole Minnie.
"You have to be ready to collaborate," he says, "because in the studio system you might rewrite a script over and over again, then toss it out and start over. Because the faculty at UArts actually worked in the industry, that reality was drilled into my head, in a good way."
UArts' Writing for Film + Television alumni can be found in Hollywood, New York City and across the entertainment industry, winning Emmy awards and following a wide range of career paths.
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Our industry-experienced faculty members include a multiple Emmy Award-winning writer, an Emmy-nominated television movie producer, as well as the former director of Programming for the Family Channel, and VP of Daytime Television for NBC. They’ve worked at the William Morris talent agency, TriStar Pictures and Warner Bros.; they’ve successfully pitched numerous projects to producers, studios, networks, cable and internet channels; their work has won a Leeway Foundation grant; they’ve edited and produced documentary shorts for HBO; and they have had feature-length and short films that they’ve written, directed and produced screened at prominent film festivals around the world.
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Sample Courses in the Writing for Film + Television Major
About the Curriculum
The Writing for Film and Television program teaches future screenwriters, filmmakers, television writers, story-development executives, and producers the art of writing narrative scripts for the big and small screens. Students write feature-length screenplays, television pilots, hour-long teleplays; gain a sophisticated knowledge of story development; and create, write, and produce episodic drama series for the Web. The core of this experience is writing and revising in a workshop environment with close guidance and support from industry-experienced faculty.
Graduates of the Writing for Film + Television program are expected to:
- Solve story problems creatively and through experimentation;
- Generate or find story ideas to develop for movies, television, or web series;
- Apply the techniques of dramatic structure to a variety of works, both one’s own and those of other writers;
- Develop a more sophisticated and evocative use of language;
- Revise written work in light of knowledge learned about dramatic structure and skills honed as a writer;
- Develop competency in written and oral critical analysis of scripted work;
- Demonstrate professional scriptwriting practices;
- Understand the collaborative nature of film and television development, and production practices;
- Refine public speaking and verbal story pitching skills;
- Recognize historical and cultural influences on film, television, and web writing and production.
To explore the full curriculum, click here.
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