University of Technology Sydney

57142 Writing for the Screen

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2023 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Communication: Journalism and Writing
Credit points: 8 cp
Result type: Grade, no marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This subject offers postgraduate students the opportunity to develop advanced skills in writing for the screen through developing a short dramatic screenplay. Students develop an idea through industry-accepted stages of development and formats and through workshops. Students gain skills in research, visualisation, structuring, storytelling and character development. Students also improve their ability to read, develop and critique their own work and the work of their colleagues.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

a. Develop a screen idea through researching and workshopping a concept, developing and pitching that idea, and writing sample scenes from the screenplay.
b. Understand the fundamentals of screenwriting craft as they apply to a specific screen idea.
c. Present their work in industry-standard screenplay formats
d. Understand scene and sequence structure
e. Understand the power of subtext in a screenplay
f. Critique and script edit their own work and that of their peers

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject engages with the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs), which are tailored to the Graduate Attributes set for all graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences:

  • Write to a publishable standard across a range of genres, demonstrating an advanced understanding of the appropriate use of different writing forms (1.1)
  • Negotiate and understand the specifications of commissioned writing tasks in diverse environments (1.2)
  • Critically analyse their work and the work of others, acquiring high-level professional editorial skills (1.3)
  • Convey complex ideas in writing clearly and effectively to specialist and non-specialist audiences, across a range of media formats (6.1)

Teaching and learning strategies

Students master the foundations of screenwriting through the development of a screen idea, from idea/concept to draft screenplay. Focussing on fiction screenwriting, students learn how to develop, test, refine and share screen ideas, including building character, developing structure, exploring theme, writing visually and crafting dialogue.

Students develop their writing style through readings and viewings, and in-class writing exercises designed to enhance their awareness of the craft. They also work in small groups and workshop scenarios to learn strong script development and editorial skills.

Written and verbal pitching is designed to sharpen students' skills in articulating story and critiquing the work of others.

Students are advised to watch as many films and read as many original screenplays as they can. The library contains a rich and varied selection of films and screenplays for film, television and the web, and online script resources (see CANVAS for examples) are aplenty.

Content (topics)

The main focus of this subject is on developing screenwriting craft skills. Students have the opportunity to analyse, debate and explore different approaches to the screenwriting craft at the same time as engaging in a creative development process of their own supported by the lecturer and their classmates.


Assessment task 1: Screenplay/Series Proposal and Screenwriting Craft Plan


a, b, c, d, e and f

Weight: 40%
Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Distinctiveness of idea and accomplishment in developing an engaging work for the screen 25 a, b, d, e 1.1
Adherence to screenwriting formats 25 c 1.2
Degree of insight and criticality of response (supported by literature 25 d, e, f 1.3
Clarity of Writing 25 c, f 6.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: The Screenplay


a, b, c, d, e and f

Weight: 60%

(a) 10 pages, using industry-standard layout

(b) 1500 words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Accomplishment in structuring and pacing a coherent and engaging work for the screen 14 a, b, d, e 1.1
Ability to write visually and to write performable dialogue 14 a, c, e 1.1
Internal logic 14 a, e, f 6.1
Understanding of subtext 14 e 6.1
Clarity of Writing 14 c, f 6.1
Response to critical feedback that includes rewriting 15 f 1.3
Adherence to screenwriting formats 15 c 1.2
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements

Classes are based on a collaborative approach that involves essential work-shopping and interchange of ideas with other students and the tutor.

In this subject assessment tasks are cumulative so that each task builds understanding and/or skills, informed by formative feedback. Consequently, all assessments must be submitted in order for you to receive feedback. Students who do not submit all assessments will not pass the subject.

Required texts

It is advised that each student purchase/loan one or two core 'textbooks' for this subject, especially if students have not undertaken screenwriting studies before. Please speak with the lecturer if advice is required. Here are some 'all round' texts that can be chosen from as solid starting points.

Field, S (2003). The Definitive Guide to Screenwriting. London: Ebury Press

McKee, R (1999). Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting. London: Methuen.

Seger, L (2010). Making a Good Script Great (3rd Edition). New York: Silman-James Press.

Waldeback, Z and Batty, C (2012). The Creative Screenwriter: Exercises to Expand Your Craft. London: Bloomsbury.

Yorke, J (2014). Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them. London: Penguin.

Recommended texts

See Canvas for a list of other readings and viewings (weekly schedule).


Here are some other key texts that may be consulted throughout the subject:

Aronson, L (2000). Scriptwriting Updated: New and Conventional Ways of Writing for the Screen. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

Carriere, J. C (1994). The Secret Language of Film. New York: Pantheon Books.

Chitlik, P (2008). Rewrite: A Step-by-Step Guide to Strengthen Structure, Characters and Drama in your Screenplay. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions.

Dancyger, K and Rush, J (2013). Alternative Scriptwriting (5th Edition). Boston: Focal Press.

Dancyger, K (2001). Global Scriptwriting. Boston: Focal Press.

Ondaatje, M (2002). The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing film. Toronto: Vintage.

Lucey, P (1996). Story Sense: Writing Story and Script for Feature Films and Television. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Murphy, J. J (2007). Me and You and Memento and Fargo: How Independent screenplays Work. New York: Continuum.

Thompson, D and Christie, I (eds) (1989). Scorsese on Scorsese. London: Faber and Faber.

Trottier, D (2010). The Screenwriters Bible. New York: Silman-James Press.

Truffaut, F (1984). Hitchcock: Dialogue Between Truffaut and Hitchcock. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Wells, P (2007). Basics: Scriptwriting. Worthing: AVA Academia.

Ward, V (1990). Edge of The Earth: Stories and Images from the Antipodes. Auckland: Heinemann Reed.

Other resources


All screenwriting students may borrow films on DVD or VHS from Closed Reserve in the library. The library also holds a large collection of screenplays.