Curriculum

We've designed our two-year MFA Program around six core courses, which introduce you to a set of "transportable" media writing concepts, as well as specific idioms/genres.

You'll build a significant portfolio -- at least a short screenplay, play, TV episode, and full-length thesis project of your choosing. You'll understand not just the art and craft of media writing, but also the business of media writing as we'll practice pitching, taking meetings, writing query letters, and understanding contracts. You'll choose from a range of writing topics courses, such as developing character, developing the pilot, writing the teen film, experimental adaptation, and interactive narrative. You'll meet artists and executives from TV, stage, film, and new media. You'll also take theory and history courses to give you a better sense of the relationship between writing and the broader worlds of theatre, film, and television.

Below are the specific course requirements, a sample schedule, and other graduation requirements. Questions? Please contact us at write@northwestern.edu or 847-467-1157.

Coursework Requirements - 18 Units Total

Core courses (6) Units
RTVF 561 - Foundations of Writing for the Screen and Stage
Parameters of media writing (character, dialogue, tone/voice, scope, context, intent, etc). Structure. Story analysis. What distinguishes one medium from another. Product: 30-page screenplay.
1
RTVF 562 - Writing the Full-Length Play 1
RTVF 563 - Writing the TV Episode 1
RTVF 564 - Feature Thesis 1
With an emphasis on understanding the structure of a feature play, film, innovative theatre piece, or interactive narrative (student's choice). Students produce: Outline, first act.
1
RTVF 565 - Feature Thesis 2
With an emphasis on writing the first draft.
1
RTVF 566 - Feature Thesis 3
With an emphasis on adaptation, revision and preparing the writer for the business of writing.
1
Topics in Media Writing courses (4)  

RTVF 360 Topics in Media Writing or RTVF 464 Advanced Media Writing or other media writing electives with approval of the Director of the MFA.

Sample courses include:
Writing the Production-Ready Short Film
Writing Romantic Comedy
The Art, Business, and Ethics of Assignment Writing
Writing Horror/Fantasy/Supernatural
Writing the Dramatic Pilot
Writing the Comedy Screenplay
Writing the ½ Hour Spec Script
Writing the Sci-Fi Script
Advanced Sitcom Writing
Writing the Anti-Hero
Writing the Fact-Based Drama
LGBTQIA for Theater, TV, and/or Web
Improv for Writers
Pitching the TV Series
Writing and Performing Stand-Up
Political Drama Between Stage and Screen
Writing the Historical Drama
Activist Video for the Web
Creativity and Flow in Screenwriting
Writing the Feature Film
Workshopping the Full-Length Project
Writing Styles

1 each, for a total of 4
Production courses (300-level or higher) (1)  

From RTVF or Theatre with approval of the Director of the MFA.

1
Theory/history/culture courses (300-level or higher) (1)  

From Screen Cultures/RTVF, Performance Studies, Art Theory and Practice, Theatre, or other departments with approval of MFA program director.

1
Electives (5)  

From Production, Screen Cultures, or Writing/RTVF, Performance Studies, Art Theory and Practice, Theatre or other departments with approval of the Director of the MFA. Maximum of two screenwriting, playwriting, television writing or other writing electives (i.e. fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction) with approval of the Director of the MFA.

1 each, for a total of 5
One internship (349 or equivalent at the discretion of the Director of the MFA) 1
Total credits: 18


Other MFA Degree Requirements

MFA students will be allowed to take a maximum of 20 credits.

Grade average: you must maintain a B average. If your average is not a B or higher by the end of the first year, you may be asked to leave the program

First Year Review: The academic and professional progress of all first year MFAs will be reviewed in early June by the director of the program in consultation with writing faculty. If weaknesses are identified, a formal interview with that student will be conducted by the director and writing faculty to determine an appropriate course of action. Subsequent to that interview, at the discretion of the director, the grade for the spring core 500 level writing seminar may be used to determine whether that student will be allowed to continue in the program with a grade of C+ or below resulting in possible removal.

Final portfolio Review/Defense: In consultation with the Director of the Program, you will choose a committee of two faculty members (both part of the Graduate School faculty) to review your final portfolio (at least 3 substantial scripts created within the context of courses) and to judge your final defense of that portfolio.

"Playwriting class was the beginning of my love of playwriting and a pivotal course for me."
Greg Berlanti (C94), WGA, DGA and Golden Globe nominated writer and producer (The Flash, Arrow, Brothers & Sisters, Pan, Everwood)

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