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What Classes Should You Take in College to Be a TV Scriptwriter?

by Buffy Naillon

More goes into creating a TV script than simply writing what an actor speaks in front of a camera. The scriptwriter must also relay information for the director, the floor crew and the person running any computer-generated imagery technology for the broadcast. If you're an aspiring TV writer, you'll take a variety of courses in myriad subjects to prepare for this career, and some of them may not be what you would think.

Production Classes

College programs that specialize in TV and film often require their students to take classes in TV and video production. For example, at the Academy of Art University, screenwriting students learn about non-linear editing, film producing and directing, sound effects and other production elements. Additionally, many colleges have programs that either allow students to work in an on-campus production studio or put them in touch with local TV stations or ad agencies where they can do internships. Experiences such as these give students an opportunity to see how TV producers make a script come to life.

Literature Classes

Screenwriter Chad Gervich suggests that aspiring TV screenwriters take literature classes. These classes force you to read a lot, and the savvy writer learns to read these stories with the writer's eye, allowing her to absorb a great deal of information about storytelling techniques, narratives and characterization. Reading these types of materials gives you a solid background in genre, storytelling and plot as well. These stories also serve as a starting point for adaptations, which TV writers often create. For example, the writers of the BBC's series "Sherlock" took the basic characters and stories from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books and put them into a modern setting. While not all TV writers will make such adaptations, reading literature gives them snippets of ideas, which they can combine to create completely new ideas -- something a writer always needs.

The Wide World

If writers only wrote about writing, then classes dealing with writing techniques and composition would be sufficient. However, their work requires them to compose stories about a range of subjects. Taking classes dealing with science, history or economics gives you a breadth of knowledge that allows you to communicate different ideas more fully. Coursework in art history provides you with a background in the visual elements of different time periods, allowing you to weave these references into the script, which the production designer and director can work with later on.

Other Considerations

The State University career website likens writing for television to "writing to order." College in general forces you to write a lot and to juggle a load that you previously might have deemed impossible. But your ability to tackle these tasks and keep on deadline counts as one of the most valuable skills you can learn in college. Through these experiences, you'll also gain other professional skills, such as organization and the ability to work accurately despite your deadlines.

About the Author

Buffy Naillon has worked in the media industry since 1999, contributing to Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine and various websites. She received a bachelor's degree in German from Boise State University. Naillon also attended New York University and participated in the foreign exchange program at Germany's Saarland University. She is completing her master's degree in educational technology at Boise State.

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