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Graduate Program

The Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing trains students in the three mediums of dramatic writing: theater, film and television. It is the mission of the department to teach students the basics of dramatic storytelling while preparing them for their futures as professional writers.

Graduate students take writing workshops, text analysis courses, production process courses and pre-professional training courses throughout their two years. Our students are educated broadly in each of the three mediums while providing specialized study in each, with emphasis on original work. We believe that training writers in more than one medium makes them strong and flexible writers, who use the strengths of different mediums to enrich their work in all mediums. 

Year 1

In the first year, all graduate students take introductory workshop classes in the three mediums of playwriting, screenwriting and television writing. They are required to write an original full length play, full length screenplay, half hour TV spec script and one hour TV pilot.

Students will also take text analysis, production, lab classes and pre-professional training classes that compliment the workshop classes. Just as an artist uses a sketchbook to work out ideas for a painting, our students use staged readings and video production to develop their work as they write it.

Graduate Seminar in Playwriting I (required)

This course teaches the fundamentals of basic structure in writing for the stage. Students will complete a ten minute play (including at least one rewrite), and half of a new full length play, with rewrites strongly encouraged. Lectures and discussions will include exploration of voice, motor, character, conflict, story arc, and theatricality. The balance between clarity and subtlety with a clear tone and attention to dialogue and plot will also be emphasized. Student work will be read in workshop and critiqued.


Graduate Seminar in Screenwriting I (required)

Students are expected to complete a short film script and a re­write of the short film script. Students will write the first 60 pages of a screenplay and a 5 to 15 page revised outline for the entire screenplay. In addition, students will read, analyze and study produced screenplays. (Other assignments may be given per instructor discretion.) Lectures integrate writing work with presentations emphasizing understanding of basic screenplay structure, theme, story, plot, character development and film language. 

Graduate Seminar in TV Writing I: Half Hour (required)

This workshop class teaches a structure, shape, and approach to writing TV half­hour comedy as a framework for writing all forms of TV. It provides a ground­up exposure to TV scriptwriting, moving in steps from premise lines, to the 1­-page breakdown, to pages, and then revision in an intense classroom workshop critique. The focus will be on completing a spec script for a current TV comedy (live­-action or animated) that can be revised in a later advanced­level TV class. An approved show list will be provided during the summer before class begins.
Features may include classes focused on TV Animation, pilots, or an intro to 1­-Hour Drama to prepare the first­year grad writer for the next level TV class. Each student will also be expected to complete a breakdown for a second script (pilot: live­action or animated). This course prepares students for the professional world.

Comedic Strategies: "Why Is This Funny?" (required)

This course examines the essential elements of story telling through the analysis of comedy in theater, film and television and beyond. It is a required class for all first year graduate students. It will focus on comedic works in all mediums of comedy starting after the second world war. The class will demonstrate how comedy is a living, evolving thing that reflects where we are as people. Popular culture is always telling us something; even when it doesn’t know it’s telling us something. This course will include works from not only theater, film and television , but also literature, stand-up, improv, sketch and music. Texts and examples will be analyzed for character, story, plot, structure, theme and technique.

Drama Lab (required)

In this course, actors and writers will work in close collaboration with each other. They will develop a series of pieces for the stage, and some for the screen. These will be short pieces, some done within one session, and longer works where their development runs over weeks of rehearsal. The course will cover various modes of creative collaboration: writer- generated material, actor- generated material, adaptations developed by the group, and everything in-between. Roles will blur. We expect concepts, text, and performance, to some degree, from everyone in the room. The class will be broken down into a number of working “‘theater companies’”, each of which will work together throughout the term on various projects. The class will also function as a whole in developing longer, possibly full- length work. At the end of the semester, there will be a public showing of the best work from the Creation Heavy Industries Theater Lab.

Graduate Seminar in Playwriting II (required)

This course explores the fundamentals of basic structure in writing for the stage. There will be lectures on and study of linear and non-linear storytelling;, learning to develop story ideas with strong dramatic situations that drive the plot, writing exercises designed to increase facility in structuring scenes;, writing dialogue that compels action rather than simply describes it;, and comparative studies of the works of classic and contemporary playwrights and how their approach to craft might be applicable to the work of each individual. The second semester will emphasize structure and scene work. Each student’s play will be examined carefully in workshop, written, re-written, re-written again, and polished until it can be brought to its most perfect realization at this stage of your training. Students must complete a new full- length play with a complete outline.

Graduate Seminar in Screenwriting II (required)

The goal of this class is completion and revision. Students are expected to complete and revise their full­-length screenplay started in Screenwriting I or start and complete a new work. Emphasis on structure, theme, story, plot, character development and film language will continue.

Graduate Seminar in TV Writing II: One Hour (required)

This workshop course takes students step-by-step through writing their own script for an ongoing one-hour television dramatic series. The course will go from premise lines, through the outline/beat sheet, to writing a draft of the script that may be polished in Advanced TV or Thesis TV. Students will complete and revise a full 1-Hour story and at least half a script that they will continue or revise in Advanced or Thesis. (No pilots in this class.)

Dramatic Strategies (required)

This course examines the essential elements of story telling through the analysis of dramas in theater, film and television. It is a required class for all first year graduate students. Texts from antiquity to the present from each of the three mediums will be read and analyzed for character, story, plot, structure, theme and technique. 

Fund of Filmmaking

This practical workshop is designed to introduce students to the techniques and theory of developing and producing short film ideas that are shot on digital video and edited digitally on computer using FinalCut Pro Software. The course centers on learning elements of visual storytelling through a spectrum of aesthetic approaches. Working in crews of four, students learn directing, shooting, and editing skills as they each direct three short videos (three to five minutes in length). This course is specifically designed to fulfill the major requirements in production of students not majoring in film and therefore, students who need to fulfill this requirement are given registration priority. 

Steinberg Theatre Workshop

The first part of the class involves collaborative work on a one-act play that the student brings in the first day of class.  The plays will be read that day and discussed.  Within the first couple of weeks each student is paired with a director and actors who will work with the student to develop and roughly stage the play.  The second half of the class will be a project conceived in collaboration with director and actors, involving improv and other techniques, similar to the Joint Stock model. Actors will join the process and the class will culminate in readings of the new plays.  Guest respondents will be invited to share their thoughts on the students' work. 

Master Class in Television Writing: Sketch Comedy

 

This course is a sketch-writing workshop that culminates in a production of the work from this class. A survey of sketch genres and approaches will be integrated with writing assignments keyed to those genres. (The Cold Open, Hi-and-Welcome-Back-to-Another-Episode-of…, desk pieces, remotes, The 2-Minute Short Comedy Film, etc.) along with rewrites of your own original sketches: rewrites that will be done both privately and sometimes collaboratively. The goal is for each student to emerge from the class with several polished sketches. For this class, it helps to have a good sense of humor that you want to get even better at putting down on the page. There will be a lot of group critiquing and occasionally group rewriting. So it helps to stop thinking that your first draft is perfect. Because it isn’t. This can be a pretty wild class, so it also helps not to worry about comedy that goes “too far.” The course may be visited by occasional guest professionals. Improv and stand-up will not be ignored.

 

Drama Lab II: Across Mediums (2 pts)

An intensive workshop for graduate students as they cultivate and refine the craft of dramatic writing. Using a variety of outside actors and directors, students generate dramatic writing for the lab each week that then requires collaboration a staged reading with actors and directors. The presentation of work is critical for all dramatists, and although the craft here is theatrical, the development of character, dialogue, and action in dramatic space is relevant to film writers as well as playwrights. After each reading, a purposeful discussion of the work follows, conducted by the moderator (instructor) and one guest member of the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing faculty. Participating actors and directors participate fully in the discussion along with the students.

Business of the Business

This course is designed to familiarize students with the basics of the business of writing for theater, film and television.  It will include an overview of the theater, film and television industries; from off-Broadway to Broadway theater, independent to studio film, web to network and cable TV. Case studies and examples from across the three mediums will be used to illustrate financing, development, contracts, rights, unions, production and distribution.  The goal of the course is to give writers a basic understanding of what they need to know to navigate the professional world of the writer.

Year 2

In the second year, students will take advanced writing workshops which lead toward a master's thesis (a full-length dramatic work) in one of the three mediums. In addition to the thesis work, students work on a second full-length project in a different medium. Second-year students also have access to special seminars, master classes, and colloquia where guest speakers from the industry discuss their own work and current topics in the entertainment business as they relate to writers.

Advanced Screenwriting

Students in this class must have completed at least one feature-length screenplay or teleplay in a previous class. The goal of this class is to write and complete a NEW screenplay. (Graduate Students: If you are in this class and a thesis class this semester, this means you are writing two DIFFERENT full-length pieces. Undergraduates may not take this course and BFA Thesis Film in the same semester.) You must come to the first class with at least two ideas for full-length screenplays.

Advanced Playwriting

Students should come to class with two new ideas for full-length plays. Students will complete a new full-length play and one rewrite with continuing attention to fundamentals and refining the craft.

Advanced TV: Half Hour

This Advanced class is for the revision or completion of previous work in either the half-hour dramatic field. Around the midway point students may begin a new work or a pilot, if their initial spec is properly polished. The teacher will provide a list of acceptable shows during the summer before class begins. This is a high-level Thesis-like class.

Advanced TV: One Hour

This Advanced class is for the revision or completion of previous work in either the one-hour dramatic field. Around the midway point students may begin a new work or a pilot, if their initial spec is properly polished. The teacher will provide a list of acceptable shows during the summer before class begins. This is a high-level Thesis-like class.

Masterclass in Playwriting: Goldberg

Students will work with an established working guest playwright to develop and write new work for the stage.  By the end of the semester students will complete either a one-act or a full-length.  Students are expected to come in with a new idea for a play or with a plan to do a complete rewrite of an earlier play.  Please note, you may not work on this script in any other class.  Students come to the first class with 1 or 2 different, completed first drafts to propose as the piece they wish to work on during the semester.

Masterclass in Screenwriting: Scene Study

This class will focus on the art and craft of scene­writing. Students may write new scenes and/or revise existing scenes within the parameters of the class. The class will also include reading, viewing and discussing produced scenes. Students are expected to write at least 6 new and/or revised scenes by the end of the class with a greater understanding of how different kinds of scenes work. 

Masterclass in TV: Late Night Comedy Writing

Joke writers aren't allowed to wait until they feel funny. This intensive introduction to the craft of writing topical jokes exposes students to the rigors of producing news­driven jokes and short comedy pieces on demand. Students will be required to keep abreast of the news and come to class prepared to write jokes and desk­pieces on subjects selected by the instructor. They will create material appropriate for different programs and hosts, including Colbert, Stewart, Fallon, Letterman. Occasional guests from late­night comedy shows may critique student work. The goal is to get fast and steady at joke­writing, while compiling a late­night writing packet to be used to seek work in the field. 

Masterclass in TV: Animation

This television workshop course takes students step by step through writing their own spec script for an ongoing half­hour animated TV series. The course will focus on adult animated series and on kids’ series. A half­hour animated drama may be allowable. The influence of anime – along with a mandatory anime viewing list – will be considered and discussed.

The course will go from premise line, to 1­-page outline, to pages, through revision and classroom workshop critiquing. Everyone will be expected to complete a full story and a script. In the latter weeks of the class, many students will start an animated pilot breakdown, which may be revised in a high­level TV class such as Advanced or Thesis. 

Film Story Analysis

The course is designed to better help students organize their own narratives by analyzing the techniques employed by various screenwriters in constructing their screenplays. A selection of Hollywood films and foreign films from the silent era to the contemporary age will be screened and discussed in terms of continuity of theme; delineation of plot, development of structure, protagonist’s story purpose, dialogue as action and character. After each screening, the instructor will lead a group discussion and analysis of the film, focusing further on the techniques, conventions and devices employed by the screenwriter to both tell a good story and satisfy the demands of the audience.

TV Story Analysis

This text analysis class, geared to the television writer and TV writer­producer, will explore TV history from its beginnings as "radio with pictures," through its “vast wasteland” days (when it was misperceived as purely a medium for advertising), to the coming of cable in the mid­1980's, all of which anticipated the art form of the present­day. TVSA will immerse itself in the language, genres, and viewpoints (conscious, or unconscious) of numerous shows including Leave It To Beaver, Medic, The Twilight Zone, The Rifleman, Combat, Top Cat, Get Smart, Batman, The Untouchables, East Side/West Side, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Shindig!, The Jerry Lewis Variety Show, Sanford and Son, Rhoda, Rich Man Poor Man, The Rockford Files, St. Elsewhere, Playboy After Dark, and such documentaries as "Harvest of Shame" and "Same Mud, Same Blood." The class will employ weekly lectures, in­class viewings, and regular papers of either a historical, critical, or creative nature, plus homework viewings on YouTube and Netflix, a midterm and a final. 

Film Story Analysis: Images of the Other

Foremost in this course will be an analysis of Black stereotypes that have recently appeared in American films and television­­ and the manner in which those stereotypes have reflected the nation’s social/political attitudes and outlooks on race and gender during specific periods. The course will also explore the unique “personal statements” and “star personas” of such screen artists as Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as the work of African American Directors such as Oscar Micheaux and Spike Lee. The films studied will include THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915), SHOW BOAT (1936), CABIN IN THE SKY (1943), INTRUDER IN THE DUST (1949), PINKY (1949), THE DEFIANT ONES (1958), IMITATION OF LIFE (1959), SUPER FLY (1972), THE COLOR PURPLE (1985), DRIVING MISS DAISY (1989), NEW JACK CITY (1990), GHOST (1990), TO SLEEP WITH ANGER (1990),DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (1991), THE LETHAL WEAPON SERIES, BOOMERANG (1992), as well as various television series. 

Steinberg Theater Workshop

The first part of the class involves collaborative work on a one­act play that the student brings in the first day of class. The plays will be read that day and discussed. Within the first couple of weeks each student is paired with a director and actors who will work with the student to develop and roughly stage the play. The second half of the class will be a project conceived in collaboration with director and actors, involving improv and other techniques, similar to the Joint Stock model. Actors will join the process and the class will culminate in readings of the new plays. Guest respondents will be invited to share their thoughts on the students' work.


Collaboration in the Public Theater

The basis of the course is centered on writers, actors, directors and designers working together and learning to communicate with each other under the tutelage of the Public Theatre’s Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Suzan­-Lori Parks.

 

Masterclass in TV: Kids' Television

From superheroes to talking puppets, television aimed at children and teens continues to capture the hearts of boys and girls around the world. How do these series continue to endure, both in a practical and creative sense? This class will explore writing for kids' programs ­ both animation and live­action for different age groups ­ across the genres of action and comedy. Students will analyze series bibles, premises, outlines, and scripts for existing shows, and ultimately develop and complete a spec from concept to script. 

Loving the Living Playwright

This is a production workshop for playwrights, led by The Public Theater's Master Writer and Visiting Arts Professor at the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing, Suzan-Lori Parks.  Each week playwrights will present bare-bones staged readings, excerpts of their previously written work.  Writers will be paired off, with one writer serving as "playwright" and the other serving as "director." Working with professional actors, you'll be strengthening your writing chops by getting your work on its feet for class discussion and feedback. "Playwright" and "Director" pairings will change weekly, giving each writer multiple opportunities to explore the possibilities of their own written work and, through directing, expand their understanding of the writing and production process.  Fun, lively, and encouraging feedback in a loving, rigorous, moshpit, sandbox atmosphere.

Thesis

Students will develop their thesis project in their last semester in an intensive MFA Thesis writing workshop.

Professional Colloquium

A colloquium featuring guest speakers from the theatre, television and film industries who will discuss the trials and tribulations, ins and outs of the business. Guests include agents, independent filmmakers, producers, writers, story editors, literary managers, and representatives from the Dramatists Guild and the Writers Guild of America East. An important emphasis is to involve students with the Tisch and NYU Career Services offices and their resources to begin the transition to the professional world while in the class.