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Development Lab - the importance of good peer review practice in the context of screenwriting

Abstract: Screenwriting has become a hugely popular academic subject in the UK,  with the number of MA programmes increasing from five to nearly 30 in five years.  However virtually no methodological work has been done on how writers write, and how we as academics and teachers can best provide a framework of critical support for their writing.
The teaching of screenwriting has borrowed from creative writing courses on the one hand, and vocational film/TV industry training and “How-to” manuals on the other.  This often leaves students frustrated as they are being told on one hand that that they should rely on their unique creative voice (which teaching staff are generally unwilling to mediate) yet on the other that the audience or the ‘market’ wants or expects a certain kind of  ’product’ written according to market rules. Good courses try to negotiate this interface of creative writing and the notion of a reception context, and peer review of work, if methodically and responsibly used, can be a constructive bridging tool here. I will outline below the basic structure of MASTFiR in order to give a context to its work in peer review through its Development Lab unit

Author information: Sue Clayton is a practising feature film screenwriter and director (see her website www.sueclaytonfilm.com).  She has taught and guest lectured in film writing and directing at over 20 Universities and Film Schools including the Universities of Cambridge and NYU, and the National Film and TV School.
She has designed an innovatory new programme known as MASTFiR, the MA in Screenwriting for TV and Film (Retreat Programme) which is taught in six residential blocks over two years, and between times by on-line tutorials and an e-forum.

Date: June 2006

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