FAQ for Bonnie’s screenwriting class

Bonnie’s UCLA Extension screenwriting course, “The Art of the Scene” is a slight reworking of the formerly titled class “Screenwriting on the Write Side of the Brain part I”

Frequently asked questions

Are there any prerequisites for this class?

Only two. First, you must demonstrate a certain proficiency with screenplay form and format, (it helps to have written a script, or taken the beginning screenplay writing class first – or be very, very familiar with the form.) And you must have web access.

Class is listed as “web enhanced” – what does this mean?

It means you’ll need internet access because assignments, reading materials, and required questionnaires will be posted on the web and you will be turning in your assignments electronically.

Do I need to be able to act or draw?

No, no talent or experience is required in either acting or drawing.

Who is this class designed for?

It’s designed for a wide range of writing experience, from advanced beginner thru seasoned pro. Actors, animators, graphic designers, musicians, directors, editors and creative types of many stripes will particularly enjoy this class, although no other skills are needed. Screenwriters who would like to explore a fresh approach, or would like more “tools” for their writing kit will also enjoy the class.

What teachers/methods have inspired this course?

Your instructor has studied personally with Betty Edwards, Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, Tim Gallwey and Dennis Krausnick, and lessons have been inspired by the hands-on, experiential work of these classes and workshops, as well as the writings of many gifted artists, psychologists, and scientists.

Do I need official screenwriting software?

Scenes will be short enough that Word and style sheets will work, though if you’re serious about writing, eventually you’ll want a professional piece of screenwriting software. Both Final Draft and MovieMagic screenwriter will work for class, as well as the free software, Celtx. Your instructor uses Final Draft.

What will we actually be doing in class?

Each class will begin with a check-in and brief discussion, presentation of new ideas, possibly some writing, drawing, improv, or other hands on activity (no previous experience necessary), and then the bulk of the class will be the reading aloud of the work. It’s an active, fun, and very safe classroom environment, and attendance is vital to your grade and to receive full benefit of the material.

How much time will be needed outside of class?

The weekly assignments include a short daily writing exercise, a weekly scene, usually of around 3 pages, some reading, and filling out a weekly wrap questionnaire. Students have reported spending various amounts of time on these assignments, usually three hours at least.  It is considered a work heavy course in terms of writing, but it’s adult ed and entirely your choice.  The more you put in, etc….

Will all of my work be read aloud?

You are not guaranteed to have all of your work read aloud, but you can count on hearing it aloud between four and six  times during the quarter. An attempt will be made to read most of the work aloud each week.

Can I work on my own screenplay during the class?

Mainly we will be generating new scenes not related to any script that you are currently working on. However, toward the end of the class there will be the opportunity to bring in a two-person scene from a current project and work on it in the context of the class. Also the final class will involve planning to apply lessons learned to your next larger work.

I’m shy; I’m not too sure about the acting part.

Many writers are shy. The theatre games that we will play in class will be easy group-oriented games and you will NOT have to be “Whose Line is it Anyway?” caliber to participate. It is designed to be a safe, comfortable class for most people. Also, as a screenwriter you will want to develop your ability to speak about your work to others as this is necessary for pitch and story meetings.

Why the focus on scenes rather than structure?

This class is designed as a complement to the more structurally oriented, “outline first” classes. While structure is extremely important, it is neither the best first approach for all writers, nor is it the whole story. If outlining first is required or preferred, this work will help you generate the most exciting scenes possible from your outline. Also, some writers find that the work in this class inspires them to try a script from the inside out, starting with character and moment and generating outward to story.

Where and when does class meet and how often?

The eight week class meets once a week in a classroom in Westwood, California  in the evenings from 7 to 10pm.

How many people are in the class?

It varies from quarter to quarter.  You can expect between eleven and twenty students which include two to four professional actors, who will be reading from the scenes written in class.

Who is the instructor?

Bonnie MacBird is a former studio exec, screenwriter, producer, actor and artist. Browse this website to find out more.

What does it cost?

The UCLA Extension class is $425 , a fee set by the university.

Is there college credit for this class?

Not standard college credit.  But UCLA Extension will award three units for this class. This can be applied towards the screenwriting certificate.

How is the class graded?

You may take the class pass/fail,  for no credit, or you may take the class for a grade. The grading criteria will be clearly presented in the syllabus when you sign up. It is mainly organized around class participation, attendance, completion of assignments, and quality of effort.    Attendance in class is mandatory, as it’s a highly experiential class. If you miss more than two classes, it’s an automatic fail, sorry. But show up and do the assignments; it’s an easy pass. There is no really large assignment or test, only a lot of small things designed to open up your process and get you in the habit of writing daily.

How do I sign up for the class?

Go online to the LINK UCLA Writers’ Program website and search “MacBird”. Click on the class and register online.  If you get the message “no courses” it simply means that enrollment is not yet open.  Please check back later.

How do I become one of the professional actors in the class?

Two to four professional actors will be chosen for each class. Professional film credits and theatre training are a requirement. If you are interested, email bonnie (at) macbird dot com . Actors receive a substantial discount on the class.

I don’t see an answer to my question here. Whom do I contact?

If you have  questions about the class that you don’t find answered here, please email them to bonnie (at) macbird dot com. Or call the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program (310) 206-1542.