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Unit of study_

CAEL2069: Screenwriting and Directing

Semester 2, 2021 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit of study introduces you to the art and craft of writing for the screen. Through a series of lectures, seminars, tutorials and film screenings you will explore a range of approaches to screenwriting. These include looking at the structure of dialogue and character driven scripts, then moving to an analysis of more experimental approaches to script writing that rely less on character or dialogue and more on mood, situation and atmosphere. You will write an original script for a digital film that can be realized in any style or genre.

Unit details and rules

Unit code CAEL2069
Academic unit Sydney College of the Arts
Credit points 6
12 credit points at 1000 level in Visual Arts or 12 credit points at 1000 level in Studio Foundation
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Anna Broinowski,
Tutor(s) George-Alexander Nagle,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Presentation (Mise En Scene)
1-3 min scene or animatic/pre-visualisation from Script + documentation
40% Formal exam period
Due date: 22 Nov 2021 at 17:00

Closing date: 29 Nov 2021
1-3 min scene + production documentation
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Assignment Project Proposal (Treatment)
Script Synopsis and Treatment with accompanying images and research sources
20% Week 04
Due date: 30 Aug 2021 at 17:00

Closing date: 06 Sep 2021
2-3 page Script Synopsis and Treatment
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO2
Assignment Project (Completed Script)
3-7 page final draft screenplay for a screen based work
40% Week 10
Due date: 18 Oct 2021 at 17:00

Closing date: 25 Oct 2021
3-7 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO2

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 LECTURE: Introduction to Course and Assessment Tasks. Sourcing, Identifying, Researching and Story Modes. Constructing Character, Goals and Story Arc. SEMINAR: Source and research a story. Online class (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO6
Week 02 LECTURE: Scripting techniques and principles - conflict and the 3-act structure; developing a premise and character goals; the protagonist formula. SEMINAR: Interview each other to identify and structure an engaging character arc. Online class (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO6
Week 03 LECTURE: Scripting and structuring drama and other screen-based works; screenplay formatting. Assessment 1 recap. SEMINAR: Identify the premise, protagonist and antagonist, genre and mode of selected clips. Online class (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 04 LECTURE: Directing, POV and the Mise en Scene. SEMINAR: Write a draft scene; Assessment 2 (Project Script) consults. ASSESSMENT 1 (Project proposal) DUE. Online class (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 05 LECTURE: Performance, script analysis and directing Actors. SEMINAR: Directing a Scene; Assessment 2 (Project script) consults. Online class (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO6
Week 06 TECHNICAL WORKSHOP ONE: Directing, blocking and shooting a scene using different camera movement techniques. Workshop (3 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 07 TECHNICAL WORKSHOP TWO: Directing, blocking and shooting a scene using different lighting techniques. Workshop (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 08 LECTURE: Storyboarding a scene and Assessment 2 (script) recap. SEMINAR: Storyboard a scene; Assessment 2 (Project script) consults. Online class (3 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4 LO6
Week 09 TECHNICAL WORKSHOP THREE: Directing, blocking and shooting a scene using advanced camera and lighting techniques. Workshop (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 10 TECHNICAL WORKSHOP FOUR: Editing techniques focused on performance and direction. ASSESSMENT 2 (Project script) DUE. Workshop (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 11 LECTURE: Assessment 3 (mise en scene) recap; performance and rushes analysis including selecting takes. SEMINAR: Project consultations and feedback. Online class (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 12 PRESENTATION: Assessment 3 (Mise en Scene) work-in-progress screenings. SEMINAR: Project consultations and feedback. Online class (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 13 PRESENTATION: Assessment 3 (Mise en Scene) work-in-progress screenings. SEMINAR: Project consultations and feedback. Online class (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.

  • Lecture recording: Most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.

  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Additional requirements from Sydney College of the Arts

  • Students must attend a minimum of 90% of timetabled activities for this unit of study, unless granted exemption by the Unit Coordinator.
  • All assignments are compulsory and must be attempted. 
  • You must attend scheduled assessments to be eligible to pass. Non-attendance at assessment on any grounds insufficient to claim special consideration will result in the forfeiture of marks associated with the assessment. 

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed on the Library eReserve link available on Canvas.

  • Mamet, David. On Directing Film. New York: Viking, 1991.
  • Trottier, David. The Screenwriter’s Bible: a Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script. 6th Edition. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 2014.
  • McKee, Robert. Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting. Paperback edition. London: Methuen, 1999.
  • Rabiger, Michael., and Hurbis-Cherrier, Mick. Directing Film Techniques and Aesthetics. 5th ed. Burlington, Mass: Focal Press, 2013.
  • Aronson, L. (2010) The 21st-Century Screenplay: a Comprehensive Guide to Writing Tomorrow's Films Chapter 3: “What film are we in?” pp 31-41. Sydney, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2010.
  • Batty, C. and Waldeback, Z. (2008) Writing for the Screen: Creative and Critical Approaches Chapters 3 & 4 pp 29-61. London, UK: Red Globe, 2019.
  • Snyder, B. (2007) Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies: the Screenwriter's Guide to Every Story Ever Told. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions, 2007.
  • Phillips, W.H. (1991) Writing Short Scripts. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1999.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. conceptualise, plan and write a 3-7 page script
  • LO2. critically analyse and problem solve through the narrative process
  • LO3. use a range of directorial techniques to produce creative video work
  • LO4. critically understand a range of different approaches to writing and directing in the context of the cultural advent of storytelling
  • LO5. use appropriate technologies and media to effectively gather and synthesise information
  • LO6. critically evaluate aesthetics, information & narratives in an ethical and culturally sensitive manner.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Assessment 2 due date adjusted to allow students more time to complete. Assessment and lecture/seminar descriptions adjusted for clarity and consistency. Reading list extended and updated.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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