Wednesday, June 28, 2006

MA Screenwriting at Napier: value for money?

Miss Read had some interesting comments to make after my gloomy mumblings yesterday about the vlue for money aspect of the MA Screenwriting course at Edinburgh's Napier University [click the headline to see them]. First off, congratulations to Laura on being accepted for the 2006-2007 intake. I remember how daunting it was going for the interview and the agonising wait that followed before hearing I'd been accepted.

Despite my moaning yesterday, I have gotten a lot from the course - but it's been mostly intangible, and certainly not financial. I feel the course has made me a better writer, though that's an entirely subjective notion. My attitude to writing has changed dramatically, and my knowledge of previously nebulous elements such as tone and theme is now much greater. Most important has been the networking aspect, coming into contact with people and getting access to events I'd never have encountered otherwise. But just as significant have been the validation I've gained as a writer and impetus to press on with projects I'd otherwise only take about, but never finish.

I suspect the new intake at Screen Academy Scotland will benefit from what the 2005-2006 guinea pigs went through. One of the underlyiing issues has been the vocational versus academic aspects of the MA Screenwriting course. Me, I applied for the course in the belief it was all about preparing me to work as a screenwriting. I have little interest in the academic approach to filmmaking - I want to do it, not talk about it. I couldn't give a toss about the auteur theory, the methodology of research methods or any of that Deep Thought stuff. I want to write, not indulge in cinematic onanism and publish papers that will be read by half a dozen other people.

The biggest shock the 2005-2006 fulltimers got came on the first full day of the first trimester, when they were told how much time they were expected to put into the course: 40 hours a week. Two full days at university and another three days of work outside the university. That sent a shudder through the class! In reality, most of the fulltimers had jobs and/or writing work to help support them.

If you want to get the best out of the course, you have to be prepared to put in the effort. The more effort you put in, the more time you devote to extra reading and extra writing and pushing yourself to extract the most from the experience, the better you'll do. Let's face it: if you're devoting a year of your life and thousands of pounds to this course [either in lost earnings or taking in debt via student loans], you want to get something back in return, right? Well, how much get is a direct correlationn to how much you put into it. You can let the course simply happen around you, or you can get stuck in and [hopefully] reap the benefits.

A bit like life, I suppose.

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