Screenwriting: Introduction

Share |

The first Academy Awards were handed out on May 16, 1929, just after the advent of "talkies." By 1930, enthusiasm was so great that a Los Angeles radio station did a live, one-hour broadcast, and the Awards have enjoyed broadcast coverage ever since.

The number and types of awards have grown over the years. Since 1981, Awards of Merit—Oscars®—have been presented for achievement in each of the following categories or sub-divisions of categories: acting, art direction, cinematography, costume design, directing, documentary film, film editing, foreign-language film, make-up, music, best picture, animated and live-action short film, sound, sound-effects editing, visual effects and writing. In an age when awards shows seem as common as nightly news programs, the Academy Awards are unique because the judges—Academy members—are the top filmmakers from around the world. The question, "Who gets the Oscar?," is decided by a true jury of peers.

With the exception of the best picture, documentary, foreign-language film and short-film categories, nominations (of up to five selections for each category) are determined by a secret ballot of Academy members representing each category. All Academy members vote to select the final winners.

The awards nomination and selection process provides a wonderful opportunity to teach your students about the many craft areas—and the many communications techniques—that play a part in creating a motion picture. Filmmaking is by nature a collaborative process, with each craft area supporting and being supported by the others. Because our space is limited, this kit focuses on just one of those areas-writing.

Selecting Films for Student Viewing

Students may select the films they wish to view during the following activities, or you may wish to suggest films that you believe are appropriate.

The following films have won Academy Awards for screenwriting and may be appropriate for your students: Forrest Gump (adapted screenplay, 1994), Howards End (adapted screenplay, 1992), Ghost (original screenplay, 1990), Dead Poets Society (original screenplay, 1989), Driving Miss Daisy (adapted screenplay, 1989), and Breaking Away (original screenplay, 1979).

The following films were nominated for Academy Awards and may be appropriate for your students: Shine (original screenplay, 1996), Toy Story (original screenplay, 1995), Babe (adapted screenplay, 1995), Apollo 13 (adapted screenplay, 1995), Field of Dreams (adapted screenplay, 1989), and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (original screenplay, 1982).

Screenwriting: The Language of Film

PDF Downloads

Complete Screenwriting Activities Guide (PDF)

Activity 1: Structuring a Screenplay

Activity 2: Formatting the Script

Activity 3: Developing a Screenplay from a Book

Activity 4: Learning from the Winners

Don't Show Again