Course Structure


The Writing Process

At the outset, it is clarified that there are no rules in film writing but just a few general principles that hold good for any script. Students are encouraged to look into their own memory and experience in search of stories. Intuition is emphasized as much as the need to make the personal story universal.

Plot: Classical and Non-Classical Structures:

A deep understanding of plotting is at the heart of good story telling. A plot is the internal wire frame of a story that defines its structure. At Digital Academy we not only teach the classical three act structure, much used in Hollywood but also other structures like epic, lyric and non-plot structures. Through a detailed analysis of certain films from India as well as Hollywood, the classical three-act structure is clearly laid out and students are asked to identify story structure in all subsequent films screened in class. Films are carefully chosen to demonstrate different models of storytelling. The concepts of theme and premise, story and character are illustrated at the outset with multiple examples.

Characters: The Life Blood of Stories

Characters inhabit stories and characters make the story. So it is crucial that we create credible and unforgettable characters. Students learn about the relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist and how each of the main characters can have an identifiable social backdrop. In all films screened in class, the protagonist’s 'character arc’ is carefully traced to understand how the character changes through an experience. The use of dialogue is studied in order to understand how it helps to bring out character as well as give information about the story.

Development of an ‘Original’ Screenplay

The best way to learn and internalize the concepts elaborated in class is to do-it-yourself. Students are therefore required to develop a full-fledged screenplay based on their own ideas and not on any previously existing source. They are first asked to articulate the premise and then move to the synopsis and then the treatment, the step outline, and finally into the screenplay. They are also introduced to Final Draft, the screenwriting software which has become the industry standard worldwide.

Alternative dramatic structures

While the classical three-act structure is emphasized, students are also exposed to films that violate and even question the conventional storytelling format and yet have other principles that hold them together. Students are encouraged to see all kinds of Cinema that they have possibly never seen in their lives and then go out into the world to make the kind of film they want to write.

The Uniqueness of Indian cinema

Indian popular cinema definitely is unique for its storytelling conventions that have been influenced by several factors. The historical process of the evolution of this unique form is explained. Students are urged to make sure that all the storytelling elements including song and dance blend organically with each other and reinforce the overall theme.

Dramatic concepts: East and West

Students learn how the governing principles of today’s film drama are actually derived from the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. They also learn about the lesser-known Indian tradition of dramatic theory (Natyashastra) that dates to Aristotle and still has a strong connection with the Indian popular cinema. They learn about the vast narrative tradition of India and why and how they need to rediscover them to revitalize their own creativity. All sorts of dramatic devices and concepts are explained.

Pitching, Narration and Industry issues

In order to strategize their careers, students need to clearly understand the inner functioning’s of the Film and Television Industry. Here they learn the importance of pitching and story narration in the film industry where, very few people actually read screenplays. Thus, 'narration’ may seem like a performance for which they are made to rehearse in a friendly classroom atmosphere. They also learn about how to register their screenplays or story-ideas and protect them from copyright infringement.


P1. Actuality Trip:

Students visit a specific public place for an hour, take notes and then write an 'Actuality Trip’ report. The aim of this exercise is to help students develop the 'cinematic eye’, which understands the difference between perception of reality by the brain and the limited record of actuality by the camera and the sound recording device. Students are made to realize that it requires special cinematic skill and creative intervention for audio-visual representation to come close to the representation of reality.

P2. One Character, One Space:

Students are asked to write a short scenario with only one character within a single space. The object is to learn how to depict the state-of-mind of a character by using audio-visual means.

P3. Writing a Scene:

Students are asked to write a scene not necessarily constricted to a single space and with any number of characters, but which subscribes to the three great unities of time, space and action. Emphasis is also given to the necessity of creating dramatic tension through the use of conflict. The aim of this exercise is to impart the skill of creating the smallest dramatic unit of a narrative-The Scene. It also helps students to identify what part of the larger narrative is worthy of being turned into a scene.

P4. Understanding Structure:

Students of Digital Academy - The Film School are taught how to write down the step outline of a designated film, analyze its structure and rearrange the scenes and sequences to make a new structure. The aim of this exercise is to develop the structural imagination of the students. Understanding the structural syntax will help students to come up with screenplays that are structurally optimized for the telling of a particular story.

P5. Writing Character Sketches and Character Arcs:

Having understood plot and plotting devices, this exercise helps in understanding the other important aspect of a screenplay-The Character. Students are asked to write detailed character sketches of the main characters of any story keeping their physiology, sociology and psychology in mind. They are asked to imagine the back-stories of the characters and also the arc of character change and growth through the film.

P6. Writing synopsis, Treatment Note and Step Outline:

In this exercise, students are asked to write a synoptic description of the story in a coherent manner so that the essence of the storyline is conveyed along with its dramatic import. They are then asked to write a treatment note, which talks about how the story is going to be treated in terms of visual style, cutting patterns and sound design. And finally, they are asked to write each scene of the film in a descriptive and abstract manner, which then becomes the step outline.

P7. The Full Script:

In this final exercise, students are asked to write the full and complete script including dialogues and detailed descriptions of actions as well as indications of camera movement and shot breakdown etc. The duration of the film is left to the student’s discretion, but it should at least be of a 10-minute duration.

The Digital Academy student benefit:

- Hands-on writing experience with constant guidance and feedback from the teacher.

- Comprehensive understanding of Dramatic Concepts.

- No prior qualification required except a passionate desire to express oneself.

- Important tips about preparing oneself for the writing profession.

Note:- Curriculum subject to change