Question by Simply Jane: What kind of education does one need to become a screenwriter?
In order to become a screenwriter, what kind of school should one go to? What kind of education does a successful writer need? Where can I locate this information?
Answer by Jason
Technically, any sort of schooling is not a necessity. Some successful screenwriters have no more than a high school education, while many others have MFAs in screenwriting. However, a good school can give you a few years of dedicated writing time, the opportunity to meet and befriend talented young filmmakers in your program, and hopefully the opportunity to present your work to the entry level decision makers in the film industry (agents, managers, lawyers, development assistants, etc.).
NYU, Columbia, USC, and UCLA all have widely recognized programs for undergraduates and graduates. There are many second tier schools that offer programs (LMU, BU, Pepperdine, etc.). Your best bet is probably to find a school in or around Los Angeles, since it is far easier to make film connections there versus other parts of the country.
The most important thing to look for in terms of the school you pick is what they can do for you post-graduation. Three act structure, character development, etc. can all be developed through a great deal of practice and a basic level of technical knowledge gleaned from a screenwriting book. The school you choose should, assuming you can master your craft, be able to set you on the road to getting your script made. It would be silly to believe that they will set you up with an A-list director or producer right off the bat, but they should have opportunities for you throughout your time in school to meet and interact with successful, reputable agents, managers, and lawyers, all of whom can help you get your script made down the line.
Start your search with Los Angeles universities and widen out from there. Call the school and ask for information packets and tour information. Ask about past alumni, including the most recent class of graduates. Good luck!
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