UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 09 Winter 18 Library
Paul Wagner and Doug Grissom’s Screenwriting & Film Directing course with Elise Mollica, Writer/Director; JoshuaPalmer, Director of Photography; and Lydia Flock, Actor (Credit: Paul Wagner)

From Screenwriting to Film Directing

Explore Drama at UVA

Last spring, an energy-infused crowd of more than 200 filed into the Ruth Caplin Theatre to take part in the culmination of a first-of-its-kind, year-long screenwriting and film directing course offered by the Department of Drama. Led by UVA Drama professor and noted playwright and screenwriter Doug Grissom and Academy Award-winning, Charlottesville-based filmmaker Paul Wagner, the course took eleven intrepid students through the entire filmmaking process, from concept to completion. Grissom took the reins for the first semester, focusing on concept development, screenwriting, and script readings. During the semester, students were tasked with writing three screenplays before deciding in October on the one they wanted to develop further. A few weeks, and a couple re-writes later, the focus shifted to filmmaking, with Wagner leading them through a crash course on directing, design, casting, acting, filming, and editing, all for a not-exactly-Hollywood-level of budget of $400. By the time opening night rolled around last spring, more than 130 students had participated in the project as writers, directors, producers, composers, cast, and crew. While Grissom had taught a summer screenwriting course, this was the first time he ever got to see the films jump from page to screen. It was also the first time he had ever team-taught a course. “I really wasn’t sure how it was going to work out and how Paul and I were going to work together,” he said. Those fears were quickly allayed. “It was really fun for Wagner to be in my screenwriting class and give his thoughts. Then, in the spring, I really learned so much about directing from being in his class, which was very enlightening. We traded off in a very natural way,” Grissom noted. Asked to assess the final products overall, Grissom offered a hearty two thumbs up. “I think the quality was pretty high. I thought they all had a high level of professionalism and I was very pleased overall.” This fall, the process cranked up all over again with another class heading into the filmmaking trenches. “We are really happy to be back at it, and are very appreciative for the funding support received from the UVA Arts Council and the Office of Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts that allows us to make this happen. To see last year’s films, visit arts.virginia.edu/overcranked

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