Local Classes Beyond Booth: Screenwriting

I was searching for a creative outlet this winter quarter and decided to enroll in a screenwriting class. The thing is, the course was 8.9 miles away from downtown in Edgewater – located in the northernmost part of Chicago and marking the endpoint of the famed Lakeshore Drive.

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a screenwriter – I have not successfully sold any of my works. But I like to dabble in it, gather feedback from peers, and reach the endpoint of a script when I get to write Fade to Black. When searching for potential courses, I evaluated the quality of the instructor and timing. It was imperative that I found a night course, which best aligned with my morning and afternoon classes at Harper Center. I narrowed my options down to three choices (including Second City) and ultimately decided on Chicago Filmmakers.

Chicago Filmmakers is a local non-profit that is best known for its flagship course, Digital Filmmaking. This beginner’s course provides adult students with a well-rounded instruction to all stages of producing a short film. Students can then move on to cinematography, learn animation through Adobe Premiere Pro, or add finishing touches in an advanced screenwriting course. I chose the latter option.

On my first day of class, I took an hour-long train on the Red Line to the Bryn Mawr stop. I was immediately impressed by the Lakeshore neighborhood. In addition to mom and pop coffee shops, I encountered more Vietnamese food options than imaginable. I couldn’t resist scarfing down some pho and vegetable spring rolls right before class was in session.

Chicago Filmmakers is located in a historic firehouse.

From the beginning, my instructor Paul Peditto (blogger of Script Gods Must Die) held no punches with me and my six other classmates. We began our sessions by watching a clip from either New York Times’ Anatomy of a Scene, or from Master Class. Then, we followed up with table reads of each of our scripts, simply going around the room, reading someone’s work line-by-line. Every read was followed by a ten-minute critique. Sometimes, we’d continue sharing ideas into the break or after class concluded.

My screenwriting course helped improve my communication skills – which are essential at Booth and beyond. Our experiential leadership class (LEAD) teaches students how to adapt to constantly evolving decorum in the professional setting. Reading and critiquing my peers’ scripts, and receiving similar feedback, allowed me to further my experiential learning and become better at collaboration, self-awareness, and listening. Producing creative work, and putting it out there for others to see, is one of the most vulnerable experiences in my opinion. My time spent in my off-campus course helped me to develop thicker skin and take more risks in life.

I encourage both current and prospective Booth students to take advantage of Chicago’s budding film industry scene… Chicago Fire, anyone? Whether you aspire to be an actor, writer, or filmmaker, there is a plethora of opportunities awaiting…

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