My Experience Studying a Master’s in Screenwriting
Written by MA Screenwriting student, Harrison Derbyshire.
I chose to attend the MA Screenwriting course at The University of Manchester for two reasons above the other universities I was offered a place in. The first is that the course deals equally with the craft of screenwriting as it does with the business of screenwriting. That was something that I found lacking in most of the other programmes I applied to. The question of “once I have learned how to do the writing, what do I do with the things I have written”? The second reason I chose the University was access. Being in a media hub with easy access to the rest of the major production cities of the north, and not too far from London, means that once I graduate I don’t have to immediately think about where to move to find work.
The course has so far lived up to my expectations. In some ways it’s actually exceeded them. I have two lectures on Mondays, and the rest of the week is mine to write, do my assigned watchings, do my life admin, and work my part time job without feeling overwhelmed. The onus is on me to complete my assignments, but my instructors are more than willing to meet outside of dedicated office hours if I need additional support. This level of personalised coaching and teaching only adds to the feeling that I am watching my skills in real time, develop leaps and bounds above what I came in with.
The module ‘The Calling Card Script and Television’ has actually rearranged the priorities I had going into this course. I was positive that I wanted to write feature films and focus on indie projects, but the module has broken down television structure in such a precise and concise way that I have actually switched my priority to television writing. As part of the module, I have to create my own series, write the pilot episode, and create a selling document so that when I have finished the course I have material to market myself with. I still want to write features, and am required to write one as my final project, but the confidence I have now with constructing a well crafted pilot episode and the structure needed in a full series to keep the audience engaged has moved me into the tv writer and development camp of ideal career trajectory.
Once I graduate, I plan on applying for script reader and writer’s assistant roles around the country, all while submitting my scripts to open submissions and competitions. The cohort I have been a part of during my time on this course is so diverse and drawn from all over that the collective network we have and will build gives me confidence that I will not be looking for work for too long post course. I was nervous about the odds I could actually make a living as a writer before starting the course but now I have every confidence that I can, and will, have the career I want.