I would like to say that when I began my college career, I was fairly confident with my Cinema Studies major and what I wanted from it. I believe it was during my sophomore year or at the start of my junior year when I realized my love for writing and wanted to pursue that more. So I added on a Creative Writing minor. I want to talk about my two favorite classes that I have taken while I have been attending Oakland University. I want to show how these classes changed my life and revealed to me things that I never knew I wanted.
I enrolled in this course during the Winter semester of my Junior year at Oakland University. Before being able to take this course, I had to take the precursor to Screenwriting, known as Intro to Screenwriting. I took the this class during my Fall semester of my Junior year and I have to admit that it was not what I expected. I was so eager to dive right into writing scripts, showing them off to to the class, reading work from other classmates and just doing anything that related to writing and expressing my creativity. I was surprised to find out that the intro course was completely different. We learned the format, what to do (and what not to do), we studied films with bad scripts and the ones with good scripts. The final project for the course was picking our favorite film and taking it apart piece by piece. I found this assignment to be thrilling because I had never read a movie script and now I was deeply looking into the script of my favorite movie, A Walk To Remember. Additionally, we learned what it was to pitch and we had to pitch our favorite movie as if it was not already a made film. To ‘pitch’ a film means that the writer has about 20 minutes max to tell their story idea; to get film executives to fall in love with the characters and show them that their story has promise. Let me tell you, learning about pitches and actually having to give one to your entire class were two very completely different learning experiences.
I tell you this background of my Intro to Screenwriting course because I want you to understand why I loved the next level version of the course so much. Not only did I have my same professor from last semester, Professor Chappell, but this class consisted of writing scripts. I give praise to this course because I believe it was then that I realized that I wanted to be a writer for drama films. Initially when I started my college career I had the plan of fully immersing myself in anything horror genre related. My love for horror movies is what drove me to want to pursue a career in film, and now here I am in college and have I not written a single horror themed script.
The Screenwriting class was based around daily riff sessions, writing two big scripts and having a group project where we would work on creating a script together. For those who may not know what riffing means: Riffing is like improvisation, meaning we took a well known scene from a movie and wrote it any way we wanted in order to make it something completely different. I grew to love those sessions because it challenged me to write something new every week. Normally, I am someone who despises group projects but for this class, I made an exception. For the project, we selected scenes from the novel Ready Player One – a soon to be released film – and each group wrote out their script based on how they thought the scene would play out. This allowed me to get some experience in what screenwriters have to do when they are adapting a book into a movie, and gave me the experience of writing a script with a team. When it came to writing the two major scripts for the class, I decided to use my skills to try my hand at writing more drama. I found the genre a way for me to tell personal stories, capture emotion and connect to my audience.
Intro into Fiction and Poetry Writing
In relation to my Creative Writing minor, I can say that this was my favorite course to take at Oakland University. I took this course at the same time as my Screenwriting course, and I was blessed to have Peter Markus as my professor. Professor Markus alone was enough to make me love the class because of his unique teaching style and his undying knowledge and love for poetry and fiction. Professor Markus would challenge us on the spot to write a poem about the most mundane things, such as words we like/dislike, the moon, wagons, and something we fear. I can say that some of those poems were my worst work yet, but among the horrible poems, I found some amazing lines that went on to be the inspiration of my poems that I now consider to be great. Growing up, I was always writing poems because it was a way to express myself when I couldn’t say what was on my mind. I considered myself to be a pretty decent writer, up until the point of taking this class. Before this course, I had no training on writing poetry or fiction and it took this course to make me realize that I can go from a decent to a great writer. I grew to become such a better writer in my poetry, as I learned to express more emotion and use my pain to make art. It was in this class where I first tried my hand at editing poetry and short stories, and I realized how much I loved it. This class consisted of round table readings of our work, having the professor and other students comment on what worked and what didn’t, and then allowing the writers to explain the meaning behind their work. I am trying to capture how much this class means to me and why I love it so much. The course gave new life to my poetry writing and allowed me to be published in Echo Cognition Vol. 4: A Journal of Creative and Critical Writing, to be released in April 2018. It was in this class where I was inspired to write a tragedy love story that I consider my baby, and one day it will become something much more once I put in the work. I can’t thank this class enough for squeezing out my creativity and forcing me to create. I began both of these writing courses with a professor/student relationship, but I can happily say that I ended the course with having gained two new mentors.
– Carlton Walker