Students at the Budapest Film Academy’s Screenwriter course had the luck twice to learn from a real Hollywood screenwriter. Paul Chitlik introduced us to the business of screenwriting in his 2×3 hours lectures.
On the first occasion we concentrated on the topic of creating characters. For this Paul had given us an assignment to complete, which we discussed then at the beginning of the class. This playful task gave us the opportunity to submerge into the world of our own identities and characteristics and make some interesting discoveries.
Interactivity and playfulness were important keywords for the rest of the course as well.
Instead of monotonic lecturing discussion between teacher and students were representative during the whole class, which was made even more colorful by the larksome but edifying exercises. Of course to all this Paul’s absolute open-minded, friendly attitude and great sense of humor was necessary, which made the atmosphere of the lectures so pleasant.
Beside having fun we learnt and worked a lot too. We got an introduction into the basics of creating characters. We learnt what aspects we have to work alongside to create a character. Then all these were followed by popular film examples which made the theoretical basics of the course even more understandable. We got the chance to try everything we learnt in practice immediately. Everybody could complete these couple minutes writing exercises in connection to their personal story projects developing. After they had been done, some of them we discussed in class. This was a great way of practicing what we learnt earlier, because the students got the chance to develop their own projects at the same time and maybe find some good insights as well.
Paul didn’t leave us without munition at the end of the class either: he gave us homeworks, guidelining questions, which can help us developing our own present or future projects.
The second occasion undertook a much bigger topic to deal with. The discussion about the process of writing and rewriting compressed into a three hours-course made it necessary that instead of interactivity this time Paul should be the one to talk and give us as much knowledge as he possibly can. But even with all this we had the chance for one exercise as well. After we fought through the steps of writing from basic idea through treatment till the full script, Paul gave us an introduction into the 7-steps structural design of films. After this everybody had to write down the 7-steps of their own projects from which some were discussed in class once again.
All this theory didn’t go without examples of course. A large part of the second occasion was built on the film scenes chosen earlier before, which were used by Paul to illustrate how the 7-steps structure works in practice. This also helped to make the theory easier to understand, which was true during both courses.
And just like at the end of the first course, Paul gave us some homeworks and questions to carry on with, and with this he finished his 2×3 hours lectures. And we thanked him for his work with a great applause.
This year’s Sitcom Writing class organized by Budapest Film Academy, held by the experienced screenwriter, Paul Chitlik along with eight of his students from Loyola Marymount University (LMU), was a unique opportunity to learn about the so-called writer’s room method which is the accepted developing method for TV shows all over the US.
The structure contains a head writer, who has six-eight staff writers working for him/her, and together they design the dramaturgy and rhythm for the whole season. When the main directions have been agreed upon, the writers – usually in pairs – start working on their assigned episode.
Our semester has been following this very idea, so our class has written the fourth season for Silicon Valley, which has not been aired yet. Thanks to Paul’s carefully planned classes, we get to try ourselves at every stage of developing such as brainstorming together, proposing synopsis’ and treatments then writing the actual drafts.
The various drafts gotten better and better due to table readings in class, constant feedbacks and the highly motivated classmates, who has helped each other’s scripts by plot ideas or even added jokes.
Paul and his students have been friendly and open minded all along, thus besides the chance to peek into a lesser known writing method in Hungary, I get to spend my Tuesday mornings in very pleasant circumstances.
Dear BFA Team,
I would like to thank you organizing lectures for our class with professor Chitlik.
First, it was very inspirational. As professor Chitlik explained writing is hard which reassured me that struggling with it is OK but with rewrites and hard work it can be done. Any of us can be a great screenwriter with persistence and everyday exercises.
Second, he pointed out and explained in details the basic elements of good screenplays which helped me to understand the structure of a good writing. I found as well very important to learn how to build good characters considering characters’ flow and characters’ arc not to mention the importance of the central emotional relationship.
Finally but not least I loved the exercises he gave us in the class asking to write in a very short period of time a characters’ flow or the CER of a story or even to write a whole story in five minutes using the seven points. These exercises were fun to do and very helpful on the one hand. On the other hand he did it in a way that there are no bad answers, which gave confidence for all of us in the class.
I feel very lucky and really appreciate the chance to participate on those lectures of professor Chitlik. Hope one day I can show him with a great screenplay how much he contributed to my success with his lectures.