Writing an Eval­u­ation essay

The eval­u­ation essay has been a part of screen­writing courses ever since I started teaching them and there have always been students who are confused or puzzled about what is being asked of them.

The basic require­ment is pretty simple: write a short essay (minimum 1000 words) that displays your ability to think crit­ic­ally and reflect­ively about your work and your exper­i­ence as a member of the class.

This should cover the project or projects that you worked on, the work­shop sessions in class, feed­back you were given, and any relevant activ­ities you pursued on your own, such as watching films, reading books, or enga­ging in discussions

A good essay should also give some idea of your creative thought processes: what did you learn, what mistakes did you make, what came to you easily and what was more difficult?

Including refer­ences

It is true that, in the past, this essay has been regarded mainly as a piece of expressive writing; partic­u­larly for those students who were only pursuing a personal interest in the craft of screenwriting.

But, because many students now do the screen­writing courses as part of a degree, not unreas­on­ably the external exam­iners prefer a more academic approach. To achieve a higher mark, you should, there­fore, wherever appro­priate, include refer­ences and compar­isons to examples of films or books.

Be careful to explain the relev­ance of these examples. “I read Robert McKee’s book ‘Story‘ and liked it” or, “I think my script is like the film Blue Velvet” is not going to impress the exam­iner. Provide detail and some justi­fic­a­tion: “I like the delib­erate contrast between the severed ear and the white picket fence that David Lynch made in Blue Velvet and I used a similar contrast in my own script”.

This guide was written by two tutors and is included in the coursebook:

Screen­writing modules require an Eval­u­ation essay as well as the script course­work. This should be a crit­ical reflec­tion on your writing process and what you feel you have learned in the module. You should also try to put your script in context by refer­en­cing relevant films, TV programmes and books.

Here are some ques­tions which may help you with your Evaluation:

1.Your choice of the idea for the script: what led you to pick this subject?  Did you start by thinking of the genre in which you wanted to write? Is this a genre that appeals to you and can you say why? Did you have diffi­culty thinking of a good idea? Did you have other ideas which you chose not to write, and if so, how did you decide?

2. Did you think about similar existing films/TV programmes? If so, give references.

3. Choice of char­ac­ters: did you think primarily of your char­ac­ters in terms of their func­tion in the plot, or were you first inter­ested to show a rela­tion­ship or a partic­ular char­acter, and then found a story to put them into? Did you also consider the char­ac­ters’ appeal for an audience?

4. Choice of the fictional world: is your script natur­al­istic or is there an element of fantasy? Were you influ­enced in your choice of world by existing films/TV? If so, give references.

5. Research: did you have to do any research on the back­ground or events of your story? If so, give details.

6. How did the length of the script affect your choice of a story?

7. Did you plan your story struc­ture from the begin­ning? If so, did you find this helpful?

8. Did you write a treat­ment or a scene breakdown/step outline? Did you find this easy or diffi­cult? Did it help you to complete the script?

9.  Was the script work­shopped in class? Were your colleagues’ comments what you expected?

10. Was it hard to get down to writing the script? How did you manage the discip­line of writing to the deadline?

11. How far has the finished script moved away from your original idea?    Do you feel that the script achieves what you set out to do?

12. Do you feel that an audi­ence would enjoy watching it? Do you have a clear idea of the kind of audi­ence it would appeal to?

13. What will you try to do differ­ently when writing your next script?

By Barbara Cox and David Stafford, 2012

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