Friday, September 22, 2006

Teaching of Screenwriting Internship

Natalia Fiore
Teaching of Screenwriting Internship

In early May of this year, I became aware of an internship possibility in the Department of English at the University of South Florida in Tampa to act as an intern in a graduate course in screenwriting (15 graduate students) taught by Professor Mark Leib. Professor Leib is a well-known screenwriter, film, and play reviewer in the Tampa Bay Area and nationally.

I met and spoke over the phone with Professor Leib several times and together we devised a proposal of what the internship would entail and require. During these discussions, I told him repeatedly that this would be my first teaching experience and that I didn’t know quite what to expect or what expectations he had for a first-time teaching intern in his class. He was positively receptive to my inexperience in teaching and said that he wanted me to learn as much as I could about the teaching of screenwriting as I possibly could from his example and from the duties I would perform during the session. In regards to my role in the course, based on my own proposal, we agreed that I would provide presentations on the untraditional screenplay that does not follow the traditional structure as defined by Vogler, McKee, Field, Trottier, and others. In addition, I would do presentations on screenplays that are adaptations of novels and short stories. For his part, he wanted me to offer critiques of the student scripts as presented in class and generally to provide insights and commentary on the topics discussed and the student scripts presented.

I was at once excited and nervous about the internship arrangement. I looked forward to the opportunity to be able to share my knowledge about unconventional film with the students in the class. I thought that my role as an assistant teacher would be beneficial in that the experience would build my confidence in speaking about writing in front of a group of other writers. The act of teaching would also make me more secure in my own insights about the subject. I also hoped that I would learn certain techniques in the teaching of writing from Professor Leib that I could carry with me for any future opportunities in the field. I was nervous about how I would perform in the role of intern because of my youth, my size, my inexperience, and my extreme shyness of speaking in front of people. The prospect was even more intimidating because of the status of Professor Leib in the film community. I wondered whether my insights about film would compliment the wisdom he would no doubt bring to the class table.

I began the teaching internship with Professor Leib on July 3, 2006, summer session B, and completed it on August 11, 2006. This experience was especially important for me to do during the summer since it would be the only time during the academic year that the University of South Florida Department of English would offer a course on screenwriting in which I could act as an intern.

For this internship I maintained a detailed daily log of each class session that chronicled my tasks, activities, insights, research, and networking connections especially with my own writing. I prepared detailed presentations on Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation, Paul Haggis's Crash, M. Night Shaymalan's The Village, and Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice. I also briefly discussed a number of other films including Love Actually, Traffic, Syriana, Playing By Heart, Gosford Park, A Prairie Home Companion, Memento, among others. It has been especially gratifying for me since the completion of this internship that several of the students have contacted me about additional critiquing of their scripts.

I welcome the opportunity to reflect back on this experience. I will provide even more details as to what I accomplished in this internship and how it has prepared me for the teaching of screenwriting. I look forward to sharing my insights and anecdotes about this experience.

1 comment:

Don Stitt said...

Terrific, Natie.
I'm sure you'll be a big hit!