#ShameYourUnit: MAS202 Screenwriting – An Introduction


Words || Bohdi Biles

MAS202 Screenwriting: An Introduction was a required unit as part of my writing major. Truth be told, I’d thought about screenwriting before and it was going to be another asset for my writing toolbox. At the start of semester, I was genuinely excited to learn how to write scripts; by the end of semester, I was on the brink of a mental breakdown.

Lectures? Don’t bother. The first lecture was the prelude to the rest of the shit-show. The lecturer would walk away from the microphone so you wouldn’t hear roughly 50-60% of what she was saying. I took it upon myself to email them and let them know, to which they acknowledged it, only to continue doing it.

By the third lecture, I realised how redundant lectures were going to be. What little I did get from the lectures was useless – this was meant to be an introduction to screenwriting, yet we weren’t being taught any techniques to do with screenwriting. We were told that this would be covered in tutorials. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.

The assessments for MAS202 were structured in a way that they would continue to build upon one another. First, we were to take field notes for our script and present it for 10 minutes to the class, then develop a storyboard or treatment, which would help in constructing a final draft script. With my field notes, I was mortified to get 55% off my tutor. His only comment on my idea was that I should completely re-write it. Confused, I emailed the unit convenor and she re-marked my work, raising it by 18%.

The presentations were a nightmare – there would be two done per week, so people were still presenting their field notes well into the second half of semester when it was pointless to do so. When I presented, I thought I did well. I had a solid idea. I was nervous, but nothing out of the ordinary. I’d already received my mark and adjusted mark so I felt okay. My tutor looked at me and said, “I’ve never heard that idea in my life”.

Given he had commented that I should change my idea, I was taken aback. How could he give me a mark and commentary, yet not know what the idea was? It wasn’t something abstract or otherworldly. The following week, he told me I had to give my presentation because I hadn’t done so yet. Again, I pointed out that I did. The following week? Yep. I got told to give my presentation again.

The final assessment was a draft script. By this late stage of semester, I had organised a meeting with the head of department to discuss all my issues: a tutor marking my work without reading it; a tutor forgetting repeatedly the work I’d done right in front of him; a lecturer who was useless at delivering lectures; a class where after eleven weeks, we still hadn’t learnt how to even format a basic script.

The HoD put me in contact with a different tutor to help me for my script, worth 40% of my overall grade. After being contacted by her and explaining everything, she told me, “at this stage, you might as well Google how to write a script”.

Ultimately, what did I pay $828 for? An introduction to screenwriting? No. An introduction to nothing? Yes.

Have you experienced a unit that deserves to be stripped naked, paraded through the streets and pelted with rotten cabbages? Let us know if you’re like to contribute to Shame Your Unit by emailing grapeshot@mq.edu.au – anonymity guaranteed on request.