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Tuesday January 31st

Writing for the Screen and Stage minor is taking applications for future Tina Feys

<p>(From left) Matthew Keith, communications and dramatic arts double major and Ellie Baker, English and communications double major, pose for a portrait at Swain studio in Swain Hall, Feb. 18, 2020. Keith and Baker both began the writing for the stage and screen minor at the same time in the fall of their junior year. "It's allowed me to write with my peers in a writers room type setting, learning from each other while honing our skills specifically oriented to screen writing as opposed to creative writing classes that I've previously taken," Keith said. For Baker, the program was one she knew she wanted to do before she attended UNC. "It teaches you to think of story actively and to always imagine your stories as something that is going to happen rather than something that could and it really pushes you to have a production minded drive with everything that you try to tell," Baker said. The minor is open to first-years and sophomores and the 2020 applications closes on March 2.</p>
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(From left) Matthew Keith, communications and dramatic arts double major and Ellie Baker, English and communications double major, pose for a portrait at Swain studio in Swain Hall, Feb. 18, 2020. Keith and Baker both began the writing for the stage and screen minor at the same time in the fall of their junior year. "It's allowed me to write with my peers in a writers room type setting, learning from each other while honing our skills specifically oriented to screen writing as opposed to creative writing classes that I've previously taken," Keith said. For Baker, the program was one she knew she wanted to do before she attended UNC. "It teaches you to think of story actively and to always imagine your stories as something that is going to happen rather than something that could and it really pushes you to have a production minded drive with everything that you try to tell," Baker said. The minor is open to first-years and sophomores and the 2020 applications closes on March 2.

The competitive writing for the screen and stage minor is now accepting applications for students seeking hands-on screenwriting experience and a tight-knit community. 

The minor is within the UNC Department of Communication, and it focuses on dramatic writing. It is ideal for aspiring writers in the film, theater and television industries. 

Any first-year or sophomore student is eligible to apply for the minor. The application opened on Feb. 1, and it is open until March 2. 

Michael Acosta, a professor for the minor, said only 18 students are accepted into the minor per class. The program lasts two years, and it prepares students for a screenwriting career through experiential education. 

Acosta said this minor is different from the film studies concentration. The film studies concentration in the Department of English and Comparative Literature analyzes film in the context of society and culture.

But the writing for the screen and stage minor teaches the pragmatic screenwriting skills necessary for a job in Los Angeles. 

“If you want to be a screenwriter, this is how you write screenplays and how you sell them, analyze them, rewrite them and break them down,” Acosta said. 

Each student in the minor completes screenplays for plays and movies in both short and feature-length formats. These screenplays will be revised, and Acosta said they would be ready to present at the professional level by the time students graduate. 

“Their portfolio is really packed, and there aren’t a lot of schools that have that, even with BFA programs,” Acosta said. “This is a minor with all that experience packed in.” 

Olivia DeRienzo, a sophomore in the writing for the screen and stage minor, said she hopes to join a TV show’s writing team post-graduation. 

“Since I really do want to be in the entertainment industry, this minor is invaluable to my success,” DeRienzo said. 

UNC student Noah Chambers said the minor is helping him realize his aspiration to write for a sitcom and preparing him with the tools to make this dream a reality. He said a memorable moment for the major was when a professor encouraged him to write a “dramedy” for his screenplay. 

“They really want us to have our own sense of voice,” Chambers said. 

Writing for the screen and stage minors also have the chance to see their writing come to life. Dana Coen, another professor in the minor, coordinates a play festival called Long Story Shorts. The minors write a screenplay, and eight students are chosen to have their play performed by actors the following year. 

Writing for the screen and stage minor Matthew Keith acted in another student’s Long Story Shorts play while writing his own screenplay to be submitted. He said it was inspiring to take part in another student’s production and to potentially see his own play acted out the following year.

However, the classes for the minor extend past screenwriting and performance. Acosta said visual communication is a pervasive skill set in the industry, which is why he teaches a course on the subject. 

“The more technologically advanced the world becomes, the more these visuals are part of our lives, and there has to be people who can write those blueprints,” Acosta said.

DeRienzo said the two years that each class of 18 spends together leads to the development of a close bond. She also underscored how invested the professors are in their students’ success.

“Nobody feels left out or that they’re not getting as much attention as someone else because our professors make sure everyone is developing and doing well,” DeRienzo said.  

Acosta said one of his favorite elements of being a professor is “seeing the lightbulbs go off” and having students understand abstract concepts. 

Additionally, he said it is validating to know he is equipping students with tools for success in a lucrative and cutthroat industry. 

“We shoot down dreams a lot in this country, always talking about ‘You need to do this to make money, you need to get a job, you need to pay the way,'" Acosta said. "But what we’re teaching these kids is ‘Hey, you’re young, you’re talented, you’re intelligent — why not chase your dreams a bit?’”

arts@dailytarheel.com

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