Sunday, April 17, 2011

New Course: Writing the FILM Musical!

NEW COURSE: Writing the Film Musical (Fall 2011)
A Pro-Arts Experience
Writing the Film Musical (PW-468) will match Berklee songwriters--composers and lyricists--with Emerson screenwriters to create original screenplays with songs. Students will study the screenplays of a variety of film musicals from the beginning of the genre to the present. Working in groups, writing students from Emerson will complete an outline and first act of an original screenplay, and Berklee composers and lyricists will write songs that help tell that story. The semester will culminate in a staged reading—with music—performed by acting/musical theatre students from both Berklee and Emerson.
Writing the Film Musical is the winner of a new course development contest sponsored by the Pro-Arts Consortium to foster cross-pollination of school communities. We will be working closely with Emerson screenwriting faculty member Diane Lake (whose impressive credentials include the screenplay for Frida starring Salma Hayek).  The Emerson course meets on Tuesdays from 4-8pm.  The Berklee course officially only meets from 6-8pm on Tuesday nights.  However, if it’s possible for any of you to keep free 4-6pm on your Tuesday schedule, you will be encouraged to audit the first two hours at Emerson as often as possible.  There will be a lot of screenwriting material covered that would still be invaluable for all of us to learn.  However, rest assured that this would only be encouraged, but not be required.  The homework load for Berklee students will be more song-focused and less screenwriting focused.  There will, of course, still be some screenwriting concepts to learn and work on for homework assignments, even for the songwriting students.
Title: Writing the Film Musical
Credits: 2
Course Weight: 1.25
Contact Hours: 2
Tuesdays, 6-8, Uchida 511 [optional auditing of Emerson portion Tuesdays 4-6pm]
Cap: 15 students

Pre-requisite waiver requirements
The pre-requisite for PW 468 is either of the following:
• completion of SW-345 Musical Theater Writing 1 or SW-445 Musical Theater Writing 2
• demonstration of equivalent songwriting/composition ability via electronic submission of mp3/pdf of either music or lyrics or both of an original song (see details below)
In addition:
• to help me meet my goal of creating a balance of abilities among composers and lyricists and composer/lyricists – please describe your background/interest in writing music and/or lyrics
• don’t forget to send your student ID #
• be prepared to do summer reading assignment
Song submission
If you have not taken the course SW-345, please send a work sample of a song for which you composed either music or lyrics or both.  If it’s in the musical theater genre, great; if not, try to choose something that demonstrates writing for character or story if possible.  Instrumental composers must submit a song, so if you don’t have one in your repertoire, find a song lyric text (or a lyricist!) and write something new.  Ideally your work sample demonstrates a mastery of song form with clear hook (ie. Verse/Refrain, otherwise known as AABA form; or Verse/Chorus).  Send lead sheet or piano/score pdf and an mp3 demo of a vocal performance of the song.  Professional notation should at a minimum include melody, chords, lyrics; well-constructed and notated piano accompaniment is a plus.
Summer Reading
To hit the ground running, all pre-registered students should plan to do the following reading before fall semester begins:
The Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide by David Spencer (one copy on reserve in the library, and the Bookstore should have some for purchase in the textbook section)
Highly recommended:
Finishing The Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes by Stephen Sondheim (an expensive hardback; I just put in a request for the library to get a reserve copy)
Melody in Songwriting by Jack Perricone -- Composition/Film Scoring majors who have not taken Songwriting 1 are highly encouraged to purchase and self-study this BerkleePress textbook.  There are a few library copies and also available at the Berklee bookstore.
Thanks again,
Michael Wartofsky
Associate Professor, Berklee College of Music

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