Do I Need a Degree to be a Screenwriter?

screenwriter working at her computer

Interested in becoming a screenwriter? Many “famous” writers will tell you that they never attended a typical school. They’ll say that they followed their passion. For the fraction of a percent of famous writers who publicize that they didn’t even attend college, that might be true. They had a passion and starting writing.

This does not mean that you don’t need to get a film degree to become a screenwriter. In order to jumpstart your career, a degree is perhaps one of the best ways to learn the craft. Here are just a couple of reasons why a film degree is the best path to becoming a screenwriter.

Is a Degree Needed?

A degree in screenwriting won’t make your career, but it will definitely set the foundation for your career as a screenwriter. Becoming a screenwriter takes passion, that you probably already have if you’re looking into making screenwriting your career.

The road to writing a successful script and having your piece of work seen is the hard part. By furthering your education, you learn what makes a good script, the proper structure, screenwriting terminology and everything else you need to create a professional film script.

Then Why Get a Degree?

If a degree isn’t necessary to be famous, then why invest in one? Well, there are several reasons why getting a degree is one of the best things you can do for your future.

Benefit #1: A Collaborative Effort

One of the most important things to remember is that filmmaking is a collaborative effort. There is no one single person who makes a film. You may be a writer, but you are not the only writer involved in a project. It usually takes a group of talented writers to craft those memorable scenes. Classes will teach you the benefits of working with others. However, these collaborative lessons are only one of the many benefits of a film degree.

Benefit #2: Seeing the Bigger Picture

Another benefit of a film degree is the ability to experience all aspects of filmmaking. Sure, screenwriting may be your passion, but learning the other parts of filmmaking are important. Not only will this inform your scripts and keep you from writing impossible scenes, but it will also open up new possibilities. Perhaps you have a love for sound, incorporating auditory aspects into your script can always add value and dimension. The more you learn about filmmaking the better your script will be.

What makes a great screenwriter is the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. In this case, learning about sound and directing will help you with screenwriting. When you involve yourself in the other parts of the filmmaking process you will see the entire process and everything that goes into making a film.

Benefit #3: Meet New People with Similar Passion

One of the biggest benefits a film degree will give you is the chance to network. One of the biggest struggles in filmmaking is figuring out how to get your foot in the door. By taking classes and furthering your education, you learn from professionals, and your professors will continue to guide you on your journey throughout your career. Since part of screenwriting is making connections, you will have the chance to talk to other people on sets and in your classes. They will be available when you need some assistance finding that new job and you will be there for them as well.

Benefit #4: Learn Screenwriting Software

Writing a script is not as easy as it may look. The software takes some time to learn. By taking film classes, you use and become familiar with this software. You get a chance to work with the software and ask questions of your instructors. Screenwriting may seem like it is just about writing a script and giving individual characters dialogue. However, it is not that simple.

Benefit #5: You Don’t Know, What You Don’t Know

You may think you already know how to write a script, but you might be lacking in some of the basic elements of scriptwriting and not even know it.

By getting a film degree you develop a better understanding of what makes a film. You learn the importance of loglines, beat sheets, treatments, and even filming drafts. These are all part of the screenwriting classes that are essential to learn in a structured way. Each of these elements hold a value that will improve your scriptwriting. By getting your film degree, you learn how important these aspects really are. As the screenwriter, it is your job to be proficient in any area that may be required.

What Skills Can a Screenwriter Learn in a Degree Program?

The list of skills that a screenwriter can learn from in a degree program include creativity, flexibility and patience. Although these are only a few of the skills you will learn during a degree program, these skills are essential to building your foundation as a screenwriter.

Skill #1: Creativity

An important part of a film degree is honing your creativity. Unstructured creativity can be chaotic, but learning how to properly use your imagination in a structured way will help you write scripts more effectively. Although creativity is an important skill to master, it is also important to not let your imagination run away with your story. Understanding the elements of a professional film script will help you use your creativity in a positive way.

Skill #2: Flexibility

Flexibility is one of the most important skills to master. There is a give and take to filmmaking and not everything goes according to plan. By taking film degree courses, you learn how to be flexible and how to compromise.

Skill #3: Patience

Patience is another important aspect of screenwriting and filmmaking. The ability to be patient during a project is important. It is almost as important as knowing when to delegate and allow the rest of the crew to work. A good film degree program will show you how to increase your patience and master delegation.

The Importance of a Degree

You might have thought that to become a screenwriter you just needed to write. However, there are many other elements to screenwriting. The areas that will be covered within a film degree program are areas that you may struggle with learning on your own. Your screenwriting will reflect this.

There is a confidence that comes from completing a degree program. One that will reflect in anything you write. By going to school, you learn skills that make you a better screenwriter. You have professors who teach you what you need to know to succeed in the film industry. They are your guides and mentors to instill confidence in your abilities.

If screenwriting is going to be your career, then a degree is important to complete. Allowing yourself to become a well-rounded filmmaker shows how serious you are about your craft. By proving how passionate and serious you are about screenwriting, others will follow your lead.

Writing a script is not easy. It takes determination and willpower to stick with it until the end. Film degree programs are designed to prepare you to become a successful screenwriter.

Final Thoughts

Screenwriting is a hard profession to break into. With the added guidance of professors, you can achieve your goal of becoming a screenwriter. Follow your dreams, but also think sensibly about the importance of going to school. In the long run, learning as much as possible will be very beneficial. Start your journey to become a screenwriter with a film degree program. You will be happy that you did.

Film and Sound Design Program

The Film and Sound Design program offers an occupational degree that immerses college students in the world and industry of film and sound design. IPR’s condensed program allows students to earn a multi-skill, multi-functional Occupational Associate of Applied Science Degree in as little as two years.  Students learn hands-on, entry-level skills in every aspect of the film business: story, preproduction, production, and post-production for video and audio. Work as a part of a team to produce your own film- from concept and storyboard, to production and editing – you’ll graduate with a portfolio of work to showcase your creativity and launch your career in the exciting Film Industry.

If you are interested in a career in film and sound design you should tour our Minneapolis creative arts college, see the labs and meet our staff. Call 1-612-351-0631 or contact admissions to make arrangements.