Advanced Screenwriting: Finishing Your Feature

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FILM S4002
3 Points
Session I: May 27 - July 3
M, W 6:30 - 9:30 PM
Instructor: Jessie Keyt

Advanced Screenwriting: Finishing Your Feature is a rigorous course dedicated to the completion and/or revision of a feature-length screenplay (90-120 pages). Through a combination of lectures, readings, screenings, and detailed critiques of works-in progress, students learn the fundamentals of dramatic storytelling for the screen, including structure, character and plot development, visual language, dialogue, and tone and theme.

More experienced students will learn how to effectively employ point of view, scene construction, story rhythm and image systems to strengthen the quality of their work.

While the three-act structure will be taught, students will also be exposed to a variety of narrative models as they explore works ranging from mainstream commercial movies to independent and international cinema. We will analyze these works to gain a deeper understanding of how structure and story work together. Students will then apply these insights to their own material.

Classes will consist of formal lectures on the craft of screenwriting, in-class writing exercises, and peer workshops during which students will offer constructive feedback on each other’s work in progress. The workshop schedule will be intense and students will be required to work quickly and efficiently toward completion.  Students will also be required to write formal coverage on their fellow students’ projects, which will help develop their own critical analysis and ensure every student gets a range of feedback.

By the end of the course, students will have a fuller understanding of storytelling for the screen and will have either completed and/or fully revised their feature-length scripts.

Jessie was supremely helpful in assisting me articulate m ideas and translate them into script form.  She also taught me to embrace structure as the challenge of writing for film. She was patient and truly willing to listen to my ideas and give thoughtful responses.  I highly recommend her to any screenwriter of filmmaker seeking to better their craft.
—Susanna Locascio, Von Doren Films

Jessie is by far the best writing teacher I have ever had. I was intimidated about trying to write a feature-length screenplay, but she helped me break through the fear and now, for the first time, it genuinely feels doable. And it seems that she was able to do that for everyone. She was willing to match whatever level of effort we put in and to meet us wherever we were—while encouraging each of our unique voices.
—Julie C., student

Jessie Keyt is an intuitive, passionate teacher, and above all else, a pleasure to work with.
—James D., student

Prior to Jessie’s class, I would never have imagined that I could complete a feature length screenplay and be so confident as a writer. She is truly dedicated to helping each one of her students reach their maximum potential and find their voices as writers. I couldn’t recommend a better instructor.
—Serena L., student

I’ve been in several workshops, and Jessie’s is by far the best. She pushed me to explore character and plot but understood my intentions, and helped me stay true to them while leading me to a more creative place.  Her knowledge of the industry and what works fused with her unique style made the experience well rounded and informative. I have just finished the script I brought in to her workshop, and some of the greatest leaps happened there.
—Mary Hanlon, screenwriter and film critic

Jessie’s thoughtful and deliberate analyses come not only from years of solid teaching but also hard-earned experience as a writer working in the trenches. She knows the trials and tribulations that come with choosing writing as a profession, and she helps all who cross her path meet those challenges directly. Strongly recommended.
—Randall David Cook, playwright

Jessie Keyt really knows screenwriting and playwriting, but most important she never forgets to listen to her students’ intentions to help them tell the story they want to tell.
—Faith B., student

To apply for the course, please submit a 4-page synopsis and the first five pages of the script you plan to develop.  Send your submission in an email to, with the title "FINISHING YOUR FEATURE SUBMISSION" in all caps. Scripts should be Word documents sent as email attachments. If you are admitted to the course, we will send you an acceptance email with further instructions for registration. Students will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, so please apply early.
Tuition & Fees
Most summer courses are offered at the standard Continuing Education tuition rate of $1,512 per point ($4,536 for a 3-point course and $9,072 for a six-point intensive). For more detailed information, please see "tuition and fees":
Materials fee: $30

About the Instructor

Jessie Keyt is a screenwriter and script consultant for independent filmmakers and production companies in the US and UK. Clients have included Working Title Films, Bard Entertainment, and Alicia Keys. more→

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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.