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Future scriptwriters learn
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From the Pros
eaching a new course is a lot of work for faculty members—especially if it isn’t in their immediate field of specialty. That was true for Dr. James C. Schaap this semester as he prepared to teach “Screenwriting,” a new course required for Dordt’s recently added digital media major. “It seems especially true when you know you likely won’t teach it more than one more time,” says Schaap, thinking of retirement. “Not many schools teach screenwriting,” he adds, noting that he initially tried to find someone to come in and teach the course part-time. Nothing worked, so he signed on. Writing definitely falls within Schaap’s field of specialty, and he’s even written a few screenplays and reader’s theater scripts. He certainly knows how to judge a good story line, but he knew he’d need some help on the technical expectations of scriptwriters. “Despite Professor Schaap’s claim that he had little idea as to how to teach the class, the screenwriting class was phenomenally wellhandled and educational,” says Bree (Wieringa) Brouwer, a senior from Gilbert, Arizona. “I needed a mentor or mentors working in the profession,” Schaap says. And he found them. The first and most obvious was former student Luke Schelhaas (’96), currently a writer for television’s “Law and Order.” The second was Linda Seger, a professional scriptwriting consultant and speaker, whose textbooks Schaap used in the course and who has worked with directors and writers like Ron Howard and Ray Bradbury. Each eventually came to campus for two days to work directly with Schaap and his students. “They were two of the best guest lecturers I’ve heard. We all learned a lot,” says Junior Alvin Shim, who thinks that learning together was a strength of the course. “It actually made it more engaging that Dr. Schaap ‘didn’t know what he was doing,’ as he said.” “Luke was tremendously helpful in helping us learn some of the tricks of the trade,” Schaap says. Schelhaas prepared seven pages of “All the Helpful Hints I Could Think Of.” He talked about brainstorming and story development and gave tips about the actual writing process and about writing dialogue. Schelhaas gave Schaap’s students a copy and many drafts of a pilot script he has written to help them see what goes into script
development. “Scriptwriting is rewriting,” he told them. And he told them to read lots of scripts—and then read some more. During the evening class he attended, Schelhaas went painstakingly through one student’s script to demonstrate good format and form. Schaap’s contact with Linda Seger came after googling “scriptwriting syllabi.” He kept coming up with Linda Seger’s name and textbooks. After digging a little (continued on page 2)
Television screenwriter Luke Schelhaas (’96), who wrote for Touched by an Angel, Smallville, and Law and Order, among others, shared his experience with scriptwriting students.
Published on Jun 2, 2009
Published on Jun 2, 2009
The VOICE is the quarterly publication for alumni and friends of Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. Check us out online at: www.dordt.edu