The great 20th-century filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock once declared that to make a memorable film, you need three things: “the script, the script, and the script.” In Justin Bull’s upper-level English Screenwriting elective this spring, student writers dive head first into the art of feature-length screenplays, weeding out just why—and how—the well-crafted script makes up the core of every beloved film.

Screenwriting holds an illustrious history at CA. The course was first developed and taught by current Visual Arts teacher Chris Rowe, who, after a few years of running CA’s film program, had taken a brief departure to be a development executive for Samuel Goldwyn Pictures in Hollywood. Bull took over after Rowe’s leave, effectively inheriting parts of the curriculum while instilling his principles and style into the class. For one, the original course familiarized students with the feature-length format but focused primarily on writing short screenplays. In the course’s current rendition, students design an outline of a feature-length film and turn a sizable portion of the outline into a written draft.

The task of writing a full-length script is, of course, as daunting as it seems. Feature-length screenplays are typically between 95 and 125 pages long. They require writers to not only construct characters and plots but to build a visual and narrative world that appeals to a wider crowd. Bull explains, “[Screenwriting] is a very industry-driven form of writing. It serves as both a vision, but also a sales pitch and a blueprint for forming a short-term corporation for a collaborative artistic endeavor.” The script format, which requires writers to say a lot with very little, demands students to think beyond self-expression and open their narrative worlds to vast and miscellaneous audiences: anyone between development executives, to moviegoers with over-buttered popcorn should be on their mind.

Despite the craft’s various demands, the structure of the elective guides students to approach screenwriting methodically. With a blend of lectures, writing workshops, roundtable readings, and discussions, students become acquainted with the essential tools of screenwriting throughout the course. Three-act structures, story beats, and sluglines become commonplace talk. Montage descriptions, resolutions, and “the paradigm” take a bit more time to set in. Near its end, the course will culminate with an actual industry practice called “the pitch.” During the process, students will be tasked to distill their feature film down into a succinct, effective verbal pitch presentation. Bull will then invite in an industry professional who will hear the pitches and offer their unfiltered opinion about each, concluding the course with open celebrations of each writer’s accomplishments.

A departure from the default modes of fiction narratives, screenwriting offers a refreshing opportunity for storytellers to explore their ideas in this peculiar, interdisciplinary craft—one that stands as the pillar of a multi-billion dollar industry while allowing writers of all backgrounds to tell a story in one’s many voices.