“So many set out to write a script; so few set out to tell a story.”
This was a sentiment I expressed at a meeting of the department heads, the exec producers and the readers at the BBC Writersroom. When I worked at the Writersroom we spent days sifting through radio dramas, theatre plays and screenplays for film and television. One thing became very clear very quickly: whilst people had a passion to write scripts, they didn’t seem to have an equal passion to learn what a story is and how to tell one.
These two questions form the bedrock of the MA Performance: Writing course at Central Saint Martin's: what is a story? And how do you tell one?
Students on the course can expect to watch and listen to stories in many different media: film, TV, theatre, web series, interactive, audio; they can expect to hear stories from other students who come from all over the world; and they can expect to be taught by working professionals whose job it is to tell stories. Students will work on their individual projects; they will collaborate with others on the course; and they will collaborate with other courses. Students will be expected to engage in self-directed learning: watching, listening and reading stories outside their usual sphere of interest, making use of the library, presentations and talks delivered by industry professionals. And throughout it all every student will be expected to engage with the questions: what is a story and how do I tell one?
Year 1 of the course is tutor driven. In Unit 1 students will explore storytelling in television, theatre and digital media (web series and interactive). In Unit 2 students collaborate with the MA Character Animation students as well as write a short film script. Tutors will share their views of storytelling, their experiences of working across various media and inspire students to challenge themselves.
Year 2 is student driven. Unit 3 is comprised of Professional Prep and a student led Symposium. In Professional Prep students explore their place in the storytelling industry – which creative outlets would suit their voice and how to approach them. Or create their own by setting up their own social media channel or theatre company. The Symposium allows each student to explore some essential aspect of storytelling that inspires, fascinates or challenges them. In Unit 4 students work on their final portfolio and take on the role of script editor or dramaturg to each other’s writing.
Throughout students are expected to engage with the questions what is a story and how do I tell one? There is no expectation that the answers to these questions should stay the same over the course of the MA, nor that there is a single answer that applies to all students universally and certainly not that the stories of one culture are more important than the stories of another. Nor that a story told in an interactive text-based adventure should be the same as a site-specific theatre experience. And definitely not that the narrative theories of any one thinker are more relevant than any other.
The only expectation is that when each student sits down to work they are sitting down to tell a story and not sitting down to write a script.
Find out more at: MA Performance: Writing at Central Saint Martin's