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Film School Spotlight: The UCLA Extension Writers' Program

February 13, 2019
2 min read time

As with all artists, there is one place writers go for a sense of direction when lost: The basics.

It is also the starting point at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, a continuing education screenwriting and creative writing program based in Los Angeles, California.

“We cover all aspects of what it means to be a professional screenwriter, whether it’s how you research your idea or … what is a viable screenwriting idea,” said Chae Ko, whose tasks include building courses for the program.

“How to figure out your writing process and the actual writing and the rewriting of it, then what … [to] do with it. How do you get yourself out there? We have classes that cover all those things.”

More than 400 of those classes (including those that make up the feature film and television writing certificate programs)  — and 200 instructors — make the writers’ program the largest of its kind in the world. That enrollment is open makes it inclusive, too.

“The beauty of the UCLA Writers’ [Program] is that anyone from any walk of life is open to taking our courses if they’re 18 years of age,” said Ko.

“We’ve seen students … who’ve just graduated from graduate or undergraduate programs in writing [and] people who are completely fresh and have never studied writing before. Then we have … professional writers who are coming back to perfect and keep up their craft. It’s a huge range.”

There are also those who want to explore writing in general.

“Some people might want to take a course to see how they like it or dabble in it, and that’s perfectly fine,” said Ko.

“There isn’t any pressure to take the certificate program.”

There are benefits for those who do, though; including priority on class wait lists and discounted rates for admission entry fees for the program’s three screenwriting contests. There is also a free consultation on one script and a meeting to discuss the project for students who complete the certificate programs — a value of $750.

According to Ko, courses are well suited to those who can’t grasp the concepts of screenwriting from books or online resources.

“A lot of people want to learn the fundamentals, especially if they feel they need more guidance,” he said.

Beginning Writing for the Half-Hour Spec and Beginning Writing for the One-Hour Spec are also popular because, Ko said, they help writers build skill by mimicking other voices and mirroring a TV writers’ room.

“It also helps to inform their writing when it comes to creating their own original TV script,” he said.

The Writers Studio, an annual four-day workshop that takes place in February, is an option for writers short on time.

“They can get a lot done … with professional guidance and in an environment that’s conducive to writing,” Ko said.

What perhaps is one of the biggest incentives of the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program is their multitude of online courses, which make up half of the courses in general; not only are they good for international students and American students living outside of L.A., but, Ko said, “students can learn at their speed.”

“They’re receiving the same level [of] instruction as they would onsite. For people who like to take their time with learning and course material, online classes are a great alternative to classrooms.”

According to Ko, there is (besides all of this) one thing that makes the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program stand out from the rest: Variety.

“We try to cover it all in one place, so people have a wide range of resources for success,” he said.

Classes on playwriting, short film and creative writing for those with a background in fiction are all available in the program. Plus, courses are led by professional writers with work that has been produced.

“It’s practical training,” Ko said.

“[Students] are being taught by professionals, so they’re getting a very real-world, hands-on … education.”

Ko describes UCLA Extension’s classrooms as “nurturing environments,” partly because the instructors are willing to help students connect to people in the industry; in both online and offline courses instructors connect students with showrunners, agents and producers for advice.

Team work is also a theme in the writers’ program and even beyond it; writing students join forces with students from acting, directing and producing programs at UCLA because “Hollywood is a relationship-based system,” said Ko.

Chae Ko is currently the Screen Writing Program Rep in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.  He is also an avid writer and has written several screenplays.  The opinions and views expressed in this Blog are the speaker’s and do  not reflect the views of the University of California, Los Angeles.

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