Most classes in TFT require a Permission to Enroll (PTE) Number. Writing classes have their own unique process of enrollment, but it still results in the accepted students being given PTE numbers to enroll.
A) FEATURE SCREENWRITING CLASSES – THE “434”
434 is the main writing class for most screenwriting students at UCLA. You write a whole screenplay in 10 weeks. And if that sounds crazy, well, some days it is, but you’ll get better at it.
To help you settle in, first quarter students do not take a 434. Instead, all first years spend the fall quarter in a 431 section assigned during orientation. 431 consists of lectures, writing exercises, and the production of the first act of a script (about 30 pages). You’ll also read others' pages aloud, allowing you to hear one another’s work. And after the reading, the instructor and peers will offer constructive feedback.
Some students will take the first act from their 431 into their winter 434. Others will start fresh. And a few might write not only the first act, but a whole screenplay in their 431. That is not the expectation, but 431 instructors are certainly open to giving feedback on whole scripts.
After that first quarter, you will join your peers in 434. And this is how enrollment in 434 works:
1) THE PITCH: Just before the first full week of school, you’ll get an email from the listservs about who is teaching the 434 sections and where/when they’re having their pitch sessions. Yes, that’s right, pitch sessions. You and many others will show up at that time and date and give a brief log-line style pitch of the screenplay you want to write that quarter.
In some sections, that’ll be it. You’ll say your piece, the teacher will say thank you, and they’ll move on. In others, you might get quizzed on your piece. Or the teacher might alert you ahead of time if he or she wants more than the log line; they want to know the basic beats of the whole screenplay, as far as you know them right now. Or they might want you to also bring a writing sample. Or they might want you to bring some information on a 3x5 card. Every teacher does it a little differently, so before you show up at any pitch session, you’ll want to check and double check that you are bringing the materials they want.
A Piece of Advice: Although you are not taking 434 your first quarter, if you write the instructors and they agree, you can sit in on their pitch sessions. And that is a good idea – you will see how these sessions work and get a feel for the kinds of pitch that will work for you, and just how brief you need to be. You’ll also get some sense of instructors that you might want to take down the line.
Most instructors will have no problem with new students sitting in. Just be sure to check in with the professor ahead of time.
2) THE DRAFT: At the end of that first week, you’ll send an e-mail to Richard and Hal’s student assistant indicating your top three choices. (The politically correct way to phrase this is to say “this is what works out best for my schedule this quarter.”) The teachers you pitched will do the same thing. And then, about 24 hours later, you’ll receive an email telling you, this is who you have.
Have no fear: as a screenwriting student you will absolutely get into a 434 section. And most of the time you will get one of your top 3 choices.
Each and every instructor is here for a reason and will approach the process a little differently. Taking a variety of instructors will make you well rounded as a writer. So just go with it. And know you get to do it all again next quarter!
THE EXCEPTION TO PITCHING: PRE-ENROLLMENT
Some instructors allow students to pre-enroll in their sections prior to pitch week. These emails will be sent out before Pitch Week.
B) TV WRITING CLASSES
As mentioned above, getting into TV writing classes generally requires some sort of writing sample. Sometime late in the previous quarter/over Christmas break, you will be emailed the details of what you need to do, with a turnaround time of maybe 10 days.
(Question: Have you already signed up for the listservs? DO IT NOW.)
What does the writing sample look like? It might be the first 5 or 10 pages of a pilot, or a 2 page sketch of a comedy idea, or a scene with specific parameters, or a short story. Each teacher does it differently.
After the audition process is over, the teacher reads the audition pieces and picks their class. An email goes out informing you of whether you’ve been accepted. And then in the first section, you get your PTE #. It's acceptable to decline your spot in the class if your schedule doesn't permit it, though you'll be asked to let the instructor know immediately.
Some TV writing classes are in comedy. Are you wondering if you're funny? Are you sure you aren't funny? Go ahead and take a shot anyway. Plenty of people who have never written comedy before have gotten into these classes. It's not as exclusive as an 'audition' makes it sound. As for those deadly serious people who have gotten in -- some of us have confirmed that we're not that funny, but we learned anyway. Some of us have had amazing experiences, discovered new sides of ourselves, gotten exposed to the vital television side of screenwriting, and left with one more piece for the portfolio.
C) QUEST FOR THE PTE
If you're enrolling in a TFT class that's not covered above, to get your PTE number you will need to do one of three things:
1) PITCH/AUDITION – Keep your eyes open for these announcements.
2) SHOW UP FOR THE FIRST CLASS – Sometimes you go to a class without a PTE number and things can still work out. Even a class that is full already will sometimes take extra students if they come to the first section. This is the exception rather than the rule. But if you don’t get a PTE number, don’t hesitate to go to the first class anyway and see what happens.
3) WRITE THE PROFESSOR / TA TO GET IN – The names of the instructors teaching a particular class can be found in the Schedule of Classes (discussed below).The email addresses of most all of the TFT full time faculty can be found at http://www.tft.ucla.edu/faculty/
When you see a class posted that you want to take, you should reach out to instructors immediately. This is a normal part of the UCLA program. If you’re writing too soon, or it’s not going to work out, the instructors will be most clear about that. Also, don’t feel bad about asking for a PTE number if you’re not sure whether you’re going to end up in the class.
There are three main online sources of information about classes:
- The Schedule of Classes tells you what's being offered in the current quarter, and includes the weekly schedule, room number/building, and instructors' names. (But not their emails - that would be too easy). http://www.registrar.ucla.edu/schedule/ It's important to remember that, like everything else, this information is subject to change, mistakes, or a general kind of Fog of War. This schedule doesn't have a description of the class.
- The Course Catalog has the descriptions of the classes, but the course list pertains to the entire academic year - not all courses are offered every quarter. You might want to bookmark our department's page once you navigate to it (and once the 2012-2013 Catalog is online) because of these multiple steps: Starting at http://www.registrar.ucla.edu/catalog/, click 'Curricula and Courses', then select our department, then click 'Course Listings'.
- The third way to view course information is through theCLASSES/Enrollment Menu on My UCLA. This is the system you use to actually add or drop classes, and it has information from both of the above sources, but in a clunkier interface.
COURSES FROM THE CMS AND PRODUCERS PROGRAMS Screenwriting students often take classes from the Producers Program and the Cinema Media Studies (CMS) Program.
A number of courses in the CMS and Producing programs change from quarter to quarter, so they appear in the course catalog with vague all-purpose descriptions. In other words, the catalog doesn't reveal the specific topic of study in a particular quarter.
One example from CMS is the 'Film & Other Arts' class, which in Spring 2014 specifically concerned Costume Design. Similarly, in the Producers program, several classes are offered each quarter as sections of courses 298A and 298B. The subject of these classes changes by quarter, and is not described in the catalog. So how do you plan ahead to line up a quarter of great classes? It's a trick question. You don't!
If you're hoping to take a CMS class, you spend the first week running around and attending the first day of the classes that fit in your schedule. You'll probably get a syllabus, a description of the class, and you might get a PTE number (you're under no pressure to use it!).
This all sounds stressful, but except for a few special classes, things usually work out.