Guide To Majors At NYU: Dramatic Writing

Note: Whether you’re still deciding between two majors – or you’ve already picked and want to know how wrong your choice was – you’ll undoubtedly find our Guide To NYU Majors useful. We’ll be asking students in specific majors their thoughts on various aspects of their chosen field. You can see all the posts in the series here.

Major: Dramatic Writing

School: Tisch

Concentrations: Writing for Film, Writing for Television, Playwriting

Possible Joint Degrees: The University says “practically any combination” can work as far as double-majoring, noting that this may require an extra semester.

Required Number of Classes: 130 credits to graduate.

Minor: No

Dramatic writing is that rare writing program in Tisch. Unlike their counterparts in CAS, dramatic writing majors study playwrights and plays, harkening back to works from Ancient Greece, and exploring performance and production techniques in order to craft their work. Students also benefit from peer reviews; many classes are not typical classes, but rather “intensive workshops.” Students in the program believe that it’s a “chill” Tisch major, and one that quietly commands respect. They also like talking Writing the Essay.

WHAT THE UNIVERSITY SAYS

The undergraduate program in dramatic writing, which leads to the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, is divided into four parts: writing/text analysis, production/performance, general education and electives. Acceptance into the Department allows students to study in all three concentrations offered: Writing for Film, Writing for Television, and Playwriting, specializing in at least one medium as their studies advance.

Students may enter the program either as freshmen or as transfer students. The curriculum as a whole enables them to analyze the dramatic text as it has developed since the time of the ancient Greeks, learn the rudiments of production techniques, explore the world of performance and develop and refine their writing ability through a series of intensive workshops.

WHAT THE STUDENTS SAY

Best Classes:

“Freshman year colloquium with Paul Selig. And also anything with Daniel Goldfarb, one of the few people in the department who knows what the fuck he is talking about.”

“Everyone says a thesis class with Charlie Rubin is great. The children’s TV class always fills up quite fast. Forms of drama with Gordon Farrell is one of the most fun seminar classes.”

“Advanced TV Writing with Cheri Magid; TV Thesis with Charlie Rubin; Advanced Screenwriting with Joe Vinciguerra.”

Worst Requirements?

“Film Story Analysis and anything else with an academic bent to it. The people that teach in dramatic writing are not academics, nor researchers. They are, for the most part, unemployed writers teaching for health insurance and peanuts.”

“The MAP classes are the worst, if you exclude Writing the Essay.”

“Senior Colloquium.”

“A lot of people don’t really like Forms of Drama, because it’s kind of dry and redundant. It’s definitely a good foundational class though.”

Workload:

“Kind of a lot. I think it depends on your classes and year though. First year/transfer first semester is rough because you’re in a six-credit class where you’re writing three or four scripts at once plus doing readings. But if it’s what you enjoy, it doesn’t seem as bad.”

“Light, it’s what you make of it. You can spend days writing and re-writing and reviewing scripts, or you can quick and do it two hours before class. I wouldn’t recommend the latter.”

“It’s pretty light, except in the writing classes. It starts pretty easy in the first two years, only about four to eight pages required each week, but as you move to upperclassmen years, there’s more. I’m in Advanced TV Comedy and we have to hand in at least ten pages a couple of days ahead of class to hand in notes for each other.”

Class Size:

“I’m in a screenwriting workshop this semester with fifteen people. Fifteen is huge for a screenwriting workshop. And while I wish I could say this was a one time unfortunate thing, it’s happened consistently in all the workshops I’ve taken. I pay a lot to go here, I don’t understand why they don’t hire more faculty.”

“It’s pretty small, usually twelve to fifteen people for workshops and around thirty-plus for lectures.”

Reputation: 

“The shittier a writer you are, the more prone you are to describe the department as prestigious and ‘one of the best writing programs in the country’. I am under no such allusions. This place may be one of a kind and unique, but so is the slanket.”

“Less than Film or Drama, but we have reputable staff and enough focus on writing to be worth it to any kid who wants to go to a writing program.”

“I feel like it’s kind of ambiguous. A lot of people don’t understand that dramatic writing is training for performative writing like screenwriting and tv writing. I think we have a pretty good reputation though, especially among Tisch kids. Everyone seems to think our department is most chill – less pretentious or ‘out there’ than most Tisch majors.”

Your Classmates: 

“There are good people in this department. A lot of really great, talented writers. There are also people who are terrible writers who consistently produce absolute shit. I don’t really like these people.”

“It’s nice to be around other writers because they have similar interests and learning styles. I definitely get to know them better than, say, the people in my huge English lectures [as a former English major].”

Internships and Post-Grad Opportunities:

“It is espoused frequently in the department that it takes at least 10 years to establish yourself as a professional writer. Unfortunately, it is not espoused enough. Being a writer is a shit life. I don’t care if you did an internship at the Colbert Report and got to wipe Colbert’s ass; the next decade of your life after leaving this department is going to be a long stream of steady disappointment. That’s just the way it is.”

“Most kids enter the late-night internship game.”

“Internships are a requirement for graduation in dramatic writing. The internship I have right now will not count for that, unfortunately…”

Why Dramatic Writing?

“It’s the only program at NYU focused solely on how to grow as a writer.”

“It’s a strong but fun track in an interesting field with lots of good teachers.”

Why NOT Dramatic Writing?

“The department seems to encourage a lot of bad writing. I don’t know why and I can’t really explain what I mean by this, but that’s the way it is.”

“Don’t do it if you aren’t able to enjoy plays. You have to approach dramatic writing through theatre in order to understand why it works, and the program keeps you entrenched in theatre for the first years.”

[image via



3 Comments

  • Alex Pototsky
    December 9, 2012

    Did you only interview one curmudgeonly misanthrope? I feel like 98% of this is the opinion of one slack-jawed douche with a superiority complex.

  • Madeline Paumen
    December 9, 2012

    As someone who used to write for NYULocal and has a lot of respect for it, I’m amused and disappointed by this article. There’s definitely some truth in there, but it’s not reflective of the general opinion of students in the Department. And honestly, a lot of these quotes (almost comically) sound straight from the mouth of someone who’s ass is still chapped from a bad critique.

  • Jason Boxer
    December 10, 2012

    It deserves to be mentioned that hard-ons/extreme jealousy for Donald Glover are a hugely important part of the dramatic writing program.

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