The Academy of Art University has launched its new School of Writing for Film, Television & Digital Media, an intensive writing program that offers BFA and MFA degrees on campus and online.
Led by industry veteran Robert Keats, who will oversee the program as executive director, the School of Writing for Film, Television & Digital Media provides aspiring writers with an extensive curriculum that covers ideation, imagination, story, structure, character development, dialogue, pitching skills and production.
“Our goal is to offer students the most in-depth and comprehensive program in writing for the entertainment industry. It’s about giving students the skill set to tell compelling stories that elicit emotion and are visual on the page. And in the process, it’s about helping them take their imagination to new levels and finding their unique voice,” says Keats.
Students in both BFA and MFA programs complete feature-length screenplays, television scripts for current shows as well as spec pilots, and work as staff writers on two web series. Students who demonstrate the best writing and leadership skills have the opportunity to become show runners on the second series.
“What makes our program unique is that we offer the training it takes to create professional-quality scripts and give our on-campus students the opportunity to take those scripts into production,” says Academy President Elisa Stephens.
The new program features a faculty of award-winning writers in both film and television.
Robert Keats, who began teaching at the Academy in 2008, has written for film and television since the 1970s. His work in television includes Happy Days, The Love Boat, The Ellen Burstyn Show, Buck Henry’s sci-fi comedy Quark, and the adaptation of Down and Out in Beverly Hills. He has also written and produced pilots for networks, cable and premium channels, including the HBO presentation Women Without Men, which was produced in association with Lorne Michaels’ company, Broadway Video. In film, Keats has written screenplays for studios including MGM, Columbia and Warner Bros.
Emmy Award-winning writer Ken Estin was a show runner on Taxi and Cheers. He also created The Tracey Ullman Show with James L. Brooks. The characters Estin developed with Matt Groening for the show’s animated segments evolved into The Simpsons, the longest-running comedy series in television history. In film, he rewrote the script for Eddie Murphy’s blockbuster comedy Beverly Hills Cop. Along with his two Emmy Awards and 11 nominations, Estin has also won the Writers Guild of America Award.
Bob Pool’s credits include Outbreak and Armageddon, which between them have generated more than $700 million in box office revenues worldwide. During a film and television career that has spanned more than 30 years, Pool has written for Warner Bros., Columbia, 20th Century Fox, Universal, Walt Disney Pictures and Touchstone. His work in television includes projects for CBS, ABC, UPN and Showtime. Pool has worked with many high-profile actors including Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones.
Ellen Myers Fontana co-wrote the Showtime Australia miniseries Cloudstreet, which was nominated for eight Australian Academy of Cinema & Television Arts Awards. Fontana also worked in feature film development at 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and Universal, where she worked with director Martin Brest on the Robert De Niro comedy Midnight Run. In nonfiction, she wrote Audrey 100, a photo biography of Audrey Hepburn, and co-authored The Audrey Hepburn Treasures, a New York Times best seller.
James Egan is an award-winning writer-producer whose documentary Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins is currently being filmed in association with Robert Redford’s Sundance Productions. With best-selling author Michael Connelly (The Lincoln Lawyer), Egan recently produced the jazz documentary Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story. Working with Participant Media, he produced Angels in the Dust, which won the Amnesty International VARA Award for Social Justice. Egan also teamed up with writer-director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) to executive produce Kimjongilia.
Courses at the School of Writing for Film, Television & Digital Media begin Sept. 4, 2014.