December 23, 2011

McKenna, David Silver_nugget
Script Analysis

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

If you are a film major, you -have- to take David McKenna's Script Analysis class. Fortunately for you, it is one of the best courses in film major requirements.

Previous reviews are more/less correct regarding the style of the course, insofar as McKenna basically spends the entire semester on one twelve-step process. The process is so intricate, though, that it actually does seem to warrant the amount of time he spends on it.

McKenna is extremely engaging and tries to bring out the best in his students. He is loud, inappropriate, and occasionally misanthropic/racist/misogynistic (which, personally, I found to be totally awesome, but it's admittedly not everybody's style). A typical lecture goes like this:

- Outline of the day's "12 Step" element
- Rocky/Romancing the Stone/Henry V relationship to this element.
- Clips demonstrating the step
- Cigarette Break
- Loglines of previous week's screenplay
- Discussion of previous week's screenplay

The course is three hours long, and you will not watch full length movies -- which ostensibly means three hours of lecturing. This would be tedious were McKenna not such a wonderful lecturer and performer/entertainer. I challenge you to fall asleep in his class; I don't think it's possible.

A word on grading: It's pretty mystical. You will get "check plus," "check," and "check minus" grades as opposed to conventional letter grades. Attendance counts, but there is absolutely no way of knowing how your grade will work out. I assume that the director's prep (a massive assignment) constitutes a large part of it, but there was no grade distribution disseminated.

David McKenna considers a "B" a good grade, and makes a point of stating how difficult it will be to earn an "A." I -did- earn an "A," and can share with you the ultimate three-step process on how to do likewise:

1.) Do your coverages/read the screenplays. These are daunting and will take you several hours per week. But if you do them, and you write them intelligently on a consistent basis, it will not only make you a better analyst but also more competent in class participation.

2.) Show up and don't be late. He counts attendance. If you are late, you are marked down for half an absence. I recommend going to every class early so as to be sure you will make roll call.

3.) PLAY. Play with him. Banter. Contribute. Talk. Don't just be another "seat" in the Lifetime Screening Room. If you do not want to participate, you will have no chance of standing out. McKenna is not a bad guy and will not make you feel like a moron if you come up with a wrong answer, and he will appreciate your attempt. I am convinced that this is the secret to success in this class. I base this on nothing, however, as I still don't know how the assignment grades were apportioned/evaluated.

Bottom line: Great class. If you are a film major, you have to take it. Don't fret. If you are not a film major and want to take the class anyway, you'll learn a lot.


- 12 screenplay coverages: Read a c.a. 120 page screenplay every week and write a two page synopsis on it. Basically a book report.
- Scene Analysis: Break down a scene into reciprocal actions. Short assignment.
- Director's Prep: So intense. You will write 30-40 pages of analysis of a screenplay using techniques learned in class and from the assigned readings.