Going into its third year of running at the University of Toronto, Screenwriting at Victoria College is a student-founded, student-run club. Participants meet to listen to seminars on screenwriting by executive members and discuss writing techniques used in renowned films. 

What makes this club a standout, as put by Vice-President Internal Elizabeth Coulter in an email interview with The Varsity, is that its “focus on screenwriting… is a focus not just on film, but on story.”

Kenneth Ting, the founder and president of the club, organized its conception upon realizing how limited accessible screenwriting education is at the University of Toronto. 

“Although the School of Continuing Studies and Cinema Studies Institute at U of T do offer screenwriting courses, they may not be accessible to everyone as the former option is quite expensive (~$650 per screenwriting course), and the latter is only offered once every two years with a maximum enrollment of 15 students,” wrote Ting in an email interview with The Varsity.

The club is a free and accessible alternative: according to Ting, you can get a comprehensive educational experience encompassing the journey of “learning the theory, then applying the knowledge, to eventually getting this learning experience recognized by being published in [the club’s] journal.” 

Ting stressed the importance of the club’s academic nature: “Similar to the academic courses organized at UofT, we formulate our own learning curriculum annually and upload all of our learning materials with supplemented answer keys to members regularly.” 

The seminar content derives from screenwriting books recommended by The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. The club’s faculty advisor is Professor Daniel Tysdal, an instructor of screenwriting at Victoria College. 

“Participating in this club has taught me how important screenwriting is to filmmaking,” wrote Robyn Bacon, a club member. “As a Cinema Studies graduate from the University of Toronto, we studied every aspect of the filmmaking process; cinematography, editing, mise-en-scène, lighting, camera movement, and sound—without exploring the craft of screenwriting.” 

She continued by writing that the club “has positively affirmed, supported, and intellectually challenged [her] passion for screenwriting while allowing [her] to connect and learn from other students who feel similarly.” The club welcomes both those who study film like Bacon and those who don’t, as no prior experience with film is required.

The club’s setting of student discussion may be just what we need in COVID-19 isolation. Like many other student activities, it currently runs via Zoom. Although Zoom meetings are not the same as in-person hangouts, they have boosted attendance and allowed for more personal interaction. 

“Through breakout rooms, we are able to hold smaller discussions, allowing all our members to really engage and not have to be drowned out by many other people,” wrote Coulter. As they did in previous years, students are able to analyze, learn, and discuss scripts. 

Screenwriting Perspectives, the club’s academic journal, has recently released its first issue of students’ film criticism, discussing films such as Little Women and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

“Learning how to deconstruct a movie is a very important learning process of writing a screenplay,” wrote Ting.

“Our journal places special emphasis on writing a film analysis from a screenwriter’s perspective because it encourages students to practice how to identify and critique fundamental elements in storytelling, which they can subsequently innovate and integrate into their own scripts accordingly.”

Ting added that the group will innovate future issues to include interviews of figures in the screenwriting industry, as well as hidden gems and theme of the year sections.

Anyone interested in getting involved can do so. No prior experience in screenwriting or affiliation with Victoria College is required whatsoever — just an interest in watching and writing about some flicks!