- Associated Press - Sunday, March 23, 2014

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - Budding screenwriters meet at Williston State College on Wednesday nights, focusing their energy into analyzing film and producing treatments that range in theme, all wanting to end the semester with fully or partially developed scripts.

The idea for the course originated at meetings of the Couch Committee, a group of students who discuss film and writing. Students differ in age and concentrations, some focusing on communications while other desire to earn engineering degrees.

Last semester, the committee got off the couch and pitched the class to administration.

The committee organized and had 15 students sign a petition in favor of implementing the class into the curriculum.

Jim Stout, an associate professor with a deep interest in history, English and film, accepted the idea and currently teaches the first screenwriting class at WSC.

“Our department was open to it,” Stout told the Williston Herald (http://bit.ly/1gFhlU0). “These are students making education a lot better than it could have been.”

In the class, each student will work to create his or her own original screenplay and learn the difference between writing a script for the stage versus writing for the screen. Stout said the class is geared toward all writers of differing backgrounds and experience who might have ideas for movies but want to better their writing skills.

The focus of the class will be on the teachings of “The Screenwriter’s Bible” by David Trottier, who gives students the writing tools necessary to help achieve their goals. The class touches on the structuring, submitting and selling of screenplays once finished.

“Trottier is committed to the three-act format. Last week, we wrote a four-page treatment of a play and tonight (Wednesday) we will work on formatting a screenplay,” Stout said.

Stout earned his master’s degree in English from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and has taught at WSC since 1987. His favorite reading includes the Bible, Niccolo Machiavelli and John Milton.

In his class, he offers students the opportunity to view films old and new: “Star Wars,” ”The Matrix,” ”Nosferatu,” ”Inception,” ”Battleship Potekim,” ”Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” ”Singing in the Rain” and “The Godfather.”

“Exposing the students to different films can be an eye-opener,” Stout said. “We have a broad range of students here at Williston State College - male, female, military, engineering students.”

Originally from Wyoming, Daniel Plucknett is a screenwriting student pursuing his degree in engineering. A member of the Couch Committee, he helped form the idea for the class with the insight of Williston-bred students Ian Withey and Lucas Amundson, who plan on obtaining degrees in screenwriting and communications from four-year colleges.

As an engineering student, Plucknett, 29, doesn’t fit the stereotype of a screenwriter but his knowledge of structure helps manifest his thoughts into the written word.

“I have also enjoyed analyzing movies,” Plucknett said, adding that he completed Stout’s Introduction to Film class offered last year. His favorite directors and screenwriters are Quentin Tarrantino and Francis Ford Coppola.

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