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Columbia College Chicago
Semester in L.A.
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Semester in L.A.

Adapting your novel to the big screen or interested in scriptwriting for the movies?

Learn the business of film making for writers with five intensive weeks on-site in the heart of the movie industry.

Spring 2012: April 9 - May 4
This exciting 5-week immersion program in the writing, production and business aspects of the Hollywood film industry is offered at Raleigh Studios, Hollywood, CA each spring.

Semester in LA (SiLA) is the only program of higher learning located on a Hollywood studio lot.

The semester in LA program is designed to demystify the entertainment business, and jump-start your introduction to LA taking off at least a couple of years of seeking the best ways of getting in the door, finding the right person to talk to, and making things happen.

The program is available for full credit toward the major and is open to any student in the Fiction Writing program, though best suited for students later in their academic careers. Students maintain full-time status (12-16 undergrad, 9 hours for grads). Some work before and after the session may be required, but the five-weeks of on-site study count for a full semester course load. Financial aid applies to this program. 

Next Information Meeting
Tuesday, November 1
11:30 am and 5:30 pm
624 S. Michigan Ave., Room 1202 

Screenwriting Workshops: Coverage of Adapted Screenplays in L.A.
55-4325-01 (undergrad) 3 Credits
55-5325-01 (grad) 3 credits
Prerequisite: Acceptance into the L.A. program

Students will read and analyze a variety of novels that have been adapted into films. They will also read the scripts based on these works of prose and learn how to do coverage, a standard practice used throughout the studio system. They will also view the films based on these published works. The students will then participate in weekly Q & A sessions with the screenwriters who originally adapted the above material, gaining first-hand knowledge and insight into the adaptation process. Prose and script coverage will be used to analyze different adaptation approaches and will serve as practice for entry-level positions in story editing or development offices in LA.

Topics in Fiction Writing: Techniques and Business of Adaptation in L.A.
55-4326-01 (undergrad) 3 Credits
55-5326-01 (grad) 3 credits
Prerequisite: Acceptance into the L.A. program

Students in the program will take part in a lecture series, which will include authors, screenwriters, and producers who have either sold their published works to Hollywood or who have adapted published works for Hollywood. Other guest speakers will include entertainment attorneys and agents who will discuss the legalities of optioning and adapting pre-existing material. There will be almost 40 guest speakers in all.

Adaptation in L.A.
55-4326-01 (undergrad) 3 Credits
55-5326-01 (grad) 3 credits
Prerequisite: Acceptance into the L.A. program

Students develop a completed work of prose (novel, short story, magazine article, etc.) into an expanded outline, then into a detailed treatment for the screen. The outlining process will involve breaking down the prose, streamlining it into visual and essential pieces of dialogue, then registering the outline at the WGA (which will be a stop on one of our tours). A professional story editor/development executive will then collect an outline from each student, do coverage, then have individual meetings with each student to discuss vital story points. Based on feedback from the story editor, each student will revise his/her outline, then develop it into a full-length treatment (10-20 pages). Each student will pitch their treatments to development executives/producers at the end of the 5-week program.

Acquiring Intellectual Properties for Adaptation in L.A.
55-4328-01 (undergrad) 3 Credits
55-5328-01 (grad) 3 credits
Prerequisite: Acceptance into the L.A. program

This section of the program is designed to help students better understand the process of optioning copyrighted work by published authors.

Download Interest/Application Form

LA Resources

What are the requirements for acceptance into the program?
Any student in the Fiction Writing program who has completed Fiction I may apply to the program; however, it is best suited for students who are at junior or senior levels who have more "gen ed" and writing classes under their belts, and who are nearing graduation. Those who can relocate to LA should an internship or job prospect arise are ideal. All students and classes require program permission. Once accepted, you can expect to attend in-depth orientations, which will cover a variety of issues in great detail. Attending these sessions is strongly recommended. 

Is there a part-time option for taking Semester in LA classes?
No. The program is full-time only for both undergraduates and graduates. 

How do I apply?
Please fill-out an information sheet, available on the table by the elevators or in the Creative Writing Department Office, Suite 1200, 624 S. Michigan building, and return it to the Fiction Writing program. 

Then what?
If you are accepted you will be contacted in time for early registration. It is your responsibility to register during this time, and to clear any restrictions prior to registration.

How will the classes run?
There will be a morning orientation lecture and tour the first day, and a review of any independent projects. After that, you hit the ground running. The typical day starts with coffee and reading of industry trades, such as Variety. Then you will have a couple of hours of guest speakers and questions, lunch, more speakers and questions, and then a few hours of working on your independent projects. You will also go to screenings and tours. Some site visits include: Sony Studios, Warner Bros. Studio, Central Casting, American Film Market, Panavision, and Writers Guild. Throughout the five-week semester anywhere from 30-50 industry professionals will visit to lecture and lead workshops. These professionals include screenwriters, literary and author agents, story editors, producers, and entertainment attorneys. Because of the caliber of visiting professionals and the demand of the workload, students will be expected to conduct themselves professionally during all sessions. 

Cost and Financial Aid
Full-time tuition for spring is $10,047 for undergraduates (12-16 credit hours) and $6,489 for graduates (9 credit hours). Room, per diem and air $1500-3000, depending on accommodations. Total package range is between $11,547-$13,047. All opportunities and rules for financial aid apply to the Semester in LA program. 

Download application at SiLA site: http://www.colum.edu/academics/semester_la/

What about transportation?
Participants in the program are responsible for getting to and from the Studio Lot. Some students go in on car rentals; others drive to LA and share the car. LA is a car-centric city, so public transportation takes forever and is generally not recommended. The best way is to buddy up with someone who has a car, or go in on share rental expenses. If you find a place close by (a couple of the apartment complexes that work with Columbia students are about 5-6 miles away from Studio City) you may rent a bike or even a scooter for getting around. 

Where do we stay while in LA?
Students are responsible for their own living arrangements. Web sites including www.shorterrentalsla.com, www.metroroomates.com, and www.craigslist.org have information about temporary housing opportunities. Once accepted into the program, our contacts in LA will assist you with finding available housing. One of the places Columbia recommends is Oakwood Apartments, Toluca Hills. It has lots of amenities and is a short drive to the studio. Columbia students get special rates here. For more information, check out the "LA Resources" link at http://www.colum.edu/academics/semester_la/

Approximate costs of accommodations vary depending on the arrangement. To give you an idea of the lower end, a single room to share close to the Studio can run about $1000. Sharing a two-bedroom apartment at Oakwood Terrace can run close to $3,000.

What You'll Get in Return
The experience, exposure, and marketable skills you'll get from this program are worth it. Plus, you have done a whole semester's work in five weeks, leaving you valuable time to network for jobs, finish your projects, or devote to an internship. 

For more information, please contact: Gary Johnson (gjohnson@colum.edu, ext. 7537, or Elizabeth Yokas, (eyokas@colum.edu, ext. 7611). Or visit the SiLA website at http://www.colum.edu/academics/semester_la/


Terrrence FenisonTerrence Fenison
Semester in LA: Adaptation, Spring 2010

I never imagined being in the same room with Academy Award winner James Cameron (Avatar), Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker), Academy Award winner Geoffery Flecher (Precious), and Academy Award nominated Jason Reitman (Juno), but I was. They discussed the road to success, and how diligent a writer must be to achieve it. For me, this experience is worth more than the money Mr. Cameron made from "Avatar."  Listening to other successful writers talk about the long days, and lonely nights of perfecting your craft, reinforces how important it is to never give up on the dream. I have watched many authors do interviews on television, but it does not even compare to physically being in front of these individuals, as they shared their experiences and unique advice for young, upcoming writers. This was just one of the adventures I encountered during my "Semester in LA" trip, but not the only one.

Classroom days were my favorite time. We sat around a table, like professional writers, talking about story development, ideas, resolutions for stories, or absorbing what the guest speaker for the day had to offer. There were a countless amount of people to grace us with their presence from Elliot Webb (agent, ICM), to Monica Macer (writer, "Lost" and "Knight Rider"). Day after day, our group had the opportunity to study on a studio lot where they film "Private Practice," "The Closer," and "Castle," allowing us access to what the film industry is like on a daily basis. It was an atmosphere made for a creative mind, if you like to be inspired, as I do.

Being in an environment filled with people in "the business," hustling to have their vision seen by others is where I want to be. I am a fiction writer, who wanted to take part in the adaptation course, but it was canceled, which placed me in the writing for television drama class, and gave me the opportunity to expand my craft to scripts, while meeting people who I look forward to networking with.

Steering down new avenues on my journey to become a great writer is something I am not afraid to do, so taking this trip was a no brainer. To me, creativity does not have a dollar amount, nor does it stop at a short story, or novel, but expands into the arena of television, and movies. During my experience in LA, I found out how hungry I was to see something different on television, or in the movies, which are open for new, and fresh blood. It was a breath of fresh air, and left a lasting impression on me forever. There is nothing like it, and I would encourage anyone to take the chance. Personally, it was just another investment in me. If I do not believe, who else will?

Many people express concerns about how much money it costs, but the price is the least thing to worry about. If anyone can afford to go to Columbia, staying in LA for five weeks is definitely within reach. I went with a budget, and returned with plenty of money from the trip. My rental car and apartment were very affordable. The food was not expensive, and the weather alone is an incentive to escape the brutal Chicago winter. It was worth every dollar I spent, and I will be returning… not just for a visit, but to stay. If you want to be a writer of novels, film, or television, Los Angeles is the place to be. On the other hand, if you are unsure about which lifestyle is for you, this is the perfect opportunity to go and see.

"This is for all the dreamers out there." Geoffrey Fletcher said during his acceptance speech at the 2010 Oscars, where he won for best adaptation. The same guy I had the opportunity to see during his humble moments on the panel, "Beyond Words" at the Writers Guild with the before mentioned individuals, along with Jon Lucas, and Scott Moore ("The Hangover), only days before Oscar night. He was very passionate about his work, and shared the struggle from sitting in a cubicle doing office work, when the "Twin Towers" were hit in 2001, to winning an Oscar, which during the time of the panel he was only a nominee. My ears thirst for these kinds of conversations, and my eyes smile at people like this because their pains keep me going through the "no's." I know somewhere along the road, they heard it a million times too, but never gave up.

These are just a few things I indulged in during my stay, but there are many more. Combine all that along with our everyday teachers Jack Gilbert, and Lee Zoloff (instructor, and creator of "McGuyver," respectively), and my trip exceeded any expectations I had. I can go on and on about it, but simply put it was "Beyond Words."

Jillian Robinson 
Semester in LA: Adaptation, Spring 2008

If you really want to get into the business of writing, and are serious about your art, then I strongly recommend taking the Semester in LA Adaptation Course.  By studying films that were made from books and their screenplays, it gives you an entire new way to not only look at a story, but a new way to approach writing one.  By taking the course, I was able to write a story that I had been pondering for nearly six years, and I seriously doubt that I would have been able to complete it in two months had I not gone out to LA and done the program.  Also, networking is key for anyone who wants to be a writer, and this program is definitely a good place to start.  

Michael Williams 
Semester in LA: Adaptation, Spring 2008

Movie stars, fancy cars, and smug people are the images that I had when I left the freezing cold comforts of Chicago for the more temperate climates of Southern California.  I wasn’t told that Los Angeles is a literary town, that people actually love talking about books, and that most movies one sees on the silver screen, at one point or another, originated from stories that had already been written in another medium (books and newspaper articles). 

I think traveling is important, but it’s also important to know about residuals, and about the benefits of having one of your works adapted for TV/Film/Theatre. 

All five students who went out to L.A. for the semester are eager to get back out there (if they haven’t already made the move).  There are literary agents, entertainment lawyers, and a huge community of writers (both screenplay and literary) that live in Los Angeles.  It is a community that loves to read and offers a ton of book stores and coffee shops for a writer to get lost in. 

The teachers and speakers that our instructor, Craig brought in to talk to the students were amazing, insightful, and very encouraging.  They were honest in telling you how hard it is to make it out there, but they also point out that the most unlikely people (those who diligently work hard and keep pushing themselves despite setbacks) succeed out there.  What I thought was the most encouraging tidbit about Hollywood is that everyone in the industry reads.  Craig’s encouragement for the students to succeed as writers was comforting. It was nice to know that two thousand miles away from the Fiction Writing [program] my writing was still being encouraged. 

I loved the program and had a good experience.  Even if someone decided not to move out to L.A., and that the scene and town just isn’t for them—there is still something to be gained from hearing what agents, lawyers, producers, and writers have to say about what it takes to sell a story and what you need to be aware of as a writer.  I’m glad the Fiction Writing [program] offers this program to its students, and I hope to encourage more students to participate in it. 

Latasha N. Woods 
Semester in LA: Adaptation, Spring 2008

I am very grateful to have worked with and become close to many of the fellow writers and filmmakers in the program. Work doesn't feel like work when you enjoy it and know that these are rare opportunities. I have a deep appreciation for the instructors for their guidance and the speakers who take time out of their busy schedules to give us their view on what's good and what's bad in the business. 

I had the opportunity to directly network with people in the film/entertainment industry. Most of the networking happens outside of the classroom and at the alumni functions. It is very important to network with Columbia alumni, many of whom are already in the business in one way or another. I'm sure every writer will find some benefit, whether they choose to actively pursue a career as a screenwriter, assistant, producer, or novelist. The advantage lies in the opportunity to experience it all here. It was a wonderful experience. 

I can honestly say that this experience has brought me a lifetime of knowledge and ever-increasing motivation for what I love to do, and that is sure to resonate with others in the entertainment industry. 

Vanessa Angone 
Semester in LA: Adaptation, 2003

I registered for the Semester in L.A. Adaptation Program under one condition—my own—that it would be the beginning of my career in filmmaking, whether as a screenwriter or a producer. 

One day author Lori Gottlieb visited our class to speak to us from a writer’s perspective. At some point during the two hours she spent with us, Lori offhandedly mentioned that Scorsese’s option had run out and Stick Figure was currently available for option. 

Our major assignment in the program was to locate published works that both interested us and that we, as producers or screenwriters, deemed engaging and appropriate for film. The published works ranged from novels, short stories, and plays, to graphic novels, comic books, even magazine and newspaper articles. Once we located at least a half dozen published works, we were expected to contact the authors and inquire as to the availability of the option rights. If the option rights were available, then we were to discuss with the author his/her terms, and decide whether we wanted to proceed with the option before contacting our lawyer. When I heard Lori say that the option for her memoir was available, I knew that was my door opening. I sent Lori an e-mail. In a few words, I told her that I was fascinated by her memoir, that I was an MFA student, and that I had very little money to offer her for the option; however, I promised her that I would commit myself fully and give my best efforts to the process of bringing Stick Figure into film production. To my surprise and pure elation, Lori responded positively two days later, saying that she was “intrigued by the idea of giving someone with such enthusiasm and passion for the material the opportunity to ‘play’ and see what comes of it.” I secured the option for Stick Figure, and began to work fervently with my agent Debora Koslowsky of Working Artists Agency and with my entertainment attorney Paul Husband, both of whom I met through Craig Gore, the Adaptation Program instructor. 

My relationships with Paul and Debora are examples of what I feel is one of the greatest benefits of the Semester in L.A. Program—professional contacts. Everything we learned about the entertainment field, about the business end of filmmaking, about entertainment law, about different aspects of filmmaking, and about the option and adaptation processes, came from professionals in various areas of the entertainment industry. Since leaving Los Angeles and focusing on my optioned material, I have contacted several of the speakers from my semester, and each one has responded kindly, thoughtfully, and thoroughly to whatever question I have posed or request I have made. Like the Semester in L.A. staff, their professionalism and support did not end once we left the studio. 

The Adaptation Program is not strictly geared toward film students. There is a strong focus on the literary aspect of film in this program. Even if a writer is not interested in adapting material for film himself/herself, I believe that the Adaptation Program would still be unquestionably beneficial to any professional writer. A student who hopes to learn about acquiring literary property in order to adapt or produce the material will obviously benefit from the program. The same is true for students who intend to write only novels, for example, because they will be familiar with the film industry, the business end of it, and the option process, so they will be prepared when they are approached in the future by interested filmmakers who want to adapt their work for film. After a mere five weeks in the program, my classmates and I felt that we possessed a little more power as writers because we are able to represent our work as the creators, and as business-minded individuals. 

In my opinion, the most important component of the program is that the students are fully immersed, beginning with classes on a studio lot, and are immediately expected to behave like industry professionals. Craig and Bob expected us to meet deadlines and demands head on, and they insisted on seeing a high level of determination and eagerness from the day we arrived until the day we departed. I truly believe that all you need in order to succeed in the Semester in L.A. Program is drive—the determination to take advantage of any and all opportunities presented to you, and the passion to keep you moving constantly forward. 

Alverne Ball 
Semester in LA: Adaptation, 2003

Semester in LA: Adaptation is a great chance to explore the possibilities of fiction outside the normal classroom semicircle, and it is a great way to get your foot in the door of such a star-studded industry as Hollywood.