Students get screenwriting opportunity with visiting professor

Great stories rely on great characters.

That’s what students in one Cornell College English class learned as they welcomed visiting Professor Brian Sloan for Block 3.

Sloan is a writer, producer, and filmmaker from New York. He has worked in film and television for more than 20 years. During that time he’s directed and produced a handful of short films and features.  

Students, like Gus Yafcak ’18, worked with him in the English course called, “Screenwriting: Creating Characters.”

“It’s really great to get an outside voice,” Yafcak said. “I’m a creative writing major and part of creative writing is getting other people’s opinions on your writing. I think One Course At A Time really makes it possible for us to bring in outside faculty members like this.”

Students are working on their own screenplays as their main project for the course.

“The class is really emphasizing the creation of character-driven stories where the students start with a character first and really try to take that character and create a short film strip around them,” Sloan said.

Sloan’s English class also teamed up with Professor Caroline Price’s Basic Acting class to see some of those screenplays in action. Students from the theatre department were assigned roles in each screenplay. Carter Koch ’19 read a part in Yafcak’s screenplay.

“I had only done a cold read once before and that was for a play I was actually cast in. This was awesome. It was completely unknown to me,” Koch said.

Matt Klug ’19 also played a part.

“It was really impressive,” Klug said. “You could see that there was a lot of time put into the script and the details. You could really see with the block plan how they put a lot of effort toward this project.”

As a first-time visiting professor at Cornell, Sloan noted the benefits of the block plan. The screenwriter has taught the class at other schools prior to his visit to Iowa.

“The Block program is more of a compressed way of doing the class than I am used to. It’s nice because the students are just focusing for the whole Block on creating this script,” Sloan said. “It’s a better opportunity for them to really focus on doing this when you are not distracted by four other classes.”

The students in the screenwriting class were graded on their completed screenplays at the end of the Block.