This semester, professional writing students are learning about screenwriting from an expert in a special class.
For professional writing majors, this class, Writing for Film and Television, fulfills the requirement of taking a 400 level seminar class.
Students in the professional writing program have the opportunity each semester to learn about a unique aspect of writing taught by an expert in that field. This semester, Cecil Stokes, a writer, director and producer from North Carolina, is teaching the class.
Stokes is best known for his work on the films “October Baby” and “A Man Named Pearl.” He is also the founder of Tentmakers Entertainment and has worked on over 500 cable television shows for popular networks such as ESPN, Food Network and HGTV.
Stokes always wanted to teach a course at the college level, so when he received the opportunity to teach this class, he quickly accepted.
Though not a graduate of Taylor, Stokes has become familiar with the university as he has met many students and faculty during writing conferences. He has even worked with Taylor alumni, including Jason Burkey (‘07), an actor who starred in “October Baby” and has had roles in “I Can Only Imagine” and “Nashville”.
Throughout this class, which meets on four Saturdays during the semester from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Stokes is teaching professional writing students the basics of writing for film or television and helping them examine different types of media.
The class is structured in a Q&A and discussion format. Students watch examples of scripted, reality and documentary programs, as well as short films and trailers. They then discuss different techniques involved in writing each of these.
The final project for students in this class includes writing an original script for a film or television show.
This semester, 12 students are enrolled in this class and take on the challenge.
Zach Brown, a sophomore professional writing student in the class, has considered going into film or television production and decided to take this class to further develop this interest.
“Learning from someone who has so much experience in his field is really a unique and enjoyable experience that’s hard to pass up,” Brown said.
Stokes acknowledges that not every student taking this class will want to work in film or television.
He still hopes, however, that students can take the skills they learn in these four sessions and use them in some way to tell stories.
“I hope most of all that the students are inspired,” Stokes said. “I want people to feel creative and feel inspired and that I can be engaging to them and an example of a possible future that they all have.”
A graduate of a small, private Christian school himself, Stokes understands a lot about Taylor and its students.
However, Stokes admires the professional writing department for offering a focused degree to the students in the program and not just general writing as many schools do.
“I believe the professors were called here and the administration was called here and every student was called here for a reason,” Stokes said. “And that could be life-long friendships, or what we learn or what networking comes out of it. But out of all the places I’ve visited and all the places I’ve taught, Taylor is at the top of the list. I couldn’t say better things.”