On Teaching Screenwriting… and Final Grades

PS: All names used in this post -if any- have been changed for confidentiality & privacy.

It is that time of year again, when professors have to roll final grades for their students. And since this is my second semester teaching at university level, I am learning new things every time I get to this stage. But, what I am mostly learning is that teachers have to be really tough on students for them to take their education seriously.

Undergraduate students in Lebanon are mostly fresh grads of High School. Most of them are 18 or 19 years old when they enroll for their Sophomore year. So by the time they get to Scriptwriting, they are usually 19, 20 or 21. It is a beautiful young age. But it is a beautiful young age. And when it comes to scriptwriting, the heart of this profession and craft is discipline. I try my best throughout the three or four months I spend with my students to help them understand that deadlines are sacred and discipline is key. Most of the time it works. But there are always a couple of students who wait till the last day of classes or till you’ve rolled the final grades to come crying to your office. And I am such a sweet soul (should I really say this?) I cannot upset any of them. But at the same time I have to be fair to the whole class, I cannot please one then upset 10!

If any student happens to read this post, I would like to appeal to them to, please, worry about their grades at the beginning of the semester, not only at the end. Worrying about the grade must be translated into actual effort to make it good. That effort has to be presented physically to your teacher. Passion is always very heartwarming, but unfortunately, it is useless if not channeled towards your writing, i.e. your homework. So please be passionate and worried from the very start, and definitely do something (tangible) that your teacher can submit to the school as evidence of your passion.

Your teachers love you, students. Getting a bad grade is not something that makes us happy or pleased. In fact, it pisses me off when I get a script that is not properly formatted or that has nothing whatsoever of the material we discuss in class. I try my best to give my students the best grades they deserve without compromising on the quality of education they receive. If I am a perfectionist and I want them to be excellent, it is not a bad thing. The most important thing that I hope students learn by the time they finish this course is two things:

1) write a good script, with good characters, good conflict, and a structure that works.

2) respect deadlines and dedicate time for writing assignments

The Itani Flat in the Itani Building

Few evenings ago, a young man knocked our door. I was in my room working on a document but I heard the conversation that happened between my brother and the delivery person.

– Who are you looking for?

– Itani family. First floor.

– Yes, this is the Itani family on the first floor but we didn’t order anything.

– Is this Itani building?

– Yes. What’s the address you’ve got?

– Itani family, Itani building, first floor.

I was laughing but felt sorry for the guy. He’ll probably have to enter every single building on the street checking which first floor Itani family ordered something. Every other building in this neighborhood is a Itani building. And every other household is a Itani household. So, bon chance!

The next day, another young man knocks -he didn’t knock actually coz I was about to close the door when he approached and asked,

– Fakhani delivery?

– Not here.

– Is this Itani building? (yes) Itani family? (not again!)

– Did they give you any other detail about the building? Is there a shop facing it? Below?

– Itani shop.

Aaaaaaarrrrrrgggghhhh. Whoever the idiot who is ordering stuff on Labban street in Hamra and using ITANI only as a reference to everything needs to grow up please. I am half joking and half serious, but please some maturity in giving these young men addresses to deliver your dinner in the rain!