Master Serial Storytelling
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»How to be a staff writer; or, why there is no I in team.«
Lawrence Meyers, Inside the TV Writers’ Room
The MA Serial Storytelling at the ifs internationale filmschule köln is Europe’s first Master’s Programme focusing on collaborative writing for series.
Focusing on both local and international series markets, this intensive two-year master's degree programme combines story development skills, collaboration techniques (»Writers’ Room«), and the innovative approach of artistic research.
Students work with highly acclaimed international guest speakers and scholars, such as Jane Espenson (Battlestar Gallactica, Game of Thrones), Kath Lingenfelter (Westworld), Lisa Albert (Mad Men), Annette Hess (Ku’damm 56/59/63, Wir Kinder From Bahnhof Zoo), Oliver Kienle (Bad Banks) or Jeppe Gjervig Gram (Borgen, Follow the Money).
The programme is supported by industry partners such as RTL Media Group, ZDF, SKY Deutschland, Paramount, btf bildundtonfabrik, Série Series, Series Mania, and the Film Festival Cologne.
The Master's programme »MA Serial Storytelling« guides young professionals in exploring, conquering, and expanding forms and methods of serial narration for TV and digital platforms. Accompanied by renowned series creators, script consultants, and media scholars, the students analyse the secrets behind the success of popular series and develop their own innovative series concepts. Series dramaturgy, character development, and collaborative writing processes (»Writers' Room«) are at the center of their practical work.
In addition to narrative and media-theoretical content, the programme conveys the basics of transnational markets and new media platforms, also supports the students in exploring innovative narrative forms, work structures, and distribution channels.
With a strong focus on collaboration skills and innovative strategies, the MA Serial Storytelling provides aspiring series writers with exceptional learning experiences:
Relevant Skills for a Wide Range of Career Paths
- acquiring a wide-ranging skill set that combines the tools of professional screenwriters and an in-depth knowledge of creative teamwork
- mastering models and methods of serial storytelling formats
- developing 4-5 series projects with different formats over four semesters
- creating fascinating characters, compelling ensembles, surprising plots, and sustainable concepts
- mastering key soft skills such as pitching, networking and negotiating
- gaining hands-on experience in collaborative as well as individual screenwriting, including the creation of a complete drama series within a writers’ room led by an expert professional showrunner
Industry Insights and Networking Opportunities
- learning from highly acclaimed international writers, producers,
- enjoying privileged networking and pitching opportunities, e.g. at international series festivals such as Seriencamp Munich, Série Series in Fontainebleau or Series Mania in Lille
Artistic Research and the Social Responsibility of the Storyteller
- exploring philosophical and ethical topics and expanding the knowledge of serial storytelling in academic as well as artistic research projects
- discussing pressing social issues as well as current trends and visions of future series markets, formats and ways of distribution with acclaimed experts from various fields
- transforming these findings into exciting, innovative, and relevant serial narratives.
For the majority of courses, the group of 16 students joins together. Thus, most classes in this programme mostly are held in English.
However, for more elaborate writing projects and for classes geared to specific series markets, students may split into two tracks: In these specific cases, students of the international track study in English targeting international audiences, while students of the German-language track study and write in German with a focus on German-language series markets.
From the beginning of their studies, MA Serial Storytelling students start expanding their professional network by meeting creatives and gatekeepers from the industry as guest lecturers, when pitching their semester and Master’s projects, and during in-house industry events. In addition, they enjoy privileged networking and pitching opportunities, e.g. at international series festivals such as Seriencamp, Série Series in Fontainebleau, Series Mania in Lille or the Film Festival Cologne.
Talented aspiring series writers with advanced team working skills, an interest in academic and creative research and at least one year of relevant work experience.
Series writers are skilled professionals who are able to combine top-level creative work with the ever-changing demands of markets, audiences, schedules and budgets. They know how to create characters, arenas, themes and stories that capture audiences throughout numerous episodes and seasons. They are excellent team workers and can deliver high quality scripts on schedule. As the job profile of a series writer differs from country to country, the MA Serial Storytelling aims to equip aspiring writers with the skills needed to write both independently and as part of a collaborative writing team with a focus on the US writers’ room model.
By intertwining theory and practice – and in frequent exchange with the series industry – the MA Serial Storytelling sets out to combine screenwriting craft with collaborative story development techniques and artistic research with creative experimentation and socially relevant topics.
For a more detailed overview of the curriculum see degree structure in the download section below.
Semester 1: Recap and Introduction
- Recap Screenwriting Tools
- Series History
- Introduction to Series Writing
- Analysis of Existing Series Formats
- Introduction to Collaborative Story Development
- Digital Short Formats
- The Social Responsibility of the Storyteller
Semester 2: Mastering Existing Series Formats
- Writing for Existing Series Formats
- Writers’ Room Techniques
- Developing Contemporary Series Formats Collaboratively
- The Social Responsibility of the Storyteller
Semester 3: Innovation and Artistic Research
- Research Project
- Writers’ Labs
- New Media / Transmedia / Interactive Storytelling
- Developing Innovative Series Formats Collaboratively
- The Social Responsibility of the Storyteller
Semester 4: Master’s Project and Bridging
- Master’s Project
- Business Skills
The MA Serial Storytelling is a 120 credit points (ECTS) full-time two-year master’s degree programme. In the first three semesters, attendance on campus is required for a period of approx. 15 weeks per semester, with courses running five days a week from 10 am till 4 or 5 pm. In-between lecture periods there are extensive writing assignments. During the fourth semester, which is dedicated to writing the master’s project, there are approximately five weeks of obligatory attendance, including colloquia and presentations.
Each module is concluded with an exam in the form of a (creative or academic) writing assignment or an oral presentation.
The programme concludes with the master's project: an original series concept and pilot script. This written exam is supplemented by an oral examination (colloquium).
In the colloquium, students elaborate on their dramaturgical choices and on other aspects of their series projects.
After successful completion of both the written and the oral part of the Master's examination, the academic degree "Master of Arts" (M. A.) is awarded.
STUDYING IN COLOGNE
Media Hub Cologne and NRW
Cologne, a city with a 2000 year heritage, is a buzzing media hub. A third of Germany’s TV programs are produced in Cologne. Key TV and radio stations, numerous renowned film and TV production companies, and more than 70 print and digital publishing companies are based in the city, drawing a creative and artistic crowd. In addition, a large and still growing number of exciting international productions are made in Cologne and NRW.
The ifs is located in the creative and media quarter Schanzenstraße in Cologne-Mülheim – next door to TV production companies, studio facilities, publishing houses, a radio station and the municipal theater.
Fees and Financing
The tuition fees for the MA Serial Storytelling are 2,750 euros per semester for EU citizens and 3,750 euros for non-EU citizens.
The ifs is a cooperation partner of the TH Köln and all ifs students are enrolled at the TH Köln and can use the services offered by the TH, such as the semester ticket for public transport, access to the TH's International Office or to the sports courses and facilities.
The course list contains all events within the scope of the study programme and special events at the ifs.
The module handbook provides in-depth information on the curriculum.
The examination regulations provide a structural overview of the modules in the master's programme.
Carolin Groẞe Hellmann
Leitung Serial Storytelling
Leitung Weiterbildung Drehbuch
Leitung European Showrunner Programme
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Koordination Serial Storytelling
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Koordination fächerübergreifende Veranstaltungen
Studierenden- und Prüfungssservice
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Internationale Angelegenheiten / future.film.education
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