"A vibrant and stimulating community of writers that people can access from their own living room."
Distance learning is a popular option for many as it allows students to study from anywhere in the world at a time and pace that suits them.
The MA Screenwriting at Bournemouth University (BU) is a prime example of distance learning at its best.
The course’s excellent reputation has attracted high calibre applicants from the media world, such as a Guardian journalist, Channel 4 news producer, documentary filmmakers and novelists. But applicants do come from all walks of life, including a police officer and an oil industry executive, each looking to hone their craft as screenwriters for film and television.
"The thing that draws them all together is a passion for writing," explains course leader Rosie Cullen. "The course allows students to develop screenwriting to an advanced level."
The course is part time, so most students keep their jobs and study from as afield as Japan, Sri Lanka and Germany.
Much of the course content takes place online, with lectures, seminars and discussions making up an active online forum that undoubtedly forms the backbone of the course. "It’s a vibrant and stimulating community of writers that people can access from their own living room," says Rosie.
Experts from the screenwriting world regularly visit and contribute to online discussions, such as writer Olivia Hetreed (‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’) and Dominic Minghella, creator of the comedy-drama series ‘Doc Martin’ starring Martin Clunes, and BBC One’s recent production of ‘Robin Hood’.
As well as the vibrant online community, students do get the chance to sample the delights of the South coast and use the industry standard facilities in the Media School at BU. There are four residentials over the two year part-time course, each consisting of five intensive days of workshops, seminars, lectures and networking opportunities.
2010 graduate Emma Boucher, who is currently writing a ten-episode series called ‘Button Box Tales’ for Turner Kids, said: "We had some really interesting lectures packed into our residentials and it was great to meet with the other screenwriters on the MA."
She continued: "Throughout the course we got to write a variety of scripts for both film and TV, completed units in script reading and industry practice and had the opportunity to work with production students to see our shorts brought to life."
"The course offers a really full picture of the industry, as well as plenty of opportunities to write. It was also important for me to be able to keep my full time job and study on the side."
Fellow 2010 graduate Dominic Brancaleone now works as a full-time writer for an audio production company. He praised the course’s online "hub" that "almost mimicked the way writers in the industry work."
"I enjoyed the range of modules that sought to challenge us as writers and push us in areas we may not have previously considered. I also found my cohort very interesting; it was a real privilege to be studying with so many talented people from all over the world," he said.
Other successful alumni include 2005 graduate Helen Bagnall, who received a New York Kidscreen award for her teen drama ‘Aisling’s Diary’ last year. Myles McLeod co-founded BAFTA nominated animation company The Brothers McLeod and Nell Denton has written extensively for the stage and TV series’ such as Doctors.
Now in its 9th year, the course has never been stronger: "Accreditation and support from Skillset has meant that the programme goes from strength to strength in terms of industry connection and involvement," said Rosie.
"Closer links with production courses mean our students gain an opportunity to have a short script produced. This year also sees the first Southern Script Festival at the end of March which will bring together a host of exceptional industry professionals, an exciting script competition and opportunities to network and pitch projects."
For more information on MA Screenwriting, including our course video, please click here.