The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

How a professor helped implement the screenwriting major at the UI

Anahita Ghazvinizadeh noticed a lack of proper emphasis on screenwriting at the university despite the number of alumni who have found success in film. She decided this needed to change.
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Cinematography filmmaking conceptual image in between takes

When Anahita Ghazvinizadeh began at the University of Iowa as an assistant professor in the Cinematic Arts department in 2018, she was excited by the number of successful alumni and the many opportunities young filmmakers had to succeed.

However, given the UI’s reputable writing program, she was surprised to learn the university did not offer a major specific to screenwriting for its undergraduate students.

The major, which started in 2019, now has over 100 students.

A filmmaker herself, Ghazvinizadeh received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Tehran University of Art in Tehran, Iran, in 2011. Two years later, she completed her master’s at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

After working as a freelance filmmaker for several years, Ghazvinizadeh applied for the teaching position at the UI. When she was hired, she became privy to the screenwriting initiatives across campus but was unaware there was no screenwriting major.

“I did not notice a lack of screenwriting because we already did have screenwriting courses,” she said. “We saw the lack of a major because, obviously, it’s a writing university. There’s all this high demand for screenwriting.”

She brought this to some of her co-workers in the department. Some of them, including professor emeritus Steven Ungar and assistant professor Anna Morrison, expressed a shared interest in building a specific curriculum for students interested in screenwriting as their specialization.

The curriculum they built along included introductory, intermediate, and advanced courses. Ghazvinizadeh also petitioned for the creation of three new screenwriting courses.

The UI’s screenwriting major is among the only specializations offered across universities in the Midwest.

“I think that makes it a unique program and makes it a perfect place for writers who are very educated with literature and writing in different mediums [to] create different stories,” she said.

The addition of the screenwriting arts major built on the creative writing tradition at the UI. Often, Ghazvinizadeh finds that different types of writing intersect during the screenwriting process.

“Being connected with other forms of writing is really important for writers or at least for writers who want to go out there with a unique vision and just some literary knowledge and skills,” she said.

Dean Bakopoulos, a current associate professor and head for screenwriting, said their curriculum helped screenwriting students spend more time to develop work that is needed to get jobs and internships.

“I think our majors have a chance to develop as an artist and not just like, ‘OK, I got this project this semester, this project next semester,’ but spend time thinking of what they’re interested in writing and leaving here at least with one script that they’re super proud of,”  Bakopoulos said.

One UI student enrolled in the program, Mark Fortunato, felt the screenwriting major was beneficial to his interests.

“I’ve always liked the idea of Hollywood films in general and being able to have my stories seen visually the way I wanted to be seen because in creative writing, people have to imagine what you write,”  he said.

Editor’s note: Fortunato is a former employee of The Daily Iowan.

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Sophia Connolly
Sophia Connolly is a first-year honors student studying journalism and mass communications. She is interested in politics, community events and exploring unique perspectives. After college, she plans to go to law school or graduate school.