Students Meet Award-Winning Screenwriters at Writing for Film and Television Residency

Four students sit at a lecture hall table, listening intently to a lecture

Emerson’s Writing for Film and Television graduate program is low-residency, meaning most of the coursework is online, but for one week at the start of each semester, students come together for an in-person residency. In today’s blog, we’re taking a deep dive into what the residency entails so you can have a better idea of what to expect. We’ll hear from an alum of the program and discuss key components of the residency, such as the Semel Chair feature, where an award-winning screenwriter teaches a master class. 

How Does the Residency Work?

Each semester, the Writing for Film and Television program begins with a week-long, in-person residency, held at either Emerson’s Boston or Los Angeles (LA) campus. The goal of starting the semester with a residency is to give students a chance to come together with their faculty and peers before they transition to their online learning environment. Every residency has a specific theme, from series television writing to the business of screenwriting. All of the instruction and work students complete during the residency tie into that semester’s residency theme. Students will meet with the faculty from their online courses, workshop their writing, pitch ideas for the scripts they’ll write that semester, and meet with their cohort of peers in person. 

Semel Chair

Each residency, students participate in a Master Class taught by the semester’s Semel Chair, an award-winning screenwriter. The fall 2022 Semel Chair was Adele Lim, Emerson alum and writer of Crazy Rich Asians and Raya and the Last Dragon. Other past Semel Chairs include Mara Brock Akil, executive producer of Girlfriends and Black Lightning, and David Magee, writer of Life of Pi and Finding Neverland

Current student Noelle Llewellyn says learning from the Semel Chair each semester has been an important part of her experience in the program. Her second residency in the program featured Britt Matt, executive producer of the hit Amazon series, Harlem. Noelle says, “Britt gave us huge intel into what makes for a stellar pitch when she had us pitch her our pilot ideas. Hearing about her professional progression and getting tips along the way provided us with once-in-a-lifetime access to the careers we are all aspiring to.”


In addition to the Master Class, the residency includes a number of peer workshop opportunities. During workshops, students get peer and faculty feedback on their screenwriting projects. “It’s inspiring to hear your work being read aloud and getting real-time feedback, as well as the multitude of unique ideas being written across the program,” Noelle says of the peer workshops. 


Beyond classroom learning and workshops, the residency is a great opportunity for networking. In the screenwriting world, connections are integral to success, and the residency gives students a chance to form important connections. 

Aerial view of the Boston skyline and a baseball field
Emerson’s Boston campus is in the heart of downtown

During the residency week, students have the opportunity to meet the Semel Chair and guest lecturers, who often include managers, agents, and more. Noelle says the guest speakers at the residency opened her eyes to many different career paths within the entertainment industry. “Hearing from speakers from unexpected industries as varied as animation and video production provided added value by exposing us to additional ways to break into the industry,” she says. 

Emerson’s low-residency Writing for Film and Television graduate program gives students the flexibility to complete their degree from home. While all of the program’s coursework is online, the week-long residency at the start of each semester gives students a chance to grow their skills and network in person. 

For more information about the Writing for Film and Television program, schedule a call with the program’s admissions counselor. Or, if you’d like to know what it’s like to be a student in the program, check out our Day in the Life blog about a current student.

Follow Olivia Wachtel:

Writing Assistant

Olivia is a second-year student in Emerson's Communication Disorders MS program. Originally from Ohio, she is loving Emerson and city life. When she's not writing for the Grad Life blog, she loves to read, bake, and crochet.

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