Storytelling technology

Last spring, a dozen communications students were offered a valuable opportunity to take a class taught by a successful Hollywood agent. RYAN SAUL ’93 has worked as a literary agent in Beverly Hills, Calif. for more than a decade, and he has brought his expertise to Bradley’s classrooms for more than six years. This year was the second time he taught Creative Storytelling, which he envisions as a precursor to a Bradley screenwriting class he often teaches with English professor Dr. Thomas Palakeel.

In Creative Storytelling, the students flesh out their plans for a 100-plus-page screenplay that they might later write in full in Screenwriting, a special section of COM 391. Saul teaches BU students how to make their writing commercial. “As we’re writing our screenplays, [Saul] is coaching us on how to make it interesting,” said former Bradley Scout editor PAT OLDENDORF ’11, a student in the class. “The goal is to make it so we could sell our screenplays if we wanted to.”

Saul, who has worked on such hits as Frasier, NCIS, and Chicken Little, relies on technology to instruct his students. The class meets six times a semester, in which students chat with Saul via Skype, a computer video-conferencing program. Each student also video chats with Saul on a weekly basis to discuss his or her progress. The technology allows Saul to bring in other working professionals, such as writers, to speak to the class.

The experience of taking the class via Skype has been mostly positive. Because they do not meet face to face, Saul and his students must work at their communication and often become better acquainted because of it. “With [Saul], he knows us, he knows what our experiences are, and we’re kind of forced to have one-on-one time with him,” Oldendorf said, “whereas with a normal professor, that’s not usually the case.”

“Writing in a structured way with someone who represents people who do this for a living is really unique,” Oldendorf said. “It’s an opportunity that, unless any of us actually goes into the field, we probably won’t have again.”

– By Ashley Huston '11