• Harold Ramis Curriculum Guide


All sessions are 14 weeks.

Session 1 Session 2 Session 3
Comedy Theory Comedic Films Episodic Narrative: An Appreciation Films with a POV
Improvisation for Filmmakers: Ensemble Improvisation for Filmmakers: Scenes Improvisation for Filmmakers: Application
Writing Comedic Literature Adaptation Special Topics in Comedy
Fundamentals of Comedic Storytelling Finding Your Comedic Voice The Working Screenwriter
Filmmaking Filmmaker’s Laboratory Making The Short Film
The Director at Work Visual Storytelling
Lectures &Screenings Master Seminars
Film Screenings


This conversation series brings in some of the most successful creators currently working in the film, TV and short form content world to engage, inspire and advise. These seminars are practically focused on giving students the knowledge and skills needed for success in the industry. Capitalizing on the extended family of Second City alums and friends, these seminars offer exclusive access to artists who know the business, from New York to Hollywood.  You never know who might drop by!



Each week students screen films in the Harold Ramis Screening Room and engage in discussions about the aesthetic, historical, and cinematic importance with their classmates. This curated series expands students' level of reference by showing films that cover films from different eras, countries, and from a wide array of divergent voices.






In this course, we will examine the language, physicality, and structure of the great comedic films through the prism of the times in which these were created as well as how these films (and their offspring) remain relevant. By comparing and contrasting modern comedies with classics, we will show comedy can be used to express not just the times in which each was made, but also the universal issues that still confront us. To do this, class presentations will be broken down by specific epochs with classic comedy films chosen that illuminate the times as well as advance the form. Each week, a modern comedy will be assigned as outside viewing that brings the principles up to date. Each class will present one screening and will include additional clips to illustrate the points made.



This course is the study of improvisation techniques rooted in Viola Spolin’s work. Students will develop the skills to work and think in a collaborative environment. They will learn solid scene work steeped in the tradition of Second City’s techniques and philosophies. Students will learn to create with a focus on Character Point of View to drive the content of the story. Improvisational concepts such as give and take, surrender, support, mirror, explore and heighten, environment, object work, scenic structure, beats and editing, character and choices, will be explored in depth and applied in scenes.




Start your storytelling journey by reading the greats. Read works of the classic comedic authors from Aristophanes to Shakespeare and from Dorothy Parker to Steve Martin. This class helps students better understand where comedic narratives come from and how they are created. By raising their level of reference, students use this knowledge as a jumping off point to begin their own creative process.



In Fundamentals of Comedic Storytelling, students start their journey as a creator of comedic content. Students begin by writing a short story that will develop their POV (point of view) as an artist and act as inspiration for their further film work. Students read and analyze great screenplays to study scenic structure, screenplay formatting, how to write dialogue and deliver cinematic structure. This class culminates in writing a short screenplay that is read by actors from The Second City Training Center. By utilizing The Second City’s approach of creating from abundance and using improvisation to create character and behavior, students learn how to use this as an invaluable tool in their creative process.




Drawing on student’s own interests, instincts and observations, students are given the necessary tools to make a non-fiction film. Students are encouraged to find the comedic, absurd, intriguing and dynamic in the world around them. After shooting, students edit their projects and discuss the choices made both visually and structurally. Students then transition into fiction narrative and shooting exercises. Students begin to learn how to have a narrative POV and to understand how to speak the language of cinema. The class culminates in shooting a project with actors from The Second City Training Center.



In this course students will focus on text analysis and learning the language of actors. Working with classmates and actors from the second city training program, students will gain experience in effective casting as well as develop a vocabulary and techniques useful in directing actors. Simultaneously delving into text analysis, students will explore possibilities that reside within written works and begin making choices to realize their creative goals and comedic vision.







Following the first session watching the great comedic films, students are now immersed in the history of episodic narrative. From The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy to SCTV, Seinfeld and Modern Family, this class gives students a comprehensive look at this vibrant art form. Students also explore how the digital revolution has begun shifting audience-viewing patterns and analyze how that is changing the entertainment landscape.



Great scenes are the cornerstones of the work we do here and the films we want to create. Whether they are wickedly clever, hilariously absurd, or built on a sweet moment of vulnerability, great scenes make an impact on the audience. They are the moments that make watching films very special, and the best of them are talked about for generations. In this course, students dig deeper into the improvisational techniques behind great scene work. Hone your understanding of character behavior, performer commitment, and comedic structure. Students also study and play with various forms that we use to create and develop material.




Some of the greatest comedic films originated from literature. In order to truly understand how a piece of writing becomes a movie, students examine this creative transformation. Students study films like The Graduate, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Mrs. Doubtfire, Forrest Gump and Sliver Linings Playbook to understand just how adaptation works. Students read the source material and the screenplay and analyze each step of the process, culminating in the viewing of the filmed version. Additionally, students learn how to go about finding their own material to adapt and how to contact agents to secure underlying rights.



In the first session, students were introduced to the fundamentals of comedic storytelling and screenwriting and how to pull from one's own life to inform story. Now, students develop their comedic voice further  by writing a short film that will ultimately shoot in your directing lab. This is also when you determine what area you want to focus on for a final project. You may choose to write a full length feature screenplay,sitcom pilot or hour long pilot. The class culminates in staged reading of portions of your work by actors from The Second City Training Center.




Building on what you explored in the first session, students continue to shoot and edit small projects. These shooting exercises give students more tools to add to their skill set as an emerging filmmaker. Being versatile with an ability to work across mediums is how most filmmakers make a living today. As students continue to hone their artistic voice, they start to focus on a project written in Finding your Comedic Voice. Using class time, students workshop the film with other classmates and visiting artists to develop the characters, visual look, and production plan for this short film.



Style may set you apart, but it needs to be rooted in story and character. Now that our filmmakers know what it takes to work with actors and approach material as a director, they are ready to start defining their visual style. Students lean how and why to place camera to capture performance, deliver theme, and tell visual stories through concept. They start to dial in what film, filmmaking, and storytelling means to them. Finally, students execute a point of view as an artist in a final film and script that is the focus of session three.






From Chaplin’s The Great Dictator to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and Adam McKay’s The Big Short, there is a tradition of using entertainment not just to entertain, but to comment on society. In this class, we study political and social satire in film and TV, and analyze both the aesthetics of the works and the motivation of the creators.



At The Second City, we are interested in cultivating comedians and content creators with a strong point of view. We want our work to illuminate something about our world or our lives, to comment on our society. Students learn how Second City improvisers play with a point of view, and how our choices are a filter or lens through which to see the world. In addition, students learn how to step out of the ensemble to being the director of the ensemble and how that can pertain to directing actors and working with a crew. Learn about managing artists – including personality types, motivation/morale, and how students can use that to accomplish their creative goals.




This course continues the focus on creating one of the following as a final written project:  a feature length screenplay, hour-long drama, or a sitcom pilot that students chose to pursue in Finding their Comedic Voice. Using class time, students workshop, table read, and develop their idea into a script. Students finish the year with a completed script that reflects their sensibility and sense of humor.  The class culminates in staged reading by Second City trained actors.






Working from a script students created in Finding your Comedic Voice and work shopped in Filmmaker’s Laboratory, in this class students produce a short film. This class is where filmmaker's comedic points of view and technical skills are united in the creation of a final film project. After having learned different skills needed to make a film, students will now create something that reflects their artistic point of view and tells a visual story. Students receive help and encouragement from the  faculty and working professionals. In this session, students direct, cast, budget, produce, edit, and deliver their final film.



Although directors get most of the credit, writers are critical to any successful comedy. In this class, students study some of the most well respected writers and how they contributed to the success of many director's careers. Students also explore how to write when they are not directing the material and how that differs from being a writer/director. The goal of this class is to complete the circle of your year-long experience by learning how to balance the many roles a great storyteller can play in the filmmaking process.