Introduction to Screenwriting (Online)
There's never been a better time to start a career as a screenwriter. With technological breakthroughs bringing the cost of making and distributing movies down to almost nothing, there's going to be a huge demand for great scripts—and for people who can write them.
Whether you want to write micro-budget indie films or Hollywood blockbusters, this course will teach you everything you need to know to create a script that can sell. You'll start with the fundamentals of stories—why audiences need them, what they expect from them, and what kinds of stories work time after time. Then you'll learn how to write your own. You'll see how to come up with an idea, how to develop that tiny spark into a story, and finally how to structure it into a screenplay.
But story and structure are only the beginning. You'll learn how to create characters audiences will believe and how to write dialogue that will bring them to life. You'll discover the secrets of constructing scenes that audiences won't be able to stop watching and how to make every moment of your screenplay count. And you'll see how to take your good first draft and turn it into something great.
Along the way, you'll get hands-on experience through a series of short—and fun!—writing assignments that will have you working like a pro from the very beginning of the course.
Finally, you'll get an inside look into the business of selling your script and building your career as a writer. You'll find out about agents and producers, contests and consultants, studios and scam artists. When you finish the course, you'll be ready to start writing your own script, and you'll know how to sell it once it's done!
Why Write a Script Now?
In our first lesson, we'll discuss the increasing opportunities for new screenwriters and all the ways you can use those opportunities to build your own career. You'll find out why it's going to be so much easier to get a movie made in the near future and what that could mean for your career as a writer. Then you'll get an insight into the three basic elements that any script needs to succeed: a great concept, compelling characters, and a strong structure. Finally, we'll examine what your script needs to look like, and we'll explore ways to achieve that easily. By the end of this lesson, you'll be ready to dive into this exciting world.
What Is a Story?
In this lesson, we're going to explore why we don't just love stories—we need them. We'll search in our distant past to discover where stories come from, and then we'll rocket back to the present to understand how they work. We're going to examine the rules that define Western storytelling, and then you'll learn the one simple sentence that will allow you to create compelling stories for your own scripts. Finally, we'll take a close look at the master story that underlies almost every other story ever told and find out how it can help you shape your own stories.
In this lesson, we're going to look into the very heart and soul of any story—the conflicts that drive it. We're going to pull some stories apart to see why they don't tick, and then we'll put them back together the right way so they do. You're going to learn about the one central feature that defines every story, and the seven conflicts that define all stories. Finally, we're going to examine how you can take a deeply personal internal story and turn it into a movie that audiences will love.
In this lesson, we're going to unlock the secrets of creating great characters. We're going to blow up the stale formulas of "building profiles" and focus on the essence of your characters instead of the details. We'll find out how to strip characters down to the central conflict at their core, and then we'll explore ways to build them back up into living, breathing human beings. And then we'll see how even the most brilliantly developed characters can fall flat on the page and how to bring them to life.
In this lesson, we're going to blast through all the reams of nonsense that have been written about the mysterious complexities of the three-act structure and reveal how simple and elegant it really can be. We'll analyze what goes into each of the acts, and figure out how to use them to tell an unforgettable story. And we'll tackle the dreaded task of outlining, explaining why it's essential—and how to make it easier and more productive.
In this lesson, we're going to take a hard look at how to start your stories. We'll examine the subtle elements necessary to get your script off to the right start and explore the ways you can accidentally send your audience off-course. Then we'll tear apart the opening of some great movies to see what makes them tick. Finally, we'll tackle the one quality your first pages need more than any other.
In this lesson, we're going to tackle the hardest part of any script—the second act. We're going to explore the reasons why it's so much more difficult to plot than the first and third acts, and then we'll zero in on the one sure way to make sure you'll always have enough story to fill the great middle of your screenplay. Through close examination of one brilliantly structured script, we'll discover the essential element that keeps stories alive through act two. Finally, we'll take a hard look at act two's crucial structural component, and how you can make it work for you.
In this lesson, you're going to find out why some scripts have endings you'll never forget—and some have finales you'd rather not remember. We're going to explore the mysterious, contradictory nature of the great ending, and you'll discover how those last few scenes can completely transform everything that's come before. Then we'll tear apart a few finales to understand why some soar and others sink. Finally, we'll take a hard look at that most difficult ending to pull off, the big twist.
In this lesson, you're going to take those first steps from outline to script. You're going to see the difference between a scene that exists as a paragraph in an outline and one that comes vividly to life on the page. You'll dive into the process of creating exciting scenes that pop from the first line and how to keep them going until the end. And finally, you'll learn the one trick that will always turn a flat scene into one that sings.
Dialogue . . . or Not
In this lesson, you're going to learn what makes film dialogue special, and how you can use it to create and develop your characters. You'll get a tour through various types of dialogue with stops to explain the particular challenges each one poses and the rewards each brings. You'll find out why screenwriting is the one place where it's never good to be on the money, and how to get off it. And finally, you'll get a map to tell you how to avoid the biggest trap in writing dialogue.
In this lesson, we're going to celebrate our finished first draft—and then leap into rewriting it from top to bottom. We'll explore what the real purpose of the first draft actually is and how to get the most out of it. We'll find the joy of the accidental discovery and investigate how to use that to make the script better than you ever consciously knew it could be. You'll get a demonstration of how this works in practice. Finally, I'll give you a step-by-step roadmap for approaching your rewrite.
Your Script and You
In this lesson, we're going to take your finished script and turn it into a movie. We'll explore the ways you can get your script to the movers and shakers in Hollywood—and divine which movers and shakers you should target. We'll weigh the merits of agents and managers, contests and script analysts who promise to get your screenplay to all the top executives. Then we'll take a clear look at an alternative way to get your script made into a film that reflects your vision. Finally, we'll talk about ways to encourage and manage your growth as a writer while you work toward your big break.