An affordable, practical, online course for developing and writing great screenplays.
What You’ll Learn
How to generate screenplay ideas.
How to assess your ideas.
How to create compelling characters.
How to approach screenplay structure.
How to build gripping scenes.
How to format your screenplay.
Develop and write a screenplay with this affordable, practical, online screenwriting course.
The course appeals to beginners and experienced screenwriters wanting a more systematic approach to their writing process.
The time you’ll spend actually screenwriting is only the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath is the effort you’ll devote to script development.
Six modules with step-by-step lessons and exercises take you from idea creation to final draft. You can work through the modules in the order given or tackle different sections in tandem. Redo portions for a fresh perspective or when you want to develop another screenplay.
We encourage you to keep your exercise notes safe, and revise them as you develop your script. For tracking and revising creative notes, use information organizing software or hierarchical note-taking applications. Free examples include Cherrytree, Notepad++, Treepad, Jreepad, Joplin, Atom, MemPad, and KeepNote.
For something more sophisticated, try Scrivener. It’s designed for writers and includes a screenplay format template.
You won’t start writing your film script until Lesson 40, which gives you plenty of time to decide on which screenwriting tool to use.
You can otherwise use Microsoft Word. This will involve setting custom margins and following other screenplay format requirements.
Suspension of disbelief
A screenplay describes what we see and hear in a film. It is a fully developed story written for the screen. Stories aren’t real, we design them. Even true or biographical stories get shaped into an engaging narrative.
When an audience watches a movie, they willingly suspend their sense of disbelief. They know the film isn’t real life but they’re prepared to immerse themselves in what will hopefully be a great story.
This suspension of disbelief is a fragile thing. If the story’s construction doesn’t convince an audience, or someone reading a screenplay, they lose interest.
So how do we make sure the film’s audience stays engaged? How do we keep a reader interested?
It’s no simple task!
Great storytellers are like skilled magicians. They do a first-rate job of making their “magic” seem real. If we peek behind the curtain or become a magician’s apprentice, we see how their magic works.
What is a story?
We’ll define it like so:
A story chronicles a series of linked events in which a relatable lead character tries to complete a challenging task. Regardless of whether they complete the task, the character fulfills a universal desire.
Let’s break that down.
“A series of linked events” means we need a pattern of cause and effect. One event causes another, and so on.
“A relatable lead character” means a protagonist the audience can root for. They are relatable because they have imperfect qualities people can identify with.
“A challenging task” means the character has to work hard to complete their task.
“Fulfills a universal desire” means regardless of whether the character completes the task, they gain something we all need or desire. This makes the story appeal to a wide audience.
An engaging story requires tension and suspense.
To create tension and suspense, we must have opposition to whatever the character is trying to achieve.
An audience cares about how and if characters overcome opposition, because we make these characters relatable.
To keep interest throughout the whole story, it must have escalating conflict.
We should keep building tension and suspense by raising the level of conflict.
One way is to raise stakes. Characters should stand to lose something important if they don’t make progress. The deeper we go into the story, the more the characters stand to lose.
An audience expects release from tension and suspense as the story climaxes. They want satisfaction in the conflict’s resolution and in seeing the lead character fulfill a universal desire.
When we watch a film or hear a story, we expect the ending to be worth our time.
The conflict needs to be resolved through the efforts of the lead character (with help from other significant characters). A screenwriter mustn’t cheat — no acts of god or chance events. No one waking up to find it was all a dream that doesn’t matter.
Module 1: Generate Strong Story Ideas
Let’s develop at least three story ideas. Repeat the module if you want to generate more.
Module 2: Assess Your Story Ideas
Assess your ideas to find which has the best potential to become a feature-length screenplay.
Module 3: Create Compelling Characters
Create and develop a range of interesting characters.
Module 4: Develop A Solid Structure
Organize your screenplay by adopting classic story structure. You can reshape and reorder elements later to suit your storytelling desires.
Module 5: Build Gripping Scenes
Drill down to the structure of individual scenes and sequences. These techniques keep your audience always longing to know what happens next.
Module 6: Screenplay Format
Before writing your screenplay, you must understand how to use standard screenplay format.
Module 7: Write Your Screenplay
It’s finally time to write. The work from previous modules will guide your progress.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to finish the course?
That depends on how much time you commit and how quickly you make progress. Developing and writing require periods of incubation, review, and revision.
Can I save my work?
Subscribers can save partially completed exercises and continue them later.
Is it possible to work on the exercises offline?
Enter a word or two in each field to complete the exercise. Once completed, we automatically email the exercise to you. From there, you can answer the questions more fully without being online.
Is the course just for feature-length screenplays?
We designed this screenwriting course for feature-length screenplays. The principles can, however, apply to writing short films and TV drama episodes.
The principles of the first five modules can also apply to writing novels and short stories.
Do you have a question? Contact us.
Choose Your Plan
- $ 2.95
- per month
- Full access
- $ 12.95
- per 6 months
- Full access
- $ 19.95
- per year
- Full access