Online Class: Screenwriting 101

This is a basic, nuts-and-bolts course, for people who wish to write screenplays, but don't know much about it.

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  • 17
  • 31
    Exams &
  • 1,840
    have taken this course
  • 12
    average time
  • 1.2

Course Description

This is a basic, nuts-and-bolts course, for people who wish to write screenplays, but don't know much about it. Because screenwriting is demanding both technically and in the market for jobs and sales, 'Getting Into The Screenwriting Game to Win' attempts to go through each essential aspect needed for a beginner to get started, stick with it, and yes, make a sale or get a job.

In this course you will learn basic rules and skills. There's no excuse for a poorly formatted script, you're really only wasting your time. Traditional three-act structure for film-stores can be debated endlessly, but it works, it's very functional, it's fairly easy to understand, and you can't neglect at least a passing familiarity with this mode of expression for your stories. Get in touch with the industry, the markets, what's selling, where to find opportunities, how to deal with people. Approach your work standards and work environment seriously, because you'll be spending a lot of time there. If you get a deal, don't get screwed for careless anticipation of the money involved, and if you get screwed, don't be surprised. And remember that if you can't make it to the top and win an Oscar for some super-big film you wrote, it's still a wonderful way to make a buck at your computer doing smaller gigs and 'for-hire' work.

Screenwriting is also therapy. It's good for you, and your imagination and thoughts will develop wonderfully as you work through each visualization---but be sensitive to the audience, don't exploit our world with endless images of violence and gore (at least not without a reason), and don't hop in bed with unethical projects or money-sources just because you can. It's a wild world for films and film-makers---stay on the bright side and keep it safe and legal.

The hope is that for the beginner, this course presents a working knowledge of what is needed to get started writing screenplays in a realistic and informed way. Beyond this, you're now free to roam where no screenwriter has gone before---and what a wonder it is to wonder.

Course Motivation

It's hard to say why anyone starts out to write. There can be a lot of reasons, and they tend to grow in our hearts like a garden, often based on the envy and admiration we have for the gardens of other, more successful writers. Most writers will read the works of others in their young years, and the writer's life we hear about can be a fond sort of dream. Wealth? Fame? Fans? Saving the world? Well, what's your poison? So, before you leap atop the great white stallion of your imagination and gallop off to fashion yourself as a screenwriter, it's truly worthwhile to ask yourself why you want to put so much work into it and what your chances are for the success you want and deserve.

Let's define our terms: a screenwriter composes scripts that are produced as material for some kind of motion picture. Yet, some people might be satisfied with writing one short film, maybe 20 minutes long, and seeing it produced. They might even do this for free, for the simple joy of it, and never write another screen story. Another person might obsessively pursue only a full-time, life-long career as a top flight screenwriter with high pay and many big budget film credits. Or you may wish to write for TV, documentaries, corporate videos, and commercial spots. Believe it or not, you might want to write a screenplay or two just for yourself.

Screenwriting is an incomparable delight. For the modern person, who may have seen thousands of screen stories, it's a mode of expression that places you in the driver's seat, visualizing something you feel strongly about in your own way and in your own words. It's a chance to strike back and become an active producer of work, rather than a passive consumer of the work and thoughts of others. Like all serious writing, it's a tedious process and a lot of work. However, the personal rewards and satisfaction are real, therapeutic, visceral, and fun.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself, before deciding that you want to be a screenwriter:

  • What is the real reason that I feel working as a screenwriter is something I want to spend time on?
  • In my own view of things, what do I feel a screenwriter really does and what does the working life of a screenwriter actually involve?
  • If I have the success I want as a screenwriter, what will I be doing, what rewards do I expect, and how does that success seem like it will take shape for me personally?
  • If I fail as a screenwriter, will my life be destroyed and will I end up living in the gutter, homeless, or bankrupt?
  • Am I really the type of person who would endure long hours at a computer keyboard alone with myself?
  • Do words, thoughts, ideas, and concepts come easily for me?
  • Am I fearful of a blank page or do I enjoy jumping into the abyss of the uncreated?
  • Do I often finish long or demanding projects that I start?
  • Do I work well with other creative people who may or may not fully appreciate my artistic efforts?
Your answers here can help you think realistically about the journey. Let's face it---screenwriting is a dream job, full of glory and wonder, glamour and respect, position and power. Literally millions of people attempt screenplays in this era of computers, vastly advanced media applications, and ever expanding film, TV, and video outlets. The question is not what makes you different or better than the rest; the question is if you really feel you are suited to succeed and whether or not you're willing to do the hard work required for even a reasonable chance of victory.

If those answers are yes, then congratulations----you really do want to be a screenwriter. You may even comprehend what you're getting into. Like any other business, your chances of success depend on a myriad of factors. Some of these you control; some you don't. It also depends on what you mean by success---or what success means to you.

You might calculate it this way (rather coldly). There may be 1,000 serious film productions completed in the free world in the course of a year. That's a bit generous, but let's include short films, videos, and very low budget projects. Add in TV, in its many forms, and you can get to maybe 2,000 solid, paid screenwriting jobs. Throw out pornography or any kind of harmful work. If you include vanity projects, such as individuals who want a screenplay about their life or family and are willing to pay for it, commercials, and whatever else is written for the screen on a paid basis, let's put the number at 5,000 paid screenwriting jobs each year in the Western world. 
In the 'spec screenplay' market (original screenplays, usually by beginners, written entirely without any production backing, financial offering, or status as commissioned work---that is, 'on speculation'), the common knowledge is that there are at least 100,000 of these new works each year and maybe more. If that means there are 100,000 hard working and brilliant new screenwriters out there every year competing for these 5,000 jobs, your Las Vegas style odds for success are about one in twenty. Or, out of 100,000 serious new wanna be screenwriters, only one in twenty can expect to find work in a given year. Does that make sense?

No, it really doesn't, if only for the sake of the writers who won't make the cut. But remember, you can always grab a $300 mini-DV camera, some light stands, and some unemployed actors and film your own script. The cost today is lower than ever and yours may be the eye, the hand, and the mind that enlightens others. 

  • Completely Online
  • Self-Paced
  • Printable Lessons
  • Full HD Video  
  • 6 Months to Complete
  • 24/7 Availability
  • Start Anytime
  • PC & Mac Compatible
  • Android & iOS Friendly
  • Accredited CEUs
Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider

Course Lessons

Average Lesson Rating:
4.6 / 5 Stars (Average Rating)
"Extraordinarily Helpful"
(2,375 votes)

Lesson 1: Why Get into Screenwriting and What are My Chances of Success?

This lesson describes the different kinds of screenwriting opportunities, types of jobs, and motivation factors. 41 Total Points
  • Lesson 1 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Screenwriting; Reasons for Taking this Course
  • Complete Assignment: Introduction
  • Complete: Lesson 1 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 1 Review

Lesson 2: A Brief History of the Screenplay

This lesson explains how screenplays have evolved. 40 Total Points
  • Lesson 2 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 2 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 2 Review

Lesson 3: Markets, Current Trends, and Where Beginners Fit In

This lesson gives basic guidelines for beginner screenwriters. Additional lesson topics: Screenwriting Resources 39 Total Points
  • Lesson 3 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 3 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 3 Review

Lesson 4: Getting Started: Mastering Screenplay Format

This lesson describes how to format a feature film script. Additional lesson topics: Dialogue Writing Tips 39 Total Points
  • Lesson 4 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 4 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 4 Review

Lesson 5: Story Types, Genre, and Targeting Your Script to Sell

This lesson deals with the different types of scripts that film producers are looking for. Additional lesson topics: Marketing a Screenplay; Movie Genres Examples 15 Total Points
  • Lesson 5 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Genre
  • Assessment: Lesson 5 Review

Lesson 6: Mastering Plot, Story, and Basic Three Act Structure

This lesson describes the Three Act Structure and the plot of the story. Additional lesson topics: Poetics 40 Total Points
  • Lesson 6 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 6 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 6 Review

Lesson 7: Mastering Characters and Character Development

This lesson describes how to take your experiences in life and develop characters for your scripts. Additional lesson topics: Creating Characters 39 Total Points
  • Lesson 7 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 7 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 7 Review

Lesson 8: Writing Comedy

This lesson describes how to effectively write comedy. Additional lesson topics: The Seven Laws of Comedy Writing 39 Total Points
  • Lesson 8 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 8 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 8 Review

Lesson 9: How High is High Concept?

This lesson deals with the issue of writing an original piece versus a storyline that has been done before. 40 Total Points
  • Lesson 9 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 9 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 9 Review

Lesson 10: Writing Action Stories

This lesson describes how to write action stories using super heroes, great chases, and tension building scenes. 15 Total Points
  • Lesson 10 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 10 Review

Lesson 11: Writing Dialogue

This lesson gives some tips on writing good dialogue. 40 Total Points
  • Lesson 11 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 11 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 11 Review

Lesson 12: Breaking Down the Barriers

This lesson deals with how to get film credits and sell your scripts. 39 Total Points
  • Lesson 12 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Credits
  • Complete: Lesson 12 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 12 Review

Lesson 13: Work Environment and Professional Standards

The lesson addresses the idea that where you work effects how you work. 15 Total Points
  • Lesson 13 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Work Space
  • Assessment: Lesson 13 Review

Lesson 14: Submissions, Queries, and Loglines.

This lesson offers some pointers on how to get your material noticed. 39 Total Points
  • Lesson 14 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Queries
  • Complete: Lesson 14 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 14 Review

Lesson 15: Getting Representation

This lesson deals with writer's resources, for-hire jobs, and getting representation. Additional lesson topics: How to sell your movie ideas to Hollywood 40 Total Points
  • Lesson 15 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 15 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 15 Review

Lesson 16: Welcome to Hollywood

This lesson deals with problems you don't want to encounter in Hollywood. 15 Total Points
  • Lesson 16 Video
  • Assessment: Lesson 16 Review

Lesson 17: Documentaries, Video Scripts and Other Types

This lesson offers some of the choices available for screenwriters. Additional lesson topics: Documentary Screenwriting 40 Total Points
  • Lesson 17 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Let us know what you think of this course; Course Comments; Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course)
  • Complete: Lesson 17 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 17 Review
Total Course Points

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Identify why choose screenwriting as a career and estimate the chances of success.
  • Describe the history and evolution of the screenplay.
  • Describe markets, current trends, and where beginners fit in.
  • Summarize mastering screenplay format.
  • Describe story types, genre, and targeting your script to sell.
  • Describe mastering plot, story, and basic three act structure.
  • Describe mastering characters and character development.
  • Describe writing comedy.
  • Describe writing action stories.
  • Describe writing dialogue.
  • Define work environment and professional standards.
  • Summarize getting representation.
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

Additional Course Information

Online CEU Certificate
  • Document Your Lifelong Learning Achievements
  • Earn an Official Certificate Documenting Course Hours and CEUs
  • Verify Your Certificate with a Unique Serial Number Online
  • View and Share Your Certificate Online or Download/Print as PDF
  • Display Your Certificate on Your Resume and Promote Your Achievements Using Social Media
Document Your CEUs on Your Resume
Course Title: Screenwriting 101
Course Number: 9770545
Lessons Rating: 4.6 / 5 Stars (2,375 votes)
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Availability: This course is online and available in all 50 states including: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas.
Last Updated: August 2022
Course Type: Self-Paced, Online Class
CEU Value: 1.2 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Instructor: Dana Kristan
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Course Fee: $95.00 U.S. dollars

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Student Testimonials

  • "This course was fantastic, I'm looking to convert some books and short stories I have written into screenplays. This has been incredibly informative." -- Paul H.
  • "This course was indeed helpful, and I had fun doing it. Near as I can tell, Screenwriting 101 doesn't need anything at all included - it's a fantastic experience as is." -- Berenger D.
  • "Great course!" -- Latina F.
  • "I loved this course. it was highly informative." -- Keith J.
  • "This course was extremely helpful." -- Malinda M.
  • "Great, thank you, I'm so glad I took this course." -- Jacinta L.
  • "I loved the course and the instructor." -- Lanna L.

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