Online Class: Screenwriting 101

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Course Description

Welcome to a basic, nuts-and-bolts online course designed for people who wish to write screenplays, but don't know much about it. Because screenwriting is demanding both technically and has such a small market for jobs and sales, this class 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-stories can be debated endlessly, but it works, it's very functional, it's fairly easy to understand, and you'll need at least a passing familiarity with this mode of expression for your stories. We'll show you how to get in touch with the industry, the markets, what's selling, where to find opportunities and how to deal with industry people. Approach your work  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 Requirements

At least a high school reading and writing educational level is required.

Course Goals


  •  Understand your motivations for getting into screenwriting, and the realistic chances of success.


  • A brief look at the recent history of screenwriting and some well-known writers and scripts.


  • A summary of markets and trends.


  • A cold, hard look at formatting and the essential knowledge needed for a properly presented manuscript.


  • A discussion of story-types and genre-writing.


  • Mastering your plot with time-tested methods.


  • How to utilize characters and reveal character in your scripts.


  • A look at writing comedy.


  • A look at 'high-concept' writing.


  • A look at writing action stories.


  • A discussion of dialogue and making character-speech work well.


  • How to break down barriers and get your first screen credit.


  • Thoughts on the writer's work-environment and professional standards.


  • How to handle submissions, queries, loglines and treatments.


  • Some information on agents, resources for writers, and 'for-hire' writing.


  • A discussion of some traps not to fall into when pursuing screenwriting.


  • And a look at documentaries and video script-writing.
  • Course Materials

    All course materials will be online and no outside purchases will be required.

    Grading Policy

    The course consists of seventeen lessons. At the end of each lesson will be at least one writing assignment and a lesson review quiz based on the lesson material. A percentage grade will be given based on point accumulation.

    Course Topics

             Lesson 1: Why Get Into Screenwriting and What Are My Chances of Success?

             Lesson 2: A Brief History of the Screenplay

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

             Lesson 4: Getting Started---Mastering Screenplay Format

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

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

             Lesson 7: Mastering Characters and Character Development

             Lesson 8: Writing Comedy

             Lesson 9: How High is High Concept?

             Lesson 10: Writing Action Stories

             Lesson 11: Writing Dialogue

             Lesson 12: Breaking Down the Barriers

             Lesson 13: Work Environment and Professional Standards

             Lesson 14: Submissions, Queries, and Loglines.

             Lesson 15: Getting Representation

             Lesson 16: Welcome to Hollywood

             Lesson 17: Documentaries, Video Scripts and Other Types

    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.
    • Know 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.
    • Know getting representation, and
    • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

    Assessment Guide

    Assessment Points
    Lesson 1 Assignment25
    Lesson 1 Review15
    Lesson 2 Assignment25
    Lesson 2 Review15
    Lesson 3 Assignment25
    Lesson 3 Review14
    Lesson 4 Assignment25
    Lesson 4 Review14
    Lesson 5 Review15
    Lesson 6 Assignment25
    Lesson 6 Review15
    Lesson 7 Assignment25
    Lesson 7 Review14
    Lesson 8 Assignment25
    Lesson 8 Review14
    Lesson 9 Assignment25
    Lesson 9 Review15
    Lesson 10 Review15
    Lesson 11 Assignment25
    Lesson 11 Review15
    Lesson 12 Assignment25
    Lesson 12 Review14
    Lesson 13 Review15
    Lesson 14 Assignment25
    Lesson 14 Review14
    Lesson 15 Assignment25
    Lesson 15 Review15
    Lesson 16 Review15
    Lesson 17 Assignment25
    Lesson 17 Review15
    Total Points:575

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