Are you an aspiring screenwriter brimming with ideas and creativity? Possibly you have great ideas for movies and even tried your hand at writing them.
If you have ever tried writing a screenplay you will know that screenwriting is different from writing a novel or a story. It requires an understanding of certain techniques as well as principles of filmmaking and awareness of the ways to capture the attention of an audience. In this article, we will discuss possible ways to learn the art and science of screenwriting.
How can you learn to screenwriting? You can learn to screenwrite through:
- Screenwriting programs at Colleges and Universities
- In-person screenwriting masterclasses or workshops
- Online classes by screenwriting experts
- Screenwriting books
- Free online sources
But regardless of the learning method used, the truth is that mastery of screenwriting can happen only with access to the right resources and proper guidance combined with an intense will to succeed.
So since it is made clear that writing alone does not make a good screenwriter, let us look at some are underlying talents and skills that need to be taken into account for becoming one. These may be acquired through nature or nurture. Below are a few major requirements:
Since this is a creative field, having the ability to imagine creative storylines, engaging characters and powerful dialogues requires a lot of inherent creativity. To those without adequate creativity, this field might not be interesting at all. While with some effort, anyone can come up with stories, it is difficult to come up with an engaging and powerful storyline. Experience is important but the key factor underlying everything is always creativity.
It is not easy to get the big break as the screenwriting industry it is not a rapidly growing industry as say- programming and artificial intelligence. Patience is necessary both with yourself as well as with situations because there will be a lot of rejection, criticism and outright negativity that you might be facing in your quest for getting your script accepted.
Patience also required in developing expertise in the craft. Screenwriting is a skill that is developed over time and requires adequate time and exposure to be able to synthesize ideas gained from multiple experiences and create a winning screenplay. The screenwriter also needs to work under a lot of pressure and in multiple teams. So patience is a prime asset.
Passion is, of course, the fuel that will keep one going through tough times. Without passion for filmmaking and writing, there is no way the screenwriter can persist in this industry. Passion for the creative process and willingness to learn continuously are the driving factors for success in this field.
Many experts suggest that you should try shooting one of your own scripts for really understanding the nuances of screenwriting. When you actually shoot the scenes created by you, you will attain an understanding of what is doable and what is not. You will understand the difference between what looks good on paper but is impractical or ineffective while shooting. So many professional programs have project components that allow these students to shoot movies or short films based on their own screenplays and thereby experience firsthand the result of their work.
Here are some ways in which you can learn screenwriting. You may choose one or a combination of methods to gain mastery over the art of screenwriting and script development.
Top school programs for screenwriting
UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film, and Television offers programs in screenwriting at bachelor’s, certificate and master levels. Some of the graduates of UCLA are famous screenwriters such as Eric Roth(Forrest Gump), David Koepp(Spiderman), Francis Ford Coppola (Godfather) and many more.
The University of Southern California is also well known for its well-designed programs that help students gain a strong footing and build the skills in the craft of screenwriting. Some of the alumni from USC include David Goer (Batman Begins), David Marconi (Enemy of State), Erin Levy (Mad Men), etc.
New York Film Academy
Here you can get a wide range of programs from short term courses to full-fledged degree programs. The New York Film Academy prides itself on its hands-on and unique programs. Some of the notable students from here are Kemi Adesoye (The Figurine), Rob Margolies(She wants me), Bennett Joshua Davlin(Memory)
What is a screenwriting workshop? A screenwriting workshop is a short intensive course where you work on one or all the elements of screenwriting with an expert instructor.
This could be a one-day seminar or an 8-week class. These are great for people who are just learning to screenwrite or for people who need to get around creative people to jolt their excitement.
They provide you with the following:
- Hands-on feedback from a dedicated instructor who is there to see you complete a script.
- Most of them will cover multiple topics.
- The force you to actually write a script. Most writers struggle actually writing they become content with the ideas in their head rather than actually putting fingers to keyboards
Paid Online Programs / Courses
Can you learn to screenwrite online? Of course, you can and with the excellent programs now offered paid and unpaid you can get started on your screenwriting journey immediately. Here are some of the popular paid online courses:
Udemy (online screenwriting video course)
Udemy has become a very popular online platform for learning and has numerous screenwriting courses by well-known writers in film and television scriptwriting. Some of the courses that are highly rated are
Masterclass (online screenwriting video course)
Masterclass an online learning portal that is a class apart. The classes are offered by celebrities and well-known experts who have gained acclaim in their fields. For example, you have cooking classes by Gordon Ramsay, Gary Kasparov teaches chess and Jane Goodall teaches conversation.
Master class currently offers screenwriting program by Oscar winner and Hit TV show maker Aaron Sorkin and creative screenwriter David Mamet.
Script reader pro (screenwriting mentorship program)
Script reader pro is a website with a lot of resources for scriptwriters. They also offer a mentorship program for Screenwriters to improve their craft by working with experts.
Here an aspiring screenwriter can get personal guidance from experts in the entertainment industry. They also offer other services such as script feedback, script marketing guidance, etc..
Screenwriting books should be apart of every screenwriter’s learning process. Even if you are already doing one of the following ways to learn listen above it never hurts in your free time on a commute to open a book to learn just a little bit more. But not every book is gold. So I’ve compiled a list of the most important ones.
I can’t express to you enough how much the following books have helped me.
- Aristotle: Poetics / for screenwriters
- The Hollywood Standard (formatting book)
- Invisible Ink
- Save the Cat
- Your Screenplay Sucks
For more detail click the following:
Free Online Resources
Just because its free doesn’t mean it a bad option. Most people gauge their interest in screenwriting based on free content they find on the internet anyways. But it can be a definite learning tool in your pursuit of getting your first big check from a production house. I found three free resources with some links you can check out below.
1.) Read screenplays. Obvious right but there is a source that has almost every Hollywood script ever written and that’s Imsdb.com
2.) Reddit (a community of people who will answer your questions) Reddit is full of sub-communities one is /r screenwriting.
3.) Youtube of course but there are two YouTubers that I have found to be the best when it comes to screenplay knowledge.
LFTS: Lessons from the screenplay
He breaks down popular scripts while using the film as a visual narrative.
A youtube channel that interviews people in film. FOr the first couple of years, they mostly interviewed screenwriters in Hollywood.