The screenwriter is the person who creates, takes, or adapts an idea and formulates a screenplay. Without the writer, there would be no movie. Period. He or she is the person who starts the ball rolling down the hill. Sure, some films are made backwards. There are studios who come up with ideas and package actors, then go find a writer. Nevertheless, the film getting made still hinges on the writer or group of writers ability to put together a viable, industry quality screenplay.
The Script is King
This is a term used throughout both Hollywood and “Indiewood.” What it means is that at the end of the day, the most important element comes down to the script. Many of the best films in cinema are considered such not because of the stellar performances of the actors, the action sequences, or the effects. These films are considered great because of the script or screenplay. Movies such as “Pulp Fiction” and “Chinatown” are renowned for their reliance on tight action and plot. Movies such as “Streetcar Named Desire” “Casablanca” and “Ordinary People” are known for their dialogue, material that enabled actors to give vivid, powerful performances. Your job, as the writer, is to produce the KILLER SCRIPT.
The Killer Script
The “Killer Script” is the script that isn’t merely good. It is beyond good, and it is beyond great. IF you have a Killer Script, when someone reads it, they read it in one sitting, and immediately get back to you.
When an actor reads it, he or she gets his or her agent on the phone. When a production company reads it, the project is green lit.
Here is a universal truth that many people do not know (even many who think they are in the movie business): KILLER SCRIPTS GET MADE. Remember that. It’s the good, mediocre, and downright horrible scripts that constitute 99% of what other writers put out there. Our Screenwriting Film School Course is geared towards empowering you to write your own KILLER SCRIPT.
With the right experience and connections, you can jumpstart your career in the film industry.
Meet our Faculty
Why learn from teachers when you can learn from the professionals?
Zef Cota Learn Screenwriting Mentor
Zef Cota Learn Screenwriting Mentor
Alphabet City Films is a film production company based in New York City, NY. We are a collective of writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, and other talented filmmakers. We have created many short films, and recently produced our first feature length film: The Trouble.
With a background in visual media, director Marc Silber has interviewed scores of entrepreneurs, CEOs and creative professionals over the years. His interview series has received hearty praise and has helped countless business leaders and artists tell their story.
A film and television studio executive and producer for over twenty years, Craig has directly overseen, managed, and/or produced 25 films and seven network series with budgets totaling over $500 million.
Craig is known for his project-management skills, having close working relationships with talent and directors, producing big looking, studio-quality content on tight budgets, quickly providing workable solutions for development and production issues, and completing projects on time, on budget.
As Senior Vice President of Production, Programming and Creative Affairs for MGM Television Worldwide Inc., Craig had direct oversight of all content development, and oversaw pre-production, production, post-production, while working with business & legal affairs, marketing, and promotion. His MGM product was nominated for 10 Emmy awards and numerous others including DGA, Golden Globes, PGA and SAG awards.
He oversaw studio projects such as the series Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate: Universe, Dead Like Me, and The L Word, as well as Showtime Movies Inherit the Wind, Twelve Angry Men, In the Time of the Butterflies, That Championship Season, and Rocky Marciano, which opened the Monte Carlo Film Festival. Craig has worked with a wide range of talent, from well-established actors and directors to breaking new talent.
Craig grew up in Los Angeles and Colorado, working summers on ranches breaking and training western saddle horses. He attended Columbia University, working his way through school as an actor on NBC’s soap opera “Another World,” while learning production work skills for quick, quality content.
America’s Production Company was established in 2005 by Kel Thompson who has degrees in photography & advertising from Texas State University. Kel is also a graduate of the Palm Beach Film School. Kel was first published in photography at 17 years old in TX. Kel worked for News24Houston as their first helicopter videographer, before being hired by a major event production company in Florida. Two years later he established America’s Production Company after learning the ropes in photo, video, audio and event production.
“Young people are the future of this industry. Mentorship programs like The Film Connection are the most efficient and effective ways for anyone who has a passion to gain the information and experience necessary to be successful!”
A native of Atlantic Beach, Mitch Kaufmann has been offering video services to area businesses and residents since 1984. He started Atlantic Video Productions by shooting weddings, business seminars, and sporting events.
“I’m Eero Johnson. I’m a film and video producer living in Bellingham, Washington. For over ten years I’ve been creating commercials, corporate videos, web videos, sales DVD’s, music videos … whatever it takes to get your message to your audience. I have a great group of clients and I love what I do.”
In a career spanning nearly 20 years, Chris has worked in almost every facet of video production, from lens to post. His credits include EPK work on “Sleepy Hollow”, “Under The Dome”, “The Longest Ride”, “We’re The Millers”, “Iron Man 3”, “One Tree Hill” and more.
John Raffo started as a photographer in New York before turning his attention to screenwriting. Over the last twenty years he’s worked on a variety of credited and uncredited projects (including,DRAGON, THE BRUCE LEE STORY, THE RELIC, and THE INTERPRETER”). His original screenplay RENKO VEGA AND THE JENNIFER NINE appeared on the 2011 Black List. THE 7TH SWORD is his first story written directly as a graphic novel.
17 time Emmy award winning DP/Camera Operator, Producer and Director with over 20 years of experience in the Film, Television and Audio business. Extensive professional experience for top clients across the country from Miami to Anchorage, from New York to San Francisco. International production experience in South & Central America as well as China for both documentary and commercial production. Well versed in handling both low and high budget production ($1k to $3.5m). Professional still shooter as well with full ProFoto strobe lighting and speedlight kits. Lots of contacts in the Detroit metro area and in major cities across the globe for every type and size production – full cinema production, 3D production, aerial shoots, camera car, crane/jib, etc. I also have shot, explored, camped and lived all over Michigan – I know the state EXTREMELY well, particularly it’s remotest regions.
Dream Team Directors is a prestigious directorial team founded by Bayou Bennett and Daniel Lir. Their company motto, “Let our dream team manifest your dream”, symbolizes the expansion and positive attention they win for their celebrity and high-profile brand clients and collaborators such as Adidas, MTV, Coldplay, P. Diddy, Smashbox Cosmetics, Atlantic Records, Chrome Hearts, Oscar De La Renta, Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo, Golden Globe nominee Anthony Mackie, Matt Bennett of the “Big Bang Theory” and Lea Michele of Fox’s “Glee.”
Award winning director, Horacio Jones is a multi-faceted Video Producer, Director, and Editor. He has turned CinemaViva into one of the leading video production studios in San Diego. In addition to making outstanding corporate video productions, he is committed to making socially conscious and inspiring films and documentaries that bring magic into peoples lives in fun and colorful ways.
Deen’s most recent film is “Warfare”, which was screened at the heart of Dallas and several other cities across the United States. Deen has also worked on several feature, short films and other content, which include “Kanaani” (Popular TV Series”), “The Call”, “King Sacrifice”, “Who Am I” , and “Dancing With The Docs-Texas”. (TV Series). He is currently working on his next projects “The Alarm Clock” (Short Film) and “Eze Back To School” (Feature Film) all coming up in fall and winter 2016.
Deen believes the RRFC program is great because it’s one of the few reputable schools that teach you on the field which he states is a great way of learning.
“The Film Connection allows aspiring writers to work with professionals. The students not only learn theory, but practical applications to screenwriting. I wish it was around when I was a student.” — Rex Piano, Producer/Director, Impact Earth, Fall of Hyperion, Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire, Murder Dot Com, Hope Ranch, The Month of August
Matt Kaczkowski graduated from Winona State University with a BA in Mass Communications Broadcasting. He spent three years as a DJ and produced an award-winning radio production. Prior to starting SilverWater Productions, Matt was an event planner and A/V services coordinator for 4 years. Matt’s passion for film and video is a catalyst for SilverWater’s success.
In 2000, Demetria established Genuine Human Productions, writing, directing, shooting and editing true stories about real people…genuine humans. Demetria Kalodimos has anchored and reported television news for more than 30 years. She’s won some of journalism’s most prestigious awards including 15 regional Emmys, 2 National Headliners and 2 Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards.
Michaluk has been creating award winning Film & TV productions for over 15 years. His Film Clients include Columbia Pictures, Indian PaintBrush, PBS, NBC, American Empirical Pictures and Fountainbrush Films. His Television clients include NBC, Television Academy / Emmy’s, MTV, Viacom, E! Entertainment, CBS, ABC, Travel Channel, Leftfield Pictures, PETA, and others.
Alejandra Huerta specializes in On-Screen Promotions, Executive Presentation Tapes and Sizzle Reels. She started her career with Andromeda in Miami offering Production Services to MTV Latin America as an editor for on-air promotions. She then relocated to New York where she became a successful producer and editor for Viacom and NBC Universal. After her professional experience in NY she relocated to Florida where she continues to manage, produce and edit projects at Andromeda Productions.
“The thing I admire most about the program is that it pairs you with people doing the job that you are aspiring to do. In doing that, I feel it gets rid of the “glamour” that people associate with this business, and helps them realize that it is, in fact, A JOB. It takes hard work, a lot of practice and a sincere courtesy towards one’s colleagues to get ahead and stay relevant; not that tired stereotype of the suffering artist that won’t settle for anything less than his vision of perfection! I don’t think they teach you that at traditional film schools.” — Joaquin Franco Palma
Joaquin Franco Palma was born and raised in Los Angeles and is a first-generation American. Having started his career as a production assistant, Joaquin has gone on to become an award winning writer and director of both independent features and TV; most notably, as a staff writer on the Emmy nominated HULU series, EAST LOS HIGH. Aside from writing for the screen, Joaquin is also a published author of fiction and is a youth writing volunteer for the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND and NOSOTROS ORGANIZATION programs.
I started getting serious about making videos during summer backpacking trips with my friends between college semesters at Central Michigan University. Shortly after graduating, I was asked to produce a local TV show. I jumped at the opportunity and never looked back. Since then, I’ve produced videos for documentaries, national ad campaigns, and commercials for multinational companies. Recently I was part of a team that produced videos for Lansing’s Silver Bells in the City, and we received an Emmy Award for special event coverage.
My introduction to the business wasn’t with videography; I was a wedding DJ for nearly 8 years. Through this experience, I discovered that weddings are not only among my favorite things to be a part of, but also to film. I love capturing the excitement, love, and energy surrounding them.
When I’m not editing videos – haha, funny joke – I like to make music. In fact, I serenaded my wife Amanda with my ukulele for our first kiss. True story! I also try to get out to the backcountry wilderness with just a backpack from time to time, especially in beautiful northern Michigan.
Over fifteen years post production experience in Orlando—Grant has provided video editorial, 2D & 3D animations, and motion graphics for a multitude of media clients through his post production company, GFX Creative.
Short & Long Format Video Editorial, Event & Theme Park Animations, Infomercials, Broadcast Commercials, Corporate Communications and Interactive Media for The Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios, Sea World, Lockheed-Martin, AAA Insurance, 3M, Siemens, Honda, A&D Medical, Toyota, FedEx and others.
Jae Macallan is the owner, producer, and lead editor for Yoyostring Creative in Seattle, WA., with satalite offices in Portland, OR and San Diego, CA. Yoyostring produces traditional video as well as animation, 360 VR, live video switching and video mapping.
“Simply put, there is no better or more effective way to teach anything than one-on-one, mentor to student. This is what the Film Connection does.” — Ron Osborn
A writer/producer in television for 35 years, Ron has been nominated for 7 Emmys, 3 Cable Ace Awards, and 2 Writers Guild Awards on shows like MOONLIGHTING, THE WEST WING, and the adult animated DUCKMAN. He has written pilots for every primetime network, numerous cable networks, as well as movies like MEET JOE BLACK; and has developed feature projects with Steven Speilberg, Ron Howard, and George Lucas, among others. .
“The Recording Radio and Film Connection is such an effective program, because it takes the student out of the classroom and puts them in the very field they seek to be a part of. With mentors that actually work in the student’s respective field, they get first-hand knowledge of how everything works and just what to do. I think it’s the best way to get hands-on experience and the lessons learned are very valuable. I also think that the interview process helps to match a student with a mentor that will be right for them.” – Sam Borowski
Directed and produced the feature film, Night Club starring Oscar-Winner Ernest Borgnine, Natasha Lyonne and Paul Sorvino. Wrote and produced the feature-length documentary Creature Feature: 60 Years of the Gill-Man with Oscar-Winner Benicio Del Toro and narrated by 2-time Emmy-Winner Keith David. Also directed and produced the film Maniac.
We dissect a script to find out what makes it a killer script. We also discuss the importance of reading classic screenplays and begin understanding the essential elements that all good screenplays have in common.
Lesson Two: The Story
Everything starts with the story. What story are you trying to tell? Is it based on a true story, a book, or some other published work (an adapted screenplay), or an original idea that you came up with (an original screenplay)? You will learn what it really means to write what you know and that every script has a beginning, middle and end.
Lesson Three: The Three Act Structure and Plot Points
Pretty much all movies follow the same plot format, which consists of three separate sections of a film to tell a story. This is called the 3-Act Structure.
Act One: The Setup
Act Two: The Confrontation
Act Three: The Resolution
Lesson Four: Character
Your characters must be alive. Your characters must be real. Some of the greatest screenplays of all time are great not just because of the memorable lead and supporting characters, but the one-line characters that are featured. Sometimes a character can say one line, and you instantly feel you know him or her. Every character in your screenplay (especially your lead characters) has to have substance. Substance is achieved by back story.
Taking What You See
Lesson Five: Theme/Genre
This lesson defines the kind of film you are writing. Genre is defined as a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content. For films, genre is the form of film that your story is going to reveal.
As well as these variations:
Dramedy (Drama and Comedy)
“Theme” is different from genre. A theme addresses the question “What’s it about?” in a topical, idealistic sense. A story can be made deeper by adding a theme.
Examples of themes include:
Additionally, this lesson will spend time getting you ready to sell your screenplay.
Identifying the Genre
The Two Line Pitch
The Two Movie Pitch
Lesson 6: Actions and Descriptions
A screenplay has to move. We’ve talked about having a beginning, a middle and an end. All of the scenes within the three acts must be targeted to move the story along, whether it’s character exposition or action.
The Novel vs. The Screenplay
Write What’s Seen
Writing Scene Action
Shooting Scripts vs. Reading Scripts
Lesson 7: Formatting
If you submit a script to a literary agent, and it is typed in Microsoft Word in Times New Roman font, it will most likely never be read and end up in the trash. Screenplays have to follow certain rules:
They need to be formatted correctly.
They need to be the proper length. A screenplay page is roughly a minute of movie length, so a 120 page screenplay is a 2 hour movie.
They need to be printed and presented correctly
In marketing, “packaging is everything.” If you plan on selling your script or raising money to produce your own film, you need to know how to format and present your finished screenplay.
Which Screenwriting Software to Use
Your Title Page
Lesson 8: Dialogue
When writing dialogue, you’re not writing what looks good on the page. You’re writing what sounds good. One of the best ways to become good at dialogue is to listen to the people around you. Every line you write should be able to be spoken aloud, and you should be able to visualize and hear your character saying that line of dialogue.
You have to try to be as tight and as economical with your dialogue as possible. Try to never “over-write.” Again, this is a screenplay, not a novel. People rarely talk in paragraphs. Make all your words tight and to the point.
Giving Your Characters a Voice
A Word on Narration
Do You Ever Use It?
Lesson 9: Synopsis and Treatment
The short synopsis is a one to two paragraph summary of your story. Be careful here. You don’t want to give away the ending! You just want to give a quick rundown of what the story is about. This is another one of those tools that helps you both before you write (it gives you a short, tight picture of your story),and after you write (your short synopsis is many times the way to get your foot in the door).
The Long Synopsis
The Four Page Treatment
Lesson 10: The Scene Outline
Start getting excited, because you are very close to beginning your KILLER SCRIPT. The outline is an essential tool for many writers. Though many veteran WGA writers still use outlines, it’s quintessential for beginning writers who have never completed a script to have a general idea on where, specifically, they are going.
Marking The Plot Points, Acts, Midpoints and Climax
Sample Scene Outline
The Main Rule of Writing
Create Your Rock
Lesson 11: The First Draft
As we mentioned in the last chapter, the main rule of writing is to not be afraid to write crap. You have to understand that even the best writers in the world do not write brilliant masterpieces on their first drafts. Many of the greatest screenplays of all time have been written and rewritten numerous times over. Just focus, get excited, and begin to write.
Create Your Rock, Part Two
Pushing to the End
You’ve finished your rough draft screenplay. Isn’t it a great feeling? It’s fantastic to hold those 120 or so pages, 3 hole punched, 2 brass brads and say, “I did this.” Okay, don’t get too confident. The script you hold in your hands you will show to NO ONE. EVER.
The First Read
The “Professional” First Draft
Making a Cohesive Story
Judging the Logic and Movement
Lesson 13: Polishing
The first aspect of your script polish deals with tightening. As we stated in the last lesson, you MUST have a script that moves. After your first rewrite, you might have altered major aspects of the story. Now it is time to polish them. Polishing the script is like operating with a laser. Another way to look at it is that you’ve now shaped the rock, but it’s time to pull out the small chisel and start working away.
“Tightening” is the process where you make the script shorter and quicker. There’s no such thing as a script that reads too fast. You need to be economical on your dialogue and your action, but not lose essential elements.
Fixing a Scene’s Structure and Flow
Making It Error-Proof
The First 10 Pages
Know this: at this point in time you’re too close to your script. Even the most veteran of writers, when they are finished with their first drafts, might have an idea how good/bad their screenplay is, but they never truly know until they’ve gotten “The Good Read.”
The Good Read is the read by an objective person who will cover your script and give you feedback. This shouldn’t be a friend or a family member, even if you find them critical or think they’re objective. They’re not. They know you and they have a sense of you, so their view of your script is always tainted.
Where to Find Good Readers
How to Interpret Their Notes
Lesson 15: Rewriting, Part Two
One of the essential steps in your second rewrite is to identify the problems that the “Good Readers” pointed out. What do you need to change? How do you change it? Again, the best way to improve something is to see how the problem areas in your script were resolved in a successful script. If one of your consistent notes from your readers were, “I wasn’t buying the action sequences,” for example, then you know you’re not writing great action sequences.
Continuing with this example, you’d need to refer to at least two screenplays where the action sequences are known to be excellent. Always, always refer to what has worked in the past. That’s what makes this course and its approach to screenwriting instruction so powerful. We’re using the technique of “modeling” to create a KILLER SCRIPT. “Modeling” involves duplicating successful paths so that you can be successful as well. You’re going to be modeling your KILLER SCRIPT after the techniques and qualities that previous KILLER SCRIPTS had!
Don’t Be Afraid to Kill Your Babies
Go Back and Read
Lesson 16: Agents
Literary agents serve to sell your screenplay in exchange for a 10% commission. They have the connections to the studios and the production companies who buy your script and potentially make it into a film. In essence, that’s what you’re paying the 10% for…their contacts and relationships. The more powerful the literary agent, the more pull he or she has with the studios and major production companies.
The Query Letter
Getting Them to Read Your Script
Lesson 17: Selling Your Script
There are tons of scripts written each year. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has less than 12,000 members. Of these members, only a small percentage are making a living by writing. Becoming a professional writer takes time, hard work, and talent. As we stated earlier in this course, if it was so easy to sell a screenplay for mid-six figures, everyone would be doing it.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself and plan for success is to write a KILLER SCRIPT. That’s what matters in the end. If you can create a true Killer Script that’s backed up by good reads, and has been rewritten, and can potentially be reshaped (more on that in the next lesson), you have a much better chance at a sale.
Don’t Be Afraid
Lesson 18: Rewriting, Part Three
Okay, so maybe your script isn’t selling. Maybe you can’t get an agent, even after you’ve gotten some great feedback. What are you doing wrong? Perhaps your script needs to be altered. Maybe if you wrote a thriller set in the 1970’s, it needs to be moved to present day. Maybe you’ve written your lead character as a male and you might need to change him to a female. There are so many variables.
The key is, you need to be flexible and open to changing your script. A script is almost never finished. Once your script is optioned, it will be rewritten many times, and by time the screenplay makes it to the screen, the script may be completely different. You must be open to this.
Be Open to Changing Your Script
Writing is Rewriting, but…
Lesson 19: On Set/Credits/WGA
Sometimes it seems like the writer has one of the least important roles on set, and, in many ways, that’s true. You, as the writer, were the inspiration and the cause of a film. You created (or adapted) the ideal. As a result of that blueprint a movie will be made. And even if you singlehandedly wrestled that idea out from the depths of your imagination and have turned it into a great screenplay, it’s time to get out of the way.
It’s true… when it comes time to shoot a film, the writer’s job is regulated to the sidelines. That’s exactly why, according to the WGA, the writer has to be paid in full 100% by the time production starts. Their work is done—kind of.
Your Job On the Set
Lesson 20: Your Career as a Writer
The killer script is your ticket to making a career as a screenwriter. You can become a professional writer if you work at it persistently and regard this as a career not a hobby. As your read more, learn more, and write more scripts, remember to always look into the great screenplays you’ve studied and consider what worked and why it worked. Get to knowing and seeing what is on the page of screenplays in your mind’s eye. Recognize the problems you come across in those less-than-fantastic scripts you read (there will be many). In short, task yourself with developing a deep understanding of writing film. And even though the screenplay is a document of words that serves as the blueprint for movie, always work to entice the reader who is holding that script in their hands. Make it enticing to read.
Establishing a Body of Work
Coursework is delivered via distance education and completed at a location determined by the student. Apprenticeship (Externship) locations can be up to 60 miles away from the student’s address. The apprenticeship (externship) mentor will work with each student on structuring a specific schedule, the student agrees that he/she will be available to meet with the mentor for a minimum of two sessions per week.”