Being a screenwriter is no small feat. The screenwriter is the person who creates, takes, or adapts an idea and turns it into a screenplay or script. Without the screenwriter, there would be no movie–period. The screenwriter is the person who starts the often solitary process of imagining, thinking, planning, and ultimately getting that screenplay formulated into the following: acts which build upon one another and propel the action forward, scenes which heighten the tension and hinge on conflict, and characters whose words and actions ring true, in order to ultimately deliver words which leap off of the page, into the mind’s eye of the reader.
While it’s true that there are movies which start with the studio, come up with the basic ideas, and attach the actors, in most cases, the screenwriter is the person who gets the proverbial ball rolling down the hill. Thus, the professional screenwriter is a creative pragmatist who knows how to prepare for the mission ahead, by fortifying themselves on research, and operating with a keen understanding of structure, dramatics, and mastery of the form.
If you are someone who wants to get your own film made and years to share your solitary vision with the world, know this: your success hinges on your screenplay. Even if directing is your first love but you plan to write that killer script on your own, take to the challenge with serious commitment. It may look and sound easy but that’s deceptive. Your success starts with a quality, viable screenplay people want to see, which engages the reader’s senses, whets their appetites, and activates their imaginations.
The Script is King
Spend some time in Hollywood or any filmmaking environment and you’re sure to hear the phrase “The script is king.” What that means is that, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the quality of the script.
Many of the best films in cinema are don’t owe their greatness to the actors’ stellar performances, deft action sequences, or amazing effects. These films are considered great because of the script or screenplay.
Quentin Tarantino’s low-budget gamechanging film Pulp Fiction and Robert Towne’s Chinatown are renowned for their reliance on tight action and plot.
Movies Streetcar Named Desire Casablanca and Ordinary People are known for their dialogue, material that enabled its actors to give vivid, powerful performances.
Newer KILLER SCRIPTS which are destined to be classics include Jordan Peele’s plot-twister “Get Out” and Dan Gilroy’s crime thriller “Nightcrawler.”
Your job as the screenwriter 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’s as true today as it was fifty years ago: KILLER SCRIPTS GET MADE. Remember that. It’s the good, mediocre, and downright horrible scripts that constitute the vast majority of what other writers put out there. Our screenwriting workshop is different than those filmmaking and screenwriting schools and programs which focus largely on learning film criticism and rarefied stuff which almost no one working in film today gives a care about. At Film Connection we’re serious about empowering you with the tools and expert instruction you need to write your KILLER SCRIPT.
Now can we guarantee that you’ll write a KILLER SCRIPT? Of course not. With us, you’ll get one-on-one remote training from an experienced filmmaker who will work with you to develop your idea for a movie into a complete, polished screenplay.
With the right experience and connections, you can jumpstart your career in the film industry.
* Not all programs are available in every state. Consult an Admissions Representative to learn more.
Meet our Mentors
Why learn from teachers when you can learn from the professionals?
John Boros Learn Screenwriting Mentor
John Boros Learn Screenwriting Mentor
“The captain and anchor of our ship, guiding his crew with a father’s compassion and an uncle’s knack for mischief.”
UFC 111 fight – Cinematographer, Animal Planet – Most Outrageous – 3 documentaries – EA Sports international commercials Kyrie Irving – NBC – HBO – Full flight features – Very astute cinematographer – Worked on film “21” – Edited TV series “Folk Lorist” – Extreme Makeover – AD Bo Burnham – International campaigns for Coca Cola
Following a spirited and notorious adolescence in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Joe did a stretch at New York University and ended up spending nearly a decade as an accomplished part of the New York City’s lively film and TV industry. During this time, he racked up credits ranging from producing feature films premiering at international film festivals to directing and producing content for a variety of national cable television networks. His most recent film is the locally-shot award-winning feature Forged. Joe is an active board member on the boards of Dress for Success, The Scranton Club and the American Advertising Federation of NEPA. Joe is also a member of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the American Association of Political Consultants, and two time Pollie award winner.
John Lux is the Chief Operating Officer for the IDEAS media and experience design company, which employs film program graduates nationwide. The projects his company handles stretch from Florida, to Europe, and as far as Shangai, China.
Rebecca Ramon hails from Battle Creek, MI and is a proud Midwestern girl. She believes that’s exactly what keeps her down to earth and youthful. With a BA in Broadcasting & Cable production from Western Michigan University, and an MFA in Film Production from Chapman University, one of the top ten film schools in the nation, she’s definitely standing on her own two feet. Not only does Rebecca have a formal education, her mentor for post production was Paul Seydor, a member of ACE; the honorary society of motion picture editors. Paul edited movies such as “White Men Can’t Jump” and “This Christmas”. In other words, she has learned from the best, and has over ten years of experience, which ranges from pre-production to post-production in several mediums. Most importantly, she has the passion to share her knowledge as a mentor.
The BSP editing facility sets the standard for editing in Colorado. Three video edit suites utilize “Premiere Pro CS6”, “Final Cut Pro” and “DaVinci” and project Panasonic High Definition 1080p images on to 110” Stewart Screens.
Steve is an award winning producer, director and writer of over 250 films, documentaries, television shows and home video properties, including specials from the Olympics, Super Bowls, World Series, NBA and NCAA Championships, and college football bowl games.
Avery O. Williams works steadily in both the film and theater worlds. He is the co-writer of the feature film Directing Eddie starring Valerie Perrine and Jade Barrymore, directed by Lawrence Kaldor which premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and was voted Best Comedy at the 2001 New York International Independent Film & Video Festival. He wrote and directed the industrial film for the City of Atalanta entitled Surviving Domestic Violence and he wrote and co-produced the film short The Willie Witch Projects, which was showcased at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival and is distributed by Trimark Pictures in their compilation entitled The Bogus Witch Project. Other short subject screenplays that have been made into films include Notes In A Minor Key, The Willie Witch Projects and The Chocolate Factory, Part 1.
Greg Freeman is an award-winning Director of Photography with nearly two decades in news, sports, entertainment, special programming, documentaries, and commercials. Greg has directed projects for nearly every major television network including ABC, Discovery, ESPN, HBO, HGTV, NBC, PBS, and more.
Past productions include LMN’s Monstresses; Investigation Discovery’s Cuff Me If You Can; America’s Most Haunted and UFO’s Crashed my Vacation; America’s Most Secret and I Faked My Own Death for Discovery; National Geographic’s 42 Ways to Kill Hitler and Don’t Try This At Home; Vampire Secrets and Ancient Ink for The History Channel; Las Vegas Bikers for truTV; Weather Channel’s Full Force Nature; True Confessions for WE-TV as well as Beyond Death and Investigative Reports for A&E.
“All aspects of filmmaking are primarily experiential, so a program like this one gives the students what they need most- the opportunity to DO.” — Matthew Temple, Producer of “The Advocate” and Universal’s “Dragon Nest: Warriors’ Dawn”
Matthew Temple has long stood at the crossroads of art and social action–his work and passion split between telling stories and participating in the creation of new paradigms wherein new stories for the future can be created. As a storyteller, he works as a screenwriter, director, producer and actor. As a social entrepreneur, he is the founder and president of the non-profit WeStrive, where he is the executive director of the Wandering Reel Traveling Film Festival. Temple is currently VP of Production and Development for Mili Pictures Worldwide.
Nick is your basic military brat. Except for the fact that neither of his parents were actually in the military. But, like many military families, his family moved several times during his youth, living in Omaha, Chicago, and Minneapolis among other places. And although he wasn’t living on military bases, he developed a deep interest in History, and all things military. Ask him about the Battle of Tarawa in 1943, and you may just get an entire lesson on the Pacific Theater of World War II. When he’s not painting tanks for his war game simulations, Nick works here. He shoots video. He edits video. He talks about World War II. A lot. Anyone who comes into contact with Nick will become much better versed in the history of mankind and all the wars it has produced over the years. Nick provided 50% of the formula that founded Full Effect Productions over 18 years ago, and has played a vital role in its success. Nick is a 1987 graduate of the University of South Dakota, and his previous experience includes working at a local TV station as Commercial Videographer/Producer. Not taking a cue from his parents, Nick has decided to keep his family in one city, and has called Sioux City, Iowa home since 1988. He has a wife of 29 years and an adult son and daughter. In his free time, Nick can be found studiously painting small military ships, tanks and airplanes. He has amassed large numbers of these items that comprise entire military units used for battles at the MAGECON gaming convention. He’s a film buff who’s recently installed home theater has him positively giddy, and hardly ever seeing daylight.
Rob has experience with major corporate ad agencies Publicis, Medicus, Digitas based in New York and Chicago. He has always been on the bleeding edge of technology and believes that services should be simple for the viewers.
Washington Koen Media Productions is a full-service media production company specializing in video productions, streaming video solutions, presentations and audio/visual support for organizations both large and small. Whether corporate video presentations, documentaries, live streaming of meetings, or web streaming solutions, our highly-skilled and creative team- with over 20 years of combined experience – using today's latest tools and technology, can produce quality results for your company
In 2013, Brian Glazen co-produced an independent film called Fishing Without Nets. This film went on to win for Best Direction at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and recently sold to Twentieth Century Fox for distribution to theaters nation wide.
Seasoned film development executive, writer and script consultant with exceptional story development and script analysis skills. As a development executive I’m particularly adept at pinpointing the problems in a script and coming up with creative solutions. I’m a passionate collaborator who creates a fertile environment where writers can bloom and scripts can meet their potential.
As a writer for hire I pride myself as bringing my story sense, knowledge, talent and unbridled imagination to the table in order to bring the producer’s vision to life.
As a storyteller I always aim to entertain, engage, surprise, move and provoke.
Craig Constant is an Executive Producer at Constant66 Films. After leaving the Marine Corps, he worked as a Photojournalist/Editor for the Fox News Channel for close to seven years. Since then, he’s worked as a Sound Technician, Production Sound Mixer, Camera Operator and Director of Photography.
In this lesson, we begin your screenwriting education by dissecting a script to find out what makes it a KILLER SCRIPT. How does this screenplay stand up against other, less masterful scripts? What stays with you after you read it?
We then dig into the essential elements all good screenplays have in common, from Star Wars, to Rocky, to Casablanca. Together, we uncover the reasons why getting the right education in screenwriting includes reading and honing one’s understanding of the dynamics and antagonisms which are always at work in great screenplays.
Then, we’ll discuss why reading the “classics” is paramount for anyone who wants to grow an insider’s knowledge of script-writing and go on to write the KILLER SCRIPT.
Lesson Two: The Story
Whether you’re in Hollywood, Bollywood, Indiewood, or on some soundstage in Atlanta, New York, Charleston, or Ontario, everything starts with the story.
So, what’s the story are you’re burning to tell? Is it based on a true story, a book, or some other published work (an adapted screenplay), or is the idea entirely your own, hatched from your own imagination (an original screenplay)?
In lesson two, you will learn what the writing maxim “write what you know” really means. Then you and your mentor will discuss why every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Behind all great cinematic films is an adherence to structure. Rebel against it as you like, structure will forever be the backbone of great stories which, when handled expertly, become great screenplays and ultimately great movies.
A note on adapted screenplays: Not all great books make for great films. If the book you want to turn into a movie takes place through a first person point of view (POV), or if it tells the story of a writer, thinker, artist, or individual whose activity is one of the mind, you may want to reconsider your choice of subject.
Another maxim of screenwriting is to “write what’s seen.” They’ll be more on that later. Sure you can say good movies been made about artists, writers, philosophers, etc. Certainly! But in so doing, many screenwriters adapt what was originally told in a first person POV into 3rd person POV. Others attempt to leap into the character’s minds by showing their daydreams, dreams, or visions. Still others never clearly establish POV and therefore disrupt the audience’s ability to empathize with the main character and feel compelled to find out what’s going to happen next, rather than confused about what just happened.
In any case, stories told “in the mind” do not generally result in good screenplays, so beware!
Lesson Three: The Three Act Structure and Plot Points
Nearly all films follow the same plot format, which consists of three separate sections of a movie to tell a story. This is called the 3-Act Structure.
Although the manner by which various writers tackle and categorize the Acts may vary, the underlying structure is so universal that audience members naturally expect and anticipate for the movies they watch to unfold in a 3-Act Structure.
The Setup and The Confrontation, comprise Act One and Two, which may be seen as a “ratcheting up” of plot points and rising action which persists and increases all the way until the needle-sharp climax, followed by the shoring up of various narrative threads addressed in The Resolution of Act Three.
Act One: The Setup
Act Two: The Confrontation
Act Three: The Resolution
Lesson Four: Character
Your characters must be so alive, so convincingly real that they seem to leap right off of the page. What they say, what they do, and how they do it even when they’re way out on a ledge, hanging-on with one sweating palm, pushed miles beyond their comfort zone, must ring true.
Some of the greatest screenplays of all time aren’t great just because of a memorable lead or well-executed plot twist. Sometimes a character can say one line, and you instantly feel you know him or her.
In short, every single character in your movie, from the leading man to the sultry seductress, to the street-sweeper who finds the body, has to have substance. There’s no substitute to doing the work it takes to achieve this.
Every character in your screenplay has to have substance. Substance is achieved by the development of a solid backstory. In lesson four, we’ll discuss the development of character and the relationship between character and story which are equally co-dependent i.e. two sides of the same coin.
Taking What You See
Lesson Five: Theme/Genre
In this lesson, you will define the kind of film you are writing. As is the case in music and literature, genre is a category of artistic composition marked by a distinctive style, form, or content. In Film, genre is the form of film your story will ultimately reveal. Understanding that definition will come to your aid as you learn to watch movies as a filmmaker. Hence, that “dramedy” that’s grossed millions at the box office, has just one dominant genre which is revealed at the film’s point of climax.
In order to write a great screenplay you need to know what’s expected of the story you’re telling. That expectation is largely based on genre. Want to bend the rules or disregard them altogether? First, learn the form and execute it well. You can break the rules later.
As well as these variations:
Dramedy (Drama and Comedy)
Even though they’re often conflated, “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. That being said, it’s definitely possible to lay it on too thick.
Examples of themes include:
Good vs. Evil
Love Conquers All
Triumph Over Adversity
Individual vs. Society
Coming of Age
Death, as part of Life
Man vs. Himself
Man vs. Nature
Additionally, during this lesson you and your mentor will begin work preparing you to sell your screenplay and “go pro.”
Identifying the Genre
The Two Line Pitch
The Two Movie Pitch
Lesson 6: Actions and Descriptions
Before it can captivate, entertain and delight, a screenplay has got to move. We’ve talked about having a beginning, a middle, and an end. All of the scenes within each of the three acts must work to propel the story forward, whether that happens through character exposition or action. In this lesson, we’ll dig into what to do, what not to do, and how to keep that writing fresh and engaging for the reader.
The Novel vs. The Screenplay
Write What’s Seen
Writing Scene Action
Shooting Scripts vs. Reading Scripts
Lesson 7: Formatting
If you submit a screenplay to a literary agent that’s typed in Microsoft Word in Times New Roman font, it will most likely never be read and end up in the trash. Screenplays must adhere to certain rules:
They need to be formatted correctly.
They need to be the proper length. One screenplay page is roughly one minute of movie playtime, so a 120 page screenplay is a 2 hour movie.
They need to be printed and presented correctly
In marketing, “packaging is everything.” The same can be said of professional screenwriting. 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 in exactly the same manner as the pros. The truth is that readers at a film production studio or agency are often very pressed for time. Every day they may be asked to review between 10 and 30 scripts. Take an eight hour workday, then subtract time for answering phones, scheduling, making copies, and working on shooting schedules, correspondence, or sending and filing contracts, as well as grabbing lunch and running errands. By the time the reader gets to “read” incoming submissions, they’ve got little time to actually read.
In order to separate the good from the bad, readers use a shortcut. Typically, they’ll look at the title page, the first page, and the last. If the format, presentation, and length of the script adheres to standards, the chances are good that they’ll actually read page one of your screenplay. If then that first page bores them it goes in the trash bin. If it compels them to turn to page two, they may keep on reading. If it doesn’t, that script which was worked on for hundreds, even thousands of hours, gets tossed into the bin, right along with the others.
Therefore, in lesson seven you and your mentor will dig into the essential nuts-and-bolts of screenplay presentation, including:
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 to the ear and rings true for that character. 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. You should be able to visualize and hear your character saying that line of dialogue. Be as tight and as economical with your dialogue as possible. Try to never “overwrite.” Again, this is a screenplay, not a novel. People rarely talk or think in paragraphs. Make all your words tight and to the point. To that end, in this lesson you and your mentor will dig into the following fundamentals of writing good dialogue which reflects and informs the development of the character:
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’ve completed your screenplay, since many times it’s your short synopsis that gets your foot in the door. Besides drafting a compelling and accurate short synopsis, this lesson will also cover:
The Long Synopsis
The Four Page Treatment
Lesson 10:The Scene Outline
The outline is an essential tool for many writers. Though many veteran WGA writers still use outlines, it’s greatly important for beginning writers who have never completed a script to know just 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
The main rule of writing is as follows: Don’t be afraid to write crap. 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. If you never start, you’ll never finish, so start!
Create Your Rock, Part Two
Pushing to the End
Now You Know
Congratulations! 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 with 2 brass brads and say, “I did this!” Okay, now don’t get too confident. The script you hold in your hands you will show to NO ONE. EVER. Don’t get down. In this lesson, you’re going to hone critical skills that can make you a pro who’s capable of going the distance, from first draft to final draft, and on!
The First Read
The “Professional” First Draft
Making a Cohesive Story
Judging the Logic and Movement
The first aspect of your script polish deals with tightening. As we stated before, you MUST have a script that moves. After your first rewrite, you might have altered major aspects of the story. Now it’s time to polish them. Polishing the script is like operating with a laser. Another way to look at it is, you’ve shaped the rock, now it’s time to pull out the chisel to start working away the extraneous stuff that’s in the way. “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
Lesson 14:The Good Read
Know this: at this point in time you’re too close to your script. When even the most veteran of writers have completed their first draft, they might have an idea of how good or 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 person is not 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. In this lesson we’ll uncover the following:
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 program 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
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 program, 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 Killer Script that’s backed up by good reads, has been polished, 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 and 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 the 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 source of the film in the first place. You created (or adapted) the idea and put in the many hours, sweat, and worry it takes to write a good script. As a result of that very blueprint, a movie will be made. Now here’s something it may hurt you to hear. Even if you single handedly 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. Develop your ability to know and see with your mind’s eye everything that’s delineated on the pages of the screenplays you read. It will serve you well.
Recognize the problems you come across in the 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 a movie, always work to entice the reader who is holding that script in their hands. Make it downright captivating to read.
Establishing a Body of Work
Coursework is delivered via distance education and completed at a location determined by the student. Externship locations can be up to 60 miles away from the student’s address. The 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.”