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 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. 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?
Greg Freeman Learn Screenwriting Mentor
Greg Freeman Learn Screenwriting Mentor
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”