This is not so much a course in screenwriting as a series of commentaries on the process and the problems of writing screenplays of various kinds. If you want to learn how to do it, well first read something like Syd Fields "Screenwriting" and Robert McKee's "Story". There are lots of other books out there as well. Ray Frensham's "Teach Yourself Screenwriting" is the best one, if for no other reason than he came on my course many years ago and I can claim to have started him on the slippery sliding road to oblivion.
I used to teach all this stuff long before Syd Fields wrote any books about it and I probably invented a lot of the stuff people quote now as supposedly expert opinion. Personally I turned to teaching it in order to make money when I couldn't sell any scripts! So I always felt it was the illiterate leading the dumb, or something. However, in teaching it, I learned more than any of my students.
Lesson Number One: Writing is messy! And the end result only looks coherent and sharp after a lot of work has taken place ordering and structuring the erratic workings of your imagination.
Lesson Number Two: It takes 10,000 hours of directed practice to become expert at anything. And the key word is Directed. You must break down the complex task into its component skills and practice those skills until they are second nature. Then practice putting them together.
Lesson Number Three: The skills are 1) pitching your ideas 2) developing treatments 3) writing action 4) writing dialogue.
Lesson Number Four: Each of the above sections can be broken down further and turned into exercise routines. For example, pitching exercises can consist of watching a movie and then summing it up in two or three sentences. Story outline exercises can consist of writing stories in your own words that are either from your own experience, from other peoples, gleaned from newspapers, novels, plays etc. You move from shaping real stories into beginnings, middles and punchy endings, to shaping your own inventions. Similarly Action can be broken down into watching a movie and writing your version of the action. I would recommend watching a John Woo movie and examining the choreography of his action sequences and writing the script for them. As for dialogue there are a range of exercises, from listening to people speaking and then trying to re-create it, to writing gags and even twitter lines! Move to writing various scenes from the Love Scene to the confrontation with the villain! Keep the exercises short and concise.
Lesson Number Five: Begin putting it all together. But begin small. How about writing lots of one minute web movies? Build up to five minutes and ten minute shorts. Try serials, where the story moves over a number of episodes. Then built to thirty minutes. Try sit-coms. Try hour long episodes. Build and be aware of where you are in the over all story and one function it takes. Move to the 90 minute film, the 120 minute, the 180 minute epic. Make sure you understand the Hook. Practice opening hooks. Practice first act inciting incidents. Practice second act highs and lows, mid turning points, second act climaxes. And practice the final acts with their big climaxes and tail end codas. Examine all the components of the overall story and understand what is required for each one.
Lesson Number Six: Never think you have perfected it. Always practice. Always push forward. Always give yourself challenges. Challenge yourself with no-budget ideas, and then big mega budget ideas. Challenge yourself with scripts you can direct right now with no resources but a camera and a few friends. Challenge yourself with scripts that will need you to find funding.
Lesson Number Seven: Learn The Business!
Here's a few articles I have on various aspects of screenwriting:
- 1) Get your act together...
- 2) Structured Brainstorming
- 3) 7 Basic Problems With Treatments
- 4) The Art of the Webisode
- 4) The Story Cycle
- 5) Writing To A Brief
- 6) Writing Within A Budget
- 7) How to direct a movie!
- 8) Funny
- Breaking into the industry in Singapore
- Can screenwriting be taught?
- What's Your Story? Loser? Winner? Hack? Artist? Perpetual Bullshitter?