Course curriculum

  • 1

    Chapter 1: What is a story?

    • Lesson 1: Welcome to Film Writing

    • Introducing the first exercise

    • Exercise: Exploring the reasons you connect to characters

    • Lesson 2: A look at storytelling for the screen

    • Lesson 3: A story is...

    • Introducing "Tango Goes for Chips" assignment

    • Assignment: Your "Tango Goes for Chips" story

    • Quiz: What is a story?

  • 2

    Chapter 2: Heroes, goals and obstacles

    • Reviewing your "Tango Goes for Chips" story

    • How and why to read scripts

    • Read the first 10 pages of the screenplay "Bergman Manor"

    • More about heroes

    • More about goals

    • More about obstacles

    • Quiz: heroes, goals and obstacles

    • Making us care

    • Introducing the "hero-goal" exercise

    • Exercise: Brainstorming five original hero-goal pairs

  • 3

    Chapter 3: Digging Deeper Into Character

    • The Hero Questions

    • Exercise: Answering the Hero Questions for Clem

    • Exercise: Answering the Hero Questions for an original character

    • Dr. Showers' Eight Character Traits

    • Exercise: Finding Dr. Showers' Eight Character Traits for your original character

    • Character defining moments

    • Exercise: Discovering your character's defining moments

  • 4

    Chapter 4: Brainstorming original stories

    • Introduction to the creative discipline of brainstorming

    • Brainstorming, part 2: Unleashing your inner mad scientist

    • Exercise: Brainstorming from a prompt

    • Brainstorming, part 3: Unleashing your inner critic

    • Exercise: Selecting your best ideas

    • Brainstorming, part 4: Lego time

    • Exercise: Playing with your Legos

    • Writing log lines

    • Exercise: Write a log line

    • Brainstorming Mad Ideas

    • Exercise: Brainstorming Mad Ideas

    • Assignment: Write a "hero changes" story

  • 5

    Chapter 5: Structuring films to grab and hang onto your audience

    • Introduction to movie structure

    • "The Raft," an animated short film

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    • Tools for structuring movies

    • The Structure of the short "The Raft"

    • How to structure a feature-length film

    • Exercise: Locating the first 5 of the Eight Essential Story Points for Bergman Manor

  • 6

    Chapter 6: Building your movie from the log line up

    • Understanding the story you're looking for, part 1

    • Short film: "Black Hole"

    • Short film: "Spin"

    • Short film: "Table 7"

    • Short film: "Father And Daughter"

    • Understanding the story you're looking for, part 2

    • Exercise: Brainstorm an idea for your short movie

    • Panning for gold

    • Exercise: Pan for gold

    • Bulking up your hero

    • Exercise: Bulk up your hero

    • Building your obstacle

    • Exercise: Build up your obstacle

    • Making it personal

    • Who else is in the room?

    • Find your ending

    • Find your beginning

    • Your movie in three sentences

    • Assignment: Telling your story in three sentences

  • 7

    Chapter 7: Imagining the scenes

    • Finding your scenes

    • Exercise: Break your movie into scenes

    • Imagining your scenes pt 1

    • Exercise: Imagine each of your scenes

    • Imagining your scenes pt 2

    • Exercise: Fill out your vision of your scenes

    • Imagining your scenes, part 3

    • Assignment: Outline your script

    • Exercise: Reading the conclusion of "Bergman Manor"

  • 8

    Chapter 8: Putting your movie on the page - part 1

    • Describing a setting

    • Exercise: Write a description of a setting for one of your scenes

    • Introducing characters

    • Exercise: Introduce one of your characters

    • Describing actions

    • Describe yourself as a character in action

    • Describing sounds

    • Exercise: Describe a sound

    • Formatting your script like a pro

    • Using screenwriting software to help you write your script

    • Review of the best free screenwriting software

  • 9

    Chapter 9: Putting your movie on the page - part 2

    • Writing dialogue, part 1

    • Exercise: Writing a dialogue scene

    • Creating unique character voices

    • Exercise: Polishing your dialogue scene

    • Mixing direction with dialogue

    • Mixing direction with dialogue and emotion

    • Formatting dialogue

    • Exercise: Polishing your scene

  • 10

    Chapter 10: Finishing your first draft

    • Writing your first draft

    • Some tips while you're writing, part 1

    • Doing deep work

    • Some tips while you're writing, part 2

    • Making sure your work doesn't disappear

    • Assignment: Finishing the first draft of your script

  • 11

    Chapter 11: Getting notes and planning your next draft

    • Why we need notes

    • Quiz: Why we need notes

    • The trouble with notes -- and how to survive them

    • How to gather notes

    • Exercise: Gathering three sets of notes

    • Review the notes

    • Make a rewrite plan

    • Exercise: Making a rewrite plan

  • 12

    Chapter 12: Emotion and connection: making the audience laugh and cry and scream and cheer

    • Shaping an emotional experience for the audience

    • Connecting and disconnecting on The Raft

    • Expanding our emotional vocabulary

    • Crafting an emotional experience for the audience

    • Assignment: Writing your second draft

  • 13

    Chapter 13: Learning to speak the language of cinema

    • Putting the sparkle in your movie

    • Setups and payoffs

    • Rewriting

    • Reading "The Detective's Secretary"

    • "The Detective's Secretary"

    • Gathering notes on your second draft

  • 14

    Chapter 14: Exploring meaning in film

    • Exercise: Making a rewrite plan for your polish

    • What do stories mean... and how do they mean it?

    • "The Raft," an animated short film

    • How "The Raft" explores and communicates meaning

    • Charging symbols with meaning

    • List your favorite films

    • Finding your own key themes

    • Reading the second act of "The Detective's Secretary"

  • 15

    Chapter 15: Polishing your script and next steps toward writing for film

    • Formatting your title page

    • Reading to the end of "The Detective's Secretary"

    • Reviewing all we've learned about writing for film

    • Exercise: Delivering your polish draft

    • What's next? The writer's road ahead

Course materials

Downloadable electronic copies of Bergman Manor and The Detective's Secretary are included in the price of the course and will be provided to students after enrollment. Paperback copies may be purchased from Amazon or any other major retailer. The Hollywood Standard is not included in the price of the course and must be purchased separately.

Please note: As an Amazon Associate, Story Masters Film Academy earns from qualifying purchases.

Pricing options

Whether you're working on your own or with a class, you have options. Individuals and cohorts can pay in four monthly installments for a single semester or save 10% with a one-time payment up front. Similarly, small, medium, and large classes can save 10% with a one-time payment up front for a single semester. But classes also have the option to subscribe to the course indefinitely with a payment every three months (cancel any time).

Sample it.

Not sure this course is what you're looking for? Try a free lesson before you purchase. It's like those sampler tables at the grocery store. Taste and see. Free.