So I was talking to some friends of mine recently about ‘writing’ and the big pieces of conversation that kept coming up were ‘where should an individual go to learn screenwriting’, so of course, I thought it a good occasion to jot down a few thoughts on the subject.
First, I can only speak from my own personal experience. I have always adored movies, and writing screenplays has essentially become an extension of that desire–to see more good movies and be an enviable part of that experience, otherwise known by the millions like me, as the ‘Hollywood dream’. Before even knowing what a screenplay actually was, I used to write them with my friends just for the sheer fun of it – and that’s what it was for a long time, F-U-N, because my real passion at the time was ANIMATION.
I lived, breathed Disney Animation. I was one of the great souls in the 90’s who taped every single making-of segment on Entertainment Tonight featuring the next Disney movie of the year on my VHS and watched it again and again (REMEMBER DISNEY SURFERS, GUYS?!). The Special Editions and the ‘making-of’ documentaries were a constant replay and fixture in our house, growing up, to a point where I became a wannabe artist – taking my sketchbook in the subway, the zoo, you name it.
Once I got into college, however, all of that changed as I began to realize exactly what animation was: endless hours of… drawing. Tons and tons of it. And after attempting and failing to get accepted, deep down, I realized I didn’t love it as much as I thought I did. But instead of getting into animation, I got into film school – a blessing in disguise, and something that ultimately changed my life because that’s where all over again – I fell back in love with writing. Still, while film school introduced me to the concept of screenwriting, my real education took place simply by doing the following:
A) Reading scripts
B) Writing scripts
C) Reading every piece of material I could get my hands on about screenwriting.
Don’t get me wrong, there are places where people can learn how to write scripts. There are schools, classes online and tons of books and seminars one can attend to learn the craft – but in my opinion, ultimately the best way to at least begin the process is by actually sitting down and doing it on your own – at least once. It was incredibly beneficial to me to use what resources I had, and once I had something to show and had been through the first part of the process, I went on to obtain more resources, my best one being:
D) Discovering, learning from and collaborating with a screenwriting mentor.
The last point, though not necessary for every individual out there, has certainly been an immense help to me. Finding someone who is a writer with a writer’s mindset to look at my drafts and work has been a huge bonus and a great experience, especially when it comes to improving my own personal discipline and work ethic – the greatest motivation – not to mention he’s AWESOME and incredibly generous with his time. That being said, I don’t think learning ever ends and as long as you keep writing, there is no harm in dipping into resources without solely relying on it. If you have a story you are passionate about, just see it through regardless.
So to conclude for the moment, when people ask where to learn how to write one, here’s what I would do first: read a script, any script of a movie you can find and watch the movie while you are doing it. And then…write…and write…and write. The more drafts you do, the better you get.
In the coming weeks, I will be posting some more detailed resources on this specific topic If anyone including the experienced ones has anything else to add, feel free to post in comments!