Learning how to write a script – Part Three

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Here’s where we are at with this series so far:

Learning how to write a script – Part one – why and how

Learning how to write a script – Part two (books)

Now onto the third thing that, in my humble opinion, is a great screenwriting learning tool:  writing classes.

There are some fantastic universities out there that offer screenwriting as a program and even as an elective and then there are the guys who just learned mostly like I did – writing, reading and writing. Like I have said before without being too redundant, I really don’t think there’s one specific way to learn writing – sounds vague, but it’s true. You gotta do what works with you – and it can be many things.

My experience with screenwriting classes is a diverse one. I initially took screenwriting as an extension of my sojourn in film school… though technique and mastery of filmmaking in general was given precedence over the writing itself. Case-in-point, it’s been nearly a decade now since I left film school and I can simply say that while I was certainly given an introduction to screenwriting, there is a lot of stuff I had to unlearn. Partly because at this particular school, film technique was given importance over story concept – and also partly because the teachers were not as experienced as they should have been. Thus, when I graduated, I graduated with the notion that shooting scripts are the way to write scripts and that my narrative voice is too ‘novelistic’ – disheartening to say the least. It’s been several years now and unfortunately much of this  information I learned in film school may have been ultimately well-meaning, but was nevertheless incorrect… because while technique is important, an entertaining story with great characters trump all!

So, in my opinion, here’s the bottom-line –if you are going to classes or a school to learn screenwriting, I would advise: research and make sure the teachers have credentials, have written scripts and know their stuff. Period.

It has never made sense to me how anyone can really teach screenwriting without having written and experienced the pains and joys or taken the time and effort it takes to really learn what that’s like. In my opinion, writing something is easy – but writing something good that you want other people to see is not. It not only takes a lot of time, it also takes a lot of passion, effort and commitment. This is my own lazy way of saying that while I personally have the confidence to know I can write decently well, I know that good – better yet, GREAT WRITING takes a LOT OF PRACTICE as well as knowledge. Most of all, you need to commit to doing whatever it takes to breathe life into the story you want to tell.

So – getting back to the question of the week: do you need a class to learn how to write a script?  No. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think they can help – IF they are the right ones, being taught by teachers who know their stuff.  Classes can be great in terms of bringing us writers up to speed structurally as well as lending a hand through some issues you may come across story-wise along the way. Also beneficial to have someone more experienced help keep you on your toes!

Anyway, here are the ones I have tried so far with teachers who, in my humble opinion, really give a 100% and they are online too:

Screenwriting Master class: taught by the great Scott Myers (go-into-the-story) and Tom Benedek. The emphasis of these classes being on story=character, the best classes I have personally ever taken. They are fun, you meet other writers in a workshop setting and they will also never leave a question unanswered. You get what you pay for.

Writer’s University’ – also has a variety of great teachers in the industry that I have learned a lot from, though it all depends on what you want to learn and what class.

If you can find a great mentor in the industry who can give you feedback on your work on and off, that’s great as well. This is just another learning tool that’s helped me with my projects, but please… bottom-line, do what works for you. And keep writing!

Next week: I am going real-time – REWRITES, that is! If any of you guys have any schools or classes you recommend that you want to add to this discussion, feel free to post it in comments! Thanks for reading and have a great week!

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