Screenwriting Master Class

Learn the complete, step-by-step process of writing a marketable Hollywood screenplay from successful, working writers.


Learn to write a script Hollywood will want to produce

Every great movie is made from a great script. It doesn’t matter how big the budget gets, how authentic the actors perform, or how magnificent the visual effects appear unless the screenplay is engaging, dynamic, and believable. Films with high production values have been known to flop because the scripts couldn’t handle the weight of their own plots, structures or even main characters. Rarely has a bad script been made into a good movie. Writing a script is a craft that takes time to learn and a tremendous amount of discipline, and it also requires understanding story structure, psychology, human dynamics, and pacing.

In the FilmSkills Screenwriting Course, you will learn the step-by-step process of writing a script from top Hollywood writers.  From the very beginning stages of developing a marketable idea, creating dynamic characters, understanding story structure, and finally learning how to market your script. You will gain all the tools you need to write a professional Hollywood screenplay.

FilmSkills takes a real world approach to screenwriting by blending the art with the business.  A great script does no good if it’s sitting on your desk, so we help you write a script producers will want to make.

I’ve read so many screenwriting books, and nothing comes close to the depth and quality of the FilmSkills Screenwriting Course.     – Bill R. 

Lessons in the Screenwriting master Class

Developing the Idea

Strong ideas are the basis of a compelling story, if they are fleshed out the right way and appeal to a mass audience.  In this module, we’ll show you where you can look for creative, original ideas and how to determine their marketability with both studios and producers.

Story Structure

Stories have been told a particular way throughout human history, and movies are no different. Both the audience and filmmakers have agreed upon an unspoken structure for how the plot points in a movie are revealed.  In this module, we’re not only going to expose this underlying structure, but teach you how to incorporate it into your production.

The Three Act Structure

In this module, we’ll show you how to use the three act structure to properly pace your story, what should occur in each act, the length of each act, what happens at the beginning, middle and end of each act, and how to apply these techniques to your story.

A-Story and Subplots

If you were to describe a movie in a few sentences, you would probably give me a great summary of the main plot of the story- “Raiders of the Lost Arc is about an archaeologist who goes in search of the Arc of the Covenant.”  Or “Twilight” is about girl torn between two men – a vampire and a werewolf.” In both of these examples, you would be correct – but what you told me was what is part of what’s called the “A” plot, or the main storyline of the movie.  Movies can also include several smaller stories called subplots, which help reveal character, push the story forward and ultimately support the A-plot. In this module, we’re going to look at how to effectively write both the A-plot and the subplots.

Story Pacing

A good screenplay takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster, and one of the challenges facing each writer is how to keep the audience engaged through each and every minute of the story. In this module, learn literary techniques for maintaining strong pacing – especially through the second act.

The Protagonist

As you’re writing your screenplay, the most important character to write is the protagonist. But you have several choices – is he also the main character? Does the protagonist change or remain steadfast? How do you write a character the audience will care about?  How can flaws help the protagonist solve the story problem?
Knowing the answers to these question will help you craft a compelling character, so in this module, we’re going to explore techniques for writing a strong, multi-dimensional protagonist.

The Antagonist

The antagonist has been classically referred to as the bad guy, the villain, or the adversary.  But more properly defined, he, she or it is the literary opposite of the protagonist – the character who opposes the goals of the protagonist. In this module, we’re going to explore techniques for writing a strong antagonist, how to make him, her or it a real, multidimensional character.

Conflict Types

Conflict in a story is everything – it defines the very purpose of the protagonist. We can divide the types of conflict into one of several categories – each category helping to define the antagonist’s role in the story.  They are man vs. man, man vs. self, man vs. society, man vs. nature and man vs. the supernatural.  So in this module, we’re going to explore these various types of conflict and how you can use them to craft a compelling antagonist.

Supporting Characters

A movie is populated with dozens of other characters – many of whom have an influence on the protagonist and the antagonist.  These supporting characters either help or hinder, compliment or compete with our protagonist and antagonist. They add vibrancy and excitement to the story, all while serving as a valuable literary tool for you as you write the screenplay.  In this module, we’re going to explore the function of supporting characters.

Character Archetypes

All characters can be broken down into eight different archetypes – now these are the basic ingredients of creating a character, so of course you can mix and match them to create more complex, unique characters.  But every supporting character fulfills one of more of these roles.  The eight archetypes are the protagonist and the antagonist, Reason, Emotion, The Sidekick, The Skeptic, the Guardian and the Contagonist. So, in this module, we’re going to explore the six archetypes that make up supporting characters.

Personality and Backstory

The act of writing is much more than simply creating characters –  it’s about writing real people with real fears, ambitions, strengths and weaknesses.  But although you need to be able to create real, believable people, every choice you make when creating them needs to support the story. Who they are helps them confront the plot, learn more about themselves and ultimately succeed or fail. Their background gives them the tools and experienced they need to confront the conflict, and most importantly, their tragic flaw gives their story a personal arc. So, in this module, we’re going to discuss how to create personality and backstory.

Dialogue and Subtext

One of producers’ biggest criticisms of a script is the weak, cliche dialogue.  Learn how to make your script stand out with tight, engaging dialogue from working Hollywood experts. Emmy-winning Executive Producer of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Steve Skrovan, Writer/Producer Mike Emanuel, Writer John Anderson, Writer/Script Doctor David Freeman and Emmy-winning Director Jason Tomaric share valuable insight into avoiding cliches and writing tight dialogue.

From Title to Outline

The treatment and outline for a movie is literally the backbone of the story, and the quality of your work in this phase can either make or break your script. Learn how to write an effective treatment and outline and simplify the process of writing the first draft.  Working Hollywood writers teach you how to get the most out of this valuable writing tool.

The First Draft

Learn how to properly write and format the first draft of your script.  This module is a complete guide that walks you through every step of how to format a screenplay.


Once the first draft of your script is ready, the real work begins.  Learn what to look for in the rewriting process, how to identify problem areas that may adversely affect the story and how to get the most out of each plot, character and line of dialogue. Emmy-winning Executive Producer of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Steve Skrovan, Writer/Producer Mike Emanuel, Writer John Anderson, Writer/Script Doctor David Freeman, Emmy-winning Director Jason Tomaric and Jerrol LeBaron, president of the script brokerage site, share industry tips and techniques on how to effectively rewrite your script.

Marketing Your Script

You’ve finished the script, now what?  Working Hollywood writers and producers take you through the process of finding an agent or manager.  Should you approach a producer instead?  How do you deal with the studio Hollywood Reader?  How do you cope with rejection?  This  module takes you through the intricacies of the Hollywood system and how to manage it.

This is by far, hands down, no questions asked, the best screenwriting course I have ever taken. I’ve finished my first script and have already gotten it in the hands of agents.  Thank you, FilmSkills!    – Eric C.

How to Find a Writing Partner and Keep Your Sanity

Writers tend to be stronger in either structure or dialog and character, so finding a writing partner who complements your skills can lead to a much better script. Finding a competent writing partner can be as easy as contacting local writing organizations, colleges, or university programs with writing courses or seeking writers online or through industry contacts. When looking for a good writing partner:

  • Ask for a writing sample – Read through the writer’s past works to see if his style, ability to write dialog, pacing, dramatic moments, structure, and plot twists are on par with the nature of the story. To get an idea of the writer’s ability, read the first 20 pages of his previously written screenplays and see if the script engages you. If so, keep reading. If not, consider finding another partner.
  • Find a partner whose strengths are your weaknesses – If you are good at structure, then find a writer who is good at dialog and characterization. A good writing partner will bring additional talents to the table and balance your skill set.
  • Talk with your potential writing partner about the story and make sure she likes the genre, story, and characters before working with her – For example, if you are writing a romantic comedy, look for partners who specialize or have an interest in writing romantic comedies.
  • Make sure your partner has the time and commitment to work on the script, especially if it’s being written on spec (for free) – It’s difficult to complete a screenplay if your partner has to drop out in the middle of the project or has obligations that may interfere with his ability to work on the project. Write and sign a contract that outlines the details of your working relationship together. Understand that when working with a writer, you both own 50 percent of the script, so if any problems occur during the relationship, the project may go unproduced.
  • Work out the credit she will receive as well as payment terms if the screenplay is sold, optioned, and/or produced – It’s vital to work out the details of your business relationship before beginning work on a script, should any problems arise during or after the writing process.

Ultimately, a compatible partnership is as much about chemistry as it is about artistry – find a person with the same goal as you, who compliments your vision but completes your skill set.  A rewarding writing partner can be both inspiring and motivating – both traits will have a positive impact on the script.

Get Off Your Ass and Start Writing Your Screenplay

I’ve always hated writing… it requires discipline, focus and a willingness to go back and rewrite something again and again.  I know that I’m not the only person who feels this way. Lots of my writing friends agree that writing the script is one of the most difficult parts of making a movie; it’s not fun, social, or exciting.  Writing is a tough process that involves you, your computer, and your life experiences.

So how do you start writing? Well.. the question has the answer built in… you JUST START.  Follow the easy steps in this chapter to help you break into the first page. After that, it’s up to you to find the motivation to write.

When I wrote “Time and Again,” I was really inspired by the idea of a man escaping from jail and appearing in the middle of an open field. I started writing down ideas I had had about where he ends up, who he meets, where and when he goes… all these questions helped me make a list of unconnected ideas that further spurned additional ideas. As I kept writing down ideas, the plot eventually came into being.  The more ideas I had, the more I was able to work the plot.

Once I had an idea of where the story was going, I called Bob Noll, a friend of mine at John Carroll University. We had discussed the idea for this story and he agreed to help me write it.  We spent numerous nights at his office, brainstorming and developing the characters, fleshing out scenes and ultimately developing an outline that was strong enough to begin turning into a script.

I would think of the story in terms of how the audience would see it… one scene at a time, from the beginning to the end. As I thought about these ideas, Bob would type them into the computer in an outline form.  Sometimes we would write dialogue, sometimes only the character’s actions. But whatever we wrote, our goal was to capture the spontaneous thoughts and ideas we had to paper so we could later go back and rewrite and tighten the story.

As much as I hated writing, I always looked forward to these writing sessions because they helped me as the filmmaker more deeply explore the world of our characters.  I found that I really enjoyed the creative, brainstorming part of writing and Bob was really good at translating my ideas to the page.  Our partnership began to take form as I would pace in his office and, following the outline of the plot points the story needed to hit, develop exciting scenes that would get our character from one plot point to the next in an exciting, unpredictable manner.

We usually only worked for a few hours a night.  Beyond that, our brains would turn to clay and the creativity valve would shut off.  Even if we tried to push longer, the material we wrote looked really bad when we came at it again with fresh eyes the next day.  The lesson I learned was to listen to my mind.. when it got tired, we quit for the night.

The process of writing the script from the outline was pretty simple.  The more detailed the outline, the easier the process of writing the script. Completing the first draft, no matter how good it is, is the first crucial step in making a good story.  Revising and rewriting the story to make it tighter, better paced, to make the characters stronger and the dialogue more snappy was a lot easier once we got past the hurdle of completing the first draft.

We went through several revisions of “Time and Again” before we were happy with the script and felt like it was time to go into pre-production.

Writing a Great Low Budget Screenplay

It’s easy to get lost in the world of your story, weaving tales of intrigue, romance, action and adventure through the lives of your characters. But as engaging as you would like that world to be, the reality of tighter budgets, fewer shooting days, smaller crews and cheaper equipment force producers to look at cheaper scripts. As a writer, it’s important to learn the balance between the story and the cost of producing it.

One of the biggest strengths you can have as a writer it to learn how to attach a price tag to each scene. Here are some pointers when writing on a budget:

  • Focus on story – not on the scale of production – Emotion is the most powerful tool you have when building a low-budget story, and the great news is that it’s free!  When you develop your project, focus on the characters, creating a conflict that inflicts as much pain on them as possible, and set-up the story to invoke an emotional journey for the audience.  Emotion will have a more powerful impact than a cast of thousands or Earth-shattering visual effects.
  • If you’re shooting a feature, keep your script at 85 pages – If one scripted page (properly formatted, of course) equals one minute of screen time, then keeping your script length down means you can concentrate your budget.  A feature film that is 85 minutes will actually sell just as easily as a 120 minute film.
  • Car scenes can be expensive – Building car rigs, or renting a process trailer to tow the hero car around is expensive, so whenever possible, write scenes that take place in a stationary car, or have your characters get out of the car and continue the conversation at their destination (or pulled over).
  • Keep your cast small – Although we would all love to have a cast of thousands, the most budget-friendly scripts have only a handful of actors.Take Shane Carruth’s “Primer,” a mind-blowing science-fiction time travel film shot for less than $10,000 with just a few actors.
  • Reduce the number of locations – You won’t just save money in location fees and permits, but time.  Each time you need to pack up the cast, crew, and equipment for another location takes valuable time out of your shooting day. Many low budget movies shoot at one location – a cabin in the woods, an abandoned building, one house.
  • Avoid night exteriors – Contrary to what you may expect, shooting at night requires a lot of light, generators and crew. A forest at night is dark, and it’s impossible to get an image, even under a full moon, so massive 18,000 watt HMI lights are positioned hundreds of feet away to simulate moonlight, while the areas of the forest in which the action takes place must also be specifically lit so the cinematographer can properly expose the actors. When in doubt, write exterior scenes for daytime.
  • Special effects take time – Even though you may have access to the best make-up effects artist from Stan Winston Studios, or a top ILM visual effects supervisor, know that on-set effects take time… lots of time. And on set, time costs money, so be aware that some producers may cut effect-s heavy sequences to accommodate the budget.

All in all, producers are always looking for next script to produce. And almost as important as the quality of the story is the price tag that comes with the script. Writing for the producer can greatly increase the chances that your script will sell.

Pro-Tip: Check out the site  It’s a script brokering site that allows writers to post scripts, then vetted producers can review scripts, treatments, and outlines. Hundreds of scripts have been bought and sold over the years, and it’s a great place to either shop your script, or find a  great script for your project.