Whether you write blogs, novels, content or short stories, if you wish to write screenplays then you have to know the format for screenwriting first. Then you have to write the screenplay in such a fashion that the producer or director is willing to make a movie out of it.
So how can you do that? Well, there are many ways to learn the art of screenwriting. You can join any of the Universities offering screenwriting courses or apply for the New York Film Academy. There are also various online courses on screenwriting on sites like Udemy & Coursera.
I have put together a combination of 6 courses on the MasterClass website as The Screenwriting MasterClass.
All of them teach writing scripts and storytelling. Here’s my review of them below.
- Screenwriting by Aaron Sorkin
- Dramatic Writing by David Mamet
- Writing for Television by Sonda Rhimes
- The Art of Storytelling by Neil Gaiman
- Creative Writing by Margaret Atwood
- The Art of Short Story by Joyce Carol Oates
What is MasterClass?
MasterClass is an online learning platform offering courses on various subjects like cooking, sports, writing, filmmaking, acting, photography, science and many more. But the icing on the cake here is, they are offered by experts in these respective fields.
Who is MasterClass for?
So MasterClass is for people who want to learn the craft from seasoned artists who have been in the respective industry for a really long time.
Here are some classes from the experts:
- Restaurant Recipes from Gordon Ramsay.
- Acting from Natalie Portman & Samuel L Jackson.
- Learn the Art of Magic from Penn & Teller.
- Film Scoring from Hans Zimmer.
- Writing Thrillers from Dan Brown.
And there are many more Masters to learn from.
How much does MasterClass Cost?
MasterClass offers the following subscriptions.
- Free Trial for 24 hours: You will have access to all the classes offered on it during this period including the instructor classes in audio mode & workbooks.
- Annual Membership: The yearly membership is $180 for an All-Access Pass. It includes unlimited classes from all subjects & new classes as they are launched. You can watch them on their TV & Mobile Apps.
There is also a 30-day guarantee. If you feel that MasterClass courses are not suitable for you or you don’t like them at all, just email them within 30 days of the subscription, and you will receive a refund.
- Free 3 day Trial offer: Effective from June 15, 2020 MasterClass has started offering their All-Access Pass for 72-hour period from the time to submit your account details. However, you should not be previously enrolled in the free trial membership.
The Free trial offer is available in certain jurisdictions only. You can read the terms & conditions here.
Aaron Sorkin is an Academy Award winning screenwriter of the movie The Social Network. He has written the famous TV Series The West Wing, which is still regarded as one of the best television shows of all time. He has also written plays, produced & directed a movie.
I’m sure no one would want to miss learning from one of the best screenwriters of our time. In this course, there are also some students with him. Let’s see what Aaron Sorkin offers in this class.
- There are 35 lessons in the total course.
- Each lesson is around 10-15 minutes long.
- Deciding whether your script idea will be better on TV or on Film.
- Developing characters in the film and how to do research
- Adding your research into the story along with the characters
- Rules of the story & getting through the writer’s block
- Writing the scenes & case studies of The West Wing.
- Writing Dialogues with Aaron
- Rewriting the script
- Aaron writes the first episode of season 5 along with the students.
- Learning to Pitch your screenplay to Hollywood producers
- The lessons cover all the aspects of writing scripts. He’s a good teacher.
- He focuses on the natural way a screenwriter will think. And then nurture those thoughts to get them on paper.
- Aaron knows that writing is rewriting and emphasises on more. If you have to write your screenplay again then you are getting better.
- Taking notes is another factor that he explains nicely.
- Using The West Wing as an example, you are able to understand the differences between feature screenplays and TV series. Also read the review by Noam Kroll who is a filmmaker in LA.
- Aaron doesn’t really teach the format of screenwriting here. So, if you are new to screenplays (which are totally different than plays) then you are wasting your money here.
- The sessions where the students read out their scripts (Group workshops) is useless.
- There aren’t any real examples of great scripts in the course. So different writing styles for storytelling are not at all considered. He is quite repetitive in his approach.
- More clips from his own movies could have been taken as practical examples.
All in all, you must take this course even if you know how to pen a script. You might get some new ideas. As for beginners, a little bit of study about formats of screenwriting will do. You can download some great scripts from IMSDB to read for free and then join this course.
David Mamet has written plays & famous feature films like The Untouchables, Hannibal, Wag the Dog. (This course is about writing theatrical plays. But I have included it as it helps in screenwriting eventually).
Pulitzer Prize winning writer David Mamet, has been acting and writing in theatre since his college days. Before venturing into screenwriting he used to write plays. Let’s see what he teaches in this class:
- There are 26 lessons in total.
- Average lesson is for 10-14 minutes. A couple of them for 7-8 minutes.
- David implies that you can write drama if you just don’t start writing and putting it out in front on the audience to get that feedback
- The rules to dramatic writing
- Learning from real life experiences and putting the in your story
- How to structure a plot
- Case Studies of his plays
- Writing Dialogs and how to get inspiration from to write them
- Narration and why you have to get it right
- Dealing with a writer’s block while writing the script
- The role of Actors and the Theatre director.
- Final advice to keep on writing
- He keeps it simple and to the point.
- He’s taught at well known universities so he knows how to teach.
- This class is for beginner’s as well as intermediate writers.
- The lessons apply to all types of writers, even novel writers.
- He’s hilarious in his one liners. You’ll never get bored while listening. You’ll know that’s where he gets those famous dialogues from.
- He explains the necessity of the hero of the film or play to achieve a goal and also keep the audience in their seats on how the hero is going to achieve it.
- It has less number of lessons compared to Aaron Sorkins.
- A number of users have said that it does not contain office hours as it was advertised before signing up.
This course is a must for beginners. I recommend taking it before Aaron’s if you don’t know the basics yet.
Shonda Rhimes has written famous TV Series Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and screenplays like The Princess Diaries 2. This course is about writing pilots, series along with tips on pitching a pilot to studios and producers.
She’s a also television producer. She started off as a scriptwriter in the late 90s and has now become one of the most influential women in Hollywood.
Let’s see what she teaches in this class.
- There are 30 lessons in total.
- Average lesson is for 14-15 minutes.
- Shonda reveals her process for finding and assessing ideas for a TV Series
- Developing the concept
- Researching the story using case studies of her work
- Creating memorable characters
- Pitching to a Television producer or Studio
- Structure and Process of writing a pilot script
- Writing authentic dialog
- Writing a series
- Working along with others in the Writer’s Room
- Shonda is amazing at teaching how to write shows for entertaining the audience, not just for the sake of writing for a big studio.
- As executive producer Shonda knows what studios expect from the writers and how to get the best of out of them.
- She knows how to pitch to producers.
- She teaches research and writing through case Studies of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.
- The later part of the course is a little case study specific.
- Those who haven’t watched any of her shows, might find the course difficult to grasp in the early stages.
4. Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling
Neil Gaiman is a respected writer who has authored many books and graphic novels. His body of work includes a lot of high-fantasy-based content.
He has also worked on movie/TV adaptations of his original material like Good Omens, American Gods, etc. He is also behind creating DC’s version of Lucifer which was adapted to a TV series and has a very strong fanbase.
This approximately five-hour-long course covers all the basic modules of storytelling like:
- Building an original and convincing story world.
- Finding inspiration for new ideas.
- Discovering your unique voice.
- Developing a story.
- Writing short fiction.
- Writing realistic dialogue.
- Understanding different genres.
- An introduction to writing for comics.
- Editing your story.
- Dealing with writer’s block.
- A few case studies of his work.
- Learn the basics of good storytelling.
- The instructor uses very good examples to explain the concepts.
- Provides methods to improve one’s writing process.
- Students may know some of the advice in the lessons.
- Storytelling is covered in a broad sense with little focus on writing for a specific medium.
While this masterclass might not directly relate to making films, it does cover some very basic and fundamental storytelling concepts that anyone looking to enter a creative industry should be aware of.
The modules in the course will help improve one’s creativity and make them better equipped to film well-crafted stories.
Margaret Atwood is a Canadian author. Her most popular book is The Handmaid’s Tale, which has been adapted as a streaming show on Hulu.
Her novel Alias Grace, although not as well known to the masses, also has a live-action adaptation as a limited streaming series on Netflix.
Margaret Atwood’s work belongs to completely different genres, mainly speculative fiction, adventure romances, and dystopian futures.
In this creative writing course, students will learn:
- To get over fears that come with writing.
- Constructing story and plot.
- Multi-layered narratives.
- Creating characters.
- Writing the challenging parts of the story.
- Finding a style of writing.
- Developing a solid revision process.
- Finding an agent and getting into the business of writing.
- Very detailed, actionable advice was provided through the lessons.
- The instructor has very good presentation skills.
- Helpful case studies.
- Not suited for novice writers.
- The different elements of storytelling are explained, but not how to use those elements together.
This is the sixth course on this list about storytelling. While that may seem excessive, there is a reason behind including it.
Everyone who sets out to make films never starts by directing a feature. Similarly, most screenwriters have to write a few short scripts before they tackle a one hundred and twenty-page screenplay.
Most students will find that film schools often ask for short film submissions as part of a candidate’s portfolio. Hence, short films have their place in a filmmaker’s journey.
To make good short films, one must have some understanding of a good short story.
This three-hour-long course from Joyce offers:
- The basic process of writing a short story.
- Methods for writers to find their creative process.
- Self-expression through one’s stories.
- The structure and form of short stories.
- Case studies from the instructor’s work.
- Methods for finding inspiration.
- Very good revision techniques for improving the first draft.
- Helpful assignments.
- No tips are offered on building a writing process.
- Feels like a little bit of a college lecture than a masterclass.
There is often a misconception that knowing how to write regular feature-length screenplays or long novels equips one to write any kind of story. This is untrue.
While knowing about traditional storytelling might give a writer some kind of an edge, a short story is its form of art and has a different set of rules and regulations that differ its writing process from that of other stories/scripts.
Conclusion: My Review
To write this article, I combined classes from 6 of the best writers in the world. The reason was, there is no one source for learning to write.
All these classes combined, give you the best learning experience and they share everything about their think process.
And at just $180 you get indispensable advice about the craft.
Hence, I think it is worth taking the Screenwriting MasterClass.
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