Join Mark Tapio Kines for an in-depth discussion in this video Overview of the course, part of Learning Screenwriting.
Before we jump in, I want to take a couple minutes to go over some of the basic questions you might have about this course. First, as a screenwriter, I'd like to pitch you on why you should take this course. I know there's a great deal of books and classes on screenwriting, and what I'll be talking about in terms of structure will cover much of the same ground. But here's where I think my course diverges, I have read many first-time screenplays from people who have bought those books or taken those classes. Most of them seem to understand the literal rules of structure, but they haven't learned the tricks behind telling a suspenseful story. New screenwriters often prioritize personality over drama. So they create these rich characters but don't know what to do with them. It's like buying a really fun toy and putting it on the shelf. Toys are meant to be played with and so are your characters. For this reason, you'll find me frequently reminding you to keep your characters away from spouting lengthy monologues about their feelings, which is a common issue with debut screenplays. My emphasis on action and conflict has nothing to do with genre. Even if you're writing a sweet little love story that takes place in a country garden, you still need to keep your audience on the edge of their seats. Now in terms of how long your screenplay should be, I'll be focusing on feature-length scripts, because those are what most people want to write and sell. That said, the three-act structure can apply to any movie that's longer than 10 minutes. If you're planning on writing a really short film, especially under 5 minutes, then the structure won't necessarily apply, simply because you don't have time for three acts. This is why a short film usually boils down to just one or two setups and payoffs. However, the setup/payoff model is also a major part of feature-length screenwriting, so it's all relevant. While we are on the subject of how long, I should also mention that I know people who can crank out a screenplay over a couple of days and people who need a full year or even longer. Every writer has a different pace. Every script has a different pace, even for me, it's taken anywhere from 1 to 8 months to finish a screenplay. That's why this course isn't meant to cover every page of your script from the first fade in to the final fade out, but simply to get you to the point where you feel like you have truly turned your idea into a cohesive story that you are ready to type out. As for what you need for this course, your only must-haves are a stack of sticky notes and a pen or pencil. We're going to develop your story on a scene by scene basis and each scene will wind up on one of those notes. Of course, I also expect you to spend a lot of time watching movies and reading scripts in order to recognize dramatic structure in other people's work. Screenwriting is both an art form and an industry, so it's important for you to know what's going on out there. Fortunately, this is also the most enjoyable homework you could ask for, so I'm sure you won't mind doing it.
- Finding the drama in your story idea
- Structuring your story into three acts
- Defining your protagonist's short-term and long-term goals
- Creating obstacles for your characters
- Understanding the importance of suspense
- Timing your plot twists
- Formatting your script
- Registering for a copyright