Got a great film or television script in mind?
Writing for film (or television drama) requires a rigour like no other form of writing. You might have a wonderful idea for a story, but you need to know how to structure your drama effectively, and then to understand how that structure dovetails with character development – because great drama starts with a compelling protagonist who finds themselves on a quest. In this beginners’ screenwriting course, you will learn how to tell your story visually, using the unique medium of cinema, and develop an ear for dialogue to help your characters leap off the page. We’ll give you the tools to translate your ideas into a satisfying emotional experience for your audience.
Monday 12 February 2024
12 weeks (please see course schedule below)
This course will teach you how to…
- Work across various script forms
- Create a portfolio of ideas and exercises from which you can draw in the future
- Develop a pitch/story outline according to industry standards
- Gain a greater understanding of story structure and plot mechanisms
- Generate future ideas and develop them further
- Begin approaching agents and production companies
- Further develop your craft.
Why study with National Centre for Writing?
National Centre for Writing has been supporting writers to develop their craft for over 25 years. Our online tutored courses are developed in partnership with University of East Anglia, home to the prestigious School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, which boasts award-winning alumni including Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan and Anne Enright. Our course tutors are all published writers, many of whom have studied or taught at UEA themselves.
While there are many online courses available to you across the world, ours are unique in offering:
- One-to-one feedback on up to six assignments, directly from your course tutor
- A tailored learning experience with 15 students maximum
- Flexibility to progress through the course anywhere, any time
- Support and structure to develop a writing routine
- Skills and knowledge to improve the craft of writing
- Confidence in your ability as a writer
- Opportunity to join our NCW Alumni, an international network of like-minded writers and translators.
The feedback I received from my course tutor was so valuable — constructive and encouraging.
Module one – The Idea
What kinds of stories are screen stories? What does the medium of film or television drama require? In this module we’ll consider how you know when you have a great idea for a film (or even a box set!) You’ll spend some time generating fresh ideas, or honing ideas you’ve been nurturing for some time. We’ll introduce the main tools available to you as screenwriters, and discover how successful dramas are fueled by distinctive complex characters on a quest. For your first assignment, you’ll submit one or two ideas for a film or TV drama.
Module two – Character
All great films and television dramas require complex, intriguing protagonists. They might not be likeable, but they will engage an audience’s interest from the start. We’ll explore the relationship between character arc and story structure in a variety of different genres, and we’ll consider how to imply character’s inner lives through their actions and dialogue. For your assignment you’ll write two scenes introducing the protagonist of your drama: one from the start of your film, as the character takes their first action to set the story in motion, and then in a turning point scene which brings your character to a crisis in which they must change. In this module, too, we’ll have a thorough grounding in how to lay out a script professionally.
Module three – Structure
‘Beginning, Middle, End’? Three acts or five? Screen stories must be carefully structured like no other form of storytelling. We’ll examine the structures of films and television dramas of differing formats and genres, and together we’ll explore how they’re built: looking at what is happening in each act, considering how to begin and how to end. Then, we’ll apply these structures to help us write our own scripts. Also introducing an essential tool: the Step Outline or Beat Sheet. Your assignment this module will be to draft a rough outline of your own film or drama.
Module four – Examining The Scene & Dialogue
How are scenes constructed? We’ll take apart scenes from a variety of scripts to learn how to write immersive, vivid scenes which move the story forward and are driven by character choices which further reveal them. Central to the structure of a scene is the playing out of dramatic conflict, and much of that is expressed through dialogue. We’ll look at how great screenwriters give their characters individual voices and we’ll engage with the challenges of writing dialogue for other periods and places. For your assignment you’ll be writing a highly-charged dramatic scene or sequence, in which the drama is manifest through dialogue.
Module five – Cinematic Writing & World-Building
‘Show don’t tell’ takes on new significance when you can literally use visual imagery to tell your screen story. In this module we’ll explore the unique language of cinema and television, and examine scripts from various genres which successfully exploit visual storytelling. We’ll consider how to build the world of your film, and practise writing dialogue-free sequences. We might experiment with transposing our story to different genres. For your assignment you’ll write a visually rich opening sequence and another scene which is entirely dialogue-free.
Module six – All Writing is Re-writing
How do we work our story from idea to treatment to step outline to script? Writing a feature film script or television series is a major task; we’ll explore ways to remain positive and focussed through a long period of writing. Also in this module, we’ll explore different techniques for re-writing, and give you some tools to enable you to assess your own work. Finally, we’ll work towards a finished piece of script: a thirty minute television pilot, or the first act of a feature film. We’ll schedule one-to-one online meetings to give you some personal feedback on your writing, too.
There will be two live sessions for this course, which will take place over Zoom.
Timings for these live sessions will be confirmed shortly.
Christabelle is a writer and script consultant. She trained as an actor at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and worked at the Royal National Theatre, performed Shakespeare in the West End, and after training as a film director, joined Channel 4’s Drama department as Assistant Commissioning Editor. At the BBC she story-lined and script edited series The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire, as well as Casualty 1906, the series Casualty 1907,and event pieces Krakatoa: Volcano of Destruction and The Sinking of the Lusitania. Christabelle script edited several episodes of The Bible for History Channel, and worked with independent production company Blast! on Soundproof, Sex and Lies, Animals, and Sex, the City and Me. She has developed original movie scripts with independent film companies Tigerlily, Warp and Inflammable.
Christabelle now works freelance as a screenwriter and script consultant and teaches screenwriting at the University of East Anglia.
Compared to the many other online writing courses — I’ve done many — the personal contact was tremendous.
How does this course work?
We have partnered with digital learning platform Teachable to host our self-paced courses. The platform is accessible across a range of devices, simple to use, and does not require any specialist equipment.
We want to make sure that you get the most out of our tutored online courses and feel confident that you’re choosing the right course. Each course contains a mixture of teaching content, reading to prompt discussion, writing exercises for you to hone your skills, and group and one-to-one feedback.
Click to read more about how they are structured and what equipment you may need.