Screenwriting 101: Write Your First Screenplay

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Taught by Timothy Cooper

Timothy Michael Cooper is a filmmaker, playwright, and comedy writer based in Brooklyn, New York.

He wrote and directed the digital sitcom "Concierge: The Series" (, starring Kate McKinnon and other comedians from "Saturday Night Live," "30 Rock," "Last Comic Standing," "Bridesmaids," the Onion, CollegeHumor, and Upright Citizens Brigade. The series was nominated for the first-ever Writers Guild Award for Original Short-Form New Media.

Timothy wrote the feature "Away From Here," starring Nick Stahl, Alicia Witt, and Ray Wise, now available on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and On Demand. He also wrote and directed the digital sitcom pilot "We Are Criminal Masterminds," a top-five nationwide finalist in the Samsung Second Screen Storytellers Competition at the New York Television Festival.

After graduating from Yale with a degree in philosophy, he wrote plays while training at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC, where he created and directed the improvised shows "Sunny-Side Up," and "Farebeater: Improv in a Cab," both starring cast members from "Silicon Valley," "Conan," and more. 

As an adjunct faculty member at NYU Tisch School of the Arts' Department of Dramatic Writing, he most recently taught an MFA seminar on writing and directing an original comedy pilot. Through his company, Blueprint Screenwriting Group, he regularly teaches and consults with writers throughout the country in screenwriting, storytelling, and improv comedy, via tutoring, classes, and conferences. He's led workshops at Yale University, Teachers College of Columbia University, Lehman College, and the WGAE, among others.

And for the past four years, Timothy has written monologue jokes and sketches for Colin Quinn, Larry Wilmore, Michael Ian Black, and Lewis Black, for the 2014–2017 Writers Guild Awards.

Timothy is a proud member of the Writers Guild of America East, the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective Writers' Workshop, and the WGAE softball team, which actually exists. He's currently developing multiple pilots and features.

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Do you want to write a screenplay, but need to learn the foundations of formatting, technique, and the business first? Are you itching to try your hand at that cool premise you thought of? Do you wonder why so many movies are so bad—and think you could do better? Why do so many blockbuster movies seem so similar, anyway?

In this fun but brutally honest overview, I'll introduce you to the art and business of screenwriting. I'll teach you the basics of screenplay structure, show you what it takes to complete a script, and help you figure out whether your ideas could be film-worthy!

We'll read excerpts from some awesome screenplays, then discuss the basics, such as:
• What's a logline?
• What's the difference between “indie” films and “Hollywood” films?
• What does “high-concept” really mean?
• What is a three-act structure?
• How do you establish your “voice”?

Then we'll dive deeper into the technical aspects of screenwriting, including:
• Formatting basics
• Screenwriting programs
• What is a spec script?
• Do I need to write an outline first?
• Structure of a scene
• How do you “raise the stakes”?

Finally, we'll get into the screenwriting business itself:
• How do you sell a script?
• How do you get an agent or manager?
• What does a producer do?
• Which screenwriting contests and festivals are worthwhile?
• Why did The LEGO Movie get snubbed at the Oscars?

Once you take this class, you'll be armed with insider information about the realities of the filmmaking business. You'll have a better sense of how to tackle your screenplay concept, which books and scripts to study, and what programs and fellowships fit your goals. Plus, you'll leave with some fantastic screenplays to read.

Take this info-packed class to learn how to start your first screenplay—and leave inspired!


(class size 25, lecture style)


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