Screenwriting 101: Your First 10 Pages

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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" (ConciergeTheSeries.com), 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 wonder why so many movies are so bad—and think you could do better? Have you been itching to try your hand at that cool film premise you've been bouncing around? And why are those Twilight movies so popular, anyway?

I can't answer that last question, but I will introduce you to the art and business of screenwriting, teach you the basics of screenplay structure, and help you write the opening 10 pages of your first feature screenplay!

Week 1: Read excerpts from some of the greatest screenplays, then discuss what good screenwriting looks like. Cover the basics: What's a logline? How do you write a strong hook? What's the difference between plot and theme? We'll learn about three-act structure, genre, outlining, synopses/treatments, voice, active protagonists, the hero's journey, and intriguing characterization. (That's not just fancy terminology; trust me, it will all make sense after this class!) Then we'll go over your original movie ideas and transform them into sales-worthy loglines.
Homework: Refine one logline and write a brief synopsis/begin your outline.

Week 2: As you prepare to start your screenplay proper, we'll cover formatting basics, dialogue, subtext, scene structure, and conflict. We'll discuss your synopses and work on raising the stakes/expanding the world.
Homework: Write your first 10 pages using the free screenwriting program Celtx.

Week 3: We'll read your 10 pages aloud in class (optional). I'll give constructive feedback, set goals for rewrites, discuss getting notes and whom to get them from, give you recommended reading, and offer tips from the trenches.
Homework: Go out for drinks after class.

Prerequisite: Please come to the first class with ideas for three (3) (trois) original screenplays. Each idea can be a few words, a sentence, or a paragraph; the point is that they're all premises you think could make an entertaining movie.

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