Screenwriting 101: Your First 10 Pages

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Taught by Timothy Cooper

Timothy Cooper is a screenwriter, director, and improviser. His first feature, Away From Here, starring Nick Stahl, Alicia Witt, and Ray Wise, is now available on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and On Demand (see the trailer here). He was nominated for a Writers Guild Award for writing and directing his web sitcom, Concierge: The Series, starring comedians from Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, Last Comic Standing, the Onion News Network, Upright Citizens Brigade, and more. Timothy wrote and directed the digital sitcom pilot We Are Criminal Masterminds, a nationwide top-five finalist in the Samsung Second Screen Storytellers Competition at the New York Television Festival. He is also the creator of 365 Loglines, where he posted an original movie idea every day for a year.

He was a contributing joke writer for host Colin Quinn at the 2014 Writers Guild Awards, and again for host Larry Wilmore at the 2015 Writers Guild Awards. Timothy is currently developing multiple pilots and features, as well as preparing to direct his next short film. He teaches weekly screenwriting workshops through the company he founded, Blueprint Screenwriting Group.


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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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