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 short comedy Lemon, starring Jennifer Westfeldt and Noah Bean, which premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. The film has since played at festivals around the world, been licensed for screening on United Airlines, and become one of the most-viewed festival shorts on Amazon Prime. Timothy was named a 2018 IFP Screen Forward Lab Fellow for his sitcom based on the short.

He was nominated for the first-ever Writers Guild Award for Digital Media for writing and directing the digital sitcom Concierge: The Series (, starring Kate McKinnon. He also wrote the feature drama Away From Here, starring Nick Stahl, Alicia Witt, and Ray Wise, now available on iTunes and Amazon Prime. And he 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.

At Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC, he created and directed the improvised shows Sunny-Side Up and Farebeater: Improv in a Cab, both starring cast members from Silicon ValleyConan, and more.

Through his company, Blueprint Screenwriting Group, he's advised hundreds of writers and companies worldwide on their scripts, films, pilots, and commercials. He's led workshops at Yale University, Teachers College of Columbia University, and the Writers Guild of America East, among many others. And he's been an adjunct faculty member at NYU Tisch School of the Arts' Department of Dramatic Writing, teaching an MFA seminar on writing and directing an original comedy pilot. 

Timothy has been a writer for the Writers Guild Awards for the past five years, writing monologue jokes, desk pieces, and more for comedians like Colin Quinn, Larry Wilmore, Michael Ian Black, Lewis Black, and Amber Ruffin.

Timothy is a proud member of the Writers Guild of America East, the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective Writers' Workshop, the Hollywood Radio and Television Society, and the WGAE Softball Team.


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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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