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 short comedy Lemon, starring Jennifer Westfeldt and Noah Bean, which premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

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

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. 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.

Timothy has also written monologue jokes and sketches for hosts Lewis Black, Colin Quinn, Larry Wilmore, and Michael Ian Black at the past four Writers Guild Awards.

A proud member of the Writers Guild of America East and the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective Writers' Workshop, Timothy is currently preparing to direct the feature version of Lemon, in addition to developing multiple pilots and features with a variety of production companies. 

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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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