Screenwriting is an art and like every art the possibilities are limitless. Screenwriting involves the process of developing the framework for a story film or television show, it contains all the details including the dialogue between characters and their actions, basically forming the blueprints for anything to be viewed on the screen.
By definition screenwriting simply means the process of writing a screenplay. Every film or screenplay, or any other type usually begins with an idea. The screenwriter is the one who puts these ideas into written forms, which can then be transformed into a movie or is sold.
These written ideas are referred to as scripts, sometimes scripts are based on existing works by other people, a novel or a biography. The Script also gives an idea of what the duration of the film looks like, therefore it has a huge impact on the budget.
To get a clue on what scriptwriting is all about, it is important you familiarize yourself with some of the following terms, just to get a brief understanding of the fundamentals of screenwriting.
Let’s Get To Know With Fundamentals Of Screenwriting
Slugline or Scene-heading
This describes the scene, it includes the location and time of the event. The scene heading also indicates a change in location or timing; they are often found at the beginning of every scene and are written in upper-case.
It provides the details of the exact happenings in the scene. This is why a screenplay differs from a book. In a book, a writer can express his or her feelings or the emotions of the characters, while in a screenplay the screenwriter depends on the actor to express these emotions. That is why most filmmakers usually opt for the best actors available within their budget.
Usually written in upper-case, the character tells the reader who exactly is talking. It comes before the dialogue.
The dialogue is what the characters are saying in a particular scene. It also interprets the emotions and the state of mind of the characters. To a large extent, this determines how good a movie is because it contains the storyline, as well as content that attracts viewers to the personalities of their characters.
Without a good actor to express these characters’ emotions and also sell the character’s personality, it doesn’t matter what the dialogue says.
This is usually a word or short sentence written just below the character, it is often written in parenthesis. It describes the attitude of the character in the dialogue, whether the character is sad, happy, anxious, or skeptical.
A good actor will be able to demonstrate this attitude most convincingly. Parentheticals also tell the readers if the dialogue is on-screen or off-screen, for example, if a scene contains an external voice, as seen in a horror movie.
Shots help describe the view of the scene, including the camera angle and movement of the camera in a particular scene. This function is the job of the director, the screenwriter, however, may choose to include them if he feels the need.
As the name implies, transitions actually serve as the linking point between two separate scenes. It describes how the film moves from one scene to the next. Here are some examples fade-in, fade-out, picture-in, picture-out, or no effect, and the next scene kicks in right away. Transitions are usually determined by the director and are only necessary if the screenwriter feels they are.
You probably are wondering if you need a screenwriting degree, need to attend screenwriting classes, or a film school to be a professional screenwriter. The answer to that question is No. A lot of people who have a passion for screenwriting and the entire process of film production often feel they need to have some form of professional training.
Many end up abandoning their passion for screenwriting because they do not know exactly where to begin their journey. With the advent of the internet, it has become much easier to acquire new skills, foreign to what we do.
If you’re interested in launching a career or fulfilling your passion for screenwriting, there are many available online courses that teach screenwriting.
Below are some of the best online screenwriting courses available that we have elaborated here for your convenience:
1. Scriptwriting: Write a Pilot Episode for a TV or Web Series – Coursera
Coursera is an online learning platform that offers many courses in different fields of study. It collaborates with over 200 universities to make education accessible to everyone, irrespective of their geographical location.
Coursera is an affordable platform that provides flexible and job-relevant online courses to people as well as organizations. They have partnered with top universities like Yale, the University of Michigan, and the Imperial College of London—just to name a few. They have also worked with elite companies like Google and IBM.
Your instructor in this course will be David Wheeler. David is the director of Media Sandbox at Michigan State University. He was brought to Los Angeles by CBS, where he worked in film, television, broadcast, journalism, and TV commercials as a director, cinematographer, and also a writer.
His lectures are short and straight to the point, he focuses more on guiding his students to be successful at script writing, rather than show them how to write, much so that they can develop their individual talents.
What to expect?
In this course, you will be taught how to write a script for a complete pilot episode for a TV show or Web series. Whether it’s a comedy, drama, or a combination of both, you will be taught the step by step process of breaking down scripts. In this course, you will also discover ways you can make scripts more appealing to readers, by polishing them so that they are of high quality—all within a few weeks of enrolling.
Through active learning, the tutor aims at tapping into your individual creativity. This course is simple and allows users to share feedback among their peers, who are also taking the course.
Content of the course
This course requires 1-2 hours of study periods, with over 30 hours of active project work all offered completely online, with a flexible deadline enabling enrollees to adjust the course to their individual schedule.
It takes approximately 25 hours to complete this course. It is available in English but offers many subtitle options for Arabic, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Italian and some other languages.
What you will learn?
In the first week, you will learn how to develop the basic concepts for a TV series. You will learn to create a short outline for the first episode, which will be reviewed by peers for you to make revisions.
In this lesson, you will develop your ideas and convert them into a document that explains the original concept as well as characters and descriptions for the first season.
In the second week, you will write the first act of the pilot episode, which also will be reviewed by peers for you to revise.
In the third week, you will write a detailed outline of the second act of the pilot episode.
In the fourth week, you will write a detailed outline of the third act of your episode, you will then revise the outline following peer review, you then will proceed to write the screenplay for the third act.
In the fifth week, you will make the finishing touches to your script, create a cold open, revise the series scripts, and finally submit the script for the final review.
At the end of this course, you will be granted a certificate of completion.
Related Reading: Coursera Review
Instructor: David Wheeler, Coursera Level: N/A
Video Lectures: 21 User Review: 4.5
Price: FREE to enroll, but you get a printable Certificate for US$49.
2. Inspirational Screenwriting – Udemy
Udemy is one of the leading global platforms for learning, they offer courses online to connect students worldwide with the best tutors in the world. Udemy aims at helping people achieve their educational goals and fulfill their lifelong dreams.
It makes it possible for people to learn new skills by providing learning resources for anyone who has access to the internet. With over 130,000 courses and over 57,000 instructors, Udemy stands out as one of the best online platforms to learn.
What to expect?
This course aims at teaching students the secrets behind successful screenwriting in films and television. This course is separated into 20 short segments, where you will be taught techniques used by professional screenwriters.
You will also learn how to develop plots as well as create compelling characters that will attract elite movie actors. Another benefit to enrolling in this course will be lessons on how to induce suspense in your scripts while managing the casts using sequence writing.
Your instructor in this course will be Paul Castro, he is the writer of the Warner Bros box office success movie August Rush. He is one of the leading professional screenwriters known all over the world. He is a screenwriting professor and an award-winning screenwriter.
This course contains six sections with 26 lectures that last approximately 3 hours, enrollees are also given a lifetime access.
What you will learn?
In the first section of this course, you get to start the story writing process including loglines and titles.
In the second section of this course, you will create the characters, as well as images to help you convert your ideas into a movie. In this section, you will talk about the protagonist, antagonist, and opening images of the movie.
In the third section, you will create the screenplay structure that will form the blueprints to which you will then add words.
In the fourth section, you will be taught the secrets and screenwriting skills used by professionals. It also contains the scene construction, character arc as well as sequence writing.
In the fifth section, you’ll be taught how to make a quality screenplay, there you will also know why some screenplays sell, and while others don’t.
In the sixth section, you get a special podcast from the tutor himself Paul Castro.
This course provides an excellent step-by-step approach to screenwriting and at the end of this course, you will receive a certificate of completion.
Instructor: Paul Castro, Udemy Level: N/A
Video Lectures: N/A User Review: 4.5
LinkedIn Learning is an educational program that offers many online courses to help individuals develop their businesses, learn new skills and technology trends. With over 5000 courses available, it ensures their courses are accessible to just about anyone with an internet connection.
By subscribing to LinkedIn Learning, users get access to the entire library of content, they also are able to post courses on their profiles and receive recommendations based on the skills they have interest in.
Your instructor for this course is Mark Tapio Kines; he is a writer and director.
What to expect?
Mark Tapio Kines aims at helping individuals in this course, convert their ideas into documents. He also will teach you how to define your story and script characters as well as obstacles and scope. Mark will also show you methods you can use to properly format your screenplay so that they are readable and well-organized.
Through active learning, you will be able to find the drama in your idea. You will also learn how to structure your story into three acts—as well as find both the short and long-term goals of your protagonist. Mark will help you understand the importance of suspense as well as the proper timing for your plot twist for maximum effect.
Finally, he will guide you on methods of script formatting and how to register for a copyright.
Content of the course
- A brief introduction and a general overview of the course. It will last for approximately 5 minutes.
- The second section teaches you to think like a screenwriter, figuring the scope of the story, understanding the suspense, conflicts, constructing characters, and overcoming defensiveness.
- The third section teaches the three-act structure and helps you find where the plot twist should come in.
- Sections four, five and six talk about the three act respectively
- The seventh section teaches the fundamentals of the screenplay and also teaches you advanced formatting tips.
- In this section, you will be taught how to clear the legal issues involved in screenwriting as well as learn how to register for a copyright.
Enrollees who have completed this course will get a certificate of completion at the end.
Instructor: Mark Tapio Kines, LinkedIn Learning Level: Beginner
Video Lectures: 44 User Review: N/A
FutureLearn is an online learning platform that offers many courses to individuals over the internet. FutureLearn offers a diverse array of courses from top universities and cultural institutions from all over the world. These courses are accessible on your mobile phone, tablet, and desktop. This course focuses on teaching you the main points and fundamentals of screenwriting.
You will be learning with Michael Lengsfield. He is a screenwriter who teaches scriptwriting at the University of East Anglia. This course is for anyone who is a beginner and wants to learn the basics of scriptwriting.
This course is also for professionals who want to take their screenwriting skills to the next level. They will also be taught common vocabularies used in approaching screenplay, as well as learn the basics that will help you have a strong foundation in scriptwriting. This course will last for 2 weeks, you will be required to study for 3 hours weekly.
Content of the course
- In the first week, you will get an introductory lecture that welcomes you into the course. You also get to know about cinematic stories and how to construct a story structure (timing and order of events). At the end of the first week, you will write a review about the course so far.
- In the second week, you will learn how to create compelling characters by creating their roles, after this, you will learn how to construct scenes while you continue character development—including their voice and attitude. During this week the instructor will also guide you in writing your first draft.
This course offers a flexible learning program, allowing you to learn at your own pace. No formal requirement is required to get started.
Instructor: Michael Lengsfield, Future Learn Level: Beginner
Video Lectures: 9 User Review: 4.8
Price: FREE to enroll, and for US$59 you get a printable certificate with unlimited access to the course.
5. Build Your Screenplay – edX
edX was founded by Harvard and MIT, it is one of the world’s leading online education platforms in the world today. With over 20 million learners it aims at making education accessible to everyone by removing the financial constraints of getting a good education. Whether you are interested in learning a new skill or taking job-relevant courses in the field of biology, computer science, language, engineering, screenwriting, or marketing, edX is the right place to start.
Abigail Docherty will guide you on your journey of learning screenwriting, she is the course director at the Institute of Continuing Education. She specializes in playwriting and has worked in the theatre and for top radio channels like BBC Radio 4. She also teaches creativity and performance at the Institute of Continuing Education.
What to expect
In this course, you will learn effective methods that will help strengthen your screenwriting skills, at the same time broaden your knowledge and understanding of the new trends globally—as far as filmmaking is concerned. You will learn how to produce a powerful visual idea of a script, and also learn how to build a more solid structure in your screenplay.
This course will also teach you how to develop professional writing skills. It aims at improving your understanding of screenwriting to a point where you can successfully begin a professional screenwriting career. The course will run for a maximum of 4 weeks with 8-10 hours of lectures weekly.
Content of the course
- Learn traditional writing techniques to improve performance.
- Learn script editing methods used in the screenwriting industries.
- In this course, you will learn advanced self-management skills aimed at improving your overall screenwriting skills. These self-management skills include risk-taking management, managing uncertainties as well as accommodating change.
- Creating an effective structure and compelling characters.
- Understanding the relevant market information and demands for distribution in the entertainment industry.
At the end of this course, you also get a certificate of completion.
Instructor: Abigail Docherty, edX Level: Intermediate
Video Lectures: N/A User Review: 4.5
Price: FREE to enroll, and for US$199 you get a printable certificate.
6. The Fundamentals of Screenwriting – Script University (Screenwriter University)
Script University is an online educational platform that teaches scriptwriting exclusively. It was developed by the writer’s digest and aims at helping individuals launch their scriptwriting career. It also aims at providing users with a variety of courses irrespective of their experience levels, even professional writers who are experienced in the field of scriptwriting can still benefit from the course.
Donald H. Hewitt is an expert instructor with over 20 years of experience in the industry. He has worked as the English language screenwriter for the Oscar-winning film Spirited Away. He has worked as a dedicated screenwriter instructor over the past 10 years.
The 4-week online classes form the perfect introductory lessons to screenwriting.
You will learn the tools to help you structure scenes, act, and plots, so they are coherent and look professional. After each step in this course, you will receive feedback and assignments to help you develop relevant skills that will ensure you thrive in the scriptwriting environment.
This course is for anyone who wants to develop their first screenplay. It is also for individuals who want to learn the basic elements, techniques and methods so they can write on their own. This course is for anyone who wants to learn the specifics of screenwriting such as formatting, developing a structure, writing, rewriting and storytelling.
What you will learn?
- In this course, you will learn how to develop your screenplay structure, and how to develop your story.
- The role and the formatting techniques used by elite screenwriters, to draw the attention of readers.
- Engaging users by using action and a more detailed description.
- Developing all three acts, and using the three types of conflict to maintain the momentum in your story.
- Subplots why they are important, and how to use them.
- The six techniques that will assist you in writing good dialogue.
What to expect?
You’ll get to learn from experts in the film industry and also learn screenwriting techniques to pursue your screenwriting career. You also get vital feedback from instructors and peers. It offers a flexible online screenwriting program without live sessions, enabling you to learn at your own pace.
Take advantage of the provided list of the best online screenwriting courses and save your time. The explanations provided by us must help you choose the right screenwriting course to learn your desired screenwriting skills.
Instructor: Donald H. Hewit, Script University Level: Beginner
Video Lectures: N/A User Review: 4.7