Jump-Start to Screenwriting: Everything You Need to Know to Write Your First Script | Piotr Złotorowicz | Skillshare

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Jump-Start to Screenwriting: Everything You Need to Know to Write Your First Script

teacher avatar Piotr Złotorowicz, Screenwriter & Director

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Welcome to the Class!


    • 2.

      Working with your ideas - 5 pillars of every story.


    • 3.

      What is Modern Storytelling All About


    • 4.

      Audience Involvement is King


    • 5.

      Your Character is Not a Real Person


    • 6.

      Don’t Spam Your Audience


    • 7.

      Bad Things Are Going to Happen to Your Character


    • 8.

      He’s Going to Learn His Lesson (or not)


    • 9.

      Audience Doesn’t Care if He Gets What he Wants


    • 10.

      Best (and free) Software


    • 11.

      How Many Turning Points? Structuring With Sequences


    • 12.

      Two Forces That Drive Action Forward


    • 13.

      Discovering the Meaning of Your Story


    • 14.

      Attracting a Producer With Your Logline, Synopsis and Treatment (Class project)


    • 15.

      Your Writing Habit


    • 16.

      Refining Your Taste


    • 17.

      Develop Your Screenwriting Talent Further!


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About This Class

Writing a screenplay is easy if you get your basics right - My name is Piotr. I’m an active screenwriter and director, and an academic teacher at Polish National Film School. In this class, I'll share the most important tools of screenwriting, that you should know to write a great first script.

This class is a perfect introductory course for someone who wants to write for Film & TV. Also, writers that wrote their first screenplays will find value in systematizing their knowledge.

In this course, I’m sharing everything that I found useful while discarding anything that is obsolete. My goal is to give you the practical advice that you can use in actual writing.

This class includes:

  • Five pillars of every story
  • Developing your characters
  • Preparing your ideas before you’ll start writing
  • Using the best software
  • Structuring your story with sequences
  • Packaging your script to find a producer
  • Maintaining your writing habit

All these concepts are explained practically with examples from the movies you know.

As a script consultant, I try my best to help other writers with their stories. I know how important it is to find your own individual voice. In this course, you’ll also find advice that will help you nurture your talent and develop as a writer.

If you have found this class helpful, please check out my other video classes here on Skillshare:

Write your script with free version of CELTX

Learn to Write Powerful Turning Points by Analyzing 'Joker'

Learn to Write Plot Driven Films by Analyzing 'Arrival'

Meet Your Teacher

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Piotr Złotorowicz

Screenwriter & Director


I'm an academic teacher at Polish National Film School, a screenwriter, an award-winning director, and an online film teacher here on Skillshare.

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Level: Beginner

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1. Welcome to the Class!: In this course, I'm going to show you the best way to write your script that will dramatically increase the chances of your film being produced. Hi, my name is pure, and you're probably wondering what gives me the authority to teach this stuff. Well, I'm a screenwriter and director. I think I've made my first film back in 2004. I graduated directing at Polish National Film School in which the films that I've made over the years have been shown at film festivals, in cinemas and on television. So while riding my own projects, I also work as a consultant. And I've noticed that the communist problem that many writers have is essentially their workflow. So in this course, I'm guiding you from the moment that you have the idea for your movie to writing your first draft, we're going to start with five pillars of every story and how they come together in a form of your script. I'm going to show you how to prepare the idea of your film so you don't have to worry about staring at a blank page when you start writing. Then we are going to talk about the structure of your story. So you always know what should happen next in your script. After you're going to write your screenplay, I want you to find a producer who's going to believe in your project. That's why I'm going to teach you how to write promo package for your script. And finally, I'll give you some tips and tricks about exploring your individual styling writing and also how to maintain your writing habit. All these concepts are going to be explained practically with examples from the movies you probably already know. Now, bear in mind that this course was made for beginners. But I also think that writers who wrote there for screenplays, we'll find value in systematizing their knowledge. Or those of you who are already writing, but their scripts haven't been produced will benefit from the part where I'm teaching about packaging your screenplay. Yeah, so yeah, basically I condensed everything that is useful and absolutely crucial to begin writing into this easy-to-follow video course. My goal here is to set you up for success in the shortest time possible. So hopefully, see you in a class. 2. Working with your ideas - 5 pillars of every story.: Thank you for taking my class. Before we begin, please note that English subtitles are proof read. So just remember that at any point, you can just turn them on. Another thing is that you may slow down or speed up the lesson tempo if you want. Additionally, you have nodes IV able to every lesson in a PDF file. It's a guide book that you can download and print and have in front of you while you will be watching my course. Now, in this lesson, I'm going to give you some tips and tricks about managing the beginning of your creative process. So the idea is for your films come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes you begin having just one scene in mind. Sometimes it's much more abstract and you'll begin with the meaning of your story or an idea for a character. It doesn't matter what it is. The spark that ignited that creative fire. The most important thing is to protect it. Because at the beginning, you don't really know why you're so much invested in this one thing that you have in mind that you want to make a whole film about. Now, the writing process is going to illuminated for you. While you will be writing your script, you're going to discover what was the force that made you tell this particular story. Now, I'm not going to talk much about the source of your ideas because it's very different for every writer. Usually, it's the stories that stick to your imagination that stay there long enough to activate you creatively. I'm sure you know this feeling when you encounter a situation that will leave an emotional Mark, doesn't matter if it's positive or negative. If the situation was an emotional shock to you, your brain is going to come back to the situation trying to figure out the optimal response is because your brain wants to know what to do if the situation comes back in the future. Now, if you're a creative individual, sometimes something beautiful is going to come out of it. Some stories just demand to be told. In this lecture, we are going to talk about going from having a blank page to writing your first draft. First draft is a complete version of your screenplay. Writing your script is basically filling the blanks in your original idea. If you have begun with a character, then you'll have to figure out what's going to happen to him. If it's a scene, then you will have to figure out or who are the characters that are going to be involved in this course. I'm going to show you specifically what are the building blocks that you have to consider. So just to mention them briefly, it's five components. You will need to consider what's going to happen to the characters. That's what I call a plot. Here I'm going to introduce you to tools like eggs and sequences that are going to systematize your work. Step-by-step, you'll have to think, what is the characters ambitions? And this is number two, What does he want and what are his obstacles? This is number three. And then how he's going to change in this struggle, right? And finally, you'll have, when you have all this down, you'll have to start thinking about the underlying meaning of your story. If all this is new to you now, don't worry, I'll cover everything in this course. So as I said, when you begin writing, you're basically filling the holes in your storage is absolutely normal that when you start writing, you don't have the whole story in your head. I don't think it's even possible. So when you begin with, say, an ending of your film in mind, you'll have to come up with all sorts of circumstances that led to this particular ND. And it's not going to happen overnight. You will have to figure out who the characters are and lots of other stuff. No matter where you start, at some point, all of your scripts, major components needs to come together. And since they're all related to one another, you can't work on character without any plot ideas emerging. And you can't work on plot ideas without some awareness of the characters and how they are going to change. But as I said before, in the process of writing, you're going to solve these problems one by one. So my first advice is to aim to complete the story as fast as you can. The function of the first draft is to give you an overview of the story. When I write my script, I want to see it in its entirety. I know that I'm going to heavily rewrite my screen place. That's why I want to have the whole thing typed out as fast as I can, then I can course correct during rewriting. And that's pretty much how I do it. My second advice is maybe even more important. Don't worry, if your ideas will feel half-baked during the writing of your first draft, you will have plenty of time and hopefully good advice from your readers to fix all the problems. Not every initial idea that you have will be one that will take till production. So use place holders. Don't be a perfectionist and move on to the next problem. Your first draft is not a production draft. The third thing is that I keep my notes minimal. One or two pages is enough. When I begin writing years ago, I used to make messy notes. I would call it a preparation period where I would write pages and pages of notes that many times I, myself had problems with the ciphering. It was absolutely counterproductive. That's why I set a rule for myself that whenever I'm making a note that before I'll start writing, it has to be understandable to other people that don't know anything about the, my idea for the film. It's a good practice to keep it clean, even for yourself. However, if you're a screenwriter that wrote one or more screenplays, you can write a logline, a synopsis, or a treatment, or an outline before you write your first draft of your story. There are elements of so-called production kit. These documents are summaries of your script. It's something that you would give to your producer so he can raise money for your project. I'll teach you how to write those. But these lectures are later in the course. First I'm going to teach you how to write your script. I found that it's extremely difficult to write. The summary is before you get a grasp how to write your story. So those of you that have experience can go ahead and write a synopsis or a treatment before you start writing the actual script. But if you're a beginner, I advise not to bother with production kit before you have the script that you want the cell. And that's why you find these lessons on packaging your script after the lectures on actual. Alrighty. Now one final advice. When you're writing your first draft, don't bother with the underlying mean, is going to be a focus of your rewrites. For now. All you have to focus on is telling the story from the beginning to the end. And then when you'll have the whole thing, you're going to figure out what is the underlying mean. So, thank you very much for watching and see you in the next lecture. 3. What is Modern Storytelling All About: In this lecture, I'm going to massively oversimplify how storytelling evolved in Western culture to give you an idea of what is expected from your protagonist, your hero. So I like to think that the first story ever told was in the prehistoric era. Probably hunters came back from hunting and wanted to impress the women of the tribe. So they've made up stuff about adversities that they had to overcome to bring the prey. That way. They made themselves become heroes. Then thousands and thousands of years later in Greece, they come up with ancient tragedy. It's when a character is in a situation where whatever he does, he's going to lose. Basically, he finds himself in a deadlock. These types of plays usually ended up with God's entering the stage and solving all the problems. I'm sure you've heard the expression those eggs, McKinnon. So they would descend, these actors who would play gods on cables. That's why it was a machine. So it literally refers to an invisible arm solving problems for the protagonist. And in modern screenplays, it's considered lazy writing. So then the Shakespearean era came along with this revolution. From now on, the conflict was in terminal. Hero has a problem and just couldn't decide what to do next. That way, the pressure from the outside didn't have to be so great. And it became a foundation of modern storytelling. And that's pretty much where we are now. However, nowadays I observe a new tendency. You know, who an antagonist is, right? He's an obvious open-end of our character. With modern films and serious, I can see that the character became an antagonist to himself. And anti Q rho becomes more and more popular. As a screenwriter, you are expected to write a character with an internal conflict, but also give him a defect that makes him a partial antagonists. There are many examples of this in modern cinema. Characters like Daniel Plainview from there will be blood or Frank Underwood from House of Cards are more obvious examples, right? I would say that moral ambiguity is the new trend here. So now that you understand the historical background of how the modern hero came to be, we can start talking about what the storytelling really is. See you in the next lecture. 4. Audience Involvement is King : The audience experience is king. You have to get them involved in your story. Now, you always start your story where they are completely neutral because they have no information of what's going on. Just like in life. Let me give you an example. Let's imagine a situation where something unexpected happened. Imagine that you walk home on a winter night. The streets are empty and suddenly just around the corner, you see a man lying on the sidewalk. Oh my God. You say to yourself, you walk towards scheme nervously asking yourself, what happened to this man? Maybe an accident, maybe he was assaulted. When you approach him, it becomes clear that he is alright. The sidewalk was icy. He just slipped and fell. You help him to stand up and that's it. You say goodbye. And both of you go your own ways. You are released from the situation and you can go on with your life. The next day. You may tell somebody about this event, but after a couple of days, you stop thinking about it completely. Now, this is how stories work. You go from uninvolved, which is me walking the street, minding my own business. Then you go to involved, oh my God, what happened to this man? Then you discover that it wasn't a violent situation. And this way you are released. You help the man to stand up and now it's time to go home. So this is the three-act structure. In the first act, you begin with your audience not knowing anything. So you need to give them enough information about the situation so they can get emotionally involved. You want them thinking there is a pipe person on the sidewalk. What would I do in this kind of situation? Then when you have them involved like that, it's time to start telling the actual story, which in this particular example is, this man is okay, he just needs help standing up. Then you need to give your audience the feeling of completion. You need to let them know that this story has finished. In my story, it was the moment of saying goodbye and walking away. It works like that. In every scene, your characters are going to encounter situations. You will write scenes about those situations. It works the same way in macro scale of the whole story as well. Which means that you are going to begin your story with the character that we don't care about because we know nothing about him. Then we will route for him in the second act. And then at the end, we will get the null. If he got what he wanted. You can use these advanced techniques of storytelling like changing the chronological order of the scenes. Or you can tell the same story from different characters perspectives. But you must always start by giving your audience crucial information to get them involved. Then you need to tell the story and then give them closure, right? So this is basically the, Aristotle's three-act structure. It's very easy in theory, but there is a lot nuance to it. The hardest part is to follow this rule and be inventive. At the same time. You need to give your audience enough information to get them involved, but you want to surprise them once in awhile. And here your creativity comes into play. There are no textbooks on surprising your audience. But it's important too. Keep doing that to get them involved. To study this aspect. I encourage you to analyze your favorite films and find out what made them special to you. You can also watch my courses on specific films. I always tried to expose how writers and directors manage their audience expectations. Thank you very much for watching this and see you in the next lecture. 5. Your Character is Not a Real Person: Your character, your protagonist, or however you want. The column is not a real human being. We, as people have all that complexity. That's impossible to capture in a motion picture. We have all these dreams and desires and all these memories. When you're writing, you have to be brutally picky about your characters, features that you need to highlight to tell your story. So your character is a simplification. You get to choose just one desire of his or hers. That's it. Your character is literally his ambition. It doesn't matter what it is, but he has to want it badly. And it has to be unattainable for him at first. Hence, the obstacles that he has to overcome. To give you some examples, in Todd Phillips, Joker, Arthur wants to grow up. He is physically grown up, but mentally, he's still like a little boy. He's an obstacle. Is his mental condition. He loves uncontrollably in stressful situations. This is the internal problem of the character, but there are also the external problems as well. He's circumstances, e.g. he lives with his sick mother and there is a social crisis in the city. So he's most obvious ambition is to become a respected comedian. But it's more than that. He wants to take care of his mother, find a girlfriend, and so on. When you summarize all his goals, you end up with him wanting to grow up and have a successful life. This film is a textbook example of how to build a character. If you're interested in in-depth analysis of Joker, you can watch my other course about writing character-driven films. Now, the goal of your character doesn't have to be so personal. Maybe there's something that needs to be done. In Danny Villa and Fs arrival, aliens come to Earth on huge ships and one to communicate, but no one seems to be able to encipher their language. Our main character is Dr. Luis banks, who is a linguist and takes the job. The obstacle is the way the alien language is very hard to understand. And that the clock is ticking because the world is on the brink of a nuclear war. So basically, either she's going to translate the alien language or are we all die in a nuclear blast? So if the character doesn't have to change internally to solve the problem, we are dealing with a plot driven film. If you want to watch a full analysis of a flagellum film, I have a course about that as well with please don't interrupt watching this course to watch the other ones. The courses that I mentioned would be most useful if you would watch them after seeing this course till the end. Those two courses require the basic knowledge that I'm giving you here. So to summarize all that, the most important feature of your characters is what he wants. It doesn't have to be positive. He may want something terrible to help your audience cares how bad he wants it. And that's the most important thing to remember here. Thank you very much for watching and see you in the next lecture. 6. Don’t Spam Your Audience: So far we've talked about creating the character. I mentioned that you need to give your audience information about character in order to get them involved emotionally. You want them to root for him or against him if his plan is vicious. No matter what the idea for the character is, you have to give them only the most important information, nothing more. You can not spam your audience with the information that is not part of the story. And that's why I never write what's called a backstory of the character. For those of you who don't know, this is an exercise that you can practice before you start the actual writing. So the idea is to flex your imagination by writing a bio of your character. So basically you write whatever comes to your mind about this character. Events from his child, recalled about his relationship with parents, whatever you want, and then you end up not using most of it. I found it to be a waste of time because most of this information is not relevant. The story. Right? Now, how do you differentiate what is important or not? There are two criteria. The first is simple. You ask yourself, is this information crucial? If you're building a character like Arthur from Joker, you may want to show him in a number of situations to describe his goals. So we get the clear picture of his quest to grow up, right? You need to take time to show him at work, show his relationship with the mother. We're able to see his longing to find a father figure. Now, you can have even more complicated character than this, the one that has two phases. Let's use an example of olive Kate Rich from HBO miniseries. On the outside, she's a very cold and unpleasant woman, but on the inside, she has a very strict moral code and wishes well to other people. So when you build your character, what you need to do is show this features in specific situations. You should use action to introduce your character to the audience. You can compliment it with the dialogue, but the essence of your introduction should be action. The second criteria of what is crucial information to tell the story is not to repeat yourself. This may seem basic, but it's not. It's a common mistake made by screenwriters. When I work with other writers as a consultant, I see it a lot. And I always tell them you should identify the most important features of your character and discard any scenes that seem to repeat the same information. This may be tricky sometimes. Let's use the example of Joker one more time. Imagine that at the beginning of the film, our tour would be involved in some additional activity, Nika, a sport that he would go to play basketball in his neighborhood. Let's imagine a scene where he would approach guys playing on the court and ask them if he can join in. Then while playing, he would laugh uncontrollably when she would get the ball. Let's say that other players with Tell him to leave, even if he would tell them about his condition, they would still reject him. Now, I can imagine a scene like that in this fill, no problem. This scene would be about him not fitting into the society. It could be a great scene, but we already have a scene that has the same function. I don't know if you remember at the beginning there is a scene where he makes a kid laugh in the bus. And then the mother tells him to back off. He starts laughing uncontrollably, and everyone on the bus hates him for it. This both scenes seem different on the surface, but deep down, they are about the same thing. His inability to blend into society. When you have two seems about the same thing. Worm has to go. I would love to see Joker slam dunk in the bowl, but I understand that it would be a completely different film. Now in Joker and all, if Keith reach, you get to know a lot about the personal life of characters. It doesn't have to be like that. If the main problem of the film is say, to understand the language of aliens, you don't have to give your audience a lot of information about the character. In arrival. Dr. Lewis banks is the best linguist in America. So you don't need to know a lot about who she is to get the story going. All you need to know at the beginning is that she has a lonely life and that she embarks on a mission to understand and alien language. That's it. So to give you another example, let's talk about my story of a man lying on the sidewalk that I told you in one of the previous lectures. Have you noticed that I told you absolutely nothing about where I was going or where am I is because in this situation, it's irrelevant. One stranger found another stranger on a sidewalk. What happened to the men lying on the sidewalk is the question. In this situation, this is enough to get the story going. So to recap all this, only the crucial information should find its way to the screenplay. This was the lecture about the economy of your storytelling. See you in the next one. 7. Bad Things Are Going to Happen to Your Character: When your story begins, your character is usually in some sort of crisis and he wants to get out. Maybe he wants to climb the ladder of society or solve a problem that he has. So right after you will introduce his or her circumstances, you have to introduce events that will make his life worse than it already is. These events are called turning points. Maybe he will lose his job's leg in Joker, maybe he finds out that he has a terminal disease like in Breaking Bad. These are very stressful situations, but it also can be something less dramatic. It all depends on the particular story that you're telling and the genre of your movie. In romantic comedy, e.g. it can be a moment when a boy loses the girl that he loves. The rule is that turning points have to be problematic to our character. If you write the turning point where problems are solved for him is considered variety and it's also considered old school. I'm sure you remember when I told you about those Ex Machina, the invisible hand of gods, it used to be the trend to solve every problem for the character without his involvement, but not anymore. Remember that we call him a hero for a reason. We want to see him overcome the obstacles and bring order in the chaos of life. Now, let me say it again because it's crucial, the turning points are closely associated with obstacles. Your protagonist one, something, but he'll have to fight for it. The most important part of your film is the scenes where your character overcomes obstacles. Your audience satisfaction is watching him fighting for his happiness. So when you look at it like that, the turning points are the setbacks that he will face in order to get what he wants. Now, there is a limit to number of turning points in every shell. We will dive deeper into this in lecture about structuring with sequences later in this course. Thanks. 8. He’s Going to Learn His Lesson (or not): We already established that your protagonist, once something and that there are going to be obstacles on his way. Now let's talk about self-discovery of your character. There is an another layer of storytelling that you need to be aware of. Imagine that on the way to getting what he wants. At some point, he will understand that he wants to run theme, that there is something much more important than his initial ambition. And that all the effort that was made to get what he wanted was in fact, the process of discovering what he really needs. I want you to understand that what he wants at the beginning is far less important to the story that what he needs. Let's start with the easiest example, possible. Romantic comedies, where a boy falls in love with the girl, that is way out of his league. Now, it works the same for both sexes. You can also have a girl that once a boy that is popular. But let's go with the example of a regular guy trying to attract a female of high social status. Now, I don't have a specific example at hand because I haven't been watching rom coms in recent years. But you've probably seen those films where a boy tries to make the cheerleader girl fall in love with him while ignoring the girl next door, would be a great match for him. In these types of films. Often the girl next door helps the boy with his romantic endeavor as an ally. They usually fall in love in the process. So at some point, boy discovers that he's no longer interested in the cheerleader girl, wants to pursue the true connection that he has with the girl next door, right? In this simple example, the cheerleader girl is what he wants. He likes her because she's pretty and she's popular. And the other guys in the school one as well. So he wants her for the wrong reasons. Our character is pursuing what he wants. And while he's doing that, he discovers what he needs is the girl next door who he has a real emotional connection with. He's one is more on the surface level or superficial. He's need is rooted in his emotionality. So this was a theoretical example of high-school rom com. Now, let's consider a more recent film, Joker. At the beginning, he wants to fit in the society as a clown. He wants to bring people joy and laughter. But during the story, it turns out that he is more inclined to bring people violence and destruction. It turns out that whenever she wants to be a good guy, he fails miserably. But whenever he commits a crime, people notice it as something positive. Therefore, Joker discovers that his true destiny and the way to happiness is D violence, right? By no means, it's not a positive message to the audience, but it is what it is. The summarize IT. Domain ambition of your character will shift from what he wants to what he needs. What he needs is far more important that what he wants. I would even go as far as saying that getting what he wants has no impact on the way the story ends. But we are going to talk about it deeper in the next lecture. 9. Audience Doesn’t Care if He Gets What he Wants: Your audience doesn't care about if your hero gets what he wants, they only care if he gets what he needs. This decision alone will impact the ending of your film. If he gets what he needs, your film is going to have a happy ending. If he doesn't, is going to be a tragedy. E.g. let's talk about our hypothetical romantic comedy about a boy and a girl next door. If at the end of this film, they both fall in love with one another, it's going to be a pure API ND. He didn't get what he wanted at first, which in this case is a cheerleader girlfriend. But he gained something much more valuable. He fell in love with the girl that he has a true connection with. This was the most obvious example of a happy ending. Now, let's take a look at the opposite example. Character who got what he wanted but didn't get what he needed in there will be blood by PT Anderson. The main character is Daniel Plainview, who is an oil man. He wants to be a rich guy. What he needs is to be a family man, a father for his son. At the ending, he gets what he wants. He becomes very rich, but he also becomes a broken man. He alienates his son for opening his own company, becoming his competitor. He becomes a lonely drunk while sleeping on a pile of money. That's a classical tragedy. He became aware of his need, but couldn't really transform to get what he needs. Now these two stories are very textbook examples. For me. The most extraordinary moment in my screenwriting journey was when I realized how unimportant the want is crazy is because when you uncover the need of the protagonist, his primary ambition seems completely insignificant. Now, there is a lot of new ones to this. Your ending doesn't have to be 100% happy. Any ambiguity is good. If, if I want to be honest, it all depends on the genre of your writing. In romantic comedies, the endings are 100% happy. In art house cinema, even if it ends well, there is going to be some kind of a burden that it is going to stay with the characters forever. The most important thing is not to confuse your audience when it's time to release them from your story. If you remember when I told you that your job is to give them closure, right? The ending has to be clear in whether your character got what he wanted or needed. But what it all means can be ambivalent. E.g. I. Would say that in Joker, the happy ending is bitter and mutualistic. So let's take a close look at the ending. Arthur didn't get what he wanted. He wasn't able to fit into society. However, he discovered that his true calling is violence and transformed into this villain. That's why at the end, when he's locked up his happily walking towards the sunset while Frank Sinatra sings cheerful song. He got what he needed. So it's a happy ending. However, the ambiguity comes with the NIC, realistic message of the film. I'm sure that you, as an audience member, don't see violence as good way of solving problems. So there is a discrepancy between your human experience of living in the society and what was shown to you in this film. The ending is ambiguous in a way that make you think about the message of the film is good when it happens. Now, Joker is a blockbuster movie about a comic character. And I'm sure that most of the audience members never thought about, meaning seriously. In blockbuster films, it's normal that most audience member three, those films as entertainment and dismiss the meaning hover. However, when you are doing an art house films and you plan to show it on festivals, you need to think about the ambiguity of the ending it's expected. Thank you for watching. See you in the next lecture. 10. Best (and free) Software: At this point, you know, what are the most important elements of the story? There are five of them. And I've talked about the mall. First is the plot and all this stuff is going to happen to your character. It begins with his circumstances. When you start telling your story. Then you have your characters ambition, which is what he wants. Another element is the obstacles he has to struggle to achieve what he wants. And then very important is his transformation, his discovery of what he really needs. And then the fifth element is the underlying meaning of the story. So when you know all that, this is a good moment to familiarize yourself with the tools to write your fill. There are programs that are specifically designed to make it easier for you. My advice is never to use Microsoft Word or any other text editor. That is general purpose in order to write your script. Screenplays has a specific format. And if you use a general purpose text editor, you're going to spend a lot of time on formatting instead of writing. Now in this course, I'm sharing with you the program that I used for my first ten years of writing. It's a free version of Celtx. It's a stand-alone program that you can download from the Internet and install on your computer. You will be using a legacy version of Celtx. The latest version that you can find is Celtx to 97. There is also a version for Apple computers. If you have a Mac, just Google it and I'm sure you'll find it somewhere on the Internet. If you want. More instructions on how to set up your project and other tips and tricks coming from using the program for over ten years. Please check out my course on Celtx. It's about 1 h long and it explains how to use the program in detail. 11. How Many Turning Points? Structuring With Sequences: Okay, you know the intention and the obstacles of your protagonist. You also know that what he wants is going to shift into what he needs. So basically, you know that from the beginning to the ending there will be shifts in the story called turning points. With you probably ask yourself how many of them you need and how often the story should change direction. Well, this lecture is all about structuring your script with sequences to give you some background on this theory of sequences. A few decades ago, someone very, very smart, notice that most optimal cinematic experience is about 2 h now and it has turning points every 15 min. This gives us eight sequences in a movie that's 2 h long. Now, this is a timeline of a typical movie. These marks here are the turning points. It's really a addition to the three-act structure that we've talked about in previous lectures. The first act is to first sequences, we meet our character in crisis. He recognizes that there is something missing in his life and he wants something. As I told you before, this situation is very bad. The first turning point is when the herald of change comes and says, Hey, let's change your life. Let's go on the journey to get what you want usually then, our character tells the Herold that he's not ready. Right? Then in the second act, the things get much worse than that. The situation becomes unbearable and he has no choice other than embark on a journey. We speak about the journey in a very symbolic manner. He doesn't have to literally go anywhere. The important thing is that he tries to solve his problem actively. The decision to do something about his situation is the beginning of the second act that lasts for four sequences. At this part of the film, the tension is rising and the character tries different approaches to get what he wants. Now, we're going to talk about the shift from what he wants to what he needs. While he is struggling, it becomes more and more apparent to him that there is something much more important that he should be pursuing. The ones that he had before becomes a shallow representation of what he really needs. And at the moment when the story is more about what he needs rather than what he wants. It's called a midpoint, the exact middle of the movie. It's usually the moment in the film where our hero is facing against the right-hand men of his enemy. Usually in this confrontation, he loses miserably. And this was dual will make him rethink his strategy. Anyway, from the mid point, he's need will become more apparent and will drive the story till the second culmination that ends the whole second act. This is the moment where our hero fights with his antagonist. This is the end of the sixth sequence. At this time, our hero has changed and now he's coming back from his metaphorical journey. The third act contains the last two sequences where we, the audience, get to know whether it's a tragedy or a happy ending. It depends solely on whether he got what he needed. So this was the sequence approach. In a nutshell, again, there is a lot nuance to this. I have a course where I go very much in depth into function of every sequence. On the example of the film Joker. I find this film a great textbook example of sequence approach. Now, you may think that this structural approach may feel a bit blocking. It's because you haven't started writing and you're supposed to plan ahead. You may feel that it takes away the fun of creativity. Well, my advice is to write your screenplay intuitively. This is how I do it when I begin a new film, the most important thing is to have fun while writing. That's why I don't recommend thinking too much about the structure of your story before you start writing. However, the sequence approach is great when you bump into problems. It's a great tool to step back and take a look at the story from the perspective. The sequence approach can give you a clue of what should happen next. Now, the sequence approach may look complicated at first, but after some time using it, it becomes second nature. You'll develop an intuition. And at some point you won't have to use diagrams or tables to use this method. I recommend it highly, especially if you want to write films for bigger audiences. Thanks for watching. 12. Two Forces That Drive Action Forward: In a previous lecture, I told you how the characters change is driving the movie forward. The idea is that in most movies, we need to follow the main character. He or she is the prison in which we view the story and assess the scenes. If our character is suffering, we view them as negative. If he is happy, we see it as a win. As a writer, you also have to define what he wants. Notice that these features are all very personal to our character, is because you need to show the character in a way that will make your audience route for him. The most important thing is to get them involved emotion. So this is the first force that's driving your film, the empathy that your audience has to your main character. Now, there is one more option. The action itself can be driving the movie. In this situation, you don't need to build detailed characters. All you have to do is define the stakes are very high. If you're writing an action film, you don't need to have a character with Strong want and meet. In films like die-hard, the terrorists are attacking the city and the only person who can stop them is a brief policeman who is played by Bruce Willis. Now, his wants and needs is pretty much obvious. And he doesn't have to change as well, because his goal is to save the city and capture the terrorists. Another good example is the film that I already mentioned in this course. In the arrival, it's not very important who Dr. Lewis banks is. Her mission is to find a way to talk to aliens. And that's what's driving the movie forward. We call it plot driven films, as opposed to character-driven films. So anytime where you have some sort of event or a problem that's not very personal to the character. You're probably watching. A plot driven fell. Basically, it always depends on the genre of the film you're making. Action films or horrors are very often well driven. The key feature here is very high-stakes. That's very universal as well. If it's a horror, when a group of kids is running away from a serial killer, we don't need to know who they are. They just want to save their lives. That's enough. If you want to learn how to write blood drawn films, you can watch my analysis of arrival, where I break down the whole film to sequences and show you how screenwriter and director succeeded in telling the story. See you in the next lecture. 13. Discovering the Meaning of Your Story: We've discussed how the character changes during the film, how he recognizes the importance of his hidden need. At first, he's unaware of his hidden meet. Your film essence is discovery process of your characters need. Now, the hidden need of your character is very closely associated with hidden meaning of your fill. This is the last and the most important element of your story. First, let's talk about what is the meaning of your film. I'm sure you remember children's stories that are told when you were very young. There was always a morale of the tail. Like, don't trust strangers or follow your intuition, or don't judge, someone's solely on their physical appearance. So as always, I'll give you an example. There is a story about a rabbit and the turtle having erase. The rabbit loses because he is so confident in his victory that he takes a nap before the finish line. I'd say that this story tells us not to underestimate our opponents. Now, the meaning has to be hidden. The way our human psychology works is that the message impacts as much more if it's told in a form of a story about the character that we are rooting for, not as a logical and abstract sentence. In most films, the meaning is hidden and open to interpretation in the sense that you should not put the words of your meaning in the dialogue from the perspective of the audience. It should be and verbalize the meaning of your story. The best way to express the meaning of your story is to present it as it's a response of the world to the actions of your protagonist. However, when you're writing your script, you should be able to verbalize the hidden meaning yourself. Meaning should be hidden only to your audience. When you're working. You should know exactly what it is. You should also be able to reduce the meaning of your story to one sentence. Now, I know that your film is about so many things. I know. I'm not saying that it isn't. What I'm telling you to do is to pick one. And the most important thing for you and try to squeeze it in one sentence. Let this sentence guide you your work. I'll give you a few examples of these kinds of sentences. Let's start with arrival. Life is worth living even if sometimes it's going to hurt. Now, you remember that in arrival, we begin with the character of Dr. Lewis banks who is living her life away from people. She's good in what she does. But from the beginning of the film, you feel that she is uninvolved in life and quite lonely. And at the end you see her embrace life. Another example is joker. This time, I'll begin discussing it from the perspective of the character. At the beginning, Arthur is trying to fit into society. He tries to do good things. He takes care of his mother, his clowning in hospitals, and his efforts are unappreciated. He is trapped in this ungraceful society. Only when he commits crimes, he discovers that people seem to know this. Let me say it again. He's appreciated only for his crimes. So the meaning of Joker, I think, is that filers sets you free. The character wants to be humanistic, but he fails. Then he discovers that in his heart he is mutualistic and psychopathic. So Arthur is rewarded for it by society. So he's need is to be violent. Since Arthur succeeded in realizing his meat in the acts of violence, the film ends with a happy ending. Joker is a good example to show you how our tools once shifts to his needs. So basically he's humanism was replaced by neorealism. And the story ended with a happy ending. Because the screenwriter wanted to highlight the mechanistic meaning that. Violence as you free. So there you go. That was the meaning of Joker violence as you free. Anyway. Those two examples of Joker and arrival had a rather simple thoughts as hidden moods. You can go much more complex. The masterpiece of PT understand title. There will be blood, has much more complex thought behind it. I think that the meaning of there will be blood is money and religion are both losing games if you're in it for the power. Now, notice that I was still able to simplify it to just one sentence. But the thought behind it is much more complex. The film is a comparison of oil empire of Daniel Plainview to the religious empire of his enemy Eli. This both the gentleman got what they wanted but finished very badly. They're both achieved money and power and failed in what they need it, which is emotional support of their families. The film shows us that being determined and psychopathic may give you power and money, but it's not going to give you a happy life. Maybe we can simplify this sentence even more. How about money and power? Are both losing gains than sounds even simpler? Okay? So you know what the meaning is. Now let's talk about the process of discovering the meaning of your story during your writing. Sometimes you have your hidden meaning from the beginning of your writing. But in most screenplays, it will come to you later. You'll have to discover it. So when is the best time to discover the meaning of your story? I'd say that after you write your first draft, you have your story typed out in its entirety. Is great time to decide which mirroring is most important to you. At that point, your story may mean several things. You remember the story, The Fable that I told you about the race between a rabbit and the turtle, right? I told you that for me it was about not underestimating your opponent. But it can also mean consistency wins with natural talent. Why not? As you know, the turtle didn't give up even when he lost the rabbit from his side. So maybe this story is about always hoping to win, even if everybody doubts you, right? So as you can see, a very simple story. And just like that, we have those three options. In your screenplay. Probably there will be more options than three. So at the point that you have the whole first draft written, you have to read it and pick one, meaning that is most important to you. You can give yourself some time for it because it's a very important decision. Maybe put your screenplay away for awhile and read it again. I don't know, after a week, It's totally up to you. It's your call. Now, when you decide which meaning is most important to you, the whole rewriting process should be centered around it. Now that you know, where are you getting it, you have to inspect the five pillars of your story. From the moment that you've decided what your meaning is going to be, your next step is to inspect the previous elements of the story, whether they work for the Marine or against it, is absolutely normal that you'll have to change your story structure or protagonist want or whatever else that is on the way of expressing your hidden meaning. This is the work that is supposed to make the story more honest and powerful. It's a very important phase of your work. It may take you a few drafts to get where you want to be. For me personally, this is the most satisfying face. I feel that when I have the whole story typed out from the beginning till the end, I'm already working on something that is complete. And all I have to do is to make it better. It's very, very rewarding because I know exactly where I'm going with my texts. I know the hidden meaning, and I can focus all my attention to the particular scenes. 14. Attracting a Producer With Your Logline, Synopsis and Treatment (Class project): In this lecture, we are going to talk about promotional materials. As you know, a script of a feature film is about 90 pages long. Writing your script is a enormous effort, but reading 90 pages also takes time and energy. Convincing a producer to read your work is an art form in itself. For this, you'll need a shorter presentation of your movie. In this lecture, we are going to talk about a logline synopsis and a treatment. D, shortest version of your script is a logline. Ideally, it should be one sentence. This sentence is supposed to contain three elements. The character, what he wants, and an obstacle. Notice that it's three of our five pillars of every story. Now, e.g. I'll give you a logline to Godfather. Ready, the aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control to his clandestine empire, to his reluctant son. As far as I know, it's an actual logline of that film, but I'm not 100% sure that it is. I decided to use it in this course because it's a great example. So let's take a closer look. The character is, of course, the aging patriarch. He's one, is to transfer the power of the dynasty. And the obstacle is obviously reluctance of His Son. So as you can see, one sentence can summarize your film. It's not supposed to be pretty or poetic. Remember that this sentence is supposed to give someone an image of your idea. It's more of a working material. So your logline is like a foot-in-the-door and a great way to catch a producer's attention. If you're in a social situation, they may ask you, okay, what are you working on now? Now, this can open the producer for further conversation about your script. Maybe they're looking for a project just like yours. In an ideal situation, you will be asked for further details about your project. You can pitch it personally or send it. It's ultimately the next step. In the film industry. A one-page summary of your project is called a synopsis. In this document that shouldn't exceed one page, you should include a brief summary of the story. It's really important to include the ND, whoever is interested in your project have to know how the story ends. So don't try to be mysterious. Now, this texts, we'll have about 500 words or more. This time you should include the basic information about your character's transformation, about how he becomes aware of his need. And at the end of your synopsis, you can briefly state what is the story about for you. Of course, if at the point of writing your synopsis, you've chosen what it is. A good synopsis contains all five pillars of your story. So the goal of presenting your logline synopsis to a producer is to convince him that your screenplay is interesting. Sometimes, after meeting, you are hearing your logline, they're already interested. Most of the time they will want to take a look at the synopsis before committing to reading our draft. The bottom line is that you don't need to go through all the stages to get someone to read your stuff. You can skip the synopsis if you feel that logline was enough to spark someone's interests. Now, there is one more additional stage to consider. A treatment, which is a novella that is describing the action in your film. This document is written in a descriptive form without dialogue. So instead of writing dialogues, you're going to use the sentence. Says like e.g. Joanna asks, mark, what is he doing here? He tries to explain himself, but he is not making any sense. She decides to end their relationship then and there, end of quote. So as you can see, it's a simplification of the dialogue that you would spend much more time to write in your draft. Usually, the treatment is 17 on 20 pages long for a feature film. Some producers prefer to read the treatment before the draft, but it's rare. My experience is that if the producer will think that your synopsis was interesting, he will be ready to take time and read your draft. Also, writing treatments is rather boring for you as a writer, I usually skip that part unless the funding procedure requires it. In Europe, when you apply for development program, you can choose whether you want to apply with a draft or a treatment. I recommend applying with a draft. However, you can write a treatment quicker than a decent draft. And in some situations when you have a deadline, treatment is better. Now, let's talk about function of this kind of materials. I feel that writing logline, synopsis and treatment kills the fun of creating. When you're writing your first script, you should begin writing draft first. It may be tempting to start from writing something shorter like logline synopsis, But my experience tells me that it's actually more stifling because by writing this logline synopsis, you are committing to a character to his need and want. And these things should be subject to change during the process of writing your first draft. Now, when you want to write your story, there is usually a scene that you want to begin with or a character. Start with what you already have in your head and add all the other stuff follow, especially at the beginning of screenwriting journey. That's why, in my opinion, when you are writing your first screenplay, you should write a draft first and then all the promotional stuff when you already know what you have written. And now finally we get to your class project, bigger film that you like and try to write a logline and a synopsis of this movie. You don't have to write the whole treatment, but try to write a treatment for the first three scenes of the movie. What I essentially want you to do is to backward engineer these materials from the film that was already made. Now, doing, by doing this, you're practicing on the movie that is completed that you like. By doing that, you also, you are also learning from someone that you value as a filmmaker. Now, if you want to practice writing these materials for your movie idea, you can do that, but I would discourage you from doing that, especially if you're a beginner who is writing his first script, I don't want you to feel forced to make all the decisions before you start writing the scenes. When you're beginning, you should focus on finding the pleasure in writing scenes and dialogues. By forcing yourself to make every decision regarding every pillar of your story, you can end up losing steam and not writing anything. Now, writing your first draft should be fun and intuitive, and then rewriting your script should be purposeful. Try to not forget about that. Thanks. 15. Your Writing Habit : Ritual that you build around your writing is more important that you may think. You can compare writing a script to running a marathon. And 19th page draft isn't something that you can write in one sitting or even in a week if you want it to be good. If you use all the energy at the beginning, you're not going to reach the final line. That's why I decided to include some tips and tricks that will make it easier to keep going. Remember that you're in it for the long haul. So let's start with the mindset. When you're writing, you should be a process oriented. It means that you shouldn't be making goals like today. I'm going to write this sequence or today I'm going to write that many pages. It's just doesn't work, especially at the beginning. What you should do instead is Plan a number of writing sessions into your calendar for the week and stick to it. The more consistency you can build into your writing practice, the better. There is a few things to consider here when you will be setting up your writing routine. The first thing that you want to think about is the time of day. Some writers enjoy tapping out words. First thing in the morning. Others can carve out some time to write during their lunch break or after dinner, while others love writing at night, It's totally up to you and your lifestyle and commitments. Consider your own schedule, your creative energy in mind. There is no point in writing when you're tired and want to go to bed, it's best to make a habit out of writing at the certain time of day. Now, don't overestimate how much work you can do at one sitting, focused work burns a lot of energy. Like few hours of writing can drain you. Sometimes I can write for 3 h. Most days it's less. Stephen King in his autobiography wrote that he writes for 4 h a day. I mean, it's a lot. Take your time and find your balance, otherwise, you're going to burn out. The second thing to consider is your workspace, your office. Many writers completed their best work in a specific settings. You can do your own while sitting at the kitchen table, or a coffee shop, or a library or at the park, maybe in your home office like this one. Even though I have this room that I consider my studio, most of my writing I'm doing in my bed now, I don't know why. The most important thing is that you're not distracted. Now. You can be distracted by negative things like noise. And you can be distracted by beautiful things like landscape outside your window. In pop culture, there is this image of a rider sitting somewhere in front of the leg during a sunset. He's focused on creating his masterpiece. You know, birds are chirping, heralding the creation of this magnificent work of art. No, no, no, no, no, no. It's just not practical. Whenever I'm writing and I rise my eyes from the screen of my laptop, I want to see nothing, nothing that grabs my attention. And that's exactly what I see in my bedroom. It's an empty wall. And whenever I'm writing here is also empty wall like the one behind me. So you can take my word for it. Okay? Additionally, when you think about your workspace, you need to think about the atmosphere as well. It's like an extension of her work workspace. Like are there lights turn on or maybe they're download? Is the sun shining bright through the window? Is the music playing? Do you prefer to silence or white noise? It's optional. Again, I'm a fan of sensory deprivation and focus. I use minimalistic music whenever there is a noise from outside that I want to drown out. Now, I hope you can see that I'm trying to give you a recipe for a ritual. If you want to get good, you will have to spend time writing. You need to make it easy for yourself. And associated with a pleasurable activities, it's a lot easier to start working sessions when it starts with, I don't know, drinking your coffee, e.g. now finally, the third thing is that you can reinforce your writing habit by consistently tracking your progress. Some writers hold themselves accountable to their practice by making their calendars each day they write. Others, maintain a regular email chain with their critique partner, share their progress and social media. Create a habit tracking spreadsheet, or keep a personal writing journal. Find your own way of tracking your progress. I'm finding a peer group is the best. In my opinion. There is one more thing that you can, that can help you to stay motivated. There is a book by Steven Pressfield. The title is the War of Art. It's very much about your work ethics. In this book, he says that being a professional is a decision that you make yourself. Then he defines who the professional is. It seems esoteric at times, the book, and it certainly is a self-help book. But I recommend it because it helped me in my moments of doubts. Anyway, when considering the ways you can build additional consistency into your writing life, just do what you can. If you can nail down a time of day to write. But you always make sure to make writing happen. That's fine. If you can't write at the same place that you can write at the same time. Just do it like consistent progress wins with great technique every time. Thanks for watching and see you in the next lecture. 16. Refining Your Taste : Refining your tastes. Very important topic. So when you watch a film that you really like, do not just consume it superficially. Get to know a deeper. Don't look for the reviews just yet. First, try to find your own reflection in this piece of art. Try finding the moments that really speak to you. Maybe they make you sad, maybe they're very joyful. And with that in mind, watch the film again. Then tried to analyze it by yourself. Now when you know about five pillars of every story, try to figure them out. Then when you think you've found the five pillars of the story, try skimming through the fill and the focusing solely on the construction. Tried to find the major turning points. And only when you found yourself in the film, then it's a good time to reach out to get external information. The kind of information that puts this film in a context. You can read about the director, listen to the original music, find out about how the costumes and sets were created. You can watch a making off, which is a short documentary from the set of the film. Usually it's added to the DVD release as a bonus disc. You can read critics reviews as well. But all this should be secondary. The most important thing is you and what you liked about the Fill. Now, you don't have to nerd out like I did with arrival and Joker in my courses where I take those films apart and examine them. Just re-watching the films alone and keeping them around will make a difference. If you'll buy a DVD and put it on the shelf, it will make you inclined to come back to this movie in the future. And that's exactly what I do when I'm writing a screenplay that has elements similar to the movie from the past that I liked. So you can see how it's practical to keep such a collection around this collection of films will give you some indication about what you like in cinema. It can be surprising. You may discover that you are a fan of a genre that you thought you didn't like and ask yourself, Oh my gosh, why are there so many romantic comedies and horrors in here? Or conversely, why do I keep watching this Pakistani art house films that I don't even understand culturally. It's a process of self-discovery that I want you to approach with an open heart, with a collection like this. And it's absolutely worthwhile. So thank you very much for watching and see you in the next and the last lecture. 17. Develop Your Screenwriting Talent Further!: Alright, thank you so much for taking my class. I also hope it was inspiring. So in the course that is so short, It's impossible to tell everything there is to know about screenwriting. With that being said, I hope you also like my other courses at this point, I'm making two types of courses. Now. Jumpstart to screenwriting courses are courses made with beginners in mind, just like the course that I've made a bulk Celtx program. And the courses, the title begins with screenwriting. Just like the courses where I analyze Joker and arrival are for writers that have their basic knowledge down. Which means you, since you've just completed the scores about basics of screenwriting. Now, the best way to track what I publish is my website cinema explained. Put the address somewhere here. I keep this website up-to-date. I encourage you to check it out since I use different platforms. There, you'll have all the info about educational videos on my YouTube channel, all my other courses as well. Also on cinema explained, you can request a free guide book that I've written about how to analyze movies on your own. In this guidebook, I'm sharing my personal way of analyzing film. It's a flowchart of five steps. You can use this method to understand this symbolic depth of any field. Now, if you've benefited from this class, please consider leaving a review. Hope to see you soon. Bye.