INT. CONFERENCE ROOM OR CLASSROOM — DAY
Your typical meeting space. There’s a whiteboard that hasn’t been fully cleaned, a long conference table, and a chatty GROUP of writers gathered around. They talk about their current screenwriting projects…
Until a bubbly TEACHER enters the room, a PILE OF SCRIPTS in hand.
Alright everyone, let’s get to work.
Okay, I admit, screenwriting classes probably don’t look like this. Nowadays many happen virtually, so your fellow classmates could be pajama-clad or at the bar down the street and you’d never be the wiser.
Classes don’t come cheap though, and you’re likely wondering if they’re worth all the money. Unfortunately, the answer is one of those standard non-answers: it depends.
It depends… on what you’re hoping to get out of the classes.
If you’re a newbie, just looking to learn the structure and form of screenwriting, don’t waste your money. The basics of screenwriting can be found in any number of books, blog posts, and online resources, such as The Script Lab, ScreenCraft and WeScreenplay.
But if you’re struggling with writing in some way, consider taking a class or two.
Writing is a solitary act. Unless you have a writing partner, more often than not, you’re alone with your computer and a cup of coffee, just trying to get the words out. It’s a process that doesn’t include a lot of feedback.
Screenwriting classes can be extremely beneficial for the part of the writing process that requires feedback.
Sure, you could do revisions and edits on your own. But what if Suzy who sits next to you on Saturdays has an idea that could blow your plot wide open? What if Joe who doesn’t speak up in class but gives thoughtful, detailed notes via email makes you realize that your character is completely wrong?
Any screenwriting class worth its salt will offer some kind of feedback — whether that’s peer feedback or instructor feedback or both. That kind of group mind is invaluable to screenwriters. It’s difficult to view your own writing through completely clear glasses, but your classmates can.
Screenwriting classes are helpful in teaching screenwriters a process for developing, outlining, writing, and revising their projects.
Whether it’s dictated by a specific instructor who prefers a certain process to another, or by the organization as a whole, this kind of structure gives writers a route on which to travel once the class is over. It’s a repeatable process that you, as the screenwriter, alone with your laptop and coffee and snoozing cat in the corner, can implement time and time again. That’s what we call return on investment.
But maybe the best thing about screenwriting classes is that they include deadlines.
Most of us aren’t lucky enough to write screenplays for a living — we have day-jobs, children, spouses, side-gigs, and dinner to cook. But when you take the initiative to sign up and pay money for a screenwriting class and that class includes deadlines, you’re more likely to do the work.
These kinds of deadlines are essential because it means that someone else is waiting for your work. It introduces an element of accountability that isn’t present when it’s just you, the laptop, the coffee, the cat, and the sound of someone in the other room doing anything that sounds more fun than writing. Accountability is key.
There are oodles of other benefits to screenwriting classes —
A network of students and instructors, exposure to other writing, the chance to improve your own feedback skills, etc. In my opinion, having taken several screenwriting classes, they’re more than worth it.
Ultimately, the bottom line is: What do you want to get out of it?
If the class can provide whatever you’re looking for, click that sign-up button now.
Britton Perelman is a writer and storyteller based in Los Angeles, California. When not buried in a book or failing spectacularly at cooking herself a meal, she’s probably talking someone’s ear off about the last thing she watched. She loves vintage typewriters, the Cincinnati Reds, and her dog, Indy.