Writing Your Screenplay Tutorial

16th Jan 2023


I hope that you and your students enjoyed learning the process of creative; writing for film in Being a Screenwriter.  And I'm sure that they are excited to start their script and bring their project to life!

Your students will  translate their ideas into a authentic script throughout the fun curriculum of Being a Screenwriter Part 2. They'll learn how to mesh characters, dialogue and scenes into an interesting and entertaining short film.

This course requires that students write in response to a series of activities. Although students’ ideas are produced in their activity books or journals, it’s critical not to make them think that their writing will be judged. 

We have prepared lesson by lesson tutorials to assist you in the preparation stages of teaching the course and I hope you will use the tips below to ensure that you are prepared to give your students the best experience possible with this follow up course.

Tips, hints, and just plain great ideas!

Lesson 1: Screenwriting 101 - Keys to a Great Script

A quick review of the screenwriting basics - genre, theme, setting, protagonist and antagonist - reinvigorates classroom excitement about the screenwriting enterprise. Students use a "Three-Act Structure" poster to launch their writing progress.

The first lesson in this series is a review of what students have learned from Being a Screenwriter.  It is, of course, possible that you will have some students that did not complete Being a Screenwriter.  Make sure that all students are fluent in the beginning screenwriter vocabulary by the end of this lesson.

Lesson 2: Understanding Scenes - The Building Blocks of a Screenplay

Using a logline, learners begin the process of sketching the fundamental scenes of a hypothetical movie. Next, students apply scene structure diagramming to their own exciting movie ideas.

Keep in mind while preparing for this lesson that students will be working in groups of 4. You may want to consider skill levels and personalities before arranging these groups.  

Lesson 3: The Scene Outline - Planning Your Screenplay

Students create their movie "blueprints" in Lesson 3, sketching up to fifteen different scenes for their upcoming blockbusters. Working with a partner, learners exchange ideas and get their frameworks for success down on paper.

You will have to gauge student understanding of outlining in your class in order to decide how many entries to work through together before allowing them to try the exercises on their own.  Make sure that the learners feel comfortable that they will be able to change their outlines later if they are unsure.

Lesson 4: How Screenwriters Write - Screenplay Formatting

Form and function of the parts of a screenplay become abundantly clear to learners as they participate in a "table reading." Students have fun as they channel Pitt and Jolie in an exercise that helps them differentiate the unique purpose of individual script elements.

This lesson is about the technical writing that keeps the movie making industry consistent.  Discuss the importance of consistency in other industries as well.  

Lesson 5: How to Start a Screenplay - Writing Slug Lines and Transitions

Getting from one scene to the next is one of the most challenging tasks for screenwriters. In this lesson, learners get acquainted with the "fade," "cut," and "dissolve" techniques and begin to see the shape of their story lines. 

Students will learn much more about transitions in our course Being a Director.  Consider using Being a Director as your next course!  

Lesson 6: What Your Characters Do - Writing Action

From a raised eyebrow to a high-speed chase, all action in a screenplay can be scripted, and its relationship to character is critical. Learners develop "action points" in two activities in this lesson.

Students will be adding a lot more detail to their scripts at this point.  Help them to understand that they need to convey setting, emotions, and actions succinctly in their own scripts.  

Lesson 7: How Characters Talk -The Importance of Dialogue

Dramatic language - the language that moves both stories and audiences - gets its due in this intriguing experiment with dialogue. Learners also test their knowledge of hallmark movie moments in a game of "Name That Quote."

Mastering dramatic language without going over the top is very difficult!  Try to remind your students to keep their characters real and believable.  

Lesson 8: Writing Dialogue - Deciding What Their Characters Will Say

Before diving in to their own dialogue, learners practice dialogue formatting. Then they begin to reveal their quirky, evil or brainy characters for each scene developed earlier in Lesson 3’s "blueprint."

Again students will be mastering the technical formatting of writing a screenplay.  With this information, they should be able to write screenplays on their own long after this course is finished.  

Lesson 9: Bringing It All Together - Finishing Your Screenplay

Great writers, and even screenwriters, know that sharing their work with others helps them identify their script’s greatest strengths and weaknesses. Feedback from fellow screenwriters in this peer review helps students put their best foot forward - before the cameras roll!

Sharing a final product can be intimidating for some students.  Make sure that you create a comfortable, supportive environment in your classroom.  Discuss the proper ways to offer creative, constructive criticism with respect for other students' hard work.  

Lesson 10: Your Script Comes to Life - The Table Reading

Scripts at the ready, learners take on the roles of actors and hear the results of their hard work in this culminating activity. Even a "director" gets to participate. Ready? Lights, camera, action!

Hopefully by now your students are very excited about their finished screenplay.  Today is a celebration of all of their efforts.  This could be an opportunity to invite visitors or other classes to listen to the final products.  You will also have to gauge the time needed to real through all of the screenplays if everyone wants to participate.