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Scriptwriting Courses

Many thanks to Steve May, Course Director on the MA Screenwriting and Producing for Film and TV at Westminster University who reminded me to re-post some particularly important articles from the old blog! Long term Bang2write Readers will remember my post on short scriptwriting courses and its follow-up on Scriptwriting degrees: there were some very interesting, albeit mixed responses. With another academic year on its way out then and September sneaking up on us like the crafty so-and-so it is, I thought now was the time to revisit my posts, update them, add to them and see if we could get any new insights into whether the people who charge us all this moolah are really giving us our money’s worth.

I realise a lot of you Bloggers have gone on a lot of courses this past year and kindly disseminated your views about them, but I’m trying to appeal to everyone, so even if you have written about a course you’ve taken already, by all means send your thoughts/links to me so I might compile a list of recommendations and/or warnings in one place for those peeps surfing the net.

So: have you gone on any short courses in scriptwriting (or any kind of writing, for that matter; I haven’t seen many on novel writing and whatnot, but presumably they’re out there): same goes for anyone who might have gone on a specific script reading or storylining course. Maybe you’re a member of a particularly good Writers’ Circle and want to promote it, or you’ve been to half a dozen Writers’ Groups and would sooner pluck your eyes out than go to another? Have you been to any Writer’s workshops where your work has been read (Lianne did the Open Page, but Rocliffe Forum anyone?) or you went for taught techniques to help you time manage, gain more self-confidence (I’m looking at you Jurgen Wolfites here). Or did you go to a course specifically wanting to know how to get an option, an agent or handle meetings (yes, fellow Meadsters). Perhaps you thought they were a complete waste of time or the best money you’ve ever spent? I want it all, warts and all please.

The same goes for those Scriptwriting degrees. I’m told that Bournemouth is not the only BA (Hons) in Scriptwriting now and that others do an undergraduate course now too, even just in part, so let’s hear who those places are. There feel like a million MAs out there and those more in-depth training courses that do not fall under the “short course” remit as they demand commitment for ten weeks or more, London Metropolitan University’s Metlab a case in point and some of those courses at The Lighthouse, Brighton for example. What are resources like? Are sessions well organised, or scrappy? Is pastoral care any good? Are you taught by working writers/readers etc with good understanding of the industry, or are you feeling as if you’ve been sidelined? Students are asked to pay tuition fees and sometimes give up careers for these courses: I’m sure I’m right in saying that everyone wants to hear if these courses as worth the considerable sacrifices that have to be made to embark on them and complete them.

So, you know the drill… If you have something to say, leave a comment or email me. Anonymity is assured for all those who want it – but do remember to tell me you do not want your name mentioned in the email! Also, please justify your reasons if you want to say that you feel a course is no good: we want to give others information, not a big moan! ; )

By the way, with half term almost over, you English Teachers out there might want to check out eBay for my very cheap, comprehensive resources on the poet Carol Ann Duffy or if you struggle with grammar take a look at my resources that could show you how to get to grips with this otherwise dull subject in a fun, informative way. And yes – they come WITH answers. Cheers!

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13 thoughts on “Scriptwriting Courses”

  1. It was NOT spam!!! I was INVITING your thoughts! I’m not selling anything, I’m trying to HELP! so NYAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! : p

    And get back to work, don’t you have some pages to write?

  2. I went to Robert McKee and Syd Field within about six months of each other back in 2004/5 and found them much-of-a-muchness, weren’t too different from their books. Okay, but if you’re not a total beginner then two days was too much I thought.


  3. Thanks Steve. I went to Syd Field that year, would have been in the same audience! I thought it was alright, I know a lot of people complained because he couldn’t work the DVD; I felt sorry for him – they should have given him a technician. Syd was back in London about a month ago, wasn’t he – did anyone go?

  4. I’ve tended to post on my blog about courses I’ve done – Script Factory’s Picture the Scene, Adrian Mead’s course, the two Jurgen Wolff seminars and I’ve also written about Open Page. If anyone is interested, the links to most of these are on the right sidebar.

    I’m a little reluctant to recommend courses or to slate them. I recommended a course to a close friend once, who then did it and HATED it! It was with a different tutor than when I did it, and it seems like that made all the difference, but I still felt terrible. I’ve only ever once been on a course that didn’t deliver what I expected it to do. It was a treatment workshop at Straight Curve. I feel horrible mentioning it so I’ll just counter that by saying it was the first time the course had been run and the organisers really listened to the concerns of the participants. I was refunded my course fee without any quibbles. I don’t know if they still do the course but it’s important to say that just because it didn’t fulfill my expectations doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be exactly what someone else needed.

  5. I think in general courses are a waste of money, as they mostly cover the same topics. I prefer books, they’re cheaper and you can absorb the information at your own rate.

    The exception was Adrian Mead’s seminar on TV Drama. From the description of it on Mr. Danny Stack’s blog it looked different from the all the others I’d seen advertised, so I signed up. I don’t for a single moment regret that. What a fantastic, informative day.

  6. When I did my first degree, in Literature and Creative Writing, the CW tutor used to say “you could all learn more if you stayed at home and did some writing rather than come to these classes.”

  7. Potdoll: which uni was that?? Interesting that she wanted to do herself out of a job…

    Dom: whilst screenwriting books are useful, I find them deathly boring for the most part. I’d sooner go on a course and network, though I agree you often learn the same thing, just couched in a different way.

    Lianne: Good points there. I often feel bad about reccommending or slating courses: hard work has gone into making them and running them after all. What I want to do is to just get the word out, so people can make an informed choice within the perimeters of personal preferences, etc.

  8. I went to the Syd Field seminar about a month ago. After reading the recommendation from Frank Darabont, and some of Field’s books, I thought it was a great opportunity.

    He had “technical difficulties” again this time (maybe it’s part of his act).

    The place was half empty, even after many people bought at a huge discount in the last minute.

    Yes, a lot of it was covered in the books, but … I started relating things to a script I’m working on.

    The average age was at least fifty. There were maybe three people younger than thirty five.

    For me, workshops beat seminars. I’d go for workshops any day.

    But still, you get what you put into it. I attempted to read all the scripts and watch (or re-watch) all the films, as well as catch up on his theory ahead of time, as well as produce another draft of two of my scripts (for networking opportunities). The seminar gave me a deadline.

    A University course, a workshop, a seminar and an evening class are all very different. Then there’s the kind of scriptwriting to consider. Different methods work better for different students.

  9. Thanks Vasco, that’s interesting to know – when I went I think the auditorium was full, though generally as you say the average age was about 50. Interesting too they didn’t learn from last time re: the technician: if it’s part of the act as you say, they obviously didn’t read how annoyed people got about it!

    You definitely get out what you put in though; I was amazed by how few people sitting near me had watched the films etc. I mean, the tickets cost in the region of £250!

  10. 1] Euroscript Pitch and Premise with Charles Harris.

    Very good, very informative, very useful. Charles is a very good teacher. The best bit was that they kept numbers low so you get individual feedback on your own pitches, which is something you definatly can’t get from books [or from spending the day just writing]

    One of the attendees, Dan Sefton got a pitch that he worked on in the group optioned the very next week! Now that’s sucess!!

    A lot of it was about focusing on, and developing the premise right the way through the writing process, which I’ve found useful since.

    This isnt an idea I’ve seen written down in any of the literature, but Justin Trefgarne [ex Working Title development exec] expressed a similar idea in a pitching seminar at the screenwriters festival. [I suppose that’s 2) isn’t it?]

    The other really useful event was also during the screenwriters festival – seeing the panel question the premises of the very brave Pitch Factor winners.

    Although it wasnt a course as such, it was a excellent example of what Charles and Justin were talking about (show not tell!)
    – it really was a great illustration of the sort of questions industry pros will ask of your ideas, and what you should ask of your own project.

    But the screenwriters festival was great last year [and I’m not just saying that cos I’m working for them this year!]

    Finally 3) (or is it 4?) Adrian Mead… what a tedious, boring, useless course — No only joking, it was fantastic, but I’m sure everyone who didnt go is getting bored of hearing that! Seriously, it was as great as everyone says.

  11. Cheers Martin, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Charles Harris, think he might be next on my hit list. (In terms of GOING to his courses, not bumping him off I hasten to add!!!)

    And you’re right about the Adrian Mead Courses. What a terrible waste of time. In fact, I found it so dull I’m going ALL THE WAY to Edinburgh next week for “The Long Distance Screenwriter” course so I can tell him so on his home turf!!! ; )

    Anyone else going to Adrian’s course next week by the way?? I can’t wait!! Email me and I’ll save you a seat though warning: I can be very annoying. Ask Lara of Tenacious Me whom I sat next to last time…

  12. Hi Lucy

    I had a good time at the drop-in London Script Consultancy classes on a Monday night in Soho. £3/4 for a talk which was always at least entertaining and occasionally brilliant (they introduced me to the ‘sequence approach’ book which has changed my life!). The people who take it are real characters and very sharp. Best bit is the pitching session afterwards where you can read a pitch or outline or even a short film. If you need to practice your pitching this would be a great place to go. Most people there 25-35 and beginners with a couple of their more established buddies from time to time. It’s fine to just rock up so makes for a good night out.
    They also run short courses over a weekend which are cheap – never done one but I think it a blast!

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