The below is a report of an experiment: the trial run of the legendary Immersion Screenwriting course.
The beta version was a little rough and dirty – but free, and effective!
A free screenwriting course? Too good to be true.
Of course it is. But hear me out.
As my boss in London told me, you can only have two out of these three: cheap, fast and good. Poor Luke Stinson wanted all, and he copped a lot of flak when he posted this on Facebook in the Screenwriting group:
“Can someone completely teach me how to write a screenplay,
like guide me and step by step without money involved. Thanks”
Some believed Luke was being sarcastic. However, it sufficed to click on Luke’s profile to see that he is just an innocent kid from the Central Coast in NSW, Australia.
It would have been easy to add to the storm of indignation, and protect my livelihood by arguing why people should pay for screenwriting classes.
But I remembered what my boss said. So Luke should be able to get cheap and good, or perhaps cheap and fast.
My existing courses are fast (12 days of classes) and good. People also pay a thousand dollars, so that isn’t going to help Luke. And given that I don’t do ‘bad’, the only option available for Luke’s free screenwriting course would be in the category ‘slow and good’.
So I started thinking.
No books, no courses
I learn about storytelling every day, and I hardly ever read books.
I study and analyse movies and scripts. This is how Syd Field made it, this is what many professional screenwriters do, and it is what Luke should do.
(And at this point, let’s be realistic. Luke may never be prepared to make the effort. But let’s for the sake of the argument assume that Luke is indeed passionate and persistent. I know people out there who are, but truly cannot afford the best screenwriting courses.)
Members of the Facebook group largely agree that Luke should devour all scripts he can lay his hands on, watch tons of movies, and ‘read all the books’.
The problem with this of course is that Luke can’t possibly read all the screenwriting books in his lifetime. Jack Brislee told me years ago that he found 2,000+ publications on screenwriting, on Amazon.com alone.
Reading as many scripts as possible is great, but if Luke has access to bad scripts, should he really read them, too? And how can he tell the difference?
Finally, how is watching movies going to help? EVERYONE watches tons of movies. Does this bring everyone closer to being a screenwriter? Well, no.
In addition to the reading and watching, there will need to be a hell of a lot of analysis and reflection.
What Makes The Difference
I believe that my 30 year experience in the industry, and 10 years of working with screenwriters (20 years if you include my development & acquisition years) can help distinguish between what Luke should read and watch, in what order, and what he should leave aside.
It is tempting to pre-package the learning, and just share (or sell) the wisdom and insights that may result from the work. The strongest, and only lasting learning, however, comes from self-discovery. Rather than pre-package the knowledge, I will guide the student where to go in order to do the discovering.
So I’m now developing a simple free screenwriting course, based on reading, watching and writing. No mentors involved. No money paid.
The first one hundred days will immerse Luke in format and style, at a pace that is manageable, spending about 1 hour every day. He will perform a deceptively simple, yet powerful writing exercise. This will take no more than about ten to fifteen minutes each day. For the remainder of the hour, he will read from 20 screenplays that I have handpicked. After finishing each script, he will write two pages following a few simple questions and instructions, before moving to the next.
Once he has worked through the scripts and completed the exercise, he is ready for a bigger challenge. One simple task, but one that will require him to investigate the screenplay format more closely, and learn it actively. This part of the course will probably take him one month, and it will be followed by a similar, yet more challenging task.
After 5 months, Luke is ready to write his own first screenplay.
At this point, Luke will not have had a single screenwriting class. Yet he will have progressively learned more about the nature of scriptwriting, the challenges as well as the core skills required to write for the screen.
After six months, he will have written his first script, and be ready to receive his first professional feedback.
If it works – judged by myself as well as the participants – I will design a 6 month follow-up program (self-study, again) to bring the participants to intermediate level.
What’s in it for me? I want to test this program, and hopefully confirm my sneaking suspicion that you don’t need a single screenwriting book to learn the basics of the craft in only 6 months.
I remember Scott Meyers once ran a free program over at GITS, and I’ve always found him an inspiring example. Another thinker who has influenced me is Seth Godin. Check out these guys.
When you’re reading all this, you may be getting excited, and itching to join in. Let’s go over a few of the details and requirements. More will follow once you sign up.
Free Screenwriting Course Details
- Six months commitment.
- One hour availability per day.
- No experience required (nor desired).
- Self-study only; no personal mentor feedback.
- No screenwriting theory instruction.
- Tasks to be sent via email or uploaded.
- Closed Facebook group for peer feedback.
- Monthly webinars for questions & discussion.[/box][/fivecol_four_last]
Your Chance To Participate
Initially I said that this would be open to only 5 students, and I will keep it at that number. I will encourage them to do the work, and keep them accountable. I don’t have the time to communicate with more than 5 people. It’s free, remember?
That said, I will open up the program, and you can now apply. You will get support from their peers in the program through a closed Facebook group where everyone can participate. You will also have to pledge to a different type of accountability…
If you drop out before the 6 months are up, or if you fail to deliver 2 successive script reports, you will pay an amount of your choice (previously agreed) to me, or to charity. If you are serious, you set this amount high enough so it’s an incentive to keep going.
Trust me, there will be moments when you need this sword of Damocles dangling above your head to keep doing the work.
To be considered, click below to go to the registration page, where you can request access to the closed Facebook Group. As soon as I have approved your request, you will receive further details about the course, so you can decide whether this is for you or not.
When the first class kicked off on 1 July 2016, over a hundred students were on the waiting list, so I will be starting new courses frequently. If you’re interested, join the closed Facebook Group, and you’ll be invited to our next info webinar.
I’m crazy, I know. But who is not, who is successful in film?
Update: The honeymoon is over. 200 started the course, after applications closed in November 2016. The irony? Luke Stinson never joined us. Possibly because of the misguided perception that free stuff is inferior.
The course was meanwhile updated to a slicker, more interactive version… and it is no longer free.
Still, the results have been incredible, with dozens of writers completing full-length feature screenplays, and more submitting their work every day. Enrol here, and join us for the rest of the journey!
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.
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