Writing Features (Film London and NYU TISCH)

Writing Features (Film London and NYU TISCH)

Image by Oli Lynch from Pixabay

I recently completed two courses on screenwriting, focussed on feature length scripts. I'll summarise my experience of both. The first was NYU TISCH's Writing the Feature and the second, Film London Labs: The Writer Sessions.


NYU TISCH Writing the Feature

I'd already compelted their free Writing the Short course and blogged about it. Here I will talk about their Writing the Feature course for which I was a beta tester. It's a ten week course and cost me $116.40. Not sure why the strange number, maybe it will going up 5-fold soon? It was certainly worth it.

The course was created as we were taking it. I kept up to date till about week 5 but then got a bit distracted by other activities. There were 2 opportunities to get feedback: once on the logline and secondly on the beat tent pole. The course consisted mostly of Professor John Warren talking to camera, with the occasional clip. To complement his information, more technical content was provided by two alumni, Alexie Basil (alexiebasil.com) and Adam Schaller. A Dischord channel was set up and at the latest count has more than 100 members. Avishai Weinberger also helps out.

John has a deep knowledge of story and an encouraging manner. Alexie and Adam are a little more direct and provide a deeper dive into more complex material. It works well in tandem. The video lengths ranged from 1 minute to 25 minutes. Each week's course had at least 30 minutes of content. All of the videos had transcripts and some had associated templates.

The course covered the following topics:

  1. Protagonist - what do they want
  2. Protagonist - why can't they have it
  3. Act 1 - Forces
  4. Act 2a - How does your Protagonist respond
  5. Act 2b - What changes
  6. Act 3 - How do they transform?
  7. Sequencing and Carding
  8. First draft - your protagonist's transformatoin
  9. Second draft - revision
  10. Getting the script out there

I'm not going to review or repeat the whole course. For £100 quid, you can just join. But I will try to summarise the workflow:

  1. Idea - perhaps two ideas that cross, What If?
  2. Write the logline knowing their flaw, want and antagonist
  3. Write a list of 30 obstacles (Act 2 plot)
  4. Check your psychological spine is robust

    Screenshot 2020-07-27 10.18.24.png

  5. Complete the tent pole beat document
  6. Fill out your story using:
    • Story Clock
    • Snowballing - write the story as prose, throw away, write again
  7. Carding: gives you a helicopter view of where your characters are and allows easy moving of scenes.
    • Front: Scene Heading, Number, What Happens, #pages, What it establishes, Coloured lines for characters
    • Rear: How your protagonist is doing wrt purpose or their emotional temperature (arrow, perhaps)
  8. First draft.

I hope that is helpful and may encourage you to join the course.

Film London Labs: The Writer Sessions

This was an online short course  targeted towards emerging writers, writer/directors or writer/producers working in the narrative space who are about to embark on, or already working on, their first or second feature film script. It was run by Angeli Macfarlane, founder of Script Cube.

This was structured as 2.5 hour sessions twice a week for two weeks. It was a good refresher for me along with some new content. In addition, it had two fillmakers: writer/director of I am not a Witch Rungano Nyoni and Alejandro Landes, writer/director of Monos.

The course was about £70 and a good overview of what you need in your feature script and for the guest speakers Angeli is able to find.