This is a course for prose writers and journalists looking to break into the world of writing for film and TV. It’s for the novelists and short story writers who want to learn how to turn an idea into a limited series, and for the journalists and narrative nonfiction writers who have incredible stories to tell but don’t know the first thing about structuring a movie or pilot.
There’s a long tradition in film of prose writers turning to the screen, including journalist and playwright Ben Hecht and novelists like Raymond Chandler and William Faulkner. Over the last decade, prose writers turned screenwriters have been responsible for some of the greatest works of film and TV, including Widows, True Detective, and The Night Of.
Learning how to write in an entirely new medium with its own rules and constraints can be intimidating. Whether you’ve got a knack for writing compelling dialogue or you know how to tell a story in under 1,000 words, in this class you’ll learn how to apply your experience and style in other fields of writing to screenwriting. We’ll cover the fundamental vocabulary of screenwriting, story structure, how to develop characters made for the screen, the basics of breaking story and writing an outline, and, most importantly, how to say what you have to say without going over your page limit.
We’ll look at genre-defining scripts that showcase the framework of screenwriting and speak to the power of the form such as Michael Clayton, Breaking Bad, Scandal, and others. We’ll also be reading excerpts from Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story by John Yorke, and Save the Cat Writes for TV by Jamie Nash.
Writers will leave this course with a deeper understanding of the screenwriting fundamentals, as well as a working knowledge of film and TV structure and comfort writing within the scripted medium in order to begin developing a film or pilot script.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility.
Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.
- The tools to start developing your own film or pilot.
- Knowledge of how screenwriting works on the page and a working understanding of screenwriting vocabulary.
- Learning how to think in TV or film structure.
- A comfort starting to work in a new medium.
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students should expect to read one to two scripts per week and have spent time annotating the script to identify the points relevant to each subject we cover. Students will also be asked to generate story and character ideas.
Week 1: The form (vocabulary and rules)
Week 2: Scenework
Week 3: Structure
Week 4: Outlines and beat sheets
Alexander Aciman is a screenwriter and journalist living in New York. His work has appeared in The New York Times, the Paris Review, The New Yorker online, Tablet, and elsewhere. After working on the Netflix documentary series Rotten, he co-wrote and sold an original series to Amazon. He is currently developing material for film and television with various studios and production companies.
“Alex is the rare writer who can guide readers to the heart of a story without having to tell them that they've arrived. His work is smart, effortlessly funny, and full of life and rich surprises.”
“Alex Aciman is a writer and critic with a deep well of knowledge that is rooted in literature but moves outward into all different realms of culture. He writes with a true and nuanced understanding of his subjects, but also with a much-needed dose of compassion that I think is often missing these days. It's not something that can necessarily be taught, but it can be developed and fostered, and I know Alex is the sort of person that other writers looking to grow can get a lot from and he'll make a great addition to Catapult's already stellar group of instructors.”
“Alex is a rare gem of an editor who understands that the secret to the best critique is the generosity of spirit with which you approach it. I always trust him with my writing because I know that he’ll understand with grace and precision what I’m attempting — and then he’ll help me to understand why I’m not there yet. A writer’s writer if ever there was one, Alex loves discussing the craft, so much so that it’s hard not to come away from any conversation with him feeling similarly.”