Introduction to Screenwriting

Introduction to Screenwriting

Learn everything you need to write a great script including structure, character creation, dialogue, and marketing and selling your screenplay. Whether you want to write micro-budget indie films or Hollywood blockbusters, this course will provide everything you need to know to write a script that sells.

6 Weeks Access / 24 Course Hrs
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There's never been a better time to start a career as a screenwriter. With technological breakthroughs bringing the cost of making and distributing movies down to almost nothing, there is an ever-increasing demand for great scripts—and for people who can write them. Whether you want to write micro-budget indie films or Hollywood blockbusters, this course will teach you everything you need to know to write a script that sells.

You will learn the fundamentals of stories—why audiences need them, what they expect from them, and what kinds of stories work time after time. You'll discover how to create characters audiences connect with and how to write dialogue that will bring them to life. You will get hands-on experience through a series of short writing assignments that will have you working like a pro from the very beginning of the course. In addition, you'll get an inside look into the business of selling your script and building your career as a writer. When you finish the course, you'll be ready to start writing your own script!


The first lesson will discuss the increasing opportunities for new screenwriters and all the ways you can use those opportunities to build your own career. You'll find out why it's going to be so much easier to get a movie made in the near future and what that could mean for your career as a writer. Then you'll get an insight into the three basic elements that any script needs to succeed: a great concept, compelling characters, and a strong structure. Finally, you'll examine what your script needs to look like and explore ways to achieve that easily. By the end of this lesson, you'll be ready to dive into this exciting world.

In this lesson, you'll explore why people don't just love stories—they need them. You'll search the distant past to discover where stories come from and then rocket back to the present to understand how they work. You'll examine the rules that define Western storytelling and then learn the one simple sentence that will allow you to create compelling stories for your own scripts. Finally, you'll take a close look at the master story that underlies almost every other story ever told and find out how it can help you shape your own stories.

In this lesson, you'll look into the very heart and soul of any story—the conflicts that drive it. You'll pull some stories apart to see why they don't tick and then put them back together the right way so that they do. You'll learn about the one central feature that defines every story, and the seven conflicts that define all stories. Finally, you'll examine how you can take a deeply personal internal story and turn it into a movie that audiences will love.

In this lesson, you'll unlock the secrets of creating great characters. You'll blow up the stale formulas of "building profiles" and focus on the essence of your characters instead of the details. You'll find out how to strip characters down to the central conflict at their core and then explore ways to build them back up into living, breathing human beings. Then, you'll see how even the most brilliantly developed characters can fall flat on the page and how to bring them to life.

In this lesson, you'll blast through all the reams of nonsense that have been written about the mysterious complexities of the three-act structure and reveal how simple and elegant it really can be. You'll analyze what goes into each of the acts and figure out how to use them to tell an unforgettable story. After that, you'll tackle the dreaded task of outlining and learn why it's essential—and how to make it easier and more productive.

In this lesson, you'll take a hard look at how to start your stories. You'll examine the subtle elements necessary to get your script off to the right start and explore the ways you can accidentally send your audience off-course. Then you'll tear apart the opening of some great movies to see what makes them tick. Finally, you'll tackle the one quality your first pages need more than any other.

In this lesson, you'll tackle the hardest part of any script—the second act. You'll explore the reasons why it's so much more difficult to plot than the first and third acts and then zero in on the one sure way to make sure you'll always have enough story to fill the great middle of your screenplay. Through close examination of one brilliantly structured script, you'll discover the essential element that keeps stories alive through act two. Finally, you'll take a hard look at act two's crucial structural component, and how you can make it work for you.

In this lesson, you'll find out why some scripts have endings you'll never forget—and some have finales you'd rather not remember. You'll explore the mysterious, contradictory nature of the great ending and discover how those last few scenes can completely transform everything that's come before. Then, you'll tear apart a few finales to understand why some soar and others sink. Finally, you'll take a hard look at that most difficult ending to pull off, the big twist.

In this lesson, you're going to take those first steps from outline to script. You're going to see the difference between a scene that exists as a paragraph in an outline and one that comes vividly to life on the page. You'll dive into the process of creating exciting scenes that pop from the first line and how to keep them going until the end. Finally, you'll learn the one trick that will always turn a flat scene into one that sings.

In this lesson, you're going to learn what makes film dialogue special, and how you can use it to create and develop your characters. You'll get a tour through various types of dialogue with stops to explain the particular challenges each one poses and the rewards each brings. You'll find out why screenwriting is the one place where it's never good to be on the money, and how to get off it. Finally, you'll get a map to tell you how to avoid the biggest trap in writing dialogue.

In this lesson, you'll celebrate your finished first draft—and then leap into rewriting it from top to bottom. You'll explore what the real purpose of the first draft is and how to get the most out of it. You'll find the joy of the accidental discovery and investigate how to use that to make the script better than you ever consciously knew it could be. You'll get a demonstration of how this works in practice. Finally, you'll receive a step-by-step roadmap for approaching your rewrite.

In this lesson, you'll take your finished script and turn it into a movie. You'll explore the ways you can get your script to the movers and shakers in Hollywood—and examine which movers and shakers you should target. You'll weigh the merits of agents and managers, contests and script analysts who promise to get your screenplay to all the top executives. Then, you'll take a clear look at an alternative way to get your script made into a film that reflects your vision. Finally, the lesson will talk about ways to encourage and manage your growth as a writer while you work toward your big break.



There are no prerequisites to take this course.


Hardware Requirements:

  • This course can be taken on either a PC, Mac, or Chromebook.

Software Requirements:

  • PC: Windows 8 or later.
  • Mac: macOS 10.6 or later.
  • Browser: The latest version of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are preferred. Microsoft Edge and Safari are also compatible.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • Software must be installed and fully operational before the course begins.


  • Email capabilities and access to a personal email account.

Instructional Material Requirements:

The instructional materials required for this course are included in enrollment and will be available online.


William Rabkin

William Rabkin is a veteran writer/producer whose 300-plus hours of produced television include Monk, Psych, and The Glades. He has served as "showrunner" on Diagnosis Murder, Martial Law, and She-Wolf of London, and has written a dozen network pilots. He is the co-creator and co-editor of Amazon Publishing's bestselling Dead Man series of action horror novels, and has also published five additional novels and two books on writing, Successful Television Writing (2003, with Lee Goldberg) and Writing the Pilot (2011). As a teacher, he has lectured and led workshops for writers, producers, and executives in Spain, Sweden, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and led traditional classes at UCLA Extension and Stephens College. He is currently an adjunct professor of screenwriting in the University of California, Riverside-Palm Desert's low-residency MFA program.


I have learned an enormous amount in a relatively short time, and I want to let you know that I think you are a fabulous instructor. And because my "grade" doesn't rely upon my high opinion of you, then you must know it's the truth and deeply felt. Thanks so much for being willing to take on the task. I would sign up for any course you ever teach again!

I am amazed at how fortunate we have all been to have had such an outstanding teacher.

I feel like I have learned some really essential things from Bill and Anna that you just can't get from a book, looking online, etc. The feedback for all of us was different each time, yet relevant to each one of us. Two thumbs up!

This was an absolutely fantastic class with fantastic teachers.

Thank you for all of your valuable advice throughout the duration of this course. I've loved every minute of it and am super appreciative of your effort.

Thank you, Bill and Anna, for a great course! I do not want it to end. I appreciate all the instruction and guidance you have provided within this class.

I appreciate your guidance and thoughtful responses throughout the course! I leave this class with a better understanding of conflict and especially plot vs. story. I'm even more excited about completing my first draft!

This course taught me in six weeks how to write the perfect script and how to go about getting my foot in the door of production studios. I don't know what other course could do that with these results.

Thank you for your words of wisdom and encouragement throughout the lessons. I've enjoyed this class immensely and I have learned so much. Thank you so very, very much for your patience and giving guidance in such a positive way.

have learned a great deal in this course and I think the lessons Mr. Rabkin has written are outstanding. He cuts right to the heart of the matter and has made the whole creative process clearer. I really treasure the insights he has shared.

Self-Guided Course Code: T9660
Instructor-Moderated Course Code: isw