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Best Online Screenwriting Courses

an aspiring screenwriter learning at their desk

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Aspiring screenwriters often wonder – how can I take my craft to the next level? Where can I access the insider knowledge and hands-on training to transform my rough first draft into a polished, pitch-ready script?

In this guide we’ll cover:

  • The range of online courses for developing screenwriting skills
  • Free options like podcasts and university modules to comprehensive paid programs
  • Key factors in selecting a course include curriculum, instructor, cost, skill level focus

Join us as we map the landscape of online learning, equipping you to choose the ideal courses to meet your goals on the path to screenwriting success.

Free Screenwriting Courses Online

Online education does not have to break the bank. For writers looking to develop skills or explore the craft before committing to a paid program, free courses are a great starting point. A number of high-quality options are available, covering screenwriting basics, feedback, and more.

Scriptnotes Podcast

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Hosted by John August and Craig Mazen, Scripnotes is a treasure trove of free screenwriting advice, examples, and industry news. While not a formal screenwriting course, Scriptnotes is easily the best resource to learn the art of screenwriting from real working professional screenwriters.

Weekly podcast episodes are delivered free of charge to your podcast app of choice. For those wanting more, Scriptnotes Premium (paid archive) gives access to all 600+ episodes. Each episode delivers bite-sized lessons on storytelling, characters, formatting, the business, and more. And with their handy PDF guide, you can easily search and reference the content of each episode.

Courseraโ€™s Free Screenwriting Offerings

For beginners, Coursera has a hands-on Creative Writing: Writing the Script course from Michigan State University. Sections include generating story ideas, formatting, developing characters, and revision strategies. Coursera also has some free screenwriting content as part of broader filmmaking courses.

While basic, these free courses allow aspiring writers to explore screenwriting foundations and get feedback from peers. Before investing in comprehensive paid programs, these options offer a taste of the craft.

Paid Screenwriting Courses

For writers seeking comprehensive screenwriting education, paid online courses unlock robust offerings taught by industry experts. More affordable than degree programs, these courses still deliver a substantive curriculum guiding students from concept to completed script. We’ll highlight some top options across platforms.

Shonda Rhimes “Teaches Writing for Television”

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Prolific television creator Shonda Rhimes shares insights from her iconic career in an extensive MasterClass. Across 13 video lessons totaling 5 hours, she reveals her process for developing compelling characters, crafting clever dialogue, outlining gripping story arcs, and more.

Rhimes pulls back the curtain on how she envisioned and executed hit shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. She discusses how to hook viewers from the pilot, balance drama and humor, build diverse ensemble casts, and honor authentic character voices.

As one of the most successful showrunners in television, Rhimes provides invaluable guidance for aspiring TV writers. Her charismatic teaching style makes absorbing 20+ years of wisdom energetic and fun. Writers gain priceless perspective on writing binge-worthy, socially impactful shows that resonate.

For screenwriters specifically interested in mastering the art of compelling serialized TV, Shonda Rhimes’ MasterClass provides insider access to a true trailblazer. Her actionable lessons aim to both instruct and inspire.

Aaron Sorkin “Teaches Screenwriting”

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Iconic writer Aaron Sorkin shares insights from his acclaimed career in film and TV. Through 25 video lessons, he breaks down his creative process and working method.

Script Reader Pro’s Script Hackr

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Script Reader Pro’s online screenwriting course is focused on practical exercises rather than just theory. It contains modules on concepts, themes, characters, structure, scenes, dialogue, and description – the essential building blocks. Here are some of the key features:

  • ๐Ÿ“ It aims to help aspiring screenwriters improve their craft and break into the industry
  • ๐Ÿค” The course targets common issues like creating characters, navigating structure, writing dialogue
  • ๐Ÿง  It simplifies screenwriting theory into “hacks” and uses hands-on exercises to apply them
  • ๐Ÿ“š 7 modules cover concept, theme, characters, structure, scenes, dialogue, and description
  • ๐Ÿ‘ Exercises include developing a logline, choosing a theme, crafting character bios, outlining sequences
  • ๐Ÿ† It’s taught by professional screenwriters who have industry experience and want to help new writers succeed

Udemy’s Courses

Udemy offers a slate of highly-rated screenwriting courses, providing both inspiration and practical tools.

  • Inspirational Screenwriting explores storytelling styles and structures used in acclaimed films.
  • Screenwriting and Storytelling Blueprint is a nuts and bolts course on everything from loglines to formatting.

Screenwriters University’s Screenwriting 101

Their beginner course teaches screenplay structure, character development, scenes, dialogue, formatting, and pitching. One-on-one instructor feedback is provided.

Michigan State University’s Write a Feature Length Screenplay

A comprehensive specialization covering ideation, outlining, story development, writing, and revision for feature films. Taught by Michigan State film professors and writers.

For aspiring screenwriters invested in honing their craft, these robust paid courses deliver the knowledge and tools needed for success. Hands-on curriculum and instructor access accelerate skill-building.

Understanding Screenwriting

Before diving into educational programs, it helps to level-set what exactly screenwriting entails as a craft. This chapter will cover a definition of screenwriting as well as the critical role a screenwriter plays in both the film and television industry in bringing stories to screens, both big and small.

What is Screenwriting?

Screenwriting refers to the act of writing scripts for film and television productions. This involves crafting compelling narratives brought to life through dialogue, action, and description on the page. The screenwriter’s primary deliverable is the screenplay document.

Screenplays require specific formatting conventions like scene headings, action lines, transitions, and more. The writer must transform their creative vision into a readable blueprint guiding the entire production process.

Unlike novels or plays, screenplays are not meant to be consumed directly by an audience. Instead, they provide instructions to directors, actors, cinematographers, and other collaborators who will translate the script to images on screen.

The Screenwriter’s Role

The screenwriter is the architect of a film or TV project, delivering the foundational story and vision that launches the movie into production. Their contributions include:

  • Developing the core narrative idea
  • Outlining plot points and narrative arcs
  • Creating layered, authentic characters
  • Writing snappy, organic dialogue
  • Balancing action, description, and dialogue
  • Conveying setting, tone, and genre elements
  • Adapting the work for directors and actors
  • Revising drafts based on feedback

Understanding the screenwriter’s crucial place in the creative process provides helpful context on the craft for aspiring writers seeking to hone their skills.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Online Screenwriting Course

With the abundance of online screenplay writing course options available, it helps to have criteria in mind to evaluate which is the best fit for your goals and needs. As you search for the right program to start writing, keep these key factors in mind:

Course Content and Focus Areas

Look at the curriculum and topics covered to ensure they align with your learning objectives. Consider whether the course is geared towards beginning vs. advanced writers, specific genres or formats, etc.

Instructor Expertise and Experience

Research the background of the instructors. Industry veterans who have worked on successful films or shows can provide advanced students with invaluable real-world perspectives.

Course Duration and Schedule Flexibility

Look for a timeline that fits with your availability. Many courses are self-paced, while others follow a set schedule. Think about how much time you can dedicate.

Cost and Overall Value for Money

Compare pricing options relative to the quality of teaching, materials, and feedback provided. Make sure the investment pays off in skills gained.

Target Audience Skill Level

Ensure the course is designed for your current ability level. Options range from introducing screenwriting basics to absolute beginners to sharpening advanced techniques.

Student Feedback and Course Ratings

Read reviews and testimonials to evaluate other learners’ experiences and measure satisfaction. This provides helpful insight into course quality.

Carefully weighing these aspects will help you determine which screenwriting program is worth your time, money, and effort on the journey to scripting success. Analyze options against your specific aspirations to make the ideal choice.

Comparison of Online Learning Platforms

In addition to evaluating individual courses, it’s helpful to understand the overall learning experience offered by major online education platforms. Here, we’ll compare the offerings, approach, cost, and more from leading providers like Udemy, MasterClass, Coursera, and Screenwriters University.

Overview of Key Platforms

Udemy – Marketplace with courses taught by industry experts. Very affordable ร  la carte pricing.

MasterClass – Celebrities and masters teach via pre-recorded video lessons. Paid annually for access to all courses on the platform.

Coursera – Partners with universities to offer beginner courses. Offers financial aid.

Screenwriters University – Specialized school for aspiring screenwriters. Structured curriculum and feedback.

Course Topics and Credentials

Udemy and MasterClass focus on tangible creative skills. Coursera partners with universities for more academic offerings with certifications. Screenwriters U provides film industry-focused education.

Cost Considerations

Udemy offers full courses for ~$15-50. MasterClass charges ~$180 yearly for unlimited access. Coursera financial aid enables free learning. Screenwriters U costs ~$297+ per course.

User Experience

Self-paced, independent learning is common across platforms. MasterClass emphasizes video lessons from famous instructors. Screenwriters U provides personalized feedback and interaction.

Key Takeaways

The right platform depends on your goals, ideal format, budget, etc. Udemy offers affordable ร  la carte learning. MasterClass provides access to renowned teachers. Coursera partners with universities. Screenwriters U delivers specialized writing education.

Reviewing the approach of each provides helpful context on online screenwriting education. Focus on the platform aligning best with your needs and preferred learning style.

Benefits of Online Screenwriting Classes

While honing screenwriting skills takes dedication regardless of the learning format, online education provides unique advantages. Assessing these benefits can help prospective students evaluate if virtual courses align with their needs and goals.

Flexibility and Convenience

Online learning offers unmatched flexibility, available anytime and anywhere you have an internet connection. The ability to access materials and learn on your own schedule makes fitting education into busy lifestyles much easier.

Direct Access to Industry Professionals

Many online courses are taught directly by working screenwriters, directors, producers, and development executives. Their insider perspective provides invaluable guidance that simply can’t be gleaned from books alone.

Wide Variety of Specialized Course Offerings

The breadth of online screenwriting courses allows you to zero in on targeted skills and genres tailored to your interests and aspirations as a writer. Want to perfect dialogue for comedies? There’s a class for that.

Opportunity for Feedback and Community Interaction

Discussion forums, peer reviews, and mentorship foster community, allowing you to refine skills through feedback. The social elements enhance the educational experience.

Taking advantage of these upsides can accelerate a writer’s development through flexible, focused learning. Assess your needs to determine if the unique benefits of online screenwriting education are right for you.


This article aimed to provide an informative overview of the online screenwriting education landscape. We covered the spectrum of options, from free introductions to comprehensive paid courses taught by industry veterans. Several key takeaways emerged:

  • Online learning allows aspiring writers to develop skills flexibly and access insider expertise
  • A range of factors should be evaluated when selecting a course, like curriculum, instructor, guest speakers, qualifications, cost, skill level, and more.
  • Major platforms like Udemy, MasterClass, Coursera, and Screenwriters University each offer distinct experiences
  • Both free and paid courses have pros and cons to weigh
  • Hands-on courses focused on tangible writing skills tend to offer the most value

While the path to success in writing a feature film script or TV show is never easy, honing your craft via courses tailored to your aspirations can provide a tremendous head start. We encourage you to review the options covered here, assess your needs, weigh your screenwriting software choices, and take that first step toward mastering screenwriting by enrolling in an online course. The journey of a thousand drafts to a full script begins with a single lesson. Keep writing!

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