Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

How to Find Free Screenwriting Courses

There are always barriers to entry to any profession, but screenwriting has a few specific ones. Geography: If you don’t live in one of the screenwriting hubs around the world, access to the screenwriting industry, including education, is just harder to come by. Cost: Attending any of the top film schools is expensive, and even online courses that purport to be a more affordable option can still cost hundreds of dollars. However, the beauty of screenwriting is that it does not require an expensive degree or any specialty courses. You can learn how to write a screenplay through several free screenwriting courses and scriptwriting books, and we’ve rounded up some of the best for you right here with help from veteran TV writer and screenwriting professor Ross Brown.

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Brown teaches (paid) screenwriting courses through the Creative Writing MFA program at Antioch University. Before that, he taught in the Film and Media Arts program at Chapman University and the University of Southern California, and Cal State Northridge. He also attended the school of life – where he learned the screenwriting trade through old-fashioned experience on shows such as “Who’s the Boss?,”“The Facts of Life,” and “Step by Step.”

Even still, he recommends that some of the best lessons come in books, online courses, and of course … practice.

Most Expensive Option: Film School

“I don’t know specific online screenwriting courses, but I know there are many,” he began. “Southern New Hampshire University has a very good online writing program.”

You can get a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree from the Southern New Hampshire University Creative Writing Program entirely online. But as we know, degrees are not free.

Neither are screenwriting books, although you can learn a ton about screenwriting for under $30 with these screenwriting book recommendations from Brown below.

Less Expensive Option: Books

“One of my other recommendations is don’t just pick one book on screenwriting,” Brown told us. “Pick several and see which one works for you best. They all say variations of the same thing about beginning, middle, and end, and character, and rising action, and so on, but some of them phrase their advice in a way that will click with you better than others, and you need to find which phrasing works for you.”

Here are more options for screenwriting books based on the writing community’s recommendations.

Free Screenwriting Courses:

University of East Anglia – An Introduction to Screenwriting

The BBC Writers Room recommends this course from the University of East Anglia. The University of East Anglia’s School of Literature, Drama, and Creative Writing offers this free screenwriting course that’s open to join at any time through the FutureLearn website. Videos, articles, and discussion steps offer you the ability to learn and work with others on critical concepts and ideas. This screenwriting course is entirely free, but you can add a certificate of completion for $64.

What you’ll learn:

  • Common vocabulary

  • Essential characteristics of a screen story

  • Development of basic storylines

  • Story structures

  • How to develop characters

  • Constructing scenes and the role of dialogue and character voice

  • The workflow from a first draft to a feature-length screenplay

  • Screenplay formatting

  • How to write and finish the first draft

  • How to design a story pitch

Duration:

Two weeks total, with 3 hours of weekly study.

Free Screenwriting Courses from Udemy.com

Udemy.com offers three free screenwriting courses, all of which are under an hour long. Udemy even offers a free online screenwriting course in Portuguese and a free online screenwriting course in Polish! Udemy is a respected online marketplace for learning and instruction, with more than 130,000 online video courses in almost every topic you can think of. You needn’t stop at screenwriting – Udemy offers more than 70 free online courses in storytelling alone!

What you'll learn:

Duration:

Less than one hour.

Michigan State University – Write a Feature-Length Screenplay for Film or Television

You’ll finish this free online screenwriting course from Michigan State University with a complete, feature-length screenplay for film or television. You’ll learn to break down the traditional screenwriting process into different parts so you can develop a structure and plan for writing your script. This is a learn-by-doing course, meaning many of the lessons will be applied to your practice screenplay. This course is given in English but has subtitles for screenwriters who speak Arabic, French, Portuguese, Italian, Vietnamese, German, Russian, and Spanish.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to create a process around screenwriting

  • How to write and finish a feature-length script

  • How to work in a writers room – through writing, posting for peer review, sharing your feedback with your peers on their screenplays, and revising your own script based on their feedback

Duration:

Approximately 93 hours to complete.

Michigan State University – Write a Pilot Episode for a TV or Web Series

This course is designed to help screenwriters complete a real-world, pitch-ready television or web series script in just five weeks. The instructor will teach screenwriters to create a process around their writing to repeat it with success in the future.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to develop your TV series concept

  • How to create a bible for your TV series

  • How to write act 1, 2, and 3 of your pilot episode

  • How to polish your script, create a cold open, and finish the first season bible

Duration:

Five weeks, approximately 22 hours to complete.

SkillShare – How to Craft a Unique Writer Identity

This course on how to craft a unique writer identity is designed by Barbara Vance, who has a Ph.D. in Narrative and Media. While she mainly teaches creative writing and poetry, she has spoken worldwide about the power of storytelling. Screenwriters need to have a unique voice to get noticed, so this class is perfect if you’re still trying to find that niche. In Vance’s class on how to craft a unique writer identity, she’ll teach you how to find your own unique voice, place goals on who you want to be as a writer, and craft work that is instantly recognizable as your own.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to define “voice”

  • Tone in writing

  • How to determine what you want to be as a writer

  • How to determine what you stand for

Duration:

Ten lessons for a total of 47 minutes (not including projects).

Skillshare – How to Write Screenplay Character Introductions

In this free screenwriting course from Skillshare, you’ll learn how to make your screenplay characters instantly engaging to your reader in a concise way that doesn’t take up space in your script. The course uses real examples, writing exercises, and video instruction to teach you how to write characters in your screenplay that people can’t get enough of; no special equipment or software is required!

What you’ll learn:

  • How to quickly and creatively engage readers through your character descriptions

  • How to use real examples to model your characters

  • Exercises to build better character descriptions

Duration:

Eleven lessons for a total of 45 minutes (not including exercises).

Writing the Short – Write a Shootable Short Screenplay in 5 Weeks

In this free screenwriting course with Professor John Warren, who teaches screenwriting at New York University Tisch School of the Arts Film and Television Program, you’ll learn how to go from having no ideas to crafting a compelling and shootable script. This course is for anyone, even if you have no screenwriting experience at all. Warren will share the lessons he’s learned over his 20 years in the entertainment industry from agents, producers, filmmakers, and writing and selling his own feature films.

What you’ll learn:

  • A step-by-step process for completing an original screenplay, from the idea to a pitch, a beat sheet, and finally a 10-12 page short script

  • How to use short screenplays to win competitions, wow agents and managers, build your resume reel, apply to film programs, and test a feature film idea on a smaller scale

  • How to use structure to your advantage

Duration:

5 weeks.

Most of these courses require nothing more than your time, a pen and paper, or a word processor – no fancy equipment necessary! We also recommend having these screenwriting tools on hand to get the most out of your lessons.

Screenwriting does not have to be an expensive endeavor if you know where to look for free resources. Of course, that’s what we want this blog to be for you, as well! SoCreate is constantly striving toward becoming the best possible writing resource for screenwriters around the world. If you come across any other great free screenwriting resources, please post them in the comments below!

Everything’s a learning curve,

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