This blog has always been about trying to help out the screenwriting community and give others a boost whenever possible.
Letting the world know about your script seems like a pretty good boost.
This edition lists 33 feature and 15 TV spec scripts, all available for reading via the writer’s email. Something strikes your fancy and sounds like a fun read? Contact the writer and ask.
Is your script on this list and you want to let everybody know about it? Copy the url and post to your social media platforms. Go ahead and toot that horn.
Once again, a huge thanks to all the talented writers who sent in their script info. I hope you each get lots of eyes on your material, along with more than a few read requests, and all the good things those could potentially lead to…
Thanks for reading, and enjoy.
AMERICAN PRESIDENT: DEMON SLAYER
Facing off against a horde of demons and the satanic cult who summoned them, a new President must find her voice in order to save the world and her soul.
Winner – Best Horror Comedy Screenplay – Oregon Horror Screams Film Festival – Fall 2022
On the eve of ruining her niece’s wedding, a love-challenged divorce attorney must rediscover the reason for the romantic season with the whimsical guidance of the Ghosts of Valentine’s Day Past, Present, and Future!
A paranoid lifestyle YouTuber and a ghost-hunter team up to investigate an abandoned factory with a dark past, but when they’re attacked by ghostly foes, they’ll need to trust each other and work together to escape with their lives.
Traveling to ‘the old country’ to find her only remaining family, a bereaved young American woman is forced to choose life or death when learning her aunt is a goddess needing a younger host to survive.
Winner – Best Script, Pinnacle Script Awards (LA) 2021
After a troubled Texas teenager is convicted of lying to the police for claiming that he saw an astronaut fall from the Columbia Space Shuttle explosion, he witnessesa murder, but no one will believe him – except the killer.
Finalist – PAGE International Screenwriting Awards 2022
Finalist – StoryPros 2020
Second Rounder – Austin Film Festival 2020
Top 10% – Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting 2020
A single Latina mother, desperate to afford the medication her son urgently needs, unknowingly traffics young women across the border for a Cartel funded trucking company… for her children’s sake, she better deliver.
Facing police indifference and anti-punk hysteria after his two friends are brutally murdered, a punk rock zine writer becomes the next target when he enters the dark world of neo-Nazi extremism to find the killers and end the bloodshed.
Ruthless mercenaries, fanatical cultists, and celestial horrors won’t stand in the way of an all-girl urban explorer team hell bent on rescuing a little girl from the grip of a shadowy monster in a secretive lab.
When her groom is possessed by a vengeful disembodied spirit on their wedding night, a young bride must challenge the notions of her own faith and her place in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in a race to set him free.
Second Rounder – Austin Film Festival 2022
Official Selection – HorrOrigins Film Festival 2022
When a long forgotten colony ship reappears on the far side of the galaxy, explorers are sent to discover what happened to it, and why the vessel’s enigmatic commander insists it can never return to Earth.
Winner – Bridge Fest, Vancouver
Nominee – Hybrid Genre, ‘The Red List’, Toronto
Winner – Los Angeles Motion Picture Festival
Winner – H.G. Wells Award, LA Sci-Fi Film Festival
Nominee – Hamilton Film Festival, Canadian Film Market
When Santa Claus disappears at the most important time of the year, a recently deceased grandfather and new elf-in-training, must recruit his grieving granddaughter to help him save Christmas in order to convince her there’s joy in her life that’s yet to be discovered.
When a popular podcaster discovers a small-town taxidermist is his job-hopping childhood friend in disguise, he must decide whether to go along with the prank or reveal his identity in an effort to boost his own career.
Best of the Fest – Die Laughing Film Festival 2022
In this modern day reimagining of Frankenstein, the unhinged Dr. Victoria Frankenstein brings Mary to life, and forces her to kill people for scientific experimentation, but as Mary evolves into an ethical person, it’s up to her to stop her evil creator.
Still guilty over his three-year-old daughter’s untimely death, a Lakota Aspie detective fights skeptical and hostile colleagues, to prove his visionary skills matter when (re)solving mysterious cases.
Former Scotland Yard Inspector John Hawkwood is trying to redeem himself from his dark past by working as a private detective in an idyllic Cotswolds village in 1956 England, surrounded by a cast of equally quirky & unconventional characters.
Semi-finalist – Santa Barbara International Screenplay Awards, 2022
A corporate salesman attempts to understand why he left his pizza chef job for the woman that just rejected his proposal in Hawaii as he finds solace in a pizza truck, The Dough Mobile. While he thought he needed dough to solve his life problems, what really needs to solve them is that he has to knead the dough.
This week I opted to give myself a bit of a break among the writing and outlining sessions, and read some scripts just for the hell of it. Admittedly, some of them had been in my “to read” queue for quite a while, and right now seemed as good a time as any to finally get to them.
No notes. No feedback. Just sitting back, relaxing, and losing myself in the stories.
They ranged from a horror to a historical action, a western to a drama based on true events.
And each and every one was fantastic in its own unique way.
It also helps that these are the works of some excellent writers to begin with, so that made the overall experience that much better.
If I’d been asked when I was starting out if I could ever just read a script, I’m not sure if the answer would have been yes. I suspect I’d’ve been too concerned with thinking “what works in this script?” and “what can I learn from this?”
But the experience that’s come from reading and writing scripts has enabled me to look at a screenplay as more than an educational document. I can see solid storytelling, strong plots, three-dimensional characters, snappy dialogue, and all the other elements.
All of those elements combine to make for some darned good scripts.
It’s one of the best pieces of advice when a newer writer asks “How can my scripts be better?”
There’s a vast assortment from which to choose, making it super-easy for you to customize your reading list.
And to take it one step further, numerous members of the online screenwriting community would be happy to share or swap scripts. You just have to do the work in finding something that piques your interest. Believe me, they are definitely out there.
If your schedule allows, try to make the effort to read one to two scripts a week. You’ll be glad you did.
Any screenwriter who’s done their homework can tell you there are plenty of platforms and websites out there offering up the opportunity to put scripts on display.
Granted, I know this little operation of mine isn’t the biggest or the most well-known, but I also know how frustrating it can be when you’ve got a script you’re really proud of and want to let the rest of the world know about it.
I’m a big believer in supporting the writing community, and wanted to do what I could to offer up that same opportunity to any and all interested parties.
“Send me the vital details for your script, and I’ll post ’em!” I announced.
And 167 of you did exactly that.
What you will find below is a virtual treasure trove of material.
Film and TV scripts covering a vast spectrum of genres, many with accompanying awards and accolades.
But the most important part is that each and every one is available for you to read – courtesy of the writer’s email being included.
Something grabs your attention, makes you think “I’d like to read that.”? All you have to do is contact the writer and ask. Maybe they’ll want to do a swap.
This is networking and establishing professional relationships at their finest.
So settle in and start perusing. Hope you find something you like.
(And as long as I’ve got your attention, feel free to hit the ‘like’ button, and even take it one step further and start following this blog.)
12 HOURS 2 STEAL
A struggling artist must navigate a series of instructions to steal a valuable treasure for an unknown puppetmaster after she downloads an audio tour podcast for a specific painting in a gallery.
Winner, Best Unproduced Feature Screenplay – UK Motion Picture Festival, Spring 2021
Finalist – PIMFF 2021
Finalist – European Cinematography Awards 2021
Official Selection – Amsterdam World International Film Festival 2021
Finalist – Best Script Award 2021
Official Selection – Rome Independent Prisma Awards 2021
An aspiring country singer willing to hustle, a broke bartender with a big heart, and a two strike criminal find their lives thrust together under the neon shadows of Music City after a robbery gone bad turns to revenge.
Quarterfinalist – 2019 Nicholl Fellowship
Winner – Best Screenplay, 2018 California Film Awards, Orson Welles Awards, Best Screenplay
Finalist – 2019 Los Angeles Crime and Horror Festival
Quarterfinalist – 2019 Roadmap/Road to New Republic
Selection – 2019 Sacramento International Film Festival Screenplay Contest
While stocking shelves in a retail store, a struggling, newly single dad gets caught in a diabolical game where he must follow the instructions in each box he opens, or his estranged children will be murdered.
A young man in recovery is recruited by his N.A. sponsor to join a cult-like group of thieves. Lured in with the prospect of helping his father’s shaky new sales career in the home-security sector, Ethan learns the hard way, there’s no honor among thieves.
A suicidal comic, trapped in an isolated cabin with a traumatized ten year old girl who hasn’t spoken in over a year, discovers that if he assumes the persona of her favorite cartoon character, she’ll respond. They put crazy on hold, have a hell of an adventure helping each other survive, and begin to heal their personal wounds.
In an isolated, small town, a squeamish, vegan, lesbian detective falls in love with a sadistic, serial-killer cannibal and battles her inner and outer demons in an intimate and twisted psychological cat and mouse battle for survival. With the help of a brave Deputy in a wheelchair, she learns she needs to become her fear to overcome it.
Lexi, a heavily tattooed woman in her mid-20’s, who was known to be an on-the rise young skateboarder during her childhood, gave up her talent as she approached her mid 20’s due to her the loss of her father and her mother in rehab. She lives with her disabled grandmother and likes spending time with her abusive boyfriend. However, with her finances hanging on by a thread each day, she decides to run back to the one thing she loves the most, skateboarding.
A young burlesque dancer reeling from a breast cancer diagnosis forms an unlikely bond with the much older members of her support group, and must push past conservative mindsets and patriarchal, ageist ideas of beauty in order to run a burlesque workshop helping her fellow survivors reclaim ownership of their bodies.
When a superstar college quarterback suffers an injury that threatens to derail his pro career, a shrewd sports marketer offers him lifetime financial security if he can carry a team of talented misfits to the Olympic trials… in curling.
A young boy who’s always wanted to go on an adventure is dying of lung cancer. On the brink of losing all hope and youthful imagination, his friend’s teddy bear comes to life, bringing him on an adventure unlike any other.
Stereo podcast week 4 – $10,000 grand prize winner.
While the Vice President of a video game company tries to prevent her kidnapper from hacking into her company’s data, her coworker and best friend of over 40 years tries to escape the hacker’s accomplice.
Two colleagues who don’t like each other – and who are both in other relationships – fall in love and get married over one Passover. It’s a story about family, following your passion, and fish (gefilte, and otherwise).
Chloe Monet, desperate to prevent a predicted death, is introduced to two jet-setting brothers from Greece, exposing an International diamond scheme. Although diamonds are considered a girl’s best friend, in this case they are a source of contention and danger.
As the final battle between Good and Evil approaches, five desperate orcs plan to steal a magical shield from their Queen’s enormous fortress so they can pay for their escape from the inevitable slaughter.
A vengeful train robber and a female Samurai forge an unlikely partnership as they race across the Old West to rescue the Emperor’s daughter and stop a gang of thieves from stealing five mystical swords.
Finalist – 2021 Screencraft Fellowship
Top 100 – 2021 Table Read My Screenplay Genre Competition
After their conspiracy theorist buddy goes missing, two dumbass vets enter a seedy town with a seedy strip club that just happens to be full of seedy 80s clad stripper werewolves, and once again they need to save ‘Merica.
Coverfly – Overall Top 10%
Quarterfinalist – 2021 Richmond International Film Festival
Quarterfinalist – 2020 Big Break Script Competition
Tricked into babysitting their godchildren, a trio of egocentric dudes find themselves in the middle of a robbery turned kidnapping, leaving them one kid short. With the aid of a frenemy cop, they must defeat the bandits and save the kid before daddy returns.
As his people face constant persecution in 16th century Prague, Chief Rabbi Judah Loew suffers a crisis of faith and creates a Golem as a means of protection, only to lose control of his monster and be forced to stop it before it brings about an even greater threat.
The do-nothing son of a recently deceased business mogul is tasked to deliver his estranged father’s ashes cross country in order to inherit the family fortune. Along the way, he must evade 2 hit men hired by his father’s spurned business partner, with his unbeknownst secret agent girlfriend assisting him along the way.
A grieving man isolates himself on an island after the loss of his daughter and wife, but when his wife returns, his sanity and devotion are pushed to the brink as she shows increasingly violent, animalistic behaviours.
An inclusive dystopian sci-fi screenplay about a hot-headed woman, who after her mother is taken for missed organ payments, joins a small rebellion effort to save her, but when they uncover darker truths about the repossessed victims, she must save the people of the encased city, which seems impossible because the powerful CEO is standing in her way.
Upon accidentally gaining access to a sovereign fund containing billions of dollars, an awkward social-climber has to siphon as much money as he can, using brilliant and complicated financial structures, before the authorities close in. Based on the real-life fugitive Jho Low who was involved in the biggest financial scandal in history.
1st Place – Table Read My Screenplay (Genre: Historical / Biopic) 2021
DEA Special Agent John Fisk and Kayla, his detection dog, are a force to be reckoned, when a mission goes sideways, killing him. Waking up wounded and alone, it takes the unwitting help of a rookie agent for Kayla to exact justice.
Rooted in a gateway valley, a family of homesteaders and Indigenous band become targets of a railway tycoon intent on exploiting a recent gold discovery in the neighboring hills. Driven to defend their way of life the valley’s inhabitants must put aside their differences and join together if there’s any hope of preserving honor and justice in this brave ‘New World’.
Determined to attend senior prom, a teen born with a rare genetic disorder must also overcome social anxieties to secure a prom date, until a teacher he is smitten with provides him with a unique opportunity and arrangement.
Adaptation of my short script GENERATION CY, which placed in the semifinals in the 2020 Barnstorm Film & TV Fest
For transgender teen, Andy Cooper, finding love – much less a date to prom – is a pretty tall order. Things change when Andy rekindles his friendship with Valedictorian, Olivia McDonald. Together, the duo confront transphobic peers, family struggles, challenging friendships and life altering SCARS.
Official Selection – 2021 Script Summit
A biracial teen comes of age in inner city Miami, and resents her mother’s return home after serving a lengthy prison sentence.
The good news: Disgraced, down on his luck, dog-loving, former special-op, Mutt Hickock, finds his fortunes changing when he’s named the executor of a billion and a half dollar trust. The bad news: The massive fortune has been left to a pampered, Persian cat, which Mutt not only can’t tolerate, he’s allergic to as well. The worse news: There is a very badass group of people from Mutt’s past that want the cat dead so they can get their hands on the money. The worst news: Killing Mutt in the process would just be a bonus.
In an attempt to save his dying relationship, a socially inept slacker finds a way to adopt a literal monster baby, sparking a cross-country road trip to return it before someone dies or all their money runs dry.
When Nazi Germany invades her Ukraine homeland, a 24-year-old University student enlists in the Rifle Division of the Soviet Red Army, over the objectionss of her family and the recruiter; she becomes her country’s most prolific sniper.
When a damaged Somali Soldier’s hidden past is uncovered, he faces his demons to shepherd an innocent family on the run to Europe. But blood ties to the vengeful military regime hunting them force him to make an impossible and deadly choice.
When an Army ranger is forced to pass an unconventional sobriety program or face a dishonorable discharge, she stumbles upon a dark plot within the facility capable of undoing her past while sabotaging her future.
Best Feature Screenplay – 2021 FunMill Film Fest, Cleveland, OH
When an orphan discovers that she has been adopted for the sole purpose of being an organ donor for her sickly new brother, she must fight her new family and escape their old mansion before her life is taken and her lungs are harvested.
In the days before Hurricane Katrina, a former investigative journalist is drawn back to New Orleans following the death of her sister, where one of the Crescent City’s oldest families is on the verge of summoning an ancient god of prehistory.
In 1970s Indianapolis, a 2nd-generation hot rodder finagles a way to stay out of the Army (and the County Jail) so he can keep doing what he loves – RACING – but a cop with a grudge is obsessed with wrecking his life, and making him pay for ALL his family’s crimes.
Finalist, Official Selection – 2021 Die Laughing Film Festival
When a revenge plot goes horribly wrong, a sickly priest finds himself caught up in the chaos. As violence unfolds around him, and doubt enters the fray, he must do what he can if he wants to get out alive.
Ruthless mercenaries, fanatical cultists, and celestial horrors won’t stand in the way of an all-girl urban explorer team hell bent on rescuing their young sister from the grip of a shadowy monster in a secretive lab.
Wanted for murder, a Navy SEAL must save his fiancé by plunging into the most desperate hunt of his life–a shattering search for a brilliant killer who has come back to finish a job he failed at several years before.
Loosely based on the twisted tale of America’s first serial killer family. Set in the absurd and abnormal town of Labette, a determined yet naive young woman strikes up an unlikely companionship with a gunslinger, teaching her that she must forge her own way in the world. But when you come from a family of murderers, heads are guaranteed to roll.
Berlin 1938. The Catholic Church makes a deal with the devil and a reluctant young priest must either comply with the church’s appeasement of Hitler’s government or rise up against two powerful forces to become the hero the world needs.
In the endless rain and crop failures of an apocalyptic volcanic winter, a mythic being – both man and monster – comes to the aid of a diverse blended family to bring back the sun. (MAGGIE meets THE SHAPE OF WATER)
Returning from Iraq, Jacob Diaz works as a social media monitor where he’s forced to constantly watch videos of cruelty, conspiracy, and hate. Fed up with the inaction of his supervisors and the authorities—plus the toll on his psyche—he hunts down the offending posters in search of peace. Finding that he has become a viral sensation himself, he must now escape a rabid fanbase that uses him as its inspiration.
A refined young woman must avenge her father’s death by becoming what she despises most, a pirate. Chasing her father’s nemesis across the high seas and through the Queen’s court to extract vengeance and save the kingdom.
A Katniss Everdine heroine in a Princess Bride world. A story for girls that want to be the hero and a princess.
In 1810 England, a bankrupt and disgraced London socialite has three days to uncover the truth about her ex-lover’s disappearance and make amends for her role in her sister’s death before she’s taken by a mythical entity that punishes wrongdoers.
When an overworked, underpaid college grad finds the promises of her higher education degrees aren’t paying off, she teams with two misfit friends to steal a prized sculpture from their alma mater in order to save her father’s house and finally make a difference.
When a vindictive bounty hunter transports a bank robber from New Mexico to Colorado to pay for his crimes, the outlaw tests his captor’s weakness and forces the bounty hunter to find out if he truly has the courage to dispense his own personal justice.
After a 17yo student at a pretentious New Orleans Catholic school digs into her Colombian heritage in search of a pretty, petty picture to paint to get back at her infuriating Religion teacher, her project on Santa Muerte leads to her lighting candles and murdering her lecherous uncle, but did she find Santa Muerte or did Santa Muerte find her? Maybe death is her destiny?
Chapter One: Evil Roots Run Deep. In the Montana Wilderness of 1845, a French-Canadian fur trapper with a dark past is captured by a Native American family. But after duplicitously talking his way out of their captivity, he faces a reckoning for his sins, stumbling into an even more harrowing nightmare that proves as haunting as it is deadly.
When a tenacious AAPI teen witnesses four corrupt policemen beat her dad to death, she must learn to convert her auditory PTSD into a newfound power to uncover the identities of the killers and seek revenge- even as it transforms her from a naive streetkid to gold-suited superhero, Aurem!
After accidentally waking King Arthur in the present day, a disillusioned businesswoman must sort fact from fantasy if they’re going to survive his enemies, both ancient and new – problem is, she may be one of them.
When a doctor from a family of cops is unfairly suspended from a prestigious hospital, he is thrown a lifeline by the Croatian Mafia in his old hood. Committing to help their ailing boss as an underground war erupts, he may discover his professional calling, if he can survive..
A staffing service clerical error reclassifies a hopeful henchman as a supervillain, forcing him to reluctantly fulfill his new managerial obligations instead of what he really wants: to win back his estranged girlfriend and find a decent benefits package.
Found footage, Rock-Mockumentary, Dark Comedy, Thriller, Music
Decades after the underground rock scene of the 1970s ended, a son discovers his father’s lost interview tapes with some of rock’s lesser known “legends,” and discovers that rock ‘n’ roll may never die, but it sure can kill.
A preteen girl’s life becomes increasingly complicated when she unleashes an adolescent, hard-to-manage genie, who can’t leave until he grants her three wishes and realizes he may not want to leave at all.
A cheap private eye has to step up his game after he unwittingly uncovers a cold case involving murder, smuggling, and police corruption to become the unlikely hero and survive his deadliest adversary yet.
When a New York City medical intern of Navajo descent suddenly manifests supernatural healing powers, she must learn to control her abilities with the help of her long-lost medicine-man grandfather, and discover how a shadowy genetics corporation was responsible for her father’s mysterious death.
After her husband’s mysterious death and the disappearance of her 9-year-old son, a teacher discovers a dark secret in her home that catapults her out of suburban London into the heart of Mumbai’s underworld.
A freak accident offers the director of a failing funeral home the solution to her family’s money problems: murdering the men responsible for her husband’s death and reaping the financial windfall of their funerals.
Based on a true story. Two newly recruited female Resistance members risk their lives to rescue downed soldiers and translate Nazi secrets as part of a civilian spy ring, only to face betrayal and capture.
At a hybrid state-run boarding school, the boys’ soccer coach must merge his team with the girls’ and win a tournament to stay funded, but can’t get his own daughter to play ball let alone the rest of the team.
Placed on Coverfly’s 2020 Red List – Top-rated Family Televsion (one hour)
#2 – Coverfly’s Red List – Dec 2020 – Top-rated Family Television (one hour)
When Hurricane Katrina blows the film industry up from New Orleans to Shreveport, a displaced eccentric talent agent, a rebellious preacher’s wife, and a diverse group of local actors form unlikely bonds at a weekly acting class, all hoping to get their big break in the other LA.
After being framed for a massive senior prank he didn’t commit, ex-serial prankster Freddie Slifko is forced to repeat his entire senior year at his Catholic boarding school where he vows to pull off the biggest senior prank of all time.
Surrounded by cornfields and casual racism, the town of Standard, Nebraska is anything but— When a blatantly racist statue of the town’s founder is defaced, a high school journalist and his best friend discover that their hometown is at the center of a story that threatens to tear apart not only their community but a society that has yet to come to terms with race in America.
A “What If” comedy where the U.S. builds The Wall and it successfully eliminates all drugs and violence in America, leading to unintended consequences and a looming threat from the one place they forgot to take into account… Canada.
When a teen witch accepts a cemetery restoration apprenticeship, her ability to interact with spirits is reawakened. Unfortunately, so is her evil father’s desire to steal her power and use it to unleash the damned souls that he controls on the living world.
Second rounder – Austin Film Festival
Finalist – Fresh Voices
Quarterfinalist – Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards
Facing eviction, three pot-smoking, golf cart-crashing, fun-loving retirement village ladies embark upon a black market scheme in order to save their homes and continue to live life on their own terms.
After she unexpectedly kicks the bucket and finds her recently-deceased boyfriend did not make it into Heaven, a saintly medical student escapes back to Earth and uses her second chance at life to stumble her way into Hell.
After an alien device catapults the Moon through hyperspace to the farthest edge of the galaxy, the citizens of Tranquility Base must survive an interstellar odyssey in their attempt to return the Moon back to Earth.
Jeff Kitchen has taught thousands of students from Broadway to Hollywood. He was classically trained as a playwright, worked as a dramaturg in New York theater and taught playwriting on Broadway. A top-rated teacher, he taught for thirty years and wrote the book, Writing a Great Movie: Key Tools for Successful Screenwriting. For the past three years Jeff adapted his training program into a comprehensive digital apprenticeship. Scriptwriting Mastery is the result.
What was your inspiration behind putting this together?
I taught people for many years in these intensive 30-hour seminars, and worked hard to give them genuine know-how, limiting the groups to six people, with each person bringing their own script idea to work on. I explained each tool, illustrated it with classic films, and then got each student applying that tool to their story so they got experience using it properly and their scripts improved quite a lot, so the word of mouth was huge. But it was essentially firehose teaching, hammering them with a complex array of information about the tools and principles, and I always felt like I could do more.
After teaching non-stop for eighteen years, from Broadway to Hollywood, I took a break from teaching, focusing on script consultations. Then as I moved back toward teaching again, I didn’t want to do it the same way because it didn’t transfer expertise at the level I intended. Don’t get me wrong, they learned a lot, and many went on to successful careers as writers, directors, producers, and creative executives, including multiple Oscar and Emmy nominations. But I wanted to do much better as a teacher.
So I spent time circling the problem, trying to find a way to transfer deep expertise much more effectively and how to teach much larger groups. Finally I hit upon the question: If I could wave a magic wand and teach writers in any way that I desired, what would that be? The answer was to take as long as needed, and I decided I could do it in about two years. I studied the science of how people learn, how to train people to expertise, and Cognitive Apprenticeship, which not only conveys deep skills to an apprentice, but also the subtle thinking processes that underlie expertise. Then I built a new training program that incorporates all these instructional technologies into a rigorous and demanding process in the craft of the dramatist.
What makes this course different from other online screenwriting education programs?
Some of the tools are entirely unique, coming out of my intense study of a legendary Broadway script doctor from around the early 1900’s. William Thompson Price helped revise every script that producer David Belasco staged on Broadway and created several brand-new tools to help make stories work dramatically. So many playwrights wanted to learn from him that he founded the first school of playwriting ever, and of his twenty-eight students, twenty-four had hits on Broadway.
A prominent playwriting teacher, Bernard Grebanier, said of Price’s groundbreaking work, “If we ourselves were asked to whom we were indebted for the basis of our ideas about playwriting, we should have to answer, ‘Aristotle and Price.’” One tool, the Proposition, which uses the power of logic to pull all the components of a story together into a coherent whole, is known to some, but Price’s three-step tool Sequence, Proposition, Plot lay completely undiscovered until I found it in one of his books. This tool is a remarkably powerful way to tighten and dramatize the parts of a script. It uses reverse cause and effect to create a tight chain of events, rigorously separating that which is Necessary to the forward action of the story from that which is Unnecessary, as well as creating compelling conflict that helps keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
You apply these three steps first to the overall story, making it tight and dramatic. If the big picture doesn’t work, then the details don’t matter. Then you divide the overall story into acts, and you do the same three steps to each, making them tight and dramatic. Next you divide the acts into sequences (there are two-to-five sequences in an act, and two-to-five scenes in a sequence) and you do the same three steps to each sequence.
You’re gradually developing the details as they become necessary and dramatizing it as you go. This is a lot of work, but so is twenty-five rewrites. Then you break the sequences into scenes. You apply Sequence, Proposition, Plot to the first scene, making it tight and dramatic, and then you write that scene. Then you structure the next scene and write it, and you keep going until you have a working draft. And because you’re constantly excluding the Unnecessary in a ruthless fashion, that draft consists of only the Necessary, so it’s a lean and mean draft, not some bloated mess. Sure the script needs work, but it’s clean and functional, and much easier to work with.
I teach Dilemma as the dramatic engine of your story, building in intensity throughout Act Two to become a Crisis, forcing Decision & Action, with the protagonist actively resolving his or her dilemma. The way in which the protagonist resolves the dilemma expresses the Theme that’s emerging organically from the story. I use the story-creation resource, the 36 Dramatic Situations as a volcanic brainstorming tool, and the personality-profiling system, the Enneagram to deepen, dimensionalize, and flaw your characters. Research and Brainstorming help you explode your idea and violate its perceived limits, think it through, amplify its strengths, and get it up to speed. The Central Proposition uses the power of logic to pull all the clever story elements together, fusing them into one coherent plot that grips the audience. And Sequence, Proposition, Plot helps you construct and write the script.
People constantly say they’ve never seen anything like the powerful tools I use to build and dramatize a story, but it’s straight out of classic dramaturgic principle and technique. I’m mostly self-trained in an obscure school of thought in playwriting, but I’ve trained development execs at all the Hollywood studios and they consistently say I teach the most advanced development tools in the industry. So my tools are distinct and now my training methods are unusual, too.
Science has proven that the harder it is to learn something the deeper you retain it, so I work my students hard, constantly changing gears and switching topics, keeping them off balance, and staying unpredictable. I call it Disruptive Teaching. It forces them to dig deep and apply themselves, to be aggressive independent thinkers, and to stand up to a serious challenge. It’s good professional training because the real world doesn’t bring you neat arrays of predictable problems. They learn how to take a punch and fight their way out of a corner. Trying to make a living as a professional writer is notoriously difficult and they need grit, serious skills, and a rough-and-tumble capability. I’m constantly challenging them to think through complex new ideas before I instruct them in it, making them work hard, think straight, and apply their mind. They are not allowed to ask stupid questions. They learn to generate ideas and also to evaluate them critically, with a professional eye, and to articulate their reasoning aloud to the class.
One main difference between this program and others that I know of is that the center of the training is that we’re constantly working on multiple scripts of different genres and in different stages of completion. I train the students by ranging from one project to the next, and we function as a team to make each one work, with teaching moments thrown in as they arise. Students also have daily exercises, writing assignments, learning games, story creation, collaborative competitions, movie nights, and assigned reading. Plus we read one classic script each week because it attunes them to great writing and story ideas.
This training workshop runs for eighteen months and each student gradually acquires the skills and knowledge of a trained dramatist, plus the subtle cognitive skills that underlie substantial mastery. Because this program is constantly ongoing and requires some training before they jump in, each student starts with a three-month video course, working as my virtual apprentice as I create, develop, and construct a complete original script from scratch. They hand-copy all the notes I generate in creating the story, handling all the tools as I build it with them. Then, based on the detailed dramatic outline we’ve created, each student writes their own version of this script in order to graduate to the main program. So there’s a three-month course to start them off, and then there’s another separate three-month program after they’ve trained for eighteen months in which they pick an idea from our group Story Bin and build the script on their own in our open workshop, periodically demonstrating their mastery, their progress, and their challenges to myself and the group. This consolidates all their training into a fully integrated set of skills and professional knowledge.
There are lots of uses of the label “dramatist” in addition to “scriptwriter.” Are there similarities and/or differences between the two?
What I teach is plot construction and dramatic principle—the craft of the dramatist, the ancient art of adapting a story for a theatrical presentation, whether in film, on TV, or onstage. It’s about making the story actable so that it can be performed and will grip an audience. Consistent coherent compelling Dramatic Action is the name of the game. Dramatic Action is not car chases and shootouts, it’s a state of action you put the audience in, where they’re up on the edge of their seats—and you keep them there because they must know how things turn out. If you have sections that are flat dramatically then you lose the audience there, which contributes to the script not working.
It’s all about the audience. A movie playing to an empty theater has no power—it’s just shadows on the wall. The power of the film or TV show or play resides in the response of the audience. Anyone who’s done live performance knows intimately that it’s all about the audience, but amateurs often forget they’re writing for a performance medium. So a dramatist is one who crafts a gripping performance. Whether it’s a bone crunching thriller or a wacko comedy, the story must work dramatically.
Dramatic writing is generally considered the most elusive of all the literary disciplines. It’s tricky, it’s slippery, and it’s unforgiving. An extremely stripped-down literary form, it demands complete economy with no room for the Unnecessary. I’m training people in the craft of the dramatist, which covers screenwriting, TV writing, playwriting, and any form of dramatic content. Once you have substantial technique, you can tackle any medium because you know how to make scripts work.
What are the benefits of the course for the screenwriter just starting out, and where would be a good place for them to start?
It gives a beginner comprehensive training in a method that really works. Apprenticeship is how we naturally learn best, working beside a master craftsman to absorb all the skills and thinking processes. If someone is a novice and knows they are, then they’re much easier to teach because they’re not brimming over with their “knowledge.” They also have no bad habits to overcome and, while they’ll need a lot of working experience to polish their craft after they’ve completed the training, they will know how to make scripts work. But everyone needs years of work, even after mastering the craft of the dramatist, to achieve true greatness as a writer, polishing and refining their voice, attack, smoothness, clarity, and many other subtle aspects of excellence. A good place for them to start is to take this program. It’s designed to be quite doable for raw beginners while also being challenging to experienced writers.
You reference on the website that there are varying lengths for the courses. Why does one take three months and another eighteen?
It’s actually all one course, divided up into three components. The first three months, Course 1: Tools & Fundamentals is the video training program in which, as I said, the students work as my virtual apprentice as we create a thriller from a one-sentence idea, develop it, and construct it, and then they write the actual script based on our detailed outline. This gives them enough training to jump into the eighteen-month main program, Course 2: Techniques & Principles, which is continuously ongoing. They might walk in on us spending the whole week figuring out the ending to a romantic comedy, and because they’ve worked with all the tools in Course 1, they can join right in.
Now their training begins in earnest, working with the group as we build multiple scripts at the same time, ranging from one to the next making each one work, tackling an action-comedy TV series one day and a psychological thriller screenplay the next. It’s heavy-duty learn-by-doing in an apprenticeship format, so they get serious experience and training as their skills coalesce. They’re being highly trained in seven tools over two years, spending months on each one, so they gradually acquire more and more expertise as they integrate all the tools. It’s like learning how to juggle while riding a unicycle on a tightrope—separate skills that must be learned independently, and then are integrated into one fluid capability.
Once they’ve achieved that level of mastery at the end of the eighteen-month Course 2, they’re ready to build a script on their own, which is Course 3: Solo Script Project. As I mentioned, this is the last three months, and they choose a story idea from our group Story Bin, develop structure, and write it, all in our open-workshop format, so their work is open to the group. I stop by regularly with students in tow like a teaching hospital, and the writer articulates their progress, their mastery, and their current challenges. When they finish the script, they graduate, now a seasoned versatile dramatist who can make scripts work in any genre, and who can tackle any medium.
What about a screenwriter with a few scripts under their belt? How would this course benefit them?
It’s a way to improve their craft and take their abilities to a higher level. One thing a writer quickly learns is that it’s hard to be consistent. Sometimes a script works and they’re not sure why it did, and sometimes it won’t, and they don’t know why it wouldn’t. As I said, scriptwriting is notoriously tricky and slippery. But with substantial craft, they can pin down a tricky script, get a good grip on it, and make that part work. If they have a sense of what their strengths and weaknesses are, then it makes them open to learning more to correct their weaknesses and reinforce their strengths. The tools create certain distinctions, and if they utilize those distinctions properly, they get the full power of the tools. If they muddy those distinctions every time they become inconvenient then they lose their power. So this adds a few more powerful tools to their process, and then trains them to a high degree of expertise in them. Good is the enemy of great and I train them long and hard in a sophisticated set of tools. They’ll emerge like a Navy Seal, able to reassemble their rifle in the dark, under fire.
You offer three courses of study. What are they, and how would somebody determine which one was the right fit for them?
There is only one course, the two-year program. The three courses originated because with such a long training period, it’s not practical for someone to wait a year for the next class to start. To allow people to jump in at any time, I created the initial three-month video training. If you’re a scientist going to live in the International Space Station to do experiments, you’d do a three-month training to prep you in how to travel to space and operate in the space station. As I said, the eighteen-month section is the bulk of the training, focused on constantly building scripts and the three-month period at the end build a script on their own to consolidate all their skills and demonstrate their mastery before graduating.
You use the film Training Day as an extensive part of your teaching process. Why this film in particular?
In the first three-month course the script we build is a thriller, so it’s a useful example. Jake, the Ethan Hawke character, has a good strong Dilemma, trapped between his ambition and his moral compass, so it’s a great model for our protagonist’s Dilemma. Training Day has dynamic conflict, deep and complex characters, great storytelling, phenomenal writing, and Denzel Washington’s Oscar-winning performance, with Ethan Hawke nominated for Best Supporting Actor. We’ll be reading one great script a week in the main program and using other classic scripts as teaching examples and research as we develop and write scripts of different genres.
It looks like this is a course with set deadlines, rather than a “work on your own schedule”-type one. What’s the reasoning behind that?
Scriptwriting Mastery has rigorous deadlines but is also relaxed in other ways. It is a highly-focused, demanding course that puts students through substantial training. The use of the tools is precise because the difference between a reasonably skilled practitioner and highly-trained expert can be razor thin, with hundreds of subtle differences that add up to mastery. But it’s also designed to be fun and relaxed because creativity is so central to story creation. We have contests of who can come up with the stupidest story idea, the most wacked-out title, and the craziest solution for a story problem.
But we’re working five days a week for two years, two-to-three hours a day, constantly creating, developing, constructing, and writing original scripts so it’s a heavy workload. It prepares you for the real world of turning out quality material with real deadlines. It’s a mix of live and recorded sessions, and the live sessions are recorded so you can watch when you can, but it’s a serious professional training program.
This is similar in many ways to on-the-job apprenticing to a plumber. You’re being trained in substantial skills, all of which relate directly to what must be done for each job. You learn the materials, the techniques, the underlying principles that guide your process, the thinking involved, and the critical distinctions that make all the difference. You’re gradually acquiring mastery in joining pipes, fixing plugged drains, and plumbing a house, but you’re also being trained to install hot water heaters, devices that can explode and kill people if you install them incorrectly. Because scripts are more constructed than written, it’s very much a blue-collar job rather than an ivory tower one. It’s not esoteric, it’s nuts-and-bolts, wrestling stories into shape that can be performed, and which will grip an audience.
You said you’re utilizing techniques for expert training and Cognitive Apprenticeship?
Yes, and it’s quite fascinating that these two distinct specialties capped off several years of studying the science of how the brain learns. The entirely new science of training experts was created in 1983 by Anders Ericsson, who studied elite training facilities around the world that were turning out disproportionate numbers of chess champions or Olympic ski racers or world-class violinists. He collected the innovative and counterintuitive methods that these top coaches and trainers utilized and studied them scientifically, then improved them to a high degree. His book, Peak: The New Science of Expertise is widely considered the high-water mark for how to train people to expert performance and is in fact course material for my program. Part of its science is that the trainee becomes part of the coaching team.
If for instance, you are an Olympic runner, you very quickly know as much as your coach and trainer about your exercise routines, diet, rest, and stretching as they do. You would in fact be part of the coaching team, actively helping to train yourself. My students study the book, Peak, and I turn them into active participants in the training and coaching process.
The science of how we learn has made incredible breakthroughs in the last fifty years, to the point where they know how your brain’s wiring grows and changes as you develop a particular skill. Through a process of myelination, secreting an insulating fat around the neural network which the brain assembles to perform that skill, continuous deliberate practice gradually makes that neural wiring thicker and broader and faster, upgrading it into an information superhighway, and that skill remains permanent in that person.
I found an amazing essay on Cognitive Apprenticeship just as I was pulling together the final shape of this program, and it was a total game changer. It’s about thirty pages was and written by several top PhDs in the field of how we learn. I devoured it ravenously because it fit so precisely with what I was doing, advanced training in sophisticated tools, and it changed everything. I read the article, then read it again with a yellow highlighter, and then yet again with a pink one, highlighting the best of what I’d marked in yellow. Next I typed up all the highlighted material and cooked that down even further, absorbing and digesting it so deeply that I ended up with key components of it on 3×5 cards spread out on my desk. I used them to create highly specific methods of training apprentices in the rigors of my craft, and also training them in the subtle and hidden cognitive processes that underlie my own expertise.
Cognitive Apprenticeship is focused on the cognitive skills of the expert. In a field like law or medicine, the thinking process is central, and to achieve professional-level expertise in those fields, how and what you think is paramount. And it’s not only cognition, but meta-cognition, your own awareness of your knowledge, so that you can evaluate your professional process and adapt it as needed. It’s a mastery over your own mastery, and it’s key to true expertise. So Cognitive Apprenticeship had a huge formative influence in how I designed the program. I literally swallowed it whole, spending an entire month studying these thirty pages, and I built much of my program with it. And integrating that with what I learned about teaching in a disruptive fashion, plus the science of expertise, I rebuilt my entire training process from stem to stern, and it’s been quite exciting.
Last time you said your pie of choice was cherry. Still the case?
I’m going with lemon meringue this time even though I haven’t had it in years. But since you’re a pie aficionado and I’m a Vermonter (now living in LA), I thought I’d share this slice of pie lore.
To the European, a Yankee is an American.
To an American, a Yankee is a New Englander.
To a New Englander, a Yankee is a Vermonter.
To a Vermonter, a Yankee is someone who eats apple pie for breakfast.
And to a Vermonter who eats apple pie for breakfast
Victoria Lucas has more than 20 years of experience as a development and production executive at both major studios and independent film companies. She began her career with Ron Howard at Imagine Entertainment, working on films including Clean and Sober, Backdraft, and Far and Away.
She later joined with Academy Award-nominated producer Rudy Cohen to develop and produce the acclaimed coming-of-age film The Island On Bird Street (winner of three Emmys and two awards at the Berlin International Film Festival). As Director of
Development, Production Executive and Associate Producer at Signature Entertainment and April Productions, Lucas helped develop projects as diverse as The Black Dahlia, The I Inside, and The Body.
Lucas currently works as an independent producer and runs a professional screenplay development service for producers, production companies and screenwriters. She is also the on-air host for Arizona Public Media’s Saturday night feature film program, Hollywood at Home, providing historical background and an insider’s look at the making of classic films.
What was the last thing you read/watched that you considered to be extremely well-written?
Parasite. I was highly impressed by that script, especially the way the writers managed to switch plot directions – and even genres – so seamlessly. In fact, I feel that films, television and streaming shows are in something of a “Golden Age of Writing” at the moment. For instance, look at two other recent films: Joker and Knives Out. I’m in awe of how Todd Phillips and Scott Silver managed to make us sympathetic to the characters in Joker (helped, of course, by Joaquin Phoenix’ amazing performance). And Rian Johnson did a masterful job of updating and reinvigorating old Agatha Christie tropes in Knives Out.
How’d you get your start in the industry?
To be honest, it all started at birth. My mother, father and two grandparents were in the industry, with both my dad and grandma being successful screenwriters. I grew up in a house where writing was an everyday job, and it was taken very, very seriously. Unfortunately, their talent didn’t rub off on me, but I discovered through reading my dad’s work – and hearing about the process it went through before reaching the screen – that my real interest lay in working with writers to develop their scripts. From there, my career began as a reader, followed a pretty straightforward trajectory: producer’s assistant, story editor, creative executive, director of development, then into production.
Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?
I learned to recognize good writing through years of reading and discussion at home growing up. But if you’re asking whether good writing can itself be taught or learned, the answer is “Yes, I think it can.”
Screenwriting is both an art and a craft. You might be born with a talent for telling stories, but that’s only half the equation. Putting those stories onto paper in a way that will appeal to producers and audiences is the other half, and that’s the hard part. You need to hone your technique; or, put another way, to “develop your writing muscles.” Screenwriting classes, writers’ groups, how-to-books, blogs and podcasts – all can help. One of my favorite podcasts is Scriptnotes with John August and Craig Mazin.
But the bottom line is this: You have to sit in your chair and write. And write. And write some more. No matter how naturally talented you are, you must practice your craft. It’s no different than becoming a master painter, concert musician or sports star. The more you do it, the better you become.
In the end, though, every writer is different; each with their own technique. Some like to outline their story so they know exactly how it will unfold before they begin to write. Others prefer to let the characters “tell” them what’s going to happen. Some are naturals at structure; others write great dialogue. The challenge for a writer is to identify the elements of screenwriting that don’t come naturally, then work hard to improve them.
What do you consider the components of a good script?
A script is the blueprint for a movie, and the drawing begins with the concept. A great premise is like having an engine that drives the plot and the characters. If it is strong enough, it acts as the spine of the movie so that the structural elements – a compelling story, memorable characters, exciting action and all the rest – will fit together and support each other to produce a successful on-screen result. It’s not enough to create a literary masterpiece that’s envisioned entirely in the reader’s head; if the script lacks cinematic elements, it’s unlikely to get produced.
What are some of the most common screenwriting mistakes you see?
I know writers are tired of hearing about it – and many will simply ignore the advice — but the way you present your screenplay is more important than you think. That means formatting to industry standards and doing more than a cursory spellcheck. Now, I can guarantee you that no producer ever passed on a great script because of a few spelling mistakes, but the script had to get to her in the first place. You need to realize that the first person to read your screenplay is likely to be a junior development person, an assistant or even an intern. Most of those people have a dozen or more scripts to plow through every week before the company staff meeting. If your script looks unprofessional with too many formatting errors, it’s far too easy for it to be put down.
A common mistake among emerging screenwriters is to overload a script with plot. Cramming in too many plots and subplots doesn’t allow you to develop the characters within the story. So, while a lot might happen, it’s hard to care about the people involved. Conversely, you don’t want a story where nothing seems to happen or change. Films are about conflict and drama. Always think, “What’s at stake?”
Passive lead characters are problematic. Hamlet may be indecisive but he’s not passive. In a similar vein, try not to fall onto the trap of creating supporting roles that are vivid and cinematic, while your hero is bland and uninteresting.
And please, please avoid using dialogue as exposition. I cringe every time a line starts with, “As you know…” or “Do you remember when we…?” That’s designed to give information or back story to the audience; it’s not something real characters would say to one another. Incidentally, when I was a young development exec, my friends and I used to compete for the best (read: worst) lines of expository dialogue. I won with “Tell me again why we’re going to Grandma’s.”
What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?
It’s disheartening to me to find spec scripts that are pale imitations of the hot new movie or television show that just came out. Even experienced writers often forget that by the time a film is released or debuts as a series, the studio pipeline is already filled with similar projects. Rather than chase after what seems to be commercial at the time, write a great story that you feel passionate about – one that may change the direction of what’s commercial, just as George Lucas (no relation) did with sci-fi in 1977.
What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?
Read scripts. As many as you can. Then read some more. You can easily find Academy Award winning screenplays online, but don’t limit yourself to the greats. Mediocre or bad scripts can teach you a great deal… even if it’s “what not to do.” One often-overlooked element in screenwriting is structure. The classic three-act structure is the norm in a majority of American films, but there’s nothing magical about it: more and more scripts are written in five acts. However, every script needs a structure just as a building needs a foundation.
There’s a truism in films: writing is rewriting. You may feel that you’ve finished your work after you write Fade Out. But really, you’re just beginning. Most of the films I was involved with averaged 9 drafts before production started – and that’s on top of however many drafts the writer did before submitting the script! Learn how to take notes. Films are collaborative and, unless you write, produce, direct, finance and star in your movie, you will be getting notes. You might not agree with or accept all of them, but do be open to outside ideas that can help your script. Writers groan (often quite rightly) about “development hell,” but the reality is that most scripts can be improved.
Have you ever read a spec script that was an absolute, without-a-doubt “recommend”? If so, what were the reasons why?
I’ve probably read over ten thousand scripts in my career, and I remember giving four straight-up recommends. That doesn’t mean I haven’t read dozens or even hundreds of superb scripts, but a development executive’s job is to find projects for her production company. If the company I work with produces mainly action films and I read an outstanding character drama… well, no matter how brilliant it is, it’s not a script I can recommend to the producers. Mind you, if the script is that good, I’ll for sure find out more about that writer and, at the very least, see if they might have something else I can take in to the producer.
How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?
Absolutely worth it! But be selective. There are too many contests out there that only want to take your entry fee. Do your homework and find the reputable ones. Nothing about the film business is easy, but placing well in the most prestigious contests can be a great calling card for a new writer, helping you get representation or even producers asking to read your screenplay. Some of the top contests use industry professionals as judges, especially for the finalists. This can be a big plus: If they read your script and find it’s a good fit for their company or agency, you’ll be hearing from them after the contest even if you don’t win.
How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?
My company is Lucas Script Consulting. All the information you need is on the website, including a link to contact me.
Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?
Cherry. Ideally made with tart (sometimes called sour) cherries. Bliss!