Filmmaking Independence

Free Online Screenwriting Course from University College Falmouth


Posted from: Filmmaker IQ

openSpace is University College Falmouth’s platform for making teaching materials free to learners all over the world through Creative Commons. UCF has made available free lecture notes, assigments, and audio videos.

Our screenwriting unit is designed to build your knowledge about story telling and focuses on the writing of TV, radio, short film and feature film scripts. Whilst primarily dealing with forms of dramatic fiction, you’ll also look at documentary and documentary drama. You’ll analyse different forms of script writing and screen writing, the elements they have in common and the specific tools that can help to deliver better scripts in each medium.

Week 1: Screenwriting – Introduction to Screenwriting

Tutor: Jane Pugh

Purpose / Aim of this session: Our first week’s work is two fold:

In Part One: We will discuss what is scriptwriting, what does a scriptwriter do, and how do they do it? Finding ideas and choosing your subject, research and where inspiration comes from.

In Part Two: You will begin to write and develop a portfolio of ideas.

For this session you will need…

- A note pad and pen.

There are a total of four exercises we would like you to complete, one of which is ongoing. You can either listen to the lecture in full and then complete the exercises, or pause the lecture to complete the exercises as you go along.

For more information about this session, assignments and how to post your work, please visit:

Week 2: Screenwriting – The Principles of Screenwriting

Tutor: Jane Pugh

A scriptwriter is a storyteller, like a novelist, playwright or short story writer. To write a screenplay you must be a craftsperson, which can be taught, and talented that cannot be taught — but it can be nutured and developed. The craft helps you understand and apply screen language, the talent is the ability to interpret the world around you, coherently, creatively, dramatically, with meaning and originality. If you can achieve all that you’re a writer whether you are paid to write or not. To help you achieve this let’s spend this week looking at dramatic structure.

For more information about this session, assignments and how to post your work, please visit:

Week 3: Screenwriting – Theme

Tutor: Jane Pugh

Purpose/Aim of this Session: Welcome to Week Three but before starting let’s recap:

In week one we looked at IDEAS

In week two we looked at the THREE ACT STRUCTURE

And you have tackled a short story for your homework that follows the three-act structure.

Now we are ready to explore THEME and start developing ideas for your portfolio.

For more information about this session, assignments and how to post your work, please visit:

Week 4: Screenwriting – Dramatic Forms and Genres

Tutor: Jane Pugh

Purpose/Aim of this Session: In this session we will study different dramatic forms and genres . We also look at inspiring films and filmmakers. By combining theme with dramatic form, we will explore ways of finding your own voice.

For more information about this session, assignments and how to post your work, please visit:

Week 5: Screenwriting – Character Development

Tutor: Jane Pugh

Purpose / Aim of this session: Welcome to Session five of our online course. In this session we will be looking at one of our favourite aspects of screenplay writing — character development. Who are your characters, how do they think, feel and act?

This session has been split into two parts:

Part one — Discovering your character Part two — Realising your character within your script

For more information about this session, assignments and how to post your work, please visit:

Week 6: Screenwriting – Writing Dialogue

Tutor: Jane Pugh

Purpose / Aim of this Session: Welcome to our sixth session where we will explore the craft of dialogue.

For more information about this session, assignments and how to post your work, please visit:

Week 7: Screenwriting – Storytelling

Tutor: Jane Pugh

Purpose / Aim of this Session: Welcome to week seven where we will explore visual and atmospheric storytelling throughout a scene and a script.

For more information about this session, assignments and how to post your work, please visit:

Week 8: Screenwriting – Writing for Alternative Media

Tutor: Jane Pugh

Purpose / Aim of this Session: Welcome to Week Eight where we will explore different areas of, let’s call it, the Moving Image Industry because there are lots of non traditional opportunities in an ever changing and expanding industry if you know where to look.

In this session we will get you started with a brief run down of the different opportunities and the details of one organisation that works in this field.

For more information about this session, assignments and how to post your work, please visit:

Week 9: Screenwriting – Outlines and Treatments

Tutor: Jane Pugh

Purpose / Aim of this Session: Part One: Outlines and treatments.

Part Two: Is Your Big Idea Big Enough?

For most of this session we will look at your idea for your final project but first we’d like to turn your attention to Outlines and Treatments and step outlines.

With this session in mind, we recommend reading How to Make Money from Scriptwriting by Julian Friedmann published by Boxtree. Friedmann, a well established agent, was instrumental in starting the Screenwriter’s Festival and runs courses for script editors.

For more information about this session, assignments and how to post your work, please visit:

Week 10: Screenwriting – The Professional Screenwriter

Tutor: Jane Pugh

Purpose / Aim of this Session: Welcome to session ten in which we will assign you mini-research projects.

In this our final session we need to turn our attention to the outside world, away from the relative sanctuary of the security of studying. It’s an exciting time and a scary time but before you embark on your journey let’s plot a route.

In this session we will be focusing on agents, producers, broadcasters, opportunities, and how to conduct yourself as a writer. For this session, we must to largely put aside the creativity of a writer and view of ourselves as business people.

For more information about this session, assignments and how to post your work, please visit:

What do you think about online education?

'Robbie': A Brilliantly Imaginative Short Film that Proves Narrative is the Key


Robbie, the short film by Neil Harvey is almost like a homage to Stanley Kubrick's Space Odyssey 2001. I think the film is brilliantly imaginative and done with a certain elegance. While empathizing for Robbie the film made me reflect on my own existence. The narrative was easy to follow but very moving at the same time. The whole film was done with found footage from the NASA archives. It just proves that narrative is the key to the film experience over all the other bells and whistles. All that takes is an editing system, the right composition of music,  and some imagination.

My Illectric Sheep site has it roots in sci-fi so this short film is something a little special for me. I find it super inspiring for my future projects.

From Harvey’s description on Vimeo:

Set 6000 years the future, Robbie charts the existential reflections of an aging robot drifting alone through space on the last of his battery life. The film-making process involved downloading about 10 hours of footage from the NASA archives and compiling a list of shots which resonated with me at some level. I did this over about 2 or 3 months when I had the spare time. From there, I put these selected shots on an editing timeline and watched them back until characters and narratives began developing in my mind. That is when i met Robbie.

Robbie - A Short Film By Neil Harvey from Neil Harvey on Vimeo.

Kevin Smith: Why it is Necessary to be Unreasonable?


This is a great interview with Kevin Smith the writer and director well known for Clerks and recently the horror film, Red State. His advice is for people who are just starting out about to write their first script and/or finance their first movie, however I think his advice also applies to any independent creative venture. At the beginning of he starts slow but as he gets rolling his advice becomes more potent.

It is necessary to have a reasonable amount of unreasonability to even become a filmmaker.

I known that I certainly faced many doubts about walking the path of the filmmaker. To some extent it is an unreasonable profession, as least that is what you will be told by someone close to you sooner or later. To be in this business you have to be strong about what you want to say and the path that you have choosen to do it.

Gareth Evans: How the Concept for 'The Raid' Developed?


A few nights a go I watched the critically and commercially successful movie “The Raid: Redemption,” which I mentioned in an early post. All I can say is it the best action movie I have seen in years. The story is rather simple, an elite team of 20 cops is sent in to an apartment block to bring down a ruthless warlord, however things go wrong and they find themselves in struggle for survival. The way they edited it and did the cinematography makes you feel like you are right there in the middle of the action. I totally recommended seeing this movie if you are into to a good action romp. The movie was shot and financed very cheaply in Indonesia. What is more fascinating is that is was written and directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans. The below video is a must see for indie filmmakers as it details how he developed the concept for the Raid:

Here is the trailer for The Raid: Redemption (2012):

Francis Ford Coppola on Bridging the Gap Between Distribution and Commerce


One of my favorite quotes is by Francis Ford Coppola:

It takes no imagination to live within your means.

Yesterday I watched the Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse about the making of Apocalypse Now. It is an amazing documentary where we see Francis Ford Coppola under the pressure of filmmaking and the toll it takes. There is a lot to be learned by how he handles the intense situation.

While I was in Coppola mode I came across this great interview. Coppola talks about risk, money, the craft, collaboration, and the wise rules he has developed over the last 45 years in the business to govern his filmmaking. I loved how he answered this question on distribution and commerce.

How does an aspiring artist bridge the gap between distribution and commerce?

We have to be very clever about those things. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

  This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

 In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.
As I said great interview and you can read the rest of it at the link posted below.



So in a sense I see myself as composer, the only way for me to make money is to travel or journey with the orchestra of creative independents and be the conductor or curator of ideas, because then I can get paid as a platform provider or businessman. I must not think of filming or royalties. As Coppola said, "we must  try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Meaning we each have to build our own suitable platforms to fund our projects. If you want to see a true platform in action to model your own on then take a look at what Ryan Koo is doing over at No Film School.

Post via:

Neil Gaiman's Advice on a Creative Career Path


Neil Gaiman offers some great advice in this commencement speech he delivered at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. His advice couldn't come at a better time. The world is embracing a wave of creative independence that is reshaping the landscape of art and business. Anyone can now do things that weren't possible just a few years ago such as create and sell your own art through the internet and make a living.

Posted via: NoFilmSchool

When you first start out you have no idea what you are doing, this is great! People who know what they are doing know the rules, they know what is possible and what is impossible. You do not and you should not. The rules on what is possible and what is impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them and you can. If you don't know it's impossible it's easier to do. And because nobody has done it before they haven't made up rules to stop anyone from doing that particular thing again...

However, this newly forming creative landscape also means that the rules of the game must be understood. I am just coming off one the biggest creative projects of my life with co-founding and organizing TEDxOsaka and now myself wondering how to properly walk the creative career path. It helps to have someone of Neil Gaiman's talent and experience shading some light on the question. I really like his low key balanced but sky's the limit approach to embarking on a career.

Very similar to Steve Jobs view of the the secret to life and creating your own path. This video literally cemented everything that I have been feeling deep down since I was a child and believe going forth! His words echo more true as the world grows more complicated.

Everything around you that you call life was made up by people who were no smarter than you — and you can change it...

Posted: via Garr Reynolds

Ken Burns on Storytelling

This short documentary on storytelling is truly inspirational. Ken Burns is one of the masters of the documentary genre. When I first watched this video it gave me goose bumps. He gives us a great glimpse into ‘why’ he tells stories and the irony that attracts him to the craft. I truly think his viewpoint on creativity is brilliant. Also I would like to add that Redglass Pictures has a bunch of other great videos worth viewing.

Ken Burns: On Story, directed by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason:

Posted via: NoFilmSchool

Down to Earth Advice for Filmmakers and Creatives by Ramit Sethi


Ramit Sethi is the #1 Amazon and New York Times Best-Selling author of the book I Will Teach You To Be Rich(cheesy title in my opinion but never judge a book or person by it's cover) is giving an interview on Chase Jarvis Live. He advice is so valuable in this day and age when everyone is claiming to be an expert. It's not often I take notes while watching a You Tube video but I couldn't put my pencil down. Check it out you won't regret it.

His advice is great for filmmakers, photographers, designers, bloggers, start ups, or any other creative type gig. Everything Ramit said makes so much sense.

I have taken a look at his blog, I Will Teach You to be Rich in the past but after this show I think he just picked up me as new follower.

Posted via Chase Jarvis:

Some of the things they will discuss:

_Specific techniques to negotiate with your clients _Concrete strategies to help you earn more money per job, shoot, photo, etc _How to –in very specific terms– illustrate the value of your creative work to your clients _When to work for free (or cheap) and when NOT to _How these principles can guide so many other parts of your life _and a metric tonne more…

Please let me know if you think his advice is valuable?

Directing Actors: Breaking Down the Script in the Classroom


A while back I stumbled across the great book, Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film & Television by Judith Weston. She is a very famous teacher based in Los Angles that teaches Acting for Directors and the Script Analysis and Rehearsal Techniques workshops(taking her course is on my list of things to do). She says that, "understanding the script and giving actors playable direction and freedom to explore and permission to make your direction their own are the main concerns of her book." She also argues that the main problem is directors don't know how to prepare.

At the moment I am using drama to lecture my students in English. I have selected innovative materials by Dramaworks, Star Taxi(freshman year) and Pop Stars(junior year). I realized that Judith's methods could be useful for my classes at university so decide to give them a try. I used another great book, First Time Director: How to Make Your Breakthrough Movie by Gil Bettman that also references her methods to help make them more clear to my students. This is the simplfied version that I came up with:

Drama – Directing Actors with Objectives

The actor’s role is made up, not of lines dialogue or a pattern of behaviors but a series of actions or objectives. We must focus on playable objectives. How do we determine an actor’s objective? Ask yourself what the character wants. What he wants is his/her objective.

Pop Stars Dialogue 

Scene 1:

Jay: Hey! What are you doing?

Nobu: Me? Nothing.

Jay: Oh yeah. What’s that?

Nobu: This? Oh! This isn’t mine!

Jay: You got that right!

Nobu: Oh wow! I’m sorry. It’s yours, isn’t it?

Jay: Yeah, it is. I thought you were stealing it!


Scene Objectives:

What does Jay want?

Jay wants to accuse Nobu of stealing. (blame)

What does Nobu want?

Nobu wants to appease Jay's anger. (pacify)


Best Scene Objectives (Action Verbs):

The best objectives are the ones that require the actor to interact in a specific way with another actor in the scene.

1) get something from the other actor in the scene.

2) do something to the other actor in the scene.

All conversations are based on actions or objectives (goals). We use action verbs to express the character wants…

Adapted from the book First Time Director: How to Make Your Breakthrough Movie  by Gil Bettman.

Classroom Instruction: First, I put the students into groups of three and get them to break the script down into the appropriate scenes. Next, the students discuss and brainstorm together to decide what objectives fit the dialogue. To help make it easier I constructed a script break down workbook for my students to record their work. Finally, rehearsal begins, two students play the roles while the third students acts as the director keeping them focused on the decided objectives. This kind of preparation makes things go much smoother on game day when I bring in my camera to record their performances.

In my opinion it's great for students because it teaches them to be cool and focused on objectives under pressure when need arises to actually function in English.

For me as an aspiring director, guiding my students in breaking down the script in the classroom is great practice for the real world. Please let me know if you find this useful. Would love to hear your feedback.

An Easy DSLR Audio Setup for the Zoom H4N


Recently I just received my new Zoom H4n from Amazon and was researching the web for some advice on good setups for use with HDSLR. I am a complete beginner with this piece of equipment so the information I found in this article is really useful. I believe when it comes to making great video that high quality audio is about 50% of the battle. Posted via Alexander Fox, founder of Crew Of One. Trying to sort out the best way to handle audio on a microbudget DSLR shoot can be a real challenge. Ideally, you’d hire a professional audio operator with a high-end field mixer who would adjust microphone levels on the fly, and record all the audio to a hard drive. Unfortunately, for every one of those shoots I get, I have ten one-man-band shoots. If you’re in a similar situation, you may be interested in the DSLR audio system I’ve developed:

1) I run the audio source (a shotgun mic and/or a wireless mic receiver) directly into a digital audio recorder, and set the record levels in the recorder to give me a decent signal/noise ratio (leave yourself a lot of headroom). Since you’ll be using the same mic and recorder for the whole shoot, do a test before you leave to determine the proper settings. At the beginning of each interview, start the recorder, and don’t stop it until you’ve finished the interview, even if you start and stop the DSLR several times. By the way, I use a Zoom H4n, but there are a lot of audio recorders on the market, so it’s not the only game in town. Just be aware that the Zoom is one of very few that allows for XLR inputs.

2) Use a headphone splitter (“doubler”) to give you two headphone jacks out of the recorder. You can get this at Kmart for three dollars. Be sure you’re getting something that says “share your music player with another listener” or something to that effect. You do NOT want to get something that splits the audio signal into left/right, you just want something that turns one jack into two. Here are acouple examples.

In case the photo above is confusing, here’s a simplified diagram. If you’re using a shotgun mic, just plug it directly into the audio recorder.

3) Use one of the headphone jacks for your headphones, so that you can monitor the audio.

4) Run a cord from the other headphone jack into your DSLR. Since you need to stay light and move fast, don’t worry about using a Juicedlink or field mixer … This recording will be strictly a backup, in case something happens to the recorder (e.g. a battery dies in the middle of an interview and you lose the file you were recording). Just set the DSLR level manually (when you do your initial level settings test) to a setting that corresponds to the level you’re sending from the recorder. Keep in mind that the headphone volume on the recorder will determine the signal level being sent to the DSLR.

5) When you get ready to edit, use the Pluraleyes plugin to sync up the DSLR footage with the files from your recorder. If you took my advice and let the recorder roll for each interview, you’ll wind up with easy-to-edit sequences based on each audio file. Because the audio going to the DSLR was the same as the audio on the recorder, Pluraleyes should be able to sync up the files with 100% accuracy.

Oh, one more tip … Instead of messing with lav clips, which will undoubtedly get lost, use “moleskin” (available in the foot-care section of any pharmacy) to stick the lav onto the chest of inside the clothing of each interview subject:

By the way, if I may be allowed a shameless plug, this information (some of which is also contained in the audio chapter of The DSLR Cinematography Guide on the No Film School -– along with much, much more – is covered in greater detail in my eBook, “Make Movies Without Money,” available right here.