Foundations of Screenwriting: A Six Part Course with Marc Lapadula

Foundations of Screenwriting: A Six Part Course with Marc Lapadula


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The journey of a script – from the strike of inspiration to its red carpet premiere – can span many years of hard work, re-writes, and setbacks. It is critical to have a fundamentally well-crafted screenplay to serve as the backbone for a film’s creative team and its future legacy in Hollywood. 

Our six-part course has been designed by an acclaimed screenwriting professor at Yale University to provide participants with the practical foundation to develop their own cinematic narrative (regardless of genre) and teach writers how to create multi-dimensional characters to deliver that story to their target audience. 

During our time together, Professor Lapadula will overview the necessary screenwriting components of a professional script: plot construction, character development, creating cinematic dialogue. Participants will learn to craft conflict, dramatic pacing, foreshadowing, the element of surprise, subtext, plot points, and visual storytelling into their work. 

For additional information, please see the lecture outlines below as well as our additional upcoming conversations being led on the topic of Film Studies.

Lecture 1: The Essentials of a Screenplay – Proper Formatting and Project Management

Our first session will provide an overview of the fundamental writing process and discuss how to set reasonable goals and a timeline for managing the project. Participants will learn how to compose their drafts on the page in order to be taken seriously by the film industry during the presentation process.

How a screenplay appears on the actual page is of paramount importance if participants aim to have their screenplay read by agents, producers, directors, and actors. This section of the course will focus on learning the rules of professional screenplay formatting. 

Lecture 2: It’s All About Story – Analyzing the Greatest Hits

We will learn to devise a logical narrative, the importance of tone for sustaining suspense or achieving laugh-out-loud comedy, how to maximize certain plot points to advance the storyline, and how to outline the full narrative in advance.

Our second session will closely view a range of powerful, clever, and iconic scenes from classic films. Clips we will review include: I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, Citizen Kane, On The Waterfront, Some Like It Hot, The Birdcage, The Graduate, Blade Runner, Lady Bird, and others.

Lecture 3: Constructing an Authentic and Dynamic Character Arc

What makes characters truly memorable, compelling, and a lure for professional actors to desire to bring them to life on film?  Screenplay writers must vividly distinguish their characters from one another so as to create unique, captivating individuals on screen. Together we will explore how to build these fictional relationships.

Lecture 4: Crafting Engaging and Believable Dialogue

Our fourth session will examine fundamental strategies to develop, capture, and differentiate your characters’ distinctive voices. 

Lecture 5: Marketing A Screenplay – Selecting the Target Audience

Once a writer’s script has been polished and is ready to go out into Hollywood –what happens next? Professor Lapadula will provide an overview of the current marketplace in Hollywood and how to maneuver its obstacles as a screenwriter.

Lecture 6: Lessons From A Master – Joseph Stephano’s “Psycho”

During our final session, we will take an in-depth look at how Joseph Stephano constructed the screenplay for Psycho. This incredible script provided Alfred Hitchcock with the foundation for one of Hollywood’s most iconic thrillers. Together we will closely analyze the screenplay to discover how the film’s ground-breaking narrative structure revolutionized modern cinema.

Marc Lapadula is a Senior Lecturer in The Film and Media Studies Program at Yale University. He is a playwright, screenwriter, and award-winning film producer. In addition to Yale, Marc has taught at Columbia University’s Graduate Film School, created the screenwriting programs at both The University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins where he won Outstanding Teaching awards and has lectured on film, playwriting and conducted highly-acclaimed screenwriting seminars all across America, as well as Canada and Mexico, at notable venues like The National Press Club, The Smithsonian Institution, The Guthrie Theater, The Commonwealth Club, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Toronto Jewish Film Festival, The Brookings Institute for Johns Hopkins University and The New York Historical Society, to name only a few.

How does it work?

This is a six-part course held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule above for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

When will I receive the Zoom link?

The link used to enter your Zoom room will be the same for each lecture in the course. It will be sent to the email address that was used to place your order 30 minutes prior to each session's start time.

Is there a reading list?

Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation – screenplays and additional reference materials. These will be provided to all participants at the course's conclusion.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time included for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $210 USD for six lectures.

Is a recording available?

Yes. All registered participants will be sent a recording within 48 hours of each event's conclusion.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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