A friend wrote asking whether they should do a screenwriting course or not (they haven’t written much yet)… My response (in lieu of ever actually writing a ‘proper’ blog about this):
Righto. I think doing a bunch of reading to start with (rather than a course) is definitely the way to go. I’ve read a LOT of screenwriting stuff and would recommend the following five things:
Into The Woods does a great job of distilling a lot of story theory and also being a page-turner. It’s instructive but has a heart.
Save The Cat is quite reductive and shouldn’t be taken as quite the creative shopping list it sets out to be, BUT it is very useful as a nuts and bolts guide to structure, without a lot of the airy fairy stuff in more ‘serious’ screenwriting books.
Wordplayer, the website of Aladdin and Pirates of the Caribbean screenwriter Terry Rossio, is GOLD. The columns have advice about Hollywood etc, but are most useful in how he talks about concepts, character, structure etc.
John Brady’s book of interviews The Craft Of The Screenwriter is really interesting and insightful.
And Jeff Goldsmith’s podcast series with writers is excellent. (It’s also available via podcast apps etc.)
Oh and if you search for BAFTA lectures then the Charlie Kaufman one is AMAZING. And there’s a really interesting Paul Schrader one, too. They’ll either be listened as BAFTA Screenwriters Series or under BAFTA Guru I think.
Also: ANY interview with Chris McQuarrie is usually worth reading.
Oh and John August’s podcast Scriptnotes is also a great resource: