The Story Workshop
Austin Film Festival
Writing a screenplay is hard work. It’s a solitary endeavor that often feels like you’re driving without headlights. Are your stakes high enough? Is the structure working? What the heck is this story even about? And what do I do with my script once it’s finished?? Well, you don’t have to do it alone. Austin Film Festival is here to help you.
Austin Film Festival is excited to announce a new program of continuing education courses. In this program, you will be led through the process of writing a screenplay and taking the initial steps to launch your screenwriting career. While there are countless classes and books that teach the how-to of screenwriting, the goal of this program is to develop screenwriters.
Over five classes in five months, you will develop a concept, write – and finish! – your script, establish a practice – you cannot be a working screenwriter without being able to write consistently and quickly! – and take those crucial next steps of getting your script before the eyes of industry readers. Baylor University professor Greg Garrett will give you hard deadlines, help you through the rough spots, and teach you how to avoid the rough spots.
Let’s be honest, everyone has story ideas. The percentage of those people who start writing them down? Very small. The percentage who finish? Way smaller. The percentage who keep at it and submit? Miniscule. We get it. Writing can be difficult. Really difficult. Especially when you’re just starting out. You’ll hit a lot of roadblocks, wondering if your story is good enough, if it’s even worth telling, and doubting your writing skills and talent. Let us help you finally write that script you’ve been daydreaming about and take those initial steps toward launching your career. Greg will be your teacher, taskmaster, and cheerleader. You just need to show up and do the work.
Instructor: Dr. Greg Garrett, Professor of English and Baylor University 2013 Centennial Professor
Classroom: Mitte Carriage House, 1008 West Ave, Austin, TX 78701
Course Dates and Time: March 25, April 22, May 27, June 24, July 22 10 am-4 pm (lunch 11:45 to 1:00; you may bring a lunch or walk to restaurants in the area)
On Story: Screenwriters and Their Craft (Austin Film Festival)
On Story: Screenwriters and Filmmakers on Their Iconic Films (Austin Film Festival)
The Bourne Identity (Gilroy et al)
Gone Girl (Flynn)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Black)
Manchester by the Sea (Lonergan)
Silver Linings Playbook (Russell)
30 Rock (Fey)
3:10 to Yuma (Brandt and Hass
When Harry Met Sally (Ephron)
Recommended craft texts:
Bird by Bird (Lamott)
Save the Cat (Snyder)
The Writers Journey (Vogler)
So, you want to write a screenplay. You’ve got an idea, some characters, a conflict. Right? Greg will talk about how you can know whether you have the elements in place to write a compelling screenplay. You’ll learn to craft a logline, consider whether your story would make a better screenplay or novel, think about structure before you start writing, and learn how to create a compelling character.
At the beginning of your screenplay, you’ve got to introduce your characters and conflict, build a world, and launch us on a journey—all within about thirty pages. You also—unless you want to spend a long time wandering in search of your story—need to have a compelling structure on which to hang those elements. In this class, Greg will offer guidance and some writing exercises, we’ll discuss some reading, and we’ll watch some masters of the craft talk about the early building blocks of a screenplay that set you up for success. By the end of the day, you’ll learn what to keep from your first act, how to revise it to set you up for what follows, how to deepen character, and how to transition into your larger story.
Most writers of long narrative will tell you that the most difficult task they face is managing their second act, which can be twice as long as their first. How do you advance your plot while delaying resolution at the same time? In this class, Greg will show us some time-honored ways to structure your second act, offer some writing exercises, we’ll watch and discuss some successful examples of plotting, and we’ll watch masters of the craft talk about how to navigate this long stretch of your story where many screenplays fall apart. By the end of the day, you’ll learn how to revise your second act to follow a narrative structure, how to build character through action and dialogue, and how to move toward your ending.
Too often stories that start promisingly end badly. You’ve read books seen films that let you down in the third act. How can you craft an ending true to your characters, to your conflict, and to time-honored structures? What is personal choice, and what is bad storytelling? In this class, Greg will offer up some hints on conclusions, assign some writing exercises, we’ll watch and discuss some successful examples of film endings, and we’ll watch as master storytellers explain how they conceived of their conclusions. By the end of the day, you’ll know how to revise your final act to achieve a powerful emotional effect, how to ensure each major character has a satisfying arc, and how to avoid pitfalls that could crush an otherwise promising story.
In this fourth class, you will bring your finished draft into conversation with a working director or producer about how filmmakers acquire, revise, and shoot screenplays. What should you be aware of—and beware of—when you offer your script? If you’re involved in the collaborative process moving forward, what are some things you might expect? What should you fight for, and how can you recognize when someone else’s story solution is better than what you originally wrote? Greg will check in from overseas, where he will be on a book tour, and offer a few final thoughts on the spring and encouragement on your work together. By the end of the day, you’ll have a strong practical sense about how a screenwriter should approach selling a script, hear how movie and TV stories are broadly collaborative, and receive feedback on your concept and story from a working professional.
When you finish your draft, it isn’t the end—only the end of the beginning! Learn strategies for revision that include killing your favorites, taking snapshots, reading with a global view, and workshopping. Then consider some next steps that include contests, agents, and even making your own film. In this class, Greg will offer up some hints on rewriting, provide some writing exercises, we’ll discuss some successful scripts, and we’ll watch as screenwriters take on editing and revision. By the end of the day, you’ll know how to revise your entire screenplay on a micro and macro level, how to make your characters and plot as close to perfect as you can make them, and consider some possible actions to take with your finished script.
If you’ve seen Greg Garrett moderate a panel or interview a filmmaker at the Austin Film Festival over the past fifteen years, you’ve probably appreciated what he brings to the conversation: Tons of preparation. A vast knowledge of story, film, and television. A sense of humor. A passion for making everyone feel welcome. And an awareness that telling our stories is one of the most important things we do, that it should be celebrated, and that we can always learn how to do it more effectively.
Greg brings that same set of passions to his teaching. At Baylor University, where he has won multiple teaching awards, his students have written, acted in, directed, and produced works including The Office, Chicago Fire, 3:10 to Yuma, Better Living through Chemistry, and the forthcoming ABC series Down in the Valley. He has taught top-rated community classes for the Writers League of Texas on everything from writing humor and structuring your second act to mastering dialogue and creating compelling characters. He also works closely with AFF, helping the Festival plan new programming (including this course), consulting on grants, judging films, and collaborating on film and story curricula for underserved schools.
Greg’s knowledge of story and structure comes from focused study but also from practical application. The author of four acclaimed novels, including Free Bird (which was named a best first novel by Publishers Weekly and the Denver Rocky Mountain News) and The Prodigal (which received a starred review in PW), he has also written two books of memoir, and nonfiction on film, politics, culture, religion, and narrative—over twenty books in all—for publishers including HarperCollins, Kensington, and Oxford University Press. Greg speaks, gives readings, and teaches across the US and Europe, and has appeared on or been interviewed by National Public Radio, BBC Radio, USA Today, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Globe and Mail, Irish Times, New Statesman, Commonweal, National Review, and Men’s Health. He lives in Austin with his wife Jeanie, their kids Chandler, Lily, and Sophie, and their new beagle Grace.