Screenwriting Unchained: Advanced Development
A new approach to story structure that will make you fall in love with screenwriting again, set you free from unnecessary creative constraints and give you the confidence to tackle any script development situation… This live workshop could be a true rocket booster for your projects and your career!
Reclaim Your Creative Freedom
And Master Story Structure in 30 Hours
Learn how to develop original screenplays for a wide audience at home and abroad without following prescriptive paradigms!
Based on Oberg's innovative Story-Type Method, this workshop leaves aside rigid rules that lead to predictable screenplays. It also steers clear of supposed formulas for commercial success that simply don't exist (or we'd know!). It focuses primarily on screenwriting for Film & TV but the principles explored apply to any dramatic story. Note: Our 'Writing a Successful TV Series add-on builds on this main workshop and explores TV Series specifically.
This workshop is designed for writers, directors, producers, creators, showrunners, development executives, story editors... Anyone creatively involved in the script development process.
It aims to equip filmmakers with a set of storytelling tools that help develop each project as effectively as possible. It details how filmmakers can identify the story-type of their projects as early as possible and adjust the development process accordingly, making it easier, faster to troubleshoot their projects and leading to stronger screenplays.
It puts a strong emphasis on each project reaching the widest possible audience, both at home and abroad, without limiting the filmmakers' creative freedom. During and after the workshop, extensive course materials are made available online.
Many examples and case studies are used to illustrate each storytelling tool, from films such as: Gravity, Two Days, One Night, Silver Linings Playbook, Frenzy, Cloud Atlas, Dunkirk, Edge of Tomorrow, City Lights, The Lives of Others, Misery, Cyrano de Bergerac, Ridicule, Birdman, The Bourne Supremacy, A Quiet Place, Billy Elliot, As Good as it Gets, There’s Something About Mary and more...
This hybrid workshop (part self-led, part live) is usually commissioned by independent producers, studios, national/regional film funds or training organisations and fine-tuned to their specific needs. For example, it can be followed by one or more optional day(s) of one-to-one meetings for project work with the participants (see details below) or our new hands-on extension, The Rewrite Stuff: 12 Ways to a Stronger Screenplay.
It is delivered online as standard to closed groups of five to forty-eight participants, though a larger audience is technically possible. Travel permitting, the last live Q&A session can be delivered in person if optional project work is included.
What's Included in This Online Workshop?
- 30-day access to Screenwriting Unchained - Advanced Development (15 hours of self-led content in 12 training modules). You'll go through the content over one to three weeks and are free to revisit it the week(s) following the workshop.
- Interactive quizzes at the end of each module that help you check how much you've remembered and clarify your understanding. They also provide instant feedback depending on your answers, for example suggesting which topic you might want to revisit.
- Hands-On videos focusing on project development, raising questions and suggesting practical tips so that you can apply the content of each module to your work as you go along. The last hands-on, 'The Rewrite Stuff: 12 Ways to a Stronger Screenplay', looks at twelve key areas for your upcoming rewrite.
- 'Creative Freedom' Game. As you go through the content and take the quizzes, you earn points depending on your answers. If you want to, you can check your progress on your way to creative freedom and see if you earn a spot on the group leaderboard...
- Suggested workshop schedule: Week 1 is for film watching, Week 2 is for Modules 1-6, Week 3 is for Modules 7-12 with optional one-to-one meetings at the end of the week, Week 4 is to revisit the content of the self-led online course. Note: It is highly recommended that participants do as much of the preparation as possible before starting the workshop (see notice below). The workshop can take place over a shorter time if needed (down to 3-5 days, excluding prep).
- LIVE: One onboarding session at the beginning of Week 1 and up to five Q&A sessions including hands-on / group work as participants progress through the self-led online course.
- Permanent access to extensive course materials including: all the slides shown during the course; case studies and recommended reading; free samplers (first 60-70 pages of Oberg's books plus a Story-Type Method Glossary).
- Participants who finish the course will receive a certificate of completion and 25% off a 'Script Chat' if they would like feedback on a project within 30 days of the end of the workshop. Optional one-to-one meetings can also be organised as part of the workshop, either on their own or as part of a rewrite workshop.
Here's an Overview of Each Module
In this first module, we start by questioning what’s wrong with the 3-Act structure, a concept you’re most likely already familiar with given that it’s the most well-known story structure paradigm.
I don’t believe in any approach based on a set number of acts or sequences, insisting on act breaks or steps based on a set number of pages or minutes. That isn’t structure, it’s format (or formula). Story structure is at the same time more flexible and more complex than that, so we first need to clarify what it really is before we can harness its full power...
If we agree that the logistical 3-Act structure (based on a set number of pages or minutes) is a superficial and limiting paradigm, what can we replace it with? This is what we talk about in this second module.
Here we introduce a new approach to story structure that is both flexible and powerful. Freedom and power… What’s not to like?
Abraham Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation can have extremely powerful applications to screenwriting, from helping you to assess the potential audience of your project to making sure that its genre, story-type and budget tally in order to increase your chances of getting it made.
This is the focus of this third module.
As we start exploring the foundations of screenwriting and script development, we take a look at the most common story-type: plot-led stories.
This fourth module, along with the next four (Behind the Scenes I-III and Into the Script) forms the first section of the rocket that is going to propel your project to the top of the reading pile and hopefully get it made...
So even if you believe that your project is not plot-led, please bear with me. All the concepts, all the tools discussed in the ‘Foundations’ section can be used in any story.
Learning how to handle plot-led stories is the same as learning to walk before attempting to run and jump: if you don’t get the foundations right, you’re seriously limiting your chances of success when dealing with more sophisticated story-types.
This first ‘Behind the Scenes’ module explores the tools used to generate and manage conflict in a screenplay. We’re opening a toolbox that can be used in any story at scene, sequence and story level.
The great benefit of this approach is that it will help you to improve your scene writing, so you can master the craft at scene level before tackling larger story chunks at sequence or script level.
Think about managing conflict as a way to define the direction, the drive of your scene, sequence or story. This is one of the most essential parts of storytelling, yet it’s often mishandled.
When you manage conflict as explained in the previous module, you define the main direction, the story drive: a start point, an end point, obstacles and a question mark, raised by the dramatic question: Will the protagonist reach their goal or not?
That’s great and it’s a key part of storytelling, but if you stop there, you’ve defined a two-dimensional story. Just as you don’t want your characters to be two-dimensional, you don’t want your story to be flat either.
This is what this second ‘Behind the Scenes’ module brings to the party: How, using managing information, you can add a third dimension to the story, generate intellectual interest with mystery, create emotional tension with suspense, break linearity with surprise and sometimes even replace the dramatic 3-Act structure entirely at story level with dramatic irony. The old adage “Information is power” has never been more true…
Managing information is one of the keys to storytelling mastery, yet it’s a misunderstood or neglected topic in most screenwriting approaches. It’s time to change this!
The tools explored in this module might be less structural but they are nevertheless essential—especially if you’d like to reach a wide audience abroad—because they allow you to tell a moving, entertaining and meaningful story without relying primarily on dialogue.
Visual storytelling, planting and pay-off are tightly connected and will help you not only to cross borders but also to create meaning and emotion in your story.
In today’s world, where reaching a global audience is not only possible but often required, it’s a bad idea to develop projects without fully understanding—and then mastering—the power of these tools.
You most likely already know that screenwriters should “show rather than tell”. This module will not only explain why, it will also show you how you can achieve this, and much more.
Now that we’ve gone ‘behind the scenes’, opened the toolbox and given a name and a function to the main screenwriting and script development tools and principles, we can take a step back. In this module, we look ‘into the script’ and show how to bridge the gap between scene and screenplay.
To achieve this, we’re going to explore how we can ‘Sequence the Action’, then how to ‘Craft the Draft’. Finally, we’ll look at "Gravity", our case study for a plot-led story.
Character-led stories are often mistaken for “stories with strong characters”, or character-driven stories. It’s time to correct this misconception and explain what a character-led story really is and why, from a structural point of view, it is significantly different from a plot-led story.
This is key to avoiding aimless stories or artificial stories, because what’s at stake in a character-led story isn’t what the character wants but what the character needs.
When the unconscious need of the protagonist is more important than their conscious want, how do you design the story so that there is still something at stake, so that we still wonder what’s going to happen next? The answer lies in this module, along with additional tips and tools specific to character-led stories and a detailed case study of "Silver Linings Playbook".
When you don’t have a plot-led or a character-led story, when you don’t have a clear protagonist, often it’s because the main problem lies in society and is unsolvable, which leads to a multi-stranded narrative.
This has huge consequences from a structural point of view, the main one being that we can’t use the dramatic 3-act structure to design the whole story, given that there is no main dramatic action or evolution.
Theme-led stories tend to be in the minority if we look at feature films, but many TV Series have a strong theme-led element as most of them – especially serials or limited series - are multi-stranded.
So if you’d like to find out how Crash, Magnolia, Traffic, Cloud Atlas, Game of Thrones or Big Little Lies build on plot-led and character-led stories to create a more complex story form, this module is designed for you and comes with a detailed case study of "Dunkirk".
Up to this point, we’ve defined the foundations and have explored the most common story-types: plot-led, character-led and theme-led.
This is better than a simplistic, dogmatic paradigm, but it still doesn’t encompass all stories. Many successful stories are hybrids (they combine two story-types) or exceptions (they have no clear story-type).
These are the most advanced kinds of stories, hence often the most exciting, but also the most difficult to pull off. You need to understand a few key principles in order to handle hybrids or exceptions without either destroying them during the development process (if they were working in the first place) or failing to make them work.
This is what we’re exploring in this penultimate module, mostly through a selection of short case studies that illustrate how unconventional hybrids and exceptions often work brilliantly.
This was an intense – and hopefully exciting as well as rewarding – journey, it’s time now to bring it to a close in the most practical way. This last module explores how all the tools and principles introduced up to this point can be used during the development process, and adds a few more for good measure.
We’re going to look at the difference between selling tools and story design tools, and we’ll try to point you in the right direction for your next draft in ‘The Rewrite Stuff – 12 Ways to a Stronger Screenplay’.
This module is designed to get you fired up and ready to go, so fasten your seatbelt… It might be the last part of the course but it’s the beginning of a whole new journey!
IMPORTANT NOTE REGARDING PREPARATION
Participants need at least a week to prepare if they want to make the most of this workshop as we recommend they watch a few films before going through the content. This preparation can be done as they go through the first section of the self-led course ('A New Framework for Developing Screenplays'), but please be aware that the content as a whole is designed assuming they've watched these films before they start.
The 'Welcome to the Course!' section of the course is freely accessible to allow participants to look at the 'Preparation and Resources' topic and get a sense of how much preparation is involved. That way, should they want to, participants can prepare ahead of the workshop in order to maximise their access window to the course.
Advanced Development Workshop
Fees on April 1st, 2022
Excl. 20% UK VAT where applicable
INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION COMPANY
- Includes preparation and online delivery (using our online course platform / Zoom)
- Partial in-person delivery, travel & accommodation costs on top (please see the FAQs below)
- A/V equipment / Meeting room not included
- Maximum 9 participants
Would you like to bring your script development skills to the next level and put your film or TV projects in the fast lane?
This package will train creative producers, development execs, story editors and writer/directors working for the same independent production company, making sure that everyone in the team is on the same page and equipped with the best tools when discussing screenplays. A separate slate assessment service can be arranged (fee to be defined depending on the number of projects in development).
One or more extra day(s) for project work can also be booked alongside the workshop to allow meetings on individual projects immediately after the last day (see next column).
OPTIONAL ONE-TO-ONE DAY
£3,995 (4 projects)
For project work meetings
- Includes preparation and online delivery (using Zoom)
- In-person delivery, travel & accommodation costs on top (please see the FAQs below)
- Each meeting is an extended script chat (up to 90 min.)
- £995 for each additional project
- Actual fee varies, written notes optional
While the Advanced Development Workshop is very practical and allows the participants to focus on a specific project if they want to, there is no time during the workshop to discuss individual projects.
A number of extra days can therefore be booked along with the workshop to make time for specific projects, read in advance (max. 130 pages), to be discussed with the creative team (producer, writer, director, story editor) immediately after the last day. We'll focus on the strengths and weaknesses of each project, as well as the way forward.
For more extensive project work, you might want to consider the new hands-on extension to this workshop: The Rewrite Stuff - 12 Ways to a Stronger Screenplay.
REGIONAL/NATIONAL FUND OR STUDIO
for 10-20 participants
- Includes preparation and online delivery (using our online course platform / Zoom)
- Partial in-person delivery, travel and accommodation costs on top (please see the FAQs below)
- A/V equipment / Meeting room not included
- £395 for each additional participant
This version of the workshop is aimed at regional / national funds or organisations who would like to train a larger number of participants (up to 48, though more is technically possible). It's also the option a group or studio would go for to train their development team and the writers developing projects with them.
The content of the workshop can be fine-tuned to a specific audience (for example producers, story editors and development execs, or writers and directors).
While the tools are the same, the approach can be different depending on the participants' role in development. This being said, the workshop works equally well with a mixed audience as long as participants have roughly the same level of experience.
What People Say
“Our workshop with Emmanuel brought writers, producers and distributors together in a very successful way, leaving us inspired and eager to develop content together. The story type method gives us all a tool and a language that brings the various disciplines in the industry a way of talking about development we have been missing. As a producer and academic, I can honestly say this is the best investment in our personnel we have ever made. Storm Films will continue to use the Story-type method in its development work. We will continue using and developing the “tribal language” we created during the workshop between writers, producers, sales and execs.”
True value for money. Well-suited for advancing and advanced screenwriters, including successful ones and those who think they have heard or read it all before. Don’t expect a gospel from a preacher or a showman. Oberg is a modest man who clearly resists becoming the next screenplay guru. Yet he delivers an amazing, almost complete and very thorough understanding of the inner workings of our craft, guaranteed to spark fresh thoughts that will benefit your next project, no matter how experienced you are. And there is a big bonus. The screenplay business is a fickle mistress that can often leave you frustrated. Oberg makes you remember why you fell in love with her in the first place and he makes you fall in love all over again. [Advanced Development Workshop for the Netherlands Film Fund]
“Emmanuel’s advanced development workshop was really an eye opener on how to read scripts, and how, as a distributor, to give good and concrete feedback”
I took the Screenwriting Unchained-course as a live course at the Swedish Film Institute a few years ago. It was a great (and intense 3-day) experience. Not to say a revelation. After the Hero’s Journey, Truby and McKee with 9, 12 or 20-whatever steps (not bad at all and very useful – but still) it was very liberating.
The TV Series-course takes the same thoughts and applies them on ideas and stories (and storylines) that are meant to last for a whole season (or in some cases several seasons). So far I haven’t come across a take on story structure that has been as helpful and useful as this one. (Ok, Aristotle, but that’s where we all start.)
Emmanuel’s Story-Type method as explained in the [Screenwriting Unchained] course makes creative sense and deals with the real tasks and issues involved in developing a script/screenplay. The whole process has become more clear to me from following this course and I intend to wring every bit of wisdom and technique I can out of the full course over the next few weeks. Thank you Emmanuel for de-mystifying and clarifying the concepts!
The workshop was so well-structured, easy to follow and it felt like the focus was put on just the right things. Even when you hear about the stuff you already know about, like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you see it in a different light and it gets you to think about your own projects immediately. I would definitely recommend it! [Advanced TV Development Workshop for NEM Zagreb]
One of the best workshops regarding script structure I’ve attended. It really makes you review and research what you know about books like Mckee, Field etc. The books that I’ve been related to at my studies. Really enjoyed it and will try to convey it to my work with films I produce and students I tutor. Very inspiring and thoughtful. Thank you Emmanuel! [Advanced Development Workshop (ACE 26)]
I cannot thank you enough for such an extraordinary course full of so much wisdom mixed with a rare humility and delivered with real passion. The practical tools will be tremendously useful and the resources a huge bonus. [Advanced Development Workshop for Screen West Midlands]
Emmanuel is the right kind of teacher for inherently creative people. He does not instruct, or impose, or prescribe. He displays and explains a box of first-class tools, and encourages the writer to use the ones that suit the work in hand. In this way the work is improved, and the writer gains confidence at the same time, which in turn leads to even better work. Emmanuel is very tall, but he never talks down to you. [Advanced Development Workshop for Cologne Intl Film School]
Many, many thanks for such a stimulating and inspiring course. The tools are already coming in extremely useful and I hope will transform my approach to any new project from now on. [Advanced Development Workshop for Ealing Studios]
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