Writing a Movie Script — How To Go To Film School Without Going Into Debt

Learning about writing a movie script is something a lot of people go to school for, and rightly so – it’s a skill. I went to film school at a major university (one of the largest in the country, actually), and even now, when people ask me what that experience was like, if I’m being honest with them, it is impossible for me to not have mixed emotions about it. I have been graduated from the program for several years now, and while I did have some great professors (who taught me a lot about writing a movie script,) and made some amazing friendships (which, half a decade later, I still have to this day), and got some pretty great stories and experiences out of it, one important fact still remains amongst all of that positivity:

Film school is Expensive
And from a financial standpoint, I would be completely lying to you if I told you it was a good return on your investment in a financial sense (unless you have the very, very good fortune of being able to go to NYU or USC, in which case your odds of getting hired out of school increase significantly). However, as I keep mentioning, writing a movie script is a skill, which means that in order to get better at it, you do have to learn something about it in the process, which then leads us to a perfectly valid question – if film school is expensive and not necessarily a financially sound investment, how can you still learn about writing a movie script without, well, going broke? And this, my friends, is where I’m going to step in and help you out (because I care, after all.) There are a number of ways, all of which are infinitely cheaper than taking out student loans, which will allow you to increase your knowledge of writing a movie script.

The most effective one (which means that, conversely, it’s also the most time consuming one), is to actually do what I’ll call here a “comparative check.” What that means is that, to begin with, you pick a movie to watch (preferably something in the genre you feel most comfortable writing in, and something that has also been released within the last 5 years). After that, you manage to get a copy of the screenplay (remember, we’ve already talked about being able to find them for free online, or buying a print copy of them, and that you need to avoid transcripts), sit down with both the script and the finished filmic project, and simply begin to take notes comparing the two.
In order for this strategy to be most effective, however, there are a number of things that you need to be paying attention to – otherwise, the entire exercise is the equivalent of going to the gym but only doing “cheat” reps.