Cracking Story: 2-day Screenwriting Course
A 2-day course with Australia’s Screenwriting Guru that can revolutionise your understanding of film & TV storytelling and inspire you to write emotionally powerful screenplays that resonate for international audiences.
Dates for 2015:
Cracking Story Melbourne – Feb 7-8, 2015 – Book now
Dates for Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, London and Auckland to be confirmed. If you’d like to be informed when dates for your city are announced, please join our mailing list.
Standard – $397*
* Discounts for Early Bird registration
Why come to Cracking Story?
The standard of feature film writing is in decline. Hollywood is turning out soul-less pap and Indie films are typically more heartfelt but tend to be let down by poor storytelling. At Cracking Yarns, we’re on a mission to arrest the slide and it all starts here.
In our flagship course, Cracking Story, you’ll learn how to write screenplays with the rounded characters and rich soul of the best indie films but with the emotionally powerful stories that can draw, engage and move broad audiences. Is that even possible? Absolutely!
The best studio films – like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Groundhog Day and Dead Poets Society – appeal to critics, and the best indie films – like Juno, Little Miss Sunshine and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – find a significant audience as well as win awards.
Cracking Story reveals the secrets behind these great films that can set you on the path to the screenwriter’s Holy Grail – a box office hit with an Oscar buzz.
“It was totally exhilarating, a real pleasure and I learned things I didn’t even know I needed to learn. ”
Claire Dobbin, Chair of Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF)
How is Cracking Story different?
There are three areas where most screenplays (and produced films) are falling down.
1. The characterisations are thin
2. They’re shallow and have nothing to say
3. They don’t move us
How Cracking Story addresses the problems
1. What do Audiences Want?
The source of many of Hollywood’s current problems can be sheeted home to the rise of the screenwriting “bibles”. While many of these texts have useful information, most of them fail to address the fundamental question any writer needs to answer before they can begin to write a screenplay: what does the audience want from story? Not just your story, but any story? At Cracking Story, that’s where we begin.
2. It’s ultimately about character not plot
My other reservation about most of the best-selling screenwriting books is that their focus is plot. They talk about turning points and the midpoint with little or no reference to what it means in terms of the character. This is why so many films don’t move us. Stuff happens on screen but, because it doesn’t relate to character, we’re not engaged. At Cracking Story, you’ll discover how to use plot in the service of character so that you deepen the engagement of the audience the deeper you go into the screenplay.
3. Story is craft
Indie films are typically more watchable than Hollywood blockbusters but they too often have disappointing conclusions. Why? Because, in trying to distance themselves from studio films, they have demonised structure. They show little or no understanding of, or respect for, the craft of storytelling. And that’s what it is: a craft.
Yes, you need talent and imagination to come up with original characters, fresh dramatic scenarios, and captivating dialogue. But, the ability to engage an audience over 90 minutes or two hours (or, in the case of Breaking Bad, 6 series) is not something that you’re born with. That takes work – first in understanding how the great screenwriters of the past have done it, and then in trying to apply it to your story. You need to become a master of story, and your apprenticeship can start here.
“I’ve encountered no one in this country with a better and deeper understanding of story” Justin N.
Don’t put off your screenwriting dream any longer. And set aside those plot-focussed “bibles”. Come to Cracking Story, learn how to write from the heart but for your audience, and be part of the rejuvenation of screenwriting.
What we’ll cover in Cracking Story
Day 1 Saturday:
Session 1: What do audiences want from story?
Draws on the work of Aristotle, Jung and Joseph Campbell to give you a fundamental understanding of what audiences are craving – but rarely getting – from film and TV stories.
Sessions 2-4: The Heart’s Passage: The Hero’s Emotional Journey
The greatest screenwriter’s greatest challenge is maintaining the audience’s engagement over 100 pages. Here you’ll begin to understand and engage with that art. You’ll see how the character’s external journey – the obvious plot – has to trigger a more critical internal change if the climax of the film is to profoundly move the audience.
You’ll be introduced to the Heart’s Passage, our emotionally-focussed, character-driven version of the Hero’s Journey and see its 12 stages illustrated with inspiring clips from great films including Dead Poets Society, Juno, The Lives of Others, Groundhog Day, Brokeback Mountain, Little Miss Sunshine, Schindler’s List, Tootsie, The King’s Speech, Sideways, Lars and the Real Girl and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
You’ll also discover the one moment, near the golden mean of the screenplay, that most screenplays – and screenplay texts – fail to identify.
You will finish this day with a profoundly altered view of story, and it could be the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the art and craft of this grand tradition.
Day 2: Sunday
Session 5: Character
How to create characters that engage us and can form the basis of stories with emotionally powerful conclusions. Why is empathy not the only way the audience can connect with character? What are the common misunderstandings about character arc? Why are some character “flaws” not really flaws in terms of story? What is it that elevates a stereotype to a three-dimensional character?
Session 6: Concept and Premise
How to use concept and premise to draw audiences and tell stories that resonate internationally. How is Concept different from Premise? Does Concept matter? Is High Concept a bad thing? How is Theme different from Premise? What are the dangers of thinking about premise too early? What does your story say that is true for all time – timeless and universal? Some of you will be invited to get feedback on your concepts.
Session 7: Scene Writing
How to write scenes that not only engage, escalate and resolve but also advance the story and develop the character. Whose scene is it? Who are we riding with in the scene? When should we come into the scene? When is the dramatic question set up? When should we get out of the scene? How has the character’s emotional state been changed across the scene? Explores dialogue and the element that sets great writers apart: subtext. Some of you will get feedback on scenes you’ve written.
Session 8: Screenplay development
How to take your story from concept through to finished screenplay in a way that lets you write from the heart but retain audience engagement. What are some of the tools you can use? What are some of the questions you can ask? What are some of the exercises that tend to help? Must you start from character? Should you write detailed biographies? Should you write a vomit draft? What about treatments? How often should you write? How should you manage your creativity? General Q&A. What is your next step?
“Allen is that very rare kind of teacher who can galvanise a classroom, who affects students far beyond the school walls or course calendar. He inspires, challenges, and provokes students to be better.”
“Hi Allen, a big thank you for a great weekend…it was very special. You bring very particular insights to the whole complicated business and a profound understanding of how structure determines the success of the story. It was a totally exhilarating, a real pleasure and I learned things I didn’t even know I needed to learn. ” Claire Dobbin, Chair of the Melbourne International Film
“Allen was awesome. Created a good energy in class. Very giving. Very positive. Knows structure inside out. Fantastic.”
“Perfect course. Great introduction to screenwriting.
“Allen is a master communicator…with remarkable insight.”
“Fabulous. Wish I did this course 15 years ago!”
About Allen Palmer
Allen is one of the world’s leading screenwriting authorities. For 5 years, he led the Graduate Certificate in Screenwriting program at Australia’s national film school, AFTRS —one of the Top 20 Film Schools in the world. Australian born and bred, he studied at UCLA Extension before honing his understanding of story as a reader for the Sundance Institute in Los Angeles, and then at Granada Film, The Script Factory and the UK Film Council in London. As a writer, he has had projects in development with BBC, FilmFour, Company Pictures, Harbour Pictures and Dreamworks Animation. His feature, Falling for Figaro, is to be shot in the UK in 2015.
*DISCLAIMER* Cracking Yarns reserves the right to cancel any course for any reason at any time. In the event of a course being cancelled a full refund of course fees will be provided.