John Yorke, Peter Dale, Story for Factual TV, narrative in documentary, corporate video making , online course, Into the Woods, John Yorke Story


Whether you’re working on a documentary, format show or corporate video, all factual stories share an underlying structure. This course teaches the secrets of that structure and how to apply it.

Whether you’re working on a documentary, format show, or corporate video, all factual stories share an underlying structure. This CPD course teaches the secrets of that structure – and how to apply it.

Discover why some factual stories resonate with audiences worldwide – and how to fix those that don’t – on this online professional development course from BAFTA-winning storyteller John Yorke.

There’s a balance of theory – the five-act structure ideas set out in John Yorke’s acclaimed book, Into The Woods – with highly practical exercises based on programmes everyone knows, from Grand Designs through to Oscar-winning documentaries. You’ll also come away knowing how to pitch original ideas. 

Week by week there is an experienced and supportive tutor on hand to answer your questions and feedback on your assignments. All participants who successfully complete the course will receive a certificate of completion evidencing their learning and study hours.


Start date: 12 October 2020
Duration: 7 weeks
Skill level: Intermediate
Held: Weekly
Sessions: 6
Price: £900 (inc. VAT where applicable)



Work from our tutors

Script Development Tutor Work
documentary filmmaking

You’ve got a great documentary idea, you’ve shot some fantastic material – but can’t quite shape it into a story that works. Identify the key story elements and you’ll start to see what you need to do.

​- Peter Dale, Documentary Producer, Channel 4, BBC, Rareday

Read Peter’s article on how to get your documentary story straight

We developed this professional development course to help anyone who wants to understand how and why basic storytelling principles work in documentary and factual content. It’s ideal for production teams, freelance documentary video producers, and anyone producing factual online video content – from ob docs to corporate videos. 

We teach this course in groups of up to 15 people. You can book as an individual or you can block-book a dedicated class exclusively for your team.

The course is suitable if you:

  • Are involved in producing factual content, including as a producer, director, AP, researcher, editor – and even executive producer
  • Are developing online factual content for businesses, charities and other organisations
  • Are new to factual TV and want to learn how to plan and structure programmes
  • Would like to master five-act story structure and learn to see the underlying framework behind all stories
  • Need to discover why your factual stories aren’t working — and how to fix them
  • Need to find out how to write a professional pitch
  • Want to join a friendly and supportive group of learners
  • Can dedicate 5-7 hours per week for the duration of the course


Over seven weeks, your tutor will teach you the building blocks you need to create a compelling narrative for factual, and will guide you as you fix broken stories and write pitches for original ideas. You’ll work within a supportive community, with Peter Dale and John Yorke on-hand to answer your questions and give you feedback on your pitches for original ideas at the end of the course.


Session 1: Introduction to Storytelling
We start by thinking about the grammar of storytelling and the essential elements a story needs, and look at what happens in dramatic storytelling before assessing why that’s relevant to factual content.
Session 2: Building Blocks
We build on the basic building blocks of the archetypal story, examining structural form in more detail and looking at the relevance to factual formats and programmes. At the end of this session there is a Q&A with John Yorke.
Session 3: Essential Storytelling Tools
You’ll learn how to ‘break’ a story to see if it works, learn the 10 key questions to ask every story, and experiment with three-act structure. By the end of this session you should be able to deconstruct a story and will understand the three key documentary models.
Session 4: Five-Act-Structure
In this session we break down a story into five acts and look at why this is such an invaluable tool for storytellers working in all formats. Practical exercises include identifying turning points and midpoints and rewriting a factual story in five parts. At the end of this session there is a Q&A with Peter Dale.
Session 5: Developing Your Own Stories
We start by looking at how to make sure your own original factual stories work in a truly dramatic way. You’ll work through the process of distilling a story to its essence before learning how to package it into a professional pitch.
Session 6: Pitching Your Own Stories
Finally, we step into the world of pitching and commissioning, looking at everything that goes into the moment when you try to convince a commissioning editor to back your idea. John offers his top tips for checking whether your story is as good as it can be, while Peter lays down the dos and don’ts of pitching.





At the end of the course you’ll submit two short pitches for factual stories, and receive written feedback notes from your tutors.

We teach this course in our online classroom, which is open 24/7 so you can fit learning around your work, family and friends. You’ll work in a small group of learners so you can discuss ideas, ask questions and share your writing as you progress through the weekly sessions.

Read more on how we teach. 

See a full list of the materials and programmes you’ll need to complete this course.

You’ll learn from:

  • Short podcasts and videos from John Yorke and/or other industry experts
  • Practical exercises and prompts to help you practise your skills as you work toward developing your own pitches
  • Carefully selected reading and viewing lists from John Yorke and Peter Dale
  • Live Q&A chatroom sessions with your group and tutor
  • The opportunity to share your work and give and receive feedback from fellow writers
  • Weekly tutor input and detailed feedback on your two pitches at the end of the course


Join our alumni

After your course, you can join our online alumni community where you’ll meet our growing network of past students. You’ll be able to.

  • Rejoin your classmates in a private forum
  • Continue to access an archived version of your course materials
  • Meet alumni from other courses and share work for feedback
  • Join discussions about screenwriting, script editing and the industry
  • Attend live chats with guest writers and industry folk

Mentoring and one-to-one feedback

The John Yorke Story tutor team offer mentoring, script reads and reports. We are happy to quote by job or script, or to arrange a longer mentoring scheme as you work on a specific story idea. We’ll create a package to suit you, so for more information please email

Taking things further

If you’d like to take another John Yorke Story course, we’ll give you a discount. Please get in touch for more details.

This course has been made possible by the support of ScreenSkills, and has been approved as part of an informal or formal continuing professional development (CPD) programme.

You may be eligible for a training bursary for this course. Apply direct to ScreenSkills here, at least FOUR WEEKS before the course start date.

As this counts as CPD training, you may also be able to get funding from your employer to do it. See here for all our latest bursary and funding opportunities. 

Price: £900 (inc. VAT where applicable)

Price: £50

Ask Us Anything

Jemma Woodman Documentary

I really enjoyed my time in the [John Yorke Story] classroom, they have completely cracked how to make online learning a full rounded experience and the way they go about it means you’re always in a bustling class with a lot of peer and tutor interaction.

Jemma Woodman

BBC Presenter, Inside Out South West & River Walks

As someone new to the industry and this way of thinking about stories, I have found the course transformative. I watch TV in a completely new way now, and look at stories in a new light. I’ll miss the weekly tasks.


The course has such a wealth of useful, practical examples to help bring the theory to life. It is hard to pin down one greatest learning from all this; perhaps it is that all great stories are about fighting something – injustice, character flaws, baddies – and that it is also really important to make people care.


The course was great, it definitely helped me land my dream job!


10 questions every writer should ask their story

10 questions every writer should ask their story

You’ve written your story, now how can you test whether or not it’s as good as it can be? John Yorke recommends asking 10 questions to check you’ve got your story straight: an approach as relevant to business stories as it is to dramatic narratives.

How to get your documentary story straight

How to get your documentary story straight

You’ve got a great documentary idea, you’ve shot some fantastic material, but are struggling to shape it into a story that works. Experienced documentary maker and Story for Factual TV course director Peter Dale recalls a cutting-room moment when it it all came together.

What factual TV can learn from drama

What factual TV can learn from drama

In his bestselling book on screenwriting Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them, John Yorke argues that all compelling stories share an underlying structure, no matter their format or genre. So what do the great storytellers of film and TV drama have to teach those who work in factual entertainment, current affairs, history/science/the arts, and documentaries – anything, in fact, that’s non-fiction? A new course explores what you can take from dramatic structure to create factual stories that resonate deeply with an audience.

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