STORY for SCRIPT DEVELOPMENT

Shape up your story skills and learn how to get the most out of writers.

Shape up your story skills and learn how to get the most out of writers.

Over seven weeks, this online professional development course trains you to identify issues with scripts, solve key story problems, and craft polite, constructive and positive notes for writers. You’ll learn effective ways to tackle issues with tone, focus, streamlining and storylining, while honing characterisation, agency and proactivity. And you’ll practise the art of expressing headline thoughts, keeping your editorial cool, and using questions not instructions to get the most from the writers you work with.

The course suits those new to script editing, moving over from theatre, or taking first steps on the career ladder. But it’s also suitable as a refresher for script editors who work intuitively, but would like to know ‘why’ or gain a more specific narrative vocabulary for communicating with writers. Maybe your role requires you to spot future hits at the script stage, or you need the story-structure tools to develop more ambitious stories with larger, more complex teams. 

You’ll gain a good working understanding of five-act structure and the principles of narrative set out in John Yorke’s bestselling book Into The Woods. We start by taking everything back to basics – identifying the key components all successful stories share and the blueprint underlying every archetypal narrative – then apply these principles to diagnose and fix story problems within the context of a HETV drama production, using live scripts.

Along the way you’ll develop increased confidence in judging story ideas, distilling a story to its essence, working with writers and the wider team, and crafting stories that resonate with audiences worldwide.

This is not Zoom or video learning – we use a small-group social-learning model featuring set assignments and discussion to weekly deadlines, with peer critiquing and tutor feedback in our virtual classroom, which we built specifically for teaching writing and editing skills.

Participants who successfully complete this CPD course receive a certificate of completion evidencing their learning and study hours.

 

NEXT COURSE

Start date: 23 January 2023
Duration: 7 weeks
Skill level: Intermediate
Held: Weekly
Sessions: 6
Price: £900 (inc. VAT where applicable)

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John Yorke
Director
Maud
Dromgoole
Moderator

Work from our course team

Script Development Tutor Work
A man writing at a coffee shop

Good script editors are the unsung heroes of television drama – they can quite literally make the difference between a script that works and a script that doesn’t.

​- Caroline Young, Course Leader

Read Caroline’s article on script editor clichés 

Story for Script Development is for anyone working in (or who wants to work in) TV drama, including editors, script readers, development assistants, trainee script editors, researchers, storyliners, story assistants, story supervisors and anyone else looking to learn the mechanics of story structure and apply that practical understanding to high-end TV drama.

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

The course is suitable if you:

  • Are a trainee script editor, researcher or story assistant and want to learn how to read scripts and give more effective notes
  • Want to move into HETV and learn more about the story expectations of the market and audience
  • Would like a refresher on story principles
  • Need to be able to pinpoint problems in a script more quickly…
  • … and express your thoughts and instincts more effectively, using the language of narrative
  • Need to understand why a script isn’t working as a piece of TV drama
  • Would like to learn or sharpen your awareness of five-act story structure and learn how to work with larger scale stories
  • Are looking to understand storylining over a series
  • Would like to feel more confident in giving notes to writers, including giving notes you’d rather not give
  • Want to join a friendly and supportive group of learners
  • Can dedicate 5-7 hours per week for the duration of the course

You’ll discover the underlying structure of all successful stories, learn the essential elements every HETV drama needs, and practise applying this understanding to your work in script development.

Throughout the course you’ll study real-world scripts that work — and some that don’t — to help you understand how a knowledge of archetypal story can help you identify and tackle problems, and make your note-giving more effective at all stages of the development process.

Along the way, you’ll be working within a supportive community keen to share their experiences, with live Q&As on Zoom with your tutor, John Yorke and industry guests.

 

Session 1: Introduction to Storytelling
We start by thinking about the grammar of storytelling and the essential elements every story needs. We’ll look at the HETV script production process and the role of the script editor and other team members. This session is also about introducing yourself and your current role in the script process. We will ask you to make notes on a TX’d script and precis the protagonist’s journey through the first act.
Session 2: Basic Building Blocks
In the second session we build on the basic building blocks used in dramatic storytelling. By the end of the session you’ll understand what makes a good HETV story – and what doesn’t. We’ll also look at the HETV market and audiences, and the specific opportunities and constraints the form presents. We will ask you to write a billing for an episode using the building blocks of story.

Session 3: Fixing Stories that Don’t Work
This session is about being able to see if a story works – or how to ‘break a story’. You’ll learn the 10 key questions to ask every story and by the end of the session should be able to deconstruct any story and understand what needs to be done to fix any problems. You’ll apply those principles by giving headline notes on an HETV script.
Session 4: Mastering Three and Five-Act Structure
In this session we break down a story into first three and then five acts and look at why the midpoint and turning points are such important elements in a script. We’ll introduce key ways to read a script and look at storylining across series. Practical exercises include breaking a script into five parts, giving notes on a deeply problematic script and identifying why it doesn’t work as a piece of TV drama.

Session 5: Giving and Receiving Notes
In this session we look at ways of acting on notes – to make scripts better not just different. We’ll assess a script at scene level and think about the merits of seeing a story from the character’s perspective. We’ll look too at the script-editing process from the viewpoint of the writer and the wider team. You’ll compare a first-draft script with a TX’d version and ask whether the changes were successful, looking at ‘artistic’ best vs tone, focus and streamlining.   
Session 6: Putting it All Together
In this recapping session, John offers his top tips for checking whether a story is as good as it can be, to help you recap everything learned through the previous sessions. At the end of the session you will submit notes to self and a set of headline notes on an unscreened development pilot script, and receive written a detailed feedback report from your tutor.

 

 

 

 

At the end of this session, there will be a Q&A with an HETV writer.

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, Caroline Young and other industry experts
  • Q&A session with a guest HETV writer
  • Practical exercises and prompts to help you experiment and practise your script skills
  • Carefully selected reading and viewing lists
  • 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 script notes at the end of the course from your tutor and John Yorke
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 learn@johnyorkestory.com

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
(Non-refundable)
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WHAT our  STUDENTS SAY

The script I’m working on is really dreadful. I thought that at the beginning of the course, but couldn’t say why. Now I realise, when going through the checklist, that the story is missing most of the checkpoints. We have no idea where the protagonist is going or why. I know how to fix this now.

Zoey

I really have enjoyed the course. The content has been fantastic and the feedback incredibly helpful… I’ve managed to secure a couple of weeks on a production, shadowing with the Script Team in children’s drama, so that I can put some of what I’ve learned into practice.
Ally

It has been so fascinating to see just how much changes between a first draft of a script and the final TX.
Laura

I’m honored to have learned from such an experienced team. I definitely learned a lot and feel a sense of satisfaction after receiving the notes on my final assignment. I’m out there now applying for more reading jobs.
Micki

Our ARTICLES on SCRIPT DEVELOPMENT
Matt Telfer’s top tips on becoming a script editor

Matt Telfer’s top tips on becoming a script editor

Becoming a script editor is many people’s first step in their career in TV and film, but how do you actually get your foot in the door? Story for Script Development tutor Matt Telfer explains the best routes into the industry and how to make the most of it in this special long-read article.

What do script editors do? – Interview with script development consultant Jessica Jones

What do script editors do? – Interview with script development consultant Jessica Jones

Script editors are an integral part of developing a writer’s initial idea into a truly compelling TV show or film. In this interview, John Yorke Story’s Katherine Press speaks with script editor and development consultant Jessica Jones about ironing out problems with writers, understanding how stories work and what questions you should be asking your script.

How to master five-act structure

How to master five-act structure

We work closely with all our students, and often go through topics in detail to help them better grasp them. In this one-to-one session, the John Yorke Story team work with a screenwriter as she masters some of the core elements of five-act structure: inciting incidents, moments of hope and despair, and the point of no return.

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