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The Best Screenwriting Courses For Aspiring Writers Worldwide

A Complete Guide On Which Academic Institutions Provide The Best Screenwriting Degrees

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July 2, 2018 0 comments
best screenwriting courses

Intro: The top screenwriting courses worldwide

There are dozens of script writing courses out there to choose from but, if you can, we’d recommend attending one of those listed in this post.

These are our hand-picked recommendations for the very best screenwriting courses in Los Angeles and beyond based on course structure, reputation, faculty, connections, location and alumni.

We focus on graduate MFAs (Master of Fine Arts) rather than BFA undergraduate programs (Bachelor of Fine Arts) because, ultimately, most of the successful and famous screenwriters to have come out of film school have been graduate students. Overall, out of an MFA screenwriting and BFA screenwriting, the former is the more coveted of the two.

Many MFAs require a BFA in order to apply, but many don’t. If you have the talent, it’s often not necessary to already possess a BFA in screenwriting or related subject.

Here’s what’s coming up: 

  • The best screenwriting courses in the US
  • Top screenwriting courses in Canada
  • Great screenwriting courses in the rest of the world
  • Is enrolling on a screenwriting MFA worth it?

Each section contains notes on the best features of each screenwriting degree, and at the end we include a few honorable mentions, not all of which have screenwriting as their main focus.

So let’s get started.

(Note: The following screenwriting programs are listed alphabetically, not in order of merit. Also, we can’t vouch for the quality of each of these screenwriting courses having not attended all of them, but tell us what you think about our selection in the comments section at the end of the post.)

Best screenwriting courses in the US

best screenwriting courses

There’s not much argument here as to where the best screenwriting courses in the world are to be found: in the US, and especially in Los Angeles.

best screenwriting courses

American Film Institute
(MFA Screenwriting)

 

Overview. Enroll at this private conservatory in Hollywood and you’ll be entering the rich tradition of a film school recognized as one of the industry’s best.

Alumni. Past students who went on to break into the industry include, Scott Frank (The Wolverine, Minority Report,) Karen Janszen (Dolphin Tale, A Walk to Remember.) Dawn Prestwich (Z: The Beginning of Everything.)

Best features. A great aspect of this screenwriting degree is the fact its one of the most “real” film school experiences you can get, with professional studios and shoots in which you’ll get to see your work up on screen. It also has fantastic mentorship opportunities, such as “AFI Writers’ Room Ready” in which graduates are paired with top writers to help them get their foot in the door. Find out more >>

best screenwriting courses

New York University Tisch School
(MFA Dramatic Writing)

 

Overview. A two-year screenwriting degree based in the center of New York City which focuses not just on screenwriting, but also on writing for television and the stage.

Alumni. Another impressive roster includes Wendy Calhoun (Station 19, Empire,) Joel Coen (Fargo, No Country For Old Men) Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,)

Best features. The faculty members you’ll meet with in weekly workshops are all professional writers (either within or sometimes outside the school) who act as consultants and critics on your work. In the final semester, you will also have the opportunity to present your work to entertainment industry representatives.

The training is fairly evenly spread over screenwriting, playwriting and TV writing, so if your focus is on features this may be a drawback. But on the other hand, you may grow to love another area of writing and broaden your portfolio in directions you hadn’t expected. Find out more >>

best screenwriting courses

University of California Los Angeles
(MFA Screenwriting)

 

Overview. UCLA’s two-year screenwriting degree is writing-intensive and heavy on seminars and workshops in order to give writers the level of personal attention needed in order to learn the craft of writing and business of making it in the real world.

Alumni. This MFA screenwriting program boasts an impressive list of former students, including Dustin Lance Black (Milk, J. Edgar,) Alexander Payne (Nebraska, The Descendants,) Caroline Williams (Miss/Guided, Togetherness.)

Best features. Thanks to its teaching staff, reputation, comparatively lower fees and quality of instruction, this is our choice for one of the two best MFA screenwriting courses in the world, never mind the US. Read more in our interview with UCLA professor Richard Walter. Find out more >>

best screenwriting courses

University of Southern California
(MFA Writing for Screen and Television)

 

Overview. This is a super intensive two-year screenwriting program set in Los Angeles and taught by some of the very best instructors in the industry, including Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe winners.

Alumni. The MFA screenwriting program’s list of former students is extensive and includes John August (Go, Big Fish,) Tim Doyle (Big Bang Theory, Rules of Engagement,) Dana Fox (New Girl, Hot Pursuit.)

Best features. The internship and mentorship opportunities upon graduation are phenomenal as a result of the program’s close links to the film industry’s top screenwriters, directors, production companies and studios. For example, they recently ran classes with James Franco in which the students got to write part of a feature film he financed and receive a credit at the end. In short, if you’re good enough to get in, this is probably the best screenwriting course in the world alongside UCLA. Find out more >>

Honorable mentions

Best screenwriting courses in Canada

screenwriting courses

Canada’s film industry has really taken off in recent years with more jobs and opportunities on offer for screenwriters than ever before, especially in British Columbia.

Driving the growth is an increasing demand from streaming services as well as American producers taking advantage of a weaker Canadian dollar. Vancouver’s proximity to Los Angeles in particular has given its film and episodic TV industries a major boost.

best screenwriting courses

Toronto Film School
(Writing For Film & TV Diploma)

 

Overview. A one-and-a-half year long screenwriting diploma designed to replicate the environment of the film and TV industry. Its campus is situated in Old Town Toronto, near the entertainment district and harbors.

Alumni. The companies that hire the program’s graduates include M.A.R.Z Films, The Family Channel, Temple Street Productions and more.

Best features. The diploma has a hands-on feel with classes that will put you in the real world situations of pitching to execs, getting involved in writing rooms, table reads and show running. As well as learning how to write and create all formats of film and television, you’ll also have the opportunity to try your hand at acting and video game design. Find out more >>

best screenwriting courses

University of British Columbia
(MFA Film Production and Creative Writing)

 

Overview. This is a two-year MFA in film production but with an additional focus on writing screenplays. In the final year, you will be required to write, direct and produce a film.

Alumni. Many of the school’s alumni are now successful writers and filmmakers, but we couldn’t see any well-known names on the list. This isn’t to say they don’t exist, mind you.

Best features. Located in Vancouver which, over the years, has grown a sizable film community. Class sizes are very small with only students are admitted per year out of 30 to 40 applications, meaning you’ll get plenty of one-on-one attention from faculty. Find out more >>

best screenwriting courses

Vancouver Film School
(Diploma Writing for Film, Television & Games)

 

Overview. Okay, so this one isn’t a MFA but a one-year diploma in which you’re given the opportunity to specialize in either writing feature screenplays, TV scripts or games. We thought we’d include it anyway, though, as we’ve heard good things about the program.

Alumni. The website states how “Vancouver Film School grads are some of the most successful and sought-after professionals in the entire screenwriting industry” and have worked on recent films and shows such as Blade Runner 2049, Waking Dead and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Best features. If you’re Canadian and want to write movies but can’t make it to LA, Vancouver’s the next best place to be. Upon graduation, you’ll have a diverse writing portfolio under your belt, industry connections and access to the Vancouver Film School Alumni Directory plus Job Board. Find out more >>

Honorable mention



Best Screenwriting Courses in the Rest of the World

best screenwriting courses

If you can’t make it to the US or Canada (or have no desire to make the move) there are plenty of top screenwriting courses available worldwide. This section will take a look at further options, predominantly in the UK, but also taking in Europe, Australia and more.

best screenwriting courses

Lodz Film School, Poland
(MA Screenwriting)

 

Overview: A combined three-year BA and two-year MA screenwriting degree (although students can enter at the MA stage) with a strong connection to the directing program. Founded in Poland in 1948, the program is based about an hour and a half drive outside of Warsaw.

Alumni. The school has launched the careers of Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Andrzej Wajda among many other legendary film makers.

Best features. The program has an emphasis on practical study and work, and is one of the few film schools to still give students the possibility of working with 35mm film stock. As they say on their website, “The essence of our teaching program is practice; writing, writing and writing—almost like an everyday chore; from short films to television series, and full-length features.” Find out more >>

best screenwriting courses

London Film School, UK
(MA Screenwriting)

 

Overview. During this one-year MA, the focus will be on writing a feature screenplay and developing your voice as a screenwriter via small groups of three or four students overseen by a professor, as well as through writing and pitching workshops.

Alumni. Graduates include Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, whose film The Salt of the Earth was a prize winner at Cannes, Gonzalo Maza who wrote the script to the Best Foreign Language Film winner, A Foreign Woman, at the Oscars.

Best features. You will be assigned a mentor from the industry which is a valuable part for many in making the transition from aspiring to professional writer. Each year the program welcomes students from all over the world who benefit from the school’s high-profile guests such as Jed Mercurio, Tony Grisoni and Frank Spotnitz. Find out more >>

best screenwriting courses

Met Film School, UK
(MA Screenwriting)

 

Overview. Located next to London’s legendary Ealing Studios, this one-year screenwriting degree focuses on equipping you with the both the skills necessary to write successful scripts for film, TV and the web and to market them as well.

Alumni. Recent graduates have gone on see their scripts and films win awards and/or to work the industry in development and production for companies such as Focus Features, Lionsgate and Scottfree.

Best features. The course is pretty hands-on and career focused. You’ll work with actors who’ll perform your scripts, learn how to pitch and receive development support from top production companies. Upon graduation, you’ll leave with an impressive writing portfolio including a feature, TV pilot, short film script, outlines and pitches as well as two script coverage reports. Find out more >>

best screenwriting courses

National Film and Television School, UK
(MA Screenwriting)


Overview
. This two-year screenwriting degree is housed in a working film studio and covers the entire screenwriting process—from the development of your initial idea, to writing the script, to production and even post-production.

Alumni. Graduates have recently had their work nominated for an Oscar, a Bafta, a Television Society award and many others.

Best features. The fact that the course is set in a studio not an academic institution points to its practical nature. You will have your film and TV scripts work-shopped by professional actors and directors, filmed and also get introduced to agents and production companies. Find out more >>

Honorable mentions

Conclusion

So, that’s our round up of the best screenwriting courses available to the budding screenwriter, but is enrolling on one the best use of your time and money? Is it worth paying all that money when the film industry doesn’t require you have a screenwriting degree before buying your script?

It depends, of course, on your personal circumstances and what you want to get out of the experience. We have a post: Script Writing Courses: Are They Worth It? which weighs up the major pros and cons of going to grad school to study screenwriting.

If you are thinking of going, though, we hope our list of the best screenwriting courses available worldwide has helped you size up your options.

Make sure you visit the campuses, talk to current and past students—in person and online on sites such as Quora and Reddit—and generally research the hell out of each course. For example, things like this USC writing sample will be extremely useful in your research and preparation.

Good luck!

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Are you in the process of checking out screenwriting courses? Have we missed any top screenwriting courses off the list? Let us know in the comments section below!

best screenwriting courses

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