Time is a mystery and perhaps nowhere more than in stories. As writers, we can jump through decades with one scene transition. Conversely we can stretch out mere moments for many pages, slowing down, even stopping the clock. Indeed something so fundamental as the choice of past tense, typical of novels and short stories, and present tense, the standard for screenplays, influences how we approach our writing.
And yet do we as screenwriters even think about screenplay time? Consider all of these narrative devices available for us to use: Flashback, Flash Forward, Set-Up / Payoff, Callback, Series of Scenes, Montage, Series of Shots, Cross Cut, Visual-to-Visual Transition, Audio-to-Audio Transition, Pre-Lap. All related directly to time.
Yet for all that, I don’t think I have ever seen anything of substance written about this subject – no article, no book, no class. That’s rather shocking because the simple fact that we can control time in a screenplay makes us a little like a god… but only if we know how to handle that power.
Beginning Monday November 30, I will be teaching Core VIII: Time. It is a 1-week online screenwriting course featuring 6 lectures, inside tips, forum discussion, writing exercises and a 90 minute teleconference. The first part of the class we focus on a theory of time based on the principle: Time = Present. Next we explore a plethora of ways we can manage time in a screenplay including most of the narrative devices listed above.
Lecture 1: Present: Being in the Moment and Writing in the Moment
Lecture 2: Present-Past: Backstory and Nonlinear Storytelling
Lecture 3: Present-Future: Destiny and Narrative Drive
Lecture 4: Set-Ups, Payoffs, and Callbacks
Lecture 5: Montage and Series Of Shots
Lecture 6: Flashback and Flashforward
Plus lots of insider writing tips on how to maneuver and use screenplay time to your advantage.
Here are some testimonials from writers who have taken the class:
I just finished taking Scott’s core class on TIME and I’d really recommend this class – or any of his – to someone who wants to gain greater insight into the craft of screenwriting as well as to be inspired overall. Scott is an incredibly generous teacher. He took the time to give really thoughtful and helpful answers to ANY questions or comments each of us had as students. And his lessons are really priceless, well researched, incredibly thought out, and extremely informative. He mixes his thoughts on subjects with video examples from great movies to make his points easily understood. It’s great because he’s not teaching a paint-by-numbers approach here. He’s a working screenwriter who’s helping us to develop our own process based on what he’s learned over the years. It’s clear he cares deeply about film and screenwriting, and he cares just as much about his students. I highly recommend his teaching.
— Greg Vovos
I greatly enjoyed your Core VIII Course on Time and would recommend connecting with you to any screenwriter, whether new, intermediate or advanced. You help us to consider concepts and principles in film that we may have been observing for years but not effectively utilizing in our own writing. You expand on, and clarify these techniques by rolling up your sleeves and digging in deeply…and you get us to dive in and get dirty too. You provide solid thought provoking examples, with scripts and clips, that makes learning the concepts fun and lasting. You do all this with an easy, non-dogmatic, approach that comes from genuinely wanting to help other screenwriters. I have a library full of screenwriting books and scripts, and I’ve been to several screenwriting seminars with the ‘tops’ in the ‘how to write a screenplay’ marketplace. Your accessible and humble style (though you are a produced screenwriter unlike so many of the ‘gurus’) sets you apart from the others and keeps me coming back to your website on a nearly daily basis. You are truly appreciated and no matter what success level I achieve in writing, I plan on pointing other writers to you as someone who has helped me on this journey.
— Mike Kearon
Over the last five years, I have created 8 Core classes at Screenwriting Master Class, each with a specific subject [Plot, Concept, Character, Style, Dialogue, Scene, Theme, Time], each exploring an essential screenwriting principle. It’s been a fascinating journey for me personally as I carried through each subject and every lecture a character-based approach to the craft. The result: Over 250 pages of lectures, dozens of insider tips and techniques, and a comprehensive, coherent take on screenwriting that I think is pretty damn good.
So I invite you to join me for the last SMC class I will be offering in 2015.
For more information, go here.
As always, I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.