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I'm looking into taking a screenwriting course online, either from UCLA or NYU or NYFA... If anyone has taken any of these, please answer the following:

  1. Are these online course certificates actually recognized by producers, agents, directors, etc., or will having this on your resume make no difference at all?

  2. Are they worth the money? They range in price between 4 and 5 thousand dollars.

  3. Do they help you find avenues or contacts to help you sell your work (Assuming that it's very good and you are motivated)?

I can't afford to take the time for full-time on-campus courses so I thought this would be a good option for me. I'd just hate to spend the time and money if the majority have found less than positive results from taking the course online.

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Okay, you actually asked three different questions here, so let's break each one down.

  1. Are these online course certificates actually recognized by producers, agents, directors, etc., or will having this on your resume make no difference at all?

To be quite honest, when it comes to selling a screenplay, you are probably going to start with either an agent or a producer/publisher. They will not care one way or another what your educational background is or what your resume looks like. The only thing they are going to look at is your screenplay, so the certificate/degree in and of itself will make no difference to them.

Having said that, though, the educational experience may give you the tools that you need to be able to craft a better screen play that will draw their attention in the first place. If the classes help you improve your writing or help you to develop a better product, then that in itself will improve your chances of successs.

  1. Are they worth the money? They range in price between 4 and 5 thousand dollars.

Is any education "worth the money"? Again, it comes down to whether or not you believe these classes will help you improve your writing or help you to develop a better product. I would argue that anything that helps you improve yourself is definitely worth something, but each individual has to decide for themselelf just how much it is truly worth.

Look at the classes that are being offered and try to evaluate where you believe you will benefit the most. If you feel that you already know everything that is being taught, then it probably isn't worth the money. However, if you see that there are topics that you are not familiar with, then you have an opportunity to improve yourself, and that has worth.

  1. Do they help you find avenues or contacts to help you sell your work (Assuming that it's very good and you are motivated)?

I would see this as very unlikely, esepcially considering that the other participants in the class will be trying to accomplish the same thing as you, and that is to sell their own screenplays. You will be in a community of participants who are all competing against one another for a common goal, so the chances of anyone helping you to sell your screenplay are going to be very limited. Your interaction with the instructors will be very limited, and their focus will be on conducting the class. If you are an outstanding student with exceptional talent, then they might be able to recommend you to someone, assuming they have connections, but I wouldn't take any of these classes just for that reason.

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I found the novel UCLA classes extremely helpful. The "educational" genre and general technique classes were somewhat useful, but the "core" classes (Novel I - IV) were what really made it worth it. The amount and quality of the feedback was fantastic, as was seeing the work of others critiqued.

I would recommend them if and only if you have the time to commit to writing and critiquing every week, and consider taking only those core classes.

Also, check out their key textbooks: Cut to the Chase (written by UCLA for film) and Inside the Room (written by UCLA for TV).

Many classes discuss Save the Cat (I hate it because people apply it as a strict formula, but it's worth reading). The Scene Book is big in their novel program.

  • Thanks for the book recommendations. I've been searching online for serious books to get started, and your list helps! – yuqli Oct 29 at 1:49
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College education in creative areas is for the most part a way for unsuccessful non-artists – that is: illustrators whom no one hires, writers whose books don't sell to support them, screen writers who don't sell scripts – to earn a living. There are some teachers who are also successful in their field, so check who will be teaching you. (Make sure they actually teach you, and don't just lend their name and "supervision" to a series of courses of which they only teach one, or none.)

Everything you need to know is freely available online or in books that you can lend in a library or bought second hand. Institutionalized education can be a motivator for those that find it difficult or boring to work alone at home, but an online course may not help here, only a campus will offer opportunity to socialize. Even the best online teacher will not be able to provide the same feedback and discussion that a mediocre face-to-face teacher (and co-students in the same classroom) can.

A big plus in institutional learning is the opportunity to network. Your co-students will later be your colleagues, and your teachers may be well connected to the industry. Beyond that, the internet provides ample opportunity to network on your own. How well networking in online courses works I don't know, but I think you can better make friends in person, so working alone at home and working alone at home for some online class don't really make a difference in this respect.

I have no experience with any of the courses you mention, but there is conflicting testimony about institutional art education in general. Some schools have had as students some of the top talent in the industry today; other successful professionals have never seen a college from the inside and are completely self-taught (or studied a discipline unrelated to their art, such as history); and a third group have been there but dropped out and say that it wasn't what they needed and didn't help them. If you google a bit you will find many pros posting blog posts about this.

As I see it, there are two factors that you should consider:

  • Who teaches you and what credits do they have? There is nothing to learn from failed artists.

  • What kind of leaner are you and do you profit from a sturctured online course more than from self-directed learning?

  • Is it at all possible for you to study on campus part time?

I don't know enough about the educational system of your country, but many degree programmes, while designed to be visited full-time, do incorporate some flexibility in their curriculum so that students who fall ill or have children or are in some other way unable to study at full speed can still finish their education. So look at the study and exam regulations of the college that would interest you and talk to current or former students to find out how much you can stretch the curriculum to fit your need to earn a living.

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I think a good way you could find an answer to your question about whether or not the class would be valuable is by reading a specific book on screenwriting.

The book is called, How To Write A Movie In 21 Days, by Viki King -- amazon link It's very short at only 208 pages and you may save $4,000 by reading it.

It is one of the best writing books, and especially one of the best screenwriting books of all time.

If you read the book and worked through the exercises which are quite simple you'd have a decent first draft of a complete play.

Provide You With Way To Evaulate Class Value

But You do not have to work through the exercises to receive the benefit you are looking for. You are wondering if the class will be worth $4,000 but if you are a novice screenwriter it is difficult to know how to evaluate if the class would be worth it. That's where the book comes in. Read it and learn what you need to learn and you'll be able to evaulate much better the value of the class.

Save $4,000...Maybe

It will probably save you $4,000 and all you have to do is read a book.

One more thing, there is a review at amazon on this book which numerous people believe to be Jeff Bridges and he has a lot of good to say about it. You can read it at:Jeff Bridges review of Viki King's book at amazon.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

  • 1
    This is being flagged as spam, maybe you'd consider toning down the sales pitch dial here? – Neil Fein May 8 '17 at 20:41

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