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Introduction to Scriptwriting for Television and Film

A good novel can take years, even decades, to write.  Scriptwriting, however, is a different beast altogether: when a producer is asked “Do you want it good, or by Thursday?,” the answer is always “Thursday.” This is not to suggest that a script written under tight time constraints is inherently bad; rather, it emphasizes the degree to which television and film production schedules demand speedy delivery of content. Scriptwriting is indeed an art form, but an art form on steroids. 

This course is designed for budding scriptwriters who are seeking a genuine professional experience. Classes alternate between workshops focused on the development of students’ concepts from a 3-sentence “elevator pitch” to a 15-page, vividly cinematic, polished script; activities and exercises that simulate actual writer’s rooms; and insider information on what it takes to launch and sustain a successful scriptwriting career. Industry pro Jane Butler will make a guest appearance in the last class to provide vital information on the business side of scriptwriting for television and film.

Start Date: Monday, October 6, 2014
End Date:  Monday, November 17, 2014
Day and Time: Mondays AND Wednesdays, 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Duration: 6 weeks*
Location: McConnell Engineering Building, room 103
Fee: $375.00 (plus applicable taxes)**

*Please note that there will be no class on Thanksgiving Monday, October 13. This course will therefore end on Monday, November 17 rather than Wednesday, November 12.
**McGill students, staff, and alumni: 20% discount

Click here to register.


  • understand the importance of establishing a writing regimen
  • develop an understanding of the principles of plot construction, character realization, scene setting, and pace
  • develop an ear for the musicality of dialogue
  • learn to write without stopping to edit
  • develop an ability to engage in constructive peer feedback
  • understand the relevance of script formatting and length for specific genres
  • develop an understanding of industry market realities
  • produce a polished 15-page script

Topics Covered

  • getting your idea down on paper
  • people, place, plot
  • plot vs. story
  • original material versus writing for established shows
  • the writer’s room context
  • professional script formatting
  • reducing a grand concept to an “elevator pitch”
  • where to find ideas that sell
  • the business of scriptwriting and how to apply for script funding opportunities

Who Should Attend

  • novice scriptwriters
  • experienced scriptwriters seeking to fine-tune their writing and development skills


A graduate of the University of Southern California’s acclaimed Master of Professional Writing Program, Michael Leo Donovan is the scriptwriter of more than two hundred produced television episodes, from live action to reality to animation. His scripts, which encompass all genres, have been broadcast on all major Canadian and American networks and translated into more than fifty languages. Michael has also published three books and dozens of short stories and articles, and has worked on the creative team at Shanghai Ubisoft’s Facebook games. Most recently, Michael is the creator, producer, and host of the upcoming Bell Media web series STREET SIGNS, for which filming will take place during the summer and fall of 2014.

Michael has ten years of experience teaching scriptwriting, and is a member of the Writers Guild of Canada, Mystery Writers of America, and The Authors Guild.

Cancellation Policy

All cancellation requests must be made in writing on-line: click here to cancel. Please note that you will be required to quote your registration reference number.

If you cannot attend the course but wish to send someone in your place you must make a request for the substitution in writing to mwc [at] mcgill [dot] ca.

The following cancellation policy applies:

Up to 14 days prior to the start date: Full refund
Up to 7 days prior to the start date: Refund minus $100 cancellation fee
Within 7 days prior to the start date: No refund; however, the instructor may allow you to attend specific classes.

If no notice is given prior to the start of the course and you fail to attend, you will be liable for the full course fee.

The MWC reserves the right to cancel this course up to 5 days prior to the event.

Contact Information

Telephone: 514-398-7109
E-mail: mwc [at] mcgill [dot] ca