Cut to the Chase: Scriptwriting for Beginners


So many people watch films and yet so few know how to write film well. Film writing is a very specific art form. Over the past eighteen years of writing film, I have made every mistake in the book and eventually turned to experts to learn to hone my craft effectively. Using advice from screenwriting experts such as Robert McKee and Christopher Vogler, amongst many others, I have finally developed a very effective approach to screenwriting. This approach has seen my first feature film reach the big screen in 2009 and has also secured me the services of an agent in London.

This course breaks down the essentials of writing for film, using my experience of lecturing over the past years on film writing in many tertiary institutions. In a series of nine modules with practical tasks to implement the knowledge given in each section, l will unlock the world of film writing for first time students.

The crucial differences between writing for film as opposed to writing for stage or prose will be highlighted and the work of the best film writing gurus will be explored. The students will be given insights into what the most useful aspects of each specialist’s work in a practical way.

The Course: Nine Modules:

Module One:

What is Film? Introduction to Scriptwriting and the most Common Story Telling Formats.

Module Two:

Characters: Creating believable characters which come to life on screen rather than existing only on the page. Exercises to deepen the world of the character will be given and work will be done on the character’s “arc” or journey. Good examples of films to watch will be recommended.

Module Three:

Structure: Different ways of structuring a film from using a classic three act structure with a standard Hero’s Journey as well as exploring multiple protagonist narratives and other alternative film structures.

Module Four:

The Pitch: Writing a good pitch which encapsulates all the essentials of your script. This pitch can also be used to sell your film. This process ensures the student understands the controlling idea or moral premise behind the film before going any further.

Module Five:

Treatments: Students will be given a step-by-step guide to write treatments (an internationally recognized film-selling document) that can be used anywhere in the film industry. Without knowing how to write a treatment, a film writer will almost never sell a film.

Module Six:

Beat Sheets: Students will be taught how to write effective beat sheets which evolve into useful Step Outlines and which create the basic bones of the script.

Module Seven:

Film Technique: The basics of essential film writing technique, concentrating on format and style as well as the critical and careful use of dialogue in film writing will be explored in this module. International conventions will be used as the standard film writing format and different screenwriting software will be compared. Final Draft is the software I recommend but this will be compared with the pros and cons of other film writing software programmes.

Module Eight:

To Infinity and Beyond: Beyond the Hero’s Journey. Alternative film structures are explored in this module. The masters of alternative film writing, from Charlie Kaufmann to Pedro Almodavar will be examined to see what benefits there are to breaking the rules of story telling.

Module Nine: 

From the Specific to the Universal: How to ensure that your story reaches an audience beyond the milieu in which it is written. What characteristics make a film eternally relevant? How do we achieve global relevance in film writing? A number of classic films will be examined, from Casablanca to Whale Rider to show how making a story full of integrity creates a film which reaches universal relevance.


Summing up what has gone before. A guide to editors and how to find the best readers for your work.

Cut to the Chase includes:

a) A step-by-step writing programme for each student, setting specific tasks for the student after each module, so that the student can build up his or her own film script.

b) At the end of the course, the student will have been guided towards writing a well thought-out first draft script which should be written to internationally acceptable standards. Students dictate their own pace of work.

c) The course includes nine hours of personal tuition. Editing advice will be offered online and guidance towards improving the script is included in the overall price of the course. If the student’s work requires more intensive attention, extra editing and tuition will be offered at an ad hoc fee at standard industry fees.


The nine module course costs R3600.00 which can be paid in instalments @R400 per module. If you pay a one-off fee up front, you get R400 discount, effectively one module free. To register, email below to receive your registration form and invoice.


or to register.


I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. For me it was always about getting an idea, starting at the beginning and keeping going until it’s finished. It worked well with my journalistic pieces and a few of my short stories that were all published. It didn’t however work when I turned my attention to writing screenplays.
I started like a house on fire, writing five scripts in two years. But they never sold. As a matter of fact, if I’m being brutally honest, they weren’t good. They all had a fundamental problem. No direction. No middle or ACT 2. It was predictable and clichéd. Obviously I became disconcerted. I’d taken the time and the expense in investing a lot of time and money in studying the art of writing a screenplays. I bought all the trendy books, read hundreds of produced screenplays and while I understood the basics of what a screenplay was supposed to look like, I’ll readily admit that I still had no idea how to develop an idea.
Then I came across Janet’s website. I had already seen her movie White Lion and was interested to see what else she’d done. I instantly took notice of her course, dropped her an e- mail, paid our agreed upon amount and received the first module. I was nervous to say the least. Would this be a rehash of a famous book, like another guy in Cape Town whose course is a chapter by chapter rehash of David Trottier’s The Screenwriter Bible, or would this course actually take my writing to new levels?
I’m delighted with the results. I recently finished the course and I came out of it with a well written logline, treatment and beat sheet. All the steps necessary to the writing process. Janet’s course got me thinking. It put me into a process that I’d never done before and it got me delving deeper into the actual bones of the story. Before I knew it my imagination was bursting, my characters dancing and my story exciting me beyond what I’d hoped for. Add into all of this a lady who takes her craft very seriously and is always readily available to read your work and offer insightful advice.
Janet, this testimonial does you and your course a disservice. I cannot put into words what value I have taken away from your course. Hopefully it will show in the screenplay I am currently writing. But what I can do is state this one irrefutable fact. I am a better screenwriter thanks to your course.
Norman Welthagen  – 31 May 2012

Janet van Eeden doesn’t just teach screenwriting . . . she IS screenwriting!
With an impressive list of credits to her name, she is able to bring invaluable first-hand experience to her online course, including many personal examples from her own work. Unlike other one-size-fits-all writing courses, Janet takes a flexible approach which enables learners to work through their own unique story. I can honestly say that if it hadn’t been for Janet van Eeden I would not have been able to complete my screenplay, a realisation of a long-held ambition and an accomplishment of which I’m very proud. Acting as my mentor, she guided me through the entire process from concept through getting the structure right to finished first draft. Janet van Eeden’s online course is particularly appropriate for beginners like me but even more advanced writers will have much to gain from her professional training. I could not recommend it highly enough!
Julian Desser
Journalist & Copywriter
United Kingdom

“Janet read two of my scripts.  In each case, her feedback was intelligent, constructive and, most important to me, respected the intent of the work.  She showed uncanny ability to get inside of the story and suggest subtle improvements to both character and structure.  As a result, I was able to make crucial changes and improve both stories’ artistic and market appeal.  I could not imagine a more skilful teacher for the art of screenwriting.  Nor will I ever again submit a script without her review.”
Mark Lyon
Cargovision Magazine
Lake Oswego,
United States of America

“Taking Janet’s online screenwriting course has proved to be most effective. The module content provided is comprehensive and when combined with Janet’s humour, considerable energy and commitment makes the whole experience fun as well as highly instructive. As a result, I have now completed my first screenplay of which I am very proud. Janet’s course can be taken at any required pace, which is particularly important when competing with the demands of, for example, a full time job. I highly recommend the course not only for beginners but also as an important refresher for the more advanced screenwriter.”
Gordon Slack
Aeronautical Engineer
United Kingdom


Gauteng Film Commission – on Scriptwriting for beginners