Writing the Short: School Edition

A classroom-friendly path to writing a shootable short screenplay in 5 lessons.

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Take a seat in Professor John Warren's office! Here's the first video you'll watch as one of his screenwriting students.

Short screenplays are an incredible way to present curriculum in an exciting, fresh way while giving students a new form of self-expression.

I’m John Warren, professor at New York University Film and Television, and I’ve created a free online class called Writing the Short: School Edition.

Writing the Short is a 6-module course that walks students through how to go from an idea to a complete screenplay for a short film (12 minutes max). Currently, more than 27,000 students from 170 countries are enrolled.

In addition to covering all of the basics of screenwriting (format, elements, story), it's also a fun and engaging way to help students practice curriculum such as:

  • Elements of Story (protagonist, antagonist, 3 Act Structure, inciting incident, etc.)
  • Creative Writing (sequencing, narrative, cause and effect, creative thinking, language, grammar, etc.)
  • Social and Emotional Learning (empathy through characters, teamwork by writing in partnerships, exploring relationships in writing, venting emotions through expression, etc.)

Several teachers have also used Writing the Short to enhance their curriculum for other subject areas; for example, assigning students to create a short screenplay about a historical event, or asking students to write a short film in a new language.

Plus, did you know that short film screenplays have other uses outside of the classroom?

  • You can win prestigious screenwriting competitions with a short
  • You can use your short to wow agents, managers, and producers
  • You can realistically shoot a short on your own and add it to your reel
  • You can use your short to apply to world-renown film programs and universities
  • You can test a feature film idea on a smaller scale before investing tons of time and money

The number one mistake young screenwriters make? Sitting down with a pen and paper (or a laptop) and writing "FADE IN" before knowing exactly where their story is going.

So often, I've had students tell me, "I'll figure it out as I go..." or "It can't be that hard. I have an idea and I can write."

They have no experience screenwriting. But really, they wonder, how important can structure be?





Very, very, very important.

Structure is the roadmap for your entire script. The foundation. The bones.

And to have a script that demands attention, you need a foundation that is strong, confident, and grounded.

This online course is designed to help you and your students go from no idea to a compelling, audience-ready, shootable short script in just 5 lessons . . . even if you have no screenwriting experience whatsoever.

This course will walk you through all the secrets I've acquired through over the course of 20+ years in the movie business, both as a professional screenwriter and as a professor of screenwriting at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. It includes the insights I gained by meeting with countless agents, producers, and filmmakers, selling my own feature films, and studying the most successful films to discover what they have in common.

Wondering what kind of short film your students could write?

Check out this award-winning animated short film written and created by one of my students, Jacob Kafka.

Throughout the course, you and your students going to learn absolutely everything you need to know to write your own short script—and even some tips on bringing it to life.

And, one of the most incredible parts of the course is that you have the opportunity to tell your own story, your own way, and share it with the world.

So, to recap, we're talking about:

  • More than 25 exclusive HD videos walking you through the screenwriting fundamentals
  • Step-by-step process for completing your original screenplay
  • 4 downloadable writing activities

Writing the Short encapsulates my most useful successes and discoveries in hopes that you can take a shortcut and avoid the same mistakes I made.

And, specifically, Writing the Short: School Edition is for our aspiring writers who are current teachers or students at their own schools! The content is appropriate for any age, but is most accessible to students in the fourth grade or up (many teachers find it enjoyable and informative themselves!).

It's a step-by-step guide for getting ideas on the page so you can start telling the stories you need to tell in just 5 lessons. And, students can go through the course on their own, or you can guide them through it.

So, what are you waiting for?

Hit that enroll button, and I hope to see you inside Writing the Short: School Edition!


Your Instructor

John Warren
John Warren

John Warren is a professor of screenwriting at New York University Tisch School of the Arts Film and Television Program.

He began his writing studies at Ohio University and continued at the New School in New York. In 1986, Warren accepted a fellowship at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. That same year, Warren sold his first script, The Body Politic, to Orion Films.

Warren has had a variety of films in development over the years, including The Family Tree at Universal, Super Model at Disney, Passionate Kiss at Dreamworks, Sneaky People at DeLaurentis Productions, Tark the Shark and Man Bites Dog at Showtime. Naked in New York, which Warren wrote, was produced by Martin Scorsese. Warren wrote and produced Flashfire for Tri-Mark Films and Girl in the Cadillac for Columbia. As a writer/director, Warren made The Curse of Inferno for MPCA and Major League: Back to the Minors, released by Warner Bros.

On the TV side, Warren’s writing credits include Johnny Bago (CBS), The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (Fox Network) and Fortune Hunter (Columbia Tri-Star TV).

Warren is married to Janet Eilber, Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, with whom he has two daughters, Madeline and Eva.

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
The course starts now! Then, for the next 5 weeks, you'll receive a new set of lessons delivered straight to your inbox. We've found that students have the most success when they pace themselves—but if you want to go faster, email us at [email protected] and we will get you set up.
How long do I have access to the course?
Forever and ever! After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like—across any and all devices you own.
What will I make throughout this course?
You will write an idea, a logline, a pitch, a beatsheet, and finally, a 10 to 12-page professional short script in the genre of your choosing. If you plan to film the script yourself, John will provide guidance on how to ensure the script is shootable with low-to-no budget.
Who is this course for?
The School Edition of Writing the Short is specifically made for teachers and students. It's most appropriate for fourth graders and up. However, John always treats his students as adults and never waters down the material.
I don't have screenwriting software. Do you have one you'd recommend?
Yes! We absolutely love Arc Studio Pro's screenwriting software. They have a free professional version that is great (https://www.arcstudiopro.com/). We also have secured 75% off of the pro version for our community members (links inside the course).
How is the School Edition different than the regular course?
The overall content is the same. However, we've added in downloadable and printable worksheets that students can submit to their teachers or share with the classmates for feedback. We also have lifted the wait periods for lessons (typically one lesson was released a week) to give teachers complete flexibility.

"Participating in the Young Screenwriters course is an invaluable experience. It kept me accountable to myself and to the course at every stage. I learned how to think about the structure of my stories in a different way that has made me a better writer. I am looking forward to participating in future courses!"

- Anna Tierney

"John's years of experience as both a professional writer and leading professor are condensed into informative videos that explain to the novice as well as the seasoned writer all aspects of screenwriting. His notes on pitching were particularly helpful. Great teacher and a great class."

- Stephen T. Hoover

"John is an excellent communicator with years of insider info from laboring in the film industry that he generously shares. You breeze through the course material quickly and effortlessly, feeling energized. The course is excellent and useful for the young or young-at-heart, any age really."

- Norman Kaufman

"I tend to overthink my writing and need to be focused, this class helped with that. Having a task to do every week kept me moving forward and focused on my idea. The feedback from the team helped me to see what need to work on and become confident that I was getting better every day.

- Judith Casanova

Get started now!