“He’s a God among screenwriting teachers!” So says a former student of Chris Webb, a Writers’ Program screenwriting instructor whose credits include Toy Story 2, Duckman, and Bruno the Kid: The Animated Movie, as well as a stint at The Second City in Chicago. Chris has been teaching for the Writers’ Program since 2006, and this year, he debuts a brand new course, Creating the Screenplay Story and Outline: The Screenwriter’s First Step. I recently chatted with Chris about his new course and about some of his favorite movies of the New Year.
Writers Program: You are a firm believer that the outline is a critical step in writing screenplays. Why is that?
Chris Webb: They say that for every desk in Los Angeles, there’s an unfinished screenplay in the bottom drawer! Literally thousands of people get to page 25 of their screenplay and then run out of gas. Why? Because they don’t know what their story is. They endeavored to tell their story before they created their story. That’s a recipe for failure. They would have finished their screenplay if they had outlined it first.
WP: Can you elaborate?
CW: An outline is your screenplay in miniature. It’s a roadmap, guiding you through the process. A good outline will contain ideas for scenes, character work, and plotting, etc. It makes writing the script a pleasure, because you never have to face the blank page. With an outline to guide them, writers can have fun telling their story — writing all the cool lines of dialogue and Quentin Tarentino-like movie references.
Breaking an idea down and creating a story is a “must have” skill for any writer working in television or film. This class will teach students that skill and they’ll leave class with an outline for the best screenplay they ever wrote. I guarantee it!
WP: What will students learn from your course that might be different from a traditional screenwriting course?
CW: I am a meat and potatoes kind of guy, so I demystify the process. Students will be asked to work up their stories in several different ways – telling it from the hero’s point of view and from the villain’s. Students will talk their story through over and over again. At night, they’ll go back home and write. By the end of the four days, they’ll have an outline that can be painlessly written into a screenplay.
WP: What are some of your favorite recent films?
CW: I admired The Social Network quite a bit. I thought Kick Ass was awesome, though it’s not without its problems. I enjoyed True Grit, especially the dialogue. The Coens made me believe that the characters were in the 1880s. How To Train Your Dragon was really terrific – I’d definitely recommend it. Black Swan was great too. I have a good joke about it, but if I told it here, I’d spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t seen it. If they’re interested, tell them to email me.
Chris Webb’s course, Creating the Screenplay Story and Outline: The Screenwriter’s First Step, is offered as part of the 4-day intensive Writers Studio offered in February. For more information, call (310) 825-9415.
Chae Ko is the Program Representative for onsite and online screenwriting courses. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.