Taking The Class

The concept of Tough Love Screenwriting is to have a professional screenwriter teach aspiring writers the business of screenwriting as it’s actually practiced day-in and day-out in the Film Business.

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This class is day and night from 99% of the cottage industry screenwriting scams happening out there, and the results speak for themselves.   What makes it unique is that you’re learning from a produced, working professional — someone who’s sold scripts, gotten hired on numerous writing assignments, had movies made and knows how to navigate those all-important rooms and pitch meetings successfully.

Tough Love isn’t some new age mutual admiration society, or some coddling cottage-industry “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” encounter group session where everyone agrees how great we all are, how amazing our writing is, and how we “deserve” success, etc.  Not everyone that plays Little League around here gets a trophy.

This is a no-nonsense program for serious aspiring professionals.  You’ll be encouraged week-in and week-out by both me and your classmates to excel and push past the merely “good” to the undeniably “great”; to put a legitimate 100% of your creativity into your project as we work on cracking it together.  My students tend to become extremely tight-knit during the process — and remain so long after the classes are over.


ALL LEVELS OF WRITERS are encouraged to apply, especially aspiring writers currently outside the Industry who want to learn the professional art of screenwriting.  In short, my class will give you all the tools you need to get you started, and keep you moving forward in your quest to begin a screenwriting career.

Some of the Industry’s top produced scripts are surgically broken down and walked through, providing students the firsthand insight and understanding necessary to launch their own original ideas into successful first drafts during the course of my class.  Beat by beat, via lecture and uniquely productive peer interaction, we work hard to get our writers in the zone and keep them there.



This weekly class covers all the critical screenwriting skills from concept through First Draft.  Story Structure, Plotting, Character Development, Dialogue, all the essential nuts and bolts.

PLUS — Many of the intangibles — The Business of Screenwriting… Pitching your completed screenplay… Real Life “Do’s and Don’ts” for meetings… how to “read a room”… Agents/Managers… Big Picture strategies to get you where you’re going despite a brutal, dog-eat-dog business… my personal Hollywood war stories… and a lot, lot more.

My goal is to have your screenplay professionally plotted out and your First Act written by the end of twelve weeks. Every single member of my classes has accomplished both these goals in Tough Love. Trust me, you will too.

OKAY — So first off, here’s what the class is not —

This is not a class teaching you “how to write”.   An individual’s “style” or “voice” is very personal, and best developed working on their own, or in a workshop setting with a completely different focus than this one.

The purpose of this class is to help teach you how conceive, structure and develop an original idea from concept to feature film script.


That’s right — feature film.  Full-length movie.  This class is not about writing television, mini-series, webisodes, or anything that is not a feature length film script.

So… if you want to learn how to put together a viable, professional, feature-length spec script, then this class should be a good fit for you.


Classes run for twelve weeks and individual sessions are three hours each — Sunday from 4 to 7pm.  TOUGH LOVE SCREENWRITING is taught in Los Angeles, conveniently located near both the 405 and 10 Freeways.

Missing class without contacting me beforehand is simply “not an option”.  If you no-show, you cheat the rest of the class who’s taken time to read your work and make notes and that’s seriously messed up.  Bottom line… No missed classes without alerting me first.  Just call and give me a heads up first and everything will be cool.

This class, and screenwriting itself, are both very serious business.  So please, if you’re not up to it, consider this your chance to bail now and do the right thing for everybody involved.


This class takes an “In The Room” Approach

Just like professionally developing a feature or t.v. series, everybody “at the table” (in the class) will be called upon to help critique and improve each other’s work.

There will be a lot of prescriptive “brainstorming” or “spitballing” of ideas —  which can give a writer fresh insights on their project, or help them crack problems by giving them a different perspective altogether.  Of course, the writer can choose to make use of these notes or not.

By the same token, all discussion needs to be POSITIVE AND PRESCRIPTIVE. This class aims to create a safe environment for the nurturing of new ideas.  Script-bashing or flaming simply won’t work here.  I do not anticipate this being much of a problem, but consider this fair warning.  I have no problem permanently bouncing negative people from my class and replacing them.

The Tone of My Class

If you haven’t guessed after reading this far, I’m a pretty straight shooter and all-around no-nonsense kinda guy.

This program is for aspiring professionals, and the class will be conducted the same way the business of screenwriting is conducted in the real world of major studios, agents and producers.

This doesn’t equate with undue criticism — it equates with honesty.  Because honest notes are the only way to truly grow and improve and evolve into a professional.  You might get notes from me or the class you don’t like, your pride might get snubbed a little once in a while — which is exactly what happens out with the big boys in the paying world of screenwriting.

But honesty can also be incredibly empowering to a writer as well.  It gives you something concrete to wrap your head around, someplace tangible to begin working from to get where you ultimately want to be.

Bottom line — this class can give you a real jolt of positivity if you open your mind to it.  This is about making legitimate progress, not continuing to reinforce the patterns of stasis or denial you may have settled into as a writer.

And beyond all that, this class is a helluva lot of fun.  Just ask any of my students.  Because if it isn’t fun, why even bother in the first place?

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Here are some elements of the class you’ll need to stay on top of —

1) Bring your laptops (if you have one) to class.   There will be learning tools, beat sheets, produced scripts, etc. you will need to access via computer during class.  At the beginning of each session, there may be a flash drive passed around from which you’ll download relevant material.

 2) Dropbox — Dropbox is a legal file sharing service using freeware.  You’ll need to download this app to receive class materials as well as the work submitted by your classmates.  Each week, I will send you an email link allowing you to download what’s being worked on and discussed.

It’s your responsibility to read all the material for class discussion and work-shopping during the next session.  Trust me, you will be called on to give notes on everyone’s work.

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3) Phones — All phones will need to be shut off during class.  Don’t worry, there will be a break in class for you to make any calls or return texts/emails you need to.  Bottom line — if you can’t go without your phone for three hours, then I would seriously question your level of dedication and commitment to being a writer in general.

4) Food/Drink — Bring whatever you’ll need to stay sharp; caffeine, water, protein bars, a sandwich, etc.  Over a three hour class you’ll need energy.  There are also several places near the class you can grab something on a break.



For the purposes of what we’re doing, you can either come up with —

A) an entirely new idea or B) work from a previous idea/script you’ve written.

PLEASE CONSIDER WHICH OF THESE MIGHT BE BETTER FOR YOU.  If you have a script you’ve been carting around for months, or even years, there may — or may not — be something there worth reworking.  On the other hand, perhaps you’re beating a dead horse and would be better served with a fresh take on a fresh idea.

During the first class, we’ll be going over everyone’s starting points to make sure “there’s a movie there” to begin with.  Plan on backing yourself up with A SECOND MOVIE IDEA in case you first just isn’t working out.

So… before the class starts, you’ll need to write both a log line and a brief treatment covering the idea you want to develop.

A log line is generally a single, precise sentence which explains what your movie is.  Here are some examples —

A cop comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and her office building is taken over by terrorists.  Die Hard

A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend.   Pretty Woman

A newly married couple must spend Christmas Day at each of their four divorced parent’s homes.  4Christmases

A just-hired employee goes on a company weekend and soon discovers someone’s trying to kill him.  The Retreat

A risk-averse teacher plans on marrying his dream girl but must first accompany his overprotective future brother-in-law a cop on a ride along from hell.  Ride Along

A treatment is a longer document (say from one to five pages long) which offers a prose-style outline of your movie.  It should cover who the main characters are, what the story’s primary conflict is, and give the major beats of the plot.

If you’re starting from scratch, you may not know exactly how your movie ends, and that’s fine.  Just put together what pieces of your story and characters you do have to give the class a rough idea to work from.

If you have any issues with what you’ve read so far, please contact me IMMEDIATELY.

So… Welcome!   Cheers and all the best!

— John