How I Teach Screenplay Structure – Shannan E. Johnson

Writer/Instructor and Script Consultant Shannan E. Johnson (The Professional Pen): Let me be specific about those beats because I’ve said that word a lot but I’m talking specifically about the normal, the inciting incident, the goal or the problem.

Film Courage: What is your process for teaching screenplay structure?

Shannan: I start with the Pixar formula. I go into character work. I am someone in my own time who likes to psychoanalyze things. I’m always asking people Why? How? What happened to you? So we do some work like that for the characters. The more that you understand people, the more you can understand your characters who are people. In my class (which may make some people uncomfortable) we talk about ourselves a lot. We’re doing a lot of inner work because my class is also about fighting writer’s block and in my opinion writer’s block comes from lack of confidence and lack of preparation. We spend a lot of time talking about confidence, talking about what our fears are, what our flaws are, what our wants are, what’s standing in the way of those wants. Why? Because that’s what’s happening for your characters. What do they want? What do they need? What’s standing in the way of that. What are they afraid of? What are their flaws that are going to…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).






About Shannan:

After grad school I became a junior creative executive at NBCUniversal at the Syfy Channel. I was there for the rebrand. Remember Sci Fi? Yeah, not really. Anywho, it was my job to help writers and producers take their ideas from pitch to production. I co-exec’d on Alphas, Being Human, Haven, Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, and more Syfy dramedies. This is how I honed my skill in all stages of the screenwriting process…(read more here).


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