COURSE OUTLINE: Writing the Holiday TV RomCom
Online via Zoom on Wednesday Evenings, 6pm-9pm
10 classes over 12 weeks beginning July 6th, 2022
Writing a Christmas movie is a lot like finding the perfect gift for someone on your holiday shopping list — it takes time, research, a deep knowledge of your audience and what they like, and more than a bit of creativity. During this 10-week course, students will delve deep into the Christmas spirit through a series of lectures, discussion, in-class exercises designed to strengthen your yuletide knowledge, and writing assignments designed to help you create what could be the next holiday classic. We’ll go from the basics of ideation and character development through the logline, pitch, outline, story structure, and more as we workshop your scripts from a twinkle in Santa’s eye to a completed package worthy of putting under any Christmas tree.
By the end of the course, students will be able to:
- Identify the ways that three-part storytelling (beginning, middle, end) fit into the arcs of a 9-act movie, with or without commercial breaks.
- Write an evocative outline of their holiday movie, and a script of between 95-105 pages.
- Write a summary one-sheet of the movie they intend to write, suitable for pitching to networks.
One Page Pitch: Students will write a general idea of the story they’re going to write, including a beginning, middle, end, as well as a “why now” and “why me” statement.
Outline: Students will write a 7–10-page outline that leads the reader through what the movie will be.
Script: A very early draft of a 95-105 page script, with notes about next steps and revisions.
There are no textbooks or course materials to purchase for this course.
Class One (July 6, 2022): It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
In our first class, we’ll get to know each other, discuss what makes a Christmas movie different than a standard Rom Com, cover the “rules” of a holiday story, and dive right in with a couple of in-class writing exercises designed to help you get into the yuletide movie spirit!
Class Two (July 13, 2022): All I Want for Christmas Is You
Even though it can be challenging, coming up with your story is the fun part! In this class, we’ll look at places to find inspiration, how to keep track of your ideas, and how to differentiate your concept from everyone else’s.
Class Three (July 20, 2022): I’ll Be Home for Christmas
It’s getting jolly in here! We’ll start by narrowing down your three ideas to the one that will be worth putting under the tree and then jump into the deep end of the Christmas punch bowl by looking at how to develop human and relatable characters. From there we’ll look at creating arcs and emotional journeys for them, the Christmas rules and production realities of picking the proper setting, and how to write an effective pitch document that fully captures the holiday spirit of your story.
Class Four (July 27, 2022): Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Congratulations! You have an idea and characters for your Christmas story. But how do you turn that into a movie? This week we’ll be discussing the classic “Nine Act” structure that most TV movies (and many other forms of entertainment) use and how to create an outline that will get you ready to take your story to script.
Class Five (August 3, 2022): The First Noel
The idea, the characters, and the outline are done, so you’re ready to start writing, right? Hold on! There is still some work to do before you can put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard as the case may be). In this class we’ll be learning about how to create robust, effective, and “human” dialogue that will be a pleasure for your audiences to hear and for the actors to read. Then we’ll be covering some important details about the details — how much to include and how much to leave out. Finally, we’ll be talking about the structure of Act 1, what needs to be accomplished, and how to get there in a way that will leave everyone merry and bright!
Class Six (August 17, 2022): Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Hey, that’s a great start! We’re going to spend the bulk of this class reviewing your first acts. But even though you may have opened a present on Christmas Eve, there is an entire Christmas morning’s worth of gifts to unwrap. We’ll be looking at Acts 2 and 3, what you need to accomplish, and how to get to that first major escalation point that will help drive the middle part of the story. We’ll also take a look at how to make sure you aren’t getting too far ahead of yourself and have a group brainstorm about ways to show the sparks of romance (without setting everything on fire too quickly).
Class Seven (August 24, 2022): Baby It’s Cold Outside
After reviewing your second and third acts as a group, we’ll move on to one of the parts of the script that most writers dread: the middle. How do you keep from getting bogged down? How do you keep from getting ahead of yourself? And how do you effectively set up the last third of your story? Here, we’ll discuss ways to keep your holiday feast moving without it feeling like you’re simply snacking to tide you over until the real Christmas dinner is served.
Class Eight (August 31, 2022): Blue Christmas
We’re almost there! After reviewing the middle of the script that you’ve written, we’ll jump into the crucial Acts 7 and 8, which include our “All Is Lost Moment.” We’ll talk about some of the common mistakes writers make here, how to ensure sure you’re not making things too complicated, what audiences want, and what producers and networks are looking for. Finally, we’ll take a look at how this all sets up the ending in a way that will make writing your last act easier.
Class Nine (September 14, 2022): Last Christmas
Just like that really big present you leave under the tree to open last, we’ve saved the biggest — and arguably most important — part of your script until, well, “the end.” After talking about your Acts 7 and 8 homework, we’ll look at the what’s involved in the final Act 9 and discuss the various ways to resolve stories, the pitfalls to avoid, and how to wrap it all up with a nice, tidy bow (or not, as the case may be).
Class Ten (September 21, 2022): It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Congratulations! You finished your rough draft of a script. All that’s left now is to sit back and relax, right? Sorry, no. Yes, you may have polished off that big Christmas dinner, but now comes the cleanup part. In our final class we’ll talk about the notes and rewriting part of the process and how to handle each with professionalism, grace, and efficiency.
NOTE: I want this workshop to be fueled by your creativity and input so class subjects and topics may change based on what we think may need more or less focus.
The most important thing about this class is that we create a collaborative, supportive, non-judgmental, and creatively positive environment in which we can all thrive as writers. I have a strict “no a**holes” policy and that goes beyond just your behavior and attitude as a human being. We want to make sure we are offering each other ideas and feedback that fuel the stories each writer wants to tell, not trying to change each other’s visions into something that is more appealing to us as an individual. Likewise, we each need to understand that the suggestions, notes, or constructive criticism we receive are meant in the spirit of trying to make your stories stronger and shouldn’t be taken as a personal indictment of our talent or ability. All of this applies to me, as well. I welcome feedback, pushback, and input and will do my best to adapt while keeping us on track. This is a workshop on how to write Christmas movies, so let’s keep that spirit in mind and work together as a community to have a very merry time indeed.
Homework and Late Assignments
By signing up for this class, you’re moving into our little Christmas village, so to speak. We’re a community and each of us is depending on the others to meet deadlines, do homework, read fellow classmates’ work, and come to class prepared to discuss. Assignments turned in late will not be evaluated unless one of your fellow students wants to read it even though you missed your deadline. Your work here will help prepare you for the work you do in your careers, so treat this experience with the same kind of professionalism you will be expected to show when you’re getting paid to be a writer. If you have a serious reason for not submitting an assignment on time, please contact me by email as soon as possible.