by Angela Bourassa (@angelabourassa1)
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: one of the biggest pitfalls about being an un-optioned screenwriter is the plethora of ways that you can spend money in pursuit of your dream. Coverage, contests, conferences, courses, coaches, consultants, and other things that start with C… You could easily spend thousands of dollars a year in pursuit of your big break.
So you need to be smart. Think of the money you spend on screenwriting training as an investment, because that’s what it should be. You should be picking and choosing the places you put your financial resources as if you were planning for your retirement or your kid’s college fund. That means only entering contests that have the potential to advance your career, only working with consultants with proven track records, and only enrolling in courses that can deliver real value.
Parable is one of those courses.
Parable is an online course created by Tim Long, a produced screenwriter with nearly two decades of experience teaching screenwriting at the MFA level. In addition to his produced credits, Tim has sold pitches, been optioned, and had scripts in development with Academy Award-winning and -nominated producers. He was named a top six screenplay consultant by Creative Screenwriting Magazine, and he has distilled the core principles of his teaching into this course which includes a one-hour consultation with Tim in the price tag. More details on that below.
The Parable Process
Parable is taught in eight sections: initial stimulus, character, personality, heart, journey, form, outline, and write. Each of these sections is broken down into a video lecture, a written recap of the lecture, a downloadable guide in Word format, and a “workshop” – a practical exercise for implementing what you’ve just learned.
The goal of the course, as Tim puts it in the course overview, is to take the intuitive story ideas that we come up with in our heads and translate those ideas into well-thought-out story decisions. By holding our ideas up to the light and carefully examining them, this course gives writers a chance to take sparks and turn them into fully fledged characters and concepts ready to be written.
The process puts developing a dimensional character first and plotting second. As Tim puts it, “In order for the writer (and audience) to personally connect to a story, they have to connect to a compelling character with emotional resonance. So it’s a character first approach.”
If you’ve never written a script before, Parable gives you a step-by-step process for fleshing out your idea and identifying what Tim refers to as the five emotional building blocks of story: character, personality, heart, journey, and form. The course is designed so that you can start with a nugget of an idea and have a fully developed outline when you reach the end.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Wait a minute… At the end of this course I won’t have a finished script? I’ll just have an outline??”
Yes, and this is key. So many courses out there, both online and in class, spend just the first day/session/chapter on choosing your idea, then day two is outlining, and the rest is writing. These courses want you to be able to walk away with a completed first draft. This may seem valuable, but if you didn’t take the time to really think through your initial concept and whether it was worth writing at all, that draft will be almost completely useless.
(I say “almost” because even terrible writing is a valuable learning experience, but writing something with potential is obviously much, much more valuable.)
If you’re a more experienced writer, Parable is a great opportunity to learn a new approach to character and story development, to hone your skills, and/or to facilitate the development of your next project.
More Than Just a Screenwriting Course
At $299, the price tag for Parable isn’t cheap, but in addition to professionally produced video lessons, downloadable guides, and written recaps, this price tag buys lifetime access to Parable’s chat feature. This lets you chat directly with Tim via the website whenever you like. When he isn’t available online, you can email him directly. Both chat and email support are unlimited.
The course also includes a free script consultation. Tim will read a draft of your script, then do a one-hour Skype session with you to discuss your work.
This is huge. You could easily pay $299 for this service alone.
But with Parable, you get the consultation plus chat and email with Tim whenever you like and the actual course. If you’ve already written a script, you can do the consultation at the beginning, then go through the course with Tim’s personalized notes in mind. Or if you’re working on something new, you can do the consultation at the end to see what areas still need work. And then you can always go through the course again, because you’ll have lifetime access.
This sort of access to the instructor is unprecedented in online screenwriting courses and, frankly, quite amazing. Both the chat feature and the Skype consultation add immensely to the value of Parable.
Angela Bourassa is the founder and Editor in Chief of LA Screenwriter.