ScreenwritingU ProSeries: Is It Worth It?

I’ve been thinking about trying the ProSeries, a six month online screenwriting course offered by ScreenwritingU. From what the website has to say, it sounds like the best possible investment in a serious screenwriters future. But the course costs a whopping $1100. So I’m left asking, is it worth it?

Of course, there are discounts to be found throughout the site that bring the cost down to $700. But this makes me leery — if they make it so easy to get the course at a discount, why not just offer it at the discounted price all the time? I realize many of us only like to buy things on sale, but it still aggravates me when companies up their regular prices to make their discounted prices look better.

All in all, the course sounds like a worthwhile experience, but I’d like to hear from those of you who have taken it and don’t have testimonials on the site.

So tell us, ProSeries-ers — is it worth it??

Please leave your comments below. In the meantime, I’ll try some of their free courses and see what I think. I’ll let you all know how things go.

159 thoughts on “ScreenwritingU ProSeries: Is It Worth It?

Add yours

  1. Yes, it’s well worth it! But, you’re doing the right thing. Try the free teleconferences and you’ll see the content. ScreenwritingU gives a lot of good information away for free! Should tell you something about them. I did all the free stuff, then took four of the stand-alone classes, then the ProSeries. Took my writing to a whole new level!

  2. I hear mixed things. People have learned new techniques and new information, but there’s no one to give you feedback so you don’t know if you’re doing it correctly. Personally, I would be careful of too much information because it makes you a better critic, not a better writer.

  3. I think the ProSeries is ‘good’ if you already have some experience. The course does provide some lessons that I haven’t seen any other book touch on. Those skills are HUGE! However, in my opinion, that only accounts for 20% of the course. The course misses some pretty key topics, such as Formatting and doesn’t go into enough detail to get a novice to properly understand structure. My biggest complaint is that your at the mercy of 45 colleagues to give you good advice. There is ZERO instructor feedback. The class is 100% on ‘auto-pilot’ email distribution. In my class, I’m fortunate to have about five people who are quality writers who have helped me elevate my writing. If you want to get the most out of the ProSeries, I suggest you read “The Hollywood Standard” and a few good screenplay books first. Also, you should probably have finished at least one or two scripts that have been reviewed by a professional consultant — so that you are prepared for constructive criticism.

    Note: Be prepared for ten days straight of assignments, followed by a 6-10 day break. That’s one cycle and then multiply that by 9 modules. When they advertise that the assignments take 1hr. Yes, some of them do, but in reality… likely 60% or more will take more than an hour. Our class of 45’ish is down to 35? People can’t keep up.

  4. My conclusion – no.

    There are some very interesting lessons in the ProSeries that you won’t find in most “How to” guidebooks, but they could be covered in one decent new book, or a course lasting a week rather than the best part of a year. The claim is that you’ll come out the other end with a completed screenplay – but by almost entirely ignoring structure (to me this omission is unthinkable) there’s pretty much no way that aim can be achieved by the course alone. My own resultant effort is flimsy and deficient, and having read others I know I’m not alone. Another problem is the total lack of feedback that they actually advertise as a positive – you receive daily emails with the lessons, giving assignments that you post to a forum, but NO-ONE even reads them, let alone letting you know if you’re on the right track (those instructors have an easy life – ker-ching). The only feedback you do eventually get is from your fellow students who by their nature know no better than you do – with all due respect I don’t have to pay around $1,000 to get that. Add to that the user-unfriendly forum structure, the arrogance on the few conference calls when a question is asked (Hal gets flustered when challenged), and failed promises (I didn’t receive my second of two ‘coaching calls’ (but after the first one I know I didn’t miss much) and also kept hearing “When you complete the course you’ll be walked into THE ALUMNI” as if its some great hallowed hall of writing fame (doubtful, to be honest) but after completing all assignments I never heard another word from ScreenwritingU (aside from spam trying to sell me more classes).

    So no, in conclusion, despite a few golden nuggets picked up along the way (eg the Concept and Marketing classes – excellent) it’s not worth your time or money.

    And if you don’t believe me just check out the “Buzz” they use to promote themselves. It’s supposed to highlight all the many successes their students enjoy in the market – yet when you analyze it, comparing the number who even get an agent (let alone a deal – especially a deal that doesn’t involve someone they already knew) with the number who go through each course (look at the number of your class and how many fellow students are in it to work this out) you’ll see how slim the ‘success’ rate actually is.

    I don’t enjoy being negative, but if you’re considering paying a significant amount of money of the ProSeries, I would be seriously hesitant – especially if you could be spending your time actually writing, with the simpler more effective help of a few well chosen guide books.

    1. Daniel James,
      So true! So True!
      As a director of a vocational school, I was appalled to have students not teachers work with me. The students knew as much as me–which wasn’t much. A total lack of feedback. Thus, A big waste of money.

  5. Daniel, that’s such a shame that you didn’t get enough out of the PS to make it worth your while. But it is an individual thing, and I for one, got a tremendous amount from the course. I’ve done a lot of various things to learn how to write at a professional level, and SU’s PS is one that I am very grateful I did.

    I had written 9 scripts before doing the course, and so for me, I was quite relieved that we didn’t spend any time on formatting, or the basics that any screenwriting book could give you. I agree that there were some segments I wished we’d spent more time on (outlining), and I felt we spent too long on others, but hey, you’re never going to please all the people all the time. Overall, I found the material to be insightful and practical, and two years later, I find I still refer to the information and use a lot of the techniques.

    I know that SU had some technical difficulties, not so much when I took the course, but I *think* they have them sorted with some new servers or sites or something. I’m not sure, as I haven’t taken any classes recently.

    There were a LOT of people in my class, 2 years ago. 80-ish people. And I know another class was running at the same time, as they split our group into two, there were so many that signed up. And yes, it’s VERY hard to keep up. Only the serious need apply. We ended up with about 35 (?) that actually finished the class, and only about 5 (?) that had a completed script. That said, the goal is not to finish a script that’s ready to go to market, it’s to finish the assignments so that you have the knowledge to write at a professional level. It’s an investment into your future as a writer.

    Yes, you’re right, there is no feedback on your writing during the class from the instructors, except a few calls (which I did get a lot from). But the information is gold, and doing the assignments is invaluable. The feedback from other classmates can be hit and miss. But I found my “group” and I trust them. This class isn’t for professional critique, it’s to gather information, and practice using it. You can get the professional critique after, which is what I’ve done. It’s the way it’s set up, and that’s that.

    In terms of the PSA (alumni) it is pretty great. I have made some amazing friends from the PSA, outside of my incredibly close-knit group of 7 from our PS class. (I’d be lost without these guys.) But just from the PSA, I’ve met some fantastic writers that have become a source of great support.

    And finally, in terms of success… well you know that’s a very individual thing. For me, my PSA script went on to win 3rd place at the PAGE awards last year (2012) and from that, I was introduced to a manager, who is now representing me. Sure, I worked my ass off for that, but the PS certainly was a big part of that success for me, as it continues to be from the lessons learned, and the friendships I’ve made.

    I think, like everything, this is an experience that is very individual. Each person will have a different take, and there are no guarantees. It works for some, not for others. Some people like chocolate, some like vanilla. 😉

  6. After they have your money, they choose who they will work with and who to ignore. Very arrogant. “Make bricks without straw.” Imagine a teacher stands with books in her hand, tells you to do an assignment but “all the keys are in these books I won’t let you see”.

    If the teleconferences are so important, why aren’t they posted in a timely manner for those of us that don’t start our workday at 8:00 pm. I would much rather listen online so I can write notes, rather than juggle a telephone and papers for three hours.

    I received an email apologizing for their lack of organization, but somehow that’s my fault……. Now, you’d have a hard time convincing me they care about anything but their bling.

  7. Hi there… I took the ProSeries. Of course there’s some positives and some negatives, but the most important thing I can leave you with is that the ProSeries is ABSOLUTELY WORTH the $850-$1,000 if you are serious about screenwriting.

    The Negatives: The course is a series of daily email lessons and assignments and you rely 100% on the feedback from your peers who may no nothing about screenwriting, or they may know a whole lot… you just have to figure out who to pay attention to. I personally believe that if you have not made a serious effort in your screenwriting (i.e. read as many quality screenwriting books as you can get your hands on, had a handful of your scripts reviewed by a professional, are comfortable with constructive feedback — that may rip your heart out and your story apart) the investment won’t be as useful. For instance, you don’t want to hop into a Ferrari on a race track, having only driven Grandma’s K-car around the block.

    The Positives: I found that 75% of the course was a repeat of information that is in plenty of $20 screenwriting books; however, the information is presented in an original way with assignments for you to apply your knowledge. I feel that it’s easy to read something, but if you don’t practice the techniques… do you really absorb the information? 25% of the information will be totally new and you won’t find it anywhere in a screenwriting book. In the ProSeries you will also meet 40+ (thousands?) screenwriters from all over the world who will support you along the way.

    If you want to learn how to write a screenplay… buy a book. If you want to improve your writing skills and learn HOW TO MARKET AND SELL YOUR SCREENPLAY TO MAKE MONEY… take the ProSeries.

    1. If you want to teach 300 promised skills, you give people the material they need to fulfill the assignments. The emailed assignments are sporadic IF they arrive at all, and the VITAL information is given (maybe) when they feel like it, after the assignments are due.

      I didn’t just jump into this – considered ScreenwritingU after years of advertisements. If the teleconferences are so full of information, why would they get access to people that aren’t in the PST zone a week later, when they get around to it?

      Why do they hold the teleconferences at night? When they sold the program, the teleconference ran during the day. Those all do.

      As I wrote before, juggling a phone and paper for three to four hours during the night is not near as easy as listening online, making notes during one’s working day And if these teleconference hours are not VITAL, why bother?.

      1. I am sure many of the participants have day jobs so to ensure everyone can do the teleconference the classes are later in the day (I am sure they learned that after the first couple of daytime classes!), that makes sense.

  8. No. This course is a SCAM. Nothing you can’t learning from reading and writing scripts and watching movies. They really have a nerve to charge so much. Just…move on.

    1. I took the ProSeries and feel it is a total scam and waste of money. The best thing about it was meeting and connecting with other screenwriters. I’ve stayed in touch with a number of other writers from my series and we all agree it was a waste of time and especially money. I would say, use that money and get really good notes on your script, you’ll learn a lot more.

  9. I’m chiming in because I truly feel I wasted my money. After studying Script (BA & MA in English) for many years, I was hoping for a program that not only could I connect, network, and get some insight but would also deliver information in an inspiring, dare I say esoteric style. The nuggets are useful but they are just nuggets. Most of the info is delivered in such an uninteresting fashion, that it’s very easy to get bored (did mention how unorganized the information is?). The website is full of glitches, despite it’s glossy look. The whole site was being “revamped” in the middle of our program, why would they do it then, not before or after? Even today I wanted to hear a recorded teleconference call which I received an email for. Was it there? No. Did I log in as requested? Yes. Did I scour the whole website for it? Yes. Very frustrating and time consuming. And the biggest problem is you don’t get feedback. You don’t receive answers to emails, whether the problem is on your part (understanding the program) or theirs. You are on your own to navigate it all. I’m still going through the lectures as I just got too bored of the program and life took over. I hate not finishing what I start, so I’m printing all the assignments and saving them in a binder. As I read through each lecture, I can’t help but to feel frustrated at how overly written each assignment is, how unorganized the subject categories are. It feels like I’m wasting my time. But I already wasted my money, so I’m forging on, hoping to squeeze just a little more out of this experience. I advice to read, read, read all the great and more popular books on Screenwriting. Network. But if you’re not already a writer with marketable material, there really isn’t much these type of programs can give you. Sorry, that’s my honest opinion. We’re in an industry that takes time and effort. There are too many programs and gurus out there that will only you give you an ounce of what you need for the pounds in currency you spend. Spend wisely.

    1. I entered a dispute with ProSeries to my credit card company and got every dime credited back to me. AMEX is the greatest at standing behind their customers against shady tactics.

    2. Hi Noodles, thanks so much for posting this review. I was heavily considering taking this course until I read your critique, but I must say I am still curious to see for myself what the course material looks like: specifically how disorganized the info is and how it’s poorly written. Would it be possible for you, if you are not too busy that is, to simply email me a lesson or two from the Pro Series as an example so that I may read them for myself? If so, please send it to (I would even be willing to send you a little something via Paypal if you wanted for your time and effort)

      Again, thank you very much for your review, and for your (potential) post help. – Roy

  10. I am a “graduate” of the program, and unfortunately I have to say it was not a positive experience. I was not a “newbie” going into the ProSeries, so a lot of the material was information I had already learned via screenwriting books. It got to the point that with each module I could more or less pinpoint which book the information came from. So in hindsight, it would have been better to invest the $800 in the purchase of more screenwriting book…it would have bought a LOT of books.

    The two modules that did help immensely were the first one on concept and the last one on marketing. So if the cost of the ProSeries is not too much for you to handle, the material in those two modules is brilliant. Hal and Cheryl, after all, come from a business background. So if you manage to write a script at some point (and it more than likely will not happen during the ProSeries) that you feel is marketable, the last module will help you get it out there. If $800 is steep for you, it’s probably not worth your investment because the information provided can be found much more economically elsewhere.

    If you are not motivated, dedicated and a fast study — this program is not for you. The dropout rate is high, I believe in part, because not enough time is spent at the outlining stage. So people get frustrated trying to write a story they haven’t figured out yet. When I e-mailed to ask a question about using an alternate structure during the outlining module, Hal responded rudely, telling me to “quit the drama”. Nice. From that point on it was a struggle to put up with the prima donna attitude, because if ANYTHING is challenged in the ProSeries you will get attitude. The structure taught, when I was in the ProSeries is standard boilerplate “inciting incident by page….”

    The technical glitches are legendary, be prepared to put up with them. Feedback I found is, for the most part, the blind leading the blind. I read all assignments daily and all feedback and it was consistently poor to mediocre — it’s a crafty way to run a program without any hands on involvement, but not a great way to improve writing. So if you go into this, realize it’s a crapshoot totally dependent on who else signs up for the same ProSeries. Another annoying aspect of this program is that feedback on the assignments is requested at the end of each module, and Hal will occasionally cherry pick the best comments for marketing purposes with the author’s permission. So you’re paying $$$ for the e-mailed assignments, then asked to give your opinion of what worked and didn’t work so they can improve the program with each successive ProSeries. I found that to be insulting and brazen….but you aren’t obligated to give feedback, and I ended up not giving it after a while.

    Lastly, I would say that this is a program more suited to the newer writer, but that you need to have written at least one script before taking the leap or you’ll more than likely be left behind in the dust. Don’t expect to finish even a decent first draft when you finish the ProSeries. (They will conveniently market a rewrite class for you to take your script “to the next level”.) For me it was a waste of a lot of time that could have been spent better elsewhere, let alone money. But I realize that some people swear by their system — just proceed with caution because you’ve heard from several of us that it isn’t a great experience for everyone.

  11. Pros
    1. If you keep up with the assignments, you will write more and more consistently than you may ever have before.
    2. If you reach out to the others in the forums, read their homework and ask for feedback on yours, you will begin to develop an eye for what works and what doesn’t.
    3. It is an opportunity to join a community of writers, some who are making base hits and others who are struggling just like you.

    1. The lack of response to emails, off the cuff snide remarks and snafus will prepare you for real life as a screenwriter. It will rip the doe eyed innocent look off your face.
    2. So many tricks and special techniques are thrown at you that you may develop whiplash. It takes a big moment after the class to get back to listening to your own voice. But, you will have a deep repertoire to draw from when you write.
    3. The PAGE winner comment was from someone who works parallel to the industry.

    Would I recommend? Perhaps. Depends on what you need and what you are willing to do. Neither of them are screenwriters. They are motivational speakers, managers, reality show packagers. Above comments by others pretty fair. Don’t expect hand holding. Do expect to come out of the class believing you can do it and knowing several paths to reach that goal. It takes work and luck to make it in this industry. It is up to you.

  12. Not recommended. Everything taught can be found in screenwriting books or other places online, and you’ll learn it better anyways just from writing scripts.

    1. After receiving all of these comments, I personally decided that the full course wasn’t worth the money. I think screenwriting books, contests, conferences, and coverage are much better investments that will give you more for your money. I’ve done a few of the free teleconferences, and they always run extremely long and end up being ads for the full program more than anything else. I also tried signing up for a short course at one point, but they were apparently having technical difficulties and the course never happened.

      I’m sure some people benefit from the ProSeries, but it sounds to me like there are much better ways to invest in your screenwriting career elsewhere.

  13. Thanks. I was glad I found your blog on this. I took a few of the free teleconferences and found they only spurred my enthusiasm so I am about to take the Proseries myself in a few days. I think those of us who haven’t built a screenwriter’s discipline will benefit from learning how to produce in a time-structured environment. I do have a number of books that I have read so it will be interesting, as a novice screenwriter, which resource proves the most prolific.

    I also think as artists we all have our own ways of learning and producing. Some of hated being in classrooms. Some learn faster than others. Some need an outline. Others can create organically. What I loved about all the responses in this blog is how well thought out they are – it is what we would expect from people who analyze situations for a living!

  14. Okay, I’m on the fence, here. I’ve taken the freebie “teleconferences” and found them rich in content, well worth the time invested. Hal is fun to listen to. I took the Maximum Entertainment course and it was intense, great content. No, there’s no instructor contact, it’s strictly hands off. On the other hand, the forum was jammed with helpful students, many of whom knew their stuff. The commenting went on for a week or so after the last section ended. The forum interface took some getting used to, but it worked fine. Essentially, I have no complaints. I’m considering the Pro Series right now, but still haven’t made up my mind. I’ll probably take additional courses from ScreenwritingU in the future, though.

  15. I’m in the middle of a ProSeries at the moment and have to agree with some of the positive and negative comments made…I personally don’t mind having no feedback; the learning comes from the discipline of improving yourself and your skills 1% a day…every assignment does add slightly to the repertoire. The concept module was terrific, it really does help you to not just be content with the first idea you come up with.I came up with concepts that although rubbish, I would never have come up with before, the value of the process being if you can brainstorm 49 ideas and the 50th is gold, it’s worth it. It has forced me to think about my script constantly and refine, refine, refine. I agree that the outlining in a way seems rushed, I have struggled with my 2nd half of the story, but the constant assignments have forced me to dip into my old screenwriting books and figure out possible solutions and they also stress don’t worry about the quality of the assignment submissions, it’s the act of doing them that helps you to learn and I’m finding that is the case.The discipline of sitting at the keyboard is what makes me think it’s worth it, no screenwriting book ever forced me to write.

    1. Yes, VGB, the Max Ent assignments kept me busy. I enjoyed them, though, and I got perceptive feedback from the top students. What I got out the course was good. What I got out of what I put into the course was even better.

    2. Hello VGB Did you take the course yet? If you did what is your opinion on taking the course? I need to take the course next week but I need to makr up my mind now. Can you let me know soon, Please?Lac

  16. I took the “MMM write a script in 30 days” class and absolutely loved it. I followed it with the “Attract A-list Actors” and the comedy writing class. I loved all three. I even sat in on a few of the free classes. I have read a few screenwriting books. Did some of the same info show up? Of course. But they explained it in a way that made more sense for me.

    I like it that they push me to finish the assignments. I’m basically lazy and this helped. Do I expect them to give me entre into the industry? No. That I will have to do on my own (so will most of you). Do I expect them to furnish all of this information for $20? No. What I believe they offer are real world solutions to our screenwriting problems.

    As far as personal responses go, I was put off at first. Then I realized how daunting a task it would be to personally tutor or advise every student. Some are beginners, others are seasoned writers. Some you can please, others you can’t. Mt two cents.

  17. I’m about to enter ProSeries. I don’t think I need to much outlining help, however I was concerned I never got a confirmation email. I have an email saying my classes start 6/7, but my account says I’m in ProSeries 52 Starting 8/16. So there’s an issue. I’ve already been charged, and 1100 was ridiculous. Now I don’t what to expect from something I’ve so longed for BUT on the bright side I caught a deal and paid half price – 550. Seemed like a deal too good to pass up. If the class is anything like the free phone call, I’m still confident. If not…shoot. I just hope my script will grow, and if I’m not a dropout (which I don’t intend to be), I’ll may finally get a connection. Worst case scenario: I payed a little too much to improve my script. Still i will be disappointed in the lack of formatting training…i needed that but…What I think I need most in the end is a shot to pitch to ANYONE in that industry. I have a great script, it need to go…well, PRO

    1. Hey, Brian. I took the Maximum Entertainment course, and the content was every bit as good as the free courses, PLUS you get synergy with the other students. (1) Be sure to take advantage of all the free courses, and write the cost of the PRO series off over them, too. (2) The student interface was a little tricky to learn, so chug around in it and get familiar with it. (3) Network like mad: get edresses, keep in touch. (4) What you put into Hal’s courses is an important part of the experience, so help other students with their output. Get inspired, get passionate. (5) I’ve taken an on-line screenwriting course elsewhere; there were only three other students, and next to no student feedback. No, I’m not a ScreenwritingU employee or a relative or friend of Hal. If you have an issue, send them a polite note and I’m sure they’ll take care of you.

    1. They throw they offer out there every now and again. But to get it you have to submit a completed script with a workable concept. They picked 10 people of all the submissions to get the deal…I was one so…I took the offer. BEST DECISION EVER!

  18. The short answer is a “yes- with reservations”.

    I went through PS 30, and was diligent on doing the daily lessons (emailed nightly). I stayed on top of it, while many others floundered off and never could catch up. You do build a bond with the other members, one that continues long after the program. The support from the other writers was very important. As a whole, I came out with a much better understanding of the process, the business and with some contacts that I never would have gotten otherwise. To this day, I refer to many of the lessons I retained over the years since the class.

    There are plenty of negatives, too. Hal is the biggest jerk on the planet. He’s your typical used car salesman and his success is ONLY in selling programs, not in writing. Being an SU alum is just as much a negative as a positive in the industry, as I’ve come to find out. I know the two ladies who commented early in this thread, and they ARE friends of mine that I admire greatly. Of course, they recommend the program; Hal has been extremely supportive of both of them. That’s the rub. He takes 10-15 people whom (mostly women, for some odd reason), whom he feels have a shot at hitting the big time and latches on for the ride, hoping one day to be thanked on the Oscar presentation by the writer. He fails to fulfill many of his own promises, such as phone calls, etc., and he has this reputation of bailing out with months left with one class, in order to start another right behind it. As for the writing- like many of the other comments, they teach nothing about structure or anything remotely related to spec writing. They daily courses are pages and pages of scenes and dialogues from produced movies, followed by “how-to’s”, explanations and suggestions on why things where written a certain way. Total nonsense.

    I always found it hilarious that, after graduation, and in the social groups “for graduates only (PSA)”, the members would have long debates and discussions about things like “where to put the credits in the spec script”. That alone should tell you a majority of the writer’s came out knowing nothing more. For a company or group that really pounds home the networking part of it, he prefers to “separate” the group from others, as if they’re Harvard graduates or something. The previous poster was right, too, about his reaction upon being challenged. He’s the Pope, and the PSA and SU are his churches. If you have a differing opinion, you’re ex-communicated. Imagine putting out a list of the Top 15 writers in a group where we all paid equal money. Most of the top 15 were personal favorites of his, and their inclusion on that list had nothing to do with their actual skills, but “potential” based upon his relationship with them. Some of them couldn’t write a grocery list, much less a screenplay. He “buzzes” only certain people’s success stories; two members can have exactly identical success, and he’ll purposely choose to promote one’s success story over the other, based only on his personal feelings for those writers. A complete schmuck.

    I cannot stand him, personally, and many, many alums feel the same (and he’ be shocked to find out which ones, too), but all in all, I came out a much better writer than when I started. And who gets the credit for that?


    1. Shark-san: I agree, the bottom line is yes for most people. Much of the rest is subjective, as is Hal’s selection of the “Top 15.” Does Hal walk on water? Probably not. Is he the world’s greatest scriptwriter? I don’t know. But does he provide good content? Yes. Is it presented well? From everything I’ve seen so far, yes. Is there good synergy with other students? Yes.

      People’s reactions to coursework depend on what they bring to it, what they put into it, plus their expectations. It sounds as if you were experienced, diligent and productive, but had expectations that didn’t match Hal’s priorities. And that’s something to be considered by both sides when enrolling.

      I have no connections with Screenwriting U or Hal except taking a few courses.

      1. Subjective- yes, All opinion is subjective. For someone with no personal knowledge of the SU course or Hal himself, and no knowledge of me at all, how could you even begin to speculate my “expectations”? I left out much detail out of respect for this blog, blogger and simple forum decorum, but trust me, what I’ve shared is just a tip of the proverbial iceberg. As far as I’m concerned, when you pay that kind of money (or ANY money, actually), you should expect the full course. There are just too many people with the same complaints to make it about “us” having high expectations.

        If expecting to get MY money’s worth as promised is considered “high” by you, then one of us must be!

  19. I subscribed yesterday after replying to a solicitation for scholarship applications. (50% off) I received an e-mail in an hour or two telling me I’d been selected and had 24 hours to pay. OK. The e-mail told me, my class started June 7th. I asked if that was a mistake, since that was more than a fortnight ago. No answer. When I paid, I was sent to a screen that said my login information would arrive within an hour. It’s been 24 hours. No information. No receipt. So a second e-mail. Hoping for a reply.

    I don’t want to be unreasonable, but after reading this forum, I’m wondering if I should contact my credit card company and cancel the charge.

    I do wish I’d have read this thread before joining. I’d have been *VERY* reluctant. The information about nearly zero instructor interaction makes a bad impression.

    1. Hi Mitch! Hardly like me to come to their defense, but I just want to clarify that we’re talking about ScreenwritingU. I know there’s another company called Screenwriting University, and while similar, it’s totally different and separate. I am not familiar with any “scholarship applications” that they offer, which is the only reason I ask. I suspect it’s a typo (if it’s really Screenwriting U Pro Series we’re talking about), and that the new class starts July 7th and not June, but when you find out for sure, let us know. Not getting a return email is NOT surprising, but I know Screenwriting University has their own issues, including a completely user- UNfriendly website.

      Just sayin’…

      1. My comment was about ScreenwritingU Pro Series.

        “Cheryl and I are honored to let you know that you’ve been chosen to be one of the 5 writers who receive a scholarship to attend the ProSeries. Your ProSeries will start June 7, 2014.”

        If, as others suggest, this course is fully automated, since otherwise it would be a lot more expensive, I’d respectfully ask why with class sizes from four dozen or larger, that’s the case. That’s a lot of money for some automated e-mails and access to an online forum. The unit costs on those are next to nothing.

        I’m not looking for hand-holding. Between that extreme and no instructor interaction to speak of, there is a lot of room to find an appropriate balance.

        I am also suspicious when I learn that the instructor interacts at all with only a few students in each class. Worse, that the instructor is so defensive that they act out badly when any student offers a differing opinion. As a university professor/administrator, I find that to be counter-productive to any learning environment.

        Whether one pays $1,100, $800, or $550, they should receive more than just several dozen e-mails and a forum. That’s like bringing four dozen people to a room, leaving a syllabus on the table in week one, then lecture notes in subsequent weeks, with an announcement on the blackboard reminding the students to use the handouts to teach/mentor each other.

        ScreenwritingU is charging as much as we charge for tuition to a course. Adjuncts get paid a few thousand dollars and not (doing the math fro the examples I’ve heard) $40-50,000 per course. We do expect instructors to show up each week and teach. Even in distance learning, we expect them to be online and accessible outside of class, interacting with students.

        An instructor who just delivered handouts electronically, provided no feedback on the exercises, and just let a class full of students “teach themselves”not be hired again. That’s not instruction.

        Perhaps I have misunderstood?



      2. No, you characterized it pretty well:

        Whether one pays $1,100, $800, or $550, they should receive more than just several dozen e-mails and a forum. That’s like bringing four dozen people to a room, leaving a syllabus on the table in week one, then lecture notes in subsequent weeks, with an announcement on the blackboard reminding the students to use the handouts to teach/mentor each other.

        That’s more or less it in a nutshell. There are two instances where you do receive “one on one” interaction with either Hal or Cheryl. In the first module, you speak to one of them regarding which logline you are going to go with for script you will be writing during the ProSeries. Again, there was a glitch. First with the “self-scheduling” for the appointment on their site, and then with the actual call. Hal did not have my e-mail which we were supposed to send in advance of the phone appointment (I sent it in advance….) with several potential logline ideas and then you flesh it out with Hal during the call. Only when time came for the call Hal didn’t have the e-mail and I had to scramble to resend it. You can choose to schedule with either Hal or Cheryl. I scheduled with Hal, should have scheduled with Cheryl. Hal himself said “Cheryl is nicer” and he is right.

        The second call comes during the marketing module. I scheduled mine this time with Cheryl, because if I had had to speak with Hal again I would have forfeited the call, even though I paid for it. You were supposed to call at a prearranged time for your call appointment. Cheryl was running late….to the tune of an hour by the time I finally had the call answered. It was later in the evening, 9 pm or something like that my time, which isn’t particularly late, but I was really quite annoyed with the long wait and Cheryl was clearly agitated from running behind or whatever. Although I have to say she was helpful and tried to get through the call professionally, even though her nerves were jangled and she had some difficulty trying to focus on what we were discussing.

        There are also a few group conference call deals, but more or less you are on your own. I also forgot to add that there are sometimes people who clearly should NOT be giving critiques of any kind spewing off drivel in the feedback. We had one particularly clueless and negative commenter. I blew him off because he was a total jerk who had nothing useful to say, but for a writer in the beginning stages of their writing experience, trash commentary like that could really impact a person’s self-confidence. Three separate people blew the whistle on this guy, and I guess he was told not to send that kind of stuff to anyone anymore….but I’m just saying that it’s not always helpful, useful or reasonable critique that you will get from other students.

        And lastly, agreeing with Shark, there’s probably a lot more that hasn’t been said in this forum. Things like the ubiquitous typos, at least one in each lesson. Maybe it doesn’t bother some people but it drove me crazy…. And yes, doing the math, after it was all said and done I felt fleeced. One other thing, I never consult those notes anymore and I never admit to anyone that I went through the ProSeries. I’m a professional writer now, and frankly, even the name ScreenwritingU feels a bit amateurish. I also left the Alumni group because it was beginning to look and feel a lot like a cult–hail to the king or you will have your knuckles smacked with a ruler.

      3. Thanks for the reply. Can I ask, which successful screenplays has Hal or Cheryl written that have been successfully produced?

        An unpublished creative writing instructor would be unqualified, IMO. Couple that with almost no interaction with students, I’m really left to wonder about the education being offered.

        I notice that nothing like the frank discussion in this forum appears on the Facebook page for Spriptwriting U. The absence of any honest criticism there leads me to believe the Facebook page is sanitized and/or people feel too intimidated to provide honest critiques. That just increases my jitters.

      4. I don’t know who Savvy is, but he (or she) had the EXACT same experience as my own (although I chose Hal for the phone call, which went well, actually). Our experiences parallel right into the leaving the alumni group (although, in full disclosure it wasn’t COMPLETELY my own decision, but I’d been wanting to leave it for some time before). I’ve meet literally dozens of others who have had very, very similar experiences as Savvy and myself, so we are not the anomaly here.

        The “scholarship” is just a marketing ploy; another “used car salesman” gimmick- I told you he was only proficient in educational marketing. And, yes, he’s making hand-over-fist in doing so. He’d have a great thing going if he’d get a personality transplant, but this cult-like worshipping has truly gone to his head. The group is made up mostly sycophants who couldn’t tell you the difference between a short film and short cake.

        As I said, I came out of it a much better writer, but I was in a unique frame of mind at the time: totally committed to getting every penny’s worth from the expensive course; I wasn’t going to drink my way through college like I did thirty years earlier. I give all the credit to the lessons, and I guarantee they are the exact same lessons now as they were five years ago. Btw, I never got any substantial help from any of the classmates (I think we had about thirty in our group), and although I know a few are still out there “writing”, no one in my class has enjoyed the level of success I have, as far as I know.

        The reason why you don’t read any of this “honest” criticism anywhere else is that he’s always threatening to excommunicate you. I hated the cult-like nature of the group, but found some of the members to be supportive of me, personally, as well as my projects, and had many friends, so I dared not risk that. That all changed when I let down my guard with someone who reported back what I thought.

        Btw- that IS one way to get a call from the guy, too!

      5. Based on the continuing feedback here (which is very helpful), I’m going to dispute the credit card charge. This comment was most helpful:

        “…the disorganization in their communication with students is a long established problem with them. If it rattles your cage, take that into consideration when making your final decision because it more than likely will continue for the duration of your course.” This is an important point that I was not aware and it does matter.

        The comments here give me the impression that the Croasmun’s are not committed educators. This is consistent with the simile from another reader here who talked about a “used car salesman.”

        I was looking for an educational course and not just a daily e-mail coupled with an online writer’s forum. I’d be ashamed to learn that how one of our university courses was operating.

        The free webinars and advertising create a very different expectation. If the course does not equal those expectations – and that’s the impression I’ve received from reading this forum – then the Croasmun’s should expect a high rate of “buyer’s remorse.”

        My sense from these posts is not that students have unrealistic expectations. The problem is that they are encouraged to have high expectations and that those go unmet.

        I want to thank each and every individual who has posted. This thread has been very illuminating. In my case, it was a bit late. I didn’t get suspicious until I was the misprinted e-mail and then experienced the lack of even a simple e-mail response.

        It appears, when they want your money, the sales pitch is polished and they’ll give you free time and attention in their sales webinars. Once the credit card is run, they don’t want to hear from you except to use you in their promotional materials. That’s now how educators behave. That’s how salespeople operate.

      6. Hi Shark I was offered a schollarship as well for half price yesterday. the class sarts this Saturday August 16th I was also told I could paid monthly but when they sent me the form it was for the total payment for $550. I took the free class i found it very imformative but like Mitch i would like to be able to have contact with the instructor.

    2. Given that they are offering such a deep discount on the ProSeries, I would imagine that the product is not “flying off the shelves” anymore like it used to. When I took the course, I never heard of any “scholarship” but that doesn’t mean one didn’t exist at the time. Either the price reduction is simply a reflection of the current economy, or possibly that their market is saturated, or….word of mouth has put a damper on the enthusiasm of potential students. Still, half off is a pretty good discount. So maybe reread all of the comments above one more time, wait it out for a few more days, and then make a decision. But the disorganization in their communication with students is a long established problem with them. If it rattles your cage, take that into consideration when making your final decision because it more than likely will continue for the duration of your course.

    3. Yes, I’ve noticed problems with Screenwriting University’s emails, lately. They have about a 25% error rate–incorrect dates, start times, etc. Something is wrong in that area, possibly from over-automating their email response system. And yes, there is little or no instructor / TA interaction re the exercises. They automated that part long ago. If they hadn’t, the cost would be a lot higher, more in line with “Screenwriters University,” which, on the other hand, sometimes has essentially no student interaction, based on my experience. I prefer the synergy of good student feedback, but others prefer the hand-holding of an actual professional writer, brief though it may be.

      Please let us know the outcome, Mitch.

      1. Not so much as a single e-mail. No receipt for enrolling. No clarification about the course having already started on June 7th or not, no logon information for an account. Nothing. Just a credit card charge. After three e-mails and no reply, I filed a complaint a few moments ago with the Better Business Bureau for Los Angeles County (where ScreenwritingU already has an “F” rating). Next step is to dispute the credit card charge. ScriptwritingU has polished sales presentations and very unprofessional customer service.

      2. In their defense, it was one complaint to which they never responded to the report. Not enough data to really justify a “F”. Have you tried emailing them, or reaching one of the members through Facebook? It may just be a mistake in the email, but I don’t know why they’re not responding to your concerns. I’m not really sure who this “scriptwritingU” is that you refer to, though. Can’t find them anyway through Google.

    4. Thank you Mitch. I agreed with you 100 per cent. i was also offerd a scholarship and you have ease my mind. I will look for a reputable course online . I would like to have contact with the instructpr.

  20. Sorry, it’s ScreenwritingU. The very company this thread is about. 😉

    If you read the scoring used by the BBB, it must be rather serious for one report to result in an “F.” Anyways, now it’s two complaints.

    I’ve sent three e-mails, in as many days. The first gently asking for clarification about the course having already started. The second asking about the account login details I never received and again asking about the June 7 start date. The third asked for a refund to my credit card, based on the lack of response and what I read on this thread.

    ScreenwritingU certainly has no problem finding my e-mail for their advertisements nor to ask me to pay $550 within 24 hours.

    I appears to me, when they want to sell you, they’re quick to respond. After they have your money…

    We’ll see how reputable they are. I’m waiting until Fri. to see if they offer a refund. If they’re reputable, they’ll provide the refund without a hassle. If not, they try to hold on to the money and alienate me further. 😉

    1. Touche’, Mitch. Excellent point. It seems you’ve done everything reasonable. Let us know the ultimate outcome, and I’m sorry for your bad experience.

      I can tell you from personal experience, however, that one disgruntled person can make it very difficult to overcome the stigma. I am currently suing someone who has stolen over $2300 from me through online services, and he and his girlfriend have initiated a scorched earth campaign of libelous postings throughout the Internet, including multiple complaints posing as different people trying to create the illusion of bad customer service from my company. I don;t think one complaint is worthy of an “F” but since they didn’t respond, that’s the BBB policy.

      1. I agree completely, Shark. That’s why companies need to fix customer service problems ASAP.

        My e-mails have been replies back to the e-mail I received from Hal. Had they replied to my original e-mail about the June 7th start date and then set up my account, I would not have even come looking for this thread. I’d be waiting until August to start the course. 😉

        I did try to be reasonable.

        It was the comments I read here that made me nervous and decide to seek a refund. 😉

        According to their site, they do offer a full refund until day three of the course. Unless they stick with a course purchased on 6/23 starting back on 6/7, they should promptly issue a refund.

        I forwarded the complaint to them after I submitted it and asked them to issue an immediate refund so I could inform the BBB that the case was resolved from my perspective.

  21. Any Pro Series alumni out there willing to share their email so I can direct message? Looking more for a skeptic’s perspective than a convert’s.

  22. Geez, thanks very much for saving me $$$$$. After listening to one of the free calls a few weeks ago, I had a brief email back and forth with Hal. My last email was asking him to tell me more about how the ProSeries works. Never heard another word. I got an email from the Writer’s Store this morning saying that the Blake Snyder Save the Cat v3 software is on sale for $79. I think I’ll pass on SU. I had a very bad experience with “The Screenwriting Guru” in his weekend seminar and I sure don’t need another one!!

      1. Lac- Linda may have purchased the STC software, as opposed to the book. Both are worthwhile at almost any price, so you did well to include it in your arsenal.

        STC will teach you structure and a little bit on formatting; ScreenwritingU is almost predominately structure and story. The single best investment a writer can make is Trottier’s “The Screenwriter’s Bible”. Read it, learn it, live it. It will save you years of time and rejections.

    1. The Pro Series contains a lot more than just structure and story. There are 10 modules on things like dialogue, character development, concept, plotting, subtext, marketing, etc. Is it worth the price? That’s your call. I’m pretty sure I could spend forty times as much taking film courses at UCLA or USC. Heck, I could blow $800 just on car expenses driving up to LA or Westwood. There are other schools, of course. Hahaha! Just kidding. Seriously, I studied screenwriting at Harbor College, but it’s not in their current catalogue.

      Obviously that’s an apples to pineapples to eggplant comparison, but you get the idea. Look around, take Hal’s free courses. He sometimes has half-off deals on certain modules like the rewrite course that I think are well worth it. What you get out of a course is largely dependent on what you put into it. Network like crazy, whatever school you use!

      1. I’m pretty sure dialogue, characters, concept, plotting, subtext can all be considered under the general “story” heading. My point was that it has a different concentration than STC. In fact, my class, (30) never mentioned STC or story beats in particular.

      2. Yes, plotting & concept could fall under story. The rest are a stretch. but your main point is valid: STC is in a different world from SU’s Pro Series regarding structure. I sure wouldn’t rely on any one course or series of courses or book to learn the craft. Screenwriting is the most difficult writing there is.

  23. Uh oh… wish I had found this thread before I joined. I am six days and one teleconference in and the disappointment, followed by suspicion, is creeping in. There is probably a problem when instead of doing an assignment you find yourself Googling, “ScreenwritingU Hal Croasmun complaints” or checking his IMDB and being surprised by how little is there. I’m usually very good about doing due diligence, but I didn’t here–I don’t know why and I’m kicking myself. I suppose it’s because Hal seems so friendly and upbeat during the free classes, which are (as you know by now from this thread) actually sales pitches. I can’t agree more about the used car salesman comparison.

    I’m happy for the people who got something out of this and feel it worked well for them. If you have found this thread during your due diligence, my advice is this: ONLY take the ProSeries if you can easily afford to part with your money, know something about screenwriting, and you are able to operate with NO feedback. I work independently all the time and am not heavily feedback driven, but when I can’t even ask a question to understand the lesson… well, I have a problem with that model of teaching. I find myself getting in deeper and deeper still questioning what my output is, because there is literally NO INPUT other than an email with instructions. Sometimes I think it’s nice to understand the point of what you’re doing in order to do it successfully. Maybe that’s just me. This class is an awful lot of “trust me, you’re going to love this” – maybe so. I suspect many do not. Few will complete a script, even fewer (if any) will have a marketable script (beyond ones that many already have) and maybe only 25-30% will complete the class at all – not a very good ratio to $$$ spent. Think very, VERY carefully about this class if you are still deciding. Don’t just take the free classes, that’s when Hal has on his friendly and helpful car salesman hat. At the very least take one of the paid classes to see if this hands-off, no professional feedback from your instructor model works for your style of learning.

    Also, unless you have read many screenwriting books, have taken classes and/or have written multiple screenplays, it is implausible to think you will come out of this class with a screenplay, much less a marketable one – this will not teach you ANY basics of screenwriting. I think those people would actually get more out of Viki King’s 30 days to a screenplay book (tongue in cheek, but true, i.e., the most BASIC book about “how to write a screenplay” will help more than this class if that’s what you’re after). I think this class is over the heads of novice writers and would probably be boring to advanced writers – people right in the middle I think would benefit the most.

    On the phone Hal does a great job of appearing to have a knack for organically whipping off concepts, making the process seem simple, the class seem valuable, and himself appear to be a talented industry insider, whether he is or not, I do not know… but it is skewed when he’s done fifty classes and has everything written down in front of him. His IMDB profile would seem to indicate otherwise. Those who can do, those who can’t “teach” comes to mind. In Hal’s case he makes a lot of money “teaching” which in this case means sending out automated emails filled with typos and putting in a few hours on the phone. Not exactly teaching. Others have mentioned the typos — very annoying and amateurish. I suspect a secretary is cutting and pasting the info and doesn’t even bother to proofread it, which is just so damn lazy when people have paid hundreds to over a thousand dollars for the class. Sometimes very small things say a lot.

    Hal does seem touchy on the phone calls. During the first teleconference after Day 6, the only question that came to mind, and I was so tempted to ask was: “Are you in a bad mood?” He never sounded that way during the free classes. I thought it was a fluke or just me until I came to this thread; thank you for your validation. This was also enlightening: there was a guy who asked the last question, after most people had hung up, condescendingly Hal asked, “How many screenplays have you written?” I think he expected the guy to be a novice. The guy answered 4 and rattled off a number of things that clearly indicated he’s an advanced writer. Suddenly Hal perked up and his snarky tone turned respectful. I was left thinking, “I don’t think that’s the tone I would have gotten if I had asked the same question and answered 1.”

    I’m not sure if I will continue or not, but I can tell you, I deleted, un-followed, un-liked, un-retweeted everything that has anything to do with him, his company and anyone he knows. If I continue it’s because I feel misled and at least want to get something out of it, but I’m now embarrassed to have anything I do linked to him. That should say a lot to people considering the ProSeries.

    I wouldn’t call this a scam, but it’s very close. It is a model sold at various prices, which is shitty, all of which are high, with stated results that can be achieved by an extremely low percentage of people. Oh, and don’t forget the classic MLM mantra is here too, “If you fail it’s because you didn’t put in the work.”

    Sorry this went on so long. I thank everyone here for their amazingly valuable insight. If anyone who did receive a credit card refund would like to elaborate on what reason you gave the CC company for the request, I would love to hear it – I think I’m going to need it.

    1. PinkMango, I’m really sorry to hear you’ve taken the plunge and are not entirely happy so far. But better to find out at this stage than later. I’ve already written a lot more on here than I felt totally comfortable writing, but I will add a few more tidbits. The reason being, I feel people need to know various perspectives in order to make an informed decision. One thing I was short of saying previously, which I think is necessary to say now, is that after completing this “course” my writing instead of improving took a nosedive. The reason — it shook my confidence. The shitty, slap it together manner of attempting to write a screenplay yielded a mess. Although my concept is strong for that script, and I do plan on rewriting it at some stage, I’ve not gone back to it because I still have such a “bad taste in my mouth” from the whole ProSeries experience that I don’t even want to deal with the script. And it’s hands down my best concept to date….(and I came up with it on my own after ditching the concept that Hal “assisted” me with and which I did not feel comfortable with in terms of the outline I threw together during the class, so I had to play catch up to finish an outline for the new concept while continuing with the lessons).

      I estimate that in total with the time it took to finish the ProSeries + the time it took to dig my way back into a place of confidence with my writing, I lost 18 months minimum. There are a few top notch writing classes where my money would have been better spent, but I found them later. Lesson learned — buyer beware. I told one of the screenwriting instructors of a subsequent class I completed that if God came down and said, “listen, there’s this really great screenwriting class that you really should take….” I would have to say, “thanks, God, but you know, I don’t trust any screenwriting teachers anymore.” That’s what the ProSeries has done for me. Like I said, I found two really kick-ass instructors subsequently, but you need to find them either through word of mouth or by trial and error. The first certainly will shave a LOT of time off of the learning process. So PinkMango, best of luck in your writing and keep searching. “When the time is right, the teacher will appear.”

    2. Hi Pink! I’m sorry to hear what you are going through right now, but I’d bet if you asked Hal and Cheryl for your money back, you’d get it- probably the whole thing. He’s a big a-hole (btw, I’m the one that referred to him as a “used car salesman”), but I think, in the end, he’s probably fair about stuff like that. Just tell them it wasn’t what you were expecting and it was too much of a commitment for you at this time.

      I’m surprised- and sorry- that Savvy’s screenwriting went south after the class. I can tell you mine did improve 300%- and I have referred a number of people to the program- but it PAINS me to no end to know he’s making money off of so many people and giving little back in return. If you end up being on his short-list of “friends”, he’ll help you forever. Other people? Not so much, and that’s REALLY the issue. He plays favorites and he’s not consistent. The negative complaints about him personally are more consistent than the support he offers. For a salesman, he comes off as condescending and arrogant- and has no reason for either, as he hasn’t accomplished jack in this field.

      The material is priceless though, I think, and I still refer to much of it as I write. Best bet? Dave Trottier’s “The Screenwriting Bible” for proper formatting, and “Save the Cat” for structure. Two hundred dollars in materials, and great ideas, and you’re on your way. Good luck!

      1. Thank you for your reply. I will email him about the refund. The night I posted my rant I ordered the Screenwiters bible from Amazon for $17 bucks, had it in two days and by page 33 was much happier than with the class. From a non-fiction background I think I lean more toward organic writing than formulaic, and think it has somewhat confused and garbled my process, but I definitely need some guideposts. Regardless of what prompted this thread, I find it refreshingly positive and informative on many levels. Thanks!

  24. I took the ProSeries and did learn some useful things. However, as many others have stated, Hal is very annoying. He has a huge ego, acts as if everything he says is a revelation (reading his lessons, one would think he invented the three-act structure, or was the first person in the world to come up with the concept of subtext). There are lots of technical issues, and he keeps repeating himself, making lots of the lessons redundant. And yes – he does play favourites, picking his little group of faves, posting them, and then telling people they should all write in and congratulate the chosen ones for being patted on the head by Hal! I don’t know how he choses them – since he never reads anyone’s work. I suspect it is a matter of those that suck up the most.

    The Facebook group for the alumni is helpful, and I’ve made friends and got many interesting tips. However, Hal keeps a close eye on the threads. Heaven help you if you post anything he doesn’t like. (One person was threatened with being expelled for posting an interview with a screenwriter who feels classes are useless and the best training one can get is to simply read screenplays).

    As for Hal’s credits… most of them have been bought. There is a practice on the forum that people wanting to fund a film will give a producer credit to those who donates money to the project. Most (if not all) of Hal’s producer credits are a result of that.

    1. “Most (if not all) of Hal’s producer credits are a result of that.” As are mine; it’s a legitimate practice, and we’re certainly not the only ones who do it. It is my solemn belief that those he “pats on the head” and anoints as The Chosen Screenwriters are the one’s that have received the most attention from outside producer most likely to get really produced. This way, he can wiggle his way “in” through them. He’s done it so many times before. I’ve been told that he offers to read their contracts, then bills them for it, or tries to negotiate a credit along the way. Slick- too slippery for my tastes.

      To the individual looking for emails to contact privately about this, feel free to hit me up: sharkeatingmanproductions at hotmail. There’s nothing I haven’t said here that I haven’t said to him on the phone.

  25. Hal has not invented much of anything in the ProSeries….except possibly the marketing material and the stuff in the introductory module on how to brainstorm concepts. Aside from that, it’s all from books and other teachers’ materials. The thing to understand is you will learn new screenwriting concepts, but they are all peripheral to learning to write….by that I mean, a writer needs to learn how to grow a story organically. Boiler plate structure with cookie cutter guideposts a la “inciting incident by page ten” seemed revolutionary when Syd Field came up with it. Syd was a super guy, and I know his heart was in the right place when he came up with that stuff. And I’m not singling out Syd, Save the Cat was also devised by a really great guy, but it’s still a formula. That stuff has led a lot of would be writers down a treacherous path and it’s not going to cut it in today’s film industry — despite what Hal and others say about “Hollywood looking for it”….savvy industry people recognize those formulas instantly (we all do….) and that material is NOT original. Forget it, it’s not what great stories or scripts are made of. That’s why so many adaptations of novels do well when translated to film, because story is already there and it didn’t come from “inciting incident on page ten”. In fact, what has helped me immensely is studying fiction writing outside the context of screenwriting and “reverse engineering” to apply that material to writing scripts. The subtext material Hal uses comes largely from Linda Seger’s Subtext book. The material on plotting is condensed from “20 Master Plots and How to Build Them” by Tobias. I’m not going to list a gozillion sources here, but you get the idea. So in a sense, it’s plagiarised material. He has not reinvented the wheel, only used slick marketing and lesson delivery to throw a ton of material at students with, in my opinion, limited success. So if you want to make it in this industry and write well, canned structure won’t cut it….in fact, if the three act structure, inciting incident on page ten deal works so well, why did Hal team up with Million Dollar Screenwriting guy and create the MMM class?

    Anyway, I think I’ve beaten up this topic to the maximum so I’ll let it rest. YouGoGirl, I don’t feel comfortable recommending other classes in this discussion, but you can contact me at animal_intuit at and I will send links to screenwriting classes that helped me. In the subject line, please include, “screenwriting classes that work”.

    1. I agree 100%, Savvy. Okay, 99%. There’s nothing new under the sun. Steal from one? Plagiarism. Steal from many? Research. Rigid, formulaic writing is not necessarily the best way to go. Chris Vogler (The Writer’s Journey) said essentially that on a thread I found. But “writing organically?” What does that mean, exactly? If it has meaning, then someone must have a book out on it, right? There IS a book called “Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally” by Mark David Gerson. I was able to preview a bit of it, but not enough to understand his methodology. I’m tempted to buy it just to see where he goes with the concept.

      To me, “writing organically” means having written a script whose elements all contribute to a cohesive, cause-and-effect story thread that holds the viewer from start to finish and induces viewer satisfaction. Right now, I don’t know any way to get there without writing a draft and another and another and another, and so on until the m/s becomes “organic.” If there really is such a thing as a process of “writing organically,” I suspect it involves (among other things) putting the m/s aside for extended periods between drafts. Other than that, I know not. Yet.

  26. Jeff, writing organically essentially means letting the story “grow” out of its own needs. For example you decide that, “character X does action Y”. So then you ask, “why does character X need to do that?” And you brainstorm a bunch of reasons and come up with the best, then you go on to the next thing and the next and you then start to “grow” the story. That way you open up a whole range of possibilities that aren’t limiting right out of the start gate, like “inciting incident on page ten, turning point one on page….” That kind of thought process makes you start thinking in a very analytical way. When you are creating a story, you need a creative thought process, not an analytical one. That comes way down the line. As for the Gerson book you mentioned, I’d never heard of it. So, googling it, it looks interesting. I ended up ordering his “muse” book, as that looks to have some really interesting material in it. Probably a good investment, especially at the $4.99 kindle price, just in case….

    Pink, glad to hear you’re getting some good mileage out of the Trottier book. It’s great, and a super resource for looking up formatting issues, in particular. But lots of other good stuff, too. You make a good point in that early on, guideposts are essential. That’s part of why the ProSeries doesn’t really work, in my opinion. For example, let’s say a writer is on their first or second script. If we think back to when we were writing our first script, WHERE to place the dialogue on the page was much more pressing than whether it was too on the nose. So for the beginning writer, there’s way too much information at the expense of the basic stuff. (The reason I think a lot of people wash out because they aren’t guided in creating an outline that works, and there isn’t enough time to do so). Subtext is an example of what I referred to as “peripheral” at that stage. Plus, if you have a killer story, trust me, a producer will find someone to clean up on the nose dialogue after optioning your script…. As someone mentioned earlier, Viki King’s book is actually really good for getting the beginning writer writing. She lays it out in simple terms and without any pressure. It’s still basic, and won’t lead a writer to professional level skills, but you know what? Unless you’re a true “wunderkind” your first or second script won’t be going anywhere, anyway.

    That’s not to say it’s not important to learn those additional skills on down the road. So, back to what this discussion is all about — the ProSeries. Let’s say you are on your fourth script and you sign up for the ProSeries. Yes, working on your additional skills, like we just mentioned in the Subtext discussion, is great. But if you haven’t yet nailed structure and how to create a story, the ProSeries rushes you through again. So you might have great dialogue and interesting characters, but if you don’t have a story someone wants to read from scene one, forget about your nice dialogue and great characters. Again, not really helpful….unless you have mastered basic storytelling. From my work doing script analysis and having read lots of other people’s stuff in classes before that, most have mastered story at that stage.

    For the advanced writer….at that stage you probably should have innately learned a lot of those skills from reading other scripts and reading topic specific books. Case in point — I worked with a writer recently who had written a potentially interesting script. It’s setting specific and time period specific, although more recent time period specific, not set in the 1800s, say. But the story didn’t really reflect the setting in any way, it could have been set anywhere. Also, no connection to the time period, so it could have been set in modern day. So I pointed that out in the analysis, gave the writer 4 produced scripts as suggestions to read, and recommended some other material relating specifically to “setting as story”. The point here is — with practice you learn these skills. You have to see cause and effect in order to be able to integrate skills into your writing. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. Writers need to read, write pages, read some more, write more. That’s why it’s true — a huge part of learning screenwriting is by reading scripts. But you can certainly learn valuable skills via classes and by reading books. You just need to choose the right ones.

    1. Many thanks, Savvy. I’m not sure Gerson can put it any better than that, but please let us know what you think of his book. It piqued my curiosity, as did his marketing methods. I’ve never started writing from a punchlist, and I hope never to have to. Still, I agree with Vogler: there is a natural story-telling scheme that resonates with our innate love of story. My theory is that the Hero’s Journey (Journeys, actually, since there are at least a dozen forms), naturally follows from Aristotle’s “beginning, middle, and end,” plus other basic principles. I’ve not connected all the dots, yet. It’s all just theory until the pen hits the paper, anyway. I’m still learning, just signed up for an acting class yesterday.

  27. Correction — I don’t see an edit feature on here — but I meant to write in the last sentence of the third paragraph: most have NOT mastered story at that stage. Sorry about that error.

  28. Savvy Screenwriter, I can certainly identify with your experience about getting “messed up.” I gleefully signed up for a McKee seminar several years ago. Friday was great! Saturday morning I got there early so I could be one of the attendees to partake of the “Q & A” before the day began. I was the first one he called upon. It might’ve been because I had on my bright red sweatshirt with a big Scottie dog on the front – easy to see. Anyway, I can’t exactly remember the context of my question, but it certainly hit a raw nerve with him. “ARE YOU SAYING YOU ARE ANTI-VIVISECTION?” “Uh, yes, I am.” He then SCREAMED at me, foaming from the mouth, about his son whose hand was only able to be put back together because of SIX HUNDRED MONKEYS LADY – OMG he screamed and pointed and paced back and forth like a forking crazy man for five minutes. I was reduced to a quivering puddle of tears. Thank God the person sitting next to me had a kleenex – I used all of them. I then understood why they had a NO REFUND policy. I wrote him a three-page letter afterward telling him what an asshole he was. So, yes, I got messed up real good. So when I had my brief interaction with Hal, the red flag began to wave and I decided I was not going to expose myself to another arrogant a-hole. I’m sure plenty of people had great experiences – I did not!

  29. Linda, that’s a really valid point. Run from any teacher that makes you feel like sh*t or undermines your confidence as a writer. By the way, it might be interesting for you to google “narcissistic personality disorder”. One of the characteristics often found in narcissists is that they become furious if questioned or challenged — remind you of anyone you’ve had dealings with? Another point along those same lines is, question any writing teacher that is not published, produced, or has worked in some professional capacity AS A WRITER. The only good classes I’ve taken were taught by screenwriters who are produced and happen to love the profession and teaching. Of course there may be exceptions, I just haven’t found any.

    1. Savvy: I think a lot of people get furious when questioned or challenged; we’re called “parents of teenagers”. Not all of us can be considered narcissists.

      When mentoring some of my clients, I get very frustrated when they don’t follow the advice they pay for while basically wasting my time. They ask for help, pay for help, then suddenly think they know it all. That IS frustrating. In the case of SU, each lesson has been written and established years ahead (repeated over those years), and is simply distributed by a scheduled email dissemination. Very little interaction and very little chance to show that “frustration”. Even the webinars are largely pre-recorded or muted to prevent any real interaction. These “incidents” with him may have been “bad days”, but overall, I think the general perception of him is accurate. I’d be willing to bet the perception of me is the same, maybe worse.

      As for the parameters you use to judge an effective teacher, while basic, they would effectively rule out people like McKee and Fields for the most part (at least for the past thirty years or so, which is fine by me), but include someone LIKE the head of ScreenwritingU. What he’s doing now is something that he’s preached all along- buying your way into film credits. I have done this as well on many of the same projects as he (not WITH him, but we happened to know many of the same people). But what he’s doing now is something he’s been targeting and gunning for for years: finding that one writer or producer who is actively pumping out material and getting produced, then jumping on that gravy train, providing some funds along the way and sharing the spotlight and the accolades. He’s done this with a number of writers in the past, and now has found himself a writer/producer to glom on to. Maybe this is how it’s done, who knows. But I can tell you, for someone that teaches “screenwriting”, he’s got nothing to show for that.

      Best bet, IMO, is to go with someone with a certain level of success as a writer within the last twenty years; the more recent the better- John Truby, Tom Benedek, Scott Myers, Dave Trottier- but we’re basically on the same page.

      1. Shark, not exactly sure how buying credit on a film can be construed as “writing experience”. I meant experience as a published / produced / professional writer. That means putting the pen to paper and getting the script written and then it is produced, or writing a manuscript and getting it published in book form. NOT that someone produces something because they bought into it. Some writers also produce. But producers don’t generally write. To say that the head of ScreenwritingU fits the criteria I stated for a screenwriting teacher, I’d need to see a produced script with his name on the film credits as writer….

      2. Savvy- “…any writing teacher that is not published, produced, or has worked in some professional capacity AS A WRITER.” Your words. I read the word “produced”, followed by “or”.

        “But I can tell you, for someone that teaches “screenwriting”, he’s got nothing to show for that.”- My words.

        I don’t see me misconstruing anything.

        “…but we’re basically on the same page.” Again, my words.

        Let’s agree not to let semantics a point of disagreement, shall we?

      3. I’ve read McKee’s book. Liked it. I liked Hal’s Max Ent course, too. I may take a few more. Hal’s strength is that he came from a corporate training background, a field based on “expert knowledge” interviews, asking the people in a field what they know. His screenwriting courses, naturally, were based on interviewing dozens and dozens of agents and producers and related execs. That knowledge is useful, whether he got it by tilting at the usual Hollywood windmills or by talking to insiders. Much of that info is made available in his free courses, which I recommend.

  30. By purchasing The Screenwriter’s Bible and Final Draft you can learn what you need to produce a correctly formatted script. Final Draft 9 is fantastic. While I learned a few things from some of the free teleconferences, I have gotten much more valuable advice by submitting my scripts to a professional coverage service. You get back precise, insightful and sometimes hard to read commentary. However, this process can force you to become a better writer.
    The best advice I received from the free teleconferences is to submit finished scripts to contests. $1100 pays for a lot of contest entries and coverage reports.

  31. It is NOT worth it. I am a writer/actor/producer and have collaborated with a couple of “graduates” of Screenwriting U and I can say that they seem to want to write novels and not screenplays and are very much into directing from the page and adding emotion to the characters, etc. These are basic screenwriting 101 no, no’s and will get your scripts rejected in a heartbeat. One of the “graduates” I work with has a great imagination and comes up with generally OK dialog, but it takes me a day each time she sends pages for me to go back and undo all of the extemporaneous description and direction. Originally they both took weeks (using some crazy method they learned with Screenwriting U) to write a scene. Which is OK if you’re writing the next Gone With the Wind, but if you’re writing television or something with a deadline it’s useless. I suppose the method, which I can not begin to explain, is good for someone with zero talent to be able to put together a story. if you have an ounce of talent then the method is a waste. Also, I understand that you are taught by committee and that committee is not necessarily made up of experienced writers but in fact other students. Isn’t that kind of the blind leading the blind.

    1. Hi Tom! I know of whom you speak, and I can tell you that the problem is not limited to her. That’s the very problem with the course; it teaches you nothing about the specifics of screenwriting. I went through some time ago, and virtually had to re-learn the actual screenwriting technique, specifically to the SPEC script. Now, I make a good living ghosting and writing on assignments. Hopefully, Tom, one day we’ll work together!

  32. Hi Everyone, One of the things that got lost in the switch to the new layout was the comments on this thread from the last month. Fortunately, I saved them, so they’re all copied and pasted below. Sorry about the hassle. Thank you all for bringing your insights to LA Screenwriter!

    Melissa Dearr (@madstarlet)
    December 27, 2014 at 10:55 am (Edit)
    A big THANK YOU to all who replied here and just saved me from months of frustration and disappointment, not to mention $850. I had actually been planning on taking this course for over a year and was about to take the plunge when I stumbled onto this post. A screenwriting course where I basically get no feedback on my work from the actual teacher who is “teaching” me? No thank you.

    December 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm (Edit)
    People often say, “You get what you pay for.” But it’s more accurate to say, “You get no more than you pay for.” Sometimes you get a lot less. I’ve taken other on-line courses with instructor feedback, and they were, of course, more expensive per hour than individual ScreenwritingU courses. I do recommend taking all of Hal’s ‘freebies.’ His one-week courses are also worthwhile, in my opinion, depending on what you need and how much you pay for them. I’ve taken his Maximum Entertainment and, more recently, his Great Endings course. The student-provided feedback for the Max Ent course was excellent. The Great Endings course also had good content, but the student feedback was not as extensive. It depends a lot on who signs up. I’d recommend checking out Scott Myers’ “Go Into The Story” courses, especially his Core Curriculum series. They’re hands-on, with expert instructor interaction at a reasonable price.

    December 28, 2014 at 7:44 am (Edit)
    I’ve written three screenplays to date, no options yet. I signed up for the Pro-Series Course starting Jan. 2015 but have some serious concerns given these threads and the complete lack of any confirmation from Screenwriting U that I’m even enrolled. Oh they wasted no time charging my VISA on the day I registered but since then zero contact, no sign-on access, no syllabus, nada. Has anyone else had this difficulty along with the ones detailed above on this thread? I’ve tried other on-line schools and sources in particular UCLA TFT, UCLA Pro, UCLA Ext., National U and some others. I realize that all have drawbacks save UCLA TFT which is the gold standard along with USC. If I had $50,000 per annum I’d be at TFT and all would be well but I’m not there yet. I write in multiple genres. I have also written novels and rather pity the one or two folks above who scorned novelists because that is where stories originally came from in the printed word — screenplays are a modern evolution of them, from them so there needn’t be hostility between the camps. But my question is if Screenwriting U Pro Series is not what it promises then which program(s) out there are besides $50,000 per semester/year? Any viable professional suggestions welcome and will be shared with other aspiring screenwriters. Thanks for your attention.

    December 28, 2014 at 12:34 pm (Edit)
    If you are looking for an MFA program in screenwriting that is less expensive than the “name brand” programs, you might look into the online / low residency programs in creative writing that offer screenwriting options. I have no direct experience with them, but if you google, you will undoubtedly find reviews. Also, the big names don’t necessarily yield big results. One of my former screenwriting instructors (who has been working steadily since graduation from one of the top programs in southern California) candidly told me that he would not recommend UCLA because it wouldn’t teach me anything more than I had already learned outside of a degree program. But I need to clarify that the discussion was the MFA program we were discussing. The UCLA Extension Creative Writing classes are a separate issue. Shell, I realize you’ve apparently already had experience with classes there. But for others reading this post who might not have, I have taken a few of their offerings and can recommend them personally. They also offer a certificate program, and the cost is reasonable. I also think Scott Myers’ classes are excellent. But what I’ve discovered is there is no one teacher or method of instruction that teaches you everything necessary to become proficient in the craft, so one needs to compare notes with other writers and do your research about what’s out there and the quality of those offerings.
    BTW, Shell, I’m wondering what you are referring to when you say that someone scorned novelists in this discussion. Either I missed it, or you have misconstrued what is written here. Also, several people have detailed their issues with enrolling in the ProSeries and the communication glitches. You are echoing what other people have said they experienced — how much more of a confirmation is necessary?? Clearly they have not yet addressed that problem at ScreenwritingU, and by the looks of it, aren’t too concerned about rectifying it.

    December 28, 2014 at 9:02 pm (Edit)
    Looking for the most bang for your buck? First, make sure your general writing skills are near perfect. Only then: 1. (Free) Read every book on screenwriting at the library. 2. (Free) Take all of Hal Croasmun’s free pre-recorded “teleseminar” courses, using Skype. 3. ($150 +/-) Sign up for a community college course in screenwriting. Anything less than an A is a flunk, for you. 4. (Zero to $ 15 ea) Read and dissect 50 spec scripts. Do this in parallel with 1 thru 3, above. 5. ($45 to $200 ea) Takeindividual on-line courses only in whatever areas you are weak. Investigate carefully: ScreenwritingU(well described above, occasional discounts available), Screenwriters Univ (higher prices, but real instructor oversight), Scott Myers (reasonably priced, real instructors), etc. 6. About now, you should have a body of work, both through classes and on your own, and should already be hitting the bricks, getting coverage, seeking representation, marketing your work, etc. If you want to take your career a level higher, and have a lot of money, look into studying at USC, UCLA, LMU, etc. Shop around. This will not be directly cost effective, but it will give you contacts that can’t be developed any other way. Options include, for example, a UCLA 9 month Master Class in Feature Film Writing for the paltry sum of $3,675.

    December 29, 2014 at 5:36 am (Edit)
    Let’s ponder – “read every book on screenwriting in the library- FREE”- Okay, that’s only about five years of one’s life. Oh, you mean to understand it all as well? Might be much longer. Considering that most books contradict one another while others offer little or nothing of value to actually WRITING a screenplay, this seems to me to be a colossal waste of one’s time. Hal’s FREE seminars through Skype? They’re not skyped, actually; they’re through “GoToMeeting”, and it doesn’t cost you anything, but they’re not that helpful. They merely skim the surface of the topic they’re discussing. Take “How To Get an Agent”, for example; one of the really hot ones. It’s not about getting an agent. It’s actually why you don’t need an agent and why you’re not going to get one anyway. Still helpful, in the long run, but sitting through one of his meandering, self-serving infomercials on his course, telling everyone whom he knows and all about his brushes with celebrities, almost always results in not getting the conference calls done in the allotted time; resulting in a last fifteen minute push to get an hour’s worth of information. Besides, his telephone voice could be marketed as a sleep aid; talk about a “drone” attack! “Read and dissect 50 spec scripts”- good luck getting fifty spec scripts worth reading. Might as well just have the blind leading the blind through ScreenwritingU. All of this advice reminds me of the old Steven Martin routine (you know, back when he was funny), where he advertised “How to Make a Million Dollars and NOT Pay Taxes- First, get a million dollars. Next…” Bottom line is that this is a craft, one that you constantly have to work on. It’s not Spanish 101, where you walk in, learn a few helpful phrases in Spanish, and you’re able to order a chimichunga and ask where the bathroom is in another language. If you’ve not taken basic screenwriting classes in your college, learn the basics of writing a story, and yes, basic English- grammer, punctuation, spelling. Next, learn one of the basic structure devices; personally, I’m a disciple of Blake Snyder and an STC guy. Next, spend $20 on Dave Trottier’s “The Screenwriter’s Bible”, and Robert Gosnell’s “The Blue Collar Screenwriter”. They are the only BOOKS you’ll need when it comes to writing a SPEC script; a script far different than any of the produced scripts people tend to read and copy. Keep these books by your side as you write, as you will be referring to them several times a day. Then, find yourself a screenwriting mentor- someone who could lead you through the pitfalls and potholes of the screenwriting journey- because they’ve been there and done that. Go to seminars, attend webinars, read blogs from the successful writers out there- do it all, take it all in. They say it takes, on average, about eight screenplays before you find your “voice” and get traction with your writing, that is, IF you are networking and marketing along with writing. If you work full time, honing this craft is a second full time job. For those who have small kids and a family at home, as well as working a full-time job, it’s a much, much longer process, and I admire you for trying it. I wish you the best of luck.

    Tom R. Waters
    December 28, 2014 at 2:08 pm (Edit)
    Hi all, I must admit that I’ve only skimmed most of the comments so I hope I don’t just repeat what has already been said. My thoughts on this program are based on a couple of factors, first one being is that I have now worked with (tried to and eventually fired) two ScreenwritingU grads. What was apparent is that however ScreenwritingU is does not seem to have actually worked in the real world of Film or TV. Or at least they have not had work produced. That’s a giant red flag right there. Secondly is the common comments about being taught , critiqued, etc by other students. Isn’t that the blind leading the blind? It seems that ScreenwritingU may be good for someone with absolute no talent or creativity to manage to complete the writing of a screenplay by using a formulaic method. Not hardly the stuff great works of literature are made and certainly not a way to create anything that will get funded or produced (other than self produced). Finally, my experience with both of the SU grads I worked with was that they had no clue as to how to write a screenplay that in an acceptable format and they made screenwriting 101 for dummies mistakes. Things like descriptions that went on and on and constantly putting emotional direction into description and using descriptions like “with tears in her eyes Jane runs away disgusted thus putting an end to John’s pain”… OK Tears in her eyes is up to the actor and/or director, disgusted is an emotion that should be obvious from the dialog and what’s happening and again is up to the actor and/or director and saying something as idiotic as “thus putting an end to John’s pain” is fine if you’re writing a novel, otherwise it’s useless as the audience doesn’t have the script in front of them to read that. Either someone needs to say that John’s pain has come to an end or the director can create a shot that depicts that, but again it’s amateurish and assign to write that kind of stuff into one’s screenplay….MORE IMPORTANTLY, scripts written like this will get rejected immediately by whoever has first read of it at a studio or production company. And to me that’s the biggest failure of this course, not teaching writers how to write so that their work will actually be read and stand chance vs the 10,000 other scripts competing for the attention of a few.

    December 28, 2014 at 2:59 pm (Edit)
    You nailed it, Tom! The issues are that the paying students are judged against other paying students, with absolutely no input from the OWNER of the series (just as well, since he’s not a writer, either). This person has made a living from SELLING EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS- period! This is what ScreenwritingU is also considered to be, nothing more, nothing less. As a result, they have “graduated” writers – after a year or more of instruction – who still write a “credits” heading in their spec script! The only goal of this owner, besides actually making money hand-over-fist from unsuspecting, desperate and naive wanna-be screenwriters, is to find that one diamond-in-the-rough and ride his/her coattails to some sort of fame and fortune within the industry.

  33. I have taken the pro series and the Mini Movie Method. They are worth the cost. I was skeptical but I use what I have learned everyday. After you finish the pro series you are let into the pro series alumni where you can talk with other writers like you and others who have made deals. I have had my first script optioned because of the techniques that I applied to my scripts. As for feedback you will learn why he does not provide feedback but you do get to receive feedback from the group. It is a great class and a great reference to have after it is over.

  34. Meh– I took the course and I didn’t think it was nearly as bad as half of these reviews… I mean you need to have reasonable expectations.. Does one think they’ll take this course and be the next Francis Ford Coppola or write the next Godfather?

    To the person that said they’d been thinking of taking this course for a year… Well if they’d taken the Proseries course they would have at a minimum finished one screenplay that probably won’t be half bad if you did all the lessons.

    I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of Hal’s and I questioned a few of the assignments but in the end I ended up with a pretty good script. And learned some pretty solid techniques.

    My class started with about 60 or so people and now we’re done to about 35-ish and I must say some of the scripts are pretty good and solid.

    You can tell Hal spent a LOT of time designing the course and to be honest he covers most of the topics you’ll need to be a good screenwriter… so he basically compiled and aligned all the screenwriting books into one course.. If you do the lessons, you’ll be a better writer.. Period AND most importantly you’ll have a finished screenplay that’s going to be pretty good…depending on your ability but you are taught the tools you need.

  35. One one hand you say that “…Hal spent a LOT of time designing the course…”, and yet, in the very same sentence, you say “…so he basically compiled and aligned all the screenwriting books into one…”. That sounds like the only “designing” he did was rehash other people’s theories and principles. Not much of a ringing endorsement, if you ask me. I know this to be trues, as well. I cannot recall a single tidbit of information, writing suggestion, advice or tip that was original to this program. I took it very early in my writing career- and glad I did- but have since learned that it’s the same ol’ stuff shared among 99% of the other consultants, or, as you pointed out, easily found in every other screenwriting book out there.

    Just get Trottier’s “The Screenwriter’s Bible”. It’s literally the ONLY book you’ll need, and, at $20, it’s 1% of the cost.

    It also doesn’t say much for the “program” when there is a 41% drop-out of paid participants, paying as much as $1800- or more- each. This tells me that, despite their $1800 investment, they’ve decided this course sucks so bad, they are willing to walk away from it, or their time is better spent in more important areas of their lives. Again, NOT the ringing endorsement I would expect from someone who is among the more supportive of the program.

    Just sayin’…

    1. totally agree. Hal was rude in a way that he just ignores the questions/emails sent to him. I have NEVER attended a class or school in which instructors would not take students’ questions seriously.

    2. I’m so glad I found this site! I’ve read each and every comment. I was just offered the ProSeries for 50% off supposedly chosen from multiple entries. I am not enrolling based on the reviews.

      Shark, I have appreciated your straight-forward and candid comments and advice. Am going to look at purchasing the “Bible” and others to get started, and possibly Scott Myers courses.

      I will be attempting to write my first screenplay based on the story of an Irish ancestor who was a pivotal and heroic figure in Ireland’s history during the 17th century. A story needed to be told! Have many authentic resources to draw on. Making a trip to Ireland in July to further research and connect with local filmmakers.

      Thanks to all the contributors–positive and negative!

    3. I would argue the drop out rate is mostly the students who can’t complete 80% of the assignments on time because they actually don’t care.

  36. Isn’t that what most text books are? compilations of theories and sources drawn from other places? My college level economics book was just a bunch of regurgitated theories I’d seen a gazillion times before…Why read 20 books on screenwriting when you can read one? I don’t have a dog in this fight.. if you want to take the course, take it. If not, then don’t.

    plus the course costs btw 550 and 1100 where most pay 800 not the 1800 you’re saying… Hal and his team have the right to earn a living. It’s MY OPINION that they’re offering a good service. The 40 of us that were left were really into it. The majority dropped out in the beginning like the first week.. during the discovery phase.. why? I don’t know. I can guess though.

    If the screenwriters bible works for you, then that’s great.

    In my opinion this course is for people who have a story in their head and want to be held accountable for getting that story out over a 6 month period with specific lessons and support of your peers. If you can do that with a book, then you should just read a screenwriting book. If you like a more structured setting and want to make sure you’re on the right track then this course could help you or not..

    I took the course and liked it. Shark took the course and did not.

    I took the course and came out a better writer, shark took the course and did not.

    I recommend the couse and Shark does not.

    It’s up to each individual to have reasonable expectations and act accordingly.

  37. There was a few nice techniques in each new category of study. I haven’t read any screenwriting books, but I’m sure I could find them those techniques in any book. The concept section of study was the most helpful part of the ProSeries in my opinion. In short, don’t bother writing a script if the concept isn’t EXTREMELY fascinating. Don’t settle for a decent concept, go beyond what has been seen before cause a producer ain’t gonna bother reading something that doesn’t fascinate them. There, I just gave you $800 worth of information at no cost. You’re welcome, take the advice and run with it.
    In the end, not worth the price of admission; not even close. And yes, Hal seems like nothing more than a crook who will happily take your money and then never give a damn about you. Each new email says “great job on your last assignments, you’re coming along great,” but really nobody running the program read a single line of what anybody wrote. They took everyone’s money, sent them the emails, then moved on to scam another group of people into signing up for their overpriced “classes.” I’d recommend picking up a screenwriting book instead. Plus, we’re in 2015 now, there’s nothing you can’t find searching internet pages. Google what you want to learn!!
    Proseries rating: 2/10

  38. I am currently enrolled in Pro Series 54. I am new to screenwriting having written one rough draft of a screenplay before. I have a published western novel and have published a western short story in newspapers and magazines. To me the PS has been worth every penny so far. I wish there was more feedback from the instructors, but most questions I had I seemed to find the answers the more I kept doing the assignments. I, like many, started out taking the free SU classes before enrolling in the PS. I have no regrets and no doubt that my knowledge on writing has improved immensely and I feel confident that it will continue to as I get farther into the PS. Like most classes it is an individual thing. Best of luck.

    1. Hi Zane:

      I am in 54 with you. I’d agree with you, what you get is an individual thing. Personally, I am getting every thing out of it that I expected and need. I’ve paid for several college degrees and I think the same could be said there–lots of money, lots of not-so-relevabt information, all of which is available in books. But there is something to having tough assignments and deadlines, colsolidated information in concise form, and the opportunity to go back for the next year and work through any part of the process. People on this thread have talk ed about “lack of feedback.” As you know, in one of our conference calls this was specifically addressed and I am perfectly satisfied within the reasoning there. My personal opinion is if I get one $1,000 technique, thought, push–whatever, I am satisfied. I am working writer in another niche and the many if the techniques have already paid back the cost of th he entire course. Last comment, and I have never had the inclination to find out, but I believe SU will refund money if you are not satisfied. Don’t quote me on that. Anyway, it was interesting to read the comments, but I am a believer in SU.

  39. I would say it’s a bullshxt class. it’s just giving out handouts every few weeks. no one reads your assignment, no class discussion, and no one even answers your questions after the class. will NOT recommend. get a book from amazon.

  40. it’s a total bxllshxt program. they just give out handouts once every few days. no one’s there to answer your questions, nor would anyone one read your assignments.

    my advice: get a book from amazon! much worth than the “handouts program” which would cost you over $1000.

  41. I’m in ProSeries 52, and it was worth the money to enroll. I learned a lot to develop my craft, met deadlines, practiced techniques I’d never encountered before in other script writing classes, and have the first draft of a script I’d been putting off writing for a long time.

    It’s an individual thing, like everything else in life that’s important.

    Lack of feedback: I have a different take on this. First if all, there is feedback, it’s just not heavy in volume, and it comes at different times and a variety of sources. Hal has a corporate training background, and one of the features of corporate culture is the notion that lots of hand-holding (aka “feedback”) can be counterproductive, not only to individual professional development, but also to productivity and company objectives. Some MBA programs and law schools put this to use via the case study method–the people doing the talking and critiquing are one’s fellow students instead of the professor, who at most is a facilitator. Deep learning takes place under the surface in such environments, and it may not be what the class is expressly about. Adult learners know how, and should be permitted, to acquire knowledge they need from a variety of sources. Lessons and homework in the PrOSeries are posted online daily, and anyone in the program has access to, and can read anyone’s work. (That includes Hal–how can anyone say whether he or the others do or do not review students’ work?)

    Cost: I don’t know where the $1800 figure comes from, unless someone has confused the Masterclass program with the Proseries. On the website the list price for Proseries is $1100. Listen to a free class and that price falls to about $800-$850. During a slow time, like when people are distracted by summer vacations and winter holidays, and scholarships appear, dropping the price to $550. Compare that to two terms (6 months) of other online programs of $2000 or more, and ScreenwritingU’ s Proseries is a great value.

    Formatting: Not their strong suit, and they don’t claim that it is. As I recall, they said that a well-formatted script based on awful story is really a waste, and if a producer gets a script with a great story, but is a bit off in terms of formatting, the formatting is easily fixed. Not so with bad plots, undeveloped characters, silly dialogue, bad story, etc. Again, adult learners can find the info. They recommend Trottier’s book, but there are other places one can learn formatting.

    Structure: The Proseries includes an entire module on outlining that covers learning about a nine-beat structure, and that structure is covered throughout the course. True, there is not the focus on it that some other programs may offer, but again, adult learners… This was an area where having already had a screenwriting class helped a lot, so I can see the criticism on this. Structure is something one needs to be able to see and pick out while reading a script, and I actually learned more about how to do this during the Proseries than ever before.

    “Favoritism”: Whenever any alum sells/options a script, signs with an agent or producer, or produces his/her own work, Hal gives a shout out of support to them online. He encourages all of us to do likewise.

    Personality: A strong ego seems to be characteristic of people who work hard and are focused, especially in Hollywood. The film industry is based on creativity and hence fragmented at various levels, meaning there are a gazillion small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) that are critical to getting movies made. One characteristic of small businesses in fragmented industries is their reliance on dealmaking and simple control mechanisms–and effective ones can run the gamut from being sweetly comforting to practically slave driving. Hal uses neither of these, and he told us in advance that he was not cuddly. But I suspect that if his style is that off-putting to anyone, they might want to think about how common the uncuddly style is in Hollywood, and if that is a style they personally can work with over time. Some can, others can’t, and either way is okay to be human.


    I thought about it for a couple of years before I enrolled and the only thing I regret is not enrolling sooner. I can truly say that my writing has gotten 300% better, but YMMV.

    I hope this helps.

  42. I still don’t know. I sense that Hal has many right-on techniques that I don’t want to hunt for in various books, etc, and are worth the price of the course (which I can afford). Yeah, he’s been rude to me, no longer replies to emailed questions, it seems (although he has, in the past), and didn’t keep at least one coaching-call promise, but – just like when I did the est Training – I have to put value before personalities.

    Thanks for all the comments.

    I’m not bothered by no feedback. [ “Listen, I’m all growed up now; I can tie my own shoes, and everything.” – Philip Marlowe, in Raymond Chandler’s ‘Farewell, My Lovely’] I got lots, at Writers Boot Camp, and it didn’t do jack for my writing. I got lots at L.A. Writers Lab, and it helped.
    The drop-out rate doesn’t bother me, either. It’s hard to maintain a commitment over tiem, and avoidance of writing is endemic (See Steven Pressfield’s great little book, THE WAR OF ART)
    Maybe I’ll do the freestanding courses (“Subtext,”) etc. and keep looking.

  43. Has anyone tried his shorter & cheaper MMM course?

    I’ve re-read the description several times and still don’t quite understand what it’s supposed to be about. What exactly does he mean by the term Mini-Movie?

    1. That’s actually Chris Soth’s course, put on through SU. That’s an even bigger waste of time and money and a pile of crap.

      1. It’s his formula for writing six separate “movies”- beginning, middle and ending, for the three major Acts of a screenplay. Might help some; I found it to be a time-suck myself.

      2. This MMM thing is basically Soth’s rehash of something known as “sequence writing”. You can read about in Paul Gulino’s “Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach”. It’s been around for a long time, I believe it’s taught at USC. I’ve found it to be somewhat useful for a couple of scripts, so it may be worth a read for some people. I’ve also read Soth’s workbook — he talks a lot about “tension” and how you need escalating conflict and tension within each sequence. Nothing earthshattering in ScreenwritingU’s MMM class I’m sure. At least nothing that you can’t find in books….like I’ve said before, it’s all in the books.

  44. The only “Screenwriting U” I found on the BBB site for LA got an “A+” rating.

    I took the ProSeries 31 from 2010-2011. I went into it having read approximately 70 books on the craft and about 10 on the business and life of screenwriting.

    As I had already learned a lot, I had less to learn than some. Still, I did learn from the course, to my surprise, in terms of some writing techniques and approaches, and in terms of doing business.

    Your mileage will vary according to how dedicated you are to absorbing and applying the lessons. It is really that simple. Believe me, anyone who completed the ProSeries without a completed screenplay to show for it has only themselves to blame. That is not Hal or Cheryl’s fault! Anyone who wants to waste valuable time on “formatting” when there are dedicated screenwriting programs and, yes, The Hollywood Standard book to help you with that detail, is in the wrong place. This course is about how to write better material for the highly competitive marketplace for motion pictures, and to gain insights into how things really work when making connections, pitching projects, etc. A lot of that latter part boils down to having some common sense, but screenwriter wannabes who have blinded themselves with misleading newspaper accounts of “First Time Writer Gets Million-Dollar Deal” often prove they were left behind the door when that attribute was handed out.

    It is somewhat valid to criticize the lack of instructor feedback for the cost of the course. There is a lot of discussion among the enrollees on line. Some will compensate for that lack, others will waste your time. But the material itself is organized well enough, and once you have it, you have the material for a lifetime. However, if you think about it for just one moment, you’ll have to realize it is impossible for anyone to read all the “efforts” at writing to those assignments all those online pupils are making (or failing to make, as there are those who go into the course as stinkers and come out of the course as stinkers). There aren’t nearly enough hours in the day, though, for anyone to dedicate themselves to reading the good, the bad, and the ugly from all those people. Some people go through life never realizing the hours in a day are effectively all that one has. I do understand those who want feedback, though. There’s no “Mommy and Daddy” in this deal, and that probably should be a dealbreaker for some. You’ve got to stand up on your hind legs and get your professional feedback somewhere else, yes, for additional cost. Fleecing desperate screenwriter wannabes is what drives the US economy since the collapse of the Great National Ponzi Scheme of 2008. That’s a bitch.

    What you do in the Pro Series is read what everyone else turns in, and based on your reaction to their stories, ideas, and sense of personality, you connect with each other in the forum and start comparing notes. If you want to speak freely in general, exchange email addresses and go off line with your dialogues.

    I also believe in planning a script well before writing it. I am not now, nor will I ever again be, an advocate of putting out a “vomit draft” and then trying to turn it into gold. That is just about what you’ll have to do in the Pro Series, however. You have to be able to accept that. I already knew how to write a “good” screenplay at least, due to previous years of effort and study. But, I think it’s fair to say, if my PS 31 script had been put together just by following the breadcrumb trail of the lessons coming in the emails, I’d have had vomit at the end. Though my worst, earlier vomit (produced in my wet-behind-the-ears beginnings) never reeked as bad as that of one or two of the participants I had the misfortune of providng feedback to (attempting to make it constructive, at that). If you are a clown going in to the Pro Series, (riddled with ego, self-pity, or anything else that bestows a blind spot instead of an open mind to the lessons) your nose will most likely still be big, red, and honky when you come out of it. It is not a “course in miracles.”

    Hal Croasmun is, indeed, imperious, and he’s protective as a reptile of his course territory as THE valid method for learning screenwriting. On the Facebook PSA (Pro Series Alumni), someone mentioned using the “Great Dialogue” software (what a great value for twenty bucks, friends), which Hal denigrated as being “ten year old software,” as if there were a time limit on the principles it lays out. (AND he included a *partial* selection of what that software offers in his course!) Hal seems to want his “cult members” to be ignorant of other teachers’ knowledge, even if they corroborate his own course material! (Just act as if they don’t exist, and you are there to receive The Tablets, get it?) Threads I had started on his S’U site forum about favorite screenwriting books and tips were deleted, and I was subsequently called a “troublemaker” by Hal for posting them and for mentioning on a conference call a tip I’d learned from another screenwriting educator (a working screenwriter) whom I named. By the way, the tip only illustrated in concrete terms the very point Hal was making on the call. And Hal doesn’t warn people in advance not to post any “non-PSA” discussions. He just pounces on you if you do.

    My personal “excommunication” took place after I reserved a plane ticket, made a hotel reservation, and paid Hal’s fee for an additional “introduction to producers” pitch session. On the conference call, in response to several people’s concerns about a personal lack of money, I suggested they check out a website for restaurant ratings by quality and price. After the conference call, Hal immeditely made a furious call to my home to blast me for that. He was angry for a reason, to be fair about it, though I was flabbergasted at the way he handled me. His reason was that he didn’t want participants meandering about, possibly not being back with the group at the hotel on time, maybe getting mugged, whatever. We discussed it for a bit, and he seemed to calm down some, and ultimately left it to me to decide if I was going to take part. I opted not to, as his reaction had already ruined my feeling about it. I did not want my presence to be micro-scrutinized constantly on the alert for more “trouble” to break out. I would have felt like I had a cloud over my head the whold time, and I know it would have badly affected my pitch, or, I suspected, Hal would whisper “bad news” about me into the producers’ ears. Well, he had pointedly advised us all to “go with the flow,” and I had , trying to be a helpful puppy dog, violated his diktat by piping up as I did on the call. (TIP: If you feel like a helpful puppy dog on one of those conference calls, you’re better off stifling yourself.)
    Hal did refund my S’U money for that feature, and I was able to cancel my hotel reservation, but I was “out” more than $450 for the non-refundable plane ticket deal I had reserved. That kind of thing never makes one’s day. But, just as you better believe “Hollywood” is the one place you can die from encouragement, you’d also better believe you need “rhino hide” to survive in the game. Try being a producer, having to keep driving the train while people flake out and flip out all around you, and you’ll come to understand why niceties come to take a back seat to drive. That’s hard for me to stomach, but if you’re determined, grasp it and accept it, because you’re not going to change it.

    I still went on later to take three more of Hal’s smaller, more specialized courses. But I didn’t knock myself out, keeping up in those. I basically just collected the material for reference. I had an introduction to some producers from one of the P’S U alumni I met online, and at that time, I was busy writing them a feature script in my personal time. Potentially, that may be my biggest break from taking the course… depends on how things go in their efforts to bring it to production.

    My take is, therefore, that if you ever saw the “Seinfeld” episode about “The Soup Nazi,” and you feel prepared to humble yourself and pay the price to get that great soup, go ahead, if you can afford S’U (get the time-limited discount!), and take it. That’s the main condition. And it you take the course, throw yourself at those assignments, ignore the occasional typo, and imbibe their essence, for all the material is quite valid. Then, and only then, will it be worth it.

    P.S. Don’t cross Hal.

  45. Though I’ve never taken any of the ProSeries courses, from Screenwriters University, I have taken about three courses so far–two of which I really liked (because of the instructors who I really liked and gave me very helpful feedback that was easy to absorb), but one of the courses was a real doozy. So in other words, it can be a ‘mixed bag’ experience just as it is in the real world (with some writers being nicer than others, etc). I did find two instructors on there whose teaching styles resonated with me. I tend to steer clear of the macho ‘axe-grinder’ types.

    1. Hi H,
      I think you might be thinking of another provider of classes, Screenwriter’s University. The ProSeries is offered by ScreenwritingU, and there are no “instructors” per se in their classes, only lesson plans developed by Hal Croasmun.

      Glad to hear you got some good instruction through the classes you took, though. : )

  46. I was in PS 42. It was a waste of time and money. I have since optioned two screenplays and have been “signed” with a manager who has instructed me to NEVER mention I was in the Screenwriting U course. There are many great online courses-UCLA, Corey Mandel, Screenwriting University, Script Magazine to name a few, but Screenwriting U is not one of them. I remain in touch with a few of my fellow classmates from the series and all of us agree it was a sham.
    There are so many scams out there trying to profit off the dreams of aspiring screenwriters, it’s distressing. Use caution, look for references for everything. Hope this helps.

  47. It’s a shame so many people think badly of the ProSeries…especially when MOST of the PS graduates are praising it. And yes I’m one. I had my doubts but I joined ProSeries 51 and while I was annoyed by the first module…It ended with perhaps the biggest wake up that my script needed. By the time the character class rolled around in module 5…I knew I made the right decision.

    There are some important things to note 1) You have to have 2 hours a day and commit to the assignments. ALL OF THEM. In fact if you ever decide to move on to the MasterClass you need to have done AT LEAST 80% of them – So you can’t get into MasterClass without passing Proseries first and 2) You have to be able to change your current script if you enter with one – What I came out with still had the original high concept and main idea intact, but the Characters, and even most of the story came out totally changed. I promised myself I’d change my script if i did it and I did…Boy did I. I look back at what I entered with and laugh at it.

    So I am a strong supporter of the ProSeries. My parents called it a waste of 550. I called it the best decision I ever made. My parents FLIPPED when they heard i paid 2k for the MasterClass (just tonight, actually). I don’t care…I just got ready to improve my script some more. Look you don’t have to go all the way to the Masterclass. But your talking to someone who doubted the ProSeries and ended up loving it so on taking the next step? I went from “No Way” to “Okay!”

    Don’t get me wrong. The ProSeries isn’t for everybody. But if you have a passion to write and you;; do the assignments…And you want to make friends with other writers…JOIN. I’ll admit I haven’t sold anything yet, but that’s what the MasterClass is for! (No really, that’s what it’s for. But you HAVE to complete the basic class before they let you into the advanced)

    PLEASE at least CONTACT ScreenwritingU themselves and ask about it. Don’t let me or these other guys decided. ASK- Is it right for YOU??? It was for me and i guess it wasn’t for some others. I’m just glad I did my own investigation and didn’t blindly say no.

    1. Dear Brian, you sound just like my friend who signed up for this class a little while ago. Let me tell you something, as a produced writer. I read my friend’s pre-class script. And I read his post-class script… the difference was almost unnoticeable. Actually, at first I thought it was the old one and he just sent me the wrong file. Apparently he did get to advance… I’m not sure on what grounds. But it wasn’t because his skills improved, that’s for sure.

      What stunned me the most, however, was the unrealistic statement on the website where Hal claims to improve his clients to the level where they will definitely sell their screenplays. That’s just selling unrealistic and delusional promises. He’s basically saying: “give me this and that money, and you will sell.” I couldn’t help but gasp at that.

      But there’s more things that really bothered me here. Dear Brian, you may not understand much about this world and sales. So just so you know, when someone puts on their ad a very high price and then says: “sale!” from time to time… that’s a trick, from the sales world, to get your brain to assume you’re making a great deal. $550 is STILL a lot of money. WAY too much considering the fact you can get most of what the class teaches for free. There’s internet in our age, you know.

      To make this worse, another sales trick is telling you that if you complete this or that, you will advance further. Scientology uses this trick, actually. But, anyway, once again this is a trick to fool your brain into thinking that the Holy Grail is right there, if you just pay some more.

      Assuming the people Hal mentioned, who got their screenplays produced, are real and it actually happened, which I doubt, I HIGHLY doubt it was thanks to this class. Speaking of “which I doubt,” another sales trick is bragging about satisfied clients who’ve managed to get to the Holy Grail. You’ve seen ads for slimming products, right? All those so-called before-and-after people who tried a magical product that pretty much promises miracles, regardless scientific facts? You know this isn’t real, right? It doesn’t work.

      And lastly, you’re saying they picked 10 people of all submissions to get the deal? Another trick. How do you know they actually selected? How did they select the “lucky” 10? And according to what parameters, exactly?

      Dear Brian, don’t be naïve. According to everything I’ve heard, read, and seen, including from you… I think your parents were right to flip. And I think there’s a VERY good chance your screenplay is NOWHERE NEAR close to professional, and that you’re NOWHERE NEAR close to sell, skills wise. I don’t know how old you are, but understand that it’s not magic. This course seems to work just like those commercial ads and such. Meaning, their top goal is one: MAKE MONEY off of you by promising exactly what you want, and then putting it a little bit farther… Including a helluva price, including a professional product, including selling.

  48. This was very illuminating thanks. I’ve taken 4 of Hals’ free classes, 2 on the “Profound” screenplay, one on the Mini-Movie-Method and one on the marketable concept and getting a producer to say Yes.

    From the first one, I recognised the signs. I didn’t listen live, classes at weird times for me as I live in the UK and didn’t want to pay an international phone call for who knows how long. So I waited for the “recording” to be emailed and listened to them.

    You can tell he isn’t a writer, because very little actual information over the course of an hour and a half or sometimes longer. He repeats himself endlessly, with people he’s helped plus that whatever new idea “is revolutionary”. “It’s going to change the way you write forever.”

    Plus the Profound free class he offered. He started with saying how he came up with it, by taking a bunch of screenwriters and analysing about 15 of the most Profound movies.

    I have a science background, and I know that’s not how you analyse or test to find if or how or why something does or doesn’t do what you want. You have to compare it to something that doesn’t work and see what the difference is. Otherwise its like trying to find out what’s special about humans by only analysing human dna. That would rob you of the information that chimps, our closest living relative is only approximately 4% different from us on the dna level. And a banana has 50% of our dna.

    He also only talks about the people who’s had success without giving us the opposite number of people who haven’t found success or the number of people who “drop-out”. Again, making you unable to make an informed decision. If you were to know 10-20% or maybe its higher of all the people who have dropped-out. Maybe you then decide its not for you. If you find out its like 10% of people who take the course succeed at a career and get movies produced, then again maybe you decide not for you and you don’t give him money. I don’t know what the numbers are, maybe Hal doesn’t know because maybe he doesn’t track it.

    Anyone trying to sell you stuff is deliberately not giving you all the information.

    I once went to another free course that was a preview to a sale and I challenged the science of it, she came back saying that people who talked to her after were all positive saying she explained the science and the spiritual incredibly well. I pointed out that its a selective sample. She came back saying that I was “antagonising, aggressive and offensive”.

    I sent an email to Hal, asking how exactly is the Profound model was any different from the hero’s journey and pointing out you can’t find an answer by only analysing the movies that are “profound”/ No response. Didn’t expect one. Thought he’d think of me as “antagonising, aggressive and offensive” just like the other person for daring to challenge them. These used-car-salespeople always do.

    1. ScreenwritingU has a lot to offer, but you only get out of it what you put into it. Teacher doesn’t grade papers, or really even read what anyone’s written. Stay out if you’re not into self-disciplined writing to deadline, or if you can’t stand peer review, or if you want close teacher-pupil interactions — you don’t get them in ScreenwritingU. You do get a lot of solid craft and marketing tips, and you can potentially make some contacts if you relate to people well. Yes, Hal Croasmun acts like the Pope excommunicating heretics with anyone he feels is bucking his mandates in any way; that may be another drawback for some. If you take the course, you’ll fare better if you act like a humble customer in the kitchen of the Soup Nazi for the duration. Act like there has never been anyone else dispensing good information on the craft or business of screenwriting, even if you damn well know better. You can still learn something valuable if you are open to it. But “it” won’t get you anywhere, that’s really up to you, and most screenwriters fail to get much of anything produced, period. Most members of the WGA, who got to be members by having x hours of movies and TV produced from their writing, don’t get work in any given year. For the incredibly vast number of writers, the word “career” is a misnomer when it comes to what they regard as their art or craft. It is more of a calling, really, for most, than what is normally referred to as a “career,” and a profession for a laughably small few. Most students of screenwriting from ANY teaching source will quit and/or fail at some point, especially if their motive for doing it is the thought that it will make them wealthy. It happens, but people get struck by lightning, occasionally, as well. That doesn’t make us all lightning rods.

      1. I think that pretty much nails it, Ron. Hal comes from a corporate training background and his modus operandi reflects that. More instructor feedback would mean higher fees.

      2. I’m starting the ProSeries today. I just read most of the reviews above. Some I believe are spending too much time reviewing instead of writing. A lot of people whine, I can’t understand what expectations they have. I signed up for what I believe is the biggest struggle for writers: discipline. If I can get into the loop of writing up to two hours a day I will be satisfied. Getting feedback from my peers instead of the so called instructor? No problem. Either way, you will know if you are producing good material or not. If you can’t figure that out on your own, you are in the wrong field. Those who felt they wasted their money, actually did, all on their own accord. Damn good writing comes from within, no one on earth can give you that gift. I believe taking a rigorous course can help you dig out any talent you may have that is buried underneath lack of passion or determination. I’m using the course as a shovel. Your comment gave me satisfaction and confidence in my choice. Cheers Ronbrassfield.

      3. Thank you, Paul. It sounds like you’re ready to do the work, and you’re one of the people who can be well-served by the experience. Good luck!

  49. Paul- Few of the comments were “whining” in nature, in my opinion. In fact, many of the commentators mentioned that they started off with the same, or even more, positive and hopeful mindset as yourself. The difference between our comments, and yours, is that ours were made post-Series, while yours is made without the exposure to anything but sales pitches at this point.

    Talk to us when you’re done.

  50. Paul, who exactly whined in these posts? I think we honestly gave insight to others about OUR OWN experience. So that’s whining? I also think that you said it correctly when you said that the course could be used as a shovel—and now I don’t mean to refer to you or your writing when I write this–but from what I read and experienced a lot was shoveled, specifically the stuff that gets mucked out of horse stalls. Sorry, but that’s what it was.

    As for the, “if you can’t figure it out on your own, you’re in the wrong field” comment….my best screenwriting instructor to date is fond of saying, “you can’t judge your own (you know, the stuff that get’s mucked out of stalls)….” and it’s true. You always need a different reader’s perspective.

    Regarding the “good writing comes from within, no one on earth can give you that gift….” Well, talent comes from within. CRAFT, yes, someone else can teach you that. Unfortunately, as many have attested to here, it didn’t come for us through ScreenwritingU.

    I wish you the best of luck, but I have to agree with Shark. “Talk to us when you’re done.” For those of us who are writing professionally now, we have a fair bit more experience and distance from the days of getting our knuckles rapped by Hal’s ruler and none of us seem to have changed our opinions.

  51. Well, I signed up for a rewrite class but I should have read these reviews first. The first assignment tells us to post materials on a forum. I have asked for the link to post to the forum for 3 days now. Still no answer. And of course, there is a refund we can get if we request it within 3 days.

    I will be requesting and getting a full refund. This is a tough industry but it’s worse when you’ve got people taking your money and not fulfilling their end of the deal. Business is business.

    1. Hal Croasmun’s profile is on IMDB. I suggest you take a look. His background is executive training in commercial-industrial settings. For comparison, see the profile of Robert McKee, one of the best-known names in screenwriting instruction, and the author of STORY. Someone doesn’t have to know everything to teach, just more than the student. I highly recommend taking all of Croasmun’s free courses.

      1. You’re right- his experience is in creating and marketing educational programs. That’s what this program is- just another educational program. He’s not a screenwriter, nor a producer, nor a filmmaker of any kind. He makes a lot of money selling the program that is, in fact, largely self-taught, self-monitored with feedback from classmates only. The perfect “class”, don’t you think (for the program director, for sure)? Look at all the comments regarding his complete lack of communication with “students” during and after the course. Btw, the “free” courses? They’re just two-hour infomercials on the paid program. Most of the information shared in those free webinars is basic common knowledge, but by all means, sign up for it if you choose. Comparing one bad record with another bad record in an effort to make the other one look good, is not the best strategy, actually, but your comparison to McKee and “STORY” is somewhat apropos. IMO, McKee is an overrated “guru”, and the book is a complete waste of one’s time.

      2. So…. no qualifications to teach how write salable screenplays and then how to sell them.

        Robert McKee is a world-renowned best seller, why would you compare him to Hal Who? If you call Hal qualified, you call me qualified. Which means I can charge hundreds to thousands of dollars for “classes” I don’t even show up to. Considering the reviews above, I would highly recommend to stay away. And secondly I highly recommend ignoring your embarrassing comment. It doesn’t convince, sorry. Anyone signing up for this “university” and paying that much is nothing but a gullible person who doesn’t know much about how this industry works. You may be one or you may be Hal himself. It’s one of the two. Doesn’t matter.

        Now that we know I’m just as qualified, anyone want a course? It’s just $959.99, AND you get to sell your screenplay 30 days tops after you graduate!


  52. Oh please, people….let’s get the facts straight here. Although I’m no fan of McKee’s cursing theatrics and shock factor of his seminars, I do have his book and refer to it at certain intervals as I do feel it contains a lot of good information. He does indeed have a Master’s degree in theater and was a PhD candidate in film studies from a midwestern university, I believe Michigan or Wisconsin, or someplace around there. Anyway, he did not complete his thesis, hence no degree. Most of what is in “Story” apparently comes from the thesis work and also a playwriting text that was used in the Master’s degree program which I have read and which is brilliant. It was also published eons ago and long gone out of print, but the gist is contained in “Story” and that, I feel, is where the real value comes from in McKee’s spiel.

    Anyway, going further he has worked as a story analyst in Hollywood and sold scripts that were never produced. To me that doesn’t matter — it makes no difference to my writing career what he ever did or didn’t sell, but what I can learn from his writing / teaching. The material he teaches is useful, no doubt. But the discussion here is about the ProSeries….and we don’t need to belabor the point. The above reviews give opinions of Hal and the ProSeries in either direction, so now you be your own judge.

    1. I would agree with you about the ProSeries and Hal, except it all sounds like a scam to say the least, not like a real screenwriting course. It’s not just the non-existent qualifications. It’s things like that outrageous price for things you can get online for free or for MUCH less, the implying that you’ll sell your screenplay by the end of the course, the no-show to his own classes and giving the “blind leading the blind” routine, the dirty selling tactics, the teacher’s pets, the worthless free whatever this is, the list of so-called clients who landed jobs and sales even though it’s not close to the numbers in the real world… should I continue? It’s got SCAM all over it. Some of the comments above really stood out by giving specific examples of how this operation operates. It’s sickening.

      I do agree with you about the last sentence you said, but I would like to rephrase It: The above reviews and the writing on the wall give you all the information you need to know. If you still can’t see that it’s an exploitation machine, please go ahead and pay $1000 to decide for yourselves.

    2. Savvy: You’re right. I’ve read McKee’s book, and it’s one of the best. And it’s only $20. His resume, while thin, is not important to the learner. What’s important is that an instructor knows the craft.

      RE ProU: I’d advise people to shop around. Check out UCLA, USC, LSU. And there are online courses by the hundreds. Just remember this: They say ‘you only get what you pay for.’ The truth is sometimes you get a lot less. It’s hard to beat free.

  53. THANK YOU ALL, regardless of your take on the value of the class! I was skeptical when I received rote emails. I too had a problem when I was told yesterday that I was ‘lucky’ to receive a scholarship with a starting date of March 19th when it is now April 8th. Tried to contact thru website and reply to emails with no response. But then I didn’t expect one within the 12 (overnight) hours between communications. Yet this morning, at 6:00 am, I received an automated email wondering why I hadn’t paid yet. (They did give me 24 hours to pay in the application for the scholarship.)

    I have written 6 scripts and even sent out scripts in response to requests from query letters I had written. Those reputable producers gave me invaluable feedback. I received a call from one of them to discuss! So the sections of ProSeries that interested me most was concept and marketing. Many of you with writing experience have said those sections are the best part of the class. I have chosen not to spend the $550 for the class.

    Has anyone since found the best books on concept since posting on this thread? Also, if any of you, who found value in concept and marketing, are willing to impart any of the wisdom learned that would be appreciated. Why should you? I don’t know, maybe you’re ok with it, maybe you’re not. It’s all good. Please don’t rip on me for asking. I’ve read more than once – “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”
    Thanks again,

      1. You are a gem, jorgekafkazar! Looks like reading la-screenwriter website will fill my spare time this weekend!

  54. This is not a class as of 4/2016 – this is a bunch of intro lectures and pdf documents with assignments and examples. If you’re looking for feedback on your assignments this is not the place for you. You only get comments on your work by other students who know about as much as you, but not by the “teachers” who are supposed to have the insight. I think they offer some valuable tools here, but the cost is way too high for a few pamphlets that they should be selling for around $19.95 at most.

  55. ProSeries – Totally worth it! Great insight into writing – great skills that take you quickly to the heart of things. Structure that comes naturally from this “skill sets” that are learned. I agree with many people here that some knowledge is good to have first and perhaps a class or two before the ProSeries. Do the free webinars – great taste of what is to come and what does come is a thousand times better. I finally have scripts that I feel I can send out to get read.

  56. Update: of Screenwriting U. To be fair, after I complained a bunch of times about what I felt was less than truthful advertising, they gave me my money back, but either intentionally or not, allowed me to continue to access the class lectures etc. I think if they were more transparent about their process, and let potential clients know upfront that they were not going to get any feedback or notes on their assignments from any teacher, just other students, then I would really not have anything negative to say about the course. Had they been more communicative about their class process, I most certainly would not have signed up for their program. But even though, I do think it’s too expensive for what you get, I can afford it, and knowing what I know now, I would probably have taken the class anyway. And I will probably take a couple of more classes from them.

  57. I’ve just discovered the LA-Screenwriter website, and saw this thread about ScreenwritingU.

    I’ve been getting their / his (Is it only one guy, Hal Croasmun?) email ads for at least a year.

    A friend recently started taking the Aaron Sorkin class, and I was wondering if anyone has taken both and if they have a recommendation.

    Also, from what I could see, Hal Croasmun has not had much screenwriting produced. Is there much thought / conversation given on this website as to why a screenwriting teacher hasn’t been a successful screenwriter?

    1. The Sorkin “class”, from what I understand, is just a a series of recordings of his six classes for $90. Many instructors- Truby, McKee, Hauge, etc.- maximize their income by selling the recordings after putting on the live class. IMO, Sorkin is the best there is, so I’d pay a helluva lot more for that. There’s no comparison as for the presentation, however. The Croasmun class is 8 months of weekly assignments, and steady interaction with other members of the class- however none with the “instructor”, which is fine, as he knows as much about screenwriting as I know about Quantum Physics.

      There are thousands of examples where people who’ve been unsuccessful in their field, but have been very successful in teaching others how to be successful in it. He’s done neither. The very, very few who have been “successful” (and that’s a relative term) would have been so without his class. They are talented, hard-working writers. Some others think that, because they have an “option” they’re somehow the next James Cameron. They’re not, They stand in a circle and pat the back of the person in front of them. That’s the mentality of the Alumni. I know, because I am one, and one of the few who has had the balls to say it to his face and tell others. Yes, I’ve been blackballed by him and his very few connections, but trust me, I’ve made inroads without his help.

      Hal is a skilled salesman. What did he sell before this? Educational systems. What is this program? An educational system. It teaches NOTHING about writing a spec screenplay. Buy Trottier’s “The Screenwriter’s Bible” for $20, and you’ll have everything you’ll ever need to know on how to properly write a spec feature of TV script.

    2. Sunshine: Briefly, ScreenwritingU is (near as I can tell) a 3-man outfit, all part-time, Yes, Hal’s imdb resume is very slim, but that’s true of several well-known screenwriting gurus. He’s a lecturer and developer of instruction systems. I’m writing novels, now, mostly, so I’m done with courses.

      True, books are the most cost effective way to learn the craft, especially used ones. There are umptillions of those. A close second: community college courses. The least cost effective imho would be USC, UCLA, or LMU, EXCEPT FOR their networking opportunities, which can’t be quantified. ScreenwritingU is somewhere in the middle.

      I’ve taken most of Hal’s free courses. I’ve taken a couple more at a discount to fill in specific gaps in my knowledge/skill. I have no regrets. Here’s a free, fast, non-interactive, Socratic course in screenwriting: ask yourself: Why is Jorge writing novels? Why are there so many used screenwriting books for sale?

      1. I have to ask: Would you have paid the full price for the courses you’ve taken?

        Sure, it’s easy not to have regrets when you get something for free or cheap. But that doesn’t say anything about the worth of the gift.

        To refer to your comment about other gurus, this is another thing I can’t help but roll my eyes at:

        1) The well-known gurus you’re talking about are well-known for a reason. Take Robert McKee, for example. “Story” is basically the bible of many screenwriters for a reason. He gives lectures all around the world and people pay, as in the full price, to listen to him. Like the other well-known gurus, he’s done something meaningful to deserve it. Something that’s proven. It’s not about resume. In Hal’s case, he’s got nothing. He didn’t do nothing. Why would you pay anything? Why would you take his word? Can you trust someone who never succeeded in the field to aim you toward your success?

        2) In Hal’s courses, you’re not even trusting him to aim you, you’re trusting OTHER ASPIRING WRITERS, most of them came to learn exactly what you came to learn.

        So to come back to my first question: would you pay for something like that?
        If the answer is, “no, it’s not worth paying for, it’s only good if it’s free,” then I think that’s the answer everybody should hear and that’s all that matters.

  58. As stated prior, if you look at Robert McKee’s work or even John Truby or plenty of other screenwriting consultants and story editors, they are not the best writers or even skilled writers. Structure can be its own art form. Teaching can be its own skill.

    I have a designer friend who can’t talk about design well, she does it instinctively. I study design theory and have less experience than she does professionally, but would be more qualified to help others bring out good design work and develop their own taste and style. I have helped several friends with design over the years. The best art educators are not usually the best artists at least commercially that is why they examine art education and sometimes become the best educators.

    Motivation is important. Understanding how to structure things for educational purposes is important. There is an adage that has been used negatively for a long time ‘Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach.’ It comes from an observation that the best teachers are not always the best doers. Those who love writing and are skilled at it, tend not to have the time or energy to really invest in teaching others, especially when their careers are hot.

    The best relationship Gurus are often failed people with relationships. There is the old adage ‘the shoemaker has no shoes’. Truby’s work developed after he tried writing and failed at it miserably, but he loved structure.

    Executives in the business may have a lot to teach and they are not writers, but they know the business. They know what works and they know the customers. If you look at Fashion Designers for women’s clothing, often they are men, with no experience wearing dresses. They make them though.

    Skills are an interesting thing. Coaches are often not the best athletes, but they love the sport. I don’t want the best screenwriter as a teacher, although maybe the best producer, someone who is used to helping screenwriters develop good content and bringing out the best in them, or a coach used to coaching screenwriters.

    Natalie Goldberg is a well respected and influential writing teacher that started developing her teaching about writing before she had written.

    I have my concerns about Hal and there are legitimate concerns about him from what people are saying. But there is also reason to be legitimately interested in what they have to offer based on the positive reviews which are not simply positive, but are critical as well. The exercises sound legitimately challenging and like they would bring out interesting work.

    I myself have been exploring screenwriting for a while and struggling to break through in terms of producing content and just doing it, so the structure I think may be what I need, but I may start with some smaller things and do it a bit later after reading this. I don’t know if I am up for the challenge coming off the summer and with the holidays coming. May wait until the new year and put a bit more experience and knowledge under my belt first since it sounds like that may have me more ready to receive the most from an investment.

    1. First off, That’s a weak explanation, I have to say. Not convinced.
      Second off, not very believable. You’re either Hal or you’re speaking for him.

  59. I have taken the intro- lesson of the Pro-Series #62 and already my writing has improved 10%. By the end of the six month course, I expect my writing to be at least 1000% better and much more salable to Producers. The cost is irrelevant to future rewards. Best, William Sowles

  60. Well, I think the most pertinent comment here is that this thread continues five years after it started. That alone is telling.

    I started the SU program and, like another above, opted to copy out all of the courses before it ended to have for reference. And then I dropped off their grid because of the lack of realistic interaction between students (forget the instructors). How many times have I referenced it since? Zero. Not because it is bad information. I just have much better information available from a variety of sources, principle among them being the UCLA program, basic and advanced. UCLA worth the money? Yes, because I made invaluable connections. Was SU worth the money? In my personal opinion, decidedly not – because there is no personal interaction (email exchanges only are a pretty cold channel of communications).

    You will NOT learn how to write a screenplay in any class or from any book. The truth, while trite perhaps, is still the truth: Butt. Seat. Write. Daily. Books and classes give you information to utilize in practice but only practice will teach you how to write. But that alone will get you more or less nowhere. What you write must be exposed to critique – live critique where you can interact with those doing the critique. That is how and where you learn whether what you are writing is working or not. That is why the UCLA program was worth the money. I know I can go ‘into a room’ and handle the notes I’ll get if they are considering buying my work. I’ve been through that wringer fifty times with solid writers and produced professionals guiding the comments.

    Oh, and if the ads I continue to receive from SU, half a decade on, are any indication, the cost has gone WAY UP! without any corresponding improvement in the product. If you are going to spend that kind of money, PLEASE, get into UCLA or some similar program where you get live feed back.

    But you don’t need to do either (though the networking opportunities are extraordinary). Find or form a local group of screenwriters, quickly – though gently please – weed out those who have no business being in the room (like the one who started critiquing, without reading further, every word in every sentence. Ugh!?), and then read and comment on one another’s works. There is no substitute for this. None. Sure, use coverage services when you are ready. And, no, that is not after finishing your first script. Nor maybe your fifth. Don’t do that until you’ve rewritten a script many times to improve it to its highest possible level.

    And if you are not rewriting your work, you haven’t started writing yet. No one is good enough to get it write the first time. Well, maybe Aaron Sorkin – but how many scripts has he written? Hundreds. Like I said, practice.

    And, yes, buy the best of the best books. You have to choose which ones those are because it is different for each of us. Though the bible is an essential for all, including produced professionals.

    But here is the hard truth – and why the individual above is writing a novel instead of a screenplay – your chances of ever selling a screenplay are extremely remote. E-X-T-R-E-M-E-L-Y. The best the vast majority will ever accomplish is get an option on a script, for a fairly small sum of money. And getting that is a distant possibility at best. Very, very distant.

    You have a much better chance if you fund and produce your own work – but then you have to get it into the market. That might be more difficult than actually selling a screenplay. And, of course, you have to write something worth being produced. And trust me on this – you are the worst judge in the world as to whether or not your own screenplay is worth producing or not. Get high level professional coverage before doing so. And that costs some serious coin and you have to do your due diligence about the coverage service you use to ensure they are qualified. We’re talking many, many hundreds of dollars. The cheap coverage is cheap for a reason. But if you are desperate to see your work up on the big screen, that is the only sure path. Personally, I satisfied that urge by writing and producing a couple of shorts that got shown on big screens. Got that out of my system and am now back focusing on writing the best damned script I possibly can. And lots, and lots of rewriting ahead.

    And, by the way, once you know what you are doing – again, in my personal opinion – the actual writing of pages is a very small part of the process. Making all the decisions about plot and character and the conflict that makes it all work is where all the real work lies.

    Screenwriting is really, really hard work. That is why the ones at the top get paid so well to do it. It is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt to do. Yes, writing a script is absurdly easy on one level. That’s why there are hundreds of thousands written every year. And most of them are not worth the cost of a ream of paper. Not because writer’s don’t pour their hearts and souls into the work. Of course, we all do that. But writing something worth a studio buying and all those actors and technicians producing it and the marketing folks doing there magic and, by far most important, it being worth an audience members money and roughly two hours of their life – THEIR LIFE! – is right next door to impossible.

    So, before you move forward, ask yourself, are you willing to go to battle with attempting to get great at the impossible? Because if you are not there are a lot of better ways to spend your time and your money. Yes, I struggle on toward that goal – but with the understanding of what I am up against.

    My personal experience is most ‘screenwriters’ are after the quick reward and won’t last long against the realities of the business – unless one of two things are true. One, they are delusional and keep on going despite all the signals they are wasting their time – and infinitely worse other peoples invaluable time. Or two, they are really good at it.

    I just hope I’m not in that first group. Like I said, I am the worst judge of that. Only getting real, live feedback from others will answer that question. Well, answer it further than it has been answered so far.

    So – back to the original point of this thread. Without live feedback do you think it is possible for the SU program to be worth your money? Your money. Your decision. Just my shekels worth.

  61. Thank you to all who gave their feedback, positive, negative and in between. It made me realize that the long pauses in the free webinars and apparent spotty presentation were not due to “technical difficulties”. Also why received no reply to email queries re their program.

    Decided against the course. Agree that UCLA’s Extension program is excellent for screenwriting & worth the expense for basics & advance techniques. I wanted Marketing & Networking information. Two (1) hour phone conversations not persuasive. Will look elsewhere.

  62. If you want script consultant, look elsewhere. This is not a feedback class. It’s also not a structure class. You can find a structure book out there for very little. This class assumes you know the basics.

    This class is all about getting meaty brainstorming techniques for scenes. That’s what this has that many others don’t have. I believe there are 50 techniques you can use to brainstorm lines of dialogue. Ways to layer in subtext on all levels of story. Ways to structure a scene to have greater impact.

    You will not learn all of it in the first go. Much will have you frustrated because it’s stuff you’ve never seen before. And you won’t be happy with a lot of it because you aren’t going to be fully experienced with the processes to really nail how they are used.

    You will be forced to write scene that are totally not right for your story and they will suck. But the script is not what is important. The skills are.

    You will not get interaction with professionals until after you get into the Alumni. The Alumni is where you can then talk about the parts of the proseries that you had trouble with and get feedback from working screenwriters who are eager to help. People who aren’t eager to help other with the skills, are not welcome there. You don’t get trolled or attacked.

    Fundamentally, if the training process is good enough for NASA, it must be pretty good. The process for developing the class was about asking something like 500 top level Hollywood producers the question “What makes you buy a screenplay?” And the answers were correlated and put into lesson form. It’s not just 1 screenwriter’s experience and knowledge put into a book. Even though Wordplayer and John August are awesome, they aren’t the collective wealth of knowledge like 500 top level professionals.

    The class is an email every few days. Maybe 3 pages of text. It’s a simple explanation of a few small techniques. Then it’s a practice session where you practically use the techniques. That’s pretty much all you can expect. There might be typos in the lessons and some glitches here and there with maybe missing emails here and there or something like that but in then end it’s all sorted out and the techniques you have at your disposal will be highly valuable.

    The real awesomeness is simplifying the proseries techniques down into your own process, and then realizing how awesome the techniques can really be. With the other Alumni, you can start to see awesome things in the lessons that you missed.

    I have never seen anywhere that gives the meat of scene writing like screenwritingu. Or if they do, the costs are so ridiculous that they are not worth it.

    I’m a working writer with roughly 2 paid writing assignments a year. It’s paid for itself and all the other classes that are available. The information I have learned is something I use on a daily basis in every level of story.

    I recommend you do the Free Rewrite Teleconference and the Free teleconference about the Mini Movie Method. You do those 2 calls and you’ll have a massive advantage with knowing the various levels of Story and the fundamental basics of the most common sense structure I know of. And all it will cost you is maybe $2 on Skype or free if you have free international calls.

    I have NEVER regretted doing the Proseris. And I did mine in 2007. I was bitterly disappointed with so much about the class like lack of feedback and how it messed my script up to the max, but it has been one of the best decisions of my life.

    Go into it knowing that it’s about learning and that you won’t get it all straight away and it might not be glitch free but in the end, the information is invaluable.

    1. I am taking the current course and have started to wonder if I am hitting a brick wall, in that the instructions are not clear and I am uncomfortable asking a lot of questions. Also, the sequence seems to be jerky, as one moment we are elevating our loglines in prep for a coaching call, and in another we are being asked to write query letters about our ‘script’ (which may even imply that there are more than one level of training in the course)…so a bit puzzling…but on the bright side, I am generating a ton of ideas and have 10 I have tested on family and friends that I like…

      1. If you’re getting ideas from the course, then you’re moving ahead. Press on. Ask questions; don’t be shy. Remember, you’ll eventually be in a meeting with a producer or agent and you’d better have gotten over your shyness before you get there. Practice bravery. Ask.

        If course terms are unclear, or if course links are broken, look the information up on the Internerd. Take all of the free podcast courses that Hal offers. You pretty much get out of courses based on how much you put into them. Set an example for others. Be persistent.

        Get ahead of the instructor enough to finish a script, if only for a 15-minute film. Don’t try to make it perfect; it’s just for practice. Very important: find other people to bounce ideas and drafts off besides your friends and relatives. Get a mentor–someone who knows more than you do. Succeed,

  63. Well in PS63 now we are getting philosophy tips while waiting for our coaching calls. This is cool and a nice break, except that the tips seem to be appropriate for marketing someone who has scripts ready to go and something of a network, whereas the course has only to this point discussed ‘high concepts’ . So I am tempted to find that frustrating, as all this info will be of use later, but I would prefer to be focusing on screenwriting now.

    1. Is it that same, tired “Drive Your Own Story”, and “Whatever the situation, an A-list screenwriter was there at some point”? Same as seven years ago- but you’re lucky. We received ours as part of a marketing letter for an upcoming online presentation to sell the course. We received more than twenty of these email/commercials. He may not know a thing about screenwriting, but he knows how to market, spam and create “educational materials”! That’s ALL this is- marketing educational materials. Don’t confuse it with actually LEARNING how to write a screenplay. That you will NOT learn.

      1. Once the module on outlining started, it seemed that things were starting to move forward proactively. However, I had not had my coaching call yet, so did not know which concept to pick. I was told to pick the one I liked and use it as a ‘learning script’, so I did that.

        Yesterday, my slotted time for the call, I phoned in every 5 minutes only to get voice mail. I did this for a half-hour and then emailed support. I was told that Cheryl was ‘caught in traffic’ and I should reschedule. Not happy….

        So I decided to start a new blog to share my experience…:-)

  64. There are 2 tasks anyone considering a screenwriting course should complete. Task 1, Understand the course. Task 2, Ask yourself what you expect to get from the course.
    Almost all of the negative comments here about the Pro Series are from people who have failed to correctly complete 1 or both of these tasks.

    As the name suggests the Pro Series is not for the beginner or novice. You’re not going to learn about formatting and what the 3 Act structure is and is not the equivalent to a college course where someone grades your paper and pats your back. This is a course for serious writers looking to take their writing ability to the level of a professional writer.

    As Steve mentioned above, Hal developed this course by interviewing in excess of 500 Hollywood producers, agents, managers & studio executives, asking the questions we all want to know the answer to. What do you look for in a script? What’s the difference from a script you pass on to one you love? etc, etc, etc. Despite what others have said this insider knowledge is not available in any book or course, the majority of which are written by people who have little hands-on industry experience.

    The course itself is extremely well structured, and is laid out in sequential chapters that take you chronologically from developing an initial concept to a completing your screenplay. As you progress through the chapters of the course you will have assignments every 3-4 days, making it a full-time commitment for the 6 month duration.

    Is it worth it?
    I can only testify to my own experience on the Pro Series. I shared the same concerns that initiated this discussion. I was obviously skeptical about the $1100 fee, but after some research (Task 1), I realized that this was unlike any other online course due to the fact it was created based on information from real industry professionals. I also decided that it was the best option for someone like myself who lived in the UK, but was determined to be a screenwriter (Task 2).

    To say my writing improved is an understatement. It improved exponentially, something that was reinforced by the 1st script I wrote after the course. I sent it to Script Shark for coverage and feedback on what to improve and to my amazement received a Consider rating, something only 5% of their submissions achieved. Because of this my script was entered into their scouting programme, sent to agents, managers, execs etc. In just 6 months my writing had improved to the point that a Hollywood studio reader thought it worthy to forward on. How d’ya like them apples?

    1 script and a year later and I saw that ScreenwritingU had developed a new 18 month Master Screenwriting course for Pro Series alumni only. This was a very different course, designed to help those who now knew how to write a professional script to get it into the hands of producers and get it made.

    The outcome of this course has been even more amazing, and has seen me receive a significant number of script requests from Producers and Managers for my most recent screenplay. While I’m still waiting for my 1st sale and securing representation, I know it is close because every action I take is a professional one. That and the fact a significant number of Master course alumni have already sold or optioned their scripts.

    If like most you don’t have a relative in the “Industry” then the Pro Series really should be the next step on your journey. It was the best decision and money I’ve spent.

  65. The instructor didn’t show up for my first ProSeries Voice Conference; I had set aside three hours for this on a Saturday, unfortunately. Hope this isn’t a dark omen for the rest of the course.

    1. You’d be better off getting signed up for the new on-line screenwriting course at the Los Angeles Performing Arts Conservatory. or call the head of the school who was one of only tow or three of Syd Fields students he authorized to teach his method! Natalia Lazarus 310-924-9804
      Good Luck. And I hate to say this, but I’ve tried to work with a few Screenwriting U grads and I have to say that they are clueless as to the real world of writing.

  66. Savvy is right: excessive cost for value, outdated material, glitchy website delivery of material, unqualified feedback IF YOU GET ANY (i personally contacted 54 people in my class, 2 responded) Its a moneygrab selling the dream.

  67. I decided to leave the program because I felt very uncomfortable and I’m working with my bank on getting my money back. A couple of things is that I did their pro series and they said on the first day that you hear everybody and you can communicate with him, but HAL was on the voice recording.

    And a few other programs, they’ve charged me the wrong price and they were saying things like they were on a sugar high and other stuff. He’s unwilling to help you out and say that he’s not the technician of the site so you have to wait a couple of days or not get a response at all.

    A lot of his assignments are very mediocre. Some of the answers to his fill out our the best way to do wellness program is “complete the program, “the best way to write a thriller is with “a character map “the best way to succeed in this program is “to follow the writing assignments. “And he says this in a very bold and self-righteous way., Sometimes giggling and chuckling as he talks.

    I do have a lot of mistrust and I would not recommend this

  68. You guys just saved me $1,600; I was LITERALLY about to sign up for the ProSeries AND the Binge Worthy TV Bootcamp — though my gut feeling that it may not keep what it promises was still there.

    I took two of Hal’s freebie classes: 1) the analysis of The Americans and 2) “how to sell your screenplay to Hollywood” and from the 1.5 to 2 hour (recorded) calls, only about 30-45 mins had something to do with the actual topic. The rest is just jibber jabber about how this is just “the tip of the iceberg” (apparently his favorite phrase) and how everything else is taught in the courses.

    My recommendation:!

    Stage32 in a nutshell:

    1) it’s like Facebook for people in the entertainment industry founded by Richard Botto (screenwriter and producer) — follow him on twitter and Instagram at @rbwalksintoabar; he’s got SUPER USEFUL videos where he interviews producers LIVE and shares valuable information that most people won’t tell you!

    2) free (at least it was when I signed up) unless you sign up for the writer’s room (I think $40/mo)

    3) TONS of webinars (live or on demand) for $49 each and sometimes have $ or % discounts for on-demand webinars or early bird sign up discounts for live webinars

    4) the webinars are hosted by people who have been in the industry upwards of 10 years (but don’t quote me on that); Chris Moore and Anna Henry (used to be an exec at CBS) are just two of them.

    5) some webinars are interactive where you can communicate with the host (very useful for logline webinars). Most webinars are only Go to meeting sessions but there’s a Q&A at the end of each

    6) each webinar is being recorded and the recording is emailed to you within 2 days tops and you can save it as a video file on your computer.

    The list goes on and on. Just check out the website. There’s some bad publicity about stage32 as well, but I think it’s awesome.

    Since I’m not a professional screenwriter (I’m primarily an actress), I have to say that everything I know about screenwriting, I know from reading screenplays and stage32 webinars. The knowledge on how to write a series bible came SOLELY from the stage32 webinar by Charlie Charbonneau (I hope spelled his last name correctly).

    * disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with stage32 in any way; just a writer (or actress, for that matter) who passes on information she thinks could be useful.

    I actually tried to keep it short. I failed 😉

  69. I was thinking of taking the ScreenwritingU class, but after much thought (and after reading many of these responses), I have decided against it. I get emails from them all the time, and they claim that you get ‘guided marketing’ as well as ‘building a network of over 1,000 producers’! Did any of the people leaving their positive replies here even get one script produced from that class? Probably not. I became a better screenwriter simply by studying the scripts of some of the best movies ever produced, and I already have a manager/agent. I don’t even find Hal Croasmun to be that good of a speaker, from his free conference calls. Definitely passing on this.

    1. A very good resource for screenwriters are the screenwriting classes from Los Angeles Performing Arts Conservatory and right now during Covid they’re online..
      Natalia was one of few protege’s that of Syd Field’s that he actually approved of and has continued to teach his methods and contributes still to his newsletter.

  70. Signed up for a re-write class beginning January. After confirming receipt of the money, I have heard nothing from ScreenwritingU despite countless e-mails both to Hal and their supposed “support” site. Am now asking for a refund but am not optimistic.

    Have read of others having similar problems too.

    I’m not suggesting malintent on their part but until they get their act together I would stay well clear.

    If I do get a refund I will re-post here. Otherwise assume I am still waiting.

  71. I meant to post this years ago. ProSeries 51 was indeed vey autopilot. But I stand by that if you are willing to do the work it can benefit you as it did me.

    I’ll be real though – The real prize is MasterClass. Ya, it’s twice the price, but there is much more student to teacher relation because it’s for those serious writers only.

    You legit have to PASS the ProSeries to get into MasterClass. That means completing 80% of the assignments to their satisfaction.

    This isn’t for everyone. It’s not classroom learning so if you want that don’t bother with this. But for ME…Both classes were well worth the money.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑