Jan 17 - Mar 20
Screenwriting: Core Elements (Self-paced | 9 Weeks)
Registration is open until December 21, 2021
Trey Ellis

Course applications now being accepted. Applications close 11:59 p.m. PT, December 20, 2021.

Acceptances start after the deadline, and occur on a rolling basis.

Create a treatment for your screenplay idea in nine weeks with an experienced screenwriter as your guide. In this introductory-level self-paced course, you will take this important first step in crafting your screenplay and learn a set of tools that will get you from concept to treatment.

Along the way you will:

  • learn the fundamentals of theme and establish yours for your screenplay.
  • develop and reveal your protagonist, antagonist, and supporting characters.
  • gain a command of the three-act structure and an understanding of when to break away from it.
  • establish conflict and obstacles.
  • construct the world and tone for your screenplay.
  • layer emotion and emotional truth into your treatment.
  • break through your own obstacles as you revise your work.
  • understand how to take notes and approach a rewrite.

This course is ideal for:

  • First-time screenwriters with a great idea for a film and who could use help with structure, world-building, character development, and deadlines 
  • Novice writers who have a first draft but want to further hone their structure or character development

“Trey Ellis's lectures are awesome, and the feedback from the homework is really motivating.” - Santosh D., Kathmandu, Nepal


Sundance Collab’s self-paced courses are unique in that they provide flexibility to complete the work on your own time, but also within a structured timeline that helps you to advance your project. You will travel through the course with a cohort of screenwriters like yourself, and are given assignments with due dates during key weeks of the course.

Here’s how this course works:

  • Each week you will view pre-recorded lectures by the instructor structured around key topics and analyze clips from feature-length films.
  • Post-Video Activities after each session are designed to apply concepts to your own project, and move your idea through to the next stage.
  • The course advisor will give you feedback on elements of your project in key developmental stages: your Action Summary (week 4) and your outline (week 7).
  • You will have the opportunity to join optional cohort group Office Hours, hosted by a course advisor at critical points in the course, to ask questions and discuss concepts.

The course includes resources such as screenplays, beat sheets and outlines for feature films. All lessons are available on demand for review for one year after you complete the course. If you have any questions about the course, please email collab_courses@sundance.org.

Sundance Collab provides accommodations and support services to participants with disabilities. Accommodations and services are designed to meet the needs of each participant. Please email us at accessibility@sundance.org to arrange for services.


Click the yellow “Apply Now” button to start your course application. Sundance Collab also offers a limited number of need-based scholarships. If you wish to apply for a course scholarship, you will be invited to access the scholarship application after completing the course application. 

Trey Ellis is an Emmy and Peabody winning filmmaker, American Book Award Winning novelist, playwright, essayist and Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Most recently, he is an Executive Producer of the HBO documentary TRUE JUSTICE: BRYAN STEVENSON'S FIGHT FOR EQUALITY and last year’s KING IN THE WILDERNESS also for HBO. more...

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