Screenwriting: From Outline to First Act

"The tangible progress I made in my screenplay through this course once again highlighted how Sundance remains on the vanguard of fostering new voices."

     —Bronwen C., USA

Sundance Collab offers a robust collection of online courses in the Sundance spirit of amplifying your independent voice as a storyteller. Join our global community to hone your craft, network with other creators, and develop career strategies to help you navigate the film and television industry.

The first act of your screenplay is critically important to get past gatekeepers and to grab your reader’s attention - whether it’s an assistant, an agent, an executive, or talent. Learn how to give shape and form to the first act of your screenplay with an experienced screenwriter as your guide. In this intensive live, online workshop, you will complete the first act of your screenplay through assignments and small group workshops.

Recorded lectures will be watched outside of class sessions, highlighting successful screenplays’ first acts, illustrating how they move from script to screen. In your section, you will attend live workshop sessions with an advisor and a small group of nine to ten writers. Together you will discuss core concepts and workshop your writing and those of your peers, working to complete your first act. The course concludes with a one-on-one mentoring session with your advisor giving feedback on your project.

By the end of the course, you will:

  • sharpen your understanding of screenplay sequences and structure, specifically the first act, inciting incident, and the key dramatic question explored in your script.
  • understand how to establish the rules of your fictional world.
  • discover how to build and sustain tension.
  • develop your characters, their dramatic problems, and worthy antagonists.
  • learn how to give notes to your peers and process notes from your peers and advisors.

This course is ideal for:

  • writers who have completed an outline of their feature-length screenplay and are looking for advisor and peer guidance in writing their first act.
  • writers who have completed a full draft of their feature-length screenplay, but want to workshop their first act and further develop the setup of the story and characters.

Writers should be able to attend workshop sessions live online and dedicate time to their work and the work of their peers. Aside from the weekly recorded lectures and workshops, writers can expect to spend time doing the following:

  • writing their own first act
  • reading the first act of selected produced screenplays throughout the course
  • reading two or three of their peers' first acts weekly (~30 screenplay pages each)

To apply, you must have completed an outline or treatment for the feature-length screenplay you plan to work on in this course. We recommend that you complete Sundance Collab’s Screenwriting: Core Elements prior to taking this course. Applicants should only apply to one section

Space is limited. Applications for this course are considered as they are received and applicants are accepted on a rolling basis until the course is full or the deadline has passed, whichever comes first.

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 to arrange for services.