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The Screenwriters Toolkit

Lesson 8 of 21

Student Scene Breakdowns


The Screenwriters Toolkit

Lesson 8 of 21

Student Scene Breakdowns


Lesson Info

Student Scene Breakdowns

I went to look at your scene um, kim, you have one, I do. So I am sharing a scene from the first feature that I wrote, which is item five. Item five is a comedy about a young woman who has just graduated, got her undergraduate degree, and she moves to a brand new city to pursue the internship of her dreams, a healthcare internship, and she gets there it's, the top program in the country she's so excited, and she learns that it's not quite as she thought, and she has a very overbearing boss, however, she's able to kind of redeem this experience with her co workers and by becoming friends with them, she builds a new life in the city. So the scene that I'm sharing today is it's, a very important scene. And so part of the whole deal with my protagonist, denise, and her coworkers is that part of the contract of their employment contract item fives that they're not permitted to do any kind of partying activities, so they're not permitted to drink alcohol, even at their age, they're not allow...

ed to do anything that would badly represent the company because it's a health company and in this scene, uh the group of interns decides that they're going to go out to this exclusive nightclub which one of the other interns na djula was very into partying was able to get them into it's a very great opportunity if we go to the big club so they go and prior to where we're starting in the scene uh one of the interns declan is outside on the patio smoking a cigarette and he looks over and he sees uh their boss and the boss's friend a crossing the street and that's where we pick up here all right um so but take a look um can you read your c I c u okay, so this is interior class in a lounge tonight declan wants the crowd searching for denise nigel in sherry he finally spots denise and sherry and runs up to them. We have to go what? We have to go where's nagy over there nodule is halfway across the dance floor making out with the blond guy she was eyeing earlier we have to get her and go come on declan and rushes toward matula but sherry grabs his arm like syria plasma lounge night lina the boss and mandy stand in front of all the people queued up for the club will talkinto a friendly door person thirty two you said his name is what brett brett hanson he's my cousin oh, brett I know who you mean many sky bread he's been working here for ever and he's still great at what he does lina rolls her eyes uh cosmo lounge interior jacqueline what's the rush lena lena's the rush sharing denise found immediately what one lina she was crossing the street over here she saw me I know she saw me. We have to leave oh my god sheri space things and she looks as though she's about to cry denise see sherry's reaction and begins to look worried we can still get out of this let's go declan grabs denise and share his hands and hurriedly leads them through the crowd toward na djula we have to go are you serious? Back off. I'm not kidding can't you see I'm with someone right now? Nah, just seriously. It's lina I don't care declan waste no time as he picks up magilla and puts her over his shoulder put me down the back we have to go out the back. Denise sherry and declan rushed to the club's searching for alternate entrance there it isthe exterior and then we found it under the bar. Can you believe that the friendly door person chuckles heartily to himself as winter glares at him with an impatient expression can we come in? Yeah, of course any front of bread is a friend of mine go on in and I'll have them see if they could get you a table interior sharing duties push on the alternate exit door but it won't budge I think this is lot it can't be it's a fire exit sharing and ian eastwood pushed again but it won't open keep pushing declan backs up a few feet and kicks the door open with full force as he kicks he leans slightly backwards causing natural space to move toward the floor as she screams let's go the group of interns rushed to the door to the outside at the front of the nightclub lena and mandy walk in we know works to the crowd looking left and right for the interns when she reaches the back of the club she lets out an exasperated sigh as the alternate exit door closes all right very good this technically speaking is a sequence um but that's it's a good to look at what a sequences which is of course it's more than just one slugline it's um you went inside and outside the club in different places but it is one sequence which is the same idea of a scene um all right is there are there any, um observations about this in terms of anything that you feel um could be removed? I feel like a lot of declan's lines could be either removed or change to some degree to just have more variation and vocabulary because he's telling so many people in trying to explain why they have to go and they're so kind of caught up so it makes sense that he would say that many times because he's panicked and caught up but I would like there to be a little bit more variation in terms of just the vocabulary and maybe he would say something else right? Right it's always that's always a challenge is when there's a character that we've got to go we've got to get out of here we've got to do this and it makes sense they're driven to it and they're trying to convince other people but you can run into them saying a lot of the same things again even right there we have to get her and go that's we need that because if we have to get her now this can you explain to me exactly what is going on with my apologies so lena previously the whole reason she's even at the club is because she overheard in the office not telling the other interns that they would be there on this particular night and lena's friend mandy lena knows that her friend mandy's cousin brent works at that nightclub so lena's aware that its excuse exclusive and that she would never be able to get in there without the help of bread so that's what they're working out outside of the club right now does he need to say that much about brett? I feel that he does because his kind of rambling nous creates this delay in them getting inside and gives them time the interns time to figure out how they're going to escape right? So he needs to create what a diversion basically by talking to him too long before eleven so it's possible that the door person could say more specific things because right now just looking at it you've told me what's the intention is he has to be verbal for both he asked so that he can delay them going in but it almost looks like it's exposition you know, he's been working here for so great at what he does that you might want this guy to start talking about brett in some specific ways that really do seem like this guy is just going to open up a whole conversation about bread talk about the guy he did he's called manny you should have seen the card trick he I mean he's always and then just sort of start something and you might even want to end it with an ellipse like whatever it is the last thing he says dot dot dot lena rolls arise because the guy's not stopping right right you want indicate that he's just going to continue to do that okay, so we he has to tell lena is there now lina she saw me now white let's say what's the rush lena's the rush she means what by like what do you mean lena she doesn't know lena's there right? Right like for example here he could just say she's at the front door is about to come in you know I mean that's kind of saying I'm going to recount what has she saw me crossing the street? Um his thing is just she's here basically and that's good you've got somebody doesn't want to go he's too drunk to go high and that's doesn't even care that it's lena carries your honor that's great and of course you've got people coming in front you've got to get out the back and then this is more like it, you know? We found it in the bar he's still talking about brad and great stories about bread you know? You might even say yeah, of course any friend of and not get out of the way yeah oh yeah I'm all I'm going to let you yeah, I'm definitely going and he doesn't get out of the way and um and then they have to smash out. I had a quick suggestion about just how they're installing at the door what if you know as one has kind of been that situation people are always trying to get in you know so you could just so and when I was hold on wait a second you know kind of traffic control a little bit would be a easy way tio kind change it up a little bit of that dynamic too hang on folks I gotta let these other people in here you got the classic yes he got his like we're just going you know hold on hold on you know yeah and then I'll go on talking about bread because I am going to let you in but let me what these other people right yeah um let's go you may not need that well lines like lights co are always sort of that they used to say that what with detective shows early on used to always in every scene with let's go you know whatever they talked about let's go um and that's great the timing is there and then she sees the door close okay good there's good night attention in there yeah thank you yeah we had it set up and somebody was coming in the front there they got to get out the back this debate doesn't want to go who has to be carrie doesn't mean she can't make it that's good good obstacles good conflict thank you go there alright let's um matt let's look for you uh so senior brought in is it's from somewhat like a spec episode of it's always sunny in philadelphia accepted it's like that show except I want to do with my friends so it's not exactly those characters and everything but it's along the same pain and so the scene is the cold open so I guess it's not really I don't need any preamble they're just read it okay faded in interior scott's room day david zach in jeans on a bed facing tim who is standing in the middle of room holding court david I think he's fine yeah that's standard for scott no scott is the press and we need to help him I think he likes being this way he's been this way as long as I've known him yeah scott's always a dick he's not a dick he's depressed he's depressed because he's a dick whether he's depressed or being a dick he needs their help raise your hand if you find if you consider scott a good friend all hands remain immobile come on zack raises a hand thank you who's scott were in his room describe him pointing towards the wall he's right there is that closely inspect the picture of scott on the wall that's just a picture of scott tim pointing again in the same direction yeah that's scott london in what the wall standing just left with picture has got scott are you depressed exasperated scott sighs and rolls his eyes see what a dick because he's depressed and I know why what is it? Scotty needs a hottie all right, very funny. Um so let's look at, uh where you start you need david I think he's fine. They're already discussing him and there in mid discussion that's why? Because I think he's fine. Um so that's good let's have a conversation about scott. Okay? Yeah. And I wrote that I just didn't it. Yeah, good. Um, I mean, there's a lot of funny in here. So it's it's, you know, nobody wants to cut funny and there's no reason to really, um, do you need he's been this way? As long as I've known him, she says, I think he likes being this way. I know she knows him. What do you think? Yeah, I guess they could just go he's been swiss law as long as I know you were asking me how I can shorten it or it could be I I think he likes being this way. Okay? Yeah, I'm not saying that's, right? I'm just taking a look at you know inger could make things economic quicken the pace and everything every file on this shorter lines do they know that she knows he's been this way as long as I've known it or is that information something they wouldn't know and she's actually telling them something they don't know, I guess they would all know that that's kind of more of a line for like it's like the audience you know that, right? Yeah, they wouldn't need to know that they're there do you know that? Okay and, um funny funny don't cut funny that's great points to a picture all right? I mean it is very tightly written it's it seems it's not like I can go from a go you don't need this you don't eat that very airtight does anybody have any observations about it? I'm just curious about how serious I believe zach is when he asked asks who's scott I'm very curious if he's genuinely like who is that if he's half kidding or just kind of causing like a ruse like yeah he's serious and he's just like the complete idiot for you know, for comedy sake he's really a saint who has got yeah like he's like he's a friend like he's I don't know he's tie or something it just it's just a ridiculously dumb character but he does know scott he doesn't. Scott hoager get no characters. Hi. Yeah, because I thought I thought he was just messing with who's scott okay, yeah, but they actually be asking what pretty you probably should do something that would make it clear I got parentheses high no, um, so anything else anything you think about it you know you see it um I was wondering how would you handle kind of action lines I mean I guess I generally have trouble thumb I think I'm over descriptive but this is kind of short but how about like I had trouble with the reveal of scott standing right next to him I mean, how would how do you write those kinds of things like would you write like reveal or something such kind of indicate that the way it shot you know, maybe like pan over and see that after he's you know, kind of out of the shot and then reveal or something like that? Well, this is yeah, this is a good example what I was talking about earlier about when I said you have to write master scenes don't direct on paper don't put your shots in but there are exceptions and one of the greatest ones that you can use is the reveal um that's expected of you as a writer it's part of story telling to let the audience see and hear everything that's going on but you can withhold something that they don't see you and then reveal it and then that would require a shot so you would there you could say sometimes people just put reveal sometimes they say widen to reveal um in the shot scott standing by the picture but you could do that in this case because you need to draw attention to the fact that you're revealing something so it works better than simply putting in the narrative like that question so in the parenthetical when it says pointing in the same direction pointing to the wall I often struggle whether I just want to make that an action right like right before it or included in the parents know what's best uh this exact this is something I would put in para testicles it's um it's really directly related to what they're saying it's almost part of what they're saying yeah, but I mean you wouldn't put something over elaborate that he's doing while he's talking but it it's it's very similar to the same intention of to mary too you know you're pointing he's right there so that that actually makes sense if he got up and went to the refrigerator and got something and you put that parentheses that wouldn't be a good use of it and so if I did that I wouldn't mind that it you know comes back over and it's two lines like that because that is the legitimate use parenthetical um all right, so maria you have a seat I do so the scene that I picked is basically at my main characters tipping point it's like the last two weeks he's had both his sisters his wife, sister and the best friend in this house constantly like from them he wakes up until the moment the kids are down for bid and they want to stay and talk to him about his feelings so they're just like in his house all the time and you haven't had any sense of normalcy and um yeah I think this is his kids have gone work and one of them has the friend has let herself into the house then he just explodes at this point um there's not so before I start reading there's a lot of one they talk over each other for granted get assistance everything that or do you want me to read first one and then the other until your living room morning george walks in and discovers jada sitting on the floor in front of the bookshelf all the books have been stacked on the floor and she's carefully arranging them back on george whoa whoa what are you doing? Hey, he stares at her wide eyed and angry what are you doing? J I I'm organizing your bookshelf what was wrong with it? I don't know I noticed it was messy so I thought robin made it messy she spent hours hours making it messy because she fucking likes it that way okay? She likes from stack different ways and sticking out what she likes that I'm sorry I didn't know is that why you came? What you're going to arrange them by height, color coded them I mean why why why george, I'm sorry. I didn't know I was just trying to what you're going to her closet. Next. Jenna jumped to her feet now angry. Jesus, george, I was just trying to help. Nobody asks. Nobody knocks there's no sense of privacy or alone. Time we respect for someone. Personal space is a fucking free for all. What the hell are you talking about? My life, my personal private life. I'm just trying to help what has gotten into you don't talk to me like this if you're so smothered and overwhelmed is not a fucking second to myself. Not even a goddamn second along with my own kids. I'm just trying to fucking help, okay? I love your kids. I didn't want him to feel the imbalance having robin gun the imbalance. You think I never spent time alone with my kids before this? You think someone came to replace robin anytime? She was out of the house. These are my kids. I'm their dad. I didn't know you felt like this. You've been nothing but fucking laughs and games. What are we even fighting about? The kids aren't even here. Just leave. All right, I get it, you love the kids, the kids aren't here, I'll see you when the kids were here. Jada scoffs her eyes watering she turns around and walks toward the door georges I softness realizes she's crying jada I'm sorry I'm such an asshole jake grabs her person swings around angrily oh fuck you george what now you got to feel sorry that you hurt my feelings you're fucking insane you know that this coming from know where you've been all last dances I thought you wanted me here george hurries over to jada do want you here I'm just just not all the time I can't even think straight anymore I have no idea what I'm doing I have no time to settle jada yank the door open well that fucking settle george slams the door shut jada gasps I do want you here they stare at each other georges I start to water I do want you here jenna pulls them in and hugs and tightly he buries his face in her neck george doing here george starts kissing her neck jada closes your eyes I do want you here the kiss with urgency and quickly undress each other all right, I would say that scene had an event definitely had an event um all right, so let's just sort of walk through it. Okay? Um robin made it messy she spent hours making it messy but he likes it that way no that's all seems to be what he needs to say that's what she does okay that in the heat of this argument that's all something that sounds natural what they would say it if it weren't quite this kind of argument that might sound a little bit much like there talking literally about you know, but I think he's making points to get through or so that it reads natural to may um this is one where um again it seems to fit the argument but I wonder if it would be you know, I uh I don't have a fucking second to myself not even a second I wonder about I feel so smothered and overwhelmed because that's starting to sound a little like describing way without subtext sort of literally saying his uh yeah emotional state um she said I'm just trying to help and she says it again with emphasis it's possible that she could just say what the hell's gotten into you don't talk to me like this and then make our point of again and we're just we're looking at the economics of it um might not need these are my kids I mean, his his point of I'm their dad is a point he's making tour that's, right? But that might you might have more punch just I'm there, dad rather than having both of those lines in there um and then you may not need the kids aren't here twice, yeah what we fight about the kids aren't even here just leave all right I get it you love the kids I'll see when the kids were here you know um again I'm just going through and kind of like taking a red pencil and where could it be do you feel like I described too much the put too many acting notes in there no that's not you know what I mean that's not you say watering that okay she's I softened that's all that's all fine that's all that works you're describing what the character how the characters behaving it's not the same quite the same as telling the actor how to do it now is there anything in there that doesn't necessarily need to be in there I think it's all there actually I think it all needs to be there I mean it's now you fall you get to feel sorry for me you're insane his switching around coming from nowhere maybe you could take out this is coming from nowhere since we've seen that he hasn't reacted there like that before e I feel like there's a lot especially when they're talking over each other on that previous page just looks like just dialogue explosion right by the way when did you know that was find their way we're looking at what needed to be there and what didn't and whatever needs to be it's fine this is uh just a technical now dual dialogue I just want to say you know, if you ever have to have people talk over each other that's how it's done on dh once you pick a question where there seems to be a little bit of redundancy sometimes we do that if it's already been said once is it a good question asked you know, do we need to say it again with that last situation? It seems like you're just all lost in jokes dancing you know, something like that so we've seen it before maybe we can pull it out right? Right is the second last sentence that's hard, you know, sometimes it's for emphasis that's right? You really have to sort of get a feel for that when does it actually need to be there? And why is it there a second time as long as you know that? Okay, so anything else you just ran out of, like, okay, so sudden you know, right right now that would be a good example if he just totally not your script. But if somebody will write a scene and the way it was supposed to end was that you have the argument she leaves and it was while you're writing it that you actually had the surprise of they start to have sex that's an example of really pulling a surprise on yourself I know you actually had it planned, but um just a note about the ways you can surprise yourself is have really unexpected things happened. As I said before, even if you cut him seems like the best thing about surprises is that it really leaves the viewer with a memorable moment. You know, like if all of a sudden and we're over here it's like, wow, you know, I'm surprised. And at the end of the movie, that might be one of the takeaways, right? That I got. All right, um, this starts off is a master seen? Um, your scene showed us matt. This the idea we talked about reveal jackson rumpled suit, his desk typing mary enters, I coming on that report. Then I chose to put a shot jack's computer screen shows video poker, click of the he's and returns to his work document angle on office takes us out of that shot, puts us back into our master shot grins at mary. I'm burning through it. Um the reason I'm showing you that is that's a reveal and that's definitely a legitimate time to break out of your master scene included shot in there.

Class Description

Screenwriting classes often either lean too heavily on theory or simply study the technical approach to writing without a greater context for its use, as if the act of screenwriting exists in a vacuum – it does not. In The Screenwriters Toolkit with Jim Uhls, you’ll learn both the nuts and bolts of the craft, as well as its relationship to getting your work read and ultimately produced.

Jim’s sceenwriting credits include the modern classic “Fight Club” the feature-film "Jumper" the NBC television film "Semper Fi" and the SyFy miniseries "Spin" In this class, he’ll share lessons from his extensive experience writing for Hollywood and the small screen. He’ll teach you how to develop better scripts, get traction for your projects, and navigate the complex professional landscape of script development.

You’ll learn about screenwriting form and content, including:

  • Vocabulary and formats
  • Dialogue vs silence
  • Adapting existing works for the screen
  • Genre-writing

Jim will also share essential insights on developing a career in screenwriting. 

You’ll learn:

  • The differences between writing for television and features
  • Who to work with: agents vs managers vs lawyers
  • How to obtain and manage projects of various sizes and contexts

The Screenwriters Toolkit is a comprehensive examination of screenwriting form, content, craft, and traffic. You’ll learn how to adapt your content to the size, genre, and desired professional result of the script while also learning about the best on-ramps for aspiring writers.


Karla KL Brady

I would definitely recommend this class for first-time screenwriters and writers in general. I'm a novelist that would like to turn a couple of my stories into screen plays. I was mostly interested in the "dos and don'ts" which he supplied in a generous number. He gave a lot of great examples. I enjoyed the format with the students and he pretty much walks you through the entire process, including and especially the three-act structure which can be applicable to novel writing, too. He gave a lot of great examples. I would have liked a more extensive discussion on loglines and writing the action, but this certainly is enough to get you started. For the price, you can't beat it.


I came to this site by accident and then found some well known internet marketers here, who had already been sending me helpful emails and offers for some time, which I have used. What I like about the video contents is, that it is good old-fashioned skills and crafts development, rather than just formulaic, churn it out in big numbers advice. Whether screen writing, script writing, creative writing, news writing, etc. there is a structure and guideline for contents, order, grammar, etc., but the appeal is towards the development of one's creative side. I am normally involved in non-fiction writing, so this is a nice, creative side-kick, which no doubt will help my other work. As prolific author Isaac Asimow said, "If you want to learn to write, then you must write".


I would certainly recommend it to others, as there are some really great tips throughout the courses, across various aspects of film script writing.. That said, I would like to recommend however: - to have one version that is focused solely on film writing; eliminating the parts about teleplays and series, as those one or two did not relate to the rest of the course. - in its place, I would have loved to observe the coaching and critique on the writers film ideas, loglines, titles and such. I was very interested in knowing the do's and don'ts, what works and doesn't work, and what the proper approach is. Although he made mention of some of them in his overall content, relating them back to the writer's specific work would have been very beneficial.