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Screenwriting for Film and Television: How to Begin

Lesson 11 of 24

Story Design: Conflict

Julio Vincent Gambuto

Screenwriting for Film and Television: How to Begin

Julio Vincent Gambuto

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Lesson Info

11. Story Design: Conflict

Lesson Info

Story Design: Conflict

Let's talk about conflict. Conflict is what arises when the heroes going after their want and the villain is going after their want, and those two things collide. So in a gun movie, it's like for, for example, for die hard, right? You've got McLean going up against Hans Gruber, and that creates conflict in a smaller, more intimate movie. Stay between a husband and a wife. You've got the point of view of the husband up against the point of view of the wife, and those two things create conflict. At least they did in the house that I grew up in. So let's take a look at the questions that you should answer with respect to conflict. This is what we do. We take our life. We take our trauma, we turn it into into art, right? Maybe you're doing the same. We'll see first. What is the conflict? The conflict, like I said, is what happens when the heroes going after his or her want and the villains going after their want. So answer the question. What exactly is the conflict of this movie? What does...

that conflict look like? Is it an argument? Is it a gunfight. Is it a swimming competition? Is it water balloon contest? What does it look like? I want you to answer that because that's gonna really help you build out your treatment and build out your script. What? Um, I actually watching on screen, remember, the script is a visual document. This is a visual medium film, TV. Obviously, you can lean more into your dialogue, but both film and TV. You've gotta be watching a conflict unfold, right? So you need to decide. Is the writer What is it that I'm watching? Um, I watching an argument for 90 minutes or for an hour every single week. Am I watching a boxing match? Am I watching A What am I watching? That shows me that conflict. I often read ah, lot of work by newer writers who believe that there's conflict in the work. But there's not conflict there on the page, right? You've got to get that conflict on the page in a way that it can be read and understood. Third, what is how does it progress or build? Your conflict should progress or build. And I mean this almost like scientifically or numerically, right? What do I mean, in my work, I always say, Okay, great. We're at, like, 10% of the conflict now. Now we're at, like, 25% of the conflict. Now we're at 50% of the conflict, and by the act to climax, which we're gonna get to in our story structure section, you wanna be at 100% of the conflict. So if it's a fight, we wanna be progressing that fight, right? The finale of Rocky doesn't have the same intensity as the first time that he's boxing. Same thing for good will hunting, right? He jokes at first. In fact, in his first therapy session, he doesn't even say anything. There's no conflict, obviously this conflict between them physically as they square off. But he's not even saying anything, so that will build and build and build. So I want you to think about when you understand what your conflict looks like. What does it sound like? What are we seeing in the movie or the TV show? How do we progress that conflict? You don't want to come out of the gate running with this huge conflict scene, and then suddenly nothing feels bigger than that for the rest of the movie or the show, you want to progress it and build it quick. Note. There are a lot of movies and TV shows that start with a bang, which I would call the hook or the hot start, which will get Thio where it's super intense to grab your attention. But then, once we settle in six months later, Ah, week later, whatever that is, we then grow the conflict and understand throughout the story how that's building and progressing for what is the climax? Yes, how does that conflict climax? What is the final biggest moment of that conflict? If it's a boxing movie, it's gotta be the big finale. If it's a shoot him up movie, it's gotta be the big square off the most guns, the most people, the most blood. I don't love love movies. That's a personal choice. But if that's the kind of movies that you love, go for it. What is the biggest version of that? And a lot of my work. It's people fighting with each other right and arguing. Well, what's the biggest argument they can have? And how does that argument turn into something physical in the physical world. So, for example, I'm working on another script Now about my family growing up right. I wanna climax it by having the father character grabbed the wedding portrait off the wall and throw it across the room and bust this big mirror. That didn't happen in real life. But in the movie it will write. What I want you to do is find the ultimate moment where that conflict can climax. How do you visually represent that? How do you make it more visual for film or for TV? Which is highly visual is well, how do you climax that moment? Not to be crude, but when you think a lot about progressions and climax, I want you to think about sex, right? It starts out with meeting. It moves to flirting. Then there's a kiss. Then it builds with foreplay. And ultimately it climaxes, right? You wanna build in stages, which is why a lot of love stories start out. They don't know each other now. They know each other, but they're at odds with each other. Well, they can get over that first problem that they have with each other and then by the middle of the movie. They kiss or they say, I love you. And then things start to go wrong. And then they have to understand why they love each other, Why it's so incredible and important that they be together and ultimately overcome the things that stand in their way. We'll talk more about that when we talk about story structure. But I want you to understand, in conflict you've got to progress that to a climax. Five. Who will win the conflict? Make that decision right. Ultimately, your hero should win the conflict. If you want the movie to be really satisfying for the audience, they have followed the hero throughout the hero's journey on. We want to see the hero when that conflict. Very often, when the hero doesn't win the conflict, you have a tragedy, right? That's what a tragedy is. It never really recovers from its lowest point. The hero doesn't win. That's what makes it tragic. Let's take a look again. It die hard first. What is the conflict? The conflict is between the hero, McLean and Hans Grouper, the villain. What does it look like? Okay, well, it looks like guns and explosions and dead bodies because it's an action movie and very often genres across a genre. Films will share what their conflicts look like, right smaller, more personal movies. That conflict, like I said earlier, might look like an argument might look like. Ah, husband and wife arguing over a certain point, etcetera, etcetera. They are polar opposite worldviews, that air coming into conflict. How does it progress or build in Die hard? Obviously, it progresses through the number of henchman who are shot and killed. And ultimately, the big finale Standoff is between our hero and our villain. One of the main things that progress is, or at least one point where we progress is when McClane, uh, you know, Marco's body is dropped onto the patrol car. That tells the local police that there's a problem here in the tower, and it pushes the action forward and progress is us. What is the climax? Well, we're up on that high tower, right? And Hans has got Holly, the ex wife. Now he knows that he's McClain's. She's McClain's wife, and he's holding her hostage. They have a shoot off. It looks like the villain is gonna go through the window. He does go through the window. He's hanging on by the wristwatch. And ultimately McLean comes over and un does the wristwatch and our villain falls to his death. Who wins the conflict? McLean the hero. So I want you to be clear about all these points, right? I want you to put your story through these questions so that you're super clear about it. Because again, like I said, the important thing here is that you'd be as equally is clear about your villain and your conflict as you are about the hero and the want.

Class Description


  • Organize your stories so they’re ready for the screen.

  • Write the screenplay you have always wanted to write.

  • Write strong story treatments that capture the attention of readers and executives.

  • Use a structured writing process that is productive, efficient, and deeply meaningful.

  • Watch movies and TV like you’ve never seen them before!


You have a great idea, but you’re not entirely sure where to start or how best to take it from napkin and notes to full-fledged screenplay. The process can be large and daunting without a structure in place to guide the way. Maybe you’re a writer looking for more clarity about structure. Or a writer who wants to move into film. Or even a director who wants to see the process from the perspective of a writer. This class is here to help.

Start your screenwriting journey with writer/director Julio Vincent Gambuto. Julio is a writer for film and television and a feature film director. He’s created content for Nickelodeon, PBS, E! Entertainment, and James Franco’s Rabbit Bandini. His latest project, Team Marco, is a family film, recently released by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

In this key foundational course, you’ll learn the fundamentals of the screenwriting craft, including story design, story structure, and a smart step-by-step process to keep your writing exciting and productive. By the end, you’ll write stories that can capture the attention of audiences and the business alike. 


  • How to identify your purpose as a writer and how to infuse your story with your specific message and voice.
  • What about “story design” and how to tell your stories with punch and passion.
  • The ten fundamentals of story design and how to use them.
  • Story structure and how acts break down for the screen.
  • How to architect the audience’s emotional journey.
  • The seed-to-script process — an efficient, smart workflow to keep you productive.


  • People who want to learn how to write movies and TV shows.
  • Writers who want to understand the fundamentals of craft for the screen.
  • Beginning screenwriters who want to root their work in a strong story technique.
  • Filmmakers who want to better understand story design and development.
  • Storytellers in all media who want to cross over to film and TV.
  • Creative people who want insights into the world of film and TV.


Meet Julio (“Giulio”). The son of a bus-driver-slash-bread-baker, Julio grew up in a large Italian family in the boroughs of New York City. His feature film, Team Marco, was released November 20 by Samuel Goldwyn Films. This year, his essay “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting*” was the #2 story on all of Medium, with over 20M readers worldwide. He is currently developing the feature family comedy, The Julie Stories. In 2017, Julio founded Boro Five, an independent film and television content production company. He serves as Executive Producer of the company’s slate. Julio has written and produced film and television content for Samuel Goldwyn, Kerner Entertainment, Nickelodeon, PBS, E! Entertainment, Stone & Company Television, and James Franco’s Rabbit Bandini.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Case Study Films

Story Analysis Template.xlsx

Sample TV Scripts

Story Design Worksheet

Story Fundamentals Worksheet

Seed to Script Process

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Carlos Sandoval

Just a great way to start on your path to screenwriting. A clear and concise class with a friendly tone and humor. I think it is important that a teacher has actually worked in the field. Kudos.


Perfect for a beginner or actors who need a better understanding of what is and why is. Info packed and FUN too!

Asem Nurkina

I took this class last year. And after one year of working with presented tools (story design worksheet, story fundamentals workseet, seed to script process) on different projects I can say that it is very powerful and useful course I ever taken. I can strongly recommend this detailed screenwriting guidance by Julio Vincent Gambuto.