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Screenwriting for Film and Television: How to Begin

Lesson 7 of 24

Story Design: Setting


Screenwriting for Film and Television: How to Begin

Lesson 7 of 24

Story Design: Setting


Lesson Info

Story Design: Setting

first story, Fundamental is the setting. Where does your movie take place? Yes, Super basic, but really significant. Where does the story take place? I'm going to give you for each of these five questions that you can answer or ask an answer to help you flesh out and develop each of these fundamentals. There are about 20 questions for each of them that you could answer. But let's start really, by laying out the basics here, right? So where does your story take place? Why does it have to take place here? The form of the content should be married, right? The setting of a story should be the Onley place in the world that this could possibly take place, right? There's sort of this interesting tension I think in in storytelling in Hollywood about should we make things very specific or make them very universal. And if you talk to a lot of executives, they will tell you well, let's make it universal so that it appeals to everybody. And then, if you talk to, say, theater directors who have a l...

ot of experience with, they will say the more specific the Mawr universal. I tend to believe that the more specific something is, the more people can actually relate to it because they understand that specificity in their own life. So for Team Marco, we set it in my hometown where Bochy the sport is very popular because of the high concentration of Italian Americans. Now, I wanted to tell a story from my hometown. Yes, as well. But I had to answer the question. Why is this story set in this particular place? What does this setting off for the story that no other setting can offer it. So you wanna ask all about this place? Ask yourself all about this place so that again you deepen it. You develop it. You get more clarity around the setting of this story. Devil wears product. New York City, Yes. Fashion industry. Yes, more specifically, Runway magazine. And he works that runway magazine, right? And all of the drama and comedy that unfold happen in and around Runway magazine. So you can sort of take a larger setting and narrow it and narrow it if you want, but get really clear about why you're set specifically there. Put it through all your senses. I say this with a lot of my work and a lot of the writers that I work with put it through all of your senses. What does that mean? It means this particular setting. What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it smell like? What does it taste like? What does it feel like? So if you look a team Marco, for example, what does it look like? It looks like the beautiful borrow of parks that Staten Island is in New York City that few people know about. What does it sound like? It sounds like men in their eighties and women in their forties and kids. It's a family borough. This particular place has the sounds of an urban area. It sounds like Busses and subways, but it's also suburban, so it has a particular sound. It has a particular smell, has a particular taste In our movie, we use the Italian cookie, the rainbow cookie that tastes a certain way. What does it feel like to be on Staten Island as this young boy as this grandfather? Those air, all part of that setting and those are all communicated in the script. So for you think about? How does your setting look? Sound, smell, taste and feel not only for your audience but for your main characters and for for your other characters in the movie or the TV show for is your main character who were gonna learn, um, as hero, which we'll get to next. Is your main hero in sync with the setting or in conflict with it so super important, right? Are they in sync with the setting? Do they fit in there? Are they comfortable? Or they constantly in conflict with the setting with the people with the weather, with the architecture, with what's on the street, what they're hearing and smelling and tasting and feeling important things for you to know both about your setting and about your main character. And fifth, what are the rules of this place? Meaning, How do things work here? How does society work here? How does power work here? How does money work here? How do relationships work here? How does love work here? How does church work here? Answer those questions so you can dig deeper into what are the rules of this place. And what are the rules that your main character your hero has to follow to survive and thrive in this particular setting. Let's take a look at the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games, as you know, is an action movie. It's Y A for a young adults on bits, you know, it captured the imagination of the entire world. Put the Hunger Games through these questions. Where does the story take place? Story takes place in PanAm, this version of America that super dystopian in an unnamed future or there's no year to it. And in PanAm there are District's, some of them more successful than others. There's the capital, and this is how this whole world works. It's all organized around this new nation. That's where it takes place. Why does this story have to take place there? Well, this is interesting, because this is what you'll often hear in the industry as world building, right? The writers created this world. They built this world because this world was a great place to tell their central point, which is you can always rise up against the powerful if you're smart and creative, or you can always rise up against the powerful. If you band together in revolt again. Your premises can always be described a couple of different ways. But at least the writer needs to have a clear sentence about that. Right? So this world of PanAm is the perfect place for that kind of revolt. So we've gotta build a world that's ripe for revolt. In order for Katniss to be the revolutionary that we want her to be in the story. The setting is key to this movie. Put it through all the senses. Okay. What does this look like? Well, District 12 looks really gray and drab. E the capital looks really glitzy and glamorous. What does it sound like? What does it smell like? What does it taste like? What does this feel like? You have the feeling, the same feeling. You have a handmaid's tale of oppression. You have the same feeling there. That that this government control that this system is crushing the souls of the humans that air in it really, really important to know about that setting hunger Games four is your main character in sync with the setting or in conflict with it. Katniss is in conflict with this setting, right? This world does not align with her values and the things that she holds dear. She has to go do this stupid thing called the Hunger Games to save her sister in order to just live and survive really, really, really important to understand how the main character, the hero feel about the setting and fifth, one of the rules of this place. So there are a lot of rules in worlds that are unlike ours, right? And if you're writing about a world that's unlike ours, meaning America 2020 or the World 2020 you've got to spend some real estate or some space in your script explaining the rules of the world. Is this world magic? I have to know that in the script is this world run by demons. I have to know that in the script Is this a world like small wonder back in the eighties, where she put her hands together and time would freeze? I need to know what the rules of this world are. So for hunger games, I need to know that once a year they have this competition. It's called the Hunger Games, and there's one person from each district that's called as tribute that has to survive the Hunger Games so that they have a champion who could be celebrated in the capital. I need all of that laid out so that I understand the rules of that game. So setting a super important, I want you to think about it. Mawr and with respect to your story, spend some time with the story worksheet. Spend some time just with a blank piece of paper and do an hour or a page. However you know much work you wanna put into it to describe the setting of your story. What is it? Why is that unique? What's important about it? What are the rules of this world? Is the character of the main character in conflict with it or not? Put it through all the senses and, you know, do some really good solid writing on setting so that you could be really clear about this fundamental

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.


  1. Getting Started

    In this module, you’ll meet your instructor and learn about his background and his journey as a screenwriter. Then we’ll take a look at how to maximize this class. Additional points include important screenwriting resources, best practices, and case study movies.

  2. The Power of Stories

    In this lesson, we’ll explore why stories are so effective as a communications tool, what makes for a powerful story, and how best to decide if your story is a movie, a TV show, or something else. Understand the power of images, events, drama, and the like.

  3. Key Concepts

    In this lesson, we’ll focus on the key distinction between structure and formula so that you can best utilize the tools in this course.

  4. Analyzing Stories

    In this lesson, we’ll break down a story and you’ll learn how to analyze a story.

  5. Writer’s Purpose

    In this lesson, we’ll determine your purpose. What is it that you want to say with this work? You’ll learn how to clarify that message and embed it in your screenplay’s core message and premise.

  6. Story Design

    In this lesson, we’ll introduce the concept of story design and explore a new way to think about developing your stories.

  7. Story Design: Setting

    In this lesson, we’ll dive into story design and into the ten fundamentals of all stories. You’ll learn how to identify those fundamentals in your story and in others, as well as how to think about and develop the specific fundamentals of the screenplay you are developing.

  8. Story Design: Hero
  9. Story Design: Want
  10. Story Design: Villain
  11. Story Design: Conflict
  12. Story Design: Angel
  13. Story Design: Gift
  14. Story Before/After
  15. Using Emotion

    This lesson will focus on the tenth fundamental: emotion. In this module, we’ll explore an emotion chart and learn how to use it as a companion to your writing.

  16. Story Structure

    In this lesson, we’ll take a look at story structure (a.k.a. architecture) and how to lay out an effective story structure.

  17. Act 1

    Learn what makes for a successful first act.

  18. Act 2

    Learn what makes up Act 2 and how to structure the largest act into sub-acts for best effect.

  19. Act 3

    Learn how to design your final act and what it needs to include to be truly powerful.

  20. Seed-to-Script Process

    In this lesson, we’ll introduce the seed-to-script process. You’ll learn a 10-step step-by-step process to move from a logline to a full screenplay. Learn how to organize your time and your writing so that you progress and stay motivated and productive.

  21. The Treatment

    In this lesson, we’ll look deeper at the “treatment” and how to use it as a sales tool.

  22. Deepening Your Work

    In this lesson, we’ll discuss how to make your work better, deeper, stronger, including a look at rising action, progressions, stakes, twists, reveals.

  23. Feedback

    In this lesson, we’ll explore the question, “Now what?” This includes a discussion about feedback, notes, colleagues, etiquette, and grace.

  24. Next Steps

    In this lesson, we’ll wrap up and discuss next steps, including how to get your work read, as well as Julio’s follow-up courses, Screenwriting 2 and 3.


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!

Jack Vincent

I loved it. I've been a writer most of my life and transitioning into screenwriting. I've taken numerous courses and read many books. Julio's course was thorough and clear.. and no, we are no relation :-) I absolutely loved it.