ScreenCraft Academy

In Partnership With:

Next enrollment deadline: May 3rd, 2019

First session begins on May 6th.
There’s a reason all stories are the same shape – that structure is an intrinsic expression of the human mind and is the product of physics and chemistry and biology. Our courses are designed to help you recognize and understand that structure and its essential elements – and apply them to your work.
- John Yorke

Some of the world's best screenwriters have praised John Yorke's approach to story:

"...a marvelous analysis of screenwriting and, with any luck, should help a great many people achieve their dreams." - Julian Fellowes, writer/creator Downton Abbey

"I learned a great deal. Time and again, John Yorke articulates things I've always felt but have never been able to describe… This is a love story to story – erudite, witty and full of practical magic." - Neil Cross, creator/writer Luther, Crossbones, Dr. Who

John Yorke's approach to constructing stories is based on the premise that all stories share a unifying shape. Where previous teachers of story have concentrated on “how” stories work, John looks at “why” – because they reflect the way we make sense of the world.

John Yorke

John Yorke is former Controller of BBC Drama Production and Head of Channel Four Drama. He has shaped stories that have attracted some of the biggest audiences for drama in UK TV history. He has overseen some of the UK’s most enduring and popular shows, from Shameless and Life On Mars to the iconic soap EastEnders alongside internationally acclaimed dramas including the critically acclaimed Bodies and Golden Globe-winning series Wolf Hall.

John has worked with a vast array of talent over 30 years of his career so far, making him uniquely positioned to watch, learn and analyze the work of the finest writers in screen drama. His approach to constructing stories is based on the premise that all stories share a unifying shape. Where previous teachers of story have concentrated on “how” stories work, John looks at “why” – because they reflect the way we make sense of the world. His book Into The Woods, the bestselling work on screenwriting, argues that recognizing why story structure is common to all narratives everywhere and understanding its pattern equips us to tell more effective stories in any genre and format.

John has taught a new generation of scriptwriters using this approach on the hugely successful BBC Writers Academy, which he founded (85 per cent of graduates make a living in the industry). He uses the same approach on a range of online courses for screenwriters and script editors. ScreenCraft Academy is excited to launch this online course in partnership with John Yorke.


The course has been designed by John Yorke with ScreenCraft Academy, experts in delivering writing courses online in universities, for Continuing Professional Development training, and for recreational writers. This course is intended to develop the skills we believe are essential for good writing in every medium, and especially professional screenwriting:

  • greater understanding of story structure
  • an understanding of the writing craft and professional conventions
  • discipline, independent practice and confidence in your work
  • the ability to critically evaluate writing (your own and that of others) within a 
professional context.

The learning model is structured around a combination of peer and tutor feedback and aims to develop and hone your critical faculties through constant practice and revision.

You will not be given detailed tutor feedback on every piece of work you submit. You will receive individual tutor feedback on each of your final submissions in each session.

Your tutor monitors your work through the course, and perhaps more important in the learning experience are the working relationships you establish with other participating writers.

The practice of critiquing each other’s work increases and refines your understanding of what makes a successful story – and the critiquing relationships that form very often carry beyond the course to provide you with ongoing discussion and feedback from a close-knit group of practitioners you trust.

Sometimes, students with little experience of critiquing or working in a group can feel rather intimidated by the process at the outset – often because they think they will feel more comfortable with a one-to-one relationship with a tutor. This is fine, but it isn’t what we offer here. So please think carefully before accepting a place that will challenge you, develop your work, and require you to work with other writers and to deadlines.

This course is not a passive experience predicated on submitting work for ‘marking’ by a tutor, but a challenging, dynamic process that we know will help you grow into the best creator of stories that you can be.


• This course lasts 12 weeks, broken up into six two-week sessions.
• All the teaching, interaction with participants and tutor moderation takes place in an online classroom, and course materials and forums are open 24/7
• Sessions open on Mondays; assignments must be completed and uploaded by the following Wednesday with critiquing of fellow participants’s work completed by the final Sunday before the next two-week session opens.
• Completed sessions remain open throughout the course so that you can review course materials and go back and revise your work.
• The course involves approximately 30 hours of didactic learning and 12 hours of peer learning, and we can provide a certificate of completion detailing these hours if required.

The course is taught using the following:
• Short audio files from John Yorke (convenient for listening while doing other things)
• Short video files from John Yorke and clips from film and TV
• Online guidance notes and directed prompts and exercises, created by John Yorke
• Directed reading and viewing lists from John Yorke
• Online peer critiquing from other participants in the group
• Tutor moderation and feedback
• The support of an online community and virtual classroom
• A dedicated resources area, continually updated by the John Yorke Story team



Session 1: What is a Story? Part 1
This first session is about reading, watching, thinking and experimenting. You’ll start by thinking about the grammar of storytelling and the essential elements every story needs, then learn how to work with a protagonist’s wants and needs. This session is also about getting to know your fellow participants.

Session 2: What is a Story? Part 2
The second session builds on the basic building blocks of the archetypal story identified in Session 1, examining structural form in more detail. Now you can identify a story’s protagonist, antagonist and desires, we’ll look at the inciting incident, the character journey and story endings (crisis, climax and resolution).

Session 3: Essential Story Tools

This third session is about stress-testing a story to ensure it works – how to ‘break a story’. You’ll also experiment with three-act structure, exploring the blueprint for all stories and what makes a dramatically consistent beginning, middle and end. By the end of this session you should be able to deconstruct any story and diagnose story holes.

Session 4: Five Act Structure
This session further divides a story into five acts and looks at why this is such an invaluable tool for storytellers. You’ll learn to punctuate a story using turning points and how the midpoint can help you exert more control over the drama and increase narrative tension.

Session 5: Building Stories
Introduces the basic building blocks of stories – scenes – and how to combine them to build an effective narrative arc. You’ll also look at how change can propel characters through scenes and ways of using units of change to progress a story and create audience empathy.

Session 6: Developing Your Own Stories
We start this final session by looking at the difference between a synopsis, a treatment and a scene-by-scene, then learn the rules for writing a persuasive treatment. You’ll go on to write and pitch a treatment in five acts for an original story idea.

At the end of the course, you will be invited to submit a 4-page treatment for an original story. This might be for a feature or short film, TV drama or series, documentary or other dramatic production (for example, for radio or stage), agreed with your tutor.

After the course ends you will have the option to continue working with your peers in a specially created course alumni area online. You may also commission (for an extra fee) a detailed individual feedback report on your treatment from the course team (of up to 1,000 words), to evaluate your ideas and handling of techniques such as acts, scenes, and use of suspense, action and visual thinking, plus advice on where to take your ideas next.


The mark of a great teacher is one who leaves you feeling like you should have already known everything that was covered, so obvious is its sense.

BBC Writers Festival

A marvellous analysis of screenwriting and, with any luck, should help a great many people achieve their dreams.

Julian Fellowes, writerwriter/creator Downton Abbey

John Yorke is brilliant on story structure.

Ken Follettauthor Pillars Of The Earth, World Without End

John teaches story structure like Barcelona play football!

BBC Writers Academy

I really enjoyed John’s dynamism. We were all captivated.

De Montfort University, Leicester

An amazing class. It clarified areas I have struggled to grasp. I would jump at the chance to take another class with John.

Galway Film Centre, Ireland

Hard to beat for information and wisdom about how and why stories are told.

Dominic DromgooleArtistic Director, The Globe Theatre, London

I learned a great deal. Time and again, Yorke articulates things I've always felt but have never been able to describe… This is a love story to story – erudite, witty and full of practical magic.

Neil Crosscreator/writer Luther, Crossbones, Dr Who

Its strength is Yorke’s acute perception of the wellsprings of universal narrative structures relevant to all artistic activities

The Times
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