It begins with two words: FADE IN. But then what?

  • Find your Core Story

    Draw out values in conflict so that your plot line pops

  • Conquer the blank page

    Overcome writers block with carefully-designed exercises developed by a writer, for writers.

  • Tap into your creativity

    Through exercises and goal setting, so that you complete your project and take it all the way through a successful sale.

Learn how to...

Course alumni receive exclusive access to our Story Design Master Community, where you'll connect with fellow writers, creatives, entrepreneurs, producers, funding groups, and distributors -- and have access to special events around the country and at major film festivals, like Sundance and SXSW!

  • Develop strong writing habits and create a story that is marketable and sells, grounded in a solid "dramatic premise," guided by an expert, award-winning (and tenured) professor of screenwriting.

  • Develop an industry-quality logline, treatment, pitch, beat sheet, step outline, using the techniques that have led to SJ's success in the film industry - and the success of many students and alumni.

  • Build strong, memorable characters, so that your protagonist, antagonist, and supporting characters attract the attention of A-list actors. And most importantly, your script won't sacrifice plot to character, or character to plot.

  • Dive deep into scenes, conflict, turning points, and create memorable character moments that drive the story forward and create what professionals refer to as "triangulation."

  • Write meaningful dialogue, fueled by what professional writers call "subtext," and develop unique voices for each of your characters in the integrated "character web."

  • Break your story into several key movements, or building blocks, so that your audience and reader is always on the edge of their seat, full of suspense.

  • Develop acts that result in maximum audience engagement and box office returns, by laying a solid yet invisible blueprint that empowers your creativity to soar.

  • Analyze the success of blockbuster projects and learn how to replicate, but also innovate, on their solid foundations, to ensure that your script results in a film that reaches hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide. (And gets made!)

  • Leverage your skills to break into Hollywood, get your film made, and understand the ins and outs of the market. We'll place you in charge of your screenwriting career and take the guess work out of the next steps.

  • Master the art of storytelling ethics, and consider how the events developed on-screen impact your audience and interact with the human brain, based on the most recent research. AND SO MUCH MORE!

What do you have to lose?

Your epic FADEOUT is within reach.

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Sarah-Jane Murray

About The Instructor

Born in Ireland and based in the US, SJ Murray, Ph.D. (Princeton), is an EMMY®-nominated filmmaker and award-winning writer, producer, director, & educator. She studied screenwriting at UCLA and is a tenured member of the faculty at Baylor University. By combining her expertise and experience in education, filmmaking, and (social) entrepreneurship, SJ has established herself as one of the most connected executive producers and writers in independent film and media. A world-class expert in story and pioneer in the field of story design™, SJ is able to manage and speak into each stage of film and television development, from creative inception (research and story) to distribution and impact campaign, making her a talented showrunner in the truest sense of the word. Her work has played at major film festivals and has been acquired by PBS, LinkTV, and Netflix. In 2018, she was recognized as part of the inaugural cohort of #50WomenCan Change the World in Media and Entertainment, celebrating rising women stars in the film and media industries. She is also an authorized executive and agent to major studios and distributors. Since 2014, her story-driven strategies and campaigns, developed with AnderImage, have won nineteen international creative, marketing, and branding awards, including the Silver Telly and Communicator Award of Excellence. She is the author of three books: From Plato to Lancelot: A Preface to Chrétien de Troyes (2008), Basics of Story Design: Twenty Steps to an Insanely Great Screenplay (2017), and Storytelling for Today* (*and every day) (due out in 2018). SJ has delivered keynotes and hosted high-profile conversations at venues including the University of Paris, Harvard, Microsoft HQ, the Royal Palace of Spain, the United Nations, the White House, TEDx, and during the SXSW and Sundance Film festivals.


Unleash your story.

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Course curriculum

  • 01
    INTRODUCTION
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  • 03
    STEP 1: Read a Great Script
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    • Video
    • Lesson - Read a Great Script
    • Exercises
  • 04
    STEP 2: Beginnings
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    • Video
    • Lesson - Beginnings
    • Exercises
  • 05
    STEP 3: World Building
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    • Video
    • Lesson - World Building
    • Exercises
  • 07
    STEP 5: The Dilemma
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    • Video
    • Lesson - The Dilemma
    • Exercises
  • 08
    STEP 6: Crossing the Threshold
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    • Video
    • Lesson - Crossing the Threshold
    • Exercises
  • 09
    STEP 7: A New Friend
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    • Video
    • Lesson - A New Friend
    • Exercises
  • 10
    STEP 8: The Midpoint
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    • Video
    • Lesson - The Midpoint
    • Exercises
  • 11
    STEP 9: All Downhill
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    • Video
    • Lesson - All Downhill
    • Exercises
  • 12
    STEP 10: The Grand Finale
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    • Lesson - The Grand Finale
    • Exercises
  • 13
    STEP 11: Building Blocks
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    • Video
    • Lesson - Building Blocks
    • Story Worksheet
  • 14
    STEP 12: Back to Basics
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    • Video
    • Lesson - Back to Basics
    • Exercises
  • 15
    STEP 13: More Character Basics
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    • Video
    • Lesson - More Character Basics
    • Exercises
  • 16
    STEP 14: Making a Splash
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    • Video
    • Lesson - Making a Splash
    • Exercises
  • 17
    STEP 15: Compare and Contrast
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    • Video
    • Lesson - Compare and Contrast
    • Exercises
  • 18
    STEP 16: To Outline!
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    • Video
    • Lesson - To Outline!
    • Exercises
  • 19
    STEP 17: Please Mind the Gap
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    • Video
    • Lesson - Please Mind the Gap
    • Exercises
  • 20
    STEP 18: Storytelling Ethics
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