So, someone asked me, what are the red flags they should look for when studying screenwriting? I definitely think you should study screenwriting. There’s a lot you need to learn. A lot of people think that just because they know how to pick up a pencil and write, they are actually writers. Screenwriting is a craft, it needs to be studied, it needs to be practiced every day. You can find courses at a lot of places. You can find it at a local community college. You can go online and search for screenwriting courses, but of course, so much depends on the quality of your teacher.
How do you know that you can have a good teacher? One way to tell is to find out their name and enter it in imdb.com. Then you find a list of their credits. If they have a lot of credits, and you’ve heard of them, and you like those shows, that might be somebody you want to study under. If they don’t have any credits, run. Why would you want to study under somebody who hasn’t done it before? Just because that makes them a professional teacher, it doesn’t make them a professional writer. I think personally, I’d want to learn from someone who’s done it before, and done a lot, and done it well. I don’t want to learn from a teacher. That’s how I felt when I moved out here and I found the perfect guy for me. So, that’s one thing you could do.
If they don’t have any credits or let’s say they have some credits, but they’re not that good, you never heard of them, or they don’t have any credits at all. You can also say, “Listen, I’m interested in your class. I would like to read a sample of your work.” That’s a fair question. You’re going to show up, pony up a lot of money, you want to see if they’re any good. They should send you a script that they wrote. If they’re not willing to send you a script, run. If they send you a script and it’s no good, run.
Now, a lot of people are wondering like, “Well, who am I to judge? How do I know if it’s good or not?” Listen, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a comedy or drama, scripts are meant to be entertainment. When you read it, you should be wondering, “Ooh, what happens next? I want to find out what happens next. I want to turn the page, I’m engaged. I’m sucked into it.” If you’re reading it and you’re like, “I don’t know. This feels like a homework assignment.” And you’re kind of dreading each page, “When is this going to be over?” It’s no good. That’s how you know if something’s good or not good, whether it’s engaging.
Now, at the beginning of the pandemic, I was dead in the water for six months. Hollywood shut down, there was nothing to do. I started writing a book and I started creating a screenwriting class, which is still active. You could sign up for it at michaeljamin.com. But the same goes for me too, you should check out my credits. You should do your due diligence. Find out if I’m someone you want to study under, check out my credits. All my stuff is still streaming everywhere, but I also have stories that I’ve written on my website, michaeljamin.com. You could read those stories for free, and if you’re engaged in them and you’re like, “Hey, this is interesting. I like this. I want to know where this is going to go.” Maybe I’m the guy for you. If you’re reading it and like, “Ah, I don’t really dig this guy’s style,” then I’m not the guy to teach you. So, that’s the same kind of diligence you’ve got to do for anybody who’s going to be teaching you.
And by the way, if they haven’t done it at all, I’m not sure why you want to study under that person. That’s like taking flying lessons, and you get an instructor that you go up in your plane, and suddenly turbulence and the propeller falls off, and you turn to the instructor like, “Oh my God, what are we going to do?” And the instructors like, “Don’t look at me. I’ve never flown before, I just teach flying.” You don’t want to get on a plane with that. Same thing with your writing instructor, you don’t want to get into a plane if the guy has never written professionally before or a woman. I feel strongly about that because they’re just teaching theory and theory is not helpful.
In my class, I teach, “This is how we break a story. This is where we put these moments in act one, act two, act three, to make it simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. Writing should be simple.” Anyway, that’s what I would look for. If you want to follow me for free, go ahead and you can do that. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook, @michaeljaminwriter. I post daily tips. At the very least, you should be following me there. If you can’t commit a minute, a minute, a minute every freaking day to learn something new, it’s not going to happen. You’re just not interested and not in it.