Christine DeSmet is a screenwriter, novelist, and writing teacher and critique coach. She also writes plays and short stories. Her true-story film script “Chinaware-Fragile” was the winner of a past Slamdance Film Festival contest and optioned to New Line Cinema. With co-writer Peggy Williams, Christine has optioned other screenplays and placed high in national contests. More about your instructor.
Simmi Goyle of California wins 20th People’s Pilot Contest
Simmi Goyle, Redondo Beach, California, has earned first prize of $500 and several other valuable prizes in the “People’s Pilot Contest” for her new TV series pilot called “Body & Soul.” In addition, she’s a finalist in the movie category of that contest with her screenplay, “The Astronaut.”
Her TV show script features a woman doctor and magical elements. The contest judge said, “Whoever puts this on the air is going to be very, very happy they did.” Simmi’s scripts went through our Continuing Studies online courses and critique services with instructors Christine DeSmet and Laurie Scheer.
Jon Duff makes top 25% at Page International Screenwriting Award Contest
A screenplay by Jon Duff, Gainesville, Florida, made it into the top 25 percent of the Page International Screenwriting Awards Contest. Jon's script, "Paramedhicks," tells the story of a paramedic challenged with saving a troubled rural area's emergency response team while also dealing with his own personal problems. Jon is currently enrolled in our online course "Screenplay: Write Your First Draft Fast" with instructor/writer Christine DeSmet.
Cynthia Mehta finals at the Mexico International Film Festival
Congratulations to Cynthia Mehta, Sun Prairie, Wis., whose script, “No More Tears” is an official finalist at the Mexico International Film Festival, May 20-21, 2011, in Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico. Cynthia was a student in our online course, “Screenwriting: Write Your First Draft Fast,” taught by Christine DeSmet.
More success stories
This is a noncredit, online writing class through UW-Madison Continuing Studies.
Screenwriting: write your first draft fast
Write a screenplay that gets noticed...
A unique, one-on-one mentoring course that gets your script written—all the way to the FADE OUT. Really.
Start anytime; work at your pace; email your instructor anytime. No deadlines.
FADE IN: Two kinds of writers love this course:
- You're writing your first script and you're lost and could use some hand-holding.
- You're frustrated by several tries at a screenplay but can't get it written, and workshops and books aren't helping.
You can choose from two levels: Basic and write just 20 pages; or go for it all and write your entire script with Christine by your side via email.
Christine takes you from the idea stage to your final page, holding your hand but not talking down to you. There's no fluff in this course, just the techniques to get you there with savvy advice to help you stay away from potholes on the journey to a great script.
We avoid "formula" speed-writing. "Formula" marathons for writing often yield an unsatisfying script. Pour a cup of java and let's make writing fast mesh with writing quality. We cover:
- Making a script effective from the start
- Developing story structure
- Deepening characterization
- Enriching scenes
- Discovering the secrets of middles
- Finding endings with fast finish techniques
The instructor also makes sure your format is professional.
Writers finishing this course have optioned a screenplay (both original and adapted from novels), made it to the semi-finals of the prestigious Nicholl's Fellowship Contest, earned top honors in the Page International Contest, and earned a film festival public reading with a first screenplay. Read success stories at left.
Each unit includes suggestions for reading, online handouts, and fun, meaningful writing assignments. In addition, you'll be encouraged to try a few pages on your own screenplay each week. Nothing too strenuous, but look how much you'll accomplish in only 6 units!
Unit 1 What makes a script successful or saleable?
- How do I start it effectively?
- Concepts and Character: How do I know my idea's worthy of a whole tale for the screen?
- What is the core of "Story"?
- The issue of Marketability vs Creativity.
- Key ingredients for great screenplays.
- Plotting for Power: What comes first.
- Assignments include: Write page 1-your most important page.
Unit 2 Story Structure
- Laying out a story. Three acts, four acts, and more.
- Story questions and story spine:
- Character and structure merge and become promises of action and more.
- Turning points, character arcs and more refinements that make a story move forward.
- Write pages 1-10.
Unit 3 Characterization
- Traits. Trouble. Triumph.
- Attitude. Angst. Abilities.
- What do we need to know about our characters?
- Setting up motivations for payoffs.
- Write pages 10-15.
Unit 4 Scene Work
- Every script needs tension or suspense and it's each scene that develops that for you.
- How to "power up" your scenes.
- At least 3 types of scenes good screenplays tend to have.
- Dialogue tips for enriching scenes.
- Write pages 15-25.
- Subplots. To use them or not? How many? Why?
- Secondary Characters and their Functions.
- Why middles go flat and what savvy screenwriters know about them.
- Write pages 25-30.
Unit 6 Fast Finish
- How screenwriters write when they don't know a lot of stuff yet.
- Tricks of the trade. Fast doesn't mean to rush it.
- Traps to avoid. The truth of logic and credibility.
- Endings need to accomplish at least 3 things.
- Push through to the finish-remember that pioneers don't turn back. They take the next step. So will you.
- Marketing tips.
- Writing until the "FADE OUT."
Special benefit of this course: Both levels give you a professional screenwriting mentor who wont disappear after you finish the workshop. Create dynamic stories all the way to FADE OUT. Also, at the Pro Level, because your instructor believes so strongly in the power of revisions and polishing, she has included a critique of not only your first draft but also of your revision of that draft.
"If you write fiction --whether for the screen or for print --you NEED this course!! The exercise of putting together a screenplay is possibly one of the very best things you can do to improve your skill as a writer. Chris DeSmet is awesome --encouraging you while at the same time gently leading you to get better and to make your writing stronger. Best investment I ever made in my career as a writer." ~ Jo Schmidt, Mequon, Wis., graduate of #9009 Screenwriting/Write Your First Draft Fast (Level III)
"Before I took Chris DeSmet's course, my screenplay didn't have TRUE character arcs, turning points, echo scenes, etc. Her enthusiasm, honesty and aggressiveness never wavered. NO ONE will be disappointed taking her course!" ~ Mary Skanavis, Wauwatosa, Wis.
How it works
You can start our workshops anytime, and there are no required hours to log on. It's all done with one-on-one correspondence with the instructor using email. You can read and print course materials in the course Web site, which you can access at your leisure with a password that we will give you. We have writers from around the world participating in our workshops, and we have success stories. A lot of great writing gets accomplished via email. Because of the one-on-one nature of our workshops, you'll find them an excellent "coaching" or mentoring situation that will keep you going. And if you want to just work on your own-hey, that's fine too. Of course you can do the suggested exercises on your own without the feedback if you'd rather do that. We're also here throughout the year if you have questions.
Review the current technical requirements for students in Learn@UW online courses.
Christine DeSmet is a screenwriter, novelist, and writing teacher and critique coach. She also writes plays and short stories. Her true-story film script “Chinaware-Fragile” was the winner of a past Slamdance Film Festival contest and optioned to New Line Cinema. With co-writer Peggy Williams, Christine has optioned other screenplays and placed high in national contests.
She's a fellowship graduate of the Warner Bros. Sitcom Writers Workshop, a past officer of Wisconsin Screenwriters Forum, member of Romance Writers of America and Writers Guild of America, East. Her romantic suspense novel, Spirit Lake, is an award-winning novel for publisher Hard Shell Word Factory. Her short stories are in anthologies published by Whiskey Creek Press, including a new Christmas anthology due out in 2011. She has a master's degree in journalism from UW-Madison and grew up on a farm near Barneveld, WI.
$195 Basic Level gives you all the materials and exercises, and the instructor coaches you through the first 20 pages of your screenplay.
$395 Pro Level is for those who want to be coached through an entire screenplay, idea stage to the "FADE OUT."
Work at your own pace and take up to a year to finish. Register any time.
Online: Register now online with our secure server.
Mail: Print and mail our registration form.
Telephone: Call 608-262-2451 or toll-free 800-725-9692 to register. Our phone is answered M-F, 7:00 am-4:30 pm Central Time. At other times please leave a message, and we will return your call.
Contact Christine DeSmet (email@example.com, 608-262-3447) for more details. Work at your own pace and take up to a year to finish. You will earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) when you complete the course. CEUs: 1.2 for Basic Level; 9.0 for Pro Level.
For more information about online learning contact Lori O'Neill at 608-263-6322 or toll-free 877-336-7836 or email LSAonline@dcs.wisc.edu.
Also of interest
Explore other online writing classes.
The same writing staff that bring you these great online classes also provide individualized writing critique services. Learn more by visiting our writing critique services web page.
Subscribe to the Writing News, our free e-mail newsletter and 3-4 times a year you will receive a detailed e-mail with information about our upcoming writing programs, and news about student achievements or opportunities for writers. To subscribe send a blank firstname.lastname@example.org.
More distance education: Independent Learning journalism and writing courses are another option for distance education through University of Wisconsin-Extension. Most courses are available for college or high-school credit.
For novelists, screenwriters, and other writers, dynamic dialogue is essential. "The Dialogue Shop" also teaches how to write great scenes (the backbone of fiction). Check out "The Dialogue Shop" for details.