Writing can be taught. In intensive four-day seminars, private consultations, and online, Robert McKee teaches the substance, structure, style, and principles of the grand art of story. McKee teaches the form of story, giving his students an insight into the nature and purpose of their art; what the writer does to thrill, touch and delight their audience, using cinema’s international presence and great works for clear examples. All these principles apply to the many different story media: novels, plays, journalism, and more.
The core of McKee’s teaching places the art of story as a metaphor that makes sense of out of life; our equipment for living. An art as old as humanity, it takes hard work, deep insight, and a breadth of knowledge to craft a work of quality. This is not a “how to” seminar pretending to guarantee a best-seller by this time next weekend, nor does it offer a “formula”, nor the “secrets of Hollywood”. McKee teaches “what is” Story with open clarity and from a position of respect for your audience — respect for all genres and media, respect for both the mainstream and the independent — and empowers the writer to express the purpose of their passions. McKee hands the tools of storytelling to you and reminds you that writers do not sprint: they run a marathon requiring diligence, dedication, effort, passion, and time.
You will probably take the seminar many times. Many have: John Cleese, William Goldman, Paul Haggis, Peter Jackson, Jane Campion, Akiva Goldsman, Joan Rivers, Kirk Douglas, Meg Ryan, Drew Carey, Russell Brand, the entire writing staff of Pixar, and over 100,000 others have taken the seminar. McKee has been teaching for decades and his students have collectively won at least 65 Oscars and 165 Emmys.
“When the storytelling goes bad in society, the result is decadence.”
“A culture cannot evolve without honest, powerful storytelling. When society repeatedly experiences glossy, hollowed-out, pseudo‐stories, it degenerates. We need true satires and tragedies, dramas and comedies that shine a clean light into the dingy corners of the human psyche and society. If not, as Yeats warned, ‘… the centre can not hold.’”
Over four 10-hour days Robert McKee teaches the substance, structure, style, and principles of story. This seminar has become a rite of passage; Past students include Peter Jackson (THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy), Paul Haggis (MILLION DOLLAR BABY, CRASH, CASINO ROYALE), Akiva Goldsman (A BEAUTIFUL MIND), William Goldman (PRINCESS BRIDE, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID), Ed Saxon (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS), Andrew Stanton (FINDING NEMO), John Lasseter (TOY STORY 1, 2 & 3), Pete Docter (UP), Zak Penn (THE AVENGERS, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, THE INCREDIBLE HULK), Hank Otsby (IRON MAN), Michel Hazanavicius and Antoine De Cazotte (THE ARTIST), Sarah Treem (IN TREATMENT), Brian Kelly (DOWNTON ABBEY), Terrence Winter and Margaret Nagle (BOARDWALK EMPIRE), George Mastras (BREAKING BAD); comedians Joan Rivers, Russell Brand, Drew Carey, Jimmy Fallon; award winning authors Susan Sondheim, Tom Hellman, Steve Pressfield; award winning actors Julia Roberts, Geoffrey Rush, Kirk Douglas, David Bowie, Meg Ryan, John Cleese, Brian Cox, Drew Barrymore, Diane Keaton, Faye Dunaway, and many, many more.
“McKee is not only the best teacher of writing I’ve ever had… but the best teacher of anything.”
- Steven Pressfield (THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE, THE WAR OF ART)
“Robert McKee is the guru of gurus”
-Peter Jackson (THE LORD OF THE RINGS)
Story Seminar Outline:
- The writer and the art of story
- The decline of story in contemporary film
- Story design: the meaning of story, the substance of story, the limitations and inspirations of story structure & genre, the debate between character vs story design
- Premise Idea, Counter Idea, Controlling Idea
- Story Structure: beat, scene, sequence, act, story
- Mapping the Story universe: Archplot, Miniplot, Antiplot
- Shaping the source of story energy and creation
- Putting the elements of story together
- The principles of character dimension and design
- The composition of scenes
- Irony; Melodrama
- False endings
- The text: description, dialogue, and poetics
- The spectrum of story genres
- Act design: the great sweep and body of story
- The first major story event (the inciting incident)
- Scene design in Story: turning points, emotional dynamics, setup/payoff, the nature of choice
- Ordering and linking scenes
- Exposition: dramatizing your characters, the story setting, creating back story
- The principles of antagonism
- Crisis, climax and resolution
- Story adaptations
- Scene analysis: text and sub-text; design through dialogue versus design through action
- The writer’s method: working from the inside out; the creative process from inspiration to final draft.
- How it all works: the principles of the previous 3-1/2 days applied in a 6-hour, scene-by-scene screening and analysis of CASABLANCA
- The spectrum of story genres
Each 4-day Story event runs Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,
beginning at 9:00am and ending at 7:00pm each day.
9:00 – 11:00 Lecture
11:00 – 11:30 MORNING BREAK – Q&A with Robert McKee
11:30 – 1:30 Lecture
1:30 – 2:30 LUNCH BREAK
2:30 – 4:30 Lecture
4:30 – 5:00 AFTERNOON BREAK – Q&A with Robert McKee
5:00 – 7:00 Lecture
The major great choices a writer takes — the medium, the subject matter, the style — signal the work’s genres. Those choices determine the audience, the platform, and — in many cases — the course of a career. Each genre has a distinct purpose, and its conventions manage, create, and satisfy the audience’s expectations towards that end. To write well, the writer must be able to understand just what purpose and expectations the work signals to the audience; the writer must understand the genres. In the Genre Festival, Robert McKee teaches five days, diving into the substance, structure, style, and principles of each of five genres: the substance of the Thriller, the style of Comedy, the principles of Love Story, and the complexities of Action, the week climaxing with the structure and characters of the grand long-form work which draws from all four of these genres: the Television Series.
The Genre Festival. Find out what kind of story you’re writing.
This intensive day session willdismantle the conventions and techniques of one of the world’s most enduring dramatic forms – the Thriller – thus enabling you to both read this genre more profoundly and write your next story utilizing its inherent power. Conventional Crime stories play upon the audience’s fears of lawlessness, violence, and death. The intellectual puzzles of creating and solving a perfect crime, breaking and scattering clues, and misleading attention delight audiences. But the Thriller goes deeper. It reaches into the audience’s unconscious mind to arouse the gripping fear of a fate worse than death, a fate that would make you beg for oblivion.The key to this intense terror is the writer’s creation of an extreme offset of power between the victim protagonist and the ruthless spirit of evil lurking within the antagonist. The greater this imbalance, the greater the thrill in the Thriller.
Comedy Day is a rare opportunity to understand this core genre from the inside out. As Jack London once noted, comedy is th
e toughest, but also the most rewarded story form. This deep dive into the form’s nature and potential will equip you to tackle almost half of the film world’s projected properties. Simply put, a Comedy is a funny story, an elaborate rolling joke of twist-filled events. While wit lightens a telling, it alone will not make a true comedy. Rather, wit often creates hybrids such as a Dramedy (BRIDESMAIDS) or the Crimedy (BEVERLY HILLS COP). You know you’ve written a true comedy when you sit an innocent victim down and pitch your story. Just tell him what happens, without quoting witty dialogue or sight gags, and see if he laughs. If, every time you turn the scene he laughs, until by the end of the pitch you have him collapsed on the floor, you’ve written a Comedy. If he doesn’t laugh, you’ve written…something else.
“There is no enterprise which is started with such tremendous hopes and high expectations and yet fails so often as love.” – Erich Fromm
Feelings of love are genetically imposed on us in order to ensure reproductive success. Love behavior functions to attract the mate, retain a mate, reproduce with your mate, and mutually raise and support offspring. But if love were simply a response to generic programing, any creature that mates for life must be in love for life. Vultures, termites, and anglerfish mate for life, but is that love? Genetics alone can never account for the complex emotional needs, profound desires, and romantic rituals that embrace human beings, all of which can be beautifully expressed via the delightful agony of the Love Story. This dedicated session will address the timeless codes of this genre, enabling you to identify and innovate its dramatic conventions. Robert McKee shares a lifetime of narrative insight into a story form that continues to drive publication and performance across books, films and TV.
With the maturation of the internet, story on television is entering a completely new era – its Golden Age. The all-new TV Day takes advantage of this new paradigm by bringing you the tools and skills to master its challenges. Robert McKee says that if he were a young writer he would work in TV, which has progressed farther than the big screen in recognizing the importance of writers and in giving them creative power. This is why the today’s best writing is on TV. The genres of Genre Week are the content of television – Thriller/Crime, Comedy, Love Stories, and Action. But modern television is the evolution of the epic poem, begging for characters complex enough to sustain 100 hours of story. A TV series contains hundreds of acts and thousands of scenes. The art of the long form is an art all to itself.
“It’s an amazingly important course that I have gone back to do three times”
- John Cleese (MONTY PYTHON, A FISH CALLED WANDA)
“I wish I had taken his seminar before I started writing ‘cut to’ for a living.”
- William Goldman, Two-time Oscar Award-Winning Screenwriter (THE PRINCESS BRIDE, MARATHON MAN, MISERY)
“Robert McKee is a master of the craft and a servant to the art of Screenwriting.”
- Russell Brand, Actor/Writer (FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, GET HIM TO THE GREEK)
Sample list of topics – Comedy Day: The Angry Art
I. The Love of Comedy
II. The Comic Vision of life
III. Comic Structure Vs. Dramatic Structure
IV. The Comic Character
V. Comic Turning Point
VI. The Comedy Genre – Three Grand Conventions
VII. The Comedy Sub-Genres
VIII. Mixed Genres
IX. What is Laughter?
X. Structure of a Joke
XI. The Substance of Jokes
XII. Comic Timing
XIII. Comic Devices
XIV. Screening and Analysis of the film A FISH CALLED WANDA
Each GENRE Day event starts from 9:00am and ends at 8:00pm
9:00 – 10:50 Lecture
10:50 – 11:10 MORNING BREAK – Q&A with Robert McKee
11:10 – 1:00 Lecture
1:00 – 2:00 LUNCH BREAK
2:00 – 3:50 Lecture
3:50 – 4:10 AFTERNOON BREAK – Q&A with Robert McKee
4:10 – 6:00 Lecture
6:00 – 6:20 EVENING BREAK – Q&A with Robert McKee
6:20 – 8:00 Lecture
Storylogue.com is a huge online membership-based video library of Robert McKee’s teachings on story: Lessons, Q&As, & interviews. Visitors can watch one minute of any video.
STORY-in-BUSINESS has its own page. Click here.