“To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script” – Alfred Hitchcock
The screenwriter tends to be a certain breed of individual, relentlessly curious, continuously frustrated, and desperate for any drop of inspiration he or she can find. For us there is nothing more fascinating than the oldest art-form known to mankind, the art of storytelling.
As someone who sits at a desk for the most part of the day (not writing) I have reached a point in which muscle memory for the day job has reached almost expert level. In turn I have found solace in my YouTube viewing, which I see as more a source of my personal education than merely one for entertainment purposes.
Over time I have happened across a number of Youtubers whom have dedicated their time and knowledge to the topic of writing, and consistently managed to find new ways of exploring the medium with fresh and insightful perspectives. In this article I have narrowed it down to five of the best, with the aim of providing a list that is varied in approaches and executions.
So without further ado and in no particular order, here are five YouTube channels you should subscribe to if you want to be a better screenwriter.
LIKE STORIES OF OLD
LSOO takes a grand approach to analysing and dissecting stories. It’s creator Tom is drawn to what stories tell us about ourselves and humanity as a whole, often drawing upon more philosophical sources to explore huge complex ideas that are made tangible through his use of effective visuals and compelling arguments. Tom also possesses a naturally calming tone that goes a long way in demonstrating some of the more difficult concepts that he presents, just watch his video ‘Transcending Time -Interstellar’s Hidden Meaning’ and you will understand how mind-boggling it can get.
“I believe that movies, just like the stories of old, contain valuable lessons and insights, and to better understand them is to better understand life”
LSOO is an incredibly inspirational channel that is more of a love letter to storytelling than a guide. Tom’s content has an epic-like quality that is difficult to master. I would personally suggest that LSOO is a great place to start if you’re a writer in search of a burst of inspiration or even in need of a new perspective on life.
Sage Hyden is without a doubt obsessed with writing, he truly understands what constitutes good writing and perhaps more importantly what constitutes bad writing.
Just Write isn’t exclusively devoted to writing for the screen, but it does make up the most of Sage’s work. The channel has a very personal approach. Sage creates this inviting notion that we’re all writers and we’re all in this together. Despite the fact we are all on our own personal journeys, we can in fact help push one another to greater levels of quality. I admire Sage’s understanding of the mechanics of story, but admire his appreciation of good storytelling even more.
Sage began his channel with a series of videos on The Hobbit Trilogy, titled THE HOBBIT SUCKS PARTS 1 through to 5 (begin HERE if you dare). I think it’s safe to say Sage was very disappointed with these films, a sentiment I feel many of us shared. The irony that he managed to make five in depth videos on the trilogy, when New Line managed three movies from one 350 page book is not lost here.
Overall Just Write has a plethora of joyously well conceived and excellently executed content that just keeps getting better. I would highly recommend checking out Sage’s series on Bad Writing, these selection of video essays allow you to understand where not to take your work, of which I believe is just as if not more useful than analysing the best storytelling.
Storytellers is possibly the most difficult of this list to pin down, I might even consider this suggestion as the wildcard of the bunch and I think we can all agree every expert team needs a wildcard right?
The channel no doubt has a more experimental approach, as with LSOO the creators are clearly curious about what these stories can tell us about the world as a whole and what motivates the people who tell them. In turn this has lead them to create some very inspiring content that is more grand and thematic in nature, such as the surprisingly deep and convincing ‘Harold & Kumar: Re-evaluating the American Dream‘ (Well worth a watch). If only I had thought of this one when conceiving my dissertation title. On the other side of the spectrum the creators of Storytellers also show an aptitude for more practical content, evident in their beautiful analysis of subtext in Casablanca.
Storytellers feels like a channel that wants to do lots of different things in a variety of styles, which shows that the creators are not afraid to try new things, a quality that can only be admired. Its approach feels less defined than its compatriots, however this does not detract from the quality of work on show. It is a channel with a lot of important points to make and when it works, it really works. No surprise that the most viewed video in their library is ‘How to be Creative: How an Artist Turns Pro‘ which has way over 1 million views, proving that regardless of your technical limitations if your work has substance then it will ultimately be noticed.
Now this channel is a bit different to the rest of the recommendations in this list. Film Courage primarily focuses on current industry professionals who have a vital insight into the Film and TV industries. Video essays are great, but what could be better than direct advice and perspective from those that are doing it right now?!
Film Courage isn’t solely focused on Screenwriting but it’s a subject that makes up a huge amount of the channel’s content. They release videos on a daily basis, and consistently find new and original topics to discuss with the pros. If you have a writing question or are stuck somehow, then more than likely Film Courage has already asked the same question, and found some valuable answers. Additionally their website has a wealth of extra worthwhile content, from podcasts, articles, and guides.
LESSONS FROM THE SCREENPLAY
LFTS may be the pinnacle of what is possible for a Youtube channel dedicated to the art of screenwriting. It is without a doubt the most well informed channel around, and its creator Michael has found a formula that is both easily digestible and incredibly insightful. Utilising quotes and chapters from some of the most well respected resources in the industry, Michael takes their ideas and intelligently applies them to Movies we all know and love. Concepts from all the big hitters like of Robert McKee and Syd Field are given new life with Michaels expert analysis and efficient style.
Michael never ceases to surprise me in his ability to find new and intriguing topics to breakdown, and his chosen case studies fit perfectly into the points he is trying to make. He “believe[s] that a more informed audience raises the bar for storytelling”. Michael wants better audiences and better storytellers, and he’s no doubt achieving that with a growing audience of over 900k subscribers, let’s get him to 1 million!
I was first introduced to LFTS upon the release of Michael’s analysis of Heath Ledger’s Joker in Batman The Dark Knight, titled ‘The Dark Knight – Creating the Ultimate Antagonist’. I cannot recommend a video essay anymore than I can this one, and it’s probably not even the best one. I am also happy to admit that upon watching his video ‘The Devil Wears Prada – The First 10 Pages’ I rushed to find a copy of the film after avoiding it for far too long. My girlfriend was pleasantly pleased and somewhat suspicious when I suggested it for our evening viewing.
So there you have it, a definitive and well rounded list of five fantastic free resources ready and available to help push your project to the finish line. No excuses! Unless of course you end up watching too many videos about writing without actually doing any writing, trust me it happens to the best of us.
Please also make sure to subscribe to each of these brilliant channels, and help spread the word of their wonderful efforts so more film-lovers can enjoy their work.