Writing for Film & TV Diploma
Learn how to turn your writing into saleable, commercial formats ready for production.
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Screenwriting Program Description
Learn Screenwriting From Real Screenwriters
Welcome to the writing room—intensive, collaborative, specialized. Work with creative peers and accomplished screenwriters. Network with industry professionals inside and outside the classroom.
Write documentaries, studio broadcasts, sitcoms, dramas, feature films and more. Learn to pitch, finance, produce, direct, market and showrun your own production. Leave with a portfolio of work that showcases your know-how and new skills to prospective employers.
Michelle was director of content at the Comedy Network, followed by Senior Director of Comedy at CBC. She has contributed to the success of such popular shows as Corner Gas, Kim’s Convenience and Schitt’s Creek.
Alan is a writer, director, three-time Gemini Award winner and a Writer’s Guild of Canada award recipient. He was a showrunner for two Comedy Network series, and a writer on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Koati, Stoked, and Total Drama Island.
Janet has an impressive list of producing and writing credentials. She has written episodes for The Murdoch Mysteries, The Border (which she also created and produced), Emily of New Moon and Road to Avonlea.
“Creating new worlds, great characters and compelling stories is something that I truly enjoy. The possibilities are endless.”
Writing for Film & TV ’18 Writer, The Murdoch Mysteries and Diggstown
“I optioned a feature right out of school.”
Writing for Film & TV ’16 Writer and Producer, AntiSocial
“Toronto Film School taught me how to tell my stories. Now, I’m a screenwriter.”
Writing for Film & TV ’19 Writer and Director, You May Kiss the Bride
The Toronto Film School Blog
Explore the latest industry news, our student success stories, special events, and more.
Graduate Megan St-Pierre’s screenwriting story:
Making a Big Change | Megan St-Pierre’s Screenwriting Story
Screenwriting Courses by Term
Term 1 (7)
Get the inside scoop on the history of film. Focus on its origins, key innovators, important milestones and associated technology, and the social and political factors that impact cinema. This course strengthens your understanding of cinematic history so you can become a pro at effectively reading, tracking and predicting current trends. Explore that history with a lecture-based course, augmented with visual teaching aids.
Have a story to tell? Start the first chapter of your screenwriting journey by exploring character creation, dialogue writing, screen structure and more. Learn to create complex, layered characters and write them into a scene that reveals character traits through subtle subtext. You will also pen story conflict within a scene centering on a protagonist/antagonist relationship, which culminates in the ultimate scene resolution. Your story continues as you write a second scene in sequence, discussing audience expectations and considering the opportunity to go against them to create a more compelling narrative.
Take a turn in the producer chair. Master the basic concepts of production through basic directing techniques, terminology, roles, basic shooting techniques, master shots, and how to interpret the written word. Along the way, gain an understanding of the three stages involved in filmmaking: pre-production, production and post-production. You’ll be immersed in labs/workshops and apply theory to firsthand experience by rotating weekly through various production roles.
Production 1 Studio
Move away from the typical classroom setting and get your hands dirty. Each week, challenge yourself by putting all the theories from your classes to the test. Through hands-on, cooperative learning, you will complete weekly short film assignments or exercises, in collaboration with your small crew.
This course is for all future television and film documentarians! Master the practical writing skills needed to tackle this discipline, with subjects including: television writing as a collaborative process, working with creative teams (such as researchers, executives, directors and editors), understanding your (or the broadcaster’s) audience, writing outlines and treatments, writing and pitching your idea, research, the art of the interview, understanding tone, writing in different voices, editing, and dealing with feedback.
Broadcast Writing 1
Explore various formats, styles, and approaches associated with writing for a studio broadcast. Your focus will be on news reporting, becoming familiar with broadcast terminology, and training to ‘write for the ear’. Subject areas will include preparation and research, interviewing, and composing scripts. Specific broadcast formats for news reports, commentaries, and mini-features will be examined.
Story Editing 1
There is an art to critiquing creative work. Take on the role of the story editor in the creative process, and acquire the finesse to critically analyze the scripts and development materials of others. You will focus on the collaborative process of writing – considering the notes of story editors, executives, producers, directors and even actors, and delivering feedback in the ‘correct’ way to get the best results. Introductory story analysis and the importance of creative brainstorming will be stressed as you endeavor to improve each others’ work in a professional, true-to-life manner.
Term 2 (8)
Editing is your key to becoming a master storyteller. Equip yourself with the basic concepts of editing through visual storytelling, technical skills and artistry. Explore theoretical concepts and become familiar with editing stations, workflow, software and its various tools. You will also investigate themes, including how to build tension and elicit an emotional response.
Marketing and Promotional Media
This is your introduction to fundamental marketing/promotional formats, with a focus on dealing with clients and meeting their marketing needs. Working in groups, you will deliver a testimonial video, a broadcast ready television commercial, a broadcast ready public service announcement (PSA), and pitch and deliver either a music video, corporate video, training video, or cover a live event.
Marketing and Promotional Media Studio
Get into the hype machine and apply your working knowledge of marketing and promotional media to various filmed projects. Working in groups, you will deliver a movie trailer, a broadcast-ready public service announcement (PSA) and, through a pitching session, pitch and deliver a music video.
International Film Studies
Some of today’s most recognizable films are produced outside of Hollywood. International Film Studies is designed to provide an overview of cinema outside of North America and western filmmaking. Widen your perspective and be captivated by some of the great masters of World Cinema, highlighting their contributions to the cinematic art form abroad and influence on global filmmaking. Be inspired by these master works and cinematic achievements, developing an essential understanding of today’s expanding global marketplace.
Advanced Directing Techniques
Dive deeper into the creative process as you learn to make technical decisions made by the Director, focusing on pre-production and production. Learn to collaborate with performers and understand how to effectively voice their ideas and vision with the crew. You will also be exposed to multiple setups, movement, and theories to gain a further understanding of the tools required to successfully direct any project.
What is the three-act structure and story arc? Dive into these pillars and learn to create and highlight fundamental plot points. For this, you will build on your structural knowledge: design a beat sheet for a short film, go through the process of creating a treatment, and write a first draft focusing on rising action, tension and creating a compelling narrative. Use your new skills to continue tweaking your script, as this is generally the screenplay submitted in your pitch/package for consideration for the Thesis projects/short films.
Broadcast Writing 2
Focus on story development and broadcast scripts that grab and hold your audience. You will also learn fundamental considerations in the production of advertisements, promos, and corporate videos, as you examine and analyze current trends. Throughout, you will build an introductory portfolio of corporate video scripts, commercials, promos, and PSA’s (public service announcements) for your professional use later on.
Story Editing 2
This course focuses on reader coverage, and specific considerations when story editing projects in various formats. Following on Story Editing I, the instructor will help you expand on the tools needed to analyze the premise, story, characters and controlling idea of a script, and how to present concerns to the writer in the most effective and productive way.
Term 3 (5)
Demystify the concepts and theories behind one of broadcast television’s strongest markets. Develop and pitch an original Factual Entertainment series concept as you are guided through the process of creating the story, structuring the episodes, casting the central personalities, budgeting the production and packaging the overall proposal. The central project in this course will be the production of a “sizzle reel” to present to producers and broadcasters.
Canadian copyright laws are constantly evolving. Stay in the know by studying current contracts associated with copyright infringement and clearance. You will also explore the essential provisions of copyright law focusing on its terms, coverages, exclusive rights, ownerships and payments. You will also get into the nitty-gritty of clearances concerning writing, music, intellectual property and brands, as well as assess when it is necessary to engage legal counsel.
Your journey to becoming a comedy writer begins with sketch, talk-show, and sitcom writing. This course discusses the notion of A, B & C plots, as well as the traditional ‘Tease-2 Acts-Tag’ structure. Become familiar with the language and process of television comedy writing and rewriting as you analyze the various formats for television comedy, study current sitcoms (animated and live-action), talk and sketch shows. Ultimately, you will find your unique comic voice and POV, while preparing a series of monologues, desk jokes, sketches and a spec script of an existing sitcom for your portfolio. Three hours a week will be dedicated to table-reading and work-shopping student scripts.
Feature Writing 1
Your ideas are ready for the big screen. Building on Scripts 1 & 2, dive further into the creative process, looking at how words translate into images, and how filmic elements create a visual narrative. You will examine the concepts of conflict, theme, subtext, tone, dialogue and genre, as you are introduced to the traditional three act story structure for film. The importance of researching, and/or knowing your characters and their world will be stressed, as you come up with your own concept proposals (including log line & synopsis). Your ideas will be taken to beat sheet and then treatment phases by the end of the course. Three hours a week will be spent table-reading and work-shopping student materials.
Got a flair for the dramatic? Explore the unique style and structure of the dramatic television series, with a focus on storyline and story development. Plot structure, narrative unity, characterization, dialogue, exposition and setting will all be studied in depth, paired with the analysis of various current dramatic series. The traditional four-act structure for hour-long series will be introduced, and you will examine how the ‘rules’ are applied to some of your favourite series. Throughout, you will write a spec script for an existing dramatic series from proposal to first draft, and your script will be used as a portfolio piece after graduation. The course includes three hours a week spent table-reading and work-shopping student scripts.
Term 4 (5)
Finance for Film and TV
Ever wonder how today’s biggest blockbusters are funded? Here’s your opportunity to familiarize yourself with the varieties of funding applicable at different levels of the government, the different stipulations and approaches required by each, the various avenues and methods for raising your own capital, and the different strategies of financing a project.
Let’s get your film seen by audiences around the world. Familiarize yourself with the business of film and television distribution and marketing. You will formulate production and distribution choices dealing with projects and business partners, develop an understanding of the TV sales process and the global marketplace. Then learn the language of broadcast and film sales, creating effective “one/sell” sheets, developing a sales forecast and crafting a marketing and promotional plan. You will also learn to identify accessible and profitable markets, gain a greater understanding of the domestic and international film and television landscape. Plus familiarize yourself with the techniques involved with mobile, web and video on demand, and other emerging platforms and markets.
Sitcom Writing 1
Join the writer’s room on the next big sitcom. Building on the base established in Comedy Writing, you will analyze the structure, scripting and pacing of the sitcom in greater depth. Single-camera and multi-camera shows will be examined as you consider the ‘trajectory’ of the genre in recent years. The importance of likeable, well-defined characters in a compelling, comfortable world (with consistent rules) will be stressed. And by the end, you will write your very own original sitcom pilot from proposal to outline to draft. Three hours a week will be spent table-reading and work-shopping student scripts.
Feature Writing 2
Channel your creative juices because you could be the next big screenwriter. Building on the base established in Feature Writing I, you will focus on story structure, specifically on how to construct and deconstruct a story in various ways. More complex structures will be examined to give you a solid foundation in the language of feature film story. Scene structure will also be examined in greater depth. Equipped with new knowledge, you will take your feature outlines written in part I and begin writing a first draft. Standard industry formats for various development documents will be reviewed, as you also revise your pitch documents from part I (log lines, synopses, etc.) for future use. Three hours a week will be spent table-reading and work-shopping student materials.
One-Hour Drama Writing 1
Do you dream of being a staff writer on an award-winning drama? Building on the base established in Drama Writing, this course will push you to write a one-hour dramatic episode for television. You will conceive your own ideas and establish the ‘rules’ of your world, before drafting an original pilot script. With the market-driven nature of dramatic television in mind, you will learn about flexibility, accommodation of external influences, understanding audience, and extending story to digital platforms. Three hours a week will be spent table-reading and work-shopping student scripts.
Term 5 (5)
Sitcom Writing 2
How do you put yourself in the best position to be hired as a staff writer? Look at the structure of real-world story departments and equip yourself with the skills you need to secure your dream job. Using the original pilot drafts written in Sitcom Writing 1, you will experience what it’s like to act as Showrunner. In small groups, each of you will act as Showrunner while you rework and enhance each others’ pilot scripts. Throughout, instructors will impart invaluable experience as they map out the process of brainstorming, story editing, and ‘punching up’ each others’ scripts in real-world writing room style.
Writing 2 One-Hour Drama
Here’s your inside look at the ins and outs of the dramatic story department. The essential skills you learn in this course will help you secure a staff position on a dramatic television series. Using the original pilot drafts written in One-Hour Drama Writing 1, you will break into small groups and take turns at being Showrunner with your own script. Instructors will consult with the groups on a regular basis, giving producer/network style notes for each Showrunner to follow. Discover the advantages and disadvantages of having additional ‘brains’ on your project, as you collaborate, rework, rewrite, and do your best to keep a consistent style and tone. Instructors will guide the process, but it will ultimately be up to you how you will improve the script.
Feature Writing 3
Ready for the next phase of writing your feature film? In this course, you will workshop your first drafts from Feature Writing II, rethinking and rewriting as you receive feedback from instructors and peers. The focus will be on the increasingly collaborative nature of feature writing and how to make the most of the criticism of others. The logistics of writing a commercially saleable script will be examined, as will the art of producing a compelling feature adaptation from a novel or other medium. Modern story structures for current saleable genres will be studied, including romantic comedies and thrillers. You will finalize pitch materials from parts I & II (log lines, synopses, etc.) so that, along with a polished script, you will possess the short documents necessary to get people interested in reading your work. Three hours a week will be spent table-reading and work-shopping student materials.
TV Movie Writing
The unstoppable growth of streaming services means TV Movie writing is more important than ever. With a solid basis in Feature Writing, this course introduces you to this always-prevalent genre. Examine the unique structure and production concerns of these films, as well as their atypical plot development and characterization. Subject areas will include ripped-from-the-headlines adaptations, and how far the writer can/should stray from the truth to make their story as compelling as possible. Finding a story that will be saleable in today’s MOW (movie-of-the-week) market will be stressed as you choose your TV Movie concept, which will eventually be taken through to the beat sheet phase.
Emerging Media for Filmmakers
Stay ahead of the game. With technology, laws and distribution rapidly evolving, this course provides a historical perspective in order to provide the skills required to both project trends and successfully navigate relevant media. Stay on trend as regular guest speakers will present the latest developments in this rapidly evolving space.
Term 6 (4)
Sitcom Showrunning & Short Film Production – (New Course)
Explore the pre-production and production phases of Sitcom Showrunning & Short Film Production. Based on the short story script you submitted during the previous term, you will have two streams of opportunity for this course: a) if your script was selected for production, you will become a director/producer for your film; or b) you will use your pilot script from Sitcom Writing 2 to go through the process of casting and shooting a scene for your original sitcom. Topics include: set etiquette, casting, location scouting, location agreements, permits, shots lists, equipment needs and the various issues that arise during the pre-production period. Guided by your faculty member, you will target a production date and work to execute a successful shoot. At the course’s conclusion, you will submit a detailed production package, similar to those used in the industry and sent to distributors along with completed projects.
One-Hour Drama Showrunning
This is your opportunity to showrun the production of a scene from your original pilot. This true-to-life, real-world-style exercise will take you through the process of casting, then shooting your original scene. Though full production will not occur (a standing camera will be used to capture each take), you will guide your vision from page to screen as you manage actors and tweak your story on the spot. You will also have the chance to use the writers from your One-Hour Drama Writing 2 class as additional eyes on-set, or as writing support.
Feature Writing 4
It’s all come down to this. This final Feature Writing course will test the skills you’ve accumulated throughout this program as you use the materials created in Feature Writing I-III and assume the role as writer-director filmmaker. This course is heavily weighted to the practical. As in the final term Showrunning courses, you will audition, cast, and then run a complete table-read of your feature script. It is your responsibility to direct your actors during the read, as you watch your words come to life off the page. You will walk away from this course with invaluable experience from this true-to-life, real-world style exercise.
Career Development for Writers
Learn how to solidify your career in the film & television industry, from a business and creative standpoint. On the business side: understand the role of agents, lawyers and managers in your career. On the creative side: optimize your portfolio for various goals and strike the right balance of including both original and spec scripts. Formats for pitch documents will be reviewed, including log lines, synopses, treatments, bibles, and pilot scripts. You will also learn about pitch techniques and have the opportunity to create submission packages to be used after graduation.
Our Admissions Process Made Easy
Complete Toronto Film School’s online application form.
Pay the application fee of $100.
Provide original or notarized translated academic transcripts.
- Please submit a portfolio of two (or more) writing pieces:
- Journal Entries (no more than two pages)
- Short Story (no more than two pages)
- Opinion Article (no more than two pages)
- Short Film/Sketch script (not to exceed five pages)
Provide proof of English-language proficiency. (international students only)
Provide a copy of your passport. (international students only)
The application fee will be deducted from your tuition total. For a more in-depth break-down of the admissions steps, please visit the Requirements page.
The tuition fees for the Writing for Film & TV program are listed below.
Canadian or Permanent Residence Students:
$5920 per term
$6275 per term
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Take advantage of payment options that are available to all new Toronto Film School students.Contact Us
If you’re an international student, visit the Tuition page.
Tuition Fees do not include books, expendable supplies, equipment and resources.