Robert McKee Story Seminars and the Story book

Back in 2009 I had the great opportunity to attend a screenwriting seminar by Robert McKee. If you are at all interested in drilling deeply into the craft of storytelling or even considering writing a novel or a screenplay then this is the course to attend.

Over a four day, fairly intense course, McKee uses a simple overhead projector with acetates and film clips to describe the art of storytelling and scriptwriting. There are so many techniques covered it can take a while after the event simply to realize the breadth and depth covered. I’ve pasted below the four day agenda to give some idea.

He has opinions, some quite strong ones, and a very specific point of view. But you can see by the number of household names in his audiences that he is also well respected. His content is excellent to describe the nature of story when it comes to making films and as you might expect bleeds over heavily into the nature of the visual story work that we cover.

I can also recommend his book “Story”, my copy being well marked-up and used over the last few years.


  • 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
  • Titles
  • 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

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