I recently took a Screenwriting Master Class taught by Meg Lefauve and available on the new Sundance Co//ab website. Costing just $10 (the cost of the monthly website subscription, which you can cancel at any time), the class is a roughly three-hour video talk that offered a lot of great insights into feature screenwriting.
Meg LeFauve is an A-list screenwriter whose screenwriting credits include both Inside Out, a movie I cite a lot on this site to illustrate various ideas, and Captain Marvel. She also has extensive experience working for the actress Jodie Foster.
The insight from the class that made the greatest impression on me was Meg’s statement that, for nearly all the scripts she provides feedback on, the core problem is that the writers “have not attached me deeply, emotionally to the main character and their psychology, who they are, and how they see the world.”
She also emphasized that the reader/audience must not merely understand the character’s worldview but must believe it too: “I have to believe in Act 1 what they believe,” she said. Otherwise, the audience will be ahead of the character and outside of the character’s emotional journey.
So, how does a writer get the reader/audience to buy into the protagonist’s specific psychology? LeFauve said a single scene or a montage can accomplish this.
In Inside Out, the audience in Act 1 needs to see Sadness the way Joy sees Sadness. That is why there is a montage showing Sadness being difficult and unhelpful.
LeFauve elaborated on these ideas about the character’s psychology in much greater detail than I’m covering here, so it’s worth listening to the whole class. (And to be clear, I’m not an affiliate of the Sundance Co//ab website, so I don’t benefit financially in any way from you signing up.)
The class also covered LeFauve’s approach to three-act structure, which is very similar to the approach I discussed in this post because her approach relies heavily on the story being about disproving the character’s initial mistaken belief. But she covers the three acts in a deeper, more detailed way.
She also talked about something she called “pole scenes,” which are very similar to the idea of paired, contrasting scenes that I discussed in this post.
In any case, for $10, the class may be the best value for a screenwriting class I’ve come across. It doesn’t get into the details of scene design like these classes, but for big-picture, macro issues, it’s very helpful.