Writing for Hollywood John Collee

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'If screenwriting was easy, everyone would do it.'

In his extremely popular one day Masterclass, novelist and screenwriter John Collee (Happy Feet, Master and Commander, Walking With Dinosaurs) will share what 20 years working for Hollywood has taught him about:

  • Spotting a bad idea. Which stories work and why?

  • Does my bum look big in this genre? Finding a style you're comfortable in

  • The hero's over-familiar journey -- narrative structure and what it can't compensate for

  • The art of the pitch - why you don't have a movie until you can tell it aloud

  • Thought into action - getting your vision into words

  • All writing is co-writing: the myth of the isolated artist

  • What inventing a 'three-dimensional character' actually means

  • Dialogue, its uses and abuses

  • 'Sword-fighting ensues.' How to write action

  • Do's and dont's of giving notes, taking notes and revising

  • How to wrestle an octopus - the art of the rewrite

  • Obsessional or professional? Knowing when the horse you're flogging has died...

If you're a beginner this course will stop you wasting precious time on projects that cannot possibly succeed.

If you're already an experienced writer this course will make you more productive.

If you're a producer this course will help you get the best out of writers.

And if you think your award-winning script is '80% finished' this course will persuade you that it's not.


John Collee is a novelist and screenwriter whose films - often co-written with their respective directors - have three times been nominated for Oscars. His huge body of work defies classification: from blockbuster action, (Master and Commander), to domestic drama (Creation), and animated family movies such as Happy Feet and Walking with Dinosaurs. His foreign language films include last year’s Wolf Totem and this year’s surprise hit Tanna. His action thriller Hotel Mumbai has recently finished shooting in India, and his next project will be based on the video game Just Cause. He believes that the essential principles of screenwriting apply to every genre and can be taught in a few hours ... but generally require 5-10 years of practice!

Check out John Collee: Interview about Writing for Hollywood on our Meet the Tutors page.

Feeback from past students:

"John's insights into story structure, plots & his own experience were fantastic, practically applicable & inspiring. A great masterclass. Thank you."

"I absolutely loved this session. Brilliant speaker. The best course I've ever done - and that's saying something because I've done a lot."

"As a total beginner starting in writing, I found this an extremely valuable experience."

"Excellent course, John was an amazing speaker."

"Great! Loved it! Will be back."

Have any questions? Please get in touch: open@aftrs.edu.au or 1300 065 281

***DISCLAIMER*** AFTRS reserves the right to cancel any course for any reason at any time. In the event of a course being cancelled a full refund of course fees will be provided. If a participant wishes to withdraw from a course, they may do so up to 15 days before the course commences and get a full refund. Cancellations 14 days or less before course commencement will incur a fee. For more information on AFTRS Open's policies, including refund policies, please see our policies page.


The Australian Film Television and Radio School would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners, the Bidjigal people and Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, on whose land we meet, work, study and teach. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and extend our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from all nations of this land.