Screenwriting : Is teaching people about screenwriting more lucrative than actually doing it? by Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy

Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy

Is teaching people about screenwriting more lucrative than actually doing it?

Yesterday, I watched this 10 minute video featuring screenwriting guru John Truby. He’s the type of academic that pontificates his beliefs in a Yoda like manner that can at times, can make you feel small. He contends that if one wishes to be successful, screenwriting is lifelong commitment. I absolutely agree with that. Those writers that think they’re going to hit pay dirt on their first script are probably in for a rude awakening. Yet, Truby just rubbed me the wrong way. So, I looked up his screenwriting credits and he wrote three episodes of 21 Jump Street nearly thirty years ago, as well as an obscure feature film. He has since made his mark as a script consultant and screenwriting instructor. He charges about $59.00 for each of each of his audio modules and $449.00 for his online classes. So, perhaps teaching about screenwriting is more lucrative than actually doing it. That’s a rhetorical question. Here’s the link to his video:

Doug Nelson

Generally, I like Truby's approach although I have to agree that he exudes a Yoda like manner (I like Yoda too) but it doesn't make me feel small at all. He basically says the same thing that most of the other gurus say – so there's nothing new. It's all just (un)common sense and for only $17.00, you can by his book that tells you everything in all his modules/on line classes combined. But just in terms of economics, I'm confident that he's making a fairly steady income – can you say that about entry level screenwriters? An' somebody gotta teach 'em, eh?

Kay Tuxford

I mean, yes. Of course. The average screenwriter makes about 20k a year. That makes almost ANY other job more lucrative, including being a public school teacher.

Babz Bitela, President/Silver Bitela Agency/WGA

I teach for free aka gas money (only if it's through the Learning Exchange) - I teach because I never know what new voice or hook or script I may discover but too THEY teach me and I am certain I am a better agent as a result. For small companies like me, writers who pitch us must remember: we, like them, are trying to trap lightening--we need luck as much as chops and thus it's got to all line up aka the perfect recipe to see a spec get set up, shot and distributing (the biggest diamond in the crown) of the film's "life". I will say this: GREAT WRITING always finds an ear and typically, a deal.

Jorge J Prieto

Babz, thank you for your positive reinforcement feedback. I've watched this video many times and Mr. Truby does make some good points, but as writers if we don't write everyday, how can we get better at it? #grateful to you always, Uncle Phil.

Shawn Speake

I own Truby's MASTER STORYTELLER Series. Would recommend to all writers. But I don't care about his personality - just the intel.... Hey, Uncle Phil! Thanks for giving me feedback along with MaxXx. I'm on it.

Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy


You are always welcome my friend!


The whole thing about Truby rubbing me the wrong way is my own personal demon. I didn't finish my Bachelor of Science until I was 45 and my Master of Arts when I was 47. But in general, many smug academics give me a stiff pain in the ass. I'm sure Truby's probably a nice guy (rolling my eyes).

Beth Fox Heisinger

The important point in this video that rang out for me is: Openness. Putting aside ego. Putting in the time. Focusing on the work. Being objective. "Professionals are open to learning more." "The willingness to learn from anyone from anywhere." YES!!! Makes perfect sense to me. Truby and others do not make me feel small. I see this as practical knowledge. And it certainly supports my approach and life philosophy. Lol! ;) As far as instructors/consultants... people always bring up the writing credit test—does she/he have or does she/he not have a number of writing credits... Well... a good coach may or may not have been an all-star pro player her/himself, but they are damn good at spotting one. Or helping one reach their potential. Or they are extremely knowledgeable. What I look for in an instructor is who has she/he helped? Who are the "students?" Do those people have writing credits? Have they gone on to bigger things? Are there thoughtful positive testimonials from all different people from all different levels? One sought-after instructor/consultant that I really like is Brian McDonald. He has lectured story to the folks at Pixar, Disney, George Lucas' company, etc... BUT at the end of the day, the question really is: Does it help you? Take all that you can from all available resources. Utilize what works best for you and discard the rest. ...Openness, remember? ;)

Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy


Thanks for recommending Brian McDonald. I've never heard of him before but I'm going to check him out now.

W Keith Sewell

I haven't heard of Brian McDonald, so I will check him out too. Thanks Beth.

Beth Fox Heisinger

You are most welcome, Phillip. ;) Brian McDonald's book "Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories That Resonate" is one of my all-time favorites—actually it's the very first book I purchased on story and screenwriting. Anyway, McDonald teaches in Seattle. ;)

Dan MaxXx

it is easy to analyze storytelling. Plenty of youtube critics, in basement couches, explain story.

Steal what you like about Trudy's theory and throw the rest in garbage. Steal bits of knowledge from everybody.

W Keith Sewell

I found Truby to be over-analytical. To me, there is no formula for constructing a great cinematic story.

Fiona Faith Ross

More interested in your question, Uncle Phil, and looking at the explosion of "services" for writers (all paid), I would suggest that yes, providing those has to be a good little money spinner compared to trying to produce original content.

Wayne Jarman

I think this is a valid question for all styles of writing. There is a whole industry out there, trying to make money out of writers ...who are, generally, struggling to make a living from their art.

Owen Mowatt

Is Truby or gurus in general, trying to teach me something that I couldn't learn, read or find out for myself?.....NO?

In that case I'm being lazy and Truby knows it. That'll be $69.99 please.

John Ellis

Truby offers his own "structure" which is just a rehash of the classic Hero's Journey. And while it's true that in other creative realms there are "those who can't, teach," it's really prevalent in the film biz. In novel writing, for example, while there are some who prey on newbies, there are many high quality people and groups (Donald Maas, Clarion, Odyssey et. al.) that offer classes, workshops, etc. that are of solid value. The film biz just seems to attract predators more than other industries.

Dan Guardino

Truby is just another screenwriter that couldn't make a living writing screenplays so he now takes wannabe screenwriters money to tell them how to become a successful screenwriter. I am not saying he can't teach a newer screenwriter how to become a better one but he doens't have a clue what it takes to become a professional screenwriter or he would be one.

Brian Walsh

Part of what makes this observation true (and it really is more of an observation than a question), is that there is a much bigger market in being a teacher than a screenwriter. There are really only a limited number of films and shows made each year that pay decently to the writer. Thousands upon thousands of scripts are written, a few hundred maybe get produced. However there are lots of hungry writers to sell classes and books to, so it only follows that you can make more money teaching than trying to sell scripts unless you're amazingly good and in the right place at the right time.

This isn't a criticism, but just a fact of what's real out there. In the end I guess the lesson is that if you are truly a writer, then write and maybe if you're fortunate you'll be professionally produced. But if you're only in it for the money, there are much safer ways to make a living.

Doug Nelson

It was the guys selling the pans, picks & shovels to the 49er crowd who survived over the long haul. It's always been thus so.

Dan Guardino

Phil. I like the CONSULTANT.

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