Shonda Rhimes-the award-winning American fame, curator of hit shows like Grey’s Anatomy, and my personal favorite. For multiple reasons, I have been obsessed with everything about Grey’s Anatomy for the longest time.
Eventually, I came face to face with my liking for the writing, and Shonda Rhimes and I began enjoying her other shows like Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy by observing her captivating style of writing.
A big part of my screenwriting journey has been the Shonda Rhimes Masterclass. It is knowledgeable, organized, and detailed. This review of the Shonda Rhimes masterclass will be everything you need to know before enrolling for it, without any bias.
What is a Masterclass?
The masterclass was launched as a platform back in 2015 and, it serves you with a range of established professionals from different fields.
These experts help you build your career by sharing some great knowledge and tips with you. You can get the all-access pass to try a variety of classes.
Typically, a class is of approximately 20-25 lessons. These videos are short and easy to learn from.
Apart from that, most of these classes also provide study material for reference and have discussion forums for queries. All in all, it’s a good learning experience at an almost reasonable price.
Shonda RhimesMasterclass Review: Who Is She?
Shonda Rhimes has been around in this industry for around 36398 years now. She’s a popular screenwriter known for her work in creating hit shows like Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal. She’s also won awards for the same and, she’s played the role of a publicist in her journey too.
And here she comes forward to share her journey in the form of a lesson for the next generation of writers.
Shonda Rhimes Masterclass is a great resource to learn from since she teaches the features of screenwriting very particularly.
Shonda Rhimes Masterclass Course Overview:
It is a good blend of learning how to put everything together including the pilot, writing dialogue, and character. Also shares useful tips on pitching, networking in the television industry, and leaving a mark.
Lesson plan and structure:
This is divided into 30 lectures ranging from blah blah to blah blah. Don’t be scared by the big number, I know I was. These are just 7-8 minutes of knowledge-packed videos.
Introduction and teaching yourself writing
To begin with, she speaks of the importance of the role of a writer in the television industry. It is your vision that’s coming to life, so what you imagine it to be, has to be on the screen, she says.
To add on, she uses a reference to Cristina and Meredith’s characters from Grey’s Anatomy to emphasize the emotional intimacy that your characters must portray when you write, almost as if you are with the character.
For starters, this lesson was great to get to know about the open-ended possibilities of storytelling and understanding what it means to be a writer for a show.
Finding an idea
This happens to be the breaking point or the pause in most writer’s careers and, you’d be lying if you said no. Very beautifully, Shonda explains about deriving your inspiration and creating ideas. She says it can come from something as little as a conversation or sitting in a park.
Once you’ve exhausted all of your ideas, what do you do?
Shonda speaks about finding new ideas and research. She also addresses the question of how do you know the idea is real or will it make into a good show.
A key lesson for me was that all the inspiration is around me. Everything around me is like a bud and it is my mind that can help it bloom into an idea.
Also, she shares her method of having a journal to keep track of these ideas. I am going to begin keeping a journal to note ideas down, always because ideas can come from anywhere!
Developing the concept
On explaining the difference between an idea and a premise, she says that premise is about filling your idea is, it’s about giving it more life basically.
The chances of your idea developing into a premise or concept increase if your idea is crystal clear. In the sense, your idea must be specific to what you want or where you want your characters, etc, and not just a generalized thought.
I learned that as writers we should devote as much time as we want to the idea, let it build inside our head. Only then you can develop and have people understand your premise well. Keep it concise.
Researching your story
Shonda teaches that research is a key part of keeping your story authentic. She resorts to the old-school ways of using books as a source for valuable information for research and recommends the same.
This does not mean that steal from other people’s work, she says. Reading from multiple resources just helps you integrate more realism into the story. Agreed! She unapologetically sounds quite fond of the library.
Some key points from this lesson were:
- Decide the kind of research you want to do
- Read a lot
- Don’t use a single book or source for the research
- Conduct a field study or interview to research, if need be.
Creating memorable characters: Part 1 and Part 2
“Try to make sure your characters are happening to things.”
I was really excited to learn about her take on this as all of her shows have very unique and memorable characters and this lesson was very insightful concerning that.
It’s no secret that characters are one of the most important aspects of a show. Unlike a film, a tv show is a long-term commitment, so it is essential to make characters that leave a mark on the audience and continue being remembered even after the show has ended.
To elaborate on this, she says she expects her characters to come off as truthful, vulnerable, honest. All because the end goal should be to give the audiences a personal connection with the characters, almost as If they are in the show living with the character.
A particularly inspiring and impressive thing about Shonda and she mentions this herself, is the way she writes her female characters. Bold, strong, brave female characters instead of weak and stupid women-which as she says, she hasn’t seen any.
We get to learn tips on how character development must start from the very basics like how old are they or what they do. Once the baseline is strong, you can begin to develop the lives you have imagined for them.
To sum up, key points to consider in character writing:
- Basic character bio
- Human and natural
- Instrumental to the story
She also considers her characters from greys as a case study to teach the different kinds of character roles working in harmony to make the story interesting. This lesson is quite enjoyable.
Pitching your show
Making it the perfect beginner’s guide, she starts by explaining what pitching is. It does take some techniques to make a great pitch and Shonda was up to the mark on sharing how she pitches her shows. To get your chance, you have to figure out how to do a pitch well.
My key takeaways from this section
- Learning what a pitch is
- Pitch strategically
- Structure the pitch from premise to plot to a conclusion
- Be a good storyteller
- How to avoid a bad pitch
- Practice pitching
A great piece of advice was that when you are pitching make sure that your story is serving some space, it is filling a gap apart from having creative aspects. Validate your choices by motives, make them care about your story by painting the right picture.
Writing a Script: Structure, Process, Effective Habits
It is true, as she says, at the end of the day, as writers, we are mere storytellers. Your script develops your story so you should know how to give it a nice and clean structure.
Know the direction that your story is heading in, give a teaser, introduce your character, make your audiences intrigued to see what’s next but keep it surprising enough so they don’t predict it.
Shonda takes you to the step-by-step process including research, as she spoke about before, writing habits, what to do when you are stuck. She speaks of some things that make you a disciplined writer like deadlines, for example.
She shares that including a beat sheet in your writing helps you when you are shaping an outline. A beat sheet can be one-word or one-line descriptions of what you think is best in the scene—some key points. This step comes in after your research is complete and your characters are made.
After the beat sheet, comes the outline, the pilot, and it goes on.
The next thing that she focuses on in this chapter is cultivating some effective writing habits. Consistency is the key. She talks about how for some people a particular time frame might work better for writing but, for her it is just about finding the creative space.
An extremely likable factor of this section was how detail-oriented Shonda was and also how she used instances from her own life as a writer to share some tips.
Writing a Script: The Pilot
Shonda teaches that an excellent way to learn what is captivating is to reflect on the pilot episodes that you liked the most and get your hands on the script. Although getting the script part sounds a little unrealistic, I can see how reading, analyzing, and dissecting the pilot script can help.
At the same time compare these pilots to the ones you didn’t like and analyze the structure of both of them in depth. This will pave the way for you to see what kinds of things actually work.
Key advice: Have originality, don’t dumb down anything else, just understand what is effective and make it work for you.
Writing an authentic dialogue
Her own shows are evidence of the fact that she puts effort into writing authentic dialogues.
Dialogues are a verbal explanation of what your story revolves around or how the characters take shape. The words should be chosen carefully, they should translate the emotions on the screen.
At the same time, these dialogues must stand out from the normal conversation, make them remarkable.
A key takeaway was to write believable dialogues. As an audience, a person must be able to feel the depth of it or imagine himself saying that in real life.
One way to get better at writing dialogues is to watch other popular shows and their dialogues and understand for yourself the difference between real and static.
Case study: Grey’s Anatomy
This was an exceptionally helpful section. Shonda took so much of her own work into account to demonstrate the different aspects that she talks about in the class.
She breaks down the Grey’s Anatomy pilot script to explain the 5-act structure, how to work against narratives or cliches, how to make a good draft, the factors that keep audiences reeled in, so on and so forth.
A great perk is that you get the PDF workbook for the main script and also the modified versions so you can have a better understanding of how the edits were made, what was worth keeping, and what was let go of.
Case Study: Scandal
Shonda talks about the 5 acts of Scandal Pilot in detail over these 5 lessons and explains what factors reel your audience into the world of your story over the screen.
All in all, not very helpful but, good to have the knowledge and a nice opportunity once again to learn from authentic scripts.
Editing your script
You can’t get everything right in the first draft, this is where editing comes in. Shonda openly shares her editing methods and how she doesn’t stop until she is completely satisfied with the final draft.
Furthermore, she imparts knowledge on how to edit well and knowing what to keep and cut. It is quite insightful.
The previous case study on Grey’s anatomy and the revised material of the scripts proves as a reference while she speaks more on editing.
Beyond the Pilot: Writing a series
It’s natural for you to wonder why are we only focusing on the pilot and the fundamentals throughout the class.
In this lesson, Shonda dives into writing your script after the pilot, how to maintain the flow and connection through the episodes.
You learn how there should not be a complete shift of direction from the first episode to the second. In the same way, you cannot make sudden changes to your story, always maintain a flow and if you do by chance go off track then her advice is that it should be fixed.
Breaking into the industry:
Shonda emphasizes the importance of building a good network. In her case, her film school and further internship helped her network through peers. But at the same time, she’s blunt in saying that financially, film school might not be the best idea for everyone.
Instead, follow the old quote-experience is the best teacher. Try to get a job in the industry. You can gain two things from this. For one, it will be a practical learning experience rather than a theoretical one.
And secondly, this can be the first step to building your network, now this can be while doing the most minimal job such as getting coffee also.
Working in a writer’s room & Working in a TV production
Working as a TV writer, you need to be fresh and consistent with your work over a long period of time, or “the train stops” she says.
She speaks about how it becomes your responsibility to keep the production satisfied with your work, or have the script ready for the shoot every eight days and also be equally involved in the post-production.
It’s all a thrilling process but you have got to keep hustling if you want a successful show.
As a tip, she shares that finding a non-writing producer is rare and invaluable.
Show running- as the word suggests is someone who runs the show, she explains. But it can mean different things for different people.
The reason to include this in the class as I see it was to explain the responsibilities. There are multiple responsibilities as she names each one of them and also stresses the importance of doing this right.
Quite an encouraging take on keeping it together!
Life of a Writer & Shonda’s journey
Finally, as we head towards the conclusion, Shonda talks about the journey that being a writer is and also her personal progress.
She shares some encouraging words on finding time to write, and not giving up on it. She also talks about how we are made to believe in the maintenance of a work-life balance which does not exist according to her.
However, whatever personal commitment it is, if you are a writer then devote time to write and embrace the gift that you have.
It is no cakewalk, as we all know but, this section will surely inspire you to thrive and do better.
Shonda Rhimes Masterclass Review: Class Highlights
- Takes time to teach her process
- Authentic scripts and examples
- Teaches how to put everything together
- Teaches how to pitch the series
- Knowledge about the structure and process of a script
- Editing tips
- Leaves no stone unturned
- Career discussion
- Personal touch
What Could Be Inproved In Shonda Rhimes Masterclass:
I guess if you have not watched her shows it might restrict you from understanding the examples better
Pros & Cons Of Shonda Rhimes Masterclass
Great behind the scene advice
Time devoted to basic suggestions
The basic idea of her show needed to understand references better
Shonda Rhimes Masterclass: Overall review
If you are not a brand-new, you might already be aware of some of the things she taught, however, some things really stand out to be the highlight of the class.
I would give it a thumbs up for the emotional honesty that was portrayed by her in teaching writing as well as sharing the career-oriented talk.
Shonda’s tone is calming and her thoughts are inspiring. Good traits of a masterclass like being structured, detailed, and business-oriented are well represented by her in this class.
Is Shonda Rhimes MasterClass good?
If you are anywhere between a beginner to a budding professional, I would recommend this to you. Writing and case studies helped me with my base and the pitching tips can be a great future help. The editing tips along with the reference PDFs work wonders.
She shares some personal experiences about progressing in this industry so it feels real, relatable, and also quite inspirational at the same time.
She also delves into her life as showrunner and suggests ways in which writers can progress within the system. Compared to other Masterclasses, Shonda’s is certainly one of the most career-specific and will teach you how to get into TV professionally.
Shonda Rhimes MasterClass Review: Pricing Plans
Masterclass generally has two payment options, they are:
This is a single payment of $90. It gives lifetime access to the course you have picked. This is inclusive of all the workbook and PDF material that comes along with it. You can access it anytime you want.
This option honestly provides great value for money but it is only viable if you are planning to take multiple courses over the year. It costs 180$ and gives you full access to all of its courses over the period of one year. You can take your pick and get unlimited access to the course.
If you’re heavily interested in one or more topics, this is a great way to learn more and to expand on a range of sub-topics.
Shonda Rhimes MasterClass Review: FAQs
Is it worth it?
Considering the amount of knowledge it imparts, I’d say it is.
Do we get lifetime access to the reference material?
Yes, Shonda provides scripts and revision drafts to her shows as a part of this class that you have access to
Do you need any pre-requisite to begin the class?
There is no basic requirement as such, this is the learning phase.
Is it refundable?
Yes, masterclass allows refunds if it is within 30 days of payment