First, you need to make a million dollars….

And here’s a produced screenwriter, member of the WGA, represented by an established agency (according to the WGA website) who thinks he can tell you how to do it. Chris Soth has a new website and is offering a screenwriting course. I know nothing about the course nor about Chris, but he was kind enough to drop me an email and I thought this might be interesting to all of you.

From looking at his website, Chris’s method apparently is based on breaking movies down by their “reels” (instead of by acts) which, actually, was historically the way Hollywood motion pictures were made in the early days. It was all part of trying to make studios run like car factories – but that’s a topic for another day.

If anyone has taken his course, feel free to chime in.


  1. I’ve taken Chris’ course through the purchase of his E-book and his DVD’s (both very modestly priced for what you get). I am an optioned screenwriter and have also written on assignment, so I am always looking for methods to improve my craft.

    After taking Chris’s course and learning about the Mini Movie structure, I would never — repeat never — attempt to write a screenplay again without methods I learned from Chris about the Mini Movie method.

    His approach to story opens up a whole new world for the writer. Here are a couple of things I wrote to Chris after reading his E-book and watching his DVD’s.

    “I have nearly finished your e-book.

    “Your information and knowledge have so far SURPASSED my expectations I am giddy with joy. I love the way you break everything down in your explanations of a very simple structure within the infinitely complex topic called “STORY”. You offer magic elixir to my overstuffed brain. Epiphanies for me are going off on every page I read, every morsel of knowledge you share.

    “Very simple but not something easily discovered. Your contribution is far, far greater than you may realize. I say this because of HOW you break it all down and EQUATE it to story. But here’s the REAL KEY — You take it apart, lay it bare, and SUDDENLY one is peering THROUGH THE LOOKING glass right into the HEART of how to create and make a story work. It’s like SEEING INTO A CAR ENGINE — A three dimensional glimpse of the INNER WORKINGS — seeing everything in structure and story with crystalline clarity. Your book went right into my mind. Perhaps others won’t GET IT the same way, but for me I will NEVER, repeat NEVER be without it when I work on story and story structure again.

    “I temper everything. I do not force formula. Your approach is about the most organic, natural way of filmic storytelling I have come across. I have read McKee, Truby, Field — all the “so called” gurus and have only amassed knowledge. I have studied Campbell, Vogler and dissected every piece of software on the market in this quest of mine to better understand “STORY.”

    Your mini-movie approach, by and far, FOR ME, is the very best method for my mind I have ever come across in understanding, approaching and MORE IMPORTANTLY creating and writing a “STORY”.

    I am NOT affliliated with MILLIONDOLLARSCREENWRITING or CHRIS SOTH in any way. I get nothing for endorsing his products or his approach. I say this because the above quotes are quite effusive. But for someone like me, who ALWAYS STRUGGLES when breaking a STORY, his methods came to me like a muse from the heavens.

    I supply my e-mail address for anyone who wishes to contact me. And if you are like me and have trouble when it comes to breaking a story, I invite you to go to Chris’s site, contact him (he’s a very friendly and personable guy) take a look at what he has to offer. You might find a method that works as well for you as it does for me.

    Have a great day.

    Erich von Sonne

  2. Agree with Erich. Sequences are the way to go. Soth’s approach to structure is solid. Clean, clear, practical. Good stuff. Where a lot of script gurus go wrong (in my opinion) is to overwhelm you with theory and pretension, but practically ignore the nuts-n-bolts of it all. And when you sit down to face the blank screen…then what? What screenwriters need above all else is a game plan — to launch into a script without one is death. Soth just seems to understand that more than the others — maybe because he’s an actual working writer, not a professional guru. That’s my two cents, anyway…

  3. I took Chris Soth’s seminar before it was the Million Dollar Movie Method. It was a UCLA extension class and it cost $450 and lasted for twelve weeks. Now you can take a weekend course, buy the DVD, buy the book or do all three. Did I get my money’s worth? Did it help my career? You bet it did. Chris breaks down story to a beginners level and then rebuilds it to where only experts tread. In his classes I learned how to read and write a movie. As a an Assistant Manager at a Literary Management Company I am constantly developing scripts using Chris’s methods. I would not be where I am in the industry today if it weren’t for his knowledge and efforts in the classroom. How valuable is Chris’s class? Considering it has given me a career in Literary Management and the ability to write my own screenplays with direction and purpose I would say it’s worth a million bucks, easy. Heck, I even bought the book.

  4. Oy, please….

    Enough testimonials. Nick comes closest to real a comment. The rest of you sound like paid endorsers.

  5. Hey TW — I’ll take the rap on this, I mentioned to some of my students that they were asking for commentary here….but these are their actual reactions — Erich just cut and pasted from an email he had sent me after viewing my materials. I didn’t know they’d be so effusive, and it’s a little bit embarassing to see in print.

    TW, if you think if any of this is staged or ingenuine, I’ll happily forward you an ebook or set of our dvds, or invite you as my guest to one of my seminars…if you don’t think it’s worth the price, don’t pay…if you do, say so here, or just let me know.

    I honestly believe we have a revelation for many writers. I hope you’ll take me at my word.

    Chris Soth

  6. Hello TW:

    I have documented e-mails I sent to Chris while I was reading his e-book and watching his DVD’s. I also paid for the e-book and the DVD’s and will happily forward my PAY PAL receipts to you for verification.

    I did not mean for my “EFFUSIVE TESTIMONIAL” to distract from the fantastic method he teaches. Why not take him up on his invitation, and see what I, and many others, mean.

    Erich von Sonne

  7. I studied at Chris’ UCLA class, and later took his Million Dollar Screenwriting course. The help it gave me with structure was outstanding. It certainly helps when staring at an empty page. Rules make a first draft so much more manageable. However, Chris’ technique primarily helped me to focus on effective ways to build tension, thus creating a substantive story. I won’t ramble on about his astounding his gift for teaching in a concrete and understandable manner (any more than I just did). It worked wonders for me, and it was exactly what I needed.

  8. Not fair, but the high praise has me a bit worried also. I’ve purchased a number of books by the pros who haven’t sold a script and been disappointed in the hype (McKee is a big target for me), but this course has me interested because Chris is a working writer. Are there sample chapters available to read (or pages)? I’m curious, butcautious now when it comes to teachers.


  9. Two points:

    1. There is no secret to writing, screenwriting, whatever. You need talent, hardwork and luck. Some methods work better than others, and may help some and not others, but there is no silver bullet.

    2. Honestly, the guy sounds like a conman. Excerpt from his website:

    CHRIS SOTH developed the “Mini-Movie Method” after years of success as a Hollywood screenwriter. Chris has multiple projects in development at major Hollywood studios. This master story teller is also an expert in pitching and selling – necessary tools for a screenwriter in Hollywood.

    “Years of success”? He has *one* credit on IMDB from *seven* years ago, and no upcoming credits listed at all. Not enough to justify what he’s claiming on his website.

  10. Hi guys,

    Konrad, your points are well taken — it all depends on how you define succes. Have I had as much success as I would wish, with a lot of projects in development but none in front of the cameras just now — NO, not nearly the success I desire…even the “success” of a produced movie, a million dollars as a screenwriter and supporting myself with my writing since grad school, while many who teach may not have sold a spec script as their students desire to, let alone go on to get that script produced…well, the idea was a good movie, wasn’t it? That script didn’t survive development very well and my career still suffers from that. So, while I’ve experienced some success, I have many more milestones ahead of me that I look forward to surpassing…and helping others to surpass. But I would not qualify the successes of this seminar and its products so far. I take more pride in it than I do the movie, actually.

    I’ll take two exceptions to what you say: I’m not a con man. I may be guilty of some effusiveness in my website copy, some of which I didn’t write and had to have my arm twisted to include, but you don’t sell a seminar by saying: “give it a whirl, it might not suck”. And my students seem to think that the course is what it purports to be.

    Exception two: there are SOME secrets not widely known, and dividing a story into sequences, and what those sequences do, is one of them. Not necessarily a silver bullet, but a revelation for writers who hear about it an learn it for the first time.

    JDC — contact me through my website and I’ll arrange some sample chapters or pages. If you like them, you can purchase the rest of the book. I actually like McKee’s book, btw…at least certain info that’s included there and not elsewhere. But I have an MFA in screenwriting and he’s often discouraging for some novices, unfortunately.

    Konrad: the same offer for you…and I hope you’ll contact me. It would be great to have a chance to revise your opinion.

    And either of you are invited to attend an MDS seminar. If you’re not satisfied that it’s worth the price, I’ll refund your money in full, no questions asked.

    I know there are a lot of teachers and scams out there and you should consider us all suspect. But I’m willing to personally try to win your trust. Maybe the others aren’t saying that.

    Thanks “A Million”,


  11. Well it looks interesting, and I’m always very interested in new tools to help my writing – and I’d also be interested in a sample chapter, but can I ask – just why does the e-book cost so much? $44.95 – that’s pretty expensive for a book…

  12. Well, I took up Chris’ offer, and he sent me the whole e-book!

    I’ll get stuck into it this afternoon and let everyone know what I think as soon as I’m done.

  13. I guess that I should jump in here, because I know Chris and have been to his seminar, and many of the commenters above – both pro and con – are regular readers of my site as well. Chris got in touch with me at my site earlier this summer and invited me to sit in on his last seminar. Frankly (and I haven’t told Chris this yet), I was also a bit suspicious based on the marketing on his site. But I can be overly suspicious about that sort of thing in general, and I use the eight-sequence method that he lectures on, so I attended. I can definitely say that Chris is not a con man. He’s big on the marketing, tis true, but he’s also passionate about the subject and has something to offer.

    As far as the seminar itself, I found it informative, fun, and helpful. I would recommend it over McKee’s class, which I’ve also taken and think is far too advanced for most aspiring writers. It’s pricey (at least on my budget), but if you have the money, you might get a lot out of it. I did.

    That said, I do see where people are coming from here. I recently noted on my site that I thought a particular reader’s services were somewhat suspect, and that ignited a debate about whether this guy was a huckster, or just charging the market price for his services (it was a seminar series on becoming a story analyst, and he charged up to $2,000 to attend). There certainly are a lot of charlatans out there preying on aspiring screenwriters. And Chris’s intensive marketing and the seemingly “paid endorser” testimonials can make it look a little like his services aren’t on the level (sorry, Chris). But I suspect the endorsements above are all legitimate; I met Josh, for example, at an event earlier this year, and the literary manager that he reads for has been on my “manager dream list” all year. They’re both completely legitimate, high-level Hollywood folk.

    Anyway, we should be suspicious of anyone that we give our hard-earned money to in Hollywood, but I’m happy to say that Chris is one guy that offers something of real substance behind the pitch.

    My apologies, TW, for going on at such length. Just wanted to add my two cents.

  14. I’m another skeptic. I’m a pro writer with produced credits, but I’m always looking for a better way to do my job.

    That being said, his site does seem a little hyperbolic. It raises some red flags for me.

    “there are SOME secrets not widely known, and dividing a story into sequences, and what those sequences do, is one of them. ”

    There are plenty of places people can learn about sequences, including a $20 book from Amazon. Anybody who’s taken a screenwriting class at USC knows about it. Doesn’t really seem like a secret.

    Another red flag was:

    “He is the only seminar instructor whose work has been produced by a major Hollywood studio.”

    Well, Jeff Schecter has been produced by Disney, and has been nominated for an Emmy and a WGA award. Blake Snyder speaks at seminars, and he has two million dollar produced spec sales and a new book from Michael Wiese Productions. David Freeman is writing Dungeon Siege, which is in production now.

    So the ad copy starts to sound a little suspect. Like he’s counting on the audience not knowing much.

    The $45 PDF file is also troublesome. It’s overpriced for a writing book, and it represents no manufacturing cost. There’s no money-back guarantee like there is at Amazon, so it seems kinda fishy. Plus. you can’t even recoup the cost in reselling it. Who is going to buy a PDF file from you? You can’t print it and sell it (I don’t think) because that infringes his copyright.

    Between the regular seminars, the DVDs, the ebook and the affiliate program, it seems like Chris is straining to make his operation make money. If he’s making the big bucks as a writer, why is he trying to squeeze the last dime out of the seminar business?

    It doesn’t add up.

    He seems like a nice guy, but the seminar doesn’t seem like it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

  15. I thought the Million $ Screenwriting E-book was well worth the read. It addds yet another layer of knowledge outside of the traditional “structure” type class.

  16. Hi everybody…

    this is chris again, I’m going to say a few things and then invite EVERYBODY to contact me directly. I feel badly taking up so much time and space on someone else’s blog, especially when they’ve been so hospitable:

    I plead guilty to marketing aggressively. I plead not guilty to everything else. That’s just entering my plea, everybody’s still free to convict me or not, depending on what their opinions of the materials are or their opinion of the marketing.

    I know that 44.95 seems like a lot for an ebook, but I would emphasize seems — it doesn’t represent no manufacturing cost, at least on my part…it entails the 16 years of writing experience, a two year education at USC, 7 years of teaching and the effort it took to write the actual book itself, launch the website, etc., It contains almost all the same information that I teach at the seminar which I charge $350 for, at a fraction of the cost. I almost feel like I’m doing my seminar students a disservice selling it this cheaply.

    AR, you’re a produced writer and presumably have made some money doing so — is there a piece of knowledge that got you there, or an edge you were given by partaking in some sort of educational process that isn’t as widely available as it could be? What value would you assign to that book, class or mentor? Me, I’d say it was worth the world, or at least every dime I had ever earned by it.

    I said “widely” known. You and I have had the chanced to take classes at USC, I guess, and have read Paul Gulino’s book, which is little known — I don’t want to go into why I think you should take my course AND read his book, because I think it’s good and I don’t want to even sound like I’m dissing him. But I think we’re in the minority, we really are, or I believe this method would be standard and no one would talk about 3-act structure anymore. When that happens, or when half as many writers know about it as also know three-acts, then I’ll feel like it’s “widely known”.

    I correspond w/many of my readers and I think there is a feeling among writers out there (who didn’t go to film school) — a “what do film school grads learn that I haven’t?” sort of a feeling — and this is my answer to that question, at least as far as USC and I am concerned.

    Yes, I got the basis for my methods at USC, and I recommend going there. It was possibly the best two years of my life, not only because it culminated in the sale of my thesis screenplay. Go there and spend 2 years soaking it in…but not everyone can afford that. I spent $40,000 before living expenses, to do so. It would be more like $60,000 now. We learned this method there AND everything you can learn about character, theme, scene structure, etc. that is found in all the screenwriting books that are widely available….

    So, I’ll do a quick price rundown:

    USC MFA screenwriting education: $60,000, and worth every penny…

    Robert McKee’s STORY seminar: $545

    I’ve never taken it, enjoyed the book, but point you to Warren, above, who recommends MDS “over McKee”, which, though the rest of his post is quite even-handed, commendably so, I take as high praise. I trust you all know Warren and read his terrific blog. Looks like the best “bang-for-your-buck” way to get McKee’s knowledge is the book as well.

    MDS Seminar $350
    MDS DVDs $175
    MDS ebooks: $44.95

    Let me stop this before I sign off w/a Mastercard “priceless” tag, and just say I make every effort toI give good value for the money at whatever level you decide to spend. I have always offered sholarships based on need at my seminars. Yes, this concern operates at a profit so far, but for the work I have to do to promote it, I may as well be sewing Nikes in Indonesia. I really do it because I believe in this method and enjoy teaching and the camaraderie of my fellow writers in what is too often a solitary endeavor.

    I’ll offer anyone reading this a money-back guarantee on any product they wish, ebook, seminar seats, dvds — just contact me at either of the email addresses below. Those of you who really have concerns about the cost should contact me in person and we’ll discuss a way for you to learn this if you want to. I’ll bend over backwards to convince you that I’m genuine about my desire to spread this knowledge and the value of the knowledge and technique itself.


  17. AND PS:

    I could never make an exit. Anyone here in LA can come ask questions offline at Creative City Cafe on 10/28/05 at 7 p.m. I’ll be speaking there and taking questions. Or at the Screenwriter’s Expo as well. I look foward to meeting you and becoming your friend.

  18. Here’s one you didn’t include in your comparison:

    The Tools of Screenwriting: A Writer’s Guide To The Craft And Elements Of A Screenplay by David Howard (Founding Director of the USC Graduate Screenwriting Program) and Edward Mabley.

    It lists for $14.95. Terrific book. 🙂

  19. Absolutely terrific book, David Howard was my faculty advisor at USC, and a signed copy given to all of us on our graduation is one of my prize posessions. His “Building a Great Screenplay” is also very good.

  20. I think there are many great books and workshops and DVDs out there on the art and craft of screenwriting (including mine!). The issue though, in terms of success in Hollywood (having been a development exec among other things) is not the quality of the script, unfortunately, as is made obvious by the fact that at least 80% of all Hollywood movies are poorly written. The issue is how do you get a script produced when it costs so much to do so, when 100,000 scripts are circulating in Hollywood at any one time but only 2-300 movies get made and most of them written by established veterans? I start every one of my workshops by letting people know the extremely high odds against them getting their scripts produced, then I tell them that this shouldn’t discourage them but rather make them realize they should enjoy the actual process of writing because there are better and more secure ways of making a living. If they enjoy the process, then they can’t lose — whether they get produced or not, they will have been doing something they enjoy.

    To pretend that there is some magical way of getting your script produced is, in my opinion, dishonest. There are ways of making your script better, but that has little to do with getting it sold — unfortunately.

    So to all screenwriters out there, two words of advice: enjoy the process and write novels instead of scripts (they pay better, easier and cheaper to produce/publish, and if they’re suitable to being adapted to the screen you’ll still get paid for the film rights).

    Good writing to all of you.

  21. I don’t think I said (or pretended) that there’s a magical way to get a script produced, did I? If so, I definitely withdraw said statement or pretending, for sure. The advice on novels is good, for sure, I agree 100%.

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