The short answer? No.
There are plenty of free resources out there which will tell you as much, if not more, than paying hundreds of £££ to sit in an audience and watch Robert McKee or his contemporaries.
Now I’ll qualify that. I have never paid hundreds of ££££ to watch these people. But when so much stuff is available for nothing, why would I?
One thing I would be wary of is any class that promises to get you a sale. There are many, many, many reasons (to quote Police Academy) why films get made. Many great directors, writers and producers have failed to get surefire successes off the ground for no reason other than poor luck. As for the bad movies that do get made, well… consider “Battleship” and “Glitter”.
So without further ado, here are just a few ways to imporve your writing for free:
i) Free online classes
There are many of these. Check out www.screenwritingU.com for some examples. Check first, but for many you pay nothing except your landline fees. If you are in the UK and you have a budget package on your phone line it may cost you even less, as most calls in LA are schedule around noon PCT, which translates to after 8pm GMT.
Yes, actual books. Those paper things people used to read before computers. Take a look at the star ratings on amazon.com to sort out the wheat from the chaff.
Incredible as it may seem, reading professional screenplays can help you writing your own amateur screenplays. You can buy them from online retailers like Amazon or eBay. Or you could read some for free from various websites, provided you do this legally of course.
iv) Interviews with sceenwriters
Why listen or read to people who never had a screenplay published about how to write and sell screenplays? Wouldn’t you be better actually hearing from folks who made a living doing what you want to do? I recommend “Tales from the Script” and the fantastic, irreverent “Devil’s Guide to Screenwriting” by the incomparable Joe Eszterhas if you want to laugh at the madness of Hollywood.
One of the best ways to improve your writing? Actually writing. Studying the careers of many A-list screenwriters and authors has taught me that they write. A hell of a lot. More than you would believe.
Now this is difficult if you already have a job. Believe me, I know about this. However if you set aside some time for witing EVERY DAY, you will reap the rewards.
vi) Feedback (added)
As has been pointed out to me below, this is another invaluable way of improving your writing. Feedback can be gleaned from many sources. So many, that I will make it the subject of another post. But some examples may be: online communities such as American Zoetrope, Triggerstreet and Talentville; other writers, by joining a writer’s group (check the ‘net for one in your area); personal contacts (but not your grandma — unless she also happens to write screenplays). These sources are not always reliable nor appropriate for your screenplay, however. Somebody who loves historical romances may not appreciate your zombie/sci-fi mashup script, so use with caution.
So there you have it. My top tips for improving your writing for free.
Hope this helps!