Cut to the Chase: Scriptwriting for Beginners

Forthcoming – in January 2023.

A highly effective step-by-step practical approach to script and screenwriting.

PRINT VERSION Buy the print version (hard copy) from Modjaji Books directly      



November 2022


non fiction, how-to, educational





Cut to the Chase: Scriptwriting for Beginners

So many people watch films and yet so few know how to write a film well. Film writing is a very specific art form. Over the past twenty-something years of writing film, Janet van Eeden made every mistake in the book and eventually turned to experts to learn to hone her craft effectively. Using the advice from screenwriting experts such as Robert McKee and Christopher Vogler, amongst many others, Janet van Eeden developed an effective approach to screenwriting.

Cut to the Chase breaks down the essentials of writing for film. Janet van Eeden uses her experience of writing feature films and short films for more than two decades as well as her many years of lecturing in a series of eight modules with practical tasks to implement the knowledge given in each section. This user-friendly manual unlocks the world of film writing for students.

Cut to the Chase includes:

  1. a) A step-by-step writing programme for each reader, setting specific tasks after each module so that the reader can build up their own film script.
  2. b) At the end of the course, the reader will have been guided towards writing a well-thought-out first draft script that would be written to internationally acceptable standards.
Janet van Eeden

Janet van Eeden started writing plays and screenplays over 26 years ago. Six of her plays went to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in the early 2000s, all funded by the National Arts Council. Her first screenplay to reach the screen was White Lion in 2010. She wrote and produced the short film, A Shot at the Big Time, which screened at the Cannes Short Film Metrage in 2014. She did her Master’s degree with a thesis called: Putting the Pen into their Own Hands and graduated Cum Laude. She graduated with her Ph.D. in English in 2017 with a thesis entitled: Beyond the Biopic: An Exploration into the Nature of Biography through the Medium of Film. Janet was an invited speaker at the International London Screenwriters’ Festival in 2018 where she gave a presentation on her Fractal theory. She script-edits and evaluates many feature films for the KZN Film Commission, amongst others. She is the Overall Chairperson of both the Simon Sabela Awards as well as the SAFTAs and a judge on the SA Oscar Selection committee. Janet is the Dean of AFDA Durban.

Janet van Eeden's author page

“An A-Z guide from a writer who succeeded in getting her script WHITE LION made into a feature film,” Richard E Grant

“Janet van Eeden’s book is another guide to beginner screenwriters, of which there are many. But this one stands out. Janet is not prescriptive: she uses her own experiences and the book has a comforting authority. It is full of practical advice: it is very user-friendly and should help beginner writers (and those with some experience) think through their own processes.

It is also a great introduction to some of the leading script gurus so that beginners can decide which (if any) they wish to explore. Thoroughly recommended.”

Julian Friedmann of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency


“Cut to the Chase is a testament to Janet’s commitment and deep understanding of her craft as a writer.”

Richard Green, legendary film producer of productions such as Long Walk to Freedom, District 9, and Red Dust


Script writing is the starting point in the creation of a film. Without a script, there is no story and a film in production can easily lose its direction. Yet, there are so few scriptwriters. Its important that we tell our stories in our own way, to give an authentic voice to our films. Yet, there are so few local script writers, who will tell our stories. Award-winning films are enabled by good screenplays that need trained scriptwriters to tell the stories. The list goes on and the reasons for having good scriptwriters in film is endless. Scriptwriting is an important craft that is often undermined. Now finally a book that unravels the mystery of scriptwriting. Written in a very approachable manner, Janet van Eeden’s book Cut to the Chase, a story in itself, gives us access to the world of scriptwriting and enables us to navigate what it takes to write a script. This book is recommended for aspiring scriptwriters or those seeking to understand what it takes to write a script, or a friendly reminder of what it is we need to remember on our scriptwriting journey. The book is encouraging and a good read.

Jackie Motsepe, CEO of KZN Film Commission

Janet van Eeden and I met at Rhodes University Drama Department in 1978. Many years later we worked together when I directed two plays that she had written. Theatre, for me, has always been the Engine Room of all Dramatic endeavours: Be it Acting, Writing, or Directing. Her grounding as a writer was thus in the tough immediacy of seeing your work performed live in front of an audience. The hard yards. The stone quarry on Robben Island. She has gone on to achieve a doctorate in the game. In this book she will bring to the reader the benefits of those valuable experiences and lessons learnt by DOING, and not Dreaming of Doing. Google is not your Aunty. Experience is. Janet’s cause is the reason I write like I do. The way she has continued ever forward in her career…no matter what. It inspires me to keep writing too.

Ian Roberts, veteran actor, director and writer of innumerable films, television productions and theatre plays


Janet van Eeden doesn’t just teach screenwriting . . . she IS screenwriting! With an impressive list of credits to her name, she is able to bring invaluable first-hand experience to her online course, including many personal examples from her own work. Unlike other one-size-fits-all writing courses, Janet takes a flexible approach, which enables learners to work through their own unique stories. I can honestly say that if it hadn’t been for Janet van Eeden I would not have been able to complete my screenplay, a realisation of a long-held ambition and an accomplishment of which I’m very proud. Acting as my mentor, she guided me through the entire process from concept through getting the structure right to the finished first draft. Janet van Eeden’s online course is particularly appropriate for beginners like me but even more advanced writers will have much to gain from her professional training. I could not recommend it highly enough!

Julian Desser – Journalist & Copywriter, UK


“Janet read two of my scripts. In each case, her feedback was intelligent, constructive, and most important to me, respected the intent of the work. She showed an uncanny ability to get inside the story and suggest subtle improvements to both character and structure. As a result, I was able to make crucial changes and improve both stories’ artistic and market appeal. I could not imagine a more skillful teacher for the art of screenwriting. Nor will I ever again submit a script without her review.”

Mark Lyon – Editor-in-Chief Cargovision Magazine, Lake Oswego, US


“Taking Janet’s online screenwriting course has proved to be most effective. The module content provided is comprehensive and when combined with Janet’s humour, considerable energy and commitment make the whole experience fun as well as highly instructive. As a result, I have now completed my first screenplay of which I am very proud. Janet’s course can be taken at any required pace, which is particularly important when competing with the demands of, for example, a full-time job. I highly recommend the course not only for beginners but also as an important refresher for the more advanced screenwriter.”

Gordon Slack – Aeronautical Engineer, UK



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