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Screenwriting Product Review: Jim Mercurio's Complete Screenwriting From A to Z to A-List

Having never gone to film school, I've always thought it must be pretty cool to sit in a class listening to a professor talk about film stuff. You know, things like the structure of a movie, breaking apart scenes and designing your characters. It's just that when I graduated high school in 1982, I went right into the workforce as a carpenter even though I enjoyed all things movies. I never thought film school was something a guy like me could do or afford. Now after being a carpenter for most of my life, I have rediscovered the joy of movies and realize I can be involved in the business in a small way. I've also learned that I love writing and learning about the craft, but at this point in my life, I must teach myself, or do I?

Jim Mercurio

Jim Mercurio

I checked out one of the coolest DVD sets on screenwriting that I have ever seen. OK, I admit I haven't seen many, but this one is definitely cool. It's called Complete Screenwriting from A to Z to A-List. I know it's a mouthful, but this collection of 5 DVDs and 1 bonus CD-ROM is a monster collection of information. It's over 10 hours of rock-solid information delivered by the highly energetic and passionate Jim Mercurio. Mercurio knows his stuff. I found him so inspirational to watch as he dissects movie after movie to show how they are put together. He breaks scenes down into the tiniest of moments and teaches you how you can do it too. I actually felt like I was in a small classroom in film school. It was exciting.

The funny part about the whole experience is that when I first got the 6-disc set, I popped the first one into my deck. I thought to myself: (add dreamy music and echo voice effect here) “Watch five minutes, and when I got bored of seeing a talking head tell me how to write a screenplay, I'll eject the disc and move on with my life.” Ha! I viewed what I thought was about twenty minutes then suddenly the disc ended. I had watched it for over an hour! I was shocked. Mercurio is a fast-talking instructor who piles on as much information as humanly possible in the given amount of time. I loved watching him break down dozens of movies, some I knew, some I did not. His use of motion graphics help explain his concepts for us visual types. His delivery is rapid and passionate. The camera shots are mixed up, which aided in keeping my interest. Jim Mercurio is a treasure trove of knowledge and he shares it all on his Complete Screenwriting from A to Z to A-List DVD collection.

The bonus CD-ROM has a couple of PDFs that can be used alone or you can have them handy when watching the lessons. Also included on the CD-ROM is over 6 hours of audio. Put the files on your mp3 player and you can learn on the go. Some of the topics covered are character and structure, scene writing, rewriting and creating sequences and so much more. The set is a bit of an investment and just under 300 bucks but it is truly an investment. The beauty of the discs is the fact that you can pause, rewind and re-watch them as much as you want. You can't do that in a college class of this magnitude and you’d pay a heck of a lot more cash for the same knowledge. It's as if Mercurio is in my living room talking to only me. He's my own private tutor. He can be yours too.

As you can tell I really enjoy this set and will watch it many more times until I grasp all the concepts of screenwriting that he teaches. I feel Jim Mercurio put his heart and soul into creating this set and creating his legacy as a storyteller for generations to come. I say if you are going to watch TV you might as well learn something and Complete Screenwriting from A to Z to A-List is part of doing just that.

(Editor note: Forris recently interviewed Jim Mercurio on his Coffee Shop Conversations podcast.)


Complete Screenwriting from A to Z to A-List now ON SALE from September 19 and 20, 2015!

At a Glance: 

  • The most in-depth exploration of story: scenes and single lines of dialogue analyzed at the molecular level.
  • Gain a new appreciation for screenwriting craft. Raise your expectations and learn the skills to meet them.
  • Perfect the most lucrative skill in Hollywood. Not how to come up with high-concept ideas...but how to execute them!


Not only does Jim Mercurio understand the underpinnings of conscious and unconscious filmmaking at the highest levels, but he also provides his students with the ability to access both at will. With Complete Screenwriting: From A to Z to A-List, Mercurio has created a fresh paradigm for 21st century storytelling that can take you and your script to its greatest potential. ~ Michael Lent, Writer/Producer

As a creative guy who thinks with both his left and right side of the brain, I really love how Jim breaks concepts down analytically without losing sight of the synergistic spark that elevates craft to art. ~ Mike Blum, Director/Producer/Writer, Co-Owner of Pipsqueak Films & Blumayan Films