As a writer, I’m always drawn to creative MasterClasses focused on some form of writing or creating. When I spotted Shonda Rhimes’ class on the list, I wanted to take it right away despite its lengthy duration compared to most other courses on the platform.
Shonda Rhimes is responsible for creating one of the biggest shows in TV history. Although I’m not a die-hard fan of Grey’s Anatomy, I have a huge respect for the show. I mean, the show currently has 19 seasons, and it has been renewed for a twentieth season – and that’s impressive.
I was intrigued to see how Shonda Rhimes manages to do it. And I wanted to find out what being a showrunner really means in practice.
But did her MasterClass meet my expectations, and would I recommend it to fellow creatives?
In the following review, I’ll tell you everything about my learning experience so you can decide whether this is something you’re looking for.
Table of Contents
What is the Shonda Rhimes MasterClass?
In her screenwriting course, “Shonda Rhimes teaches Writing for Television,” on MasterClass, she goes through how to write a TV show from start to finish. Her lessons cover screenwriting and TV production basics, as well as more advanced lessons aimed at those who want to get into TV professionally.
All in all, this is a well-rounded course with very clear guidelines and tips. There are also numerous case study lessons in which Shonda breaks down her approach to writing scripts.
The course features 30 lessons with a duration of 6 hours and 25 minutes in total. It’s a lengthy course compared to most other MasterClasses that covers a lot of ground, but it feels to the point and well-structured nevertheless.
Who is Shonda Rhimes?
Best known as a showrunner of the widely popular medical TV drama Grey’s Anatomy, Rhimes also wrote the political thriller Scandal and contributed to Bridgerton, How to Get Away With Murder, and Inventing Anna. She also penned several feature films.
After growing up with intellectual and supportive parents, Rhimes majored in English and film studies at Dartmouth College and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the USC School of Cinematic Art. She continued to work on her skills through various projects and eventually became one of the world’s most accomplished showrunners.
What is the target audience for Shonda Rhimes’ MasterClass?
For Grey’s Anatomy fans, Shonda Rhimes needs no introduction. Since Shonda’s MasterClass contains many examples and case studies based on the scenes and episodes from Grey’s Anatomy, the course is great for fans of the show. And the same goes for Scandal, another popular TV show she created.
However, the course is packed with screenwriting guidelines and tips that can help any aspiring writer and screenwriter improve their skills. Shonda is very honest and straightforward when explaining her approach to creating a TV show, and I really felt like her student during the whole course.
The accompanying guidebook, scripts, and materials are also very helpful, especially if you want to get into TV production professionally.
That being said, here are some of the people who would benefit the most from Shonda Rhimes’ MasterClass:
- Aspiring screenwriters
- Film and TV production students
- Writers, actors, and creatives
- Fans of Shonda Rhimes’ work
What does Shonda Rhimes’ MasterClass cover?
In 6+ hours of video lessons, Shonda Rhimes tackles a lot of topics related to the creation of TV shows. She is a master of the craft, and she has a very specific, tangible approach to every part of the process.
However, she does point out that writing is a creative process that doesn’t have strict rules. Therefore, she also talks about inspiration, finding ideas, and the importance of choosing an original idea.
As mentioned before, this course is ideal for aspiring screenwriters because it’s very specific and straightforward.
It’s almost like getting a formula for writing a hit television series.
There are also case study episodes where Shonda and her team discuss Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal pilot episodes act by act.
Now, here is a quick overview of what to expect from Shonda Rhimes’ MasterClass:
- Lesson 1 is an introductory lesson where Shonda briefly explains what she’ll teach you.
- Lessons 2-5 cover the first phase of developing a TV show, including learning, finding an idea, developing a concept, and researching your story.
- Lessons 6-7 are based on the development of characters and effective ways you can make them memorable.
- Lesson 8 contains guidelines for structuring a good pitch.
- Lessons 9-12 are focused on script writing elements such as structure (the five acts of television), developing an outline, overcoming writer’s block, and writing a pilot.
- Lesson 13 is based on writing dialogues and tools you can use to make them more authentic and natural.
- Lessons 14-15 are Grey’s Anatomy pilot case studies.
- Lessons 16-20 are Scandal pilot case studies.
- Lessons 21-22 contain tips on how to edit a script and make it interesting and compelling after the pilot.
- Lesson 23 provides a closer look at the season three premiere of
- Lessons 24-28 reveal the perks and challenges of breaking into the industry and establishing yourself as a successful showrunner. Shonda talks about all the important lessons she has learned so far.
- Lessons 29-30 offer a closer look at Shonda’s journey and her final advice to young screenwriters.
My favorite lessons from Shonda Rhimes’ MasterClass
I feel like I really learned a lot from Shonda’s course, and I believe that every writer and creative can take something out of it.
Whether you’re an aspiring TV producer or a fiction writer, Shonda will encourage you to think about your ideas and take your goals more seriously. Her enthusiasm, ambition, and self-respect are somewhat contagious, and she knows how to encourage people to fulfill their potential.
That said, I believe Shonda Rhimes is a great teacher. And although I don’t personally agree with some of her methods and opinions – for instance, I don’t agree that someone who doesn’t write every single day shouldn’t be called a writer – I really enjoyed listening to her.
There are many great lessons in the course, but here are some of my personal favorites:
1. Teach yourself TV writing
Shonda Rhimes learned how to write a TV show by doing it. And although it’s crucial to gain practical experience, you can also read and dissect scripts of the shows you love. This way, you can learn about language and structure and see what makes something good.
I like this lesson because it shows you how to learn and work on your skills by yourself.
2. Developing the concept
As a fiction writer, I can tell you that it’s sometimes easy to get an idea – but developing a concept and making it work? An entirely different thing.
In this lesson, Shonda explains how to develop a concept and start turning your vision into reality. She suggests that you should come up with the details of your story and decide the tone of the show.
3. Case study: Grey’s Anatomy Pilot
In the case study lessons, Shonda Rhimes is joined by a team of writers who ask questions and listen to her talk about her series’ pilot episodes. In this lesson, she breaks down the Grey’s Anatomy pilot act-by-act.
These lessons provided me with an in-depth look into Shonda’s creative process and allowed me to see how pilot episodes are made in a way I’ve never seen before.
How much does Shonda Rhimes’ MasterClass cost?
MasterClass is a subscription-based learning platform, which means you can’t purchase courses individually. Therefore, if you want to take Shonda Rhimes’ class, you have to become a subscriber.
The annual subscription to Masterclass costs $120 per year. This is quite affordable, considering the MasterClass subscription gives you unlimited access to a catalog of 180+ classes.
Also, the platform offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your learning experience, you can request a full refund.
What I liked about Shonda Rhimes’ MasterClass
Learning from Shonda Rhimes is an experience I won’t forget so easily.
I would say that Shonda is a good teacher. I like her attitude; she is very confident, approachable, and open, and that helped set the tone of the whole course.
Another reason why I enjoyed this course is the abundance of concrete tips and guidelines on how to approach a script. Although I’m not a professional screenwriter, I found these lessons very inspiring and useful.
I enjoy learning about more abstract topics as well, but once in a while, it’s good to hear someone speak about their creative process so clearly. Shonda managed to do this through examples, stories, and detailed case studies.
To sum things up, here are some of the things I like the most about this course:
A great instructor
Shonda Rhimes is one of the world’s most accomplished showrunners, and she knows it.
She is very confident, charismatic, and straightforward, and she was evidently excited to teach this course.
Plus, she knows how to explain her methods and creative process in an understandable way, which is not something every instructor knows how to do.
Concrete tips and guidelines
In her course, Shonda reveals secrets of the trade. She is not afraid to talk about her process openly. She said it herself: she had never spoken in this much detail about her writing before.
Each and every lesson contains a helpful tip or advice based on Shonda’s experience. As mentioned before, it’s like getting a formula on how to write a TV show and enter the industry.
Detailed case studies
I’ve never seen that many case study lessons in a course, and that’s because some of the topics (like the Scandal pilot case study) are separated into multiple lessons. Most of them take place in a writer’s room, so you can really get into it and understand every scene.
Helpful class materials
In addition to video lessons, every learner gets a digital class guidebook as well as PDF scripts, drafts, and Grey’s Anatomy Original Pitch. All of these materials accompany the course really well.
Drawbacks of Shonda Rhimes’ MasterClass
Although I generally enjoyed Shonda’s class, I believe there are some things that could be improved.
Writer’s room lessons feel a bit unnatural
Let’s be clear: I think case study lessons are amazing, and they provided me with an insightful, in-depth look at Shonda’s successful pilots.
However, the moment when lessons switched from 1-on-1 lessons to a writer’s room setting, I felt a bit confused. My first question was: who are these people on the couch, and what are they doing in my class?
As the lesson moves forward, it becomes clear that they’re here to ask questions and help Shonda break down her scripts. Nevertheless, everything felt a bit, well, scripted at times – a bit unnatural, in my opinion.
It would be great if Shonda introduced the guests at the beginning, for instance. And this wouldn’t be such a big deal if those lessons didn’t take up a good portion of the course.
Strong focus on Shonda’s TV shows
This is more of a continuation of the previous drawback. In the case study lessons, Shonda and her (unknown) team are discussing Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal pilots.
Of course, it’s logical that Shonda chooses her successful TV shows to explain her methods and techniques. However, if you haven’t seen the shows, you might occasionally feel a bit lost.
Review conclusion: Is Shonda Rhimes’ MasterClass worth it?
At the end of the day, I’m glad I took Shonda’s course.
It provided me with many useful writing tips regarding finding ideas, developing a concept, crafting memorable characters, and writing, and that’s why I would recommend it to any fellow creative.
However, the course is very detailed – there are more than 6 hours of lessons – and it provides an in-depth look at the television writing process. For instance, some of the lessons contain act-by-act episode breakdowns. That said, this MasterClass is probably best suited for aspiring screenwriters who want to make it in the TV industry.