Skip to main content

Orvieto Retreat

Location: Istituto San Lodovico, Orvieto (TN), Italy
Leader: Heidi Hornbacher
Concept to Pages (two week program): Sunday, May 25 – Saturday, June 7, 2025
Foundations & Structure (Week One): Sunday, May 25 – Saturday, May 31, 2025
Scenes & Dialogue (Week Two): Sunday, June 1 – Saturday, June 7, 2025

Develop a new idea, or figure out why that old one isn’t quite working. Our workshop-style classes, practical lessons, and one-to-one consultations will help get your feature or television script ready for agents and studios.

The Italy writing retreat is designed to move each project forward, offering you analysis and discussion with our leader and collaboration with fellow writers. We focus on exchanging ideas and pages so that you feel inspired and productive. We offer practical exercises to hone your writing skills and teach you a few tricks of the screen trade. Our skills-based mini-lessons tackle specifics such as subtext, stakes, beginnings, creating characters that pop, “getting in late and getting out early” from a scene, defining relationships, being precise and concise, and much more.

For new material, we will guide you through assembling a script, from pitch to outline to scenes. If you’d like to perfect an existing project, we will break it down and put it back together again, giving you insight into what works and what doesn’t, so that you can leave with a strong, streamlined screenplay that you’ll feel confident handing over to any agent or studio in town.

Also, you’ll be away from your daily grind working against a backdrop of beautiful landscapes, delicious cuisine and inspiring culture – ITALY! You’ll be able to take a break from writing with town walks, cathedral and underground city tours, wine tastings, and other fun activities.

Customize your Italy screenwriting lab

We offer the full two-week retreat, as well as two single-week options: Week One, to develop a new idea into a detailed story treatment; or Week Two, to turn a story treatment (or outline) into a solid screenplay.

Week 1 Program
If you need to develop your story foundations or character arcs, this is the lab for you. We will share tools to construct characters with depth and dimension. Then we’ll dive deep into the structure of your story, focusing on organic character motivations and narrative momentum. You’ll design each scene with purpose, with clear goals, obstacles, and tension. By the end of the week, you’ll have a solid treatment that will allow you to create rich pages.

Week 2 Program
If you have a solid outline and rich characters, but have struggled to craft scenes and dialogue that spark on the page, this is the lab for you. We will work with tools designed to improve your scene construction and dialogue, and even share formatting tricks. With daily table reads for each writer and comprehensive feedback from the mentor and the other participants, you’ll create pages with confidence. To get the most out of the lab, we will ask you to submit a story outline and participate in a feedback session with the mentor in advance.

Full Two-Week Program
If you’re ready to hit pause on your daily life and embrace the full process of creating or re-engineering your script from concept to pages, this is the lab for you. Over two weeks, you’ll gain new tools and insights to unlock the next level of writing you’ve been reaching for. Following a writers-room format, we’ll work through character and story construction first, then scenes and dialogue that jump off the page. Insightful mentoring and a supportive cohort of writers will lift you to your best work yet.

Space is limited, so don’t delay!

Apply Now!


Week One – Foundations and Structure
Sunday: Arrivals & Welcome Dinner
Monday-Friday: Morning workshops; afternoon writing time and 1-to1 consultations
Saturday: Week One participants depart by 11am; writing time & optional outings for others

Week Two – Scenes and Dialogue
Sunday: Arrivals and orientation for Week Two participants; writing time & optional outings for others
Monday-Thursday: Morning workshops; afternoon writing time and 1-to1 consultations
Friday: Morning writing time; afternoon workshop; farewell dinner
Saturday: Departure by 11am

We may modify any of the above, taking student preferences into account. We will also offer group outings to local places of interest.


Our past students have a lot of wonderful things to say about us. Watch our testimonial video and read other Alumni Testimonials. Also check out our Venue and Liz Hara’s blog about her experience.

Apply Now!

Important Notes

  • Our Italy retreat is recommended for writers with some screenwriting training. Although we have welcomed writers at all levels of experience, our ideal participant has written at least one script, is familiar with format, and has a basic understanding of script writing software such as Final Draft. We are delighted to work with first-time screenwriters via our online workshops and coaching services.
  • To maximize your time, your workshop leader may ask you to submit story outlines, beat sheets, or treatments in advance. As part of the application, you must submit a brief description of the project you would like to tackle in Italy. You may change your mind, as long as you discuss the switch in advance with our leader. To apply, see Registration.
  • We are a paperless program. All submissions and exchanges of pages will be electronic. You will need a reliable laptop and a screenwriting program capable of converting files to PDF format for distribution. A tablet with an application like Good Notes or Final Draft Reader may be helpful.
  • We ask writers who participate in the Italy retreat to be open to constructive feedback, and to be willing to provide such feedback to others. We expect all participants to adhere to our Code of Conduct.