Over at MBToolbox today, Claire Zulkey posted what's basically an outline of a chunk of Robert McKee's infamous "Story Seminar" (which she actually found here). Her premise was that McKee's seminar (which in my book went from localized film-community "fame" all the way to infamy with its dead-on representation in the brillian Adaptation) is so expensive (true) or may not come to a location near you often enough (if you're not in LA or NY -- somewhat true too), that this website which looks to have essentially published the entire syllabus was a way for you to experience some of the content for free.
Well, if you're willing to spend a little more than free but nowhere near $500, you're better off spending about $23.10 (that's the Amazon price) and buying McKee's book "Story." Hell, for even less you can hear McKee read the book-on-tape, in which case you basically are attending the seminar.
"Story," the book, is basically word-for-word his three day lecture (because it's way more lecture than seminar -- he doesn't respond well to questions except during the specific periods he dilineates for them). The only thing "Story" lacks is his detailed analysis of "Casablanca" (or whatever script he's teaching now) during which you follow along script to screen and he looks at the film from not just a screenwriting but also filmmaking perspective. OK, so maybe it also lacks some more recent films which he uses as examples of certain issues, but as somebody who has been to his "Story Structure" seminar, attended a "Genre Day" looking at "Thrillers" and read "Story" the book, I doubt that he's changed much of anything -- except for a few titles -- along the way.
I wrote an email to Claire about the above, and also mentioned the following, my own take on "Shecky McKee" as my friend likes to call him (because of the reptetitive and rehearsed schtick he includes in his seminars):
McKee is a pompous ass (as Adaptation also accurately depicted -- Brian Cox really nailed him) and I've always found it somewhat funny/interesting that McKee has embraced his presence in the film that he includes mention of it on all his advertising. Still, what he proffers can, in fact, be pretty valuable. Personally, I think any prospective screenwriter gets in trouble if he/she explicitly follows any one method or technique of writing, but what McKee does is boil it all down to an almost scientific foundation, and ultimately that analysis can be helpful especially once a writer finds his/her own methods and techniques to implement that foundation. I've always been fascinated, also, by how he is always able to take any film that might seem to contradict one of his main points regarding story structure and still find a way to fold it into his argument.
So if you've ever considered taking his seminar, I wouldn't exactly say don't. But if you've already read the book, you will experience a significant long-winded case of deja vu.