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Screenwriting: The Art of the First Draft

Lesson 16 of 18

Celebrating the Milestone

Hal Ackerman

Screenwriting: The Art of the First Draft

Hal Ackerman

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Lesson Info

16. Celebrating the Milestone

Lesson Info

Celebrating the Milestone

Gradually, the all of you, because have you gone through all of this? You have reached the moment that every writer just absolutely dreams of reaching those too just loveliest possible words the right which is fade out, which means you have come to the end of the first draft. It really you know it. Two things you need to know about that number one, it won't be perfect, but number two it will feel so so, so good. There is just no, I mean, you have the right of the elector, right? They all say no, I like having written, but, you know, I don't I don't really know how many first drafts any of you have finished. It probably isn't. Ah, maybe many of may be few, but it doesn't matter because it is the same sense of absolute exhilaration when you reach the end any time it just feels stupendous. And the first thing that I just really want to say is, no matter what you think might happen after that, allow yourself to celebrate that truth. You have done something that is difficult, you've done so...

mething that ah lot of people wish they will have done, and I haven't. And I have absolute faith that you are going to do it I have absolute faith that you will have walked like we talked about way back in those many, many steps ago of taking that one step over the line where there was all those procrastination tze and there was one word a little minuscule that said writing that you have made your writing schedule the second most important thing that I told you to do that the most important thing to do which is keep it that you have kept to it that it has taken you however long that has taken you that doesn't matter if it took you five weeks of took you five months I don't want to take five years but if it has taken you six months to write your first draft you will have done something something will exist that without yours doing it will not have existed that is a powerful thing to understand it it deserves all the exhilaration the self congratulations that you could give yourself it absolutely does you have done something that is very difficult to do it separates you from everybody who hasn't so congratulations and yea okay um as we said earlier the sole purpose of a first draft is to give you material that you can rewrite and make a second draft from remember that the immutable laws of physics that we mentioned some time ago is that you can not right a second draft until you've written a first draft so people try to do it so he would be trying to make everything perfect perfect perfect along the way and it's just impossible to do any lamotte on that bird by bird has one chapter that's called should he first drafts and she calls it the downdraft just get it down and that comes next is the updraft you know fix it up uh there's great wisdom in that too many among among the many things that cripple us a cz writers is the crippling thought of perfection of perfectionism, of trying to make something too perfect too soon and too soon to make something perfectly ever it will never ever be perfect. I'll tell you a little anecdote I like to go to proceedings. I told you I would like to write write prose fiction and um I went to this reading at the library in los angeles the main downtown library and there was a writer who had just won a pulitzer prize for his collection stories. It was us of jakovic novakovich and he was reading and it's a beautiful three quarter round and a lot of people that bring their books and so they're reading along a cz he read the stories and there was a q and a afterwards and a couple of questions and somebody has very puzzled looking he's got his book says you know I must have a different tradition than your addition because as reading along and there some passages in my book that you didn't read and then there's some that you read that aren't in my booking and mind you this is the right who's just won a pulitzer prize and he very sheepishly turns his published a copy of this book are over and shows him that he's crossed out bunch of stuff written in hand a bunch of stuff this is after he's won the pulitzer prize all right okay uh some some poet once said no work of art is ever fiction no work of fiction is ever completed only abandoned and there's some truth to that as well it will never be as good as you imagine that it possibly can and that the other truth about film writing san drew eyes that even after it is as good as you could possibly make it and and it gets sold on dh it gets made as a movie if you are lucky it will somewhat resemble what you wrote the one truth about the film industry that is different from any other written on your literature is that and it said is that as screenwriters we don't own our copyright we don't own a playwright owns copyright novelist owns the copyright of poet owns the copyright but once we sell our screenplay anybody can do anything they want to it it it's it said I realized this I was watching a movie and I got to the state the whole credits in the very last credit said for purpose of copyright the author of this teleplay is and of course what do you expect to see your script to see the name of the screenwriter but instead it was the name of the production company they own the copyright it is why they can do whatever they want it is why mitt sometimes there are lists and lists of writers attached to ah a movie and is which you know why we're you know basically high priced horse if we're lucky high priced for lucky way have to recognize that that a screenplay is that one of the very few piece of literature in which the written word has only taken is a suggestion that just you know if you ever read the mba the minimum basic agreement of the of the of the playwrights guild uh not a single word can be changed nothing could be suggested added subtracted without the right has expressed consent um it's kind of a writer's what dream? The reason that somebody playwrights become screenwriters is that the downside of being a player and there's no money in it you know you could have plays on broadway still not making any money and screenwriter tv writers can be very, very it can it can be a lucrative industry we'll talk about that in a second we talk about selling but let's talk about right now you've got your first draft you've done it there it is in front of you it's vibrating it's still vibrating it's hot off the printer you can field you can just feel the heat generating from it what do you want to do it that you want to hug it you know you wanna kiss it you want what do you want to do? We want throw in the air and you want to show people you wantto have a plain saying I did it in skywriting it is just a wonderful feeling huh? All of the above absolutely absolutely gonna dance around it and make a totem offering to the gods you've done something amazing and you know you do what you do want you want to show it to go you want to get it out do I get an agent? You know who who's going to buy this right now when I open up your bank account you're goingto go to the mercedes showroom and you do all those things but the most prudent thing to do is to do nothing for a little bit is to celebrate it by self a really nice dinner or have a nice drink it nice and drunk and you know tell your pals he did something they say can I read it? You say maybe next week and it's going to take a gigantic amount of restraint, uh, to say that. But you need to, um, you need to understand what you have done and what comes next. And what comes next is very important. It's as important as what has just come, uh, because it is almost it's a rarity, I mean so rare that it's, almost non existent, that the first draft is going to be anything other than what you know what? And michael's shooting first draft, no matter how gorgeous wonderful you believe it is. Ah, hard truth is that it? Whatever you write will never be as good as you hope it is. Wish it isn't believe it is just won't. It could be as good as khun b. It still won't be as great as you wanted to be that's. Why? They have second drafts and third dress that's. Why they have those rubber things on the back of pencils back when you have pencils. Okay, so how do you now start to approach what to do next? You know, because you were mature human beings, that rewrite is necessary. You know, part of any movie deal in the professional world is three drafts and a polish, you know, that's and that's for highly trained professionals, there are writers who are together that successful billy ray, who have talked about, you know, says it's, not uncommon for us to do twenty or thirty draft. And when he says the draft years, I mean a complete beginning to end. Could be a dialogue polish could be stuff for one character. But, you know, if somebody that is a gigantically successful, highly skilled, working professional understands the need to forget it as good as can be, then that's something that we need to understand as well.

Class Description

The most overwhelming, yet critical step for the screenwriter is the first draft. Staring at a blank sheet of paper can induce "writers block" faster than any other challenge facing a screenwriter. Screenwriting: The Art of the First Draft will equip you with a roadmap for tackling your initial draft and guide you to the next steps on the scriptwriting journey. 

In this class, Hal Ackerman will teach you how to jumpstart the writing process and complete a written first draft of your screenplay. You’ll learn how to:
  • Organize your ideas into scenes and acts
  • Approach character development and dialogue
  • Take next steps after the first draft is complete
Hal has been teaching screenwriting to students at UCLA since 1985. He has sold material to all the broadcast networks and authored well-known books on the art of screenplay writing and selling In this class, he’ll offer actionable insights on developing your concepts and turning your ideas into a compelling and complete script.

Screenwriting: The Art of the First Draft is your opportunity to learn how to conquer one of screenwriting’s greatest challenges and get your ideas developed and down on paper. 

Check out our complete collection of filmmaking classes here


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Hal Ackerman is the Man!!! Loved this course and will be watching it again. Mr. Ackerman is one of those people who truly wants to help you get better at your craft. He's encouraging yet realistic about what it takes to write a great screenplay. I highly recommend this interesting and helpful class.


After taking a number of other screenwriting courses, I can tell you that Hal Ackerman's course, The Art of the First Draft, is the BEST EVER!! His methodology of teaching is fantastic. He takes you on this journey from start to finish in a way that you WILL KNOW how to write a script by the time you finish this course. I liked how he used examples throughout his training to help you better understand screenwriting. If you really want to learn how to be a good screenwriter, then I would highly recommend taking Hal's course. You won't be disappointed.


I've read a lot of books on the subject and I've been to a few seminars. Hal Ackerman's class is genuinely one of the best and the most helpful classes I have experienced. What makes the class so great is that every concept has you putting pen to paper or fingers on keyboard right away. Ackerman really has tools that are called to be used. Thanks for the wonderful resource.