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Screenwriting: The Art of the First Draft

Lesson 2 of 18

Step 1: Overcome Your Fear of Writing

Hal Ackerman

Screenwriting: The Art of the First Draft

Hal Ackerman

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Lesson Info

2. Step 1: Overcome Your Fear of Writing

Lesson Info

Step 1: Overcome Your Fear of Writing

So what we're going to be dealing with right now is going to the writers jim and it's talking about how you can get to be in one of those pictures surrounding me and I call that picture three millionaires and how on I hope that this picture here right here will be five million years and how are the very least five very happy people who are living there writer's life it is ah very satisfying life and filled with great frustration sometimes, but the beauty of it all is that I think that the reason all of us that here and also interested in this class and this course is because there's something inside of us that is itching to come out and sometimes well, sometimes there are obstacles is these two powerful forces there's the force that wants toe reveal and there's a and this something says, wait a minute, maybe I better not. Maybe I maybe I'll hurt somebody's feelings. Maybe I'll reveal too much about myself and so there's those two forces that are always work against us tow wanted to rev...

eal and wanting to conceal. And so what this course is going to do one of the first things that has to do is get you into the mindset to understand that it's ok to reveal yourself it is ok tio it's okay, toe right the history of storytelling how'd it begin with the first storytellers? First story tellers were really people that went out on the hunt that were not athletic enough maybe not fearless enough to actually throw the spears but also wanted to eat on. So what did they do? You know, maybe they weren't fleet enough to you know, to run after the gazelle maybe they were a little bit, you know, currently maybe they'll listen they were the nerds like us. Okay let's just face it but I was hungry as as the hunters on around the campfire how did they get their little scraps of food from the producer while left in that produces from the hundred? Well, what they did was they told the stories of the hunt they told the heroic how wonderful how, how strong and and effortless you know the heroes through their spears and caught the animals and and later on, when civilization developed a little further, they were epic battles. You know, some of the early plays in western civilization with a greek place and again talked about battles again told by people who were not there in the front lines. You know, we were the writers as as the history of theatre progressed, it changed from that epic all those epic kinds of adults to things that were a little bit more personal and these days in modern theater you know, all of the stories for the most part are personal stories and all of us have personal stories but we don't necessarily think that they are valid enough to make to make a movie about like who would care about what has happened to me and what we're going to do here really is teo is to find those reasons to give you the confidence to recognize that the stories that happened to you are worth telling I want to talk a little bit about what makes you think that they aren't er and all of us have little things that we do to stop us from writing that we do instead of writing sit down and say I'm going to write today and then you know what? Maybe I'll do something else maybe I'll reorganized that refrigerator so when I had that kind of like like to do right now is I'm gonna go over to that board over there and I'm gonna ask you to tell me like all and be frank telling all of the cookie things that you do that you do instead of writing okay so I'm gonna come over here I'm going to grab a pen and I'm going to ask you ellie what like three or four things that you do instead of writing I watch movies okay, good um I eat what I put your favorite cuisine suit you cook it yourself uh amy does okay yeah remain okay what else um what else do I do I work you work on my god you mean you actually work for a living okay crazy okay what do you do? I work it start up I am the executive assistant to ceo uhm keeps you busy keeps me yes very very busy okay good shelter. I would go to some of the things that you're doing when you wanted instead of sitting down to work organize like organize what? Um uh ideas for the script okay guys right there's one about your closet yeah bookcase you advertise your refrigerator what else? Cleaning um working uh okay. Exercising exercising what? You go to a gym no just out walking or running okay, so you pretend to exercise uh tara what about yourself? Uh lots of research research loosely hand through too much research you can see by the way I got to be right because of my handwriting right okay what else? Um oh, yeah, I also do a lot of cleaning okay uh yeah, a lot of uh anything to do with my cats that always something tio okay, so pets okay anyone here have kids? Okay there, I think uh haven't you frank? I find I take pictures along I got to take pictures okay? And I I like to read about the process ok good ok alright see re wells eat okay we're going to radio anyone here ever and anyone ever hear of the internet anybody ever go on in now that's where most my revenge okay okay so we serve from the internet okay racetrack knows what I've noticed always about writers what never comes on here is sex uh right never never never okay uh that's important what do you do I mean I I would read a lot about right like about it okay read not do it read about writing okay so you said that anybody ever anywhere friends ever called anyone anywhere friends okay hang out yeah, I got party right? Okay, go drink all that stuff. Okay? These are you know, a partial list and I bet if you took a little bit a little bit longer you'd probably come up with a bunch of other stuff that you do instead of writing it's not just stuff you do what you do instead of doing the thing that you care a lot about and I don't want you to look att the size of that sucker right back down here oh think thank you is all right good. Ok ok, so look at the size of this I just think of this as a huge boulder okay think this is a tiny little pebble its formidable its large writing is little and what what each one of you has to do and it's very simple to make that commitment but it's very difficult to keep it is just think of a line okay on this side of the line is all of this stuff and on this side of line there's just one verb one word and that word is this and every single one of you there are a lot of things that are unpredictable in there outside of our control in the world okay, there is one thing and one thing alone that is in our control and that is our commitment that is how much time and effort that each one of us will decide to put into that that's the one thing that absolutely we can control okay uh we have to think about working as a writer as like going to the writers jim ok, we've all seen the olympic games, right? See those great acrobats, the gymnast, the amazing things that they do, we see them on that stage and that world stage for like, you know, three minutes, but what we don't see is the hours of every day, every week, every month that they work at the gym making their bodies into the instruments that can do that thing and we ourselves have to think of ourselves in that same way we have to think of ourselves as olympians on we have to make our bodies become the instruments that could be able to do this stuff that we want to do we because every single one of you has an idea that you want to write we're going we're going talk about that and a little bit every single one of you has that on dh it's impossible to do somebody wants some physicists once figured out that that bumble bees because of the physics because their wings being so small, their bodies being so large that it was absolutely physically impossible for a bumble bee to fly uh I think they can in the same way it's like physically impossible in a certain kind of way with what you think about actually turn that idea that we have into the one hundred ten page screams like but by flapping our wings by deciding that we are going to become metaphorically airborne we can do it all it takes is our making that commitment. So why don't we? Why don't we all of these things that we're talking about all of these all these procrastination sze they really come from one one factor alone, which is which is we're afraid that we suck we don't want that to be exposed basically that's it and this is you know this in part explains the high volume of alcohol that that that is sold in stores because we are really were really afraid we don't want to expose the fact that we have tried and failed it's really a simple is that but we have to make that we have to make that commitment that is the thing that we have to understand we've all seen babies start to tryto walk right and what is the first thousand things that baby does before it can stand up what you've seen it they fall exactly and do people do you ride that child you know yeah yeah yeah uh what he figured no they don't but we feel that state that sense of shame by us trying to like do the same thing that a baby does we're taking baby steps really when we start to write our stuff and a little exercise that sort of don't don't tell anybody from new york that I do meditations please I would room out entire reputation but but there is a thing that I sort of liked like you to think about doing like you sort of think about a person standing over here on this shoulder who's the most critical person in your life uh if you're like me maybe you may have the good fortune to be your mother um maybe you're not my mother but you know it's the person you want to say hey look what I can do and they say yes so what not good enough you know frankie's kid you can do it better um when I like to have you do is well send that person on vacation now I don't want you to send the person to hell because because then they'll try to come back. But I want to do is think about the place that they most like to be. And I want you to send them on that vacation while you are writing. The next thing you want to write. So they are not there. Well, the only people that are gonna be here, the people that look at a baby trying to stand and are charmed. I want youto take away whoever is judging you.

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.