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« 10 Screenwriting Clichés That Refuse To Die | Main | The Real Crisis »


Julia Kelly

I'm an illustrator as well- and often I go back to the original sketch and realize I've lost all its "expressiveness" and "life"- the more redraws the worst it gets.

E.C. Henry

Interesting post, Billy,

At least you're discerning enough to know when your writing could be improved upon. A lot of writers think their first draft is an upimproveable masterpiece. :D

Even if your first thought holds. Rewriting improves EVERYTHING. To me creative writing is like going back in time and becoming a 14th century map-maker, as you attempt to fill in the missing places on the map.

Billy, I've always liked your advice just to crank out a 1st draft, THEN apply analytical skills to hone one's initial idea. My problem is I'm too much of a perfectionist. I have a tendancy to project final draft expectaions on a 1st draft. THAT makes me a very slow first draft writer. :(

I do believe there is some merit to hiring multiple writers for their take off a script in process. The key is: can the descion maker who is managing these multiple drafts able to sift through multiple ideas, and derive at the best possible story off the takes the studio payed for.

Universal has been on top before. You guys will be back on top again. I believe in Universal's creative team, and can't wait to see what Universal cranks out in the years to come. All is not lost. Better days are coming...

;-) E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

P.S. What is your personal essay about anyway? And why do you feel the need to write an "essay," anyway? You mentioned this was a personal essay, which hints that it is not a requirement of UCLA faculty, or something pertaining to Universal Studios.

Judith Duncan

Hey Billy,

I guess the first thought best thought is usually the idea that hits you with a passion and lights that wonderful spark in the mind and the heart that makes you NEED to sit down and write it all out.I've just had happen to me with a short film that I wrote.The idea came from a very real situation and the whole thing happened in a flash.

That being said,last Friday I attended aseminar with Meg LeFauve,who was fantastic,but who is a great believer in having the premise,synopsis,treatment and beat sheet worked out before you attempt to write.

I guess the eternal challenge for the screenwriter is trying to determine which idea needs which process.Juggling the passion of the idea with the craft,when they work together,it's magic.



I'm on my third draft for The Studio and every day I feel like I'm going to hyperventilate because I'm so scared of losing my original intention and the original REASON I wrote the damn thing.

I'm working in slow motion because nothing is worth losing the initial, beautiful impulse.


Philip Glass quotes A.G.'s "first thought, best thought" in 'A Portrait of Philip...' and then he just groans and continues rewriting.b.

I love E.C. Henry's PS.


After I saw Howl, I came home and wrote "First thought, best thought" on a Post-it and stuck it on the wall in front of my desk.

I wanted to write it on the toes of my Converse, but my boyfriend disapproves of writing on one's Converse.


Julia: That makes perfect sense. Must be a challenge to "re-capture" that first impulse of the hand.

EC: The real problem is that there's rarely one "decision maker" involved. More often than not - and this is more true of the studio system than in indie-land - there are competing factions, i.e. a director has a "vision," a producer has another, the studio has its POV, and the writer is trying to please them all - and maybe herself, without losing the job!

Personal essay is for a book coming out next year called "Cherished: 22 Writers on Animals They Loved and Lost," edited by my friend, writer/instructor Barbara Abercrombie.

Judith: "Juggling the passion of the idea with the craft" - Exactly!

J: As someone once said, I feel your pain. But I'm gonna bet you'll pull it off. And try to bear in mind that these are GOOD problems to be facing (as opposed to many others).

l: Friend Barbara - mentioned above in my reply to EC's p.s. - was just touting this doc. Guess I must rent!

Caitlin: Well, you weren't writing it on HIS Converse - but, hey, I'm not getting in the middle of this. Thanks for the comment, at any rate.

Christian H.

Well, I can say that I do believe in the first best thought. But only in that the complexity of a cinematic narrative means endless outlining and scene-shaping, finding the right characters to provide the most emphasis on the story, etc.

I won't even write any of the script until the outline lightbulb goes off. It helps ensure that I have fully fleshed out the entire structure - without dialog or scene description, just the purpose of the scene and locations.

It works pretty well as I'm in PreProd on a short that the director wants to film as is.

I've got another producer - a friend of the one in PrePro who wants a short and we'll see soon if she has notes.

I also think the same as T and T who believe that every script they submit should be ready for filming. Hence why I spend so much time in outline.

I've found all kinds of problems in outline that would have wasted lots of script-hours - even with shorts.

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