Film & TV

Workshopping Scripts, Part 1

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 12:00 min

Collaboration is an essential aspect of Judd's creative process. Learn how you can use input from peers and friends to take your projects to the next level.

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Judd Apatow
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Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.
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We have used roundtables for movies. And a roundtable is basically when you ask, 5 to 10 writers to watch a cut of a movie or listen to a table read and to just kick around how to make it better. The people in the room are usually friends of mine. Sometimes you're just hiring people. Sometimes they're friends of the writers or the directors or the actors or actresses. Sometimes you're going line by line, and you're using the room the way a TV show uses a room to improve it beat for beat. Sometimes you're just talking in more macro terms about the story. Is the story working? How come the big scene at the end isn't funny? And you might take two hours to say, can we figure out a better ending? What else could we do here? This isn't that good. Sometimes it's just criticism. You just want to bring people in to go, tear me apart. How do you think we're doing? So when we were doing The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Adam McKay was there. And Adam said, maybe when all the guys are talking outside, for no reason at all, they're hitting each other with fluorescent bulbs. And I thought, yes, that makes perfect sense. I remember Chris Brown, a great writer who I worked with on Undeclared and on Drillbit Taylor, he said, maybe Steve Carell's character has all of these toys, and he never takes them out of the box. And he is like the toy that has never gotten out of the box. We did a table read of Pineapple Express once, and at the table read, a friend of ours said, seems like what this movie is really about is the fact that James Franco wants to be friends with Seth, and what you're exploring is, are you really friends with your drug dealer? And they're trying to decide if they're friends or not. And that changed the whole movie, as soon as we understood that that's what we were really tracking. Is this a real friendship, or is this just a business arrangement? We built everything around that. So it's very helpful to have friends read things and watch things. The tricky part is, sometimes they're terribly off. Sometimes they're wrong. So you always have to have your own inner compass about whether or not you like the advice and the notes you're getting. When you get notes from a lot of people, one thing you're looking for is a similarity in the notes. A lot of times people will give notes and you don't agree with the notes, but you agree with the criticism. But the fix is awful. But you think, oh, wow, I've had about six or seven people tell me they didn't get this part, or they weren't understanding what I was doing there. So I don't like how they said to fix it. But I guess I should look at that, because something's going on here. So what you want to do when you get notes is put yourself in a place where you really try to consider them openly. Everyone's reaction to notes is, get out of here. Leave me alone. You're wrong. I think we all are so insecure about doing a bad job that when you get notes, a first instinct is to want to reject all notes. So you de...


Get serious about comedy

No joke: at age 15, Judd Apatow took a dishwashing job at a comedy club to watch the acts. Today, he’s the comedic genius behind hits including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids, and Freaks and Geeks. In his first-ever online comedy class, the Emmy Award winner teaches you how to create hilarious storylines, write great stand-up, and direct movies that leave audiences laughing.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Judd, Thanks for sharing us your loser side. For the honesty and breakness and revealing.

I've been interested in doing comedy for years and I think that this Masterclass showed me how interesting it is to make jokes for a living. Congratulations to all those that are doing it and those who want to should take a leap of faith and give it a try!

Judd Apatow is the Man!!!! As a lifelong learner of how to get to the funny and keep it rolling I would just like to give my Utmost Respect Sir .

This class was tremendous. Judd has worked on so many films he had a ton of great real life examples of how things worked, didn't work, were made to work etc. He is also very knowledgable about comedy films and his passion really comes through. Loved it. Great stuff. Thanks!!


Comments

EK T.

Student actors are great for doing early workshops. At Actors Studio Pace, we would make an agreement to keep them post in the event the project goes into production. (No promises because we didn't know if we would be allowed to stay involved, but it worked all for all involved).

Meg N.

I write and assemble a variety of things where I want feedback, sometime's I leave gaps, sometimes there's a better way to say something... and I was encouraged that even on Judd Apatow's level, there are people with whom you can work easily and well, and people who are soul-killing... I'm probably that way with some people as well, and this session has started me thinking about how to better handle it. Just waiting for the person to move on and "disappear" from the process is probably a bit too passive on my part.

George C.

More good advice. In the end you have to trust your own judgement, especially if you have a unique or quirky style. I aspire to write a philosophical dramedy. There are lots of opportunity for laughs,...especially the kind that also make you squirm. But ultimately it is a confrontation by an idea that will make people uncomfortable. (not racist, sexist, religious or overtly political). So I don't know who to workshop this with. Hey Judd, can I workshop it with your friends?

BJ A.

I was in a writers group and many times i was stopped by people saying they didn't understand something. With great annoyance i would explain it to them in different words and they'd say, "Well, why don't you say it like that?" My explanation was easier to understand than my 'fancy' talk.

Vickie R.

I hate the word "collaboration" because not only does it remind me of the Nazis during WWII but it reminds me of some of my neighbors and "friends" here in Northridge who over charge me and sabotage my ideas. I try to find other people to write comedy with because I have some very good ideas, but the last time I did this the girl stole my script and put her name on it and left the country!!! LOL. So I've become a pretty solitary writer. But I am funny, only I'm funny when I don't try to be. When I try to be funny, it doesn't work out well in the end. But how would you like to do a movie about this crazy household in the SFV where the cat begs for dog food and the new dog with no teeth, and a congestive heart failure (the shelter recommended him to me LOL), LOVES cat food> He actually even woke me up at 2 in the morning for his favorite cat food and then did a little Mexican Chihuahua dance to "thank" me? He is the cutest dog in the world and I am really a cat person? Never seen such a brilliant comfort dog and he helps take away some of my constant angst and anxiety. He really belongs in Hollywood on the big screen, Like the next Benji or Lassie only funnier. Have a great night!!!!

Maureen K.

i like that Judd advices to work with people that think more or less like you, people that can think in a manner that you all feel expansive and inspired when discussing stories/scripts. And to some extent I was relieved to hear his advice that it is okay to not work with people with whom every moment feels a little rough. Often it seems that working with different minded people seems to be promoted (even if it makes your stomach react from all tensions) So now I will try to look for others to collaborate with..

Tim F.

It would be awesome to start a round table of four writers to give each other notes. I like Judd's remarks that if there's a consensus, that maybe they're onto something. Anyone interested in forming a writer's group?

Christopher S.

Judd hit it right on the button when talking about receiving notes. I try to stay open minded when receiving notes from anyone and I try to look at what that particular person sees.

Billy R.

I was happy to hear this lesson. I've belonged to four writer's groups over about the last 12 or 13 years. And even though a lot of the people at the writers' groups have disagreed with me on some of these points, a lot of what Judd taught in this lesson are kind of the gut instincts that I've developed while taking, and giving criticism. I definitely have developed an instinct that the most worthwhile criticisms are usually the ones that multiple readers are pointing out. In the kind of groups I've participated in, you're usually going to get around a half dozen reviews. So if maybe two to four of the people have the same criticism, I usually think that I've done something uninteresting or confusing. And I've also developed that instinct that sometimes you're receiving criticism from the wrong people who are just not going to get your style, or be interested in your style. A lot of my writing groups have been small enough that people who are action movie writers, romance movie writers, sci-fi movie writers, writers of movies with strong political intentions, writers of horror movies, and comedy writers are all reviewing the same script. And though I've written a couple of serious tone scripts, my average script is a comedy that could happen to average people in the world I know: Southeast Arkansas, Western Tennessee, and Northwest Mississippi. My stuff doesn't have that many if any special effects, and very little death and violence. So I start getting back these notes complaining about lack of special effects: like you could have really used a space ship fight. Or I'll get these notes like, you could have had several more fights, and lots of deaths in your screenplay. Or you should have put a message in your movie like speaking up for the nearly extinct Midget Welsh Red Oak tree in your screenplay. And I'm going, yeah... I'm probably better off following my own inner-compass than listening to these notes. But then on occasion, you will get some really incisive notes from someone who seems to 85% if not totally 'get' the style and tone of the script. Those are the notes that are gold. So I really liked this lesson because it confirmed for me some things that I either felt I knew but have learned I couldn't say openly in my writers' group, or some things that I might have had a gut instinct about that were on the verge of entering my conscious mind.

Mary S.

Okay. I stopped being lazy and wrote two character descriptions. Also reworked a main character introduction, made it stronger. The opening is way better now. Thank you!