Arts & Entertainment

Writing Process: First Draft

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 19:26 min

Judd shares his step-by-step process for brainstorming scene ideas, creating an outline, and setting reasonable writing goals for a first draft.

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

Topics include: Brainstorm Scenes Around a Thematic Idea • Brainstorming Case Study: Knocked Up • Develop a Rough Outline and Set Reasonable Goals • Believe in the Vomit Pass


So usually, for me, I have a thematic idea. I have an inspiration, and then I build everything around that. So when I was conceiving "Funny People," I had an idea about someone who becomes sick. And when they think they are getting better, they return to their regular level of neuroses. So that inspiration came because my mom was sick. And I noticed that whenever she thought that she was going to get completely better, she would become super neurotic. And when she thought that she was not going to survive, she seemed much more relaxed. And all the stuff that bothered her day to day that she would obsess over would go away. And she would be like, what does it matter? And the second a doctor said, you're going to be OK. This might work. She'd be like, what do I do about this? What do I do about that? What about this money issue? What about this business issue? And so that was one idea that was in my head. Separately, I had another idea about that period when you first start trying to be a stand up comedian and you are mentored, or you become friends with older, more established comedians, what that feels like-- the interesting relationship between younger and older comedians. And I had that relationship with a lot of different comedians from Roseanne, to Jim Carrey, to Garry Shandling, to Dennis Miller. And they were all super nice to me and really helped me out early in my career. And I thought there was a way to talk about that relationship with someone who maybe was a little more like Rodney Dangerfield, who I didn't know, but was a much more unhappy comedian. And that, through it, you could explore why people want to be in comedy and also why this need to be successful, and famous, and rich tends to isolate people and make them unhappy and how a young comedian would watch an older comedian's experiences and try to learn from them. So one day in the shower, I realize, oh, you could combine those two ideas and have it be the comedian who has the near death, disease experience and do the mentoring or friendship with an older comedian movie. - Why are you telling me this, George? - Because I want you to possibly do me a favor. - OK, yeah, what? - Kill me. - What? - Nobody knows we know each other. You're a stranger. You can get away with this. I got a gun in the other room. It's untraceable. I'll give you $50,000. Don't make me suffer, please. Kill me, Ira. I'm begging you. - Can you at least give me, like, a night to think about it? - Ha! Think about it? You would do it! - Oh, I hate you, man! Oh, no! - Ira, I misread you! You're sick! You're a murderer! - Oh, screw you, man! - You wanted to do it! What would you have done for $100,000? Chop my head off? - So that's how I look at how you build something, which is you have a thought and usually, in it, there's something you want to say. And what you want to say might be about values, someone who valued success and money before anyt...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.

Explore the Class
Sign Up