Film & TV

Editing Your Script

Shonda Rhimes

Lesson time 19:02 min

You've written the first draft - now comes the task of editing your script. Shonda reveals her own editing process and provides tips on the best things to cut in a script.

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Shonda Rhimes
Teaches Writing for Television
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Preview

I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to move forward until I'm happy with what I already have. So I'll spend a day writing-- say, I'll write 10 or 15 pages and then before I can move on the next morning, I have to make sure that the 15 pages I wrote is perfect for me. And then I move forward. Because I don't ever like to then finish a script and then have to go back. So to me I never even really think about it as editing or rewriting, but clearly it is. You just want those pages that you've done to be perfect. And then you can move forward, and those pages have to be perfect. And then you move forward, and those pages have to be perfect. So that when you get to fade out, you don't have to do anything else. To me, that's always the best feeling. And also because I'm a fast writer, it helps to continuously do that-- go back and hone, and make everything work because it keeps everything fresh in your head. And then you don't end up in some place where you wrote something really fast and by the time you go back, you've already lost the thing that you were doing. It's just helpful for me. When I'm going back and editing, before I can move forward, you want to make sure the scenes resonate. You want to make sure the dialogue is as original as you can possibly make it. I like to go through and hone. I don't like the characters to say too much. The overly verbose dialogue can really be a problem. And while my characters talk a lot, I try to go through and keep it spare for them, even the ones where they have huge monologues-- they're spare, huge monologues. You want to make sure that all of your scenes are set in the right place in terms of how you're describing them. I like to go through. And I like to remove the stage direction that I put in that suggests how the actor should act something, versus where they are in space and what's going on with them. I think you know when the pages that you're writing are right. When you get ready to go forward, there are no more unanswered questions or mistakes left behind. You're going forward and you're not thinking, well, this scene is not going to work. Or these beats aren't going to work. Or how can I tell this part of the story if we haven't discussed blank already. So in the pilot episode of Scandal, you couldn't possibly have gone to act two and had them start investigating if I didn't have Sully come in at the very end of act one. Or if we hadn't introduced Quinn the way we had, we would not have really been able to set up this idea that she was worshipful of Olivia Pope. You would have to come up with a way of really bringing Quinn in and really building up that scene. You want to make sure that the scenes you have really resonate, so that when you move forward they're all falling into place. [MUSIC PLAYING] There are two ways that I hear my scripts. One, when I'm writing a scri...


Make Great Television

When Shonda Rhimes pitched Grey’s Anatomy she got so nervous she had to start over. Twice. Since then, she has created and produced TV’s biggest hits. In her screenwriting class, Shonda teaches you how to create compelling characters, write a pilot, pitch your idea, and stand out in the writers’ room. You’ll also get original pilot scripts, pitch notes, and series bibles from her shows. Welcome to Shondaland.



Reviews

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

Love Shonda! She is such an inspiration. She has great knowledge and really walks you through everything you need to know! My dreams feel possible now

Shonda is adorable. I'd love to take this live with exercises and feedback.

Budgeting time is very important. And so is taking that first step.

Shonda, Thank you for your efficacy and practice. I learned so much from your perspective and understanding. Thank you, A. Tyler


Comments

Chava G.

Gratitude....seeing your process of script development and editing as most valuable, learning to resonate with it makes this a better learning experience for us. You make a very complicated process look disturbingly clear and way too easy. We like playing with them all, as you bring them to life, right before our eyes. Taking the "notes", in mature creativity has to make the entire process so much more empowering. I imagine the plot, and it's scenes improved based on your ability to govern the layers even between the characters after developing them so well!.

Marcus M.

I like when new characters are added or they are given more lines/parts as a result of a great actor. I also like the table reads. Seeing the Game Of Thrones table reads was very insightful....

A fellow student

You inspired me. You tought me. You made me smile more than i imagined. And you showed me whoever you are, whereever you are, you are able to do it! And last but the best things is that somehow i proud of you! As a woman, you are killing it! Thank you very much... means a lot.

Nat

It's wild how many times I have gone back to edit my own series screenplay. It was originally a small project that consisted of 6 10-minute episodes. But the more I asked myself questions and got questions from others, I decided to add onto it and coat the series with easter eggs, rich dialogue, and developmental aspects.

Heather S.

I am in agreement with that process! I don't like doing things TWICE! It has to be one good brick laid on another... to build it strong from the ground up.

A fellow student

This is the lesson I was looking forward to most because I love learning other peoples editing styles. I’m a write it, let it breathe and live in my head for a day or so, and then go back and edit and tweak.

EK T.

Being a writer of a television series, it is obviously a must for writers in Ms. Rhimes' position to edit as she writes. If I did that, I would never finish a script. Situations change as I rewrite, and I end up with ideas I didn't know would materialize. Given that writing is rewriting, how could you not go back and make changes?

Ashley D.

The advice about getting feedback with your script is so incredibly helpful!

Jonathan S.

Her discussion about taking notes is so very important! It's really hard to just listen, ask for clarification, and say "Thank you." But it's your only hope to straighten things out. Your early readers will often not know what's wrong or unclear, so you're just looking for places where something needs to be worked on, but it's up to you to figure out the specifics. Show it to more than one person. Over time you'll learn what people you can trust to give helpful feedback. (Don't forget that some people are cruel and want to hurt you. But she also talks about people who won't tell you everything because they *don't* want to hurt you.) There is pain in this process, but if you don't want pain, get out of the business. If you can take it, you'll get better faster.

Michael O.

I gave this lesson 3 stars, and here's why: The previous 5 'writer-room' episodes are brilliant. This one is a mash-up - all that distraction with loud music in the headphones while she speaks the speeches. Sure, different strokes... but Scandal after the first 5 episodes is a mess, all over the map. I get that the show ran for years, and that's how success was measured on TV. (Times are a changin' as internet series overtake the entertainment market.) Seems to me that all that noise in Shonda's ear while she wrote Scandal derailed her genuine and abundant gifts, i.e., genius. Her take on notes is spot on. A fantastic teacher, Shonda is.