Lessons Learnt: The Rewrite

We’re the creators of the web series Out of It. This is our new weekly column to share with you all the things we learnt along the way.

**7. Lessons Learnt – The Rewrite **
Part 1: Building Structure

After our fundraiser didn’t quite go to plan, we sat down with our budget and tried to work out how we could still make the rest of the series. We found if we cut our episodes in half, making them 5-6 minutes long instead of 10-12 minutes long, then we could make 5 more episodes. Which led us on to a new problem… The Rewrite.

By cutting our episode length in half, it means completely redrafting the script. Redrafting involves changing the structure of the episode as opposed to editing which involves cutting or adapting dialogue. We’ve found the best way to do this is to create an action plan, involving the Dramatic Action, Plot, Characters and Dialogue.

Firstly, we assess what is necessary to the story, where our strengths lie and where our weaknesses stand out. In our series, each character has their own episode where we explore their journey and their personal stakes are raised – we were sure we wanted to keep these episodes in place as they are key to the character objectives. However, we also had an episode where the characters travelled together to get to where their individual episodes take place; the episode didn’t move the plot forward and whilst funny, it was the first thing to get cut. Be brutal about what is necessary to your story.

When we had a clear idea of all of the episodes we wanted to keep we then wrote out a breakdown of the scenes of an episode into units (similarly to the photo above). These units highlight the dramatic action, including the characters’ objectives in each scene. By breaking the main action down it identifies the function of each scene which will give you a better idea of what is necessary to the plot and ultimately any flaws in your structure.

If you’re going through a rewrite of your script, here are just a few questions we’ve found useful in terms of structure:

  • How does each scene move the plot forward?
  • After this ask yourself, is this scene needed?
  • Is the plotting logical in how the story is told?
  • When does the story start/end?

There are plenty of books and exercises online to help you redraft and deal with structural issues. We often find the BBC Writers Room has good resources. If you are not able to receive feedback on your script either formally or informally, try putting your script away for a while and rereading it with fresh eyes.

How do you deal with redrafts or with cutting down your script? We’d love to hear your comments below.

Join us next week for The Rewrite Part 2: Character.


For rewrites I set a meeting with my main team, usually the director (if it’s not me), DP, and maybe another producer if we have one. We go through the script and the breakdowns I’ve made and figure out what we already have access to, what we can make or fake, and what we absolutely don’t have the time or budget for. Then I go back and rewrite (though more often it’s simply cutting) based on those realities.

Sometimes I’ll cut a character from a particular scene, or I’ll move them to a different room, so that the story remains the same but I can film the actor separately which makes scheduling easier. Also, it can be as simple as not planning to film a wide shot of the scene and just doing close-ups, meaning that we can film one character one day and one character another, which gives us more flexibility.

1 Like

Great - that’s such a practical way of cutting down costs!

1 Like

My motto is always: don’t cut until you have to. Sometimes being creative allows you to do things you didn’t think were feasible.

1 Like