Business of Scriptwriting

Why Ali Abdaal never made this video

July 14th, 2023



min read


I’ve written a lot of scripts that never got made.

But one sticks out in particular because the lessons it taught me affected my life as recently as last week.

By the end of this newsletter, your content plan for the next 3-6 months may have changed.


It was the early days of scriptwriting for Ali Abdaal.

​For two weeks, I’d been working on a script about productivity in Denmark.

In fact, I was hoping to send Ali there to shoot the video.

(And, yes, I was 100% trying to write myself into a free trip as well).

We’d gone through a few re-writes for the video, and things seemed to be getting there.

But I remember a particular moment Ali turned to me after reading draft 3 or 4.

Something was different. He had that look in his eye. And I knew what he was about to say.

I feared it, yes.

But I also craved it.

He opened that devilishly productive mouth of his, and said the words:

“What if we just… allow it?”

Translation for non-UK folks: “What if neither of us ever have to think about this script ever again?”

Confirmation: the video was not happening.

But why?

Well, before I tell you that…

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So… why did the script go from 90% completion to 100% scrapped?

The idea seemed perfect when we thought of it.

Ali was Mr Productive UK, so why not ramp it up and become Mr Productive Worldwide?

It was something we felt we “ought” to try.

But the reality was this…

Ali just wasn’t passionate about the video.

And I had 0 enthusiasm left for writing it.

When it comes to creativity, you can plan everything to a tee…

But if you don’t have the fire in your stomach to go and make it, there’s no point.

The wider problem is this…

It’s easy to fall victim to repetitive creative behaviour, especially on YouTube.

We start making something that performs well, but stop checking in with ourselves about what we actually want.

And that brings me to… well, me.

(And soon, you.)

My whole thing was being “the guy who reviews retention graphs”.

That’s how I marketed myself. It’s what my products were centred on. And it was how I grew this newsletter from 100 subscribers to 1000+.

But, after 9 months of doing the same thing every week…

I pretty much dreaded sitting down to write it.

The reason I ploughed on was because I thought this would all come crashing down if I ever stopped.

Then, something hilarious happened.

I wrote to you last week and asked…

“Do you actually care that much about the retention graphs?”

Turns out… no you do not 😂

So this week’s newsletter marks a change in my approach.

From now on, I’m gonna be sending out an actionable piece of advice from a scriptwriter’s POV, after 2+ years writing for these YouTube juggernauts.

Oh and by the way…

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So here are a few questions for you…

  1. When did you last check in with yourself about your creative direction?
  2. If you don’t enjoy making a certain type of content, what would it look like if you just… stopped?
  3. Have you ever asked your audience how they’d feel about a change of direction?

You might be surprised to find that their relationship is with you, not just the content you make.

So thank you for your support on this newsletter over the last year.

Reviewing your retention graphs was a fun first season.

But we’re back on air for season 2, and I’m more excited than ever.

⚡️Action Items

List every different type of content you create. Rank each one from Low → High on these metrics:

  1. How much enthusiasm do I have?
  2. How stressed do I get?
  3. How long does it take me?
  4. (Optional) How lucrative is it?

Ask your audience what they want to see from you (community tab, email, Twitter).

Then, let the results guide where you take your content next.

That’s all for now!

Speak soon,

George 👋

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