The ‘National Lampoon’ cartoonist returns with a second semi-autobiographical graphic novel.
There’s a reason why Pixar characters stay with you long after the end credits roll.
We all have a favorite Pixar character. You’re probably thinking of them right now, hearing their best lines and replaying the scene in your head that made you an instant fan. And how could you not be? Pixar’s characters, from Woody to Sadness Mike Wazowski have a unique way of sticking with you, whether it’s due to their hilarious banter or heartbreaking humanity. But what is it that Pixar does to make them so memorable? Well, StudioBinder offers up an explanation in this interesting video.
We could all make reasonable arguments as to how Pixar manages to develop such memorable, multi-dimensional characters, but here are the ones StudioBinder comes up, some of which are based on what Pixar alums have said about the process.
They all have spines
According to Pixar screenwriter Andrew Stanto, all well-drawn characters “have a spine,” and that their “inner motor,” whether it’s Marlin’s desire to prevent harm or Wall-E’s desire to find beauty, is the goal that subconsciously drives them throughout their entire journey.
John August: Hey, this is John. So, in today’s episode of Scriptnotes there are enough bad words that you probably don’t want to listen to it in the car with your kids, or at work if you work at some place that doesn’t like to have occasional swearing.
Craig Mazin: Hello and welcome. My name is Craig Mazin.
Dana Fox: I am not John August.
Craig: And this is a live Scriptnotes coming to you from Hollywood, California. Folks, let them know you’re here. To set the stage for you playing the home game, we are in the ArcLight Theater in Hollywood. Big 400-seat theater. The whole thing is sold out. Everyone is here to benefit Hollywood Heart, which is a wonderful charity that helps out kids in need. And this is something that we did last year and we’re doing it this year. Not, you know, I don’t want to go out of my way and say that last year’s show wasn’t great. It was great.
There’s no chance that it’s not going to get better this time. We had David Benioff and Dan Weiss from Game of Thrones.
Dana: That’s nice. That’s good stuff.
Craig: There you go. Yeah, that was good.
Dana: Those guys are good. That one guy is tall.
Craig: Yeah, very tall.
Dana: Weirdly attractive. The other guy I’ve not met yet, but also I believe to be weirdly attractive. I’m just trying to set the stage because it’s not a visual medium.
Craig: This is the sort of stuff I don’t get with John August.
Dana: I’m trying to just—
Craig: Ever. But tonight we have incredible, incredible guests. But first, just to kick things off, I figured we should just catch up a little. You know, John likes to do follow up. I’ll make it easy for you as we go.
Right now, maybe we’re going on strike.
Dana: Oh boy. Yeah.
Craig: Are we going on strike?
Dana: I don’t actually know, but I do know that like a hot minute ago I pressed send on a really not super great script that had to be handed in today before this event. [laughs] So, you’re welcome, America. I hope you enjoy that movie.
Craig: Yeah. Flash ahead to a couple years. When you’re in the movie theater you might go, “Ohh, this was what she was talking about. It’s not that great.”
We’re hopeful that there isn’t going to be a strike. If some of you are writers, and you’re a little tense, don’t worry. We all are. But we’re hopeful.
Dana: If anybody reads anything on their phone, definitely yell it out. Like right as it happens.
Craig: Yeah, like if we’re going on strike, interrupt the show. And if we’re definitely not going on strike, yeah, interrupt the show.
Well, I think we should probably get started with our guests, because we have a busy show. And what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk to our guests and then at the end of the show we’ll open it up to some questions from you guys, as we always do. And then afterwards apparently there is a party that only one-quarter of you may attend. So, just decide amongst yourselves. Who thinks that sounds like a good idea?
Craig: Yeah, should be fine. Our first guest tonight – my cards are—
Dana: Your cards are amazing, Craig. You’re doing so good. I love this.
Craig: John does everything. You know that, right?
Dana: Oh, you’re doing amazing.
Craig: I feel like I’m doing all right.
Dana: You’re doing great. I love this. Go.
Craig: Because normally I just – normally I get to do what you do. It’s so much more fun, right?
Dana: Keep crushing. You’re doing great.
Craig: Our first guest tonight is the creator, executive producer, writer, and star of a television show that is now the longest running live action comedy in television history.
Craig: So, screw you, Leave it to Beaver, or whoever they beat. I’d like to welcome to the show Rob McElhenney.
Rob McElhenney: Is this where you were sitting?
Craig: Yeah, is it nice?
Rob: Yeah, super warm. Are you nervous?
Craig: I’ve done 299 of these. This is our 299th – you’d think that we would have done the 300th like this, right? Not interested in round numbers. Fuck them. Does that answer your question?
Dana: You know, the penultimate episode every television show at the end of the series is always better than the final episode. So in a weird way I feel like this is it.
Craig: This is the one. This is the one.
Dana: This is the Ozymandias, or Rian will tell us how to pronounce it when he comes in.
Craig: It’s a very famous poem. It’s Ozymandias. We all know.
Dana: Clearly not John August. Like living up to not being John August right away.
Craig: Rob, I want to just ask you, how do you even wrap your mind around the fact that you’ve done this show that is the longest running live action comedy in television history. Does it feel that way? I mean, does it feel like you’ve run a triple marathon? Or are you like, no problem, we can keep doing this forever.
Rob: I certainly feel like we could keep doing it forever just because we’re having so much fun with it. And our audience seems to grow every year, which is great.
I will say that even just driving here, as I was driving down Fountain, it all looks exactly the same to me as it did 12 years ago. And I was sort of reflecting on the last decade of my life. And it seems to have gone very quickly. Even though I was obviously in a very different point in my life when I created the show.
Dana: I have a follow up question. Do you have children and do you know their names?
Rob: I do. I have two children. Two boys. And, well, I’ve been lucky enough because my wife is also on the show with me. So, we have – they have their own trailer. They’re not going to be fucked up. They’re fine.
Craig: You still haven’t even mentioned the names. It’s boy 1 and boy 2.
Dana: Boy 1 and Boy 2, super grounded.
Craig: Yeah. Boy and Shorter Boy.
Rob: My wife takes care of the names. The nanny does the schooling. No, I get to spend a tremendous amount of time with them. And, in fact, we kind of got the show down to a system now where our writer’s room is we come in at 10:30 or 11 and we leave by 5 or 5:30, no matter what.
Dana: I always heard that the Modern Family people had a “No Headlights Rule,” which is like they don’t leave if they have to turn their headlights on. And at like two o’clock in the morning when I was making my show, I was always so jealous of that. Do you guys have the “No Headlights Rule?”
Rob: No. Usually we just watch to see when Charlie’s eyes glaze over. And as soon as that happens I’m like, all right, it’s just diminishing returns at this point.
Craig: It seems weirdly seasonal anyway. I don’t like that rule. You know, think about a show like—
Rob: By the way, I’m going to interrupt you for a second, because that’s just kind of fun. I’m going to continue to do that throughout your own show. We’re not the longest running sitcom as of right now. We will be as per our current contract.
Craig: Who do we have to beat?
Rob: Ossie and Harriet.
Craig: Oh yeah. No problem.
Rob: Yeah. We just stepped on My Three Son’s necks, all three of them.
Craig: Nice. Because Ossie and Harriet, they’re all dead.
Craig: They can’t come back.
Craig: OK. We’re good.
Dana: It’s got to be a little bittersweet. What is it like to strangle your idols to death?
Craig: He didn’t say they were his idols.
Rob: I was probably born 25 years after that show was canceled.
Craig: I’m kind of curious about, when I first – I remember years and years ago when I first started out, I was talking to somebody who worked in television and they said the key to television is likeability. The characters have to be likeable.
And even then I thought that doesn’t make any – I don’t like many of – the characters that I love on TV seem really grouchy and grumpy. And then Seinfeld came along and defined the notion of a show where everyone was unlikeable, even to the point where in their season finale they all to prison and the show is literally saying these are bad people.
You guys went, nah, nah, nah, we’ll show you bad people. I’m kind of curious, the fact that everyone is sort of sociopathic, I mean, I don’t know if you would agree with that diagnosis, but the fact that they’re all sociopathic, does that kind of – does that kind of help you just generate endless ideas? You don’t seem – like you could go anywhere with these characters.
Rob: Yeah. I mean, the fact that the characters don’t grow, or change, or learn anything ever is helpful because you reset at the end of every episode. So it’s a blank slate.
Craig: That’s tragic actually.
Dana: Like morally bankrupt Finding Dory sort of?
Craig: Right. Yeah.
Rob: That’s how I pitched it.
Craig: Because it just seems like, you know, shows will say, well, the show was kind of going along and then it jumped the shark. You know, but you guys, I think you’ve avoided the shark-jumping because all you do is jump sharks. It’s all you do, every episode you’re jumping some kind of shark.
Rob: Yeah. We jumped shark within the first three minutes of the pilot.
Craig: Exactly. So you’re going to be fine.
Dana: I haven’t watched all 7,000 episodes, but have you guys ever tried to jump the shark by not doing something insane, like having it just be a normal episode of television?
Rob: Yeah, we’ve done a fair amount of just straight episodes. Certainly we do a lot of bottle episodes, where there’s not a lot going on. It’s just all very insular. In fact, we did an episode this season called The Gang Tends Bar. And it’s literally just about us running, operating a drinking establishment.
Dana: Like an actually working bar?
Rob: And one of the characters, it was brought up that this is like the greatest scam in history. We sell something that’s addicting to people for money. We get them addicted. And then they give us money. And we think we came up with that scam. And we’re like who came up with the scam? We’re like, we did when we bought the bar 12 years ago. And really the guys that first started creating alcohol and selling it created that scam.
Craig: Right. This is why you can go forever. Because you can just write an episode where they just tend bar. I mean, there’s really nothing limiting you, I mean, because a lot of shows will say, well, Simpsons did it. That’s the problem. You know, Simpsons, there’s been 4 billion episodes and they’ve done all these high concept.
You guys don’t really do, well, I guess occasionally there’s sort of high concept.
Rob: Yeah, we’ll do musical episodes. We did an episode this year where we turned black for the entire episode. We thought, well—
Craig: How’d that go?
Rob: It was fairly well received, thank you very much. There was a splattering of applause. See?
Craig: Yeah, they’re very accepting.
Rob: Yeah. That’s really the lifeblood of our audience is the smattering of applause across the country. Mostly in metropolitan markets. For the last 15 years.
Craig: It’s kind of amazing. Between the ages of?
Dana: But for real, like dialing in for real, how do you actually keep it feeling fresh after that many episodes? It’s sort of shocking to me that you guys are able to still be that good after that many episodes.
Rob: I think it’s mostly because it’s our faces that are out there. I really do believe that. I think, look, running a show as you guys know is really difficult and time-consuming, and tedious, and it takes a tremendous amount of effort. And also we’ve had the luxury of only doing between 10 and 15 episodes a season. We’ve never done more than 15 episodes a season, which I think helps.
But beyond that, the fact that we know that eventually we have to shoot it and it’s going to be our face that goes out there adds that extra element of let’s not fuck this up in the writer’s room. Let’s get it right. And let’s make sure we continue to have fun.
But also beyond that, we still enjoy it.
Craig: But that’s another interesting challenge that you have that I can’t really think of anybody else that has it quite like you. You create a show, you write a show, you produce a show, you star in the show, you’re married to one of your cast members. Now, over time there are inevitably moments where there’s, I don’t want to say there’s strife or anything, but there’s some conflict, or there’s competing interests, or – how do you–?
Rob: Between me and my wife?
Craig: No, I’m talking about the cast and, you know, normally if you have a problem as a writer with a cast member there’s a producer that you can talk to. Or if you are cast members having an issue with each other, you can go talk to a writer. There’s nowhere to go. You’re always there. How do you manage the blurred roles that you all seem to kind of have on that show?
Rob: We fight quite a bit. And we continue to fight. The truth is that over the years we’ve tried to figure out ways to sort of alleviate some of that conflict. And oftentimes what happens is when we do, the work is garbage. And at the end of the day, we realize that the conflict – the confluence of all of these very strong-willed people is what makes the show great, from the writers, to the performers, even to some of the grips. I mean, we’ve had people with us for 10, 11, 12 seasons. And we got to a point where people are free to add joke pitches.
I mean, I’ve had grips and a teamster actually gave me an idea for an episode. What you have to approach every day with is that it’s all about the work. It’s not about your ego. It’s not about me. It’s about the show being good. And as long as the fights are about the show being good and getting better and not about ego, then that’s going to yield the best result.
Craig: Those are good, clean fights. I mean, those are the kinds of fights that are productive. But it’s still – it is a marriage of a kind, especially with comedy, too. It just seems like, I don’t know, funny people can be tricky. And it’s an interesting thing that you guys have managed to keep that marriage. And it’s been so consistent.
You know, a lot of times these shows will go on, and then one big person leaves and they replace that person. So, you know, it’s not Sam and Diane, it’s Sam and Rebecca. And it kind of keeps going after that. But that really hasn’t happened with you guys.
Rob: Well, we’ve had the luxury of working with Danny, too. So, Danny, who has a – oh, he’s only an icon.
Craig: He’s a television legend, worth a mere smattering.
Rob: And he gave us a tremendous amount of perspective. I mean, you know, he was on one of the great – he played, I think, one of the top five greatest characters in the history of television, on an amazing TV show. His wife was in one of the greatest TV shows of all time. And then they both went on to fabulous careers outside of it. And Danny obviously was a huge movie star. And he would pull us aside and be like, “Look, I promise you, it’s never going to get better than this. Ever. Ever.” And I believe that. I believe it.
And so when you have somebody like Charlie, who over the last four or five years has gone on and done really, really big movies, he comes back and every time he comes back he says, “I don’t want to do that. I want to do this. This is what I want to do. So if I have to sacrifice that for this, I will do that for the rest of my life.”
Craig: That’s great. That’s great. Good for Charlie.
Dana: It’s kind of emotional.
Craig: All right, I have kind of a looking beyond the show question for you, because you know Charlie goes on, he does these things. You, too, I know have interest in doing other things beyond the show. And the nice thing is one doesn’t have to preclude the other. You can do both. But when you think about, I don’t want to say cheating on your show, but maybe doing something else, do you run in the opposite direction from what you’re doing on that show? Because Charlie, you know, he stays in the comedy pocket pretty much. Are you thinking that’s there, I’m going to try something completely different when I branch off?
Rob: Yes. I mean, the project that I’m working on right now couldn’t be any different than – any more different than Sunny. And I think I never saw myself as a sitcom person. I never considered myself funny. I just happened to meet really, really funny people and I was desperate and I was waiting tables and I was like I’ve got to figure out something.
And I wrote this script that was super dark, but when I put it into Charlie’s hands, or into Glenn’s hands, they made it funny. And I realized, oh wow, this could actually be a sitcom. But the truth is I never had any aspirations to get into comedy writing at all.
So when I look for an extension outside of Sunny, I kind of run away from it.
Craig: Wow. Interesting.
Dana: I feel like there are probably people here and who are listening who would love to know just like the trajectory of how you actually made it happen. Because I think people who are as successful as you, it’s like we all sit here and we talk about the career and all the amazing stuff. And most people are out there just going like, “I just wish someone would answer my phone,” or, you know, phone call, or read my script, or whatever it is.
What was the sort of defining moment for you? What was your trajectory to get you where you are right now?
Rob: Well, mostly just desperation. I mean, I was working in every bar and restaurant in NYC. And I was just acting, or I was trying to act, I was auditioning, and not getting any jobs. And complaining about every script that I read, whether I thought that the script was garbage or that I wasn’t getting the job.
So, I was encouraged very aggressively by my agent to stop bitching and to write something myself. I got the Syd Field screenwriting books, which, you know, are—
Craig: Yeah. Page One. Page Three. Yeah.
Rob: And the William Goldman. And I just tried to understand the—
Craig: And just so I figure out if I have to kill you or not, was the first thing that you wrote It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia?
Rob: No. No. The first thing—
Dana: You will make it back to your car tonight.
Rob: The first thing I wrote was not a comedy at all. It was really super dark. Really dark. Because that was the time in my life when I was very dark. I wrote the script about a crime that took place in NYC and I wound up giving it to my agent. And he said maybe I could sell this. And we wound up optioning it to a company called Propaganda Films. Remember them?
Craig: They do commercial work, right?
Rob: Yes, or they did. They were shady. Shady people.
Craig: Oh, they were shady?
Rob: Oh yeah. Big time.
Craig: The name is kind of a tip off, isn’t it?
Rob: You’d think so.
Craig: Yeah, like let me tell you all about Propaganda Films.
Rob: They did. I will say though they wound up getting it to Paul Schrader. Paul Schrader, I don’t know if you guys know Paul Schrader.
Craig: Wrote Taxi Driver.
Rob: Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. And he signed on to direct it. So, I got to work with Paul for six or eight months rewriting the script.
Craig: That’s kind of cool.
Rob: That was really cool. Really cool. But if you know Paul’s work, the movie got darker and weirder. And darker and weirder. And then by the end, Propaganda was waiting to get paid and they didn’t really pay me anything. And by the end I said, hey Paul, like what’s going on? Are you going to make this movie? He said, “Well, I’m going to go off and do this other movie first, and then I’ll come back.” And then in the meantime Propaganda went bankrupt and the whole thing fell apart.
Craig: I mean, you must have one of these, right? I have one. We all have one of these.
Dana: Everybody has a creepy, sad story like that.
Craig: Yeah. You know like when you get that first moment where you’re like, oh my god, this is it? That company is going out of business in like a week. So your smart move is to short the stock.
Dana: Short the stock, yeah.
Craig: Just short the stock. Like whoever offers you your first gig, short the stock. Make some money.
Dana: But not to sound like a platitude, but I’ve always believed like it actually matters more how you get up from that one. Because like it’s going to happen for sure. And then it’s how do you handle yourself? Do you like cry like a bitch and get really mad about it and never write anything ever again? Or do you just go like, all right, pulling on my pants. I’m going to be a grownup. I’m going to start over.
Rob: I cried like a bitch. And I didn’t write anything for a long time. Because I was like that’s miserable. I mean, who wants to do that.
Craig: That’s a great question.
Rob: Yeah. I don’t even like writing. I hate writing. And if there’s any other writers in here, you guys know that writing is the worst.
Dana: It’s horrible.
Rob: It’s like the dumbest, dumbest job.
Craig: We’ve said it many times.
Dana: It’s like sad, and painful, and thankless.
Craig: The only thing worse than writing—
Rob: No recognition.
Craig: Yeah. The only thing worse than writing is listening to a podcast about writing.
Rob: It’s so much better to say the words that someone else wrote. And then you get all the money.
Craig: I know. It’s amazing. They even tell you were to stand.
Rob: They do everything for you.
Rob: They just point the camera and you just say the words.
Craig: Somebody dresses you like a child.
Craig: It’s amazing. I know. But I don’t have the facial symmetry for it. Good job, man. That’s pretty sweet.
Rob: I can’t help it. Anyway, so then I moved out to Los Angeles and I decided to write again, but I just wrote something. And I thought I want to write something very simple so that I don’t have to give it to somebody else. I want to go shoot it myself. And so I shot – I wrote a little short film that was very dark, but I brought it to my friends, Glenn and Charlie, and they thought it was funny.
And so we – and I was like all right.
Craig: Boy, did you dumb fuck your way into a billion dollars?
Dana: Oh yeah, that’s what I was going for. It was funny.
Rob: I just hitched my wagon to those two and just like held on for dear life.
Craig: This just blows my mind. Like you get Charlie and Glenn and Tim Herlihy, a friend of ours, when he was at NYU his roommate was Adam Sandler. I got Ted Cruz. This is unbelievable. Fucking unbelievable. Like, I must have been – you think I’m bad now, I must have been a real piece of shit in a previous life.
Dana: I just want to know, because you know they didn’t match that stuff up just randomly. There was some weird algorithm that thought you and Ted Cruz were like fucking—
Craig: It was like a Saw movie. Let’s just watch a man break down. Let’s do it. Let’s just see it happen and it’ll be fun.
Dana: There were cameras everywhere. You just don’t know.
Craig: Exactly. It was horrendous. So, you know, you’re like, oh yeah, look, I wrote a thing. Let me give it to my talented friends.
Rob: And I just decided I want to make this. I want to learn how to make it. So I didn’t know anything really about filmmaking, but I didn’t know anything about writing. I just got all the books and tried to – obviously I watched as many movies and TV shows as I possibly could over the course of my life.
And so I just went to Best Buy. And I didn’t have any money, but I got one of their credit cards. You know, it was super high interest rate and it was like, “I’ll pay you back.” And I did. I did pay them back.
Craig: You did? You paid them back.
Rob: And I bought a camera, like a prosumer-camera, and then I got Final Cut and learned how to cut. And then we just shot it. And then I cut it together. And it was terrible. Like, terrible, terrible. But I realized it was terrible. And then I rewrote it. We shot it again. That was also terrible. And then we reshot it maybe three or four iterations, and then I realized, oh wait, maybe this isn’t so bad.
Dana: The takeaway is there are no excuses. I mean, people talk all the time about like, well, I could, if I would, if I this, or if I that. It’s like you have an iPhone. Do it. Stop talking about it. Just do it. Because you’re going to suck for a very long time, so you might as well start sucking. Oh god. Sorry honey.
Craig: That’s Sexy Craig’s job. He handles that stuff. We don’t talk about the sucking. It’s true that that is necessary. It’s also true that a lot of people will shoot it, it stinks, they shoot it, it stinks, they shoot it. And then it never does get better. I mean, that’s the fascinating thing. That’s the thing I just wish I could go in time and watch all those little moments where people just go this way or this way. And people that have the potential and are talented, and there are some of them here tonight, who can go either way.
And they just decide to go this way. You know, because the funny thing is most of the people that insist and persist and prevail against all odds actually just never make it because they were never going to make it. It’s funny, like I worry sometimes that the people who can make it get too easily discouraged, because they’re aware. Like you said, “I know it sucks.”
Dana: They’re smart enough to know that it’s not good. Yeah, that’s what I was like.
Craig: What is it, the Dunning-Kruger effect? Is that what it is? I think we have a president who currently…anyway.
Well, that was enlightening. I think we got a pretty good sense of why it is that the show has been going on so long, and it’s because you do have that thing where you marry talent to this endless commitment. It’s really remarkable. I mean, it’s an incredible accomplishment.
Television has been around a long time. And for you to beat those records is unbelievable. And I can only presume, what are we talking about here, another 20, 30? I mean, basically until you die?
Rob: I guess.
Craig: All right. Well, you heard it here. We made news.
Rob: I don’t know. If you keep watching, we’ll keep doing it.
Craig: Keep watching it. He’ll keep doing it. Thank you, Rob.
Rob: Thank you.
Craig: Rian, come on out, buddy. We haven’t talked in a while. Looper was good.
Rian Johnson: Thank you.
Dana: I loved Looper.
Craig: And anything, anything since?
Rian: Well, it’s been slow.
Craig: It’s been slow. It happens.
Rian: It does.
Craig: But you know what?
Dana: I’m sorry. I feel so bad for you.
Craig: Brother Bloom was a little bit of a dip there. You got a little slow. Got a little sluggish. But then you came back. You bounce back. You’ll be fine.
Anyway, thanks for coming, Rian.
Rian: Yeah. Good talk. Good talk.
Craig: Rian Johnson, this is great. I don’t quite know how it’s taken this long. Maybe just because, I don’t – I don’t know. I always feel like, I don’t want to put you on the hot seat or anything.
Rian: I’m getting so nervous right now. I don’t know what’s about to happen.
Craig: But this is why. I don’t want to make you nervous. But Rian and I have been friends for a long time. And, of course, we all know of his story, his legend. Rian wrote and directed Brick, which came out in 2005. And he won the Originality of Vision prize at Sundance, which that year at least that’s accurate. I don’t know if it always is. That year, completely accurate.
Rian: It’s original. That’s like the better word.
Craig: It’s originality. Yeah, we’re not saying it’s good. But we haven’t seen that before. 2008, aforementioned Brothers Bloom which I actually love.
Dana: Bigger applause than Danny DeVito.
Rian: And Ozymandias.
Craig: And in 2012, I’m sure you all saw Looper. We’ll be having a contest later to see which one of you can explain the plot to me. But it is awesome. Also, Rian has directed some of the best of the Breaking Bad episodes, including Ozymandias. Ozymandias, look upon my works in despair.
And recently Rian has written and directed Star Wars: The Last Jedi. So what happens in it? [laughs]
Rian: Yeah, there’s a Jedi who is…the last in…
Craig: The last, possibly. OK, here’s how I want to start. You really are, when it says originality of vision, I thought that was apt. Because you are unique to me in that no matter original and, well, we’ll see monastic a lot of writers are, at some point along the way, and maybe peppered in throughout, they will work with other people on things. I’m thinking of Scott Frank, for instance. Scott always has time each year to write his own thing. But then he’ll go and he’ll work with James Mangold on Logan, for instance. And he’ll bop around and do things.
Not you. You have always been Rian Johnson Industries, kind of. I write Rian Johnson screenplays and then I direct Rian Johnson movies. And I think that’s part of the reason why there isn’t one every year. You take your time. You’re careful about it.
Then, this happens, and it’s sort of like the absolute opposite of solitude. You have now hundreds of people. And, on top of that, you also have this existing culture behind you and these other movies and characters that have been handed. How did you adapt to that new reality?
Rian: Well, I mean, it’s been so nice having lots of other people and not feeling so lonely. But I should actually back up and say one of the most surprising and nicest things about this whole experience has been how similar it actually felt in terms of the process to the other films.
Rian: It was really a come up with a story that I care about, write it, and then direct it. And I had my DP, Steve Yedlin, my producer, Ram Bergman, my editor, Bob Ducsay, from Looper. I mean, people I’ve been working with for years. And bizarrely just kind of felt like a – it felt like we were just all making another movie. And creatively, because Disney and Lucas Film were so terrific, also just creatively it felt just like coming up with something I want to make and making it. It’s been weird.
Craig: That’s very good news, I think. Because I think sometimes people will say, well, if somebody makes their own films, they are sort of an auteur for lack of a better word, and then they get involved in some large other thing, maybe their vision gets muddled. But what you’re saying kind of is you actually just did it again.
Rian: Yeah. I mean, yeah, and I think because people who are much more talented than me have done stuff this size, and it can go the other way very easily.
Craig: What do you mean by the other way?
Rian: I mean, it can be a bad experience. And that’s what Ram, my producer and I, before we came into this we waited really carefully, because on the one hand it’s Star Wars. It’s this thing that you love so much. But that also means that if it isn’t a good experience and it goes south, it would be the worst nightmare in the world to be fucking up Star Wars. And to have a miserable experience making the thing you great up loving.
Craig: Well, we’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?
Rian: Exactly. I was going to say. Spoiler alert.
Craig: So enjoy this time. This is nice.
Rian: I will just be listening to this podcast on repeat. Huddled in a fetal position behind a Denny’s.
Craig: That’s how I met you.
Rian: In Pomona. Yes. Flashbacks.
Craig: Memories. Dana, what do you have to say about this guy?
Dana: I wrote some stuff down.
Rian: Look at this.
Dana: I brought a pink pen just as like a fuck you to you guys.
Rian: That’s good.
Dana: So, I asked my kids to ask you questions. So, I said I’m going to interview the director of Star Wars tonight. I said what do you want to know. And Charlotte, my two-year-old, said Darth Vader. And Oliver, my four-year-old, said, “That’s not a question. You have to ask something like what’s the new movie about. Tell me the plot.”
So, if you want to elaborate on that. And then I said I don’t think he’s going to be able to say that, so you have to ask something else. And he said, “OK, I want to know why does Daddy’s phone only have some of the Star Wars’ songs on it, but not all of it.”
And then I said I don’t think he knows the answer to that, so you have to ask one more. So he wants to know why Boba Fett was a bounty hunter.
Craig: Answer the question.
Dana: Let me ask a follow up adult-style question. How did you get over the institutional memory of it enough to actually get in there and start doing it? I mean, I feel like it’s such a coveted brand for, you know, a company, but it’s more so I think we all think it’s our own thing. Like it’s all our favorite thing. So, how did you get over that initial feeling of like how can I touch this perfect thing?
Rian: Yeah. I mean, from the outside just looking at it, that was a really scary thing. And once I kind of started actually working on it, it’s funny, I found that the exact thing you think could be a big burden was actually the main thing that helped the whole process. Because telling any story, and you can look at – this is definitely what Lucas did when he made the original movies, he went out there trusting his own instincts.
And he was out there to tell a story that he cared about and that made sense to him. And at the end of the day it was coming from a really personal place. And so for me, knowing that I had that grounding of from a kid these movies meaning that much to me, and being so deeply ingrained, I kind of – I felt like that kind of gave me permission to trust that and to not freak out about what it means in any kind of bigger sense. And just say, OK, I know why I wanted to be Luke Skywalker when I was a kid. I’m going to believe that that’s a good compass to follow.
And so kind of turning inward like that actually was kind of a lifesaver. And I would think is the only way you could approach something like this and make it, you know, kind of mean anything to you I guess.
Dana: Is it weird if I cry during this Q&A? That’s like really beautiful.
Craig: John has never cried.
Rian: In life?
Dana: That’s the only thing I can bring to the table.
Craig: When John was born he didn’t cry. He just came on out and—
Rian: Just clipped himself off.
Craig: Exactly. Yep. And then plugged himself in. Yeah.
Dana: Have you always trusted though that gut instinct that like your point of view mattered and meant something? Because I think for me my trajectory was going from a person who was just trying to survive and get a paycheck and have a job to someone who felt like, well, maybe my specific perspective on this is interesting. And I should follow it. Did you always have that? Or when did you get that?
Rian: Well, I never was like good or smart enough to like get industry work before I made my first movie really. Basically I wrote Brick right out of college. And essentially just like tried to get it made through my 20s. I didn’t make it until I was 30. But the whole time I was trying and it kept almost getting there and falling apart.
But I was working some really wonderful jobs. I worked at a preschool for deaf kids for a while. I worked at the Disney Channel producing promos for like Bear in the Big Blue House. Like really good jobs, but nothing that was like I’m making money doing what I, you know, what my sights are set on.
So, when I started doing it, it was starting with this thing that was this really personal thing. And then was very, very lucky and able to just kind of keep doing that, I guess.
Craig: But there’s something about you, though, that a lot of people start out, they have a dream of what they want to do. They can’t quite get there. They’re making promos for Blue’s Clues.
Rian: Bear in the Big Blue House.
Craig: I’m sorry, the what now? The Bear?
Rian: Bear in the Big Blue House.
Craig: Oh, I remember him. Oh yeah.
Rian: Great shows. Henson. Anyway, go ahead.
Craig: Yeah, it was. It was good. So, you’re working on Blue’s Clues and you get this big break to make your movie and I think for a lot of people at that moment when someone turns to them and says, “But…” there are a couple of things you need to do that maybe don’t feel right to you. In that moment you say, oh OK, I don’t want to go back to the Bear in the Big Blue House. I want to keep moving forward here.
You’ve always struck me as somebody who would just say, well, then no. I’ll just go back to the Blue House.
Rian: It’s not like I had written something that had huge commercial value and somebody was going to say, “If you let us do this, we’ll make you a billion.” You know? Brick is such a weird movie. You can imagine how weird it was on the page. And with a first-time director, like it’s not like there were a ton of things like that that you’re talking about. But there were a lot of times that I would show it to different people who were producers or knew somebody somewhere or something, had that tantalizing like, you know, oh, maybe if I follow this. And they would say, “Yeah, if it’s just not set in high school, maybe then we’ll do it.”
Craig: I remember – can I tell a Looper story? Can I tell a story about seeing Looper? You had a few of us come to see Looper. I don’t know if you recall.
Rian: Oh, I recall the screening. We call you guys now the Wrecking Crew.
Craig: Well, we all liked it. I mean, you should have—
Rian: Did you, though?
Craig: You should have seen the Game of Thrones pilot. That was a wrecking crew. There was just blood everywhere. No, it was good. It was good. It was a little long. It was the usual stuff, right?
But I do remember that there was, and there was a bunch of us there, and a lot of good writers. I mean, I think Scott Frank was there. And I think Ted Griffin was there. And maybe John Gatins, too. And there was – you guys have seen Looper? Great. If you haven’t seen Looper, you don’t get to go to the party. And just like that, we solved the attendance problem.
So there’s a moment where Bruce Willis has a choice about whether or not to kill a child because that child may or may not grow up to become a terrible, despotic mass murderer. And he chooses to kill the child. And it turns out, wrong kid.
And there was a debate, I remember, in the room. And I remember specifically thinking, ugh, I don’t know, but I think so. It’s ballsy as hell. It’s brave. I don’t know. And I remember you just watched this whole thing. And at some point I remember thinking he doesn’t give a good sweet goddamn what any of us think about this. Not one bit. He’s made up his mind.
And that, in a weird way, is precious in our business to have an instinct and to adhere to it, even when a lot of people might say, “Whoa, that’s a little cray-cray.”
Rian: Yes, but, I guess. Yes, but you still need to – like for instance I was listening to you guys and I was really tuned into the fact that – like and this was actually very, very interesting. Because Looper, I had worked with some great, very famous actors before, but nobody who is like the type of star that Bruce Willis is. And a big fear going into it from the page to the screen was are we going to lose – is his character going to totally lose the audience when he shoots the kid? They’ll disconnect from the movie and say I don’t care what happens, I’m not invested anymore.
And so I was actually very tuned in and listening to every conversation I could listen to about—
Craig: Maybe it’s just your face looks like you—
Rian: That’s very possible. But, I mean, the fascinating thing is we found out it takes a lot to turn an audience against Bruce Willis. It takes more than shooting a child in the face. He shoots a child, an innocent child in the face. And like we talked to people afterwards saying like, “Yeah, but we figured he must have had a reason for doing it.” It was a very useful lesson actually.
Craig: Absolutely terrifying, actually.
Rian: Steve Buscemi in that part might not have been the—
Craig: No, no, that’s it. Boo. Walk out. Burn the theater down.
Dana: I think all of America must be like me, because I just see him and I’m like, “Dad?” Like he’s just everybody dad. So we’re like, I guess I forgive him. Maybe he’ll be a nice guy next time. Don’t worry, my dad doesn’t listen to podcasts.
Craig: [laughs] I don’t think anyone’s does. So, here’s something that I think people here will – it’s a nice warming thought. That if you are trying to break into the business, you’re trying to get into Hollywood as a writer or filmmaker, everyone really is Rian Johnson in 1997, right? Everyone has a script. Everyone has some sort of lack of visibility about what’s ahead of them.
But what do you tell folks who come here? I mean, how to approach their own path when they are being beset on all sides by advice and–?
Rian: Well, it was actually listening, Rob, listening to you guys talk. You said exactly what I feel like I most often respond to with that which is – and this was my experience, too, which is I think if you put energy into how do I break into the industry, how do I get an agent, how do I – it’s putting the cart before the horse. I think that ultimately first and foremost practicing. Shooting it. And then reshooting it. And reshooting it. And rewriting. And just getting, working on yourself and getting better. But just doing it.
Like getting a camera. Getting whatever camera you can get your hands on. And making stuff. And then getting out there however you can. I really, it sounds naïve a little bit when you say it, but I actually think practically that’s the industry – you can’t say the industry will be the path to your door, but I think that’s the best way to find your career is just to do what you do and get it out there however you can I think.
Rian: I really believe double down on substance. And that ultimately is, you know, what everybody is looking for so hard out there. Everybody wants something that’s interesting and good, I think. I hear a laugh.
Craig: That guy is like, “I own Disney.”
Rian: I may be totally skewed on this and wrong, but I feel like that’s – end up coming down on that, you know?
Dana: I was just going to say, do think that Brick would get made now?
Rian: Yes, if someone made it. Yeah. I mean.
Craig: That was kind of Yoda-like.
Rian: It didn’t get made then until they made it.
Dana: And how did you truly not give up after like ten years of trying on the same thing? How did you know your thing was worth something, and not that it was not, you know, people are slamming the door in your face for a reason? Like you pushed past that.
Rian: Well, I mean, I’m sure everyone here has a similar thing where it’s not like – you’re not always boldly up on the horse going forward. You do end up sobbing and crying. You do end up needing a weighted blanket occasionally to comfort you. But I don’t know, so it’s not a steady process, but I think ultimately like me if you’re dumb enough and have little enough talents outside of this industry, you have no other options really and have to just keep blindly moving forward, I think.
No, you just keep doing what you do, I think.
Craig: That’s accurate. I don’t think you’re good at anything else.
Craig: I have a question for you. Because you’ve always written what you’ve directed, and you’ve always directed what you’ve written, is there a director you’d like to write a script for? And conversely is there a writer whose work you would love to direct?
It’s one of those fanciful, rhetorical, imaginary questions.
Rian: Well, I mean, there are so many directors that I love, but writing, like you said, writing sucks, writing is terrible. I hate writing.
Craig: Welcome to Scriptnotes.
Rian: I feel like directing is the fun thing. No, writing – you love writing—
Craig: If I go through the pain of writing, then I want to direct it?
Rian: Exactly. Yeah. If you go through all that work, then why wouldn’t you get to make the film?
Craig: Interesting. Directing seems so hard to me.
Rian: No, it’s so easy.
Craig: Because you’ve got to wake up.
Rian: It’s so easy.
Craig: Every day you have to wake up. And all the questions. These glasses or these glasses? This tie or that tie?
Rian: Those glasses. That tie.
Craig: Oh, wow.
Rian: What was hard about that?
Craig: Film School with Rian Johnson. OK, I have one last question for you. Not to bum everybody out, but Carrie Fisher was not only our first princess and wonderful actor and a huge part of our culture, but she was a great, great screenwriter. And when she passed away, John and I talked about that. She was one of us.
And so I just thought I would invite you to share any thoughts you had about Carrie, because you were probably the last director she worked with, right?
Rian: Yeah. That’s how we connected as writers. And that was just an instant thing. The very first time I met her, I ended up just spending hours at her house. And she was like, “Tropic of Cancer. I’ve got it here somewhere.” And we ended up, even after she read the script, you know, that was kind of our bonding experience. Sitting together for hours, going through all the different lines.
Anyway, she had a brilliant mind. And I really loved her, man. I’m very, very, very sad she’s not around to give me a piece of mind – give me a piece of her mind about the movie when she sees it. She’s wonderful. I’m happy that we have a wonderful, beautiful performance from her in the film. And I’m just really happy and grateful I got to meet her and have her in my life, even briefly.
Craig: Fantastic answer. Thank you, Rian. Maybe we could open it up to some questions and answers for Rob, and for Rian, and for Dana.
Dana: Please, let’s not be weird about it, guys.
Craig: We have some microphones we can hand around.
Audience Member: The Last Jedi has what I think is one of the best posters ever. Was there any point where you send it back and send this poster sucked? What level of involvement did you have with it?
Rian: Well, no, they – I had little to nothing to – I had nothing to do with it, really. So I can agree with you and say it’s a gorgeous poster without being an asshole.
And really the way it worked, I walked into a room just with like 40 posters on the walls of all of these different ideas. And it was me and Kathy Kennedy and some other folks. And we all – it was like magnets. Our eyes just, whoop, right to that one.
Then there were just a couple tweaks to it, but really right off the bat they just made this. I agree, I think it’s a stunner. I’m glad you like it.
Audience Member: My question is for Rob. You mentioned that it took a lot of encouraging from I think you said your agent to get you to finally write something. And I was wondering what finally got you to do it, or now when you don’t want to write, or when it’s hard, because like you said it kind of sucks, what gets you to finally do it? What helps?
Rob: Desperation. I mean, because the truth is I hate it. If I didn’t make that clear. I hate it. It’s the worst. It’s the worst. The worst. And I wasn’t working. I was working in a restaurant. And I just got sick of it. So I started writing. And now I do it for money. And when there’s a deadline and I have to do it because we’re shooting. You know, and the truth is when I’m really – when we get into it and things are happening and things are moving forward, there’s not a greater feeling in the world, because as you know if you’re a writer, staring at a blank page or a blank computer screen is the absolute worst, but when you fill it up and when you read it back through, and you truly believe in your heart. And you know that it’s good, you created that.
And it’s the only art form in our industry where you create something from whole cloth. And what can be more satisfying than that? So I still fucking hate it, but I derive an incredible amount of pleasure from a finished project.
Dana: Yeah, and also a little practical advice, too. Just like take your pajamas off. Because if you don’t look like you’re at a job, you won’t feel like you’re at a job. And if you don’t have real pressure, create fake pressure that you actually are so fucked up you start believing in. Because if there are no deadlines and if you don’t have to do it to get paid, and if none of that stuff is there and you’re just in a vacuum going what should I do, it’s all just this wonderful blank page.
The last strike we had, I was like, oh, this is going to be amazing. I’m going to sit down and I’m going to write this spec that’s inside me. I did not write one word. Because there were no constraints. Nobody was saying like it has to be a little bit of this, and do your best job making it that. So just create fake constraints on yourself.
And even if that is doing an It’s Always Sunny spec so that you don’t feel the pressure of I have to have my voice figured out. Just figure out how to write a good scene the way that that show writes a good scene. And study their show, you know, study a bunch of their episodes and try to do your best at that. And that will just get you in the muscle of it.
Craig: Got any advice for the blocked or the reticent?
Rian: No. I think that it’s, I don’t know, it sucks. There’s no cure for it. Except I find literally just switching and thinking about something else for a while or if you don’t have the luxury of doing that, yeah, then staring at the wallpaper until it starts peeling off. And I’m just going to describe the rest of Barton Fink right now in detail. This is going to take two hours, but it’ll be worth it.
Craig: That is very Swedish. He’s our little Swede. I’m a big fan of the shower. I don’t know for whatever reason. Taking a long shower lets me kind of imagine. I don’t like writing—
Rob: How environmentally responsible of you.
Dana: There’s a drought in California, Craig.
Rob: The worst drought in the history of our state. Oh, you just take your long showers.
Dana: Craig created the drought.
Rob: Because the world needs more of your movies.
Craig: More, exactly. They’re not even – it’s not even water. It’s hand to blood. It’s awesome.
Audience Member: Excuse me. I lost my voice last weekend, so I have to growl like Batman. Batman wants to know, it’s for all four of you, is there one pilot or one movie that you wish you had written or directed?
Craig: Oh my god, just one?
Rob: Man, I watch Mad Men, and I’ve watched that series through twice. And then started a third time. And I’m just fascinated by that show on every level. Insofar as it is not a subject matter that interests me at all. There’s not much that actually happens. There’s no hook. On paper, having not read the scripts, I just mean in terms of like a one-line pitch, it seems boring as all hell.
And yet I was riveted more watching that show than almost certainly Game of Thrones. I’m going to tear them apart.
Craig: I mean, I like the show. I just don’t like them.
Rob: I actually hate them. I happen to love Game of Thrones, and Breaking Bad, and I was riveted watching all those shows, but I’m inherently interested in watching a chemistry teacher turn into Scarface. I’m inherently interested in watching dragons going and kick ass. I’m not inherently interested in watching a bunch of guys smoke cigarettes and drink whisky and talk about marketing.
And yet I was thoroughly riveted at every moment of every episode. And humbled by the fact that there was a person and/or people out there that were able to do that with the writing.
Craig: What about you, Rian?
Rian: Paper Moon is the – I love a lot of movies, but if there’s one movie that I watch and I feel like, god, this feels so close to everything I love. It’s Paper Moon.
But what Rob said, I mean, I think – like I just saw Certain Women, the Kelly Reichardt movie, recently and it’s – like I find myself fascinated by things that are so outside of my skill set. And it’s a similar thing where it’s such a gentle, such a – you know, such an observational film and yet you’re riveted every single second. More so than in most Hollywood blockbusters. And that’s magical to me, because I don’t know how it’s done.
So, yeah, that’s, yeah, similar.
Craig: What about you, Dana?
Dana: Don’t patronize me. Nobody cares. No, because Rob said – I’m kidding. I’m sitting next to Rian. Because Rob already said Mad Men, I would have to say The West Wing, because I’m in love with shows that are about people having a work family and loving their work so much that they have these relationships that are not sexual at all, but that are like deeply loving. And I find that fascinating. That’s what I loved about Mad Men is I was so obsessed with the Peggy Olson/Dan Draper characters, because they had this beautiful love affair that was totally platonic.
And because they loved their work. Craig, what do you think?
Rian: Nobody cares.
Craig: I’m going to say Toy Story. And I’m going to say Toy Story because it was, I think – maybe it was the first time that the technology of storytelling finally perfected narrative. It was just perfect. There was nothing there that was wrong. Everything was right. Everything worked. Everything fit together beautifully. And Pixar has done it over and over and over.
But I remember seeing Toy Story and thinking that’s a flawless thing. Even if it’s not, you know, I know it’s not Taxi Driver, but it’s a flawless thing. Who wouldn’t want to have that, to be able to say I did that? That would be remarkable.
Dana: And I have kids, so I can tell you that if you’ve watched it 147,000 times, it doesn’t get boring.
Craig: There’s no mistakes.
Dana: It’s perfect. It’s amazing.
Craig: There’s just not one mistake. It’s just a remarkable thing.
Audience Member: Hey guys. Myself, like many in this room, I’ve written a lot of screenplays, gotten attachments, or good notes, or lots of nice things, and all these breadcrumbs of hope that have never led to a sale or a film necessarily getting made. So, I guess I’m just asking the four of you, since clearly you’ve seen success and know what you’re doing, what are some enduring qualities that we all need or should hone in on and strap in for, because I know that even once you get a sale, or you get something made, it’s not like your problems go away.
So, can you maybe talk about some of those qualities?
Rob: Qualities in a script? Or qualities—
Craig: I think he means in him.
Audience Member: Oh, I’m sorry. Just as a writer/producer, just person living and working in this city?
Craig: Well, I’ll tell you one thing that you’re going to run into, people are going to read your work and then they’re going to say things about it. And they’re not, even if you’re working for them, and they’re paying you, or they’ve purchased it already, they will say things like, “That just doesn’t work.” And it will feel terrible. It will feel much worse than you think it will feel.
It never stops feeling terrible in a weird way. It’s a strange thing to have that, you know, I always think like if actors dealt with what writers deal with, it would just be one take after another of, “Nah, that’s not, no.”
Rob: We do. It’s called auditioning.
Craig: Oh, yeah, there is that. That’s to get the job. We also do that. It’s called pitching. But you are going to have to learn in those moments to put that pain second, because where a lot of young writers, new writers go wrong is they cannot handle that emotional dissonance. It’s hard. And they become either defensive or discombobulated.
And in the end people have choices of who they want to work with. And you don’t want to be unpleasant. And it’s not our fault, it just happens. It’s human. But I think having some kind of emotional resilience is a really important thing.
Dana: And congratulations on having breadcrumbs. I mean, that’s more than most people have. So, keep going, dude.
Rob: Certainly resolve is something that Craig was just talking about, but I think it’s also just a lack of cynicism. And Mazin is like one of the most cynical people I’ve ever met to comedic effect, but the truth is he wakes up every day – I believe this is true. You can correct me if I’m wrong. But you still have a sense of wonder and joy of the fact that you are living your dream.
And I think you have to remind yourself of that every single day. Whether you’re getting paid for it or not. Because you could be working, you know, on a roof somewhere laying grout. You know, you’re not.
Craig: You could be flashing a roof.
Rob: Sure. Whatever profession Craig was headed down.
Craig: Flashing. On a roof.
Craig: Yeah. It’s the stuff that goes—
Dana: Around the thing. It plugs the holes.
Craig: Nah. It’s more like, some of you know what I’m talking about. Some of you have spent time on a roof like I have.
Rob: Anyway, it’s really easy to get cynical. And to get hardened. And to become so angry at the world or at the industry or, you know, whatever – whoever you need to blame. But the truth is that if you wake up and what you love to do is write, or what you love to do is make films, you can do that right now.
And you are doing it already. And I think that takes a certain sense of innocence and maybe naïve joy and sense of wonder. And if you lose that – and even the most hardened, I’m pointing to Craig, of professionals, I still think keeps that.
Craig: Oh, this is, you know, a lot of these people I assume have been listening to the show for a long time. You start to realize that I’m – John is actually the hard one. I’m a mush. I really am. And I am endlessly amused and fascinated by what we do.
When you do get to walk onto a sound stage, every single time I walk on a sound stage I get excited. Every single time. And when I see dailies, and when I see things like movie posters, I get excited. And when, I don’t know, when it becomes real, even storyboards get me excited. And the truth is what no one can ever take away from us is we get that time on our own where we’re completely in control of it. And in those moments, you should feel nothing but passion for it.
I mean, you guys all seem to hate writing. I love it. And I love it even when it’s hard. I love it because it’s just, I don’t know, it seems like the most wonderful mode of living. I think if you just stayed in there, obviously it would be bad. They would find you days later. But that’s, you know, that is so much preferable to me than I don’t know what are the other options. Like heroin, I guess? Just something to make everything else go away?
Dana: And more practical advice. If you have to have a job, like most people do when they’re trying to get into the business, you have to like pay the bills. Give your good hours to your writing. And don’t tell John August, because I was actually John August’s assistant. I’m sure he won’t listen to this. Wah. Sorry John.
But I used to wake up. I worked for John, and I would get to his house at like 9:30. And I used to wake up at 4:30 in the morning so I could write before I got to work. So, then I was like answering his phone like, [slurring] “This is John August’s office.” And I did nap a lot. He did see me napping a lot.
So, you can’t always do that. But if you can do that, I would recommend not saying to yourself like, oh, I’m going to do my writing when I get home from work in like the two shitty hours where I’m exhausted at the end of every day, because that’s like saying you’re going to become a surgeon in your spare time, you know, on your lunch break or whatever. That’s not doable.
Craig: All right. I think we’ve got time for one more.
Audience Member: I have a question for Dana. I’m sorry that it’s probably the question you get a lot. Do you feel like you had to work harder breaking in as a woman? And what advice do you have for young women screenwriters.
Craig: Let me answer that for Dana.
Dana: No, no, no, Craig, you don’t understand. I’m going to answer it, and then you’re going to tell me why I’m wrong. You’re going to explain it to me later why I’m wrong.
First of all, no, I don’t think I had to work harder because I was a woman. I think I just had to work really, really, really hard because this business is really hard. And anyone who wants to do it has to work really hard.
You know, there have been times where I think being a woman is not awesome. For example, you’re getting ready to pitch something and you have to go get a blow out and that takes a fucking hour. And no guy has to do that. And then you’ve got to worry about your outfit, because you’re like do you think he’s the kind of guy who likes tits or doesn’t like tits? And does he hate his ex-wife, or does he love his wife? Like I don’t know. Do I remind him of his daughter, or his wife, or you know, it’s like, ugh. So that’s a fucking drag.
Craig: Did you know that was going on? I didn’t know that was going on.
Dana: I mean, you have to think about it. So, you know, there’s that.
What I will say is that there was a certain point at which I stopped tap dancing and like pretending that it was every guy’s idea. Because I did a lot of that for a long time. Like I would plant things in guy’s heads and then they would say it back to me. And I’d be like, “Oh my god, you’re so smart.” But that got kind of exhausting. So I stopped doing it. And I think my advice would be just like work harder than – it’s the same advice I would have for me which is like work harder than everyone else. I was always wherever I had to be before everyone else. And I always stayed later than everybody else. And I always treated every single meeting and every single interaction I had with anyone like it was an audition to get invited back into the room the next day.
And no matter how much success I’ve had, I still feel like that. Every single day I treat my job like I’m the luckiest person on earth that someone is paying me to do it. And I better just leave everything on the field, or not on the field. How does sports work?
Do you want to leave it on the field? Or do you want to take it off the field?
Craig: Do they like tits? Do they not like tits?
Dana: Do they like the boobs? Do they not like the boobs?
Craig: It’s basically the same question.
Dana: It’s very complicated.
Oh, and one thing that was hard was when I started running my own TV show, and I was the boss of like guys who are a lot older than me. That was weird. So, you know, you do have to deal with that kind of stuff. But I’m sure you guys have had your version of that. You look like a 12-year-old. You probably still have that. Like a hot 12-year-old.
Rob: I leave my boobs on every field I go to.
Craig: I think that pretty much covers it. And that’s our show.
As always, Scriptnotes is produced by Godwin Itai Jabangwe. Godwin. And it is edited by Matthew Chilelli, who also wrote our awesome, fantastic intro. Matthew.
If you have questions, you know where to find us. For short questions, you can reach us on Twitter. I am @clmazin and John is @johnaugust. For longer questions, such as the ones that were posed here, you want to email those to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show notes for this episode will be at johnaugust.com. Transcripts go up four days after. With that, I want to thank so, so much my cohost, Dana Fox. The amazing Rian Johnson. The incredible Rob McElhenney. John Gatins, and all the folks at Hollywood Heart, it was such a pleasure. Thank you guys for coming out and supporting this great cause.
Thank you very much.
- Rob McElhenney
- It’s Always Sunny: The Gang Tends Bar
- Rian Johnson
- Looper Trailer
- The Last Jedi Trailer
- Dana Fox
- John August on Twitter
- Craig Mazin on Twitter
- John on Instagram
- Find past episodes
- Outro by Matthew Chilelli (send us yours!)
Email us at email@example.com
You can download the episode here.
After 12 seasons, the sitcom remains one of the funniest shows on TV. Here’s why.
In two more seasons, FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will officially tie with Ozzy and Harriet for the longest running live-action comedy sitcom in television history. Unlike most sitcoms that have grown tired after long runs, the Sunny crew continue to push boundaries and create edgy TV. How are they able to do it?
It all comes down to character. For writers, sitcom television calls for one-dimensional stock characters. But Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney have been writing their own characters for so long now that they basically are their characters. They’ve incorporated their most base psychological instincts, which, as Film Radar’s Daniel Netzel points out in a new video essay, can be attributed to their parents and upbringing.
“I’ve been raped, I’ve been sexually abused as a child and I’ve been fired because I wouldn’t sleep with my boss,” she said in an interview with Brie Larson.
‘Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ director Richie Keen has moved into feature film territory with Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, and more.
In a high school overrun by lawless students, senior prank day doesn’t mean washable graffiti—it means all out war. And not just for the kids. Fist Fight focuses on what happens when two (very different) high school teachers both reach wits end. Charlie Day [Always Sunny, The Lego Movie] and Ice Cube [Friday, 21 Jump Street] are set to rumble at 3pm in the parking lot.
Based on the premise, it seems like a pretty unfair fight, and the makings for a very short movie. But what actually unfolds is the hilarious odyssey of Charlie Day’s complete mental breakdown. With on-point performances across the board, Fist Fight is the first laugh-out-loud studio comedy theaters have seen in a long time.
Craig and John discuss a Vanity Fair article about the impending disruption of Hollywood and are unimpressed. The better question worth asking: if this were the end of the film and television industry, what signs would we look for?
Then it’s finally time to answer listener questions about folktales, translators and writers who just don’t get it.
- Scriptnotes Extra: A Refugee Story
- Their Story is Our Story
- Hollywood is already over
- MPAA Statistics
- IMDb is shutting down its message boards
- Go IMDb Thread
- New York Times
- Wall Street Journal
- John August on Twitter
- Craig Mazin on Twitter
- John on Instagram
- Find past episodes
- Outro by Malcolm Nygard (send us yours!)
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can download the episode here.
UPDATE 2-12-17: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: Hello and welcome. My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 287 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the podcast, we’ll be discussing the end of the film industry, unique character voices, and some things I learned going through the process of copy editing. Plus, we will answer those listener questions that have been sitting in the inbox for far too long.
Craig: Far too long.
John: Far too long. But we have some follow up. We have exciting follow up. The kind of follow up I love, because I love babies.
Craig: Aw, babies.
John: Aw. So, a few episodes ago we had Kelly Marcel on to help us with a Three Page Challenge. She told us on that show that she was expecting a baby with Mr. Steve Zissis, who is another Scriptnotes guest. That baby was born. So, pretty damn excited that we have a new Scriptnotes listener. The first Scriptnotes guest joint project baby.
Craig: Right. The Scriptnotes Baby essentially.
John: It is the Scriptnotes Baby. I mean, I think they were both guests. They now have a baby. I’ll let people do the math themselves.
Craig: It’s a Scriptnotes Baby.
John: Yeah. An interesting thing about this baby. Do you know this baby’s name?
Craig: I do.
John: Yes. It’s not named Craig. It’s not named Mazin. What is its name?
Craig: First of all, we don’t really know that. We know what we’ve been told, OK?
John: All right. Yeah. The official story, yeah.
Craig: But the baby’s first name is Gus. It’s Gus.
John: And that’s short for what?
Craig: For Gustave.
John: No, the baby’s official name is August. So–
Craig: That’s not – I don’t.
John: You know what? August did not used to be such a common name. I think it’s an increasingly common name. And, again, I don’t want to take credit for that. But I have to say like it wasn’t common, now it is common. My profile has risen. I let people draw their own conclusions.
Craig: This is Boasty John.
John: The worst version of Boasty John.
Craig: The worst version of Boasty John.
John: I mostly just want to thank and congratulate. I don’t want to thank them.
Craig: [laughs] I think we should thank them. No, no, no. Let’s thank them.
John: Thank them for being wonderful guests. And mostly I just want to congratulate Kelly and Steve on their new baby.
Craig: I like the idea that this is follow up. Because it’s not really. If we’re going to be technical, it’s follow up to them having sex as far as I can tell. That’s what babies are.
John: They are.
Craig: And in follow up news, a baby was born as a result of sex. Steve, here’s a great thing. So, I always think about first names and last names together. I mean, we do this all the time when we’re writing. We’re so obsessive about names.
John: Oh yeah.
Craig: So Gus Zissis has more S-Zissis sounds in there. Gus Zissis sounds like a killer from the future.
John: I like it.
Craig: Gus Zissis.
John: Good choices.
John: This last week we had two episodes. One of the episodes was a little mini episode I did with Nima Yousefi about his experience as an Iranian refugee. A listener wrote in with a great link to a blog series called Their Story is Our Story. So, if you liked Nima’s story, there are a lot more stories that are sort of like Nima’s.
John: And it’s really well put together. So, I would encourage people to check out Their Story is Our Story. We’ll have a link to that in the show notes.
Craig: Fantastic. See, that’s follow up.
John: That’s truly follow up, because it just happened in an episode and now I’m talking about it. This is also follow up. So, a previous episode, like last week, we talked about those little marker words that sort of indicate that you are paying attention. And so in Madrid when I was there, in Spanish you often hear Vale which is basically OK. It’s just sort of an acknowledgment yes word.
A listener pointed my attention to a Spanish short film directed by Alejandro Amenábar called Vale which is actually delightful. And it wasn’t only at the very end of this delightful short film I realized it was actually a beer commercial.
John: But it’s a really well done beer commercial. So I will point you to the video for that. It’s quite well done. It stars Dakota Johnson. My question for you, Craig, Mazin, who is Dakota Johnson?
Craig: Watch what I do now? Watch how I blow your mind. Dakota Johnson is, A, the star of 50 Shades or Darker of Grey. And she is the daughter of Don Johnson and another person, as people are, like Gus Zissis. Sure.
John: Isn’t it Melanie Griffith? I’m actually not sure if that’s true. But, Dakota Johnson has a very special relationship with a previous Scriptnotes guest. That is my challenge for you. Who is that Scriptnotes guest that she has a special relationship with?
Craig: Well, Kelly Marcel is one of the writers of 50 Shades of Grey. Is that it?
John: Well, Kelly Marcel, is the writer of 50 Shades of Grey, but there is another screenwriter guest who she has an incredibly direct relationship with.
Craig: Dakota Johnson used to be married to Derek Haas.
John: That is not correct.
Craig: No. Oh. Sorry. I thought that was true.
John: This is going to be really embarrassing when I tell you this. So, are you ready?
John: So, Dakota Johnson played Kate in Ben & Kate, a show created by Dana Fox. She played essentially Dana Fox’s equivalent character in Ben & Kate. Not only that, she was the star of the movie that Dana produced and wrote, called How To Be Single, that Dana was on the show to talk about.
Craig: Yeah. You think I’m embarrassed by this? First of all, I don’t watch television, so not embarrassed at all. And second of all, I didn’t see her movie. I have no problem telling people I didn’t see – I feel like I’m now shielded completely from any negative feelings about this because people know that basically I just spend all day writing and playing video games and just it’s the saddest thing. It’s so sad.
John: It’s a lovely life.
John: Our last bit of follow up is about the Amazing Live Sea Monkeys.
Craig: Thank god.
John: Thank god. We’re finally through to the Amazing Live Sea Monkeys. So, Craig Good, a listener, pointed this out. Craig Good, he might actually be named for you. That’s a possibility.
John: Craig Good.
Craig: Yeah, like Good Craig.
John: It’s like the good version of you.
Craig: [laughs] All Craigs are the good version – everybody is a good version of me, because I am the worst version of me.
John: Yeah, you’re the best version of the Craig Mazin we love. He wrote in to point out that the puppeteer filmmakers that I mentioned who were co-creators of the show, it’s pronounced Chiodo, no Chiodo, but more importantly they’re also the people behind Killer Clowns from Outer Space, which is a cult classic. Which I’ve never seen, but is a cult classic, and I recognize the title.
Craig: Was Dakota Johnson in that?
John: She could have been in that. Craig would never know.
Craig: By the way, I’m happy to believe it. If you tell me it’s true.
John: Let’s get on to our main topic for this week, because I think it’s a pretty important topic. It’s going to be the end of Scriptnotes, basically, I think, because Hollywood is over.
Craig: Hollywood is done.
John: Which is – it’s done.
Craig: Nothing left to talk about really, right?
John: So, we’re going to center our conversation around an article that appeared in the most recent Vanity Fair titled Why Hollywood as we know it is already over. But hopefully we’re going to bridge out sort of beyond the article to talk about this kind of article. This article is written by Nick Bilton, who I actually know. So this is sort of my preamble to say that I like Nick. I think Nick is a really good writer. I’ve enjoyed a lot of things he’s written. And I talked to him originally about a book he wrote about Twitter, which I thought was really good.
I don’t think this piece is good. And Craig thinks this is also not good. So, we’re going to be sort of picking this piece apart sort of as a premise and as some details. But I want to make sure we’re able to circle around about the question of like well what if he’s right, or what if in a general sense it really is going to collapse. And what signs should we look for when it does collapse.
If you get exhausted with us just ripping apart this article, stick around, because I want to look for how we might find out if the premise of the article could be true.
Craig: All right.
John: How do you want to start, Craig?
Craig: We’ll obviously have a link in the show notes, so you folks can read along with this. Let’s just talk first, if we could, about this kind of article. This article comes out every year. Every year.
John: Multiple times in the year, but especially–
John: Yeah. But I mean, I’ve read a version of this article for the last 20 years.
Craig: Correct. So, very famously Lorne Michaels once said that every season of Saturday Night Live some brilliant television critic issues a review entitled Saturday Night Dead. And it has now been running for 31 years. And no sign of stopping. In fact, it seems more popular than ever.
The death knell of Hollywood has been sounded repeatedly really since television, I think, was created. And it seems like people take different tacks on why it’s no good, and will go away, and it’s all over, and that’s the end of that. In general, I think people do like writing articles like this because they’re very provocative. And ultimately they are low-risk/high-reward.
No one will remember your fake false prediction about something ending when it doesn’t end. But everybody will go rushing headlong back towards you to say, “Oh my god, this guy saw it coming,” when in fact just on average someone just guessing will “see it coming.”
So, you see this a lot. It is ultimately sensational journalism designed to provoke and feed into a general desire to see things fall apart. We do have this in our hearts, this weird rooting for things to collapse.
John: Yeah. I think we’re also at a very unique moment in American history right now where we are seeing some institutions that you thought like, oh, that could never fall apart, seem to be falling apart.
John: I think it’s natural to sort of say, well, Hollywood will fall apart. And, again, it could. But I don’t think it’s going to fall apart for the reasons that Nick Bilton does. So let’s start with the article itself and sort of how he gets us into this, which is that he’s visiting a TV show that’s shooting. He’s in a discussion with the screenwriter on the set. There is a raindrop on an actor’s shoulder. And the screenwriter brushes it off. And the wardrobe supervisor or the person responsible for that actor rushes over saying like, “No, no, don’t do that. That’s my job.”
So, that is sort of the premise that he’s introducing us to the current Hollywood world with.
Craig: Yeah. So, this is a terrible anecdote. Horrendous, really. The anecdote makes the following points. Creating film and television is incredibly inefficient because while he’s talking to a screenwriter about how inefficient things are, there are 200 members of the crew who are milling about – I’m just quoting from the article – “milling about in various capacities, checking on lighting or setting up tents, but mainly futzing with their smartphones, passing time, or nibbling on snacks from the craft service tents.”
Let’s start there, shall we?
John: Yeah. Let’s be… – A person who is not working in film and television visiting a set, I think that’s honestly kind what you would see. And if you don’t sort of know what everyone’s job is, you might see that and say like, “Oh, why aren’t people working?” I would argue that if you were to go into a Silicon Valley startup and see people sitting at their desks, you might have sort of the same question. Like, what are they actually doing? They’re maybe typing something, but are they really working? And sometimes if you look at a film set you might say like those folks aren’t working. They are working.
Craig: Yeah. So film production is not like a typical factory plant where everybody is working. After they clock in, then they get their lunch break, then they go back to work. Nor is it like working in retail. The way films are made, you need a lot of different people who are able to do different things. But, the nature of the crew is that it’s a lot of people, none of whom are always needed, but all of whom are sometimes needed.
It’s just the way film production is. It goes in ways. Like a little bit of a military campaign. When you are engaging in a military effort, not everybody does their job at once. When you are on a football team, half the team is on the bench, the other half is on the field. Are the people on the bench just sitting around, futzing?
So, when you’re turning lights around, the grips and the electricians are working. And when you’re shooting, hair and makeup are working. And when you’re blocking out a scene, you have your ADs and you have the cinematographer, and then you have set-dec, and you have props people coming in and getting approvals. Sometimes they’re on the truck. They’re ordering stuff for the next day.
The truth is, if you don’t understand how film production works, then you might think, “Oh, this seems inefficient.” What’s remarkable to me about articles like this is that the author never stops to ask, “Hmm, do I understand how this works? Is it really just – is the easy observation that it’s all just bizarrely bloated in some kind of crazy way possibly true?” If we were to put a camera in Nick Bilton’s office and just run that 24/7 for a week, I wonder how much work we would see happening, and how much other stuff?
John: Yeah. It would be challenging to see. So, let’s look at – he segues from this scene of a film set, to talking about other industries that were disrupted. So, let’s quickly go through some of the other industries that have been disrupted and sort of what the fair analogies are and the unfair analogies.
Let’s start with the music industry. Obviously there was a massive disruption in the music industry. Recorded music sort of fell apart. And the so the profits that you used to come into the recording industry are not there anymore. It’s a very different industry, obviously, but that was the one that was sort of most directly hit by mp3s, piracy. It all fell apart.
To a lesser degree, you see what happened in the newspaper industry. You saw book publishing. Other industries where disruption sort of upended everything. But the music industry is probably the most direct one, so let’s take a look at that first.
Craig: Well, the music industry was disrupted in this fashion in the ‘90s. We’re talking about 25 years ago now. I think Napster was, and Limewire, and all these sites – I mean, remember Limewire? These were around in the early ‘90s. And I think everybody watching what that did to the music industry naturally said, “How long will it be before the television and film industry falls to the same fate?”
And really the only thing that seemed to be limiting it was just bandwidth capacity and sizes of hard drives, which probably within six years had reached the place where it could happen. And it has not happened. And they keep talking about this like this is the mistake that old people make. Sorry, Nick. I assume – even if he’s my age, he’s old. We think that because we clearly remember this happening that it’s going to happen again right around the corner. That is a quarter of a century ago. And it has not happened.
Why? Huge difference between the way the music industry works and the way our industry works. The music industry was never developing work because music is not massively collaborative. The only collaboration you find in music really is between maybe a producer and an artist, or four or five people in a band. But the truth is, one person with a guitar can make a hit song. The music industry was always about finding those people, the way that indie companies find movies at festivals, and then supporting their work financially like patrons, and then advertising and distributing the work, which is the only apt comparison to the way Hollywood functions for television and film.
It has never been true and it never will be true about movies and shows that one person or two people or four people can do it. In fact, it takes armies of people. The very armies that this guy thinks might not be necessary, but are, to make these shows happen. And so we are simply in a different position. If this industry around us went the way of the music industry, there just wouldn’t be the content. But we know that that’s not true for music. It’s odd to me that the question isn’t why hasn’t this happened to film, rather than the statement clearly this will happen to film.
John: Yeah. I think that’s a great question. It was what I wanted to hit next. And we don’t have time for it today, but let’s try to circle back in a future episode basically why has film and television not fallen apart to piracy the way we always kind of thought it might, because there really is not a fundamental difference in terms of technology of why a television series can still be viable now, even though there is rampant piracy, and we know about Game of Thrones. There’s rampant piracy. And yet it hasn’t happened. So, to predict that it’s going to happen seems naïve.
Moving on through the article, he talks about “Hollywood these days seems remarkably poised for a similar disruption. Its audiences increasingly prefer on-demand content. Its labor is costly. And margins are shrinking.” Craig?
Craig: I don’t agree. First of all, I don’t know what he means by Hollywood exactly. He never quite defines that terms. What is that? When I first showed up in Los Angeles in 1992, in the era of Napster, somewhat optimistically, defying all the predictions of disaster, I remember driving through Hollywood. Actually seeing Hollywood for the first time and going, “Wait, what? This is a slum. There’s nothing here. There’s just a bunch of warehouses and a couple of post-production facilities and graffiti and shambling heroin addicts.”
Hollywood, I don’t know exactly what it means. Yes, audiences prefer on-demand content in one sense. I think they prefer it over the traditional way of delivering television series, which was you get one once a week for 22 weeks. You have to wait. There are commercials inside of the episode that you have to wait. Of course they prefer that. They don’t seem to prefer on-demand content when it comes to movies. At all. That’s just a fact.
But the larger question, I mean, margins are shrinking. We’ll have to take a look at his data on that. But, why is Netflix not Hollywood in his definition? When Netflix employs the same crews, and the same writers, and the same actors, and the same directors, using the same methods that he’s decrying here, to make their shows. How is Scott Frank’s upcoming western miniseries that employed hundreds of people and big Hollywood stars, and he’s a big Hollywood writer-director, for Netflix, how is that – and a big budget – how is that not Hollywood?
John: Yeah. So we talked about disruption, and clearly you can look at Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, they are disrupting the model of standard television. But they’re disrupting it in very kind of conventional ways. They didn’t find a new cheaper way to make television. They just made really expensive television, and made money making really expensive television. So, it’s a weird kind of disruption.
Classically, you wouldn’t think of disruption as like, oh, you’ve changed the distribution model, you’ve changed – we’re able to make things for like a quarter of the cost. That’s not actually happened. And over the years I’ve seen experiments with like we’re going to see if we can do this kind of movie for a million dollars rather than $ 10 million. And they do one of those and it tanks. There’s kind of a reason why things cost what they cost. I don’t sort of buy the overall “it looks like it should be disrupted, so therefore it will be disrupted” argument.
But let’s do take a look at some numbers, because one of the things he cites in here, and actually I did tweet at him to ask where he got this number, and I haven’t heard back as we’re recording this, so if I do get the answer I will edit this in here. But he writes that, “Movie theater attendance is down to a 19-year low, with revenues hovering slightly above $ 10 billion.”
So, again, I don’t know what his source was for tickets sold, but for what I saw, 2016 had 1.3 billion tickets sold domestically. 1998, which is 19 years ago, had 1.4 billion. So, it’s lower, but it’s like a point of a billion. So, it’s not like a huge falloff.
I looked at the MPAA statistics, so for 2015, which was the last year I could find them, admissions or tickets sold were 1.32 billion. And average tickets sold per person increased 4%. That means that two-thirds of North Americans saw at least one movie in the theater, which is a 2% increase over moviegoers from 2014. So, that’s actually a pretty amazing statistic that it says two-thirds, actually 69% of North Americans saw at least one movie in the theater. That’s kind of huge.
Craig: It’s enormous. And when you see movie theater attendance is down to a 19-year low, that is classic misinformation. If it’s down to a 19-year low, but it’s down by, like you said, some tiny amount, that’s not particularly meaningful. Nor does his 19-year low take into account what was going on inside those 19 years. So, in 1998, 1.44 billion tickets sold. In 2003, 1.52 billion tickets sold. So, I don’t quite see where he’s coming from here. In 1997, total inflation adjusted box office was $ 11.6 billion. And in 2016, it $ 11.25 billion. That seems remarkably stable for an industry that he is suggesting is in some kind of freefall.
I generally do not like these kinds of sensational statistics manipulation because it makes me start to question the motivation here, which I don’t think is evil or malicious as much as over-zealous in support of a grabby click-bait headline.
John: Yeah. And obviously writers don’t pick their headlines, and so a lot of what he’s describing here can be sort of charitably taken as this is sort of the experience of sort of what it feels like here. And as a tech person coming in and seeing this stuff, he sees these patterns which are classically setup for Silicon Valley disruption. But what I find so fascinating is the Silicon Valley money from Amazon, from Netflix, they’re spending the same money. They’re changing some things, but they’re actually still spending all the money to make the big, expensive prestige things.
You look at the kinds of series they’re doing. You look at the kinds of money they’re spending. It’s not actually different.
Craig: It’s not. And by the way, this is not for lack of trying to disrupt. That’s the other thing that’s really important to understand. Amazon, we did an episode about this a number of years ago. When Amazon came into this world of content creation, they absolutely wanted to disrupt it. In fact, their entire model was based on the presumption that is being stated in this article. That Hollywood system was inefficient, clumsy, unnecessarily cumbersome. And that by disrupting it and going straight to content creators and then crowd-sourcing the material and crowd-editing it that they would arrive at much better work, essentially kind of Ubering their way around a taxi cab industry. And they failed not big, but disastrously, to the point where they have just forgotten about that whole thing completely. That was just a complete whiff.
And they failed for all the reasons we suggested they would. So, believe me, they would. Oh my god, would they have disrupted us by now if they could.
John: I don’t think they’re going to. And part of it is also you have to understand the economics of things are not sort of what you might anticipate. He talks about a modest episode of a television show could cost $ 3 million to shoot and produce. By comparison, the typical startup in Silicon Valley will raise that much for a team of engineers and servers for two years. It feels like a very faulty analogy considering that $ 3 million you’re spending on that television episode is immediately profitable.
John: Because of foreign right sales, that $ 3 million you’ve spent, you’ve already made it back. Like by the time it airs, you’ve made your money back. So the return on investment on that $ 3 million is really good. And I think that’s part of my frustration is you see people investing new money in Hollywood all the time, including these tech people, because it’s genuinely profitable.
Craig: Right. That’s the strange paradox at the heart of this. He’s saying that Hollywood is going to be disrupted by Silicon Valley, and yet Silicon Valley keeps giving money to Hollywood. Right? So, you could take that $ 3 million if you really want to be efficient and just buy bean pickers. You could buy, I don’t know, 10,000 bean pickers in how many bean fields. It’s not the way this works. It’s a dumb comparison.
And here’s the other thing. People routinely make the mistake of applying classic ROI analysis, return on investment analysis, to Hollywood, forgetting one very important thing: that people don’t want to just be in the entertainment business because of the business part. There’s that old saying, you know, it’s not show fun, it’s show business. This is show business. Yes, but the flip side of that is it’s show business, not business-business, not money business. Show business.
You and I could make more money doing something else. If everybody simply went towards what was the most efficient way to make money, then I guess, yes, we would all be hedge fund managers, or I don’t know. But even the business people, the suits, that are in our business want to be in our business because they’re drawn to the show. To the glamour. And the celebrity. And the artistic experience. And the notion of creating culture as opposed to a slightly more feature-laden spreadsheet. And that’s why Silicon Valley is so fascinated by Hollywood. They can say it’s because they need content for all their new delivery systems, but in the end content is fascinating. And a lot of this other stuff like how to maximize server load is not.
John: It’s not. It’s fascinating for certain people, and god bless the people for whom that is fascinating and they get paid well by Google. Let’s bring this a little closer to home and back to screenwriting. Because he talks about if you could give a computer all the best scripts ever written, it would eventually be able to write one that might come close to replicating an Aaron Sorkin screenplay.
John: It’s very close to the a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters thing.
John: Like, yes, that could happen. We looked at the first scripts sort of written by an AI program starring Thomas Middleditch. It was not fantastic.
John: Do I believe that that kind of stuff will get better? I do believe that kind of stuff will get better. Do I believe it’s going to replace our expectations of screenwriters writing scripts? I do not believe that.
John: It falls into a line of sort of Amazon’s model in terms of crowd-sourcing things. Or the kind of inevitable A/B testing that’s done on the tech side, which has the equivalence in our focus group being in Hollywood. They are processes. They are processes that don’t necessarily lend themselves to great works of art.
And I think a thing which may be easy to overlook from a distance is that this isn’t like sort of what color should the links be on Google’s home page, which they can test for. It’s like is this movie working? Is this movie going to be the one that’s going to bring a billion dollars in? That’s not the kind of thing you can actually sort of test for. It actually has to be good. And there’s a qualitative versus a quantitative thing that’s very hard to sort of hit to. You have to get filmmakers and a vision behind that for those things to work.
Craig: Well, they keep trying. We will discover every year or so another one of these companies that believes they’ve found an algorithm, and they haven’t. I love sentences like, “If you can give a computer all the best scripts ever written, it would eventually be able to write one that might come close to replicating an Aaron Sorkin screenplay.” Oh, OK. Well, I can’t wait for that day. Here’s what we know about that wonderful day. Aaron Sorkin has to exist first. Aaron Sorkin has to write a screenplay first. This is the kind of thing that people say at a cocktail party and you just go, “You know what, I have to excuse myself to the bathroom,” because I can’t talk to this person anymore. They’re out of their minds.
It’s not that I’m one of these people that thinks stupidly that computers aren’t going to become smarter, and smarter, and smarter. We’re fascinated by this. We talked about this remarkable leap forward that Google took with translation. But they only were able to do that by feeding enormous amounts of data, meaning language, into that computer, and then having the computer parse through all of this stuff.
And you can’t do that with movies. You’ll just end up, I mean, what’s the point? We’ve tested this with everyone on the planet and we’ve come up with the perfect version. Great. They already saw it. It doesn’t matter. What if computers could write Vanity Fair articles? What if computers could make Michelin Star worthy food? What if robots could play baseball? Putting “what if” in front of a prediction adds exactly zero credibility to it. It’s just provocation for provocation sake. And in particular, when you’re talking about movies, what we crave as an audience and as humans is the new. Computers are really good at copying what’s happened before, right?
When we say that Google translation has made a huge leap forward, what we’re saying is they’re catching up to what humans have already done with translation work. They’re not translating hither to untranslated languages. But with movies, we want new. We’re always looking for cultural disruption. Computers will not be able to do that. That’s not what they do. We do that.
John: Yeah. You look at the progress in AI, and it’s always really good at solving games. And so translation you can think of as a game. Like are you getting the right result? And so computers just this last week kicked ass at poker, and they were able to do poker really well, and that was a huge breakthrough. The thing is, there’s not a perfect answer in terms of like what is the right movie. Because you can have the right movie. I’ve seen the right movie. And then I’ve been in like three-hour arguments with producers and studio executives over the right movie that’s already finished and they keep wanting to change things.
There’s not going to be a place where you get to like this is the perfect movie. This is the best movie it can possibly be. There’s always going to be opinions. And there aren’t opinions in poker. It’s clear who won.
John: And you don’t have a clear winner in this. But, let’s do that dangerous “what if” and let’s ask the question of what if he’s right, or what if essentially even if he’s wrong on some of the details, he’s right in saying that Hollywood as we know it is going to end, or it’s going to collapse, it’s going to fall, there’s going to be some reckoning coming. What should we look for if that is going to happen?
Craig: Well, you would start to see major studios with names that have great brand awareness shutting down completely. I think if you saw Warner Bros or Universal or Fox or Columbia, Disney, just say we’re out of the business of making television shows and movies, that would be a huge sign. And I think one of those things would have to happen while also not being replaced by some equivalent. So, it’s not like Circuit City goes out of business because Best Buy is just doing the same job but better. But rather we’ve just lost something, the way that brick and mortar stores are disappearing. We know that Sears is disappearing. Best Buy is gone. Circuit City is gone. That’s a sign.
John: Yeah. I would say if you saw a lack of investment, basically money was not chasing Hollywood anymore, that would be a sign that they’re saying like, “OK, we don’t believe we’re going to be able to get our money out of this investment.” And we are not seeing that now.
So, I’m not saying that the money spigots will always be flowing at sort of maximum volume, but I’m still seeing a lot of money coming into Hollywood. You’re seeing a lot of Silicon Valley money coming into Hollywood. And that is considered pretty smart money. They must have a reason why they’re trying to do this.
Craig: No question.
John: I would also take a look at sort of movie theaters themselves. And we didn’t sort of hit on this part of the article, but it’s always that question of like will the big screen experience persist, because you know television, yes, got disrupted, but when you think of movies they’ve actually been very much the same experience for the past 100 years. You go into a big room with a bunch of other people. The lights go down. And on a big screen in front of you, you see a story being told, about two hours long, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And you’re seeing it with this big group of people and they’re all having sort of the same communal experience. The lights come on, and you leave.
Weirdly, that has not changed that much. The theaters have gotten better. The projectors have gotten better. We no longer show film. But it’s the same basic experience. And will that go away? I guess it could? There could be a situation where VR goggles are so much better than the experience of being in that theater that it goes away to some degree. But I think there still will be a social aspect of going out to the movies that persists.
But if we see that the big exhibitors go away, like if money goes away from the AMC theaters, the Carmikes, and all those, then maybe that’s a sign that the big screen movie business – it’s days are numbered.
Craig: Yeah. I think that there is some concern there. There’s a realistic concern about the exhibition business, which I think he is confounding here with Hollywood. Hollywood is not in the exhibition business. Hollywood is in the content creation business. And the distribution and advertising business. But it is forbidden by law, and he acknowledges this in the article, it’s forbidden by law to also then control the exhibition business, which is movie theaters.
Movie theaters have been in trouble for a long time. And they’ve been in trouble for a long time because in part they’re being squeezed in all sorts of ways. And you can see that because they pass along those squeezings to you in the form of $ 20 cup-full of popcorn. And yet, with all the complaints that people have about movie theaters, and concessions, they still go. We know that. We just talked about the ticket buying practices.
Hollywood continues to try and figure out ways to get around the one price fits all model. And they are constantly butting heads with the exhibitors over that one. Hollywood would love to be able to charge $ 25 a ticket for a Star Wars movie, which they know people would pay, and the exhibitors are terrified of that because those people are not going to then also spend $ 25 on Goobers.
So, there’s struggles there. And the movie theaters are struggling. So far we have not seen any kind of wholesale shuttering of those facilities. I don’t think VR is going to – VR to me is completely irrelevant. Has nothing to do with watching a movie. All of us are quite addicted to watching things projected on flat things. Children, too. Where things have changed is when you look at the iPad and little videos of babies trying to touch and swipe magazine pages because they think they can interact with it.
But, no, VR to me feels like a trap, frankly. It just feels like a gimmick.
John: I’m going to disagree with you on VR. I think VR actually probably will become something amazing, but I think it’s a mistake to sort of assume that it’s going to replace movies. I think it’s going to be its own thing. And I think trying to make it be something it’s not is foolish. It’s going to become its own special and probably amazing art form.
But the same way that videogames are not replacing television. They are different things.
Craig: I actually agree with that. I mean to say that I think it’s a gimmick when it comes to movies.
John: Oh yeah.
Craig: But I agree with you that the applications are pretty remarkable for other things.
John: Cool. All right, let’s skip ahead to questions, because I worry that we’re not going to get to questions if we just don’t tackle these.
Craig: Yeah, and we’ve been punting these down the line, week after week.
John: So I feel bad for Jessica. Would you read Jessica’s question for us?
Craig: Sure, Jessica from New York – oh – asks, “I am writing a feature loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s folktale The Red Shoes.” Which, by the way, John, have you ever read The Red Shoes?
John: I’ve read The Red Shoes.
Craig: Oh my god, it’s horrifying. Hans Christian Andersen, boy was he a dark dude. Anyway.
John: Yeah, well we talked about The Little Mermaid and what the original ending of The Little Mermaid was, which was incredibly dark.
Craig: And that’s nothing compared to The Red Shoes, where you dance until you’re dead. OK. So, “I’m writing a feature loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s folktale The Red Shoes. Since this is in public domain, I know that I’m good to go. However, The Red Shoes was also a novel written in 2013 by John Stewart Wynne. I haven’t read the book, but I have read the summary. The novel is based in New York, like my story, and addresses similar themes. While I know that my take on this folktale will be entirely different as far as plot, I worry there will be some inevitable similarities. Would I ever have a potential legal issue with the author of this novel if my screenplay were optioned or purchased?”
John, what do you think?
John: So, here’s the place where we remind you that we are not lawyers, so we’re only going to give you our opinions that are not legal opinions. I would say that there’s always a chance that someone could come to you and say like, “Hey, that’s my thing, The Red Shoes, which was set here and was an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s whatever.” And then it could be a thing. And you just don’t know it’s going to be a thing. But if you’re paralyzed by that worry now, don’t be.
I would say write your great script, write your great movie, and don’t worry about this other thing. I think you are smart not to have read the other thing. I mean, I mean you did write into a podcast where we’re talking about it, so this wouldn’t be great for a future lawsuit.
There’s no project you could conceive of writing that would not have some other thing out there that could theoretically sue you. So, to be paralyzed by it now is foolish.
Craig: I agree. I’ll even go one step further. There is an entire world of precedent for different works based on the same underlying public domain properties. There have been god knows how many versions of bible stories alone. So, right off the bat, you’re talking about a novel that’s based on something else and you’re basing something on that same thing. So, similarities are inevitable, and the similarities in theory would be ones that are related to the underlying material which is accessible to everyone because it’s in public domain.
More importantly, you actually would I have potential legal issue if my screenplay were optioned or purchased? No, because the people purchasing your screenplay, forget option because they haven’t bought anything, but purchase, they are going to do their due diligence and make sure that you haven’t stepped on anyone’s toes, which you’re not doing. You’re not infringing. You’re not plagiarizing. And at that point, part of your contract is that you’re indemnified.
So, if somebody does sue, then the studios just handle them. And they do. They sue and as John and I have pointed out many, many times, seems like every week we hear about somebody suing, and every never we hear about somebody winning.
John: Write your script, Jessica. Just write it.
John: Our next question comes from Tully Archer. Let’s listen to what she had to say.
Tully Archer: We’ve all read bad scripts, some of them just shockingly, horribly bad scripts, but I sort of cheerily assume that there’s almost always something promising in there. Some cool idea, or interesting phrasing that we can point to to say this script could be good. It just needs work. However, have you ever read something or interacted with someone where you came away thinking, wow, this person will not make it? If so, what was it? What was the thing? Is there something that when you see it you recognize it as that thing that spells irrefutable doom for the screenwriter in questions? Thanks again. You guys are awesome.
John: So, Craig, any signals of inevitable doom as you’ve interacted with other writers?
Craig: Yeah. Certainly. You know, we all have had that experience. I think there is weirdly a kind of freedom that is attached to that experience because you don’t particularly have to worry about hurting that person’s feelings. Life is going to patiently explain to them that this is not for them.
Sometimes these people are deeply delusional. What I tend to pick up on immediately is a series of writing mistakes to the exclusion of anything good. Every possible way you could succeed has been foreclosed. And all you have is bad description, bad characters or nonexistent characters. Really that’s more than anything is just they’re not even there. So the characters aren’t characters. The dialogue isn’t dialogue. The action doesn’t seem to be happening. The place where you are doesn’t seem to be real. Everything is just off completely. And at that point, you could try and explain to the tone deaf person why they’re not going to be a professional singer, but really you could just say, unfortunately, sometimes what I’ll do is, “I just stopped reading at page 10. I had a whole bunch issues, I’m happy to tell you why. But I’m probably not the person that this script was meant for. I just am not connecting with your writing.”
And then you move on because it doesn’t matter. They stink.
John: Yeah. So now if Craig tells you that, that he didn’t connect with the writing, he doesn’t think that you have a shot.
Craig: I don’t read anybody else’s stuff anymore. [laughs] I’m out of that.
John: Yeah. I have similar experience about reading through a script and they just fundamentally don’t get it. And especially if like, oh, this is my third script and like I’m reading through and it’s like, no, this person doesn’t understand sort of what a screenplay actually is. There’s a weird thing where it’s like nothing actually clicks. And you flip a page and it’s like you’re in a whole new movie, or you flip a page and it’s like you’re just reading the same scene again and again. There’s just nothing to it. It’s just empty.
So, that’s the experience on the page. Sometimes I’ll be talking with somebody and they’ll be describing the movies they want to make, or how they want to work in Hollywood, and sometimes they’re just brand new, and they’re naïve, and they don’t sort of know what it is. But sometimes they just have a fundamental misunderstanding of what movies are. Or what television is. And I can’t talk them through all of that. And so I can say, oh, we make a podcast about it. Maybe you want to listen.
But there’s people who don’t seem to fundamentally understand not even the business but the creative endeavor of trying to write for film and television. That it’s a lot. And some people just kind of don’t get it. And you can see that they just don’t get it.
Craig: Yeah. You know you’re in bad shape when you read a few pages and you think what this person needs to do is find one of the most formulaic, basic, by the numbers, copycat movies out there, and read the script for that. They’re not even there yet. They don’t know the alphabet. Never fun.
John: It sounds like, oh, there’s a gleeful sort of – oh, this person just doesn’t get it. No, it’s actually upsetting when I encounter that. Especially when they’re really genuinely nice people.
Craig: Of course.
John: Because you’re rooting for them. You want them to succeed. But you also want to somehow be able to tell them I don’t think this is going to work for you for these reasons. And I’ve never been the guy who can sort of say that.
Craig: Very few people are. You know? If you’re on a television show, and that’s your character that’s fine. You could be Simon Cowell. I always admired that. But in life, there’s really not much of an upside to that. One time I did tell somebody this is not for you. And they took it very poorly. It was probably about 15 years ago. They are not currently a professional screenwriter.
John: I have had the experience of like there’s the people who are actually genuine good writers, but they’re not good at the whole thing. Like they’re good at certain parts of writing movies. And I feel like you need to find a writing partner who is good at the rest of this stuff. Because you clearly have some great skills. You’re really good at dialogue, but you can’t sort of do everything else right. And you don’t seem to have a good grasp of how you should act in a meeting and that kind of stuff. Those are the people who kind of frustrate me most, because I can see the right circumstances and the right combination of elements they could write something brilliant. But, it’s not going to be me who is going to be able to get them there.
That’s honestly sort of the heartbreaking situation. I have friends who I definitely sense could do it with just like the right combination of things.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, the truth is if you ask what is sadder, a kid who believes he should be, or whose one dream is to be a major league baseball player, but just can’t make his own high school team, or a triple A player who is almost good enough, but not. It’s just triple A player is sadder.
John: it is sadder. It’s a strange thing. To be so close and not get it. To go to the Olympics and not make it to the medals round.
Craig: Right. Really, you’re so much better than so many people, it’s just that you’re not good enough. That’s rough. Yeah. Well, but happily that’s not what this question was about.
John: Yeah, that’s not this question. The obvious people.
Craig: Complete ding-a-lings. Oh, we have another question from New York. This is New York day.
John: You can take it.
Craig: All right. Alyssa in New York asks, “I’m writing a script where a character is interviewing another character who does not speak English, with a translator acting as a go between. Basically she asks the question, the translator translates it, the woman answers, and the translator translates her response. How do I show this in a script? Do I need to write all the lines twice and indicate that one time they’re in a different language? Or can I just write in an action line Woman talks and then have a line with just the translator saying what was said?”
How would you handle that, John?
John: There are multiple ways to do it. When Aline was on the show, she was talking about her French ladies script that had a bit of this where they had to switch back and forth between languages. And she described it basically there would be lines in French when they needed to be in French, but mostly everything was in English. And I think English is genuinely your friend here. So just stick with the translator in English as much as reasonable or possible. There may be cases where if the person who is speaking the foreign language is actually the more important character, I would probably give them the dialogue header. Like put their character name and then in italics or something else put what they’re actually saying, so that we get the vibe of like this is all being translated in real time. But it’s clear that we’re looking at the person and not the translator who is doing the speaking.
Craig: Yes. Years and years ago I was working on a script and I made the mistake of having people say something in their language, and then underneath putting the translation. And Scott Frank almost killed me. He almost slit my throat over it. Because it’s unwieldy. And ultimately you don’t get any credit for saying, look, I know words.
So, in a situation like this, especially when you’re talking about repeated, and as a conversation, not just one or two lines, I would probably describe the situation. So, Alyssa is asking questions and Jean-Pierre is answering and Jean-Pierre’s translator is serving as the go between. And then when it’s Jean-Pierre’s time to talk I might say Jean-Pierre/Translator and then put his dialogue in italics.
Craig: That’s probably what I would do.
John: That’s a smart way to do it. And, again, if Jean-Pierre is the more important character, then Jean-Pierre, just give him the lines and just say woman talks in scene description. But that’s probably not going to be the case in the story you’re describing. But I would say just basically never do your own translation work in the script. You’re just burning page and you’re burning the reader’s attention. Because the reader doesn’t want to read those two lines in different languages.
Craig: And god forbid Scott Frank ever picks it up.
John: Oh my god. It’s just the worst.
Craig: And when he wants to cut your throat, he uses script paper. He uses three-hole punch. So it’s like he’s paper cutting your throat open.
John: Well, he’s an expert. He really knows how to do all this stuff. He’s done all those violent movies. And he’s learned some ways.
Craig: A thousand ways to kill you.
John: It’s really good. So, Craig, we’re at the point of the show where we have two more topics that we didn’t get to, so rather than try to cram those topics in, we’ll save them for next week’s show. So, next week we will talk about, oh, there’s good stuff with Kellyanne Conway here. There’s good stuff I learned from my copy editing experience. But they’re kind of evergreen, so we will get back to those next week. It was important that we answered these questions this time.
And so important that we get to our One Cool Things. So, my One Cool Thing is incredibly self-centered. I was reading through the comment thread on IMDb about my movie Go.
Craig: Oh my god.
John: I would generally not do this, but someone had pointed me towards it saying like have you seen this thread. And I’m like, OK. And so this thread was started by a user asking this question. “Did anyone else notice that even though the film was shot in 1999, and focused on young people, that no mobile phones appeared in the phone? Unless I missed something, it seems like this was a deliberate decision by the makers of the film. I like the choice.” And there’s an edit here saying that the strip club sort of seems to have a car phone, but it doesn’t explain why no other characters in the movie use a mobile when they clearly had the opportunity.
So, Craig, what is your answer? Why do characters not use mobile phones in Go?
Craig: I’m going to guess it’s because that would have ended the movie in about 40 seconds?
John: No. Weirdly it isn’t. Because most cases in screenwriters and cell phones, I did a whole presentation on screenwriters and cell phones and how cell phones are the death of screenwriting. But it actually wasn’t that. People assume that like, oh, mobile phones were common in 1999, but they actually need to wind the clock back.
So, the movie came out in ’99. The movie was shot in ’98 and it was written in ’97. At the point in 1997 when I wrote the script, these characters would not have had mobile phones. And it’s so hard to remember back in that time, or if you weren’t born at that time, to know that people didn’t always have mobile phones. And these characters would not have had mobile phones and that’s why they’re using pagers.
What I found so great about this thread, though, it goes on for 13 pages. So, hundreds of people wrote in with their theories about why there were not cell phones in Go. So, I found it delightful. I love when people obsess about things that I actually know the answer to. So, it was fun.
Craig: It’s great.
John: It was nice.
Craig: It’s that moment in Annie Hall where you get to be, “Don’t you wish life were always like this?”
John: Yeah. It’s like that. Craig, what’s your One Cool Thing?
Craig: My One Cool Thing this week is the much needed resurgence of journalism. Talking about disruption and industries falling apart, much like the music industry, the newspaper industry was absolutely blown apart by the emergence of online media and suddenly overnight their profit base, which was essentially subscriptions to their print versions, disappeared. And they struggled greatly.
And yet now we find ourselves in desperate need of them. Which must be very nice for them to know. It turns out that we need these people to say the truth. And to question people if they feel that those people aren’t speaking the truth. So, what I would like all of you to consider, regardless of your politics, is to actually subscribe to a reputable periodical. There are disreputable periodicals to the left and the right of the political spectrum. But I’m going to list five here that sort of run the gamut from middle left to middle right: The New York Times, The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times.
These are excellent periodicals that do investigative journalism. They have slightly different points of views. But more importantly, they are experiencing a moment now where everyone says we need you because we’re drowning in nonsense. We live in a time when a presidential spokesperson goes on TV and decries a massacre that literally never happened. And within minutes people will start tweeting about this. And televised news is terrific in its own way. But only publications can really dig down into the, wait, why did she say that? What is that about? What did she mistake it for? What does this mean? You don’t get that from television.
From television you just get people yammering at each other. So, considering subscribing to one or more of these publications.
John: I subscribe to three of these publications. And going back to this notion of disruption, I think podcasts have clearly disrupted some of the traditional media landscape, but what I’ve been so happy to see is The New York Times really stepping up its podcast game. So this past week they started The Daily which is a 15-minute podcast. Incredibly well produced daily podcast that’s looking at one or two stories in depth. So, it’s great to see these venerable institutions like The New York Times really embracing how they can tell their stories now. So, I really do urge people to subscribe to one of these or another great publication of your choice.
John: And that’s our show for this week. So as always, it was produced by Godwin Jabangwe. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week comes from Malcolm Nygard. Thank you, Malcolm. If you have an outro, you can send us a link to email@example.com. That’s also the place where you can send longer questions. For shorter questions, I’m on Twitter. I’m @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin.
We are on Facebook. Some people left some really nice comments about Nima’s episode, so thank you for that. If you want to find us on Facebook, just search for Scriptnotes Podcast. You can also search for Scriptnotes Podcast to find our app, which is right now the only way to get to all of our back episodes, as you’re walking around. It’s $ 1.99 a month for all those back episodes. You can sign up at Scriptnotes.net.
You can find the show notes for this episode and all episodes at johnaugust.com. That’s also where you’ll find the transcripts, about four days after the episode airs. And that’s it. So thanks so much, Craig.
Craig: See you next time John.
- Scriptnotes Extra: A Refugee Story
- Their Story is Our Story
- Hollywood is already over
- MPAA Statistics
- IMDb is shutting down its message boards
- Go IMDb Thread
- New York Times
- Wall Street Journal
- John August on Twitter
- Craig Mazin on Twitter
- John on Instagram
- Find past episodes
- Outro by Malcolm Nygard (send us yours!)
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You don’t know you need them until you do.
You’re about to head out to your shooting location, but before you do you check your camera bag to make sure you’ve got everything you need. Camera? Check. Lenses? Check. Memory card, batteries, cables, tape? Check! Sweet, you’re ready to go, right? Maybe not. There are a bunch of other random supplies that may not seem useful on a film set at first glance, but end up being total life savers when you’re in a pinch, and David Bergman of Adorama shares 15 of these essentials in the video below.
If you’re an experienced filmmaker you might have your own list of weird supplies that you keep in your camera bag, but if you’re just starting out, Bergman’s list is a great place to start.