Austin Live Show 2017 (AKA Too Many Scotts)

John and Craig talk with uber-screenwriter Scott Frank (Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Minority Report, Logan) about how his feature script Godless ended up as a miniseries at Netflix.

We then invite more guests up to discuss what movies can learn from the success of TV:

  • Guinevere Turner (American Psycho, Go Fish)
  • Scott Alexander (Ed Wood, The People v. O.J. Simpson,)
  • Tess Morris (Man Up, “You Had Us At Hello” podcast)
  • Lindsay Doran (producer of Stranger Than Fiction, Sense and Sensibility)

In our final segment, we’re joined by a new batch of writers to play “The Studio Has Notes.”

  • Dana Fox (How to Be Single, Ben and Kate)
  • Megan Amram (The Good Place, The Simpsons)
  • Oren Uziel (22 Jump Street, Shimmer Lake)
  • Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman, Ice Age: Continental Drift)
  • Scott Rosenberg (High Fidelity, Beautiful Girls)

Can our lucky audience member pick out the one fake note among the five real ones? Can you?

Recorded live from the Driskill Ballroom at the 2017 Austin Film Festival.

Thanks to the Austin Film Festival for hosting us, and to a great audience. It’s one of our highlights each year.

Links:

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 11-6-17: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

johnaugust.com

Scriptnotes, Ep 323: Austin Live Show 2017 (AKA Too Many Scotts) — Transcript

The original post for this episode can be found here.

John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is the live show of Scriptnotes at Austin, 2017.

Craig: 2017. And I don’t know if any of you were at the show last year.

John: I was not.

Craig: And so you remember that. We’re also drunk again.

John: I’m not drunk.

Craig: I assume a number of you are also somewhat drunk again. Somewhat is the key. Now last year when we did the show, because John wasn’t here last year–

John: I was in Paris.

Craig: We had the benefit of my organizational skills. Which essentially amounted to nothing. We winged it. And it was great. John’s not a winger. So we have an actual agenda tonight.

John: There’s an agenda. This will be the largest Scriptnotes show. If you notice the chairs up here you might think, wow, are there going to be like seven guests?

Craig: No.

John: No.

Craig: No.

John: No. There will be a total of 13 writers on stage. We topped ourselves again.

Craig: I mean, look, you guys showed up. We’re going to deliver. That’s what we do.

John: So Craig, we’re in Austin, Texas, and one of the things I enjoy most about visiting Austin is I could be sweaty after a run and someone will be in the elevator and say like, “Hey, you’re John August.” I’m like, yeah, I’m a gross, sweaty John August. Thank you for saying hi. But I also love seeing so many Scriptnotes t-shirts.

Craig: So many.

John: In the wild. And some people have some deep cuts of Scriptnotes t-shirts. They’re back to like–

Craig: Old school.

John: The Camp Scriptnotes shirts, which didn’t sell a lot, but someone here has a Camp Scriptnotes shirt.

Craig: The originals. But we have some new ones coming out which, as you know, will accrue to my financial benefit not at all.

John: No, not at all.

Craig: But they will line John’s pockets. So you should definitely buy those.

John: So there’s one week left to buy Scriptnotes t-shirts. You can find the link either at johnaugust.com or just go to CottonBureau.com and we’re selling a bunch of shirts there. So there’s three different models. They’re great. There’s classic ones. There’s a Star Wars-ish one.

Craig: What’s the good one?

John: Is the Umbrage and Reason one. It’s really good. It sort of looks like Craig’s–

Craig: Kind of sort of obligatory, isn’t it?

John: So hopefully we’ll see some people wearing those next year. But we actually have something extra special for you tonight. Something that you cannot get anywhere else.

Craig: I don’t know what this is. I’m so excited.

John: Ha, see. Some organization. We’re going to be doing sort of a game show thing in our final segment tonight, and it’s always hard to pick how you’re going to find that special candidate. Do you remember at our 100th episode we picked a person? Do you remember how that person was chosen?

Craig: Maybe something under their seat?

John: Yeah, so I mean people could check under their seats. But that would be a mistake because it’s not underneath your seats.

Craig: But go ahead and do it. Just do it just to see, just to make sure. Nothing there.

John: At the homecoming show, remember how we picked the winner for that?

Craig: We had a homecoming show?

John: Yeah, two months ago. At the WGA Theater.

Craig: Oh, was that what that was called?

John: Yeah, that was called the Homecoming Show. He doesn’t listen to the show, so he doesn’t know.

Craig: No.

John: How did we pick the winner for that one? Do you remember?

Craig: There was a raffle ticket?

John: There was a raffle ticket, yeah.

Craig: OK, great.

John: So check your raffle ticket. No, there’s no raffle tickets. Instead, Craig, at the end of every episode we say for longer questions write in to ask@johnaugust.com, or for short things we’re on Twitter.

Craig: Right.

John: And you’re @clmazin. I’m @johnaugust. So if you would like to participate in our final segment thing, you need to tweet “Pick me” to @johnaugust. And the first person who tweets “Pick me” @johnaugust gets picked for this live show.

Craig: You mean right now?

John: Right now. Pull out your phones. Do this right now.

Craig: Do not tweet @clmazin. I will not look at it.

John: So in the third segment we’ll figure out who is first in my timeline and that person will be coming up to win something that no one else could possibly win. Now that everyone has tweeted, it’s time to get to the serious business of this podcast and bring up a writer who we’ve wanted to have on the show from maybe the first moment we recorded.

Craig: And who was it?

John: It was–

Craig: Scott Frank.

John: Walter Hill or somebody. No, it was Scott Frank.

Craig: Scott Frank.

John: Scott Frank, his credits – I could read them off the list, but you kind of all know them.

Craig: Let’s just say some of them, because they’re fun. There’s Dead Again.

John: Great movie.

Craig: You’ve seen Dead Again, right? Do you like Out of Sight? Do you like Minority Report?

John: Yeah, that’s good.

Craig: Do you hate dogs, so you like Marley & Me? All right.

John: I think I saw the name on a movie called Logan this last year. But you know he’s also directed. He directed a movie called The Lookout.

Craig: Loved Lookout.

John: He directed a movie called A Walk Among the Tombstones. But he also has a brand new show called Godless and we’re going to talk to him about all these things. Scott Frank, please come up here.

Craig: Come on up, Scott Frank.

John: How did you first get to know Craig Mazin? Oh you need a microphone, that helps.

Scott Frank: I met Craig in a gay bar.

Craig: I don’t know if it was a bar.

[laughs]

It was a club.

Scott Frank: It was a club.

John: Any place with dim lights and alcohol can be a bar.

Scott Frank: Craig, I lived in Pasadena for a very long time. And Craig lived in La Cañada, very close by.

Craig: Pasadena-adjacent.

Scott Frank: Pasadena-adjacent. Our offices were a block apart. And I think Craig invited me to a Writers Guild something. A meeting. And I remember thinking there were several representatives from the Writers Guild and a lot of writers from the San Gabriel Valley. And I remember thinking that guy is really smart.

Craig: Who was that guy?

Scott Frank: And then there was Craig.

John: The guy next to him was Craig Mazin.

Craig: Was that John Lee Hancock?

Scott Frank: That was John Lee Hancock. And we became instant friends ever since. Well, Craig became a friend with me. And then started stalking.

Craig: Years before that happened I, like all of you, went to go see Out of Sight, which was 1996?

Scott Frank: 1998.

Craig: ’98. Thank you. And so I was a screenwriter at the time in the sense that I was working as a screenwriter, but I really was just learning. And so when I went to go see Out of Sight I had the experience that I think a lot of screenwriters have when they watch Scott’s work on film which was just shame. General shame. But also a liberation because you can say, oh, well you know what, I don’t have to worry about fighting my way to the top of any heap, because there’s this guy at the top who will always just beat me back. So that’s actually quite freeing.

And I also remember thinking, because I saw it with Melissa, and I remember I said to her after, “There’s a movie where I really want to know the writer.” I mean, I appreciate what Steven Soderbergh did, it’s very, very cool, and I like the acting, but I want to know the writer. But, you know, how are you supposed to meet a writer? And this is in the nineties. There’s no real Internet connection. There’s no kind of this is going on.

And I just got lucky. I got lucky.

Scott Frank: You staged a fake WGA meeting. And I showed up at it.

Craig: Yeah, it was lucky, but it was also psychotic. I mean, it was a combination. Sometimes, maybe even more often than not, when you do meet your heroes you are devastated by how awful they are. And this was certainly no exception. But, over time, I came to see that there was great value in this man. Truly, he is a mentor. He is an angry dad to me. But he’s also a great dad to me. And a friend. And it’s just been the greatest thing. The greatest thing to know you.

Scott Frank: Aw.

John: Aw. So nice. So, Scott, I got to know your work as a screenwriter, and I think I first met you up at the Sundance Filmmakers Lab. And so you were one of the gracious hosts of the Sundance Filmmakers Lab. And you brought me up there and I was terrified and you were very nice and very generous. But I always basically thought of you as you’re the guy who can sort of write any movie. Like basically you’re the guy who they come to when they need a big thing done, whether it’s an original movie or to fix a lot of movies.

And so when you went off to do, now you’ve directed movies, which is awesome, but now you’re off doing a television program. Why? What’s changed? And what was the decision to like now is the time to go off and do Godless?

Scott Frank: Well Godless began life as a movie. In 2004 I’d written it. And for some reason most of the things I write seem to take quite a while to get made, and this one was no exception. And I’d written it in 2004 and my agent said to me before I wrote it, she said, “You know, no one anywhere is buying a Western.” And she said, “I’m worried you’re going to spend a lot of time writing the script and no one is going to be interested. Westerns don’t do well in the United States. They don’t travel well overseas. You know, Westerns are now Tom Selleck on TNT. It’s not movies.”

And so I said I have to write this script. I love this script. I’m going to do it. And I spent two years writing it, and she was right. No one wanted to buy it.

John: So even though it was you, even though you had a terrific reputation, because it wasn’t based on anything else, because there wasn’t another filmmaker, because it was a Western. Because essentially the genre you think there was no appetite for making—

Scott Frank: There’s no appetite.

Craig: I mean, wasn’t it briefly at Sony? Am I crazy?

Scott Frank: It almost got made several times. And I didn’t write it initially for me to direct. And I’d written it for Steven to direct. And Steven said, “Wow, I think this is the best script you’ve ever written. I fucking hate horses.” And I said, “But besides that, maybe you could do this.” And he said, “I really – I don’t know how to shoot them. I hear they’re really difficult. And I don’t want to do it.”

And I said, “You know, Clint Eastwood was allergic to horses. And he still – he did it.” And for some reason that didn’t help. And so then Sam Mendes was going to direct it. And we had a whole cast. And it was very expensive. Sam–

John: I’ve been there.

Scott Frank: Sam cut his fee to $ 10 million.

Craig: Oh. That’s super generous.

Scott Frank: Yes. And his then wife, Kate Winslet, who was going to be in it, cut her fee to $ 10 million.

Craig: Well these people are almost saint-like.

Scott Frank: Yes. Isn’t it awesome? And for some reason he didn’t understand why we couldn’t get the budget down to what it needed to be in order to get made. And various people flirted with it and were in and out of it after that. And then I made The Lookout. And then I said, “Hey, I’m going to direct it,” which made it even harder to get made.

Craig: Yes. So you said, “I’m going to direct it,” and Hollywood responded with a—

Scott Frank: Collective nothing.

Craig: Nothing. They just simply did not hear you say that.

Scott Frank: They said, “Who?” Yes. Nothing. So because The Lookout was such a giant hit.

Craig: Huge.

Scott Frank: Huge.

Craig: Massive.

Scott Frank: I think the people in this row, including the empty chairs, were the total people who saw it in the theater.

Craig: It made tens of dollars.

Scott Frank: It made tens of dollars. Thank you very much. So I went out and we tried to get it set up that way. And it was almost made. To be honest, we almost made it at Warner Bros. We almost made it a few places. But it couldn’t happen.

And then one day Steven Soderbergh said to me, because I kept him on as a producer, and he said to me, “Why don’t you do it yourself as a mini-series?” Because he had just done a couple of seasons on The Knick. And he said, “You should do this.” And he said, “Television is telling far more serious stories than movies are. And I think you should give it a try. And you should bring it to HBO. I’m very close with them at HBO.” He had done Liberace and The Knick and so on. Was doing his project Mosaic there at the time.

And so I had a meeting with HBO in NYC where I live now. And the meeting went – it was interesting because the head of HBO miniseries says to me, “Well what have you directed?” And I said–

Craig: We have the Internet. You just have to Wiki it.

Scott Frank: And so I told him what I had directed, and then he proceeded to tell me a long story about how they had just shut down a Western they were making, Lewis and Clark. And how–

Craig: So far so good.

Scott Frank: And how they had to fire the director. And so I took that as a not so subtle message as you’re concerned about me directing this movie, aren’t you, this miniseries? And for some reason, I’m helping, I’m consulting on a TV show at Netflix called A Series of Unfortunate Events. And two things happened while I was there. One, out of nowhere, HBO says we’d like to meet with you about Godless. And I said, “With me directing it, right?”

And they said “Yes.” And I met with somebody else, with the then head of HBO, who said we want to make this. We don’t care who is in it. We’d like to do a Western. We think there’s a big appetite for Westerns on television. And we’d really like to do this as a miniseries. And I said, “Great.”

And at the same time, the people at Netflix I’m working for, the head of their dramatic programming says to me, “I hear you wrote a Western.” All in the same day.

Craig: This is how it happens.

Scott Frank: This is after 14 fucking years.

Craig: You guys are wondering like how to succeed in Hollywood. You just have to have that day.

Scott Frank: That day. All you need was that Wednesday. And so I said, “Yes, I wrote a Western,” and she said, “Well, will you send it to me?” And I said, “Sure, I’ll send it to you.”

And less than 12 hours later I get two things. I get an offer from HBO that reneges on every single promise that they made. Basically, we’ll develop the six scripts with you and then we’ll see what casting we can get. And then we’ll decide and we’ll see if you as a director can attract anybody. And this is what we’ll pay you, and so on and so forth.

Netflix, also known as the de Medici family, sends me – they say – Cindy Holland, who is head of their dramatic, just sends me an email saying, “We’re going to make this next year at this time.” I hadn’t even expanded it into a miniseries. “We’re going to just do it. It’s going to be our first in-house miniseries.”

I then got an offer that was 12 times what the other offer was, promising everything, and we don’t care who is in it. Cast it with the best people you want. And so on and so forth.

Craig: So now you’ve got a dilemma.

Scott Frank: It’s tough.

Craig: What do you do?

John: It is tough. Your thought process is like, “Do I take the terrible deal for the people who are mean to me?”

Craig: Right. Don’t like me.

Scott Frank: It was a long, long, long, long minute.

Craig: Meanwhile, I’m the idiot that is writing a miniseries for HBO.

John: How is the HBO series going?

Scott Frank: How’s that going, Craig?

Craig: I thought it was going really well.

Scott Frank: All the people, or a couple of the people are no longer there. So it’s different for you, Craig. Anyway, we made the show at Netflix and they were tremendous. And it was the right thing to do as a miniseries, because in expanding it I realized that it was already too long as a movie, anyway. In fact, the screenplay makes up 3.5 of the episodes.

Craig: Well, you know, tomorrow if you have a chance in the afternoon, I’m going to be doing a little one-on-one with Scott where we’re going to walk through his process and you’re going to learn if you show up – and you’re smart to show up – to learn from him.

One thing that’s always been very freeing to me is knowing that every first draft you’ve ever written in, in this case with Godless the final draft that you’ve written of a feature, you said like – I think you said I’ve never submitted a first draft that was under 150 pages? Something like that? Right.

Scott Frank: He had to look at Lindsay, but yes.

Craig: Yes, Lindsay is like, yes, that was my problem that I had all the time.

Scott Frank: The shooting script for Get Shorty, which is a 97-minute movie, was 135 pages long.

John: Yikes.

Craig: I forgot about Get Shorty.

Scott Frank: The shooting script for Minority Report was 180 pages long. Cheated into 165 pages.

Craig: By the way, don’t bother cheating 180 into 165.

Scott Frank: Once you’re above 160. Out of Sight was 130. Most of them are around 135 pages.

Craig: Do you see what we mean when we talk about the stupidity of the rules all the time. And the conventional wisdom that gets put on you guys all the time. And here is arguably the most successful screenwriter working today and he never follows that rule ever. And never, ever did.

Scott Frank: Well, first of all you have to tell me. Is there a rule?

Craig: There is. There is. “Never write anything more than 120. Really it should be 107.”

John: Yeah, it should be 107. We are going to get into some feature rules right now. And I want to bring up some other feature folks to talk about features. Because like you had a great experience in television it sounds like, but you’ve done a couple features.

Scott Frank: One or two.

John: So let’s talk about that. I want to bring up some more amazing folks. I want to bring up Guinevere Turner. She’s the writer of American Psycho, The Notorious Bettie Page, and Go Fish. Scott Alexander wrote Ed Wood, The People vs. OJ Simpson, The People vs. Larry Flint. People vs. Everything. Man on the Moon. And Big Eyes. Scott Alexander.

Tess Morris wrote Man Up, but she also hosts a podcast you should listen to called “You Had Us At Hello.” The legend, Lindsay Doran, producer of Stranger than Fiction, Sense and Sensibility, Nanny McPhee, Dead Again, The Firm. Lindsay Doran.

Why I sort of wanted you guys all up here on the stage with us is to talk through a thing I’ve noticed, and you talking about doing Godless and sort of moving from doing a feature to doing a television show, I see so much amazing stuff happening in the one-hour space. And we just make these amazing shows. Have any of the lessons or the opportunities we’ve seen in one-hours and you’ve done some amazing television stuff, too. Are those translating back to features? Can we make better features based on how good we’ve gotten in our one-hours?

And I also wonder whether there’s any things we can learn structurally about what we’re able to do now in television that could help us make better dramatic features? Scott, talk to us about—

Craig: He looks super optimistic.

John: Because he seems so confused, I’m going to start with you. When you went on to do People vs. OJ Simpson did you have to learn a fundamentally different aspect of telling a story over multiple episodes?

Scott Alexander: Yeah. But that wasn’t your first question.

John: I know. But we’re going to get back to my first question.

Craig: Don’t question John August. Just answer his questions.

Scott Alexander: We went into OJ thinking we were writing a ten-hour movie. And we were thinking of it as episodes one, two, three are kind of the first act, and four, fix, six, seven are kind of the middle, second act. And then the rest is the third act. And then someone had to explain to us, it’s like, “Guys, no, you’re making ten one-hour movies. And each one needs to have a beginning, middle, and end, and needs to carry you into the next episode.”

And we said, “Oh.” And then we came up with this idea which was that every hour would have a high concept theme to it, which I don’t know if that’s how other TV writers work, but it was this thing we sort of stumbled onto, which was, “OK, this week is the Bronco. This week is Marcia and gender politics. This week is the jury.”

And so sort of like gave a talking point to every week’s episode. OJ was a – it was a great writing experience. I mean, we spent three years sort of being in charge of ten hours, which was a long time. It honestly broke us when we went back to features because after doing OJ our next job was to do the Patty Hearst kidnapping, also based on a Jeff Toobin book. And we just had no idea how to fit a story into a two-hour format anymore, or 2.5 hour, or even a three-hour format. And we left out half the book. And we still brought in a first draft at 207 pages.

Craig: That’s even long for Scott Frank.

Scott Frank: I’ve never broken 200. 199.

Scott Alexander: Oh, I once wrote a script that was 291 pages. A feature.

Craig: Why would you?

John: But why?

Craig: What failure of planning occurred there?

Scott Alexander: It was a biopic of the Marx Brothers who I love dearly, and we worked so hard on it. And what a waste. Years of my life.

Guinevere Turner: I love this page count shaming that’s happening.

Craig: Well, I mean, you’re asking people to see a movie about the Marx Brothers. It’s the length of the Shoah or whatever.

Scott Alexander: Brilliant Alexander plan.

Craig: Sorrow and pity. I mean, it’s insane.

Scott Frank: He’s got the biggest page count.

Lindsay Doran: I worked on something like that once. And the writer – and I said, “I can’t hand this in.” And she said, “Just tell them that all they have to do is read 120 pages, and if they don’t like it, they don’t have to read the rest.”

Scott Alexander: I don’t want to come off as obnoxious. But that’s an internal draft. Our sort of rule of thumb has been once it goes into the buyer, meaning the studio, it has to be under 150. So that’s a rule we’ve always tried to live by.

Craig: 150 is not admirable. That’s not a thing.

John: OK, Lindsay Doran, you ran a studio. You ran United Artists. And so—

Lindsay: You’re going to tell all these people that?

John: Well, you don’t have to do it right now.

Craig: It’s her fault.

Scott Frank: She made West Side Story.

John: Yeah. Let’s say, no, so let’s say you had a new studio. Do you think that the changes that have happened in one hours would be informing some of the choices you’re making as a studio head? Either the projects you’re doing or how you think the storytelling can happen on the page. Do you think there’s a change in what screenwriters can do based on what TV writers have been able to do in the last ten years?

Lindsay: Rightly or wrongly, I feel as though there’s been a shift from “never be boring” to “always be exciting.” Somebody I know who made a movie for Netflix said that he got one note the whole time which was, “Make sure something amazing happens in the first five minutes. That’s all we ask of you.” Does anything amazing happen in your first five minutes, Scott?

Tess Morris: First 150 pages.

Scott Frank: Yes.

Lindsay: So, I think there is a sense, whether it’s true or not—

Scott Frank: But wait, isn’t that just good writing?

Lindsay: Well, yeah, I would think so. But that idea of the slow build, you know, I wonder if you could write a fantastically elaborate, interesting first scene and it would be enough. Even if it was great. I wonder if people are going to say, “But wait, I want something really exciting to happen.” And you go, well how about this really exciting writing. And it’s like, “Well, yeah, but nobody gets killed and nobody gets betrayed and nobody gets pushed under a bus…”

Guinevere: But in and around this conversation is actually as writers how we now think, because we know that we may say, “Here’s my idea,” and someone will say, “Is that a back door pilot? Is that a series? Is that a feature?” That’s just a feature. And how features may or may not be devalued/haloed as this new rarified form. And/or how does that have legs in season five? And so it’s actually changed our brains and the way that we think about our own narratives. And this whole idea of legs and seasons—

Craig: It’s flipped things around, right?

Guinevere: I mean, is it good? Is it bad? It’s definitely stretched our muscles and made us think in different ways.

Tess: But if you think – I had a show that was a film idea originally, that then we turned into a six-part thing. But actually weirdly the structure of it still made sense because it was a romantic comedy, so we still had a very clear end point to everything that was happening. Like Catastrophe does it really well. I mean, really you could watch each series of Catastrophe as a very long romantic comedy movie. So it’s just our brains that have to change. I don’t think the audiences have to, maybe not.

Scott Frank: You’re not from around here, are you?

Tess: I’m not, Scott. No. I’m new in town.

Scott Frank: Yes you are.

Lindsay: From East Texas.

Scott Frank: Houston.

Scott Alexander: John, I think you’re asking a hopeful question with a bad answer.

John: The best kind, yeah.

Scott Alexander: Because as we all know, the mid-budget film, the mid-budget drama/dramedy that we all grew up on and love has been in trouble for years. I would think that the success of all the long form television has just made it harder because it sort of taught people that audiences will invest in that long term storytelling. They want to hang out with those characters for a period of time. And why would you want to invest $ 40 million to only hang out with them for an hour and fifty minutes.

Guinevere: But I would have watched The Breakfast Club for five seasons when I was a teenager.

Tess: Oh my god, yeah. Imagine Pretty in Pink every week. That would be amazing.

Craig: Well, but the point is you actually wouldn’t have to. If it happened now, that’s what it would be. Because they would not make The Breakfast Club as a feature. It wouldn’t make economic sense. They would simply say this could be so much better if we made six of these, or we made a season of different people in detention every season, because that’s—

Guinevere: Oh my god. I already love it. I totally want to make that.

John: I would argue that we actually are already doing sort of the giant version of this, is the Marvel movies, which are essentially a giant TV show—

Tess: They’re not like The Breakfast Club.

John: They’re not like The Breakfast Club. No they’re not.

Craig: But he’s not wrong. Because they are soap operas.

Tess: No, I know. They are.

Craig: And, look, the problem is that what’s happened now is in movie theaters we now have created the space for spectacle. So Marvel movies get away with soap opera because they’re spectacle soap opera. Soap opera soap opera really now is just for TV. But the viewing audience, one thing that we know because we are – even though we write, we are also viewing constantly – we know that watching things at home is so much more comfortable. We only watch what we want to. We don’t feel trapped. We certainly haven’t paid for the experience per that moment.

Tess: I do like the idea of Emilio Estevez like ripping his shirt off and it being Captain America underneath it, you know, that scene in Breakfast Club. You know, and actually it would be like a Marvel character underneath it.

Craig: You should go pitch that.

Tess: I’m not going to do that, Craig, but OK.

John: Well, Tess, I want to get back – your podcast is essentially about romantic comedies.

Tess: It’s very niche.

John: It’s very niche. So if you enjoy romantic comedies, or even if you’re just confused by romantic comedies, listen to her podcast. They really do break it down and talk about that as a form.

Tess: Very niche.

John: As a genre. But essentially romantic comedies have been usurped by series television, like we’re not making very many of them. Like you were able to make one, but very few of them are getting made. Is there anything that you see happening in television, from like Catastrophe, from anything else, that could get us back to a feature place of romantic comedies?

Tess: Netflix and chill is our last hope, I feel.

Craig: That means sex, right?

Tess: Yeah. But why is not like Hulu and hang?

Craig: Hulu is not sexy.

Tess: Hulu is sexy.

Craig: Oh, it is?

Tess: There’s sexy things, maybe not as—

Craig: I don’t know what sexy is. Everybody knows that.

John: I think I know why she thinks Hulu is sexy suddenly, but I’m not allowed to say.

Tess: All I know is that all the carbs I ate have kicked in suddenly and I feel quite slow.

Craig: You mean alcohol.

Tess: I think when we made the film that I wrote, Man Up, we released it in the cinemas and knowing what we know now we would not release it in the cinema again. We had a very small release here and we had a bigger one in the UK. But we would definitely now, like the next film that I’ve written for the same company we will probably take it straight to somewhere like Netflix.

Because you’re all fucking idiots, but people don’t go to the movies to see romantic comedies anymore.

Craig: You’re welcome.

Tess: And I don’t either.

Scott Frank: Thanks for coming to our country.

Tess: You’re welcome.

Craig: Still this lingering resentment about the Revolution.

Tess: I’ll stop when I swear first. Someone had to swear. But, no, I think that – I do actually believe that there is the event, like The Big Sick did incredibly well and it’s a great little movie – big movie. But that was packaged brilliantly and sold perfectly. And also was a really modern take on the genre. And was about something that is important right now. So, I think that is the way, if you’re going to get people in the cinema, you have to try and think bigger now.

Yes, Scott Frank, what would you like to ask me?

Scott Frank: Well, you can’t make a slate out of The Big Sick, which was a great movie, but—

Tess: No, but you could make a nice six-part recurring series about it. They could get divorced in the second one.

Scott Frank: But speaking about movies for a second, even if you make a movie – a drama – for $ 25 million at a movie studio, they’re still going to spend $ 30 million to sell it. So it’s still a $ 50 million proposition. And everybody was talking about Logan Lucky only making $ 10 million because he did this experimental thing and, you know, that was a failure. It actually is about what it would have made if it were at a studio. It was a $ 25 million movie. If they were at a studio they were all going to spend $ 35 million to market it with that cast. And they would have, you know, maybe they would have gotten more people in the movie theater, maybe not, but ultimately after you take away all the profits for the studio, they $ 10 million or $ 12 million that everybody who made the movie has to split, it wouldn’t be there anymore.

And if you think about who is going to movies right now, which is – thinking about – which is everything. It’s kids who are 13, 14, experiencing their first independence. That’s who supports most of the movies. You go to any mall on a weekend night and look who is there. Or it’s families taking their kids to see family movies. It’s not a lot of other adult or serious movies.

There’s certainly anomalous things we can all point to, but it doesn’t make economic sense if you’re a studio not to take the big swings.

Craig: Right. But we do have this – I mean, there’s some good news here, believe it or not.

Tess: Well, tell me the good news.

Craig: The good news is—

Lindsay: Craig Mazin, bearer of good news.

Craig: It doesn’t happen frequently, so listen up.

Lindsay: I know. I’m all agog.

Craig: You guys have a freedom that we did not have. So, I certainly didn’t, and I know Scott you couldn’t have had, and John you didn’t. When we started it was you write a movie, this is what a movie is. Or, you write a show which is on this network and that’s what that is. And it has the commercial breaks in it, see.

That’s it. You guys can write anything. It can be any amount of time. It can be any amount of episodes. It can be one long thing. Five little short things. Even amongst themselves, like so Dan and Dave who do Game of Thrones, the first season of Game of Thrones which is now, what, eight or nine years ago at this point I think, the first season they did all their shows, they shot them all, they edited the whole season together and then HBO came back and said, “You’re short. These episodes are too short. They need to be 55 minutes and blah-blah-blah seconds. And you’re short.”

So they had to go back and shoot some extra stuff to pad them out. Now, no one cares. They have episodes that are 48 minutes long. They have episodes that are 79 minutes long. You guys have a freedom we did not have. And that’s exceptional.

Tess: But just to finish my rom-com rant, though, is that the only issue, if anyone writes romantic comedy here, is that you really know the ending to most rom-coms and that is the fundamental issue with turning it into – with making it doable for TV. Is that you have to find ways to make people break up and make up many more times than you do in a film sort of structure. So that’s the only sort of problem with the rom-com.

Craig: So good news for everybody except the rom-com writers.

John: Guinevere, I want to ask about, so you’re doing a movie with Mary right now, Mary Harron, based on the Manson girls. And it feels – you’re doing it as a feature, but it feels like it could very easily be Netflix, it could be HBO, it could be some sort of television thing. Why a feature and why not a television thing?

Guinevere: So it’s a story about the women who killed for Charles Manson. Three of them went to prison. And to me it’s about this very specific point in their history, which is after the orgies and the sex and the cameras and the trial. And this real moment of time, five years where they spent – the three of them – in isolation in prison. And that, to me, only – that story needs to be told in that way.

John: So it’s sort of a one-time journey. It doesn’t want to sort of stretch out over longer things.

Guinevere: I mean, you could go second season, they get into the general population which is where my movie ends, but to me it’s a little bit corrupt, because I’m really talking about the mindset of these people and it has more to do with the moment in history and where women were and where prison was and where the media was with this story than the far-reaching things. So, I mean, if somebody came to me right now and said “We want to make six seasons of post-Manson, the ladies, how the ladies lived,” I don’t know. That’s the wheelhouse I lived in.

Scott Frank: That’s a romantic comedy.

John: That’s a good one.

Craig: I have a squeaky [unintelligible] romantic comedy would be something to behold.

John: Fantastic.

Scott Alexander: I’m so in.

John: Let me get a roundtable room going. So that’s one of the last things I want to talk about is there has been this move in features to sort of bring together rooms to sort of break features. And that’s a thing that we’re also taking from television where like, well, we have this piece of intellectual property. We have – we always say Slinky – but what does the Slinky movie want to be. They’ve done this with other big videogames. And they’ll put together a room-

Tess: Sorry, a Slinky?

John: A Slinky. A toy.

Craig: It’s a large coil that—

John: Yeah, that walks down stairs.

Craig: In Britain I believe it’s called the Coily or the—

Scott Frank: There really is a Slinky movie?

Craig: Stair Walker.

Scott Frank: I got to catch up. 120 pages.

John: A general take on feature writing rooms. Because I’ve never done one. I’ve done roundtables, and I think a lot of us have done roundtables, but this idea where we’re breaking the whole – we’re figuring out from the genesis of what this movie is as a team, as a group.

Craig: I wonder, what do you think about this phenomenon? You’ve been watching this happening, right?

Lindsay: Well, I actually just went to my first roundtable. I’d never been to one before this month, I think it was. So it is this odd thing. In family movies I do see it a lot, because I work on those a lot.

Guinevere: I’m sorry, because I’ve never been to a roundtable. Can anyone and all of you just tell us what does it look like?

Craig: Well, there’s two different things we’re talking about here. One is a roundtable which Lindsay is mentioning where a movie is about to go into production, or a movie has been shot and they’re contemplating reshoots, and they will have six or seven writers sit around and just discuss.

Tess: And eat.

Craig: And eat.

Lindsay: That had nothing to do with the roundtable that I went to, but that’s OK.

Craig: OK, so you had a different roundtable. So then there’s this other thing which is “We are contemplating making a movie. Let’s get a bunch of writers together to talk about what this movie should be.” That is the thing that is horrifying to me.

John: Yeah, so it’s more like breaking a season of television, but you’re breaking a feature out of it. Or sometimes you’re breaking three features and a TV series. So sometimes they’re month-long rooms. It’s such a very different way of working that we’re just not used to.

Scott Alexander: I mean, I’ll say I’ve never done either, ever. I think it’s the end of the world.

Guinevere: Anyway, back to Lindsay, please, because I’m so curious what you have to say.

Lindsay: No, I think it was very confusing. Really, I found it – it was like where is the person in this room with conviction. Because the whole point was to not have conviction.

Tess: I think it’s different in a comedy.

Scott Frank: The roundtable to me is so distressing conceptually because somebody – whoever that poor writer was – wrote a script and put thought into it. And then a bunch of people are just going to sit around for eight hours and get paid a daily rate and just block out lines—

Craig: Well, to be fair, most of the times when I do it—

Scott Frank: I wasn’t looking at you.

Craig: I know. I’m just telling you because you don’t do them.

Scott Frank: I was looking at Lindsay.

Craig: Don’t you dare. Usually the writer is there. So, you know, I did one for the Pirates of the Caribbean, what are they up to?

John: 19?

Tess: 40?

Craig: 70. All right. Pirates of the Caribbean, 70.

Scott Frank: That was the good one.

Craig: But Jeff Nathanson was there. He is the writer and he was there. And we just sort of – really what it came down to was, in some of these cases, the roundtables that are post-facto roundtables are kind of like writers are doing what maybe the development executives used to be able to do but don’t. So we’re just sort of saying, “Well what about – here’s some questions of things that maybe you can think about or help.”

But this other thing that’s happening which is develop a movie together. Dana and I – why isn’t Dana up here? I don’t understand.

John: She’s up in the next segment.

Craig: OK. So, anyway, the person that I will not mention is up in the next segment, were asked to do a roundtable at Disney to create a new story for a new movie. And the two of us freaked the F out. Because that to me is what you’re talking about. There’s no authority. There’s no voice. There’s no author. There’s no vision. There’s just a bunch of people now cobbling together a movie. Forget the economics of it, which are disastrous for writers. I just think creatively it’s – that I agree with you. End of times.

Scott Alexander: How does that get arbitrated?

Craig: I don’t know.

John: Horribly. Horribly.

Tess: That’s a whole other podcast.

Scott Alexander: How do they even? What do they even do?

Craig: I don’t know.

Tess: Don’t even ask that question.

John: It’s a genuine mess.

Craig: I legitimately don’t know.

John: So, as we wrap it up, I’ll say that in television where they have writer’s rooms, everyone is also a producer, so you have a credit because you’re a producer. There’s some other way that you’re acknowledged. And so when you’re running your shows, there’s a system, there’s a structure for that.

Craig: For multiple episodes. So somebody is going to get a credit sooner or later.

John: That doesn’t exist in features. And if this trend continues we’re going to have to figure out something, because it’s going to be weird. And all you guys will be in there, because we’ll all be retired by then.

We need to get to our next segment. This was an amazing discussion. Guys, thank you very much.

Craig: Thank you.

John: You can head down. We’ll bring up the next folks.

Craig: Fresh writers. More grist for the mill. Never stops.

John: A new thing to try.

Craig: Oh, we got a new thing. Oh, here we go. You guys know this was John’s idea, because I don’t have any.

John: It should be good. We’ll see. To do this, we need some new writers up here. We’re going to start with Dana Fox.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Dana Fox. Dana Fox is the writer of What Happens in Vegas, Couples Retreat, How to Be Single. She was the creator and showrunner of Ben and Kate. She’s directed New Girl. She’s awesome.

Craig: Stop apologizing. Just own your genius.

John: And a bunch of other movies.

Dana Fox: I’m not up here with Scott Frank.

Craig: None of us are.

John: And she’s a repeat Scriptnotes guest.

Dana: I love it.

Craig: One of our favorite Scriptnotes people.

Dana: Anytime you ask me I say yes.

John: Another repeat Scriptnotes guest, Megan Amram.

Craig: Megan Amram. Literally just noticed your shirt by the way. That’s the greatest shirt ever.

Dana: We’re wearing message shirts.

Craig: So Dana’s shirt says “Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda.” I did.

John: Yeah, we did.

Craig: Megan’s says “Zero million followers.”

Megan Amram: MY friend, Mo Welch, makes these shirts. They’re great. If you have less than a million followers, I highly recommend it.

Craig: Nobody here, that doesn’t apply to anybody.

John: So when we introduced you on the last live show, you were the writer-producer The Good Place, Transparent, Silicon Valley, Parks and Recreation. You’re the author of Science for Her. But now you’re also a writer on The Simpsons.

Megan: Yeah, it’s a pretty weird coincidence that I appeared with our friend Matt Selman on the show last time, who happens to show-run The Simpsons. And then I got a job really soon after that.

John: So I think the key here is if you want to get staffed on a show, be on an episode of Scriptnotes with the showrunner. That’s how you do it.

Megan: I owe John and – what’s your name?

Craig: I’m your cousin.

Megan: Oh, that’s, OK, Craig. I owe you both my life. So, I don’t know what you want to do with this segment.

Craig: I don’t think you need to go that far, but you owe us quite a bit. Quite a bit.

John: Our next writer, I’ve never pronounced your last name, so I’m going to try. Oren Uziel. Yes? Oren Uziel, writer of 22 Jump Street, Freaks of Nature, The God Particle. Oren, who I know mostly through roundtables. That’s how I’ve actually gotten to know you.

Oren Uziel: Yeah, I’m sorry.

John: No, it’s awesome. Jason Fuchs is here, though.

Craig: Fuchsy.

John: A writer whose credits include Wonder Woman, Ice Age: Continental Drift, and Pan.

Craig: And also…if you saw La La Land and you remember that douchebag screenwriter who talked about being really good at building worlds: Jason Fuchs.

Jason Fuchs: Sorry.

John: So this is the part of the show where we need to bring up the Twitter person who tweeted first. So, this could be you. This is somebody in the room. And so I’m going to go to my Twitter here.

Craig: Hey, Scott Rosenberg!

John: Scott Rosenberg is here. Come on up here.

Craig: What a weird attention grabbing—

Scott Rosenberg: Someone needed a beer. Apologize. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

John: Scott, don’t read this yet, but you’ll read it eventually.

Craig: Super attention-grabby. Super like look at me, I’m Scott Rosenberg.

Dana: He’s going to get a haircut during this podcast.

Craig: Some people have it. Some people don’t. He’s got it. He’s got it.

John: So the first person to tweet at me was John the Wizard. Where is John the Wizard?

Craig: John the Wizard.

John: Oh, holy shit. All right.

Dana: John the Wizard. John the Wizard.

John: Will you take that microphone there? This is the game show we are going to be playing here. So, all of us up on this stage have received at certain times notes from the studio. And five of these things we’re going to read aloud are actual notes that I received from the studio on my projects. The only, I promise to God, the only things I’ve changed are sometimes identifying character names. But everything you’re about to hear, except for one of them, is true.

Your job is going to be to identify which of these was not the true thing. What is so crazy is you are the person who came up to me and asked if I could sign your Writer Emergency Pack, is that correct?

John the Wizard: Yes. That’s correct.

John: The gift you’re going to get out of this, which is nuts—

Craig: Oh no.

John: Is the dark mode deck of the Writer Emergency Pack. The exclusive black edition of the Writer Emergency Pack, which no one has, and that was never sold.

Craig: You should be good at this, because you are a wizard, so let’s see.

John the Wizard: I mean, that’s referencing my D&D.

John: Craig, start us off.

Craig: Here’s the first one. I assume he’s going to listen to them all and then make your judgment.

John: And we may discuss a bit.

Craig: We may discuss a bit.

Scott Rosenberg: Can we just go back to the pros and cons of writers’ rooms? Because I’m totally confused.

Craig: This is not about you.

Scott Rosenberg: I keep staring at this thing over and over again. I don’t know what the fuck it means. I don’t know who Madden is.

Dana: No, don’t give it away.

Scott Rosenberg: Where’s Scott Frank?

Craig: Scott Rosenberg, you can’t just Scott Rosenberg all over this.

Scott Rosenberg: All right. Carry on.

John: Craig Mazin, read a note.

Craig: Can you believe this guy?

John: No, I can’t. I honestly can’t.

Jason: Do you want to switch with me?

Craig: God. Wasn’t enough that like—?

Scott Rosenberg: You’re not going to like that one more.

Craig: God, Scott Rosenberg. Not handsome enough. Not tall enough. Jesus Christ. OK, here we go. “The inherent fantasy fulfillment, especially for kids, makes this something we believe audiences will embrace and thoroughly enjoy. That said, the tone of the picture needs to be much edgier.” Possibly real. Possibly not.

John: Dana, go for it.

Dana: OK. “We like the pivot away from the misdirect and towards embracing Johnson’s role as a villain from the outset. But, as we move forward we’d like to make sure that we don’t lose his complexity and shift too far into his evil persona that it feels cartoonish.”

Craig: Ooh, so many clauses in that.

Megan: Word salad. Word salad.

Dana: It was really hard to read.

Craig: Multiple clause note.

John: Megan Amram, perform for us.

Jason: This is not good. This is not good at all.

Megan: “Can we discuss whether Mark and Kristen need to die? We don’t feel like the characters have earned the terrible things that befall them.”

Scott Rosenberg: That’s totally real.

Dana: The terrible things including death.

Craig: Right. Right.

Megan: One of the worst.

Craig: Things with an S. Right.

John: Oren?

Oren: All right, “We appreciate the early look and understand and respect that the creative process is still in motion and that there are outstanding notes the producers want to make before the draft we read is considered official.”

Craig: Wow, that’s just fucking sinister.

Dana: That’s too real.

Scott Rosenberg: That’s just they don’t want to pay for delivery yet. Right?

Dana: I’m just so surprised they actually put that on paper. That seems illegal.

Craig: That’s like fraud, right? It’s amazing.

John: All right, Jason.

Jason: “We would like to clarify and simplify the rules of time travel.” Sure. Sure. By the way, we’re halfway in, so far not a bad note. “Could Madden explain that only certain actions disrupt the time stream?”

Scott Rosenberg: See, that’s the one that I kept looking at over and he switched with me. I couldn’t understand it. What’s the time stream?

Megan: Yeah, that’s why you have to clarify the rules.

Dana: That’s why they have to clarify the rules.

Jason: According to the note. That’s what we’re doing.

Craig: I know this is crazy, when you walk in the middle of something to not understand it.

Jason: This is why you don’t get the bit.

Scott Rosenberg: I’m sorry, I’m a screenwriter. I thought we were talking about screenwriting stuff. This is why they’ve never invited me on whatever that thing is they have. That podcast. Never ever, by the way. 42 movies I’ve made. Never. Never once. Never had a dinner.

Craig: You’re that guy now? You’re the 42 movies made?

Scott Rosenberg: Not once. Never. Never.

Craig: 42 movies I made.

Scott Rosenberg: Koppelman, he knew me a minute, put me right on. “What are the aliens waiting for? Is it simply that it’s taken this long for them to amass a big enough force to try to take over Earth again? Or, is there a more specific “why now” reason that the alien invasion is finally happening again?”

John: Wow, that’s a lot.

Scott Rosenberg: I mean, duh.

John: I think we may need to read through them again. But general themes. Do they seem familiar? Have you encountered these notes before? I saw some nodding.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, my note I could summarize as make it nice but make it not nice. It’s just like these inherent contradictions, right? And yours seemed—

Dana: I truly had no idea what was happening with mine.

Craig: Basically yours was the same thing, like make him a villain but don’t make him too villainy.

Megan: Yeah. I had summarized this as do Mark and Kristen have to die. A pretty, you know, universal question you should ask yourself. I mean, everyone’s got a Mark, everyone’s got a Kristen. And you just have to think to yourself, did they earn the terrible things that befall them? So.

Oren: Mine is basically we enjoyed reading your script. Do we still have to pay you for it?

Dana: That one was the most familiar for me.

Craig: Familiar note.

John: Jason, back to yours.

Jason: Yeah. Mine is we paid you to write a script about time travel. Can you figure that out? No. Doesn’t make any sense.

Scott Rosenberg: I’m going to be super controversial. I’ve gotten the stupidest fucking notes in the world my entire career, and I’ve never once been less than grateful to be a person getting stupid fucking notes.

Dana: Shut up.

Scott Rosenberg: It’s just a fact. Honestly. And I’m the last guy to have any gravitas in this whole room. But honestly, like you take them, and they’re ridiculous, and they’re absurd.

Dana: Are you from Canada?

Scott Rosenberg: And I am from Canada.

Dana: Honestly.

Scott Rosenberg: By way of Boston. But, no, seriously, I remember the stupidest note I’ve ever gotten in my whole life was I wrote this crazy psychotic character and they were like, “We just found he was so irrational.” And I was like “Because he’s psychotic.” And they were like, “Well couldn’t his irrational psychosis just be a little bit more rational?” And I was like, “Wow, you are insane.” By the way, she is not in the business anymore that executive. But I just remember thinking like as I drove home thinking like how am I going to tackle this.

I was like, goddamn, god bless me that she’s actually paying me to do this and I actually – I’m sorry to like rain on the fun of the gag.

Craig: You should be.

Scott Rosenberg: But seriously, that’s my thing. Madden, where’s Madden?

Jason: You want Madden back?

Scott Rosenberg: But seriously, we’re all getting stupid notes. That’s the nature of the gig. But you know what, God bless us all for getting them.

Craig: That surely was helpful for you.

John: That was helpful. Scott, would you remind recapping what your actual note was so this gentleman can try to win? What was your actual note you got? What was the actual note that you read aloud?

Scott Rosenberg: I read it. I actually read it. You want me to read it again?

Craig: Just summarize it.

Scott Rosenberg: I actually didn’t understand it.

Craig: OK.

Jason: That’s the point of the game.

John: John the Wizard. Tell us where your head is at.

Craig: Do you have a sense?

John: Which one is the fake note?

John the Wizard: I’m seriously confused if it’s the last one or the third to last one. Both seem very confusing.

Craig: You think maybe it’s the Oren right here.

John: Do you want to hear them aloud again.

Craig: Again? Really? Just those two. Just those two.

John the Wizard: And I’ll take the audience, what they think.

Oren: “We appreciate the early look and understand and respect that the creative process is still in motion and that there are outstanding notes the producers want to make before the draft we read is considered official.”

John the Wizard: This is so confusing.

Oren: There’s so many words.

John: I can’t believe that’s real.

Oren: No commas.

John: Do you want Jason or Scott’s?

Jason: I also have no commas. “What are the aliens waiting for? Is it simply that it’s taken this long for them to amass a big enough force to try to take over earth again? Or is there a more specific “why now” reason that the alien invasion is finally happening again?” I think I’ve gotten that note on every single script I’ve written.

John the Wizard: I guess my problem at the end is the aliens, I would assume is referenced to a real–

Craig: Don’t dig in too deep here.

John the Wizard: No? Is it too much?

Craig: Just go with your gut.

John: Go with your gut.

John the Wizard: You sir.

John: Oren’s?

Craig: He has chosen Oren’s as the fake note.

John the Wizard: I’m going to choose Oren.

John: But up here, what do you guys think?

Dana: I think that’s definitely real.

Craig: I think it’s Jason’s.

Megan: I think mine might be fake.

Craig: I think Megan is fake.

Megan: Thank you so much.

John: Oren’s is completely real. Oren’s is 100% real. That was in a memo and it basically was what you describe. Like “Thank you for showing this producer pass early so we don’t have to pay you and we can still give notes.” So that’s a lovely thing. So your second choice is Scott?

John the Wizard: Yes.

John: You’re still wrong. Sorry.

John the Wizard: It’s not the first time so.

Jason: Does he get another guess?

John: It’s Jason’s.

Craig: It’s Jason’s.

John: Time travel.

Craig: Jason’s time travel thing seems so real.

Jason: Yeah, well, I sold it.

John: Why did it seem real to you?

Craig: Well, it seemed real because it was so stupid. I mean, you know, like every time you see a movie, or any time you’re writing any movie that involves anything slightly magic or slightly science fiction, the first thing they talk about – because they love to – is rules. They’re obsessed with the rules. What are the rules? No one actually cares about the rules.

I don’t know what the rules are in Lord of the Rings. People literally show up and fucking turn into ghosts and back again to regular people. And I don’t give a shit, because I don’t care. It’s awesome to watch. But they love talking about the rules.

Megan: I hate to be a Scott Rosenberg here, but I love the rules. I love like a scene where they just talk about the rules. There’s a scene in Arrival where he just narrates the rules and I loved it. You know, diverse. It’s a diverse panel.

Jason: I have to say these are all obviously dumb notes, and they’re better than any notes I’ve ever gotten on any project I’ve worked.

Oren: These are high level John August notes.

Jason: I mean, these are terrific notes. I was working on a project, I’m currently working on a project where a producer said to me, “What’s the tone of the movie?” We’re like two months in. And I said, well, you know, it’s kind of like a darker grounded Star Wars. And the gentleman I’m working with is Italian and he said, “I don’t like the Star Wars.”

Craig: Is he Italian or is he a cartoon Italian?

Jason: He is, in fact, both. And I said, you know, “Why don’t you like Star Wars?” And he said, “Where’s Earth?”

Craig: That’s awesome.

Jason: I swear to god. This is a week ago.

Craig: That’s an amazing critique of Star Wars.

Jason: Yeah, he said, “They never talk about Earth. They never go to Earth. Why is no Earth?” And I said, “Well, you know, it’s Star Wars. It’s in the stars.” And he said, “No, no, I get it. But you know…” he had an idea. He didn’t just have a problem. He had a solution. He said, “You know what’s a good film? You see the Battleship?” And I said, “Peter Berg’s Battleship?” And he said, “Yeah, si, si. They’re on Earth. And the soldiers on Earth and marines. Watch the film Battleship.”

And I said, “You want me to write this film – you’re going to pay me, you want me to make it more like Battleship than Star Wars?” And he said, “Watch Battleship again. You’ll see what I’m talking about.” And I literally called the studio. I said, “I can never speak to that human again.”

Craig: No. And then I assume he was like, “Now I got to go make the meatballs.”

Jason: These are terrific notes. I wish I had rule notes.

Scott Rosenberg: To me, the greatest notes story of all time is–

Jason: That was not the greatest notes story of all time?

Scott Rosenberg: No. No. No.

Megan: I’m going to let you finish.

Scott Rosenberg: That was the best rendered notes story of all time.

Jason: Fair.

Scott Rosenberg: The best performed notes story of all time.

Jason: I’ll take it.

Scott Rosenberg: But the great William Goldman story was, you know, William Goldman notoriously only lived in New York City and hated Los Angeles, like a sickness. And he would come out for five seconds and he did his version of Maverick. He wrote his draft of Maverick, and he flew out and they took him to Warner Bros. And he had the meetings with the guys at the time, there was probably Lorenzo and Robinov. And they came in and they gave him his notes and they said, “So we really like it. Everything you’ve done is wonderful. We just wish it was smarter and funnier.”

And Bill Goldman said, “So do I.” Which is like we never turn in what we don’t think is the best, right?

Dana: It also dovetails with things that have happened to you in test screenings, or notes you’ve gotten in test screenings.

Craig: Those are the best.

Dana: Yeah. I had one – they give you the little forms afterwards. You fill them out. And it said, “Was there anything about the movie you didn’t like?” And this person wrote, “The movie.”

Oren: That’s great.

Craig: Somebody, I can’t remember who, has one of those cards framed and under the what would you change and somebody had scrawled, “More boobs,” but they had spelled it B-E-E-W-B-B-S. The most tortured spelling of boobs possible, so you knew it was real. They really wanted to–

John: Nice. John the Wizard, thank you very much for playing. You get the deck anyway.

Craig: Thank you, John the Wizard.

John: We weren’t going to let you go away without the deck. Thank you to our amazing panel. You guys were great. Thank you for playing the game with us.

Craig: These people want to drink. I get the sense they want to drink. Let’s wrap this up.

John: Let’s wrap this up. Guys, thank you for an amazing show. We need to thank some of the special people here first.

Craig: Thank you folks.

John: A little talking here. We need to thank Megan McDonnell, our producer.

Craig: Megan McDonnell.

John: We need to thank all of our amazing panelists for coming up here. Thank you guys very much for playing. And we need to thank Colin and the amazing Austin Film Festival for having us here once again. Guys, thank you very much for having us back each year.

Craig: Thank you, Austin.

John: It’s so much fun to do the show. Thanks guys.

Craig: Thanks guys.

Links:

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

johnaugust.com

New ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Sneak Peek Video May Show a Little Too Much

Thor: Ragnarok Sneak Peek Video

We’ve already seen plenty from Thor: Ragnarok thanks to the trailers released by Marvel Studios, not to mention the featurette introducing The Revengers, a TV spot highlighting the strongest Avenger, and a clip giving us a taste of The Grandmaster. But now that the movie is under a week away from hitting theaters in the United States, we’re getting to the point that too much footage is being shown, and more arrives everyday.

If you’re already on board to see Thor: Ragnarok, then we recommend that you stay away from the latest sneak peek video released online. Most of it features extended moments from the TV spots and trailers we’ve already seen, but there are also plenty of new moments that would be much better left out of sight and mind as we wait for the movie to arrive, including one particular action sequence from towards the end of the movie. Watch the Thor: Ragnarok sneak peek video if you dare, but you’ve been warned.

Here’s the Thor: Ragnarok sneak peek video from ComicBook.com:

There is plenty of new footage of Hela (Cate Blanchett) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on display, not to mention some fantastic moments of comedy. But the spoilery bits come towards the end when we see Thor fighting a bunch of Hela’s minions when he’s all charged up with lightning, his eyes glowing with a literally electric light blue. Plus, there’s a kick-ass moment involving Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) that is probably best saved for the theater as well.

However, even though the footage does show off a bit too much, they’re still playing several elements of the movie close to the vest. For example, we’ve seen and heard very little from both Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and Heimdall (Idris Elba). Is that because their role in the movie would require too much plot to be revealed, or are they just not in the movie very much? The same can be said for Karl Urban‘s new villain character Skurge. We may just have to wait for the movie to see more from them.

The earliest buzz on Thor: Ragnarok remarked about the hilarity that comes from director Taika Waititi taking over the franchise. But the full reviews dived into matters like whether the movie is actually a good blockbuster sequel and if the comedy overshadows the franchise’s action and place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

Thor: Ragnarok is set to premiere in theaters on November 3, 2017.

The post New ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Sneak Peek Video May Show a Little Too Much appeared first on /Film.


/Film

‘BoJack Horseman’: An Inside Look at How the Show Makes Us Cry Over an Animated Horse

Director and animator Anne Walker Farrell discusses the challenges and mechanics of convincingly bringing a horse-man to life.

In the world of cinema, there are many filmmakers who will tell you that comedy is the absolute most difficult thing you can do. Evoking a laugh from audiences is nearly impossible. Other filmmakers will claim that good drama is the toughest thing to create. After all, getting people to buy into the lives of strangers for two hours is no easy task. But what about combining the two? Apparently, you should only try if you’re putting together an animated show about a world where anthropomorphic animals live alongside humans in peace.

BoJack Horseman is the story of a washed-up sitcom-star who now struggles to find his way in life as he battles through depression, anxiety, and issues of identity. It’s one of television’s most poignant shows, and it has the ability to make you sob in pain and laugh out loud within the smallest time frame in a way that no other show can.

Read More

No Film School

Eggs & Bacon: Blade Runner, Memento, Inception, The Matrix, Groundhog Day & The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Wakey wakey, more eggs and bakey! Here are some more easter eggs and other little savory items you may have missed from your favorite films. In “Blade Runner” the ‘snake scale’ shown magnified under an electron microscope was actually a marijuana bud. Marla Singer from “Fight Club” and Teddy from “Memento” have the same phone […]

The post Eggs & Bacon: Blade Runner, Memento, Inception, The Matrix, Groundhog Day & The Rocky Horror Picture Show appeared first on FilmmakerIQ.com.

FilmmakerIQ.com

Scriptnotes, Ep 311: Scriptnotes Live Homecoming Show — Transcript

The original post for this episode can be found here.

John August: Hey, this is John. So today’s episode of Scriptnotes has a few bad words. So if you’re driving in the car with your kids, this is the warning.

Hello and welcome. My name is John August.

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is Scriptnotes. It’s a podcast about screenwriting and things that are…

Crowd: Interesting to screenwriters.

John: You’re so good.

Craig: So good. Yeah. You guys remembered three words. Congratulations.

John: Craig sometimes doesn’t.

Craig: That’s absolutely true. Look who we have back, by the way. After a year. You know, you’d think you wouldn’t miss him, but you do. You do. It was really great to get you back.

John: Well thank you very much. You guys did two live shows without me. You did the Austin show and you did the LA show. They both worked. But I’ll be honest…

Craig: Well, I think they were two of our best shows ever.

John: All right. I will tell you that honestly there was an aspect of me that wanted them to be successful, but not especially successful. I wanted there to be some crisis like, oh, like John is irreplaceable.

Craig: I get that. But it didn’t happen. They were actually amazing without you.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Completely without you.

John: Yeah…that’s…yeah.

Craig: You had nothing to do with them.

John: Yeah, so that was a little sad.

Craig: Well, we’ll see how this goes.

John: Yeah, this could be fine. I was involved in more of the planning for this one, so you might notice things are a little bit more —

Craig: Planned.

John: Yeah. So a couple things about today’s show. We have three amazing guests. We’re so excited to bring them up. But we also have some audience participation stuff. We’re trying something brand, brand new. So as you came into the theater tonight, you were handed a ticket. That ticket will become important later on. So don’t lose that ticket. I love that everyone is pulling it out right now. That’s so awesome.

Craig: I just found out about the ticket thing. I literally saw tickets in the front and I’m like, oh, are you guys raffling something? And they said, “You’re doing a thing.”

John: Yeah, we’re going to do a thing.

Craig: And I didn’t know.

John: So at some point there will be a bowl and people will be drawing things out of the bowl. It’s going to be very, very exciting. But one of the things I love about live shows with guests is a chance for me to learn something about things that I don’t really know. Craig, you’re doing a TV show now. You’re starting that process. I’ve done some TV shows in the past. But we’re not TV people.

Craig: No.

John: We have TV people with us tonight.

Craig: Three of the best. Three of the best.

John: Let’s just get to it. Let’s bring these people out. Our guests tonight. First off, Wikipedia says Megan Amram is an American comedian and writer. She became well known after 2010 through her Twitter account, where she posts one-liners that make use of subtle word play, absurdism, and dark humor. She was a staff writer for the Disney Channel sitcom Ant Farm, NBC’s Parks and Recreation, and Children’s Hospital. Someone needs to update her Wikipedia profile. So you guys can do this in the audience tonight. To include that she’s also written on Silicon Valley, and The Good Place, plus, most crucially —

Craig: Oh, we’re going to save what that is.

John: All right. There’s a secret connection here. Let’s welcome Megan Amram.

Craig: Megan Amram. Should we invite up — just get everybody all at once? Merriam-Webster defines — no, Wikipedia says Thomas Schnauz is an American television producer and television writer. They forgot he’s also an excellent director. His credits include The X-Files, The Lone Gunman.

John: Oh yeah.

Craig: Not as popular. Night Stalker. Even less popular. Reaper. Watch this now. Breaking Bad. And Better Call Saul. Tom Schnauz.

John: So, finally, I think this Wikipedia entry was actually updated this afternoon, because it changed from when I first emailed it to him. Wikipedia says Matthew (Matt) Selman is an American writer and producer. After two years of failed spec scripts, he was hired to write an episode of Seinfeld in 1996. Selman then joined the writing staff of The Simpsons where he has remained, rising to the position of executive producer. He has also co-written The Simpsons’ movie, The Simpsons’ ride. Simpsons’ videogames. And the names of many of the entrees at the Universal Studios Springfield Food Court.

Most importantly, he was also the host of the single episode of Duly Noted, the Scriptnotes after show. Matt Selman, come on up.

Craig: Short lived. Welcome, Matt.

Well, I’m exhausted after that.

John: It was a lot of chatting. So, we are mostly feature folks. And so we’ve done some TV over the years, but neither of us have really worked in rooms. And a lot of the stuff that you guys are doing is in rooms. So I wanted to start tonight by talking about rooms and sort of how rooms work in television. So, Megan, can we start with you? For a show like The Good Place, what was the process of figuring out this is how we’re going to do this series for TV? Like when do you come in and when was the room put together?

Megan Amram: The thing that’s amazing about TV is that it’s like little movies. It’s a really fun way to think about it. Just like a 30 to 60-minute movie might be helpful.

John: I like that you’re keeping it really basic for us. That’s nice.

Megan: I am not a television writer. I just am a fraud who came here.

So, I started on season one of The Good Place, which we just finished writing and shooting our second season, and which will air in the fall. And I have only really been in 30-minute comedy rooms, so add that to my Wikipedia please when you update it.

John: Someone in the audience, get on that right now.

Megan: I’ll Venmo $ 10 to whoever updates my Wikipedia right now. But we — I can speak for my shows. We start for what might be one to two months with very broad strokes where we just want to figure out where the season begins and ends.

Craig: And how many are we talking about in the room?

Megan: Anywhere from six to ten people. We might start with a smaller — we started with four people this year and just sort of sketched out what we were doing. But my show, if you haven’t seen it, is sort of a science-fiction comedy show, which is very specific in tone and we really unlike a comedy show where maybe you just want to do different refillable comedy episodes every time you tune in, we wanted it to really have an overarching story that had a beginning, and a middle, and an end. So, we wanted to figure that all out before we started breaking specific episodes.

Craig: Over how many episodes?

Megan: 13. So both seasons we knew the beginning, and the end, which our season that just aired had a big twist in it that we all — all the writers knew and were really trying to lay in to every episode.

So, yeah, so we start very broad and then work into what are 13 ways to split this up in comedic episodes. And then we get into the actual like what are scenes, what are people saying in it.

Craig: And your show is — Good Place is 30 minutes. It’s a half-hour comedy. In my mind, I think that when I consider the room for that, or I consider the room that Matt runs for The Simpsons, and then I think about what Tom does, that maybe it’s not that different. Am I wrong? I mean, you have an hour-long show. It’s not a comedy. I mean, there are comedic elements to both Breaking Band and Better Call Saul, but is it a similar process regardless of genre?

Thomas Schnauz: It’s actually very similar, except for the fact that we do start off, we talk big picture for a month or two about what’s going to happen in the series, but we don’t stick to that. We put up ideas on the board. We have a corkboard and we have index cards and we write all these ideas and we post them up. But then we go episode by episode and we don’t stick to that plan because our characters drive us through what happens next. And we will veer off wildly from that initial two-month planning if something interesting happens.

I mean, the one I always note is in Breaking Bad we had this big train heist and we had all these for Jesse Pinkman was going to be the big drug king pin. And then somebody came up with the idea that this character Todd shoots a kid on a motorbike, which changed everything. So, the thing is —

Craig: What, Jesse could have been a huge drug kingpin?

Thomas: That was something we talked about.

Craig: He never got a break. Ever.

Thomas: I know. That was something we talked about. And it just — once you come up with a different idea, a better idea, you just go with that. So we don’t stick to any game plan. Wherever the characters take us, that’s where we go.

John: Now, Matt Selman, you’re running really a brand new, fresh show that has like no history. There’s no set idea about a Simpsons episode could or should be. So it’s just, the same, it’s a whiteboard. Anything can happen. Arcs from episode to episode. Huge changes.

Matt Selman: I mean, you’re super right in that unlike your shows there’s very little continuity on The Simpsons. And to me the show is like Groundhog Day where you reset to the beginning. It’s a normal kind of blue color family. They’re troubled but love each other. And then you take them on an as crazy an adventure as you can get away with over that 20 minutes and 40 seconds you have. So, we don’t do a lot of season arc planning or —

Craig: Or planning.

Matt: Or whiteboard using. But, you know, like the thing that all these shows have in common is the most important thing is the breaking of the story. And, you know, you have X amount of time to do it. You have these creative people to do it with. How can you get the job done and have it be a satisfying story and then not down the line think of some awesome thing where a kid kills someone on a bike and it could have been so much better.

Craig: Right. You don’t have that issue.

Matt: You want to do it, but then you don’t want to think of something — you don’t want to miss out on an awesome other idea, which is always lurking. Oh, what if there was some better way to do it?

Craig: And you guys do 20 — ?

Matt: We do 22.

Craig: And so you do 13? Breaking Bad is, I’m sorry, Better Call Saul is — ?

Thomas: Better Call Saul is down to 10 episodes a season.

Craig: So 13 was like, oh god, I can’t even handle.

Thomas: Pretty much.

Craig: And you’re still cranking out 22. How big is your room?

Matt: 22-episode payments every year.

Craig: That’s true. That’s pretty sweet. That’s hundreds of dollars a year.

Thomas: We’re not about the money. We’re about the art.

Craig: Yes. Of course. Of course. Yes. But how many people are in your room to handle that workload?

Matt: We have two rooms. I run a room. And our real showrunner, this guy Al Jean, the iconic Al Jean, runs another room.

Craig: So if someone is in your room, are they being punished?

Matt: Well, there’s different schools of thought for that. Let’s just say we’re here now. We both have our, well, you guys tell me what you think. I’ve worked on one room for one show for my entire life, but I’ve worked with different room runners, myself included, and I’ve found that every room runner — when you run a room, you’re sort of like a screenwriter by yourself and everyone else has to be part of your brain and your process, however functional or dysfunctional, is kind of projected out onto the creative collaborators. And so that can be good or bad.

So when I run the room, I feel like the rewriting has my problems, which is that I just want to get it done with and get a version and, oh, we’ve just got to get something down and then we have to go back and realize it wasn’t awesome and have to do it again. Like that’s how I write by myself and that’s how I force my room to do it. And I wish I could improve but I can’t.

But, and I’ve seen other showrunner, room runner guys who are super tortured and, you know, progress is slow. And then his or her torture becomes everyone’s torture. I mean, do you guys feel that is accurate?

Megan: Yeah. The psychological petri dish that is a writer’s room is very fascinating. About how someone’s neuroses can just infect a ton of people at once.

I’ve worked for a bunch of a different showrunners. My showrunner on The Good Place is Mike Schur who is incredibly good at his job.

Matt: He’s kind of like the best in the biz, right?

Megan: Yeah. He’s pretty much the best, if you’re listening, Mike. But he —

Craig: If you’re listening, man that employs me. You’re the best.

Megan: Yeah, you’re really good.

Craig: You’re amazing.

Megan: But he’s very even-keeled. But what Tom was saying about how you sort of have to look at every type of idea and then you pick a path and you just do, and the thing about television, unlike movies, is that you also just have to finish it really fast, usually, and then it has to be on TV. And you just can’t change it. So, I think something that Mike is really good at and I’ve seen other showrunners who are both good and not as good at is just being like, “This is the idea we’re doing. And maybe we’re going to think of something really good in like six months, right before it airs, and you can’t feel bad about it. You just got to let it go. That’s what it is.”

And so I think it is a very interesting skill that’s not necessarily writing exactly. But it’s listening to all of your collaborators and making a uniform product. But then also just being like, you know, we’re doing our best and that’s what it’s going to be.

John: Tom, what’s your experience with showrunner’s processes and sort of how that makes the room work? And I don’t know how big the room is on Better Call Saul.

Thomas: We have seven writers, I believe, and then Vince is sort of coming in and out right now because he’s working on another project. But Peter Gould is running the room. Best guy in the business. I know he’s listening. He takes so much credit for your success, also.

Craig: So we’ve got a genius Al Jean, we’ve got the amazing Mike Schur. We have the wonderful Peter Gould.

John: Peter Gould, a former Scriptnotes guest. You weren’t there for that show.

Craig: Oh.

John: Yeah. An Austin show you weren’t there for.

Craig: Oh. Well I didn’t even know.

John: You didn’t listen, so. You would never know.

Craig: No. I don’t listen to podcasts.

John: So Peter is running this room. And so — ?

Thomas: We, I feel gross, because you’re talking about how much pressure it is to get the show. You have to just pick an idea. We spend so much time. I mean, like three weeks an episode. We will break seven episodes before we start filming. So if we make a mistake somewhere along the lines we’re like, oh, we can go back and fix that and change things. So AMC affords us a ton of time and we’re very lucky. Unlike a lot of other shows where it’s you got to do something. We’re in the room, get it on the air. We’re very lucky that way.

Megan: Yeah. We’re just like, “Fuck it. Just get it out there.”

Craig: That’s the Megan I know. You guys did 13 a year on Breaking Bad?

Thomas: Breaking Bad, there was the strike year they did only seven or eight.

Craig: That was the shorter one.

Thomas: And then 13 up until the last two seasons. We did eight and eight.

Craig: Interesting. Because this is a new thing, right? So Matt is still working in the old way of doing things, and there aren’t that many shows left even now it seems that put out 22 episodes a year. And it does seem like it has transformed everything. And so John and I, we don’t have the experience of the room. But what we’ve been watching is as the time that it’s required to make a season of television shrinks, essentially, and the desire of studios to want to pool writers together more and more to write movies, there is a weird kind of —

Matt: Well, movies are turning into TV and TV is turning into movies. In that your show is essentially a giant movie that they make every year that they show in 10 chunks. And you right them, you shoot them, you edit it, and that’s a giant movie. And, you know, there’s I’d say a little lot of cinematic universe out there from the Harvey Universe, that a bunch of writers are breaking those —

Craig: I would love that.

Matt: Little Lot of Dot Hot Stuff. They’re breaking those stories.

Craig: Lots of Casper, the Friendly Ghost.

Matt: And they’re writing those movies to be giant TV shows that come out every two years. So, there’s a crazy —

Craig: They hate us. You can feel it from them.

John: Absolutely. There’s a true antipathy. People listening at home may not be able to see, but the audience here can clearly see.

Craig: The TV people hate us.

Thomas: I mainly hate Craig.

John: Oh yeah.

Craig: Then mission accomplished.

John: Let’s talk about this shift to shorter seasons and what it means for reality of like working in this business. We just did an incredibly wonky episode that just aired as we’re recording this today which was about the WGA deal.

Matt: I listened to it.

John: Yeah. God bless you.

Matt: In the car. [Crosstalk]

John: It was super, super wonky episode. But so if you’re doing 10 episodes or 13 episodes, what is the rest of your year like? Because, Megan, are you doing other stuff when that show is not on the air?

Megan: Yeah. I have been writing during — it’s an interesting thing where a show might write for half the year now, so you can sort of write for two different TV shows. So, I wrote for The Good Place season one and then on my break I wrote for Transparent, which is coming —

John: I’ve heard of that show.

Megan: It’s hilarious. It was a very different type of show than I’d ever written for before.

Matt: Right. A different showrunner’s psyche extrapolated on a group of people.

Megan: I mean, I do feel super lucky, because I’ve written for Transparent, and Silicon Valley, and Parks and Rec, which I would all call those as far away from each other as you possibly could be in a comedy room. But —

Matt: She’s working for Ballers next season, by the way.

Craig: That would actually —

Megan: Yeah. They don’t know that yet. I’m just going to show up and be like —

Craig: I think that would be welcome change for ballers. I really do. By the way, I don’t think we’ve told people about our thing. We should probably tell them. Should we tell them about our thing?

Megan: Oh yeah, definitely. It’s going to add a lot of rich, layered irony into this conversation.

Craig: So you know how Jewish I am? I’m so Jewish, you guys. So, I did the 23 and Me thing. Have you guys done 23 and Me? Yeah, OK. Nobody is as Jewish as I am. I’ll tell you that right now. 98.5% Jewish, or something like this.

So, I was out one night with a group of people, including Megan, and I was boasting about how Jewish I was. And she’s like, no, I’m more Jewish. And —

Megan: No, I’m more Jewish.

Craig: Yeah, that’s my impression of you. So, she said well let’s share your thing with me so we can see if we’re related, ha, ha, ha. And I said, OK. And so I did it and then I went up to go to the bathroom. And when I came back she was looking at me like this. Because we’re related.

Megan: Yeah. 23 and Me, I’m only 28% Jewish, so I —

Craig: Not even, 128% Jewish.

Megan: Yeah, it’s crazy. But 23 and Me told us that we were distant cousins. And we could have guessed that.

Craig: Made so much sense. It made so much sense.

Megan: Genetics are amazing. And Jews run Hollywood. Is that cool to say? Oh yeah, let’s get applause for that.

Craig: Not really a secret.

Megan: Now this feels funny and scary at the same time.

Craig: I know. It’s turning into a Boys Scout rally. Jew-S-U. Jew-S-U.

John: So, Tom and Matt, all three of us —

Craig: Here comes the adult. [laughs]

Megan: Really good segue.

John: All three of us are bald. So, I mean, there could be, yeah, balding. Matt has the most hair of the three of us.

Matt: Yeah, but it’s not good.

John: No. It’s not good. To steer us back away from genetics to television showrunning, my question for Tom is if you’re only running 10 episodes of this show per year, what is this writing staff doing the rest of the year? Because you want them to come back ideally for the next season, but they could be off on another show? What are the decisions about that?

Thomas: I mean, because we spend so much time on every episode, it takes up a pretty good hunk. But then when we get into production the writers will go to set and be in Albuquerque for the episode and some of us get to direct, which is awesome. And then we’re involved in postproduction. So it really fills up a lot of the year. But then people have other projects that they work on.

Craig: You know, in speaking of other projects, I’m kind of curious because so much of your careers, really I think exclusively for all three of you, you have been working in television. Is that accurate? So not to try and drag you over to the feature side, but have you ever thought about writing a movie? I mean, on the one hand everything that bothers you about being a room goes away. There’s no other people. There’s nobody else telling you what to do or what to say. On the other hand, you’re alone. And on the other side of it, even in success, you don’t have the kind of power that you do in television.

Thomas: I got into writing because I just didn’t want to be around people.

Craig: Right.

Thomas: And I started writing features. And I got into the Guild because I had a feature option back in the ë90s for Mark Johnson and Paramount Pictures. And that sort of got me out of my regular job and into writing. And then when I ran out of money living on the east coast, I thought I’d try television. And luckily it kind of worked for me.

Matt: Luckily Charles in Charge was hiring.

Craig: Great show.

Thomas: And one of the things I did during this break, I wrote a feature for Disney. So, we’ll see what happens.

Craig: All right, so you you’ve done it.

Thomas: Yes.

Craig: Now, OK, let me drill a little bit deeper. What did you think? I mean, just honest impression?

Thomas: It was a project that Vince Gilligan and I did together.

Craig: So you weren’t completely alone.

Thomas: Wasn’t completely alone. No. So we wrote it. And it’s been hands-off. And it’s just sort of going through the — they give us a few notes and we did them. So, it’s been pretty painless so far. They’ve been great.

Megan: I hope Disney is making like a super hardcore drug movie with you and Vince Gilligan. That would be amazing. Like a kid dies on a bike. [laughs]

Thomas: Goofy is the way he is for a reason.

John: I like that Goofy backstory. That’s really crucial.

Craig: Like the totally normal dog-man.

Megan: The gritty reboot of Goofy.

Craig: Like he was perfectly fine.

John: We are mostly feature writers, but a lot of people that we talk to they say, oh, should I write features, should I write for TV. We always say write both. Write whatever you most want to do, whatever you most want to see. But there’s a lot more jobs in TV than there are in features.

So, if someone is lucky enough to get into the room to be on one of your shows, what is a good interview and sort of if they get hired what is it like being the new person in the room on a TV writing staff? What are some tips you would have for getting in that room and also staying in that room?

Matt: The first thing is like hide your fear. Because you’re super scared you’re going to suck and be fired and everyone is going to think you’re dumb. But, hide it. Because your neurotic, primo, first-timer energy is sucking me down. And I speak for all showrunners when I say that.

Craig: Why did we have him on the show? So brutal.

Matt: I don’t want to get your energy, worried that you didn’t have a good day where you got a joke in. I’ve got a show to make, guys. Which is not really how I feel, but there’s a —

Craig: That is how you feel.

Matt: But there’s a giant kernel of truth to that in that you are just there to be super positive and be super helpful and not be a butt kisser, but really it’s not your job to save the day or be the hero. It is your job to just be a little bit of what John and I were talking about earlier, gravy. As a staff writer, you are just delicious gravy. And if you can make the show a little bit better and not suck it down with like needy first time energy, which I know is probably now accelerating the likelihood of you showing that. I mean, have a glass of wine before like Craig does. Or take a pill, that’s fine.

That’s my main first-timer’s note. You’re just there to be super positive. You’re just there to help. And don’t make it about you, because no one is thinking about you. They’re thinking about, oh god, please let this be a little bit good.

John: Megan, some thoughts, because you’ve been on numerous — ?

Megan: Yeah. I’m now rethinking my entire career and every experience I’ve had in a writer’s room. But I do agree, which is like the thing I was going to say is pretty much the same thing which is like —

Matt: But meaner.

Megan: But way meaner. I think that you just have to have the right attitude and what Matt said about you’re not there to save the day is true. It’s like you’re also there to learn and to understand the show you’re making. To understand the dynamics in the room that already exist. And therefore that you’re not shooting down the pitch of the boss. But also there to be, I think, like there’s a difference between a staff writer who gets up before work every day and writes 30 jokes before they get in and then a staff writer who is late every day and doesn’t seem like they want to be there.

You can really tell when someone wants to be there, aside from their innate skill in the room. And I think like on the shows I’ve been on, you can be pretty forgiving of their comedic prowess if someone is just there with the right attitude and is trying to learn as much as they can and is really trying to show up.

John: Did you actually write 30 jokes before you would come in?

Megan: I know that sounded, well, yes. I did. I’m like, well —

Craig: Well, I feel like you have the comedic prowess, so you can just be a dick.

Megan: Thank you so much.

Craig: You’re welcome.

Megan: But, no, no, no. I’m like a nerd. The people on the podcast cannot hear my hair flip, but it was very funny.

Craig: We’ll put in some indication.

Megan: Thank you.

John: Matthew, add a swoosh effect for that. That would be —

Megan: I mean, like when I got hired on Parks and Rec I was very young and was extremely nervous I was going to get fired all the time.

Matt: Hide it.

Megan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I hid it, obviously, and I just cried a few times after work. But I kept it together great while I was there. Everyone was so nice there. I just was very nervous all the time.

Craig: This is really just very damaging advice. I mean, you’re hurting people.

Megan: I love to cry. Just cry in the right places. That’s really the advice I have for you.

John: If you close the bathroom stall, make sure no one can peek inside and see you crying.

Craig: Just remember, some of your legitimate feelings are ugly.

Megan: Get a really nice car to just let loose in.

Craig: Get a crying car.

Megan: Yeah. Get a crying car. It could even be a second car.

Craig: Tom, do you cry a lot at work, in the car after?

Thomas: No, I don’t. I’m a man, Craig.

Craig: You seem incredibly well-adjusted.

Megan: Oh, that sounds awesome. Good for you.

Craig: So basically the people that do the dark and disturbing shows are actually incredibly well-actualized. And the funny ones are sick.

Thomas: Yeah. I mean, I feel incredibly lucky. I mean, we laugh every day. We’re probably not that funny. We’re just sitting around laughing like idiots. But, you know, everybody has a great attitude. And I think the most important thing, if you get in a room, being positive is not shoot down other people’s ideas. Because there will be bad ideas. I will pitch horrible ideas. The boss will pitch horrible ideas. You have to have a safe room. You have to be able to have the freedom to say something so stupid that it might lead to something good. And it happens all the time. So I think don’t ever when somebody pitches something say, “Boy that sucks. That’s never going to work.” Be positive. Find a way to find another idea.

John: A question about the credit for an idea. So, when I’ve been in rooms, so I’ve been in rewrite rooms where we’re taking a script, and someone will suggest something that’s not quite right, and then somebody adds something to it that actually feels like a better idea. But then it gets weird. Like whose idea was that really? How does that manifest in a room that you’re going to every day?

Matt: That’s the skill is to like — maybe it’s Zen or maybe it’s Judaism, but you let it go. You just let it go. Once you’ve been doing it long enough, you only care that it’s good. And you project that energy. I only care if this is good. It’s not about me. At all.

Craig: That is definitely Zen. It is not Judaism. But I agree with it.

Matt: Zen-Judaism?

Craig: No. It’s just Zen-Zen. Yeah.

Matt: And it’s like a little bit of — maybe a good experiment would be like on every staff writer’s first day be like make them run the room. Like you’re in charge. Here’s the pressure. And all of a sudden it’s not like did I get a joke in or did people know that I said the thing that turned into the thing that turned into the thing. Oh, they don’t know I said it! It’s like, that’s Judaism.

Craig: That’s Judaism. Right. [laughs] It’s so true.

Matt: It’s just the freedom of how can we make this excellent.

John: Now, at some point, you will have discussed the idea, you will have broken the story, and somebody has to go out and actually write that. So, any advice for the person who gets assigned now go off and write that episode? What is that like both on a half hour and on an hour show?

Megan: I think this goes for probably any show, but like on the shows I’ve worked for once you get to the stage that you actually would go out to write, you have like a very specific outline that everyone on the room has worked on for weeks usually. And I have seen it before where someone has gone out and just changed the whole thing and that’s not a good thing to do. It’s like we worked on this so that you could go and have fun with it and put your own dialogue and spice to it.

Matt: Yeah. Your own funny serials in the background.

Megan: Yeah. But it is — I think — just one more. I also think one more thing to add off of the “don’t shoot down other people’s stuff” as I’m thinking about it. It’s like I guess I thought this was intuitive and for most writers in a room I think it is. But there’s a way that you can offer up criticism in a constructive way where you pitch a replacement. And it might not be the right thing, but it at least is like you are sort of only allowed to shoot down someone’s thing if you do it with a pitch in its place. And I do think that that maybe is helpful to keep in your mind. You might have a problem with something, but it’s sort of not very polite to just be like, “That’s bad.”

Craig: Well, instead of saying no, you’re saying, “Or…” And it follows from —

Megan: That’s beautiful, Craig.

Craig: Thank you.

Megan: That’s poetry.

Craig: We deal with, we don’t have these other writers that we have to have that conversation with, but we have to have that conversation with producers and with studio executives. And I think sometimes writers think, well, if I’m just talking about it with studio executives or producers, I can just tell them no or argue, because we’re not in a creative partnership. But I’ve always felt like whatever skill you’re using to improve things in the room with human beings that are writers, it’ll work with producers and executives as well.

I mean, nobody wants to —

John: No, that’s not really true though. Because the difference is like there are writers in the room. And so the writers all understand like that you have to be able to do the work to do it. These producers and these studio executives, they don’t really understand sort of why those things are there.

Craig: No, no, I understand that. But my point is that the same manipulation that Megan is talking about applies to all stripes of humans. And really what it comes down to is Matt’s admonition to leave your ego out of it, which is the hardest thing because — I understand like, Matt, one of these folks is going to go on and be the — they’re going to have their first day in a television room. God help them if it’s yours. But hopefully it’s —

Matt: No, no, I’m super nice. I feel bad for everybody.

Craig: There’s no chance of that. But they’re going to have their first day —

Matt: I once let this guy go for two years before we all had to tell him we hated him.

Craig: That’s Christ-like.

Matt: And he’s now more successful than anyone on this panel.

Craig: That’s what I was hoping for.

Matt: Sadly.

Craig: You know, you’re Buddha-like. They’re going to have that first day and they are going to feel like if I don’t let them know that I was here, then I wasn’t even here. And it’s totally normal. But if you work on leaving your ego behind, it works on everybody, I think. Honestly it does. Unless, well, maybe not Tom. It might not work on Tom.

John: So, Tom, do you have any new writers on Better Call Saul? Or are they all veterans of — ?

Thomas: We have one new writer this year.

John: So, when he or she came in, is there a way to get that writer up to speed or get that writer comfortable?

Thomas: No. She just kind of jumped in feet first. And we just started talking story. You know, Peter interviewed her beforehand and sort of probably gave her an idea of what to expect. We didn’t do anything special for her. We just started the room as always.

Craig: Remarkably well-adjusted.

John: Far too well-adjusted.

Craig: It’s like disturbing how well-adjusted. Like, Matt, do you even recognize that sort of thinking?

Matt: Our show is like the crazy outpost that everyone kind of forgot about. And we have long beards and palm fronds and rattan everything. Like the crazy Roman outpost that — so new writers show up with their shiny armor, like let’s make this Roman army great. And we’re like, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s how you do it.

John: Matt, one final question for you on The Simpsons. One of the challenges of a show that’s been on for 900 seasons is that so many things have been done. So, how often in the room someone is like, “Well what if we did this,” and that thing has already been done on the show? Is that a limiting factor?

Matt: Well, the ship has sailed a long time ago about not repeating ourselves. Like emotionally, we’ll do the same stories they did in season one every season. There aren’t that many combinations of father-son/mother-daughter/brother-sister/husband-wife/disappointment-jealousy-guilt-revenge, you know, alienation, etc. etc.

There just aren’t that many combinations. You just have to put a fresh coat of paint on it that you’re excited about and maybe you have fresh insights that you’ve had in your life that you can insert along the way. Like now that I’m an old married guy, like I’ve given Homer a lot of my husbandly observations I’ve put in his mouth. And I wouldn’t have been able to do that when I first started. But now — so Homer actually got a little wiser, as did I. [laughs]

But, so yeah, it’s a weird challenge. But Springfield just holds up a mirror of goofiness to America as it like finishes dying. And like so we don’t really run out of stuff. Like I always get excited about new stories. And it’s always fun. And that’s always the best part is the beginning of the first day of breaking the story when you’re excited about it. And then you have to make it work, and that’s hard. But to me like the first two hours of a story breaking where you’re just kind of burning off all the hot ideas that everyone has is like the best part of any show breaking experience.

John: Excellent. That’s a great transition to the first new segment I want to try on you guys. So, often on the show we’ll do How Would This Be a Movie, where we take stories in the news and figure out how could make these into a movie. So this variant I want to call How Could This Be Funny. So we’ll take things that are terrible kind of in the world and look at it like if this came into the room like how would we massage the idea so it could fit into a comedy that we want to make, or something funny, or in the case of Better Call Saul comedic-like moments.

Matt: Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul have high comedy moments, by the way.

John: They’re funny folks.

Craig: Legitimately funny.

John: All right. Our first topic. So, a few weeks ago a sheet of ice the size of Delaware broke off from Antarctica.

Craig: That’s funny.

John: Yeah. So, that’s thrown out there. Who wants to jump on that ball? Let’s make that funny.

Thomas: Like a funny TV show?

John: It doesn’t have to be the premise of the whole thing. It could be the premise of an episode. How do you do this as a plot point?

Thomas: Like if the sheet is played by Kevin James or somebody?

John: Exactly. Yeah.

Thomas: Gets a hot wife.

Craig: We’re off and running.

Thomas: I think this writes itself. This is an easy one.

Megan: Yeah, I instantly went to like kids’ movie place where the ice sheet is trying to find its way home. And it’s just very cute.

Craig: Awwww.

Megan: It’s not funny.

Craig: No, that’s sad.

Megan: It’s sad.

Craig: And I assume as it finally does make its way home and it sees its parent ice shelf it begins to melt and die.

Megan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Craig: Or maybe its parent melts in front of it.

Megan: And then it farts. And then you win them back.

Craig: I think we nailed it.

Thomas: This was actually the Disney movie that Vince and I are writing.

John: Yeah, sorry.

Matt: It’s called Unfrozen.

Craig: Wow.

John: Next topic.

Matt: But like, no, I think that’s a good — sometimes the way you make something funny, as you guys well know, is what is the emotion behind. And the emotion is funny. And drama, and sadness, and rejection, and failure are funny. So if it were a Simpsons’ thing we would think what if this thing were heading for Springfield and Lisa wants to get it back because she cares about global warming. And this sounds like bad spec script. But Mr. Burns wants to harness it for his own personal super ice box. And cover it with sawdust and make like old timey thing.

So you just think like what are the characters’ unfunny, true, heart-full feelings and then the comedy comes, well flow, ice flow, much more naturally.

Megan: Gorgeous.

Matt: I said that to him.

John: To me, I was wondering if there was a sense of like that chunk of ice is sort of its own country sort of floating out there in the world. It’s a new land. So there’s some sense of people go there to claim we are in a new place because we claimed this ice for ourselves. There’s a universe where you could set a show on that ice drift.

Matt: Great. That’s awesome. But that’s shrinking, so they know there’s a finite time that you get to live in a fresh society.

Craig: Right. And then who gets to control the ice.

Megan: I feel like Gwyneth Paltrow gets to. Like she starts a Goop offshoot where people go and like cleanse their skin on the pure ice, or something. Yeah. And it’s just her on one tiny little ice flow as it’s melting.

John: I like it.

Craig: I’d watch that. I would watch that.

John: Our next How Could This Be Funny. Donald Trump, Jr. Just Donald Trump, Jr. You have him as a character. You can do anything you want.

Craig: Or Hitler. Pick one or the other.

John: That character. Introduce him or that type of person into a story. Like what does he give you as a character?

Matt: Well we have a joke coming up on a show about a guy named Kenny Hitler, which we wrote before the election, and we’re just like this Kenny Hitler guy doesn’t seem so bad. What are his views?

Craig: Kenny Hitler.

Matt: But everyone, I don’t know, you guys — I don’t want to hog it. You guys are funny.

Craig: Well, I mean, there is kind of an interesting show about the son of a tyrant. I mean, extrapolating slightly here, but the dimwitted son of a very powerful sociopathic man, trying to please his evil father. Like he’s just inherently sweet and nice and keeps screwing up because of that.

Megan: Well the way people keep talking about this 40-year-old man as a boy.

Craig: I know!

Megan: Is like the funniest thing to me. It’s so absurd.

Craig: But don’t you also think —

Matt: If we live.

Craig: Kind of true? Like normally I would say like, OK, why are we making this ridiculous excuse, except I kind of feel he is child-like. That picture of him sitting on that true. So sweet.

Megan: Yeah. I mean, he’s like Billy Madison.

Craig: Right.

Megan: Which is a hilarious TV show.

Craig: Like if Billy Madison was like lopping off the heads of giraffes and stuff.

Megan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Craig: I’d killed a giraffe. Made a lot of money.

Matt: Yeah, you did that. They killed a real giraffe for that movie.

Craig: Four giraffes. It was four takes.

John: It strikes me that he’s almost like an anti-Leslie Knope character. Like he’s trying to please somebody who’s completely unpleasable. But he’s just doing it in all the wrong ways. And there’s something really kind of sickly endearing about that kind of guy.

Megan: He’s like a very earnest super villain, I guess, is like what the opposite of Leslie Knope is. He only understands very few things about the world, but he wants them all to be like the worst versions of them.

But it’s very hard to make this funny, because it just is the news. It’s like you’re just watching.

Craig: It’s funny already.

Megan: Man-boy with all of the animal heads is, I don’t know, the Vice-President or something. He like gets to be something big.

John: From NBC News, a large-scale scientific review has found a 40-year plunge in sperm count, specifically in men from North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. And the reason may be associated with common factors in our daily lives. So, sperm count drop.

Megan: I’m hearing a lot of cucks. You’re talking about cucks abound.

Craig: Cucks.

John: Yeah.

Craig: That’s a pretty good title for a show.

John: Cucks.

Megan: I can 100% guarantee that’s a show already in development.

Craig: Cucks, for sure.

John: Sperm count drop. Matt Selman? Is it low T? What are we talking about?

Thomas: Let me just say that this is actually true. One of my NYU projects was about the Nazis — Vince acted in my NYU short. I have the tape somewhere where he was the only person who didn’t drink the water supply and was the only one who had enough sperm to populate the town. And he was the milk man and he would go around visiting people.

So, I’ll have to put this tape online.

Craig: He was the milk man?

Thomas: He was the milk man.

Craig: When did you go to college?

Thomas: This was the ë80s.

Craig: What century was that?

Megan: Was that a double entendre?

Thomas: Yes. I have memories of milkmen in my life.

Megan: Just wanted to make sure.

Matt: I mean, all sperm is pretty much comedy gold, as is masturbating. You know, all that stuff is pretty funny. But like isn’t there already a comedy version of that called Children of Men? That was pretty funny, right?

Megan: I think about Children of Men all the time. And I also think about the suicide kids in Children of Men, which were very funny to me. Just watch that movie and laugh. You should all go watch it again. It’s very funny.

John: Hi-larious.

Craig: I think that all of these infertile people is kind of sad. I don’t think it’s funny.

Megan: No, I think it’s what Tom is saying is only like the stupidest guys, like Donald Trump, Jr. types, have the sperm count, and then they have to repopulate the world.

Craig: That’s getting funnier.

John: We’re getting closer to Idiocracy there. That sense of like —

Matt: Idiocracy not funny anymore.

John: No.

Matt: Children of Men, super funny.

Megan: It’s a great time.

John: Let’s go out on a risky one. OJ Simpson will be paroled soon. How is that funny? Go. OJ Simpson himself or a person in his situation, who was in jail for a long time who is now released.

Thomas: If he tripped and fell into an industrial-sized juicer and was just ground up into juice.

Craig: It’s ironic.

Matt: Well, what’s weird is now thanks to people like Megan, everyone is a professional comedy writer in the great egalitarian world of Twitter.

Craig: What the fuck?

Megan: I deserve that.

Craig: No you don’t.

Megan: This is our dynamic.

Matt: What, I called her a people, that’s what she is, right?

Craig: Is there anyone left in this room you will not abuse?

Matt: No. I mean, what’s weird is like The Simpsons will try to do takes on modern — we’ll kill our animators to do some like Donald Trump in the news Simpsons-y thing. Comes out like six days after the dumb thing happened and it’s already been done 50-hundred times the day of.

Craig: Right. There’s no more topical humor that’s possible.

Matt: So all the OJ-ish stuff, everyone in the world is like amateurishly and professionally writing goofy like OJ Does Find the Real Killer. Right? He’s innocent. He found him. Or her. That’s a take, guys.

Megan: Nothing is funny —

Craig: Well, we’re trying to not do the bad idea. Like, yes, there could be something in that.

John: Yes. Or —

Craig: See how useful it is? It is poetry, Megan.

Matt: I deserve to be “No, or.”

Craig: No. Or…

John: Another way to approach that would be to look at sort of like what’s changed in the time that he’s been in jail. And so he comes out into a world in which things are just different.

Megan: He never saw Avatar. He gets out and he’s just like, wow, the effects. Gorgeous. [laughs] And then you just watch all of Avatar.

John: Yeah. He’s just sitting at home in his 3D glasses.

Craig: That’s the best way to rewatch Avatar is to watch OJ Simpson watching Avatar.

Megan: This is the movie. He gets out. You get ten minutes. He gets home. Cracks his knuckles. He’s like what’s on TV? It’s Avatar. And then you just watch the four-hour cut of Avatar.

Matt: No, but it’s like when you’re a parent you can’t enjoy things, but you can enjoy seeing your kids enjoy things for the first time.

John: Totally.

Craig: Right.

Matt: So we would just take OJ around and show him new stuff. Like does he know that Caesar salads have chicken now? He probably does.

Craig: Makes me feel so young again, to bring OJ to these things.

Megan: I bet Brentwood has really changed. There’s like a Yogurt Land there.

Craig: Right.

John: It’s like you drive by the house, it’s like, wow, the house has a whole new number. They repainted the house. Isn’t that so crazy. It’s so weird. I was just here and now it’s changed.

Megan: He can watch the OJ show.

John: That’s got to be weird.

Matt: Watch OJ watching the OJ show. Swimming pools are controlled by apps now? Check it out, OJ. West side humor.

John: All right, we’re going to try one other brand new segment. All right, so on a recent of Scriptnotes, there was a listener question about is it OK to use an actor’s name in a character description. So the thing was an Aubrey Plaza type. And Craig is it OK to say an Aubrey Plaza type?

Craig: I don’t think it is OK.

John: I think it’s wrong to say an Aubrey Plaza type, because that’s unfair to Aubrey Plaza. You know Aubrey Plaza.

Megan: Yeah. She would hate that. No, I don’t know.

Craig: But an Aubrey Plaza type would hate it. I mean, the problem with the Aubrey Plaza type is that you should just write a part that Aubrey Plaza would want to play if you want to write an Aubrey Plaza type.

John: Absolutely. So I thought let’s not just have it be a piece of advice. Let’s make a game out of it. So this is a game we’re going to play called An Aubrey Plaza Type. So this all modeled on a show called The $ 25,000 Pyramid. Show of hands, who has seen Pyramid? Who knows how Pyramid works? Oh, that’s more than I would have guessed. So, on $ 25,000 Pyramid they would have these celebrities and these normal people who are partnered together —

Craig: Normal people.

John: Normal people.

Matt: Normal people?

John: We would have these great Americans and these terrible celebrities paired together and they would have to get the other person to name this list of words. And so in this case this is going to be a list of famous people. And so we’re going to do sort of the thing where you’re trying to get someone to think Aubrey Plaza without saying Aubrey Plaza. This is going to make more sense if Craig and I just try this. So let’s just try this.

Craig: Oh man, all right.

John: Oh man. So here’s what it’s going to be. Craig, you stand there.

Craig: I can do that.

John: And I’m going to stand here. And we’re going to put a name up on the board and I’m going to have make you think of who I’m going to describe.

Craig: Using screenplay description?

John: Only screenplay description. So something you would see after the character’s name. So you can say an age, you can say male or female, because obviously the name would have it.

Craig: Hot but doesn’t know it.

John: Hot but doesn’t know it. It’s OK to give the character a name if it suggests something about the character that’s helpful. Craig would like you to not use a character’s race.

Craig: Yeah, no race.

John: No race.

Craig: And I kind of almost want no gender, but it’s hard because pronouns will get in there. What about age? Should we allow age?

John: Oh yeah, age is fine?

Craig: And can you say Interior or Exterior, please? I’d like to know where they are.

John: Yeah, if you really want to you could do that.

Craig: Yeah.

John: OK. Let’s give this a shot.

Craig: I worked really hard at putting this all together, John.

John: Yeah, so let’s give this a shot. So let’s do our first demo here. So, Craig has no idea what’s on the board.

Craig: That’s right. Interior?

John: I’m not giving that. I’m just giving you sort of what’s in the parenthetical afterwards. 40s, glasses, a woman, tired of all your librarian stereotypes. Smarter than everyone else around her. But too kind to point it out. She’s surrounded by dummies.

So, see here’s the problem. Craig doesn’t watch anything, so I’m really at a disadvantage here.

Craig: Keep going.

John: Let’s see.

Craig: Is this INT. Library?

John: No, let’s say INT. Newsroom.

Craig: OK.

John: INT. Newsroom. Amanda —

Craig: Peet?

John: No. But you’re on the right track. Amanda Jenkins, glasses, tied of the librarian stereotypes.

Craig: Right, doesn’t like them.

John: You’re not going to get this one. So there’s also the option of pass. You can say pass.

Craig: Pass.

John: So, now you try and do one for me and see how this goes.

Craig: Great. OK, she’s a woman, 40. No.

John: The answer to that one was Tina Fey, by the way, for people at home. That’s going to be confusing to people. What would you have said? How would you have gotten him to say Tina Fey?

Megan: That was great. Like a wry smile.

Craig: Oh, a wry smile would have helped me.

Megan: She’s the only person who wears glasses. How did you not get that?

Craig: I was going to say, that’s just a piece of wardrobe we can put on anyone. All right, John, EXT. FIELD. DAY. Spaceship. Pursuing a man. 40s. Very athletic for his age. Running hard. Spaceship shooting lasers at him. He dodges left and right. Incredible. And just before they get him, he turns around, fires, blows up the spaceship and he’s like, “Whoa.”

John: That would be Will Smith.

Craig: Yes. That’s how you do it. We would have also accepted Tom Cruise.

John: Yes. So you’re going to see there’s some of these people who like you have two choices. Either one of those are acceptable. So, Craig was doing a little bit more scene work, which I think is awesome. I was thinking more just the inside of the parenthetical after.

Craig: EXT/INT. I’m all about it. Oh, you mean like a really long parenthetical. Like the name and then blah, blah, blah.

John: Yeah. Either one works. Whatever you guys want to do is fine because we’re done with this. Now it’s your turn to do this. So, what is your name?

Steven Fingleton: My name is Steven Fingleton.

John: Steven Fingleton, are you up for this?

Steven: I am well up for this.

John: All right, Steven Fingleton is well up for this. One crucial thing here is that Craig and I are going to be the judges if someone is cheating. You’re going to have 60 seconds on the clock to see how many you can get through. One might be great based on how we’re doing. Whoever gets the most is going to win a special prize. We’ll announce the special prize afterwards. Steven, would you rather give or receive? That’s how they say it on the show. Would you rather give clues or receive?

Matt: Now it needs the E for Explicit warning at the beginning.

Steven: I’m going to against my usual preferences and I’m going to give.

John: All right. Great. This is awesome.

Craig: I like this guy.

John: He’s a good guy.

Craig: He’s cool with who he is.

John: Ticker time, and on your mark, get set, go.

Steven: Exterior. Beach. Running. An Adonis of a man. Perfect.

Megan: Craig. David Craig.

Steven: He jumps into a sports car.

Megan: Michael Cera. Tom Cruise, he was already up there. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Craig: Keep going.

Steven: And he’s on his way to run for president because there’s nothing he can’t do. He looks impeccable in a tailor cut suit.

Megan: The Rock.

Craig: Nice.

Megan: Yes! Nice.

Steven: She’s an incredibly adorable, funny woman.

Megan: Emma Stone.

Steven: Who —

Megan: Me! OK, keep going.

Steven: Who does not fit the classical stereotypes of what a woman should look like —

Megan: Tilda Swinton.

Steven: And she’s totally cool with that.

John: We’re extending to two minutes just based on reality.

Megan: Like what age? What age are we talking about?

Steven: I would say 30s, 40s.

Megan: Claire Danes.

Steven: Very short. Absolutely not —

Megan: Oh, the woman from Poltergeist. Zelda Rubinstein.

Steven: Pass. Let’s pass.

Megan: Very short. Pass. Sorry.

Steven: OK. He’s a funny looking guy. The sort of guy who would play himself in a movie if he was an actor-type comedian.

Megan: Danny DeVito. Funny-looking guy.

Steven: And he’s always hanging with his group of friends —

Megan: Seth Rogan. Yes! OK.

Steven: Interior. Mall. Day.

Megan: Oh god.

Steven: A mall cop is looking for trouble.

Megan: Oh, Kevin James.

John: No, wrong Kevin.

Megan: Kevin Hart.

John: All right. We’ll give it to you. Yes. All right. Well done. Congratulations. Very good.

Craig: Thank you.

John: Thank you.

Craig: The woman from Poltergeist is the best possible answer.

Megan: The only short person.

Craig: She’s the greatest.

Megan: Yes, she was amazing.

Craig: She was amazing. Was. All right.

John: Can we help her with the one she missed. So I was going to say like a human cannonball. She’s —

Megan: This is a woman? A short woman?

Matt: Everyone is afraid to say a certain thing. I mean.

John: A heavyset woman.

Matt: I mean, we’re all friends. We’re everyone’s friends.

Megan: Melissa McCarthy.

John: Melissa McCarthy, yes.

Craig: I watched him sweat his way in avoidance. She knows she’s a bigger girl. She knows that. There’s no big deal with that.

Matt: Great personality. The best. Her personality is so good.

Craig: You’re a bad person.

John: So I counted three successful ones there. Is that correct, audience. You guys were keeping track. Three? Tom Schnauz, so he is going to guess. Tom is going to give. I’m going to put two minutes back on the clock.

Thomas: This is going to be horrible. OK.

John: And go.

Thomas: Very handsome super hero type.

Male Voice: Oh, I already saw this. Chris Evans, Chris Pine, or Chris Hemsworth.

Craig: How did you see this?

John: How did you see this?

Male Voice: It flashed up real quick.

John: All right. Skip. Go ahead. Reset.

Thomas: Older — can I say Quentin Tarantino type?

Craig: Sure.

Thomas: Older Quentin Tarantino type, very wise.

Male Voice: Hank Azaria.

Thomas: You don’t want to win this, do you?

Male Voice: They look kind of similar.

Craig: Hank Azaria in all of the none of Quentin Tarantino movies.

Male Voice: Samuel L. Jackson.

Craig: Yes!

Thomas: Older guitar-playing hippy, pot-smoking, laid back dude.

Male Voice: Willie Nelson?

Thomas: Actor type. Laid back dude. Dude.

Male Voice: Oh, Jeff Bridges.

Craig: There we go.

Thomas: Older action hero.

Male Voice: Michael Keaton.

Thomas: May be capable of doing his own stunts.

Male Voice: Jackie Chan. Your hints are too good.

Craig: But no one is saying Interior or Exterior.

Thomas: Interior, no, Exterior, Heaven.

Craig: Yes!

Thomas: God type. Actor. Very wise. Will do voiceover work.

Male Voice: Morgan Freeman.

Craig: Yes.

John: All right. One more.

Thomas: Deep voice. Sexy. Conqueror of planets. I don’t know — I’ve never seen his movies.

Craig: That’s clear.

Thomas: Pass. Journeyman actor type. I don’t know, super hero.

Craig: You’re not getting the Iron Man job.

Thomas: Just gave it away.

Male Voice: Downey.

Craig: Exterior. Robert Downey. I’m trying to spice this up.

Thomas: This is the longest two minutes of my life, by the way.

John: This is challenging. So I counted at least four solid ones there, including some skips. Well done, sir.

Male Voice: What was the skip?

John: We skipped over Vin Diesel. Thank you.

Craig: Now the fun begins, as America’s darkest writer faces off.

Matt: No, I’m not dark.

Craig: I’m not dark.

John: He’s not dark. Let’s see who gets partnered with our Simpson’s executive producer.

Matt: I have kids. I’m a good man.

John: Hello and welcome. What is your name?

Christie: My name is Christie.

John: Would you like to give or receive these clues?

Christie: I will give.

Craig: All right. I’ll take this.

Matt: This is going to be bad.

Craig: I’ll give this to you.

Matt: Hi, Matt. Nice to meet you.

Christie: I’m not a writer.

Matt: That’s all right. I’m barely one. I’m not either.

John: All right. And start.

Christie: OK.

Matt: Adam West.

Christie: Woman. Pretty. Older actress.

Matt: My wife. Meryl Streep. Glenn Close.

Christie: Drives a bus.

Matt: Sandra Bullock.

Christie: Yes. OK. Attractive man.

Matt: Me.

Christie: Yes, super hero, again.

Matt: Christopher Reeve, before the accident.

Christie: Funny superhero.

Matt: Funny Superhero. The Hulk guy? The guy who plays the Hulk?

Christie: No. Completely covered in a mask but still sounds good.

Matt: Man, I’m bad at this. Pass.

Christie: OK. We’ll pass. He will cut you. Makes great sequels.

Matt: The guy who plays Wolverine.

Craig: Yes!

Christie: Oh, she’s amazing. Perfect actress —

Craig: Let’s see if he could get it just from that.

Christie: Another superhero. Beautiful.

Matt: Ben Affleck.

Christie: Woman.

Matt: Oh, a woman.

Christie: Young. Blockbuster.

Matt: Gal Gadot.

Christie: Yes.

Matt: Israeli. Dismissive in that Israeli way.

Christie: OK. Trump impersonator. SNL.

John: I’m going to rule this out. This is actually just becoming celebrity.

Craig: This was always going to become celebrity. You know that, right?

John: So try to give a character description that will make you think about this person.

Craig: Like you’re writing a script.

Christie: OK, good-looking when he was younger, not so much now. Funny.

Matt: Say it again?

Christie: Good-looking when he was younger.

Craig: That’s accurate.

Matt: Michael Douglas.

John: Is that still accurate? True to the character.

Christie: Is still very active.

Matt: Robert Redford.

Christie: Good impersonations.

Craig: Your character does good impersonations.

Christie: Funny. He’s a funny guy.

John: And stop.

Matt: I fail.

John: Thank you so much.

Craig: Alec Baldwin.

Matt: Commanding. Commanding businessman.

John: How would we have gotten to that last one?

Matt: Most confident man in the room. I still wouldn’t have gotten it.

Craig: Alec Baldwin: Well, actually, I thought that you were on to something there. Because, you know, this was a guy who was once incredibly good-looking, but he’s older now and he’s settled into his frame. There’s a wit and a charm in his eyes.

Megan: Interior. His frame. Settled right in.

Craig: Already working. It’s what cousins get.

John: So there was supposed to be actually an educational point to this. It’s not easy to come up with these descriptions that in one sentence make you think of, oh, that actor, without saying that actor. Or to cite these other credits. But if you sort of search for it you can find like bearish would be good for Alec Baldwin, or sort of that most confident man in the room.

Matt: I believe, I’m dating myself. The pilot for the show Just Shoot Me had little character slugs, the beginning, and the one for the main lady was think Janeane Garofalo. You know, Laura San Giacomo, she took the money.

Craig: Just the last thing she was expecting on her drive to wherever she was going was to hear some guy take a shot at her over —

Matt: That’s not a shot.

Craig: She’s like listening to a podcast someone told her about. Hey Laura, check this out.

Matt: Here’s the only good piece of advice you’re ever going to get tonight. Take the money. Anyone ever gives you the opportunity, take the money as opposed to like the creative thing where you express yourself.

Craig: I don’t think these folks were not going to take the money.

Matt: The money. Always the money. I’ve had opportunities to take risks, and I always pick the money.

John: One show your entire career. Yeah. All right, we actually have some business to wrap up. We have to figure out who actually won that thing which we just did. I think our second person.

Matt: Second guy.

John: Second guy had the most.

Thomas: What did I win?

John: Oh yes, what did you win? You have a choice. You can have me and Craig read a script you’ve written, or you can get an automatic pass into the Three Page Challenge. So, afterwards find us, tell us which one you want. And we will give you either of those things.

Craig: Well wouldn’t the script one be better automatically because it’s all the pages.

John: It’s all the pages, but maybe he doesn’t have the whole script.

Craig: Oh, and maybe he stopped at three.

John: Yeah. Maybe it’s short.

Craig: I hope it’s that one.

John: But thank you to all three of our people for being brave enough to actually come up here. That’s awesome.

Craig: Thank you guys.

John: I think if we ever do this again, stronger judging. I think we need to buzz people on —

Craig: Well you can’t have me judge anything. I’m a child. You know that.

John: But like Taboo, where you press the little buzzers and it scares people. Oh yeah, you said those words. Yeah.

Thomas: Wait, after this you’re going to keep doing this game?

John: In hell we’re going to keep doing this game again and again.

Craig: There’s literally no chance.

Matt: I think it’s a great game. I think it would be good. You’re always doing projects, John. Why don’t you put together an app or a home version and Kickstart it.

Craig: There’s going to be a discussion about the game, obviously. There’ll be a post mortem over the game. I won’t be a part of it, obviously.

John: That is our show for this week. So, as always, we are so lucky to have a great listening audience, but to have them in front of us is an extra special treat and it’s so nice to be back and seeing your faces. And I recognize a lot of faces, too, which is crazy.

Craig: We should say who we are supporting, right?

John: So we’re here because of the Writers Guild Foundation, which does great work on behalf of writers, and not just writers who are currently in the guild, but writers who are aspiring to become —

Craig: Veterans.

John: Well, yes, it makes it sound like people who are aspiring to become veterans.

Craig: No, they are veterans now.

John: They are genuinely veterans. Or children. Programs for kids.

Craig: Oh great.

John: Yeah. They do all sorts of stuff. We help the organization. We don’t really know much about them. But we do know that Chris Kartje and the volunteers who helped put it together tonight are the best, so thank you so, so much as well.

We need to thank the people here at the Writers Guild Theater. This was a last minute substitution, so thank you guys so much for letting us be here. We want to thank our amazing guests. You guys are phenomenal.

Craig: Yes. Amram, Schnauz, and Selman. What a law firm.

John: Our show, as always, is being cut by Matthew Chilelli, but he’s cutting it from Japan. So he’s moved to Japan, but he’s like cutting it overseas now, which is awesome. So thank you for that. And our amazing intro came from John Spurney. So, standard things. If you have an outro, we have a whole bunch of Rajesh Naroth ones, which are fantastic, but we need more awesome outros. So, write us an outro and we’ll put it on the show.

Guys, you were fantastic. Thank you so much. Have a great night.

Craig: Thanks you guys.

Links:

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

johnaugust.com

Scriptnotes Live Homecoming Show

John and Craig welcome special guests Megan Amram (The Good Place), Tom Schnauz (Better Call Saul) and Matt Selman (The Simpsons) to talk about writing television, from staffing to breaking story to the challenge of short seasons.

Then we try out two new segments: How Could This Be Funny and An Aubry Plaza Type. Do they work? It’s debatable!

There is also a Q&A, which you can find as a bonus episode for subscribers at scriptnotes.net.

Recorded live at the Writers Guild Theater on July 25, 2017. Thanks to the Writers Guild Foundation for hosting us, and a terrific audience.

Links:

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

johnaugust.com

Jaw-dropping pictures show what hailstones can do to your aircraft

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If there’s a modern definition of hero, airplane pilots should definitely be included. 

Take Alexander Akopov, the Ukrainian captain whose Cyprus-bound aircraft carrying 127 people was battered by a epic hailstorm just 10 minutes after take-off from Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. 

Golfball-sized hailstones damaged the A320’s nose, shattering the windscreen and leaving the pilots unable to see from the forward window. 

Akopov then took the difficult decision to turn the plane around and gained permission to land at Ataturk, despite the airport being closed to other flights. Read more…

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Easyrig Show Off A Little Something For the Ladies

One of Easyrig’s newest vests is designed specifically to fit the contours of the female body.

Today at NAB, the always delightful team at Easyrig showed us some of their newest line of camera steady rigs. The smallest of the rigs was the Minimax, a rig that can hold cameras anywhere from 4 – 15 lbs. The sturdier Vario, on the other hand, can hold anywhere from 11 – 38 lbs of weight. Both have a rotation stop so your camera will never rotate more than 180 degrees in front of you.

The last product they showed us was the Cineflex, a Cinema3 that is rebuilt on the top part of the vest so any chest can fit. As founder Johan Hellsten was keen to point out, “it’s one for the ladies”

No Film School’s complete coverage of NAB 2017 is brought to you by My RØDE Reel, Vimeo 360, and Blackmagic Design.

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No Film School

George Takei, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and more show their March for Science support

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As hundreds of Marches for Science took place around the globe, science-loving celebrities sounded off on social media to show their support.

A few marched themselves (looking at you, Peter Capaldi). Others, unable to make it, sent messages of encouragement and thanks to participants. Bonus: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s message involved a dog.

Yes, if nothing else, we can take comfort in the fact that many celebrities appear to know that, indeed, there is no Planet B. Whew!

Today, we’re at the #MarchForScience promoting the progress of science and the useful arts of engineeringpic.twitter.com/VJJKSMahD3

— Bill Nye (@BillNye) April 22, 2017 Read more…

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