How a Movie Can Go Wrong (Even When It Had Everything Right)

James Ellroy’s novel “The Black Dahlia” is a fictionalized crime noir that launches from one of the most gruesome unsolved murders of old Los Angeles. Ellroy’s book is quintessential noir layered in a dark world of criminals, muscled confessions and crooked cops. No one is innocent in the pursuit of justice for the murder of […]

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VR: Why they all did it the wrong way around

The news is crawling with virtual reality (VR) as writers try to nail the big story that no one else saw coming. When Facebook bought Oculus Rift for $ 2billion the world stopped treating VR like the new kid at school and before we knew it a space-race launched in which every venture capitalist is out to win. Apple want to make its augmented reality platform the largest in the world, Snapchat won’t stop pushing the boundaries of puppy-ears and let’s not forget how Pokémon took over the world.

But what if they got it all wrong?

Kendra Horsburgh is a leading artistic director and choreographer that is using VR for everything VR isn’t expected to be. There isn’t a tech firm driving her to fuel the VR-revolution or even a VC trying to win a golden ticket. But they should be. This is an opportunity not to be missed.

Without the need to shoehorn VR into everything she does, Kendra created NOX: EVIDENCE OF ABSENCE, an immersive performance that could only work if there were a way to defy gravity, space and time. So whilst all the tech giants are telling us how incredible VR is using performance, Kendra is showing us an incredible dance theatre performance using VR.

The experience isn’t about the headset. It’s about total immersion into a live dance experience.

NOX asks a question inspired by Robert A. Johnson’s theory in Owning Your Own Shadow. What would you see if your shadow became another conscious being that is everything that you’re not? As the performance begins you are guided into a space where you put on your headset and the VR kicks in. Ten people at a time are choreographed through the narrative of a girl who meets ten fleeting shadows that all interact with you. If you’re not familiar with Kendra’s work, watch The Aviary and it will all become clear. In NOX, her eleven dancers expose you to smells and gusts of wind as you’re guided around the stage from one chapter to the next until; finally, it comes to a finale like the Sixth Sense did. And you never forget that.

(Credit: Distinct Ldn)

Kendra developed the concept, vision and choreography. With Maskomi, Mutiny Media and independent arts producer, Rajpal Pardesi, Kendra designed everything around the performance using off-the-shelf hardware. Mixing VR 360 video with a live camera feed enabled them to have virtual characters interact with the live dancers. Where it gets even smarter, is that they coupled VR streaming with a surround-sound system, created by sound artist, Filipe Gomes, placing the sound around the room so that your spatial awareness flows seamlessly. A phone hack allowed them to synchronise the headsets for ten participants to experience the same thing at the same time, triggered by the sound. They then gave the participants Subpac’s, turtle-shells that contain sub-woofers so that they can feel their way around the room. The participant finds himself in a blend of VR and reality where the line between the two is blurred and it’s exactly that blurring of lines that Kendra scripted into the shadows. When does the shadow stop being you and when does the dance stop being virtual? What is real and what is NOX!

(Credit: Distinct Ldn)

This is a long way from when her BirdGang Dance Company started in 2005. Kendra received a grant from Arts Council England to allow the project to get off the ground with an initial private showing at the Young Vic. The feedback was so unanimously positive that they’re now raising the funding for a full-scale version. Kendra is hell-bent on bringing dance theatre performances to the people using Virtual Reality. The plan is to be able to deliver dance to schools, care homes and prisons for people who don’t have easy access to the arts. Even if you’re not one of the VR headset-wearing participants, NOX was created so that an unlimited number of spectators could watch the show and those wearing the headsets and participate live at the same time.

Have tech companies have been answering a question that no one asked? Has Kendra just asked the question VR companies should be trying to answer?

Contact: for more information and to get involved.

Instagram: @kendrahorsburgh, Twitter: @kendrahorsburgh, FB: @kendrajhorsburgh

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Everything that’s totally wrong with that New York Times Brexit tour


Americans have developed a real obsession with Brexit, at least since they started seeing Nigel Farage popping up everywhere

Interest is so high that the New York Times (!) is now ‘offering’ an elite “Brexit means Brexit!” (sic) tour at the modest, totally affordable cost of $ 5,995 (with a deposit of $ 500). 

The six-day, five-night London tour is part of its “Times Journeys” travel service and it ‘offers’ guests the opportunity “to discuss Britain’s decision to leave the EU and the financial, legal and social implications for Britain, Europe and the world,” accompanied by the Times’ London bureau chief Steve Erlanger. Read more…

More about London, New York Times, Brexit, Brexit Tour, and Business

Scriptnotes, Ep 294: Getting the Details Wrong — Transcript

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

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is Episode 294 of Scriptnotes. A podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. And, Craig, there’s exciting news. So, we had talked about a live show with Rian Johnson. It got postponed but it’s now back on the calendar.

Craig: It’s back on the calendar. Right now I believe we are looking at May 1. I think it’s going to be at the ArcLight in Hollywood and Rian will be there as will Rob McElhenney, the creator and star of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, an excellent show and an excellent guy. Dana Fox will be filling in, playing the role of John August. So, between Dana, and Rian, and Rob, we’ve got quite a lineup. Rian, of course, has directed a small film which will be coming out in December. And tickets, not yet on sale, but maybe. So we’ll have a link once we get them.

John: Yeah. We’re not going to string you along with promises of a live show and never deliver. We will eventually have this live show. I will be seething with jealousy that you guys get to be in a room together and I will not be. And the ArcLight feels like a great home for it. We’ve talked about the ArcLight as a venue before. We’re often across the street at the LA Film School, but actual ArcLight seems great.

When you have Rian Johnson there, please recall the anecdote of Rian Johnson when he was doing Looper, he actually came into an audience screening of Looper and he had dressed up as an ArcLight employee and did the standard greetings and welcome. And like, you know, turn off your cell phones. And did that for a screening of his own movie, which I thought was just delightful and very Rian Johnson.

Craig: Did he let anyone know that he was Rian Johnson?

John: Apparently he got recognized a ways into his spiel.

Craig: Damn.

John: That’s just great.

Craig: That is pretty great.

John: So I would love to do that at some point.

Craig: All right.

John: Today on the podcast, we’ll be discussing chess, bad news, baseball, god, and screenwriting competitions. It’s a hodgepodge episode, Craig.

Craig: Really? Because to me those always get discussed together.

John: What’s weird is a lot of the things do go together, like bad news and baseball obviously is great. Baseball and god, I can see there’s–

Craig: Totally.

John: Like Aaron Sorkin would talk about the connections between these different ideas, but it’s just a lot of things.

Craig: Aaron Sorkin was in the news recently.

John: He was in the news recently. What was he talking about? Oh, he was talking – yeah. I felt kind of bad for Aaron Sorkin.

Craig: I did, too. I did, too.

John: I saw it as a Twitter storm outrage, but it felt like he was quoted a little bit out of context. Like he sort of sarcastically answered back to a question and then probably said something more, but we saw his little snippet of it and it sounded like he had no idea what was going on.

Craig: Well, I’m not sure it was sarcastic. So, for those of you who are wondering what the hell we’re talking about, the Writers Guild Foundation had their annual festival. I participated in it, in fact, with Derek Haas. We had a very nice discussion with some folks. One of the main acts, as it were, was a discussion with Aaron Sorkin. And during it the topic of diversity and underrepresentation of minority writers of all sorts of types in Hollywood came up. And he seemingly was shocked that – I think what he was shocked about specifically was the idea that white male, or white straight male directors for instance, are perceived as getting free passes or opportunities that perhaps they haven’t quite earned, whereas other writers who aren’t that norm, so to speak, would not. And he seemed flabbergasted by this.

And said, “Well, OK, now that I know, what can I do to help?” And there was some outrage of the sort of, “Really? That’s classic white privilege for you to not know this.” And, you know, so I was actually talking with one of the organizers of the festival about it afterwards and he said, “You know, in the room his comments were received quite well overall and that people were actually quite heartened by his concern and his desire to do what he could do about that.”

When you just take it as an isolated comment and you put it on Twitter, it does sound oblivious. And I – the truth is it is oblivious, but oblivion is certainly not as bad as awareness and lack of care. It’s a weird time we live in where people maybe are late to understand that there’s a certain kind of injustice, express a dissatisfaction with that injustice, and express a desire to do what they can to correct that injustice. And that is seen as a failure.

John: Yeah. I can definitely sympathize with the it felt one way in the room and it felt a very different way when looking at a transcript, because we make a podcast that has transcripts and every once in a while something will come up that will become an outrage because of what was in the transcripts, which never was an outrage when we were actually speaking it. And so when I saw those comments out of context, I assumed it was just the snippets around things rather than the actual meat there. I do share your frustration that sometimes we become outraged by the person who is trying to be an ally but sort of bumbles it a little bit, rather than the person who is actually trying to do harm.

That’s the nature of the world that we’re in.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, look, I’m not suggesting that we give people extra credit for ham-fisted or late-to-the-party attempts to be good people. I don’t think people deserve credit for that. Frankly, I don’t think you should get credit for doing what you’re supposed to do anyway. I just don’t think they should be torn down. And certainly, look, I had a crazy experience as you may recall a few years ago when we did a live podcast and sort of the same deal. In the room there was absolutely no problem whatsoever. Not one comment was made at all. It was only afterward, when somebody pulled it out of a transcript, somebody who had not been there, that it took on a life of its own.

So, you know, these things do happen. So, I did feel somewhat bad for him. I didn’t think that he quite deserved the grief. I don’t think he deserves credit, but I don’t think he deserves grief. Well, see, that was an unplanned topic.

John: It was an unplanned topic, but you know what, I think it actually ties in very well to our planned topics, because I think it raises the issue of benefit of the doubt. And I think many of the things we’re talking about tonight really do speak to benefit of the doubt and whether giving benefit of the doubt could make some of these things that seem outrageous a little bit more understandable.

Craig: Can I give you a compliment? I want to give you a compliment. I think that one of the essential aspects of intelligence is the ability to find connections that are not necessarily obvious in things that would otherwise be viewed as disparate. That is an overlooked aspect of intelligence. And you are absolutely right and that was very, very smart.

John: Oh, great. So–

Craig: You’re smart.

John: Thank you. Let’s see if it bears fruit in the actual discussion.

Craig: Yes, so now don’t be stupid.

John: The follow up. Let’s start with a really simple, simple question. This was raised on Twitter a week or two ago. And you and I both tried to deal with it on Twitter, but let’s talk it out here. A question that came from Matt Schlicter who says, “Does an atheist/agnostic capitalize the G in god in a script? I.e. when a character says, ‘Thank god.’”

So, you and I answered this question in different ways. So, Craig, talk about your answer. I’ll talk about my answer. And see if we can come to a common ground.

Craig: Yes. So I am an atheist. Generally speaking, I do not capitalize the word “god” unless I am referring to god in the specific religious sense. So, if I have somebody say, “Oh my god, or oh god, or goddammit,” or any of those things–

John: Or god bless.

Craig: Or god bless. I don’t capitalize the G. If I have somebody saying something like, “Do you believe in God? Or when I pray to God,” then I would capitalize because that person is – I presume that character is religious and believes in God and is also speaking specifically to God.

John: Yes. So, I generally do capitalize, and so I would do it in Thank God and other things, but I’m not sure I’m entirely consistent. So I could do some sort of grep search through all of my old files and see whether I’m capitalizing that G or not.

Craig: Grep search. Nerd.

John: Yeah. Nerd.

Craig: UNIX.

John: But I have not actually done that kind of search. But in general I do capitalize it. My rationale for it is that God is sort of a character. Like I would capitalize Zeus. And so therefore I’m capitalizing God. And that I generally think of God as being the God of Abraham. And so I’m referring to a specific character and therefore I would refer that character, the capital name.

That’s not entirely reasonable. And I think your distinction between like would the character saying that word capitalize it or not is a reasonable thing to do. It’s just sort of a choice to not capitalize it, so I’m sort of not making that choice. And it’s just simpler for me to capitalize it in most cases.

Craig: I don’t think it really matters, unless you’re submitting a script to a faith-based producer.

John: Then you should capitalize Thank God.

Craig: Probably capitalize it and also take out the abortion stuff, and your gay characters, and your Jews.

John: There are faith-based producers who are happy with the gays.

Craig: Really?

John: Yeah. I’m sure there are.

Craig: Wait a second. You went from “there are” to “I’m sure there are.”

John: Indeed. I’m gradually backtracking down there. But I have certainty that there is some faith-based producer who would be offended by a lower case G but not be offended by Gays in the script.

Craig: Yeah. You know what? You’re probably right.

John: Mark Burnett. Mark Burnett is a religious person. But I also think he’s probably not an anti-gay person. Guessing.

Craig: Hopefully not. But yeah, I think that generally speaking it doesn’t really matter one way or another. It would be glaring to me if I saw the lower case G and it was a priest and he was saying, “You need to come to God to understand God,” and that was all lower case. I would just think was this person’s shift key broken? But, if I see someone say, “Oh my god,” and it’s – frankly I find the capital G in oh my God to be too religious. It’s weird. Because in my mind when people say that they’re not talking about actual God. It’s simply a phrase. So it’s personal choice.

John: It is personal choice. I would also say like in the words like goddammit, like that feels really weird to sort of capitalize the G in that, so I’m probably not consistent at all in my things. It’s just when it’s the single word by itself I tend to capitalize it.

Craig: Yeah.

John: All right. Let’s get to less controversial topics. This is an email that came in from Jason Kessler, a listener. He says that, “Every once and a while the topic of screenwriting contests comes up and whether or not they’re useful. I thought it might be helpful to share my experience with you.”

Craig: I’m sure this is going to go great. I’m sure he’s had a wonderful experience and nothing went wrong.

John: OK. “The Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest has 13 different categories—“

Craig: And we’re off.

John: “The Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest…” – sirens are going off right now.

Craig: I mean, red flags on top of sirens. Yeah. Yikes.

John: Let’s pause here, because Beverly Hills and moviemaking really don’t have a lot to do with each other. I mean, it’s like while the talent agencies are in Beverly Hills, I guess, it’s not like, you know, oh, let’s go to Beverly Hills and make movies. No, you go to Beverly Hills to see tourists buy expensive jewelry.

Craig: No, for sure. First of all, CAA isn’t even in Beverly Hills anymore. And second of all, Beverly Hills isn’t even Beverly Hills. Because that’s just like back from 90210 days where everyone was like, Ooh-ah, Beverly Hills. Yeah, Beverly Hills is fine and everything, but most of Beverly Hills is just, you know, it’s the flats. It’s a bunch of houses and stuff. The Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest just screams of fakeness.

John: It does. So, this contest though has “13 different categories, each with a gold, silver, and bronze winner. And then one overall grand prize winner. The website advertises the competition as having “over $ 20,000 in prizes and awards.” So Jason writes, “My Silicon Valley spec script was the gold winner of the TV Existing Series competition this year.” So, congratulations to Jason.

Craig: Well done.

John: Because you wrote a good episode of Silicon Valley, which is a fantastic show. So, hooray for him. “As a winner, I was informed that my one and only prize for winning the gold in the category was a coupon code for a free copy of the Scrivener Screenwriting Software…”

Craig: [laughs]

John: “…that is hardly worth more than the entry fee to the contest.”

Craig: What was the entry fee to the contest, by the way? Do we know?

John: $ 30.

Craig: Oh my god.

John: “So unless the grand prize winner got a check for $ 20,000, I find their claim of over $ 20,000 in prizes and awards to be very questionable.”

So, if I were Jason I would be a little bit frustrated that, you know, I won the gold and I’m getting a coupon code.

Craig: Well, yeah. I mean, this is the worst lottery of all time. This is right up there with buying scratchers. You enter a contest for $ 30, you pay them $ 30, and if you are one of the top winners, right, because there’s 13 different categories, each has one gold winner. So, if you are one of the 13 best, I’m excluding the grand prize winner which I doubt did get $ 20,000, you get something that’s worth $ 20 more than you paid in? This is the worst.

John: So, fortunately Jason is not just the kind of person who writes into us. He actually wrote to the competition people themselves to sort of ask a question and complain.

Craig: Atta boy.

John: So, this is the first update we got. So, Godwin, our producer, has been on the email chain with him quite a lot. So we have some follow up here.

So he says, “I pointed out to them that their website says the gold winners will receive a copy of Imagination Pro 4 software and they asked for my mailing address and said they would send it to me.” So, Imagination Pro 4, I kind of–

Craig: What is that?

John: I kind of recognize this. I think it’s basically like brain-mapping software.

Craig: Oh Christ.

John: It’s outlining kind of stuff. I don’t know anybody who uses it.

Craig: No.

John: It’s a useless software that exists.

Craig: Useless.

John: He says though that, “Now if you check the same webpage about the prizes, they’ve edited to remove that part of the Imagination Pro 4 software,” so he’s guessing that they won’t be sending it to the other gold winners.

Craig: [laughs] Because he got their one copy? By the way, I love a contest where you win something, then you write to them and you’re like, hey, I didn’t get all the stuff I was supposed to win, and they’re like, “Oh, OK, would you like it?”

John: Yeah.

Craig: Yeah. I guess I would like it. OK. Well, no one else gets it anymore. What the hell?

John: There’s more. “So the contest wrote to me last night and offered to send me the cash value of the Imagination Pro Software instead of the actual software if that’s what I prefer. I said yes, even though I don’t know what the software is and can’t really find it online to check out what the retail value should be. They said they’d send the cash via PayPal. The whole thing is pretty weird.”

Craig: Yeah.

John: So yeah. I’d say that’s pretty weird.

Craig: It’s pretty weird.

John: PayPal. I mean, it’s potentially money.

Craig: Right. No, so they have gone through the rigorous process required to achieve a PayPal account. So, good on you, Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest.

John: Well, I’m sure they had the PayPal account because they had to take the $ 30 entry fee.

Craig: That’s right. There you go. So out of their massive pool of cash that they’ve suckered out of people, they said, “Oh you know, we actually,” I feel like they were like, “We don’t actually have any Imagination Pro copies here. And we got to go buy one and then we got to send it to this guy. Can we just give him the money instead? It will be faster.”

John: It will be faster.

Craig: And I love that he was like, “I can’t even find this software online for sale to see what it costs.” [laughs] This is amazing. By the way, also, can I just say the worst title of software in history is Imagination Pro 4. What about Imagination is Pro 4 Software supposed to do for me? How is software supposed to enhance my imagination? Oh my god, I want to kick this contest in the nards.

John: Well, I mean, it’s a big step up from Imagination Pro 3. Because that was–

Craig: That actually made your imagination worse?

John: Yeah. It was soul-crippling.

Craig: It took your imagination away. It made life gray.

John: [laughs] Indeed. It was like the Dementors from Harry Potter just like flew in and sort of sucked your soul out a little bit.

Craig: [laughs] Oh my god. And that’s for the Pro version.

John: It was a bug really, but they fixed it. They mostly fixed it.

Craig: It’s not a bug. It’s a feature.

John: It’s much better. So finally there is some resolution here. So often just like we’re going to kick this around and never know what happens, here’s actually what happened. Jason finishes up that, “All in all I ended up with $ 200 cash, a free copy of Scrivener Software, and the ability to tell my friends and network that I won a screenplay contest, all for an entry fee of $ 20. So I definitely made out ahead in the end.”


Craig: Yeah. He won. I mean, it’s kind of crazy that you’re like, “OK, after winning, and a bunch of communication, I did actually do better than what it cost me to enter.” I mean, that’s – that shouldn’t really be a struggle, right?

John: Obviously there was a lot of follow up here. “My takeaway advice to all screenwriters when it comes to choosing contests, rule out any contest that doesn’t explicitly state what the exact prizes are for each winner. And be aware that a claim of X dollars in prizes does not mean cash. It might mean free software or ambiguous ‘promotion’ to their network and [industry meanings] they can assign and inflate a dollar value when making the claim about the overall value of prizes.”

Craig: Yeah.

John: Yes. He says, “I didn’t get any inquiries from managers or producers. But I can also confirm that in the end they did send me $ 200 cash and it cleared my account. So my final call on them is if they continue to make ambiguous $ 20,000 claim in prizes without specifying exactly what prizes go to each winner, then I would recommend avoiding this contest.”

Craig: Uh…

John: He’s under-learned the lesson here.

Craig: Yeah. He’s the most patient, accepting person I’ve ever met in my life. I would go bananas at this point. So first of all, let’s expand our definition of the contests that we should avoid. It is not merely the ones that claim absurd inflated amounts of prizes that include self-assigned values to ambiguous nonsense. How about just about all of them? Just about all of them are worthless. When you win the gold prize in a screenplay contest and zero people in the business seem to be interested, and the contest has failed to deliver any real actionable result to you, then it is worthless. You don’t need Scrivener, by the way. I don’t use Scrivener. You certainly don’t need Imagination Pro 4. And this is a bad way of turning $ 30 into $ 200.

Generally speaking you won’t – you meaning collectively you – will not be the gold prize winner. Just avoid these things.

John: Yeah. So let’s take a step back and look at screenplay competitions overall, because we’ve talked about them in previous shows. Our basic advice is that the Nicholl Fellowship, if you win the Nicholl Fellowship, you are a finalist in the Nicholl Fellowship, that’s awesome. That’s aces. That is really a thing that matters, because people will actually notice that and say like, oh, I will read your script. That is a fantastic thing.

Craig: Right.

John: To some degree, Austin can be helpful or not helpful. There’s really a mixture of opinions on sort of what degree Austin is going to help your career. But don’t try to go to Austin saying like, “I’m going to win a prize.” Winning a prize, like a cash value prize, that shouldn’t be the point. Your point should be to start a career. And so whether you got a $ 200 piece of software or $ 200 thing from PayPal, you don’t want $ 200. You want a career. And so if you’re entering a competition with the hopes of getting your career going, enter one of the ones that could actually have an impact on your career. Because the Beverly Hills Screenplay Competition or any of these other ones with like $ 20,000 in prizes – that’s not going to start your career.

Craig: Not at all. And while it may be tempting to think that if you’ve completed a screenplay there’s some upside to monetizing it through contests, this is not a very good money-making scheme. Each one of these places charges a submission fee. You’re not going to win most of them. And so this is a bad way of making money. It’s also not a lot of money to begin with.

John: Nope.

Craig: Beyond that, I question why these exist. I understand why the Nicholl exists. It is run – managed and run by – the Motion Picture Academy. The people that–

John: The Oscar folks.

Craig: The Oscar folks. Right? That’s quite legitimate. And everybody certainly pays attention to what they have to say. Many of the people in our business who are important and successful are members of the Academy, including. But not me. [laughs] That will never happen.

John: One day, Craig.

Craig: I don’t think so. But that aside, why are these people running a contest? They can’t seem to deliver anything in terms of industry contacts. They can’t seem to deliver even what they promise in terms of “prizes.” So what are they in it for? And at that point I think a reasonable question is are they in it for the money? Is this a for-profit contest? If it’s not for profit, is part of the expense of their not-for-profit paying salaries to the people that run it? I don’t understand why this exists. And I would not participate in it.

John: Let’s circle back to our umbrella theme for today. Benefit of the doubt. So, if we want to give the Beverly Hills Screenplay Competition benefit of the doubt, I could imagine a scenario in which they incorporated with the idea of let’s be a screenwriting competition that makes a difference, that helps young writers, that exposes writers to new talent. Maybe they actually had a relationship with one or two managers and they think like, oh, this is a thing we can do and we will charge a minimal fee of $ 30 to pay readers because you’ve got to pay readers, because you’re going to get a bunch of stuff being sent in. So it could have been done with the best of intentions, but the best of intentions does not lead to a good outcome in this scenario.

So, I don’t want to ascribe any negative necessarily motivations behind the people of this competition, but I don’t think it is serving screenwriters well to exist.

Craig: No. I don’t either. And I’m looking at their website and I don’t see anything that states that they are non-profit or not-for-profit. I don’t even see anything explaining who runs it. There’s not a lot of transparency here. It appears to me that it is a scheme. It’s a promotional scheme where they collect fees and they offset their costs through sponsorships. And the fees go in their pockets, I guess. I don’t – I could be wrong. But I don’t see anything that indicates otherwise.

John: Yeah. The two sponsors listed are Hmm.

Craig: Hmm.

John: And Scrivener. And Scrivener did provide the coupon codes for this, so I don’t know, but I’m not seeing a lot of excitement there. Also their logo sort of looks like a red Christmas tree.

Craig: Oh my god, their logo! First of all, they have two things going on on their page. They have the worst logo in history. And then underneath their big banner it says, “Over $ 20,000 in prizes and awards,” which somebody possibly could class action lawsuit, “Introductions to producers, develop execs, and agents,” or not. “Exclusive benefits from leading industry partners,” which I presume includes the before-mentioned Imagination Pro 4. “Script analysis from professional judges.” Fine. And then in the middle of that, you know the double laurel thing that you see that all film festivals have?

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: Oh, I won, you know, Cannes, the double laurel. Well, they have the double laurel and in between it it says, “Win.” Win. [laughs] So if you want, let’s say you submitted your script and the movie got made and it went to Cannes and it won the Palme d’Or. Then on the poster it could say that, you know, with the Palme d’Or double laurel. And next to it it could also say, “Win.”

John: Win.

Craig: Win. This is the dumbest. I don’t like it and they should be ashamed.

John: I think that’s fair. Even with benefit of the doubt, I think we’re not going to encourage anyone to enter the Beverly Hills Screenplay Competition or really any kind of screenplay competition.

Let’s move on to one of our bigger topics, which general category of getting things wrong. So on a previous episode we talked about the importance of trying to do the research to make sure you were doing things properly in a medical show, or with the law. We pointed out our frustrations when writers and filmed entertainment falls back on tropes that are not even accurate. And so we were encouraging people to do the research to get things right.

Robert Lee writes, “I’m currently writing a script in which chess plays a major role. A lot of drama and conflict will come from the game itself. Would it be suitable or possible to put diagrams of the chess moves into the script?” I will answer for both of us. The answer is no.

Craig: [laughs]

John: Putting diagrams into your script in general is not going to make sense. Craig, I think, in previous times has said it would be great to include a picture for something to show what something is going to be like. But in general, no. And I think the chess diagram will just annoy people. And the third time I see a chess diagram, I am throwing the script across the room if it’s a printed script. But I don’t really print anything anymore, so I would probably close the PDF reader on my iPad and play some Heart Stone if I saw another chess diagram.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, look, even in a world in which script software and the industry together have evolved to a place where people want to see visuals and imagery in screenplays, you still wouldn’t put diagrams of chess moves into a script for one simple reason: people that don’t play chess have no idea what the hell they mean. It doesn’t mean a damn thing. 99% of the people reading your screenplay, Robert, will not be chess experts. They won’t even be chess dilettantes. They will not know how to read the diagram. And even if they do know how to read it, like I’m terrible at chess. I know what chess diagrams are and I know roughly what they mean. I still wouldn’t know what the significance of the particular moves are. It’s just absolutely no. It is no.

John: We’re saying that most people reading the script are not going to be chess experts or chess aficionados to the degree that they will understand that, and yet there are experts out there. And so I’m going to put a link in the show notes to this great article by Cara Giaimo who is writing for Atlas Obscura called Why Chess Fans Hate the Movies. And she goes through and explains why chess in movies is so often so wrong and how it drives people who actually know what chess is like absolutely crazy.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So some of the things that she points out are no one actually like knocks over the king in a checkmate situation. A lot of times you’ll see the pieces on the board in actually impossible positions. And so you see it from episodes of The Office. You see it From Russia With Love, The Shawshank Redemption, Ace Ventura, When Nature Calls, which is I think really pushing for an example.

If you’re a person who knows chess and can look at a board and recognize that there’s a mistake, that’s going to frustrate you. And so after we talk about our next topic, let’s go into sort of why some of those things happen and maybe how you can try to avoid those, but also how you can provide some benefit of the doubt to those filmmakers for why they make such horrible mistakes.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, there are levels of these things. And in part they are related to the kind of movie and story you’re telling. If you’re making a movie that is not about chess at all but there happens to be some incidental moment where people are playing chess, you know, certain things are understandable. The knocking over of the king is not something that chess players do, but we’re all accustomed to it. If you’re making a movie about chess specifically, that becomes a little trickier. I happen to love Searching for Bobby Fisher. I’m sure that Cara Giaimo has issues with it. Certainly there is the knocking over of the king repeatedly. But what I would say to people like Ms. Giaimo is we can’t afford to limit our concern to chess players. We have to think about the general audience and we have to explain and dramatize things.

And it is generally speaking better storytelling to do something visually than to just have somebody say, “Oh, OK, well, good game.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: Because we in the audience won’t necessarily know what happened. So, for instance, she cites an example in Season 5 of The Office there is an episode where Jim has both of his bishops on white squares, an impossible orientation in that particular game, in any game. I think in chess one bishop is on a black, one bishop is on a white, they can only move diagonally so they can never change colors. That’s reasonable. Nobody should really make that mistake.

But, the other stuff, meh.

John: Yes. And yet having been on sets I can totally imagine how that mistake came to be. Or even that was a plot point that somehow just got dropped out of the edit. So, I’m sympathetic to sort of how these things happen. But let’s go to an example that’s actually more writing oriented. This came from David in San Diego who writes in, “In addition to being a Scriptnotes listener, I’m a fan of baseball. Recently my favorite baseball podcast, Effectively Wild, played a clip from an episode of Chicago Justice, an NBC legal drama produced by, among others, your friend Derek Haas. The show’s lead character, Peter Stone, is a former Major League baseball pitcher turned district attorney. In the clip, Peter attempts to impart some wisdom to a younger colleague by telling her an anecdote from his baseball days. The point of this story is that Peter felt personally responsible for losing a game rather than blaming it on a teammate’s error.”

Let’s actually take a listen to this little snippet from the show.

Female Voice: That was the best redirect I have ever seen.

Male Voice: In your three years of practice?

Female Voice: Seriously. It was Atticus Finch. Tom Cruise kicking the crap out of Nicholson.

Male Voice: What if Kaleelah had adult onset diabetes? What if she said the deputy had two fingers raised? Hmm?

Female Voice: Never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.

Male Voice: I was naked out there.

Female Voice: I know I screwed up, Peter. I should have asked if she wore a—

Male Voice: Forget it. Forget it. You know I played baseball, right? I pitched. It was Cubs/Sox, 2007, bottom of the 9th, we’re up one. I throw the sinker and it’s an easy grounder to third. A sure double play. Until my third baseman boots it. And just like that we lose. Now, the entire north side of Chicago, they blame the third baseman. But the only person I blamed was myself. See, if had thrown the splitter, the batter would have popped it up to right and we would have won.

John: So David continues, “The problem is that for a baseball fan the anecdote makes no sense. In his anecdote, Peter did exactly what a pitcher is supposed to do and his teammate simply screwed up. And the details, such as the type of pitch he should have thrown, are all wrong. The character could have just as easily told a story that got the baseball details right while accomplishing the same goals for the scene.

“My questions are, A, how does this happen? B, is it unreasonable to expect a network drama to get these kind of details right? And, C, given that baseball is integral to the lead character’s backstory, why wouldn’t the writers have called on someone to fix these type of questions when they came up?”

So, Craig, what do we say in this scenario about this one anecdote that doesn’t ring true to a person who actually knows what baseball is? Because I’ll be completely honest – I have no idea what he’s saying. He could just be talking random nonsense words and it makes as much sense to me. It’s like, you know, Sheldon on Big Bang Theory talking about quantum mechanics. I’m more likely to understand the quantum mechanics.

Craig: Well, that’s actually part of the problem, I think, with the anecdote there. But I think that David in San Diego makes a perfectly justifiable point here on one level. The anecdote makes no sense. He’s saying I really should have had him pop up and so I should have thrown him the splitter. Splitters are the most groundball-inducing pitch you can throw. So, that makes no sense. If he wanted the guy to pop up, he would have said, “I should have thrown him an elevated fastball.” So, it’s incorrect. It’s just flat out wrong.

Oh, and we should add, by the way, Derek is associated with Chicago Justice, but he actually doesn’t write on Chicago Justice or supervise the writing of Chicago Justice. So I don’t want Derek to get folded into this.

John: Yeah. We did email him about this. And he’s like, “I really don’t know anything about that episode.”

Craig: Exactly.

John: We completely excused him from any discussion of this. But, I think it’s interesting to talk about why this has happened, or how does this kind of situation happen. And I can imagine the scene in abstract. Let’s say like me, a person who doesn’t know anything about baseball, is tasked with writing this scene. And the purpose of this moment is to clarify that this guy sees an analogous situation in his previous career where he made a choice that was the wrong choice, or that he escaped blamed when he really should have gotten blamed for a scenario.

And so me not knowing the baseball of this all, I would seek out an example of what that might be like in baseball terms and attempt to write it. And then find somebody honestly who could tell me that I was wrong in the situation. And so it’s surprising to me that this made it all the way through to air, but I don’t the specific scenarios on like how it got to be in the show.

Craig: The point is that sometimes the wrong person gets blamed. That was a bad example. It was a bad example because as, again, David points out correctly the wrong person didn’t get blamed. Any time a player in the field commits an error, it’s their fault. An error by definition in baseball is a play that is not made that could otherwise be made with reasonable effort.

So, that doesn’t make sense. And also then the follow up about what pitch he should have thrown doesn’t make sense. Why does this happen? It happens because usually there isn’t anyone in the group other than the person writing it who feels or who has additional expertise to say that actually doesn’t make sense. Sometimes there are arguments about these things and the people who are correct lose the argument. I mean, television writing staffs are notoriously regimented and there’s a certain hierarchy.

I, like you, tend to want to confirm and reach out on all of these things. But I want to point out here that there is another level to this, which is if the audience gets the dramatic point, and the audience generally isn’t easily understandable as authorities or fans of the topic you’re discussing, in the end does it matter that much? No.

Look, I always strive to be correct in these things. Always. And we should. Believe me, I’m not excusing mistakes. However, other than David, I don’t believe there has been an outcry from the very large, millions and millions of people large, audience of Chicago Justice. So that tells me that, well, it looks like maybe they got away with this one because the dramatic point was understood. And in the end that is what matters. But, I agree with you that in general we should reach out and check on these things. We don’t want to get caught with our pants down.

And in today’s world where there are a million blogs and Twitter ready to call you on every mistake, it seems like a little extra care is probably called for.

John: Yeah. So, I want to look at both this chess example and the baseball example and the experts in both these scenarios are frustrated by what they’re seeing portrayed on screen. And I can imagine a doctor, a lawyer, a police detective, a military person shaking their damn heads as they’re like, “What are you complaining about?”

Craig: Right.

John: Because every single time they turn on the TV they’re seeing things reflected back that are not the actual experiences of being any of those jobs.

Craig: Right.

John: And so there are shortcuts being taken in all those things for the sake of expediency in television. And so while we are always pushing for authenticity and for getting the details right, there are just things that in every medical show that are not sort of the way it would actually be done. There are things in every police show that are not done that way. We’ve compressed time. We’ve simplified things. We’ve merged jobs. I’ve never seen Chicago Justice, but I would guarantee you that there are unlikely things that happen in every week’s episodes on a legal basis just because that’s how legal basis legal shows work.

And so if you look at like a Law & Order, you know, we kind of forget that like, oh you know what, they’ve compressed out two years’ worth of time for an episode.

Craig: The boring time.

John: Exactly. So I have sympathy for the chess fans and for the baseball fans, but also I want them to broaden their sympathies to everybody else who sees their real world not being portrayed accurately on screen.

Craig: I think that’s fair. I mean, the one thing I would caution writers is if you know you’re doing something for narrative expedience or dramatic expedience, that’s one thing. Actually you could have taken no more time and crafted an anecdote there that would have been baseball logical. And so that’s an avoidable mistake. The incorrectness, it does not accrue to your benefit in any way. Whereas various legal inaccuracies do accrue to your narrative benefit, because they compress time or make things more exciting. Knocking over the king accrues to your narrative dramatic benefit. This one just seems like a mistake.

So, if you can avoid it, avoid it.

John: Yeah. Let’s take a look at why some of these mistakes happen, or why these situations happen. I think the biggest one by far is simplification for clarity, which is both the knocking over the king, it is the compressing of time, it is the characters explaining some part of what they’re trying to do to a character who would not need to know that explanation. It’s characters doing something in the course of their job in a different way than they we would do it in real life. Just that action makes sense for an audience who has no familiarity with that. And that’s a thing that’s going to happen and your challenge as a writer is to do that in the most natural way that doesn’t feel gross or forced, but you have to make sure it makes sense to a person who doesn’t know what the heck that person’s job really is.

Craig: Yeah. For sure. I mean, just the fact that we’re telling the story the way we tell it, we are required to cheat. Sometimes we’ll make shows that are set in another country and people there are speaking accented English. They don’t speak accented English. They speak their own language. It’s just that we didn’t want to deal with the subtitles the whole time, so we have to cheat things. We have to cheat time and space all the time.

And so I’m not a huge fan of the gaffe squad type people. You know, the other thing that happens sometimes is people will catch the mistake. For instance, the aforementioned bishops, two bishops on white squares. By take two, somebody is probably rushing over and going, “Um, the bishops are in the wrong spot.” And the director is like, “What? No one cares, dude. Now our continuity is going to be all screwed up because the bishop is going to be moving back and forth between shots. Let’s just keep going. It’s not that important. Let five nerds complain about it, but I just don’t want my piece hopping back and forth now in between shots.” And that’s legitimate.

John: 100%.

Craig: That is a reasonable decision to make.

John: Yeah. Sometimes you’ll see characters are supposed to be heading west, but based on where the sun is in the sky there’s no way they’re headed west. That’s just moviemaking guys. There’s really nothing more you can do about that. It’s the schedule of when you shot. It’s when the light looked best. It’s when you had those actors.

Again, there’s also genre conventions. And so we have a genre convention where even though you shouldn’t hear sound in space, we hear sound in space. You know what? There’s movies that will be very adamant about not doing that, and it feels weird, but great, go for it when you want to do it.

We also have a genre convention of warp drives. You know what? It’s certainly not possible the way we show it in movies and TV shows. But without warp drives, it would just be incredibly tedious and you wouldn’t have the Star Trek Enterprise. So therefore we have warp drives.

Craig: Yeah. We love seeing the streaky star line things. I don’t think that’s how it works. But then you know again it’s not real anyway. I mean, certainly when you’re getting into science fiction, that’s a whole other discussion of how accurate to science do you want to be, because you’re walking a very strange line there. You don’t want to simply have no rules, because then it feels like you’re just cheating. On the other hand, you have to change some things that are true because we’re not supposed to be able to go faster than the speed of light and we want to. It’s fiction.

John: Yep. It’s magic.

Craig: Yeah. Magic.

John: Your point about characters speaking with an accent when they should be speaking their own language, a thing that has always struck me is in movies set in the past like everyone speaks British English, and even if they’re cultures that shouldn’t be speaking the same language they can speak to each other. And it’s just because we don’t want to stick anybody in subtitles. And I just get it. There’s a reason why you’re doing that. And like you could choose to put a lot of subtitles in there. And Game of Thrones I think impressively decided there would be a common language and then like everybody else would speak different languages and that was just a thing they were going to choose to do.

But they could have made a choice to not do that, and that would have been I think equally defendable.

Craig: For sure. And even in Game of Thrones, you’ll notice that when they have scenes where people are speaking say–

John: Dothraki.

Craig: Dothraki, right? Or Essosian, I don’t know what that one is called. Valyrian. That they will have very few scenes where that is the only language being spoken. It occurs. Those scenes tend to be short. Typically there are translators going on, because you have various characters who don’t speak that. And so we are getting the advantage of that. Yeah, but they do short scenes.

The problem with – and we have to just account for this – is let’s say you were writing a movie, you were hired to write a Game of Thrones movie after the season concludes. And the movie takes places in Essos. Well, you can’t have an entire movie where everyone is just speaking that, because it’s annoying after a while. It’s like give me a break. And there is a natural disconnect that occurs, not in short bursts, but over time a natural disconnect that occurs between us and characters who are not speaking a language we understand. It is inevitable.

John: It’s true. So let’s wrap this up again with our benefit of the doubt umbrella over things. I think we are both urging sharp-eyed viewers to give the writers and filmmakers the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t deliberately ignorant. They weren’t trying to undermine the authenticity of things. Just something got messed up along the way, or it wasn’t the high enough priority either – in the writing it’s harder to defend – but on the day it couldn’t be the top priority to get that bishop on the right square. And, sorry, that’s a thing that’s going to happen. The priority was getting the story told and making sure you were focusing on the things they wanted you to focus on. So, I definitely am mindful of how frustrating it can be to see things portrayed incorrectly on screen. That’s why we always urge people to try to be accurate and specific.

But I think you have to take a breath when you see things that aren’t accurate.

Craig: Yeah. Do the best you can, but don’t be trapped by purity.

John: Cool. Craig, this next topic is yours. You put this on the outline. It’s about bad news.

Craig: Yeah. This kind of was inspired by a fun Twitter thread. Adam Sternbergh. @sternbergh started a thread in response to a post by Gary Ross. I guess the Gary Ross, I think.

John: I hope it’s the Gary Ross.

Craig: I don’t know. Who wrote, “Note to filmmakers. People don’t actually stare at the receiver after they get disturbing news.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: And this created a long list of responses of people coming up with things like that, which kind of, you know, again, falls into the category of faking stuff. And so some of the examples that came up are – beyond staring at the phone receiver – entering – I love this one – entering an apartment or house, pressing back up against the wall, closing eyes. [laughs]

John: It’s so specific and so true.

Craig: It’s so true. People do that in movies all the time. They walk inside. They close the door. And then they just press their back up against the wall and close their eyes. Covering your mouth with your hand. People do that in movies–

John: I actually do that sometimes, though.

Craig: Really?

John: I did it instinctively just now doing this. That sort of gasp.

Craig: You’re so dramatic.

John: So dramatic.

Craig: Splashing water on face.

John: That drives me crazy.

Craig: Have you ever splashed water on your face to change your emotional state? [laughs]

John: I have not. Although I feel like maybe it was in this thread or it was another conversation with Aline Brosh McKenna. She said like, “Oh, yeah, of course I do that.”

Craig: Really?

John: Just like I put my hand over my mouth, she splashes water on her face. Or, I’m completely misremembering and Aline I apologize if I misremembered something we talked about.

Craig: But we can agree that nobody in real life ever walks into their house, closes the door, and backs up against the wall. That’s just–

John: Like I can’t believe I just got through that. Yeah.

Craig: Like oh my god. Never. Never.

John: No.

Craig: So what do we do about these moments? I mean, we want to convey this sensation to people in the audience that this character is feeling overwhelmed or is absorbing this terrible news. But on the other hand, you know, maybe we want to try and do it in some interesting new ways.

John: So, let’s talk about some options here. So the first is just kind of to find a way to articulate what is actually going on inside. Find the new way to demonstrate that thing and try to be accurate to what you might actually do in that scenario. I don’t shut the door and lean back against it and close my eyes, but I might drop the keys on the console, or I might rest myself a little bit. I just shake off that experience that just happened.

Craig: Yeah. I think you’re asking the right question which is what do we actually do. And then of course out of the various things that we actually do, we want to try and pick one that the audience will be able to pick up on. Because I suspect that most times this is entirely internal for people and so there is no way for the audience to see it. But one way that we can show these things dramatically is by watching the person attempt to not absorb it. And then it hits them.

So, they receive this bad news. They’re struggling with it. But they soldier on bravely as if it weren’t bothering them at all. Usually by just going about their normal activities, the mundane. And then something finally breaks through and it comes out. And there’s this very famous moment from the ‘70s sitcom Good Times. Florida is the mother. Her husband has died. And everybody is very upset about this. But she’s just sort of soldiering through. And she’s in the kitchen. She’s alone. She’s just moving a glass dish from one place to another and then she finally just lifts it up and throws it on the ground and smashes it. And she goes, “Damn, damn, damn!” Which is freaking awesome. And we’ll have a clip in the show notes for that moment if you haven’t heard it.

It’s spectacular and it felt very real. I think it actually was quite shocking to audiences at the time, because you know in the ‘70s sitcoms were still rooted in the stagey. You know, we were not that far removed from the early days of I Love Lucy where television was kind of a represented stage vaudeville kind of format. And everything was very carefully curated. That was very raw.

Now, it’s 40 years later and we’re a little more progressed down the line, so that would probably in and of itself now seem hokey today. But at the time it was sort of shocking. And the kernel of the theory there is a good creative kernel to think about.

John: A similar story I heard last night from Andrew Lippa, the composer for Big Fish who I got to see in London last night, and he was talking about going through a really emotional moment, but he was sort of ignoring the emotional moment. And he dropped the remote control for his TV on the floor and the battery shot out and the dog freaked out, like ah what’s going on. And so Andrew was laughing because the dog was freaking out and he’s trying to gather the batteries. But the actual physical process of laughing became like sobbing. And the physical experience of shaking that way shook out the actual tears and became a big emotional moment. And that I think is the equivalent of a damn, damn, damn in real life.

And that’s the kind of thing I’d love to see characters encounter in our stories. That’s a thing that is such catnip for an actor because it’s getting to really get to some primal physical feelings under there.

Craig: Yeah. And in a moment like that, the advantage to doing that as a writer as opposed to very quickly and short-handedly having somebody press their back up against the wall is when they press their back up against the wall we go, “Oh yeah, they’re upset.” When somebody starts laughing at something absurd like that and then that turns into tears, we’ll cry, because it’s jumping up on us in a real way in the way it’s jumped up on them. And that is where the alchemy happens.

So, that’s really the point. It’s not – I never think that the point of avoiding tropes is to seem original. The point of avoiding tropes is they’re not working as effectively as they should.

John: Yeah. So we talked about the big reaction, but like the small reaction, the under-reaction can be just as powerful. It requires more work in the scene setting to make sure that we actually understand what’s going on there. That we can actually read what the character is doing. But the character who is sitting very silently and small in the frame, or we’re in a close-up of that character can also be a great way of showing the impact of the moment we just encountered.

Craig: Yeah. This also truer to life. But in this case what you’re going to do is take advantage of the internality of these kinds of moments. So one example that I think about often is the scene in Unfaithful where Diane Lane is on the subway, or the train, and she’s coming back home from just having had an affair. And the camera is just looking at her. And the whole world is zipping by through the window of the train. But she’s just sitting there. And she’s thinking about what just happened. And we’re watching her be excited and she’s pleased and she feels loved and attractive. But then the guilt comes in. And you watch all of it happening quietly, just on her face.

The story is telling us that this is – keep watching. Just watch this person. And that is interesting. That is a moment that feels real. It requires an excellent actor, which Diane Lane certainly is. It requires a patient, secure director who does not feel the need to get in the way of the performance. Sometimes all you need for a moment like that is a locked down camera. Sometimes a little bit of a push. In that case, also, you can play some editing tricks. You can just jump cut around. So you can see, OK, what we’re watching here is a long train ride and this is occurring.

But it is truer and I think it feels more for us when we see it unfold in that way. You just have to know as a writer you’re instructing everybody this will be quiet and it will take time.

John: Yeah. I can think of several moments in Michael Clayton that do that kind of thing. So the last shot I recall with George Clooney is the equivalent version of that, where he’s like in a car and we’re tracking with him. But you see Tilda Swinton, who is just remarkable as well. There are moments where you’re able to see her reacting to things. And there’s bigger moments, there’s smaller moments, but it’s not the scale, it’s not leaning back against the wall. It’s really taking the hit for that emotion that just happened. And finding the moment that she can actually expose what’s going on there.

Craig: Yeah. Keeping them accountable to the news they’ve just heard or the thing that they’ve just done.

John: A thing which I see in movies but I also feel is true, I just know this from my own life, is that when I get devastating news I sit down. There’s something that actually – like gravity gets a little stronger and I just feel like I need to sit down to make sure I don’t fall down. And so being on the phone and then sitting while you’re still talking on the phone is a thing that I find myself doing often, sometimes because it helps me focus. But also just because I need to make sure that I’m safe while this happening.

And so if a character can’t sit down, they will lean against things. They will find ways to support themselves while they are getting burdened by the news they just encountered.

Craig: Yeah. And in those moments, too, sometimes – and this is why my most hated fake rule/bad advice for screenwriters is don’t direct on the page. The camera in those moments is meant to be us. And the camera is telling us are we meant to be sympathizing with this person or are we perhaps meant to be standing in judgment of them?

In the cast of say Diane Lane on the train, we’re clearly meant to sympathize or empathize. We’re meant to be in her mind and to experience this collision of contradictory feelings all at once. Sometimes in a case where, for instance, somebody sits down. The camera may slowly start to back away from them, as if to say they’ve done something wrong. They have to be alone now. We have to leave them in their little private hell. Because what they’ve done is bad. And I think about these things all the time. And it’s important, I think, for writers to think about the camera in this way.

This is an essential part of storytelling. And we fail ourselves and our readers. And then, by the way, the director, and the actors, and everybody if we don’t think about stuff like that. Because if I just write on the page, “John sits down,” OK. Now if I write, “John sits down. We slowly move back and away from him, out through the doorway, out through the door, until he’s barely there.” That implies – even if that’s not what the director does, they understand the point.

John: For sure. I think the other thing we need to look at from our writing perspective is are we better serving this story moment by letting another character provide the reaction for us? Or another character investigate the reaction. So let’s say we have the character is receiving bad news on the phone. If there’s another character in that scene who can be listening, can be watching, can be trying to read what’s going on. We will naturally sort of be doing the same process with the spectator character.

So, an example at the start of Big Fish, Billy Crudup is in Paris. He receives word that his father is in the hospital. And it’s because Josephine, the wife, is there to watch them that we know what the actual content of the other side of the phone call must be. We know sort of how serious this is.

So, look at whether this is sort of the opposite of the character closing the door and sliding against it. There’s another character watching and through that other character watching and reacting we can see what’s really going on and the extent of that bad news.

Craig: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, there’s all sorts of ways to approach this. If there’s any general advice to give, it’s that you at least start from a place where you’re going to be honest to how this would really work.

John: Yep.

Craig: And then think about how that is specific to the character that you have and the moment that you have. And then think about where your camera should be. Is it with them or is it away from them? And is it moving, is it not moving? What is their reaction? How slowly or quickly does it evolve? Does it surprise us or does it just dribble out? Think about all those things and then try and do it true.

And if you can, I guarantee you it will be more effective than the splashing the water on the face, because at this point so many people have splashed water on their face it doesn’t mean a damn thing anymore.

John: Yeah. It’s a thing that people do in movies.

Craig: It’s a thing people do in movies.

John: Yep. All right. It’s time for our One Cool Things. My One Cool Thing is the video to All This Time by Jonathan Coulton. It’s just terrific. And so the song is great, but the video takes the form of a text-based adventure game, sort of like Zork, and it’s so incredibly well done.

Craig: All right, I’m in.

John: Yeah. It’s very smartly done. Jonathan Coulton also did the Still Alive from Portal, which also has the feeling of this. But this is really pushing it to the next level. It’s one of those rare videos where you have to do a lot of reading, but it’s worth a hundred percent of your attention for those few minutes. So I strongly recommend All This Time by Jonathan Coulton.

Craig: Did you play the Infocom games when you were young–

John: I did, yeah. I loved them.

Craig: Kids today. Now, you know, you can play all the Infocom games for free. I think there’s a website that just has them. And I was reminded how terribly frustrating they were. They actually were horrendously designed games in the sense that they were not fun. But they were so – I don’t know – they were just very important to me when I was a kid to go through them.

I mean, the most brutal of them, that was famously brutal of them, was Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I don’t know if you ever played that one.

John: I don’t think I played deep into it. But I remember playing before we even had our personal computer, my dad had a terminal which was the kind that had like the [unintelligible] things you could attach. And so there was an online version of that that I could play. And I think I might have even played Zork way back in the day, which was on an equivalent BBS system. And they really were remarkable things.

But once I started playing like Ultima or the things that had some graphical component I never went back to those original just text-based games.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, they were so frustrating. OK. Well, my One Cool Thing is a website called Every Noise At Once. We’ll put a link in the show notes, but it’s pretty easy to remember. And then when you get there you will see these folks have put up this massive Ngram style plot. Well, Ngram isn’t right. That’s the Google thing, right?

It’s more like a word cloud, like a keyword cloud kind of plot of literally every kind of music noise that has been made in culture. It is massive. And it’s got everything. There are things on there I did not know existed. You know, some things I knew existed but I never listened to, or there are things like, OK, there’s 20 different kinds of trance music. I wasn’t aware of all the different sub-genres. Then there are things like [Schrempf] or something. Some crazy German format where it’s just repetitive industrial noises. All the way down to Gregorian chants and Islamic religious singing. And it’s just got everything. It’s fascinating.

You could spend hours just looking through it. It’s something else. They have like Norwegian Christmas music. It’s insane. So, check it out. It’s a lot of fun. Every Noise At Once.

John: I accidentally clicked Kirtan, which I don’t know what it is, and now it starts playing. So it’s a good thing to–

Craig: It’s pretty wild, right?

John: Experimentation there. Yeah, it’s neat. Cool. That’s our show this week.

Our show, as always, is produced by Godwin Jabangwe. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week comes from Ben Singer. If you have an outro you can send us a link to That’s also the place where you can send longer questions. For short questions, like the ones we talk about on Twitter, Craig is @clmazin. I am @johnaugust. We’re on Facebook. Search for Scriptnotes Podcast. Also search for Scriptnotes Podcast to find us on iTunes.

You can leave a review for us, which is lovely. You can also download the apps which are currently the only way to get to our back catalog of nearly 300 episodes. Actually more than 300 episodes because there’s bonus episodes with people like Aline and Rachel Bloom and all sorts of good folks.

You will find the show notes for this episode and all previous episodes at It’s also where you can leave reviews of previous episodes. Go to And you’ve left so many great reviews on your favorite episodes, which are terrific. So, in the next couple weeks we’ll figure out what form we’re going to put these recommendations in, be it a book, be it some other sort of web tool for people finding their best episodes.

So, if you’re new to the show, we can point you to the episodes that are most worthy of exploring. And, if you are interested in coming to the live show that we talked about at the top of the hour, go to That’s where they’re going to be putting up the tickets. We’ll also have a link on Twitter once there is a link. So we’re excited to see everybody there for that. We’re excited to be at the ArcLight.

Craig, thanks so much.

Craig: Thank you, John.


Email us at

You can download the episode here.

Microwave what?! Research suggests we’ve been drinking tea all wrong


Here’s something that might make you spit out your tea.

According to food scientist Dr Quan Vuong, from the University of Newcastle in Australia, microwaving your cup of tea is the key to getting more health benefits from the beverage. 

He’s done years of research on the matter, but still, people aren’t taking it well.

“Microwaving is one of the advanced technologies to get more bioactive compounds from the products,” he told ABC News

According to Dr Vuong, the best tasting and most effective method of microwaving your tea is putting hot water in the cup with a teabag, then heating it in the microwave for 30 seconds on half power, and finally letting it sit for a minute. Read more…

More about Beverages, Beverage, Drinks, Drink, and Microwave

Very good dog receives the wrong gift and is more grateful than we’ll ever be for anything


Fact: Good dogs are great dogs. It’s just the way it is. It’s science.

But we think we’ve found the greatest of all the good dogs. A dog so grateful that we wish we could shower it with all the treats and presents and kisses it truly deserves. 

But doesn’t ask for. 

Because it is a very good dog.

Twitter user pae❁ posted these photos of her pup that received a gift that maybe wasn’t exactly the most exciting present. But this very good pup is eternally grateful regardless: 

so my mom accidentally ordered an xs dog bed but he’s still

— pae❁ (@paetonmathes) April 11, 2017 Read more…

More about Bed, Cute Animals, Animals, Dogs, and Watercooler

The Weekend Read: Everything Wrong With ‘Ghost in the Shell,’ ‘Batgirl’ Actresses, and All Things ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

Ghost in the Shell TV Spots

If you’re looking for something to read over the weekend, we’ve got you covered. Here’s every review, editorial, list, feature, column, and rant published by the /Film staff and our team of freelancers over the past week.

Columns, Lists and Reviews

A list of seven great and frequently overlooked Stephen King novels and stories that would make for great movies, as selected by Chris Evangelista.

With Going in Style hitting theaters this week, The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen returned with a look at overlooked and under-watched oddball heist movies, handpicked by Rob Hunter.

Some really smurfin’ weird trivia about The Smurfs, collected by newfound Smurfs historian Alex Riviello.

If you binge-watched Netflix’s Five Came Back and want to know where to go next, Kristin Hunt has got you covered with a look at some definitive World War II documentaries.

Comedy Central’s Review is over after three seasons and Karen Han is here to eulogize this truly great comedy series.

With 14 (!) Transformers spin-offs in development, Peter Sciretta ran down everything we know about the future of the series at the moment.

Everything Ghost in the Shell

A spoiler review of the disappointing Ghost in the Shell by Jack Giroux.

A deep look at how Ghost in the Shell erases the ethnicity of its lead character, as explained by Karen Han.

With Ghost in the Shell bombing at the box office, Hoai-Tran Bui pondered whether or not English-lanauge remakes are even worth the financial effort.

Everything Batgirl

Who could play Batgirl for Joss Whedon? The /Film team put their heads together and came up with 17 possible options.

There are many Batgirl stories in the pages of DC Comics, but Jamie Righetti selected a few definitive stories that should influence Joss Whedon’s new movie.

Everything Rogue One

Rogue One story creator, producer, and VFX lead John Knoll had sat down with Ethan Anderton for an interview.

An in-depth look at how one of Rogue One‘s coolest trailer shots was created in less than a week, as reported by Ethan Anderton.

Alan Tudyk and ILM’s Hal Hickel talked about the creation of Rogue One‘s K-2SO with Ethan Anderton.

The Spider-Man: Homecoming Set Visit

Here is everything Peter Sciretta learned while visiting the set of Spider-Man: Homecoming last year.

Tom Holland went undercover in an American high school to play Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Peter Sciretta has the full story.

Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts spoke about the movie from the set last year and Peter Sciretta was there to bring you the details.

Spider-Man: Homecoming producer Amy Pascal explains how Spidey came to the MCU, as reported by Peter Sciretta.


The Fly remake director J.D. Dillard told Peter Sciretta about his vision for the third version of this classic horror series.

Fast and Furious franchise writer Chris Morgan told Ben Pearson some interesting news: we could, maybe, somehow, see Han again.

Dan Trachtenberg‘s time travel thriller Crime of the Century is being kept under wraps…but Ben Pearson got a few details from writer Chris Morgan.

/Answers and /Responses

What are the greatest long takes (or “oners”?) in movie history? The /Film team collected their personal favorites.

From Atonement to Boogie Nights, the /Film readers picked their favorite long takes in movie history.

The post The Weekend Read: Everything Wrong With ‘Ghost in the Shell,’ ‘Batgirl’ Actresses, and All Things ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ appeared first on /Film.


‘A Bad Idea Gone Wrong’: How Last-Minute Casting Led to SXSW’s Best Ensemble

A week before production started on his feature film debut, and with Thanksgiving only two days away, writer/director Jason Headley still hadn’t cast one of his three leads.

Most filmmakers will tell you that pre-production is the key to a successful shoot. But sometimes, things just don’t line up that way. Writer/director Jason Headley knows this all too well. A Bad Idea Gone Wrong is Headley’s feature debut, a comedy about two not-so-bright guys determined to find one great heist to set them up for life, even though neither of them has experience with theft of any kind. This dynamic duo breaks into a house in an exclusive gated community and manages to set the house alarm from inside, trapping themselves inside. Soon, they discover they are not alone.

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