Ghost

Scriptnotes: Ep. 163
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Craig loves the 1990 blockbuster Ghost. John? Ditto. Written by Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Jerry Zucker, Ghost set the template for the modern romantic drama. It was Twilight before Twilight, Titanic before Titanic. It won hearts, weekends and Oscars, including best screenplay.

We tackle Ghost scene-by-scene, imagining all the terrible notes that must have come up in development, and how fixing some of the film’s shortcomings would have created new problems. Ghost isn’t perfect, but it’s remarkably good — and worth taking a closer look.

Links:

You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.


On Being Somebody

Reading Notch’s letter about how the burden of public scrutiny led him to sell Minecraft, I’ve been thinking back to an essay I wrote in 2006 entitled Are You Somebody?

As I’ve done more publicity, and talking-head interviews on various DVDs, I’ve found that random people are recognizing me and saying hello with increasing frequency. It’s once a month or so — nothing alarming — but it always comes when I least it expect it: shopping for strollers, in line at the movies, at breakfast with the woman carrying my baby.

The hand-shakers are invariably polite, so I can always genuinely say, “It’s nice to meet you.” But what’s fascinating is how everyone around us reacts. Remember: as a screenwriter, I’m not actually famous. Yet suddenly someone is treating me like I am. I love watching that double-take as bystanders try to figure out who I could possibly be.

Once a nearby woman actually asked me, “Are you somebody?”

Almost apologetically, I said I was a screenwriter. Her face showed a combination of confusion and disappointment that would have been devastating at another point in my life.

That was 2006. Eight years later, I’m still not famous the way movie stars are famous.

Back then, I wrote:

Here’s an example of someone who is actually famous: Drew Barrymore. A few years ago, paparazzi took pictures of us having lunch. In the caption, I was the “unidentified companion.”

This happened again last year in New York. This time I was carrying Drew’s kid, and I didn’t even merit an “unidentified companion.” So when I say I’m not famous, I have proof.

But over the last eight years, I’ve become more widely known within a subset of people, most of them writers and tech folks. Because of Scriptnotes, my voice is actually recognized as often as my face. Because of Twitter, I end up interacting with strangers much more often. And because of both outlets, people who recognize me know a lot more about me — at least, a version of me who hosts a popular podcast about screenwriting.

That “version of me” aspect can be challenging. Jason Kottke writes about his experience:

I realized fairly early on that me and the Jason Kottke who published online were actually two separate people…or to use Danskin’s formulation, they were a person and a concept. (When you try to explain this to people, BTW, they think you’re a fucking narcissistic crazy person for talking about yourself in the third person. But you’re not actually talking about yourself…you’re talking about a concept the audience has created. Those who think of you as a concept particularly hate this sort of behavior.)

Because I can’t hide behind my writing, I’m probably more “myself” on the podcast than I am in blog posts like this. I rewrote this sentence five times; on the show, I can’t ponder and perfect.

But the podcast is on some level a performance. It’s me with the dial turned up. It’s not who I am when I’m making dinner or struggling to make a scene work.

Kottke references Ian Danskin, whose video This is Phil Fish deftly explores how we treat “famous” people more as concepts than as individuals. Even if notoriety hasn’t changed someone’s behavior at all, perception has:

The dynamic between these two people is viewed completely differently as soon as one of them becomes famous.

If there’s a takeaway from this — and there needs to be, because John August is professorial — it’s that the time to think about how you’d behave if you got famous is right now.

That fuck-you tweet to @RandomCelebrity may seem like no big deal — hell, they’re rich and famous. But if that rich-and-famous celebrity tweeted the same thing, you’d think, “Wow, what an asshole.”

Here’s the mind-blowing truth: The person who sends the fuck-you tweet is an asshole, regardless of her pre-existing level of fame.

Tweet people — even famous people — the way you’d want to be tweeted. Yes, this is basic Golden Rule stuff, but we always forget it in the world of internet fame.

Beyond that, be careful of internet pile-ons. People do stupid stuff, and it’s often appropriate to call them out on it. But it’s almost never a good idea to take a random person who said something stupid and hoist them up as a symbol. You’re forcing fame — infamy, really — on someone who is likely no worse a person than you.

Internet fame has a multiplier effect that’s hard to anticipate. You can hurt people far more easily than you realize. And long after you’ve forgotten your outrage, the focus of the blast is left picking up the pieces.


Dressing like a screenwriter

Scriptnotes is a proudly money-losing podcast, with no ads or sponsors to defray the cost of editing, hosting and transcripts. So once a year we offer t-shirts to help fill both our coffers and your closets.

In past years, we’ve sold the Scriptnotes t-shirts in various colors. They’re lovely shirts, but three colors is plenty. This year we wanted to do something different.

So we made the Scriptnotes Tour shirt.

scriptnotes tour shirt

Illustrated by Simon Estrada, it’s the stadium rock band shirt made for people who listen to weekly podcasts about screenwriting.1 For the first time ever, there’s printing on the back: a list of all the live shows, past and near-future.

scriptnotes-tour-back-detail_1024x1024

Although the artwork is hard rock, it’s actually the softest shirt we’ve ever made. Stuart Friedel, our resident t-shirt expert, describes it thusly:

The softest shirt I ever touched was the American Apparel gray-tag tri-blend from 2007. Nothing has come close until this. It’s like wearing a daydream.

Stuart’s sense of softness led us to an entirely new garment: our first-ever hoodie. It’s spun from the downy tri-blend threads.

brad hoodie

We were originally going to make it a Scriptnotes hoodie, but the complicated typewriter logo translated poorly to embroidery. A much better choice was this blog’s brad icon: simple, iconic, and specific.

Hoodies are the fundamental outerwear of the modern screenwriter: dressy enough to wear to a water-bottle general meeting, casual enough to wear while walking your dog at Runyon Canyon.

We deliberately picked a lightweight fabric, perfect for an over-air-conditioned coffeeshop when it’s 100 degrees outside.

Our final bit of new schwag came to us from an email by George Gier:

You may never know how much I appreciate Highland, but it turned reformatting hundreds of pages of garbage into two clicks of perfection. It rules. If you make a Highland T-shirt, I will be the first to buy one and wear it proudly.

George Gier, this is your shirt (but everyone else can get them too):

highland shirt

For the Highland shirt, we went back the same tee we used for the Karateka shirts: strong and simple, 100% cotton. It’s a deep indigo, reminiscent of Dark Mode.

Making the Highland icon work on a t-shirt was an interesting challenge. The “real” icon uses gradients and shadows that wouldn’t translate to screen printing, so Ryan Nelson flattened everything down.

Highland icons

I kind of love it. Mac icons are still supposed to have depth and shadow, but don’t be surprised if future versions of Highland move a bit in this flatter direction.

If you’re wearing the Highland t-shirt, you’re not only promoting a great screenwriting app. You’re literally wearing the future.

Getting the gear

Both the t-shirts and the hoodie are available for pre-order starting today. Pre-orders end September 30th. We only make enough to cover orders, so if you want one, you have to get your order in.

Note: Hoodies are a special case. Because the embroidery setup costs are higher, we can only make hoodies if we hit a minimum. If we don’t reach the threshold, we’ll give refunds to anyone who ordered one.

All orders ship beginning October 8th. You should have them in time for the Austin Film Festival.

  1. …And things that are interesting to screenwriters.

Luck, sequels and bus money

Scriptnotes: Ep. 162
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This week, Craig and John tackle listener questions.

Why do some giant books get crammed into a single movie, while others get split into multiple films? How do you write a movie if you can’t even get your computer fixed? What should a screenwriter do if, after nine years of trying, he still can’t catch a break?

We don’t always have simple answers, but at least we have t-shirts. The new batch is available for pre-order starting today, so don’t wait.

If you’re in Los Angeles, the only chance to see us live this fall is at the Slate Culture Gabfest on October 8th. Check the link for tickets below.

Links:

You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 9-19-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.


A Cheap Cut of Meat Soaked in Butter

Scriptnotes: Ep. 161
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To celebrate the third anniversary of Scriptnotes, John and Craig invite Aline Brosh McKenna and her limitless analogies back to discuss box-office journalism, scene geography, emotional IQ and flipping the script.

It’s a jam-packed episode. In fact, there was so much we cut part of it out as a bonus Overtime show that will show up for premium subscribers later this week. In it, we make predictions, re-invent Spanx, and detail our love of D&D. If you want to sign up for the premium edition of Scriptnotes, head over to scriptnotes.net.

If we hit 1000 premium subscribers, we promise to do an NC-17 show that you should definitely not play in the car with your kids.

Tickets are available now for the Slate Culture Gabfest Live on October 8th. John and Craig will be guests, and it should be swell. Links below.

Links:

You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 9-11-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.


Unlikable heroes and genre expectations

Chloe Angyal has a great look back at My Best Friend’s Wedding:

[T]his movie is, in many ways, radical. It’s an anti-rom com. Jules spends much of it running around like a crazed rom com heroine, pulling ridiculous stunts and operating under the assumption that you can lie, trick, and manipulate a person into falling out of love with their fiancée and into love with you. It doesn’t work, and George, who is half walking gay stereotype and half The Only Sensible Person in This Movie tells her on multiple occasions to give it up and act like a grown up. She is, after all, TWENTY-EIGHT.

[...]

But the line I find more telling is what he tells her while she’s still chasing Michael through the streets of Chicago in a stolen truck while talking on a cell phone. “You’re not the one,” he says. You’re not the one. These four words fly in the face of almost every rom com ever made, because the central premise of the genre is that the heroine is the one: the one woman who can get the ungettable guy, who can turn the beast back into a prince, who is worth traveling through time for, whatever. The One. Jules is not the one. She doesn’t get the guy. She does terrible things to try to get him, to try to “win” him. She follows all the laws of rom com world, but the laws don’t apply here. Kimmy calls her two-faced and Michael calls her pond scum, and though they ultimately forgive her, those assessments are correct.

When I saw My Best Friend’s Wedding in 1997, I remember being struck by just how selfish the Julianne character was — and yet how perversely relatable that made her for me. Real people do stupid things because of love and fear. It’s not “likable,” but it’s honest.