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. [laughs]

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

Craig: And things that are interesting to screenwriters.

John: And inside jokes that no one else will ever know.

Craig: [laughs] You guys…

John: So, Craig…

– You guys, you missed some good comedy there.

Craig: You missed, uh…

John: And Craig cursed a lot, because he doesn’t curse on the actual show, but he cursed a lot in the intro here.

Craig: Yes, much, much cursing.

John: So, Craig, on Twitter after I posted the last podcast I said, hey, if you want to leave a good review — any review for us on iTunes. Not a good review, any good review, I would be reading aloud the ones that were marked most helpful. And, in that sense of like, oh, could be constructive feedback. I kind of was kind of fishing for more good reviews.

And then you and I were looking through this list to try to figure out like oh we were going to read these things. And kind of embarrassingly they’re all five star reviews. And they’re all kind of — it was going to just feel a little braggy to read them aloud.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So, I guess I’m happy that people like the podcast. I would invite constructive feedback. And it was really my goal in sort of putting that out there on Twitter is if people have constructive feedback or things they want to talk more about, or ways we could improve this. But, I was going to read them aloud and now I’m not so sure it’s going to make sense to read them aloud.

Craig: Yeah, probably not. I mean, I will say I’m very, very grateful for the things I read on there. I was pretty shocked and surprised. I mean the Internet is kind of famous for hating. And, [laughs] it was just love. It was nothing but love, which makes me uncomfortable. So, thank you to everybody.

John: Today I thought we could talk about feedback, both why we solicit feedback and sometimes why we don’t really want feedback.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And I should warn listeners that this might be little bit more meta of a podcast. Less nuts and bolts about the craft of screenwriting, and a little bit more about what Craig and I do, my website, Craig’s website that he gave up, which I think is a fascinating part. So we can start right there.

Craig: Yeah. It’s true. I built a…

John: You don’t have that site anymore. Well, that site is still up there technically. It’s called ArtfulWriter.com, and there are still useful articles there, but you are not actively maintaining it. Is that correct?

Craig: That’s right. Yeah. I started that back in 2005, I think. So it was fairly early on in the whole bloggy phenomenon. And the idea in the beginning was just to talk about some of the things that you and I talk about quite a bit on here, some of the non-crafty things. I thought there was nowhere writers could go to actually learn how this whole thing worked in terms of the union, and the companies, and the business end of screenwriting.

And for awhile I just tottered along in anonymity and it was lovely. And then the strike came. [laughs] And suddenly this dinky little blog was getting profiled in the Wall Street Journal and 80,000 people a month were showing up, and it became nightmarish. Nightmarish.

John: You were seen as an opinion leader for an unpopular opinion I would say. Or not necessarily an unpopular opinion; there was a valued opinion and you were seen as one of the leaders of one of those opinions and therefore it attracted a lot of attention and a lot of disagreement on your site.

Craig: Yeah, that’s fair to say. I was essentially the loyal minority. I was in dissent. And many, many people who I suspect drove around in cars that said “Dissent is Patriotic” came home and then told me that I was an idiot, [laughs] because I was ruining their thing. It was pretty remarkable actually.

The level of hypocrisy was astounding at times. People would use analogies… — These were people who were otherwise very stridently against say, for instance, the war in Iraq but would say things to me like, “You’re supposed to be a soldier, and soldiers don’t question their leaders.” It was nuts.

John: So on a typical blog post I remember you would be getting 50, 75, 100 comments back very, very quickly. It was sort of like how Nikki Finke gets a tremendous number of comments. But, you actually required people to register with their own names, so you could actually see who was making these points. That didn’t seem to stop people from making very long, very passionate points on your site.

Craig: No, they could use handles.

John: Okay, but they did have to register. I remember having to log in. Was that not the case?

Craig: They could register but they didn’t’ have to use their real names. They could use a fake name. And occasionally I would notice that certain people just because you can, you know, when you run a blog you have access to some of the information that comes in when people comment, specifically their IP address. And you can see, oh look, these 12 people who are screaming at me are actually one person, and then I would boot them for that, you know.

And I would boot them for being mean to each other, which they would do a lot. There were threads where it would get up to 300, 400 comments. But, you know, that really wasn’t why I stopped. I mean, that stuff all sort of fell off after the strike was over. And, frankly, I think it fell off also because history proved me correct I say with no false humility or false arrogance. It’s just factually correct.

I was right about almost everything. And there wasn’t much to argue about. So, I got bored. I just got bored. I’d been doing it for five, six years, and I always told myself if it ever felt like homework I would stop because I wasn’t like you; your method is to write a lot more smaller pieces. My thing was to sort of do longer essays. And so I would try and do one a week. And then it became one every two weeks. And then just frankly it got hard. And more than anything I ran out of stuff to sort of explicate in essay length.

So I just stopped. And it was a lovely feeling of stopping. And then you came calling and this couldn’t be easier. I just talk now.

John: It’s a half an hour of conversation.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And I will say part of the reason for why I was interested in doing the podcast versus strictly just doing the blog is I got a little bored, too. I certainly got bored with comments. And I went through this whole Sturm und Drang with comments on my site where I took them down for awhile. I put them back on, but I sort of deemphasized them.

I just didn’t care to be the host of that party anymore. And I wanted to have my opinions. I didn’t sort of want to have everybody running around my house and touching my stuff anymore.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So as I’m looking now at sort of the next thing we’re going to do with the site, I have to make some decisions about are those comments going to stay, are the comments going to go. And I really am of two minds about it, because I do enjoy feedback when it’s helpful, constructive feedback. I just don’t know that having that feedback attached to my point is the best place to do that. I feel with Twitter or email or everything else that’s a better way of actually getting my attention of something that’s going on in the world.

And yet there are some situations where someone can add a clarifying point to the end of a post and it’s genuinely helpful. And that’s a thing that I don’t actually have to go in and modify myself because somebody has added that in. So, I’m trying to decide what the right next step is for me, for the site, for what I want to do.

Craig: Well, people who don’t run popular websites with lots of commentary could never fathom this: Comments are exhausting. The writing of the material is the fun part because you are expressing yourself, and frankly, you are the person who had the will to do it. So, you decided that you were going to create a website. You decided you were going to write a long piece. And in the case of you, and to some extent me, we also wrote things people were interested in reading. So, we weren’t anonymous blogs in the corner of the Internet; people noticed us. And so they showed up. And then the comments happen.

And the comments on the comments. And the fights in the comments. And the stupid comments. And the racist, and insulting, and nonsense. Just waves of nonsense. And you can’t help but feel like it’s reflecting on you. I mean, there’s that one school is, well, let’s just be completely libertarian, laissez-faire about it: everybody post whatever you want, and I don’t care, and I don’t touch it. The problem is you get defined by that. The way that, frankly, I think Deadline Hollywood is defined by its atrocious commenting.

And I didn’t want that. And early on I was really encouraged by how good the comments were. But then suddenly it was like you hit that weird tipping point where it goes from a little thing to a cool thing to a fascinating gathering of likeminded people who maybe don’t agree on everything but have the same demeanor, and then all of a sudden it’s yahoo time. And everyone’s there and it’s like a bad house party. It is the end of Sixteen Candles and the house is wrecked.

And that’s what happened to me. I don’t blame you. I mean, I’d boot ‘em. Who cares? Look, if people want to say things, like you said, have them tweet you or something.

John: The house party analogy is apt, because you get tired of picking up the plastic cups.

Craig: Right.

John: And just like, you know what, go have a party in your own house and maybe I’ll come by and visit your house. Send me an e-vite that you’re having a party at your house and maybe I’ll come by and visit. But I’m not going to like keep inviting you over to my house for things.

When you first start a blog it’s very lonely. And you don’t really know if anybody is reading. You can sort of look at the Google Analytics, and it’s like, oh there are some numbers. But when you first start getting feedback, someone says something about the post you made, it’s really flattering. And that attention can be flattering. And so then you can also sort of game yourself. So, it’s like, well, I know how I can get more people to leave a comment, more people to see this thing.

Craig: Right.

John: And that becomes dangerous, too. One of the posts that sort of sent it over the edge was I did a post called No Trombones which was…

Craig: I remember that one.

John: So I went on my screed about, and I do truly believe that we do people a disservice by putting the band instruments in little kid’s hands. If we’re going to teach them music we should teach them piano, or guitar, or drums, and if they want to move on and study other instruments later on in their life, in junior high/high school, fantastic. We can still have marching bands. But, giving a little kid the clarinet is not providing them a future of music. It’s limiting them to one specific role in a bigger thing.

So, I wrote that post. It went kind of viral. I got 1,000 comments, almost like death threats, like how dare I say anything bad about trombone. And I got tired of it. And it wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it was systematic of what I was feeling about my frustration with comments.

Craig: Yeah. People also don’t understand that when the commenters start going after each other, what will happen sometimes is you’ll go to dinner with your family, and you’ll come back and suddenly there will be an email like, “You have to do something about this. Somebody just libeled me.” And I’m like, wait, what?

So, I’ll click over and see, oh god, 300 comments just happened in the last hour and I have to read them to figure out what’s happening and who’s, because god knows I want to ignore it, but the problem is it’s on my site. I’m hosting it.

And I’m like I already have children, you know? I don’t need this. And then, of course, on top of that there’s a weird thing that happens where you suddenly realize I’m spending money and time to provide a service for people to attack me. [laughs] Why? Why am I doing that? I don’t get it.

There was one woman during the strike, a lovely human being, who commented that she wanted to punch me in the heart, [laughs], which I thought was great. I just thought that was great.

John: [laughs] Yeah. The specificity of that is really what sets it apart.

Craig: And the proportion. I just thought that she kind of got the proper way to respond to a debate over a poorly run union strike. That was the idea was punch people in the heart. That made sense.

But people questioned my credits. I was accused of plagiarism. I was accused of lying. I was accused of nepotism. Obviously I was a company sellout, and a hack, and a loser, and an idiot, and unfunny. And it just went on and on and on. And I have to tell you, I’ve got a pretty thick skin. And it wasn’t like any one comment made me go, “Oh, no, I feel bad.” It was just the sense that I was wallowing in filth all the time. Like I had to take showers. Yuck. I don’t want to read stuff like this. It’s gross. These people are gross.

So, you’re site doesn’t have quite that level of madness, but it’s…

John: I don’t. And largely because I’ve been talking about more things related to the craft and not so much about the industry. I don’t create so many targets for myself.

But just this last week I did post something which was a follow-up on something we talked about on the podcast. We had a reader, a listener — my default is to say reader when I should say listener — a listener named Biff who wrote in…

Craig: Biff.

John: …with his perspective on being an established screenwriter who’s finding it very frustrating and then changes in the industry. And a listener named Cordy wrote in an email with his perspective as a younger, newer writer who is sort of working his way up and finding the same kinds of frustrations. And so I posted Cordy’s thing as a first person, which is my term for when an outside person comes in with a post that’s really from his or her voice.

And so it’s one of the rare posts recently that actually generated 50 comments. And I was like, I dread it. And so I just now today read through the comments because I’d see that they were there, and I’m like I don’t really want to read these. But people were leaving comments and I guess because the ball started rolling and more people started commenting and responding. And some of them were meaningful. And I kind of wish they had come as an email rather than as a comment, but I thought, it’s still feedback, and I thought we would talk through some of it now because it’s an important topic.

Craig: Well let’s do it.

John: Let’s do it. Adam writes: “There’s something I don’t understand about this recurring complaint that script assignments are hard to land. To my ears it sounds like writers are saying either a) ‘I’m ready to write a script if someone else comes up with the idea and hands me a check to write it;’ or b) ‘I want someone to pay me for my own idea before I actually take the time to make a script out of it.’

“Either way, it’s a bizarre complaint. Granted, the industry may have worked that way once, but based on the reports from the front lines, it doesn’t work that way now. Now you need to write the story first and then get someone interested in it. This is not such a strange business model; you only have to look across the desk at the person to whom you’re pitching to find an example: Studios don’t get paid in advance for the movies they make…”

Craig: Ugh, what an idiot this guy is.

John: “…they have to make them first and then try to sell them to the public.”

Craig: So stupid. Yeah, you know, that’s absolutely true. That’s a great point. You know, novelists also don’t get paid to write their novels. They just write their novels and then they sell them and then they get paid. But novelists also hold their copyright. We’re employees, okay? You can’t have it both ways, Biff. Right?

If the studios want to hire us and everything is a “work for hire,” even the stuff you wrote on your own in your house is a work for hire commissioned by them, they own the copyright. They are the legal authors. We don’t get royalties. We get these negotiated residuals which every three years are up for dispute. We don’t get protection so that we can’t get be rewritten. We don’t get moral rights. We get nothing of that. Okay?

So the deal is this: if they want to treat us like work for hire commissioned writers, not commissionable but commissioned writers, employees, then yeah, we kind of do get to complain about the way they employ us, Biff.

John: Well this isn’t Biff, this is Adam.

Craig: Oh!

John: Biff was the good guy that you liked.

Craig: Biff, you’re cool. [laughs] Sorry, Biff. You’re awesome.

Adam, smarten up, dude. Look, I get this vibe all the time from these guys who are like, “What are these writers complaining about? So they want to get paid before they write?” Yeah. You know why? We’re professional writers. My plumbers like to get paid, too. They like to know I can pay them before they do the plumbing. I have to agree to the price. It’s not like they come in, they unclog my toilet and then I go, “Nah, I didn’t like the way you did that. Bye.”

John: Here’s the faulty logic in his own analogy. He says: “This is not such a strange business model. You only have to look across the desk at the person to whom you’re pitching to find an example.”

Well, actually no. If you look across the desk at the person you’re pitching to, that executive, he’s not getting paid based on what movies get made. He’s getting paid a salary.

Craig: Right.

John: He’s an employee of the studio. And so he might not keep his job if he’s not able to make some movies, and hopefully make some movies that make money; although, strangely, many executives are able to keep their jobs for a very long time after making a very terrible movie.

Craig: Yes.

John: But, you’re exactly wrong, Adam. The person you’re pitching to is an employee of the studio and is getting paid a salary not based on which movies actually happen or don’t happen. You’re not going to tell that executive, “Oh, okay, I’m not going to pay you anything for the next three years. But if any movies happen, then I’ll pay you then.” That’s not a viable business model for them, too.

Now I will say, producers are increasingly kind of in that bind, where produces are having a very hard time getting paid anything until movies go into production. So they kind of are working on spec.

Craig: Yup.

John: The same way that writers are frustrated to be on spec.

The other example I’ll bring up is a Broadway musical based on a movie. I’m gonna talk about Newsies. So, Newsies is, the plot of Newsies — to the degree that there’s a plot in Newsies — is the newspaper boys rise up to say, “No, you know what? We’re not going to keep paying for these newspapers on the idea that we have to sell them later. We should be able to buy…” Actually, this is a fault analogy now that I think more about it.

[laughs] Well, they’re basically doing spec work, though. The Newsies, the news boys were required to sort of like, yeah, if you make some money, great. If you don’t make any money it’s not our thing. Well, no. If they are in your employ and you are setting the terms for how they’re going to be working, you do actually have to pay them.

Craig: Yeah. You’re right about producers. Producers are stuck in a weird place where they don’t really get paid and all the work is on spec until the movie gets made. And, in fact, that is increasingly the result of studio antipathy towards producers. The studios, the corporations, in their bean counter ways have sort of looked out and said, “These guys are middle men. We don’t need them anymore.”

Now, as a writer you might be surprised to hear me stand up for producers. I won’t stand up for producers. I won’t stand up for the producing industry. I’ll stand up for good producers of which there are few. But the good producers deserve to be treated better. The bad producers, and there used to be about a billion of them all snorting coke in their little bungalows — yeah, good riddance. See you later.

The point is, while they’re called producers, they aren’t directing the movies or writing them, so you can’t… — I know for sure you can’t make movies without scripts. And I know for sure you can’t make movies without directors. And I know for sure you can’t make movies without actors. So pay them.

And, Adam, all I can say is good luck at your desk job at, uh, wherever you are. You sound like such a little tool. You work for like a guy in business affairs and you’ve absorbed that whole rhetoric and I’m here to tell you, bro, ain’t that way.

And by the way, beyond that, the people who really do pull the levers at these companies on the business end don’t agree with you either. They also know how important we are, and how important it is to take care of us. That’s not where the issue is. The issue is above their heads in the board rooms.

John: An anonymous socialist writes…

Craig: Cool.

John: Yeah. “When people respond to this kind of thing with ‘You gotta make your own opportunities! (as the internet is sometimes wont to do) I wish they would be more specific. I am willing to do webisodes if someone knows the secret to monetizing it, etc. But this is my job, it’s how I pay my rent, and I can’t do it long-term for free anymore than someone who manages a cheese shop or something.”

Which I think is largely the point we’re making. I kind of provocatively titled this post Is Screenwriting Dead, which, again, I felt a little bad doing because I know it’s going to draw a lot of eyeballs.

Craig: Eh, do it. Do it.

John: Do it. But it’s also going to draw a lot of comments. But I wanted to differentiate between… I’m not saying that the craft of screenwriting is dead, or asking the question, because clearly we’re still going to have screenwriting. We’re still going to have, people will still write scripts. The question is whether the career of screenwriting can continue to last if we’re getting rid of the actual people being paid and employed to do it.

The problem with writing specs is that you have no idea if that spec is going to sell. And spec is really another word for gamble, like I’m going to gamble, I’m going to gamble on this idea that this idea will sell to somebody. That someone will read this and say, “Well this is fantastic. I need to buy this. I need to make this into a movie.”

And so the argument is going to be that corporations are gambling too by taking a chance on writers and stuff like that. Not really. Corporations are investing. This is investment. Corporations are buying up, ideally, a range of properties. They’re deciding which ones they’re going to make into movies, and the ones they make into movies, some of them are going to be hits. That’s investment. That’s picking a range of stocks.

Whereas you as the screenwriter, if all you’re doing is specking you are sort of buying only one stock and you’re putting all of your money into that one stock because that’s the only script you’re going to be able to write for quite a long time. To say, like, oh, well your business model should be, a screenwriter’s business model should be “I’m just going to write a spec, and I’ll sell a spec, and then I’ll sell another spec, and then I’ll sell another spec,” well, some of those are not going to sell. Some of those are not going to become movies.

Craig: Sure.

John: And you are not going to be able to do this long-term unless you have a trust fund. And we’re back to trust funds.

Craig: [laughs]

John: [laughs] If it really is going to be that kind of model you’re going to have to have people who have some other source of income that they don’t actually need to be doing this which isn’t a model.

Craig: It’s not going to be that model. It’s just not going to be. Look, that model kind of almost sort of existed for a little while in the ’80s and ’90s. The truth is, when someone says, “Writers should just spec stuff,” they’re being ignorant of the business. The business doesn’t want your specs. It’s not like it used to be. They don’t want your spec.

The reason to write a spec now is to turn them onto your writing so that they can come hire you to write what they want. They don’t want your spec. They want what they want. Even while movies with silly underlying properties that aren’t story based crash and burn around us, they’ll keep making properties based on books, and they’ll keep making properties based on video games, and they’ll keep making properties based on old TV shows. And it’s never going to stop; that keeps going. A lot of the original material you see in Hollywood frankly comes from people that sort of negate the risk of the originality. And when I say risk of — I mean from the corporate side it’s risky.

So, when Todd Phillips comes in with an original idea, or Judd Apatow comes in with an original idea, it’s like, “Okay, well that’s not…” The point is we know that that is going to be done and it’s okay. Those guys have a track record. When Chris Nolan does it, it’s like, it’s okay. Inception? No problem. That’s okay.

John: If anyone other than Christopher Nolan tries to do Inception, no way.

Craig: Forget it. Forget it. They don’t want it. [laughs] They don’t want it. They don’t want it because they don’t even know how to make it. That’s the point. Their big panic is, how do we make something if we don’t have a great director and we don’t have a vision. So, when they just get a script they’re like, “Okay, cool…” — I mean, yes, it happens. I know now people are going to go, “What happened three weeks when we got…” Yes, correct.

But, the point is it’s the exception now, it’s not the rule. You can’t build a career around specs.

John: If someone else had written the Inception script, some Joe Smodcast wrote the Inception script, people would read it, and people would like it I bet. I bet it could place on the Black List. People would say, “Wow, that’s a really interesting script but it’s far too expensive and no one will ever make it.”

Craig: Yeah.

John: And the truth is, no one would ever make it.

Craig: They wouldn’t. They wouldn’t make it. But what they would say is, “We want to make a movie with this actor based on this property.”

John: The guy who wrote that would be called in to have many meetings over town. Will Smith would fly him out to wherever the set is and he would sit in a long meeting with Will Smith. And Will Smith would pitch him this idea and he would spend six months developing this idea with Will Smith that might end up being a movie. It probably wouldn’t end up being a movie but he’d get paid for it maybe.

Craig: That’s right.

John: Yeah. So, I mean, good things could happen. But that script would not get made.

Craig: Right. Look at Chris McQuarrie. This is one of the best writers I know. And Chris McQuarrie broke into the business with this amazing original script…

John: Absolutely.

Craig: …for The Usual Suspects. But, you know, even a guy like Chris McQuarrie, like right now for instance he is the writer and director of One Shot, which looks spectacular by the way. I think it’s going to be really cool. But it’s an adaptation of a novel, you know? Because that’s what the studios are making and Chris is smart enough to go, “Okay, I mean I could keep bashing my head against the wall to try and get more Usual Suspects out there, or I could apply my craft and skill to adapt a novel that’s actually difficult to adapt and adapt it beautifully and direct it.”

So, that’s where the business is. I mean, look, you don’t have to like it, but you can’t sit there like that one guy that refused to leave his hut on Mount St. Helens. [laughs] You’ve got to react. You have to adapt. And I think sort of planting your stick in the group and going, “Specs are nothing,” is so old man; it’s so like 40-year-old man in 1983 to me.

John: I want to go back to one point that Anonymous Socialist made. “When people say make your own opportunities — I’ll do webisodes if someone knows the secret to monetizing it.” I have full sympathy for that. And I get frustrated by the, well Kickstarter, we’ll do a Kickstarter and we’ll make it all happen with that.

Craig: [laughs]

John: And here’s the thing: like somebody will be successful and do that. And things will get made. And god bless Ed Burns who has been able to make his movies on his terms for his budget and his price. That’s great. And I think it’s wonderful that new models are succeeding, but they’re not going to succeed for enough people for everyone to be able to make actual movies that people see in theaters.

So, I’m saying, like, yes, please write for any screen you want to write for. Don’t be precious. Experiment with new things. But the idea that, oh, that the future will take care of all that for you, technology will take care of that, the internet — the internet will do it! — is naïve and doesn’t speak to any understanding of not just the way the business is now but sort of how business overall is, or how economics works.

You say like, “Oh, well we’re going to make these. It’s going to cost us $10,000 each to make these little webisodes and we’ll put them on YouTube and then, money!”

Craig: Right. No.

John: And in the end, who knows what that is.

Craig: Right.

John: And some very smart people have not been able to make this work. And so certainly it’s possible that you will be the person to make this work, but please allow for the fact that it very well could not happen, too.

Craig: And let’s also remember, anything that makes it easier for you to break in makes it easier for everyone to break in. It’s not just you that can do this. It’s a thousand other guys with a thousand other ideas. The Internet makes it harder. I really do believe that. It makes it harder. There’s so much noise, so everything just becomes cheaper and more fleeting. The Internet is great for right now, today, this week, an awesome video that everybody’s talking about, and no one will be talking about it tomorrow. Nobody.

John: Yup.

Craig: It’s danger. Danger.

John: This project that we have coming out… — There’s a project we haven’t announced that we have coming out in the fall, and we shot a promo video for it. And so the question is, how close to launch should we release the promo video for it? And we really came down to we should release the promo video at launch. Like, at the minute you can actually do the thing, the minute the thing is actually available to purchase, that’s when you release the promo video. Because otherwise there’s no sense that you’re going to be able to hold onto any of that enthusiasm you’ve built up.

That idea of like, “Oh, it’s a long lead kind of this, and we’re just going to carefully sneak in and do stuff –” No. You have your one shot and it needs to be immediately purchasable/downloadable right then and there because otherwise the next face-eating man zombie is going to be running down the street in Florida and you’ve lost any attention that you had.

Craig: That guy’s cool. I mean, he’s dead now, but he’s cool.

John: Yeah, I have not clicked any links. And by the time this podcast airs it will be old news. Thank goodness.

Craig: But, by the way, there’s an even cooler guy. So, the man goes and eats another dude’s face which is obviously the result of some kind of PCP or Bath Salts psychosis. — I’m fascinated by this Bath Salts thing. — But then the next day a dude in New Jersey, I think, literally woke up and said, “What could I do to get face-eating guy out of the news cycle?”

So, police are called to his apartment where he has stabbed himself repeatedly in the abdomen. He pulls his own intestines out and throws them at the police officers. He threw his own intestines at them. And, lived.

John: Yeah. It’s not fair.

Craig: Which makes me think that we’re actually a lot more sturdy than we think. I mean, if you can take a handful of colon and just whip it at a dude, and the worst that we could say is, “You know, it was a rough week there in ICU, but you’ll be all right, buddy. You’ll poop again.” Smart. Remarkable.

John: [laughs] It is remarkable.

On that, let us wrap this little podcast up. My One Cool Thing is actually something that’s very sturdy, sort of like the human body when you remove its intestines. So, my One Cool Thing is US Verde Buffalo Grass. I don’t know if you’ve heard of what this stuff is?

So our front of our house, we took out the front lawn because we’re sort of on this hill and there was really no good reason to have grass because you couldn’t enjoy the grass, and it was taking a tremendous amount of water to water that grass. So we put in native plants in the front. It looks nice. It’s wonderful. But in the back we actually have some lawn area where a kid can play soccer or kickball or some elaborate sport she just invented that involves kicking the ball and then doing math, because she’s that kind of kid.

But normal grass is sort of a huge water drain. So, we ended up putting in this new stuff called UC Verde Buffalo Grass. And it’s actually kind of amazing. So what they did is they took Buffalo Grass and sort of refined it, and refined it, and refined it, and sort of cross-bred it with this different thing. So they came up with a Buffalo Grass that takes very, very little water but really resembles normal grass. And so you can buy it, and if you’re putting in a new lawn someplace, or you’re working on your old lawn and thinking about something new, I’d really recommend it. It’s worked out very well.

The caveats for it: it’s not the kind of lawn that you can roll out, nor can you seed it. You actually have to buy these little plugs. And you just buy these little sort of one-square-inch plugs and you have to plant them. And you plant them six inches apart, and so that’s tedious and it takes a long time. But once it grows in it has been really, really good. And we basically don’t have to water for like months during the year, which is great.

Craig: Does it feel like normal grass?

John: It really feels like normal grass. It looks like normal grass and it feels like normal grass. As it is first growing in it’s a little too soft, like you could sort of push through to the ground a little too easily. But now that it’s grown in denser it’s really, really strong. And the roots are much deeper than normal grass which is why you don’t have to water it so much. So, it’s been a good investment.

Craig: I like that. David Zucker is very environmentally conscious. And a few years ago he did that ridiculous — I mean, I can’t stop making fun of this — that ridiculous thing where he got the fake grass, you know, the synthetic grass that’s basically like fancier Astro Turf.

John: Recycled plastic.

Craig: Yeah. It’s basically plasticy Astro Turf. So they got Astro Turf to leave that sort of terrible highway motel carpeting and to look like real grass, but the problem is, you don’t water it at all, but the problem is it heats up and just burns everybody that steps on it. [laughs] And it’s the dumbest thing ever. It kills me. I just think it’s so ridiculous.

John: But where I will… — We don’t have any of the plastic grass. Where I will say friends who’ve put in the plastic grass is where you have a place where grass just can’t grow because it’s too shaded by a tree. That’s actually kind of a great place for plastic grass.

Craig: Sure. That’s fine. I buy that. Although, you know, there’s other options there.

John: Yeah. There’s shade-living things.

Craig: Yeah, there are. There are shade-living things. There are wee people that appreciate the shade. If you give them toadstools they will come. They will come. And they will grant wishes.

John: The other good thing about this grass is it seems to be very dog pee sturdy, so your dog can pee all over it and it won’t do weird things. It won’t die.

Craig: Nice.

John: That’s a nice thing. Any cool things on your side?

Craig: Ah, man, you know, I’m just full of hatred, bro. I’ve got nothing but bile for the world. I felt, this was good though. I like this… — This podcast helped me expel some of it. That Adam. Not Biff, but Adam.

John: [laughs] Hey, do you think you’re going to keep your site up and running for perpetuity or would you take it down at some point? Would you restart it?

Craig: You know, I’ve been thinking about it. I don’t even know what to do with it because on the one hand I think, oh look, it’s like a weird mausoleum of stuff that happened. And I certainly wrote a lot on it. And there are things on it that weren’t sort of topical. I remember, for instance, I did a piece on just dealing with pressure which was sort of a useful thing.

But I don’t know. What do you think I should do with it?

John: That’s a good question. And let’s put that out for the listenership. If you have suggestions for what Craig should do you can do a couple different things. You could leave a comment on this post on the site, but that’s really the worst thing to do.

Craig: We don’t like comments.

John: My suggestion would be to tweet Craig. He’s @clmazin.

Craig: Yeah, @clmazin.

John: So tweet Craig and tell him whether he should keep his site up or down or do something different. I’m on Twitter, @johnaugust. Just @johnaugust.

And a few sort of housekeeping notes for the show. A lot of people aren’t aware that we are one of the few podcasts you’re going to find that actually has a full written transcript. A couple days after the podcast airs we post a transcript of the show. So if you go to the actual post at johnaugust.com, there will always be a link to it so you can see it there.

I had lunch with another writer who said, “Oh, I love your podcast. I never listen to it but I read the transcripts.”

Craig: Oh, cool.

John: So bless him.

Craig: Well done.

John: And, I should also say that anything that we mention in the podcast, or almost anything we mention on the podcast that seems at all interesting or relevant, there will be a link for it in the show notes. And so the show notes are always at johnaugust.com. You can see things about UC Verde Buffalo Grass and stuff that Craig mentioned. What did you mention this week? What would your show notes be?

Craig: A lot of hatred mostly.

John: And there will be a link to Craig’s site which may be taken down soon.

Craig: Hey, have we mentioned, you know, the thing that we’re gonna do?

John: Oh, that thing in Austin?

Craig: Yeah. Have we talked about it?

John: Yeah, we totally should do that. So, tell them.

Craig: Well, yeah, so John and I are both attending the Austin Film Festival or at least the screenwriting conference portion of the Austin Film Festival. You’ve been there many times I assume?

John: Four or five at least.

Craig: So we’re both longtime participants. Great, great thing. I feel like there are so few things you should ever spend money on, but Austin is great because they really do get an amazing breadth of screenwriters. I mean, last year I was there with Larry Kasden, and Scott Frank, and John Lee Hancock, and Haas and Brandt, and Alec Berg. It was just amazing.

And this year among the other things we’re doing there, John and I are going to be doing a live podcast, live. I mean, not live in the sense that you can listen while we’re doing it, but we will be in a big room full of people doing it. And it should be fun, and raucous, and maybe a little drunk.

John: We will have a special guest who I don’t think is quite confirmed yet. But, if we have this special guest I think that would be quite amazing. And it’s been a goal of ours for awhile to try to do a live podcast. And we’ve talked about venues in Los Angeles that we could do it, and we haven’t quite figured that out. So Austin is a good trial run because there’s already a bunch of people who want to hear. People talk about screenwriting.

So, that will be our first trial run. But, I will say if people, listeners, have suggestions for a place here in town that we could do a live show, we’d still definitely be into that. We talked about the Writers Guild Theater. The challenge with the Writers Guild Theater is it’s kind of huge and kind of expensive. So if you have a place that’s not so huge and not so expensive, that could be great. If you have a place that could serve alcohol, that might not be a bad idea either.

So, we’ll still keep that in mind. But I think the Austin Film Festival will be the first live Scriptnotes. So, there will be people in the room. We’ll record it. We’ll put it up just like a normal episode. But there will be people –

Craig: And if you are thinking about spending a few hundred bucks to learn from actual screenwriters… — Oh, and I should also add some great producers, too, like Lindsay Doran… — They just get great people there. It’s really worth your while. And it’s in October.

John: If you’re going to attend one film festival as a screenwriter, I’d probably go to Austin.

Craig: Sounds right to me.

John: Sundance is lovely. And you’ll see a lot of movies at Sundance. But the sessions you’ll go to in Austin are probably the most useful for an aspiring screenwriter.

Craig: And they do have movies there, too. The Duplass brothers I think premiered a movie there last time. It’s pretty cool. Awesome.

John: Craig, thank you for another fun podcast.

Craig: John, thank you right back. And I’ll see you next time.

John: See you next time. Bye.

Craig: Bye.