The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 116, the damsels in distress episode of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. How are you, Craig?
Craig: I’m okay.
John: Oh, just okay? What’s going on?
Craig: You know what, we were in Austin, and we had a great time. It was exhausting and, yeah, I’m fine. You know, the weekend, these weekends are intense. And this one for whatever reason — Ooh, did you hear that?
John: I did.
Craig: It was like a truck…
John: So now we know we’re back in our environment.
Craig: Yeah. We’re clearly back. Anyway, yeah, so anyway I’m just a little, I’m fine.
John: Austin was intense.
Craig: It was.
John: And it was intense for a lot of reasons. First of all, I got to hang out with people I really liked, and that was really fun. I got to drink on weekdays, which is not a usual thing for me. Also, we’ve talked about this phenomenon, within a two-block radius of the Driskill Hotel during the Austin Film Festival, I’m kind of famous. I’m like recognizably famous, which is not my daily life at all. And so I had a sudden sympathy for actual famous people who can never escape that. Whereas I can walk an extra two blocks and then no one in Austin knew who I was.
Craig: Yeah, and you know, you’ve probably had a little more practice with that sort of thing because you’ve been doing the IMDb thing for a long time. And your website. When I first started going to Austin, nobody knew who I was. And then if they knew who I was, they just didn’t care. It is true that the podcast has… — Well, first of all, people would come up to me and they would be emotional. And then I would get emotional. And also there’s this strange thing that happens when you are walking through a room and as you’re walking by people you can hear one of them whispering your name to another person.
Craig: And this is not humble bragging. It’s actually very — it’s not something you want. It’s actually distressing. I’m not saying to people don’t, I mean, of course, it was wonderful talking to people, and I loved every minute of that. And it really is incredible to meet all the people that listen to us. But, you know, I’m not, [laughs], anyway, look, I’m a big mess anyway this week. So, I’m a big mess. But, that was — it was emotional. And it was weird at times and intense.
And, you know what, wouldn’t trade it for the world. Wouldn’t trade it for the world. No regret.
John: It was a great, great time.
John: Today on the show we’re going to talk about a bunch of things including this article you just sent me from T-Bone Burnet who was at the Austin Film Festival, who I actually met at the Austin Film Festival. Did you meet him there?
Craig: I have met T-Bone in Nashville actually.
John: Very nice. So, he was there with Callie Khouri, his wife, who is also the creator of Nashville, so he was there. And he wrote this thing that you wanted to talk about, so we’ll talk about that.
John: I want to talk about damsels in distress, and that meme and that trope and sort of what we can do about that.
We have a bunch of reader questions — listener questions. A question about synonyms. A question about breaking the back of a script. We have a question about speccing a pilot. The end of the second act. And that uncomfortable middle in a screenwriting career. So, we have a big show day. A lot on our plate and our agenda, so we should probably get started.
Craig: Yeah, I’m going to get my head straight, man. Let’s do this.
John: Let’s do this.
So, small bits of housekeeping. First off, t-shirts. We saw so many t-shirts in Austin, which was great, the Scriptnotes t-shirts in blue and in orange.
John: Well, the big news is that starting today we are selling another batch of t-shirts. They’re black and they look really, really good. Just like the last time, we are going to do two weeks of preorders, and that’s it. We basically take the preorders, we count up how many shirts we have to make in each size, and we just make those shirts. And so that way we don’t have to stock shirts. We don’t have to do this all the time. It’s sort of a once or twice a year thing we’re going to do.
So, starting today, we are taking orders. We are closing orders on Friday, November 15. We will start shipping these t-shirts out on December 2. So, if you are interested in buying a Scriptnotes t-shirt, they’re at store.johnaugust.com. And they’re available starting today.
Craig: Uh, can I get one?
John: You can get one. You’re guaranteed. As a host of a show, you’re guaranteed exactly one t-shirt.
Craig: Oh, this is why I do this show.
John: Yeah, for the t-shirts.
John: Just like going to the Austin Film Festival for like the little goodie bag, which has like the most impractical things to have.
Craig: They didn’t even give me one. What was in it?
John: So, there’s like a Stella Artois glass.
John: Like a small, miniature version, so it wouldn’t even enough to hold like a whole Stella Artois, but there’s a glass for it. Which is like, we all traveled here, so we’re going to have to pack this? No, so of course that just got left in the hotel room.
John: Although other years they’ve had like Tito’s Vodka, which is lovely, but you can’t take that on a plane, either.
John: The gift bags, I understand why they exist. You’re trying to reward your sponsors. You’re trying to do nice things for your panelists. But they’re frustrating at times.
Craig: Yeah. I think given the nature of what’s going on over there, just some aspirin. Some aspirin. [laughs] Some Tylenol. Xanax.
John: All of these would be really good, helpful things.
John: Yeah. So, t-shirts. On sale now. If you want a t-shirt, go to store.johnaugust.com.
Next up, I’m going back to New York for Big Fish on Saturday November 23. I’m doing at talk back after the matinee show. And so a talk back is basically you bought a ticket, you came to see the show. After the show you have a chance to talk with the creators, the actors, various people involved in the show.
We will answer your questions. We will talk about the things that you just saw. Those are a fun thing to do that I love about Broadway shows. And so we try to do a talk back every week. Saturday, November 23 will be my talk back. And so if you are interested in coming to that show, get yourself a ticket. Use the SCRIPT discount code by all means. But then email email@example.com to let me know that you’re planning on coming.
Space is going to be limited. I think we can only take 60 people. So, if that fills up, we may be emailing back saying sorry, or we’ll do something to change the venue or make it work.
Craig: Exciting. I wish I could be there for that.
John: The last bit of housekeeping is a lot of people have asked how you and I record the show. And so obviously in Austin we were together in a room, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
John: Most times we’re doing what we’re doing right now, we’re talking on Skype. So, there’s a post up on johnaugust.com right now to explain how we actually do the show, including our microphones, and our headphones, and what Stuart does, and how it all fits together.
Craig: Oh, I can’t wait to find out what Stuart does. This is exciting.
John: Yeah. So, Stuart, the magical elf, stitches our audio together. It works, and we’re happy to share our way of doing things, which is not the only way to do things, but it’s the way we do our podcast.
Craig: It is our way.
John: It is our way.
So, let’s get to our new business which is let’s start with the thing you emailed me today which is this Hollywood Reporter article about T-Bone Burnet.
Craig: Right. And, you know, so, this was something that Glen Mazzara of Walking Dead fame — among other things — put on Facebook. And it was about music and the music business. But Glen always posts interesting articles. I tend to read the stuff that he curates. And also I met T-Bone. He’s a really cool guy. I mean, honestly, first of all his name is T-Bone, right? And then he’s married to Callie and he’s awesome. So, I thought, okay, I’ll check this out.
I was so pleasantly surprised to find this umbrage screed in it that spoke to my inner angry, angry man. And taught me something about the attitude of Silicon Valley toward content that I didn’t realize. He had such a good insight. So, basically, I don’t have to read the whole thing. I’m going to summarize.
Basically what he says is, look, there was this cultural thing of what happened in Northern California. Northern California, those guys up there were, what do you call, the Grateful Dead, right? They love the Grateful Dead. The culture of Northern California is very Grateful Dead of the seventies. And the Grateful Dead as a band was all about live performance, improvisation, and bootlegging. They were never about one version.
No one cares about the one album version of a Grateful Dead song. The whole point of the Grateful Dead is that they didn’t care either. They were high out of their minds and it was entirely about the experience of the moment, and freedom, and just sharing stuff. And as he points out, the actual business that is connected to the Grateful Dead is “a complete travesty now.”
And then on the other side, you had Metallica which is a decidedly not hippie dippy Northern California band. And Metallica very famously took a stand against Napster and really said, “Look, we control the music we make and we make definitive versions. Obviously we tour and we make live albums, but this is the version that we are putting out there that we own and we frankly don’t want to be circulated around for free because we care for it and it matters to us.”
And his point is that the attitude of, “Oh, la, da, da, music, it’s free!” permeated Silicon Valley in a way that eventually led to the great reduction of the music industry through technology. That there’s a philosophical undercurrent to Silicon Valley, that content should be free. And interestingly, as he points out, these people who promote this technology and say, “Look, we just basically want to spread content around for free,” they also, while they’re doing that, are you making you pay for the conduits through which they spread it.
That there is an underlying hypocrisy to the whole thing, and as he points out, if we talked about tearing down the car industry in the way that we tore down the music industry, people would go nuts. He says, “People in Hollywood, we should go up there with pitchforks and torches to Silicon Valley now. Unfortunately that’s how sophisticated our response would be — pitchforks and torches.”
What a great, great essay.
John: So, what I find compelling about this last part about the car industry versus the music industry, or you can carry that through to the Hollywood filmmaking industry, is I think we have this mental model of what it is like to be working at a car plant. We have like what a worker there does. But we don’t have a mental model of what a grip does, what a gaffer does, what these people do, and sort of what the middle class life is like to make movies, or in this case what the middle class life is to be the artist behind things, the screenwriter, director, the creative producer behind a project. So, since we don’t have a model of what it’s like to lose those jobs, because they’re not going to one place, and there’s not a factory closing down, you can’t see that loss the same way.
But, just like in the music industry, there’s a middle class of film people that are sort of disappearing. TV has taken up some of that slack. God bless television.
John: But it has been a real factor.
Craig: No question. No question.
John: One of the things I also found interesting with his point, this was his quote: “And what’s happened in reality is the power has been consolidated into very, very few companies, and the middle class musician has just been wiped out.” And this con, as he describes it, is that we talk about this sort of freedom and liberation and anyone can get to music and its democratizing things, but the same companies that were sort of fighting to shoot down Napster and file sharing and sort of all the ways that music became free, they paradoxically became more powerful, because they’re the last people standing.
John: So, all of the middle group of businesses that couldn’t withstand that onslaught disappeared. And that’s how a lot of people made their living was through those kind of things. And so you can say, “Tough. You got to tour more. You got to do other things.” That’s not true if you’re with the people who are making those albums, and if your life was responsible for making those albums, you’re life has gone away.
Craig: Right. And the apparatus they use to support the tours is gone. He says the internet has been an “honest to god con.” And I really want people to think about this, because T-Bone is exactly right. They have fed us the opposite of what they have done. They have appealed to the artistic spirit of freedom. They have appealed to the artistic spirit of freedom. They have appealed to the artistic spirit of wanting to share what you create. And in doing so, they have devalued it and taken all of the money out of it. Or a lot of it.
They’ve done it in music. They want to do it in movies for sure. And I think that, frankly, the only thing that saved us in movies other than the slightly longer path towards quick downloads of movies has been that the movie industry saw what happened to the music industry and they were the canary in the coal mine and they’ve tried everything. And they are trying everything to avoid this.
But when you hear that Google and Amazon want information to be free, what you’re actually hearing is that they want to make all of the money off of your work, and you get none. And I’ve noticed that one of the weaknesses of our union is that in their hatred of our direct employers, they often look to the wrong places for salvation. And our — I sense the Writers Guild constantly looking at Google and Amazon, like they’ll come save us.
Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no. Oh, they will bury us. They will bury us. They want to bury us. Of course they do.
Oh god, that felt good.
John: [sighs] A sobering bit of umbrage to get us started here.
Craig: Mm-hmm. Thank you, T-Bone. That was great.
John: We don’t have to provide answers, we just have to point out problems.
Craig: [laughs] And make ourselves feel better momentarily.
John: So, for our next topic, I think we can provide if not answers at least some context for better ways that writers can involve themselves in helping the situations. This is damseling, the idea of damsels in distress, which is not only what’s still in film, or sort of a classic trope. It’s a thing that you see not just in movies or television shows, but also in video games. And the best way I sort of got introduced to this idea and sort of the pervasiveness of this idea is this great three-part series that Anita Sarkeesian did called Tropes versus Women in Videogames.
And so videogames, because they tend to be so linear, the goal is often to save the princess. And so in save the princess you have Donkey Kong, you have Mario trying to save Princess Peach. We all get that. We sort of know what that is.
And on some level we know like, oh, god, women characters don’t do very well in videogames because they are just something to be saved. They are the goal. Either you have to rescue the princess or you have to avenge the death of your wife, or some girl who has been killed.
John: And that’s a classic trope in those thing. And even as videogames have become more technically and narratively complex, the underlying story behind the women characters tends not to be more complex.
You can even point to this new Grand Theft Auto. There are female characters, but they’re not…
Craig: Barely. Barely.
John: Yeah, there’s not playable in the ways that other things can be played.
Craig: No. Well, let’s extend back a little bit. Damseling is something that has gone on forever. Videogames are obsessed with it in the way that super hero movies are obsessed with it. Even when super hero movies attempt to make female super heroes, they seem to end up in a damseling situation. And that’s not surprising in a sense. There is a certain kind of very male story that appeals to a very male fantasy to essentially be the all powerful man who rescues and provides for a woman who needs rescuing and providing for. That fits into the heterosexual, hetero-normal male perception, particularly for adolescent males and males with Aspergers. It seems like it gets right in there.
And I get it. I get that.
John: But we constantly reinforce this idea. So, you can say like it’s a primal innate idea. Great. But there’s lot of ideas that are primal and innate and we are able to sometimes acknowledge them, lampshade them, and move on.
So, one of the first articles I found when I searched for “damsels in distress” was this complex.com article about the 15 hottest damsels in distress in movies.
John: I thought it was exactly perfect. So, I want to read you…
Craig: It’s stupid.
John: It does two things at once. So, Rachel Nichols in Conan the Barbarian.
John: Sure. Live Tyler in The Incredible Hulk.
Craig: Hot always.
John: Yeah, I forget. Is she supposed to be the scientist, or is she just like the scientist’s daughter?
Craig: I believe she is the general’s daughter.
John: The general’s daughter.
John: Michelle Monaghan in Mission: Impossible 3.
Craig: Okay, yeah.
John: Maggie Grace in Taken.
John: She’s literally, she’s the MacGuffin. She is the thing that is taken.
Craig: Right. She basically is the briefcase from Pulp Fiction. [laughs]
John: Yes. Kirsten Dunst in Spider-Man.
Craig: Well, of course.
John: Pretty much any girl in a super hero movie tends to become a damsel in distress.
John: This is debatable. Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.
Craig: Eh, I mean, you know, she’s tough. She comes out fighting and she is in distress because she’s a princess and they’ve captured her. But they rescue her in the middle.
John: They do rescue her in the middle. And also you sense that the classic image you see is like her in chains next to Jabba the Hutt, but it’s a setup. And so when you realize that this is all part of a plan kind of.
Craig: Right, I mean, but look: here’s the truth. For instance in Empire, she comes back real tough to save Han Solo and immediately gets all kissy face and then gets chained up in a bikini. It’s damseling.
John: It’s damseling.
Craig: It’s damsel.
John: You have a competent woman who is then reduced to being an object for the men to rescue.
Craig: To rescue and save. Exactly.
John: Blake Lively is classically the damsel in Savages, a movie that I talked about at Austin because I actually kind of really dig Savages for the weird things it did, but she is just the thing you have to rescue.
Craig: Yeah. I didn’t see it, so, but I’ll take your word for it.
John: Robin Wright as the princess in The Princess Bride.
Craig: Wonderful movie. Great character.
John: Wonderful movie.
Craig: I don’t believe she makes a choice in the film.
John: Nope. Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean.
John: Now, in later films they tried to sort of swashbuckler her more.
John: But she ultimately is the pretty thing you have to save.
Craig: She is beautiful. And one of the characters has to save her. I actually disagree with this one to some extent. I think that this one was an interesting — an interesting post-modern take on the damsel.
John: Naomi Watts in King Kong.
Craig: Well, sure.
John: The girl in King Kong is the damsel. Yes. Cameron Diaz in The Mask. And I had to think back to The Mask, but my recollection of it was it was a character who seemed to have her own thing and then just becomes a plot device.
Craig: She was a chanteuse.
John: She was a chanteuse.
Craig: And then she got damselled.
John: Jessica Alba in Machete. I never saw Machete.
Craig: It’s accurate.
John: Yes. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The fact that I have no idea who she is and that she’s really pretty and she’s in a Michael Bay movie are signs that she’s probably going to be a damsel in distress.
Craig: I mean, honestly, I don’t even know how the guy that made the list picked these 15, because there’s 15 damsels in distress every week.
John: These are the hottest ones, though.
Craig: Oh, these are the hottest ones. Oh, I see. Oh.
John: And, I have to give him props for Ursula Andress as Dr. Honey Ryder — as Honey Ryder in Dr. No.
Craig: Yeah. She was not a doctor.
John: She was not a doctor. Although, Dr. Christmas Snow from one of the Bond movies.
Craig: Christmas Jones.
John: Christmas Jones. You’re absolutely right.
Craig: Yes, you know me. I’m a Bond scientist.
John: Christmas Snow is actually Chrissy Snow from Three’s Company. Her name is Chrissy Snow.
Craig: Oh, really?
Craig: I did not know that.
John: I actually have quite a bit of knowledge of Three’s Company. It’s very deeply ingrained in my soul.
Craig: [hums Threes Company theme]
John: You can knock on my door any time.
Craig: Here’s the thing. Well, first of all, I don’t know how familiar you are with Anita Sarkeesian, but she was sort of involved in this very disturbing episode in videogame culture, where she really is as far as I can tell the only person that is very verbal about feminist concerns. I don’t know how else you can point and say — I mean, you can call them humanist concerns about the way videogames portray women, and the vitriol that was piled on her was horrifying. And, obviously, confirmed everything she said and then some. She’s very smart.
And I want her to be listened to. I play videogames. I like videogames. I don’t mind saving the damsel every now and again, but videogames are trailing so far behind movies and film, which are all also damseling, so that’s how bad videogames are. They’re infantile. Their portrayal of women is infantile to the point where it’s how much bigger can the boobs get. It’s just stupid. It’s stupid!
John: I was looking through the TV Tropes article on Damsels in Distress. So, if you ever have a question about themes in movies, TV Tropes is a great place to go to. So, these are some of the themes that TV Tropes pointed out about Damsels in Distress. And then you hear them you think like, oh yeah, I get what that is.
Chained to a rock.
John: It’s a Prometheus classic.
The Girl in the Tower. So, she’s isolated up there and you have to go save her in this tower.
Hypnotize the Princess, basically the bad guy has not only taken the princess, but has corrupted the princess so that the princess is going to do his will, sometimes even after you rescue her she’s dangerous.
The Living MacGuffin.
John: MacGuffin classically is that plot device the hero is going after, but it doesn’t even really matter what they’re going after. It’s just the reason why the plot is there.
John: I have your wife.
The president’s daughter, which if you really stop and think about it, like oh god, how often does the president’s daughter become a thing?
Craig: I mean, it just gets…
John: And the best topic for me I think is Faux Action Girl, which they define as it sort of seems like she’s a badass action chick, and everyone sort of treats her like that, but if you actually look at what she does in the movie, she’s not an action chick at all. She’s sort of dressed like an action chick, but she actually is kind of useless and doesn’t do anything for herself.
Craig: I think someone saw The Avengers, huh?
Craig: I mean, look, I can’t say that it’s wrong to tell a very simple traditional narrative where you’re saving a princess in a castle. There’s something almost sweet about it. I mean, you guys did it with your videogame. With Karateka.
Craig: But where it gets sick, I think, is when it’s not a choice. When it’s just — there are these things that happen called sub-choices, where you never get to the area of choice. You don’t make a — you know what, we’re going to do a traditional simple sweet story where Mario finds the Princess in a castle. It doesn’t even occur to you that there would be another thing to do.
And this is an area where I actually am very proud of my particular genre, because I think comedies have often been ahead of the curve on this one. Not to say that female driven comedies haven’t really exploded in the last four or five years, because they have. Even in romantic comedies, where women are the protagonists.
So, let’s go all the way back to a super, super down the middle romantic comedy like While You Were Sleeping. She is not a damsel in distress in that movie.
John: No. She is driving the story.
Craig: She’s driving the story. And, to me, comedies — so, that’s why, when I look at damsel in distress movies, I kind of shrug and I just think, really, that’s, I mean, I don’t know. There’s just so much more…
John: They’re not the things you’re writing, but even sometimes if the girl is the central character, she ends up being in damsel. So, you look at Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She ultimately gets trapped there with the witch and it’s not until everyone else shows up that she’s able to do anything. It’s sort of like dumb luck that she throws the bucket of water.
John: But she gets trapped there.
Bella in Twilight. She’s theoretically the lead character in Twilight, but she’s just there to be rescued most of the time.
John: We talked about Indiana Jones and what a great character Marion is, except this incredibly competent woman ultimately becomes a captive.
Craig: Right. And by the way, the screenplay I’m writing right now has a very competent woman who ends up captive. [laughs] And I think possibly chained to a rock. And you know what? I made that choice because the truth is the male character, who is the lead of the movie, must save her. But that’s what I needed.
John: So, I’m actually writing something at the same time too which in outline form one of the main guys needs to save his girlfriend, or believes he needs to save his girlfriend. And I looked at it again and I looked at it from the perspective of damsel and it’s like, oh, god, I’m trying to find a way to not do that, because…
Craig: Yeah, but you do it.
John: …it’s simple and simple is lovely, but it may not be the right choice.
Craig: Well, listen, then the point is we’re making the choice. And I guess that’s what I would say to people out there. I’m not here to tell you that you can’t write a damsel story anymore, because damsels don’t — women that I know aren’t damsels, but men aren’t heroes either. Okay? And, by the way, women aren’t heroes. Nobody is a hero or a damsel.
In Identity Thief, it’s clear who the damsel in distress is for the entire movie and it’s Jason Bateman. And basically Melissa is torturing the man. But at no point is she, I mean, there’s a point where they get thrown into the back of a cop car and she’s the one rescuing them.
Craig: But that was a choice for that, and this needs the other way. But make the choice.
John: Make the choice. And sometimes there are, I want to point out a few movies that have made the choice and sort of found ways to address the damseling that could be useful if you’re facing that situation yourself.
Pepper Potts in the first Iron Man. So, she is the girl in the film, and there’s the expectation like, oh, she’s going to be in danger, she’s going to be at risk. But she’s never actually damselled. She’s trying to do something and she ends up getting shot rather than being held as a captive. And she was being a hero. And she’s being a hero through that situation, so she’s an integral part of the story, but she’s not the object of what he needs to save.
Craig: Yeah, I mean, I can’t say that not capturing the damsel, but shooting the secretary instead is necessary a huge step forward for female kind, but…
John: Absolutely. I bring it up because she is not the primary focus of these people going after each other. And she’s not being used as bait or as a chick at the end it, which I think is at least useful. So, a female hero being shot is not the worst thing to happen.
Craig: [laughs] — Says John August in service to advancing the cause of feminism. Go ahead and just shoot them.
John: Shoot them. So, Daphne in Scooby Doo. And so I had the pleasure of being involved in Scooby Doo. One of the things I enjoy about Scooby Doo is that Daphne, that character, she is always being held hostage, she’s always getting tied up, and she’s always in trouble. And so in James Gunn’s version of it, he hangs a lantern on it and he says that character, like they bring up the fact that she always gets held captive and she actually now will train herself and so she’s a stronger, tougher fighter because of that.
So, that’s a choice sometimes, too, is to acknowledge the fact that this is expectation of what’s going to happen to her, and hang a lantern on it, and then subvert the expectation.
John: And so everyone will approach every movie with a set of expectations. They will approach the expectation in an action movie that this girl could become captive, so address it, and subvert it if that works in your story.
Craig: If that, yeah.
John: Shrek does the same thing. Where you see she’s a beautiful princess, she’s going to be in trouble. No, she’s going to call that idea out and say, “Nope, that’s not going to happen to me.”
John: Finally, Sansa in Game of Thrones. And TV is a little bit different because it goes on for so long, but without any spoilers, Sansa, even as we leave this current batch of the series, she is sort of the Princess in the Tower. She’s stuck there and yet while in a general sense there’s a quest to try to get her out of her situation, she’s doing other stuff herself. And so she’s not the sole goal of male characters going to try to save her.
And so she’s part of a very elaborate web of intrigue and decisions and plots, but it’s not just about her being a princess.
Craig: Well that’s an interesting concept for me at least. I like the idea that you can present a damsel in distress. And I do think of the character of Sansa as a damsel in distress. And then watch her evolve naturally as a character out of it. Even in movies you can do this.
So, like everybody, I worship The Godfather, and The Godfather Part II. And even though The Godfather Part III has parts that don’t match, obviously, to the quality of the first two, there is one thing about it that I think is extraordinary, and that’s the evolution of Connie.
Because in the first movie she is truly a damsel in distress. She’s being beaten by her husband, and Sonny goes and rescues her. I mean, she gets beaten up by her husband. And in the second movie she is a mess and she blames Michael for ruining her life. And she’s just a heap.
In the third movie she becomes this dragon woman, this amazing force who is holding the family together. Is the spine in Michael’s back. And who is the one that essentially creates the continuity of the line so that the Corleones will forever reign. And that is an amazing thing to watch.
I love that about the third Godfather movie. And I don’t know where the Game of Thrones will take us, because I haven’t read the books ahead. I don’t want to. I like watching them on the show now. But I hope that Sansa evolves. It’s fun.
John: Absolutely. So, none of this should be taken as a plea to sort of keep female characters out of danger. Danger is good. Danger is great. The issue comes when you take a character who is in danger just to propel the plot along, especially if you are taking a woman who is previously portrayed as being competent and deliberately making her incompetent at some moment in the third act, or kidnapping her in some moment of the third act so that the male character can go rescue her.
John: It’s just such a trope and I think it diminishes what stories can do and I think it sends a really weird message for people watching movies that this is how life should be. And that no matter how competent you are as a woman, eventually you’re going to have to have a man come rescue you.
Craig: Right. And I would also ask/suggest that in the spirit of changing language to change the way we think or approach things, that we stop referring to grown women in movies as girls.
Craig: It’s just lame. And I occasionally have to catch myself, because it’s common parlance, you know, “He meets the girl.”
Craig: Oh who’s going to be the girl in the movie, you know, it just — but it’s like why is that the one thing we’ve kept from 1930s Hollywood lingo?
Craig: You know? Because while we’ll say “boy meets girl,” he plays a guy, we’ll say that, “a guy.” So, this man, but she’s the girl. She’s always the girl. So, I say maybe adults deserve woman at this point.
John: I agree.
Let’s go to our first question. This first one comes from Joe in Brooklyn, New York.
Craig: Hey, Joe, what’s up?
John: “I had a question about credits. If a writer gets a script made into a film, but is unhappy with the final product, can he get his name removed from it? Directors have the Alan Smithee pseudonym to follow back. Do writers have something similar?”
Craig: Yeah, we do. If the movie is not a Writers Guild covered film, then I think frankly it’s a matter of your individual contract, and if it’s not mentioned in the contract than you’d have to negotiate for a pseudonym. Your right of attribution, that’s a moral right, a Droit Moral, that we don’t have here in the United States. And overseas it’s entirely up to you. Here in the United States where we have work for hire, the Writers Guild and the contract that we have with the companies states that under movies that are created through Writers Guild contracts, we are allowed to use pseudonyms unless I believe we’re paid more than $250,000. It’s somewhere between $200,000 and $250,000.
At that point if they paid us that much, we don’t have the inalienable right to take our name off the movie. Their argument being you must be somebody that was worth something to us. Now we have the right to say no to your request to take your name off the movie. Let’s say we really want to say that John August wrote this movie, or “From the writer of the movie Go,” or whatever they want to promote, they’re not going to just let you on your own decide to take your name off.
You have to ask. In all cases, the pseudonym that you use needs to be registered with the Writers Guild so that it doesn’t duplicate the actual name of another person or the pseudonym that has been used by another person.
We don’t use Alan Smithee. Alan Smithee — it’s remarkable to me that frankly the Directors Guild allows that to perpetuate. I actually think it makes them look terrible.
John: Yeah. It’s petulant to me.
Craig: It’s petulant and it also is obvious. There are some very famous pseudonyms, Cordwainer Bird I think is the one that Harlan Ellison has used before that people in the know understand mean a certain person, which to me it sort of defeats the purpose of a pseudonym. It’s not longer pseudo.
Alan Smithee defeats the purpose of a pseudonym. For writers, we get to choose our own, and I know writers that have chosen to use pseudonyms. Easier to just not see credit, although if you use a pseudonym you will get the associated residuals and production bonuses and so forth.
John: Yeah, which can be very useful.
John: So, this $250,000 cap, I always take that to mean that at a certain threshold the studio believes that your publicity value is actually useful, and so therefore they want the ability to promote that. And I have seen movies where I don’t think they necessarily care about the writer’s name, but they’d love to be able to say, “From the writer of…something.”
Craig: That’s exactly right.
John: And that’s why they want to be able to do that.
Craig: And they picked that number, basically, and that’s how these negotiations work, because the contract covers everyone. So, obviously they wanted that number to be as low as possible, whereas the Writers Guild will want it to be as high as possible. I think $200,000 to $250,000 is unreasonably low, frankly, but it was set many, many years ago and we have other fish to fry when we deal with those guys.
Next question comes from Tucker. He writes, “You mentioned on a podcast a long while back that you often have to go away from your family on a retreat of some kind to ‘break the back’ of the script. I ask because I’m working on my first studio job at home, with a family around me, and they don’t understand why I’m acting like an insane person when ‘little things pop up that need to be done.’ Can you call Wells Fargo and chat with customer service for an hour? Can you handle the AT&T repair guy who needs to be chaperoned? Can you, can you, can you?”
John: “I wish I was at some desert hotel somewhere.”
Craig: [laughs] Well, you know, I do think at some point we should do — there’s an entire podcast to be done about the spouses, the poor, poor spouses of writers. I think that Tucker has got a false dichotomy here. So, retreating and going into the desert is not the same as not being in your house with your family around you.
You can be around the corner. You can be at a Starbucks if you need to. I do believe that you must separate from your family and your children for certain hours of the day in order to get your work done. That’s not selfish. Everybody else gets to do it, so why don’t we?!
And you know they don’t understand what it means to be yanked out of your own head when you’re in it, either because you’re suffering in your head, or you’re succeeding in your head. The last thing you want is to be pulled out of it. And you can be irritable and it’s not good for them and it’s not good for you. And, you’re right, they don’t understand.
What they do understand is daddy is working. And daddy goes around the corner to work. Or daddy goes into the backyard. Or daddy goes down the street. You don’t have to go to the desert.
John: I think you’re right about the sense of a writer needs to take responsibility for how he or she is both being a writer and both being a member of a family. And so that daily work balance is going to be an ongoing negotiation between the writer and the family.
Tucker, I think, is sort of asking two questions. He’s asking that daily life question. That first paragraph, though, was about breaking the back of something. And that’s something I actually do. And even before I had a family, I would go away to barricade myself in a room to get started on a script, and I still do it to this day.
To me what’s so helpful about going someplace else to start is that I’m out of my normal environment, and so I’ve shown up someplace to do nothing other than work on this thing. And every waking moment can be about that thing.
John: And I’ll often go to the place where the movie is going to be set so I can sort of live in that environment and sort of see what that’s like, although I’ve often gone to Vegas to do it, too, because Vegas midweek is really cheap. And when you get completely stir crazy in your room in Vegas you can just wander and go someplace else. And you can be alone around a lot of people very easily in Vegas, especially I’m not drinking, I’m not gambling, so I’m a weirdo in Vegas, but it’s kind of great. And there’s food, and all that stuff is lovely.
Craig: You’re right. Aside from the context of your relationship with your family, you may be the kind of writer that needs to separate from reality itself and enter a bubble world in order to enter your bubble world. I get that. I can enter bubble world wherever. You can put me on my roof and I can do it. But there are a lot of people that really benefit from that.
I know Rian Johnson just spent quite a long time in Paris because he was breaking the back of his next movie and he needed to essentially go separate from everything and, you know, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for the relationship between the way we’re feeling in the moment around us and how we’re feeling when we’re writing. This is why writers drink. This is why they do all sorts of self-destructive things because, frankly, it makes the writing easier.
It doesn’t make your life easier. So, if you can find safe ways to do it, like sitting in a room in Vegas and not killing prostitutes, then I say absolutely.
John: So, my breaking the back process is I will generally hop on a plane, be someplace, and every waking moment is about that script or about one boring book that I’m allowed to go to. So, I don’t turn on the TV. I don’t turn on the iPad. I don’t turn on my phone. And it’s only about that. And what’s useful is I’ll wake up in the morning and I will force myself to hand write a scene before I’m allowed to get out of bed.
I will have breakfast, and I will force myself to hand write a new scene before I can do the next thing I want to do. And so in that process I can write 17 or 20 pages by hand in a day. If I do that for three or four days, I’ve got 45, 50 pages of my script started. And that’s usually breaking the back for me. Once I feel like I have — I’m writing out of sequence, so I’m not necessarily just writing the first act. But I really know who those characters are. I know what the world is. I know what the voices are. And I’m back into sort of full writing mode.
John: Because a lot of times between big writing assignments, I’m not writing that much. And so sometimes I just need to actually sort of build up some steam and sort of get those muscles back working.
John: Then it’s much easier for me to get started doing stuff. I try also not to put all those pages together right away. I want to get up to like 60 or 65 pages of sort of knowing that I have that much material before I start pasting all those things together and seeing the whole script. If I do that too early, if I start looking at the whole script too early I will start editing and moving commas around and I will never get the full thing bit.
Craig: You know, and for me, that is part of it. Part of the work that I do. What’s interesting is that while we can agree that separating from people while you’re in that space is a good thing, even if you just are going around the corner, or if you’re going somewhere else, what we also know is that we’re very different. All of us are very different.
I’ve heard so many different — everybody it seems has their own unique approach to tricking themselves into writing and part of the struggle of being a new writer is you’re figuring out what works for you. And so, unfortunately, you’re just going to have to figure it out.
John: Yes. You are the guinea pig and the scientist.
Craig: All at the same time.
John: Next question is — I didn’t write down the person’s name, but it’s about speccing a pilot. He writes, or she writes, I think it’s a he: “I’ve been trying to start a career as a screenwriter for the last 18 months. And though I’ve gotten some positive feedback, I have not yet secured representation from a manager or an agent. A producer approached me recently about writing an outline for a spec TV pilot, which I did.
“He liked the outline, and now wants me to write the full script for the pilot.”
Craig: Oh, does he?
John: “And is asking what I expect in terms of compensation.”
John: “I looked at the scheduled minimums in the WGA basic agreement.”
John: “But I have gotten the distinct impression that the producer is not willing to pay me the amount that document stipulates.”
Craig: What?! [laughs]
John: “His company is not a WGA signatory. And I’m not a WGA member, so I feel like I have no leverage here. I want to do the job because it would be my first paid writing gig, but I don’t want to undervalue myself. I feel clueless about what I should do next.” Craig Mazin…
John: …help this person out.
Craig: [stifling a scream] Okay. So, look, everything that has happened is as I have foreseen. [laughs] Of course you want to be a paid writer. Of course. And of course. You don’t want to undervalue yourself. And of course you feel clueless about what’s going on. And of course the producer has presented himself as somebody who knows exactly what’s going on. And of course he wants you to write this for free. Of course.
You know why? Because all that makes sense for him. The one thing that he has over you is he’s not an artist who is — I don’t want to use the word desperate. He is not an artist who craves approval for the art. He is a businessman who is going to make money off of you. Okay?
So, he is in a great space because he can ask for these things with no problem, knowing full well that you have an emotion involved that he doesn’t have to deal with. Please resist this emotion.
Here’s the deal: in your letter you say “I feel like I have no leverage.” Incorrect. You have all of the leverage. Let me repeat. You have all of the leverage. Not 99%. 100%. And the leverage is that you own the writing. It is yours. The copyright is yours.
Everything that is attached to it, and every decision that will be made, up until the point where you assign copyright to somebody else, all of that is yours. And his game is to convince you that you have nothing. [laughs] Do you see how this works? Pretty amazing. So, friend, here’s the deal. You can do whatever you want. What you can’t do is work for hire.
Work for hire means I don’t have the copyright anymore. Somebody else has the copyright and they’re commissioning the work for me. That’s what you do when you run into a studio. You dig? And that is a Writers Guild job, and there are minimums, and credit protections, and health, and pension, and all sorts of great things, residuals and so on.
Until that moment, you do not sell it. You can option it. Haven’t sold it yet. Okay? Or, you can write it and shop it around. And then is somebody is in love with it, they can take it into a studio. But you do not sell it. A financier may come along and say we want to do it independently, non-union. Great. Here’s my lawyer. Work out what I get when this movie — and now I’ve got a backend on this thing. Whatever you do, just remember you have all the leverage.
John: Yeah. So, what Craig is making the strong distinction between is a work for hire, which is what writers do when they work for a studio. They are a work for hire and you are assigning copyright to that person and they are paying you to write.
John: That is a very different thing from here’s writing something. This producer may ultimately option that thing you write and try to set it up at a studio, or you may just honestly have a handshake, like a shopping agreement essentially. “I’m allowing you to take it to these places and that person may be able to set it up.”
So, you value their interaction. You value their notes. But don’t value their money because it’s not going to be that much money. So, write the thing so you own it. And once it’s written, if that person still wants to do something with it, you can have that conversation about an option agreement, some sort of shopping agreement. But do not write for this person for less than this amount of money.
Craig: And as always, please seek the advice of an attorney.
John: So, this is a related question. Toby writes, “I’m writing because I have achieved a level of success that is not quite amateur, but not quite big time pro. I have been paid and I am patterned with a bestselling novelist to adapt his next release. However, I have found the biggest problem a writer of my level has is the pressure to work for free is unrelenting.”
John: “I would say that almost 100% of my non-general meetings have been with producers who have property they want to turn into a screenplay. These producers are people who have had at least one producer credit to their name and seem to have credible projects with life right, novel rights, etc. They’re just unwilling to pay any money for a draft.”
Craig: Oh, imagine that.
John: “To illustrate my point, I’ve included an mail exchange with my former manager in which he is asking me to extend an option on a spec script of mine that he originally optioned for free. He clearly wants the script but is unwilling to pay for it.”
This is a quote from this manager. “Reality is that it will be unrealistic for you to think that anyone will pay an option for this script. It is simply not done anymore. I also have spent an undo amount of time on all of our projects…”
Craig: Undue amount. Undue amount!
John: Oh yeah. An undue amount.
Craig: Undue. It wasn’t due.
John: Yes. Oh, it’s actually the wrong kind of due, that’s true. “Not to mention the notes I give to make your script better early on. I offered my services on this one as a gesture of good faith for all the time you’ve spent.”
Craig: Argh. Argh.
John: “But I don’t think you’ve ever really accepted the fact that there is no monetizing the time we spend in this entertainment game unless the projects go.”
John: Craig Mazin, do you find any part of that quote to be true?
Craig: It’s actually amazing how it’s all the opposite of true! Every word is the opposite of true. What a con artist! What a con artist.
First of all, let’s go backwards. “I don’t think you have ever really accepted the fact that there is no monetizing the time we spend in this entertainment game unless the projects go.” Wrong! There is no monetizing it for you, the not writer who doesn’t write stuff, unless the projects go. This is just me, me, me, me, me, but it’s not about the writer because we get paid all the time for movies that aren’t made.
You know why? Because there’s a value to what we do that is so important that they’re willing to give us money for stuff that they don’t even know they want to make. But, go back a little further. He has “spent an undo” — misspelled — “amount of time on all of our projects Not to mention the notes I gave to make your script better early on.”
Dude, screw off. We don’t need you. Okay?
John: Yeah. By the way, those notes you were giving, that was to build this relationship that you are now throwing under the bus so you can get a free extension on this offer.
Craig: Right. You joined with me in partnership. And the partnership was this: You’re going to help me. I’m going to write a script. I’m going to get paid, and you’re going to get 10%. Isn’t that wonderful? And now you’re complaining that I’m making choices that might keep you from your belief of how we’re going to get your 10%. And suddenly all these things I did for you were favors.
No they’re not. And this is why managers make me sick sometimes, because they do this nonsense. They play these nonsense games. And because their business is crunched, crunched, they psychologically abuse the people they are supposed to be protecting. This is an abusive email.
And I’m so glad. The only thing that keeps me from not driving to Toby’s house and killing him is that it says “former manager.” Thank god.
But, listen, guys, this is tied into the same email before. I don’t care. And I have never met a writer, a successful writer, who cares about what these people need. I’ve got my own problems over here. I’m trying to write screenplays. And it’s hard. I don’t care what the producer needs. I don’t care what the manager needs. They’re supposed to be helping me! That’s the point.
Is that selfish? Eh, I guess I’m selfish. All I know is that if I write a hit movie, they end up getting so much more money than I do that I guess I can feel okay about it. [laughs] So, that’s the story. I get paid now. They get paid later. I get paid a pretty good amount now. They get paid crazy amounts later if the movie works. And I’m cool with that, but then please don’t play games with me.
John: Let’s go back to an earlier part of Toby’s letter where he writes that he is in these rooms with producers who have rights to things and would like him to write a script, but they don’t want to pay him to right that script.
And this is a thing that you and I all have friends who are in similar situations. Even Kelly Marcel, who was on our last podcast together, the Saving Mr. Banks was kind of that situation where she wasn’t really paid to write this script originally.
Craig: I don’t know if that’s true.
John: Well, she said in the podcast. I asked was this essentially a spec script you were writing for this producer. And she said, “Yes, there’s no money in British film.”
Craig: Oh, okay, yes, that’s true. And by the way, in England, yes, I remember that now. You’re absolutely right. And in England, there is such a different deal going on, because there is no work for hire and it’s a whole crazy thing. And I don’t understand how British law works, but here…
John: So, I would say in general, I’ve been in these kind of situations, even sort of at this point in my career. When that comes up, what they really need to be expressing this to you as is like, “Let us partner on this thing.” And I think if you’re considering coming in to write thing, it can’t be a work for hire because they’re not hiring you.
John: They’re not paying you.
John: So, it’s essentially like you are partnering up with them to try to develop this property into a thing that is a thing.
John: And it’s a negation on both sides, because if they have some bundle of rights, well that bundle of rights is important for you to be able to write your essential spec script. And so that’s complicated. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it’s going to be complicated. And that’s why you’re lucky to be, Toby, at a point in your life where you do have an agent and a manger and you have producer credits and you can figure this out.
Craig: That’s right.
John: And you are essentially becoming their partner, not just the writer that they’re hiring, because they’re not hiring.
Craig: And that’s the kind of push and pull of this. They have rights that they need turned into a screenplay and they can’t do it on their own. You have the ability to turn books into screenplays, but you don’t have the rights. Well, that sounds like a negotiation to me. And the product of that negotiation is an option. Right?
Now, the option could be for a dollar. It could be for zero dollars. It could be for $10,000. It depends, frankly, on where everybody is. And are there other writers they want for this? Or are you absolutely perfect? And is this a book that you absolutely love, or this is a book that you would do anything to write? Either way, when this idiot says that options simply aren’t done anymore, he’s lying.
Craig: Lying! He’s a liar. I know that this is crazy that there are liars in Hollywood, but there are liars in Hollywood.
John: Let’s end on a craft question. Matt writes, “I’ve read and seen two schools of thoughts and wanted to get your opinions on both. One states that the end of the second act should be the ultimate low point, the all-is-lost moment. The other states that it’s the time when the protagonist makes his decision to go forward with his new life, or fall back on his old ways. Which one is better? Which one gets shot down more by agents or producers?” What a bad way to end the question.
John: What is the end of the second act to you, Craig Mazin?
Craig: To me, it’s neither of the things that are put here. The way that these are described are typical for books and things written by people who essentially analyze. They’re after the fact thinkers. They watch movies. They read scripts. And then they try and find patterns in them and then present those patterns. But they’re not before the fact advice. We writers, we live before the fact. We must build it, right? So what’s before the fact advice?
For me, what’s roughly going on at that point in the movie is this: the character used to believe something. They believed it, maybe for bad reasons or good reasons, but it was the thing that helped them survive. It was a thing that they would have believed for the rest of their life on some deep fundamental level had the movie not occurred.
There is another thing they should be believing, and they will believe it by the end of the story. In fact, they will believe it so strongly that they will behave in accordance with it, even at risk to their own life. However, at this point in the movie, they have become aware that what they used to believe in is not true. And what they ought to believe in is simply too scary to comprehend. They are caught. And they are adrift emotionally and they are adrift almost intellectually and they don’t know what to do. They realize they can’t go back and they don’t know how to go forward.
John: I don’t disagree with you, Craig, but what I will say is that what you just described does feel kind of screenwriting book theory. I think it’s Craig Mazin’s screenwriting book theory, but it does feel sort of general framework-y in terms of like the generic sort of movie protagonist hero, this is where he or she is at in their situation. So, I’m in no ways diminishing sort of what I think that is largely true, I would just point out that did sound like it could be from a screenwriting book.
Craig: Well, I will say that that is a portion of a thing that there’s a bunch of stuff leading up to it, in fact, this was the thing that I did in Austin that is…
John: I was going to ask if that was…
Craig: It’s sort of not, at least as far as I know, not screenwriting book-y, but look at some point all these answers I suppose will sort of — I will say there doesn’t even have to be this in the script. You know what I mean? There’s no trap where you have to do this kind of thing. But to me when it happens, this is why. It’s not — I’m more concerned about why things happen and less concerned about that they should happen.
John: I would challenge you to take a look at the end of the second act from the audience’s perspective, which is we’ve watched this journey, we’ve watched this movie. Whatever has been happening, that thing has just ended. And now we’re into one last push. And to me, the end of the second act/start of the third act means that we as an audience are aware that we are on the final part of this journey. And that the movie is getting ready to reach it’s big conclusion.
John: And so it’s a thing that as an audience, even if you’re not really aware of like character motivations and stories and how thematically things are working, you have a sense that like that thing is done and now we’re in this last stretch of the movie. And that can apply to almost any genre of movie you think about. You get that sense like this is going to be the last push.
And when it’s not the last push you feel like it’s jarring. And so it has to be setup just right that you can sense like that’s done, and now we’re in this last thing.
Craig: Well, you know, here. You and I are kind of like the proverbial blind men describing an elephant, because we’re feeling different parts of this thing. I always think about a movie working on three essential axes at any given point. There is internally what’s going on in the protagonist’s mind. There’s what’s happening between the protagonist and the people around him. And then there’s what’s happening externally in the world around all of them. So, I was kind of sort of talking about a very internal thing. You’re talking about a very external thing, too.
And both of those must be serviced. And, similarly, the interpersonal as well. But the question of how to create that moment, I think, oftentimes I find thinking internally gets you to what you need to make happen externally. But that’s me. You know, that’s just my…
John: Cool. And I think we’re at the point for some One Cool Things.
Craig: Ooh, I’m so excited.
John: Mine is really simple. So, it’s a podcast. Craig doesn’t listen to any podcasts other than our own podcast.
Craig: What’s a podcast?
John: But I listen to some other ones, and one of them that I like a lot is called Planet Money. It’s an NPR podcast. And they talk about financial issues, economic issues. It’s a good, chatty, really well produced podcast about those topics.
The reason why I bring it up this week is they’re doing a whole series of podcasts about they’re making the Planet Money t-shirts and they’re sort of going all the way back to like the growing of the cotton and sort of how the whole thing works, and how the whole supply chain comes together, which I find fascinating and in our very connected world, how this all works.
So, that series is just starting, but they’ve had little blips of episodes where they talk about even the process of like getting the money from, they Kickstarted it. So, like transferring the money from the Kickstarter PayPal to their own bank account took like four days. And why did it take so long? So, there’s a special episode where they just talk about the clearinghouse for checks and how that all works.
And it’s this incredibly bizarre, antiquated system that we have in the US that needs to be overhauled, and yet it would be very difficult to overhaul. So, I endorse the Planet Money podcast. That particular episode and especially the upcoming series on t-shirts.
Craig: And this is called a podcast?
John: It’s called a podcast. People listen to it on their mobile devices sometimes.
John: It’s actually the thing you’re doing right now, but you kind of just think we’re having a conversation.
Craig: I’m sorry. People are listening to this?
Craig: Oh wow. Oh god.
John: There’s actually not an audience in front of Craig. He thinks it’s just a conversation between us.
Craig: I am mortified. [laughs] I have said things…
John: I’ve been recording this whole thing, Craig.
Craig: You’re supposed to tell me that. That’s against the law. And I am mortified. Some of the things I’ve said. Oh my god!
John: I know. Terrible, terrible shocking things.
Craig: Terrible, terrible shocking things. Well, my One Cool Thing this week is by far my one favorite, my most favorite Cool Thing of all the Cool Things I’ve done, which I think is 12 at this point.
And, John, do you know what my One Cool Thing is this week?
John: I don’t.
Craig: It’s you.
John: Come on. That’s too…
Craig: No, no. No, no, no, you’ve got to her me out.
John: Rawson Thurber already used, oh, he used both of us I guess.
Craig: Yeah, I know, and it’s totally different anyway. Listen, here’s the thing. So, I don’t know what people know of our story, but you and I have really gotten to know each other over the course of the podcast. We knew each other before the podcast, but we just sort of knew each other. It wasn’t like we hung out or anything. We just kind of knew each other.
And so we’re in Austin and I don’t know what it was, whether it was alcohol, or just whatever is going on in your life, but it was the best John August ever. It was such a great John August time. And at one point, and hopefully you remember, you came up to me, you saw me, you came up to me, and you hugged me.
John: I came up and hugged you from behind on the little Driskill balcony downstairs because I was saying good night to everybody and I felt like I need to hug…
Craig: Oh, sure, walk it back. Walk it back all you want.
John: I’m not walking it back at all.
John: I would say that I was the bounciest, Tiggeriest form of myself at Austin.
Craig: Yes. You were great. It was so much fun hanging out with you. I had such a great time. And because we spend actually a lot of time together but not together, it’s such a strange friendship that we have because it’s a podcast friendship, but we were really — I mean, look, you may still hate me, but you were such a great friend over the course of that weekend. So, my One Cool Thing is John…
Craig: No, my One Cool Thing is Austin John August. [laughs]
John: Thank you. Why can’t John be like Austin John all the time?
Craig: Well, that’s exactly right. And, you know, we were talking about doing our next, one of our next podcasts with Aline Brosh McKenna, the Joan Rivers of Scriptnotes, and she had this great suggestion that we should just drink through the whole thing. I really think we should. I think it’s going to be fun.
John: I suspect that may end up happening.
John: Yes. But first we’re going to have to go through our standard boilerplate. If you have a question for me or for Craig that is short, the best way to get to us is on Twitter. I’m @johnaugust. He is @clmazin.
If you have a longer question, like some of the ones we read today, firstname.lastname@example.org is the best place to send those questions.
If you would like a t-shirt, they’re going to be at store.johnaugust.com, right now, hopefully, up and running. They’re black and they’re cool. So, we take preorders for two weeks, and then we make all the t-shirts, and we send them out. So, that way we don’t have to keep making t-shirts all the time. It’s just a one-time thing.
If you are listening to this podcast, this is a podcast we’re making, they are available on iTunes.
Craig: A what?! [laughs]
John: iTunes is this magical portal through which you can subscribe to things. So, subscribe to us in iTunes and while you’re there you can give us a comment. That actually weirdly affects sort of how we rank in the whole ratings of the iTunes universe. And that’s kind of useful because that way more people can find us. So, if you’d like to do that, we welcome those.
And we should actually probably read some of those aloud on the air, because those are kind of fun.
Craig: Oh, it’s embarrassing to me. Do you know I want to, down the line, could we do an Austin John August t-shirt. Because that is a great professional wrestling name, by the way. Austin John August!
John: That would be good.
Craig: This really feels good to me. I’m really digging this right now.
John: It’s very nice. One of the other sort of memes of the Austin Film Festival is that everyone with a shaved head sort of looks like me, or I look like everyone with a shaved head. So, there were a lot of false spotting of John August. Like John Hamburg sort of looks like me. And there was one guy who on Twitter kept saying, “I thought I saw John August, but it was actually a random person.” Then like right as I was getting in the van to go back to the airport, he spotted me and I shook his hand. So, it was nice that we finally connected.
Craig: I look like no one.
John: You look like Craig Mazin. That’s just what you should look like.
Craig: No, I’m visual noise.
John: You’re a special snowflake.
Craig: I’m just visual noise. [laughs]
John: [laughs] All right, thank you so much, Craig, and we’ll talk next week.
Craig: You got it.
John: All right, bye.
- The John August Store is open for business!
- Get your Big Fish tickets now, and use discount code SCRIPT (for November 23rd or otherwise)
- John’s post on how we record Scriptnotes
- T-Bone Burnett in the Hollywood Reporter
- Anita Sarkeesian and her Tropes vs Women in Video Games project
- Complex’s The 15 Hottest Damsels In Distress In Movies
- TV Tropes on damsels in distress
- MacGuffins on TV Tropes and Screenwriting.io
- Planet Money podcast
- Planet Money on the American check system
- Craig’s One Cool Thing is John August
- Outro by Scriptnotes listener Matthew Chielli