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 117, the Not Just Dialogue edition of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

Craig, how are you?

Craig: I’m good. I’m real good.

John: You’re less depressed than last week?

Craig: Yeah. The depression has faded. Anxiety and depression have given way to a new day of hope. A New Hope. That’s a good idea. That’s a great name for a movie.

John: That’s a great title for an episode of a long-running series.

Craig: Right. But I wouldn’t want to start it with number one, that’s boring. I would want to start this at number four.

John: Yes.

Craig: Eddie Izzard has this bit like kids have learned to count 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 9, 10.

John: [laughs] Yes, it is madness.

I’m overall good. Today I crossed a breaking point with pumpkin spice. And it just needs to stop. We need to stop trying to make pumpkin spice a thing.

Craig: Oh, I thought that they were one of the erstwhile members of the Spice Girls that you were pissed off at.

John: Oh yeah, Pumpkin Spice? No, she got booted out of the band really early on.

Craig: [affect British accent] What, I can’t play with you? What?

John: Partly it’s because I’m in Los Angeles and it’s actually pretty warm here today. But when you go into a place and they’re trying to push pumpkin spice on you it’s like, no, it’s 80 degrees. Stop with the pumpkin spice. I don’t want pumpkin spice. I don’t want Christmas Tree lots. I’m just not in a fall mood at all.

Craig: Wow, this is about the most white people problem, white person problem in history. What’s with all the pumpkins? Hey, guys…guys…I like pumpkin spice. Because I’m Jewish, I’ve always had Christmas envy. So, I’m obsessed with Christmas. I love Christmas. And even the vacations now that I take with my family are very Christmas-y vacations. So, last year we were in Quebec City, which is this incredibly Christmas-y place. [laughs]

And then now we’re going to go to Vienna because it’s like Christmas Town.

John: It is like Christmas Town.

Craig: So, I want everything to be mulled and pumpkin spiced and nutmegged. And I want everything to be red and green. And I don’t care. I don’t care. In fact, I want more pumpkin. You know, my beef is not enough pumpkin spice.

John: All right. We’re going to duel over this.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: Because dueling is going to come back I sense in a big way.

Craig: When people offer you pumpkin spice do you get all in their face? Do you get angry? Angry John?

John: I usually smack it out of their hands. That’s basically what I do.

Craig: Like what’s wrong with that guy? Who’s this guy that doesn’t like pumpkin spice? It’s November!

John: Yeah. It doesn’t feel like November. It doesn’t feel like Christmas at all.

Craig: I know. Well, Los Angeles is the worst in that regard.

John: Today on the show I need to give you props because you actually set the entire agenda for today’s podcast. I said, Craig, I have no idea what we’re going to talk about because we were trying to have this guest and the guest will be rescheduled for another time.

Craig: Right.

John: So, I said, I don’t really know what we’re going to talk about. And you suggested three things which I think are great things. And so I’m throwing them under a general umbrella of movies are not just dialogue and a screenwriter’s job is not just writing the dialogues. And it’s everything that happens in a movie. And so I thought we could talk about that in a general sense.

Craig: Great.

John: Particularly sound, which you brought up, which I think is crucial.

Craig: Yeah.

John: You suggested we talk about naming characters, which is important, and we should dig into that a bit.

And then finally a really good topic of when it just doesn’t come out right and what a screenwriter should do when his or her movie is not what was envisioned and what happens next.

Craig: That sounds good the way you just said it, although I do feel like I’ve just been set up for terrible failure.

John: I think it’s going to be just lovely and good. I think it’s going to be a great show.

Craig: All right. Well, let me just try and do something with this pit of anxiety in my stomach and I’ll do my best.

John: So, first off, you can concentrate on getting ready for it because we have some housekeeping.

Craig: Great.

John: First off, t-shirts. So, t-shirts are being preordered right now, so if you would like a t-shirt that says Scriptnotes that’s black that’s really cool. You can go to store.johnaugust.com and order your t-shirt. Like the last time we did t-shirts, basically people will order the t-shirts, then we’ll print exactly the order that we have, and then we’ll mail them out.

So, the deadline for ordering your t-shirt is this Friday. So, come to store.johnaugust.com and order your t-shirt if you would like one.

Craig: Good. Good. I have a little housekeeping, too. Do you have more?

John: I do. I have two more things.

Craig: Oh, well then I’ll know when to start. [laughs]

John: Second thing is I’m doing a talkback for Big Fish on November 23.

Craig: Oh yeah!

John: That’s a Saturday. So, if you are coming to that show on Saturday, November 23, you need to email ask@johnaugust.com so we can actually have a headcount because it matters whether we’re going to do it in one space or another space based on how many people I have coming to this thing. So, if you would like to come see me and some other people behind Big Fish talk about the show that you’ve just seen, email ask@johnaugust.com and let us know that that’s happening.

Craig: Great.

John: And, finally, this is kind of the big one, so, we are maybe a live show.

Craig: Hmm…

John: Are you aware of this, Craig?

Craig: I am aware of it. And it’s funny because now that I think about it, when we do the live show, which you will shortly describe, I think there should be some sort of pumpkin spice beverage. It’s a very holiday season.

John: It’s a holiday-themed show. That does not mean that we have to have pumpkin spice, though. There’s other things we can do to celebrate the holidays.

Craig: Scrooge.

John: But, not final, not locked down, but you might want to mark your calendar for Thursday December 19 in Los Angeles. We’re planning on doing a live show. A venue will be announced soon.

Craig: Great.

John: As will ticket information. But just mark your calendars for that. I’m excited to be back in Los Angeles doing this thing that we do.

Craig: It will be fun. Los Angeles shows are great. That’s obviously where a large amount of our listeners are. Although, lately we’ve been getting tweets from Serbia, from England, it’s been great.

I have a little bit of housekeeping, too. Not that we’re politicians, but I feel oddly required to disclose this. At one point, my One Cool Thing was WinesTilSoldOut.com, which I really like.

John: Yes.

Craig: And I got the loveliest email from a woman who works there. She said she heard the podcast and she was so happy. And said, “A lot of people don’t realize this, but we’re actually a very small family-owned business. It’s just our family that does this.” And they were very — and they don’t really advertise or anything, and they were very, very, well, they were just delighted. And as a result, they’re sending me a free bottle of wine.

John: Ooh.

Craig: And I would feel guilty if I didn’t mention that.

John: Yeah, you need to disclose that.

Craig: Yeah, that basically now my One Cool Thing, now I’m starting to think, oh, my One Cool Thing should just generate swag.

John: [laughs] Oh, swag.

Craig: Swag!

John: Swag.

Let’s get to our show today. And so I really like this topic of sound, but I think it’s important to discuss in the bigger umbrella of so many people think about what a screenwriter’s job is as just being the guy who writes the dialogue.

Craig: Right.

John: And so it’s just those things that he characters are saying. I had this bit of a run in with Jessica Alba, like who I never actually physically met, where she had said something very dismissive about like good actors never read the script, or never follow the script. I’m like, well that’s a stupid thing to say, Jessica Alba.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And what I thought was so stupid about that comment was it also implied that the script is just the dialogue and dismisses the fact that like, oh, the whole reason that you’re in this scene is because of the script. The whole reason your character exists is because of the script. So, I thought we would have a little discussion about everything else that goes on the page in order to make a movie and sound is a great way to start with that.

Craig: Yeah. Screenwriting is world building. We are doing everything. And sometimes when I talk to people who really don’t understand what a screenwriter does. I mean, of course there are people out there who don’t even know that screenwriters do the dialogue. They think the actors improv everything.

But a lot of times they are unaware that we essentially write everything. We are accountable to create a setting and describe what you are seeing and hearing in all aspects. We’re required to do it.

For me, sound is a really interesting one. And I’ve been concentrating on it more and more as I write now because as we progress through time and technology begins to disrupt the world around us and the way people interact with entertainment, one thing that has persisted somewhat counter-intuitively is one of the oldest ways to experience entertainment and that is to drive, park, walk into a big building, and watch a movie with a bunch of other people. And even though theaters are changing and now you see a lot of theaters where you get to book your seat, and it’s a big comfy chair, and they bring you food and stuff, and they’re really working on the 3D and all the rest of it, the experience still holds attraction for people.

One thing that sets movies, motion pictures, apart from television, watching movies on your iPad or on TV but going to see a movie in a theater is that you’re hearing the movie as well. And I don’t care what kind of deal you have in your house you don’t have that kind of deal. Movies sound better in theaters than anywhere else.

And so I think it’s important for us to think about that as we’re writing, because that’s part of what the attraction is now for people. It’s a huge part of the experience.

John: Well, experience is really the key word here. You have to be thinking about as a writer what is it going to feel like to be in that space watching the movie with an audience, with a great picture, with great sound, and what are the possibilities you have if you were that audience member and feeling it right there in that space.

And so there’s subtleties to sound that can be really crucial and great. The subtle scrapes, the rasps, the thunder cracking in the distance. These are great things and they belong on the page where they are appropriate. Now, you can’t choke your pages with every possible sound effect. And most scenes aren’t really going to talk about the sounds. You have to be very judicious about the moments you are going to sort of — every word on a script page is precious material, so you don’t want to waste those words on things that aren’t important. But sound can be very important. And every time you are thinking about that scene, you have to ask yourself what — is there anything about the sound of the scene that’s going to be unique and special and important?

If you’re setting something in an environment where just giving us the setting will probably tell us what it sounds like, that’s fine. But if there’s something special about it, let us know.

So, if you’re at an airport, if you’re just generally going through a busy terminal, telling us “busy terminal” will probably give us that sense of like the Walla-Walla-Walla and all that stuff that’s happening. And there’s going to be background PA announcements. Great. Don’t waste our time telling us about that.

But if you are on the tarmac and people are loading in bags and that’s where your action takes place, it’s incredibly important to remind us how loud that is and how it feels, and what that experience is like. And that has to happen on the page or else it’s not going to happen in the reader’s mind.

Craig: Absolutely. Sound, well one fun way to use it is for transitions and we’ve talked about transitions before and the use of sound as opposed to — I think we’ve become very good at detecting visual transitions. They are the oldest kind of transitions in motion picture filmmaking — dissolves, wipes, fades, and so on. And also the trick transitions, a light bulb that’s the sun

We become cynical about it. it’s a funny thing. We always think of watching movies and not listening to them, but we naturally over time become cynical about things we see because we’ve seen them before. Hearing is closer to smell, I think, neurologically in the sense that we don’t become jaded to the sounds. The sounds are actually very disruptive and they actually, I think, connect emotionally with us more quickly than visual information does.

Visual information is processed in the back of your head. Sound is processed in a whole bunch of different places. But, we know for instance that there are people who stutter who can sing, but they can’t speak without disruption. There are stroke patients who can’t speak at all, but they can sing what they want to say. There’s something going on in the brain that is fundamental here. And I like to think of sound as more of a mainline heroine than the visual.

So, also, I think there’s an opportunity now for us to play around with it, for instance, we’re talking about an airport. Well, we all know that we have a choice there as we’re building the world of the airport to just describe it as general Walla-Walla, or just the hustle and bustle of the airport. And in the reader’s mind they’re like, okay, I’ve got that.

But if you can use sound to help define your character and their focus of attention and thus the perspective of the scene. What is the character looking at? Does the rest of that sound fade away and all he can hear is the tap-tap-tap of somebody sitting across from him or the sound of a distant alarm because he’s panicked. You can use all of this to get right into the deeper parts of the brain.

So, as we go through our scene building and we get out of the kind of first blush world of what are people saying and who are they saying it to, and get into the world of the visual and the aural — a-u-r-a-l, don’t put the audio second. I actually think we should put it first. Sound to me is the thing that’s the most exciting in filmmaking in the finishing process because that’s when you suddenly — it’s the sound that makes it seem like a movie.

John: Yes. Anyone who’s experienced a bad indie movie, you can tell a lot of times how much money was spent on the movie by how good the sound is.

Craig: Right.

John: And whatever the picture quality, it’s the sound quality that is actually what tells you how professionally finished this movie was.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So, I want to step back to a thing you said earlier about sort of subjectivity versus objectively of sound. Because you’re describing in terms of like are we just hearing all the Walla-Walla of the busy airport, or are we focused in on what a character is doing? That’s essentially the same kind of choice as you would make visually with lens selection. Are you looking at the whole world? Are you wide? Are you objective?

Craig: Right.

John: Or, are you zoomed in really tight on what is happening right in this one very moment? So, either what this character is seeing, are we hearing the sound of what that character is seeing? Or just you’re experiencing the world as a character experiences the world. And those are very different choices. And you’re not always going to make those — declare what your intention is on the page. Most times you’re going to sort of set a tone for what the movie kind of feels like and stick with that tone.

Either the movie is going to be very subjective and it’s going to very much feel like it’s from the character’s POV, even if we’re seeing the character, or it’s going to feel like it’s wide and open and it’s the whole world that you’re experiencing at once. You’re experiencing it like the camera is another character in that space and you’re watching it with them.

Craig: Right.

John: But those are fundamental choices and to not think about that is to give up a choice and you don’t want to do that.

Craig: It’s giving up not only a choice. It’s giving up what often is your best choice, your most effective choice. And it’s hard for us. I think everybody understands that the nature of a screenplay is to try and visualize something. We’re told constantly from the beginning of our time as screenwriters to write visually. No one every says write soundily. [laughs] You know, we don’t even know what the word is, really. Aurally, I guess.

John: Yeah, it would be aurally, but that’s confusing.

Craig: Auditorily. But we often — we naturally — naturally we will say “close on,” “reveal,” “angle on.” We do this all the time in screenplays. We need to give as much service to what things sound like. As you point out, when it is salient and informative, as always, when we talk about these things we talk about intention. And what can provide, what can help you provide your intention to the audience in a way that is interesting, unexpected, exciting.

And so lately I’ve just really been playing around with sound. I mean, the script I’m writing right now, sound is actually a plot point. It matters. And that was an intentional choice, too. An that’s what started me thinking about this, because I realized it’s the kind of thing that makes you want to see the movie in a theater. And I want the theater experience to be special for people.

You don’t want to go down a road where you just… — Look, I mean, I’ve written movies where frankly you could just watch them on an iPad and it’s fine. But lately I’ve been thinking to myself it’s probably a bad idea. [laughs] I mean, not that I want to change creatively the heart of whatever it is that I’m doing just to sucker people into a big room, but if I can give them more in that big room, that’s a nice thing to do. And an effective thing to do.

John: Let’s step outside for a second and talk about how sound actually exists, how sound is created in films. Because I think someone who hasn’t been through the process of actually making a movie probably doesn’t have a sense of like how artificial sound really is in films.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So, on the set while you’re filming a movie there is a sound recordist. And that sound recordist, you can often see the person who is at the board, and there’s another person with a boom who is at the pole that’s holding the microphone down above the actors heads. That’s a very classic way you record sound in films. Sometimes it could be more than one boom. Sometimes the actors will have lavalier mics that will also be recording things.

Craig: Right.

John: But that’s only recoding really the dialogue. Everything else that you are seeing and hearing — not seeing, but hearing in a film was created after the fact basically.

Craig: That’s right.

John: That’s all post-production audio. And until you’ve actually been through that process and seen how incredibly elaborate it is and how seriously those folks take their job, you don’t have appreciation for how completely constructed it is. It’s as if, yo know, really basically it’s like you are shooting green screens the whole time where from an audio perspective those actors talking, that’s the only thing you’ve filmed and everything else around them had to be created after the fact.

Craig: In fact, it has to be that way because we want to be able to hear the dialogue cleanly and combine it with other sound as we so desire. As the director views the cut and listens to the mix, he or she needs to be able to change the sound as they wish. The one thing you can’t do is change the sound if it’s married on a track to dialogue. So, in fact, by requirement sets and movie scenes are designed to be as quiet and unsoundy as possible.

So, all you get is the dialogue. But, what I find interesting is that if you create space for a specific sound in the script, it will change the way the scene is shot. And it will — I worked with a DP once who would always refer to clues. He would say, “You know, there are all these clues in the script.” [laughs] And it’s true. You’re leaving clues for everybody so that they know how to put it all together in a way so that six months later, or eight months later, or a year later when you’re in your final mix, there are clues.

And they have the script there. The script does not go away. I am so pleased when I walk into a mix session and I see guys at this big, big board and they have the screenplay open in front of them.

John: Yeah.

Craig: They’re looking for clues. So, why don’t you put some in there for them. That’s basically the idea.

John: So, what these sound folks are doing is there’s sort of two parts to the process for sound. First is they’re editing sound, and so they are finding the sounds that would make sense in the scenes. And they will often have multiple choices for what those sounds could be. And there are things that you would not believe they could have multiple options for, but they will. Which is like a hand touching a door knob. And so when you’re in a sound — they will edit all those in so that they’ll all line up perfectly. And then you as the director will listen to all the choices for this is what it sounds like when his hand touches the door knob.

Craig: Right.

John: So, it’s a sound, they could had a library of sounds for doing this. They may have recorded that in Foley. But you will listen to that and you will go insane listening to all the choices for what it sounds like when that hand touches the door knob. And they will have the option for, well, does his wedding ring touch the door knob metal as it turns. They will have all those options.

And they are taking that so seriously because it helps create the reality of the film. Now, the challenge for the writer is how do you portray those kind of choices/decisions when they’re important on script, the page. And there are lots of choices.

Sometimes you are going to onomatopoeia. You are finding that made up word or that just perfect word that captures the sense of what that sounds like. The sizzle, the buzz, the crackle, the way you want that thing to sounds. What does it sound like as a box is being dragged across a gritty floor? Well, that’s probably a very specific thing and you may need to find the right verb to help sell what that sounds like.

But when you pick the right word for it, suddenly we hear it in our heads the right way.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And you’re trying to do that for the reader. Ultimately, a year later, some sound editor will be trying to find the right sound to portray that feeling to the audience member.

Craig: Yeah. I tend to be guided in this way. When I — let’s say for instance your example of a box being dragged across a gritty floor. I know that if I write, “Jim drags the box across the gritty floor,” that the professionals will know what that means. And they will offer, they will automatically put it in. And, really, for things like that, it’s almost a passive process with the director.

The way this works, for those of you who haven’t sat through a sound session for a movie, the folks that are combining all the audio elements, which are dialogue, music — dialogue, score, music that’s within the scene, sound effects. They play it back. And they play it back. You know, we talk about reels, so they play back a 16-minute chunk, say. And as they’re playing it there’s a footage counter on a big display underneath the screen. And the director, or the producer, or whoever is in the session makes notes.

When they hear something that’s off, that they don’t like, or that they want to change, or they want to make louder, or softer, they make a note of what the footage number was and what it was. When they’re done with that reel everybody goes through and talks about it and the sound mixers take notes.

So, you might say, “You know what, when it was being dragged across the floor, is there something a little grittier, a littler dirtier, and maybe not quite so loud? That almost sounded like glass instead of grit.” And they’ll go, okay, yeah, we’ll work on that.

Now, for me, when I’m writing, the areas where I want to really call stuff out is when it’s not the norm.

John: Yes. Exactly.

Craig: And to me it’s the not norm that is also very exciting for people. I mean, there’s this wonderful moment in The Sopranos where an assassination occurs at a table. And you don’t hear the bullet. You hear the sound of the high pitched noise that you get in your ear when you’ve been deafened because a gun just went off next to your head. It’s very impressionistic. And then, so in that case it needed to be called out. That suddenly all sound goes away except for this distant high pitched tininess kind of whine.

That’s the kind of stuff that I think is great to think about as you’re writing so that you can surprise people so it’s not just another gun going off.

John: I want to go back to this example of a box being dragged across a gritty floor, because what I want to stress is that as a screenwriter you probably wouldn’t highlight that as a sound effect if it was happening in front of the camera. So, if everyone in the scene is seeing this box being dragged across, it’s probably not worth the words to throw at it to describe that that sound sounds like.

Where it does become very important is if someone is trying to move it silently so no one else hears it, and that scraping sound, that gritty sound is really important. And that becomes an important story point is the noise that was made.

Or, if that’s happening just off stage, so we’re not seeing it, but we or the characters are hearing it, it’s incredibly important that you’re describing that sound and describing from the subjective point of view of the character on screen what they’re hearing.

Craig: Right.

John: That can create suspense, tension — what is that sound? And that’s where you end up spending 15 minutes trying to find the right word to describe what that sound sounds like.

Craig: Right. And the important thing, as you point out, is that we’re thinking about it, so it’s this other dimension of storytelling that sometimes we neglect and I do think it’s so important that we not neglect it because in the end there are people that can do amazing things. The ability to control sound in a movie far surpasses the ability to control anything else — performance, lighting, set design, everything is all subject to circumstance. The roll of the dice of the day. Sound can be absolutely perfected and they have so much ready to go. And then if they don’t they can design something just for your movie that people haven’t heard before.

I mean, the famous story of the guys who went out and tried to figure out what the blaster noise would be for Star Trek and they ended up whacking a bar against a high tension steel cable and marry that with a couple other things. And it became that noise. They invented a sound.

John: That was Star Wars, though. Not Star Trek.

Craig: Oh, I’m sorry. Did I say Star Trek? I meant Star Wars. Yes, Star Wars.

Star Trek, the sounds in Star Trek, too, though. I mean, if I say to you, “Transporter, start,” no transporter, Star Trek, you hear it. [laughs] You hear that — it’s like music but it’s sound, it’s a shimmer. These things are invented and they will last in your minds the way that music lyrics will last in your minds.

The sound of the space — the Martian vehicles, the tripods in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds are so distinct. That weird alien ship porn noise — I can hear it right now in my head.

I can’t see anything else really and I can’t see the thing. I could not draw it for you as well as I could make the sound for you.

So, let’s just collectively really think about that, when it’s appropriate, and when it can help us. It’s a good thing to do.

John: Here’s an exercise that we talked about when I was on the panel in Austin for Alien. So, I was a panel where we deconstructed Alien. And we were showing the opening startup sequence to Alien, basically where the ship wakes up. And what I stressed to keep in mind is that if you had no sound, if you were watching this in an airplane with no sound, you would still know what was happening because visually it tells you the ship is waking up and that the people are waking up. And you can watch that first sequence and it makes complete sense with no sound whatsoever.

So, you don’t hear people talking, it makes complete sense. The same thing can hold true for the audio in that situation where if you turn off the picture and just listen to the sound, you are hearing the ship waking up and it’s very, very clear.

Craig: Yes.

John: The music and sound are telling you that this thing is coming to life and it’s very smart.

So, what I would stress for writers to do is whatever scene you’re working on right now, you’re sort of looping it in your head, probably. You see the whole thing. Turn off the sound and see it all visually and make sure it all makes sense visually to you. And then do another pass where like you turn off the picture and just think about what everything sounds like.

And most scenes, there’s probably not going to be anything special that you’re going to want to highlight sound wise, but there might be. And it may not occur to you that there could be something interesting sound wise to highlight unless you try that that experiment.

Craig: Yes. And it’s a chance for you to impart information in a way that’s much more satisfying, and immediate, and true to the audience than somebody talking about it. So, if we’re in a ship and it looks a bit junky and we hear kind of a clunky rattle from somewhere in its depths, and the sound of a leaky pipe, we learn something about this ship and those sounds are wonderful. And they really do put you somewhere. More than seen.

John: Yeah, it’s a very primal thing. I think what you’re talking about, your memory of War of the Worlds, is I think because it actually keys into some sort of lizard brain thing about sort of our assumptions of what this is. And there’s a danger out there. We’re very keyed into that because we are creatures that spend half of our life in darkness and always had to sort of listen for predators out there. So, we do key into those things in a very special way.

Craig: Yeah, it’s why people listen to poetry set to music but don’t read poetry. I mean, some of it’s not poetry. [laughs] But they don’t even read bad poetry. They will listen to bad poetry.

John: They will listen to this podcast and not read the transcript.

Craig: [laughs] Exactly.

John: Great. Let’s move onto our next topic which is naming characters which is, I think, a great topic to have because that’s one of the things I spend so much time on in the initial part of figuring out a script is figuring out exactly the right names for not just my main characters, but sort of everyone in the world so that I know who these people are before I get started. And I have a very hard time writing a character if I haven’t picked his or her name.

Craig: It’s so funny, so do I. And it is a very torturous process. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience of having to change the name because somebody comes to you in the process and says, “We can’t clear this name.” I mean, there are all these rules about clearing names. It’s a weird thing.

If you write a movie and you put a character’s name in, like let’s say Tyler Durden. If there’s only one Tyler Durden in America, you’re screwed. You can’t do it. Because that person could come and say, “This obviously is about me. There’s only one Tyler Durden.” So, you kind of need lots of Tyler Durdens, or no Tyler Durdens in order to use the name.

But if they make you change it…I’m getting anxious even thinking about it, because it’s a disruption. It’s as if your husband had to change his name and you had to call him a different name. It’s traumatic. We connect with the names so closely.

John: Let’s talk about that connection, because the name is generally the first thing we are going to be able to draw assumptions about that character from. And so if a Tiffany is different than a Bertha, and you and I both see different characters for a Tiffany and then for a Bertha.

Craig: Right.

John: And we have our whole bundle of expectations and assumptions that come with those two kinds of names, to tip off sort of socioeconomic background, of kind of looks. We don’t associate hot with Berthas. It can talk to us about their ethnicity, their nationality. It can give us a sense of their age. A Mabel is either very old or is a little baby. But there’s no Mabels who are 30.

Craig: Right. Exactly right. And this is an area where I do see writers dating themselves a bit. It’s always a good thing. The wonderful resources online now to see what the most popular names are, not just now, but they were ten years ago or 20 years ago. And for every country. I’m constantly looking for foreign names to see what popular names are.

And, of course, you can go against the grain and make a point of going against the grain with a name, but there’s some obvious things to not do. Don’t name your characters super boring names because that’s just super boring. There’s no reason for anybody anymore to be Officer Smith.

Smith — even that in and of itself is so ridiculous, it could almost be interesting. It’s more like Harper. It’s a name that’s not like Smith or Jones but it’s just so bland that you don’t care.

John: Harper is one of those weirdly overused things in scripts. I’ve used it. Because it’s not that common of a name really in real life, but I think on paper for whatever reason it’s there all the time, as a first name and a last name.

Craig: And also it gives nothing to anybody who is trying to visualize. If I walk into a room, I need to get a loan, and I sit down across a loan officer and his name is Jim Harper, I guess I’m just looking at a white man between 30 and 60 in a suit who’s just a blah….

John: I’m sort of seeing John Krasinski from The Office, but that’s because his name is Jim Halpert, so it was close to that.

Craig: Right. There’s a blandness to it. And in television I actually think sometimes they need to do that because you’re with them week, after week, after week, and at some point a silly name — sorry, that’s the wrong term. A name that is noticeable, that sticks out, is going to become annoying over time. Sam Malone is a perfectly great television name. It’s a terrible movie name.

John: Yeah. Sam Malone would be like a generic sheriff in movie land.

Craig: Right. It would be a boring sheriff. Now, on the other hand, another thing to not do is to get precious and stupid with your names. Please forgive me, Pacific Rim, but Stacker Pentecost is ridiculous. That is a ridiculous name. It takes me out of the movie. It seems almost like a spoof.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It is such an overdone, hyper-masculinization of a name. It’s got bible thumping weirdness to it. Stacker is nonsense. Pentecost is way too on the nose. It’s just crazy. I mean, Cypher Raige is terrible because it’s just — it’s not a good idea to do that.

John: No one in real life would be named Cypher Raige. If your name were Cypher Raige —

Craig: You would change it!

John: The first thing anyone would say to you is like, “Really? Really that’s your name?”

Craig: So, you’re angry and mysterious?

John: I guess so.

Craig: Let me tell you, if your name is Cypher Raige, the one thing you can’t be is angry and mysterious. At that point you have to be happy and an open book, because then it’s funny. But, those kinds, you don’t want to go down that path. So, you don’t want to go down crazy name path. I tend to try and studiously avoid the on-the-nose names that imply character things. I find them precious.

John: Like the character Precious?

Craig: No, that was great. [laughs] No, but I mean, you know, when somebody is named Small, know, or Loneman.

John: Oh yeah, that’s a dangerous thing.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So, I’m working on this project which if people want to go back to the What’s Next episode, I’m actually going in to have a meeting on that preexisting property thing. And so I had to pick character’s names, because I actually had to sort of — I have to pitch this thing.

And so it was a sudden kind of realization, like I had to really figure out who these characters were because they were going to have to have names. I was going to have to be able to pitch their names. And so I figured out their names, but then I actually spent a good half hour trying to figure out how to spell this woman’s name, because it’s one of those names that could be spelled different ways. And because you’re going to be looking at that on the page, you know, every page she’s going to have dialogue. It has to be the right way to spell her name.

And so even though no one watching the movie would ever see her name spelled, it had to be spelled the right way on the page so that it would be — so you would get the right impression of her every time you saw her give a line of dialogue.

Craig: Right.

John: So, that’s a crucial thing. And honestly figuring out the other guy, once I made a decision about his nationality, that put me in a whole different place in terms of what kinds of names would remind me who he was. Because remember that you’re setting up these characters and somebody could like really skip past one little thing that told you where that person was from, but if the name helps remind you that it is that person, that person is from some place, you’re going to be in a much better place.

And so you might forget that, well, Parks and Recreation, there’s Tom Haverford, is a guy of South Asian heritage, but that’s part of the joke is that he has a really boring white guy name.

Craig: Right.

John: And he’s a sort of South Asian looking guy. In a film, you probably want to make sure that character has a name that would remind you that he is that guy, because if it’s been 30 pages since we’ve seen him last, you’re going to forget that he is anything special because of all those pages in the past.

Craig: Right. And that is a very —

John: So, it would be Sunil or something else that could remind you like, oh, that guy is this guy.

Craig: Yeah. Because we’re only getting one episode of the show. One long episode. And the care that you’re describing, even the spelling of a name, is critical because these things mean things and they impart things. I have a character in the script I’m writing now named Sarah. So, the question is is it Sara, or is it Sarah?

Well, to me Sara is a little younger, it’s a little brighter, it’s a little more bubbly. Sarah is a little more worldly, a little more weathered, a little more adult, a little more serious.

John: Or, a dancer in Big Fish is Sarrah.

Craig: Ah, now that’s —

John: The mermaid.

Craig: And that says exotic, eccentric, artistic, whimsical. These things mean things, you know. They do.

John: Absolutely. That extra R does change a lot of your expectations.

Craig: It tells you about their parents.

John: Yeah, it tells you about their parents, exactly.

Craig: And that tells us about them. And these things can’t just be tossed off as, well, I’m just going to name her Jill.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You know, and he’s going to be Frank. And, for god’s sakes, if you’re character’s name is Frank, please don’t make him frank. It’s like that stuff makes me nuts. But, anyway, I mean, the most important thing is never write Stacker Pentecost. That’s a name that should just — we should never hear that ever.

John: I would say the second most important thing is pick your primary character’s names first. And then do not let anyone else — try to not let anyone else have the first letter of their name be the same as those major characters.

Craig: Absolutely right.

John: So, if you possibly can, no two characters in your script should have the same first letter of their name. If for some reason you need to, the names need to be wildly different so that we will never confuse them as readers, because that just kills you when it’s like “I don’t remember which person this is,” or like these two people are talking and they both have Fs start in their names. Frank and Phil. Even Frank and Phil sometimes your head — one is a PH and one’s an F.

Craig: Yeah, but it’s a “ph” sound.

John: They feel the same. A “ph” sound.

Craig: It starts to make your world small and it starts to make the reader — they don’t even realize that they’re making a judgment that you just aren’t that imaginative and you only know one consonant. You just don’t want to do that.

Do you know why, I mean obviously the name Sandy in Identify Thief was part of what need to happen, he needed a name like that, but do you know why —

John: An ambiguously gendered name.

Craig: Exactly. But do you know why Melissa McCarthy’s name is Diana?

John: I don’t.

Craig: Well, she picked her name, because she didn’t know what her name was. And Melissa and I had this whole thing that when she was growing up she was obsessed with Wonder Woman and wanted to be like Wonder Woman.

John: Aw.

Craig: And so she chose the name Diana. And then it was really difficult to figure out what her actual name was and I spent a lot of time because I thought, okay, just from the look of her, she’s Scotch-Irish, but I didn’t want her name to be flowery. I actually wanted it to be a very truncated sort of glum Midwestern name.

John: Like Meg?

Craig: Yeah. And so I ended up with Dawn Budgie because it just —

John: Dawn is perfect.

Craig: Dawn is just Dawn, and Budgie because —

John: Budgie, you’re close to being that sort of like don’t be what the name is, but because it’s a punch line, it’s a late reveal.

Craig: Yeah. It’s a name about a pretty creature but it’s kind of an ugly word. I wanted it to be a downer. I just wanted her to be able to say, “That’s the worst name I’ve ever heard.” And it is, in fact, one of the worst names I’ve ever heard. But we spend time on these things and so I guess we are collectively encouraging all of you to spend time on them.

John: Absolutely. You should obsess a little too much about character’s names because you’re going to be staring at those character’s names the entire time through.

And, yes, you can make a change midway through the script and rename somebody, but it’s hard —

Craig: It’s traumatic.

John: It’s traumatic.

Craig: It’s traumatic. Now, I have a question for you. When you rewrite a script, what’s your attitude about changing the character names of the screenplay you’re rewriting?

John: I would only do it if there were like a fundamental issue where there was confusability between things, or if there was now a new actor in who just that name does not at all belong with that new actor.

Craig: Right.

John: So, I can’t even think of what an example would be, but a character’s name, there’s an O’Malley, and Will Smith is playing that role, that’s not going to make a lot of sense. And so that might be a possibility for changing names. But I think it’s honestly a little bit shady to sort of be the writer who comes in and just changes character’s names willy-nilly as if you’re really rewriting, as if you’re changing the characters.

Craig: Right. I completely agree. And this sort of goes to a general professional courtesy thing. You hear this from people all the time. When they get rewritten, one of their hugest complains — oh, that’s the worst grammar ever.

John: Yeah. That was terrible.

Craig: One of their significant complaints is that the subsequent writer changed the freaking names and they just did it for no reason, it’s still the same guy, in the same house, in the same job, doing the same stuff. A lot of the dialogue changed. There are a few new scenes. This wasn’t a page one rewrite. It wasn’t a reinvention of the movie. It was largely about dialogue, but they changed the names. What was the point of that?

And my feeling is you should default to not changing the names. You change them if you must, as you described. Obviously in the case of Identify Thief there was a gender switch. Names had to change. But, if you can preserve the names, why not?

John: Yeah. As long as the names aren’t actually hurting you. That’s the situation.

Craig: Right.

John: So, if changing the name opens a whole new opportunity, or for whatever reason this whole thing is now set in like the world of the Russian underground, then yes, you’re going to need to change some names. That’s just like a natural thing to have happen. But, otherwise it does feel kind of like a dick move.

Craig: It’s a dick move. That’s exactly right. So, to our fellow professionals, don’t be dicks.

John: Don’t be dicks. The last point I’d like to make in terms of names and name usage is that characters generally have first names and last names, but not all the time.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Sometimes you use the first name, and sometimes you use their last name, and you need to make a choice and be consistent about whether you’re using first, last, or both for those characters, because that can really help you get through — help your script make sense.

And so with your lead character, obviously that character is going to have a first name and a last name. You will make the choice whether it’s their first name that appears above their dialogue or their last name. But be consistent. And whatever name you pick, that should be the name above all their dialogue. It should be the name you use in all the action lines. Don’t go back and forth, because we will get confused.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And be consistent for that character. Now, it doesn’t mean that every character has to be used by their first name, or their last name. That’s a choice you can make for each character about how you’re going to do it. So, you can have one character who is Sam and another character who is McGarnagle, and if you want to use McGarnagle for all McGarnagle stuff, great. But he’s always McGarnagle and he’s never anything else.

Craig: Yeah. And try and match that up to the way people talk to each other. Not that announcing someone’s name before you say something to them is great practice, but let’s say you’re in a movie where you’ve got a psychologist who is joining a SWAT team to try and get a hostage out of a situation. Well, the psychologist may be Gary and he has a wife and kids, and the first 15 pages is setting up Gary and his life. When he encounters this group of SWAT guys, well they all call each other by their last name, so that’s what they are. They’re last name guys. And they’re last name characters. And it’s not like they can only call him Gary.

They can call him Chang. But Gary, it’s how we meet people and generally how the world interacts with them that can help drive that.

John: What you’re describing is often in films — a character’s personal life is in first names and professional life is in last names. That’s the way that the real world often does work.

Craig: Right. Exactly.

John: One last thing that can be helpful sometimes, this is a thing I learned from Big Fish, is using both first and last names at times can be very, very helpful. So, there’s Don Price and Zacky Price in Big Fish. And there’s also Jenny Hill. Those characters are always both names. And it becomes useful for the Price brothers because it helps you remember, oh, they’re brothers. And that’s incredibly useful for that.

Jenny Hill, we always refer to her as her full name, which just helps you remember who she was as you go through the script. And so it’s fine if you want to choose to use both names for certain characters. That’s okay.

Craig: That’s how I refer to Richard Kelly. I will not say Richard.

John: I won’t say Richard and I won’t say Kelly.

Craig: He’s Richard Kelly. He will always be Richard Kelly.

John: Let us go to our third topic today which is when it doesn’t come out right. Now, last night I got to see our friend Kelly Marcel’s film, Saving Mr. Banks.

Craig: Well, that came out right. [laughs]

John: That came out really, really right. But even whilst we were talking at this after party for the AFI premiere, Kelly, Aline, and I were talking about this very thing which is what — she loves the film. And so in no way am I trying to say that she doesn’t love the film.

But we talked about the inevitability that there are things you wrote a certain way that in the process of becoming a movie are not the same way that you tended to write them, even though they could be shot exactly word for word, it’s not going to be the film that you envisioned in your head. And how do you come to terms with the fact that it’s not exactly what you had envisioned in your head.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: And so that is the happy situation where like you have a really movie at the end of it, so luxury problems. But, sometimes it’s not what you saw in your head and it’s not good. So, what do you do?

Craig: Well, step one, don’t panic.

John: Yes.

Craig: Best advice from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Grab your towel, don’t panic. The thing is that you saw the final cut. Oftentimes as screenwriters we’re seeing an early cut. Well, the early cut is like one of our first drafts, and if people around us didn’t panic, don’t we owe them the same courtesy of not panicking?

True, a screenplay can be changed in vast ways far more easily than one can change the edit of a film. And yet a film can be changed through editing in ways that are vaster than we would suspect.

John: Agreed. And the first time screenwriters see their movies made never understand how much it can progress and change.

Craig: It can progress and change mightily. So, the first thing is, don’t panic.

John: Yeah.

Craig: The second thing is to remember — remember when you wrote your first draft and you gave it to people and then they gave you feedback, and then you see where you end up? It’s quite likely that a lot of the people who read that first draft loathed it and panicked momentarily and then said, “Well hold on, we can fix things. The writer is going to do better than this because this is the necessary first step.” The first step is never the final step, except for the case of Alexander and Karaszewski in Ed Wood apparently. [laughs] They were just touched by god. What can you do?

But you don’t panic now either. It’s the same situation. The director needs to find her way to it. They are now in their first draft and they are not seeing some things that you saw because their experience is different than yours.

Even if your turned out experience here is not about seeing the film, it’s even just hearing your script being read. Let’s say you’re in a writing group and everybody reads the script. And you hear it and you think, “Oh no.” Don’t panic. And then start to really think about where and how there’s a disconnect between the intention and what happened. And while you’re thinking about that, also open your mind to the possibility that perhaps something new has occurred that may also be worthy.

Just because it’s not what you intended doesn’t mean it’s bad. Different isn’t wrong. However, wrong is wrong. [laughs]

John: Yes.

Craig: So, then, my question for you, John, is okay you’ve seen this cut and you know that some things are just wrong. As a professional, with a goal in mind, how do you go about getting it unwrongified and rightified?

John: So, my first experience with this process was seeing the first cut of Go. And we were downstairs in the basement of the Thalberg building on the Columbia lot and we saw it. And I excused myself. I went out to the restrooms down there and had like a full on sweaty panic attack, because it was so awful. I was really thinking like maybe we can just never release it, because I knew it would kill my career if it got out, because it was just unspeakably bad.

And so then I went in and tried to have like the smile on my face conversation about like, well, there are some things that worked. And as I started having that conversation I realized like, you know what, there were some things that worked. And I was there for every frame we shot and I know we shot everything. So, the stuff that’s actually working, we just need to get everything else to work as well as basically the Vegas sequence was working in that first cut.

And it’s like, well, that’s going to be really hard. But, you know what? I can work really, really hard. And so then it was a process of, and this is different on every movie, is figuring out how can you as the writer come in and provide the help that can be provided to this process. So, with Go I was able to actually come into the editing room and sort of sit down and we could just do cut, after cut, after cut and then figure out reshoots and do all that stuff we needed to do.

Other movies, I’ve provided the first and most extensive set of notes that sort of talked through these are things that are working so, so well, these are the things that aren’t working so well, this is what I know we have, this is a thing we could try. And on Tim Burton’s movie that’s as much as I’ve been able to do, but it’s been really helpful for me to be able to do that.

Craig, what do you do after that first cut? And one thing I always stress when a screenwriter is going to see their first assembly of a movie is to tell them it’s supposed to be terrible. You will not believe how bad it can be. We love you. It’s going to be okay.

Craig: Well, sometimes it’s not going to be okay. I mean, let’s just also say that occasionally things go so wrong that it’s just going to be bad. It will be better than it is, but it will be bad. But sometimes it’s the total disasters that turn into these big victories. The ones I’m always worried about are the middling ones where you think, well, it’s a C+. I think we can get it to a B. Whoop-de-do. You know?

Well, first of all, before I do anything I have to justify why I’m there to begin with. This part of the process generally, traditionally is reserved for the director, and the producers, and the studio. Traditionally the screenwriter was seen as like a booster tank had been ejected on launch and was no longer required for the mission.

John: Yes.

Craig: That has changed, and I think changed for the better. And I would urge studios, producers, and directors to open the process up to screenwriters because we can help. And those screenwriters who understand, and I would hope that it’s now approaching 100%, who understand that the mission at this point is to improve the film, not to regain the movie that was in our heads when we wrote it, those screenwriters who can do that can be of great help.

Why? Because if you understand how editing works, and I would ask screenwriters who have not spent time in editing rooms to beg their way into them, even if it’s just to sit there quietly to experience it, we are able to offer solutions.

The director is beset by their own doubt and fears. By a lack of perspective they are exhausted. They are being asked to essentially look at this material as if they were just handed it by someone else. They did it. Their experience of the footage is colored by how hard they fought for certain things, how hard the day was to get, what they felt about a certain actor.

People around them will offer perspective. A lot of times the perspective is a passive perspective. “I don’t like that. I do like this.” And those are all opinions and they’re fine.

What a screenwriter with post-production experience can do is say, “Here’s what I think doesn’t work, and here’s how I think we can fix it. And it’s not hard. We’re going to do this and this, take this out, put this here. Let’s add a line of dialogue off screen over here, just to cover this, and it’s going to feel great. Extend this shot so that I’m looking at him while she’s talking. I want to stay — the idea was that I would be with him, so that what she’s saying isn’t as important as how he’s feeling about her saying it.”

Thing like this, that’s the real stuff of editing. And those are the things that make so much difference. Scott Frank was talking to me about editing his movie — he finished it — called A Walk Among the Tombstones. And I’ve seen it and it’s terrific. And Steven Soderbergh came in and was talking with him about the cut. And one of the things that came out of that discussion was cutting less. Just letting the shots go longer, even if the person who was talking wasn’t onscreen, because it fit the mood and the style of the movie better.

And we can do these things for each other. So, for directors who aren’t accustomed to having screenwriters involved in the process, open yourself up to it. And forgive them if they seem a little clingy to something, because we can get over that quickly, and then help deal with the world that is as opposed to the world that we imagined.

John: Well, the screenwriter can come in often as the fresh set of eyes because a lot of times I’ve not seen everything that was shot. So, I’m genuinely naïve to sort of what was happening on the day. I don’t know all the fights. I don’t know all the backstory behind things.

Craig: Right.

John: But I do remember the intention, and so I do remember what the intention was behind that scene. And there was a reason why it was that way. And there may be a good reason why it should be that way, again, and I can help find the way back to that process.

Craig: That’s right.

John: Also, screenwriters, we tend to be really good at sitting on our butts and staring at screens. And that’s a skill that we’ve developed from writing our scripts and it’s not a skill that’s actually natural to many directors. And so we sometimes have the patience to sit and like try the 15 different versions of how this thing could work and do all that experimentation that many directors can’t, because many directors are up on their feet, pacing, and doing 10,000 things at once.

Many directors sort of thrive on controlling chaos around them. And when it’s actually a quiet, still environment they kind of flip out.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: So, that’s often a way that screenwriters can be very helpful in the process is looking at what was there and what’s possible.

We’re also sometimes less afraid, well, we’re able to in our heads think about what happens to the story if things move around. And so if we move this scene from here up four scenes earlier to here, we can do the narrative math and ripple through what all that effects. That is very hard for other people to do, just because we’re used to the story as a whole. We know how it all fits together.

We know the consequences but also the opportunities and the possibilities that are there.

Craig: That’s exactly right. And so sometimes the non-writers will offer solutions that are great for the thing in front of you, they just don’t understand what it means for something 40 minutes later. Whereas writers always understand that. We immediately understand that, and so we provide a comprehensive solution, not something that’s going to cause its own problem.

The only other advice I could suggest is to be gentle and nice. Be nice. It’s so hard and it’s hard to get criticism and it’s hard to be told that you did something wrong, or you screwed it up. And I think that everybody is afraid on some level, afraid of the screenwriter. They don’t like it, but I think they are.

John: Yeah.

Craig: They’re afraid of blowing it because this person did this whole thing. And I think that’s part of what’s behind a lot of the bravado, like that crazy Morgan Freeman thing.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But be nice, be gentle, and also recognize that you have a legitimacy in your comments that no one else has. When some producer tells a director, “This scene is not working, cut it,” the director thinks, “Screw you, suit.”

When the writer who wrote that scene says it, you got to think twice. [laughs] And I have no problem saying, “Listen, it’s just not working. You know what? I obviously thought it would work. It’s not working. It’s not because you screwed up. It’s because we made a mistake. WE.”

John: We.

Craig: “So let’s WE cut it.”

John: Exactly.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And let’s WE finish up this episode of Scriptnotes. So, I have a One Cool Thing. Craig, do you have a One Cool Thing this week?

Craig: I do.

John: I wonder if ours is going to be the same thing. Mine is this utility that was introduced this week which I thought was crazy and impossible and useful for a very specific thing that happens with me. I’ve been traveling so much and I’ve been working primarily on my MacBook Air, which I love, it’s a great little 13-inch computer and I love it to death.

And I’ve been in public places a lot, so I always keep it locked. And so when the screen goes dark I have to type the password to unlock and I have a long password because I want to protect what’s there. So, it’s a new utility called Knock to Unlock which is crazy, but it actually works.

So, it’s a Mac application that runs in the background. And it’s an iPhone application that also runs in the background. It uses low power Bluetooth to talk between the phone and the computer. So, basically you walk up to your computer, you knock on your phone twice, and it unlocks it.

Craig: Whoa! I’m totally getting that.

John: Yeah. So, it seems impossible. So, you have to have a pretty recent model MacBook Air.

Craig: Well, what about like a MacBook Pro?

John: I’m sure that will be great. So, like my main computer that I’m working off of right now is an older MacBook that doesn’t let me do it, but my MacBook Air, it works great. So, it needs low power Bluetooth and it’s actually proved genuinely useful. So, it’s a utility that seems like magic and I’m only a couple days into it, but so far I really enjoy it.

Craig: Wow. Knock to Unlock. I’m totally getting that. That sounds great. That is, in fact, a cool thing. So, my One Cool Thing this week, obviously not that because that took me by surprise, blew my socks off.

Somebody posted, you know, we get a lot of these things on Twitter now where people say, “Please Retweet this and please Retweet that.” And we can’t Retweet everything. And, frankly, I’m just not a big Retweeter.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But one guy sent me this thing and it was basically about organ donation and a kid who needed an organ. And I don’t know, have I spoken about organ donation before on the podcast? I’m always worried that I’m re-cooling things.

John: I don’t think you have.

Craig: I have always been an enormous proponent of organ donation and also registering for the bone marrow transplant registry, the national marrow donor registry. In my mind, this is frankly a prerequisite for being a good human being. I hate to be super judgmental about this, but I really am. This is one of the few areas in my life where I’m sanctimonious in the truest sense of sanctimony.

John: Well, that and vaccines, but yes.

Craig: Yes. And vaccines. Correct. [laughs] It tends to revolve around medical science. But I think you are essentially you are —

John: We are lock-step in agreement on this one.

Craig: Yes. You are a bad person if you are so greedy and stupid as to think it’s more important to hold onto your organs in death than to save someone else’s life. Nobody likes to think about dying too soon, but then again nobody likes to think about dying pointlessly because they can’t find a heart for you, or for your child.

And so everybody should be an organ donor. Everybody should have the thing on their license that says they’re an organ donor. And I also think everybody should register for the national bone marrow registry service. It’s very, very simple to do.

The idea behind that is people, with a blood cancer, typically like a leukemia, will need to have their marrow replaced, but marrow will be rejected by the body unless it’s a very specific match to your own natural tissue. And it’s very hard to find a match. Sometimes your relatives will not match you. Sometimes somebody else across the world will.

So, what they do is they send you a kit. You can go online and register and we’ll provide the links. And you just do a cheek swab and send it back. And from that cheek swab they now have you in the database. And when somebody needs a bone marrow transplant and there’s not an obvious answer for that, they type them and they do into their database.

And one day my number may come up and I may have to go do this. And it will hurt a little bit. Whoop-de-doo, it will be the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. So, I love knowing that — are you registered?

John: I’m not bone marrow, so I should do that.

Craig: Oh, you’re going to be, after today, absolutely.

John: I’m doing it.

Craig: It is crucial. But it is just as crucial to be willing to donate every single part of your body that is usable should you die and should it be valuable to someone. Please, everything. Let us just reclaim each other. It is an absolute good thing to do.

So, we’ll provide some links for that, but that is my One Human Thing this week.

John: Very good. So, the links we were talking about are with the show notes. So, if you’re listening to this on your iPhone, those links are probably there in the podcast with you right there at the moment. But if not, you can go to johnaugust.com/podcast and find this podcast. There you will find links for most of the things we talked about: Knock to Unlock; the organ donation registries, the California one but also the national clearinghouse for that; the bone marrow registry — we’ll put that in there as well.

We will have information about our live show in December when we know when it is. So, a good idea in general is to follow us on Twitter. I am @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. Those would be the places where we would first announce when tickets are going to be coming out and sort of what’s going to be going on with the live show.

If you are listening to this on a device that connects to iTunes, you can subscribe to us there. That’s awesome. If for some reason you are getting two subscription showing up in your feed, it’s because we had to change the URL address for Scriptnotes about three weeks ago, so subscribe to the new one and then delete the old one and then you won’t get two episodes coming in.

But while you’re in iTunes, leave us a comment, because we love those, and we do read those sometimes. And sometimes we’ll read them aloud. So, leave us a comment, that’s great.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And that is our show.

Craig: I think I did all right.

John: I think you did really, really well, Craig. A round of applause for Craig Mazin.

Craig: Ah…thank you.

John: Some nicely picked topics there.

Craig: Thank you.

John: And, Craig, we will talk again next week.

Craig: Great see you next time. Bye.

John: Thanks.

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