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 Scriptnotes, episode 72, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Craig, how are you?
Craig: I’m really good, and I will tell you why when we get to our One Cool Thing.
John: Nice. So, today I thought we would talk through two things. First off, there’s a new report out that shows for the first year in seven years that home video revenues are actually rising a tiny bit.
Craig: I know. A tiny, tiny bit.
John: That seems to be good news.
John: But we can talk through what that means and what it doesn’t mean. And then today will also be a day of four Three Page Challenges. And this is probably the goriest batch that Stuart has ever picked.
Craig: So much blood, Stuart! I like it.
John: He told me that he actually tried to lighten it up by throwing us a comedy at the end, but it’s still — it’s pretty gory.
John: So, just a warning in advance.
John: But first, I have a correction. In last week’s podcast I said that I didn’t really have a New Year’s resolution for this year and I sort of made up a kind of half-assed one. But, the truth is that I am changing something fundamental for this New Year and I can’t believe I didn’t mention it on the podcast. I have become a single space after the period guy.
Craig: Oh! I love it. Good for you!
John: I just bit the bullet and I switched. And so it took some muscle memory retraining, but I’m now just a single-space-after-the-period and it’s just fine.
Craig: Yeah. I went through that myself and I do remember a weird little retraining period. But, welcome. Welcome to “Gooble-gobble one of us.”
John: Yeah. So, the script for ABC, Chosen, was the first one I did as a single space. And it’s just fine. At first you look at it, it’s like, “Oh, something’s wrong,” but it’s not wrong, it’s just different. And I don’t know that it actually saved me any pages because I actually typed it with a single space. So, I didn’t do a big search and replace. I didn’t like squeeze a page out of it. But, it feels just right.
So, if you’re a screenwriter who is on the fence about switching to a single space, I say just try it.
Craig: Yeah! Do it! Do it.
John: Do it! Cool. Let’s get to our topics.
So, yesterday — not really yesterday, it was last week by the time this podcast comes out — Ben Fritz in the LA Times had an article about a story released by the Digital Entertainment Group, which is a trade group for all the studios and sort of manufacturers of home video products. They were reporting that for the first year in seven years, home video revenues rose for the first time. The quote is, “After seven straight years of falling home video revenues, last year Americans spent more money watching movies at home than they did the previous year.” So, it’s stopping a trend.
And it was up a shocking 0.23%.
Craig: [laughs] Yeah. Well, you know, you hear these phrases sometimes in the world of finance, “The dead cat bounce.” It feels more like maybe the body finally hit the pavement.
For those of you who kind of casually monitor your own usage of things, you might have noticed that you don’t rent or purchase DVDs the way you used to anymore; other people don’t as well. But you really don’t have a sense of how precipitous the decline has been unless you work inside the business.
It’s been a freefall almost — really, really bad situation. This is a stream of revenue that the studios really relied on to fund everything, and so much of the decline in production and even the way that they’ve approached the kinds of movies they’re willing to back can be traced back to that, to that very fact that home video…just the bottom fell out.
And while I can’t say that a 0.2-something increase is good news, I think everyone’s held-breath hope is that we won’t drop a lot anymore. That maybe we are stabilizing. Maybe? And it seems almost too much to ask for that it will go up, but if that happens, great. But for it to not keep going down every year is just really good news.
John: Yeah. So, we’ll get into some more specific statistics, but we should talk about why it’s important for the industry and why it’s especially important for screenwriters. Because, as industry we talked about the fact that studios rely on home video to actually make profits on these moves, because movies as they’re released in the theaters, that’s not usually where the bulk of the money is coming from. More than 50% of the revenue comes from ancillary sources, down the road as they’re selling DVDs, as they’re selling television, as they’re selling it in other ways.
For a screenwriter, those other ways — those secondary markets — is where we get residuals. And residuals are a sort of crucial way of being able to maintain the career of screenwriting when you’re between projects. The years that you’re not writing a movie, those residuals are what is carrying you over.
And so the decline in home video has had a very profound effect not only on the kinds of movies that screenwriters are able to get made, but on how much you’re literally getting in your green envelope as residuals are paid.
Craig: Yeah, that’s exactly right. We don’t get paid any percentage, effectively, of box office. We don’t get paid a percentage, interestingly, of the exhibition of movies on airplanes, which is considered primary exhibition. We get paid a small but significant — meaningful — percentage of home video downloads, rentals, sales, internet sales. And also the reuse of the movie on pay television and free television, you know, HBO and network airings of the movies.
And as this home video market collapsed, so too did our residuals base, and while the percentage stayed the same, the amount that it applied against just collapsed.
So, you know, it is good news for writers, and actors, and directors who all draw residuals on films. I don’t know. I mean, I can’t really jump up and down here. All I can do is say, “Gee, I hope next year it’s the same deal,” you know. I’ll take a 0.2 increase every year at this point over what we’ve been having.
John: Now, also for screenwriters we should say that classically as studios try to explain why they have to tighten things up, they are complaining that home video revenues are shrinking. Of course, Justin Marks, our mutual friend, a screenwriter, had a tweet yesterday saying, “Hooray, the end of one-step deals! Suddenly the purse strings will fly open and studios will pay more money,” which is not probably accurate.
Craig: No. And I can’t really blame studios for taking a wait-and-watch attitude here. Look, if home video does increase significantly, if the long hoped for “internet boon” occurs — “boom” I should say — occurs, then they will likely increase production and they will open their wallets and spend more because movies will be marginally that much more profitable again. So, that’s a good thing.
But it’s hard to fault them for waiting, because the news has been so bad for so long. So, you know, let’s put a couple of good years together and maybe then they’ll change their tune.
John: So, I spent some time this afternoon trying to find the actual source of this information, because Ben Fritz’s story was the first thing I saw, and that’s what got sort of passed around a lot. The group behind this is called the Digital Entertainment Group, which is so generic of a title that you know it has to be a trade organization. And it turns out it really is. And so I’ll put up a link to their original site.
They reference — there’s a press release that references information in the report. And they say like “Attached is a report” and I could not find the report as we were going to air. But, there was more stuff in the press release and in stories that we can find. We can do a little spelunking to see what’s actually really going on.
So, some of the facts: DVD subscriptions, by which I mean Netflix, dropped 28%, while the growth of kiosk rentals was 16% compared to 31% in 2011. So, Netflix, which is — there are other places that have subscriptions to DVDs, but Netflix is really what you think about; that was down 28%. Kiosk rentals, which is Redbox and things like Redbox were up 16%, but they’d been up 31% the year before. So, the growth in stuff like that has declined.
Those are important because those are big buyers of DVDs. And so studios would love for every person to just go back to the way that things used to be and be buying DVDs of all the movies and keeping them on their shelves, but no one is doing that right now. So, in lieu of that they are subscribing to Netflix and hopefully getting the DVDs, or buying stuff out of Redbox. And those are at least physical copies that the studios can sell. Those are not doing especially well.
Online purchases of digital copies was up 50% in just the last quarter of 2012.
Craig: That’s the good news.
John: That’s the really good news. So, online purchases of digital copies — that means when you buy off of iTunes, when you buy it from the Amazon downloadable part of Amazon, or the sites where you can do that — these purchases accounted for about 5% of overall home entertainment spending. But the fact that they are up 50% seems to be a very good sign.
John: And right now digital accounts for about 30% of the domestic home video market, up from 19% compared to 2011. That’s great. And I think that digital probably is also meaning video on demand or other ways that people are getting movies delivered to their screen without a physical medium.
Craig: Yeah. And there’s an additional bit of good news there for us as writers, because our residual rate is actually better for electronic stuff. The old rate that the guild hated and stuck over fruitlessly — twice — was the DVD/VHS rate, and that was essentially 20% of 1.5% to 1.8% depending on how many units were sold, which worked out roughly to be about 0.3% to 0.35% of the studio’s take, which is really, really tiny.
And yet when they were selling billions of these things it added up. And you’d get some big checks for some hit moves, really big checks.
Craig: And then that sort of collapsed. The good news is that our rate for sales on the internet, so if you purchase a movie on iTunes, I believe our rate is roughly twice that DVD/VHS rate. It’s something like 0.6% and change.
And if you rent, it’s even better. Even though, of course, there’s less revenue from renting, we get a full 1.2% of rental — internet rental revenue. And again, when you look at these numbers, you think, “Well, the movie cost $10 on iTunes.” Well, the studio doesn’t get $10. They have to share it with Apple and all the rest. But, it’s a good thing. I mean, if that keeps increasing we could do well.
John: Yeah. Again, I think it is really good news that the digital rates are higher, just like the overall pie is a little bit smaller, too. So, we get a larger chunk, but the pie is smaller because the actual price point is lower, too.
So, the advantage of the physical medium is that they can charge $15 for a DVD. They’re not being able to charge $15 for just the rental of that movie, or for the sale of that movie digitally as often. So, we’re getting a higher percentage of a lower price point usually.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, from the other angle where you ask, “Will this re-bolster the home video market and then will that translate into more movies and more hiring and hiring wages for writers?” The question I have, and I have never gotten an answer, is what the relative margin, what the relative margin — what the relative profit margin is on electronic stuff versus DVDs.
I mean, a DVD had to be actually made. It’s a physical object and had to be put in a box and it had to be shipped. And all of that costs money. And you don’t have that with electronic media. There’s one copy somewhere that just gets promulgated a billion times, essentially freely. I mean, the distribution system is de minimis.
So, I wonder, you know, if you ask, “Well, how much money did a studio get from a $17 DVD versus a $9.99 download?” I wonder. I hope it’s comparable, but I don’t know.
John: I suspect there is an answer that is true for 2012 and it’s a different answer than was true for 2010. I think it’s one of those constantly shifting things. And, again, the tides are constantly shifting. We don’t know sort of how… — Let’s think about how studios used to want consumers to work. They wanted you to just keep buying physical discs. And so they wanted you to buy VHS tapes originally, and then they wanted you to buy DVDs. And they wanted you to buy one of two competing DVD formats.
Hey, do you remember DivX? Do you remember that format?
Craig: Sure. Yeah.
John: Where you had the one-play DVD. That was a great idea.
So, then we had two competing HD formats, and Blu-ray ultimately won that fight. Now studios would love you to go to UltraViolet, which is where you’re buying a physical copy but you’re also getting a digital copy that we deliver to you.
They want to just keep selling you the same movie again, and again, and again. And that’s unlikely to ever happen again in the future, to some degree. They’re unable to sell that same movie to people again and again, but they may be able to sell that same movie again and again to the people who are licensing the movie for them, so the Netflix or the Amazon Primes who are subscription services, studios can keep cutting deals to sell those same movies again, and again, and again. And over the course of years that may become a valuable chunk of the revenue.
Craig: Yeah. The economics of running a movie studio aren’t particularly complicated. I mean, the way it works is basically you spend a whole lot of money upfront to make a movie, and then you sit back and collect money slowly for awhile, usually. I mean, sometimes you get a ton back right away.
But, the real advantage to owning a movie studio is having a library of films, because they’re made, and they’re done, and you own them. And if you can continue to make money off of copies of those things without having to spend a dime to make new stuff, that’s amazing. I mean, the analogy I use: it’s like a kitchen with a never-ending bread maker. I mean, it just keeps coming and you just keep selling it. And you don’t have to pay for anything else. So, they will consistently try and figure out how to monetize their library.
I think you’re going to see, inevitably, some kind of deal where there are going to be enhanced options and there’s going to be a lot more variations. There are going to do director’s cuts. And eventually they’ll figure out 3D viewing at home, and they’ll do 3D versions. Who knows? They’re just going to keep trying.
It’s like that line from Men in Black where he holds up the little mini CD and he goes, “I guess I’ll have to buy The White Album again.” I mean, that’s the dream. You will be on your 12th copy of Groundhog Day before you die. [laughs] They’ll keep trying. I mean, it’s been a scary few years, and maybe they can get their footing again.
John: Well, two points. First off, the Frankenweenie DVD just came out last week.
John: And it actually comes in a four-disc set, which I was skeptical about until they actually sent me a bunch of them. And I was like, “Oh, I can sort of see what this is.” And so it’s one box that looks like a normal center jewel box, but inside you have a 3D Blu-ray, you have a normal Blu-ray, you have a normal DVD, and some sort of token for downloading the movie, not on iTunes, but on some other service which is probably doomed.
But, I can understand why they’re going to keep the physical thing going as long as they can because that’s what they know. It’s like they’re saddle makers and they’ve been making saddles their entire life. And suddenly there are cars, and people love their cars, but they say like, “No, no, keep buying saddles, please. Please keep buying saddles. How dare you put the saddle industry out of business?”
And they’ll never really put the saddle industry out of business. People will still want physical copies of things. There are going to be advantages to owning Blu-rays or whatever comes after Blu-rays because you’re probably going to be able to get a better picture that way for quite a long time.
And also you have the nuclear bomb ability of, like, you actually physically own something; you’re not relying on it being on a server. But for most people the digital version is going to be a better solution. There is a lot of talk about how Millennials just don’t care to own things anymore. They’ve grow up with the internet.
John: And so the idea of physically owning something is not that appealing. They just want access to things. And so they don’t care if it physically is in their possession as long as they can get to it easily. So, as long as you can find a way to make it profitable to give that thing to that person when they want it, that’s the business model.
That’s why… — You’re the person who always takes umbrage, but the one thing in the industry that gives me the greatest umbrage — partly because I had to sit on a CES panel for it last year — is UltraViolet, which I think is just such a misguided concept.
UltraViolet is a format of a digital locker, essentially, for people to take their physical copies of DVDs or Blu-rays, or whatever, and be able to view them digitally, but it’s a protected thing that all these studios are coming together to do. And it just seems like such a clustermuck that they’re wasting a lot of time and money trying to push when they should really just be figuring out how to embrace the competition between iTunes, and Amazon, and all the other services that are coming out there and play them against each other to make profit.
Craig: Yeah. A lot of their strategizing is driven by their fear of piracy. And it’s a completely rational and justifiable fear. But it is, unfortunately, I think it is driving it too hard. And you can’t really win, you know. And when you look at music I think you see where the solution is. And the solution is to make it so easy to do the right thing and so affordable to do the right thing that people just do the right thing.
If they continue to wall their content in out of fear, it’s just never going to work. And the good news is they don’t have to. We, thankfully, don’t share the same problems that news media currently labors under. There’s so much free news content, and everybody now basically just gets it for free, and there’s literally no impetus to purchase news anymore. Zero. I don’t know why anyone would pay for news at this point, because the news industry has told us it’s worthless. That’s exactly what they’ve told us, and they’ve made it worthless. And then, too late, they tried to put up pay walls and…forget it. Forget it. It’s never going to happen. It’s too late.
We lucked out in the audio/visual end of the entertainment business because we had the music business be our canary in a coal mine. We watched the music business desperately try and figure out a way around this. RIAA lawsuits didn’t stop anything — let’s be honest. What stopped the widespread piracy of music, I mean, the 99.9% omnipresence of music piracy, was iTunes. Steve Jobs said a song now costs a dollar. Come on. And it’ll be good and you’ll get it, and it’s cool, and you get it instantly, and it’s attractive and fun. It goes right on your device; you don’t have to sit there like a nerd on Limewire or Kazaa.
And that’s the answer. So, I agree with you. I think that these lockers and these things… — You know, the movie business is good at making and selling movies. They’re not good at electronic distribution platforms. It’s not their business. I mean, how many other companies whose business that is have failed? Why would the movie business be any good at it?
Let the people who distribute the stuff distribute it. They’re good at it. It’s like the way we let Wal-Mart sell DVDs. You know, we don’t sell DVDs. Let Wal-Mart do it.
John: But, if you actually look at the press releases coming out of CES this week, they’re touting how Wal-Mart is now doing this UltraViolet transduction service. Basically they let you convert your DVDs into the UltraViolet format. And I think it’s going to be spectacularly unsuccessful.
John: And you can tell that this digital entertainment group is a trade organization, because without any statistics that sort of back it up they talk about the overwhelming success of UltraViolet, which I don’t know anybody in the entire universe that likes or understands.
Craig: Literally no one. I mean, no one even bothers to understand it, because it’s unnecessary to understand it.
John: Because you know it’s going to go away.
Craig: Yeah! I mean, we’re going to be giggling about that in few years. I really do believe. And the thought that people are going to go to Wal-Mart with a cardboard box full of DVDs to convert it to another thing? No!
Craig: No. What they’ll do is if they want it on their computer and they don’t know how to get it from their DVD onto their computer, they’ll buy it on iTunes, or they’ll buy it on Amazon, or they’ll buy it through their television. See, that’s the other thing that’s waiting out there is Apple TV. Not Apple TV, the hockey puck thing that streams video from your computer to your monitor, but the hardware Apple Television that everybody knows is coming.
And everybody understands that what’s going to be killer about it presumably isn’t that it’s a big screen with lights on it; everybody has that. But it’s going to be some kind of content delivery and content management system that is going to finally solve all of our problems of how to organize, purchase, and view material. And when that happens, that’s how people are going to get their stuff. Let’s face it. This UltraViolet junk — get out of here. Now I have umbrage!
John: Now you have some umbrage.
So, here’s, too, I think… — I mean, I don’t think the studios are going to be the big player in solving this problem other than the fact that they’re going to have to figure out how to sell — they’ll figure out who to license it to for subscription services and which essential retailers they’re going to be making deals with for selling through.
I think the players to watch are Apple, of course, through iTunes and for some sort of physical device; the cable companies, because cable can deliver libraries and give you video on demand; satellite. You know, I think Amazon will continue to sort of dominate in here because they’re both good at selling bits and selling discs. And their streaming services through that kind of stuff. The next Netflix will happen.
But it’s not going to be UltraViolet. And it’s not going to be a bunch of studios coming together to try to make something. First off, because they don’t like to work together. There are some restrictions on how much they really can work together because of anti-trust. It’s just a mess.
And, I also feel like a lot of the UltraViolet is being driven because they feel really bad for the Toshibas and all of the disc manufacturers, Sony, who have to make the physical devices and nobody wants those devices. I want all those DVDs that are in my cupboard. And I definitely don’t want a DVD player. For the last couple of years we’ve just been using like an old Mac Mini that has slot loading and we just use that for playing screeners when we have to.
I’m looking forward to not having to have screeners, and just have the code that I punch in that lets me watch Zero Dark Thirty when I need to watch it.
Craig: And, look, we all know that’s where it’s going. I mean, in ten years no one is going to have plastic. So, the clinging to plastic — I mean, I get what they’re doing. They’re like, “We’ll train people who like DVDs to also like digital. And then they’ll be our customers and they’ll have brand loyalty to UltraViolet.”
No they won’t. Nobody has brand loyalty to anything. They only have loyalty to what’s easy. So, you could say people have brand loyalty to iTunes. They don’t. iTunes is the best music and film delivery system for your personal computer. Period. The end. I believe that. And that’s where their loyalty is.
The second somebody comes along with something that kicks iTunes’s butt, they’re moving on, and that’s that.
All right. So, that’s our discussion of home video. So, hopefully we’ll be able to report back in a year and say, “You know what? That trend continued. And things are better than they were before.”
John: And maybe there will actually be some real changes because of that. Next though, I want to go to our Three Page Challenges.
John: I always forget to do this until after we’ve done one. So, let me preface this by saying, if you are new to the podcast and what we do with Three Page Challenges: We invite our listeners to send us three pages from one of their scripts. And it’s usually the first three pages. I think all the ones we’ve actually read on the air have been the first three pages of something.
If you want to do this for your own script, you can go to johnaugust.com/threepage, and there are instructions for how to do it, including boilerplate language that says you won’t sue us and stuff like that. And if you want to read along with us as we’re going through this, you can pause the podcast and go to johnaugust.com and find this episode of the podcast, and download the PDFs of these samples and read along with us and see if you agree with what we say.
Craig: Right. And you should agree with what we say.
John: Oh, you should. Because our opinions are infallible.
John: Our first script is by Al Ibrahim. It’s called Vandalan. It could be almost any pronunciation of the As in that.
Craig: Correct. There are three As. And they could all be the same. They could all be different. And we don’t whether the accent is Vandalan, Vandal-on, Vandalan, yeah, we just don’t know.
John: it is just an arrangement of As and consonants.
So, let me read the summary of what happens here:
We open in a dance club where loud techno music is playing. We’re in Changkat, which I think is somewhere in Asia, really unclear. We follow a young woman named May who is trying to get out of the club. A guy named Chen is shouting at her and being a jerk.
Outside the club this little Indian kid on a tricycle nearly runs her down. He rides off. May gets away from the club and away from Chen. Finally, she leans against a car, she’s trying to light a cigarette. The boy with the tricycle comes back and then when she looks again, the tricycle is there but the boy is gone, which is weird. And there’s also a strange puddle beside it. So, she approaches the puddle, looked into it, suddenly an arm reaches out from the puddle and drags her in.
And that’s the end of the three pages.
Craig: Yeah. So, I mean, it’s definitely — you get the genre pretty well. We’re in the world of creepy horror, sort of ghost storyish something. It’s laid out pretty well. I mean, there’s no dialogue on these thee pages, at all, except for the very last word which is an off-screen voice on the phone, and it’s just the word “hello.”
And that’s always a challenging thing, and I think the writer here pulls it off fairly well. I mean, it’s all fairly evocative. It’s very visual. And I can see everything. I know what everything looks like. I had a great sense of geography.
I don’t have a great sense of the literal geography, because I have no idea where Changkat is. It sounds vaguely Thai to me. But we’re INT. HAVANA NIGHT CLUB, CHANGKAT, so that’s going to throw people a little bit. It would be great if it’s Bangkok, if it’s China, if it is Hong Kong, please give us the country so we know.
I really liked the description of May. It says, “This is MAY (26).” 26, by the way, very specific. I just have a weird thing about super specific ages unless the age needs to be that specific because it’s somebody’s important birthday, or they’re getting their driver’s license, or it’s a war movie and they’re being drafted. You know, mid-20s is fine, or 20s is fine.
“This is MAY (26). She’s slim and Chinese and her looks are timeless; homegirl” — which I loved — “homegirl stepped right out of a Wong Kar-Wai film and found herself in this shit hole.” Which is cool because I like when the writer gives us a little sense of their own attitude, you know, that this is not being written by some stuffy dork. This is a person who has a point of view and an attitude and is kind of cool. If that is in fact who they are. Please don’t force it, [laughs], if it’s not who you are.
But I liked that there was some attitude here that made it enjoyable to read and made me actually feel that I was in interesting hands of the writer. This is a writer who is comfortable enough to call his own character “homegirl,” but also smart enough to know what characters out of a Wong Kar-Wai film would look like. So, I really like that. And I like the action.
I really don’t have anything to complain about here other than this one thing, and that is that this is generic. It’s a generic opening. She’s eaten by a puddle. And I’ve seen a lot of horror movies since The Ring, since Ringu, where people are swallowed by inanimate objects, static televisions, puddles, etc. And so nothing happens in these first two and a half that is in and of itself particularly fresh. That said, I thought it was well-written, well-crafted, and I liked it.
John: I liked it as well. What I will say — I will say I was surprised that it become the horror, that it became The Grudge, that that Ring thing happened. It was very specific and evocative and I thought like, “Okay, this is going to be some sort of chase movie, some sort of thriller movie. This is something about — or it’s going to be a Wong Kar-Wai movie,” and then the fact that it became this little horror thing I dug. So, I was surprised when it actually happened. And I didn’t see that coming. So, good on you for being able to do that.
Like you, I was thrown by Havana Night Club. If you say the word “Havana” on the third line of the thing I’m going to think, “Oh, we’re in Cuba. …But, but? Oh,” so I had to go back through that. “Oh, no, we really are somewhere in Asia.” So, just take that word “Havana” out of there. Put a different name for the club. Don’t make us think we’re one place when we’re someplace else, unless it’s important that we be misdirected.
I missed some uppercasing on people. You have people in the club, there are people going past, just give us uppercase on those people. It just helps us know that there are actual real — there are other people in the bar.
I sort of got a little bit lost in some of the paragraphs, and you don’t want me to skim. And so uppercase sort of gets me reading through the whole thing.
On page two there’s a cigarette thing where she’s like trying to light a cigarette. I’ve done this in movies, too. I think it’s becoming a clam. I think it’s becoming something that we’ve just seen too much, where like you’re having a hard time lighting a cigarette and that’s a suspense-building thing. Maybe we can do something else there, particularly because the phone is a more important thing that she’s trying to do there, so the cigarette, you can maybe get rid of that action.
But, on the whole I dug it.
Craig: Yeah, I mean, pretty minor nitpicks. But well-written, so good.
One little thing is when you said, I mean, I noticed it on page three, the page didn’t fill out, so the writer gave us the first scene, the sequence really, and then opted to not finish the rest of the page. Dude, finish the rest of the page. Give us the rest of the page. I like it. Even if I… — Obviously the next scene probably has nothing to do with what we just saw because that was sort of a cold open set piece, but I like it anyway. So, don’t cheat us. Give us the whole three pages.
John: I agree. What I will say about this is that this isn’t my genre. This isn’t a thing that I would necessarily gravitate towards, but if I were a producer who is looking to make a horror movie, I would like that and I would keep reading, and that’s a fantastic thing. So, it’s a good example of not just the genre but also the specificity of starting in a different culture, and I believed he sort of knew what he was talking about and that’s always a good sign.
Craig: Yeah, for sure. Nice work.
John: Next up is a script by Keith Groff & Jonathan White.
Craig: Is this the New Orleans one?
John: The New Orleans one.
Craig: Okay, great. Yeah. So, I’ll do a little quick summary here:
We open on young Kora, she’s a 10-year-old Creole girl. We’re in a rundown apartment in New Orleans at night. And she is watching as her mother, Maxine, is duct-taping the wrists of her unconscious father.
And Maxine returns to the room with a squawking chicken. Tells Kora to get out. Kora wants to watch, which Maxine is impressed by to some extent. Maxine slices the chicken open, dumps its guts out onto her husband’s stomach, and she makes a prayer, sort of like a Santeria kind of prayer, to somebody named Papa Legba.
And essentially puts a curse on this man. The man wakes up, freaks out, and Maxine tells him, “I’m taking Kora,” and she disappears with Kora.
We then flash forward to many years later. Kora is now 27. She’s in a port-a-potty. And while somebody is banging outside on the port-a-potty door to try and get in, she’s sitting there and we’re not quite sure what she’s doing until we realize she’s timing, she’s waiting for enough time to go by to read her pregnancy test which is, in fact, as it almost always is, [laughs], positive.
And she chucks the pregnancy test away, steps out of the port-a-potty, and we reveal that we’re in the Superdome parking lot. There are thousands of port-a-potties. People are trying, literally fighting to get in, and super informs us this is New Orleans 2018. And as she walks by we see that there is this barbed wire fence. And as the writer says, “We’ll call it…THE BARRIER.”
John: Yeah. And she has a cleaver in her hand.
Craig: What was that?
John: And she has a cleaver in her hand.
Craig: Yes, I’m sorry. There is a big meat cleaver that her mom was using to chop the duct tape in the sort of pre-scene and in the prologue, and Kora continues to hold that meat cleaver as a grown woman.
Craig: So, what did you think?
John: So, you know, like many people I found Beasts of the Southern Wild to be just too light and airy. This was dark. This is dark, dark, dark. And it was like Angel Heart but, like, less subtle. It was just like, give me more blood. Give me more poop floating in port-a-potties.
It’s really dark. And so I can point to…I don’t know. It’s hard for me to guess what this movie is really going to be like. It’s a dystopian future of New Orleans. It feels a little bit almost Mad Max-y. When you’re walking around with a cleaver in your hand I feel like we’re in Mad Max territory.
And so I’m not entirely sure what movie I have signed onto after the three pages. And I would give myself to page 10, but if it continued along the same line I’m not sure I would keep reading.
Craig: Right. Well, there’s no doubt that something happened between 2012 and 2018 that caused bathrooms to become a little more scarce, because people are fighting over port-a-potties. And New Orleans is barriered in. So, yeah, dystopian, near-dystopian future after some kind of apocalyptic event.
Yeah, definitely some kind of Mad Max vibe when you have to walk around with a meat cleaver. And she’s pregnant.
Here’s… — I will say this. I like this, I think, quite a bit more than you. I don’t mind dark. In fact, I’m impressed with how unapologetic these pages were. Dark is one of those things that some people just don’t like, and some people do. And sometimes it’s context-dependent. If you write something that’s dark, if you write it well just rest assured that 70% of people are just going to go, “Yuck!” but 30% might love it. And all you need is one person to really love it.
So, you know, write truly to what you want to do. And if you want to write something that’s dark just make it interesting. I was interested. I thought there was good character work here between the mother and the daughter. And certainly the promise of somebody falling pregnant in the midst of all this chaos is interesting, and there’s drama built into these first three pages.
I’m a huge fan of Children of Men. I think it’s an amazing movie.
John: Oh yeah.
Craig: This is sort of like a dark, creepy, nasty version of Children of Men. So, I mean, just based on these three pages and the way that she wrote, or he wrote, I’m sorry, or they wrote.
John: It’s a team, yeah.
Craig: I liked it. I thought the pages read well. They were laid out well. Good descriptions. So, I’m a little more positive about this than you.
John: Some typos I would also point out. On page two, “Then his EYE’S pop open.” That apostrophe doesn’t need to be there. There’s an “It’s” problem. So, if you’re sending stuff through to anybody to read, you know, it’s worth taking that last check. These are only three pages, so it’s worth going back through and making sure that all of that stuff is right so I’m not going to call you out on this podcast.
Our next up is by Nick Keetch. And this starts with a thing called “Teaser,” so we know that this is actually probably a pilot script, television project.
We open in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico where two young brothers, Alejandro and Miguel, are chasing after their runaway dog. They come upon a farmhouse. And peering in through holes in the wall they find a federale, an officer, being melted alive in acid by two men in biohazard suits.
John: The boys are spotted and run. Miguel gets captured and presumably killed. Alejandro runs for his life, heading for the border. We see the US border. We see the flag. And that is the end of the teaser.
Craig: I mean, look, maybe I’m just in a good mood today. But I thought this was cool. Again, I guess my thing is, you know, you watch Game of Thrones like I watch Game of Thrones, and Game of Thrones is really bloody. Sometimes it’s creatively bloody. I mean, a man lops the head of his own horse off because he loses a jousting match.
So, if you’re going to be over-the-top violent at least be interestingly over-the-top violent, like dumping chicken guts on an abusive husband — presumably abusive husband.
In this case, they take this guy and they melt him in acid which is like, oh god, but you know, haven’t seen that. I don’t really think scientifically that’s accurate, by the way. I don’t think a body will immediately dissolve in a bucket of acid. You got to leave it in there for awhile. But, whatever.
The cool part though was that the acid man, the guy that’s burning this victim, reaches out for this little kid with his acid-covered glove, and just basically grabs the kid’s face. A kid, by the way. And puts this hand shape burn all over this little boy’s face. That’s bad-ass. And that’s cool.
And then his brother has to run away and escape. I presume, I don’t know why I presume this, I just have a feeling that the next scene is the kid who runs away is now 20-something, and there’s going to be this forgotten twin out there with a hand-shaped burn on his face coming for him.
But, I thought it was really cool. Like if I saw that on TV I’d keep watching. What other metric can I use to judge? So, I was pleased.
John: Yeah. I was pleased, too. I was actually a little bit alarmed because there’s a script that I’m working on that has a person being dissolved in a way that’s not the same, but it’s like, “Ugh, I thought that would be the first time we’d see it on screen.” Maybe mine will make it to production first.
But I did like sort of the creative violence of it all. I wasn’t a big of the opening voice over. So, let me read this to you. This is in the very first scene. Daxton Rivers says… — Oh, that’s interesting, his name is Daxton Rivers but we don’t know any other characters named Daxton Rivers. “People say,” that’s probably his new name.
Craig: Yeah, I think so. Yeah.
John: Yeah. But we’re not given any clue about what this guy’s voice actually sounds like, or who he’s supposed to be. So, that’s one of the other problems. But the actual text I have a problem with. “People say we don’t get to choose our own lives. My brother and I would probably agree on the truth of that. Maybe him more than me.”
Craig: Yeah. That’s not very good, is it?
John: It’s not very good. And it’s very heavy-handed for over a shot of just like two brothers walking through the desert. I think it’s much stronger if you cut that out and just let it be the show.
Granted, I don’t know what else he’s going to do in this pilot, and maybe that voice over becomes a crucial thing, but it feels unnecessary, and I think it’s a much stronger opening without that there.
Craig: Yeah. I agree. The voice over like this is simply mirroring what we — tonally mirroring what we see. It’s not misdirecting us. It’s not leading us up to a surprise. And the language is just very wooden. “People say we don’t get to choose our own lives.” No they don’t! Never heard that before.
So, you don’t get to say that. You know, “People say we…” and then, you know, something that people always say. [laughs] You know, no one ever says that.
And then the next sentence is, “My brother and I would probably agree on the truth of that.” Well…that’s just bad writing. It’s just a clumsy sentence. It’s awkward. It doesn’t read well and it doesn’t come off the tongue very well. “Maybe him more than me,” it should really be, “maybe him more than I.” But, you know, it’s just not a pleasant bit of voice over.
And voice over — if you’re going to indulge in voice over it’s got to be delicious. It’s got to be fun. The language has to really be cool because people are just listening to it, like a book on tape. So, yes, that was a misstep for sure.
John: And the easiest way to rewrite it is to cut it.
Craig: Yeah. I think so. You don’t need it. And if you do need it for your show, then come up with something else.
John: Now, on pages two and three, there’s some dialogue that is in Spanish and is subtitled, and let’s talk a little bit about best practice for this. Right now, El Pariente says, “Está bien. Está bien.” And then in parentheses, a parenthetical underneath it, the writer has, “(It’s okay.)”
Craig: We know “está bien.”
John: We know “está bien.” I would say that in cases of this really simple Spanish, I don’t think you needed to translate this at all. Everyone who’s going to be reading the script will understand what “está bien” means. I think you can get rid of the “Ayúdame,” which is the “help me,” all together.
I felt like in all these cases the Spanish that was there was fine and we would be able to understand it in context. If you have more sophisticated Spanish I would probably not try to put it — if you’re going to be using a lot of Spanish in your script overall, make a choice. Either you’re going to put it in English and just put it in parentheses so that it’s clear that this is in Spanish, or do the real Spanish and put it in italics and let people figure it out in context.
But this felt like over explanation for really simple things.
Craig: Yeah. And certainly you don’t want to do this weird thing where you do a line in Spanish and then put the English in parenthetical. That just doesn’t work underneath it. That’s not what parentheses are for.
A general rule of thumb is simple short sentences — don’t translate if they’re real simple, and short, and easy. Because frankly short little simple sentences are more interesting for the reader to figure out from context. And here you would be able to figure it out from context, even with “Ayúdame.”
So, there’s that. And then if you’re writing a more long, involved thing, then just say “they speak in Spanish” and then just put the English in italics to indicate — just let the reader know that this is going to be Spanish but it will subtitled. But you wouldn’t subtitle “Está bien.” And if you’re not going to subtitle it, then don’t translate it for us here either.
John: Absolutely. None of the dialogue that’s in here would have been subtitled, so therefore it shouldn’t be in parentheticals here. That’s all clear.
Our last script of the day is by P.K. Lassiter, and it’s called The Dance Machine.
Craig: The Dance Machine. So, we open up in New York City, 1976. And we are at Studio 54. It’s the heyday of disco. And all of these people are waiting, but not to get into Studio 54. They’re watching this little kid, Stuey Pepitone, who is six-years-old, dressed in a three-piece white suit, and he’s a dancing machine. He’s amazing. They’re just loving this kid dancing.
And there’s this little girl, also six, with her mom named CC who is just transfixed by this kid. Steve Rubell, the actual real life famous impresario, is that the right word?
Craig: The owner and promoter of Studio 54 steps out, sees Stuey, loves him. Brings him into the club and tells him to dance for everybody. And the kid is dancing for all these stars — I presume actors that look like the stars in 1976, including a young John Travolta. And Stuey is actually doing all these moves, inventing moves that we now know are famous, like the Hustle and even the Saturday Night Fever dance. So, John Travolta steals that from him.
And CC comes in, takes his hand, and the two of them are into each other even as six-year-olds. We then show Stevie Wonder, who reveal went blind because he watched Stuey Pepitone dancing. And then some Super 8 footage of Stuey growing up. He’s now ten. He’s winning various dance contests. Now it’s 1983. He’s 13. He’s inventing the language of break-dancing.
He Moonwalks, and Michael Jackson sees it. And he even then, a couple years later, gives LL Cool J his name. And LL Cool J — sort of documentary style — is telling the filmmaker that he knew Stuey P. He was the best. And he gave him his name.
Craig: So, what did you think of The Dance Machine?
John: So, I have two sort of competing thoughts. My first thought was, well, this is actually a sketch and not a movie. Second thought is this is an enjoyable spec that will never actually become a movie, and so therefore should continue along its path in just being a very enjoyable spec script that will never actually shoot.
And those aren’t incompatible things. But I felt like what I was reading so far could sustain itself for a little bit longer, and great, and it’s a sketch, and it’s lovely, but I didn’t see this breaking into — at least what I saw so far — as the Anchorman or sort of the big comedy that can support sort of this premise of this is the kid who actually invented all of contemporary dance styles.
So, I enjoyed it, but I didn’t — and I sort of smiled — I didn’t really laugh-laugh-laugh.
John: So, I thought it was a good version of this premise, but I’m not sure this premise is really sustainable.
Craig: Yeah. So, tonally it’s very broad. It’s obviously intended to be very broad and I presume that in a scene or two Stuey will be grown up, and if my comedy Spidey sense is as sharp as I think, Stuey is probably going to be a wreck and is going to need to dance his way back to the top.
Craig: And CC, his girl, is now grown up and he’s going to have to make up for something terrible he did to her. This is sort of the formula. These kinds of movies were very popular in the ’90s. And, in fact, when you mentioned sketch, that’s who would star in them. Saturday Night Live comedians transitioning to film would often star in movies like this. This is a very kind of early Sandler/Spade/Farley/Mike Myers kind of thing.
Will Ferrell doesn’t really do this sort of thing. It’s too broad for him and not quite ironic enough. This is really more of that earlier version. The problem is, of course, that that’s not really au courant right now.
John: Jim Carrey.
Craig: If you were to reinvent it you would have to be really, really funny and fresh. And I’m not sure that this quite rises to the challenge. Like you, I didn’t laugh out loud. I did appreciate the balls required to ret-con Stevie Wonder’s blindness as being a result of watching this kid dance. That is a very funny concept.
So, you know, it’s not poorly written. It’s not hysterical. They are following — or the writer, P.K. Lassiter, is following a formula quite closely that has worked in the past, it’s just that it’s worked in the distant past. And if I’m looking to purchase a script like this, the first question I ask is, “For whom?”
And there really isn’t anybody — even Saturday Night Live has sort of moved on from this kind of deal. It’s not — it just feels too goofily broad for where comedy is right now. So, you know, a mixed bag here.
I mean, these are exactly the kind of things I started writing initially, this tone. But, not bad.
John: Not at all.
Craig: I’m in a good mood today I guess.
John: You are in a good mood.
Craig: It’s not bad. I think there’s promise here. I think that P.K. has promise. It’s just maybe — it’s just a tough one with this because I just don’t know who it’s for. I mean, given the fact that it’s — I mean, basically this character is my age and your age, so Sandler?
Craig: I just don’t know if Sandler does this sort of thing anymore. It just seems like he’s maybe moved on. He’s too old to play this part of the former broad child genius in a crazy world.
You know who else? Stiller did it, too. This is very much like Zoolander. But Stiller doesn’t do this stuff anymore either.
John: Well, because we’re not really making those movies anymore. You brought it up. I’m thinking, “Well, what is the broadest movie lately that I saw, that I enjoyed, that I felt like even got a release?” It’s probably MacGruber. I mean, MacGruber is like this broad of a movie. And it’s smart in dumb ways, and dumb in smart ways. I really like MacGruber, but we’re not making a lot of MacGrubers right now. And this feels MacGruber-ish in that way.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, let me just say, as you know — I think I’ve mention this before — I think MacGruber is unheralded genius. [laughs] I think MacGruber is a great comedy. I really, really do. I love MacGruber. But this isn’t MacGruber. MacGruber even still was more meta and kind of hipper than this.
I think this is more close to some of the more recent — this is more close to like The Zookeeper with Kevin…
John: I do want to get back to the idea, like, is it worth writing this script because people will read it and like it? And so I think there may be like a Balls Out with Robotard 8000. Like, you write a comedy that’s not really even meant to be made, but it’s meant to be read by people and passed around. People say like, “Oh, this guy is really funny.”
Even if they have no intention of buying the script or making the script, it could get you some notice and could get you started. And that’s maybe not the worst plan for a writer if this is the thing you want to write. He wrote this and that could pay off.
Because I can see people — I mean, I don’t know how the rest of the script is, but I could see people liking it. I could see like the junior development executive who has to read like 30 things over the weekend like reads this and is like, “Ah, that was really funny.” And gives it to his buddy to read and it could grow that way.
Craig: Yeah. I think it has to be really funny. Because really this script is so down the middle in terms of its tone, I just know what this movie is, and that’s okay, that therefore it needs to actually be something you’d want to make. In and of itself it doesn’t indicate that there’s this really special perspective on comedy. It’s not breaking new ground. It’s basically saying, “Look, here’s a movie like this kind of movie that competently delivers for the genre.” Therefore, it should be able to be made.
This kind of script to me actually isn’t as much of a calling card as legitimately, “Hey, would you like to make this movie? It’s a high concept idea that fits in this box.” And listen, we only have three pages. And like I said, I think the Stevie Wonder thing was ballsy as hell, and so I like that. There’s another bit of unapologetic writing. So, good luck. I think you’ve got a shot there.
John: All right. We liked that probably all of our samples have no apologies in them. That’s a nice thing.
Craig: Yeah. This is actually the best group overall. I mean, there wasn’t one stinker in the bunch.
John: Hooray. Well, thank you, Stuart, for picking these out for us.
Craig: Yeah, Stuart.
John: Thank you for our writers — I guess there’s actually five writers, because one is a writing team — for sending these in. That’s very brave of you, so thank you for doing so.
One thing I would like anyone who is listening to this podcast to do, if they have a chance to, is we’re going to do a survey of our listeners to see who you actually are. Because one of the things Craig and I talk about when we’re not on the air — we don’t really talk much when we’re not on the air, but we do talk every once and awhile.
Craig: Well, that’s only because you don’t like me.
John: Yeah. There’s that.
John: But I think I really do a good job on keeping a lid on my disapproval of your lifestyle.
Craig: [laughs] I don’t know if it is that good of a job.
John: I just pinch myself when I want to yell things.
Craig: Anyway, a survey?
John: We’re going to do a little survey to see who our actual listeners are, because we work under the presumption that most of our listeners are screenwriters, aspiring screenwriters, people who are fascinated by screenwriting because they have some desire to participate in it.
But, that may not actually be accurate. And so one of the things I’m curious about for this New Year, and I think Craig is as well: Who are our listeners; what kinds of things would you like to see more of in the podcast? Because some people love the Three Page Challenges. But we also get some emails saying, “You know, enough of the Three Page Challenges. Maybe do some other stuff.”
People seem to like the interviews, but I don’t want to be completely an interview show. So, we’ll just see what kinds of things might be possible for people and be interesting for people.
The other thing we need to figure out is how many people are listening to us on sort of a regular weekly basis, and how many people sort of drop in and then like blow through a whole bunch of episodes, and then like we never see them again.
So, if you would like to participate in the survey, it’s just like four questions long, there will be a link at the bottom of this podcast, but also it’s just johnaugust.com/survey.
Craig: Well-crafted URL. And, yeah, I would love to know. I’m constantly surprised by the people that do listen to it. A lot of people in the industry listen to it, which is gratifying, but surprising to me. People from all walks seem to listen to it, and yeah, everybody has different wants. I hear it all the time, “More of this, less of this.” And nobody agrees.
So, maybe we can get some consensus from all of you.
John: Yeah. “Less Craig,” is usually what I hear.
Craig: Oh, I mean, I do, too. Sometimes I hear, “No Craig.” [laughs]
John: [laughs] And perhaps people will tell us if they like One Cool Things or don’t like One Cool Things, but it’s that time of the podcast. Did you remember this, because I didn’t remind you this time?
Craig: I have The Coolest Thing.
John: Oh, great.
Craig: Yeah. Do you want to do yours first? Or do you want me to go first?
John: I’ll do mine first because mine is simple and actually involves you to a small degree.
John: My One Cool Thing is Starred Changes, which is if you are working on a revision of a script and you have changed something in your script — this is not even just in production, but just like as you’re going through it. You’re making some changes for a producer, for a director, and you want to show him or her what has changed in Final Draft or Movie Magic, you will turn on Starred Revisions.
And so it puts these little asterisks in the margins, and people can see, like, that’s the part that changed. And it saves people a tremendous amount of time because they can like flip through the script and say like, “Okay, this is what is different from this draft and the last draft.” So, Starred Revisions are a very good thing.
One of the frustrations I run into sometimes is I will need to be able to do Starred Revisions for the person who needs to read it, but I also need to do a clean copy for people who have never read it before so they’re not seeing the stars in the margins.
Craig, how do you handle that situation? Do you run into that situation where you have to do a clean and a dirty draft?
Craig: Yeah. What I do is when I’m writing — I have to anticipate that this is going to be an issue, of course, because if you don’t turn the revision mode on before you’re writing, it’s too late; you can’t go back and — I mean, you could, it’s just annoying to go back and manually asterisk everything.
But let’s say I’m working on a draft/revision level, and I have asterisks on. So, everything is asterisked. That’s my default position. And then if somebody wants the asterisked version I send it to them. If somebody doesn’t, I just re-save as a new file and then I wipe the asterisks, and I send them that one.
John: Great. So, in those cases you’re sending the actual file or you’re sending a PDF made from the file?
Craig: Well, the PDF typically.
John: Yeah. So I will save you probably an hour this year.
John: Oooh! You ready? Because for the script for ABC I’ve had to do a lot of those revisions, and so I’ll send the stars to Josh, but then Josh will actually turn it in so I’ll give him a clean copy , too.
Here’s the trick: So, you have stars in your margins, great. Save the PDF. And I usually label it, like, “Stars” at the end to show that that is the one with stars in parentheses. Then go up to Revisions and just choose the next color revisions. And the next color revisions won’t have stars for it yet. And so just be in the next color revisions and make it the new PDF. So, therefore, you don’t have to save the file again. You don’t have to do anything magic. You’ve just told it to think that it’s in the next set of revisions.
And then you save that PDF with “Clean” in parentheses, and you’ve saved making a new file.
Craig: Is that really saving me that much time? Because what I do is — I’ve got my file open. And I don’t mean to uncool your One Cool Thing, but tell me where I’m going wrong here.
John: No, that’s cool. Tell me.
Craig: I’ve got my file open. It’s all these asterisks. I want to make a clean version. I go to “Save as” and then I do “Command-A” and then I do “Command-Bracket” to get rid of the asterisks and I’m done. It’s done. It’s just click, click.
John: And then you are now going through and making a new PDF off of that, and the next time you want to go through to make more changes, which of those files are you opening? Are you opening up the clean FDX or the one with (Stars).FDX?
Craig: I see where you’re going with this. Because I am opening the one with Stars. And I am also advancing the revision level anyway, so your point is that I’m already doing that.
John: You’re going to have to do it anyway, so why don’t you just do it now?
Craig: Yeah, look, that is one…I’m going to give you this. It’s One… — “Cool” is too strong for this. It is One — what’s a good word? — Somewhat Potentially Useful Thing.
John: Oh, okay. So, Craig, in your folder now you have two FDX files that are identical except that you’ve scrubbed the revisions off of one, but you’re never going to want that clean one again, because that clean one doesn’t do you any good. So, you’re going to either throw it in the trash or it’s just going to clutter up and you’re going to have to wonder which one of these two things I want.
My solution — only have one FDX file that has that date on it or says, you know, Draft 2.
Craig: You’re right. It’s better.
John: You just don’t want to admit that I’m right, that it’s better. And so how is this marginal improvement not, you know, a One Cool Thing?
Craig: It’s marginally better. Look, you know what? Your initial assessment was correct. [laughs] Over the course of a year you will save me one hour.
John: Yes! I have saved you an hour. How can you not be grateful for an hour of your life saved?
Craig: Oh, I guess. You know what I’d do with those hours though? It’s tragic.
John: Yeah. Terrible things.
Craig: Terrible. Well, you know what I’m going to do with the hour. I’m going to spend it with my Cool Thing.
John: What’s your Cool Thing?
Craig: John, a few days ago I received my Tesla Model S.
John: That’s right! So, tell us all about it.
Craig: Oh, man, it’s the best car ever. Oh! Well, first of all I should say that there is, any time you talk about an expensive car everybody’s douche bag alarm goes off. So, let me just say in advance: This isn’t about the fancy aspect of it, because I really do believe that in five to ten years all cars will be like this car. I really, really believe it. It’s that good and it’s so much of a generational iteration past everything else on the road. It’s just every automaker is going to have to go, “We should just rip this off and just do it.”
The way that everybody ripped off the iPhone. Everybody had phones, and then the iPhone came along, and within a year every single phone was some version of the iPhone. It’s inevitable that it’s going to happen. And even Tesla themselves have plans for a much more affordable version of this car.
Here’s what’s awesome: I will say when it comes to the planet, you know, I’m not really — I don’t care. You know? That’s not my thing. I mean, I love the planet and everything but I’m not a crusader for the planet.
John: Well, you intend to die when you’re 50 and take your whole family with you, so it doesn’t really matter to you.
Craig: Precisely. I mean, when I decide to go out it’s going to — I’m going to take the whole block with me. But, what I love are things that work so much better that we use every day. So, the brilliance of the car, I mean, obviously, look, it’s all electric. One of the cool things about an all-electric car is there are no gears. So, you know you’re trained, you hit the gas, and the RPMs go up, and then you kind of ease off the gas and the automatic transmission goes to the next gear, and you ease up the next gear. So the car is like going fast, and then fast, and then, eh.
This thing you get everything all at once. And so it’s like being on a rollercoaster. I don’t know how else to describe. You know, the acceleration you get on Space Mountain that is sort of instantaneous throughout zero to whatever it goes to, that’s what it’s like in this car. Beautifully fluid.
You can kind of do almost one pedal driving, because every time you take your foot off of the accelerator, regenerative braking kicks in which basically collects electricity back into the battery and slows the car down. Every electric car has that.
Here’s the beauty of this thing: The car is controlled almost exclusively by this huge 17-inch touch screen in the middle of the car. And it is so much better than everything inside any other car. I mean, you have a fully-fledged web browser. [laughs] I don’t know what else to say. It’s so beautifully organized; you control aspects of the car from this thing. You have Google Maps with satellite. You want to go somewhere, it’s no more like fiddling with some goofy navigation system that somebody invented 12 years ago.
You just do it like you do at home. You just type in, “I want to go to McDonalds on,” you know, McDonalds is a terrible example. “I want to go to Spago.” Look at me, fancy guy. And it will just pull up, “Here’s three Spagos, which one?” You tap on it. You want to navigate through tap. Done. Boom.
It’s gorgeous. It looks so beautiful and I just feel like I’ve seen the future. I’m driving it. Everybody else has to be like this. It’s the coolest. It’s the coolest. You should get one. It’s the coolest.
John: Great. Well, I already have a Leaf which is the six months ago version of what you have. And so many of the things that you’re talking about, you know, the no-gears, the sudden quick acceleration, is terrific. And I have a center display but mine’s like four inches rather than your 17 inches.
John: In that sort of dick-swinging aspect of it it’s very different. A question — when I told Mike that you got the sedan, his question is, because it has a much larger battery than our Leaf does, and do you already have your charger? Because if you’re just charging on the house current, that’s going to take like three days to charge.
Craig: Yes. I have a charger. Basically there is a high-powered wall connector that you can get to go along with it that you wire into a big honking 240-80 amp circuit. And that will charge. The Tesla Range on the big battery is — forget what they claim — in reality it’s about 250 miles which is extraordinary for an electric car. And you can get a full 250 charge in about 3.5 hours on this high-powered wall connector, which is nutso.
And so you just plug it in at night like your phone and every morning you have 250 miles which is more than anybody needs for normal driving. And if you wanted to do an actual road trip, like to Vegas, they have this even fancier, crazier, free charger in Barstow. And they also have two more in between LA and San Francisco. So, they’ve enabled road-tripping for free essentially.
The high-powered wall connector is actually arriving in a couple of weeks. So, as a stop gap, I’m using basically off of that same circuit a plug that is designed for electric welders, basically. It’s called a Nema 6-50. And that doesn’t pull the full amperage. It’s 40 amps. So, it charges, you know, again, overnight is a sufficient charge. But within a couple weeks I will be at a three-hour mega charge. And you can do it at night when your rates are lower.
And, I should mention, I’m also converting my house partially at least to solar.
Craig: So, I’ll be driving on sunshine as they say.
John: That’s right. We have a big solar system and it has been nice to see that between the solar and the car, you know, things are balancing out nicely. Particularly in the summer we’re able to generate much more power than we actually need to use.
Craig: I will also add that one thing that’s pretty incredible about this car is that for an all-electric vehicle with no engine and none of that stuff, it’s just a battery, it goes zero to 60 in like five seconds. It’s fast. I mean, really fast. Like slap your head back into the seat fast. Very cool.
John: Very cool. So, I would say for listeners who are intrigued by that, they should check out your car. For listeners who check the price on the website and realize, like, “Oh my god, I could never afford that,” I would also check out the Leaf because it’s been a terrific car. We checked out the Leaf and the Volt. I did not like the styling on the Volt at all. It felt just like every terrible rental car.
John: But the Leaf I like a lot. So, your choices may vary. But I agree with you completely that once you’ve driven an electric car you definitely see that that’s how things are going and as ranges keep improving it’s going to be amazing.
Craig: Yeah. And for those of us who live in traffic-jammed Southern California, driving an all-electric vehicle like this gets you the coveted white decal, which lets you ride in the carpool lane by yourself. Woo!
John: Well, Craig, you may not be aware of this yet, but the actual single best thing about the electric car in Los Angeles is that there is one terminal you can park at at LAX and you don’t have to pay the parking fees?
John: Yeah, so honestly, it’s kind of worth it to have the car just for that. We were able to park through the whole Christmas break and not have to pay for it.
Craig: Oh my god! No way. Which one?
John: Well, we’ll talk when we’re off the air. It gets really full, so that’s why I’m not going to tell you on the air. But they can Google if they really want to.
Craig: All right. Well, you’ll tell me off the air, because I don’t want anybody else to know about it.
John: It’s pretty magic.
Craig: In fact, we should edit this to say it no longer has that, so don’t even bother.
John: Done. Great. So, again, thank you for a fun podcast. Thank you for listening. If you have the opportunity, please take the three minutes it would take to go to johnaugust.com/survey and let us know who you are and what you like or don’t like about the show.
And, Craig, thanks.
Craig: Thank you, John. See you next time.
John: Have a great week. Bye.
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