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 81, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. So, Craig, your goal is to drag out your “I am Craig Mazin” as long as possible during your intros? I’ve noticed that’s a pattern.
Craig: You know, what I’m thinking lately is that I’m going to alternate. So, my next one will probably be very, very short. But my new goal is to do it differently every single time. And then someone somewhere will make a meta-edit of all of them, and it will be ridiculous.
John: It will be ridiculous.
John: I respect that you’re trying to add some variety to it, because I know do exactly the same introduction every week.
Craig: Well, not only do you do the same introduction every week, people don’t know that you do the same pre-introduction every week before we hit record.
John: As if you’d never done one of these before. I actually talk you through exactly how we’re going to do it. It’s therapy for me.
Craig: Listen, I don’t question. Frankly, it’s therapy for me. We do a very difficult job, so it’s nice to have a little bit of stability, predictability, consistency. I’m for it.
John: Cool. We have so much to talk about, Craig. I want to cut our chit chat short and get right to it.
Craig: Fine! Fine!
John: Three things I want to talk about today. First off, Veronica Mars, and Kickstarter, and how it completely transforms the industry, or doesn’t.
Craig: Nothing will ever be the same again.
John: Highland, which was the endlessly-in-beta screenwriting editor and PDF melter that I’ve made for Quote-Unquote Apps…
Craig: Nothing will ever be the same again. [laughs]
John: …which is finally shipping. And it could potentially change some things.
Craig: Yes it will.
John: And then I want to look at three points from those Pixar Story Rule by Emma Coats, that list that she made, because three things actually became really useful to me this last week. And so there are 21 points on that list. We’re only going to talk about three of them this week, but there will also be a link to all 21, and also everything we talk about on the show today will have links to it. So, as I cite people, and quotes, and things like that, if you go to our show page at johnaugust.com/podcast you will see this podcast episode and you will see links to the things we talk about.
Craig: Go, go, go.
John: First, I have some follow up. I don’t know if you have any follow up. But last week on the podcast I had mentioned, as my One Cool Thing I did Untitled Scripts which was a Tumblr of screenshots of some person who is trying to write a script. And the scenes always go off the rails in a bad way. What I really meant to link to and talk about was Untitled Screenplays, which is also a Tumblr of screenshots of scenes in like Final Draft that go off the rails.
And I don’t honestly know which one came first. I really meant Untitled Screenplays when I said Untitled Scripts. They’re both funny; they’re just funny in very different ways. So, I would actually encourage people to look at both of them, because they have a different kind of comic conceit beyond the “this is a Tumblr full of screenshots of Final Draft.”
Craig: It’s not exactly as egregious as when I confused Jeff Wells with Ron Wells, but thank you for the correction.
John: I think for the people who make those Tumblrs, I think that they would like to have there be some differentiation between the two of them.
John: Second, last week I talked about the unlock code for the balcony seats at Big Fish and a lot of people bought them, so that was great. I get these updates saying like, “Oh my god, we sold more seats!” And everyone is happy and delighted.
There are still some seats, and if people want to come to one of the first four performances of Big Fish, starting April 2, please come and enjoy. There’s a special code that gets you, I think it’s $26 balcony seats rather than $70 balcony seats if you enter the code SCRIPT on the very first screen of Ticketmaster when you go to Ticketmaster in Chicago.
So, come see the show then, or come see it anytime during our run. We’re there for five weeks. I am packing up all of my stuff tonight so I can travel to Big Fish land in Chicago.
John: And if you are coming, let me know. So, you can send me an email. You can send me a tweet saying, “I’m going to this night and I’m sitting in these seats.” And if there’s not like a huge fire that I have to put out, or something is disastrously wrong, I will come find you, because I love to meet people.
Craig: It’s going to be a little weird for the people who do come to see the show, sitting there waiting for you, and suddenly realizing with dawning horror that something has gone terribly wrong.
John: Yes. You never know what backstage drama could be afoot. Or, maybe I’ll just find somebody who looks sort of like me and just send that person out just as my little proxy.
Craig: [laughs] As you pointed out, there are a lot of people who look like you.
John: I am a very familiar face. And I think it’s lovely that people want to say like, “Oh, I have a friend who looks just like you,” but kind of everyone says that because everyone has a friend that looks just like me. Take almost any white person, shave their head, they will kind of look like me.
Craig: You know who you look like to me? I don’t know if you had these commercials in Colorado, but when I was growing up Hebrew National Hot Dogs had a spokesperson. And their spokesperson was Uncle Sam. And he made a big deal about how they answer to a higher authority, that their standards were even more stringent than the US government’s. God himself was specifying how these hot dogs would be made.
And that Uncle Sam dude, you remind me of him.
John: Very nice.
Craig: And he had a hat on, so it wasn’t about bald, it was about his face.
John: Yeah! Weirdly I’m the kind of person who whenever I do like on the Wii and you need to make an avatar, or really any sort of system where you need to make an avatar, it’s very easy to make one that looks like me, because basically I make him sort of white and skinny and then take off all the hair, it sort of looks like me.
Craig: Yeah, so you’re a “mii.”
John: Yes. Quickly I want to point out and take a little sidetrack to talk about Uncle Sam. I read a fascinating article that I’ll put a link into that there used to be a female equivalent of Uncle Sam called Columbia. And so she was the female personification of America. And so it persisted through the turn of the century, and then it just sort of disappeared. But like Columbia Pictures, that’s because that was like Uncle Sam Pictures. It was very much a character that we just don’t use in our modern culture anymore.
But she sort of looked like the Columbia logo. That was meant to be America. So, back in the time that Columbia Pictures was formed, Columbia Pictures really meant like American Pictures. Isn’t that weird?
Craig: Kind of in the back of my head I feel like I knew that. That Columbia lady, by the way, the woman holding the torch, she’s kinda hot. I like her. I’m into her.
John: She looks a lot like Annette Bening.
Craig: She does. And there’s a slight matronlyness to her, but it’s not really. She’s like kind of MILF-y. She’s kind of MILF-y.
John: Yeah. And so you see the pictures of Columbia back at the time that they actually used her as a personification, it was — it was MILF-y in that she had — she was a little voluptuous in a way that was not the style those days.
Craig: No, well, you know, when food was scarce women with a little extra… It’s still hot to me. I’m into it.
John: So, let’s get to our topics today. First off, Veronica Mars. Here’s the backstory, in case you’re listening to this in the future or there is a time machine and this hasn’t happened yet in your time stream:
So, Veronica Mars was a television show on the UPN network that lasted from 2004 to 2007. And it had some really ardent fans, but it never was a big show and it got canceled. This week the show’s creators, Rob Thomas and the other producers and Kristen Bell, announced that they were doing a Kickstarter to raise $2 million to fund a feature film version of Veronica Mars and that Warner Bros. had agreed to distribute the film if they hit that goal.
Essentially, Rob Thomas and everyone was responsible for raising the money to actually make the movie but Warner said, like, “We promise we will release it if you make the movie.”
So, in just one day they actually hit their $2 million target, and as we’re recording this they’re at like $3.3 million.
John: And it raised a big discussion of whether this was a good thing or a bad thing for the industry, for Kickstarter, for a lot of things. Here’s a sampling of comments and then I’ll ask you, let you weight in.
So, James Poneywisic of Time — I’m just going to say his name quickly so I can mispronounce it — he called it, “An important experiment, not just for this particular movie but for movies and TV in general.”
John Rogers, who’s a writer and producer, does Leverage, and a blogger, he called it, “A mixture of exploitation and empowerment,” which I liked.
And Suzanne Scott, sort of the most negative of these critics, called it, “A tipping point that encourages the media entities to ‘exploit’ their fan bases in a way that is pernicious and ultimately unsustainable.”
Craig: Eh, okay.
John: Craig, where do you stand on this? I’m curious because I’m not sure we are in agreement here, so I’m fascinated by this.
Craig: Well, I think that John Rogers is probably closest to the truth. It is a mixture of — what did he say? Exploitation and…?
Craig: Empowerment. This is not a watershed moment. I don’t think of this as a watershed moment. I don’t think this means much beyond itself. Let’s just talk about does it mean anything for the way movies are financed?
No. This is a very specific situation. There are few shows that have this kind of rabid fan base that also aren’t particularly popular. And when I say popular I mean popular enough to say have stayed on the air. Another show that comes to mind is Firefly. And they did make a movie of Firefly and that didn’t do particularly well. But, the people who like Firefly, and I’m actually of them — I really love that show — they’re rabid.
So, when you have this interesting smaller group of very passionate people, and there’s this enormous pent up demand for a movie because they have an emotional attachment to it, I understand that this sort of thing happen. The amount of money they’re raising, frankly, is not particularly significant. I think that’s something that’s been sort of lost in the shuffle. It’s not easy to make feature films for that amount of money for $2, or $3, or even $4 million. Anything under $10 million, it’s tough.
And obviously everybody involved is therefore doing it as a labor of love. You rarely see labors of love that are also preexisting IP that is completely controlled by a studio and is an original but derivative of a television show that was on a network.
So, here’s the positives and the negatives. Positive: A lot of people really wanted to see a Veronica Mars movie. I don’t blame them; it was a great show. Kristen Bell is awesome. A little love for Ryan Hansen who I have a connection with and I think is a great guy.
And so they donated money. And they donated money to make it possible. And Warner Bros. said, “Okay, well, good for you guys.” It’s a bit like the letter-writing campaigns of the 80’s that saved Cheers, and so here’s a movie. That’s positive.
On the negative side: Sure, Warner Bros. basically is, [laughs], basically a multi-billion dollar corporation that just made people cough up $2 million in donations and will charge them again for the privilege of watching this on digital distribution. So, that’s a little weird. And so Rogers is correct — empowering, exploitative, sure.
But, I think it’s such a specific thing, and I also feel like anyone who really believes that this is going to be a trend doesn’t get how the internet works. I mean, people aren’t dumb. It’s not like studios can say, “Well, we’re going to put a gun to the head of all these other things that you want to see, and you have to raise money or we’re going to shoot it.” Well, people get pretty savvy after awhile. They’re not going to keep kicking money out to things just to see them happen.
So, I’m kind of interested what you have to think, and then I’ll say the part about it that kind of annoys me the most, that’s a point that no one is really making because it’s a separate point and a larger point. So, what do you think?
John: Rob Thomas is a friend. And so this is sort of the full disclosure that he’s a friend, and Dan Etheridge is a friend who’s a producer on that show and produced The Nines for me and has been a friend for a long time. So, I actually knew about this before it was announced and I knew it was in the works. And I was excited to see what could become of it. And so I was a big cheerleader behind saying, “Yes, that would be amazing if it happened,” without having to put a lot of thought into what does it really mean, what’s sort of the outcome.
And I think Rob is very, very smart and he’s been very smart about being kind of upfront and transparent about like this is, “I want to do the Veronica Mars movie in all the normal ways, and I couldn’t get it done in all the normal ways, so this is why we’re doing this here.”
And Kickstarter was clearly very interested in figuring out is there a way we can make a bigger studio feature with you guys. And so that partnership and navigating the relationship between the creators of the show and Warner Bros., who owns the IP, and Kickstarter is a fascinating thing. So, I think that’s a fascinating movie and story to be tracking as well. One of the things Rob said, today I think, was, “I never wanted it to be perceived as a charity.” And he felt it was very important that people felt like for the $50 they were sending in they were getting something.
So, they were getting a script. They were getting a digital download. They were getting a t-shirt, which is true, and which is very much the Kickstarter model that you should always be getting something, that you’re not just chipping in, and that it’s different from a letter writing campaign in that sense that you are really trying to — you are giving something back for the effort that you spent.
But I think it’s weirdly kind of too apologetic in that the reason why people want to spend their $50 isn’t because they’re going to have a share of the profits of this thing, it’s because they get to make something in the world, something that wouldn’t exist otherwise will exist now because they and everybody else chipped in some money to do it. And that’s the empowerment aspect of this is that the world is slightly different because I put in this money to make this thing happen that I wanted to see in the world.
You know, you’re not a creator in the bigger sense, but you are helping to make something. You’re bending the world a little bit in your direction.
Some of the criticism I have seen is, “Well, you don’t even get a copy of the movie.” It’s like, well, I feel like we’re almost in this sort of post-asset kind of time where like who cares if you get the DVD or the movie. You can always buy the DVD or the movie. The fact is the DVD wouldn’t even exist. And so it’s not about getting cash back or getting that movie in your hands, or getting a free ticket. It’s that that thing that you want to exist, that dream that you had is real because you were able to send in $50.
Craig: Yeah. I agree with that. I mean, that is the nice part of it. I’m giving you the less nice vision of that in a second, but I do want to acknowledge that it is cool. Fans who want to see something and are able to make it happen, and who do it out of love, I think that that’s something that’s respectable.
And, you know, there’s a slightly strange thing here where, I’m a capitalist, you know, and I believe in Capitalism to a large extent. I think it’s a good thing. So, part of me thinks, well, you know, could you have gone and found some sort of financial backer that Warner Bros. was willing to kind of take on and actually then pay back? And I guess the answer is no, so then it’s nice to see, okay, people just step in and altruistically — you know, not completely altruistically, they want to see the movies. So, they’re saying, “Look, we’re willing to basically way overspend.”
A digital downloaded movie costs, I don’t know, let’s just say the price point is $10. I’m going to spend $40. Well, actually even $60 maybe. Or I’m going to spend $100, or as in the case of one well reported Kickstarter, $10,000.
And, yes, you get some doodads and things back like scripts, which, you know, you can get the script anyway I suppose. I mean, ultimately that’s not really what it’s about. It’s not about the exchange, it’s about the donation.
And that part I guess is the part that sort of gives me a slightly queasy feeling on the other side. And so it’s not about this; it’s not about Veronica Mars. It’s about Kickstarter in general. I don’t quite get it. I mean, I get it, but I don’t get it.
Let’s put aside Veronica Mars, which is a nicer example, people passionate about a work of art and they want to see more of it. I don’t understand why anyone is giving any money on Kickstarter to things like the company that’s going to make the paper E-ink watch. That’s a business. You don’t donate money to for-profit businesses. I don’t get it at all. I don’t understand the mentality.
And I suppose you could say, “Well, what’s the harm?” I don’t know; the harm is that maybe you should be giving your money to something else that’s a little more worthy. If you feel like donating money, there’s a billion charities out there. And I know you’re philanthropic, and I’m philanthropic, and I believe in these things. And I like donating money.
My particular cause is education. I donate a lot of money to education. And I like that. And if I didn’t have a lot of money I would donate a little bit of money to education. And there’s another thing that I like to give money to that I’ll talk about in my One Cool Thing. But, I don’t know, I have nothing against this Veronica Mars thing; I just don’t understand Kickstarter. I’m not quite sure what the mentality is there.
I prefer to see businesses stand or fall on their own based on the time-tested principles of the marketplace.
John: So, I actually had a conversation with Yancey Strickler, I had coffee with Kickstarter’s founder Yancey Strickler about The Remnants — this is almost two years ago. So, The Remnants, for people who don’t know, was a web pilot that I shot during the strike. And people liked it and there was all this talk about sort of like, okay, we could get some sort of brand in, like Pringles or somebody was going to come on and sponsor it.
And we had sort of our budgets. We figured everything out. And then it wasn’t just going to work right. And so I had the conversation with Yancey Strickler about sort of, oh, maybe we could Kickstarter this. And this was pretty early in the Kickstarter days.
And it clearly was going to be possible and he was fascinated by the opportunity of doing it, but it just was never going to work out time wise. It was never going to be worth my time to not do all the other stuff in order to go and do this thing, this labor of love for no money. And so I have been fascinated by the possibility of doing a show through Kickstarter for a long time.
Here’s where I think you and I disagree. I do not perceive this as a donation. And two pronged points here. First off, donation implies that you’re not getting anything back out of it. You’re just truly doing it altruistically. And that’s not really quite what this is. You are trying to change and effect the world through your donation. It’s almost like paying to a political party, or paying for a candidate, because you want the world to be a little bit better. You want to fork the universe into a way that is going to go your direction.
And, secondly, just talking about donations, well you could be spending that money on education or giving a donation to some other worthy charity. Well, any money you spend, anything, that sandwich you bought, you could be spending on charity, too. So, I just never feel like that’s a fair complaint is like, “Well, if you’re going to spend $50 you should give it to a homeless person or some sort of soup kitchen.” Well, then you shouldn’t buy those shoes. You shouldn’t do anything. We should all sort of spend every available cent on helping the people who need it most.
This is something that people want in the world. And in this case it’s Veronica Mars, but in other cases it’s, you know, the Kickstarter things I’ve funded was this gay documentary that looked really cool called Atlantic. Or this Pebble Watch, like that’s something that I would love to see maybe.
And, so, I get why people want to do that. And in their case they’re essentially pre-ordering this watch. They’ll have the first chance to get it, and it’s something they want to exist in the world. That’s Kickstarter. And I agree that it’s not quite the capitalist model where you say like, “Well, if somebody wants this thing to exist than there should be investors who put in their money and they are rewarded for their investment by being paid back.” They are getting paid back, but not in money. They’re getting paid back in the universe being slightly different and having this thing in it.
Craig: Allow me to retort.
Craig: First of all, your analogy of political contributions is a pretty good one. I have in the past made political contributions and I quickly realized that there was only one kind that was of any value. — Sorry, two kinds that were of any value. The first kind is an enormous contribution that buys you some sort of influence or access. And the second kind is a contribution that is made very locally, because you are impacting something immediate and frankly smaller donations are far more impactful when they’re local.
So, for instance, I don’t donate to presidential campaigns, senatorial campaigns, congressmen anymore, although I have sort of dabbled in a tiny way in the past with that. But I do donate, for instance, to my local city hall candidate in La Cañada, where you win with under 3,000 votes. I donate money to the school board campaign.
So, I’m actually fairly consistent on this. I don’t think people should be giving $10 to political candidates. I think it’s dumb. But, that’s a whole political discussion. We’ve been so good about not being political in here. But, I totally disagree on your whole, “Well, then you can’t buy a sandwich thing.” Of course, you buy a sandwich because you want a sandwich. The existence of philanthropy does not require you to not purchase things that aren’t philanthropic. You are getting a sandwich when you pay for a sandwich. And you’re eating it.
What you don’t do is pay for a sandwich so that the sandwich can be made so that you can buy the sandwich. And that’s what I don’t like about Kickstarter. I mean, at the very least, if you put in money to make the Pebble Watch, you should get a Pebble Watch! If you give a certain amount of money, I mean, look, if they do that, then I get it.
But I just don’t understand this thing of “I’m going to give you a bunch of money so you can make something so then you can charge me for it.” I do feel like that is exploitative and circumvents the natural selection of things.
John: Here’s where I disagree with the “you should be able to get something for it,” is what is “it” in the case of a movie or a piece of entertainment? Because there’s not a thing at the end. So, Pebble Watch, I sort of get that. You’re sort of pre-ordering it. So, why would you bother putting in any money to it unless you were going to actually get the watch at the end? That I sort of get.
In the case of Veronica Mars or some other TV program that you want to exist again, no one cares about that little DVD disk.
Craig: No, it’s not the object.
John: Everyone cares that it exists it in the world. We’re sort of in this asset-less time where I don’t really want to own these things. I just want them to always be available to me when I do want to see them.
Craig: I agree with that. But, let me ask you a question. And I’ll talk about the “it” is in a second. But, when you donate money to the Veronica Mars project, do you get a download? Do you get the right to watch it without paying more money?
John: I believe there are digital downloads at some price points.
Craig: At some price point, okay. Now, to me, if you’ve donated more than what they’re selling that thing for, the “it,” then you should not have to pay for “it” again. I just don’t like that. I just think it’s weird.
John: You should not have to pay for it any form or you shouldn’t have to buy a ticket for it at the movie theater?
Craig: No. You shouldn’t. You’ve already done it. You’ve paid for it. It’s crazy.
John: Well, Craig, that’s not consistent though with how movies actually work. Like, buying a ticket to a movie doesn’t give you the DVD at the same time for free.
Craig: No, no, I totally understand. What I’m saying is the “it”… — For instance, when you buy a DVD you’re not actually buying the movie. Here’s what you’re buying: You’re buying a piece of plastic and then you’re buying the right — you’re essentially buying a license to exhibit that movie for your own private use. You are not buying anything beyond that.
Now, in this case with Veronica Mars I would imagine it would be very similar. You’re buying a download. You’re licensing the right to view that. So, this is why, for instance, when you buy a DVD or you purchase something on iTunes, you can’t set it up in an auditorium and then charge admission for it. That would be a violation of your license because you don’t own it. You just have licensed the right to enjoy it privately.
That’s why there’s a whole thing about the sharing of these things that’s coming up with Amazon and that will be interesting. But, I guess my point is if I give $50 towards the creation of the Veronica Mars movie, I feel like at the very least I should also in return get the right to enjoy what I have helped create in the privacy of my home, without paying more it.
I just think that that’s.. — And I know why they can’t do that, because then at that point it’s sort of like, well, we’ve kind of cannibalized the marketplace that we’re doing it. And I love that, listen, I love that people are kind of pricing that in and they’re saying, “Well, okay, I know it’s going to be $5, so if I donate $50 what I’m really saying is I’m paying $55 to see this Veronica Mars movie.”
And that’s their choice.
John: I think what you’re really buying is emotional ownership of something that you love.
Craig: Yeah, and I get that.
John: That’s true, too, for anything that you want to buy or collect that isn’t necessarily worth what you’re paying for it.
Craig: Yeah. That’s right. And the one thing that is true about the marketplace is that this is part of the marketplace. So, in a way, Kickstarter does sort of say, “Here’s a lot of people who are incredibly passionate who are willing to overpay for something. So, it is worth that. And therefore it is worth this.” And it’s a great situation for Warner Bros., obviously.
It’s a great situation for the creators of Veronica Mars. And it’s a great situation for the fans. So, I can’t really find fault with that.
My whole thing with Kickstarter is really more about these people who come on Kickstarter and say, “I have an idea for a company. It’s going to manufacture widgets. We’re going to make an enormous amount of money if the widgets are successful. Please give me a bunch of money so that I can do this because nobody else whose job it is to determine if this sort of thing is a good business or not seems to think it is.
“So, therefore, could you please give me your money? In return, I’ll give you a bunch of nonsense. And then I’ll make this, and then you’ll buy it again. Or not. Or maybe I’ll just disappear,” as was the case that was publicized — highly publicized incident.
So, I don’t know, Kickstarter to me is just weird. And I’m not a fan. But I do think that this is a good thing for the Veronica Mars people and I can’t argue about that.
John: Let’s talk in general about the film and TV industry, because crowd sourcing is sort of beyond necessarily our purview, but film and TV, I feel like we’re always looking for outside money. If you look at sort of how we make even our most expensive movies, we go to Village Roadshow or we go to Legendary Pictures.
John: Well, that’s just a big pile of money that’s just sitting there that had nothing to do necessarily with the film industry. I guess Village Roadshow is technically an Australian theater chains that have different rules than what we have here.
John: Legendary is just private equity money.
John: There’s always been those rich people with piles of cash that can make cool things. Like, The Master was made with somebody with a pile of cash, and that’s a good thing.
I would say looking at Kickstarter, it’s like it’s a pile of cash, it’s just that the pile cash is from a bunch of different individual people who all have love or intensity about a certain thing and are willing to chip in some money.
John: And if it’s faster for the Pebble Watch person or the person who is making the various weird documentary to get that money through them than through traditional financiers, that’s great to me in some ways.
Craig: Eh, not great to me. Because, here’s the thing: Legendary is a big pile of money. And it is rich people with a pile of money and they make decisions about what to invest their money in. And for it they get ownership and the potential for tremendous profit, and that’s fine. And if they lose, if the movie bombs, then they lose their money, but they made that decision; there was a reward in place, a financial reward.
There is something unsavory to me about a business that is designed to maximize profits for its shareholders, because that’s what corporations do, sort of tripping into the sort of blissful commune of the internet and saying, “We’re awesome and sweet just like you. Let’s all talk in these kinds of platitudes of sharing and changing the world, which we know you guys are into. And we’ll talk less about how we’re actually a corporation with accountants and designed to maximize profits.
“And you just give us your money, and you’re going to get nothing of true value back. And if we make $15 billion off the $5 million you guys give us, you’ll get none of it, but we will. And I will live in an enormous mansion with cars and five wives and yacht. And you get the joy of giving me more money again to buy the thing that you helped me make.”
I do find that exploitative. I find it unsavory. These aren’t rich people we’re talking about. A lot of times they’re just people who have a good intention, and they do have a great joy. While I am a capitalist on one hand, I’m also a regulationist on the other. And I believe that capitalism works best when there are rules in place designed to preserve fair play. And where people decide fair play is, well, that’s the great debate of our time. And we’ve been talking about that since TR and trust-busting, all the way to now and Wall Street, and banks, and “too big to fail,” and all the rest of it.
But, I do believe in protecting what I believe is essential to capitalism and that is fair play. And I just think that this is something — if you really want to know what gets me going about Kickstarter, it’s that I feel it’s not exploitative of people’s money, because they’re giving $50 or $100, they can afford it whenever and they won’t miss it. Very few people will in the long-term.
The exploitation I don’t like is the exploitation of philosophy. There’s something about companies going to people and saying, “Let’s be anti-capitalistic. Let’s circumvent business as usual and the fat cats. And let’s do this in the spirit of togetherness.” And that’s, frankly, bullshit. They’re just trying to make money. And if I’m starting a business and I need $10 million, and somebody comes to me and says, “I’m a venture capitalist. I’ll give you the $10 million in exchange for 30% of your company.” And then Kickstarter says, “Or, you can just have $10 million,” I’m going to Kickstarter. And I’m taking their $10 million. And they’re getting nothing for it because it’s so much better for me.
It’s just greed. And I believe greed motivates all of this. So, because I think people are bad, whereas you probably think they’re good…
John: Yeah. I think we’ve hit the fundamental distinction between the two of us. [laughs]
Craig: [laughs] I think people are bad, so I feel like Kickstarter is a playground for bad people to take advantage of good people by being wolves in sheep’s clothing. Now, again, I just want to be super clear: I do not think that’s what’s going on with Veronica Mars, at all. I really do think Veronica Mars is a sheep in sheep’s clothing coming to other sheep and those sheep are saying, “Let’s all watch a movie together because we love it.”
And that’s okay. Believe me, I’m not going after these guys at all. Nor do I think it’s a sign of any great change to come, because Veronica Mars is special. And I give them credit for having this amazing connection to their audience.
I’m really talking about the Pebble Watches and the light bulbs you can control with your iPhone and all this baloney on Kickstarter. And I’m sounding like grumpy old man. But, anyway, that’s, [laughs], that’s what I think. That’s what I think.
John: I do want to jump ahead to the future, but I will cede points to I do believe there is potential for exploitation in the Kickstarter model that we have to watch. And I’m interested and also troubled by whatever sort of regulation could come about these multi-million dollar corporations who are using Kickstarter now to do certain things that is not really the intention. The Kickstarter is very much meant for sort of self-driven, self-generated projects. And so it does change the question. So, I do think it’s going to be fascinating to watch what happens.
What I want to talk about though is the future, sort of what else could be done in the Kickstarter model, because obviously the first question is all these, you know, Pushing Daisies, all these other TV shows that had people who loved them but didn’t come back.
I don’t know that that’s really necessarily going to happen, but probably because I’m completely in Broadway theater mode, I definitely think there’s a case to be made for some of these musicals that never get staged being staged this way. Say like we really want to stage this obscure thing which no one ever does, but we can do it. Well, Kickstarter might be a model for doing that kind of thing.
I also feel like some comic book properties have that kind of passionate fan base that could make that movie. I mean, The Preacher I wrote for Columbia is too expensive — way too expensive to do for a Kickstarter model — but that has rabid fans. And with the right director and the right Jesse Custer in there you could make that movie and people would be very, very excited and those fans might show up to fund it.
Craig: Yeah. The only downside here is if the studios decide to engage in a — like I put it — a “gun to the head model,” where this baby that you love, we’re going to kill it if you don’t give us this amount of dollars by this date.
Craig: And that’s gross.
John: I think that will spark outrage. That will self-correct.
Craig: It will self-correct. Exactly. I just don’t see this happening in a wide variety of circumstances. This is a special one, I think. But, my favorite law is the law of unintended consequences. So, let’s see what happens. But, for the Veronica Mars specific situation, I think this is a good thing for them.
I just don’t like Kickstarter. Because, I like people, and I feel bad for them, like what are you doing? You’re giving money to businessmen.
John: Come on! You’re sort of equating them with like hucksters and…
John: …church preachers. And I don’t think that’s the case at all. And here’s the other crucial thing. No one is promising them anything other than the fact that this thing might exist.
Craig: I know.
John: And some of these people will go belly up and it won’t happen. But these aren’t investments in the way that people think grandma is going to be taken to the cleaners.
Craig: I get it. But the fact that they’re being honest about what I do believe is a certain level of hucksterism doesn’t excuse the hucksterism. It’s still businessmen.
You know, Google made its bones early on by saying, “Don’t be evil.” That was their corporate model. They’re so evil! Of course they’re evil.
John: I completely agree with you.
Craig: And you know why they’re evil? Because people are evil. And this is when you know you’re getting lied to when they tell you that “we’re not evil.” That’s step one. That’s step one of a march to evil.
You know, our thing here — here’s how you know that you and I aren’t evil — we don’t charge a dime. We don’t ask you for anything. We don’t even have a sponsor. We don’t even have Weiner Schnitzel coming on at minute twenty to talk about their new… — I don’t even know what’s on the menu. Well, hot dogs.
John: Well, part of the reason why we don’t have a sponsor though is that you and have had that conversation and it just feels gross that…
Craig: Gross! Thank you.
John: You and are both comparatively wealthy people, so for us to break into, whatever. So, there may be ultimately some things down the road that people want to buy or download, they can, because I know our back catalog is costing us a fortune, but no, it’s not worth… — No, we’re not trying to make money that way.
Craig: But don’t you think that a lot of these people who are putting things on Kickstarter, not all of them, of course, but a number of them — they have some money. In fact, oh god, if you think about it, just take a step back.
I’m going to put up, let’s say I have $1 million. I could put $1 million into my business, or I could put in $20,000, raise $980,000 on Kickstarter and have the exact same amount of equity in the business. Now, that is the definition to me of exploitation. This is why I also don’t like churches, but boy, now we’re really going to get into it aren’t we. [laughs]
John: [laughs] Okay. I feel like we could go on for another hour on this. But I do want to get to other topics and keep a sort of reasonable podcast.
Second topic is Highland which is the plaintext screenplay editor.
Craig: Highland is crap! I’m against it!
John: I’m so happy because we can have another debate on this.
Craig: No, no, it’s good.
John: So, here’s the backstory on Highland. So, Highland has been in beta for months, and months, and months. And what Highland does, it is a plaintext screenplay editor, so it works in Fountain, which is the plaintext screenplay format, and you can type a brand new script in Fountain and it will format it as a PDF or let you send it out to Final Draft, or keep it in Fountain if you want to stay in Fountain.
It’s meant to be sort of lightweight. The one kind of magic thing it can do is you can take a screenplay PDF, throw it on Highland, and it will melt it back down to editable text which is kind of magic. And Nima Yousefi who is our coder just worked some crazy magic to make that happen. That is cool and useful. It raises troubling questions about, you know, it’s always been really safe to send a PDF to somebody. And now it is no longer safe, so I do want to talk about that.
But, it was also interesting that we were talking about Google, and Google being, you know, “Don’t be evil.”
John: Evil! Because this was also the week that Google Reader, which was the premier sort of RSS platform, which is how I sort of read most of the blogs I read, they announced they were going to be shutting that down. And suddenly this monoculture that had formed around Google Reader suddenly is struggling because there is just one huge dominant player that by being free and by being a big thing, no one could sort of grow around it, and now it went away.
And so I want to talk about monocultures in screenwriting and screenwriting apps, too, and sort of what we can do better.
Craig: Well, I had a chance to play around with Highland and I used it — and not the beta version but your new almost ready to ship version, your final. Your Gold Master as they say in the business.
Craig: And I used it precisely the way I would use it. And precisely the way I think a lot of people will use it, which is specifically to melt — I love that term — to melt a PDF into an editable document. Because I’m very happy to write in Final Draft, and I’m very happy to write in Movie Magic, and I even like writing in Fade In. Eh, I’m comfortable with that. I don’t need a new version of that. But, I do love the idea that I can take a PDF of something and convert it back and make it editable.
And I found that that function worked extraordinarily well. The only issue it has, and it’s acknowledged in the software, is if you’re dealing with a document that has asterisks, it doesn’t quite know what to do with those. And maybe down the line Nima will solve that.
Craig: But barring the asterisks, it was remarkably accurate. Much better so than the beta version was. And I personally don’t see any ethical issue here. I don’t think PDFs are any safer than anything. The truth is the only difference between a PDF and an editable document when it comes to safety is a $13/hour typist. And so personally I don’t really think that there is any — if somebody wants to change something, they’re going to change it. The PDF isn’t a force-field that protects that.
So, that function is awesome. What does Highland cost, by the way?
John: Highland is $19.99. For the first month it is $9.99, so half off. And it is designed — we really talked a lot about the price because I wanted it to be a price that makes you actually think about buying it before you just randomly buy it. I find sometimes people will buy something before they really should buy it. And those are the people that take a tremendous amount of support burden.
John: Because then they write in saying like, “This doesn’t do what I wanted to do.” It’s like, “Well, it doesn’t do that. Maybe you should have actually read and seen what it should do first.”
John: And it’s also why we offer a free demo version. So, if you go to quoteunquoteapps.com you can download the demo version that does everything that the real thing does, it just puts a watermark on it if you’re trying to melt a file down or send it out.
So, $9.99 is the price here at launch.
Craig: I think that’s a good price. And initially when you started talking about this many years ago, it seems, I thought, “Oh man, $9.99 or $19.99 seems really high,” but the world has changed. And what used to be — because the initial download app culture was entirely driven by iOS, and that culture was in and of itself driven, I think, a bit by iTunes where people had become accustomed to paying $0.99 for things. And this was the step one of weaning them off of the sharing teat as it were and getting them used to buying things.
And then they started selling apps and they were like, “Okay, well people are used to $0.99, so let’s sell apps for $0.99 up to $2.99, or $3.99.” And then as you went forward and people started getting used to the idea of purchasing all of their apps in this way, for instance Mac OS has built in the App Store where essentially now you never purchase software in any other way. Suddenly now you were exposed to premium apps that were all the way up to $100 or more. And so $19.99 doesn’t seem wildly out of whack at all for what is unique functionality.
I hope you’ve patented it and protected it.
John: There’s actually no way to patent or protect it.
Craig: Oh, well, in that case. [laughs]
John: It’s protected in the sense that it’s very difficult to do. That’s the protection.
Craig: Okay. All right. Well, hopefully you don’t get cannibalized and you stay ahead of the evil corporations that will attempt to rip you off, perhaps by raising money through Kickstarter. But, that aside, $9.99 is a deal. So, I’ve spent far more than that on apps that did far less.
Craig: So, I love it. I think ten bucks for the next month to get something that converts PDFs effectively. Oh, and here’s the other thing. I did run the asset test, for instance, for translation, lingual translation software is to take something in a language, run it through the translator, and then run it back out and see if it’s identical. And it worked, so I ran that on Highland. I took a PDF. I converted it to the text — I guess it’s Fountain is your proprietary text — and then I exported it back out to Final Draft, and it was perfect.
John: Great. Hooray.
Craig: So ten bucks for that, sure. $19.99? Absolutely. Well done. Good job, Nima. And you did not do this with Kickstarter funds.
John: No, it was the Bank of John August. And I wanted to talk a little bit about the different projects because a lot of this has been just sort of my slow master plan response to what I sort of see as a monoculture problem that happens in screenwriting is that Final Draft is dominant. Movie Magic is sort of a second place. And those are sort of your top premier powerhouse screenwriting apps.
And they do some things that are genuinely pro-features that Highland doesn’t even try to do. So, things like keeping track of starred revisions, colored pages — those are beasts. Those are actually really difficult things to do. And I want to make sure that we can sort of protect the big apps that can do that kind of stuff, because without them my life would be much, much less pleasant.
But, I don’t actually find writing in them, first drafts, to be especially enjoyable. And I’ve tried different things. I’ve used Scrivener for a script. I used this unannounced script that’s a Fountain editor that’s great — it’s coming out soon — for my ABC pilot. And I’ve used Highland for a lot of stuff. And I find that for most stuff that a new screenwriter is doing, or at least through that first draft, it’s actually in some ways a better, more freeing experience to not be looking at the final formatted page. You’re just looking at — it’s just words. And that can be a very useful thing.
But what I don’t want to imply is that like this is in some way a Final Draft killer, because I don’t want to kill Final Draft. And I sort of want to make that really clear. The stuff I’ve been trying to do over the last couple years — Fountain, which is the open source plaintext formatting screenwriting format, is designed so that Final Draft files, you will always be able to open those files. You will always be able to open a Fountain file. Will you always be able to open a Final Draft file?
Well, who knows if Final Draft will be around in five years? I hope it will be.
Craig: I’ll give you the answer to that. The answer is no, because Final Draft itself can’t open old Final Draft files.
John: It can’t open the FDR files.
Craig: That’s right.
John: Which is the original format. And to be fair, the FDX file, which is the current format for Final Draft, it is in XML format, so it’s possible to parse it, but it’s just I’ve been in the situation where I’ve looked through old disks and found like WriteNow files, and you try to open them and you can’t. Nothing can open them. And they’re just a mess.
And so I want to make sure that there’s always a way to sort of get stuff in and out. Fountain is always plaintext. And so even as we were in beta there would be times where through miscommunication we wouldn’t send out the next beta, and so the current one would expire and people couldn’t open their files in Highland. But like you can always open the files because any text editor in the world can open these files and that’s a useful thing.
John: The second thing we did was Courier Prime which was Courier in Final Draft is Courier Final Draft, and it’s just not as good as it could be. And it is proprietary to Final Draft. And so we made Courier Prime on an open font license. Anyone can use it. We use it in Highland, but other apps have started using it now, too.
So, I just want to make sure that there are many tools out there to be making screenplays that don’t have to go back to these big powerhouse apps that I hope are always around but I’m not sure are always going to be around.
Craig: Yeah. I think you’ve done a great service and you’ve done it the right way. And you’ve created something that people will want. And it’s a good thing.
Personally, where I differ from you is that I do hope Final Draft dies because I think it is a cumbersome piece of crap that is unwieldy, ugly, and is an extension of a, you know, a desire to sell a culture more than a piece of software. You know, it seems like the corporation is far more interested now in convincing people that they got a shot in their contests and baloney and less concerned with actually saying, “Here’s a gorgeous piece of software that exceeds your expectations.” It doesn’t.
Plus they charge for tech support. I just hate them. I do. I hate them.
John: I will say, like, I wouldn’t be scared about Final Draft dying if I saw a competitor that could do the kinds of things it does and could do it better than it does it. That would be fantastic. I’m not going to be able to make that, and that’s not our intention. So, we made something smaller and lightweight that can do most of that stuff. [Sirens]
Craig: Look at you with sirens in the background.
John: I know, it’s New York City, man.
Craig: How does that feel, brah?
John: And next week I’ll be in Chicago, so I’ll be hearing the Chicago fire trucks that pass all the time.
Craig: Oh, Chicago Fire.
John: Because the one thing I’ve learned from Derek Haas’s show is that Chicago is constantly on fire. [laughs] I’ll be choking from smoke because that city is always burning.
Craig: That city is on fire. And the men who put those fires out are hot!
John: Yeah, they’re pretty sexy men when they take off those uniforms.
Craig: They are hot. And the women are hot and lesbian. Oh!
John: It’s so good.
Craig: Boy, I almost want to just move to Chicago and start lighting stuff up.
John: [laughs] Derek will inspire a whole culture of arson just so that we can get those firefighters to come and fight those fires.
Craig: How about that show, by the way? Just how about that show?
John: I just can’t, I mean, I’m so, so, so, so happy for Derek. I’ll confess that I’m a little bit surprised — not that Derek wrote a great show, but you never bank on a show really clicking or working. And so you’re like, “Oh, they’re going to give it a college try,” but they’re doing great.
Craig: Well, I got to say, when he talked about the show I’m like, “Okay, sounds good, sounds like a TV show.” And then he said it’s going to be a Dick Wolf show. And I thought, well, when was the last Dick Wolf show that just fell apart and didn’t work? I mean, that guy has got a pretty good track record. He kind of knows what he’s doing, you know.
John: You know, I can point to one Dick Wolf show that didn’t work.
Craig: What…oh, your Dick Wolf show.
John: Yeah. And so to be…
Craig: Boy, I walked into that one, didn’t I?
John: So, I will say that Dick Wolf and I did not get along especially well on this TV show that I created called DC that was Dick Wolf. And the better show would have been us yelling at each other across sets.
So, I was nervous for Derek going into it that he would have the same experience I had with Dick Wolf, but he has not apparently had that experience, so again, happiness and joy.
Craig: Does anyone in the world have a better name than Dick Wolf?
John: It’s an amazing name.
Craig: Dick Wolf.
John: Yeah, it’s good stuff.
Craig: So cool.
John: And that’s not one of the Pixar suggestions, a really cool name for a character, but there were three — I’m going to segue here, there were three rules…
Craig: We have to do a podcast on segueing, apparently.
John: Yes. There were three rules from this list of 21 story rules, we probably talked about it in a general sense on the podcast before, but there were three that really stuck out at me as I looked at it again this week. And so I want to talk about them.
John: First rule. “You admire a character for trying more than for their success.”
Craig: Great rule.
John: What a really good rule, and something that people don’t realize until they’re sort of deep into it is that it’s not about winning the game. It’s not about scoring the touchdown. It’s about, classically as Lindsay Doran would say, it’s about kissing your wife. It’s how hard the journey was to get there and all the times you could have bailed on the journey and all the times you stuck with the journey that make this a victory.
You could lose the game, but as long as you had achieved something as a character, that’s better than winning.
Craig: Success is not dramatic. I guess that’s the best way I can put it. It’s actually kind of boring. Success is the rote delivery of what must happen so that you feel satisfied that the meal has ended, but it is only satisfying because it was difficult to achieve. And in and of itself what it signifies is the end of drama. Drama, to me, is entirely about failure and difficulty and effort and sweat and misery. That is what we find interesting about success.
Failure doesn’t require success to be interesting. But success requires failure to be interesting. Nothing is more boring than putting yourself in God Mode on a game and just killing, you know?
So, that rule is a terrific rule. It is why — even when you look at superhero movies that are about people who are overpowered, they are in God Mode, the movies then work overtime to make it really, really hard for them. And so Superman must have Kryptonite and Batman must be savagely beaten by people that are bigger and stronger.
John: Yeah. What I also like about her rule here is you admire a character. And what a good word “admire” is, because it’s talking about what your relationship is with the character, what the audience’s relationship is with the character. And admire is exactly what you sort of want. Yes, you want them to be loved, but you also want them to say like, “Oh, I see what that character is doing and, good, I’m so proud of that character.”
That’s one of the things when I first pitched Charlie’s Angels and I was talking to Drew about sort of what this movie would be, I describe that I wanted to be proud of the Angels, which seems like a weird thing to be talking about in an action movie, but it’s a rare situation, like when you’re really proud that they actually did this thing. I described them as like your dorky kid sister who somehow wins the Olympics.
You can be annoyed by them at time, but you’re also really proud of what they were able to do. And that relationship with the character and the audience is unique and special in situations where you can feel genuinely proud. Even dark characters or antiheroes, you can sometimes have that click with them, where you see what they’re able to do.
Craig: Yeah. I was talking to an educator recently. I’m sorry, to be more honest, I was listening to him speak. And he mentioned that there is a study recently done that identified this quality that is a better predictor of future success in life than other things like test scores and so forth. And for lack of a better word it’s grit. It’s learning to prevail when things are very hard. It’s learning to get back up when you’ve been knocked down.
And when we watch characters do that we find it honorable. That’s why “admire” is a good word. It is worthy of honor. It is a wonderful value. And we instinctively as humans sympathize with someone who is getting back up against very, very difficult odds. We like people who have grit. And your character can’t have grit unless they’re in a situation where grit is required.
John: I agree. Her second rule is, “You got to keep in my mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.”
Such a good rule. It’s something that I honestly struggle with at times because I will sometimes find myself writing a scene a certain way because it’s just a more interesting way for me to write the scene, or I’m just bored of the conventional way to write that scene, but is it really the best version of that scene? Or am I being clever to be clever because I want to entertain myself in writing it or to have other people say like, “Oh, what a clever scene it is you wrote.”
It struck me, you know, so often we talk about screenwriting being like architecture. And I think I see that with real buildings, too. You look at, so two Disney examples. I think of Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall, which is the shiny thing in Los Angeles. And you look at it, it’s just a marvel. And so you go up to it, you kind of want to touch it, you want to see it, and even inside it’s really fascinating. I just love that building.
And then you look at the Team Disney Building on the Disney Lot.
John: So, the Team Disney building is the one that has the dwarves holding up the ceiling, holding up the roof, and you sort of look at it, it’s like, “Oh, okay, that’s kind of clever, that’s kind of cool.” And then you go into that building…
Craig: It’s the worst.
John: That’s the worst building.
Craig: Worst building. I mean, people that are running this massive company and they’re meeting with fabulously wealthy individuals, and actors, and they’re all crammed in these cubicles. Cubicles! And there’s this enormous hallway that looks like it’s out of Egypt or something, which is actually beautiful. But then the actual space where people are doing their work is dreadful.
John: I hate that hallway out of Egypt, also, because there’s these weird sort of like fat/thin pillars that you can’t really do anything in there. I guess you can use that space to throw a party every once and while, and you could light it differently, but if you go in there in the afternoon it’s just like this dark vertical tunnel that you have to walk through.
And so you have to walk through two sets of double doors that are out — you have to go outside twice to get to where the elevator bays are.
John: You never… — You know, it’s one of those things where I was always tempted to say, “Oh, it’s indoor/outdoor space,” but no, it’s just a horrible space.
Craig: It’s dead space.
John: Dead space.
Craig: And actually the part of that that I like is that it’s so — it’s weirdly gothic. It’s so out of place for a movie studio to have this strange cathedral-ish hallway of ruddy stone. And it is so useless. And so you’re just — it does inspire a little bit of ooh-ah as you walk through it, and then you get through it and suddenly you’re in a low ceiling crappy lobby with an elevator that takes you to crappy offices with bad carpet. It is wildly screwed up.
John: I don’t know what the last time is you went there, but they did redo some of the offices and they’re much, much, much better. So, I had a meeting with Disney, and it was vastly better, but it could have been in any building because it wasn’t part of this Michael Graves sort of vision for what this thing was to be.
And to me that’s an example of like, “God, wouldn’t it be so funny if we had the dwarves holding up the roof?” Like that’s a great idea. But they didn’t actually think about what you were actually trying to do, which is to make a building that people would want to be in.
John: And that what really it is with movies. It’s like, well, what is the movie that people want to be in? And it may not be that fancy vision. It may be something that’s actually quite a bit more conventional, but just a better version of conventional. And so thinking of that as you’re thinking about what movies you’re writing, how you’re writing your movies. Think of it as an audience, not as a writer.
Craig: Agreed 100%
John: Her 13th point, so we really do skip ahead a lot here, “Give your characters opinions. Passive or malleable characters might seem likable to you as you right, but it’s poison to the audience.”
Craig: Hmm. Well, I think that’s a good idea. I mean, I’ve never… — It’s a little bit of an odd point to me because in some ways I feel it’s a little self-evident. I don’t know how to write a character that is opinion-less because I don’t know what to write. Have you ever encountered yourself writing…?
John: I have. And I think it’s also tied into…two things. First off, you tend to sort of put yourself in your main character. And so especially in early scripts your main character sort of talks like how you talk. And you want to be liked. And so you want your characters to be likable. So, you don’t want them to say too mean of things. You don’t want them to be too pointed. You want them to get along with everybody else. But, getting along isn’t the goal. I mean, the reason why you’re making a movie is because this character is in a unique situation. So, make the situation unique and have them stake out some opinions.
Craig: I don’t think anybody is surprised by the fact that my instinct is to not write characters that get along with people. [laughs] And you have wanted people. I mean, isn’t that classic?
John: Early on I had to fight against my tendency to do that. And once I recognized it then it worked out really well. People ask me like, “Oh, are you any of the characters in your movies?” And so here’s the honest to god truth:
I’m the Katie Holmes character in Go where I’m the girl who is trying to put a damper on things, saying like, “No, that’s not a good idea, that’s not safe,” but who ultimately sort of has the best time of everybody because I sort of got drunk and let go and slept the drug dealer. I’m that guy. I’m also Will in Big Fish. So, I’m sort of the bit of a wet blanket who is skeptical, but ultimately can be won over by the romance of it all.
Who are you in your movies? Are you any characters?
Craig: Yeah, the only, yeah, I mean, Sandy Patterson in Identity Thief. That’s definitely me as the sort of guy who follows the rules and believes in the rules and is not adventuresome. And who maybe sometimes suffers from a — I don’t want to say a lack of imagination, because I think I’m imaginative, but a little bit of fear sometimes of wandering away from the reservation. And who gets frustrated by people who are irrational. And so that is the closest I get, I think.
John: You know what? I think Sandy Patterson would also hate Kickstarter.
Craig: Oh, for sure! Oh, I guarantee it. Sandy Patterson literally would not understand Kickstarter. And he would feel bad… — That’s the other thing is that the Sandy Patterson thing is that he’s very logical and very rational, but then he feels bad for people because he feels like they’re getting fooled, you know? And that’s my whole Kickstarter thing is I just think people are getting fooled.
I’m not angry at the people who give money at Kickstarter. I’m angry at the people who are taking money at Kickstarter. Money takers!
John: How dare they.
John: Let’s do our One Cool Things. So, my One Cool Thing is actually an app as well, but it’s an app that we’re using every day on Big Fish and it’s called StageWrite. It’s for the iPad. And what it is — it’s very clever, and it’s a professional app — an expensive app but a professional app that’s designed for choreographers and for directors of theater pieces. And at a glance it sort of looks like Keynote, the presentation manager.
But what it is, it’s for keeping track of choreography in a scene. And so you sort of get a top-down view and you can put your set on it. And then you can keep track of all the characters on the stage, how they’re moving, and where they’re moving to. And so you set up these scenes and it’s a way of being able to remember how the choreography is for something, but also how to share the choreography. You can send it from one iPad to the other iPad so the different choreographers and directors can talk about sort of what actually happens.
So, it was actually designed by our Assistant Director, Jeff Whiting. And it’s just really great and amazing. So, not many people who listen to this podcast will probably need this app, but it’s fascinating to see something that’s built for specifically — you know, they’re scratching exactly the itch they have, which is sort of what I did with Highland. And so I just applaud that effort.
Craig: Well my One Cool Thing is something that everybody can do. And if you are, say, on Kickstarter and thinking about sending $20 to the guy who wants to make a video game console that he will then charge you for, consider Kiva instead. And we haven’t talked about Kiva on here, have we?
John: I don’t think so. I like Kiva as an idea though.
Craig: Yeah, well Kiva has been around for a long time. This is a cool thing, but it’s certainly not a new thing. Kiva basically is a microloan concept. It is a non-profit company. And the notion is that all across the world — if you’re not familiar with the idea of microloans — all across the world there are individuals who are running very, very small proprietorships. We’re talking about women in Peru who are trying to open a food stand, or men in the Ukraine who need a new tractor for their field.
And they simply don’t have access to bank loans. They are either geographically separated from it, or frankly they just aren’t in a position where they can get a loan. And they register through field agents. Kiva has field agents that sort of go around, and take applications, weed out the people who are obviously nuts or not cool, and then put these profiles on Kiva.com.
And they basically say: here’s the money they need. And what’s so startling is that the amounts are so small. And they are life-changing for people. So, suddenly a woman needs $300 to open a store to help pay for her son’s education and to have a life separate from a husband who has left or passed away. And everybody can chip in. And you can chip in whatever you want. You can give her a dollar, and then when it hits $100 she is fully funded, whatever her amount is, she’s fully funded.
And then they pay the loans back. And I love that because this isn’t just freebie stuff. They are saying, “Look, I actually can pay this money back, because this is a business.” And it is in the vein of teach-a-man-to-fish as opposed to give-them-a-fish.
I’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s not major charity focus. I don’t donate a lot of money to it, but that’s sort of the point is that you don’t need to. And I’ve been paid back every time. And I love that. And when you talk about the notion of changing the world, I would much rather see one lady in Ecuador have her shop than the Pebble Watch people, but that’s me.
And so, anyway, I urge you guys, if you do have a little extra cash lying around, and by little I mean anything — twenty bucks, all the way to whatever you want. Register at Kiva.com and you can select your creditees — creditees/creditors? No, we’re the creditors. Whatever, the people you loan money to. You can filter it out by location. You can filter it by gender. You can filter by the loan amount. You can sort of pick and choose as you wish. I kind of just do it randomly because I don’t have any particular selection matrix. And you just start making your loans.
And then you get this email saying, “You’ve been paid back.”By the way, I’ve been reloaning the same few hundred bucks for years. That’s the cool part. [laughs] So, I put in a bunch of money, I loan it out, they pay me back, I loan it again. They pay me back, I loan it again. It’s very cool.
So, if you’re feeling Kickstarty in life, how about that.
John: All right. Cool. Craig, thank you again for a fun podcast. I said at the start but I shall say it again, all of the stuff that we talked about this week will be in links at the end of this podcast, so either if you’re reading this on your iPad, it’s probably at the bottom of the post. But, if you need to go to johnaugust.com/podcast, you’ll see the whole post there with all the links. Stuart does that; god bless Stuart.
If you are listening to this show on some device and have access to iTunes, give us a rating on iTunes because that helps other people find the show.
Craig: Yeah. That would be great. And one other thing. If you don’t like what I have to say, and I know a lot of you won’t, that’s okay. But if you have large opinions on this, send them to email@example.com. Don’t put them on Twitter because it’s very hard to have any kind of realistic discussion on Twitter, or productive discussion. And also we could read those and then I could respond.
So, if you’re angry, just put your anger in an email.
John: Yeah, and send it to John…[laughs]
Craig: Send it firstname.lastname@example.org which will become a repository for email@example.com.
John: Exactly. And Stuart goes through that account and we’ll send those through to Craig.
Craig: Poor Stuart will just be crying, like, “They’re so mean.”
John: [laughs] All these terrible things. Like, “How dare you Kickstart me!” Craig, have a great week and I’ll talk to you next week from Chicago. Bye.
- Untitled Screenplays and Unfinished Scripts are similar but different
- Use the code “SCRIPT” to unlock discounted seats for the first four Big Fish performances, and let us know you’re coming!
- One of John’s many doppelgängers as Hebrew National’s Uncle Sam
- The Atlantic on Uncle Sam’s “older, classier sister” Columbia
- The Veronica Mars Movie Project on Kickstarter
- James Poneywisic of Time on Veronica Mars
- The Hollywood Reporter‘s coverage, including a quote from writer/producer John Rogers
- Luke Pebler’s guest post on Suzanne Scott’s blog
- Highland, the plaintext screenplay editor for Mac, half-off through March 31st at the Mac App Store
- Emma Coats’s 22 story rules on The Pixar Touch
- StageWrite for iPad at the Mac App Store
- Give a loan and change a life with Kiva
- Direct your umbrage here instead of Twitter
- OUTRO: Kickstart My Heart acoustic cover by whipsy