The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 88 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Craig, we have a very big show today and we’re already getting a late start, so I thought we’d just dive right in. Is that okay?
Craig: Boom. Dive. Go.
John: Boom. Three things I want to do today. I want to talk about this New York Times article that everybody tweeted me this morning, because I think it was just designed to provoke outrage…
John: …umbrage from screenwriters. We will answer some questions that have been stacking up in the mailbox. And we will look at three Three Page Challenge entries from our listeners.
Craig: Great. Oh my god, so much. Let’s go.
John: So much.
The only bit of housekeeping I need to do is that on May 15 of this year I will be hosting a panel for the Academy with some nice screenwriters and other film professionals including Damon Lindelof and Mark Boal. We’re going to be talking about the impact of technology on filmmaking. And it is a $5 panel, so come see us at the Academy Theater if you want to. That is on May 15.
And there will be a link in our show notes for how to come see that panel if you’d like to come see it. So, please come.
Craig: Nifty. Good group.
John: Yay. Let us start with this article that everybody tweeted me this morning. It’s an article by Brooks Barnes in the New York Times and it is about a man…
Craig: Vinny Bruzzese.
John: Vinny Bruzzese, who is, “‘The reigning mad scientist of Hollywood,’ in the words of one studio customer.”
John: Yes. What Mr. Bruzzese does is he provides notes for filmmakers — really studios — on screenplays they are considering going into production. And he’s looking at them from the perspective of here is the data of a whole bunch of other movies and these are concerns about the script based on genre, based on specifics in the actual script and giving them suggestions on how to improve the screenplay based on the data that he has. So, for this knowledge he may charge $20,000 for this consultation which results in, I think, a meeting and also 20 or 30 pages of notes.
The article ran this morning and I think it’s interesting to talk about both from the perspective of what this guy is doing, but also to talk about from the perspective of entertainment journalism, because I think there are concerns I have about both areas.
John: Craig, where should we start? Should we start with the article or start with what this guy is doing?
Craig: I mean, why don’t we start with the article because that will probably go faster and then we can did into Mr. Bruzzese.
John: Great. So, this article is written by Brooks Barnes, and I met Brooks when he first started working for the New York Times and he does a lot of these kinds of articles which is talking about the nature of the film industry.
And I was about halfway through the article when I scrolled back to the top thinking, “I bet Brooks Barnes wrote this,” and I was right.
Here’s what tipped me off that I thought it was a Brooks Barnes article, because he used the word “script doctors” in a way that’s actually not the way you use the word script doctors. He meant script doctors in the way talking about like a script consultant, which is what Vinny Bruzzese is.
But Vinny Bruzzese is not a script doctor. A script doctor is a screenwriter who comes in to fix a problem in a script. So, at times in my career I am a script doctor. That’s not what this guy actually is or what he’s doing.
The other concern I had sort of overall was that no one was on the record. Other than this guy, Vinny Bruzzese, and one screenwriter who was horrified, nobody was actually named by name in the article, which I think was really telling.
Now, at the end of the article Brooks Barnes talks about his theory on why people don’t want to go on the record, they don’t want to offend people. But I think it’s just really telling that nobody wants to actually talk about this by name because it doesn’t seem like a good useful thing that’s going to track well into the future. And nobody wants to be able to be Googled that they contributed to this practice or behavior in the industry.
Craig: Brooks Barnes…you know, I teed off on this guy years ago because he wrote an article — I think it was about residuals and he simply did not understand how they work.
Brooks Barnes tends to approach Hollywood the way that an anthropologist sometimes approaches some local tribe that they’re just encountering, describing it as if they’re alien life forms. This guy needs to just stop writing about Hollywood because he doesn’t really understand it. He doesn’t really get it. And the people he’s talking to, frankly, it’s like, you know, some of these people that he’s quoting, you know…Scott Steindorff? Okay.
I mean, is Scott Steindorff really representative of people that are actually holding Hollywood up with their hands? Not really.
John: I will actually amend my earlier statement, because Mark Gill is also mentioned by name, and Mark Gill is a person whose name you will see in actual trades and is actually making movies. Mark Gills is president of Millennium Films.
Craig: Yeah, but he’s president of Millennium which is just… — I’m sorry, I guess this will disqualify me from working for Millennium. They stink! That’s a bad company.
John: Millennium is a genre filmmaker that does a very specific kind of movie.
Craig: Well, they also do a very specific kind of thing where they treat writers poorly, I have to say, in my opinion. I think they treat writers poorly. We’ve seen this before from there where, you know, there was a whole thing recently where they had been asking writers to write stuff on spec for them in order to get a job, at least that’s how I recall it.
I just think that…I’m going to get sued now by Millennium films. Oh, whatever. What am I going to do? This is my opinion. My opinion is that they stink!
John: Yes. Now, let’s bridge a little bit into the actual work that Mr. Bruzzese is doing. So, basically they are providing this advice and in the article says, “But you can ignore the advice at your peril, according to one production executive. In analyzing the script for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer…Vampire Hunter…”
So, this is the example they’re actual citing. It’s the only movie that I think they’re actually talking about by name. “The company worked on behalf of the film and the production company supplied 20th Century Fox with notes. The movie flopped. Mr. Bruzzese declined to comment.”
So, the one movie you’re going to hold up as like, “Oh, this is the movie we worked on,” was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer? Hunter. God, I keep saying Slayer.
Craig: I know. I like it.
John: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This is the movie that you’re going to hold up as like, “Oh, this is one we did notes for, and they didn’t take all our notes, and that’s why it flopped.” Really? Really? That’s why it flopped?
Craig: Well, now let’s get into this dude. So, can I just say first of all I kind of love some parts of him. So, first of all, I love that he’s Vinny Bruzzese because, you know, I’m from Staten Island and there’s a lot of Vinny Bruzzeses. And he seems like a cool guy actually in that regard.
I love that he drinks Diet Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper and smokes Camels all at the same time. I mean, the guy is cool. And I will also say this much about this guy: I love how totally upfront he is about how he’s trying to make money. And I have to say one of the things that drives me nuts about the cottage industry of these awful so-called script consultants — or people that Brooks Barnes bizarrely calls script doctors incorrectly — is that they’re always couching what they do in some sort of altruistic, artistic form.
And this guy is the opposite. And I love that he’s literally like, “Yeah, you know, basically I got into this to make money. And I really like making money. And I also am providing the service to studio executives so that they can cover their ass in case of a failure.” He literally says that.
John: He does actually say that. I do totally respect that.
Craig: I think that’s so great.
John: And so I will also defend him to some degree in the sense of using data to look at which movies should get made, because there is some value to that. And if you step back, studios have been doing this for a long time because there is actual Data-data that you can look at. You can look at what movies you’ve made. You can look at what movies have grossed. You can look at what dates you release them. You can look at what actors were in those movies and what other actors were in those movies with them.
There is a whole big giant set of data that you could look at that can be invaluable for determining, like, do I green light this movie? Do I not green light this movie? That is valid. And that is especially valid when you’re looking at, like, how will you be able to market this movie?
The challenge is that’s actually objective data. When you’re looking at a screenplay there’s almost nothing objective you can say in there. And one of the examples they cite quite early on in the article which I found just the best, and worst, and most telling was he talks about movies about demons and horror movies.
So, it says, “‘Demons in horror movies can target people or be summoned,’ Mr. Bruzzese said in a gravelly voice, by way of example. ‘If it’s a targeting demon, you are likely to have much higher opening-weekend sales than if it’s summoned. So get rid of that Ouija Board scene.’”
What is that? So, you’ve created a distinction between summoned demons and targeting demons, which I’ve never even considered. I don’t think any writer has really ever considered. You’re saying, “Well that’s the difference between why this movie does a certain amount of box office, and this one does a different kind of amount of box office.”
Craig: It’s ridiculous.
John: Yeah. So, with data, when you have enough data you can look for correlations and you don’t necessary need to say that that’s the cause of why this thing was what it was, but if you’re just making arbitrary distinctions you’re just cherry-picking little things in whatever movies were hits and whatever movies were not hits. And you’re using that to defend what really your decisions are. And that’s not actually using data. That’s just manipulating things.
Craig: Yeah. Let’s take the demon example, because it’s so bizarre. First of all, it’s pretty rare for marketing to specify whether someone has been targeted by a demon or has summoned a demon. So, right off the bat people don’t read the script for opening weekend. I’m not sure how anybody would know that for opening weekend.
But, let me give a counter example, and this is where this guy kind of, you know, look, you made your bed, let’s sleep in it. There’s a Ouija Board in The Exorcist. She uses a Ouija Board to talk to Captain Howdy. I’m pretty sure that’s in there. I’ll have to check and make sure, but either way there’s some kind of implication that she has summoned Captain Howdy. It’s just dumb.
Look, the thing about this guy is he’s not the villain here. What he’s really doing is basically hustling and giving notes on stuff. If his theory is that people like some things more than others…duh. Right? Okay?
Craig: If his theory is that, I don’t know, let’s go out on a limb here. I’m going to crunch some quick data here using my statistics program. In romantic comedies, people like it when the couple ends up together. Duh! Okay. We all know. We get it. We got it, okay? That’s called giving notes and that’s what studios always do. They’ve always done that. And we as writers have always tried to write towards an audience, but also sometimes challenge an audience, maybe turn things on their head a little bit.
The villain here are the people hiring this guy! Because it used to be — it used to be — that people in Hollywood who gave notes, while maybe not the smartest people all the time, had the courage of their convictions. That’s why they had a job. What the hell is their job if they’re hiring this guy to do exactly what they’re supposed to do? And the data doesn’t mean a damn thing. We all know that. The data…Fight Club.
Let me back up for a second. One thing that this kind of stuff will never account for are the Black Swans. You’re familiar with the whole Black Swan theory?
John: Absolutely. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I think, is his name.
Craig: I believe that’s correct.
John: And so his theory is that — a gross simplification of his theory — that there are going to be events or things that happen that are so outside of your expectation that you can consider them Black Swans. And those events you can’t fully prepare for but in a weird way you have to be ready for the fact that because you can’t prepare for them you have to prepare for them.
Craig: And also that when Black Swans occur they tend to have very large impacts, because the world is set up in such a way that we expect things. And when the unexpected happens it is either very, very good, or very, very bad.
In Hollywood, I think what we find is that there are a lot of Black Swans that in retrospect we look back as White Swans because so many White Swans follow them.
So, Star Wars is a Black Swan. Nobody thought Star Wars was going to work. Nobody. Fox literally let Lucas put his own money into it and gave him merchandising, because they didn’t — I mean, everybody thought the thing was going to be a disaster. And, frankly, based on the early screenplays and ideas it probably was going to be a disaster.
And, by the way, it may even be a Black Swan within the world of George Lucas. It may have been that Lucas just fluked himself into Star Wars and really Lucas is far more Howard the Duck than he is… — I don’t know. I mean, he did a good job on American Graffiti. But I guess the point is those are the things that make Hollywood Hollywood.
If you want to be in a business that follows various predictable patterns in order to grind out predictable income, what the hell are you doing in Hollywood anyway? The whole point is to chase things that are surprises. Isn’t that the point?
I mean, yeah, of course, you want to make Avengers, go for it, make Avengers. And when that works you can point to how it basically fit everybody’s expected pattern. Except take three steps back and then say, well then why didn’t the Hulk make all that money? And why didn’t the Bryan Singer Superman make all that money? And why didn’t, you know, they’re on their 12th iteration of Iron Man, it’s still working great, but when they hit the fourth Batman back in the ’90s it didn’t work great.
Nobody knows. And you can come up with all this nonsense, but the truth of the matter is what this guy is peddling is nothing special at all except comfort.
John: Yeah. He’s peddling comfort. I mean, he’s doing that retroactive pattern fitting to say, “This is the reason why these were successful, therefore we’re going to take this pattern and template and apply it to these future things. Oh, but never mind the things that don’t fit that template because those were flukes or we’re going to find somebody to explain why they do fit the pattern magically.”
What I will say is especially telling is that nowhere in this whole article does it talk about the quality of the actual product. And in a weird way I’d argue that the quality of the product is largely irrelevant to sort of how well it does. It’s not completely relevant, but it’s not the most important factor in how well it does. So, his notes and his opinion on what movies you make and how you make those movies is about the screenplay and it’s about sort of the actual movie you’re going to make.
But, the movie you made has very little impact on the actual opening weekend. The opening weekend is the biggest predictor of how much a movie is going to make. And nothing that they’re doing here is going to bump that needle for what that opening weekend is.
Craig: It’s right.
John: Your opening weekend is determined on somewhat the movie that you made, somewhat to a large degree the stars you have in it, to a huge degree the weekend that you’re choosing to open, the competition around that weekend.
So, all of these factors have nothing to do with this 20-page report that you pay $20,000 for. And it’s maddening to think that it’s going to all come down to these formulas.
Craig: I totally agree. And I have to say that his whole, that Brooks kind of skews this article and Bruzzese feeds into it, to suggest that the only people — the ONLY people that don’t like this are the writers. We’re the only ones.
I don’t care. Let me tell you something. If I’m working for somebody and they want to give this guy $20,000 to write up a bunch of notes, great. I’ll read them. If they’re good, I’ll do them. I have no problem with that. I mean, the fact that Mr. Bruzzese bills himself as a distant relative of Einstein, notwithstanding, if he writes good notes, terrific.
It’s just that what he’s trying to do is this game that I’ve been watching. He’s formalizing a game that I’ve been watching and experiencing for nearly twenty years now. And that is the game of, “My opinion is not an opinion; my opinion is a fact.” That’s the game people play.
When I’m sitting in a room with people and they’re like, “I think it should be like this.” Really? Because I think it should be like this. “No, no, no, it can’t be like this. It has to be like this because of this, this, and this. It’s a fact.”
No it’s not. Your opinion is not a fact. Nobody’s opinion about any screenplay is a fact. Ever. I can’t take it! That’s got to stop.
And all this guy is doing is dressing up opinion as fact so that these executives who don’t have either the courage of their convictions or convictions at all can present them to the writers as fact. But, look, if you can come up with all the pieces, do it! Go, spend another ten grand, maybe he can actually give you the demon movie that will do the best. But, until you can do that you have to acknowledge that there is an enormous ghost in the machine over which you have no control.
And, frankly, that’s what we do. So, I don’t mind that this guy is doing this. I applaud any hustler. I am so sad that people are lining up to play his three-card monte though. That is…oh god.
John: I wonder how many people are actually lining up to play his three-card monte, though. Because if you look at it, like no one else went on the record. No one else said that they were actually talking to him. So, my concern sort of from the journalistic perspective is it feels like a terrific press release for this guy. And in some ways selling the controversy is a way to sort of get more people talking about him and talking about this idea and this service that he’s providing when there may actually be nothing to it. There may not have even been sizzle before this article ran yesterday.
I don’t know. I mean, there’s a photo of them in a nice-looking office where he’s talking to some young woman who is a development executive there. Great, but I don’t know that there is anything to this at all.
Craig: We don’t even know that that’s his office.
Craig: [laughs] I don’t know where he is. But I just think, I mean, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not plugged in enough, but for instance it says, “Major film financiers and advisers like Houlihan Lokey confirm…,” who?
John: Who is Houlihan Lokey?
Craig: Houlihan Lokey doesn’t even sound like a real name. Is that a person or…?
John: It’s an amazing name, though. I love it.
Craig: It is a pretty good name, like Houlihan Lokey. Houlihan Lokey is like the old drunk in the saloon who ends up killing everyone because he’s still really, really good with a six-shooter.
John: Yeah. He’s notorious.
Craig: “Who did this? Houlihan Lokey! Ugh.”
I don’t know how that would be analyzed by Mr. Bruzzese’s spreadsheets, but all I can say is my reaction is not… — In the end he tries to, I love it when people do this, they try and basically pre-but you, you know, so in a rebuttal but a prebuttal he says, “All screenwriters think their babies are beautiful. I’m here to tell it like it is. Some babies are ugly.”
No shit. I mean, like do you really think that we’re all so stupid and narcissistic that we think that all of our scripts are beautiful? No. No!
Go ahead, ask how many screenwriters after their first draft, okay, you have a choice: you can get notes and we can work on this, or we will turn around and shoot this exactly the way it is and put you name on it and we can’t change a word. How many screenwriters are going to go, “Um, uh…”
John: Yeah. You want that chance.
Craig: Yeah, of course. Of course. So, no, we don’t think that all of our babies are beautiful. And, no, we don’t have a problem with notes and we don’t have a problem with anyone’s notes.
Compare this, by the way, to Lindsay Doran’s terrific talk about joy where she says, “Look, movies that end on joy really please audiences.” That’s a very dramatic statement. It is not specific. It doesn’t say, “You cannot summon demons.” You know why, because it is talking about an audience experience. It’s not talking about a story point.
She, unlike Mr. Bruzzese has made movies. She has actually sat and worked with writers. She understands how to talk to us. This guy understands how to talk to executives, who don’t make movies.
John: So, let’s talk about that specific example and Lindsay Doran’s perspective on it, and his perspective on it. He would come to saying like, “Well, the data says that moviegoers don’t like movies with summoned demons, they prefer the other kind of demon.” But he might have ten points of data. That’s not actually meaningful data.
John: So he’s only looking at correlation. Lindsay Doran can come to it with that same note, but she could say, “Here is why I think that’s not going to work, because in this situation it’s going to track through this way, and we as the audience feel this way about the characters at the end because of the nature of what happened with that demon situation.”
That is a meaningful note that you can actually think about and use and implement throughout your script. His saying like, “Don’t summon the demon, don’t use a Ouija Board,” that’s not…
Craig: Because it’s a fact. And by the way, all we’re doing now is just waiting for the movies that contradict those facts because that’s the business we’re in. We’re in the business of surprises and subversions of expectations. It’s constantly changing. There are movies that come out that don’t do any business in the theater at all and then in home video become phenomenon.
Look at Austin Powers. I think made $40 million in theaters and then was just enormous at home. Office Space. Nothing. Enormous at home.
Who knows? I have a movie coming out where we decapitate a giraffe, how does that work out on a spreadsheet?
And I’ve watch this with comedy testing all the time. Inevitably the highest testing joke is also the worst testing joke. But, you know, this is the same old snake oil as always, and shame on anyone who is so bad at their job — it’s your job. And you have to hire somebody else to do it for you? That’s embarrassing.
Craig: Why don’t you just quit at that point. Why don’t the people who employ you just fire you and hire this guy instead? What do we need you for, to write a check to this guy? Oh my god. This guy is fine. I love this guy. Good for him. Way to go, Vinny.
John: Let’s answer some questions.
Craig: You got it.
John: So, Jill writes in to ask, “A friend of mine wrote a pilot for a web series and decided to get some of our smarter writer friends together to punch it up. That’s when I realized I have no idea how to run a punch-up session. Can you give us some tips and tricks?”
So, Jill is talking about an informal punch-up session. Sometimes on a big movie, you and I have both been in these situations where it’s a WGA movie, and so therefore there are kind of rules about how you do it. So, you are bringing in people for a day, you’re paying them for a day, and you’re sitting around a table. We all sign these contracts saying that we know what we’re doing. And eventually we have to sign another form saying we’re not going to try and get credit on it.
That’s not what we’re talking about here. She’s just doing a little web series. So, let’s give some suggestions on the smaller version of what she should do.
Craig: Well, I have done these before. And the basic rule of thumb is if you’re running the session you should try and participate very little. Your job really is to kind of move people through the script. So, you’re sort of saying, “Okay, let’s just start,” usually you’ll say, “Here are some general areas where we’d love to punch up. Here is our kind of thing we’re looking for, some specific questions, but really more than anything, let’s just go through the script page-by-page and pitch out some thoughts as you have them. So, let’s just start. Let’s just start with page one. Anybody have any thoughts on page one?”
So, you can do a little preliminary “let’s just talk about the big issues,” if anybody has any big story issues, if you want. But then just go, page one, and then people start pitching and you’re like, great, great. And just be encouraging and you’ll find that some people are really good at it. Some people are terrible at it.
As the person running the session you have to kind of rescue and be kind to the people who are floundering because you don’t want to be mean. You don’t want the room to turn on somebody because they may have one joke that works, and it may be the best joke ever. So, you just don’t want to kill them. And just keep things going and keep things light. And just keep moving through pages.
You will find, inevitably, that most of what people have to pitch are on the first 30 pages or so. The last 20 pages everybody gets really quiet because they either stopped reading or it’s action and climax and it’s not joke time.
John: Yeah. I would say if you have the opportunity to do a reading of it right beforehand, that’s helpful, so it’s fresh in everyone’s head. Just read through what’s actually on the page so everyone agrees that they read the same thing together, that’s really helpful before you start flipping pages. You won’t always have that chance, but it’s great if you can do that.
I’d say provide plenty of food, a lot of carbs, to keep people going.
John: Pizza is always good. Be genuinely thankful for everyone who is there.
Inevitably in any group situation someone will probably kind of dominate the conversation, and maybe that’s a really good smart person who is actually really funny and that’s great, but if it’s the wrong person then you have to sort of do some judo to sort of get the other people talking a little bit more.
If you can get Nick Kroll to come to your punch-up session, he’s really good.
Craig: Nick’s funny, yeah.
John: So, that’s a good, funny thing, too. But have fun with it. And always ask the questions, like the what-if questions, and try and never shut down an idea because like, “Oh, that’s going to be impossible based on what everything else is.”
John: Don’t shut down now. Just sort of improve rules of like, “Yes, and?” And just keep rolling because even if it is not an idea that is implementable right then, right there, you may find a way the next day, like, “Oh, I know how to do that kind of thing,” or that sparks something that’s really good.
So, take notes for yourself about not even what they’re talking about right there but what it inspires for you.
Craig: Yeah. If you have a producing partner or somebody that’s there with you, don’t worry and think that they’re going to somehow think that you can do something you can’t do, and vice versa. For those of you who produce don’t think that this is the time to jump in and say that’s not possible.
The two of you, knowing the script and the situation better than anybody, will have the exact same reactions afterwards. “Okay, well, we can’t do that, we can’t do that, we can do this, we can do this. What about this? What about this?”
So, just keep it light. Keep it moving. Don’t freak out. And, also, just be aware that when there’s a ton of stuff that people are going to be like, “That is so funny,” and in your mind you’re like, “And will never be in this movie because it’s totally off-tone or it’s going to stop the movie dead.” That’s okay. Just keep that to yourself. That is, 95% of stuff that gets a room laugh in these things — unusable.
Craig: I can think of one guy in particular who is awesome at these things and I never once have gotten anything usable from him. [laughs] But he’s fun to have. And he keeps the room laughing which in and of itself has great value.
Craig: But, you will find some… — And you know, the fact is there will be all these little dramas that occur, usually little soap operas that happen at these things. People get jealous, they get weird, they get quiet, they get too talky. Sometimes they go after each other as part of like the comedy sport. Just, you know, you be mommy or daddy and just gently encourage everybody to stay on target.
John: Yeah. Next question. Matt in Orlando, Florida asks, “When you look at the pilot script for Modern Family you’ll notice the character introductions are done in list form directly under the title page before the actual script begins. It seems like a great way to save space, especially in a sitcom script where you have a lot of characters to introduce and a limited amount of time to do so. Is this common?”
The answer is, yes, it is common. That is a very standard sitcom format. And so I encourage all writers no matter what genres you’d like to work in to take a look at the different formats for how things are done. And in sitcoms, yes, it’s common to do that kind of character introduction, a page of these are the characters who are the regulars and these are characters who are unique to this show. And that’s a standard way of showing stuff in sitcom land.
Even a single camera comedy like Modern Family will often do this.
Craig: I take your word for it.
John: Yeah. But don’t do it in a screenplay.
John: No one ever wants to see that in a screenplay. Don’t ever…don’t do that.
John: So, it’s a sitcom thing. And that’s why it’s important that if you’re writing a spec episode of Modern Family, which is probably not the right one to do because that’s an older show, but if you’re writing a spec episode of whatever great new sitcom, find an episode that’s a common — actually just mimic their formatting exactly because that’s what people want to see, that you know what you’re doing.
Craig: I’m sorry, I just have to interrupt because I just remembered one thing also that makes me angry about Brooks Barnes. [laughs]
Craig: Can I say it? God, so, in the beginning of his article he makes this really weird analogy to what Vinny Bruzzese is doing to what Facebook and Netflix do by analyzing the way people use their websites. They’re so not analogous…
John: [laughs] Not even remotely.
Craig: …in any way, shape, or form. They have nothing to do with each other. It’s just a totally different business, purpose, and point. Brooks needs to stop writing about Hollywood. Okay, sorry. Back to the questions.
I get nuts. I get nuts!
John: I know. I mean, it could have been the whole episode but it came up very late and so I thought we’d…
Craig: I know. We have so much to today. It’s a very busy show.
John: Heather in Dahlonega, Georgia writes, “Can you tell me why so many movies starting big names are going straight to DVD? I recently watched one on Netflix streaming called Fire with Fire starring Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Josh Duhamel, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Julian McMahon, and Red Lights with Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, and Robert De Niro.
“In the past a cast like this would garner a theatrical release, or if the movie just wasn’t good enough the actors wouldn’t have signed onto it in the first place. What’s going on with these movies?”
Craig: Ah-ha! Typically when a movie ends up going direct to video like that, and Netflix, however you want to describe direct-to-video these days, it is because the movie just didn’t turn out very well. Actors sign up for movies because they think the movie will be good. Sometimes, though, that just doesn’t happen. You know? Sometimes the movie doesn’t come out well.
And basically if it’s an independent movie — and these are almost always the case — if there is independent financing the idea is “let’s find a distributor.” And nobody wants to distribute it because distribution comes with great costs. There’s typically the cost of marketing, the number one, plus also making the prints, putting it in theaters and so forth.
And if they can’t find enough theaters interested and they can’t justify the marketing budget based on what they perceive to be the interest in the film based on test screenings and so forth, they have no choice. They have to cut their losses while they can.
John: Absolutely. So, back in the day when Variety was a print publication I would get, I always loved once or twice a year AFM would come up, and AFM — American Film Market — and, I guess, maybe it was twice a year. I always got confused about it. But, there would be this thing out in Santa Monica where these foreign distributors and foreign filmmakers would come in and they’d show the packages of movies that they were going to get made.
And so in Variety they would have these mockup one sheets of all these movies. And it was like you’d never heard of these movies. And sometimes they were movies that were going to go into production, sometimes they were movies that were already done. You’re like, “Really? This movie exists in some way?”
And that’s sort of what some of these things are. Like I suspect Fire with Fire was that situation where someone raised the money to make this movie, foreign financing/other financing, they were able to make this movie with the hopes of selling it to a major distributor because it was going to be so good and everyone was going to love it. And often that just didn’t happen.
I’ll also say that, you look at Nicholas Cage as sort of the classic example of this, like who’s in a lot of movies, and you can’t believe he’s in so many movies. Some of those actors, they’re meaningful overseas in ways that they’re not meaningful here. And so even if it doesn’t have a theatrical release in the US, it may have a theatrical release overseas.
John: Or home video may be enough overseas that it is worth it to make the movie with them.
Craig: I think that’s what — I remember the same thing at the same time, flipping through Variety as a twenty-something and going, “What is this AFM and what are these movies?” I remember the one that made me laugh the most was, it was shortly after RoboCop, somebody made a movie called Cyborg Cop. This is obviously just RoboCop. But it was like a flea market of movies, and that’s exactly what was going on.
Basically they were selling them to foreign distributors and then here in the US they would either get no distribution or direct-to-video. So, that’s what’s going on there.
John: That’s fine. And, you could say like, “Well, why would anybody be in these movies?” Well, they got paid to be in the movie. It may be the kind of role that they really wanted to try to do. And sometimes those movies are giant, great, big hits.
And so things like the Jason Statham movies, like The Transporter, that was probably that kind of movie and it actually took off well enough that it sort of established him as a bit of a star. So, sometimes those movies that seem like they come from a major distributor, they really were pickups and they were bought by some distributor here and it always seemed like they were a Columbia movie but they weren’t.
John: Let’s look at some Three Page Challenges. So, while we open these up I will give you sort of the backstory on these. If you are new to the podcast, every couple weeks we invite listeners to send in the first three pages of their screenplay and Craig and I will read it, and take a look at it, and share it on the podcast so people can listen to our critiques but also read the pages themselves and see if they agree with what we said.
If you have a screenplay that you want us to take a look at the first three pages, and only the first three pages, you can send it to us at the website. The link for it is johnaugust.com/threepage, all spelled out, and we will maybe take a look at it.
Stuart reads through all of them, all the ones who come in with the proper boilerplate language on it. And Craig and I get a small sampling of them. And Stuart sent us three today. Which of the three should we start with?
Craig: You know, I’m just ready to do any of them. And if you want me to summarize one, let me know. You know, I’m back to being your apprentice. Dad’s back.
John: [laughs] Let’s start with Sue Morris’s script. We don’t have a title for this. I can do the summary on this one if you want to do the next one.
John: So, we start, we fade in on the nib of a quill pen, it’s moving in small, neat strokes on the paper. And there’s a super with text over it. We are in England, Christmas, 1126. So, we see a young woman giving birth. She has given birth to a baby girl. Next, we see at the Palace of Westminster we see two, we see Sir Thomas and Sir John, both knights, talking about the fact that she’s just given birth to a daughter and that daughters can still be useful.
Next scene we meet King Henry in his late 50s. He says that, “It has been six years since the death of our beloved son and heir, William, in that great tragedy which took the lives of so many sons and daughters.” He says that the next heir will be his daughter, Matilda, will be his successor.
Actually, no, “My daughter Matilda, widow of the Holy Roman Emperor, will be my successor, to rule over the lands on both sides of the sea.”
Some raised eyebrows but no one questions it. So, there’s obviously some sort of court intrigue happening there. More discussion, as we wrap up page three, more discussion about sort of what this means, and then we jump forward at the end of page three to a hunting lodge near Normandy and the king has died. And that’s where we’re at at the bottom of page three.
John: Yeah. Craig Mazin, talk to me about these pages.
Craig: I feel like I’ve read this kind of thing many, many times. I’ve seen a lot of spec scripts that are medieval dramas. More than you would imagine, actually. There’s quite a few of them out there.
This scene where the child is born I feel literally like it just gets repeated over, and over, and over. There is always the woman on the straw mattress and there is always the screaming and the blood and there’s always the midwife. I guess that’s how children were born back then. And no one ever wants a daughter; everybody always wants a son.
I got a little confused by the fact that King Henry is the king, but there was a boy who was the Holy Roman Emperor. Maybe I just don’t know the difference between the two, but I thought that once Charlemagne became the Holy Roman Emperor he was the king? I don’t know. I guess it’s two different things.
I didn’t really love the fact that we cut away from this to show the drowning. It just seemed a little strange.
Craig: To have a flashback there on page two of a character we’ve never met. It felt very TV. And maybe this is TV. I don’t know. It feels very TV to me.
And then there’s just like sort of generally generic court murmuring. “So the King’s nephew precedes the King’s bastard.”
“You should know our man by now. Always determined to be the first.” You know, like political intrigue and stuff. It’s all fine, I mean, it’s written fine. I have no problem with the writing. I just feel like hopefully something crazy happens after this because otherwise, you know, been there.
John: Yeah. I was lacking point of view on this. I didn’t see what was going to be special about this versus The Tudors or sort of every other kind of big medieval drama. And, so, let’s start from the very top.
We see this quill pen writing. Okay, that’s a little cliché, but fine; quill pens can write, that’s great. But then there is a super. It’s listed as a super, but I can’t believe anyone would read this much onscreen. Here’s the text of the super: ‘If on the death of a baron or other of my men a surviving daughter is the heir, I will give her [in marriage] with her land following the advice of my barons.’ Clause in the coronation charter of Henry I, King of England and Duke of Normandy, 1100 AD.
That’s a lot to throw at me to read. And it’s not especially clear writing. That’s a hard, hard sentence to pierce. So, that’s throwing up a bit of a wall to me at the start.
Then we get to the actual birth stuff, and while it’s a kind of cliché scene I thought it was actually nicely written. Those are nice short lines breaking the action down.
Craig: Yes. I agree.
John: Two paragraph little chunks. I get it. I love it.
When we get to the Palace of Westminster we meet Sir Thomas and Sir John. Sir Thomas I’m told is in his early 20s. Sir John I get no information about. And if you’re just going to call them Sir Thomas and Sir John I have no way of really keeping them apart or separate. So, why am I watching these two people and what’s really going on?
I also got confused because, here’s the description of Sir Thomas and sort of what he’s doing:
Bright, cold sunlight. Leather boots crunch on frosted grass as SIR THOMAS (early 20s) strides across to meet the newly arrived MESSENGER dismounting from his horse. They confer briefly, breath condensing in the chill air.
Sir Thomas spins on his heel and strides back, towards a fellow knight, SIR JOHN. Sir Thomas says, “Another daughter.”
What was weird to me is like I think we were supposed to be in a really wide shot so therefore we weren’t hearing what the messenger was saying, but if you’re going to have people confer and we don’t hear it, kind of say that we don’t hear it, because otherwise that dialogue we’re going to assume is somehow between the people who — I just confused where we were at in the scene and whether that messenger was still there.
Craig: Let me also mention: a knight doesn’t walk across the lawn to go talk to a messenger; the messenger walks across the lawn to him. Much more interesting. I mean, these things are all about power, and rank, and privilege, and all the rest of it, so much more interesting to follow some exhausted courier to walk over to a guy and whisper something in his ear.
John: Exactly. So, if you’re going to have a similar situation, if you keep Sir Thomas on his horse or whatever, the messenger comes over with him, and then they pull back to reveal that Sir John is watching this from a distance and not able to hear what’s going on. That may be more interesting. That, again, suggests some cinematography here that’s happening.
With King Henry on page two, “King Henry may not be the largest man there, but by God he owns this place, and the assembled BARONS, the great Anglo-Norman nobles, all feel it.” Wow. That’s a lot. That’s a lot of clauses to throw at me.
John: And so, “He’s not the largest man there,” but he is the King. It was just a weird sentence to me. It didn’t help me understand the power dynamic of that moment as much as it probably could.
Craig: And it is, I mean, “But by God, he owns this place, and the assembled BARONS,” so he owns them too. “The great Anglo-Norman nobles all feel it.” Oh, I see what’s she’s saying. You know, that’s that kind of tortured writing, the tortured sentence structure.
Also, his first line, I don’t, “My lords, it is time.” Eh.
John: Eh. Yeah. It’s cliché.
So, here’s a problem with those clauses there. “But by God he owns this place, and the assembled BARONS, the great Anglo-Norman nobles all feel lit.” The “and the assembled barons,” does he own the barons? He owns this place and the barons? What? Huh?
So, it could read either way. It’s actually sort of interesting both ways. It’s actually probably more interesting if he believes he owns the barons.
John: And then I agree with you, there’s a flashback on page two which is like, oh my god, I don’t know who anybody is and we’re already getting a flashback to somebody who dies and therefore is not going to be part of our show. So, that’s…
Craig: We just don’t care.
John: These are all issues. And then we jump again at the end of page three and at that point we may be ready to actually start the story and so that jump may feel great if we hadn’t jumped around in time on page two.
Craig: And if the idea here is that these two guys, Stephen, late 20s, the golden boy of Henry’s court, and Robert, Earl of Gloucester, a decade older than Stephen, are going to be competing with each other for the favor of this newly minted widowed queen, I’m suspecting as much.
Then, that’s the perspective we want to play here. That’s what we want to do. And it certainly can’t be manifested by a weird shoulder scuffle fight. “A few moments of shoulder-barging and scuffling between the two men. They glare at each other.” That just seems comedic. And I don’t think that this is supposed to be comedic. I mean, that’s just funny to me in a bad way.
John: Yeah. I would say I hadn’t guessed that Stephen and Robert would be the focus of things. If they are the focus of things I want to see them on page one or page two, rather than page three. And, honestly, we could get them there just by cutting out some stuff that I didn’t think we needed in page one or page two.
Craig: Agreed. Not bad, Sue. Not bad.
John: Not bad at all. And, you know, everything on there was nicely written. I didn’t have any sort of issues with sort of how you were describing things on the page. It felt professional. It just felt like something I had seen before too much.
John: Next let’s do Robin Peters. The Gaffer. Do you want to do the summary here?
Craig: Sure. Okay, so we begin at a fancy restaurant, and we’re in England, where Simon page, in his 20s, is proposing to his girlfriend, Trudy, and he’s given her a small diamond ring. And she doesn’t feel that it’s big enough and basically says I can’t, “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with a market trader.” So, she’s unhappy with his status in life.
Next, we’re in Simon’s office, sort of, and someone is congratulating him and they don’t even know his name.
Now we’re in a park and she’s very happy because I guess she’s heard that he’s gotten a promotion but he tells her the catch is it’s in Texas. So, he’s been promoted but he has to go to Texas. And she basically says, “I’m leaving you because that’s not good enough.” She hands him his ring back. He begs for her to come back. She does not. And he chucks the ring away, hitting a duck.
John: So, my first concern here is specificity. And that’s a word we use too much on the podcast, but I think it’s actually really important for here.
We start, “EXT. NORTHERN ENGLISH CITY — NIGHT.” Uh, just tell us the city.
Craig: Right. Manchester takes fewer letters than Northern English City.
John: “Lights flicker against the night sky.” Yeah, but maybe you could think of something more specific. Maybe you could just paint our world a little bit more specifically because I have a hard time clicking in because I just don’t feel like you know what these things are. And I lack confidence because you don’t seem confident in your choices here so far.
We’re “INT. FANCY RESTAURANT.” Okay. I mean, if you don’t want to give the name of the restaurant, that’s great, but just paint our world a little bit in that first line here.
Simon and Trudy, okay, proposals are an interesting thing, or diamond rings are a thing we’ve seen a lot at the start of things, but it’s a natural way to start something, but that scene never really quite clicked. I wasn’t sure at the end of that first scene how I was supposed to feel about things.
Then we jump to the next “OPEN PLAN OFFICE,” again, really generic, before we start this next thing. Every place we go to is just the most basic description of what it could possibly be. And I just don’t feel — I never click in because I don’t know what I’m supposed to be looking for.
Craig: Yeah. Well, this is a comedy. And I don’t know if Robin is English or not, but it certainly reads English. The problem is that it’s not very funny. And it’s not very funny, I think, in part because the characters are so broadly and thinly drawn.
You’re absolutely right about all the specificity. And there’s also a kind of TV-ish quality to it, for instance, starting with the first line of dialogue on an establishing shot that’s rather boring, and then coming inside and moving through diners. You might as well have a waiter carrying a tray through. It’s all very kind of cliché and generic.
Bu the biggest issue is, if I can summarize, Simon is basically a schmo and Trudy is a gold-digger, mean lady. I don’t know why these two are together at all. I don’t believe, frankly, that they are together. I don’t believe that anybody talks like Simon. When she finally breaks up with him, because she doesn’t want to go to Texas, he keeps begging after her and I hate him for it. And she’s acting in a way that’s just sort of broadly sociopathic in a mean girl way which I kind of just don’t believe.
I’ll give Robin credit for getting the plot out on page two. Englishman is going to be a fish out of water in Texas, I presume. That’s fine, but I don’t know anything about his job. I don’t really know why market trader is better or worse than “junior” — “They could use a junior in Texas.” I’m not sure what that means.
His office was very odd. Talk about generic: INT. OPEN PLAN OFFICE — DAY. Simon exits a room into a gleaming corporate open plan office, reeking of wealth. A SUIT comes up to him.
Well, let’s count the genericisms here: Open plan office. Room. Reeking of Wealth — gold? A suit. I don’t understand what’s happening. Frankly, this would be a much more interesting scene if it were one scene and it started with a guy proposing to a woman and she was super happy because he was giving her everything she wanted and he’s telling her that he knows that she was waiting for this promotion because she knows, I mean, explain it in terms that women — so women watching this don’t feel like you hate women. She really wanted to make sure that she was supported and secure in her life because of how she grew up, whatever it is. And he says, “But the only thing is we’re…” And as part of the surprise, because he knows this is the big pitch. It’s not the ring is the big pitch. The big pitch is, “Texas.”
And off of her face the next shot you see is him at the airport alone. And, you know, the airport lady is like, “And you are traveling alone?” “Yup.”
Just there’s so much… — Be more interesting about this. This is just not interesting to me.
John: Well, also what you described in that take of a scene is you were giving a moment where he could actually be funny.
John: Because none of these scenes that he’s actually funny now does he have the capability of really being funny, because he’s just reacting to other people.
John: And so in either his trying to sell this idea to her, what’s his motivation? What is he attempting to do? And you need to give him something to attempt to do. So, either he’s attempting to get her on board with this idea of moving to Texas, or, alternately, we can see that whatever that room he came out of, well what happened in that room? Was he like making a pitch for himself and trying to stand up for himself about why he should get a promotion, and then he gets Texas out of it, which is not what he wanted, but it’s something new — that’s a moment where you can see him actually driving something.
I would also back up one step, because when I talk about sort of Northern English City, you know, working on a musical for the last 10 weeks I’m very keenly aware of you kind of need the “This is our world” song before you get to the “I want” song. And I didn’t get either of those so far.
And it’s fine, if the first three pages were really just like a “This is our world” song, that’s great. And you can setup this is the nature of the universe that we’re in. That can be wonderful.
And then by letting us see that guy in his world, then we can see the decision of what is it he wants. What is it he’s trying to do? And I wasn’t — none of those gears were sort of clicking in on these first three pages for me.
Craig: Yeah. Agreed. If it is, in fact, going to turn into a fish out of water comedy, we do need to see the fish in water. And we need to know what that means. And it can’t just be simply one shot of him at a park, which we describe as “Park,” kicking a stone around like a football, and then mentioning a local fast food joint. It’s just not enough.
Yeah. I think that this needs a little bit more remedial work and study to make… — And you’ve got to be careful about these jokes like, she says, “I don’t mean to be heartless, but I can’t spend the rest of my life with a market trader, can I?”
“Yeah, of course. Sorry, which bit of that wasn’t heartless?”
Well, okay, if you know it’s heartless, why are you still there? She’s heartless. What is going on here? And the issue with this, yes, we know people in real life who are pathetic doormats, but we don’t root for them in movies. We need to see some spark of something with this guy.
Craig: That’s why so typically people will find if the movie starts with a breakup they find their mate in bed with someone else because we understand that they were deceived. But this guy — she is such an open book, I really hate this guy for not getting it.
Craig: All right.
John: All right, our final Three Page Challenge of the day comes from Kevin Pinkerton.
John: It’s called The Morning Briefing. And I will attempt to give a summary here.
So, we start on the Pentagon Basement Corridor.
Craig: Wait, did you say Pentag-AN.
Craig: Pentagon. You said Pentigan.
John: I did say Pentagan. That doesn’t make any sense at all. I rhymed it with Alyson Hannigan and Bennigan’s.
Craig: [laughs] Bennigan’s. Exactly. Or it’s like Houlihan O’Reilly, or that guy, one of the biggest financiers in Hollywood? What was his name? Houlihan Lokey or something?
John: Yeah, something like that.
Craig: That’s great. Pentagan!
John: So, we’re at the Pentagon Basement Corridor, and the president is walking next to a Special Forces Sergeant. They’re appearing and disappearing into pools of light. The president wipes his forehead with a red, white, and blue handkerchief.
They come to an unmarked door. The president says, “Let’s get this over with.”
Inside is a chamber. It’s sort of dark and ominous inside. And, in fact, on a low circular dais is a creature, a giant creature — looks like it’s made of rotted meat in over-muscled humanoid form. There are also children on bleachers who are chained there watching, and terrified.
The president expects this creature to be there, and the president says, “Begin.” The creature gives the president advice about what’s happening in the future. And so tells him to, “Deploy the ships to Bosporus. Acquiescence is certain.”
The president asks about press reaction. So, basically this monstrous creature is an advisor who has some ability to see into the future. And so at the end the president thanks him to some degree, but also says, the creature is hungry, and the president agrees, okay, well, you can eat the children. And then the president leaves and we hear in the background the sounds of the children being eaten by this monstrous creature.
Craig: I love this.
John: I loved it, too.
Craig: I loved it.
John: And let’s talk about reasons why we love this.
Craig: Yeah, well, I mean, first of all, just from a craft point of view, it’s really well written. At first I was nervous because on the first page it seems like, oh no, this is just a bad version of a Roland Emmerich movie, because they’re doing that thing where they walk down the hall, “lit overhead by a row of dim bulbs.” And I’m like, dim bulbs?
He’s got a red, white, and blue handkerchief which feels like…
John: Yeah. I flagged that, too. I was like, oh, no, no, no, that’s cheesy, but then I was like, no, it’s deliberately cheesy.
Craig: Deliberate, exactly. It’s deliberate, which is great, because it’s a choice, and it’s a smart choice given what we’re about to see. And then we go into this room, and again, I’ve seen this room in the basement of the White House before, so everything just feels like, oh god, I’ve seen it…and then there’s like an alien there. Oh no, but then there’s these kids. And I’m like, well, what the hell is that about?
A dozen children, and I love how unapologetic Kevin is here — he doesn’t pull a punch at all. “a DOZEN CHILDREN, ages five to seven,” [laughs], the cutest age, “wide-eyed and weeping in horror at the thing before them, as they sit gagged and chained to their seats.” Brilliant. I love how audacious this guy is.
And then the president snaps his finger at the creature and one word, “Begin.” So, you know, here’s just so you guys playing at home, the home game, what I love about this line, it’s the first line of dialogue, or rather the second line, and it is, “Begin.” And what that line tells us is this has happened before. In fact, this is so frequent that the president is actually annoyed. It’s like, “I don’t have time, let’s go, begin.”
That is such a great tonal shift, because we’ve been set up to believe that this is like so horrifying, like the way in Independence Day they visit that alien that they’ve captured and it’s like so super serious. This guy is like, “Begin, let’s go.”
And the creature delivers these predictions. And the funny thing about the predictions, even though it’s not done funny funny, is that they’re so mundane. “Press reaction?”
“Acceptable.” [laughs] It made me laugh. “On the crux of the Senate standoff, the weak vote…” The creature is like a Beltway insider at this point, which is so great. He even gives a weather prediction.
John: Yeah, so the creature says, “Thunderstorms in the D.C. Metro area. Hail.”
John: “But I’ve scheduled a speech.”
“I have seen the storm. It is already cut on the lathe of time. What more? Enough.”
Craig: On the lathe of time! I know. The creature is like, “Get out, I’ve given you…stop questioning me.” And the president is trying to figure out exactly, like his concern isn’t about the world, or any of that stuff, his issue is he’s got a speech and it’s supposed to hail. [laughs] It’s like, “Are you telling me? I just want to be clear.” And then he’s like, “Back to the Russians.”
“I just want to be clue, the carriers, the Russians won’t be –”
And the president is like, “Eh.”
John: So, let’s talk, I do have a little bit of some criticisms here. On page one, “THE PRESIDENT walks beside a SPECIAL FORCES SERGEANT.” Well, how are we going to know he’s the president? We’re not necessarily going to know he’s the president. So, you’re telling us he’s the president. I’m not sure we’re going to necessarily get that originally. And it’s very important that we know that he’s the president.
So, you may want to throw in a, “Mr. President,” like he comes out of the elevator, “Mr. President,” just let us know. Because it’s much funnier if we know from the first frame that he’s the president.
John: The overall more general concern: this was a tremendous little sketch, a little moment. There’s nothing there that leads me to believe that this is a good sustainable idea over the course of a full-length movie, but I kind of don’t care, because I’ve enjoyed reading these three pages so much that I want to read the next pages.
And that’s, there’s a lot to be said for that. Kevin had a perspective, and a voice, and it was enjoyable to read. And these are — it felt confident. And, god, just give me some confidence…
John: …and I will just keep reading.
Craig: Such a great point. I mean, he is totally in control of this. And he is unapologetic, and specific, and frankly, there’s just a lot of craft. I really like the way the dialogue flows. There’s a great rhythm to it. And we cannot teach that to anybody. There’s just a really smart rhythm to it. I can tell you that Kevin is a funny guy. He’s a very funny writer. I thought it was really good.
And I think, if I were to predict what this kind of movie is, it feels a little bit like those early — you ever see the early Peter Jackson.
John: Oh yeah, early Peter Jackson.
Craig: Just like over-the-top comedy/horror/grotesque/funny, obviously satirical. I think it’s really cool. And I think Kevin did a great job.
John: I think so, too. It reminds me of sort of mid-era Whedon or sort of like the Buffy and Angel sort of at their peak. This would be like the cold teaser opening to something and you’d meet, like the new villain of the season would be the president and he would have this monster. And that would be the villain for the season, or half the season.
It felt great and solid that way.
Craig: Yeah, very cool.
John: Nicely done, Kevin. And nicely done, Stuart, for picking that sample for us.
John: It’s so nice to leave on a high note.
Craig: On a high note. Left on a high note. Well, well done Kevin Pinkerton.
John: I have a Cool Thing this week. My Cool Thing is actually, this is going to sound really self-indulgent, but it’s a book that I’m featured in. It’s a book called The FilmCraft Book of Screenwriting. And, as we’ve talked about on the show, I don’t like most books on screenwriting. And what’s nice about this book is it’s just a bunch of interviews with a bunch of screenwriters. And so there’s me, there’s Billy Ray, there’s Whit Stillman, there’s Mark Baumbach, Guillermo Arriaga.
It’s a really nicely put together, really pretty, pretty book that this British publisher put together. It’s $20 and it’s actually kind of great. And so I have an interview in there where I’m talking about sort of different movies I’ve worked on and sort of process, but everyone else is really fascinating and great, too.
And so if you’re looking for a book on screenwriting, or want to give a gift of a book on screenwriting, I think it’s actually a really well put together book. So, edited and written together by Tim Grierson. And there will be a link to that in the show notes.
John: Oh, I also have to say, it also has the most misleading cover in the history of any book you’ve ever seen. So, the cover is Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in Bed from Benjamin Button. And it’s this incredibly sexy shot. And it says Screenwriting over the top of it. [laughs] It’s like there is nothing sexy at all about screenwriting.
And so this was waiting for me when I got back from Chicago. I opened the envelope and I’m like, what the hell is this? And I had no idea that I was featured in it. Then I found it inside and it was good.
Craig: Nice. I’m cool-less this week. But it’s such a big podcast.
John: It was a big podcast.
Craig: Maybe my Cool Thing this week is Vinny Bruzzese.
John: It’s a great name.
Craig: Vinny. I love…Vinny is like, “You know what? I’m busy. I’m smoking. I love Diet Dr. Pepper, but sometimes I also like Diet Coke.”
John: Yeah. Mix them together it’s good.
Craig: Boom. “Open, hey, genie, I want both. Give me both. Open them both! And Camels.”
I don’t know why I imagine Vinny yelling at genie.
John: Because he probably does.
Craig: He might.
John: He might.
Craig: But he may be a very soft-spoken guy. The point is, I love him. I love this guy.
John: I love him, too.
Craig: He’s cool.
John: All right. Craig, thank you for another fun podcast. If you have questions about anything we’ve talked about, including how to submit Three Page Challenge samples, or this book I just hyped, or any of the Three Page entries that we talked about today, you can find them all at johnaugust.com/podcast.
This was Episode 88, but there’s 87 episodes before this if you want to go back through and look at them.
If you are not subscribing to us in iTunes you probably should, because that way we know that you’re subscribing in iTunes and other people can find us. So, look us up on iTunes at Scriptnotes.
And we will be back next week. And next week I think we’re going to have exciting news about our 100th episode live show.
Craig: Very excited.
John: Which could be very exciting, because we got a great email today. So, I think that could work out nicely.
Craig: It could. Could!
John: Craig, thank you so much.
Craig: Thank you, John. And welcome home.
John: Thank you.
- Turning the Page: Storytelling in the Digital Age at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater
- Solving Equation of a Hit Film Script, With Data by Brooks Barnes
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Black swan theory on Wikipedia
- Screenwriting.io on multicamera script format
- Three Pages by Sue Morris
- Three Pages by Robin Peters
- Three Pages by Kevin Pinkerton
- FilmCraft Screenwriting by Tim Grierson on Amazon
- OUTRO: Thompson Twins’ Doctor Doctor covered by Danny McEvoy