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 93 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

How are you Craig?

Craig: I’m good. I like it when you say 93. You can feel the pressure of the countdown.

John: It’s very exciting. We’re approaching our 100th episode. And we will have news later on in this very episode of the podcast about where and when and how the 100th episode is going to happen, but another live episode that we’re going to be doing later this very month.

Craig: Yeah.

John: But first there was actually some news this week, so I thought we would talk about the actual news that happened this week, because people kept tweeting me things about like, “Hey, are you going to talk about this?” And I said yes.

Craig: It’s funny. We get tweets now anytime anything happens vaguely related to screenwriting. I get 14 million tweets.

John: Yes.

Craig: “You should talk about this.”

John: “What is your opinion?”

Craig: And every tweet always begins, “You’re probably getting a lot of tweets about this, but…” Yes. Yes I am.

John: You know, you can actually check a person’s timeline and then you would see that. But, eh, it’s fine. I don’t mind. It’s fine.

Craig: Eh.

John: To completely sidetrack at the very start of our conversation, really the wonderful thing about Twitter which someone pointed out to me is that you never have to open a message on Twitter. The message that you see is just the message. So, you can scroll through and see the whole thing. It’s not like an email that you have to open and it’s like, oh, I don’t want to open an email.

It’s just the whole thing. That’s the genius of Twitter.

Craig: Yes. It’s true. We’re basically short-handing our experience of life down to “I’m awake. I just experienced something with no effort. Now I’m asleep.” [laughs]

John: Yeah. I find that if there’s any sort of real event happening in the world, my instinct is not to turn on the TV but to go to Twitter and just do a search for what that is.

Craig: It’s so true, granted that is a huge sidetrack, but isn’t that the fun of it all?

John: Yeah.

Craig: So, I’m watching baseball the other day, as I’m wont to do. And as Asdrúbal Cabrera — by the way, sidetrack to the sidetrack: baseball names have become awesome.

John: That’s a good name.

Craig: In large part because of all the players coming from the Dominican Republic and from Cuba. For whatever reason folks in the Dominican Republic and in Cuba use these really — I mean, a lot of them just have crazy, kooky, funny names that aren’t even like traditional. They’ve just been inventing names. And Asdrúbal, I can’t imagine that that’s popular, but Asdrúbal Cabrera was running a ground ball out or a single out to first and just suddenly stopped and collapsed over. And something terrible had happened to his leg.

And I’m sitting there trying to figure out what happened. Was it his knee? Was it his hamstring? Was it his quad? How bad is it? You know what? I think I’ll just jump on Twitter. Ten seconds after it happens there’s like a thousand tweets. And the first wave of tweets are, “Oh, no, a thing happened.” The second wave of tweets about a minute later are, “Oh, no, a thing happened. This is what I think happened.”

And then a third wave, maybe a minute later, the criticisms: “Doesn’t Asdrúbal Cabrera stretch?” It’s like, god, God! [laughs] The guy is still writhing in pain and they’ve already managed to do an entire week of news cycle in a minute.

John: Yeah. The media cycle has shrunk down to about 140 characters.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And once it cycles through once, because once someone has actually put out a tweet about something, well they can’t put out the same tweet. They have to have a new opinion. So, therefore, they cycle out a new opinion and therefore it goes through really quickly.

I do find that something will happen in the news that I’ll want to comment on, but I’ll have to sort of go though my timeline first just to make sure that not everyone has already said that thing. Because I don’t want to be the “me too” guy on that.

Craig: You’re absolutely right.

John: Sometimes you’ll think of like the absolute best possible joke for something, and then you realize that someone said that about three minutes ago. And even if they hadn’t said it, you get the sense that, “Yeah, someone’s going to have already said that. You’re three minutes too late for that.”

Craig: Oddly, this sidetrack is a pretty decent segue into the news that we’re going to discuss.

John: Which is absolutely true, because other than Twitter who else reflects our modern fixation on the present tense and on personality than Nikki Finke.

And so this week Nikki Finke is apparently — I’m overstating this week — this week Sharon Waxman, who is the editor of this publication called The Wrap, which is another online publication, on June 2 put out the headline, “Shocker: Jay Penske Fires Nikki Finke from Deadline Hollywood, Sources Say.” That was the headline.

And at this point we should probably sidebar and talk about who these people are because it’s very possible that if you’re listening to this podcast in Australia or someplace you’ll have no idea who we’re talking about. So, should I give the backstory? Do you want to give the backstory of who these people are and why it matters at all?

Craig: Well, I mean, there’s not that much backstory except that Sharon Waxman used to be a reporter, I think, for the New York Times and other things. And then she started The Wrap which is an online — basically an online publication reporting on the entertainment industry the way that Variety and Hollywood Reporter used to do solely, that is to say an industry publication, a trade publication.

But it was a Johnny-come-lately because Deadline was there first. That was and continues — at least theoretically — to be run by Nikki Finke, a longtime entertainment journalist who used to write something called Deadline Hollywood for LA Weekly, which was an old school print publication. She then started Deadline. Jay Penske is a rich dude who bought Deadline and then also bought Variety.

John: Yes.

Craig: And that’s where the fun part begins because Nikki Finke loathes Variety, she loathes the Hollywood Reporter, she loathes Sharon Waxman, she loathes The Wrap. She loathes everybody that’s in the business she’s in that’s not her. And this immediately put her into a weird position with Jay Penske in part because, some surmised, she wanted to run Variety because of course sometimes we secretly love and lust after the things we profess to loathe.

John: Yes.

Craig: So, how is that for backstory?

John: That’s a fantastic backstory. Thank you for filling us in.

Craig: Sure.

John: So, there are many fascinating elements to this story. First off is Nikki Finke herself, or at least our perception of who Nikki Finke is, because while she has a tremendous presence online through her blog and tweets and things, she is reclusive and no one actually sees her. And she’s famously protective of her privacy.

And so there’s this sort of cult of personality that is somewhat built by her and somewhat projected upon her by everybody else, which is fascinating. So, I think that’s a thing worth discussing because she as a character independently is really interesting. And there’s a reason why there was an attempt to make an HBO series that was not based on her but sort of inspired by that kind of figure because she’s actually genuinely fascinating.

Craig: In part what fascinates me about that aspect of it is that it takes our goofy stereotype of an online blogging type of person to its extreme. Normally our fictionalizations are more extreme than reality. So, you could see creating a fictional blogger who in fact is a recluse who never leaves their house and just sits in a kind of a Cheetos-stained chair, angrily banging away at a keyboard, affecting the world around them in a very serious way without engaging in it.

And yet it turns out that usually that’s not the case. Except this time it is the case. [laughs] She literally — from what I understand — she is literally a shut-in. She does not leave the house. She has things delivered to her. There are no photographs of her except one that is endlessly reprinted when people do articles about her. And it’s very kind of odd.

John: It’s sort of like glamour movie lighting. It’s a black and white photo with sort of glam movie lighting that seems to be airbrushed in sort of the way that things used to be airbrushed, not like sort of Photoshop, but like sort of airbrushed in a way.

Craig: Right! Or like the way that Bob Guccione used to put nylon stockings over the lens when he shot the nudie models. You know, it’s like the weird soft lighty boudoir headshot. [laughs]. I don’t know what else to call it; it’s very odd. It’s a very odd headshot.

John: Yeah. And so in discussing her personality I don’t want to sort of reduce her down to just one thing, but I think it’s fascinating that because she’s this semi-public/incredibly private figure who only presents what she sort of want to present, and then everything else is projected upon her, so the only things we know about her are she frequently writes about herself in the sense of like, “I was out sick for a week,” or “this happened.”

You get these little glimpses into her private life, but it’s only about sort of an illness or something else that happened that affected why she was late reporting these numbers, or how much somebody pissed her off.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And in a weird way, what’s I think fascinating about her as a figure — and I think there are other media figures we can talk about who embody this to — is that the news is actually about her. It’s not actually about sort of what is happening out there in Hollywood. It’s about her reaction to the news and that you’re supposed to read her site because of her reaction to something rather than strictly the facts of what it is.

Craig: It’s fascinating, isn’t it? And she’s very litigious by all accounts to the point where, for instance, you and I will probably be sued by her because we dare to offer certain opinions here, so I should say these are all opinions and conjecture. We don’t know actually know that she’s legitimately a shut-in. I don’t know that. I know what I read, you know?

John: Yeah.

Craig: But you’re absolutely right. You are forced to piece together this strange narrative following this breadcrumb trail that she leaves behind through her reportage, which is kind of a furious reportage. It is highly personal. It violates every standard I would think of normal journalism.

I mean, she’s a huge part of articles that she’s writing about other things. She berates the topics of her reportage. Everything is kind of just a crazy editorialization. Her catchphrase is “TOLDJA!” as if that matters. So, she’ll say, “I hear that blah, blah, blah,” and then a week later that happens or is confirmed. “TOLDJA!” Okay. [laughs]

Now, I should say before we go any further in the spirit of full disclosure I happen to know for a fact that Nikki Finke hates me. She hates me.

John: Oh…I don’t think she has any opinion about me whatsoever. That’ll change after this.

Craig: Well, she does now buddy.

Here’s why she hates me. Back when I was actively blogging — hmm, I guess I should say here’s why she says she hates me. Back when I was actively blogging she basically told a friend of mine or a mutual acquaintance that I had written terrible things about her on my blog. And that’s just not true. That I can actually say is simply not true.

I went back and I looked at my blog. I did say I wasn’t a big fan of her breathless style of reporting. I don’t think that that’s that terrible of a thing to say. I will point out I said it within the context of an article that was basically praising her for being right about something and kind of going after Sharon Waxman for being wrong. Didn’t matter.

She then, I reached out to her. I said, “Look, I’m very sorry if I said something that offended you. I certainly didn’t mean it. I don’t believe I’ve said anything terrible.” She dismissed that apology completely. I then offered to get on the… — Oh, I made a huge mistake by offering to sit down and meet her for coffee or something. I didn’t realize I was stepping in it there. [laughs] That didn’t go well.

John: Yeah, that doesn’t happen.

Craig: You don’t say that to shut-ins. And then she basically, I said, “Well I’ll get on the phone with you.” And she essentially said in an email, “No, I don’t trust you.”

Really paranoid. I found it to be very paranoid and very weird. She’s gone after me a few times. she also, I’ve noted, a couple times I’ve tried to comment on things neutrally, you know, like for instance there was an article early on about Identity Thief and they left out the original writer’s name, so I commented and said actually the original script is by so-and-so. That comment was never published.

I have, however, had comments published not under my name. [laughs] It’s pretty fun. But anyway, that’s my… — Now, I suspect, I should say, that the real reason that she hated me so much was because frankly my blog got a huge bunch of attention at the time during the strike. And that’s not attention that meant anything to me. I wasn’t doing it for attention. But shortly after I got all that attention I noticed that she really steered her blog towards strike coverage and to great effect for herself and to profit I presume.

John: Yeah. She wants to be the voice talking about things. And I think you were probably a rival voice talking about things and you were taking eyeballs from her and you were taking attention from her.

Now, a little bit more about sort of who she is as a figure before we sort of get into the nature of the site and sort of the ecosystem of entertainment journalism right now as it is in Hollywood.

What I find fascinating about Nikki Finke, and I have to say there’s other figures kind of like her that I would describe similar, sort of like weirdly disproportional importance — Matt Drudge. If you look at Matt Drudge’s site, it’s just like a bunch of links and it sort of shouldn’t matter at all. And yet it’s hugely influential and he’s sort of built this cult of personality around him and sort of who he is. It’s this guy who wears this fedora and whatever that is.

You look at Nate Silver and sort of the journalism he was doing and the statistics work he was doing with all the election stuff. He became like sort of a figure who was independent of just what he was reporting; he was a figure in and of himself. That he was considered an expert on these things. Now, he ended up becoming more of a physical public figure unlike Matt Drudge who is also sort of reclusive. Nate Silver was going on The Daily Show, but he became really part of the story to the degree where during the election coverage people were sort of focusing on him as much as they were focusing on the numbers.

Craig: Right.

John: So, I think it’s a strange time because in a weird way — and this could be fact of Twitter as well — we don’t just want the story; we want someone’s take on the story. We want to hear the news from somebody that we want to hear the news from.

And I think for the last couple of years that’s largely been Deadline Hollywood. And it’s largely been Nikki Finke. And whether we sort of want to or not, we sort of feel compelled to at least check that because everyone else sort of — all the eyes went to there and the rest of the ecosystem just sort of dried up.

Craig: Yeah, you know, as much as Nikki — there’s much about Nikki that I find detestable, quite frankly. But, you have to acknowledge, anyone must acknowledge, that Nikki Finke saw a gaping hole in the way that entertainment industry was being covered and just drove a truck through it. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter for years had been the only game in town. And, frankly, Variety was really the only game in town, so they were sort of, you know, kind of the A-list normal standard of daily reporting. And then The Hollywood Reporter was the other one.

And everybody got the trades in the morning. And everybody read the trades in the morning. And that’s the way things happened. And when the internet came along, Variety and Hollywood Reporter…

Now, let me take a step back. When I started working in Hollywood, do you remember the day, John, early in the nineties when you started when you found out what a subscription to Variety cost? [laughs]

John: It was tremendously expensive. Now, I was lucky because in the Stark Program — Variety, for whatever reason, took pity on us and gave everybody in the Stark Program their own free copy of Variety so we would be hooked. But $200, $300 a year?

Craig: I think it was more. I think that there were prices they would give you for a professional price, if you could show that you were a professional. But if you were just a guy that wanted to get Variety every morning and not pay the insane cover price for it, it was like almost $400. And this was in the ’90s. $400 a year.

John: Yeah. And I should say that the trades at that point were delivered to your office or to your home. And so I would get my LA Times and I would get my Variety every morning delivered to my house. And that was a crucial thing, or at least I thought it was a crucial thing at the time.

Craig: And unlike a daily newspaper, which is substantial, daily Variety was usually 10 or 12 glossy pages, a bunch of which was ads. A bunch of which was crap. It was basically three or four articles and photos. And it was yesterday’s news.

John: Yeah. So, here’s where I think you’re leading here is that she saw that, and I think Nate Silver did, too, that the blog was really the best way to get these things out. Because rather than sort of having all the news to be delivered at once, it’s as stories came in they would be the top story and it push the rest of the stories down.

Craig: Right.

John: And she saw that before other people saw that. And that was a disruptive…

Craig: It was hugely disruptive.

John: …business model.

Craig: She also saw that Variety and Hollywood Reporter were addicted to the absurd free ride they had been getting essentially, that because of the nature of our business, they had managed to extort an unfair price for the actual value of their information. She comes along and says, “Here are these guys that by dint of their monopoly have been charging you hundreds of dollars a year for this stuff. I’m going to charge you nothing for it. And you’re going to get it faster.”

John: Yup.

Craig: And, oh my god, overnight. And listen, you want to ask how could Nikki Finke have been stopped? Easy, all Variety and Hollywood Reporter had to do would be to dump their old model, which they can barely still manage to do today, and just go to that model. But they couldn’t do it because they were addicted to the money.

John: Yeah. There’s many books written about that, but it’s — I guess — the innovator’s dilemma. It’s like, you know, once you’re the established business it’s actually very hard to be nimble and sort of say, “Okay, well we have to junk this business model and try a brand new thing.”

And they couldn’t do it quickly enough. And so there’s an alt-universe where Variety recognized like, okay, the blog is the way to go and they would have started that in parallel and eventually shifted everything over. They would have had to lay off most of their staff, though. There’s no way, you know…

Craig: Right.

John: There’s no way a blog can support sort of all the staff that they have. That business model kind of had to go away.

Craig: Everything had to go away. And they couldn’t adjust quick enough. So, along comes this incredibly aggressive person. And in journalism aggression is rewarded and as well it should be. Nikki is truly a double-edged sword. The plus side is that she simply had no concern for the kind of gentlemanly rules of the past. So, if you’re interested in proper journalism you don’t want an overly cozy relationship between the journalists and the people they’re reporting on. You want somebody who doesn’t care, who doesn’t care about what parties they’re invited to because they don’t leave their apartment.

What she wants is the dirt and the truth. And she reported it.

John: I feel in some of the popular coverage of what’s been happening this last time with Nikki Finke, too quickly do they draw comparisons to like gossip people. And that’s not accurate or fair to sort of what she does.

Craig: I agree.

John: Because she’s not reporting gossip about sort of like, you know, Brangelina stuff. She’s reporting stuff that is, I would say, most of the times generally and specifically entertainment news, but she’s very, very aggressive in getting it and sort of getting people to tell her rather than tell anybody else for fear of god, because if anyone else gets the story before she does, she will go after you guns blazing.

Craig: Right.

John: And that’s one of the things that was actually pointed out in… — So, on June 3, Nikki Finke replied to Sharon Waxman saying, “Cut it out, Sharon Waxman. Your story is full of lies and fabrications,” yet there was also a non-denial denial in there saying that it’s pretty clear that something is going to happen about her employment situation at deadline.

Craig: Right.

John: So, here’s what she wrote. “The fact is I’m out of town and about to begin my long-planned summer vacation. And the last thing I want is to be bothered now by a bunch of media and/or moguls asking for comment.”

Craig: [laughs] Which is truly rich. I mean, the last thing I want is for somebody to do to me what I do to everybody else every single second of every single day.

John: “As it happens, I was napping in a different time zone when The Wrap crapped on me yet again Sunday night. Nothing new: the desperate Sharon Waxman and her revolving door staff have been writing inaccurately about me for years, and doing it to drive traffic to her failing website, and refusing to correct even the most blatant errors.”

Craig: And so, you know, this is an endless song of, “I’m the victim; everybody else is failing and desperate. I’m great; everyone else stinks.”

John: So, within this same article she goes through — Sharon Waxman had specifically said that a point of contention between Nikki Finke and Jay Penske was this situation with the UTA and some sort of finance arrangement, which I don’t honestly quite understand what it is. But so Nikki printed a bunch of the emails that were involved in this chain.

Craig: Right.

John: I tweeted that that doesn’t kind of seem like journalism just to print a bunch of emails. But, she printed them. So, one of them, which was I think the sort of most revealing about sort of my concern of what it is that she does, it’s actually an email that Mike Fleming sent out to Chris Day who is the Head of Publicity for UTA. And in this email he talks about this deal, the people talked with at UTA, and he says, “You denied it all. Now I see in The Hollywood Reporter that you have engaged the guy who is going to make that deal. False denials come with consequences at Deadline Hollywood. I’m sure you understand.”

Craig: I know.

John: “Because they piss us off and most people know better than to do that.” What the hell is going on here with this?

Craig: It’s just a threat.

John: Yeah. It’s not even an especially veiled threat.

Craig: Yeah, exactly. What consequences? We’re not going to report on you? We’re going to be mean to you? We’re going to make fun of you? We’re going to slant our coverage?

It’s disgusting. But everybody knows — here’s the thing — this is definitely an, “I’m shocked. Shocked that gambling is going on here!” Everybody knows that’s how it works over there. That’s Nikki’s thing. It’s entirely about vindictiveness. And she carries through on it. I mean, she does.

You know, I read comments about me on her site that are completely out of line. And, but you know, it says, “Keep it civil,” or whatever. Yeah, uh-huh. I mean, look, [laughs], I get it over there. She went after me.

I mean, forget me. Let’s put me aside. That’s the deal over there. In fact, what happens sometimes when I look at people like this and I think, “You are exceptional.” I mean, this is an exceptional woman in a lot of regards. And you have accomplished an enormous amount. But unfortunately the fuel that you’re using to burn this new path is also going to kind of consume you as well, because in the end it cannot maintain. It can’t hold. You are just going to go too far.

And when you have no friends left there will be that critical mass moment where everybody just says, “Apparently we’re all in the doghouse. So, now who needs you?”

John: Yeah. It’s been interesting to sort of watch the ascendency and sort of, you know, her place there in the industry. Because I think everyone sort of in the back of their minds thought, like, well this is going to end at some point; and it’s not going to end pretty, because you could sort of see what this is because we’ve seen this show before. We sort of know what happens to these characters is that the thing that makes them rise and succeed so much will generally be their undoing.

It’s a very classic sort of almost Shakespearean plot. Once you get to a certain ascendency, it’s not just that everyone else is going to drag you down. You are going to drag yourself down by going too far.

And one of the things which I… — So, you talked about sort of comments that would show up or not show up based on sort of the whims of whoever is approving comments, which may be Nikki Finke herself often. I also noticed that stories, which is also sort of the new journalism here, stories were often posted and then reedited to make them factual when they weren’t factual before.

Craig: Without notice of correction.

John: No notice of correction. So, even that thing I just read to you, which is “False Denials Come With Consequences, Deadline Hollywood,” that got taken out of the email.

Craig: Isn’t that amazing.

John: Yeah. There’s a Gawker article I put in the links to the show notes called “Why Nikki Finke Never Makes a Mistake.” It sort of goes through and takes the screenshots of like this is the original story and this is how she corrected the story.

Craig: And she does it all the time.

John: Yeah. And so that’s the frustration is that she’s often sort of badgering people about journalism, and sort of like, you know, this is what being a journalist is. Yet, journalism is also acknowledging, it’s about being correct, and it’s about sort of acknowledging when you’re not correct. And, you know, pointing that out. And I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a correction.

Craig: Yeah. I think that there is a fine line between sort of a taboo-smashing iconoclast and a bully. And Nikki, in my opinion, danced far over the line towards bully years ago. And I hope that somehow out of all of this mess comes a new kind of reporting that doesn’t feel incestuous with the people you’re reporting on, but by the same token follows some basic journalistic standards, doesn’t make the story about the reporter, isn’t vindictive.

I mean, like Nate Silver, yeah, the story became about him. Nate Silver you could just tell is a good guy who just writes what he believes and isn’t in it for himself. I don’t actually believe he is, you know?

John: Yeah. Also, Nate Silver, I think, first and foremost, would always say, “This is how I could be wrong. And this is why I’m saying these things. This is why I believe that the data suggests this. But these are the reasons why I could be wrong and here’s the chance of that.” And there’s never a shred of that in the Nikki Finke of it all.

Let’s talk about what the ecosystem might be. So, I would assume, and these are just assumptions — I have no inside information about this — but based on the articles that we’ve seen, sort of the non-denial denials, and to me the really telling thing that there’s some anti-Nikki Finke comments that are showing up on Deadline Hollywood Daily, which means that she’s not editing out those anti-Nikki Finke comments. I would suspect that one way or another she will part company. That doesn’t necessarily mean she’s fired. It doesn’t mean she quit. But she may not be running that publication the way she was before.

And if there’s any sort of clause where she can’t compete against it for awhile, she couldn’t compete against it for awhile. Regardless, something will change. And let’s talk about what the ideal circumstances would be/situation would be in the next generation of entertainment coverage. What do we want to see, Craig?

Craig: Well, the best of Deadline is the immediacy of it and the thoroughness of it. So, even though people think of Deadline as a place where juicy stories were reported about people losing their jobs or being hired, a ton of it is really about the minutia that frankly wouldn’t even make it into the pages of Variety, but which I often find interesting. You know, somebody is now a showrunner on a show.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So, there’s a thoroughness to it and an immediacy to it that works. And I think also there is — there are — quite a few reporters there at Deadline who frankly are just imports from Variety, like Mike Fleming.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You know, Mike Fleming reported normally for years. Mike Fleming is capable of being a normal journalist with a normal demeanor who doesn’t threaten people, because he did it for years writing for Variety in a very respectful way. Certainly he can get back to that. And then honestly I think that this comment thing has to get under control because it’s just gross. I mean, it’s a joke, just so people at home don’t think it’s me personally, because I don’t care, but Deadline commenters as a group are just a punch line when you talk to people who are in the business. It’s a joke.

John: Yeah. There’s sort of two, I think kinds, of Deadline commenters. There are the ones who actually have no relationship to the business at all, and just pile on about whatever, and then they’re actually assistants at some production company who see a negative story or see some of story about one of their clients or someone involved in their movie and sort of throw in the other way, they try to tip the perception one way or the other. And it becomes just very silly to read.

And, granted, you should never read below the fold in general. You should never read comments.

Craig: Ever.

John: The times I have dipped below the fold, it just reminds me of why you should never dip below the fold.

Craig: Take a Silkwood shower afterwards. I mean, it’s particularly sad to me when there are these innocuous articles about somebody getting promoted. Somebody has been named vice president of development at Comedy Central, who knows, something. And then there are four comments like, “Great person. Great. Congratulations for them.” And then there’s four comments of, “Disgusting individual. Mistreats people. I hope they die.”

I mean, nobody can — you can’t have a birthday over there without somebody basically saying, “I know this person and they kicked me and they’re evil.” There’s a strain of bitterness throughout it. So, typically there will be just a very neutral report on a writer being hired to write something. And then 12 comments about how the writer is great, 14 comments about how the writer is awful, 16 comments about how the writer can’t write at all and is stupid and this is why Hollywood is a disaster. Another four comments about how that person is really a writer who never writes anything and the commenter is a jerk.

John: But then it will actually be about sort of how the actor on that TV show got really, really fat and someone needs to…

Craig: [laughs] It just devolves and… — It is truly a playground for the stupid and venal.

John: To be fair, that’s honestly most comment threads.

Craig: Yes.

John: It’s just that that’s the place we’re actually seeing comments these days.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Now, I also want to bring up why it matters at all, because I think people who aren’t sort of living in this little ecosystem think, “Well, it’s silly that you guys are talking about this for 20 minutes; just don’t read the stories. Why does it matter?”

Here’s where it does matter and I especially found this to be true during TV season is that perception is very much reality in terms of TV season. Like movies take so long, and they’re so long to put together that it’s not such a big deal, but when you’re trying to cast a show and everyone is fighting over the same actors, the one Deadline article or any sort of meaningful publication article that says, “This actor is leaning towards this,” can completely tip the balance of something.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And suddenly you don’t have that actor. Or, that director you think you’re going to have is not there. Or, you get this perception that your show is falling apart and so therefore everyone jumps onto the next show. It does matter. That’s why accuracy matters. And it’s why people sort of keep clicking over to those sites to see what that is.

What I hope to see in the ecosystem that develops down the road from here is whatever Deadline becomes, Deadline becomes. Whatever Nikki Finke does, she can do and god bless her. But I would like to see Variety, Hollywood Reporter, The LA Times, and maybe some other, The Wrap, or whoever else pick up the pieces so that you have a reason to click through to multiple places. Because right now I’ve found that unless something gets reported in Deadline, sort of nobody notices.

That’s sort of the only place where something actually lands. And so if Variety writes about something I did, no one sends the email. But if it shows up in Deadline, I get like four emails about it. It’s a strange thing. And I think any sort of monoculture is ultimately harmful for an industry.

Craig: I totally agree. And it makes sense that just as Nikki very wisely and cannily saw this opening, somebody is looking at this situation right now and they see an opening. The truth is the town is sick to death of her. That’s the god’s honest truth.

I think all the people that used her to their advantage are growing weary and sick of her. And there is an opening. And somebody is going to start something new. And this is, after all, the internet where MySpace just roamed the earth like the dinosaur. And then, oh my god, meteor, meteor, Facebook! This is the way it goes.

John: At this point the last question there will be is will we be willing to accept something that doesn’t have a face associated with it, or at least a personality associated with it? Because I think that’s one of the things that made it unique. And I’ll be curious whether we’re willing to go to an anon, like sort of a quasi-anonymous news source after having a personality associated with our news. We’ll see.

Craig: I hope so, because, frankly, I’m not a big fan of that.

John: What I am a big fan of is our two live shows this summer. So, I want to talk to you about that.

So, we are going to be having people come see us as we record our shows, and we will be interacting with those people who come to see us record our shows. And I’m very, very excited about both of these opportunities. And they’re really different and they’ve become very different events which I think is an exciting thing to happen, too.

The first of our live shows is Saturday June 29, and it’s part of a much bigger event. It’s Craft Day for the Writers Guild Foundation. So, it’s an all-day event with four different panels and writers, and agents, and industry folk. And so it’s all about screenwriting and probably TV writing as well. And because it’s Craft Day, Craig and I are going to be doing a Three Page Challenge live, somehow. I think we’re going to have like projections so we can actually look at the pages that we’re talking about.

We may actually have the people who wrote those three pages in the audience.

Craig: Oh…

John: There might be a situation where if you know you’re coming and you would like us to look at your three pages, send it Stuart and sort of say in the subject line like, “I will be there,” and that way we could pick those things and know that you are there in the audience and can respond and be up on stage with us maybe.

Craig: That would be great.

John: It would be fun. And it’s a chance to really — I enjoy doing the Three Page Challenges but we are sort of talking to a third party who’s not there. And so being able to see people face to face could be fantastic.

Craig: Right.

John: I’m also thinking we might share some three pages of, I might be willing to, and I haven’t confirmed whether you’d be willing to, some three pages of stuff that hasn’t shot, so stuff that hasn’t actually been made of my own, or if you are willing to do that, of your stuff.

Craig: Yeah, I think I probably have a script or two that it’s safe to do that with at this point.

John: Yeah, because sometimes that’s exciting to see, too, and it might be something that would be exclusively there for the people who are in the audience with us, something that we wouldn’t put up as PDFs because it really shouldn’t go out wide, but it could go out to 200 people.

Craig: Sure.

John: Sure. So, tickets are on sale right now for this June 29th event. It’s through the Writers Guild Foundation. If you go to the show notes, there’s a link to get there. You can also Google “Writers Guild Foundation” and that’s up there.

So, because it’s a full day event the ticket price right now is $85 for the whole day. So, it’s a big deal; it’s also a fundraiser for the Writers Guild Foundation which does great work with writers, and veterans, and the library, and kids.

Craig: Kids.

John: It’s a good group.

Craig: It’s a great group.

John: Our second even is the party.

Craig: Oh, yeah!

John: So, the second even — oh yeah — so this is… — Craig and I actually saw each face-to-face this week because we needed to go visit the space where we’re going to have this 100th anniversary — 100th Episode Extravaganza thing. That’s Thursday July 25 in Hollywood. We’re going to be at the Academy’s Lab, which is this space that’s right next, just south of the Arclight Theaters on Vine.

And it’s kind of great. And so just a huge thank you to the Academy for letting us put this together because it’s going to be really, really cool. There will be food and beverages, and alcoholic beverages, and special guests, and stuff that you could only kind of do as a 100th episode.

So, tickets for that will probably be on sale July 1st. Space is limited, so I think it will probably sell out. So, you may want to mark your calendar for — God, are there 31 days in June? 30 days in June?

Craig: 31. No, June 30. “30 days has September, April, June, and November, except for February which has 28, oh my god, unless it’s 29.” I think that’s how the rhyme goes.

John: Okay. I don’t remember the “oh my god” part of it. I don’t remember any of the rhyme. [laughs]

Craig: I think I definitely made up the last part.

John: I never learned any of those little mnemonics for…

Craig: You never learned, “30 days has September; April, June, and November?”

John: No. I don’t know I missed that. I had a bad second grade teacher.

Craig: Terrible.

John: Terrible.

Anyway, you should probably mark your calendar for June 30th if you really want to come, because I think it’s going to be one those situations where tickets are on sale and then they’re not on sale anymore because we have limited space.

Craig: And the tickets are cheap, right?

John: Tickets for that are $5.

Craig: Five bucks. And that’s not for us. Do we get to keep that $5?

John: No, no. It’s $5. It benefits the Educational Foundation of the Academy, the people who do the Nicholl Fellowships.

Craig: There you go. So, once again, the most important thing is we get nothing.

John: Yes. We get nothing from that.

Craig: Nothing!

John: If you have two beers then you have gotten your $5 worth, because the alcohol is free for whatever reason.

…I shouldn’t have said that on the podcast.

Craig: Nah, you know what? Now we’re just going to have alcoholics showing up. Rummies. Rummies not interested in screenwriting. But the good news is that there’s a little bit of a mix and mingle thing before. Then we’re going to do the podcast. It will be our normal hour-long podcast. And then we’ll have a nice little mix and mingle after, so you get to experience the glory of us in person, which is not particularly glorious, but it is in person.

John: I can be fairly radiant at times.

Craig: You can.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Not me.

John: But I’m excited about our special guests, which we have not announced yet, but they’re going to be great and special.

Craig: Very special.

John: So, that is reason enough alone to come.

Craig: Very special.

John: So, next point of news that happened this week was this morning I got 15 tweets about this thing called Amazon Storyteller.

Craig: [laughs] Me too!

John: Did you check it out?

Craig: I got 15 million tweets. Well, I mean, I see what it is. The thing is, is there a demo online? Because I haven’t seen the demo.

John: Yeah, it was actually really hard to find a demo, but I clicked through and started the demo. And so what Amazon Storyteller is, it’s part of Amazon Studios which is the branch of Amazon we’ve talked about on the podcast several times. Amazon Studios is attempting to make feature films with a model that is sort of, you know, you submit to them and they have an option on things, and they can work up these sample projects. It’s problematic in a lot of ways. And it’s improved in some ways. But the feature side of it, I think, is still a real open question about whether anyone should approach that with a ten-foot pole.

But, what was interesting this morning is they announced this new sort of software that they have as part of Amazon Studios where the scripts that are in Amazon Studios, you can load them up and they show up on the left hand side of your screen. And on the right hand side of the screen you have this toolbox for making storyboards. And they look like drawn storyboards for the scenes.

And I have to say it was actually, like it’s pretty well done. And so it’s not FrameForge. Like FrameForge is like the really high quality 3D software that you use for pre-visualizations or for setting up shots or figuring out angles and things. This is much more and looks like just a drawn storyboard. And yet for being done in the browser it’s really well done.

And so I could see it being a useful tool for someone who wanted to mock something up. Now, the limitations of it, at least in its current form is, it could only work on the things that are in Amazon Studios. And so in order to do something for your own script you have to load your script in there. Or, I guess you could just like make up some shots and screen capture them out and do something else.

The software though is smart in that it has these sort of city kind of backgrounds so that you’re not going to be able to do like a medieval epic with this. And there’s people you can put in, but like you’re ability to stack people in the frame and move them around and turn them is surprisingly good. I was impressed by what that is.

Ultimately it feels like really good Clip Art for making storyboards. And that’s a plus and a minus. I think there’s a lot to be said for keeping storyboards simple so you can see like this is what the intention is, and it’s not meant to look like the final frame. So, useful to some people.

Craig: Yeah. I can’t help but feel like this is just one more entry in the big toolbox of procrastination crap and also a little bit of the kind of, look, you’re making something real. You know, kind of the industry of “you’re doing it — now you have a storyboard — yay!”

No, you’re not doing it, because no one is making that script, you know, unless they are. And if they are, here’s the best news. If you work with actual storyboard artists, who are people with a specific skill that is not replicable by a software package, then you get the benefit of their talent, which is quite significant. You know, you talk with them and you describe what it’s supposed to be like and they start to do it. And it really does help tremendously. It helps you organize. The whole point of a storyboard is to organize your shooting day. That’s what it’s for.

It’s not to go, “Look at me! I’m a screenwriter.”

John: So, let’s talk about storyboarding…

Craig: That’s my new voice by the way.

John: That’s a good voice. Please use that on every podcast.

Craig: “Yay! I’m for real.”

John: You’re like Pinocchio. You’re a real boy.

Craig: “I’m a real screenwriter!”

John: I think the Craig Mazin version of Pinocchio would be fascinating.

Craig: I’ll wear my little pants, my suspenders, and I’m like, “I’m not, my script isn’t crap! It’s good.”

John: Ooh, “It’s good!”

Craig: “I’m going to storyboard.” He’s such a…he’s so great. You know what he is? He’s optimistic. He doesn’t listen to grouchy podcasters. He believes!

John: He believes. Except that instead of his nose growing when he tells a lie, his nose grows with umbrage. So, every time he gets angry he doesn’t Hulk out; his nose just grows a little bit.

Craig: “Ah-ah-ah-ah.”

John: Let’s talk about storyboarding in general, what it really is. Because I could see if I were a storyboard artist and I saw this stuff I’d be incensed, for a couple reasons. First off, it’s trying to automate something that actually takes real talent to do.

Craig: Right.

John: It’s not going to be as good and everyone is going to be like, “Oh, it’s just like having a storyboard artist.” No, it’s not like having a storyboard artist. Those are actually professional people who can be incredibly useful in the process of making a movie. The storyboard artist for the two Charlie’s Angels movies was incredibly involved in figuring out how stuff could actually be and fit together.

And for a director, like the first pass at shooting something is the director talking to a storyboard artist often. So, it’s incredibly useful for those reasons.

Storyboarding is really useful when you’re actually the director who actually needs to make the movie. I think for most screenwriters it is a mistake to get involved in storyboarding because you are going to lock yourself down to the visuals of how stuff is supposed to fit together at two early of a process.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: So, that’s my criticism of that. It makes it seem like, “Oh, well storyboarding is this vital part of screenwriting,” and it’s not at all. Storyboarding is part of the process of taking something that is just 12 point Courier and getting it towards the screen.

Craig: That’s right.

John: And it’s not always the final process. It’s an important thing to do when there’s real questions about how you’re going to do something. It could save you time. It could help you create better shots. But many movies that you’ve loved had no storyboarding in them at all.

Craig: Yeah. There’s a little bit of a diminishing that goes on with storyboarding. When you’re writing a screenplay I always advise people to be very visual and to really see the space in your head and understand the geography of the space as best you can. And to get that intention across for the reader so that they’re watching a movie as they read. That’s very, very important.

Storyboarding actually tends to minimize all that down. That’s why it’s not story-painting but storyboarding, you see, and that’s why it’s stick figures because really what storyboarding is where are they going to stand vis-à-vis my camera? How many of them will be in the frame vis-‡-vis my camera. And how close will my camera be? Am I waist high? Am I thigh high? Am I head and shoulders?

And in terms of the action, is the car going from left to right depending on where the street is and all the rest of it? It’s such a nuts and bolts thing. And I guess the reason I’m doing my Pinocchio voice is not because I want people out there thinking, “Oh, look at you, you’re putting your script on Amazon; you’re not a real screenwriter.”

I bet a ton of you are, and I bet a bunch of you are way, way better than I am. What I’m saying is don’t get caught up in stuff that makes you feel like you’re accomplishing things when it’s really not. You could write a screenplay and if it’s a great screenplay — that’s the accomplishment. The storyboarding stuff, it’s a little bit like Final Draft has this function where it gives you story statistics and you can sit there after you finish your screenplay and go, “Oh, look at this. This character talks 25% of the time. And this one mostly has conversations with this one.”

Well, that’s just wankery. Who cares?

John: Yeah. No actual screenwriter does that.

Craig: Ever.

John: No one ever generates that report.

Craig: Ever. But I’ve actually talked to new screenwriters who are like really into those reports because it’s like something happened. It’s the simulation of achievement. And I think that storyboard is providing you a simulation of achievement that is irrelevant to your purpose at this stage.

John: Where I think this kind of software would be tremendously useful is people who are trying to learn about directing shots.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So, people who are in a class, or even in an online class, where you talk about like this is what camera movement is. This is how you arrange the frame. This is how you maintain eye lines. Things that are sort of difficult to see if — difficult to describe just with words. You see this, “Oh, I get what this is.” So, you’re assignment could be storyboard out this sequence and show me how you’re going to do it. That’s incredibly useful and I could see that being a great thing for any budding film student.

I found as I’ve needed to figure out projects and figure out like how I was going to do stuff, even when I was dealing with my storyboard artist for The Nines, he and I would honestly just go around with a camera and sort of get the shots that I wanted. And then he would take those shots and journalize them back down to sort of illustrate and storyboard so I could remember like what it was I was going for.

Craig: Right.

John: So, you have an incredibly good storyboarding tool in your pocket right now. It’s called your iPhone. And so you just go around and you take the pictures with that. And there’s even software that will give you the simulation of different lenses, so if you really have a question about like would I be able to get like a dirty over the shoulder literally in this location, you could pull out your iPhone and put on that lens and see what it would actually turn out to look like.

So, again, I’m impressed that — it’s actually sort of better software but it’s not necessarily a great benefit to most people who are going to be probably using it.

Craig: It’s true. There is, however, something that we can use, note my segue, that is very simple and it’s five letters. And yet for whatever reason there are all of these people out there who are teaching each other and their students that they out not use it.

Do you know to what I refer?

John: I do because we talked about it ahead of time. So, this is a rule that I’ve seen cited so many times about, you know, you should never use these two words in a screenplay. And the rule is wrong. And so tell us what the wrong rule is.

Craig: Never use “we see” in a screenplay.

John: So, let’s talk about how do you think that rule came about? How do you think people — was it just some arbitrary person who didn’t like the words “we see?”

Craig: No. I think this is what’s going on. Somewhere down the line in film departments the auteurist theory kind of blend in. And what happened was people who are more aligned with directors than screenwriters started coming up with rules for screenwriters that are nonsensical. And they’re academic rules. They’re dogmatic. They have no relation to the way we who do this job actually do our job.

So, the generally philosophy was, “Hey screenwriter, don’t tell me the director how to direct my movie. I don’t want you saying close up and I don’t want you saying ‘we see this’ and ‘the camera goes here.’ Because I’m the director and I decide all that.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Which is not how directors actually talk.

The truth is that here in the business of making movies, everybody — the screenwriters, the producers, the executive, and yes, the directors — are interested in reading a script that reads like a movie. I have never once in whatever it’s been now, 17 years, had a director say to me, “Don’t tell me to close up or don’t tell me ‘we see from behind or we see.’ Don’t do any of that.”

Not once. Ever. Have you?

John: No. Never.

Craig: No! So, what is — but then here’s the part that makes me the most nuts. Okay, so first of all, let’s talk about the value of the words. The reason that we “we see” has value in description is because the audience is a participant in the movie. There are times when we — the audience — see something that the characters do not.

When we’re describing scenes in action paragraphs, the default understanding of the reader is that we’re talking about the characters. So, “Jim enters the room. There is a snake on the chair.” We, in our minds, we understand Jim sees the snake on the chair.

John: Yes.

Craig: “Jim enters the room. Crosses to grab himself a drink. We see behind him in the chair a snake. It rises.” We now understand we see that, and Jim doesn’t. That’s just one minor use of it, but frankly it’s very conversational. You may use it when you feel. It doesn’t matter. But what I hear these people on Twitter — and they’re teachers, for the love of god. “Well, it’s not good writing. It’s clumsy, it’s lazy, it’s a crutch.” What is it — a crutch for what? What is it taking the place of?

You have no answer because there is no answer.

John: There is no answer. “We see” actually can take the place of a lot of those terrible camera words that pull you out of the story and make you remember, like, oh that’s right, we’re watching a movie.

Craig: Bingo.

John: So, “we see,” I always feel like that “we” is the audience. You’re literally — you’re job as a screenwriter is to put the reader in the chair of the theater and everything we see, and also we hear, I use “we hear” a lot…

Craig: Yes!

John: Those are the — you only have sight and sound, so these are these are the things we are going to be able to share with the audience, that we are experiencing these things. And that is great and fine.

Now, could you overuse “we see” or “we hear?” Yes, absolutely. And in most times you won’t need it because if you have a scene, like if you’re an establishing shot where no one is in that shot, you can probably just describe what’s happening there without the we see or the we hear. But there might be times where you want to, like, “We track along the path leading up to the door.” There might be times where that’s actually really important.

Craig: Yes!

John: And so the “we” is great.

Craig: You’re absolutely right. You are absolutely right. Joseph Conrad popularized a certain kind of writing going back to Heart of Darkness. And it paralleled a little bit of what was going on in the world of visual art, of painting, and that was an impressionistic way of writing. There’s this wonderful moment in Heart of Darkness where they’re on a boat and Marlow watches as a man suddenly reacts in pain and falls to the ground with a cane in his hand.

And then in the ensuing melee Marlow realizes that’s not a cane at all. It’s a spear. And the spear has been thrown at him and they’re under attack. But in the moment it seemed just like a man fell with a cane in his hand. It’s wonderful. It’s experiential. It’s impressionistic.

When you’re writing for movies, that — to me — is a great way of getting across for the person reading the experience or the impression of being in the movie theater. “We see” allows you to say what you think you see in the moment. “We see a flash of light. No, it’s a gunshot.” You know, “We see lightning. Not lightning, but this.”

Whatever it is that you want to do, it’s actually an important tool. What I find these people are misunderstanding is the purpose of the screenplay itself. We hear what we hear. We see what we see. Dialogue is spoken. When we write action paragraphs the purpose of the action paragraph is not to be read by a consumer. It is to create the illusion of a movie in the mind of the reader and the reader is a professional.

So, I say to all of you out there who are repeating this nonsense: (A) “We see” is a valuable tool for screenwriters. (B) If you want to use it, us it; and if you don’t, don’t. (C) I don’t know a single professional screenwriter who doesn’t use it and I could definitely point you to some amazing screenwriters who do. What letter am I up to? D?

John: Yes.

Craig: (D) There isn’t one person in the movie business who has ever complained to me once about it. So, with the preponderance of that evidence, sirs and madams, would you please stop telling people not to do it? It’s absurd.

John: Done.

Craig: Done. Ka-boom.

John: Done. “We see” and “we hear” will go on forever.

Craig: Yes.

John: Craig, to wrap us up today we have another very exciting announcement. We finally — finally after 93 episodes — we have t-shirts.

Craig: Oh! Oh thank god! [laughs]

John: So, here’s the deal on t-shirts. So, they’re really cool. If you are looking at this podcast on your iPhone or if you’re in iTunes you will see the typewriter is orange that glows. Well, there’s an orange t-shirt with that typewriter that is really, really good, that Ryan Nelson, our designer, did. And it’s fantastic. They’re beautiful American Apparel shirts.

There is an orange version. There’s also a very — a gray that’s like a heathery-blue gray. It’s a really good color with a white typewriter on it. Stuart and Ryan actually went down to our printers to check out the t-shirts themselves and the fabric. Stuart reports back that they blue shirt is the softest t-shirt he’s ever touched in his life.

Craig: Ooh. Well, I certainly like a soft shirt. And I will say that I, being completely color stupid and shirt stupid, showed a picture of it to one of my assistants and she said that it looked awesome and that her hipster friends would love it.

John: That is the goal is to have a shirt that is loved by hipster friends and by people like Craig’s assistant.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So, they are good t-shirts that everyone can wear. Here’s the thing. I don’t want to be shipping out t-shirts for like the rest of my life. So, we are going to only be selling these t-shirts for about two weeks. The deadline on t-shirts will be June 21st is when we’re closing sales on t-shirts. So, if you would like a t-shirt, you should go and follow the link that is on this podcast or just go to where there will be a post about buying a t-shirt.

Craig: I should buy one, shouldn’t I?

John: I think we’ll actually give you one. So you can choose either or blue and we’ll just give you one.

Craig: Blue sounds great. I mean, it’s the softest t-shirt of all time.

John: It’s the softest t-shirt in the world.

Craig: John, how is the sizing of these t-shirts?

John: They’re American Apparel shirts, so I think they’re sized a little bit smaller than most shirts. So, look through your closet and find an American Apparel shirt and recognize that it’s probably a little bit smaller than other shirts.

So, the shirts are $19, which basically covers our ability to make them, and then there’s some shipping. And so they’re available at is where you can find them.

Craig: Nifty.

John: Nifty. So, again, a reminder, there’s only two weeks of t-shirts, so if you want t-shirts you should get on that.

Craig: Cool.

John: And you should wear it to our 100th anniversary episode. We might even have them done in time for the WGA thing.

Craig: Then we’ll all just look like a big cult.

John: It would be awesome.

Craig: Mm, big typewriter cult.

John: Yup. Craig, are you doing a One Cool Thing.

Craig: I do have a One Cool Thing this week.

John: Go for it.

Craig: So, I met Bob Gordon a couple weeks ago in Nashville, the Nashville Screenwriting Conference which was one of my One Cool Things many moons ago. Bob Gordon wrote Galaxy Quest, among others…

John: Oh my god, Galaxy Quest is so good.

Craig: It’s the best. So, I would love for us to do a whole podcast just on Galaxy Quest, because it kind of deserves to be…

John: Oh yeah! Let’s do that. That would be great.

Craig: Bob is awesome. And so we kind of became fast friends. And he and I were talking quite a bit about sort of the geeky/nerdy view of insomnia. He struggles with sleeping issues and we were talking about light and how light affects your circadian rhythm. And about the impact that we have now with screens, just screens in our eyes.

And I was a little behind the curve here. He kind of got me flat-footed because my understanding was that regular light bulbs kind of have a limited wavelength and that they don’t really impact us the way that the sun does. If you walk outside, if you’re sleepy and suddenly there’s sunlight in your eyes, your brain will try and wake you up.

And it is true that there’s a part of the wavelength called blue light that seems to trigger our wakefulness more than the rest. And that blue light isn’t really in your typical incandescent bulb. But it is, however, in these newfangled LED screens on your laptop and your iPad. So, there’s some research that indicates maybe shining that stuff in your eyes right before you go to bed might not be a great idea.

Enter this very cool piece of software called f.lux. And currently it is for the Mac and there’s a Windows beta. It’s also available for the iPhone and iPad. I have installed it and it’s great. And basically what it does is this: it figures out what time of day, or rather where the sun is for you in your time of day, so it accesses location services, and then when nighttime happens, essentially when the sun sets, it changes the lighting of your screen to reduce the blue and get it really nice and warm and brownish and not blue lighting, so that you don’t fry your suprachiasmatic nucleus with circadian rhythm shifting blue light.

I can’t tell you if it’s working or not. All I can tell you is it’s cool! And so I just like fact that my computer is like, “Yawn, it’s sleepy time.” So, check it out. You can go to

John: Cool. My One Cool Thing is something you should not do right before bedtime because you will be using your iPad and therefore waking up your circadian rhythms in ways. And you’ll also be thinking about this little game the entire time you’re trying to sleep. So, lesson learned — don’t try to do that.

Kingdom Rush, which was one of my favorite tower defense games of all time, this last week came out with Kingdom Rush Frontiers which is an expansion and redesign of Kingdom Rush, which is really terrific. So, if you like tower defense games, which the basic definition of a tower defense game is that monsters are trying to get from point A to point B and you can only set up these towers to stop them.

And it’s a really well designed game for the iPad. I love it. The remake they did for this new version is really smart. They sort of took what had been a very kind of classically fantasy, you know, dwarves and elves kind of thing and pushed it into a desert environment in ways that is actually nicely smart and rewarding.

So, I would recommend Kingdom Rush Frontiers, which is on the iPad right now. There will be a link to that. It’s in the App Store.

Craig: Sweet. And I should mention that f.lux is free!

John: Free is nice. We like f.lux.

Craig: Free!

John: Cool. Craig, thank you very much.

Craig: Thank you, John.

John: And I will talk to you next week.