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

Craig, how are you?

Craig: Not bad, not bad. Turned in a script last week; went really, really well, so that’s good. I get two weeks off now before I start my next thing.

John: And what are you going to do with your two weeks?

Craig: Well, let me tell you. Job number one for these two weeks is to kind of flush my system out. Like I don’t know about you but as I’m writing something I tend to eat worse and worse.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So, you know, right afterwards there’s a nice two-week period where I really try and flush my system out. Now, I don’t do any of these crazy — what do they call them, cleanses?

John: Yeah, apple juice, lemon peel, little cayenne pepper.

Craig: Yeah, yeah, here’s the story with those. They don’t clean anything. There is absolutely no good science behind that stuff whatsoever. Your liver is super good at cleaning your blood. You don’t need a cleanse to clean anything. You know me. Anytime I see the word toxin or energy, I get all itchy, but I’m just eating much less and I’m doing a lot of reading. So eating less, reading, and catching up on some video games.

John: That’s a great idea.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Now, Craig, Have you staring playing Hearthstone on the iPad? Do you know what that is?

Craig: I don’t know what that is. No.

John: So it’s a card game that’s sort of like the Magic: The Gathering, but it’s all the Blizzard universe kind of things and it’s totally addictive. And so I recommend you fall into a deep K-hole and play Hearthstone.

Craig: All right. Well, right now, I’m catching up on my console games so I’m playing — I’m just finishing up the Arkham Origins DLC Cold, Cold Heart. And I have already started playing the South Park Game which is awesome.

John: Great.

Craig: Love, I mean, the actual game play, eh. The game play actually stinks.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But what’s great about it is in addition to all the normal South Park fun stuff, they’re very smartly making fun of some video games that I’m very well familiar with. There’s at one point you’re wandering in an alien ship and you keep finding these little audio logs and as you play them the person who’s recorded the audio logs keeps commenting on how he doesn’t even understand why he’s making audio logs.

John: [laughs]

Craig: And he’s found other people’s audio logs and he keeps listening to their audio logs thinking that he’ll learn something important and he never ever does and he just keeps…but yet he still listens to the audio logs. [laughs] It was a great tweak at BioShock.

John: What’s so fascinating about that trope of audio logs is that very rarely do you actually see a character over the course of the narrative recording an audio log and yet there are all these audio logs. So when exactly do they record these?

Craig: Right. Like, why are they recording them? I mean, the first audio log was, [laughs], he’s on the ship and he’s just saying, “I don’t know why I’m doing this. The aliens are coming there about to break the door and why am I wasting time recording this, I don’t know.” [laughs] It’s pretty great and then why do they leave them around? Yeah, no, audio logs are absurd. But they also did a really nice job of parodying, in a kind of a very straight way, nearly copying the music from Elder Scrolls.

John: That’s nice.

Craig: Yes. It’s good stuff.

John: Yeah. Those are smart guys, those South Park folks.

Craig: They are.

John: Today, on the podcast, we are going to talk about Game of Thrones. We’re going to talk about some Bryan Singer situation. And we’re going to talk about the numbers of women employed by the WGA —

Craig: Yup.

John: And minorities and older people. We’re going talk about this situation where the woman who wrote The Vampire Diaries is now writing Vampire Diaries fan fiction which seems absurd but it’s actually because of work-for-hire law and it’s just really an odd time that we’re living in.

Craig: Yes.

John: We’re going to answer a question about craft. We’re going to go through our old One Cool Things. So we have a lot today.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Big show.

Craig: Big show, big show.

John: First though, follow up. So we have our live show coming up on May 15th. The cocktail party hosted by Aline Brosh McKenna is all sold out, but there are still some tickets left for the show itself.

Craig: What?

John: So if you’d like to come see —

Craig: What?

John: I think there are.

Craig: I can’t believe it.

John: Well, we’re recording on a Thursday. So by the time this podcast airs, we don’t know if there are still tickets but there might still be tickets. But the special news for people who have tickets is we have an extra guest who wasn’t even a part of the original package. Susannah Grant is going to be joining us for the Three Page Challenge.

Craig: Excellent.

John: And she’s amazing. So she’s the screenwriter of Erin Brockovich, Charlotte’s Web. She’s the director of Catch and Release. She’s awesome.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So she will be up there on stage helping us figure how these three pages could be even better.

Craig: Yeah, that’s great. I mean, I can’t believe that these tickets haven’t sold out. First of all, let me just reiterate, we are the Jon Bon Jovi of screenwriting podcasts.

John: Yes.

Craig: So that makes no sense. I’m glad that people bought the cocktail party things.

John: Yeah. The expensive ones.

Craig: Yeah, and we promise to talk to you guys and not each other at the cocktail party. [laughs] We promise. But, yeah, these other tickets, how much do they cost?

John: 20 bucks.

Craig: 20 bucks to see David Goyer. 20 bucks to see McFeely and Markus. 20 bucks to see Susannah Grant. I mean, forget us. I mean, how much is those people.

John: They’re pretty amazing.

Craig: It’s just 20 bucks, yeah.

John: It’s just 20 bucks and like you pay $20 for any one of those people, but no, you get them all together as package.

Craig: You get them all together as a package and the money goes to the Writers Guild Foundation which is a charitable non-profit organization that supports screenwriters and people who are interested in screenwriting all day long.

John: That’s what they do.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Yeah, they help veterans. They help young people.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So, for the Three Page Challenge, how are we going to do it? So last week on the podcast I said there would be a special way that people will submit for it. That is up and running as of today. So here is how you submit to it. You go to the same URL you’ve always gone to, johnaugust.com/threepage. When you get there, you’ll see that there’s now a form. And with that form, you will click some boxes and enter your name and information. You’ll click a box that says Attach File and you will attach your script there. It could be Fountain or a PDF. And you will click Submit.

And when you click Submit, it will magically get whisked into the system and the database from which we will call our entrants for just this live Three Page Challenge, the one that we’re actually going to do on May 15th. If the system works well, it’ll become the real system for Three Page Challenges from now forward.

Craig: Nice.

John: But we’re just trying it out for this one-time deal.

Craig: And if your script is picked, pages are picked, do we let them know ahead of time?

John: We will let people know that they’re in the final contention for that. Essentially, if you are going to be submitting under the auspices of this live Three Page Challenge, we’re asking, like, are you going to be there?

Craig: Got it.

John: And so we’re only going to be looking at the ones of people who say they’re going to be there. What’s special about this one event is all of our listeners will get to read those three pages as well. So not only the final ones are picked, the listeners are going to help choose which one is going to be discussed live.

Craig: Oh.

John: So for one week starting today, Tuesday through next Tuesday, so starting on Tuesday April 29th through Tuesday May 6th, for that one week you can submit your scripts.

Craig: Great.

John: That next Wednesday, for one week, you can vote on which one of those entrants you really want to see up there on stage. So you can read them both on the site. There’ll be links at johnaugust.com so you can read those samples. And I don’t know if there’s going to be 10 or 20 or 50 but there’s going to be some there.

We’ll also, if we can, put them on Weekend Read, so if you’re on your iPhone, you can read through them on there as well.

Craig: Amazing.

John: Technology!

Craig: Woo!

John: While I was talking about Weekend Read, there’s a new update for Weekend Read, so people should update their app if they have it. There’s also an update for Highland. So if you’re on your app store, click on those.

Craig: Great.

John: Cool.

Let’s get to our business at hand. So I love Game of Thrones.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: I’m just a huge fan of not just the show I watch but just the fact that it can exist because it’s so incredibly complicated to make and they do such an amazingly good job. And I watched this last Sunday’s episodes which was really two Sundays ago for people who are listening to the show and the minute I saw this scene I said, “Well, there’s going to be a conversation about this one specific scene.”

Craig: Yeah, and I [laughs]…so I was little taken aback by the fact that there was a conversation about it and we’re talking about the scene where —

John: We should say, I guess we should say there’s a mild spoiler here but it’s actually not.

Craig: No, you know what —

John: On the order of spoilers for Game of Thrones this is incredibly minor. This isn’t like a death of a major character.

Craig: And it’s two week later, so forget it, you know.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s like keep up or don’t. So Joffrey is dead of course and he’s lying in state so to speak in the Sept…Septum? Septom? Sept?

John: I think they call it a Sept.

Craig: Yeah, the septum is the thing in your nose.

John: And I think is it called Sept because there are seven gods? Is that why it’s called a Sept?

Craig: Maybe. Maybe so. I don’t know, but that’s where they are.

So he’s lying there and Cersei, his mom, is there and Jaime Lannister comes in. That’s Cersei’s brother and, of course, Cersei and Jaime incestuous lovers and Joffrey their incestuous son. Everybody else is cleared out of the room and basically Jaime comes on to Cersei and she says no and then he rapes her right there next to the body of their dead incest kid. And I thought, “All right!” you know, like, “Here we go again, Game of Thrones getting sick,” but people really got upset.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And they got upset for a bunch of reasons. And I wanted to talk a little bit about it because it kind of ties into I think this interesting phenomenon. It’s a very human thing of what I call narrative directionality.

So some people got upset because they didn’t like the idea that Jaime Lannister raped his sister. Just forget the fact that he was a good guy now as opposed to before. They didn’t like that he raped his sister and I just thought, well, but you were okay with him up to this point when he pushed a kid out a window callously and didn’t even seem to care —

John: Yes.

Craig: When he was going to kill Ned Stark for no good reason. I mean, this is a bad guy.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: Oh, oh, and the fact that he had sex with his sister and had an incest baby and then lied about it and knew that his sister was aborting the babies that she’s having with her actual husband. I mean, this is a terrible person by any definition of behavior.

But people really got upset about the rape part. And, you know, my feeling was that what was underlying this was that they were, and in the book it’s not rape. It’s sort of — it turns into like a weird consensual kinky sex bit.

And so they were saying, “Well, in the book it’s not rape but in the show they chose to make it rape so it’s that choice and that’s super bad.” But, you know, again, it’s like, well, forget that there was a choice between the book and the show. The book had Daenerys Targaryen raped repeatedly by her husband that she was forced to marry.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And then she started to like it and then she fell in love with him. Nobody had a problem with that either apparently.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But this, they have a problem with it. And I think their problem is this: Jaime Lannister’s character was starting to go through this process where he was seeing things differently and behaving differently in a way that people thought he’s getting better and this fits into a very clean narrative direction. A bad person starts to change their evil ways. And what that moment did was reverse that directionality and say, no, actually, he’s still the same guy that did all that stuff. And people got really angry I think because the narrative turned left on them like that. And for me, I actually kind of think that’s great.

John: Yeah, there’s a lot to sort of unpack here. First off, you described it as being rape. And so when I first saw the scene, I’m like, oh, one of the first points of controversy will be was it rape or was it like bad consensual sex. And I think it’s better just to call it rape and just like discuss it as a rape and not just that they’re two really screwed up people and therefore that’s sort of the nature of their relationship.

Craig: Oh, no, it was definitely rape.

John: Yeah, and it was rape because of specific choices of what she was saying and her trying to push him away and —

Craig: Right.

John: So let’s call it rape and like not even sort of open that.

Craig: For sure.

John: But I would say the first day after the episode aired, that was a lot of the discussion like was it rape, was it not rape. Let’s just call it rape.

About directionality, I want to stick up a little bit for the sense of people’s ownership of the Jaime Lannister character and the arc they believed him to be on. And that’s understandable why you are starting to identify him as being a heroic character rather than a villainous character. And that’s natural. I think it’s okay to feel a little betrayed by him.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And by proxy, this shows creators, because they had given you good reason to believe that he had made a change for the better. He was a crippled man who had learned the errors of his ways, who wanted to do better by his sister/lover and everyone else around him seemed to be doing the right kinds of things. So for him to change course in that moment felt wrong.

Craig: Well, you know, it’s not wrong though. I guess —

John: No, I’m saying, it felt wrong —

Craig: It felt wrong.

John: I can understand why it felt wrong to the viewer.

Craig: I am with you on the point that I think we’re supposed to feel betrayed and disappointed by him. What I was confused by was the extension of that to Dan and Dave because I thought, frankly, what this show does better than most every other show I’ve seen is repeatedly confound and thwart our desire to see a natural narrative path occur from wherever a character is in a given point in the show. I mean, starting with the beheading of Ned Stark and going onward from there, I mean, there’s a great moment in that episode I believe where The Hound says to Arya, you know, essentially I see the world for what is, how many Starks need to be beheaded before you start.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: And it kind of, like to me, that was the theme of the show like, hey, this is the way — we don’t — this isn’t the kind of show where somebody who casually murders children and then quips about it as they’re falling to their, what should have been their death, that person doesn’t have some mid-life, good golly, I’m going to be a sweetheart kind of changeup. No, he’s a bad person.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And bad people have moments, but, you know.

John: Yeah, I agree with you that the moments between Arya and The Hound and sort of their — to the beats of their storyline in that episode were basically you were a fool for thinking that I changed. I didn’t change. I’m going to steal this guy’s money and keep moving on, because that’s who I am.

Craig: Right, right.

John: And, you know, he wasn’t wearing like the scorpion jacket but it was essentially that sort of scorpion quality of like, you know, this is what I am.

Craig: Right.

John: It’s that trope of like, I am genuinely irredeemable.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: I think what’s different about Jaime Lannister is like you have a handsome guy who looks like he should be a knight hero and he’s sort of dressed like a knight hero. So it feels like a greater betrayal that he is doing it. Whereas The Hound, well, he’s ugly, so of course he’s going to ultimately be evil and do that thing.

Craig: Right. Yeah, I just think that if the people that are complaining about what happened there go and watch the first episode and look at the way that Jaime Lannister delivers his line, “The things I do for love,” after he pushes that kid out the window.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: I think you can’t reconcile — that’s an adult. That is a grown man who is clearly got a sociopathic streak a mile wide. The fact that he’s been humbled and the fact that he can have a friend and that he maybe sees things differently vis-à-vis himself and his family, that’s doesn’t change the fact that he’s just an — he’s an awful person.

John: Yes. So what we’re really talking here I think is ambiguity, is that it’s frustrating sometimes as a viewer just to see this thing and say like, “No, but I want this person to be good or bad. I want this person to easily be placed in one box and I want this situation to be clear to me.”

And what Game of Thrones is saying is like, no, we are never going to make it clear and easy for you to say, this is a good person you should be rooting for. This is a bad person you should be rooting against. We’re always going to make it difficult for you.

Craig: I agree. And I think in this sense what they’re doing with things like this is very important. Because what happens in the way we experience narrative is we accept that there are certain rules in place to give narrative a structure. And then, every now and then somebody comes along and breaks it on purpose. Sometimes people break it because they’re just bad and they don’t know what they’re doing and everybody rejects it.

But sometimes people break it and they’re yelled at and it’s not understood or appreciated. But then, now the line about how flexible a character can be presented in narrative changes. Because it starts to make it freer for everybody else to say, “You know what? I actually think this person can do this and I think it becomes narratively interesting because there’s a context for it. Now, we’ve seen it before.”

So the first time, what is it, Rites of Spring was played people rioted because it was atonal. [laughs] But now that just seems bizarre to us. But I think that these things are important. When they are done with expertise and they’re done — and listen, this is not to say, just so that everyone is really clear, in no way am I defending what this character did. I mean, that was terrible, you know, but again he’s a murderer and a sociopath. So it didn’t shock me maybe the way it shocked other people but I’m not — I was a little surprised at how many people, because it was rape suddenly got super upset but didn’t get upset about the rape of Daenerys and didn’t get upset about the fact that Jaime Lannister tried to kill a kid.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: But the rape here was the thing that really got them going.

John: If I’m being honest, my not loving the scene was largely because I didn’t necessarily believe that it was happening right beside the body of Joffrey. And that to me just felt a little soap opera-ish in ways that the show usually isn’t. And so, it wasn’t that this rape happened, that it happened in that moment right there. I just didn’t fully believe it. And that’s just my own personal response to how that situation was created. But I think that’s actually not the important thing to discuss. I think what we’ve been talking about of the nature of what he did is really the meat of this.

Craig: Yeah. I do think that that location was directly taken from the book, so they —

John: Yeah. That’s true.

Craig: It’s interesting to see how they drift from and stick to the book. But in any case, so I guess I’m sticking up for the showrunners on that one.

John: Sounds good.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Let’s switch to our next uncomfortable and ambiguous situation, which is that on April 16th a guy named Michael Egan filed a lawsuit against Director Bryan Singer.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Describing abuse he said began when he was 15 years old. So we’re recording on this on a Thursday. I’m sure there’s been a thousand developments since we recorded this. So it probably doesn’t behoove us to get into too many details about the nature of this one allegation. But more to talk about sort of like what it is like to have this lawsuit happening now when Bryan Singer’s movie X-Men: Days of Future Past is supposed to be coming out. The nature of power in Hollywood gets questioned. The nature of relationships in Hollywood gets questioned. And sort of the big bag of hurt that this kind of accusation unleashes.

Craig: Yeah, this is not a good thing. I mean, we’re — part of the problem, this is a little different than some of the allegations that you’ll see sometimes because people do claim all sorts of stuff. I mean, you and I talked about how every movie gets accused of stealing some, you know, another idea or something like that.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But this is — even when you’re talking about situations of assault and sexual assault which is always a very messy and tricky thing, sometimes these things don’t pan out. In this case, it’s a little disturbing to me that part of the deal here is that Singer apparently was associated somehow with this guy Marc Rector-Collins who has already, I think, been to prison for this sort of thing before or had been indicted or convicted or something. So there are some shady players involved here and this one I think is not going go away anytime soon.

John: Yeah, I don’t a crystal ball to tell you what’s going to happen. I can only look back at the past. And so, I can sort of share my own personal experience with the edges of this and sort of what’s been discussed because this one allegation came out.

So I don’t think I’ve ever met Bryan Singer in person. But I did encounter him for the very first time when I was an assistant. I was answering phones for producers and he called to invite my boss to a party and I don’t remember whether my boss was going to go or not. But he also, just on the phone, Bryan Singer invited me and I think just correctly surmising that I was a 20-something year old gay guy who might want to come to party at his house.

Craig: Sure.

John: I didn’t go and that’s great and fine. But, in the years past and the decades since then, I would be at parties and Bryan Singer would show up with this posse of really good-looking guys who were about 20 and I —

Craig: Yeah.

John: This allegation of this guy was like he’s 15 and like I don’t remember seeing anybody that young, but it was sort of a thing and like everyone knew that like Bryan Singer would show up at a party with this group of guys. They’d swarm for like 30 minutes and then they go onto the next party. And that was just the thing that happened.

So a lot of the real meat of the story is more about like this posse of guys and sort of with that lifestyle was versus the nature of what actually happened in this one case. And I want to make sure that whatever the criminal or civil — whatever happens with this one thing is judged based on that one thing and that it doesn’t become this sort of indictment of this swarm of 20 year olds around him.

Craig: Well, sure. Yeah, I mean, it’s not illegal to have sex with 20 year olds. It’s illegal to have sex with, whatever, 17 year olds, I don’t know. [laughs] I should probably, I should look into that.

John: Yeah, well, there’s a complete age consent issue and there’s also the ability to give consent.

Craig: Right.

John: And those are two incredibly important things that anytime you’re talking about sexual abuse, rape, or anything like that you have to keep in mind were the people participating in the situation able to give consent.

Craig: Right.

John: Based on age or based on everything else.

Craig: And in this case, there are allegations that some of the people were not of age to give consent at all and other people were under the influence of drugs and were coerced either by drugs that they weren’t even — they didn’t even realized they were ingesting — or by threats of violence in some cases I believe. This is not the first time that Bryan Singer’s name has been mentioned in connection with something like this.

He got in to a bit of hot water over a situation when he was making the movie Apt Pupil as I recall. There were some underage kids in a locker room scene and, [sighs], you know, look, I’m not a big believer in where there’s smoke there’s fire, so we can’t, we don’t know. All I know is this: there’s enough stuff around this one to make me nervous that — if I were Bryan Singer I would be very nervous right now.

And here is the other issue is that it’s spreading now to these other people and, you know, people can take a swing at somebody. When you start taking swings at five people, six people, seven people, my guess is you’ve got something behind those punches because otherwise you’re just going to, you know, what lawyer is necessarily going to start going that nuts, you know?

John: Well, yes and no. I do, and again, this is probably pretty early days of this so we don’t know sort of how many people they’re going to start pointing fingers at. The issue is, to me, basically you ask why now and sort of why did this person — why is this person coming out and saying, making these accusations about things that happened many years ago? Is it because Bryan Singer is suddenly a much bigger name because he has a big movie coming out and that it’s more lucrative to make these accusations now when there’s a much better reason to make them all go away? That’s going to be the natural question that sort of comes up out of sort of why this thing happens right now.

Craig: Yeah. I’m really confused by that too.

John: I don’t —

Craig: Because, I mean, Bryan Singer has had big movies out between the time of the allegation, you know, when he said these incidences occurred and now. I don’t know why now, and frankly waited past the statute of limitations. The whole thing is odd —

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: But disconcerting. I will say this: I have never encountered any kind of weird sexual situation in Hollywood because I’m a married guy, right. I mean, I’m — so there’s just, there was never any — and I’m me. [laughs] Nobody wants me at their orgy, okay.

But I do know that this sort of thing does happen. This sort of thing happens between men and women. It happens between men and men. It happens between women and women. And there are a lot of bad people in our business.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Who have appetites in which they indulge and they feel entitled. And there are waves of young, impressionable, naive, desperate people who are here in this town looking for mommies and daddies and looking for fame and fortune.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: And this tale is as old as Hollywood. I can’t speak to whether or not any of the people that have been accused are guilty or innocent. But I can say there are guilty people out there and I would love to see things get cleaned up because sexual abuse in Hollywood is pervasive I believe and it is just awful. It is awful that it exist and frankly it’s awful that we all kind of walk around knowing it exists but never being able to do anything about it.

John: Okay. Well, let’s talk though about like how would you actually implement these changes? Is it — do you basically start figuring out who the bad people are and stop hiring them?

Craig: Well —

John: Because, I mean, you and I off mic could make a list of like these are terrible people, and maybe do you stop hiring them because you are worried about the kind of PR disaster that this clearly has the potential to be. Well, even when we talked about like Orson Scott Card many, many episodes ago, we talked about that weird thing like you never want somebody involved as a creator to become like this negative anchor on your movie and that’s what we’re talking about here.

Craig: Well, I think that it’s — the tricky part is you don’t want to black list people and you don’t want to go on witch hunts, because suddenly, you know, let’s say this all turns into something very, very real and Bryan Singer ends up in prison. Now you’ve got, you know, what are you going to have a witch hunt of every gay director in his 30s? I mean, you got to be careful about this. But on the other hand, I actually think the only thing that can stop this is for these people to be exposed and stand trial and if they’re guilty go to prison because they’re doing criminal things.

Listen, you could be a sleaze. If you want to be a legal sleaze all day long, I don’t have to like it but, you know, it’s not —

John: But, Craig, a lot of, I mean, with this bad behavior we’re talking about though, maybe we should distinguish these kinds of bad behavior. There’s actually, genuinely criminal things where you’re doing things with underage people or people who cannot give consent because of drugs or coercion or whatever else.

Craig: Right.

John: But what about sort of the 18-year-old actress from Iowa who gets sent out for an audition with a skeezy producer/director or whatever and feels kind of coerced into —

Craig: Well…

John: Coerced is the wrong word.

Craig: There you go.

John: But we got to make sure that, I mean, there’s — I mean, again, there’s uncomfortable ambiguity here about like what is just like recognizing a bad situation and how do you deal with sort of skeevy producers and directors even if they’re not actually breaking the law, do you still hire them?

Craig: Well, it’s —

John: Interesting, even if they’re not found guilty , there’s till that PR disaster. That’s really what I’m talking about. It’s like —

Craig: No, I hear you. I mean, look, if you think that somebody is a ticking time bomb for activity that will impact your business negatively regardless of its legality, yeah, I would say, you probably should think twice before hiring them. Even if you’re just amoral. From a business point of view you should think twice about hiring them for sure. In terms of where the line gets drawn on the behavior, I think that our criminal justice system is fairly conservative in this regard. There’s a, you know, innocent before proven guilty. There’s got to be evidence. You get a lawyer. There is a trial. So if it’s not illegal, then it’s not illegal, then you just have to make a decision about whether it’s distasteful and embarrassing and detracting to your business. And you also have to be careful that you’re right.

John: Yeah.

Craig: That you’re not simply acting on rumors. This business, in particular when it comes to gay men, less of gay women but gay men, this business since the beginning has just had this enormous percentage of closeted gay man who had to live kind of completely in secret in this way. And there is a culture of secrecy about it. And cultures of secrecy which are born out of necessity serve as a shield for then bad people who do bad things. Now, granted straight people have done probably I would say a larger proportion of the bad things. [laughs]

John: I would say a greatly larger proportion.

Craig: Yeah.

John: I think the stereotype of the skeevy producer or director and the, you know, the girl just off the bus from Iowa, it exists for a reason because we see it happening all the time.

Craig: Right. That’s every day.

John: And maybe because it’s so commonly out there, we can sort of recognize the warning signs of it a little bit more easily. I am, I think I am generally in a macro sense most worried about the witch hunt aspect of it because even if it’s not a publicly-declared witch hunt , it’s that slow — it’s that reticence to hire anybody. You wonder like could there by some problem here. And the person who comes to mind is Lana Wachowski, because back when Lana Wachowski was Larry Wachowski —

Craig: Right.

John: You know, that was a big transition. And there’s a lot of reasons why you could worry that that was going to be a time bomb situation. It ended up not being a time bomb situation and things kind of turned out just fine. But I’m worried that you could create a culture in which you feel very nervous about hiring The Wachowskis because of this Bryan Singer situation or some other potential law suit out there.

Craig: You know, my point of view is that Hollywood is a fairly progressive place. One of the more progressive industries in the world. And when it comes to somebody, something like, someone who’s transgender, now at least in 2014, so who is transgender and who’s transitioning between genders, I don’t think that’s embarrassing at all for anybody.

I think, frankly, that people sort of line up to be first in line to say I support this person because we don’t look at it here, at least In Hollywood, we don’t look at that as anything wrong at all. I think where most reasonable people agree is that sexual coercion, sexual assault, rape and statutory rape, that these things are criminal and that they are not connected to gender issues.

I mean, listen, poor Lee Tamahori, remember his story

John: I don’t remember it well, but I recognize the name.

Craig: Lee Tamahori is a director and he was arrested for basically soliciting, I think, in drag on Santa Monica. And, you know, this was I think like 2000 — I want to say it was like 2005. And it was really embarrassing for him. And it clearly impacted his career in a way that Eddie Murphy and Hugh Grant’s careers were not impacted, I should point out.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But I think were that to happen now, I think it would be a different situation. I agree with you. Look, the last thing we want is a witch hunt. But also the last thing we want is to allow… — Listen, there was a culture going on. We know this because the guys that ran that Digital Entertainment Network, this guy Mark Collins, director, and a couple of these other guys, they fled the country and then got extradited and there were criminal charges. And one of them, I’m sure of it, I seem to recall was convicted.

There were bad things going on. And there are bad things going on. And so we have to balance witch hunter-y against, but I… — Listen, man, I have a daughter, you know? If I heard that somebody I knew professionally had sexually assaulted a woman, so we’re talking now heterosexual sexual assault, I mean, they’re out of my life, for sure.

Now, I also know as you do the odds of us not knowing somebody like that without knowing is zero, right? I mean, we have worked with somebody that we don’t know has done this. Has to be, right?

John: We have worked with a Jaime Lannister without knowing it.

Craig: That’s right. We have worked with a Jaime Lannister without knowing it. And I hope that all of the Jaime Lannisters get a light shone on them, because this is the worst, you know. It’s a terrible crime. And if Bryan Singer is not a Jaime Lannister, I hope he is exonerated. And if he is, I hope he goes to prison. I mean, you know, other people will make the X-Men movies. We’ll survive.

John: Yeah.

All right, next topic. Also on April 14th, or I guess two days before the Bryan Singer, the WGA released a report. I think it’s every two years they do this report. How often do they do the report?

Craig: I think they do it every year.

John: All right. This report was on sort of a representation of women and minorities and older people among writers in Hollywood. We’re going to put a link up to the executive summary, but some of the statistics were about female writers accounted for 15% of feature film work in 2012, the latest figure tracked in the survey, down from 17% in 2009. So, it dropped two points since 2009.

Minority writers remain stuck at 5% of film jobs, unchanged from 2009. But the survey shows minority writer earnings declined over the same period, even as paydays for white male writers increased. So, it was not a bundle of good news.

There was actually some good news in the TV side where women’s numbers had increased somewhat.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, looking through this, so if we’re looking for good news and there is not much here to celebrate. So, sort of good news, I guess, is that things didn’t really get that much worse. I mean, statistically speaking the percentage for instance of women working in film went like this from 2008 to 2012: 16, 17, 17, 16, 15. That 15 may just be an outlier. It may be up to 17 again next year.

And the numbers were very steady across the board for television: 28, 28, 27, 28, 27. And total overall employment is actually like one tick higher than it was in 2008. And it’s basically 24% to 25%. So, did it get much worse, no. I guess can we say that it’s good news that the bad situation stayed roughly the same bad? No, that’s not so great.

The one other bit of sort of good news is that there’s not much of a significant gender earnings gap in television. There is a slight gap, which obviously we don’t want to see again. Well, you know, it’s significant. In 2012 median television earnings $112,000 and for white males it was $121,000. That’s a difference of $9,000. That is significant, but it’s not — you don’t look at that and your heart doesn’t sink to the floor.

And what’s also interesting is that as male earnings went up, white male earnings went up, the female earnings went up as well. So, the lines kind of followed each other.

John: Yeah. It’s one of those things where if you actually look at it on the chart you’re like, oh, that’s not so bad at all. But then when you actually look at it like the actual numbers, it’s like, oh, women are still getting significantly less.

Craig: No, there is a clear problem there.

John: Really, the gap remained the same, it’s just that the numbers overall were the same.

Craig: Yeah, I guess my theme of the good news is a bad situation stayed roughly as bad as it’s been. Yeah, I mean, for film the gap has narrowed somewhat significantly since 2008. The gap is much wider in film than it is in television which doesn’t surprise me because the income disparity in general in film is much wider than it is in television in terms of writing.

John: My takeaway from looking at this overall report, particularly in features, I felt like one of the realities is like there were fewer feature jobs. Overall the whole pot of future jobs, there were fewer of them. And that women and minorities probably seemed to take the biggest hit of those fewer jobs.

And so they took a disproportionately large hit I guess I should say. And also when there is more competition for fewer jobs, it becomes harder to push quotes up. And so if you are one of them women who got the job, or minority who got that writing job, it becomes harder to push your quote up higher because there’s a thousand other people who could do that same thing.

Another thing I thought was interesting was this statistic that since 2008 writers aged 41 to 50 have replaced younger writers age 31 to 40 as the age group who enjoyed the largest share of film employment. So, it went from younger writers claimed 37% of all employment to just 33% of all employment. That got flipped in 2010. So, writers age 41 to 50 were 39% of film employment. Writers age 31 to 40 dropped five percentage points to 32%.

So, it’s basically good news for John August and Craig Mazin.

Craig: Well, it’s good news for John August and Craig Mazin, two white men working in film in their forties. I will say that the bad news for the studios here, if they’re concerned at all, and this is a point that I’ve made to them when we’ve gone out with the guild to talk about the professional status of screenwriters is that they’re not doing a very good job of training the next generation of screenwriters.

First of all, there’s this myth that twenty-somethings, everybody wants twenty-somethings. Nobody apparently wants twenty-somethings. You want to talk about a group that’s discriminated against? Twenty-somethings.

So, traditionally — and frankly if you look at these numbers, I really have to question the guild’s commitment to this notion that age 40+ is now a protected class, when frankly 40 to 60, that’s the largest earning class in the guild. And that the class that is hammered and needs promotion is the under-30 group. They are —

John: Well, Craig, let’s talk about how many people could really fit in that cohort though of the under-30. Because let’s really realistically 25 is about as young as a writer you’re going to get, so there’s really only five years of that.

Craig: Well, if you double the percentages —

John: It’s still really low.

Craig: It’s still much lower than 51 to 60. And I think what we’re going to see is this trend that you pointed out here of the flip between the 30s and the 40s, that’s like guys like you and me going from our 30s to our 40s, which is exactly what happened in 2011.

Because I don’t think the studios are doing as good of a job as they used to bringing people up, bringing them through, and bringing them along. I think, frankly, you’re looking at a bunch of people that are just dropping out in their 20s and 30s because there is not a living to be made as a feature screenwriter.

John: Well, I would also argue that a lot of those people who would be the 25-year-old feature writer are now 25-year-old TV writers, because that’s where the jobs are. And so perhaps the feature jobs —

Craig: Not according to their chair. It suggests similarly terrible numbers.

John: Let’s see. I’m looking at my television one.

Craig: Well, for the 30s they’re solid, but still your 40 to 50, that’s the highest numbers.

John: That’s the bulk. Right.

Craig: And the under 31s is, again, dismal. I mean, that’s a pretty remarkable thing. I have to say like of all the — and let’s add onto that number, because that’s the one that really jumped out at me. That a lot of the efforts that have been made to bring woman and minorities into professional writing positions have been made in the last five to 10 years. Which means a lot of the efforts are going to be for newer writers who are in their 20s, so you’ve got this triple problem where suddenly you’re in your 20s and you’re a woman and you’re a minority, or you’re a minority, and you’re in this like jammed up class that’s just getting hammered out there.

Why? I guess — let’s take a step back, John. What do you think is going on here? Do you think that there is an explanation other than just flat out sexism, racism, ageism?

John: Oh, I think you can’t ever have just one explanation behind things, but I think there are fewer candidates than they want for some of those things.

So, let’s take, oh, I’ll talk about my experience dealing with a producer of a big TV show. And we were talking about hiring directors, but hiring writers is really the same situation. And she said that they actively really tried to hire female directors for the show and the first season they were able to get two on. And they brought one back the second time because she was great.

And that one female director was so good they could never get her back again. And they tried other people — they had a hard time finding candidates that they thought were actually good enough to do this.

That’s on the buyer side. But, you can also — there’s also the challenge of you have to want to become a screenwriter, or a television writer. And in some ways there is a self-perpetuating cycle. If you’re a young woman who doesn’t believe that she can make it as a TV writer, or as a feature writer, you may never try to make it as a feature writer or a TV writer. And that can take the numbers down, too.

We saw it to some degree even in the Three Page Challenges, looking at sort of what percentage of people who submitted to Three Page Challenge were men or women. And it was surprisingly there was a huge disparity of men to women writing in for that.

Craig: Right. And I think you see that also in the Nicholl Fellowship that I think they get roughly about 30% submissions from women, which is obviously out of whack.

I mean, look, it may be that that number is depressed because women are negatively influenced by the fact that they are a minority in success, or it may be a depressed number because there just may be less interest. We don’t know.

Look, if you’re a woman and you’re interested in screenwriting, that’s not a very satisfying answer, but of course you might be one of the 30%.

John: Yes. Well, because the minute I say what I just said, there’s a natural response to it, it’s like, but no, I’m one of those women who wants to be this thing and you saying that I don’t want this thing is negative. I’m like, I’m actually saying exactly the opposite.

Craig: Right.

John: I’m saying that in some ways in my conversations with people who are trying to make hiring decisions, they are often saying that we are really looking for women or minorities for these things and we’re having a hard time finding them. And so be that there need to better programs to get people trained to do those things, better mentorship of writers to writers, specifically women writers to women writers to try to make sure all those connections are actually happening, I’m saying that, yes, there is a problem. I’m just saying that the problem isn’t necessarily that these people aren’t willing to hire somebody; they just may not be able to find a person they feel is qualified to hire.

Craig: I agree. There is no real clear path to figure this out.

John: I’m going to back up if I can to page ten of that report, because if you actually —

Craig: Yeah, I’m looking at that now. The employment rate by age group. Yeah.

John: So, it’s really interesting. So, yeah.

Craig: I’m puzzled, because so here it’s saying, all right, employment rate by age group is the highest in the twenty-somethings, where in 2012 it’s arguing that 80% of the twenty-somethings got employment versus a lower percentage. But, how do they figure that out exactly? How do they — ?

John: I don’t know.

Craig: Employment rate is defined as a percentage of current guild members who are actually employed. Okay, well that’s a very misleading thing. Because I would imagine that the current guild membership is probably skewed more heavily in the older ages, which means that the percentage of people employed would be lower because there are fewer guild members in the 20s. This is a bad graph.

John: Okay, I can see what you’re saying.

Craig: You know what I mean?

John: It’s because the guild has so many —

Craig: Current members between 30 and 60, right. So, if there are very few current guild members in their 20s, so yeah, if there’s like, you know, 40 of them that get work —

John: So, if you are a guild member in your 20s you’re likely a working guild member in your 20s.

Craig: Exactly.

John: You’re actually actively working. I guess that’s true.

Craig: Yeah. This is a bad graph. I think the graph that matters is the share. Because if you look at share of film employment, there’s no reason frankly… — Like I grant you, forget 20 to 25, but if you look at 25 to 30, there’s no reason that 25 to 30 year olds should be employed at such a lower rate than 30 to 35 year olds even, you know?

That’s a little odd to me.

John: I’m trying to read through to understand what share film employment actually means. Does it mean out of 100 jobs how many were occupied by people of a certain age? Or total amount of dollars earned in film? And it’s really unclear from this.

Craig: I would imagine it has to do with how many jobs, like how many workers worked. You know, like how many jobs out of the available jobs went to twenty-somethings. How many jobs out of the available jobs, you know what I mean?

John: Yeah.

Craig: I’m guessing.

John: We’ll see.

Craig: That’s the problem with these statistics. They get a little crazy.

John: Yeah. But what’s so fascinating about those two charts is if you look at them you can draw completely opposite conclusions about where the real problem is.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Because you were saying the real problem is that we’re not doing enough to help the younger people. The other chart makes it seem like the younger people are doing just great. It’s the older people who are —

Craig: Yeah, that other chart sucks. [laughs] I will tell you there is a chart that, I mean, you want to look at the only chart that matters? How about money? Let’s just look at money, because that’s the only thing that matters in terms of like what’s actually happening for people. Average earnings by age group.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: Under 31s are way — I mean, you want to talk about a disparity. Like we’re here talking like, man, there is a 10% gap between men and women. Absolutely. There is a 100% gap between twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings in television. And there is similarly a very large gap as well in film. The 40-somethings like you and me, their median earnings in film in 2012 were about $90,000 and for twenty-somethings they were more like $50,000.

John: 50.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, that is absolutely shocking. And I will point out to you, and this is why sometimes the guild makes me nuts. They will never mention this because it doesn’t fit their narrative. Their narrative is… — And do you know why it doesn’t fit their narrative? Because there are so few twenty-somethings and because the grouchiest people, forgive me for being stereotypical, [laughs], but the old people are grouchier.

Like me and you, right? We’re part of the old people now. And they’re grouchy.

John: I do find it fascinating — we’re looking at figure 13 in the chart if you’re following with us. And so there’s, I don’t know if you call it an S-curve or what you want to call it, but essentially earnings peak in that 41 to 50-year-old, and they go down 61 to 70 they’re at the lowest point back down to where the twenty-somethings are.

But then it actually rises again. And if you’re 71 to 80, because I think basically if you’re 71 years old and you’re still getting hired, you’re getting a big paycheck.

Craig: You’re the best. Like basically you —

John: You’re Alvin Sargent.

Craig: You are exactly right. Yeah. And frankly there are so few screenwriters in that cohort that Alvin Sargent has a huge impact on this graph. [laughs]

John: Exactly. One Alvin Sargent. He’s the entire dot there.

Craig: Yeah, I mean, but this is to me, when you look at these graphs the thought that the Writers Guild actually considers white men in their 40s to be a protected class somehow is insane. And frankly speaks to who runs the guild, which would be men in their 40s and 50s.

I look at this report and I mean I recognize women and minorities, we got a long way to go there. A long way to go. But I’m also looking at twenty-somethings because I feel like the bottom is just not there anymore.

John: Well, also the women and minorities who we need to get started in the film industry are largely those people in the 20s.

Craig: Exactly.

John: So, you help that whole cohort up, you’re going to help people.

Craig: That’s exactly right.

John: Craig, how often should we do this kind of report? How often should the guild do it?

Craig: Well, you know, my feeling because this report is expensive and it uses our dues, my feeling is I think if we did it once every four years or once every five years we would be fine. And by that I mean even collect the data, because it doesn’t change. The data simply doesn’t change in any significant way. Look at figure 8. This is median earnings for employed women, minority, and white male writers. And it’s just the same crap. From 2002 to 2012 it’s the same.

And my issue with the guild is that they shell out cash to do these reports to make themselves feel better. Frankly, they could do it once every ten years. Hell, at this point you could probably do it once every 20 years, because all they do is they put this out there and go, “Isn’t this terrible?”

But, hey, how about, I don’t know, like doing something about it. Like creating a program. Why doesn’t the guild take the money they’ve thrown to these reports and just start doing specific training or sponsoring positions or, I don’t know, something. Try something else other than just putting the same damn graph out every year going, “Oh, dear, no.”

John: Yeah. I’m going to take the counterpoint that I think you need to do it more often than that because it just becomes too easy to forget about all together. So, the good thing about this report coming out is it creates a moment of conversation about the problem itself.

And so I totally hear you in terms of the spending a tremendous amount of money on it, so perhaps a better way to do smaller, much cheaper reports that don’t try to be as comprehensive or cost so much, but that remind us of the actual nature of the problem.

Craig: Well, I’m with you on that. Look, if this report were followed by action, and then that action was subject to a follow up report to test for efficacy, I would be all for it. And I feel like sometimes the guild hates to try things because they think that they’ll fail. I don’t mind failure. That’s part of the scientific process. And this is a scientific problem. Sociology is a science.

So, try something. See if it works. If it does, keep doing it. Do it more. If it doesn’t, try a new thing. But you have to try something. You can’t simply just collect data for the rest of your life and bemoan the fate of everything. I mean, geez, if I were a black kid, I’m 22 years old, I want to be a screenwriter and I’m looking at these reports going back all these years I’d think, well, so I can pretty much assume the next 10 years will be the same. Why wouldn’t they be?

John: Yeah. There’s no reason.

Craig: Yeah. This trend is pretty steady. It’s bad.

John: I think you’re probably right.

All right, our next topic. This is based on a Wall Street Journal article that we’ll have a link to in the show notes. But it’s about The Vampire Diaries and the woman who wrote The Vampire Diaries. So, this is a little snippet from it:

Lisa Jane Smith started writing her first book, “The Night of the Solstice,” when she was in high school, and was around 20 when MacMillan published the novel in 1987. The book, a middle-grade fantasy novel, was a commercial failure that sold around 5,000 copies. But it captured the attention of an editor at Alloy, who asked Ms. Smith if she’d be interested in writing a new young-adult series, concocted as “Interview with the Vampire” for teens.

So, basically she wrote this book about a high school girl who is torn between vampire brothers. She wrote it as a trilogy in nine months for a small advance of a few thousand dollars. What she apparently didn’t realize is that she was writing it as a work-for-hire and that became a huge issue because down the road as The Vampire Diaries, actually many years later as The Vampire Diaries became a TV series, they decided to have someone else start writing the books for The Vampire Diaries and shut her out.

The strange twist that happened recently is, so Alloy made some sort of deal with Kindle for Kindle World, which is their fan fiction thing, so that writers who wish to write fan fiction for The Vampire Diaries can and they can sell their fan fiction through the Kindle World store. So, Lisa Jane Smith, or LJ Smith, started writing paid fan fiction for the series that she herself created, which is just bizarre.

Craig: It is.

John: It’s just a weird — I think it’s just a fascinating case study in like what it is like to be a writer now and sort of just the importance of understanding what rights you control or don’t control as a writer.

Craig: No question. I mean, look, on the one hand this is actually a wonderful story because the way technology has advanced it’s actually given an opportunity to a writer that would simply not have existed. She just would have suffered the indignity of this had her career been shifted back twenty years. When you are hired under work-for-hire, what it means is you’re being commissioned to do a work by somebody else.

And this, by the way, only exists in the United States. As you are commissioned to do that work, you are considered an employee. You do not own the copyright on the work. The copyright is controlled and owned by the commissioner. You and I when we write screenplays for studios, it’s work-for-hire. So, we don’t own our copyrights. We are typically compensated quite well and we also get the benefit of the union because we’re employees, so there are certain terms that are collectively bargained and residuals that approximate royalties and things like that.

But in the book business, I would imagine it gets pretty bad.

John: It could.

Craig: Because I don’t believe there is a union, like a true federally-chartered labor union that organizes writers who are writing novels on a work-for-hire basis. I don’t know what she got paid. She might have been paid very little. I’m kind of shocked that she didn’t know the nature of the contract. Some lawyer must have understood it and explained it.

But the other fascinating part of this is that these companies realize that there’s money to be made in allowing fan fiction to occur. So, fan fiction exists sort of on an underground basis and these companies realized, well, if these people are going to do it, you know the deal with fan fiction is if you want to actually take it to the next level, like for instance E.L. James did when she wrote Fifty Shades of Grey, at some point if you want to sell the stuff you have to change the names and you’ve got to change certain details so you’re not infringing on the copyright of in the case of Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And it turns out that Twilight is some weird touchstone for S&M. I don’t understand why, but it is. [laughs] Like a Mormon lady wrote this thing that everybody else looks at and goes S&M. Whatever.

So, things have to be changed. But these companies that own these properties, and they have to own them. See, that’s the key. If an individual author wants to do this, like let’s say Stephanie Meyer did say I want people to be able to write Twilight FanFic, she can individually license that right to Amazon and then get money for it and then people can go ahead and use the real names and the real places.

But in the case of something like The Vampire Diaries, because the company was commissioning these works as a work-for-hire, it’s their — they can do that. And now it’s open the door for the actual writer to write these things again. And the fans of her work are really passionate and they’re very excited about reading what they consider to be the real sequels to those books, and not the ones written by the other authors.

John: And Alloy Entertainment still gets paid for it.

Craig: They get paid.

John: I think because of the deal with Kindle Worlds, like they still — they actually own the copyright on it, which is also crazy.

Craig: Yeah. That’s interesting to me that the deal with Kindle World is that the company or the copyright holder, which may be an individual author, licenses the right to Kindle World for their user, for Kindle World users to write fan fiction, approved fan fiction, with the character names and all the rest. But, then if the FanFic writers want to do that, they have to sign away their copyrights back to the company?

John: Yeah. There’s something crazy like that. So, Alloy is still making money off of that, which is crazy.

Craig: Wow. And so what’s now, I really get it, because now what’s going on is these companies are going, “Well, why should E.L. James make $40 billion? We should be making the $40 billion.”

John: So, Craig, I have a question for you. Let’s bring it back to us. So, let’s say you write a spec script and it becomes a movie, it becomes a worldwide phenomenon. You write Raiders of the Lost Ark and it becomes a worldwide phenomenon. And people want to start writing fan fiction for it and put it in this kind of situation. Do you think that you have that as one of your separated rights? Or is that something that they own as part of their separated rights?

Craig: It is not one of our separated rights. Yeah, no.

John: So, they can license that and be making money off of people writing fan fiction.

Craig: Absolutely. We have, our separated rights are quite limited. And the closest thing we have to something like this is the right to a novelization. Under certain circumstances we have a right to publish our screenplay, under certain circumstances. But, no, they can absolutely… — Listen, they can remake your movie and they can have somebody else right a sequel to your movie, no problem. And I can easily see a situation where they went ahead and licensed this stuff to Kindle World, said go ahead, write your own sequels to this stuff and you can use Indiana Jones’ name and we’ll own it.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You know, which I think frankly if they don’t do it I’ll be shocked. I’m sure the studios are looking at this now and thinking, “Why shouldn’t we do that?”

And to everybody out there, don’t do it! [laughs] Okay? Don’t write anything that is a work-for-hire ever unless you’re getting paid a lot of money and it’s under a collective bargaining agreement. Just don’t do it. I mean, works of fiction —

John: I agree.

Craig: You know, works of fiction. Just don’t do it.

John: Yeah. I agree with you. I think it’s going to be fascinating because it’s going to happen. And it will be really curious to see what the first incarnations of that are. And I also think there are some interesting challenges to put, because we do have the ability to write the novelization. And to what degree can you stretch the ability to write the novelization to mean to write essentially literary derivative works of that original creation.

Actually, I’ll run through — I was going to do a Go coloring book, and so I engaged with my lawyer to figure out like can I do that? And basically like is it an illustrated screenplay? And we ended up not doing it, but it was a really kind of fascinating test case like whether I still owned those rights as part of my separated rights.

Craig: If they can argue that it is something like a graphic novel or a comic book, then the answer is no because that falls under the heading of merchandising. And so a coloring book I think they would easily argue is merchandising and, no. [laughs]

John: It’s crazy.

Craig: We have a very — our separated rights you can —

John: And who would determine that? Is it their list of arbiters, or how would they figure that out?

Craig: Yeah, I mean essentially if there were a real challenge. I mean, first of all the guild’s lawyers would have to agree with you. Because the injured party would be the guild. And so the guild’s lawyers have to agree with you. And I’ve found that quite often they don’t agree with writers. You want them to sort of naturally want to advocate and push the boundaries. The legal department at the guild, one of my big gripes is that they are far more concerned about their case load and winning cases than they are about taking chances and pushing the ball down the field.

I understand they’re always concerned about setting a negative precedent, which I understand.

John: Exactly. They just don’t want to lose because losing can cost them more.

Craig: Right.

John: Let’s go to a question. We have a question from Henry Fosdike who says, “Chatting with other writers, we find that we all have those words we just can’t seem to break away from. He nods is my curse, for about 40 or 50 times in the first draft. Other friends struggle with synonyms for walk, pace, trudge, trundle, or to explain a character turning on the spot. He spins, turns, twirls. I’d be intrigued to hear which words crop up in your drafts a lot.”

Craig: Oh, good question.

John: I would say my first instinct is to sort of go back to the Hemingway of it all, and like Hemingway famously didn’t want to use anything other than He Said for dialogue. You don’t try to put synonyms for that. Just like basically use the generic word that sort of gets rid of it.

But, I do find myself sometimes a little bit frustrated by, particularly when you have to write a lot of action. You start to recognize that walks, heads to, spots, notices. I started using “clocks” too much, like just to recognize something. And it’s like I stopped using clocks.

How about you?

Craig: Well, my philosophy about this is that it is far less important for us as screenwriters to dwell on this than it is for novelists because our work is not meant to be read by the consumer or the audience. It’s meant to instruct our dramatic intention of people making a movie.

So, there are certain words that I give myself full license to use because I understand they have a function like seize, crosses to. I like crosses to as opposed to walks to. Nods is really just about somebody shares a look with. I do a lot of that. Smiles. I’ll do smiles, really just to say that somebody is kind of listening and paying attention and absorbing it in a certain way as opposed to another way.

There are a bunch of things I do like that, but they’re really all there just to give a — to let the director and the cast know, oh, there’s a moment here where the actor is going to respond or react. And that’s all it is. Just holding a place there so that you don’t think that you’re not supposed to respond or react, that the writer is saying now cut to this person. It’s almost like an editorial thing, you know.

I don’t have any sort of, I mean like clocks, maybe I’ll throw that in once in a script or something if it’s really appropriate. But I try and keep it to very bland, vanilla kinds of things like that because I want them really to be editorial input and not purple prose. There’s not much sense in evocative action descriptions because, you know, no one is going to hear them.

John: Well, let’s throw this back to listeners. If you have a phrase you’re sick of seeing a thousand times in scripts or that you find yourself using too much and you’re trying to avoid, just tweet that to us because we would love to see what those are.

Craig: I will give you one that I’ve worked on a lot. Chris McQuarrie has this theory that every time you use an exclamation point it’s a failure, in dialogue. So, I’ve really been trying to cut back on any use of an exclamation point ever.

John: Yeah. And all your double exclamation points, even those?

Craig: I actually never — occasionally there is the —

John: I don’t think I’ve ever used a double exclamation point.

Craig: How about an interrobang?

John: I have used, not the true interrobang, but I have used an exclamation point/question mark probably three times in my career.

Craig: Yeah. Nine times out of 10 you actually can get rid of the exclamation point. And basically texters have ruined exclamation points. 13-year-old kids have ruined exclamation points for all of us.

John: Well, they have. Also I find in emails sometimes now you can’t just say thanks, period, because it sounds negative.

Craig: Oh, yeah, it sounds like you’re a dick.

John: “Thanks.”

Craig: Yeah, like it’s sardonic. Like you’re eye-rolling in a thanks. Yeah, everything has to be, “Thanks!”

John: “Thanks!” Yeah. A little up talk.

Craig: Right. A little up talk.

John: Let’s go to our Old One Cool Things. So, if you want to follow along with us, every week on the podcast at least I have a One Cool Thing. Craig sometimes has a One Cool Thing.

Craig: That’s right.

John: And so last week we started going through our list of old ones to talk through which ones are actually still cool, which ones we barely remember even mentioning before. So, if you want to follow along with us, we are at johnaugust.com/onecoolthings, all one word. And I think we were at number 61 last time.

Craig: Yeah. We got to 61. Oh, I don’t think you got to 61. Maybe you did.

John: So, my 61 was What If? which is still a great blog to follow. There’s going to be a book coming out, so we’ll link to the book, too. Basically it’s scientific explanations, answers to questions like what would happen if a baseball thrown at the speed of light hit the earth. And it really talks through the physics of that and has great illustrations.

Craig: Excellent. Let’s see, number 62, mine was Red Cross donations to Hurricane Sandy relief, which I think they probably capped those off now.

John: I think so. Mine was Letterpress for iOS which is still a great game.

Craig: Yeah. I don’t play it as much now, but for awhile there it was awesome.

John: Yeah, it was 3s before there was 3s.

Craig: Right.

John: Mine for 63 was Reach Gum Care Soft Woven Mint Floss which is still the best floss in the world.

Craig: I didn’t have one that week, probably because I was stunned by that one.

John: Yes.

Craig: Then, let’s see, we didn’t have one for 64. 65, mine was brining which I swear by still to this day and you should all do it.

John: Ticket to Ride is still a great board game, but the iPad version is incredibly solid. The multi-player for like local people in a room is also terrific.

Craig: The next week I had the only one and that was Don Rhymer’s cancer blog, Let’s Radiate Don. Sadly Don did pass away last year, but I think about him all the time. My office is still next to the one that he occupied. And he will remain cool for all of time.

John: I agree. The week after that I had Soulver which was a calculator kind of thing for iOS and for the Mac. I do use this occasionally, but I don’t use it as much as I sort of thought I would use it.

Craig: Mine was Scanadu which I think is still possibly vaporware that’s like an all-purposes medical device that would attach to your phone and tell you if your kid had a fever, or an ear infection, or something. I think they’re still working on that.

John: I had Karateka for iOS which was the game version that we made of Jordan Mechner’s Karateka. I also had Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Both are still really great. So, full disclosure, I actually tried to make the movie version of Mr. Penumbra and we couldn’t actually get it to all happen. But I got to talk to Mr. Sloan over a couple weeks about that and it’s still a great book and I highly recommend it.

Craig: Excellent. Mine was Seth Rudetsky’s Seth TV. And Seth TV, he is the best. He is the best. And I got to meet him. And I was on his show. And bravo, he is the greatest.

John: Bravo!

Craig: Bravo! And you should definitely if you care about music at all, you should take a look particularly at the things he does called Seth Deconstructs. They’re fantastic. They are sort of the Scriptnotes of Broadway.

John: I had a thing about Coffeescript which is my favorite scripting language, like for quick and dirty programming stuff. It’s still the thing I go to most whenever I need to actually write some code.

Craig: And mine was Poutine, the national food of Quebec, which continues to be incredibly delicious.

John: My One Cool Thing was Starred changes, which is basically I don’t think people necessarily understand this, at least they didn’t understand it in Broadway, is the idea of putting asterisks in the margin to show what is different from this draft to the next draft. I think it’s genuinely useful. It’s a thing we are working to try to get into the Fountain spec.

Craig: And mine was the Tesla Model S.

John: Ah, you loved your car so much.

Craig: So, you saw in the news I was on the PCH there naked in my Tesla Model S. Anything that happens with the Tesla Model S I get 4,000 tweets. People, you got to understand something: I’m not Elon Musk. I don’t make the Tesla. I’m not driving every Tesla. Everyone is like, oh yeah. There are I think 60,000 Teslas on the road and I’m merely one of them. But I do love it so.

John: My One Cool Thing was Pat Moran from The Credits. I really don’t remember this all that well, but I’m pretty sure Pat Moran was talking about sort of what a casting director does. I love casting directors.

Craig: Well, the next week I had the Easton-Bell pitcher’s helmet. They are still working on this. And there have been more incidents in Major League Baseball, of pitchers getting hit. No one in the head. There’s been a couple in the face that this would not have helped, but the whole idea of this helmet is to prevent brain injury. So, they’re working on it. I’m hoping it gets out there.

John: Let’s do five more. Mine was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which was a best-selling books, so it’s like I’m not the first person to tell you that it’s really, really good. But it’s really, really good. And I was so excited this last week to see the trailer for David Fincher’s movie adaptation starring Ben Affleck who is perfect casting for that. I’m really curious to see how that movie is going to play.

Craig: Excellent. My next week was a canker sore drug that helped mice lose weight without diet or exercise. I have been just drinking that stuff. And, [laughs], I don’t know if it works or not. But it’ll take them years to test it.

John: Mine was Dungeon World, the role-playing game, and we played it. We played it a bunch.

Craig: Yeah, it was awesome.

John: It’s good. It’s a good lightweight system. Lots of really smart things.

Craig: We haven’t finished that game.

John: Yeah. We do. You basically got to the part with the gnomes and then Malcolm Spellman had to leave because of his dog. But there’s still stuff.

The week before that I had Apple TV. Apple TV remains great. I’m really curious what the next iteration of that will be.

Craig: As am I. I had — really, I had? No, this is backwards. I was going to say, I had Homeland on Amazon Instant and Blu-ray? I’ve never watched that show. My wife watches it.

No, I had Waking Mars for iOS. You know what? Very beautiful game. I actually never ended up playing much of it. I got a bit bored.

John: Mine was Homeland, which I still just love, although I’ve only seen the first two seasons, so I need to get to the third season here pretty soon. But it’s one of those great shows to catch up on and see that it really was as good as everyone was saying.

Craig: Fantastic.

John: My One Cool Thing this week is a movie that people should see in theaters if they have a chance to see it in theaters because I dug it. I saw it with Kelly Marcel. It’s called Under the Skin. It is written by Walter Campbell, based on a book by Michel Faber, directed by Jonathan Glazer who did Sexy Beast.

The IMDb description of it says “an alien seductress preys upon hitchhikers in Scotland,” which is kind of true but actually not really what the movie feels like at all. And so I went into it thinking it’s going to be like Species but like classier. And it sort of is. And yet what ends up becoming to me is sort of amazing meditation on sort of life beyond good and evil. Because she’s not actually — she’s not evil in any classic sense. It’s just she’s just a predator. She’s like a lioness who’s just out there. Even though she looks, Scarlett Johansson looks like a beautiful Scarlett Johansson human being, she isn’t at all. And her performance is fantastic. The way the movie sort of limits to her perspective is great.

I dug it. And there’s moments in it that are Kubrickian in just the most remarkable sense. So, I highly recommend it.

Craig: I’ve heard it’s awesome. I’ve got to go see that. I might go —

John: Oh, and it has a great soundtrack as well. So, beyond that you’ll probably want to get the soundtrack because I’ve been playing it nonstop.

Craig: I’m going to go see some movies this week I think. I’ve got to say that. I still haven’t seen The Grand Budapest.

John: Oh, you have to see that.

Craig: I know. I know! That’s why I said —

John: And I was the guy who didn’t like Wes Anderson and now I’m fully —

Craig: I’ve always liked Wes Anderson, so I’m really stupid for not seeing it.

My One Cool Thing this week is CarboLite. CarboLite is a fake frozen yogurt that has eight calories an ounce. I have no idea. I assume it’s manufactured in some Gotham City chemical factory. It’s manufacture in an ACE Chemical Plant where the Joker —

John: Smilex?

Craig: Yeah. It fell into a vat of Smilex. My wife and I call it Plastic Cream because we’re pretty sure that that’s what it is. It’s — I can’t understand how they make it. Sometimes it’s disgusting, and sometimes it’s quite tasty. Either way, it’s like eating yogurt except that there’s nothing there. It’s the weirdest thing. And it’s not sold in too many places, but if you can find it give it a try. They have lots of different flavors, but basically the flavors come down to this: brown and white. [laughs] And they’ll tell you that this week’s brown is Chocolate Pudding. And next week’s brown is Nutella. And this week’s white is Vanilla. And next week’s is Angel Food Cake.

Yeah, it’s brown and white.

John: So, is this something you get in the supermarket or something you get at like a Yogurt Land?

Craig: It’s at a yogurt store. And it’s never at Yogurt Land because they don’t have it. So, it’s usually at some sort of independent yogurt store. There is a place in La Cañada called Penguins that does it. There’s a place in, you know the Ventura and Laurel Canyon shopping center with the Daily Grill? That place underneath it does it.

It really is like eating the future. [laughs]

John: [laughs]

Craig: God only knows what’s in it. God only knows.

John: We’ll see if we can find a link to it, but it reminds me of this SNL sketch, That’s Not Yogurt, and these guys are eating this delicious white thing. It’s like, “Wow, this yogurt is really tasty.” And the announcer keeps going, “That’s not yogurt.” No, well what is it? Really, I’m concerned. I want to know.

Craig: Yeah. There’s no way you could possibly be allergic to anything in CarboLite because I believe it’s all completely inert. [laughs] It is a horror show, but I kind of love it.

John: When you see Under the Skin, there is this viscous goop in it, and maybe that’s what CarboLite actually is.

Craig: I mean, just the name alone. CarboLite. Isn’t that what they — oh, that’s Carbonite. They froze Han Solo in Carbonite and then when they melt Carbonite it turns into CarboLite.

John: I was mortified because on the new page for Highland’s release we talked about how your scripts are no longer frozen in Carbonate, and I let that slide. But, no, it’s Carbonite.

Craig: It’s Carbonite.

John: And someone wrote in to say, “Uh, uh, uh,” and we got it fixed.

Craig: Carbonate is right out. Wrong.

John: Wrong. It’s like silicon and silicone. It’s not the same thing.

Craig: It’s totally different.

John: That’s our show this week. You can find links to the things we talked about in our show notes at johnaugust.com/scriptnotes, which is also where you can find transcripts for all of our back episodes. If you want to listen to the back episodes you can do it through scriptnotes.net, which is where we have all the back episodes listed there. The subscription for $1.99 a month, you get free access to all of those and occasional bonus episodes.

You can also get them through the apps. We have one for iPhone, for iOS, and Android. So, check your app store.

Scriptnotes is produced by Stuart Friedel and edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week comes from Adrian Tanner. If you would like to write us an outro, there’s a link in the show notes for that.

If you have a question for me, you can write to @johnaugust on Twitter. Craig is @clmazin. Longer questions, you can write to ask@johnaugust.com.

Craig: Wow. This was a good show.

John: And that’s it. It’s a good show. It’s long, but we got a lot done.

Craig: You know what? Listen, man, we’re given them more for their money.

John: That’s really what it is. Your zero dollars got you about 90 minutes of show this week.

Craig: Oh, god. Well spent people.

John: Well done. All right. See you next week.

Craig: Bye.

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