The original post for this episode can be found here.

John August: Hello, this is John. Craig Mazin is not here, but he was there back in 2013 when we sat down with some people at the Austin Film Festival and did a live Three Page Challenge. Now, this episode has actually been sitting in the vault for a long time. We’ve been holding on to it for a certain emergency like rip cord, like pull the rip cord, there’s no episode this week, we got to put up a new episode.

Well, we haven’t had any of those emergencies, so this episode has been sitting around for a really long time. And we feel bad for the people who are waiting for this episode to come out, specifically Krista Westervelt, Melody Cooper and David Elver, who were so generous to submit their pages and have us talk to them. And they kept waiting for this episode to come out and it’s finally coming out. So, sorry it took so long, it’s been like eight months I think. But it’s a good episode.

So next week we’ll be back live with a normal episode, but this is a good Three Page Challenge and I hope you enjoy. Thanks.

[Intro tone]

Hello and welcome, my name is John August.

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is the Three Page Challenge, and we are here in Austin to talk about writing pages and specifically three pages. This is a thing that Craig and I do on our podcast not every week but every couple of weeks. It’s really Craig’s suggestion, so what Craig loves to do is to read the first couple pages of a person’s script and tell them whether they should stay as a writer or should give up the business completely.

Craig: Well, yeah, I said three pages. I could’ve gotten away with one. I actually do believe one page is probably enough. But we’ve been beneficiaries to some great Three Pages. A lot of the people who send them in, a lot, really do a good job. I think we’ve got some good ones today. But it’s a nice way also for us to not have to worry about whether you have a good idea for a movie or where it’s going or how it’s developing, but we just talk about the craft of how you’re actually putting the scenes on the page.

John: Yes. So Craig and I host a podcast called Scriptnotes and every week we’re talking about the business and craft of screenwriting. And it’s very hard to talk about the craft portion of it without having words in front of you. And so people have been really generous to send in the first three pages of their scripts and letting us talk about them on the air and hopefully give some constructive feedback.

At the Writers Guild Foundation about six months ago we were able to do the first time where we not only read through these pages but actually met the people who wrote these pages and then talked to them more about what was on the page and the rest of their script. And we’re so excited that here in Austin we get to do that again.

And so many of you in the audience have in your hands this little handout, this packet of these first three pages, which is awesome. If you didn’t get one of these or if you’re listening to this after the fact, you can also just go to my website johnaugust.com/austin and I have these three pages up here, so you can follow along with us if you don’t have those physically in hand.

So we have three very brave people who’ve shared with us their scripts.

Craig: Yes.

John: And let’s just get into it.

Craig: No. Before we do that we should just say congratulations. Everybody in here is at least a second rounder of this competition.

John: Which is great. So these are people who submitted to the Austin Film Festival and their scripts were considered awesome and made it through to the second round of the competition, which is great.

Craig: You’ve earned this. You and everyone who listens to a free podcast has earned this.

John:[laughs] For this chance.

Craig: Well done.

John: The first script we’re going to take a look at, first three pages we’re going to take a look at, is a script called Graceless and it’s by Krista Westervelt. Krista, where are you here in the audience?

Hi, Krista.

Craig: Hey Krista.

John: Thank you for coming to Austin. Hello. And so for people who are at home or like are driving in their car and therefore shouldn’t stop and try to read the pages, we’re going to give a little summary of what happened in the first three pages before we get going. I’ll do this first summary.

So we’re starting in Angela’s bedroom. So Angela Reeves, who is her early 20s, she’s sort of half-dressed, she’s getting dressed and she’s listening to voicemails. And the voicemails are from her mom saying where are you, the service starts in 20 minutes, are you hung over. Her dad also has a voicemail saying, “For the love of god, please show up.”

Angela arrives at this mega church parking lot. It’s the First Savior and Living Lord Church which is filled towards capacity. It’s there where we meet her father for the first time. Henry Reeves is 47. She sits down with him. The choir church is singing. Doug Richards, the pastor, scans the crowd from the pulpit. We meet Melinda Reeves, Angela’s mother, who we heard in the voicemail. She’s 47. A little description of her. She says, “Would it have troubled you to wear a skirt?” That’s sort of their first interaction.

Afterwards, we’re in the church sanctuary and we’re being introduced to Dottie who’s in her 50s, attractive woman with just a bit of menopausal softness and who’s greeting people as they’re exiting the church. We also see Dottie’s daughter Jamie who’s in her 20s. We end up with a conversation between Dottie and Jamie. Ultimately the conversation finishes up with just Jamie and Angela. They’re dialogue is bumping over each other. Jamie runs the singles, how long have you been, that sort of overlapping dialogue conversation.

And we exit the three pages on midway through their first conversation. And that is what’s happening in three pages. And Craig Mazin, start us out.

Craig: Well, are we going to be joined up here by —

John: I think we should talk a little bit about what we’ve experienced first.

Craig: Okay. And then we will — and then if they run out and then we can, they’ll come up here and…

Well, I enjoyed these pages. I started to get a little lost here and there but there’s a lot of good things. I like the use — I generally like the use, any time you can introduce a character without introducing the character is interesting. And I like that I was learning a little bit about the relationship between Melinda and her mom through the voicemail in theory. In practice, I’ve seen this a gazillion times. I’ve seen the voicemail and nobody has this voicemail anymore, by the way. That’s the other problem. Nobody has the beep, next message. You know, we all have our phones now, and so it’s a little cliché to hear the carping mom over the phone.

Also, I loved that, well, I liked that she sniffed her laundry because I do that. And that was interesting. And it was a nice touch that the dad also calls and has a different — already has a different voice from the mom. This is good, that’s good that you’re establishing those things. Mega churches are awesome in the sense that they are designed to make you feel like, whoa, I mean either you’re horrified or in love with them. Either way, they leave an impression.

And the name is spot on. But you didn’t give me the mega church feeling. I wanted a mega church feeling. If you walk me into a mega church, you say it’s a mega church but you write it like it’s a one-room chapel, you know? It seems very — even though there’s a stage and everything, everything seems short and down. There’s no spectacle. I want more spectacle. I want a feeling — I want to know what my main character is feeling walking into this mall of Jesus.

Her mom’s first line, would it have troubled you to wear a skirt, right idea. A lot of words to say that when I think my wife, if she sees my daughter doing that would have just said, “No skirt?” You know what I mean? There’s the — tailor the length of dialogue to the relationship because mothers and daughters have shorthand, obviously.

Where we’re going to get to is what, I mean, I don’t know, either this does or doesn’t turn into a lesbian church movie but it’s starting to feel like a lesbian church movie which I’m totally in favor of. But the way that Jamie and Angela meet feels un-cinematic. We’re just, you know, Dottie is the mom and we get that the mom is clueless and there’s just chitchat. There’s just chitchat going on. And when people are interested in each other I want to watch the spark happen. I don’t want to hear it. I want to watch it. It happens before words are ever said.

So I was — that’s what I would suggest to you is to really think about how you can create a moment before you get to the dialogue which has raced immediately to an almost 1930s-style screwball comedy, you know, repartee. It’s like two Jean Arthurs. So I would think about creating a moment before you have the moment. But by and large, it was — the characters felt really interesting and certainly there’s the promise of a very interesting story here, particularly if that mega church gets mega churchy.

John: Like Craig, I was really excited by where we were ending up on page 3. I was really fascinated just to know what was going to happen next, so congratulations on that because a lot of times we get to three pages like, “Oh, and I’m done with those three pages.” So that was exciting for me to be curious about what was going to happen next.

The issue of, you know, hearing the voicemails and the woman getting dressed, it’s just a thing we’ve seen before and it’s a little bit of a television kind of thing. It feels like a TV pilot kind of first moment. Maybe this is a TV pilot, I don’t know. But that felt a little both familiar and also not quite present day because, like Craig, I would say no one really has that sort of normal — the speaker phone. And that’s absolutely possibly a way to do it is essentially her iPhone is down and it’s going through those and she’s pressing the next one.

But it was the specificity of checking the smell of clothes felt really good and appropriate. Like Craig, I’m so excited about the mega church but I didn’t know where we were. I didn’t know sort of what part of America it was. I didn’t know if this was a southern mega church, if this was a western mega church, what kind of environment we were in. So more specificity and dressing about that would be great.

And I got a little misled in the wrong ways about sort of come to the service because like I was thinking like, well is it a wedding or is it a funeral? I immediately went to one of those two things. And if it’s a normal service then why does she need to go? And so if we’re not going to get those answers before we meet this new character who’s going to clearly be important, that just let me hanging a little bit.

But we should bring you up here because, you know, I’m talking directly to you —

Craig: Yeah, come on up.

John: Please come on up. And let’s welcome Krista.

Thank you very much.

Krista Westervelt: I can breathe now because I got through this.

Craig: Oh yeah, you got through the hard part. You got through the hard part.

John: So please, Krista tell us what happens on page four.

Krista: What happens on page four or just in general you want me to —

Craig: Well, four and…

John: Four and beyond.

Krista: Four and beyond.

Basically, Graceless is kind of dealing with the fallout that happens when this evangelical mega church pastor’s daughter starts dating a woman. So, yes, you were on the right track there —

Craig: Yay!

Krista: With the lesbian love interest thing.

Craig: I’m so good at picking up on lesbian church movies.

Krista: There you go.

Craig: It’s my thing.

Krista: There you go.

John: He has a wheelhouse. And so tell us about the impetus behind writing this thing. Is this the first thing you’ve written, have you written a bunch of other stuff? Where are you at?

Krista: This is actually the very first thing. I had originally, years back, started kind of playing around with the idea of writing as a novel and it just wasn’t happening. And then the spark that got me to finally sit down and write it because I was kind of seeing it sort of like a movie in my head and I wanted to kind of play around with that. My husband died in 2011 and it’s sort of that spark of, okay, life’s too short, stop putting shit off, you know, so to speak . And so I sat down and gave it a shot and got through it.

Craig: Yeah, I’m glad we didn’t beat you up because this would have been awkward. [laughs]

John: So talk to us about Angela Reeves. So she is our protagonist, I’m assuming.

Krista: Right.

John: She’s the first character we’re meeting.

Krista: Exactly.

John: Tell us some things that are special about her and let’s think if we can find some ways to learn about them earlier on or set them up.

Krista: Sure, sure. I think she’s close with her parents but her mother’s disappointed in her because she’s a lesbian and she’s this member of this church and she’s trying to be good and get her daughter saved. And maybe if I can get my daughter to come to church, maybe I can get her saved. If she can become friends with the pastor’s daughter, everything’s going to be perfect because, you know, who’s a better role model than the pastor’s daughter to get her saved and gay or whatever.

Craig: Well, okay, now that’s interesting because here’s an important fact that I want to start gleaning immediately from the beginning of the movie. There’s a difference between Angie’s mother and Jamie’s mother.

Krista: Right.

Craig: Angie’s mother knows she’s gay.

Krista: Right.

Craig: Jamie’s mother has no clue. Now, there’s a way that that can kind of come through.

Krista: Sure.

Craig: There’s a way that that can be indicated. I mean first of all, what John said about the TV-ishness of the voicemail is true. And when we’re writing a screenplay, that’s when we don’t — I mean unless you are, you know, blowing the earth up and we have of those coming soon, you don’t have to worry so much about budget. So think about space and think about ways to be cinematic.

I mean, here’s a woman and she’s waiting in this line to get into the mega church in her car and you’re just like, uh-uh-uh, and she finally gets up and then it’s her turn to go in and she turns around and leaves. And then, no, and then she turns around and gets back at the back of the line to go in. Something so that you start to sell this reluctance. And when she comes in and you’re selling it with a movie, you know?

Krista: Yeah.

Craig: When she comes in and sits down next to her mother, I could see her mother looking at her, just looking at the pants. And she’s like, “Mom…”

“No, no, it’s better than I thought. It’s better than I expected.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: Like the weariness of the mom who just is slowly just dealing with it.

Krista: Yes.

Craig: That’s an interesting circumstance. So let that inform how these two talk to each other.

Krista: Okay.

Craig: They’ve had — this is an old fight. But there’s a new fight that’s coming with the other ones, you know, so that makes it fun.

Krista: Yes.

John: I have a question for you.

Krista: Sure.

John: The first scene is set in Angela’s bedroom. But we know so little about her. We don’t know if she’s living in an apartment by herself or if she’s living at her family’s house, what is it?

Krista: I figure she lived in a studio apartment on her own.

John: Okay.

Krista: Yeah.

John: Great. So that might be a good thing to tell us here in this opening thing. So maybe get us out of that bedroom and see what her real living environment is because when you just give us bedroom we don’t know any bigger context. So if it is a studio apartment, then that is a studio apartment. There’s no such thing as a bedroom.

Krista: Right.

John: The fact that her bed is also her couch is — everything is really meaningful. And the fact that her dirty clothes are out, not just on the bedroom floor but like they’re out in the apartment. Like everything is together.

Krista: Right.

John: And so use each of those little things to give us more space. I don’t think you need to tell us that she’s a lesbian right from the get-go, which is great, but I do wonder if over the course of your movie we are going to have these two girls meet too — so early that there’s no surprise. We’re not going to get to know our hero before we meet the love interest. And so as much as you can do to let us know and love this girl before we sort of know who she’s going to love is going to be helpful.

Krista: Okay.

Craig: Cool. I think that’s right.

John: Hooray.

Craig: But you can do this.

John: Yes, you absolutely can do this.

Krista: Thank you.

John: And the words on the page felt solid and consistent and you definitely know what the form is and so I have no doubt you’re going to make some awesome scripts.

Krista: Wow, thanks.

Craig: Good job, good job. Way to go. Nice work.

Krista: Thank you.

Craig: Next victim.

John: Not victim. Next hero is Melody Cooper with Monstrous.

Craig: Hero. If you wish. Okay. And it’s Melody or Melanie?

John: Melody.

Craig: Melody. Is that you?

Melody Cooper: It is me.

Craig: Well, then I’ll have to trust you on that. Okay. And so Melody’s three pages are from a script called Monstrous. We open up, the sky over the Atlantic Ocean, night, and then along comes a single engine airplane. We’re now inside this small private plane. It’s dark and then we just see the flash of a woman’s face whispering, “Where is he? I can’t see anything.”

Another woman says, “Stay close, we can’t let them…” And then they scream and scream and they’re lost in the darkness. In the last row of the plane, we meet Moira. She’s 20s, red head, freaking out, she is shoving a small digital camera into a Ziploc bag, sealing it. Somebody dies near her. Blood splatters over her. She keeps going. She puts the bag, she attaches the bag to a life vest, says, “Stay bound together,” to herself in Gaelic or I guess, no, to the camera and the life preserver.

And then she gets out from her seat, tries to basically get out of the plane. But as she’s trying to get out of the plane, she’s dragged back by some unseen terrible thing, dismembered arm attached to the door handle, blood spraying everywhere. She kicks the vest out of the door, the life vest sails down towards the ocean, the airplane crashes into the water. But the vest is there along with the Ziploc bag holding the camera, which presumably has some evidence of what we’ve seen. That’s all on Page 1.5.

Now we’re in New York. We’re in Queens on a residential street. And in a building, David Harrison, 20s who’s a bit of a mess, he’s a gamer, he’s playing some sort of shoot them up game, first person shooter, while he’s drinking beer from a straw. He’s pissed off. He’s playing a game with a werewolf and a Griffin that are killing each other. He thinks he’s won until the zombies come. And when he finally pushes back from his TV having lost, we reveal that he’s in a wheelchair. And that were the first three pages of Monstrous.

John: Great. So this is a classic example of a cold open where the initial thing we’re seeing isn’t going to — the characters we’re seeing and the characters we’re meeting are setting up things about the story or things about the nature of the movie, but they’re not specifically talking — this is not — the hero of the story isn’t going to continue because she dead.

So it’s establishing what the world of the movie is like and then we’re going to cut to something brand new and ultimately this thing that we’ve established, this camera will end up becoming an important thing when we get to this guy.

So let’s sort of talk about these two things as separate things. We need to talk about this opening image and then what we’re learning about how the real engine and how the new story is going to start.

I really like the idea of the vest with the camera going out and like that’s the thing that is going to continue long after because we have this expectation that the woman will somehow survive and this things will get out. The idea of this vest and this camera are what remains of this seems really, really smart. And I have not seen that before and I’m really excited.

I got lost inside a small plane. And so I think a lot of my questions about this opening is really the geography and specificity of where we’re at in this place and what we as the audience are supposed to be expecting because sometimes as a reader I got confused and I didn’t know whether it was because I just wasn’t smart enough to do it or else it was just described in a way that wasn’t — I didn’t know if I was supposed to get it or not supposed to get it and it got confusing me in a way that was not especially helpful.

Some examples for it would be midway down the first page, “Slicing of flesh, blood sprays against the seat next and window next to Moira, some of it splatters on her face.” Slicing of flesh, I don’t know what that image is. And so it’s given to me as a slug line as an important thing but what’s slicing what? Like what’s doing the action? Is a knife cutting something as opposed to if it just said blood sprays. Well, blood sprays from something, that would be enough for me. Blood spraying as image —

Craig: Did you mean it as a sound?

Melody: Yes.

Craig: Okay.

John: Oh, great. And so when we see that line by itself, we’re going to assume that’s an image. We’re going to assume that the camera is looking at something. And slicing of flesh is not a thing we can sort of see. So if it’s meant to be a sound, I would say —

Craig: We hear —

John: We hear, either we hear or do the blood sprays as the slicing of flesh, you know, happens. Another thing that confused me would be Moira’s line here, in Gaelic, “Stay down together.” So she’s in Gaelic, but is that subtitled? Like how are we, as an audience, supposed to be processing that? Because as a script reader we know what she’s saying and so if it is supposed to be subtitled, in Gaelic, subtitle would be the thing.

Earlier on and the first lines we hear, “Where is he, I can’t see anything, stay close, we can’t let him,” and then there’s screams. And yet, I’m told that we’re in a private plane, so my internal geography of what a private plane is is that it is so small that how can anything kind of be loose in a private plane. So entirely possible, I just wasn’t seeing how it would work.

I got confused if there’s other people. I assume there’s other people but I’m only experiencing Moira, so that again. So sometimes that confusion is okay. But you sort of need to make it clear to the audience that like you’re kind of supposed to be confused. Like it’s chaotic and you end up using those words, but you’re not really quite sure what we’re seeing. Any more reaction on the first opening?

Craig: Well, it is fun. I mean, you know, it’s exciting to be thrown into the middle of a sequence like that and the camera and the life preserver are great. It seems to me like what we’re missing is something to ease us into it. I don’t think, given the circumstances of who’s on this plane and what he or it is doing, you may not be able to show the moment when things start to go bad.

But what I would — first of all, there was a huge question. Who’s flying the plane, right? That’s a big one. But let’s presume the plane is just flying. Now one thing you could do is you could just, you show this plane… — And by the way, I would try and eliminate a little bit — it gets a little too much like “a calm, clear night, high full moon, a single engine airplane across the sky, cabin windows are completely…” we’re not, we’re just seeing, you know what I mean?

Melody: Yeah.

Craig: And then we’re inside of it. So we can get a little tighter on that. I know you want to see what’s on the tail. Then you could sort of say, interior plane, a man is sleeping calmly, you know, as the plane hums along. You know, he nods and then his head flops to the right, blood. You know, okay, so, whoa, whoa, whoa, that’s not a sleeping business man, that’s a dead person.

Now, you could then see cockpit. The cockpit door is open. The pilot is dead, you know, the plane is on autopilot. And then you could see, you know, the lights go out or something. And then you could see a woman, like “Don’t move, don’t…” you know, whatever it is. Somehow you need to let us in slowly and make this, build it up so that we feel like the point is we’re supposed to be completely disoriented. Disorient us while orienting us. [laughs] I don’t know how else to put. You know what I mean?

Melody: Yes.

Craig: But that’s kind of the —

John: He’s saying you can’t be disoriented until you’re oriented in some capacity.

Craig: Right.

John: Right now it becomes just spinning wildly and we don’t know sort of where to start focusing.

Craig: Yeah.

John: I want to push back a little bit of what Craig said. It’s like I honestly thought your first sentences started stronger in that they were so short. And maybe there were a few too many —

Craig: You like short sentences, yeah.

John: And so it starts, “A calm, clear night. High full moon. A single engine airplane crosses the sky.” But then when we get inside the plane, suddenly our sentences get super long in a way that feels weird because the action is really choppy and the sentences got really long. So here’s the first sentence inside the private plane. “Moonlight, punctuated by the pulse of light from the wings, illuminates the darkness of the cabin of the 12-seater.” Those short sentences you started with would be a great thing to continue into this place.

Moonlight. The interior cabin is dark. You know, 12 seats and focus on whatever we’re supposed to be focusing on. That would invite me in a little bit more. Another very long sentence here. “In the last row of the plane sits Moira, 20s, red head, breathless and frantic, she keeps her eyes in front of the shadowy cabin as she shoves a small digital camera into a Ziploc bag. She seals it.”

As a reader, I’m having to store a lot of information in one sentence. I have to remember Moira and she’s a read head and she’s 20s and she has a digital camera and she’s panicked in the shadowy cabin. Breaking that into smaller bits is going to make it easier for me to process what’s happening and really give us a better feel of what the situation feels like to Moira.

So it’s a beautiful autumn afternoon and she’s strolling through the woods. These long sentences give you that sense of sweet. But if it is short and panicky, short and panicky sentences will be your friend.

Craig: Totally. And I just had an idea. So, okay, I realize why you keep talking about moon and moonlight. I get it finally. Here’s my suggestion for you. If you want to make a point, make the point, right? Don’t talk about the moon, don’t show the moon. Don’t refer to the moon. But when the plane crashes, “The inflated vest rocks in the rise and fall of the ocean as the water laps against it, the Ziploc bag that holds the camera still attached to its side. We crane up to see the full moon.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: You know what I mean? Like end on it, make it a thing, make it a reveal. Otherwise, we’re just going to be getting a lot of — some DP is going to be putting a dumb filter on a light and calling it a moonlight and no one’s going to care, you know?

So let’s talk about the Queens, the Astoria section.

John: Before we get to the Astoria section, on page 2 we’re moving from the wreckage of what happened with the plane and this camera. This is the moment where I think you really do need some sort of transitional element. So either transition to or cut to something to let us know that we’re not in a continuous bit of action, that we’re going to something completely new. So on the right margin, something that ends in TO: to let us know we’re at a new place and time.

Craig: Maybe the moon is a nice transitional element that could turn into a thing or a thing —

John: Yeah.

Craig: All right. So we’re in Astoria. Quite a bit of set up just to describe what was going on outside. I’m not sure any of it is relevant or not, perhaps it is. But that’s a third of a page of just, you know, slice of life on a Queens street. What did you think about the David Harrison scene?

John: So in the David Harrison scene, again, we have a lot of sounds that are given their own slug line. And so whenever we see a slug line, we think like that is something the camera is aimed at and the camera doesn’t aim at of sound. So that inhuman screech is probably a prelap. That’s probably something that we’re hearing before we make the cut inside the building, which is a great suggestion that something terrible is going to happen inside and it’s normal inside, it’s actually a video game is great.

I felt like once we were inside David Harrison’s apartment, the surprise we’re going to get to is that he’s in a wheelchair and sort of what his nature of stuff is. We spend a lot of time on a video game that was very specific and yet, you know, no one likes to watch people play video games. And so I would say as much as you can do to tighten that action and give us a general sense of the kind of thing he’s doing, but not sort of beat-by-beat what is happening on that screen because it felt like I was watching a guy play a video game for a minute. And that’s not going to be really the best.

Craig: Yeah. A couple of things. One, you have a tall, narrow figure staring out of the — standing and staring out of a fifth floor window. I will presume that the next shot I see of somebody inside a building is that guy. But at first I thought, well she just made a mistake here because he’s sitting now while he’s playing. He’s not standing. But it couldn’t have been him because he’s in a wheelchair. He’s not standing. So that’s a confusing juxtaposition.

If you want to show that he’s in the same building, you can see that guy and then camera can come down to find another window where we hear the growl, you know, but help us out there. The issue with the video games in movies is that unless you’re watching somebody play a real video game, they just, oh, they feel like that thing in a movie where somebody picks up a can of beer that says beer on it, you know. It’s always some fake game. And it’s hard to do well. So hearing it and maybe catching quick glimpses and giving us less and just having us fill in the gaps in our head is fine.

What he’s saying to the TV is also not real, you know. I am the guy that plays these games. I don’t do that. We don’t do that. We don’t talk like that. It’s pushed. You know what I mean? I think it’s a business like way of talking to your TV when you’re playing these games.

John: If he’s on a headset game playing with other players, then maybe some of that kind of dialogue could happen in a way that’s —

Craig: That’s its own kind of taunting thing. But when you just won a game, you’re like, yeah suck it, you know. But you wouldn’t, “You are no match for…” You know, he’s starting to do exposition here while he’s proud of the TV. And, you know, it’s rare that you play a video game and are surprised by the fact that zombies are suddenly on a level. It doesn’t quite work like that, you know.

Also, drinking beer out of a straw generally doesn’t work.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I mean just physically doesn’t work very well, you know. Beer, straw and beer and beer straws.

John: Can you come up so we can actually —

Craig: Yeah, come on up.

John: And talk through questions. So, applause.

Craig: There, it’s over.

John: There it’s over. So the scary part’s over and so let’s talk beer through a straw. Beer through a straw, is it because he is paraplegic? Is there a physical reason why you need to do that, or is he just really lazy?

Melody: Well, because his hands are engaged playing and like friends of mine who do the beer hats at games kind of —

John: Nice.

Melody: Version.

John: We’ve learned so much about you that you have friends who have beer hats at games. So I feel like that’s a character detail. So tell us about the script and tell us… — So, Craig’s right: you got a werewolf on a plane, did that just happen?

Melody: Yeah.

John: All right.

Craig: Werewolf on a plane. I am two for two.

John: Yeah. He’s really good at spotting lesbians and werewolves. So.

Craig: Super useful at different times. Both things are useful.

John: Can you fast-forward us through some of the things that we would experience in the script if we read the whole thing?

Melody: Sure. The werewolf that you meet in the beginning is actually a person who’s a serial killer that takes on the guise of other monsters once he kills them and kills people via those powers. And Harrison who we meet in the apartment is someone who ends up trying to track that serial killer with a next-door neighbor, the receding character in the building is the brother of a woman he ends up falling in love with who is half-human/half-monster. And they, the two of them team up to try to track this serial killer down before he kills more people by using the powers of monsters.

Craig: And Harrison is going to be tracking these monsters down?

Melody: Yes, yes.

Craig: In his wheelchair?

Melody: He doesn’t stay in a wheelchair because the women who were killed in the beginning are witches. And they figure in later.

Craig: Okay. So they cure him of wheelchair issues?

Melody: They help him out.

Craig: All right.

Melody: They give him a way to get out of the chair.

Craig: All right. That would be cool.

John: That’s great. So you have a real world that is populated heavily with supernatural aspects?

Melody: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

John: And so that is compelling in its pitch in a sense of like it’s a story about serial killer who is a werewolf and supernatural forces will have to stop him. So is that the thing that you’re trying to do both things at the same time to be procedural and also be supernatural?

Melody: Yes, and he takes on the power. He kills different types of monsters throughout the entire film. So he starts off as we see him in the very beginning, as a werewolf, but he takes on different forms and different monsters throughout the entire film and he has to be stopped. And so it is procedural and it’s also supernatural.

John: So it’s Sylar from Heroes. But the movie version of what that character could be.

Craig: And the video game isn’t a thing that matters later on, is it?

Melody: No, not that. It’s only a way to introduce the character especially that he himself is fascinated and thrilled by monsters. So that’s why it’s specific.

Craig: Sometimes it’s better when people who are asked to fight monsters are not fascinated and thrilled by monsters.

Melody: Yeah.

Craig: But in fact, they’re just like us. Just because it starts — one thing that happens that’s a little tricky is in movies with monsters, if everybody is either a monster or knows a monster or is interested in monsters, the audience starts going, what town is this? You know, how do all these people live in the same place? Is Moira a witch?

Melody: Yes.

Craig: Okay, good. So another suggestion for you because the scene that you have in the beginning on the plane tells me one thing, there is a monster, that’s it. And all these people are scared as they should be because of monsters.

But what if this one woman turns around when she sees the monster and isn’t afraid at all and just starts talking in Gaelic and then starts, “Whoa,” you know, and then the thing goes flying and you see blood and the plane goes down. And we go, okay, it’s not just that there are monsters. There are also people that know about the monsters who can fight with the monsters. It starts to at least give me a little bit more of a grounded sense of the world.

Once you do monsters, that’s your buy-in and if then you add on top of that buy-in that there’s also witches, you start to end up in that thing that happened in, was is it Stephen Sommers who did the movie with the werewolves versus the —

John: Van Helsing?

Craig: Van Helsing.

Melody: Van Helsing, yeah.

Craig: Where it just seemed like every 20 minutes are like, wait, here’s something else that is in this world that you did not know about.

Melody: Right, right, right.

Craig: And it gets exhausting, you know.

Melody: Yeah, yeah.

Craig: So the more you can give a sense of this is the deal, we’re in a world with da-da-da. And that in a sense Underworld I thought did a good job with that, you know, where they introduced where you’re like, oh okay, cool, you know, there’s two types of monsters. So anyway, things to think about.

Melody: Thanks.

John: As you start to establish your world where I wonder if it’s going to be a challenge is the rules of the world. And what he’s talking about with Van Helsing really is that. It’s like it feels like every time you’re going to introduce a new thing, it’s going to be like, “And here’s a new bit of exposition to explain this part of the rules.” So as simple as you can some of these things, the better. As you are re-approaching stuff, I wonder if you might want to just take this, think about this first moment.

And what if this first moment were 30 minutes. And what could happen on that plan, because I think you created a really amazing environment. And if that thing could go longer and really detail all that stuff and you can establish what is it like to have a werewolf on plane, that’s kind of awesome. What is it like to be a witch fighting a werewolf on a plane? That’s kind of awesome. That would be a great, that’s a great in and that might be a way to establish some of the rules of your world so that when we cut to our normal guy who’s in a more normal environment we can sort of have a sense of the scale of what kinds of things can happen in this movie.

Melody: Great idea.

John: So how many scripts have you written? Is this the first full-length thing you’ve done? What’s your —

Melody: No. Well, this is the first draft of the script. I’ve written a few others that are in the sci-fi/horror genre and some TV scripts. And they’ve, you know, placed or won in different festivals. But this is a very complex one. And I really wanted to submit it here to just to get this kind of feedback. And as I was, you know, struggling through, I since revised it, you know, quite a bit and actually simplified it because it had a lot going on.

John: Yeah.

Melody: But those are great comments in the opening scene in particular. I think that I already see ways that I can actually feed into, you know, how I can revise it to make it stronger.

Craig: Yeah, you know, as you go through these movies that are about science fiction and mysterious societies and secrets and re-presentations of things that we thought we knew, don’t forget that ultimately we’ll only really care about people and that the people part of it is the most important part. If you can, you know, get the people part right, the rest of it you can always massage into place.

Melody: Yeah.

Craig: But the character. And there’s something in the fact that you’ve got a guy in a wheelchair who eventually is going to walk or fly or something is really interesting. That’s a good people part, you know.

Melody: He flies.

Craig: There you go. See, flies? I am so good. Well great. Thank you so much.

John: Awesome. Melody, thank you so much.

Craig: Thank you. All right, next item up for bid is a script by David Elver. Elver.

John: Hello, David Elver. Thank you for joining us.

I am going to attempt to summarize the script we’ve read. So, in case people have had not the chance to read this all, as they are sitting down here with us. Over black we hear the distant sounds of amplified Arabic voice, a Muslim call to prayer, and also the beep-beep-beep of an EKG. We’re in a hospital triage tent outdoors. We’re near Cairo, it’s daytime. That eye snaps open. Blood red eye. We’re with a pretty young nurse who’s working with a respirator mask on this person who seems to be dying. The beep falls violent. There’s still the call to prayer. All this sequence is happening without real dialogue, just a bunch of sounds and images.

There’s a handful of doctors and nurses. Clearly like a big thing is happening because of this huge triage unit. The woman, the nurse goes back to check on this man, to check for his pulse. The skin of the man’s wrist peels off in her hand, which is nasty.

Pops, pops, explosions in the distance, artillery, a bigger explosion, a huge ball of fire and metal falls from the sky. It’s a city-size starship and envelopes in a halo flame. It’s crashing into central Cairo, destroying the city, the hospital, the pyramids, everything is consumed by fire. So a small contained little drama that we’re talking about here.

Now we’re in interstellar space. We’re black. And we learn some things about this giant ship we’re seeing, this giant cancerous, tumor of a ship. The ship is called Lazarus. We’re in 2349. We have an estimated time to Earth that is 23 hours, 47 minutes, 15 seconds and counting down quickly. We’re in a service quarter. We’re going to see Abel in his thirties. He is racing down the corridor, jumping and ducking over things. He’s a scruffy guy. At a huge power terminal he’s trying to turn something on or off. He’s trying to reset something. His arm gets stuck behind it. And as we get to the end of page 3 he’s trying to get his arm free from where it’s wedge behind this machinery. And that’s the three pages.

Craig?

Craig: David, these were good. Really good. I really enjoyed it. There’s a kind of writing for this sort of sequence. We’ll get to the spaceship sequence. But the beginning sequence, it’s essentially impressionistic writing. It’s something that people started doing in the 1800s and then forgot about somewhere in the 1900s.

But it’s great kind of writing where you are confused as you read it and then it’s resolved. It’s smart. It’s a good way of going about things. You have a lot of good imagery here. The beep-beep-beep of the EKG and the boop is something that we’ve seen lots of, but I’m okay with that. I don’t mind feeling like I’m in a normal situation. And then you pull back and you see this bigger situation with all these people and the pyramids in the background which is odd, what’s going on, war in the Middle East or something?

And then some horrifying disease. Little things give you information. When you think about how to get information across, here’s one way. A nurse turns back to the dead man. She checks for a pulse. The skin of the man’s wrist peels off in her hand. She turns to a doctor, “You need to look at this.” That’s one way. Or the other way is, the nurse stares at the smear of dead skin in her fingers, horrified. That’s a better way, you know, because I’m seeing that she wasn’t expecting that. That’s more visceral for me. It’s a little hard sometimes to see those things through glasses and masks, but it’s okay. That’s the director’s problem.

Really great reveal of the spaceship coming down. So we hear it, we’re not sure what it is and then it crashes. And, you know, these little things like the way you did the city, the hospital, the pyramids, I want stuff like that. It makes it interesting. I mean we all read billions and millions of scripts. So just, I don’t know, make it fun.

So everything is consumed by fire. Hard to do better than that as a screenwriting sentence. “Everything is consumed by fire.” I got it. Great. So I really enjoyed all of that.

Then we go into space. Interstellar space. “One by one, stars bleed into the darkness.” I wasn’t quite sure what that meant exactly. I don’t know what stars bleeding into darkness means. But I do know what the loud mechanical rumbling is. The Lazarus, a vast ugly, cancerous, tumor of a ship. So I get exactly what you mean. I know what it looks like. And then here’s this title. I don’t know. I suspect that we’ve jumped ahead in time. I suspect, but I’m not sure exactly. So you’ll have to let us know later on in the script.

The interior of the ship is really well-described. I enjoyed all of these descriptions of both the interior of the ship and Abel himself who’s running. And it’s really when he got to the terminal that the — I guess my only suggestion is I’m not sure, is this terminal really important?

David Elver: Yeah, what happens to it is on the next page.

Craig: Okay, fine. Then it is. Great. Then I understand why I’m wasting time with it. But I don’t know that he’s trying to hit a reset switch. That’s the only thing. If I need to know what he’s doing, right now he may be reaching for, you know, something he dropped back there or not. If it’s a reset switch show me his hand almost near the reset switch.

John: With the glowing amber switch right past.

Craig: Do you know what I mean? But geez, that’s my big freaking comment. I mean, good job. You hated it?

John: I hate it. Hated it. No, I adored it. But what I especially really appreciated was how you’re showing us and how you’re talking us through things and how you’re making the words on the page feel like what the movie would ultimately feel like, because we have to remember is that we’re really not writing scripts. We’re trying to write movies.

And the challenge is we’re only allowed to use 12-point Courier Prime on white paper to show what that movie is going to feel like ultimately. So we have to use those words very smartly to create the feeling of what we’re going to see and what we’re going to hear. You use both sound and visuals really well.

So let’s start at the very start. “Over black we hear the distant sound of an amplified Arabic voice.” I’m fine with we hears. This is a case where I don’t think you needed it, because if you took that out, “The distant sound of an amplified Arabic voice” Great. It’s a sound. We know. We’re hearing it and it’s over black.

This triage unit is really nicely set up and done. And a good example of midway through the page, a pretty young nurse wearing glasses over a respiratory mask. She’s not given a name. It’s awesome that she doesn’t have name because it tells us that she is an important character at this moment, but don’t bother learning her name because it’s not going to be important. And that’s good. And so you’re not causing the reader to have to make a little memory slot for who that person is. We don’t have to stop to remember her name. And you don’t remember her name because we didn’t need to. And it keeps going.

I did have an issue near the bottom of this page. The nurse turns back to the dead man, checks for a pulse. The fact that you said dead man and pulse, it’s looks like, well, she’s an idiot. He’s dead. So maybe that could be a way to —

Craig: It’s a good point. The EKG told her that there was no pulse.

John: Yeah, yeah.

Craig: I hate this. It stinks.

John: You hate this. I also had a little question of the skin of the man’s wrist peels off in her hand. Is it her gloved hand? Because I would believe that if it is this kind of infectious place and they know this that she’d wear gloves or not. It doesn’t necessarily need to be one or the other, but it stopped me for a second.

David: Yeah, she’s got a gloved hand.

John: Okay, great.

David: A slender gloved hand.

John: Great. So maybe remind us of that, because otherwise they’ll think it’s literally on her skin. And I got obsessed with that. But what Craig talks about on page 2 is a good example of some really non-traditional formatting that I think really helps sell what’s going on here. So, “The ship explodes like a sun going nova. A shockwave of fire flies outwards obliterating everything in its path. The city.” Indented, “The hospital.” Intended further, “The pyramids. Everything is consumed by fire.”

And so it feels very poem-y to do that kind of thing, but it’s actually very appropriate because it helps sell the idea of something going down, falling down. And that’s a really usual thing to do.

Where I thought you had an opportunity to further what you were doing, after consumed by fire. From the deafening war, we cut to interstellar space, black, silent. And give us that silent moment to also underscore that contrast because you’re going to have the mechanical sound come in. But that contrast between fire and noise and light to the blackness of space is going to be really rewarding. And let us know as a reader that that’s going to happen because that’s going to be amazing in the actual film.

Like Craig, I was confused in way that it may not have been the best way about where are we and what time are we at now. And I started to unfortunately go, I started to look back at the first statement and be like, oh wait, was that present day or was that the future in a way that was not the best choice on page 2. Where I was like suddenly re-questioning everything that happened the page before. So by giving us this year, 2349, being so specific, that may not necessarily help you in that moment. Just to be considering that. But I love the time is literally counting down as we’re going. That’s exciting too.

One grammar note on page 3. Interior service corridor. “Cramped, cluttered, claustrophobic.” Love those C-words. “Every square inch of the walls and ceiling are covered in battered pipes.” Every square inch IS covered.

Craig: IS covered. Every.

John: Every square inch is covered. But again, near the bottom page 3, you’re doing something else that’s really smart. “He strains at the effort, wincing. Can’t. Quite. Make it.” Again, it feels, the sentences feel like what the action feels like which is great and the way screenwriting drives.

Craig: That’s the point of it all. I mean in other words, the point isn’t to put together the best, most interesting vocabulary, the point is that somebody would read that and go, [makes struggling noises]. They get it. They know what you want them to see. So this is what it means when we talk about, constantly talking about writing a movie as opposed to writing a document. Movie, movie, movie. So very good, very good. And I don’t even like these kinds of movies. So, very good.

John: [laughs] David, come up here so we can talk more about some of this. Thank you. So talk to us about page four. What happens next? I assume, did he hit the switch or did not hit the switch?

David: In honor of Craig, it becomes a classic lesbian love story.

John: Nice.

Craig: Classic lesbian love story?

David: Traditional.

Craig: Did you say classy or classic? I don’t like the classy ones.

John: The classy ones, no.

David: Abel is about to be murdered. So he’s struggling with this terminal and —

John: Please tell me the person who kills him is not named Cane.

David: No. [laughs]

Craig: My god, I would have been so angry if that —

John: He’s about to be killed by a human being?

David: By a human being. By a human being who we don’t quite see until quite near the end of the film.

John: The opening sequence, is that present day or like present day?

David: You’re absolutely right, it’s present day and that was 300 years later.

John: So we did jump forward.

David: Yeah.

John: And what is the thrust of the action forward in the story? What is the quest of whoever we’re going to finally meet as our hero?

David: Essentially what happened was there was this pandemic that swept the globe, and so all the carriers were loaded up into a huge quarantine ship and sent away for 300 years. And now we start one day away from coming back to Earth. And this man, Abel, who’s murdered, the only law man on the ship is sent into and basically covered up so that there’s no hiccups on their way back to Earth and he finds symptoms that the virus is back. So he has to go through the ship and it’s a kind of tribal fiefdom —

Craig: That’s a cool story.

David: And he has to go through all these different levels from the bowels to the uppers to find out if the virus is back and, if so, by whom and why and —

Craig: Great, great.

David: And then —

Craig: You know what I like about that story is that I could start talking about what is dramatically interesting to me as an audience member. You know, I could, anybody could hear and say, okay, well, obviously this is dramatic for the people on the ship. But there are some universal things that are sort of implicated in what that story starts to set up. So very smart, very good, very good.

John: Well what’s also useful about that description is, we know what kind of movie it is. We know that movie can be made. And we’ve seen not that exact story, but conversions of that . You’ve seen the Neill Blomkamp movies that have done similar kinds of things that other, the more recent Judge Dredd, or Dredd, which have that sort of lockdown environment, futuristic, dystopia and the contrast between those two worlds.

We know that’s a thing that can be made and therefore it’s to read something, I don’t know. Sometimes it’s great to read a script that you’re like, well, this could never shoot. And it’s like this great writing but you can never shoot. It’s more exciting to be, like, I want this movie to get made. I can’t wait to see that film.

David: I would hazard to say, not only can be made, but should and must.

John: Great. Thank you. Important word substitutions. Now —

David: You’d be surprised how poorly that works. Yeah.

John: Indeed. You will it into existence. So talk to us about your writing and where does this fall and what you’ve written before and what you’re writing now.

David: I’ve been a writer all my life. I started out as an actor. Actually, I worked in TV. I’m from Vancouver. So I worked in TV.

John: I was going to ask where in Canada you’re from.

David: Vancouver.

Craig: Thank you.

David: But I worked as a writer my whole life. I was a speech writer for kind of our equivalent of senators and some —

Craig: Senator Ted Cruz?

David: That’s the man.

Craig: Canadian Ted Cruz?

David: Yeah. He says hi.

Craig: What an asshole.

David: And, but no, this is the second script I’ve written. So I just recently started to become passionate about writing for film and television.

Craig: Great.

David: And just a few weeks before I came down here, I just found out I was hired to write a couple of episodes of an animated show up in Canada.

Craig: Excellent. Good.

John: Fantastic.

Craig: Well, you’ve got the goods.

John: Any questions we can answer for you about this next part of the process or where you see this script now. So when you submitted this in, we only see the first three pages. How are you feeling about the rest of this? Is it working?

David: I’m in a bit of a conundrum about it because I think it’s working well, but I actually through a friend of a friend of a friend, I had it looked at by an agent at WME and he loved the first 60 pages and then wasn’t as crazy about the last 40 pages.

Craig: Okay. That can happen.

David: I’m not sure why. He didn’t give me any sort of feedback on what exactly. And I didn’t feel like there was a sudden drop off. But it’s kind of where I am with it right now.

John: My hunch is that the way that this movie gets made is the right person reads it and the right person who has the weird financing out of some place and like the one director connection which is crazy, somehow it all fits together. Or there is some role that you have in there that is perfect for that person who should be in the right kind of genre movie to make this a possible thing.

So I’m optimistic based on my naïve reading of three pages that I think you can get a movie made.

Craig: Have you thought about maybe putting this on the Black List website?

David: I just came from the panel with —

Craig: Franklin.

David: Franklin.

Craig: Yes.

David: And exactly the first —

Craig: I think that’s a good move. I think you will get a lot of interest and attention. This is very well-written. Awesome.

John: David, thank you so much.

David: Thank you.

John: Now we have a few minutes before we need to be finished up here. So I’d like to open up to some questions. If you guys have things you’d like to ask us about three pages, words on the page, things we’ve said today or things in general that you — questions you’ve always wanted to ask me or Craig, we are happy to answer them if anyone has a hand —

Craig: We also take medical questions.

John: Yeah? Does anyone have a bit more to say? We can wrap up early. It’s allowed. There’s no rule you have to go all the way to the bitter end. Cool

Craig: Oh look, he thought about it.

John: All right.

Craig: He thought about saying something.

John: We have a question about —

Craig: Medical questions. Anything.

John: Oh, you have a question now?

Clever: Yeah, I do.

Craig: Was that the question? Does it have to be three pages?

Clever: Like three wishes.

John: Yeah. All right.

Craig: Yeah.

Clever: No, my question is about a script I’ve got in the second round is a horror comedy and it’s very, very self-aware and it’s very convoluted. It’s like Charlie Kaufman writes a slasher film or something. And the structure is extremely complicated. It calls in on itself. It refers to things that the audience is seeing and seeing as part of the movie. Then suddenly is on the script page.

So it’s that kind of thing and it’s the Austin Screenwriting Group that told me this is entirely too clever. Just, you know, how do you feel about just working on weird structure and doing, just that example that I gave you. Is that off-putting to you?

John: It’s not off-putting to me. And I think the horror-comedy is one the few genres in which that you can get away with that more easily because we have this expectation like horror-comedy has already just been broken so thoroughly that we can sort of do anything with it after Scream and the after-Screams.

Like we’re used to that in a way that’s very useful. But even the Muppet Movie has the place where they stop and they look at the script itself. And so I wouldn’t rule that out. The challenge I think you’re going to face is that sometimes it just becomes so perplexing on the page that like you just sort of give up, or you stop caring about the characters as real things because it becomes just an intellectual exercise about the genre. And that’s going to be the real challenge you’re going to face is, yeah —

Male Audience Member: I understand and I think my characters are people —

John: Yeah. So finding a way to navigate that is challenging.

Craig: Good answer.

John: Yeah. You had a question.

Page Count: Yeah, I had a more general question about the formatting. I’m writing a pilot for a single-camera comedy. And I’m trying to compress it into 32 pages. But I think I’m, or actually 31 pages. But I made this in Final Draft and I eliminated like one of the spaces between the periods. I did a tight formatting —

John: Oh, don’t do tight formatting. Tight formatting looks gross.

Craig: What are you doing?

Page Count: And so I just wanted some basic guidance.

Craig: Yeah, here’s some basic guidance. Stop doing, I mean, what are you, you can’t, you’re not — who are you fooling?

Page Count: I know.

Craig: Who are you fooling?

John: And so here’s, let’s talk about what’s valid, valid ways to shrink page count which is so, I see. The space after a period is fine now. I’ve given up on two spaces after a period. Even in Courier, whatever. We’re used to it now. One space. Saves you a little bit of time. But as you’re going through, what Craig will confess to doing too is you’ll look for every place where something is knocking to the next page and wondering like how do I make that not knock to the next page?

And so there’s places where you’re carefully rewriting one sentence so that everything —

Craig: Cut words.

John: You cut words.

Craig: Cut words.

John: The other thing I will tell you is that, yes, you want your script to be short so that it doesn’t seem too long. But most of our half-hour comedies are going page-wise longer than that. So you’re not going to be alone in that universe to do that stuff.

I’d also just really take a hard look at it. Is there anything big you can cut. And if you can cut a big thing that saves you two pages, that’s going be much better than just trying to like, you know, move commas around to save it.

Like all this stuff, simplification can be your friend and by eliminating something that is not the best thing in the script, the stuff that is the best in the script will elevate and will seem that much brighter and sharper.

Page Count: I will beat them down.

John: All right.

Pitcher: I thought of a general question. It has to do with pitch fest that’s going on, too. What got me here is basically an ensemble piece. And I’m wondering in your experience is it better around town back there, is it better to try and pitch that as just talk about the main character and then stick in at the end, oh, I’ve got the multiple story lines. I’ve got — there’s depth to it, you know.

I’ve been told that it might be better when you’re doing your log lines with someone in an elevator to just stick to the main character, who the main persons are. But to me, it’s always been about — it’s a college reunion.

Craig: Yeah. No, but that’s, just do it.

John: No, you have to. You have to describe it that way. And ensemble things —

Craig: Just say The Big Chill of something, something, something.

John: Exactly. Ensemble things are tougher to summarize in a pitch. Like I could never really pitch Go because it’s just so complicated. And yet, sometimes you do pitch things that do have a larger ensemble. Like, Big Fish, I had to pitch a bunch of times, and so you talk about it from the perspective of the two main characters and what their relationship is and sort of how it’s going to feel.

If you’re talking about this, I mean, The Big Chill or some other good reference is a way into it. But you need to clarify like these are the threads we’re following and this is how they overlap. And you could still do that one-minute pitch version of that, you just have to really practice how you’re going to get through that. It’s possible.

We’ll take two more questions. How’s that? In the back, on the couch?

First Pages: Back to the three pages, what was for each of you like the first script that really brings you in or got you an agent, what happened in the first three pages of each of your scripts, and what was good about those three pages?

John: The script that got me an agent was this thing called Here and Now, which never sold, never got produced, should never be seen. But I will say that the opening sequence of it was, so there was this young woman like getting into her car, like, you know, post-holiday shopping and it was — I did a really good job in selling what it’s like to be in a wet, muddy, snowy parking lot and then to have an accident there. And like the scene painting was really good. And that was a usual thing for me.

The thing that sort of broke me out was Go. And in Go it has that sort of flash forward. So it’s giving you a sense of like these are the kind of things that are happening in the movie. But it’s all structured around one conversation and then we’re on Ronna as a checkout girl. So you got a good sense of like this is the world of the movie. Here’s our main person. Go. And those were my first three pages of that that really I think landed attention for me.

Craig: Well, this is embarrassing. Of course, you know, your first scripts are tough. The first screenplay that got me noticed, some attention, the first three pages we saw a kid, he was a nine-year-old boy playing. He was pretending to be an astronaut. And he had his Legos and his stuff and he had his little helmet. And it was all very, it was just a very low-tech innocent thing where he would do, “Houston, I’m entering the lunar module. “And he was just sort of walking down the hall and he just toddled into the laundry room in his house and then got in the dryer and turned the dryer. And then closed the door and actually started rotating and started narrating his own terrible space disaster.

Maybe it’s not that embarrassing. Maybe it’s actually kind of good.

John: It is quite funny. It’s cute.

Craig: It was just not what you would have expected. I have a problem.

John: Yeah. Child abuse. Authorities came. If you were like adopting, like going through the adoption process, you should not show them those pages.

Craig: Oh, yeah, there’s a few other things I can’t show.

John: Yeah, probably so. Do we have one more question out there? Yes, hi.

Notes: I just wanted to add one more thing to this because, just how great it is to take notes like this that I think are great, and to go through the revisions and to keep working on it. The revision that I’ve done on this script got me my agent. I just signed a few months ago with Abrams Artist. And when I started out with, the lesson was, when something needs work don’t give up on it. This is so very helpful.

Craig: Well great.

John: Thank you very much.

Craig: That’s the idea. Thank you.

John: A wonderful place to close. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Craig: Thanks, guys.

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