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 197 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Craig just opened up a Diet Coke. I could hear it. It sounded delicious.
Craig: It’s so good. I just read an interesting article somebody was writing about diet soda. Because, you know, ah, so good. Because, you know, it’s very —
Craig: Fashionable. I mean, is it controversial? I think people are trying to make it controversial but certainly fashionable is how I’d put it. Say, “Oh, god, aspartame in diet soda.” Yeah, actually, you know, one of the most studied substances in the human body is at this point aspartame and artificial sweeteners.
Craig: Yeah. The science is fairly clear like as clear as clear gets. And I know people are going tweet me and say, “Wah, wah, wah.” That’s what it’s going to sound like, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.”
John: Yeah. That is, and we actually have a filter that we built through the email that whenever one of those comes in it just goes “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.”
Craig: Yeah, it’s like the Peanuts teacher.
Craig: Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.
John: It’s just a trombone with a little mute in there.
John: You know, going back and forth.
Craig: Yeah, when people talk about, you know, how GMOs are bad for you. All I hear is wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.
Craig: Yeah, because it feels good, man.
John: But I will tell you that that Diet Coke while not necessarily bad for you —
John: Would be incredibly bad for me if I were to drink this right now. Because we’re recording this at 4:30 PM on a Friday. If I were to have a Diet Coke after 3 PM, I would have a panic attack.
John: It would feel like a heart attack. And then I would convince myself that I was having a heart attack and I would be driven to the emergency room.
Craig: Mm-hmm. Of course, you might be having a heart attack.
John: That’s the thing.
John: I’m in my 40s now. It’s actually reasonable that I could be having a heart attack. But when I was in my 20s, when I was like 22 and this happened the very first time —
John: I’m like, “Oh, my god, I’m having a heart attack,” and so I went to the emergency room. And they’re like, “You’re not having a heart attack. But when this happens again, you still have to come back,” so.
Craig: Yeah. That’s the problem with panic attacks. They are very similar. You must be very sensitive to caffeine.
John: I am. So I can’t — after about 2:30 PM I should not have caffeine at all.
Craig: I love caffeine.
John: Oh, it’s good, good substance.
John: Today on the podcast, we are going to answer a single question. We’ll attempt to answer a single question, “How do bad movies get made?”
Craig: I would have no idea!
John: So that’s our sole topic for the day but we have some follow up to get into first. First off, last week we asked, “Hey, should we make more of those USB drives that have all the episodes of Scriptnotes on them like when we cross 200? Is that a thing we should do?” And the answer was a resounding yes. So at some point after the 200th episode, we will have USB drives for sale that will have the entirety of Scriptnotes on them so you can hold them for after, you know, Armageddon comes.
John: You could still hold on to Scriptnotes.
Craig: I don’t need one. But I can see why people would want one.
Craig: And I’m gratified that they do.
John: Yeah, it’s nice.
John: Second bit of follow up. We asked in the last episode about a 200th episode kind of Google Hangout thing where we would attempt to do a live video feed for the show and there was an enthusiastic response for that and some suggestions. So we are thankful for everybody who suggested ways to do it or places to do it. We are sorting through that now but people can just generally anticipate for three weeks from now for episode 200, we will attempt to do some sort of live video thing. And so, we would attempt to do it at a time where at least people on the East Coast and West Coast of the United States are awake and could enjoy us talking about things, perhaps in a Google Hangout kind of situation.
Craig: That are interesting to screenwriters.
John: Yes. And we don’t know which guest we might have on that kind of show. A person who we need to have on the show very soon is Aline Brosh McKenna because her show just got picked up.
Craig: What? Wait, what show? What?
John: Yeah. You haven’t been following the news?
Craig: I don’t follow news.
John: So Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the show that she did with Rachel Bloom.
John: They did that for Showtime and it didn’t get picked up at Showtime. And so we’re like, well, that’s just terrible. And then suddenly, yesterday, we’re recording this on Friday, so Thursday, it was announced that the CW is picking it up.
Craig: Well, how about that. So it’s —
Craig: A second life. Well, that’s fantastic. We should definitely have — it’s been too long. We should have her on. There’s all sorts of people I want to have on the show. You know, I want to have Rian Johnson on the show. I want to have Chris Miller from Lord Miller. Not that — I love Phil Lord too but Chris said yeah, so.
John: Well, yeah, Chris Miller is just better than Phil Lord in almost every way.
Craig: Oh, don’t. Poor, Phil — Phil Lord is wonder.
John: Phil Lord is absolutely fine for being Phil Lord. But Chris Miller is Chris Miller.
Craig: Chris Miller is Chris Miller.
John: It’s like Derek Haas and Michael Brandt.
John: Like, you know, they’re both lovely.
John: But —
Craig: Well, you see, you know, Derek is one of my best friends in the world. And so it’s not fair. I just don’t know Michael that well.
Craig: So, you know, it’s like, “What’s that name for the Baxter?”
Craig: You know they used to call the Baxter, the guy in the romantic comedy that has the girl but isn’t supposed to be with the girl. And her heroes —
John: Adult [woman role].
Craig: Yeah, and her hero is supposed to get the girl away from the Baxter, somehow Michael Brandt has become the Baxter. But actually Michael Brandt is very cool. Knows more about wine than anyone I’ve ever met.
Craig: He’s a wine genius. I want Megan Amram to come on our show.
John: Oh, god, she’s so funny.
Craig: So funny. And you know what? I might as well just say, somebody that has agreed to be on our show and will be on our show is Katie Dippold who wrote The Heat and is writing the upcoming Ghostbusters re-jiggering.
John: Mm-hmm. Starring our best bud, Melissa McCarthy.
Craig: Starring our girl Melissa. And that’s pretty good.
John: Yeah, that’s pretty good.
Craig: Actually, right there, that’s a hell of a list.
John: While we’re talking fantasy list, I should just get it off the chest. I really would love to have Shonda Rhimes on the show. Shonda, I know from way back in film school. But Shonda is busy running a television empire. So at some point I would love to have her come on the show. So if somebody who is close to Shonda, might would just like nudge her and say, “By the way, John August who lives down the street would love to have you on the show.” I would love to have Shonda Rhimes on the show.
Craig: I don’t know anything about the Shonda-verse. I mean, I know her shows, but you know, I don’t — because I don’t watch TV, so I don’t know the Shonda verse. But certainly she is a titan of the industry and speaking of other showrunners that I do know that actually I could call up, Jenji Kohan.
John: Oh, my god, of course.
Craig: Who’s hysterical.
Craig: Should get her on the show.
John: Yeah. These are all great suggestions, Craig.
Craig: Oh, you know, who else we should get on the show?
Craig: Glen Mazzara.
John: Yeah, and who was supposed to be on the show like about six months ago.
Craig: I know and is the best. There are so many people we have to get on the show.
Craig: I can’t believe we wasted an entire show on Ryan Knighton. [laughs]
John: [laughs] Ryan Knighton was fantastic.
Craig: He was.
John: Ryan Knighton who listens to the show the day it comes out.
Craig: I know. [laughs]
John: So right now he’s like, “Oh, yeah, screw you guys.”
Craig: Well, that’s — I did that for Ryan Knighton of course. Of course, we actually got a tweet back. I don’t know if you saw it from Chris O’Dowd. [laughs] Did you see that?
John: [laughs] Yes, Chris O’Dowd. But did Chris O’Dowd say that he looked nothing like him or agreed that he did look something like him?
Craig: He sort of just jumped into the fray in general to point out that somebody had said that Ryan Knighton and Chris O’Dowd were similar sort of from the nose down and I said, “Yes, they both have a jaw.” And Chris O’Dowd jumped into the fray to say that sometimes he even has two chins.
John: Well, that’s good. That’s an honest, true assessment of sometimes people’s physical realities.
Craig: [laughs] That was the most John August thing you’ve ever said.
Craig: [laughs] That was — if you guys want to know what it’s like if you take John August and boil him down to a delicious reduction —
Craig: It was that sentence.
John: All right, I’ll take it.
Craig: It was gorgeous.
John: The other thing I’m really known for is segues. Like talking about —
Craig: Oh, man.
John: Our 200 episodes and really our favorite episodes out of those 200. We asked last week what people’s favorite episodes were and we got just a shot-gun full of very different answers about what things were the best.
John: But they broke it down in sort of general categories. And so, some people love the craft episodes. Some people love our interviews. Some people love when we go deep on one movie. And there were, you know, a few other sort of recent hits which I think you would anticipate it if there’s a recency bias that people who listen to the show religiously, they’re going to think more about the ones they heard more recently than the ones from way back in the day.
John: But we will put together a list of some of our favorites and as we hit the 200, we will go through and highlight those as well.
Craig: I should mention that I did get a text from America’s favorite unpronounceable comedian Mike Birbiglia who said his vote for favorite episode for listener’s guide — is that — I don’t know. Is that what we’re calling it? Listener’s guide?
John: Yeah, listener’s guide.
Craig: Listener’s guide. The Conflict episode and the Directing episode.
Craig: He said Conflict episode is a three-peat for me. You should make a YouTube how-to video of it.
Craig: Which I’m going to —
John: We’ll never do.
Craig: I’m just saying no to right now. [laughs]
Craig: Yeah, I’m going to say no, Mike Birbiglia.
John: That’s so much work.
John: So, way back in the day I used to do these YouTube videos where it was like a screencast and I would start with a scene and sort of rewrite the scene and sort of talk through sort of why I was rewriting the scene like word by word, sentence by sentence. And people loved them. And I said like, “Oh, yeah, I’ll do more of them.” But the truth is they’re so incredibly exhausting to do that I just don’t know if I’ll ever get back to doing more of those.
Craig: I truly love the wonderful isolation tank of podcast DO.
Craig: You know, it’s just nice. I don’t have to worry about anything.
Craig: I don’t even have to wear clothing if I don’t want to.
John: Yeah, he’s been naked most of this time.
Craig: Well, I’m naked all of the time under my clothes.
John: Yeah, sometimes he’s smoking. We never quite know what Craig is doing in his office in Pasadena while we’re recording the show.
Craig: Occasionally I’m cleaning fish.
John: Yeah, that does happen. Occasionally a cleaning woman walks by and takes the fish cuts away.
John: Correct. The only last bit of business before we get to the topic at hand, One Hit Kill, which is the game we are launching. By the time you listen to this podcast it very well might have launched. So we’re launching, we anticipate, on Tuesday, the 12th and if you are interested in card games or things that smash into other things you will probably enjoy this card game. So just go to onehitkillgame.com or search Kickstarter for us because hopefully by the time you’re listening to this, we are up there in the world for you to back and pledge. And Craig now is fully converted to the world —
Craig: No, no, no.
John: Of crowd funding.
Craig: No, no, no. I would love to be included in the “we” on that but I am not part of the “we”.
John: Oh, he’s not part of this thing at all.
Craig: Yeah, I can’t —
John: Oh, lord, no.
Craig: I claim zero credit.
John: Yes, so when I say “we” I mean the people who work for me and my side of the company.
Craig: On the other hand, I also claim zero blame.
John: Yeah, true.
John: That’s the lovely thing about being sort of not involved.
Craig: Not my fault. Not my fault.
John: Not your fault.
Craig: Boy, there is a segue softball for you. Not my fault.
John: Absolutely. Let’s talk about movies that don’t work out. So Nima Yousefi who works for me phrased this question at lunch, “Hey, why don’t you talk about why they make bad movies?” And I was like, well, you know what, we never really framed the conversation around that but that’s a totally valid question.
Craig: Yeah, from the mouth of babes.
John: Yes. So let’s talk about this issue. And I guess we have to start by defining our terms. What do we even mean by bad? And, you know, we could talk about movies that are just genuinely terrible. They get bad critical review. They get bad audience reviews or like the very low consensus in general of the quality of the movie. But often we talk about the movies being flops because they just didn’t connect at the box office.
So, when I say bad movie, Craig, which of those kind of categories are you thinking about?
Craig: I never think about the box office honestly because I’ve seen some wonderful movies that people just didn’t go to see at the box office. I’ve seen some massive box office hits that I just didn’t like.
Craig: When I — honestly, when I think about a bad movie and I have a very limited definition. I’ll stipulate that upfront. I think about a movie that I don’t like at all.
Craig: I just don’t like it. It was bad for me. That’s sort of a thing on the end. And there are movies that are seemingly bad for everyone.
John: Yeah. I think that’s really, I think, what we should probably try to focus on is like the movies that just like, “Well, that just didn’t work.”
John: Because there’s certainly movies that are tremendously successful that I just can’t ever watch and I just don’t like and I don’t get.
John: But clearly somebody really loved that movie. So you can’t sort of definitely say like, “Oh, that didn’t work.” But there’s many movies that just don’t work and you sometimes scratch your head, saying, like, “How did that movie happen?”
Today, let’s talk through how those movies happen.
Craig: How do things go wrong? And it’s true that sometimes through the lens of time we will see that things that weren’t working actually were working. They just weren’t working in the right time.
Craig: They were ahead of their time. And it seems like a crazy thing to say. It sounds pompous. And sometimes the movies that are ahead of their time are low-brow culture.
Craig: But they foreshadowed something and they may have been rough around the edges. They may have been startling or shocking. Did you see by the way, there’s this wonderful video out there on the Internet about the genius of the first follower? Have you seen this video?
John: No. Tell me this.
Craig: So, it’s a guy narrating a simple video of a crowd at some sort of outdoor music festival. And the video is just of this small area of the crowd, mostly people sitting on a lawn. And one guy is dancing like a lunatic, all by himself. He’s all alone and he’s the kind of person that people would look at go, “Wow, what a freak.”
Craig: This is the leader. He is the brave leader who does something on his own for the first time. He doesn’t care if other people are doing it with him. And after about a minute of this, one dude just comes running in out of nowhere and starts dancing along with that guy and learning his dance and dancing with him. And other people see this and the second guy sort of gesturing back at his friends like, “Come on.” And now three or four people come to dance with the guy.
Now there’s about five people dancing. Then about, now people see a group of people dancing. And so a bunch of people were like, “Oh, yeah, cool. People dancing, I like to be a part of a group of people dancing.” And within 30 seconds, it goes from two people to five people to ten people to what seems like everyone, like hundreds of people all doing this.
And the point that the guy made was the leader is an interesting person but it’s the first follower who is the bravest and the first follower who is the most important. Sometimes with movies, the leader comes out and gets crushed.
Craig: It’s the first follower that kind of reaps the reward. So in time we may look back at that first, that first crazy guy dancing on the lawn and go, “Actually, you’re good.”
John: You know, thinking back through my own movies, a movie that I’m not especially happy with is the second Charlie’s Angels. And I was at some screening some place about a completely different movie and this guy in the audience came up and said, “Hey, I just want to let you know, I really love Full Throttle.” I’m like, “Wow, really, you really love it?” He’s like, “Yeah. It was like so much of an improvement over the first movie.” I’m like, “You’re the only person on earth who thinks that.”
And he said — he basically was a first follower. He’s like, the way it kind of made no sense and it just kind of came jumping from thing to thing, I thought it was like really avant-garde and sort of just — he had his whole theory at that that was deliberate in a certain way.
John: And —
John: And so, in some ways, I do kind of — I get that and there might be things you just love about something that is not necessarily the inherent qualities that the even creators were attempting to do but you might love something for a certain reason and sometimes the movies that are not great end up having a great influence.
If you look at some of the Grindhouse classics you wouldn’t say that those are great movies but they’ve had —
John: A tremendous influence on Tarantino but also a lot of other filmmakers.
Craig: That’s a great example of the first follower. Tarantino will get knocked around a little bit by some people that say, “Well, you know, all the great moments that you love in Pulp Fiction have been cribbed from other movies.” Yeah, but he’s the first follower. He knew to crib those. Where other people were just laughing at them because, frankly, a lot of those moments are from movies that are bad.
Craig: They’re just not well done.
Craig: But he was the first follower.
John: It was their lack of artistry that made them sort of incredibly exciting and sort of incredibly —
Craig: Or maybe they had one wonderful moment and then a lot of junk.
Craig: You know.
John: Sometimes a movie cannot work because it was ahead of its time. And sometimes a movie just happens to be behind its time. And like, you know, while you were shooting the movie like, well, this is really current and then by the time it comes out, well, this is clumsily outdated.
John: So things involving technology often don’t age well and sometimes that aging process happens before they’re even out in the movie theatres. Sometimes that’s, you know, about computer technology, about hackers, about sort of anything related to the Internet. The Sandra Bullock movie The Net, The Web, the whatever —
John: I remember that coming out and it’s like, “Oh, wow, this movie is at least six months too late. This is not at all sort of what this world is.” The other challenge can be like you’re — there was a fad and that fad has now passed and now you seem just incredibly laughably out of date because no one is doing the Lambada anymore or skateboarding is not about gleaning the cube anymore. There’s just reasons why that moment has passed and now you’re still trying to hit those notes.
Craig: Like, if you were, say, dumb enough to make some sort of compendium spoof movie, at the end, long past perhaps the end of that trend.
John: Well, that’s just ridiculously bad actually.
Craig: No one would do that.
John: No one would ever do that.
Craig: That would be stupid.
John: But let’s talk about those, you know, some movies are just inherently bad ideas. And some, you know, you wouldn’t necessarily know that at that time but there are some movies, you’ll just look at them, it’s like, well, that was just never going to work. I don’t understand why you really thought a movie about talking baloney was going to be the thing that people wanted to see or like, you know, a romantic comedy about talking baloney was something that people wanted to see. And yet somehow it made it through all of these levels. Maybe we can dig in to sort of why sometimes something that looks on its surface like a bad idea makes it through.
Craig: Well, it’s hard to know that it’s a bad idea occasionally.
Craig: Sometimes you’re hit with an idea as a member of the audience, right. You see a trailer. You see something. And you look and you go, “That’s just an inherently bad idea because I don’t even know what it is.”
Craig: For instance, why would I watch a movie about talking baloney? But every now and then something comes along like that and everybody just goes, “Yup, love that.”
Craig: “That thing. I love the talking baloney movie.” Sharknado was like —
Craig: You know, now granted Sharknado was a goof, you know. But sometimes there are ideas that are such outliers you can’t tell if they’re an outlier bad or an outlier good.
Craig: They are just off. And you will have to find out if it’s off good or off bad.
John: Yeah. You won’t know. And sometimes those ideas get forced into the universe because of, you know, reasons that aren’t completely clear from the trailer or from the movie you’re actually watching. So sometimes there’s an incredibly powerful person behind it or a group of people behind it who say like, “You know what? We somehow for some reason trust that this thing could breakthrough, this thing could work.” And that could be a really powerful director. It could be a powerful producer. It could be a studio head who says, like, “No, no, I really think that the world needs, you know, a talking baloney movie because it’s going to be like the talking dog movies, but people love food and therefore we’re just going to do it.”
John: And sometimes a charismatic person or a powerful person can push that movie into existence, hire the people to do it and that movie now exists even though it’s not a good idea maybe on a fundamental level.
Craig: I’ll give you an example from my career.
Craig: I seem to have a lot of them. Very early on I had a writing partner and we did our first movie. And as that movie was in post or something like that, our managers came to us and said, “Look, Dimension Films wants to make a movie with Marlon Wayans and we need ideas for Marlon Wayans. So come and sit down and just pitch us ideas for Marlon Wayans.” We said okay. And we were very young and, you know, had basically written one thing and got paid for it. We were trying to make career as a screenwriter. So important person saying important person wants a movie with important person, let’s go sit and come up with some ideas. So we sat there for an afternoon. We came up with a bunch of log lines for the kinds of comedies they were making then, character-driven Jim Carrey-ish comedies.
And we came in and we just pitched them all one after another. And they picked the weirdest one. [laughs] They just said, “That one.” And they all agreed. “That one. And we’re making it.”
John: And, Craig, was the “that one” because they could picture the poster? What was it that singled that one out?
Craig: I don’t know. So the idea was a man only has four of his five senses at any given time but the missing one keeps switching. So, at some point he’s blind. At some point he’s deaf. At some point he can’t speak. At some point he can’t feel. It was a very strange idea but they all just got excited. They thought, this is exactly what the world needs and we said, “Oh, okay.” And they’re like, “Here’s a bunch of money. Go start writing it and you need to write it now because he has a thing on a schedule and we’re going to shoot it,” and we did it. And they were like, “Great.” And then they made it
Craig: But I remember very clearly —
John: And then it won an Oscar, right?
Craig: It didn’t. It didn’t. I do remember I was walking with my writing partner Greg and we were talking about, we had, you know, gotten paid to do this and we were figuring out how to write the script and we were just discussing it on a walk. And then he turned to me and he goes, “You think they’ll ever make this?” And I said, “Never in a million years will they make this. This is just a dumb idea.”
Craig: Well, they did make it.
Craig: And the whole time we were like, “Wait. At some point, someone’s going to stop this, right?” [laughs]
Craig: And the crazy thing is we got to the first test screening and I thought, “This is where it’ll stop.” And the test, it was through the roof. It scored great. The audience loved it. And I was still like, “But it’s not — “
John: But —
Craig: No one’s stopping this? [laughs]
Craig: And then eventually the audience stopped it.
John: I don’t think we’ve ever talked about this on the show. But at some point in your career, you must have been pitched or been advised to pitch on Clipped over — a Brian Grazer project.
John: A Brian Grazer project at Imagine.
Craig: Of course.
John: So this project, I’d kind of love for it to made at this point because I think almost every screenwriter I’ve ever met has had this brought up to him or her, which is a project that Brian Grazer initiated and I think some scripts have been written for it. And it involves a man who gets a paperclip stuck in his brain or like up his nose and like it touches his brain. And I think that’s the entire premise.
John: And I think it’s gone in a gazillion different directions but that’s the premise. And so, you’ll go into one of these general meetings and they’ll say like, “Oh, and we also have Clipped and like we’re really excited to make this movie.” And you’re like, “Well, but, tell me about it.” It’s like, a man gets a paperclip stuck up his brain. And it’s like, “Okay.”
Craig: Right. Rob Schneider is a Carrot.
Craig: Yeah. And that, there is this thing that happens where powerful people get an idea that they can’t let go of.
Craig: And everybody, at some point or another, has an idiosyncratic attraction to an idea that few others do. I do. We all do. But the difference is, if you run a big studio that’s making a lot of money for another big studio, you get to constantly impose your idiosyncratic obsession at everyone.
Craig: So when they have these meetings and they say, “Well, we have something we’re really excited about,” they’re not excited about it. They hate it. [laughs]
Craig: They just know that their boss is. And there have been movies — someone should make a list of these. Movies that seemingly everyone in the Writers Guild has been hired to work on at some point or another, like Stretch Armstrong is —
John: Yeah. Yesterday we were talking about Bob the Musical which really I think everyone has worked on.
Craig: Yeah. There’s a good list of movies that have done nothing but generate dues for the Writers Guild [laughs] and will never actually get made.
John: Well, I think Taylor Lautner at some point got like a big payday for doing Stretch Armstrong, which of course never happened.
Craig: Stretch Armstrong, at this point, the story that somebody should make is the story of trying to make Stretch Armstrong. The movie will refuse to be made at all times. And no matter how close you get, it will not be made. It’s a remarkable story.
John: Circling back to Lord and Miller, I think one of the things we need to blame them for whenever we get them on the show is —
John: The tremendous success of The Lego Movie means that anybody who has like any piece of this like random IP can genuinely say like, “Well, look at The Lego Movie. They had nothing and then they made something amazing.” So, you know, Stretch Armstrong is at least a character.
Craig: Right. So then you want to say, “Actually, no, The Lego Movie had Batman.” [laughs]
John: That’s absolutely true.
Craig: Yeah. No, The Lego Movie had Batman and it had Abraham Lincoln. It had all sorts of cool stuff. But I imagine that Chris and Phil have no idea. When you are involved in the thing that people are copying, you generally aren’t the person that knows about it that much, you know. I mean, I got sent a bunch of Hangover-y type stuff, but when The Hangover was kind of doing its thing, everybody was basically like, “It’s Hangover but blank. It’s Hangover with this. It’s Hangover with that.”
Craig: And I don’t think Chris and Phil know [laughs] how much it’s Lego Movie is going on out there.
Craig: Which, by the way, is another reason why bad movies happen, because studios tend to play follow the leader.
John: So I want to talk about this IP thing because that becomes an issue as well, is that let’s say you have a big piece of property. Let’s say you’re Hasbro and you have a big piece of property and you say like, “You know what, I think there’s a movie here. Look at The Lego Movie. I will give you, studio, the opportunity to make this movie but the clock is ticking.”
John: And you and I have both encountered many situations where they say like, “Listen, we have to make this movie by this time or else we’ll lose the rights to X, Y, or Z.”
John: And Battleship was apparently that situation by many accounts. They had this title that they really liked. They wanted to make a movie called Battleship and it got rushed. It got rushed to make that movie. Similar thing happened with Spider-Man. So Sony had the rights to make Spider-Man movies.
John: But they had to keep making Spider-Man movies. If they stopped making them for a period of time, the rights would revert back to Marvel. So that’s a trap often with IP is there’s a clock attached to it.
Craig: Yeah. There is this thing in economics called the Concorde Fallacy. When they were building the Concorde, they said, “Well, it makes sense because we’ve done the numbers and it’s going to cost $700 million to build this plane but we believe at that cost, we will be able to at least break even.” And everybody said okay. And they spent about $300 million and went, “All right, actually, it’s going to cost $1.4 billion and we’re never going to be able to make money on it.” And someone said, “Yeah, but what are we supposed to do? Just stop and just have nothing to show for our $300 million? Of course not. Let’s keep going and build it.”
John: And let’s keep going and build it sometimes had paid off incredibly well in the movie business. And classically, Titanic, hugely over budget.
John: And could have just been a complete whiff and a miss, and instead became, for the time, the biggest movie in history.
Craig: That’s right.
John: And Cameron beat himself again after that with Avatar. So sometimes, those crazy bets really do pay off. Again, another crazy bet was The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, like basically betting the entire studio on these three films working, and it worked. So sometimes those are good choices. In the case of Battleship, it didn’t work out well for most of these people.
Craig: And that, by the way, is another answer to Nima’s question. Why do bad movies happen? Because everybody’s hoping that it’ll work.
Craig: And everybody looks at history and goes, well, you know, Fox sold off international on Titanic to Paramount because they were afraid that they had a flop on their hands with Titanic. Well, they shouldn’t have done it. Fox also let George Lucas keep merchandising and sequel rights in order to have him put money in on the budget or however it worked on Star Wars because they were frightened of that project as well. Well, are we going to be brave like Star Wars and Titanic or are we going to be scared, you know?
Well, the problem is, if you act like your movie is a big hit, it will come back to bite you if it’s not, so you actually can’t say ahead of time, one way or the other, which of the narratives is the appropriate one.
Craig: You might as well cite no narratives. You might as well just admit you can’t predict it, don’t tell me about the outliers on either side, let’s just deal with what we have. But a lot of times people are kind of clinging to outlier hopes.
John: Well, it’s like they’re playing poker and they’re really hoping they can fill an inside straight. And rarely are they going to be able to fill that inside straight, but the cost of folding is so high. Essentially, you’re in for so much and if you try to cancel a movie — like you can, theoretically, like, you know what, we’re $20 million in this movie, we still have another eight weeks of shooting, it’s going to cost us so much money, we’re just going to pull the plug.
That’s happened. I can think maybe five times in my Hollywood experience have I seen a move just actually get the plug pulled on it because kind of worse than a flop is just like burning a bunch of money and having nothing to show for it.
Craig: Yeah. This is why gambling is addictive for so many people. It’s entirely about the rush of beating the odds. And frankly, the movie business is, in part, about the rush of beating the odds. The odds are stacked against you to be hired. The odds are stacked against your movie to be green-lit. The odds are stacked against your movie to do well.
Craig: So when you beat it, you’re now chasing that rush all the time. The other thing that studios have to deal with, and this is another reason why bad movies do get made, is they have a pipeline. And the pipeline is this big infrastructure of salaries and offices and materials that exist to put movies out into the world. If you don’t have movies to put out in the world, you’re paying all those people lots and lots of money for nothing.
Craig: So they must fill their pipeline. They must make a certain number of movies. And if they don’t, they have failed as executives. They failed. You can’t go to your board and say, “I actually only found three movies I liked, so we only made three.” No. You were tasked to make 15 movies. If you couldn’t find the other 13, it’s your fault. Much better to say, “I made 15 movies. These should have worked.” Better to swing more than to take pitches.
John: Absolutely. So, a couple of weeks ago, I went and saw a very early cut of a film that a friend of ours is directing. And it was a great early cut. It’s going to be a really good movie. But I didn’t know anything about the history of the film. So I was like, oh, who’s — because it was over at like one of the nearby studio lots and I said like, “Oh, who’s releasing this?” He’s like, “Oh, it’s actually this company that they’ve put out their own slate and they’re going to release it themselves.” I’m like, “That is fascinating. And that will probably end in tears.”
I hope it doesn’t end in tears but it’s so challenging to try to become a new studio because how are you going to hold all those talented people from movie to movie to movie to release this thing? It’s just an incredibly difficult job. And that’s why I have sympathy for studio executives because they are trying to make sure that they can keep everyone continuously employed and also still make the best movies at the same time. And those aren’t necessarily perfectly aligning goals.
Craig: Yeah. That’s right. Sometimes when you want something, you have to get into business with somebody and take a bunch of stuff you don’t want.
Craig: Which, of course, ironically, is the same model that the studios then turn around and foist upon the theaters.
Craig: If you want Avengers, you also have to take this stinker.
Craig: Well, if you want to be in business with Brad Pitt’s company or you want to be in business with Scott Rudin or you want to be in business with Neil Moritz, you’re hoping that you get, you know, their big awesome stuff, you might also get the other stuff. You never know. And you might need to take both to kind of make it all work. Sometimes movies will be made to keep people happy.
John: Yeah, absolutely. It keeps your relationship with a major actor happy. It keeps your relationship with a prolific producer happy. If you let this director direct this one film in hopes that she will also direct this other one. You basically make a twofer deal that, you know, we will do this one that we don’t genuinely believe in and you’ll get this other one.
And classically, some directors and some producers had put films where they basically say, “Over the course of my contract, I am allowed to come to you with a project and you can pass but I can still say, uh-uh, you’re making it for up to this budget.” And that has rarely ended well for the people involved.
Craig: Yeah. You know, a lot of the let’s say, we’ll call them privileges that people had are gone. The business has changed in such a way that these perks have disappeared because everybody got burned and because the corporate control has become that much more scrutinizing. The problem with things like put movies where you can say, “No, no. You have to make this movie,” is they have to make it. And I’ve found in my life in all aspects, forcing people to do something doesn’t work out in any situation, even if it’s good for them.
Craig: Unless they’re children, it doesn’t work. You want people to actually want to do something with you.
John: Absolutely. So we were talking before about some bad ideas that become movies. But sometimes you start with a really good idea. And sometimes even at the marketing or kind of deep within that movie you can see like, “There’s a good idea there but it didn’t work.” And so let’s talk about some of those things that happened to those good ideas that ended up resulting in bad movies.
So, start with the director. Sometimes just the wrong director was hired or a theoretically good director who just made weird choices that did not end up serving the film. And you and I both have been involved in projects where like, wow, with a different director, that could have worked out so much better than it did work out right here.
Craig: Yeah. This is the eternal lament of the screenwriter, if only for the director. And it’s a little unfair in the sense that when the director works out, we go, “See, they did what we told them to do in the script.”
Craig: And great. And when it doesn’t, “Ah, the director.” The truth is that all movies are impacted dramatically by so many of the director’s decisions. And when a movie works, you have to give the director an enormous amount of credit. And then when a movie fails, you have to give the director an enormous amount of blame. It’s a high-risk/high reward gig.
The mismatch of director and material, more often than not, is the thing that sinks a movie. They have a vision and the vision is competing with the material. They are trying to make a different movie. And what happens is everybody else is hanging on saying, “Well, the reason we hired you in the first place, the reason we’re spending all this money is because this feeling we had about a different vision. So we’ll just keep tugging you this way and the director will keep tugging that way.” And then you end up with this mush.
John: Yeah. You’re somewhere in the middle and that’s never where you want to end up.
John: So, almost as commonly as the director being the wrong person, it’s a star being the wrong person. And it’s not hard to think of examples of, “That was a great idea for a movie. That was not the person to star in this film.” And, you know, either that person was miscast in the sense of like you were making a comedy and that person is just inherently not funny. Or you don’t fundamentally believe the chemistry between these people that you’ve put up on screen together.
And that is terrible when it happens because you’ve wasted all of this time and money and energy on something that people just fundamentally don’t buy into.
Craig: Yeah. There’s two kinds of miscasting. There’s the kind where the director, again, simply doesn’t see a problem. They have a vision that is completely incompatible with the material and with the people now that they’ve placed in the position of performing the parts.
The other kind of miscasting is the studio forcing something. I’m not sure which one is more common. I can say this. I remember seeing a poster for The Truman Show before I knew anything about it and I thought, “So that’s miscast.” [laughs] Why is Peter Weir making that movie with that guy? It’s just miscast.
Awesome movie. My favorite Jim Carrey performance by far. Loved it. And it totally worked. Peter Weir is a master of casting, I would argue. His casting instincts are extraordinary. And he’s also cast people that I haven’t liked in other things and I’ve loved them in his movies. But then there are times where you go, “Why is that person in that movie?” That just feels like, “Well, it’s a movie star, so that’ll work, right?”
Craig: No, it won’t.
John: No, it will not. It’s a real thing. And a good thought exercise is to imagine some of your favorite films and then imagine who their second choice was in that role, and it’s just not fundamentally the same movie. Indiana Jones, classically, it’s very hard to imagine that character not being Harrison Ford, of the films that we’ve seen him in.
And it doesn’t mean that he made the movie, you know, that movie was written and directed with, you know, incredible, intense care but there’s something right about him in that spot. And they were very smart in their casting to see him and say, “Oh, that is the guy who should do that.”
Craig: But he was not the first choice.
John: He was not the first choice. Wasn’t it Tom Selleck?
Craig: Tom Selleck.
Craig: Yeah. Tom Selleck couldn’t do it ultimately because they wouldn’t let him out, schedule-wise, for enough time from Magnum, P.I.
Craig: And, you know, that’s just —
John: And Tom Selleck would’ve been fine. He’s a talented actor, certainly. But I don’t think, you know, Raiders of the Lost Ark is the iconic movie with him in it.
Craig: You know, here’s the thing. Who knows?
John: Who knows?
Craig: Who knows?
John: We could be wrong.
Craig: You just don’t know. Like people start with an idea of who the star is and then the craziest things happen. You know, Jeff Conaway was supposed to be the start of Taxi.
Craig: I mean, he got top billing and everything. Just didn’t work out that way.
Craig: Rob Lowe was supposed to be the star of The West Wing.
Craig: Or West Wing, sorry. And it just didn’t work out that way.
John: Yeah, but that’s the luxury of television. In television, you can go episode by episode and sort of see what’s working and you can change along the way. A feature is like a TV show that you shoot exactly one episode of.
Craig: That’s right.
John: And you won’t know. And the cameras will be put away and you’ll be out there in the world and you won’t know. So you won’t know if you’ve made Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and you’ve created a huge star or you’ve made like a really creepy movie about a guy who hires a hooker but it’s trying to be funny.
Craig: Yeah. It’s sort of like the entertainment version of the nature and nurture situation. Television allows you to nurture something.
Craig: And you can impact it and affect it environmentally and change it as you need to. Movies are entirely about nature. I am putting some DNA together, clapping my hands, walking away. Hope to God I did it right [laughs] because that’s it. It is what it is.
John: But sometimes you can change things. And part of the way you change things is by, you know, editing the movie together, showing it to an audience and then making changes based on what the audience tells you. And I think you and I have both encountered suggestions from the audience that the studio will be very excited about that you know are like just the worst ideas imaginable.
And sometimes the studio will say yes because they want the audience to be happy and they’ll make choices that hurt the movie but might bump up the needle a tiny bit.
Craig: So, the idea of chasing a score was I think more prominent. In a strange way, I see it less and less now. You think you’d see it more and more. As studios become more corporate, they would adhere more to some kind of empirical evidence-based system of quality rather than trusting instincts. But the score has failed them so many times, so many times, that they are now smart enough, I think, to know score, shmore.
How did it play in the room? Let’s just feel the room. And then when people talk to us, let’s think about why they’re saying what they’re saying. Because they also have experienced where they didn’t do what the 25 people in the focus group said. “Oh, you should totally do this and this and this.” They listened, they heard the movie, they went back, they made the changes that they felt were right.
Craig: Came back to a new audience and it killed.
John: Yup. And so I don’t want to sort of denigrate all audience testing because it is a crucial part of sort of knowing what movie you actually made and how it plays to audiences. Seth Rogen camp I know is very well known for putting the video cameras in the theatre so they can actually go back to the tape and see, “Ah-ha, you thought this was funny but there’s actually no laugh. It’s not actually a joke.”
Craig: For comedy, I’m a huge believer on that and I know Todd Phillips does it for all of his movies. All the movies I did with David Zucker, we did it, because frankly, there’s a ton of debate in an editing room about, “No, people loved that.” “No, they didn’t.” “No, they didn’t.”
So all right, let’s go to the video tape. And then you can watch it. But the other great thing about watching that night vision video of the audience is you can see them getting bored, you can see them leaning forward because they’re into it. There are things that they do silently that are informative that you cannot see from the back of their heads.
John: Absolutely true.
Craig: So it’s really important to see and feel your movie with an audience. And you’re right, there are opportunities to “save a movie,” but only if the movie is savable. There’s a difference between this a good movie gone wrong and this is a bad movie.
John: Another framework I want to look at is sometimes a movie is mismarketed. And it’s not just that the trailer is wrong or the advertising is wrong, but literally, this was meant to be a tiny art film and now you’re trying to push it out to 2,000 screens and it cannot connect with that audience in that way. And I think we’ve all encountered films that got of pushed way beyond where they should have been and they suffered for it. They suffered from that expectation of like, “Oh, this was meant to be a giant crowd pleaser.” But no, it’s actually a movie that’s going to play really well at a festival. It was never designed to be going so big and so wide. You set this weird expectation by opening a certain way.
John: The same thing happens with the images you’re showing in your trailers, images you’re showing in commercials. If you’re selling something as, you know, a feel good comedy but it’s actually about suicide, you’re going to hit blowback and that’s going to hurt you down the road.
Craig: Yeah. I feel like there are two oppositional errors that occur with marketing. On the one hand, you have the filmmakers who feel a way about their movie and insist that the marketing reflect it. “I made a dark treatise blah, blah, blah. You’re trivializing it with this ridiculous ad. I need you to sell the movie I made.” And they do and everybody goes, nope. So that’s one kind. But the oppositional error to that is the marketing team says, “You know, our testing shows that blah, blah, blah in this segment and so forth, we’re going to sell this movie as a romantic comedy even though it’s not.”
And even putting aside the phenomenon of “I thought I was getting this, but I went to the movie and got that,” people don’t even go because they smell something wrong from the start. It seems synthetic. It seems like they’re forcing something that isn’t right. And these two kinds of errors occur all the time and it’s a discussion that frankly filmmakers and marketing executives need to have very early or else there’s trouble.
John: You will find that directors and screenwriters and the creative people on a movie don’t enjoy having this early marketing discussion because they feel like marketing is going to try to influence the movie they make. Well, they are to the degree that marketing is going to try to influence you to make a movie that they can actually market it.
And if they don’t understand how to market your film, you’re going to suffer down the road. So it’s eating your broccoli, go in and take that meeting and really talk through what it is you’re trying to do and what it’s trying to feel like. So you can be on something like the same page.
You know, when things work really well, sometimes, you know — this actually happened on Go — they cut a trailer that was actually really good. It helped inform us about our movie. It’s like, “Oh, I get what that movie feels like.” Actually, even better example is the first Charlie’s Angels because we were floundering and we were in a cut and we just didn’t know where we were. And then the good folks at Columbia or whatever trailer house they used, cut a really great trailer for it and like got us really excited. It’s like, “Oh, let’s make the movie that goes with that trailer.” And we knew that we had that movie in there? And that helped provide us some focus.
Craig: Yeah. There are unfortunately some movies that are wonderful and they are unsellable in a traditional way.
Craig: One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride. It’s probably one of everyone’s favorite movie. In a world without The Princess Bride, it’s hard to sell the Princess Bride. And in fact, they really struggled. The Princess Bride in 1987 opened to a $4.5 million which is not that great. And it ended up making $30 million which in 1987 just wasn’t that great.
Now, that of course, retrospectively has become a beloved classic and I fear the day that they reboot it. But really hard to sell because ultimately what made The Princess Bride great was that gestalt of the experience. It was one of those movies where you just needed to kind of see it. Another movie that I love is Time Bandits. I think Time Bandits is brilliant. And Terry Gilliam in particular has made a career of unsellable great movies.
John: Yeah, 12 Monkeys, yeah.
Craig: Unsellable, great movie. Baron Munchausen, unsellable, great movie. Time Bandits, unsellable, great movie.
John: Yeah. You know, I remember seeing Time Bandits in the theater and I think it was just one of those summer movie series when I was a kid in school. And so I had no idea what it was. But it was like, “Wait, this is a movie that exists in the world?” It was just so crazy pants.
John: I loved it.
Craig: It was mind blowing to me. And it was just so — I still and I will always for the span of my life, the dwindling span of my life, I will never forget the feeling I had when the dwarves started pushing on that kid’s bedroom wall and the wall started moving —
Craig: And became this crazy hallway through time. My little brain went, “What?”
John: What? It was an acid trip before acid.
Craig: I was. I mean, God, Gilliam, what a genius.
Craig: What a genius.
John: So before we go too deep into the, “Oh, it’s actually a good movie,” let’s do sort of cycle back through and say like, “You know what, sometimes movies just are bad.”
John: And we have to acknowledge that there are movies that are just — they’re just not good. And they flop because they’re terrible. And the take home I want everyone to have is that while you’re making them, you probably didn’t know they were terrible. I would also want everyone to know that it takes just as much work to make a bad movie as a good movie, like sometimes even more work because whatever happened that caused that bad movie to exist in the world was probably really challenging and painful for the people involved.
No one showed up on the first day and said like, “Let’s make a terrible movie.” They really thought they were making something good. They thought they were swinging for the fences. They thought they were taking a brave dare, a risk that was going to pay off, and it didn’t.
And so we need to make sure that we don’t slam the bad movie so hard that no one tries to take any risks. And I kind of have a worry that’s what’s happening overall as an industry right now, is that we are making safer and safer bets, you know, expensive bets but safer bets on the films that will do okay kind of no matter what.
John: I don’t know if you feel the same way.
Craig: I do. I mean the fear of the bad movie isn’t a fear so much of just losing money, it’s a fear of how traumatic the process is in your attempt to save it.
Craig: When critics say this movie is lazy, that’s the stupidest thing any critic can say. The least lazy movies are the bad ones.
Craig: There is nothing easier than taking a very healthy baby home from the hospital. Well, there is a lot of things easier, but in the world of babies, healthy baby is the easiest baby. The hard baby is the one that’s sick because that one is stressful and requires resources and time and anxiety and sometimes cannot be saved and there’s terrible grief and you’re working crazy hours through while you’re also suffering and you’re thinking to yourself, I’m now working around the clock on something that can only be bad.
Craig: I’m trying to get it from, “Oh my god, that’s the worst thing ever to merely bad.”
John: Yeah. We’ve both had conversations where, you know, under the code of silence we say like, “I’m trying to bring this from like a D to a B-.”
John: And you know, there’s not an A to be found, but you’re trying to make it up to just a salvageable level where you can at least see the intention behind it. The good moments are highlighted and you’ve gotten through the bad moments as painlessly as possible.
Craig: Yes. There is a misconception among many people that study film, because they are consumers of completed products, that movies are excreted whole from a mind. This is not at all true ever. All movies are like cars that are being built while you’re driving them.
Craig: All of them. And every good movie is a compendium both of intentional smart choices and unintentional happy accidents. Every bad movie similarly is a compendium of bad choices and bad accidents. And when you’re on one of those cars and you know basically now the idea is can we build this enough so that when we crash [laughs] we don’t die, we’re just trying to maybe get hurt —
Craig: It is absolutely brutal. So from the studio side of things, there is a tendency to give a certain kind of direction to all films in which you’re aiming for the middle.
Craig: Unfortunately, in your desire to avoid negative outcomes, you begin to create negative outcomes.
Craig: Because pushing things towards the middle definitely can reduce the risk of a bad outlier but it also reduces the risk of a good outlier.
John: You look at, you know, Pirates of the Caribbean. You look at, you know, the choice to let Johnny Depp go in that crazy way with his character, that was a risky thing. And while you’re watching it, in dailies, you’re like this doesn’t make any sense. This is going to end poorly for everyone. And yet, it was just fantastic.
You look at The Matrix, and while you’re getting the dailies of The Matrix, you’re like, “What? What is this?” Like people just flying around on wires? This makes no sense. And even though you read the script, I’m sure you’re watching those dailies come in and saying like I don’t know what we’re going to do here.
And until you had a trailer or some sort of cut together piece to show like, “Oh, that’s what this feels like,” you were, you know, panicked, I’m sure.
Craig: Yeah. I mean very famously Disney executives saw the initial dailies from Pirates of the Caribbean and they saw an unrecognizable movie star with gold teeth in his mouth and he was sort of swishing about. And they went bananas. And essentially what they were told by a very powerful producer was, tough. Now, that paid off. Later on —
Craig: Johnny, they got dailies where Johnny Depp was in white face wearing a dead bird in his hat and they probably looked at each other and said, “Oh, let’s not freak out.” I mean [laughs] the last time we freaked out, we were totally wrong.
John: We have the same director.
John: We have the same actor.
John: We’ve got a big title. Everything’s going to be fine.
Craig: Well, that’s life, you know.
John: That’s life.
Craig: That’s life. I mean I guess one argument could be, “Hey, Goldman’s Law as true as ever. No one knows anything, so you might as well not worry about anything and just lean back and hope,” right? I mean I think most people in the movie business think they’re playing poker when really they’re playing roulette.
They think they have some kind of strategic edge, some way of — some predictable path to victory. Yeah, it’s basically a big wheel and a ball is bouncing around, for a lot of people. There are some filmmakers who seem to defy that. But most filmmakers have had at least one Waterloo.
John: Yeah, it’s going to happen. Craig, I thought that was a terrific analogy to end it on, that the roulette is the truth behind it. The question of why do bad movies get made? Because it’s ultimately kind of random. And there’s going to be wonderful successes but there’s going to be some disasters along the way.
Craig: There will be disasters along the way. Alas.
John: Alas. It is time for One Cool Things. My One Cool Thing is a YouTube video series, so Craig won’t watch it because he doesn’t like YouTube.
Craig: Oh, I love YouTube.
John: Oh, okay. But in the start of the program, you said you didn’t watch YouTube things.
Craig: I did?
John: Oh, you said you wouldn’t want to make a YouTube thing I guess.
Craig: Yeah, I know. I don’t want to — yeah, no, never.
John: Yeah. And I honestly would not want to make something as sophisticated as this thing. But God bless the people who do this. So it’s called Cash Course, so John Green who wrote The Fault in Our Stars is involved with the whole thing and behind it and bless you for doing this.
But the one I want to point people to because listeners to our show would be fascinated by this, I hope, is an explanation about copyright, exceptions, and fair use by Stan Muller. And it’s really well done. It’s animated and sort of talks through, you know, in course of a daily life, you’re going to violate copyrights so many times. In most cases, no one will ever come after you but they theoretically could. And so then it talks through what fair use is, the current state of how you can get away with fair use. And it’s just a really smart explanation of copyright and fair use.
But the whole series is great. And there are things about astronomy and world history and U.S. history. So I highly recommend it and I intend to stick my daughter in front of these videos at some point.
Craig: That’s great. You know, I’m a big copyright nerd, so I love that they’re doing that. And people tend to not understand a lot of that. There are so many misconceptions about how that all works. And one of the big misconceptions is that it’s binary like that is a violation or not a violation. Yeah, but then there are violations that have damages and violations that damage no one. And so at that point, there’s really, what’s the problem?
Craig: So there’s all sorts of interesting things about that. So great. Good recommendation. My One Cool Things is maybe a cool thing that may be happening. There is a rumor and it feels pretty good to me that at the next E3 convention, that’s the big video game convention, here in Los Angeles, I believe, there will be a 20 to 30-minute demo behind closed doors of the upcoming game, Fallout 4. Did you play the Fallout series, John?
John: I did play the Fallout series. I enjoy it.
Craig: It’s great. So Fallout is from Bethesda, the folks that also do The Elder Scrolls series. And this is basically, they are kind of the same game. Elder Scrolls is a quest based solo adventuring game that takes place in an epic fantasy setting. And Fallout is a quest based solo adventuring game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, basically kind of the same thing. And they’re great if you love stories and narratives. It’s really, really addictive and fun. They tend to be huge games that are well crafted.
And it’s time, it feels like it’s time. So the release schedule from these two, they sort of alternate between them. Elder Scrolls 4 came out in 2006, Fallout 3 came out in 2008. Two years later, Fallout: New Vegas which was a very big expansion pack of Fallout 3. One year later, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Now, it’s been four years.
Craig: Now, during that four years, they did release their multiplayer online.
John: Yeah, The Elder Scrolls, the one where Rawson Thurber runs around and kills people.
Craig: Correct, exactly, but not right now because he’s directing a movie. But when he’s not directing a movie, Rawson runs around killing people in the world of Tamriel. But that’s kind of what they’ve been doing. So, I think I’ll say that was their kind of two-year thing because I do believe that came out in 2013, 2014.
John: But what if they’re doing nothing? What if they’re like sitting around and just like, you know, vaping this whole time?
Craig: It’s possible. I would be super angry. I’d just be so, so angry.
John: You owed me a game!
Craig: Well, you know, no, I feel like I — I mean [laughs] I remember when I got — when Skyrim came out, and I finally got it in the mail, I sat down, I put the CD in my Xbox and I went, “Ah, let’s begin.”
John: So good.
Craig: Let’s begin. This will be — I get to go away from my planet and go somewhere I would much rather be. [laughs]
John: [laughs] A post-apocalyptic wasteland? That’s a telling reveal into Craig’s soul.
Craig: Well, in Skyrim, it was a snowy, snowy fantasy wasteland —
John: Oh, that’s true.
Craig: Strewn with dragons. But yeah, my terrible post-apocalyptic wasteland awaits me. I think it’s time. I think they’re going to be announcing it. I’m hoping that — my guess is it will be probably Christmas or a little after Christmas.
John: Actually, before Christmas if they can possibly do it. But the triple A console games, they really do like to sell those for Christmas.
Craig: They try. They definitely try. So with Skyrim, they did release it on November 11, 2011, 11-11-11. What I’m scared is about is they’ll go yeah, that’s what we’re going to do so we’re just going to basically take another year and a half and I’m going to be sad.
John: So out of our 50,000 weekly listeners, I just have a feeling that somebody works at Bethesda. So if you are that person who works at Bethesda and you’re like, you know what, I want to whisper something to Craig’s ear or invite him to a secret closed demo in E3, I think you should write in to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me forward to Craig because Craig never checks the email.
Craig: [laughs] I can’t check the email. You don’t give me the password.
John: We don’t give Craig the password. It would be so dangerous. I only forward him the really nice emails. And the really nice email from Bethesda saying, “Oh you know what, you should come check out the new thing we’re building.” That would be great.
Craig: Hey, it’s like we do have a podcast, people listen to us, right? So let me come see this thing.
John: Because lord knows that game they’re making will not be successful without —
Craig: No. Not with our 50,000 listeners. [laughs] It will never happen.
John: Meanwhile, I’m making a game that won’t even play the demo for yet.
Craig: I’ll play it. [laughs]
John: You’ll play it. I’m going to send you a link to the Kickstarter page after this so you can see what we did because it looks, it turned out really well.
Craig: The thing is like I have this discussion with my son all the time. And as I’m having it, I know that I’m just as bad if not worse. Like look, it’s better to like — if you’re really into Pokemon video game, it would be better for you to actually, like, let’s transition you to just like the cards and stuff so that it’s reading and not just video game stuff. But I also am guilty.
John: [laughs] Guilty.
John: Craig’s does read. I see him reading through his Dungeons and Dragons manuals at every session.
Craig: Oh yes.
John: He loves to read.
Craig: I do love reading that.
John: He also loves to read your comments on our podcasts, so if you would like to leave a comment about this show or any show, the great place to do it is to leave us a review on iTunes because we actually do look at those and those are terrific and they help other people find us. While you’re on iTunes, you can download the Scriptnotes app which just got updated, so it should not get frozen like midway through an episode anymore, which happened to some people, so sorry about that.
We also look at the comments on Facebook. And so people left some good suggestions on Facebook for things for our 200th and for USB drives, so thank you for that. The short little bits of nuggets for Craig, you can send to @clmazin on Twitter. I’m @johnaugust.
Our show is produced by Stuart Friedel as always.
John: It’s edited by Matthew Chilelli who’s also busy doing the score for our video for this, so thank you Matthew for all your hard work. As we quickly approach our 200th episode, I would ask you who would you love to have be on the show as a guest? I can’t promise you it will happen on the 200th, but we talked about our thoughts, but if you have any thoughts for somebody you’d love to see come on the show, always let us know those.
And Craig, thank you so much for a fun episode.
Craig: Thank you, John.
John: All right. Have a great weekend.
Craig: You too, bye.
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