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 201 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Craig, our communication can open up to a whole new frontier. I can now send you my heartbeat because I have an Apple Watch just like you.
Craig: I mean, let’s just run down the things we could do. We can send each other heartbeats. I can draw like a dick on my phone if I want —
Craig: And I can draw a boob and send it to you.
John: You can send an animated Emoji kind of thing.
Craig: Which I actually — that we could do I think to anybody.
John: I think it would just come through as a normal Emoji though. I don’t think it comes —
Craig: No, it does.
John: Through as the cool animation.
Craig: It does. It comes through.
John: Does it?
Craig: Yeah. Yeah. They can’t send us one but we can send anybody one of those.
John: Yeah, so it’s unilateral Emoji power.
Craig: Yeah, exactly. But the little like, “I’m going to draw something and blah, blah, blah,” you know, frankly, there’s no real utility in that. I don’t —
John: If I were a high school student, I would love it.
Craig: Yeah, sure.
John: I’d be drawing dicks and sending them around all the time.
Craig: Dicks and boobies everywhere.
John: That’s what it would be. So far, I’m enjoying it. You know, once I started treating it like a watch that could do extra things versus a tiny iPhone, I was much happier with it. But I found that that first hour I kept trying to do iPhone kind of things on it, it really is not an iPhone.
Craig: No, not at all. And that’s a very good observation. You just treat it like a watch. The truth of the matter is that 90% of the time, I’m just using it like a watch where I check the time. I like the fact that it — I don’t know what face you’re using, but the way I’ve got mine designed, I’ve got just a standard analog face. I’ve got a little digital time as well. I’ve got the date and day. And then at the bottom, a little summary of what the next event is coming up, you know, on my calendar.
John: I suspect you and I are both using the utility face.
Craig: I think I am using the utility face, yeah.
John: Yeah. Apparently, it’s the most common face used by Apple Watch users.
Craig: There you go.
John: But I use the same thing. And in my upper left corner I have little circles that fill in for my activity. And I enjoy that as a concept. I’ve been a little bit frustrated that I have a very hard time getting the move circle to fill in all the way. And I think my humblebrag for this will be that my heart rate is really, really low. My resting heart rate is really, really low. And so things that I think should count as movement, my heart rate doesn’t go up high enough that it doesn’t feel like I’m actually really working at it.
Craig: You know, I was wondering —
John: So that’s my only frustration.
Craig: The heart rate thing is a little, I don’t know. I’m a little suspicious of it. Well, actually, geez, god, my heart rate is ridiculously low, too. 61.
John: Yeah, I’m 60.
John: But maybe that’s because we’re so calm whenever we’re doing the podcast.
Craig: Because we don’t move, man. Let’s just face it. [laughs]
John: We don’t.
Craig: Just real lazy —
John: This podcast, we will not be moving whatsoever but we will be discussing some topics and doing a whole new kind of featuring segment which I thought up this week and I hope will be fun. This week, we’re going to take a look at three stories in the news and look at them from a screenwriter’s perspective saying, how would these be movies?
And so we’re going to look at the FIFA scandal. We will look at the Large Hadron Collider and we’re going to look at the situation with Laura Kipnis and the Title IX Investigations and sort of that whole issue of sexual conduct on campus.
So we’re not actually going to reach any conclusions about them as the actual news stories, but we’ll look at them as how do you make this into a movie, which is most of what screenwriters do is try to think about how something could be a movie.
Craig: Yeah. And that, actually, as an exercise, is very much like what we’re doing all the time when we sit down with producers or executives. At some point, someone will say something like, “Hey, you know, we’ve been thinking about making a movie about FIFA.” Or, “Hey, we’ve been thinking — you know, my boss, insert famous person here, is just obsessed with origami. How do we make an origami movie?” And you’re constantly being asked to take something and narrativize it. Well, let’s see how we do with these.
John: Yeah. So this will be our first experiment in narrativization with three news stories. And then we’re going to take a look at the advice of “follow your passion” or “do what you love” and to the degree with which that applies to writers and screenwriters but to the degree with which it could be damaging advice overall. So we will get into that. And Professor Craig has a bunch of stuff in the Workflowy for us to talk through about that.
So it should be a fun new kind of episode.
Craig: Well, we’ll see. I like to hold my applause.
John: You’re setting expectations low.
John: Craig Mazin specialty.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, it could be a disaster.
John: But it could be fun.
Craig: But, look, it’s free. [laughs]
Craig: You know, I mean, come on.
John: All right, let’s get into this. So we’re going to talk about each of these issues. We’ll sort of do a quick summary of what actually is happening, in case you’re listening to this six months after the fact and you don’t remember what the story was.
But then I want to take a look at this from — maybe spend the first little bit of it talking about like, well, what kind of movie in general are we talking about making, what’s the genre, what sort of general type of move would this be. Look at the characters, look at what the storyline might be, and also answer the real question like, “Would anybody make that movie?” So let’s start with FIFA.
John: So FIFA was a big scandal this last week. Do you want to summarize it? Should I summarize it? What do you think?
Craig: You know, there’s not that much to say. I mean, FIFA is the international organization that supervises football, you know, what the rest of the world calls football, soccer. And they control the World Cup. They also control what city gets the World Cup. And that’s a bit like the Olympics. Cities bid for it, they compete heavily for it because it’s good for your economy to have, you know. God knows how many people filing into your country to watch the World Cup.
And unfortunately, what that means is that there’s the opportunity and possibility of corruption because you have FIFA officials that are in possession of a decision. And lots of other countries want them to decide for them. So you could see how it’s like, “Oh, hey, take this briefcase of money.” “Oh, hey, why don’t you have a free whatever and give it to us?” And I think frankly, the rest of the world had resigned itself to FIFA’s steady, consistent corruption.
John: Until about 10 days ago when it suddenly changed.
Craig: It suddenly changed.
John: So what happened is this was in Zurich and a bunch of plain-clothed police officers came in and arrested and then later indicted a bunch of FIFA officials and other marketing officials for essentially kickbacks and bribes. This was all at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice. And so, it was suddenly, you know, sort of out in the open. And at the time, Sepp Blatter who runs FIFA, claimed the responsibility. He has the best name.
As we get into like the storytelling of it at all, like Sepp Blatter is just too impossibly great —
Craig: [laughs] Sepp Blatter, I mean, they’ve got to just put that into the new Star Wars movies.
John: That’s so good.
Craig: Darth Blatter? Come on.
John: [laughs] So he was initially sort of like not publicly part of the investigation, like he wasn’t sort of indicted in this first round. He won the election as Head of FIFA two days later. And then after another few days, he resigned from it because it was clear that he was going to be ensnared in the investigation. His words though were, “The mandate does not seem to be supported by everybody in the world of football,” in his hastily arranged news conference in Zurich. “FIFA needs a profound restructuring.”
Craig: Yeah, yeah. FIFA needs a restructuring, all right. I mean, good lord. I mean, we’re not supposed to comment on the news story itself. We just want to make a movie out of this somehow.
John: We do. And so as I was thinking about what kind of movie this would be, one of the details that came up which I found so fascinating is the structure of FIFA which tends I think to lend itself to some of this corruption is that each — it’s not even countries, but each sort of locality who has a team gets to have a vote on where the World Cup is being held.
And so you can have these tiny little island countries that have as much of a vote as Germany or France does on where these things are being held. And so because you have these little countries and one official of this little country having so much power in how this is being done, they’re very prone to bribery. And also, I found the possibility for that little guy from Bora Bora being ensnared in this whole thing potentially fascinating.
Craig: Yeah. That’s definitely one way to go is to just say, “Let’s take the villains of FIFA and let’s make an underdog movie here.” So, a little country wants the World Cup and they love soccer, and there’s no chance they’re ever going to get it, but they pick their aging soccer hero. They sort of say, “Hey, leave this charge and give our kids something to think of.” And he gets caught up and swept up. And then there’s probably a woman that he’s falling in love with. And he goes. And he basically gets screwed over by these evil guys. And so, he fights back.
And, you know, they end up playing the World Cup on big floating platforms in the Pacific Ocean because they’re French Polynesia or something.
John: So what you’re describing is sort of falling into the sports movie overall genre. So there’s things like there’s aspects of Cool Runnings. That Matt Damon, South African football movie, or rugby movie, which also involved Morgan Freeman as a backdrop for telling the larger story of Nelson Mandela. There’s definitely all of that stuff because you have this cinematic game that you can watch. There’s actually sport. There’s action happening right there.
The other way I was thinking about doing this was sort of the Coen Brothers comedy, which is that you have these larger than life characters doing this sort of absurd thing and taking money for, you know, soda contracts. And there’s some kind of great black comedy to be made about what that life is like.
Craig: Yeah, for sure. So we’re talking about genre here and in a weird way what happens is you start to go right to, well, what’s this about, you know. And in the first instance we have this broad comedy. And what it’s about is, you know, what most things are always about. The underdog wins.
And then a darker comedy or a Coen Brothers style comedy is really about the Byzantine Kafkaesque nature of the world. FIFA and its nonsense becomes a stand-in for, you know, the mythological maze that the hero would find himself in. And those can be fascinating and really funny. The collision of different nationalities you could see lending itself to some fun there as well.
You know, where of course the other way to go is to take it just head-on. And say, “Okay, well, let’s just deal with how can we make a political thriller about this.” There’s probably not any violence, but people have become accustomed to sort of the unwinding of international things if it’s done with some real drama.
There is an interesting theme here that I think could be explored in a movie like that. One thing that came out of this whole thing that I found fascinating was that in a time when most of the world, and particularly Europe where so much of football mania is centered, has lost its love for the United States. There was this remarkable outpouring of appreciation. It was like the old days where people went, “Here come the Yanks. Good for them. Finally, they’re going to come and clean this up. And hurray for them. And you know what, they may not love football the way we do, but they saved us. They’ve saved our beloved sport.” That’s interesting to me.
John: The kind of movie you’re describing makes me think of Syriana or Michael Clayton in that they’re taking it straight on. They’re sort of trying to peel back the layers and really looking at what’s happening underneath this thing.
And like they’re also dipping into what we consider the villain’s point of view at times. I think of the scene in Michael Clayton where she’s like hiding in the bathroom stall making a phone call. There’s some really great tension to be found there.
But I would also question whether, you know, there’s not obvious like people being murdered in the streets in this kind of movie. But if you look at the situation in Qatar, which Qatar was awarded the World Cup, and there’s real concerns that, you know, essentially the slave labor that’s going to be building the stadiums in Qatar would result in many, many deaths. So there’s ways you could probably frame this as a real human cost to this kind of corruption and scandal.
Craig: That’s right. And in doing so, you find why it matters to people. So the question is, forget who’s going to go see this, who’s going to make it, right? Because the who’s going to make it involves who’s going to go see it.
John: Of course.
Craig: And people that are going to be spending $30 million, $40 million or $50 million a movie, what they want to know is, well, what ultimately draws me to this if I don’t care about soccer or even if I do but I’ve read the story and I get it. And what draws people to all these things is some kind of human drama, whether it’s the simple comedy drama of the spirit of the underdog or if it’s something about a repressed underclass in the dark side of a happy sport. Something, we have to find that thing to connect through. I actually think that you could make a really interesting movie about this. My instinct, if I were running a studio, would not be to make the sunny comedy version because that feels a bit played out. And I think that this is too — frankly, it’s too interesting. The fun version of that is Cool Runnings where it’s about kind of a very minor sport and minor country. And the comedy is the fun part. My instinct here would be to go head on.
Craig: I would go head on and Syriana with this thing. I guess, ultimately, what I’d be trying to find in it is a path for America to become what it once was. Not the world’s policeman, but the world’s best example. And use that as the sort of joy at the end of this.
John: So what you’re describing I think could be a really cool movie. And it reminds me of Zero Dark Thirty. So Zero Dark Thirty, you’re trying to take on the assassination of Osama Bin Laden but, like, what is the actual human story you’re trying to tell within that? And so they decided to focus in on the single woman. We’re seeing this from her perspective as she’s trying to do this mission. So finding who that relatable U.S. person is or whose journey we’re going to follow and whose struggle we’re going to follow trying to make this happen could be great.
John: So let’s take a look at who some of these characters are we’re going to encounter. Obviously Sepp Blatter is just, come on, just phenomenal.
Craig: Sepp Blatter.
John: So we have Loretta Lynch who’s the U.S. Attorney General who is pushing this investigation.
John: She is certainly a possibility. But I have a hunch that there’s some other man or woman who really led the charge and said, “You know what, I think we can get them on RICO charges,” which is normally how you would bring down the Mafia. I think if you could frame this story in a way like the same kinds like, you know, The Untouchables or the same way you could sort of frame these Mafia stories, you might be able to frame it from — use that as a framework for what kind of a movie this is.
This is like the U.S. taking down the Mafia. That may be a way in to sort of both how we’re going to describe the movie internally, about what kind of movie we’re trying to make. But also you’re thinking about what kind of movie are you ultimately going to need to try to market when you put it out there in the world.
Craig: Yeah. And this is where you come up with these little moments that help people understand. And by the way, you’re exactly right. You can’t make Loretta Lynch, our U.S. Attorney General, the hero of the story because she’s simply too big and too public. It’s like making the President the hero. That was kind of my problem with, you know, the White House Down, Olympic Fallen movies because the President doesn’t punch people. He’s too big. He’s not real, you know. He’s not real to me.
John: Yeah, exactly. Unless you’re literally making Air Force One which like you so deliberately constrain it down. Like, well, it has to be the President.
John: But that’s not this movie.
Craig: It’s just not this movie. So you do want somebody that we feel accessible to, somebody that we can identify with. But there’s that moment where they’re in a room and the person is saying, “Here’s what I want to do. I want to bring them up on RICO charges.” And someone else says, “Okay, when you say them, let’s just run down who you’re talking about. These 17 countries, these following people, none of whom we have jurisdiction over, all of whom are bribing these people to not give us evidence, we can’t go here and we can’t go here. These people hate us, and these people hate us. And you want to bring them all down on a RICO charge within two months?” And the person says, “That’s right.”
And you start to get a sense of what this movie is about.
John: You know, the other movie this is reminding me of is Erin Brockovich because you might have an outsider who’s come in to say like, “This is what’s happening. This is what needs to be done.” So even if he or she doesn’t have the expertise to do exactly the thing that needs to be done, they have to convince someone who does have that power to do it. And the way they do that is the compelling human story of how we are getting to this place.
So then the issue becomes, how do you set up your competing themes of like whatever this individual journey is versus what FIFA is doing overall and what soccer is like. You know, how do you combine the ideas of like that kid playing soccer, your own kid playing soccer on the field and this giant sports machine that is corrupt and is employing slave labor in a faraway place. How do you make that all fit into one movie, that’s your struggle.
Craig: That is. And, you know, my instinct would be that the person involved here actually doesn’t understand soccer at all. They don’t play it, their kids don’t play it. They are as American as American gets, in fact, which is a part of their problem.
For instance, I could see a character who had been working in the state department for a while and working in an area where frankly every time they try to do something that “helped,” they hurt, which is kind of the story of the post 9/11 United States. Every time we try and fix things, we seem to make them worse.
And this person is consumed by this. And they seize upon this that the thing that no one is looking at. And they say, “Wait a second. If you pull the lid off of this, you start to see how many people are really being hurt, this is the kind of thing we should be doing. We shouldn’t necessarily be droning every time we have a problem. Maybe this is what we should be doing, going after the rich and corrupt who are, in the name of capitalism and a good show, are hurting a lot of people. That’s the way we used to be.”
And then it becomes about that person redeeming themselves and maybe giving us all a little bit of a glimpse of how we could be better.
John: Something you just touched on there is that by having this person be an outsider to the world of soccer and maybe even outside to the world of how FIFA works, by having your hero be that outsider, you give the movie and the audience a chance to learn with the hero how stuff fits together. And you also get the ability to teach the audience what is important and what is not important about this world you’re introducing them to, because you’re not going to need to teach them all the rules of soccer. That’s not going to be important to your movie.
John: But you’re going to be able to teach them how this bigger game works. And so, as I’m throwing out other examples of movies. You think of Moneyball. And Moneyball, it didn’t just teach you how to like hit the ball, it needed to talk to you through about sort of this is what trading is like. This is how you put a team together. This is the structure of this world. And having your hero be the outsider to this could be really, really useful.
Craig: Yeah. And as you mentioned, Moneyball, you were psychically connecting to something I was already thinking when you talked about how the audience goes in on this outsider path with their hero. And that is that you’re creating an opportunity for great relationship. Somebody that’s bought in to help you navigate that world. So you don’t know anything about soccer. And you don’t come from that world. And you have this idealistic view of what you can accomplish.
And they pair you with somebody that isn’t a crusader or government official but knows a whole bunch about soccer and the soccer world. That’s a great odd couple pairing. And watching those two people help each other, the cynic makes it clear to the idealist what they’re really up against. And the idealist reignites a little bit of a candle of hope in the cynic. That’s classic stuff. But you’re always looking to create characters that need other people. Or else, your movie is going to get super lonely.
John: Yeah. The thing we need to always remind ourselves is when you put all FIFA overweight there on the shelf and just look at it from whoever we pick as our hero, what is going to be her journey through this movie. And how are we going to find the moments of triumph and failure along the way. How are we going to get to that place where all hope is lost? Where do we get to that darkest night? And how are we going to structure the story so that character could have those moments, because that’s what would let it be a story about a person rather than a story about a scandal that we just sort of fundamentally don’t care about. That’s honestly the challenge with most of these movies that are based on real life events is trying to find a way that you can have — you can really chart a hero through this whole thing.
You look at what Aaron Sorkin did with The Social Network, which is still one of my favorite movies. It was so smart in creating a character in Mark Zuckerberg who wasn’t the real Mark Zuckerberg but allowed a character to have progress in the journey and to have these ups, these downs, and to really articulate the frustrations in really smart ways. That’s what you’re going to be able to find with this story is how do you find a character who it can be about them and not be about soccer?
Craig: Every movie ultimately must be about people. We simply don’t watch fictional movies, even dramatizations of real things for the events themselves. That’s why we watch documentaries. And even in documentaries, they make it about people. Otherwise, it’s a textbook. It’s just your history textbook on film. It’s a news reel.
Craig: You have to make it about people. That’s how we connect to everything. So Sorkin looks at Facebook. And he says, here’s a man that started Facebook. Facebook is so that you can make friends. This man doesn’t seem to have any friends. Good. Let me start there. That’s a good place to start. Really good place to start.
John: Yeah. Let’s go on to our next big news topic. This is only sort of halfway news because it’s existed for a while, but this last week they reignited some stuff and upped the energy on the things. We’re going to talk about The Large Hadron Collider. So for people who are not scientifically oriented, The Large Hadron Collider is this giant ring, this particle accelerator built on the border of France and Switzerland. It’s run by CERN, the organization for nuclear research in Europe.
There’s 10,000 scientists, it’s a tunnel 27 kilometers circumference. And what they’re looking for are supper symmetric particles. It’s really trying to understand the fabric of the universe. It’s trying to understand dark matter, trying to understand the very first moments after the Big Bang. It was incredibly expensive. It was incredibly controversial when it was getting made. There’s always been sort of this background worry about like well what if we sort of break something in the universe by trying to build this thing. So let’s just take a look at here’s The Large Hadron Collider. What is the movie there?
Craig: Well, you’ve got some possibilities. You could, again, let’s just start with the real easy one. Straight ahead, it’s a drama about whether we’re going to find this or not. I think that would probably be pretty boring.
John: I agree.
Craig: When we talk about movies where people are pursuing specific scientific breakthroughs The Imitation Game or Beautiful Mind, it’s really about the individuals and their interesting personal struggles whether it’s with being a homosexual at a time when it’s illegal or whether it’s having schizophrenia. In and of itself, this probably straight ahead will be — no one will care. So then of course, you go let’s fling ourselves the other way into science fiction, right? Okay. Science fiction tends to come in two flavors. It comes in the hopeful flavor or the be careful flavor. My guess is that this would probably fall under the be careful flavor of science fiction.
John: Do talk through both versions.
John: So let’s start with the pessimistic, but let’s also talk the optimistic version.
Craig: All right. So optimism, we’ve got this wonderful thing. And if we do it, perhaps, we get — I could see, well, geez, I don’t know how to make it optimistic, because the truth is what happen is you’re guessing about things like what do you, you know, do you find heaven?
John: I was going more towards Jodie Foster in Contact where essentially you, you know, by building this thing, you’re able to understand some fundamental mystery. And therefore either travel to a different place, have communication with the new species. I was also thinking back to in Star Trek lore there is the prime directive which is basically non-interference with other cultures. But The Federation will reach out when a civilization has reached a certain point. So in one of the movies, I guess this First Contact, Zefram Cochrane builds the first warp drive. And therefore The Federation reaches out and says, “Oh, hey, Earth. There’s other life out there.” And that’s how Earth joins The Federation.
So I think there’s a possibility for essentially by basically knocking on the door by building this particle accelerator thing, somehow, a higher civilization reaches out to us. The conflict of the movie is do you trust them, do you not trust them? Is it Escape from Witch Mountain? Like what is the — that’s not giving me sort of what the story is, but that might be the background for what it is. Like an optimistic future that’s there. Tomorrowland is a bit of that, too.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, Contact, I love Contact. And one of the things that Contact did was it posed a problem. It imposed a problem. It imposed a question. What do you do if you are contacted by someone else? But in this concept, we are doing the meddling. We are meddling with the ultimate stuff of the universe. And so it feels — my instinct is that when we meddle with things willy-nilly that if the result is something good, it’s less satisfying dramatically.
Craig: It’s as if we push the first domino that went all the way around through a Rube Goldberg device and gave us a nice cookie. When we push that domino, I want stuff to go bad. And then I want us to continue our Star Trek analogy here, it’s like Q. Q shows up in one episode. They say, “Oh, you know, we’ve got things figured out. We’re not scared anymore. We know what we’re doing.” He says, “Oh, really? You have no idea what’s out there?” And they’re like, “Yeah, we can deal with it. We’re cool. We’re the Enterprise.”
So he just flings them into deep, deep, deep space where they encounter the Borg for the first time. And they lose. And then he brings them back and says, “You see, stuff out there, it ain’t any good.” So I could see something here where when it works at first, it seems like they just did a thing. And there’s no problem. But then, some weird things start happening. A little bit like what was the Joel Schumacher movie where they would almost die?
John: I love Flatliners.
Craig: I love Flatliners. In Flatliners, same thing, they’re meddling with science. They’re trying to see how long they could be “dead” before they can be brought back to life. And as a result of their experiment, weird things start happening to them. They start witnessing people from their past, people that are interacting with them. And ultimately, it turns into kind of a supernatural morality tale about making peace with your past.
But I can see a similar kind of thing happening here where it’s almost as if Neo was a scientist and flipped a thing on and then starts to see The Matrix without anybody explaining to him what The Matrix is. Perhaps also they turned it on and it summons — it essentially draws attention to us. And bad people come.
John: Yes. And so, the version of bad people come could be the incredible $100 million, or at this point $400 million movie version. Or it could be something more like Primer, which is you know, again sort of experimenting with scientific things and the danger of sort of unleashing that but done on a very small scale.
I also want to throw out the option of like, well, what if it’s not a science fiction genre at all? So what is this as a romantic comedy? So I was thinking like what, you know, is there a way that we can take thematically the idea of like things coming together and clashing together and build a romantic comedy out of that? Like what is it like if these scientists fall in love? What could we do with this ring idea that this is sort of a giant tunnel and that there might be something really fun to do with using this as a backdrop rather than having it be the actual center of the story? What would that be?
Craig: Yeah. For instance, I could see a story where two scientists work on this project. And there’s something wrong between them. And they turn on the switch, they achieve success. And in achieving success, it becomes clear that they’ve caused a problem. And there’s going to be essentially there’s a certain amount of time that’s going to go by and then the universe will collapse.
They’ve got three days. And they’re the only two that know about it. They’re the only two that figured it out. Everybody else thinks it’s great. And so, you have this romantic comedy where everybody in the world is just going about their day, but two people know for sure the world is going to end in 72 hours.
And what do they do with that time? That would be very interesting. Of course, you’d probably not want to destroy the world at the end of the 72 hours. Perhaps they figure out a way. Perhaps one of them has to sacrifice himself or perhaps they can just fall in love. But there’s something really fun about the idea of two people, you know, because they’ve — I’ve seen this movie where there’s apocalyptic movies and the world is going to end and so people fall in love, but everybody is doing it. I kind of like that only two people know about it, and they’re like should we tell people? Why? What for if we can’t stop it?
John: Yeah. And there’s also that uncertainty principle maybe like essentially you don’t know what’s going to happen. So they know that there’s like a 50% chance that the world is going to end. So like, you know, there’s a 42.1% chance that the whole universe will implode in 48 hours. Do you tell people? Do you not tell people? That’s an interesting question because you could sort of ruin the world by telling them. But of course, you want people, you know. It’s an interesting ethical question.
What you’re describing is the high concept romantic comedy. I feel like there’s a low concept romantic comedy that could also be fun just because it’s a comedy set in a world I have not seen before. I’ve seen a lot of comedies set in higher education. I’ve seen comedies set in other work places, but it’s such a weirdly specific workplace that it’s locked down, it’s scientific. Everyone there is probably on Craig’s favorite thing, somewhere on the spectrum. And that could be really great.
And so to see the normal kind of bureaucracy happen but in a scientific way, and there’s always sort of weird safety protocols to be able to make those thematic observations about the difference between physics and chemistry, you know, and sort of like what that means for in a romantic sense or in sort of an emotional sense.
There could be some really interesting stuff to do there. So it doesn’t feel like a Nancy Meyers comedy. But I could see Nora Ephron making a great comedy set in this kind of world, or I could have imagined her making a comedy set in this kind of world where you have these characters who have really strongly held beliefs that are going to naturally come into conflict.
Craig: That’s also some nice thematic stuff there about people that are working on a project in which the pursuit of truth at any cost is the name of the game. And extending that theme to interpersonal relationships can be pretty interesting too.
John: Yeah. So if we get Marc Webb in there, Aline writes the script, sold.
John: Let’s talk about the reality though of trying to make this movie. So I can completely imagine, I’m sure there are at least a hundred spec scripts out there that involve a science fiction thriller, aliens arriving kind of thing, about the Hadron Collider —
John: It just has to be out there.
Craig: Yeah, I’m sure it is. Again, if I were running a studio, I would not make that movie. I don’t think it’s specific or interesting enough. It just feels like we’re taking a phrase from the news that maybe 2% of Americans know about and just trumping up yet another, you know, effects laden aliens getting angry at some people. I wouldn’t make that movie.
John: I agree with you. I wouldn’t make it. If I were a studio, I wouldn’t make this smaller, smarter, primer version because I wouldn’t know how to release it. But if I were a filmmaker who made that smaller, smarter Primer version and took it to Sundance, I could see that being a big hit at Sundance. I could see that the indie version thriller of that happening.
I think the romantic comedy version could sell with the right package. And that it would be a really good pitch or it would be a script. It wouldn’t be just like a, “Oh, we have this lark of an idea.” No, you would really need to pitch that whole thing through.
Craig: Yeah. And I’m not sure there’s enough there to really support it. I don’t love this one, you know, it just feels — you know, what you want to avoid — basically this is the problem is that everything ultimately gets narrowed through this lens of marketing.
Craig: While it’s annoying and perhaps creatively odious, it is realistic, because in the end, people are going to go, “Oh, it’s a comedy about two people falling in love and they are like super nerdy scientists. Okay, so it’s like The Big Bang Theory, but a movie.” And it’s going to be hard to make that feel special just on the basis of the fact that they’re working at the thing, you know. I don’t know, it’s a tough one.
John: It’s a tough one too. I think in some ways, the sharper version of your high concept like because super collider there’s an additional sort of world effect might help you out there too. And it might lend itself to like, “Oh, I can see what the casting is like on that.” You look at Pixels, the movie coming out, like that’s a really, really, really high concepts comedy pitch, but like if you say like, “Yes, I can see what that is, I can see what the trailer is, go for it,” I have a hunch that if you and/or Todd Phillips had an idea for a comedy set in the Large Hadron Collider and you can go in and pitch that and set that up, and people would be excited to try to make that.
Craig: Well, I mean to be honest, I think if Todd, forgive me, if Todd Phillips has a pitch about a blind squirrel and a bucket, they’re going to buy it, too, because everybody just believes in him and they have been richly rewarded for believing in him. But I suspect that if there is a — for instance, if you took the high concept comedy of two people, two rivals, scientific rivals who both arrive at the same conclusion, they’ve never agreed with each other ever. The one time they agree with each other, nobody else agrees with them and that is that they figured out that the world is going to end in three days, that’s interesting.
So in a way, I guess what I’m saying is the Hadron Collider part of it is probably a minor thing. If it’s going to be part of a romantic comedy, it’s a minor thing the way that where the man and the woman work is sort of a minor thing in a romantic comedy. Like what was it, The Wedding Planner?
John: That’s right.
Craig: She’s a wedding planner, I get that, haha, wedding planner, but she’s never married, well. But in the end, that’s not really — it’s not even that important. What’s important is the relationship she has with Matthew McConaughey. I think in What Women Want, Mel Gibson was an advertising guy, so there was a little bit of thing of like, ah-ha, he thinks he knows what women want because he’s in advertising, but doesn’t really know. Okay, fine. But once you get that out of the way, it comes down to the relationship.
John: Yeah, the upcoming movie with Bill Hader and Amy Schumer, he is like a sports doctors and she has to write a profile on him. That’s just the conceit to get you started. But that’s not going to be what the bulk of the movie is like. I would say, probably most romantic comedies, the essential premise is just there to get the first 30 pages going and does not become a very important part of the rest of the story.
Craig: No, because —
Craig: Not really an important part of romance. I mean what you do for your job, I mean, it’s just the way romance works. That may be how you meet somebody, maybe what initially attracts you to somebody. But after the first three or four dates and the first five fights, it’s not about any of that anymore. So in that case here, I think to the Hadron Collider would essentially act as a McGuffin for romance.
John: Yeah, I agree with you. All right, our third and final possible movie that we’ll talk through, this is all about the two articles and the articles written about the articles by and about Laura Kipnis and her situation, so challenging to talk through this and not getting lost in the weeds of the specific stories and specific allegations. But essentially, Laura Kipnis is a professor. She writes a story for the Chronicle of Higher Education, called Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe. That’s right, I should say academe, right?
Craig: Yeah, it’s academe.
John: Academe. So a little background, just one paragraph from this article so you get a flavor of what it is. “When I was in college, hooking up with professors was more or less part of the curriculum. Admittedly, I went to an art school, and mine was the lucky generation that came of age in that too-brief interregnum after the sexual revolution before AIDS turned sex into a crime scene replete with perpetrators and victims. Back when sex, even when not so great or when people got their feelings hurt, fell under the category of life experience. It’s not that I didn’t have my share of mistakes, or act stupidly and inchoately, but it was embarrassing, not traumatizing.”
And so in this article, she talks about the relationship between professors and students and how that used to be kind of common. And now that’s become criminalized or at least frowned upon, maybe sort of outlawed on campuses. And it has created some really terrible, awkward situations and has changed the nature of academe by its existence. So that was her initial article.
And then in the follow-up to that, she was investigated under Title IX complaints by her university. And so this is what sort of happened here. She writes that, “I wouldn’t be informed about the substance of the complaints until I met with the investigators. Apparently the idea was that they’d tell me the charges, and then, while I was collecting my wits, interrogate me about them. The term ‘kangaroo court’ came to mind. I wrote to ask for the charges in writing. The coordinator wrote back thanking me for my thoughtful questions.”
So essentially, from this initial article, one of the people who had accused a professor and the situation was sort of described vaguely in the original article had brought up charges against her saying that this was retaliation and it was just a giant mess.
John: So Craig, this is thrown on your lap saying like, you know, a producer says, Lindsay Doran says, “Hey, you know what, I think there might be a movie about either specifically this Laura Kipnis situation or the nature of sexual politics on campus and professors.” What do we do with this? What is the shape of this kind of movie?
Craig: [laughs] Run. Well —
Craig: You’ve got some choices here. And the first choice you have to make is, “Am I taking a position or not?” There are movies that are designed to thought provoke. They are carefully crafted to make you think. And there will be some villains, there will be some heroes. But everybody will be imperfect. And you will not feel good at the end of it, necessarily. And sometimes those movies are brilliant. And you’ve got Rashomon as the granddaddy, but there are just — there’s a long tradition in literature of what you’d call the nobody wins, nobody loses, everybody’s human. That’s certainly one way to go.
The other way to go is to take a position here. And the obvious position I think to take is that a professor who, by the way, seems to have been a longstanding well-established feminist is now somehow getting caught by a mob that perhaps she feels she might even be complicit in having created in the first place.
And so then you get into the human politics of what happens when disempowered people get power as a group, the trampling of individual rights and how we have to weigh individual rights against social justice. And it gets really messy.
Here’s my problem. My problem with this is that I don’t see where the dramatic victory is for anyone to make this into a movie because what makes this interesting is your unique perspective on it as a person. You may have a general tendency towards individual rights and liberties. You may have a general tendency towards social justice. And you may work very hard to try and balance both. I hope that you do like I do.
But it’s too intellectual, frankly. It doesn’t feel like a movie is the proper treatment of this. I feel like, frankly, the proper treatment of this is discussion in public space. Sometimes these things resist drama. I feel it would be a bit leaden and could turn into sort of a lecturey kind of vibe. So, you know, I’m a little worried about this one.
John: I’m worried about this one, too. My first instinct is that it feels like a play because it feels like you might want to actually do this with a limited number of characters in sort of an enclosed space with long scenes where you’re really digging and talking through those kind of things.
And as we’re talking — if you heard me typing — I was trying to find the name of this play that it reminds me of, which is a professor and a student who are having this relationship. And it’s unclear, it’s sort of deliberately unclear sort of where the boundaries of this relationship are. Actually, now that I think about there’s probably four plays that are sort of the same territory. There’s a Theresa Rebeck play is one of them, but there’s an older one I was thinking about, too.
A play might be a really good vehicle for talking through this. You talked about Rashomon. You know, in some ways, our TV series tend to be our Rashomon right now where you can revisit certain scenes and sort of see them from different perspectives.
What I also liked about what you should, though, is that mob mentality. And the degree to which this in some way is an intellectual zombie movie, where it’s like once the zombies are after you, there’s essentially nowhere to hide. There’s no safe place.
And I think it’s a really interesting commentary on the universe we live in right now where outrage is enough. And so the sort of presumption not of guilt, but that in her article Kipnis talks about this woman who was identified as a survivor rather than accuser and sort of what the boundary and the differences between, you know, being accused of something and that thing actually having existed.
And so whether a person could call themselves a survivor of a situation that you’re not even sure actually happened. So there’s all sorts of really interesting questions, really challenging to pit them as a movie, though.
Craig: I completely agree. I love the idea about a play, by the way. It does feel like a play. The problem with the movie is you’re right, your tendency is to say, “Well, this is a kind of a zombie movie. It’s about an intellectual mob.” But the problem is that when you say any intellectual group is a mob or any philosophical group is a mob, you have demonized them.
And the truth is I’m not sure that anybody wants to see people that are very upset about sexual assaults or abuse on campus be demonized. Because the truth is I think most people who are concerned about this do not move en masse as some sort of unthinking mob ready to burn down anybody that looks at them askance. What we tend to do when we make these movies is pick on ideologies that we have all socially decided are just Wrong with a capital W. So occasionally, somebody will make a movie about, say, McCarthyism. We’ve all decided that’s no good. So that will be a good intellectual zombie movie.
John: Or if we’re making a McCarthyism movie, we might make it, though, in a different context. So we might make The Crucible which is about McCarthyism.
John: But it can be about witches.
Craig: Right. So we all agree that the Salem witch trials were bad. [laughs] We all agree that McCarthyism is bad. Now, The Crucible was particularly relevant because of when it was written. And it was a clearly a commentary in something that was part of the culture. If you make a movie about the Red Scare now, you’re just being boring because it’s been done too well too many times. It is frankly no longer relevant.
If you made a movie today about how a lot of people in Germany got together and became Nazis and did terrible things, while I’m sure it would have value, but probably it’s too late. We’ve well established how that works. We’ve made those zombie movies already.
In this case, I don’t think that we can yet agree what the nature of this mob is if it even is a mob or if this is just the loud voices of certain people, for instance, in this case what’s happening to Professor Kipnis seems to be the result of one or two people making complaints that must be followed-up by law. Well, if that doesn’t quite qualify, you — I think the real villain is probably academic bureaucracy but it may also just be bureaucracy in general or maybe where the law fails to encompass common sense, but none of it feels like I want to watch a movie of it. I don’t want to see that unfolding cinematically.
John: Yeah. So thinking back to The Blind Side, and so you look at John Lee Hancock’s movie. What was interesting is late in the story sort of the NCAA challenge comes out. And so there ends up becoming an investigation. By the time that becomes an important part of the story, we already love all the characters because — and the story wasn’t fundamentally about that thing. So when that stuff comes out, when the investigation comes out, we have a strong rooting interest in one side and we believe what they are saying.
In this movie, and the reason why I still think I wonder if it’s a play rather than a movie which we might be more comfortable with the ambiguity is there’s going to be some central incident about whether this person was rightly or wrongly accused. And our expectation of the movie is like we want to have an answer for that. And we want to feel good about the answer for that. And I don’t know that we’re ever going to come to that place in this movie.
We talked about Erin Brockovich when we were talking about the FIFA scandal. And if Erin Brockovich, if we were ambiguous at the end about sort of whether she was right or whether she was wrong, that would not be a successful movie. That’s not the kind of movie we paid our $8.50 at that time to go see.
Craig: Yeah. You don’t want to watch a social crusader crusade against something that at the end the movie says, “Well, maybe that wasn’t so bad.” It’s not satisfying for you hero. The play that I was thinking of, when you said play, I immediately thought of — I don’t know if you ever saw Twilight: Los Angeles by Anna Deavere Smith.
John: I never saw it.
Craig: Oh, it’s so good. So Anna Deavere Smith is a playwright. But in this particular play, what she did was she interviewed dozens of people about the Los Angeles riots, the 1992 riots. And some of the people were public figures like Daryl Gates who was the Chief of Police at the time and some people were just, you know, people who were there watching on the corner. Reginald Denny, for instance, the guy, the poor guy who got dragged out of his truck and beaten nearly to death.
And what she did was she then performed their monologues, verbatim, as them. One woman. Fascinating. And you got such a remarkable understanding of how an event gets dispersed by all these completely different point of view. Totally dispersed. And you walk away thinking, anybody that tells you that they understand the LA riots is nuts because you can’t. And so I could easily see a play like that where you approach this thing and at the point of it all was, everybody who is sure, sure, sure of their point of view is nuts because you can’t really wrap your mind around something this complicated. It defies you.
John: So as you were talking, I was Googling, and I found the name of the play that I was thinking about, which is Oleanna. It’s a David Mamet play.
Craig: Oh yeah.
John: It became a movie as well.
John: So that’s the power struggle between a university professor and his female student who accuses him of sexual exploitation. That’s one of the things underlying that. I think what’s potentially different about this as a story is the second level thing where it’s, you know, you aren’t even involved in this initial act, you’re not even trying to determine whether this sexual event happened, but rather even talking about it is creating the situation. And that someone’s hurt feelings is in some ways more important than academic freedom. A really interesting idea, but challenging to do as a movie.
Craig: It’s just not cinematic. That doesn’t mean it’s not worthy. It is worthy. Frankly, it’s too worthy. It’s too serious and too complicated to be portrayed cinematically. We use cinema just in a different way than that.
Craig: I would much — I think eventually, you could come to it. But right now, I think smart people need to debate this in good faith and not through fictionalization.
John: So I say, book or play for this right now. Movie, when it becomes a giant hit.
John: Concur. Let’s talk about your topic there, Craig. Do what you love. Do you love doing this podcast, Craig?
Craig: I do love doing this podcast. I do.
John: Aw, I do too.
Craig: I love doing this podcast. And notably, it is not my career.
John: Not a bit.
Craig: Yeah, there’s this interesting essay, I guess you call it essay, in Slate. I guess we’re sort of friends of Slate now, aren’t we?
John: We’re friends of Slate, yeah.
Craig: Yeah. And it’s called In The Name of Love. Elites embrace the “do what you love” mantra. But it devalues work and hurts workers. By Miya Tokumitsu. And what Miya says is that this mantra of do what you love disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is a privilege. It’s a sign of socioeconomic class. She says, “Even if a self-employed graphic designer had parents who could pay for art school and co-sign a lease for a slick Brooklyn apartment, she can bestow Do What You Love as career advice upon those covetous of her success.”
So what’s she’s saying is it’s a little bit of the you are born on third, you didn’t hit a triple. So when you’re born on third, why are you shouting down to the batter, hit a triple?
Craig: And there’s this other flipside of it, which is that most people do not do what they “love”. They do a job to support themselves and their family. They may be interested in their job. They may be good at their job. They may show great care and attention to their job. But do they love it? Probably not.
John: Are they even doing a job that anyone could love?
John: She points out like, you know, is anyone going to love washing diapers? No.
John: No one is going to love washing diapers.
Craig: No, no one is going to love washing diapers. So then the question is, well, is this whole do what you love thing devaluing the experience of those people? And the answer I think, frankly, is yes. I think that there is a very useful argument to say to people, not do what love, and love what you do. But whatever you do, also, find some time to do what you love. Don’t expect to be paid for that. Don’t expect that to be your career. It may be. It may very well be. But if you love singing, make sure you take some time in your life to sing. Do not think that if you don’t sing professionally, that you have somehow failed to chase your passion. You have not failed.
John: So way back in episode 192, I brought up this book called So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. And he was talking about the same sort of thing, but he was talking about it from the other perspective.
So Tokumitsu was writing about how this do what you love, follow your passion advice is impossible for a large swath of the population. Newport is looking at even the people who it could theoretically be possible for, it ends up becoming this trap of impossible expectations. So anyone who theoretically was born on third base who is not loving their work will just keep switching careers and switching careers and switching things like, “What am I doing wrong that I don’t love this thing that I’m doing?”
John: And Newport’s argument is that you can’t do what you love until you know how to do it. And that’s so much of loving something, loving the work has to be being good at it. And so the initial part of any new career is usually a grind. It’s usually terrible. And I certainly found that with writing, too. Like those first scripts to write were kind of brutal to write. But then I got much better at it and now I love being a screenwriter. But it doesn’t mean I necessarily love the process of writing.
Craig: Right. Well —
John: And I think we can create really unrealistic expectations by putting up a big banner saying to do what you love.
Craig: The problem is right there in the word love, which people simply misunderstand. You and I both have been married a long time. The excitement, the headiness, the intoxication that we felt when we first met our spouses, that’s not sustainable. If you sustain that overtime, you have some kind of mental problem. And [laughs] you won’t be able to live your life because, you know, falling in love really is a version of insanity. Love, proper love, is the result of the commitment. It’s a result of the long time, the agreement that you will be with someone. It becomes its own reward. And it is different, it is more complicated, and less dopaminergic, if I may, than —
John: I like you using those words.
Craig: Thank you. Than that instant love, right? That passion, that excitement. I don’t have intoxicating love for screenwriting. I have an old guy with his old wife love of screenwriting. And what I know about that is that that’s not about passion. It is about other things. It is about a compulsion to do a thing. It’s about a safety that I find in doing a thing. It’s about a certain kind of control over something, a working towards a mastery of something, even though you cannot attain it.
It’s also about an inherent will to power, which is a very Nietzschean term. It basically means I want to affect the world. I want to do something and change something out there, which is true, by the way, for everyone that does anything, even the diaper washers.
Craig: There is a wonderful video online, we’ll link to it in the show notes, of some men that are building a bridge in Switzerland. And this bridge is essentially going across this massive valley between these two communities. It’s a footbridge. It is 270 meters long. So for those of you who don’t know about meters —
John: We’ll say yards.
Craig: We’ll say yards [laughs], exactly. It’s nearly three football fields long. They had to build this thing — well, imagine, how are you going to build a footbridge over 300 yards of space hanging over thousands of feet into a gorge? Well, they just decided they would do it. Did they love what they did? I don’t know if they loved it, but they were compelled. And the work itself was its own reward. Some of those men did nothing but hammer boards into place. But they were part of it.
So I say to people, forget about doing what you love and loving what you do. Look at work as its own reward. There is an honor to labor and to service. There is an honor to earning a day’s pay and taking care of yourself and supporting other people. And remember this, if you do have creative passions or any passion for which no one is willing to give you money, then look at the work that you are paid for as an opportunity to create some freedom and some space for you to do those other things that you do love. Make your uncompensated passions possible.
John: Absolutely. So that means, you know, treating your day job as a day job that lets you have a night life and a chance to create, you know, amazing things that are not part of that work life. Some of the best writing I did early in my career was working a really mindless job at Universal filing papers. And I came home every night and had my brain free to write things. And that was exactly the right job for me at the time.
Craig: Look at J.K. Rowling who conceived of and wrote the Harry Potter series or at least the initial book while she was a single mom, unemployed, and trying to make ends meet on the dole, you know. And you don’t necessarily have the circumstances that you want when you’re creating things or when you are following your passion. And if no one had ever liked her book and no one had ever bought her book, she still would have — that would have been an exercising of a passion for her of a kind. And that is its own reward.
John: Agreed. Circling back to your, you know, why do we engage in artistic pursuit, quite early on in the podcast, you singled out Jiro Dreams of Sushi which is exactly that kind of sustained artistic pursuit over the course of decades to try to perfect something. And so does he love sushi, does he love fish? I don’t know. But he really values the work he’s doing. And that is his reward. He doesn’t want to call in sick any day. He doesn’t want to have anyone else run his restaurant because he is doing the thing that he does. And that is his life is trying to perfect the making and delivery of sushi.
So that’s another way to look at sort of the why you keep doing something even if it’s not necessarily financially valuable.
Craig: It’s hard for us sometimes to think that we’re going to go through life and we’re never going to be rich. We’re going to go through life and we’re never going to be famous. We’re going to go through life and we’ll never be the boss. Well, that is true for almost everyone. So the question is, how do you let go of that and find a different way to define your own happiness and satisfaction?
I would suggest that when you let go of that demand, you are probably that much more likely to achieve that demand. But you may not. And so I think that we have to stop telling each other, “Hey, man, you know what? I know you drive a cab but you really want to be a rock star, so quit.” We got to stop saying stupid crap like that. It’s just dumb. And frankly, it’s —
John: I agree.
Craig: It demeans people who do actually value and care for any job that they do. In my mind, if you work and you’re paid, you are an honorable person doing an honorable thing.
John: Cool. Craig, what is your One Cool Thing this week?
Craig: Oh, so I’m a little late to this. John, have you played or are you familiar with Telltale Games, their Game of Thrones mobile game?
John: I’m not familiar with the Game of Thrones game. I see it here in the Workflowy, so tell me about it.
Craig: So Telltale Games, I think they may also be the people behind The Walking Dead games. I’m not sure. I should —
John: Yeah. I know they do those.
Craig: Okay, great. So basically, they are story-based games. They come in episodes. They have released four episodes of a six-episode season. Each one takes about an hour to play through. And basically you’re following an episode of Game of Thrones that they have made with their own characters. And occasionally, you make context-based decisions. So people put you in a tough spot and you have to decide, am I going to punch this guy or am I going to try and create favor with him. So it’s all that sort of thing.
It’s done really well. I have to give them an enormous amount of credit. They pretty much got almost everything right. I love that they made a story-based game for a story-based property. I love that they created new events in the game that integrate into show events occasionally sort of the way that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, you know, like it’s that kind of, “Okay, so we’re going to have a discussion.” Meanwhile, in the background, we see the pigeons flying out of the pie and we know that’s Joffrey’s wedding and he’s about to die.
John: That’s great.
Craig: But we’re over here in a different place. [laughs] So that part is great. There are some cameos from established characters. You’ll see Tyrion and Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. But most of the characters are new characters that they’ve created. And they’re really good. They’re really good characters.
John: That’s great.
Craig: They’ve created a whole new house, House Forrester, that is in a really bad situation. There are shocking deaths, which is appropriate for Game of Thrones. Moral quandaries abound. But I think more than anything, the reason I love playing, and I’ve run out of episodes and I’m waiting for Episode 5 is they did such a good job of emotionally investing you in the heroes. They really beat the crap out of their heroes. And the villains are the worst. I mean, they’re actually worse, frankly, than like Joffrey. [laughs] They’re the worst.
John: [laughs] That’s great.
Craig: And you just desperately want to see them dead. So it gets so much right. A couple of things it doesn’t quite do great, occasionally, there’s fighting. Not frequently. I think three or four times an episode you’ll have to do a little fight. And the fighting is a QuickTime event-based fighting. You’re familiar with that concept in video games?
John: I hate those.
Craig: Yeah. So it’s like —
John: It’s Tempo-based, yeah.
Craig: It’s basically you watch something and then suddenly it tells you “Tap here,” “Swipe Here”. And you do it and then fine, whatever. But frankly, I’m not watching it for the fighting, so I don’t care about that.
Craig: The facial graphics kind of run the gamut from awesome like Jon Snow really looks like Jon Snow, to “Oh, no.” [laughs]
Craig: I got to say Tyrion, poor Peter Dinklage, he honestly looks like Peter Dinklage after a fire and his face was reconstructed by a —
John: Yeah, but from memory.
Craig: Yeah [laughs].
John: Like someone who met him once like trying to put his face back together.
Craig: From memory and they didn’t have good tools or an education.
Craig: It’s just his face is absolutely horrifying. He looks like Peter Dinklage wearing a Peter Dinklage mask. It’s just terrible. But I did want to cite, because we are screenwriters and we love writers out there, the people that I think are most responsible for the success of this game are the writers. And these are the ones that I found on the Internet, so forgive me if I left any names out.
Andrew Grant, Nicole Martinez, Meghan Thornton, Brad Kane, Dan Martin, John Dombrow, and Joshua Rubin. So, congratulations. You’ve all done an excellent job. I’m very excited to play the next episode. I think it’s 20 bucks to get all six, which is a lot of game play. Or you can get individuals ones I think for five bucks or something like that.
John: And do you play it on the computer or on the iPad?
John: Love it.
Craig: Love it.
John: And is this the Brad Kane that we know?
Craig: Do we know a Brad Kane?
John: Don’t we know the Brad Kane who’s the voice of A Whole New World?
Craig: Oh, my god. Is it? Is it that Brad Kane?
Craig: Well, I don’t know. It just says Brad Kane. But, yeah, you’re right. Bradley Caleb Kane. Well, how about that? I wonder if it is him.
John: Yeah. So let’s —
Craig: I mean, it’s kind of a common name but it might in fact be him. So if it is, awesome job, dude.
John: Yeah, the singing voice of Aladdin.
Craig: He was the singing voice of Aladdin and a screenwriter, yeah.
John: Yeah. My One Cool Thing is actually a blog post but also a series of discussions and one of those rare times where the comment thread is actually worth reading through. It’s a post by Tyler Cowen who’s looking at the question of, “If you traveled back into the past, what could you trade for present gain?” So essentially, if you were to have a time machine that you could go back in the past, what should you take with you from the past to bring to the present that would be valuable?
And which is sort of the inverse of a lot of these question. Usually it’s like, “Oh, if I could travel back in time with an iPhone, I would be like the richest person alive or I would have stock knowledge.” So what can you take from the past?
And one of the obvious choices like, “Oh, I’ll take a piece of art.” But then of course the problem becomes that piece of art wouldn’t exist in the timeline from the past. It wouldn’t have value, it can be perceived as a forgery.
John: It wouldn’t carbon date right. So there were a lot of really interesting ideas. Like honestly one of the best suggestions in there is just to go back and find an original edition of a comic book and put it and seal it and so therefore the reason why it’s pristine is because it’s actually new to you. But interesting thought. And as we were talking through all of these ideas about like, how would you make a movie out of that, this feels like one of those like, “Oh, is that a movie idea?” Like people who are traveling back and sort of trying to do arbitrage on things they could take from the past.
Craig: Right. So like not time cops but time robbers.
John: Yeah. Time bandits.
Craig: Time bandits. The thing that pops into my mind probably would be stock certificates, you know, like —
Craig: Like get a whole bunch of stock certificates, just buy a whole bunch of stock certificates in, I don’t know, Johnson & Johnson or something like that.
Craig: You know, those would have appreciated dramatically by the time I get back. I could certainly see that.
John: Yeah. But again, the challenge becomes, if there’s any question of authenticity, any sort of dating on things would be an issue. But that probably is not going to be an issue with stocks.
Craig: Well, no, they’re real, that’s the thing. I mean —
John: They are real but they wouldn’t be old enough is the issue. It’s like, I guess the artwork is the thing that you could really tell like this Grecian urn —
Craig: I don’t know.
John: It’s only like five days old rather than, you know, 5,000 years old.
Craig: I guess. But I don’t know, that’s an interesting — like they wouldn’t be weathered or something?
John: Exactly. I mean, or literally carbon dating would not show them right.
Craig: Oh, well, yeah, I doubt anybody would carbon date your stock certificates but —
John: Yeah, they wouldn’t. That’s too recent.
John: That’s a good thought.
Craig: Yeah, it’s something.
John: It’s something. It’s always something. That is our show for this week. If you would like to subscribe to this show, you should go to iTunes and click the subscribe button. And you should also leave us a comment. Maybe it’s a little rating, would be lovely because that helps people find our show.
John: While you’re on iTunes, you could get the Scriptnotes app which gives you access to all 200 and now one episodes of the show, dating all the way back to the very beginning. Scriptnotes.net is where you sign up for this service that gets you all the back episodes.
There will be USB drives with all 200 episodes on them. So if you are debating about where to save your money and spend it later on, next week or the week after, we’ll have details about where you can get those USB drives. Craig signed them.
John: Craig and I both signed them in a way.
John: You will see our thanks on every drive.
John: Our show is produced by Stuart Friedel.
John: And edited by Matthew Chilelli. I’m not sure who did the outro this week, but I bet it will be swell. You can find out who did the Outro by going to see the show notes which are at johnaugust.com. We have show notes and transcripts for every episode of the podcast.
If you would like to ask a question of Craig Mazin, you should write to him on Twitter. He’s @clmazin. I am @johnaugust. Longer questions, you can write into firstname.lastname@example.org. And that is our show. Craig, thank you so much.
Craig: Thank you, John.
John: All right, see you soon.
- A timeline on the FIFA scandal
- Large Hadron Collider turns on ‘data tap’, and the Large Hadron Collider on Wikipedia
- Star Trek’s Prime Directive and Zefram Cochrane on Wikipedia
- Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe by Laura Kipnis
- Title IX Investigation Opened Against Female Northwestern Professor Over Column, Tweet
- In the Name of Love
- “Carasc” Tibetan Bridge
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
- Game of Thrones by Telltale Games
- Traveling back into the past to trade for present gain by Tyler Cowen
- Outro by Scriptnotes listener Rajesh Naroth (send us yours!)