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

Today on the program, we will be talking about one-handed movie heroes, the last things you should do before handing in a script, and we will look at three new Three Page Challenges. A big show.

Craig: I would say so. I mean, maybe too big.

John: Maybe too big. We’ll try to compress it into the space allotted by the infinite boundaries of the Internet.

Craig: Oh, god.

John: See, you don’t listen to any other podcasts but some podcasts have been known to go on for like three hours.

Craig: Well, that’s crazy. That’s just dumb.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Who wants that?

John: Although, I will say that when we were first talking about doing this podcast, there were other screenwriter friends who said like, “Yeah, you know what, maybe like limit it to 20 minutes.” I can’t even imagine this as a 20-minute podcast.

Craig: I can’t imagine any podcast. [laughs] That’s the God’s honest truth. People say, “Hey, I listen to your show,” and I think, “That’s awesome.” But then quietly to myself I think, “Why do you listen to podcasts?”

John: Yeah, because they’re wonderful.

Craig: No.

John: Podcasts are delightful. Craig, what do you do on planes when you’re on like a long plane trip?

Craig: I do the crossword puzzle. I usually have some sort of iPad game that I play. I’ll read a book and then I try and do a little writing.

John: When you are in your car, when you’re in your Tesla driving from your house way out in La Cañada to, say, Sony, what do you listen to in the car?

Craig: Well, first of all, I don’t go to Sony. Too far.

John: That’s true. [laughs]

Craig: But I generally listen to music, oftentimes Broadway.

John: I can imagine that. On Sirius do you listen to Broadway?

Craig: I love Seth Rudetsky on Sirius/XM. In fact, Seth Rudetsky, it’ll be too late when this show comes out, but he will have been in town and I’m going to go see him at Largo.

John: Nice.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Good.

Craig: He’s my favorite.

John: Oh, he’s wonderful. All right, let’s get to our topics for today. So this was a thing that occurred to me just this morning. And it was based on a conversation I’d had last week or the week before with a person I’m going to call the Polish director, who’s not in fact a Polish director, but I said that I would refer to this person as the Polish director.

Craig: All right.

John: So I was having a conversation with the Polish director and she asked about this character and sort of what this character was trying to do at this moment, what his goals were, and what the character thought about the situation. And I responded from the character’s perspective saying like, “Well, on one hand, he’s thinking this but on the other hand, he’s also aware of this situation.”

And as I was saying that, I started to make a realization about a crucial thing that is different about movie characters and actual real life people in that me as a real life person, I can have complicated, complex views that embody different opinions simultaneously. A movie hero doesn’t.

And I recognized I was sort of wrong in trying to describe on one hand and on the other hand for this hero because there wasn’t going to be space for this hero to have these interesting, conflicting views or to express them. That in a movie, a hero kind of needs to be able to have one thing.

And if I wanted to make a movie that had these complicated views, I probably needed to split those views among two characters that could actually have a dialogue rather than try to have them embodied in one character.

Craig: Yeah. I don’t think that you’re arguing that a character can’t have some sort of internal conflict over something.

John: Oh, no, not a bit.

Craig: [laughs] We’re not really interested in these hyper rational characters who can rationally see both sides of an issue and then try and find some sort of reasonable middle ground consensus. [laughs] We like that in, say, our local city planner but not so much in a movie hero. You’re absolutely right.

Part of it has to do with what actors do best. And what actors do best is portray a singular intention. Now, that singular intention may be one that causes them anguish.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Sophie’s Choice, she has to make a choice. It’s an anguished choice. Her intention ultimately is to save a child. It’s just that it hurts, you know.

John: I would say most movies involve characters making a choice and decisions. Sometimes both decisions have a cost associated with them. They’re working through those costs but that’s a different thing than having sort of this morally complex way of approaching a situation or scenario.

Like a lot of times, if you’re wrestling with something, you need to wrestle with somebody. And in movies, you generally don’t see one character wrestling with him or herself for a long period of time.

Craig: Yeah. The movie can be ambiguous.

John: Yes.

Craig: So the movie can refuse to take a position on something. But the way it refuses to take a position on something is by presenting different characters who have a position, who make their cases well.

John: So I would say that this is a thing that is true about movies but it’s not necessarily true about other art forms or other literary art forms. So there are plays in which characters have complicated simultaneously divergent opinions. I was thinking about John Patrick Shanley’s play Doubt.

Craig: Right.

John: And in that, our lead character, she’s grappling with the issues of to what degree does she pursue or hold back from this allegation of childhood sexual abuse. And the play is ambiguous but her reaction to it is similarly ambiguous in a way that is not commonly found in movies.

And of course, books have all the time in the world. Books have the ability to have introspection. So you can go into a character’s head and really explore these complicated feelings that the characters could honestly have. That’s very challenging to do in a movie.

Craig: It is. And Doubt is a terrific example because in a way, what that play is about is the difficulty of being the two-handed thinker. Everyone in that play, and there’s not many characters — you have a priest who is accused of something and has perhaps been accused of in the past as well. You have a young boy. You have the boy’s mother. And then you have this nun.

And the boy, the priest, and the mother are presenting points of view that inspire doubt. And the nun has none of it. Oh, and I’m sorry, she has her — there’s a younger nun.

John: There’s the assistant, yeah.

Craig: Right. Everyone is kind of saying this is morally weird territory we’re in. And we’re afraid that we’re going to make the wrong choice because it’s difficult. And she doesn’t see it that way. She is clear, clear, clear, clear, clear until the very, very end when she breaks down and says, “I have doubt.”

And for a nun to say I have doubt, I mean, obviously it’s profoundly about faith itself. But it shows that the notion that a movie character can’t have a clean point of view on a topic is so disruptive to them that it’s a breakdown. It’s not something that you’d want to watch a character just carrying around for a whole movie because they would be a ditherer.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And we don’t want people dithering. We want them doing, and then perhaps being confronted with the cost of not dithering.

John: Yeah. In looking at other media and sort of how they’re able to deal with these things, musicals have, again, introspection. So you look at Into the Woods and the Cinderella character, she’s on the steps of the palace and her song on the steps of the palace, she’s wrestling with this like, “I don’t know how I feel about this. On some levels I’m attracted, on some levels I’m repulsed.”

These are true human emotions that are very challenging to get out of a character without a song that lets us get inside her head. And she can be simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by this possibility, scared of herself, scared of her feelings. These are really difficult things for a movie hero without songs to communicate.

Craig: Yeah. I’m experiencing the gift of this right now because I’ve started breaking a story for this movie musical and I have to retrain the way I think because normally a huge part of the job is externalizing what is internal. And here, that would be a failure. If you have something internal, that’s an opportunity. And you get to reveal it. And that’s exciting.

So it’s just a retraining process, you know. You have to think in a way that you don’t normally think for movies because you want to be inside someone’s head. And when you’re in their head, you want them to be conflicted and you want them to be two hands or three or five because that’s what makes the song interesting.

John: Exactly. So contrast this with, you know, an Aaron Sorkin movie. Classically, you will see these different points of view but they’re embodied by different characters who hold on to their one point of view incredibly strongly and articulate their single point of view with great authority and with tremendous conviction.

So you see very few characters in Sorkin’s screenplays where like, “I don’t know how I feel about this.” It’s like, no, that’s not a Sorkin screenplay. It’s a very different perspective on how they’re approaching the reality of their world.

Craig: Yeah. And I think you’re right that Sorkin does it in a very demonstrable way. But in practically every movie, what you’re looking at is somebody who thinks a certain thing. They may be resisting. And oftentimes, they are resisting a truth. And so what they are articulating is the opposite of what the bravest version of themselves would do.

So for instance, in A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise has a certain core of bravery that says stand up for justice at any cost. And he’s running from that as fast as he can. His whole life he’s been running from that as fast as he can. And at long last, in the way the story unfolds, he finally decides to run at it.

But if you think about it, all he’s done is switch the needle on the compass. He was always hurdling steadily in a direction.

John: Yes.

Craig: And that is very typical for practically every movie character.

John: I’d agree. Because you’re with these characters for a short period of time, you don’t have the opportunity to look inside their heads or to see them grow and change over a long period of time, over seasons of a show, and become a different thing. They have to sort of be the thing, to some degree, that they’re going to be at the end of the story that has to be embodied in them at the start of that.

You have to have a way to go from what I saw there to where the story is going to take me. You’re on a very short journey with them. And so a character who is wrestling internally with these things that can’t be externalized, who’s trying to hold two competing ideas simultaneously, you’re going to have a very difficult time exposing what’s going on inside their head for these things.

Craig: Correct.

John: But this internal wrestling is a thing that a real person like me deals with all the time. And so I was looking through what are some issues which I have complicated, overlapping, contrasting beliefs about things.

So if you look at, you know, pretty much any political topic. So from GMOs to abortion to the balance between religious liberty and civil process, there are shades of gray in there. I’m not an absolutist about any of these things. And you kind of don’t want your politicians to be so absolutist about these things because they have to be able to deal with the subtle realities of what those things are.

Craig: Well, unfortunately, this is where movies have hurt culture. And I guess to let movies off the hook a little bit, our natural human obsession with narrative has hurt culture, because we can’t handle it.

John: Yeah.

Craig: We want the certainty that a good story gives us. This is right and this is wrong. These are good people, these are the bad people. And in movies, you don’t end with a, “Gee, I wonder. You know, everybody’s got an interesting point and there is no clear path to action.” You know, that’s a bad narrative.

In politics, they have cannily seized the tool of narrative to advance their own agenda. And they do. They do regularly everything. Everything from politicians on both sides of the aisle is pushed through a narrative filter. And it is destroying our government’s ability to behave like intelligent, rational adults in a world that does not conform to the rules of narrative. The whole point of narrative is to give us relief from a world that doesn’t conform to narrative.

John: Mm-hmm. And so you look at a candidate like Donald Trump who is in some ways the manifestation of a movie hero who has absolute certainty that everything he’s saying is exactly the truth and that this is the way that the world is constructed. And so he will say exactly what he’s thinking at that moment. And you can definitely see why it’s attractive to people but why it’s also a challenging thing to envision in an elected political official.

Craig: And he’s not even running for President, he’s just running because he’s telling a story. He just likes being on TV. I assume that we all know, right? Don’t we all know what’s going on? [laughs] Don’t we get it? I mean, who doesn’t get the joke?

John: Yeah, but I think we’re, to some degrees, horrified and fascinated that we’re living in the reality in which like, “Oh, but yeah, but really? No, really?” And so it feels like we’re living inside this Onion story and we’re like, “Oh, but we’re going to realize it’s a joke at some point.”

Craig: But we can’t possibly proclaim our innocence here or our surprise. When we live in a culture where there are TV shows in which actual human beings compete to marry a stranger and a world in which Donald Trump himself gathers celebrities together and has them fight over nonsense and fires them one by one, that is the narrativization of reality. And so we escape from reality through narrative.

And now, we like narrative so much we want to change reality to conform to narrative. Well, reality will not change. Reality will always be anti-narrative. Like I remember when we went through the strike in 2007 and the years leading up to it, in 2005 and ’06, Ted Elliott and I would talk about this thing we called screenwriter bleedthrough where writers in particular were susceptible to thinking about reality in narrative terms.

And in narrative terms, the Writers Guild wins. We’re the underdogs, you know. I mean, the bosses don’t — they shouldn’t win that fight, right? We come from behind, we win the day, we claim a victory. But the rest of the world doesn’t give a damn about narrative.

John: Yeah.

Craig: At all. And just believing that you should win and being the underdog doesn’t mean a damn thing.

John: So I don’t have a solution here. I just wanted to sort of share my observation that in some cases, a thing I was trying to do to make this character feel real to me was not in the best service of this movie. And yet, the greater macro point is I think the frustration that because it is so challenging to have heroic characters who have to deal with subtle complexities and sort of the give and take of reality, I think we can sometimes negatively steer our popular culture in a way that believes that like any sort of ambiguity, any sort of compromise is a failure.

Craig: Yeah. There’s no question. I mean, between the rise of television and then the kind of pervasive nature of narrative in our culture and then reality television which further confuses these things, it gets harder and harder to put up with the bad storytelling of the world. And so we try and deny it.

But the truth is that bad storytelling is irrelevant to good outcomes in the world. Well, that’s my soap box for the day.

John: [laughs] What a depressing start to the podcast.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Let’s go on to something that’s we’re on much firmer ground. And so this is a topic I’m going to call last looks.

So when you are making a movie or a TV show, you’ll hear a call from the first ADs saying, “Last looks,” which means we are just about to start filming this shot, this scene. If anyone has any last things they need to do, do it quickly because we’re about to start rolling. And so this is when the hair and makeup people race in and do one last little touchup on the actor. This is when the final tweaks are done on the lights and everyone starts to clear the sets.

So I want to talk about last looks for the screenwriter which are, what are those last things you do on a script before you send it out to someone else to read.

Craig: Oh, it’s such a great topic because if you’re doing it right, you should be panicked while you’re doing it that you’re going to forget something. I mean, for me, it starts by printing the script out on paper because your last looks at the paper will be far more accurate then they will as you’re scrolling blithely by on the screen.

John: Yeah. So the things I’m taking a look for when I’m about to turn in something is I’m looking at like, if there is a header, like a header because there are colored pages or there’s other changes, is the header correct. Do I have the right date in there? Do I have the right draft in there? Because that’s one of those easy things to sort of overlook as you’re doing the work. It’s like, “Oh, I never changed the date on that thing.”

Also, I’m checking the date on the title page, making sure all the stuff on the title page is actually accurately reflecting what’s going on there because especially if you’re working in Final Draft, the title page is a whole separate document, essentially, so you’re not really looking at that. And it’s very easy to create the PDF and send it through without having looked at like, “Oh, crap, I never changed the date on the title page.”

Craig: Yeah.

John: I’ve made that mistake.

Craig: Certainly if you’re in production, the amount of things that you have to keep your eye on expands quite a bit. So you want to make sure that your pages make sense, that you haven’t somehow managed to put some blank C page in there that you don’t need. You want to make sure that your revision level is correct, that you didn’t accidentally continue to make revisions in the old revision which is a disaster. So there’s also the first looks, you know, making sure you do that stuff right, making sure you didn’t mess up your scene numbers, check it against another draft. And then check that title page really carefully.

And I wish I could say that I rarely catch mistakes, I catch mistakes all the time.

John: All the time.

Craig: And I have to say that I feel like I’m one of the few writers that really cares about this stuff because I will see messes all the time. And, you know, nothing is more bothersome to a production. And what they’ll do is they’ll just take the script away from you, essentially. And they’ll be in charge of the script.

And I hate that. I want to be in charge of the script because it’s my script. But there’s a responsibility that goes with that to understand how it works. You’ve got to learn how it works if you’re in production.

John: So on the 200th episode, if you’re curious about that, we did talk through a lot about the fears and challenges of production and color pages and sort of the nightmare scenarios of like, “Oh, no, I started typing with revisions on or off and things got screwy.” So let’s talk about sort of like any normal draft you’re sending through to the studios like just a development pass.

One of the things I’ve noticed sometimes is it will switch to the wrong Courier at a certain point. So I use Courier Prime for everything. But if I’m copying and pasting from something else, every once in a while, old Courier will show up there. And sometimes kind of hard to see when you’re going back and forth. But it’s enough different that I don’t like for that to happen.

So a quick thing I like to do, if I’ve not used any other fonts throughout the whole document, there’s no reason why I had any special character in there, any sort of weird things, I will do a select all and choose Courier Prime again.

Craig: Right.

John: Just to make sure that it all got through with the right typeface. Classically, what I used to do and I do a little bit less now but especially if I’m really mindful of the page count and that I’m worried that someone is going to perceive this as being too long, if there’s going to be an issue, I will go through and do like one last check for widows and orphans.

So, widows are classically those little bits of text — they’re basically the first line on a new page. If it’s just a word or a few words, that’s a widow. And you can often find ways to pull that to the previous page.

An orphan is the last little bit of text below a text block. So let’s say you have some dialogue and there’s one line that just has one word on it. You can often find ways without rewriting just by nudging a margin, doing something to pull that one word up.

And it seems like, well, you’re only saving one line. But because these documents are so long, saving one or two or three lines early on in the script can suddenly pull a whole page out of your script.

Craig: Yeah. There’s a ripple effect. Mostly, I do this because I want certain things to end in a certain way on the page. So if there’s a line that I — I don’t want to break up, you know, a big reveal, like there’s a set up moment, a thing and then — so someone says, “Wait a second. I know who stole it.” And someone says, “Who?” And then I turn the page and the first person says, “You.”

Oh, well, I want that [laughs] — I’m interrupting a rhythm, a moment, you know. So I’m mostly concerned about that stuff. I mean, yeah, I don’t like the orphan thing either with one little word sticking at the end. I’ll just fix that as a matter, of course. And I do get kind of obsessive about — and I also have a thing like I really, as much as I can, I try to not break up dialogue speeches across a page break.

John: Yeah. So the software we’re using will look for ways to fit as much as possible onto a page. And that’s good. And most of the times, it does a pretty smart job with it. If you have a scene description that’s a couple of lines long, if it has to break the scene description, it will break it at the period. It will break it at the sentence rather than like put a half a sentence on one page and half a sentence on the next page. That’s a good thing.

It’ll do the same stuff with dialogue. But if you can avoid that break, all the better because you’ve kept those lines together for a reason. And if you can keep them together, you know, rather than having them break across a page break, all the better.

Craig: Yeah. It’s not going to kill you. It’s not going to ruin your script but it’s really just about, “Hey, I’d like you to read this the way I intended it to be read.”

John: Craig, do you do spell check anymore? I find I basically have stopped using spell check.

Craig: I do as a very one final, final thing. Generally speaking, I know how to spell and I’m a good typer and I’m reading my stuff over a lot, so I’ll catch almost every little dinky thing. But every now and then, it’ll find something. So I do it at the very, very end.

John: Yeah. And one last thing I do, and I’ve talked about this on previous shows, I went from two spaces after the period to a single space after the period. And so if there’s any question in my head that I may have accidentally put two spaces after periods, I’ll do a global find and replace. I’ll search for period space, space and I’ll change that to period space. And that compresses those all down to single spaces if there are any of those out there.

Craig: Welcome to the right way of doing things.

John: Yes. So I converted, you know, eight years ago but every once in a while, something will still get off or for whatever reason an extra space gets in there and just it’s better that way.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Yeah. So those are some last looks and maybe we’ll notice some of these issues as we look through the Three Pages that people have sent in.

So if you’re new to the podcast, every once in a while, we will do a Three Page Challenge. And what we do is we invite people to send in their pages, the first three pages of their script, their pilot, whatever. And Stuart looks through all of them and picks a couple of them for us to look at on the air.

So if you’re interested in sending through your pages, you go to johnaugust.com/threepage and there are instructions about how you do that and how you attach your files. If you would like to read through these samples with us, you can go to the show notes at johnaugust.com and there are links to the PDFs so you can read along with us and see what we are talking about when we talk about these pages and samples.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So Stuart picked these and we don’t influence his decisions at all ahead of time. We don’t tell him what we’re looking for. He just picks three. So I’ll start with The Hitchcock Murders by Andy Maycock. So let me give you a quick summary of what’s happening here.

So we open on “Black: The RATTLE and PUNCH of a manual typewriter”. There’s a narrator who speaks who says, “The first thing you oughta know, it’s all fiction.” We’re in the Hollywood Hills, it’s dusk, it’s 1953. The narrator keeps talking about the Hollywood Dream as we meet David Morgan, a young studio executive who drops a cigarette to the ground. There’s a movie camera whirring away on a tripod in the dying bushes. There’s a single gunshot, birds fly away, and Morgan’s body lands in the scrub, blood pooling under his head.

The camera catches and pings, out of film, still aimed at the body, a thin layer of smoke. The narration finishes. We smash cut to the inside of a movie theater, same time period. The crowd is watching Kiss Me, Kate. It’s a 3D movie. The characters we’re meeting here are Lyle Tabbins who is a would-be heartthrob and his date, Veronica, with starlet-raven hair and short dressy Audrey Hepburn gloves. She likes the movie, he’s not so much a fan.

Leaving the theater, Tabbins says he has someplace to be, he’s not going to be able to go on with their date. But he says, “No, no, there’s no other woman for me. Takes all my effort just to be no good to you.” She leaves off. This is Christmas Eve 1953, the title tells us. Tabbins goes back into the movie theater lobby, talks to Rosalind, the cigarette girl. And he says to her, “You’re awfully quiet.” “The Creep’s still calling me.” “Wife probably kicked him out.” And we leave with their dialogue, their conversation at the bottom of page 3.

Craig: All right. So, Andy, good job. There’s a lot to like here. And overall, I think the good news is when I read this, I felt like I was reading a real movie script. It didn’t seem like an amateur movie script. Things, the pages look right, there’s a good balance of action and dialogue. And character, character, character. So I’m getting a lot from your characters.

And also, interesting, in these three pages, a lot happens, which I like. It means that you’ve written tightly. So let’s just quickly go through some of the things that were good and maybe some things that you need to think about.

We hear, it begins with the sound of a typewriter and then a Zippo opening and flaring and closing, which is very “Ooh, ahh”. And then a narrator speaks and right here, we’re getting a little sense of, you know, that you, Andy, like you’re trying to kind of give us that noir feeling through your action, which I think is okay because the script is clearly stylized to be noir, so it’s okay to say, “His voice long marinated in bourbon and Pall Malls.” Pall Malls, a particularly appropriate cigarette for that.

Now, the narrator begins talking here. And he says, “First thing you oughta know, it’s all fiction.” Okay, that’s provocative. We then go to the Hollywood Hills and he continues talking about the Hollywood Dream. And it’s good voiceover. Then this man appears, he is a young studio executive, he drops a cigarette to the ground. I like, “But not for long.” Good. You’re confident. You don’t care that I know that he’s going to die. It doesn’t matter.

And then he says, the character, this guy, David Morgan says, “Guess I believe it now,” to no one.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But there is a camera whirring away which, theoretically, he’s put there to film his own death. Then the narrator continues talking to you and the audience about the difference between the East Coast and the West Coast, referencing gun powder. And then Morgan kills himself in a kind of a nice romantic way in terms of the description, you know. “His fingers spread wide, empty and pleading.”

So, look, the good news is you know how to write, you understand words. I don’t understand what this voiceover is actually doing for you here.

John: Yeah. I got really confused here. I got confused to the degree to which Morgan is responding to the voiceover. Is Morgan hearing the voiceover? I got really lost in this first section. I’m about to get lost again.

So I thought it was all provocative. I thought it created a good world. And yet, I didn’t know what I was supposed to know at this point.

Craig: I mean, what I took it as is that the narrator is talking generically to us and the audience about whether or not you should believe success stories. Morgan says something to himself that kind of thematically echoes what the voiceover is saying. And then the voiceover continues.

That’s not a good idea because it’s going to create that confusion. My bigger issue is while I liked what the narrator was saying, I know for sure that this scene would work really well if nobody had any narration whatsoever. And that instead of the kind of super stylized opening, we began with this valley, we had this guy setting up a camera and starting it filming and then walking out there and then saying, “Guess I believe it now,” which we would be like, “What? Who are you talking to?” And then he killed himself, “Whoa.”

Okay, that would work better to me than this version with the voiceover.

John: Yeah. I think there was aspects of just too many things happening simultaneously. So we’re having to deal with like, okay, there’s a camera running, what is the camera supposed to be filming, was the camera already going, do I need to be worried about there’s somebody else in the scene, you had this voiceover. It seems like he’s talking back to the voiceover. It just felt like there’s too much being thrown at me all at once.

And I agree with you, I don’t even think you necessarily need Morgan’s line of dialogue, too. I think if that’s just a silent scene where like this guy sort of takes one last look, camera is running and then he kills himself, that’s provocative.

Craig: Yeah. That’s the other option is get rid of that Morgan line. So you kind of can have one or the other but not both, I think, because it doesn’t work. Then we go to a movie theater and now we’re kind of that iconic shot of an audience, a 1950s audience and their 3D glasses. I like the description of Lyle Tabbins, “A square-jawed would-be heartthrob in a shirt and tie.”

I actually learn a lot just from that. And I think “would-be heartthrob”, it’s sort of like, I don’t know, I got something from that description. He seems a bit grumpy. And then it’s after the movie, he’s with his date, Veronica. And he essentially puts her in a car. She has this sort of vampy, noirish way of talking. “Well, don’t leave me home all alone on Christmas. I don’t know what I’ll do, nothing to unwrap.” You know, okay, I like that, you know. It feels right.

And then he kind of sends her on her way. It says, “SUPER: Christmas Eve, 1953.” Well, she just said, “Don’t leave me home all alone on Christmas,” and the slug line said 1953 earlier, so I don’t know, just maybe not repeat that. Also, we should know that it’s period. I don’t know if 1953 the specific year is important, let me know. But the movie is going to be telling me this is in the ’50s. I don’t know if we need that super.

He goes back into the theater and does in fact, it seems like there is another girl here, Rosalind. And they have an interesting past. It seems like they have this relationship, I can’t quite tell if they’re lovers or not, but she’s obviously been dating a married man who has beaten her in the past. And Tabbins, apparently, had gotten revenge on her behalf by punching him in the face.

All decent noir stuff. And I kind of liked the way it was going back and forth. I picked up what was going on, at least I think I did. So it was enjoyable. I mean, I don’t know how much of this movie I could take but that has nothing to do with Andy. That’s just my taste. You know, like neo noirs are tough.

John: So I got really lost in the cut from the guy’s death to the movie theater because I think because I saw a camera running, I assumed that what they were watching was somehow related to the thing I had just seen. And the smash cut to I think partly influenced my confusion there. But I had to go through it like three times to make sure like, wait, no, so they weren’t watching the scene that was there.

If the very first image I’d gotten was a Kiss Me, Kate image that makes it very clear that it’s not this moment I just saw, that would have helped me here. So right now in the scene description, “The crowd, in their red-and-blue 3D glasses, squeals as Ann Miller tosses her red glove in their direction during her production number in Kiss Me, Kate.”

If I had started on Ann Miller tosses a glove, then I would know like, okay, I’m not watching that same movie. I’m not watching the scene that just happened. And what I saw before wasn’t a scene in a movie. And I immediately kind of went there I think partly because I had been thrown off with like there’s a narrator but people seem to be able to talk to the narrator. I didn’t quite know what the rules of this movie were.

Craig: Got it.

John: So that’s what was tripping me up. So literally, if the first image was not the movie theater audience but was what we were seeing on screen, I would have known what was happening here a little bit faster.

I thought these are great names for these characters.

Craig: Yeah, I like them.

John: So Veronica, Lyle Tabbins, we get to Rosalind. It’s like they’re all very specific period names that make me feel like, okay, we’re in this space.

And the other, again, specificity, we say this every time, but her camelhair coat, a tray of smokes, a pinup figure, blonde hair cascading over one eye, these are all details that make me feel like, “Oh, I know what this movie is supposed to look like and feel like.”

Craig: Exactly.

John: And so, again, I’m not a huge neo noir person. That’s not sort of my genre but I feel what this movie is wanting to be. And that’s a very good thing to be at three pages in.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, this might just be noir, you know. Like I don’t even know if it’s neo noir. But I agree. I thought that, look, the big headline for me is that Andy can write and he seems to understand how to tell a story visually.

Like everyone, and especially with noir which is notoriously subtextual and detail-oriented, hard to follow — I remember when I saw The Maltese Falcon, I was like 15 and I was like, “All right, let me watch that again now because I don’t know what the hell just happened. [laughs] Like, why is that a fake and what happened?”

But it is remarkable to me how often when you and I discuss these three pages, so many of our problems come down to clarity. And that’s a big wrestling match for the writer because they don’t want to be on the nose. But then they don’t want to be confusing. It’s a tough one. So, you know, adjusting that balance is the name of the game. But overall, very promising.

John: Two episodes ago, we had Alice on and she was the person who worked doing audio descriptions for the blind. And we were talking about that ambiguity. And I was thinking about that as I was looking through that scene in the script where he’s looking over the valley and there’s the narrator and he has the gun. And that came up as like, “Well, what would she actually say? And would she actually know what she’s supposed to be interpreting at that moment about whether he’s answering back or not answering back,” you know, in some ways thinking about like, how she would describe it might be a useful way of figuring out like, “Am I being clear enough here about what my intention is?”

Craig: Right. I’m with you 100% on that.

John: Cool. Our next one. Do you want to read this one?

Craig: Yeah, sure. I’ll do Time Heist. I’m debating whether I should do a prologue or an epilogue on this. I’m going to go prologue.

John: All right.

Craig: So Time Heist, as you might imagine, is about people traveling in time and stealing things. I’m guessing and you’ll see and I’m right. I just got pitched this idea. [laughs] So I just got pitched this idea about somebody — so I just want to say, Brian, I swear to God, I’m not stealing your idea. I don’t know if I’m going to do it. I probably won’t. But just in case, you should know, the idea of time heisting is I mean of course, time bandits already established that that idea is an idea. But I just wanted you to be aware that someone had spoken to me about it. Okay.

John: So here’s what he can take a good sign is that people who are actually making movies think that that is a world of movie that should be made.

Craig: Exactly. Yeah.

John: Yeah, so good job.

Craig: Good job. Okay, so let’s summarize. We are in the German countryside, 1945, night. And a armored Nazi cargo truck is heading down the road. Half asleep Nazi soldier at the wheel. His superior is napping away in the passenger seat.

Behind the Nazi cargo truck, a military jeep appears but its headlights are not on. And at the wheel of that jeep is Kristof Wexler, 30, also in a Nazi uniform. And he speeds up closing the gap between the two trucks.

Underneath the truck, we see a flicker of light and then we reveal that that is Blake Gardner, 30s, charming and confident. Holding a small propane torch. He’s under the truck like on a dolly, strapped to the undercarriage of the truck.

And although he is dressed in 1940s fatigues, he’s wearing this futuristic time piece on his wrist. So he begins cutting into the bottom of the truck with his torch. Then Blake begins talking to somebody in his earpiece and we reveal that he’s talking to Dr. Nicholas Halligan, 30 — everyone is exactly 30. Tweed coat and glasses. And Dr. Halligan is in a parked Volkswagen Beetle on the side of the road. He’s studying charts and documents and he’s warning them, 90 seconds until impact.

Unfortunately, Blake drops his torch because the truck hits a pothole. Halligan hears about this and says, “You have to abort.” But Blake has a better idea. Even though there’s only 45 seconds left, he starts moving down the undercarriage of the Nazi cargo truck towards the front. And then before we find out what he does, another truck is heading barreling toward them from the other direction. Those are the first three pages of Time Heist.

John: Time Heist. You get what is supposed to be happening here. I was able to follow the general flow of the action. So there’s a guy underneath the truck. He’s trying to get into the truck. Something goes wrong. He’s going to have to change his plans, but he’s going to stick with it and go through it. This is a movie hero doing movie hero kind of things.

I had a weird thing. I am curious whether this happened for you too. We’re on dirt road. It’s established that we’re on a dirt road. And then the minute we got to the dolly underneath the truck. I’m like, “Well, that doesn’t work.” The dolly under the truck feels like such a modern slick paved road kind of thing. I was having a hard time visualizing like, “Wait, how was this all going to necessarily work?”

The reveal that this people are — you know, he’s a time traveler because he has this sort of glowing watch. Well, okay. But it felt like a lot to suppose the audience is going to be with you about what that information means when they see this glowing watch on him.

Craig: Right.

John: It felt like it’s supposing things of the audience that I didn’t necessarily know you could count on happening properly.

Craig: Yeah. Well, the fact is it’s announcing the concept in a time when I’m not sure you want to the audience to know what the concept is. I mean, let’s just start with this. Since somebody mentioned this movie idea [laughs] to me, I mean this is not how I would do it. To me, if you’re going to do a time heist movie, you start with a heist.

John: Yeah.

Craig: In a time period. And they are — so three guys are stealing something out of the back of some Nazi truck. And we don’t know — time doesn’t have anything to do with it whatsoever but —

John: Because nothing involving time travel is important at the time that this is revealed.

Craig: That’s right. And they should get caught. In fact, they should almost — when they get caught, they should be totally unconcerned with being caught because once they’re locked up in the paddy wagon, they know the timer is going to go off and they’re just going to go sucked back through time again. I mean, one way or another, you’ve got to introduce the concept to the audience like it’s its own character.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You can’t just plop it on them and go, “Well, they’re going to know it’s about time because it’s called Time Heist, so let’s just start with, you know, them going through time and heisting.” No. I mean you need to build, you know, build to your concept.

John: So let’s take this exact same action sequence and look at ways so we can implement this idea. So this guy is trying to break into a truck. That’s great. You don’t need to be a time traveler to do that. So he’s going to do this, something goes wrong, he has a propane torch. Even though he’s a time traveler, he still apparently has sort of like old fashioned kind of tools. He doesn’t have like a laser cutter.

So he has his propane torch. He’s trying to get in there. We don’t know anything about time travel so far. This goes wrong. We could still say like you got 90 seconds, like, no I can do it. We believe there’s 90 seconds because maybe there’s — they know that there’s an intervention coming or they had the road block or something. He gets up in. Again, we saw the movie is called Time Heist. So it’s not going to be a surprise that our hero ultimately becomes revealed as a time traveler.

The potential for surprise is that the driver of this other car or van is also a time traveler, that there’s something else going on that’s an actual level of surprise. So I think there are moments you can get to it. I kind of push back that the first reveal that our hero is a time traveler, that the villains are time travelers until it’s a really interesting, crucial, make or break moment.

Craig: Yeah, you have to think about how to delight people, tease them and surprise them. And you just can’t dump stuff in their lap like that, you know. The description of the action — I was able to follow it pretty well. Got a little lost around exterior side of the road, continuous to parked Volkswagen Beetle. And then interior VW Beetle. Because you’re not separate — you know, I like to separate my slug lines with an extra line break above it. And I also like to bold them.

But you don’t. That’s fine. Except when you have a parked Volkswagen Beetle on all caps, now I got this like three lines in a row of a lot of all caps and then, I’m sorry, four because of Dr. Nicholas Halligan. That’s a block of four all caps. And I got a little skimmy on that, which I think is a natural thing.

I’m a little concerned that the stunt that’s going on with the truck is exactly out of Raiders of the Lost Ark in which your hero is trapped underneath a Nazi truck and is moving towards the front of it by going under the undercarriage. So I don’t love that.

John: I just feel like that overall climbing under truck has become the new air duct. And we just see it so often and, you know, we saw it in the most recent Mad Max as well. I just don’t know that’s going to be our best friend for action sequences for a while.

Craig: Yeah. I agree. And let’s put it this way. It’s never going to be your best friend in a spec script. You know, if a director — if you guys are making a movie and a director says, “Oh my god, I have this amazing way of doing the old under the truck trick,” sure. But, you know, that’s not the case here.

I’m going to call out just an odd — so look, not everyone can be 30. I think 30s is fine. But it’s like a weird thing that everyone is exactly 30. Dr. Nicholas Halligan has an odd way of talking.

John: He does.

Craig: “What is the matter?” And then he says, “That settles it. We must abort.” ‘We must abort’ and ‘What is the matter?’ are a little robotic.

John: Yeah. Maybe he’s a robot.

Craig: Oh, maybe he’s a robot.

John: That would be fun.

Craig: That would actually be awesome. I don’t think he is, though.

John: No. It would not be so good if he were. Craig, did you watch the show Voyagers! growing up?

Craig: I did watch Voyagers!

John: I love that show.

Craig: With Jon-Erik Hexum.

John: They had a little time piece. Got to get back in time.

Craig: In fact, hold on a second, I’m going to try and pull the name of the kid. It’s Jon-Erick Hexum — and I feel like the kid’s last name was like Peluce or something.

John: Yeah, it was some Italian name.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Like Lorenzo or something.

Craig: I think it was — I don’t know, Peluce, that doesn’t sound right — but maybe it is. Yeah, no, I love that show. And that’s just the whole genre. There’s that. There was Sliders. There was —

John: Quantum Leap.

Craig: Quantum Leap. Exactly. I mean so this is all very familiar territory. All the more reason to really think like a magician.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You know, magicians understand how to misdirect and they understand the value of surprise. And you just want to do that as much as possible particularly in a movie where you have the benefit of this huge high concept.

John: Yeah. Meeno Peluce was the character.

Craig: My God, I was pretty — Peluce. Yeah, okay.

John: Nicely done. Meeno is a great name also.

Craig: Meeno, I know. And poor Jon-Erik Hexum.

John: Jon-Erik Hexum, so sexy, so dead.

Craig: So dead. Do you know what his last words were? This isn’t even a joke. His last words were, “I wonder if this will hurt.” Because you know how he died, right?

John: Yeah, he was firing what he thought was a blank and —

Craig: It was a blank.

John: Oh, it was a blank.

Craig: It was a blank.

John: You can’t fire a blank into your temple because it will actually shatter your bone and —

Craig: Yeah, because there’s a concussive force that comes out of it that basically is like being punched really, really, really — it’s like basically being hit in the head with a hammer at full force. So yeah, you’re going to die. I mean — and so, “I wonder if this will hurt.” It did hurt.

John: It did. It was terrible.

Craig: Bummer. Poor Jon.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Erik.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Hexum. So we have one more to go. You want to read this one?

John: I’ll do this one. So this last one comes from Len Anderson IV. It’s titled One White Flint North. The tile page includes address, phone number. But not his actual address and phone number. So that might be a thing —

Craig: I did try calling him. I tried dialing phone number.

John: And it’s weird because you think like, you do the thing where on the keyboard like you dialed the P and the H and the —

Craig: Guess what? Worked.

John: It worked. Actually, it’s so amazing that we got to him.

Craig: Got to him. I’m actually going to hang out with him tonight at address.

John: [laughs] All right. We open in the teaser. So this looks like a TV pilot. Over black, tactical ops radio jabber. We are following a truck. It’s semi-modified, tire pressure status, GPS, it’s a high-tech truck. The driver is 35. Hands at ten and two. And next to him is Brent Voss, 28, a SWAT team member. They’re scanning the landscape. They ain’t hauling Frosted Flakes.

They are talking on the radio. They’re communicating with their team. And so we see the other people who are watching this truck as they move. So we’re on I-15 in California. There’s a helicopter tracking them from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And the team lead, Brendan Burks is watching them, communicating through to Rachel who is at the ops center for NRC.

There are wall screens. They are going through all the technical stuff of like tracking this truck as it moves down – -there’s a convoy of three vehicles, light Interstate traffic.

Rachel Alvarez, 35, is the NRC Securities and Safeguards Department. She’s given the go ahead to move on ahead. And there’s chatter back and forth between the different team members as they are moving with the truck down the road. That’s honestly kind of all that happens in these three pages.

Craig: Yes, all right. Well, let’s get into it, Len. [laughs] I like to call these tough guy quipping movies because that’s basically what’s going on. Tough guys are all quipping. So let’s start. I mean there’s perfectly good opening visual. Although, I wasn’t sure how we were supposed to tumble to face. So it says, “A SINGLE FLOWER waves in the wind — WIDER: shoulder of an INTERSTATE FREEWAY — A BLACK SEDAN whizzes by — move with the breeze, tumble to face — the grill of a SEMI TRUCK.” So the camera is tumbling to face? I don’t know how that works exactly. Unless we’re on the dandelion cam. So that was just weird to me. But okay.

Then we go into this truck. And it says, modified. Duress button. Tire pressure status. GPS track. Now, I read that like three times. So I’m like, okay, modified is an adjective. And then duress button is one of the things that they’ve modified in there. But I don’t know how I’m supposed to know it’s a duress button. Does it say duress over it? Because I think it’s just going to be a button.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So what am I looking at? I’m looking at a button? And then it says tire pressure status. Most cars have that now. GPS track, every car has that. So I wasn’t really sure like how am I supposed to know that this is a special truck other than that there’s a button? Okay. Button.

We have the driver who’s wearing a flight suit, okay. And then there’s a guy next to him in SWAT team gear. Fine. Got it. And then the radio crackles. Brent chimes in, “Checkpoint Chargers.” Now, no one said anything to him. So all that happened was there’s some static and then he decided that that was meaningful static and then talked to somebody.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And then he says to the driver, “Just like rehearsal. Another Sunday driver heading to grandma’s house.” And my reaction to that is to say, “No.”

No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

John: Yes?

Craig: No.

John: No.

Craig: You can’t do this stuff. We are in 2015. This stuff was old in 1986. This is like Golan-Globus dialogue. You can’t do it. People don’t talk like this. We now live in a time when we see military movies that are hyper realistic.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And they are practically like journalists embedding themselves, right? The movies are like embedding themselves in a fictionalized world of soldiers. And they are very real. There’s an enormous attention to detail because everybody knows what fake is now. Everybody.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And this is it. That is fake. Okay, then we come back to this flatbed trailer. It says black rubber covers the cargo, which in this case [laughs], it’s a nuclear waste cask.

John: Yeah.

Craig: How do I know? Because isn’t the black rubber covering it? And then it says an orange cylinder, capped with three feet of rubber on each end. Is that underneath the other rubber? Or is the black rubber covering the ends?

And then it says 8,000 pounds of concrete. Orange concrete? I don’t understand. It’s impenetrable. I would have no way of knowing that because a pamphlet hasn’t been handed to the audience. See, so much information that just isn’t possible to get. Like is it a duress button. Who am I talking to on the radio? Is it impenetrable? What’s inside of it? How the hell would we know any of that?

John: We wouldn’t. So let’s take a step back and look at this clearly on page four, God, I hope on page four, something is going to go horribly wrong. And someone is going to interrupt this convoy. And bad stuff is going to happen. And it was unfortunate it didn’t happen before now. But that’s where we’re at.

But let’s take a look at if you are starting a movie with the truck and before the bad guys approached, your first three pages are so precious and so to only have truck set up and not to actually get to know about your characters feels like a real mistake. Or at least to not have something to tell us what is special about your world or what’s at stake, really honestly what the cargo is that you’re holding feels like a real challenge.

Craig: It does. And there are all sorts of ways to get into this. And maybe the best way is this, I don’t know, to just start with them on a truck talking. But it felt like, again, we were just dumping the premise in people’s laps. And there was no sense of surprise or discovery to be had. You know, there was no cleverness to it. It’s just we’re in a truck with nuclear waste.

Then, oh boy, okay, now, this whole thing here, now they’re in some kind of like a datacenter, this is the Jason Bourne datacenter. Let’s just call it that, the Jason Bourne datacenter for an international monitoring of objects. They’re in it. I don’t necessarily believe that such a thing exists. Maybe it does. I doubt it.

John: Well, I bet it does within the TV series that he is describing because I think I need to remember that this is meant to be a pilot for a TV show. And so within this world, I wouldn’t be surprised if this headquarters is a crucial thing. And some of these characters we’re meeting are crucial people involved here.

But I haven’t been convinced by the end of page three that, “Oh, wow, this is going to be a cool world of people I want to see.”

Craig: I agree. We have an ops assistant saying, “Copy Chargers.” So I believe he is responding to Brent who said, “Checkpoint Chargers.” So Checkpoint Chargers is in the middle of page one. Copy Chargers is in the middle of page two. So that’s quite a long pause before he decides to answer.

And then he says to no one in particular, Chester — maybe Chester saying to the ops assistant or maybe saying it to the guy on the radio, “Welcome to the show.” What show? I mean, come on. You want to say welcome to the show. It better be some sort of bad ass thing like you’re, you know, I don’t know, Seal Team 6 or something. I just don’t buy it.

John: So let’s try to envision what this pilot might actually be about and sort of what is going to be happening over the course of this. So let’s say that this is the team that deals with emergency nuclear situations. I’m just going to spitball and guess here. And so maybe this ops center becomes a crucial thing.

Then it’s actually great and fine to start in a truck and then we move to the ops center. But what we’re doing in the ops center should probably be a better indication of sort of like normal daily life, but also be giving us character information about who’s sort of in charge of what things, what is the normal sort of daily activity going to be like? Are there any sort of like character details or character runner jokes that we’re starting to set up here that makes us feel like everyone is expecting this to go okay, but also have a plan for if things go poorly. Then I’m engaged and I’m leaning in.

Also, by the end of page three, I need to feel some threat and some stakes, like I need to know that the bad guys are going to be picking up. Or I need to see like that motorcycle revving behind the billboard, the whatever that’s going to be happening here.

Craig: Yeah. I feel like the opening sequence needs to justify why the central premise of the show should happen. I don’t want them to already be in place and doing stuff and then something extraordinary happens. I want to see why some new group is necessary to monitor these things. I want to see something go wrong because of inattention or because of a bad guy or whatever it is, but it could have been prevented if. It’s why I still think like the opening scene of WarGames, one of the best opening scenes in history — do you remember the opening scene in WarGames?

John: I don’t remember WarGames at all, so —

Craig: WarGames opens with two guys in a missile silo. And they’re just chitchatting. And then they get a little thing. It’s like, “Oh, probably another test.” And they get the message and it’s not a test. It’s the launch codes.

And there’s a younger guy and an older guy. And the younger guy is like, “Oh my God, this is really happening.” And the older guy is like, “Calm down. It’s okay. I’m just going to call.” And the phone is not working I think because they automatically shut it down in case of launch codes. And this is it, it’s really happening.

So they both put their keys in. And on the count of three, they have to turn their keys. And on the count of three, the young guy turns his key, but the old guy, it’s just his hand is on the key, he can’t turn it. He just can’t do it.

And the younger guy says, “Turn your key, sir.” And the guy doesn’t. And then the younger guy pulls out a gun and aims it at the old guy and says, “Turn your key.” And then we go, boom, cuts to black. And then WarGames, we’re like, “Oh my God, what the hell just happened?”

Then you see a scene where all these generals are meeting in NORAD and they’re saying, “Well, we ran kind of like a special test where we gave everybody real codes that we knew wouldn’t actually work to see how many of them would actually do it if they thought it was real. And it turns out that like 38% of them did not launch, which is why we need a new system where we don’t rely on human beings to make those decisions.

And you’re like, “Yes.” You just figured out how to justify this ridiculous concept that [laughs] a computer is going to be in charge of our nuclear weapons. And I believed it. So this show needs to do that. It needs to justify why there should be a show about monitoring trucks with nuclear waste.

John: Now, I’m putting that assumption on the show. So it is entirely possible that this is actually a serialized show rather than a procedural show that it’s actually, we’re going to follow this nuclear waste as it gets transported around the world. It can be possible that I’m completely wrong of what the intention was here.

But I would just say like my reading of these first three pages and what this action sequence seems to be setting up, feels like that kind of thing. So if that’s not the intention, you need to pull me out of that intention probably quicker.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So if our sympathy is actually going to lie with the people who are stealing it, then I need to see those people before now.

Craig: I agree.

John: If our sympathy is going to be with like ordinary pedestrians or ordinary sort of people in the world, then maybe you are in a car with a family bickering and like this giant convoy moves past, like “What the hell is that truck?” And one of them says like, “Oh I think that’s, crap, like that’s nuclear waste, like they’re hauling stuff.” And like, oh, now I have this information. And I’m ready for things to go horribly wrong.

Craig: Yeah. Let’s also just talk about characters. I’m going to read some lines here. Brent says, “Just like rehearsal. Another Sunday driver heading to grandma’s house.” Chester says, “Welcome to the show.” Then Rachel is described as “Doesn’t have time for Twitter. She’s just good.” And Casey Stack is described as “Former army, deals with PTSD on his own dime.”

Well, my goodness. Everybody is just so damn cool, aren’t they? I mean I — ugh, no.

John: Yeah.

Craig: No, no. They’re caricatures. They’re not characters.

John: Yeah. That’s why you’re paid the big bucks, which it says on page three.

Craig: Yeah, she says that she goes — and they’re having this thing that we’ve seen a million times of two people doing, you know, scary military stuff that would freak us out having this, you know, very mundane conversation. You’re not sticking me with an after action report on this on. That’s why you’re paid the big bucks.

So, you know, this feels very ’80s. It feels like ’80s. It feels really broad. And not intentionally broad. So I think you have to really ask yourself these following questions. What is the kind of show that you’re trying to do that’s like on the air right now? Where would it fit like if you could have a, you know, a show come on and then your show come on. What would be a good match?

Ask yourself, would these characters fly on that show? You have to earn your premise. You can’t just dump it on us and say, “Yeah, see? Nuclear waste is the problem and we have the team to solve it.” No. Make me believe that it’s a problem. And then answer the problem with your show.

And I think you got to also comb through the writing here and look for things that are ambiguous or confusing like this are covered, but we can see them. Things are impenetrable, we have no idea. A button means a thing, but it’s just a button. You know what I mean?

John: The other thing I want to say is that, if you’re writing this as a spec pilot, your intention probably is not that this gets produced, but this is as a writing sample. This just shows like, “Oh, I can write a really good episode of a one-hour TV show.” And so this hopefully something you’re writing in order to be staffed. And that is a great good thing to be doing.

And even people who are currently staffed on TV shows will continue to write spec pilots just for those reasons so they can get staffed on other shows, they can show the different kinds of things that they can write.

But as you’re writing these, yes, you’re looking at the TV landscape, you’re looking at sort of what shows could be on the air, where this could fit. But you’re not going for the lowest common denominator like, “Well, it’s better than that worst show that somehow made it on to the air.” It actually has to be great because the people who are staffing these TV shows are reading 100 scripts to try to fill their staff.

And so they’re going to respond to things that are like innovative and great and smart and brilliant and somehow manage to feel like TV, but better than TV. And so anything that feels like this, honestly, that feels like it’s just kind of going through the motions is not going to result in a happy outcome.

Craig: Yeah. And look, Len, I know I just beat you up there. And I do apologize if that came off as harsh. And I know you probably don’t feel particularly good. But just know this. Through that process, you are now part of our brother and sisterhood. This is what we all go through. And we’ve all been there before. I’ve been on the other end of this many, many, many, many, many times. And don’t get discouraged by that. Take a week off from it. [laughs] Then take it to heart and start again.

John: To me if felt like it’s somebody who is for the first time learning the form and the format and learning how to communicate things they see in their head on the page. And so they’re trying to write the kind of sequences that they used to seeing. And not realizing that the kind of stuff that’s in here, not only is it really familiar, but it would done much more quickly and efficiently in an actual script.

And so reading a bunch more really good action scripts would probably be a great start. Reading more TV pilots will be a great start, too.

Craig: I concur.

John: Cool. I want to want thank all three of our people for writing in with their samples and letting us talk about them on the air. And everybody else who has sent things through, even if we haven’t talked about it, you are all very brave people because you never know which scripts Stuart is going to pick.

Again, if you would like to send in one of these Three Page Challenges, go to johnaugust.com/threepage and there’s the instructions for how you send those things to us to read. So again, thank you to these people for being so brave.

Craig: Yes. Thank you to everybody who sends these in. And, you know, yeah, God, you’re braver than I am.

John: Cool. It’s time for our One Cool Things. Mine is a simple little article by Caroline Moss about Logan Paul. Craig, do you know who Logan Paul is?

Craig: I read the article, so I do.

John: Awesome. Craig did his homework. Logan Paul is a star on Vine. And if you don’t know what Vine is, it’s little six second clips. Twitter bought the company. And what I found so fascinating about it — because he can come off poorly depending on how you read the article. But I was thinking about how, if you were to read a profile of Will Smith or Mark Wahlberg at the time where there were just trying to break through, they would probably sound a lot like Logan Paul’s thing. So that’s not saying that he is going to break through and become some giant success. But he has the kind of ambition that I associate with some people who became famous later on.

So it’s so fascinating to be a star in a nascent medium and to be grappling with the kinds of things that he is now facing.

Craig: Well, it’s an interesting phenomenon that has emerged. There is a wall between new media — I’ll call it new media independent stardom and traditional stardom. So do you know who PewDiePie is?

John: Of course, PewDiePie, a YouTube star.

Craig: Right, great. So PewDiePie makes millions and millions of dollars a year. And he is famous the world over. But no one is going to put PewDiePie in a movie. And I don’t think they’re going to give PewDiePie his TV show and not that he would want it anyway, he is doing pretty well on his own. Because it doesn’t feel like that’s what it’s about. That fame is a different fame.

John: Yeah.

Craig: When we look at movie stars and television stars, we’re looking for people to occupy hero spaces. And those are certain kinds of people. And they’re not always beautiful people or strong people. They come in all shapes and sizes. But they occupy hero spaces.

The new media independent star occupies a traditional space. They are like us. That’s the point. And we just happen to like what they’re doing. So it is interesting to see what’s going on here. The piece was a little side-eye-ish towards him. I thought, you know, they kind of — they didn’t make him look too good in that segment about him and his acting class where basically the article said, “He’s not acting very well nor is he taking direction very well. But he still thinks he did a great job.”

And you have to kind of take it with a grain of salt because it’s the reporter’s point of view. That’s probably not a good thing.

John: But I thought she was actually more generous with him about the song he’s trying to do and how hard he’s working in a way that I thought was refreshing because so often, you see like, you know, “Well, why does PewDiePie make $12 million a year?” Or “Why does this guy have all these fans?” It’s like, “Well, they’re actually working really hard.”

And so I found it nice to see that the things that seem like casual one off flippant things were actually a lot of planning, a lot of work to try to make them happen.

Craig: Yeah. No, these guys — I’m the last person in the world to do the, “Well, why is that guy making all that money for stupid Vines or videos about video games and…” Well, you know what, I believe in the marketplace. If they’re making millions of dollars a year, they’re doing something right. Obviously, they’re connecting with a huge audience.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And yeah, those Vines actually look really complicated. There’s another guy that does them, a similar kind of deal.

John: Yeah. Avery Monson does these really — I’ll link in to some of his stuff, too — these really complicated visual illusions that are —

Craig: That must be who I’m thinking of. Is he Asian?

John: I don’t think so.

Craig: There’s an Asian guy, Asian-American guy who does them. And they’re awesome. So anyway, yeah, no these guys deserve their stardom. The question is, can it crossover? I don’t know. I don’t know. My One Cool Thing this week, another Twitter suggestion is called Thync, spelled T-H-Y-N-C. Haha, like Thync, Thync.

So I mean [laughs] if this thing works, I’m so tempted to get it. I might just get it. So it essentially is a device that you put on your head [laughs] —

John: It looks amazing, Craig. I just loaded up the site.

Craig: It does look amazing. It’s like, it’s very Star Wars. It looks like a Lobot sort of thing. And it essentially sends wave forms through your skin into your brain.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And essentially it’s a frequency. They’re just using frequency outputs. And in fact, that is a legitimate thing. People do this for muscles a lot, you know, you’ve heard of like tense devices and things like that, electricity and so on and so forth.

What they are saying is that this device, actually there’s two modes. One which is to calm you down. And the other one is to essentially stimulate you into a state of non-anxious alertness. Naturally, my BS detector went straight up. [laughs]

John: Yeah.

Craig: Naturally. But they published a paper and I read the paper. And if the data is correct, it kind of works. There is a strongly statistically significant difference between the placebo control which I thought they did well and their device. And they have a quote on their page talking about blurbs from a professor at the City College of New York, Neural Engineering, brain stimulation and medical device design, Dr. Marom Bikson.

So then I went I’m like still like [laughs], so I looked around for some reviews and a couple of people have reviewed it and they said, “Yeah, it works.”

John: All right.

Craig: So should I try it?

John: You should absolutely try it.

Craig: Okay.

John: Craig, you got to spend that money.

Craig: I got to spend that money.

John: So a similar or kind of related thing, I have the Muse headset, which is a sort of meditation kind of thing. Like basically it’s tracking your I want to say brain energy, but that’s a really poor way of phrasing it. But it has an app that goes with it and you’re able to sort of like calm yourself down and you could actually measure sort of like as you’re calming yourself down. And you can change the pitch of things. And you can feel these birds standing on your shoulder.

And it’s impressive, but it one of those things where I used it like four times and like I haven’t touched in a long time. I’ll be curious what your experience is with this and whether you find it useful enough that you’re using it often or you use a little bit and then it goes into that same drawer with your Google Glasses.

Craig: Oh, the Google Glasses, what a piece of crap.

John: Well, but I think it’s good that you helped keep that company in business because they’re a struggling startup.

Craig: It’s a Kickstarter.

John: [laughs]

Craig: That was a great show.

John: That was a good show. So thank you very much. Our show is produced by Stuart Friedel, as always.

Craig: Yeah.

John: it’s edited by Matthew Chilelli. Thank you, Matthew. Our outro this week comes from Rajesh Naroth who has done some of our best outros. So thank you for sending in this one.

If you have an outro to send in, you can write to ask@johnaugust.com. That’s also where you can send in questions about things we talked about on the show. Short things are great on Twitter. I’m @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin.

As always, you can find us on iTunes. You can download the podcast there. You can also leave us a review which is lovely. If you would like to get a USB drive with all 200 episodes — the first 200 episodes of the show, those should be in the store now, hopefully, by the time you get this podcast. And you can go to store.johnaugust.com. USB drives are $20 and have all of the episodes of the show including the dirty episodes which is always fun.

And that’s our show for this week.

Craig: Awesome.

John: Craig, thank you so much.

Craig: Thanks, John.

John: All right. Bye.

Craig: Bye.