The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hey, this is John. And this is the standard explicit language warning for this episode of Scriptnotes. There’s some heavier language than most episodes, so you may want to save this one for later on if you’re driving in the car with your kids. Thanks.
Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 238 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today, we have a special guest. We are joined by Dana Fox.
John: She is a writer and producer whose credits include The Wedding Date, Ben & Kate, What Happens in Vegas, and the new How to Be Single.
We are going to try to talk about the transition between being just a writer and being a writer-producer like Dana is. And we’ll also get into other stuff about her life and her career. She’s one of my favorite people. Dana Fox, welcome to Scriptnotes.
Dana Fox: Hi, I’m so happy to be here. You two are my favorite human males besides my husband.
John: Aw. That’s so sweet.
Craig: I don’t really — I know your husband. I don’t think you need that qualifier.
Dana: [laughs] I’m really excited to be in this sandwich. Thank you for having me.
John: Her husband is Quinn Emmett who is a writer and an all-around good guy, who often comes to our live shows. So, it’s nice to have you here, live in person with us.
Dana: I’m so happy to be here.
John: Before we get into your career, your life as a writer and producer, we have some follow-up from previous episodes, so we’d love your opinions on these topics as we just go through them. So, last week we talked about tipping. We talked about tipping in two different ways. Questions about whether you should tip the valets at studios. Because you know how like Paramount has a valet?
Dana: Oh, that’s interesting.
John: Or Sony does, too. Dana, what’s your opinion? Should you tip those guys? Do you tip those guys?
Dana: Wow, that’s bumming me out big time, because I have literally never thought of tipping them, and I’m going to immediately commence tipping them right now. That makes me feel really sad inside my soul place.
Craig: [laughs] Wow.
John: What I was saying last week —
Dana: Thank you for laughing so hard at me, Craig. I really appreciate that. I’m so glad this is such a safe space for me to share.
Craig: It’s not. At all.
Dana: It’s really starting this off nicely.
John: So, one of my points last week was that normally when you’re parking a car, when there’s valet parking, there’s already cash being exchanged, so the tipping feels like it’s just part of that whole cash exchange. Whereas on a studio lot, there’s not a natural transaction happening there, so it feels weird to sort of suddenly pull out money and give.
Dana: That’s exactly right. It does sort of feel like you’re saying something is happening there that isn’t necessarily happening there. I always sort of thought it was like, oh man, now I just hate myself. I don’t even want to talk about anymore.
Here’s my problem. My problem is not about tipping. My problem is about ATMs. I never have cash on me, because I feel like the second I have it in my wallet it just like shoots out of wallet at great, great speeds. And so I don’t keep cash because I spend it instantly when I have it. So, that’s a bummer.
And then also Uber has kind of kept me from needing money for tipping valets. Because valets was sort of the only reason I needed to tip. So here’s what I do at the SoHo House. Spoiler alert: I may be not a good person at the end of this story as well.
I don’t ever have any money on me, so I never tip them. And they’re so nice to me. And I actually love those people who work there like family. Like, I was more excited to tell them about the birth of my third child then like anybody who is my actual friend. And so what I do is I give them like $60 one day and then I don’t tip them for like a month.
Dana: That’s how I do it. Because I can’t — it’s every day, I can’t have the money in the wallet. I can barely get myself out of bed in the morning. I have 17 children. I can’t pull it together.
Craig: I feel like you’re not the person we should be talking to about this.
Dana: This was not a good follow-up.
Craig: Yeah, with that story, you’ve excluded yourself.
Dana: Can there be like a drinking inappropriately to fall asleep follow-up like right now? Because I could talk about that at length.
Craig: No one needs that follow-up. We all know how to do that. There’s no decisions to be made. We got into this thing last week about this, and I mean, I love what you just said about Uber, because I got in a little bit of trouble. So, I do — I tip those valet guys at studios. I just — I said last week, sometimes I just worry like is this insulting somehow. Do you feel like — ?
Dana: That’s what I’m saying. Yeah, exactly. It’s like sort of saying like, well, I’m assuming you’re getting paid a decent salary by this studio. But I should not assume that, because I am often not paid a decent salary by the studio —
Craig: Well, there you go.
Dana: — so why would I assume they would be?
John: So, we asked our listeners to write in, both on Twitter and on Facebook, with their opinions about tipping, both tipping studio valet people and tipping Uber drivers, which was another thing that came up.
Dana: What did everybody say?
John: So, let’s start with Mike from Huntington Beach. He wrote, “As a former valet during my teens and 20s, I can assure you in almost every circumstance a valet prefers a tip. There are two circumstances I can think of that a valet may reject a tip. Number one: When a valet’s employer issued a wholehearted threat to fire any valet on the spot who will accept a tip. Even then that valet might be coerced into accepting the tip if the amount is sizable enough and gifted with enough finesse.
“Or, number two: When the tip is change that amounts to less than a dollar.”
So, that’s from Mike from Huntington Beach.
Craig: But Mike, I mean, thanks, but this was not an issue. We know to tip regular valets. This wasn’t the question. We all tip valets. I mean, nobody doesn’t tip.
John: I think Mike is saying any valet at any place on earth will take the tip is what I think he was saying.
Craig: Okay, well, and look, that may be true. And I default to that. I do tip those guys. It’s the Uber thing opened the whole can of worms.
Dana: So, are people being expected to tip their Uber drivers? Is that a thing?
Dana: Oh my god, you guys, I am an extra triple horrible person.
John: Dana just Ubered to this interview right now.
Dana: I literally just Ubered to this house.
Craig: Well, this is the question. Because we discussed this last week. And my understanding was that, no, the whole deal with Uber is you don’t tip. It’s built in somehow. And the whole point is Uber says don’t tip your driver. And it’s a non-cash transaction deal.
Dana: But maybe it’s built into the way that Uber is boning their Uber drivers. And that’s what we don’t know about. Ah, man.
Craig: Well, here’s the situation. We got a lot — so a lot of people tweeted at us. And part of the thing that’s confusing is Uber is confusing about it. They used to be clear. Now they’re less clear.
The other thing is there’s a lot of different kinds of Uber. So I don’t use Uber a lot, because I love to drive. But, when I do, I use I guess what you would call Uber Standard, which is usually a sedan, you know, like the black car.
Dana: Say sedan again.
Craig: What’s that?
Dana: I just liked the way you said sedan.
Dana: Sedan. [laughs] I don’t know. Keep going. Keep going.
Craig: I feel like you’re trying to bring out Sexy Craig. [laughs]
Dana: [laughs] I love Sexy Craig.
Craig: Sexy Craig is the best. He loves to — yeah.
John: I’m pushing for our Whole Foods Craig. Whole Foods Craig is not a [crosstalk].
Craig: No, he’ll show up soon enough.
Dana: Wait, who is Whole Foods Craig? I need him so bad. Where is he?
Craig: He’s about to show up.
Dana: Does he work at the checkout at Whole Foods, or is he in like a specialized area giving out samples?
Craig: You know what? It’s like, yeah, I work there, if you want to call it work. Wherever man. If they tell me to go there, I do that. The whole thing is doesn’t really matter, you know.
Dana: Oh my god. I love that Craig.
Craig: It’s a label. It’s not me.
Dana: [laughs] I do love that guy.
Craig: So, there’s Uber X, which is sort of the more affordable Uber. And I guess the deal is some of those drivers aren’t getting paid that much. So, a lot of people are like, “No, you have to tip them.” I mean, when people are lecturing you about tipping, it’s so hectoring. Somebody wrote something at me in all caps and I just wanted to punch my computer in the mouth. So, you know, there’s a lot of confusion about it.
And I said, I mean, to this date I’m like, no, I didn’t think that that was the thing you did. John was like, no, I always tip my Uber driver. So I’m glad that you’re here. Because you’ve been aggressively not tipping.
Dana: Okay. So, for me personally, what I think Uber needs to do, because I think of Uber as the whole entire reason I take Uber is because I have entered my credit card once into a thing and I never have to deal with it again. For me, it’s like on Postmates, I’m tipping like a crazy lady on Postmates. I’m tipping like I’ve got all the money in the world, because all I have to do is click that button baby.
Dana: I just click it. And if there was an Uber question at the end of it, where it was like, “Do you want to do 15, 10, whatever,” I would just hit it and I’d crush it. I’d be 20%-ing it.
John: So, Lyft lets you do that. And Uber doesn’t. So, here’s what Carrie T writes, “You should tip. I drive for both Lyft and Uber and sometimes we average like $9 an hour. That sucks. Especially if you’re going to the middle of nowhere. Leave a big tip because your driver will take a big loss driving back to civilization without the possibility of picking up another passenger.”
Dana: Oh my god. Yeah.
John: Bradley Dennis writes, “As a Brit, my view is that if you want more money, raise your prices. Giving a lowball figure and expecting people to just give you more out of some form of expected guilt is just bizarre and sneaky. It’s anything but genuine.”
Dana: Well, and that’s what makes me so uncomfortable if I ever get the luxury of traveling to Europe, is I feel like there’s this emotional transaction that occurs when you’re tipping. For me, obviously tipping is like just about psychology. It’s just about how do I feel. What weird power dynamic did I get into with this waiter? Like how much did I learn about their personal life? How sad do I feel about the job I know that they lost? Whatever it is, I get way too involved in everybody.
And in Europe, it’s just like you just pay the thing. They bring that weird little credit card thing over to your table. Like you don’t even — nobody goes in — they just come over to you and you swipe it and then you’re done. And you’re walking out. But if I can’t have that weird emotional/psychology moment at the end of it, I don’t quite know what tipping is about. That’s what it’s about for me.
Craig: This is weird. The whole tipping — look, I understand the tipping economy for waiters and bartenders. The whole deal there is that their management is allowed to pay them less than minimum wage or something like that, some crazy deal. But like, you know, I was talking about tipping — like here’s the insanity of tipping. You go to a restaurant and you sit down and you’re at one table, Dana, I’m at the other. Okay?
Dana: Interested. Listening.
Craig: Same restaurant. We have two different waiters. My waiter does a fantastic job. Your waiter does an okay job. The only difference is that I happen to order the sandwich, you got the steak. Your waiter gets more money.
Dana: That’s really interesting. I’ve never thought about that.
Craig: It makes no sense. It makes no sense.
John: So, I think people will write in to Craig to let him know that in restaurant situations, tips are generally pooled, so they’ll be shared among the waiters, so there’s some way it averages out.
Dana: So sandwich guy and steak guy have to put their money together.
Craig: Okay, well then let me extend then. You’re at the restaurant next door. Okay? I’m at my restaurant. My restaurant just happens to charge more for food. It’s fancier food. The fancier the food doesn’t mean that the waiter somehow has to work harder, right? In fact, sometimes the lower end restaurants, the waiter is working even harder because there is families in there and kids screaming and dumping their sippy cups. Meanwhile over at Café Swank, everyone is sitting perfectly quietly eating their $20 piece of tomato. Why do those waiters get more?
John: I don’t think it’s fair.
Craig: It’s not fair.
John: It’s not fair. And it’s not reasonable. And yet this is the system that we’re in. And so I think what’s been good about sort of the feedback we got was that a lot of people who are actually doing the job of driving cars for Uber or for Lyft or who are parking cars for valets at studios are telling us like don’t assume that we’re getting paid really well for our job. And so tipping is appreciated and is not an affront to be offering them a tip.
Craig: So the people that make money off of tips —
Dana: I appreciate this new information, honestly. I feel like I’m going to change my ways. Did you guys hear that thing — I feel like it was on something I listen to with my ears. So, it was something that I got to believe it was like This American Life or something. They talked about tipping and they were saying that you assume that waiters who are nicer to you and who are more friendly make more money, and actually it’s the ones who like grumpier and more withholding. And what they think it’s about is because the people who act happy and pleasant, the person having the dinner seems like, “They like their job. They’re having a great time. They’re just doing this for fun. They’re just bringing me that sandwich for fun.”
Whereas the people who are like very clear that it is a job, and they are doing it for a job to give you your food, and because they have to for their job, you tip them higher. I thought that was kind of interesting.
John: That’s why I like what you’re saying about like if there’s an option for like, you know, 10, 15, 20 percent, I would just click the button, and it would always happen.
Dana: I click the button every time.
John: It would always happen.
Dana: Give me the button.
Craig: Yeah, I would click it, too. I don’t know how accurate it is for people that would benefit from tips saying, “You really should give us more tips.” I’m still — here’s the deal. Uber needs to be really clear about this, and they’re not. And they need to smarten up and just solve this once and for all.
Because, yeah, look, if they were okay with the tipping culture, first of all, there never would have been this whole thing of you don’t have to tip your driver. They used to have a thing that said, “Don’t tip your drivers.” And then instructed their drivers, “If you are offered a tip, decline it.” Right? So that’s how that whole thing started. That’s what —
Dana: And was this an effort to differentiate them from taxis? Was that sort of part of the idea?
Craig: Yeah. The idea —
John: But if you look at how Uber has evolved, I mean, Uber was just the sedans for a while, just the town cars who had availability. And the way it’s become, my perception of Uber is Uber X. it’s the only thing I ever take. And that is a low end and those people aren’t making a lot of money.
Craig: I don’t take Uber X because I’m just concerned that I might get assaulted.
John: So, I will tell you a great Uber X story. I was going to Kelly Marcel’s party a couple weeks ago. And happy birthday, Kelly Marcel. And we took Uber. And I was talking with the driver and he had a fascinating accent. And I said like, I’m so sorry, but what is your accent, because it’s fantastic. And he’s like, “Oh, I am from Czechoslovakia.” Or specifically, “I’m from Czechoslovakia, not Czech Republic, but Slovakia.”
I was like, so the character I wrote in this last script was supposed to be Slovakian. And like I’ve had the hardest time finding an English speaker with a Slovak accent. And so I’m like, would it be really weird if I like got your information and I Skyped with you and like recorded your accent? I really need it as a language reference.
And it was great. And so we had an hour-long conversation with Elan about his history, his backstory, and I have this great footage of his accent for down the road.
Dana: Ah, that’s amazing. And I’ve read that script and I love that script.
John: Yeah. So she knows exactly who that person is.
Dana: I know exactly what you’re talking about and I am into it.
Craig: Honestly, that’s my nightmare. Talking to a driver for an hour?
Dana: Craig, what kind of an assault — is it like your ear’s assault? Like your ears are going to be assaulted with like a story? Or is it like you actually think you’re going to be sexually assaulted?
Craig: I’m always worried about sexual assault, you guys. [laughs]
Dana: [laughs] You think everyone is trying to sexually assault you.
John: Well, when you’re as sexy as Craig Mazin, it’s going to —
Dana: He’s a very, very sexy man. I get it. I totally get it.
Craig: You guys, you can’t be too safe.
Dana: As we all know, sexual assault is a crime of hotness, right?
John: Let’s open a can of worms. Would you like to open that one?
Dana: Yeah, I just opened that for everybody. God, I hope everyone knows I’m kidding.
Craig: It’s a crime of hotness for me.
John: Craig basically doesn’t want to have any interactions with people that he can’t completely control. And it does — I will grant that starting a starting with your Uber driver does feel like, okay, this could go a lot of different ways. It could go terribly.
And so most times I’ll just stick to the pleasantries and not go any further. But when I heard this guy’s accent I was like, you know what, we’re going to have this conversation.
Dana: You know what I do also is I have a little convo in the beginning, and sometimes I get really involved and I talk to them the whole time. And other times I don’t. But I always ask permission to make work phone calls. That’s how I do it. Because I think it’s a polite factor where it’s like I’m in your car. If you were just a person I was in the car with, I would ask you if it’s okay with you if I make a phone call. So I always do because I like to be polite about it.
Craig: You’re paying them to drive you somewhere, and you’re asking them permission?
Dana: I’m a human being, Craig. I have a heart.
Craig: I don’t understand this.
John: But I think the social contract with Uber is just a little bit different than it is with sort of a normal taxi. Because like, yes, you’re paying them to do it, but also you’re getting into their space, and you’re sharing it in a weird way.
Dana: It’s also like everybody you talked to that drives for Uber honestly has another job or is trying to be something or has an interesting story for you. And so I always get the sense that like I assume that anyone who is driving a car is like a doctor in the country that they came from and like can’t do that here. And that’s like my baseline for who I think is driving me. [laughs] So I usually have like just a lot of respect for those people.
John: So, most of the Uber drivers, I would say at least half are screenwriters. And so I’ll talk to them, “So what else are you doing?” It’s like, “Oh, I really like this because it gives me time to write,” and blah, blah, blah. And I’ll just shut up.
Dana: You shut down. And I’m out.
John: It’s like I’m not volunteering any more information.
Craig: It’s an absolute nightmare. It’s a nightmare. So I’ve never used this version of Uber. Ever. I’ve only used like the kind where, you know —
Dana: The fancy guy.
Craig: But it’s not Uber limousine. It’s just like, you know.
Dana: I’m just not comfortable unless the car is a little bit like my car, where there’s like so much stuff in the backseat that shouldn’t be in there. Like then I feel right at home.
Although I have to say, I got into a car the other day on my way home from — I went to London for the premiere of How to Be Single. And the guy that drove me home, god bless him, I loved him so much. That was one of the guys I got very involved in — P.S. emails were exchanged. I like emailed him honestly like the second I got home, because that’s how much I loved him.
Craig: Oh my god.
Dana: I know. I’m you’re worst nightmare, Craig. This is why we’re not married and you’re married to Melissa.
Craig: Ah, thank god.
Dana: But he had like a little tray on the floor. And there was like Kleenex and like lotion. And then like hand sanitizer. And I’m like does he just assume like everyone is jerking off in the back of his car?
Craig: Yeah, man.
Dana: Because it was just like a jerk off tray. It was really interesting. And then there were like mints for afterwards for yourself.
Craig: So you could kiss yourself.
Dana: So you could just like freshen yourself up. I don’t know. I don’t know what was going on.
Craig: Listen, do you mind? I’m asking you permission. I’m going to be making business calls and jerking off back here.
Dana: Yes. I’m just asking your permission to jerk off while making a business call.
Craig: Yeah. Is that cool? [laughs]
Dana: Oh, lord.
John: Now we have to put the explicit —
Dana: You guys, this is amazing. You got to put the explicit thing at the beginning.
John: — warning on this podcast.
Craig: We knew that was coming.
Dana: There was a zero percent chance we were not going to need that with me.
John: All right. So you’re on your back from your premiere of your movie, How to Be Single, which you produced. I was so happy to see the little PGA after your name when the credits rolled by, so you’re officially the Producers Guild producer on this movie. But when I first knew you, back when you were my assistant, you were just a writer. And so how did this transition happen? Like what was the process that took you from, oh, I’m going to write movies that other people can make to I’m now making these movies.
Dana: Back when I was your assistant, you forgot to say I was just a really bad assistant. You were the world’s most amazing boss. And every day I would be like, “I just don’t know exactly when to take my nap.” I was like, “John, could you help me figure out when to put a pillow on my head and have your dog sleep on me, because I’m going to need to do that at some point today?”
You were literally the world’s greatest boss. So, how did I do that? I think what happened was the transition for me really crystallized around the TV experience. I was working as a screenwriter in movies, and getting treated the way that screenwriters in movies get treated, which is like you’re very disposable. They will fire you without thinking twice about it. And they will hire — I always think of it as like there’s a Crayola box and you’re like you’re the writer that’s like the nude color. And then they pull you out and they do what they need to with the drawing. And then they want a different color, so they grab the different writer out of the Crayola box.
And there’s some writers who are great at doing lots of things, and so they get to stay on longer. But I just felt like after —
John: Let’s talk about you being that Crayola. So were you brought in to do the work on like these characters aren’t working, please add a voice to these characters?
Dana: I got put into that a lot. I also got put into the “we need the girl voice.” Like we need the woman to sound like an actual human being was a call I got a lot. You know, it’s like there’s these big boy movies and the girls don’t sound like real humans. So I got that call a lot.
And I chose not to be offended by that. I chose to just be like, great, this is work. I need work. This is great.
John: And so through that experience you’re building up your quote and you’re building up your experience. You’re building up relationships, so you’re getting employed to do more and more of these things, but they’re not necessarily the jobs that you would dream about. And a lot of times your name is not on them because you were just doing a couple weeks of work?
Dana: Right. And what would happen is, you know, the movie would go to get made and then you would be completely blocked out of the process. And that was the part where I always felt really frustrated, because as a writer, you think about absolutely every choice you’re making on the page. And you’re very careful about like why the comma is where the comma is.
And, of course, you have ideas about what clothing the people would be wearing. You’ve thought about absolutely everything else about the character. Of course you know what kind of outfits they would wear. But no one asks you that because you’re just the writer.
So it was always really frustrating to me to just kind of hand it off, and once the process got really good all of a sudden I wasn’t invited to the party. Well, actually, you know, Couples Retreat was the first one where I was on set every day. That was sort of the thing where I was like, “Oh…”
John: So Couples Retreat is the movie with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau and other folks. And you were on an island in Tahiti, right?
Dana: I was in Bora Bora for a month and a half staying. And Craig knows because he has stayed there.
Craig: It’s great.
Dana: In like the world’s nicest over-water bungalow, with like a hole in the floor where you can see the fish. And it’s this whole thing. And it would normally have been like the most amazing experience. But every day I woke up feeling like I was like fighting for my life, because it was just a really tough shoot.
And we were changing things on the fly all day long. And there’s a lot of pictures of me just like standing in knee-high water, like holding a laptop. Just like in a flop sweat.
Craig: So you’re movie plays 24/7 on one dedicated channel at the St. Regis Resort in Bora Bora. It’s just, that’s it. It’s just a channel that does —
Dana: Oh my god.
Craig: Well, there’s two channels actually. One in English. And one in French. And when I was there with Melissa, we used to come back from our day of whatever, you know, petting sharks and —
Dana: Snorkeling or like, yeah, rubbing your body up against a sea creature of sorts.
Craig: A thing? Or a person.
Dana: Or your wife.
Craig: And we’d come back. And so like Melissa is in the shower, and I’m just sitting there, and there’s not anything to watch except Couples Retreat. So the two of us watch Couples Retreat like 100 times in bits and pieces.
And I remember I wrote you and I was like, “We’re here and we’re in St. Regis and we’re watching your movie. This is the best place ever.” And you were like, “Oh, that’s nice. All I remember about it is typing and crying.” [laughs]
Dana: That’s all I did the entire time I was there. I remember one night I was in the fetal position sobbing saying, “Vince Vaughn is my father.” And Quinn, who was my lovely husband at the time, who was I swear to god 25 years old, was like, “I think I’m in a little bit over my head here.” I was like, “I can’t do it anymore.”
No, but Vince was actually really, really a great sort of graduate program on having tough skin, because he is a very, very hard worker and he just demands that everyone around him is working as hard as he is. And he taught me that work ethic, which is I guess great.
But, yeah, a lot of crying. And then a lot of very, very small croissants. And like eating so many chocolate croissants that were miniature size that I could make like a giant croissant inside my stomach with them. I did that a lot.
Yeah, Bora Bora was kind of hard core. It was amazing. And I look back on it and I think how did I not enjoy that.
John: So was that your biggest onset experience?
Dana: That was my biggest onset experience. Yeah. And I was there pretty much every day of that whole shoot. And it was a really long shoot. So, I got a lot of experience with that. And I started to just sort of discover that for me the writing almost begins onset as opposed — you know, most people feel like that’s the destination and once you’ve gotten there you’re done. But for me, that was like the start of the real writing. And I felt like so much changes when you’re there with the actual actors and they’re saying the actual words. And you see stuff. And you go, “Oh my god, well this could be better.”
And I loved sort of challenging myself to imagine what the editing problems were going to be later, and then fixing them in the moment so that we wouldn’t have those problems later. And then that experience kind of made me really sort of hungry for the onset experience.
And so then I decided to do a television show. My friend, Liz Meriwether, was doing New Girl. And she was just like, “It’s amazing. They actually think writers know what they’re talking about.” And she sort of encouraged to meet this woman, Katherine Pope, who is this incredible executive/perfect human being. And Katherine just kind of slow played me and talked me into being in television.
And then that was when I really understood like, oh, this is what I want to do. I want to be the person that gets to answer the question what is the person wearing, and what color should the wall be. And all that stuff, because I had the answer for all of that. I knew what the answer was and no one was asking me that.
And so then I just decided, okay, I think I have to start producing things in movies to stay close to the process while it goes all the way through to the end.
John: So Ben and Kate was a really quick rise. I remember meeting up with you in New York, because Quinn was running the marathon, and we were racing around the city. And I think you had shot the pilot, or you were about to shoot the pilot. And it was like sort of last minute. And like, “Well, we’re doing this thing. We’ll see what happens,” and suddenly you’re on the fall schedule. And you have this giant spotlight on you. Were you ready for it? Is anyone ever ready for it?
Dana: You know, it’s so funny. I don’t think anyone is ever ready for network television. It is so bonkers insane how many hours of TV you have to reduce in such a short amount of time. It’s like making a movie over, and over, and over again without stopping. And you’re making like three movies at once.
And so I would have a to-do list board up on my wall, because I had to be able to visualize it, otherwise it just felt infinite. And it would be like pitch, you know, writer’s room on this episode, pitch document on that episode, outline on this episode. There’s a script on this episode. There’s a cut on this episode. I mean, it was like there literally were like ten episodes going on at any given time. And so it was really hard to kind of keep all that stuff straight. I had some really great writers on the show who were just amazing, helping me and Katie Silberman I met on that show. And she was just like a killer. She was so awesome and so great at helping me kind of keep stuff straight.
But, yeah, I was as it turns out completely ready. And I felt like finally I felt like a fish in water. And it was weird. I think it was partly because Katherine Pope and also Liz Meriwether were just kind of like, “Of course you can do this. You’re awesome. Go.” That was really helpful.
And I just — I guess I just had spent so much time kind of as a woman, and I hate to get kind of feministy about it, but doing the tap-dancey, like I am a scared little girl and I don’t know the answer, but maybe the answer is this. But it’s your idea, and you just thought of it. And I had done so much of that. And I realized I always had the answer, I just was giving it to other people and pretending that they had thought of it. So then I was like, oh look, I can just take credit for the answer and I don’t have to be ashamed of it.
And then that was an amazing moment where I feel like I came into my power and I felt like, oh, I don’t have to ask for permission anymore. And when you know that you don’t need permission, that’s when you really don’t need permission anymore.
Craig: I mean, I love that. I love that you’re taking that additional capacity on. And we’ve talked a lot about this idea of the writer plus. You know, even if you don’t necessarily have the title of producer, a lot of times in features you can work yourself into a position where you’re the writer plus. I mean, for instance, like you were on Couples Retreat, you were more than just a writer, even if you weren’t producing that movie.
And then you kind of take on this additional thing where, okay, now I am in fact the official producer of this movie. And my question for you is, so, there’s one thing that producers that I — because I’ve thought about this a lot, but generally I shy away from doing any producing whatsoever. And part of it is because there is this thing I think really good producers that aren’t you, and that aren’t writing, can sometimes service this wonderful buffer between you and the outside world.
Some of them are bad and all they do is take what’s in the outside world, amplify it, and then shove it in your face. Those are the worst ones. Frankly, those are the more common ones. But occasionally you find ones that shield you. Did you feel more exposed as the producer because there wasn’t any kind of buffer between you, and the studio, and all the politics, and all the baloney?
Dana: Yeah. Well, that was what my question to you was going to be. Is the outside world like the studio and all the actors being crazy? What do you think of as the like stuff that it’s all that stuff?
Craig: It’s everything that’s not in my head in the screenplay, or sitting with the director and blocking a scene. Anything that’s not making movie, but all the other stuff around it, which is a lot.
Dana: Yeah. That was tricky on this one. I mean, to compare it to the TV experience, I had a whole crew of people who were there to support me in the creative endeavor on the TV show. And then on this one, on How to Be Single, like I was the person supporting everybody else, but I was also sort of expected to be able to do all the scene work that you’re expected to do as the writer onset. And that was really a huge challenge. And I have to say, like, thank god for Katie Silberman, because she was with me onset every day. And she kind of would have the script. And she would come up with all these great alts. And I had some good alts in the moment, but a lot of times, you know, I spent a lot more time dealing with the political stuff and just all the stuff that you’re talking about than I normally would as a writer on set. And so, yeah, it was really, really difficult to juggle and to manage.
But, I think when you sort of have that super power, which is the like I can talk to the studio. I can talk to the actors. I can talk to the director. I can talk to everybody. It’s hard to sort of put the super power away. You know what I mean? It’s like —
John: Let’s talk about the relationship with the director, because that seems like that would be an interesting and challenging shift in dynamics. Because in television, of course, the showrunner is ultimately responsible for the show. It’s this ongoing process, so the director is there for an episode. And so whatever that director does, well, you’re going to sort of decide what makes it through the edit.
You’re ultimately going to be picking that director and picking what’s going to be shot. It’s your show. But with a movie, that’s not traditionally how it works. And so as we look at the people who are like you, the writer-producer, so I think you, Chris Morgan, Simon Kinberg, there’s a growing number of these people who are doing that job of I’ve written the screenplay and I’m going to shepherd the screenplay through production. It changes your relationship with the director, doesn’t it?
Dana: Yeah. And I think I get away with it a little bit more because I’m like brutally honest. I’m not afraid of conflict. I’m not afraid — I’m super nice, but I get to the point. And I’m not afraid of stuff. So, I think I have like a personality that’s kind of built for it. But you’re right, it’s a really complicated — you do sort of have to walk on egg shells a little bit at certain moments, because the director is absolutely the boss in the movie business.
And so I was very lucky on How to Be Single in that I had a director who liked me and thought I knew what I was talking about. And so he and I were good at working together. The actors and I all got along great. And so we were all good at working together. It just — I don’t think I’ll ever do a movie again and not direct, honestly.
John: Oh, that’s the question.
Dana: And that’s the sort of weird twist of I guess this podcast which is that I think I will either just write it, and I will hand it to someone and be like, “Good luck. Have fun at 3am on the streets of NYC without me. I’m going to be in bed,” or I’m going to be directing it. Because it is very hard to feel like you kind of have the answer and feel like you could be the person the way that you are in television and then all of a sudden you’re like, oh no, wait, I’m not the boss-boss.
John: I described it, when I Jordan Mechner was writing the script for Prince of Persia, I was just a producer on the film. And I would see these things happening in the script and say like, “I know how — just let me fly the plane.” It’s like you’re in the cockpit of a plane, and you know how to operate the controls, but you’re not allowed to touch the controls. And it was so bad to not be able to use the controls.
Dana: You actually used that analogy with me. A long time ago you told me that. And I have quoted it a million times, because that’s exactly what it feels like. It feels like you’re in a 747 and you’re going through turbulence and everything is kind of crazy. And you’re like, “Press the red, oh god, can you just press the red button — no you’re not pressing the red button. You’re putting the, oh, god, you’re pressing the green one. Okay.” It drives you nuts.
Craig: It’s worse in a way because sometimes if you’re going to make the analogy really accurate, the person flying the plane is doing a poor job. You are a much better pilot than they are. Not only are you not allowed to touch the controls, somehow it’s considered rude to suggest that maybe they do something else.
Dana: By the way, you’ll get kicked out of the plane sometimes.
Dana: If you suggest that you should, yeah. 100%.
Craig: That is so nuts. And I’ve found that the better directors aren’t like that. You know? Just looking at all the directors I’ve worked with, it’s the ones that are insecure and frightened who turn you away and get super weird about that old school auteur baloney nonsense. And the new ones aren’t like that as much. And the good ones aren’t like that as much.
Dana: I’m so happy to hear you say that, because I guess I can amend what I was saying before, which is that if I found the right directors who really wanted a collaboration, I would 100% do it again, because I absolutely love it and I know I’m good at it. It’s so funny that you should say that, because when I was on my television show I had a really moment with some people that worked on the show and they sort of suggested that I was losing my power because I was deferring to other people who I thought were smart. And instead of sort of taking that bait and being a dude and saying, “You’re right, I have an ego. And I’m not going to listen to you. And I know the answer,” I actually said, “I think it’s what makes me powerful is that I pick the right people to listen to, and that I know that there are creative people here who can give me better ideas than even I can think of.”
And to me those are the really exciting sets to be on are the ones where everybody sort of feels like if you have the right group, you know, the contributions are welcome. And to me it’s like if the idea can’t withstand a little bit of criticism, then it’s not the right idea.
So, how could you get panicky about somebody else telling you they think they might know the answer? I take it all in. And I don’t take it — if I don’t agree with it, I just don’t take it. I filter it out and I go on to the next thing.
But, you can take it in. You know, that’s not an ego jab. I don’t know.
Craig: I agree.
Dana: It’s interesting.
Craig: I agree. I mean, the people that said that to you, this was the show you were running, correct?
Dana: Yes, it is. And I’m happy to know that, Craig, you’re experiencing it, too. Because sometimes I feel like I’ve gotten into slightly more feministy/sexism-y place lately because I’ve experienced some more examples of that that are kind of shocking. And I hadn’t really experienced it before.
But it’s like I wish I was almost at like an all-girls school in Hollywood so that I could just say like, “Oh yeah, there are still the bossy women who want to talk all the time and — “
John: All right. Because Craig and I could never talk knowledgeably about this, because we don’t experience it, can you give us some examples of the things you encounter — and so obviously you can change the details around it, but what are some things — because no one is doing more better movies than you are for this kind of space. Like you have big movies that open with big movie stars, but what are you encountering?
Dana: You know, I think it’s like there’s a sense that any time you get emotional about something, you’re being an emotional, hysterical woman, as opposed to I’m being passionate. That’s how I get when I really believe in something. And it’s not like I cry at work. Like, of course I’ve never cried at work. I’m like basically a dude, but I just — I think that if you say something that’s emotional, and a lot of times actors are very emotional people. That’s why they’re actors is because they’re super empathetic — or not all of them, but many of them are very emotional. And so I’m interested in psychology. I mean, my mom is a psychology professor. I’ve talked about psychology. I used to read the DSM-3R, you know, mental health case book when I was like 10 years old as like a bed time story.
John: Oh, Craig is so excited to hear that. Because he loves his psychology.
Craig: You said DSM-3?
Dana: It was the DSM-3R, I believe, is the edition that was out when I was growing up. What was your edition?
Craig: Well, you know, I prefer 4 or 5 is really interesting. Five is good. Five is good.
Dana: I love that you’ve read all of them. That makes me so happy. But, Craig, you can back me up on this. Those books were like my first access to — they would have a little example of a person who was whatever mental illness they were talking about. And they would tell a little story about them. They’d be like, “Sally, name changed, age 35, has blah, blah, blah.” And you’d read these little stories and I think it was like my first access to sort of character types and people who behaved in certain ways.
And I was really interested in that stuff. But for me, when that — that is a part of what we do. You know, this is a business, but it’s also emotional and it’s kind of a little bit art. And it’s kind of a little bit all these things. It’s very organic. It’s very living and breathing.
And I found sometimes that when I would talk about like an emotional thing, like I’d say, “Hey, this is actress is having trouble because she feels blah, blah, blah,” there was definitely a lot of male executives around me who were like rolling their eyes at me. And it’s like, you know, and that was a little bit frustrating because I kept trying to explain to them like this is a business conversation. Because this emotional thing is affecting our business. And so we need to address this emotional thing.
John: Yeah. It’s a bunch of trying to make art, which is by its nature an emotional experience. And trying to make it in a very difficult way. But to expect that everyone is going to behave rationally and sort of clinically cleanly at all times is unrealistic.
Dana: Yeah. Absolutely unrealistic. And, you’re getting together a group of people who all are probably slightly different pages in the DSM-3R case book, including myself. And I’m sure I’m like page 68, you know, OCD and this, that, and the other.
But, you’re getting together all of these different sort of personality types, and then you’re kind of putting them into a war zone type situation where there’s so much money at stake and everyone is kind of in their most heightened behavioral state. And that’s why you sort of need a person like me that kind of dives — I take my body and I just like dive on grenades left, right, and center every day. That’s sort of what I would do.
Craig: I’ve been watching these discussions online. A lot of times there will be these Twitter battles between screenwriters. And a lot of times the fights are about these issues — issues of sexism, perceived sexism, and how it’s working in the workplace in Hollywood.
And it strikes me that part of the disconnect that’s going on is women will say, “Look, this is how I’m treated and this is no good.” And then guys will say, “Well, hold on. I’ve been treated that way.” Because, you know, all writers are treated poorly to some extent.
And so there’s this interesting disconnect, like, “Oh, you think that’s just because you’re a woman.” The problem is that it is worse for women. We know that there’s just facts. Right? So there are these facts.
Dana: Yeah, there’s just numbers. There’s like actual data. Yeah.
Craig: There’s actual data. And so, you know, on your DSM thing it’s true. We’re all worried about our own emotional well-being. Our emotional well-being is the most stark and salient to us. So, we come home — so you’ve got some guy who comes home, he’s just been beaten up by his producers, belittled, made to feel like he doesn’t belong. Told that he was being difficult, and emotional. And then he gets online and someone is like, “This is how they treat us because we’re women.” He goes, “No! It’s because we’re screenwriters!”
And that doesn’t help. [laughs] It doesn’t help at all.
Dana: Yeah. It’s so funny, because I’m sort of bummed that I even have to engage in these conversations about sexism, because up until now I feel like I kind of ignored it, just because I’m bored with it. I don’t want it to be a thing. And I feel like, you know, the film business is so hard. It’s so hard to be successful, whether you’re a woman, or a man, or any of it.
But the place where I feel like it does actually come into play, again, going back to like weird psychology stuff, is I think that women are afraid of failure in a way that men kind of grow up not being as scared of screwing up. We’re told that like you’ve got to be a good girl, and you’ve got to get the A-plusses. And you have to be a good girl, do it right.
And so we aren’t taught by society that it’s okay to screw up at stuff and be bad at stuff. And this is a business where you have to mess up over and over again and you have to get your — like you were describing, Craig, you have to get the shit peed out of you over, and over, and over again, every single day. And then you have to get up and dust yourself off and just start over again. Day in and day out. And day in and day out.
And I don’t know that that’s the way that girls are socialized in our culture at least.
John: Well, talk about the failure. The first cut of every movie is going to be terrible. It’s going to be just awful. It’s going to be unwatchable.
Dana: Yeah. Your skin is going to crawl.
John: But I could definitely imagine if you are delivering that first cut to the studio, there’s a different reaction because it’s like, “Oh, she really screwed up that cut. That cut sucked.”
Dana: Right. Yeah.
John: Versus like if it’s a guy who delivered it, it’s like, well, every first cut sucks.
Dana: First cuts always suck. Yeah. 100%. And I think that is the place where it’s actually real and actually damaging. Which is I think that women don’t get as many chances as guys do in this business. And I think Diablo Cody said it really well at one point. She was talking about how like if you fail once as a woman, it’s like you’ve failed for all women kind. Whereas guys fail all the time and they get second, and third, and fourth, and fifth chances.
Women fail once and they never get another chance. So that’s a little tricky. And, you know, I do think that — again, Lorene Scafaria had a good point to me the other day about like financiers. It’s like, all of this is all about — it’s all about money. It’s always about money. Which is why I always urge people, like if you want to see more movies like this, you have to go to the movie theaters on that opening weekend and use your money to vote.
Because if you don’t go see them, Hollywood is going to stop making them. They’re just going to follow the money. So, Lorene mentioned like all the financiers are male. You’re looking to try to make a movie and then you also have to get involved in a conversation with a guy who is looking at you as either his wife, he ex-wife, or his daughter.
And that’s tough. Again, like critics also are tough. Because critics can make or break a movie, and I would say the majority of critics are males, probably age 50. Would that be sort of a fairish thing of saying?
John: That sounds about right.
Dana: And those people don’t like our kinds of movies.
Dana: So, you’re going to get bad reviews if you make a movie about a female journey. The same movie with a male protagonist that’s dealing with relationships, like they would never have called 40-Year-Old Virgin a romantic comedy. They just called it a comedy. But it was about a guy and romance and relationships. That literally all that movie was about. But that’s a comedy.
John: Yeah. So any of the Apatow movies are just comedies, but any movies that have more than three women in them are romantic comedies.
John: And so your movie, How to Be Single, got lumped into the, oh, it’s a romantic comedy, even though the romance of it is not a big factor. It’s like an Apatow kind of movie, but with girls.
Dana: Yeah. Exactly. And that’s frustrating because, you know, again, it’s not an ego thing. I don’t’ read reviews because I think it’s really self-flagellating and weird. It’s like don’t go to that place. Because if a tree falls in the forest and you didn’t hear it, it’s like I don’t have that in body. I don’t have that horrible thing that that person just about me in my body, because I didn’t read it.
But, you know, I occasionally dip in because I sort of have to know what are people who are trying to go to the movies this weekend reading, so I dip in a little bit. And, yeah, it’s frustrating because you get marginalized by being called a rom-com. And the truth is nobody goes to theaters to see romantic-comedies because they want to see them on their TVs at their houses.
So, that’s messing with my business, dude. It does actually affect the business, which is a bummer.
John: I hear you. So, you mentioned their names before, so we should talk about Diablo, and Lorene, and Liz, and the four of you, the Fempire. What was the genesis behind that? So, these are four young writers who have sort of set out and were going to kind of work together to make projects?
Dana: It wasn’t really that we were ever working together. It was just there was a New York Times article written by the great Deb Schoeneman, who is now a writer in her right and doing awesome. And it was back in the time when the four of us had just kind of become friends. And we were all doing our own stuff, but somehow we got called the Fempire and it kind of seemed like it was the group.
We would more sort of casually help each other with our stuff, so like I would read Lorene’s script. She would read my script. We would give each other notes. And I would read Liz’s stuff. And she would read mine. So it was a little bit more casual like that. But what I liked about it is I liked that it kind of said, you know, this is a group of women who are all trying to do the same thing, and we’re not being catty to each other. We’re being good to each other. We want to help each other. We want to watch each other succeed. And that’s the thing — like I have absolutely no patience for women who don’t like other women. Like I think there’s a very special, delicious place in hell for women who are mean to other women.
So, I just liked that it was like these chicks are all trying to do the same thing, and we’re all really proud of each other. And it could have been like this story about these four people who kind of never ended up being friends, or staying together, but we all are still really good friends. And we still love each other and we still support each other and come out for each other. So, it’s just like kind of a cool thing to have.
John: But seeing you guys work, you guys would help each other out on things in ways I’ve never seen guys help each other out on things, which I thought was really laudable and great.
Dana: That’s cool. Like what? I love that.
John: There would be times where it’s like, “Oh, I got to help Lorene with this thing that she’s writing.” Or, I just feel like reading other people’s stuff is one thing, I feel like you guys were kind of in the room helping each other out in ways —
Dana: Yeah. And —
John: And ultimately you went through New Girl, which I know actually you got paid to work on New Girl, but like I felt you were a very important part of the early years of New Girl.
Dana: Yeah. And Lorene actually directed a bunch of New Girls. Because, you know, we would just convince Lorene. And she directed a Ben & Kate. Like, we would just convince — Lorene is mostly just a feature director, and she only really directs her own stuff, but we would just kind of convince her like, hey, come be with us on TV for a second because we thought she’s so talented. And we tried to convince her to get over there.
But, yeah, there was some formalizing of it. Like I would watch cuts of New Girl and kind of like help Liz out. But, I mean, I think it was — now that I’ve been in television and I understand that sometimes, for some people writing is a very solitary thing. I imagine for you, you like to get into a hermetically sealed train and get sent to space on your space train and do it there or something.
And, Craig, I don’t know if you’re the same way. But, for me, I think by talking and so I needed other people around me to kind of like figure out what my ideas where. Because I sort of — by pitching stuff out loud over and over again, that’s how I kind of land on it. And so, yeah, like Lorene and I would tag in to help each other just sort of stand there — a lot of times it was literally just an emotional support animal. Like, you know, like Lorene would just stand there and be like, “You can do it. You’re okay. Breathe. Have another coffee. You can do this.”
And a lot of times it was emotional support. And other times it was tagging in with actual, you know, she would come up with a great line for me, or I would come up with a thing for her. And now that I’ve been in television and I see how fun that can be, and how collaborative that can be, that’s what I’m trying to bring into features in a weird way as well, is just a little bit more of like a TV sort of collaborative environment in features.
I think in television, I can name off the top of my head a lot more female boss ladies. So, I think that means it’s better in television. But I think it’s getting hard across the board because the business is contracting so much.
I feel like when I started out, they made 30 movies a year that were the kinds of movies I could have written. And now I see maybe eight of those every year that get released. And you sort of look at it and you say I wonder where I would fit into this new marketplace. I’m so impressed with what Deadpool dead, even though they kicked me in the dick and stole probably $5 to $10 million from me last weekend. God bless you, Deadpool. I’m so happy for you.
I am happy because it’s an original movie that people were excited by because it was original. So that makes me happy. And then I go, ooh, like should I be trying to get into the Deadpool tent pole business? And, you know, I talk to people about it and I start floating that idea, because it’s like I’ve got ideas that are big like that. I’ve got huge super hero ideas all the time. It’s just not my genre, so I haven’t really pursued it. And the response I tend to get is like, “Oh yeah. We’ll look and see if there’s a Cruella de Vil, or like a female super hero thing.”
And I’m like, but, oh, so I get it. You would never in a million years consider me for the male job.
Craig: Out of curiosity, who is giving you that response? Your agents? Or — ?
Dana: I mean, just anybody I talk to about it.
Craig: But who are these dummies? Honestly, like —
Dana: How many women do you know though, Craig, seriously, like I love you. You’re my favorite, because you’re a total feminist. You guys both are. But like how many women do you know that have written on those big movies? The Marvel movies?
Craig: No, no, I’m not questioning that it’s happening. What I’m questioning is who are these people saying this? Like I want to know who they are. I want to know —
Dana: Do you want to key their cars for me? [laughs]
Craig: Well, I just feel like it’s just so profoundly dumb.
Dana: It’s a little backwards looking.
Craig: And you know my whole thing is I decry all of the isms, but those are all underneath the thing I hate the most which is dumb.
Craig: It’s dumb. It’s just dumb. I don’t understand it.
Dana: Yeah, it’s dumb.
Craig: Why would you — what?
Dana: It’s because they don’t want to do the hard thing. And what I’ve learned —
Craig: Well, let me ask you this question.
Dana: Yeah, please.
Craig: Is the dumbness, because I’ve gotten this kind of dumbness before, too. Is the dumbness, they look and they say, “Well, here are the movies that you have done, which of course we’ve been allowing you to do. So we look at what our filter has allowed you to do and we’ve decided that must be the only thing you can do.” Is that — are they giving you any rationale for this, dumb, dumb thing?
Dana: I think it’s exactly that. But, to bring it back to I think the point that you guys were making before about maybe it’s just because we’re writers, I think that either of you guys if you wanted to do something that was so far outside of your genre, you would have to do the same thing that I would have to do, which is you have to write your way into it.
So, you have to either take a really deep pay cut to do something outside of your genre. Like if I wanted to do a period piece on television, like some of the weird British stuff that I like, you know, I would have to just write it, and prove to someone that I could do it, so that I just took the question mark out of the equation.
And I’m assuming you guys would have to do that, too, right? Or would they give you the benefit of the doubt?
Craig: No, no.
Dana: I don’t think they would.
John: I think they give us more benefit of the doubt than they might necessarily give you.
Craig: I don’t feel like I get any of it. I mean, I did — I’m working on something that is definitely — like characterized I think the way you just said, something that’s really outside. And, yeah, I just said, let’s not even bother. Money doesn’t — we’ll just do it. I’ll do it for scale. I don’t care.
Dana: Right. So you have to do that, too.
Craig: Just let me this. Let me do this. There are times I think where —
Dana: And that’s how you had to win that job.
Craig: Yeah. But, I think that where there’s this pernicious thing is that people may say, hmm, well this guy is saying that he’s willing to do all that. Wow, he’s really passionate and he’s really aggressive about it. I admire that. And I wonder if when a woman does it they’re like, “Desperate.”
Dana: Oh, 100%. Because, again, the dating stuff, and the psychology plays into all of it. It’s like no guy ever wants a woman who is coming after him, because they’re biologically programmed to want to chase after the cheetahs because the cheetah is the meat and they’re going to survive if they catch it. So, like if I’m a woman, and I stand there right in front of you and go, “I’m available,” it’s like, ew, gross. I don’t want her. They need to actually see the other cavemen trying to fuck me.
Craig: I’m okay with that actually.
John: It’s such a weird metaphor. I’m trying to visualize it.
Dana: It got a little confusing there.
John: Are you eating the cheetah? I don’t know.
Dana: I think we’re eating — yes.
Craig: Does anyone eat cheetah?
Dana: We’re both fucking and eating cheetah.
John: I mean, I hear cheetah is delicious. So, I mean, I don’t want to — it’s a specialty.
Dana: But it was like a sexual eating of the cheetah.
John: Oh yeah.
Dana: So there was some of that in there, too.
John: [laughs] Sexual —
Dana: It was like a really weird picture.
John: Dana Fox and Sexual Cheetahs.
Dana: This is why they hire me for the writing.
Craig: [sings] Sexual Cheetah. Sexual Cheetah.
John: So, Elizabeth Banks directs Pitch Perfect 2 —
Dana: The greatest.
John: She’s the best.
Dana: Love her.
John: And that movie is a giant hit. And I think her really valid frustration is why are you not offering me this Marvel movie or this other giant tent pole thing when she did a kick ass job directing that movie.
Dana: I’m not speaking for Liz. I love Liz to bits. And I think she’s amazing. And I’m not speaking for her here, but I do think that a lot of the time when women direct stuff, they think it’s like a fluke or something if it’s successful. It’s like look at that accident that lady tripped on and fell into.
John: How great was that, yeah.
Dana: How did she fall into all that money by accident? Like if you think about it, I had never heard that the person who directed Mamma Mia, which made like a bazillion dollars worldwide, I did not know that was a woman. I don’t know her name. I don’t think she’s been allowed to direct anything until she’s about to direct Bridget Jones 2.
I mean, like why? That’s super weird, you know.
John: It is super weird. Because I would say that, my personal opinion, I didn’t think Mamma Mia was especially well directed —
Dana: Didn’t see it. Making lots of comments about it, but never saw it.
John: Made lots of money. But I do agree with you that like any man who made a movie that made a gazillion dollars, their next movie is easy to make.
Dana: Gets another chance. Yeah. They get another chance. The next one is immediately green lit. Or whatever they want to do is immediately green lit. I do think that’s interesting. And I think, you know, with Liz, there’s probably a little bit of a sense of like, “Well, she had that property before, and she was part of that property all the way along, so maybe she… blah, blah, blah.”
And it’s like this is the thing that happens to women is that they’ve got to prove themselves over and over and over and over again.
John: Well, they explain away the success, rather than sort of celebrating saying how do I get a piece of that.
Dana: Yeah. Exactly. And I personally kind of thrive on the energy of needing to prove myself over and over again. I, much like Hamilton, am young, scrappy, and hungry. And I think if I remain young, scrappy, and hungry, like my country, I’ll be okay. So, in a way I sort of get excited —
Craig: It worked out for Hamilton just perfectly. [laughs]
Dana: It worked out for Hamilton you guys. Oh, that makes me sad. It didn’t work out.
Craig: I’ve imagined my death so many times. Just like a memory.
John: I get to see Hamilton next week, and I’m going to be so excited.
Dana: Wait, have you not seen it?
John: I haven’t seen it yet.
Dana: Oh, god, John. I can’t even —
John: No spoilers.
Dana: The spoiler is zero. Zero spoilers.
Craig: He dies at the end. He dies, he dies.
John: I can’t believe it. History is the worst.
Dana: I mean, he does.
Craig: History has its eyes on you.
Dana: The magical thing is I have — I’m so proud of my education. You know, went to Stanford. Went to USC Film School. Like super educated. Sort of a blank spot where all of American history is concerned for me.
John: It’s really not that important.
Dana: Like just didn’t really, I don’t know, either go to that class, or pay attention in that class. So, Hamilton to me, the whole time I was like, “Oh my god, what? America?”
Craig: Slavery? We had slaves?
Dana: Wait, what was Britain doing in this whole thing? I mean, the whole thing to me was like a shocker. The plot of that thing. It’s the first time in forever that my own ignorance has created like an incredibly magical viewing experience.
John: You managed to avoid all spoilers.
Dana: It was amazing.
Craig: You were kind of in suspense to see if we won the Revolutionary War.
Dana: Oh yeah, 100%. I was like, did he play golf?
Craig: That’s spectacular. John, you’re going to love it. It’s the greatest.
Dana: John is literally going to have to take like a Hamilton vacation for a week and a half afterwards to like reevaluate who he is as a person. I felt like a different human being. I felt like I was born during that show, and I came out of it and I didn’t know who the new me was.
John: I’m really glad you’re not trying to set expectations too high for it.
Craig: Yeah, that’s a little absurd. That’s just crazy. That’s your DSM acting up.
Dana: I don’t, man, I had a really emotional reaction to it. I really DSM’d it. I DSM’d it hard.
Craig: Yeah, you DSM’d it. I mean, it’s an amazing show. The one thing that I actually had to do was take a break because I couldn’t sleep. Like I would keep cycling Hamilton songs in my head. It was bad.
Dana: I know. I have been doing a thing where I just had a baby three months ago, and I’m trying to lose the last of my baby weight. And I’m tricking myself into running by only allowing myself to start at the beginning of the Hamilton soundtrack, so I only get as deep into the Hamilton soundtrack as I can run, as far as. So I keep getting to like My Shot or like the Skylar Sisters. And it’s like, that’s like a 20-minute chunk. And I’m like, I can’t go further.
Craig: You should start a little bit later, because I would imagine Wait For It would be a great running song.
Dana: Oh, god, it would be so good. But I got to earn it, dude. I got to run that far so I can hear that song.
Craig: I get it. I get it.
John: Bringing up your baby is actually a perfect last bit on this topic of, oh, why are women not more successful in Hollywood. Oh, they have to stop and have babies. You have three kids under three.
Dana: I have so many babies. They’re all babies. I just have babies. Three of them.
John: You have nothing with babies. And you were pregnant with your first child while you were creating Ben & Kate.
Dana: That’s absolutely right. I mean, I actually had sort of a dark — this is dark. I don’t know if your audience can handle this.
John: We love dark. We love dark.
Dana: But I actually had like a ton of trouble getting pregnant. I had to do seven IVF cycles and I had two miscarriages. And the first miscarriage I had, or the one that was really tough for me, which was like about 11 weeks or so, I found out that it was not going to work out. I found out the baby was dead the morning of my Ben & Kate pitch.
So, I had to go into the network and be like the funniest person in the entire world with like a dead baby inside me. And as much as that’s like just sort of a horrible story —
Craig: [laughs] Yeah, it’s the best story ever.
Dana: Everybody said, “We have to cancel the pitch. We have to cancel the pitch.” And I was sort of like, why do you think I have a sense of humor? Because comedy to me has been what has saved my life throughout my whole life. I mean, comedy for I think so many people who are in comedy is a defense mechanism. It’s a way to survive. It’s a way to kind of like make the world okay if you feel like the world isn’t going to be okay.
I had a pretty great childhood. I love my parents. It’s all cool. But, you know, it’s hard. And so I made people laugh as the way to kind of make everything okay. And so everyone kept saying, “We got to cancel this pitch. This is so creepy. This is so dark.”
And I said, no, I need this pitch. Like I’ll kill myself if I don’t go to this pitch.
Craig: Good for you.
Dana: So I went and I just like crushed it.
Craig: Love that. I love that.
Dana: And I was really glad I did it.
Craig: Yeah, you know what? Cry later.
Dana: Cry later, man.
Craig: Go do your job. Cry at home. I think that’s amazing.
Dana: But that sort of set the tone for my —
John: Definitely. You’re going to have three beautiful kids and a kick ass career simultaneously, and you’re going to make it work.
Dana: And for me personally, I never stopped while I was pregnant or having babies. I went back to work three weeks after the first baby. I went back to work two weeks after the second baby. And I think I was like working while cranking the third baby out of my body.
Craig: Unbelievable. I mean, not to — listen, I don’t judge any woman and how she behaves after a pregnancy, and particularly I don’t judge my own wife because, you know, I don’t think like —
Dana: Your wife is the most awesome creature.
Craig: She’s the best.
Dana: That’s the thing.
Craig: She was like, after those babies were born, she was like, “Okay. I’m going to sit here as still as I can sit and you’re going to help me.”
Dana: I think her stillness was my work.
Craig: Got it.
Dana: Like I think people are just different, people are just built differently. And the way I was built was, you know, for me, working is my passion. I love it so much. It keeps me going and also the more I keep moving, the less I have to deal with things that are scary, or sad, or I don’t want to deal with.
So, and the first one, I was having weird post-partum depression, but I don’t think I realized it was that at the time, because I’m such a chipper motherfucker most of the time. So, I was like, wow, this is kind of weird. I can’t seem to stop crying. Wow. Boy am I crying a lot. Is anyone noticing how much I’m sobbing? This is pretty weird.
So, I was like sort of positive about my depression. And then I went back to work and I was around people and I was doing what I loved and it made me feel like everything was going to be okay. So, you know, I think all women should do exactly what their body and their brains are telling them to do to make them feel like their happiest, best selves.
Craig: You only have three kids is the way I say.
Dana: Craig, stop tweeting babies into my body. Stop getting me pregnant, Craig.
Craig: I’m going to tweet another baby at you.
Dana: Don’t tweet that baby at me. I can’t have four babies.
Craig: Done. It’s done.
John: One more plug for How to Be Single. It has the best baby I’ve ever seen in a movie probably.
Dana: Oh my god, that baby was incredible.
John: It’s a scene with Leslie Mann and this baby, who is just the most angelic perfect baby. And their conversation, which is a good like — it felt like two minutes of conversation, a one-sided conversation with a beautiful baby, is just delightful.
Dana: I cry every time during that scene. I cannot pull it together. I almost have a fourth baby every time I watch that scene. It’s so bad. I’m like, where is Craig when I need him while I’m watching the scene. It’s such a beautiful scene.
Craig: I’m here.
Dana: And I hope everybody goes to see How to Be Single because I’m really proud of this one. And I really love it. I think it’s different. I think it’s interesting. I think we sort of casually do some kind of interesting stuff that I don’t know if we’re getting credit for. But like there’s an interracial relationship that we like 100% don’t comment on. It’s like not a big deal. It’s just like people get together sometimes and they aren’t the same race.
John: There’s an ex-boyfriend who is actually very sympathetic. And you can completely understand the movie from his point of view and sort of why he is doing what he’s doing. And in any other movie he would be a villain.
Dana: He would be vilified. Yeah. He would be vilified. And we have an incredible amount of respect for the men in our movie. We don’t sort of make them into the typical arm candy characters that women are sort of relegated to in movies where the main story is about a guy. We really tried to give those people respect. And like most of the dudes in the movie, I mean, they’re flawed just like the girls are, but they’re good guys. Because I didn’t want to —
John: I feel like Jake Lacy is a really good guy.
Dana: Jake Lacy is like the greatest guy of all time. He’s my favorite. My favorite line that Katie Silberman came up with on the day was, “My Halloween costume when I was in sixth grade was the stay-at-home dad.” Like how much do you love that guy? He’s like of course I want to be the daddy of your baby. What are you talking about?
But, yes, please see the movie, because I’m really proud of it, and I love it.
John: Hooray. It’s time for our One Cool Things. So, every week on the show we talk about One Cool Thing. So, Dana, you can go third so you can figure out exactly what your One Cool Thing should be.
Dana: Okay. I’m going to think about it. I think, for me, my One Cool Thing —
Craig: She doesn’t understand what third means.
John: She doesn’t understand the idea of you go third if you want to.
Dana: I can go third. I can go after you guys? Wait, but I’ve got to really think about it, you guys. I don’t have a cool thing.
Craig: That’s why he said you could go third. And then you were like, “Okay, so my One Cool Thing — “
Dana: Okay, I’m going to say my One Cool Thing and I’m going to alienate every single one of your listeners. It’s going to be amazing.
Craig: Do it.
Dana: Okay, you do your stuff first.
John: Okay. So I’ll go first. My One Cool Thing is this great article I read about cow tipping. So, going back to our tipping discussion, here’s a great article about cow tipping. I’m going to poll both of you. Is cow tipping a real thing or a made up thing?
Craig: That is a made up thing.
John: Dana, what do you think?
Dana: I am going to go, because I’ve seen the movie Heathers, it has to be a real thing. And I think it’s offensive and creepy.
John: Okay. Cow tipping is not a real thing.
Dana: Oh, thank god.
John: So, this article by Jake Swearingen for Modern Farmer gets into the realities of cow tipping, which never was a thing and is actually almost impossible to do. So, for many reasons, like cows don’t actually sleep standing up necessarily. It would take so much force to push over a cow. You couldn’t do it. Cows would run away before you could get anywhere close to them.
So, it’s the movie Heathers, which I love the movie Heathers, that sort of kind of first put it in popular culture as a thing, like, oh, that’s a thing —
Dana: Did they make that up? But it sort of popularized it?
John: They popularized it.
Dana: Oh, that’s interesting.
John: It was already sort of a meme that was out there, but they sort of like grounded that meme. And so you see it in all of these movies and it’s like a thing that never actually happened.
Dana: That gives me great relief. I really worried for those cows.
John: You don’t need to worry for those cows.
Dana: I’m like upset about the cow tipping. Do you think the guy that wrote that article plays huge on that all-farmer dating website? Have you seen the commercials for that?
John: He’s the star of the all-farmer dating website. I think he’s going to be great. My question is, if you tip a cow, do you have to tip them afterwards? Do you have to give them like 20% if there’s —
Dana: If there was a button I would do it, but not if I had to do with cash. Zero percent on cash.
John: If there was an app for it, that made it really simple?
Craig: Wait, I’m sorry, there is a dating app just for farmers?
Dana: You’ve never seen this commercial? There’s a commercial on weird television programs. I don’t know. I watch a lot of like weird stuff. Just sometimes I’ll end up on like a weird — I’m in like a weird Steve Harvey place right now. I’m just really into Steve Harvey. And then you’ll get there, and you’ll be like what’s the demographic. Who is watching these shows?
And then you see the commercials and you’re like people who want to date farmers, apparently. There’s an all-farmer dating website. You should look it up, Craig. You could play huge on that, too, because you’ve got that beard going that’s pretty sexy.
Craig: I’ve got the beard. I know, I feel like a pair of overalls, I could kill it.
Dana: Oh my god, you would crush it. Also in the gay community. Careful.
Craig: What? Why? At this point, who cares? Do you know what I mean? It’s enough already. You know what, man, it’s like gay/straight — those are words from like my grandpa’s time.
Dana: Oh my god, I love that know that we’ve circled all the way back Whole Foods guy, and Whole Foods guy is not going to be labeled gay or straight.
Craig: Why should I be? Why should I be?
Dana: I love that guy.
Craig: Like Hector is like, okay, you either work in produce or not. And I’m like, wrong Hector. Wrong. I don’t care what it says on my sheet.
Dana: I work in the chocolate bar. You know, don’t you feel like that’s going to be the next thing? It’s just going to be like what percent cocoa there is.
Craig: I mean, the word cocoa gives me dick shivers.
Dana: It upsets me so much.
John: Dana, I see the look in your face. I think you have a great One Cool Thing figured out.
Dana: Okay, so my One Cool Thing is the Spectra S1 breast pump. It is a new breast pump that has literally changed the face of my earth. And nobody is talking about it, and so I’m going to alienate every single person in your entire audience, except for the one pregnant/potentially nursing lady in your audience.
Craig: Oh, no, I think we’ve got quite a few I would imagine.
John: So tell us what makes this breast pump better than other breast pumps?
Dana: It’s special. It comes out of Australia.
John: We like everything that comes out of Australia.
Craig: I’m not impressed by the way.
Dana: I like all Australians.
John: Do you watch The Katering Show? The Katering Show is great.
Dana: Oh, no.
John: We’ll send you the link.
Dana: Wait, what? Oh, John, you know that’s right up my alley. That’s going to work.
John: You’re going to be so excited. It’s Australian. But tell us about this breast pump.
Dana: I have like a really deep hole where The Great British Bake Off is. Like I need new Great British Bake Off. Oh wait, can I change my One Cool Thing, or do you want me to do the breast pump?
John: Stick with the breast pump. Everyone knows about The Great British Bake Off.
Dana: It’s an Australian breast pump. And they created, you know the Dyson guy who talks about vacuums in this really creepy way? I feel like maybe that guy created this because they’re basically like, “The sucking mechanism of the breast pump,” is much more like an actual baby. And so you get — the long and short of it is you get like twice as much in half the time, and it has literally changed everything. And it doesn’t hurt. And it’s kind of incredible.
John: That’s great.
Dana: So, I’m just going to urge all women to throw their creepy Medela things out the window, because they hurt and it’s a bummer. And go to this weird Australian one.
Craig: My wife had that. She had the Medela one. And, honestly, the thought of more coming out, you know, my job was to save it all and put it in those bags and stick it in the freezer.
Dana: Yeah. Every good man.
Craig: My wife, it’s not like — you know, you know her, she’s not like super chesty or anything, but oh my god. I mean —
Dana: Really? That’s awesome.
Craig: It was crazy. I was like we need to open a store or do something. Because it was like our freezer was just overflowing. Yeah, it was crazy.
Dana: Black market Mazin milk.
John: So when Stuart does the show notes, will he be able to find this breast pump online?
Dana: Spectra S1. You got to get the S1, because that one has a battery involved inside it. So you just plug it in. The battery is all charged up. You can cruise around town with it. All good. On my way over here in the Uber — I really should have tipped that guy — because I was pumping in the car on the way here.
John: [laughs] Absolutely. So you got your lotion. You got the breast pump thing.
Dana: I can jerk off, and pump, and sanitize myself afterwards. It’s perfect.
John: It’s good stuff. Craig Mazin, try to top that.
Craig: Can you use the breast pump to jerk off with? I mean, describe the sucking action on this thing?
Dana: There’s probably like an online hack that would allow you to do that.
Craig: Someone has hacked it.
Dana: You should look on YouTube. I imagine it exists.
John: Or a board that you sort of solder and you put together.
Craig: Well, you know, that’s what we do. When it comes to jerking off —
Dana: John August will have like a brain trust on this and it will be solved by next week for sure.
Craig: I have no doubt. Well, my One Cool Thing is nothing at all to do with nipples. Weird. It’s called Sky Guide. And there are a lot of apps for your phone where you can hold it up to the sky and it tells you what you’re looking at. You know, oh, that’s Venus, or that’s a constellation.
What I love about this one is they track the schedules of passing satellites, of the space stations that go by. And the deal is at times when things are going by, they will reflect the sun from the other side. So like at night, like for six seconds, literally six seconds, they’re reflecting sunlight from the other side just because of the angle that they’re at. And then it’s gone.
And so you’ll get like a little ping. Go outside. It’s a minute away. And you stand out there and it tells you like look over here. And you look there and it counts down and then you see it. Dana: Like a little flair?
Craig: You see like a shooting star because you’re catching a piece of satellite or something. And I don’t know, it just reminds me of the big, big beyond.
Dana: That’s really romantic. I like that technology can be romantic and can bring you back to something that’s so sort of primal and outdoorsy, even though it’s very computer-y.
Craig: And then I also have that breast pump on my dick while I’m doing it.
Dana: [laughs] Oh my god. Can you edit out the fact that I just spit water all over when you said that?
Craig: No. Are you kidding me?
John: All spit takes have to stay.
Dana: All spit takes.
John: You have a recurring spit take in your movie.
Dana: I do. I have a spit take call back, no less.
John: Well done.
Craig: The best.
John: We have a tiny bit of news here at the end of our show. So, listeners will know that we were supposed to have Lawrence Kasdan on our show, on our live show, and he couldn’t do it for that night. And we were very lucky to have the Game of Thrones guys fill in for him.
But, we’re going to do our Lawrence Kasdan interview live with an audience on Saturday April 16 at the Writers Guild Theater. It’s a joint program with the Writers Guild Foundation and Academy’s Nicholls Fellowship.
So, this is not a normal Scriptnotes live. This is actually their event, but we’re going to crash it and do the interview with Lawrence Kasdan there with an audience. So, if you’d like to come to see us talk to him live, there will be a link in the show notes. So, you can join us for that.
And that’s our program. So, most of the things we talked about, including the breast pumps, and the international space station tracking app, will be compiled by Stuart Friedel and put in our show notes. You can find them at johnaugust.com.
You can find me on Twitter. I’m @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. Dana, you are?
John: Very nice. Oh, because you’re a fox.
Dana: Uh-uh. Fox in the hen house. Everything with the word Fox was taken by like some porny weird stuff. So, I had to get creative with it.
John: That’s nice. We like it.
If you have comments for us, you can join us on Twitter, but you can also leave comments on our Facebook page, which we actually checked this week, so that was kind of cool.
Craig: Wait, we have one of those? [laughs]
John: We have one of those.
Craig: Oh. Wow.
John: And so the things we talked about today, those were from the Facebook page, Craig.
Craig: Uh…yes. Of course.
John: Of course.
Craig: I knew that.
John: You can write in with questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. That is a good place for the longer things we sometimes address on the show.
If you would like to subscribe to Scriptnotes podcast, join us on iTunes. Just click subscribe. And while you’re there, please leave us a comment. That helps other people find the show.
We also have the Scriptnotes app there. That lets you get access to all the back episodes of the show.
We also have a few of the 200 episode USB drives that have all the back catalog of Scriptnotes which you can get. So, if you’d like one of those, just go to the store. It’s at johnaugust.com. There’s a link in the show notes.
Our outro this week is by the same guy who did our outro last week. His name is Adam Lastname. I don’t know what his last name actually is. It just shows up as Lastname.
If you have an outro for us, you can write it to the same address, email@example.com.
Our show is edited by Matthew Chilelli. It is produced by Stuart Friedel. And thank you for listening. We’ll see you next week.
Craig: Thanks Dana.
John: Thank you, Dana. Bye.
Dana: I love you guys.
Craig: Love you, too.
- Dana Fox on Wikipedia, IMDb and Twitter
- DSM-III-R and DSM-5 on Wikipedia
- The New York Times on The Fempire
- How to Be Single is in theaters now
- Modern Farmer on Cow Tipping: Fake or Really Fake?
- farmersonly.com, and their YouTube page
- Spectra S1 breast pump, and on Amazon
- The Katering Show is fantastic
- The Great British Bake Off
- Sky Guide
- Get tickets now to see John and Craig interview Lawrence Kasdan as part of WGFestival 2016
- USB drives with the first 200 Scriptnotes are available now at the John August Store
- Outro by Adam Lastname (send us yours!)