The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. May name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 242 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting, and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Today on the podcast, we’ll be talking about the transition from feature screenwriter, to TV showrunner, why some movies become timeless, and possibly what is the nature of the contract between a writer and its audience, especially when it comes to gay characters. And to talk about all these things, we are so lucky to have back on the show, our one and own, Aline Brosh McKenna.
Aline Brosh McKenna: Woo-hoo. Episode 242, what’s up?
John: So for people who are just new to the podcast, you may not know that Aline Brosh Mckenna is not only the writer of Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses, she’s also the co-creator and executive producer of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the show that we have championed from the very start, the show that has just now been picked up for a second season. Congratulations, Aline.
Craig: Yeah, congrats. Big news.
John: What is your life like right now?
Aline: Well, I have a few weeks off technically. I have about a couple of months before the writers’ room officially opens, but Rachel and I are going to be doing some work in between, and I’m taking a vacation. And so I am kind of down. I read a book.
John: You read a book? What did you read?
Aline: I read When Breath Becomes Air. It was quite good. But the reason that I thought — the first thing that I emailed you which was what’s a good idea for a movie right now is because I sort of had a vague idea in my brain of like if I was a super human, and I wanted to take these two months and write a script, let’s say I wanted to just write a spec the way I used to kind of in the old days and sit down and just write a screenplay. And I realized, I have no idea what sells as a script right now. Like every single person I know seems to be working on something based on existing material, which we’ve talked about on the show before, but there must be specs that are selling, and maybe I’m like looped out of it.
I’ve had two movies that were made based on original ideas, I wouldn’t write either one of them right now. I don’t think I would write 27 Dresses right now, and I certainly wouldn’t write Morning Glory right now given what I understand of the landscape. So like what is the thing, you know, when we were all coming up there were so many spec selling, and it seems like you would run into someone and be like, oh my god, that idea about, you know, the family that gets irradiated and then you, know, they all have cool mutations or something. That there were ideas that you would hear, kind of classic spec ideas. Has that gone away?
John: Well, how about this? Craig and I will talk to you about what it’s like to a feature screenwriter right now and you can tell us what it’s like to be a big TV writer, and it’s going to be a fair trade.
Aline: That also covers our segues.
John: Right, that’ll be a fair trade.
John: So right now you are done with the show. You’re probably still doing some post stuff, and you directed the final episode.
Aline: I did. I directed the finale.
John: Congratulations, Aline.
Aline: Yes, thank you. It was really fun.
John: I am so excited to see it. When does the show come back? We’re recording this on St. Patrick’s Day, so when do we see the next batch of shows?
Aline: We have 15, 16, 17, 18 left to air, so we have four more to air, then we’ll be off the air for the summer. I think we’re coming back in the fall, but I don’t know the answer to that as I actually don’t know when we’re coming back. I know we will start the writers’ room again in the spring.
John: That’s very nice.
John: So talk to us about what it was like to transition from being a person who writes, maybe 200, 300 pages of screenplay per year.
Aline: Yeah, I wrote it down. I’ve written eight movies. I have credit on eight movies.
John: Nicely done.
Aline: Written or co-written.
John: That’s not bragging, that’s a fact.
Craig: It’s not bragging when she says it so matter of factly.
Aline: It’s about 800 minutes
John: 800 minutes of screenplay?
Aline: Okay. And it’s about — that’s about, I’m going to say they roughly, all of those shot like in 30 to 40 days, let’s say, so that’s about 300 days of production. That’s in my whole career.
John: So a long, illustrious career.
Aline: Long, many years. In the last — since May, I wrote or re-wrote, you know, we have a room, so it’s collaborative, so it’s not like I was solely writing them, but I either wrote or supervised the rewriting of about 900 pages, about 750 minutes of material, so that’s six movies. We shot for about 135 days. You know, the budget was roughly like a mid-budgeted movie let’s say.
John: Is the budget for a season of your show, is it like more than a Morning Glory?
Aline: Yes, yes. So it’s basically, we made a high-mid budget movie that took 135 days to shoot, but was 750 minutes long, and had a 900 page script. So it’s the volume of material that came in and out and off my computer, was just, you know, compared to the 800 pages that have been produced since — the first movie I wrote was I think came out in ’99.
Now, obviously with movies you write many, many drafts, so it’s not — but you know, in an average year as a screenwriter, I mean if you put out 200 or 300 pages in a year, that’s a lot. That’s pretty good. You know, if you put out 200, 250, that’s two scripts, that’s a good amount.
The amount that we were writing and the amount that we were publishing and the fact that they were getting produced and that they were just kind of getting shipped out the door and being shot, and that they were being shot while I was sitting there writing other pages with the room, it felt in a lot of ways like the culminating experience of all these years of being a screenwriter. Like I felt like I had developed these kind of skills and abilities and I found a way to kind of activate them, because you know, as you guys have talked about when you’re a writer plus — when you write, but you also sort of by virtue of some of the experiences I’ve had as a screenwriter, I function a bit as a producer, and I’ve helped with the various phases, and I’ve been on set. And so — but I hadn’t had the direct experience of being responsible for all those things. But screenwriting, 20 some years of screenwriting felt like some sort of prep class for this very intense thing where you’re, you know, making a movie every three weeks.
John: Yeah. We had Dana Fox on the show recently and she was talking about that function where you suddenly are responsible for like, you know what, I know the answers to these questions, and I’m going to tell you the answers to these questions, and not have to make it seem like it was someone else’s idea. In this case, you could just say like, no, this is what it is, and obviously, you’re discussing with your directors and you’re discussing with Rachel, but like you’re deciding what the thing is that you’re making.
Aline: Yeah. I think screenwriters, you become a master of indirect communication. And I think depending on your personality, for someone like me, that’s been something I had to learn. I tend to want to be very direct and have strong opinions, so as a screenwriter, you often kind of learn to couch those, or as Dana says, you know, you try and sort of repackage them to someone else’s, their idea.
But in TV, you don’t have to do that. So that’s a great thing. And I think we’ve talked about that before, but I think what’s interesting is just the amount and the volume of things that were being shipped out the door. The closest to it would be a production rewrite, but the volume of pages is just different because, you know, in a movie, you’re trying to hone this 120-page thing. In a TV show, you got to get to those, you got to get 50 pages out the door every week.
Craig: Yeah, it seems to me like you’ve got two things balancing the equation. On the one hand, when you compare it to writing features, you get a little bit of a break because you are writing the same characters, so you don’t have to reinvent new characters, new situations like you do with all the movies you write, and obviously in movies, you know, we write more than we’re credited for. But on the other side of the equation, you have this other challenge of the relentless pace, so it’s not going to stop any time soon, and because you’re writing the same characters within the situation of the show, you start, I would imagine, there’s this pressure to ask yourself, okay, what else do we do with this character? I guess it’s called, Simpsons Did It Syndrome, right?
Aline: Well that, you know, it’s funny. That was less of an issue. I mean, one of the things that I really loved and it’s another area of my personality that I felt was squelched as a screenwriter, I’m naturally pretty social and gregarious, so being locked in a room alone was always a challenge for me. So being with, you know, on any given day, depending on what was happening in the room, we would have, you know, between 6 and 10 writers in there with me, and obviously, I’m getting drafts from them, so we’re starting with something. Rachel and I wrote I think four, and I wrote one, and then we’re getting drafts also in from people, and then you’re rewriting in a room with, you know, between 6 and 12 funny people shouting out ideas and jokes and reminding you, hey, we already did something like that, or they did something like that on another show, or you’re kind of hive braining the writing all the time, and it’s really enjoyable.
John: So describe that room for us. So in a room where you’re doing that kind of work, is the script up on a projector? What are you actually looking at? Or is everyone just looking at the script in front of them?
Aline: Well, I think all rooms are different. I put my screen up on an Apple TV, so anybody who texts and emails me while I’m writing, I do have to frequently check my texts and emails because of production stuff. So yeah, they’ve seen some stuff that people have texted and emailed me. That’s been funny. And then we take whatever draft we have, and I just — I’m typing on it, and rewriting and moving things around, with the help of the room.
In the beginning, you know, because I was — like you guys, an old person, and had been used to writing alone, I had to learn how to explain to people what I wanted to do. So I would just open up the script and start doing things and moving things around and people had no idea what I was doing. So I learned that I had to give everyone a plan for the day and sort of a plan for what we were doing with the script overall.
We start with like a discussion of the draft we have in front of us, and then we just start going though it, and the more we did it, the faster we got, and we built sort of a multi-headed organism. You know, by its nature, the room is made up of all these different types of brains. And so we have like a very collaborative process where, you know, I think it took a while for people to see like I was an equal opportunity deleter and includer, you know, which is I think what writers are wanting to see in the beginning when they’re first working with somebody is like can she really take in the good ideas. Is she really absorbing the good ideas? And is she really, you know, passing over the ideas that aren’t helpful? And I learned also not to say no to ideas. It’s a sort of not necessary, you just kind of keep going.
John: So you have the script up on screen and everyone’s looking at the script.
John: If there are alts for lines, are you putting those in as just like notes for the alts?
Aline: No, I make decisions. I make a decision.
John: Executive right there in the room.
Aline: Yeah, we pick the best line. Yeah. And so I make the screen, I make the letters huge because it’s hard for people to read which is, this is a geek thing, you guys might relate to this. It’s hard for me because then my screen has very few lines on it.
Aline: And I always want to make it smaller because I like to write as small as I can possibly see so that I can get a sense of the rhythm, but I have to blow it up very big for people so they can read it. So everybody can read along. And some people have to look — want to look at a piece of paper, some people want to look at the screen, some people kind of just like, are processing things more auditorily. We have all different types of writers.
John: So at the point where you’re just going through this, has there been a table read. There’s not been any sort of reading aloud of the script. So you’re just using your own voice to sort of read aloud and read through these words. And the writer who did that draft is also in the room in the process?
Aline: Yes. The writer of the draft, I always make the sort of touch point, always for the episode. So no matter how much of their original stuff is in the script, they are always the center point for the discussion because they’re the people who’ve been thinking about it, so they’ve gone off for a week or five days to write the script. And if you don’t use them as a resource, you’re going to end up bumping up against story things that they’ve already thought through. So they can explain to you why they tried that, that didn’t work, or they can show you.
And so I always have that writer be in custody of their script, and they go to the production concept meetings with me, so they kind of are the — they Sherpa their script through its process, and that’s been really great because there’s always somebody in the room who has emotional ownership of that episode. And then they go on set, and they’ve been privy to every decision that’s been made on their episode. They understand exactly why it needs to be the way it is. And that’s why in TV, you have to have a writer-producer on the set because they are the people living with the 900-page movie, and they are the ones who know it from beginning to end.
John: They’re the one who can explain to the director why it is that way.
John: So let’s walk back and let’s say you are a feature writer, probably not with all the credits you have, but you’re a feature writer working on his or her first television show, maybe not the one you created, but you brought in as a staff writer. What are the things that you think you need to learn quickly in order to thrive in that situation?
Aline: Well, it’s a real test of your EQ. You know, some people just are naturally, they naturally understand how much they need to talk. And so some people talk too much, some people talk too little. Most of the people that we had had some experience, so they had been in rooms before. And then you kind of calibrate, I think there’s a natural kind of social calibration. We really lucked out with our room in that everybody is like a lovely person. So we don’t have any clanging bells in our room. Everybody works really harmoniously together and bring something different. There’s no question in my mind that if I was starting out today, I would probably be working in TV.
I had worked in TV when I was younger as well, but if you’re a naturally social person, you’re spending a huge amount of time with people and there’s a lot of like, someone’s using the bathroom, and someone’s making matcha tea, and somebody finished the Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups and, you know, it’s like roommates. So they’re very intense, close relationships.
John: Great. So now, we have a perspective on the TV showrunner side of you. Maybe Craig and I can talk about sort of what feature land is like. So if you’re thinking about maybe during this little break, maybe writing a feature because like —
Aline: Yeah, well, because for the first time in my career — the ones that I was working on, I knew I wasn’t going to be available for six months, so I was working on two movies, and in both cases, I had gotten far enough in the process where I sort of said, okay, you guys, basically should continue without me. And it’s a first time since I think 1991 that I haven’t had a feature script due.
John: So Craig, what do you think Aline should be looking at if she’s — should she really go off and write a spec, or should she go in and —
Aline: But I’m just saying — because if I wanted to — I’m not saying like — I’m not saying what are the gigs out there, I know what the gigs are, I know what the existing gigs are, but I’m just saying like, if it was me or you, or Craig, or a baby writer, and you just were starting out, I don’t really even — I don’t have a sense of what the original spec script market looks like. What does it look like?
Craig: It’s bad. It’s certainly not like it was when we all started in the 90’s. I mean, it’s been a little cyclical. Sometimes, it goes up. Sometimes, it goes down.
What I think has basically disappeared is the lottery ticket spec sale market where people throw a spec out there and there’s a bidding war and it’s purchased for many millions of dollars. That doesn’t seem to exist anymore. There’s, you know, we know now there’s so many more outlets for content, therefore, there’s this enormous demand for content.
There are places I think now probably where if you wrote a spec, you probably wouldn’t be thinking primarily about the studios. You’d be thinking more about the secondary content providers, or now there’s tertiary content providers. And you wouldn’t be thinking in terms of a lottery. At least that would be my advice.
Aline: Let’s say if you wrote — let’s just take, I know Identity Thief wasn’t a spec. But let’s say you had Identity Thief as a spec.
Craig: it started as a spec, actually.
Aline: It started as a spec but not — it was not your spec?
Craig: No. No.
Aline: If you wrote that today — if somebody wrote that today which is like a high concept comedy spec, are those still selling?
Craig: If you —
Aline: Are people still buying those?
Craig: If you write it and you take it to the town with Melissa McCarthy attached to it, yeah. Absolutely.
Aline: What if you have no one attached to it?
Craig: Possibly? Possibly. And I think comedies, you know, if there’s a good, grabby comedy idea and you’re not looking to sell it for a lot of money. For instance, that spec script was written by a middle-school teacher. It was one of those shots-in-the-dark kind of things. It was an idea.
John: So, what I hear Aline is saying though is, when we were first starting out in the business, a script like Identity Thief might sell for seven figures as a big, hot spec sale. And like —
Aline: And then they figured out the movie. Yeah.
John: Yeah. Then they’d figure out the talent and they —
Aline: Do things have to like be movies now?
Aline: Like if I was going to write something in my downtime, would I call my agent and say, “Hey, does this actor — is this actor interested in sitting down with me and we’ll kind of craft something together and talk it out?”
John: That fells like the Dana Fox model of how she’s getting movies.
Aline: Oh, huh-huh? Yep.
Craig: I think it’s a smart model, actually. I do — I think that the —
Aline: Because I’ve never done that.
Craig: The way the marketplace is now, they have no tolerance for development per se anymore. When they spend a certain amount of money on something, what they’re really saying is, “All right. We’re going to make the movie.”
If we’re going to spend what we used to think of as just money they would spend randomly on things, now, if they spend that money, they’re kind of saying, “We want to make the movie so is it a movie?”
Aline: It better be a movie.
Craig: Yeah. And if you can help us, if you can convince us that it’s a movie by adding key talent that is attractive to us. A filmmaker, like a director is really helpful too.
But if you know — but there’s nothing wrong also if you were to say, “Okay. I’ve got these two months. And I have this idea that I love and I want to write. And I’m not aiming for the big lottery. I just want to open some eyes and maybe somebody picks it up for Netflix or somebody picks it up for somewhere else.” Then you don’t have to work so hard to package.
Aline: Right. I mean what’s been gone for many years is the thing where like you bump into someone in Insomnia and they would say, “Oh so and so sold his spec and it’s about you know, two guys who go on the road with a…”
Aline: Bear. And it’s you know, and you’d be like, “Oh! Why didn’t I think of that? The bear, obviously.” You know, it’s like —
John: I’m thinking about the Jerry O’Connell movie with the —
John: The Kangaroo —
Aline: The Kangaroo.
Aline: That’s a great film.
Craig: Yeah. Kangaroo Jack. Yeah.
Aline: That’s why I went to the bear. And I remember that. Now, I know that’s been gone for a while, but I also feel like if you wrote — so if you write Argo, Argo is probably like if you wrote that on spec, that’s probably going to be like a small movie with like some kind of crafty actor.
John: Here’s what it is. I think if you write Argo, you know, that gets passed around a lot and becomes like a Black List script. And then eventually, some actor production company comes in and tries to — I think a producer notices it and like works really hard to package it up to make it be that one award kind of contender movie of the year.
John: And I think honestly weirdly that same thing happens with Identity Thief now. If that’s a spec script that this middle-school teacher writes, it does well, it gets passed around on those lists. It doesn’t get the big sale but some producer feels like, “Oh, I think I know how to do this.”
Aline: I’ll option this and I’ll get — and then maybe I’ll go to Melissa. So it’s sort of the beginning of a seed of a something.
Craig: It’s a — yeah.
Craig: It’s a low investment strategy. I mean the — what you’re talking about is what we used to have was a high investment strategy where they would just have a screenplay and that was worth millions of dollars. Because they had a much greater need to make movies.
And also I think they had a much more reliable income stream so that machine needed to be fed much more than the current machine needs to be fed. And the current machine tends towards financial safety and far fewer films. So, it only stands to reason that they’re not going to be taking those big bets on a document, which is what they see a screenplay as.
Aline: Right. And that’s the thing. You know, my husband always — I used to say you didn’t sign up to be in the document production business and that’s very true. I mean, one of the tough things about being a screenwriter is you know, those eight movies that I worked on and I worked on a bunch that I’m not credited on, but they’re spread out over a number of years. And you do spend a lot of time as a screenwriter just producing documents that are always and forever documents.
And you know, the great thing about having a series is that the things you are writing are being shot for better or for worse. And so it’s great training ground, I think, for being a writer but it’s also for screenwriters who have a lot of experience, it just has been a great way for me to like get things produced and get things out there. The movie business has gotten just much slower.
John: So my question for you is, aren’t people coming to you saying like, “Why don’t you do another TV show?”
John: Because having done one that turned out so well, that’s got to be a temptation because you know now how to do it. You know you can do it. Maybe you can’t do two things simultaneously. That may be the issue. But to talk to us about that decision.
Aline: That’s another thing I would love to hear people’s point-of-view on. If I did another pilot and it was something that, “You can’t do two shows at the same time.” Not the way —
John: Well —
Aline: Not the way we’re doing it.
John: Yeah. But some people somehow do, but yes.
Aline: I don’t — I can’t understand that. I mean I have —
John: Yeah, like Rob Thomas does that and —
Aline: Oh, a lot of people do that. And there’s Julie Plec has multiple, and obviously Shonda —
Aline: Lots of people do it. But I think you’d have to go and, you know, find somebody and say, “Okay, John, you and I are going to go do a show together and we’ll write the pilot together and then you’ll go off and do it while I’m doing this other show.” I mean, I guess that’s the paradigm.
I would have to spend some time wrapping my mind around that because I’m so — I’ve so loved being on top of all the creative on the TV show with Rachel that I don’t know how — because there were times in that nine month period where like, I really didn’t know when I was going to shower. I don’t know how people are doing it. I look at people, someone like the Berlantis and I — I know they have to be delegating stuff.
Craig: They have to be. They have to be. I mean, isn’t it similar — the analogy in the screenwriting trade for features is there’s some of us who sit and work on a screenplay and that’s our job and we’re trying to get that done. And then there are others of us who kind of move more like producers and they’re supervising things. Like Simon.
John: Simon Kinberg.
Craig: Simon starts as a screenwriter, but then really becomes a supervisor of other screenwriters. You know? It’s a producorial thing.
Aline: And then you’re in the creative person management business —
Aline: Which is a producing skill, which I feel like it depends on what your temperament is like, but it would be really hard for me not to rip the typewriter out of someone’s hands. And I don’t — I wouldn’t want that to happen to me so, yeah. I mean I think those are — you’re right, those are different.
We have been on this show, Rachel and I are completely immersed. I mean I’m totally immersed. And to be honest, like the thing that I learned and I had to do was to learn how to delegate. And we have other wonderful people on the show. We have another executive producer, Erin Ehrlich, who is like I would say she’s our secret weapon because she’s on set. She’s in post, she does all these things that if I were doing — I mean I know there are showrunners who are 24/7 in all three places. And there’s that documentary about showrunners that was on cable. Yeah. And everyone looks just hammered. I mean, it’s really hard to kind of keep up your taking care of yourself because you — I mean and it’s so different from screenwriting because even with screenwriting, even when I’m working very, very hard on something, it’s like, yeah, I can have dinner with my kids from six to eight.
John: Totally. That’s the thing I wonder. So when I got this Valentine Davies Award a couple months ago for the Writers Guild, I had to give my little speech. And one of the things I tried to explain is like I’m sort of getting this award for all the other stuff I’ve done that’s not writing. And the only reason I could do all these other things is because I’m just a feature writer.
John: Like if I were a TV writer, I would not have the life to be able to do all these other things.
John: And so Mike, my husband —
Aline: Because as we discussed, like if you do eight hours of screenwriting in a day, that’s like —
John: Oh my god, you’re a hero.
Aline: That’s insane. You know, that means you’re just like synapses are popping off like fireworks and dying.
John: But eight hours as a TV showrunner, like that’s lazy.
Aline: Yeah. Our writers’ room really is 10 to 6. That’s because I am very determined to have it be that way.
John: But that’s the writers’ room. But your job as a showrunner is —
John: Not just the writers’ room.
Aline: No. No.
John: So your job as the showrunner — so I’m really thinking about the equivalent because you’re not just moving from being a feature writer to a TV writer. You’re going to being a TV showrunner.
John: So there literally has to be a moment where it’s like its 11 o’clock at night and you’re like —
Aline: Oh, yeah.
John: Oh. I still have all this stuff to read.
Aline: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, because when I leave the room, I have to watch cuts and go to set. And yeah, all that stuff. I will tell you that being a feature writer is a great training for the writing which you have to do in television. But it’s absolutely no training really for the producorial stuff which I kind of had garnered over years of being in the movie business.
But if you were like one or two movies in and you had to be a showrunner, they’re taking it. They’re rolling a big roll of the dice because what you’ve learned as a screenwriter is to sit in a room and do iterations of the same thing.
John: You should take a time machine and go back to me writing my very first show, DC. And like not being able to run the show and not sort of knowing what I didn’t know.
John: And watching it just sort of crash and burn around me.
John: That’s the experience.
Aline: Right. Well, luckily though, WGA does have a very good showrunner program that a bunch of my friends have done. I didn’t do it, but Rachel did it. And my friend, a couple of my friends have done it. And it’s great that there are those skills you can learn. What’s funny about being a screenwriter is that — it’s funny one of the movies that I was on, my own movies that I was on the set of, I just started out by hanging out in the back of the set. Because people aren’t really accustomed to having screenwriters around.
So I would just kind of sit in the back and like read my iPad and read the paper and stuff. And for like the first couple of days and then the director, something came up that he wanted a line to cover something. And I saw him looking at the AD and thinking, “Oh. We need a line for this. We need a line for this.” And then, his eyes swung around to me sitting in the back row of Video Village. You know, reading The New York Times, doing the puzzle. And it occurred to him that I was there and that I could do it.
Aline: But I — and I sort of went, “Oh, me? Yeah. Yeah, I guess I could do that.” [laughs]
Craig: It’s amazing like they have — my favorite thing is they have a guy on every crew called the standby painter. And his job is to paint something in the moment, should it need paint.
Craig: But they don’t have the standby story expert. That’s insane.
Aline: Right. I was watching the director thinking he was thinking, “Oh, shit. I got to figure out a line here. And I don’t know what to do. How can I do this? What can we do?” And it was literally like, you know, angle on screenwriter in the back, writing Isay Morales in the New York Times puzzle, looking off into the middle distance like, “Who? Me? Well, sure.” And it’s just so — I just happened to, you know, that was the set that I happened to be on for most of the shoot. And of course, once they get comfortable — but you have to make them comfortable with you for you to do any of the fun stuff.
Aline: And in TV, it’s what I consider mostly the fun stuff. So I’m really curious about — the reason I’m curious about what spec a person would write now is because I’m just curious what people write to break into the business now. And I think of the first spec that I wrote to break in to the business and I don’t know what anyone would do with it. It was a caper comedy about two girls who go on the run after an FBI agent. Like, I don’t even know what I would do with that.
John: I think the question you’re also asking is, should that spec script show your quality? Like your ability to make those words on the page really sing and make those characters pop, or does it have to be like a big idea. Are people buying things based on ideas or based on the writing? And I don’t know that they’re buying them based on either one. Obviously, we’re all out of this spec business —
John: In general because that’s not where we make our bread and butter. But my hunch is that they are reading for quality and then looking for like, “Oh. I can apply that to something else” or “I can bring that person in for a meeting on something” or you write that script, that spec-feature script knowing it’s never going to get made but you can use that as your sample for when you try to get staffed on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Aline: Right. Or they’ll take your — they’ll say this is a beautiful script about your grandmother’s exodus from Poland. Do you want to write Logan’s Run?
Craig: Yeah. That’s basically everything now in the spec market is an audition. The Black List, every now and again, some movie from the Black List will get made.
Aline: But it’s always tiny. It’s always tiny.
Craig: Yeah. But precisely.
Aline: I mean, Argo is an exception. Yeah.
Craig: Precisely. It’s almost always tiny. Most of the people that are coming out of the Black List, those scripts are audition scripts for what the studios already intend to make. And that’s very, very different than the way it used to be. They used to be — the studios used to be entrepreneurial. And they aren’t anymore. They’re not entrepreneurial. They’ve become very focused on repeat business, almost as if they’ve kind of figured out that there’s a way, the way food companies figured out if we just pump a little more sugar and salt into something, people will buy it. They figured it out. And it’s working for them. It’s not working for us necessarily, but it’s definitely working for them. And the business has warped in that direction.
John: Let’s segue to talking about sort of — you know, back when features were good. But really, what makes features timeless. That’s another thing that Aline brought up as a topic.
John: So you said your son is now watching a lot of classic movies and is he enjoying them all or some working and some not? Like what’s his experience watching classic movies?
Aline: It’s so interesting. Some of them he was just loving and really like Tootsie is just every bit as good now as it was then. I mean, a lot of what dates a movie, hilariously enough, is the music. And you know, Tootsie definitely has that.
John: Well, let’s talk about some things that make a movie timeless —
John: Or make it — you go back and watch like, “Wow, that just did not hold up.”
Aline: Well, pace. So a lot of the movies that I’ve shown my kids, they perceive is from the ’70s or ’80s, they perceive as glacially slow. Pace has just picked up so much now that like if you don’t have stuff happening, a lot of stuff happening right off the bat and that’s what they’re really used to. So any of the movies that I sort of was dying for them to enjoy that unfurl slowly, they’re just like beyond bored. That’s a huge one.
Craig: It’s a fair criticism because I remember when I was a kid and my father would show me movies from his childhood. That was my complaint. And you know, sometimes people say, “Well, pace — the increasing pace of storytelling is a pox on humanity, where we all have ADHD, it’s — what a shame.” I feel sometimes like we’re just getting more and more efficient plus, we also have the mass backlog of all the stories that have been told. So we get to price those in. I sympathize, you know. It’s a tough one to ask people to watch movies that are dramatically slower than they would be today. Then there are those incredible movies like Silence of the Lambs where if you made it today, you wouldn’t want to change one frame. So a pace seems modern, you know.
John: Absolutely. And I think Silence of the Lambs holds up especially well because even though we’ve seen other movies sort of in that genre since then, it hasn’t been copied by a bunch of other movies after that point. So sometimes you go back and you watch a classic movie that everyone says, like, “Oh, that’s a fantastic movie,” and you watch it and you realize like, “Wow, I’ve seen the lesser version. I’ve seen the knockoff version so many times.”
Aline: Yeah, so many times.
John: That the original version feels like not original because like I’ve seen recalls of this 100 times.
Aline: Yeah. The Graduate was puzzling. Because it’s so oblique and it’s not going right at what it’s about, it’s very novelistic in that way.
Aline: And that was super confusing. The ’70s part of Tootsie is confined to its credit sequence. The credit sequence is Michael teaching acting —
Aline: And hitting on girls. And then, very quickly it’s into the premise of the movie. So, how fast do you launch the idea of the movie is a big one but then also how direct are your themes. Something like The Graduate is just dealing with themes that are sort of on a novelistic level of complexity that when we do that now, they tend to be very small movies. Like what would you do with The Graduate? You know, The Graduate was a like a hot property book, everybody wanted to make that book.
John: Yeah. So I think we’re talking about not just the great movies of all time, movies that are like, you know, win the awards but there’s also movies that just were so definitive and have sort of lasted. And so I think of like Die Hard. Die Hard didn’t win the awards but Die Hard is obviously a classic and like people can go back to Die Hard and still continue to enjoy it. Shawshank Redemption. But there’s other movies that were just so important at their time which have sort of been forgotten, like Blair Witch Project. Like that was a big deal and it started a whole generation of kind of this found footage thing. But you go back and watch that now and nobody talks about that as being an all-time great movie. It’s —
Aline: It seems like we’re eight generations past that one.
John: Exactly. So I think in some ways, the degree to which it was an experience that you had to encounter at that moment was really important. So Avatar was kind of like a movie that you had to experience in 3D at that moment, but I don’t think people are going back to that, it’s like, “Let’s watch Avatar again.” It doesn’t have the same resonance that Star Wars does to me.
Craig: Or Titanic.
John: Or Titanic.
Craig: People will watch that. I mean, I showed my daughter Titanic and she would have loved another 12 hours of it.
Aline: Yeah. James Cameron is — you know, every James Cameron movie that my kids have seen, they’ve really loved because he’s a very muscular storyteller and always has been and gets right into whatever the premise of it is pretty bam boom. So those movies had held up really well for the kids.
John: I think movies that were successful because of their star tend to not last as long. So I think of like Patch Adams was a giant hit and I think it’s because Robin Williams was a giant big star at the time, but no one is clamoring for Patch Adams again. Like no one’s going to make — no one’s going to remake Patch Adams because like, “Oh, let’s do that again.” It was a great actor in a central role and that made it hit, but no one is dying to see Patch Adams again.
Aline: Well, also you look at — you know, It Happened One Night, won best actor, actress, director, screenplay. I think it won six, it won the Big Six. I mean, I made my kids go see All About Eve at the New Beverly and that was one of the more bewildering experiences of their life.
Craig: I don’t blame them. I don’t.
Aline: And I’m nudging them and saying, “Oh, this is the best part, this is the best part.” And they’re — you know, “She’s going to say, ‘Bumpy night.'” “And they were just contorting in misery.
Craig: Yeah. You know why, like there are lines when you see All About Eve now and when you get to that line, you feel like you are watching something that is baked into our culture. It’s like, “Oh, that was that thing that happened,” but —
Aline: It’s like going to visit the Washington monument or something.
John: Yeah, or seeing the Mona Lisa.
Craig: Right, like, okay. Yeah, like seeing the Mona Lisa, exactly. But overall, All About Eve, what it is doing is done in a more effective way now by other movies that have kind of mastered that and been inspired by it and taken it to the next level. Like All About Eve to me is interesting as a museum piece.
Aline: I mean, not for me. I enjoy it every bit as much because it’s urbane people talking, but the idea that it would translate for a then 14-year-old boy who loves classic movies, but to him classic movies are Scorsese movies, you know, the Godfather movies. Storytelling has just become so much more visceral but, you know, that being said, I took him to see Room and he was riveted by that and that’s, you know, a small chamber piece, but again, very taught storytelling.
John: Yeah, but it’s also naturalistic in the sense, so like people aren’t, you know, putting on these airs, and it’s not like a fancy dress movie. Like that kind of stuff is I think what distances people.
Craig: I agree.
John: What can also distance people is the time in which the movie takes place, and so the period. And you definitely notice, like I go back and I look at Go and I’m really happy with Go, but it’s very much like that ’90’s thing and you can tell it by — they don’t even have cell phones yet, like it’s not even dated by cell phones because they don’t have cell phones yet. And so, there’s a certain kind of aesthetic which, you know, if you don’t know enough about sort of what it was like to be in that time, it could be a little bit inaccessible. That doesn’t make the movie better or worse, but it makes it harder for a person to click into it.
Aline: I mean, I guess what I’ve noticed also with my son is that movies that have famous directors are the ones he watches. So if it’s a great movie but it was sort of an obscure director, then he’s not — when he is looking up things that are on Criterion Collection, you know, he’s already seen every Spielberg movie because he’s a Spielberg fan. So he started going through them one by one, and that’s another thing that makes a movie a lasting document is being interested in someone’s body of work. What’s amazing to me about Tootsie is that it was written by sort of a hodge-podge of people —
Aline: When it seems like such a unified comedic piece, but that’s — if you’re going through Sydney Pollack movies, you know.
John: Well, speaking of hodge-podge of people, I’d be curious to go back and see Pretty Woman and see whether Pretty Woman holds up. I suspect maybe it does. I mean, I think there’s a Cinderella quality to that that probably makes it a timeless thing that independent of Julia Roberts’ stardom — here’s the thing, the movie made her a star. So therefore, she wasn’t coming into the movie already as a star. That may be a useful distinguisher, like you saw this thing blossoming in front of you. I think even if you were to watch it now, you might recognize that something special was happening in front of you.
Craig: Yeah, but you know, you would also feel an enormous distance from the movie because you would know that today you simply would not and could not make a movie about a prostitute that is Julia Roberts that has that experience.
Craig: It feels so remote to us the way — you know, when you watch old movies and you see somebody slapping a woman around and then she kisses the guys, you’re like, “Oh, well, back then I guess that was okay,” you know? [laughs]
Aline: Yeah, Pretty Woman is kind of great. I actually did rewatch it a few years ago for some reason and it’s actually — it’s really, really great apart from the star performances which are great. It actually weirdly is trying to be about something and it’s one of those movies that buys back its premise constantly because like he accosts her in the bathroom, he thinks she’s doing drugs, she’s flossing her teeth. Like it really is kind of a very rosy idea of what a hooker is. I think the thing, the sheen that’s gone off the rose now is the hooker being so innocent —
Aline: And sort of that Shirley MacLaine/Julia Roberts type.
John: Yeah, that she’s doing it because for some sort of noble reason kind of in a way, like there wasn’t —
Aline: She’s barely, barely been spoiled.
Craig: Yeah, it’s just not — it doesn’t sync up with what we understand about women that are in that situation. I mean, you can watch it. Obviously, you watch movies within the context that they were created and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I do feel like —
Aline: But I’ve watched him like he goes to through the Spike Jonze movies, he goes to the Scorsese movies, you know, he goes through the Spielberg movies. Like you really do notice how much if it’s sort of an anonymous filmmaker —
John: Who made that one-off great movie, he’s not going there.
Aline: Yeah, the best —
Aline: The best movie that — the one that rocked their brains when they were young was Back to the Future. They just couldn’t even believe how — that movie is so entertaining and so funny for a kid. If you want to convince them that movies were cool when you were a kid.
John: That’s so funny because we watched that with my daughter who’s now 10 and like it did not land for her.
Aline: Oh, really?
John: Yeah, it didn’t. And —
Craig: My kids love that movie.
Aline: Oh, my kids were like, “Oh, we got to see the sequel,” I was like, “Nah.”
John: So going back to Pretty Woman and our spec script conversation, do you guys remember Milk Money, which was a big spec sale —
John: When that happened. And so, that was the idea of like, “What if we could take the aspects of Home Alone and the aspects of Pretty Woman and put them together?”
Aline: What was it?
John: So Milk Money —
Craig: It was Melanie Griffith plays a hooker that — well, you go ahead. Tell it, John.
John: Well, I think you’re doing better than I can, but so Melanie Griffith plays a hooker and these boys essentially pool together their money to buy the hooker to be girlfriend/wife to their dad who’s single and sad. Is that correct?
Aline: Oh, uh-huh.
Craig: That’s how I — and then there’s like a fish out water thing where she has to like — I remember she goes to school, like there’s Career Day and she goes. That was like the big scene in the trailer and —
Aline: I remember a spec called Angie.
John: Oh, I remember Angie. Yeah.
Aline: Do you remember this?
Aline: It was — because this to me was the apogee of like things being big hot sales that were like, “Wait, what’s that about?” And it was like a New Jersey — and I remember that Madonna wanted to do it and then —
John: But didn’t Geena Davis —
Aline: Geena Davis did it.
Aline: And I don’t even remember what it was about but I remember that it was like a hot script and that every actress in town wanted it.
John: I remember the Cheese Stands Alone with —
Craig: Oh, wow. Well, that’s a book, right? I mean, that was —
John: Yeah. But —
Craig: Isn’t the Cheese —
John: But it was very much an era where like these big like million dollar sales would happen and I just don’t think those things happen now.
Craig: I found them all befuddling. I don’t know about you guys but I was never in that, you know, crazy spec business. I was more of like go out, pitch ideas and you know, like grinded out for my rent. And so, I would read about these huge spec sales, I was like, “I don’t even understand,” like —
John: Craig, what were you doing wrong? I mean, like clearly like it —
Craig: I just didn’t understand. Like I didn’t honestly understand why anybody was buying these things. I think I was already like they are now. Like I didn’t understand, why would you spend all that money on these things especially when so many of them just don’t happen?
Aline: Well, the other thing was that, you know, you’d read these scripts and they would sell for 750 or 850 or whatever and they’d be terrible and you’d say to your agent, “Well, but this is terrible.” They’ll say, “Of course it’s terrible, but they’re going to rewrite it.”
Aline: But the idea is so strong. That is what I feel like ship has sailed.
Craig: But I also feel like it was the tulip syndrome, you know, just people began to fetishize the notion of these scripts that the idea that a hot spec would go out on a Friday and somebody would win by Monday was the organizing principle of the business. And so, that’s what happened and that machine needed to be fed. It had no relationship and ultimately, they figured out, it had no relationship to success at the Box Office. I mean, I remember The Last Boy Scout was this insane, you know, spec sale and it didn’t turn into what they thought it would.
Aline: And The Long Kiss Goodnight.
Craig: Right, right.
John: I first met Zak Penn over on the Fox lot and we had a class there because I was still in film school, we had a class and somebody knew Adam and Zak and we went over to their little bungalow office and like we had scotch in their office. I’m like, “Wow, this is Hollywood. I just can’t imagine this is what it is.” And Zak is still a neighbor and friend. But it is just — such a long road. Like that was really the pinnacle of that kind of hot spec sale.
Aline: Right. And basically, all established screenwriters at this point are working on things that are already in development in some way, shape or form. So if you’re an established screenwriter and you went off to write something on your own, it would be something that you either wanted to direct or you wanted to say, “Hey, this is the kind of writing I want to do now,” and show people some other aspect of yourself or you would just be writing it, I guess, for your artistic enjoyment. But you know, now I feel like a lot of times when I talk to writers and they tell me ideas that they’re working on, I’m like, “I would just cut that down to 60 pages and sell that as a pilot.”
John: Yeah. So Craig has been writing stuff to, you know, things he wants to see happen and that also sort of establish him as a different kind of writer. Is that a fair thing to say, Craig?
Craig: Yeah, so far so good.
Aline: But not on spec?
Craig: No, not on spec. Although, well, almost. The thing that I’m doing for HBO certainly isn’t about a financial gain. They have a set deal that they do for all, you know, pilots and things. And so, if the show doesn’t — if the shows goes, it’ll be rewarding but if it doesn’t, it’s not like you get paid a ton to write a pilot for HBO. So that was all about doing something different.
John: And I wrote to direct. And I know you wrote a spec to direct, too, which I guess it’s still out there. You could always go back and do that at some point. Is that a —
Craig: I’m not gonna.
John: No, I’m talking to Aline, I’m sorry.
Aline: Yeah, the problem — I was almost going to make that and then the TV show went. But I was already balking because it involved going to Eastern Europe for six or seven months and leaving my family.
Aline: So I wasn’t — you know, one of the things about a lot of TV production is in L.A. And so that was another big draw for me was that we were going to be able to be here, but I don’t know. You know, the thing is, I grew up loving big studio movies and the big studio movies that I grew up loving were, you know, really mainstream kind of commercial movies. Jerry Maguire and, you know, Broadcast News. And I just — now, I feel like if you sat down to write one of those, it’s what you said, you would have to find an actor or find a director or find some way to make it sexy because really, they’re very, very focused on trying to make Uno into a movie.
John: Yeah. So let’s circle back to TV for our last topic. So this is something that Craig put in the outline, it’s a Variety of article about The 100, which is a CW Show, one of your, not a rival show, but another show.
Aline: Sister show?
John: So in this article, Maureen Ryan lists a couple of tips for sort of best practices for TV promotion and publicity in the age of social media. She says, “First, don’t mislead fans or raise their hopes unrealistically. Don’t promote your show as an idea or proponent of a certain kind of storytelling and then drop the ball in a major way with that very element of you show. When things go south, don’t pretend nothing happened. Finally, understand that in this day and age, promotion is a two-way street. The fans flock to your show and help raise its profile, but can just as easily walk away if they are disappointed or feel they’re being manipulated.” Do you feel any of that sort of relationship with your —
Aline: Well, it’s a totally different thing from the movies because you’re having this real-time interaction with people and they get attached to characters and they’re watching them every week and they’re tweeting about it so you know how the storyline is —
John: You guys did live tweeting during every episode?
Aline: Yeah, the actors did, I don’t tweet. But you’re getting direct feedback all the time and so — and people feel connected to these characters that are in their home in a completely different way. I mean, if you’re doing The Revenant as a TV series, people would have freaked out over the bear, you know? But you do have a completely different relationship to the audience where you have a much more direct conversation with them and I really don’t know, because I don’t watch that show, I don’t really know what exactly they did or didn’t do but it sounds like they had a group of very devoted fans who had a certain expectation about the character, and it is, it’s a huge responsibility.
Craig: Yeah, well it seems like part of what exacerbated it was the nature of the character herself. So the character was named Lexi — sorry, Lexa, sorry. Obviously, I don’t watch the show either. But she was lesbian and she was a huge hit with the LGBQT audience and in particular because she wasn’t a two-dimensional gay character. She was three-dimensional, she wasn’t defined by her sexuality. And so they had created this implicit contract with this large audience and then they killed her and they killed her in a way that the fans — first of all, they implied that she wouldn’t die and then she did die. They also killed her in a way that the fans felt kind of steered away from the direction of progressive portrayal of a gay character and was instead a regressive return to a gay character finally has sex with somebody and they have to die. She died in a kind of a — I guess, you’d say a sort of a wimpy way that wasn’t — that they didn’t feel was befitting her stature as a character.
But the point is, this is what fascinates me about this. As a writer, you know, I feel like I’m a little nervous about this, that the fans turned on the people that made this character because they didn’t like what they did with the character. And you think about Game of Thrones and how they treat their characters, right? And it makes me a little nervous that we would end up in a new period where making television, your creative choices are now limited by people’s emotional attachment to those characters. Some of the most powerful things you can do in television is kill someone.
Aline: Yeah. I mean, I think when you’re representing a certain demographic, I mean, people are always very interested to see people portrayed who are like them or they think are like them. And we have a bisexual storyline on our show and we got a gentleman in from GLAD to help us because there were all these preconceptions about bisexual people that we actually didn’t know about because we hadn’t been immersed in it. And you know what, it’s happened to me like, you know, you remember talking to someone and you say like, “Oh, yeah. No, Jews are known for being cheap and greedy,” and they’re like, “What? Yeah, oh. And yeah.” Oh, and then, you know, we were talking about the —
Craig: Well, we are known for that.
Aline: Heavy female Jewish breasts, which some people in the room had never heard that but that’s a stereotypical —
Craig: I’ve never heard that. Heavy Jewish breasts?
Aline: Like — yeah. And Rachel talks about that. So there were all these kind of like —
Craig: I did not know that.
Aline: Specific to these communities, sort of — you know, when you — when I was reading this article and there’s this trope of barrier gay, you have to be aware when you take on something like that, that there are these kind of — just try and educate yourself about the preconceptions and the tropes which you may not know about because the audience has so much familiarity with those tropes and they’re kind of waiting. And it’s — you know, anytime you’re portraying anybody who has a strong allegiance to a group, I think.
John: Well, let’s talk about Darryl from — the bisexual character in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, because it looks like you sort of hung a lantern on all the things that sort of normally come up on bisexual characters, which is like —
John: It’s just a step on the way to his being gay, that’s it’s like —
Aline: So I knew some of them —
Aline: And that was the one that I knew best because I had — one of the reasons we wanted to do that character was because I have friends who are bisexual and everybody always expresses a great deal of skepticism about whether they are bi. So that one I knew, but there were other ones about bisexual people being very promiscuous, which I never really heard.
Craig: I’ve never heard that one either.
Aline: So we went to somebody who had a lot of experience with that group and specializes in depictions of that group. And you really do have a different kind of personal back and forth on a TV show with the fans. And so, I don’t know if this — the creators of this show were familiar with that trope and I don’t know why it’s a trope to kill the gay characters?
John: Well, essentially it’s like once they finally have their moment of happiness, then you yank the rug out and kill them off. Just because it’s the most surprising.
Craig: Yeah, it’s like tragic homosexuality like.
Aline: I see, I see.
Craig: But on the other side of it, what makes me nervous as somebody that writes and creates is that you then are in danger of creating the anti-trope, which is the untouchable gay character because we don’t want to kill our gay character. And you start to disconnect that character from the same dramatic path that everybody else is on, where anything can happen to anybody else. Well, but not that one, you know, that one we have to leave alone. And then you lose certain — and I’m not saying that they did it right at all, I don’t watch this show and they may have totally bungled it. There’s a difference between, “We did not like that you did that,” and, “Your show is bad and you’re bad people for doing it.”
Aline: I wonder if there was a way they could have eliminated her that would have — if there was a nobler way that would have — the fans would have been okay with. I don’t know if it was just the fact that she died because it sounds like it’s a show where there was a lot of violent deaths. It was sort of, she didn’t get a great one —
Aline: That really, you know, made use of her character and she didn’t go out in a blaze of glory.
Craig: She didn’t get a meaningful death.
Craig: She — well, we don’t — I mean, that’s the thing, you actually don’t know —
Craig: Because on a serialized show — and again, I’m not — I don’t know. It may be that that was just — they muffed it right? But, perhaps that is part of what comes next. I mean, one thing that’s interesting is people react in the moment to what they see and they make certain assumptions. So when a character dies on TV, they make an assumption that that’s it and they also make an assumption that the creators of the show chose to kill them out of some kind of capricious sense of drama. But a lot of times, what we know and we have a lot of friends that work in TV and Aline, you work in TV, sometimes actors die because the actor is done and they don’t want to keep going on the show and they say, “Kill me.”
Aline: Right. And then — but then, that’s an opportunity, that’s an opportunity to do something really cool with that character. And again, we don’t —
John: Fair enough.
Aline: This is just like a bunch of people because —
Craig: We just don’t know.
Aline: We don’t know, because we don’t watch the show. But I do think, Craig, what you say is really interesting. I know of cases where, you know, showrunners have gotten feedback from the fans and either like apologized or course-corrected because they didn’t quite realize you’re making a million micro decisions about story and sometimes they have ramifications or implications or meaning for people that you can’t anticipate.
Craig: Right. Well and there is an interesting feedback that I think sometimes writers forget. We may have a tendency to think of the emotional arrow going out in one direction. But if we predicate all of our work on the notion that we’re trying to emotionally impact people, we cannot be surprised and immune to the emotions that come back at us. Isn’t that what you want? So you do have to care-take it to some extent. And in movies, as you point out, not a problem, right?
Aline: Well, the other thing about doing in TV show is, there’s so many people that work there and when we were doing the bisexual storyline, a bunch of people came to me and said, “I’m bi,” or, “My friends are bi,” or, “My mom is bi,” or whatever and we really use them as a resource to say like, “Are we doing this in a way that’s accurate, that reflects reality?” And there’s a lot of ways that you can kind of workshop those things in the show.
John: Yeah. It’s time for our One Cool Things.
John: All right. And Aline’s here, so I’m sure she has a good one.
John: Mine is so quick and so simple.
Aline: Do it.
John: Mine is the Tresalto drain cleaning snake. So this thing is — actually, so you have a stopped up sink and so you could call a plumber or you would do whatever. This thing looks like a big plastic zip tie, it looks like just like a zip tie, but it has like these little hooks on it. You basically stick it down the drain and pull it up and it yanks out the stuff that’s in there. It’s like it’s so remarkably simple.
Aline: How often does that happen to you?
John: I would say twice a year, a drain gets stopped up.
Craig: Really? But it seems so weird because not like Mike has a ton of hair, you have no hair.
John: My daughter has hair.
Craig: It’s your daughter.
Craig: Your daughter is — her hair is clogging the drain?
John: I found it incredibly useful and it’s like they’re super cheap because they’re just these little plastic things you just shove down there and like —
John: You can wash it off or you can throw it away, it’s cheap enough.
John: So, simple.
Aline: Wow. All right. Craig, what’s your thing?
Craig: I like that. My thing is an app that has not yet been released but it is being promoted and currently developed by Ford Motor Company and it’s called Go Park. And it’s actually — I want it now. So Go Park basically allows people who are driving — I guess if you’re — and they’re testing it in London now, if you’re driving a Ford and you allow your data to be uploaded, it essentially lets people see where there are parking spots and where there aren’t.
Aline: I mean, I’ve been fantasizing about this my whole driving life.
Craig: I mean, how great would it be, right? The vision of the future is, you’re driving around in some area where there’s no spot and then it goes, “Bing. Someone’s leaving a spot over here,” and you move toward it or even create a system where you can reserve spots like where somebody says, “Okay, I’m going to be leaving in five minutes,” so you can go to where they are and wait for them. Parking is so miserable and it does seem like an elegant solution to that problem. So I’m hopeful.
Aline: That seems like a problem that technology should solve.
Aline: My One Cool Thing is not really a thing, but are you guys watching The People vs OJ?
John: I’ve heard it’s fantastic. I’ve not watched a single minute of it.
Craig: You know I’m not watching it.
Aline: Well, it’s fantastic. But among the fantasticness, Sarah Paulson is putting on a clinic, the likes of which I have not seen in anything in so long. She’s so incredible that I find myself, when I’m watching the scenes, freaking out over how great she is.
John: So she plays Marcia Clark in the show and her wig is fantastic.
Aline: Everything she does is fantastic and the scene — there’s one episode, it’s called, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, which is about her and how she was treated and how unbelievably sexist and anti-feminist it is, you know, through the lens of today. But she’s so sympathetic and she’s so wonderful, but she’s flawed and she’s interesting and if you are a student of acting at all, you cannot miss what Sarah Paulson is doing. They should give her all the Emmys, they should give her Emmys in categories she’s not nominated in. They should give her craft Emmys. She should just walk in and have multiple Emmys. She’s going to win everything. She’s — I mean, I’ve always been a big fan, but it’s sort of like when you watch somebody and the tennis ball is coming towards them in slow motion and their racket is just in the right place —
John: That’s fantastic.
Craig: I’m going to get a little — I’ll get a little name droppy and I hate doing this, normally I don’t do it. But I’m going to watch it all, like I’m going to binge-watch when I finally get out from under what I’m doing because Courtney Vance is a neighbor of mine, and a friend of mine, and Sarah Paulson is a friend of mine. And so, I’ve heard nothing but great things. And this is also Alexander and Karaszewski, correct?
Craig: Also friends of mine.
Craig: I owe this show watching just out of common decency.
Aline: Oh, well, Courtney Vance, by the way, also, clinic. I mean —
Craig: Great guy, too.
Aline: If she wasn’t in it, he would be the best thing I’d ever seen and my favorite thing and my One Cool Thing because he’s — I actually forget that I’m not watching Johnnie Cochran. He’s completely, completely convincing. It’s — from an acting standpoint, everyone is pretty amazing and John Travolta is doing something slightly in a different tone than they are, but it’s so awesome to watch.
John: Whatever show he’s in is also an enjoyable show.
Aline: It’s amazing.
Craig: Right. You know what, it’s like John Travolta is one of the few actors that can be a guilty pleasure inside of something that is a non-guilty pleasure.
Aline: It’s one of the most entertaining, the pilot is one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever seen, the first episode. I think you’ll really enjoy it.
Craig: I’m teed up to watch it. I am very excited.
John: Well, we may watch it next week because next week we are off the air, so we are going to be running a repeat in our stead because Craig and I are both on spring break. If you are looking for something to listen to in our absence, on the Scriptnotes app and also at scriptnotes.net, we have some bonus episodes, we have my Q&A with Dana Fox, Abbey Kohn, and Marc Silverstein about How To be Single. We also have Craig’s episode with Adam McKay and Charles Randolph talking about The Big Short. So those are two bonus episodes for members. If you want to subscribe and listen to those, you can go to scriptnotes.net. As always, you can find us at johnaugust.com for the show notes, the things we talked about, these articles we linked it to. Our outro this week is by Matthew Chilelli who also cut the show. Our show is produced by Stuart Friedel.
John: We have a very few of those USB drives left. So if you’d like all 200 episodes of Scriptnotes on a USB drive, don’t delay because they’re just about sold out. And that is our show. Aline, congratulations.
Aline: Episode 242, what’s up.
John: Nicely done.
Craig: In the can.
John: So enjoy your break, enjoy whatever thing write. Enjoy going back to the room but we’re just so happy that you’re back with us.
Aline: I’m going to write a spec about a bear and a kangaroo.
John: Thank you. Bye.
Craig: Bye, guys.
- Aline Brosh McKenna on episodes 60, 76, 100, 101, 119, 123, 124 152, 161, 175, 180, 200, 219 and 231
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
- John’s WGA Valentine Davies Award acceptance speech
- NPR on what makes a movie timeless
- Variety on What TV Can Learn From ‘The 100’ Mess
- Tresalto Drain Cleaning Snake on Amazon
- Fast Company on Ford’s GoPark app
- American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson, episode 6: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, and Parade’s brief interview with Sarah Paulson
- Outro by Matthew Chilelli (send us yours!)