The original post for this episode can be found here.

John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August. And this is Episode 255 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

Craig is out sick today. But lucky for us we already had a guest lined up. This is a screenwriter who knows much more about the industry than me or than Craig. His name is Billy Ray. He is the screenwriter of movies ranging from Hunger Games to Flightplan to Captain Philips and the writer-director of Shattered Glass, Breach, and last year’s Secret in Their Eyes. He was the head of the most recent WGA negotiating committee. And while I was in the room with him for that he was writing the pilot for The Last Tycoon, a new Amazon series you can watch right now.

Billy Ray: That’s right.

John: Billy Ray, welcome to the show.

Billy: I’m really happy to be here. I think it is important that you guys are doing this.

John: Well, thank you.

Billy: Sure.

John: So talk to me first about why you would do this show? Let’s just start with this because I read a very limited list of your credits. You have a zillion credits. [laughs] They go all way back to like Color of Night was your first credit.

Billy: I can’t talk about Color of Night.

John: Oh, you’re not allowed to? Actually. Well, like, well —

Billy: [laughs] Well, let’s start with Color of Night. Okay.

John: That was 1994. I was still in film school back then.

Billy: Color of Night was a great devirginizing experience for me. And when I say great I do not mean happy. [laughs] I mean, profound.

John: Yeah.

Billy: It was a spec that I sold that was then sort of taken out from under me and rewritten so that by the time that it got made there was not a line of mine in it. And I went to my agent and I said, “I got to take my name off this. This is not my script anymore.” And he said, “You’d never had a produced credit. So, you know, leave your name on and you’re going to be on the side of every bus that drives passed you when this movie comes out,” which was true. As that movie was coming out, it was heavily promoted. And then the movie came out. And I was crushed in those reviews like first page above the fold, the calendar section, I was called out and it was not my script. When that happens you can’t understand the feeling of that until it’s happened to you. But you kind of want to move to Finland, you know, for about two weeks. It’s just crippling. I’ve still never seen the movie and will never see the movie.

John: I have one of those movies. Yeah.

Billy: What I can tell you is there must be a Color of Night channel out there somewhere because the green envelopes do show up now and then. And on that level I’m grateful that it happened but on every other level it was a complete disaster.

John: So Color of Night comes out, that’s 1994. And credits thereafter —

Billy: So the interview is now going to be about Color of Night.

John: No, no, no. So you have a zillion credits and mostly as a screenwriter and then more recently as a bunch of features. And every time I would see you I said — you should direct more things and I was really trying to remind you that you are really are a good director.

Billy: Thank you.

John: The first thing I saw was Shattered Glass which was I was trying to do a rival version of that movie at the same time you —

Billy: Is that right?

John: Yeah. So I loved that story. And so I was trying to get The Fabulist which is his account of that whole situation.

Billy: Right.

John: But I loved that. I loved Breach.

Billy: Do you want to hear something amazing?

John: Tell me.

Billy: I got an email, I do not know, six or seven months ago from a judge, retired judge who lives in Pasadena and once a month he does these screenings in a library somewhere out in Pasadena. And he invites people and he has Q&A’s afterwards. And turns out he was a big Shattered Glass fan and he asked me if I would do a Q&A with Shattered Glass and I said, “Look, I’m in the middle of shooting this pilot, The Last Tycoon. Can we do it after?” So he said, “Fine.” So we scheduled it for some moment in July. So last week he wrote to me saying, “Are we are still on for July 6th for the screening of Shattered Glasses?” I said yes. He said, “Happily, I have reached out to Stephen Glass to see if he wants to do the Q&A with you and he said yes.”

John: Oh my lord.

Billy: Yes. So on July 6th I’ll be doing a Q&A with Stephen Glass about the movie Shattered Glass.

John: Fantastic. For people who do not know what this actually is. My quick summary of it is Stephen Glass is a journalist who was basically faking a lot of his sources and got caught for it and your movie very brilliant just follows it all unraveling and just sort of the melting dread that sort of happens upon him.

Billy: Well, brilliant is a very big word for that movie, but it was a really good story and we definitely got out of its way.

John: All right. So you have done that movie and you are basically a person who can write almost any feature that sort of comes up around.

Billy: I’m sure that is not true.

John: Well, you are a very busy feature screenwriter so why would you do this TV show? And I was correct, right, that I was in the room with you for the negotiating committee —

Billy: Yes.

John: Like we are in there for all these hours, I would see you type-type-typing away and that was on this pilot.

Billy: That’s right.

John: So how did this come to be?

Billy: Well, actually it happened all because of my wife. There were these two women who knew each other, one was my mother-in-law and the other was her dear friend Lynn. And Lynn had a friend named Josh Maurer who is a producer who said I have the rights to The Last Tycoon by Fitzgerald. And my wife heard about this through her mother and put me together with Josh. At that point I really had no interest in doing TV. It was Fitzgerald. And embarrassingly enough, I had never read the book.

John: I never read the book. So I saw your pilot last night and I had a framework for sort of where it fit, but I didn’t really know. So for people who don’t know, it is a Fitzgerald — is it a completed novel or was it — ?

Billy: Fitzgerald died while he was writing the book.

John: So the story takes place in Hollywood.

Billy: Hollywood in 1936 and it’s the story of Monroe Stahr who was Fitzgerald’s take on Irving Thalberg, who was an employer of Fitzgerald when Fitzgerald was at MGM. Stahr is the boy wonder who runs the studio that is owned by a man named Pat Brady who is played by Kelsey Grammer. And Pat Brady, for me, although I think he was based loosely on Mayer when Fitzgerald was writing, I based him more on Harry Cohn who is more a little bit of a gruff vulgarian kind of guy.

But Brady has this daughter named Cecilia who is 19, who is in love with Monroe Stahr. That power triangle is sort of the dynamic that Fitzgerald was writing about. I fell in love with it. I just thought it was the greatest thing ever. Although it feels presumptuous to say you’re going to finish something that F. Scott Fitzgerald started, I didn’t really ever feel that way about it. I thought we were going to be telling pieces of the Hollywood 1936 story that Fitzgerald actually could not have told. For example the influence of Nazi Germany on what movies were made in Hollywood 1936. And we were going to talk about what it was like to have all of this happening in the middle of the Depression which Fitzgerald really didn’t want to touch on.

So, the juxtaposition of the glamour of Hollywood, the fantasy of Hollywood versus the reality of the influence of Hitler creeping across the Atlantic Ocean and the Depression. That was just irresistible to me. So I went in to meet on it. The rights were owned by Sony TV and I thought I’m very much an unknown commodity in television. So if we’re going to pitch this, I should really know what the hell I’m talking about. So I went on spec and wrote the bible for the show, which laid out five seasons of the show. And I was just doing it so that I’d be prepared when we went in to that first pitch, you know, there’s a line in the pilot where Monroe Stahr says, “I’m not talented enough to be unprepared.” You know, Monroe got that line from me. That’s how I feel.

But what I noticed was when I went into my office to work on the bible, I’d go in there at 8:00 in the morning and I would look up, it would be 6:00 in the afternoon, I wouldn’t know where the day had done. I mean, it was just bliss. Because I love screenwriting and screenwriting has been very, very good to me, but there is something about the forced economy of a hundred and ten pages versus “oh, I have five years” to arc this character. Let’s see where this guy can go. Let see what would happen with this relationship. It was just so much fun to be in there throwing all that around. By the time I was done, the bible was, I don’t know, 120 pages.

John: Lord.

Billy: And when it came time to go pitch, I was ready. And we pitched it at six places. And although I would not —

John: So let me talk through, so this is a Sony property, so Sony TV would be the studio behind it.

Billy: They are the studio.

John: So we’ve had previous guests who sort of described how things fit together. Jonathan Groff was talking about how Sony TV is in a sort of unique place because they sell to everybody else but they don’t have their own network, so you need to find some place to be the network to air this.

Billy: That’s right, which gets tricky when it comes time for the studio and the network to make a deal if they don’t have a template deal in place which I found out to my chagrin. But anyway we pitched it at six places and although I would not recommend this, the pitch was an hour. It was literally me talking for an hour. That was after I was set up by my partner who’s going to run the show, Chris Keyser, who did a brilliant job in those rooms.

John: Chris Keyser, former President of WGA.

Billy: Former President of the Guild and very dear friend and brilliant writer and probably the best note-giver in the history of writing. He sort of set the table for me in all those meetings and interjected in exactly the right kind of way, but it was basically me talking. And we actually got yesses in five out of those six rooms, which was pretty thrilling. And we started to develop it with HBO but then we found out that HBO and Sony had a very hard time making a deal which took, I don’t know, four or five months to resolve.

And while that was happening, I just wrote the pilot because I just didn’t have time to wait. The development at HBO was really tricky because they were always intending to make Vinyl and I don’t think they were ever serious about making another show set in a period that was about show business. So we were always kind of fighting an uphill fight and the people we were fighting against Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger, so we were going to lose that one. By the time the script was done, it was very clear HBO wasn’t going to make it and we got very lucky Amazon wanted to.

It was the favorite book of Roy Price when he was in college. He was very hands-on in the development, pushed the script in I think a very, very smart direction because he kept wanting the romance of the novel, which I think I had resisted when I was writing at HBO, I was trying to write darker version of the story. So I don’t know how many drafts I’ve done but it’s upwards of 40 by the time we actually went to go shoot.

John: So you went off and directed the pilot. Was that shot here in town?

Billy: All LA.

John: All LA.

Billy: At Paramount.

John: That’s great. I felt like I recognized some familiar backlot which is actually completely appropriate in this case because it’s a backlot sort of drama.

Billy: It’s our set.

John: It’s our set. It is strange to be making a show about Hollywood for Amazon which is sort of the new force in Hollywood. There’s a delicious sort of irony in the fact that you’re trying to talk about this old studio system and meanwhile you’re at this sort of tipping point where it’s not really quite clear what’s going to happen next with both features and with television as these new models come in.

Billy: Well, it’s getting clearer.

John: Yeah.

Billy: And not in a good way.

John: Right, yeah. [Laughs]

Billy: At least to me.

John: We’ve talked about this on the show before, like the good things about it is there are more buyers and when there are more buyers —

Billy: Yes.

John: There’s more stuff getting made. And that’s fantastic —

Billy: That’s fantastic.

John: For everyone.

Billy: That’s fantastic.

John: It’s really challenging to get certain kinds of features made, the kinds of features that your characters are trying to make in your show —

Billy: That’s right.

John: Would never get made.

Billy: No way.

John: No way.

Billy: You know, go try to sell Kramer vs. Kramer today, which was a big hit.

John: Yeah.

Billy: You just can’t do it. I think that television has provided such incredible opportunities, particularly for writers, because the storytelling there is so interesting. For me, as I was writing this pilot, I had a very clear target in my head. I revere Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Mad Men, and as a matter of fact as I was writing the pilot I had a rule for myself which was if I had written a line that I didn’t think was good enough to be in a Mad Men episode I had to come up with another line.

And I was trying to apply that kind of rigor to every single choice we were making in the script. Trying to tell the story as visually as possible, trying to do all those things that Mad Men and those other shows do just so automatically. That’s the great news is that television now has those kinds of “tent poles” out there, I use that word semi-ironically. The bad news is that partially because of that features have completely surrendered that ground to television, and I think that’s really a dangerous thing.

I don’t know if there are executives that listen to this, but I believe that 15 years from now, 20 years from now I think there’s going to be some sort of semi-Nuremberg kind of trial where all the executives of today are going to be standing on a docket and someone like you is going to be saying, “Where were you when the art of movies just went down the sewer? When this uniquely American art form was completely sacrificed? What were you doing about that?” And I don’t think any of them will have an answer. And that’s a sad thing.

John: Well, they were trying to make the movie that needed to fit into that slot at this time. Like, it’s very easy to see sort of like a bunch of very rational decisions made step by step by step by step can take you to a place where you’re not making the kinds of movies you should have been making this whole time through. And so, most of these executives who I think are listening, they do have a sense of like once per year we get to make something that is the Oscary kind of movie and you had an opportunity to make that kind of movie.

Billy: Right.

John: Captain Phillips is exactly the kind of movie that each studio makes one of those per year.

Billy: Right.

John: And hopes it is good enough and gets the Oscars and gets the acclaim it needs to get. But not more than one. I mean —

Billy: Right.

John: Yeah.

Billy: I know, except here is the problem. You’ve got a generation of film watchers out there who still think Hollywood can come up with that kind of stuff. They’re eventually going to stop going to the movies and they’re going to be replaced by new generation of filmgoers who have no expectations of that kind for Hollywood. They’re just there to see superhero movies. They’re just there to see IP turned into movies.

And that generation has now seen the planet threatened in every movie they go to and they’ve seen every CGI image that could possibly be generated. And the problem with movies that are generated inside a computer is that when any image is possible, no image is that impressive anymore. And I think we are raising the bar for what it’s going to take to dazzle people to such a degree that eventually you’re just going to have a movie that’s just an hour and 20 minutes of explosions, because I don’t know what else you can do if it’s not going to be about character, story, and theme.

John: Yeah.

Billy: Which as I said, I think we’re surrendering to television.

John: So this last fall I went and saw an early cut of your movie Secret in Their Eyes, which you made for STX. And I remember seeing the initial credit as it showed up like what the hell is STX? I was like, oh, it’s a new studio, it’s like a new place that’s doing a movie. And I loved seeing your cut and I was so happy that your movie got made and it got out there in the world and it didn’t sort of set the world on fire.

Billy: Nope.

John: So what was it like sort of going, I mean, it’s so much time and so much energy to get a movie made and to get a movie cut. You put everything you have into it and what did it feel like for it not to land?

Billy: I’m glad we’re talking about this, because I know that there are a lot of writers listening and I wanted to make sure that when we sat down today that we spent at least a little bit of time talking about failure, because you have to learn from it and you have to survive it. You have to grow from it.

That experience for me was a total humiliation. I remember about three or four days before that movie came out when I started to see what those reviews were going to be and the tracking, what that was looking like.

John: So the tracking being, it’s the advance look at sort of where they think your movie is going to open in terms of Box Office.

Billy: Right.

John: They basically do surveys to figure out within a range what they think you’re going to open at.

Billy: And our tracking numbers had always been okay. Then if you remember Paris happened a week before we opened and all of a sudden our tracking numbers just went off the cliff.

John: Yeah.

Billy: Which has nothing to do with the reviews by the way but it didn’t help. I sat my kids down and I said, “Okay, your dad is about to get punched in the face in public and I’m not happy about it. But if I am going to enjoy the ride that is Captain Phillips or The Hunger Games, I have to expose myself to this. You cannot have one without the risk of the other. So we’re going to survive it and we’re going to learn from it and we’re going to move on.”

I stopped reading reviews. I stopped reading the Calendar and have not read the Calendar since because I just didn’t want to see some mention in there that was kind of snarky or mean. I didn’t watch any screeners for the entire Christmas season. I just couldn’t watch anyone else’s movie because I thought I want everything else to suck right now.

John: Yeah. I know what that feels like.

Billy: I’m in such a bad place. I’m rooting for everything else to be terrible and that’s not a fun way to watch a movie.

John: No.

Billy: And nobody wants to be around a person who’s watching a movie that way. It changed me in a lot of, I think, profound ways which is not to say that I’m profound, but I’m saying the experience was. I used to really enjoy the bad reviews that other people got. Secret in Their Eyes knocked the fun out of that experience out of me forever.

I now know what that feels like. It was hubris on my part. I thought coming off of Shattered Glass and Breach and Captain Phillips, I was sort of the critics’ boy and I just didn’t think they would do that to me and that’s ridiculous, that’s hubris, which I then became aware of really quickly and paid a penance for. It’s not an experience that I would wish on anybody. I was enormously lucky. That movie came out on November 20th. I was already in prep on Tycoon. So, I had a bad weekend. But that Monday, November 23rd, I was back at work. I was prepping Tycoon which was this incredibly joyous piece of material, I mean, it was Hollywood 1936 and it was F. Scott Fitzgerald and everybody was so happy to be there.

Everyone on the crew who loves movies and loves what movie can be, they were so excited by every single prop, every single costume, every single hairstyle. And I just went back to work. There’s nothing else you can do.

John: It is a different thing with my movie The Nines, you know, it came and it went but it came and it went in very much a Sundance kind of way. Like most of those movies, there’s not an expectation it’s going to set the world on fire, so like I had all the buildup and then it’s like — and then it’s done. And it’s like, you know, it never expands. It never goes beyond the place. It’s like, all right, that happens. That’s the kind of way it is.

And then I’ve had movies that I was the writer that tanked. In some cases like I knew a long time ago that it was going to tank and it wasn’t sort of — they weren’t my babies. But it is very different when it’s all of your energy is on that thing. It’s like being a TV showrunner and having your show get yanked off the air, you know, in its first week.

Billy: Yeah. Part of it is when you’re a director, you’re a leader and you are there to inspire people and get them to follow you over that hill and if you do it well everybody buys in and they follow you over the hill. And on Secret, it’s very tough for me to assess it creatively. When I say it was a humiliation, I don’t mean that I’m embarrassed by the movie. I mean, I’m embarrassed by the reviews. And I’m embarrassed by the box office, and right now I’m sorry I made it, right now I certainly wish I had not made it. But, making a movie is a little bit like raising a kid, you know, it takes you 20 years to find out if you did a good job or not.

I can look back on Shattered Glass which was a movie that got released in 2003 and I’ve had enough time away from that movie now. I can assess it. I know how I feel about that movie. I know how I feel about Breach. I won’t know how I really feel about Secret in Their Eyes until 2036. So we’ll have to redo this then and it’s possible that in 2036 I’ll say, “Critics were right. I shouldn’t have made that movie. It was dumb to remake such a beloved Argentine movie or the choices that I made in remaking it were stupid.” But it’s very possible that I’ll say, “I think they were wrong. I think they were unfair.” Again, I just won’t know until enough time has passed.

John: So what is the lesson you can take from this? Does it make it harder for you to get another movie to direct done? Or did it change the kind of movie that you would try to do next to direct? Has it impacted your screenwriting life at all? My hunch is that people will perceive that as this movie directed by Billy Ray didn’t work but we know Billy Ray can write all these other movies because he’s always written all these other movies. So I wonder if it impacts both sides of your career.

Billy: I don’t think it had any impact at all on my screenwriting career, none. And I didn’t test whether not it had an impact on my directing career because I didn’t try to direct another feature right after that. Again, I fell right into Tycoon. I can’t tell you how lucky I was to have that to dive into. I just didn’t have time to sit around and think about it, you know. The thing about athletes is if they fail, they have another game the next day.

John: Absolutely.

Billy: And they get a chance to sort of rewrite themselves and there are stories about, you know, relief pitchers who were supposed to be closers who give up a gigantic homerun that ends a season in the playoffs or the World Series and they don’t have a game to play the next day and sometimes they wind up shooting themselves because it’s just too long to think about the period of failure. It happened very famously to a guy named Donnie Moore who pitched for the California Angels in ’86. But anyway, I had Last Tycoon to dive into which was a chance to direct again and it was a chance to do something very, very different. So, we’ll see.

John: We’ll see. And so with Last Tycoon as an Amazon pilot, it is now up there for people to look at, so there will be a link in the show notes so people can click through and watch it?

Billy: Yes.

John: And after watching it they can tell Amazon how great it was and that they should order it series. That’s essentially the stage you’re at right now, right?

Billy: Let’s hope they feel that way. The other thing about Secret is I do not look at reviews anymore.

John: Yeah.

Billy: So, I’m told we’re doing great.

John: [laughs]

Billy: We launched this morning at 6:00. I’m told everything is going great and lots of five-star reviews are happening but I will not look.

John august: Yeah, don’t look.

Billy: I will not look, because I’m the wrong personality type for this. I’ve learned that about myself. Chris Keyser who is going to run the show with me happens to be in Europe right now and he called me this morning to say that we had just launched. And he called me to say that on Amazon UK, we’ve gotten 17 customer reviews and sixteen of them are five stars.

John: Well, that’s great.

Billy: And I said, “Who was that seventeenth review?”

John: Yeah.

Billy: That is where my head goes.

John: Yeah, of course.

Billy: So, I’m the wrong guy to be looking at reviews.

John: Cool. Let’s go back to feature land —

Billy: Yeah.

John: And I want to look at a video that Vanity Fair put out that says, “How much does everyone working on a $200 million movie earn?” So we’ll have a link in the show notes to it, it is about a four-minute video, but really we’re only curious about above the line basically.

Billy: [laughs]

John: Because we’re writers [laughs]

Billy: It does not mean bellow the line is not important, it just means it’s not what we’re talking about today.

John: Indeed. And we don’t necessarily know — have a great insight into like sort of how much those below the line people make, but we do know how much the above the line people make. So —

Billy: Yeah.

John: The video which you’ll see a link to in the show notes, it takes a theoretical $200 million movie and the guy that put it together basically went through a bunch of different budgets and sort of averaged out what he saw between these budgets. What did you think?

Billy: See, it looks about right.

John: Great. So, this is what they are listing for these different amounts. So, the director of this $200 million movie, $4 million paid. That seem right?

Billy: Yeah, that seems right, but obviously plus some back-end participation.

John: And so if it was a newer director it might not be that high —

Billy: Right.

John: And a super-experienced director might be higher than that.

Billy: Absolutely.

John: But $4million felt right. The thing that gave me a little bit of pause is that this video listed executive producers before producers which to me suggested that this person wasn’t as familiar with the order of credits. Executive producers would have been listed after producer.

Billy: Okay.

John: Yeah.

Billy: Fair enough.

John: These executive producers, a million basically each. Feel about right?

Billy: Yeah, sounds right on a $200 million movie.

John: So, let’s think about who those people would be on $200 million dollar movie. So they are — they could be someone at the director’s company, the person who runs the company with the director.

Billy: Yeah. Although I would bet that person is probably a producer, not an executive producer.

John: Yeah, that’s probably true. Could be the author of the book?

Billy: Could be the author of the book, could be someone who controlled the rights to the book.

John: For sure. Then there were three producers listed, each at a million dollars. So, producers’ slot, that could have been the director’s producing partner —

Billy: Easily.

John: It could have been the former studio executive who —

Billy: [Laughs]

John: Who got booted out of the studio.

Billy: Absolutely.

John: And then the writers. Let us talk about the writers.

Billy: By the way, one of those producers could actually be the person who really produced the movie. In other words, like a line producer —

Billy: Absolutely.

Billy: Who was of such value, that they actually got a producer credit.

John: Yeah, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Billy: Although sometimes line producers wind up getting executive producer credit.

John: Yeah, while we’re at the producer level, we would see, after some of them, a PGA which means Producers Guild of America.

Billy: Right.

John: And so, it’s not the guild in the same way that the Writers Guild is a guild —

Billy: No.

John: But it is a group of producers who look at each movie and say, like, “Who really did the job of producing?”

Billy: That is right.

John: And they determine who gets that actual thing.

Billy: That’s right.

John: Writers, so there are three writers listed in this $200 million movie. The first one at $3.2 million, the second at $900,000. The third one at $250,000.

Billy: Right.

John: So this one doesn’t list those writers with any ands or ampersands. We don’t know if there’s any teams.

Billy: Okay.

John: If there were three writers listed, there would have likely have been a team. They could have all been ands I guess together.

Billy: Okay, I could give you a scenario for that one.

John: All right.

Billy: The scenario for that one is that the second writer, the one who is making $900,000.

John: Yeah.

Billy: Okay. The second writer, let’s just say that that second writer was the first writer aboard and did a ton of work on it and got paid well. And then they decided that writer just had no more in the tank.

John: Yeah.

Billy: Then the third writer, the one who made $250,000, was some hot shot like straight out of Sundance or NYU and everyone said, “Oh my god, this guy has got the greatest take. Or this girl has got the greatest take on how to fix this particular script.”

John: Yeah.

Billy: So they came in, one draft, and then everyone said, “Okay, this is a total disaster.” So, 250, but some of it stayed in.

John: Yeah.

Billy: Then they brought in —

John: The closer.

Billy: A big hit —

John: They brought in Billy Ray.

Billy: Let’s not say anyone in particular, but they brought in somebody because there are a number of people out there who could do this kind of work and that person and the director completely fell in love.

And so it started off as a weekly, which is how the number got high fast, and then it became an all services contract because the director said, “I am not going off and making this movie without this person next to me.” And so all of a sudden it became that gigantic number.

John: The other scenario, I mean, 3.2 felt really high but the other scenario I was thinking of, if this was a big-name sort of first writer who got like a million — a million against a million and then there was also some backend stuff that it would be very hard for those other two writers to exist in that situation.

Billy: That is why I think it goes the other way.

John: I think you are probably right. So, coming in as a weekly is one of those situations where the movie had a whole bunch of troubles. It just kept going on forever and they just basically kept paying that writer’s weekly.

Billy: Here is a thing about that. It has happened to me a couple of times. There is one moment in the history of any movie where the writer has any juice, I mean any, and it’s that moment. They’ve done ten drafts with three or four writers. They are millions into the development of the script. They know they want to make the movie and they don’t have a daft they can shoot.

John: Yeah.

Billy: And they are all panicking. Everyone is afraid they’re going to get fired. Everyone is kind of losing their marbles for a second there and for one moment the writer walks in and is the grown up in the room and very calmly says, “Okay, I’ve looked at the material. Here is what’s not working. Here is what I think we need to fix. Here is how I plan to address it.” And in that moment you have the power.

John: Yeah, totally.

Billy: Everyone is saying, “Oh my god, somebody is going to save us.” Now, by the way, the next day you’re still just the writer, but at least in that meeting you have some juice and it’s a great feeling.

John: It is a great feeling. A couple of a times in my career I have been that person who came in and have done that. John Lee Hancock famously does that. And it is a great moment when you sort of can see like, “I know how to do this, I know how to keep everybody calm.”

Billy Rey: Right

John: And honestly if the director believes in you but also like one of the actors believes in you, if like Will Smith believes in you —

Billy: You’re gold.

John: And does not want you to leave, you’re there.

Billy Rey: You are gold. Now, the thing about doing a weekly and I haven’t done that many of them, by the end of a weekly, and I do not mean to compare writing to digging coal, it’s not. It’s not as hard as working in a coal mine, but in relative terms, you are so fried by the end of that process you begin to feel like a really well-paid typist.

John: Completely.

Billy: Because at the very end you’re sitting in a room with eight people, they all have 12 drafts in front of them, and I go back to the days when these were on paper, right, not just on computers. And by the end they know they have you for one more day and they’re saying, “Can you give us this scene from this draft and this scene from that draft and this scene from this draft.” And you are sort of taking dictation.

And you come away from, at least I do, you come away from a weekly convinced you have no talent. And I never need a rest. I never ever, ever need to stop working. After a weekly I need about two days where I am just kind of a zombie. I don’t think it is a bad fit for what it is I’m capable of doing. I just do not like doing it.

John: Yeah, especially because sometimes you’re a weekly, but you go to wherever the production is, and so therefore you are like trying to do this in a hotel room while all of this other stuff is crazy and you’re on strange hours and —

Billy: That I would not do because I don’t like to be away from my family. There are certain people who are great away from their family. I’m not one of them. There is no weekly that could pull me away from Los Angeles. I just wouldn’t do it.

John: The other thing I want to talk about with this list of credits is the writers, like, they’re listing these three writers here but maybe not necessary those were the people who got credited. So, if this person is looking at the budget, there’s honestly a lot of writing that may not be reflected on the credits. And so like —

Billy: Absolutely.

John: A bunch of money is spent in development.

Billy: Of course.

John: So, it is kind of impossible that, like, this total aggregate number might be accurate but, like, the actual writers who were credited didn’t get paid as much as that.

Billy: Oh, no question.

John: Lead actor $12 million, second actor 4.5, third actor 1.5.

Billy: There aren’t that many lead actors who can get that number.

John: Twelve million went away, sort of, it’s —

Billy: What that number was, it’s something that Peter Chernin once said to me, when I was about to — the first time that I was co-chairing the negotiating committee for the Writers Guild. To get ready to go into those negotiations, I felt like I didn’t know enough and so I wanted to go do the work that a journalist would do to sort of learn how these negotiations work.

So, aside from talking to everyone at the Writers Guild to prepare myself, I started talking to people who were in the AMPTP and one of them was Chernin who, you know, was a very major force in the strike in 2007 to 2008 but now it was 2011.

John: Yeah. And now he’s a producer.

Billy: He’s a producer. He’s no longer in a studio head, so I wrote to him and I said, “Can I come interview you?”

So we sat down and I wanted to hear what that negotiation was like, with that strike was like from the other side of the table. I thought that would be valuable information for me. And he was forthcoming and great. But one of the things that he said to me was what a seismic change the business had undergone since the DVD market have flat-lined. He said the margins for the movie business were so good when DVDs were selling like they were selling before that market matured and he said, “However, we didn’t handle that profit well. What we did with that profit was we gave it in $20 million chunks to actors.”

John: Yeah.

Billy: And once that market dried up, those $20-million paydays just went away.

John: Yeah. All right. The last credit here that seemed high for me that maybe you would know this better. Second unit director is listed at $1 million. That felt high, but maybe I guess some of these movies that a second unit director really is making that much money.

Billy: I’ve never seen it.

John: Yeah.

Billy: What I can tell you is if you have a director who insists on a specific second unit director, it’s possible.

John: Okay. That’s fair. So a $200 million movie that came out this last week is Warcraft which was an incredibly expensive adaptation of the very successful video game. It did not perform well in the US whatsoever but it performed incredibly well in China. So a bunch of stories this last week about how this movie wasn’t even sort of made for America in a certain sense. It didn’t need to do well in America because it was going to do so well in China. We sort of weren’t even paying attention to like how much it was essentially a Chinese movie with American actors in it.

Billy: This is kind of a stunning statistic.

John: Yeah.

Billy: So I may have to say it twice. Every single day 15 new movie screens go up in China.

John: Yeah.

Billy: Every day. Think about that.

John: Yeah, so, I mean —

Billy: That is what you call an exploding marketplace. Capitalism is a voracious animal and it doesn’t stop and reflect. It just keeps moving forward and devouring things and it goes where the profit is. And the profit right now is in China.

John: Yeah.

Billy: So, of course, a capitalist animal is going to start moving in that direction and all the studios have. You know, there’s a storyline in Last Tycoon and I don’t mean to bring this back in a promotional way. But in The Last Tycoon there is a storyline about how Monroe Stahr and Pat Brady run the studio and they can’t make a movie that might offend Germany.

John: Yes.

Billy: Because Germany is such an important —

John: It was the number two market in the world.

Billy: Number two foreign market in the world. And that happens to be true by the way. Hitler had passed this thing called the Article 15 which forbade the exhibition of any American by a studio that had offended Germany with some other movie.

Anyway, if you take out the word Germany and put in the word China, it’s the exact same conversation that’s happening today. And I know a number of writers who have written movies that may have a line or two that seemed like a poke at China. And those lines come out of the movies.

John: Yeah.

Billy: I was for just a brief period of time working on something on Warner Brothers where they said to me, “Your bad guy is Chinese. You just got to make them Russian.” I said, “Why?” They said, “We don’t want to offend China?”

John: Yeah.

Billy: And I guess they do not care about offending Russia. That’s not good for storytelling, but it is where storytelling is going right now. And what you’ll see as a result of that is more action, right, because action doesn’t really need to be translated. And I think with a lot less nuance. And it will become tougher. It will require much more courage to make movies that are something other than that.

John: Absolutely. People often say like, “Oh, well, it’s common for movies to make more overseas than they do in the US.”

Billy: It didn’t used to be.

John: Yeah. But, I mean, over the last ten years that needle has crossed over and so like Star Wars: Force Awakens, huge in the US, but it made 54% of its money overseas. What is unique is this is the first time where 90% of this, of Warcraft’s money, is coming from overseas and so much of it is coming from China. It is also a case where Legendary, the studio behind it, is now owned by a Chinese company. It is owned by the Chinese company that owns the movie theaters.

Billy: Right.

John: And so, uniquely you have a closed market. There are only certain movies that can get released in China theatrically. But if you own the movie theaters, there is a very good chance you are going to be able to release that movie theatrically. So, in some ways, it goes back to the really old sort of studio system —

Billy: That’s right.

John: Where they used to own their own theaters and where a Paramount Theater that was owned by Paramount. And they could make the money the whole way through. They were vertically integrated in ways that are not allowed to be integrated theatrically anymore.

Billy: That is right. And they all did it except Colombia. Harry Cohn decided he didn’t want to own theaters.

John: Again Sony, they never own both parts.

Billy: [laughs] It’s in their DNA.

John: Yeah.

Billy: But there was a reason that the United States government stepped in and said, “No. You can’t own the theaters and own the product,” just like it used to be in television that you couldn’t own the network and produce for the network if you were the same entity. It is not good for the product. It’s not good for competition. I have surprisingly little say over what people do in China.

John: [laughs]

Billy: They just never call and ask if I think it’s a good idea for the same company that owns the theaters to be the company that’s producing the movies. So I imagine that’ll keep going.

John: So let’s talk about TV again because this sense that you cannot be the studio and be the network has basically all gone away.

Billy: Gone away. That was Fin-syn.

John: Yeah, it’s Fin-syn. It’s done. So your show is made for Sony but it’s being distributed through Amazon. Classically, the story they always told us about TV is that you have to make a hundred episodes of TV a shows or else it’s lost.

Billy: That’s over.

John: Yeah, yeah. It was deficit financing up until you made a hundred. So that was the magic number at which syndication kicked in and then shows became profitable.

Billy: Right.

John: So you just be very thankful that we’re putting your show on the air at all because we’re losing money until we get to that magic hundred number.

Billy: That is right. Now because all of these AMPTP companies, remember we’re talking about six companies that essentially control 95% of the media that’s produced and distributed in the United States, or the world. Because those are all publicly-held companies, the people who run those companies have to stand in front of stockholders. And they have to explain how much money they’re making. It’s a matter of law. So when the owner of a network stands up and says that a show like Under the Dome was in profit before it shot a frame a film, that’s on the record.

John: Yeah.

Billy: That’s not something that people can walk away from. The model has changed now based on foreign sales, based on all sorts of revenue streams that exist that need to bundle a hundred episodes and then go into distribution heaven. There’s just no such thing anymore, it’s not required. There are so many more ways to squeeze money out of a show now. That’s another reason why TV is a great business.

You know, you look at the impact of DVRs and you think, “Okay. I don’t know anyone who watches commercials anymore unless it’s a football game. How are networks still making money? How are they still in business? Why are they still at the upfronts dropping billions of dollars?” And yet they do. It works great. And the reason is because, again, capitalism being this constantly moving animal, the networks and the studios have found a way to exploit foreign markets and exploit by the way all the different platforms on which things can be screened. And so it’s just a great business, a greater business than ever. I mean, those six companies are going to generate $49 billion in profit this year.

John: Yeah.

Billy: Which is extraordinary and which we will be reminding them off when we sit down to negotiate with them very shortly.

John: Yeah. It does strike me as strange that whenever we sort of go into a negotiation stance with the studios, it’s always like, “Oh, there’s so much turmoil, it’s like it’s so difficult for us to make money.”

Billy: Right.

John: And then, you know, years where we’re not doing that, they’re happy to report all their profits to —

Billy: Right. No, it’s the same story, look.

John: But what has changed is that it has become much more clear. We had Aline on recently and I was trying to tell her that like she gets all nervous about Crazy Ex-girlfriend which is a fantastic show and one some level like feeling bad that it’s not a bigger hit. And I keep trying to remind her like they’re still making money. Like don’t —

Billy: Oh, they’re doing great.

John: Yeah, they’re absolutely fine.

Billy: Look it is such a shell game. It’s extraordinary. When people are running a show, they have so much pressure put on them because a studio will say, “Okay, you have X amount to make this show,” and of that X amount here is your portion that goes to the writer’s room. And so the showrunner looks at that number and says, “Oh, my God, like this is just not enough to put enough people around this table.” So, I have to do something really stupid like paper teaming. I have to take these two people and tell them, “I know you’ve never met but you’re now going to be a team and you’re going to get paid as one person.” There’s a lot of that going on.

John: Yeah, it forces writers into this situation of making like questionable choices that hurt other writers.

Billy: That’s right. And within the context of that given show, that showrunner is actually doing the best job they can with the resources that have provided to them. However, what they’re not getting, the shell game part they’re not getting is that the studio for which they’re doing this is making billions of dollars and it’s a portfolio business. You have to sort of step back and look at the whole canvass. And if it’s Fox or if it’s any of those other studios, they have plenty of money and, of course, they could put more money into the writer’s budget of that given show and still be doing great.

But what they have decided is that the reason that they’re making $49 billion is because they have found all these revenue streams but they have kept constant downward pressure on cost. And for them, why would they change that formula if they don’t have to change that formula. It’s part of our job as a negotiating committee to acquaint them with the facts of what that actually means and to make them re-examine and then change that formula because it’s just fair that they do and I think necessary.

John: You raised that idea earlier about putting up a big sign on the WGA that’s like a big moving billboard.

Billy: Oh, the scrolling thing. Where did you hear that idea?

John: I think you told me at some dinner we had.

Billy: This is my fantasy.

John: All right, so tell me about the fantasy.

Billy: Okay, what the American Cancer Society did on this one building in West LA, they just have this rolling tote board that tells you the number of smoking deaths as it grows over the course of the year. I’d like to that with AMPTP profits. I think outside of the Writers Guild there should be an electronic rolling tote board that’s just keeps churning millions into billions of dollars so that is —

John: Not just revenues but actual profits. That’s the thing.

Billy: Yeah, profits, as the year progresses we’d be getting closer to that $49 billion number. And then no one would have to ask why it is we have to renegotiate our deal. We never talked about the Writers Guild vote.

John: Well, let’s talk about the Writers Guild vote.

Billy: Oh, my god. Okay. All right. So, this vote that came up and I know that you and Craig and Michael Oates Palmer were allied on this one.

John: So, this is the decision about the amendments to —

Billy: Right.

John: Whether the term should go up to, was it four years or three years?

Billy: Three.

John: So, from two years to three years. The WGA board had all agreed to do that but it went to a vote of the —

Billy: Right. What was critical was not that we were extending it or attempting to extend it from two years to three years. What was critical is that we were trying to tie it to negotiations so that there would never be a year where the board was coming up for elections and we were negotiating a contract at the same time. That was the idea.

John: Yeah.

Billy: And as someone who has now co-chaired that committee twice, I can tell you, it’s not a good thing that we’re in the middle of negotiations and trying to put together a negotiating committee and people are busy grandstanding which is what you have to do when you run for office. That’s why the board voted 15 to 1 to support this.

And I went out of my way not to do a lot of campaigning about it. I just thought I’ll let the chips fall where they may. And I kept hearing about the rabble rousing going on between you and Mazin and Michael Oates Palmer, who was the one on the board who voted against it. And I decided, no, I’m just going to keep my powder dry and not fire on this one. And as it turns out, I think 64% of the guild voted yes, we needed two-thirds. I forget the exact number but I think we were eight votes shy. I have a very hard time forgiving myself because I know I could have convinced eight people. I know it.

John: Yeah.

Billy: Or I could have come on this show and we could have a very healthy back and forth about it and I should have. I should have. That was laziness on my part and I think as a guild, I think we’ll pay a price for it. I don’t think it’ll be horrible. There’s not going to be blood.

John: Billy, I mean, Craig could do a better job defending this than me, but I do agree with him. We’ve never had, it’s always been two years and it hasn’t killed us to this point.

Billy: Right.

John: And I think the danger, and the danger which we have raised on the podcast, was extending to three years, it feels really great when you have really wonderful people like you and we kept singling you out as like the person we want.

Billy: Oh, thank you.

John: And so, I mean, you should listen to the episode. We single you out as the person we want to have to make sure is always there and is there for three years. There are certain people who get on that board —

Billy: Did you name them?

John: Craig named a few.

Billy: Did he really? Oh my god. [laughs]

John: I’m not sure if it made it to the edit, but he really did name a few.

Billy: Oh, my god, I got to talk to him off-camera.

John: So, there are people who you don’t want to be there for three years and you want to make sure you can, when you see things going wrong, you can get those idiots off the board. And so the only reason, I will tell you, that I understand that trying to not link stuff up, but the only reason we did that was because of the stupid people on the board for three years versus two years and we’ve all been through situations where people have taken control of the board and it’s not been a good happy outcome, so those were our reasons.

Billy: Well, I hear you. Here is how I would challenge that.

John: Yeah.

Billy: I’ve now served on the Writers Guild board for, I guess I’m in my 7th year. I’ll be termed out a year and a half from now.

John: Yeah.

Billy: I also serve on the Board of Governors of the Academy. And I just want to paint a picture for you about how different those two experiences are, okay? Everybody who’s on the Writers Guild board is there because they care about writers, they care about writing, and they know how hard it is to make living as a writer. In no way are they there for self-aggrandizement. It really is altruism. They really do want to dig in and do a great job for writers. And I’ve never met anyone on the board who had any agenda other than that.

It’s very different on the Academy Board of Governors where there are a number of people on that board who don’t feel relevant but they’re relevance is completely tied to their being a governor. And they maybe haven’t worked in 20 years but they’re still a governor. That’s a very different board. It functions in a very different way and not as well. So, a long winded way of saying, there is no one on that board that you really need to get rid of inside of three years. And even if there were, nobody outside that board would know because I can tell you having served with a bunch of different people on that board, the handful of people on that board that might annoy me personally, I would never say so publicly. There would never be any indication publicly that anyone out in the membership would know about and therefore have to or want to act upon and no one on that board has ever done any damage, ever. It’s just not the kind of board that would allow for that, it’s too democratic in nature.

John: No, no, no, there have been situations where slates of people have come on board and those slates can be incredibly dangerous and having those —

Billy: Totally agree.

John: And having those dangerous slates on there for three years versus two years is a real concern of mine. And my concern isn’t about the actual people who are there right now, it is envisioning scenarios in which a bunch of idiots do get on there and it becomes very hard to get them off. And that’s really the scenario that I’m envisioning for this.

I would say I don’t think the Academy being quite as applicable because the worst that happens when you have a bunch bad people on the Academy board is that like they make some stupid choices about sort of like hosting the Oscars or sort of the new museum, but they’re not like shutting down the film industry for an ill-conceived labor action. And it’s peoples’ livelihood and so I think peoples’ livelihood is a very different situation than the important but not as, you know, day-to-day crucial like what is films’ legacy in America.

Billy: I hear you. I would say that what you guys were worried about was a bit of a nuclear scenario; having a bad slate that is entrenched in power for three years that you can’t get rid of. And I can understand why that would sound pretty daunting. I’d say the likelihood of that is very, very low when compared with the 100% likelihood that you’re going to have elections that happen during a negotiation period which hurts our negotiations.

John: Yeah, but I honestly, I understand your perspective on that but I will say, as the person watching you lead the negotiating committee, I feel like the job of the negotiating committee and the reason why you have all these other big-main people who are on the negotiating committee who are not part of the board is that it insulates the change of the leadership within the board. Because the negotiating committee is the people who are actually sitting across the table from the AMPTP and those are the big-name writers who they want to make sure are actually delivering their TV episodes next week. So, I think the negotiating committee is what insulates the difference between, you know, this board versus the next board that gets elected.

Billy: Somewhere out there are eight writers who agree with you.

John: All right. Apparently so. So, we use this platform for this.

It has come time for us to do what we do every week which is a One Cool Thing in which we recommend something. My One Cool Thing is actually something Aline Brosh McKenna brought up on an earlier episode, she described the character being too much of a Mary Sue and I didn’t know what a Mary Sue was. So what do you think a Mary Sue is? Do you have a prototype in your head of what that is?

Billy: I do.

John: Okay. Tell me what you think is a Mary Sue?

Billy: But it’s a very ’50s prototype.

John: Okay. Tell me what you think it is.

Billy: I would think that if it’s a pejorative, if a character is too much of a Mary Sue then they’re not adventurous, they’re probably very predictable in their behavior and they think small.

John: That’s not what she was meaning. It’s not sort of the trope, and so, on TV tropes I fell down a deep hole in TV tropes and I read up about Mary Sue, and so Mary Sue actually comes from Star Trek fan-fiction and so the prototype is the character who, I’ll read one of the definitions, she’s amazingly intelligent, outrageously beautiful, adored by all around her, and absolutely detested by most reading her adventures. She’s Mary Sue, the most reviled character type in media fan-fiction. And what’s fascinating is like so it’s the kind of character who seems to represent the author’s intent, basically like the author injecting him or herself into the narrative and is a character who should sort of be secondary but is sort of taking over all of the focus. It is a pejorative but it’s also sort of sexist and it’s a weirdly —

Billy: It checks a lot of boxes.

John: It checks a lot of wonderful boxes but it’s a trope in the same way that Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a trope like you have to watch for like are you doing, you know Manic Pixie Dream Girl, right? Oh, wow, and so Manic Pixie Dream Girl is Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer. She’s like quirky and fantastic but like just impossible to exist in real life.

Billy: Yes, I have a problem with that.

John: Yes, and so the Mary Sue is an equivalent kind of case of like the unknowingly two perfect character that could not exist in natural real life.

Billy: Yeah. In the ’80s, the equivalent of that would be the Sylvester Stallone character in Cliffhanger.

John: Absolutely, one hundred percent.

Billy: Okay. Who wants to feel guilty about something that he did so that he can brood during the movie but the movie doesn’t really have the balls to have him do anything wrong. So even though someone dies in that opening sequence in such a way that Sylvester Stallone could kind of say I feel bad about it, the movie actually made it very clear it wasn’t his fault at all.

John: One hundred percent.

Billy: That’s an ’80s trope. That’s the equivalent of that.

John: That sounds really good.

Billy: Yes.

John: What’s your One Cool Thing?

Billy: Oh, my god. Well, this week, I would have to say my One Cool Thing is the fantasy that I might be able to spend the next five years of my life telling the story of The Last Tycoon.

John: Ah-ha!

Billy: I know that sounds like a shameless plug. I don’t mean it that way, I really do feel that way. You know, it’s a story that means something to me, it’s not just about the contrast between the fantasy of Hollywood and the reality of Hollywood. It’s about why we need that fantasy. Why does it have that hold on us that it does? You know, every character in that show, they are chasing a dream of one kind or another and it has an absolute vice-like hold on them. What is that thing and why is it so powerful? And why is it by the way powerful out there in the public as well. That’s a story I feel I’ve had a career that has prepared me to tell.

John: That’s fantastic.

Billy: And the idea of getting the privilege of doing that, that would be something very special.

John: That would be very cool. You must listen to You Must Remember This, the Karina Longworth podcast.

Billy: Everyone tells me I have to listen to it.

John: So, you would love this podcast because it is exactly in your alley. In some ways, you know, it is so much your thing that it might become like weirdly overwhelmingly sort of too much. It’s like, you know, I’m sure like professional football players like don’t like want to go, you know, play football on Xbox but it is remarkably sort of what your show is and Craig Mazin actually plays Louis B. Mayer in the podcast.

Billy: You’re kidding me.

John: Karina has him do the voice of Louis B. Mayer.

Billy: Oh, my god.

John: Yeah. I have two tiny bits of follow up before we wrap up.

Billy: Yeah.

John: First off, the Scriptnotes 250-episode USB drives which is all 250 first episodes of the show plus all the bonus episodes, those are finally now available, so you can find those at johnaugust.com.

Billy: Oh great.

John: We’ll give you one of those.

Billy: Thank you.

John: Yeah, you can catch up all the back episodes you missed.

Billy: Thank you.

John: And also last week Craig’s One Cool Thing was about Sunspring which was this short film written by a computer. Basically it was this computing-learning program that like took a bunch sci-films and boiled them down and sort of like generated original plot and dialogue based on that. It was very cool, you should check it out, but I’d also say that —

Billy: It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever heard in my life, but okay.

John: Yeah, we’ll send you a link to that so you can see what that turned out to be. I will say that, if you are a person who’s researching sort of language processing or sort computer learning and you would like a big codex of people talking, we actually have all the transcripts for Scriptnotes very conveniently, we’ve had to sort of put them all together in one archive. So you have me and Craig talking and it’s all in text. So, if you are a researcher, a legit researcher who actually does this not just like, “I’d like all the text,” email us and we can send you a link to that because it could be very interesting that you can build a Craig-bot and John-bot and they can have a conversation.

Billy: But I would say in particular to miss the actual inflection of Mazin’s voice, I think you’d be losing half of the richness.

John: Oh, I agree.

Billy: Of his words.

John: Absolutely, like you don’t even listen to the show so you don’t know his sexy Craig character which is so horrifying. No computer will ever duplicate that.

Billy: [laughs] One thing about Craig Mazin that I want to share with you. When I really got to know him, it was because I went on the WGA screen credits committee which he was co-chairing with Robert King.

John: Yes, those are two strong personalities.

Billy: Okay, so I go into my first meeting of this committee and, you know, I don’t know how many committees I’m on in the Guild, it’s too many. But this is one. And it had to be something I cared a lot about because we’ve all been through arbitrations and I thought we could help make the process better. And in fact, we did. But in that first meeting, Robert King resigned from the committee, which it turns out he does every meeting. I didn’t know that. But there was so much fighting and screaming and craziness going back and forth and some of it was happening via Skype because there were people on the committee who were in New York at that time.

So the meeting ended and I went up to Mazin and I said, “How the hell do I get off this committee?” And he said in a pine box.

John: [laughs]

Billy: [laughs] That’s Craig.

John: Very good. As always, our show is produced Stuart Friedel. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. This is where Craig would usually do his “hey, eh” about these things two guys.

Billy: [laughs]

John: If you have a question for me or for Craig, I am on Twitter @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. Billy Ray, are you on Twitter?

Billy: I am now.

John: What’s your Twitter handle?

Billy: Sony made me get a Twitter handle.

John: Fantastic.

Billy: So I have to tweet.

John: Right.

Billy: It’s @wmr_ray.

John: All right. There’ll be a link to all of these Twitter handles including Billy’s, but you should tweet him after you watch his show on Amazon and tell him how much you enjoyed it.

Billy: Please do.

John: Our outro this week is by Fantastic Negrito. It’s from his new album Last Days of Oakland. It’s a song called The Worst, because it’s about money and power which is fantastic. Malcolm Spellman, a frequent guest on our show, is one of the people who is helping to push Fantastic Negrito out into the world. He is doing a heroes’ job. It is our job to help you know about the music of Fantastic Negrito. And we’ll be back next week and Craig will be healthy and here. Billy Ray, thank you so much for being on the show.

Billy: Oh, my god, this was really a pleasure. Can I do it again?

John: Sure.

Billy: Great.

John: Bye.

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