Screenwriter Mark Mallouk on Black Mass

In addition to today’s normal Scriptnotes episode, premium subscribers can find a half-hour interview I did with Black Mass screenwriter Mark Mallouk. We discuss the film’s long journey from book to screen, including how the sudden reappearance of Whitey Bulger in 2011 changed both the script and the production.

Campaign statements and residual statements

John and Craig discuss the WGA election results, and take a look at the issues that dominated the campaigns. What is a paper team? Do screenwriters really retire? And why does it take us so long to get paid?

Rewrites and Scheduling

Craig and John take an extensive look at best practices when coming in to rewrite an existing script. How do you take the reins when you weren’t the first screenwriter? Whether you’re starting over at page one or executing some surgical fixes, we discuss the psychology and reality of being the subsequent writer.

Scriptnotes t-shirts, pie chart edition

Tomorrow is the last day to order Scriptnotes t-shirts. We only place the order once, so if you miss out, well, you missed out. Here’s a look at the trends this year.

2015 Scriptnotes shirts now available for pre-order

Every podcast needs a t-shirt. The 2015 Scriptnotes shirts are the best we’ve ever made, and that’s coming from experience. They’re available for pre-order right now, and only through September 17th.

Clerks and recreation

Craig and John tackle another installment of “How would this be a movie?” with a look at the Kentucky clerk, the French train bros, Uber and Deflategate. Who are the heroes and villains, and would there be enough plot to support the running time?

The International Episode

Craig and John look at how movies are translated, including an interview with a guy who does subtitles for a living. Plus, how Pixar and other companies are localizing movies for international audiences, and what happens when China becomes the largest film market.

Everything but the dialogue

John and Craig take a deep dive into scene description, looking at how seven produced screenplays arranged the words on the page. With samples from Aliens, Erin Brockovich, Oceans 11, Unforgiven, Wall-E, Wanted and Whip It, we tackle verbs and metaphors, ellipses and underlining.

The Scriptnotes 200-episode USB drive

For a limited time, we’re selling a USB flash drive loaded with the first 200 episodes of Scriptnotes — including all the bonus shows, the Dirty Episode, and special interviews. They’re $20 and available in the Store.

The One with Alec Berg

Craig sits down with Silicon Valley writer/director Alec Berg to talk about set ups and payoffs, editing comedy and how writing teams get screwed.

How would this be a movie?

John and Craig look at three current news stories from a screenwriter’s perspective, discussing how each lends itself to becoming a movie.

The 200th Episode Live Feed

On Wednesday, May 27th — tomorrow — we’ll be recording the 200th episode of Scriptnotes. Everyone is invited to listen to the live feed. You can find it right here at

Second Draft Doldrums

Craig and John discuss finding your way back to your story — and your enthusiasm — when writing your second draft. Craig has tips and suggestions. John has sympathy and war stories.

Ghost and Jacob’s Ladder at the WGA

As hoped, the WGA screening series has opened up my Q&A with Bruce Joel Rubin to everyone. This Saturday, April 25th, starting at 5pm.

Poking the bear

This week, Craig and John discuss recent events that seem custom-designed to make Craig furious.

How writing credits work

Craig and John do a deep-dive into the world of screenwriting credits, explaining the entire process from the Notice of Tentative Writing Credits, to arbitration to review boards. The system can be confusing, but most produced screenwriters will find themselves facing it at some point, so it’s important to understand how it works.

You can’t train a cobra to do that

Craig and John discuss backup plans, camera directions, and becoming so good they can’t ignore you. Plus we answer two listener questions about specificity in scene headers and how to indicate that a script is intended for animation.

The Deal with

Craig and John talk with the owner of to investigate what happened when the online screenwriting site suddenly went down this week, erasing four years of screenwriters’ work. When things went south, why did he try to distance himself from the debacle, and what comes next? It’s a candid discussion — but far less uncomfortable than the Final Draft episode.

Midseason Finale

Craig and John wrap up many plotlines from previous episodes, with follow-up on Three Page Challenges, diversity numbers, Road Runner and other rules, plus the Gravity lawsuit in light of the Blurred Lines verdict.

The Rules (or, the Paradox of the Outlier)

John and Craig discuss this year’s screenplay Oscar winners, including the success of Birdman’s outside-the-box approach and Graham Moore’s speech.

Go Set a Spider-Man

From Harper Lee to Sony to the Wheel of Time, it was a big week for studios trying to hold onto intellectual property. John and Craig discuss why those deals take such strange turns, including 1:30 a.m. airings on cable.

The Deal with the Gravity Lawsuit

John and Craig do a deep dive on Tess Gerritsen’s lawsuit concerning Gravity, using the case as a way to talk about contracts, chain of title, adaptation and corporate ownership. Spoiler: It’s really complicated, but it’s really interesting too.

The Dirty Show

In a special bonus Scriptnotes, we sit down with writer-actress Rebel Wilson and author-columnist Dan Savage to talk sex, television, swearing, and poop.

Bad Teachers, Good Advice and the Default Male

Aline Brosh McKenna joins John and Craig to discuss the how movies featuring good mentors (Dead Poet’s Society, To Sir with Love) differ from films with bad mentors (Whiplash, The Devil Wears Prada). It’s not just that the teachers are bad guys; rather, the stories are structured completely differently.

Doing, not thinking

John and Craig start the new year by discussing Chuck Palahniuk’s advice to avoid thinking verbs. Then it’s a new round of the Three Page Challenge.