The One with Rebel Wilson and Dan Savage

Scriptnotes: Ep. 182

John and Craig discuss exploding scripts and stock scenes. Then in the second half of the show, we welcome two very special guests.

Actress, writer and comedian Rebel Wilson joins us to talk about writing for television and Tall Poppy Syndrome.

Author and sex advice columnist Dan Savage tells us what he’d like to see Hollywood do better when in comes to sex on screen.

Both segments are out-takes from the much longer and much filthier Dirty Show available only on the premium feed. Our thanks to the 1,000 subscribers who made it possible, and to Rebel and Dan for joining us to talk about fish baskets, berets, anal sex and The Blue Lagoon.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 2-6-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.


Scriptnotes: Ep. 181

John and Craig pick up loose ends, with follow-up on previous episodes about “friends,” conflict, improv, Kindles, and defibrillation.

Then it’s that Peter Bart episode, which is enough to cause a heart attack.

Finally, we get to some listener questions about referring to collective characters, INT/EXT, deaf assistants and ellipses.

Next week, we hope to have two episodes: a normal one and the NSFW dirty show for the premium feed.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 1-29-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

How color timing works

Daryn Okada offers a great look at how a cinematographer approaches color-timing a feature in this latest video from The Academy:

It’s important to remember that when you see the dull, flat “before” footage, it’s not a mistake. These films aren’t saved in color timing, the way fashion models are transformed by Photoshop. Rather, modern DPs plan for color timing from the start, making choices both in prep and shot-by-shot to get the best possible image.

Weekend Read 1.5 now in beta, adds iPad and iCloud support

weekend read iconWeekend Read, our app for reading screenplays on the iPhone, will be adding two much-requested features in the next major update:

  • iPad support, including the iPad mini
  • iCloud syncing between your devices

The new features in Weekend Read require iOS 8.

If you’d like to join the beta, you can sign up here:

* indicates required

This truly is a beta; things will break. The good news is that the stable version of Weekend Read is always on the App Store, so it’s simple to delete the beta and reinstall something solid.

We’ll be adding a few new testers each week, so we likely won’t get to everyone. But we definitely need a variety of users who can test the new version out in the wild, because a lot has changed under the hood.

What’s new

Weekend Read 1.5 adds support for the iPad, both in portrait and landscape orientations. iPad support has been a long time coming, but was never urgent. Reading screenplay PDFs on the iPad isn’t bad even with current apps like GoodReader and PDFPro.

Weekend Read’s big advantage is that the app actually understands how screenplays work, so we can resize text, highlight characters, and offer Dark Mode. Even on the iPad, moving to a larger font size really helps reduce eye strain.


Weekend Read 1.5 is also much faster rendering screenplays, particularly on newer iPhones and iPads. You’ll rarely see the progress bar.

The bigger change — the one that’s been by far the most work for Nima Yousefi — is the addition of iCloud features.

Here’s what’s now possible:

  • If you add a screenplay on your iPhone, it automatically shows up on your iPad. (And vice-versa.)
  • You can organize scripts into folders.
  • You can import entire folders at once from the For Your Consideration lists. So it’s now one tap to install all of the 2014 Awards scripts, for example.
  • If you’re on a Mac with OS 10.10 Yosemite, you can drag screenplays into the iCloud Drive > Weekend Read folder. Super handy.

I should stress that all of the above bullet points are goals, not guarantees. Part of the reason we’re extending this beta beyond our friends and family is that there are a lot of edge cases in which things get wonky. If we can’t make a given feature work reliably, we’ll ship without it.

The work ahead

Weekend Read, and the beta, are free.

When we release the new version, we plan to have all the new features available for folks who’ve unlocked the app via in-app purchase. So to get more users ready, we’ve dropped the upgrade price for the next two weeks from $10 to $5. If you’ve been waiting for a sale, this is it.

If you haven’t tried Weekend Read, you can find it on the App Store. We have 27 of the 2014 award contender scripts available to read, including nine of the Academy Award-nominated screenplays. We also have Scriptnotes transcripts going all the way back to first episode.

Bad Teachers, Good Advice and the Default Male

Scriptnotes: Ep. 180

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.

John asks Craig and Aline about some ethical quandaries he’s been facing, ranging from awards voting to who is a “friend.”

We also discuss the “default male problem,” especially how it relates to comedy and the cleanest version of a joke.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 1-23-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Screenplays on the Kindle, 2015 edition

A screenwriter friend just emailed me to ask how she could get one of her scripts to look good on the Kindle. She had Googled and discovered I’d written about reading screenplays on the Kindle twice back in 2009. (I was an early Kindle adopter.)

Back in 2009, I found there to be a lot of potential for reading screenplays on the Kindle, but a lot of frustration.

Six years later, what’s changed?

Nothing. Kindles and screenplays are still a bad fit.

Attempting to get screenplays to look screenplay-like on Kindle is a fool’s errand, so let me actively dissuade you from trying. Down this path lies futility and despair.

It’s not the Kindle’s fault.

Kindles are designed for free-flowing text like books. They don’t know anything about how screenplays work, and they will fight you at every step. We know. We tried. That’s a large part of why we made Weekend Read.

If you’re starting with a PDF, the closest you can probably come on the Kindle is to run the script through Highland and save it as a Fountain file. That’s just plain text, so if you then import it into Kindle’s parser, you’ll get a rough approximation, with everything set on the left margin:

Mary and Tom carry in groceries.
They oughta call it, “Whole Paychec—
— THWACK! Tom is impaled by a spear.

I write in Fountain, so this looks fine to me. But that’s not what my friend was looking for. She wanted something like a printed screenplay, and you’re just not going to get that on the Kindle.

But you can get closer. If you dig into the text file and carefully set tags for character names and transitions, you can have them centered or moved to the right margin. Or you can bail on the screenplay formatting. Dave Trottier has instructions you can follow to make something that looks more like a published stage play. It’s incredibly tedious, but it’s possible.

With a lot of work, you can make something that looks okay — but only okay. That’s the best you’re going to get, and it’s not worth the effort. So in 2015, I use my Kindle for books and my iOS devices for screenplays. Each is the right tool for the job.