Left or Right

This link has been sitting in my queue for months, but it’s still worth sharing. Tony Zhou looks at how character choice is framed as going left or right.

You see this technique in movies going back to the dawn of cinema, but no recent movie has used it as fully as Snowpiercer, in which the entire film moves on a linear track.

On the page, you’ll rarely call out “right” or “left.” But that sense of forcing characters to choose between two visual possibilities is a fundamental and frequently-useful paradigm.

Twelve Days of Scriptnotes

Scriptnotes: Ep. 175

Craig and John welcome special guests Aline Brosh McKenna, Rachel Bloom, B.J. Novak, Jane Espenson and Derek Haas to talk about writing books, movies and especially television.

Aline and Rachel just finished shooting a pilot called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. We discuss the genesis of the project, and how sexism is just stupid.

B.J. tells us about the joy of reading Inglorious Basterds, and how the key to success is apparently editing your high school newspaper.

Jane and Derek teach us what really goes on in the writers room, from secret lingo to codes of silence.

Plus there are songs!

Recorded with a live audience at LA Film School as a benefit for the Writers Guild Foundation. Huge thanks to everyone who came and supported the show.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 12-19-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Hacks, Transference and Where to Begin

Scriptnotes: Ep. 174

John and Craig talk about where to start a story — how far back should you go? The decision about whether to meet the hero as a child, in their normal rut, or mid-crisis fundamentally changes the narrative, so it’s worth exploring fully.

We also discuss the psychological phenomenon of transference, and how writers’ desire for approval can lead to strange (and strained) relationships with executives and other authority figures. Finally, the Sony hack: was it a one-off, or will this be the first of many?

There are still a few tickets left for Thursday’s live Holiday show. Tickets available through the link below.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 12-15-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

The Perfect Reader

Scriptnotes: Ep. 173

Craig and John discuss the qualities of the perfect reader, whether it’s a studio professional or your screenwriting buddy. What should a reader look for, and how should she communicate her thoughts?

We also discuss loan-out companies and why writers need them, and offer advice on starting a podcast. Plus a lot of turkey talk.

In follow up, most of what we thought we knew about Franz Kafka was wrong — but maybe that’s okay. Bob Odenkirk already made a sketch about judging. And if you haven’t purchased tickets for the live show on December 11th, get on that.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 12-10-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Mapping and scribbling

As part of their Creative Spark series, The Academy shot a video with me talking about my creative process.

Man, I talk with my hands a lot. But overall, I’m happy with how the video turned out.

The whole series is terrific. As an Academy member, I love this increased focus on showing the process of filmmaking, and the faces that go with the names.

My hope is that videos like these not only inspire new filmmakers, but also help film fans appreciate how many talented craftspeople work to make their favorite films come to life.