Why movies have reshoots

Scriptnotes: Ep. 207

Reshoots used to be a sign that something had gone horribly wrong. But not anymore. John and Craig look at the reasons why Hollywood movies often go back for additional photography, and how the writer is involved.

Also this week, arbitration esoterica about the “final shooting script,” descriptive text for the blind, and news about the Austin Film Festival. (We’re going.)

It’s been almost a year since the last round of Scriptnotes t-shirts. So let’s print some more. We likely have amazing artists among our listeners, so if you have a design for a shirt you want to see, follow the link below for details. (The deadline for submissions is August 11th.)


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 7-24-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Everything but the dialogue

Scriptnotes: Ep. 206

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.

You can look at the show notes to see the exact scenes we’re discussing.

Also this week, Paramount has cut a deal with two exhibitors to greatly shorten the window between theatrical and home video on two upcoming releases. We look at why, and what this experiment means for writers in the near and long-term.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 7-17-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Fight the Giant, or Moving Up the Showdown

In most stories built around a heroic quest, the big confrontation comes at the end. The heroes face off against their well-established nemesis, and likely prevail. After that, there’s a little time left for wrap-up and rebuilding.

This is the common pattern for most feature films, with a battle or competition happening in the third act.

But it’s not just movies. In novels, the showdown generally happens in one of the final chapters. In series television, the quest to defeat the Big Bad might span a whole season, but the main event comes in the finale. In videogames, this stage even has a name: The Boss Level. The player finally has the skills and hit points to kill Diablo.

Whenever you see such a clear narrative pattern, there’s a great opportunity to subvert it.


Moving the fight earlier can take both your reader and your hero by surprise.


There are three basic structures for getting the fight to happen earlier than expected.

The hero rushes in. Perhaps the hero gets a tip that the villain is momentarily exposed. She is forced to make a decision: go in fast or wait for the next opportunity. She decides to strike now, for better or worse. Without the benefit of time and planning, she is forced to improvise.

The villain surprises the hero. Rather than wait for the hero to show up, smart villains often attack first. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling lets Voldemort trap Harry so he can battle him face-to-face, breaking the expectation that the showdown would only happen at the very end. In the real world, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is an example of the enemy changing the narrative with a surprise attack.

Fate intervenes. Some outside force — the boxing commission, an avalanche, pure coincidence — puts the hero and the villain in the same space when neither was quite ready for it.

However your hero and villain end up battling, the outcome should have a huge impact on the rest of your story.

Letting the giant score an early victory helps in several ways:

  1. You’ve established what a powerful threat the villain is.
  2. You’ve knocked your hero down. Almost anything that’s bad for your hero is good for your story.
  3. You’ve warned the reader not to assume your story will follow conventional patterns.

Maybe you’ve even decided to Kill The Hero:


Sometimes, it’s fun to let your hero win this early battle. Maybe the presumed villain wasn’t the ultimate villain after all — or in killing him, the hero has unleashed something much worse. Perhaps That’s Not the Dragon:


In most cases, both hero and villain will survive this early brawl, but both will be changed by the encounter.


Using Fight the Giant

Like every card in Writer Emergency Pack, Fight the Giant can be used at both macro and micro levels of the story process.

Fight the Giant might be a key plot point on which your entire story hangs. Perhaps an unexpected, early defeat sends your hero’s allies packing, and he must now assemble and train a new army from the remnants.

On a sequence level, Fight the Giant is a great way to ratchet up the tension. Your hero had a plan for how this was supposed to go down, but the villain had a plan of her own. And she moved faster.

Finally, Fight the Giant can be a great focus in a single scene. Your cat-burglar hero was expecting three minutes notice when the villain would be returning to his penthouse, but suddenly he’s here in front of him.

No matter how you use Fight the Giant, make the most of its surprise factor. Catch your hero flat-footed, and keep your heroes on their toes.

Fight the Giant is Card 2 of 26 in Writer Emergency Pack, which you can find in the Store and on Amazon.

Featured Friday: Before they were filmed

Every Friday this summer, we’re featuring exclusive scripts in Weekend Read. Some of these will be produced works, others just titles that caught the attention of readers.

Today’s collection includes:

  1. The first draft of The Spectacular Now written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber. Scott writes, “First draft we ever turned in I believe. Bit different from the finished film, so hopefully interesting to the readers.”

  2. The shooting script for Erin Brockovich by Susannah Grant, who notes that the published script in bookstores “just prints exactly what ends up on the screen, so for your purposes, this is better. It shows how much editing takes place in post.”

  3. Three Months by Jared Frieder, recommended to us by our friends at The Black List. Franklin Leonard says, “This is a really good one. Won the Austin Film Festival contest last year and I believe Oren Uziel is attached to produce it.”

You can find these Featured Fridays scripts in Weekend Read’s For Your Consideration section. Each Friday’s scripts are available for that weekend only, and only in the app.

The Scriptnotes 200-episode USB drive

For a limited time, we’re selling USB flash drives 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.

usb drive

These custom-printed 8-gigabyte USB flash drives include:

  • Every episode in mp3
  • Full transcripts
  • Three Page Challenge pdfs
  • Boundless love and umbrage
  • Our autographs printed right on the side

usb drive back

As of Thursday at 4pm PDT, we have fewer than 50 left, so we’ll likely run out. If you’re a collector, a completionist, or survivalist planning for the post-internet future, this is your chance.

We’re shipping these from the same warehouse that handles Writer Emergency Pack, so if you want to get both, you can save yourself some shipping charges.

Both are available at store.johnaugust.com.

The One with Alec Berg

Scriptnotes: Ep. 205

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.

Also this week: Tess Gerritsen gives up, but that’s not the end of you-stole-my-idea lawsuits.

The 200-episode USB drives are in the store, but for how long? If you want one, don’t wait. (Note: In the podcast, I misspoke: the discount code give you 10% off, not 20%. You’ll save $2, which is about what shipping costs in the U.S.)


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 7-9-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.