Only haters hate rom-coms

John and Craig talk romantic comedies with screenwriter Tess Morris, whose film Man Up is unapologetically part of the genre.

Whiplash, on paper and on screen

John and Craig take an in-depth look at two scenes in Damien Chazelle’s WHIPLASH to see how conflicts were structured — and what changed from script to shooting.

Confusing, Unlikable and On-The-Nose

John and Craig look at some of the least helpful notes screenwriters receive, and strategies for dealing with them.

Live from Austin 2015

Craig and John return to the Austin Film Festival for a supersize live show with guests Nicole Perlman and Steve Zissis.

Nobody Knows Anything (including what this quote means)

Craig and John get to the bottom of William Goldman’s famous quotation about Hollywood, which is so often misapplied. Then it’s a discussion of zombie cars, wind-tunnels, blockbusters, and the paradox of choice.

Formatting a montage in Highland using Forced Action

Highland’s forced action syntax is a useful way to format unusual patterns in your screenplay.

Apprenticeship 101

Jana Kinsman worked as an apprentice beekeeper and goat-tender, but a lot of her advice applies well to anyone in their first job.

Writers Rooms, Taxes, and Fat Hamlet

John and Craig discuss the trend of hiring multiple writers to work concurrently on tentpole features. Can movies be written like television, and should they?

The One Where Aline’s Show Debuts

Aline Brosh McKenna joins us to talk through the launch of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and what she’s learned since she introduced us to the show nearly a year ago. Brian Lowry of Variety raves that it is “one of the fall’s most promising hours.” We’re not surprised at all.

The Martian, or Making Things Going Wrong Well

The Martian is marketed as a story of survival and ingenuity, but on a screenwriting level it’s a series of carefully-structured hopes denied.

Features are different

John and Craig look at how writing feature films is fundamentally different than writing television, and how that difference begins at the point of story inception. It’s not just that movies are longer; they’re also built to be unique events, with characters embarking on once-in-a-lifetime journeys. We discuss how to decide whether an idea is better suited for features or series, and lessons learned from properties that have existed in both worlds.

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.

PG13: Blood, Boobs and Bullcrap

John and Craig discuss the PG-13 rating, its effects and what screenwriters have to keep in mind when dealing with it. Then it’s a conversation about healthy and unhealthy relationships between writers and their representatives.

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?

NDAs and other acronyms

Craig and John open the mailbag to answer questions on acronyms in dialogue, off-the-air specs and international WGA jurisdiction. Plus we look at the growing trend of non-disclosure agreements on studio projects, and whether the nature of film requires less complex characters.

Diary of a First-Time Director

John and Craig sit down with Marielle Heller, the writer and director of the acclaimed feature Diary of a Teenage Girl, to talk about the journey of getting her movie made, from optioning the novel to the Sundance Labs through production.

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.

Short cut-aways, and the value of BACK TO:

When dealing with cutaways and flashbacks, screenwriters have a few choices for how to portray it on the page.

One-Handed Movie Heroes

John and Craig discuss why movie heroes — unlike those in novels or musicals — generally don’t profess internally conflicting views. In reality, our feelings on a topic are likely shades of gray. On the big screen, characters tend to articulate a single point firmly.

How to Not Be a Jerk

Craig and John look at best practices for screenwriters promoting their films, both in traditional media and online. We’re not subtweeting anyone, and neither should you.

How descriptive audio works

John and Craig take a deep look at how descriptive audio for the blind works, with clips from Daredevil and an interview with a woman who does it for a living. It’s a fascinating form of writing, with many of the same challenges screenwriters face.

How descriptive narration gets written

On this week’s episode of Scriptnotes, I asked whether listeners had any experience with how descriptive narration for the blind was written, and whether those writers consulted the screenplay. Several listeners quickly pointed me to WGBH, and this FAQ.

Why movies have reshoots

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.