Archives

QandA

But does it spark joy?

When deciding whether to write a project, it can be helpful to ask whether you really love the idea.

How Can This Possibly End Well?

Christopher McQuarrie makes a great point about action sequences: the question isn’t how it will end, but how it can possibly end well for the hero.

Splitting the Party

John and Craig talk about the trope of “Never split the party,” and why, as a writer, you often want and need to divide up your characters to better explore relationships, propel the story forward, give actors something to do, and simply fit everyone in the frame. We also follow up on screenwriting scams, sequences, […]

Professional Realism

John welcomes Derek Haas (Chicago Fire, 3:10 to Yuma, 2 Fast 2 Furious) to talk about writing accurate portrayals of different jobs, and when to sacrifice reality for storytelling. They also share their time-management strategies in honor of those New Year resolutions to get writing done. We also answer listener questions about the necessity of […]

Becoming a Professional Screenwriter

John welcomes Tess Morris, Christina Hodson, Nicole Perlman, and Jason Fuchs to discuss their paths to becoming a professional screenwriter. They track the progression from glass bead day jobs to navigating general meetings to planning inconsistent finances to actually calling oneself a writer and even getting paid. We also answer audience questions about career longevity […]

Double Ampersand

John sits down with Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens to discuss their new film Mortal Engines, and their approach to writing as a team, worldbuilding, and rewriting through production, because one does not simply walk into Mordor. We also answer audience questions about the difference between ideas for television and movies, and working […]

Holiday Live Show 2018

John and Craig welcome Pamela Ribon (Ralph Breaks the Internet, Smurfs: The Lost Village), Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Into the Spiderverse, The Lego Movie), Zoanne Clack (Grey’s Anatomy) and Cherry Chevapravatdumrong (Family Guy, The Orville) to discuss writing animated features, breaking into television, and how to disappoint your parents. We also rescue another genre, […]

The Worst of the Worst

John and Craig examine why and how writers need to make bad things happen to their characters, and the ways in which hero suffering differs between features and television. We also answer listener questions about WGA jurisdiction, becoming a signatory, timing a script for television, and why all scripts aren’t available online. Links: Tickets are […]

The Second Draft

John is joined by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (The Invitation, Ride Along, the upcoming Destroyer) to talk about the second draft, offering some practical tips for the first big rewrite. We also answer listener questions about getting scripts to actors, how to label characters with job titles, and the cooler way to describe a […]

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Craig and John spend the entire episode discussing and dissecting Raiders of the Lost Ark, looking at both its structure and scene work. This amazing and iconic 1981 film established so much of what we expect of out movie heroes and set pieces — but a lot of what it does would have a hard […]

Commencement

John and Craig discuss commencement, the official moment to start writing. It can be easy to get pressured into free producer rewrites, starting to write before a deal is done and other pitfalls of blurry boundaries, so the WGA is introducing the Start Button, designed to help writers define their timeline and let the Guild […]

Austin 2018 Three Page Challenge

John and Craig review three new Three Page Challenge entries with the help of Lindsay Doran (producer of Stranger Than Fiction, Sense and Sensibility, Nanny McPhee, Dead Again) and Jewerl Ross (manager and founder of Silent R Management). They then invite the writers up to discuss the notes, including the importance of geography, setting up […]

Real-World Villains

John and Craig investigate actual villains in this installment of How Would This Be a Movie? From the eerily prescient writer of “How to Murder Your Husband” to the dark comedy of Jacob Wohl, sometimes reality provides the character — now you just need an actual story. We also look at the craft behind writing […]

Austin Live Show 2018

John and Craig invite Wendy Calhoun (Station 19, Empire), Phil Hay (The Invitation, Ride Along), Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel), and Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman, Ice Age: Continental Drift) to join them onstage for a discussion about the death of the writing middle class, why we get bored during a film or […]

No Writing Left Behind

John and Craig discuss the dangers of leave-behinds. The “writing before the writing” is an important part of the craft, but giving it away for free is bad for everyone. We also answer a listener question about character wants versus needs, and why that distinction has become such a guru staple. Links: Hope to see […]

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. We discuss what distinguishes rom-coms from other comedies, and why they get singled out for disdain and death-of articles. Also this week: Amazon Storywriter, overused dicks, and follow-up on Whiplash. This episode originally aired on […]

Writing Memorable Dialogue

John and Craig have a dialogue about dialogue. They discuss how thinking about memorizing lines can help write them, and how to service quieter characters in a scene. We also answer listener questions about adapting plays for the screen, creating a different experience for your reader than your viewer, and whether to trust sketchily worded […]

Two Things at the Same Time

John and Craig look into simultaneity and how to visually articulate two things happening at once with the temporally-limited medium of written word. We also explore how simultaneity can ramp up tension, fracture narrative and play with expectations. Then we apply what we’ve discussed to three new entries in the Three Page Challenge. Links: Become […]

What Is a Movie, Anyway?

John and Craig welcome Franklin Leonard to weigh in on the current definition of “movie.” In the age of streaming, this distinction is not only important for audiences and awards, but has a meaningful effect on how writers are paid. We also take umbrage with Awards Season as a Hollywood fixture, and follow up on […]

Advice for a New Staff Writer

John welcomes Alison McDonald (American Dad!, Nurse Jackie, the remake of Roots) and Ryan Knighton (In the Dark) to talk through the basics of the TV writers room, covering how they got in, how much to talk, how to make a living, what to wear and what’s for lunch. In follow up, we look at […]

You can’t have my back and yours at the same time

Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Rebecca Sun and Jonathan Handel look at the controversy over agencies investing in TV and movies. How can agencies defend the conflict of interest inherent in employing their own clients?

One Year Later

Aline Brosh McKenna joins John and Craig to discuss the progress made in the year following the Weinstein revelations. Have the systems for reporting and preventing sexual harassment improved, or are we still just dealing with hurricanes? We also follow up on The Academy’s decision to nix the Popular Film category, the IATSE agreement, missing […]

WGA Elections 2018

John and Craig discuss their choices for WGA Board Elections and misinformation about proposed revisions to the Screen Credits Manual. Links: WGA East Elections Jonathan Fernandez Patti Carr Patric Verrone Betsy Thomas Travis Donnelly Dante W. Harper Eric Heisserer Deric Hughes David Slack Ashley Gable Spiro Skentzos VJ Boyd Deborah Amelon WGA Sets Referendum On […]

Why Highland 2 doesn’t automatically add CONT’D

In screenplays, when a character continues speaking after a line or two of action, the convention is to write (CONT’D) after their second character cue. But software shouldn’t do that automatically.

Tying Things Up

John and Craig cover endings, both for craft and for business. First they articulate the importance of the denouement and the social contract it fulfills with the audience. Then they discuss what happens to a writer’s work after their death. We also follow up on pitching, and introduce a new segment: Change Craig’s Mind. This […]