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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

The 200th Episode Live Show

Craig, John, and Aline record the 200th episode of Scriptnotes live with a worldwide audience listening in — and chiming in — as they discuss TV showrunning and whether quality really counts at the box office.

8 Common Mistakes Made by New Screenwriters

B.J. Novak is all about lists. He asked me to write this one about issues I frequently see in scripts written by beginning screenwriters. 1. Starting with a concept rather than a character We don’t want a movie about a lost relic. We want a movie about Indiana Jones. 2. Being too nice to the […]

Writing for Hollywood without living there

Canadian screenwriter Ryan Knighton joins John and Craig to discuss how you sustain a career writing for Hollywood studios while living a flight away. Knighton’s first screenplay was the adaptation of his memoir about going blind. He’s since written for several studios, including a new project for Ridley Scott.

Uncluttered by Ignorance

John and Craig dig into the overstuffed mail bag to answer listener questions about scenes, stagnation, subtitles and script breakdowns. Plus we reveal the consensus opinions on whether we should have ads, and look at possibilities for the Full Script Challenge.

What is a Cinderella story, anyway?

Linda Holmes examines what we mean when talk about Cinderella.

The Deal with the Gravity Lawsuit

John and Craig do a deep dive on Tess Gerritsen’s lawsuit concerning Gravity, using the case as a way to talk about contracts, chain of title, adaptation and corporate ownership. Spoiler: It’s really complicated, but it’s really interesting too.

Guardians of the Galaxy’s Nicole Perlman

Craig and John talk with Guardians co-writer Nicole Perlman about the development of this summer’s blockbuster, and her two years as part of Marvel’s in-house writing program. It’s a great look at how movies get started, and the dozens of drafts you didn’t see on the big screen.

Luck, sequels and bus money

This week, Craig and John tackle listener questions.

Yes, screenwriting is actually writing

Craig and John take a swing at several of the week’s hyperbolic headlines, from conflict-free comedy to Fitzgerald’s failures to Strong Female Characters with nothing to do. In each case, there’s a valid idea lurking beneath the overstated claim, but it’s important to separate good examples from bad.

Uncomfortable Ambiguity, or Nobody Wants Me at their Orgy

Nothing is cut-and-dried this week. John and Craig talk Game of Thrones rape, allegations against director Bryan Singer and the new report showing the same low employment numbers for female writers in film and TV.

Q&A from the Holiday Spectacular

John, Craig, and guests take questions from the audience at the Scriptnotes Holiday Spectacular. Topics include TV writing careers, what to do once you have an agent, overcoming gender stereotypes, rewriting Dodgeball, and more.

My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend’s Screenwriter

Writer/director/actor/comedian Mike Birbiglia joins John and Craig to talk about writing for yourself, and how his one-man shows have translated into his films Sleepwalk With Me and My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. We talk movies and television, stand-up and screenplays, and the upside of failure.

Ender’s Game, one-hours and alt-jokes

John and Craig discuss the impact of author Orson Scott Card’s personal toxicity on Ender’s Game, and what it means for that movie and how it will this affect studio decisions moving forward.

The Next 117 Pages

John and Craig talk about everything that comes after the oft-discussed First Three Pages, speculating on the kinds of issues they’d spot if they were looking at full scripts.

Screenwriters don’t simply adapt, they adopt

Novelist Daniel Wallace looks at how books become movies.

What audiences know

Figuring out what the audience needs to know — and when they need to know it — is one of the trickiest aspects of screenwriting.

Why must we have board-game movies?

Reader Logan is dispirited by Hollywood’s zeal to turn every toy and board game into a franchise.

Can I use a book without permission?

No! Stop and re-assess. There are at least three options, but simply stealing the plot and characters isn’t one of them.

On adaptations and picking projects

MakingOf has an interview up with me in which I talk a bit about my writing process, the challenge of adaptations, and why one’s career is often as much about the scripts you didn’t write.

Kurtzman and Orci on Trek and writing together

Story lessons from Star Trek, from the mouths and minds of the writers.