Disaster Porn, and Spelling Things Out

John and Craig discuss Damon Lindelof’s interview about how plot stakes have escalated lockstep with budget, perhaps to the point of absurdity.

101: Q&A from the live show

In this special bonus episode, John and Craig answer listener questions from the 100th episode with help from guests Rawson Thurber and Aline Brosh McKenna.

Is 15 the new 30?

Have first acts gotten shorter, or does it just feel that way? John and Craig discuss the pressure on screenwriters to “get to it” faster, and why that’s often the wrong goal.

The Origins and Formatting of Modern Screenplays

John Hess gives a terrific overview of the history of the screenplay format, and how changes in the film industry changed how the words are arranged on the page.

10 Questions, 10 Answers

John and Craig tackle the bursting mailbag, answering listener questions on topics ranging from the variable length of the TV season to underachieving agents to embarrassing IMDb credits.

Let’s talk about Nikki Finke

John and Craig discuss the polarizing potentate of Deadline Hollywood Daily, then segue into what a healthy entertainment journalism ecosystem might look like.

Sounds teenagers make

James Harbeck analyzes some of the common annoying sounds in teenage speech, many of which are hard to portray in dialogue.

Writing effective transitions

How you get from one scene to the next can be just as important as the scenes themselves. Craig and John talk techniques and tactics for making those cuts count.

Writing vs. Speaking

For screenwriters, John McWhorter’s TEDTalk on texting grammar is a useful reminder of the differences between how people talk and how they write. Speech is made up of word clusters with no discrete punctuation. Because speech is almost always dialogue — you’re usually speaking with somebody — it’s structured in a way that allows interruption. […]

Another Time and Place

John and Craig discuss the odd dislocation writers experience when writing movies in coffeeshops and windowless offices. We’re literally “someplace else” with our characters, but learning how to work in less-than-ideal circumstances is part of the screenwriter’s trade.

First sale and funny on the page

Craig and John look at two recent court decisions that could have a big impact on how movies get sold and resold — and how writers get paid. First-Sale Doctrine is one of those intractable issues that involves freedom and control, bits and atoms, creators and consumers.

How screenwriters find their voice

Aline Brosh McKenna joins John and Craig for a conversation about what writers mean by a “voice,” and how it develops.

Present tension

Robert Jackson Bennett looks at the benefits and drawback of writing fiction in the present tense.

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.

Alt-universe panels

Craig and John ret-con the Austin Film Festival, placing themselves on panels in which they didn’t participate. It’s a chance to give the answers they would have given without the bother of moderators (and other people’s opinions).

Action is more than just gunfights and car chases

John and Craig are all action this week, looking at how screenwriters write those things characters do in a movie.

Grammar, guns and butter

Craig and John celebrate one year of the podcast by going H.A.M. on the passive voice, the present progressive and reductive nonsense rules.

Dashes, ellipses and underground monsters

John and Craig answer four listener questions, on topics ranging from scene headers to ticket sales. And which is better for an aspiring screenwriter: a low-level job at a major agency, or a steady 9-to-5 job that allows time to write?

Better yet, don’t write anything at all

I quite like Colson Whitehead’s tongue-and-cheek writing advice.

Verbs are what’s happening

This week’s episode finds Craig and John answering questions about agent etiquette, business cards and those troubling rewrites that unravel everything.

Understanding house styles

Ongoing TV shows often develop their own esoteric writing styles, which you notice in scene description.

Observations on the evolution of screenwriting based upon reading one script from 1974

For work this afternoon, I needed to read a screenplay written in the early 1970s. I think it’s the earliest-dated script I’ve read that wasn’t reprinted in a book.

More on Archer’s odd pre-laps

Comparing Archer’s actual script to my transcript-y approximation shows a little bit more about how Adam Reed’s show works.

Archer’s semi-pre-laps

Archer does a strange thing I haven’t seen in many shows: the final line of a scene often serves as the first line of the next scene.

His, hers and ours

A new browser extension points out an interesting and esoteric problem in English: “her” functions as both an objective pronounce and a possessive one.