Well, It Worked in the 80s

Scriptnotes: Ep. 313
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John and Craig look at four films from the past and discuss how we could make them today.

Then we have more listener questions on internships and alternate jokes.

Next week is a deep dive on Unforgiven, so get to watching if you haven’t seen it recently.

Links:

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.


The Magic Word Is In This Episode

Scriptnotes: Ep. 312
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Craig and John tackle a bunch of listener questions, along with follow-up on previous discussions.

Are road trip movies just a series of coincidences? How do you start the second draft? Should you mention screenwriting awards in a query?

Plus: a Redditor insists there is a secret password you have to write within a script for it to be purchased. After 311 episodes, the time has come. We reveal that magic word.

Links:

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 8-14-17: The transcript of this episode can be found here.


Scriptnotes Live Homecoming Show

Scriptnotes: Ep. 311
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John and Craig welcome special guests Megan Amram (The Good Place), Tom Schnauz (Better Call Saul) and Matt Selman (The Simpsons) to talk about writing television, from staffing to breaking story to the challenge of short seasons.

Then we try out two new segments: How Could This Be Funny and An Aubry Plaza Type. Do they work? It’s debatable!

There is also a Q&A, which you can find as a bonus episode for subscribers at scriptnotes.net.

Recorded live at the Writers Guild Theater on July 25, 2017. Thanks to the Writers Guild Foundation for hosting us, and a terrific audience.

Links:

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 8-7-17: The transcript of this episode can be found here.


What’s in the WGA Deal

Scriptnotes: Ep. 310
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Craig and John talk with Chris Keyser, one of the co-chairs of the WGA Negotiating Committee, to learn what gains were achieved in the most recent deal, and what work lies ahead.

Warning: it’s a super-wonky episode that presumes you’re familiar with the basics outlined in episode 289.

Links:

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 8-2-17: The transcript of this episode can be found here.


Dennis Lehane on novels vs. screenplays

Scriptnotes listener Eric in Boston pointed me towards this quote from Dennis Lehane on the difference between writing novels and screenplays:

They’re apples and giraffes. Completely different, outside of their core narrative DNA. When you write a novel you’re God, in charge of the whole universe, from the farthest galaxy to the smallest pebble. When that book is published, everything in it was filtered through you and you alone (with some nudging and advice from your editor, of course).

When you write a script, you’re like a house painter in a large mansion. You give the rooms their color but you don’t build the house or concern yourself with the plumbing. A screenwriter is one of, say, 140 people who contributes to the film. And your script is just a schematic to be interpreted by a director, actors, the director of photography, the set designers, costume designers, editor, producers, studio execs, and on and on and on.

It’s much harder to be God; novels take way longer to write than scripts and are much more emotionally and psychologically taxing but they’re also—by a longshot—more fulfilling.

I largely agree with Lehane, but want to caution that screenwriters shouldn’t take his house painter analogy too far. You’re not just decorating the rooms; you’re deciding where the walls need to be so that the whole thing doesn’t collapse.

Particularly when working on their own original projects, screenwriters must be just as invested in every galaxy and pebble. They may not include these details — screenwriting is an art of extreme economy — but you have to know what you’re leaving out.

I’m writing book two of the Arlo Finch series right now. The process is rewarding and exhausting, but the level of responsibility I feel to the story’s universe and characters is not fundamentally different than when writing the first draft of a script. In both cases, I’ve moved into their world, and am writing what I see.

The biggest shift comes later, once I’m ready to show the work to others.

With a screenplay, I need to coordinate my vision with dozens of other decision-makers so we can make a movie. That’s the psychologically taxing aspect of the job: writing as if it’s all yours while knowing it’s ultimately not.

With a book, I’ve made decisions down to the comma and conjunction, knowing they’ll persist. Arlo Finch isn’t a blueprint; it’s the thing itself. No matter what happens down the road, my choices are preserved on the page.

Lehane’s right: books and screenplays are like apples and giraffes. I like both of them, and hope to have more of each in the years ahead.


Logic and Gimmickry

Scriptnotes: Ep. 309
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John and Craig step up to the whiteboard to look at the story logic in our scripts, then examine how tricks and gimmicks can help keep scenes interesting.

We also answer listener questions about paying experts for research help, and whether hiring a writing consultant ever makes sense.

Links:

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 7-25-17: The transcript of this episode can be found here.