The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And you’re listening to Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
How are you Craig?
Craig: Doing great, John. I’m here in the foggy city of Seattle visiting some family.
John: You are always doing our on the road reports. I feel like you are the person who travels out in the world and sees things.
Craig: That’s right. I’m the Charles Kuralt of this podcast.
John: It’s very important because our show, while topical, often can’t really incorporate a lot of the on-the-road flair and it’s great that you’re there. It’s too often we’re stuck behind our desks. I feel like I’m more like the newsreader who is just there and you’re the reporter out in the field.
Craig: Yeah, when there is some kind of storm, I’m the one that’s standing there in the rain and the wind, and your hair — or your hairlessness — is perfect in studio.
John: Yeah, and I’m telling you the questions I want you to ask the person sitting in front of you.
Craig: The greatest.
John: Really wonderfully awkwardly.
Craig: The greatest. I love that Saturday Night Live has turned that real video confrontation into an ongoing sketch.
John: I respect that as an idea. I don’t find those sketches particularly funny. And I think all those people are incredibly funny. It’s just the one thing that’s never really worked for me.
Craig: The first one worked. I think it was one of those where I was like, “Okay, I give “Saturday Night Live credit.” Sometimes they’ve mined repeatable characters out of characters I would have never thought you could repeat. Unfortunately that one, I think, they should have stopped at the first one.
John: The sketch that I find just endlessly entertaining is the Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee sketch of The Morning Show. I had not seen the actual real show until I had seen several of the sketches.
And then randomly I saw the actual program and I was like, “Oh my God, they weren’t making this up. There actually are these crazy women who are drinking wine at like 10 in the morning.”
Craig: Yeah, I unfortunately am very familiar with the Hoda Kotb show because at the gym where I work out if I go at 10 in the morning they always have that show on because it’s me and housewives. [laughs]
Screenwriters don’t have big boy job hours. So it’s me and housewives and they feel a strong need to work out to Hoda Kotb on TV.
I just find the whole thing hysterical. First of all, Hoda has a…how do I put this delicately? She has a very masculine frame. And so I feel like, in a weird way, I’m actually watching a marriage. It’s like a husband and wife.
John: If RuPaul were to step in and play Hoda’s role it would be just kind of the same show, wouldn’t it?
John: Nicely done.
John: Well since we are on the topic of news and kind of news-related things, I thought today would be more of a news show because while we are very often topical, we are very rarely timely.
Part of that is because, I think we can confess this now, is that we actually prerecorded several of the podcasts in December.
John: For understandable reasons. You had rehab.
Craig: Right. [laughs]
John: And I had my choreography I had to do, so it was a very busy time for us.
Craig: Very busy.
John: So now we’re back to our real stuff.
Craig: But that explains all those weird references to Michelle Bachmann winning the Iowa caucus. We were guessing.
John: Yeah, it was a really reasonable guess based on the way things seemed to be happening at the time.
John: But we had forgotten that politics has accelerated to the degree that you really can’t make any predictions.
Craig: Also, being married to a gay guy hurts you. You and I really should have seen that coming. There is no way she was going to win.
John: Yeah, yeah. I will kind of miss her a little bit.
Craig: Oh, I’m going to miss her a lot.
Craig: Old crazy eyes. I have to tell you, it’s the husband. That’s the one I miss.
John: He’s so good.
Craig: I’m obsessed with this guy.
John: [laughs] You saw the last little bit where she was talking at her concession speech and she was talking about how, “Oh we were out shaking hands and Marcus went in and bought sunglasses for our little dog.”
Craig: Oh boy.
John: And he just has this, “Oh I did,” smile on his face.
Craig: Guilty. [laughs]
John: Yeah. You bought sunglasses for a dog.
Craig: Yeah, the only thing gayer than that I guess would be actual gay sex.
John: Yeah. Fortunately we have another candidate obsessed with that right now. It will continue to be entertaining for a while.
John: But let’s talk some actual news here. We have the WGA nominations.
John: We have the 10 scripts picked for features. There is also TV stuff, and TV is important, but let’s focus on the features. For original screenplay, these were the choices for the WGA nominations for these categories.
“50/50,” by Will Reiser.
John: “Bridesmaids,” by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig.
Craig: Oh, it’s “MUmolo.” I thought it was “MumOlo.”
John: It probably is “MUmolo.” I apologize to Annie for getting that wrong.
Craig: I don’t know. Either way it sounds like a vitamin deficiency.
John: Yeah, or it’s some sort of Hawaiian dish that you can only get at a little strip mall place, like they don’t serve it at the actual resort. They only serve Mumolo in…
Craig: [laughs] That’s because they don’t make it in Hawaii at all. It’s like the pu pu platter. It’s something that somebody invented in New York.
Craig: But, “I’ll have the Mumolo.”
John: Or little kids who see Bug’s Life and will say pu pu platter for about the next…
John: …three hours after watching that show. I want to just tape over that little part of it just so she doesn’t say that again.
Craig: Can’t tape over everything.
John: Midnight in Paris.
John: Written by this guy, Woody Allen.
Craig: Yeah, it’s his first go round. I understand he’s a Jewish fellow.
John: He’s a Jewish fellow. [laughs] For his first try I think it was really admirable.
Craig: Yeah, yeah.
John: I will say, if somebody else other than Woody Allen had written that movie, I’m not sure it would be on this list. I don’t want to speak any ill of Woody Allen.
John: I thought it was the most enjoyable Woody Allen movie I’ve seen for quite a long time, but I felt like someone else with that exact same script may not have shown up here.
Craig: Well the WGA, I think, demographically is 96 percent old Jew.
John: Yeah. It’s still that way.
Craig: It’s a little skewed.
John: Yeah. Win Win, screenplay by Tom McCarthy, story by Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni. Tom McCarthy is the nicest human being you’re ever going to meet, so I was happy to see him get a nomination here.
And I really like that movie. It came out quite early in the year, so it’s always nice when a movie from early in the year gets remember this time of year.
Craig: Yeah, yeah. He’s a good filmmaker.
John: And the last original screenplay, Young Adult, written by Diablo Cody, which I adored. Did you see that yet?
Craig: I haven’t seen it yet. It is on my queue of things. I’ve got my screener with me, and I’m going to watch that one, perhaps, on the plane. I’ve heard people have loved it, people have hated it. That’s always a sign to me that the movie is actually doing its job. You know?
John: Yes, I would agree. There’s a very hateful central character who is sort of unredeemable and the movie doesn’t really try to redeem her. It’s just an interesting choice.
And for people who aren’t maybe crazy about historically Diablo’s movies because they feel like, “Oh it’s the very esoteric weird dialog that people wouldn’t actually say,” this movie doesn’t really do that at all. There is very little of that in this.
And, again, I don’t want to sort of spoil this. It’s not a giant twist ending. It’s not The Sixth Sense, but the last two scenes, last three scenes of the movie, are not at all what you are expecting them to be.
You realize that your central character’s expectations about what was actually happening weren’t accurate which I think is always a great sign.
Craig: That’s cool.
John: The movie chooses to limit point of view incredibly strictly so you basically only see things that Charlize Theron is seeing or is aware of.
Craig: She is perhaps an unreliable narrator?
John: No, actually no. It’s not that she was unreliable but you were making the same assumptions that she was making…
John: …and those assumptions were not correct.
Craig: Well, I’m going to…
John: I’ve set you up well for it.
John: I have set the ball and you will spike it in watching it. It will clear the net.
Craig: Look forward to the next podcast where I take it apart.
John: Adapted screenplay. The Descendants, which is a screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash. To explain that, Alexander Payne wrote by himself. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash wrote together. Presumably Faxon and Rash were second, but it’s not really entirely clear.
I watched The Descendants this week and enjoyed it. Have you watched it yet?
John: You watch no movies and see no TV shows. So basically this is a monologue at this point.
Craig: Yeah, a little bit. [laughs]
John: So here’s the thing about The Descendants that I liked most: I’ve been to Hawaii many times, and Hawaii is very beautiful.
But all of Hawaii isn’t really all that beautiful. So when you’re staying in the principal resort which they actually go to in this place, you’re like, “Oh it’s really, really pretty.”
But when you’re in Honolulu just like randomly Honolulu or if you’re staying at the Holiday Inn on Kauai where I had to stay when we were making Jurassic Park 3, it’s not that nice.
I loved that that movie showed all the parts that were sort of just ordinary and it felt like you could have been in Omaha…
John: …but people were wearing shorts.
Craig: That was the criticism that somebody had mentioned to me the other day. They said, “So I’m watching The Descendants and it seems like the point is…”
In fact, she made an interesting argument. She said, “If the purpose of narrative ultimately is to get across a point, wouldn’t it better if they just skipped the narrative and just wrote a short essay?”
Craig: “And what if the short essay was, ‘Hawaii is not that great.'”
Craig: You know? And then they could have just saved all this time and energy because the ride, I guess, wasn’t enjoyable enough for this person. I tend to enjoy the ride a little bit more, so I’ll see.
John: Well, part of that reason why that person may have said that is the movie opens with just a tremendous amount of voice over by George Clooney that I would have a hard time defending.
He essentially says that. His first lines are like, “Hawaii is not nearly as pretty as you think it’s supposed to be, and this is what it really looks like.”
It’s like, “Oh, you are actually reading an essay apparently to me right now.” But then the voice over stops, which is welcome but also a sign that perhaps the voice over wasn’t…
John: …the best choice. Maybe it was the best choice for the movie that they actually had in the can.
Craig: Right, right. Got it. Well, when I watch that one…
John: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, apparently a small indie film. I had never heard of this before, but I think it’s really great that they’re making women’s movies now.
Craig: You know I am a huge Fincher fan. I love Fincher’s work. I love Steve Zaillian’s work. I read all three of the Dragon Tattoo novels. For the life of me I cannot explain why I read novel two and novel three, because I hated novel one so much. I hate those books. I hate them.
I hate them because…Somebody did this wonderful bit of criticism about them.
Basically the point was: Here’s a guy, an investigative journalist, who wrote novels in which the hero is an investigative journalist. They are all about how awful and sexually predatory men are, and yet every single female character in the book, without fail, needs to sleep with the hero.
I mean all of them unless they are literally old or children, they sleep with him. It is the most masturbatory series of novels ever, ever.
John: Yeah. Fewer women sleep with Daniel Craig in this movie. That’s not a spoiler, but there’s only so much time. It’s a very long movie anyway, and not everyone could have sex with him.
Craig: And you know what? By the way that just goes to show that Zaillian read this book and was like, “The truth is these three women sleep with him and the entire point is, ‘Oh look, everyone wants to sleep with this guy.’ Let’s just cut it out. It doesn’t impact the story at all.” It’s true.
John: The other reason why they needed to cut it out is because people needed to smoke more.
John: Honestly, they couldn’t fit in the sex between the cigarettes. I guess you can have sex and have a cigarette afterwards, but it’s hard to smoke while you’re having sex. And smoking is the priority in the movie.
Craig: Larry King mastered the art of smoking and sex, I’m pretty sure.
John: All right, okay.
Craig: Larry King apparently used to smoke in the shower. That’s the coolest guy in the world.
John: That’s pretty amazing.
John: The Help, screenplay by Tate Taylor.
Craig: Yes, The Help.
John: Yeah, hurray. Tate’s really nice. I’m happy to see him get nominated.
Hugo, screenplay by John Logan. I still haven’t seen Hugo, because I need to see Hugo in 3D and I need to see it on a big screen. I just haven’t had a chance to see it in the theaters.
Craig: My wife loved it, absolutely loved it. My son, who is a huge fan of the books, hated it. But he is 10 and very fickle about these things.
John: Yeah, that happens.
John: My nephew read all the Harry Potter books. This was back when he was 12 or 13. I asked him, “Oh, what did you think of the second Harry Potter movie?” Maybe the third Harry Potter movie, whichever one Alfonso Curon directed.
Craig: Third, yeah.
John: He was like, “I hated it. I can’t watch any more of them ever again. They’ve ruined everything because Hagrid’s house isn’t there. Hagrid’s house isn’t on that side of the school,” or something, and he…
Craig: Well, you know, Asperger’s is a really difficult syndrome. I mean, come on.
John: Yeah. The challenge of being that age and focusing on things, sort of, maybe not the right things to focus on.
John: Finally, Moneyball, a screenplay by Steve Zaillian, again. Apparently Steve Zaillian is a good screenwriter. And Aaron Sorkin, another —
Craig: What a bummer when you have those two guys working on a movie. I mean, how good could it possibly be?
John: I don’t know, actually, the back story on this. Story by Stan Chervin, and I don’t know who Stan Chervin is and how he got that.
Craig: Stan Chervin, he’s a screenwriter. He, I believe, wrote the first draft of Moneyball. And then, later, down the line, Zaillian was hired. Zaillian rewrote the screenplay, apparently, to the extent where Stan didn’t qualify for screenplay credit.
And then — I believe this is the chronology, just from what I pieced together in the media — and then Sorkin was the final writer to come in, I think.
And then, because it’s an adaptation, I guess, Sorkin, it’s basically, the screenplay credits are who hits the third — the one-third threshold. But it’s all, you know, who knows.
John: Yeah. The other people, obviously, whose names aren’t on this list…And one thing I should clarify, the WGA nominations are only for movies that are written that are WGA contract.
So, The Artist, which was a really good movie, which would normally get a nomination, I think, for screenwriting, isn’t eligible for this, because it was not written under WGA contract.
Craig: And so, Pixar movies are never eligible.
John: Exactly. But they will probably be nominated…Well, not this year, necessarily. But often would be nominated for a screenplay award. So, the reason why there’s no animation in this list is because animation is not covered by this contract.
Craig: That’s right. And also, interestingly, the Guild’s rules for what’s an original and what’s an adaptation differ slightly from the Academy’s rules. So, for instance, Syriana, sort of, famously was considered an original by one entity and a non-original by another. It’s very strange.
John: Yeah. It is strange. I was looking through here just now. There are six comedies, which seems like a lot.
John: Kind of The Descendants is a comedy, which is kind of a stretch to call that a comedy. Win Win is a comedy, eh.
Craig: There’s one comedy, as far as I’m concerned. There’s one true comedy, and that’s Bridesmaids, yeah. And it’s nice to see.
John: Midnight in Paris, you’d have to call a comedy.
Craig: Well, it’s a comedy, but it’s a Woody Allen movie, you know? It’s almost its own genre. And, as you point out, it’s a traditionally celebrated genre. Woody Allen movies…It’s easy to nominate Woody.
I’m not taking anything away from his accomplishment, I’m just saying, it’s not like they’re breaking new ground.
Whereas in Bridesmaids, it’s…You can look at Bridesmaids, and the nomination of it as either this exciting new thing, or a continuation of what I think is kind of a love affair of the, we’ll call it, the…
The nomination of Bridesmaids, is a little bit of a continuation of the love affair with Tina Fey and now Kristen Wiig, that kind of, the distaff wing of SNL.
And I really enjoyed Bridesmaids. So, I’m happy, I’m happy to see any mainstream comedy nominated for anything.
I was thrilled when The Hangover won a Golden Globe. That was just, that was almost revolutionary, even though they have a separate category for comedy and variety or whatever it’s called. But I’m thrilled to see Bridesmaids there, and hopefully, we’ll see more comedies nominated for these things.
John: That’d be great. One movie series which hasn’t gotten a nomination here is, Steve Kloves for Harry Potter movies.
Craig: That’s crazy. It’s just, it’s stupid. It’s just dumb. And I feel like, these awards, a lot of times, what happens is, people who vote for these things think, “Well, why should we give an award to that? It’s already made so much money,” bah, bah, bah.
Yeah, except that there’s man who worked really, really hard on, I believe, six of the seven movies, did a fantastic job, truly an amazing job on those films.
And if people understood what screenwriting was, and what adaptive screenwriting was, I think that they would be throwing awards at this guy for how well he did. Those books are not easy to adapt.
John: The best point of comparison I can think of is The Lord of the Rings movies, which are also, you know, you’re adapting a well known thing that people have an expectation about, and all of those movies got writer’s nominations.
John: I think the differences here is that Peter Jackson was one of the writers. And so, there was a person you could identify. It’s like, “Oh, that’s the person who did that.” And so, because he was part of the writing team, that’s one of the reasons why he got, they got nominations for writing.
And Steve Kloves didn’t, because he didn’t know…You never saw his face associated with Harry Potter.
Craig: I guess. I mean, look, you know, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, I’m sure, are going to be getting tons of Emmy nominations for their writing on Game of Thrones. I just feel like, it’s, honestly —
John: But I think in TV, they’re — I mean — they are associated with that show. They’ve done press for the show, you know, TV is known to have writing showrunners. No one’s paying attention to who wrote the Harry Potter movies.
Craig: I know. I just feel like it’s, this is why I hate awards. Stuff like that, you know? Kloves deserves an Academy award. I hope he gets nominated.
Kloves has made more of an impact, I think, as a screenwriter on modern popular cinema than just about anyone else I can think of in the last ten years. He’s just a huge, as an individual screenwriter, a huge impact.
Craig: Yeah. So, here’s to you, Steve Kloves. I appreciate you.
John: Yeah, we do.
John: Other bits of things in the news this week. Stopping production on really expensive movies, so this week it was Akira.
But in the past year, stuff that’s come up, Arthur and Lancelot, which was a big movie in pre-production that got the plug pulled, or it’s moving to someplace else. Lone Ranger, famously, they said, “No.” And they had to go back and cut the budget down a lot.
The fourth Pirates, I know, had big issues, money-wise. And, Moneyball. Moneyball, one of the nominated films. It was on…It was weeks away from shooting with, who was supposed to direct that? Steven Soderbergh was supposed to direct that. And they couldn’t make the budget work.
Either they couldn’t make the budget work, or the studio suddenly had issues with what he wanted to do on his movie.
Craig: I think it was, I think there was the actual creative differences on that one. I don’t think Moneyball falls into the category of the 150, 200 million dollar bet where suddenly the studio says, “We just don’t want to pay this much.”
Whereas, certainly Akira…I mean, look, Akira’s a tough one. I’m not involved in any way in the development of Akira. I’ve seen the Japanese film a number of times. For the life of me, I don’t understand why they would have tried to do it in the first place.
I don’t know how you do that in live action without bungling it. And I’m not sure, even if you get it right, that anybody would like it.
It’s not a particularly accessible film. It’s very strange to me, but, you know, they went down the road, and yeah, I guess at some point, they looked at the numbers.
I mean, we were talking about the DVD business. And boy, I’ll tell you, man. I mean, The Hangover 2 DVD is doing really, really well.
And yet, when you look at the lists — And I went back and looked at the… — what the number one through number ten seller-of-the-year made, how many units were sold, as opposed to prices and so forth.
Whereas, you traditionally have a bunch of films that sold seven, six, five million DVDs over the course of a year, now, maybe you have three movies that do that. The DVD market has…It’s clearly collapsed.
And so, now you go, “Well, if that money’s halved, or if the trend continues, if we’re down to a quarter of that money, how are we going to convert this bet into profit?” I mean, “If we were betting $150 million on a movie which requires another 100 million to market, how are we ever going to see a profit?”
John: At the same time, Warner’s is, I think, best known for, “We don’t want to make the small version of this movie, we want to make the giant version of this movie.”
Craig: Right, right.
John: And so, they want to make big, giant, tent-pole movies of these things. But then, again, they also don’t want to spend, they also don’t want to make big giant-tent pole movies. And that becomes the push and pull.
And it’s, if you’re spending 150, 200 million dollars, the movie has to be incredibly successful to succeed. And you have to hit a home run, you can’t hit any doubles or else you’re lost.
And so, you have a movie, like, Disney has John Carter, which is a fascinating, expensive-looking movie, but that movie has to perform incredibly well in order to make its money back.
Craig: I know, it’s a very scary business, you’re right. The way the business is starting to orient is such that the movies that seem to be profitable are the big ones.
So, you build your machinery to fire six, seven, eight really big bullets out there. But each one of those becomes such a white-knuckle adventure in budgeting. And it puts downward pressure on everything.
I mean, I have a movie right now at Universal, looks like they’re going to be shooting it in the spring. It’s nowhere near the budget of these big movies.
But the downward pressure from the big movies, you can feel it. I don’t know what Battleship costs, but man, if you’re trying to make a movie for $35 million, the word Battleship comes up.
Well, that’s not fair. You know, I mean, like —
John: Yeah, it’s sort of like, $175 million movie.
Craig: Yeah, like, “Oh, so we have to be 35 instead of 38 because of another…?” It just seems, but the truth is, these things soak up so much in resource. I get it, you know? What are you going to do?
John: Speaking of DVD being one of the decisions in there: Warner’s — Time Warner moved this week to…or half-announced or it got out that they are changing their window for Netflix, Redbox and Blockbuster. Did you see this?
John: So, over this last year, Warner’s negotiated with Netflix, Redbox and Blockbuster. Redbox are those people who rent the DVDs in stores in the US. Netflix we know. Blockbuster was…that’s the video chain that’s irrelevant now.
John: So, basically, Warner’s had made a deal and the other studios had made a deal with these places that they would not be renting those movies until 28 days after they were available for sale on DVD.
And now, Warner’s is pushing that to 56 days, which will solve everything, won’t it, Craig?
Craig: Well, I mean, again, they’re trying desperately to shore up this DVD business. They want desperately for people to buy these things.
John: Do people want to buy them at all?
Craig: No. And I think the problem is, yeah, people, it’s not that, I don’t…Look, piracy is a problem. There’s no question that piracy is a problem. But that’s not what’s driving the fleeing from purchasing DVDs to renting them.
What’s driving that is a cultural shift from the…there’s no longer a need to possess these items. Nobody wants to possess anything anymore. They don’t want…We’re okay with possessing a virtual collection of things.
So, we can virtually collect music. But even that, I think, is going to start to go away when everything becomes, sort of, streaming, and then, it’ll eventually be like, “You know what? I just want to subscribe to a service, where, if I feel like listening to something, I listen to it. I don’t have to own it.”
And it makes sense. Ultimately, copies are an inefficient way to distribute information. If you don’t need to make copies of it, don’t.
So, eventually, and I think everybody sees the writing on the all, if you want to see Big Fish, you will watch a streaming version of the one copy that exists on a big server. That’s it.
We don’t need to make more of them. And that’s where it’s going. But in the meantime, I think they’re going to try their best to see if they can get people to buy these things.
Meanwhile, it’s strange: The Hangover 2, they waited so long to actually put the movie out on DVD, it wouldn’t have even applied to us because, I guess they had this whole strategy of making it a Christmas gift or something. I kept waiting for the DVD to come out, I’m like, “Where is this thing?”
John: Yeah. The movie actually exists. It doesn’t feel real until it comes out on DVD.
John: I actually…I get to speak about some of these topics this next week. I’m actually going to CES for the first time.
John: I was invited to speak at a Variety panel. I’m, like, the one screenwriter on this Variety panel of digital rights people from studios. And so, I’ll hear them talk about things.
But I think I’m very much on your wavelength in terms of, you are trying to reinforce a system that nobody wants anymore, and sell people something that they don’t really care to own anymore.
And UltraViolet, which is the idea, you have this film locker, you buy the thing, but you hold onto it digitally. And it’s always yours, but there’s locks on it.
Like, I don’t think anybody cares. I don’t think anybody can mentally process the difference between owning that digital thing and being able to get to that digital thing.
My happiest video experience right now is HBO GO, which is this genius service, where, like, do you have HBO? Great. You have access to any show HBO’s made, basically, in the history of HBO.
Craig: Which they can get away with, because you’re already paying for HBO.
John: Exactly. But I feel like there’s opportunities for studios to aggregate stuff together just to make, like, the Action Channel. And like, this has all, every action movie you’ve ever wanted, it’s here. Every comedy of the last 10 years is here.
Comedy Central could totally do it. If Comedy Central as a brand I think is strong enough that they could gather together all the comedies, make really good rates for them. Do you have Comedy Central? Then you have all these things.
Craig: Right. Somehow or another it has to move towards some kind of subscription service because people don’t really even make a distinction anymore between owning and renting. It’s a meaningless distinction to them.
All they care about is, “Am I watching it when I want to watch it or not?” If I feel like seeing a movie, I want to be able to go find it on Google or a thing like Google, press a button, pay for it in some very quick and easy way, and watch it. That’s it.
iTunes basically works.
The problem for the movie business is they are so frightened of Apple controlling their content distribution, in no small part because Apple is associated with one studio, Disney, that they are attempting to do what Apple does in various different ways.
But they haven’t quite gotten it down yet, have they? [laughs]
John: No, they haven’t. I will defend them to some degree in that they are constrained somewhat by collusion. They can work together, but they can’t work together. If they work together too much, then it’s anti-trust. They have to figure out the right solutions for it.
But that’s where I feel like there’s opportunities for whenever one of those people doesn’t get the chairman job, they should go off and form their own company that aggregates people’s assets and makes the new HBO GOs.
Because that’s honestly where I think it needs to go. Or sells the individual things. Amazon can clearly do that and has started doing that.
Craig: But why couldn’t Warner Brothers have an app, just like HBO has an app, called Warner Brothers On Demand, and you just click on that thing on your computer or on your iPad and just rent a movie like, boop, and just do it?
Or don’t even rent a movie. Just pay a yearly fee and then just rent what you want to rent.
John: Yeah, and to some degree they have that. Crackle is basically just Sony.
Craig: But why are they calling it Crackle? What is that?
John: I don’t know why they’re calling it Crackle. It’s a dumb name. But the challenge is like a normal person doesn’t know what Warner’s really is, so the person is going to think like, “Well, what studio release that thing?”
That’s the advantage that HBO has, is they have a brand name. It’s like was that show on HBO or was that show not on HBO?
That’s why I feel like it’s going to have to be Comedy Central, which has a brand. It makes sense. Like, “Oh, it’s a comedy. It’s likely available through Comedy Central.”
Craig: Right. You know just that point shows how difficult it is.
But I think at the very least why don’t they all just agree to stop with this Crackle and Hulu and Voodoo and just call them what they are? HBO GO, I got it. It’s HBO. [laughs] I don’t understand. I’m a simple man. Crackle, what is that? [laughs]
John: Oh, this is our first question of the day. Kevin Arbuay or Arbuay. I’m not quite sure how to pronounce his name. I’ve seen his name written down a zillion times because he’s left comments on the blog and stuff, but Kevin writes in.
He asks, “Hey, have either you or John ever said anything to a bootlegger that was selling one of your movies or to a bootlegger in general? I smell a piracy conversation coming.”
Craig: [laughs] Oh, you mean like a guy on the street?
John: I have seen my movies for sale in subway stations. Not in the U. S. but overseas I have. Have you see your movies for sale?
Craig: Oh, of course. Yeah, I saw, yeah, Hangover 2 on the street, absolutely. I remember landing in JKF, getting in a car like a town car to go to meet with the Weinsteins about Scary Movie 4.
And the guy in the car was offering us videos including a bootlegged Scary Movie 3. It was kind of surreal.
John: Was he an actual taxi type driver or he was one of those gypsy cab or limousine kind of things?
Craig: No, it was like a limousine company. Yeah, and they were just like, “Here you go. You want these?” And then he had like some Pixar movie that had been out for a month. [laughs] It was still in theaters, you know?
They were terrible copies or whatever. I don’t say anything because what am I going to do? Get into a fight about it? “You shouldn’t do this.” They don’t care. Those guys aren’t the problem.
The problem first of all, the physical sale of DVDs on the streets is going to collapse [laughs] the way the physical sale in stores is going to collapse. The real piracy is online. It’s BitTorrent.
John: I bought a copy of Charlie’s Angels in Russia just because I was just fascinated to see what it was, and they’re very hard to play because they’re always these weird formats that we don’t actually have here.
But it was the movie. It had been out long enough that I think it was just a rip of the real movie file with strange intro stuff. They just threw extra trailers for like, “Here’s other pirated movies you might want to watch,” at the start of the disk.
John: But it’s strange. I do feel like physical piracy will diminish pretty soon. It’s going to towards digital. We don’t have time today to talk about SOPA, but we can get into that at some other point.
Over the holiday I got to see Jared Polis, who’s the representative from Boulder where I grew up, who’s also a dad.
I didn’t get to meet his kid, but we got to talk about SOPA because he’s actually on the committee that’s discussing that. He’s one of the few people speaking up about what doesn’t work in that legislation.
Craig: Yeah. SOPA, there are two issues. One is that they’re like most of these pieces of legislation. For instance, I can’t remember for the life of me the name of it. I think it was through the Online Protection Act. It was the act that was designed to get rid of child pornography.
The problem with these online legislations is whoever’s writing them either doesn’t get it or is taking advantage of the fact that the senators and representatives don’t get it, and they become these nuclear sledgehammers that have these broad, wide-ranging impacts that they really can’t have.
They ought not have. So you have that as a component of a problem. So you’re trying to solve a problem. You come up with way too big of a hammer.
Then the other problem is that the culture of the Internet is one that is very much frontier and hates anything that should dare restrict absolute, total literally anarchy-level freedom.
So when you get those combinations, I mean there are people who are like, “Hands off my Internet at all costs,” even if it means not going after people who are trading in child pornography. They just don’t care. They literally don’t want anyone touching their Internet.
For piracy, I don’t know where the solution is to this stuff. The problem is so enormous, and it may end up actually killing things.
I can’t tell…Because I keep saying to people that are like, “Whoa, look what happened to the music business. The artists are in control now.” I’m like, “That’s great.” It literally costs $12 to record a perfectly good-sounding song. Anyone can do that.
The recording industry actually was propping up this massive shell of nonsense. It does in fact cost a ton of money to make a big studio production.
If you want to see those movies, unfortunately, we have to get rid of this piracy, because those two things can’t occupy the same space. So I don’t know what’s going to happen.
John: Yeah. My big issue with SOPA and the ignorance of legislators, who feel like they can weigh in on this, is that they will use the sledgehammer to do things it’s not meant to do.
So they can carefully state like, “Oh, this isn’t meant to do this, and it’s only going to affect foreign IPs. There are these controls on it.” But there really aren’t any controls on it at all.
I’ll give you a quick example of the DMCA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and how I fell afoul of it. So my movie, The Nines, we had a trailer for The Nines. We put it out, and we put it up on YouTube.
It got taken down by DMCA for a violation that a video game company had protested that we were using their copyrighted material. I’m like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
They felt that the floating figures over the characters’ heads were too similar to something that they were using in one of their games.
So they were going to go through and do a whole separate lawsuit process, so we had to have that whole scary conversation where they were going to try to sue and stop the movie and all this stuff.
But the fact is they used the DMCA to take down the trailer for the movie based on what they perceived to be a copyright infringement.
Craig: Yeah, perception of copyright infringement.
John: Perception of copyright infringement. So it wasn’t like I was using their copyrighted song, and they could prove that I was using it. There was no burden of proof on them at all.
They just felt like, “Oh, that looks a little too much like ours, so we’re going to take it down.” So to protest, so I had to go through and figure out, “Okay. Well, how do I…?” There was a delicate dance in dealing with the actual legal thing that was happening there.
We got that all resolved, and they ended up being fine and good and swell. But to try to get the DMCA the lock on my account taken off, I would have to basically reopen the whole thing and file this special kind of appeal. It was essentially like they win unless you can positively prove that they shouldn’t win.
Craig: Right. Yeah, of course it’s that the whole thing is skewed towards large companies, and to some extent that’s necessary because 99 times out of 100 it is the IP of large companies that’s being infringed upon.
But the fact is, you can’t design these guns to only work in one direction, and they can’t be built in such a way as to be punitive to legitimate everyday Internet traffic. It’s not fair.
It’s bad law, and what’s really killing me is that by doing this…First of all, you’ve got to understand, anytime you’re dealing with the Internet it is going to be picked apart like nothing else.
This isn’t like coming up with tariff rules for the steel industry where nobody notices or cares. This is going to be picked over by literally 100 million people within an hour, so you’ve got to get it right.
If you don’t get it right, you just hurt your chances for fixing what is an actual, real, serious bad thing, damn it. Damn it.
John: [laughs] Basically both the House’s version and the Senate’s versions are getting tweaked and changed. What’s tough is that we’re having this conversation now, and the bills are actually probably different than what they were last week, and things will get through.
My concern is that a really terrible version will get through, and even though it’s meant to have certain safeguards in it, those safeguards will be completely ignored.
Or the safeguards are basically like, “Oh. Well, a person can also file this special form that says that this didn’t actually happen.” But meanwhile the Internet has been shut off because that’s one of the things the new bills let you do, is to shut off somebody’s Internet. That seems pretty egregious.
Craig: Well, somehow or another, they’re going to have to figure out how to…It’s like if you think of piracy as a cancer, you have to figure out how to apply the right amount of chemotherapy and radiation so as to kill the cancer but not the healthy tissue surrounding it.
They don’t have this. They don’t have it yet. They basically came up with a chainsaw, and we’re going to have to figure out a better method. It’s on them. But the good news is they’re really, really good at their job. Let’s remember how efficient and productive Congress is.
John: Oh, you couldn’t ask for more. Yeah, sometimes I worry that they’re robots because they work non-stop, and they can come to such ingenious, really mutually beneficial compromises about anything.
Craig: Right. Yeah, they’re my hero. [laughs]
John: I saw an interesting theory that part of the reason why we have such deadlock in Congress right now is that move towards trying to teach Congressmen to come home every weekend and not stay in D.C.
So basically that Congress hasn’t really moved to D.C. anymore. They’re still living in their home districts. The idea being, “Oh, that way you’re representing more your home district.”
The problem is that means they don’t actually see each other during the weekends. The wives don’t know each other, and their kids aren’t going to the same schools. There’s no reason for them not to just go nuclear on each other at any given moment.
Craig: And why do they need to go home anyway? Skype.
Craig: Just Skype.
John: Just Skype, yeah. Raise your kids through Skype.
Craig: Nobody wants to talk to their congressman anyway. Honestly, I think maybe once in my life I needed to talk to a congressman.
Most of the time, if you have an issue you care about, you’re donating or working with an advocacy group. People who specifically, personally talk to their congressman more than three times in their lives are insane. They’re just crazy. They’re literally going home to service the crazy people.
John: Yeah. Jared Polis, I asked him if he knew my mom because my mom is the kind of person who will call…
Craig: Oh, boy. [laughs]
John: …anybody about anything.
Craig: Oh, I stepped in it, didn’t I?
John: Apparently she hasn’t got up to the level of actually calling…
Craig: Oh, good. [laughs]
John: …a congressperson for these kind of things.
Craig: Because she’s not crazy.
John: Oh, she’s not crazy at all, and she does listen to this podcast. Hi, Mom!
John: But Jared Polis was saying that most of the constituent relations they have, there’s a very small list of people. Like they know the names of who the people are who are going to be calling in all the time.
Craig: Of course, cranks. I live in La Canada. It’s a very small town north of Los Angeles. Maybe I think 18,000 people live there.
John: So you have to deal with the coyote attacks and that kind of stuff.
Craig: We do have occasional coyote attacks, exactly. And probably we have two local newspapers. Both of which, by the way, I think are going to be strangled by Patch, but that’s another conversation. But both local newspapers every week, they’re published weekly, have letters to the editor.
And there’s pretty much three people you can count on. One guy in particular who is hysterical. I won’t give his name. But he’s super-duper right wing. He just loves to write in to that local newspaper.
I always feel like people who take advantage of those very traditional routes of communication are insane. They’re just nuts. You shouldn’t have that much to say to your congressman.
John: No. You shouldn’t.
John: On the topic of protecting things, one of the things we came out with this week which is actually in the category of news, is we have Bronson Watermarker. Our very first Mac app came out this week.
Craig: Which I still have yet to try because I haven’t had anything I needed to watermark yet.
John: I know, it’s one of those things where it’s a utility that it’s there when you need it, but we weren’t expecting people to rush in and say, “Oh my gosh, I have to do this today!”
John: FDX Reader was…had a very immediate need. “Oh, I actually do need to read a script on my iPad.” This is more like, “When do you need a watermarker? Well, it’s there. It’s at the Mac App Store.”
Craig: Bronson Watermarker can watermark…Tell me what documents, what file formats it can watermark, John?
John: PDF, any PDF you want to give it. It can be a screenplay. It can be a business document.
So here’s the genesis of Bronson Watermarker. For Big Fish, we had to do — Or we got to do, I don’t want to make it sound like a chore. It was a delight to do. — we did two readings of the show where you bring in actors and they rehearse for a week and you perform it once for investors at the end of the week. It’s a very strange New York way of how stuff works. But it’s smart and great and it was really fun.
So particularly the first time we did Big Fish, we hadn’t announced the name of it. The actors were coming in completely blind. We had to make sure that the script wasn’t leaking out, that the score wasn’t leaking out. We had to watermark every actor’s script and score before they got them.
John: And this was a giant pain in the ass. I thought it would be really simple to do. We had to manually do it one by one by one by one. It took hours and we would make mistakes and it was a mess. So I said, “Never again.”
So Nima Yousefi, who is our programmer who lives in New York, I emailed him on a Friday and said, “This is what I need this app to do.” I drew it out for him, “These are the buttons. These are the fields, go.” And by Sunday he had an app for me.
Craig: He’s like an elf. He really is.
John: He’s an amazing little elf. Thank you Nima for making that.
We had a first draft of this app really quick, figured out the name. Ryan Nelson got started on the artwork for it. And then the thing that took the longest by far was the little video promo we did for it.
I’ll put a link up to that in the show notes. But we had to show what you would actually use it for. So we did an animated info-graphic-y kind of video to show it.
Craig: Is Dana Fox in the video?
John: She’s not. No one is in the video. It’s all animation.
Craig: It would have been better with Dana Fox.
John: Pretty much everything is better with Dana Fox.
Craig: Everything is better with Dana Fox.
John: Dana is lovely.
Craig: She’s the best.
John: She’s nice. So it’s been interesting to see how this has come out. It’s nice that the Mac has an app store now which is analogous to the iPhone App Store. We were able to sell it through there.
We don’t have to worry about the muss and fuss of credit card processing and distribution and updates. A lot of that stuff is taken care of for us.
Craig: So it’s…
John: But, what’s challenging is that people’s Macintoshes are much more different from each other than iPhones or iPads are. You have to know, what version of the system are they running? What other stuff do they have going?
Do they have Adobe Acrobat installed in a way that is going to fight with what we’re trying to do? So the troubleshooting has been interesting to work through, too.
Craig: But it’s now available in the store, right now?
John: It’s now available in the store today.
Craig: Wow, big day. When you say today, you really mean a bunch of days ago?
John: Yeah, like a week ago.
Craig: Yeah, well…
John: Whenever, it’s the middle of summer right now when we’re recording this.
Craig: It’s actually 2015.
John: It’s a warm day. It feels like summer.
John: I thought we would leave today on a question that we won’t actually fully be able to answer ourselves.
John: But readers may want to write in with their suggestions that we could share in the next session. Does that sound like a good idea?
Craig: It sounds exciting.
John: Okay. Here’s the last question. “My name is Eric, and I’m a working TV comedy writer in Los Angeles. I have been working for about 15 years. I have been staffed pretty much continuously on basic cable shows for the past 10 years and am shooting a pilot for a cable network in January.”
So he’s bragging, basically.
Craig: I mean, yeah, come on.
Craig: Enough dude.
Craig: We get it. You could have stopped at, “I work.”
John: I work, he works. Bottom line…
Craig: Does he have awards?
John: [laughs] He lists them all at length. Bottom line, “In a writer’s room I am at my best.”
Craig: Oh God, this guy. He’s the best.
John: “Writing alone, I teeter constantly on the precipice of self-destruction.”
Craig: Finally something that I can identify with. [laughs]
John: “While I am happy to keep staffing on shows, I also want to create and sell shows. I’d love to do that with a partner. I’ve worked with a partner in the past, someone I met on the staff of a show I was on. But it ultimately fizzled out.
“I don’t have any current prospects in the circle of writers I know. I’ve thought about posting an ad on Craigslist but it seems like a crapshoot and I’m slightly scared I’d be murdered in the process.
“I’ve also thought about proposing some sort of speed dating type of event to the Guild, assuming there are other writers out there like me who are looking for their match. Just wondering if you or Craig had any ideas on this front?”
Here’s what I thought was interesting: We actually know a mutual writer who broke up with his writing partner. He’s now writing alone and is wondering whether he should be writing alone or should be matched up again.
It’s kind of easy to match up with somebody when you’re at the very start of your career. But if you’ve been working for 10 years and you’ve been busy, bringing a new writing partner in is challenging.
Craig: Yeah, there are so many issues involved. He mentioned the dating analogy. I would say that’s one that pops to mind the quickest. There isn’t really a meat market for these things.
Most people who have partners are happy with their partner or don’t want a partner at all. Very few people are unhappy with their partner and want a new partner.
The truth is it seems like he has the easiest path to it and that is he works in rooms. If there’s somebody in a room that he really meshes with he should just broach it with that person and say “Do you want to work on a thing?”
Even if it’s just one thing, “You have your career. I have mine, but let’s create a show together.” If that thing takes off, now we’re partners on a show.
Dan Weiss would write his stuff and David Benioff would write his stuff. But they partnered on Game of Thrones.
I don’t even think of them as partners in the sense that I would think of Ganz and Mandel as partners. They are partnered on Game of Thrones. But David can still do his screenplays and Dan can do his screenplays.
So that’s what I would say to him. He’s got it. He’s right there.
John: Yeah. He’s lucky to be in writer’s rooms where he’s around people who are doing the kinds of things he’s trying to do. He gets a very good immediate sense of their talents, whether he can stand them, their work habits.
Craig: Yeah, and whether their sensibilities mesh with his and all the rest of it. I don’t know, he didn’t say if it was comedy or drama, but at some point you realize, “Okay, the things I am pitching and the things that guy is pitching kind of fit.”
Craig: But then he says, “I’m at my best in a room and I hate being alone.” So then, okay, as long as you’re not looking for a partner to do all the work that normally you’d have to do when you’re alone.
John: That would be a problem.
John: One of the interesting things that he might run into is, what if he wants to partner with a younger writer, a newer writer, who doesn’t have as much experience as he does?
John: On some levels that could be great because you come at things from different angles. On the other hand, things like figuring out who should get paid how much and how the stuff should be split can be challenging. That could be tough, too.
Also I would have to say it would be hard for them to probably staff together as a pair unless they could show stuff that they had written together as a pair.
Craig: That’s exactly right. Then in general, teams are paid as single writers, I think. So having a partner is the best way to lop your salary in half, as far as I can tell. Being solo is the best raise you’ll ever get.
But there is no success like success. If as a partnership you are doing better and getting more done and increasing the length of your career then of course it makes total sense. But look, he sounds like the kind of guy that wants a partner.
So he should ideally find somebody with whom he meshes in the writing room that is basically on the same salary scale as he is. And then the two of them should try and create a show together.
I don’t think there’s any sense in getting staffed as a partnership when you’re already being staffed on your own. It just makes no sense.
Craig: Because you could still work as a “partner” with another person in the room, but both get paid.
John: Yes. So I’m going to ask our listeners, if you are a listener who has experience with finding a partner later on in your career, we’d love to hear from you because you might have some perspective on this that we don’t have.
So drop us an email. It’s email@example.com.
And also, show notes for this podcast and for every podcast are also up at johnaugust.com. If you click on the podcast tab you can go back through history and see all the pre-recorded shows that we did. We started this in what, 2007, I think?
Craig: I think our first one was actually ’98.
John: Yeah. It was challenging back then because the Internet was young and the podcast term hadn’t been invented yet. So we were really just forging new territory there.
Craig: We would ship reels of quarter-inch tape to anybody that wanted one.
John: It was tough. Stuart wasn’t born yet, so it was tough to be doing all this stuff ourselves.
Craig: I think he still did a pretty great job.
John: For being fetal, he did great. Things got a little bit wet there with the amniotic fluid but he did…
Craig: That’s so gross. He was pre-fetal. He was like a ghost.
Craig: He was like a phantom baby that would come in and cry and then do our work for us and then return back to the magical egg. What happened to this podcast?
John: I don’t know. I get nostalgic just thinking about it.
Craig: I do feel like there’s an entire episode of just, I’m going to call them pre-ghost, a pre-ghost Stuart.
Craig: So exciting.
John: Stuart of course, we’re talking about Stuart who is my current assistant. And now that another generation of assistants has been born, Chad Creasey and Dara Creasey. Chad was my assistant and Dara was kind of almost my assistant because she was always around. They had their first baby.
Craig: That’s right, an adorable little baby and they seem to be very chipper and positive, which is disheartening.
John: Yeah, they have a happy, sleeping baby. So they’re just really lucky.
Craig: It’s weird. Yeah, they’re pretty happy.
John: And hey, guess what? We squeezed in our gynecological and parenting issue right in under the wire.
Craig: Thank God. Yeah, you mentioned amniotic fluid just as we were running out of time.
John: Yeah, thank goodness.
Craig: Fantastic. Next week we’re going to cover ectopic pregnancy and yeast infections.
John: I like it. Also, the IUD controversy because there’s really two sides to the IUD controversy and I think we can basically take both sides. I’m happy to take either one of them.
Craig: Are you talking about the one where Rick Santorum thinks that IUDs are abortions?
John: Rick Santorum thinks pretty much everything is an abortion.
Craig: By the way, IUDs are abortions. I am constantly talking to my wife about how we have literally created thousands of babies that have died on the spiral shores of her IUD.
John: Yeah. Pretty much every masturbation is an abortion, too, isn’t it?
Craig: It’s like a half abortion.
John: It’s a half abortion.
Craig: Yeah, it’s not really an abortion. I mean, come on.
John: But if a girl masturbated and a boy masturbated…
Craig: No, girl masturbation…
John: A girl has to ovulate, she doesn’t have to masturbate.
Craig: Exactly, girls are half aborting on a monthly basis whereas guys are half aborting on an hourly basis. [laughs] Podcast!
John: Podcast! Thank you very much, Craig.
Craig: Your mom listens to this.
John: Horrible. Horrible stuff. Thank you Craig and we’ll talk again next week.
Craig: Thanks John. Bye.