The original post for this episode can be found here.

John August: Hello and welcome to Scriptnotes. This is episode 21. My name is John August.

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And usually this is the point where I would say, “Welcome to Scriptnotes.” But I actually said that in the intro because everything is a little thrown off because I am in New York.

Craig: New York.

John: New York City. It’s the Big Apple.

Craig: My birthplace.

John: You were born in New York City?

Craig: Yes sir.

John: What part of New York City?

Craig: Brooklyn.

John: Ah, how nice.

Craig: Yeah. I don’t know if you know this because you are a Lutheran, I think, I’m just guessing. [laughs]

John: [laughs] I think I am technically a Presbyterian…

Craig: Presbyterian?

John: …but I haven’t been anything for a very long time.

Craig: But all American Jews come from Brooklyn. There is a factory there. That is where Jews are made. We are born in Brooklyn and then shipped off to the rest of the country.

John: Now are they still made in Brooklyn? Or are only hipsters made in Brooklyn?

Craig: Now only hipsters are made in Brooklyn. But my generation of Jews were manufactured entirely in Brooklyn. Todd Phillips and I, for instance, were born three months apart in the exact same hospital.

John: That is pretty amazing. Josh Friedman and I were born at the same hospital several months apart, too. So, there are going to be many of those synchronicities as we travel through life.

Craig: Apparently Josh Friedman is not Jewish.

John: Uh, yeah. Maybe he… — That is a very good point. I assumed he was Jewish but possibly that is not the case because he was born at my same hospital and all Jews, apparently, are born in…

Craig: Yeah. He meets most of the criteria for being Jewish.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Anxiety. [laughs] He’s got a lot of that.

John: A love of Chinese food.

Craig: Ah, huge. Such a big part. Such a big part of our ethnicity.

John: Yeah. So I am in New York because we are doing casting for Big Fish and I have been through a lot of casting before and secretly I am kind of a casting director. Like if I didn’t have writing chops I would… — Here is my ranking of what I would probably end up doing:

I’m a writer because it is probably what I am best at. I’m also pretty good at the graphic design, sort of like laying out stuff and fonts and stuff like that. I don’t do a lot of that anymore. But just one small notch below that is casting because I am really good at sort of remembering the guy who was in that one episode of Melrose Place like seven years ago.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: And when that person comes into the room for casting I am like, “You were so good in that one episode of Melrose Place,” actually probably 17 years ago.

So, now we are in New York for casting on Big Fish and it is actually really exciting because this is kind of in my wheelhouse.

Craig: Right. Now let me just run this down. You are really good at graphic design and casting. Hmm…now what does that indicate to me? What? When does that normally go together? Hmm.

John: Yeah. If I said like ballet or said like cutting hair or flower arranging, those would be skills where I think I am even more a little bit more stereotypical.

Craig: [laughs] I will say that casting is one of those areas like costume design in movies where I don’t trust straight guys. If you are a straight guy in casting, something is weird, it is off to me.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I don’t like that.

John: Casting is one of those areas that does tend to be dominated by the gays. Not exclusively the gays, I have to point out — and I have made some bad assumptions assuming that everybody in casting is gay, because they are not.

Craig: Uh, yeah they are. [laughs]

John: No, I can promise you they are not…

Craig: Really?

John: …because occasionally I have made that assumption and then I will get a Christmas card of the casting director with his wife and two kids.

Craig: Oh, that’s right, I forgot. Gay men never get married to women and have kids. [laughs]

John: Well, okay. [laughs] But anyway, the point, not to the larger sort of closeted gay point or whatever…

Craig: Exactly, thank you.

John: … is that casting is actually a fascinating and very important part of, like in a musical, of making a TV show or making a feature, too. And screenwriters sometimes do get involved in casting. And that can be great because you have this memory of what those characters were to you and that handoff doesn’t really happen through the director. That handoff is sort of in a weird way direct.

Like for a long time you are playing all the characters yourself. And then one by one those characters are assigned out to actors. And that transition doesn’t happen through the director, it just happens through the casting process. So if you are lucky enough to be involved in the casting process, you can sometimes be really helpful.

Craig: That’s true. That is absolutely true.

John: Because you have a memory of not only what they have to do in the two selected scenes that have been chosen, you have a memory of like, okay, this is what the whole journey of the character is and there may be reasons why that person that is in front of you is great in those two selected scenes but is not ideal in those other scenes. Or, there may be reasons why as you are picking what those two selected scenes are, you can be an influential voice in saying, “Yeah, look, let’s see what this moment is, but also see what this moment is. And by the way, let me write you some better scenes that more succinctly show what it is that this character is going to need to do.”

An example I was thinking about came up in Big Fish, too. Sometimes a character will only have kind of responses to other characters and won’t have a really meaty scene by themselves. But you need to have the right person.

In Go the classic example was Mannie who is the guy who goes along with Ronna and Claire on their journey to make this drug deal. And he has moments but he doesn’t have like a whole scene to himself. And so when we were casting for Go I wrote a special scene just for Mannie that is a whole speech that he doesn’t actually have in the movie, but we needed something to look at so that an actor could come in and actually perform something to let us see who Mannie is.

Craig: Yeah. Traditionally in features casting is done under the auspices of the director. Occasionally screenwriters are involved just as friends of the court. I find…

Well first of all, to underscore what you are saying, casting is of the utmost importance. The most magical thing you can do to a movie is cast it properly. Screenwriting isn’t magic, per se; we write a script and everybody reads it and thinks about it. Same with dailies. “Okay, let’s watch the dailies.” But there is something magical that happens…

I guess the only thing that is close is music because sometimes adding music creates magic. But good casting suddenly transforms everything. And for us, as screenwriters, the most important thing we can do is to make ourselves be available as screenwriters to what the casting suggests because there are going to be times when the casting is either wonderful but sort of takes you even further than you thought a character could go or should go.

Sometimes the casting is just different than what you thought. It is the casting of the movie. No sense in fighting it at that point; better to work with it. At which point you do have to become available to conform the script to who is going to be performing it and also ideally write into that casting. I guess that is the best way I can describe it.

Write to those actor’s and performer’s strengths because that is who you got.

John: Yes. You have to look at cast as a resource. And every movie is going to be resource constrained or resource rich depending on sort of what you end up getting.

If the resources you have when you are making a movie, you have your cast, you have however much money you actually have. You have the locations that you are able to find.

So, as a screenwriter, you have on paper anything you can possibly want to do, you can do. When it comes time to actually make the movie you may find out like, “Wow, we don’t actually have the money to do that elaborate of a sequence. We are not going to be able shoot that many days. We don’t have the money for visual effects for that. We are going to have to think of something different.”

You may find that it is actually impossible to shoot in locations that you would love to shoot, so you look at, “Well these are the locations we can shoot.” You visit those locations and it’s like, “Well, if we are going to be here, this thing is actually really interesting and fascinating. I can write something great for this moment. Or we can acknowledge the space that we are in and it is going to play really well.”

You might have written something for… — A friend of ours wrote a very dark TV pilot that USA bought and USA said, “We love your very dark TV pilot called Burn Notice, but we want it to be bright and sunny, so we are going to move it to Florida.”

Craig: Right.

John: So they moved it to Florida and the show needed to change in order to move to Florida, but that was the resource that he was given. And given that resource he could change things.

Cast is the same thing. You may have a vision in your head of who these characters are. And you may even have had some actors in your head as you were writing them. Those may not be the actors who are in your final project. Once those people are in your final project, you need to figure out what their strengths are and accommodate their strengths and deal with their lacks so that you can make the best possible movie.

Craig: Yeah. I mean this is why screenwriting is one of the most frustrating kinds of writing to do because your script is going to be made into one movie. That’s it. I mean even Big Fish, there will be performances, there will be casts with an “S” at the end. You will hopefully have a huge success with this thing and it is going to run on Broadway and it is going to run in London and it is going to run in LA. And there will be cast changes. And over the years people will interpret it and put their own spins on it and if you might not like somebody playing a particular role in the beginning you will be able eventually to get your licks in and have somebody playing that part later on that is perfect for you.

Not so with movies. This is it. [laughs] So, you better write for who you’ve got. And I will also say that for anybody that is writing a screenplay — and most screenplays are written in the absence of cast, of course — pick a cast. Write for an actor because it helps focus the voice.

It is so much easier for me to write when I know who is going to be playing it. And when I am writing a script that isn’t already with cast attached, I can have anybody play it. So, why not?

John: Exactly. By writing with an actor’s face in your head, you have a sense of like could this person actually say these lines. It helps you to sort of create not just the character but create the reality. Do you believe Harrison Ford saying these lines?

And you should pick, hopefully, people who actually really exist. It is helpful just because, you know, picturing Harrison Ford as when he was Indiana Jones at his prime when the first movie came out, well that is great, but that person doesn’t exist anymore. So maybe pick who would do that role now. It’s very unlikely that is going to be the person who actually is doing your movie…

Craig: Right.

John: …but it helps you find a consistent face to put with that character throughout the whole writing process.

Craig: Yeah. And when people talk about… — A very common criticism of new screenwriters is that all the characters sound the same. And that is a function of the writer not actually writing for actors, but really just writing themselves into characters. And we can’t do that.

And I find that there is so much that doesn’t need to be said when someone can say to you, “This character should be played by this guy.” The difference between “this character should be played by Harrison Ford” and “this character should be played by Will Smith” is enormous. I know so much about how many words they say [laughs] to get across their idea.

I know if they are funny or not funny. I know if they are one or two word kind of guys or if they are 20-word kind of guys. And I suddenly start to flesh out this human being. You have to do it. I don’t know any… — I think it is insanity to not cast the movie in your head when you are writing the script because someone is going to be casting it later and if you haven’t casted it in your head, trust me, they will cast it for you and you will be shocked.

John: And so a crucial piece of advice here: As a screenwriter you cast it in your head. You never put that name in the script. Never.

Craig: Right. [laughs]

John: So what you do is when that character is introduced you give a description that very, just perfectly matches who it is you want to have, not physically, but matches sort of the type of person you want to have in it. And if you do it just right you can create that image in the reader’s head so they will see Will Smith as they are reading the character and all will be happy and good.

The weird magic is even if they don’t end up picturing Will Smith, they will have a consistent idea of who that person is supposed to be.

Craig: Yup.

John: So if they are seeing it is a well-meaning but somewhat smart-ass guy who challenges the system, that is a terrible sort of character description, don’t use that. But, you get basically two sentences to introduce that character which are just sort of gimme lines, like they don’t actually have to be playable moments. You are just telling the reader, the audience, this is who this person is.

Craig: Right.

John: Use those so well so that the person knows what those are. And if it is just a bit player, give that person a really specific name that immediately conjures the kind of person you want in that role.

Craig: Yeah. And once you start thinking that way you will surprise yourself with how much more variegated the characters are. There are some characters who will explain to you who they are and what they are doing. There are other characters who don’t want to talk. So other people are asking them, “What are you doing? Are you doing this?” And they will say, “Yup.” [laughs]

And that kind of stuff, that is the variety that is required. Otherwise, again, you run into that situation that a lot of new writers do where everybody sounds the same.

John: Yeah. Occasionally you can just cheat. And, so, for several movies in a row, dating back years, I would right “Octavia” in when I wanted Octavia Spencer to be cast in the role because if I wrote “Octavia” they would absolutely bring her in for casting and she would always get cast.

Craig: Right.

John: So I did that for Blue Streak and she is also in The Nines as just “Octavia” because she is Octavia.

Craig: I don’t think you can get away with that one anymore.

John: Yeah. She is a Golden Globe winner so that is not going to be so simple anymore.

Craig: No. No.

John: I may have to think of some other name that will make people think, “Oh, what would be a great, interesting choice that no one is going to think of? Octavia Spencer” I’m like, “Wow, you’ve read my mind. I actually hadn’t even thought about that but it is a great idea. So let’s not go to anyone else until we hear back from Octavia.”

Craig: We could do an entire podcast on how to make your ideas seem like other people’s ideas. [laughs]

John: That is easily 40% of the work of screenwriting.

Craig: Amazing.

John: Yeah. The other work of screenwriting is figuring out what stories to write. And there was a really great New York Times article about Lindsay Doran this week. And so I wanted to spend the rest of the podcast talking about that.

Craig: Sure.

John: Lindsay Doran is a producer and a former studio executive. I first met her when she was running United Artists which was, I don’t know if at that point it had merged with MGM or separated from MGM. It always gets bought and sold and bought and sold.

Regardless, she is really smart — really, really, smart. She is not a screenwriter but everyone sort of likes her in terms of her knowledge of story.

Craig: Yeah.

John: I first met her because I had written a treatment about a man who is a former spy, a retired spy, who meets somebody who claims to be the younger version of himself. And I had written up this treatment, planned to make it into a movie, and so that script was called The Nines. That treatment was called The Nines. And has nothing to do with the actual movie The Nines except that the number 9 keeps showing up a lot.

Ultimately I ended up rewriting it many years later as a short story called The Variant. But I had written it as a treatment. And we had sent it all over town and she was one of the few places that really responded to it. She was like, “I think there is a movie here,” so she called me and we talked about it. We couldn’t quite figure out the movie but I remember thinking, “Well, she likes me so she must be really, really smart.”

Craig: [laughs] Yeah. She likes me, too, so obviously she is a genius.

I love Lindsay. I met her many, many years ago. I’m not exactly sure what the circumstance was; I think it was one of those general meetings that turn into a nearly decade long friendship, I think. She is incredibly smart. She is a thinking writer’s producer.

We talked about producers and how there are all sorts of different kinds. She really understands story and I think more than anything loves writers. She actually loves the process of writing and she knows how to talk to writers and help them. And I find her to have terrific taste and sensibility and I just love her.

And it was nice to read that article. It was a very Lindsay kind of thing. I’m sure you will put the link up. She is always thinking, she is always coming up with… — Well, she is a questioner, which I like. I think everything should be, all tires should be kicked.

John: Yeah. So all of this is framing because I think Craig and I have gone on at length in a previous podcast about our distaste for so-called experts and gurus who aren’t themselves screenwriters.

Craig: Right.

John: And so this is all providing context for why this is why we think her opinion is really interesting and sort of worth discussing.

Also, I think what is fascinating about this New York Times article is she is talking about the “what” rather than the “how.” She is not talking about, “Here’s a template for movies. These are the beats you need to hit. This is where on this page things should happen. This is how to sell a screenplay.” It is more a questioning of what kinds of movies are we telling and within the movies that we are choosing to write what stories in those movies are we choosing to highlight or choosing to flesh out.

And that was actually really helpful for me, just even this week. So some context setting. Her basic argument, her idea is drawn from an author whose book I haven’t read. His name is Martin Seligman. And he identified five essential elements of well-being. And so these five essential elements are positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment.

So, the point being that it is your ability to achieve these five things or your ability to — your quantity, your quality of these five things determines how good you feel about yourself, how good you feel about your life.

Craig: Right.

John: And those seem like reasonable choices. They are not the obvious choices. It is not money, it is not victory over your foes, but positive emotions, a sense of happiness, a sense of the world being good…

Craig: Joy.

John: Joy. Joy is a simpler synonym for that. Thank you. You are very good at this.

Craig: Yes. [laughs] I really like short, short words.

John: [laughs] Yeah. You are like a walking pocket thesaurus.

Craig: [laughs] Thank you.

John: Engagement. Engagement, sure, the ability to latch onto the thing that is in front of you. Relationships, sure, great. Meaning, so a sense that what you are doing is actually meaningful, that there is a reason behind stuff. And accomplishment which is a nicer way of saying victory, but just having achieved something. And those all seem like reasonable goals.

And crucially I would say Lindsay’s frame is not like, “Oh, let’s write in success for all five of these qualities.” It is about earning those in a sense of achieving success in those five areas.

Craig: Yeah. What I liked most about this was that it is not telling us anything we don’t already know. We know that generally we like what we call happy endings. What she is really doing is asking us why do we like the happy endings, because sometimes understanding why helps us get to write good ones because there are boring happy endings, there are rote happy endings, and then there are interesting ones.

Seligman is a name that should be familiar to any psychology major such as myself. He is the founder or one of the co-founders of the term “learned helplessness.” That was what he described as the root of depression, learned helplessness. And you can see how in movies a lot of times characters are stuck in learned helplessness.

When you look at the state of a character on page 10 they have come to be instructed by life through circumstance, through the people with whom they interact, that they are helpless. They cannot change things. And then something happens that forces them to ask the question if maybe they can change things. That to me is a more interesting way of approaching structure than “on page 10 a thing happens.” Yeah, buy why?

So I really like that she puts everything in the context of the character’s emotional and psychological state and arrives at this interesting place at the end where it is not just about experiencing joy, it is about sharing joy which I thought was great.

John: Her point which is that it is not about just victory, it’s not about accomplishments, it is shared accomplishment.

Craig: Right.

John: Which feels true to actual real life, too. If you are playing a video game and you finally — I’m thinking Sky Rim for example.

Craig: Yes!

John: I had to keep saving and restarting this one thing because I lost my follower guy and I was just at a level that was beyond where I could really be. And there were these two bosses sort of coming at me. And I was finally able to assassinate the one guy with the arrow and take care of the other minion boss in time to sort of get through it.

And there were maybe ten restarts in order to get through that moment. And it was like, “Woo, that was just a moment of real accomplishment!” But I’m sitting alone. [laughs]

Craig: [laughs] Yeah.

John: In the downstairs office. And no one knew that I was doing that. And so it was an accomplishment but there was no one to share it with. There was no one who knew I wanted to do it. There was no one who knew that I was trying to do it, so like I did it and it was like, “Oh okay.”

Craig: Yeah. We define for ourselves, we define joy, whether we know it or not, in the context of relationship with other people. There is no joy in solitude. It is a bit like watching a comedy in a theater or watching it at home alone. You will smile a lot when you are at home alone, but you will laugh in a theater because you are sharing something with others.

The line that immediately came to mind when I read this article was, “Yo Adrian, I did it.”

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: I mean he lost, right, but he won in his own way, of course, and we don’t need to rehash why the ending of Rocky is interesting. But, he had to say, “Yo Adrian, I did it,” and then we feel something. Because there is somebody else on the other end of his emotional phone call that matters to him. And that is everything.

John: Yeah. In some ways it is a way of restating the cliché, “What does the character want versus the character need?” So classically that means he wants to win the fight, but what he needs to do is save his relationship or make this smaller achievement. He needed to change his life. I kind of buckle against that just because it has become such a cliché, but when you actually sort of break that, you pull back and look at sort of all the little things he needs, that can be very instructive.

Because one of the things, I think, she has hit on is how important it is to look at your whole story and look at are you really paying off all of those threads. Are those characters who you are introducing along the way, are they just helping out the character, your protagonist, your lead character, your hero, or are they really relationship set, change and evolve and are going to be able to highlight the sense of accomplishment at the end?

Craig: Right.

John: If you look at Star Wars, at the very start of Star Wars we establish the battle plans for the Death Star. So one version of Star Wars is basically, “We have to blow up the Death Star.” And the movie can be about that. It can be about finding and training Luke Skywalker to blow up the Death Star and he can blow up the Death Star, and he blew up the Death Star and it is great. Yay, success.

But that wouldn’t feel like a successful movie because what is really the success of that is not that he was able to blow it up but that everyone was cheering for him after he blew it up. My theory is if you were to take the ending of Star Wars and take out the victory celebration at the end of that you wouldn’t have the same satisfaction in the movie.

Craig: Right.

John: It is not about the explosion, it is about everyone cheering.

Craig: Yeah. I mean he has an internal goal that he has to achieve. He has to learn what it means to put his faith in the force, for whatever value that is. And the truth is the value of that is minimal. Obviously in the movie it has great impact in terms of plot, but in terms of his character and his emotion, and my emotion as an audience member, eh good, that’s good, but you are absolutely right — there are friendships, there is loss that matters to him. It is all in the context of the relationship between the characters. That is the only thing that matters.

And you are right. The award ceremony at the end is a great way for them to kind of come together and be together. And it is, to me, cliché is only in the execution. But all movies, I think, ultimately if there is some kind of joy at the end it is joy in the context of what you have done for others or what you have done for yourself in order to be better for others. This is natural human instinct.

John: Yeah. I think it is crucial to talk about, we are not, it is not just a pitch for happy endings in a strange way. There are some of these movies that don’t end on happy notes. You look at, Obi-Wan dies, Yoda dies. Most of the people on the Titanic die. A lot of the Pandorans die. A lot of great movies don’t end with fantastic — they are tinged by loss. And in a strange way the character who succeeds with a smile but has sort of that tinge of loss to them, that is the guy you love the most.

Craig: Right. Well, and also the flip side of this is there is a way to deliver tragedy by leaning on this lever as well. They mention The Godfather in that article. And I didn’t quite…

John: I didn’t quite get The Godfather, but it wasn’t fresh in my head.

Craig: Yeah. I have a slightly different angle on that. There are a ton of reasons why The Godfather is probably the best movie ever made, but one of them is it presents family in a way that is really exciting. It actually romanticizes something that is very bland and hokey to us which is family. I mean the worst thing in the world is a “family film,” right?

But in The Godfather, not only are they a family, but they are a family of these awesome murderers that can run things and they stick together, and loyalty. And the whole movie is soaking in this kind of shared compatriotism.

But, the tragedy is that there is a price to pay for it. And at the end the protagonist of the movie is somebody that in a weird way stands apart from family. He is messed up. He is shutting the door on his wife. He is not like his father. He kills his brother-in-law. He is, in his attempt to be the family man par excellence, he has become sort of a corruption of that.

And that is why there is a tragedy there. And it is tragic to us because entirely he is voiding what we believe is so important.

And then, look at what happens in the second movie? They take, I mean Coppola and Puzo take it to the next level and have him kill Fredo.

John: Yeah. It was an HBO series before its time.

Craig: That’s right.

John: Yeah. And one of the things I found myself doing as I was preparing for this downstairs, I said, “Oh, I’m going to pull up the list of the AFI 100 Top Movies and sort of see how this applies to things.” And I was sort of skipping through and I found that, “Oh no, I’m doing that thing that I hate.” I was doing that thing where I was trying to apply this pattern, this template, to movies to try to make them fit into things.

And what I think is especially rewarding about this article is in no way is it sort of advocating that all great movies match this template, that this is the one magic formula behind things. It feels more like a challenge. More like, “Hey, look at the movie you are writing right now and see if you are paying off relationships in a way that is meaningful. See if your accomplishments are being tracked in a way that is meaningful to the characters in your story.”

Craig: Right.

John: And don’t panic if maybe you don’t have a lot of plot-plot-plot if the overall feeling of your movie is rewarding. She cites Ferris Bueller which, I think, is a great one. The stakes in Ferris Bueller are not especially high, but the whole movie is constructed in a way — and I actually think a lot of John Hughes movies are structured this way — that the world is good and the world is safe and it is a very rewarding place to spend your two hours of time.

Craig: Yeah. I mean John Hughes had a real talent for staging movies through the eyes of melodramatic teenagers. And melodramatic teenagers, and since I was one, have an amazing ability to narrow the focus of drama in the world to what is happening today. And he honored that.

I mean detention was massive. People forgetting your birthday on your Sweet 16 was massive. Just getting a day off from school was massive. And in doing so the stakes felt real to me, but he always found his way back to what we are talking about which is the relationships.

That is why when you watch Ferris Bueller, I mean Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, who is the star, who is the protagonist of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? You think it would be Ferris Bueller but it is not.

John: No, it’s his friend.

Craig: It’s his friend. It’s Cameron. And understanding what Cameron needs is why that movie works. No Cameron, no movie.

John: Completely. When we were making Go I would glibly pitch Go as sometimes “The Breakfast Club with a body count.” Of course there really isn’t a body count, but it is a more plotty movie than the John Hughes movies are. And it is sort of pushing back against the John Hughes movies.

But when you actually look at where the movie spends its time, especially where you look at how the movie spends its last ten minutes, the movie could end significantly earlier on. You have wrapped up a lot of sort of the plot stuff that has been set up. But the experience of watching the movie, you really need Ronna to wake up in the hospital room. You need to see her reconnect with Claire. They need to go find Mannie. And they all need to get in the car together after having their conversation and you need to see that they are all going to be okay.

Craig: Right.

John: And that setting the road forward, “Well what are we doing for New Years?” You need to know that everything is going to be resolved and that what happened happened — the whole world didn’t change. And no one is going to say, “That’s the night that everything changed,” but their relationships are retained and changed in a way that is meaningful.

Craig: That is the stuff the audience tracks and I think that a lot of producers sometimes, and studio executives, and directors, and writers sometimes miss that and concentrate on the stuff, the action. And they sort of feel like, “Well, the thing blew up, the bomb went off, you saved the day, movie over. Let’s just skip the rest of this stuff and head for the hills.” And it is not the case.

John: They concentrate on the intellectual logic and not the emotional logic.

Craig: That’s right.

John: They don’t see how the whole thing fits together and what the experience is going to be.

And the challenge of being a screenwriter is you are the only person who has seen the movie. You know what the movie feels like because you have seen the whole thing. The whole movie has played through you and you have to be able to tell them that. Even on this project I am working on right now, there is one scene where they kept saying, “Well couldn’t you lose that?” And I say, “No, this is a crucial moment. I kind of have to walk you down the hall because I know you are not going to get there emotionally unless I have taken you through this place.”

It is like how we set up a joke. I mean punch lines aren’t funny, punch lines by themselves. They are only funny because you had the setup. And emotionally the same thing is true. Even if it is not a joke you are going for, you can only get to tears if you have taken the audience carefully through a process.

Craig: Yeah. That is one thing that I know Lindsay and I agree on vehemently, but I often find myself having…

John: Can you vehemently agree?

Craig: Yes. We violently agree on this.

John: [laughs]

Craig: But I often have to be the sort of lone defensive voice on this one through the things that I write. We both put a lot of stock in healthy first acts. Nice, good, long first acts. It is okay, take your time, set people up. Don’t be panicked that they are going to get bored 20 minutes in. They don’t get bored 20 minutes in. They get bored 60 minutes in when you didn’t spend the time in the beginning and they don’t give a damn about any of these people because they don’t know what their problems are and they don’t know what their relationships are so the payoffs don’t matter.

I mean, the setup of a joke, set up punch lines, the same deal. I thought that she… — It was a very good article and it was definitely, you know, it was in our kind of Zen mode of anti-structure structure and anti-gimmick gimmick. So I liked it.

John: Yeah. So highly recommended. Links to anything we mention in the podcast are always going to be on the podcast notes which are at So we will have a link to that article and to things that are related to that article.

And, Craig, thank you very much.

Craig: And thank you, John. Have fun while you are continuing with your casting in New York. And we will see you when you get back.

John: Great. Thanks Craig.

Craig: Bye.

John: Bye.