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 this is Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. How are you, Craig?
Craig: Doing fine over here. Getting ready to… [laughs] — It’s four o’clock in the afternoon and I’m getting ready to start.
John: Oh, that’s good.
John: It’s 7 o’clock in the evening here. It’s still light out. But my work is done for the day. We were working from 10 to 6, and so I got to walk home and stop at the grocery store on the way. It is all very New York and civilized.
Craig: I envy you. I get to work on what I am working on and then I also have to help my son with his science fair project.
John: Always good.
Now, I have specific ideas about science fair projects, and so let me see if we are in the same mind space about what a science fair project is: A science fair project is not, “Hey, I looked something up on Wikipedia and here is what I looked up on Wikipedia.” A science fair project… — Science involves a hypothesis and an experiment and results.
John: If there are not those things, it’s not a science fair project, people.
Craig: You have to start with your problem, then your hypothesis, then your results — your procedure, your results, and your conclusion. There must be an experiment with recorded data, otherwise it is not a science fair project, it is just a science fair report.
John: Yeah. It’s a diorama of some kind.
Craig: Yeah. Totally agree with you on that one. This year Jack and I did an experiment about viscosity. And we made a homemade viscometer. And watched — literally [laughs] — watched molasses slowly drain out of a container into another container for 35 minutes. It was pretty good.
John: That sounds pretty amazing.
John: Now, of course you got into the complicated calculus behind one container emptying and sort of how that all worked, right?
Craig: Well there is a start line and stop line. So we have a… — We sort of approximated a constant volume. But we did heat the liquid, then we did it, and we checked their temperature, and then we heated them and did it again to see the difference that heat creates on viscosity. And, I’m sorry to say, we did not report any findings contrary to the natural laws of science.
John: Oh, but wouldn’t it be awesome if you did?
Craig: It would have been pretty exciting if we had discovered something new. We didn’t as it turns out.
John: You were confirming previous observations, and that is an important part of science, too.
Craig: Yeah. We like to call it “standing on the shoulders of giants.”
John: Yeah, that’s good.
John: Today, Craig, I thought we might talk about something that we are both involved in right now which is, it is not just that you have written the script, but now the script is going to a stage where it is entering production. And there are decisions being made about what stays, and what goes, and a lot of times you are generating new pages, you are generating a lot of new material.
And you have become not just a screenwriter, but you have also become the script department.
John: You are the person who is responsible for the screenplay that is in front of people’s eyes. And if the pages are changing in there, you are the person who is responsible for making sure the right pages are going into the script and not going into the script.
So I thought we would talk about that, because it is not just a produced/published “big screenwriter” kind of problem; even if you are making like an indie film with three friends, if the script is going through changes, you are responsible for making sure that everyone is shooting the same script, and that literally everybody is on the same page. So I thought we would talk about that.
Craig: It’s a great topic because it is one of the areas where screenwriters can actually screw up production in a massive way, or rescue it and be good caretakers of the production. And the other nice thing about this topic is that unlike so many screenwriting topics, this one isn’t gray, or ambiguous, or a question of taste. There is a best practices way to go about this. And we should walk through everything that is involved in script management for production.
John: Great. So, at a certain point, a screenplay becomes not just, “Okay, I’m printing out a whole new thing, or sending over a whole new PDF that someone is going to read over the weekend and you are going to talk about things.” At some point you say, “This is the script.”
John: “This is the production script. This is what we are going to base everything off of.” And at that point, the script is locked. And it will be a mutual decision based on the people involved, like when you are going to lock the script. So the producer, and the director, and the AD will also say, and you will say, “Okay, I think we are locked.”
And from that point forward, if you are in Final Draft you go to “Lock Pages.” There is an equivalent thing in Movie Magic. If you are trying to do it in some other way, just God bless you, it’s harder.
Craig: No. There’s only one way to do it. Yeah. There is one way.
The first draft of the production is the one that they base their initial schedule off of. And everybody, like you said, everybody sort of agrees, “Okay, this is the one.” That is called the “White Draft.” Everything is by color from this point forward, and the first color is white.
And you lock the pages, and you also… — Typically the AD will then number the scenes. And at this point they may say to you, “Hey, you know how in one scene where you had a slug line ‘Interior – Mall,’ you had three things as time passing, each one of those we really would like to call a scene,” because production manages scenes by numbers, not by page.
So he might make those into slug lines, but at that point they number everything. The scene numbers never change. They are locked into place. And the page breaks, in theory, don’t change. They are also locked into place.
John: So, you and the AD will… — Basically the AD will come with the script and say, and number the script, and may actually just write hand numbers on the sides of things. You will go into Final Draft or Movie Magic and you apply those scene numbers to the individual scenes. And everyone will agree on what those scene numbers are, because your scene numbers need to match what their schedule says.
John: And this is very, very important. At the same time that they are sending this through, you should also ask for a copy of whatever the schedule is, whatever the breakdown is that they are working on, just to make sure that you are agreeing on what you are calling things. Like are you calling this “the restaurant,” or are you calling this “the diner,” because that can lead to confusion, too.
And in the schedule, oftentimes, there is a one line synopsis of what happens in the scene. You, as the screenwriter, are probably better than the AD at describing what happens in that scene. And you might volunteer to change that if that is the kind of relationship that you have.
Craig: I have never bothered doing it, only because I feel like it would just take up so much time. It would take a lot of my time. And in the end, it is really just for their internal use, you know.
John: Here is the reason why I do it on some projects, especially projects that I know I am going to be around a lot is sometimes the actor or the director will see what is coming up later in the week and go, “Oh, I’m not ready for that,” but they are not really understanding what is happening in the scene.
John: So like the AD will have written something that says, like, “Jack confronts Karen about something.” That is not really what the scene is about. And, so, they are in this head space of like, “Oh, this is that big moment,” but actually they are confusing one scene with another scene. I find it helpful to do that, but I am also kind of anal retentive.
Craig: Yeah. That goes above and beyond the normal call of duty.
John: So, let’s go back to the actual screenplay then. In a feature it is 120 pages. In a TV pilot it is going to be fewer pages than that. If you are doing a regular TV show, an episode of a TV show, there is a whole separate person and department whose responsibility is giving those pages out to people, so we are sort of not talking about that.
In features, or in a Broadway musical, you generally are that whole department. And so you are responsible for making sure that stuff is matching up.
Craig: Yeah. Sometimes there is a script coordinator who is different than the script supervisor. And the script coordinator is somebody on staff who manages the script processing, distribution, and changes, and so forth. And as a screenwriter, it is important for you to work with that person to make sure that everybody is a good partner about this sort of thing. Because ultimately their job is on the line if there is a mistake.
John: Exactly. So, that script coordinator would often be part of the production office staff.
John: And so it is a bridge between sort of you as one of the creative people and the back office staff, and who is also talking to people on set.
So you have your script. It is the “White” script that has now scene numbers applied to it. And from that point forward the pages are locked, which means that if you are adding something to a scene that would cause it to generate — would case pages to move after that… — It is hard to describe…I’m using my hands a lot which is really helpful in a podcast.
John: If you were adding something into a scene, like let’s say you are adding three new lines of dialogue, those can potentially push everything else in the script later. So, instead it is going to kick and create an A or a B page. So, if you are on page 99, and you need to add half a page to it, that half page will automatically break and form page 99A.
Craig: Yeah. The idea here is everybody on the production gets a printed out white draft. They all have it in their binders. Everybody needs one because they all need to know… — I mean, everybody looks at a script in a different way. Grips look at it one way, and camera looks at it in a different way, and obviously wardrobe, but everybody needs the whole script.
Every time you make… — If you make a change on page 1 to your script that adds five lines, that is going to change every page break over the course of the script, which would mean you would have to hand out 300 more scripts. It’s insane. You don’t want to do that.
All you want to really do is hand people the pages that changed. So, the way we do that is we lock all the page breaks. And then if on page 1 you need to add half a page, Final Draft and Movie Magic will automatically insert a new page between 1 and 2 called 1A. And it will proceed along — 1B, 1C — so that pages 2 through 120 don’t change. And this way… — And everything is by Revision Draft.
So, you have got your white thing. You have locked that up. Now you need, they call you up and they say, “We need changes to the first scene.” You write those changes and those changes will be “Blue” pages. Everybody roughly goes in the same order of color. And then you…
John: But you should ask the first AD or line producer, or whoever seems to be the person who makes those decisions what color schedule we are going to go through.
Craig: Yeah. Get the color schedule. I mean, usually the studios have a set thing. And then so you make your changes. Every change is an asterisk which is automatic in Final Draft or Movie Magic, and when you are in revision mode, so they can see what exactly changed on the page.
And then, when you are done with that, and everybody agrees that it should be released and distributed to crew, the office will print out just the changed pages on blue paper. So what they will get if you change, if you just added a half a page to page 1, they would get a new page 1, and a page 1A, and asterisks showing what changed.
And same thing, by the way, when you take out. If I take out everything on page 3 through 6, what will happen is everybody will get a new changed page that says “Page 3-6” and then the scenes that were omitted. And we should probably talk about what happens when you omit a scene.
John: Yeah. The best practices for omitting a scene is basically instead of where the Interior/Exterior scene header is, you have the word “Omit” and you keep the scene number there. So it is clear to everyone that that scene has been omitted.
If you are omitting a lot of scenes, sometimes you will just do a dash/hyphen to show all of these scenes were omitted and that this happened.
Craig: Right. A range of scenes, yeah.
John: A range of scenes. Because often what happens, let’s say you have a sequence, and you decide to move that sequence later on in the script. What you are basically going to do is delete that sequence out of where it was. So that whole range would be deleted. It would be omitted; “omit” is usually what you use.
And then you are going to be generating new pages to stick it into where it properly fits in the script now.
Craig: That’s right. And the other reason we use omit is just like we need to keep the page count from flowing, expanding, and contracting as we make changes; we need the scene numbers to always stay rigid as well. Scene 15 will always be Scene 15. And Scene 17 will always be Scene 17. If you take out Scene 16, everything else has to stay where it is. So it is best to just keep that placeholder there — Scene 16, Omit.
And on Final Draft and Movie Magic, you can also use… — The proper way to do it is not to delete and then change the slug line to say, “Omit,” but to actually use the Omit Scene tool, because it will retain all of the stuff that you wrote. It will just hide it and just keep a little thing that says, “Omit.” So you can always bring it back.
John: Yeah. I have never done that. But, if a software tool exists to do that, use it. A lot of times I won’t end up doing that, but that is probably best practices.
John: What I will say is you always have to think of the person who is going to be receiving these pages. And, so, a lot of times you are going to be generating maybe 12 pages at a time. And you, as the screenwriter, are responsible. You print them out. You look at them with your actual script, with the script that they should have, and make sure that they actually make sense in there, so that they flip them through and say, “Okay, if I took out this page and I insert this page, will it make sense in every person’s script?”
I always generate a new title page with those that says the date, the color of the revisions — the color and the date of the revisions so it is clear. I also almost always put a memo on the top of a set of revisions that says, “To whatever production team, from me — these are the actual page numbers that have changed.” And a quick description of why, basically what is different about them.
So a person who picks this up, their packet of pages, he is like, “Oh okay, this is to move this sequence to here, this does that, this affects these things.” I like to put the list of what pages have changed so they can actually flip through it and make sure that they have got all the right pages.
Craig: I don’t do that. I usually, because I am almost always doing these pages in concert with the director, when I send the file I will write that sort of — if I feel the need — write that summary for the director and the producer who are getting it directly. Ultimately, I think, the crew — my suspicion is they just want their pages to put in their book, and then the asterisks will theoretically guide the way.
And it is really up to the… — I actually don’t like getting in the way. I don’t like talking to the crew directly. I feel like I would rather have the director do that. That is my whole thing.
John: I love talking to the crew directly, and it is one of my few opportunities to do so.
Craig: That is true. That is true.
John: So, and the other thing in defense of the top page memo is sometimes it gets complicated. There are times where… — On Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this happened in a couple of places, where we would go through a sequence, so from page 90 to 100, went through it like three times. So there were times when it went to A and B pages, or it went to AA pages. The page numbering got strange.
So on the cover page I could say, “This range, this should be the sequence.” And I would list “99 White,” “99A Blue,” just so people could actually understand, “Okay, I’ve got my script together right.” So once they put all of their pages in they could see, “Oh okay, I did the right thing. This does reflect how the script should be.”
Craig: Right. And that is an important thing to kind of get on the same base with production with your AD, because they all have different numbering schemes, but it is a good thing to raise. If you have page 1 and page 1A, and you need to stick something between page 1 and page 1A, a lot of times it is page A1. But, everybody has a different way of doing that, and similarly with scene numbers, people have a different way of doing that because lettering scene number is fine — that is the normal move.
Let’s say I want to put a scene between 15 and 16, it is going to be scene 15A. But it is also important to remember that when they are shooting, each scene number is on the slate. And then there are also additional letters that are added to describe the shot of that scene. So, the master shot is Shot A. And then a single on Jim is Shot B. So there are a lot of letters all of a sudden.
So, some guys, a lot of times I have noticed this is a foreign thing. They like the scene letter to go first…
John: Letter to go first.
Craig: …So instead of 15A it would be A15.
John: I think it is a really good practice. And so ask your AD how they want to do it. I think it makes a lot of sense. And so between Scene 15 and Scene 16 would be A16.
Craig: Well that depends.
John: That depends. So make sure to check how they are going to do it.
Craig: Exactly. And you can force, you know, Movie Magic or Final Draft to do it whichever way you want. But, here is an important thing to keep in mind. This is a basic workflow of how I do this when I am doing revisions.
I have my White draft. Now it is time to do revisions. The first thing I do is I save the white draft as blue draft. So the white draft is now pristine, untouched, over there. Now I have a blue draft that I can do anything to it I want.
Craig: When I start, the first thing I do is I go into Revision Mode. I make sure I am in the proper color revision of blue, because I like to keep all my labels, and keep track of what is what. I make sure Auto Revision works are turned on, and now I start making my changes. If I delete scenes, I make sure to omit them. If I add scenes, I just add them. I don’t worry about the numbers just yet, because I may take it out.
Remember, when you are revising, the stuff you are revising is sort of free. You can take it in and out and not be penalized. Once you keep it there, that is when the changes happen.
So, I go through all of that. I’m done. Next thing I do is I scene number the new scenes to fit properly. And Final Draft kind of automatically does it. Make sure that you select “Keep Current Scene Numbers Fixed” so that you don’t mess that up. You don’t want to renumber everything. That is a disaster.
John: Oh god. That is why you save first.
Craig: Correct. Now I have got that file. I save it. Okay, terrific. I send it off. Everyone is happy.
Then they call me up and say, “We want to change another scene and we need…”
John: Here is where you skipped a crucial step.
Craig: Oh, I did?
John: You are not sending them the Final Draft file. You are sending them a PDF generated from Final Draft.
Craig: Oh, no, that’s not true.
John: You are actually sending them the Final Draft file?
Craig: Absolutely. I am sending the Final Draft file.
John: Oh my god, I never send them Final Draft. But tell me your process.
Craig: Here is why. — It depends. If I am working with a director closely, and I almost often am, who is proficient with this, or at the office, and also for an AD, I like to send the Final Draft file because the truth of the matter is sometimes as they are rushing to get pages out, let’s say I send these off at 5 o’clock. They have to get these pages out for the next day’s shooting.
If they catch a typo or something, I want them to have the freedom to fix that while I am sleeping. If the AD says, “Oh, no, no, I actually don’t want this to be a slug line; I want it to be an action line here,” I want him to have the freedom to do that. It is a production tool.
Obviously I don’t want them changing my work, but I don’t work with people that change my work like that. They never do. Everybody is respectful.
When I am sending initial drafts to studios and things like that it’s a different story. But once I am deep into production, I feel like unless I am working with people I don’t trust, and I have been lucky enough I guess that I haven’t had that problem, I send the Final Draft file, or the Movie Magic file.
John: It’s a matter of how comfortable you are with that. I just feel like most of the people I have worked with, it’s not a matter of trust. I don’t think they are going to do something bad. They are not going to do something evil or wrong, or try to change words that they shouldn’t. I just think they are going to make a mistake, and I don’t want them to be able to make a mistake.
So, a PDF, they are not going to make a mistake.
Craig: That’s true. That is true.
John: They are going to print it.
Craig: You have to kind of gauge, I guess. There you go. You have a slightly different style.
Alright. So, we have sent my blue pages off. They have distributed them to the crew. And then they call and say, “We want to make a change to this other scene,” and it is time for pink pages. So, what do I do?
I open up my blue draft, I “Save As” pink draft. The next thing I do is… — So the blue draft is pristine and saved forever on its own. I am now working in a pink draft. I do Select All, Clear All Revision Marks. Because you don’t want to show the old revision marks. Those pages already got handed out. You don’t want to re-hand them out again.
John: Now Craig, this is a different workflow thing. Final Draft can only show the current set of revisions. So, I have more faith in Final Draft more recently than I will… — I will always save a file, just so I can have a clean saved file, but I will just add a new revision, which would be pink, and I will say, “Show only current revision,” and it will hide all of the previous revisions, and only show the new stuff that I do.
Craig: That is an option. I just, my quirk is that I like to know that each file just has its own revisions. So that if I need to go through and say, well somebody says, “Well wait — was that changed in blue or pink on this day or this day?” Then I just open that file. It is really up to you. I mean, either way we end up with the same work.
Craig: And then you start again, and you do it again, and you will start to discover things. By the way, not a bad idea to play around with a sample script to see how this all works. But you will notice, for instance, if you…
John: I’m sorry. But a great idea is to start doing it before you absolutely have to do it, because the first time you are figuring out how to use these tools is when you have a script that is shooting in a week, you could be panic-induced, and you could make mistakes.
Craig: Oh yeah. And if you incorrectly change page breaks or scene numbers, it is a disaster. It is an actual disaster because if you spend time on a set what you will notice first thing off is that the scene number drives everything. The crew never talks about locations. They talk about scenes.
They will say to you something like, they might walk up to you and say, “Hey, just a quick question — in Scene 78 you said that you were talking about a truck. Is it a truck? What kind of truck?” And you will immediately say, “I have no idea what Scene 78 is.” And you don’t. But they do.
And you don’t have to know. You can look at your script, but everything is scene number. If you mess those scene numbers up, oh boy.
John: Yeah. Then you are spending an hour or two going back through and going back to the hard copy. And that is why I love to have a PDF that I can say, “Okay, this is what this was. This is what this set of revisions was,” so you can sort of backtrack through. But that is me.
Craig: Well, yeah. I mean, I can backtrack through my Final Draft files. But, you will notice as you work with the drafts that things happen that make sense. For instance, Page 80-86, all of those scenes, everybody decided we just don’t need that in this movie. So, you omit all of those scenes. And what the program will do is issue one changed page. And on that changed page, the page range will be 80-86. And then on it it will just say Scenes 113-121 Omitted.
And so everybody gets them and they go, “Okay, I am taking all of these pages form my current script, and replacing them with this one delete page.”
Craig: So you learn. You learn how it works.
John: The other thing I will tell you from experience is sometimes as you get through complicated situations where you start having A and B pages, and you start to have one-eighth of a page on a page, and you realize this is not good — what I will often do is go through and copy, and basically cut and paste all of those things together onto a new page that can replace all of those other pages.
So, instead of having…
John: …if it ended up being on-eighth of a page on a couple different things in a row, get those all down to one page and create one new page that replaces all those other pages.
John: It makes your life happier. And it is a little scary to do, and that is why you “Save As” and make sure it works before you try to do it, but that can make life a lot easier, especially when you are trying to do sides for actors and stuff, that you have enough on a page that it really makes sense.
Craig: Right. Yeah. The concept there is when you lop out three-quarters of a page in a locked script, it is not going to pull all the pages up again. It is just going to leave blank space on the page. Well you might have five pages in a row that just have, like John is saying, little bits. And so you may want to copy and paste them all into one page.
And what he is saying about sides is important. “Sides” is the production term for the script pages that are handed out at the beginning of every production day to everyone, the crew, the actors, the director. They are little tiny pages, I don’t know the exact measurement, but they are mini-pages.
John: Well, they are a quarter of an 8.5 x 11 sheet. So, if you fold an 8.5 x 11 sheet twice, it is that size.
Craig: That size. Okay.
John: Ah, it’s…that’s fine.
Craig: Yeah, they are bigger than that.
John: Yeah. They are a little bit bigger than that. They are.
Craig: Yeah. So they are like little mini-pages. And they have the script printed in kind of tiny words. And it is your script pages. And what they will do is they will put Xs, big marker Xs through the stuff that they are not shooting that day. They are just about the stuff they are shooting.
And if over the course of eight pages, there is really one page of material, that actually is kind of annoying to constantly be flipping through sides to see what your next line is. So, that is a good theory to sort of collapse that down if it is getting really quadricated. Polyfurcated.
John: Yeah. I like that you make these new words.
Craig: Polyfurcated should be a word.
John: It totally should be a word. We are making it now.
Craig: Yeah. Polyfurcated. Oh, and then there is this other thing that happens where — and this tends to occur very early on. You lock the white draft. Everybody does the budget and schedule, and then the writer and the director sit down and make like 50 changes. And they are all tiny little changes because of what is happening in production.
Well, the location actually is now really more like a bar that is next to the hotel instead of inside the hotel. A lot of little stupid, tiny little changes, but suddenly you have 50 pages that have an asterisk on them.
Craig: So what they will say then is everybody will get together and decide, “You know what, with this many changed pages, unlock the pages…”
John: New white.
Craig: No, not new white. “Issue a blue draft.”
John: Oh, that’s true.
Craig: Exactly. So, we will say, “Okay, for this one we are going to unlock the pages so that we don’t have a gazillion little pages, and we are just going to issue a whole new script to everybody that is all blue. And then from there we will lock the pages again.”
But the scene numbers never change.
John: Scene numbers never change.
Craig: Never. Never. Never.
John: I should also say, what I am doing right now is essentially like being in production. And there are cases where you are trying to reflect what was actually done versus what you are planning to shoot.
So, sometimes during rehearsal, and movies sometimes have rehearsal, too, you will see some changes that sort of come up along the way. And it is a good idea if you can to reflect what you are actually going to do. So, if something comes up during rehearsal for your thing, during preproduction, like location changes for your movie. As you are debating, “Oh, should I actually change it in the script, or will we remember that. Like it says gas station, but now it is at a rest area. Should I really make that change?”
Yes. You should really make that change.
Craig: Always. Always.
John: Otherwise people are going to get confused down the road, or, you have to think down the road. Because it may be three months before they are shooting that thing. People are going to say, “What happened here; what changed?”
John: Now you won’t necessarily… — You are not responsible for, usually as a screenwriter, responsible for the small little blocking things they did differently, or like you actually had the actor enter two lines later. For movies, you are not going to worry about that. For musicals, you do worry about that. For the movie, you may not really worry about that kind of continuity.
Craig: No. I mean, the stuff on the day is on the day. And you don’t have to change the script to reflect that. But in advance of the script, yes; things like locations, and anything really that you think people should know about has to go in the script. They will follow that script very, very closely. And the one sort of judgment call that sometimes you have to make is whether or not to, if you are changing a scene location should you delete and then create a new scene number. Usually I don’t.
Usually if the bulk of the scene is the same, I will keep the scene and just change the slug line.
John: Yeah. And, again, that is a conversation with your AD…
John: …and figure out what style is going to make sense, because they are the person who is responsible for the schedule and figuring out everything else, how stuff is going to work.
John: What is dispiriting about being a screenwriter, well it is exciting to be in production. It is like seeing that all of these that were potential are actually finished. The minute they are done with a scene, everyone will sort of — they will throw away their sides and they will hope to never look at that scene again.
John: No one will think about that scene again. It will be done, and it will move on. And the script becomes not especially important the minute… — One minute after it is shot, the script is kind of forgotten.
Craig: I know. I love that.
John: Yes and no. Sometimes I get a little bit sad when I go into the editing room and I see, like, “Oh, they assembled the scene based on what was shot, but it is actually…” I don’t know. There is no recognition that, like, oh, it was actually…
Craig: Well, but you know, listen. Good editors always have that big script book with them with all of the script supervisor’s reports. And they do… — I mean, good editors will look back to the script.
Craig: I mean, they should at least. Although it is a tricky thing because ultimately they also know that the director sometimes has deviated and their first responsibility is to the director. But I would…
John: I would say the first responsibility should always be towards the movie…
Craig: Well, that is not the way it works with editors.
John: Ah, yes. But you can be a little bit sad. Although I will say some of the new editing programs, I think Avid does this now; they have a thing where you can actually load the script in and it can do voice recognition to match up lines in takes with the actually shooting script.
Craig: Oh really?
John: Which is pretty amazing.
Craig: That’s pretty cool.
John: It is great for documentaries with a transcript; it is fantastic for that, too. But it won’t be long before many shows, you can sort of like look at a script and sort of pick your favorite takes from things that have it auto-assemble.
Craig: Oh my god. That would be so cool.
John: It would pretty cool.
Craig: Finally we can get rid of editors because, you know. I mean, ultimately it is just going to come down to screenwriters and teams of robots.
John: Yeah, will actors will be the first thing we have.
Craig: No. The actors are going to ultimately…we are just going to scan them.
Craig: And robots.
John: Robots. All robots. Factory.
Craig: Robots. Yeah, like a factory. Exactly.
But that is a pretty good tutorial on how this all works, I think.
John: Yeah. Yeah. You are responsible for making sure that the script you wrote can be shot by the people who need to shoot the movie. And sometimes that is you; sometimes you are the writer-director, you are going to make revisions. Sometimes it is other people. And sometimes you are not going to be all that crazily involved.
In the animated things I have done, I have always sort of gotten them to the white draft, but then it sort of just kind of goes away. And they have their own weird numbering systems, and it really becomes much about their boards and everything else.
John: Sometimes you give it up and go to God, and that is fine, too.
Craig: Yeah. But in live action, this is really a chance for you to channel your inner — how would I describe…? I just remember being in third grade and there was as certain kind of girl that her penmanship was excellent, and her sense of scheduling and paperwork was really good, whereas I was a disaster, you know.
Craig: Find that girl inside of you, because you need to be really fastidious about this kind of thing.
Craig: If you blow it, they will come find you. And my whole thing is, please, as a screenwriter, don’t embarrass us; don’t embarrass the rest of us by not knowing what you are doing.
John: Yeah. One last tip I will share, which is something I learned from this project, is… — First of all, binders are just amazing. And I was always a person who printed scripts and had the little brads in them, or I would print the two pages side by side for my little reading purposes. But the best thing about printing out full size with three holes and putting it in a binder is as you are going through scenes, if here is something you need to fix on a page, I put a red, plastic Post-it flag at the top.
If there is a note I have to talk to the director about, or to talk to an actor about, I use a yellow Post-it tab over on the right hand side. And so then every day as I need to sit down to do changes and do work, I can look at all the red tabs across the top and those are the pages I need to fix.
And I go through, and as I take care of one I take the Post-it flag off. If it is a note I have for an actor or for a director, I can see it there, and when it is done I can take it off. It has been really helpful.
Craig: I just use the internal Script Note function on Final Draft and Movie Magic.
John: Oh, I hate those.
Craig: You don’t like those?
John: I hate them.
Craig: Oh, I love them.
John: I’m such a digital person, but I really don’t like the internal…
Craig: You know…
John: …besides, it is a very physical process for me. I very much want to have my book open and be able to talk to people.
Craig: Listen, grandma, here is the deal: you are not that digital. You write your scripts on legal pads.
John: I do.
Craig: Yeah. You write your scripts on legal pads while you sit in your steam-powered tugboat. I know for a fact you use an abacus.
John: Often. Only.
Craig: You use a Charles Babbage machine to record this podcast.
John: Yeah. I just think it adds a certain authenticity.
John: Stuart has to do a lot of careful audio suppression to get around the click-click-clacking of it all. But it really does help a lot.
Craig: Correct. And then the rest of his time he spends carefully greasing the gears.
John: Well, and I do ride to work on my old tiny bike with the giant front wheel.
Craig: That’s right. I have seen you.
John: I don’t believe in steam irons. I think a proper iron is heated on the stove, and when it is nice and hot you pick it up with a rag and you rub it over.
Craig: Oh, you have rags now?
John: I have rags… — Well, basically it is the stuff on the washing board.
Craig: Got it.
John: When it has gotten too thin to really be worn anymore, that is what I do.
Craig: Exactly. Don’t give us this whole, “I’m a digital guy thing.” I’m a digital guy.
John: Although I will say one digital thing I am involved with, which very much pertains to this, we just released our new Bronson Watermarker 1.5.
Craig: That’s right. Very good.
John: And I developed Bronson for exactly the production I am working on right now, because the producers required that we watermark every script that went out. So we have like 40 things that need to get sent out.
And when you try to watermark things one by one, it was a giant pain in the ass. So we made this app that can watermark. You can give it a list of names, and it generates all the PDFs all at once.
We did have to decide at a certain point when are we going to stop watermarking, because are we going to watermark every revision that comes out? Because that means that we can’t actually go to the photocopier. We actually have to print.
And so we decided that revisions along the way are not going to get watermarked. But, today we realized that more than half of the script is no longer watermarked because of so many revisions.
Craig: Well then that is a chance for you to maybe issue a whole new script that is watermarked.
John: We could.
John: Ah, see! It’s intriguing.
Craig: Yup, think about that one.
John: The other tip I will add, just to talk about my physical notebooks, and people who like things on paper. If you are putting stuff in a binder, the other great thing that Post-it, it’s actually not Post-it, but you can get them at Office Depot and places like that, are these adhesive folder labels. And you use those for sequences.
And so if you were doing a musical, you would have one of those little tabs for song, but if you were doing a normal script you would have one for each sort of sequence, like a big action sequence, or sort of a new chunk of your script. And it makes it so lovely to be able to flip through to, “Oh, let’s talk about this section. Let’s talk about this section.” I highly recommend it.
Craig: Feh. [laughs]
John: They work so much better than like normal dividers that would go into a three-ring binder, because they actually adhere to the page, so you don’t have extra stuff to flip.
Craig: I don’t print. I print my scripts when I do a revision, you know, when I am going through with pen. And that is it. The next time I see my printed script is at a table read. And then from there on, the only printed stuff I see are sides on the set. I don’t do all of this binder…
John: Yeah. I’m a binder man now. I can’t get past it.
John: To the point where we actually printed out all of my sort of current, and sort of semi-archival scripts, and have them in binders now on the shelf there. And it’s so good — I will have a question on something, I will pick it up off the shelf. It is printed here.
Craig: Oh my god. What a hive of busy work your office is. Poor Stuart. Sitting there color tabbing scripts from 1993 going, “What is going on?! I have an MBA.”
John: An MFA.
Craig: “I have an MFA.”
John: The arts.
Craig: “I have an MFA. I am a Master of Fine Arts!’
Craig: Stuart. Come on, Stuart. You love it. You love the color tabs.
Craig: Stuart, if you came and worked for me, nothing would happen. You wouldn’t even have to go to work.
Craig: Yeah. The easiest job.
John: Maybe he could watch all the TV shows and the movies that you don’t watch.
Craig: He could just fill me in every morning. Call me up and… — It’s like TV Guide when they used to have those little synopses. That is where “Wackiness ensues” came from.
John: I like that. One of Stuart’s functions is he goes through and checks like a lot of the blogs I would look at, but also a lot of blogs I wouldn’t look at, because he looks at other blogs, and sort of puts up a list of articles of possible blog interest which has been so helpful, so like things that I might want to blog about. He has little links there for me.
John: He is a curator for me.
Craig: He really is. [laughs] He is a curator. It’s amazing. I don’t have that. But I don’t need curation.
John: No. Yeah, you are already perfect, so…
Craig: No, you know what it is? Honestly, I really do, while you are watching Glam and Smash, are those shows? I just made them up. [laughs]
John: Glee and Smash, yes.
Craig: When you are watching Glee and Smash, I am just spidering my way through the Internet like a Web-bot, just following links, and reading.
One of my favorite sites is Fark.com.
John: Oh yeah.
Craig: It’s great.
John: That’s curated, yeah.
Craig: But I also love Arts and Letters Daily. I don’t know if you read that one. aldaily.com.
John: No, but I will.
Craig: Arts and Letters Daily. Great thing to promote on the podcast. Each day they have links to three things, usually an essay, a review, and some kind of article. And they are always from really interesting and very literate sources. Online magazines you would never otherwise even know existed. Drama periodicals. Policy journals. City Journal. It’s a really great thing.
It’s like incredibly smart people writing about really interesting things, and completely off the beaten path of mainstream Internet. And I go there every day. It’s fantastic.
John: My last closing thing I love that I will rave about, which I am reading on Kindle right now, is The Great Big Book of Horrible Things. I don’t know if you have heard about this. It is billed as The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities.
So, it is military history, largely. It is basically all of the wars that killed millions of people throughout history.
John: And there’s a lot of them, man.
John: People are kind of terrible to each other quite frequently.
Craig: And they have been sort of increasingly less so; even though we think the world is getting worse, it is actually getting better.
John: Yeah. The tradeoff though is that we have the capacity to kill a lot more people at once.
John: So before, it was hard to kill a bunch of people with swords. We did it, but it was really hard to do. And then we developed newer ways to do a lot of those things.
What is fascinating is we always think about sort of the despot or the tyrant who killed a bunch of people, and there are certainly, there are the Attila the Huns who are tremendously successful at killing a bunch of people. But it tends to be the situations where governmental structures fall apart. It is where there is a power vacuum ended up being much more dangerous for people, because then it was a bunch of different groups all fighting each other and it wouldn’t stop for like 100 years.
Craig: I think Mao still is the winner. He gets the medal, right, for killing the most people?
John: I haven’t seen… — I didn’t cheat. So I didn’t look through to figure out who the winners are. So I am actually going through. It’s a long…
Craig: I bet you the Great Leap Forward is way high up the list.
John: It’s got to be.
Craig: And then the Writer’s Strike of 2007 is probably…my guess is that is like number 4 or 5.
John: [laughs] What is so fascinating, as I pull this up on Amazon, because I want to say how many pages it is. Because I am looking at it on a Kindle, and I know it is super long, but I didn’t have a good sense of how long it was. 668 pages.
Craig: Oh man! They should have just trimmed two pages and been cool.
John: Yeah. But that is the other weird thing about Kindle books is I have no idea how long they are.
Craig: I know. It’s weird. I wish that they would fix that.
John: Yeah. So Justin Cronin wrote this book called The Passage. And I started reading it. I was like, “Oh, I’m enjoying this; this is really good. I must be just about through.” And then I pulled up the little counter thing, and I was less than an eighth of the way through. It turns out that book was like 800 pages.
Craig: Yeah, that’s not fair.
John: And it should have been shorter.
Craig: Yeah, we need pages, for sure.
John: Craig, thank you for another productive podcast, speaking of pages, and getting pages.
Craig: Yeah, once Stuart puts little labels on the WAV forms of this thing, we will have this out to the people.
John: The people will love it, I hope.
Craig: They will love it. Awesome. Alright man.
John: Great. Thanks Craig.
Craig: See you on the next one. Bye.