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.
Craig, this weekend I encountered something new for the first time; something kind of amazing and transformative.
Craig: Oh, I want to guess, but I’m not gonna.
John: Okay. First of all, there were actually two transformative things that happened in the same location.
A TV writer was throwing a Memorial Day party at his house, and he had one of those pools that had like the current in it.
Craig: Oh yeah.
John: Have you seen these yet?
John: It’s pretty amazing.
Craig: Kind of like wave pools.
John: It made a normal pool seem impossibly lame.
Craig: So the idea is that you swim for exercise and it just keeps pushing you back.
John: Yeah. It’s pretty amazing. Or, if you have a bunch of kids there, they will basically get into the current and get thrown all the way back to the back of the pool, which they love. Who would not love that? It’s like sky diving but in a pool.
Craig: Yeah. That’s pretty awesome.
John: But the more relevant thing for our podcast, which is not about swimming-related technology…
So I was talking to a mom and she had a fifth grader, and so I was making sort of the standard parent chit chat that you do, like, “Oh, so what is your fifth grade daughter into?” And she said, “Oh, she’s really into filmmaking.” I’m like, “Oh, that’s interesting. So what kind of stuff does she do? Does she have a camera?”
“Oh, she’s mostly into LPS.” I’m like I have no idea what LPS is. So I ask, I’m a curious person, so I ask what LPS is. LPS stands for Littlest Pet Shop.
John: Littlest Pet Shop is a serious of collectible figurines, sort of like tiny little bobble-head figurines, little animals, adorable little animals. And so the culture has formed, so you take these little animals and you stage scenes with them, and you film them and you post them on YouTube.
And so I’m thinking okay, but no-no, they are elaborate staging things of like ongoing series or often sort of like verbatim reenactments of TV shows which I was like, “Well this is really fascinating for you to tell me this. I’m going to leave now so I can Google this immediately and discover what this whole phenomenon is.”
So I’ve been looking them up and they are actually kind of amazing and fascinating because it’s this whole subculture of you take these little figurines and you’re making these movies, and it’s not like the Lego — you’ve seen like the stop-motion Lego stuff which is impressive —
Craig: Yeah. My son makes those.
John: Which is impressive in its own right. But here the culture is not just that… — You’re not doing frame-by-frame; you’re moving the little pieces, the little guys, at the time and your painting your fingernails so they’re really beautiful while you’re manipulating the little bobble-heads for these characters.
Craig: What the hell? [laughs]
John: Yeah. You’re doing very girlie things like, you know, Popular. So, anyway, I was enraptured and amazed that this was happening. And it’s stuff that’s being done mostly on iPhone cameras. What a good time that we live in.
Craig: And is it mostly kids doing these things or are there —
John: Hopefully it’s mostly kids doing these things.
Craig: Yeah. Yeah.
John: But I remember taking a class in college about post-modernism. And we spent the whole semester talking about what is post-modernism. And there in 30 seconds is a definition of this is what post-modernism is. This is taking two culturally not related things and squishing them together in a way that is creating something new in an impossibly weird but kind of fascinating way.
Craig: Yeah. It’s like the whole Brony phenomenon.
John: Totally. Bronies.
Craig: Right. Which just puzzles me to no end.
John: Yeah. Well someone thought of a cool word and it became a meme that expanded beyond that.
Craig: It’s so, so weird. It’s so weird.
John: Anyway, so I’ll post to the show notes links to some LPS videos. But just YouTube “LPS.” Anyone who’s listening to this not in driving time has probably stopped the podcast to go Google and YouTube some of these videos.
Craig: Eh, or they’ve just crashed. Not because they’re distracted, because they just want to die. [laughs] ‘Cause they don’t want to live in a world with this. I will not YouTube these things.
John: No. So, I was watching a Littlest Pet Shop CSI episode. [laughs]
Craig: Oh man! [laughs]
John: And I’m reading the little synopsis for what happens in the episode, and so I thought this would actually be a good topic for our podcast today is plot. Because I was reading the little plot synopsis, and the plot synopsis was like what you read in a TV Guide for like a normal thing. But just reading the plot synopsis you really have no sense that this is being acted out with little tiny bobble-headed animals.
So I wanted to talk about the difference between plot and story, because a lot of times I think they’re used kind of interchangeably and the idea of like — the sense that I have an idea for a story, and here’s the plot of what would happen, well that’s really about maybe 5% of what the actual work of writing and creating an episode of a story is.
And so so much of what we assume is like that’s what happens in the story, well that’s the three-sentence description. That’s the synopsis of what happened in the story, but it’s not the actual work of what writers did.
And what occurred to me is there’s a person who wrote into the site who’s from some foreign country but had terrific English and was pitching this thing that he’d worked on. And it’s a website that’s called PlotWizard.com. And it’s inspired by this book called Plotto by William Wallace Cook. And I didn’t know anything about it until he sort of talked me through it. So, I Googled it more; God bless Google.
Plotto was this book that this guy put together, and there had been other things before it, which were sort of like universal plot bibles. And so it’s one of those ideas where you start a thread and then you can choose any number of options and then you go to Option 46 and then that could feed into these other options, and these other options; and so just by flipping through pages in this book you can create these really elaborate plots for things.
So like the hero discovers that his long-lost brother is still alive and takes a long journey to go find him and there’s these kind of complications. It’s a formula.
John: Yes. And so a mathematical reduction of sort of what story is. So this guy who wrote into the site had done sort of a digital version of it. And so I want to read you one of the plots that this computerized version came up with. You ready?
John: Okay. “While writing a con game, Gilbert meets Corrina, who astutely sees through his scheme. Corrina is also involved in a scam, and Gilbert becomes suspicious. Corrina learns that Gilbert is in serious trouble. In order to help Gilbert escape the law, Corrina seduces the arresting officer, Ronnie. Ronnie pretends to be in love with Corrina, but it’s actually part of his plan to capture both Gilbert and Corrina red-handed. Thinking he’s proposed to Corrina, Gilbert finds that he’s accidentally proposed to Corrina’s twin sister, Carly…”
Craig: Oh god!
John: “…who accepts. Now the twins both love Gilbert. Gilbert is about to marry Carly who has tricked him into believing that Corrina is unfaithful. Ronnie stops the wedding to arrest the bride and groom. Corrina pretends to be Carly and runs away with Gilbert, now a fugitive from the law.” [laughs]
John: Now what I should stress is that for some reason this little generator has a lot of twins and mistaken identities. And sort of like people pretending to be people that they’re not. But you read through that and it’s like, well, that could be a plot to something.
Craig: [laughs] No it can’t. No, I mean, that really is the definition of a dead thing. You know? I mean, it could be the plot of a soap opera, I guess.
John: It could be the plot of soap opera. But here’s what it is: that could be the formulaic reduction of sort of what happened in it, but it doesn’t tell you sort of how it happens. And so I want to talk about the difference here because I think a lot of times people say, “Well I have a good idea for a story; like this happens, and this happens, and this happens, and this happens, and this happens.”
But the actual work of screenwriting, of telling a story in fiction or in screenwriting, is figuring out how it happens. Not the what, but the how. And so all of those how questions are what you end up staring at the giant whiteboard and figuring out, well, who knows this piece of information and what would be the scene or the moment were they learn this thing, and how is this thing going to happen?
So, looking at this description, like: Corrina learns that Gilbert is in serious trouble. In order to escape the law, Corrina seduces the arresting officer Ronnie. Well, what does that mean? What is seducing the arresting officer Ronnie mean? Is that a scene? Is that an entire episode of an ongoing series? Is that the whole movie? That’s the difference in the work of what is plot, which to me is the distillation down of this is what happens in the story, and the actual work we’re doing.
Craig: Well, when you go through a plot like that you get a lot of “what” questions, like — what happens? This woman seduces a man to save a guy to do a thing. So, what happens next is what bad writers are constantly asking: what happens next? And I think good writers are always asking: why should this happen next? [laughs]
Because, when we tell stories, we are always telling them about human beings. Always. Even when we’re telling them about animated rabbits and fish. And what we care about, the whole point of plots existing in the first place, is to enthrall us in the lives of people who are interesting to us. Their problems are interesting to us. Therefore the things that happen to them must be interesting to us. So, the question that I think good writers should always be asking about plot is “why.” Otherwise you end up with what Aristotle astutely called, thousands of years ago, an episodic story which is, in his words, the worst story. [laughs] And it is.
There’s no purpose. There’s no unity. There’s no theme. There’s no character. So I always urge people to just think “why.” If you want her to seduce this guy — why? Why not just come up with an easier way that doesn’t involve that?
John: Well you need to ask why not from the perspective of the author, of what you need, but why from the perspective of the character who’s making the choice. And why is that the right choice for her to be making.
Now, ideally, the right choice for her to be making is also the most interesting choice for your audience to see. That become the weird balancing act of telling fiction is figuring out how to let your fictional characters make choices that are going to be the most rewarding for your audience to see.
Bad writing, it’s true, oftentimes you’ll have the episodic things where you also feel like you have plot robots who are just people who are being dragged through a plot. The other extreme, which can also be a very bad extreme, is you have characters who have so much control of the story that they’re just going to wander off and do whatever they’re going to do and it may not be very interesting.
John: The challenge is corralling those two competing forces into finding what is the most interesting thing this character could do that is also very consistent with what the character would want to do in this moment.
Craig: That’s a great way of saying it.
John: Your struggle as a writer is to find, to create the situations that both of those things are going to be the same.
Craig: Yeah. The way of thinking about that dichotomy is you need to know what must happen. The characters can’t know what must happen. That’s where the fun happens, right? You know that these two people must go from where they are now in this particular circumstantial state to this next circumstantial state, but they can’t know.
You have to actually make it — you have to make them blind. It has to be surprising to them. You know, sometimes you’ll hear these terms, like “reversals.” They’re not really reversals because everything is on a straight line in its own way. The straight line is the one you’ve drawn. It’s just that the characters can’t see it. So send them off perpendicular to that straight line. Make it hard for them to get to A to B. Make B meaningful so that when they get there it suddenly changes or recontextualizes things for them which makes the next milestone even trickier to get to.
You need to know your plot, but your characters should never know it. And I think that’s what you’re touching on when you say that these characters are in control of the story.
John: When I was in journalism school we were taught pyramid structure and the journalistic questions, which are who, when, why, what, how. So, you’re trying to answer those questions in a news story. And so the what questions are really these plot questions, like, well what happens? Where it happens is setting. When it happens is also setting and weirdly it is sort of structure; structure is an answer to the question of when are characters going to find out this information and when are they going to choose to do these things. When in the course of this movie are you going to place things.
But it really comes down to the “who” questions and the “why” questions. Who are these characters and why are they doing what they’re doing. And ultimately this will hopefully answer why we as an audience should care about them.
When you see stories that tend to fall apart in their second act, which is basically after all the exciting stuff in the beginning has happened, it’s because you didn’t really know who those characters were and you really weren’t invested in whatever the specific journey of the story is that they were trying to set up.
Craig: That’s right. You don’t know where you’re going. It’s funny, I had a discussion with my 10-year-old son tonight because he has to write these little Cinderella stories for class. So, you can write any kind of story you want as long as it vaguely fits into a Cinderella paradigm. And he had written sort of two-thirds of a story. And then in the first part — it’s very my-son — in the first part a little girl lives with her dad in the woods and his robot wife, but he has grown tired of his robot wife and wants a real wife.
Okay. Act one is concluded upon his journey to town to find a real wife. Act two begins when he comes home with the real wife. He’s found a real wife, and she has two sons, and they’re terribly mean to our heroine and they beat her up and they give her abrasions, which is a word he learned yesterday so of course it must be employed in the story today. [laughs] “And they give her abrasions.”
And so he had gotten that far and I said, okay great, what happens next? And he said, “Uh…I don’t know yet. I haven’t written that part yet.” And I said, “You know, the thing is you kind of need to know where you’re going or just the ending is not going to relate to the beginning.” And he asked me to sort of give him an example which I think was partly his sneaky way of having me do it for him.
But, in the hopes that this would have some instructional value I said, okay, well, you have this interesting element of the robot wife that has seemingly been forgotten. So, you know, it’s a Cinderella story and in Cinderella stories there are fairy godmothers. Maybe the castoff robot wife is actually a fairy godmother or fairy god-robot. And she can help your hero girl somehow get one over on these terrible boys. And then maybe she can turn them into robots and maybe then the little girl, they ask for forgiveness, for mercy, and the little girl asks the fairy god-robot to turn them back into humans and then they show her mercy by being nice to her and they all live happily ever after.
And you see how in the stuff that you put there in the beginning, that’s there on purpose because that’s what the ending is all about. And he went, “Ah! Oh, that’s interesting.” And the funny thing is I read scripts from not-10-year-olds that make the same mistake.
Craig: Where you’ve got this wonderful little concoction you’ve built for yourself because you really love your idea. And your idea is good enough to start writing. The problem is your idea has no relation to anything of value at the end. Beginnings are wonderful things. I love beginnings. I spend more time writing the first 20 pages than I do the rest of the movie. But they only exist because they are there — they are the ball being thrown up in the air and you have to know where you want it to land. And it has to land somewhere that matters, that has some kind of import for the audience.
So, to me, plot is a function of where you want to end. And I think so many people start with where they want to begin.
John: A few weeks ago I linked to Old Jews Telling Jokes, and part of the reason why I wanted to bring that up is what is so crucial about a joke, and if you hear a kid try to tell a joke you will realize why this skill is so important to master, is a joke is about where you’re going to end up. A joke is about that punch line. And if you haven’t carefully walked everyone through the process of the joke to get to that punch line, the punch line is not going to be funny.
And when you see a young kid try to tell a joke, they will say a bunch of stuff and then they’ll say like “poopy” at the end.
John: And every once and awhile it’s hilarious.
Craig: That’s a really good joke actually. [laughs]
John: But most of the time that’s going to be — or they’ll say, “On your eyeball,” or just something gross — and it’s like, well, that’s actually not what a joke is. And working on various movies that are weepy, I would say that the same thing happens with emotional things. You have to have an emotional journey that gets you to that point where you’re ready to feel that emotion. And being aware of the fact that each moment along that journey needs to be rewarding in its own right, but needs to be able to take you to that place.
Now that sounds very much like here’s the author forcing these moments to exist to be that way so he can get to that last payoff, but no, you actually have to be able to somehow do both. And that’s the judo of it is that you have to have your characters feel like they’re driving those moments so that they’re naturally arriving at those moments all the way along the way. And it’s going to take you to that final place that you want to get to. And that can be a huge challenge.
The thing I’m working on right now I had sort of that thing where you lie in bed and I was trying to loop the scene, and trying to figure out how I was going to get this… — It’s a really simple kind of transition. I need to get this character from one sort of fantastical world to another fantastical world and make it a natural sort of seeming thing. And I was really struggling to figure out what is the mechanism, how is it going to work, and it wasn’t until I really sat down with the script and sort of went through some other scenes and really figured out what was going to lead up to, it was like, oh, I was trying to write that moment as if it was a first act moment, but this is a very late second act moment.
I don’t want to spend the shoe leather to make this big magical journey between these two places. As an audience I don’t want to learn something great and new about this world. I just want to get to the next thing. And that’s another crucial part of storytelling that it’s going to be lost in sort of this plot bot, like it’s not telling you where the real heart and time and work of the movie is. Is one of the sentences a scene, or is one of these sentences just an off-hand comment that somebody makes to somebody? That’s the real work of writing.
Craig: You know, we can talk about all sorts of little rules and tricks and things, but ultimately 98% of this is your instinct for things. Some stories deserve to be told microscopically, others deserve to be told macroscopically. Just like when you’re on Google Maps you can see a street or you can see a country. And there are movies that will take people over the course of ten years. There are movies that take place over one night.
The movies that take place over one night contain these micro-moments. I mean, Go contains micro-moments that expand and are hugely important, and then the night is over and dawn happens. The Hangover movies, the same way; you’re compressing a lot of stuff into small things, small temporal things, so you make bigger deals out of little moves.
But then there are other movies, you could tell a road trip movie over the course of six months. You could tell an epic over the course of five years, people are aging. You need to have some sense of your scale before you start writing because your script will either be 12-pages or 1,000 if you don’t have that internal metronome.
John: You look at either of the two Hangover movies. If the storytelling purpose of those characters was “we’ve had a very long and difficult marriage but we’ve had a great marriage,” all of the events of The Hangover could basically be summarized in a jump cut, like you know, “we lost him and then we found him again.” All of that stuff would be sort of eclipsed if you’re telling the person’s larger life.
Like Big Fish is a story of huge ellipses being put in a person’s life. Impossible things happen, but you just past them. You look at a moment but you don’t look at the whole thing. Even Spectre, which is a larger section of Big Fish, where he goes to the fantastical town, there’s clearly a lot left out of there. It’s clearly here-are-the-highlights-of-what-happens. His growing up in Ashton is just the highlights, versus Go and Hangover which is like zooming in on a very tight focus on things.
And that’s what I was really facing in the script that I’m writing right now is that I was doing some of the really close-up detail work, and I was trying to do the close-up detail work, and I was like, oh, this is not a close-up detail moment; this is a cut-to-the-next-thing. This is in Indiana Jones, like the-plane-flies-over-the-map kind of moment. And I was trying to build out the whole scene. Well, the movie doesn’t want that scene right there. The movie wants to get to the next thing.
Craig: Yeah. You have to know your scale. You have to know your scale. And by the way, scale in and of itself is a dramatic tool, because sweeping movies tend to play well into our sense of mortality because they cover ground — people age, they grow old, they die, there’s a sense of loss, there’s that kind of weird existential whatever it is that is transmitted to you by a movie in which time passes and lives change.
Because we all feel that in movies that sort of take that point of view, whether they work or not, are designed to make us confront our own mortality and our relationship with time as it slips past us. These movies when you do a small scale movie it’s about tension and panic and anxiety, and maybe more important than that, those moments where you make the wrong or right choice that will change everything afterwards.
And the funny thing is those movies, movies like Go and Hangover are movies in which you get the sense that at the end your life is fine after that. You had a night where you could have gone to hell, or you could have set it straight and liberated yourself, and you managed to liberate yourself, and everything’s going to be fine afterwards, until the sequel. [laughs]
But, the grand scale movies are more ethereal. There’s a wistful sense to those. You have to understand what you’re trying to achieve with the audience and let that feed back into the tone you’re selecting and the scale you’re selecting, because plot will impart tone.
John: So, let us take a bit of a digression, but let’s talk scale and tone and sort of pacing and timing. Are you caught up on Game of Thrones?
Craig: Yeah. What a great episode.
John: That was a great episode.
John: Small spoiler warning, but not really a huge spoiler warning. I think we can talk about this without ruining anything great about Game of Thrones. This last night’s episode was a very epic battle that took place at an important city. And unlike most episodes, most episodes of the show are following many plot lines, and especially in the second season they are following many, many plot lines. And this episode chose not to do that and was just focusing on this one battle, and so it really changed the scale of what you expect from Game of Thrones, because Game of Thrones things seem like they could be taking place over months and months and months, and this took place over one 12-hour period.
John: And it was terrific for that. And I just have no idea how they did it on the budget they did it; it was just remarkably well done.
John: It addressed or sort of brought up a question I had about this season. Again, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything hugely for this, but if you really don’t want to know anything about Game of Thrones stick your fingers in your ears and go yeah-yeah-yeah for about 10 seconds.
The plot line in Qarth with the missing dragons was a weird thing that happened this season in that it was one of the few times in the show where I felt them sort of tap dancing and stalling for a bit, because the dragons are missing and we see they’re in this tower. We see the shot of the towers. Well, we know we need to get to that tower, but we can’t get to the tower right now because there’s clearly other stuff that has to happen.
John: And so when you go back to revisit that plot line — I think in two different episodes they may have revisited she wants to find her dragons, she wants to find her dragons. Well, we want to find her dragons, too; like, don’t show us the scene of two people talking about wanting to find the dragons. Find the dragons.
Craig: It’s funny. I don’t even know why we want to find the dragons. [laughs] I have a whole big issue with the dragon plot line because I’m still waiting for sort of, like — okay, I understand the dragons will one day grow up and then they’ll lay waste to anything, or not. I mean, you’re in the middle of a desert.
That, you know it’s a funny thing…
John: Okay, so I need to preface this by saying I think the show is brilliant.
Craig: It’s awesome.
John: What David and D. B. have done is remarkable. And so of the few things that sort of blipped for me is — and Lost had similar problems, too — sometimes where things would get out of sync with each other — and True Blood has had it too, where the plot lines just aren’t syncing quite right. And this felt like one of those situations.
Craig: Well, I will say that I think that the material that they were drawing from for this season, it seemed to bottom out a little bit in the middle. And, look, they’re drawing off of… — The George Martin books are so intricately plotted; you can’t exactly just go, “Well you know, let’s vamp and do some other stuff now.” And it’s not like Lost where you’re writing a show and you can just sort of, “Okay, well what are we writing? It’s us.”
So, I think they did a very good job with what they had there. It seemed like this story had some circular motion to it. But boy did it pay off in spades. I mean, Sunday’s episode was one of those episodes where you go, “Okay, I’m glad I ate my broccoli, I got to here. It’s awesome. I wouldn’t have gotten here if I hadn’t eaten the broccoli.” It had so many great lines. It was one of those, you get to a line and you go, “Oh, that’s the line of the show.” And then five minutes later you go, “Oh, no, that’s the line of the show.” And they did it like four more times.
Can I also say something about, I mean not to derail us from plot, but Dan and David did something with the show that people don’t appreciate enough because it’s invisible, and that’s casting. And I know we’re talking about plot, but forgive me. Casting is something that the audience never notices because it’s inevitable to them. There’s only one cast. They never look at auditions. They never will nor should they.
And it’s not like drafts of a script, because drafts of a script are related and they are progressive, and it might be interesting to sort of dig through them like Troy and see how levels led to levels led to the final product. But casting is either it was going to be this guy or this guy. Great casting here.
John: And sometimes it was one guy and they recast.
Craig: Occasionally. And they did on the show. They recast a couple of key parts on the show after the pilot. But, there are… — I mean, how many characters are on the show that you keep track of? 40? I’m just guessing off-hand.
Craig: Not only would I say are they all cast well. I would say the vast majority are cast great, where they just nailed the casting. And think about, if you blow casting on a successful TV show on one little character like that, you’re stuck with that person for the run. You can’t change Theon in the middle of the show. It ain’t gonna work.
They did such an amazing job of casting this show. My hats off to those guys. It’s just unreal.
John: So circle back around to plot, talking about casting. The actress who plays Daenerys, who is looking for her dragons, she wasn’t my favorite right out of the gate. I’ll be honest, she wasn’t. And then she ended up stepping up and she was terrific once they sort of found her second life in that.
I fell like this second season these last couple episodes might have been stronger if they just took her scenes out rather that sort of like reminding us 40 minutes into the show we’re going to have one scene with her looking for her dragons. Let’s just not see her this week, because I feel like the episodes where they don’t go to see any other castle at all, those could be fine, too. It’s really the struggle, and I feel like we’re in a new art form right now, and it’s not really clear what the best practices are sometimes because these elaborately multi-plot-lined epic dramas, there’s maybe 10 years worth of history on these, and it’s still not clear what the best way to do these are.
Craig: Right. And they are, I think, very respectable… — Sorry. They’re very respectful of the source material. And I think they want to do right by… — I mean, there’s a huge fan base for the books themselves. And, look, they’ve had success smartly not doing the Hollywood thing of kicking the book out the door and saying, “We know better.”
Sometimes, you know, you might end up with a few episodes where she’s wandering around Qarth and we at home are sort of thinking, “Oh no, more Qarth.” But I have a feeling something sick and awesome is coming there too.
John: Absolutely. I’m just saying whatever sick and awesome is coming in Qarth, I would have been just as delighted to see it if I hadn’t seen the other Qarth first. Or in just like the Previously On could have taken care of it. And I didn’t need a placeholder scene.
Craig: Well, you know, and it’s funny because the show has, again, because of the casting. Hold on, sorry. [sirens blaring] And I thought it was going to be okay because we’re doing this kind of late at night, and then I realized, oh no, it will probably be worse with the sirens.
There are certain characters in the show that are so good. [more sirens]. Are you kidding? [laughs]
Craig: And they’re so good. And they’re so much fun. Like I would watch — obviously I would watch Tyrion just eat lunch.
Craig: I would watch him and Bronn. Bronn, right? That’s his sellsword.
Craig: I could just watch them talk about anything. I don’t care. I would take that over a Qarth scene. But I get it. It’s like, okay, you know. And then there were scenes where I thought, “Oh, I don’t know, is this that interesting with John Snow and that lady?” And then it got awesome, you know?
Craig: So I feel like…and you know what it is? I feel like Dan and Dave have done such a good job of taking care of me that even when I go, “Eh, another Qarth scene?” I think, they’re doing this for a reason. I gotta believe it’s going to be worth it, you know? I gotta believe it.
John: I have faith.
Craig: Yeah. They’ve taken really good care of the viewer. So, good for them.
John: And let us take good care of viewers and leave them with a shorter episode tonight, because it’s actually quite late as we’re recording this.
I do have a Cool Thing, and you have a Cool Thing, too. Do you want to do yours first? Or should I do mine first?
Craig: It’s entirely up to you. What do you think?
John: Do yours first.
Craig: Okay. Well my Cool Thing, boy, okay. So look. Listen up, people. If you are a listener who has been bemoaning the fact that you can’t get your script read, I’m about to give you the opportunity of a lifetime.
So, there’s this cool writer out there, and now I don’t have his name in front of me. [laughs] His name is Joe. You will have the appropriate link, won’t you John?
John: Of course I will, yes. Stuart will put it up.
Craig: He was the 2008, I think, Nicholl finalist. And he does this thing with a guy named Daniel Vang who works at Benderspink which is a pretty big management firm here in Hollywood, California, where they run a charity thing. This is the second time they’ve done it to raise money for the American Heart Association. And last year they raised over $8,000 to fight heart disease and stroke, and that’s great, but obviously now that we’re promoting this it’s going to be much, much, much, much more. And here’s why:
If you donate $25 through, and we’ll give you a link to their Kintera money-raising site. Daniel Vang of Benderspink will read the first ten pages of your feature film script or television pilot. If you donate $50, he guarantees he will read the first 50 pages of your work. And I’ve got to say, Daniel, you are awesome for that. Because 50 pages of bad screenplay is pretty rough to read.
If you donate $100 he guarantees he read the entire thing.
Craig: Guarantees he will read the entire thing. Now here’s what’s interesting about this: last year, and this wasn’t that big of a deal because last year, like I said, they raised $8,000, two writers who donated wound up gaining representation. That’s pretty impressive.
John: That is impressive.
Craig: So, the deal is if you donate between $25 and $100, you have a guy at a real management company that really represents real writers reading your script, either 10, 50, or all of it. If it were me, I’d go for the $100 personally.
So, we’re going to give you a link and basically you go, you make the donation, you get in contact with Joe. He will coordinate the submissions to Daniel, and your stuff will get read. Come on, people. And it’s just…save hearts.
John: Yeah. That’s the thing I’d come back to. The worst that’s going to happen is you’re going to donate some money to stop heart disease and stroke.
John: That’s not such a bad thing.
Craig: Oh, no, this is to actually increase heart disease and stroke.
John: Oh, g’oh! I knew there was a catch.
Craig: I should have read this carefully. Well, you should still do it.
John: [laughs] Still do it. It might be good for your career, so you should still do it.
Craig: Now it’s incredibly selfish. No, I mean, it’s an awesome thing they’re doing and if you don’t take advantage of it, honestly you’re dumb. You’re just a dummy. What’s your Cool Thing this week?
John: My Cool Thing is much less for the good of the people, but more for the good of the individual. So, you know you have these club cards at grocery stores, or like Sam’s Club, or like Barnes & Noble — you have little card you’re supposed to carry around?
Craig: Right. The brand loyalty cards.
John: Brand loyalty cards. And so you can also give them your phone number, you can punch in your phone number or your email address, and it’s just such a hassle. And so I would have some of them in my wallet, but like you have an individual card for each. So my really incredibly smart husband figured out there’s place, a site called KeyRingThing.com.
What you do is you type in all of your code numbers for those things and it sends you a card with all of those barcodes on it. So you have one card that has all of your barcodes on it, and it’s labeled.
Craig: No way? Cool.
John: Yeah. So it’s actually kind of magic. So I use it all the time. I used it at Ralphs today. And every time I hand it to a cashier they’re like, “This actually works?” I’m like, yeah, it totally works. Scan it. And it totally works.
Craig: Wait, I just type in my phone number.
John: You can type in your phone number but your punching your phone number every time on those machines. This, you’re just handing them the card and it zips and the barcode scans.
Craig: You’re right. And you know what kills me? I go to CVS a lot to just buy sundries, and I don’t have a CVS card. And they say, “Do you want a CVS card?” And I think, no! And I honestly believe…
John: Yeah. It’s cost you hundreds of dollars.
Craig: Because when you go to Ralphs sometimes you punch in your number and it’s like, whatever, the $80 bill is now $0.14.
John: Yeah. If you’re at a grocery store you absolutely have to do it. When I was in New York for those four weeks I would walk by this grocery store every day and that became the place where I’d get my groceries every day. And so the first couple times I was like, “Oh, no, I don’t have a club card.” And I was like, “Yeah, I basically live in New York right now. Give me a club card.”
And so I took the two minutes to do it and everything was much, much cheaper.
Craig: Much cheaper.
John: So this is a good solution for just not having to carry those 8 cards in your wallet, or not having to punch in your phone number every time. You just have this one thing. It takes you five minutes, you get it done. There’s no kickbacks or anything; I just think it’s a good idea.
Craig: It’s the 1Password of brand loyalty bar scan.
John: It’s the 1Password of brand loyalty.
Craig: I love it.
John: See, I may be the person who brings information but you’re the one who codifies it in a way that people can carry it home with them.
Craig: I like to organize and categorize.
John: I like it. You are the librarian. The curator of this.
John: Craig, thank you for another fun podcast.
Craig: John, this was a good one, and blissfully short.
John: I like short. Enjoy. I’ll talk to you next week.
Craig: You got it. Bye.