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: Not bad. I’m a little tired. I’m bouncing back from my 20th college reunion which took place a few days ago.
John: And was it festivious? I mean, did you have a good time? Did you see people you haven’t seen for 20 years?
Craig: Yeah, for sure. There was definitely… — The nice thing about a 20th reunion is there’s absolutely no embarrassment whatsoever about not recognizing somebody or somebody not recognizing you. It’s been 20 years. What are you gonna do, you know? We’ve had kids. Kids make you dumber. Time makes you dumber. So, it was fine.
I had no shame whatsoever to say, “I’m so sorry, I don’t know, I don’t remember you.”
John: Reunions are a little bit different in the era of Facebook because there’s people who I wouldn’t otherwise see but now I do see because I see them on Facebook sometimes. So, I’m looking forward to seeing everybody again at my 20th, but it’s not as pressing as it would otherwise be.
John: Today I thought we’d talk about three things. I want to talk a little bit about screenwriting software, sort of where we’re at and where things seem to be going.
Craig: Very good.
John: Second, I want to talk about how you know when you’re ready to start writing that script, sort of like how you get to page one. That’s something we haven’t talked about. And finally, based on listener requests, they want to know what we thought of the season finale of Game of Thrones. And so I thought we could talk a little bit about that.
Craig: Oh good. Yeah.
John: First, we have some follow up. In a previous podcast we talked about the challenge of Disney — Disney needed to find a new chairman. It was fairly hard to figure out who the right person was for that job.
John: And so they went out and they found somebody, like a brand new person I’ve never heard of. His name is Alan Horn.
John: Oh, that’s right, he’s actually… — He’s done this before.
Craig: He’s the former chairman of Warner Bros. And I’ve got to say, I met Alan once at a test screening for Hangover 2. I had no professional relationship with him and generally speaking screenwriters don’t have professional relationships with the people that operate on that level. But from a purely outsiders point of view, kind of a brilliant choice I think on the part of Disney because even though they are not quite a full-fledged studio the way that Warner Bros or Universal is, because they get their Marvel product and Pixar movies and then they kind of just are going to do maybe six movies a year or something like that.
At least with Alan I go, okay, what they’re saying to everybody is we still are in the movie business. “See, we got a movie guy; we didn’t take the TV guy and put him in charge, or the cable TV guy and put him in charge. We actually went with the most traditional movie choice we could think of.” I have to feel encouraged by that. What do you think?
John: I think it’s a great choice. I knew Alan Horn from a couple times during Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and some Corpse Bride stuff. He was great.
But mostly why I think he’s a good choice is really the reasons why we talked about in the podcast, why it was such a difficult job is you had to maintain these relationships with some really big, powerful, important people who are going to want their own things. So you have the DreamWorks deal. You have Stacey Snider. You have everybody there who they’re making movies for you. You have Marvel. You have Jerry Bruckheimer. You have these big producers who are creating a lot of your stuff and you need somebody who’s able to maintain those relationships, get what you need, make everyone feel like they’re being respected. And he has the experience to do that. So, it’s a good choice.
Craig: Yeah, sure. I was surprised. I mean, I guess I never even thought of it because he was retiring, you know? But why not? Sounds great to me.
John: Yeah. Second bit of follow up. Amazon Studios announced this week their first movie that they’re going to be making. It’s Zombies vs. Gladiators. Clive Barker directing it.
Craig: Mm-hmm. [laughs]
John: So what’s weird is I was looking through the news releases and they didn’t mention the writers at all. Well, who wrote this thing for it? And I kept looking through and I kept trying to find the original press release, and I still have not been able to find who wrote Zombies vs. Gladiators or if they announced it all.
Craig: [sighs] So, you know, Amazon, you guys frustrate me because you just come up with the dumbest program ever. John and I give you a big bunch of grief about it. You do the right thing, make a deal with the Writers Guild. You, more than anybody, were incredibly open about the fact that it all begins with a script. You finally make a movie and you don’t mention the writers. I mean, come on. Come on!
Now I’m angry. Hey, it’s gonna be a good podcast!
John: [laughs] Yeah, we’ve gotten Craig angry. I don’t know what to say to Amazon. It just feels like a really weird, dumb choice. Because if they’re going to trumpet their system and how they were able to get to this point based on their system of development then you should talk about the people who were involved in that system. And that feels like a frustrating choice.
John: So I can’t help but kind of wish Amazon well, because I want them to succeed, and I want them to be able to make movies and spend money in the industry because I think more people need to spend money in the industry. I’m just frustrated that they chose not to trumpet the right things in the press release.
Craig: I know. And just to be clear, this isn’t about ego. If it were just a matter of professional pride I would choke it down because I don’t really care about stuff like that. The issue here is when you don’t talk about the writer, and when you just go… — I mean, look, who’s directing? Clive…?
John: Clive Barker.
Craig: Okay, I mean, great. But it’s not like Clive Barker is Martin Scorsese.
John: Not a bit.
Craig: I mean, he’s a pulp novelist, and a fine one at that. But, I mean, come on. You know, when you don’t mention the writer what you are doing is by extension perpetuating the culture that sort of says, “Well, you know, but the script, who cares. The most important this is that we got Clive Barker to direct Zombies vs. Gladiators.” It’s actually not the most important thing. You wouldn’t have gotten there without it.
Why don’t you extend some respect and actually make screenwriting something more people want to do, especially if you’re running a business that is trading on screenplays? Argh! Come on. Stupid.
John: Next bit of follow up: Last podcast we talked about we’re going to do a live version of Scriptnotes at the Austin Film Festival and we’re very excited about that. But we’d love to do some live episodes here in Los Angeles. And so we solicited some listener feedback on places where we could do it, and we’ve gotten like a lot of really good suggestions. So, thank you for that. If you have further suggestions for a venue we could use we’ll certainly add them to the list.
Ideally we’d want some place that we could control for the night, have some people in there. It doesn’t have to be too many people, but enough that we could actually solicit some feedback. Drinks would be fantastic, but not required. So, if you have more thoughts, you’re always welcome to send them in.
Craig: And, of course, proximity to the Pasadena is always appreciated. [laughs]
John: Yeah, Craig doesn’t want to drive to the west side. And really I don’t either. [laughs]
Craig: And you don’t either. Yeah, I think, I would say sort of east of La Brea, north of Downtown would be spectacular.
John: I went to a really good video game little summit meeting thing that was done at Bergamot Station which is in Santa Monica. And so I was like, wow, Bergamot Station is fantastic. But I’d never want to come back to Santa Monica at night; I never want to fight traffic to get there.
Craig: Oh yeah. I was working for Bruckheimer for awhile. And those guys, I love those guys, but man every time they would do this to me. They were like, “Look,” they would always apologize, like it mattered. Like apologizing to me was going to fix what was about to come and then say, “We need you to come in tomorrow and the only time we have is 4 o’clock.”
So, you know, getting to Santa Monica from Pasadena by 4 isn’t the end of the world. But then you have an hour and a half meeting and it was always lengthy. And by the time you’re out it’s 5:45, or 6, and I would just make dinner plans ahead of time. I would just stay because you simply couldn’t get back from there.
John: Listeners who don’t live in Los Angeles can’t possibly understand the east/west divide, it’s not about territory or anything else, it’s just so hard to move east/west in this city that if you get stuck at the wrong place at the wrong time you’re in for a really hellish amount of sitting around.
Craig: And I should also mention it’s just as hard to move north and south. [laughs] Yeah, and there’s a diagonal that’s also brutal.
Craig: The 101 is sort of diagonal. And I don’t know if you guys have seen the sketch, the recurring sketch The Californians on Saturday Night Live; the running joke is that everybody in the midst of high drama is constantly advising each other what routes to take to avoid traffic. [laughs]
John: [laughs] It’s horribly accurate. What I will say about the north/south split is that most of the business of Hollywood sort of takes place on an east/west axis, and so you don’t have to go north or south that often. Unless you’re like shooting something down in Long Beach and then just god help you. Just god help you.
Craig: Well, the worst of it is, I remember talking to, there’s a… — Mark Vahradian, he works with Lorenzo di Bonaventura I think; they have a deal at Paramount, producers. But Mark was a Disney executive and the very first thing I did for Bruckheimer was way back in like 2000 or something like that. And Mark was the executive and he would have to go from Disney to — and Bruckheimer is like Olympic and 10th, or some horrifying Santa Monica location — and he’s like, “This is the worst possible… — because now I have to go west and south, and then I have to go north and east.” And we could only have meetings basically at 1 o’clock. It was the only time that would sort of save us all the grief.
It’s awful. Awful.
John: Yeah. Skype. Skype is really what you need. And the Bruckheimer people, if they’re going to have like hour and a half meetings, just get good at Skype. I have not seen Craig Mazin in person in months.
John: And I’m better for it and we’re able to make this podcast.
Craig: Right. If we can do this, I mean, can’t we just have a discussion via Skype? But it’s gotten to the point now where honestly I don’t, and this isn’t going to come as any — no despair will result at Sony by me saying this, but I don’t want to really work there. It’s too far away. [laughs] Not that they’re pounding on my door, but it’s far away! And then Bruckheimer is even more far away. Forget it.
John: Yeah. Nothing to do. Let’s move on to our big topics, our three things. First off I want to talk about screenwriting software and sort of where we’re at because, I don’t know if you can tell, I’m actually kind of floating a little bit today because I finished a script. I finished a script this afternoon.
John: Thank you. And as we talked about on an earlier podcast, you don’t do anything special to celebrate. And I don’t usually do anything special to celebrate, but this was like a long time coming. You know what this project was. To actually be done with it is just a huge weight off my back. I can’t sort of talk about the project itself, but I can about what was different about this one — it’s the first thing I ever wrote in Scrivener rather than writing it in Final Draft or Movie Magic. I wrote it in Scrivener.
And so I wanted to talk a little bit about what that experience was like. Have you downloaded it? Have you ever played around with it?
Craig: I have. And I didn’t… — It was a little, um, because it’s not simply for screenwriting, it’s for outlining and idea collecting, whatever, it just…
It was too much.
John: It seems like too much. And they have really good tutorials that can sort of walk you through it, but still like that first window opens and you’re like, oh my god, there’s just too much on the screen. I can’t.
Craig: Too much. Yeah.
John: Yeah. And so you can get rid of a lot of that stuff. And, some of that stuff is really ingenious, but the short version of this review, if people want to fast-forward, is that Scrivener is an amazing application if you’re writing a novel because it can organize things in ways that are just spectacular. And you can do several little things for your character stuff. And it’s really smart about that, and keeps chapters separately, and I ended up keep scenes separately.
So, I’ll talk you through sort of my workflow on it, and the things I liked about it.
John: So, as I’ve discussed before, when I start to write a project I usually go off and barricade myself someplace and I just write scenes by hand. And I send them through and Stuart, or whoever my assistant is at that time, types them up and puts them in a folder. And then at some point in the process I will gather together all those little typed up things and make the full script. But I usually won’t do that until I’m like 50 or 60 pages into it so that I’ve broken the back of it.
What Scrivener is very good about is how it will let you keep those files separate. And they gather in sort of like a notebook and then at any point you can sort of combine them or split them apart and they’re still there.
So, you can work on this one little scene, or the next little scene, and not see everything else that’s around it. When you’re working on a long and real full screenplay in Final Draft there’s that constant temptation to scroll up and scroll down, and scroll up and scroll down. And you’re just working on this little piece in the middle, but then you want to kind of look back at that thing there. This kept me really focused on this is the scene I’m writing. Each little scene is like a little slug line over the left hand side and I’m only working on that. And it’s all I’m seeing; I’m not seeing above it and I’m not seeing below it, unless I choose to go see something above it or below it.
And it was very good for helping me focus. It has a really good full-screen mode, which I’ve come to appreciate.
John: So, the sides go dark and you’re just seeing your main text. You can zoom in and get your text nice and big. And it does a pretty good job with the screenplay formatting. It does some of the same matting things that Final Draft does where you put the wrong name… — God help you if you type someone’s character name wrong. And it provides that 1,000 times and you have to go through and clear the smart type list.
John: It does a bit of that. A few times grabbing the wrong element. But on the whole it was fine. And so if someone has Scrivener and they say, “Could I write a screenplay in it?” Yeah, you could. That said, when I was done today, one of the first things I did is I exported to Final Draft and sort of — I made my clean up in Final Draft.
Craig: Yeah. And just to be clear: Scrivener’s composition area for screenplays, does it have essentially the same kind of function that Movie Magic or Final Draft does where it organizes it by action, character, dialogue, parenthetical?
John: Exactly. So, your basic elements that you’re selecting work largely the same way, little selectors at the bottom of the screen. It does a reasonably good job of guessing what the next element should be most times. A few times I got a little frustrated, but a couple is fine.
Craig: And it’s a tab-enter?
John: Tab-enter, that whole kind of thing.
Craig: All right, well, that’s a pretty good review. I mean, but then again, you went running back to the comforting bosom of… — Well, I don’t know how comforting that bosom is.
John: It’s not comforting.
Craig: The rocky, unsightly bosom of Final Draft.
John: I wanted to go out to Final Draft because I knew I would need to ultimately be there to do some stuff. I mean, down the road I’m going to have revisions, it’s going to be there.
John: And there wasn’t so much that was so amazingly better about Scrivener that I was going to want to stay there rather than be in Final Draft for the real stuff.
Oh, but I will say that the most illuminating thing about being in Scrivener for this whole script is Fountain, which is the other project I’ve been working on here, which is that plain text screenwriting format that we’ve been developing, I’m definitely going to write my next script just in Fountain.
So, Fountain is just text. There’s no formatting. It’s just character names are uppercase, dialogue is the line below a character’s name. That’s what we’ve been working on here and we have Highland which is the utility for it. And it wasn’t quite ready for me to start working when I was starting this draft, but I totally from now on would write a first draft in that.
Craig: That’s your plan?
John: That’s my plan. Because I feel like we focus so much on getting, like, the margins right and getting everything to look like a screenplay a little too early in the process. It’s like we’re picking out fonts for the book we’re going to publish back when we’re still typing it. And you can really type it without getting all of those margins stuff ready.
Craig: That’s right. I have become comfortable, I suppose, with my OCD in that regard. And I think I don’t have it any better or worse than the average screenwriter, you know. I do have a concern about how the page looks. I don’t like important revelations to be split up by a “more,” “continued,” and page break. You know, stuff like that.
Craig: But, yeah, I mean some of it is just sort of fussy delay tactics to provide the illusion of control over something that you are hanging onto for dear life.
John: I would say that I’m actually OCD about all those same things, but I’m pushing back that OCD to the point that I’m really compiling the whole script together.
Craig: Right. When it matters.
John: When it matters. Because I shouldn’t be focusing on any of that stuff when I’m just pushing the words around on the page. And so a lot of my frustration with, like, “Oh it thinks that element is this when it should be this,” well I shouldn’t be worrying about that at all. It should be perfectly clear — I know that’s my character’s name, and I know that’s dialogue; I don’t need the program to do anything for me right now.
Craig: It’s funny. Sometimes what I do is I will take a walk and think the scene in my head, write in my head essentially. And then when I get back I will just email to myself in nothing but text, and almost no description at all, really just the flow of the dialogue, because I know what’s supposed to go around it. And then when I sit down and write I am essentially compiling it myself instead of having — but even then what I’m writing is an even more bare bones version of what you’re doing.
John: But honestly, what that bare bones you’re doing, that is essentially Fountain. Fountain can take an email and make it into a script. So…
Craig: But I don’t even write character names. So it can’t do that.
John: No, it’s can’t. It’s not psychic.
Craig: It’s not magic, John.
John: It’s almost magic, but it’s not magic. It can’t quite do that, but it’s very close to that.
Craig: It’s close to wizardry. I’ve been a little behind. You know, my secret hope for the future is Fade In, which is this wonderful piece of independent screenwriting software that Kent Tessman has authored. And I’m a little behind because I got a version a couple months ago and I started working with it and discovered three or four things that I knew weren’t right that needed to change. And I spoke with Kent about it and he finally agreed.
And I liked why he did them, because he was sort of saying the way that things are isn’t sort of normal. And I had to sort of explain that screenwriting isn’t really normal and it needs to be.. — You know, things like when you delete things, normally you would want to pull stuff up, but in screenwriting you don’t. You actually want to leave everything where it is. Kind of. I mean, not pull up, but like you don’t want to move elements up. You want to leave them in their box.
So, I haven’t had a chance to see the latest version. But I would love to write my script on Fade In. So, that’s where I… — Because it is cleaner, and prettier, and full-screen beautiful. And I like it.
John: Yeah. I didn’t sign a non-disclosure agreement, so I don’t think I’m violating anything weird by saying I had a chance to see Final Draft’s iPad Writer. So, they’ve announced that they’re going to make a writing app for the iPad. And you know what? It’s actually pretty good. I was actually kind of impressed by it. So, it’s really Final Drafty, but it seems really functional. So, it’s another choice that screenwriters will have down the road.
Craig: I don’t like writing on an iPad. It’s very slow.
John: Well, with a proper keyboard I’m sure it’s much better.
Craig: Yeah, I guess. But then at that point just give me my laptop. You know what I mean?
John: A case can be made for that.
Enough on screenwriting software. Let’s segue onto just the whole genesis of when do you know that you’re ready to start writing a script? This is a thing that came up in a discussion I had at the Outfest Screenwriters Lab yesterday, sort of how do you know that you have enough set and ready to start writing.
And it came up because there’s one guy who I was talking to who had a project that sounded really cool, incredibly ambitious, but he’d been sort of gathering his pieces and doing his outlines for more than a year. And I said, “No, no, no. You need to actually write because you are going to become one of those writers who never actually writes but is always planning for like the big thing.”
Craig: Yeah. That’s kind of the opposite of the more common problem which is the whole, “I find it as I go.” Yeah, that which I really don’t like.
John: There’s two reasons why writers, I think, often fail is that they started writing too soon, because they really knew how the story began, so they wrote that. And they were so excited and they had no idea what happened after that point.
John: So they lose their enthusiasm. They have ten interesting pages sitting there. Or the writers who just kind of never start because they’ve just been staring at it for so long and trying to figure out those little things that at a certain point they needed to just jump off the cliff and see what happens.
Craig: Yeah. And writers, of course every writer must be accountable to their own brain and what works best for them. You know, some writers require a kind of a scene-by-scene understanding. I have sort of over the years found myself basically using an index card system. I need to know what basically is happening in each scene and what the purpose of each scene is, all the way from beginning to end. And, you know, I don’t know; I’m looking at actually right in front of me are the index cards for ID Theft. And, you know, there’s about maybe 15, 16 cards in the first deck. There’s probably 20 cards in the second. And five cards in the third.
So it’s not a tremendous amount. But I know what all the scenes are. And more importantly, I know what the movie is. So everything is written with that purpose and unity. But once I have that I start.
John: Yeah. For me the issue is I don’t need to have all the cards, but I need to know what the movie is. And to me knowing what the movie is isn’t just knowing where the movie starts. I need to be able to picture several scenes in the middle of the movie that feel like, okay, I get what that movie is; I see what that thing is. I know how that’s… — I don’t necessarily need to know quite how I’m going to get to that thing, but I need to know what that thing is.
John: So, I need to be able to picture those moments. And this script that I just finished today, it sort of sat in my head too long because it got pushed back because of other stuff that came up. But by the time I could sit down I could really see what all those big moments were along the way, and I could see what sort of the reversals were with some characters, and I knew what was going to be fun. And I also knew that all of those moments were going to feel like they were part of the same movie, even though they were different colors and different textures, and things were going to change over the course of the movie, I knew it felt like one thing that wanted to stay together.
And I’ve found that at a certain point, this happened with The Nines, too, where like the ideas will say, “Okay, you either have to write me or abandon me.” Because it’s taking up so many brain cycles to sort of keep it alive in your head that you have to, “Okay, I’m going to sit down, and buckle down, and actually get this on the page.”
Craig: Yeah, you know, it’s funny. What you just described is sort of where I am right before I fill in all the other cards. And that’s a perfectly reasonable step to skip because I don’t start writing cards in sequence. The first thing I need to know is what is the idea, what is the premise, who is the hero, and how does it end because what is the theme? What is the argument of the movie on some level or another?
And then I come up with those big goal post moments that are in the very big, broad sweeps. You know, there’s probably only four of them in the movie, I think, you know. And then I start to fill in around them to connect them together. But I could also write from goal post to goal post. I don’t have to do index cards. It just makes me feel better. And, of course, as you start writing you realize, oh, my index cards are stupid now; I don’t need them.
But the other great thing about index cards I will say is that when I am done with the content that was indicated by the index card, then I draw a big red Sharpie across it. It feels so good.
John: Yeah. The satisfaction of knowing that you’ve done some part of it, that it’s finished. I don’t do a lot of that outlining stuff until I get pretty deep into writing the script, and then I can start to figure out, “Okay, what do I have left to write?” And then I make my list of like these are the scenes I have left to write, and then it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to scratch those through.
John: And for whatever reason I always end up at the right page length.
Craig: Always. I always do.
John: My friend Rawson who I love dearly but is like, “Oh, I got the first draft done. It was like 170 pages.”
Craig: Come on, Rawson!
John: Something did not work right there, because you should not be writing a 170-page script.
Craig: And that to me is, and I love Rawson, too — he’s a great guy and he’s a very good writer. So, you know, obviously he has his process. I mean, my whole thing is I don’t want to write 170 pages. I feel like I’m wasting everybody’s time, including my own. I want to kind of figure out the right 60 pages to cut before I write the 170 pages.
Craig: So, I actually start to do that. One of the great things about outlining and index carding out your movie is that you can really just see where it suddenly starts to get sodden and limp. And then you compress and typically… — I actually don’t get scared when I see like, “Oh god, there’s like five scenes here, there should be one.” I just think, “Or there could be one really good scene that layers in a whole bunch of these things so it’s not so linear.”
And I routinely land between 107 and 119, like every time.
John: Yeah. I was 114 pages when I printed.
Craig: Look at that. I believe that’s right in the middle of my thing.
John: And so here’s the thing, because I was doing it in Scrivener I didn’t compile it until I was really all done. So, literally until this afternoon I had no idea how long it was.
Craig: Oh, that’s like, “What will our baby be? Oh, it’s a boy!”
John: Yeah. There were two choices. But, well, you hope there’s two choices.
Craig: Right. “Oh, it’s intersex!”
John: Yeah, the life became challenging, but potentially rewarding and maybe there’s a great narrative to be found there.
Craig: Oh, it’s a Rawson!
John: Oh, come now.
Craig: [laughs] I hope Rawson listens to this.
John: Yeah. Rawson’s busy. Rawson is going off to direct a movie. But he does listen to the podcast sometimes.
Craig: Oh, that’s right. We’re the Millers, right?
John: Yeah. Here’s how Rawson will find out about this podcast. I’m sure Rawson has a Google News Alert setup. And so when the transcript of this podcast is posted he will get a Google News Alert, and then he will know that we talked about him.
Craig: Right. So in that Google News Alert will it mention that Rawson is, and now we can fill in anything we want.
John: Absolutely. Because that will become part of his little Google profile.
Craig: Will it mention that Rawson is a synthetic life from?
John: [laughs] Yes. That’s already well established.
John: Craig, before we go to our third point, there’s something I meant to bring up earlier, because an amazing thing happened this last weekend. For the first time I got a script that they wanted me to read over the weekend, it was kind of a high priority project for these people, and I’m the company that makes Bronson Watermarker. So, I do understand people want to watermark their scripts so they don’t get circulated beyond places.
And I’ve dealt with, like Marvel, who’s really notorious for super watermarking all of their stuff. So, I’m pretty used to watermarking. This time what they sent over was not the script. They sent over an iPad with the script as a PDF in iBooks. And it’s a big old, well that’s not very secure. But, what they’ve done is they’ve turned on parental lock controls for the whole thing.
John: And they have taken out all of the web accessibility and stuff. So, I’m sure there probably was a way that a person could get it off, but it would be really, really hard to get that script off the iPad. So in the end I was kind of impressed by it. That’s not a bad way, if you need to give a script to somebody and make sure they read it but don’t do anything else to it.
Craig: That is pretty smart. I did not, yeah, I’ll have to see. I mean, I’m sure within four minutes on Google we can figure out how to foil that. But, still, not a bad idea.
John: Pretty good.
Craig: Yeah. And, plus, it’s fun. If somebody sends me a script by email or messenger or something, then it’s on my pile of things to read. But if somebody sends me a script on an iPad, I just want to read it. [laughs] I want to read it right away.
John: So, Craig, I’m going to send you over this script on an iPad so that you’ll actually read it.
Craig: Oh, yeah, because I did read 30 pages of your script and just…[laughs]
John: Yeah, the one that I sent you before. You were like, “Oh, yeah, I’ll get to it.” Yeah, that was very helpful.
Craig: By the way, I, um…
John: Yeah, Craig is a little behind on reading something. But you know what, Craig? You can stop reading that for reasons that I’ll talk to you about offline.
Craig: Well you see then I really saved us both time. [laughs] But the truth is until you just said that I forgot. I totally forgot it! I feel terrible. Because I knew I had read 30 pages and was like, “I got to finish that,” and then it left my mind. And you, honestly, are either incredibly patient or you were just really setting a trap for me because you never mentioned it again. And so then I forgot. I’m sorry.
John: Yeah. It’s okay.
Craig: It was a good first 30 pages, though.
John: You know, a script that might circulate on an iPad because they certainly don’t want people to know spoilers is Game of Thrones.
John: Segue into our last topic of the day. How about that season finale?
Craig: I liked it a lot.
John: Yeah, so again, spoiler alert here, because there’s sort of no way to not talk about spoilers for the season finale of Game of Thrones. But we had talked in an earlier podcast about how amazing the season was and my only one frustration was I felt like the Qarth plotline was sort of tap dancing around a bit because they clearly had a big reveal and they weren’t ready for it, so they were just sort of stalling to save that for the season finale.
But the stuff in the season finale was really good.
Craig: It was. Although I will still say, okay, so I mean I guess we should put the spoiler alert on for anyone who hasn’t caught up yet, bizarrely. The zombie army at the end was awesome. And everything, as always, with Dinklage was awesome. And Brienne had a great moment. That was sick. Loved that.
I mean, there was just a lot of great, great stuff in it. And, oh, a really funny moment, I mean a sad but funny moment with Theon and his guys clocking him and, like, “I thought he would never shut up.” That was great. I did not see that coming, so, well done as always with those guys.
The Qarth thing for me ultimately, I was like I just, I’m not sure if any of that was really worth it in the end because, you know, remember the first season ends with this amazing moment where this girl who had been kidnapped and sort of subjugated by her mean brother and then her rapist husband, sort of blossoms into this incredibly self-possessed woman who then at the very end survives fire and hatches dragons which — that’s quite an arc.
And this season she went to a town and then the dragons sort of lit a guy on fire.
John: Yes. What I will say is that if you take out what I thought were the placeholder moments that happened in a couple previous episodes, and you just took a look at what she did in this episode, yes, she goes into that tower, but then she also goes through that temptation sequence where she ends up at the Wall, she ends up back with her husband. She sees the throne, but like everything has changed around it. She has her temptation sequence. I thought it was very, very cool. It felt like it sets her up as a truly kind of mythical creature.
I like that she defended herself as like, “Well what about my magic?” And that defining kind of stuff. And the warlock saying, “You know what? It’s because the dragons are here that the magic is increasing in the world,” which is cool.
Craig: Right. I like that. I mean, it certainly made sense of why they were doing what they were doing, because for the life of me I couldn’t understand why until that moment, and that was good. And, in fact, because I always read the… — There’s a guy who does reviews for Wired and he reviews Game of Thrones, and he reviews it entirely from the point of view of somebody that has really obsessively read the books. And so he tends almost always to bemoan any deviation from the source material.
But, I actually don’t think that was in the source material. I think that’s something that Dan and David came up with. And even he begrudgingly was like, “I guess that’s pretty good.”
Craig: You know, I mean, he’s the grouchiest guy. I mostly read it because I just find it kind of ridiculous. It’s like the point is not to simply film every word you’ve read, sir.
Craig: But that aside, I mean, that’s a minor quibble. And she’s great. All the performances were great. But it’s hard to do a final episodes that is, and it’s the same thing they did last season. Remember, the penultimate episode was the huge one, where they chop off Ned’s head and they have the battle this season, and then this ultimate episode kind of just to tease you off for the madness to come.
John: What I thought was smart about the episode, just to praise it a little bit more, is even though they had to skip around to so many different plotlines, it all felt like they were part of one universe. And I felt like it was one bigger message, and that all these things were going to be coming back together. Because the two young princes have to flee the burned city. It’s like, we’re going to head north to the Wall for safety.
Craig: [laughs] Right.
John: And like the zombie army is coming!
Craig: The zombie army is heading south towards the Wall. Right.
John: And establishing the small new things in the world, like, oh, the assassin, well he’s actually magical. Like he’s some sort of changeling kind of creature. That was…
Craig: That was cool.
John: Those are all important things.
Craig: That was cool. And got to give credit to the director. I don’t know if it was Nutter who did this last one. But, I mean, all the episodes have been extraordinarily well directed. It’s hard to direct television like that because I would imagine they’re producing these things in huge chunks. They don’t do them episode by episode. They’ve got to do all the stuff in Iceland. They’ve got to do all the stuff in Ireland.
And, so, they managed quite beautifully over many directors and many different locations and completely out of sequence to maintain these wonderful transitions and hold everything together. The show is very well written and very well acted. And you talked about the cast, but the direction is also excellent.
John: Hooray for Game of Thrones.
Craig: Tech credits were astounding.
John: Yes. Craig, do you have cool stuff this week, like One Cool Thing?
Craig: I don’t. You know, you always do this to me. I don’t…
John: I would say that most of our listeners have an expectation that often there’s a One Cool Thing.
Craig: I don’t — nothing’s cool.
John: Nothing’s cool.
Craig: [laughs] My One Cool Thing is being bored. Bored. What do you have? Tell me something cool.
John: I’ll tell you something cool. I don’t know if you’ve… — You play games like Ski Racer, that thing I got you hooked on.
Craig: Ski Safari. That was cool.
John: Ski Safari. That was good. So, I was looking around and I wanted to see both for sort of my daughter who is starting to learn some basic kind of programming kind of stuff…
John: Nerd! Super nerd. Super geek dad. And so I wanted to see are there simple little game tools because I really basically want her to have HyperCard, but HyperCard doesn’t exist anymore. And the things that are like HyperCard are really far too complicated and big and huge.
And so I was like, well, is there a way to make little Flash games? And I found this thing called Stencyl that’s genius. And so what it essentially is is a development environment for creating little flash games or little iOS games, but it’s all little blocks of code that click together. So you’re not typing statements and functions. You’re just setting parameters on things that can move in the world. And it’s incredibly smartly done. I don’t have any real sense of how big the company is that’s making it, whether it’s one incredibly maniacal person behind it or a bigger team.
But the things that you’re able to do are really, really impressive. And they’ve very smartly leveraged, there’s a beginning programming system called Scratch that MIT had made that I had seen years ago. And it was a good idea that never sort of fully developed. And Stencyl has sort of taken that idea and run with it.
So, I would recommend Stencyl to anybody who’s interested in making little Flash games, or anyone who wants to teach their kids about moving stuff on the screen.
Craig: It sounds like something my son would love. Is it web-based?
John: Yeah, because your son does little animation stuff. It’s downloadable. It’s on the Mac.
Craig: Oh, it’s on Mac.
John: It’s on the Mac and PC. So it’s an actual application and so it doesn’t have all that sluggishness that web-based stuff tends to have.
Craig: Oh great. It sounds like something he would absolutely flip for because, yeah, I know my boy.
John: You know your boy.
Craig: I know my boy, and that sounds like…
John: And so it comes with a bunch of little demo games that you can play right there and then you can just open them up and change all the parameters and see how stuff works. And it’s smartly done.
Craig: Ah, all right. Stencyl.
John: Stencyl. And it’s spelled S-t-e-n-c-y-l.
Craig: C-y-l, so it’s like the stripper version of Stencil.
John: [laughs] Absolutely. Stencyl-Lynn would be the stripper name.
Craig: I do have One Cool Thing. I have One Cool Thing. The trailer for our friend John Gatins’ Flight.
John: I’m happy to link to that.
Craig: Yeah. Flight is a script that John Gatins wrote ten years ago, I think, maybe longer. And it’s a very interesting story and in part sort of inspired by his own life, not the part with the plain. But I’ve been listening to John talk about this script for a long, long time. And then it all sort of came together. Robert Zemeckis returned to live action directing, and Denzel Washington, and all that stuff sounds great. But I was always sort of nervous about it just because they’re making a movie, I think the budget is like $30 million or something like that, or $35 million. Very low budget considering what they had to do and who’s in the movie, I mean, Denzel, and Robert Zemeckis. Everybody is obviously working for the love of the movie.
And I just get tense when I see trailers and things for friends’ movies because sometimes they just don’t look good, and then what do you do? And it doesn’t mean the movie is not good, it just means that I start worrying for them because the marketing is off.
And then I see this trailer for Flight and I’m like, it’s just — it does everything right. And I would love to find out — if any of you out there know what trailer house and specifically what editor cut the trailer for Flight, I’d love to know. Because it does everything right. I mean, it’s so smartly done. This is a trailer where you start off with a pilot and he’s on a plane and there’s a plane crash in the movie, okay; I’m not giving anything away there.
And every other trailer would have just shown the plane crash and then said, “And then…” You know? And this thing, he’s just flying a plane, and the next shot is he’s waking up in a hospital. And you don’t see the plane crash at all. And then over the course of the trailer they give you drips and drabs of his plane crash. And then there’s one final shot.
John: That shot, I get goose bumps just thinking about that final shot.
Craig: Okay? Just thinking about it. And my deal is, and I wrote something for, you can dig it up for the links if you want, for WordPress [sic.] many years ago about marketing and how screenwriters can help marketers in one little tiny way. And that is for all of the goo-goo bananas silliness of trailers, if there’s one image or line moment in a trailer that is really astonishing, or surprising, or fresh in some say, sometimes it’s even just a little joke that grabs people, it will work. You will drive people to the theaters.
I think in that essay I wrote I refer to the moment in, you know, I saw the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean, I’m like, okay, yeah, it’s pirates and guns and stuff. And then they turned into skeletons and I was like, “Okie dokie, that was cool.” [laughs] You know? Like I did not see that one coming. “You better start believing in ghost stories, you’re in one,” you know?
And in this there’s this shot at the end where you go, “Oh?! OH?!” And then you really want to see this movie. So, awesome trailer. I’m sure the movie’s gonna be fantastic. Very happy for John. And you should all go watch that trailer.
John: Yeah, I praised John for it and also said I’m really hoping that it becomes the continuing gift of The Nines that we could have our fourth Oscar nominee from The Nines. Because John Gatins has a small role in The Nines. Octavia Spencer is in The Nines. Melissa McCarthy is in The Nines.
Craig: Melissa McCarthy.
John: Jim Rash is in The Nines.
Craig: Jim Rash. How do I get myself retroactively inserted into The Nines?
John: That’s a really good question.
Craig: In the director’s cut?
John: In the premise of the next…yeah, that’s right.
Craig: Yeah, get me into the director’s cut as somebody. Anything.
John: [laughs] Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll film new scenes and then delete them and they will be deleted scenes from The Nines.
Craig: Hey, that’s a great idea.
Craig: Oh, yeah, now my odds of an Oscar have doubled from zero to zero. Yay!
John: Yay! Craig, thank you again for another fun podcast.
Craig: John, my pleasure. See you next time.
John: Take care. Bye-bye.