The original post for this episode can be found here.

Disclaimer: The following podcast contains explicit language. There’s also a Q&A at the end where there wasn’t a microphone in the audience, so we’ve cut out all the questions. So, at the end of the episode if it seems like it’s kind of choppy and we’re jumping forward, that’s because we don’t want you to hear a bunch of silence. Enjoy!

John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is Scriptnotes Live at the Austin Film Festival.

[Audience applauds]

Craig: They did that very well.

John: They did it incredibly well. This is clearly our smartest audience by far.

Craig: Yeah. It’s the first good audience we’ve ever had.

John: It really is. You put them all to shame. So, we did our first live podcast here at the Austin Film Festival last year. And our guests were Aline Brosh McKenna and Franklin Leonard and they were terrific. So, we knew we couldn’t top that, but we knew we wanted to do something else that’s new and great.

Craig: Emulate it.

John: Well, yeah, we’re like Apple and we have to have a new thing every time, and so this is our new sort of keynote address is the Austin Film Festival.

Craig: I think we can top it, actually. I think we have topped it. And I think we’re going to top it.

John: I think it’s going to be a pretty good show today.

Craig: Yeah.

John: We have a little bit of housekeeping. And housekeeping is a thing that happens on every podcast essentially where you have to talk about the things that are going on in the world. My housekeeping is really simple.

I wrote this musical called Big Fish that’s running on Broadway right now. It’s going really well and people seem to like it and that’s great. But one of the producers is Jimmy Buffett. And Jimmy Buffett is wonderful. I’ve spent a lot of time in rooms with Jimmy Buffett over the last six months. And he’s like, “John, it’s great to see you!” He’s really excited about the show and it’s terrific. He’s from Alabama.

He asked the producers, “Hey, can I get a discount code for all the Parrotheads to come see the show?” And they said sure. And I’m like, oh, okay.

But I had a discount code if you recall during previews and that was great. And I had a bunch of people come. And that was fantastic. So, I said like, “Can I get a discount code, too, that’s as good as Jimmy’s?” And they said, “…Okay, fine.”

And so the discount code is SCRIPT. So, if you’re going to go see Big Fish in New York, on Broadway, up till about the holidays you can use the SCRIPT code either at Ticketmaster or literally at the box office. And tickets are like $85 rather than $140.

Craig: Why don’t they just become Parrotheads?

John: Because then they’d be Parrotheads. I really think there is — I want to separate the audience between Jimmy Buffett people and Scriptnotes —

Craig: I really don’t. I want that shit to be mingled up. I want to see your people…

John: Yeah, you want the mixture.

Craig: …and people who love Cheeseburger in Paradise. I want to see them all.

— Are we cursing in this podcast, by the way?

John: Apparently we are now.

Craig: All right.

John: No, sit over there. Sit over there. Sit over there. No, you’re not up here yet.

Craig: Worst guest ever.

John: Worst guest ever. Sit on the side.

Craig: Do you know how hard it is to be both late and early at the same time?

John: Rian Johnson pulled off the impossible trick.

Craig: Unreal.

John: Today we — well, we needed some great guests if we were going to do a live show here in Austin.

Craig: So, we got one great guest. And then we got one…

John: Well, Craig, this is actually conversation — pull out your phone because I sent you half of this. Craig is completely unprepared for what we’re doing.

Craig: As per usual.

John: As per usual. So, we had to figure out who would be our guest at the Austin Film Festival.

Craig: I don’t have internet here.

John: Okay, so we’ll share a phone.

Craig: Aw, nice.

John: Nice.

This is September 7, 2013. This email thread began at 9:50am. It started with Erin Hallagan. Is Erin here? Erin Hallagan?

Craig: She runs the whole thing, by the way.

John: She runs the whole thing, the Austin Film Festival. She emailed me to ask, “Do you want to bring a guest on your podcast at the conference?”

I said, “Yes. We’d love Rian Johnson.”

Erin writes back, “Great. I’ll see what I can do. He’s already got a busy schedule. He is directing the Vince Gilligan script reading and we have yet to solidify the rehearsal schedule. Just in case, do you have any backups?”

I write back, adding in Craig, so he’s CC’d. “Craig, anyone you’d especially like for a guest at the AFF Scriptnotes? I asked about Rian. Who else?”

Craig: And I said, “I’ll make Rian do it. Screw him. He’s doing it.”

New email to Rian. “Rian, you’re going to be our guest for our live Scriptnotes podcast in Austin and that’s that. Agreed? Agreed.”

John: Rian Johnson at noon. “What day? I demand information and satisfaction?”

Craig emails back…

Craig: “Erin, please inform this man. Oh, and to be clear, I don’t give sideways shit about your rehearsal schedule, Johnson. This is one hour. You can do it. Drinks on me, and cigars, and drinks, but in the evening. This will be in the day. You’ll do it.”

John: So Erin Hallagan writes back. “Okay, now I’m worried about the three of you being in a room together.”

Rian, “You heard the man, you’re confirmed. You’ll have the biggest room on the biggest day for the biggest event, right?”

Craig: Nice.

John: Now, notice, “Saturday, October 26, 3:45 to 5pm.” Mmm. “Stephen F. Austin Ballroom.” So, two of those things are correct. So, it’s not 3:45pm.

Craig: Yeah, why is that?

John: I don’t know. They scheduled us against other big things, yet, we filled the room.

Craig: I don’t know. It looks pretty good. We should probably give them some sort of podcast value now for their time sitting here.

John: Yes. So, let us welcome this guest who we badgered into being on our show. The director of Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and, oh yeah, Looper. Rian Johnson, come up.

So, Rian Johnson, welcome. And thank you. And I said the director of, but it’s really the writer-director of these films. And I think of you as a writer-director, but in a weird way I think of you as a director-writer. You’re one of the few people who I associate as like a director who writes, rather than a writer who directs. Do you distinguish those two skills at all?

Rian Johnson: I don’t know. I mean, they are obviously really different, different things, but I mean, I grew up just kind of — my directing training, if you want to even call it that, was just making movies as a kid. And when you’re getting together with your friends on the weekends to make a movie, there’s not a writing and then a preproduction and postproduction. There’s just making a movie.

And in a certain way that’s still the way that me and this group of friends that I have that make these movies together, still approaching this in a way. It’s all kind of one continuous process, well, I guess. [Rian rambles quickly in another language].

Craig: That last part was interesting.

Rian: That was for you.

Craig: Reminded me of that part in Looper that I did not understand.

Rian: Nice!

Craig: I have a question for you. It seems to me that you must divorce yourself from a screenplay to some extent when you’re directing a movie. Hard to divorce yourself from yourself. But, where do you feel that happening, or is it that as you write you are essentially kind of marrying what you know you’re going to be doing and so there’s not a lot of internal conflict when you finally get there?

Rian: Yeah, I think that’s absolutely true. I don’t know if you guys have found the same thing, but when you get into production, you really do have to let go of the preciousness that you had when you were writing and just approach what’s working and what’s not in front of you.

The same way I think when you get into post-production, start editing, you have to divorce yourself from the man on set who forced everyone to stay up three extra hours to get that scene that you thought you needed, that was so important. And when you’re in the editing room you just hit one button and it’s gone because that’s what’s best for the movie.

So, yeah, I think there definitely are these firewalls, but I think because it’s such a lengthy process in filmmaking, that’s maybe a really healthy thing, I guess.

John: While you’re writing a scene, do you have a good sense of visually what it’s going to look like when it’s going to be all done? Are you seeing the finished product? Talk us through that process for you.

Rian: I typically am. Not to say that what I’m thinking when I’m writing ends up being it, but usually when I’m writing I am playing the movie in my head and seeing the shots. And a lot of times I’ll write around a particular visual image. It’s actually kind of hard for me to write a scene unless I can see how it’s going to be shot in my head, whether or not that ends up being the way we do it or not. And maybe that ties back to, again, it all just being kind of one process of making a movie.

John: Can we talk about what you’re doing now? Because after Looper, obviously everyone in this audience wants to know what the next thing is and sort of how far we are away from the next Rian Johnson movie. What is the process now? What has this been for you, figuring out the next movie?

Rian: It’s just been slow and painful, probably like the process of everyone in this room, I hope, so we don’t feel so alone. It’s like, yeah, we’re all just kind of — I don’t know, I didn’t have a —

When I came out of the second movie I made, The Brothers Bloom, I had this idea for Looper that had been sitting in a drawer for ten years. So, I could pull that down and start working on. I didn’t have that coming out of Looper, so I kind of started at square one with this thing I’m writing now. And so, yeah, I’ve just taken way too long at this point. It’s been about a year of working on the script, and writing it.

Craig: And you have a particular pressure that other directors don’t have. You only really direct what you write, at least you have so far. I won’t say what the movie was, but there was a movie that you could have done that I really wanted you to do and you said no, which bummed me out. Because I am fascinated by Rian Johnson the screenwriter, and fascinated by Rian Johnson the director.

Would you ever consider directing somebody else’s screenplay?

Rian: Yeah, I hate writing so much, in a way I would love that.

Craig: Right.

Rian: Like it would be just doing the fun part. And I’ve read — the thing is, I’ve read screenplays that I haven’t written that are better than anything I’ll ever be able to read in my life, but it’s especially when reading those and confronted with that option that I just kind of realize, you know, for better or worse, what turns me on about the whole process. And what I’m in it for is that thing, going back to making movies as a kid. Just starting with an idea and then seeing it through all the way to the end. So, you know, for better or worse, that’s kind of, yeah.

Craig: Well, so far for better, I have to say. I mean, all the movies have been really good.

Rian: Eventually for worse. It’ll be worse at some point.

Craig: Yeah, obviously —

Rian: I’ll get a lot worse.

Craig: This may be the moment.

Rian: Yeah.

Craig: Yeah. Well, you just talked about how you don’t know what you’re doing next.

Rian: I have no idea.

Craig: This might be — you peeked.

John: So, Rian, you talk about collaborators. Who are the people who you trust to read that first draft, who you show, “This is what I think I’m doing next?’

Rian: Well, it’s just close friends, basically. So, besides my producer, who’s also my close friend, Ram Bergman. I have my friends Dan and Stacy Chariton are a team writing, a screenwriting married couple, and they’re a screenwriting team. And I’ve known them since college. And we know each other so well that we can just be completely honest. And so bounce stuff back and forth.

And, yeah, and other friends. I think the closer relationship you have with someone, the better. Because taking notes is such a weird, complicate thing. And deciding to, both being brittle with yourself in terms of taking in honesty, but also keeping in your head that everybody has their own unique perspective and what they’re saying is not necessarily — you’re so desperate for another voice when you’ve had your head down in the cave for so long. It’s easy to go the other way and think that everything everyone says to you is the truth, is the sun shining on you for the first time.

Craig: You’ve happily experienced a lot of praise for the work you’ve done. When you are praised, A, do you agree with it, and B, how does it make you feel?

John: Craig basically wants to know —

Rian: Everything you said was so positive. Why do I feel so uncomfortable right now?

John: Craig basically wants to know what’s it like to get a good review.

Rian: [laughs]

Craig: What’s it like for somebody to look at you and smile?

Rian: [laughs]

Craig: Is that nice?

John: What is human kindness like?

Craig: How do your species handle this strange thing?

Rian: So, no, I’m trying to —

Craig: What I’m trying to get to is your self-loathing.

Rian: Yeah, let me dig half an inch and get to that for you.

Craig: Yeah, thank you.

Rian: Give me one second. No, the thing is though, and we’ve all — you guys have good reviews and bad reviews. You get them both. And the truth is that —

Craig: Uh-uh. No.

Rian: [laughs] You know, at the end of the day, I don’t know, the old, the cliché is true that you can read 99 good reviews, and if there was one bad one, that will be the one that you believe. And I think that’s just an inherent thing.

At the same time, I don’t know, I remember reading an interview with the Coen brothers where they asked them if they read their own reviews, and this was, I think, around The Man Who Wasn’t There, like around that time. And they said no. They said at a certain point you feel like you’ve read everything that can be written about your stuff and you’re not surprised by anything and so you just don’t have the urge to.

And I think that’s maybe the nirvana that we can all hope to get to someday. That genuine point where —

Craig: You just don’t care.

Rian: Yeah. Where you actually don’t care. Because it’s impossible not to read. You know, you’ve worked so long putting this thing out there and no matter what skill you put out there, and no matter what scale you’re reading it on, whether it’s the comments on your Vimeo account, or a review in the New York Times, it’s impossible not to read it and get torn up about it.

And, I don’t know, I don’t know that the notion of taking criticism and that making you a better filmmaker, I don’t know, it’s a very complicated thing.

Craig: I just wonder sometimes does praise start to frighten you to an extent because you got such a good response from Looper, for instance. I mean, Brick also. I mean, all the movies. But Looper really connected with people. And I wonder does that factor in when you sit down to write the next thing? Are you feeling like the guy who just hit a home run and now you feel like you have to do it again?

Rian: Well, no, but the thing is like The Brothers Bloom got very mixed reviews. So, when I sat down to write Looper I was terrified because of that, and pressured like, geez, I might just have one more chance at bat. I need to really make this one work. And so I think no matter what the reaction to what you did next, you can choose to carry that with you in an unhealthy way into the next process, or you can choose to do your best to kind of block it out.

Craig: Well, I choose unhealthy. What about you?

John: Oh, yeah, I’ve chosen to not read reviews at all.

Rian: Do you really?

John: Yeah.

Rian: Do you actually? That’s fantastic.

John: Starting with Frankenweenie, I haven’t read any reviews. And so sometimes you just sort of flip past them and you get a sense for what that is, but I didn’t read them. Because I knew Frankenweenie got mostly good reviews, but I knew exactly what you said. I would fixate on the one bad review.

And with Big Fish, even though we were opening in Chicago and doing all that trial stuff, so there was stuff to change and to fix. It was still a fluid thing. I didn’t want to fixate on that one reviewer’s criticism of that one song or that one moment because I would give way too much value to that.

And so constructive criticism and sort of notes that can actually improve things are great, but having it in print in a publication was not helpful to me.

Rian: Now, you’re really active on the internet though. Is that really, or when it’s just one click away, or in your Twitter feed —

John: Yeah. You always know it’s just there. And so there’s the threads you don’t open and the pages you don’t go to because you know it’s there and it’s waiting. And it’s tough because you’ll get a Google News Alert with your name in it and so you’ll see like, is that —

Rian: It’s evil. You can’t do that. No. Do you have a Google? I can’t. No.

John: I do that. It’s dangerous.

Rian: So how do you not do that thing, because that’s literally showing up — ?

Craig: I mean, that’s everything. That’s a steady stream. I mean, I don’t do it. Somebody sent me a link because I said something about my former college roommate, your Senator, Ted Cruz.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And it was not, yeah, it was a bad thing. And someone sent me an email like, “Ha-ha, look at this.” And they sent me just the link to the article, an essay someone had written on a website. And the title was Craig Mazin is the Worst Person in American History.

Not the worst person say in English history. We’ll be meeting her shortly. But I felt really good that I was the worst person. That’s Google for you. How do you — ?

John: So, I got off the plane from — we had our opening night in Chicago, sorry, opening night in New York, so the real opening. Like it’s all done. It’s locked. It’s final.

And so I did not read any of the reviews, but they were going to come out that night. And so the flight lands on Monday morning in Los Angeles and I turn on my phone and the very first email is from a good friend who said like, “Fuck that guy at the New York Times. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

So, I’m like, Oh no! Oh, no, that’s just not good at all. And so I went through this —

Craig: That’s the stupidest. Who sent that to you?

John: I’ll tell you after the event. It was such a well meaning thing, but like I had no exposure. And so because I had put myself in this bubble, this bubble of ignorance, I assumed that everything was bad. And so I just went into this really dark depressing place until finally my husband, who is very smart, said like, “Okay, I’ve read all the reviews. And let me tell you what they are.” And he broke them down for me in a way that was incredibly helpful and constructive.

Craig: My wife wouldn’t have done that. She would have been like, “Yeah, a lot of them are really…”

John: [laughs] They’re bad.

Craig: “There were some good ones, but those don’t count.”

John: No. They don’t count at all.

So, I would just say like my plan for ignorance did not completely succeed, too. So, there’s no perfect way to get through that.

Craig: Rian, one last question for you for all the folks here. You are a great inspiration, I would imagine, to a lot of people who are starting out. They don’t live in Los Angeles. They don’t have a bunch of money to make a movie. They aren’t going to be getting their script to some big movie star. But you didn’t have a lot of money and you weren’t in LA. Well, in Brick I guess you were at that at USC or something.

Rian: Yeah.

Craig: But you made Brick, and you really did make it. You made it. And I’m just curious for all the people here what advice you have for them in terms of believing in themselves as self-starters and self-finishers.

John: Yeah. I mean, the one, and I remember when there were many. Like I wrote Brick when I was 23 and we didn’t make it until I was 30. And I was trying to make it for all those years and failing. So, I basically spent my twenties over and over getting and losing money to make this little movie.

And I remember asking people who had made indie movies, like how do you do it? And I would always be so frustrated by what I thought was the bullshit answer of, you know, “You got to just stick with it. You’ve just got to be persistent.”

And now having made one and also knowing a lot of people who have made them, I mean, the truth is it’s that thing where the road rolls up behind every different person who does it. There is really no trick. And I find myself giving that same answer, which I now know isn’t bullshit. The only universal advice that is absolutely true is just persistence. I really think if you have a story you love, if you’ve worked on it, and honed it, and it’s good, and you stick with it, it’s going to get made and it’s going to get in front of people.

The one practical thing I will say, after years and years of trying and failing to get the movie made, I met my producer, Ram Bergman. And the one huge thing he kind of set me right on is he said, “You’re going about this completely wrong. You have talked to some line producer that you know and they have given you a budget. They’ve given you a number which you now say, ‘I need this number to make my movie.’ And you go out to look for that amount.”

And he says, “Chances are you will never get your movie made doing that. What you need to do is look at what you can get your hands on right now in terms of money and resources and then back into that number and figure out how to make the movie for that and go and make it now.”

And he was absolutely right. And once we switched to that, that’s how — that’s when we made the film.

Craig: That’s a great answer. Terrific.

John: That’s a great answer. Let us bring up our second guest who is really Craig’s guest.

Craig: Yes.

John: And so Craig basically would not stop talking about this person who needed to be on our show.

Craig: Kelly Marcel is a fantastic screenwriter. She has a movie coming out this Christmas directed by our collective good friend, John Lee Hancock, called Saving Mr. Banks. I don’t know if you guys have seen the trailer for it. Well, apparently Rian has.

No need for false applause. I promise you real applause is forthcoming when you see the film. It’s excellent. It’s going to make you cry. And it’s a great Hollywood story. I don’t know if you guys love Mary Poppins the way I love Mary Poppins, but it’s the story of Pam Travers who wrote the Mary Poppins books, coming to Los Angeles to basically battle — a battle of wills between her and Walt Disney. And Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney and Emma Thompson plays Pam Travers. It’s an amazing cast.

And it’s a wonderful movie. And she’s also writing a very smaller film called Fifty Shades of Grey.

John: It’s about moral ambiguity and I think of the Cold War?

Craig: I think it’s honestly about colors. I think it’s about grey. So, it’s a paint-based, smaller.

John: Oh, it’s that famous color blind painter. That’s what it was.

Craig: It’s about Escher. And, anyway, she is a wonderful lady with the best accent ever. Ladies and gentlemen, Kelly Marcel.

John: Kelly Marcel! Hi Kelly.

Kelly Marcel: Hey!

John: Hey!

Kelly: Hey!

John: Hi! So, we were going to do this whole thing where you had like a Southern California accent and that we pretended that you were not British, but you’re actually British, aren’t you?

Kelly: Yes, I am. And my audition wasn’t very good this morning.

Craig: Well, you got a couple of sentences down that were okay, and then they fell —

Kelly: Just fell apart.

Craig: Yeah. You’re American is not as good as my British. [laughs]

Kelly: It’s true. He’s great.

John: I have not seen Saving Mr. Banks, but you guys have? Both of you?

Craig: Yes, we’ve both seen it. Yes.

John: So, can you give me the backstory on how this movie came into your life and what the genesis of this is for you?

Kelly: Yeah. There was a British producer called Alison Owen who came to me in England and I had just left a TV show that I created called Terra Nova because they wanted to put dinosaurs in it and I didn’t want them to. [laughs] And so she was like, “Oh, you wrote the dinosaur show. You should write this thing about Mary Poppins.”

I was like, all right.

No, she told me the story of Pam Travers which I didn’t know and it’s a really, really fascinating story. And there was this originating script by this Australian writer called Sue Smith who had sort of done a birth to death biopic of P.L.’s whole life, which is completely fascinating but enormous.

And in the middle of it was this little story where she goes to LA and Alison had felt that was the film and asked if I could kind of reimagine it. And I thought it was great. I thought it would never get made because it had to be full of Poppins songs and we were going to put Walt Disney in it and I just thought we’d get a cease and desist order from Disney, but decided to write it anyway because I thought it would be a really lovely sample and honestly just couldn’t leave it alone.

John: Great. So, at this point you’re working with just this producer, so Disney is not involved?

Kelly: No.

John: And is she paying you to do this, or is this a spec essentially for you to be writing?

Kelly: There’s no money in British film. So, yeah, essentially it was a spec.

John: So, after you have the script, what is the next step for this entering into the world of a makeable movie? What happened?

Kelly: Do you know, it was really quick. I only wrote this script just under three years ago, so it’s a amazing that it’s coming out now. And basically what happened was the Black List. And so the script kind of went out, a lot of producers were reading it, people really loved it. It ended up on the Black List and Disney were like, “What’s this film that has our founder in it and all the Mary Poppins songs? We need to shut this down.”

And then they got hold of it and thankfully were really smart and lovely and decided to make it with our lovely John Lee instead.

Craig: The lovely John Lee.

Kelly: Yeah, it was really the Black List.

Craig: I’m sort of fascinated by your career arc for obvious reasons. I mean, you did start on —

Kelly: It’s just the sex thing, isn’t it? It’s the Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s why you’re fascinated.

Craig: Yeah, we’re working up to that. So, you start with science fiction.

Kelly: Yeah.

Craig: Alternate world science fiction, not including dinosaurs.

Kelly: Yeah.

Craig: Then you have a biopic, a period piece biopic that’s sort of a Hollywood story, but really a story of family tragedy, and past and redemption. And then the movie about paint. So, my question is not, “Oh, isn’t that interesting.” I mean, it is interesting. My question really is do you have a genre or do you care about genre? Or do you feel attracted — something about particular stories that could go in any genre?

Kelly: Yeah. I just, well, I very specifically didn’t want to get pigeonholed. So, after Terra Nova I was just being offered sci-fi jobs, like loads and loads of sci-fi jobs. And I kind of realized with Terra Nova, because it’s rubbish, that that’s not my genre.

John: Yeah.

Kelly: And so I didn’t want to make that mistake again. But, no, really it’s about — it’s just about stories that I want to tell and that I think are fascinating. And I kind of want to write everything, if it’s got an interesting core.

Craig: Define interesting core. I mean, I know what I always think about when I think about that thing. But what is that when you think about that interesting core?

Kelly: Well, so for me with Saving Mr. Banks, the thing that fascinated me mainly about it was our relationships with our parents and the kind of adults that we turn into because of them. And then with Fifty Shades of Grey I was really fascinated with the character of Christian Grey and the fact that he’s an abused child and that uses… — And is, again, a tale of redemption, in which he fails. But that he uses his physicality to try to redeem himself.

And I actually think that’s a really, really interesting thing.

Craig: Yeah, you know, I love that. I was talking earlier at an earlier thing about the idea of theme and how it just seems to me it makes it easier to write these things. That it suddenly isn’t so much about plot. I mean, Looper is a great example, too, of a movie that at first blush is just — it’s all plot. You’re struggling to follow your plot. You know, not in a bad way. In a good way. It’s a real great puzzle. But in the end we care because of that theme, that emotional core. I think that’s great.

And it’s funny that you say, because it’s so obvious in Saving Mr. Banks. A very emotional movie. But Fifty Shades of Grey, I wouldn’t have expected that it’s actually about childhood issues.

Kelly: Yeah.

Craig: And childhood. Well, good, now I’ll see it.

Kelly: Good.

John: But I want to get to this topic of theme, because this is another thing that came up on another panel that I was on. That sense of, Rian’s movies certainly, and I think the movies that I’m proudest of that I’ve worked on, there’s this kind of fractal quality to it. They’re thematically whole enough that you could take any one scene from them and cut it out and like put it in nice fertile soil and it would grow into a shape of that movie.

Like genetically it’s all part of one consistent thing. And that’s a thing I definitely find in your films is that they’re all of one piece and there’s a central idea, a central thematic idea that is whole. And I find it very hard to start writing until I kind of know what that is. If I don’t have some touchstone to go back to, like this is what the movie feels like, this is what the movie is, it’s very hard to do that.

And, yet, certainly the three of us, and you to a degree, you really don’t write for other people very often. You don’t go onto other movies. But the three of us will end up in situations where a movie is in production or is getting close to production and you have to come in and write as somebody else and help.

Craig: And help.

John: And that’s a challenging thing, too. So, we talked about this a bit at breakfast, but what is it like for you to come into a project that you did not originate but you needed to help out. What is that decision process for you?

Kelly: I don’t do it often. I really don’t do it often. And most of the time I’ll do it because it’s a friend of mine or something, so the two movies, I helped out on Bronson and I helped out on Mad Max because Tom Hardy is a friend of mine and I know how to work with him. And, also, who doesn’t want to work George Miller? I mean, that’s just amazing.

And I will really only go and fix something if I really, really know that I know how to do that. So, I do it very rarely. I’ve done one this year. I do like one a year, that I’ll go in and help. And normally it’s because it’s a friend and I know how to do it. But most of the time I say no.

John: Craig, what do you like when you go into a project that needs your help? What’s the conversation in your head?

Craig: I never think about — if I do that it’s not about helping the project. It’s about helping a human being. It’s very, very hard to make a movie. And I am so empathetic to a director, a writer, an actor, anyone who is adrift and confused and scared because they’re not on firm ground.

More than anything, I just want to help them. I want to help them, mostly the director. I feel like the director is the person — If you can help the director, you will help everyone else. They’re the ones that have to do that day’s work. And so I try and help them. And it’s impossible to come in and mimic other people’s voices. You can only write what you can write. But if you listen to what they need and help a person, generally speaking you’re okay.

John: Well, and I think that listening is the most crucial thing. Usually when a movie is in crisis, it’s often not really about the script. It’s about the personalities of the people involved. And you were brought in because you are a voice of reason who can get people to actually do the things they need to do to show up, to get out of their trailer, to get on the plane, to take that next step, and to sort of talk through things and figure out how we can make this movie together and what this movie ultimately is.

Craig: Sometimes I would go and just hold Rian. And that’s all he needed.

Rian: Like Temple Grandin, you are my cow squeezer. It’s true.

Kelly: [laughs]

John: One of the things I’ve found is that often I will enter into these situations where there are a lot of strong personalities with strong opinions. And I find myself in this game of listening to their strong opinions and their ideas, which are kind of genuinely crazy, and have to maintain eye contact and nod and answer, “Well, that’s one way you could go. That’s a way. That’s a way we could go.”

And I kind of thought that might be a fun thing for us to do right now is to talk through potential movies and doing this. And so this is not going to be scary for either one of you.

Kelly: Rian, he’s going to make us improvise.

Rian: Yeah. This doesn’t sound scary at all. Does it? Does it Kelly?

Kelly: Should we leave?

Rian: Yes!

John: So, what I’d like each of you guys to do, you can participate as much as you want, is think of a movie that you would like Craig and I to be coming in to help out on. You guys think of a movie. And then we have an audience member named Megan. Megan, can you come up here? Everyone, let’s give applause for Megan. Thank you very much.

What Megan has done is in these two envelopes —

Craig: You can’t stop him.

John: You can’t stop me.

Rian: I was told there would be no math.

Craig: [laughs]

John: In these two envelopes are some ideas that a producer, a director, a star, a big movie star, Will Smith, might have had about the movie that Craig and I have been assigned to work on, to rewrite, to help out on.

Craig: As a team?

John: We can be a team or we can be apart? Do you want to be a team?

Craig: Are we competing for a job?

John: Yes. We’re competing for a job.

Craig: Oh, okay. Now I’m into it.

John: Rian, you’re more scared, so do you want envelope one or two?

Rian: I’ll take two.

John: Okay. Give him envelope two. Kelly, what movie should I be going into to work on? Any movie at all. It can be a remake of something. What movie do you want to do?

Rian: Okay. I want you to do a reboot of Goonies.

John: Actually, I don’t know Goonies well enough, so give me —

Rian: Oh, for god’s sake.

Craig: No, I totally know that. Can I do it?

John: Craig can do it.

Rian: Wow, right? Really?

John: Goonies are good enough for Craig.

Craig: I’ll take his job.

Rian: Okay. I want you to do, it’s a reboot of Goonies but it’s set on a colony on Mars.

Craig: Got it.

John: Now, I need you to open up that envelope and pick one of the things in there and say like, “Oh, and another thing is…” Add one of those elements.

Rian: [laughs]

John: [laughs]

Rian: Another thing is that in this future society all the grownups are clones of Jaden Smith. The actual Jaden Smith.

Craig: This is a great movie!

Rian: Yeah.

Craig: So, what am I supposed to do now?

John: Now run with that. Go with it. You got to wing it, Craig.

Craig: This is what I would actually do in this situation?

John: Yes. This is what you need to do in this situation.

Craig: Here’s what I would actually do. Okay, got it. You want to do a reboot of Goonies, which I think is fantastic. I love Goonies. And talk about a move that’s ripe for a reboot. You know, it’s sort of set in the eighties, but it’s universal. It’s children on a treasure hunt. That’s so exciting. With bad guys that are old fashioned bad guys, but they’re funny bad guys. And that dude, you know, that’s all great.

Here’s what I think we’ve got to really talk about. Mars. And Jaden Smith.

Rian: What about my son do you want to…?

Craig: Mr. Smith. Sir. My feeling is you get one great thing to build a movie around. It’s confusing to people if you try and build a movie around three great things. That’s three movies all smashed into one. Well, here are three great things. Goonies.

Rian: You are so good!

Craig: Mars. And Jaden. You don’t want to wear a hat, on a hat, on a hat. I say go Goonies. Maybe Mars. Hold back Jaden. Like a right hook for the sequel. Like a right hook for the sequel.

Rian: [laughs]

Craig: Did I get the job.

Rian: That’s my guy. I’m sold.

Craig: Yeah!

John: Awesome.

Rian: Let’s do this. I’m in.

Kelly: Yes!

John: Well done. Now, Kelly Marcel, do you have a movie that you would like me to talk about rebooting, remaking, working on?

Kelly: I’d like you to go in and fix and Waterworld.

John: Oh, absolutely. Done. I’m set.

Kelly: Using Charlize Theron.

John: I can’t imagine how she got entered into the mix.

Kelly: And, I’m not joking.

John: Ah, yes. Yes.

Kelly: And you have to incorporate Verizon mobile phones.

John: Fantastic. So, some backstory. This actually happened on the second Charlie’s Angels. There were Cingular cell phones that we had to get Cingular cell phones somewhere into the movie.

So, Charlize Theron and Waterworld.

Kelly: And Verizon.

John: And Verizon. Well, here is what is so fantastic about Waterworld is that it’s a world covered with water.

Kelly: Ha!

John: And it’s one of those titles that it’s so self-explanatory. It’s a water world, so you already know what that’s like. And everyone loves the ocean and it’s nothing but ocean from top to bottom. All the way through the movie. And so that’s going to be fantastic.

Kelly: [laughs]

John: [laughs] You have this civilization that is so primal and yet there are echoes of a previous civilization. For example, you could find a Verizon cell phone someplace and not know what it was because that was a previous technology. But what if you got that cell phone to work. And that is the beacon that is leading you to a promise land. That cell phone, you’re triangulating from the cell phone to some dry land.

Craig: Yup.

Kelly: Yeah.

John: That is fantastic. Now, the villain of this piece kind of needs to be Charlize Theron. Because Charlize Theron as like the evil mermaid queen is kind of unstoppable. Because we know she’s strong, we know she’s sexual, but you know you don’t want to cross Charlize Theron.

Kelly: Yeah. You don’t.

John: You just don’t want to cross Charlize Theron. So, I think it’s an opportunity to go from the world, the surface, to really dig deeper into woeful terrain of Waterworld by adding Charlize Theron.

Kelly: This is the best Waterworld ever.

John: Thank you.

Craig: Wow.

John: So, Craig was terrified of this idea and begged me not to do it.

Craig: Well, it just seems to me that we’ve convinced them screenwriting is basically a bunch of bullshit.

John: No. I would say that the profession of screenwriting, the profession of being in those rooms and saying, yes, is often that though. Because you and I have both in situations where we had to say, “Uh-huh?” And then you leave the room and you’re like, What just happened?

Craig: Yeah. It is true that you’re never allowed to make this face in a meeting. So, you get really good at figuring out how to say no to things while it looks like you’re saying yes. “Absolutely.” And then you start to slide it here, or slide it there.

No, not that is absolutely true. There is a skill to that, but it’s far less important than actually being a good writer. I’ve never met Charlie Kaufman, but I’ve listened to him speak. I can’t imagine that he doesn’t go — but he’s so good that it doesn’t really matter.

John: Yeah. That panicked gasp face. For the people who are actually listening to the podcast and don’t see Craig’s face, if you can imagine sort of like a fish that got hit really hard. That’s the face Craig is making right now.

Rian: Just Google Image any promotional image of Craig and you’ll see it basically there.

John: That slack-jawed, What the hell is this? What the hell was that?

Craig: This dumb confusion.

John: Yes. But this kind of, bad ideas happen a lot. And sometimes your skill at getting the job or like making the train stay on the tracks is to listen through those bad ideas and eventually get people back onto a track that is useful and helpful and will somehow lead to a movie.

Craig: Yes. I suspect that many of these folks, oh, should we do questions or should we do One Cool Things?

John: Let’s do our One Cool Things and then do some questions.

Craig: Okay, do you guys have One Cool Thing?

John: We warned you of this.

Craig: Rian, you’re made of nothing but One Cool Things.

Rian: Wow.

John: Also for people who are listening to this on the podcast, they don’t realize that Rian Johnson looks nothing like your expectation of Rian Johnson because he had Lasik.

Craig: Right.

John: And so when I saw you at the airport, like I associate you with glasses. I associate you as being the villain in something, like the German villain in some sort of spy movie. And now —

Craig: And now you look like the German villain in a serial killer movie.

John: Yeah. You’ve changed everything. Rian Johnson, do you have a One Cool Thing for us?

Rian: One Cool Thing that’s out there that I would point? Anything. You know, actually I did a time travel panel this morning and I was reminded of a terrific little time travel movie that I think not a ton of people have seen called Timecrimes. And it’s a fantastic little jewel of a time travel movie. So, that’s my One Cool Thing. Go look up a movie called Timecrimes.

And I’m not going to say a thing about it except you won’t be disappoint.

Craig: Very cool.

John: Great. Timecrimes. Kelly?

Craig: Kelly?

Kelly: You can’t be a writer unless you read a lot. And I often am looking for inspiration, but I don’t want to like sit down with a huge book. So, there’s this brilliant website called Letters of Note. You might know it. Lots of letters from historical people, beautifully written, so it’s really nice to just have a quick read sometimes in the middle of the day when you’re stuck and you need to distract your brain. So, go there. It’s great.

John: Very cool. My One Cool Thing is a knife. Craig always mocks me for my One Cool Things, but they’re actually things I found incredibly useful. When I was at USC for film school I got paired up with this roommate named Nick Sarantakes who is lovely. He was like a history grad student and we have not spoken since that whole time.

But the thing is he had a really good knife, like a utility knife for the kitchen. And I kind of stole it. I kind of just took it with me when we were done. And it’s been my knife for this whole time but it broke and I had to replace this knife. So, this is the knife I found which I highly recommend to people: the Victorinox 40003 Wavy Edge Utility Knife with 4-3/4? Blade.

Craig: Do you see what I deal with?

John: Kelly Marcel is so cool that she has that same knife.

Kelly: I have that knife.

John: So people think you need a big, fancy shelf knife.

Craig: No one thinks that!

John: You do. You also need a knife that’s just the right size for like digging through vegetables and doing stuff. It’s the best knife. And you feel like you could…

Kelly: Kill someone with it.

John: Defend yourself with it. Yeah. You really could kill someone easily.

Craig: Yeah, Martha Stewart, hmm.

John: Craig Mazin. Your One Cool Thing?

Craig: Well, my One Cool Thing is sort of an — I’m attempting to create a business out of two people that run their own business that aren’t in business together. But I just wish that they were in business together. So, I’m creating a Voltron of people that don’t know each other. And I think I’ve mentioned both of these individually in the past maybe in One Cool Things.

But Kent Tessman is here. I saw Kent somewhere. There he is. Kent is the author of Fade In which is a fantastic screenwriting program. I use it. I find it to be vastly superior to all the other offerings out there, and cheaper, except for the ones that are free which I don’t like. And so he has this great product. There are also the guys here that do Writer Duet, which they’ve actually — I don’t know if the Writer Duet guys are here, but they’ve really advanced that thing.

You know, there’s the CollaboWriter or the or the Script-o-share, whatever, that just does not work unless, I don’t know, you happen to have a dedicated IP at your house and you understand how to open UCP ports or nonsense like that.

So, this thing actually works. It allows two people in two locations using a browser. And I just thought, wow, what if they created one company together and just destroyed all the other companies. Because mostly I’m interested in destruction.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So, anyway, you guys should totally talk about that, smashing your company together and then having a program that you could write and then automatically upload and share and collaborate with someone else via the internet in real time and then automatically save back down to your computer.

I mean, anybody can get a knife!

John: Ah-ha!

Craig: That is unique. So, that’s my One Cool Thing.

John: Hooray! Because we are going to forget to do this, standard boilerplate here. If you have questions for me or Craig in normal time, short ones are great on Twitter. I’m @johnaugust. He is…

Craig: @clmazin.

John: And we will try to answer those questions. But these people are also on the Twitter. What’s yours?

Kelly: @MissMarcel.

John: @MissMarcel.

Rian: @rianjohnson.

John: And if you have longer questions for me or Craig, is the place to go.

This podcast and all future podcasts are at, but even better on iTunes, so you can subscribe. Click subscribe. That’s great. Leave us a comment there, that’s fantastic.

We also will be having new t-shirts which we will be announcing next week. So, you will see that there are new t-shirts and they are in a color that you would not expect and I think you will enjoy them.

But this is the point of the podcast that I love so much because it’s questions. And so what I think might be best for questions is if you raise your hand and we will call on you. If anyone has a question for — the radical choice that we’re making! If you have a question for any of us here —

Craig: And the usual, can I make my usual disclaimer about questions?

Your question must be a question. Your question must not contain you pitching your material. Your question must end in a reasonable amount of time.

John: Yeah, so a good way to think about it is maybe there are 60 seconds that are going to be involving your question and our answers, so the shorter your question, the longer your answer. And I see a hand back there. Sir.

(NOTE: The questions themselves were inaudible and cut from the podcast.)

Craig: Sure. What notes that we get stand out as ones that we probably ought to reject. Is there such a thing?

Kelly: All of them.

Craig: [laughs] Tough. Tough.

John: Tough.

Kelly: I’m joking. Do them.

Craig: Consistently insane.

John: In general you need to figure out who the most important person is and do the notes of the most important person if they’re not going to destroy the project and the person actually has the right vision for what it’s going to be. The challenge I’ve found is something you get conflicting notes from multiple sources. And if you can get them to sort of create one set of notes, then they will fight amongst each other and resolve those issues so that you don’t have to resolve those issues for them. You can address one set of notes rather than ten sets of notes.

Craig: I don’t have any particular criteria other than this: if I think the note is stupid, I’m not going to do it. If I think the note is insightful, and smart, and will help me, even if the note starts to put me down a path of potential improvement that isn’t even suggested by the note, then I will listen to it. It’s simply for me. I’m very selfish about it. Will that note help me make a better story. There’s no particular kind of note that I reject offhand.

Rian? You don’t get notes.

Rian: I don’t get notes!

Craig: Yes, Rian doesn’t know what a note is. A note is a comment.

Rian: Oh?

Craig: That’s given to us.

John: Another question from this audience. You sir in the front.

Rian: Yeah, I…

Craig: Can you explain it? Very briefly.

Rian: The movie Primer? So, Primer is a micro-budget time travel movie made by a friend of mine, Shane Carruth, who is a tremendous director, he made a movie recently called Upstream Color which was one of my favorite movies of the past year. It was tremendous.

Primer is — we were just talking about it this morning actually. I’m a huge fan of Primer. I think that it’s often characterized as being a movie that dives head first into just the pure intricacies of time travel. And it does do that, but it does that and carries that through to such a pure extent that by the end of it it’s just this tangled mass of complexities and it becomes this cloud of white noise almost in the third act that’s impossible to follow.

And to me, from just my own personal experience — I’m not speaking for Shane — but for me, that’s kind of the point of it. And it gets you to this place where all the complexities of time travel just become this beautiful hum. And all you’re left with is kind of the base emotional discord between these two friends that have launched them into this rivalry.

I think it’s a tremendous film. I absolutely love it.

John: Right here, sir.


I often do outline if I have to give it to somebody else. If I have to be able to talk through the whole moving with somebody else in a detailed way, I will do that outline so I can have a way to discuss them. And I’ve done some television pilots. And in television you’re required to outline. And I’ve always fought it and then loved it when I was done because you actually — I knew what it was and when you actually started writing it was actually really simple to write. But when I’m writing for myself I don’t always outline. I won’t do character bios unless it’s important.

What I will sometimes do is have characters just start talking to each other in scenes that don’t have anything to do with the actual plot of the movie, just so I can hear what the character’s voices are.

Craig? You outline.

Craig: Yes. I do. Sometimes I outline for sort of the same reason you do, to make things go easier for me. There are multiple people involved and I frankly don’t want any of them to be able to say — well, they’ll say, “Yes, great.” And then you’ll do the script and they’ll say, “Well why was that there?” Because we all agreed on it and, remember, here it is in paper.

But for me really I like just note cards. I like real simple note cards to just help me organize my thoughts. I do like to know how the movie begins and ends. I like to know how the character changes in relationship to the theme over the course of the movie. I don’t write character bios. I start to feel like that becomes Dungeons & Dragons stuff. It’s a little goofy.

I don’t want, frankly, a whole bunch of stuff that I’m not intending to impart to the audience. If I’m intending to impart it to the audience, I don’t need to write the bio. I need to figure out how to impart it.

John: Kelly?

Kelly: We had this discussion this morning and to Craig’s horror I told him that I don’t outline.

Craig: Argh!

Kelly: But what that results is really, really over-long scripts that I then have to cut down. And I probably should outline. And I think that’s probably the right way to do it. So, I just start on page one and then my characters tell me who they are, but I do end up with a really messy, shitty first draft and then have to go back in. So a lot of my work is rewriting.

John: Rian?

Rian: I outline. I’d say 80% of the process for the first draft for me is outlining. And the outline just gets more and more defined and concentrated. And then the very last thing I do when I know the entire thing is I start typing, but then I end up with an over-long shitty first draft that I have to cut way down. So, it’s probably the wrong way to do it and you should probably not outline.

Kelly: [laughs]

John: Right there. Yes, you.

Craig: Ooh! Good question!

John: I’m going to restate the question for microphones. Did Disney ask you to do any changes to Saving Mr. Banks based on their involvement once they came on?

Kelly: Do you know what? We were incredibly lucky and I think it’s because there was an already an existing draft and it wasn’t something that we developed at the studio. It was pretty solid when they got it. So, it was very difficult to change. If you start pulling a thread, the whole thing is going to come apart.

I don’t think John Lee and I really ever felt the hand of Disney on our shoulder. They were pretty amazing. They opened up their archives to us. I mean, Walt Disney drinks and smokes in this movie and it’s a Disney film. So, personally I think they were incredibly brave and they were very, very true to the original script which Craig has read and seen the finish version. They’re pretty much the same.

Craig: Absolutely. John shot the script. And he did a great job. But it was your script, your structure. It’s a very particular kind of structure that’s there and the scenes are there. And that moment, that weird moment that made me cry is there.

Kelly: Yeah.

Craig: That apparently just made me cry. I told her, “You know what made me cry?” And I thought she would go, “Oh, yeah, yeah, a lot of people say that.” And nobody. Apparently I’m the only one. She’s like, “Why would you cry at that?”

Kelly: So just a big girl.

Craig: [mimicking Kelly’s accent] So weird. You’re a weird little girl. Yeah. Stupid.

John: Right here in the front row.

Male Audience Member: Kelly, did Disney request any changes to Fifty Shades of Grey?

Kelly: Ha-ha! They just said please, please don’t do this.

Craig: [laughs]

John: [laughs] Is Disney excited about the fact that you’re writing Fifty Shades of Grey?

Kelly: No!

John: It must be odd that you are doing this Saving Mr. Banks, which is a Disney film about Walt Disney, and the next thing that is on your bio sheet is this project.

Kelly: Is porn.

John: Is porn. Yeah.

Kelly: Right. They, you know what? They were pretty cool about it. They were very congratulatory when I signed onto it. But we premiered Banks in London on Sunday and it was a very difficult process going down that red carpet and constantly being asked about Fifty Shades because it’s huge, but we’re at this family-friendly Disney film and, you know, I can’t talk about it. So, we really tried to make sure that I never talk about Fifty Shades in the same sentence as Saving Mr. Banks, which I just did.

John: Well done!

Craig: And we got it!

John: Way in the back, so speak up load.


A great question. With so many choices of what we could use to entertain ourselves, what jumps out at you that makes you say this is a thing I need to actually spend time on?

Rian: Well, I’ve actually been going through a thing lately where I’ve been, you know, with all the options on Netflix and iTunes and everything you can watch at home, I’ve really been pushing myself to just get out there and go to the theater more. Not so much for the experience of the big screen and the technical stuff, but because if I’m at home on the couch watching something, it requires a Herculean effort at this point to not be distracted by something. To not have a second screen, or a phone, or to have something.

And I find increasingly a movie theater is the only place where the movie, no matter what the pace of it, has my full attention the entire time. And more and more I place a premium on that.

John: Craig?

Craig: For me it’s been defined largely by my children, because I like to — you know, I have a debt to my kids the way that my parents introduced films to me. I’m now in the phase where my son is 12 and my daughter is eight, where I can introduce films to them. And I get to enjoy them again. I get to show them Raiders of the Lost Ark. And I get to show them Jaws. And I get to deal with their weird Jaws insanity afterwards. Everything is Jaws and sharks, and sharks, and sharks, and sharks.

You know, my daughter, who is eight, is like, “Daddy, for Halloween I want to be like the half of the body, daddy.”

My son, I showed my son Raiders of the Lost Ark. My son looks just like my wife, who is very blonde and blue-eyed. And we were taking a walk and he goes, “Dad, I know what I want to be for Halloween. I want to be one of those guys from Raiders.”

And I was like, “What are you talking about? What guys?”

He goes, “You know, the guys with the uniforms.”

And I really thought long and hard about it because he would look so good, you know? And then I could just be back there, so he’d be up, ringing the doorbell, and I’d be back there like, “It’s okay, we’re Jewish.”

He doesn’t know. But now all of my choices that I make are really — so we do go to the theater a lot because I do want to go see movies with them and I want to experience them with them. And he keeps asking me, “Daddy, when I can see Godfather? When can I see Godfather?”

And I’m like, I don’t know what a good age is for Godfather. But you know what will ensue after that. So, that’s what grabs my attention. It’s no longer about me.

I mean, I still go and see movies, of course, and I love movies. And I just did a whole big crazy Breaking Bad binge watch that was awesome. And I met Vince Gilligan. I got my picture with Vince Gilligan. Ooh! Kelly and I were standing there. We were peeing. It was great. And Rian Johnson directed…

Rian: You’re creeping me out a little bit. [laughs]

Craig: But, anyway, so that’s what draws my attention. My kids.

John: Yeah, similar to Craig, I have an eight-year-old daughter. And I realized that like, Oh, she doesn’t know what Star Trek is. Like she’d already watched all the Star Wars and we’ve talked on the podcast about how she can’t distinguish the good Star Wars from the bad Star Wars. Like, oh my god, taste! And I don’t know how you teach her that.

But she also had no idea what Star Trek was. And so I was like, Netflix! And so the original series of Star Trek is there. And so I could sort of curate sort of her introduction to what Star Trek is and what that world is. And the decision to start with Kirk and that whole crew in the original series and then move to later ones. You start with later ones where the world is not as incredibly sexist and that.

So, it’s been fascinating to sort of figure out how you introduce Star Wars to a kid. And so that’s been a great afternoon because really most of parenthood is figuring out like, God, how do I pass the time? And Star Trek is an amazing way —

Craig: There’s other parts to it. I mean…

John: Well, yes, there are some other good things. There’s driving. It’s been amazing for me to be able to rewatch something that was so important to me in my youth with somebody who is experiencing it for the first time. So, that’s a great thing about Netflix in our life.

Anything you’d like to?

Kelly: Like Rian, I’ve just been trying to force myself to get out. I’ve been doing a lot of rewriting in London this year, so actually I’ve been going to the theater a lot and watching live performance which has been kind of amazing and made me want to go back to my theater roots a bit.

Craig: You run a theater, don’t you?

Kelly: Yes. Me and Tom Hardy. We run a theater in London.

Craig: What does that mean to run a theater?

Kelly: We don’t do anything. [laughs]

Craig: You don’t do the curtains and the — ?

Kelly: We’re supposed to be putting plays on, but we’re a little bit busy.

Craig: Right. Very good.

John: All right. We have time for two more questions, so I’m going to pick you, sir, as the first question.

Craig: Yeah, every time.

John: Yeah, that was Monster Apocalypse and Pacific Rim. I just turned in the draft of Monster Apocalypse for Tim Burton, which is a DreamWorks movie. And Stacey Snider called, who runs DreamWorks, and says, “There’s this movie Pacific Rim that is about giant robots fighting monsters. And it’s the same thing. Like we cannot do your movie.” And she was completely honest and upfront about sort of like we can’t be the second movie and it’s just not going to work. It’s this Armageddon/Deep Impact. Sorry.

And it was heartbreaking. So, the answer is yes. Although what I would generally say to most people, that’s a rare occasion. And so often you’ll see something in the trades that sort of sounds like your movie, but it really is nothing like your movie, at all. It’s just like there’ s a ghost in it, but that’s all the similar thing to it.

So, don’t stop just because you saw an announcement about something, because most of those movies never happen. Most of the situations, it just seems similar because it’s one sentence in Variety.

Rian: For a long time when I was writing Looper and getting it together there was a project that was at Disney forever called Gemini Man, which every time I would tell anyone about Looper they would say, “Oh, you know about Gemini Man, though, right?”

But, yeah, it just speaks to your thing of you never know what’s going to happen. I think that project got very close to getting made, but it didn’t end up being a problem.

Craig: And sometimes these movies come out and there’s two movies where they take over the White House. And there’s two movies that are animated about ants. And there are two movies about volcanoes exploding. And the truth is you do — you can get caught up in the, Oh, my idea! And they occupy their own space.

I mean, how many movies have we seen of a certain kind? How many car racing movies are there now? But they occupy their own space. So, it’s fine. I don’t worry about stuff like that. If it happens, it happens. What are you going to do?

John: Cool. Last question right here.

Craig: Cue music.

John: Yeah.

Craig: [sings] “You’ll never find another love like mine.”

Of course. I certainly — I’ve been learning from John for a long time. The podcast itself probably isn’t where I learn as much, although when we talk about craft things I feel like every time we talk I get a different perspective.

It’s easy for us to just keep falling into our own rut, but hearing how other people do things is always going to influence, always. But really all of my writer friends, I have lots of writer friends, they all influence me and they all influence me through my work, I’m sorry, through their work.

And I’m not emulating anybody, but I learn something every time I see a movie. I learned something when I saw your movie. I learned something, god knows I learned a lot when I saw your movie. I mean, so I’m like a little sponge constantly picking up things.

I’ve watched all that Breaking Bad stuff and it actually really — watching Breaking Bad, I don’t write TV, but it was so cinematic. And I just felt, boy, I’ve really got to remember to be more cinematic. These little things. But, yeah, I’ve learned a ton from you.

John: Yeah. I’ve learned a ton from Craig, too. I rag on Craig a lot. So, people who listen to the show —

Craig: You do?

Kelly: That’s sexy.

John: Yeah, maybe a little bit.

Craig: You mean, privately? [laughs]

John: Exactly. Yeah, off mic.

Craig: When we’re not together?

John: Yeah, I’m throwing you under many busses.

Craig: Yeah.

John: No. I have learned a lot from Craig. And so part of the reason why my impetus was to go to Craig to co-host the show was that Craig knew a lot more about sort of business/technical/right stuff, WGA stuff for sure, because he’s really good at that stuff.

But I’ve been surprised how disciplined he is about the actual craft of screenwriting and sort of that process. And getting the work done and being professional. And that has been a great education. Because really ultimately, unlike every other job in making movies or making television, writers are alone. And so we’re alone at a computer. There is no one else to talk to about the things that we’re doing.

And so to have weekly conversation with Craig, who is trying to do the same things I’m doing, is incredibly therapeutic. And so it’s been a remarkable sort of hundred and some episodes to talk through that stuff, too.

Craig: Isn’t that nice? Aw…

John: And, Craig, whenever I’m like at all nice to Craig, he gets all mushy.

Craig: It’s so nice.

John: I gave Craig a hug last night.

Craig: I know! I freaked out. I was like, Who is this?! Because it’s like, I mean, he really is my Vulcan friend. And I’m like McCoy, I guess. McCoy was always the worst because everybody finally would just say, “McCoy, shut up.”

And he’d be like, “All right!” And that’s me. But you’re like — he’s Spock. And so when Spock hugs you you’re like, What the…?!

John: Something wrong has happened.

Craig: This is so cool.

Kelly: It was really cute.

John: So much right has happened today. So, guys thank you so much for coming to Scriptnotes Live here.

Craig: Thank you, Austin.

John: This was awesome. Thank you. Thank our guests.


Craig: Thank you. I needed that. Because I didn’t snort four pounds of coke like you did, apparently. What the hell?

John: Whoa, whoa, I’ve got energy. And…