The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: And now here is the part of the show where we actually do the Q&A which will be cut into a separate little part of an episode. So, if you have a question for me, or for Craig, or any of our panelists you can line up at that microphone and we will happily answer your questions.
Now, standard things we talk about when we do Q&As is that ideally the question and the answer if it fit into a 60 second segment would be awesome. So, the shorter your question, the more time we’ll have to answer your question.
Craig Mazin: Yes. And as always make sure your question is a question.
Craig: Please don’t pitch anything during your question.
John: Yes. A statement that ends with a question mark or an up voice isn’t really a question.
Craig: No, it should technically be an interrogative.
John: Yeah. It should be. It shouldn’t be like a, “Blah, blah, blah, don’t you agree?” But I see someone standing there who I think is our first person asking a question. So, please come up and ask.
Openings: Hi. I want to say first off thanks for being awesome.
John: Oh, thank you for saying so.
Openings: And I had two questions. One I wanted to ask Craig at this point after 123 episodes are you regretting introducing yourself a different way every time?
Craig: Uh, yes. [laughs]
I have found with the last couple scripts that I write I’m really happy with the product but I just find that that opening — that opening three pages, it just tends to be it’s not the sort of thing that jumps out and grabs people. Do you guys have anything that you do specifically where like this is the checklist that I need for the first three pages in order to just grab somebody by the lapels and just really knock their socks off?
Craig: Well, I think that knowing that you’re supposed to do that is probably the first thing, you know. I mean, the first ten pages, I would think of the first ten pages as the most important pages in the script. It’s like you’re making a seed and everything that grows out of the script comes out from that little seed. It’s all packed in there. Who the hero is. Potentially who the villain is. What their problem is. What the world is like. What their voice is like. And also you education of the audience so that they understand what the movie is going to be like is all in those ten pages.
I will spend a month sometimes on the first ten or 20 pages because everything is there. So, take your time and be cinematic. Frankly, watching movies will kind of give you some clues.
John: Well, I would say the first — I agree about the first ten pages. The first three pages, we may not really know your hero, but we’ll know what your movie feels like. We know like why we’re signing onto this movie and what the overall shape and feel of this kind of movie is. And that’s crucial. And so that’s why it’s so important that you’re really doing that detailed work there.
Now, I’ve been on a lot of movies where you end up cutting those first ten pages or first three pages. Like those first things you write may not be ultimately in the movie, but that’s what told you as a writer what your movie felt like, so they were critically crucial things to write. Go was an example of that. Big Fish was an example of that for me, those first ten pages, were almost literally like ripping the pages out of the typewriter and doing it over again. I just had to keep figuring out like how I was going to tell the story. But once you break those it’s crucial.
So, no, not a checklist, but just making sure that they feel like the best movie that they could be, like they could stand on their own if they had to.
Craig: Yeah. Don’t be afraid to take your time on those.
Openings: Great. Thank you.
John: Thanks so much.
Craig: Sure. Nice shirt!
John: Great shirt.
Scriptnotes Shirt: I know. I’m rocking the shirt.
Scriptnotes Shirt: I’d like to hear from you guys and any of the panelists that would like to answer, what movie that you didn’t write do you wish you had written and why?
John: Oh, that’s a…
Craig: Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
John: Oh, absolutely.
Craig: Just because honestly if you could write that on purpose, you’re on a level beyond anyone. I don’t know.
John: Of recent movies, Aline already said it, but I thought Frozen was terrific. And what I thought was so smart about Frozen was that it both honored and subverted the expectations of like what a Disney princess movie was supposed to be. It did all the Disney princess stuff really well, and then it sort of turned what the expectation of what that is.
We talked about the Bechdel test on the podcast. It almost passes the reverse Bechdel test in that there’s no two men who say lines to each other that aren’t about the woman, which is actually sort of fascinating. Except at the very end. But, now Richard Kelly who is going to tell us —
Richard Kelly: I’m going to sit on the floor for this one.
Craig: This isn’t getting weird at all.
Richard: I would say Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the — it’s hard to say what your favorite Coen Bros film is, it’s so difficult because they’re so great, but this screenplay structurally is so innovative and layered and it appears to be something that’s a very simple journey over the course of three days of a flailing folk singer. But, after having seen the film three times there are so many layers to this script and the sort of structural innovation of it becomes more apparent upon multiple viewings.
Aline Brosh McKenna: Did you like Frozen?
Richard: I did love Frozen. I did love Frozen. I thought Frozen was terrific. And I went back and I looked up the Hans Christian Andersen story.
Aline: Oh, and?
Richard: I really did!
Richard: I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to.
Craig: So, Inside Llewyn Davis is your —
Richard: Is my pick. I mean, that film is extraordinary.
Craig: Even though Script Shadow didn’t like it?
Richard: You know, um…
Craig: You’re still okay with it?
Richard: I’m going to see it five more times just because they didn’t like it.
Craig: Okay, yeah. Because that’s going to —
Aline: Wow. I’m so sad that nobody on the podcast will see that Craig is kneeling.
John: Yeah. I hope so — document this please. Thank you.
Craig: What, did you not know that my knees worked? What do you think?
Aline: It just is a weird thing to do.
Craig: I don’t know what else to do. I’m doing it. It’s the David Kwong stance.
John: Aline has the microphone that’s going to be passed down, though. You don’t have to do this anymore, Craig. Aline has the microphone with the cord.
Craig: Oh she does?
Aline: The Kwong kneel! You’re doing the Kwong kneel!
Craig: Oh, she has the microphone.
John: Aline Brosh McKenna, save us please. What would you have wished you would —
Aline: You know what? People ask that question. I don’t really even understand that question, because I feel like —
John: So, pass it to Franklin who I know understands the question.
Craig: Yeah. Exactly. Give it to somebody that understands the question.
Franklin Leonard: This is why I was kneeling. I actually, as someone who is not a writer, I feel sort of unqualified to answer that question.
But I can say that this year there was one film where I am profoundly and overwhelmingly jealous of everyone involved in any capacity and that’s 12 Years a Slave. That is a film that obviously as an African American it held a special place in my heart, but just as a film itself, the story it told, the choices it made, the simple fact of its existence, I am deeply, deeply and profoundly jealous of everyone who was involved in it.
John: Rawson Thurber?
Rawson Thurber: Oh, I guess Mud, Jeff Nichols. Mud.
Aline: Yeah, that’s good.
Rawson: I thought it was fantastic. I hope it wins. That’s all I have to say.
John: Hey, how short that was. That was terrific. Lindsay Doran?
Lindsay Doran: Again, I’m not a writer, and I just saw the movie, so I know that it’s really influencing me, but American Hustle, where I was just dazzled by the writing all the way through. Nothing even happens in that movie for like an hour. It was just phenomenal relationships and phenomenal dialogue and just sort of full-on filmmaking and I’m just kind of — I’m just kind of reeling from it, still.
John: Kelly Marcel?
Kelly Marcel: I loved Toy Story 3. I thought that was beautiful. And I would have liked to have written Identity Thief.
John: Oh, nice.
Craig: It’s not hard. [laughs]
Kelly: That’s why I would have liked to have written it.
Craig: It’s just like you could do it in like a week.
John: Next up please.
TV Assistant: Are you guys willing to answer a TV career question?
TV Assistant: Okay, sweet. So, brief setup. I’ve sort of written it down so it will be shorter. I’ve been a writer’s assistant on a network television show for four years. This is the first legitimate show I’ve worked on, so I have no other professional writing contacts, no agent, no manager. Last March I wrote one freelance episode for the show and the experience for me and them seemed acceptable if not good.
But this will most likely be the show’s final season, so I will be out of a job in April. Several of the EPs have sold pilots that have already or will most likely receive pickups for next season. So, here’s the three-part question.
Craig: Oh good!
John: All right.
TV Assistant: I know. I know. Sorry.
Craig: Because I thought this was going so quickly.
TV Assistant: Yeah. Sorry.
At what point in them producing their pilot should I ask for a job on their show? When I’m asking them how should I handle doing that?
Craig: Right. Not like this. Go ahead. [laughs]
TV Assistant: This is why I’m asking.
And when or if they say no is it totally unacceptable to turn around and say I’ll still be your writer’s assistant. Is that job available?
Craig: Right. Okay.
John: So, I have more TV experience so I’m going to answer this question for you.
Craig: Please do.
John: I think it’s actually a really good question.
So, the short version of this question is at what point as a guy who has written on a show in a very low capacity are you allowed to say to someone who is leaving the show, “Hey, could I get a job on that show?” And that’s a very natural thing to do.
John: Like, hey, can I have a job? I would pick the people and your relationships with those people and prioritize them based on who is writing the show that you might actually be a good fit for, who you have the best relationship for. But you’re going to have to be upfront and honest about sort of like, “Hey, I really think this thing is great. I would love to work on this show if you can consider me for it.”
So, you have this sample of the produced episode you did. You should have two other amazing things that they can read that show that you’re a really good writer. Do you?
TV Assistant: Specs or pilots?
John: Great, so —
TV Assistant: No, I’m asking.
John: I would say originals. Because they’ve seen you write a show —
John: Original things.
Craig: For sure.
John: Because they’ve seen you write the show that they were already on. So, they need to see you write something else that’s great, and brilliant, and shows a side that they didn’t know you could do.
So, you have that, you have those conversations, and one of those three things should work out. Because being a writer’s assistant for four years, you’re there to do what you’re doing. If you got an episode produced, you didn’t shit the bed on that. So, that’s good.
Craig: Look, I think you should honestly, it is a good question. I was just kidding with you. I think you should ask all of them frankly. I would cast the widest net possible. And at some point though you need to actually say, “I’m here to be a writer.” They’re not going to ever really take you seriously if they think they can just keep getting you to be an assistant. You’re just going to have to bite the bullet.
TV Assistant: So, should I not ask for the —
Craig: I think you should say, “I’m here to be a writer. You guys know that. I’ve been doing it for four years. I wrote an episode. This is what I’m here to do.”
Unless you truly want to be a professional writer’s assistant, and I don’t think you do, then I think it’s time for you to find out if you’re a writer or not.
John: Great. Thank you so much.
Aline: May I interject with something? May I add? One thing that I’ve been talking about recently is there’s kind of more than one component to being a professional writer. And one is —
Craig: What?! I’m not trying to electrocute myself.
Aline: [laughs] One is actual writing talent. That’s important. But there’s another thing that goes into it which is your EQ and how you understand relationships and how you relate to other people. How you feel about yourself. How confident you are. And those are really difficult things because you can’t learn them, you can’t take them in a class. You can’t do all that.
And you look at somebody like Rawson who out of the box got to direct — he’s like shocked — got to direct his first movie. You know, if you’re super charming, and confident, and outgoing, and people like you, and you can sort of demonstrate that you understand what room you’re in, and that you can be in that room and interact with people and do well at that — that’s just a huge important part of being…
— And I was saying to somebody last night, I had dinner with a screenwriter last night. I was saying, I know some strange people who are screenwriters, but I don’t really know people who are non-functional socially. You know, as I’ve talked about before you have to kind of be —
Craig: I do.
Aline: No, you have to kind of be an entrepreneur. You have to be able to go in and represent yourself and sell some things and really forcefully articulate your opinion. And you can be an oddball for sure, but you still have to be able to go sit in a room and understand the feedback that you’re getting from people and present yourself. And it’s very important.
And it’s something that I would encourage you as you go forward to try and imbibe, because it’s something that you learn by doing.
John: Cool. I would agree with you. Absolutely. That social skill is crucial. Our next question is…?
Dodgeballer: Yes. This question is for Rawson. Talking about Dodgeball, that process of rewriting and going through the different drafts, how different was the final version compared to the first thing that you handed into the production company?
Rawson: God, I guess pretty different. I remember going back and reading the first draft, the draft that actually Ben and Stuart got behind and sort of strong-armed DreamWorks into optioning for crackers.
Rawson: And I remember reading it, I forget why I was reading it, I reread it and I was sort of shocked at how far I’d come from that draft to the shooting draft.
And I just remember having like this deep sense of gratitude towards Stuart Cornfeld and Ben Stiller for seeing it, seeing it from what in reading it in retrospect was not a very polished script. I still don’t know why they did what they did, but I owe them a great deal for it. I will say, however, that the shooting script to the final movie is very close. Very close.
So, that process of about 18 months, two years of rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting was really valuable. And I think as a first timer had I not gone through that, had someone been dumb enough to just let me shoot the first thing I wrote, I wouldn’t be here. [laughs] Because it wouldn’t have been a very good movie.
But, thank you for your question.
John: Cool. Thank you very much.
Josh, a big fan: Hey guys, I’m Josh, a big fan. So, my question is there’s a lot of information about like how do you get an agent, including an episode of your podcast, which was great. My question is what do you do when you have one and what’s the etiquette?
Because I’ve spoken to a lot of established writers and I’m like, “What are the rules? What do I do now?” And they’re like, “I don’t really know. It’s weird for me, too.” And they’re pretty established.
So, could you guys talk about that and like how do you drive things forward. And how do you do it eloquently and not muddle the relationship and —
Craig: Good question. Good question!
John: Because we have all these people here maybe we should just ask like how often do each of you guys speak to your agent, or communicate with your agent. Aline, how often do you speak to your agent?
Aline: Well, it really depends. I mean, I had one agent for 17 years and we’ve talked probably every day. And then for the last three years I’ve had a team of three agents and, you know, we talk pretty frequently. It’s sort of about what you need and what your communication is. And also it’s interpersonal. It’s one of those things that I was saying about the EQ thing, like you sort of have to read the room and know if you’re the person who is calling too much. You know? And sort of be able to tell if you’re having that right kind of communication.
But it is really, the first agent I had scared the pants off of me. And I was — and there were no cell phones and no email and no, I mean, we had answering machines, but I was so desperate to get him on the phone. And then he would call me and I would have built up all these questions for, you know, a week and a half. And then he would finally call me and I would be like, “I wanted to ask you about, this, this, this…” and he’d hang up on me.
And I always felt like I never got a chance to ask the million things I wanted to say, but he didn’t have time for me because I wasn’t making him any money. [laughs] So, it was, you know, at that point when you’re not making people a lot of money, be really like, I mean, I would even write down on a piece of paper like ask them about this, and ask them about that, and can you send this, and do you know this person, and be really specific. Because later on when you have more of a business going people might be more willing to put their feet and have a chit chat.
But it was definitely very stressful in the beginning and it’s a really, really good question, because it is one of those things you just have to feel out.
Rawson: My agent I’ve had for, I guess, almost ten years now, maybe a little bit longer. I speak with him daily at this point. And sometimes many times a day. It just depends on what’s going on. And I think it just depends on the kind of person you are and the kind of person the agent is. And a lot of times the agent that you pick says a lot about you and what you want in your life.
I have friends who have an agent and they’re buddy-buddy. They go to birthday parties together. And they want a friend and a cheerleader.
Rawson: Well, exactly. And I think the world of my agent and I would consider him a friend, but I don’t go to his birthday party. He doesn’t come to mine. It’s a professional relationship. It’s friendly, and cordial, and we root for each other, and et cetera. But, I think it’s really about what you want from your agent.
And I know what I want is someone who is really good at their job and will be on the phone with me when I need to talk to them. But I don’t need another friend. I don’t think anybody does really. Everyone is alone.
Craig: Forever alone.
Josh, a big fan: Thank you.
John: Kelly Marcel, how often are you talking to your agent? Now, how often are you talking to your agent?
Kelly: I speak to — I have a team of agents, and I speak to them probably every day at the moment.
My advice to you is that your agent at your agency will have a list of open writing assignments. It’s an enormous, enormous document that goes around all the agencies and talks about assignments that are open, they’re looking for writers on. Ask them to send it to you. They shouldn’t have any problem. It’s a big document. Look through it.
See if there’s anything on there that interests you. Then chase it. And chase it hard.
John: Richard Kelly?
Craig: Richard Kelly?
Richard: I’ve been hanging out in a cave with Smaug writing for four years. My agent doesn’t even remember who I am. But I’m coming back.
I’m kidding. I talk to him pretty often. I’ve been with my agent for 15 years. 15 years.
Craig: That’s Richard Kelly.
John: So, I would say, you would think that as an aspiring writer versus as an established writer you would talk to them more, or less, or differently, and I’ve found that actually the frequency isn’t all that different, but we have a shorthand now because we talk to each other so often, that even if I only talk to my agent twice a week we can bang through stuff really quickly because we all know the same people. We know what’s going on.
I know why he’s not sending me on that thing. Or he could say, “It’s a fishing trip. It’s not a real job. They’re just trying to figure out what the movie is.” We can have that kind of shorthand which is really useful.
But in terms of like being your agent’s best friend and vice versa, I agree with Rawson is that you want somebody who you can talk to on the phone and you’re not ever scared to talk to on the phone, but it doesn’t have to be like he’s your best friend. It has to be someone who you feel can represent you out in the world and you don’t feel is toxic or poisonous or is going to misrepresent you out in the world.
But it’s the business version of you and that’s a very different kind of person.
Craig: All I can really add is that we don’t always get the agents that we want, especially when we’re starting. We don’t really have a choice of these.
John: And when you get a bad agent, Craig is the best at firing them.
Craig: Yeah. I’m the guy if you need an agent to be fired.
John: I have to just say, Craig, we have mutual friends who will have a terrible agent. And Craig is the best at talking them through how to fire their agent.
Craig: Yeah. I’m really good at it. I love it.
But, this is really what — to get to the heart of I think what you’re going for here, in order to communicate with your agent unfortunately you have to kind of imagine what their day is like. And I hate having to put myself in their shoes, because they’re supposed to be working for us, but at least in this stage in your career, do it. And really what they need are bullet points. They just need bullet points. And you have email now, which I didn’t really have when I started, you know. Just send them an email and bullet point I want this, this, this. What’s happening here? What’s happening here? What’s happening there?
And then they’ll get back to you. This whole phone tag thing, getting on the phone. They’re distracted on the phone. I had an agent that I fired, one of many, I could hear him typing when I was talking. I could hear the keyboard. He would make me insane. And I’d be like, “You’re typing right now. You’re not listening to me. You’re typing.” [makes keyboard clicking noise] “No I’m not.” He even took the time… — So, anyway. Nice little short bursts of emails. Make sure that you’re getting what you need out of it. Real simple.
But, you know, that probably will get you where you need to go.
Franklin: I would actually add one thing. I think people forget this all too often, which is assistants can be incredibly valuable. And you should treat them incredibly well. Both because they have more information oftentimes than their bosses do, but they will either be agents or producers, or executive, or writers, or directors as quickly as six months from when they’re working for their bosses.
Craig: Fact. Truth.
Franklin: So, treat them well. I mean, if they’re an idiot, ignore them. But they were hired by their boss for a reason. And as a representative of their boss you can oftentimes get just as much information or scripts or whatever you need from the assistant as you can from the agent. And the assistant can also chase up the information you need from the agent in a way that is not going to make you look like you’re annoying.
Craig: Great advice.
Josh, a big fan: Great. Thanks so much, guys.
John: Thank you so much. Great.
And I see you. Please, come on up. I see five people in line and you’re our last five questions, so you’re awesome people. And you have the mic. Come up.
Adaptation’er: Thank you. First off, pleasure to meet you all. Mr. Mazin, I have an agent that…
Craig: You need me to take care of?
Adaptation’er: You could work your magic. But, actually my question is on book adaptations. When it comes to authors, especially, or specifically ones that are known for their language, their pentameter, say like Elmore Leonard for 3:10 to Yuma, and The Devil Wears Prada by Weiner [sic.] and so on, that how much of it was a battle, if there ever was one, an uphill battle or so on to put your stamp onto the script, your own language, whilst also trying to go with the adaptation of the author? How much was it kind of a bargain between —
Craig: The negotiation between your voice and the voice of the novelist.
John: I could talk it from Big Fish or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or books I’ve adapted. You’re always mindful that that book exists for a reason and that person wrote that book. And that person wrote the book to write a book. And you are writing a screenplay to make a movie. And they are different things.
And so there are times where the very specific quality of their words or choices, their voice, will translate really, really well to a movie. And so you get the luxury of being able to use that. So, for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I would highlight one little line from Roald Dahl’s book and use everything I possibly could from his book in there because that felt very much like what the movie was we wanted to make.
Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish, I loved it, but there was very, very little there that I could say, “Oh, that’s the movie version of this voice.” It just wasn’t really going to happen. So, I had to be truthful to what the movie wanted to be.
So, if Derek was here we could talk 3:10 to Yuma. But, in all those cases you’re looking at what is the movie version of this. And if there’s a way that you can use that author’s voice in a way that helps your movie, you do it. If there’s not, you can never feel bound to it because there’s no… — No one is going to benefit if you’re just trying to shove that onto the screen.
Aline, did you have any sense of voice?
Aline: You know, with Devil Wears Prada it was like, it was enormously well researched and so I used a lot of that material. And then I did the adaptation and then when it was done I went back and went to see if I had missed any stuff.
I also adapted a book called I Don’t Know How She Does It and I had a little bit of an issue with that book which was I was incredibly infatuated with her writing. I mean, I still am. I worship her. I think she’s such an amazing writer of prose. And so I labored really hard to try and figure out how to get that prose kind of into the script. And it ended up being somewhat in voice over, which in a funny way I don’t know was in the best service of what Allison had done.
I kind of felt at the end of the day that with that book I would have been happy just to watch Allison read the book to me. And that’s maybe not the best starting point to mine things from. Because I always kept going back to bits of language. So, it’s sort of about the relationship you have with the material. And I think there’s some instances where you’re going to want to be more faithful. But in order to make that leap to really a screenplay you kind of have to put that thing down.
I really do think you have to put that thing down.
John: I’d offer one last cautionary tale. I think you need to read the book with the mind of like if I didn’t have this voice would I still want to make this movie? Because there could be cases where, I think I Don’t Know How She Does It may be a good example of that. If you just look at the story of it, was there enough story to tell to make that movie independent of that great voice you had in that book? And that may be a useful thing to let you know is this a book I should try to adapt, that wants to be a movie.
Thank you so much.
Craig: Thank you. Hi.
Jeff Pulice: Good evening and thank you for doing this. My questions are about the Three Page Challenge. It’s my big goal to get on there.
Is that going to be returning? How often do you guys reach out to somebody who has got a really good three pages? And since I’m just chomping at the bit to be mentioned on it, is it better for the three pages to have a thrill or a laugh?
John: You know, we have somebody here who could actually answer those questions.
Craig: Brett Goldfarb!
John: Stuart Friedel, come up here and take a microphone.
Craig: Come on, Stuart! I can’t believe we’re letting him talk on a podcast.
John: Stuart, take a real seat here.
Craig: Come on, up, up. Up in the big boy chair.
Jeff Pulice: Hi Brett. My name is Jeff.
Craig: It’s happening.
John: It’s happening.
Stuart Friedel: I wish I was groomed before this.
John: You have your hoodie on. Now, Stuart, how many entries do we get for the Three Page Challenge?
Stuart: Do we get?
Stuart: We still get like 15 to 50 a week I’d say.
John: That’s a lot of pages.
John: And do you actually read every one of them?
Stuart: I try to. I try to. I have a theory that some disappear. Like sometimes I’ll accidentally highlight everything and say Mark As Read, because we get a lot of spam in the Ask account. And then I’ll be like, oh my god, there were 15 unread Three Page Challenges in there and I’ll have to remember which those were. But usually I think I catch them all. The odds are still against us —
Craig: It’s so weird to watch you lose a job live on air.
John: Wow! [laughs]
Craig: It’s so weird. What an amazing choice for your debut on the podcast to reveal the most ramshackle method possible for dealing with their dreams.
John: Sir, could I have your name?
Jeff Pulice: Jeff Pulice.
John: Jeff Pulice. Do you recognize his name?
Stuart: I do because of your last name. It sticks out.
John: So Police like a police officer?
Stuart: But —
Jeff Pulice: Police, yeah. [sic.]
John: So, you recognize that last name.
Craig: You haven’t lost his yet.
Stuart: I hope not. Or I’ve at least —
Craig: I hope not.
Stuart: I don’t think that I’ve lost many.
John: Or any.
Stuart: But it’s possible.
Craig: I can’t believe this. This is so embarrassing for you.
John: No. It’s not embarrassing for me at all. It’s just delightful.
Stuart, I deliberately — there’s like a little wall, I don’t see any Three Page Challenges. So, tell me about your thought process about, basically I ask you for like send me and Craig three Three Page Challenges, and you just do it. And you’re always really good. You make good choices.
Stuart: Well, I hope…
John: What is your process?
Stuart: Honestly, like —
John: I’m fascinated to learn what my employee does.
Craig: Yes, honestly. Don’t hold back. [laughs]
Stuart: I will not lie.
There’s probably less of a formal process than people think, which I get from the questions that I get. I’m not looking for Something. I’m just like, “Oh okay, that worked.” And then I use the star — the Gmail star colored system. There used to be different folders, and those got too cluttered, so now it’s like yellow star means it’s going to get on, blue star means like, well, if there’s —
Craig: What a scientist. Just remarkable.
Stuart: Yeah, well, you know.
Basically I’m looking for things that are not bad. Like they can’t be illegible. They can’t be not in English. There are certain pet peeves of badness that bother me that are just like, you know, we talk so often about not using the same first letter and length of name. And I’m not going to disqualify you for that, but if like after hearing that on every Three Page Challenge we’ve ever done you’re still doing that and it’s dated this week then it’s a little bit like, well, you didn’t listen to the lessons we’ve given you so there’s nothing to build off of.
John: Yeah. He’s winning us back a little bit.
Craig: That’s okay. Okay. Yeah?
John: So, sir, what I will say is that because you have bravely stood up there and asked about the question, we will do your Three Page Challenge. That’s a guarantee probably after the New Year.
Craig: Now, of course, be careful what you wish for, I mean…
John: So, what title should we also look for? Do you know which one?
Jeff Pulice: Oh yeah.
John: It’s a script called Oh Yeah?
Jeff Pulice: How the Genetti Brothers Invented Hollywood.
John: How the Genetti Brothers Invented Hollywood. You should listen for that on an upcoming episode of the Three Page Challenge.
John: Are you excited now? All right, we’re excited, too.
Craig: All right. Way to go!
John: Hello and welcome.
Stuart, thank you very much. Thank you.
Craig: Way to go Stuart.
Kate Powers: So, I have had a Three Page Challenge.
Kate Powers: And it was awesome, so it was horrible, but I used everything. Craig helped me rewrite my opening and I got a freelance off of it.
Craig: Yay! Oh great.
John: Tell us what you’re Three Page Challenge was because we’ll remember it by topic what it was.
Craig: You can tilt the mic down. There you go.
Kate Powers: For a shorter person?
Craig: Yeah. There you go.
Kate Powers: It was a junior producer on a daytime talk show and a bathroom that has a bloody footprint in it.
John: Oh, I remember that!
Craig: I remember that one. Yes. Yes.
John: That was early on in our Three Page Challenges.
Craig: That was very early on.
Kate Powers: Thank you very much. So, here’s my question and I’m very much hoping there will be some role play or improv on your part in the answer.
Kate Powers: So I’m a writer’s assistant and I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been in some really good ruins. And they’ve ruined me. I’m filthy. I’m honest. I say out loud what I’m thinking.
Craig: Oh, you mean they’ve made you awesome?
Kate Powers: Yeah, that!
And now I’m meeting with people because of the freelance thing and I’m discovering this phenomenon where I’ve worked on shows where like say a guy got gutted with a box knife. And I’ve worked on shows where somebody sweeps everything off the desk angrily but also because secretly he’s in love. And I think these are both equally valid dramatic moments and we talk, agents, managers about what I love, what I respond to.
The box cutter shows are dramatic. The sweeping off of the desk shows are soap operas. And I’m thinking there’s a gender thing going on that when there aren’t as many men on screen an industry shorthand is that’s soapy.
So, and it keeps happening is the other reason I bring it up. So, a great thing for me to know would be a cool, sophisticated, smart way to acknowledge that I’ve just had all the things I like written off as soapy because there are women in them and then keep the conversation going because I would probably just say some really smart ass thing that would burn it to the ground.
John: Great. So, your question is as you go into rooms for meetings on shows, to acknowledge that you’re doing both things. I thought you honestly did a nice job setting up that like you’ve done the box cutter show. That’s a good image for what that is. And for the soapy things with women.
But you want to be considered for the job that’s in front of you and you’re a great candidate for the job in front of you because of these things about the show that you’re actually meeting on. And that’s I think the thing to emphasize more than anything else is that, “I can do anything, but I want to do more than anything else is this show right in front of me. Is this show, this job, that you have right here. And let me talk to you about the things I saw in the pilot I read, or the things I think are exciting possibilities…” because they’re hiring you for one job not for everything else you’ve written in your life.
Craig: Yeah. I often imagine Hollywood as this multi-armed Shiva the Destroyer who is slapping you in the face with various hands, some of them are the racism hand, and the sexism hand, and the ageism hand, and the “I don’t like your face,” and all the other. And you’re constantly getting slapped.
And you can get so angry about which hand just slapped you that you then — but at some point you realize, “Oh, I’m just going to get slapped anyway. It doesn’t really matter why the hand is slapping me. None of that matters. I’m just in for a good slapping today.”
So, [laughs], with that in mind, I wouldn’t get hung up on why they’re doing it to you because that can send you down a rabbit hole of anger. I would however take John’s advice to say positive and talk about what you’re passion is for the show in front of you. And it’s okay to acknowledge that what they’ve read of you isn’t the show in front of you. Sometimes that’s all they need to hear is that you can see that. Because they get a lot of people who are like, “See, I’ve done it already,” and they’re like, “No, you haven’t. That’s not my show at all.” And everybody thinks their show is special, even when it’s just another show about people picking up blood stains off the floor. Okay?
Craig: So, show your passion for their show and be positive and just don’t worry about all the slapping.
John: Yeah. The last thing I’ll say is that you seem cool. And that’s a quality that’s very important. It’s that EQ thing that Aline brought up. You’d be a cool person to have in a room. And so people are going to see you and go, “Oh, she’d be fun to have in the room. She’s be a great person to have in.” So, hopefully your writing is really good. And you seem like a cool person who is going to be good in an interview and you’ll be a good person to have in a room.
These are all good things in TV. I think you’re going to have good success.
Kate Powers: That’s awesome. Thank you.
John: Thank you.
Craig: You’re welcome.
Female Action Writer: Hi. My question is why are there not enough female writers who write action movies?
John: That’s a great question.
Female Action Writer: Because, you know, for like The Hurt Locker we had Kathryn Bigelow be the director.
Craig: Right. But she didn’t write it.
Female Action Writer: Yeah, she didn’t write.
Craig: No. I don’t know.
John: I don’t know. We have two women writers right now and we have Lindsay Doran. So, do any you have suggestions on why there are not more women writers being hired?
Craig: Oh, I get to kneel!
Linday: [laughs] Are you going to propose now?
I used to work for a woman who had been an agent. I was telling I think Aline this story before she was a production executive. And I was asking her why there weren’t more women in general who were writers. And she said, “Well, I can tell you one thing which is that when I told men that their writing wasn’t good enough they would go out and prove me wrong. They would say, ‘Oh, I’ll show you.’ And when I told women their writing wasn’t good enough they’d believe me.”
[laughs] So, I think there, you know, I think that was awhile ago, but I’m not sure how much it’s changed. I think, you know, if you look at the movies that women are making in the independent world they tend to be character based. They tend to be relationship based. They tend to be about people in homes talking to each other. And I love those movies.
When I was working at studios and looking for writers on action movies and making it very clear that I would love to have women being — not just women who had written action movies, but just women who had written exciting scenes. You know, that’s all they are is just exciting scenes. It was very, very difficult to find people who were literally interested in that.
Now, I know that sounds like everybody is sexist and of course there is some sexism. Of course I’ve heard people say, “Well I don’t want women in my room.” But in general people just want good writing. They’re so desperate for good writing. So, I just — I keep wondering, and I feel it’s a very unpopular point of view, whether it just has to do with interest.
You know, are they just as interested in explosion?
Aline: I want to ask a question. Are you an action writer?
Female Action Writer: I love action, so I write different genres. But —
Aline: But is that something you’re interested in writing?
Female Action Writer: Yes. I’ve always had this sort of connection to… — Beau Geste was my first action movie. So, movie. So, movies like Hurt Locker, movies like Lone Survivor that I want to see. They appeal to me.
Aline: Can I give you some advice?
Female Action Writer: Yes. Thanks.
Aline: Just do it. Who cares? Who cares? And I’ll tell you something right now. It would work for you because right now if I saw your name on a script and I was like, “Oh, who is that, that’s a female woman who wrote this kickass action script, that’s great. Oh, you have to see her. She’s adorable. She’s got this cute gray coat. She’s going to kick your ass.”
And it’s going to be like, oh, it’s not going to be like the 20 other dudes who look the same who are in cargo pants. It’s going to be like we have this girl. Her action kicks ass. People would freak out. They would be so excited. And if you’re putting up that barrier in your own mind, forget it. Put it down.
Female Action Writer: Thank you.
John: Thank you.
Kelly: Jane Goldman writes action.
Craig: Jane Goldman.
John: So, we’re listing women writers. So Jane Goldman. Mary Wibberley.
Linday: There’s a ton.
John: Yeah, Andrea Berloff writes all the —
Craig: Kelly Marcel wrote on Bronson which is pretty violent and manly.
Craig: It’s just another one of those hands slapping you around. Just ignore it.
John: Our final question of the evening. Hello.
Real Voices: My question is for Kelly. I saw Saving Mr. Banks on Tuesday. I’ve been also reading Valerie Lawson’s book. And I want to know, also they play the tapes over the credits, how you adapt that. They didn’t sound exactly like word for word like what you wrote. So, how do you balance adapting what she actually said to what you think she would have said and everything like that, like Tom Hanks’ Walt Disney, how you think he would have said all those things?
Kelly: You know, it’s a really tricky one because ultimately at the end of the day you do have to make a decision about who the characters are to you. So, the tapes, there’s 39 hours of those tapes and you hear them over the credits, so if Emma had decided to play her like that and we had written it verbatim you’d be digging your eardrum out with a fork after two hours of watching that film.
And so I think you just take what’s interesting, the most interesting thing about it, and make it as sayable as you possibly can in the most interesting way. You know, she would go on for hours and hours and I need that to become five lines in a scene. So, I’ll just choose the most interesting ones and then have her say them the way I want her to say them.
And with Walt, you know, there’s a lot of research that you can do with him and he’s a very well known character so he needed to be quite specific. But what there is out there is a lot of Walt being Walt. There’s not a lot of stuff that you can find where he’s really himself. So, we had a lot of leeway there.
We’re not making a documentary. We’re making entertainment, so I think you can take a lot of artistic license.
Real Voices: Perfect. Thank you. Awesome.
Craig: Thank you.
Craig: Great questions. Great answers.
John: And that’s our show. So, thank you guys all so much.
Craig: Thank you guys.
John: This will be out next Tuesday. And you’re awesome. Have a great 2014.
Craig: Thank you guys.
Craig: Oh, god!
John: Bonus eggnog for us. Thank you!
Craig: You spent charity money on this? It’s light eggnog. I mean, ugh.
John: Thank you guys all so much.
Craig: Thank you guys.
- The Scriptnotes Holiday Spectacular
- Aline Brosh McKenna on episodes 60, 76, 100, 101 and 119
- Franklin Leonard on episode 60
- Kelly Marcel on episode 115
- Lindsay Doran on episode 68
- Rawson Marshall Thurber on episodes 100 and 101
- Richard Kelly on episode 118
- The 2013 Black List and blcklst.com
- Saving Mr. Banks is in theaters now
- Thank you to the Writers Guild Foundation and the LA Film School for hosting
- Support the Writers Guild Foundation and get something awesome from their Holiday Sale of Extraordinary Experiences
- Intro/Outro by Scriptnotes listener Matthew Chilelli