The original post for this episode can be found here.

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

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is Scriptnotes, episode 85, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

How are you, Craig?

Craig: I’m good. I like that “things that interesting to screenwriters.” A little syncopation.

John: I’m trying to break it up just a little bit. Trying to get that T in the interesting.

Craig: Oh, well, don’t betray who you are.

John: Yeah. I don’t want to throw Aline Brosh McKenna for a loop. But, every once in a while I’ll mix it up a little bit.

So, Craig, let’s start with the bummer news is that we had another screenwriting colleague pass away over this past week. Mike France, a screenwriter who did Hulk and did other good movies.

Craig: Yeah. He had a story credit on GoldenEye, which was the Bond movie that kind of turned the franchise around.

John: So, Michael France, a screenwriter I never actually met in person I don’t think. If I did it was at some sort of Austin thing where I got introduced to a whole bunch of people. But who I first sort of came in contact with because he ended up buying and running a movie theater in Tampa, Florida I want to say.

Craig: I believe that’s right.

John: Somewhere in Florida. And he wanted to do a screening of The Nines. And so we got him a print of The Nines so he could show The Nines at his little theater in Florida. And he was lovely about it all. And so we were very sad to get word this week that he had passed away.

Craig: Yeah, I’ve never met Mike France in person and yet — and this is the way of the internet now — I’ve known him for nine years. For nine years, going all the way back to Writer Action which was once a very cool place, and I think now is just a ghost town. But, it was sort of the original place where screenwriters started meeting on the internet.

And he’s a really good guy. And he was one of those guys who somewhere along the line said, “I don’t want to write anymore. Either things aren’t going well for me in the business or I’ve become disinterested in the business, so I’m going to try and do something else.” And there are a world of writers who write professionally at a successful level for many years and then somewhere in their 40s say, “Okay, I don’t want to do this anymore. And it’s time for act two,” which they say nobody gets in America, but people do.

And he was living in Florida. He bought this movie theater that was one of the old movie houses, I guess, and tried to program it the way he wanted a movie theater to be programmed. So, it wasn’t a multiplex. It was a single screen, I believe. And he showed what he wanted to show. And I think somewhat predictably he struggled. It’s hard, you know.

And as the years went on it got harder because the way the business is moving, you know, everything is digital distribution now and that would require a big upgrade to the facility and all the rest of it. But, he stuck with it.

I think Mike France broke into the business with his spec script for Cliffhanger.

John: That could very well be right.

Craig: And so he has his name on a lot of big movies. And he died very young. He was, I think, 51 or something like that. He had diabetes. And it’s interesting — he was not a big man. He was a pretty thin guy, actually.

So, I don’t know if this was adult-onset diabetes. It wasn’t obesity related, so I’m not sure. But he was struggling with his health for a while. So, this is sort of the bad news comes in threes.

John: We lost Mike France, Don Rhymer, and Don Payne.

Craig: And Don Payne, yeah.

John: All quite recently. And so looking at this I wondered to what degree is that really just a cluster because we are now entering a certain age where some people are going to pass away. And that’s the sad aspect of mortality.

Craig: Yes. A depressing thought.

John: A depressing thought. But that does happen. So, we’re sad to hear of Mike France’s passing and of other gentlemen. And what a depressing way to start a podcast.

Craig: Well, I know. And I hope that this isn’t one of those seasons. You know, life is seasons. I remember Bar Mitzvah season. And I remember Sweet 16 season, and marriage season. And then there was, thankfully, a brief divorce season where it seemed like all of my friends who were going to get divorces got them. And now, you know, as a lot of my friends enter their 50s, I just hope that this isn’t — and this is the season where people who die young die.

I hope that’s not the case. I mean, there’s just been three. Maybe it will just stay at three.

John: Let’s go for the next season, so like people having babies season. That’s always a good thing.

Craig: Well, yeah, we’ve pretty much been through the baby season, I think. I think the next season is going to be grandchild season. Is that possible?

John: Oh my.

Craig: I know. No, that’s a ways off.

John: That’s a ways off. My kid is seven, so hopefully no grandchildren any time soon.

Craig: Maybe impotence season is just around the corner. [laughs]

John: How about unexpected successes season? Or like, maturing second act season?

Craig: Second act season sounds good. And speaking of second act seasons, Mr. Derek Haas, who was our guest on a recent podcast, and who is in Chicago working on his fine show Chicago Fire, told me that he and his wife Christy saw your show in previews and thought it was terrific.

John: Well, thank you. That’s great to hear. Derek was very generous to come on our very first night of performances where we weren’t even sure we were going to be able to keep the curtain up. And we did. And so now we’re two weeks in. We actually have our official opening on Friday, which is exciting and terrifying.

And so one of the things I’ve been trying to describe to people, it’s like you’re at the Avid and you can make some changes, but every night you have to put it up on stage. And so if there’s a change you want to make, you have to figure out, like, “Okay, if we make this part of this change will the whole thing still make sense for like the people who bought their ticket for 7:30 at night?” And so that’s been the really exciting but challenging thing is that if you want to change a song, well, you have to teach the new song, and you have to re-orchestrate it, and you have to get the choreography in. And you have to redo the lighting cues.

And we have about five hours every afternoon before we have to put on the show. So, that has been the thrill of this last week. But, we’re nearing — there’s light at the end of some tunnel ahead of us, which is Friday, which is our grand opening.

Craig: Well, I was talking about it with Aline. And we were saying, “Should we go? Are we bad friends? I mean, should we go and see the show now in Chicago?” And I thought, well, maybe we are bad friends, but, I kind of want to see it on Broadway, you know?

John: Yeah. And you’ll see it on Broadway soon enough. September 5 is the first performance. October 6 is our opening on Broadway. So, the only reason I encourage people to see it in Chicago, like friends to see it in Chicago, is there’s always that chance the meteor is going to hit, and therefore the world won’t exist on September 5, so I want people to come see it here.

Craig: Right.

John: But, you’re not terrible friends for not coming to Chicago.

Craig: No. We’re just garden variety bad friends.

John: Yes.

Craig: Very good. I can live with that.

John: Yeah. Inconsiderate. Yeah.

Craig: That’s actually an upgrade for me. [laughs]

John: [laughs] And speaking of friendship, we had an interview in Fast Company. It’s our first national press we’ve done about the podcast this last week. And it was an interesting article. It was a very long interview, if I recall. It was like an hour-long of an interview for an article that was ten paragraphs.

Craig: Yeah.

John: But one of the things we brought up in that, which I don’t know that people are necessarily aware of, is that you and I weren’t like best buds when we started doing this podcast. We were acquaintances, but we weren’t like hanging out with each other kind of friends.

Craig: Yeah. That’s absolutely right. It’s not that we were enemies, [laughs], just, you know, we were acquaintances. I always liked talking to you. And we had spoken a few times. And we had spent a week together on a little business thing.

But, yeah, I’ve gotten to know you through the podcast.

John: Yeah. People might anticipate that we have these long conversations about what’s going to happen on the podcast. No. It’s literally like Craig hops on Skype about five minutes late, we talk through for about 30 seconds what’s going to happen, and then we start the show.

Craig: That’s exactly right.

John: So, you’re experiencing it the way we’re experiencing it.

Craig: And, by the way, that’s how I experience life.

John: Indeed. About five minutes late for everything.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Craig, today I thought on the podcast we would talk about sort of the writing environment. Not the industry, but sort of literally what it’s like as you sit down to write. And what places you write. How you write. The times you write. Who is around you when you write, which is I think there is this ideal that we should go into a cabin in the woods and just be along with our thoughts. But so rarely is that actually how we’re doing our writing.

Craig: Right.

John: And then we would take a look at three Three Page Challenges from other brave listeners who have sent in their scripts for us to take a look at and learn from what they’ve done. And, hopefully, help them be even better. Sound good?

Craig: I think it’s a terrific plan and I question none of it.

John: Great. So, let’s talk about the writing environment, because Craig right now you do most of your writing, I’m guessing, at your office which is secluded except for when all the sirens go buy and then Stuart has to cut out the background noise.

Craig: Correct. Yes. It’s just me and the emergency personnel. I do have — it’s funny, I actually have somebody that works for me now who isn’t an assistant. She’s sort of my — how do I put it? She’s my creative sounding board person.

So, she and I sit together in my office while I’m figuring the story out. Because I’ve come to find that even if I’m the one who’s figuring it out, having someone there and being able to talk about it is better. My mind works better and faster. And I tend to get rid of stuff that is precious faster and get to the heart of what matters faster.

So, that part of it I’ve been doing with somebody. But when I actually sit and write, then I’m alone.

John: Yeah. I have gone through many scenarios of sort of how I best write. Classically when I start a new script I’ll have done some outlining and sometimes I’ll share that outlining or sort of the big white board or the cards. And sometimes I will share that with people.

I tend to go off and sort of barricade myself at a hotel someplace out of town and just handwrite as many scenes as I possibly can over a period of three or four days. And just kill myself on it so I can sort of break the back of it. If I can get like 45, 50 pages written that way, then I know I can actually finish it, that I’ve gotten sort of ahead of steam.

What’s been interesting working on — in TV shows certainly — but also doing Big Fish is that I don’t have that luxury of going away to do something. Literally I have to do it right there in front of things. So, sometimes I’ve had to like come up with a new joke like while people are waiting for the joke to be inserted there.

More often, like we’ll be in the rehearsal room in New York and they’ll be doing one scene in front of me and I’m on my laptop doing a completely different scene in a different part of the show on my screen. And that ability to sort of switch back and forth is almost like code shifting, where I have to think, like, “Right here I’m in this place in Ashton while over there they are at the cave with the giant.” And I have to be able to sort of do both things at once.

Craig: I kind of love that, don’t you?

John: It’s very exciting. It’s very tough on your brain, because you’re literally have to… — It’s like one of those magic eye puzzles, also, where you have to see both things at the same time.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: Then, sort of this process right now of, you know, we’re making the tweaks on Big Fish. Andrew Lippa and I share a little tiny dressing room that’s honestly like a little prison cell on the second floor of the theater.

And he has the keyboard set up on what would be like the makeup table part of the dressing. He has a full 88-key keyboard set up there. So, he has that. He has his laptop on a music stand. I have my laptop on my lap. And there’s only two chairs in the place. And like we’re literally three feet away from each other having to write all this stuff, which is scary but also really terrific.

It feels like you’re at the cockpit and you’re in control of things.

Craig: Yes. Yes.

John: The most challenging thing, though, is when you try to work on a song, if the show is actually playing then you have these speakers and we cannot turn it down low enough. Like, you’re trying to write one song while Kate Baldwin is singing Time Stops over there. And it just doesn’t…

Craig: [laughs] You got to pull the wires out of that speaker.

John: Actually our speaker in our little room can turn down all the way, but in the hallway you have to keep it playing.

Craig: Oh, I see.

John: And so there’s no way to sort of shut that completely out.

Craig: Yeah. That’s very hard.

My normal writing mode is to just, the room you just described sounds great for me. I’ve never been one of those guys who shows up and people will say, “Well, we can get you this office or put you here.” I’m like, “Why don’t you put me in the closest thing to a closet you have? I don’t want windows. I need a chair, a desk, an outlet, and a light.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: And that’s it. Because ultimately when you’re writing everything around you goes away anyway. But the most fun, I guess, for me is when it is like the hullabaloo of live theater. Actually why I would love to work in theater. Because, for instance, on the last Hangover movie there was one day in particular I remember where Todd and I were, we had a scene written and we sat with the guys and we rehearsed it. And there was something about it that was wobbly here or there. And we were trying to find some interesting things.

So, we just kept rehearsing and rehearsing with the guys and I was sitting there with my laptop sort of writing in changes as it was going in sort of notesy form. And then we kind of found what we wanted. And then the two of us went and sat down in those little, you know, like the makeup and hair people bring those little lawn chair type things, you know?

John: Definitely.

Craig: To hang out in. So, we just stole two of those and we sat there. And while this entire sound stage of, you know, work was going on, the two of us just huddled around my computer and we did it.

And you felt like you were in the movies. It was one of those nice moments we’re you’re actually like, “Oh, this is the way the movies show how movies are written.” But it was really just that one scene.

But, I love that. I mean, that’s fun.

John: Definitely. It’s that sense of all this stuff is swirling around you and you have to be nice and quiet in your little cocoon that you’re creating, this little invisible shield around yourself where inside that little shield you’re in a completely different space and time.

Last week on the podcast we were talking about how one of the functions and skills of any kind of creative writing is the ability to imagine an alternate scenario, an alternate way that things could be. And so whether you envision yourself in that, or you envision your characters there, so often as I’m writing I’m not literally at the place I physically am at. I’m somewhere else. I’m like off in the forest with these characters doing their thing.

And the ability to fully visualize what that world is like for those characters and place yourself in there, I mean, you are literally just the camera who is observing these characters doing that thing.

So, one of the challenges I find sometimes is remembering what it’s like inside that world, because sometimes you’ll have to hit pause and you’ll have to, you know, set down that script for a month while you work on something else.

So, right from the very start when I start a new project I try to gather up some things that remind me of what it’s like to be inside that world. And so those can be songs. So, I’ll tend to make a playlist on iTunes of like these are the songs that are like this movie, or what it feels like to be inside this movie. And then if I have to leave and come back to it I can sort of play through that playlist and remember, like, okay, this is what it felt like to be inside of that world.

Another trick, and this seems really sort of esoteric and weird, but some other sense can get you there. Literally, like there’s this one project which I found this candle that smelled exactly like what that world smelled like. And so literally smelling that I could remember, oh, that’s what it feels like to be in that world. That seems really Namby Pamby, but it was actually really, really helpful.

Craig: It’s both Namby Pamby and helpful.

John: Yes. It can be both things at once. What it was, it was very much like a Tahitian Island kind of feel. And like that Tahitian Island kind of candle got me back to feeling what that was like.

Craig: Have you been to the Tahitian Islands?

John: No. I know you have been. So, Craig, tell me about it. Tell me all about your fish stew.

Craig: Mm. No, no, no, Poisson Cru. It’s not stew.

John: I’m sorry.

Craig: [laughs] It’s not stew.

John: I’m sorry. It’s like slicked fish with stuff dumped over it.

Craig: How dare you! How dare you! Their culture gave you a candle that helped you write.

John: Yes. [laughs]

Craig: And this is the thanks you give in return? You know what? This week’s One Cool Thing is Poisson Cru.

John: Yeah. So, on the topic of environments, a lot of writers find that they need to go — they need to around white noise. They need to be in some sort of Starbucks kind of environment. And so, yes, it’s a cliché of like every laptop in a Starbucks, you could look, it’s all formatted in screenplay format.

Craig: Yeah.

John: But it’s understandable why people want to do that. It’s that sense of they need to be outside of their own head because it gets too loud to just be in their own head. And as I start first drafts, while I will be in my hotel room writing a lot, I’ll also just like go out and be in a food court of a mall and write stuff there.

Craig: Yes.

John: Because it is very helpful to like be around other people but sort of not have to interact with them.

Craig: Well, it also adds an immediate accountability because you simply can’t… — I mean, let’s face it. If you’re at home alone or in your office alone writing and you aren’t disciplined about it, frankly you’re always two minutes away from masturbating. That’s just reality.

John: [laughs]

Craig: Now, I’m very disciplined.

John: Yes.

Craig: I’m a very disciplined writer.

John: Yeah. He’s a monk.

Craig: I am very monk-like when I write. My office is pure. But if you’re writing at Starbucks or a coffee shop, well, that can’t happen.

John: Very true.

Craig: Neither can you sit and, because you’re going to feel like such a goof if you’re just sitting there watching dumb YouTube videos or something. So you have to… — There’s a great Mitchell and Webb. You know what? This week’s One Cool Thing is going to be Mitchell and Webb. I love — are you familiar with those guys?

John: I recognize the names but I don’t know what their videos are.

Craig: I’ll save it for the end, but they had a great sketch where this, this British sketch comedy show, and this woman introduces her husband at this party to this other guy. And she said, “Oh, you might want to talk to him because my husband just started working at home while I’m at the office. And I know that you work at home. And maybe you can give him tips.”

And he’s like, “Sure.” And the wife walks away and goes, “So, so you’ve just been wanking a lot, haven’t you?” [laughs] It’s just about dealing with that.

John: [laughs] Yes.

Craig: Dealing with that problem.

John: Yes. And honestly that’s one of the reasons, good arguments, I’m not talking about masturbation specifically, but having an assistant, having Stuart who comes to the office from 10 to 6 every day is good in the sense of like it makes it feel more like work. And I think that’s part of the reason why people tend to go out to Starbucks or wherever else to do some of the writing is because if they’re just at home they feel like they’re at home and they’re just in home mode.

And so sometimes being out in a different environment makes them feel like I’m not in home mode. I’m actually in some sort of work environment, some sort of work place.

Craig: Right. And if all these other people around you have their Final Draft or Movie Magic open, you should, too.

We are romantics. Writers are romantics. Screenwriting itself, the reality is it’s incredibly unromantic. But, it helps us write if we feel romantic at times. And writing in a coffee shop feels vaguely romantic.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: Particularly if you contextualize it as, “I’m writing the next great movie in a coffee shop.” And so you keep writing. Anything to keep you going, folks. I’m okay with those delusions. It’s all good.

John: Use your delusions. Let’s do that. And so let’s talk about some scenes that people have sent in which could have been written in coffee shops, they could have been written in other environments, and see if we can help these people make their scripts even better.

Craig: Fantastic.

John: So, the three Three Page Challenge samples that we’re going to do today, they were sent in to Every couple of weeks we take a look at some of these samples that people send in. If you would like to read along with us, those PDFs are available at And you can download them and read them with us and see if you agree with what we say, or if you have other suggestions.

The first one I want to take a look at is called Blood Money. It’s by Charlie Lyons.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And let’s get started.

Craig: All right.

John: So, this is actually a TV pilot. I’ll give the recap on this one if that’s okay.

Craig: Sure.

John: It’s a TV pilot. And so we’re starting in the teaser of the TV pilot. So, we’re in an ambulance. The siren is blasting. Lights are flashing. Inside the ambulance we see the driver and the passenger seat guy. I don’t know what you call these two positions. But, Tanya Suarez is the driver. She’s been doing this for 15 years. She’s really intimidating.

Jimmy Kiley is the young guy next to her. She’s asking questions about, “So what do you in this situation.” Like the family is there. She’s basically talking through how do you handle certain situations, stuff that comes up.

She’s driving kind of like a maniac. And as she sort of gets through an intersection there’s like a long approach as we’re getting to this thing and this car going to get out of the way. She ends up making it through the intersection but sort of causes an accident because of it.

The reach the city park, the baseball diamond, where they are there to get somebody. It turns out it’s a gunshot victim. The guy who’s there with the gunshot victim asks, like, “Is he going to make it?” And Jimmy who’s our young guy, who’s just learned the thing you’re supposed to say is, “We’re doing everything we can. We’re doing everything we can.”

The guy who’s talking to him then suddenly shoots that guy a couple more times, the guy on the ground, to make sure that he’s actually going to die. And that is the end of our three pages.

Craig: Right. Well, and don’t forget, “Pre-lap: — the BREATHING of sex.”

John: I’m sorry. An important pre-lap on the bottom of page three. The breathing sounds of sex.

Craig: The breathing of sex. So, well let’s, I want to talk just about the first two paragraphs. And then I’ll go larger with it. But, the thing about screenwriting is you can get away with clunky prose, because no one is going to hear the clunky prose or see the clunky prose. And the idea is, okay, if everybody gets what you’re going for here, okay.

But when you’re writing stuff that is speculative and you want people to be interested, it rattles confidence. So, I just want to talk about some clunky stuff going on here.

“Siren BLASTING, Lights,” capitalized L, “FLASHING, the ambulance…” So, we’re already backwards. “Siren BLASTING, Lights FLASHING, the ambulance…” you know, I’d rather just start with “An ambulance. Siren BLASTING, Lights FLASHING, it flies.” I don’t like this backwards structure.

Try and avoid Yoda writing as much as you can.

“The ambulance flies past run-down triple-decker houses in Boston.” All right, here’s how I read that. The ambulance flies, past, run. What? [laughs] Oh, down. “Triple-decker houses in Boston. It’s a truck.” What?

John: Wait, what’s a truck? The triple-decker houses are a truck?

Craig: Or the ambulance is a truck? No it’s not, it’s an ambulance. I know what an ambulance is. You don’t have to tell me what an ambulance is! “A red and white behemoth.” I know what color it is! It’s okay. “Its front wrapped with a black two-foot high bumper.” What?! [laughs] You mean it has a bumper?

John: Yeah. What’s confusing about it is are you trying to make clear that this is a different kind of ambulance than a normal ambulance we’re supposed to be seeing? Because if that’s the case, if it really is like a special kind of, like an air wolf of ambulances, then really start with that and don’t give us the town and everything else.

Craig: Right. Exactly. You’ve really got to think about — understand every word is spoon fed to the reader as you want it to be. There’s nothing haphazard about this. So, if the most important thing is a beast of an ambulance, start with that. “A beast of ambulance. This thing is huge. Way bigger than any you’ve ever seen. Massive bumper. Boom. Boom. Sire BLASTING, lights FLASHING, it zooms through triple-decker houses. Boston,” whatever that is, okay. Not backwards. Not out of order.

Then we meet “TANYA SUAREZ (mid 30s) rests her hand with cigarette out the…”

“…rests her hand with cigarette out the open driver’s window.” There’s something about the way these sentences are coming together that is so confusing.

“TANYA SUAREZ (mid 30s), smokes.” That’s all we need there. We don’t need the hand with the cigarette out the open driver’s window. Okay.

Then, the next thing, “The SIREN,” capitalized now, but not before, “floods in.” So, just is coming in, or why is the siren flooding in? We understand that if you’re in an ambulance and there’s a sire on and you’re driving the ambulance that the siren is going on at the same time. We don’t need the siren to be flooding in. This is fake stuff.

“Strong and tall, hot and intimidating, she’s at home in the driver’s seat, been there for fifteen years.”

John: Yeah. Let’s talk clauses here.

Craig: Yeah. Thank you.

John: We’ve got some Santa Clause problems here. “Strong and tall, hot and intimidating.” Okay. I’m not crazy about these descriptors…

Craig: No.

John: But this sort of structure could work fine. So “something and something, something and something, and then a full rest of your sentence, period.” You can do that, but then to put the comma, “been there for fifteen years,” I don’t know what that is. You just have four chunks of sentence that don’t get me anyplace.

So, if you wanted to start with that, something and something, something and something, da-da-da, period. That’s the rhythm of a sentence.

Craig: I’m so glad you said the rhythm, because that’s exactly what’s wrong here. I mean, you can get — you can use poetic license as you write prose for a screenplay, but you have to have a sense of rhythm. It’s not that people read things out loud. It’s that even our eyes connected to our brains will start to get lulled to sleep if we get la-da-da, la-da-da, la-da-da, la-da-da. We will start to get sleepy.

And, frankly, you know, and this is my pet peeve, unless it says, unless she’s got a patch on her arm that says, “My 15th year,” this is cheating. “Been there for fifteen years.”

“In the passenger seat, JIMMY KILEY (early 20s),” once again, we’re Yoda-ing, “short, nervous, and buff. He wears his uniform tight to show off his muscles.” Or perhaps what is that we see, he has a tight uniform.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I mean, we said buff. Got it. Buff. I assume that it’s not buff behind his baggy, you know, you would have said, “Buff behind his baggy uniform.” Okay, so, sorry about all that. I really felt like that was important to kind of go through how you had already sort of started off rough.

She’s doing this sort of thing we’ve seen before where the Training Day style, the tough one in charge is pop-quiz-hotshotting her rookie partner. And he says, “Load and go.” I’m not sure why he says that. That was a weird conclusion for that run.

But here’s the really weird part. There’s a blue car at a stop sign waiting for traffic. She’s trying to get through with her ambulance. The guy can’t move because there’s traffic. So, she pushes him into traffic and that blue car that she pushes into traffic gets hit by another car. In fact, another car crashes into the blue car. She casually pulls around the accident and keeps on going.

Now, at this point she needs to be arrested because she’s caused an accident. And, she’s an ambulance driver who doesn’t care that she just caused an accident. She’s not stopping to see if somebody got hurt in there. And if the point here was “look how bad ass this ambulance driver is,” you’ve miscalibrated and pushed her into “look how awful this ambulance driver is — this show is insane.”

John: Yeah, so nudging the car, okay, that’s aggressive but you get that. Pushing it, causing an accident that could potentially kill somebody else does push us into sort of crazy territory. And it’s not just a problem of like, oh, it makes Tanya look bad. It makes Jimmy look bad.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Like, why is Jimmy not commenting on this?

Craig: Right! Like Jimmy just looks back at the wreckage.

John: So, let’s pause for a second and have a general conversation. Sometimes you will have a sympathetic character in your story. Let’s say Jimmy is the sympathetic character in this story or this scenario that we’ve set up so far. And you say like, “Oh, that character’s not doing the bad thing.” But if that character is not responding to the bad thing, or if that character is not behaving in a way that seems reasonable, then we stop having faith in that character or the situation.

A classic example is in early seasons of The Office, and Jim and Pam were starting their flirtation, Roy was Pam’s boyfriend. And for a couple episodes he was such a monster that you started to sort of question Pam and sort of Pam’s intelligence for being around this guy.

Craig: Right.

John: And so be mindful of that. It’s not always going to be killing people in car accidents. But if you have a character who is associated with a person who is — another character who is just awful, eventually we stop having sympathy for our sympathetic character because that character is not responding in a way that seems reasonable.

Craig: Yeah. Absolutely true. And now we find out what his call is. They’ve arrived at a baseball field. Would have been great if we had known a little bit of that, but that’s okay, we didn’t. I mean, just so that it doesn’t seem random, like suddenly they’re parked.

It looks like a community baseball field. Not sure quite why they can’t just drive the ambulance onto the field, but let’s presume that there’s a big fence around it or something.

Jimmy finds the patient, a male. He’s been shot. And up comes this cousin, Stephen. And I like this idea. This was a cool story point. So, here’s a guy saying, “Hey, is he gonna make it?” And Jimmy, our hero, is parroting back the words that he just learned he was supposed to say, “Doing everything we can.”

And Stephen surprises us by shooting the patient three more times. Obviously he was the one who shot him in the first place. And that leads us to sex. So, that was a fun, surprising thing. It was a great turn. And I liked that. So, that was — at least of what you’ve got going here, Charlie, you have a sense of surprise. I think your sense of surprise got you into a little trouble with that car crash.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: But my general advice is to watch the Yoda writing and the rhythm and the kind of clumsy ordering of information that you’re doling out in your exposition.

John: Agreed. I think that final reveal is potentially really good. I don’t think it really worked on the page. Like, already my logic meters were sort of redlining a bit there, because why wouldn’t he have shot him more there at the time?

Craig: Right.

John: But, stepping back, I think it’s an interesting idea and it’s a good thing for the pilot of a gritty ambulance show. Fine. That’s the right kind of thing to see. And I think the overall idea of it’s like Training Day but it’s emergency workers, that’s a valid idea for a pilot.

Craig: Sure.

John: So, all of these things I want to say in favor of where we’re at right now for this.

Blood Money as a title is interesting, although it puts me in very much a crime mode idea, and maybe that’s really ultimately where the show is going.

Craig: Yup. It’s possible. Quite possible.

John: So, anyway, Charlie, thank you very much for sending in your script. I hope that’s somewhat helpful.

Craig: Thank you, Charlie.

John: Our next entry is Natural Assassin by Lisa Scott.

Craig: All right. I’ll summarize this one.

So, it begins with a super, a nice quote from my favorite philosopher, Frederich Nietzsche, “One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.”

We fade in. It is Washington, DC, September 2063. We’re in the National Mall, the Washington Monument, and there is some kind of terrible thing going on. A huge crowd on the Mall there between the Lincoln Monument and the Capitol Dome. A huge crowd is panicking, screaming, trampling through the shallow reflecting pond. Police sirens whirl. Helicopters hover.

Then we’re inside a sewer all below this and a man named Damien Harper Bay is racing through the dark sewer, head gear bobbling off his head. We hear the sounds of the madness above him. That slowly fades away as he jogs away from the scene.

Finally gets to a manhole. Goes through, or drops a gun, I believe, yes, a weapon. Then crawls out of a manhole, up under a car. Rolls out. He’s in a parking garage. Turns out it’s the parking garage of The Kennedy Center. He brushes off his filthy self, sneaks down a hallway and gets to a dressing room with his name on it, Damien Harper Bay.

Goes inside, cleans up, gets dressed. Is called out to the stage and he gets onstage and starts playing the piano. And I’m a little confused what was going on on the stage, we’ll get to that.

John: There’s a thousand pianos.

Craig: Yeah. There’s a thousand pianos. I’m not exactly sure what’s happening. Perhaps that’s okay in 2063. And he begins playing a rendition of Nietzsche’s Einleitung, which then goes into the Ungarischer Marsch.

John: Yes.

Craig: So, that’s Natural Assassins. So, tell me, John August, esteemed screenwriter, what did you think?

John: All right. I’m going to step back and say I think the idea behind this is that there is a famous pianist who is actually an assassin. That’s my guess in terms of where this is going.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And that is not a bad idea. That is a reasonable idea in the sense of like a pianist can travel all over the world and no one would suspect that he’s actually a killer. So, that is reasonable as sort of a general crime assassin story.

That said, most of what I saw here was crazy town. And I had so many more questions. I have so many circles on the page here that I want to sort of talk through and figure out what’s important, what’s not important, what’s the intention here.

So, we start with a Nietzsche quote. Great. The Nietzsche quote is, “One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.” All right. I don’t know how that is reflected in the stuff I’m just about to see, but okay, that’s a fine quote.

Craig, I will be honest. I skipped over September 2063 when I read this the first time, and I have no idea why we’re in the future. There’s nothing in here that says future at all to me.

Craig: Well, it does say helicopters hovering. They can’t do that!

John: Ha!

Craig: Oh wait.

John: Yes. There’s nothing in here that seems 50 years in the future.

Craig: Lincoln Monument! There’s no Lincoln…oh yeah, there is.

John: Yeah, there is. If it was the Hillary Clinton Monument, then that would be something.

Craig: Ah! There the Clinton Monument. That would be a great monument. I would love that actually because you know who that would drive crazy? Bill Clinton. [laughs]

John: [laughs]

Craig: Every day for the rest of his life he would just be like, “How did this happen?” Yeah, I agree.

John: But let’s focus on the words on the page and the action that we’re seeing. So, as we reach EXT. NATIONAL MALL, here’s the sentence: “From the top of the towering Washington Monument the view of the Capitol Dome gleams in the sunlight.”

Okay. But, the view does not actually gleam. The Capitol Dome gleams, so why is “the view of” in the sentence.

Craig: We are back to Yoda-Ville again.

John: It’s Yoda-Ville.

Craig: Yeah.

John: “In the opposite direction, the Lincoln Monument.” Okay, but now you’re just giving me a tourist guide to what Washington, DC is like. There’s nothing specific about our story here.

Craig: In fact, if you notice, when I was recapping I did better. [laughs] Not to brag, but it’s really: “The Mall between the Washington and the Lincoln Monument, a massive crowd trapped, scrambling like ants.” That’s all you have to say.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: What is this from the top of the…from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli? It’s just not necessary. Go with what’s dramatic. I mean, you have a big crazy riot.

John: Craig, do think police sirens whirl?

Craig: No.

John: No, I don’t. Because here’s the question, it’s like police sirens are the sound of the siren to me. The lights, they can whirl.

Craig: Yes, light can whirl. Police sirens can wail.

John: Wail. Absolutely.

Craig: Yeah, they can wail. They don’t whirl. And in fact, now that you mention it, I’m just looking at this paragraph, why wouldn’t you begin inside of this panicked crowd like a riot of crazy people and then pull back to reveal it’s between the Lincoln Monument and the Washington Monument and the Capitol Dome? Why wouldn’t you do that? Isn’t that more interesting?

John: I think it’s probably more interesting. Yeah, it’s the question of do you start wide and go tight, or do you start tight and go wide? This is the situation where starting tight and going wide feels like it’s going to be a much better reveal.

Craig: Yeah. Because the reveal is interesting. Because if you start wide, what we’re staring at is the massive crowd scrambling and panicking. We don’t care that we see a monument there. Yeah, we’re basically…yeah, well, okay. Keep going.

John: So, let’s go on to our next block here. So, we’re inside the sewer. And I always sort of sigh when I see a sewer because it’s like the air ducts.

Craig: It is.

John: It’s one of those things that’s really convenient for narrative fiction, but it is actually not a thing that people really are in or are using or doing. And so I’d say avoid sewers as much as possible. “Below the commotion — the dark figure of a man. This is Damien Harper BAY.” Oddly, only the BAY got capitalized. If it’s the whole character’s name, let’s put the whole thing in caps.

And it’s fine if you want to call him Bay after that. We’ll get it. We’re smart. We’ll totally follow that.

The next paragraph: “Bay races through the dark sewer.” Okay, but you just used dark one sentence before that. So, let’s find a different word for it. Or, maybe we don’t need to say the sewer is dark because we sort of know that sewers are dark.

Craig: They’re not well lit. We know that.

John: Yeah. The next sentence is perplexing. “Head gear bobbles off the side of his head.” What is that?! what’s head gear? I don’t know what head gear is.

Craig: It’s head gear.

John: And so if you’re going to give us something like that, you’ve got to tell us more about what this is. I mean, is it orthodontia? Is it some sort of…

Craig: [laughs] It’s that thing that Joan Cusack was wearing in 16 Candles.

John: That’s what it is!

Craig: Yeah.

John: So, suddenly we’re in a John Hughes comedy. No, it’s probably some sort of high tech something, but I don’t know what that is. So, you’re not allowed to just give me that head gear bobbles. First off, why is it bobbling? Bobbling is like a silly word. And so I expect something kind of goofy with it. But it’s not goofy, probably, because people are wailing and screaming upstairs. So, I don’t…I don’t know what this is.

Head gear might dangle here. And dangle isn’t quite as silly as bobble. But tell us what the head gear is.

Craig: Yes.

John: “As the sounds of hysteria dissipate he slows down to a long quiet run.” Well, but…it’s not a long quiet run. What is he, just jogging?

Craig: He slows down to a long, quite run. Period. Next paragraph. “He slows down to an easy jog.” I guess we’re meant to watch the continuing slowing down of the run.

This is not well planned out.

John: No. It’s not.

So, this sewer escape sequence is not great.

Craig: I’m sorry. We’ve also got an alliteration issue, I just have to mention, before we move onto that part. “Sloppy sewage squishes under each step.”

John: Mm-hmm. Perfect for a Dr. Seuss book.

Craig: Right. [laughs] Exactly.

John: But it feels silly. And this is not a silly story. And, again, if the tone of this were very different, “sloppy sewage squishes” might actually be an appropriately kind of fun thing to do. If it’s a glamorous character who finds herself in the sewer, then “sloppy sewage squishing” could be great. But it’s not. This is some sort of assassin story. It’s a Natural Assassin.

Craig: Yes.

John: And so it doesn’t — it’s not helping us here.

When we finally get to the Kennedy Center we’re in a parking garage which is, again, one of the most generic kind of locations we can be in, so let’s try not to do that more than we absolutely need to. But then I actually did like that we were in the Kennedy Center. And I do like this idea that there is an assassin who is actually a pianist who is famous for being this, but is also a different character. That can work.

The biggest challenge here is we see him running from something, but we don’t even know what he’s running from. So, why didn’t you give us the event? Why didn’t you give us what he did and see him do his thing, and then show us who he really is? Instead you just have him running, and we don’t know if he’s running from having done something, from having seen something. We don’t have any context for this at all. So, show to us that he is a bad ass assassin. And then have the surprise that he’s actually a pianist who is going to go on and perform this amazing concerto.

Craig: That’s right. And I’m not exactly sure how you get away with a calm, happy audience at the Kennedy Center if there’s a massive swirling chaotic throng on the Washington Mall. Generally speaking, if there is some sort of high level assassination in Washington, everybody goes home. They don’t hand out at the Kennedy Center. There’s nobody, no stage hand is like, “Five minutes.” She’s watching TV, crying, because somebody got killed.

That part — I understand that this is the juxtaposition we want. I’m not sure you can get it this way. There’s a weird moment in here where after he cleans himself up and he’s looking at himself in the mirror, he pulls the sides of his eyes outward to narrow his eyes. First of all, there’s eyes and eyes in that sentence. “Gently tugs his top skin down in an attempt to look Asian.”


John: I have no idea.

Craig: What was that?

John: Yeah.

Craig: Why would he do that?

John: Yeah, it was a little bit offensive and I’m not quite sure why it was there.

Craig: Yeah. He fumbles with his crooked tie. The woman straightens his tie. She smells sewage smell from him. “Ugh!”

He darts up a small flight of stairs to a curtained…he’s still running around. That’s also, it’s like, if the whole idea is that you’re James Bond and you can switch characters like this, you’re not darting anywhere anymore. You’re in total command. And you shouldn’t smell bad anymore, either, unless this is somehow a clue that later we’ll follow.

But, here’s the weirdest thing of all, and I don’t know if this is because it’s in the future or not: “Bay emerges from the curtains. APPLAUSE. He glides past an orchestra of various styled pianos. A pianist alert and waiting behind each one. At the only grand piano Bay flings back his tails and takes a seat in a red velvet folding chair.”

There’s so much strange stuff here. An orchestra that’s just pianos, or mostly pianos. Or, frankly, more than one piano. I’ve never seen that before. And I don’t know, is that the way it is in the future? Are they just all pianos? Because that would sound terrible actually.

Pianos are designed to be very loud, cut-through instruments. Just a whole bunch of piano players playing together is awful. So, you have all of these — but they’ve been waiting for him. He gets the only grand piano. So, everybody else is on what? Like uprights and spinets and…crappy pianos?

John: Little Casios.

Craig: Casios. And then, he’s sitting in a red velvet folding chair. So, he would be the first — maybe they don’t have benches in the future.

John: No.

Craig: Because all the other pianists sit on benches in the world. And then the weirdest part of all — he nods to the conductor and he begins playing Nietzsche’s Einleitung. Now, I happen to be a Nietzsche fan. Nietzsche wrote some sort of crappy music I think in the 1860s before he started becoming a philosopher. It’s not anything anyone would play in a concert really. I mean, maybe one, but playing a whole bunch of it is just sort of a weird novelty act.

Again, maybe this is all explained by the future, but I have to say, I was very confused by what Lisa wrote here.

John: I was as well. So, let’s talk about the future because if you’re going to give us future you have to give us future. And so some of what she did here can work. And I do always respect the idea of if you have to write something in the future, show us some things that are familiar to us now, and then paint on top of that.

So, if you want to give us DC, it’s great that we have these monuments we recognize, but then you’re going to have to tell us what’s different on top of that, so we actually believe that we’re 50 years in the future. Because right now there is nothing in this that felt like it was 50 years in the future except for some un-described head gear. That was the only thing that felt unique or different.

It goes back to expectation and what audience expectation is. And so if you say that we’re in the future, you can give us some things pretty easily and quickly and you don’t have to explain a lot about it. So, like if vehicle can move differently, if there’s silent electric cars, or electric helicopters, or that kind of stuff, you don’t have to give a lot of detail about that. But, anything that you give us that is weird, we’re going to assume that must be part of the future.

So, the reason why Craig thinks there’s something strange in the future about velvet chairs, or these orchestras made up of pianos, because that’s just weird. And so if you’re giving us something weird, we’re going to assume it’s because of the change you’ve made in the world.

Same thing goes true with any other genre. If you’re giving us a vampire story, you don’t have to explain how vampires work, but if anything in your rules for how vampires work in your movie are different you’re going to have to be pretty explicit about what’s different. Like, if your vampires can go out in daylight you have to explain why they can go out in daylight, or else we’re not going to have faith in you.

Here, if you have an assassin pianist in the future, you’ve got to give us the future. The rest of the stuff we can probably figure out.

Craig: Yeah. We’re stacking up quite a few conceits here. Generally speaking it’s often enough to be in the future. To be an assassin pianist in the future may be one thing too many to juggle. But, if there are things that you intend to be idiosyncratic to the future, like for instance the fact that orchestras are now just pianos and multiple pianos, then let us know that you know. “Curiously the orchestra is nothing but pianos. A dozen pianos, each with a pianist.”

Tell the story in a way that… — So, if you mean to say, “Huh, that’s odd,” let me know that you know. Be in control of your story and your story telling.

All right.

John: Our third sample is Good People With Guns by Kevin Graham-Caso. And let me give you the recap on this. So, we open up at the Fort Hunt Diner where Jill Cardinal, she’s 26, sits on one side of the booth, and across the other side of the booth is Jason Schrader who is also 26. Something has just been said. And we’re not quite sure what has just been said.

Then, Jill says, “Fine, you’re right.” She pulls a gun out and sets it on the table. And then starts smoking, lights a cigarette. The waitress comes by, says that Jill can’t smoke there. Jill agrees. She puts the cigarette out. So, Jill seems kind of bad ass, but we don’t know sort of too much about what her situation is. She re-holsters her gun and excuses herself that she needs to go to the restroom.

When we see her in the restroom, the bathroom of the diner, we see that she’s actually freaking out, a full on anxiety attack. She stares at the mirror.

Cut to the title, Good People With Guns. Then we go to Two Months Earlier where we are on the front steps of the New York State Supreme Court. We see Jill, a more put together version of Jill. And she is shell-shocked by something that evidently just took place. She lights a cigarette. Her cell phone buzzes. She answers. She has a phone call with a woman named Fiona. It doesn’t seem to go especially. And she looks like she’s about to smash her cell phone when she decides against it. And as we end at the bottom of page three she kicks a taxi. The taxi driver gets out and yells back at her.

Craig: Now, you know that at this point I can’t blame this on Stuart. Because you know that Stuart loves it when he gets to that part in these three pages where it says, “Super: Two Months Earlier.” And he goes, “OH MY GOD! What?!”

John: There’s a lot of two months earlier.

Craig: It can’t be Stuart’s joy of it alone. So, now I’m really saying to all of you out there. Seriously. Stop it. And I know that you’ve seen it work in movies, and it is a thing, and it does work in movies, but I mean at this point this is the only conclusion that I really feel comfortable about drawing in a meta way from all of the three page scripts we read, and that is this is just overused at this point.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s really overused, the whole show a thing and then say Two Months Earlier. We’ve got to cut it out.

John: It’s the temporal air duct. It just needs to…

Craig: It’s a temporal air duct. Needs to stop.

Now, that said, I really liked the first page a lot. You know, again, the first two paragraphs do the typical screenwriter tango of a really good-looking actor and actress but I can’t just say they’re really good-looking so I’ll do some sort of quirky version of good-looking. And, again, these things that we can’t show or imply to audiences like “her soft features and blue eyes suggest she was considered attractive when she used to give a shit.” No they don’t.

No. [laughs] There’s no way to suggest that at all. Then she’s there with Jason Schrader who is “disheveled, unshaven, yet still dorkishly handsome,” that you can shoot. And I really like the idea of opening after something has been said. Very cool.

Then she pulls this gun out, which is always interesting and exciting. She lights a cigarette. This lady has got all sorts of interesting issues. And a cool little line at the end, about the cigarette, “Someone must have noticed these things were killing people,” which is always a cool thing to say when you’ve put a gun on the table.

She heads to the bathroom, he’s waiting. She walks past two cops, and a little thing like “heads past two cops at the back of the diner,” just helps create tension. Okay. There are cops there. She has a gun. Did they not see her with the gun? What’s going on there? But I’m a little nervous.

In the bathroom she goes into a full on anxiety attack, which is interesting. Maybe a little bit too much. I mean, she’s literally hyperventilating. And so it seems a little broad, frankly, of a turn, but I understand the intention of the turn.

We have the moment where a character stares in the mirror. Maybe that one we could put in our clam list of cut-it-out. Stop looking at yourself in mirrors.

And then she gets tough in that mirror. And then we get the title, Good People With Guns, which I think is a really cool title.

John: It’s a great title.

Craig: Then Stuart squeals with joy — squeals with joy to see, “Oh, we’re going back in time!” Two Months Earlier. I guess she’s a lawyer. She’s outside of the New York State Supreme Court.

John: I’m not sure she was the lawyer. I think she may have been involved in some sort of case. My first read was that she was a lawyer. But, I’m not necessarily sure that’s the case.

Craig: Well, she’s wearing a business suit, that’s why I thought maybe she was a lawyer.

John: Maybe.

Craig: Or maybe she is…or something involved, yeah. And an older lawyer gives her a condescending nod. I feel like she lost a case. That’s kind of what I’m buying there.

And her boss, I presume is who it is, calls her. And she’s obviously being dressed down. And then has this little moment of anger that she — it’s weird, she chooses to not throw her phone but instead kicks a taxi, which is even more aggressive, frankly, than throwing a phone. But, okay, I like the idea that there’s this woman with this rage inside of her. Obviously we’re not meant to know from these three pages what happens next.

I thought this was, you know, pretty well done. It’s just that there isn’t one single move in here, other than the beginning with post question, that I haven’t seen before. It’s sort of a collection of things I’ve seen.

John: To me it was a collection of attitudes and poses, but not actual action.

Craig: I think that’s a great way of putting it. Yeah.

John: And so the opening scene, I’m sympathetic to when people call things Tarantino-esque, because I got hit with that for Go, which was really frustrating. So, this is the kind of thing that you could see in a Tarantino movie, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have it here. It’s fine and it’s good. But I stopped believing a little bit when she set the gun on the table and the waitress didn’t refer to it.

And it’s not clear whether the waitress saw it or didn’t see it. That just felt odd to me. Lighting the cigarette in the diner also feels a little bit like, well, you’re just provoking for the sake of provoking. So, that made me question that a little bit.

Where I got a little bit confused about the writing versus, like, was I reading this the way that the writer intended? On page two, first off in the bathroom, “A MEDIUM SIZED window illuminates Jill.” Why is it a medium sized window? To highlight that it’s a medium sized window, I don’t even know what that means. How big is a medium sized window?

If it’s going to be important, like she’s going to need to jump out of this window, okay. But, that felt really weird to sort of single that out.

Craig: Right.

John: This line, “A JILL-LIKE STRANGER stares back at her through the glass,” okay, are you being poetic. In a novel I’d say, oh, he’s being poetic. It’s like, I don’t even know who that person is anymore.

Craig: Right.

John: But by highlighting here I really thought like, wow, is it somebody who looks sort of like her but is actually a different person? Like it’s literally a split personality thing where like it’s Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh looking at through the mirror, because that’s kind of fascinating. I don’t think that’s what was happening. I think it was just poetry that got to be a little bit confusing here.

Craig: Yeah. And the truth is that your script will be read by all sorts of people. It is not a sign of stupidity to make mistakes like this in reading. I have been surprised and so I’m no longer surprised to be surprised that very smart people sometimes just misunderstand certain little things in a screenplay when they read it, because everybody is trying to make the — everybody is bringing their understanding of movies and their expectations to it, and they’re filling in blanks for you. That’s what we need them to do. It is just words on a page and we’re trying to inspire a visual daydream in them.

When you do things like a “A JILL-LIKE STRANGER stares back” you’re asking for trouble. I know what you mean to say. And so she looks at… — First of all, windows don’t illuminate anybody, the light coming through windows illuminates them — we don’t need that garbage in there. It’s just…

John: Yeah.

Craig: “Jill stares at herself in the mirror.” You know, “Jill stares into the mirror, barely recognizing who she sees.” We would get that, you know what I mean, if that’s your idea. You just don’t have to get too — but frankly it’s this whole staring into a movie thing. The reason that ended up with a “A JILL-LIKE STRANGER stares back at her through the glass,” I think, Kevin, is because you were trying to make a very trite moment interesting.

But it’s not going to be because it’s that scene where the lady looks at herself in the mirror and calms herself down and splashes — we’ve seen them probably three or four times just in the Three Page Challenges we’ve seen people staring in mirrors.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So, find a different way. Just find a different way.

John: Also, I would say staring into a mirror right before Two Months Earlier, that is a very classic sort of clam here. Where it’s just like, “How did I get myself in this situation.” Then Two Months Earlier.

Craig: Right. Right you are. Yeah, if you’re going to do that Two Months Earlier transition — which at this point I’m starting to feel everybody should stop doing — that transition needs to be interesting as well. I mean, it’s a little bit more, I mean, Tarantino has people walk out the room with a gun and start shooting and then cut to the title, and then do Two Months Earlier. You know?

John: Yeah. On page three, my frustration here is that once again something has just happened that you’re not telling us what happened, but we’re supposed to come in right after this other thing happened. And so I start to worry like everything interesting is going to happen off-screen, and we’re just going to see the reactions of people to more interesting things that could have happened off-screen.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And so if the events that just happened are important, I would say show us the event and don’t just show us the aftermath here, because you just tried to do that a page ago. So, give us what’s actually happening here and not just the reaction shot from this young woman.

Craig: Yup. Yup. Yup. Agreed.

John: Once again, I want to thank all three of our people for sending in their Three Page Challenges. And also to all the people, the hundreds of people who sent in their Three Page Challenges over the last year we’ve been doing this.

We won’t get to every one of them, but we really do appreciate that you are so courageous in sending in your samples. Stuart sifts through all of them. He reads absolutely every one that comes in that has the proper boilerplate language of like please don’t sue us. And it really does mean a lot that you guys are so trusting and caring to send in things so we can talk about them and so other people can learn from our discussions.

Craig: Yes. Very much so. And I would love — it’s too much work for Stuart — I’d love to know what percentage of Three Page Challenges we get have the Two Months Earlier thing going on. I honestly think it’s like 20% at this point.

John: It might be kind of a high thing. Nima at some point was working on some sort of like amazing analysis that would actually go through all the PDFs. Because we can melt the PDFs with Highland. And so he was melting them down to text and then he was doing some analysis on it. But then at some point I had to say like, no, no, you actually have to do the work on like the apps we’re selling and not just on this data mining that is interesting to you. Yeah.

Craig: That’s funny.

John: Craig, I have a One Cool Thing this week which is an app. Which is Ulysses III. And Ulysses was this text editor I was sort of aware of, and I probably tied to use once or twice. And sort of in my head I thought of it like Scrivener in the sense of it being a sort of big, full-featured word processing/document processing app.

Ulysses III, this version that just came out, is actually really cool. It’s a text editor that’s kind of very stripped down. It rights in Markdown which his this text format that I love to work in. I do my notes for the show in Markdown. I do my blog posts in Markdown.

It has a really smart, innovative way of gathering your documents together in sort of a — almost like Apple Mail’s kind of like how it has the three panels. It keeps the documents in that kind of format which is actually really smart and good for a lot of things.

So, I would encourage people to check it out. Right now it just writes in Markdown, but apparently it’s going to start writing in Fountain, too, which would be great. And so I can see that being a nice new Fountain editor on the horizon.

Craig: Cool. Well, my One Cool Thing, as alluded to previously, is That Mitchell and Webb Look. Mitchell and Webb are British comedians. They’ve had, I think, three different sketch comedy shows on the BBC. They have That Mitchell and Webb Sound was the radio show. That Mitchell and Webb Look. And there’s another one.

But That Mitchell and Webb Look is the one I’ve been watching mostly. I think they’re awesome. And you can watch full episodes on YouTube for free. They’re really, really smart. They’re really, really funny. And I guess the two sketches I’d probably call out just to link to maybe in the show notes, one is called Homeopathic ER, which is awesome.

John: Homeopathic ER. That’s actually a fantastic one.

Craig: That’s pretty awesome. And the other one is Angel Summoner and the BMX Bandit. So, it’s a TV show. It’s meant to be like an eighties style hero/partner TV show where these two guys solve crimes. And one is the Angel Summoner and he summons angels. And the other one is the BMX Kid, I think, not Bandit, BMX Kid. And he has BMX bike skills.

And they’re just useless. [laughs] You know, summoning angels is pretty much that’s all you need. And they just start fighting. It’s just pretty great.

And then I guess the other one, just for writers, there’s this wonderful sketch they do where an author is talking to his editor and the editor is giving him suggestions. “Well not that, but…” And it’s quite perfect.

So, That Mitchell and Webb Look. That’s my Cool Thing of the week. You could lose hours on YouTube just watching their shows. They are really, really funny guys.

They’re so funny, and in my mind I’m like how can I write a movie for those guys. But then I think, nah, they would write their own movie. They don’t need me to write a movie for them. And so I immediately go, “Oh, all right, when are those guys going to write movie?” So, I land immediately from how can I write a movie for them to when are they going to write a movie.

So, hopefully they do something like that. I think they’re terrific.

John: Maybe they’re listening to this podcast right now and they will be inspired to say like, “You know what? We will do it. We will make our movie just for Craig Mazin.”

Craig: I hope they do. I just think they are really funny and they have a wonderful combination of silly and smart. And I’ve always gravitated towards silly smart/smart stupid. [laughs] You know, I like overeducated people doing low brow humor. It’s just been my thing my whole life and I love it. And I think they’re great at it.

John: Cool. Craig, thank you again for a fun podcast. If you enjoy our podcast and are not subscribed to us in iTunes, it might be a good idea to subscribe to us in iTunes so you can get them every week. And if you’re there you could also leave us a comment, or a rating, or tell the people that you like the show if you do you like the show. If you don’t like the show then I’m surprised you made it through to the end.

And we will see everybody again next week.

Craig: Next week people!

John: All right. Thanks. Bye.

Craig: Thank you, John. Bye.