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.

Ben Blacker: My name is Ben Blacker.

John: And this is Scriptnotes/Nerdist Writers Panel special crossover episode.

So, we are recording this live at the sort of special Nerdist place at the back of the Meltdown Comics place.

Ben: The Nerdist Theater here at Meltdown Comics.

John: And so for people who are listening to this at home you might not understand that it sort of feels like, I don’t know, some kind of weird under the subway church kind of thing. There’s like a lot of pillars in the background. There’s a lot of dark faces. There’s those special little light bulbs in glowing cages over us. It’s nice. But it’s a little odd.

Craig: It’s appropriate.

Ben: We always say it’s like recording a podcast in your mom’s basement.

John: Yes.

Craig: No, this is not what my mom’s basement looks like at all.

Ben: No, no, not yours specifically. [laughs]

Craig: No, I mean, she’s not a criminal. This is a disturbing space. [laughs]

Ben: This is from the Hannibal set.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Pretty much. I mean, yeah. What’s that song, All the Pretty Horses? Yeah, I want that, yeah, that guy.

John: So, this is a crossover episode and crossover episodes are actually fascinating things, because it’s that idea where you take a story and you start it in one medium or one vessel of story unit and then you transfer it over to another one. So, we’re actually going to do this as two back-to-back episodes, but in different whole series.

So, crossover episodes, we think back to Mad About You and Friends would do crossover episodes. Comic books do crossover episodes.

Ben: Like when Richard Belzer’s character appeared on the X-Files. Remember that? His character from Homicide.

John: And so it’s unsettling because it makes you feel like natural boundaries between this and that are not being respected. And so you have Lisa Kudrow play Phoebe and her twin sister at the same time — it’s all very disturbing. But it can be good.

Ben: You think it can be good, Craig?

Craig: No. Because, you have to ask why — this is a lovely crossover. I like this one.

Ben: Before we get into this lovely crossover, I actually have a question for you guys. Craig, are you trained in improvisation at all?

Craig: No.

Ben: Because you’re good at the “No, but…”

John: You’re supposed to say yes!

Craig: Oh, no.

Ben: He does the “No, but…” It’s not “Yes, and…” It’s “No, but…” And I have a great respect for it.

Craig: I do the “No, but…?”

Ben: Yeah.

Craig: Oh, good, so I’m doing it right?

Ben: You’re doing it correctly.

Craig: Thank you.

John: See, Ben, you can’t make him feel good. That’s going to ruin the whole dynamic of things.

The other thing which we should do at the start of a podcast is introduce our guest. And this is Ben Blacker who’s the host of the Nerdist Writers Panel. Hey, Ben Blacker.

So, we are crashing his place to talk about some feature things, some screenwriter things, some comic book things. Thank you very much for being with us here today.

Ben: Thank you for being here. I feel like this has been generations in the making.

John: It really has been. How long have you been doing your podcast?

Craig: Since Austin, right? We started talking about this in Austin.

Ben: Yeah, we actually met in Austin. I’ve been doing the Nerdist Writers Panel for about 2.5 years, something like that.

John: Which is ancient history in podcasting terms.

Ben: It is. Yeah. And then you guys started around that time, too. I remember we both kind of popped up around the same time. And then we were the only players in the game.

John: Yeah.

Craig: We’re still the only players in the game, man. Everybody else pretending. They’ve got nothing! It’s us and you. That’s it. Is there any other good one?

Ben: There actually is.

Craig: Ugh.

Ben: It’s just started. Are you familiar with The Children of Tendu podcast? Have you heard this? It’s great. It’s two TV writers, Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Jose Molina. And they are doing kind of what we all started doing right at the beginning which was being very nuts and bolts, very basic.

So, it’s a great jumping on point for a lot of people. You know, where ours has a deep mythology. [laughs]

John: A very deep mythology. And one of the things I sort of wanted to get into is you guys talk a lot with TV writers. You don’t talk so much about feature writer people. And we mostly talk feature stuff, although we get into some television. But there are things that are just very different about the experience of writing for features and writing for television.

And I want to sort of dig in a little bit on that, partly because sort of selfishly in the way I would sort of talk about my own life, they’ve asked me to come in and run a room on a feature. Basically it’s a feature that’s going to be going into production and they want me to sort of go and sit with a bunch of other writers to work through for a day on that movie.

And usually feature writers are off by themselves and they do things. So we scribble away on our scripts and then we bring them to the executives, or to the studio people, to the director, and talk with them there. But, TV people are dealing with other writers all the time. It’s a different thing for us to do.

You’ve done more writing on features with rooms, right?

Craig: Well, yeah, there’s — in comedy you will more typically run into a team situation. It’s not quite like a television room. In sitcom rooms there are a lot of writers. On a comedy usually you’re talking about the director and a writer and then maybe a couple of other people that might be there as producers or helping out.

Ben: But when you’re thrown into or hired onto a comedy writer’s room, usually the script already exists, right, and you’re doing some sort of punch-up situation?

Craig: No, I mean, well there’s two kinds. I mean, there’s the kind where you write a movie from the start and you do have other people in the room with you that are listening and kicking around ideas.

What you’re talking about I think is more like a roundtable, where I’ll get called for — comedies or non-comedies, it’s both kinds of movies — where they’ll do this thing before they’re going to make a movie they ask seven or eight screenwriters to come and sit in a room. And after they’ve read the screenplay just talk it through in a simulation of what they ought to have been doing themselves as studio executives, but somehow failed to do.

So, we will go in and we’ll help out in that regard. Sometimes it’ll turn also into, like, hey, I’ve heard some alternate ideas, lines of dialogue, and things like that. It used to be that that was all it was. It was just get a bunch of comedy guys in a room and just start pitching jokes.

John: And it’s really the punching up. Basically finding other great jokes for these moments. Like what are some other gags? I’ve done those before. I’ve done those with you.

Craig: Yeah, but those have kind of… — It’s weird. They’ve sort of fallen out of favor. And it’s kind of evolved into more of a, “Hey, what do you think about the characters, and the plot, and the pacing, and the narrative and the rest of that?” which I think is good because frankly in my experience having gone through these things, there are some jokes and some things you get that are really funny in the moment, but they don’t belong in the movie. Maybe a joke, or two. I’d much rather hear what other writers thought about the characters and stuff like that.

Ben: I’m really curious about the first one you described, because I am totally unfamiliar with that for feature writers. I mean, I jokingly often when we have feature writers on the podcast I refer to them as “lonely weirdos” who sit in their rooms by themselves.

Craig: Yeah.

Ben: But I didn’t realize that there are rooms —

Craig: No, well this is the case where not that lonely weirdos, but we’re still weirdos.

John: We’re lonely weirdos sitting together at a room in this hotel for a day to talk though stuff. And what’s fascinating is that so much of the process of breaking any story or figuring something out or solving problems is looking at all of the alternatives behind things. And it can be very useful to have other brains there to do stuff.

What’s odd about it in feature land is ultimately one writer is going to go off and do that again. So, the thing that I’m coming on to do, that screenwriter who wrote the original draft is still going to be there. So, I’m trying to figure out the best way to sort of be supportive of him, of everything that he has done to this point, and also get them to the next stage.

Ben: So who else is in the room in this sort of situation?

John: So, that’s one of my questions. I don’t know who —

Ben: Do you have to put that room together:

John: I put that room together. And I’m looking for Craig’s advice on this, too.

Craig: Well, you know, when I did the spoof movies with David Zucker, it was David, and Jim Abrahams, and Pat Proft, and myself, and a guy named Phil Dornfeld who is sort of like a younger producer type. And then occasionally we would have another writer named Scott Tomlinson who would come in as well. And then we had a producer, Bob Weiss.

So, there were a lot of writers in the room together. Now, ultimately I ended up writing. And I do think it’s important. Ultimately one person has to end up writing. And you figure out the credits and who is a writer, and who is a producer, and all that. You try and figure that out ahead of time and then don’t care about it, just move it aside.

But, you do need one person kind of focusing it through their keyboard because there needs to be some sort of continuity of style and shape and pace more than anything. Different writers have just different fingerprints of pace. But, that’s how we did those.

Now, that doesn’t really work, I think, on other kinds of movies. I mean, those movies were joke books. What’s the nature of your movie?

John: It’s an animated movie. In animation it’s more common that you’re going to see these kind of things happening.

Craig: Sure.

John: And so I remember going up to give a little speech at Pixar. And they were giving a tour around and they were describing this other movie. It’s like, “Yeah, we’re going to do a three-day offsite to work on this one moment at the end of the second act.” And I’m like, I would kill myself if I had to spend that much time looking at one specific little moment. But it’s been incredibly successful for Pixar to have that kind of thing.

Craig: Yeah.

Ben: And I would imagine those actually do run more like a TV writer’s room where it is six, seven people and in the room throwing ideas around. Someone is putting it on the board. Someone else is taking notes. And then it goes off to one writer.

Craig: That’s right.

John: So, what I found so good about your podcast when you have — recently you had a bunch of TV writers on talking about how different rooms work and how sometimes it’s really everybody together in a room and there’s little magic tiles that they’re moving around, like whiteboard tiles that they’re moving around. And other times it’s people are going off and just coming in and pitching their episodes.

It got me thinking about why do feature writers become these little lonely weirdos, because there’s nothing necessary about it had to be this way. And we’re in a comic book store, so I think it’s actually fun to imagine scenarios where it would all just turn out differently. Sort of like Red Son where Superman has landed in Russia and he was like the Russian hero.

Craig: What?

John: You haven’t read Red Son?

Craig: What?!

John: All right.

Ben: Someone go get him Red Son.

John: Or Marvel Zombies. That’s sort of more your —

Craig: Who?

John: Who…There are other ways this could have worked. And so I think it may be fun to do some sort of what-if’ing on what would be different if things didn’t become just one screenwriter working on a project at a time. Because there was a studio system. There was a studio system where they had the writer’s room. But I don’t see that as being —

Craig: I prefer this way.

John: Why?

Ben: The weirdo loner working alone?

Craig: I prefer the weirdo loner thing, even as somebody that’s worked with other people, I personally prefer the weirdo loner thing. In part because, and it may just be a reflection of how I’m changing as a writer and how I’m writing different things. But I think that it’s very hard to do your most honest work when you don’t have the space, even if it’s temporary space, to write and think whatever you want and to express it however you want. It is the only protected space there is before the wolves come. And when they come it’s just waves and waves of endless wolves. I’m sure there’s a comic book describing this.

But, so I like the idea of I get my one lonely chance. And out of those lonely protected moments, sometimes the most interesting things happen. So, I like that part of it. I also really like then expanding it very incrementally to just writer and director, which I think is a great combination of people.

And then you slightly expand to a producer, if you trust that producer, you know. So, I’m not in any rush to get back into a big room to be honest. Maybe because I’ve done it a lot.

John: But let’s take the counterpoint here. Like let’s assume that the writers were getting together and were working on things. Maybe part of the reason why it works in television is television is fundamentally writer-driven. And so if writers work together on making features, if there was a group of writers working it, isn’t it possible there’d be a writing showrunner who is really sort of behind the scenes, the powerful person there?

Craig: Yeah. Well, the thing is that in television the format, the requirement to create multiple episodes of something with a continuity between characters and basic idea essentially suggests that there was a mastermind who wrote a pilot and now they are instructing craftspeople to make versions of it, knockoffs essentially. That’s what episodes are. And for movies that is the pilot. It’s a one episode TV show. That’s what a movie is.

And, look, I give my scripts to my friends and I have them read them and I get great feedback from them, but that’s different than sort of putting together a group of feature writers. I mean, we type things up —

John: Is Marvel essentially doing that, though? You look at essentially the Marvel series and sort of how that universe is being sort of combined and sort of managed, it does feel like it’s a writer-driven —

Ben: And there is certainly — Kevin Feige is the showrunner of the Marvel universe of movies.

Craig: That’s exactly right. Yes.

Ben: But then you have two guys who are in charge of Captain America and two guys who are in charge of Iron Man.

Craig: Yeah. And what will happen in features is that sometimes they’ll create a writing room in sequence as opposed to in parallel. So, very powerful producers who have a stamp on the material because they own the underlying material that’s valuable or they just have a sensibility. We’re talking about Jerry Bruckheimer or Kevin Feige and Marvel, they can kind of plug in and plug out writers as they wish because ultimately they are possessing some kind of master plan of there will be this many Pirates movies and this many…

But, you still want Markus and McFeely to have their private moment as a shared high of mind unit where they go, “Okay, now I’m going to make something. But we’re not going to have a room full of people sitting with us while we do it.” That room will come, but I like that. I like my private little…

John: So, David Goyer is a person in the DC universe who is doing I think probably the most of that kind of organization of things. So, you have Constantine which is, you know, a DC property which has sort of all the magic using kind of people there. You have the crossovers between the movies. There’s that sense of, you know, distantly reaching for something where they can be sort of combined.

But I wonder if you can apply this to things beyond just these giant super movie tent poles. I just wonder if there is, you know, back in the days of United Artists where, you know, I wonder if there is a writer-driven studio that could actually run that way.

Ben: I don’t know that it needs necessarily to be writer-driven, although having only worked in television I can say that I think there is something incredibly valuable about the collaboration that comes from eight smart people in a room, even if there are only six and two are duds. Still, eight smart people in a room putting together this thing, because ultimately one person does go off and take it and make it his own.

That said, by the time that person — or at least in my experience, by the time that person goes off to take that episode, which I love the idea of it’s just a knockoff of episode one, it’s broken within an inch of its life.

Craig: Sure.

Ben: You know, there’s very little imagination there.

Craig: Yeah.

Ben: But, the imagination you do get to do, which is how do these two characters talk to each other, or what do they specifically say to each other —

Craig: Right.

Ben: Is really fun. And I think the reason that TV has developed this way, obviously, is it’s practical. You need to do — it’s a moving train.

Craig: Yeah. There is a churn in television that is remarkable and that beast must be fed. And there is simply no time to allow any individual to kind of wander off the reservation.

Ben: But it reminds me of this thing I’ve been hearing about a lot lately where the group mind is smarter than the individual, no matter how smart the individual is.

John: The wisdom of crowds.

Ben: Yeah. Exactly. And I’ve been hearing too much about it lately. But, you know, look at all of the great television we’ve had in the past five years.

Craig: Yeah. But now let me rebut. Not a huge fan of crowds, or as I call them, mobs.

Yes, crowds can be very smart and often if you’re looking for efficiency crowds will deliver you efficiency. What they don’t deliver you is the bizarre and they don’t deliver you the unexpected or the surprising. In fact, they’re designed to suppress that. When you’re talking about say a show like Breaking Bad or Mad Men, these are outliers coming from people who were outliers, creating something that frankly shouldn’t have worked and just kind of did to everyone’s surprise.

And a lot of times people make things that should work and do work, except that nobody watches them, which is a shame. But Vince Gilligan created Breaking Bad in every sense of the word. The people that wrote for him were essentially servicing his vision and doing so brilliantly. There were great writers — Moira Walley-Beckett, and Tom Schnauz. These are terrific writers. But he made that, you know.

And that you don’t get from a crowd. You’ll never get from a crowd.

Ben: Let me rebut.

John: All right.

Craig: No.

Ben: Vince did make that, but arguably he just set a template for that where he could then bring in brilliant people to play in that playground. You know, he had a plan to get from A to B but he didn’t know how he was going to get there. And it takes that group mind to come up with the —

Craig: Absolutely. I’m not suggesting that… — The people who write on a show write on a show. They create moments that Vince would not have created on his own. No question. I don’t mean to take anything away from them. All I mean to say is that there is a prime mover in the Aristotelian sense. And you can’t get the prime mover from a group. You can only get it from an individual.

So, if you look at the history of Apple, the people that were working on the Mac, I mean, some of the most amazing people, brilliant people who each brought something incredibly vital. But there was a prime mover. And we can argue about which one it was.

Ben: I absolutely agree.

Craig: Team Wozniak.

John: Yeah. [laughs]

Craig: But I guess that’s my point is that there is a time and place for groups, but I wouldn’t let them encroach into the area of innovation, because ultimately they’re not well tuned for that.

Ben: Yeah. You don’t want a group writing a pilot, because that’s going to be a pretty shitty pilot.

Craig: That would be bad, yeah.

Ben: Yeah.

John: That would be challenging. But my question for us is then could a J.J. Abrams or a Joss Whedon or a Vince Gilligan make movies the way you make television, essentially oversee the writers making things? Is there a reason why that couldn’t work?

Craig: I think there is, yeah. Because there is a self-contained story and even in writer’s rooms where people can pitch in on one story, then they go off and they write their story. This is one story. And at some point you’re going to end up with this patchwork.

John: But I wonder if we’re essentially — so many of the movies that we encounter have multiple writers on them except they work sequentially. And if you honestly had hired those writers at the same time and sat them down together and had them work, solve these problems together, you might end up with a movie that you would not have sort of the mind of Frankenstein so much.

Craig: It’s possible. But also when you’re writing with people what happens is there’s a natural kindness that is sometimes a bad thing. Okay, well we’re not going to just simply steamroll over your ideas; let’s figure out how to work together as a team. When you work in succession, you come in, you’re like, “All right. I’m just getting rid of huge chunks of this. I don’t like it. I’m going to replace it with something that is not only different but thematically consistent with everything else I’m going to write.” So, there is a wholeness to it.

You’re right, though. Once a studio goes down the line of hiring the 12th writer to work on a little piece, they have essentially created the writing room.

John: But without letting the writers talk to each other.

Craig: Correct. And that’s a terrible thing.

John: And so that’s why when I get brought in on a project, one of the first things that I try to do is talk to the original writer and the most recent writers to say like, “What is actually going on here? And is there stuff that is back there that was actually better that’s been buried underneath all of this stuff? And I see the crazy decisions in the script. Tell me why this is here, because this doesn’t make sense.” And it’s generally like that was one executive’s pet thing that had to sort of stay in there.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And so much of what gets screwed up in features right now I think is because there weren’t writers talking to each other from the very start.

Craig: I agree.

Ben: Without burning bridges, can you think of instances where you have had that conversation and had something illuminated that you could then bring out in the draft that you were hired to do?

John: Let’s think about that. I’m trying to think of which ones won’t be upset that I say it.

Well, very classically — oh, actually the second Charlie’s Angels is a great example. The second Charlie’s Angels, the short version of the first Charlie’s Angels, I wrote that for Drew and then McG came on board and we started shooting. And shortly before we started production one of the producers came to me and said like, “We really want to do a roundtable with a bunch of writers to do a comedy punch up.” And I said absolutely not. Over my dead body will you do this. And they did it anyway and I was not happy.

So, I left the movie but I was busy doing other things, and 12 writers did come in and did like a day’s work here, a day’s work here, a day’s work here. But it’s because we had a cast that was very demanding. There were a lot of moving pieces. And everybody was — all the writers who worked on it are friends. They’re lovely and everything turned out great. And then I came back in and like really cleaned up a lot of stuff at the end.

To do the sequel to Charlie’s Angels, first off I went to each sort of party member and said, “Okay, last time was crazy. Let’s not be crazy this time. And specifically let’s not do all the things you do in a sequel. So, let’s not have Cameron dancing in every scene. Let’s be tasteful — “

Craig: I like that.

John: “Let’s do some playful, teasing sexuality, but not like gratuitous sex stuff.”

Craig: Ugh.

John: And so there was a list of things and I made each of these people like sign the bottom saying like we’re not going to do these things. And it became the checklist of things we ended up doing, because it happens in a sequel.

Craig: I like that — some of those were good, though.

John: The writer handoff thing, at a certain point I just couldn’t take it anymore. And so Simon Kindberg came in and did some work. And the Wibberleys came in and did some work. And that’s how I actually met the Wibberleys, who are great friends now, was when they called me and said like, “What the hell is going on here?” I was like, let me tell you what’s going on here. And that was actually a great experience. All of us became friends because we were working on this train wreck of a movie and trying to make it not be so crazy.

So, even when we were recording the DVD commentary for the sequel, the Wibbs and I, we were trying to figure out what is the deal with the ring there. Like how did the ring end up happening? It was from your draft? We had no idea sort of how some of these things got into the movie.

Had we all been together in the room at the start, you know, some of the same problems would have probably happened, because people are crazy, but I think there also would have been — I think the writers as a whole would have been more powerful because there would have been more of us together united. That’s my hunch.

Ben: I want to make sure we have time for questions from the audience. You guys have questions? So, I’m going to ask these guys at least one more question. While I do that I want you all to make a lot of noise and if you have a question come up and stand by this black pole right here. And we will get to as many questions as we can.

So, what I want to ask you guys, and I don’t know that this has been addressed on Scriptnotes — and tell me if it has and I’ll just go listen to that instead of answering — do you guys like writing? Do you enjoy the writing process?

John: No, I don’t. I generally don’t. I really don’t like it. And I will do whatever I can to avoid writing. I love having written. I love like, “Oh, look at this thing I wrote. I want to read that again. That’s awesome!” But, no —

Ben: That is like the dirty secret of writers, by the way. We like to write — read the stuff that we wrote.

John: But I do like to imagine — I like the imagination of it all. And so it’s really fun to be looping the scene in my head. I’m like, oh, that’s really fun. But then to actually get it down and get it perfect on the page is a lot of work. And it’s because it’s a thousand decisions and each word you choose in that sentence, it’s like what’s the next word? Well, that’s ten more thousand choices for the next thing. So, it’s really taxing and nobody likes that. It’s exhausting.

Craig: Yes. I mean, I hate starting writing. Hate it. Every day when I start I hate it. I’ll do almost anything to not start writing. But if I know in my mind what I’m supposed to write and I have some clarity and I finally start writing, somewhere after the nausea begins to fade I do slip into this very lovely state, fugue state. I don’t know, whatever you want to call it.

John: There’s flow. And sometimes flow happens and it’s great. Like when you’re in that, oh, I can just keep going, and going, and going.

Craig: And I do really like that.

Ben: Can you maintain that?

Craig: Well, for a bit. You know, you can maintain it for a bit. And usually it’s connected to the idea of a sequence, which is one of the things we’ve been talking about with trying to reimagine the screenplay format, because it has nothing to do with location. It’s about sequence. And when you’re in the sequence and you’re watching that sequence you are experiencing on some very bone level what you want the audience to experience, which is tension, and confusion, and then realization, and relief, or sadness. Whatever the hell it is. But you get into there and you do it. And it is very nice.

I like that part. I just hate starting.

John: Yeah. When you’re really in flow it sort of feels like you’re not actually writing stuff down, but you’re erasing — the words were already there and you’re just erasing the stuff that was over them. It’s like, oh, the words were already there and you have like one of those magic pens that reveals what was actually there. That’s when it’s the best.

That doesn’t always happen and you can’t sit around waiting for that to happen because it just won’t.

Craig: You’ve just got to start.

Ben: So, yeah, what are your methods for kick-starting? Is it just writing garbage?

Craig: No.

John: No. No garbage. My method are just you loop the scene until you —

Craig: How dare you. [laughs]

John: You loop the scene until you see it. And then I do what is called a scribble version. And so it’s not garbage, but it’s the quickest, dirtiest version of what it looks like, often just handwritten down so that I get this looped version in some sort of memorable form. And then you start to make the better version of that, so you’re polishing that idea.

So, the scribble version is often just the dialogue and enough of the action to sort of show what is there so you can piece together.

Ben: Handwriting, it sounds really invaluable, too, because it’s so temporary, right? You know you’re not committing to this thing because it’s not going in your document —

John: Exactly.

Craig: Yeah, I don’t handwrite anything. My hands don’t even work anymore.

Ben: Sorry. How do you kick-start? How do you get through that nausea at the beginning?

Craig: You just do. You do it. This is the discipline. It’s a job. People are paying you, or you wish to be paid one day. You have a wife or a husband. You have children, or a dog. You’ve got mortgage or rent. This is what adults do.

And so I’ve had this discussion with my son a number of times about his homework and it’s not always — we don’t always get to do what we want to do. And there are rewards for getting through an initial pain. And I know that those rewards are greater than the avoidance of that initial pain. I just have to do it. And then you do it. And it never goes away, so make your peace with it.

Ben: And very quickly before we get to these questions, another just quick process thing. Do you listen to music when you write? Do you listen to anything when you write?

John: I generally don’t listen to music while I’m writing, but when I start on a project, when I’m sort of putting it all together I will make myself sort of the soundtrack of what that project sounds like. So, in iTunes I’ll put together all the tracks that sort of remind me of it. It’s just a good way of kicking your brain into thinking, oh, I’m writing a movie that would have this soundtrack and that’s really helpful.

But rarely do I actually have that music playing while I’m writing stuff.

Craig: I will if I’m writing something that is specifically without dialogue. It’s an action sequence or just a bit of expository. Like, I have the scene in the Cowboy Ninja Viking where we’re sort of drifting through this abandoned hospital. And there’s a great song by Pink Floyd called If. And so I would just play it while I was writing. I sort of had it on loop while I was writing because that’s what I want to be in the movie, you know.

That’s nice. But never — if people are talking in the scene, why would I want music on? I can’t hear them.

John: Yeah.

Ben: All right. Let’s get some questions here.

Action Details: First off, thanks for being awesome.

Ben: You’re welcome.

Action Details: Mostly there. So, I had a quick question —

Ben: This is my house.

Action Details: I wanted to talk to you a little bit about action sequences. I know neither one of you are really specifically action guys, but I’m thinking of something like The Bourne Identity where you’ve got a character that’s responding to his situation and the geography of the position that he or she is in. You can get really bogged down on like, oh, here’s how this building looks, and here’s how these stairs go. What’s the kind of percentage that you go to with how you’re explaining the action and how you’re explaining the surroundings as well?

And how do you not fall into the pitfall of like, oh, then there’s 27 steps, and then he goes around the, you know?

Craig: Right.

John: So, there’s a YouTube video I did where I took an action scene and rewrote it sort of real time to sort of show sort of how I would do that on the thing. Because you’re exactly right. Your instincts are right that you need to create this sense of what it feels like without being so specific and pedantic about every little detail.

If you’re trying to track every punch thrown it’s just going to be awful. So, you need to be in a weird way poetic about what the fight feels like, what the action sequence feels like, and let the people who are actually going to do it figure out what that is. I mean, always remember that a screenplay should give you the sense of watching a movie, but it doesn’t have to give you every last little detail. The same way you’re not describing every bit of costume. You’re not describing every bit of an action sequence.

Craig: Yeah. I try and apply — because I’ve been writing more action lately. And I try and apply a need-to-know basis rule. What does the reader need to know so that they can make sense of the scene. The important parts of the scene, the only important part of an action scene are the choices that the hero is making in relation to the action that reflects on who they are and how they are changing, growing, defying something, beating — whatever it is.

That’s what we’re connecting to. We’re much less, when we’re reading a script, we’re much less interested in how gorgeous that car pirouette is, because we can’t quite see it. So, need-to-know. I need to have a general sense of geography. I don’t want people to not have any idea where this person is. And I need to really key in on the moments where choices are made and I need to support those choices with the information that clarifies them to the reader. All that matters is that you’re getting your dramatic intention across.

I guarantee you, you already know what is essential. And you already know what isn’t. Now, we sometimes — we like to play with our Legos and get all get all excited about the building. Just concentrate on your dramatic intention. I think the rest of the stuff will fall away.

Action Details: I thank you all of you for doing your podcasts.

John: Thanks.

Craig: Oh, thank you.

Killing Babies: In the first part of this podcast you were talking about how as feature writers you go into writer’s rooms sometimes like on television. You have television writers how sometimes they have to kill that baby for the sake of a story. But as guys who are going to rewrite features, sometimes not even talking to the guy who wrote the original draft, sometimes you have to kill someone else’s baby whether you like it or not.

Craig: That’s right.

Killing Babies: Do you sometimes struggle with that decision where this guy wrote something amazing but for my vision of this it doesn’t work?

John: Yes. The answer is absolutely yes. Sometimes you will recognize that there was intention, this person had this vision of the movie and these moments happen in their version of this movie, but that movie is not going to get made. No one is making that movie. They’re trying to make this movie and this movie is going to have these needs and it’s now this way.

And it can be based on who the director was, what the casting is, what the studio is, what other movies are out there. There are some reasons that have happened why that other movie isn’t getting made. And so that’s why I try to reach out to the original writer to let them know that I’m on their side. I’m not a contract killer in here to do something terrible. It’s just that that’s the reality of where we’re at.

Craig: Yeah. I always talk to the prior writer. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m on their side, because I’m kind of not. I mean, I’m on the movie’s side.

John: Yeah. That’s where you are.

Craig: And there are times when there’s something in their script that I really love, and I really work and work to try and keep it in there until I realize it’s just not fitting anymore, you know. And so I try and be respectful of anything that I think is going to be good. And if it’s not, then it’s not. And I have to give myself the opportunity to make that choice. And should it come to pass that somebody then comes in after me, well, they’ll be doing the same thing.

So, yeah, it sucks. What are you going to do?

John: I like that you say you’re on the movie’s side. You’re also on the audience’s side. And you’re really looking at like I’m imagining this final vision of the movie and I’m sitting in the theater watching it. What is the best experience for that audience member? And you’re as responsible to that person as you are to the writer, or to the director, or anybody else.

Multiple Partners: Thanks John and Craig. My question is about —

John: And Ben.

Multiple Partners: My bad. Thanks Ben.

Craig: His name is Ben.

Multiple Partners: My question is really about we have so little writers and writing partners. In the music world you have people that have multiple projects. You know, they’ll play drums in one band and they sing in another band and they have multiple things. And I find myself in that situation in screenwriting where I have multiple projects. I have writing partners that are very different and I also have a solo project. Is this common? Is this something you see happening? What are some implications for this?

Craig: It’s not common.

John: But I think it could become more common.

Craig: It could. Look, you always have to be weary of dilettantism, you know, of sort of — I’m the sort of person that just likes to snack on lots of little things. And the new is always exciting. New men are exciting. New women are exciting. It’s always exciting, right?

So, you know, you can get caught up in the new shiny thing and suddenly you realize I’ve got 12 things that are all 20% done. I think that writing takes extraordinary focus, even bad writing takes extraordinary focus. If you find that you are finishing things and you find that you are in productive relationships and you’re able to balance them all, god bless you. If you don’t, then I think you need to consider cutting back and focusing, because it is a rare person that can handle multiple relationships and multiple projects, a little bit like multiple families with multiple children. It’s super hard. You’ve got to lie to the one wife. You’re on the road. You call the one the wrong name. Dude, it’s a mess.

John: I think your band analogy is actually really interesting, too. Because a band, yes, it can make an album. But an album is a lesser period of time than writing a whole screenplay. It’s a more contained process. But also it’s really performing. You’re out there entertaining people. So, I know funny people who are in multiple comedy groups and that’s great. That makes a lot of sense, because they’re dropping in. It’s all about that live performance and doing stuff together.

But really writing, especially writing something as long as a feature, I think you’re not going to be able to do your best work on all those projects simultaneously. You’re going to have to make some choices. But I will say in general I think there are going to be more cases where writers are teamed up with different people on different things and that’s going to be really confusing and complicated for the Writers Guild stuff which really perceives things like you’re a team or you’re not a team. And they want you to sort of be one or the other.

Ben: Are you writing just features?

Multiple Partners: Features and television.

Ben: Yeah. Because as soon as that television pilot sells that you wrote with one partner, that’s your partner on television stuff.

John: You’re married.

Ben: They’re pretty specific about that.

Craig: True. True.

Multiple Partners: Thank you.

Craig: Cool shirt.

John: Great shirt.

Team Umbrage: Oh, thank you. Actually I identify more with Team Umbrage, but orange looks horrible with my skin complexion.

Craig: Yeah, I’m with you, man. I get it. I feel the same way. You realize that I got screwed on that, right? I mean, you know that I got screwed.

Team Umbrage: All right. Well, I guess I have two questions if I may. But the first one is that you often, Craig, mention that you ruminate a lot in the shower and you think a lot about —

Craig: That’s a word.

Team Umbrage: You know where this is going, right? No, but I guess my question is what does your water bill look like?

Craig: It’s substantial.

Team Umbrage: Substantial, yeah. I figured.

Okay, no, but actually I have a serious question. So, we talk a lot about film and television and as someone who writes specs mostly, or at least that’s my experience, I can imagine, what features look like, or like what that process, like the lonely writer process.

But anyway with television, to me it’s just like I can’t imagine what it’s like. So, if you guys could — like if you were Vince Gilligan, just to narrow the scope here, right, and you’re writing Breaking Bad and you’re the mastermind of this first episode, the pilot episode. But then like do you have an outline for what’s going to happen in the next five seasons? And you show that to the executives and they’re like, okay, we like this first episode, and we like this outline. Or is it more like we just create this episode and then it’s over?

Craig: No, you generally do need to provide them — I mean, there are different words for it. Sometimes they call it a bible, a show bible. In order to purchase a show, unless you are Vince, which I honestly think they would just give him a blank check. But if you’re just a regular person and you’re trying to sell them on a show and you have a script for the pilot, they’re also going to want to know from you — prove to me at least with some summaries that this is actually a show you could write many, many episodes of. Because we’re not in the business, I mean, even in basic cable we need episodes. We need episodes to sell. And certainly in network their goal is 100.

So, you need to be able to prove to them that you have multiple story ideas that will, in fact, pour out of this concept. And you need to give them a general sense of the arcs of the characters over the — I mean, sometimes they even ask you for up to two seasons worth. I mean, they understand that at that point you’re just lying anyway, [laughs], but the point is at least, okay, in theory you can write this — you can write a whole mess of episodes based on this concept. You will need to show that.

John: Jordan Mechner and I did a pilot called Ops for Fox and we ended up writing two separate pilots because of changes in regimes and things. But on the website you can also see the documents we turned in with those, because that actually shows the other sort of episode summaries of like other future episodes. Because it wasn’t a heavily serialized show, but they needed to see like what kind of things were going to happen week after week.

So, had we actually gotten to series we weren’t committed to like those would have to be those episodes. They just needed a sense of what was going to be possible. Had we sort of gotten the series order we would have brought writers in and we would have really broken stuff apart and board what we wanted to do, but they need to know what else is possible there and sort of what directions you’re heading into.

Ben: And I would add, maybe this goes without saying, but it needs to be evident from your pilot that this series can have more than just a pilot. They need to know what episodes two through 99 look like.

Team Umbrage: Okay. Thank you.

Ben: I would also add —

John: I would also listen to Ben’s podcast, because they talk about this a lot.

Ben: That’s what I was going to add.

Team Umbrage: Thanks guys.

Craig: Thank you.

Pitching: Hi guys. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about pitching and more about going in and pitching on something that a lot of writers are going in and they want to see who has the best take. Or if you have an original idea as opposed to a spec, going in and saying, “Hey, what about doing something like this?” I don’t know if that’s how it works or whatever.

Craig: It can.

John: It can. It can. So, classically a pitch is really that second thing. You would think a pitch would be like I have this great idea for a movie and so I’m going and I’m pitching it and so I’m setting up the whole everything in this.

The sweepstakes pitching is more what you’re describing in that first scenario which is where you have — there’s a project that’s out there, so an adaptation of a book, an existing property, Slinkies, or some sort of like — “We’re going to make the Slinky movie. Come in and pitch us a take on the Slinky movie.”

And that happens. And so you have to decide, like, am I going to be one of the 15 writers going in on the Slinky pitch and that’s really tough? Because how am I going to differentiate my pitch from every other pitch. How are they going to remember mine versus the other one?

The very first thing I, my paid writing job, was kind of that situation, though. It was a book called How to Eat Fried Worms. And it was by Thomas Rockwell. And it was me versus all of these really funny Simpsons writers with their funny Simpsons episodes. And my writing samples for this was the Natural Born Killers novelization and a romantic tragedy, so I was like the worst person going into it.

But everyone was pitching their things, and so I brought in worms. And it felt very stunty, but I really wanted people to remember like this is what we’re actually talking about. It’s like taking worms out of the dirt and eating those. I didn’t eat them in the room; I wasn’t that gross.

But, I was going in there and I spent weeks working on that pitch and I could have not gotten it. And that’s really the danger of sweepstakes pitching is you have a bunch of writers spending a tremendous amount of time and almost none of them are going to be working on it.

Ben: What did that pitch actually look like? You come in, you throw down a box of worms. But how did the pitch actually sound? Do you remember?

John: Every pitch should have the spirit of I just saw an amazing movie and let me tell you what it’s like. And this is sort of what happens. And when you try to convince your best friend to see a movie you’re not going to tell them every detail. You’re going to really set up the world. You’re going to set up the main characters, sort of how it all begins, the complications along the way, and then you’re going to wrap it up nicely.

And so after establishing the world, the tone, I described sort of how the world — we were showing the movie from sort of a three-foot tall point of view rather than a five-foot tall point of view. Just that sense like it’s not adults looking down at it. It’s all from this side and adults are sort of a little bit above everything else.

I described that and then I also — then I dumped out the worms on a plate a brought so they could writhe around and people could see like “and this is what we’re sort of getting into are these worms.” And talked them through the beats. But I did it like three times for different executives and things like that. I only brought the worms once.

Craig: Pitching is — sometimes you pitch an original idea. It’s rare that they will hear new writers pitching original ideas because they just don’t want to waste their time because 99.999 out of whatever that number is, it just won’t be very good. At least that’s what they think.

But you will, yeah, there are times when you have to go pitch on a job. The only thing I can add to what John said, because it was all very good, very insightful and very good advice, is that people respond to things that they don’t tell you they’re responding to. They’ll tell you that they respond to story and content. What they’re actually responding to is passion and your ability to inspire confidence in them and comfort them.

John: Yes.

Craig: That’s — and they can’t tell you that because then they — it’s kind of embarrassing, isn’t it? But that’s what they respond to. And so part of the game for you is to figure out what you are passionate, where the passion is for you in your pitch. And push that.

And then also to understand how to be comforting to a person who has to spend a lot of money on something they cannot control but for which they will be held accountable.

Ben: Just like we had talked about, you know, people can tell when there’s passion in a script. If you can make them feel something with that pitch, that goes a long way.

Craig: It does. It does.

Expectations: Hi, okay.

Craig: You should have let her touch them.

Ben: I am married!

Expectations: I have a question. I just started with “I.” Wow.

Craig: By the way, everyone did. I don’t know if you noticed that. Everyone did.

Expectations: So, it’s about an episode, the one with Mike Birbiglia, and I sort of had a follow up. I was just listening to that recently about having that one moment that you’re working toward that as the writer you’re the only one who knows what that is. And my question was sort of about expectations and how that plays in. And how often when you’re writing are you actually thinking about that moment in your head and whether or not it’s important if that moment is satisfying the expectations of the audience or completely defying the expectations.

Craig: Mm-hmm. Well, it depends on what the moment is. But there are times when you have a twist. A big reveal. A thing that recontextualizes everything that comes before it. And you need to be sure that as a craftsperson that you are leading the audience precisely where you need them to be in a way that retroactively makes sense and also then you go, oh my god, everything is not — I realize now that it’s like one of those things, am I looking at the old woman or the young woman depending, you know, it’s the optical illusion. You need to have both that somehow function at the same time.

However, there are times when you realize, you know, I built a little too much into this twist for what it’s revealing. That in fact I’m kind of losing some good story meat here because I’m playing hide the ball so much.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And you have to kind of evaluate on a case-by-case basis. And sometimes it’s okay to say, “I’m going to kind of give that away,” because the valuable part of it isn’t that it’s recontextualizing anything. The valuable part of it is that somebody is starting to catch onto something but is going to be in denial that it’s true.

These choices are up to you. There’s no one answer. It’s good that you’re thinking about it. I think that’s what you have to do is really make sure that you are thinking about that twist and that it makes sense and is valuable for your script because if it isn’t, oh my god, you got to get rid of it.

John: The real challenge of all writing is you know what’s going to happen next and you have to at the same time not know what’s going to happen next. And so you have to be able to read the story and experience the story without any sense of what’s coming down the road.

So, in general expectation is your best friend because people will approach a story with a set of expectations about the genre, about the kind of thing this is. And because they have those expectations you get a lot of things for free. So, if you’re writing a western you don’t have to explain horses and saddles and cattle. Like all that stuff just comes for free. Or even that the railroad is trouble. We get all that. You only have to do the work to explain what’s different in your world, and that’s if the railroad people are the good people in your world, you have to sort of do that work.

But expectation can also help you with surprise. And so all the things that you get for free with those expectations, sometimes you can use this to your advantage to actually like pull a surprise. And you get one or two or maybe three surprises in a script where like no one saw that coming. But if you did that all the time people would lose trust in you. People would be like, “I don’t know what this is. I give up.” That’s a really careful thing to balance.

Craig: That’s right. It’s about making — and when I say twist I didn’t mean to imply that everything, or just the big moment where you know that this person is going to get run over by a car. It’s not a twist. It’s an event. But that when you pervert the audience’s expectations, that you’re doing so meaningfully. And then you, having shattered their trust in your storytelling, in a good way, now give them the replacement that should ideally be better. Writing those kinds of things, that’s good advanced screenwriting stuff. And people blow it all the time.

So, don’t blow it. [laughs]

Ben: We have time for one more.

Research: Can you guys talk about doing research when you’re inspired for a project? Do you look to other movies? Do you look to articles on the internet? And can you talk about when you’re just looking at Wikipedia articles and you’re going on a sink hole versus actually, you know, finding out information that’s relevant?

John: Yeah. Research is a great way to sort of waste time and not write. It’s a really great time, because it feels like you’re working — I’m doing research, but I’m actually just sort of in a Wikipedia K-hole. But I will say what’s great about research and the reason why I never farm off research on somebody else is because that process of researching is sort of creating the questions in my head that I sort of want to answer. And it’s leading me down all these paths, making me think of stuff, or just the weird turns of phrase that I find there are great, or that random image I stumbled across, that no one would know, would click for me, are really, really useful.

So, research is fantastic when it’s helpful. But it’s just so easy to make that a distraction like, oh, before I start this scene I need to watch the whole Godfather trilogy again. Well, that’s a great way to not write.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, look, if you want to jerk off, just jerk off, you know. Right?

Ben: Right. That’s how we end every podcast.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Yeah. This is the official, this is it.

Ben: Talking about it.

John: [laughs] Oh no!

Craig: Oh. Um. Research to me is something that I do in the moment. I don’t usually let a story be led by research, rather the other way around. So, I’m writing something and I think, okay, I need a cool place. I need like a really interesting slummy place that I haven’t seen before that’s dangerous, but I want it to be in Europe. Where’s the weird slum in Northern Europe? And I’ll just start looking around. So, that’s good, but it’s purposeful and it’s goal-oriented. It’s a very specific thing that I need to satisfy. And then, okay, I’ve got my answer and off I go.

You know, maybe early on in a project you can kind of give yourself a week or two to do research if it’s that kind of movie, but I think John is write. Usually people are just stalling. Don’t be a staller.

John: Because this is a crossover episode, we’re going to cut this part short so we can move over to yours.

Ben: We have more time.

John: Well, I’m excited to do this. So, let’s do this.

Craig: Don’t get in his way, man.

Ben: You know what we didn’t get to do? You didn’t get to plug your live show.

John: That’s what I’m going to do right now.

Ben: I’m so excited for it, John.

John: It’s very, very exciting. So, you people are the first people except for the people who heard it yesterday — you are the first people to hear about our next live show. And so the Writers Guild Foundation came to Craig and I and said like, “Hey, how about you do another live show?” And we said that sounds great. And like how about we use the little room at the WGA theater at the WGA building. And Craig said…

Craig: No, I hate that room.

John: And what do you say about that room?

Craig: It’s the multi-purpose room.

John: The multi-purpose room, yeah. Craig said it’s where dreams go to die.

Craig: Well, yeah, it is the most institutional, dead room. It’s got that pediatrician office carpet. It’s like a slightly melted square. It’s the worst. You cannot enjoy or experience any vitality in that room. Well done, WGA. Well done.

John: So Craig said hell no, but like in every good negotiation by saying no sometimes you get them to come back and they like, “Well, but what if…” And so they’re giving us the big WGA theater in Beverly Hills. And so we are having that on May 15, which is a Thursday.

Craig: Now we’ve got to fill that thing.

John: Yeah. We’re going to fill that thing. Don’t worry about that.

Craig: He always thinks we’re going to fill everything. He’s amazing.

John: I’m the optimist of the podcast.

Ben: You guys will all be there, right? They’ll come.

John: Well, I think you’re going to come when you know our special guest. So, our guest —

Craig: This crowd might appreciate these —

Ben: You guys have 10 more minutes for plugs, right?

John: Yeah. So, we’re billing this as Scriptnotes, the Summer Superhero Spectacular, because our guests are Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely of Captain America and Thor.

Ben: Oh, listen to them on the Nerdist Writers Panel next week everyone.

John: Don’t listen to that show, no. Listen to them live!

Craig: If you guys want like a lesser experience of those people, fine.

Ben: Absolutely.

Craig: If you want the real, you know —

Ben: If you want them raw you go to the Scriptnotes show.

Craig: But also…

John: But also David Goyer of Batman movies, the Batman Versus Superman.

Craig: We’ve got Marvel and DC clashing.

Ben: That’s a crossover!

John: it is a crossover episode live on stage. By the way, they also have the Superman movie and the Captain America movie are scheduled for like the same weekend, so we’re going to solve that on the stage and get that all sorted out. So, that’s going to be done and dealt with. And you know what it’s done and dealt with? Because the writers got together and figured it out. And that’s what we’re saying —

Craig: I’m going to get those guys to punch. You guys show up, I swear I will get them to fight.

John: I think there should be some whole-hand boxing is really —

Craig: Have you guys ever seen David Goyer or Markus or McFeely? That fight could go on for hours because there’s no upper body strength there. It could be so entertaining, just like a constant this. I’m going to get them to fight. Or, now apparently they’re going to fight me.

John: Yeah. We’re also going to do our Three Page Challenge, but live. So, we will be going through the three pages. We will have those people up on stage. We will tell them what we thought. They will tell us what they were actually planning to do. So, it will be terrifying. We’re going to have a special guest judge up there with us to help us out.

Ben: Is it me?

Craig: Who’s that?

John: It’s a surprise.

Ben: It’s not me.

Craig: Did you tell me?

John: No, I…

Craig: Oh, you haven’t figured it out yet.

John: But we’re going to have somebody awesome up on stage with us.

Ben: I’m available you guys.

Craig: Hey, Ben, I’m sorry. John is talking.

Ben: That’s fine.

John: And there’s one more thing. So, we’re going to do a cocktail party beforehand. So, there’s going to be a cocktail party, so if you guys want to come join us for that, there’s a special ticket you can get for that. It’s like a very limited number. Aline Brosh McKenna is hosting that for us.

Craig: Yes she is.

John: So that’s going to be great. So come. Tickets go on sale for all of this this Thursday, April 17th. Yes, Thursday April 17, 10am.

Last time we had troubles with people and time and stuff like that. So, it’s Thursday the 17th at 10am is the live show.

Ben: We will all be there.

John: All right. So…

Craig: That’s almost true.

John: So, Ben, we have a thing on our show. You don’t have any rituals really on your show.

Ben: No, we always end the show in the same way.

John: Maybe I never made it to the end.

Ben: You never made it to the end?

Craig: I didn’t even know you had a show until today!

Ben: Craig, you’re going to see some fisticuffs.

Craig: Awesome! Oh, this could take awhile, too.

Ben: You guys do your thing first. I still haven’t thought of anything.

John: All right. So, we do One Cool Thing. So, my One Cool Thing feels especially appropriate for the space that we’re in because it is a book called Alternative Movie Posters by Matthew Chojnacki. And it is really a great book. So, I love when people go back and retroactively make a poster for a movie that I love and just go a completely different style. And so this is a book of those.

I love that idea so much that I actually started a Tumblr called Unsheets that I kept updated for like three weeks and then just sort of gave up on. But this guy fortunately made a whole book. And so now I can feel free not to do it. It’s a really great book of just amazing posters. Of course, a thousand versions of The Shining, but other really great things, too.

Craig: There’s always versions of The Shining. This isn’t related to the Polish One Sheets is it, because have you seen those?

John: Yeah, they’re great.

Craig: Unbelievable. So disturbing.

John: There’s also African One Sheets where they just make crazy posters for movies that are nothing like the actual movie.

What’s your One Cool Thing, Craig?

Craig: My One Cool Thing is this app, Entrain.

I hate jet lag. I’m becoming obsessed with how much I hate jet lag. I don’t want to travel anymore. I don’t even want to go — I’ll go north and south now. That’s it. And partly I hate it because of jet lag. And the scientists have figured out this method. I mean, they’ve always kind of known the best way to trick your body out of jet lag as quickly as you can and it has to do with not only when you should be exposing yourself to light and not, but also when you are exposing yourself to light in your normal day.

So, there’s this app called Entrain. It’s free. And basically you plug in where you are, when you normally wake up, when you normally go to bed, where you’re going, and it also figures out do you spend most of your time in bright light, so for instance you’re a healthy person that works outside, or do you work here in what is essentially a cavern?

And then it tells you, and then it asks you where you’re going to be, and then it figures out. Now, depressingly it’s like, okay, if you want to do this right you have 300 hours of adjustment. It’s kind of — in that way it’s annoying because really we just want to go there and be happy. But I thought it was pretty smart, so check it out, Entrain, if you’re ever going anywhere that is not north or south.

John: Very nice.

Craig: Which I don’t recommend.

John: My favorite experience of jet lag is actually coming back from Europe because you end up just getting so tired at like 8pm. It’s like I can just go to bed. And like going to bed at 8pm is such a great luxury.

Craig: Yeah. Until you wake up at two in the morning hearing sirens in your head. And you’re like, what happened?

John: That’s most days for Craig.

Ben, do you have a One Cool Thing for us?

Ben: I sure do. But before I get to it…

Craig: Stalling. Doesn’t have one.

Ben: I’d like to remind folks to hear the second half of this podcast that they should go to, click on the podcast link, and then click on the orange Nerdist Writers Panel logo, because that will take you to all of the Nerdist Writers Panel podcasts. Also go to

John: Great.

Ben: My One Cool Thing is this. I have recently — my writing partner and I have recently begun writing comic books. And it’s a lot of fun. And it’s like screenwriting and unlike screenwriting. And it’s really an interesting experience. And thus I’ve taken a deep dive back into comic books, after not reading them for a few years. And the best thing going right now, and you guys, please make noise if you are reading this, is Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminals. Have you read this book?

Craig: Wow. You just out-nerded the nerdiest group of people in the world.

John: Well done Ben Blacker.

Craig: Unbelievable.

Ben: Listen, it’s an Image Comic. It’s so great.

Craig: I don’t understand that joke. [laughs]

Ben: You’ve seen The Walking Dead, right?

Craig: Oh, yeah.

Ben: All right. It’s those guys. Sex Criminals is hilarious and weird and romantic and funny and a little scary and definitely disturbing. And Matt Fraction has a lot of things going wrong in his brain. But it’s about a couple who find each other in the first issue who whenever either of them reaches orgasm time freezes. And they use that to go and rob a bank. [laughs]

Craig: Why wouldn’t they just use them for more orgasms? I don’t understand like —

Ben: Because when they’re ready to again time starts again. So, they have to maintain that for a little while. Yeah, it’s fucked up. But it’s great in a way that you totally would not expect. And I am a horrible prude from New England and I thought I would hate this thing and it is the best thing I’m reading these days, including novels.

Yeah, I read novels.

John: Ah-ha! There’s a little mic drop there. Great. So, we got some Sex Criminals. We got some sleeping apps. And we got some alternative posters.

Craig: Fantastic.

John: You could combine them all.

Ben: That’s a hell of a weekend.

Craig: I say we kick this table over and walk on out of here.

John: You have that and some cough syrup and you have a good weekend. So, that wraps up this part of the show and so I’ll just do the standard boilerplate stuff when I get home.

Ben: You can do it now.

John: Okay, I’ll do it now. If you would like to listen to more episodes of Scriptnotes, I was seeing if Craig even knows how to do it. You can find us on iTunes. Just search for Scriptnotes right there. You can leave us a comment while you’re there. If you want to have a transcript of this episode or any episode they are always online. So, just go to and you’ll see all the transcripts are right there.

We have an app for your phone.

Craig: For iOS and for Android.

John: That’s correct.

Ben: A Scriptnotes specific app?

John: Ben, you don’t even know we have an app? All right.

Ben: I have a flip phone.

John: All right.

Craig: We actually have an app for the flip phone.

Ben: I have a princess phone.

Craig: Yeah. We have an app for that. Yeah, we have an app for, hi princess. Yeah, if anybody is still rocking a Treo we have a fully functional Treo app.

Ben: What happens with this app?

John: So, the best thing about the app is you can get to all of the back episodes. Because we only keep the most recent 25 episodes on iTunes, but the entire back catalog is there. So, it’s a great way to get to the back catalog. If the first 100 episodes are your thing, we also have some USB drives that you can have all the 100 episodes of that. Those are at And that’s this part of the show.

Craig: If you want to ask, have any questions or comments, you can email John and myself at But for shorter comments or questions —

John: You’re doing very well, Craig. You really are.

Craig: John is @johnaugust and I am @clmazin.

John: And you @benblacker, correct?

Ben: Yeah, I got my whole name. Early adopter.

John: Nicely done.

Craig: Sweet.

John: Sweet. And thank you very much for this part. So, this is a crossover episode so we need to think of some sort of cliffhanger to go from one to the next.

Ben: Did you guys watch Scandal last week?

Craig: What?

John: Find out the answer on the next episode!