The original post for this episode can be found here.

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

Craig Mazin: Hi. My name is Craig Mazin.

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

Craig, how are you today?

Craig: Really good. Really good. Super good, John. You’re going to have to constrain my exuberance.

John: I won’t even ask why. Or should I ask why?

Craig: Because, it’s kind of a bounce back day. You ever have a week where you felt a little low, felt a little blue, wasn’t really sure why? And then you have your bounce back day where everything is like, oh yeah, that’s right — I’m not going to be sort of glum for the rest of my life.

John: Oh, that’s a good thing.

Craig: Isn’t that nice.

John: So, welcome to the podcast where Craig Mazin is rapidly cycling bipolar.

Craig: Yeah!

John: Yeah! It’s going to be great.

Craig: Woo-hoo!

John: Well, today you’ll hear bipolar Craig talk about remakes versus reboots, classical music and how it relates to screenwriting. We’re going to talk about the future of the Three Page Challenge, and we’ll also be talking with Scott Tobias of The Dissolve about an article he wrote on Video On Demand and the sort of mysterious finances behind it.

So, it’s a busy show. Like most of our shows, it’s a pretty full show.

Craig: It’s a pretty full show. Before we get started with the pretty full show, a couple things, one, could we just talk about bipolar for a second? Everybody misuses this term.

John: Okay. Tell me about it.

Craig: Everybody thinks that bipolar is like, oh, I’m really moody and one day I’m this and one day I’m that, and I’m up and I’m down. Actual bipolar disease is fairly rare and it’s very, very serious. I was talking about this with a psychologist the other day, in fact. And real bipolar individuals have very often very severe clinical depression that lasts for a long time, not like a day, or two days, or a week, but a long time.

Then they shift into a different area, a different section where they become manic. And manic isn’t like really up and, hey, hey, hey, and kind of like cokey. Mania is closer to schizophrenia. They start to believe that they could bike across the ocean and that they could build a skyscraper with their hands. It’s a very serious mental disease. And I think sometimes people use bipolar when they really mean moody. [laughs]

John: [laughs] Yeah, so I do apologize for being a little dismissive of your feelings there and overextending the bipolar diagnosis to what is probably normal moodiness.

Craig: No, no, you don’t have to apologize to me. I just like talking about mental illness because it fascinates me. And I think, you know, because I do meet people who are like, “Oh, well he’s a little bipolar.” And I’m like let me stop you there. No one is a little bipolar. That’s like saying, well, he’s a little psychotic. Is he or is he not hallucinating? [laughs] You know, it’s one or the other.

Okay, so that was one thing. Bigger follow up was that I totally blew it last week. We were talking about Edgar Wright and his budgets and I mentioned that I thought that the budget for Hot Fuzz was something like $40 million. I wasn’t even close on that one. It was actually more like $16 million U.S. And so I do apologize; that was totally wrong.

Frankly, I’m even more impressed with that movie now that I know that he was able to do it with that budget. It’s pretty remarkable.

John: All right. I have some follow up as well. Last week we talked about — we gave some advice to Jason about whether he should spec a new screenplay over the summer or if he should chase some assignments. And weirdly we did a thing which I try not to do which is we offer those as like the two alternatives when really of course there are many other alternatives.

And one of the alternatives that people wrote in suggesting was, you know, the third choice is he could make something. And he could find a way, like, write something that he could shoot or do something else that is — so he’s not just having another script sitting there, but has something else as a sample to show — something he could shoot. And I think that’s actually a really good suggestion.

And so we don’t know about this guy who wrote in, whether he has aspirations about being a director, but if he does the summer is a good time to shoot something and always be looking for what is the next step you want to take to get you to your overall goals which maybe are being a screenwriter, but maybe they’re being a writer-director. So, do more stuff is a good suggestion.

Craig: Yeah. If he has something lying around that he loves, that he’s written, he can go shoot that. If he doesn’t, better to take a little time to write first. Get it in good shape, then go shoot. I’m not a big fan of just sort of ad hoc shooting.

John: Yeah. But in general I try to always catch myself when I’m trying to decide between two choices because whenever it looks like there are two choices, the first thing you should ask yourself is like are there other choices I’m not considering.

Craig: Right.

John: And in this case we were looking at just those two things and that wasn’t the full picture.

Craig: Yeah. Like drinking, for instance. Just —

John: Totally.

Craig: Just drink.

John: A good solution for most of life’s problems.

Craig: Right. Just drink it away.

John: Jake wrote in to say, “I was listening to your podcast today and thinking about watermarking and how difficult it is to keep a script secure. I wanted to share with you what we did on my first screenplay which sold a couple months ago.”

Well, congratulations that it sold. “To keep the script ultra secure we created 20 different versions of the script, each with tiny subtle differences in the script.”

Craig: Whoa.

John: “Mainly these were words, all in uppercase or underlined. Our writing style uses these anyway, so it didn’t look out of place. Then we created a spreadsheet with these changes marked. Example, like this word is in uppercase on page three and then gently let the recipient know that there were changes but not what the changes were.

“Who knows if this ever stopped the script from getting leaked, but it made it very difficult to get past a watermark.”

This is a totally valid thing and it’s not the first time I’ve heard of this. Have you ever done that, Craig?

Craig: No, I mean, what’s better about that than watermarking, other than that watermarking is ugly?

John: Yeah. So, it gets rid of like the visible watermark and if someone does disseminate you can tell which draft leaked. Basically you could tell who leaked it very easily based on like that word was different.

And it’s something I’ve seen other people do. And so it’s certainly a valid technique. It’s a giant pain in the ass to do it, but it might be a valid way to do it. So, in his situation this was a script that they were sending out to — a spec that they were sending out to specific buyers and I think they wanted to make sure that only those buyers were seeing it and that it wasn’t getting passed around too quickly too soon.

And for that reason it might have been a good choice to do it.

Craig: I guess. I mean, I still think a watermark does that same exact thing. I don’t mind watermarking.

John: I don’t really mind watermarking either. I make a program called Bronson Watermarker, so I really don’t mind it that much.

When we talked, in the new Bronson Watermarker we have this thing called Finger Printing. And when we were first developing the feature, what he described, what Jake described was really kind of what we were thinking about doing is basically we would make small changes to certain words. Like we’d substitute out the number one character for a lowercase L on a certain page. And we’d give you a little sheet that showed you what we did. The challenge is when you’re talking about a real PDF, we would have to break open the PDF in order to like insert that one little character. And it would just very likely ruin the script by doing that. You would ruin something, you’d knock of pages or things like that. So, we didn’t end up doing it.

So, our finger printing feature inserts invisible watermarks that stick with a file but don’t actually change any of the words on the page.

Craig: Oh. There’s a simplicity, and ease, and general industry acceptance for watermarking. This is a version of watermarking that’s less visually intrusive, but really cumbersome to manage on the other end. I don’t know.

John: I don’t know.

Craig: I don’t love it. I mean, it works. I just don’t love it.

John: All right. Let’s see if you’re going to love this. So, Ben wrote in, it’s our first new topic. He wrote in saying, “Okay, here’s a matter of some sort of Aspergery semantics. Reboot versus remake? To me, you remake a singular film and you reboot a franchise. Stargate can be rebooted because the TV series has continuity. You reboot or reset the continuity like a computer. There’s no real continuity to Cliffhanger, though. It was a one-shot story. So, it’s a remake of Cliffhanger, not a reboot. I believe the industry lingo does not make this distinction, but I want to. It’s been driving me nuts for years.”

Craig, where do you stand on reboot versus remake? Because I will tell you that I had never really thought about it but I do use them slightly differently. So, talk to me.

Craig: I actually never really understood my own distinction until now. I think… — Who wrote this question in?

John: This was Ben.

Craig: Ben, I think, is absolutely right. I think it’s actually kind of brilliant. He’s exactly right because a remake is a remake of — that’s how I think of a remake — they had a film and then they remade it. But when a movie has spooled itself into sequels, then when you’re starting the thing all over again with a fresh tone, a thing that can generate its own sequels within its own carved out universe, that does feel like a reboot. That’s what I think reboot is. Yeah, I think he’s totally right.

John: I think he’s totally right. If you think about Batman Begins, Batman Begins is clearly a reboot. You can’t think of that as being a remake of Tim Burton’s Batman.

Craig: Right.

John: That’s madness to think about that. It’s a reboot. And so some of the other things I would add into the idea of a reboot is that you are approaching an existing property with a really kind of brand new idea. It’s a new take on something, so it’s not just you’re updating necessarily, but it’s a real kind of re-thinking of what it is.

That’s why the new Star Trek franchise really is genuinely a reboot because it acknowledges the continuity of the old series and moves forward in a way that is completely different. And so the same kinds of characters are there, but they serve different functions. It really is, you know, it’s its own new thing.

Craig: Yeah. There are a couple of times where it’s a little thinky because, for instance, let’s take a look at the new Karate Kid. So, there were multiple Karate Kids.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And then they decided to start it again with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. And is that a reboot? Well, I saw that movie and it kind of felt more like a remake to me.

John: It feels like a remake also to me.

Craig: Because it really closely hued to the first story. Obviously they reset it in a place, but they really followed that story and the main beats from that. They didn’t actually reboot. I mean, he’s write to say it’s sort of like when you restart a franchise because what is a reboot? There’s something that’s been running in a sequence and then you’re restarting. And all of the sequencing should be gone.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Because you’re starting fresh again with a new thing. So, I thought like, okay, if — and I believe, have they made a second Karate Kid in this new version?

John: They haven’t.

Craig: Oh, they haven’t. Okay. Then I think of that as a remake, even though it is in fact a remake of a movie that is part of a franchise. But, generally speaking, yes, I think he’s right — rebooting comes from restarting something that is a franchise.

John: Yeah. I think you’re right.

Craig: I think he’s right.

John: I think we’re all right. I think, Ben, that is an important distinction and it’s not just Aspergers. I think we should be more careful in our choice of words.

Craig: Well, that may in fact be Aspergers. Listen, Aspergers obviously comes with enormous benefits.

John: It does.

Craig: And this is one of them. I mean, a really particular way of drilling into what language is. He’s right. I would — look, do you not have Aspergers just a little?

John: Oh, everyone needs a little whiff of Aspergers, I think, just to get through the day.

Craig: I do.

John: But here’s the thing though, again, we should back up to our bipolar thing. I think we end up being too flippant with a diagnosis just because it’s fun and convenient. So, to say like he’s a little bit Aspergers is like, no, he’s just actually like methodical and cares about things.

Craig: Maybe. I mean, the whole thing about Aspergers is that it is — it’s like sort of definitionally mild.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I guess there is something to be said of, oh, he’s got severe Aspergers, but wouldn’t that just be autism? I don’t know. That’s where I don’t know.

John: Let’s just go way off into the deep here. The same thing though can be said about like a whiff of many kinds of mental — I don’t want to say mental illness — but conditions that are negative when they’re too strong can be positive when they are mild.

Craig: That’s true.

John: And so even what we’re talking about with mania or depression to some degree, those can be useful things to certain people and certain circumstances. And so the people who often get a tremendous amount done, if you were to really step back and say like, okay, they were a little bit manic but like they weren’t trying to bicycle across the ocean. Instead they were trying to build a remarkable business and they succeeded in building that remarkable business.

Craig: Yeah…

John: Yeah. The people who just won’t stop at anything. There’s a relentlessness that’s crucial.

Craig: The psycho-pathological mania is less about super energetic and more about being delusional. But the point — the point is that I’m not flippant about Aspergers because I feel like most of my friends are — we didn’t have it. When you and I were kids we didn’t have that, right?

John: No, we didn’t have that.

Craig: Most of my friends would have been it. I would have been it, I think. [laughs] I think, to some extent. You know, I’ve never met somebody who had Aspergers who I thought, oh god, I’ve got to get away from this person — they have Aspergers. You know?

I think it actually can be… — Well, have you ever heard this theory that autism is an expression of what they call extreme male brain. Male Brain Syndrome.

John: Okay.

Craig: There’s a whole study of the gender differences in the brain itself and what testosterone does to the brain. And there are clear differences between male and female brains. But when you take the general male syndrome in extremists you can end up with autism. Of course, this doesn’t explain why some girls have autism. It’s a very confusing area of research.

Anyway, we’re not a podcast about any of that.

John: We’re not a podcast about that. The only last point I will say though is you’re saying, you know, with mania comes — you have this image of delusion or delusions of grandeur. But there’s a really fine line between delusions of grandeur and vision. And sometimes you have to have a little bit of delusion in order to do impossible things.

And many of the best directors I’ve worked with have just a little bit of that delusion and they have a little bit of that sort of — that unstoppability that is what lets them sort of keep pushing through on hour 17 and not sort of worry about the world around them. So, I’m just saying in the business that we’re in, you’re likely to encounter people who have conditions which could almost fit into the DSM and yet are tremendously successful in part because of that.

Craig: No, I’ve never actually met anybody that does what we do for a living that is — that doesn’t have something. [laughs] Honestly, I do. We are —

John: [laughs] No, it’s absolutely true.

Craig: We are not normal people. And you feel it most notably when you travel away and go home because it’s a funeral or something and you’re suddenly — there’s nobody there that works in the arts and you realize that you’re the freak.

John: Yeah. When you’re around the normals you’re like, oh no.

Craig: Civilians.

John: Yeah, like, man.

Craig: Yeah. You’re the weird one. That’s why, you know, like my son is really into drama at school, and musicals and stuff. And it makes me so happy because he’s with the freaks, like daddy. Just like daddy.

John: My daughter has taken her summer vacation and she’s writing a play she’s decided. And so her play is called True Blood. It’s like, really?

Craig: [laughs]

John: But she doesn’t know there’s another thing called True Blood. She’s like, “That’s a great title.” It’s like, okay…

Craig: Well, yes it is. It is actually —

John: It’s a really good title.

Craig: Good instincts.

John: Yeah. And I suspect that whatever she ends up writing will make more sense than the very late seasons of True Blood.

Craig: You know, I stopped watching True Blood because I just, I mean, my wife and I used to watch it early on, but somewhere in there — I hate saying “jumped the shark.” I don’t know what happened, but it just got crazy.

John: It got really super crazy. And, you know, their last season is coming up and I will watch the last season because I’m a completist. I was the person who watched every episode of many shows that never sort of made it through. And so I will watch it because I’m a completist and I think it’s a tremendously talented cast and it’s so difficult to make that show, so I have nothing but full love and respect for everybody on board with that show.

But, it did just get like crazy town.

Craig: Yeah, at some point I’m like, wait a second. What?!

John: What?!

Craig: I just did a lot of that, “What?!” My wife would say, “Shut up!”

John: So, our next topic is one you proposed and honestly I think it fits in very well because classical music, many of the people who have made the iconic classical music would have a little bit of a whiff of something not quite right about them.

Craig: Or a lot of a whiff. So, I was thinking about this because I don’t know if there is a particularly strong overlap between people who write and people who appreciate classical music, and the truth is I’m not — I’m not what you’d call a classical music buff. In fact, I’m going to give a couple of examples today that reveal that fully.

But, there are certain kinds of classical music that I think are really helpful for us as we think about what it means to create narrative in a let’s say — in a way that is separate from text. As writers, we are soaking in text and we are tasked with creating a lot of things that aren’t meant to exist in words with words. We have a weird gig. We’re attempting to capture emotions and feelings. We are attempting to inspire suspense and fear and joy and relief. And our ultimate goal is to do so with light and with sound. And we can’t use any of it. All we can use are words.

But music I find is analogous in that regard because they have sound, but for certain kinds of classical music you can start to see a narrative in your head, only with sound, and no words at all.

So, a couple examples I want to give. And, look, the early classical music, baroque, or the true classical period I don’t think is as useful for us in this regard. It’s beautiful music, but it’s very structured.

John: Yeah. You need to get into the romantic era and —

Craig: Yes. Yes. Where it really kicks in I think for our purposes for fun stuff is the romantic era, which by the way is what I think influences almost all of the classical scoring that you see in movies today, whether we’re talking about Tchaikovsky or Wagner, that kind of feeling.

So, I wanted to talk about a couple pieces that are so common it would almost be hackneyed, but if you just sit down and listen to them now as an exercise I think it might be useful to you. One is the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. And the other is Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin. And, they are both self-contained pieces somewhere around, what, 18 to 22 minutes, somewhere in that zone? And what I love about them is that they are telling stories just with music and you can start to detect it.

And you can see all of these tools in there that I think we should be thinking about when we’re writing. First of all, they have nice, long first acts. And they are clearly broken into acts. And in those nice, long first acts they are relaxed and they’re introducing themes. And those themes are for me analogous to characters. And as they do that they then begin to build. And as we — you know, one thing that we’re constantly dealing with when we’re writing is we’re building to things. And then we’re coming back down. And we’re building, and we’re coming back down, right?

We think of a movie as three acts and a climax, but really it’s a build and a climax, a build and a climax. It’s movies within movies within movies. It’s very fractal. And I think it’s the same way with these pieces. There are builds, crescendos, and then diminuendos, and in the builds there is tension and you can start to feel how tension works on a right brain level when you listen to this stuff.

Similarly, you can feel how the release of tension works, the importance of silence, and the saying of nothing. The competing themes, you can see how they bandy with each other and one gets the upper hand and then the other gets the upper hand. And then, of course, you start to see that one of them is winning. You start to feel like there is a hero in this. 1812 Overture is a great example because it’s about a war.

John: Yeah. And it feels like it’s about a war. And it feels like it’s about the dark scary moments of it, and also victory at the end of it.

Craig: Right. For instance, at the end of the 1812 Overture there is this moment that’s, I mean, textbook romantic orchestration. Tchaikovsky has this long descending chromatic action from the stings. [hums] And that goes on, and on, and on, and on.

Now, what do you think that is?

John: I think it’s the flag falling, isn’t it?

Craig: Well, essentially it’s the retreat of the French. They’re running away. And it’s so great because it’s done over and over and it’s beautiful. In and of itself you actually start to feel bad for them, you know, even though they’ve lost. But it’s emotional. We know that, again, this is the episode about neurology. For a typical right-handed person, because we don’t discuss those left-handed freaks on this show — no, actually left handers have an amazing advantage over us, we right handers. But for the typical crippled right hander, the left side of the brain controls speech, writing, language, vocabulary, grammar, all the stuff that we use. The right side is the music side. And I think that music is a great way to integrate the two.

John: So, when you talked about themes, like [hums], like you described that as being a character which I think is absolutely valid and true. You see a character reoccur. But it’s also an idea. And a theme can be, as we’re talking about screenplays, that theme can be expressed, or that idea can be expressed by multiple characters. And you can also think about that theme being expressed by multiple instruments in a piece.

And so you might here that theme being played by the woodwinds in the middle of the range, but then you hear it suddenly up on the flutes. And then you hear it very low on the bassoons. And that is something that also happens in our screenplays where different characters are expressing the same idea and you sort of see that idea being spread among multiple characters.

And so when your screenplay is really cooking, every person feels like they have a distinct voice, they have a distinct tone. You can hear sort of what a flute sounds like, but then you hear that flute expressing an idea that is key to the overall piece.

And so basically it is spread virally from one instrument to another instrument, from one character to another character. When things are working really well, that happens, and that is fantastic. And it feels like it sort of had to happen. Like everything was leading up to this next thing, was leading up to that next thing. And two themes combined become a new theme. That’s how lovers connect in your story. Those two things you wouldn’t think would necessarily fit together somehow magically, beautifully fit together.

Craig: Yeah. And you can see that perfectly at the end of Rhapsody in Blue where the two major themes come together and mesh perfectly. Rhapsody in Blue is far less of a literal, character-based discussion and is more about a setting. It’s about a city. It’s about the vibrance of a city and the clanging madness and beauty that are contained within the hustle and bustle of New York.

And that also is really valuable for us as we write our characters and we create our scenes. So often I think we are tempted to exclude the world save for the people in it, but the world is what we’re going to see. And I think movies that capture an entire scenario are the most successful.

And you look at Lawrence of Arabia, a story about Lawrence of Arabia. What you see — the beauty, the sweeping beauty of it is just astonishing, and so much of why that movie is a joy to watch and experience in its highs and lows. And, again, not surprisingly, if somebody said to me you could bring back one composer from the dead to score movies I would say Tchaikovsky.

John: Yeah. He’s a genius.

Craig: He’s amazing.

John: Another piece that I would recommend people listen to for that sense of like progression and arc is Ravel’s Boléro. The classically [hums] — that’s basically it. And then there’s one counter theme, [hums].

Craig: [hums] And then people rioted.

John: Yes. And it just keeps rising and rising and rising. And you’re thinking like, well, this can’t just keep going, but it’s going to keep going. And it actually keeps sort of reinventing itself until it becomes just triumphant at the end.

So, it’s that thing that could start incredibly slowly and build into sort of a giant fire. And great writing can do that same thing where it seems so simple and it becomes this sort of sweeping romantic statement based on its escalation.

Craig: Yeah. Absolutely. In the Hall of the Mountain King is another famous version of that kind of sustained melody that just builds, and builds, and builds until you go nuts.

John: Great. So, this was fun. It’s fun to talk about classical music on a podcast about screenwriting.

Craig: Yeah. Why not?

John: We should. We totally should.

Craig: Come on, people.

John: So, a thing I want to talk about next is Three Page Challenge. So, occasionally on the podcast we will do a Three Page Challenge. We will invite people to send in their three pages of their screenplay. We will take a look at them. We will talk though the things we thought worked fantastic and the things we thought could be better. And we’ve enjoyed doing it. It’s been sort of a thing about our podcast for quite a long time.

We did a Three Page Challenge at the live show and for that one we opened it up so people could vote on it and people could see what all the things were. We’ve reopened that submission process, so if you go to, you can submit your script. You can click a link and attach your file and send it through.

And for now that’s what we’re doing. But, someone brought up and I thought it was a really good point, that it’s sort of weird that we talk about the Three Page Challenge and then we also talk about how we need to move past the idea of pages as being the defining unit of a screenplay.

Craig: It is weird.

John: It is weird. So, I asked Stuart to go through this last cohort of scripts and in the next Highland, in the Highland that comes out next week we added a word count feature. So, I had him take all of the Three Page Challenges and just do a word count on all of them.

Craig: Okay.

John: And figure out, so how many words do you think is average for three pages? Do you have any sense?

Craig: Oh my…I would say 300.

John: It’s actually 600. It’s more than you would think. So, 616 about. And so I want to propose to you and to see, just talk it through on the air, what if it was like a 600-Word Challenge rather than a Three Page Challenge? How would that change things?

Craig: Ah, it would just replace one arbitrary measurement with another.

John: Yeah, it would.

Craig: I mean, I wonder if we — it’s kind of an interesting experiment. What if we said to people it’s a One Sequence Challenge?

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: And so instead of feeling like you can’t finish your sequence, send us a sequence. A sequence could be one page long, it could be two pages. It could be four pages. We will limit the sequence in some length just so that we don’t have to read too much. You could use words if you like because, again, we hate pages.

What if we said it’s a One Sequence Challenge?

John: Perhaps. That might be the way to do it. And we might provide very clear metrics so we can maybe read or not read certain things if they seem like they’re excessively long or, you know.

Craig: The other thing we could do is if somebody sends a One Sequence Challenge in, we could stop reading where the sequence ends. [laughs] In other words, if somebody thought that their sequence was longer than it was we go, no, here is where we stopped because that’s the end of your sequence.

John: Maybe so. So, we’ll think about the right way to do this. One theory I had, one idea I had which, again, is like really easy to think about and actually a pain in the ass to build — you probably aren’t familiar with it, but there’s a site called Code Pen. And what you can do there is you put up snippets of code and CSS and sort of show cool little things, animations you’ve made, and stuff like that.

Something like that might actually be the right way to do it where people are essentially just pasting in their script, it shows it nicely formatted, and everyone can see it. And then we can decide out of there which ones to do.

Because right now it’s essentially an email process. You’re clicking submit and it’s going to this black box that Stuart looks at.

Craig: Oh, Stuart’s brilliant filing system.

John: Yes. So, Stuart’s filing system has improved.

Craig: Oh really? Did you yell at Stuart?

John: I don’t yell at Stuart.

Craig: Did you give him like bad disappointed John talk?

John: [laughs] I asked ways that we could do better.

Craig: Ah! [laughs] Poor Stuart!

John: I inquired in a very positive way how we could do better.

Craig: “Stuart, let us have a discussion.”

John: So, maybe there’s a public way that we could have them all up there and some sort of authentication so you know sort of who it is that you’re actually talking with.

Craig: I’m game for anything. I don’t know if people have concerns about putting their stuff out there in public for everybody to see.

John: Yeah. I don’t know either.

Craig: But, you know —

John: But, actually everyone who submitted to the Three Page Challenge for the live show, they seemed delighted to have their stuff out there. So.

Craig: And, again, it’s one sequence.

John: It’s one sequence. That’s the thing. Maybe people shouldn’t be so worried.

Craig: I don’t think people should ever be worried, personally. But, that’s me. I’m carefree because I’m on a bounce back week.

John: Perfect.

Craig: Catch me next week, I’m going to just be grim.

John: So, now, I think it’s time we should talk to our guest on the show today. It’s Mr. Scott Tobias.

Craig: Great. So, Scott Tobias is the editor of The Dissolve, a film website. Before that he was a film reviewer and writer for the AV Club. Scott Tobias, welcome.

Scott Tobias: Oh, thanks for having me.

John: And you are recording from Chicago, so thank you, all the way from the Windy City joining us on the show.

Scott: That’s not a problem.

John: So, the reason why I wanted to talk to you is you had a post this last week titled The Hidden World of Video On Demand Profits. And we love to talk about great articles, but it’s so hard to recap an article on the podcast, so it would be so great if you could talk us through why you wrote this post and sort of what you found or what motivated you to write it.

Scott: Sure. Well, one of the things about running a website, I mean, the site is a little under one year old. And we want to try to cover the waterfront and we want to cover everything that comes out. And we want to figure out how people are — what people are watching and how people are watching it, which means that you have to kind of grapple with video on demand. And it’s been a real challenge for us, you know, sometimes just to even find the movies that we want to review, but also, you know, it’s kind of a dark world.

You have a lot of viewers who are migrating to video on demand, who are watching new movies this way, particularly independent movies, or specifically independent movies. And you sense that the ground beneath your feet is shifting really dramatically. There’s no actual — it can’t be quantified. You can only speak in generalities about it because there are no actual figures that are given for movies that are released on video on demand like there are for movies that are released theatrically.

John: So, it’s certainly a growing trend. I had a movie in 2007 called The Nines and we debuted at Sundance. We came out, had our sort of hand stamped theatrically, and then many, many months later we showed up on video. And that was sort of the last year that happened. The next year you had the Magnolias and those companies coming in.

And when they would buy one of these independent movies they would put it in theaters and on video on demand simultaneous, or increasingly it’s on video on demand first and then it’s showing up in theaters even sometimes a month later.

Scott: Yes.

John: So, how do you make the choice of which movies to cover and which movies to not cover? What is you process at The Dissolve?

Scott: Well, we try to cover everything that we can. If something is released theatrically, commercially in New York or other cities for an extended run of a week or more we cover it. VOD can be a little bit — if it’s VOD-only that can be a little bit shaky here. One thing we do, we have been doing that other publications haven’t done as much is that if a movie that say Magnolia releases on VOD first and then in theaters, we review it at the first window on VOD and then later in theaters. So, that’s kind of our approach to it.

But, you know, it changes. Again, we’re really trying to figure out how to best serve our readers and really what we end up doing with VOD before theatrical is review it for VOD first. And then when it cycles back around to theaters then we’ll run the review. Like this new Ti West movie, The Sacrament, was on VOD a month ago and it opened in theaters on Friday. So, we reran the review yesterday.

John: Now, are these movies making money, because that’s actually one of the tricky things to figure out is classically you sort of had a sense of how well a movie did based on how much money it made at the box office. As you point out in the article, it’s very hard to know how much a movie like Blue Ruin is actually making. In the article you say that it grossed $32,000 on seven screens in its opening weekend, which isn’t amazing. It’s maybe fine, but it’s not amazing, yet it had already been out on VOD, so you really have no good sense of whether that was a great showing for that or a bad showing for that.

Scott: Yeah, I mean, that one was day and days, which means it was released simultaneously in theaters and on VOD. And that was kind of, as I put in the article, it was sort of the canary and the coal mine for me because I’ve been sort of eyeing how independent genre films specifically have done in theaters.

And, you know, if you actually just look at the numbers you think these types of movies are not viable in theaters. These movies aren’t making any money at all. I mean, Blue Ruin is a film that had every possible advantage. It was a real sensation at Cannes where it was picked up by The Weinstein Company which released it through Radius-TWC which is their VOD/theatrical . It played at virtually every festival. The reviews were excellent. I mean, it was a film that was pretty much the chief buzz magnet when I was at Toronto last year and there was a lot of anticipation for it.

But then, you know, when it’s released theatrically these numbers are pretty weak. I think it maybe made $4,000 or so per screen, something like that, which is not that great. And I’m sure looking at what it’s made so far theatrically which I think is somewhere in the range of about $225,000 or something, that’s probably well less than what was paid for it.

But my suspicion is that it did very well on VOD, but it’s just a suspicion. I can’t know for sure. And that’s really kind of at the heart of the piece is that we really guess that these films are successful but we can’t know because we’re just not getting a clear picture.

Craig: Well, I want to talk a little bit about who the “we” is, because obviously the distributors know. They’re the ones who are collecting the money. On some level the creative guilds will know because we have residuals based on internet sales and internet rentals. And while we, at least conditionally rely on the studios to send us our fair share, the three guilds do something called a tri-guild audit fairly regularly where they go through the books to make sure that in fact we’re getting our fair share.

So, I guess one question I have for you is if the writers and the directors and the actors know, and the studios know, who else needs to know? In other words, why is it important that you guys know?

Scott: Actually, let me fire one question back to you, just as a point of clarification. Does this include films that are released not by a major studio but by Magnolia or by Film Buff or by really smaller distributors than that? I mean, do they know?

Craig: It depends. Like I said, the guilds will have a mechanism in place. So, if a movie is done non-union, which is different than independent because there are a lot of independent films that are done union, at least for the writers and the directors, sometimes not for the actors. But one component will at least be guild. And then somebody on some other side other than the company will know.

But if your point is that there are small companies that are operating outside of the auspices of the guild who can be shady about their reporting of box office or of — I would imagine those companies could also be just as shady about their reporting of video. In other words, I mean, my question is — I guess here’s my real question: is it something that you are most interested in because you think that how a movie does financially is of public interest value, or are you concerned about protecting the artists and making sure that they get taken care of? Or both?

Scott: I think it’s just about knowledge, you know, about getting a sense of what the landscape is like. I’m not personally much of a box office tracker. It’s not my — whatever interest I have in that has to do with, well, maybe if a movie is successful more movies like it will get made. But, I think we’re at such a critical juncture right now, for all of film really, just that transition to the digital age is so dramatic. It’s very dark, this understanding of this particular realm because nothing is disclosed.

So, I don’t know if that helps answer your question or not, but —

John: I would actually step in and say that I’m always curious about how a movie did largely because whether a movie is a success or a failure, you have some sense of is it perceived as a success or a failure. And in the case of Blue Ruin it’s very hard to know how we’re supposed to feel about it. So, if you as a journalist writing about, do you write about this that, you know, is it considered a success or not a success? And it’s very hard to know when you don’t have any of that information. And it’s all sort of hidden away.

I’m not saying that you’re necessarily going to get that information, but it’s harder to know how to feel about it. I think it’s also harder for other filmmakers to have a sense of what is normal and have a sense of what the expectations are.

I remember there was a time back in like the early ’90s probably, late ’80s/early ’90s where you had — if you made a gay film that was below a certain budget you could bank on making about $2 million theatrically. And there was just sort of a template for that. And it feels like without any of these numbers it’s really hard to know what the template is.

Now, certainly sales agents probably know what the template is. Distributors probably know what the template is. But that indie filmmaker really may have no sense of what the template is and what’s a good deal or what is the right amount of money to spend on something.

Scott: That’s a really good point. And actually it’s a point that was made by this producer named Travis Stevens who has done a lot of indie genre films, including his film Cheap Thrills that came out earlier this year. And he posted my article on Facebook and there was kind of a discussion between himself and a bunch of other indie filmmakers. And his point was that about when he deals with filmmakers a lot of his job is about managing expectations because they don’t — it’s very hard to make money and it’s hard to know. And my sense also, anecdotally, is that a lot of filmmakers really don’t know how well their films are doing when they’re released on VOD.

I think there are actually some pretty good motives for not only hiding failures on VOD but hiding successes. I mean, how much does it serve unless they absolutely have to tell a filmmaker how well a film is doing on VOD. Does it really serve them to say anything?

John: I can tell you from personal experience that I have zero idea how The Nines is really doing on VOD. So, we get these residual statements, but to try to go through and actually audit that and figure out what the dollars I’m making off of VOD is really, really tough. And, it is true.

Now, Craig, you were saying that residuals will show us some sense of how the VOD is doing, but what happens when you are doing day and date? Is that video considered first release, or is that video considered real true video?

Craig: It’s not considered part of the primary theatrical exposition. And, you know, this is an area where I suspect we’re going to be fighting some fights one day.

Right now the profit, or let’s put profit aside, the gross receipts that are not included for residuals and so are not considered ancillary are primary theatrical — exhibition I should be saying — exposition is an entirely different thing — exhibition and also curiously planes. For whatever reason when they run movies on planes they consider that part of the primary exhibition.

But, all video on demand of all sorts is not considered primary. We do get a percentage of that. So, if it’s sold on iTunes or if it’s run on HBO or pay per view on cable then we do get a percentage of that. There’s the wild west of exhibition and then there’s kind of the big city. And in the big city it’s still a problem, by the way. And you’re absolutely right that the companies have every reason to want to keep every number quiet. They don’t want anyone to know that they’ve made a lot of money. They don’t want anyone to know they’ve lost a lot of money because it will probably save them money in the long run to keep those cards close to their vest.

What this has unfortunately done is created a cottage industry of rubbernecking where people are very curious and there’s an enormous amount of speculation about movies that appear to have lost a ton of money. Similarly, there is a weird kind of fetishization of movies that appear to have made a lot of money, when in fact a lot of the reportage doesn’t include things that impact what the actual money really is.

We tend to over-dramatize money that’s earned here in the United States. We tend to underplay the variable cost of marketing which can be enormous.

And, beyond all that, my personal opinion is I just wish the entire discussion would go away because I don’t think it has anything to do with our appreciation of movies. I don’t care how much a movie has made. As a person who likes watching movies, I don’t care whether it’s lost money or made money. I just like it or I don’t. I just want to be able to enjoy the movie without feeling like… — It’s funny, a lot of the people who love movies and wish that they would not be commodities talk about movies constantly as commodities.

That said, there is a real problem for people who are in the wild west who don’t have access to a collective bargaining agency that is going to audit things for them. They are simply at the mercy of companies that collectively have a less than stellar reputation when it comes to full disclosure and honesty.

John: Yeah. I would just push back a little bit on what you just said Craig. I want to make sure that this industry is actually viable. And I want to know the general question of like is it viable to be launching day and date and video on demand as a filmmaker, as a writer. Is this is a thing that is good and profitable for people? I think that macro question is really important.

So, while I agree with like, you know, individual film by film judging success or failure isn’t as important. I do want to know whether overall this is a good thing that’s going to continue because I have friends who are making these movies that are coming out day and date on video on demand and I want to know that it’s going to work for them.

Craig: I agree.

John: And I don’t yet.

Craig: I agree. And I guess my point is by the time the news ends up on a blog, it’s probably too late because the people who know — the canaries in the coal mine will be the people who are spending the money. The first sign that this will be a profitable method will be the emergence of people with money asking to fund movies following this method. And the converse is also true: if that dries up, then we’ll know that in fact the money isn’t there. The money is the answer.

People simply — the kinds of people who invest in these things talk to the kinds of people who invest in these things and we will know very quickly what the real margins are.

But, you know, look, I’m all for some kind of transparency for the artists because we are making money off of this. I’ve never been particularly interested in the — there is a slight… — I don’t know. Look, maybe you disagree as a journalist, but I feel like there’s a slightly prurient aspect to the interest in how much money a movie makes or loses.

Scott: Oh, I completely agree with that actually. I’m not someone who writes about box office terribly much. And I agree about the whole rubbernecking aspect of it. But at the same time, viability is important and kind of getting a sense overall sort of the macro landscape is important.

One of the big concerns that I had was about specifically is indie genre filmmaking, but the other concern has to do with independent cinema period, because it seems to me like they’re the ones that are really suffering as a result of this migration because we may not be able to see the numbers for VOD, but we can see vastly diminished numbers for theatrical, for indie theatrical.

So, all of these indie theaters that have spent tens of thousands of dollars to convert from 35mm to digital are now in a position to where they’re on sort of the losing end of the whole thing, right?

I mean, and really the only reason I think that this was able back in the first place is because Magnolia Pictures bought Landmark. Right? So, the chief obstacle running movies day and date which would have been theater owners, when you buy the biggest indie theater company there is you just blow that obstacle right — you run it right over. And I am concerned with places like Music Box here in Chicago or Brattle in Boston or all of these other indie theaters that are really taking it on the chin because VOD, day before date, day and date VOD is just siphoning away all their viewers.

Craig: Yeah. I think that that’s absolutely correct. The theater experience is already under pretty savage attack and you can see how the theaters are attempting to pivot in the newly popular word from Silicon Valley — pivot, pivot, pivot — they’re pivoting. They’re trying a lot of different things. Independent film cinema is, I think, doomed. I just don’t see it lasting because the distribution of independent film is almost certainly going to go exclusively to a direct distribution model.

It’s very expensive to rent a movie theater. It’s just really expensive. And the most people you could fit into most of those theaters is much smaller than the amount of people you need to start to make sense out of that unless you think your movie is going to actually play there like Rocky Horror Picture Show over and over and over. But those days are gone.

And I think that that’s unfortunately a doomed business and it’s regrettable because I believe that there is something fundamental to the communal aspect of watching a film. And I’m concerned that it’s just going to go away, particularly if distributors are allowed to start purchasing these movie theaters because they’re just going to do different kinds of things with them. I mean, it was against the law for a long time to do that sort of thing.

John: Yeah. Well, Scott, you watch a lot more movies than we do, so I’m curious whether there’s any one or two or three movies you would recommend to our listeners that they should definitely try to check out this summer that they may not have heard of.

Scott: Well, you know, sure. Well, I mean, for one you couldn’t continue, you know, Blue Ruin is right there. It’s available to you and I would completely recommend checking that out if you’re a fan of sort of indie genre films as I am. It’s very much — it has kind of an early Coen Brothers vibe to it. Very Blood Simple-ish.

Another film that I really have been championing that’s still in theaters, not on VOD, is The Immigrant, which is written and directed by James Gray who did films like Two Lovers and Little Odessa and We Own the Night and this sort of thing. It’s got Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix. It’s an immigration story set I the early ’20s and it’s very classically filmed in a way that very few films are. And it’s really gorgeous and it’s been terribly mistreated by The Weinstein Company who just have completely dumped it despite —

Craig: That’s weird.

Scott: A lot of critics like — I know, it’s so out of character for them.

Craig: I know. I just don’t — that’s so surprising.

Scott: I know. And they’re doing the same thing with this film I’m really excited about by Bong Joon-ho, this great Korean director, called Snowpiercer.

Craig: Well, that story is even crazier what they did.

Scott: Yeah, they’ve been fighting with him forever and his cut incredibly is going to be the one that people see. So, I don’t know if they’re going to have trouble seeing it, which tends to be their response when they lose a fight is to just completely dump it like they did with Dead Man back in the day. But I’m really excited about that one. I haven’t seen it, but I think he’s one of the best filmmakers around.

John: Great. Scott, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.

Scott: Yeah, it was a pleasure. Thanks guys.

Craig: Thank you, Scott.

John: All right. Bye.

And, Craig, it’s that time. It’s time for our One Cool Things. Do you have a One Cool Thing this week?

Craig: I do have a One Cool Thing this week. In keeping with our musical theme, it’s a song that I love. It is I think maybe the best opening song of any Broadway musical. And I know that this is going to invite criticism because there are some great, great show openers out there. There’s Tradition from Fiddler on the Roof and there’s Ragtime from Ragtime. There’s just some great opening songs.

But my favorite opening song is one of the oddest I think songs out there in a mainstream Broadway musical and that’s maybe why I love it so much. It’s called Life Is and it is the first song from Zorba, the musical. And in the original Broadway Cast — and I strongly recommend that that would be the version that you listen — it’s sung by Chorus and Leader. Leader is the woman who’s singing, mainly singing the song. The woman who played the part in the original cast I believe is Lorraine Serabian. A gorgeous voice.

But what I love about it so much is the lyrics. The idea is that you open on a scene and some folks are arguing about what life is. And they have all these silly theories, analogies about what life is, and then she shuts them all up. It’s very funny. She shuts them up. And she says, “I’ll tell you. Life is what you do while you’re waiting to do. This is how the time goes by.”

And it’s this remarkable song about embracing the absurdity and pointlessness of life. And it’s beautiful. I mean, really beautiful. And it builds. It has a great crescendo that goes to a total dead stop and then a rebuild at the end. The melody is perfect. The singing is insane and outrageous. I love this song. I’ve always loved this song. And I strongly recommend you take a listen.

John: I will take a listen. I’ve never heard it. I don’t know anything about Zorba the Greek. So, I will enjoy it.

How would you say it functions in the show in terms of setting up what the actual show is going to be? Or is it just a great song by itself?

Craig: Well, it is a great song by itself. But it introduces the audience to the idea that there is kind of a chorus. This is a little bit of a Greek drama where there’s a chorus and also provides people with a sense that this is not going to be a standard story. Zorba the Greek is very much a philosophical musing of people living during a time of crisis, and war, and misery. And about finding joy within that. And it’s very Greek. It’s very Greek. The kind of love of melancholy and catastrophe which are two wonderful Greek words, I think it’s just instructing the audience to buckle in. There’s going to be a little philosophy tonight. Not a ton, but a little bit. And that this is not going to be a feel good musical where Curly gets the girl at the end, you know ?

It’s a little different. And I did read when I was looking around to find — because I didn’t know the name of the woman who originated the part, and I believe it’s Lorraine Serabian, gorgeous voice. I guess when they did a revival — not a reboot but a remake —

John: Ah-ha!

Craig: One Broadway of Zorba that they changed that opening lyric to “Life is what you do…” They changed it and they watered it down so it isn’t “Life is what you do while you’re waiting to die.” They made it softer and not quite as harsh as that.

But it’s not harsh. It’s true. It’s true. [laughs] Yeah, because that’s the [sings] “only choice you’ve come..” Oh, it’s great, great song. Love it. Anyway, check it out.

John: I will check it out. My One Cool Thing is, I bet you could predict this, so this last week was the World Wide Developers Conference for Apple.

Craig: “Developers. Developers. Developers. Developers!”

John: And what’s weird about your “Developers. Developers. Developers,” I had a vague memory of it, but Ryan Nelson in the office pulled up the video and showed us like, oh my god, Craig was spot on.

Craig: Thank you.

John: Steve Ballmer, wow.

Craig: He went absolutely insane. “Developers. Developers. Developers.” You saw that his heart stopped a few times when he did that, right?

John: It’s amazing.

Craig: John, I so thought of you when I was watching that video because, aside from the fact that you got a shout-out, which is awesome, then the reaction of the crowd when Craig Federighi announced what I’m sure you’re One Cool Thing is, it was awesome.

John: Yeah. So, the One Cool Thing for me is Swift which is the new programming language that’s underlying all of Apple’s technologies now. And previously on the podcast I swear I had One Cool Things about Coffee Script which is like the JavaScript variant that I love so much. And I had sort of dreamed that, oh, at one point Apple will embrace something like Coffee Script to actually do the coding of the language because it’s just so much more elegant and it fits my brain so much better than Objective C does.

And suddenly they just did. And it’s so odd that like I’m living in a universe where this is suddenly a thing you can do now. So, if you are a developer or have interest in becoming a developer, if you download the developer’s kit and play around with Swift, there’s a little playground feature where you sort of type on the left hand side and it shows you the results on the right hand side. It’s just remarkably elegant. And if you’re a person who has done any programming in JavaScript, or Python, or Ruby, or any of the modern scripting languages, you will immediately see how it works. It’s just incredibly straight forward. And the fact that you can now use that to program sort of fundamental apps is great.

The fact that it’s actually faster than the current languages is great. So, it’s a wonderful time for us. As a place that makes apps it forces some decisions about like, well, do we rewrite Highland entirely in Swift. And, perhaps we do so that we don’t end up with sort of the Final Draft 9 situation where we have a technical debt to payoff. And yet it’s a big choice to do all that.

Craig: You know, speaking of Final Draft —

John: Yes?

Craig: It’s not like the fact that they have some legacy issues, some coding debt in there, that couldn’t possibly be impacting their bottom line. For instance, there’s still probably, if you were to compare say, I don’t know, Final Draft for iOS compared to like, I don’t know, Highland, I would imagine that Final Draft crushes Highland.

John: Final Draft sells for a lot more than Highland does. So, Final Draft sells for $199 and Highland this last week was $15. It’s normally $30. And so in grosses, yes, traditionally Final Draft does beat Highland.

Craig: But. But —

John: But this last week we actually beat them.

Craig: Ooh!

John: Which was remarkable. Yeah.

Craig: Wow! Holler!

John: For a brief moment we actually overtook them which was remarkable. So, again, it’s probably not the usual situation. We were on sale. So, I don’t want abundant enthusiasm to sort of cloud the reality of this.

Craig: I am over-exuberant now.

John: All right.

Craig: I am Alan Greenspan over-exuberant. I’m irrationally exuberant. [laughs]

John: So, it’s been nice that people have taken the opportunity to try out Highland and that’s fantastic. And that there are alternatives out there. So, it’s been great to sort of see that happen this last week.

We had the launch of Bronson and we had Highland and we had Weekend Read and they were all on sale for this last week. And I lot of people checked them out. The interesting thing is when you sell more apps you have more technical support issues, and that’s just sort of natural. Because if you’re going to get — if 10 percent of your users are going to have some problem, when you have a tremendous number more people installing your apps you’re going to have more people with problems. And so the one thing we had to do this last week was really change our tech support thing because basically we’d been using email before.

So, someone would write in and Nima would write back and that was all fine because Nima could do that. But it got to be so much more that we actually had to dig in and actually set up a whole tech support system so that we can track tickets and do all that stuff. And it feels like we’re a legitimate company.

Craig: You guys are like a real company now. I mean, are you — are you making a ton of money off of this?

John: We’re not making a ton of money. So, honestly, our goal is to make it so that it’s profitable for Nima and Ryan to be employed. [laughs] That’s not actually a very high bar and we’re just clearing that.

Craig: Okay. That’s good.

John: So, we’re not a company of 40 people. We’re a company of four people. And I don’t really count me or Stuart because we’re here anyway.

Craig: Right. And Stuart’s not exactly a person. He’s —

John: Well, Stuart is really an idea.

Craig: Stuart is an idea.

John: Stuart, he’s a philosophy.

Craig: [sings] “Stuart is what you do while you’re waiting to die.” She has this great accent. “This is how the time goes by..” Ooh, it’s such… — Anyway, congratulations for being mentioned on the WWDC. Developers. Developers. Developers. Developers.

My favorite moment of the whole thing was when Craig Federighi said, “What if we could have all of the power or all the things of Objective C without the baggage of C?” And in the audience there was like a [gasps], “Ooh! Ooh!”

John: [gasps] “It’s happening! It’s happening! It’s happening!”

Craig: Right. And I was sitting there like, “What does that even mean?” I had no idea what they were talking about. But it was exciting.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Yeah. “Without the baggage of…” That guy is cool by the way. You get the feeling that guy is going to run the whole show, don’t you?

John: Yeah. It was weird because I felt like in the first segment I was like — all I could think of was, wow, he seems like — he’s got the hair and he sort of seems like the soccer dad, sort of like the slick soccer dad kind of thing. But then he’s out there for so much that I ended up kind of loving him by the end of the presentation.

Craig: Well, he was sort of the breakout star of the last version of these things. And you could tell, like, Apple is so smart. They’re just like put out the guy that’s cool. But he also like obviously knows his stuff because he’s the head of engineering. Is that right?

John: He’s the head of software.

Craig: Software, okay. So, he really knows his stuff. But most importantly he’s a Craig.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And we’re all pretty good.

John: So, Craig, I think we’re committing to this idea that for Halloween you’re going to go as Ballmer and I’m going to have to learn how to — I’m going to get the gray wig, the silver wig and I’ll be Tim Cook and it’s going to be amazing.

Craig: [laughs] Oh my god. I’ve got to practice getting my voice real high. His voice is up here!

John: Uh-huh.

Craig: Oh my god. “How much for the phone — a phone is not a very good email device, so enterprises just won’t want to use it. It’s the most expensive phone in the world after subsidies. Okay, I mean…” God, that guy. Every time he talks. You’ve seen the video of him saying that iPhone, “No, nobody is going to like iPhone. “

John: Oh yeah.

Craig: Every time it’s amazing.

John: I’ve been trying to practice my Tim Cook and it’s actually rally hard because it’s an Alabama accent, but it’s like, it’s a slow Alabama accent and it’s really hard to hit the vowels the way he hits them.

Craig: I don’t even know where I would begin, yeah.

John: Yeah. Fortunately we’ve got months ahead of us. And if worse comes to worse we still have the dialogue coach from Big Fish and she can just come in and give me a shake.

Craig: Yeah. And then you and I can show up at Hollywood Halloween parties. Doing that and no one will know who the hell we are.

John: [laughs] No, I think we should just go down Hollywood Boulevard and just be, that would just be our thing. We could be like those panhandlers on Hollywood Boulevard except we’re Steve Ballmer and Tim Cook.

Craig: [laughs] I’m okay with that. I still think in that crowd no one will know who the hell we are.

John: Oh, they won’t, and I think that’s more the fun of it. They won’t know —

Craig: That’s like amazing. It’s like the biggest celebration of the gay community in West Hollywood and you are there dressed as the most powerful gay man in the world and nobody will know who you are.

John: Yup.

Craig: Classic.

John: It’s good stuff.

Craig: It’s good stuff.

John: Craig, thank you for a fun show.

Craig: Thank you for a fun show, John.

John: Our usual boilerplate here at the end. If you like the show and are listening to the show on a device that listens to podcasts you might want to go to iTunes and look up Scriptnotes and actually subscribe because that would be a great place to subscribe to our show.

While you’re there you can leave a comment. That’s always fantastic. While you’re there you can also download the Scriptnotes app. The Scriptnotes app is there available for Android and for iOS devices. With the Scriptnotes app you can also download — you can subscribe to the premium features which gets you all the back episodes. So, this is episode 148. So, there are 147 previous episodes you’ve missed. So, that’s great and that’s fun.

If you would like to send a note to me or to Craig, on Twitter is best. I am @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. If you have a longer email-y kind of thing, email it to

Our outro this week is by Robin Karlsson. Robin, thank you for writing this.

Our show is produced by Stuart Friedel. Or, the idea of Stuart Friedel. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli.

Craig: [laughs] The show is produced by the idea of Stuart Friedel. Oh, it’s so great.

John: And so edited by Matthew Chilelli. Thank you, Matthew. And thank you again to Scott Tobias for being on the show.

Craig: Yes. Thank you, Scott.

John: It’s very nice to have a guest. And we’ll see you again next week.

Craig: See you next week. Bye.

John: All right. Bye.