The original post for this episode can be found here.

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

Craig Mazin: Hello. My name is Craig Mazin.

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

So, Craig, last night at 1:30 in the morning my phone rang.

Craig: Hmm.

John: So what do you do when your phone rings in the middle of the night?

Craig: Well, I have to answer this hypothetically because I turn all my ringers off at night. But if the ringer were on and it rang at 1:30, I would definitely answer the phone.

John: Yeah, because there’s never good news at that time of the night so you’re going to have to deal with it.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Something is going to happen.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So the phone rings. It wasn’t my cell phone which is always downstairs. It was my house phone, so I pick it up and it is a wrong number.

Craig: Oh.

John: Or if it’s not a wrong number, because the guy on the other end sounded just as confused as I was. So it could have been somebody who actually just like was being a dick and just called two random numbers and connected them.

Craig: Oh, you can do that? Oh, when you put the phones together?

John: Yeah, or I think you use like three-way call to people.

Craig: Oh, that’s actually kind of brilliant. [laughs]

John: [laughs]

Craig: Kind of love that guy. [laughs]

John: A whole new kind of terrible pranking —

Craig: Right.

John: For awful people.

Craig: I like it.

John: So anyway, so it’s 1:30 in the morning. I’m wide awake suddenly now. And so my brain is sort of stewing and ruminating. But the best thing happened. So this product that I’ve been sort of thinking about for quite a long time and I haven’t really started writing because there was a thing that I couldn’t figure out about it, I suddenly figured it out like 1:30 in the morning.

Craig: That’s the way it works. Yeah.

John: Yeah. So I was up until 4:30 in the morning sort of actually —

Craig: Oh.

John: Working it all through.

Craig: Is this all a way for you to say that this is going to be a terrible podcast where you’re super sleepy?

John: No. I’ve had a lot of coffee. It’s going to be either one of those podcasts where I’m super sleepy or I’m a little bit too wired.

Craig: Oh, I like that.

John: So we’ll see how it all goes.

Craig: Very exciting.

John: But if three years from now you see a movie that I’ve written where one of the key plot points is she’s looking for her phone that she lost, that came from last night.

Craig: That was last night.

John: Everyone was part of the genesis of that moment.

Craig: You know that they say that generally speaking that we are at our most creative neurologically in the very beginning of the day when we wake up and at the very end when we’re going to bed. So there are days where I actually just wait, and then as I’m going to bed I’d start thinking then in that kind of weird middle-dreamy place. And it is amazing how often in that little place you will figure out things.

John: Yeah. That’s our liminal state between fully awake and asleep.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: Today on the podcast we’re going to be answering a whole bunch of questions. People write in with questions, sometimes on Twitter we can get to them right away and we answer right when they send us their question. But sometimes people send in longer questions to We have a whole bunch saved up and we are going to get through those today. So you’re ready, Craig?

Craig: Yeah.

John: Great. Well, let’s start with some follow up because one of them is from this guy James Topham who writes, “I hope you don’t mind, but as an alumnus of the Three Page Challenge, I thought I’d drop you a line to let you know how I’ve got on since your kind feedback.” His script was the one with the killer robots in the desert called Proving Ground and I kind of vaguely remember that. Do you remember that, Craig?

Craig: I don’t but I like everything that he said, so. [laughs]

John: [laughs] Exactly. I like that he likes us. So —

Craig: I like that he likes me. Yeah, so I’m going to say that it doesn’t matter if I remembered or not.

John: It’s true. “Last year the script went out to a number of producers in LA and here in the UK with your notes faithfully executed of course. I flew stateside for a week to do a whole series of generals and met some great people. Since then I’ve been talking with some producers here. And the last couple of weeks I have sold my first feature pitch.” Congratulations, James.

Craig: Excellent.

John: “It’s a micro-budget horror but on the slate of a great company but I want to say thank you for your direct feedback and for all the advice in the podcast for the last couple of years. For those of us remote from LA and support networks out there, the show provides such a resource to aid our understanding of the craft and gives me hope that there’s a slim chance of forging a career. So thank you.”

Craig: What a great — that’s fantastic. I mean, you know, the whole purpose of the Three Page Challenge was really just to help focus people on some of the very practical things that we deal with when we’re putting together a scene and so it was never really meant to be promotional in any way but I kind of love that that’s sort of what happened here. First of all, I love that we were right [laughs] because we really liked it apparently. And the company that he’s sold his pitch to is a very good company, it’s a top notch, A-list production company here in town.

So obviously, we’re brilliant, that’s really the point. I mean, I understand that James is proud of what’s happened to him but I think what he’s saying is, “Once again, John and Craig, you are brilliant.” [laughs]

John: [laughs] Well, let’s see if we can be brilliant today for other folks. So —

Craig: Yeah.

John: Here are some questions people wrote in with. We’ll get through as many of them as we can.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And we have to start with Lynette Oliver because how can we not start with Lynette Oliver.

Craig: Lynette, she’s my favorite.

John: Craig, why don’t you read Lynette’s question —

Craig: Absolutely.

John: Because she will like that.

Craig: Yes, she will.

Lynette writes, “Recently, Craig was part of a Twitter conversation that basically ended with the advice to write query letters to get representation or get your script to somebody rather than just relying on The Black List site, my preferred method before this conversation. I definitely want to do the proper research before querying. My question is how does one do that research? InkTip, IMDbPro, some other subscription service? I’m a good researcher and in this case I have no idea where to begin, what listings I can trust since everyone and their Hollywood insider dog wants to take money from people like me in exchange for ‘access.'”

What do you think, John?

John: So, I don’t know people who’ve gotten agents through or managers through query letters but I know it does happen. So what she’s really asking is, “How do you find it? Who is the person who you should even sort of bother sending out that email to, sending that, you know, reaching out to because who do you know who’s real and who’s not real.” I think, it’s, you know, paradoxically, there’s more, just better research than there ever was before, so you can actually just look stuff up on the Internet in ways that you couldn’t and you can see what people’s credits are. But there’s just so many names that it’s just kind of overwhelming. Craig, where would you start if you were Lynette?

Craig: Well, I’m a little confused because the question implies that I gave the advice to write query letters rather than just relying on The Black List site and maybe I did but if so I’m recanting it because I actually don’t really think much of query letters. I know that people are constantly talking about query letters. My whole problem with query letters is that they’re kind of self-selecting. The people that answer query letters are precisely the people that you don’t want answering your query letter.

The better people don’t answer query letters because they don’t have to and that’s what’s so good about The Black List is that it allows the better buyers and the more reputable and powerful buyers to access your material. That aside, you’re right. I mean, I assume that query letters must have worked at least once or twice or people would finally stop unless it’s some kind of cargo cult.

I don’t know anything about InkTip. I can’t imagine there’s much of a point in spending money on a subscription service other than, I mean, The Black List is the only one that I think actually has gotten results as far as I can tell, So…

John: Yeah. I mean, there’s probably some bias just in that we know, you know, we know Franklin, and we know people who have gone through The Black List and so therefore there is a confirmation bias that’s sort of inherent to that.

Craig: Sure.

John: Where it really comes down to is a push versus pull. And query letters are a way of like pushing your script out into the world and saying like, “Hey, please look at this thing.” And maybe that’s effective sometimes, but everyone I know who’s gotten agents or gotten managers it’s been a pull situation where that agent or manager has asked to read something because someone else has said, “This is really good,” or they found this through a competition, they somehow came up across this writer, this idea, and they wanted to read it. And most the people I know who’ve gotten representation recently, it’s been that situation.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: So, a writer who I was working with recently who I just had lunch with just last week, he did the more classic thing where he was working at a desk at an agency, was able to get himself on as a writer’s production assistant on a TV show and they noticed that he seemed good in competent.

Craig: Right.

John: And they asked to read his stuff and that got him started and that got him that whole process beginning. That’s much more typical than the sending out a query letter to the world.

Craig: I absolutely agree and let’s remind ourselves that these services, all of them, simply didn’t exist, say, I don’t know, 15 years ago or all the way back 19 years ago when you and I got started and somehow still people were discovered and hired.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So they are not necessarily. You know, I’ve always, you and I have been fairly consistent on this that what a lot of these services are doing is essentially charging you a fee for dipping your toe into the pool as opposed to jumping in.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: And that is attractive for people who prefer that method. The problem of course is that it’s simply not as effective out of a general population. Of course, none of those general statistics apply to the outliers and, of course, it is the outliers that tend to do well no matter what the restrictions are. So, I don’t know if that answers the question but it’s certainly complicated and long-winded enough. I think, [laughs], I think I did that part right.

John: The only last sort of data point I’ll give is as I mentor to five writers who are sort of new WGA members. And one of them Jonathan Stokes, I don’t think will be upset to hear his name in the podcast to say that he wrote a ton of scripts and nobody would read them. And so he had this whole trunk full of scripts and then he finally wrote a script that someone through various means read and was like, “Oh, this is really good. You’re a good writer.” And that went on The Black List, like the list of best scripts.

Craig: Right.

John: And then he suddenly had this other trunk full of scripts and like they’ve all just sort of sold and been out there because he was a really good writer. It just took awhile for people to notice that he was a really good writer.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And that’s the awesome part of it. Actually, more consistent to the real story of how these things happen then I wrote a query letter to exactly the right person who is looking for it and therefore said, “Yes, I will represent you.”

Craig: You know, that also brings another thing to mind that I think we’ve talked about before. Most of the services that are available are, I guess, sort of wide net averaging services, you know, so people will evaluate your script and give you a general rating.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: But, we don’t achieve success through general ratings. We are again about the outlier scores. So we’re about the Russian judge that gives you the 10 instead of the eight that everybody else got.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: That’s the person that’s going to buy your script. More importantly, in Hollywood typically what happens is people follow passion. So when one person gets very passionate about a certain screenwriter’s screenplay and people respect that person, they just presume they ought to be passionate about that writer as well.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So, it’s all led by the outliers both on the talent side and on the acquisition side.

John: Yeah. What I don’t want this to sound like is a recipe for, well, just do nothing and somehow magically it’ll all come to be. You have to put your script out there in a way that people can find it and that people can talk about it and then discover that it’s good.

So, you know, there’s a middle ground between spending six hours a day sending out query letters and sticking everything in the trunk and then not letting anybody read it. We sort of really encourage people to let people, you know, have people read your scripts because that’s the only way people are going to find that you’re a good writer.

Craig: Absolutely. And sometimes I feel like the query letter thing becomes a job onto its self. You know, people send query letters, then they feel the need to send the follow-up query letters, and then the follow up to the follow ups and how long should I just wait before I follow up and it never ends.

John: It’s also weird that we call them query letters when they’ve got to be emails at this point.

Craig: Yeah, well, they’re emails and they’re not, what are they, what’s the question?

John: Yeah. “Hey, would you read my script?”

Craig: Right. They’re not query letters. They’re sales letters.

John: Yeah, to sound good.

Craig: By the way, that’s how everyone views them too. They’re basically spam. It’s sales spam.

John: Yeah, speaking of it. This last week we did a press release that we had to push out to the world for the new Bronson Watermarker and so I was writing and rewriting this press release and I just hated it so much because it was so incredibly boring.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: But it kind of needed to be boring because I could look and see like, well, what is the net result of this press releases on all the sites that end up running these press releases, and they’re kind of boring. And so I had to do kind of exactly what Lynette is describing which is like figuring out like, “Who was it worth reaching out too? What is right address? Do I find the person’s name that I can send this to so it’s not just going into a general tips ad or whatever line?” And that never really stops.

Craig: Yeah, no. It’s just, it’s too much.

John: It’s too much.

Craig: It’s too much.

John: Ryan from Singapore writes:

Craig: Yeah.

John: “I understand your writing process starts with cranking out a large number of pages very rapidly. How sloppy is too sloppy for a first draft? Do you force yourself not to think about it and go with your gut even if things don’t make total sense? What about refining what you’ve written? Is it something you only do once you completed the script start to finish?”

So there’s two kind of things that we’re talking about here. Some writers talk about the vomit draft which is sort of just like everything as fast as you can, get it down on the page. I don’t do that as much as I do barricade myself and handwrite something so I can go back and rewrite it. But in both cases, I think sloppiness is a fair question.

Craig, what is your barometer for sloppiness?

Craig: Yeah, well, I don’t do any of this. I don’t crank out a large number of pages very rapidly and I definitely try and write my first draft as if it was going to be shot.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: I know it’s not going to be shot but I should have said as if it were going to be shot.

John: Yeah. Subjunctive is your friend.

Craig: Subjunctive. I know it’s not going to be and I know that I am going to have to refine and refine and refine and rewrite and rewrite. Nonetheless, I am not writing something just to say, “Look at me, I made it to the end. I’m writing something that reads like a movie.”

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: It’s going to help and more than anything, first of all, it requires you to work harder which is important because that’s work you need to do. If you don’t do it now, you’re going to have to do it later, might as well try to do it now. I find it very difficult to write things that don’t, like he says, “Go with your gut even if things don’t make total sense.” Well, if they don’t make total sense then maybe there’s, A, a problem with your gut. Or, if your gut is correct and you just haven’t figured out the one part, unfortunately everything that’s built on top of that will suffer from the foundation not making sense.

You’ll start to lose some unity to the piece and I want the people that are reading it to be able to give me the best feedback possible which I think they can only do if it reads like a movie. So, I’m actually very careful about how, I mean, The Huntsman, by the way, that’s an example. So on The Huntsman, I wrote one draft and I wrote it as if they were going to shoot it and they’re going to… — Well, I mean, you know, they got Frank Darabont to do it, so if I had just done a sloppy draft, I think everybody would have said, “Now, can you do it for real?” You know?

John: Yeah. I can see Ryan’s point here in that sometimes perfectionism can be a trap. And so, you can go through and sort of diddle with every scene so carefully that it’s like pristine and precise that you never actually get the whole thing done. But I think I’m much more in your camp where I always write a scene, even if I’m handwriting a scene that I still have to type up, I write it as if what if I never get the chance to go back and fix it?

Craig: Right.

John: So I always write it as if this has to be able to be shot and I won’t let anything go in the script that doesn’t feel like it could be shot. All the time knowing that I’m going to go back and do another pass through there, things are going to be improved just by a second look at things.

Craig: Yeah.

John: But I definitely write sort of for the final version of things. Where sloppy can be your good friend is if you’re just trying to figure stuff out about who the characters are, what they are, I’m a big fan of writing off the page and writing a bunch of scenes that you know are not going to be in the movie but just to get the characters talking.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: Figure out what their voices are like. And that’s an absolutely fair and valid process. And that’s kind of a thing where just kind of being stream of consciousness can be a really smart move because you get to hear what those characters’ voices are, what the world is like, just it’s, you know, it’s just getting your mind in a more fluid place. That is totally valid. But when it comes time for your real scenes, don’t shove crappy scenes into your script because they’ll be there.

Craig: Yeah, I mean, ultimately this is our job is to write a movie and to write scenes that feel like scenes and have harmony and expression and theme and character and purpose and all that stuff. I mean that’s what we’re supposed to be doing. When I hear that people are doing vomit drafts or just chucking stuff down a page, I feel like they’re trying to figure out the plot through writing screenplay pages which is a terrible way of figuring out a plot anyway.

So, yeah, I, like you, I get to be as sloppy and as verbose as I want to be when I’m writing down notes and doing my index cards and redoing my index cards, all that stuff. But if you write your screenplay carefully, I guess is how I would say it, just sort of do it with attention and care and craft. I mean, I typically, you know, on a decent day I can write three pages. And while that may not seem like a lot to the vomit draft people, I’m sure it isn’t, in six weeks I will have a screenplay no matter what.

John: So there are days that I will do 17 pages, 21 pages early in the process. But those are good pages but those, and it’s also because I’m writing like 12 hours a day. I’m literally on sort of a lockdown just doing it —

Craig: Right.

John: And not out of a panic-fear situation but a genuine sort of mania and love for this thing that I’m doing. So honestly, my 1:30 in the morning phone call got this movie figured out in a way that I probably will go off and barricade myself and do some of those giant page days.

Craig: Right.

John: They’re not all going to be like that. And at the same time, like those pages I write will hopefully be really good. They’ll hopefully be the kinds of scenes I want to have in the final movie. They’re not going to be, you know, approximations of them. They should be shootable scenes. We’ll see.

Craig: Exactly.

John: Next one, you?

Craig: All right, yeah. So we’ve got Laura in London and she writes, “I’m a UK writer. My first pilot is set in the UK has some interest from a US producer with a first-look deal at a big network. I have two producers already attached, both with a proven track record in film but not television. The US producer made some great stuff in the ’90s and not much since and has offered to option the script with a view to taking it out to cable. However, he wants to bring in a more established US writer to write a US version of the pilot. So my question is threefold. One…”

Oh boy, this is a complicated question, hope you’re taking notes.

“One, once I sign the option, what are my rights as the series creator? Obviously, it might go absolutely nowhere, but in the unlikely event it does go to pilot and get picked up, will I get to be in the writer’s room? Will I get to write an episode of my own idea?”

John: Let’s stop there and just sort of address her questions one at a time.

Craig: Okay.

John: Once you sign that option, there’s no magic contract about how these are supposed to always work. And so you have, you know, as we often say in the show, you control everything now because you control everything. And so you can dictate some of those terms about what’s going to be happening in that room, what the relationship is going to be like with another showrunner that they have brought in. You can say no and sometimes you may want to say no.

Craig: I agree. And I’m going to read, let me just jam the next two through because I think they kind of all connect together.

John: Okay.

Craig: So that was the first one. Number two, “Is this a step forward in my career? My goal is to be a working screenwriter and I would love to be based in the US in the future. So is this a step in that direction or should I write a US version myself, try my luck elsewhere? Three, the neurotic bit; he wants another writer. I know this script’s not a total steamer.” I guess that’s a —

John: A bad thing.

Craig: Local. That’s local custom. Yeah, so a steamer’s a bad thing. “And the script’s not a total steamer. It has won and been a finalist in a few writing comps, I’d give it a B minus at least. But still, I get that I’m new, untested and British, but there are plenty of shows on now that have newbie writers teamed with experienced showrunners. So what does him passing my script really mean and how it will be viewed?”

And to me, this is all, I guess, Laura, this is all leading to me picking out what your instinct is in the way you’ve even set this up and are asking the question. I think you know the answer to all of these questions. I think what you’re saying is, “This isn’t right, is it? This isn’t a good idea, is it? This isn’t going to help me, is it? This isn’t what I want, is it?” And it seems to me like the answer is, no, it’s not.

I mean, look, you’ve written a pilot and you have producers, I assume they’re UK producers, and somebody in America who perhaps is getting a little long in the tooth likes the idea of it but wants to hire people that he’s comfortable with and make it over here in the US. I don’t really see how that helps you one bit. And I’m not sure would you be the series creator? Do you want to be the creator for a series you have nothing to do with that isn’t like your show at all? I don’t know. I don’t —

John: I think you’re taking the most pessimistic view of what the end result of this will be.

Craig: Shocker.

John: Because let’s also remember most TV shows don’t happen.

Craig: Right.

John: And so that’s an entirely possible situation here as well. So —

Craig: Wait, that’s the optimistic? The optimistic view is that the show never even happens? [laughs]

John: I would say that in TV, you go into TV knowing that a show not getting picked up, a show not running, like failure is not the same kind of failure in TV as it is in features. And so getting anywhere down the path to progress is considered success.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: So a couple of things that I’d talk to Laura about. First off, there was a WGA panel I did with Kelly Marcel a couple episodes ago, we’ll put a link in the show notes, where Kelly talked about her experience on Terra Nova which actually sounds kind of similar in that here’s a British writer —

Craig: Yeah.

John: Who’s come in who got partnered up with people she didn’t necessarily believe in.

Craig: It’s eerily similar, yeah, although the people that she was paired up with were not like some guy that made some great stuff in the ’90s. It was Steven Spielberg.

John: No, no, they were big.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Yeah, he’s made some good stuff in the ’90s and other decades, too.

Craig: Yeah, that’s right.

John: But I would encourage you to listen to that and listen to her experience about it because it was really hard for her to walk away from that but she ultimately realized she needed to walk away from that. But I would also say, look at what the upsides of what happened with Kelly because of her decision to at least pursue with the process partway. She got to meet a bunch of folks in Los Angeles. She had a reason to be in Los Angeles and to be in rooms talking about her writing. And that could be a good thing even with this producer situation you have here.

So if their option is saying you are meeting with the American writer, you’re going in and you’re talking to US television, at least you’re suddenly now in the rooms with those people who are reading your script and thinking like, oh, here is a British writer with an interesting voice. That is a positive step in your career.

Craig: Yeah. I would say that Laura picks out the key to success here when she says there are plenty of shows on now that have newbie writers teamed with experienced showrunners.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: And I think that since she controls this property completely, it is fair to say to this producer, “If you want this and you want to put a different writer on it, then I have to be paired with that writer and I’m going to be working with that writer on it and that’s that or you don’t have it.” And at least then you’re buying your way into an experience. And if it goes terribly south, then like Kelly, you can walk.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: But at least you took your shot, your name is on it in a meaningful way, and you got involved and learned, you know, along the way.

John: Yes.

Craig: You really have to look at… — The worst outcome here is that this guy takes your thing, puts somebody else on it, they make something else that has no resemblance to what you wanted to do and it’s on the air and you had nothing to do with it. Or they take your thing, it does resemble what you did and you have nothing to do with it and you get no credit for it either. That would be terrible, so yeah.

John: It would be terrible but, again, the lesson we often come back to in Scriptnotes is that a writer is not one script.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: And so if she wants to have a career as a screenwriter working in Los Angeles, this may be a way to get her closer to that dream even if this project itself doesn’t work out magnificently.

Craig: Yeah, you just don’t want to have to beg your way into your own writing room, that’s all.

John: I completely agree.

Craig: Yeah.

John: John writes, “I am a college grad with degrees in psych and communications with no family obligations. Here’s my concern. I’m a practicing full-blown Mormon.”

Craig: Hello!

John: “I support marriage equality and I believe I differ from most of the negative stereotypes associated. That being said, I don’t swear, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. I feel like that would be found out quite quickly even if I attempted to keep it on the down low.”

Craig: [laughs]

John: “My concern is that given my faith’s very overt stance, will it hurt my chances? Lord Umbrage” — that’s you Craig.

Craig: Oh, yes, yes.

John: “I will say that if I write a great script, that’s all that will matter. But I worry that my particular subgroup will be bearing the burdens of Orson Scott Card and others for quite some time.” So what’s our advice for John?

Craig: “Turn it off like a light switch. Just go click…” Um, you don’t have to worry about this, John.

John: I don’t have to be worry about this at all.

Craig: Not even one iota. Look, Orson Scott Card isn’t just somebody who is a Mormon, he is outspokenly against the idea of marriage equality. He’s made it a big huge thing and he also has a lot of other very strongly held political beliefs that he’s pushed out there in an overt way. This town has all sorts of folks ranging up and down various religious axes. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, then I really don’t see what the problem is. You know, I live in La CaÒada. We actually have quite a decent sized Mormon population there, so like two families. [laughs] That’s a Mormon joke.

No, no, there’s a lot of Mormon families and they are lovely people. And frankly, I’ve known people in my town eight or nine years and then my wife would say, “You know that they’re Mormon?” I had no idea, had no idea. I mean, it’s not like they’re not walking around with a big M sign. You know that. I think it’s great that you support marriage equality and this won’t cause you any trouble.

John: Yeah. Yeah, you will find so many people who don’t drink or do drugs who are essentially Mormon in all but faith all around you. You’ll find there’s actually a ton of Mormons that you wouldn’t realize that they are Mormons working in the industry anyway. But also, I feel like it’s, I don’t know, I want to say, wow, like white people creating problems for themselves.

Craig: [laughs] White people.

John: Only in the sense that like, here’s John writing in and saying like, “Oh, I’m coming in with this giant handicap being a Mormon.” It’s like that’s crazy. Like if you want to come in with, you know, issues that are going to make it more challenging for you to start, that’s like the least issue you could possibly imagine.

Craig: Right. Yeah, I agree.

John: So right now I bet there’s a whole bunch of sort of like, you know, black women writers who are going, “Who is this person and why is he complaining?”

Craig: [laughs] Well, you know, I understand because the truth is, he’s not here and I think that he’s receiving a kind of view of Hollywood as a politically monolithic place that rejects Christianity, religion. It rejects conservative ideologies and all that stuff. And look, there have been times when people have been outspoken about things and, but this will not be an issue for you. By the way, don’t drink and don’t do drugs, go ahead and meet half of Hollywood that’s in a recovery program.

So when you don’t accept a drink in a bar, people will just assume you’re a recovering alcoholic and that’ll be cool. [laughs] I don’t…this is not.. — By the way, I know a lot of Mormons in Hollywood too and every Mormon I have met who works in the film or television business, as far as I can tell, they’re all gay. Gay, well, gay ex-Mormons.

John: Yeah, gay ex-Mormons.

Craig: Gay ex-Mormons. A lot of gay ex-Mormons.

John: Yeah. Our next question comes from Thomas in Charlotte, North Carolina. “A friend of mine has talent representation at CAA. I’m a writer-director, and the friend introduced me to his agent for the purpose of having her forward my resume/work to her literary rep colleagues. A few weeks later, she told me that one particularly literary agent at CAA would meet me “for coffee.” I live in the Southeast but make frequent trips to Los Angeles, so I’m currently in the process of trying to schedule said coffee meeting for this month.

“This is my first meeting of this nature with an agent. What sort of weight or expectations should I be putting on this meeting? Is it a significant first step, is actual landing representation still a ways off? What should I do at this coffee to make sure it’s the right step?”

Craig: Coffees are great ways to meet with people without feeling like you’re trapped necessarily in a long lunch or that you’re not torpedoing the middle of your day.

John: Yes.

Craig: But in a sense, they work as a proper meeting. And I never put any weight or any expectation on any meeting ever in my life.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But when you sit down with this person, you should have some things in mind that you want to get answers to, you can have questions. The worst thing that happens when I sit down with people is that they’re boring.

John: Yeah.

Craig: They have nothing to say. They can’t hold up their end of the conversation. They have no questions or interesting things about them. So be prepared to talk about yourself, have questions and don’t be shy about saying, “Listen, the next step for me is representation. What do you advise here? I need to kind of get this thing going.” But more than anything, you should be your impressive interesting self.

John: 100%. Coffees are fantastic because it’s such a flexible definition of what it’s supposed to be. So it could be 10 minutes, it could be half an hour.

Craig: Right.

John: It doesn’t have to be more than that and it’s fine whatever that duration is. If I were Thomas coming into this coffee meeting, I would be able to talk about the things that you’ve done, the things you’re looking at doing, and the questions about sort of, you know, this is what I’m planning to do for my next step. What do you think? What would you advice? And about representation, exactly what Craig phrased it as is basically what would you want to see that would convince you to represent a writer-director in my situation?

Be able to talk about some of the other clients there, clients who are similar to sort of what you’re doing or it doesn’t even necessarily need to be a CAA client but you could point to, you know, recent successful writer-directors who’ve made smart choices and just be able to talk about them. They want to see that you’re not a crazy person.

Craig: Right.

John: They want to see that you kind of get how things work and that you have an interesting voice, that you’re somebody they could imagine putting you in a room with an executive and that executive will say, “Oh, yeah, the guy seems really cool.”

Craig: Right. I mean, passion, all the things that work when you’re meeting somebody for the first time on a date, these are the things that work in these situations. I mean, agents in particular look at us, they evaluate us, not just by the material but by our appearance and I don’t mean to say “Oh, this is a really hot guy.” It’s more about does this person look like a weirdo, do they look presentable?

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: And also by the way we come off, you know, are you passionate, are you funny, are you interesting, are you smart? They really like smart people.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You know, they’ve had, if you are a kind of just middle of the road, bland person, what do they need you for, you know? That’s not a prescription to go nuts. I’m just saying, you know, you just don’t want to be boring more than anything.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Yeah.

All right, Justin from Vancouver writes, “I was wondering if doing Scriptnotes has changed how studio executives and producers treat the two of you when in meetings. It is easier to have your opinions be taken seriously because they know you and your personalities from the podcast. Have you gotten work?” I feel like we’ve gotten this question before. “Have you gotten work because of the podcast?” John, have you gone from an A writer to an A++ writer because of Scriptnotes?

John: I know. I honestly feel very few of the people I work with on a daily basis know the podcast exists, at least at the big executive and studio producer level.

Craig: Yeah. I’m kind of there. I do think that on the assistant level, people listen a lot. I mean, occasionally, an executive will mention to me that they listen. But no, it seems like the stuff that gets you work is the stuff that always got you work. They like your script and/or your last movie was a hit, et voila. [laughs]

John: Et voila.

Craig: Yeah, there’s really, no, nobody takes me more seriously because of Scriptnotes, no. It would be cool if they did.

John: I think it will be interesting 10 years from now as this generation of assistants rises up —

Craig: Ah. Yes.

John: And replaces their forefathers. Will they look at us with affection and hire us when we’re no longer, you know —

Craig: Right. When we’re gum in their food.

John: Yeah, when we are no longer young and in our 40s, but the creaky old men in their 50s.

Craig: The grumpy, yeah, grumpy, “Yeah, yeah, I did the Scriptnotes. I also wrote movies.” [laughs] Yes, you know —

John: So really, this is an investment in our future.

Craig: Yeah, this is like a pension. It’s like an IRA. We’re just throwing money, well, I hope that that works one day, but no, for now, Justin, no, not at all.

John: So, Nicolai writes what’s sort of a long question but he kind of perfectly described one of my frustrations with certain screenwriting software, so I’ll get through it.

Craig: Okay.

John: “I’m desperate to switch to a sleeker, no filler screenwriting app. So why can’t I buy Highland on my Android devices?” That’s a simple question, because we don’t make it for Android because we don’t know how to make it for Android. “But I recently tried unshackling myself from Movie Magic in favor of Fade In, but I stuck with Movie Magic purely because it requires the fewest amount of key strokes to type a script.

“The most basic example: in Movie Magic, hitting tab always brings up a new dialogue line whether from a proceeding line or scene direction. Hitting enter always begins a new slug line/scene description. But with Fade In, hitting tab creates another parenthetical within dialogue which I try to avoid anyway or a line break even within a block of dialogue. The results, ending your line of dialogue requires two key strokes, enter/tab plus tab, whereas Movie Magic only needs one. It’s a tiny difference that adds up to a huge drag over five to 10 pages. How does Highland deal with this controversial issue and why won’t you let me give you my money? Thanks.”

So, again, Highland is Highland. Highland’s the app we make and it’s very sort of minimalist and stripped down. But what he describes about sort of like you’re in a box, you’re in dialogue and you’re moving from character to thing and you’re hitting different keys to move to the next point. It can get really annoying and you get to have a muscle memory for how a certain app does it. And I’m sure you found that too, Craig, is that you’re now using Fade In —

Craig: Yeah.

John: As your main screenwriting app. And so you’re totally used to it, right?

Craig: I don’t even know what he’s describing. In Fade In, I write a character name and then I hit return and I’m in dialogue. I’m not sure what he’s talking about. I don’t see any difference between that and the way Movie Magic works whatsoever. I honestly don’t know what he’s talking about.

John: Yeah, the issue of —

Craig: Maybe he’s hitting tab when he should be hitting enter, I don’t know.

John: Yeah.

Craig: The one thing that Movie Magic does that I really like is when you’re in dialogue if you hit an open parentheses, it moves you into a parenthetical with the theory being how often do you actually want to have a parentheses in your dialogue.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I always thought that was very smart. But, look, if you are incredibly fastidious about key strokes and, again, I don’t know that he’s correct here but regardless, then I think a stripped down version of things would be perfect for you. If you are like most people and the extra key strokes become invisible to your process, then it’s not a problem. But I honestly don’t know what he’s talking about.

John: So I made a video about writing in Fountain and one of the points I made in that, I’ll put a link to that in the show notes, but one of the points I made to it is that as you’re writing in the sort of more traditional screenwriting app, so Fade In, Final Draft, Movie Magic, you’re constantly thinking about sort of what element is what element. And so you’re always hitting those extra keys to sort of move and that becomes character name and there’s a parenthetical underneath it, and now you’re in your dialogue.

And it is a small tax that you’re placing on your writing to do that. And so one of the advantages in writing all in the left-hand margin, the way you can in a plain text editor or you can in Highland or Slugline is that you don’t have to think about that. The word processor, the text editor is doing that for you. So you’re just putting in the words and it is smart enough to figure out what those words would end up being. So that’s the thing. So the kind of situation he describes where he gets stuck in the wrong element can’t happen in Fountain because you’re never actually changing those elements consciously.

Craig: Right. For me, I think that because I’ve been using what I’ll call a formatted format for so long, I mean, I started on Final Draft, then I went to Movie Magic, and now I’m in Fade In. That process is invisible to my brain.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I think if you start on Fountain, then you would — that’s what you would want and the other method would be very cumbersome. So it is about what you’re used to, to some extent. And there’s no right or wrong here. I guess, I would say to Nicolai, if you, I don’t know. Oh, because he doesn’t have Highland on his Android devices. Why is he writing on an Android device? What is this guy doing?

John: [laughs]

Craig: I’m starting to get angry. Why are you writing on your phone? Now I’m like David Lynch. “Watching movies on your phone, watching movies on a fucking phone.” [laughs] He’s the best. I mean, why are you writing a script on a phone? Get out of here.

John: While we’re talking about screenwriting software, what is your feeling about like auto complete and Smart-Type? Do you like it when a character name fills itself in —

Craig: Yes.

John: Or does it drive you crazy?

Craig: No, I do like it a lot. And I like it for two reasons. One, because particularly when I’m writing a scene where there are two people having a conversation, it does flow beautifully. And two, it confronts me when I’ve created characters with similar first letters or the same first letters, I should say, because then sometimes I get the wrong one or it gives me that stupid menu. So that I do like quite a bit.

John: Yeah, I do like Smart-Type when it makes sure that I’m spelling the character’s name the same way every time because that can be a huge problem.

Craig: Yes.

John: When there’s five ways you could spell it and now you’re spelling it the one way. What always drives me crazy with Smart-Type lists is when it really wants to fill in sort of the wrong character’s name. For me what always happens is I’ll have a situation where you have like two characters talking at the same time, so like Sandra/Laura.

Craig: Yes, yes, yes.

John: And then like, ugh, so then you have to manually go through and delete that Sandra/Laura so it doesn’t do that.

Craig: That’s right. That is the one thing that is very annoying and you do have to go to your Smart-Type list and blow that one out because for whatever reason, it defaults to the long one. You know what, I’m going to have to talk to Kent at Fade In and tell him to default to the shorter one in those circumstances.

John: Yeah, that’s probably a good solution.

Craig: Yeah, I think it is.

John: We’re making software better on this very podcast.

Craig: Yeah. And I’m not writing it on my phone. [laughs]

John: I’m going to let you take the Iceland question.

Craig: Yes. Erlinger, oh god, I get the best, I don’t know how to do the Iceland accent. Is Björk from Iceland?

John: She is?

Craig: She is so cool.

John: The coolest.

Craig: You know, I was listening in my car the other day and I was just, I had my phone on random songs and Human Behavior came up.

John: A great song.

Craig: It’s so weird. And when you listen, yeah. It just doesn’t follow [laughs] any kind of normal song structure, melodic structure and yet it totally does in its own way. What a cool, that lady is cool.

John: So I saw Björk with the Sugarcubes at Red Rocks in Colorado.

Craig: Wow.

John: And it was one of my favorite concerts ever.

Craig: Yeah, “Human behavior — if you ever, ever, ever, ever, ever…” Okay, so Erlinger from Iceland writes, “I’m a long time listener and a big fan of the show from Iceland but based in New York. And I wanted to ask you about credit when it comes to treatments in actual screenwriting. It was reported recently that Shane Black would be directing the new Predator movie and that his old Monster Squad buddy, Fred Dekker, would be writing the script based on Black’s treatment.” Very exciting news by the way says, Erlinger.

“And I started wondering how does that work credit-wise. Will Shane Black, an accomplished screenwriter with a very specific style be credited as a writer on the movie or just have a Story by credit?” Oh, there’s so much about this question that makes me angry.

John: Yeah, I knew it would be the perfect question for you, Craig.

Craig: It’s not your fault, Erlinger. I’m not angry at you. I’m angry at the universe. Let me just boil down the part that infuriates me. Will Shane Black be credited as a writer on the movie or just have a Story by credit?

Story by is writing.

John: It is.

Craig: Story by is writing credit. It is, there is story credit and there is screenplay credit. Story credit, the credit that, Erlinger, you are sort of implying isn’t really writing credit, is the credit to which separated rights are attached. In many ways, it’s the more important credit. So in this case, if a screenwriter is writing a script based on another screenwriter’s treatment, then a couple of things happen.

First, the screenplay automatically moves out of original screenplay mode into non-original screenplay mode. In this case, it would have been anyway because it’s a remake or a sequel. And if this were the only writing arrangement, so Shane Black writes a treatment, Fred Dekker writes the screenplay, they shoot the movie, then in fact the credits would read, Story by Shane Black, Screenplay by Fred Dekker, and both would receive a writing credit.

John: Yes. Now, it’s entirely possible that Fred Dekker would also receive a shared story credit if his screenplay contributed tremendous story elements that are not present in Shane Black’s script. Shane Black directing this doesn’t change the nature of the story by credit. The only thing that it will cause is that because he is a production executive on it because he’s directing it, it would go through arbitration automatically. It would have to happen.

Craig: That’s right. There is one other potential. And that is, if it’s a remake, well, I’m assuming this is a remake.

John: Yes.

Craig: Okay, in the case of a remake, a couple of interesting things. First, simply writing a treatment doesn’t guarantee you a story credit because if your treatment isn’t sufficiently or significantly different from the story of the first movie then you won’t get story credit and you know who will? The writer, the credited writer of the first movie.

So the credited writers of the first movie become participating writers in the remake, they become writer A in fact. So a lot of interesting, tricky little things going on there. But I think more importantly then the specifics of the question here is just for me to remind everybody that Story by is a writing credit.

John: Yes. A zillion years ago, I was in the discussions to do a Predator movie and did not proceed with it. But I love Predator as a franchise. I think Shane Black will do an amazing job.

Craig: Predator is a fascinating movie because it came out at a time when a lot of movies like that were coming out. There was a Schwarzenegger era.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: And you had a bunch of guys in that movie that were sort of that steroidal ’80s action film. You know, Carl Weathers was in there. So it was a bit of, you know, some Rocky guys. Jesse Ventura was from wrestling, and of course, Schwarzenegger. And so I remember when I saw the ads I thought, okay, I’ll go see this because, hell, if I saw Commando, I should see this, right, I mean —

John: Totally

Craig: I basically, you know, I’ll go see whatever this guy does. And it was a great example of when you walk into a movie theater and say that was so much better than it had to be.

John: Absolutely.

Craig: Yeah. It didn’t have to be that good at all. I mean, I still to this day, time makes everything better.

John: Yeah.

Craig: At the time, I remember thinking, I’m sorry, did Arnold Schwarzenegger just outrun a nuclear explosion? Did he just dive in front of a nuclear explosion and land in a ditch and he’s okay now?

John: Yeah.

Craig: And at that time I just thought that was insulting. Now, of course, it feels somehow brilliant. Time has made it brilliant. It’s made it an audacious choice.

John: [laughs] Well, he didn’t go into a refrigerator. So there wasn’t that.

Craig: Yes, he did not go into a refrigerator. They literally, they dispensed with any kind of lead lined box.

John: Arnold Schwarzenegger is his own refrigerator.

Craig: Yeah, that’s right. He just, you know what, it’s that scene we’d seen a million times where somebody runs and then as something explodes in the background they dive away and they did it this time but with a nuclear explosion, with a mushroom cloud.

John: I haven’t seen the movie in a zillion years. I remember watching it the first time on VHS over at my friend Matt’s house at like a slumber party and so we watched that and Purple Rain and other stuff, but loving it. My recollection of the movie is that after a certain point, it becomes essentially a silent film because it’s basically a two-hander between Schwarzenegger and Predator.

Craig: Right.

John: And none of them is talking which is just kind of great.

Craig: It turns out that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a far better silent film actor than he is a talking film actor. And you can see that in The Terminator.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Because in The Terminator, he says, you know, “Are you Sarah Connor?” It’s only four lines, you know. “I’ll be back.” He’s a great silent actor.

John: “Fuck you, asshole.”

Craig: Yeah, exactly. He’s got a great silent actor face. He’s all physical. The more he talks, the less well it tends to go. So, of course, we made him the governor of a state. How stupid. How stupid are we? I don’t care what your politics are. How do you make that guy a governor? What? And then Jesse Ventura became governor. Two governors in that movie. From Predator.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Why isn’t Carl Weathers a governor? What’s he —

John: In an alternate universe, Carl Weathers is the president.

Craig: Carl Weathers. President Weathers.

John: Oh, it’s going to be good.

Craig: Oh, it’s so great. Oh, I love it.

John: Is Carl Weathers Action Jackson?

Craig: You know he was. Action, Action Jackson.

John: So Craig, let’s wrap up questions with my question to you.

Craig: There was a guy, a friend of mine went to a movie. And it was an action movie, but it was not Action Jackson. And there was a kid sitting in front of him, 14-year-old kid. And every time some action happened, and this was about a year after Action Jackson came out, every time any action occurred in the movie, the kid would go, “Action, Action Jackson.”

John: [laughs]

Craig: [laughs] And it was incredibly annoying. But then by the end of the movie, it became better than the movie.

John: Of course.

Craig: Yeah.

John: That’s great.

Craig: Action.

John: So Craig, my question for you.

Craig: Yes.

John: How was Dungeon World?

Craig: Oh, Dungeon World was great. So we had talked about the fact that we were going to play Dungeon World and it was your One Cool Thing before we played Dungeon World.

John: It was.

Craig: And our Dungeon World Group was a great group. We had Phil Hay of Ride Along and many other wonderful films.

John: R.I.P.D.

Craig: Clash of the Titans.

John: Yes.

Craig: We had Chris Morgan of The Fastest and Furious franchise. We had Michael Gilvary who writes on Chicago Fire. We had Malcolm Spellman. He’s written the, what was the family movie, the family…it was at Fox.

John: Yeah, and now I forget the name of it.

Craig: The something Family Wedding.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But he’s also currently working on a television show, Lee Daniels’ new television show called Empire. He’s on that. This is a great group and myself and you.

John: We had played over four nights I think.

Craig: Yeah, I think it was four crazy nights. And you were the Dungeon Master and whipped together a fantastic story with a great twist ending. It was such a good ending that my character was strongly contemplating suicide.

John: You know you hit a good point in the story where a character’s reasonable choice might just be to kill himself.

Craig: That’s right. But I thought it ran exactly the way it was supposed to go. You had the basic bones of a story. So there was a back story that connected to the end. There was a destination, some goal posts along the way, and there was one key artifact.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: And then we kind of put it all together as a story as we went, you know. And with you guiding us, that’s exactly how it was supposed to happen. And there was a lot of deaths. Chris Morgan and I were the only characters to survive and even our survival was ironic and Twilight Zoney, a little Monkey’s Paw-ish.

John: It was a Monkey’s Paw. I found Dungeon World mostly pretty good. So for people who aren’t familiar with what Dungeon World is versus Dungeons and Dragons. Dungeon World is an attempt to make an incredibly stripped down version of a game like Dungeons and Dragons where you’ll be rolling two six-sided dice. It’s much more about the conversation and talking back and forth rather than looking up charts and doing that kind of stuff.

And one of the goals is that the players themselves should have much more responsibility for the storytelling. And that’s where I thought you guys really stepped up. And it’s also nice that you have like, you know, five screenwriters doing it. But you guys found some really great interplay between your characters and sort of I could let you roll with things and most of the times it was really good. For each night of play, I would create sort of two encounters and then let you guys figure out how you were going to get through them.

Craig: Yeah, to me the most fun really was in the way the characters interacted and how they solidified and became certain types. I think of all the character interplay, I guess my favorite of all that was when Malcolm’s character, Big Luther, continually harangued Michael Gilvary’s character, he’s ranger character, Patty, for attempting to shoot arrows through animated skeletons.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It was just a terrible choice.

John: It was a terrible choice. And that was the first night and he never gave up on it.

Craig: Yeah, he really never, yeah. And I like that Patty in his kind of depressive Eeyorish way kept saying, “That could have worked.” [laughs]

John: [laughs]

Craig: It’s pretty great. But I also liked the interplay, my character was definitely the Loki of the group and sort of a selfish, liar. And he was a thief, so he’s all about, you know, profit. And Phil Hay’s character, Reynard, was the pompous, sanctimonious cleric. And those two guys hated each other. It was great.

John: Yeah. So one of the smart things about Dungeon World was you start with this concept of bonds and so as you’re figuring out your character, as you’re figuring out what their bonds are and sort of what their relationship is with each other. And it reminded me of a similar dynamic when we were playing Fiasco with Kelly Marcel, is that before you start the whole process, you figure out the relationships between the characters and then you figure out the characters.

Craig: Right.

John: And that was really helpful because I remember playing D&D growing up. It was so much about like which character class you are and what the plus was on your sword.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And it wasn’t about the story. And this, to its credit, was very much about the story.

Craig: Yeah, it was very, it’s funny actually, I was looking, because, you know, you and I are now talking about continuing on with you as a player and us doing a campaign in the new Dungeons and Dragons, the fifth edition which is on its way out. And I was looking, just reading a little bit and I thought, you know, I’m really interested in creating a character that’s the wrong race for the class.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: I just think that would be a cool way to begin, you know, because the truth is, yeah, does it hurt you a little bit statistically in the beginning? I suppose. But, you know, by the time you get to level whatever, who cares?

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s just more interesting.

John: It is. If I had an overall criticism of Dungeon World, I felt that it was so stripped down at times that when you actually got to fighting things, it became really hard to figure out when should you roll again. And so, you know, if Luther is fighting this guy over here, how often should you be getting back to Luther and having Luther try to attack this thing and roll his dice versus the results.

Craig: Right.

John: And that was sort of a mess. And that was me not being especially, you know, great with the structure and the rules of it all, but it didn’t seem to scale especially well to the five of us. And so the lack of initiative which is basically a system for going through and figuring out who’s turn it was to do something got to be a bit of a problem.

Craig: Well, we’ll see how it goes with this next thing, but I had a great time regardless. And I’m looking forward to the next. And mostly because my wife hates it. She doesn’t hate it like, she’s not angry at it, it just more like, “Oh God.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: You’re going to nerd, I literally put it in my calendar which she can see, I write down Nerd Fest.

John: Fantastic.

Craig: Yeah, yeah.

John: All right, it’s time for One Cool Things. So Craig, what have you got?

Craig: My One Cool Thing this week is not a repeat, although, it might sound like a repeat. It’s David Kwong who I’ve talked about before. But today, right now, on Friday the 11th of July, his TED Talk is up and available and we’ll have a link in the show notes to that. It’s a great example of what he does.

So in the TED Talk, he talks about the idea that we are all hardwired to solve and he even talks about some scientific research with infants. And then he does a trick, and the trick has a component that involves that day’s crossword puzzle. It’s very intricate, it’s very meta. David always figures out how to be meta and the meta on top of meta and meta on top of meta on top of meta. It’s a great trick, I don’t know how he does it. It’s brilliant. You should all check it out. And the best news of all it’s I think like a 13-minute video.

John: Yeah. So actually I haven’t seen the TED talk as final, the final version of it, but I got to see a rehearsal for it over at Aline Brosh McKenna’s house several months before he did it. And it’s great and he’s super smart. And just this last week, my daughter came home from summer camp and she wanted to show me a card trick and it was a mess, it didn’t work at all. And so like, I went on YouTube and like, “Let me show you David Kwong doing a real card trick.” And it was terrific. And there’s actually one YouTube clip where he actually shows you how to do a very simple card trick that would impress most people at parties.

Craig: That’s such a great father-daughter moment for you. “Oh, that’s terrible, sweetheart. Here, let me show you the best guy.”

John: [laughs]

Craig: “This is the guy who’s the best in the world. You’ll never be as good as him.” Behold, behold, have I crushed every ounce of passion out of you for this? Good. Good. You be a screenwriter like your father!”

John: To be fair, she had actually gone with me over to see David’s rehearsal so she knew who he was.

Craig: Oh, okay.

John: So it wasn’t just like… — He was fantastic. But it was actually a good father-daughter moment where she asked me, “Papa, why do you know so many famous people?”

Craig: Aw. Because daddy is special.

John: Daddy is special.

Craig: Yeah.

John: My One Cool Thing is actually related to last week’s —

Craig: Wait, she calls you —

John: Procrastination talk.

Craig: She calls you Papa?

John: I’m Papa.

Craig: She calls you Papa? That’s so German, I love it.

John: Well, we’re a two-dad family so —

Craig: I know, but see to me it I would just be dad and dad. But papa, or papa is, whatever. Let’s say, okay fine, you want two different dad type names, but papa is so wonderfully old school. It’s so Little House on the Prairie.

John: Oh, thank you.

Craig: Papa.

John: Papa.

Craig: Papa. Why, Papa?

John: But of course whenever she really just wants something, she doesn’t care who it is that gets her the thing, she’ll go, “Daddy, Papa.”

Craig: Oh, I like that.

John: It’s like one thing like, I don’t care who does it. Just one of you do this thing.

Craig: Yeah, one of you —

John: Yeah.

Craig: “Guys. Hey guys.”

John: Guys.

Craig: “Guys. Guys, I need a thing.”

John: My One Cool Thing is related to last week’s procrastination topic and it’s how I actually came upon those procrastination articles was I was in a deep click hole researching the Fermi paradox, which you’re probably familiar with.

Craig: I am.

John: So the simple way of stating the Fermi paradox is that if you assume that the Earth is not special, the Earth is mediocre in terms of places in the universe, that our solar system isn’t special, that our Earth, our planet is not that special in terms of its possibility of existing. If you look at it that way, there should be tremendous numbers of civilizations out there across the universe, across the galaxy. And our galaxy is actually fairly old, so there should be some younger ones out there that would have progressed to the point where those civilizations should have been be able find us or at least done something that we can see. But when we look out into the galaxy we don’t see any other civilizations. So the Fermi paradox is basically, where is everybody?

Craig: Right.

John: So it turns out there’s some really good explanations about, you know, why we may not be seeing other people and it could be everything from the universe, the times spans are just too huge, the distances are just too huge. It could be that there’s, the most troubling article I went through is that there may just be some filters and there may be some filters that sort of prevent civilizations from progressing beyond a certain point to where you would actually leave your home planet and travel across the wide empty spaces. So a really interesting thing. I’ll put three articles in the show notes this week.

Craig: It is interesting. There’s a lot of possible explanations. I have to say that I’ve always been the sort of person who wondered where all these people were and why aren’t they contacting us. And then I saw Neil deGrasse Tyson. I think it was Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about this thing. I don’t know if I mentioned on the show before. He was talking about how we all wish to meet an alien intelligence and we always presume that when we meet them they’ll be basically like us.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: But he says, you know, we share something like 99% of our genetic material with chimpanzees. And the genetic material in that last 1% is that’s the difference, that’s why we are as smart as we are compared to a chimp. What if the people that we meet improbably are 99% is similar to us. That’s how similar they are to us. But unfortunately that 1% difference makes us as chimps to them.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Oh my god. We wouldn’t even understand what they’re saying and we would be like children to them.

John: Well, I think of the different possibilities with Fermi paradox, my default answer to this point is that version of we’re asking the wrong question because essentially when you get to be so advanced that you could travel across the galaxy, there’s suddenly something else that’s much more appealing to do. And so —

Craig: I see.

John: One of the ways they described that as beings is like if you were building a freeway and you pass by an anthill, you wouldn’t care about the ants on the anthill. And it’s very possible that’s we’re just the ants in the anthill. And we’re not even really aware of the freeway that’s being built.

One last bit of news on my side, I’m hiring somebody. I’m actually hiring a new employee.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So it’s very possible that someone listening to this podcast is that right employee for Quote-Unquote Films, Quote-Unquote Apps, my app development company that makes Highland and Weekend Read and Bronson. We are hiring a full time position, a UI designer. Somebody who’s really good at designing interfaces for apps both on the Mac and on iOS. We’d love somebody who is a combination of good design skills but also coding ability. We want somebody who can actually build things in Xcode. So if you are that person, there is a job posting on and you should send in your resume because you might be exactly the right person.

Other bit of news and announcements, we have the first 150 episodes of Scriptnotes are now packed onto those little USB drives. So if you are a latecomer to the show and want to get caught up, that’s an easy way to get all those back episodes. So if you go to you can buy that little USB drive that has all 150 episodes of the show, both in AAC format and mp3 format. So you can see where it all began.

Craig: How much does that cost?

John: It’s a really reasonable question. And I don’t know, I think they’re $19.

Craig: Okay. So what is a year of tuition at the worst film school cost?

John: Oh, God, I don’t know, $10,000?

Craig: Yeah, that’s minimum. That’s 10 grand for the worst experience.

John: The worst.

Craig: The worst. And then upwards of what, 30, 40 for like an NYU or USC?

John: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Craig: Yeah. So we’re —

John: Yeah, USC has got to be 40 or 45.

Craig: Right. And so you said we were $19,000 for this?

John: [laughs] No, just $19.

Craig: What? $19?

John: Move that decimal point.

Craig: Oh my, that’s crazy.

John: Yeah.

Craig: All right. Well, I don’t know why anybody wouldn’t buy it.

John: So it’s a reasonable thing to buy, if you want to buy that. Another choice if you want to go all the back episodes is you can got to and if you sign in there, if you get a premium membership there, it’s $2 a month. And that gives you access to all the back catalog. There’s an app that you can use to listen to that back catalog. There’s also occasionally we have some bonus episodes and you can find stuff in there too. So that’s another choice. $2 as opposed to $20,000, if it makes sense for you, go for it.

Craig: No, $2,000 a month is way better than —

John: Yeah, it’s way better.

Craig: Yeah, way better.

John: Oh God, if we charge $2,000 a month that would be crazy.

Craig: We would just need one person.

John: We can do one person.

Craig: And we would finally cover our bills.

John: One student at $2,000 a month.

Craig: We, as always, run at a loss.

John: We do run at a loss. Proud of that loss.

Craig: Proud, that’s our pledge to you.

John: If you have question for Craig Mazin, you should write him at @clmazin on Twitter. I am @johnaugust on Twitter. These longer questions like we answered today on the podcast, write your email to If you’re on iTunes, click subscribe so that people know that you’re subscribed to this and leave us a comment while you’re there, that’s always nice too.

Podcast is produced by Stuart Friedel.

Craig: Yay!

John: The editor is Matthew Chilelli who will have his work cut out for him this week. And we love outros. And so we’re not sure which outro we’re going to use this week. But if you are a person who writes music and you would like to write an outro for our show, go to, I’m guessing that’s the URL. And you’ll listen to many great examples of previous people who’ve done outros and you should write us an outro and send us a link because we would love to feature it on the end of our show.

Craig: Yeah, man.

John: And so I’ll also say this is our first time ever trying to do a live broadcast, the live stream online. It kind of worked.

Craig: What did our people in the chat room, what are they saying?

John: People say —

Craig: Boo?

John:“John and Craig, great show. Thanks. Do you have time to take some questions from the people in the live audience?”

Craig: Oh, we should have done that. That would that have made —

John: Well, because we didn’t do it, but maybe next time we’ll try it again.

Craig: Your answer to we should have done that is, oh, we should have done it but we didn’t do it. That’s the answer. Why we didn’t do it? Because we didn’t do it. But I hope you people in the chat room see what I’m working with here.

John: So maybe at some point in the future we will do another one of these live-ish kind of shows. We should probably do them at night if we’re going to do them because —

Craig: Yeah, yeah. For sure.

John: People are going to be at work. But we will try to do another one of these, is at, is where we live-streamed this and it seemed to kind of work.

Craig: That’s awesome.

John: So maybe we’ll do that again.

Craig: Well, you know, I did a lot of preparation and research into this. So I’m glad that my whole system of doing the live podcast… — Never mind, I don’t do anything. Everyone knows it. I’m useless.

John: Craig Mazin, you host a great podcast and it’s all we could ever ask of you to do.

Craig: Right, that is in fact all you could ask of me because I have no other skills. [laughs] All right. Thank you, John.

John: Craig, thanks. Have great week.

Craig: You too.

John: And thanks everyone in the chat room.

Craig: Bye.