The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: Here, man, my name is Craig Mazin. Right?
John: And this is Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Craig, we are trying to record this episode live. It’s nearly a week before this episode will come out, so it’s probably one of the most in advance episodes we’ve ever done.
Craig: Well, and also we’re doing this, so we’ve got these people listening along with us on Mixlr.com. So, they’re cheating basically. They’re hearing this early. Plus, they get to hear all the nonsense that we cut out, which I should say most of which is you saying things like, “Blah, blah, blah, that was terrible.” [laughs]
John: You’ll see all the false starts and the do-overs. But in many ways the 25 people who are in the chat room, they’re living slightly in the future, because they get to experience the Scriptnotes episode before anyone else on the planet gets to experience it.
Craig: That is exactly right. This is fun. I’m reading along with the things they’re saying. This is great. I’m going to have to stop because it’s going to be distracting.
John: You’re going to have to stop. It’s going to be very distracting.
Craig: It’s going to be very distracting. So, I’m leaving the chat room, but I’m excited that people are listening along with us as we do this live and not live at the same time.
John: So, today we talked about our topics and it’s going to be about the price of things. It’s going to be about Amazon versus Hachette, Amazon versus Disney. They’re all wrestling over what things should cost and what price people should pay. We’re going to look at the Weinstein Brothers putting a price on a free internship.
Craig: Yeah, man, there’s going to be a price for it, all right?
John: We’re going to look at animation studios who are trying to hold down the prices that they’re paying to their workers. And finally we’re going to try to answer some questions from the people who are sitting around in the chat room very patiently waiting while we figure out how we’re actually recording this episode.
Craig: So much. So much.
John: But first off we should start with some follow up and really some corrections. I always love in newspapers when they talk about the mistakes they’ve made and regretting the error. Well, in our last podcast we got to kind of do that because there were some significant errors at the end of the podcast last week.
John: And I’ll blame it on jetlag, but anyway we need to sort of address them. So, you were talking about a Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.
John: And the actor in that is Jefferson Mays.
John: But I said Jefferson Davis.
John: Who, of course, was the role played by Sherman Hemsley in Norman Lear’s comedy The Jeffersonians.
John: So, completely confused that.
Craig: Great 1990s era sitcom.
John: And Jefferson Davis, of course, was the president of the Confederacy, or you sad that it was Jefferson, he was the president of the Confederacy. But that’s not right at all. That was Robert E. Lee Daniels who was the director of films like Precious, Based on the Novel Push by Lyle Waggoner.
John: So, we really messed up a lot of stuff there, but we regret the error. And we try to fix our mistakes when we see those mistakes.
Craig: Well, the good news is that we do. I mean, we take the time to get it right. We may not get it right the first time, but the second time around we’re very good.
John: We’re really good. We aim for clarity and just perfection.
Craig: I would actually say we’re the best.
John: We are the best. Yet, another mistake we made is that we said that we’re going to both be at the Austin Film Festival October 23 to the 26. That’s not actually accurate, is it Craig?
Craig: It’s half true. I’m sorry, guys. I can’t go this time because one of my best friends in the whole world is getting married that weekend and it’s a small wedding and I and my wife will be in attendance. It’s on that Saturday.
And I thought about trying to squeeze in, like maybe if I just fly out Thursday night and I leave Friday afternoon or Friday night, but it was turning into a disaster and I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. So, unfortunately this Austin — it will be the first one I’ve missed in a number of years, but I’ll be back next year for sure, no matter what.
John: But we already promised them a Scriptnotes episode. So, we talked about sort of who would be the perfect person to take Craig’s place if Craig could not be there.
Craig: But that person was not available so you got…[laughs]
John: We got Kelly Marcel.
John: And so I’m so excited that Kelly Marcel will be co-hosting the live Scriptnotes that we’ll do in Austin.
Craig: Yes, it’s good. You guys are a great team together and it’s always good to — she’s very good at the podcasting thing. Not everybody is, by the way. Although we’ve never actually had a bad guest, I don’t think. Even Richard Kelly, it’s a little tough with Richard Kelly sometimes because he’s Richard Kelly, but that’s the way Richard Kelly is. You know when you get Richard Kelly that that’s what you’re going to get. You’re going to get Richard Kelly. So, that was actually great. But we’ve never had a bad guest.
But she’ll be very good and very funny and you guys will be — you’ll do well together.
John: While we’re talking about podcast guests, is there anything you want to tell me, Craig?
Craig: Okay, so listen, you’ve done this to me and I didn’t say a word. Okay, not a word. Am I proud of what I did? No. [laughs] But I think that I deserve at the very least the forgiveness that I gave you when you whored yourself out there like a trollop to The Nerdist podcast and to god knows what else. I mean, I think you’ve done 12 podcasts.
John: I’ve done a few podcasts.
Craig: So, I strayed and I happened to do one. I was in New York and I did Brian Koppelman’s podcast. By the way, so Brian Koppelman’s podcast is called The Moment. And I knew that, but I had never thought twice about it. I just thought, okay, well Brian Koppelman has a podcast called The Moment. And he asked me to come on to The Moment and I said, great, I’ll do The Moment. And I showed up for The Moment and we started talking and he was asking me questions and he kept asking questions like, “So was that the moment do you think when…”
And then I realized, “Ooh, oh The Moment is actually about a moment.” That’s the point of this whole thing is that he’s talking about a moment. But I had no idea because, of course, I don’t listen to any podcasts. So, I found out what The Moment was during The Moment.
John: So, I would have guessed that his podcast was six seconds long based on his Vine videos. But apparently it was 90 minutes.
Craig: It’s lengthy. And I don’t know how he worked this out. I think it’s because The Moment, which sounds vaguely, I don’t know, there’s something intestinal about it, but whatever, like I’m having a moment.
John: I was thinking it was sort of more like a moment of orgasm: a moment of just like clarity and sweat and light.
Craig: [laughs] That’s exactly what happens to me when I have an orgasm. First comes the clarity. Then the sweat. And then the light. The light is the weirdest part.
His podcast, The Moment — clarity, sweat, light — is associated with ESPN and Grantland. And because it’s ESPN and ESPN is part of the Disney family, we recorded this thing in a proper recording studio at the ABC building in Manhattan. So he’s got like a pretty professional setup, or so I thought. But here’s what happens. You’ll love this.
So this guy brings you in and you have to get your identification and sign in and go through the thing, and go up the stairs, and a man meets you in a lobby that’s essentially a man-trap frankly, because you can’t get down and you can’t get out.
And then an engineer meets you and he says, “Hi, how are you doing, my name is so-and-so.” Great. And he takes you into this proper control both and you go into a proper recording room and you have real microphones and headphones and all the rest. And the guy hits some buttons and then he leaves. He leaves.
So, really what they’ve done with Brian is they’re like, “Here you go buddy. We’re going to hit record and then we’re out of here. And then you just hit stop.” So, it’s kind of professional but also kind of like, “Somebody hit record for Brian, and then we go home, get a beer.”
Craig: Yeah. But it was fun. I enjoyed it. And once I learned what The Moment was about — the moment — then I had a nice moment.
John: [laughs] Well, it’s very good. Brian Koppelman is a talented screenwriter and certainly a person who has the best interest of screenwriters at heart. So, if you’re going to cheat on the Scriptnotes Podcast with anyone, Brian Koppelman is the right person to do it with.
Craig: Yeah. I feel like we both have hall passes for Brian Koppelman.
John: Next bit of follow up, a couple of weeks ago I talked about Goodnight Moon and a terrific piece written about Goodnight Moon and sort of how it’s really very smartly written. Listener Randy Mack pointed me to a McSweeney’s piece by Sean Walsh which I thought was fantastic called A Sparknotes Guide to Goodnight Moon, which is one of those sort of classic study guides to Goodnight Moon, which is of course much longer than the actual book of Goodnight Moon. So, I’m going to put that in the show notes.
But this was a quote from that that I thought was terrific:
The moon in this piece acts as a traditionally feminine sign. Here, the bunny’s final “goodnight moon” demonstrates his completion of his rite of passage and his development into a full man bunny. The moon, which visually appears on every page, grows larger and more pronounced is a chanting feminine voice, haunting and disturbing his world. Just as he must overcome his sexual desire for the woman who says “hush,” the bunny must resist the impending femininity outside of his safe confines.
Craig: [laughs] That’s exactly what my kid said to me when I read the book to him. He’s like, “Daddy. Daddy, I have to overcome my sexual desire for the woman who says ‘hush.'”
Craig: Uh-huh. That was very funny.
John: What I love about that writing is it reminds me so much of those papers I wrote in college where like I got to keep filling up pages and so you try to dry a meaning out of things that are just completely meaningless.
Craig: I have to say, just as a side note, it just kills me to witness the death of clear writing in academia. It wasn’t always like this, but it certainly was like this when you and I were in college. And I think it’s just become calcified into something that’s permanent in a dreadful way. And I don’t know who to blame, other than academics themselves, for buying into this nonsense.
But very famously there were some guys that wrote a computer program that essentially assembled an essay that was grammatically correct in some strict sense, but full of nothing but argle-bargle nonsense academia words. And it was accepted for publication by a number of very fancy academic journals. It’s just embarrassing. It’s embarrassing. And this would be, if I were in charge, I would be a benevolent dictator, but not with this. With this there would be some kind of terrible purge by fire.
John: Yeah. When I was in college I was split between my English major, which was writing those argle-bargle papers, and like my post-modernism class, and I was a journalism major. So you had to write incredible clear things for journalism. And that was much better training, I thought.
Craig: That is far better training. Far better. There’s really no function. There’s no purpose, function, or value in that kind of over dense fruitcake writing. I don’t mean fruitcake in the la-di-da. I mean fruitcake like something that has too much mass for its shape. [laughs] It’s just — it’s just too much. It’s too much.
John: Yeah. It’s too much candy, fruit, and nuts and not actual substance.
Craig: It is. You could make a list of words, I mean, semiotic — semiotic means something. That is to say it used to mean something and now in an ironic way it is a signifier but it actually means nothing. It means nothing anymore.
John: Yeah. It means that you can stop paying attention.
Craig: That’s right. You can turn your brain off. Yup.
John: Our last bit of follow up is a question from Mario who writes, “In the excellent…”
John: “In the Rocky Shoals episode during the discussion on the topic of tone, Aline brings up,” Aline Brosh McKenna, the best, “she brings up that she will sometimes write things characters might be thinking but are not saying in order to help make the tone clear.”
John: “How do you go about properly formatting this kind of thing? Do you put it in parenthesis? Quotation marks? Do you italicize it? Or is the fact that it’s written in a block of action and not in dialogue enough for readers to understand what it means?”
Craig: That’s a good question. I do this, too. And it depends on the moment and how I’ll do it. I won’t put it in quotation marks or italicize it, but I will choose typically between either a line of action or in parenthesis. For instance, this very day I wrote an exchange where someone says, “I’m from London.” And a woman and a man are listening. And the woman says, “Oh?” But in parenthesis it says (Ooh!). And the man says, “Huh?” And in parenthesis it says (I hate you). So, that will give the actors plenty of context. Certainly it will give the reader plenty of context as to what’s going on there. But you could also do this is action, too.
You could write something like, “John is disgusted. John, ‘Well that’s just terrific.” You know, sure, no problem.
John: Yeah. So a parenthetical is perfect if you’re trying to color the delivery of a line. And so if what they’re saying may not be obvious based on the word choices, because they’re trying to express them and that’s not how they’re actually feeling. But that intermediary line of action is a great place to express what’s sort of really going on.
Because if you’re watching the movie you would see that he’s disgusted. You would see that he’s like, you know, shooting eye daggers. That’s all a valid choice.
So, rarely do you have to format anything special.
Craig: That’s right.
John: Craig, a question for you, though. This is something I just ran into in the thing that I’m writing. I needed to sort of ellipses a line of dialogue but I needed to make clear what it was that they were going to say.
John: Have you ever done that? Where you put that in brackets afterwards, like the part that got cut off at the end of the sentence?
Craig: I’ve actually never done that.
John: It was the first time I’d ever done it.
Craig: But I’ve seen it. And I can see in certain situations where it would be of value. But I always feel like, well, it’s hard to act that. You know, I always think about the actors and I can understand how to act putting in parentheses (I hate you) and then the line is “Oh, that’s interesting.” But I don’t know how to act “I’m not sure if I…” and then in brackets [can marry you].
I think in part it should be somewhat evident from the first part of it. But I can imagine a specific situation where you’re kind of jammed into where it’s like, yes, actually, this is appropriate. The actor would understand why I put that there, etc.
John: So, the exact situation I was in is there is a police officer, there is a woman who has come on the scene, and there is an hysterical woman. And our hero character is saying to the police officer, “Can you get rid of this woman.” And so it’s just, “Can you…” but in brackets [take care of her].
Craig: Get rid of this woman. My instinct, what I would do, and what you did there is absolutely fine. I think what I would probably have done is say, “Can you…” and then a line of action “He signals his partner to get rid of her.”
Craig: But it’s the same. And, frankly, you know, it’s all about just how to get things to.. — The only thing I would advise is if you’re going to do it in an action block, it’s good for it to kind of be descriptive as the third person omniscient.
If you’re doing it in parentheses or in brackets then it is good to do it as unspoken dialogue, dialogue that they’re thinking in their heads like “I hate you” as opposed to “He hates him.” That kind of thing, you know.
John: All right, let’s get to our topics of the day. So, Amazon is having an interesting week, or a couple weeks. They seem to be having disagreements with several of the people who are supplying them things.
First off is Hachette, a big publisher. And this has been an ongoing fight where they are disagreeing about the price of eBooks. So, Amazon has tried to price books, eBooks, at $9.99, because that’s what they want to sell things for on Kindle. And they have stopped selling certain Hachette, a big publisher’s titles, because they cannot come to an agreement on price.
And so we’ll have a couple links to different articles about this in the show notes. But, Craig, I’m curious what your first thought is when you see this dispute between Hachette and Amazon.
Craig: I have grown increasingly wary of Silicon Valley’s disdain for content. They are so unconcerned with anything that isn’t about an increasingly efficient capital machine, something that generates profits for them. And I don’t begrudge them that. That’s what businesses do. But they are ruthless and ruthless almost in a self-destructive way. They’re kind of devouring the very basis of the things that supply them.
And this is an example. I understand why they want to do this, but look, the fact of the matter is Hachette is also a business. They’re allowed to make money. Their authors, more importantly, are allowed to make royalties. And just because Amazon wants to sell something at a price doesn’t mean it gets to.
John: I agree with you. So, I generally approach this from the perspective of like, well, that’s business. And so Hachette and Amazon have probably been negotiating and arguing about this for a long time. But I get annoyed when it spills out into the public and they try to fight in public.
And I got annoyed the same way with Comcast and CBS, or was it Time Warner and CBS? Anyway, the cable company that was fighting CBS in New York City, where they tried to make it a big public battle rather than sort of the private negotiation that business actually is.
Business is about you have certain costs of making something. And you are going to look at those costs as part of your price and you are going to charge a certain price to people. That price may be a price that a retailer is willing to accept. It may be a price that a retailer is not willing to accept. Amazon totally has the right not to sell Hachette books. Hachette has the right not to sell Amazon its books for the price Amazon wants.
But this whole public campaign, Amazon went off with this Readers United website.
Craig: Oh please.
John: And they’ve quoted Orwell and sort of misquoted Orwell. And they’re trying to make the case that books, eBooks, should cost $9.99 because they have so much lower cost than a hardback book would be, or even a paperback book would be. But it’s interesting because to me you never really comment on the costs of things unless you’re saying that things should cost less.
Craig: That’s right. They’re not making an argument of value.
Craig: They’re looking — what they’re doing is they’re looking at books as widgets and they’re saying, listen, uh, yeah, somebody sprinkles magic fairy dust on wood pulp and glue and I suppose that’s what makes words that people are interested in. But really what we’re talking about is wood pulp and glue. And you guys have eliminated the wood, pulp, and glue, so you should charge us less to run these books on our website and retail these books.
And the answer is no. No, that’s not what gives the book value. Frankly, one could argue that books have been undervalued for a long time and that this is a way to return value to them. The value is in the content. It’s not in the card stock or any of that.
God forbid the price, the real price — not the adjusted for inflation price — but the real price of content should go up. God forbid. God forbid that creators should make more money. That’s like — that’s literally something that never enters the algorithm of these people. But it’s true.
And, you know, if Amazon feels so strongly that books should be $9.99, they should sell them for $9.99 and make no money off of them.
John: Well, that’s honestly what’s been happening though is Amazon has been buying them and selling them at a loss to try to establish a price in people’s heads that $9.99 is the right price for them.
Craig: Well, they made their bed. That’s it. They made their bed. By the way, Amazon does this all the time. There was a really interesting — I read an article about a guy that decided he was going to sell diapers online. It was actually a pretty interesting business of selling diapers online. It was just something people weren’t buying online and he figured out a way to do it. And Amazon basically offered him a bunch of money to buy his company. He said no. We really like our model and we’re doing very well.
So, then Amazon decided to compete with him and to destroy him. They began selling diapers at a loss because it was more important for them to carve out competition and create another monopolistic beachhead than it was to actually make a profit.
And, frankly, Amazon struggles with profits from what I understand because they seem more interested in just selling everything and eliminating competition than they actually are interested in making money. So, they’ll do things like this. They’ll sell books for $9.99 because they imagine some world where eventually everybody will have to sell them for less to Amazon, right. But that’s not the way it works. And I hope, honestly, that Hachette and all of the authors they represent stick it to Amazon on this one.
I’m so tired of Amazon. By the way, I buy stuff from Amazon every day. So, I’m the worst. [laughs]
John: Yeah, I want to talk about the hypocrisy of that because —
Craig: The worst. I am such a hypocrite.
John: No, I would argue that there’s hypocrisy but there’s also reality. And so I buy stuff off of Amazon and so I had a tweet last week about my frustration with this Readers United thing and said like, you know what, I’m not going to be buying any Kindle books for awhile until this gets settled out, because that part of the business is frustrating to me.
And yet at the same time there is Amazon links on my website.
John: I bought some composition books for my daughter on Amazon. I don’t fully disagree with all that. Lord, I had a meeting at Amazon this last week. I had a meeting at Amazon on Monday. So, I think there’s parts of the business that are fine and good.
Another blogger made the point that basically there are no good airlines either. Like no matter what you’re going to have a bad experience with an airline. So, if you sort of refuse to go on American Airlines, eventually you’re going to run out of airlines, because you’re going to have a bad problem on every airline. It’s the same kind of thing with Amazon. Eventually you are going to probably want to buy something and Amazon may be the best choice for it.
Craig: Amazon, I just wonder if one of these days Amazon doesn’t find itself in the situation that Microsoft found itself in. Which ironically in the prologue to the era of Microsoft’s waning, they were nabbed for antitrust. And they went through a very long, difficult antitrust litigation with the United States government, more severely with European nations.
And the whole time they were like, wait a second, you don’t understand. We’re not a monopoly. We’re doing this stuff because we have to survive and we’re going to die. And everyone was like, shut up, you’re Microsoft. And it turns out actually, yeah, they really were kind of in a little bit of trouble.
I think Amazon is going to run into the same thing. I’m not sure that this whole price thing — somewhere, something in the back of my head says that there’s something funky about this, that deciding you’re not going to — you’re going to sell some people’s products for this price but not other people’s products because you don’t like them or something. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s — we’ll have to ask some antitrust lawyer what he thinks. Or she.
John: Luckily because we have people in the chat room, the blogger I mentioned is actually Marco Arment. So, I knew there was someone, so the point I was making about you can run out of airlines to fly, that was Marco Arment whose post I read.
Craig: Good job, Marco.
John: Good job, Marco.
The more recent and sort of more directly affecting screenwriters aspect of this is Amazon’s disagreement with Disney about pricing of DVDs and Blu-rays. So, this comes to Captain America, a big hit movie. And Million Dollar Arm. And Muppets Most Wanted. All the Disney movies they have disagreements about what price they want to sell those movies at.
Craig: That’s right.
John: So, it’s worth talking about what a list price is, because the list price is not the wholesale price. Amazon is paying a certain amount for those discs. And Amazon as a retailer can negotiate what price they’re paying for it. If they don’t like the price they’re paying for it, they can choose not to sell it. And, again, I think that’s fine. There’s no requirement that they need to sell it. But it gets frustrating when it gets public that they’re not doing it, or when they pull the buy buttons off and make it seem like a movie is not coming out, that’s a challenge.
And it’s a challenge because they’ve become so dominant in the home video industry. If you’re not selling your movies through Amazon, that’s going to be a problem. It’s going to cost you.
Craig: That’s right. And, again, acting like a bully and that’s part of the nature of capitalism and competition is. It’s hard to blame them for this. It’s also hard to blame Disney for taking a hard line on this. I think the trick with these situations is that the retailer giant, so in the case of say walk in and buy, that would be a Walmart, and online it’s Amazon. The retail giant is one entity. There is a group of people, publishers, or movie studios that are creating a product and they really can’t combine forces the way that Amazon can be consolidated with one policy.
Craig: Because that’s antitrust.
John: That was exactly what happened in the publishers with Apple. It was decided that they were colluding in making their deal with Apple and they all had to pay fines.
Craig: That’s right. Now, what we’ll see in another topic we’re about to approach is that frankly there is a lot of squidgety dealing going on between what ought to be free and clear competitors in the entertainment business. And I suspect that that’s probably the case here, too. I mean, look, Warner Bros got into it with Amazon. Now Disney gets into it with Amazon. I would be shocked if they hadn’t shared some information. Frankly, the guy that used to run Warner Bros is now running Disney. [laughs] I imagine Alan Horn knows a little something about what happened to Warner Bros. So, anyway, it’ll be interesting to see.
Obviously I root for the studios in this case because the more they get paid for a DVD, the more that you and I get paid for residuals.
John: It will also be interesting to see what’s the landscape five years from now. Because if you noticed, Disney has their iPad app now. So, your kid can watch all the Disney movies through the iPad app. And that’s a way for Disney to get around having to deal with retailers. They can be their own retailer.
Craig: Yeah. Yeah. Amazon won’t be here forever. That much I know. But things will change. Sears once roamed the earthy like the mighty dinosaur. But, you know, they’re not going to be here forever. And they certainly can’t survive forever as this kind of monopolistic pressuring giant because eventually people just get so angry. And they begin to turn to other things. And as other things become easier and easier to access, they’re going to run into trouble. Plus, they have to make money somehow, right?
I mean, you can’t just keep undercutting everybody.
John: Well, but there’s also the aspect that they can just keep growing. And sometimes it’s just being able to keep growing in new directions in new areas is a substitute for actual profits.
Craig: That’s right. And, by the way, that’s exactly what they’ve done. I mean, they have been cancerous in their growth, which like cancer, cancer is a very impressive cell. You know, a cancer cell will just go and go and go. But eventually it unfortunately kills the person that it’s growing in. And I’m just kind of curious to see, at some point they’re going to run out of this growth space. These kinds of practices are going to start to alienate the people that support their pipelines of products and content.
I don’t know. I mean, look, they’re going to be around for awhile. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sitting here saying Amazon is going to be falling apart any day. But they’re starting to act like jerks in a way that companies act about five or ten years before things start getting bad.
John: Speaking thematically, I wonder if the truism, the dramatic question and irony that power corrupts ultimately can be played about a corporation. And so the way corporations are people, classically in literature you see someone who rises up and he’s a good noble hero and then there’s a corruption in the third act. You see that in Game of Thrones. You see that in classic mythologies.
I admire Amazon. And I admired Amazon’s arrival Jeff Bezos I think is really, really smart. I admired Google’s beginning. I admire sort of what they were able to achieve. And yet I look at both Amazon and Google and I have concerns about what happens down the road with them.
Craig: I think that’s a good point. I mean, when these companies begin they begin as antitheses to what is the standard. They exist in opposition to something and struggle with something. They are in defiance of something. And they grow in that principled way. And they attract people because they’re principled and because they’re saying not “we’re great,” they’re saying “we’re better.”
Right? Everything that you’re used to, these big slow-turning Titanic like giants. We’re better because we’re smarter and we’re new and we’ve figured it out. But eventually they become the big giant. It’s inevitable. And their stance becomes defensive and they’re entirely about stifling what is new because their business model is tied to the infrastructure that they have intertwined with, you know?
John: In the Readers United piece they cite George Orwell. And you usually think of 1984 with George Orwell. And in fact Amazon famously a couple years ago pulled 1984 off people’s Kindles because they didn’t actually have the rights to it. And that was a huge brouhaha where like they had literally reached into Kindles and pulled that book back.
But maybe the better analogy is George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Because if you look at the end of Animal Farm, the animals had this revolution and they had all these great ideals and they published their ideas on the barn wall. But ultimately they end up sort of betraying their ideals. And I’ll be curious whether five years, ten years from now we are applying those same lessons to these companies, or companies that I admire like Apple right now. I wonder if we’re going to be seeing that same kind of thing happen.
Craig: It’s interesting. Apple for whatever reason, I mean, listen, there’s plenty about Apple to be concerned about and to not like, but there’s a certain rebellious nature to them in some way. Amazon and Google feel — this is all feeling — but they feel like the man right now. They feel like the man. And they feel like the man in part because they’re doing stuff like this.
Apple has always stood apart from all these other businesses because they have made their own software and their own hardware that are meant to work together and that’s it. Right? Microsoft was always about jamming together 4,000 companies worth of tiny bits of plastic to sell to you at a lower price. And, if it works it works. And Apple has always been kind of pure about that sort of thing. Granted, you know, I’m not saying they’re perfect. They are —
John: I’m not saying they’re perfect either.
John: Another company that has strong ideals is the Weinstein Company.
Craig: “Yeah, oh wow man. Thank you. Here. I’m really glad to hear you say that, all right.”
John: So, a friend sent a link to this thing which I thought was terrific. So, Charity Buzz is a site that — I would actually encourage everyone to go to Charity Buzz. There are auctions on Charity Buzz and you can win these auctions and sometimes they’re really great experiences. Classically Tim Cook was a person you could have a 30-minute meeting with Tim Cook as a Charity Buzz auction that went for a tremendous amount of money. But even like local schools, like my daughter’s school will have Charity Buzz auctions for things.
We Charity Buzz auctioned backstage at Big Fish.
John: Well, the Weinstein Company for some charity did a charity auction of an internship, an internship with the Weinstein Company. And you can bid on your chance to become an intern for the Weinsteins.
Craig: Oh my god.
John: Craig, how much would you pay to be an intern with the Weinsteins.
Craig: Oh my god, I suppose I would pay up to negative $100,000. [laughs] I mean, I guess down to negative $100,000.
This is unreal.
John: So, the estimated value according to Charity Buzz is $50,000.
Craig: Hold on a second.
John: Let me read you what actually happened.
Craig: Who comes up with that number, by the way?
John: It’s the person who is supplying it.
John: So here is what you’re getting. “Bid now on a special three-month internship at the Weinstein Company in New York City or Los Angeles.”
Craig: “Either city. You can go either New York or Los Angeles. Whatever one you want, man.”
John: “And in the department of your choice and learn all the ins and outs of the movie business.” So, a three-month internship with them.
Craig: [laughs] That’s it. All of them. All the ins and outs of the movie business, all of them, three months.
John: So, this is an unpaid internship.
Craig: Yeah. Unpaid.
John: Student must be enrolled in college. Intern can receive college credit. Travel accommodations are not included. Start date is TBD and based on a mutually agreed upon time. It’s valid for one semester for US residents only. Cannot be resold or re-auctioned, transferred, and travel accommodations are not included twice.
Troubling, I think, because we’ve talked before on the podcast I think about the challenge of internships. And that unpaid internships tend to favor the wealthy, honestly, or kids who don’t need to work because they can afford not to work.
John: But this is sort of a rare case where like you have to pay to have this internship.
Craig: Yeah. It’s a little sick. I mean, look, it goes to charity and anything something goes to charity everybody kind of goes, ah, you know, it’s for charity. So, some rich guy wants to set his kid up at the Weinstein Company for three months because he thinks that’s going to help him in the movie business or something. And he wants to pay, I mean, currently at time of recording the current bid is $13,000 after six bids. But we’ll see where it goes.
Okay, fine, you’re going to give a bunch of money to — this supports the American Repertory Theater. Fine. Where’s the harm? Where’s the harm?
Well, you know, here’s the harm. It’s not really harm, it’s just a lack of good. I wish honestly that the Weinstein Company would have said, hey, you’re not going to enjoy a three-month internship. You can enjoy a three-month, I don’t know what you’d call it, like an insider’s look where you can participate or you can sit in on — some promise of doing something other than making copies all day and getting lunches and coffees because your dad paid $40,000. You know what I mean? There has to be… — Look, I did an internship that was when I was a junior in college, that summer after my junior year I did an internship through the Television Academy.
And it was a competition. There wasn’t obviously money involved or anything. It was a competition. And to their credit, they gave you a stipend of $600 a month for two months which was enough to pay my rent. And they placed you with interesting people. And, for instance, I was placed at Fox Broadcasting at the network. And while I often did do things like copy stuff and so on and so forth, I also got to go to the big meeting with Barry Diller and Peter Chernin and Jamie Kellner and watch as these people debated and argued over how they should craft their slate and what the ratings were and all the rest of it. And that was fascinating. And access to that was kind of unimaginable for a 19-year-old kid to have.
This is not going to be that. [laughs] This is not going to be that at all. I mean, look, god bless them for giving this money, but I just think they could have offered something a little better than an internship. First of all, enjoy a three-month internship at the Weinstein Company is like, [laughs], you know, enjoy your nine-month stay here in Abu Ghraib. [laughs]
John: Yeah, it feels wrong to me. I think internships are, and we talked about this on the show before. I think internships can be very valuable for the interns. I think they can be valuable for the companies, probably to a lesser degree, but valuable. I think they can be valuable overall for the industry because it’s a chance for people who think they may want to work in the industry to see what the industry is actually like.
John: And the people who discover that they love it, hooray, they love it. And they are going to be motivated to work in the industry and the people who discover that they don’t really want it, they can go off and do other things. So, I think it’s a really — internship overall is a really good thing for the industry and for the people involved.
But paying for access to it feels not especially great.
Craig: Creepy. Also, look, if you’re a studio and you really are interested in giving people — giving young people a taste of what Hollywood is like and how the business works, don’t do it for people that do this. Do it for, you know, I would have been much happier to see somebody say, hey, you know we’re going to donate money and we’re going to send some kid that doesn’t have access to this kind of thing, who isn’t, whose dad or mom isn’t wealthy.
Craig: Because, I mean, look, the internship thing is out of control. And this leads lovely to our — lovely into our next topic. Loverly.
John: Yes. Which is something you had highlighted for this episode which was this revelations that in the bigger Silicon Valley wage suppression lawsuits there was actually stuff that came out about people working in animation.
Craig: Right. So, there’s a real problem here. We know that animation, feature animation, is not union. It’s not WGA. I don’t even know if it’s SAG to that extent. There’s a small amount of animation that’s covered by the WGA. That would be some primetime animation like The Simpsons and Family Guy and so forth.
But there’s this case now. They’re calling it the “Techtopus” — as an octopus — Techtopus wage-fixing cartel scandal. And they thought that they had come up with a settlement for this thing and the judge had kind of thrown the settlement out implying this isn’t good enough. And essentially what they’re talking about is the revelation that there has been what these businesses have called a no poaching agreement between the major animation companies. So, we’re talking about DreamWorks, Disney, Pixar, very specifically I think between DreamWorks and Pixar. That was kind of the big one.
And the idea of the no poaching thing wasn’t just, hey, don’t steal our people. It was, hey, don’t offer our people more than we’re offering them, because that’s going to start an arms race where we’re going to offer your people more than you’re offering them. And suddenly, oh my goodness, we’re paying these people according to the principles of competition which of course they love unless it applies to their workers.
And this is not cool. That is not allowable. That’s an illegal cartel. That’s why we have laws about things like that. And this wasn’t even something they were hiding, frankly. They were emailing each other back and forth quite openly and then when Sony started making animated films, and they weren’t aware of this, everybody called them up and they were like, hey Sony, did you not know how this works? We don’t do this, all right?
John: [laughs] Yeah, that’s a nice animation studio you got.
Craig: Yeah, shame if anything should happen to it. You know, Zemeckis starts up Image Movers and everybody is like, you know, he hires some guy. And pays him a little bit more. And then Ed Catmull at Pixar emails Dick Cook at Disney and goes, ooh, we got a problem with Zemeckis. He don’t get it. [laughs] And it’s just wrong. It’s wrong.
John: It is wrong. And so this is talking about animation and classically WGA writers aren’t covered in animation, so it’s been very hard for us to get any sort of leverage in terms of our prices being up. But when you’re talking about specialists who are doing very specific computer animation things, they are really valuable. They can do really amazing things, but their value is not — there’s no free market for them because if there’s only four shops that could pay them and they’ve all agreed not to pay any of them more, then that’s suppressing wages.
Craig: No question. And if you think about what we do, how terrible would it be — I mean, this was essentially the system that we as screenwriters got away from in the ’50s and ’60s with what they called the old studio system where you were owned by a studio. And some other studio wanted to hire you and there was kind of a gentleman’s agreement that you wouldn’t do that, or that you would put an actor out on loan as they said. But the idea being that you kind of capped the competition for wages by limiting the opportunity of the people that earned the wages. So, here’s an exchange in his deposition, Ed Catmull of Pixar says the following.
They’re asking him, the plaintiff’s attorneys are saying what do you mean by all these emails where you keep on talking about not hiring other people because of wages. And finally Catmull says, “Well, them hiring a lot of people at much higher salaries would have a negative effect in the long term.”
And the attorney says, “On pay structure?”
And he says, “Well, I’m just saying that if they… — I don’t know what you mean by pay structure. The, for me I just, it means the pay, all right? If the pay goes way up in an industry where the margins are practically nonexistent it will have a negative effect.”
And my favorite thing then is Ed, he finishes saying this and his attorney says the following, “This might be a good time for a break.”
And I can imagine that this woman, his counsel, drags him outside and beats him within an inch of his life for saying this, because it’s basically handing them the truth. But I really want to zero in on this: of course they’re trying to suppress wages, but what I love is this nonsense. “If the pay goes way up in an industry where the margins are practically nonexistent…”
Dude, come on! Come on! That is — why is it that Hollywood gets away with that nonsense more than any other industry. “Oh, we’re not making any money over here. Everything loses money.” Get out of her. Oh, yeah, Frozen, how much did they lose on that? Oh, yeah, Pixar, boy what a string of duds. I mean, come on!
John: Yeah. They can barely keep the lights on at Pixar.
Craig: Barely. The margins are practically nonexistent. After all of the movies, after all the Toy Stories and the Cars and the merchandising and the Bug’s Life and Up and yada yada, we’ve added it all up and what we’ve made so far here at Pixar is $5.
John: Yeah. Pixar apparently in their cereal bar they had to start going to like generic cereals. They can’t afford the brand names anymore.
Craig: Oh the humanity. [laughs] I mean, get out of here.
John: Craig, this is a very specialized world of the animation films, but I’m wondering to what degree the same kind of thing is happening in our world and it’s sort of the normal future in the television world. Because we are covered by the union, so we have scale. And scale is the minimum people can pay you for things.
John: And lord knows I was on the negotiating committee. Scale is important and we want to make sure we can protect scale. But I do wonder if these same kinds of conversations are happening that are limiting over-scale opportunities for people in film and in television. It’s the way that you, in television you keep people from moving up from staff writer, to story editor, to producer. Where you just sort of have this tacit agreement like, yeah, yeah, please don’t hire them as something more than their previous thing because we don’t want to give them that bump.
Craig: Yeah, no question. They will always, just as water will try an seep through any crack available, the companies will always try and play whatever game they can to reduce their costs, reduce the wages that they pay. They will often do so by wriggling around inside of the rules. Sometimes they bend the rules to the point of stretching them to meaninglessness.
One trick is they’ll hire two writers for television staff but tell them we’re making you a “paper team.” You’re not a writing team, even though you don’t know each other, and you’re not writing together, we’re making you a paper team so that we can pay each of you half what you should be paid, because in a writing team the team gets paid what one writer gets and they have to split it.
Well, I mean, so there’s an example of cheating. What we have to prevent this kind of thing from happening that’s apparently rampant in the animation business, we have the union, and perhaps more importantly we have agents. So, there is this other industry that the studios hate, the talent agencies. And the talent agencies are motivated entirely by creating competition for wages, an upward pressure on wages because that’s how they make their money.
If I were a very talented person working — by the way, I’ve truly put myself on the “will never be hired” list at Pixar now, but okay — if I were a talented animator, storyboard artist/animator, etc, I would start trying to figure out a way to organize and to create a union. They desperately need a union. And then from the union I think the agents would then start to swoop in. Agents need a union. The union makes it so that the writers, the creators, the artists are earning enough to be attractive to agents. Then the agents come in and push it all upward, right, upward.
Craig: So right now they’re being pushed downward without any protection. It’s terrible.
John: It’s a frustrating situation. Paper teaming is a real issue that happens in television. And I was just talking with a young writer who got the call saying congratulations you’ve been hired on this one-hour drama, we’re so excited. And then half an hour later he got a call saying like, oh, and we’re going to team you up with this other writer who is also a brand new writer who is great.
And he, to his credit, had the balls to say, “No. That’s not going to happen.”
Craig: Good for him. Good for him. And, by the way, you have to. You have to say no.
John: Yeah. And so on some level, well, they called his bluff and they gave him the job just for himself. That other writer didn’t get a job, but on the whole I think it’s better for everyone that he stood up and said like, “Listen, I’m not a team. You can’t do that.”
Craig: Absolutely. I don’t want a business where they spend the same amount of money but spread it among five times as many people. That’s not the goal.
John: Not good for anyone.
Craig: No, it’s not good for anyone. Exactly.
John: Because you’ve created an unsurvivable job.
Craig: That’s right.
John: If no one can make a living doing this task, then you’ve made it worse for everyone.
Craig: And, boy, I’ll tell you, they are getting dangerously close to that place right now. They really are. Especially in features, it is — don’t get me started.
So, the people in the forum now that are listening to us can ask question live.
John: Yes. CD Donovan writes, “Hi John, hi Craig, love the podcast very much. Appreciate what you guys do every week. I just moved here to LA, the third day in Los Angeles now. Here for grad school.”
Craig: Welcome, great.
John: “Screenwriting at UCLA. Any advice for surviving in LA and making the most of these next two years?”
Craig: Oh, that’s good. Well, you know, everyone is different. Everyone’s survival tactics and strategies are different. I can only share with you what mine were. You’re at UCLA, wonderful school, wonderful campus, great part of town in Westwood. Study, obviously study hard. See movies. Get to know people that are in your program. Gravitate towards the people that seem like they are substantive rather than the people who seem popular.
Popular people eventually go on to be like the third guy in charge of development at some company and the substantial people end up being multimillionaires. And the other thing I would recommend is to drink way less than everybody else is and get high way less than everybody else is because it’s just not going to help you.
John: You’re here in a graduate screenwriting program, so write. And you should look at these next two years as your writing years. And you’re never going to have another opportunity to write so much, be able to share it with the people in your little group to get feedback, to get going. So, write.
Try to take advantage of the fact that you’re around a bunch of film people to make some movies, because if you are just writing scenes you may not actually get the experience of shooting things and film school is about shooting things. You can crew on some things. You will learn so much from it.
Craig: That’s true. Well, we’ve got another question here from Ian Workheiser who says, “What movie or two would you say delivers the best lessons to screenwriters to read the script and watch?” So, I think he means to simultaneously read and watch or watch and then read, etc. What do you think, John?
John: I’ve said it many times on the podcast. The first script that I read along with the movie was Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape. And that was — it’s a good movie. It’s a good script. They both work well together.
But I keep coming back to Aliens which was so important and seminal to me where I really could see the movie on the page. And then you watch the movie and it’s like, wow, you did what you promised you would do on the page. So, those are two examples for me.
Craig: That’s great. I think I may have mentioned this before. I am a big fan of Jerry Maguire. I think it’s a great example, I think, because Cameron Crowe wrote it and then Cameron Crowe directed it. So, you know that there is a purity of intention from the page to the movie and it’s beautifully done, just beautifully done. And, also, entertaining.
There are movies that are brave, there are movies that are subversive, that shake up the traditional storytelling and they’re wonderful, but when you’re starting out sometimes going down that path is a little bit like just being the punk band in high school that only knows two chords, but hey, it’s punk. Yeah, but also you suck, you know.
But Jerry Maguire is how to do a traditional narrative brilliantly and artistically and impressively. Such a good script. Such a good read. Really well done. So, that’s the one I would recommend.
John: Great. Josh Ernstrom writes, “Are there still paper scripts going around, or is it all digital?” It’s almost all digital.
John: So, I would say the only times I’ve gotten paper scripts have been something that’s really locked down and so they have it printed on — you cannot photocopy this — it has watermarks. It’s on red pages. But even those are much rarer.
The most extreme example I got was a rewrite on something and they sent it over on a locked down iPad, so it was actually impossible to sort of get it off of the iPad. But it’s essentially all digital now. And I kind of miss, Craig, I don’t know if you miss this, but there used to be a number of years where you would call and say like, “Hey, send a messenger,” and then you would print your script and then inevitably you would like find a typo and you’d be scrambling to fix, get the new page in there before the messenger got there.
Craig: I know.
John: But there was something actually really refreshing about sort of like you have the script there, it’s sitting on your doorstep, you see the messenger come, and then you’re free. It’s no longer in your possession. And the email just isn’t the same.
Craig: Unfortunately the nice things about paper, they are no longer with us. You felt like you had achieved something when you printed your script out for the first time. You could hold it. It looked like a thing that other scripts looked like. There was weight.
But, yeah, the only time you’ll see physical scripts now are at roundtables, as far as I can tell, when people have to sit there and actually — you know, nobody has brought 12 iPads to a table. And for table readings when you’re about to shoot and you have your actors come in and read the script. Other than that, it’s all digital.
John: Yeah. Dee Mower writes, “I am close to landing an agent at UTA to rep my screenplay. Assuming he can place, how likely is it that I could get my agent to help me land an assignment based on a pitch? Are such assignments rare?”
Craig: An assignment based on a pitch? Or you mean sell a pitch? Oh, I see, he means like — or does he mean an assignment where you’re coming in and pitching on their assignment?
John: I think that’s what he means.
Craig: Okay. How likely is it that you can get your agent to help you do that? Well, if they’re your agent that’s kind of their job.
John: I wonder if he’s talking about the agent is sort of representing the script but hasn’t really agreed to represent him.
Craig: Oh I see.
John: But there’s a hip pocketing kind of thing.
Craig: Yeah. Then probably a long shot there because you can assume that that agent has plenty of other clients who are asking the same thing. Many of whom even have credits. I mean, we’ve talked about this before, but the contraction of both the amount of movies that are made and then the tremendous contraction of the ratio of development to production, which is approaching one-to-one has made it so that there is enormous competition for these rewrite jobs. And a lot of times, frankly, there is no competition. It’s just we want to rewrite this and we want this person to do it.
John: But I think he’s really talking more about the open writing assignment. So, how likely is it that they would send him out on an open writing assignment?
Craig: It’s not likely, I don’t think.
John: I think it’s likely if they really — if they’re really representing you and you are the right kind of person for that job, they totally will.
Craig: But if it’s —
John: If it’s just a hip pocket, then no.
Craig: No. I don’t think so. Yeah. All right, so we’ve got, let’s see. “Hi John and Craig. Can you talk about various writing teachers and gurus hating on VO.”
John: Yeah that voiceover problem. So, here’s the thing about voiceover. Voiceover is often terrible. Here’s what it is. Terrible movies often have voiceover. And because terrible movies often have voiceover, you start to believe that, well, voiceover is what made it bad.
No, voiceover was probably a patch applied very late to try to save a bad movie. But voiceover itself is not necessarily a bad thing. There’s many great movies that have voiceover.
Craig: Of course.
John: So, teachers do it because they don’t want to read voiceover in their student’s scripts, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea of voiceover.
Craig: Let me be slightly less charitable, John. Writing teachers and gurus say this because they’re dumb. And they’re dumb and lazy. Okay, they’re dumb because they’re confusing — John is exactly right. Voiceover is a tool like any other. It happens to be the kind of tool that magnifies bad writing. Because there’s something about the narrator’s voice that demands a certain quality of writing. If you’re going to tell me that I’m supposed to listen to a disembodied voice, that disembodied voice better be pretty impressive. It should be good, right?
So, even a movie, like a broad comedy like Ted opens with voiceover. Patrick Stewart is doing the voiceover and it’s wonderful voiceover. It’s spectacular. And it ends with a great joke that honestly makes the movie work, right? But as a tool if you don’t write well, your voiceover will really stick out as awful.
So, on the one hand I think the writing teachers and gurus are dumb because they’re confusing voiceover with bad voiceover, but I think they’re lazy also because what they don’t want to do is then explain to you how to write good voiceover. And they can’t do that because they don’t know how. That’s the truth. They just don’t know how.
I think voiceover can be awesome — awesome! — if done awesomely. What a shock. What a shock. Eh.
Craig: There I go. There I go.
John: If this were a podcast about cinematography and one of the things like teachers said like you should never use lenses below a 15 because it’s distorting, well that’s just crazy talk.
Craig: It’s crazy.
John: Because obviously there are times where you want to use a really wide lens.
Craig: Right. You want a fish shot. Yeah.
John: It’s a very long lens.
Craig: You want to do a fisheye lens. They’re instruments. And, yes, it’s true that there are things that people know can be overdone, of course. And if you overuse slow-mo you’re going to look silly. And if you overuse dialogue, long speeches of dialogue. But, you know, voiceover is such a — here’s the deal. These people are always looking for rules to give you because that’s what gives them the aura of knowledge. They are able to deliver something to you in exchange for money. That’s the real problem here. You’re paying them and they need to give you something.
If you pay me, here’s what I’m going to give you. You shouldn’t have paid me, because the truth is you can do this or you can’t do this. I can give you some help here or there, right? But really you don’t need to pay me. But they need to give you something, right, because they’re ripping you off. So, what do they do? They give you nonsense rules. “Never use voiceover. Never say we see. Don’t put things in parentheses. Never tell the reader where the camera goes.” Blah, blah, blah.
It’s all nonsense. Nonsense. Oh my god! [laughs]
John: The people who joined us for the live chat were mostly joining for that umbrage. So thank you for giving it to them Craig.
John: I think it’s time for One Cool Things.
Craig: All right.
John: My One Cool Thing is a podcast called Crew Call by Anonymous Production Assistant. And the reason I found out about this podcast is because Stuart Friedel, my assistant, the producer of this podcast, was actually a guest on this podcast.
Craig: [laughs] Wait, I’m sorry, what?
John: Stuart was a guest.
Craig: Oh my god.
John: One of the Stuarts was a guest.
Craig: The world is changing so rapidly. I can’t keep up with the world anymore. Unbelievable. Good for Stuart.
Craig: God, amazing.
John: So, honestly what I like about the podcast is we talk about people who work in other parts of the industry, this is about people who work in other crew positions and who are so incredibly vital. So, to have a podcast for people who are interested in all of the other crafts and trades that go into making film and television I think is incredibly important.
Craig: It’s spectacular.
John: So, I salute this podcast. And Stuart’s episode is terrific, too. So, you can listen to that. He talks about making Scriptnotes and what he does on the show and running out and getting me coffee. And he only embarrasses me two or three times, so it’s pretty cool.
Craig: Oh, that’s wonderful. Oh, only two or three? Was I embarrassed at all? Because you know I don’t listen to podcast so I would never —
John: No, you weren’t embarrassed at all. He doesn’t say anything about you.
Craig: Oh, good. I prefer to be ignored.
Well, how could my One Cool Thing this week not be Robin Williams, the great Robin Williams who tragically took his own life. And this one — this was a hard one because it not only was tragic in and of itself because any suicide is tragic and because the suicide of a terrific artist sort of robs us all of something.
But he was really the first comedian in my life, you know. For those of us who are in our early 40s, Mork & Mindy came along and Mork from Ork came along and I wore the rainbow suspenders and he was that first, I know — [laughs]
John: I’m just picturing Craig with his rainbow suspenders. It’s great.
Craig: it’s adorable. It’s adorable. What I did not know were my gay pride rainbow suspenders. But he was the first standup comedian in my life and he was amazing and wonderful. And what I also — personally what I always appreciated about Robin Williams was the very thing that he often got criticized for, which was his sentimentality.
You could tell that he was very aware of his own pain and the pain of the world. He had an almost direct access to it, an emotional access to it. And he was able to convey that. And, yes, if sometimes some of the movies felt overtly sentimental or mawkish, it’s because sometimes life is a bit sentimental and mawkish.
Go to a funeral and see if you’re not sentimental and mawkish, but that’s part of life. And if it’s honest, I think it can be beautiful. And he sort of ran the gamut from the ridiculous to the gorgeous to the subtle to the dramatic. He could do anything.
Personally, my favorite Robin Williams movie is Awakenings. Maybe because I was a premed kid on his way to being a neurologist and I loved Oliver Sacks and all that. But I just though how amazing that this guy who could be Mork from Ork and who could do those incredible live performances where he would just go and go and never stop. And his mind would move a thousand miles a minute, to go from that to holding his own completely with Robert De Niro and delivering this beautiful portrait. And, a kind of character I always appreciate. A character in a movie who is the hero even though you don’t know he’s the hero.
You know, you think you’re watching a movie about a man overcoming this affliction, but you’re watching a movie about a human being figuring out how to be human. And he was just unbelievable. And, folks, go hug a funny person, you know.
This is — it’s sad. What funny people often do carry around this terrible hurt. And he will be terribly, terribly missed. A great, great, great performer and artist, the late Robin Williams.
John: I completely agree. So, by the time this podcast comes out it’ll be nearly a week that the news has past. And I hope that one of the things we take with us out of his passing is not just his legacy of great work and all that stuff we have there, but the real lesson of what depression is and that it’s a rough thing to struggle with. And if people can be more appreciative of what it is and the challenges people face when they are dealing with depression, hopefully we can help the people around us.
Craig: No question. No question. I had a friend recently who went through a really rough patch and, you know, got a little close to this situation. And suicidality and suicidal ideation is a very, very serious thing. And I think, frankly, people are starting to get it. I really do.
I think people are starting to get, the stigma is going away. I think the casual dismissal of depression is something that weak whiners do is going away. I think people are starting to get it. I can’t imagine, in a weird way, anything you could do that’s braver or stronger than harming yourself. Think about just what it would take to harm yourself. What you’re really saying is I’m in so much pain I’m willing to do this extraordinary thing to make the pain go away.
But, of course, there is a wonderful way to make the pain go away that has nothing to do with suicide and that gives you your life back. And I suppose that is really the strongest thing you could do, which is to fight. And to fight through it. And there are terrific medications that do work and there is therapy that does work and there are people that care for you that do very much understand this and who have been through it.
So, if you are depressed, do not be ashamed. Talk about it. You are not weak.
John: Yeah, if anything, if the shame of depression can be diminished through the acknowledgment that it really is out there and it’s a real thing that people are wrestling with on a daily basis, that would be progress.
Craig: It would. And it’s sad that it would take something like this to bring people’s awareness to it, but this is a problem that so many people are suffering with. They’re suffering with it silently. You don’t even know what’s going on. This is why we get surprised by these things. But I defy anybody — anybody in the United States — to say, no, there’s nobody in my extended family that has either been depressed or committed suicide. I don’t have a friend or anybody.
John: No, not true.
Craig: No. It’s everywhere and it can be fought and it can be overcome. And I think at long last people are taking it very seriously. And, frankly, honoring what it means to be depressed. It deserves a certain amount of honor and respect as something very serious the way you honor and respect heart disease, or cancer, or anything like that.
John: That’s our show this week. The things we talked about on the episode, there will be show notes at johnaugust.com, so links to many of the things we talked about. We’ll include some links about depression and people who’ve written brilliant things about their own depression over the course of this last week. But also the Weinsteins Charity Buzz.
Craig: [laughs] Talk about depression.
John: An Amazon and everything else in this epic episode we did this week.
John: Thank you to everybody who listened in live on Mixlr. That was fun.
Craig: That was fun.
John: We’ll try to do this occasionally.
Scriptnotes is produced by Stuart Friedel. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. If you are a new listener and want to catch up on back episodes, we have a whole zillion of them. We have 156 prior episodes at scriptnotes.net. You can get to all of those back episodes for $1.99 a month.
Craig: $1.99 a month!
John: That’s a bargain at any price. You can spend $13,000 on a Weinstein Charity Buzz auction, or $1.99 a month.
Craig: $1.99 a month!
John: Pennies a day.
John: If you are a subscriber to those premium episodes, you can also listen to those on the iPhone app and the Android app. Look for those in your app store.
If you are on iTunes, please click subscribe and also leave us a comment because that helps people find our show. There is potential that we are going to be doing a live show later this fall.
John: So nothing official yet, but maybe stay in Los Angeles is all I’m saying. Maybe stay in Los Angeles from now until the end of the year.
Craig: Yeah, just don’t go anywhere, at any time.
John: There’s a possibility, just in case.
Craig: Don’t go anywhere.
John: No. I am on Twitter @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. If you have a longer question for us, you can write to email@example.com. And, Craig, I’ll see you next week.
Craig: See you next week, buddy.
- This episode was broadcast live on Mixlr
- Come see Scriptnotes live with John and Kelly at the Austin Film Festival
- Brian Koppelman’s The Moment Podcast with guest Craig Mazin
- Sparknotes: Goodnight Moon on McSweeney’s
- Slate on How Gobbledygook Ended Up in Respected Scientific Journals
- Christopher Wright on Amazon vs Hachette, and Dave Bryant’s follow up on the true costs of publishing a book
- John’s blog post on how no one cares about manufacturing costs
- LA Times on Amazon vs Disney
- The Weinstein Company is auctioning off an internship for charity
- Court docs show role of Pixar and Dreamworks Animation in Silicon Valley wage-fixing cartel
- The Anonymous Production Assistant’s Crew Call Podcast with guest Stuart Friedel
- Robin Williams’s obituary from The New York Times
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Outro by Scriptnotes listener Brian Shane (send us yours!)