The original post for this episode can be found here.

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

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is Episode 159 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

Craig, how is the writing going?

Craig: It’s going well. I’m on page 30.

John: Nice.

Craig: Yeah. Yeah.

John: And are you achieving your goals? Are you hitting things you wanted to hit in your outline? How is the process?

Craig: The process is going well. I’m doing this in a different way than I’ve written anything else in that as I write I give pages to Lindsay and then what we do is — you would hate this because it’s the extreme opposite of what you do. So, you do this kind of one draft all the way through kind of squirreled away in solitude and you don’t go back over the work, you just forward, forward, forward, forward, forward, and then you stop and you take stock of what you have.

In this, I’ll write some pages and I’ll send them to her and we’ll start on page one and go through it. And then I move the ball forward, I send all those pages, we start on page one, and we go forward. But it’s been great. She’s been terrific and the pages are coming out really well so far. I deviated from the outline as I always do, but in ways that make sense.

John: Yes?

Craig: I find that deviations from the outline are purposeful, though they are deviations, because they are reacting in response to the roadmap as opposed to just guess work.

John: Yes. You’re dealing with a situation on the ground. You’re not just the general who is like moving pieces around on the board. Now you’re actually on the ground and you’re seeing what the terrain is and what you need to do on the terrain.

Craig: Absolutely. And you begin to feel where you ought to be. You begin to feel that some things need to be compressed into one. Some things need to be expanded into two. There was a phrase that I used the other day; I’d never used it but now that I think about it it’s kind of a useful screenwriting concept. And it was owing a debt.

I felt that on page 25 or so that the script owed a debt to a concept that was going to become important later on. And the debt needed to be paid before it was time, you know. And I accrued this debt and I needed to kind of go back and say, okay, we actually need to pay that debt earlier here on page 15 and now again on page 25 because that’s going to just make everything feel better later on.

John: Now, I’ve been in your situation where I’ve been handing pages sort of as they’re written to people, and the wonderful thing about it is — we talked earlier about Good Boy syndrome. It makes you feel like a good boy. Like, look, I’m doing my work. Teacher, look at my work. My work is so good. And Lindsay Doran is the most lovely teacher you could possible give, because she’s so wonderful and yet she’s really smart. And if there are problems she’s going to point out what the problems are.

Craig: That’s right. And so you’re putting your finger on something that’s of the essence here. And that is if you’re going to work this way you have to trust this person completely. You have to understand beforehand that their taste is good, that they have an experience doing this kind of work and running this kind of relationship with a writer. And that they are going to have a conversation with you. That’s there is nothing imperious about any of this. And it’s been terrific. I’ve just been having a ball and so far so good.

Here’s the other interesting thing. When you do it this way, in particular with somebody like Lindsay who is a principled person, when you’re done you have a great ally. You have somebody that understands and has thought about every word the way you have. And that’s really powerful, because usually you don’t have that.

John: It’s interesting you bring up trust because I did a long blog post this last week about trust because that’s the central thematic issue of my script. And I was wrestling with what trust means. And the concept of trust and really the word trust, because it’s a strange word in English that we don’t have an exact synonym for it. We have words that are kind of cousins to it, like believe or hope or duty. There are words that sort of encapsulate similar ideas, but trust is actually a really fascinating concept because I decided that it’s inner motivation about an external person or something else.

And so I broke it down and my definition of it was trust is confidence in the reliability of someone or something.

Craig: That’s right.

John: And that’s a really strange thing because we think of trust as being a two-way contract, but really it’s not necessarily that. You can trust somebody who doesn’t necessarily trust you. And you can place your trust in things and yet when that trust is questioned — when they do something that breaks that trust, it’s not necessarily that they can themselves break it. They may not even have sort of known that bond was there. But what’s really shattered is that inner thing that you had about that person.

Like love, it’s a similar kind of thing. You can love somebody who doesn’t love you back. You can trust somebody who doesn’t trust you back.

Craig: How true. Unrequited trust is a little less painful than unrequited love. And sometimes unrequited trust is perfectly fine, because you don’t need somebody to trust you. You just need to be able to trust them. My kids don’t need me to trust them. I want to. In fact, one thing that parents are constantly saying to their children is “I’m trusting you now.” And as I recall as s child I thought, why?

John: [laughs] I’m not trustworthy at all!

Craig: If you want to. But if I break it, eh, what are you going to do? But as a child you must be able to trust your parents, which is where so many childhoods go south is when children can’t trust their parents. And I think your definition is great. It’s a confidence in the reliability of somebody to do something specific, so we don’t trust everybody and everything, but that feeling is the same feeling that I like to impart to people with whom I work, when you talk about working with studio executives or actors or directors, I want to inspire their trust. It doesn’t mean that I’m obedient or non-critical, quite the opposite. What it means is they can rely on me to do the best I can on the movie as opposed to letting other things get in the way.

John: That they can place a set of expectations on you and you will fulfill those expectations. And that’s honestly why people get paid above scale is that we think you’re a good writer but we also think you’re going to be able to deliver this thing and we can sleep better at night that you are doing this thing because we trust you.

And in some ways I think even this podcast there’s some degree of like trust contract happening here that we’re not going to suddenly spring horrible bad advice upon people and that we’re not going to sort of betray confidences and do things that are not in the best interest of our listenership.

Craig: And that’s where things go wrong. I mean, basically if we started doing that then people would leave.

John: Well, if you look at Twitter, I mean, Twitter has had these little flashpoint moments where they’ll change something and everyone is like, well, I can’t trust Twitter anymore. Like I can’t trust that the things in my timeline are the things I want to be in my timeline. And, well, yeah, that’s the nature of that sort of one-sided relationship. And you could go somewhere else, but could you really go somewhere else?

Craig: Well, right, and same thing with Facebook. They’ve had those moments. And it’s interesting to watch when people react to companies or corporations and they get really emotional about it, sometimes it strikes one as odd, but then you do realize it is about trust.

John: Well, I also think it’s because we take these corporations, like Twitter, like Facebook, like Google, and we are applying — in my post I say like you can’t trust a chair. You can sort of have expectations of that chair, but you can’t really trust a chair. You can only sort of trust things you things you think are capable of making independent decisions. You can’t really trust a baby. That’s sort of crazy to talk about trusting a baby.

Craig: I trust babies.

John: I trust babies all the time. I trust them to be adorable and I scratch their heads and smell them. They’re so good. But I think when we’re talking about trusting Google or trusting Google Maps, you’re really sort of personifying them. I think you are thinking about them as a person and therefore you’re applying all of your trust principles to that person, which is crazy because you shouldn’t really do that, because they’re not a consistent entity. They are this conglomeration. They’re this swarm of little desires. And they’re not a thing you can really trust, in my opinion.

Craig: I totally agree. And this is where I often find myself isolated from my fellow man and woman because I have an instinctive — it’s not a paranoid position towards institutions, but rather just simply a constitutional lack of trust. Not a presence of mistrust or distrust. Just a lack of trust. I don’t trust religions. I don’t trust unions. I don’t trust corporations. I don’t trust groups of people. I don’t trust them. Why should I? I trust individuals.

John: Yeah. That seems like a reasonable choice.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Today on the podcast we are going to hopefully instill some trust in our listeners as we discuss four different Three Page Challenges. These people were —

Craig: Four!

John: Four! These people were brave enough to send in their three page samples and trust us to read them and provide our honest feedback which won’t always be kind feedback, but will always be hopefully respectful feedback, helpful feedback.

Craig: I think helpful is always a good thing.

John: Helpful is always a good aim, on their three pages. But before we get to that, I want to do a little bit of follow up. I think I talked about this on the last show. On October 8 Craig and I are doing something in a public way that’s not a live Scriptnotes, but it’s something like a live Scriptnotes. As we’re recording this it’s not actually announced, so I don’t want to risk spoiling it, but just keep October 8 open on your calendar if you’re in Los Angeles.

Craig: What time of day?

John: I believe it is an evening.

Craig: Okay.

John: Yes. And evening Los Angeles, October 8, and it should be cool.

Secondly, a bit of follow up, Nick wrote in. We had talked about NRG last week and he says, “NRG is now known as Nielson for maybe the past ten years or so.” And so I always like it when someone writes in to sort of give us a correction or a suggestion. But really I will say that everyone in the industry that I talk to still calls them NRG.

Craig: Yeah, I mean, when I saw this in the notes for the show I kind of giggled because I’m like, oh, is that what people have been calling it for the last ten years? No. [laughs] Everyone calls it NRG. Everyone.

John: Yeah. And so I would say any filmmaker you talk to, they’ll say like, “Oh, I had an NRG screening.” They’re not going to say I had a Nielson screening, even though it’s technically Nielson/NRG is the company. We call it NRG.

Craig: Right. Yeah, I don’t know if this is one of those deals where this guy works at Nielsen, is kind bummed because people keep calling it NRG or what. But, yeah, it’s NRG. That’s what we call it.

John: That’s what we call it. [laughs] We call it the right thing this entire time, but that’s just what we call it.

Craig: That’s what we call it. I mean, you can say that it’s technically that, but you can’t say, “It’s been known as this for 10 years.” By the people at Nielsen maybe, but not by us

John: And I think Nick actually works for another company, like a rival company. I’m not sure.

Craig: Oh, well, in that case I’m sure this is far more on his radar than it is on ours. I actually did one test screening with a different company. Once.

John: And how was it?

Craig: It was fine. It’s weird, I was just like, wait, oh, you have Pepsi? Okay.

John: It’s basically the same.

Craig: It’s close enough. Yeah. You know. I mean, in the end it’s like, oh, whatever, they’re all adding up numbers.

John: Yeah. The last bit of follow up is Less IMDb is this plug-in we made for Safari and for Chrome. We made it four years ago. And, Craig, do you have it installed? Do you even know what I’m talking about?

Craig: I do. I think I had it installed once.

John: And so what Less IMDb does is if you go to IMDb and you’re looking at a page for a movie, or an actor, or writer or whatever sometimes there’s just a lot of ads and other junk on the page and all you really want to see is the credits. So, what this plug-in does is remove all the stuff that’s not the interesting stuff that you want to see, like the credits, and move stuff around the page. So, it’s been working great for four years, and then less month it broke and we fixed it. So, if you’re interested in Less IMDb, you can go to quoteunquoteapps/LessIMDb, but you can also find it in the show notes. And so it’s all fixed up now.

Craig: May ask is it, because I do use Ad Blocker. Is it different than that, or is it — ?

John: It’s better than that because it’s really fine tuned for exactly IMDb. So, it knows what the stuff is on the page and rearranges it in way that’s helpful and pretty.

Craig: All right. Installing.

John: Installing.

Craig: Installing. Installing.

John: Nice. Let’s get to our work for the day, which are the Three Page Challenges. So, if you are new to the podcast, you may not have encountered Three Page Challenges before. What we do is we invite people to send in their first three pages of their script. It can be a pilot, it can be a feature screenplay, it can be kind of whatever. If you would like to follow along, go to and look for this episode and we’ll have the PDFs up there so you can read along with us.

You can also find them in Weekend Read on the iPhone if you have that app. There’s a whole category for Three Page Challenges. And you can find them in there. So, let’s take a look at the four that got sent in this week. The first one is by Joseph Bodner.

Craig: Yes.

John: And it is called…

Craig: Joan.

John: Joan. Do you want to set up Joan for us?

Craig: Sure. Yeah. So, the show is called Joan and this is a three pages of a pilot. And the title of the pilot episode is Savior. So, we begin on black and we hear whispering. A girl is whispering these numbers six, 15, 46 over and over and over. And then we reveal that she’s in a warehouse. She’s 19 years old. Looks a little bit like a young Liza Minnelli from Cabaret, short black hair, androgynous. She’s naked, her body covered in tattoos, and she just keeps saying a bunch of numbers over and over.

She’s got a Mickey Mouse lunchbox filled with drug paraphernalia and some drugs. A couple of guys are with her and they are freaking out. They think something is wrong with her.

We now are in a hospital. We flat jump over to an emergency room. She is on a gurney. She keeps saying these numbers over and over but oddly enough she seems like, as this says, she seems like a drug overdose, like she should be comatose, but she keeps saying these numbers. Her heart rate is going crazy.

She’s now in the operating room. They are hitting her with a defibrillator because her heart has apparently stopped but she’s still saying these numbers. Then she kind of contorts her body into this crazy backwards arched position and then her body collapses. She stops saying the numbers. She is dead. She is pronounced dead.

We then see that she is in the morgue with a bunch of dead bodies. And she wakes up and pukes. And then realizes that she’s alive, confused, looks down at her abdomen to one tattoo in particular, a series of horizontal and vertical lines. They mean something to her. The lines shift like puzzle pieces rearranging and they turn into the show title, J-O-A-N. Joan. The screen goes white. And those are our first three pages.

John: So, on the whole I liked it as a teaser. I could definitely see this as a teaser for a one-hour show. A one-hour show that is about this supernatural person who has been sent back for some reason, who has some special ability. So, this could be the teaser for a Heroes kind of show. There’s something like maybe Darren Aronofsky’s Pi and made that into a show. It feels like that kind of thing. But I think I was more a fan of the kinds of things that were happening then sort of how it was written on the page.

Craig: I agree with you that it does everything a teaser is supposed to do. It gives you a very confusing, mysterious set of circumstances that interests you. I’m interested in her and why she’s saying these numbers. I’ll tell you, where I got caught up, there were frankly two things essentially that sort of stopped me here. One was that the hospital sequence felt like it was just, that somebody hit a macro on a keyboard and came up with patient in emergency room having heart problems. “Clear. We’ve lost her. Time of death.” You know, all that stuff that was all done very, very — in a very hackneyed style.

But my bigger hang up was that this is a woman doing something extraordinary. She’s repeating, verbally repeating numbers and yet her heart is stopped. That alone should get some sort of reaction and shock from these doctors. And when her body contorts like that and then collapses, the doctors don’t seem to have any interest in the fact that a dead person with a dead heart was talking, then did this crazy thing. They’re just like, eh, well, I guess that’s it. Lunch time.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So, those two things really kind of stopped me in my tracks here.

John: So, if you look at the beats in this teaser, I think it reads really strongly as like the one sentence version. So, Joan has overdosed, in hospital, she has seizures, keeps speaking numbers, she dies, she wakes up in the morgue and her tattoos have changed. Those are good little three beats in that teaser.

I think what you’re focusing on in the hospital is the key crucial beat that sort of — it’s the signature cinematic moment which is like her arching her back and that stuff could be really cool. Where I thought it kind of worked is in page two we sort of start to shift into her perspective. As the doctors are moving in and around her, “We HEAR the familiar, ‘CLEAR’ — jolt — ‘CLEAR’ — . But our focus remains on — JOAN. Still reciting those numbers. Her small frame convulsing up and down.”

I think it’s interesting to perceive this sort of clichÈd situation of like, you know, the defibrillator cart from the perspective of the person who is actually having it done to them.

Craig: Right.

John: And to the degree that this show is titularly it’s the Joan show, I think it’s interesting to have it all be about her. And the degree to which the doctors can be kind of walla walla walla, that may be fine because it’s really about the spectacle of what it feels like to be here.

I thought we gave some short shrift to the numbers themselves. If we’re going to have her be talking numbers this whole time, give us a few more numbers. I thought the dialogue glosses were a little bit short and I didn’t have a good sense of whether she was repeating the same numbers or just random numbers each time.

Craig: Right.

John: It didn’t help me that in her first dialogue block is “Six. Fifteen. Fourty Six,” all spelled out, which is good, except forty is not spelled that way.

Craig: Correct.

John: And should have hyphens in it.

Craig: Hyphen.

John: So, again, not urgent, but the first line of action, real line of action says, “TEASER. OVER BLACK. Whispers. Quick. Fast. A GIRL. And she’s whispering — “

Craig: And she’s whispering. [laughs] And then Joan — he should have just added in parentheses (whispering) just in case. You got to triple up on that whisper.

John: So, yeah, I think we need to remove that last whispers. But up until we got to that last little bit of that first sentence it’s like, oh, that’s okay. Snappy. Little quick things. But then you don’t need to say “numbers” after it. I sort of get like, oh, they’re numbers. Yeah, those are all numbers, aren’t they?

Craig: Right.

John: It felt a little first drafty I would say overall. I think it’s the right kinds of beats for a teaser. It definitely sets the hook , which is what the goal of a teaser should be. It makes us interested about sort of what this world is going to be and sort of what is going on. These are wonderful good things.

I don’t know a lot about Joan, but that’s okay.

Craig: Yeah, we’ll find out.

John: We’ll find out. I could love a little bit more specific interesting bits about her little drug culture life, because the guys she’s with, “SHAW (25, shaved head, shirt off), and RUSS (20, skinny, in his underwear),” they’re just people with names. And so I don’t have any sense of whether I should be invested in them coming back into the form or if they’re just disposable.

Craig: Well that’s a tough one in three because, you know, maybe on page six she shows up at her apartment and they’re both there again and then we get to know them, you know?

John: Yeah. It’s entirely possible. I’m not sure I would want to have a longer beat before she has the overdose.

Craig: Well, their dialogue isn’t doing Joseph any favors here. “What’s she doing? Why is she — ?” “Can you hear us? Joan! Goddamnit!” “Cut it out! Quit messing with us. Joan? What the — “

That’s not very good. I’m a little concerned here because, all right, so Joseph, some good news. You right action very well. I love the way you spread things out on the page. You give stuff that’s appropriate white space. It’s a compelling style of writing. I’m a little worried because all of the actual spoken dialogue feels clunky. So, this may be an area for you to look at. It all feels a little wooden. But the scenario and the way you’re describing the scenario is pretty good. I like that part.

I think you definitely need to ask this question about what the doctors, how the doctors are reacting to this extraordinary thing that this woman is doing. The only other thing I would say to you is while I know what you mean by Liza Minnelli in Cabaret because, you know, I love musicals, that’s tonally totally off for what you’re going for her.

When you say “think Liza Minnelli in Cabaret” I’m like, [sings] “I used to know this girl named Elsie.” I’m not thinking about this.

John: Describe it as like an anime heroine, then I get that.

Craig: Or even just short black hair, androgynous look.

John: Absolutely.

Craig: For now, I think that will work. Yeah.

John: Yeah. Another point is on page two we introduce Dr. Osborne. So, this is how we get to know Dr. Osborne. Joan is talking and “She can’t stop, DOCTOR OSBORNE at her side, wheeling her in.” Dr. Osborne has dialogue. “Blood pressure 140 over…” So, Dr. Osborne is given a name, and sort of established, but we don’t know anything about her, him or her. Osborne could be a man, could be a woman. And we keep calling this Dr. Osborne but it doesn’t sort of matter.

So, again, if this is going to be a character we’re going to see again, like maybe as Joan is leaving the hospital that same doctor sees her or something, then it is important to give that person a name. But if you’re going to give that person a name, give us something about who that person is.

Craig: Yeah.

John: You can’t just throw a character name there without some information about the person.

Craig: Yeah. The bare minimum as we all know is gender and age. And we have neither here. This is total cipher to us. Not helped either by the name which is about as generic as it gets.

John: I agree.

Craig: And just to really think about how sophisticated audiences are now, when a patient is having some kind of, okay, so here she’s got tacky cardio and her heart rate is accelerating, they’re not — they see this 20 times a day. They’re not like, “Heart rate 190. 200! Bah.” No, they’re not.

This is what happens, [laughs], you know. They’re doctors. It’s an emergency room.

John: Yes. So, on the whole again I would wrap this up by saying I think it’s a really interesting teaser. I think it’s doing its job in terms of story point wise getting me interested to see what’s going to happen next. I just think the writing itself can be sharper. So there should be no reason to sort of quibble with it and sort of doubt that it’s going to be working well.

Craig: I agree.

John: Honestly, again, it does sort of come to trust. So this aspect of are you going to make it worth my 45 minutes to read your pilot, well the more typos we see, the more little sort of nagging things the less we are going to be trusting that you are going to get us to a good place. And so cleaning up those mistakes on those first couple pages are really important.

Craig: I agree. That’s why I singled out the bit where the doctors weren’t reacting to the fact that this woman who is dying is screaming clearly and shouting numbers because it violates my trust in the tone and the world and what I know about reality. So, those things need to be looked at carefully. Definitely do a dialogue pass here. Let’s be sophisticated. A little less melodramatic and wooden.

But encouraging overall, Joseph. I think you can do this. There’s a certain inviting style here. And good descriptions and it’s an interesting concept. I mean, what little we know about it is interesting to me.

John: Yeah. I agree.

Craig: All right.

John: All right. Our next one is called The End of Things and it’s by Lisa [Mecham] Mek-am, or Mech-am.

Craig: I’m going to go with Meach-am.

John: Oh, see, there are many choices for her name pronunciation.

Craig: Right. All three of those may be wrong.

John: It could be Meh-cum.

Craig: Meh-cum. [laughs] That’s horrible.

John: Let us open on a Midwestern suburban street. And this is the Knoll’s house where Dr. Sarah Knoll, she’s dressed in business slacks and a blouse and she’s on a ten-speed bike. She’s adjusting her helmet as she heads down this suburban street. She passes Laurie Miller on her front lawn who is picking up her newspaper.

We follow Sarah as she pedals past, a series of vignettes going through the business district: the shoulder a four-lane expressway; a blighted industrial area. And when she finally gets to the place where she’s at we are at a vehicle impound office. And she’s talking to the young police officer, he’s 21, and he’s not agreeing to release her car. So, she doesn’t have the right paperwork, so her car has been impounded.

She says she absolutely needs to get her car. She has to get her son to school, “We have no other car.” The officer says that these are the rules, this is procedure. She finally convinces him to maybe let her get the car out with license and registration.

And when he sees the license he says, in a low voice, “You’re the lady who killed her baby.”

Back at the Knoll housemaster bedroom we see Peter Knoll, her husband, he’s 32. Ethan Knoll, their five-year-old son bursts in. He’s wearing dinosaur pajamas and tennis shoes. Wakes up his dad. He plops down, shows that he’s able to tie his shoe, poorly, all by himself. And that is the end of our three pages.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: Where to begin? Well, I suppose I should start with the general and then maybe move to the specific. Although, no, I’ll start with a specific because it was the first thing that struck me. I feel — this is Lisa — I feel like someone told Lisa that you’re not allowed to use the words A or The. Because we have the strangest way of doing things. “The gray dawn light casts pallor on THE KNOLL’S HOUSE. ” That would be casts a pallor.

“Garage door GROANS open on a car-less garage” oddly, and then “she pushes off down driveway, onto street.”

“Next-door neighbor LAURIE MILLER…clutching bathrobe.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: “Laurie eagerly scanning front page.”

John: You know, I didn’t notice that. Something was tracking weird, but I didn’t notice the lack of articles.

Craig: Yeah. There’s a lack of articles and it’s so pronounced that I honestly feel like somebody told her screenwriters just don’t use articles. But that’s not true. We do. They’re an essential part of our toolkit.

John: Yeah. That’s so interesting. So, as we started the thing, before she gets to the impound lot, it felt like an opening credit sequence. And then we get to END CREDITS near the bottom of page one it’s like, oh, well, let’s START CREDITS. I’m a big fan of like if you’re going to show credits just tell us that we’re starting credits because then the series of vignettes has a point.

Craig: Correct.

John: As credits begin we start a series of vignettes and then those bullet points are actually nicely done. They do the job. It’s not the most exciting way to start something, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

We’re all leading up to this moment on page three, halfway down page three where the young officer says, “You’re the lady who killed her baby.”

Craig: Yeah.

John: And then it’s like, okay, something very fascinated just happened. Yet, to cut away at that moment felt like maybe not the best choice. What is her reaction to someone saying that? That is overwhelming and yet we’re cutting to a happy suburban moment next. I don’t know that that’s going to best serve the story.

Craig: It’s not. It will not best serve the story. I mean, first of all there’s a strange thing here. She’s a doctor. Now, the audience may not know this, but we know it. And she is dressed in her business slacks and blouse, one presumes going to work. She’s riding a ten-speed bicycle which the script tells us is her husband’s, although we probably won’t know that unless we know the difference between male bikes and female bikes, which has something to do with the bar around the —

John: But let’s think about what visual cues could we give that would tell us that it’s her husband’s bike?

Craig: If you want us to know that it’s definitely not her bike, that she’s borrowing a bike here, yes, we need some sort of clue like it’s just too big for her or something.

John: Or let’s start with we see her adjust the seat down a lot.

Craig: There you go. Like clearly this isn’t her bike. Perfect. She then does this very long bike ride. Why she’s on the shoulder of expressway on a bike, really, I was like, wait, what? You can’t ride a bike on the expressway. You’re not allowed to do that. So, that stopped me sort of dead in my tracks. But —

John: See, I actually bought it because if you look at that whole sentence, “Shoulder of a four-lane expressway. Sarah has pulled over to check directions on a cell phone as cars, trucks roar by. All are blinded by fierce, rising sun.”

Craig: By A fierce rising sun.

John: That’s true. Where’s the The?

Craig: Oh, there’s so many of them. “Dismounts at closed metal gate for…” She does not write A or The, ever.

John: It’s fascinating.

Craig: It’s amazing.

John: But I took it as she is following sort of the driving directions on how to get there and isn’t thinking about like, oh, I’m actually on a bike.

Craig: Well, yeah, but she’s a scenting human being who would know that you really don’t drive our bike on a freeway. You’re going to get killed. There’s nowhere to drive. I mean, have you ever in your life seen someone on a bike on the shoulder of a freeway?

John: No, but here’s the opportunity. If you’re going to do that, maybe hang a lantern on that and let somebody acknowledge that like, lady, you’re not supposed to be on the freeway.

Craig: [laughs] I guess. Although now I’m questioning where she got her medical degree. But regardless, the bigger issue is this: where she ends up is the vehicle impound. And so, okay, she was riding her bike because her car has been impounded. Hey, take a cab? I feel like this whole thing has been rigged. I don’t buy it.

John: I get it. Yeah, if they have enough money to have a suburban house —

Craig: A house. I mean, you can’t — nobody rides their bike to the vehicle — unless you’re truly dirt poor. But she’s not, so that was puzzling to me.

This conversation with the, so this was a young officer. Now, I’m not sure that vehicle impound offices are manned by actual police officers.

John: I would agree.

Craig: So this is an area where one must do and talk about like a stickler for research. You can’t slip anything by Lindsay Doran. Like I was on Twitter asking people this question because there’s a character who is the Vicar of the Church of England church.

John: Is he naughty.

Craig: He’s not a naughty vicar, no. Well, eh, well actually. We’ll see, won’t we?

John: I think your movie has sheep in it, that’s the only reason I ask.

Craig: He’s done some naughty things. I can’t give away who did the naughtiest thing of all. But do you call him reverend, the reverend. We had a whole research thing on this. Okay, so do your research. I don’t think police officers man these things. Young officer is kind of a tough one to keep looking at over and over. Let’s give him a name if he’s going to be talking for a whole page.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And she says, “I’m not leaving without the car.” That should be my car. I mean, that just seems natural to me. I’m not leaving without my car.

“My commanding officer will be here around ten.” I mean, unless martial law has been imposed, this seems very odd for a policeman.

John: It feels a little forced.

Craig: Really forced. But this is my biggest problem, and so this one, Lisa, this is the line I want you to look at and really think about. The young officer says, “Lady, I’m coming off the overnight shift and I’m real tired.” And Sarah says, “I have to get things back on track. My son has to go to school. We have no other car.”

“I have to get things back on track” is the definition of what we call on the nose dialogue.

John: Yeah, you’re speaking your subtext.

Craig: It is never something that you would share with this guy in this way. You could certainly — what we try and do instead is, “My son has to go to school. We have no other car,” and then just suddenly tears are welling up like the emotions underneath are mismatching the circumstances, you know, something there. But we really want to avoid stuff like that. And I completely agree with you — worst cut ever. “You’re the lady who killed…”

I don’t even know if he’s saying it to her, or murmuring it to himself. You know what I mean?

John: I do know what you mean. So, let’s take a look at the top of page two. So, or like we’ve just gotten into the vehicle impound office. So, let’s say we figure out whether that person is an officer or whatever the employee is that she’s dealing with.

What if we cut the first sentence he speaks. He says, “This isn’t the official paperwork we need to release the car.” For the first thing he speaks, “It should look like this yellow copy here.” We get the context, we get the conversation is already — we just jumped ten seconds into this conversation and it’s helped us. Cut down to, “I’m not leaving without the car.” Cut all the dialogue down to, “My son has to go to school. We have no other car.”

Give him a new line. Then get to the police. Just like get to it quicker. And then you’re going to get to the reward of the, “You’re the lady who killed her son,” or killed her kid. And then let that moment — be in that moment. It’s so incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. That’s drama. Just let’s be in that drama.

Craig: Correct. Now, there is another possibility here which is, and we don’t know where these pages go. But the other thing to think about, simple question, would this really happen? Constantly ask yourself this? Would this really happen? So, this guy looks in a folder, sees her name, connects it to the news story he just read which we presume is the same one Sarah’s neighbor has read. And then looks back at her, either says it to himself, which is bizarre, or looks at her and says, “You’re the lady who killed her baby.”

No one says that. Because it’s so awkward and weird. You could certainly look at her and go, “You’re…” and then she just walks out and gives up on the car. Or, realizes her name and has a moment and then she recognizes that he recognizes the name, so there’s a mystery there. But it’s so odd for somebody to just turn around and go, “I know who you are. You are the lady who killed her baby.”

John: If he were to say something it would be something like, “What you did is unforgivable,” or something like, you know, if he steals the courage to actually say that. The other opportunity is like is there a second clerk, is there someone else he can talk to or like someone else has to come over. Basically if he can’t do it himself but someone else has to come over and it’s that second person who is like, it’s between them, it’s like, “Oh, that’s the lady who killed her baby.” Then that’s a moment that can actually play.

Craig: Yes. Yeah, we’ve seen that moment in movies where the guy walks back into the office to get, you know, a waiver on the form and the guy looks at it and then he recognizes something and then he picks up his newspaper and then he shows it to the guy. And they both look up at her and squirrels on out of there.

But this one is tough to just have a guy announce this like this.

John: Yeah. The last little thing I’ll point out here is on page three, this is the thing that happens, just people need to look out for it. Ethan’s dialogue, “Look! I did it all by myself.” If you look at the margins on that, it actually fell into parenthetical. So, I’m sure she’s in Final Draft or something like Final Draft and she had it as a parenthetical but without the parentheses and so that’s why the margins are all messed up.

Craig: Correct. Also, minor thing. “The air is stagnant.” And this, by the way, this paragraph she went back to using, she introduced The which was nice. “The air is stagnant, the only movement from floating dust mites until…” You don’t want the word dust mites there. Dust mites are microscopic. I think you’re looking for floating dust motes or floating dust would work.

John: Wow. I learned something today. Motes and mites.

Craig: Yes. Mites are the microscopic bugs that feed off of dust. And they live on us. They don’t float in the air.

John: Fantastic.

Craig: Yeah.

John: All right. Let’s get on to our next script by Patrick McGinley. Do you want to do this one?

Craig: Sure. Destination: Earth. That’s Destination: Earth, written by Patrick McGinley.

So, we begin, oh, we’re on black again. Title on black. So, we open with just — I guess it’s a white title.

John: I would always bet on black.

Craig: Always bet on black. “Aeons from now,” and I’m wondering if Patrick is English because he spelled eons with an A in the front which those of us who do crossword puzzles are always on the lookout for.

John: But he didn’t do it with the conjoined AE.

Craig: Probably because he didn’t hit the option thing before it. You know, he just spelled it out. But, anyway, I always like to see aeons spelled old school like that. Aeons from now. And now a voice over, over black. The voice over says, “We’re losing this war. Mankind, I mean. We’re not going to last long.”

We then smash cut to a human face, frozen in agony, dead. We reveal that this face belongs to a dead body in space floating away. And we now reveal the aftermath of this huge battle. Three spaceships have been cracked open. We lost some kind of war. The narrator, his name is Spin by the way, is telling us that there’s been this endless war with these creatures that we call the Gray. And we see one of their dead bodies float by, too.

And the Gray have been fighting with humans over possession of the habitable planets. They are ruthless and smart and they’re taking their worlds away. And the scope of the battlefield is there are 40 million inhabitant worlds, but the Gray are slowly taking them all and this guy is saying we’re outnumbered, we’re outgunned, and we’re doomed.

And then says, “Well, I better shut up now. They’re about to find me,” which is interesting. And then we cut to the inside of a space freighter on the bridge. We have two characters, Gears, 30s and overweight, and an officer with red hair who will be known as Red Hair.

And what they see on their — so they’re basically scavenging this battlefield looking for bits of metal to reclaim when they see a blip of a life form. Gears takes a shuttle over, finds this escape pod, gets inside and discovers this little boy. He’s about five year old hiding with a dog tag around his neck. And the dog tag is some name, but the only letters visible of the first name are S-P-I-N, hence Spin. And the boy is very scared.

John: Yes. So, before we get into the actual substance here, I want to point out a little thing about form. This is written in Courier Prime. And it just looks a little bit better. So, Courier Prime is the typeface that we make and it’s free to download. So, Courier Prime, I like Courier Prime —

Craig: [laughs] I love that you know.

John: And it does look — you will admit, Craig, it does look nice on the page.

Craig: It does. I use it. And you know me, it’s not like I use every one of your products.

John: No, it’s true. But he likes the Courier Prime.

Craig: I love Courier Prime.

John: So, Courier Prime is quite nice. The pages look really good. I didn’t fully engage with these pages and part of it was the voice over, but part of it was just things just felt very familiar in these pages, which is ultimately we are finding a kid on an abandoned ship and that kid will ultimately become our narrator. We don’t know that in the three pages. The audience wouldn’t know that in three pages. We know it just because we’re seeing the name of the guy who is giving the voice over.

There’s the instinct to have — voice over can be lovely. And I have no general qualms about voice over. If voice over is giving us perspective and tone that is surprising and interesting. So, in this case the voice over from Spin Braddock is described as “world-weary, dry, cynical – yet a sly sense of humor shines through. The owner of this voice would tell a killer campfire story.” Okay, but I didn’t really feel that in the actual dialogue that followed.

I couldn’t hear that voice that is being described saying these words. Instead I got some really confusing information that made me think too much about numbers. So, here’s his first bit of dialogue about numbers, “You’d figure, a galaxy of 400 billion stars is big enough for two sentient races. But these guys don’t think so,” which setting that up.

Later it’s like, “Grays breed like moon roaches and they are equally hard to kill. But unlike moon roaches, they’re smart. Ruthless. One by one, they are taking our worlds.” Well, who is our? Is it human world? Is this earth? Where are we? I just got confused.

And then later on there’s numbers: “That’s the problem when your battlefield is 40 Million inhabited worlds. Even if you’re losing, it’s going to take a helluva long time until you’re finally defeated.” I’m just having a hard time picturing the timeline of this war and where we’re at in it. Where is this voice over happening. I just — I was having a hard time getting seated in the movie.

Craig: I’m with you all the way here. Courier Prime is not magic. So, here’s what’s going on. You cannot — John, you and I have said many times we’re not of the school of voice over is terrible. The reason that, I think we talked about this in our last podcast, the reason that you constantly hear this admonition against voice over is because people who read screenplays are often reading bad voice over.

This unfortunately, Patrick, is bad voice over and I’m going to tell you why. It’s not even because it’s expository, although it is aggressively expository. Because if you look at the opening voice over that Cate Blanchett does in the first Lord of the Rings film, it couldn’t be more expository, but it’s beautiful, it’s lyrical, it’s dramatic, it’s creepy. And this is none of that.

So, the mistake here is that you’ve done some very expository VO but you’re doing it in a kind of almost snarky tone. And you’re telling us he had a “sly sense of humor shines through.” Well, now it just sounds like a folksy guy talking about this kooky war. And I don’t care. I do not care.

And if I had any little bit of caring, it was obliterated when you told me, “That’s the problem when your battlefield is 40 Million inhabited worlds. Even if you’re losing, it’s going to take a helluva long time until you’re finally defeated.” You know what else is going to take a helluva long time? Me caring. Because it’s too big. 40 million? Is this movie going to be a thousand hours long? It’s too much.

John: You’ve sort of told us not to care. In some ways you have like taken away a ticking clock, you’ve taken away stakes because it’s like, well, okay, so it’s not going to resolve in this. You’ve set expectations kind of so low for the movie that we don’t kind of engage.

Craig: Yes. I think we talked about the problem of the endless bigifying of stakes, you know, so it used to be a person, and then it was a family, and then a town, and now it’s full cities. And now we’re at the world. And soon it will be the galaxy. But this guy, he’s like, oh, I’ll show you. [laughs] The stakes are 40 million planets. Well, the stakes are so big that they are simply not stakes anymore. He has over-bigified them.

The description of the villains here, let me say this. And, Patrick, I don’t mean to beat you up, but honestly I have to tell you there is not one original idea in these three pages. The aliens, the Gray, I’ve seen it. The floating dead body in space. I’ve seen it. Humanity fighting a race that is best analogized to insects. Seen it.

Wait a second, there’s a life form. What? I’ve seen it. The cracking into what might be an abandoned lifeless spaceship with a flashlight and it’s all creepy. And then you find a little child in it. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen all of this. I think I’ve seen all of it multiple times. And that is not good.

John: No, it’s not going to help you there. It’s not going to get the reader to read page four, and five, and six, because we feel like, well, we’ve kind of seen this movie before and we’re not eager to keep pushing forward.

Some little small things that could be helpful in the rewrite and for other people who are reading through these pages. In general, you should spell out numbers in dialogue. It’s just a good idea to make sure that people are saying what you actually want them to say. So, forty million, four-hundred billion. But honestly, take away those numbers because those aren’t good numbers.

Another example of places where your red pen is going to help your dialogue be better, if we’re keeping this, but there’s a life form. “I’ll take the shuttle and check it out. Maybe it’s a survivor.” “What if it’s theirs?” Gears takes a blaster from the rack on the wall and checks the charge. “I’ll kill it.” Well, you just said that by taking the blaster. So, it’s an example of many times the right answer to a question is an action rather than actually saying something.

Craig: Right.

John: Many times the right answer to a question is another scene. Because if you can leave a scene with a spin of energy, then hooray, you’re into your next thing. And that’s the right thing. So, someone asks the question, “Where’s Tom?” And you cut to Tom someplace. That’s the answer to your question. Where if you said, “Tom’s in Denver,” and then you cut to Tom in Denver, you’ve lost energy.

Craig: Totally agree. I totally agree. Sorry man. Look, you have to do better than this. This in and of itself, I don’t want you to be discouraged by this, because sometimes like I was saying in the beginning it’s what you react against that gets you where you need to go. You don’t want to write stuff that feels like it’s aping things you’ve already seen. Because other people are doing that. And as we mentioned before, by the time you see the movie it’s already been — a lot of quality has been boiled out of it just through process. So, you have to start better to get to that.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You start at that, you’re going to get to something worse.

John: I would agree. Craig, did you end up seeing Guardians of the Galaxy?

Craig: I haven’t yet, but we’re going to have Nicole Perlman on the show —

John: I’m excited to have her on the show.

Craig: And so obviously I will be getting to the theater to see said film before we entertain her.

John: That would be great.

All right, our next and final script for this episode is the Legendary Knights of Yore by Todd Bosley. So, I will do the summary here. We fade in on a battlefield at dusk. Corpses of soldiers as far as the eye can see. Various sections of the field smolder. The battle is over.

We’re at a impenetrable fortress of stone. Rows of archers, a drawbridge, a moat of fire. Some charging, “To the last man!” Archers ready their bows. Soldiers are yelling, “Down with the king!” There’s a whole drama with the drawbridge that comes down. They’re trying to jump up onto the drawbridge. They fall, plunge to their fiery death. The main title card: Legendary Knights of Yore.

Next we cut to a dungeon at night where a torch-carrying guard drags a prisoner, a 20-year-old prisoner by a chain. They walk across several grates on the floor. Opens a pitch dark hole and shoves him down into the pit.

In the pit, the prisoner holds his head in pain and we meet Dicky, 50s, a scrappy — sorry, a craggy, filthy, emaciated, bearded man who hobbles towards him. He’s saying, “Lord be praised, I have a roommate! I was afraid I was going to die alone in sorrow and agony down here.” Dicky is a talkative sort. The soldier doesn’t really respond to him very much but gives him his name. His name is John.

Dicky says that John is a really common name. Summons the guard over. The guard’s name is also John. Dicky is talking about the different jobs that the guards have, including like removing the bodies and sort of stuff like this. The guard’s job is just to take the buckets of shit out of the jail.

Craig: [laughs] Right.

John: And there we’re at the end of our three pages.

Craig: End scene.

So, this is, from the very start what I liked about this was that it told me exactly what it was. Right? I mean, there’s a brief moment of misdirection where we see this medieval battlefield with dead bodies and then one soldier — one — who has been left alive apparently is running towards this enormous fortress. And he is all full of confidence that he is going to take this fortress down himself, despite the fact that every other person in his army is dead. And he is so super confident that he jumps to try and reach the right raising drawbridge and ends up plummeting into this fiery moat. And I’m like, okay, so we’re kind of in Life of Brian/Holy Grail territory.

And the Legendary Knights of Yore is a very funny title for something like that. I like the seriousness of it. And this discussion in the pit was funny. Dicky is a funny guy. And the guard is a funny guy. And in general, I mean, who knows where this goes, but it starts well. I kind of felt like I was — at least I felt like Todd knew exactly the kind of story he wanted to tell, the kind of tone he wanted to employ, and he stuck to it.

So, so far so good.

John: It’s so fascinating that the tone worked for you, because I actually wrote on page three like, “Tone?” Because I didn’t catch that tone on the first page. And so I had a little hard time getting into it because as we start, “FADE IN: On a desolate — BATTLEFIELD — DUSK. Corpses of soldiers as far as the eye can see. Various sections of the field smolder. This battle is over. Then, in the distance, a SOLDIER runs toward — A massive, seemingly impenetrable FORTRESS of stone. The soldier, still tiny in the distance screams out a rather unthreatening battle cry as he unsheathes his SWORD.”

Craig: [laughs] I’m already laughing at that.

John: But the challenge is I got, you know, many lines into it before I realized that we were in medieval times at all. So everything that I was reading up to that point is like a soldier. I thought we were in Fallujah. I thought we were in like, I was seeing modern day.

Craig: Good point. That’s a good point.

John: You could say like Medieval Battlefield. Dusk. Then I know, okay, we’re in swords and horseback territory.

Craig: Right.

John: So, this soldier, I like it as an idea, but let me know that I’m reading it right. And so give me just a little bit more saying like “Despite the hopeless situation, this one guy just won’t say no.” Give me one of those action lines that let me know how I’m supposed to read it.

Craig: I don’t know. I have to disagree with you on that. Because I think part of what makes — if this is going to work it has to work with confidence. It just has to sort of put itself out there like neither the script nor this character are willing to acknowledge that this character is absurd.

John: Did you take this soldier as being the same guy, the prisoner that we’re seeing in the — ?

Craig: No, he’s dead. That guy is dead. Oh, for sure. No, because the moat is made of fire. [laughs] He jumped into the moat of fire. I just like that he kept saying, “To the last man!” like he wasn’t the last man. There’s just a lot — the only actually joke-wise, Todd, the only thing I would suggest is I wasn’t, in terms of the structure of what you were doing here comedically I didn’t love the archer because the archer was taking him seriously by readying the arrow. And I kind of want just the archer to be looking at this guy like, “Uh, what?”

And he’s got his arrow sort of loosely in the thing and then maybe the archer starts with the tense and then kind of just un-tensions it, because this guy is never going to even get to the bridge, much less get into the castle, much less kill any of them. And then he dies. And then I think where you have the archer stands down his bow, I think the archer can sort of shrug and, you know, just shrug. And then, boom, Legendary Knights of Yore. I like that title.

John: Yeah. I like the title a lot, too. So, what you just described in terms of the archer tension can be really funny and I can totally picture that, but I wasn’t picturing it in reading that first page. I was reading that first page serious. And so something needed to change there because it didn’t click for me and I suspect it wouldn’t click for many readers that it’s what that comedic tension is.

Craig: I agree. I think you make a great point that we need to definitely establish from the top this is middle ages, middle age battlefield, swords and horses and lances and so forth.

I sense that true to any sword and horse movie that this is in England, so everything is funnier when you say it with an English accent. Dicky is funnier because he’s speaking in English. So, the overeducated, disgusting prisoner is, you know, it’s a funny thing, even if I’ve seen it. But I did like the guard saying, “I hope one day I’ll move up to corpse dumping.” [laughs] That made me laugh.

John: So, did you read Dicky’s dialogue as sort of good medieval English, because I didn’t.

Craig: Oh, okay.

John: Yeah, so it was interesting. Let me try to do it. [English accent] “Lord be praised, I have a roommate! I was afraid I was going to die alone in sorrow and agony down here. It’s a relief to know that now…” Yeah, maybe so.

Craig: Yeah, I mean, to me it’s like Eric Idle or Terry Jones. I liked “I was afraid I was going to die alone in sorrow and agony down here. It’s a relief to know that now I’ll die in sorrow and agony and solidarity with a friend. Unless, of course, you die first. In that case I suppose I’ll eat you. I’m Dicky.” [laughs] It just made me laugh. I liked his name, and I don’t know, I thought that this “Shut your mouth, you diseased rat. I’ve got shit buckets to clean out.” That, to me, is very Monty Python. The whole thing feels very Monty Python.

So, it was working for me and it was making me laugh. These are hard movies to write. Very hard movies to write because you don’t — you really struggle to find how to care about people because it’s so absurd. But if this were to sort of go in The Princess Bride direction where it was very arch and absurd, but then there was a romance or a hero story that we could connect to in kind of a serious way, that would be terrific. Or, it’s just got to be insanely hysterical in an almost sketch style in the way Monty Python did it.

John: Yeah. Or the Robin Hood: Men in Tights, where you’re throwing all the gags you can at it, but it doesn’t feel like he’s trying to do that.

Craig: Yeah. This isn’t a parody. It’s not playing like a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker or a Mel Brooks parody. This is playing more like a Monty Python comedy of the absurd.

John: Yeah. So, any time you’re doing a movie that’s in a genre, so this is both meant to be period and sort of the fantasy comedy kind of genre, you have to deal with all of the expectations that come with that. And so you get a lot of things for free, like you get a lot of stuff about horses and dungeons and all that stuff. The challenge is then you have to use those things in ways that are interesting. And find new ways to sort of show us how to do this stuff that is going to make it rewarding for us to see it.

I would also say the same thing about the space movie. If you’re going to do a space movie where there’s an intergalactic war, you get all this stuff for free about space travel and warp engines, but you have to find some new way to tell us that so it’s not feeling like the same movie again, and again, and again.

Craig: Totally. And if there’s one little tip that keeps cropping up as we read these pages, it is this: if you are writing a screenplay that takes place in some simulation of the real world as we know it, not a pushed thing like our medieval till, you have to constantly ask this question of yourself, particularly if you’re a new writer and you’re growing your muscles. Would somebody say this in the situation really? Would somebody do this in the situation really? Would somebody react like this in this situation really? Because if we can sniff fake on the page you can’t imagine what it’s like on screen.

John: Yeah. If you look at the challenges we had with Lisa’s script about the baby-killing doctor, we know what the real world feels like. And so therefore we are going to look at it with those critical eyes. But in these other ones that have these more pushed — or actually the same with the doctor — we sort of know how doctors would react in that ER. And so if they’re not acting that way we’re going to call bullshit on that.

In these pushed worlds, you know, you have to ask would this character behave this way in this world that I’m creating? Because if the character reacts in a way that we don’t expect, then we are forced to sort of change our expectations about what the world is and maybe that’s not what you want either. And so the good thing about setting things in the real world is like at least you get the real world kind of for free. If setting it in these pushed worlds, any choice the character makes or anything the character does or says might change that world in ways that you don’t necessarily want it to change.

Craig: That’s right. And if you’re creating a world where people are going to behave in ways that you know are intentionally foreign to what we expect, you have to teach us.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: You have to teach us through normal behavior, rather I should say the behavior that is normal to that world before you start showing them behaving extraordinarily. We need to see just average behavior that is strange behavior to us and we will learn.

John: My instinct is that in this movie, this sort of pushed Monty Python-ish medieval movie, the straight man’s character is going to be incredibly important. The ordinary guy is going to be incredibly important because the world itself is so askew. And so while Dicky may be incredibly enjoyable, I bet the movie doesn’t hang very much on him.

Craig: No.

John: Because it has to hang on this other guy. And I feel like we maybe have done some short shrift just in setting up this other guy and at least what’s interesting about him. We don’t even give him a name for awhile. I think we should probably start with that.

Craig: I do agree, because I’m with you there’s no way that our twenty-something, that is to say hero-aged prisoner isn’t the hero here. We should have a name for him. I know that there is this bit where we reveal that his name is John, but frankly you can just call him John and have the guy call him John and then have him say, “How do you know my name?” That’s fine.

John: Yeah.

Craig: There’s no need to hide that from us.

John: Yeah, it is interesting because on page two, “The guard drags along a prisoner, 20s, but a chain.” We’re given nothing about the prisoner. So, if that prisoner is important, who I suspect he is important, let’s give a little bit more service to him.

Craig: Agreed.

John: Agreed. So, if you — we need to thank our four people who sent in these Three Page Challenges. It’s always so brave. And thank you for doing it.

If you have three pages that you want to send through to us, the URL you want for that is It’s all spelled out in three page. And you’ll see there’s a little form and you say, yes, yes, yes, you can talk about it on the air. And then you attach your PDF and it magically goes into a little box that Stuart checks. So, if you are interested in doing that, please send in your pages.

Craig: Yes!

John: Yes!

Craig: Yes!

John: It’s time for One Cool Things. Craig, do you have a One Cool Thing?

Craig: I do. I have a One Cool Thing and I’d like to thank everybody on Twitter that’s always lobbying potential One Cool Things at me. It’s very nice of you guys to take care of me because as you know I struggle with that. Today, I got a suggestion from Austin Bonang – Bonang — who is @abone114 on Twitter. And he suggested, he just put a link, Sugru. So, I clicked on it and lo and behold it was awesome and I spent some money today.

So, let me tell you about Sugru. The stuff is amazing. This woman, she is a chemist of some sort, and she invented this stuff and it basically looks like — a little bit like Play-Doh, remember that, what did they call it, Fun Tack?

John: Yeah.

Craig: You know, when we were kids, or like a Plasticine modeling clay. But it’s not. It’s only that for about 30 minutes. So you can take this stuff and blog it around and stretch it and make it any shape you want for about 30 minutes. At that point it begins to cure and I guess what it’s doing is reacting to moisture in the air. And give it a day, about 24 hours, and it becomes a tough, flexible silicone. So, it is now permanently formed and shaped. It adheres, forms a strong bond to aluminum, steel, ceramics, glass, wood, and other materials like plastics, and ABS, and rubbers.

So, it becomes this incredible, it’s like you basically have your own plastic factory, your own rubber silicone factory in your house and you can pretty much patch stuff and put cool grips on things. You can do anything you want with this. It’s awesome.

So, I bought some.

John: And you haven’t gotten it yet, so, is this again a One Cool Thing where you’ve seen the video of it and now you’ve ordered it and eventually you can tell us whether it actually works?

Craig: Yes.

John: Yes. So, I clicked through the website while you were talking about it and I have seen write-ups of this. There’s a link I’ll put in the show notes for Cool Tools, which Craig you would love. Kevin Kelly who created Wired has this newsfeed called Cool Tools and every day or every week, a couple times a week, they put out Cool Tools. And they had mentioned this stuff because it’s really good for grips on like gardening tools and handles and that kind of stuff. People love it.

Craig: Yeah, I mean, it looks awesome. And you get a whole — oh, like my favorite thing that they, because this happens all the time in my house. We have these little ceramic jars where we put our sugar and salt and flour. And inevitably somebody pulls one of the lids off and then drops the lid and that knob at the top of the lid just cracks off. Well, you can mold yourself a new knob, stick it on there, and then it’s awesome. It’s so cool!

John: It does look good. My One Cool Thing is a TV show. It’s a show called, you would actually really enjoy this, Craig, called Please Like Me. It’s an Australian show created by Josh Thomas who also stars in it. And most of the write-ups about it have compared it to Girls, which is kind of fair because it’s the same situation as like Lena Dunham created and stars in Girls. Josh created and stars in Please Like Me.

There are six episodes of the first season. They’re running the second season right now. You can find them all on iTunes. It’s also on this TV channel called Pivot which you probably have but you don’t you know that you have it. It’s a really good little comedy. It’s a half hour and it’s Josh, this 20-year-old gay guy and his housemates and his family, his parents, his bipolar mother who is spectacular. And it’s really, really well done. And so I would say it’s probably more of a comedy-comedy than Girls is, but really smartly done and put together. And definitely something that people who are interested in writing should check out.

Craig: I will check that out. I find that Australians are very funny people. I tend to be impressed by their output as a nation. They have such an interesting — they find an interesting tone. I mean, Chris Lilley, he just did that incredible work. But even like Baz Luhrmann, sometimes I watch Baz Luhrmann’s stuff and I just think where — how did his mind function here to… — My daughter watched Strictly Ballroom the other day, because she’s really into dancing now, and I hadn’t seen it in a few years. I do love it. And I was just sitting there like how did he — why did he put the camera there? How did he know that that would be awesome? It’s so weird. So cool.

John: At lunch we were talking about Australian shows and Canadian shows. And the challenge that Canada has, because Canada has its own homegrown stuff and some of it can be really good, but Canada gets all of the North American stuff sort of in real-time and so culturally they’re always sort of being force fed US programs as well. Whereas Australia, they are isolated, and so they get our stuff but they can really have their own thing.

And so this show is set in Melbourne which is even not in Sydney. So, it really is its own unique little microcosm, but it’s completely recognizable to our experience. They just talk about university in very different ways than we would.

Craig: Please Like Me.

John: Please Like Me.

Craig: Like me. Please like me.

John: It’s really the Craig Mazin story. That is our show for this week. So, Scriptnotes is edited by Matthew Chilelli and is produced by Stuart Friedel.

Our outro this week is by Matthew, but if you would like to send your own outro music, we would love to hear it and play it on the show. So, you can send those to our general email address which is That’s also a great place to send longer questions.

If you have a short question for me or Craig, or a suggestion for Craig’s One Cool Thing, Craig is @clmazin on Twitter. I am @johnaugust.

If you are on iTunes, click subscribe for Scriptnotes. Or just search for Scriptnotes and click subscribe so we get you as a subscription. Leave a comment if you like. We love those comments. They’re lovely.

Craig: Love ’em.

John: Also in iTunes you can download the Scriptnotes App which gives you access to all of the back episodes. So, this is 159. There are 158 back episodes that you can listen to. It’s $1.99 a month for the premium subscriptions. A bargain.

Craig: Yeah, I mean, honestly, you could buy so much Sugru, but you can’t buy any Sugru for what it costs to just have all those podcasts. You’d get like a tiny little blip of Sugru.

John: Yeah. It’s completely a different experience.

Craig: It’s a different experience. [laughs] And by the way, our podcast never cures. It’s always malleable.

John: It’s always malleable. Interestingly, I’m looking at the Sugru site right now and one of the things they recommend doing with it is actually very smart. You know how sometimes cables will fray at the point where it connects.

Craig: Yes! I saw that.

John: You wrap it around that and get a little extra insulation. I can see that being very useful for some people.

Craig: Yeah, and by the way, it is electrically insulating as well.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I mean, this lady, honestly lady, it’s funny, I can’t find her name on here. I was looking for it. But madam, you are smart. You’re my hero. You really are.

John: Of course, we’re going to find out in like two years it’s actually cancer-causing and it’s made of death.

Craig: Good. Good.

John: In the meantime your grips will be nice and springy.

Craig: I won’t stop using it, even if that — I don’t care.

John: Craig is that stubborn.

Craig: They’ll take my Sugru from my cold, dead hand.

John: All right. Craig, thank you, and I’ll talk to you again next week.

Craig: See you next week, John.

John: All right, bye.