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 Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

Craig, did you buy your iPhone last night?

Craig: You know I did, at 12:01.

John: Did you go to Apple or where’d you go?

Craig: Verizon. That’s my secret move.

John: We went to Verizon as well. So we tried the Apple move, it didn’t happen, so we went out on Verizon.

Craig: Apple, even when I went to bed at 1 o’clock —

John: Yeah.

Craig: “Oh, we’re working on our story, we’re going to…” I’m like what is going on with? So did you watch the —

John: The live stream —

Craig: Oh my god.

John: Was just a mess.

Craig: Did you do it through Apple TV?

John: We did both through Apple TV and also streaming through the computer, yeah.

Craig: On the web. Okay, so I didn’t even bother with the website. I just went down to Apple TV.

John: Yeah.

Craig: When it finally started to work —

John: It was beautiful.

Craig: It was awesome. But that was well into it, like 40 minutes in or something. So if you could even get it to work, it would work for 20 seconds at a time and there was a Chinese woman speaking over the whole thing. How did they not get that right?

John: Yeah. That TV truck.

Craig: Oh man.

John: What I love about the time that we live in is that the TV truck had its own Twitter feed within like the first three minutes of that going on. And the TV truck was just like tweeting out some good stuff.

Craig: Oh, they were, like “We know…”

John: Yeah. Or no, just like TV truck just like, you know, hey guys, what’s going on? It’s like, you know, did something happen today? [laughs]

Craig: [laughs]

John: And we live in a glorious time.

Craig: Or somebody invented the TV truck.

John: Somebody invented the TV truck Twitter feed.

Craig: Oh, I thought there was actually somebody on the TV truck who’s like, we know, we’re working on it.

John: No, no, no, it was just —

Craig: So an Apple TV truck that came out there and —

John: I love that they anthropomorphized the TV truck.

Craig: That’s so funny.

John: And they’re like, what’s going on?

Craig: Hey guys, why is everyone upset?

John: Yeah. I think it’s pretty cool.

Craig: And it was very annoying.

John: [laughs] But the Chinese woman next to me is so sweet.

Craig: Right. [laughs]

John: She won’t stop talking.

Craig: There’s a Chinese woman and then the Chinese woman went away, which was amazing, but then a very quiet German man started —

John: Snuck back in there, yeah.

Craig: Yeah, did you hear him?

John: Yeah, it’s good.

Craig: And then it was start and stop and start and stop. But then finally, they got it and it was working great.

John: Whenever you do something where like everything has to work perfectly immediately with no practice, you’re going to run into some issues.

Craig: But it’s Apple. I mean, just to put it in perspective, they have more money in reserves than probably 50% of the nations on earth.

John: Yeah, but I mean —

Craig: And yet they can’t get that right?

John: Well, they’re not a broadcaster though. So it’s one thing if you’re like NBC and you’re running the Super Bowl.

Craig: Right.

John: Like you’re going to have a lot of people with tremendous experience, but to have to be able to do this and then be able to keep it all secret, that’s the challenging thing they were trying to do.

Craig: I get that. That is exactly what the guy who just got fired said —

John: [laughs] Absolutely.

Craig: Right before he got fired, because you know somebody got fired.

John: If my Tim Cook impression were ready —

Craig: Right.

John: I would explain it in Tim Cook words about sort of how —

Craig: “It’s really unacceptable.”

John: Unacceptable, yeah.

Craig: “So interesting how you failed.”

John: [laughs]

Craig: [laughs]

John: So the important thing is which iPhone did you get.

Craig: I got the “small.”

John: Yeah, that’s what I got.

Craig: The iPhone 6, the non-plus version, which is still bigger than this one. So they had a very useful graphic on the website where you could see, okay, here’s what it looks like now, here’s the 6, here’s the 6 Plus. Well, that thing just looked ridiculous to me.

John: Yeah, but it won’t look ridiculous a few years from now. We’ll have come to accept it that —

Craig: You think so that everyone’s going to walk around with these —

John: Yeah.

Craig: Dinner plates, as Rian Johnson calls it?

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: Ryan got the dinner plate.

John: Yeah, of course.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Because he loves to read scripts on his phone. And one of the things we had to do this week is scramble to get Weekend Read to work right on the big phones. And so —

Craig: On the Plus.

John: Yeah, and also on the 6.

Craig: Oh, right, because —

John: It’s also bigger, so.

Craig: Was it really hard to do?

John: It was challenging to do because Apple hadn’t given you a good warning that — they give you a warning that bigger screens were coming in a very general sense.

Craig: Right.

John: Didn’t tell you how big the screens were and they didn’t tell you that you had to sort o recreate all your graphics at three times resolution.

Craig: Ah.

John: And so that was a lot of scrambling to get that to work.

Craig: Right.

John: And make sure — and you’re testing these apps when you don’t actually have the phone to put them on. And so that’s really challenging.

Craig: But were you able to do it?

John: We were able to do it.

Craig: Well, that’s interesting.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And how many people work here? [laughs]

John: Oh, we have about three and a half people who work here.

Craig: Three and a half people work here, huh?

John: Yeah.

Craig: I wonder how long it will take Final Draft.

John: Ah, we’ll see.

Craig: Probably a couple hundred years.

John: That’ll be fine.

Craig: Yeah.

John: It’ll be fine. Today on the show, we are going to answer a whole bunch of questions. But first, we need to do a little bit of follow-up. Last week, we talked about the possibility of new t-shirts.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And t-shirts are going to happen. So if you’re listening to this podcast on Tuesday, likely hopefully the store should be open,

Craig: That fast.

John: That fast.

Craig: Wow.

John: To preorder your t-shirts. So we’re doing the same thing we did before. Basically, Craig is nodding his head towards Stuart. This is basically Stuart’s realm. Stuart will have to be taking all those orders and he writes them down on little tickets and he puts them on little hangers.

Craig: That’s right. [laughs]

John: So what we do with our t-shirts like last time, we do preorders for two weeks. And then at the end of those two weeks we see how many t-shirts we need to make. We make those t-shirts and we ship them out all at once.

Craig: Stuart sits in — there’s a basement here and we give him a little visor, a little green visor and he’s got one of those little adding machines like the guys in Brazil.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: And it’s real dusty down there.

John: Well, the pneumatic tubes though, I think that was really the innovation and —

Craig: Right.

John: It’s quite good. So one of the little things comes in and he has to sort them into their little things.

Craig: And then he hits a belt, ding, and then —

John: There’s a crow who we trained who sort of helps him out and who could sort of like recognize the types and he can come put them into the different boxes.

Craig: That’s what that crow does? I thought it just squawked at him to keep him motivated. [laughs]

John: Well, also it takes care of like the other rodents down in the basement but it’s just, you know —

Craig: It’s just him and his —

John: His companionship.

Craig: Right.

John: I mean, I’m not a monster.

Craig: It gets cold down there and he asks for extra coal and we say no. [laughs]

John: [laughs] No. Like sell more t-shirts and then you can have more coal.

Craig: But he’ll never get more coal.

John: So if you’d like to keep Stuart warm, you can check out and see the t-shirts we have for sale.

Craig: [laughs]

John: So there’s a Scriptnotes t-shirt that Craig just saw, the pencil sketch version of the design.

Craig: Oh, so cool. I mean, I can’t say what it is, can I?

John: Oh, people can go to the site to see. I think we can describe because we’re a podcast of words, so we should be able to use our words to describe, so describe it.

Craig: Well, this is so cool. And who did this?

John: This is done by Simon Estrada who is just the best.

Craig: Okay, so Simon Estrada, well done. So it’s in the Sons of Anarchy style. It’s like a motorcycle t-shirt. It’s really cool. It’s got Scriptnotes in that crazy motorcycle script and then what appears to be an exploding typewriter on fire which is so cool. [laughs] And then underneath it, it says, “The podcast of umbrage and reason.” It’s just bad ass in the most ridiculous way. [laughs]

John: [laughs]

Craig: I mean, because what’s funny about it is that nobody is less bikery than screenwriters.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I mean, a screenwriting biking club would be pathetic.

John: Yeah

Craig: That’s why I like it.

John: The Venn diagram of screenwriters and hardcore motorcycle enthusiasts.

Craig: Yes.

John: It’s not much overlap there.

Craig: No, but that’s why I think it works.

John: Right.

Craig: That’s awesome.

John: So if you’d like to check that out, you can go to the store and see what that looks like. Also in the store we’re going to have Highland t-shirts. If you want a Highland t-shirt, we’ll have those. And we’re going to try a hoodie. And so we can’t do — a Scriptnotes hoodie doesn’t really make sense because there’s — we wanted to do an embroidery, like a little embroidered hoodie thing.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And there’s no way to sort of do a good Scriptnotes logo that could actually fit in embroidery that would translate. We’re going to try the Brad from, my little logo for my site.

Craig: Okay.

John: So if you would like one of those hoodies, you can get one of those hoodies. The only warning I’ll say about the hoodies is that we have to hit a certain minimum in order to actually make those hoodies. So there’s a chance that you could order that hoodie and we could say, you know what, we’re not going to make those hoodies, we’ll refund your money.

Craig: Got it. And that basically comes down to Stuart again, just can he —

John: How —

Craig: Can he spin enough flacks?

John: Exactly, his little hands that work on it.

Craig: We don’t give him a wheel, you know.

John: So orders start today, Tuesday, September 16th. Orders end Tuesday, September 30th and then we are going to be shipping the shirts starting October 8th. So you’ll have it in time for Austin.

Craig: What an empire. Oh yes, and so you’ll have to report back to me and let me know how everybody — oh, there’s your cat again.

John: Yeah. That’s not my cat. That’s Patricia Arquette’s cat.

Craig: Got it.

John: That’s Patricia Arcat.

Craig: That’s Patricia Arcat.

John: Yeah.

Craig: That’s right. I remember Patricia Arcat from last time.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I think she and I have the same birthday.

John: Oh how nice is that.

Craig: Did I mention this last time?

John: Yeah.

Craig: I can’t —

John: You know, you don’t see movies, so you haven’t seen Boyhood yet, have you?

Craig: I have not seen Boyhood yet, I’m sorry. I did see…I saw…I’ve seen some lately.

John: [laughs] You saw Guardians of the Galaxy?

Craig: Yeah, I saw Guardians of the Galaxy. I watched actually, this is embarrassing, so I haven’t seen Boyhood but the other day I wasn’t feeling, you know, I got the stomach flu.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So I was in my office and just feeling very bad. And I sat on my couch and I went to Apple TV and I dialed up All About Eve.

John: I haven’t seen All About Eve for so long. I love All About Eve.

Craig: It’s great. It’s just great.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s great. They don’t make them like that anymore.

John: Yeah. And so when I watch All About Eve, I’m like, someone should make a musical version of All About Eve. And of course, they did. It’s called Applause and —

Craig: Yeah.

John: It’s apparently not a good musical.

Craig: No, but there’s a couple of good songs in Applause.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But yeah, no —

John: But it lends itself so well to that sort of backstage drama. A great version of an All About Eve musical is a great musical.

Craig: Absolutely, yeah. It is a shame that it didn’t kind of go better for them.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But great stuff.

John: My Apple TV this week was Match Point which I had somehow never seen, which I loved. You know, that Scarlett Johansson, I think she has a real career in front of her.

Craig: You know, we’ll see. We have to wait.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I like to wait at least 20 or 30 years.

John: Just to let us know.

Craig: Like just last week I thought to myself, I think Jodie Foster, she’s okay.

John: Yeah, so you put her on a casting list.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Like let’s take a look at this young woman and see if —

Craig: She’ll stick around.

John: I think she could be really good.

Craig: Yeah. Dustin Hoffman?

John: Oh, there’s one to watch.

Craig: No, no, I think he’s crossed over to good.

John: Okay.

Craig: He’s good but I can’t, you know, these new ones like Brad Pitt or whatever, I can’t —

John: No, no.

Craig: No.

John: Yeah, whatever happened to the classics, whatever happened to the classic actors? [laughs]

Craig: [laughs]

John: I completely flamed out, I’m like, who’s any actor who’s of the time before that? He’s no Charlton Heston is really what I’m going for.

Craig: I wish that you could have all seen, [laughs], the panic on John’s face as his brain moved super fast.

John: You can see the panic on my face if you join us at the Slate Live Culture Gabfest.

Craig: Oh yeah.

John: On October 8th at the Belasco Theater. There’s still some tickets left for that. So Craig, in the midst of his stomach flu this week, he emailed me to say like, man, is the Slate thing still on? I’ve got bad stomach flu, I don’t think I can make it.

Craig: For some reason I thought I hadn’t —

John: You’re a month off. You traveled though time.

Craig: I had it in my calendar that it was this week.

John: Yeah, it’s not. It’s October 8, so you can come join us for that.

Craig: October 8. Well, hopefully I won’t be throwing up and —

John: So there’s a link in the show notes for that.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So let’s get to these questions.

Craig: Throwing up is the worst.

John: I haven’t thrown up since sixth grade. I’m not sure I physically can. I’ve tried.

Craig: That’s amazing to me.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So you haven’t even gotten gastroenteritis or any food poisoning or anything?

John: I’ve gotten some food poisoning but it never came up that way.

Craig: Really?

John: Yeah.

Craig: But you didn’t feel even nauseated?

John: Yes, I felt incredibly nauseated and really wanted to throw up, I just can’t.

Craig: Oh, you’re one of those.

John: I actually can’t throw up. I can put my finger down my throat and do everything but I cannot actually get it to come up.

Craig: Really?

John: Yeah.

Craig: That’s the best proof we have yet that you’re not human. [laughs]

John: [laughs] Indeed.

Craig: You’re entirely synthetic.

John: All my little robot parts would come spilling out.

Craig: You’re just completely synthetic.

John: Yeah.

Craig: All right, let’s hit the questions, shall we?

John: All right.

Craig: All right.

John: Ryan from Chicago writes, “Given the trend towards sequels, why are stories based on existing material still being shoehorned into single features? Ender’s Game is a good recent example. The story is naturally broken into two parts, pre and post battle school, and the extra space would have given the filmmakers time to explore some of the more interesting aspects of the novel.”

Craig: Good question. There’s a risk reward analysis that has to go on here. You’ve got a book that theoretically you could tell in two movies. But what that means is that the first movie ends with sort of a cliffhangery thing.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: The ending is a big part of the experience of the movie. So Star Wars: A New Hope is the first of a trilogy but it ends. It’s got an ending. If that had been a book, people would have been like, why is this book ending so soon? Why isn’t there more book? Okay, I see, we’ll start it up again.

And Ender’s Game may have not had, you know, it says it’s naturally broken into two parts but does that first part end in a satisfying way?

John: Exactly.

Craig: And if it doesn’t, then basically you’re saying, come back for the rest of the story and people might go, no.

John: The last Harry Potter was split into two parts. And there was a lot of — tremendous amount of material was — the ending was sort of cliffhangery but you could sort of do it at that point because you already made seven movies, you’re going to come back for the eighth. You’re already that committed. I think my sort of two points.

First is, adaptations in general are really tough. You have to look at sort of, this is a book that works really well as a book. But what parts of this book are going to work really well as a movie? And they may not translate very directly. And so —

Craig: Right.

John: I’m not familiar with Ender’s Game and sort of how it worked as a book. But they made their choice about sort of what they thought people wanted to see from that, what they thought would work.

The second sort of big fundamental issue is you can’t make two movies until you make one movie. And so, to come into it saying like we have to make this as two movies, well good luck with that.

Craig: Right.

John: And so you have to pick the movie you’re going to make and you’re probably going to try to make one movie before you can plan the sequel.

Craig: Yeah, unless you’re dealing with an existing property that is already divided up.

John: Yeah, Lord of the Rings is a classic example.

Craig: Lord of the Rings. Now even in Lord of the Rings, the Weinsteins had the rights and did not want to roll the dice and say, yeah, we want to do it as three movies because you’re right, you’re green-lighting three movies, not one. And if the first one is a disaster, what are you going to do with the other two? Just not make them and they just never get continued? So eventually Peter Jackson left and went to New Line and New Line rolled the dice on that and obviously to great success, so.

John: Going back to Harry Potter, Steven Spielberg was originally interested in directing Harry Potter and so he was involved with the very early versions of it. Apparently, he really wanted to combine aspects of the first two books and J.K. Rowling said no.

Craig: Right.

John: It has to be the books as the books. And so that’s an example of like trying to rearrange things that you think would make a better movie and the author of the book say, no, it has to be this way.

Craig: It’s remarkable. You know, good for her.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I mean it’s tough to say no to Steven Spielberg and I suppose I would always in the back of my mind think, well, what would that have been like though with Steven Spielberg. One of the most remarkable directorial achievements I think ever in film history is Christopher Columbus’s casting of the first movie.

John: Incredible.

Craig: Incredible. I mean, to get three kids, each one of them perfectly right not only for the first movie but as human beings who would then be able to not fall apart [laughs], bloat, do drugs, go crazy, look the right way the whole way through. Incredible.

John: Yeah, I think you also have to, you know, credit Chris Columbus but also David Heyman, the Producer to —

Craig: True.

John: Sort of keeping that ship running and keeping it intact. Because beyond those first three kids, you look at like the Neville Longbottom we got. Look at all those kids —

Craig: Right, perfect.

John: You know, all those kids —

Craig: Perfect —

John: You know, Malfoys.

Craig: Yeah, Draco, perfect.

John: The adults, they kept coming through —

Craig: The adults. Perfect.

John: Even when they had to change out Dumbledore, seamless.

Craig: Seamless and perfect.

John: Yeah.

Craig: The casting was outrageously good top to bottom. They made no mistakes. And I also give Christopher Columbus a lot of credit for setting the look of the movies. Did he make the best of the Harry Potter movies?

John: No.

Craig: No. And I don’t think Christopher Columbus would say, “Yes, I’m, you know what, Alfonso Cuarón is, I’m just as good of a director.” No, some people are better than others. Alfonso Cuarón is one of the best ever —

John: Yeah.

Craig: At everything. I’ve never seen a bad Alfonso Cuarón movie. But Christopher Columbus did so much right in that first one, so much. And they were there supervising the initial music by John Williams. I mean, all these decisions that were made were right.

John: Yeah. Well, looking at a giant franchise like that, you really are starting like a company, a business that is going to go on — it’s like Apple Compute. And you have to make these fundamental decisions quite early on and sort of live with the ramifications of these decisions.

Craig: Live with them.

John: And in the case of these kids, they had to pick these kids and then they decided, you know what, we’re just going to open a school and we’re just basically have to educate these kids the whole time through because they’re basically always going to be working on these movies. So those kids, you know, they’re in school most of the day.

Craig: Right.

John: Especially, you know, having made Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in London, you get those kids for like two hours a day. And so it’s really tough to —

Craig: It’s hard to make those —

John: Make your schedule.

Craig: But my god, the way that they just, everything worked out for them, incredible. All right, next question. Wade writes… is this all Wade’s question?

John: Wade has a long question.

Craig: Woo-hoo. Well, I’ll kind of…yeah.

John: But I mean, leave in Wade’s question because I think it’s actually interesting.

Craig: Okay. Wade writes, “I’ve been a writer-director for over a decade now and I’ve done everything I can think to do. I went to film school, crewed for free, written nine spec scripts and polished them to death, picked up three options, two of which I did for free. And all of which died before they garnered a budget.

“I started a production company and produced two feature films using my own money. Several of my scripts are placed in the quarter finals of decent competitions. And my first feature took awards at both festivals that it aired at. So I’ve been given just enough hope over the years to affirm my suspicions that I’m not delusional, I’m actually good at what I do but not enough to really drive the point home.”

Okay, so that’s part one of the Wade question trilogy. Part two. “I recently saw a lead that a literary manager of note was looking for contest winners, so I sent my first blind query in years and got a nibble. But in the end, he passed, commenting that the script was engaging, had some pretty strong writing but he wasn’t passionate enough to fight or get the story made. My second feature that I produced myself on a shoestring budget is about to finish and hit the festival circuit and once again I’m reminded that I have no friends or ins or powerful allies in the industry. I have lots of friends in the industry that I deeply respect but they’re all scrappers like me fighting to make it happen. And my friends are getting younger as I’m about to cross into that magical 40s era of my career that you both have been chatting about of late.”

It’s funny that 40s is now a good thing.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Whereas when we started it was considered old and bad. Okay, the exciting conclusion of Wade’s question, “It’s possible that my second feature will open doors but it’s also possible it will meet a fate similar to my first film: get a little recognition but ultimately not sell. I’m trying to avoid the emotional wreck that would be made of me if that happens. I feel like I’m a little stuck. I don’t think I can afford to pour my family’s resources into a third produce-it-yourself project and have no prospects to introduce me to real managers or agents. How the eff does someone with no friends in the industry acquire,” I think he means effing, not offing, “effing representation in this industry?”

Oh my, well, what do you think, John?

John: The reason why I wanted to have his questions sort of in full is that I think it tells, you know, an interesting and full narrative about sort of people who I don’t think we hear from enough, which is that frustration of like, it’s not like somebody just wrote a script and like, eh, screw it, I’m not really a screenwriter. This is a person who’s been plugging at it for quite a long time and he’s had some success but hasn’t had enough success to sort of keep rolling.

And so this is a person who classically has been doing the kinds of things we talk about doing. It’s like he didn’t just write one script, he wrote nine scripts. He went off and made a feature. He went off and made another feature. And it’s still not all clicking. And I think sometimes we see the success stories and we see sort of like, oh these are the people who did all the right things and then it all worked out. And we don’t see the not success stories.

Craig: Right.

John: And so I wanted to sort of talk through Wade’s sort of real situation and sort of what the possibilities are here.

Craig: It’s frustrating to obviously to think about. And first of all, thank you for sharing all that with us. A couple of things come to mind. I’ll take the second one first. Ultimately, real friends in the industry is an overrated thing. I think you’re looking at that as the piece of the puzzle you’re missing and therefore that is the piece of the puzzle that is at fault here. And it’s not actually.

You said you placed in the quarter finals in many decent competitions. Well, if you had been a winner of one of those, you wouldn’t need these friends. Friends would come find you. That’s just sort of the way it goes, you know. You took awards at a couple of smaller festivals, which is fine, but if your film had gotten into one of the larger ones, again, you wouldn’t need the friends, they would come to you.

So the real question then is to evaluate what’s going on with the work and why, for instance, a literary manager said, yeah, you know, engaging, pretty strong writing, but he wasn’t passionate enough to fight to get the story made. Okay. I’m going to take you at your word that you’re pretty good. And I think that that’s actually quite possible. I’m not shining you on. I think a lot of people out there are pretty good.

The frustrating part about our business is that it’s not enough to be pretty good. You have to take a pretty good person and have them do pretty good writing on something that is an idea that fits them right. You know, like on American Idol they’re like, that song choice, it’s all about song choice because they can all sing and then it really is about song choice. Like what opens you up and shows your personality and is fun and interesting and effective. It may be that you’re writing the wrong things. That’s one possibility.

Then the other one, which is a little dimmer admittedly, is that pretty good isn’t good enough and that you have to be a lot good and that you have to be special and that you have to write things that people look at and say, okay, well, nobody else could write this.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I don’t know, what do you think, John?

John: I think there’s some aspect of luck that we’re not talking about maybe enough in the show which is that as I look back in my own career, I worked really, really hard, I wrote good things and people liked them. But there were certainly moments of which I had sort of good luck. And it’s very easy to imagine, having just seen Match Point, I’m going to use the metaphor that Woody Allen uses in that, which is that the tennis ball hits the top of the net and it falls over one way or it falls over the other way and the whole game is won or lost based on that.

Craig: Right.

John: And there are some situations which the right person read the script at the right time, it was just everything sort of worked out just right. And so Go was an example of that where like everyone had passed but one person said yes and that one person who said yes was just enough to get it sort of going and rolling. You haven’t had that luck. You haven’t had that lucky break.

But it’s also possible that, looking back, you haven’t created situations which you could be lucky. You haven’t met those people who could have sort of read that thing or you have been reluctant to show that thing or you haven’t reached out and read someone else’s script to sort of help them out. You haven’t sort of done all that work. But that’s all the past. And I think some of what I’m reading here is kind of that sunken cost fallacy which is that sense that in writing these nine spec scripts and making these things, you’ve built this identity for yourself as a writer-director and you are incredibly reluctant to give up on the very specific nature of that dream that you’ve had for a long time.

But if you were to be able to start fresh here now and say, “I can do anything I want from this moment forward,” what would you say? And if you want to use any of that stuff from before, that’s awesome. But you also have permission today to move forward and decide what is it you’ve most want to do right now because you’re not burdened by all those things in the past. And that can be a good thing, too.

Craig: Yeah, all of the things in the past are necessary to get you to wherever you are now. And either the cumulative experience is what ultimately synthesizes into something that people really love and gets you a lot of attention or it synthesizes into a decision that actually you want to try other things and that this is not how you want to keep going. That’s up to you obviously. That’s a very personal thing.

You know, I’m not a big luck guy but I am a probability guy. I’m a math guy. And I think that every script has a certain factor to it, a percentage factor, a probability that somebody will like it. And as we’ve said before, actually in a weird way, the odds are on our side because we just need one hit. That’s it. One hit. You swing a hundred times, if you connect once, you win. Just like on Go.

A lot of these things have, I assume, been seen by lots of people and read by lots of people and no one’s hit. That means that there’s, it’s just the factor there wasn’t happening. That it’s less about luck and more about the material, which by the way, this is why people cling to those stories. The, you know, Confederacy of Dunces story. Nobody wanted it, everyone hated it, I killed myself but then, Pulitzer Prize, you know. Okay, you know, once in a century but [laughs] —

John: Yeah. That story is notable because it is the exception and there’s a hundred other examples —

Craig: That’s right.

John: Ten thousand examples that didn’t happen.

Craig: Yeah, I think that your advice to give yourself the permission to start fresh is exactly what you need, is exactly what Wade needs, because regardless of how competent you’ve been till now, it’s not working.

John: Yeah. There’s a screenwriter we both know and I was talking with her and she said she had sort of hit a point in her career that she was getting really frustrated. And so things were getting made that she wanted to get made and she was having some issues and so she decided to take a real honest hard look at her writing. She read a lot of other people’s writing and she decided, you know what, my writing may not be as good as it was and I’m going to work on getting my writing better, which is one of the only times I actually heard a screenwriter say that. But it was a really honest self-identity questioning move on her part.

And she said it really worked, it really helped, and it really made her look at sort of what are the words she’s putting on the page, what are the stories she’s trying to tell, what are the choices she’s making. And in some ways, it is that break from who she was before and what she wants to be doing next.

Craig: Yeah, that’s exactly it.

John: Next question comes from M. Robert in Texas who writes, “Years back, a movie came out that was based on a very popular TV series. Needless to say, the movie did not do well. I’ve begun writing a movie, which I believe tells the story from a different perspective. Am I wasting my time without first getting permission from the creatures of the TV series itself?” Well, creators of the TV series itself. I think it would be great if one of the creatures of the TV series…

“Or do I need to have a screenplay written before I approach them about a second go at this franchise? This happens all the time with the Hulk movies. But at what point am I working for not because I need to gain permission to pursue my vision?”

Craig: This does not happen all the time. I don’t know what he’s talking about. The Hulk movies were not written on spec by people. They were commissioned very carefully.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You know, this question comes up a bunch.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Made me kind of curious about, first of all, like M. Robert, like is it monsieur Robert or like M. Robert? Anyway, I like with the way it opens, “Years back, a movie came out that was based on a very popular TV series. Needless to say, the movie did not do well.” Why is that needless to say? I think that’s needful to say actually.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s not like, oh those TV series, they never work out.

John: No.

Craig: No, nobody ever, The Addams Family movie, bomb.

John: Bomb, yeah.

Craig: Well, it did pretty well.

John: Yeah, it did.

Craig: I think that you aren’t going to get permission from the creators or creatures of the TV series itself. They don’t know you and there’s no reason for them to give you their precious intellectual property. You can absolutely write a spec screenplay based on this. Just be aware that you have now narrowed your potential buyers to one.

John: Yup.

Craig: One.

John: One.

Craig: [laughs]

John: And so there is a track record of writers doing this. And so there was like a spec Wonder Woman feature that sold. It didn’t get produced but it sold and sort of that happened. Aliens vs. Predator, there was like a spec script that got purchased at a certain point. Jon Spaihts’s movie that became Prometheus had some kind of thing like that. It wasn’t really directly based on it but it was sort of got pulled in. I don’t know what the whole history of that was.

Craig: Yeah, I think that was one of those where he wrote a script and then they incorporated it into the, but this happens. I mean, look, Kelly Marcel wrote Saving Mr. Banks.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Only one possible buyer.

John: That’s absolutely true. And that turned out pretty well for everyone concerned.

Craig: On the other hand, all these people that we’re talking about are professional writers with track records who have sold things before, they have agents, you know. It’s not like they’re saying, “I have a script here that I can only sell to one person, but first I have to figure out how to get that person to call me back.”

John: Well, realistically, if you’re writing the script, you’re probably not writing to get that specific movie made. You’re getting that script written because it could be a good script to read. And so ultimately you’re reading this as essentially a writing sample. You have to really go into it thinking like it would be great if Warner Bros wanted to make this thing that they own and control, the S.W.A.T. movie or whatever. But realistically, you’re writing this because you want to have a great writing sample.

Craig: Okay. Well, if you’re writing it for a great writing sample, then that’s a different deal because then really what you have to do is write something that’s creatively ambitious, something that turns a familiar icon on its ear. If you just write sort of a faithful adaption of something then —

John: No one’s going to care.

Craig: Nobody’s going to care.

John: This is actually an interesting trend because in television for many years it’s been common place for writers to write a spec episode of an existing TV show. So I want to write a one hour drama so I’m going to write a one hour, an episode of The Good Wife.

Craig: Right.

John: And that will be my writing sample.

Craig: Right.

John: And so writing, doing that as a feature is sort of a more ambitious step, but there is potentially, you know, clutter-busting in the sense of like, did you read that incredibly insane version of The A-Team that that guy wrote?

Craig: Yeah. Like if somebody wrote The A-Team and it was just The A-Team on their day off —

John: Yeah.

Craig: And this weird drama between the characters just to sort of say, look how, you know, post-modern and interesting I am.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I suppose, I mean, I remember years ago when I first started in Hollywood, there was a story of a guy that got a job on Northern Exposure because he wrote a Northern Exposure spec in iambic pentameter.

John: Great.

Craig: Which is like, okay, cool.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I mean, it’s like all these interesting things. But that’s not — I don’t think what’s going on here.

John: No.

Craig: I think that Monsieur Robert from Texas is saying, “Look, I know a better way to write Wild Wild West as a movie, so I’m going to do it.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: Well, basically, it’s not going to work. I don’t think…that does not sound like a good strategy to me.

John: Okay. Yeah.

Craig: Okay. Next we’ve got John Sherman The [TV Writer].

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: That’s not John Sherman comma the [TV writer]. His name is John Sherman The [TV Writer].

John: There’s many John Shermans, so this is The [TV Writer], John Sherman.

Craig: This is The [TV Writer], John Sherman.

John: Yeah.

Craig: John Sherman The [TV Writer] asks, “I was listening today about your contemplation of new t-shirt colors and, full disclosure, I’m a proud owner of one in rational blue. I’ve also suggested the color indebtedness red.” That’s not bad. I like that.

“This evening, I came across a tidbit aka titbit about Hanx Writer.

John: Hanx Writer.

Craig: Who’s Hanx Writer?

John: Tom Hanks has this iPad app that looks like a typewriter.

Craig: Really?

John: Yeah.

Craig: Tom Hanks?

John: Tom Hanks, the Tom Hanks.

Craig: But it’s spelled Hanx.

John: I know, it’s crazy.

Craig: Hanx, and I pronounced it honks like, because to me —

John: [German accent] Hanx Writer.

Craig: Well, because it was like, you know, Hans Blix.

John: Mm-hmm, totally.

Craig: Yeah, it’s just like, it was like Hans Blix smashed together.

John: Yeah.

Craig: “And then I started wondering, Craig, you love technology. John, you make technology. You are clearly both forward-thinking people even going so far as to openly questioning contemplate exploding the slave to pagination format of the screenplay itself. So why the typewriter? Don’t get wrong, I’m all for paying homage to the struggles of our forbearers, but that was for them. This is for us. Anyway, what I’m getting at is there are no better icon to represent us as writers today.”

What do you think, John?

John: Yeah, it’s interesting because like the new Scriptnotes t-shirt has still a typewriter on.

Craig: Yeah.

John: It’s sort of exploding typewriter, but it’s still a typewriter. I guess when we were thinking about the logo for Scriptnotes, we wanted some sort of icon and it’s very hard to find an icon that feels like a screenwriter because any writer could be a pen, but like what is that pen doing? That pen could be writing anything.

Craig: Right.

John: And so screenplays sort of came in a typewriter age. And so therefore —

Craig: Yeah.

John: We think about typewriters, but I’ve never typed a screenplay on a typewriter.

Craig: Yeah, it’s retro, bro.

John: It’s real retro.

Craig: Yeah, just chill out man, it’s retro. It’s cool.

John: Yeah, we’re typing a lot. He does point out that, “And more than the icon, I’m bothered by the use of the clickety-clacky typewriter sound that dominates the theme song for Showtime’s comedy series Episodes since the show is so much about present day writing and that sound is just an audio artifact. It is very much a needle scratch kind of thing.”

Craig: Right, it’s needle scratch.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Everybody still knows what needle scratch is.

John: Yeah.

Craig: My daughter has never once played a record on a turntable. She knows what the needle scratch means.

John: I’m sure I’ve said this on the podcast before, but my daughter is reading Curious George. And I said, what is that thing that Curious George is spinning on? She’s like, “I don’t know.” It’s a record player. Yeah.

Craig: Oh, I thought it was a pottery wheel.

John: Yeah. I watched Ghost this week also.

Craig: Oh, Ghost.

John: Have you seen Ghost lately?

Craig: Yeah, it’s great.

John: Yeah, it’s great. It’s so different than you think. Whoopi Goldberg just like in Aladdin how Robin Williams shows up 40 minutes in.

Craig: Right.

John: She shows up super late in the movie, but then she’s incredibly important in the movie.

Craig: Got an Oscar.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Maybe we should do that one.

John: Let’s do that one. I’m happy to do that one.

Craig: I mean Ghost is like — I mean Bruce Joel Rubin, woo, the Ghost and Jacob’s Ladder.

John: Yeah.

Craig: How about those two? Totally different movies. Both brilliant.

John: Yeah.

Craig: All right.

John: Right.

Craig: Put that one on the list.

John: Maisha in Toronto writes, “I’m an aspiring writer with absolutely no money. No exaggeration, I just withdrew the whole $2.25 from my checking account and the bus home is $3 and I’m at the Apple store right now waiting for my mom to pick me up.”

Craig: This is awesome.

John: “Worst, my computer is completely broken. I want to know if it’s theoretically possible to write with Fountain on your iPhone. My idea was to buy an Apple keyboard and download the Fountain app, but I want to know which program would you suggest writing in first.”

It’s Highland.

“Using a little iPhone, the keyboard might look really silly, but if it’s possible to do it, I will. Any suggestions on how to use Fountain with the iPhone or what programs to write in would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.”

So did your page just get broken?

Craig: No, no, no, I just feel so bad for Mysha.

John: Yeah. So Maisha is broke. So what’s interesting is that people get broke. And because you’re broke, I think we have this image of like a starving artist. And an artist is just like a painter who’s like, you know, giving money to draw paints, or it’s like drawing or busking. That’s all sort of romantic, but we think after this typewriter and computer discussion, we think that, well, you have to typewriter and a computer to be a screenwriter. It’s like, no, you really don’t. You have to have a piece of paper and a pen and some place where you can type up the things you’ve written.

Craig: Yeah.

John: I think if you want to type on your phone, you can do that. Apparently, Fifty Shades of Grey was written on a Blackberry.

Craig: Yeah, I believe that.

John: Yeah. So you can write in any medium you want to write in. So you can handwrite these things. You can type these things. You could type in notes on your phone if you had to.

Craig: She wrote the novel, Fifty Shades of Grey in a Blackberry?

John: I think that’s true. Kelly Marcel will be able to tell us.

Craig: That’s hysterical. [laughs]

John: I think it’s amazing. I think it’s just wonderful. I think it’s an indication of where we are in this time because like it feels feels so right.

Craig: I’m done. I’m done. I want to be flung off the planet. I want —

John: [laughs]

Craig: I don’t want —

John: Turn up the speed, Craig. We’re ready to go.

Craig: Centrifugal force no longer applies to me. I’m good.

John: Right.

Craig: I’m good. I could fire down space. You know, Maisha is Canadian.

John: Yeah.

Craig: She’s in Toronto. First of all, I didn’t know that Canada let people get this poor, but okay. One thought I had was this: even here in antisocialist United States, we have public libraries that have computers connected to the Internet. If you have public libraries there in Toronto with computers connected to the Internet that you are allowed to use for a span of time, WriterDuet is a free program, I mean at least the, you know, the limited version of it is free. It saves your stuff on the cloud and it’s a fully functioning screenplay formatter. And then when it’s all done, it exports out to, you know, all the classic formats.

So that could be something. Just go to a place with a public computer and just do your script in WriterDuet. You just log in and out, so nobody can read your stuff. That would work. And then you don’t have to buy a keyboard. I mean, like if you have and you’re saying, you have negative 75 cents.

John: Yes.

Craig: You’re so poor, you can’t afford to have nothing.

John: [laughs]

Craig: You can’t afford free things.

John: Yes.

Craig: Because you have negative 75 cents. So don’t buy anything. Don’t buy an Apple keyboard because you don’t have — you have negative 75 cents.

John: Yeah, don’t buy that keyboard. I will say specifically like you have an iPhone and like it’s hard to imagine sort of life without an iPhone, so I would say keep your iPhone. WriterDuet is a possibility. I think Google Docs might be a more —

Craig: Yeah, sure.

John: More immediate possibility because you’re going to be able to access that on your phone as well as on a public computer and sort of all your stuff can sort of be there in the cloud and it’s essentially going to be free. You can write in Fountain, on anything that can like generate letters, you can write in Fountain on.

Craig: Right.

John: So you can write that in Google Docs.

Craig: I feel like it’s so hard to write on a small factor device.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It just, it’s just hard, you know. There is something about the thumbs of it all and not doing a proper keyboard, it’s just —

John: The other thing I would say is people have this sense that I have to buy something in order to do something or I have to, you know, I have to have all this gear, this accoutrement. The same thing when people have a baby, they always think like, oh, I need to go Babies R Us and buy all these things.

Craig: First baby.

John: First baby. First baby, they think that.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And the second baby, they don’t think that.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And second baby, you realize like, god, just borrow stuff from other people who already have stuff. And so someone in your life Mysha probably has a keyboard you can use or honestly just like a crappy old computer you can use because you don’t need any kind of good computer to be able to write the screenplay.

Craig: The crap we bought when my son was born and then when my daughter was born we were like —

John: Did you have heated baby wipes? That’s the indulgence.

Craig: I actually put my foot down on that one. I was like, no. No heated baby wipes. We didn’t have that. But we did have like all these fancy like crib bumpers and like 14 different mobiles. In the end, you don’t need any of that stuff, you know.

John: You don’t.

Craig: All of the warm, the lights and the things and the baloney.

John: It’s all baloney.

Craig: Baloney. You know what kids like? Whatever is within their hand’s reach and then they shove it in their mouth.

John: That’s great. A block, they love that.

Craig: Yeah.

John: A good wooden block.

Craig: Wooden block.

John: The only thing that I’ve always constantly been told is like, oh, you can’t get that second hand is a car seat.

Craig: I know.

John: But I’m not sure I entirely totally believe that either because like last year’s car seat was —

Craig: I know because, technically you’re like, “You don’t know if it was compromised in a crash.” Like, I kind of do know.

John: I kind of do know.

Craig: And I mean I bought a new, well, the other thing was that between the time my son was born and my daughter was born, they had kind of perfected that latch system.

John: Yeah, the latch systems are so much better.

Craig: So I had to get a new one anyway just because the latch system is great. I mean, putting in that first car seat was —

John: Yeah.

Craig: I mean —

John: It’s such a horrible like sitcom cliché, but it’s actually incredibly hard.

Craig: It’s hard.

John: And you’re always scraping your fingers and doing just awful things.

Craig: The seat is designed… — Now, that I’m telling you, somebody comes along and does like a proper design of a car seat.

John: Like the Nest people, the Nest people do a proper car seat.

Craig: Yes, they will make a ton of money because car seats are the — everybody with a kid must have one and they are crap. They’re crap, all of them.

John: Yeah.

Craig: They’re ugly and they’ve got scrappy bits and then the prices.

John: I know it’s expensive. The one other bit of car seat advice I’ll give because this is really a podcast about car seats —

Craig: Yeah, car seats and —

John: And child safety.

Craig: Yeah.

John: If you’re traveling some place with a kid who’s still in a car seat, you get this roller thing that attaches to the car seat and so you can push the kid through the airport. So they basically can sit in their own thing —

Craig: Yeah, we had that thing.

John: It’s a wheely thing. It’s just —

Craig: Yeah, that thing is pretty cool.

John: The best.

Craig: But, you know, I don’t have to worry about that now because my kids walk.

John: Ah, you’ve got walking children.

Craig: Both of my kids have braces.

John: Yeah. That’s nice, well done.

Craig: How about that?

John: You’re bragging there.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Because I can afford braces.

John: “I have braces for both of my kids.”

Craig: Both of my kids have braces.

John: They don’t have to share. They each have their own braces.

Craig: But no, I’m saying that’s how old my kids are now. They’re both braces age.

John: Yeah. Oh.

Craig: Sick. Okay, let’s see. Last but not least, we’ve got Chris from LA writing, “I have a couple of related questions I was wondering if you guys could help me with.” We will see.

“I have a script that is being optioned by a producer with a director attached that everyone seems to agree has good commercial potential if done right. Since this is all happening this week, there is no financing yet. But we are looking to shoot it in the $500,000 to $1 million range. Since I don’t have an agent, lawyer or manager…” And I’m already getting nervous…

“It’s up to me to determine the conditions of my deal with them.” [laughs] I’m sorry, I’m not laughing at you, although, technically, I’m in fact laughing at you.

“So here are my questions. One, is it appropriate for a screenwriter to ask for a producing credit if they’re going to be heavily involved in development and production? If so, is there a certain credit that’s most appropriate. I want to stay involved in production for all the reasons you would think.”

Let’s see. “Producing credits, I’ve been told, can be pretty arbitrary and I don’t expect full credit as producer, but would asking for a co-producer or associate producer would be acceptable or is that taboo if you’re already the credited writer? What percentage of backend is appropriate to ask for? Since this is a low-budget project, I think it’s smarter to take a minimum fee upfront — I’m not entirely sure what that is in a project this size — and have some stake in the finished product.”

This question is a bit like, look, I’m not a doctor, but I’ve opened myself up.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Now, can I take out my spleen? Do I need the spleen? Do I clamp the spleen off? Also, there is blood pooling. Do I sup up the blood? Or is it good that it’s pooling? What do you think?

John: So what I think, Craig, is that the phrase to underline here is $500,000 to $1 million range. And that’s a smaller movie than you or I have actually ever made. And so —

Craig: I made one that was that small.

John: You made one that small?

Craig: Yeah.

John: Okay. So at that level, it’s not unheard of that this person doesn’t have a writer’s agent or a manager. This person should have a lawyer to go through these things.

Craig: Yes.

John: And the lawyer, and you’re going to pay a lawyer to go through this thing and sort of — and you want the lawyer who does this deal all the time because this is a very specific kind of movie you’re making. And the person that you hire, she will know what is sort of typical, what’s possible and will make sure that everything gets done, the to the degree it needs to get done.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So I can answer some of your questions. Yes, it’s appropriate to get a producer credit if you’re going to be involved in the production of the movie. On Go, I was as a co-producer. Co-producer, associate producer, that’s good and fine. You could be a producer-producer if you’re actually producing the movie.

Craig: I would avoid associate producer because on films that really —

John: It really means post, I think. I think it means post production. What do you think it means?

Craig: Oh to me, it means sort of the producer’s main assistant.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So associate producer is not a great credit for you as the screenwriter.

John: I would agree.

Craig: Yeah. No, you can ask for producing credits of course. And then in terms of backend versus upfront fees, that is a very complicated situation. Backend just doesn’t mean anything.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s all about the definition of backend.

John: So classically, the tiny movie that actually had a backend that was meaningful is The Blair Witch Project.

Craig: Right.

John: And the people who were, you know, the actors who were involved with that backend on that did tremendously well because of this. It was actually genuinely a profitable movie. Your movie will not be profitable, almost no chance that your movie will classically turn a profit, but that’s okay.

Craig: Right. That’s not what it’s about.

John: That’s okay. The goal is that you’re going to be able to make a movie. So Chris and this question is probably a month old, so maybe well past this point.

Craig: Right.

John: But you need to find a lawyer who does this kind of thing a lot.

Craig: Absolutely.

John: And so what I might look for is if you’re going through the trades and you’re looking for little tiny movies that sold places, look for who negotiated those deals. That might be a person and when you call or email that person just like, hey, I have a movie being set up with this production company that’s a known production company. I really need someone to figure out my deal for me.

Craig: Yeah.

John: That’s how you approach that.

Craig: The other way to go is to talk to your director and say, “Hey listen, I need a lawyer to do my stuff. Is there somebody at your lawyer’s firm who would take me on?” You must have a lawyer to do this. You cannot do this on your own. It’s foolishness.

John: Yeah.

Craig: True foolishness.

John: I mean don’t spend more money that you’re going to make on the movie for your lawyer. Clearly, you have to set some limits there.

Craig: You won’t need to. It’s not rocket science. It will take them two or three hours. And you should not have a principal at the firm. Get a fairly young lawyer who understands basically what the deal is and maybe you’ll end up spending $1,000 or something.

John: Yeah. And the reason why they hopefully will want to make your deal is because they want you as a client from this point forward.

Craig: Right, exactly. That’s how it works.

John: The other thing I’ll say is that movies of this scale, you don’t think of them as being WGA movies, but they totally can be WGA movies.

Craig: Yes.

John: And so another place that you should take a look at is the Indie deal that the WGA has.

Craig: The low budget agreement.

John: And so the low budget agreement should be able to cover this kind of movie.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And with this kind of movie, there may be options which they don’t pay your money upfront. They could pay your money in the backend. But they can give you credit protections. They can give you things like potentially residuals or health for this project which would otherwise seem impossible.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So definitely worth looking at whether this movie can be done under the low budget agreement.

Craig: Agreed. Agreed. Agreed.

John: Cool. It is time for One Cool Things.

Mine this week is a website that I fell into a great click hole for this last week. Every Insanely Mystifying Paradox in Physics: A Complete List.

Craig: Oh, neat.

John: And so basically it’s just a webpage that has a link to all the Wikipedia articles about the crazy sort of paradoxes. And so we talked about Fermi’s Paradox on the show before which is why we don’t see evidence of alien cultures when they should be out there, but they’re not.

Craig: Right.

John: There should be clearly tremendous number of alien cultures, but we don’t see them. So there’s reasons why we may not be seeing them. But the other paradox is a lot of them involve time travel, so obviously it’s sort of the father paradox, the grandfather paradox, the twins paradox.

But some of them are, and Schrödinger’s cat. But some of them are like actually just completely new to me. And so —

Craig: Give me a new one.

John: What was one of the most recent new ones? Bell’s theorem which is a quantum physics, quantum physics violates other things that, you know, sort of —

Craig: Yeah, I love it.

John: Yeah. And so it is really challenging in the sense that a lot of these also involve sort of time zero in the sense that all of our equations, they should be able to work the other way around. And yet some of them can’t work the other way around. And so what is it and so why do we always perceive time as moving forward when it really could move the other way as well? Second law of thermodynamics should, you know, indicate the direction time zero, yet things go crazy.

Craig: It’s so sick. The universe is so sick.

John: Well, it’s also, we may fundamentally be asking the wrong questions. We have this perception —

Craig: We don’t get it.

John: Yeah.

Craig: We just don’t get it. We know we can’t see it.

John: We don’t, we’re smart enough to realize like, oh the sun is in the center of the universe, and yet there may be some fundamental things that we’re just like not getting and we may not really have the mental capacity to figure them out.

Craig: Well, my favorite one is the whole this is a hologram.

John: Yeah, and how do you prove it?

Craig: We are essentially a computer simulation. I believe that.

John: My daughter who’s nine, she’s going to bed, and she’s like, “Papa, I really think that maybe this is all like a computer game and that we’re all just living in it and that we’re not real.”

Craig: Yeah.

John: And I’m like, well, good night.

Craig: There you go. That’s right.

John: That’s right.

Craig: That’s right.

John: That’s right. Click.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But the game has rules.

John: The game seems to have rules.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Yeah. But I mean sometimes the rules seem to be violated. And that that’s what this website is about, so these sort of questions like, oh yes, but these things don’t quite make sense.

Craig: If we were a computer program and let’s say things got upgraded, we would never know.

John: No.

Craig: And it would happen in the blink of an eye.

John: Yeah.

Craig: We would literally never know that the color, like I look at this table in front of us and it’s yellow.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: But yesterday, it could have appeared a totally different way to me. I may not have even existed yesterday.

John: No.

Craig: All my memories, all of them. Wow.

John: Yeah, so there’s another thing that sort of propagated through a couple of months ago which is arguing that rationally we probably are a computer simulation. And the computers are simulating us in order to sort of perfect their own programming. And so that we’re basically constantly being wiped and sort of restarted so that the computer intelligence can become more intelligent.

Craig: I’m okay with that. It’s fine.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s better than…I’m just glad that we’re living in this stage of the software as opposed to like the Middle Ages.

John: Mm-hmm. Well, if the Middle Ages happened, Craig?

Craig: Yeah.

John: We have no idea the Middle Ages happened.

Craig: Correct. Obviously, it couldn’t have happened. That’s just ridiculous.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Well, my One Cool Things are so much more mundane, which is, this is a great contrast this week. So John, are you a big shaver? You’re not as much of a shaver —

John: I don’t grow a big beard.

Craig: You don’t grow a big beard. So, I have my Mediterranean blood and I grow a big beard, but I shave it. I don’t like having a beard. It gets super itchy.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So I shave, but I hate shaving. It’s annoying. The worst way to shave your face is with an electric razor. That’s just dumb. I don’t understand people who use electric razors. They hate themselves and the way they look as far I’m concerned.

John: [laughs]

Craig: That should be like Gillette’s shaver. They’re motto should be, “You hate yourself and the way you look.” Okay. But Gillette makes very good razors, like proper razors. And so, there’s the thing like they keep adding razors. Soon there will be like 20 razors.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And every time they come up with some big new thing, I’m like, shut up. And then I use it. And it’s like, oh it’s better. So this new one, the Gillette FlexBall, it’s so dumb because it’s just basically —

John: Oh yeah, I’ve seen the ads for it.

Craig: It rocks back and forth.

John: It’s like the Dyson Vacuum cleaner.

Craig: Correct. So they put it on little pivot head. And it doesn’t pivot in all directions. It only pivots left and right. But then the head will pivot up and down. So effectively, it’s pivoting in a certain rotational range. It’s better.

John: I’m sorry.

Craig: No, it’s better. You know, I used to get cut under my chin every time.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Now I don’t. So Gillette FlexBall razor is a very good product. Along with that, is a very cheap product and one of the greatest things available to any man and woman.

John: Right.

Craig: Because women shave their legs and armpits and so forth. And so forth.

John: And so forth.

Craig: A styptic pencil.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Everyone, every adult should own a styptic pencil. I don’t know what’s in styptic pencils. I know that I have one that I’ve had — I think I got it in college. It’s like a stalagmite.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I think I paid $0.89 for it. So the styptic pencil business to me is the worst possible business because you make a product, you sell it for a dollar.

John: And no one ever needs it again.

Craig: And no one ever buys it again.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But it essentially cauterizes any small cuts on your body within seconds. And it’s so useful.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You’re running at the door and you’ve got 14 —

John: There’s the toilet paper stuck to your face.

Craig: Well, I don’t even do the toilet paper.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I just take out my old crusty like —

John: Dab yourself with it.

Craig: I mean I just dab, dab, dab. And you feel it burn. And the burn is wonderful and then you’re good to go.

John: I’m looking up what is a styptic pencil made of because I want to know what the elemental —

Craig: I mean it seems like it’s some sort of salt. It’s like a crusty salt.

John: Yeah, what they are and how to use them. So it’s any short medicated stick generally made of a powdered crystal from an alum block. So it’s alum, so like pickling. You’re pickling your face.

Craig: That’s right.

John: Yeah, that’s fair.

Craig: Yeah.

John: It’s a reasonable choice.

Craig: Face pickling.

John: Now, do you have to shave with shaving cream or can you just wet, dry, wet, whatever?

Craig: No, I shave with shaving cream.

John: Yeah, see I don’t even need to do that.

Craig: Wow.

John: I can literally just like, I can be in the shower and like [slip, slip, slip], I’m done.

Craig: You shave like the way I shaved when I was 12.

John: Yeah, exactly.

Craig: Right.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Oh, here’s a hair. But I can see, you have like a little mustache.

John: Well, that’s three days of me not shaving.

Craig: Are you kidding me?

John: Yeah.

Craig: I hate you.

John: Yeah. I can’t grow a beard though, so —

Craig: This right here is 50 minutes of me not shaving. Yeah, I shaved 50 minutes ago.

John: That’s our whole show this week. This is quick and easy.

Craig: I mean that was fun.

John: Yeah. Scriptnotes is produced by Stuart Friedel.

Craig: Boo.

John: It’s edited by Matthew Chilelli.

Craig: Yahoo!

John: If you have a question for Craig or me, you can write to Little short questions are great on Twitter.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Craig is @clmazin and I’m @johnaugust. If you would like a Scriptnotes t-shirt, you should go to and see the t-shirt designs there. It’s a Sons of Anarchy thing that Craig seems to like and I like a lot too. You only have until September 30th, so don’t dally on those.

If you would like to join us for the Slate Live Culture Gabfest, you should come. And that is happening in Los Angeles. It’s downtown. And you can find the date and all the details if you click through the show notes here. That would be fun.

And finally, if you would like to have a dirty episode of Scriptnotes, you should become a premium subscriber. You can go to and that is where you can log in, and it’s $1.99 a month, you get all the back episodes.

You can find us on iTunes. Just search for Scriptnotes. While you’re there, subscribe and you can leave us a comment. We love to read your comments.

Craig: How are those comments going by the way?

John: They’re going well. You know what, we have a little time. Let’s pull up some iTunes here and see what people have written. Cory Orion wrote, “Fantastic. Five stars. The podcast is the best. Best investment of my time. Best investment of my money in their subscription app.”

Craig: Well, this guy obviously loves it.

John: This guy loves it. So we talked about sort of if we hit a thousand premium subscribers —

Craig: Right.

John: We’re going to do the dirty show.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And that so far, we’re rocketing up.

Craig: Oh really?

John: So I think we’re going to have to do the dirty show pretty quick.

Craig: People love dirtiness so much that they’re now — now, they — we knew this.

John: Yeah.

Craig: We knew this would happen.

John: So if you would like to become a premium subscriber, you’ll get some occasional bonus episodes including one from last week. So the bonus episode from last week is the overtime stuff from the Aline show.

Craig: Oh, it was pretty funny.

John: It was pretty good.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Yeah. I listened to that.

Craig: Drunken chit chat.

John: Yeah. Drunken chitchat about all sort of things. Spanx.

Craig: Spanx.

John: And D&D.

Craig: And people are like cancel subscription.

John: Cancel subscription.

Craig: Cancel and cancel and cancel. Spanx and D&D. Oh, those go together.

John: But the premium subscribers get all the back episodes, back to episode one which is fun. So you can hear it back when we didn’t know what we were doing.

Craig: Right, according to Aline we didn’t know what we were doing

John: We had no idea what we were doing.

Craig: Right. The boss of the podcast.

John: Oh lord.

Craig: What’s with her?

John: What’s with her? Hi Aline, we love you. You scare us.

Craig: Yeah. Dude, now you say this. Now you talk. Hey.

John: Hey.

Craig: Hey.

John: Hey.

Craig: Hey. We know what we’re doing.

John: Other bonus things, like we’ll have this interview Simon Kinberg coming up. So there’s other stuff on there.

Dan Jammon writes about episode 153, “Long time listener. As if I didn’t love you enough, your Björk digression from this particular episode had my howling in the gym with delight. Such a pleasure to hear you both share your thoughts and your mutually exquisite taste confirmed yet again. This time in a manner very close to this listener’s heart. To prove I listened, I decided to share this comment with you on iTunes as mojo rather than tagging you both on Twitter. Much love to both of you from the Windy City.

Craig: What did we say about Björk?

John: I don’t remember.

Craig: Human behavior.

John: Yeah, [hums].

Craig: Yeah. She’s very strange. [hums] It’s probably what we did last time.

John: Yeah.

Craig: [humming] God, I love that video. And it was like a big, it was a big bear. Wasn’t the bear eating somebody? Eh, we already did this digression.

John: “Craig Mazin is super cool, but I find John August really intimidating, like a high school principal. That said, it’s great to hear two working writers tell war stories in such an intelligent, informative, and passionate way. There is no show that comes close to these guys. I learn something every time I listen.”

Craig: [laughs] A high school principal.

John: Oh no, that’s fine. Someone’s got to make sure the school runs properly.

Craig: That’s right. I appreciate your comment. It will be filed. Please, now, back to class.

John: Yes.

Craig: Back to class. Principals are always telling you to go back to class.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You are a little bit like, I can see that. You would be an excellent high school principal.

John: I’d be an excellent high school principal.

Craig: I would be the worst high school principal.

John: I think you’d be really good. I think —

Craig: Oh really? I think I would be dragged in front of the school board on a weekly basis. “Did you say this?” Yes.

John: Yes.

Craig: Yes. “You called this kid an idiot?” He was. He’s an idiot.

John: I mean school counselors can call a kid an idiot, cant they?

Craig: I don’t think they’re allowed. I don’t think you’re allowed to call a kid an idiot.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Particularly the school counselors. Now we know you’d make the worst school counselor ever. You think your job is to belittle them. They come in and they’re like,” I’m being bullied and picked on.” Well, it’s because you’re an idiot.

John: You can say that you made an idiotic choice.

Craig: Yes. [laughs] But still that’s the worst job of being school counselor ever. So —

John: You made an idiotic choice.

Craig: And then you just look at them.

John: To throw that rock at the child.

Craig: You look at them totally calmly with sort of dead eyes. “Well, you’ve made an idiotic choice.” “Wah-wah, I want to transfer.”

John: Yeah, I’m now like Gotham villain. I’m the principal.

Craig: The principal. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s right. You’re the principal. You’re Batman’s newest foe.

John: Craig, thank you very much for a fun podcast.

Craig: Thank you, John.

John: Bye.