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

Craig, huge news on my side. I am finally buying a new computer.

Craig: Oh, thank god. So, are you going to get the 5k iMac?

John: I’m going to get the 5k iMac.

Craig: Love it.

John: And so I’ve been looking at the same monitor for the last eight years.

Craig: Wow.

John: Had this monitor for eight years, which is a very long time. And I’ve had different computers that have been driving it, but I’ve always been really far behind because I I’ve always thought like, oh well, there’s going to be the computer that’s just right for it.

So, usually I get castoffs from Ryan Nelson who is a designer who needs a much better computer because he’s doing stuff that needs a good computer.

Craig: Right.

John: But finally I’ll have a good computer.

Craig: So, have you been like on a MacBook and a Cinema Display?

John: Yeah, I’ve been on an old MacBook Pro and then a Cinema Display. I have a 30-inch Cinema Display which there is just the one year they made that.

Craig: That’s big. Yeah, it’s huge.

John: It’s huge, but it’s nice. It’s not especially sharp anymore.

Craig: Right. Plus I don’t think it was Thunderbolt and all that stuff.

John: No, none of that.

Craig: I assume that you updated to Yosemite.

John: I did.

Craig: As did I. And I’m so far very pleased. But the one thing I noticed is that, so I have the most recent MacBook Pro, and a fairly recent 27-inch Cinema Display, so it is Thunderbolt and all the rest. But it’s not Retina or —

John: And you notice it.

Craig: Okay, I do notice it. It’s a huge difference.

John: Yeah. So the fonts in Yosemite are Helvetica Neue and it looks really good on Retina and looks really not so great on things that aren’t Retina. So, I said that I updated to Yosemite, but I’ve only been using Yosemite in the betas on my 11-inch MacBook Air. And that has a sharp enough screen that it looks pretty good.

Craig: Yeah. Well, not so much here. Which is okay, because I split my time between — usually when I’m on the Cinema Display it’s because I’m writing and Fade In looks very nice on it, although I have noticed that when I export to PDF, and I don’t know if it’s just a function of the way Courier Prime is or all fonts are, but now when I export in PDF on the Cinema Display the printed Courier Prime just doesn’t look very good. It’s like jaggy.

John: Well that’s not good.

Craig: No.

John: It should look great. And so —

Craig: I know. It’s Yosemite.

John: It’s that constant challenge. Trying to balance the representation of what the computer knows the thing looks like to itself and how it’s portraying it on the screen are very difficult things. And that’s why these 5k displays have very custom circuitry to hopefully make things look as good as they possibly can.

Craig: Well, the bummer for me is I don’t want to get an iMac. I like being completely mobile. So, what I guess I’m waiting for now and I presume is inevitable is a 5k Cinema Display.

John: Yes. And those will happen. The challenge is that the actual bandwidth required to get from your computer to that display is huge. And so even Thunderbolt 2 by itself won’t be able to power that.

Craig: Ooh.

John: It will have to be a Thunderbolt 3, which doesn’t exist. So, it could be a little while to wait. I’m sorry.

Craig: But is 5k equivalent to Retina, or better than Retina?

John: They’re calling that Retina. Retina is really just I think a term of art for anything that has dots so small that you could not possibly see them.

Craig: Right. And so I don’t even know what the Retina resolution is, but —

John: It’s sharper than what you’ve got.

Craig: Yeah, it’s sharper than what I’ve got on the Cinema Display. But everything looks fantastic on the MacBook Pro screen, which is Retina Display. And by and large I think design wise this is pretty great. I love it.

John: Yeah. The MacBooks are fantastic, but I love having a big screen, so I’m looking forward to having this and having a nice sharp display.

Craig: Well, congrats.

John: Thank you very much. It is my Tesla. So, I’m excited to finally get it.

Craig: You know, I am getting the —

John: Yes, everyone on the podcast knows that you’re getting the new Tesla. Because you have to be able to accelerate to, what was it, zero to 60 in three seconds or something?

Craig: 3.2 seconds.

John: That’s just absurd.

Craig: That’s super car speed. It’s got 691 horsepower. And I just like the idea that I have that many horses. I’m like a horse magnet.

John: I love that we talk about things in horsepower.

Craig: Well, of course we do.

John: Of course we do.

Craig: Everything should be in terms of horsepower. Like computers we shouldn’t talk about gigahertz or processing or clock speed. We should just talk about how many clerks the computer is duplicating. Like, the clerks from Brazil with the little visors.

John: That’s what you need.

Craig: Like my current MacBook Pro is four billion clerks.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: Yeah.

John: That’s good. Today on the podcast we are going to be talking about superhero scheduling and the 31 superhero movies that slated for this next decade, which is absurd. Not even decade, like seven years.

Craig: I know.

John: We’re going to talk about this great article about copyright. We are going to talk about developing a pitch. And we’re going to look at three —

Craig: Developers, developers, developers. [laughs]

John: Oh, god, you’re going to make me never use the word developer again, Craig.

Craig: Developers. Developers. Developers.

John: Let’s look at synonyms. So, figuring out a pitch. Perfecting it. I don’t know.

Craig: Rowing.

John: If our listeners have suggestions for words they can use other than develop, so that Craig never does that again —

Craig: Developers, developers, developers.

John: And we’ll be looking at three Three Page Challenges from our listeners.

Craig: Do you ever listen, this is going to shock you, but I did listen to a podcast once.

John: Oh my gosh. I’m standing up, but still I’m sitting down.

Craig: I think it’s called Comedy Bang Bang. It’s the Auckerman, Scott Auckerman, is that right? And they have this ongoing thing, like years ago whenever they started it, whenever somebody would say my — they had a whole thing about how Borat goes “My wife” and now it’s their thing. Whenever somebody is on their show and they happen to mention the phrase “My wife,” one or more of them will just quietly go, “My wife.” And somebody made a super cut of all the times it happened and it’s one of those things like The Simpsons rake gag that just gets funnier and funnier because it never stops.

And I think maybe developers is our “My wife.”

John: “My wife.” Either that or it’s “Uh-huh.” My tacit thing. It’s interesting, this last week I was at Singleton and we were talking about podcasts. A lot of people there make podcasts. And we were talking about some people have these long monologues. And it’s that choice of whether you say the Uh-huhs or you just leave it out and just let the person monologue for like five minutes.

Craig: Oh.

John: And I’ve always done the Uh-huhs because it just makes it clear that I’m actually paying attention and listening.

Craig: Have you ever spoken with somebody that does this, they’ll keep saying, “Right, right, right, right,” as you talk?

John: So many development executives do that.

Craig: Right, right, right. Right.

John: Right. I’m checking in with you, yup, I’m with you, I’m with you.

Craig: Right. Right. Right. Yeah, and they don’t know they’re doing it. I can tell they don’t know they’re doing it. It’s the weird — and it’s the most annoying thing.

John: It’s almost the Tom Cruise like constant eye contact thing, where it’s just like, oh, you’re freaking me out. You’re just too present in this situation.

Craig: You’re too present. Exactly. I need you to ignore me just a little bit.

John: Just back off just a little bit and then I’m good.

Craig: Let your mind wander.

John: Right.

Craig: Right.

John: Follow up. This week, and really our next episode, is the Austin Film Festival. So, there’s two things which Scriptnotes listeners may want to participate in. First off, we’re doing a Three Page Challenge, and these entries will all be the second rounders from the Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition.

Craig will not be there, but I will be there with Franklin Leonard of the Black List, and Ilyse McKimmie from Sundance Labs. So, they will be up on stage with me. And I picked them because I think they’re going to be great, because they’re reading a lot of scripts and they’re sort of gatekeepers to their respective domains. And I want to talk with them about sort of what they see as they start reading scripts and what their experience is like. And so I think that will be a fun time.

Craig: I think that’s great. And, you know, now that you mention it, and I’m so sorry I’m missing it, but for the next time we do something like this together with the Three Page Challenge, we should really think about getting, routinely getting an executive or producer up there, because it is so useful to hear that perspective from them.

John: It should be fun, so I’m looking forward to that. That will be Friday at 9am if you’re coming to the Austin Film Festival. It’s an early session.

Craig: Early, yes. People will be hung over for that.

John: They will be. I will not be.

Craig: Yeah you will.

John: And then we’re doing Scriptnotes Live on Saturday at 12:30pm. Susannah Grant will be my co-host.

Craig: So great.

John: I’m excited about that.

Craig: So great.

John: And our theme is all about writer-directors. And weirdly like everyone on stage I think will be a writer-director. So, I’ve written-directed, so has Susannah. We’ll have Richard Kelly. We’ll have Peter Gould from Breaking Bad.

Craig: Very cool.

John: And Cary Fukunaga, just announced.

Craig: I mean, how did you? You’re just rubbing my face in it now.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Can you please tell Mr. Cary Fukunaga how much of a fan I am?

John: He’s a genius. And I actually met him at the Sundance Labs, with Ilyse McKimmie, many years ago when he was doing Sin Nombre. And I didn’t work with him there, but he was clearly one of those, oh, you’re a super talented person. And I’m so happy when my predictions prove correct.

Craig: It’s amazing. And Peter Gould really is, sometimes TV directors don’t get their due. And he certainly deserves because obviously he was a writer on what I believe is the greatest television show in history, but also a director of that show as well. And you can’t go wrong with Richard Kelly. Please, for those of you at Austin, go see this, if only to look into the unfathomable bottomless cruel eyes of Richard Kelly. Stare into the abyss of Richard Kelly and tell me if it does not stare back into you.

John: Indeed. There will also be special guests that I’m not allowed to announce, but I think you will enjoy some of these other people who are going to come to the show. So, please come to that. That’s 12:30 on Saturday at the Austin Film Festival.

Craig: That’s great. That’s a must do. I don’t care what else is going on. If you’re going to Austin and you’re going to be there, and I’m so sorry I won’t be there this time. This time only. I’ll be back next year. But Saturday at 12:30. If you don’t go to this, you’re just dumb.

John: Yup.

Craig: Stupid.

John: So, a little protocol. If you see me at the Austin Film Festival, it is totally fine to say, “Oh, hello, hi.” But know that I may be running from one place to another, so if I am brief with you it’s only generally because I’m trying to move from one facility to another facility and things are sort of spread all out.

But if you do see me, and you see me in a moment where I have some time, I will have on my person this thing called Writer Emergency which is a website you can go to. It’s this thing we’ve been working on for four years. And I actually have a physical thing I can show you. So, if you would like to see it, I will show you this small pack of suggestions that I will be carrying with me. Because we’re sort of beta testing them, so I need to show it to actual writers.

So, if you see me at Austin, I will have it on my person.

Craig: I was quite sure that you were going to say if you see me, feel free to talk to me, but do not touch.

John: Yeah. Do not touch. Do not touch me. Just maintain a safe distance.

Craig: Do not touch John August.

John: If you’re wearing a Scriptnotes t-shirt, I will probably notice that. So, that’s a thing you might do.

Craig: Yeah.

John: My trainer today was wearing a Scriptnotes t-shirt. It was the first time I’d seen one in the wild, and I’ve got to say it looked really good. Now, as we’re recording this, Craig, you just said that you have not actually physically gotten yours because you live out in the hinterlands, but everyone else, if by the end of this next week you have not gotten your thing, something is wrong and it’s probably Stuart’s fault. So, you should probably email and let Stuart figure this out.

Craig: Now I’m hoping I don’t get it because I want Stuart to suffer.

John: I think we did a really good job shipping everything out. We’ve gotten much better at it. But as we were shipping them out we realized, wow, there is one Highland t-shirt, like one person ordered a small Highland t-shirt, and we were out of small Highland t-shirts. And we realized like after we’d already gone to the post office we put someone who had ordered XXL and we sent them a small.

Craig: Ooh, no!

John: So, fortunately our wonderful listeners, he emailed us and so we were able to get that t-shirt back and give it to the right person.

Craig: Oh good. Good. Good. Good. Because, wearing a too-big t-shirt is perfectly, but a too-small t-shirt.

John: That would just not be good. No.

Craig: It’s no good. It’s no good. It shows all the soft squishy parts.

John: Yeah. Unless you’re wearing Spanx, which is something we learned about from Aline.

Craig: Man Spanx.

John: Man Spanx. People who may need Man Spanx are all of the actors who are going to be in all the superhero movies that have now been set for the next seven years.

Craig: Are you starring in Transition Man? [laughs]

John: Oh, I’m Transition Man. That I locked down. But this last week just got crazy. So, I want to just take a minute and talk through all of the superhero movies that are currently on the slate, and then we can talk about the reality here and sort of what’s going to happen.

So, I’m pulling from a list that was at News-a-Rama, but I think these are all sort of officially announced things. For 2015, here are the superhero movies:

May 1 is Avengers: Age of Ultron.

July 17 is Ant-Man.

August 7, the new Fantastic Four that Simon Kinberg is producing. And Simon was a great guest this last week at the WGA.

So, that’s three for 2015.

For 2016 we have Deadpool on February 12.

We have Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, on March 25.

May 6 we have Captain America 3, which is reportedly Civil War, which is kind of going to be great.

May 27, X-Men: Apocalypse, also Simon Kinberg.

July 8 is an Untitled Marvel film unofficially widely believed to be Doctor Strange.

Craig: All right.

John: August 5 is Suicide Squad, which is a Warner’s project and DC project.

November 11, Sinister Six, from Sony, which I think is Drew Goddard if I’m correct. I hope I’m not wrong.

So, that was, I’m counting up here as we do this, that was seven movies for 2016. Seven superhero movies.

Craig: Seven superhero movies in 2016.

John: But, 2017, not to be outdone.

Craig: Surely there won’t be anymore.

John: Oh, there are a few more.

Craig: Oh!

John: March 3 of 2017, the Untitled Wolverine sequel.

May 5 is an Untitled Marvel Film.

June 23 is the Wonder Woman movie.

July 14 is the Fantastic Four 2.

July 28 is Guardians —

Craig: Wait, they already know they’re doing a 2?

John: Yeah.

Craig: They don’t even care if number one does well. They’re like, screw it, we’re doing 2. I love it.

John. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on July 28.

Craig: Sure.

John: November 3, another Untitled Marvel film.

Craig: They should just keep that title. It’s good.

John: Yeah, I think it’s pretty good. Just say like the Marvel Movie.

Craig: It’s just Marvel. Just show up.

John: Marvel. Show up.

November 17, Justice League, Part 1.

Craig: Okay.

John: Which I think is potentially the expansion upon whatever happens in the Batman vs. Superman.

There are two unspecified in 2017. One is a Sony female Spider-Man spin-off. And also a Sony Venom: Carnage Spider-Man spin-off.

Craig: Okay.

John: So, I’m going to quickly count this. 10. I’m counting ten for 2017.

Craig: Great. Yeah. More.

John: Ten superhero movies, not too much.

Craig: More.

John: Yeah. Then, 2018: March 23 of 2018, The Flash.

Craig: Hold on a second. This can’t — 2018, they’re just guessing.

John: Oh, it’s going to get better than this. Just wait.

Craig: All right.

John: So, The Flash, March 23.

Craig: Sure.

John: May 4 is an untitled Marvel film.

July 6 is an untitled Marvel film.

July 13 is an untitled Fox Mystery Marvel film.

Craig: Uh…all right.

John: So, I think, I’m talking that to be —

Craig: Like an X-Men sort of thing?

John: Yeah, something that is in the canon of the stuff that Fox owns would be part of it.

Craig: Right. Which will be the X-Men vs. Fantastic Four.

John: Oh, that would be great.

Craig: It’s inevitable.

John: Yeah, they have to.

Craig: Yeah. Ugh.

John: July 27 is Aquaman.

Craig: Oh, finally.

John: Jason Momoa.

Craig: Oh, oh, I thought it was what’s his face? [laughs] I thought it was the guy from Entourage. Okay.

John: No. [laughs] Yeah, it’s James Cameron finally got around to making the Aquaman film.

Craig: Finally got around to making, okay.

John: November 2, an untitled Marvel film. I think they’re cheating. I think you’ve got to pick some titles. But, all right.

Unspecified date for the Amazing Spider-Man 3.

Craig: Oh good. Is that a reboot of the last Amazing Spider-Man? Oh, no, there’s only been two. Okay.

John: So, I take all the Sony things with like a huge grain of salt, because who knows what they’re actually going to do because the Spider-Man franchise is in transition. But do I believe that they will make some movies? I certainly do.

Craig: All right.

John: So, back to a little bit of reason, there’s only seven movies, superhero movies, slated for 2018 right now.

Craig: Oh good.

John: This is 2014 though still we’re in right now?

Craig: Right.

John: Okay. 2019, this is why I wanted to do the list. April 5: Shazam. So, I’m so excited that they’re going to do Shazam in 2019 because back in 2007 when I wrote the Shazam movie, I remember having to scramble because Warners was like on my ass about delivering because they wanted to get in production and do budgets. So, I’m just really glad that I sort of canceled a vacation back in 2007, so 12 years later —

Craig: Well, they had to get ready for 2019.

John: So, this is supposed to have the Rock, Dwayne Johnson, as Black Adam, which is perfect casting and was also perfect casting 12 years ago when we started this process.

Craig: Now, let me ask you something. Is this still your script?

John: It’s still my chain of existence. It’s still the continuous development on the same project.

Craig: But they’re not, in other words, they haven’t just been sitting with your script for 12 years? [laughs]

John: No, I think other people have clearly come on and done this. And this was Pete Segal when I was doing this, who is clearly not going to be directing this now. But it is just bizarre.

Craig: That’s insane. Wow.

John: May 3 is another untitled Marvel film.

Craig: Great.

John: June 14, Justice League, Part 2.

Craig: Yeah, because, you know.

John: Because.

Craig: Because.

John: 2020 is Cyborg.

Craig: Oh, good, 2020. Are we even alive?

John: It’s really a strong prediction of like what will the world be like in 2020. That is six years from now.

Craig: I mean, we all know that phones will be implanted in our ears.

John: So, April 3 is Cyborg.

Craig: Oh good, Cyborg. Everyone has been begging for that.

John: Yeah. And then June 19 is Green Lantern.

Craig: Worked well the first time, let’s do it again. [laughs]

John: It did! You know what? I think part of the lesson of Green Lantern is that you just jam a movie into existence, it’s going to work.

Craig: So, listen.

John: 31 movies! 31 movies stretching in to 2020.

Craig: First of all, this list is highly suspect once you get past 2017. What happens is the real estate during the prime movie months of essentially March through July, really March through June is truly the big months now, because summer has sort of shifted up, it’s so treacherous to release a big movie because you’re always worried that you’re going to go up against two other huge movies. So, people start squatting on these dates. A lot of this is just nonsense. It’s nonsense posturing, and squatting, and some of these movies will move.

So, for instance, when Marvel says, look, on May 4, which is a huge weekend, in 2018 we’re putting a movie out. What they’re really saying is everybody be worried about us, but maybe they will, maybe they won’t. You never know.

A couple of things come to mind when I hear this crazy long list. One, you know, movie studios are businesses and they’re giving people what they want. People keep going to these movies, so why not? And a lot of them are good.

But, two, and this is really the big one, this is the Marvelization of Hollywood and I’m not sure that other people really are doing it right. Marvel is doing it right. And Marvel has a massive catalog. Massive. The Marvel universe has always been famous for having thousands of characters that are all interrelated in this huge soap opera universe. It’s very Game of Thrones in that way.

So much so that they can even, for instance, Nicole Perlman as we had on our show, picks an obscure comic out of a pile and lo and behold it’s now Guardians of the Galaxy and it’s a franchise.

DC never really had that depth. You can see them trying, because they’re colliding Batman and Superman the way that Avengers collided Iron Man with Hulk and so on and so forth. So, they’re trying, and I get that. And they should, frankly, Marvel should roll out things Dr. Strange and so on. I’m sure they’ll do very well.

Where we start to get to the Justice League I begin to worry because I’m not sure that DC really does have the depth there character wise, interesting character wise. Frankly, even Marvel was struggling a little bit. I mean, no offense to Jeremy Renner or Joss Whedon, who did as good as they could do with Hawkeye, but he’s just — he shoots arrows. [laughs] It’s not really, I mean Olympians do that.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So, it’s starting to get a little thin out there. Certainly by the time we get to Aquaman, your eyes should be rolling a little bit. Shazam, I don’t, I remember —

John: Shazam I think, I mean, I will defend Shazam because I wrote Shazam. Shazam is actually a great idea for a movie, because it’s big with super powers.

Craig: Right. The little boy can say Shazam and he becomes awesome.

John: Absolutely. So, it has the potential for both big superhero movie and sort of comedy. It has the ability to sort of — that wish fulfillment comedy aspect of it. But this is going to end in tears.

Craig: I mean, the problem is you and I remember Shazam because there was a television show when we were kids. It was, do you remember, it was paired with Isis.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Not the beheading ISIS, but the —

John: It was the Shazam/Isis Power Hour. And I remember as a person who was excited to see Isis, there were only like three episodes of Isis, so it was almost always Shazam.

Craig: I know. And I loved Isis, too. My sister and I were —

John: It’s the power of the pyramid. Come on.

Craig: It’s the power of the pyramid. And I thought she was hot. I really liked Shazam and Isis. I liked Isis more. But I don’t think Shazam is particularly — and look, it doesn’t have the cool factor that Guardians of the Galaxy had because the whole idea was that they were kind of bad ass misfits, which is always fun. So, I’m just wondering if that property is going to appeal to a 17-year-old male.

John: I should step back and make clear that I don’t that Shazam is actually the problem. I think Shazam independent of all this stuff could be a huge success because I think it could actually do that crossover kind of — you can take seven year olds to it and make it feel like a good family movie, but I think the overall — you were worried about that thinness of the character slates. I just think the real problem here is the thickness.

I think you are painting, there’s just too many superheroes trying to jockey for attention. And people will get sick of it.

Craig: Well, I mean, they haven’t yet. They haven’t yet. So, and some of these things we know will do great. I mean, we know that Batman vs. Superman will be a huge movie. I would like to see that. That sounds like fun.

Captain America is sort of on its, perfectly well on its own steam. It’s a good series. I like that they’re calling it maybe Civil War because hopefully the villain this time will be dysentery.

John: You know that the actual premise is essentially Captain America vs. Tony Stark.

Craig: Oh, I thought it was going to be more just like, oh, gang green set in and we’re running short on black powder.

John: Oh, see that would be really good.

Craig: Yeah.

John: A little north, a little south.

Craig: Right. Oh, oh, we need to amputate. Here, drink this bathtub hooch while I saw your leg off. [laughs] That I would go see.

John: Now, Craig, indulge me in a thought experiment because let’s take, let’s step aside and like not look at this as superhero movies, but let’s just say there’s some other genre that was tremendously successful. And so let’s say westerns are the tremendous success, but westerns are really, really expensive.

My worry is that by sinking all of our time and energy into making these incredibly expensive westerns, we are going to be screwed when westerns stop working. Also, we’re limited in our ability to make other kinds of movies, or other kinds of big movies because we’re spending all of our capital making these giant westerns.

Craig: I will give you a rosier point of view on it. Most of this stuff is a guaranteed hit. Yes, at some point the bubble will burst, but when the bubble bursts and the sixth Spider-Man movie fails to turn a profit, that’s okay. It will be absorbed by the five that came before it. And the same for all of the Marvel films and all of the — I mean, good, another Wolverine. Thank god, right?

So, the truth is these are the safest bets Hollywood has. And, yes, they cost a lot, but they also know that they’re going to generate enormous profits because they have so far. And they have to the extent that when it finally ends they’ll be okay anyway.

And, I would argue that the profits that these movies generate are essentially what is funding every other movie they make, whether those movies are big or small. These are the things that allow them to take a little tiny bit of risk here and there. It’s not like what they used to take, but without these, I’m not sure they would be in the movie business at all. That’s the scary part.

John: So, they’re not actually as guaranteed though. If you look at the ones that have not worked, there are some notable things you can single out. Green Lantern did not work. This last Spider-Man did not work to the degree that they needed it to work in order for it to propel the franchise forward. So, you can’t say that they’re a lock. And, you know, I’m so glad that Guardians of the Galaxy turned out so well, but as you look at that movie, a 20% worse version of Guardians of the Galaxy would have been a disaster. It was one of those things that had to be executed perfectly.

Craig: That’s true. And I’m not saying that they bat a thousand. I guess what I’m saying is that if Green Lantern fails, that’s a failed movie. If Green Lantern succeeds, it’s five hits. And so, for instance, Fantastic Four, the first Fantastic Four movie just didn’t really click.

So, what are they doing? They go back to the drawing board and they’re like, no, no, no, we can make this work and we’re going to put Kinberg on it. It’s going to be a different kind of vibe. And my guess is it will work.

John: Yeah.

Craig: They’re learning how to make these better. And there are two twin pillars of superhero success. No, three. Three triple pillars of superhero success.

There’s what Bryan Singer actually deserves a ton of credit, I think —

John: I agree.

Craig: For kicking this thing off with X-Men. And to me those were the first superhero movies that got out of pure cheese mode and really went great. Obviously you’ve got to give Nolan a ton of credit.

John: Absolutely.

Craig: Nolan, however, they’ve tried to Nolan other movies. Doesn’t work as well because Batman is perfect for Nolan. Batman is unique. Really no one else is like him tonally. And then you’ve got to look at what Whedon in collaboration with Kevin Feige at Marvel has done. Right?

So, they’re all learning from each other.

John: I would say Whedon is fantastic, but I would say the arc of Iron Man into The Avengers is already sort of well, you know, you make The Avengers because you actually already made Iron Man.

Craig: Right. I mean, Kevin Feige deserves — Kevin Feige may be the greatest movie business genius in the last, well frankly since I’ve been working in the business.

John: I would give the Pixar folks a bit of that, too.

Craig: Pixar folks are creative geniuses who are business successful because they’re so brilliant creatively. Kevin Feige doesn’t write and he doesn’t direct.

John: True.

Craig: He’s like, you know, you have to go all the way back to like, I don’t know, Thalberg, and guys like that to find these really powerful, very smart guys that actually made like a good creator-like impact on the movie business. He may be our generation’s, I don’t know, whatever you want to call it, Zanuck or Thalberg. One of those guys.

John: Yeah. Okay.

Craig: Look, I’m not a huge superhero movie fan the way that a lot of other people are, but I pick and choose ones I like. Business wise I think this actually generates money for them to make other kinds of movies. They do make other kinds of movies. Without them I worry that movie studios just start to stop down to more of a Disney-like existence of two or three movies a year.

John: So, let’s take a look at the range of studios here and sort of who’s not making them and who might be able to prosper by just doing something else. So, Sony is trying to do things in the Spider-Man universe. And so female Spider-Man, Venom, that kind of stuff. Sinister Six is theirs.

You have Fox with X-Men and Fantastic Four, which love them, grateful for that.

Over at Warners you have this whole DC universe that they’re trying to do.

Craig: Correct.

John: At Disney you have the whole Marvel universe of things they’re trying to do. That leaves Universal without a superhero —

Craig: Well, but they’re trying. And you know what they’re trying with.

John: With the Monsters.

Craig: Correct. It’s not the same.

John: And maybe that will work that it’s not the same.

Craig: Because it’s not the same. And I know that Chris Morgan and Alex Kurtzman are shepherding that. And that’s obviously something that they are well aware they don’t have. And it’s interesting that all the studios essentially are saying how can we Marvelize stuff. How can we Marvelize — let’s just look through our catalog. Find intellectual property with multiple characters in it and then Avengerize it. They’re all doing it right now.

John: And then Paramount. So, Paramount has Star Trek. I’m trying to think what else they have that is I that vein?

Craig: Well, they had Iron Man but they’ve lost it. Is that the idea?

John: Or Dare Devil, right?

Craig: Dare Devil I thought was —

John: Oh, Iron Man was always Marvel, wasn’t it?

Craig: No, Iron Man was Paramount.

John: It was Paramount, but I think maybe they still have some distribution rights on it, but it’s back now in Disney’s hand I think.

Craig: Oh yeah, they had it and it’s gone. I think Paramount doesn’t have any. They have Transformers. Well, Transformers are kind of theirs.

John: Yeah, that’s at DreamWorks/Paramount, right? Or is it Amblin/Paramount? It’s all confusing.

So, yeah, the challenge is, and maybe the opportunity is if you are not in that business, maybe you stay out of that business and find ways to thrive in some other —

Craig: Yeah, like you know Lions Gate’s superhero franchise?

John: Twilight.

Craig: Tyler Perry.

John: Oh, that’s true. But they also had Twilight. They also had —

Craig: Well, Twilight and Hunger Games are there, but they’re limited. They’re like Harry Potter. They end because the books end. I mean, obviously you can see now that Harry Potter is not ending.

John: Nope.

Craig: When you talk about like a character that can renew over and over and you can just making new episodes with that character, Tyler Perry, Madea. Madea is their superhero.

John: Madea is the superhero. Speaking of Tyler Perry, did you end up finally seeing Gone Girl?

Craig: No.

John: No, you didn’t.

Craig: No. But I’m gonna.

John: You’re gonna. You’re gonna sometime. Because then we’ll have a special podcast just about that.

Craig: Yeah!

John: Yay. Anything more on superheroes before we move on to the next topic?

Craig: No.

John: Next topic. Copyright. And so copyright is fundamental to the things that we do. There was a good article this last week by Louis Menand — who knows how he chooses to pronounce his name — but it was in The New Yorker. It was an article called Copywrong. And there will be a link to it in the show notes.

And I thought it was an interesting assessment of where we’re at now and really how we got to this place. And his thesis is that, I’m just taking a thesis from other folks, but is that copyright was established with this idea that you want things to be protected for a short time, but ultimately fall into public usage so that everyone can benefit from them. And that has been changed and altered in a way that is sort of the opposite of that. And so it’s holding stuff to the individual, to the creator of things for such a long time that things never fall into the public use.

Craig: Yeah. Yeah, it is an interesting article. I mean, the root of copyright ultimately was to encourage works for the public benefit. The idea being if you could give creators some exclusive right to their work for some period of time, it would be enough of an incentive for them to then do those things so that they could eventually move into the public domain for everyone’s use, a bit like the way that drug companies are allowed to own their drugs for awhile and then it becomes a generic.

What’s happened since then is a collision of two different forces, both of which I don’t think the initial copyright theorists could have foreseen. One was the rise of corporate intellectual property. And the other is the information revolution and the prevalence of cheap, easy, quick piracy.

So, on the one side we have companies that have used their influence over the legislature to extend copyright far beyond what it was initially intended to be, sometimes out of pure greed, a lot of times out of a kind of cultural panic that Mickey Mouse will be in the public domain and that doesn’t seem right. But really ultimately it’s about protecting the pockets of the people who pay for and distribute intellectual property.

And for us, of course, that interest is aligned with ours in a purely selfish way because that’s what puts money in our pockets.

John: Yeah, I want to step back to that idea of the public benefit because it is in the public benefit for people to write things, to create things because that is moving culture forward, it is dissemination of ideas. And so the idea behind public benefit in those initial years is really valid, because you want people to be incentivized to make things and share things and publish things so that it can enrich sort of everyone.

And so it’s in people’s public benefit for those creators to be able to charge for things and be paid. That makes sense.

The question becomes how many years after that is it more than public benefit for people to be able to use and share and reuse and do new things with that material. And originally it was like 17 years and it’s now up to 95 years because of the Sonny Bono Copyright Act. And the issue that’s come up, and Howard Rodman from the WGA has actually sent a survey around asking us about things, like have you ever encountered dead books. And by dead books it’s meaning like books that you would love to adapt or love to do something with, but it’s impossible to figure out who actually owns this. Sometimes things are copyrighted, but there’s no actual way to find out who it is.

Craig: They’re called orphans.

John: You can’t publish it. They’re orphans. And that is a situation that has come about almost uniquely because of these extensions of the copyright term is that normally these things should have easily clearly fallen into public domain and yet they are not.

Craig: In fact, the Writers Guild and the Directors Guild have worked together to petition Congress to assign the copyright to orphaned movies to the writers and directors of those movies, which is not the same thing as saying put it in the public domain, but rather, no, no, we should have — keep the copyright, but we should get it. Copyright can last a very long time, particularly when it’s framed as a certain amount of time after the death of the author.

For instance, the movie that I’m writing right now is inspired by the general genre of Agatha Christie’s works. I mean, it’s based on a different book entirely, but the idea is that it’s an Agatha Christie style whodunit. There are only two Agatha Christie books in the public domain, the very first two books she wrote. And they date back to the ’20s, I believe. So, you could see how long copyright lasts.

Now, on the other side of the equation, you have this fact that the vast majority of intellectual property that is downloaded over the internet is pirated. The vast majority.

John: Okay. The only thing I’ll push back on that is that pirated in terms of this is a completed work of art and you are downloading the whole thing and using it. The challenge is like when you’re using a snippet of it, something that should be fair use, something that should be I am using this in order to make a statement on it, or to do something with it that is useful new work, it becomes very difficult to know whether that is a legal use or an illegal use.

And companies are, especially now in the age of corporate copyright, companies are extraordinarily aggressive at stomping down on anything they perceive could be an infringement on their copyright. So, it creates this chilling effect that new work is not happening because you are terrified that someone is going to come after you.

Craig: Well, I’ll push back on that a little bit. Fair use is really about use. It’s about the duplication or sampling of the republication of. But it’s not about the purchasing of. So, I can make a fair use argument that I’m allowed to put a clip from The Dark Knight on my website.

John: Yes.

Craig: But what I can’t make is a fair use argument that I’m allowed to download The Dark Knight for free. We know that, for instance, there are — I mean, god knows, millions of pirated copies of Game of Thrones globally. So, what we have now is a weird storm like collision of a cold front and a hot front of this hyper-extended legal copyright and this hyper-truncation effective copyright.

And we are trapped in between right now. And so the people that follow the laws are being unfairly injured, I think. The people who are creating property are being unfairly injured, I think. Everybody is suffering right now. And I’m not sure what the answer is other than to say this: as somebody that creates intellectual property in conjunction with corporations, I must be on behalf of myself and my family ever mindful of the other sides, I guess I would call it hypocrisy when companies — the distribution companies or the provider companies like Google or Amazon bang the drum of copy fight and intellectual property freedom when really they don’t care about that at all and, in fact, defend their own intellectual property brutally. They just want to make money.

John: What this article points out though which I’ve also noticed is that you have tremendous legal teams with vested interest in maintaining the current copyright laws and extending them even further. You don’t have — to the degree you have Silicon Valley who wants to sort of make things free, whatever — but they’re not organized in a way to push for lower, like to rein back the Sonny Bono Copyright Act, to bring it back from 95 years to something much more reasonable.

There is no business model for that and therefore you don’t see the organized fight of lobbying and trying to get some of these copyright laws written a little bit more sanely.

Craig: Well, I think the sad thing is that they don’t have to because they know it doesn’t matter. I can go on YouTube right now and watch, you know, big chunks of all sorts of the movies that I’ve written that have just posted on there. Google owns YouTube. They’re distributing the content. They know they’re breaking the law. They don’t care.

John: But, Craig, I’m talking about the things that you and I do. So, exactly the situations where I would love to adapt this book, but I cannot adapt this book because it is still under copyright because of craziness. And so things that should have fallen in to popular culture that I should be able to use and adapt and work with are not available. And I think, and we’re talking, also I would say you and I will make the distinction between fair use and sort of piracy, but if you are a Disney company, you will come after both with the same hammer because you have one hammer and it’s an incredibly effective hammer.

Craig: Yeah. So, in the end the people that suffer are the wrong people. There’s no reason that you and I, if I wanted to work a little more freely with a novel that was written in 1931, it sucks that I can’t. It also sucks that my residuals are impacted by the fact that people can just go on YouTube, a Google Corporation company, and just watch that stuff illegally uploaded for free.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So, once again, John, you and I are getting screwed.

John: [laughs] Indeed. I wanted to debate it. I don’t think we’re going to find any meaningful answers. What I would love to see though is — I would love to see the Elon Musk of copyright law who is going in and saying, okay, this is crazy, this cannot continue along these same lines. We have to both protect copyright from piracy, from real piracy during that initial period of profitability on a new work, but then recognize that copyright is designed to protect new work and not to give you a century of profits.

Craig: Yeah, well…

John: I don’t know that we’re going to find that person.

Craig: I’ve got news for you. If we can find the Elon Musk of legislation, there are other things I would like him to work on first.

John: That’s true.

Craig: We are in dire straits. Dire.

John: Yeah. Let’s not zoom out too much. Yes, things are bad.

So, next topic.

Craig: Next topic!

John: Next topic. So, I’m going to set this up and you will tell me like this is just the classically bad situation. I got sent this thing to look at. It was an adaptation and they’re like, “Can we just get on the phone with your really quick and just sort of talk through it. I know you don’t have a lot of time.” And so I got this thing on like a Wednesday and I’m looking through it and I’m like, oh, it’s sort of sparking and I can sort of see what the movie might be here. And it’s like is there any way we can get on a conference call, like four of us on a conference call, like me and four other people on a conference call on a Friday afternoon at 4pm.

Craig: All right.

John: Would you say that’s a good idea or a bad idea?

Craig: Well, considering that the Sabbath is right around the corner, John, I don’t think that’s a good idea at all.

John: I think in general you don’t want to have a first pitch or kind of meeting on something to be on a conference call with four people you don’t know, especially Friday at 4pm.

Craig: You don’t want to be on a conference call. You don’t want to be with four people you don’t know. And Friday at 4pm, everybody is essentially done.

John: They are done and they are dead. And so classically a bad idea, but I was traveling, I was going to be traveling so I was like, uh, it’s the only time I can do it. So, I did it. And, remarkably, it went really, really well.

Craig: Oh, good.

John: Which is great. Which is very exciting. And I think maybe partly because expectations are so low at that point, that I could just do it. I think, also, the fact that you and I do this podcast every week, I’ve gotten much better at just sort of like talking on my feet.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So I talked through it. So, anyway, that went great. And so now I actually have to go in and pitch the real thing. Because on that first phone call I could just pitch like this is what I’m thinking. I think it’s more like this, I think it’s like this, I think this is the world, this is the universe. And that was sort of kind of easy.

I could sort of do the elevator pitch of it really, really well. So, now I have to go through and figure out the whole pitch of it. And that’s a very different skill set.

Craig: It is.

John: And so I just want to talk a little bit about sort of moving from that “here’s the idea” to “here’s the expectation of what you are going to be delivering when you go in and talk through a pitch.” And I know you just did that pretty recently, too.

Craig: Yes.

John: I thought we could give some helpful tips for people.

Craig: Well, there’s different kinds of pitches. So, the first thing you’ve got to figure out is what’s the kind I’m doing. For most people starting out, they do need to deliver a fairly detailed pitch. The purpose of which is to convince the other person that you know what you’re talking about.

There are times when people don’t really need you to give them the whole movie. They just need the big points. They need the big data for what’s going to kind of happen in the movie plot wise, act breaks, and twists and reveals, and the general idea. Every now and then you get to kind of just talk conceptually, which is always the best thing. But, you know, for instance, in your case you kind of did the conceptual and now it’s like, okay great, at least give us the big data.

So, when I think about putting these things together, I try and — I keep in mind who I’m pitching to.

John: Yup.

Craig: It’s not a movie audience. It’s not my friends. The people that are listening to this are going to make decisions based on marketing, they’re going to make a decision based on how they feel in the moment and they’re going to make a decision based on how they can conceptualize this movie in the context of other movies that have made money.

John: Yes.

Craig: So, I do try and pitch the concept with an emphasis on the characters which I think plays better in a pitch than “And then, and then, and then,” which gets really boring. I try and pitch with an emphasis on the big moments that I know in their minds they’re already putting in a trailer. And I also try and pitch with any context, so I can say in many ways it’s like this movie except that it’s not because of this.

John: Yeah. And that’s classically that thing you hear in sort of the elevator pitch is like, “It’s like Raiders of the Lost Ark, but in Space.” Or, you know, it’s this but it’s that. It’s not exactly this, but it’s these other two things combined.

And this thing I pitched, there are movies that I can sort of do that two things handoff with. And it’s very glib but it’s helpful because it provides a frame. It’s like the kinds of things that would happen in these kinds of movies —

Craig: Right.

John: Is useful. And then you end up distinguishing but these are the things that sort of make it unique and different. These are the unique elements that are going to be helpful for marketing, but also sort of make this movie a movie worth making. Like why you’re going to have the kind of response you want from this.

And so for me with this pitch, weirdly I’m going to be pitching quality because it’s a genre that you don’t necessarily associate with quality that often and sort of detailed character work. Hopefully it’s the kind of movie where the expectations about sort of what characters are supposed to be doing in it are incredibly low, but then so to push beyond that will be useful. It’s the kind of movie where the characters hopefully don’t recognize what genre of movie in they are in.

Craig: I think that’s always a good idea. I think that when you’re pitching something, you are in that wonderful moment where you are on your first date and you and your date partner can fantasize freely about the life you live.

Later on down the line when you wake up in a doublewide, and you’ve both gained weight, and you’re out of work, you can confront reality. When you’re pitching, it should be ambitious. It doesn’t have to be ambitious — budgetarily it should be creatively ambitious. It should be audacious. You should be willing to say I want this to be great. Because everybody wants it to be great. Nobody wants to, “Well, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to deliver pretty much just what you’d kind of ho-hum about.”

John: Yeah. So, it’s that moment to not be cynical at all. Like, I’m going with really the expectation of like, you know what, I think we can make something really, really, really cool here that will be surprising. And the same way like Guardians, again, was surprising in that it was doing things like, wow, I didn’t necessarily anticipate you were going to do that. And this movie succeeded so well in large part because you did these things. That’s a crucial thing.

I often describe the great pitch is really as if you just saw a fantastic movie and you’re trying to convince your best friend that they have to see that movie.

Craig: That’s right.

John: It’s that level of excitement that you’re trying to communicate.

Craig: Yeah. And that’s why it’s also good when you’re doing “It’s like this thing” to say something that’s surprising. When you hear something like, “Well, it’s like Raiders in space,” people go, okay. So, it’s Raiders except that they’re in space.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But if you say something like, “It’s a romantic comedy and it’s Raiders,” you go, well wait, how does that work? “Let me tell you.”

But I can already feel people leaning forward. It’s like, well, how does that work? You want to tweak curiosity. I mean, I always think that the Matrix must have been the best, I mean, I don’t know if they pitched it or spec’d it, but what a great pitch. Like, “Imagine this kind of Blade Runner-y, sci-fi world with this incredible martial arts. Yeah, it’s that, and also it’s not real. It’s Philip Dick. It’s this. It’s that. Now, let me explain how that’s going to fit together.”

And if you can pull off how it fits together, well, that’s what movies are. It’s basically — you know, we always say you put your character in an impossible situation and then you get them out of it. Put your pitch in an impossible situation and then get yourself out of it and you will be rewarded, I think.

John: Yeah. So, anyway, that’s going to be happening in these next couple of weeks, so.

Craig: Great.

John: I will let people know what the outcome of that was. But it was one of those sort of fun situations I think people don’t — writers of all levels will find themselves in a lot, where you had the sort of initial, you know, oh, that’s a really good idea, come and pitch me the full thing, and stepping from that whole like, oh, I think this is potentially really interesting to here is the whole movie I’m going to try to right is a challenging transition sometimes, because you start to recognize like, oh, that’s actually going to be a lot of work. And so it’s going to be a lot of work for me these next two weeks, but I’m looking forward to it.

Craig: It will. But I will say to you that I’ve never, even when they say we would love to hear the movie, they don’t really want to hear the whole movie. So, like everybody at some point starts to — they love listening to the first act. They love hearing how the second act works. And by the time you’re done with that, they just want to know, oh, so like what happens in the end?

John: Yeah. And this is an adaptation. So, there is already expectation about like these are some of the kinds of things that are going to happen, so it’s really I can tell them about like this is how I’m going to do this thing. And that is great because it’s both they have the expectation like, oh, he’s going to need to be able to do this thing. Oh, that’s how he’s going to do it.

Craig: Right. Exactly. They just need to be able to say to the person that runs their life, “No, this guy has got it,” you know, “she knows what she’s doing,” which is why frankly if I had a choice between knowing every single scene of the movie or being able to deliver three moments that they would think, oh my god, those are great trailer moments, I go with those three trailer moments.

John: Oh, absolutely. Always.

Craig: Because that’s what they’ll end up pitching.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And that’s all it’s going to take.

John: Yes. Craig, are we going to do these Three Page Challenges, or are we going to save them for another week?

Craig: I see we’ve blabbed a lot today.

John: We blabbed a lot this week.

Craig: So much blabbing.

John: So, should we save these for another week?

Craig: I think we should save these for another week.

John: I do. Because I don’t want to rush through these because they were interesting things to talk about and I don’t want to sort of slam through them. So, I’m going to save my notes in these and we will get to them another week. So, we apologize to — fortunately we never even mentioned the names of the people, so they will never know that they could have possibly been a part of it.

Craig: But they will be. They will be.

John: They will be.

Craig: Do we need to do any questions and answers? Or should we just —

John: I think we’re good. Let’s do our One Cool Things.

Craig: Great. Oh, should I do mine?

John: I can do mine. So, my One Cool Thing is this app that a friend of mine who was at Singleton who I didn’t know was going to be there, but she was there, and she recommended this thing that her daughter loves to play on the iPad. And I checked it out and it really is just great. It’s called Dragonbox. And it is a game for iOS, both on your iPhone and your iPad. And it looks like a simple pattern matching game, where you’re trying to clear these levels by moving these tiles around.

And there’s sort of the board is divided into two halves and so anything you do on one half of the board you have to d the same on the other half. And so it becomes a sort of logic puzzle.

What’s so ingenious about it is it’s actually algebra. And they’ve sort of abstracted it all away. So, you think you’re just moving these colored tiles around, but as you go through levels you sort of realize like, oh, this is actually algebra, the same way you have to balance both sides of the equation.

Then eventually they start to introduce some tiles that sort of look like numbers. And you go through and it’s like, oh, wow, you’re actually doing algebra and you’re actually solving for X but the X is just a Dragonbox.

So, I played through, you know, almost all the levels now and they keep introducing concepts that I would say like, well, they’re never going to be able to deal with things in parenthesis or distribution of stuff. And they have these ingenious metaphors for what that’s like. So, parenthesis are like these bubbles and so it’s everything inside a bubble. And then you can break the bubble and pull the stuff apart, but you have to do it a special way.

It’s really quite ingenious. So, everything up through single variable algebra is actually presented in it, but I think you can actually — a kid could get through all of it and not really know they’re doing algebra, which I think is smart.

Craig: I think that’s awesome.

John: So, it starts, you know, there’s a version for like five year olds that’s obviously very, very basic. And then there’s the version I’m doing now, my daughter is nine, and she can totally do this. So, Dragonbox.

Craig: My daughter is nine. I’m going to start her on it today.

John: And weirdly I’ve been playing it like while watching stuff on TV. And it’s kind of fun.

Craig: I just sit down and do proper algebra when I’m watching TV.

John: Well, that’s always a good choice.

Craig: I will say that one thing that’s kind of funny, were you a good math student?

John: Yeah, I was good. I wasn’t brilliant, but I was good. I was always honors.

Craig: I loved math. I just loved it. But it’s been so long. And my son who is 13, he’s now in algebra and occasionally something will come up and I’ll just think, oh, I’ve just got to — like the other day he was working on some simple trigonometry, tan, cosign, etc.

John: You will never use that again in your life, unless you’re a scientific.

Craig: But here’s what’s so cool. So, I’m like, okay, he needs some help on his homework. I haven’t done that in forever. Give me two minutes. And I sat there and I just flipped through and I’m like, oh, okay, okay. And what doing that now as an adult teaches you is that we’re so much smarter now than we were when we were kids because we know how to read things and understand them.

It’s not fair. Literally I relearned that stuff in two minutes. I was like, oh…

John: Reading the actual stuff in the book, you were able to do it.

Craig: Yeah. Because we’re used to reading things in books. Like when we were kids we were forced to and it’s just like, oh my god, a book, and I better wait for them to tell me how to do it. Now you can just do it. You can teach yourself anything. We’re geniuses now.

John: We are geniuses. All of us.

Craig: Compared to when we were 13.

John: Yeah.

Craig: All right. Well, speaking of geniuses, Transition Man, Lockheed. So, okay, I love fusion. I love nuclear fusion.

John: I was hoping you were going to talk about this. So, we’ll see if it’s real. I’m worried it’s not.

Craig: Well, a lot of people are worried it’s not. So, fusion reactors are the dream, unlike fission reactors which are all the nuclear reactors that work today, fission reactors work by basically neutrons colliding in to each other and smashing atoms apart, which releases an enormous amount of energy, but has some inherent dangers, see Chernobyl and Fukushima.

John: And they always leave horrible stuff at the end.

Craig: And they do leave horrible stuff at the end that lasts, that remains horrible, for basically longer than we’ll probably be here on the planet. There’s problems with it.

On the other hand, nuclear power doesn’t release a single bit of carbon into the atmosphere. Has zero impact on global warming and climate change.

John: To be fair, you actually have to get the ore somewhere. So, you’re doing some carbon by getting the —

Craig: It’s so minimal.

John: But much less.

Craig: It’s much less. So, it’s vastly preferable to burning coal. So, fusion reaction is entirely different. Fusion reaction is when two light atoms collide together and form — they fuse together to form one big one and in doing so release a lot of energy. What’s interesting about that is that the fuel itself ultimately comes from seawater. So, you don’t need to go mining around.

The fusion reaction has to take place under such specific containment that if there was any kind of failure of the containment the reaction would stop immediately. So, there’s no melting down. There’s no release of dangerous radiation. I think the worst case scenario would be minor radiation within the fence line of the property of the fission reactor.

And also the byproducts in the end while somewhat radioactive, maybe are dissipated within 100 years or so. So, at least they’re not going to be there forever.

Problem with fusion reacting is that it takes an enormous amount of pressure to smash these atoms together and up to date it’s been very hard to get more energy out then it takes to actually smash them together.

John: So, we’ve been able to make bombs out of it, but not make a sustainable fusion reaction.

Craig: Correct. Sustainable fusion reaction, it’s hard to run at a surplus of energy, which is the whole point. You certainly don’t want to run it at a deficit. They’ve had these large things called tokamak reactors, tokamak fusion reactors, the ITER which was a prior Cool Thing of mine which is the French version they’re working on.

But Lockheed all of a sudden comes out and goes, whoa, whoa, we actually figured out a way to make this really small fusion reactor and because it’s so small it’s going to be way more efficient and we think in ten years we’re going to have a perfectly well-functioning fusion reactor running on seawater that would be the size of a truck that could power a town or something.

John: Yeah. So, if — let’s just stipulate — if this could actually happen, that would be incredible. It would be incredible for the future of energy, for the future of American industry, for the future of — it would be incredible.

Craig: Yeah. It would be the single greatest industrial impact on human civilization. Period. The end. Because what we would do is eliminate the notion of energy resources. The one thing that we are not running short on on the planet is ocean water and frankly even then the reaction is very efficient.

So, essentially what we would do is we would say, globally, no globally, we have a safe pollution-free, endlessly renewable source of energy that we can put everywhere.

So, oil, done. All of it. Just oil, natural gas, coal, all of it, done.

John: There are some things, okay, so to be fair there are some things which fusion power is not great for. It’s not great for flying planes.

Craig: I disagree.

John: All right. How do you make a nuclear jet? A fusion jet?

Craig: Oh, if the Lockheed engine is correct, it would be no bigger than the big gas-powered engines on planes. You would have, absolutely. In fact, planes would be the first thing that would probably go, would be a fusion-powered plane.

Look, we already have fission-powered submarines. They’re dangerous. We have them.

If you have a small fusion reactor, yeah, for sure. You would basically tank up your plane with seawater and off you’d go.

John: Well, I mean, Craig, I know that you are looking forward to charging your Tesla off of this. I don’t blame you.

Craig: For sure. Now, here’s the downside. They may just be full of crap.

John: There’s an incredibly high likelihood that they are.

Craig: Right. So, let’s look at the balance sheet of the full of crapness. On the plus side in their favor, it’s Lockheed. It’s not like Ponds and Fleishman going, “Cold fusion,” which was nonsense. This is Lockheed. They’re pretty big and they’ve been around for awhile. And they don’t tend to just make stuff up and lie.

On the downside, there are a lot of scientists saying we don’t even think that’s theoretically possible. And the more concerning thing is that Lockheed is asking for private investment in this project. And as one scientist pointed out, that would sort of be like if the White House wanted a military project, them going to like a small town Savings & Loan.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s weird.

John: It’s weird.

Craig: Why isn’t Lockheed just funding it themselves? They have billions of dollars? So —

John: Yeah. If they started a Kickstarter for it then Craig would be really, really furious.

Craig: Oh my god, I would lose my mind.

John: Ha-ha.

Craig: My mind! But anyway, I hope that it does change the world forever, and ever, and ever.

John: I like to have hope. Hope is a nice thing.

Craig: I sure do like hoping about these things.

John: Well, I hope I will see many of our listeners at the Austin Film Festival next week. That will be our episode for next week. Assuming nothing goes wrong with the audio that will be our episode for next week.

If you would like to tweet something at Craig, maybe wishing him a very happy attendance at his wedding —

Craig: Yeah. Well, it’s not my wedding. I mean, I’m already married.

John: At the wedding he’s going to.

Craig: At the wedding I’m attending. It’s going to be a great wedding.

John: He is @clmazin. I am @johnaugust. We actually have this new Twitter account set up for a thing we’re working on here called @writeremergency. If you tweet Help to @writeremergency, we will tweet back to you. And we have interns standing by who will write back to you with hopefully helpful suggestions.

Craig: [laughs] No.

John: [laughs] No.

Craig: No.

John: You should give up. Give up on your dreams. That’s what they’ll say.

Craig: Quit now. Quit now. You’ll never make it.

John: Never. Never.

Craig: Yeah.

John: If you have longer questions, you can write to That’s also, is also where you’ll find show notes for the things we talk about. You can sign up for the premium feed. We are so, so close to getting 1,000 subscribers on our premium feed at

Craig: Dirty show.

John: If we hit that, we’re going to do the dirty show, and man, we have some really good ideas for special guests for the dirty show. That will only be available for the premium subscribers. So, that’s yet another good reason to do the subscription.

Craig: Yeah.

John: iTunes, just search for Scriptnotes. Thank you, again, to the iTunes Store for highlighting us as one of the best podcasts. That was terrific. And that’s also because people who subscribed left a comment and the iTunes people notice that. So, that’s lovely when you do that.

That is, I think, it for the show.

Craig: Good.

John: Oh, sorry, it’s produced by Stuart Friedel, who is actually not here today, but he does produce the show, so thank you, Stuart. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli who does a masterful job making us sound coherent. And that’s our show. So, thank you. And join us next week.

Craig: Have fun in Austin.

John: Thanks. Bye.

Craig: Bye.