The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: [laughs] My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 173 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Today, we are going to be talking about the perfect reader, loan-out companies, and how to record a podcast. But, Craig, all of our listeners want to know first and foremost, how was your heritage turkey?
Craig: I got to say home run.
John: Oh, fantastic. Glad to hear it.
Craig: Home run. So changed up a couple of things this year for those of you playing the home turkey game. I got a heritage turkey from a company called Mary’s Turkeys, about a 17-pounder because I had a lot of people. I brined it — I always brine but this time, instead of brining it in a bucket or a cooler, I went with a brining bag.
John: Ah, those are the dry briners —
Craig: No, no, I’m a wet brine guy. I believe in the wet brine. But that’s a whole north/south, east/west civil war but I’ll —
John: Yeah, which is the right barbecue sauce, too, while we’re at it.
Craig: I mean, I don’t even get in the middle of that.
Craig: But, no, I’m a wet briner. But the nice thing about the brining bag is that you put the turkey in this big — it’s basically an enormous super heavy-duty Ziploc bag. So it goes over the turkey, you fill it up with the brine, and the nice thing is you can put it in your fridge. Because, otherwise, you got to put it outside in the garage with a bunch of dry ice in a cooler. It’s a big pain in the butt.
And the other thing I did this time was I added some brown sugar into the brine. By and large, you know, people throw in, like, what I call potpourri into their brine. You know, like lemons and sprigs and things. That stuff, all those oil-based things, like, from citrus, that’s not going to dissolve in the water and it’s not going to go into the turkey. You’re wasting your time. Anyway, it came out fantastic.
John: That’s great. And how long was your bird in the oven?
Craig: This is also the simplest oven-cooking of all time.
Craig: I went with no basting. I did an olive oil rub.
Craig: Put it in at 325 degrees.
Craig: 3.5 hours later, it was done to perfection.
Craig: Did not do anything.
John: So this year, I did what I’ve been doing the last couple of years which is the high-heat method.
John: So you think yours is simple. This is how simple mine was. A little olive oil rub into a 475-degree oven.
John: For two hours. Done. And so not only do you not have to do anything other than sort of clean and dry the bird —
Craig: It’s faster.
John: Yes. And you don’t even truss it. You sort of deliberately untruss it. So you have to stick forks in to sort of hold the legs out away from the bird so the heat can get everywhere.
John: And it worked really well.
Craig: Yeah, I did fail to mention that I trussed. I’m a trusser.
John: You’re a trusser?
Craig: Yeah, my method is —
John: Well, that’s really your bondage thing coming through there.
Craig: Yeah, Fifty Shades of Grey’d that thing.
Craig: Yes, the turkey will see me now. I did the slow-and-low method. But the truth is that if you put it in, you know, as long as you don’t have to do stuff with it, it doesn’t really matter.
John: It doesn’t matter. Time is irrelevant as long as —
Craig: Time is irrelevant. But I have to also, well, I’ll save my One Cool Thing because I did a — I made a lot of different things. I made a pumpkin pie. I made an apple galette, I made acorn squash, I made garlicky green beans with roasted pine nuts. I made a ton of things. But one thing I made, oh, pumpkin scones, which were spectacular.
John: Oh, good. Yeah.
Craig: But I’ll save my favorite thing for my One Cool Thing.
Craig: Yeah. How about you? So did you have a great Thanksgiving?
John: We had a great Thanksgiving. We had some friends come over. We had a good simple outdoor Los Angeles Thanksgiving.
Craig: I know. My sister is in town with her husband and kids and, you know, it’s freezing in New York and they’re swimming today, so they’re super happy.
John: Yeah, life is good.
Craig: Life is good.
John: So life is also good on December 11th. That is the live Scriptnotes show in Hollywood. So as we record this on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, there are still some tickets left. I don’t know if they’re still really out there, because you, Craig, are bringing in a whole entourage. So I know that you requested, like, 20 tickets for you and your posse so —
Craig: I believe I’ve requested four tickets.
John: All right.
John: A lot.
Craig: [laughs] That’s too much. That’s way too much.
John: Way too much. You’re disrupting everything.
John: Our other guests are going to be, so it’s me and Craig, Aline, Jane Espenson, B.J. Novak, Derek Haas, actress/singer/funny person Rachel Bloom, all those people will have entourages as well. So we’re not sure how many tickets are going to be left but if you would like to come, you should come. So go to wgfoundation.org, click Events and you will have the option to purchase the tickets. Come join us on December 11th at 8:00 pm.
Craig: Let me do a little hard sell on this, by the way.
John: All right, sure.
Craig: For those people that listen to the podcast but haven’t been to one of these things, they’re great. It’s just a more relaxed, fun atmosphere. There’s something about it just being all together in a room is fun. You also get to meet other people that listen to the show and people have made friends at these things. You know, it’s like a little community.
John: Yes, and we’ve had some babies created out of —
Craig: We must have had some podcast babies. I probably made a few podcast babies. I mean, don’t tell anybody. [laughs]
John: [laughs] Don’t tell Melissa. Does Melissa listen to your show?
Craig: Hey, Melissa, I made, like, 14 podcast babies. [laughs]
John: That’s absolutely not true and is the worst.
Craig: Not at all true. No.
John: Not at all true.
Craig: I don’t do that.
John: But the shows are genuinely fun and while we’ll, of course, ultimately have this show up for listening, it’s not going to be same thing as being there because we will cut it down and we will cut out, the audience Q&A will probably get cut out.
John: So that’s why you kind of want to come.
Craig: Yeah, there’s a great Q&A. I’ll probably do 40 minutes on She-Hulk again [laughs], so that should be terrific.
John: Oh, don’t, no, don’t.
Craig: Oh, I shouldn’t do that? I shouldn’t?
John: No, no more She-Hulk. I think we’ve banned that discussion ever happening again. What I will say what’s interesting is because for my Kickstarter I had a video of me talking about it, some people wrote in and said, like, “Wow, you look nothing like I thought you would look like.” And that is a strange thing about listening to podcasts is that —
John: You have, just human nature. You form an image of, like, who you think goes with that voice, and apparently, I don’t look like my voice at all.
Craig: I also don’t look like my voice. Neither of us look like our voices.
John: Yeah. That’s a good thing.
Craig: I remember as a kid, you know, it’s funny, podcasts have kind of brought back an experience that you and I had when we were kids. And then I felt like it sort of went away because radio started to go away.
Craig: When I was a kid, I remember wondering like what does Howard Stern look like? And what does Robin Quivers look like? What do any of these people look like? And then that sort of went away because — and now, it’s back.
John: I remember being in Los Angeles, well, as I first moved here and listened to KROQ, and there was Kevin & Bean in the morning. And I had this image of who I thought Kevin and Bean were.
John: And then I saw them at some live event and like, wow, that’s not even remotely what I thought that would be. It’s jarring.
Craig: They looked pretty much like I thought they would look like.
Craig: Yeah. I used to listen to Kevin & Bean every morning. Kevin & Bean, and you know, people don’t know, like, that’s where Adam Carolla came out of, that’s where Jimmy Kimmel came out of.
Craig: Yeah. It was a great show but, you know, it’s radio. What are you going to do?
John: Yeah. I remember when Go was being launched, I mean, that was an incredibly important platform for us to get our actors and I think Doug Liman may have even been on that. And like Doug Liman on the radio, it’s just, “Why would you do that?”
Craig: [laughs] I know.
John: But we were promoting our show. But, like, Breckin Meyer, Jay Mohr on that kind of show killed it.
Craig: Right, absolutely. Yeah, I know. It was a big deal back in the ’90s, yo.
John: Yo. Another thing we talked about on the previous show was Franz Kafka and we had a reader, Kevin, from Tokyo wrote in with a long response to that and I thought it was great so I thought I would read this aloud. “It was a pleasant surprise to hear Franz Kafka come up on the podcast. I spent many years studying his work and life, visiting the places he lived and wrote, archives, holding his manuscripts and so on. I’m writing to let you know that Craig’s literature professor lied to him.”
Craig: Mm-hmm, liar.
John: “The mention that Kafka’s works were only published after his death and against his wishes is a persistent myth. The truth is, Kafka oversaw the publication and translation of many of his short stories and novellas, including Metamorphosis. He fretted over details and illustrations, cover designs, and tracked the sales records of his books.
“It is true they asked his friend Max Brod to destroy his unpublished manuscripts in fragments which he considered incomplete. One justification Brod later gave for ignoring this was that after making the request, Kafka continued to actually publish his work. He was working on correcting his proofs for the collection that contains The Hunger Artist when he died. I certainly do not mean to criticize you since Craig brought up Kafka as a springboard for talking about writers’ feelings about their work. Your podcast is not about Germanic literature and the whole thing started by Craig’s professor lying to him.”
John: “I guess the professor wanted to leave out the facts to make a juicy story like the entertainment journalists who were the target of your umbrage. Thank you for your entertainment inspiration. Kevin in Tokyo.”
Craig: Well, thank you, Kevin in Tokyo. You know, this does happen. Sometimes these myths persist. And look, we are trusting Kevin because Kevin sounds informed. He could be lying to me also, [laughs], right? I mean, we now know that I am susceptible to these kinds of lies. But in this case, I think Print the Legend, that’s my theory.
John: I think it is a Print the Legend situation. So I was doing just a little bit of cursory research and it does seem that Kevin has other people in his corner backing him up. There’s a book by James Hawes and there’s a review I read by Joanna Kavenna in The Guardian, and I’ll read a little quote from her because I thought it actually really summed up sort of what we’re talking about. “Hawes strongly believes the myth surrounding Kafka has clouded the perception of his writing to the extent that his translators believe he should sound like some ghostly, plodding sub-Sartre rather than someone whose, ‘black-comic tales of what happens to modern people who can’t give up on the Old Ways’ could hardly be more timely.”
And I think that’s actually a really fascinating aspect of the Print the Legend because when you print the legend, it’s going to influence all the choices you make about that person’s work.
John: And in the case of Kafka, you are translating these things and so if your image of the person you’re translating is, like, “Oh, he’s dark and it’s all about, you know, gloom,” then you’re going to make choices that support that thesis rather than try and define, you know, the funny or the satirical aspects of what it is that he’s writing.
Craig: That’s true. And I suspect that this is all accurate because I know that I didn’t study Kafka anywhere near the extent to which Kevin has, obviously, but I did do a lot of Nietzsche studying in college and there are a ton of myths surrounding Nietzsche as well, that he had syphilis, which is not at all the case, that he was an anti-Semite, which is not at all the case. There’s just a lot. It happens, you know, and all these guys lived well before the time of over-examination. No more myths can possibly exist, it seems to me. Unfortunately, we repose mythology now.
John: Yeah, it’s very possible we are. I can think back to Columbus, for example, if you want to talk about a person who is sort of built around a myth. And so you and I grew up celebrating Columbus Day and, like this was the day of discovery and there’s all this imagery about sort of who Columbus was and now as we sort of discover more things about, like, “Oh, you know what? Maybe Columbus wasn’t such an awesome guy.” We have to sort of look at all this text we’ve read as a kid and say, like, “Wait, huh? Is this really the right thing to be talking about with Columbus?”
Or Thanksgiving, for example, Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. I would not want to change anything about the modern celebration of Thanksgiving. But if you look at sort of what is the legend behind it, it probably wasn’t anything like what we want it to have been.
Craig: Oh, no question. America itself, essentially, is the product of, I mean, the American dream, the American stories, all mythological. I see mistakes cropping up all the time. In fact, I was listening to, somebody had put on Facebook this bit that David Cross does in an audio book where he’s rebutting Larry the Cable Guy who was complaining about him. And at one point, Larry the Cable Guy is complaining that America’s on the verge of banning Christianity which David Cross correctly finds absurd and says, “You know, this is a country where, you know, George Washington was christened.” Actually, most of those guys weren’t Christian.
Craig: Most of the Founding Fathers were Deists. They weren’t even Christians.
Craig: There’s just a lot of bad info circulating out there. And now, I’m circulating it as well. So good. Tune in next week for more disinformation.
John: Well, speaking of David Cross, David Cross’ frequent collaborator, Bob Odenkirk, is associated with our next —
Craig: Segue Man. [laughs]
John: A follow up. So on the last episode, we were talking about Simon Cowell and the aspect of, like, criticism and how criticism itself becomes a form of entertainment. And I said, like, “Oh, well, somebody should make a show where they just like criticize a stick of gum and it should be all about that.” And Jonathan Bell, a reader, wrote in, a listener wrote in and pointed us to this great Bob Odenkirk sketch which is on Funny or Die, which is all about — it’s called American Contestant.
And it’s a spoof of American Idol but it’s really just about the judges criticizing this woman who thinks she’s on a singing competition. It’s, like, “No, no, this isn’t about the singing.” It’s, like, “Well, I really want to go to Hollywood.” “We want to see that you want to go to Hollywood but, you know, you have to prove it.” And it just becomes about the nature of criticism and how criticism becomes a popular culture. So of course, I did have a good idea but about six years ago, Bob Odenkirk did a funny series of sketches about it.
Craig: Once again, trumped by Odenkirk.
John: Yeah. It’s not going to be the last time, I suspect.
Craig: No. No.
Craig: Did you see the new Star Wars teaser?
John: I did. So we we’re recording this on Friday. So as we’re recording this it is a big deal because this new teaser came out so —
John: Craig, how erect were your nipples when you saw it?
Craig: Like I could’ve cut glass with those things.
John: Yeah. I’ll pause for a second. When did cutting glass with nipples become a thing? Because it is a common phrase. How did it happen?
Craig: Well, I don’t know how it happened out there. I cut glass with my nipples all the time. [laughs]
John: [laughs] Indeed.
Craig: Oh, yeah.
John: Basically, whenever you need to do a jewel heist, you have to get really, really excited so you can actually cut through the security glass and steal the jewel.
Craig: I have to sort of rotate my torso in a planar, circular fashion. Yeah. No, I do it all the time. I loved it. But rather than talk about the teaser trailer, I just want to tie in to what you were saying that it just seems like these things come out and then there’s just this horde of people just waiting to say, “Meh,” and “I don’t like it.”
John: I have to say, as we’re recording this on Friday, I have not heard a single “meh.” I’ve heard a lot of sort of like, “Holy cow, that was much better than I was expecting it to be.”
Craig: Well, look, it is exactly as good as I was expecting it to be but then again, as we know, I’m a positive movie-goer. I expect every teaser trailer to be awesome. I truly do. And then, you know, I start from a place of hope and then, you know, we’ll see what happens. But yeah, there was just a bunch, but you know what, sometimes when I’m on the Internet and this is a weird thing for somebody who does a podcast to say, I just want to — I wish there were a button like a shush button, and I could just shush the Internet, just shush. Everybody shush.
John: You can. You can close the window.
Craig: No, no, no, no, I want other people to shush. [laughs] I want everyone to be quiet, even on their own.
John: So on a previous episode of Scriptnotes, we talked about this list that a guy put out saying, like, you know, a list of reminders, sort of an open letter to J.J. Abrams and a list of reminders about Star Wars. And it is interesting that, J.J. Abrams is not a stupid person and it seems like he did a lot of the things on the list not because that list existed but because, like, they’re the right kind of ideas.
John: So the universe does definitely feel old. It doesn’t feel new and shiny. And, like, the helmets look battered and damaged. It definitely looks like it takes a place on a frontier.
John: It looks, you know, like there’s mysterious things happening.
Craig: Well, it also looks like it is part of the universe of the first three movies. It has the palette of the first three movies, those wonderful Ralph McQuarrie illustrations. It looks like those. The colors are like those. Obviously, we know from advanced publicity that he’s been erring towards the side of practical objects that are maybe enhanced by CGI as opposed to pure CGI creations. It just looks like a Star Wars movie whereas the other ones just didn’t, you know, so —
John: Very shiny.
Craig: Yeah, they were shiny. So, I’m super excited. I do believe that this movie will be the biggest. I believe it will be the biggest movie. I think —
John: It could be the biggest movie of all time.
Craig: I think it will be. I think it’s going to outdo Avatar.
John: Yeah. I think you’re probably right.
John: Hooray for everybody involved.
Craig: All right.
John: Last bit of follow-up. On the last episode, I asked if there were listeners who had insights about retail that could help me out as I’m trying to figure out Writer Emergency Pack and in 2015 we’re going to try to put it out in the world, both retails like physical retail and online retail. And about half a dozen people wrote in with like really, really good helpful suggestions. And so I just want to thank everyone who’s written in and if other people have thoughts about that.
And it’s a good segue to our first topic which is, I recognized this last week that we’re actually going to have to put Writer Emergency Pack in a whole separate company because right now I’ve been running it through my own loan-out company and it should not, for accounting reasons, it should just not be part of the loan-out company. So I thought we’d start by talking about loan-out companies.
Craig: The loan-out company, which is a quirk of the entertainment business. It really is, you know. It’s not something that anybody really should know about unless they are considering becoming a writer, an actor, a director. That is to say an individual who sells their own art that isn’t — and they’re not objects but rather us, our expression, our individual expression. So what happens is if you achieve a certain amount of success and you want it to be success that you expect to be repeated, not just a one-time deal, then everybody, every tax person, your agent, all of the people around you, your lawyer will say, “You need to form a loan-out company.” What is that?
It is a corporation. Typically, it’s an S-corp. Some people do a C-corp. And you become a company. So for the sake of argument, you’re the Joe Smith Company. The Joe Smith Company is controlled entirely by Joe Smith. Joe Smith owns all the stock. Joe Smith is the sole officer of the company. When you are hired to do things, let’s stick with writing because we are Scriptnotes, the studio makes a deal with the Joe Smith Company, not with you. The studio pays the Joe Smith Company. The Joe Smith Company, in turn, warrants that it is there to provide the services of Joe Smith. And then, of course, you set up something where the Joe Smith Company then pays Joe Smith.
Craig: What’s the deal with all these hoops? What does it come down to? No shock, taxes.
John: Mostly taxes. So let me back up and make sure that a few terms are clear along the way. So when we say success, it’s not, like, “Hey, you got an Academy Award nomination.” Success means that you are earning a certain amount each year.
John: And so when I first became a corporation, that threshold was about $200,000. They said, like, if you’re making more than $200,000 a year, then you should incorporate so that you could have a loan-out and things would just become much simpler. That bar may actually be a little bit lower now just for —
Craig: That’s what I read, yeah. Now, I think maybe even $100,000. But back when we were starting, yeah, $200,000 was the number that I heard as well. So every actor you see in movies, pretty much every working writer, every director, everybody has a loan-out company.
John: So some of the advantages for this are taxes. And so it’s a way of, Sony is paying through a loan-out corporation. Your loan-out company has that money. Your loan-out company can take write-offs against that money for things like your agent and things like your manager and things like your lawyer. Some of the things are going to being paid as a corporation, so they’re not being charged to you individually. That’s very useful.
In almost all cases, the overall balance of your company will be zeroed out of a year. So they’re ultimately going to pay you but it’s a way of delaying paying you as an individual writer for a little bit longer, and that can be very, very useful. It can also be useful because if you have legitimate research that you need to do, trips you need to do to study something for something you’re writing, if you have an assistant like Stuart Friedel, that person can be paid out of your corporation.
John: And it’s generally much better to pay things from a corporate perspective than to pay as an individual.
Craig: Yeah. As an individual, taking business deductions is arduous. It is often a red flag. A real simple thing, for instance, I have an office in Pasadena. That’s where I am right now. If you’re an individual and you have a home office, the IRS is, like, “Do you really? Because that’s something that a lot of cheaters say they have but don’t really have. Is it really just your bedroom?” But if you have an office-office and it’s a corporation, it’s an office. They don’t have a problem with that. They expect that. So you’re right. And there’s something called the alternative minimum tax where as an individual they’re like, “You can deduct a bunch of stuff but then where if you deduct too much, we’re just going to add on a new tax because we don’t really believe you.” That gets circumvented when you’re talking about the — having a corporation.
The other huge tax benefit to having a loan-out is that you can then access different levels and expanded levels of tax-deferred savings. I’m talking about retirement plans. So you can save, you know, as an individual, you have your IRA where, I don’t know, they let you put in $2,000 a year. As a loan-out, you can put in six figures. You can put in a lot of money in tax-deferreds for retirement. You will pay taxes on it one day but it gets to grow without you having to pay the taxes upfront and it’s better.
John: Absolutely. And I think we should stress for writers is that if you were a screenwriter, you’re going to be a member of the WGA. And so there will be a WGA pension. The WGA pension, while good for most industries, it’s probably not going to be sufficient for you to be carrying on for the rest of your life. And so socking away money as a screenwriter during your most productive years is really quite important. And to be able to do that in a tax-deferred way through a corporation is fantastic.
Craig: Yeah. It’s a must-do.
John: Yeah, it’s a must-do. I mean, it’s not just silly, it’s actually dangerous not to do that.
John: Well, an interesting that’s happened to me is like I’ve had some employees long enough that they have actually become vested in the corporation and therefore, like, they have retirement plans with me, which is just weird but also kind of great. So assistants who’ve been with for, like, five years —
John: Where now they have a pension, which is wonderful.
Craig: That’s amazing. Yeah, that’s terrific. You have all sorts of options and flexibilities when you are a loan-out corp. Some people will say that the other benefit is that, you know, you’re shielded a little bit from some legal issues. Not really.
Craig: The truth is that if you do something wrong as an individual, you can’t really hide behind that loan-out corp. That’s so easy. They call it piercing the veil. It’s so easy to say, “No, it’s really just you.” The other thing is that when we sign contracts with studios, one of the things we sign is a certificate of authorship that says, “We’re going to write this.” The individual is going to write this. That’s what the loan-out company is promising. And as an individual, we are warranting that we’re not ripping anyone off. We’re not infringing. We’re not making any, you know, bad mistakes.
John: Yeah. So let’s talk about this from a newer writer’s perspective. And people might be listening and saying like, “I’m an aspiring screenwriter. Do I need to form a loan-out corporation?” The answer is unequivocally no.
John: So it’s one of those things like getting an agent, getting a lawyer, getting all that stuff, it’s all stuff that happens down the road. And when it has to happen, it just has to happen. Actually, here’s the best parallel. It’s the kind of thing like joining the WGA. You don’t need to join the WGA until you need to join the WGA. Like, at the minute you sign to write a script for a studio that’s a signatory or you sell a script to a signatory, then congratulations. You have to join the WGA and you are now a WGA member. The same kind of thing holds true for incorporating is that at the minute you need to incorporate, your agents, your lawyer, your manager will tell you, “Oh, about that time. You got to incorporate.”
John: And there will be a whole process to do it because literally thousands of people have done it before you.
Craig: That’s right. There’s a fee involved to incorporate in the State of California. You know, it’s tempting to think, “God, what I should do is incorporate in Nevada because they don’t have taxes there the way that we have taxes here.” Yeah, it don’t work that way. You got to —
Craig: Incorporate where you live, in the state you live. But they will tell you — it’s good information though to have in your pocket for those of you, especially if you’ve just sold your first thing, if you’re on the verge, this is something you should start talking about with your attorney because it’s a huge benefit to you. You will actually save a lot of money. By the way, do you, question.
Craig: Do you use a business manager?
John: I do use a business manager. So I will get into that. But first I want to back up one step and say that the first thing I sold, Go, was the first, actually, that wasn’t my biggest sale. I sold two things which I was paid as an individual, neither of which got produced. And those were just paid to John August. And I sold Go and that was just paid to John August. It was after Go that I incorporated. So I still get checks sometimes for just John August money. It’s not my loan-out money.
John: And it’s fine. It’s just a little bit weird that there’s some stuff that falls outside that veil and falls outside that —
Craig: I’m in the exact same boat. My first two movies, RocketMan and Senseless, were both —
Craig: I didn’t have a loan-out.
Craig: So the residuals go to me personally for those. But everything else, they go to the corporation.
John: So actually back to your question about a business manager, yes, I do have a business manager, Carrie, and I love her to death. And so she is responsible for keeping track of the corporate money and keeping track of sort of the individual John August money. So I get quarterly statements. She files, you know, the estimated taxes, the quarterly taxes that have get through and make sure that all of the stuff happens.
And again it goes back to the heart surgery thing. She does this for a lot of other writers, a lot of writers that you and I both know. And because she’s seen all the stuff before, it’s just gets done, and it gets done right. But you do not if I can remember correctly.
Craig: I don’t, no. Because I kind of like this sort of stuff. I mean, some people have different arrangements. Some business managers do everything for people. They pay their bills. You know, they talk to, “Oh, I need to switch my, the guy that does my exterminating.” Okay, we’ll handle it. So I don’t do any of that. I pay all of my bills. I like Quicken, you know, I’m a Quicken guy. I do have a tax guy that I work with and I have financial investment managers that obviously I don’t , you know, I don’t know what stocks or anything like that. I don’t do that sort of thing.
But the other stuff I handle, you know, it’s not that bad. It’s pretty simple. And, you know, with computers now, it gets even simpler than it used to be.
John: So the conversation I had to have this last week with my business manager and with my accountant, and ultimately with my lawyer is that my company, my loan-out company, has been doing all the stuff we do for apps and it’s worked out just fine. So I have employees and we do stuff. The challenge is the company works, the corporation loan-out, works as a cash-based business. That’s fine when you don’t have inventory. But once you start having inventory —
John: Things get a lot more complicated. So the only inventory we’ve had to date, has been literally like our 150 episodes Scriptnotes drives and our t-shirts and those just sell out and then they’re done and nothing sits around.
John: But these will sit around and there will be orders coming in and orders going out and there’ll be this whole timeline thing, and first in, first out. And it’s just going to be very complicated and wrong to try to bend this company to deal with that kind of situation. So it will end up being, I think, a whole separate company that will end up being the distributor of Writer Emergency Pack and other things we hope to make.
Craig: As well as it should, yeah, because when you have — I remember talking with my late father-in-law about this. He was a Burger King franchisee. So he owned a couple of Burger Kings and you would have to do the same thing with your new company if they get in to profit and loss statements.
John: Oh yeah.
Craig: It’s just a whole other world. See, the loan-out company exists and can exist because it’s so simple.
Craig: You know, we don’t have stock, we don’t have inventory. We don’t even have profit and loss because our overhead is such a joke, you know. I mean, let’s put it this way. If your overhead is so great that it’s eating up all of your money, I mean the idea is whatever your overhead is as a writer, that plus the money you pay yourself should equal all of the money you’ve earned.
John: Exactly. The goal is to zero out everything, every —
John: Every year, every financial year. And as a writer, that’s really simple to do. As someone who has inventory, that’s just not going to be possible.
Craig: Right. Because if you don’t, then ultimately you end up paying taxes twice.
Craig: Because the corporation is making money, it has to be taxed. And then it’s going to send it to you, and then that’s going to be taxed again. Anyway, this is something that you, I know it’s all wonky, money, annoying stuff. But if you want to be a screenwriter, you kind of got to know about it.
John: You do.
John: And you need to think about it at the time that you need to think about it. And so awareness of it before it happens is great. And then when the time comes that you need to do it, you do it.
John: So my questions are mostly the writers I know from loan-out companies are feature writer people but it happens in television too.
John: And at a certain point you’re getting paid enough money, and you’re being paid as both a writer and producer, and that’s going to be enough money that that will happen. But I wonder, are professional athletes a loan-out company?
Craig: I believe they are. Yeah, I can imagine —
John: And musicians are probably the same. Like Taylor Swift, I’m sure is.
John: She is a multibillion and whatever. But I think any time that you’re being paid a lot of money as an individual —
John: That’s when you want to be paid as a loan-out.
Craig: And particularly when you are essentially an individual actor not performance actor but an individual person doing something. So, you know, it’s the difference between now becoming an employee of a company temporarily as opposed to a corporation that’s being contracted and providing a service to somebody. It’s just a better thing. By the way, a little bit of advice for those of you out there who are successful enough to incorporate and have your loan-out company. Don’t name it something stupid.
John: Because that name will stick with you for the rest of your life.
Craig: And it’s super hard to change it. So —
Craig: When I started out, I was working at Disney. And when I had to set up my loan-out, I remember that my business card from Disney, it said The Walt Disney Company. I thought, “Oh, if it’s good enough for Walt Disney, it’s probably good enough for me. I think The Craig Mazin Company is probably, that sounds like a good name.”
Craig: Did you pick something silly?
John: I picked something good, it’s Quote-Unquote Films Inc.
Craig: Oh yeah, that’s totally fine, it’s respectable.
John: But unfortunately, it doesn’t actually make sense with things that aren’t films, so —
John: You know, the new company name will be something different that it makes more sense for that. And if you want a good advice on picking a good name, I would go to the recent South Park episode, I think it’s Go Fund Yourself where they actually picked names for their startup venture. And it’s fantastic.
Craig: Those guys are the best.
John: So our second topic is the Perfect Reader. So this is the third installment of our Perfect series. We have no idea how many installments there’ll be. Craig, how many installments will there be? Thousands?
Craig: Thousands, yeah.
John: So we previously talked about the perfect studio executive. We talked about the perfect agent. Today, we want to talk about the perfect reader. And by reader, we really kind of mean two different things. We mean a reader who is a professional gatekeeper, somebody who is the difference between your script moving on some place and not moving on some place.
We’re also talking about the sort of casual reader which is the friend or acquaintance or compatriot who you’ve given your scripts to and that person is reading your script and they’re both looking at your script and judging it and hopefully giving you some feedback on your script. But there are very different goals behind it.
So we just want to talk about what it’s like to be a great reader.
Craig: Well, why don’t we start with the friend version?
Craig: And then we’ll get to the professional version. So I do this all the time. Just in the last month, I’ve read a script by Scott Silver. I read stuff by Koppelman and Levien. And the first thing that I think that the perfect reader has to do is make sure they understand what the person giving them wants.
Craig: And you don’t always get it right, you know. Sometimes you get it wrong. But it’s important for me to know, okay, has anyone read this before? Are you looking for a wide open what do you think? Or is this something that is already set up and you’re having questions about A, B, or C?
Is this targeted? Do you want to know what I think about what I would call like inside the scenes or do you want to think about the total thing? And you try and get a sense of that so that you don’t, so that you don’t go too far or just bore them with stuff that’s irrelevant or that they can’t do anything about.
John: I sent a script to a friend and her first response back was, “Do you want me to tell you that it’s really good or do you want notes?” And it was such an honest response. And I sort of split the difference saying like mostly I want you tell me that it’s really good. But if there’s anything that sticks out that says like, uh-uh, that part doesn’t work, please let me know. And it was such a wonderfully, upfront way of addressing sort of what I was looking at —
John: For the experience.
Craig: That’s the other thing is that sometimes people send you something and that’s what they want. They want validation with some little bon mot of easily done work.
Craig: Sometimes people really do want shotgun to the face. In general, when I read things, what I say to people is, look, my default position is what I would want which is shotgun to the face. But if you’re not looking for shotgun to the face, let me know, and I’ll adjust.
And again, you know you don’t — everybody’s different. Like not every reader is right for every writer. You know, so like Scott Silver and I, we have a good, like I really like reading his stuff and I feel like I have a good, and the same thing with Brian and David. And Scott Frank and I read each other’s stuff. And so you find people that you’re like, okay, yeah, this is actually working, this is a good deal.
Then other people maybe you’re like I don’t think I helped them or whatever. But when you’re doing this for somebody else, the most important thing, I think, the perfect reader does is not think how would I rewrite this, which is a mistake I think a lot of writers make. And it’s natural because most of the time when you’re a professional writer and you’re reading someone else’s script it’s because the studio has given it to you and said, “Would you rewrite this please?”
Craig: So your natural instinct is to go, all right, I’m going to read this now and imagine what would I do. That’s not helpful for your friend. What’s helpful for your friend is, I’m just going to read this and then I’m going to say to you here’s where I got confused. Here’s where I wasn’t sure what to think. Here’s where I thought what you wrote didn’t feel good. You know, it’s all about just pure audience style reaction. And then ideally you offer some solutions. They don’t have to be hard and fast solutions or overspecific because you want the writer to feel like they’re going to write their work.
But it’s not enough to say, “You know, this scene felt a little bit too much like that other scene.” It’s better to say, “You know, this scene, when these two people talk like this, these two other people are talking the same way in this other scene. So what if instead they did something like this or this or this, just so I didn’t feel that repetition because I like what’s happening in the scene. I just feel maybe, it felt repetitive to me.” That kind of thing.
John: So it’s a different experience when you know the person whose script you’re reading and when the person is a stranger. And so I love reading scripts from friends who are tremendously talented writers. A lot of times I’m reading scripts for things like Sundance, The Sundance Institute. And so I’m reading their scripts and but the first thing I always think about is, “What movie are they trying to make?” And I’ll never sort of — it’s dangerous — you should never ask that question first because that just sets you off on a path of like talking about things rather than talking about the movie itself.
But again, I don’t want to think about, “What movie would I want to make?” I’m saying like, “What movie did they seem to be trying to make on the page?” And when I think in the sense of what movie is it that they’re trying to make, then I can really look at it from perspective of like, “Are these scenes helping them tell the story that they seem to be wanting to tell?”
John: Which scenes best encapsulate this vision of what they have and which scenes stick out because they’re not actually getting to where I think they want to be going. And that way, I can sort of start the conversation with them, saying like, “Here’s what I think is so awesome and amazing. Here’s where I think this movie is. Tell me if I’m wrong, tell me if this is the right thing you’re aiming for. And if so, then let’s talk about how well these things are working and why these things might not be helping support that vision of what you have for your movie.”
In general, if you can talk about your reactions in terms of this future thing, the movie rather than this thing that’s sitting there in front of them that they’ve been slaving over, they’re going to be much more free to extrapolate and expand and move away from decisions they have made because it took them so long to write that moment.
Craig: That’s right. And I think what you’re zeroing in on is that when we are reading things for our friends, we have to read them like we’re producing the movie rather than that we’re rewriting the movie, you know. And a good producer is there to say, “I’m going to tell you how I felt not as a writer because I’m not a writer. I’m an audience member. I watched this movie in my head. Here’s what I thought of the movie. Here’s where I thought it worked, here’s where I thought it didn’t work. Here’s what I think, like you said, the movie is or wants to be. Here’s something that I loved and wish there was more of.”
It’s just an honest expression of your reaction. And it is not at all clouded by anything other than a pure audience member rooting for the movie as opposed to, “Oh, I don’t like this sort of thing,” or, “I don’t write like that,” or “Why would you? Your character, you know, is always like the way you do action.” No one needs that, you know. And particularly when it’s a fellow professional, one of the nice things about reading scripts from fellow professionals is that I never worry that there’s a subtext of, “I’m evaluating you as a writer.” Because I’m not. We’re all good writers, we all are professionals. I’m just evaluating the movie.
John: So let’s talk about the other kind of writer, the other kind of reader, I should say. This is the kind of reader who is working for a production company, for a studio, for a producer, a director. Is reading through a bunch of material and has to render a decision about like, “This is a script that I think is worth this next person reading or I think we can pass on this right now.” And I used to have this job. I think you used to do some reading as well.
One of my first jobs in Hollywood was as a reader at TriStar. And so I would have to read — I was reading 14 scripts a week and writing up coverage on them. And that’s a very different kind of reading because while you’re still flipping the pages and sort of taking notes and looking at what’s working and what’s not working, ultimately your audience is not the writer who wrote that script, but it’s some other decision maker. And so what your job is is to encapsulate, well, this is what is actually here and this is what’s working about what’s here. This is what’s not working about what’s here.
And there’s a third thing which I think is also really important which is a thing you don’t do when you’re talking to an individual writer is you’re saying, “Here’s the good writing and here’s the bad writing. Here’s strengths I see in this writer and here are the weaknesses I see in this writer.” It’s a very different experience because you’re not trying to think about being supportive, you’re just trying to be kind of blunt.
John: And honest about sort of an assessment of what this is in front of you.
Craig: And these people not only read, I mean we’re all familiar with the notion of new writers who are sending their work in and it’s getting coverage somewhere, and they’re hoping that it gets passed to somebody, and that’s true. But frankly, for you and for me, this also occurs where studios, internally, have work that they’ve commissioned to be covered by their own readers. They want that as well.
So we all live in the world of these people. And by and large, I think they do a good job. I’ve read some, lots of coverage, some of my works, some of other people’s work. And what I think is the best kind of gatekeeper reader is not so concerned with jamming the movie into a box. They’re not a production executive, they’re not trying to figure out what would be good in our slate or would this make a lot of money or any business concerns. They just concern themselves with the script and with the craft of the script and whether or not the script is true to itself and is well written. So they avoid some of that stuff.
I find that the good ones tend to leave out what feel like personal axes. If you don’t like violence, if you think that violence is distasteful, don’t cover bloody R-rated action movie scripts. They’re not for you and that’s just not an appropriate, you know, reason to ding a script. So you leave out your personal ax grinding.
I remember Todd Phillips showed me coverage that was done of a script that he and Scot Armstrong wrote many years ago and it was really, I really like the script and so did the reader. But then the reader — there was one joke. It was a 9-11 joke and it was, I think it was — the script was covered like on 9-12. And the reader was just outraged and wrote an entire paragraph about how this joke was the worst thing ever. And I just thought that’s a bad reader because that’s not relevant.
The joke will be cut — if it doesn’t work, guess what, it gets cut. We don’t even shoot it at all. That’s not why you’re there, to argue about a line in the movie, you know. So that’s less than ideal. But, you know.
John: Yeah. So quite earlier in my career, when I think I first had an agent, I was working at a production company and I had readers who worked for me. And so there was a slow week and there really wasn’t quite enough to cover. So I’ve slipped this reader, who I thought was a really good reader, my own script under a different cover page. Just to see like, oh, let’s see what he thinks about this. And he slammed it. He just really ripped it to shreds. And it was so fascinating. Both to see what he wrote, but also to sort of internally look at my own reaction and sort of like how I was gauging my own work that other people really liked because this one reader has sort of slammed on it and it sort of gets to the nature of all criticism. But I will tell you that that never actually kind of stops.
And there’s one project that I have that is dormant at a studio. And I’m pretty sure one of the reasons why it’s dormant is because someone snuck out the coverage, the internal coverage at the studio. And it’s really negative coverage on this project that they paid me a lot of money to write.
And it’s just so fascinating that after, you know, being employed to write this thing and having people like it and, you know, getting directors on board, this one piece of coverage apparently does, I’ve heard from other people, continues to hurt it.
Craig: When you say snuck out, you mean put it online?
John: No, no, no. Like somebody at — I think my agency or someone else’s agent said like, “You know, the coverage there is really bad.”
Craig: Oh, yeah. And this can, this is a real problem because you would think, “Well, look, all of these people are paid a lot of money to decide what movies to make. They’re the president of a studio or the senior vice president or whatever.” And then there’s a guy that they pay, I don’t know what readers got paid, but not a million dollars a year. And this person takes a dump on the script and they all go, “Well, it got bad coverage.” And that becomes kind of the path of least resistance to sort of yield to that.
John: Yeah. I think it has been a bit of a momentum killer on this particular project. Now is that insurmountable? Hardly. We can totally get past that and getting one director or one piece of talent on it will completely change everything. If Cowboy Ninja Viking gets bad covered someplace and then it gets, you know, Chris Pratt attached, well who cares about that coverage.
John: But it is a piece of momentum, you know, early on in the process.
Craig: It’s true. And frankly, you know, I was — happily Cowboy Ninja Viking got very good internal coverage. If it hadn’t, the problem is there’s just suddenly less of an impetus to get the script out to agents, and managers, and big actors because internally they kind of lose a little bit of their love for it and that’s a weird thing. But it’s a true thing, and I have to say that those people, we don’t know them. They’re very powerful.
There’s one reader at Universal, in particular. I don’t know him, I don’t even know his name. I just know the legend of him that he’s kind of their guy. And he’s a very powerful person. And, you know, in a way I’m glad he’s there because he’s like that silent, unseen person that is in the back of my head when I’m writing. I’m just thinking, you know, you can’t really get away with stuff because one day that guy is going to read it. And that guy isn’t thinking about marketing. He’s not thinking about the schedule or, “Oh, we need a movie that fits into this particular box because we don’t have anything like that.”
He’s just going to read the script and say is this good or bad and I like that. Actually, if you’re writing a script that’s off the beaten path a little bit, then that reader actually could be your best friend which, let me just say is another thing that I think the perfect gatekeeper reader does. They don’t shy away from different or ambitious. They kind of like it.
John: Well, I’m going to disagree with you on a bit of this because I worry about mythologizing this terrifying reader as the person who is going to stop you from being able to make your movie. I know I just said that it was a momentum killer on this one project. But I don’t want to sort of ascribe too much power or fear among this one person because if your studio executive loves the project and it gets bad coverage, yeah, you’re going to be fine. So it’s not the one sole gatekeeper. It’s the person who’s writing their opinion down and therefore it matters.
I will say as the person who was reading at TriStar, so you know, I looked through my coverage when I left and I had just covered like 110 scripts. And I had given two really enthusiastic recommends on two things. And in both cases I was called to the matt for having wasted people’s time.
John: With these enthusiastic recommends. And that was incredibly frustrating. One of them was a really good Billie Holiday biopic and they were just like, “Well, who would want to see a Billie Holiday biopic?” And I was like, “You know what, I bet you can make a really good one now and I bet it could be really kind of great.” But I got called to the matt for wasting people’s time.
Craig: Really? See, to me that’s outrageous. Because I mean, and this is why I — look, I wasn’t a studio reader and I would have been fired immediately because I would have said, “That’s not my job. My job isn’t to tell you who would go see this or why you should make it. My job is —
Craig: “To tell you is this good or not? How about this, you didn’t waste your time. You’re not going to make a Billie Holiday pic but look how good this writer is. Do you have something else you want to make that this person could write? You know, she’s really good, read her stuff.” That’s just dumb.
John: The other one I remember recommending was a script called Full Honeymoon. It was by a writing team. And it wasn’t perfect but it was a very good solid romantic comedy. And you could sort of see where it was going but it was a very good version of that. And the ability to say like this is a really good version of this kind of movie. So, while you may not make this movie, these are writers you should probably consider hiring for other stuff. And I remember being called to the floor for that too. So I have tremendous sympathy for readers as well.
Craig: Yeah, I do, too.
John: And many screenwriters are going to be readers along the way. And my recommendation is reading is really a great way to learn about scripts and learn about sort of what things never work on the page. But you have to get out of being a reader before you just get that hole burned in your brain. Because it’s impossible to read 15 scripts a week and actually write your own.
Craig: Oh, yeah. I totally agree. I think that any overconsumption of something is bad for you. Overconsuming movies the way that critics do because they have to is bad for them. It skews their appreciation of movies because they’re not intended to be consumed that way. And the same thing is true for scripts.
If you’re writing, I mean, I know, I don’t know about you. But when I’m writing something, sometimes someone will say, “Hey, do you want to read this script? It’s kind of in a similar vein.” I’ll say, “Absolutely not.” That’s the last thing I want to do is read anything that’s in the same tone because I just know the way I am. It’s going to bother me, it’s going to affect my choices. I want to be able to choose freely and not worry like, “Oh, but they kind of did a thing that was sort of like that. Or I didn’t like the way they did that, maybe I should do something else.” I could see where it would become a little toxic.
John: Yeah. And I have a hunch, though, as we do with Perfect series we’re going to come back to the same characteristics for every perfect person. But I think they’re going to come down to honesty, clarity, kindness/forthrightness, the ability to sort of to speak the truth but speak it in a way that understands what the audience for it actually is.
John: And as we talked about a studio executive, those are the characteristics to look for. As you look at an agent, those are the same characteristics. And the same is true for a reader, be it a professional reader who is, you know, deciding which movies the bosses should read or it’s a friend reading a script. You want those people to take their jobs seriously and be able to communicate effectively what it is that they’re seeing.
Craig: I agree. And I guess I would throw on there another unifying quality to all these perfect professionals is a lack of cynicism. That they approach their tasks with a rooting interest and a desire to see success occur as opposed to the opposite which I think does affect quite a few people.
John: I agree. So our last topic for the today is Dan Benjamin who runs the 5by5 podcast network has been doing podcasting really from this whole new area of podcasting. You could trace a lot of the stuff back to him and sort of the shows that he created on his network. And so when we started to do our show, I remember looking for like what equipment should we use. It was one of his blog posts that became the go-to for sort of which microphone should we use, how should we do this. And so this last week he updated his blog posts with some new recommendations and so I want to point to that because it’s really, really good.
So if you’re thinking about doing a podcast, this is probably the first place you should look in terms of hardware and software recommendations. So it’s Dan Benjamin. The URL is podcastmethod.co and it’s just a really terrific expert’s opinion on sort of how stuff should work.
Craig: Are we still doing it right?
John: We’re doing it right. And so it’s interesting because we are using a lot of the stuff that he is recommending. And so let’s talk about our microphones. So we used to use these accent microphones. So you still use the Audio-Technica 2020?
Craig: I don’t. I now use the Apogee —
Craig: Something, something.
John: All right. And so you are using a condenser microphone. And a condenser microphone classically records voices really well but also records the surrounding environment, which in your case, your office is pretty well padded, so there’s not a lot of —
John: Bouncing around happening.
Craig: Right, yeah.
John: So other than the sirens, it’s all good.
Craig: If there were no sirens, it would be perfect.
John: And so I used to use the Audio-Technica 2020. I just switched three episodes ago to the Heil PR-40 which is a dynamic microphone. And that is because my office is really bouncy and noisy and so my side of the audio I always felt was a little bit too live and a little too present and echoey. And so after some negotiation and discussion, we switched to this microphone. And I think I’m happier. So I’m going to give you an example of what’s so different about my microphone.
So here, I’m talking into the microphone. And if I move a little bit off to the side, my voice really completely fades away.
Craig: That’s right. Whereas if I do that same test, I’m over here, I’m over here, I’m over here, it’s probably the same.
John: It’s about the same.
John: So that is one of the useful differences. And because I’m working in a busy office, honestly the guys downstairs can have a conversation, you wouldn’t hear it up here. So it’s really useful this dynamic microphone. If I’m directly talking into it, it’s awesome, otherwise you can’t hear me at all.
Craig: Well, I’m glad that our setup is still pretty good for what we do. But, you know, it’s not about the setup, man. It’s about the content, bro.
John: It’s all about the content. I would much rather hear a poorly recorded podcast that has interesting things being discussed than a terrifically recorded podcast that’s boring.
John: So we are recording this on Skype. So you and I are very rarely in the same room together. So we are on a Skype call. You’re recording your end locally on your own device, I’m recording my end locally on my own device. Just QuickTime, hit record. Recently we started using Call Recorder, so we actually are recording the Skype call as well. So when Matthew Chilelli edits the podcast together, if he needs to, he can grab this Skype recording of the whole thing together and use that if anything goes wrong on one of our sides.
We cut the show, I believe Matthew’s he’s cutting it on Logic these days, but we still end up going back to GarageBand because GarageBand let’s it put in chapter markers. And I want to step up for chapter markers for a second because so many podcasts don’t do it. I think they’re so useful.
So in our podcast, in most podcast players, you can hit the jump forward button, it’ll jump to the next topic. And so Stuart puts in those little chapter marks, so if you really don’t care about loan-out companies, you can skip over that whole segment.
Craig: But who doesn’t care about loan-out companies?
John: Everyone should care.
Craig: You know what we should do? On the chapter marks for this, under loan-out companies it should just say sex tips.
John: That’s nice.
Craig: Yeah. Everyone will check that out.
John: So GarageBand is also where you put in all your metadata, so information about the show itself. And that’s what shows up when you are in your podcast app and you want to see what the episode is about, it’s all there.
Craig: You know who loves sex tips?
Craig: Sexy Craig.
John: I walked right into that.
Craig: Hey, dude, how was your Thanksgiving, man? Did you stuff that turkey? Did you stuff it?
John: So it’s time for One Cool Things.
John: My One Cool Thing is A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. It is a great Iranian vampire western. Did I say Iranian?
Craig: You said Iranian and I thought maybe you meant Randian like Ayn Rand had written a vampire Western.
John: No. Iranian, Iranian, both of those would be better choices than what I just said.
Craig: Iranian. Yeah, Iranian.
John: Iranian vampire western. It’s by Ana Lily Amirpour. It’s just great. It is black and white. I saw it at Sundance. It is terrific. It is, you know, set in Iran. It is a vampire movie. It is a western. It is sort of period, it’s black and white. It’s just terrific. And so I highly recommend people go to see it. It’s in five theaters in the Los Angeles area, including the Sunset 5. And so if you have a chance to see it in a real theater, I would definitely go and see it in a real theater. If not, come see it when it comes out on video. It’s just great.
She’s really talented. And I don’t think all the details about her next movie are released yet. I am fascinated to see what she’s able to do with it because it’s really ambitious and could be really, really cool.
Craig: All right.
John: But this movie that she made is a great example of picking things that, you know, you can do and letting your limitations be empowering. And so she didn’t shoot this film in Iran, but she was able to find places in Southern California that looked like Iran. And by shooting it in black and white, she can create this really unique and special world that supports, you know, just cool things we’ve never seen in a vampire movie before. So I highly recommend it.
Craig: All right. That’s good enough for me. I’m there. I’ll go check that out.
Craig: My One Cool Thing is something that you need to file away for next year.
Craig: It’s a recipe.
John: I love it.
Craig: I don’t know if I’ve ever cited the best recipe as my One Cool Thing. It should be. The best recipe is the big Omnibus Cookbook put out by Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen where they take lots and lots and lots of recipes of things and they basically do every version they could find, get a hold on and then say to you, “This is the best one and here’s why.” And they’re very scientific about it. They love to talk about molecules and things. It’s great.
However, sometimes the best recipe is not the best recipe because one size does not fit all, you know. However, I did make the best recipe stuffing, specifically the bacon, caramelized onion, sage, and apple stuffing.
John: Well, that sounds great.
Craig: It was spectacular. Rave reviews from everybody. Best stuffing I’ve ever made. Best stuffing they ever had. If you’re looking for a good stuffing, and I’m not a stuff inside the turkey guy. I don’t do that.
John: No, no.
Craig: Yeah, that’s just —
Craig: It’s dangerous, it’s going to dry your turkey out because your turkey takes too long to cook, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, the point is it’s not easy to make, it’s annoying to make, it’s spectacular. It’s really, really good. That is the stuffing recipe.
John: And Cook’s Illustrated could probably point out the reason why it’s so successful is you’ve combined, you know, smoky, salty, sweet —
John: Because it is stuffing.
John: Whatever you quality you want to say sage has, it’s —
Craig: Savory. You’ve got the tartness of the apples, a little sour from the apple because you’re using Granny Smith’s. It really does hit every part of your tongue. And texturally, it’s super crunchy because you start with a baguette that you slice up and leave out overnight. Then you chop that up into cubes and leave that out overnight and then it burns really super hard, which is great because then as it cooks, it sucks up some of the liquid so it’s still crunchy but soft. It’s just perfect.
John: So I have two stuffing related bits of follow-up. First off, Ike Barinholtz who is a talented writer and actor on The Mindy Project, he Instagrammed today, “Oh, this is my breakfast.” And so he basically took leftover stuffing and then cracked an egg on top of it and baked it with some cheese on top. Is that not a genius idea?
Craig: I mean, generally the day after Thanksgiving is when you’re trying to unclog your arteries, but yeah. [laughs] That sounds awesome.
John: And so my only stuffing modification this year, because I had a very classic, you know, celery, onions stuffing — cranberries. And just, you know, we had fresh cranberries. And so I microwaved them a bit so they softened up, added some sugar so they weren’t incredibly tart, and mixed those into stuffing. Delicious.
Craig: Well, spectacular.
John: Our show is produced by Stuart Friedel.
John: And edited by Matthew Chilelli.
Craig: Oh, yeah.
John: If you would like to know more about the things we talked about on the show, join us at johnaugust.com/scriptnotes. There you’ll find show notes for this episode and all of our other previous episodes. You’ll also find transcripts for our previous episodes. We’re one of the few shows that does transcripts, so please look those up if you’re curious.
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Craig: That’s it.
John: $1.99. A bargain.
Craig: So easy.
John: Let’s you get to all the back episodes and bonus episodes that we put up as well. If you would like to come to our live show on December 11th, go wgfoundation.org and join us for that. If you would like to reach Craig Mazin, find him on Twitter. He’s @clmazin. I’m @johnaugust. Longer questions, go to email@example.com.
And our outro this week is provided by Betty Spinks.
Craig: Yeah, Betty.
John: Thank you for running that in. Yay, Betty. I think Betty Spinks is a pseudonym for somebody but —
Craig: Okay, all right.
John: Thank you, Betty Spinks. If you have an outro for our show, something that uses the [hums theme] in a clever way, please write it and please send us a link to that so we will know to find it and use it as the outro to our show. And that is our episode this week. Craig, thank you for a fun podcast.
Craig: Thank you, John.
John: All right, talk to soon.
- Mary’s Heritage Turkeys
- Get your tickets now for the Scriptnotes Holiday Show
- American Contestant with Bob Odenkirk
- Dan Benjamin’s podcast guide, and Marco Arment’s
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lily Amirpour
- Bread Stuffing with Bacon, Apples, Sage, and Caramelized Onions from The New Best Recipe
- Outro by Scriptnotes listener Betty Spinks (send us yours!)