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, Princeton University.
John: And this is episode 182 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Craig, this is actually the third time this week we have spoken in a Scriptnotes capacity.
Craig: Normally, we have a little bit of a break but we’ve had a lot going on. We’ve got our Dirty Show under our belt now, so to speak.
John: So our Dirty Show which is — it may be live by the time you’re hearing this or maybe it’s coming out the same week but on our Dirty Show, we can now finally announce our guests. So on Monday, we sat down with Rebel Wilson, the actress, writer, comedian, star of Pitch Perfect and all-around funny Australian person. And that was so much fun.
Craig: Yeah, it was great. I thought we had a great time and, by the way, managed to talk about some things that were dirty and also not dirty, which was nice.
John: Yeah, we were able to talk about like studio notes which was actually really helpful and sort of like how challenging it is to get your voice on a network television program when your voice is filthy like Rebel’s is.
John: So we talked a lot about pooping in berets and things like that and Australian slang and other good things. Then on Wednesday, we had a conversation with Dan Savage, the famed sex columnist and author. And that was great also.
Craig: Yeah. He’s just a cool cat. I’ve always admired that guy. As I mentioned when we were talking with him, I just — I love rationalists. He’s such a rationalist and he’s a rationalist about something that is completely irrational, namely sexuality. So that was fun. And plus, we got to talk about stuff that we never get to talk about.
John: Which was fantastic.
John: So we got to get really, really dirty because that’s what he deals in is things that are sort of uncomfortable to talk about. So we’re going to have excerpts from both our Rebel conversation and our Dan Savage conversation because there were things that we talked about that weren’t actually all that dirty.
And so at the end of this episode, we’re going to have little bits of Rebel talking about Australian TV, Tall Poppy Syndrome, her general writing process. We’ll also have Dan Savage talking to us about what he wishes Hollywood would do when it comes to portrayal of sex in movies and TV.
Craig: That’s excellent. And if you enjoy that stuff and you’re not one of our premium subscribers for — John, how much is it again?
John: It’s $2 a month.
Craig: $2 a month, $24 a year, if you’re not one of those people, then you really should consider becoming one because then you would get all of the really good stuff that is disgusting —
John: Disgusting. So the Dirty Episode, I should stress, like it has — it’s Rebel and Dan but it’s all different content. So there’s nothing that you are going to hear in this episode that is duplicated in the Dirty Show. The Dirty Show is all thoroughly filthy from top to bottom and Craig saying horrible things, so, yeah.
Craig: I thought they were all beautiful. [laughs]
John: [laughs] They were all beautiful because the human body is beautiful.
Craig: Yeah, I’m beautiful in every single way. And words won’t bring me down.
John: No. We learned a lot about Craig’s budding sexuality. I think it’s a meaningful episode. It’s going to be canon. So I think if you’re a Scriptnotes completist, you’re going to want to listen to the Dirty Episode. And exciting news, the Scriptnotes app just today got updated. So if you’re listening to this on iOS, the Scriptnotes app is so much better than it was yesterday, which is lovely.
So, again, we don’t make the Scriptnotes app. It’s a different company that does it. So it just showed up today and it’s better. So you can actually download episodes and favorite episodes and listen to back episodes much better than you could 24 hours ago.
Craig: Well, good job, elves that make that app.
John: It is wonderful. So the other people who we need to thank a lot are the maybe 15 to 20 to maybe 300 people who wrote in as follow-up on — last week’s episode, we talked about sort of standard operating procedures on things. And someone had written in saying that when someone dies and there’s an actual body, it’s not the EMTs who take the body away. It’s the coroners who take the body away.
John: And that’s so often portrayed the wrong way on television. And I said, well, wouldn’t it be great if somebody one time did it right. And then of course everyone wrote in to say, ah-ha, someone did do it right. And it was this great episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — I’ve completely forgotten that they did this — called The Body.
And so we’ll link to a clip from The Body but the whole episode is just fantastic. But exactly what we sort of wished would happen does happen in that episode where the EMTs show up, like Buffy’s mom is dead — spoiler — and they say, you know what, we got to take another call, the coroner’s going to come. And they leave her with the body, which is just a great moment.
Craig: Yeah. You see, this is one of those instances where reality is so jarring and unsuitable for what you would call paced drama that you actually — if you’re going to do it you have to build an entire episode around it and then it becomes the drama of real time, you know, which is very cool. I love that.
John: Yeah, so the little clip we’re going to show you is really the teaser to that episode. It’s like a 10-minute long teaser and they don’t cut. And so they’re doing it as a oner. It just gives you that oppressive sense of like the real-time agony of just being in this place with a dead body. So a really well done episode, and a really great example of, you know, sometimes researching how things are really done in real life can get you great moments that otherwise can be overlooked.
John: So other topics that we’re going to talk about today are exploding scripts, stock scenes, and the difference between spec scripts, shooting scripts and for your consideration scripts, three topics that are sort of new and we haven’t gotten to before.
Craig: It’s amazing that after all this time you and I can still keep it fresh.
John: So I emailed you this question this morning. It’s like, Craig, have you ever dealt with exploding scripts? And you said, “I’ve never even heard of them.”
Craig: Yeah, what is that?
John: So this is something that I heard about for the first time over the weekend. So I was at a party and there were some other screenwriters there. And the screenwriting team was saying that this project that they’re working on, it’s highly locked down. So they don’t email anybody anything. They don’t email sort of like plot lines and they certainly don’t email scripts. They don’t email PDFs. Everything is printed and hand-delivered.
But more so than even that, if they need to send something to an actor, like they’re casting something, it’s all sent with these exploding scripts. And I said — because I picture me with like my hands folded on my chin and my fingers saying, like, “Please tell me more.”
Craig: Yeah. [laughs]
John: So exploding scripts, what this is is basically they’re sending them — they’re sending actors or crew people a link that they can open up and it opens up in a special app. And within the app, they can read something but like literally page by page it’s sending a message saying, like, “This page is now being read, this page is now being read.” There’s no way to screenshot it. Basically you could maybe like take your iPhone and like take a photo of the screen but you can’t really capture on the screen itself.
And they said that it was so locked down that there was a person they were — a crew member that they were interviewing to take the job and that crew person took another job, like the line producer found out that person was taking another job. And so they like pulled her script while she was reading it. So she was on like page 43 and they pulled it and she called and said like, “Wait, my script disappeared.” They’re like, “Yeah, because you took another job.”
John: Isn’t that crazy and amazing?
Craig: Well, I guess how does it work where you can’t screenshot it?
John: So basically the app locks out the ability to sort of do that thing where you press the home button and the power key. The app will, you know —
Craig: Oh, because it’s —
John: Will burn the script.
Craig: It’s a mobile app. It’s not —
John: It’s a mobile app. I should stress that, yeah.
Craig: Okay. So you’re reading it on your iPad or your iPhone and it locks out your ability to screenshot. So they figured out the thing that Snapchat apparently hasn’t figured out? [laughs]
John: Yeah. No, I think Snapchat — yeah, I don’t think you can take a normal screenshot. I think you can take a photo of your screen with another phone.
John: But I don’t think you can — I think it’s like Snapchat in that way that you can’t just literally take a screenshot.
Craig: Okay. I mean, it sounds good. Although, I have to say that when you’re at that level of security, there ultimately is no substitute for come into the office and read it in that room.
John: Yeah. And apparently, that’s what they do a lot. And even when they have cuts of what they’re doing, it’s like, “Okay, we will fly to New York and show it to you.” So they won’t even put it on like the — a really kind of locked down PIX System. And so, you know, people who make TV shows often deal with dailies and sort of stuff that come through it, even like big features, a lot of those dailies are in the sort of secure kind of intranet thing that shouldn’t be able to get out onto the world. But in a land after the Sony hacks, I think filmmakers are even nervous about that.
Craig: Yeah. For those entrepreneurs out there who are looking to make a billion dollars and following the traditional line of necessity being the mother of invention, the entire world, much less Hollywood, needs some version of the old Mission Impossible “this message will self-destruct.” We are desperate for something that cannot be duplicated, that can be consumed once by your eyeballs and then disappear truly. It can’t be photographed, it can’t be screenshotted, it can’t be printed or retransmitted or saved in any way.
And I wonder if it’s going to come down to some sort of device. That, in other words, let’s say somebody made a special tablet and the screen was of a certain kind where it just wouldn’t — if you tried to take a picture, you get nothing. And the operating software of that was designed so that nothing could be screenshotted or printed. It was truly locked in. Maybe then?
John: Maybe then. So what I’ll say is that it sounds like this system, and apparently it’s called Script It! Script It! is very close to that. I mean, obviously they can’t, you know, make it so the screen is unphotographable but it feels very locked down. The closest I’ve encountered this in my own real writing life was there was a project that I was — they were coming to me for a rewrite. And they sent it to me on an iPad that had been locked down.
So basically I could only read it on this one iPad and there was no way to sort of like get a cable into it or do anything else to get the thing out of it. And so it’s what you described, except that, of course, I could literally if I wanted to take a photo of every page on the screen and do it that way.
So, Craig, you’ve done some big sequels like the third Hangover. There was a printed script, though, wasn’t there? People —
John: No, there wasn’t?
Craig: No. On Hangover 2 and 3, it was the same routine. The only copies of the script that existed until it was time to actually make the movie were on my computer or Todd’s computer or for Hangover 2, Scot Armstrong’s computer.
So we had our copies as the writers. When we gave it to the studio, I believe we printed individual copies that were watermarked for the executives. When we sent it to the guys, we FedEx’d them printed screenplays, watermarked, and had them send them back. And for crew people, department heads who needed to read the script, we had them come into the offices on Warner Bros, on the lot. And they had to read it in a room and then leave.
So that was as locked in as I’ve ever been. You know, nothing else yet has been quite that high-pitched.
John: Yeah. I’m wondering whether we’re going to be all dealing with those issues. And I want to look at sort of the pros and cons of that because certainly the cons of that is that it’s a huge hassle. It’s a huge hassle for the people who have to lock down the script but also for all the crew people, for everybody who sort of like, would love to be able to just like work on something at home or just do any kind of normal process or something. It’s making stuff much, much harder.
And so you’re having to basically synthesize this thing down. And so like you’re having to make a one-line schedule based on, you know, a script that you can’t actually print out and you can’t do the normal things to.
But I’m also looking at it as like — I can imagine projects that I might write where honestly just aiming for that level of security might, I don’t know, boost its stature a little bit, the exclusivity aspect of it.
Craig: Yeah, I know what you mean because [laughs] when we think about movies that require this much — I immediately jump to the new Star Wars movies that they’re making. So on the new Star Wars movies, I can only presume that there is — just as there’s an electrical department and costume and production design, there’s a security department that has staff that’s separate from the normal apparatus which would be, you know, the UPM and the production coordinator.
And the security department has to essentially manage the traffic of this stuff in such a way that it is completely locked down because even — forget the screenplay. How about just every day you shoot there are sides, which for those of you who don’t know, they’re little miniature pages that are the day’s work, the screenplay pages that are that day’s work in small form for the actors, the crew, everybody.
And they float around the set like confetti basically. Well, not on a Star Wars set. I mean, I can only presume that those things are numbered and must be returned. And if you don’t return your sides [laughs] and maybe you don’t even get them —
Craig: So, yeah, you’re right. I mean, if you’re putting a — you may be selling a spec to put it out in such a way that like this we are protecting this. Well, if they value it so much, maybe it’s valuable. [laughs]
John: Yeah. So my company makes Bronson Watermarker which is a watermarking app that a lot of, you know, studios use for watermarking scripts that go out. And so there’s TV shows I know that use it every week. But that’s a less — that’s not quite such a big concern because if you are — you know, episode 17 of that ABC drama that’s not like highly spoilerific, kind of who cares? I mean, it’s not a big deal. There’s not that kind of lockdown versus the sort of the Star Wars of it all.
In terms of like what can replace sides, I think it would honestly be an app on your phone. So just the same way that this Script It! thing, you know, had a Mission Impossible sort of like the script will explode after a certain period of time, there’s probably a way you can do sides on, you know, a phone-sized device that could work for sides.
Craig: I’m kind of curious. I wonder if maybe Rian Johnson would be willing to tell us how they’re handling that. My guess is that they won’t even discuss how they do it, you know, because even that, in a weird way, is giving away something important. But, I mean, look, that’s the scariest stuff because there are certain movies that the great engine of spoilering is desperate to spoil, which is so sad to me.
I mean, if I could just take a step back and talk about what’s going on behind all this, it’s a bummer. You know, obviously when you and I were growing up this wasn’t a problem. Nobody could possibly spoil a movie for us, much less print the screenplay online and then [laughs] much less critique of the second draft of a thing.
And what’s so I guess puzzling to me is that the spoilers so often come from people that are loving something to death. It’s not even out of malice. It’s out of a strange obsessive love. And it’s just sad. It makes me sad.
John: Yeah. It’s like these pop cultural things that are like the little rabbit who’s getting squeezed too hard until it’s dead.
Craig: Yeah, Lennie. Lennie, lighten your grip.
John: Yeah. [laughs] Important lessons to learn. Always take a nice light grip to your Star Wars and your treasures, icons of cinema.
John: It’s tough.
John: So the next topic I want to get into is stock scenes. And by stock scenes, I mean those things that you’ve seen a thousand different versions of them because they are just — the thing I had to write this week was the first time I’ve ever actually had to write it. I had to write a police interrogation room or interview room.
Craig: That is the most stock scene.
John: Yeah, it is. I mean, that or like the guy up on the witness stand is probably another sort of great stock scene. But like we sort of know all of the tropes. We know sort of how it’s supposed to work. And it was fascinating to get into it because the existence of the scene was necessary. It was a useful scene to have because it let us communicate some important story points and it was useful because one of our main characters is the guy being interviewed.
And that I think is one of the crucial differences is that I only wanted to keep it in there because it’s our hero who is being interviewed. If it was a cop interviewing somebody, that would be even sort of more cliché. But it was challenging to find a way into that scene that didn’t feel just — wow, like this is the 19,000th version of the scene you’ve ever seen.
So I wanted to sort of talk about stock scenes and ways to approach them to hopefully make them less painful.
Craig: Well, it’s certainly a tall order. I mean, in particular, that stock scene has been done not only a million times in movies but also a million times in a million cop shows. And it’s hard sometimes as a writer to shed this built-in thing. It’s as if we feel like we’ve been in an interrogation room just from the collective memory of a thousand of these scenes.
It’s a dark room. There’s a metal table. We’re on one side, they’re on the other. Maybe it’s good cop/bad cop, maybe it’s one guy. There is that single bright light. At some point they start yelling at us. At some point they start telling us that someone’s going to roll over on this — and so much of it is the same. And a scene like that, for instance, I’ve actually never had to write that scene.
If I did, I think I would probably think to myself, “Is there a way I could actually do this, first of all, not in a room? Let me see if I can just avoid the room entirely.” And then, “Is there a way that I could do the scene so that the person being interrogated does not realize that it’s an interrogation until it’s too late?” Can I maybe make something out of that, you know. But that one is really hard.
John: So what it sounds like you’re talking about is changing the fundamental expectations of what that scene is supposed to be like. And so you talked about the setting. And so that’s one of the first things I looked at. It’s like I had that same picture in my head of like, you know, what this interrogation room is, which is basically there’s one overhead light and the walls are dark and everything’s pushed away and there’s a mirror there.
And so I very deliberately like pushed away from that expectation of what that is supposed to be like. And it was useful because I’d done the research so I sort of knew what the sheriff’s department actually looked like and it’s nothing like that at all.
Then I also looked at sort of like how could — what is the latest possible moment I could come into that scene, because the useful thing about stock scenes is we sort of know how they work. So you could come in much, much later than you sort of think you could come in. And so I could come in in the middle of a conversation and really just get the experience of it and very quickly the audience can fill in everything that must have happened before that point.
And that is a really useful thing about these stock scenes. So I was able to get in really late and leave really early.
Craig: That’s smart. I like that you play with that. I mean, one of the hidden challenges of the idea of moving — I guess you would call it resituating or relocating that scene to a different place is that with stock scenes, sometimes the trap you’re in is that if you move it out of the stock setting to be fresh, it feels like suddenly people feel the writer because it feels like, oh, I get — oh, look, they’re playing tricks with the stock scene, you know.
John: You don’t want to fall into that trap of so many scenes from Bruckheimer movies where like that exposition scene takes place in a boxing gym because boxing gyms are cool.
Craig: [laughs] They have that. The light is always streaming in. Every boxing gym is like set up so that it’s backlit and —
John: Yeah, falling down, big shafts of light.
John: So those are things I was looking at. But I was also thinking about like what are versions of that scene that I’ve actually enjoyed recently. And so True Detective is largely structured around that kind of police interrogation scene and does such great job of bending our expectations about what is supposed to happen in that scene because that whole series is sort of built around those scenes. I also thought Gone Girl did a great job of it because partly we’re not sure how much to trust Ben Affleck in those moments. We are sympathetic to both him and the detectives through a lot of it. And so by letting us find ourselves in that moment was really, really useful for those scenes. It wasn’t entirely clear that either side knew exactly what they were doing in those moments and that’s a really rewarding thing, too, because it defeats our expectation about what’s supposed to be happening here.
Our expectation in that kind of stock scene is like the police officers are in charge, the suspect is going to try to lie and squirm his way out of it, and that’s where you’re going to be at.
Craig: Yeah. And that’s sort of the idea of the interrogation that’s not really an interrogation because the truth is that — and they did a nice job in Gone Girl of contrasting her with her partner who is, you know, Johnny jump to conclusions. And so we understood her mindset, so we understood it actually wasn’t an interrogation.
She was kind of feeling blindly and he was answering in a very real way, in a way that frankly you don’t normally answer when you realize that you’re sitting in an electric chair. He actually never got shifty and guilty because he was actually just naturally stupid in a way [laughs]. He was just being honest.
So they did a nice subtle thing without doing anything that was particularly ostentatious, you know. I mean, it was still in a police department. It wasn’t necessarily that room we’re all familiar with. I mean, the interesting thing about True Detective is that [laughs] I remember noticing early on that they — that Cary Fukunaga did this tiny, tiny thing that actually made such a difference and it was so smart because he knew how much time he was going to be spending in that room.
The typical stock setup for an interrogation is that there is a rectangular table. The cops or cop is on one side of the wide part and the interrogee [laughs], the person being asked questions, the suspect, is on the other. Here, he turns the table so that it’s actually a long way. He puts McConaughey at the head of the table, on one end, and the he puts the two cops kind of catty-corner around the corner from each other. And suddenly, it felt more like three guys almost like talking at a bar.
John: Yeah, that was a crucial distinction. And literally a bar because, of course, McConaughey is drinking through a lot of it.
John: But I think that’s really important, too. And even when you look at the Woody Harrelson interviews, the key is framed back and you can see there’s a whole office behind him, so it doesn’t feel like he is a suspect. It feels like he’s more just — it’s just they’re chatting. And the blurring of lines between like when are we like looking through the video tape of this moment and when are we live there present in the moment is a good distinction as well.
John: Craig, can we think of some other sort of stock scenes that exist in movies and TV so often. And just maybe make a quick list of like what are the things that you see so much and when you encounter them, you’re like, ugh, a version of that.
For me, it’s certainly weddings, people standing around the coffin at funerals, anyone hitting an alarm clock when they wake up in the morning. That first shower is a stock scene. The couple in bed reading before going to bed.
John: Just like — can you think of some other ones that are just that?
Craig: Sure. There’s sitting with the sick person who’s dying in a hospital.
Craig: And boop, you know [laughs], if you hear boop, you’ve officially gone deep into stockville. There is the cop knocking on your door and telling you that there’s been an accident. You’ve already mentioned the law situations. In romantic comedies, there are the people colliding on the street.
Craig: We’ve seen this — I mean this is almost now we’re of kind of drifting more towards cliché than stock scene, but the idea of two people meeting on the street like that.
John: The blind date or so the first time date or like the two people at the bar who don’t realize that they’re supposed to actually be together, again, it does feels a little, I guess stock scene versus the cliché is a small distinction. But there are scenes that are sometimes necessary but just get to be like, “Wow, I know what that scene is. And I don’t necessarily need to see that scene again.”
Craig: Yeah, there are the Mexican standoff scenes where everybody is —
John: Oh god.
Craig: Very hard to do those in a different way. We did a scene that was essentially a Mexican standoff scene at the end of the third Hangover, although, it was kind of a one — sided one, you know, but it kind of was playing like that. Those are tough.
John: Yeah. And sometimes you can skip the scene. And sometimes that’s actually your best choice. If there’s ways to sort of like, you know, lead up to the wedding and then like don’t actually show the wedding itself because like we know what a wedding is, we don’t necessarily need to see it.
And by, you know, slicing that little part out, maybe you can use some of that time to do something else much more interesting. You know, you can find some moment that’s usually not dramaticized which sort of like back to the Buffy coroner moment. Is that we don’t normally see the moment where the coroner is coming to take the body away. We don’t normally see the EMTs leaving. And that’s sometimes great.
Craig: Yeah. You know, I mean you can’t live in fear of these things because there are times when it will happen. I will say that if your characters are good and your story is good and compelling, you can survive this. You know, Gone Girl really didn’t reinvent the interrogation wheel but they survived it and you barely even noticed that it was happening and that it was a stock scene because the characters were intriguing and specific.
Craig: So you don’t have to run too far away from this if you don’t want. But you certainly want to make sure that there are some little twisty bits even if it’s something as small as the orientation of the table to let the reader know that you didn’t just lazy your way into the same damn setup.
John: Yeah. For sure.
John: Our third topic today is the difference between spec scripts, production scripts, and for your consideration. And by for your consideration, I mean sort of the scripts that are sent out officially, as like this is the movie. And so when they’re being — scripts are sort of designed to be read by people who may have already seen the movie or will be voting on that movie for awards.
And the kind of question that comes up a fair amount from readers who are — listeners who are confused about sort of like, oh, well you can do that in the spec script, but you couldn’t do that in production script. So I want to talk a little bit about what the terms mean and what the terms kind of don’t mean because I think sometimes there’s this idea that you write one kind of script to sell a movie and you write a completely different kind of script to shoot a movie. And that’s not accurate.
John: But we want to talk about sort of the different kind of scripts you might find on someone’s table and sort of how to visually tell that they’re different and what kind of things might be changing when you see those different kinds of scripts.
So I want to talk about — so the scripts that we are reading like when we’re reading a Three Page Challenge or if we’re reading, a friend asks us to read a script. You can call it a spec script, the original script. It is the script that the writer has written that has not gone into production. It’s just a clean script, it’s just to be read. And that’s the first — that’s what Craig and I are first writing. That’s the script that is the idea, it’s the thing you sold, that’s what’s hopefully going to go into production.
Craig: Yeah, it also comprises 95 or it may be even more, maybe 99% of the script pages that exist on this planet.
John: Absolutely. So most screenplays you’re going to read, that you’re going to find online, those are going to be what we will call a spec script. It’s just a pure script. Now, sometimes you will encounter scripts that have little truncated pages. And there’s little asterisks in the margins.
And there will be scene numbers and there’ll be scene number A-142, and AB-142, and there will be weird numberings on things. And they’ll be in different colors sometimes. Those are production scripts. And they can honestly have sometimes the exact same text that’s going to be in the original printed script. They have those weird numberings because something has changed. So new pages have been added, scenes have been cut, things have been moved around and that’s a production script.
And all the changes you’ve seen, they’re because something has come up in production that has needed them to add pages, remove pages, change scene numbers around.
Craig: Yeah, it’s still basically the same thing. I mean all the little doodads are there. So people know, okay, I don’t have to read the whole damn script again. I can just read these pages with the asterisks and okay, I don’t have to pull the whole script out of my binder. I can just replace 20 and 21. And I know what my scene numbers are. By the way, it’s just like — I don’t know if you notice this, but all right, so every scene when you’re shooting a movie, every scene gets a number.
Craig: And those of us who are on the writing side of things, we just press a button in our software and numbers are generated for each scene header. But we never, like it’s funny — Todd and I would talk about this all the time in the Hangovers, we don’t know scene numbers. We know scenes, we know the story. But crew people, they know the scene numbers.
John: Yeah, they have no idea what the actual content of the scene is. And so they say like, oh yeah, we’re going to shoot 140 after lunch. I’m like, I have no idea what that scene is. Tell me what happens in the scene.
Craig: I know. Like the worst is when they’ll come up to you and they’re like, “I have a question, in 79, is Phil supposed to have the cut on his face?” I’m like, “Do you think honestly that I know what 79 is?” I have no idea. Not one number ever. But man, they’re super Rain Man-y] about it. Anyway, point being–
John: Well, the reason why they’re Rain Man-y about it is their preparation is based on a schedule that has scene numbers. And so they’re looking at this is the scene number that has this thing in it. And so I have questions specifically about this scene numbers. So they’re not looking at the script that often.
Craig: No. They’re also not thinking about the script in terms of story. Like so, everything that we think about is contextualized in terms of narrative. And they really are looking at it broken down into blocks of — I mean if you’re working in hair and makeup, you need to know like, okay, in these numbers, from this number to this number, we have this look. From this number to this number, you have this look. This scene, we know we’re going to be dealing with blood and so forth. So we have such a different way of approaching things.
But if you do come across a production script that has half pages and asterisks and omits and stuff like that. It’s fine. You just keep reading it. And it’s just the same experience. But the only thing I would say that sometimes changes is, and I was talking about this the other day with somebody, one of the strange things about the art form of screenwriting is that you are simultaneously trying to serve two masters.
You are writing something that must translate well into a movie, but you’re also writing something to be read so that it’s either bought or approved or green-lit or an actor wants to do it, et cetera, et cetera. So sometimes, when you cross the Rubicon and you’re now in production, some stuff will start to come out because it’s no longer necessary for the reader.
So when you come across a production script, if you find that it doesn’t read quite as fully or lushly as you’d like, that oftentimes is why, because a lot of things have been dispensed with.
John: Yeah. And sometimes when you’re making those changes in a production scripts, I’m not looking for the perfect word in scene description. I’m looking for like, it’s honestly just more description like this is what actually happens. Or sometimes, it’s been like we’ve shot the scene and we actually shot it a slightly different way than was written. And so I’m writing a version of the scene that really reflects that this is what we actually shot. And so in those cases, I may not be picking the most beautiful words for some line of action because it’s functional. It’s showing like this is what actually happened.
Craig: Yeah, yeah, you’re better off not reading production screenplays.
John: Yeah. So this leads us to the last question about what kind of screenplays should you read? And so a great follow-up letter we got from an Oscar-nominated producer. So we’ll call him Leo because he doesn’t want to talk about the specific movie, but here’s what’s going on.
He writes, “I had to drop you this comment when I heard the conversation between John and Craig and Aline about voting for screenplays and whether you should read them or not. As a long time learner in this industry, I used to devour the screenplays that studios would post on their for your consideration pages. I’d constantly marvel how incredibly talented the filmmakers must have been to write a screenplay that so closely matched the final film. Sure, there was the odd line or scene that was different, but 90% of the time, the screenplay matched the film.
“Over the years, I started to think there may be a conspiracy afoot. Well, this year my own film has been Oscar nominated and the screenplay was made available on the for your consideration website. And guess what, it’s not the screenplay we shot at all. It’s a cut-and-paste of the original screenplay that matched the edited film.
“I discovered after the fact that the writers did this at the request of the studio before the script went out for your consideration. On my movie, there were very significant changes made in editorial. It really was a case of rewritten in the edit. And the film benefited immensely as a result.
“I think the process of following the script out to the screen would be fascinating for students, but of course, evidence of that journey has now been eradicated by the studio which has rewritten history. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel like a crime has been committed here. I’m not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. I just think it’s a shame in a way.
“Aspiring writers out there who hold themselves to the standard of these Oscar-nominated and awarded writers without seeing the before and after, well, I worry they’re left with the impression that these screenplays are not rock solid and require little to no reinvention in post.”
So he’s saying, basically, I think he’s worried that people are going to read these screenplays and think like, “Oh my god, it was an actually perfect screenplay.”
John: “Because they look exactly like the movie.” And that wasn’t actually the case at all. Like, the reason why that for your consideration script reads exactly like the move is because it was edited to look like the movie.
Craig: Yeah. This is the syndrome of the 14-year-old girl looking at, you know, another — a 17-year-old girl on the cover of Cosmo and thinking, “Why doesn’t my skin look like that, why is my waist not like that?” Well, because they photoshopped her. It’s not real.
I mean the interesting thing about this is that it cuts to the question of what exactly are you voting for? And, you know, my — we talked about this last time, my feeling is that the screenplay is the screenplay of the movie. That’s what I’m voting for. I’m not voting for the screenplay that the movie kind of used or mostly used or drifted away from. I’m voting for the screenplay of the movie.
And you can argue whether or not that makes sense if the writer was kind of undermined or subverted by the production process or the editing process. But look, you know, it’s all a big mush. As I said before, you know, screenwriters direct a ton of the movie on the page before a director is ever hired. But we’re not asking that, you know, people wonder what the director does. So I think that it’s perfectly fine that that’s the case.
It’s more interesting, I do think, to read — if you want to be a screenwriter, I think you should read the screenplays as they existed prior to production. And you don’t need to draw too many conclusions from what happened between that screenplay and the end product because ultimately that will not be in your control regardless. What you do know is that that screenplay was bought and it was made.
So for writers, I’d say there is a very good lesson to read the original screenplays. For people that are interested in film in general, I think, you know, you can read those too. But personally, I have no problem with what he is describing.
John: Yes. So I would urge, of course, screenwriters to read screenplays because there’s no way you’re going to understand the form without reading screenplays. And the screenplays that are going to be most available to you are the for your consideration scripts. And so read them if that’s what you can find, read them. If you can find earlier drafts, that’s useful too. And you’ll see sort of what the process was, you can see sort of what this looks like back then and sort of what it ended up being in the final place.
You won’t necessarily — if you’re reading a for your consideration script, you won’t have a good idea — and it’s the only thing you have, you won’t have a great sense of what they changed along the way and sort of what happened in the editorial room to get us there.
And I used to feel more strongly that, you know what, we should read the screenplays. Really it should have based on who had the best screenplay, what the best writing was. But then if you look at the other categories we’re voting for, we don’t really know that information either.
So if we vote for like best actor, well, how do we know that his performance was really sort of all one great performance and how much do we know that that was just terrific editing to make that performance look so good? Or by the same token there’s been probably great performances that have been ruined by crappy editing. So it’s hard to say. All you can do is base it on what is visible in the final product that suggest like, oh, that was a great performance underneath there or there was great writing underneath all that.
Craig: Yeah, you have to vote on — yeah, I mean look, we’re — I hate all this voting stuff anyway and all these awards. But if you’re going to do it, you just have to work with what you’ve got which is the movie. The plan that the director has is she shows up, she has a shot list, she does her shot list, she fiddles around, maybe does some other shots. And then in her mind, she has edited the scene together. She’s happy.
In the editing room, suddenly it becomes something else. Is she no longer the director of that scene? Of course not. This is how movies go. They defy this kind of fascicle categorization. The movie, if it’s done properly, is an amalgam of a lot of people’s input and talent. And who’s input is primarily featured on screen at any given point changes from moment to moment, film to film.
Craig: So the endeavor to give out awards and parse out, well, this movie is the best directed, this movie is the best written, this movie is the best edited, and this movie is just the best, is just dumb.
Craig: But, you know — it’s dumb, it doesn’t reflect what’s real, but I get why they do it because it makes a longer show.
John: I think awards are useful to the degree that they can celebrate quality. And to the degree that they pit quality against quality is not necessarily a perfect world. But they are a chance to showcase and celebrate some of the best films of the year. And that’s why I think — that’s why I’m glad we have Oscars, despite my misgivings about sort of all of the other crap that comes with it.
Craig: Yeah, I’ve always liked that AFI model, which is you know what, here is the whatever, I don’t what their number is, but at the end of the year —
John: The thousand best movies of the year.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, it’s like, here’s 15. We love these 15 movies. Come celebrate these 15 movies. Talk about who wrote them, talk about who directed them, talk about who starred in them, da-da-da. That’s great. That makes sense to me. And then you’re not sitting there going, well, let’s see, you know, like I’m just fascinated by this notion that you could have a best picture but not the best director.
Craig: You can have the best screenplay, but it’s not the best picture.
Craig: Uh, what? Okay.
John: Yeah, that happens.
Craig: Yeah, it just doesn’t make any sense.
John: All right, it has come time to introduce our two guests. So our two guests, we recorded separately. So they don’t actually talk with each other. But first off, we have some snippets from our sit down chat with Rebel Wilson.
So she came into the office sitting, the three of us sat down face to face and talked. And some of the things we wanted to talk about with her in this episode is how Australian TV works. Tall Poppy Syndrome which is a term I’ve heard applied to people from New Zealand, but it’s also apparently something you talk about with Australians, which is sort of like small town boy makes good, but maybe being used against you, and just general writing.
So Rebel Wilson, she was just awesome and it was a pleasure to have her on the show.
Craig: In Australia, so you’ve done television in Australia, you’ve done television here.
Rebel Wilson: Yeah.
Craig: What’s the difference in the — you know, we have Standards and Practices.
Craig: So that’s the people that — they’re basically the TV censors. Are they easier here, there?
Rebel: Okay, we don’t even have that in Australia.
Craig: So it would be easier there.
Rebel: Which is why I got thrown for a huge loop, I guess you could say. In Australia, I mean there was one show that I came up on called Pizza. And it was very, very rude, you know, very, very [laughs] crass and rude, but a crowd favorite, cult classic in Australia. Won like the Australian version of the Emmy’s one year, but really, full on, people running around with chainsaws, chopping people and Muslims like running around doing terrorist jokes, and like all sorts of things.
But Australians love it. Nobody would even watch that show from a network or anything. It would just go on air. So there’s no such thing —
Craig: Is there even anybody working in the network or you just drop off the tape and —
Rebel: Yeah, there’s people but what would happen in Australia is that your show get commissioned and congratulations, like, only like two people in Australia per year get their own show. Your show gets commissioned by a lady and then they’re like go away and make the show.
Rebel: And then you give it in, and then it goes on air, like you wouldn’t get notes.
Craig: Do they even watch it, you think?
Rebel: [laughs] I think they’ve started to now. They’re starting to get more American now. But they never used to watch it because like these extreme vile things [laughs] would go on air. And they wouldn’t really care.
Craig: And then from here —
John: And it is just a wonderland, right?
Rebel: Yeah. Then I came here and learned the hard way what the American system is. Believing when they told me, “Oh Rebel, you can have your own show and you can do whatever you want. We just want you to be free to do whatever you want.”
Craig: Good accent.
Rebel: And then I realized, oh okay, I was like excited. But then I quickly realized that is not at all what they mean. Because they have somebody called Broadcast Standards and Practices, well, a whole department actually called that that refused to allow you to do anything really on network TV.
Rebel: Unless you’re a hit and then weirdly the standards —
John: I’m sure.
Rebel: Are easier.
Craig: Yeah, but they still have their — I mean the guys that do The Simpsons, I mean what is it, they’re coming up in their 27th season.
Craig: They still slug it out with.
Rebel: It gave me a huge respect for people who do network TV in America because how they get anything on air I do not know.
John: Have you heard of this thing called Tall Poppy Syndrome?
John: Is that a real thing? Is that something that —
Rebel: That is a very, very real thing, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to come live and work in America. So what it is, it’s a cultural phenomenon. It’s where if you get too good or too successful in Australia, so if you’re a poppy and you grow too tall, essentially, people want to cut you down. [laughs]
Rebel: Like yes, that’s what happened to me in Australia. So I was on all these different television shows and people like, she’s had a go, let someone else. And I’m like, what do you mean? I’m now like experienced. I’m now like really experienced. I’m now ready to go the next step and have my own movies, or maybe. And the Australian system is like, no, you think you’re so good now, why don’t you go and be unemployed. And I’m like, no. It’s a really —
Craig: That’s amazing.
Rebel: It’s a thing which I hope like younger Australians stop doing because I like the American culture more where you can’t be successful enough. Like people love the successful people and people like love the celebrities and people who are good at things and talented. Because in Australia, there’s this bizarre culture of like, oh, they celebrate the mediocre people and they’re like the ones who are too good, they’re like —
Rebel: Get over yourselves. [laughs]
Rebel: And I mean I’m being very general in my explanation on what it is, but it’s a real thing and it’s kind of like —
Craig: That’s not good.
Rebel: No, because they don’t want people to have big heads, do you have that expression like —
Craig: Yeah, we do. Sure.
Rebel: You know, too much of an ego.
John: Cut them down to size.
Rebel: But then they do terrible — like, so the guy, Chris Lilley, who you’re just saying, like —
Craig: Right, Summer Heights High.
Rebel: Who created Summer Heights High and so many shows. And then his latest show, like, people didn’t watch because they’re, like, “Yeah, I’ve seen it before, whatever.” And he’s like one of our best comedic talents.
Craig: He’s brilliant.
Rebel: He’s a brilliant guy.
Craig: So it’s the opposite of encouragement of people that you enjoy, you —
Craig: So like what’s the attitude towards Baz Luhrmann there?
Rebel: Yeah, that’s the same.
Craig: Same, like, oh look at you.
Rebel: Yeah, make someone look good, wow.
Craig: Wow. Crazy.
John: I was on a panel during Big Fish and there was — there were people on the panel were the — The Lord of the Rings movie was out that time. And I think it was Fran Walsh who was saying — she was trying to explain Tall Poppy Syndrome and she summed it up as this, is that she called her dad saying, like, “Hey, dad, guess what? I got nominated for an Oscar.” And he’s, like, “Oh, you won’t win.”
Rebel: Yeah. [laughs]
John: [laughs] And she was like, you know, basically she’s like — don’t let that go to your head. You won’t win.
Rebel: It’s like my family never believed I was an actress until I was in American movies. And they came to, like, the premiere of Bridesmaids and they’re like, “Oh, you are actually, like, good. Oh, yeah, oh, yeah.” [laughs]
Craig: Do they still kind of wonder about that or have they gotten used to the idea that you’re —
Rebel: I’m trying to change it. Like, I’m trying to say to people and the young people in Australia like, if you work hard and have a dream and you should go for it. You shouldn’t just try to be like the average Joe. If you have a talent for something, whether that’s sports or the arts or —
Rebel: You know, something scientific. Like I can’t give a science reference.
Craig: Just like you.
Rebel: Yeah. You should try hard and try to, like, be the best whereas it’s really frowned upon in Australia to be like exceptional in your field. Yeah.
Craig: We do have a little bit of the opposite problem here which is the Special Snowflake Syndrome where —
Rebel: Oh, yeah.
Craig: Everyone thinks their kid is the one, you know.
Craig: That finally humanity has reached its apex with my child, you know, Francine or —
Craig: Caden or —
John: Well, some of the Tall Poppy Thing may just be, like, it’s almost like it’s a big small town. And so like because everyone’s from this little small town, if anyone gets to be too big in that small town, you’re like, wait, wait, hold it a second and then they cut you down.
Rebel: But weirdly, though, when you do make it in America, the tide does turn and they’re like, “Oh, yeah, they were good.”
John: Yeah, you’re now an ambassador for —
Rebel: Yeah, and then you —
Craig: There’s a lot of, like, national self-esteem issues going on there.
Rebel: Yeah, I know. I don’t know. It’s weird. Maybe because we’re all criminals or kind of like descendants.
Craig: No, that’s the best part of you guys. It is the best part.
And that was our discussion with Rebel Wilson. Well, that was our clean discussion with Rebel Wilson. As you could tell, we had a great time with her. She’s fantastic and I think, honestly, the day that we spoke with her, some news came out about this other move. She’s working constantly and that’s terrific. And obviously, she has Pitch Perfect 2 coming out and she was just great.
And, you know, it’s funny. Actors who are also writers, there’s just something about them. I’ve always found it easier to connect with them on some level. There’s something about, you know, a fellow writer. There’s that weird hundredth monkey connection that you have with them. So it was a great time. You know, she’s an actual fan of the show, so I hope we get her back one day.
John: That would be nice
John: And then our second guest was Dan Savage. And so he was sort of a fantasy guest and I wasn’t quite sure how we were going to track him down. And so I followed him on Twitter hoping that he would get back to me. Then finally it’s like, you know what, I’ll just shoot him an email at his Savage Love thing. And within half an hour, I got an answer back saying he’d love to be on the show.
So it was great to have him come in and talk with us. So a lot of what we talked about is really dirty and involves anal sex, but the stuff that doesn’t involve anal sex is actually really fascinating as well. So I asked him what he’d like to see movies and TV do more to portray sex in a positive way but also in a realistic way. So he had some great ideas about that. So I asked Dan what kinds of things he would like to see film and television portray in terms of sex.
Are there things that you as a sex advice columnist would love to see our movies and television shows doing more of to communicate the sexuality of the human race?
Dan Savage: Fewer simultaneous orgasms would be nice. A little bit more awkwardness around the edges, like you catch a groove but somehow, you know, it takes a moment, particularly for two people who’ve never had sex before, to find that groove, less explosive/impulsive sex.
Dan: That often gets held up and elevated as the most legitimate and hottest kind of sex is, or, you know, when it’s natural. It wasn’t planned for. It wasn’t specifically negotiated. It just kind of broke out like some sort of sudden thunderstorm, which is not the way most sex happens. Sex is negotiated and talked about and eased into.
And I guess you can’t really show that on television but it would be helpful to see more of that.
Craig: I mean, part of the problem that we face — this is my big question for you, and not only as a sex columnist but also now somebody who’s dipping your toes into the creation of content on television and let’s include movies here, too. Part of the problem that we face as content creators is that movies and television are typically depicting extraordinary circumstances. That’s why they’re on television or movies.
So, look, I’ve been married for — I’m coming up on my 19th year. So I have married sex. I know what that’s like. I also know that it’s — while there are some circumstances like, for instance, the show Togetherness on HBO now, sort of revels in that and revels in a little bit of the awkwardness or the idea of getting a little bored. Movies about extraordinary events like murder, explosions [laughs], car chases and all the other stuff, I guess what I’m getting at is do movies have a responsibility to at least acknowledge that this kind of sex is not normal and that if it’s not this kind of sex, that’s okay too?
Dan: I don’t think it’s their responsibility to acknowledge. It’s just there’s so much humor and pathos that goes unexplored and unmined if that kind of sudden explosive, passionate sex is the only kind that’s ever represented.
Dan: It’s not that you have a duty to instruct your audience in the way sex works most of the time. Most audiences are smart enough to know that reality doesn’t bear much relationship, doesn’t, you know, resemble an action film because they have the daily-lived reality. And, you know, most people have a sex life of their own. They know that the sex they see in the movies isn’t necessarily the sex that you have.
It’s almost like filmmakers and storytellers are selling themselves short, are cheating themselves out of potential interesting storylines or moments or beats or comedy or laughs.
Dan: They revert to this kind of kabuki sex, these rituals, the stylized performance of sex as opposed to, you know, sex people actually have.
Craig: I’m with you on that one.
John: Well, the sex that people have, they have their own personal experience but they also get experience from watching mainstream movies and television shows and from watching porn. And they both set these really strange expectations about what it’s supposed to be like. I just feel like if I were a teenager growing up today, I would have the access to so much porn online and then if I would look at sort of the movies in theaters, there’s almost no sex at all.
I remember one of the very important moments for me sexually growing up was the sex scene in Terminator which is the first R-rated movie I got — my brother snuck me into. And to see like the Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton sex scene was incredibly impactful for me. And I wonder if today’s kids are going to get that kind of, I don’t know, romantic big screen movie version of sex in their films.
Dan: I want someone to make the Terminator movie, you know, or maybe slash fiction with Michael Biehn and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Craig: I think that’s probably actually what would have happened. [laughs]I think that does sound realer to me frankly.
Dan: Yeah, you know, we debate like the representations of romance and sex in film. And maybe we attach too importance to it because so many kids are getting their sex educations, tragically, from porn. And it does, for many, set their expectations around what sex is going to be and look like or what may be expected of them sexually which can create a lot of anxiety, and not just in girls but also boys.
You know, we need porn to be more realistic. We also need, you know, education about porn that gets out in front of porn because we’re not going to be able to stem the tide or put that genie back in the bottle. The Internet is here forever, so we need to talk to kids about porn is really kabuki sex, like I was just calling movie porn kabuki sex.
Porn is totally kabuki sex. It’s highly stylized, ritualized. And kids need to be told that. And that’s very freeing once you hear that because then you don’t watch porn thinking holy crap, is that my future.
Craig: [laughs] Right, right.
John: Because our podcast is largely aimed at screenwriters and people who are interested in screenwriting, I want to look at sort of our heroes and the way that I feel like our modern heroes, especially on the big screen, have stopped becoming sexual creatures. And maybe it’s the PG-13-ification of our movies and I worry that our heroes that we’re sort of building now sort of don’t get to do that anymore.
Instead, they’re sort of why heroes — it’s Harry Potter who’s lovely but he’s sort of pre-sexual. Even the characters in The Hunger Games, they’re beautiful but they’re not actually sexual. And I wonder if we’re creating a generation that doesn’t have a sense of — that it’s okay to be sexual and still be the hero, be the good person.
Dan: Oh, my god. Yeah. Well, think of all the, you know, James Bond movies where there were always interludes for Bond just, you know, to bang the Bond girl. Does that still happen? I haven’t seen a James Bond movie —
Craig: It does.
John: It’s the exception, sort of.
Craig: Yeah. But, I mean, I know what John’s saying that there is, in a weird way — it’s funny like popular music has become hypersexualized for teen, s but movies have hyposexualized in part because I think that there’s this panic. I mean, remember, Hollywood once made — what was the movie with Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol where — movies about 12-year-old, 13-year-old girls having sex.
Hollywood used to do this, you know, Louis Malle made a movie where Brooke Shields was nude and she was, like, 11. And then obviously that doesn’t fit the mores of our time now but there does seem to be kind of almost a panic over —
Dan: And let’s throw out Christopher Atkins in the Blue Lagoon, you know, the boy in there, too.
John: Oh, lovely.
Craig: We couldn’t do that today, not in a million years.
Dan: Yeah. Well, we’re paranoid about young people’s sexuality. You know, I haven’t really thought about this but off the top of my head, maybe it’s a reaction to the AIDS epidemic that’s still sort of broiling through the culture. This attitude that sexual expression outside of the context to committed relationship is not okay.
And so when I think about like — I’m still thinking about the sex I’ve seen in movies, it’s kind of limited to romcoms or relationships that are established which aren’t, you know, very sexy. Sex in an established relationship is considered routine and not remarkable, not an extraordinary event.
Dan: Film-worthy. And so we get these heroes who don’t have time for sex or aren’t interested in sex.
John: I just think there are small exceptions like the Tony Stark character in Iron Man. You feel like he has sex with Gwyneth Paltrow. That’s a thing that happens and they set up other girls in his life. But he’s sort of a bad boy for having sex.
John: And if you look at the other characters in the Marvel universe, they don’t have sex basically.
Dan: I don’t go see those movies. Does Thor have sex?
Craig: I don’t think so because Thor is technically a Norse god and I think they make lightning — they make weather.
John: And Captain America is a boy scout.
John: Even Black Widow, I mean it’s Scarlett Johansson, so she’s inherently a sexual creature but they don’t actually use any of that as part of the story because it’s the PG -13 universe. It has to be able to sell toys and you don’t want to sexualize toys, I guess.
Dan: Spider-Man would be like the world’s greatest bondage top. Does he not have sex? I haven’t seen a Spider-Man movie either. I’m a terrible guest for your show. I don’t get to see a lot of —
Craig: No, it’s great. Spider-Man actually is a great example of what John’s talking about. He is a high school senior. He’s got this super hot girlfriend that’s totally in love with him. I think at one point they actually move in or live together, maybe even get married. I can’t — because there’s been a lot of them. But you get the feeling that all they do is kiss and then go to bed like Ricky and Lucy in separate beds.
I mean, there’s just no balls to that character. It’s all like Jesus-based heroism, like I am a pure person. I mean that’s part of the problem. A lot of these heroes that we put out there in movies are just retelling of the Jesus story. I am a pure person who will absorb the sin of the world around me, suffer for your sins, and then save the world through my resurrection.
Dan: It’s not compromised by desire.
Craig: Bingo. Bingo. And this is part of what goes on, I think, these days at least, in a lot of the narrative that we put out to kids.
Craig: Oh, you just August’d me. [laughs] You August’d me. Mm-hmm. Yup.
Craig: [laughs] Exactly.
Dan: I can see the point. I see that. I see that.
Craig: Okay, period. [laughs]
John: And that was Dan Savage. So you can hear more from the Dan Savage and the Rebel Wilson parts in the Dirty Episode. That’s in the premium feed. So you can go to see Scriptnotes.net and sign up for that or you can also get to it through the app. Craig, it is time for our One Cool Things, our clean One Cool Thing.
Craig: Yes, clean One Cool Things. So I have a One Cool Thing that’s, at least in theory, it’s a One Cool Thing although I haven’t actually gotten to use it yet. It’s called Be My Eyes. Have you heard of this app?
John: I have. And it is designed for people with vision impairment that people can help them out.
Craig: Yeah. So essentially, blind folks are really good at navigating their environment particularly people who have been blind their whole lives. I mean this is the world they know and they have, you know — obviously, there are challenges along the way but they’ve really adapted brilliantly. But then there are these weird little mundane things that would not occur to you and I as sighted people but they struggle with.
For instance, they’re at home, they go to their refrigerator, they take out a thing of milk, they can’t remember when they bought it, they cannot see the expiration date. It’s not in Braille on the carton. So this Be My Eyes thing is basically they can — they access it and somebody who’s sighted is on the other end of the app who goes, “Oh, yeah. Here, I’m here to help you.” And they go great. And they hold their phone up at the camera.
And they’re like, “Can you tell me when this milk expired?” And you — “Move your camera left, up. You’re good.” So it’s actually kind of amazing. Here’s [laughs] the problem. The problem is there are lot more sighted people than blind people. So currently on the Be My Eyes network, I’m looking at it right now, there are 9,000 blind people who are registered to use this service. And there are 107,000 sighted people who are, like, “Can I help, can I help?”
So I actually haven’t gotten any calls yet. You obviously can tune it to your language so the more languages you know, theoretically, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to help somebody. But there’ve been 24,500 instances of helpings. So —
John: Oh, that’s great.
Craig: I think it’s terrific. It’s such a smart idea. So anyway, if you are blind, just know I’m on the other end of this, like, super excited to tell you if your milk is okay.
John: [laughs] That’s great. My One Cool Thing this week is an interview with Alex Blumberg. And Alex Blumberg is the guy who runs StartUp Podcast and Reply All. He has this whole little podcast network. And I referred to them as a One Cool Thing a previous time.
But in this episode, he talks about how they are actually recording and how they’re actually putting together their shows. Because I had this perception that podcasts are sort of podcasts and there’s obviously a couple different kinds. There’s the podcast where it’s just somebody talking at you. There’s the podcast like Craig and I do which is two people talking at each other.
But the ones that they’re doing at Reply All and at StartUp are much more elaborate. They’re much more like a Serial in the sense that they’re put together and there’s bits of audio and there’s narration and I wondered how they did that. Well, it turns out they do it kind of the way we would do it is they script it. And so they have all their audio bits and then they write the script and they do a table read where they read from the script and then they play the audio — and they read from script and they play the audio and the people listen.
And then they give notes and they have to go back and do it again and again. And so it was just fascinating to see the process of how that kind of quality show is put together. So I recommend this interview where he talks about it but also listen to his shows because I think they’re just fantastic.
Craig: It’s kind of awesome that you and I don’t have to do that.
John: We don’t have to do any of that.
Craig: Yeah, we just roll.
John: Yeah. We fly by the seat of our pants.
Craig: That’s right. And you in particular are remarkably mellifluous. [laughs] And smooth of speech.
John: At least I sound smooth of speech once Matthew Chilelli has edited out all my stumblings which there were many of this episode.
Craig: If we have the sirens supercut, we need a supercut of you going [stumbles] I’ve lost the ability to speak. [laughs]
John: We’ll also put a link in the show next to this. There’s an episode of the Slate’s Culture Gabfest. We were guests on the Slate’s Culture Gabfest. They did one which is just their live raw feed before they edit themselves out. And so you hear Julie and Dana and Stephen talking. And when they mess up, they go — they’ll say like, “So I was down at the store and I — three, two, one, so I was down at the store and –” so when they screw up, they do a three, two, one to get into it.
And we don’t do that at all for Matthew. We just expect that he’ll somehow figure out how to make our sentences sound good.
Craig: If you put a little air in there, I mean you don’t need three, two, one.
Craig: Zach Galifianakis would do this thing that was remarkable. And it’s why literally when I watch Birdman, I’m, like, where was that Zach when we were shooting Hangover. He’s able to rattle off all this stuff brilliantly in perfect timing and these long takes. So we were shooting and, you know, if the line was something like “Well, I don’t know what you’re even talking about.” He would say it, “Why don’t — well, I don’t even know — well, I don’t even know–” and he would do like nine of those in a row. [laughs]. And you just sit there, like, what.
John: You realize, like, you know we can’t — we have to slip scissors in there somewhere.
Craig: Well, I mean he would restart every time, so it was okay. But it was just the way that he would progress — when you were a kid, did you read the comics?
John: I loved the comics.
Craig: I love the comics too. Annie was always the most frustrating comic because Annie would have this serialized story and it was three panels. So the first panel, something happens. Second panel, something happens. Third panel, oh, my gosh. Then the next day, they would essentially start with the second panel [laughs], you know, and do the third panel from yesterday.
And then you’d only really get one new bit of story information a day. And he would kind of progress that way through these lines. [laughs] He would only get one word further but he would just — and he would — it was — but then, you know, when he got it out, it was awesome.
John: Yeah. Did they ever figure out what happened to Annie’s eyes?
Craig: Oh, I think if you are an orphan, that’s —
John: Oh, that’s right. Orphans don’t get eyes.
Craig: Orphans don’t get pupils.
John: They have no parents and no pupils.
Craig: No parents, no pupils.
John: It’s a hard knocked life. That’s our show for this week. Our show is produced, as always, by Stuart Friedel. It’s edited by Matthew Chilelli who probably did the outro this week. I don’t know whose outro we’re going to use for this episode.
But if you have an outro you’d like us to use, you can send that to email@example.com. That’s also a great place to send questions or insights about Oscar-nominated movies, like this producer did this time. You can follow us on Twitter. I’m @johnaugust, only @johnaugust, I have no other accounts.
So don’t follow anything else. No fake accounts. Craig is only @clmazin, no other accounts. I’m on Instagram too but it’s not really relevant to most of this, but I’m also @johnaugust on Instagram. You should subscribe to us on iTunes if you haven’t already. And while you’re there, you can download the Scriptnotes app which is now much, much better. This week, you should also listen for the Dirty Show which will only go up in the premium feed, so it won’t be in the normal feed. And it’s just filthy. It’ll just melt your ears off. So don’t listen to it in the car with your kids because it’s just really bad and I swear.
Craig: Unless your kids already know a lot of this stuff.
John: Yeah, probably so. If your kids know a lot of this stuff, it’s probably fine.
John: But, Craig, you know, we talk about just a lot of stuff and —
Craig: We get into it, people. We get in.
John: We go deep into Rebel Wilson’s fish basket, so.
Craig: [laughs] See, that’s the sort of thing that actually you can get away with on this show.
John: Yeah, totally.
Craig: We don’t have standards and practices. [laughs]
John: [laughs] We have a lot of practices but very few standards.
Craig: We do Rebel Wilson’s fish basket, A, great band name, B, probably should be the title of the episode.
John: Yeah, it’s so good.
John: All right. Craig, thank you very much. Have a wonderful week.
Craig: You too, John.
- The Dirty Episode will soon be available to premium subscribers on scriptnotes.net and on the newly-updated Scriptnotes app for iOS and Android
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, S5E16, “The Body” on Wikipedia and iTunes
- Bronson Watermarker PDF
- Rebel Wilson on IMDb, Wikipedia and Twitter
- Dan Savage on Wikipedia and Twitter
- Be My Eyes
- Alex Blumberg on How to Create a Blockbuster Podcast
- Slate’s Culture Gabfest raw, unfiltered, and unedited
- Outro by Scriptnotes editor Matthew Chilelli (send us yours!)