The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: Yeah, my name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is episode 188 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Now, Craig, if I bring up the term “midseason finale,” what does that evoke to you? What does that mean to you?
Craig: Nothing. [laughs]
Craig: Nothing. I have a blank.
John: You don’t watch TV. I keep forgetting that. I keep trying to bring up these things that involve television.
Craig: I mean, I watch some TV but I don’t, like, I never realized there was a midseason finale.
John: I think it’s a fairly recent construct. And what it is, is generally as a TV show, especially a show that has a 22-episode season, they sort of break into two chunks. And so, you’ll go through a long narrative arc that will sort of like culminate after like 13 episodes or something. And this often happens sort of around Christmas time and then there’s a break and then they come back for the second half of the season later on.
And so, the midseason finale I think about sort of wrapping up a bunch of plot lines but also establishing the new stuff that’s going to happen.
John: And this episode of Scriptnotes kind of feels like a midseason finale to me because even though we’re not taking a break, even though next week there’ll be a show, there’s a whole bunch of stuff on the outline to go through which is basically let’s just wrap this stuff up and be done with it for awhile.
Craig: Well, I like that. I’m a big believer in getting things off the plate. Some of these things I never want to see again.
John: Yes, and so some of these things will be buried forever.
John: But let’s talk through some of the things we’ll talk about today.
John: We will have a follow up on a previous Three Page Challenge. We will talk about the WGA diversity numbers.
John: We’ll look at Road Runner cartoons.
John: Gerritsen’s Gravity lawsuit.
Craig: Wait, we’ve already done all of these things. Oh, this is the point.
John: This is the point.
Craig: Got it.
John: More rules on screenwriting.
John: But then we’ll be looking forward to the future.
John: And so establishing the second half of the season of Scriptnotes.
Craig: Oh, I see, I didn’t even know we had a season. That’s how far ahead of me you are.
John: Absolutely. The new thing in podcasting is seasons.
Craig: Oh, okay.
John: Yeah, so Serial has seasons. We haven’t had seasons to date, but maybe we should have seasons and then maybe that’s a thing we should talk about.
Craig: Oh, yeah, Serial I presume is going to find somebody else who’s definitely guilty to talk about for awhile about how maybe they’re not guilty which you could do with literally anyone.
John: Yeah. That’s fun to do.
John: Go back and revisit things that are already decided.
Craig: I have stolen my pronunciation of literally from Seth Rudetsky.
John: Oh, good.
Craig: Yeah, he has his own.
Craig: He has — like the English people say “literally” and Americans typically say “literally” but he says, “literally, literally”. It’s his own thing. I love it. Stole it.
John: Yeah. So it’s like a lit tree.
Craig: Yes, literally.
John: As an adverb.
Craig: Right, literally yeah.
John: Yeah. It’s good. All right, so before we get in to this big batch of follow up, there’s a little bit of actual news. So news on my end, we have a brand new version of Weekend Read out which finally adds the thing that Craig has been asking for the last year for is support for the iPad.
Craig: Thank god.
John: So the new version, version 1.5 of Weekend Read adds iPad support but also adds iCloud Sync which is very useful. So you can start reading a script on your iPhone, continue reading it on your iPad and it will know where you are and it will keep those files together and in sync.
John: It will also let you do folders, which is super handy, so you can group things together. And you can even build a folder on your back, in the little iCloud folder and just drag a bunch of files in there. So, super useful. I want to thank Nima Yousefi who literally went —
John: Literally ripped his hair out and went insane trying to make it all work. But it works, so thank you.
Craig: Do you think he did it for me?
John: Mostly he did it for Craig. Whenever he was about to give up, I said, “But think about Craig.”
Craig: And he literally went back to work.
John: Yeah. And so, Craig, you signed up as a beta tester but we can actually check how many times you installed the beta and it was zero.
Craig: [laughs] That’s so me.
John: That’s so Raven.
Craig: That is so Raven. I’m going to — look, I don’t, listen man, now that I know it’s real —
John: Now it’s real.
Craig: I’m just going to —
John: Now it’s on the App Store.
Craig: Yeah, I’m just going to buy it. I’m just going to literally going to buy it.
John: Yeah, that’s great. Thank you.
Craig: How much does it cost?
John: Yeah, well, it’s free to download and then to upgrade it for all the new extra features, it is a one-time purchase. If you upgraded the original version of Weekend Read, just click Restore Purchases and it would already be there.
Craig: And if I upgrade it because I’m going to — you know me, I love to upgrade.
Craig: I’m an upgrader.
Craig: What am I looking at here? 400, 500 bucks?
Craig: I can do that. I can swing it.
John: You can absolutely do that.
John: Yeah. I’ve seen your house. You could totally afford that.
Craig: I could totally afford it. And you know what? I’d could have done ten.
Craig: I could have just done a flat — nobody does that by the way, right? Is there anyone that does that on the iStore?
John: You actually can’t do it on the App Store, there are set price tiers, so.
Craig: That’s amazing.
John: They do these price tiers because depending on what country you’re in it’s a completely different amount of money.
John: And so they set the price tier so it can be convertible to whatever currency it’s in.
Craig: And 9.99 is more convertible than 10?
John: Yeah. I don’t know.
John: Everyone understands it’s 10.
John: It’s actually literally called tier 10.
Craig: It’s literally tier 10.
John: God, oh no.
Craig: I hope that’s Seth —
John: I mean, Mathew is going to have to go through this and just cut out all of these.
Craig: We have to send this to Seth. I don’t care.
Craig: I want him to listen to this. I literally want him to listen to it.
John: Our friend, Aline Brosh McKenna, has issued a jeremiad against the term “seriously.”
Craig: Well, I’m with her. I mean, “really” and “seriously” both need to go.
John: They’re clammy.
Craig: They’re gone.
John: The other new thing we put out on the same day as Weekend Read 1.5 is brand new versions of our flagship font. So we make Courier Prime. We are the people who released Courier Prime which is free for everybody but we made it. And we also put out today Courier Prime Sans and Courier Prime Source. And so these are, the Sans version is basically it’s the exact same metrics as Couriers Prime but without the serifs on it so it is more like a Helvetica that there’s not little feet on the letters and heads.
And Courier Prime Source is designed for people who are writing programs who wanted a great mono space font. It is the same font as Courier Prime Sans but the Os have slashes through them so they don’t get confused with zeros. Actually the zeros have slashes —
Craig: Yeah, I was going to say the zeros are supposed to have the slashes.
John: That would be a huge mistake if we made that.
Craig: That would have been, literally, we could have brought the world down.
John: Yeah, like literally —
John: Oh, we’ll never stop this.
Craig: I know.
John: Satellites could have crashed because of this one mistake.
Craig: Absolutely, a lot of lives would have been lost. I like that it’s your flagship font as opposed to, what, your 10 other not-flagship fonts?
John: Yeah, we have a lot of other internal fonts that we use for other things.
Craig: Oh, you have internal fonts?
John: Yeah. We have a busy font making —
Craig: A little font factory.
John: And so Courier Prime Sans is actually the same face essentially as Highland Sans, the face that we use inside Highland. We just wanted other people to be able to use it. So Slugline was the first people who came to us to say, “Hey, can we use that?” And we’re like, “Yeah, sure,” but it feels weird that it’s called Highland so we changed the name of it. And then the Source font basically because the font we made as just as a Sans didn’t really work right for programmers, so we fixed some things for programmers.
Things like the asterisk which, you know, for a normal typewriter face you want the asterisk to be a certain way. But if you’re actually coding where you want it to be a much bigger, a more centered thing because you use it for multiplying numbers and such or pointers.
Craig: Is there a term, a linguistic term to describe a word in a language that is a foreign source but everybody mispronounces it just as a general — like Sans is, everybody knows that like a font is a Sans font.
Craig: But it’s from sans, the French without. And there are words like San Pedro here in Los Angeles.
Craig: What the hell is San Pedro? That’s the weirdest thing. It’s not like we — why would we say that? Why don’t we just say San Pedro?
John: I’m sure there is. So, please listeners, if you know the name for the word that Craig is searching for, let us know. Because it’s a special consistent thing, like you have to learn that it’s La Brea, like le, le, but it’s La Cienega, same word pronounced completely differently based on what street it’s associated with.
Craig: Le Brea, La Cienega. You’re right. And my wife speaks fluent Spanish, and so she really gets rankled by Los Feliz. That makes her nuts. Because we all know Feliz Navidad, it’s not like we go Feliz Navidad. We all know how it’s supposed to be but we say Los Feliz. And her favorite is in Florida, there is a lake, Buena Vista. But in Florida they call it Buena Vista.
Craig: What is that?
John: It’s madness but it’s just the way it is. And I would also argue that Los Feliz and Los Feliz, you hear both being pronounced and it’s partly because that neighborhood in Los Angeles still has a large Spanish-speaking population who choose to call it what it’s actually — more like what its actually Spanish would be.
Craig: They have to be so angry every day.
John: I don’t think they’re so angry.
Craig: I think they, I would be.
John: I think they recognize they’re living in a period of language transition.
Craig: I would riot. I mean — no, I’m not — listen, when I say I would riot, please understand I’m not trying to instigate a riot. But if I were walking around, I spoke Spanish, I was raised speaking Spanish and someone is like, “Oh, where do you live?” And I said, “Los Feliz”. And they said, “Oh, you mean Los Feliz?”
Craig: I would light a garbage can on fire at that point.
John: So, I think in the SNL app that you highlighted earlier, two weeks ago probably, I do recall an SNL sketch where they over-pronounced Spanish words and it’s just so terrible, like “Chimichanga” like, you know, really go too far in pronouncing a Spanish word in a Spanish way. That’s one of the worst things you could do, also.
Craig: That’s the local news anchor disease.
John: Very much.
Craig: Yes, yes.
John: The last bit of news I had that was just sort of news because I got to experience it for the first time is I went to PAX East which is the big game convention here in Boston which happened to line up with the dates that I’m here in Boston for Big Fish. And it was just overwhelming and amazing.
Now, Craig, do you like conventions? Do you like going to big nerd-out bunches of people?
Craig: I love nerds and I love so much what happens at those conventions. Like when E3 comes around or when Comic-Con comes around I will definitely look and see what the news is coming out of them. But I cannot explain how much I hate being in an enormous box room with people jammed against me…eh…ah..eh…do you hear that noise?
John: Yeah, that’s pain.
Craig: That’s my brain every sec. I went to E3 once.
John: I went to E3 once too and it was —
John: Yeah. So I would rank this on the whole scale of like these kinds of conferences and conventions. So I went to CES once in Las Vegas and it was one of the most overwhelming and terrifying things I have ever encountered where like I wanted to stare just at a blank wall for like 20 minutes just to sort of get my eyes to shut up. I did not enjoy that. And then I also went to E3 and that was a similar kind of thing but a little scaled back. This was actually much better. It was a huge number of people, just a crazy number of people.
And so as you descend the escalator into it, you’re like, “Oh, my god, I’m going to have a panic attack.” But I realized quite early on that half of the convention floor is all the videogame stuff. And that’s the big, bright, loud, noisy part. And there’s probably amazing things to see and you’re seeing things like Over-Watched the new Blizzard game and there was Oculus stuff and there’s amazing stuff if you’re in to that. I just bee-lined straight through there and went to the other half of the hall where they had all the table-top games and it was just so much more sedate and calm and just delightful.
Craig: Of course.
John: One of the best things that I saw there, which I had anticipated is they have these tables where they have a bunch of opened board games and box games and table-top games and you can just check them out. You basically give them your ID. You can check them out. Like go over to a table and play them. And it was just a brilliant, simple idea but the chance to actually see what those games are like when they’re played. And I just commend everybody who sort of ventured over into that half of the arena.
Craig: That’s probably where you would find me. I like to go in the quiet place. I like quiet and cool. I don’t like it to be too hot.
Craig: I don’t mind too cold. I’ll put a jacket on.
John: Yeah. That’s fine. Yeah. So, part of the reason why I wanted to see this PAX East board game space is because we actually are developing a board game in my little company.
Craig: What aren’t you doing over there?
John: We’re kind of doing a lot. We got a lot of —
Craig: Are you guys going to build a car?
Craig: Okay. I’m just saying because I, you know —
John: We know you love cars.
Craig: Well, if you could out Tesla the Tesla. I’m just saying
John: Yeah, out Apple the Apple cart.
Craig: Anyway, all right. So back, so you’re developing a game.
John: We’re developing a game. And so part of the reason why there were some specific people there I needed to talk with about this game we’re developing and trying to figuring out and one of the things we need to do next is actually put it in front of a bunch of people to play test it. So this is a callout to listeners and I’ll also put this on Twitter, but in Los Angeles on which day, on — ?
Craig: March 23rd at 9:00 p.m.
John: We are going to be testing this game.
Craig: That was a wild guess, was I right?
John: You were absolutely right. You were looking at the Workflow ahead me.
Craig: I might be cheating.
John: You might be cheating. We are going to need about 30 people to test this game. So if you are a person who really likes board games, table-top games, card games, that kind of thing, we might really benefit from your just spending 90 minutes and helping us figure out this game. So if you’d like to do that, the sign-up for that is johnaugust.com/game and that would be cool if you want to come join us. So it’s in Los Angeles. It is on March 23rd at 9:00 p.m. It’ll be somewhere in the Hollywood area/Mid-Wilshire area. And we will make sure the game actually makes sense, that the instructions make sense.
Craig: Am I allowed to go to that?
John: You are allowed to go to that, Craig.
Craig: I’m just, like, I mean, because, I mean —
John: So we now need only 29 people, so tick-tock.
Craig: Well, maybe, I mean, hold on a second, March 29th.
John: That’s a Monday.
Craig: That’s a Monday, I got — wait, it is?
Craig: Oh, yeah, I’m looking at April.
John: Oh, March 23rd, March 23rd.
Craig: March, I’m not wrong, March 23rd, right. Yeah, I think I might do that.
John: That’d be really fun. We’d love to have you.
Craig: If I go there and I start playing and people are really enjoying it but then I just started saying eh… Is it really that good? Eh?
Craig: And I start turning people against your game.
John: That’s absolutely fine.
Craig: Oh, okay.
John: You have to, you know —
Craig: Challenge accepted. [laughs]
John: Yeah. [laughs] Follow your heart, Craig.
John: Let’s get in to the meat of our show which is all of this follow-up.
John: So the first bit of follow-up is we got an email from Chris French who was one of the writers from our Three Page Challenge last week. And he’s the guy who wrote the script called Seven Secrets which involved a forest fire.
John: And if we recall, we were so intrigued by sort of what was happening. And we were really frustrated and confused by some of what we were reading on the page. And so, Chris sent through a much longer description about sort of real things that were happening there. But I wanted to read a little bit of what he wrote.
He writes, “To begin, yes, this is a screenplay where we will never see the faces of an adult. The entire film will frame the camera exclusively on the faces of five 9-year-olds in Big Sur, California. As for the grownups and their lives we’ll see silhouettes hands, feet, clothing, but never their faces. The film focuses on the way these five kids struggle, connect and eventually escape life-threatening circumstances forming unimaginably strong bonds with one another.”
So that was — you and I had that fundamental question because —
John: The first line of the script kind of says that but was it only a rule for that scene or was it a rule for the whole movie and he says, “That’s a rule for the whole movie.”
Craig: Yeah, so, in our little back-and-forth with him, I think he acknowledged this when he wrote to us, he realizes now, yeah, I probably do need to put something between the title page and the beginning of the script that says, “Hey, this is the way this is going to work and this is the rule, the cinematic role of this movie,” because no one would ever — it’s not something you can casually put in there.
John: No. Craig, what do you call that page between the title page and the first page? Is there a term you would use for that?
John: Because I — that came up this week. Because the script I — the other reason why it’s a midseason finale, I turned in a script.
John: And I ended up doing that intermediary page and I guess intermediary page makes sense. It would be kind of a dedication page kind of.
Craig: Yeah, I mean, people will use that page for quotes.
Craig: You’ll see that fairly frequently. So it’s like a — but in this case it’s really just a — what do they call it, a nota bene page.
John: Yeah, a nota bene. So you’re trying to frame the experience of reading it based on that one page that goes before the movie starts. And I had a back-and -forth with the producers about whether or not to put that page in. And I originally left it out and then they had this concern and I said like, okay, right before I sent you the draft, I took that page out. And so this is what was on that page. And they’re like, “Oh, yeah, that page needs to go back in there.”
Craig: Okay, yeah.
John: And it was just a way of framing the read that helps people understand what they’re about to get.
Craig: Was it a quote or was it note from you?
John: It was a single sentence and I don’t think I can say more than that.
Craig: No, no, you shouldn’t say anything more than that.
John: It was a single sentence but it basically framed expectation in a way —
John: That was useful. So in Big Fish, that page exists and it says, “This is a southern story full of lies and fabrication, but truer for their inclusion.” And that was always in the script and that never was meant to be filmed or shot, but it was a useful way of sort of framing people’s expectation that like you’re going to see a bunch of really crazy tall-tales and that’s sort of the point, it’s like what’s really underneath those.
Craig: Yeah, anytime you feel like you need to put that context there, because remember, when people go see movies, of course, they have the context of the trailer and the commercials and all of the publicity that goes around it. There is a hundred ways to prepare people for a certain kind of viewing experience. There is no way other than what we’re talking about to prepare them for the script-reading experience. So I’m always in favor of that being really direct with people.
In Cowboy Ninja Viking, I didn’t put it in between the title page and the front because I wanted to have the audience experience confusion for a bit, and then when it was time, I broke out a little paragraph in italics and said, “This is how this movie works.”
Craig: But the one thing, I’m not a huge fan of what I would call the inspirational quote. You’ll see that a lot of times, somebody will throw a quote on there from Thoreau or Nietzsche or Plato, I don’t know.
Craig: And I always feel like, “Oh, yes, well, we can’t hire them,” so perhaps you’re just trading on somebody else’s wit and wisdom. I like what you did with Big Fish. You like said this is — because you know, like people are going to read this going, “Wait, is this happening? Is this not happening?” They’re a little confused because they’re not experiencing the movie. You just come right off the bat and say, “There’s going to be a bunch of lies in this. Have fun.”
John: Yeah. And it’s also trying to tip off the reader that the language is going to be a little bit more flowery than they’re probably used to.
Craig: That’s right.
John: It’s a very deliberate choice.
Craig: That’s right. Yeah, you’re setting that tone of the tone of tone.
John: That said of, you know, maybe 60 screenplays I’ve read, I think I’ve done it twice. So it’s not a thing you do all the time.
Craig: No, that is a particular ingredient that you add when required.
John: Our next bit of follow-up is the WGA diversity numbers which we discussed in the last episode. Friend of the show Dennis Hensley writes, “On the heels of the WGA’s diversity report, which you talked about in the last show, the WGA offers a writer’s access program which showcases mid-level guild writers from different diversity categories. I ticked the GLBT box. I was one of 11 writers who got in out of 171 scripts submitted.”
John: “I’m one of only two comedy writers, the rest are drama.”
John: “I want to thank you both for the practical tips I learned listening to you as well as the overall morale boost reality checks you offer. It really helped me with the script I submitted.” So there’ll be a link to this in the show notes but this is essentially the WGA TV Writer Access Project, a program designed to identify excellent diverse writers with television staffing experience.
Craig: Yeah, I think that’s great. I mean, the downside of the WGA diversity report which is the annual collection of depressing statistics that do not change is that they don’t do anything except point backwards in time and say, “Eh, bad.” This program which has been going on for a bit now, this is what you would want your union to do, you know.
Craig: To go out and say, “Okay, well, we’re not going to sit here and just complain. Look at these people. We pick them. We read their stuff. We like it. You should take a really close look.” So I love that. Interesting also that the Writers Access Program does include sexual orientation or gender status whereas the diversity report doesn’t seem to get into that, as far as I could tell, at least, the diversity report is really about race and gender unless I’m missing something, and age.
John: And age, yeah. So this program has five diversity categories, minority writers, writers with disabilities, which the diversity report I don’t think singled out, women writers, writers age 55 and over, and gay and lesbian writers.
Craig: Oh, so they’re putting the number at 55, which again, probably —
John: Makes a lot more sense.
Craig: Yeah, a lot more sense than using the 40.
Craig: Yeah, 40 makes no sense.
Craig: Well, anyway, I’m really happy Dennis that we gave you any tips that were helpful to you and we are rooting for you and the Writers Access Program.
John: So one of the things they highlight about this program is that it’s all blind submissions. And so the idea of blind submissions I think is really interesting and crucial. And so, I was talking with Andrew Lippa who is here during Big Fish with me, the composer of Big Fish. And they were talking about how many more women players are in orchestras and then how much higher chairs they have reached in the last 10 years. And apparently, the reason why that change has happened has been blind auditions. So essentially, the player is playing behind the screen and the judges are listening but not seeing the player play.
John: And so blind submissions for this project. And also, I’ve read the same thing for like John Oliver show. Everybody came in with just a number on their submission page and it was all read based without names or any other information about who that writer was.
Craig: I think that’s great. I mean, I don’t know if you recall. At one point, we talked about that study, the Princeton study where they sent out the same play under a male name and a female name and female authors actually ran aground of discrimination from female readers.
Craig: This issue of whatever you’d call it, gender bias, whatever, all the bias. Bias, how about that word [laughs]? This issue of bias, it’s not necessarily always the stereotype of the 50-year-old white guy.
Craig: But I think that blind submissions are really smart. I love that.
John: And sometimes people will make a misassumption based on a name on a title page. So just last week we had, I think it was K.C. Smith. We loved what we assumed was her sample, which was that great script about this guy who really wanted to eat waffles and was not allowed to eat waffles.
John: And so we said, this woman wrote a terrific script and it turns out K.C. is a guy and an African-American guy. And so, hooray.
Craig: Yeah, we didn’t know if K.C. or Chris were men or women. But it turns out they’re both guys.
John: They’re both guys.
John: Two guys wrote in with a link to a live action Road Runner short. So last week we talked a lot about sort of Road Runner rules, the rules that the creators of those cartoons had set for themselves about how the Coyote and the Road Runner should function. And so this was an interesting example of trying to do that in a live action world.
I didn’t find it entirely successful. But I found it kind of just fascinating to try to apply cartoon physics and cartoon logic to a live action scenario. And one thing it reminded me of is we didn’t talk about in that list that sense that in a Road Runner cartoon, you only fall once you realize that there is no ground beneath you.
Craig: That’s right.
John: Yeah, which is just crazy.
Craig: Yeah. Falling is a function of awareness, not gravity.
John: Yeah, just odd.
Craig: Yeah. No, that’s the best part of those cartoons was when Wile E. Coyote was midair and was still really happy.
Craig: And then, huh.
John: Huh, wait.
Craig: And then he would look down and then he would look at you like, “Oh, you got to be kidding me.” [laughs] And then his body would fall while his head stayed there [laughs]. And his neck would expand, which by the way, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the slow motion video of somebody dropping a slinky, it kind of works that way. Like they let the slinky go and the bottom drops while the top essentially stays and then it drops like Wile E. Coyote.
John: That’s good stuff.
John: On the subject of gravity, we have some follow-up on the Gravity lawsuit.
John: So Med writes —
John: “I’m baffled by your continued defense of Warner Bros and Cuarón.”
John: “Unless there are significant errors in the revised claims, Tess Gerritsen definitely did get robbed.”
Craig: I thank God that this guy or woman is writing because they definitely know what happened. Continue.
John: [laughs] “You both seem pretty quick to decide against anyone who is not closely aligned with the screenwriting community maybe due to your union allegiance.”
Craig: Good point. Good point.
John “I’m not sure.”
John: “In any case, I suggest you put yourselves in Ms. Gerritsen’s shoes and tell me you would not be outraged.”
John: “She was right to state that writers in general should be ultra cautious in selling properties to Hollywood. For successful writers like Gerritsen, it seems like ‘cash and carry’ with no bonus, earn out, or residual options is really the only bulletproof option. This is a doubly true if writers cannot even depend on their own larger community to support them when they are wronged. Still enjoying your show very much even on those few occasions when I disagree.”
Craig: [laughs] So, John, you hear people say, that begs the question all the time but they misuse it. You probably know the real meaning of begging the question, correct?
John: Absolutely. Assuming facts not in evidence.
Craig: Begging the question, actually, it’s building an argument around something that needs to be figured out by the argument. It’s essentially saying, people are definitely hungry because they’re hungry. This guy is basically saying I’m baffled by your continued defense of Warner Bros and Cuarón because they’re wrong.
John: Yeah [laughs].
Craig: But you’re supposed to prove that, you see [laughs], your argument. You are begging the question. So going through this very quickly, you say that Tess Gerritsen definitely did get robbed. I have no idea how — we are not saying that she definitely didn’t. I’m not sure what access to the cosmic oracle you have that we don’t [laughs]. No, we are not pretty quick to decide against anyone who is not closely aligned with the screenwriting community. We’re not quick to decide anything. And union allegiance surely has nothing to do with it I think. [laughs]
John: Absolutely nothing.
Craig: Nothing at all. It doesn’t work that way.
John: So in our very long and very exhaustive episode about the Gerritsen lawsuit, I recall making it very clear that if I were in Tess Gerritsen’s position, I would probably perceive things the way Tess Gerritsen perceives things because from her perspective, it does feel like that. And so our objective with that episode was to show, you know what, if you zoom out and take it outside of her personal experience, it probably looks quite a bit different. And that was the perspective we were trying to provide.
John: But a great example this last week of like, “Well, I just can’t believe that happened,” was the Blurred Lines lawsuit. So we are not a music industry podcast or we’re not a show for songwriters and people who are interested in songwriting, but I thought the Blurred Lines things was nuts. And so to summarize for people who don’t know what we’re talking about, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams and another collaborator were sued by Marvin Gaye’s estate arguing that Robin Thicke’s big, giant hit song infringed upon the copyright of a classic Marvin Gaye song.
And if you listen to the two songs back to back, you’re like, “Oh, yeah, they’re in a similar kind of vibe.” But in any sort of like one thing is directly lifted from the other, I was astonished. And most people were astonished who were sort of music industry legal scholars were amazed that they lost this lawsuit.
Craig: Well, you know, obviously this comes down to juries and so forth. I, myself, was completely rooting for the Marvin Gaye estate and was thrilled. I, unlike you — so, here, Med, you can see. We do not have union allegiance or whatever the hell. Or even allegiance to each other. I thought the song was a dead rip-off, I really did. I thought it was —
John: Wow, that’s amazing.
Craig: A straight up rip-off. Look, if they had contacted the Marvin Gaye estate when they were making it and said, “Listen, we want to basically do a version of your song,” because they didn’t copy it directly. What they did was a version of it. I think there was infringement. I don’t know if the — the award seems a little whacky [laughs] but the damages. But, you know, I was on the side of that.
But, look, Med says, “I suggest you put yourselves in Ms. Gerritsen’s shoes and tell me you would not be outraged.” Why? Who cares if I’m outraged or not? Okay, I’m in her shoes and I’m outraged. Whoopty doo.
John: Yeah, right.
Craig: Outraged doesn’t mean I’m right. In fact, outraged generally means that [laughs] feelings are clouding my logic. She was not right to state that writers in general should be ultra cautious in selling properties to Hollywood. Let me remind Med that she did get paid $1 million, I believe, regardless. She had a lawyer. That’s the caution that you take. This was not her first rodeo, as far as I understood either.
I actually think she liked the way this turned out. But, no, I don’t think any of the conclusions here are correct, nor do I think the larger community of writers is meant to support a writer just because the writer says I’ve been wronged.
John: I agree.
Craig: Frankly, we supported one of the — we supported the people that wrote Gravity in our estimation. But we are still enjoying your listenership very much.
John: Very much.
Craig: Even on this one occasion where we have disagreed.
John: We shouldn’t spend too much on the show about the Robin Thicke thing because obviously it’s — several other episodes could be about the Robin Thicke thing. What I found so fascinating as I was reading sort of the reaction to this lawsuit, clearly, the fact that Robin Thicke seems like an incredible douchebag, hurt him. Clearly, the fact that he spoke about his influences hurt him.
But if you look at other songs, though, the same claim could be made against them, they are enumerable. And so the same way that I worry that a success by the Tess Gerritsen lawsuit would have a horrible chilling effect on Hollywood, I feel like this verdict of the Robin Thicke thing could have a horrible chilling effect. Basically, imitating a style rather than imitating the exact notes.
So the thing I’ll link to, Jon Caramanica for the New York Times, wrote a piece talking about how copyright law is focused on the sheet music. It’s focused on like this is literally what is on the page. And by that standard, it doesn’t actually work at all. I mean like there should be no basis for it. Instead, we’re just sort of basing it on like, well, they kind of feel like the same thing. But feeling like the same thing is a really murky, dangerous thing to try to talk about.
Craig: Well, yeah, there’s the publishing right and then there’s obviously the performance which is its own copyright issue. And I’m sure the Gaye estate was going on the basis of the publishing as opposed to the mechanical, as they say. But, look, I just call them like I see them like everybody else out there. And I actually thought that that one was overt, which is overt infringement to me.
The second I heard that song, just to be clear, the first time I heard Blurred Lines, I’m like “Oh [laughs]. Oh, that’s Marvin Gaye.” You can’t do that. I mean, even down to the people like chitchatting at a party while, I mean, you’ve ripped him off. That was a rip-off. Now, people can argue about, you know, how you define what was ripped off specifically and what wasn’t, I understand that.
I see you brought up Stay With Me, which absolutely is a rip-off [laughs] of Won’t Back Down. It’s a dead rip-off.
John: Here’s why I think they settled quickly and did not actually go to the full-on trial is because they wanted to sort of protect Sam Smith from being dragged into it. I suspect if they actually did the research and proved it, you would find 15 gospel songs that have the exact same chord progression.
Craig: It’s not the progression.
Craig: It’s not the progression.
Craig: It is both the progression and the rhythm. So it’s not only the notes but the dots and the rest. [sings] That is very specific. That is pretty much the definition of unique expression and fixed form.
John: Right, so —
Craig: And it’s a dead rip-off.
John: So that never went to trial, so we will never know sort of how that would have sussed out.
Craig: See, I think the opposite. I think it didn’t go to trial because I think they knew that they had screwed up [laughs]. I think they knew were wrong.
John: I think it didn’t go to trial because of, you know, Sam Smith’s meteoric rise and just trying to protect him. I do strongly, strongly, strongly suspect that they would have been able to find five gospel songs with that exact hook in it. And that doesn’t mean that Tom Petty took it, it just means that I think it was a thing that exists in the world.
Craig: It is possible. But again, I got to back up my ’70s.
John: Got to back up Tom Petty.
Craig: My ’70s era stars [laughs], you know. Don’t mess with Marvin, not when I’m around. Marvin, I mean, really, truly, I love Marvin Gaye. I love Marvin Gaye. I think the world is so worse off for not having more Marvin Gayes out there. And so worse off, frankly, for more stuff that kind of is like, “Oh, we’ll just do Marvin without Marvin being here.” And I love Tom Petty and, by the way, I love Sam Smith.
I don’t think Sam Smith knew. Did he write that song?
John: He did.
Craig: Oh, then he knew [laughs]. He knew. He took Don’t Back Down and he slowed it down.
John: I don’t think he deliberately did it. But we will never actually be able to suss that out.
Craig: We’ll never know.
John: But what we can suss out are some other rules that were broken or unbroken. This is from Josh who wrote in with a note about coverage he got, which he described as being, in part helpful and in part maddening. So he writes, “The reader wrote, ‘A few other issues that jump off the page are the use of underlining in slug lines usually done only in sitcom scripts, the improper use of italics and narrative in dialogue, and occasional placement of parentheticals at the bottom of dialogue. Bottom line, to avoid development of one’s own script formatting conventions and confer regularly with Trottier for accepted formats.'”
So he’s referring to the Screenwriter’s Bible which is a book that’s often held up as being the standard.
Craig: Oh. I don’t have the Trottier. Trottier or Trottier?
John: I don’t know if it’s Trottier or Trottier.
Craig: Let’s go with Trottier. I don’t have the Trottier book. But if I did, I would hold it up and then throw it down forcefully into a wood chipper. I underline my slug lines. No, I’m sorry, I bold my slug lines. But, yes, people do underline their slug lines. I don’t care. If I’m reading a great script and the slug lines are underlined, I don’t care.
Craig: I don’t know what the improper use of italics in narrative and dialogue are. I will occasionally use italics when I so desire. Not often but when I feel like it. “The occasional placement of parentheticals at the ends of dialogue,” I’ve seen people do that to imply this is unsaid but this is sort of what I want them to act as being unsaid. “To avoid development of one’s own script format conventions.” F-you.
Craig: That’s what I’d say to — and by the way, Josh, your script might be terrible.
John: It could easily be terrible.
Craig: But the reader really should be concentrating on that because if your script was great and this is what the reader was saying, then I think I would also lift the reader up and throw the reader into a wood chipper.
John: Oh, this could be a whole wood chipper festival because that’s all a means of teeing up this article from Script Magazine written by Ray Morton.
Craig: Wait, Ray Morton? How did they get Ray Morton? [laughs]
John: Well, Ray Morton is a writer and script consultant. His new book, A Quick Guide to Screenwriting, is now available online and in bookstores.
Craig: Oh, good. As long as it’s quick because nobody has time for a lengthy guide to something as easy and obvious [laughs] as screenwriting.
John: Morton analyzes screenplays for production companies, producers, and individual writers. He is available for private consultation.
Craig: Oh, thank God.
John: So this is all available online. There will be a link to this in the show notes. And so he has, how many points is this, 12 points to talk through. And I thought we’d talk through them. And because, actually, a fair number of them I agreed with. But some of them were wood chipperable.
John: So let’s go through it.
Craig: All right.
John: Craig, would you want to start reading the first one?
Craig: Yeah. [laughs] You know my, this is great. The script is short, between 90 and 110 pages. If a script runs longer than 120 pages, that tells me the writer does not know the industry standards or worse, thinks that he/she is an exception to them.
This always reminds me of The Holy Grail, you shall count to three, not four, five is right out.
Craig: So the script is short between 90 and 110 pages. If you’ve gone over that, you don’t know the industry standards or you think you’re an exception to them, or you’re Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo and you’ve written The Godfather again.
John: Yeah. So I predict that Craig will say, no, that is poppycock and —
Craig: That is.
John: Many terrific scripts are larger than 110 pages.
Craig: And by the way, some of them are under 90 pages like, I don’t know, The Artist that won the Oscar. This is poppycock. It’s foofaraw and I reject it. [laughs]
John: Number two, the front cover is free of WGA registration numbers and fake production company names.
John: I agree.
Craig: Yeah. Look, again, if I see a WGA registration number, I’m not going to go, “What an idiot,” and then never read the script. If it’s a great script, what do I care? It’s like I don’t care. Yes, it’s true that amateurs are the only people that are concerned about [laughs] piracy literally. The only people that are concerned about thievery.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Craig: None of — the rest of us don’t care. Fake production company name, all production company names are fake. They are as fake as, I don’t know, Ray Morton’s expertise. It’s just because you’re saying you’re an expert, you’re an expert. They’re saying they’re a production company, they’re a production company. I don’t care. If it’s a good script, what do I care?
John: Yeah, you don’t care. And the only reason why I say I basically agree with this is because if I see the WGA registration number or that goofy production company name, it’s just the first impression. It’s just the first impression like, “Oh, oh, this might be one of the scripts of a person who doesn’t know what they’re doing.” So it’s useful to not have that there because I don’t have any negative thing as I turn to page one.
Craig: Well, you know, it is true. Like if you don’t want people to know that you are an outsider, don’t put that. That’s just a fact. If you put your WGA registration thing on, you’re an outsider.
Craig: On the other hand, my guess is people will know you’re an outsider anyway because they won’t know who you are.
John: The first page contains a lot of white space. If I open up a script and I’m confronted with big blocks of uninterrupted type, I know immediately that the piece is overwritten, that the author has employed excessively flowery literary style and action lines and/or that he/she has incorporated lots of unfilmable material. Craig, what’s your opinion?
Craig: Yes, it is true that if you see big blocks of uninterrupted type that the first page is going to be hard to read which is certainly not what you want. You want people to feel easy reading it. I know that everybody, myself included, if I have a choice of screenplays to read and the first one is just like, “Whoa, lots of text,” and the second one is, “Ah, nice and airy,” I’ll go for the airy one. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to read the other one, especially if it’s —
John: It means you’re lazy.
Craig: Yeah. I’m lazy. Like every human, I am essentially lazy. I don’t agree with these conclusions. When I open up a script and I’m confronted with big blocks of uninterrupted type before I draw any conclusion, I only make one — I know one thing only, for sure. And that is that this person could use their return key more frequently. That’s all I know. The rest of this may be true, may not.
John: Yeah. I know who the protagonist is by page five.
Craig: Unless you’re Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo and you’ve written The Godfather again or maybe you wrote Star Wars.
John: The premise is clearly established by page 10.
Craig: Unless you’re Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola and you wrote The Godfather again or you wrote Star Wars.
John: Something interesting/entertaining happens in the first five pages.
Craig: Unless you’re Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo and you wrote The Godfather again —
John: No, I would basically stand up for him here. I think the overall point is that if by page five nothing interesting has happened, I’m going to have a harder time getting to page six.
Craig: Well, let’s —
John: I mean, that’s human nature.
Craig: Okay, but let’s define interesting.
Craig: I mean, so —
John: Intriguing. It could be, you know, if you don’t have me curious by page five, I’m less likely to want to read page six.
Craig: Look, I’m interested in good writing and then I’m interested in interesting things, right? So The Godfather opens with Bonasera who is the undertaker, in a beautifully underlit single, telling a story in broken English about why he’s come to this man for help. And he tells a story.
Now the story I think is very interesting. But nothing’s actually happening. He’s describing something that has happened. We will never meet the person he’s talking about. What has happened to him, not important to the plot of the movie, particularly at all. He is not a secondary character. He’s like a quadrary character if.
And what he’s describing will contain no stakes in and of itself. It is interesting because it’s an interesting story and then it brings out this interesting relationship with a character who is also not the protagonist of the movie. Point being that this is the dumbest thing to say if you’re a so-called screenplay expert. What you’re really saying is be good. Yeah, thanks, we know.
By the way, how about this? Something interesting or entertaining should happen on every page.
John: The first 10 pages contains plenty of action. By action, I mean dramatic action, stuff happening. Not just car chases, although car chases are fine, too.
Craig: Okay. So unless you’re Francis Ford Coppola [laughs] and Mario Puzo and you wrote The Godfather because it’s a guy telling a story.
John: Or it’s Harry Met Sally.
John: There’s not action, per se.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, it’s just, eh.
John: Number eight. I can tell what’s going on.
Craig: Oh, well —
John: I’m sympathetic here. As we talked about pages we’ve read this last week, I had a hard time understanding what was going on. And that can be frustrating, like literally understanding what it is I’m seeing on screen.
Craig: Yeah. And if what the person’s describing is not visualizable, sure. However, if what the person is describing makes no sense to me at the moment, we talk about grace period all the time, right?
John: Oh, yeah.
Craig: So like I didn’t understand what was going on in The Matrix for the first five minutes. Why was he — who’s talking about the Matrix? Who’s Morpheus? What the — what?
John: What? What?
Craig: Why is she whispering in his ear? Who’s that lady running from? Who are those guys in the suits? Why are they different from the police? How did she jump across the thing? A million questions, right? I love that.
John: Yeah, the dialogue is short and to the point. There’s nothing worse than opening a screenplay and getting faced with a single speech that goes on for a page or two or five.
Craig: Unless you’re Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola and you’ve written The Godfather, again.
John: Well, also, there’s nothing worse, like literally, nothing is worse? Like it’s worse than Hitler?
Craig: And there’s nothing worse. There’s something worse.
John: That’s the worst thing that happened to mankind.
Craig: Here’s something worse. You open the screenplay and it’s not a screenplay at all, it’s actually like a fake screenplay and inside there’s a little indentation. And in the indentation is anthrax.
John: Yeah. Or it’s just a single note saying like we’ve kidnapped your wife and family.
Craig: Right, exactly. Or you open it up and it’s some kind of amazing existential mirror and through that mirror you realize that you’ve been living in — it’s a fake world, everyone’s been putting on a play, you don’t actually exist.
John: Yeah. That’s actually the line I added to the script or to the page. And in between, is that was we’ve kidnapped your wife and family.
Craig: This guy, I swear to God, I wish I could send this guy back to the ’70s so that he could advise Puzo and Coppola on that terrible, terrible script they wrote.
John: Well, one of the things he might help with is the script doesn’t begin with a flashback.
Craig: Yeah. Except that it kind of does because this guy is talking about something that happened.
John: Yeah, it is. It’s basically a flashback.
Craig: It’s like amazing how bad this guy is at his “job.”
John: There are no camera directions, shot descriptions and editing instructions.
Craig: Oh, unless you’re Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola.
John: There are no coffins. I once received a vampire script packaged in a miniature coffin, complete with the screenplay’s title on the lid and a spring-lidded bash positioned that would jump out when the coffin was opened.
Craig: Yeah, okay.
John: I fully agree with him. Do not send gimmickry trash along with your script.
John: Send your script.
Craig: Sure. I can’t imagine this is a common thing. But yeah, sure, thanks for that Ray, you nailed it. Can I just say? Look —
John: You absolutely may say.
Craig: I don’t mean to beat up on this dude specifically. But let’s say that I were a con artist by constitution. I’m a charlatan. I flit around from con to con looking for ways to bill people out of their money. And my current scam is dried up, I’m looking for a new one.
What I’m looking for is a situation where a lot of people want access to something, but don’t have it.
Craig: And that thing that they want access to is behind a curtain. So I can tell them I’ve been behind the curtain. And if they give me money, I’ll tell them what’s behind the curtain so that they can go behind the curtain. And they’ll never know if I’m telling the truth of not.
And what’s so amazing about all these people is that they never contradict each other. And they never contradict each other because they literally do not have the vocabulary to contradict each other because they, unlike you or me, haven’t been behind the curtain in any real substantive way. So they just write these baloney things and they create this stack of them, this massive whirling stack so that they can basically get people to pay them 200 bucks at a time for information that I have to tell you all is not worth it at all. Stop paying these people. Stop it. Stop it.
John: As you were talking, I was thinking about like what other industries have similar kinds of things and clearly the financial industry in general, like investments and stock market. Real estate has a very specific thing because there’s all these little esoteric terms and you feel like, “Oh, this is how you’re going to do it. This is the churn, how you’re going to do it.”
John: Medicine, absolutely.
Craig: Always, yeah. Because people don’t understand medicine, they don’t understand finance, they don’t understand real estate. And somebody comes along and says, “I’m going to give you the secrets that all those swells are using. And because, by the way, they’re only successful because they know the secrets. And I’m going to share them with you. How about exercise? Same thing, exercise.
John: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Craig: It’s just like every single one of these things has the same deal. And there’s no way for somebody who is ignorant to question what they’re saying because they’re ignorant. That’s the scam.
John: Well, but the thing is you have to recognize, you know, within your own ignorance that there is very likely no correct answer. That’s the hard thing to sort of accept is that there may not be a way to do that. So, you know, as we get questions about like, “Well, how do I break in? Or how do I break back in?” Or how to all that stuff?
Part of my frustration, and I suspect you share it too, is that like, there is no answer. There’s no one answer for like how you and me everyone else “broke in.”
John: And there’s no answers for how it’s going to work for you. It’s just like it’s just a bunch of stuff happens and suddenly you are being employed to do this thing that you really wanted to do. But I can’t tell you why it happens for some people and doesn’t happen for other people. There’s no proper answer.
Craig: There is no proper answer. Frankly, the vocabulary that has been defined by the con artistry industry, “breaking in,” there’s no breaking in. Sorry. I mean we just talked — did we talk about the case of the screenwriter who ended up living in his car?
Craig: Yeah. I mean he broke in and then he was in his car. There’s no breaking in. There are these interesting dribs and drabs and suddenly one day you look in the mirror and go, “Am I screenwriter now? I can’t tell, I think I am. I guess I’ll just keep trying to do it.”
Craig: All the things that they’re promising you, rules don’t exist. Breaking in doesn’t exist. Getting rich quick doesn’t exist. Things that you should or shouldn’t do, they don’t exist.
Craig: And if they did, trust me when I tell you, John and I, I like to think of you and I like as Penn & Teller a little bit. Although, we both talk.
John: And we don’t do magic.
Craig: And we don’t do magic. But Penn & Teller were always amazing about saying, “We’re going to dispel the cheesy fake nonsense around magic,” or all those magicians that walk around. I mean this was really started by James Randi who’s one of my personal heroes. James Randi was a magician and he would do things like cold readings as part of his act and people would believe it.
And part of the reason they would believe it is because magicians have always done that thing that Doug Henning would say, “It’s an allusion, it’s a World of Magic. I come from.” No, you’re not. You’re doing tricks.
Craig: And Penn & Teller always said, “No, no, no, there’s no magic. Trust me when we tell you this. We’re doing tricks. And in fact, we’re going to show you how we do some of them and that’s — and then we’re going to do more and still seem like magic and that’s the real fun of it.”
John: Yeah, so classically Penn & Teller like it’s done with string. And so they talk you through the whole thing.
John: And it’s like, “Oh, and it’s done with string.”
Craig: And then sometimes they’ll do, they did the whole ball and cup thing once with clear cups. And it was still amazing how complicated the whole thing was. You and I, I feel are like that. If we found something, anything that we thought would help everybody that was a magic bullet, we would rush to the microphone and tell you, “We assure you.” But there is nothing. I say this not out of arrogance, but just out of fact, because of the amount of time that you and I have been doing this professionally. Ray Morton, whoever he is, could not possibly know anything more about this than we do. It’s not possible. It’s not possible.
John: Yeah. And I don’t ascribe — actually, I want to be clear. I don’t ascribe any negative motivation to Ray Morton. I think he genuinely is trying to help people.
Craig: It’s possible.
John: I want to say that. And I think he’s also noticing patterns in his own response to things. And I think those are valid personal experiences. The frustration I have is that in observing his own personal reactions to things, then trying to go to the next step and codify these out as like these are things, prohibitions of things you should never do. And I think that is incorrect.
Craig: Yeah. I mean look, you’re right. I cannot ascribe con artistry as a motivation to Ray. I don’t know him. And I can never say what’s in someone’s heart. That said, you and I do not charge for this and he charges for what he does.
Craig: And then he writes these things in Script Magazine which has their marketing deal with Final Draft. There’s money involved. And when there’s money involved just really remember my golden rule, screenwriting costs nothing. Nothing. It is free. Don’t pay money.
John: Don’t pay money. Which is a great segue to the next thing I want to talk about which is sort of the future and sort of like as we sort of wrap up this midseason finale and look forward to the second half of the season and sort of what is going on ahead. There’s things that you and I need to figure out and sort of our listeners need to figure out. One of the things that came up was —
Craig: Am I getting fired? It sounds like I’m getting fired. [laughs]
John: Craig, I’d like you on the phone at 3pm because we have some things to talk through.
Craig: And HR will be there.
John: So our podcast is like really successful, which is just terrific. We have like a lot of listeners. We have like so many listeners that by most metrics, we’re in the top 1% or 2% of all podcasts out there.
John: Which is just crazy.
Craig: How many listeners do we have? Are you allowed to say that?
John: Oh yeah. We have 60,000 listeners a week, which is a lot.
John: Yeah. So that’s great. So that’s fantastic.
Craig: Oh now, I’m scared. You should have never told me that.
John: Well yeah, don’t worry about it.
Craig: You should have told me 60.
John: We have 60 listeners a week, we count them off.
John: So we have Malcolm and we have Aline. And we have Rian Johnson sometimes. And Kelly when she’s in town. So we have a great number of listeners and fantastic listeners and we love them all. So one of things unusual about our show versus other shows is we’re like kind of the only show in that group of things that doesn’t have ads. And I kind of enjoy not having ads. But you and I have both talked about like, “Well, should we do ads? And what would be that like? And would it ruin the show?” And I honestly don’t know. And we don’t know what that would be like if we do that.
Craig: Yeah. We had a good conversation about it. And, you know, my feeling — I have sort of competing feelings on this. I mean on the one hand, I am, you know, like you I really love the fact that we are essentially editorially as pure as the undriven snow. No, sorry, the driven snow because I used to think the driven snow was that a car had driven through it, but it means the wind has moved around. So we’re as pure as the driven snow.
However, I’m also really aware that you and your staff do all this work that I don’t do. Now granted they are supported by our premium subscribers.
Craig: And things like we make a little bit of money on the t-shirt sales. When we say we make money, we actually don’t make money. Correct me if I’m wrong, we are still losing money.
John: We still lose money. So we still, you know, through the premium subscribers, through t-shirts and stuff like that, we make enough money to pay for Matthew who cuts the show and bless you Matthew for cutting the show.
John: And for sort of the basic keeping the lights on stuff. We don’t actually make enough money to pay for Stuart. But Stuart is my assistant normally so like, you know, he has to be sitting at a desk doing some things anyway.
Craig: Right. But what about like the hosting?
John: Hosting is cheaper than it used to be.
John: So again, it’s the economies of scale. So we’re much closer to breaking even. So it’s a question of, though, of whether we should just stay and stop at that point or whether we should do the, you know, the Mail Chimp sponsor at the start of the show and at the end of the show, which sort of all the other podcasts do.
And so I don’t honestly have the great answer for that because I don’t want to change the show in any way that’s sort of detrimental to the show. I don’t want to do something stupid. Either to do it or not to do it.
Craig: Yeah, I mean this is always the dangerous time when you fix what isn’t broken. But I mean look, I think, I’m just going to give you, ‘m going to give you my opinions like I’m a listener because and in a sense I really am kind of a listener because you really, I mean, people need to know that John and his crew over there do everything. I show up and I talk. I hate the idea of losing money consistently only because it ultimately becomes a strain on you and me and that just seems crazy.
Craig: So at the very least, breaking even sounds good. There are a lot of charities that you and I support, not only writing charities but just, you know, off the top of my head, I support three different educational charities. I support a bunch of medical charities.
So if money did come in, I would pledge to people, you just have to take my word for it, I would give it to charity. I wouldn’t keep any extra. Because the thing is you could say, “Well, we just want to make enough to break even,” but there’s no easy way to do that. You get what you get.
Craig: So I mean on my end, I would kick it over to charity unless it was millions of dollars.
John: Millions of dollars. And it’s not millions of dollars yet. But the thing is it’s actually more money than it was like a year ago. And so the thing, because you don’t listen to other podcasts, you’re not sort of aware of like sort of that the advertising universe in that has actually changed to the point where it’s not like, you know, oh someone will give you $100 for a sponsor read. It’s like a lot more money than that.
Craig: And we’re the freaks that don’t do it essentially.
John: Essentially, we’re the freaks. And maybe it’s great to stay the freaks. And part of the reason I bring this up in this conversation is because I’m really curious what our listeners themselves feel like about this. And so we always invite you to write into to email@example.com or which I thing I always forget we have, what we actually have is a Facebook page.
And so if you actually go to Facebook/scriptnotes, there’s a whole page of Scriptnotes stuff. And no one ever comments on it because we never mention it. But maybe on the link for this episode, basically click on this episode, leave a comment. Just tell us what you actually think because I’m really of two very different minds about what should happen with the idea of advertising on the show and sort of whether it’s a good thing or bad thing for us.
Craig: Yeah. I think a lot of the bigger podcasts also are part of networks and we’re not.
John: We’re not.
Craig: We are floating alone. So it’s actually, look, on the plus side, it’s pretty amazing that we have this kind of listenership for whom we are truly grateful without the benefit of any promotion, any money coming in, any network, anything.
Craig: So we want to do right by people. We don’t want to screw people up. But on the other end, I don’t want to like have to write a check for the rest of my life for this thing either.
John: Yeah. The second thing I want to bring up is we floated this idea of, you know, we always do the Three Page Challenges and it’s great to look at the first three pages of a script. But it would actually really useful to look at like a whole script and have an episode where we could take a look at an entire script from something.
But we’re not quite sure how to do that because to sort of open up the flood gates, it’s just like terrifying.
Craig: It is.
John: So I would invite our listeners to absolutely never send us your script. But maybe provide some suggestions for ways in which we could get a script that we could actually all look at. And so perhaps it is a Black List script or perhaps it is some other script that is chosen by some other means to do it.
We had floated this idea of like, “Oh maybe we’ll only take a list from our premium subscribers,” and that also felt weird like you’re paying for access. So I’m not sure what the answer is to that. Although, I would say I think it would really helpful for us to be able to look at a whole script for an episode.
Craig: Yeah, I love the idea of giving the subscribers a little something special. Maybe we do like one week, we do a Three Page Challenge that’s only from them. But we don’t just limit Three Page Challenges to just them, you know?
Craig: For the whole script, also another possibility is maybe we take one of the three pages that we all, you and I were both really enthusiastic about and go back to that person and say would you like the full post mortem? And maybe we go through that whole script.
John: Craig Mazin, that’s a very smart idea.
Craig: I’m so smart.
John: You’re just so smart. See, you think you don’t do anything for the show, but every once in a while, just randomly you’ll have a really good idea.
Craig: I don’t like the backwards nature of that. That was very backhanded. You think you’re stupid and 99% of the time, you’re right.
John: Yeah. But really, it’s that 1%.
Craig: It’s the 1%.
John: Yeah. That 1% really makes it all worthwhile.
Craig: I’m incredible.
John: Anyway, so if you have thoughts about what we should do with either advertising in the future or whether it’s a great or a terrible idea, let us know about that. And if you have thoughts about sort of how we could do a full script for an episode, give us thoughts about that. Please do not send in your script.
John: Do not. We will delete immediately.
Craig: Yeah, we will delete.
John: So you can tweet at me or Craig about those things too. But let’s get to our One Cool Things.
John: I have two very short ones. First off is Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which was the Tina Fey/Robert Carlock show which was supposed to be on NBC which is now on Netflix. I watched the entire thing here in my hotel room, all 13 episodes. I just loved it. So I would strongly encourage you, if you we’re a fan of 30 Rock, to watch it. Because it’s a very premisey pilot. And so you might watch the pilot and go like, “Oh, I don’t know if that’s going to sustain.” But then you’re like, on episode six, you’re like, “This is just delightful.”
Craig: Yeah, 30 Rock was a really premisey pilot too. And then you’re like, “Yeah, it works.” Ellie Kemper is great. A Princeton graduate by the way.
John: Okay. She’s just incredibly talented.
Second thing I want to highlight is this thing called Draftback for Google Docs. It’s this really clever — I think it’s a Google Chrome extension. But essentially, if you ever are writing in Google Docs, it’s actually recording every keystroke. And so it’s fascinating. It’s this little plug-in lets you replay the writing of an entire document. And so you can see like all the edits and all the changes you made and it basically creates a video of you writing the whole thing.
John: So it’s fascinating to sort of see what the writing process looks like for different writers. I think it could also be terrifying if you were not the person who had access to seeing you type it.
Craig: Yeah. I like it. I want it.
John: It’s of those things that is both like fascinating and dangerous and troubling. So I will steer you to that for a demonstration of it, not necessarily encouraging you to use it.
Craig: Yeah. That’s a little scary. I mean it’s very smart, but it’s very scary.
Craig: My One Cool Thing comes from one of our wonderful Twitter followers. I love this thing, it’s called VeinViewer. So smart. So everybody has had the experience of having their blood drawn or having an IV line put in. And if you’re young, or if you’re in good shape, you’re veins are usually pretty clearly accessible, but in some people they’re not. And if you’re older or overweight or if you’re really pediatric, you know, a lot of times with babies, it’s hard to find veins. So what ends up happening is they stick you a bunch of times, they cause bleeding, it’s a mess, there’s pain involved. Nobody likes that.
So this company, VeinViewer came up with this brilliant idea to basically pick up, to scan your arm or your wrist or your elbow with infrared because, you know, obviously blood is hotter, you know, as it’s moving through than say your skin. So they can essentially map your veins because they’re closer to the skin’s surface and then they project it back right on to your arm.
Craig: Yeah, so that whoever is sticking you, they don’t have to go hunting for a vein. They can see exactly where your veins are. It’s so smart. And we’ll throw a link on as well, it’s very, it’s just so cool. I love stuff like that.
John: That’s good stuff. Because I have high cholesterol, I have to get blood draws a lot. And so I’ve just learned that like it’s like my left arm, it’s exactly this one vein, they’re like, “Really? That’s going to hurt.” Like, “Yeah, it’s going to hurt, but otherwise you’re going to be poking like 15 times. So just put it in that vein.”
Craig: I’ve always had like full big easy pipey veins
Craig: They’re always thanking me when I go through, they’re like, “Oh, thank you.”
John: It’s the umbrage. It’s all the umbrage.
Craig: It’s like, yeah, my rage.
John: Just pushes it to the surface.
Craig: I have rage veins, which is great.
Craig: Yeah, I have rage veins. They’re great. You know, cholesterol, so, I mean not that we have to get into your medical history.
Craig: But do you take the Lipitor?
John: I do take the Lipitor. I was on a different thing first and now I’m on the Lipitor.
Craig: It’s a brilliant medicine.
John: Yeah, it’s worked out just great for me. And it was one of the situations where I do eat really quite healthy, but just my family will always have the crazy high —
Craig: Yeah, it’s just the deal.
John: Both good and the bad cholesterol, so —
Craig: It’s just the deal. You know what, it’s German.
John: It’s strongly German.
Craig: It’s sausage blood.
John: Our outro this week is by Kristian Gotthelf. Thank you, Kristian, for sending in your outro. If you have an outro for our show that uses the [hums theme], theme music for our show, send it to us. You can send a link to firstname.lastname@example.org. That is also a great place to send questions or longer thoughts about what we should do with the future of the show.
On Twitter, I’m @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. On Facebook, we are Facebook.com/scriptnotes. So leave us a comment there. Leave us a comment on iTunes as well. That is where you can find the show. It’s also where you can find the Scriptnotes app. The Scriptnotes app lets you listen to all the back episodes if you’re a premium subscriber. You sign up for premium subscriptions at Scriptnotes.net.
And that is our show which is produced by Stuart Friedel, edited by Matthew Chilelli. And we will be back with the start of our second half of our season.
Craig: [laughs] That’s just ridiculous.
John: Next week. Thanks Craig.
Craig: Thank you, John.
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