The original post for this episode can be found here.

John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.

Craig Mazin: Hello and welcome. My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is episode 189 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

I almost forgot the name of our podcast.

Craig: I noticed.

John: It was an odd gap.

Craig: You see, you’re focusing on that and I’m focusing on the fact that we had a chance to talk about episode 187. You know, 187, anyway, we didn’t do it.

John: Yeah.

Craig: We missed it.

John: Yeah, so many blown opportunities as we go back through the numerology of our podcast. There’s things we could have really dug into and we just didn’t. We didn’t even do a little “hehe” on episode 69.

Craig: We didn’t even do — and I had a chance two episodes ago to be gangsta and I failed, which is weird for me because I’m street.

John: Everyone knows you’ve gone hard.

Craig: I was born hard.

John: Yeah. I’m back in Los Angeles after two cold but wonderfully nice weeks in Boston. It is so nice to be back standing at my desk, looking at the Hollywood sign in the distance. It is a warm afternoon in Los Angeles. God, you know what? LA is pretty damn great.

Craig: I’ve never understood the people that hate LA. Everybody gets their opinion so I’m not telling them they’re wrong but for me, East Coast kid grew up in New York, the minute I got out of my car in Los Angeles for the first time in 1991, I was like, “Oh, man, why don’t I live here? This is great.” I mean, then there was a riot and also then there was really a bad earthquake. But, you know, there hasn’t been a riot or a major earthquake in a long time.

John: No, absolutely. So come to Los Angeles because, you know, we’re almost20 years without a riot.

Craig: [laughs] Come to Los Angeles, we’re due. [laughs]

John: You know that of course that you’re never actually due for a giant storm or a giant earthquake.

Craig: I know, it doesn’t work that way. Pass, pass. Yeah, we know. The probability is — well, it’s a little different for earthquakes because there is something to the notion that earthquakes occur after a build-up of unreleased friction.

John: Yes.

Craig: And so over time the friction does build up and the odds do go up.

John: But it’s the misunderstanding of probability that I find incredibly frustrating. And actually being a good test for how I will interact with certain people in my life. And so, a little sidebar discussion about, this was a person who was brought in to help represent The Nines when we were trying to sell it at Sundance.

And so, I was having a conversation. We were at a dinner and we were talking about flipping a coin. And so I was talking about, like, you know, if you flipped a coin 99 times and it came up heads every time, how much money would you bet that the next one will be tails. He’s like, “Oh, I’ll bet every cent in the world because like it’s due to be the opposite thing.”

Craig: Stupid. He’s stupid.

John: And I realized like, “Oh, man, you’re the person who’s going to be representing this and now I’m really concerned.”

Craig: Right.

John: Because the answer is 50-50.

Craig: Of course.

John: The other acceptable answer I would take is that, “Well, it’s going to be the same thing that’s been in the last 99 times because for some reason it’s not a fairly balanced coin.”

Craig: Yeah, presuming —

John: There’s something else going on.

Craig: Presuming that it’s a fair coin, the odds do not change, past probability, post probability. I mean, when somebody says something like that, I have a desire to put my hand on their shoulder gently. Look them in the eye and say, “You’re a dummy.”

John: [laughs]

Craig: Yeah.

John: And how does that work out?

Craig: Well, I certainly am not — my life is uncluttered by excess people. [laughs]

John: [laughs] It’s uncluttered by ignorance.

Craig: Yeah. It’s uncluttered by all sort of — yeah, I have a blissful friendlessness.

John: [laughs] This is a good life to have.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So, as we are basking here in our warm Los Angeles weather, let us enjoy our lack of ignorance and try to enlighten some people who’ve written in with questions. We’ve had a huge mailbag full of questions that have come up. And so we’re going to try to plow through as many of those as we can. But we also have a lot of follow up because in our last episode we asked our listeners about the future of the show and we wanted to know what they thought we should do on two topics.

Craig: Yeah.

John: The first topic was we’d really love to do an episode that was about an entire script, like an unproduced script where we actually talk through sort of everything we saw. It would be a script that we’ll be able to publish so people can read the script and sort of read along with us and see, like, this is what’s working for us, what’s not working for us.

And so we asked our listeners how should we do that? What would be the good way to do that because we can’t just open the floodgates and have everything come in?

Craig: Right.

John: So the most consistent suggestion is a really good, simple suggestion. We should pick somebody who has a Three Page Challenge that we liked a lot and ask him or her to send in their scripts.

Craig: Yeah, that makes total sense to me.

John: I think it makes total sense. So let us decide on this episode right now that that will probably be what we’re going to do, so I don’t have a time frame for when we’ll do it but at some point we will go back to one of our previous Three Page Challenge people and ask him or her to send in their script and see if we can go through a whole script that way. And I think it would kind of feel like, you know, our episode on Raiders of the Lost Ark, our episode on Frozen, where we’ll just really dig in on sort of what is actually happening throughout the whole movie. And we can do some stuff specific on the page but really talk about, you know, how the storytelling is working.

Craig: Yeah, I actually think it’ll be surprisingly different from those episodes because those episodes are dissecting something that is complete and finished that’s the —

John: And also already really good.

Craig: And also already really good. I mean, this is the hard part of what we do is that what we do can always be changed. So a lot of our job is trying to figure out what should we and what should we not change, but when we discuss this script, it will be a lot like — I think it’ll actually be the best glimpse for our non-professional listeners at the life that you and I lead on our end of things when we turn scripts in.

John: Yes.

Craig: This will be the kind of discussion that we have.

John: Yeah. And I just turned in a script this last week.

Craig: Congrats.

John: Thank you. But I can tell you from firsthand experience that you don’t necessarily know what people are going to see in the script that you have turned in. And so I think it’ll fall somewhere between one of our Three Page Challenges and when we look through a whole movie because we’re responding to, “This is what I got off of what I read, is this your intention?”

Craig: Right.

John: And it’s a very different thing than watching a final movie.

Craig: Indeed.

John: The other thing we asked in this last episode was this idea of advertising on the podcast and would it destroy the Scriptnotes that we have come to love?

Craig: Right.

John: Or would it be okay? And so we asked people to send in their thoughts on that. A lot of people wrote in with emails. People tweeted at us and a lot of people actually used our Facebook page for the first time ever.

Craig: Didn’t even know we had one.

John: We have a Facebook Page. We have about 70 comments in that thread there.

Craig: And what about our LinkedIn page and MySpace?

John: Oh, my lord.

Craig: No? What about our Geocities page?

John: Every once in awhile I get a LinkedIn friend request from someone who’s dead.

Craig: [laughs]

John: And that just tells me that it’s not actually the best service.

Craig: I think it’s amazing like LinkedIn can actually cross the great divide.

John: Mm-hmm. Granted that person was a powerful wizard and maybe he’s surviving in death as a lich.

Craig: Never, oh, a Lich or a, god forbid, a dracolich.

John: Oh, the absolute worst kind. But I think it would have to be a dragon first in order to become a dracolich.

Craig: Yeah.

John: I don’t know. I’m not saying.

Craig: [laughs] And? Your point?

John: My good friend the dragon who died.

Craig: I like that that was where it got too unrealistic for you.

John: [laughs] The dragon.

Craig: The wizard and the lich thing, that was okay.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Yeah.

John: That’s fine. So on the topic of advertising, people were surprisingly sanguine on us going and getting our cash.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So that was really interesting to me because there were a few people who said like, “No, no, don’t do that.” But I would say they were maybe 3% of people who responded were that and everyone else was like, “Yeah, fine, do it.”

Craig: Yeah.

John: And a lot of people, you know, had suggestions for if you do it, do it this way.

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: So I thought I’d pull out some of the ones that were just from email because the Facebook ones, anyone could read. But these were some people who wrote to us directly. So I thought we’d take some turns reading through what some folks wrote.

Craig: Great. Okay.

John: So Tom wrote, “I prefer not to hear ads from mattresses, glasses, or any of the other common podcast advertisers. I’d ideally like to hear ads that are relevant to the content like an ad for Fade In.

Craig: Yeah, okay. Yeah, that makes sense.

John: And I get that and at the same time, you know, you have to understand the people who are big enough advertisers to come in and do support show tend to be the, you know, the Warby Parkers and the So I don’t know that we can promise those wouldn’t be those.

It gets weird with like the Fade Ins and sort of things that are too screenwritery because I worry that we’re endorsing something that, you know, we —

Craig: I agree. Yeah. I would say, I mean, I love Fade In and I personally endorse it but I don’t want the show to dribble into like, oh, screenwritery things. I mean, I don’t really have a great desire to advertise for mattresses. I have nothing to say about mattresses. My whole thing is that I’d love for us to talk about if we’re going to advertise something, talk about something that we have some connection to personally or out of interest that isn’t particularly screenwritery.

John: Yeah. Lord knows I love nerdy things. Lord knows Craig loves any bit of technology that is thrown in his direction.

Craig: Yup, exactly.

John: He loves it. So if it’s like a special pair of gloves just for Tesla owners —

Craig: Right, Tesla gloves.

John: That is what Craig —

Craig: Tesla gloves.

John: Tesla gloves.


Liam writes, “Acknowledge your brand. You’re not Serial. You have a fan base with a very particular set of interests and those don’t include saving time at the post office. Two, advertise companies you support. Nothing in podcasting makes me as uncomfortable as when Dan Savage just finishes telling you to shop at a local female-owned sex shop, then gives out a promo code for 10% off at Adam & Eve. And three, mix it up. There are a couple of podcasts that I’ve actually rewound when I missed the ad. The docu ads on Start-Up/Reply All, co-hosts competing to make an effective news item. I don’t know how this sentence works, but regardless, I get the point, don’t read the same script every week. Just improv.

So, I think those are three good points with the caveat on that first one that, you know, our interests and our fan base’s interests do expand beyond strictly screenwriting.

John: Yeah. And so when you and I first had the conversation about ads, I brought up the ones on Start-Up podcast and on Reply All in that they’re not obnoxious. They’re very clearly — they’re ads and they will tell you very clearly that they are ads. And yet like you don’t have this temptation to skip them because they’re interesting enough that you actually want to listen to them.

Craig: Right.

John: Finding a way to do that, I don’t know what that’s going to be for us if we end up doing it.

Craig: You know, you and I honestly, I do believe, could talk about anything.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: Anything.

John: Right.

Craig: As long as — that’s the thing, like we should pick, we have all these people that we could theoretically do ads for and if they’re interested in being on our show, then we can go through and say, “Yeah, we know how to talk about that. We could talk about that.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: You know, the interesting thing is I think Adam & Eve would be great, but the problem is —

John: Totally.

Craig: I know the problem is that we do have kind of a rated PG show. I don’t know if it would fit this.

John: Yeah, so maybe we’d have to find a rated PG way to talk about Adam & Eve products.

Craig: Right, tushy plugs.

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: Do you guys like tushy plugs?

John: Everyone loves tushy plugs.

Craig: Tushy plugs, yes.

John: Dan writes, “Great idea to have advertising on the show. I’d been listening since episode 1 in real-time, not catch up. I’ve been hounding podcast advertising companies for months now asking about whether it would be possible to advertise on Scriptnotes. If you guys decide to do it, please let me know. I have industry-relevant products to share. I will be first in line.” So one guy wants to buy an ad.

Craig: I think that Dan should advertise on the show but the product should never be known as anything other than industry-relevant product.

John: I love that.

Craig: Like, John, do you have one specific industry-relevant product you use or do you sort of bounce between them?

John: I use only Pen brand pens.

Craig: Oh, well, let me tell you something. Have I got news for you. DORJ writes, “Scriptnotes is a good enough podcast to warrant a good minute or three of ads before I’d be sad,” I love that. “Savage Love has tons of ads and I still listen every week.” Well, thank you. That’s very nice of you to say. I don’t suspect that we will have tons of ads. I don’t even know if we’ll hit three minutes of ads or two minutes or — I think, you know, our intention is to not get in the way. And certainly if we start to do it, we will wade in softly.

John: Ryan writes, “I can’t imagine Craig saying, ‘And now a word from our sponsors,’ that would get old really quick and you would be the one handling it.” Like, basically, I would be the one handling it.

Craig: Ryan, you are so wrong. Ryan, in all your life, think of all the wrong things you’ve said, there’s a lot. There’s a lot. That is the wrongest. Ryan, do you not listen to the show? Do you not understand the percentage of my brain that is ham, pure ham, pure cured honey-baked ham? I would love to do this. It would be so much fun. The only reason that I’ve been resisting is just because I didn’t want to, you know, be a jerk. Ryan.

John: Ryan.

Let’s wrap up with Kelly. Kelly writes, “If you did go with advertising, you might consider a model like Slate Plus, one where you offer an advertising-free feed for your premium subscribers. If you decided to forego advertising, you might consider a tip jar approach with semi-annual reminder that exist for those who want to support without having to sign up or buy anything.” So, Slate Plus and we’ve been on the Slate podcast and we love all the Slate folks. So Slate Plus has this separate sort of feed where you can get all of their podcasts without the ads in them. And it’s lovely and I’m a Slate Plus member and so I support Slate by doing that. And I like that.

We looked into whether we could do that with the Scriptnotes premium feed and we basically couldn’t with how it’s currently set up. So basically, everyone would have to re-subscribe to a new feed which would be kind of a nightmare. So I’m not leaning towards that as a strong possibility but I definitely understand that instinct. So it’s certainly something to consider.

Craig: The good news for the premium subscribers is that they would still have access to the back catalog which will always be a benefit to that premium subscription. I personally don’t like tip jars. I don’t want to —

John: Nor do I.

Craig: I don’t want to put my hand out to anybody. It’s weird, you know. Because the problem with a tip jar is —

John: Because that feels like a Kickstarter, doesn’t it?

Craig: Well, it’s not so much that as that you’re going to say it once, nobody is going to do it. And then you’re going to feel this weird need to keep saying it. I think it’s nice that at the end of every show we say, “Hey, you want to give us a tip, go to iTunes. Give us the amount of stars that you think are appropriate. Give us a review.” That’s our tip.

John: That’s our tip.

Craig: That’s all we need. No money required.

John: So last week on the show we were also searching for a word. And the word we were looking for is something you brought up and I couldn’t think of the word for it and neither of us could think of a word for it. It’s when the mispronunciation of a word has become the default pronunciation of a word.

And so people wrote in with suggestions and a lot of people were writing, “Oh, you want shibboleth,” which is that sense of, you know, a word that defines insiders and outsiders. And that’s not really what we were looking for.

Craig: No.

John: So I still feel like probably that word is out there. But people also wrote in with this great series of articles about the specific thing we were talking about which is Los Feliz. And so, that’s a neighborhood in Los Angeles. And it’s classically sort of mispronounced but there’s actually a long history behind its mispronunciation. So I will link to these two things in the show notes.

Marisa Gerber from the LA Times has an article about the progression of, it used to be Rancho Los Feliz and it’s named after a guy named Jose Vicente Feliz. So it wasn’t for the word “happy”. It was for a guy’s name.

Craig: But his name was Happy.

John: His name was Happy.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Yeah. Like Pharrell Williams, if you want to get back to the Blurred Lines Lawsuit.

Craig: It’s like the guy that invented the toilet was John Crapper.

John: Yeah.

Craig: That’s why it was called The Crapper.

John: We’ve talked before on the podcast about how the Smart & Final grocery store chain is named after a Mr. Smart and a Mr. Final.

Craig: That’s right which is insane.

John: Which is insane.

So the other link I’ll put in here about Los Feliz is this sort of a shibboleth kind of thing which is the suggestion that if you moved into the neighborhood or an adjacent neighborhood in the last five years, you would say, Los Feliz.

Craig: Right.

John: If you moved into the neighborhood 20 years ago, you would say, Los Feliz, so basically throw the accent on the Los rather than —

Craig: Oh, really?

John: Take the stress off of the other two. And then if you are trying to pronounce it in Spanish or you’re trying to re-Latinize the word which is an interesting sort of concept is to take a word that’s been sort of mid-Westernized and put it back to its Spanish, you would say, of course, Los Feliz

Craig: Los Feliz.

John: Los Feliz.

Craig: I’m a Los Feliz guy.

John: Yeah. You’re a Los or a Los Feliz?

Craig: No, I’m Los Feliz. Sorry, I’m a Los Feliz. So, I guess, I am. I’m the — I don’t know. I’m a newbie, right?

John: Yeah.

Craig: Los Feliz, yeah.

John: I suspect that it is the more common pronunciation. In one of the articles, I think it was the LA Times article they talked about Garrett Ono who’s a local news anchor, and if he’s debating on how to pronounce a word, he will call the City Hall of that city to ask like, “How do you say your word?”

Craig: Yeah.

John: It also reminded me of how in Big Fish we had a pronunciation expert and her trick was to call a small town library in that region and ask the librarian how to pronounce something because those women who are basically the librarians there tend to have a good handle on how people are actually talking.

Craig: You know, one day there aren’t going to be librarians.

John: No.

Craig: And people will —

John: One day Google will take all of it.

Craig: Google will take them all. We have all these wonderful questions. We have a big bursting question bag, so why don’t we get into them and maybe, who knows, we might be able to get through all of them.

John: Great.

Craig: Let’s start with Paul.

John: All right.

Craig: Paul writes, “I was hired to adapt a novel into a screenplay based on my short film sample script. It’s going into production later this year and the producers and original author both loved my translation.” Translation I think he means adaptation. “My question is can I use the adapted script as a writing sample as well, crediting the based on original author on the title page of course?” What do you think, John?

John: Of course, you can.

Craig: Of course.

John: So, a writing sample is anything you wrote. And so if it’s based on something, that’s great too. So you’re saying it’s based on this thing. That’s absolutely valid and fair and, you know, half the writing samples in this town are probably adaptations.

Craig: Yeah, I mean, considering that frankly studios are looking for stuff that has some kind of built-in audience or proven IP track record, it would help, I think, in a weird way. So, yes, of course, you can use that as a writing sample.

John: And there certainly are cases where you cannot use that for certain competitions. There’s maybe other reasons why you can’t do that.

Craig: Yes.

John: But for a writing sample, someone to say like, “Oh, can this person sling words on the page?” Absolutely valid.

Craig: No question.

John: Josha asks —

Craig: I think it’s Yasha.

John: Oh, okay. Yasha.

Craig: I would say Yasha.

John: We’ll say Yasha.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Yasha asks, “Is it cool to change the font on the title of the title page of your script or is that considered lame and unprofessional?”

Craig: I don’t think it’s lame or unprofessional. Lots of people do it. I don’t, personally. I’m kind of an old-school purist that way. But, yeah, people do that all the time.

John: Yeah, it’s absolutely fine and I would say, a good 20% of scripts you’re going to read that are actually really out there in Hollywood will do something like that. First time I probably ever did it was for Go and it’s probably because the word go is just so incredibly tiny.

Craig: It’s so tiny, yeah.

John: And so I needed to blow it up and I just blew it up but, you know, Courier didn’t look good at all. So I did sort of special little logo for it. And it was absolutely the right choice for Go. So don’t worry about it. Just change the title of it. Put everything else in Courier. Keep everything else normal and the same.

Craig: Yeah. And do avoid — it’s not in and of itself it’s lame or unprofessional but if you do it lamely and unprofessionally it will be. So avoid cheesy fonts, obviously comic sans, half-moon baloney like that.

John: Zapf chancery.

Craig: Zapf chancery, yeah, or any zapf dingbats would be particularly amusing. But, you know, also, just don’t get really obvious, you know. Because the truth is, it might come off a little cheese ball. Yeah, I’ll say this much: you can’t go wrong with Courier.

John: Courier is a good solid choice. I think Emoji would be —

Craig: Yeah.

John: That’s going to be the next spec trend.

Craig: That would be nice.

John: There was that trend towards having really filthy titles for spec scripts.

Craig: Yes, yes.

John: So I think 100% Emoji is going to be the way to go.

Craig: Yeah. There was a trend for filthy titles and then there was a trend for really long, complicated titles as if that meant the script would be good. I hate that. Anyway, Lee asks, “I am writing a thriller screenplay set in Mexico. Although the script is aimed at an English-speaking audience and most of the script is in English, for authenticity, some characters speak in Spanish. This would be subtitled for the final movie and is used sparingly. In writing the script dialogue, I give the Spanish-speaking character’s name, for example, Hernandez, then directly under that in parentheses, Spanish with subtitles. Then I write the dialogue in English. Is this the correct way to do this?”

John: I think that’s a fine way to do this. What I’d say, if you’re doing that a lot, it’s going to be a tremendous amount of waste of time and space to always say “In Spanish” underneath all these things. So you may want to, the first time you do that, if this character’s going to be doing that a lot, put it in italics. And so therefore, we’ll always remember that that’s going to be in Spanish if that becomes important. It may not really be that important. And we may just not need to remember that it’s all in Spanish.

Craig: I agree. If you have a character that never speaks English, always speaks a foreign language and will always be subtitled, you can indicate that in an action line before they start speaking. You know, Hernandez speaks Spanish. Note, all of his dialogue will be subtitled. And then you can put all of Hernandez’s dialogue in italics to sort of indicate to people or just don’t. It depends on how important it is for the vibe.

I mean, obviously, if in the scene Hernandez is saying something and someone’s looking at him and then turns to their partner and says, “What did she just say?” and then they translate, it’s important. Then we do need those italics.

John: Yeah. I was going to say exactly the same thing. So, you know, essentially, if characters are having their own conversation in their foreign language the whole time, don’t do anything fancy.

Craig: Yeah, exactly.

John: Next question. John asks, “What is a scene in a movie? The reason I ask is when I write a script it calls every setup, cinematography-wise, a scene heading. In other words, every time you change the position of the camera, it’s a new scene heading. But this isn’t — “

Craig: Oh know. [laughs]

John: A scene in the movie term analysis.

Craig: Oh know.

John: John is fundamental in his understandings here. “I think I have a very loose idea but I’m not fully in the picture and I’m wondering if you could clear this up because sometimes it’s a confusing point for me. Sorry if I come across as thick on this one, but there are probably a lot of people who would like the answer on this one. A brief definition of what a scene actually is. There could potentially be many scene headings in a scene, I think.”

Craig: Okay. Well, you know what, don’t appreciate the very polite way you ask the question.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You’re not thick, you just don’t know. And now you will. The way you’re doing it is wrong.

John: Yes.

Craig: So the idea of setups, that is to say the camera changes position, we don’t have to indicate that at all. We can if we feel it’s important for the telling of the scene and the telling of the story, but we don’t have to. The slug line or the scene header, INT.BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.DAY, we do that essentially when we change our location, or if we stay in the same location but maybe jump ahead significantly in time. That’s pretty much how we use those. What do you —

John: Yeah, I think to encapsulate Craig’s description, a scene is a moment of story that is happening in one place in one time. And, really, in one place and one continuous time.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And so we use scene in a screenplay, usually it’s headed up by INT or EXT to indicate interior or exterior. And all of the stuff that’s in there doesn’t have to have its own scene header or slug line or anything to differentiate like these are the shots. Back in the very, very early days of screenwriting, very early days of movies, they would literally list every shot because it was really much more of a shot list kind of way to do things.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Now we only break those things out if it’s really important for the understanding of how the scene would play.

Craig: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Remember also, John, that the idea of the interior and the exterior indication is there for clarity for the reader and, of course then later on, for the production. It would be very unclear and confusing for the reader if you constantly did that every time you imagine the camera moving. And of course, it’s impossible to tell really when the camera position will change repeatedly through the course of say two people sitting across the table from each other.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Because, ultimately, you shoot both sides continuously and then edit them together later.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So that’s how that works.

John: In previous episodes, we’ve talked about the difference between a scene and a sequence. And a lot of times, what people refer to as a scene, they really mean as a sequence. It’s a collection of scenes that together accomplish some story point. And so it could be a person moving through the rooms of a house searching for something. And it’s a scene but it’s also a sequence. Really, it’s a collective group of little moments that are adding up to one bigger moment.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Another example that happens a lot is you have two sides of a phone conversation. Those would be kind of listed as two different scenes in your script, but they really are one moment. And so you’ll find, as you’re doing this, you will be talking about scenes in a way that doesn’t necessarily match exactly to what is there on the page.

Craig: Yeah. Sequences tend to involve a change in locations through continuous time.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Okay. So our next question — so, anyway, thanks, John. You’re not thick. Hopefully that sets that straight. Sam writes, “Over the last few years, several of my scripts have advanced in the major screenwriting contests including the semifinals and quarterfinals of Nicholl, the semifinals of Austin, and good marks on The Black List site.” Congrats.

“Despite this limited success, getting anybody else to actually read my scripts has been excruciatingly difficult. A smattering of managers and producers request my scripts after the contest season and sometimes I get a meeting or two that quickly leads nowhere. The others, I never hear back from even after a follow-up email a few months later. Cold queries, no success either. It’s not to say that I’ve been entirely without success. One manager danced around me for a while before suddenly dropping off the planet.” That’s dramatic.

“A producer I met through a personal connection wanted to option one script for a good sum of money and a contract was even drafted but the deal fell apart at the last moment. I try to network when I can. This usually gets a few reads here and there, but that’s about it. So my question is, how do I take the next step? I’ll obviously keep writing and improving. I’ll continue to submit to contests because it can’t hurt and I’m financially able to do so, but there has to be something else I can do to advance my career, right?”

John: I wanted to include this entire question is because that is honestly the experience of trying to sort of get your career started. It’s like there’s all these little things. It’s like, “Oh, well, that happened.” Or like, “This person wants to option my script.” Or “I now have a manager.” And you always think like, “Oh, I’ve managed to get this next level and then some things just dissipate.”

Craig: Yeah.

John: The experience Sam describes is incredibly common and incredibly frustrating. So I put it in there without having a great answer. But to really illustrate, like, this is sort of normal.

Craig: It is normal. And I’m sorry to say, Sam, I’m not sure there is anything else you can do. You’re on The Black List which does get your script read. Look, you have to be realistic about certain things. The semifinals of Nicholl, the quarterfinals of Nicholl is actually not that significant of an achievement in the eyes of the industry. That is to say in the eyes of people that are purchasing scripts or employing writers. It is a very real achievement, don’t get me wrong. It’s a very real achievement for you and it’s encouraging. It’s an indication that you have promise.

But on the other side of the aisle, they’re looking for finalists and even then, they’re looking for a couple of the finalists. The semifinals of Austin, likewise, doesn’t really mean much for them. Good marks in The Black List site is nice but, as we’ve often mentioned, it’s not about your average. It’s about that one person who would give you a 20 if they could.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So this is normal. It can be very frustrating, especially when you don’t have context. So when these little things emerge like a manager dancing around, maybe there is going to be a deal but it didn’t happen, you begin to think that you’re cursed. But in fact, you’re not cursed. That’s just the way it works for all of us. You know, for John and for me, if somebody says, “I love this script. I want to make this movie,” and we’ve been doing it long enough to go, “Uh-huh. We’ll see.” [laughs]

John: Yeah.

Craig: Because we know that that’s kind of just talk. And that most talk is just talk. That’s the deal. So when you’re starting out, you grab these things like, you know, like that piece of door in Titanic that you can stay afloat on. But they’re not real until they are. Sorry.

John: Yeah. So when you ask like, “Is there anything else I should be doing,” it’s like, well, there’s not any one specific thing other than everything because you don’t know what is the thing that’s going to actually lead you to that next step. And so, you say you get out there and network, which is great, and so we could — you know, different definitions of what networking is.

Going out and meeting other writers who are actually working is great, you know. Helping out your peers is great. And the only thing I’ll come back to which I said a thousand times on the podcast is that as I was first starting in screenwriting, the people who were most helpful for me were not those people who plucked me out of obscurity and said like, “Oh, you’re really talented.” It was all of my peers who were trying to do the same thing I was trying to do.

And so the degree to which you can find other people who are trying to make movies, that will be useful. So if that’s a thing you’re not working on right now, that might be something you can add to your workflow.

Craig: Yeah. I’ll only add this last little bit for me, Sam, that worrying will actually not make it any better. Being frustrated, which is a natural state, you can be frustrated and it’s okay to feel bad. But don’t think that through sheer effort of feeling that you will change things. In fact, they will happen as they will regardless of your worry and your concern and your nerves and your anxiety. That’s a hard thing to kind of wrap your head around because it implies you have no control. You don’t.

The only control that you exert on this process is the quality of the work on the page and the reaction of any individual reading it. So, keep writing. Just keep doing your best to express yourself uniquely. And what will be, will be.

John: Jennifer writes, “I was contacted by a producer who has the life rights of someone whom I would call an important historical activist. The producer got my name from the quarterfinals script placing at Nicholl. So even a quarterfinal placing has got me a little traction here and there, if you want to mention that to your listeners.” So, a good counterexample.

Craig: There you go.

John: “The story takes place in a highly conflicted area, an area that all governmental sites I could see say don’t travel there as an American. There are documented kidnappings of tourists in the region. Part of the research for the screenplay would most definitely require a trip to this region to feel out and/or view where this figure lived out his life. Writing a script without ‘walking in his shoes,’ so to speak, wouldn’t be an option. And I totally get that, nor would I want to write a script like this otherwise. I’m an American, I’m female, I’m blond and white. I would stick out.

“The fact that I’m a mom to two little kids isn’t helping me with the decision either. I’m by no means asking you to make a decision for me. But I’d really like to know your thoughts and suggestions for a situation like this.

“I’m not sure you’ve covered a topic about personal safety in screenwriting before, maybe because it’s not a necessary topic usually. My husband thinks this is funny and not because it could be a killer script and a killer opportunity for me. And of course, it takes place in one of the few places on earth that I shouldn’t travel as an American. He’s useless for advice, so I turn to you two.”

Craig: [laughs] Once again, Jennifer’s husband, you are useless for advice. God.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Being a husband is awesome.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So, fascinating question. This actually has come up for me before. Not in the context of a original script that I was writing but, believe it or not, for the third Hangover film. We situated a sequence or long stretch of scenes in Tijuana and we were not allowed to go. And we would have but the studio said, “No, we just can’t. The insurance basically won’t. [laughs] I mean, you can’t take Bradley Cooper to a town where there are kidnappings and we just can’t do it.” So we had to go to a wonderful town elsewhere that kind of doubled as it.

But I would be deeply concerned. I mean, look, first of all, I question the premise. I question the premise that you cannot write this script, at least initially, without going to this place. We live in a time where there is an incredible access to research material through the Internet and I just wonder if what you’re saying is true. You know, I’m going to be writing something for a miniseries that it’s situated in a place where there was a terrible disaster. And it’s dangerous to go there. And, you know, I might.

But it’s not politically dangerous. So there are ways to protect yourself. It’s hard to protect yourself against chaos. So, look, I mean, my advice personally, and this is just personal advice, hell no. You’re a mom to two kids? No.

John: Yeah. I think my advice to her as a parent is absolutely not, because there’s nothing — you’re not a journalist. You’re not a person who is responsible for reporting from the frontlines about an ongoing situation. And so I think journalists who are doing that work are putting themselves at risk for a very clear end goal.

As a person who may be writing a movie, your responsibility is to tell the story. And telling the story is telling about the characters. And I suspect you will be able to learn what you need to learn about the characters by doing firsthand research with people who knew this person, people who know what it’s like to be that kind of person. What you really need to find is like what is it like to be this historical figure. What is it like to be in that situation?

Craig: Yeah.

John: So, you know, you don’t have a time machine either. And so, if you were writing the movie Selma, is it incredibly important to speak to people who were involved in it? Yes. Is it important to build a time machine and travel back and walk across the bridge? Not as much. And if you were writing Braveheart, you don’t have the firsthand research to be able to do there.

So, I definitely understand the sensation and the need to see what things feel like and be in that place. When I write, I always try to travel to the place where I’m setting something. But there are limits to that. And you’re not going to be able to travel to Mars and it sounds like you’re not going to be able to travel to this place because it’s simply too dangerous. And so you need to be able to figure out how to create the experience of going to those places and the inner life of being in those places without risking your life and your family’s safety.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, look, I’m presuming that this is somebody that — someone else has been interested in it at some point. There will be a documentary. If not about this individual, at least about the place or about why that place is dangerous. There will be first person written accounts, which I find extraordinarily helpful. Those things will exist. And if they don’t exist, I guarantee you that somebody who has lived in this place and who knew this person is still alive and not living there. And you can call that person and talk to them.

John: Yeah. A project I did really recently, I was able to find people who I could email or actually just text. And as I got to a very specific question about, like, what would the brand of sandals be that this person is wearing, and I could text them and get an answer back in 30 seconds. And that was invaluable. And that came after a period of like sitting, you know, at a lunch and just asking them thousands of questions about sort of things that would seem really unimportant.

They kept asking me like, “Why do you want to know this stuff?” It’s like, because I don’t know what’s going to be important and I would just pull as much as I could in. And that’s the research you probably need to do more than anything else, is to figure out what it feels like to be in those situations, not what it literally feels like to be standing on that ground.

Craig: Yeah. So I think we’re in agreement there, Jennifer. Don’t go. God, I hope she hasn’t already gone.

John: This question is super old.

Craig: Oh, no.

John: It’s been sitting in the mail bag for a long time.

Craig: Oh, god, she’s probably sitting in a prison right now.

John: I hope not.

Craig: Oh, boy. Well, sorry, Jennifer’s husband, if we took too long there. Anthony writes, “My two-question part deals with race. I am a white guy.” Hey, Anthony, me too. “I’ve written a romantic comedy and my protagonist is a woman, Anna. I’ve decided that I want to make Anna black. There’s no particular reason for this change other than the fact that I don’t see many black female protagonists. First, I’m just going to ask the uncomfortable question. As part of the character description, do I write black, African-American, dark-skinned, or something altogether different?

“Second, since I’m explicitly calling out Anna as black and the love interest is white, what do I do with the five other smaller but very active characters? I don’t want to fall into the default white trap by not acknowledging their race but I also feel it might be overly specific by writing in race for every single character.” Well, what do you —

John: I think these are lovely questions.

Craig: Good questions.

John: So to answer the first question, I think you say African-American and you say it in that first bit of sentence description where you’re first describing the character. And just put it in there and let her be African-American. Is that what you do, Craig, too?

Craig: I don’t. I write black. I find African-American to be clinical sounding.

John: I’ve written black at times and I’ve written African-American at times. In this most recent script, I single out a character as African-American rather than black. Do whatever. It works.

Craig: Yeah. That’s a personal preference of mine. But I would not say dark-skinned.

John: No.

Craig: I don’t know what that means.

John: I don’t know what that means either. And I think that’s a stopper. It’s like, wait —

Craig: Yeah, it’s like are you either a racist or are you super not racist? [laughs]

John: Yeah. Or you can do that sort of Rashida Jones problem where you’re like, how — yeah, what are we saying about — ?

Craig: Yeah. The truth is, when you say, “I’m going to ask the uncomfortable question,” it’s okay to be uncomfortable about race because it can be an uncomfortable topic in our country. It’s just not okay to exhibit that discomfort in your screenplay.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Just be comfortable and confident in what you write.

John: Absolutely. “Since I’m explicitly calling out Anna as black and the love interest white, what do I do with the other small active characters?” I think it goes back to what we talked about in this last episode where Craig wanted to know whether the waitress was white or black because it actually mattered in the scene.

Craig: Right.

John: I think, you know, if it matters, yes, single it out. And if it doesn’t matter, yes, there’s a danger of the default white trap, but if you’ve already made your protagonist black, I think we’re going to be reading the script with the assumption that some of these characters will be or won’t be different races. I think picking names that can tip the reader towards a certain assumption could be helpful to you as well. So we’re not going to assume that —

Craig: Yaakov is not black.

John: Exactly. He’s not black.

Craig: He’s Jewish. I think, though, in this case, that if you are writing an interracial romance, it’s not out of bounds to casually remark on the races of other characters because, and this may not be the case, but I suspect that race may be a topic in your movie. Now, it may not. Your movie just may simply posit a relationship between two people who happen to be different races and there’s no comment at all. Just as frequently, I would argue almost always there’s no comment in real life, in which case, it doesn’t matter.

You write the characters you want to write. I would just say if it matters to you that she’s black and he’s white, then you have to think, “Well, does it also matter then who her friends are, who his friends are, who the boss is, et cetera?” You have to think, “How important is race in my script?”

John: Yeah. And realistically, you’re probably picturing some of these characters as you’re writing them. And so as you’re writing them, if things come up where the race factors in, then yeah you’re going to need to identify it. If it doesn’t come up that the race factors in, then it’s a decision about, you know, what the overall movie feels like with those characters singled out or not singled out for the race.

Craig: You could always have a character say, “Well, as you know I’m black.” So [laughs] that’s good writing.

John: That’s good writing.

Craig: That’s good writing.

John: And so I was thinking about my own scripts. And so in Go, and this is sort of not secret knowledge because it’s been talked about before, Ronna’s character was originally described as 18, black and bleeding. So in our initial instinct to try to cast the role, we were looking for a black actress. And we didn’t find one that we really loved for that part. And so the producers awkwardly asked me to take out the word black so we could look at other actresses and we cast Sarah Polley and she’s magnificent.

Craig: She’s also like so not black. She’s the whitest white.

John: She’s maybe the whitest. She’s basically transparent.

Craig: She glows.

John: Yeah. And so in that case, changing the race had zero impact because her race was never acknowledged anywhere in the script.

Craig: Right.

John: Whereas the four guys who go to Vegas, Marcus has to be black because otherwise it doesn’t make sense because Tiny’s relationship with him is all predicated on race and sort of, you know, a white guy trying to act black. So there were incredibly important reasons why we needed to have Taye Diggs be black.

Craig: Well, which is good because Taye Diggs is black.

John: He’s an African-American man and just a damn sexy one. So he’s a —

Craig: He’s a hunk.

John: He’s a hunk. So there are cases where it makes sense and cases where it doesn’t make sense. But I didn’t single out everybody else’s race in a script because it wasn’t super important. And as we looked at casting the rest of the people in the movie, I had the luxury of being involved in the whole casting process, we looked at a wide sampling of people for everything.

Craig: Yeah, I think I mentioned before on the show that the characters of Jason Bateman’s coworker and the police detective who takes his case, I did not signify race in the script one way or the other. And so we ended up casting John Cho in one role and Morris Chestnut in another. So we didn’t fall into the default white trap.

John: Yeah. Rob writes, “I was listening to a recent episode with Aline Brosh McKenna,” oh Aline, “and really intrigued by one line of hers. Towards the end, she said, ‘Your movie’s got to be about something. They’ve got to be about something.'” So she repeated herself which is absolutely fair.

Craig: The way that that quote is written, it sounds like she’s from the ’30s. “Your movie is just got to be about something. They got to be about something, kid.”

John: “Does a movie need to have a clearly defined arc or theme? Does it need to be truly about something or one thing? I find myself enjoying movies much more when they do. But I don’t want to discredit more artistic and experimental ventures that are not.”

Craig: Say, that’s a great question. I’ll just do this all — I’m never going to stop.

John: [laughs]You know, your movie is going to be about something kind of no matter what. It doesn’t have to necessarily have some great giant thematic conclusion. But the fact that people have spent two hours in your movie, they’re going to take something from it. So it needs to be about something.

If it’s just a bunch of random stuff that happens and then it’s over, that’s not generally a recipe for a hugely successful viewing experience.

Craig: Yeah, I mean you’ll say, “I don’t want to discredit more artistic and experimental ventures that are not,” which I take umbrage with, sir. Umbrage! It is not more artistic to not have an arc or theme. It is not frankly even more experimental to not have an arc or theme. And frankly, for people who do make let’s just say movies that are targeted at a narrower audience and perhaps are more cinematically daring, I think that they would be the first person or people to say to you, “Hey, no, no, no. This movie is definitely about something.” It may not be immediately discernible to you. It may be a far more subtle expression of a something. But of course, it’s about something.

No, I totally agree with her. “Your movie just got to be about something. They got to be about something, sir.”

John: Even some of the most experimental movies, you know, like Under the Skin doesn’t seem to have conventional plot to it, but it’s definitely about something. And it’s really unsettling what it’s actually about, you know. Tree of Life, which is sort of deliberately meandery, it’s fundamentally about something even though it doesn’t arc in sort of normal ways. So yeah, I don’t think you can get away with your movie not being about something.

Craig: Yeah, that’s right.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It just doesn’t work that way. Par Dhonsi, the coolest name. Par Dhonsi in the UK. So Par, Par Dhonsi writes, “After a screenwriter has written a script, which he or she intends on directing, how do they go about creating a realistic budget for it? Does the script need to be broken down into tiny sections and depending on what is happening in the scene, you determine how much you think it will cost? I’d like to direct a short script I’ve written but I want to create a good standard product with a great story and visually aesthetically pleasing on screen rather than to half-ass it and create something that no one is proud of.” I don’t blame you Par Dhonsi.

“I don’t want to guess what it will cost.” [laughs] Nor should you. “And then midway in principal photography run out of cash, uh-oh.” I love how anyone who ends a question with uh-oh, is the coolest. I love Par Dhonsi. I don’t know if Par is a guy or a girl, but I’m in love with Par Dhonsi and may want to marry them.

John: [laughs] So yes, there is such a thing as breaking down a script. And it literally is called breaking down a script. And that is where you are going through scene by scene, moment by moment. You’re figuring out what things you need, how much time it would take to film that, what you need to film that, how many people you require on the set to do things. There’s a whole separate podcast that some AD out there can probably make about like, you know, film budgeting.

So in studio land, budgeting films is a science and an art. And there’s a whole structure for it. There is specialized software that helps these people break down scripts and put together schedules and budgets that can magically plug in union rates and all these other sort of specific things that are way beyond the ability for me and Craig to talk about.

But what you’re talking about, Par, is making your short film. And that is a lot more kind of — it’s not guess work, but it’s figuring out like, “Well, we have this amount of money, what do we do with this amount of money?” Rarely is it a case where you say like, “Let’s figure out how much this is going to cost and we’ll raise exactly that amount of money.” That’s unusual that it happens that way for a short film.

Craig: Yes. Although, if you’re going to go out and ask for money, you do want to have a budget because people that are investing want to know that you’re actually asking for the appropriate amount.

John is absolutely right. This isn’t something you do, just as we don’t ask the unit production manager, that’s what we call the person here in the US, or the line producer. We don’t ask them to write a script. They don’t ask us to budget the script. That’s what they do and there is so many moving pieces to a budget that you haven’t even thought of like craft services and what it costs to buy a parking lot for the crew. I mean there’s a million things. Even a tiny movie, a crew of seven people, you’re going to have costs you haven’t even anticipated.

You have to get somebody who knows what they’re doing to do this. If you are low on funds and you’re going the independent route, then you find somebody that does that. I mean there are people that do this in independent film and you look around in the UK and I think UK is kind of cool because my guess is that there are probably some public resources there they can steer you to the right person maybe more so than are here.

But absolutely, your instincts are correct. You do not want to guess and then midway through principal photography run out of cash. Uh-oh, is right. You want a professional to budget your script.

John: So I’ll ask Stuart to look up online and find some sample budgets for like little teeny tiny short films and some bigger things. We’ll see whether we can show examples of like what those budgets look like. Definitely, like, you know, I’ve made short films like the short film I made with Melissa McCarthy called God. That was just us kind of figuring it out. And so Dan Etheridge, who was my line producer, and I, we figured out how much it would cost. We, you know, we wrote a check and we were able to make the movie.

But I needed somebody with some experience to sort of talk me through like these are the realistic things we’re going to need to spend in order to do that stuff. This is back in the day. It’s like we shot on 35mm film. You had to pay for processing. There were like huge crazy things.

Some little short films you are literally just going to run out with your, you know, tiny camera and shoot them and you don’t need anything. Somewhere in between those might be an example of Matthew Chilelli, who edits our show, who just went off and made a short film.

And so he had a budget and he had to raise the money on Kickstarter. So he needed to actually show that like this is how much money I need to bring in order to make the movie that we’re trying to make. And, you know, that’s when you start to recognize what becomes incredibly expensive, like sometimes some locations become incredibly expensive or visual effects and what things are actually kind of nearly free.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And that doesn’t stop as you sort of scale up through, you know —

Craig: It never stops.

John: Your screenwriting career. Because what Craig did just this last couple of weeks was honestly largely budget-related wasn’t it when you were working on this big draft to a big movie to turn in, a lot of what you’re doing is sort of figuring out how to make this movie for a certain price.

Craig: Well, you’re sort of tasked with doing two things at once. You’ve got all these creative things that you need to fix with the movie. So all the normal movie stuff, what should these people be saying, how do we fix this story point? This character doesn’t sound right. This relationship blah, blah, blah. At the same time, somebody else will be saying to you, “Here’s the locations that we have, we can’t do this, and we can’t do this, and we can’t do this. It would be great if you could combine these two things into one thing. And is it possible to dadadadada?”

So you have to, as a screenwriter particularly working on studio films, you need to be able to have two completely different conversations with two completely different kinds of people. You have to be able to get on the phone and talk to an actor about their character and then an hour later, get on the phone with the head of physical production which is what we call the people that manage the budgeting and the actual purchasing and spending of money and talk about how you’re going to accomplish what you’re going to do within their framework.

John: Yeah.

Craig: One of the great things about going through the budget process, Par, is that a good line producer or budgeter will be able to save you, you know, you don’t have to but if you relocated this scene from here to a place like this, you could save an enormous amount of money and you might think, “Well, sure, I didn’t need it to be there. I just picked that because it seemed like a decent thing, but yeah, that would work perfectly fine.” That’s the kind of thing that really helps. So definitely go find yourself an expert.

John: Yeah. All right, our final question comes from Kathleen in Los Angeles. She writes, “I’m working on my first features script which is about two best friends during a vacation from college. I am debating whether to have it set during their Thanksgiving or Christmas break. Does it automatically end up in the genre of Christmas movies or can it just exist on its own that it happened to take place over Christmas? Would it be wiser for me to make it occur over Christmas or even put the word Christmas in the title? Are Christmas movie any more or less marketable than others? Do they have to be narrower or can it be a broader audience?”

Craig: That’s a really good question. There are movies that incidentally contain Christmas in them. But if you are writing a movie, just extracting here from your question, that is about two best friends during a break from college and it’s a Christmas break from college, it’s quite likely that a studio or a major distributor would want to think about it as being a Christmas movie and release it around Christmas time.

Very famously, The Ref, which is one of my favorite movies, written by Richard LaGravenese, directed by Ted Demme. It takes place over Christmas. It’s a kind of a retelling of Ransom of Red Chief. And it takes place over Christmas. It’s very centered around Christmas. And Disney released it in the summer. It was just bizarre. And it flopped, unfairly flopped. So yeah, are Christmas movies considered more or less marketable? They’re considered more marketable, I think, by studios because they understand the people are in a certain mood, just as horror movies feel like they fit the mood of Halloween.

They do have broader audiences but in the broadening of that audience, you have to be careful because Christmas does bring a certain family crowd and it’s a little more difficult to release something that is R or really focused towards adults that is set in a Christmas background. That’s my opinion.

John: So my first movie, Go, is set in the Christmas time, but it’s not a Christmas movie. And so sometimes it shows up in lists as like, you know, 15 best Christmas movies, but sort of as like as an asterisk because it doesn’t really feel like a Christmas movie.

I think sticking Christmas in the title puts it in the special bin in a way that may be helpful to your movie, but may not be helpful to your movie. So really look at it. If Christmas is not important to your plot, I wouldn’t try to single it out because it’s just going to feel frustrating. It’s the difference between National Lampoon’s Vacation and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It sticks it in that world of Christmas movies. And that’s not necessarily the happiest best place for you to put something if it’s something really great and original.

I sort of think about Hallmark Hall of Fame movies that sort of go in that Christmas bin.

Craig: Yeah. But there are wonderful Christmas movies.

John: Oh absolutely.

Craig: And, you know, I guess it’s interesting that you’re talking about — there is a Christmassy kind of theme, you know. So even for instance, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a Thanksgiving movie which is essentially the same kind of thing.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s rated R, which a lot of people forget.

John: Oh yeah. I forgot.

Craig: But it is built around a very Christmassy kind of theme. So more important almost than the fact that your movie takes during Christmas break is, in the end of the movie, is there some kind of spirit of giving, spirit of love, that kind of vibe? Or is it off of that entirely? And if it’s off of that entirely, then I wouldn’t worry about this Christmas stuff. Put it where you want or put it in Christmas. It won’t matter, it will never feel like a Christmas movie.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Certainly, do not put the word Christmas in your title unless you are, A, Christmassy themed in both what we’re looking at and what the story is selling thematically, and, B, you want a family audience.

John: Yeah. I agree.

Craig: Yeah.

John: It is time for our One Cool Things.

Craig: Yeah.

John: My One Cool Thing is this Reddit thread I read this week about a guy who started to doubt whether his wife and his kids were who they said they were and whether they’re real and he got obsessed with his lamp. And then he woke up on the sidewalk with his teeth knocked out and basically he’d been punched out and had fallen unconscious. And he dreamed like years of his life or sort of imagined the years of his life.

Craig: It’s the Star Trek episode.

John: It is like the Star Trek episode. And so there is a Star Trek episode of The Next Generation called The Inner Light.

Craig: So great.

John: It was one of the best episodes of Star Trek.

Craig: Oh, so great.

John: You know, it also reminded me of parts of the movie I did called The Nines which is also that sense of unreality like what if this is all actually not real? And so I just recommend this Reddit thread because it’s a lot of people sharing their experiences of like those moments that felt like I lived my whole life and then I woke up and I was really missing those moments because they felt incredibly real and true to me.

Craig: I had this crazy dream once that I directed a movie. It was a spoof movie about superheroes but it was for Bob Weinstein and he just got really involved and meddled with it and it came out not very good. And it was so embarrassing, but then I woke up and it was okay.

John: That’s great. I’m really glad that, you know, you recognized that it didn’t actually happen.

Craig: It didn’t happen. Thank God, because if it had happened, what would I do?

John: Yeah, I know, because one of the first things you did is you IMDb’d yourself and you saw that, “Oh, that’s right. That’s not actually there.”

Craig: I had a dream that IMDb was a thing. It’s not. Thank God. But I had a dream that it was.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I had a dream.

John: So long ago.

Craig: Time gone by. I mean One Cool Thing. I got nothing.

John: Craig, you didn’t —

Craig: What?

John: No One Cool Thing? You’ve gotten much better about always having your One Cool Things.

Craig: I know. But well, I just didn’t. You know what, here’s the deal. My wife and my daughter are away this week because it’s my daughter’s spring break so I’ve been waking up early and driving my son to school every morning. I am not meant to wake up at this time. I’m not meant to wake up at 6:30, period, the end, it’s wrong. I’m all weird and funny. I’ve actually written some awesome stuff this week because I feel like my brain was really plastic and gooey. I haven’t written as much as I normally do, but it’s really cool. So I might want to force myself into this weird sleepy state anyway.

But for things like One Cool Thing, my entire brain failed.

John: Don’t worry about it. Craig, you were a huge help on the podcast today. Thank you for reading all your questions. Thank you for all the people who wrote in with their questions. And thank you to everybody who wrote with suggestions about, you know, how to do a full script challenge, which we’re going to pick a new title for that because that’s not the real title for it. And suggestions about advertising. So we still don’t know what we’re going to do with advertising. But if we do it, we’ll try to make sure it doesn’t suck and doesn’t ruin the podcast.

Craig: Tushy plugs.

John: Tushy plugs, that’s what we’re going to sell.

Craig: [laughs] That’s my One Cool Thing.

John: As always, our show is produced by Stuart Friedel. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. You can tell Stuart and Matthew how good they are at their jobs. If you want to leave us a comment on iTunes, look for Scriptnotes, that is the place where you could leave a comment for them. You can also download the app there or in the Android app store. The app will connect you into which is where you can get all the back episodes of the show.

Our outro this week is by Jon Spurney. If you have an outro you’d like to send to us, just send it to, same place where you’d send questions like the ones we answered today. On Twitter, I’m @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. This episode comes out on Tuesday, but on Monday we would have done the first play test of this game. Craig, will you have been there or not have been there?

Craig: On Monday?

John: Yeah.

Craig: I don’t know. It depends because my wife’s coming home — what’s today? [laughs]

John: It’s all a blur for Craig Mazin.

Craig: My wife is coming home in a couple of days. And she’ll tell me.

John: Absolutely.

Craig: [laughs] Trust me. Like who has that great question, my husband, Jennifer. He’s useless for advice. I’m also useless for scheduling.

John: So your wife and your daughter travelled to some dangerous location where they were not kidnapped, I hope.

Craig: Oh, it was so dangerous. Yes, you can’t imagine how dangerous. I mean, my God, there was a chance that the mimosa might come with quite enough orange juice.

John: Well, there’s a chance that I may see you on Monday night. But if not, I will talk to you next week on another episode of Scriptnotes. Thanks, Craig.

Craig: Yeah. Thank you.

John: Bye.

Craig: Bye.