The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Today’s episode, we will talk about last week’s episode, follow-up on K.C. Scott’s This Is Working and what people had to say about it and what more we now know about K.C. Scott, also known as Kurt. We’re going to talk about craftsmanship. We will talk about camera direction. We will answer two listener questions.
But first, we have some news. We have things that happened in the town that we need to talk to.
Craig: Yeah. It’s been a busy, busy week. This is a jam-packed show, by the way.
John: It’s a lot of different things. But that’s sometimes a good mark of an episode. Lots of different things to talk about.
Craig: I think strap in, guys, because this one’s going to be cray cray.
John: I don’t know if this is going to be a long topic or a short topic. CAA lost several of their agents to United Talent Agency, UTA. And, Craig, does it matter?
Craig: For us? I mean, for feature writers, I would say not at all. Not at all. For television writers, possibly because, you know, in television they do all this packaging. But even then I’m not sure that the packaging of shows is exclusive to their clients. I don’t even know how that works. I mean, I find frankly that my interest in the who’s getting fired, who’s going where is essentially at a zero. It’s never been that high.
When Amy Pascal got fired and then there was the, “Who’s going to take over? And, oh, it’s Tom Rothman,” it was like everybody was talking about this at lunch. I couldn’t have cared less. Adam Goodman got fired. I don’t care. Somebody has replaced him. I don’t care. I’m just over here doing my job, you know.
John: Yeah, yeah. The only thing Craig does really care about when it comes time to talk about firing and agents is Craig wants to fire your agent.
Craig: Yeah. Yeah.
John: It’s really Craig’s favorite thing in the world to do.
Craig: [laughs] I mean, I am here for you at a very reasonable rate for $500. I’ll get on the phone and fire your agent for you.
John: You know, that’s actually kind of a great little sideline business.
John: Craig would do a fantastic job. He would just call up the person and say like, “You have this client? He’s not your client anymore.” The client doesn’t have to explain why. It’s just done, move on.
Craig: Yeah. The strategy is when they pick up the phone, you say, “Hi. So listen, I’m going to get right to it. I’m letting you go.” So, in the case if I were firing your agent for you, I’d call him up and say, “Hi. So just let me get right to it. John August is letting you go. You’re no longer his agent. Let me just briefly tell you why but the decision is final.” Now you’ve cut the — there’s no wind in their sails. They’ve got nothing. And the best part is if this becomes a real business, then they’ll know just because I’m calling them, they’ll know. [laughs]
John: [laughs] Absolutely. They will never return your calls.
Craig: Literally. It’s like give me $500, I will log a call to your agent and that will be all it takes. I won’t even say a word.
John: It’s all done.
John: I think Craig would need to have a little bit of a pre-interview where he was like — so his little checklist where he would just like you know he marks off, like, “Which are the reasons why we’re firing him? Okay, great. All done. All set.”
Craig: Great. Yeah. It’s a web form, honestly. Just fill up my web form. I don’t need to hear your sob stories about why. Just check off these things. And then, you know, when they give you a comment box but it’s like, “Okay, you can describe anything else you think we need to know but you have 200 characters.” We’re telling you we don’t care. That’s why we’re limiting you to 200 characters.
John: We’re telling you it doesn’t matter.
Craig: We’re telling you we’re not going to read it. But go ahead, if it makes you feel better.
John: We’re creating new businesses even as we speak. Franklin Leonard has The Black List, you’re basically The Dead List.
Craig: That’s right.
John: Just tell us which agent you want to fire, it’s done.
Craig: Yeah. I’m The Kill List.
John: So we initially recorded the podcast on a Thursday and right here on the podcast is where we talked about the death of Scripped.com which was just a breaking story at that point. That next day, on Friday, we recorded a whole interview with the co-owner of Scripped.com which became a special episode on Saturday. So most of what was in this portion of the podcast is no longer relevant.
But I wanted to save one little conversation Craig and I had about how you keep multiple backups of things even if you are doing stuff on your own computer. So this is a portion of what we talked about originally on the podcast on Thursday.
And I’m also probably a little too reliant on Dropbox. The other thing I would take sort of personally is that all of my stuff, you know, that I’m working on currently, you know, it’s on Dropbox. So granted Dropbox is both local and it’s in the cloud, but I probably rely a little bit too much on that.
Craig: Well, I’m glad you brought that up. First of all, I’m in the same boat. I have the scripts and because you and I got started around the same time, I would imagine we had the same technological issues. Because when I look back, for instance, at my initial work, you know, way, way back when. So like RocketMan, so that was the first movie I did. Well, when I look at the files for that, which I have, they are unopenable.
Craig: I’m looking at files like — and I think they were Final Draft 2 files that now show up as exec files. [laughs] The system has no idea what to do, even the Microsoft Word files are no longer openable. And we’re talking about like for instance this one that I’m looking at here was created November 1st, 1996. It’s gone, you know. However, because everybody now moves with this, we know, okay, if there’s a format change we kind of change our files along with the formats. I think we’ve probably gotten past that.
My worry is this Dropbox worry because like you, that’s how I do my work. I have everything locally but it’s synced to Dropbox. Well, I know if I go into Dropbox and I delete a file there, it deletes on my local drive. Well, let’s say there was a problem at Dropbox and instead of everything just going kaput, somebody went in and just started deleting stuff.
Craig: It’s gone, right?
Craig: Okay. So that brings me to my next point. Well, I’m going to put this out there for our listeners. How can I essentially double sync backup my stuff? Wouldn’t it be great if I could — on my hard drive, I’m writing something and it knows to sync it both with Dropbox and save with Google Drive, so I’m double backed.
John: Yeah. So in some future world in which this podcast has advertising, one of the very, very common advertisers who is always advertising on podcasts are services like Backblaze. And what they do is basically they make a copy of your hard drive and they store it in the cloud. That would take care of your situation in this case. So anything that’s ever on your hard drive is also in the cloud. You can download it back off the cloud.
Craig: By the way, how sick would it be if this was in fact our first ad? How insidious of us.
John: [laughs] It would be incredibly insidious.
Craig: It would be so insidious.
John: And we guarantee you it is not our first ad.
Craig: It’s not. We are not being paid for this. But it’s called Backblaze? Well, they should advertise with us because I’m going to go check them out now.
John: So if you’re listening to some of the tech podcasts, they’re a common sponsor. And there’s another company, or several other companies that do similar kinds of things. So that would be a solution for that type of scenario.
What I do realistically is I do backup from one hard drive to another hard drive. And I try to do that weekly, which isn’t really enough. But that would at least give you a snapshot of where you were at. And that’s been fine for sort of our stuff.
There’s also kind of lazy backup because sometimes I’m sending stuff to Stuart. And so in those emails back and forth to me and Stuart, that’s a way I could find some of those files. Again, nowhere close to perfect.
John: But, you know, helpful.
Craig: Helpful, yeah. Well, I used to have a Time Machine, you know, where you would save all of your stuff on that. They just never worked very well. I just found Apple’s Time Machine —
John: They would never work great for me either.
Craig: Yeah. So I don’t know if they’ve gotten better at that or if there’s some other solution. Because I think actually and, you know, buying some cheap-o external hard drive that’s — I mean, now you can get a terabyte for what, $20 or something stupid? And just having that and doing some kind of regular backup to that is probably a good idea.
Craig: But god, I mean —
John: Especially for the working folder, the thing you’re actually working on most commonly, that’s the one you really want to make sure you’re keeping a good clone of.
John: Now I wanted to also back up to what you were talking about with, you know, you have these old files, these old Final Draft files, these old Microsoft Word files that you can’t open. That was really one of the big motivations behind Fountain which is this plain text file format we have is that it is just text. So you will never get stuck with that with a Fountain file because you’ll always be able to open it. As long as there’s something that can open any text document, you know, you’ll be able to get to that stuff that’s in those files.
Craig: Can you get to it if you’re using Final Draft, John?
John: You could get to it using Final Draft. Final Draft can actually import Fountain just fine.
Craig: Oh, they can?
John: They didn’t mean to. It just happens that they can.
Craig: [laughs] But they’re hard at work to see if they can undo it.
John: I will say that the good folks at Final Draft who obviously we have had some disagreements, they have engaged on some level to Fountain. They really can kind of import it. It’s not a deliberate thing on their side but we sort of designed the format in a way that Final Draft could just get it also. So it is helpful on those fronts.
And I would say also Highland, the other app we make, we don’t ever advertise that we can open old Final Draft files. But if you have an old Final Draft file that you can’t get to open or even open in Final Draft, if you change the extension to FDR and throw it on Highland, Highland will take a sledgehammer to it and smash it and try to put it back together. And so that’s a thing you might also try with those very old files.
Craig: Even something from 1996?
John: Even something from 1996.
Craig: Wow. Okay.
John: Mr. Nima Yousefi, our coder, is very clever and he will smash things up and he will try to put it together.
Craig: He is clever. I’ve looked in his clever eyes.
Craig: I mean, that’s the thing. If I’m sitting here worrying about Dropbox and Google, you should definitely be worrying about anybody else. I mean, I can’t imagine Google in particular, I just don’t — essentially, it’s like when they talk about earthquake insurance in California.
So earthquake insurance in California is regulated because basically no insurance company wanted to ever give anybody an earthquake insurance in the States and you have to. And here’s what it is. It’s called the FAIR Plan. And the FAIR Plan is you pay a whole bunch of money every year and then if there’s an earthquake, they will take care of damage to your structure. But after you pay a 20% premium, that is 20% of the value of the home.
John: Yeah. It’s huge.
Craig: You know, and so what I was always told is, “You know, if the earthquake’s that bad, you got bigger problems than insurance. Like, basically everything is gone.”
John: Yeah. That’s what I was always told about, especially land in Los Angeles is that the land itself is what’s worth money, as to your point, the structure isn’t. So the structure will be destroyed but the land is still the land. And the earthquake is not going to destroy the land probably.
Craig: Probably. [laughs] Exactly. But it’s the same idea like —
John: Anyway, you’ll be dead. It will be totally fine.
Craig: You’ll be dead. But if Google goes down, I think it’s essentially Mad Max follows that. Yeah.
John: [laughs] By the way, how good is the new Mad Max trailer?
Craig: It’s actually concerning to me because I loved it. But what concerned me was, “Oh, no. Now this is the thing.” Like it’s how they keep figuring out in the food industry to jam more calories into a thing and more flavor into a thing. This is the most engineered — it’s crack. They made crack, right?
John: They made crack.
Craig: Like Guardians of the Galaxy, they’re, “Stop drinking coffee. We have this new thing called cocaine and you can freebase it. It’s freebasing cocaine.” And now Mad Max it’s like, “No, no, no. We mixed it with baking powder and we cooked it into a thing and now it’s crack.” It’s scary. I just worry that this is the thing everyone’s going to chase because that movie is going to open huge and it should. It should.
John: It should. So our good friend Kelly Marcel had some hand in it. I don’t know if she’ll ever want to come on the show and talk about what her involvement was. But it sounded just like madness to make it. It’s been in post for forever and I’m just so excited that it looks like it’s so good.
Craig: Well, I mean, I understand why it would have been in post forever. Everything looks like a processed shot. Processed shot, I sound like an old man. Everything looks like a VFX shot.
John: But it wasn’t effects. So that’s the whole magical thing about it. So like most of what you see, they actually did. So all those cars flipping and everything going nuts, that all actually really happened. So except where like the giant —
Craig: Well, yeah. No, that is happening.
John: Except for the giant storm.
John: Apparently, it’s like crazy real.
Craig: But everything looks like something needed to be done in post. In other words, yeah, we definitely shot that car doing that but there’s going to be things we have to paint out. Or the whole background world needs to be painted in. Or it just seemed like — I don’t know, it just seemed like there was a lot of work.
John: They were in Namibia for forever making that movie. So I was excited to see what they did.
Craig: Sick. It looks sick.
John: It looks so good. Our next bit of news news. So last week we recorded the episode and I almost mentioned it on the episode last week but I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to launch. So Writer Emergency Pack which was the little deck of cards for writers when you get in a jam and you sort of get stuck. It was a Kickstarter we did back at the end of last year. They’re now finally available in stores. So you can find them at WriterEmergency.com. You can find them at the John August Store. You can also find them on Amazon. So just search for Writer Emergency Pack and we are there on Amazon.
So I wrote a Kickstarter update where I talked through sort of the whole process of how you actually put things on the store in Amazon and how you ship things out because it was crazy. It took me three months to sort of put it all together. Like literally just clicking the buy button in the John August Store, there’s like six different companies involved to like make that transaction happen, which has just been nuts.
But it’s actually working. And people are buying them and people like them. So they are available and out there in the world. So if you missed the Kickstarter and you want one, you can now go get one for yourself.
Craig: Spectacular. If it’s on Amazon.com, can I get it through Fresh Delivery? Will it show up in the morning before I wake up?
John: I don’t think it will show up with Fresh Delivery. But you can get Prime Delivery.
Craig: Oh, okay.
John: So you can get that sort of sweet ass Prime Delivery even the next day delivery. So that’s pretty good.
Craig: Prime is gorgeous.
John: So, before, we were talking about like sort of stealth advertising and whether we want to do advertising. This is a perfect chance for us to test whether advertising will be annoying on this podcast if we were to add it.
So let me try to do this properly. Our practice sponsor this week is Writer Emergency Pack, an illustrated deck of useful ideas for writers to help you get unstuck. Last year, it was the most backed card project in Kickstarter history.
John: Now it’s available for anyone to buy. It makes a great gift for writers, which I suspect is pretty much anyone listening to this podcast.
You can find Writer Emergency Pack on Amazon. Just search for Writer Emergency. But we have a special offer for Scriptnotes listeners. Go to WriterEmergency.com and click the buy button to buy it on the John August Store. When you check out, use the special promo code Scriptnotes to save 10% on your order and help us figure out whether our listeners will actually use promo codes.
John: So our thanks to Writer Emergency Pack for helping to practice sponsor our show this week.
Craig: I mean, my character in the advertisements is going to be Golly Gee guy. [laughs]
John: Absolutely. I didn’t know that was possible. [laughs]
Craig: What? Save $10? No, I’m still on Backblaze over here. And we’re not getting paid for that at all.
John: So last week we talked about K.C. Scott’s script, This Is Working. And I just loved that conversation. I went back and listened to the episode. I was just delighted with it. Have you listened to it again?
Craig: I listened to it and I thought it was really good. And we did get a lot of really good feedback. People seemed to want this some more. They, you know, “Do it every week.” Well, no. Look, you can’t have your birthday every week, you know. This kind of thing or when we break down a whole movie, it’s actually work. And we have our own work. So —
John: And it’s a lot of work.
Craig: Yeah. We already have jobs. So that’s something that we will do not quite as frequently as many of you would hope. But I was really encouraged by all the positive feedback. And I thought it was particularly good to have Franklin on because it was nice that we had that other perspective, the non-screenwriter perspective.
John: Yeah. So we got a lot of great comments on Facebook and Twitter. So thank you all for sharing your thoughts.
It was also fun. A couple of people wrote in, like before the episode, saying like, “These are my thoughts.” Like one woman did her sort of breakdown analysis of where she thought the work was and her notes on it before the episode aired. And she was right on. So it was great to see that there was excitement and consensus about it.
So, yeah, I would love to do this again too. I think it’s not going to be a very often thing because it is a lot of work. But it was really a fun challenge.
And Kurt, K.C. Scott, was just fantastic. So I wanted to share a little bit more about the emails we had back and forth after the episode aired. So, a little more detail about Kurt.
He writes, “I’m married. We’re expecting our first child in August. I spent most of my career in progressive politics and now I do research for a labor union. I’ve been writing for a while, a mix of short fiction and sports blogging mostly until three years ago when I began writing feature length specs. TV is intriguing but my passion is film.”
And that was a question, like is he a TV person or is he a film person? And he says he’s a film person.
John: “As my screenwriter career goes, I’m willing to be patient but also aggressive, whether that means flying to LA for meetings or taking time off from my day job for assignments. With a child on the way, economic security means something to me. But both my wife and I are on-board with this, so whatever it takes, I’ll do it.
“As far as travel to LA goes, the good thing about my job is that I’m there once a month for work. We have an office in Commerce City, plus I get to bank Southwest miles, and I have a Southwest credit card, and buddies will put me up if I need to stay for a few days. I’m working every angle to cut costs, no choice really.”
Craig: Yeah. I like that. You definitely want to cut costs. People sometimes feel like they need to invest in a new place to make it seem real. It’s that syndrome of, “I’m starting a business, so I’m going to spend a ton of money to make that business look like a real business. And now, I just need customers.” Well, with screenwriting, you don’t need to spend anything. So if you have to come, if you have to travel to LA, you know, and you don’t have a lot of money or you have people that are relying on you, like a child on the way, then I just always advise to be as cheap as you can.
Just be cheap. Spend nothing. Spend as little as possible. There’s no value in — and by the way, no romance in being the person who is putting hotel rooms on credit cards because you want to feel better about yourself.
John: Yeah. What I loved about Kurt’s follow-up email there was that he’s both all in but he’s not sort of like all in. He’s not, you know, “Oh, I’m going to quit everything. I’m going to move to LA and start over, start fresh.”
John: You know, I think you have a moment where you can do that right after college, where like there’s really you have no commitments to anything. So like, “Well, why not? You got to start somewhere, why not start there.”
So here’s a guy who has a kid on the way. He has a pretty good job in Oakland. He’d love to become a screenwriter, but he’s doing exactly the right things. He’s sort of iterating. This wasn’t the first thing he wrote. He’s written a bunch. He’s sort of built up his experience he sort of has. By the time he shows up in LA, he’ll have some sort of screenwriting capital. He has stuff he can show. He has a plan for what he wants to do next.
But he’s also being smart. And he’s not like getting himself a fancy apartment on the west side. He’s like going to sleep on some couches, and take those meetings, and get stuff started. And I think that’s going to be a key to success for Kurt.
Craig: I have a question for you. So I actually was talking to a friend of the podcast, Mike Birbiglia, today, or as I call him, Mike Burorgaberbium. And he listened to that podcast and really enjoyed it. And he said, “I bet this guy’s phone is going to start ringing now.”
Now, I wasn’t sure because, you know, he’s got to rewrite his script and people are going to want to read the script, and eventually he’ll put it online at The Black List. But what do you think? Do you think his phone is going to start ringing?
John: Well, his phone would have literally started ringing because his phone number was on the cover page originally.
John: And I emailed him saying like, “Hey, do you really want your phone number there?” He’s like, “Yeah, maybe let’s take that off.”
John: So he sent a cleaner version that has his phone number off of it. But I hope that he would be getting some direct emails from folks who liked it and folks who want to pursue him. If I were a junior agent, not just in a big agency but really kind of any agency or a manager, I would say, “This guy seems like he sort of meets the criteria of like he’s a really good writer and he’s really smart and seems to get it.” These are the things you want if you’re an agent or a manager.
So I think a month from now, let’s follow up with him and see —
John: We’ll reach out to him and sort of what is happening next for him.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, I guess we’ll find out if anybody listens to this show.
John: Yeah. We’ll see. So the thing I appreciate I think most about Kurt’s work is that he had good craftsmanship. Like the work was good on the page, but he also seemed to be approaching it from the right perspective. And over the spring break, I read a book that kind of reminded me of the same idea. It’s this book called So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport, and I’ll have a link for it at the show notes.
But what I liked about it was he was reframing this argument about sort of, “What do you want to do with your life?” Rather than saying like, “Oh, you should follow your passion. Like there’s a dream job out there, you just have to find your dream job,” he said, “Instead, what you need to do is figure out what is it that you are good at by just doing it and seeing how it all sort of works out.” So saying like some people will make themselves miserable by switching from job to job or like they’ll get stuck in sort of the hard part of it and never realize there’s a place beyond that they’re trying to push to.
And what I liked about what Kurt was doing was he was at it every day and he was clearly focusing on getting the best things he can written and not trying to pursue screenwriting as a sort of lottery career, the sort of this dream of winning it. At no point in our conversations does Kurt ever bring up the idea of like, “Oh, you know what, I thought I’d write this script and sell it for a bunch of money and then be a screenwriter.” That’s never been part of the conversation.
Craig: No. I mean, he’s doing that thing that I talk about where you take your plan A and make a plan B, take your plan B, make a plan A. My guess is that he’s probably pretty darn good at his job. And even if that job is in terms of his long-term view, plan B, if his plan A is be a screenwriter, he’s probably made that plan B job as plan A.
He shows up on time, he does his work, he thinks, he applies himself, he has energy, he supports a family, helps support a family. And then he also does this, which is how I think it should be done. I love this advice about follow your passion being flawed.
It’s a little bit like saying, “Look, if you want to have a marriage that lasts your whole life, follow your passion. When you meet somebody and your heart is pounding and you’re sweating and you have that like rush, that chemical rush of just falling head over heels, that’s it, get married that day.” No. That’s not what love is. That’s just infatuation, right? Love is the product of the work. It’s the product of the commitment.
John: Yeah. Falling head over heels, that is, you know, lust and attraction. And it’s wonderful. And there’s a reason why we have so many great things written about that. But that’s not marriage.
John: Marriage is, you know, the getting up and doing it again every single day. And so figuring out how you can be good at being married is like how you can be good at being in any kind of career. It’s like how do you make the situation that you’re in as good as it can be. That doesn’t mean settling for a bad situation.
John: It means looking for what it is about the situation that you can work on it and sort of continuously kind of get better at.
John: And thinking back to sort of all of our friends who have become screenwriters and trying to find unifying themes, because so often the knock becomes, “Oh, well, you had this access, you had these sort of magical things that happened.” You know what, some of those things are true, and some of those things were luck, and some of those things were, you know, starting on, you know, second base.
But some of it is also just the constant practice. And when you sit down to write, that first 10 minutes for me is generally kind of awful. And then it’s like, “Oh my God, if I can push through to 15 minutes, then I’ll be done.” And then I’ve written an hour. It’s the same thing with finishing that first script, and then finishing the second script, and then finishing the third script.
No one that I know sold their first script. No one sold the first thing they ever wrote.
John: And if that is the standard, then people are going to start their career and be disappointed and look for reasons that aren’t their own reasons about why it didn’t happen.
In this book that I was talking about, the Cal Newport book, he talks about the difference between people who were in like a high school band and the people who — you know, like a high school rock band and the people who became big musical stars. And it tends to be people who were just disciplined about practicing.
They were looking at every day how can I get better. They were looking at like how can I have fun. They were looking at how can I do this really hard work and be better at it for having done the really hard work.
And I think that sometimes we don’t, especially in screenwriting, we never see that really hard work.
John: And so we just assume like, “Oh, it must have been easy for them.” And in most cases, it wasn’t easy at all.
Craig: That’s right. A lot of this is about shedding our romantic understanding of what success is, our romantic understanding of what it means to be a professional, and our romantic understanding of what passion is all about. What he says here is the better you get at something, the more it becomes a passion, a true passion.
When we are children, we fall in love with things and we do them for a month or two and then we stop. And you have a daughter, I’m sure you’ve seen her go through these phases where she becomes obsessed with something. And then —
John: Oh, yeah. Rainbow looms. Oh my God, like she could not get enough rainbow looms and making these little elastic bracelets. And then suddenly she never wants to look at it again.
Craig: That’s right. My son was obsessed with rocks for five months. I have a drawer full of these rocks. [laughs] But he don’t look at the rocks anymore. But that’s normal. That’s part of growing up.
What I see sometimes in a distressing way in people who are recent college graduates is that they’re still doing it. And the mistake that they’re making is they’re mistaking initial excitement and novelty and the romance of the what-can-be for something that’s real. What is real is the day-after-day work that exists when the novelty is long gone.
There is nothing new about writing a screenplay for you or for me in a sense. But because we are professionals and we practice and we try and get better, we are inspired to do better. There is something beyond the rush of the novelty. There is a true professional joy, I think. And that just requires commitment.
John: So I’m just speculating here. But I’m looking at sort of other people who work in our industry. So you look at agents. And so you’d never just become a talent agent. There’s a whole hierarchy you go through.
And so you start in the mail room, and you work your way up to a desk where you’re answering the phone for an agent, and then you might become a junior agent, and you might finally have clients of your own. That training ground, those initial steps are terrible. And they’re sort of deliberately terrible. And it is not to punish anybody, but just so you can actually see from the ground up this is how it all works, this is how it all fits together.
And so if somebody bails on it saying like, “I hated being in the mail room,” well, okay, you hated being in the mail room but that really wasn’t what you were trying to do anyway. That wasn’t what being an agent was. That was just the initial thing. And if you can push through it, if you can look for like what are the ways in being in the mail room that I can figure stuff out, you are the person who’s going to move ahead.
I remember having an internship at Universal, the summer between my two years at Stark Program, and I had the most boring job. I was the intern below three assistants to the head of physical production at Universal. And there was literally nothing for me to do but like file a couple of papers every day.
John: But one of the things I recognized I could do is there was this moment, like there were 10 minutes after lunch where my boss, Donna, was sort of in a happy place.
John: And so during that happy place, I’d go —
Craig: [laughs] You mean drunk?
John: [laughs] She was just sort of like sedated. Like there were like no crises for like just a little while.
Craig: Oh, I thought she just had like a three martini lunch or something.
John: Yeah. I’ve told you some great stories from that summer.
But one of the things I recognized is I’m filing all these papers and there’s all these budgets. At that time they were shooting Greedy and The Flintstones and a few other movies. And I was reading through all the budgets because the budgets are in front of me, I’m going to read them.
And if I saw things I didn’t understand, I could ask her like two questions. I could ask her those two questions. And if they were smart questions, she would say like, “Well, that was actually a good question.” Like she could see that I was actually paying attention and was moving forward. I was getting something out of this. And that helped me there and it got me a better internship at the end of the summer.
Craig: What’s interesting is that these other job paths in Hollywood will quickly burn out, I think, the dilettantes. You can say you want to be a filmmaker, you direct a film, you go through that exhaustion and that misery, you come out the other end, and you don’t want to do it anymore, I understand. And if you do, you do.
Working at an agency, working at a studio, there is that long military march through the ranks. But not so with screenwriting. It’s the one gig. It’s like the — I guess, acting, a little bit, too. Acting and screenwriting, you could just keep banging your head against that wall for a while.
John: But here’s where I think there is an opportunity for writers. And maybe this is part of the reason why television has gotten so much better. If you look at television, there is that system where you work your way up through. So, yes, you’ve gone off and you’ve written your own specs and people are hiring you based on material you’ve written before, but there’s also people who get hired on as writers’ assistants or get hired on as sort of the script coordinators, the ones who are like sort of around the writers all the time but are not actually being allowed to write the scripts.
And those are the jobs in which if you can show that you are a smart person, that you’re adding value, that you are getting your job and understanding how to push beyond past it, that’s a real opportunity.
I have friends who are on the fourth season of a TV show and they are remarkably capable. And because they’ve been capable, they’ve been given more and more responsibilities in terms of like not just being on the set, but like shadowing the director and getting to do things that a writer in their position wouldn’t normally get to do. Because they have not only done their job well, but they’ve recognized, “You know what, I see what this next thing is and I can ask those smart questions and I can be trusted to do those next things.”
Craig: We don’t have that in features, obviously.
Craig: But what’s interesting is you’re describing somebody that seems remarkably free of a sense of entitlement. And that is a lot of what the problem is. When we say chase your dream, when someone says, “I’m going to keep chasing my dream because it’s my dream and I believe in it and I know that it’s what I’m supposed to do,” what I hear is “I’m entitled to this. I’m entitled to it. I’m just going to keep chasing because I’m supposed to have it.”
Craig: You’re not supposed to have anything. You get what you earn. And there are remarkable stories of people with extraordinary talent who squander it because they’re just waiting for somebody to give them something. And of course there are people who have no talent who are also waiting.
And, you know, when you talk about that TV room, it sounds to me like none of those people got there and said, “Well, look, just privately, I’m smarter and better at this than the people that are my bosses. So, you know, I’m going to wait for them to realize that.” Okay. [laughs] Good luck. Good luck.
John: This all reminds me of like sort of the final thing that Cal Newport’s book points out called “The Law of Remarkability” which says, “For a project to succeed, it should be remarkable in two different ways. First, it must compel people who encounter it to remark about it to others. Second, it must be launched in a venue that supports such remarking.”
And this thing, it makes me think back to Kurt’s script because, you know, we’re talking about sort of in the preamble to it, we’re talking about how scripts get passed around and how the Black List formed. And that really is something like you need something that you think is so good that you comment on it to other people. And, you know, the network of Hollywood is set up in such a way that things can get passed around. There’s a venue for it.
So if Kurt was just writing his scripts in Oakland and never showed them to anyone, there would be nothing for anyone to remark about. There wouldn’t be any sort of venue for that to be happening in. So by sharing it with us, but also sharing it in screenwriting competitions or blcklst.com or other places, sending it out there in the world, it gives people a chance to talk about, “You know what? This is really good.”
Craig: Well, I like that second point. It must be launched in a venue that supports such remarking. And part of what that says to me is that the venue has to be authentic. It has to be valid and meaningful because in general in Hollywood and I think in every business, people remark on things that have been given some sort of imprimatur. Somebody that they trust has said, “I like this.”
So the Black List service essentially is that, right? It’s a venue that was designed to be trusted by the people that remark about things.
I think that what we do with our Three Page Challenge, we’re trusted I think. So hopefully, people will see our opinions as trustworthy. And it doesn’t mean they have to like what Kurt did. But what it means is that they’re going to take it seriously.
It’s also my problem with a lot of the contests and pitch fests and all the stuff that go on because what they’re doing is they’re selling themselves as a legitimate venue when they aren’t really compelling. You’ll see people say things like, “Well, you know, I was a quarter finalist at the, you know, blah blah blah contest.”
And I’ll think no one cares. No one cares if you win that contest. I think they care about Nicholl. I think they care about Austin, the, “Oh, I was selected as a top ten pitch at the pitch fest blah blah blah.” Nobody cares. No one cares.
And so, you know, the endless refrain of caveat emptor on this podcast, when people tell you, “Give us money because we’re going to offer you a legitimate venue that real professionals are watching,” almost always that’s not true. Because they watch very little. Frankly, if they watch even one venue, that’s more than most of their co-workers.
So I think the blcklst.com, Nicholl, Austin, that’s — I don’t know. Any other ones?
John: I don’t know if there’s any ones that are meaningful enough that I can recommend them.
Craig: There you go.
John: But this also reminds me of what your advice was to Malcolm Spellman and Tim Talbott when they came to with Balls Out. They were writing as The Robotard 8000. They came through with this crazy script.
And I think you recognized two things. First off, that it was remarkable enough that people would talk about it because it was just outrageous and it had a compelling thing, it had hooks to it that people could talk about which is great. Second, you said, “You know what? Put it up on the web. Put it up on the Internet. Let people see it and let people talk about it and let it get it out there in the world because it is, you know, special and remarkable.”
And so not to worry about selling this as a spec script but letting people see what this thing was. And so I think you had both of these instincts from the start.
Craig: Well, that one was an interesting case because I felt — I wasn’t thinking in terms of venue but trying to put it into context of what Cal Newport has written with his book. That seemed to me like they should create their own venue, that their whole, their entire aesthetic was, “We’re not like anything you’ve ever seen. We’re not called what you think, we don’t write what you think. So we’re going to create our own thing.”
And they did and the website that they made, so their own venue featured — is it Gamera? Was that the turtle? [laughs] It looks like it was a turtle.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Craig: It was like a huge monster turtle swinging on a gymnastics thing. It was so bizarre and just right. And then from there, they got picked up to the Black List, not the service, but the actual annual Black List. And they made the annual Black List. So that was the second level of legitimacy.
And curiously enough, we just did a reading of that script, Balls Out, for the Black List and it’s on a podcast that’s coming up. And so I did the narration. But really good actors read the parts including Paul Scheer and Jason Mantzoukas. So you should check that out. It came out really well, I thought.
John: Craig Mazin is recommending another podcast. So something unusual is happening —
Craig: I don’t know the name of it. [laughs] So I feel like I’m still okay.
John: Stuart will research the name and we’ll put a link in the show notes so you can find —
Craig: It’s going to be on a thing —
John: Craig’s narration for Balls Out. Do you get to say filthy words?
Craig: Oh, my God. There were a few of those where I just thought, “Well, if people complain, I’ll just say I was reading what I was handed.”
John: So Craig also wrote up some great bits of advice on the outline that I thought were terrific. So this is camera directions for screenwriters. Craig, talk us through what words screenwriters should be using if they’re using camera directions in their script.
Craig: Well, I thought this was only fair. I mean, here we are, we’re the guys saying, “Oh, ignore these people with their stupid rules. Like never put camera directions in scripts.” But it’s not fair. I don’t think for us to say, “No, no. Go ahead and do it,” if we don’t talk about how you should do it. And this all comes under the general title, “You can’t pan up.”
So I’ll see this in scripts all the time, “Pan up to find.” Okay, so let’s just talk about some of these terms and what they mean. None of them, the mistakes that you could make with this are going to ruin your screenplay. Don’t get me wrong. If you write a terrific script, nobody will care. But some of these things are just binary, they’re right or wrong.
So panning. You can’t pan up. A pan is essentially the camera version of shaking your head no. The camera is on a spot and it doesn’t go up or down. It hinges left and right. The opposite of that is tilting. You can tilt up and down. That’s the camera equivalent of nodding yes, right? So sometimes you want to tilt up or tilt down.
But just think about in your mind a head moving no or a head moving yes. Think about how that means the camera’s moving in relation to what’s in front of you. A lot of times, that’s not really what you want. What you really want to do is keep the camera pointing forward in a certain horizontal way, but moving the entire camera to the left or right or up or down.
So in that case, what you want to talk about is move right or move left. You can also say dolly right or dolly left if you want. And then for forward and backwards, you can say push in, pull out. By the way, dolly right and dolly left, those aren’t technically right either. You’re supposed to dolly forward and dolly back, and truck right and truck left. But trucking is a weird term that nobody uses really.
John: Yeah. No one ever says truck.
Craig: Right. So I think dolly is okay there. Sometimes I will see this mistake, people will say, “Zoom in on.” And I think, “Well, do you mean zoom in or do you mean push in?” So two very different things. John, I’m sure you know this.
John: Yeah, if you’re making a ’70s paranoia thriller, then yes, zooming in is absolutely correct. But rarely we call that a zoom. You know, there might be some case where you really want that effect of, you know, the zoom, or you want sort of the vertigo zoom. You know, if that really is appropriate to your moment, call it out. But that’s rarely — what’s called a dolly zoom, that’s often what that’s referred to.
Craig: Yeah. It’s a dolly zoom.
John: If that really is appropriate, that’s fine. Go and do it. But most cases, you know, you are moving in, you are, you know, revealing. A lot of these things I find in my own script, I will say, “Move to reveal.” That way, I’m not saying it has to be a dolly or a pan or whatever else. It’s just like the camera does something to show us something we did not see before.
Craig: Right. Yeah. You’re not there so you’re not sure if it’s going to be right or left or back or forth. But the point is move the camera to reveal something.
So when you’re pushing in, you’re moving the whole camera forward. And that means that everything in the screen starts to — you get closer to everything sort of at the same time.
A zoom is a lens. On a zoom, the camera doesn’t move at all. Instead, the camera operator is turning a lens and changing the focal length of the lenses they turn. So what happens is it’s almost like you’re blowing up the image. Rather than moving, you’re blowing it up.
So if you want to see an example of zoom in — Quentin Tarantino will still use them to ironic effect in Kill Bill when the Bride shows up to train with Pai Mei, he does lots of zooms on Pai Mei’s face because he’s — the whole thing, I mean, even the film has been treated so it’s supposed to look like it’s a ’70s karate movie. So that’s a zoom. You generally aren’t going to be zooming.
If you want the camera to go up or down without tilting, right, then you could talk about booming up or camera rises or crane up or crane down or boom down.
And then let’s talk about some angles. There are times when you want to be looking down on something and there are times when you want to be looking up at something. You can say we look down on or we look up at. Or you can also say high angle on, low angle. Low angle means you’re down low looking up. High angle, you’re up high looking down.
John: If you ever get confused just think a giant is high. What would a giant be looking at? A dwarf is low, what would a dwarf be looking up at? That’s the difference between high angle and low angle.
Again, you’re not likely to have to call these out very often. I mean, it would be a very specific case that really needs to be in the script if you’re going to be using either one of those.
Craig: Well, that brings me to the cardinal sin of camera direction. And the cardinal sin of camera direction in your screenplay is not, “Don’t use camera direction…” The cardinal sin — that’s my impression of these idiots. The cardinal sin of — “Give me money now.” The cardinal sin of camera direction is unmotivated camera direction.
Unmotivated camera direction is a bad thing to do when you’re making a movie, as a director, as a cinematographer, you don’t move the camera pointlessly. You want to move it for a reason, right? Okay, what’s your reason? Maybe your reason is just to create a feeling. Maybe your reason is to see something specific.
As a screenwriter, you want to make sure that if you’re calling out a specific camera move or angle, it’s for a purpose. Ask these questions, why does the camera need to move? Why do I have to see what it is showing me? What information do I learn from what it showing me? And through those, the answers to those questions, you will have intentional motivated camera direction.
John: Absolutely true. And I was thinking back to recent things I’ve written. And in Scary Stories there’s a moment where a character leaves the room and we stay behind the room. The camera turns around and very slowly creeps in on something. That’s the definition of intentionality. It’s like there’s nothing making us look over in that direction so the choice to do that makes it really clear something very big and unsettling is about to happen and be ready for it. That’s motivation. But so I have to write all that stuff into the script.
But in most cases, you’re not going to do that at all. And so it’s not going to matter to me whether something’s a two shot or a single shot or how we’re dollying or how we’re moving through these things.
Sometimes, you want to call out a general style for how things are supposed to feel. And so there’s moments in the script that definitely have a different feel. And I would talk about sort of like there were times I would say sort of very loose documentary style footage. That’s great, but rarely am I calling out stuff otherwise.
Craig: Yeah. So in the script I’m writing now, there are two characters who are scared to go somewhere. They’re scared to cross something. And they decide the only way they’re going to be able to do it is if they do it together. And so they sort of push themselves together and start walking slowly.
And then I call out a shot on their feet to see how close their feet are kind of and how trembly they are. You know, look, you can watch movies and see a shot like that and go, “Oh, you know what? It’s nice to occasionally look at the feet. That’s cool.” Not good enough. Why am I looking at feet? What am I learning from the feet? I need to know.
So unmotivated camera direction is just like unmotivated dialogue or action. Don’t talk to me if I don’t need to hear the words or they don’t mean a damn thing. And don’t show me something that doesn’t mean anything.
So that stuff needs to be built in. But if you have a moment where you know why you want to do it and you know what the audience is going to get out of it, here’s a sense of what the vocabulary is so you don’t write pan up.
John: Don’t write pan up. Never write pan up.
Craig: You can’t pan up.
John: So on the topics of the words on the page, Dave wrote in with question. He’s writing, “My protagonist is traveling from neighborhood to neighborhood. For my scene headings, should it be as generic as EXT. NEIGHBORHOOD — DAY and EXT. NEIGHBORHOOD- TODAY? Or do I need to be more specific?” Craig?
Craig: Well, you know, I think you need to be much more specific than that. First of all, there’s no such thing as neighborhood. Even if you were in one neighborhood, I wouldn’t write neighborhood. That means nothing.
Craig: That is a vanilla pudding description. So I want to know where he is. You need to define my space. EXT. BLANKETY..WILLIAMSTOWN — DAY , a da-da-da kind of place. Fine. He crosses out of Williamstown into EXT, da-da-da, a new kind of place. Here’s what it’s like.”
No, of course I need to know. Neighborhood is, that’s like EXT. BUILDING.
John: Absolutely. Or INT. ROOM.
Craig: Yeah. [laughs]
John: What is a room? I have no idea what a room is. So what Craig is pointing out is that you’d probably have both in your scene header something that encapsulates the idea of what the place is, so a name for like it’s Williamstown. And then the first time that you are there, you’re giving us a sense of flavor of what this thing feels like. The next time we see Williamstown, we’re like, “Oh, it’s that neighborhood.” But you have to be really specific in those scene headers so we know what it is we’re looking at.
John: You don’t want it over describe in the scene header. Don’t throw us 15 words in the scene header. But just give it a name so that once we — so that sticks in our head. And it may be a very good idea to make sure you’re not naming two different locations really similar things. So if you have Williamsport and Williamstown, we won’t be able to tell the difference.
Craig: Correct. Now, if you have a situation where your character is on a bus or a train and the ideas is they’re traveling rapidly through, you know, from place to place or it’s montagey, you can shorthand it because we’ll never know, we’re never going to be there.
Craig: So we don’t know the name and we don’t need to know the name and we could just say, you know Jim looks out of a train as it passes through, you know, urban blight, suburban blah, blah, gentrification, whatever. Describe, give me a flavor of it. So just think to yourself, some locations scout has to go out and figure this out. Where am I sending them? They need to know. You know, neighborhood 1 and neighborhood 2 tells nobody anything.
Craig: All right.
John: 100% agree. Next question, Brian writes, “I’ve written an animated pilot script and I’m wondering if I should denote anywhere in the script that it is in fact animated. I made the mistake at an early table read of not indicating this and most of the notes I received assumed it was live action. Like, ‘It would be impossible to make,’ or, ‘You can’t train a cobra to do that,’ et cetera.”
Craig: [laughs] You can’t train a cobra to speak.
John: “As my script is now getting in the hands of agents, producers and et cetera, I’m wondering if there’s anything I should add in the script itself to make it clear to the reader immediately that we’re talking about a cartoon to avoid any confusion?” What would you do Craig?
Craig: Very simply. Let’s say the title of this were, you know, John the Cobra, then I would say John the Cobra an animated pilot by Brian, right? Just put it right on the title page, put the word animated pilot and this way no one will even get to page one without knowing it’s animated. I mean, yes, for sure, I think you’ve got to just call it out.
John: I think you got to call it out too. But I’ve had this actually happen to me. There’s a project I wrote recently, you know, I say recently, three years ago, and people who read it were like, “Oh yeah, so this is animated, right?” “Like no, no, no, I really mean for this to be live action.” They’re like, “Oh.” And it’s like, “Oh, I really should have told you that before I had you spend, you know, 90 minutes reading the script.” So, that’s also a great case for whatever we’re going to call the intermediary page between the title page and the first page.
John: If you have something to talk about like this is the animation style that it’s going for, that’s the perfect place to do it.
Craig: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, but no, you need to make that clear. You can’t train a cobra to do that.
Craig: That cobra is having a discussion with a rat. [laughs] How do we do that?
John: But Craig, could you train cobra to fight polio?
Craig: No, but I’ll tell you what. You can train polio to fight glioblastoma multiforme and that is my One Cool Thing. Look, it’s like now Segue Man has gotten a sidekick? [laughs]
John: [laughs] Absolutely, Segue Boy.
Craig: I’m Segue Boy.
John: Transition Boy.
Craig: Yeah, I’m Transition Boy. My parents died in a fire.
John: Transition Boy started as Transition Girl but —
Craig: Yeah exactly, transition — no, then I’ll be Post Transition Girl. So I’m Transition Boy.
John: Transitioning Boy.
Craig: I’m Transitioned Boy. Anyway, so here’s my One Cool Thing. Polio, so here’s a crazy idea, take a disease that used to kill and paralyze millions of people and was finally eradicated by vaccines and use it to treat glioblastoma multiforme. Glioblastoma multiforme is pretty much the worst diagnosis you can get from a neurologist.
John: I don’t know what it is. So tell me what that is.
Craig: Glioblastoma multiforme is a kind of brain tumor. It is malignant, it is incredibly aggressive and it essentially becomes inoperable. And here’s why — it’s operable. It’s very operable, but pointlessly operable. Because what happens is they’ll go and they’ll take out as much of it as they can. But it’s impossible to get 100% of it. So they can literally remove 99% of this glioblastoma multiforme tumor and the tiny remaining cancer cells will just go bonkers again. It is incredibly aggressive.
And the deal with glioblastoma multiforme is that if you were diagnosed with this, you’re looking at anywhere from four months to four years. Nobody makes it past five years, period, the end. This is terminal. And it is super bad. And that’s with surgery and radiation and chemo. And the chemo, they say, will give you maybe two months. I mean, it’s the worst.
Well, so [laughs] a group of brilliant people have come up with this idea and it’s showing early promise. It’s not perfect yet but it’s showing early promise. What they’ve done is they have engineered poliovirus. They’ve taken poliovirus and they’ve genetically altered it. So, if you are afraid of genetically modified organisms, I’m so sorry, they’re wonderful. And they actually spliced it with some genetic code from the common cold. One of the things about polio is that it’s really good at replicating itself.
Well, this polio isn’t so good at replicating itself but what it does do is it attaches to these very specific receptors on the cancer cells themselves and starts to destroy the cancer cells without infecting healthy cells. It’s kind of brilliant. It is incredibly painstaking. They have to figure out exactly how much to put in. They have to surgically implant it in there. Then they’ve got to wait. And essentially what happens is the polio isn’t really killing the cancer cells because it’s a weakened poliovirus anyway. What the polio is doing is turning the cancer cells which normally exist like ninjas that the good guys can’t see and they’re basically shining a light on them, so that the immune system which normally cannot tell that the cancer cell is bad, now sees, “Oh my God, it’s polio”.
And it goes rushing in to kill the cancer cells and they’ve had some initial very positive results, not perfect yet by any stretch. But this could be a big deal as in they could, if this is refined, this could actually cure a number of — and it seems to have already cured a few people and this was an incurable disease so that’s just a remarkable breakthrough and I hope that it pays off in the way that they’re thinking it eventually will.
John: Yeah, I hope it works well. I just have this real flashback to Emma Thompson at the very start of I Am Legend. And it has one of the best intros to a movie I’ve ever seen. It’s basically this CNN interview with Emma Thompson and she’s like — so the interviewer says like, “So you’ve cured cancer?” It’s like, “Yes, we’ve cured cancer,” and then smash cut to the end of civilization and basically they genetically modified something that became the disease that killed everybody.
Craig: Well, this is where Hollywood makes me angry because it’s easy for us — that’s a great way to get into a movie and it is. The problem is that what is narratively convenient for us is actually damaging the credibility of really good science. Because in truth, that’s not what we should be scared of. What we should be scared of is glioblastoma multiforme, not these fascinating treatments to cure it.
So, yes, ever since War of the Worlds, I mean we’ve always dreaded the virus, you now.
Craig: Now, we dread vaccines, or at least some idiots do. Because we’ve been taught that science is messing with the primal forces of nature. Yeah, well, that’s how we got aspirin and that’s how we got Advil and that’s why don’t all die when we’re 40. So I’m entirely in favor of these things.
And by the way, if you read about this polio treatment of glioblastoma, you’ll see that it was subject to some of the most rigorous controls by the federal government. And they were really careful.
John: Oh, I could imagine why.
Craig: Yeah, they were really —
John: It’s polio.
Craig: It’s polio, you know, so they were really, really careful. And they did a spectacular job. So, here’s hoping.
John: Hurray. My One Cool Thing is the resolution of a lawsuit about Three’s Company and an Off-Broadway play called 3C which was a parody of Three’s Company or a very specific satire based around Three’s Company.
So what happened is a federal judge in New York, her name was Loretta A. Preska of the U.S. District Court, a rule that the play 3C did not violate the copyright of Three’s Company. So, it’s a complicated situation, so essentially there was this Off-Broadway production of this play called 3C and it was essentially a parody of Three’s Company.
And from what I understand, I never saw it but it was happening in the same time we were doing Big Fish, is — so basically all of the constructs of Three’s Company, so like the set and the basic characters and sort of what their situation was and played it as if they were all really real. So like what if Jack Tripper really were gay and were around all these sort of homophobic insults. And like what if all this leering and all the stuff this happened sort of around him.
And so it was a very pointed thing. And it got sort of mixed reviews. But it also got a lot of concern by the copyright holders. So it’s a company called DLT Entertainment owns the copyright, owns the rights to remake Three’s Company. And they said, “Uh-uh-uh.” And they filed a cease and desist.
And so this playwright was stuck in this weird situation where the play closed. And he couldn’t publish the play, he couldn’t find other stages for the play, he couldn’t do anything because there was this specter that this other company might come after him.
John: So, he went and sued them and basically this is the first rule and it says, you know what, this was fair use. This was a fair way to sort of take this existing property and, you know, satirize it the same way that an SNL sketch can satirize Scandal or any other sort of popular cultural thing. So, I thought it was really fascinating. I could feel for both sides of the situation as a person who might create the thing that gets parodied. Like, “Well, at what point do I have the opportunity to sort to say like, ‘You can’t do that, that’s my thing?'”
Craig: Well, pretty much no point. I mean, that’s fair use. It’s pretty clear about the parody exception and then the Supreme Court expanded that concept as well to include what it meant to parody public figures.
As somebody that did parody, you know, we wouldn’t have been able to do a thing if we didn’t have that fair us. I mean we were copying things down to – when and we did the — here’s how close we were. We, in Scary Movie 4, part of the parody was the movie Saw. So, we recreated the bathroom, the iconic bathroom from Saw. And we did it so well that when they went back I think and made another Saw, they used part of our set.
Because people buy sets back and forth from each other all the time. And I think we even had part of their set when we made ours. So the key is, is there any chance that people are going to confuse these two things? There’s no chance that people are going to go see the play that you just described and think, “Ah, this is Three’s Company but on stage.” No, it’s not. It’s clearly not. It’s clearly parody and I’m not surprised. I don’t like it when people try and get heavy-handed about copyright stuff because I do believe in copyright. And I do believe in the rights of intellectual property holders.
So, when they truly are bullies, I think it weakens the general cause because there are people out there who want everything to be free all the time, you know. And I’m not one of those people. So, I’m glad that this prevailed. I presume it’s going to stay this way because it just sounds like a classic case of fair use to me.
John: I agree. It sounds like fair use. But part of the reason why I want to bring it up is because if you were this playwright, you know, he was correct and was ultimately vindicated but this is two years where he has not had the ability to actually show his play to anybody.
John: And so just as a warning that if you’re going to walk into dangerous waters, you might ultimately be right. You might have the law on your side, that won’t necessarily help you for a period of time until you get those decisions back.
Craig: That’s right.
John: So, you know, he would much rather not have had to file a lawsuit and then be able to make other plays and he wasn’t be able to do that.
Craig: Yeah. And some of these cases, unfortunately the way the law is set up, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. What we found was that if you ask a company for the right to parody a product by let’s say, “Can we please use your logo to parody you?” And they say no, it starts to fall out of fair use because you’ve essentially demonstrated that you didn’t think it was fair use. So, you kind of just proceed like it is fair use.
And then they come after you and then you go, “Oh, what? Well, fair use.” And you usually win. But you’re right, this is the cost of doing business. And this is why in general, you’re better off with somebody big behind you when somebody big comes after you. Obviously, that isn’t always possible.
John: Yeah. So it was pro bono representation in this case. So thank you to whoever lawyers who stepped on his behalf.
John: That is our show this week. So you can respond to me or to Craig on Twitter. I’m @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. We also have a Facebook page which we sometimes check and we actually looked at some of the things on Facebook this week. So you can find us at Facebook/Scriptnotes. We’re on iTunes. You can find us there, just search for Scriptnotes. That’s where you can subscribe and listen to all the episodes. You can also leave us a comment. We look at those comments as well. If you are on iTunes, you can download the Scriptnotes app that is available for iOS, for iPad and for iPhone. That’s where you can also get to all the back episodes of the show.
The service is called Scriptnotes.net. That gets you back to episode one, all the way back to the beginning of this very show where we didn’t know how to do any of this stuff.
John: Our show is produced by Stuart Friedel.
John: It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. It has an outro by a very talented listener, but we haven’t decided which one yet. So, if you are a listener who has an outro for our show, you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org and send us a link to it. And that’s also where you can send your questions, like the two questions we answered today.
John: If you would like to buy a Writer Emergency Pack, you can go to the email@example.com or just writeremergency.com and click the links there. The special code this week, and it’s actually good for this whole month, is Scriptnotes and that will give you 10% off your orders.
John: 10%. That’s savings.
Craig: It’s all that guy. 10%? Wow.
John: That’s unbelievable.
Craig: Tell me more.
John: And we will be back next week. Craig, thank you very much.
Craig: Thanks, John.
John: Okay, bye.
- The LA Times on the CAA to UTA exodus, and CAA’s resulting lawsuit
- Scriptnotes, 191: The Deal with Scripped.com
- Backblaze and CrashPlan online backup services
- Fountain is future proof
- Mad Max: Fury Road trailer
- Writer Emergency Packs are available now (use the code “scriptnotes” at checkout on the John August Store for 10% off through May 1st)
- Writer Emergency Kickstarter update on how online retail works
- Scriptnotes, 190: This Is Working
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport
- The Robotard 8000
- Announcing The Black List Table Reads
- Forbes on Duke’s Polio Virus Trial Against Glioblastoma
- Play Reimagining ‘Three’s Company’ Wins Case from The New York Times
- Outro by Scriptnotes listener JT Butler (send us yours!)