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 episode 209 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

Today on the show we will be talking about how critic quotes get massaged to be used as advertising blurbs, how not to be a screenwriting jerk, and why movies are almost never late.

But first, we have some follow-up. Craig, in the episode we talked about reshoots, we mentioned the reshoots on World War Z and you tweeted a link that I thought was really great.

Craig: Yeah. So this was an article that came out actually just ahead of the movie’s release. And it caused quite a bit of consternation. And frankly, I was a bit shocked by how many people were willing to speak to Vanity Fair. They did a pretty in-depth take on what had gone wrong, at least what had gone wrong as far as they could tell.

And, you know, I’m always going on about how terrible entertainment journalism is. This was an example of actual journalism about entertainment, which is a different thing. And so they spoke with Marc Forster, the director. They didn’t speak with Brad Pitt but they did speak with Damon Lindelof who came in to do a lot of work along Drew Goddard. Chris McQuarrie did a lot of work as well, although he did not agree to talk to Vanity Fair about it. They spoke with the studio, they spoke with producers. And you got a kind of a picture of what went wrong.

And it’s interesting, I guess the advanced bad buzz about that movie was “The director and the actor aren’t talking and they hate each other and no one knows what they’re doing and the movie sucks.” And what it really came down to was script problems. It was just the ending was wrong.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s a script problem.

John: And that wasn’t the fault of, you know, the original writers of the movie. It was an intention that didn’t actually work when it was time to make it as a movie. And so they shot a whole different ending that didn’t end up becoming the movie they wanted it to be.

Craig: It does seem like, if you can find some blame in the what went wrong, it probably was with the good old development process where they try to jam disparate writers together with disparate voices and disparate viewpoints on the material and they got something of a feathered fish there at the end that just didn’t work.

And, you know, sometimes, like we were saying, when you come in, I mean, you and I have both been in situations where we’ve come in to a movie that is completed and is in trouble, and people look at us and say, “Well, what do we do to fix this?” And the fact that you can come in and see everything as a whole and then point to spots and go, “That doesn’t belong with the whole,” you just have this enormous creative advantage over anyone else who’s been slogging through the woods. You actually can see the forest.

And not to take anything away from Damon or Drew or Chris, they were the beneficiaries of that perspective. That said, they also pulled off a really great ending, as did Marc Forster, as did Brad Pitt, as did the whole production. Yes, there are things in the article about how they went wildly over budget and all the rest of it. Yeah, but that happens.

I mean, it was huge movie and interestingly enough, the article sort of says, “Boy, this thing is going to have to make like $400 million to make its money back.” And it went on to make close to 600 at the Box Office.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So, I think all told, well, here, the proof is in the pudding, they’re making a World War Z 2. What else do you need to know?

John: What I think is so interesting about this situation of World War Z is that the temptation I think was to always make the ending bigger, that it had to grow to become something larger and larger. And so the ending apparently they shot was really huge. And that wasn’t what the movie ultimately wanted. The movie wanted to sort of get small.

And so the ending of the actual World War Z movie becomes much more isolated, that they go into that lab. It’s much more sort of a single man and a single decision. It’s so interesting that it was such a completely different scale of ending, although it made it a success.

Craig: Yeah. One thing that the trio of writers that came on to work on that third act picked up on so smartly was that scale is often unemotional by definition. The world or a city is not a question of individual emotion. It’s a question of external stakes.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But what they did with the ending, the retool of the ending was they reduced the stakes down, the immediate stakes at least to “I have to walk through a wing full of zombies in a small cramped building.” But what it really came down to is, “I have a theory and I’m going to put it to the test. And if I’m wrong, I’m never going to see my family again and their daddy and their husband is going to die.”

John: Yup.

Craig: And suddenly, the emotional stakes were enormous. And that’s why it worked.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And, boy, there is a lesson there that gets missed [laughs] over and over and over.

John: I will say that even in situations that haven’t been reshoots on movies but where I’ve come in to do a rewrite before a production, a lot of my job has been simplification, is that the script over the course of development has gotten much more complicated. And there’s been like layer upon layer upon layer added to things. A lot of times, my job is to really kind of find the through line and get rid of the stuff that is not going to be probably part of the final movie and to sort of simplify things down to what is the core idea of this movie.

Am I always right? No, I’m not. But it looks like this was a situation where that rewrite happened after it was shot. And that they pulled it off is so remarkable.

Craig: Yeah. They really did. I mean, I didn’t use that word “cruft” once to describe that sort of like “So clear away the cruft.” I mean, unfortunately, when you have a situation where the developers have more natural authority in a development process than a writer, the risk of cruft is enormously high. You’ve got maybe a rookie writer or a relatively new writer and then you got a lot of big players in the game, big producers, big studio, big actor.

By the way, I don’t think that was the case with World War Z but in over a time, I’ve noticed that this trend occurs. The writer essentially doesn’t have the ability to keep the invaders out of the castle. And you end up with a script that is riddled with other people’s ideas.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And I’ve said this before, sometimes they’re good ideas but it doesn’t matter. Either the movie is of a whole or it’s not. And I would rather a script where there were mistakes that were consistent with what was good than a script that was a collection of interesting ideas that have nothing to do with each other and are disparate voices.

So when you come in [laughs], I think a lot of times what happens is we come in, we sit in this room and we just start going down a list of stuff that we have to get rid of. And a lot of people in the room sort of uncomfortably begin nodding because they know that they are partly or often largely to blame.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But you got to kind of say it. And there’s a dance we do. I’m not pointing fingers and no one’s to blame. And everybody kind of goes, “Yeah, no one’s to blame.” And then you move forward.

John: Yeah. You sort of pretend that this document just landed there somehow magically, that there wasn’t a history before it got into the room.

Craig: [laughs] That’s right.

John: On my job, when I first approach one of those meetings, is to talk about the things I love because so often, they’re so bogged down in what’s not working and sort of all their fears and doubts and insecurities that for me to say, “By the way guys, this is really good. Like these sections are working so, so well. And let’s protect what’s working great. And then, you know, look at the rest of the stuff.”

Craig: Yeah.

John: Jane Espenson once, I think on one of our Christmas shows, I asked her about certain terms. And she had a term called “laying down plastic” which is you put down plastic underneath the script sort of. So as you do all the brutal cuts, nothing else gets sort of damaged in the cutting, and the hacking, and the retooling and refashioning.

And so part of my job is to sort of point out where we need to put down some plastic and not destroy what’s already really good in the script.

Craig: It’s very good advice, I think, for any writer going into that situation, a rewrite situation which means things have gone well for you so far in your career. Now people are calling you to say, “Hey, we’re so interested in the way you write that we think you might be able to fix something that we don’t know how to fix.”

There’s that old term “script doctor” which I hate because it just, it romanticizes something that doesn’t deserve romanticization. But part of it is accurate in that you do need to think like a doctor and you need to recognize that the script is like a patient. And you don’t walk into the waiting room where the family is and say, “Oh, my god, okay. Oh, my god. Well, I’ve looked at him.” And they’re like, “What?”

John: [laughs]

Craig: “I mean, I think that he’s probably, I mean, we’re probably going to have to take the finger off.” And they’re like, “What? Oh, that’s it?” Right?

So you have to gauge what you’re doing. That said, I actually was in one of these sort of moments. A movie had been shot, finished and was then screened for a few screenwriters to sort of say like, “We think we have a problem. How bad is the problem? We think maybe it just needs some comedy.” And Damon Lindelof and I were both part of the group. And I think [laughs] we all walked out of there thinking, “Yeah, let’s not talk about comedy. That would sort of be like do we need Botox?”

This person’s bleeding out [laughs]. Like forget sort of the outpatient clinic. Let’s go to ER, let’s go to OR, let’s start stabilizing, you know. And we were honest about it because there’s no sense in throwing, sprinkling some jokes on something that is, at its core, seriously sick. And in that case, it ended up working out. I mean, neither of us worked on it. Then we sort of like collectively put together a plan or some theories and then, you know, they went and sort of did the work, but interesting.

John: We’re going to circle back and talk about tact and discretion and those topics as we get to our discussion of how not to be a jerk as a screenwriter. The second bit of follow-up I wanted to get to was maybe three or four episodes ago we talked about Stretch Armstrong.

We just, in passing, we said, “Oh, somebody should write a book about the attempts to make a Stretch Armstrong movie,” because you and I both in probably our entire Hollywood careers, that project has been out there somewhere. It’s like the only project I can think of that had both Danny DeVito attached to it and Taylor Lautner attached to it at different points.

Craig: [laughs]

John: So someone wrote in asking like, “Hey, well, maybe I should write the book on it.” And actually then sent us the link to a Hollywood Reporter article by Thomas Golianopoulos which does an oral history of the Stretch Armstrong project. So I’ll put up that link into the show notes as well because it’s just fascinating to hear people talk through their experiences trying to make a Stretch Armstrong movie. A piece of IP that seems fascinating but also like, “Are you really going to make that movie?”

Craig: I thought it was a great article. It’s funny, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that article, but my former writing partner, Greg Erb, is quoted throughout and they do reference the work that Greg and I did on it. And it’s funny because at the time, we were very young. I mean, I think I was, I want to say I was like 26 years old. I had just written I think one movie for Disney. This was sort of like our follow-up project was, “Here, we’ll give you this, you know, [laughs] this wonderful golden goose. All you have to do is wait for the egg.”

And I remember that we did our job, and we thought we did a good job, and everyone seemed to like it. And then suddenly, it was gone. And we just never understood why. And at the time I just thought, “Well, maybe we didn’t do that good of a job or maybe that’s just Hollywood. I mean, they must know what they’re doing.”

And then I read this thing and I think Matt Bearman or Bernie Goldmann, one of them said, “Yeah, we should have just made that one.” And, you know, it’s funny because in truth, they shouldn’t have. I actually [laughs] disagree. I don’t think they should have made that, the script that we wrote because, you know, I don’t think any of those scripts were ever going to work. The idea just isn’t calling for a movie.

That said, if they had made our version, it probably would’ve been a fine family outing from Disney and they would have sold many VHSs. But it was fascinating to sort of look back through the lens of time and see like how after, I don’t know, now it’s been like 15 years or, geez, longer, you know, almost 20, and everybody could be a honest and just go, “Yeah, yeah. We screwed up.”

John: Yup. I had a flashback to this this past week where I got a Google news alert and it had my name on it for Bob the Musical which they are still in development on at Disney. And so I had done a pass of that so many years ago. And it’s one of those things, I think it’s like a Stretch Armstrong and there’s fundamentally like, “Oh, I can see the trailer for that, so I can see why you’re continuing to pursue it.” But they’re still developing it. They’re still trying to make a movie out of this concept about a guy who wakes up into a musical.

Craig: Well, I still think I would see that movie if somebody figures it out.

John: Yeah, exactly, so that’s why they keep developing it. So we’ll have links in the show notes to both the Laura Holson article for Vanity Fair and this Thomas article with the oral history of Stretch Armstrong.

But to get to today’s new topics, there was a great rant I thought by A.A. Dowd and The A.V. Club this week. And since we’re not going to have the disclaimer about swearing in the show, no, I did not say you’re — what does he actually say? “No, I didn’t call your ‘blanky’ movie a ‘comedic masterstroke’.” And I thought it was a great chance to talk about sort of, you know, the realities of how you use quotes from critics in advertisements because obviously we see like, you know, just two words taken out of random.

And like well, how are they picking those two words, do the critics have approval of those words? So here is what he actually wrote about the movie released called Accidental Love. It was originally called Nailed. It’s one of those movies that sat on the shelf for a very long time.

So he wrote, “To be fair to whoever refashioned Accidental Love from the abandoned scraps of Nailed, there’s little reason to believe that the ideal untroubled version of the material would have been a comedic masterstroke.” So out of that paragraph, they took the words comedic masterstroke [laughs] and put it in quotes and put his name by it.

Craig: [Laughs] Good. I love it. I love it.

John: You know, to the degree I have sympathy for critics, it’s when their words are taken so wildly out of context and then, of course, I’ve seen my own work taken wildly out of context as well.

Craig: Oh, sure. I mean, look, it’s not ethical. It’s not something that people should do. That said, I can’t help but giggle at the thought of critics confronted with the reality of what the movie business thinks of them. Because, you know, I’ve often wondered, if there are a whole bunch of movies that probably don’t need critics, why do they even send things to critics? Why not just not let them see it, you know, and then they’ll see it whatever opening weekend. Why do they go through all this?

And the reason they go through this is because they’re looking for, basically, advertising. They’re looking for free advertising. They’re looking for a way to continue to hoodwink, although we call it marketing, hoodwink the public into seeing something through the use of critics’ remarks.

Now, here’s the thing. You don’t have to scratch the surface very deeply to see what studios think of critics because [laughs] if they thought that critics were valid, then they would also then put the negative things on. I mean, in other words, they don’t say like, “Well, unfortunately, this movie was not reviewed well, but you should still see it. We believe in it.”

No. They don’t care what critics think. They’re just using the good stuff as they can, hypocritically, to try and fool people into seeing their movie as if the critic’s point of view is relevant to the audience’s point of view. It’s all a con.

And of course, the critics are sitting there going, “Well, hey, no, you misquoted me.” “Oh, I’m sorry. But did you not know that this was really the only upshot of what you did?” I mean, in the end, that is the only upshot. That’s what happens. I mean, when we’re talking about large movies, they can’t make or break a movie. They can’t. We see it time and time again.

So with that in mind, especially now when everyone feels so, I don’t know, post facto with criticism because, you know, people go to see a movie Thursday at midnight and start tweeting about it right away, I think that this is really the only sign that these reviews existed. Either we’ve combined you into a slurry and here’s the percentage number which is rather high, or it’s a comedic masterstroke. They shouldn’t do that. They really shouldn’t. But it makes me giggle.

John: So there’s actually two periods in time which you sort of see this “action” happening. One is at the first release and one is at the home video release. And in this case, this was the home video release. And this is for a movie that most people have no idea existed.

So I think the marketers, in this case, it was a distributor for Canada, desperately needed to have something that they could say that said like, “It’s a comedy. “And so they were looking for something they could say like, “Let’s look through all the reviews and somebody who says it’s a comedy [laughs] because it is not entirely clear that it’s a comedy.” And so they found this thing and it’s like, “Oh, let’s just do it.”

But, Craig, I’m curious whether you’ve had this experience where you’ve seen cuts of TV spots for your movie and they have those sort of slugs in there for the quotes that are going to go in there. Have you seen that before?

Craig: They used to do way more of those. They actually don’t do many of those anymore because they realized that they don’t work [laughs], which is another thing that makes me giggle. You’re right. Like when you’re trying to sell a product on a shelf, putting some signifier on it like, “This is chocolate and peanut butter, not vanilla and mint,” it’s good for people to know what they’re buying.

But in TV ads, they used to do these spots all the time. Sometimes they’d even have testimonial spots where people would come out of a movie theatre going, “I laughed, I cried, I ran the gamut of emotions.” They don’t do it anymore because it doesn’t work. They really don’t work.

But, yes, back in the day, they used to make these spots and they would put slugs in. And then even when I was doing this back in 1994 at Disney, we would make these 30-second review spots and hold slugs and then we would get, usually it was advanced press like you’d get some long lead stuff often from International.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And then you’d start slotting in their comments. We never did anything that was this outrageous. Sometimes you would kind of fudge a little bit with the old dot, dot, dot method. A…brilliant…movie. [laughs]

John: What I’ve seen in terms of the pre-cut ads is when they sort of need the quotes for tempo. So it’s like, “Bum, bum, outrageous. Bum, bum, crazy. Bum, bum, the best thing he’s done since, you know, it’s sort of like or like bigger than Jaws or something like that.” So they need those sort of like, you know, things to build so they’re looking for that single word that sort of gets you to the next point. But, you know, even with Big Fish — the movie to some degree, but also the Broadway Show. Broadway Shows are incredibly review driven, and so we needed to have those review quotes because they’re literally like on the door of the Neil Simon Theatre.

It’s like a huge, important thing. And so our New York Times review was not good, but there were things that are good in The New York Times review. And so you have this — these review quotes that sort of talk about the things they praised about the show and sort of obviously don’t mention the things they didn’t like about the show. And that it’s this weird dance you play. And I think it’s — in Broadway, it’s even sort of more cloistered and more sort of screwed up because of how small the community is that the relationship between the reviewer and success for the show is so deeply coupled.

In the case of A.A. Dowd here, you know, he’s frustrated that his quotes got used. But like, it’s not going to hurt him personally.

Craig: No. No. Nobody — I mean, ultimately. And I apologize to A.A. Dowd, but he’s not going to make or break a movie. It could have been anybody. They could have literally put anything on there. They could have just had one of their kids review it for their high school newspaper and put that on. I mean, it just didn’t matter.

Broadway, you’re right. It’s very different. And of course, you can — if you’re good at reading these things, you can sort of suss out like who’s fudging, like, you know. Like, “John Smith…really impresses.” Oh, is that the best thing?

John: [laughs] Yeah.

Craig: Is that the best thing in the review? I’m going to guess that wasn’t a great review, you know. Broadway is fascinating to me because Ben Brantley, the critic for The New York Times, is kind of incredibly powerful. He’s actually — I’m just — I am immediately fearful of any system where one individual has that much influence.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s scary to me. And I don’t think it makes sense. And I’m not taking anything away from Ben Brantley, his point of view, his taste, whether, you know, how often he is correct, in terms of what shows work for the audience and what shows don’t. It’s just more like, shouldn’t there be two Ben Brantleys? Just in case. Like, shouldn’t there be a fail safe? In case he just happens to not like a thing that other people would really love?

John: It’s also fascinating because in the theater world, sometimes, for some outlets, the same person who writes about the show is the reviewer ultimately. In other cases, they’re completely separate people. And so, you know, does that person have history back story? Did that person interview you before they saw the show? Or is that person coming in cold, like a food critic, and just seeing this thing that you’re serving up to him or her.

And it’s a very different experience. We could probably have, you know, a whole one hour podcast about what is screwed up and is fascinating and is just crazy about Broadway.

Craig: Yeah.

John: But then, we would never release it because it would hurt both of our careers.

Craig: It would hurt our careers.

John: [laughs]

Craig: It would absolutely destroy our careers. And you know, again, just for the record, I love Ben Brantley.

John: Oh, just — maybe just the best person on earth. Yeah. Good stuff.

Craig: No, actually, I don’t know anything about him and I’ve never had a Broadway show so, I can’t — I mean, I just — just the idea. I mean, in theory, it’s just the theory of one person having that much influence is — that makes me nervous.

John: Yeah. I think, my — in the podcast, we will never record about Broadway. I think, what I found fascinating about it is because it is such a small and such an insular community, all the things that happen in small, insular communities, definitely happened there. And if you could magically transform things so that Broadway wasn’t the ultimate goal of all live theater —

Craig: Right.

John: Then I think you could — through diversity, you’d find more strength. But that’s not the system that we are in, so we have to adjust to the system that we are in.

Craig: Alas.

John: Alas. So let’s turn to our next topic. You put this on the document as behaving like a pro. We talked about professionalism a couple of weeks ago. I would rephrase this as like, how not to be a jerk. Is that a fair assessment of what you’re going for here?

Craig: I think so, basically. Yeah, I mean, how not to be a jerk, maybe how to not be douche bucket.

John: Mm-hmm. Yeah, sure.

Craig: Yeah. Is that going push us though?

John: Yeah, how to avoid douche behavior. No, I think douche is fine.

Craig: Yeah. I think how to not be douche bucket. How to avoid douche behavior. How to just — how to avoid people looking at things you say or write and wrinkling their nose and going, “Oh, god.”

John: Yeah. Or giving you a little side eye.

Craig: Little bit of side eye. And I should say that this is something that I’ve been sort of thinking about for a while — long time. This is not some kind of subtweety, quiet reference to any individual person, whatsoever. So please don’t take it that way. You know, this isn’t like blind item stuff. It’s not. This is stuff I’ve seen people do over the last 20 years, in all forms. And it’s not just like, “Oh, whatever happened yesterday on Twitter.” So please don’t take it that way.

John: Yeah. And I think, as I’m looking through your list, a lot of what you’re describing, I would say are best practices. It’s just if you could sort of sit somebody down who is about to have their first movie come out —

Craig: Yeah.

John: These are the kinds of things you would tell him or her to make sure that no one was going to watch you throw them off a cliff.

Craig: Yeah. In a lot of fields, there is a — I think a responsible and positive culture of veterans instructing rookies. And sometimes, it gets bad. Sometimes, it’s more about hazing and it’s — and that’s awful. But in the good versions of it, it’s like, “Hey, rook. Come here. Let me tell you how we expect you to behave. And let me tell you how we would expect you to not behave. This is the kind of stuff that we think of as classy and positive and accruing to the benefit of all of us. And this is the kind of behavior that we think gives us all kind of a black eye.” So it’s a little bit of that. This is like, “So, hey, gather around — gather around the podcast, rookies, and let’s go through some do’s and don’ts.”

John: Get us started, Craig.

Craig: All right. Again, because it’s a culture that I think exists in sports and in other fields of work, in almost all of these fields, when we talk about being a pro or being classy, what we’re talking about is a few things. First, when it comes to praise, let praise come from other people. It’s really not going to do you any good to explain to other people how good you are. [laughs]

Just let other people say that. And they will or they won’t. But either way, let it come from other people. Also, given that we’re on a team of some kind, if we’ve written a movie, be gracious to the other people on the team. That doesn’t mean that you have to like the other people on the team. That doesn’t mean that the other people on the team are — perhaps have contributed in an equal manner to you. It just means be gracious because it costs nothing.

And kind of snippiness towards other people, kind of begins to become petty. I understand what it satisfies, at times, if you feel slighted or injured by another person or you feel like maybe somebody else is getting too much attention. I get the desire to grab the mic back, but just don’t be Kanye, you know.

John: Yeah. I would also say that, sometimes, your silence can be very, very loud. And so, if someone says like, “Wow. You know, actor Y is just phenomenal. I can’t believe it. You must feel so lucky that he was in your movie.” And you know that he was just an incredible jerk. And so, if you say nothing, or you just like sort of twiddle your thumbs, that’s subtweeting. That’s basically sort of like, you know, you’re calling him out by just saying nothing. So you practice the nice things, sort of like, “Yes, he’s immensely talented.” Or like —

Craig: Right.

John: “We were so lucky to have him in this movie.” It’s like, “You know, I see the kind of things he does and it’s fantastic.” So, as I’m saying this, people are probably going through all old footage where I’ve said these things about some actors who I didn’t like. But that’s reality. That’s the game we play. And so you —

Craig: It is.

John: And just the same way you kind of hope that they will actually mention you at some point. You mention them when the time comes up.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, you’ll see this is, you know — it’s a famous scene in Bull Durham where they go through this. I mean, in baseball, some pitcher hits you and you think it’s intentional and there’s a ruckus. After the game, the reporter say, you know, “What did you think of him?” “You know what? You know, he’s a great competitor. And I think sometimes out there people get a little worked up. I mean, I don’t — did he throw me on purpose? I don’t — it doesn’t really matter. I’m good, you know. I just — I’m just trying to play the game as hard as I can and, you know, try and help the team win.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. There’s no point in going further because all it’s going to do is just generate prurient nonsense. [laughs]

John: Well, circling back to the article about World War Z, none of those people were throwing each other under the bus.

Craig: Right.

John: They were just talking about realistically this is what happened. And it’s sort of you know — even in situations where I’ve had horrible experiences with other people, I will talk to you privately about it, but publicly, I will always be sort of like, “You know what? It was a war we all fought together.” Even like Charlie’s Angels, the first Charlie’s Angels, was notoriously sort of a challenging movie to shoot. But I often describe Charlie’s Angels being like, “Yeah, you know what? I describe it like the monster. You know, every day, somebody was the monster. Some days, I was the monster. And we just had to fight the monster. And that’s just how we made the movie. And I’m so happy with how it turned out.”

Craig: Yeah. I mean, I won’t say a bad word ever in public about any actor, writer, or director, or producer I’ve worked with. I just won’t. I just don’t know what the point is. It’s not going to — what is it going to do? Change their behaviors? Is it going to make my life better? So just, you know, in general, if you can, be gracious.

And that connects to taking the high road whenever possible because there are times when other people aren’t gracious to you. And if somebody should say something or imply something and they are part of our world, in terms of public response, if you can, just take the high road. It’s like the most obvious, blatant technique in the world, and yet it works 100% of the time.

John: Yeah. So, when the actor says, “Oh, yeah. We improved everything.” You respond like, “We’re so lucky to have such amazingly talented actors in the movie.”

Craig: Yeah. You know, and you could like, if somebody asks — like, I’ve had this question come up constantly. Any interview I did for the Hangover movies, they’re like, “How much — you know, the guys were talking about how they kind of came up with that moment. And how much of the script is scripted? And how much is improv?” I’m like, “You know what, that was a great moment. And there are those moments in the movie where they do kind of just go and invent their thing. You know, we try and keep the script the focus of the day. We always get the script. There are moments where, as a team, we all agree, ‘Let’s just do the script.’ And then there are moments, as a team, where we realize we have opportunities to let these guys kind of expand.”

You know, it’s like, how hard is that? And the thing is, 98% of the time, I mean it. I’m not being disingenuous. I’m not being manipulative. I mean what the high road is saying. There are the 2% of the time where I don’t, but I take it anyway because it’s a better way to live. It accrues to your benefit. This is all cost benefit analysis stuff. It really is.

Similarly, if there is a dispute that somebody else starts or that exists, if you can possibly do so, keep it private.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You can confront somebody over the things they say. I mean I had a situation many, many years ago where I won’t even get — I won’t say who. See?

John: That discretion, yeah.

Craig: I won’t say who. But it was a he. And he said very insulting, stupid, and factually incorrect things about me and in a somewhat public forum. And I addressed it privately. It’s as simple as that because in my mind, yes, that was a public. So that was public. And then there’s no response on my end publicly but I’m okay with that because the truth is it’s forgotten. You know, my new rule is if you get in trouble on the Internet and you’re Rachel Dolezal or whatever. Just go away for two weeks, you’ll be fine. Two weeks later, you’re okay.

And nobody noticed. You notice more than anyone else. Keep it private whenever possible. Now, there are times when that’s not possible. So there are times when people behave terribly. They are abusive. They are cruel. They are discriminatory. There’s behaviors that people can exhibit and inflict that frankly should be called out. But if that’s the case, and I’ve never done it, the test I have is, okay, if I’m going to say tweet about something like that, then I follow this rule, am I willing to call a newspaper about it rule.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So in the old days, you’d have to pick up the phone [laughs] dial up Variety and say, “I have a story. Blah, blah, blah, put his hands on me and pushed me against the wall. And got violent and threatened my life.” Yeah, okay. So they would probably write an article about that. If you can’t pass that test in your mind, then probably you should be going towards the high road or keeping the dispute private method.

John: Yeah. So I would also stress that there’s different levels of private and public. And so there’s private where it’s just like just you and the other individual involved. There’s private in the sense that it’s just the core team. And so if there’s a dispute, you keep it within the production and keep it within the people who really need to be involved. Sometimes your reps or sometimes, you know, the other folks who are directly part of this scenario. Very rarely do you need to get up to the level of Twitter which is the entire world. And we see people, you know, subtweeting at each other. And you see like the spat between Taylor Swift and —

Craig: Right.

John: It was Rihanna. Katy Perry was in it as well. It’s just like you’re not helping anybody there. And so I don’t understand why you would necessarily want to do that because — I’m not saying that you should, you know, keep everything secret or if there are real terrible things or if there are crimes being committed, you have to deal with those things. But just putting somebody on blast for something that is not going to help you in the long run doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

Craig: Subtweeting is just the 2015 word for passive-aggressive behavior. I mean, that’s all it is. It’s passive-aggressive. And passive-aggressive behavior is self-defeating 100% of the time. Subtweeting will never accomplish anything. It just won’t. What you’re really doing is trying to get the benefit of attacking somebody without the cost of being accountable to your own words.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And no one respects it really. The only people who like it are people who were just chasing dirt and don’t care about you. They’re just interested in dirt. They just love negativity. Well, good luck with that group.

John: Also, I think when you see people who are subtweeting, I feel it’s largely because they don’t have a conception of themselves independently of their public persona. And so if their public persona is not commenting on this, they feel like they are, you know, not being true to themselves. And that’s maybe a situation where they should be examining what is their relationship with social media.

Craig: Well, that’s true. And that’s a thing. I think another aspect of subtweeting is that it is — and I understand this. It’s sort of a regression tactic. You’re going back to childhood and you’re basically crying in the hopes that people will come and hug you.

John: Yup.

Craig: And I understand that. Everybody wants comfort, but I would much rather somebody just say, “Listen, I’ve had one of those days where I’ve kind of been attacked and I feel sad and I’m bummed out. And everyone give me a hug.” That’s fine. You know, that’s okay because you’re just being honest. But if you say, “Well, for the fourth time in a row, I’ve realized that a certain somebody who runs a certain production company is a certain jerk.”

John: Yes.

Craig: Okay. So then, what are you doing? Rallying the troops to go, “Well, hey, man, you’re awesome. Don’t let anyone get you down. Is it so and so? He’s no good.” No, that’s not going to help.

John: That’s not going to help. So everything that we’re talking about so far I think really applies to everybody in all fields. So just to recap what this basic guideline was was let praise come from other people, be gracious. Take the high road when possible and keep private disputes private as much as possible.

Craig: Right.

John: But let’s focus on what it means for screenwriters. So if you’re a screenwriter with your first film coming out, what should you be doing?

Craig: Well, the first rule and this one works elsewhere because it comes from elsewhere. Act like you’ve been there before. And that’s a hard one for people because they haven’t been there before. And everybody gets really excited. I mean if you have a movie coming out, that’s exciting.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And it’s attached to a ton of romantic notions. It’s attached to a dream. It’s attached to all these aspirations. You are deriving an enormous amount of identity from that thing which frankly you shouldn’t.

And so it’s understandable that you will get giddy and maybe a little self-congratulatory and a little nuts. And you might go overboard. And listen, anybody who blames you for going a little nuts on your first real movie is being a jerk. But if you can just temper yourself and remember act like you’ve been there before. Because when the second and third, and fourth, and fifth movie comes around, you will have been there before. And at that point, you will have no excuse. [laughs] So just calm down and don’t go bananas patting yourself on the back in public over anything that you’re doing anymore than would you would imagine a kind of steady, confident, veteran, professional would do.

John: So, Craig, when you and I had our first movies come out, the only way we could speak to the press or speak to the world was through kind of official channels. So it was through the press junkets that the movie studio set up. It was through interviews that our publicists might have set up. So we had to sort of go through proper channels to do that.

If you have a movie coming out in 2015, 2016, you are suddenly out on all those social media channels yourself. And so you can tweet about your movie. You can say things. You can be showing photos on Instagram from premiere or from the set. And that creates a very different relationship between the screenwriter, the production, and the people releasing the movie, and the press I guess, too.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So that four-sided relationship is so different than what it was before. And I don’t know that we necessarily have it all figured out in terms of what the best practices are. You know, basically, how often should you retweet when someone says something great about the movie?

Craig: [laughs] Right.

John: Well, you know, sometimes but not too much.

Craig: Right.

John: And you always have to ask yourself, like, “Will this be perceived as boasting or will this be perceived as sort of, you know, being proud of your work?” Are you reminding them that this thing exists, are you letting them know that it’s getting good reception? Or are you just showing off?

Craig: And it’s tough. I mean, the one simple way of looking at it is, “Am I promoting a movie or am I promoting myself?” Because if you’re promoting the movie, I think all behavior is appropriate. That’s the idea of promotion, you know, is getting people to go see something. It’s a little tricky when you’re involved. But we don’t think of it as tricky when actors are involved. They go on talk shows, that’s part of their gig, and they promote the movie.

They promote the movie when they don’t like the movie. They promote the movie when they do like the movie. They promote the movie when they haven’t even seen the movie. It’s literally written into their job contracts. It’s their gig.

It’s not written into ours. And traditionally, screenwriters have been essentially invisible and silent during the promotional process. So on the plus side, we have this amazing opportunity now, at last, to be visible. On the down side, we don’t [laughs] have a ton of experience doing this, right? An actor, a steady working movie star does, what, three movies a year?

John: Yeah.

Craig: Three promotional cycles a year, year after year after year. The best and most consistent feature film writers are looking at one movie every two years, I’d say, on the average. And only in the last five years have we had a reliable source of promotional avenue for ourselves. So we’re not necessarily great at it.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You got to think about it. And you do have to think, “Am I promoting a movie or am I promoting myself?” And if you don’t have a lot of followers, then what are you trying to do? Really whip up those 5,000 people to go see the movie? It’s, you know, so you do. You have to find a balance. You don’t want to be perceived as boasting.

And there are some things that you can do that are going to trip everyone’s boast alarm and clearly bring you far afield from, say, promoting a movie.

John: So what are some things that are going to — if you were to see them show up in your feed, you’d be like, “Uh, uh, uh.” You know, that’s where you send the private DM saying like, “Cool it on this.”

Craig: Right. I mean, four big ones. Money.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And I’ve never seen anybody literally go on and say, “Oh, I got paid blah, blah, blah for this.” However, I have seen people say things like, “You know, you’d think that if I — ” and again, this is no one specific. “You think if, you know, if they pay me seven figures that they’d care about what I write,” okay, well, don’t say that.

John: Yeah.

Craig: That’s just boasting. Comments about your awesome agents. “Well, you know, I had a great meeting today at CAA. Everyone’s, you know, excited about blah.” Okay.

John: Oh, no.

Craig: Oh, good for you, you’re represented at CAA. Complaining about how much work you have. Sometimes I feel like that’s something that I have tiptoed towards [laughs] because I was really like, “Oh, my god, this is not good. I’m in a bunch of trouble here.” And then I stopped and went, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second. That’s just going to come off terrible.”

Because most people who read these things either want to be screenwriters or they’re just starting and their problem isn’t, “Oh, my god, too much work.” Shut up. You know, so thank God I’ve never made that mistake. Because, look, you can suffer from that too much work syndrome but no one wants to hear it. No one.

John: Yeah. I think before you send any tweet that sort of implies like, “Oh, my god, I’m working too much,” you have to really look at sort of how that could come across to the other side. I guess it’s every tweet you have to sort of look at how can this be misinterpreted. There are tweets, you know, I think that are totally valid about like, “My brain is melting. You know, I have 14 scenes to write before tomorrow.”

Craig: That’s fine.

John: Basically, it’s the same thing about like any kind of joke. Like a joke in which you seem like the idiot in the joke is probably a good joke. But the joke in which it seems like the other person is an idiot is not, you know, the same.

Craig: I agree. Yeah, like how much work I have to do on a script is always fair game because everybody has that experience. How many projects I have going on, nobody wants to hear that. Similarly, nobody really wants to hear your name dropping. Yes, good for you, you know a famous person, you know. Like I don’t need to know that you had lunch with Ridley today or whatever, you know, or [laughs] I don’t know who.

Like the worst is when you’re like, you know, “Had an amazing meeting with Tom. You know, we’re going to find something to do together.” And you’re like, “Oh, are you going to make me ask you if it’s Hanks or Cruise, you jerk?” That’s the worst.

John: Yeah.

Craig: The worst. I mean, we can talk about people we know, but only when it’s relevant [laughs] and the point isn’t “look at me”.

John: Yup. All the stuff that we’re talking about here is so important for screenwriters who are doing this once, maybe twice a year. There’s a whole other category of writers who are doing this every week, during sometimes in the season where they have TV shows on the air and they are asked by the studios and networks to live-tweet their shows. And so I have friends who work on these TV shows and they are supposed to live-tweet their episodes when they come up.

Craig: Right.

John: It’s a whole different thing. And if you are in the situation, you will get a set of instructions from the studio, from the network, and from the showrunner about what you’re supposed to be doing and how you’re supposed to be doing it. The frustration and the challenge is, to what degree are you an employee writing on your job versus being your own public persona self.

And if you are live-tweeting your show on this Twitter channel, to what degree can you also post other random stuff that isn’t about that show that could become controversial? It makes it really challenging to know, are the people following me because I write on Castle or are they following me because I am myself? And that is a weird situation that we put writers in.

Craig: It’s a very strange situation. And you’re right. It’s a wonderful exception to call out here. So anyone that is a creator of, say, a network television show or a cable show, they’re required to be very present and very active on Twitter in promotion of the show. And so, you know, like Derek Haas live-tweets episodes all the time, has his fans do like ask me five questions. That’s all promoting the show. Not only is it legal but it’s just smart.

And the truth is, I have no problem with the idea that writers are now actively involved in that because I think that it gives us that much more visibility and control over the outcome so that, you know, we can improve our own bottom line. The more people who watch, the better off it is for us as creators of television.

And this is something that actors have always done. And they don’t get paid to promote. I mean, you get paid to act and you will also promote, you know what I mean?

John: Yeah.

Craig: This is more like when you’re not — I think we’re talking about people that aren’t involved in something like that.

John: Yeah, for sure. Now, I want to make sure that I’m not scaring people away from tweeting about the work they’re doing because I think, you know, sharing what you’ve done is actually a great important thing that social media is really good at.

Casper Kelly tweeted out about an episode of his show, Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, and I didn’t realize that was his show. And so I watched the episode. It was genuinely genius. And so that a good situation where like, well, it’s a good thing he tweeted that. It’s a good thing I followed it because otherwise I would not have seen the show and not have known that it’s really good, so.

Craig: He’s promoting the show.

John: He’s promoting the show.

Craig: He’s promoting the show. It’s actually a great example because in the middle of the madness over Too Many Cooks, Casper Kelly never ever once behaved in a way that made me go, “Uh, douchebucket.” He was classy, he had a sense of humor about himself, he had an appropriate humility without seeming like he was fake. And yet also was able to kind of share some of the joy of what was going on with that. It was just really well done.

And it’s a weird thing to say in an episode where we’re kind of trying to teach people but I almost feel like, “Geez, maybe this isn’t teachable. Maybe it’s just something people know.” I hope it’s teachable.

John: I think it’s teachable. Let’s try to wrap this up with talking about what your actual goals should be when you are in a situation where you are promoting something where you needed to talk about your work. What are you trying to convey?

Craig: I mean, I hope that, as a group, we can appear confident, we can appear positively passionate, not negatively passionate, that we can show some self-awareness, that we can recognize that we are one of the key partners in a process that involved multiple people.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And above all, that we can be collegial and respectful to our fellow writers, if at all possible. That doesn’t mean you have to like what they’re doing. And maybe I’m just old school grumpy dude, but in my blood, I believe it’s just not professional to run down fellow writers, unless they have really, like, blatantly been asking for it. You know what I mean?

John: And so in many ways, I would never go after a writer for their writing. I would go after them for behavior that is, I think, dangerous or inappropriate in the business. And so, yeah, you know, be cool. Be a colleague. Be a cheerleader and a champion of writers wherever possible.

The last thing I would add in terms of what you need to promote when you’re talking about a project is just be grateful. So, acknowledge that you have the luxury of being able to write this thing and see it get made. And for all the troubles and all the flaws and all of the shouting matches and everything else, it is remarkable that you had the opportunity to get a movie made.

And so, gratefulness at every step of the process is important, too. For everyone who is sitting across from you at a press junket, for everyone who is following you on Twitter, for everyone who’s asking you that question about the movie, be grateful. If someone is taking the time to send you a tweet saying, “I love the movie,” send the tweet back saying thanks. It’s not much.

Craig: Yeah. It’s not much but it’s just common courtesy, you know. It’s just being a decent person. And I just look at it in terms of my relationship with my fellow writers, I just think, whatever shoes a writer is in, I’ll be in those shoes soon enough.

John: That’s true.

Craig: Or I’ve already been in them. So they don’t need me kicking them in the jaw, you know. If I have a friend and their movie comes out and it bombs and critics hate it and everyone on Twitter is ripping it to shreds, or even if they’re not my friend. Even if it’s somebody I hate, it’s somebody I hate and their movie is crap and it bombs and no one likes it in the whole world and they’re all talking about how this person is going to get run out of Hollywood on a rail and it’s a Schadenfreude, a dream come true, I don’t say anything because that’s not going to get me anywhere.

John: Nope, not a bit.

Craig: No. No.

John: We’re going to close up with one question. Jenny writes in to ask, “Your discussion of reshoots got me wondering. I’ve noticed that movies set release dates very early and then nearly always hit those unless the movies just gets canceled. As someone who’s a bit of an outsider, it seems strange to me that a creative process like making a movie could be predicted so well. Is there a large buffer factored in or is the actual production down to a science? By comparison, I work in a software where it’s difficult to actually predict what will be completed in two weeks.”

Craig: Sure. It’s a great question.

John: Yeah.

Craig: The answer is it’s down to kind of a science. They know when they green light a movie, they take — they break the script down and in breaking it down, they determine primarily, number one thing first, how many days will it take to shoot this? And there can be a little bit of a negotiation between the director and the producer and the studio. But in the end, everybody just kind of goes, “Yeah, that seems appropriate. Okay, its’ going to take 50 days to shoot, so that’s this many weeks.”

Now, how many weeks will we need to prep. Everybody kind of agrees based on the elements of the movie, either there’s a lot of effects or there’s no effects or this or that, will need say three months to prep, standard amount.

Good. So we have three months of prep. We have, let’s say, three months of shooting. And now, how long will it take us to go through post? Well, they basically say a movie like this generally posts in this amount of time. And then we’re going to give ourselves a little bit of a buffer because we know that marketing needs some things here and there. And then we’re going to put the movie out here.

So with rare exception, there is enough time to get the movie done. There are times where you are in a jam and you’re actually backing out of the release date and you are just go, go, go.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And I’ve been in those and those are the worst.

John: Those are the worst. So I would say, Craig is right, is that there’s a lot of expertise and a lot of institutional knowledge about how to make movies and sort of like what the process of making a movie is like. Even though every movie is different, every movie is largely the same in terms of the technical things that need to get done.

But what I would say — and something that’s probably very familiar to anybody who makes anything is it does ultimately come down to a pick two scenario where you have to choose between speed, quality, and money. And in Hollywood, we basically always end up optimizing for speed because we have to hit those release dates. It’s almost never worth it for us to push the release dates back because we’ve already booked commercials, we’ve already started running things. So we’ll spend as money as it takes to get the movie finished or we will cut back on the quality of the movie in order to hit that release date.

So that’s the reality. It’s like, you know, when you see movies go wildly over budget, a lot of times it is because they had to rush through visual effects or had to rush through these things to get stuff to happen. Or movies aren’t maybe as good as they could possibly be. Well, if it had an extra six months of post, they probably could have made that movie better, but they didn’t.

The challenge I will say, overall, is — Craig starts his discussion saying like, “Okay, we have the script. We’re breaking it down. We’re doing all that stuff.” Increasingly, we are slotting movies based on like just a title and like that’s going to come out in 2018 on this weekend. And that becomes the real problem because we don’t know what the movie actually is. We just know it’s the title of the movie and we have these people kind of tentatively attached. But we don’t have a script, we don’t have anything.

And those are the movies to watch out for because they will tend to become problem stories.

Craig: They can. Sometimes what happens is the studio will start with — they might not even start with a release date. They might start with an actor’s availability. You have a big movie star. Let’s just take Tom Cruise for instance. You have Tom Cruise, he’s constantly working. He likes the idea of this topic. He wants to do that movie. He wants it to be with this director and this writer. The director and the writer are both interested in doing it. Tom Cruise is available in exactly one-and-a-half years. He has a slot in one-and-a-half years.

You need to be ready to shoot when that slot hits because they’ve made him a deal. And he’s locked in for that slot. They bought that slot. It’s happening. They’re paying him. You’re making the movie. Let’s go. And these things do happen. And hopefully, they happen in a way where you don’t feel like you’re completely up against the wall. But it can get gnarly. I mean, the worst I ever had, the worst, was Scary Movie 3. Bob Weinstein —

John: He’s a villain of so many of your stories.

Craig: He really is. And that’s like one guy like I have no problem throwing him under the bus because whatever, he’s Bob Weinstein. It’s like everyone knows — he knows, if he were here, he would agree. [laughs]

John: He’s an indestructible counter bus.

Craig: He really is. He’s an indestructible counter bus. So Bob Weinstein had — he had made two of the Scary Movies with the Wayanses. He wanted to make a third. And they asked him for too much money in his opinion. And he said, “No.” And he got rid of them. They went on to make their own spoof movies somewhere else. And he became truly obsessed with the idea that we had to beat the Wayans brothers to market with our own spoof movie. And when I say our, I had no idea this was going on. [laughs]

John: Awesome.

Craig: I was working on an adaptation of Harvey, the Mary Chase play.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So when he called me, he’s like, “Here’s the situation. You are going to write this movie. And David Zucker is going to direct this movie. And it’s going to come out. And I have the date and it’s coming out on October 23rd,” I think it was.

And when he called me, it was December 1st, I believe. So I met David Zucker on December 2nd. And all we knew was we have to make a movie and it was in theaters on October 23rd.

John: That’s really fast.

Craig: That is. I don’t think you can make a wide release studio film faster than we made that. And man, it showed. I mean there are some stuff in there that I love and then I’m like, “Oh boy.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: Oh, that’s what happens. [laughs] I mean it was — it was bananas. Bananas.

John: Just to wrap up this topic. I will say that movies do get pushed probably more often than you think. So if you go into any big studio conference room, they will have on a giant board these magnetic tiles that show all the movies from all the different studios and sort of tracking forward three years in many cases.

And every week, some of those movies are going to be pushed around and moved to different slots. But it’s not, they weren’t so locked down before. You only hear about the release dates for like the giant Marvel movies and like those aren’t going to change likely because they have toy deals and so many other things.

But the other randoms like sort of like the Russell Crowe thriller, well, that could shift six months and nobody kind of knew when it was supposed to come out. So I will say that sometimes things get moved around, but rarely is it because the movie is not ready. It’s more likely because the competition is not good around it. There’s some other competitive reason why they don’t want to go out on that week.

Craig: That’s exactly right. See, the Marvel movies and those big tent poles, when they land on a spot, what they’re saying is, “Get out of my spot, right? No one wants to go up against Avengers 3. Okay. So we’re picking the weekend and we’re telling everybody else, ‘Don’t go up against Avengers 3 if you have your own. If you have Batman whatever, don’t put it there.'”

John: Yeah.

Craig: So those things start to occupy spaces and cannot be contested by certain kinds of movies. If you have a certain kind of movie and suddenly you got squashed by that thing. When you think, “Oh, this is not counter programming [laughs] for the Avengers at all,” you’ve got to move.

And, you know, look, I got caught up with that whole thing, not personally. I mean I had nothing to do with the decisions, but somewhat infamously, The Hangover Part III came out the same weekend as Fast and Furious 6. And everybody was like, “That didn’t really make sense.”

John: No.

Craig: And it didn’t. [laughs] I mean they both did okay that opening week, but —

John: But they both took a haircut that they didn’t necessarily need to take.

Craig: [laughs] I think we took more of a haircut than they did.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I mean, look, the movie ended up making $100 million, whatever. But it probably would have worked better on a — but sometimes it’s like, you know what, sometimes you’re rewarded for the aggressive move. That world of picking dates for distribution is nightmarish. I don’t understand any of that stuff. It’s scary to me.

John: Yeah, I don’t envy the people whose job it is to do that, to defend that. Not good.

Craig: Not good.

John: All right. Let’s get to our One Cool Things. So for my One Cool Things, I have two related pieces of video, both on YouTube. What I love about them is they’re both showing the early versions of things that are now really familiar.

So the first is Vacation, the song Vacation by the Textones, which is before — a group that existed before the Go-Go’s. And so they had some of the same members, but was the pre-Go-Go’s version. And so some of the lyrics are different. The chorus is different. But in this video, you can see them. You can hear the song. And it’s like, “Oh, that’s Vacation but it’s not quite Vacation. It’s Vacation before it was Vacation.” So I loved it because it’s familiar but unfamiliar at the same time.

Likewise, Madonna’s Vogue video, shot by David Fincher, is one of the best videos probably ever made. And we’re so familiar with really kind of every shot in it. This is a 30-minute video that is basically — they call it the B-Roll, but it’s really all of the dailies of Vogue. And so it’s all the setups and sort of the multiple takes of all the setups.

And you start to recognize like, “Oh, yeah, like there were small little flubs there and there’s a reason why you did another take of that one.” And that everything that is so perfect about the video wouldn’t have been quite so perfect if they had settled for that first take or that fifth take. And so it’s just a great way of seeing what you actually would have gotten if you had actually sat down and watched the dailies on things.

And so when Craig and I are making movies, a lot of times we see the dailies. So we see like the five takes of that guy answering the phone. And we’ll have a sense of which ones work. This is an example of what that’s like for a music video.

Craig: Maybe that’s why David Fincher now famously will do like 100 takes of things. It’s the lesson of Vogue.

John: It’s the lesson of Vogue. So this is how it all started, how it all went very, very wrong.

Craig: Vogue. Okay. So my One Cool Thing this week was a recommendation from one of our Twitter followers. And I loved it. It’s a guy on YouTube named Smooth McGroove. And I said to my son, Jack, I’m like, “Hey Jack, you know, who is Smooth McGroove is?” He’s like, “Yeah.” Like, “Idiot.” [laughs] “Of course, I do.”

So Smooth McGroove is awesome. He’s a guy that does a cappella versions of famous video game songs and they’re all instrumental songs. So he does that thing where he’ll like tile himself. Like he’ll do a nine tile of himself and he’s got a nine-part harmony going on. Well, you know, maybe it’s five-part harmony and then four of the other voices are doing like, you know, beat boxes or something like that to add flavor.

But he does these incredibly good, like really good renditions of these awesome, a lot in Nintendo stuff, like a lot of Zelda and Super Mario. And it’s so cool. I just love — I mean I watched like eight of them.

John: Yeah.

Craig: He’s so good. He’s really, really good. So check out Smooth McGroove. If you like a cappella and you like classic video gaming, Smooth McGroove.

John: Fantastic. When you first said that name, I was worried it’s going to be like a Sexy Craig thing. So I’m happy it was a cappella because Sexy Craig is not an a cappella fan.

Craig: Sexy Craig likes everything.

John: Our show this week was produced by Stuart Friedel, as always. Our editing is by Matthew Chilelli. Thank you, Matthew.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Our outro this week is by Kim Atle. If you have an idea for an outro for our shows, something that uses the [hums theme] you can write into That’s also where you can send in questions like the question we answered from Jenny today.

On Twitter, we are @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. If you are on iTunes, please stop by and leave us a review because those help us out a lot and help other people find the show. There, you can also download the Scriptnotes app which gives you access to all the back catalog shows.

Many people have written in saying, “Hey, I missed the 200 episode USB drives.” So we’re going to make a make a few more of those. So they’re not quite in the store yet, but I will let you know when they are back up in the store, so you can purchase them and listen to all 200 episodes of our show up to this point.

Craig, thank you so much for a fun episode.

Craig: Thank you, John.

John: All right. See you soon.

Craig: Bye.