The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello, and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: Now batting number 27, Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 233 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting, and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Today, we are doing another one of those how would this be a movie episodes where we’re going to be taking a look at three stories from the news, and look at how those would become feature films. So the stories are including one about pensioners, performing a heist, demonic visitors, and revenge porn.
Craig: Those all could be one movie, I mean why not just combine them into one and make a movie.
John: I think it absolutely is. It’s sort of like Ocean’s 97 that takes a very dark turn.
Craig: So creepy.
John: Yes, like an Ocean’s 11 movie, but like one of the guys is actually already dead, like Danny Ocean is already dead, but he’s leading a heist from beyond the grave.
Craig: Hey, have you seen — speaking of creepy and not what you think it is, did you see the trailer for that new J.J. Abrams movie, what is it, 10 Cloverfield Lane or something?
John: No. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m behind on this.
Craig: I don’t know, like your whole thing like you can make a surprise movie, and I keep saying, no you can’t. Well he did. So he made a surprise movie. You got to see the trailer for this thing. It’s wow.
John: Great. Well I think we’re doing to stop the podcast right now and I’ll just go watch it, and then — no, no we’re recording, but I will watch it immediately after the podcast.
Craig: Yes. You will be pleased.
John: Cool. We have a lot of news and follow-up to get through.
Craig: Good news.
John: Such good news. First off, how about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rachel Bloom, won the Golden Globe this last week.
Craig: Is there any limit to what you and I can do?
John: We can pull shows from one network to another network, and make sure that their star is a Golden Globe winner.
John: That’s Rachel Bloom from episode 175 of Scriptnotes. She was on, not this past year’s but the year before Christmas Special with Aline, and now, look at her.
Craig: Now, look at her. And on that show as I recall, she sang her own original song, set to the tune of our theme. It was very funny. And so I mean obvious Aline is the living Joan Rivers of Scriptnotes. So she’s been on the show a ton, she’s our friend, and this is terrific news for her and her show, but also, just an amazing thing. You know, this is one of those deals where — because I guess, you know, I don’t know anything about television, I don’t understand television ratings. I know enough to know that the show has not been doing what you would call good ratings, and so what’s fascinating is you can rescue a show, I think.
I think the show has just been rescued, don’t you?
John: I think it’s definitely gotten a boost, and I mean it’s going to come back because she’s the Golden Globe winner, I mean it singles it out for the attention it really deserved from the very beginning.
John: The song she sang on Scriptnotes was When Will I Be Famous, set to the Scriptnotes theme. And the answer is, now.
John: Because now, she just won the Golden Globe, and she has a TV show that she co-created, that she stars in. One of my favorite moments from that whole experience was seeing a photo of Rachel waving to Aline, so it’s behind Rachel, waving to Aline out in the crowd, while she’s up at the podium accepting her award. And they’re both so happy and excited and crying.
Craig: The word, the word that you would say, if you were me, they were kvelling.
John: There were kvelling.
Craig: They were. It was in full kvell. And I was kvelling because another one of our live Christmas show guests got an Oscar nomination.
John: That’s pretty amazing.
Craig: Andrea Berloff, nominated for an Oscar, for Straight Outta Compton.
Craig: And it’s just fantastic.
John: Yes. So Andrea Berloff and Drew Goddard are both nominated for Academy Awards for their writing in different categories, so they’re not actually competing against each other, and they’ve both been previous Scriptnotes guests. You can listen to the special bonus episodes with both of them.
There’s an episode I did with Drew Goddard where I — there’s a long interview with Drew that you can listen to. And, also, I did the special Straight Outta Compton thing with Andrea and the whole rest of the team, and those are available in the premium feed, so at Scriptnotes.net, you can listen to those.
Craig: It’s just fun watching it, you know. Now, it’s kind of fun like every year, just because of the amount of screenwriters that you and I know, it feels like every year I have a friend in it. And so it’s so exciting. And I also did this past week, I did an interview with Charles Randolph and Adam McKay who co-wrote The Big Short, and Adam directed it, and lo and behold that very day Adam got a DGA nomination, and then of course, this week, they both received a nomination for screenplay, and Adam also received nomination for director, and then the movie received a nomination.
So it’s just fun. It’s fun, because the truth is I don’t really care, I mean I’m sorry, I don’t care, I know you’re in the Academy. I don’t care about the Oscars. I don’t care about any of this beauty pageant baloney, but I do like watching my friends get dressed up, and I like rooting for my friends.
John: I like rooting for friends, too. Craig, I need to remind you the next time you host one of those things, you need to get the audio because we’ll put it up it in the premium feed.
Craig: I can. I can get the audio.
John: You should get the audio, put it up in the premium feed.
Craig: Yes, I’m going to get it from — because I did it for another fund raiser for the foundation. So sure, they’ll give us that. That would be great.
John: Yeah. I’m doing my own special thing for the WGA foundation. Just today, I signed on to do the Beyond Words 2015, 2016 whatever you want to call it this year. So I’m going to be talking with many of the nominees, all up on stage together at the Writers Guild Theater. That is on February 4th and if you want tickets for that, it’s just wgafoundation.org. So confirmed so far, Drew Goddard, John Herman, and Andrea Berloff from Straight Outta Compton, John McNamara from Trumbo, Phyllis Nagy from Carol, Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy from Spotlight.
So it’s one of those sort of bigger shindigs, so there’s like 6:30 cocktails, there’s 7:30 panel, and there’s desserts and coffee afterwards, so it’s a bigger night of sort of all of the nominees up on stage.
Craig: When you say dessert and coffee, I mean like a good dessert, you think?
John: I think it’s going to be a caliber of dessert that you would anticipate getting at the Writers Guild Theater.
Craig: Oh god.
John: Yeah. I may not be staying for the coffee part, but you know what, wine is good because it comes in a bottle.
Craig: Listen, wine is great, but just watch out for those union desserts.
John: And I’m going to have to really be careful with my alcohol intake because I will just come from our own Scriptnotes official thing with Lawlence Kasdan and Jason Bateman which also has cocktails involved.
Craig: That’s right.
John: So that’s this Monday, so if you’re listening to this on Tuesday, it’s six days from now. Our Hollywood Heart special benefit panel with them, not really panel, special conversation with them, which I’m so excited about. So we just today figured out all the sound check stuff. It should be a cool time.
It is a 6:30 cocktails for a 7:30 start. So come join us for cocktails, and then join us for a live show.
Craig: When I was at the guild right before we did this thing with Adam and Charles, they said, “Would you like some wine?” And the answer is always, “Yeah,” because wine is interview juice, and it’s great. But all they had was white wine. I was like, “You don’t have any red wine?” Like the worst red wine to me is better than the best white wine in the world.
John: Oh, Craig.
Craig: And they said, “No, we can’t.” And I said, “Why?” Why do you think, John?
John: Oh, because of stains.
Craig: Because of stains! Because they were worried that it would stain the carpet on the second floor of the Writers Guild. And I was like, this carpet is pediatrician office standard. This carpet should be so lucky as to get stained.
Craig: Anyway, I drank a glass of white wine. I got to tell you, I was furious.
John: Yeah. In general, I think people should have a choice of red and white wines. I do respect that, but having been the person who spilled an entire glass of red wine on somebody’s white carpet, I do sympathize with the only clear liquids approach.
Craig: You know what, if you spill a glass of red wine on somebody’s white carpet, you got a couple of choices, as I see it. One, flee the country, just start a new life, that’s it, right? Just let everything go, and begin again. Option two, you’re just going to have to take out a loan and buy them a new rug.
Craig: But in no case is there a third option called drinking white wine.
John: There are many delicious white wines, and actually, two years ago, so every year, not for a New Year’s resolution, I declare an area of interest for that year, and one of my areas of interest for I think it was 2013, was Austrian white wines because they’re fantastic.
Craig: You know what? 2013 was the worst year for you.
John: Give me a Gruner Veltliner and I’m very, very happy.
Craig: That’s not even a real word.
John: Yeah. This next thing on the outline is something you should say, because it sounds really boasty if I say it.
Craig: Oh, it does, it does, it does. So our very own John August, 50 percent of this podcast, has been awarded the very prestigious Valentine Davies award for civic service for 2015. This is the WGA’s highest honor for… — I mean, look, I could read you what the WGA says, but the truth is what it comes down to is being a great person. It’s being a writer that contributes to the writing community in a very positive way.
Now, I wish could say that all the winners fit that criteria because there are some on the list where I’m like, “What?” But in this case, they got it right. I mean they got it right so much. In fact, John, if you check the next Written By Magazine, you just might find a little essay in there about this, written by, hmm, someone.
John: I can’t believe that Craig Mazin who does nothing but mock Written By Magazine could have actually written something for Written By Magazine.
Craig: I’m sure Richard Stayton also couldn’t. He’s the editor. He’s probably also like, “Oh god, I got to talk to this jerk again.”
John: I thank you in advance. That sounds very, very lovely. Yeah, I didn’t know what this award was before I got it. And so I’ve known about it for a while, and they asked me to just sort of not say anything so they could announce it publicly in a fancy way. But last year, it went to Ben Affleck, and previous years it’s gone to like Alan Alda, just like the most random people, some of whom you’ve heard of, and some that you haven’t. But I’m really flattered. It made me feel really old. That was my very first thing because it feels like a lifetime achievement award, and I’m kind of young, so that felt a little bit weird.
Craig: Yeah, but everybody’s sense is that your basically finished. You’re all washed up.
John: That’s absolutely true.
John: So they’ve been talking to my doctors and they know that I only have, you know, six months left and they wanted to give it to me while I was still alive because that’s what they said, they want to give it to somebody who’s still alive.
Craig: They wanted to give it to you before your product cycle has deprecated. When do you think I’m going to get an award from the Writers Guild?
John: I don’t think it’s going to be too long. I think, you know, a lot of the things they said about me, they could say about you because you certainly had a lot of guild service. I think this podcast is a notable thing. I think your website was a notable thing. I have a whole separate software company which is a sort of different thing.
Craig: Yeah. That’s not really the big difference. The big difference is that they hate me and they love you.
John: Oh, they don’t hate you. They just don’t know how to use you.
Craig: Yeah, yeah.
Craig: I love it, I personally love it.
John: Yeah. I mean they will put you on the committee for the professional status of writers because you’re good to go into those rooms, and be just the right amount of confrontational.
Craig: Yeah. No, definitely, I’m a good bullet for certain situations. Yeah, that is true.
John: So anyway, if you are a Writers Guild member who wants to attend the awards, I think you can get tickets. I’m not really clear how the whole thing works, but it’s February 13th. So I’ll be in a tuxedo, and I will have one and a half drinks in me when I accept my award, and will try to say something not embarrassing.
Craig: I feel like that show is the Golden Globes of writing stuff, so you could actually get completely drunk.
John: I could get completely drunk. I think in previous years it’s been streamed on the Internet, so if that does happen to stream on the Internet, I will be sure to put up the link to that.
Craig: That would be lovely.
John: It would be lovely. A little bit of follow up from last week’s show, last week’s show we were talking about Scriptbook, which I guess it’s still in existence. I don’t think we knocked it out of existence in one week.
Craig: We were close enough.
John: But Sam in Seattle makes his living as a data scientist, and he wrote in to say, “Data science aims to enable hard core data driven decision making when there are numbers and models that do correlate well to give an outcome, it makes sense. Solely evaluating the script ignores the most important component in making a movie, human collaboration. Scriptbook might be better served in developing analytics for production companies in project management. Which projects are likely to fall behind, which ones are at risk of overspending, etcetera. At least with those objectives, there’s a clear path from the data, to the desired outcome.”
Craig: It’s a really good point. I think what’s kind of funny about it is that’s basically what the executives do, that’s kind of their job, I mean aside from developing. When you’re at that upper level of things, and you’re deciding what to green light, and what not to green light, that’s kind of exactly what they’re doing. Without the data, they’re just looking at the people involved and saying, “Okay, how much of a pain in the ass is this particular person? Does this budget feel real or does it feel like something that’s going to explode on us?
Their pulling on their own experience, it’s a little bit more like the Malcolm Gladwell Blink side of the equation. But his point is correct, if you were going to engage in data driven analysis, that’s exactly where you should do it, and not attempt to impose it upon something like creative work.
John: Yeah. I think, you know, number crunching is great when you actually have numbers, the problem is the script is not actually numbers, and so you’re arbitrarily assigning things, numbers to things that really can’t be measured in a meaningful way. But that sense of like, trying to take a big sample of like these are all the production budgets of movies that went over the last 10 years, and you’re looking for trends out of that. That’s totally meaningful. I could see useful things being drawn out of that. I don’t think Scriptbook is going to find anything meaningful to draw out of this thing.
Craig: Nor if they were to provide the proper kind of data driven analysis would they be giving the studios anything that is unique. The studios already have larger departments that are much better at it than these ding-a-lings.
So Scriptbook, just, you know, save your money. If you work at Scriptbook, everyday pocket the half and half.
John: Cash your check the minute it hits your hand.
Craig: Cash it the minute it hits your hand. Go ahead and maybe take a few extra, you know, laser ink cartridges because that ain’t going to work.
John: A friend of mine, his company didn’t pay taxes for something and so he ended up being furloughed. And it was this weird situation where he was neither like fired, nor laid off, but he was like furloughed, so he couldn’t collect unemployment. It felt like an impossible thing that shouldn’t be allowed to happen.
Craig: No, no. It’s a very possible thing, and it should be allowed to happen. If you don’t pay your taxes, they’re going to get them from you. And if you’re earning money, yeah, they’ll garnish your wages.
John: Oh, no, no, no. What I’m saying is that the company hadn’t paid its taxes.
Craig: Oh, the company.
John: The company essentially went broke. And so they didn’t lay off their employees, they furloughed them. And I didn’t know you could do that.
Craig: You can, but you’re basically — the people have a choice of whether or not to believe it and stay, you know. Yeah, I would get the hell out.
John: You’d get the hell out?
John: Speaking of getting the hell out, we have a question from Matt. Matt says, “I recently moved neighborhoods in Queens and there are no coffee shops, which is where I used to get my writing done, for nearly ten blocks. Now that it’s getting cold, taking that trek after work can be a nuisance. Normally I would be fine writing at home but I share a studio apartment with my wife. We used to still live in a 2-bedroom with doors that shut. Now I find it hard to focus on the task at hand if I try to write at home. Any tips?”
Craig: Oh boy, that is not a great position to be in if you’re trying to write. You do need some kind of quiet private space or you need a quiet incredibly public space where the publicness kind of washes away to nothing. But to write in a room with your spouse just kind of looking at you is tough.
John: Yeah. So I was in the situation for a long time when I was renting and when I had roommates and I do definitely appreciate what that is. So I have the luxury of having my own office now. But I also write in public spaces quite a lot. And I think it depends on sort of what your needs are in terms of privacy.
If you’re writing by hand, you can kind of write by hand anywhere. And as long as you’re good with headphones, you can sort of check out and to be writing. And so, while coffee shops are sort of the natural place to be thinking about doing that kind of stuff, really kind of any lobby might be okay. Basically, any place where people will leave you alone is fair game.
One option might be if there is another apartment in your building or somebody who’s just not around during the day. See if you can use their place for an hour or two. If you had a place where you could essentially check-in to and do some writing, and when you’re in that space you’re only writing, you’re going to get a lot more done.
So, if there’s a person who is a waiter who you know is always gone during those times, see if you can make a deal with him or her to, you know, essentially borrow their space for a certain amount per week or whatever.
Craig: It does, unfortunately, it sounds like Matt has a day job because he is talking about the difficulty of taking that cold trek after work to the coffee shop. So I suspect probably there isn’t something as convenient as a loaner apartment in his complex.
John: But except depending on sort of who his neighbors are. There are definitely people who are waiters who are actors in Broadway shows. There are going to be people who are going to be gone during that time anyway, so finding some other space to be in sounds like a good choice.
Libraries are always good. I mean sometimes you deal with like the homeless people hanging out in the library is a problem, but as long as you got headphones, you are able to tune people out and you can do stuff.
Craig: Yeah. I think unless something wonderful emerges for you Matt in your own apartment complex. I think you might have to just deal with the cold there and those ten blocks. Get yourself a nice jacket because I would gladly suffer the 20-minute cold walk over writing in a space with my wife staring at the back of my head.
John: Another option is to look at — we don’t know where you work. But if there’s a place at where you work that isn’t your office so that you can sort of be in that same facility but not at your office or at your desk, that might be another good choice.
Just like find some place that’s warm and dry and just buckle down. And like having a place you go to that’s only for writing, you will get stuff done. And if you get an hour a day of writing, you’re beating most of the Hollywood screenwriters we know.
Craig: Isn’t that sad?
John: It is so sad but it’s absolutely sure.
Craig: It’s so true. You know what? I remember I talked to a group of Princeton kids who would come out to Hollywood and, you know, probably it was the first time I felt old. Now I feel old every day. [laughs] But it was the first time I felt old because I was like 32 and they were all 21.
And I said to them, “You guys have to destroy people like me right? You have to want to beat us all.” And what you have going — what we have going for us is our experience and at this point we’ve accrued a lot of connections and friends. What you guys have is energy. We’re all tired and jaded and slow. Just write circles around us.
Craig: So true. Everyone out here is just — but you know, there is a theory that a good writer will get more done in an hour than a bad writer gets done in a year.
John: That so often is true. And you know, I think I’ve always like moved past those things and then I’ll find myself just like spinning my wheels for, you know, most of the day. And then suddenly at like 3:20pm like, “Oh, I suddenly know how to do all that stuff.” And I got more done in that, you know, half an hour than I did the rest of the day.
Craig: Endlessly frustrating.
John: If you want to be annoyed by how wonderful someone’s office can be, I’m going to provide a link to Aline’s office. So the academy did a video with Aline showing her office space. And Craig, I don’t know if you have seen this video. It’s amazing and her office is incredible. So it’s over at the Henson lot.
Craig: Oh yeah, I’ve been there.
John: Yeah, and she has two writing desks. So she has one for like doing a certain kind of thing and one for doing another kind of thing, and she has two separate computers and two separate spaces.
Craig: Yeah, that’s ridiculous.
John: That’s ridiculous but that’s Aline and look what she’s been able to do. She has —
Craig: You think it’s the desks? [laughs]
John: She created a show that won a Golden Globe and we didn’t.
Craig: No, that’s absolutely true. I should probably invest in more desks. It’s so funny because I’m, I mean, I have a nice — you’ve been to my office. It’s nice.
John: Yeah, it’s nice.
Craig: It’s perfectly fine.
John: It has two rooms. Yeah.
Craig: It’s two rooms. It’s very, it’s like, you know, the kind of place that a private investigator probably worked out of in 1930.
John: I was just about to say that. It is such a private investigator’s office.
Craig: It really is, which I love. In fact I kind of like — the furniture I bought is all — the only criteria I’ve ever had is would a private investigator have this? [laughs] But honestly, especially if I’m on location and there’s an option and someone says, “Okay, where would you like to work?” The answer is, in a cave, in a CAT Scan machine. Something with — I don’t need windows, I don’t need light, I don’t need — I need a plug. Give me an outlet.
Craig: I’m very mushroom-like.
John: Yeah. There is that. Question from RJ who writes, “What are your thoughts on onomatopoeia? Pro or anti?”
Craig: Is that really something that one needs to come down on one side over?
John: I don’t think so at all. So let’s define our terms. Onomatopoeia is the technique in which you have words that sound like what they are, so roar sort of sounds like the sound a lion makes.
Onomatopoeia is awesome and I think you end up using a lot in screenplays to reflect this — you pick words that sound like what it’s going to sound like in the movie. So I think it’s actually really common.
Craig: Yeah. I don’t use it a lot. I think it can get a little cutesy if it’s overdone like anything I suppose you know. So, you know, occasionally I’ll pick up a script and someone’s got a kaboosh and a kershplat, you know, on every page.
But the script I was working on with Lindsay, there is a little bit where we wanted a chicken to just cross the road, and we wanted animals to watch it. And so I did it, and the chicken just goes brgak, B-R-G-A-K. [laughs] And I got more mileage out a brgak than all the stuff I really cared about.
John: Your poor director, when has to shoot that sequence and it is like “But the chicken won’t say brgak.”
Craig: The chicken will not say brgak.
John: It’s only funny if the chicken says brgak.
Craig: Well, we’ve started breeding them right now just for that purpose, brgak.
John: For Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we did breed squirrels specifically to do the tasks they had to do in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Craig: Squirrel. I want a squirrel.
John: Squirrels are so good. Before we get on to today’s topics, I want to back up to the previous question. If you have a suggestion for Matt about what he should do in a situation where he doesn’t have a writing space, tell us. Because I think people listening to the show probably have really good ideas for what Matt can do to not write in his studio apartment with his wife and not walk ten blocks to the cold coffee shop.
All right, let’s get to today’s topic which is how would this be a movie. And some of these were listener suggestions. Some are just things I found. But the very first one was kind of amazing and feels like why is this not a movie yet. Why has Working Title not made this movie?
So this comes to us from a listener, Mariana Garcia, and here’s the setup. So, over the Easter Holiday in 2015, so last year, millions of dollars worth of cash, gems and jewelry were stolen from this London jeweler’s facility. And it’s what we would think of as being like a safety deposit boxes, so it’s that a big secured concrete block thing with a heavy vault door and the metal box is inside.
So that kind of crime happens. What makes this so fascinating is the criminals themselves. There were eight men who pulled it off and they were almost all in their 60s and 70s.
Craig: Right. So they were calling it — what are they called, The Dad’s Army. That is what the BBC had dubbed these guys and apparently that was an old British sitcom about old people.
So, lots of different ways to go here and unfortunately, well — no, I’m sorry. Damn it, you see this is the para-narrative. Fortunately they’ve almost all have been caught. [laughs]
John: There is one person who is still on the loose. And actually before we get into like how would this be a movie. Let’s play a little clip. This is from the Metropolitan Police. They’ve put together this video that actually walks through of how they did it and it’s really great. So, we’ll have a link in the show notes to how they did it and articles about it and these video walkthroughs. But let’s play this little clip that talks through how they actually got into the vault part of this.
Male: Once in this further corridor, they were now outside the vault door in which contains 999 storage boxes.
During the first night, they spent their time drilling this 51-centimeter hole of cement but were confronted with the rear of the safe deposit cabinets. They were unsuccessful in forcing these cabinets over. And on the first night, left the premises having not made their entry into the vault itself.
They returned on the second night with an extra piece of equipment, a hydraulic pump. With this equipment they were able to force over the cabinets and make their way through the hole and into the vault.
It’s inside this vault that they broke into in excess of 70 safety deposit boxes and removed the contents and took them back up through the fire escape and out to their waiting van before making off.
John: So first off, I love this guy’s accent, it sort of sounds like Adele’s brother. Every word he says is just kind of awesome. But the actual crime itself, they went in, they thought they could do it in a night but they couldn’t get it done in a night. So like they had the gumption to like “Oh well, we need to get this special tool. So we’ll come back tomorrow night and do it tomorrow night.”
It’s just like it was three years of planning but also just a lot of stick-to-itiveness that I just — I don’t know. I feel like our millenials today couldn’t pull this off.
Craig: Absolutely. There is an old joke — it’s a dirty joke. Should I tell a dirty joke?
John: You can tell a dirty joke and we’ll bleep stuff out.
Craig: We’ll bleep stuff out. So two bulls are standing on a hill, an old bull and a young bull, and they’re looking down at this meadow where all these cows are gathered. And the young bull says to the old bull “Hey, how about we run down there and each fuck one of those cows.” And the old bull says “How about we walk down and fuck all of them?” That is the wisdom of old men. You know these guys are like I could see young guys absolutely panicking and turning on each other or getting stuck in the hole. These old guys are like, “Right. Let’s come back tomorrow with a pump.”
Craig: “No big deal.”
John: And they did it. I love that the guy like brought his heart medicine with him, like they had the whole thing planned. Ultimately, how they got caught was partly because there are some security cameras they hadn’t known about that recorded part of it. But they also were overheard bragging about it at a pub.
John: They were using Cockney Rhyming Slang but they got drunk enough that people could hear what they were saying and make it out.
Craig: Yeah that part, not so smart. So then the other, you know, I was talking once with a police detective. And I said, you know, why is it that all these criminals are so stupid? I mean, when you hear about like how they get caught, it’s always something so stupid. And he said, well, you have to understand that people that think the best way to solve their problems is crime are usually dumb. That’s kind of the deal. So they were — they are really smart about crime but then, you know, this is the problem with criminals.
Craig: They just can’t help it. It’s their flaw. That’s why there are so few people that get away with some huge crime.
John: Well, when you talk about flaws, thought, you think about great characters and —
John: It felt like this was a story that was just chock-full of great characters, not even honestly knowing the individual personalities, the people involved on this team. You just felt like there were so many great spots for really amazing characters performing the heist, investigating the heist, the family of people involved in the heist. It just felt like, I mean, it felt like a Working Title, you know, logo at the very start of this.
Craig: Yeah, I think so. I mean there is an old movie. I don’t know if you all saw this movie Going in Style.
Craig: 1979, George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. Three old men who are — I don’t know if they are in a, like they are not in an old age home but they all live in the same apartment complex. And they are just like retired and just bored to death. They don’t need to rob a bank. They just decide to do it for fun.
Craig: And they get away with it. And then, so it’s a comedy but then it’s sort of a dramedy because a couple of them die and it’s sort of sad and it’s about family and about growing old and all that. And so it’s — there has been an “Old people rob a bank” movie. These guys aren’t that old. But in a weird way, I probably — I can imagine a lot of people saying this should be a comedy. I would probably not make a comedy out of it.
John: Okay. Well let’s talk about that. So let’s talk about, I mean, you can’t really talk about genre without talking about point of view. So what is your point of view on this movie? Who are the people you want to focus on?
Craig: To me, I would think that this was about one guy who can’t quite let it go. So it’s a story about masculinity and it’s a story about the end of masculinity when you define your worth through that typical masculine point of view. Vocation, power, control, authority, strength, competition, winning. All those things are so caught up in what crime is especially when you think about stealing something from someone. It’s kind of the ultimate sports victory right?
So one of these guys can’t let the life go and some of the other ones kind of wish they could and one of them is kind of gives them that inspiring, “You guys, look at your lives. Look at how boring it is. Look at who you are. Don’t you want to live again? Don’t you want to feel?” And inspires these guys to do it but out of a sense selfishness because really it’s just his pride.
And I could see an interesting — I guess, yeah. I would probably — it is — there are comic elements inevitably. But that’s probably how I would attack this and the heart of it about, something about toxic masculinity. Because what is interesting to me is that these men have lived long enough to let that crap go and they can’t. They’re still using power equipment to destroy things, to steal money, after which they get drunk and boast about it. That is 18-year-old testosterone, you know, nonsense.
Craig: And it’s still there.
John: It’s 80 going on 18.
Craig: Right, right, and they can’t let it go. That’s the part that fascinates me.
John: So my first instinct was that — the reason why I kept say Working Title is it felt like The Full Monty but with old man robbing banks. That sense of like, you know, we’re going to show those guys and like that we’re rooting for this team of oddballs and sort of underdogs to pull off this big thing. So you would have to set up in some way that they’ve been wronged and that there’s some reason why you want them to succeed. Right now, they’re just trying to get a bunch of money and that’s great if you’re doing a normal heist movie, but I think this has to be something specific they’re trying to get. So if there’s something in one of those boxes they’re trying to get or something that have been stolen from them, then you feel victory and validation when they’re able to break in and do this thing.
We talked about with Rawson and Aline. We were talking through The Martian, we were talking through Spotlight, this idea of competency porn where it’s great to see people being really, really good at their jobs.
John: And so we could see that these guys are really, really good at the thing they’re doing but they keep facing these setbacks and I love the setbacks that happen here. I love that they like have this whole plan for how they’re going to drill through and they hit this metal box and they can’t get through it and have to figure out a new way through it. So I think plot-wise, I’m not nervous about sort of getting together a story. It’s just a matter of finding the right characters and tone and approach. There’s a various, you know, broad sort of it’s De Niro in this comedy with some other folks that isn’t as interesting to me.
Craig: No, not to me either. But you’ve raised a really interesting point if you’re going to do a heist movie. What you’re stealing has to be more interesting than what you’re stealing. So in Ocean’s 11, Ted Griffin had this wonderful scenario where George Clooney and his men are going to steal money from the Bellagio vault but really what he’s trying to steal is his wife back from the owner of the Bellagio and everything is connected to something personal that we care about because most people that go to see a movie aren’t interested in robbing a bank and that isn’t really something that they can root for fully. There has to be something connected to the object or the substance that we connect to.
So that leads you to the question, what is the need of these men or what is the need of the man who’s leading this but, you know, this is a fascinating topic because it’s a genre, right? Heist is its own genre. So this story could be told five different ways. Those five different movies could all come out the same weekend and I wouldn’t blink because they would be very different movies.
John: Yeah, and part of talking about point of view is also talking about timeline. And so is this a movie that’s tracking the three years of planning on this? Does it start when they like are breaking in to the building? Does it go on past the break-in? Does it go on through their arrest? How you sort of mark the edges of the story completely change what the actual movie feels like.
Craig: Have you seen the trailer for Eddie the Eagle yet?
John: No. What’s this?
Craig: So this whole discussion reminds me of it. Eddie the Eagle was a British ski jumper. He was in the Olympics. I think the Calgary Olympics. And he was terrible but the whole point was that England doesn’t have ski jumpers and he struggled really, really hard to get acknowledged so that he could represent Great Britain and ski jump. And it was very much a Cool Runnings kind of story but when you watch the trailer, it’s this fantastic — I mean, it’s very funny but I’m already kind of tearing up watching the trailer because it’s about this little boy who’s just desperate to be a great athlete and he’s terrible at every sport.
He’s even terrible at ski jumping but his heart is so big. And it’s this really dangerous sport, you can die doing it and he doesn’t care and he’s got this like ridiculous under bite and these big glasses and he’s just pure spirit and pure joy. And it just reminded me of this discussion because there’s a great example of taking a story like that and figuring out what actually matters and how it connects to everybody in the room. So many times, I think these things go wrong when they don’t find that thread back to you sitting in your chair, you know.
John: Absolutely. Well, going back to The Full Monty. The Full Monty is not really about stripping. The Full Monty is about, you know, these four guys coming together and, you know, sort of taking back control of their lives.
Craig: Yeah, about dignity.
John: Yeah. On the topic of strippers, both of the Magic Mike movies really aren’t about that either but they’re about that sense of like modern masculinity and that’s why they resonate so well. To this movie, the gem heist one, if I had a fantasy director for it, it would be Bart Blayton. So Bart Blayton did The Impostor. Have you see The Impostor? The documentary about the guy who pretended to be — I don’t remember if he’s British or Australian but he basically pretended to be this couple’s missing son.
John: That showed up years later and it’s a fascinating documentary. I recommended it as a One Cool Thing many years ago but I’ll put a link to that. I think Bart would do a fantastic job. I read a thing that he’s going to do next which is not this kind of heist at all but that same sense of like trying to dig into what it means to just beat the system. And I think that’s — when you talk with these guys about why they did it, they didn’t necessarily need the money. They just wanted to do something and it was sort of one of those sitting around bullshitting things. It was like, “Well, we could just actually do it.” And I think that’s a real human instinct.
Craig: It’s a really good question. I think who came to my mind was Edgar Wright.
John: Oh my god, he’d be fantastic.
Craig: Just because I think that I’d love to see him do a kind of a movie like the Cornetto trilogy but not with those guys, with old guys. Like what does that feel like? How is that different? I’d be fascinated to see like how that changes his approach in storytelling but there’s something very — you know, there are a few directors that are really good at getting into the heads of men which is its own little thing and he’s definitely one of them.
John: The other guy who would always be on this list is Joe Cornish. And so Joe Cornish from Attack the Block. And it’s one of those sort of weird situations where people who don’t work at Hollywood must say like, well, he has one movie, like why are people are so excited about him? It’s because he’s really good and he actually ends up being attached to a lot of different things and whatever he does next will be fantastic and people love him because Attack the Block was just so great.
Craig: Yeah, for sure.
John: All right. Our next how would this be a movie is this article by Theresa Fisher was the inspiration but it’s really the general syndrome that I want to talk through. It’s called sleep paralysis and in this article she talks through how this neuroscientist named Baland Jalal has been studying what happens in sleep paralysis and sort of how you get through it. Sleep paralysis is the sense that you kind of wake up but your body can’t move and you have this dread and sense that there’s somebody in your room watching you. You feel like, you know, you’re going to die, that there’s a mortal enemy there at your feet. This story talks through Pandafeche. Did I pronounce that right?
Craig: Yeah, Pandafeche.
John: Pandafeche. This sort of Italian witch, demonic witch that some Italians will encounter. But essentially, in every culture, there’s this history of people having these kind of experiences and this is one guy’s explanation about what’s actually happening when that occurs. And so I want to talk about the general idea of a sleep paralysis movie or this researcher and his findings.
Craig: Right. So it’s a really interesting topic. Our brains paralyze us while we’re dreaming so that we don’t run around and do stuff unless you’re Mike Birbiglia and then you do run around.
John: Poor Mike.
Craig: Poor Mike, who is hurling himself out of windows.
John: When you see the movie Sleepwalk with Me, you’ll see a slightly fictionalized version of his experience.
Craig: Yeah, exactly as he runs away from the jackal. But for most of us, the brain is really smart. It essentially paralyzes us so that we can experience what it means to run around and move but we aren’t. And then there’s this weird glitch that occurs where we, you know, it doesn’t seem like you become fully conscious. You are in like a weird half-in like Twilight sleepy state where you are no longer dreaming, you are awake but you’re kind of hallucinating a little bit. And you are aware that your body is paralyzed. You try and move but you can’t. This is obviously in and of itself frightening. What this researcher found was that there’s this incredibly robust consistent thing across cultures which is that people see some kind of creepy humanoid figure hovering over them in their bed.
Craig: And it manifests as a witch or as a creepy man or some sort of oil slick creature or Ted Cruz or something horrifying. And so you — so why? What’s going on there? And —
John: So —
John: So Craig, you’ve never had this happen to you?
Craig: I’ve never had it, no.
John: Oh, I have had it three times. It was absolutely true. It’s absolutely terrifying.
Craig: And so you saw the creature?
John: I saw the creature. And so the creature for me is a man made of shadows and so he has no face. He’s always just at the edge of my vision but he’s absolutely there and it is 110% terrifying. And so you try to yell out, you try to move, and you can’t do it. And eventually it just passes and then you wake up again. I would not wish it on anybody. Well, there’s some people I’d wish it on. But I wouldn’t wish it on anybody I like.
Craig: Well, there is this, you know, we know all about these out of body experiences. Very often somebody will say, “I, you know, I floated above my body when they were doing surgery on me,” and this and that. Well, as it turns out, they can actually force these things to happen in a laboratory. And it seems like this is what’s going on with this. The person you’re seeing is you. That your brain is getting incredibly confused about input and so it’s kind of giving you a memory of looking at yourself because it’s totally tripped out and misfiring. But the people that repeatedly see these demons, they’re essentially now integrating this weird trippy vision of themselves into what they understand to be culturally true.
Craig: Obviously, you hear the story and you think but what if it’s real, get me Stylez White, and, you know, give me Stylez and Juliet and let’s make a horror movie.
John: Absolutely, it lends itself so easily to a horror movie. So let’s put that on shelf for a second. Is there any other kind of genre movie you want to approach with this?
John: No. Is it even a movie? So part of me thought like, oh, is this actually more of a series and then I thought like, oh my god, it’s going to be the world’s most boring series where it’s like a bunch of sleep researchers. And that’s honestly a part of the problem with this as a cinematic concept whatsoever. It’s like you’re relying on people going to sleep and it’s like, eh. So there are examples of course. There’s Nightmare on Elm Street where people are trying not to fall asleep.
John: There is Flatliners where people are sort of deliberately killing themselves or stopping their hearts so they can crossover to the land of the death, but in general it becomes a very frustrating routine when you have people deliberately knocking themselves out in order to go into a fantasy world.
Craig: Yeah, I could see a movie where somebody is doing research on this because they don’t believe it, you know. So our hero is maybe a scientist and he comes up with a way to force it, you know. He wants to force it to be seen. Maybe a loved one died of fright as they say and so he’s on a bit of a crusade and he achieves his goal. He sees it and then he wakes up and he’s like, “Wow, that was terrifying. I’m not going to do that again.” Except now it’s out, you know, Pandafeche is coming for him. I could see that but here’s the thing, like I don’t really like these movies. So I mean people love them, I’m not a huge horror movie fan so I feel a little weird about this one but I don’t know how else you could possibly do it.
John: So I think one of the things you hit on in your approach is that you quickly moved past one of the aspects of it which is paralysis. If your movie involves people who can’t move a lot, that’s not going to be a very good character. That’s going to be a very frustrating character. So you have to find ways to allow your hero to be active in a situation where they really are naturally a passive victim and so you’re going to have to find ways to let them take some ownership of the story, take some control.
Craig: Although have you ever seen the movie Patrick?
John: I have not.
Craig: They remade it recently but it’s a 1978 Australian movie and my — I think I’ve talked about it on the podcast before. My wife was terrified by this movie as a child. Patrick is a young man who is paralyzed, I think in like a swimming pool diving accident or something and he can’t speak. So he’s in a hospital bed and he can’t speak. All he can do is he can do the following, he can go “th” or “th-th” and that’s — one is yes, two is no. And he gains telekinetic powers and begins killing and destroying from his hospital bed and he never moves.
John: That’s awesome.
Craig: He never moves. Patrick.
John: But he’s not the actual — he’s not the hero of the story so someone has to figure him out.
Craig: Yeah, definitely but he’s the villain and he didn’t go anywhere. Yeah, Patrick.
John: So I say, mixed bag on sleep paralysis. I’m going to put up a link to this article, but I feel like there’s another approach that’s probably not going to involve a sleep researcher. There’s something, I don’t know. If people have a shared vision, or there’s something, a message is being communicated from beyond there, that feels more likely the story area. I just feel like a producer could come to me with this article and I’d say, yes, but the Wikipedia entry on sleep paralysis would be about as useful.
Craig: Yeah. If somebody came to me with this, I would say, “I totally understand why you want this to be a movie, and it will be a movie, but not with me.”
Craig: I don’t know. I can’t. It’s not my thing.
John: All right. So our third and final topic is about Revenge Porn. It’s about this guy named Scott Breitenstein, who runs a site that allows for people to put up photos of their exes, basically nude photos of their exes. And the way his site called Complaints Bureau works is he will not take anything down, and so it’s becoming a notorious place for people to post revenge porn, essentially like, “You broke up with me, and I put naked pictures of you up on the site.” And it’s sort of most notoriously, not only will he not take things down. If you try to file DMCA suit to get those photos taken down, he will countersue you. So here is a clip from this to set up sort of what he’s doing.
Male: So what they do is they file a DMCA complaint, Digital Millennium Copyright Act. We disable it for the 72 hours within 10 days, 10 to 14 business days if they don’t file for an injunction, then the post is going back up, that wastes our time. So what we do is we charge them $10,000
Male: From a woman whose nude photos ended up on Complaints Bureau, and I try to get them taken down, I can end up getting sued by you, for $10,000.
Male: Right. Yes.
Male: Scott also optimizes Complaints Bureau’s search engine rankings so that people’s revenge porn is often the first thing that comes up when you Google their names.
Male: How much money do you make off these sites?
Male: I make — I make about $1,200 a month on Complaints Bureau, STD Registry and Report My Ex, some months it’s $600, some months it’s $900. Sometimes $500. It just varies.
Male: And where does that money come from?
Male: You have like Google ads?
John: Yes, so this guy’s a winner. So I’ll fast forward to essentially Kevin Roost did this documentary, interview with him, and over the course of it also played women who we’re talking about sort of like what this had done to their life, and so this guy took down all of that and basically after years of putting it all up, took all that stuff down. So that is the outcome of the real story. But I’m curious what you think the movie universe is for something about revenge porn.
Craig: It’s a real scummy little corner of the world. God, and for an amount of money that it’s just like every time you hear a documentary like this, you’re waiting for them to say, $30,000 a month. $500, like what? What? You can get that working at Walmart. Why are you doing this, you know?
John: So when you hear about these, he’s going to charge $10,000, if you don’t actually file this lengthy paperwork, that scares these women away. Essentially, it’s kind of a blackmail. I’m sure there’s a specific term for where you essentially are saying the threat of the countersuit is enough to sort of make people back away, or you just charge them.
Craig: Yeah, I get, maybe he made a little bit of money there, but it’s not like he was running a proper blackmail scam where women would write in and he would say, well, for a $5,000 fee, I will remove this. He’s saying, “No, no. I’ll sue you for $10,000 and I’ll keep it up there.”
So these guys, I mean the video is eye-opening because it’s almost too cliché, I mean you’re looking at these folks in Dayton, Ohio who just seem down on their own luck, really hardcore, self-professed Christians, who are doing the most bananas thing with no rhyme or reason, and this is what’s challenging to me about making a movie out of this.
I demand that my villains are rational. I don’t necessarily agree with what they’re doing, usually I don’t, that’s why they’re villains, and so — but I need to understand that there’s a reason for what they’re doing.
Craig: I mean sure, occasionally, you can have fun with somebody like the Joker, but even the Joker had a reason, like —
John: Yes, there’s a consistency of thought behind his actions.
Craig: Right. This is inexplicable.
John: And the fact that he backed away from doing it after all these years, basically like he didn’t have — it seems like he hadn’t actually done the introspection to figure out what he was doing. And that’s a person in the real world, but I don’t think we would take that as a dramatic character. I don’t think we’d buy into the movie if that was his same motivation.
Craig: Yeah. I guess I’m struggling with how to portray this in a way that is anything other than punishing.
John: Let’s talk about our characters in general. So the characters we could have in this universe is we have this guy who runs this terrible website. Our frustration is that the real life person is, he’s doing a despicable thing, but he’s not interesting enough, and he’s not consistent enough, he’s actually not a great character at least from what we see so far.
John: We have a journalist, we have the wronged women, and they are potentially fascinating. And so if you are a woman in the situation, you are potentially fascinating because what you’re doing and sort of how you rise up, is potentially great. There’s sort of a missing Erin Brockovich character who could be fantastic for this.
I wonder honestly if the villain of this story is essentially part of the reason why I left Google in there is essentially, Google is what’s making this possible. He’s selling Google ads — are paying him his $1,200 a month off this, is that you know, there’s some systemic villain who might be the real person you want to go after here.
Craig: The problem is that Google, $1,200 for Google is a rounding error in their coffee budget for the day, you know, it’s like, I don’t believe that they are — my guess is, they had no idea, it’s just the robots are, you know, picking up crumbs of money from everywhere. There’s a movie to do, maybe that gets off of the website completely, and connects into somebody who does it.
So a guy posts a woman’s picture, and she comes after him. You know, I could see a revenge movie, I could see a cat and mouse game.
John: Yeah, that’s actually really interesting. So I think the systemic movie is basically Spotlight. I think you could do a movie that is essentially Spotlight that is taking down revenge porn. So, the same way Spotlight was about the Catholic Church and pedophilia, this would be about the revenge porn and the industry that is protecting revenge porn out there.
But the personal version of the story doesn’t involve computers to anywhere to the same degree. It’s really about sort of what is the relationship between these two people now that they’re no longer together. And what is the motivation behind revenge porn? What is the drive to punish somebody who has wronged you? That sense of, you know, betrayal, and that would drive someone to post these nude photos.
Craig: Yeah, there is a cinematic tradition of revenge against people that sexually exploit others through media. So thinking of the movie Hardcore, the George C. Scott film, there was, I think the Joel Schumacher film, 8mm.
Craig: Joel Schumacher did that one? So about an underage girl who is caught up in the world of pornography, or people making snuff films which as it turns out, I think is just ultimately an urban legend. Somewhere I read an interesting article that it just doesn’t exist. But so there’s that kind of old school way of doing it where a girl has her picture posted online as part of a revenge porn, she kills herself, the father decides he’s going to track those bastards down with a shotgun. And we actually like stories like that, I think.
John: We do.
Craig: They’re very satisfying in a very primal way in that kind of — there’s something deep in our evolutionary genetics where we want to see daddy hurt somebody who hurt his little girl. But it’s been done, there’s nothing new to say there, and it’s also distasteful. You know, as an aside, don’t let people take pictures of you naked, just don’t do it. And don’t send them pictures of yourself naked. And I know that there are people that do it all the time. But I don’t. I mean, I don’t have anyone to send them to anyway, [laughs] but you know, I just don’t.
John: I whole-heartedly agree with you, Craig. And at the same time, I want to acknowledge that my endorsing that advice doesn’t mean that somebody who does take pictures of themselves naked is a bad person, or that there’s anything, I don’t know, I don’t want to undermine the ability of you do you, and if you’re doing you, that does not give anyone else permission to post those photos.
And so I don’t want to sort of — I think there’s a victim blaming that can naturally happen whenever I give the advice to not take pictures of yourself naked, but of course, that would be my general blanket advice is that, we know we live in a time where you can never count on anything not getting out. And so the only way you can make sure that there are no naked pictures of yourself is to make sure there are no naked pictures of yourself.
Craig: Exactly, exactly. There’s nothing — it’s not a crime to take a naked picture of yourself, it’s not a crime to take a picture of somebody you love, or any of that, but it’s not prudent. There’s a difference between something that is acceptable and okay, and something that’s imprudent. It’s just imprudent because you’re relying on the goodness of other people. And I do rely on the goodness of other people every time I cross the street, I just hope to god that I’m crossing in front of the guy that doesn’t like running over people, but then there are situations where I’m like, I just don’t know you well enough to bank all of this on that.
John: That’s why I’m always making eye contact with that person before I cross in front of the car because if I made eye contact, I know they saw me. If I don’t make the eye contact, I’m just not convinced.
Craig: So funny, I do the opposite. I don’t make eye contact because I feel if I look into their eyes, they’re going to be challenged.
John: They’ll recognize that they should just hit the accelerator.
Craig: They’re either going to see something in me, or they’re going to feel like I know who they are, really, and then they hit the gas.
John: So circling back to don’t take naked photos of yourself, I think if you are going to make the revenge porn movie, that has to be an argument that’s raised in the course of the movie because that is a meaningful part of this, is that, there’s a natural instinct to blame the victim here and say like, well, you shouldn’t have let him take photos of you. And so I think you have to raise that as an issue because the audience will think that as well and so address it. You have to hang a lantern on that idea and make sure you are really doing an interesting job of dramatizing that argument and that discussion.
Going back to your sense of the revenge story, so it’s the daughter who killed herself, it’s the father who’s going after this guy. The guy he arrives at the house, finally to confront, if it’s this guy, it’s interesting. I don’t know if it’s dramatically satisfying for the movie, but I think he is an interesting character because he’s not this terrible demon that we sort would assume that he is. I think you might be kind of — you might end the movie kind of frustrated the same way I was frustrated at the end of Prisoners, or at the end of Zachariah where it was just like, well, but I wanted some closure, you’re not giving me closure.
Craig: Well, if you arrive at this guy’s house and confront him, the frustration for you, the hero, and we in the audience that are identifying with you, is that this guy is a dullard. He’s not — there’s nothing there, it’s almost like you’re — what are you going to do? You’re going to beat up a guy that’s kind of — low IQ, checked out, depressed or something. Like, I don’t know what was going on with that guy. He just seemed so weirdly disengaged with his own life and his own thing. Like, here’s a news crew coming to talk to you about this website that has affected, like at one point, they show some post with revenge porn, and a guy has put up a woman’s pictures, and he shows that a million people essentially have looked at them. And he just doesn’t seem to care about any of it. He seems so weirdly detached.
We don’t want weirdly detached villains that have — when we get them in movies, we’re waiting for that moment where we finally go, “Oh, that’s the thing. That’s the thing. There’s the sickness.” There’s just nothing to this guy.
John: Yeah, that’s frustrating. Basically, we’re anticipating an argument that never comes, we’re anticipating a showdown that never actually happens, which actually reminds me of my sort of New Year’s resolution for this year, which was to stop having imaginary arguments. There’s a bad tendency I’ve noticed with myself, and I’ve always done it, but I think I’ve just been much more aware of it recently, is something will annoy me, or piss me off, and I’ll anticipate the conversation I’m going to have with that person, and I will spend an hour thinking thorough like, well, they’re going to say this, and I’m going to say that. Basically, I’ll work through all of my arguments and all of my points specifically and clearly, but then, that phone call never happens, it never comes. Or if it does come, I’m never able to say the things I wanted to say because I’ve scripted this thing, this interaction that will never actually happen. And so my 2016 goal is to not waste the time to have those imaginary arguments.
Craig: That’s a good goal because, yeah, that’s — well, it’s just silly, John.
John: It’s just silly.
Craig: Later, after this podcast, John will have an hour-long argument with me in his head about why it’s not so silly.
John: 100 percent true.
Craig: I’ll show you.
John: Craig, out of the three movies we discussed today, which of these do you think will actually happen?
Craig: Easter gem heist.
John: I completely agree.
Craig: Yeah, no question. There’s just so many different ways to do it, and people love heists and it just feels like there’s way more opportunity for human drama.
John: I agree. I think it’s time for some One Cool Things.
Craig: I put one here, but I’m going to throw a little audible, because I just remembered something. I watched a documentary the other day that I thought was great and in the middle of it Kayla Alpert appeared.
John: I love Kayla Alpert. She is a writer and friend of ours.
Craig: Yeah. She just appears in the middle of this movie. So the movie is called, Do I Sound Gay? Have you heard of this movie?
John: I’ve heard of this movie and Dan Savage is also, who is a previous podcast guest, in there, too.
Craig: Yes he is, as well as George Takei, and Margaret Cho, and David Sedaris who is hysterical as always. And it’s a documentary done by a guy named David Thorpe, and it talks about this really fascinating thing that everybody is kind of aware of and yet nobody has ever really thought about it as thoroughly as this guy does. And it’s the speech patterns of gay men and how some gay men you listen, you go, “Oh yeah, you sound gay.” And this is a man who wants to sound less gay. And he goes through this interesting journey where he talks about it with his friends, he talks about it with straight people, he talks about it with gay people.
He shows you a straight guy that everyone thinks sounds gay. He shows you a gay man that everyone thinks sounds straight. He talks to linguists, he talks to a straight linguist, gay linguist. They analyze speech down to these little bitsy things. They get into this whole thing about the lisp, you know, there’s the stereotype of the gay lisp, and it’s actually not a lisp, it’s just a sibilance.
And David Sedaris tells this amazing story about how he was in speech therapy as a kid, and they were all boys in the speech therapy class. And as he grew up, he kept meeting other gay men who are like, “Oh yeah, I was in speech therapy,” and he would meet so few straight people in speech therapy. And he finally realized, like oh my god, all of those kids in that class were gay. We just all sounded gay, and they put us in speech therapy. It’s a really interesting movie about this fascinating topic. And I liked it. I just liked the way it ended, and I liked how kind of honest and confrontational it was about this quirky little aspect of human communication.
So it is available on iTunes and Amazon, and all that stuff. So, Do I Sound Gay by David Thorpe.
John: Fantastic. My One Cool Thing is how Mickey Mouse avoids the public domain. So we talked about copyright and copyright extension on our program previously, but this was a really good article by Zachary Crockett for Priceonomics that talks through sort of how copyright extension has kept Mickey Mouse from falling into the public domain which it should have many years ago, and many times before. And essentially, we keep kicking the can back, and we extend copyright for years longer than it was originally supposed to be. So it’s not just Mickey Mouse that stayed under copyright, but a whole bunch of works that should be public domain are not public domain because we keep extending it.
Right now, I think it’s up through 2023, but inevitably it’s going to extend longer, and it really raises the question of, “What is copyright supposed to do, what is it actually doing, what is the sort of function copyright serves society, and to what degree is it disserving society by extending it for so long?
So as screenwriters, we like copyright because copyright lets us get paid for our work. Hooray. But as people who actually need to make things, it can be really frustrating that certain things are impossible to make because of copyright extension.
Craig: Yeah. There’s no question that our law in this country has been weirdly distorted by one character. And you can understand why. Disney, I mean because, you know, okay whatever, so let’s say it goes into public domain, whoop-dee-do. Well, you know, there’s all that Disney World here and Disney World there. I mean, they have this enormous business built around this character. And it’s not so much that they would stop having that business, I mean, look, they don’t make Mickey Mouse cartoons anymore. They have Star Wars now, they have Pixar, they have Marvel, they have all this stuff that makes money. They’ll be fine.
It’s just more that I think they don’t want the black eye of other people, you know, kind of lampooning Mickey Mouse in front of them. I mean, once Mickey Mouse is in public domain, the next thing you will see that day is porn in which Mickey is having sex with Minnie.
John: Yeah. So the kicker I think to this article which is absolutely true, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot, is Disney has trademark over the Mickey Mouse character, his design, and a lot of other things. So even when the copyright on Mickey Mouse goes away, that trademark thing will be incredibly difficult to get around. And because their whole identity, because their logo is his ears and stuff like that, they’re still going to have so much protection over that image that’s going to persist beyond that.
So it’s a mess, but I think this is a good article, really showing how the Mickey situation has influenced the way we’re able to approach things. And if you really look at Disney’s output, so many of their movies are based on stories that would not be in the public domain if the same copyright law had applied.
Craig: Oh yeah, I mean, that’s the fascinating thing about Disney, is that they have done an incredible job exploiting a wealth of works in the public domain while savagely guarding their own original creations from being in the public domain. So you get Cinderella, and you get Maleficent, and you get Sleeping Beauty and you get —
John: The Little Mermaid which is actually very specifically the Hans Christian Andersen Story.
John: So yeah.
Craig: That’s right. Exactly. I mean, tons of it, almost all of it.
Craig: It’s kind of amazing. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens. It’s going to be harder for them, I think, to re-extend it once it goes past 2023. It’s going to be hard.
John: Cool. All right. That’s our show for this week. As always, you can find the links to many of the things we talked about on today’s program at johnaugust.com/scriptnotes. You can also find all of Scriptnotes, all the back episodes, at scriptnotes.net if you want some of those previous episodes. You can pay us $2 a month, and that gives you access to all the back episodes, and you can also listen to them through the Scriptnotes app which is available on the app store for both Android and for IOS.
If you are on iTunes for any other purpose, please do stop by and leave us a review on iTunes for Scriptnotes, this podcast you’re listening to. That actually really does help people find out about us, and every once in a while, Apple will feature us and it’s just great to have new people listen to our show. So thank you for that. So leave us a comment because we actually do read through those. And maybe next week, we’ll make it a goal to read some of our favorite comments from that.
Craig: Great, sure.
John: Up on the air. If you would like to write something to Craig, he’s on Twitter, @clmazin, I am @johnaugust on Twitter. For longer questions like the ones we addressed today, you can write in to email@example.com. Our show, as always, is produced by Stuart Friedel. It’s edited by Matthew Chilelli.
Our outro this week is by Martine Charnow and this is actually something she found, I believe. So this is from a Honda Days thing, so basically an ad and the Honda Days little theme music is actually the Scriptnotes outro.
John: So put together a couple of notes and they’re going to sound the same. So if you have a Scriptnotes outro you’d like to send to us, just write in to firstname.lastname@example.org and provide us a link like Martine did. And Craig, I will see you next time at the live show on the 25th.
John: With our great guests, Jason Bateman, and Lawrence Kasdan. This is coming out right before then. So if you’re listening to this, you can still check to see if there are tickets, there might still be some tickets left. That’s at hollywoodheart.org/upcoming. Craig, thank you so much.
Craig: Thanks, John.
- 10 Cloverfield Lane trailer
- Rachel Bloom at the Golden Globes, and on Scriptnotes, 175
- Kvell at Merriam-Webster
- Andrea Berloff on Scriptnotes, 144 and the Bonus Straight Outta Compton episode, and the Bonus Drew Goddard episode
- Tickets are now available to see John talk to Andrea, Drew and more at the Writers Guild Foundation Beyond Words panel on February 4
- Get your tickets now for Scriptnotes, Live on January 25 with Jason Bateman and Lawrence Kasdan, a benefit for Hollywood HEART
- On February 13, John will receive the WGA’s 2016 Valentine Davies Award
- Creative Spark: Aline Brosh McKenna
- 7 British Men Guilty Of Massive Easter Gem Heist on NPR
- Eddie the Eagle trailer
- The Imposter on Wikipedia
- The Demon Vanquisher by Theresa Fisher, on sleep paralysis
- Dream Warriors by Dokken
- Patrick on IMDb
- At Home with a Revenge Porn Mogul, from Fusion
- Do I Sound Gay?
- Priceonomics on How Mickey Mouse Evades the Public Domain
- Outro submitted by Martine Charnow (send us yours!)