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 Episode 237 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

Today on the program, we are going to look at how you introduce characters in a screenplay and how to avoid being mocked on a Twitter feed for it.

Craig: [laughs]

John: We’ll also discuss writing two projects at once and answer a bunch of follow-up questions.

So Craig, we are a little bit late starting because you were just writing on a script and asked for five more minutes. So in those five more minutes, did you finish the scene you were working on?

Craig: I did. It’s such a weird feeling when you — it’s so hard to start writing.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So then when you’re writing and then you’re like, “I know what to do. I’m getting there. I’m just,” you know, you’re inside of a line or whatever, and you know you’ve got three more lines and you know how it ends, and you just — you can’t stop.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s all about inertia.

John: Yeah. It is mostly about inertia. Writing is inertia.

Yesterday, I was doing some kind of non-writing work. I was like pasting some stuff from different things, getting some documents ready, and sort of accidentally ended up writing a scene. It was just delightful. It’s like, “Oh, well, I’m kind of in this. That seems like the dialogue. I’ll just write the dialogue.” And boom, a scene is done.

Craig: Isn’t it amazing how much easier it is when you’re not trying?

John: Yeah.

Craig: God, our life.

John: Some follow-up from previous episodes. First, the most exciting piece of follow-up this week. Last week on the show, my One Cool Thing was The Katering Show.

Craig: Yeah.

John: A great web series by Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney. And you put a challenge out to our listeners.

Craig: And the challenge was, “Go get us Kate and Kate.” [laughs] Let them know that we want them to be on our show and that we want to make them famous.

John: Yes. And so through Twitter and through other means, you guys reached out to them. They reached back out to us. And so we were going to try to do them on — have them on Skype and talk via Skype to Australia. But they said, “You know, it could be even easier if we did this in person.” And they are coming to the United States in April to promote the second season of their show. And so we will try to have them on while they’re in the United States.

Craig: Oh, we are going to have them on the show while they’re in the United States. And also make them famous. We’re going to make them famous.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I mean, famouser.

John: Famouser. I do definitely detect that situation of like, well, they could be famous for Australia. But like, when we say famous, we mean famous in the United States and therefore famous in the world. And we think they should be more famous.

Craig: Yeah. We mean United States famous.

John: We want them Rebel Wilson famous.

Craig: We want them R-Dub famous.

John: Indeed.

Craig: By the way, isn’t it — I mean, these are their real names, right? Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney?

John: They are.

Craig: It’s just so bizarre.

John: Isn’t it so weird, the Lennan, McCartney?

Craig: It’s so close to Lennon and McCartney.

John: And they’re both Kates. It is really strange.

Craig: Yeah. Well —

John: Wouldn’t it be weird if they deliberately changed their names planning for this?

Craig: It’d be kind of cool.

John: It would be kind of cool. They both also have young babies, so it’s an exciting time in life.

Craig: Oh, well they should bring their babies.

John: They should bring their babies. I would hope they would. I suspect they’ll bring their babies to Los Angeles.

Craig: You know what? If they bring their babies, then maybe I’ll bring my daughter, and your daughter and my daughter can babysit their babies.

John: Completely a plan.

Craig: Hey Kate and Kate, our daughters mistakenly killed your babies. [laughs] But —

John: The good news is — I don’t know if there’s any good news.

Craig: Yeah. And also, we can’t make you famouser. But thanks for being on the show.

John: Yeah. I mean, it’ll definitely shine a spotlight on something. [laughs]

Craig: That, by the way, that should be the sequel to Spotlight, this next movie. [laughs]

John: How our daughters killed some Australian babies. [laughs]

Craig: And that’s — the tagline is, “This time we’re shining a spotlight on something.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: I love it.

John: Did you see Spotlight? Craig didn’t see Spotlight. You didn’t see any movies.

Craig: What? What? No, I did. I have. That’s not true. I have seen a bunch. I’m just still making my way through my stack.

John: All right.

Also in last week’s episode, we talked about the Top 100 movies and how many of them were franchises, basically — it’s basically either the start of a franchise or a member of the franchise.

George from Plymouth, UK, wrote in to say, “Given that a sequel can’t happen without the first movie, and given that the first movie has to be pretty damn good to spawn a sequel, and given that pretty damn good is a necessary characteristic of the Top 100 Movies, shouldn’t your list exclude the first movies to properly reflect the franchise phenomenon?”

So George is basically asking for a list that is just the sequels and not any origin films. And so if we do that, the answer still is 72 or 73 of the top movies in the box office worldwide in all history are sequels.

Craig: Wow. That’s remarkable.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Yeah, it’s still up — and you know, George from Plymouth makes a good point.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So you have to — I think we talked a bit about that in the episode where, you know, you can’t — some of our frustrations as screenwriters is you’ll pitch something that is an original idea and it’s like, “Yes, but we also want to make the sequel to this thing.” It’s like, well, you don’t get to make sequels unless you make the first movie.

Craig: Exactly. Exactly.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So — yeah. Now, some of those non-sequels may have been based on books.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So I don’t count those.

John: Many of them are.

Craig: Yeah. So then to me they’re not really the first of a thing, like it wasn’t a big risk to make Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

John: It was not.

Craig: No.

John: No.

And actually, Maleficent is the reason why I’m saying 72 or 73. Do you consider that a sequel to Sleeping Beauty? Well, kind of. It’s based on Sleeping Beauty’s story, but like it’s not necessarily a sequel to Walt Disney’s version of Sleeping Beauty.

Craig: Yeah. I would say no, because that movie could have been made at another studio.

John: Yeah.

Craig: You know, so it’s not — I don’t see it as continuous of that chain.

John: Yeah, right.

Craig: Like for instance, whatever the latest Wolfman movie was, I don’t think of that as a sequel to The Wolf Man movies with Lon Chaney Jr.

John: Yeah. I agree with you there.

Also, last week, we talked about Final Draft and the state of screenwriting software. And there were a bunch of listeners writing in with some follow-up emails about that. So we’ll try to chug through a few of them.

Craig: All right. Well —

John: So you start.

Craig: So we did hear a lot from people who said, “Au contraire, Write Brothers, the company that makes Movie Magic Screenwriter, they have been updating their software.” And in fact, that very day our episode came out, a lot of people said, “Hey, there’s a new update to that software. It’s now 6.2.1. It’s fixed a bunch of bugs and has a bunch of new features.”

Here’s the issue with that. That’s an incremental update. That’s not really a new version. So you know, Movie Magic 6 has been stuck on 6 for years now. And the fact that they’ve gone up to 6.2.1 is nice. So for instance, now you can import Final Draft files. But that’s kind of crazy that you couldn’t prior to that because everybody else is able — has been able to do that for a long time.

So, look, I loved Movie Magic Screenwriter. I used to be, you know, a big supporter of theirs. And I was an endorser of their product. But it just stagnated. They don’t —

John: Yeah.

Craig: They’re not really still in the game. I mean, if Movie Magic Screenwriter 7 comes out and blows us all away, great. But —

John: Yeah.

Craig: It seems like they’ve withered.

John: Yeah. So this new update also fixes iPartner, which I guess is their simultaneous screenwriting thing, so like, you know, two different people can be working on a script over the internet.

Craig: Yeah. That never worked.

John: And that had not been working for like two whole system software versions.

Craig: Right.

John: So that it isn’t — it’s not great that it sat fallow for so long, but I guess I am happy that they are still updating their product and there still seems to be like someone in the office fixing bugs.

Craig: Yeah, that’s the — I guess that’s how I’d put it because when you see that they have a new update to software that hasn’t had a major revision in years, and one of the new features is new spellchecker and thesaurus, I think, “Oh, boy. There may only be one person over there.”

And I feel bad because they — you know, for a long time, I thought their software was superior to Final Draft’s. I mean, you know me. [laughs] I feel like — I feel like a bucket of rocks roughly arranged in the shape of a keyboard is better than Final Draft. But they — yeah, I don’t think 6.2.1 quite is what we meant by updated.

John: Yeah.

Steve wrote in to ask, “To shorten page counts, I like to format my scripts in Final Draft’s tight mode rather than normal. I don’t use very tight because it’s very hard to read. I never use loose because I can’t imagine anyone ever wanting to lengthen a script. So tight it is.

“My writers’ group teases me about this saying it’s cheating. Is it cheating? Is tight format acceptable by the industry? If not, then why is it an option? I haven’t used any other screenwriting software, so I don’t know if this feature is specific to Final Draft or not.”

Craig: You know, this comes up a lot. It’s not specific to Final Draft. I know that Fade In has a similar thing where it’s not kerning. And I think actually both Final Draft and Fade In have kerning, which is the amount of space in between letters —

John: Yeah.

Craig: Horizontally.

John: Which you would never want to —

Craig: No.

John: Never change that.

Craig: No, because that really does affect readability. This thing is about tightening up the vertical space in between successive lines. And —

John: So cramming more lines on the page.

Craig: Correct, cramming more line in the page. So your writers’ group teases you about this saying it’s cheating. Is it cheating? Yeah, it’s cheating for sure. In fact, I think a lot of — I think in Fade In they might even call it cheat. [laughs] Because that’s what it is. Of course it’s cheating.

Is it acceptable by the industry? Yeah. If you write a brilliant script with tight formatting, they’re going to make your movie and you’re going to be a millionaire. [laughs]

They’ll reformat it before they put it through the budget process. And they may come back to you and say, “Hey, per the AD and the physical production department, your 119-page script is actually 138 pages. And we need to discuss because we may have to make some cuts.”

John: Yup.

Craig: But at that point you’ve won and you can deal with it. I know lots and lots of writers who do this. Scott Frank, I think, has not not done this, ever, you know. It’s like — because he’s always over, you know. Always.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So —

John: I think what we should do is we should have to weigh the blank pieces of paper and then weigh the pages, the piece of paper with toner on them. And therefore, we can see how many actual — how much the weight of the script. That’s how we’re going to start budgeting now. It’s on — based on the weight of the toner on the page.

Craig: That’s the most John August solution to a problem ever.

John: So let’s talk about acceptable cheating.

So I don’t think you should use tight and — because I can always see tight and I can always tell that you’re cheating and therefore I say like, “Well, this script is actually long.” I just — you could — it’s very easy to see when someone is using tight.

Here is acceptable cheating in my book. As you go through your script, if there is a word, especially in dialogue that is breaking to the next line, you can sometimes cheat the little margin on that dialogue block to pull that word up. You do that enough and do it cleverly enough, you can sometimes pull a page or even two pages out of a 120-page script.

Craig: Yup.

John: That to me is acceptable cheating. You may even find yourself carefully rewriting a line of scene description so that it doesn’t break across a page. That is a thing that is acceptable cheating.

Craig: I agree. That’s not even — to me, that’s not even cheating at that point because —

John: Yes.

Craig: You know, the idea is you don’t want to get penalized for a word, you know.

John: Yeah.

Craig: The only thing about tight, I will say, is that I’ve used it once. I’m not a fan, in general. I did use it once and I used it because my producer, Lindsay Doran, said, “You know, it would be great if this script seemed a little shorter, but I don’t want you to make it shorter. And the thing about your pages is there’s more white space on your pages than any other writer I’ve ever read. It’s just like seas of milk.”

Because I like — I hit that return key all the time. I like spreading my stuff out, you know. And so she’s like, “Given that, go for tight.”

John: All right.

Craig: So that was like, okay. You know, if you — if you really are writing a very kind of expanded style, then probably it’s okay. Tight in bricks of text is going to be brutal.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And tight in Fade In didn’t even seem — it was hard to actually notice. I did a real careful comparison. Tight in Final Draft I think may be nastier.

John: Andrew wrote in to ask, “I have set Microsoft Word up with all the styles and formatting so I can choose slug line, dialogue, or parentheticals, and automatically format them as required. I have headings throughout so I can click a button and number the slugs. Or pages, I have code built in to sort out the continueds in pages. I can do any format I want and it’s free.”

It’s not really free because you already own it.

Craig: Yeah.

John: “I have tried various formats out there, including Final Draft, and really can’t see any advantage over my system.”

Well —

Craig: So, good. [laughs]

John: So, good.

Craig: Cool.

John: So let me — let’s talk about that. So my very first script, Go, was written in Microsoft Word. And I think people used to use Word a lot more often to do screenwriting.

Craig: Yeah.

John: The reason why they moved to Final Draft or other screenwriting applications is there are some things that a dedicated screenwriting app can actually just do better.

And here’s an example of something that’s coded into Highland, but also because it’s coded into Final Draft and all the other ones, too. Let’s say you’re approaching the bottom of a page and you have some scene description that’s going to have to break between — from one page to the next page. A screenwriting app is smart enough to detect, okay, this is what’s going to happen. Can I cheat this line up onto the previous page or can I add an extra line to the bottom of this page? Or if I can’t do that, can I break this paragraph at the period —

Craig: Right.

John: So that it can flow better across the page? And it’s one of those things that screenwriting apps just do behind the scenes to make your pages look better, so you are never starting page three in the middle of a sentence. You’re always starting page three at the start of a sentence.

With a lot of macros, you could probably get Microsoft Word to do that. But it’s not its natural way of handling things. And when it comes time for revisions, starred revisions, or the more complicated things, you’re going to very quickly run into some obstacles in Word where it’s just not built to do that kind of thing.

Craig: Yeah. I’m not sure why Andrew wrote in. He seems to be incredibly confident and satisfied with his system. So, cool. I mean —

John: Cool.

Craig: If you’re happy doing it the way you do it, just keep on doing it, you know. I don’t have any problem with that. I mean, I wouldn’t do it that way. I remember, like you, in the old, old days before I drove down to Santa Monica to buy Final Draft that I had to use Microsoft Word, and it sucked. And yeah, you can totally customize it and trick it out, but why? I mean, I don’t know. He’s happy. What am I going to do?

What am I going to do with you, Andrew? You’re happy. What do you want?

John: Yeah.

Craig: Here’s one from — ooh, Arieto and Rowie from Wellington, New Zealand.

Wellington, New Zealand. Arieto and Rowie. “My writing partner and I use WriterDuet. The feature we like most is that it allows us to both edit the same document simultaneously.”

Yup, that is in fact what they do over there.

“We really love this way of working together. Could you talk about some other work flows for writing teams to write collaboratively?”

John: All right.

So I know that David Wain and his whole group on Children’s Hospital, they tend to write in Google Docs. And so they will have a Google Doc which will be the script or the ideas for the script, and they’ll start working on it. And each of them will write in a different color, I think, so they can see and they can leave notes for each other in different colors. They’re using Fountain for that, so they’re just writing it Fountain and then they bring it into Highland or another app to make it into a screenplay when it’s all finished up.

So Google docs is at least, it’s free, and everyone sort of has it, so that’s a way you can work. But I know a lot of writing teams who are even in the same room, and they will be, like they will just have two monitors hooked up to the same computer, and they’ll literally be working on the same screen so they don’t have to look at each other, but they can both be looking at what’s on the screen, which seems crazy, but people do.

Craig: But is one person driving on the keyboard or are they both looking at the same Google doc?

John: Sometimes they’re actually not even using Google docs. Sometimes they’re actually just using, it’s like, it’s literally up in Highland or Final Draft, and they are both looking on their own monitors at the exact same document at the same time.

Craig: I see.

John: Or they’re doing screen sharing so they’re looking at the same. So, either one could control it at a time.

Craig: Yes, there’s lots of ways to do this, I mean we have now, we live in a time now where document sharing and multiple editing, multiple simultaneous editing is doable. That is relatively new, so most of the modalities go back to the times before that. Very typically, the old school way of doing things, so for you, Arieto and Rowie, one way was Arieto would write some pages, and he would email it over to Rowie, Rowie would revise those and send them back to Arieto along with some new pages that Rowie had written. Obviously, they have an outline so they know what they’re doing, and they’re just editing back and forth and asterisking, and coloring, so they know, okay, this is the change, or that’s the change, and then kind of like the way two chambers of legislature get together in conference, then everything gets molded together and decided together.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s a very common way for writers to have worked in the past. I personally, I find the idea of working simultaneously with somebody where both people are on a keyboard controlling something like WriterDuet or like Google docs, I find it anxiety-ridden for me, the idea that I’m typing something and someone is changing what I’m typing while I’m typing it. Oh my god, I need a moment, you know, like I need a moment or at least a chance to get a line out so we can both look at it.

So like when Todd Phillips and I write together, we do both, we do what I just described, the write and swap, and then we also sometimes will sit together. Once we — when we’re rewriting, we’ll sit together and I’ll usually drive because I type faster, via Apple, what do they call it, AirPlay to a TV in the office over there, and we just do it like that line by line. But at least there’s like, there’s something that’s already been written. Don’t you immediately start to feel nervous about somebody writing over you while you’re writing?

John: Yeah, it does seem strange and difficult. So what I was describing with Children’s Hospital like that seems to make sense where you’re just like you’re spit-balling out ideas and everyone is just sort of like throwing stuff around in it and that would make more sense, but when you actually know what you’re writing, I feel like the classic technique of like you do this, and I’ll do that and then we’ll page it together is probably going to be a better solution for you.

The few times I’ve written with somebody, like I wrote a script with Jordan Mechner, we had our outline and we just like broke up the scenes and he wrote those, I wrote these, we put them all together. He did a pass through, I did a pass through, and that was the script. And when you talk to people who are in TV writing rooms, I hear a combination of systems that they’re using.

So sometimes they all have to work together and we’re not going to use that word that we used to use for working on a script together, but if they’re all working together, sometimes they’re all staring at a screen, but more often, they’re breaking off and different people are doing different things and they’re pasting it all together.

Craig: Absolutely true.

John: And your point about writing on the same document at the same time, my limited experience with it is actually how we do the show, and so we’re both looking at the same outline which is in Workflowy, and there are situations where like you’ll be adding something while I’m adding something, and it is really confusing. While it’s remarkable that we have the technology to do it, I find it really disorienting.

Craig: Yes, especially when you have two people that are very good at typing or actually even worse if one person is really good at typing and the other one isn’t, like if Rowie is awesome at typing and Arieto is not, and then Arieto is like, come one, let me just get my sentence out. [laughs] Rowie’s like, “Sorry, sorry I’m on the next page. Your sentence is no longer applicable.” Oh, it makes me nervous.

John: Yeah, it makes me nervous, too.

Craig: Yeah.

John: All right, Patrick, our final question about screenwriting software, he writes, “My first question is for John. Are there any plans to port Highland or any of the Quote-Unquote Apps project to Windows or PC? I work out off a PC simply because that’s all I’ve been able to afford and would like to support the Scriptnotes/Quote-Unquote brand.” The answer is no, we’re not porting anything over to PC mostly because we don’t know how, we don’t have the expertise to do it, but also all the apps we make are using kind of very specific only Apple stuff and so it would be very hard for us to do it. So the simple answer is no, they are going to be Macintosh or iOS for the time-being because everything is sort of built on technology that only exists in the Apple universe.

Craig: I use Mac like you do, and I have Parallels installed because occasionally I run into a program that is Windows-only and it works gorgeously because when Apple switched over to Intel, it became sort of academic to do that. Is there something that goes in the other direction for people that are on PC where they could use an emulator?

John: That is a great question that I do not have the answer for. So if you are a listener who knows the answer to that question, let us know. My hunch, my guess is going to be no, because if you look at sort of how Windows works, Windows is software that you install on a computer versus Macintosh is the computer and it’s a software altogether and Apple doesn’t really sell that stuff separately, you don’t just go and buy it off the shelf and put it in whatever computer you want.

Craig: Well, we’ll see what happens.

John: Someone will tell us.

Craig: Yeah, someone will tell us. I’m just wondering like maybe even — I bet like I’m sure it’s easy enough for things like terminal apps, you know, I mean, Unix stuff. I’m sure there’s some kind of emulator.

John: Yeah. The second question is for both of us. What writing software would you recommend for playwriting, would it be Fade In or something else? You’re doing some broadway kind of things. What are you using for that?

Craig: Well, the screenplay I’m writing now is a musical, so I actually had to think about how am I going to do this, because I’m writing these songs, but I’m describing songs and putting in sample lyrics but there is no music yet that comes, you know, I’m sort of providing this as grist for the music mill, and then we’ll go back and forth.

And so I just thought like, you know what, I think I’m just going to stick within my regular — because so much of it is regular screenplay, and then when I get to those moments, I’ll call it out, and I’m just going to put everything in italics, and that’s the song.

John: That’s a song.

Craig: And it’s just sort of in its own kind of formatted existence. If I were writing a play, particularly a non-musical play, yeah, I think I would probably just use Fade In or you know, why not?

John: Yeah, there’s really no reason not to and especially because you’re familiar with it. I’ve written a lot of movie musicals and before I even built Highland, I would just stick those lyrics in italics and that’s just sort of how you do it. And so, dialogue blocks but with everything in italics, you can tell it’s being sung. For Highland, we actually have a built in lyrics format, so you start a line with a tilde and it becomes lyrics. And so if you’re using a template that is designed for a screenplay, it does exactly what I described, so it looks like a dialogue, but it’s in italics. If you’re doing something that looks like a stage play, it puts the lyrics over on the left hand margin in all uppercase, just the way you would do it in a real stage play.

Craig: Well, there you go.

John: There you go.

Craig: Yeah.

John: All right, some non-screen writing software questions. Matthew Cain writes in, “Given that Hollywood is notorious for its flexibility in the definition of producer, what exactly does Stuart Friedel do?”

Craig: What does he do?

John: Can you tell us what Stuart does?

Craig: Yes, I can.

John: Okay.

Craig: Matthew Chilelli, our editor, our fine editor, edits the show, and then Stuart listens for errors like audio proofreading, prooflistening, he prooflistens, he builds the list of links in the show notes, he actually uploads the show to the Internet, and Interweb tubes so that you can all get them, he edits the transcripts. That’s a big one, actually.

John: It is a big one. It takes so much more time. I don’t — because he’s doing that down stairs I’m not sort of watching him do it, but that’s hours each week he’s going through the transcripts.

Craig: Because the transcripts are being done overseas, I assume.

John: They’re being done somewhere. We’re deliberately not asking who’s doing them.

Craig: It’s children, isn’t it?

John: It’s probably children in Nigeria.

Craig: Well, you know, of all the things that children are pressed into, work-wise across the world, you know, transcripts is probably one of the safer gigs. So we get these raw transcripts and then obviously there are a ton of mistakes and so Stuart goes through and edits those very carefully. And I love the fact that we have transcripts. To me it’s terrific. And Stuart also, big thing is, he reads all the emails that we get and we do get a lot of them. Obviously he goes through our Three Page Challenges and picks those, and Stuart coordinates with the outside world. For instance, oh, I didn’t even know that this happened. Craig’s audio from Adam McKay and Charles Randolph’s Big Short discussion.

John: Absolutely. So a few weeks ago on the podcast, you had mentioned that you had done this session for Writers Guild Foundation, and we said, “Oh, we should get the audio,” and neither of us did that, and so I just told Stuart, “Please get that audio,” and he got that audio, so we’re going to be putting that up in the premium feed.

Craig: Fantastic, that’s great, that was a fun night. So Stuart actually does quite a bit. It’s distressing, actually, how much he does.

John: Yes. So even though Stuart is actually away while we’re recording the show, he is in Toronto, I think seeing a basketball tournament, he’s somewhere else, but he will be listening to this audio probably on Monday, and generating the list of links and so therefore the show will go up Tuesday morning as always. So we record the show usually on a Friday, sometimes a Thursday, sometimes a Saturday, but it’s Stuart who does the work on Mondays so that it could actually go up on a Tuesday.

Craig: I like that. I like that Stuart’s week begins with our nonsense.

John: Yes, indeed. A guy in your Twitter feed asked, “I went for a general meeting on one of the studio lots last week. They had valet parking. Should I tip these valets?”

Craig: Yeah. So Paramount has valet, you’re right, Warner Bros, usually I’m there to see Todd so I park like in one of his spots, but if you’re there for a general meeting with a Warner Bros executive, they do have that little area in front of their fancy building where they have valets, and then Sony has a valet, if you’re parking on the lot as opposed to — because every lot has like a structure or like — so Paramount doesn’t have a structure, they have this just massive huge parking lot in front of this crazy big wall that serves as a giant blue screen. But most of the other places have a parking structure, and then if you get fancy enough, you go like to the cool place and there might be a valet.

Here’s the thing, like somebody said, well, why wouldn’t you — why not tip? Why would you even pause? I do tip, but the reason I pause is because I think, am I insulting them? Like do they think like, dude, this isn’t a restaurant, we’re paid well by the studio. But they’ve never been upset about the tip, so I think it’s okay.

John: I think it’s okay. The reason why I think I pause about it is because Sony used to have a sign saying like, gratuity is already included, basically saying like don’t tip. It was actually right by the stand. So I was like, oh, okay. So these are Sony employees, they’re not working for somebody else, like you wouldn’t tip the receptionist, but it does feel like in a general sense in Los Angeles, anyone who touches your car, you kind of give them a tip.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So I guess I’m pro tip on this, but I don’t soft of, I don’t know. And if somebody from one of the studios wants to reach out and tell us like, no, no, no, you should never tip these people because they are actually paid in a way that’s not supposed to be a tipping —

Craig: But even then like, okay, so how much are you paying them, really? What are you paying them, $90,000 a year? I mean, they’re not — my whole thing is, I don’t care what Paramount thinks. If the valet guys aren’t like, dude, you know, then yes, I’m tipping them.

John: What has become more challenging is I find I don’t carry as much cash as I used to.

Craig: Right.

John: And I often will not have small bills and so then I’ll be in situations where like, I don’t have any small bills, so I’m not going to tip the guy a $20.

Craig: But my move is always to say, “Hey, do you have blank back?” And then they give you, you know what I mean?

John: Yeah. So then you’re actually — it’s a weird negotiation.

Craig: I never had a problem with that. The thing that freaks me out is, because I’m like you, like most people, cash economy is dwindling, so I pull in, I get out, and then blah, blah, blah, I come back to get my car, and it’s like, oh how much is the valet? It’s $6. And I look at my wallet and I have exactly $6.

John: Oh no.

Craig: And then I’m like, this guy is looking at this jerk in his Tesla, who’s not tipping him. And I am always like, I’m so sorry, I only have $6. And they’re like, it’s okay. But it’s not okay, it’s not.

John: Okay, I think I may have hit on why it feels so different on a studio lot. All the other situations where you’re valet parking, basically, you are paying for that service already, so the tip is on top of whatever the fee was for valet, and so you’re breaking whatever that unit of money is, and money was already exchanged and so you’re giving a tip on the money exchange. Here, there wasn’t any money exchanged. And so it feels a little bit strange to suddenly be bringing money into this relationship.

Craig: Maybe that’s what it is, is that that’s why I feel like sometimes they might turn to me and go, “What am I, a hooker to you?”

John: And that’s also a sort of situation I run into with tipping in Uber because you can tip Uber. And I think actually considering how low they’ve been pushing their drivers for their rates, it’s actually a nice idea to tip Uber. But it feels weird to tip Uber because there was no cash being exchanged before that moment. So unlike a taxi where you’re paying the person cash, or like swiping your card and putting a tip on it, there wasn’t an automatic way to do that.

Craig: But wait, I thought the whole thing with Uber was the tip’s built in?

John: The tip’s not really built it, but the fare is negotiated, but the tip isn’t built in. There’s not an automatic 20%.

Craig: That’s not what I was told. I was told that the tip is built in, and you don’t tip them.

John: Well, I will tell you that over the last three months, we’ve consistently been tipping our Uber drivers and they’ve been very appreciative.

Craig: Of course they’ve been appreciative. What I’m saying is —

John: Of course the valet people at the studios have been appreciative.

Craig: I know, but come on, the Uber guy, when you’re like suddenly you’re getting jammed for $110 because of their whatever, hold on, I’m looking this up. I feel like, yeah, there’s no need to tip.

John: Okay. Should you tip Uber?

Craig: I’m looking at the Uber website.

John: Well, at the Uber website, they don’t want you to tip.

Craig: They don’t want you to tip because it’s priced in.

John: Right. Let’s see what else.

Craig: Should you tip your Uber driver? This is great. People are now — this podcast is a great podcast.

John: By the way, we’re going to pause the podcast for a little while, while we do some reading on screen, so we would welcome your thoughts on whether you should tip at studio valets, and more importantly, whether you should tip Uber and Lyft drivers. I think Lyft actually has an easy automatic way to build in that tip.

Craig: That’s different.

John: Let us know what you think. You can write to us on Twitter, or actually, this would be a great use for our Facebook feed. So just go to, just search for Scriptnotes there. And on this episode, let us know what you think about tipping in these situations.

Craig: That sounds fine, but I think I’m right.

John: Yeah. All right, let us go down to our next big topic which is this Twitter feed that sort of blew up this week. And when I said it blew up this week, it’s like it didn’t exist before this week. This thing is only like only like three days old, and it almost has more followers than Craig Mazin on Twitter.

Craig: Well you know, it’s a credit to a good idea. I mean, what this — I assume that this is a — is this a real name? Ross Putnam?

John: It’s a real person who Stuart knows.

Craig: Okay, so Ross had this idea to just start posting, tweeting the character descriptions in screenplays he was reading, and specifically character descriptions of female characters. And all he did was just replace every character’s name with the generic name, Jane. And what became clear after about seven or eight of these was just how bad these character introductions were. And, obviously — well, I don’t know how obvious — I think the point was, look, there is a kind of just a rampant clumsy sexism in the way that these, I assume, mostly male screenwriters are calling out their female characters. And that is true. Although beyond it, what was of even greater concern to me was just how crappy the writing was.

And these two things are not unrelated. The isms, and the bad writing, are not unrelated. So, I thought it might be a good idea for the two of us to take this topic on and talk about how to write a good character intro.

John: Let’s do it. So we’ll start with a little teaser sampler of some of the tweets that he put out. Basically, these are the character descriptions, and then we’ll look at some other things, both from our Three Page Challenges and from some of the award nominated scripts from this year, and see if we can tell one from the other.

So I’m going to start at the bottom of his feed, his very first tweet. “Jane, 28, athletic but sexy, a natural beauty. Most days, she wears jeans, and she makes them look good.”

Craig: [laugh] That’s just terrible. Here’s this one. “A gorgeous woman, Jane, 23, is a little tipsy dancing naked on her big bed, as adorable as she is sexy.” And then he writes, “Bonus points for being the first line.” That’s the first line of the script. I love it.

John: “This is Jane, she’s live, leggy, spirited, outgoing, not afraid to speak her mind, with a sense of humor as dry as the Sonoran desert.”

Craig: “His wife, Jane, is making dinner and watching CNN on a small TV. She was model-pretty once, but living an actual life has taken its toll.”

John: Yeah. Let’s do one last one. “Though drop-dead beautiful, Jane, 40, has the appearance of someone whose confidence has been shaken. She’s a raw sexual force impeded.”

Craig: Yeah, well.

John: I don’t know what that is.

Craig: You know what, listen, how many times have you sat through an acting class and done the exercise of exhibiting raw sexual force impeded? It’s a classic. It’s right up there with the you be a mirror of me. That’s crazy. There is a real problem. So it’s a problem, it’s a sexism problem, and it’s also a bad writing problem. So we should talk about — we have our own examples by the way.

John: Yeah, let’s go through some of our own examples because I wanted to look at some of the Three Page Challenges that we’ve actually already done on the show, and in some cases we did single out the descriptions, in other cases, we didn’t. But I went through and did the same thing with some of our Three Page Challenge samples. So should we just do a sampling of these?

Craig: Yeah, we’ll do a smattering, yeah. So from our Three Page Challenges, we have — and you know what, I’ll do a guy so you can hear what guys sound like and girls sound like. “Jack, 33, skinny and ferret-faced, and Joe, 21, chubby and baby-faced, sit atop two ragged-looking horses staring down a stretch of two-lane black top baking in the relentless Texas sun.”

John: All right. “Jane, mid 20s, sits at her desk, meticulously sketching in a notebook. Her doe eyes and cardigans would suggest she’s probably drawing a unicorn.”

Craig: [laughs] I kind of like that one actually. I like both of those so far. So far we’re doing pretty well. “Jane, early 20s, darts around her mildly cluttered bedroom, half-dressed in khakis and a white tank top as voice mail messages play on speaker.”

John: Hmm, okay. “In the last row of the plane sits Jane, 20s, redhead. Breathless and frantic, she keeps her eyes on the front of a shadowy cabin as she shoves a small digital camera into a Ziploc bag.”

Craig: The redhead is maybe —

John: Yeah, the redhead is the question.

Craig: Yeah.

John: All right, let’s take a look at some of the Oscar-nominated scripts from this year.

Craig: Okay.

John: And so I won’t tell you who they’re from and I’ve replaced everything with Jane so you won’t know.

Craig: Right. “Jane, an intensely smart 15-year-old, curious and strong, but not jaded, walks through the seedy sprawling park.”

John: “One of the front doors opens and out slips Jane, early 20s, open faced and pretty without knowing it.”

Craig: There’s pretty without knowing it.

John: Yeah.

Craig: “Jane, the same age as Jenny, but large and simple-minded. Her mouth is usually open indicating her lack of comprehension at more or less any given moment.” That is so good. I love that. [laughs]

John: All right, do you know which — those last two are from the same movie. Do you know which movie that was?

Craig: No.

John: Brooklyn.

Craig: Oh.

John: Yeah. All right, let’s take a look at some men.

Craig: Okay.

John: So these are also from nominated films. “Jack, late 30s, good looks, so-so haircut, sits at his unholy mess of a desk.”

Craig: “Jack, 40s, good looks, quick with a story and a smile, walks into the posh room, finds Sasha and Robbie.”

John: “This is Jack, dark, attractive, white teeth, muscular.”

Craig: “Jack, a young-looking intern, puts a green tea down in front of Diana.”

John: “Jack, 34, a guy with the attitude and libido of a 15-year-old, sits on the end of the couch and stares blankly at the Carol Burnett Show on the TV drinking a Schlitz beer.”

Craig: You know, this is perhaps evidence that the problem here may be more of just the way that people approach this task of writing these things than it is a question of isms because the males ones, and these are from nominated screenplays, the male ones are seemingly falling — I mean, how many attractives and good-lookings and, yeah, so it’s quite a bit of attractives and good-lookings there.

John: So as I was putting together these things from the nominated scripts, one of the patterns I did notice is like, a lot of times, the characters were not actually described, like they were not physically described at all. And so I didn’t have anything to put in here because the characters just started speaking.

Craig: Right.

John: And that can be a lovely choice. It doesn’t create the image for your reader, but in some cases you don’t need that because you’re going to give them a strong action to begin with. So I was struck by how many of the scripts basically did none of the standard line of sort of setting a person up.

Craig: Well, the standard lines are hard to do well because there are 14 billion screenplays in the world, 99.9 of which are terrible, and they all are chunked with these things, all of this detritus of character descriptions that have become so cliché and so tropey.

John: Let’s look at what makes a bad intro.

Craig: Yeah, okay. So I’ll start with a couple of the obvious ones, cliché, and what I call a cliché with a twist. So what are clichés for these things? Hot chicks, gorgeous guys, stunning, handsome, beautiful. These things show up all the time. We are aware that generally speaking the men and women in movies are better looking than the rest of us. We know. If their physical beauty is not mission critical to the story itself, then I’m not sure we need to even say it anymore. I don’t think it’s necessary.

John: Yeah. There could be situations where the beauty actually is important. And if you didn’t understand that this character was beautiful, you might not understand what was going on in the scene or sort of how — why characters were acting to that character in that way. So it’s not a blanket statement that you should never describe a person as being attractive, but there has to be a really good reason for why you’re saying that.

Craig: Precisely. And always remember, you have the option of revealing something about that character through another character’s actions and reactions and responses. So you don’t have to — any time you’re pelting somebody in the face with this fourth wall breaking comment, which we don’t do anywhere else in the screenplay, really, you’re robbing yourself of a chance for the reader to discover this on their own through the behaviors of other characters, which is a more interesting way of getting it across, I think.

The cliché with a twist which we’ve seen even in the nominated thing is hot but doesn’t know it, handsome without trying, beautiful if only she’d smile, menacing but with gentle eyes. You see this more than anything. The fake pretense of the false contradiction. I don’t know how else to put it.

John: Yeah, men are always ruggedly handsome.

Craig: Ruggedly handsome, but —

John: Yes, yes.

Craig: [laughs] That’s the thing. Women are always, yeah, just gorgeous and sexy, but…

John: Or, so many times, I have seen the “was once was hot, but now is a mom.”

Craig: Like first of all, what the F? Like, because moms are so gross?

John: Moms are gross.

Craig: Like I’m married to one, okay? I mean, what is that? And I know part of it we’re going to go, well, it’s 24 year old dudes writing about what they know and what they like, and moms are gross to them and everything, but then, don’t write mom characters if you think moms are gross. You haven’t grown up enough. You’re not allowed to write screenplays. Beat it.

I mean, there are some things you can’t — like this is one of those areas where I’m not going to say check your privilege. Check your biases, just check them. Like really think about what you’re doing here because these characters, you’re supposed to be caring for them, you’re supposed to know them, they’re supposed to be real to you.

You don’t walk up to your mom’s friend and go, “You know, you’re not hot anymore, but you once were, I bet.” You would never do. It’s a horrible thing to say, and it’s crazy, and it’s reductive, and it’s probably not even accurate.

John: Yeah.

Craig: She’s either still hot, or never was.

John: So if you’re describing the character in that situation, there could be a very good reason for like, you know, if she’s crying her mascara off, well, that’s telling you about the scene that she’s in, that’s great, but as a general blanket statement about who a person is as she likes walks into an office, that’s not going to be your good friend there.

Craig: Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, and again, that’s the difference between this news bulletin of this character’s blah, blah, blah, and the screenplay unfolding through action. So then we touched on this a little bit, the ism crimes. So sexism, racism, ageism. Even if you take the moral component out entirely, the problem with those kinds of introductions, and we see quite a bit of them in Ross’ feed, is that they’re boring. They’re super-duper boring. The first rule of screenwriting is don’t be boring. If you write something like she’s sicko-hot with like a smoking bod and blah, blah, blah, I’m bored to tears. Yeah, you’re a sexist, that’s bad. But worse, you’re boring.

John: Don’t be boring.

Craig: Don’t be boring.

John: Alright, let’s take that, what makes a good intro. What are the things you look for in a character introduction that says, ah-ha, this is going to be a character that I’m eager to follow, or I get this person. What helps?

Craig: Well, interestingly, you brought up an important point. Sometimes, almost nothing. Sometimes, you want to let people discover this person on their own, which is a wonderful way of doing it. I look back through a lot of my scripts, and look back and I found an interesting pattern emerge. And I think I do an okay job of these things or at least I think better than some of the things I read on Ross’ feed.

So here’s what I’ve noticed, there are physical essentials that I will sometimes include if they are important for context for the reader. And those include gender, age, race, height, and body type. Body type very rarely, usually and height very rarely. It’s usually gender, age, and then I try and imply race through choice of names, but occasionally, I will call it out. Sometimes I don’t want to specify, sometimes I want it to be open.

But the thing that I have found and I did not realize this until I went back and did this. Over and over and over, and I see it in a lot of the scripts that we cite here from the nominations as well, are wardrobe, hair, and makeup. They talk about wardrobe, hair, and makeup in these character introductions, constantly. And these are three things that I think a lot of screenwriters never think about at all. So wardrobe, hair, and makeup, seems maybe superficial, but they are three key production departments. Some of your best professionals on your movie, and certainly some of your most important professionals on your movie, are going to be the people in charge of wardrobe, hair, and makeup. Costuming is critical. It tells you so much about somebody, what they’re wearing.

Not every character wears definitive clothing, but a lot of them do. It’s a great tool for you to visually get across something about somebody right away.

John: So what I think you’re calling out for is not to be specific about every hairstyle and every wardrobe choice, but to give a sense of who that person is so you can tee off those other departments so they can do their best possible job. And when there is a need to be very specific about something, be specific about it. If you’re going to make a joke about a guy’s mustache, give him a mustache when we first see him so we’re not visualizing the person without a mustache and suddenly we have to like re-contextualize him so that this mustache joke works.

Craig: Exactly. And I think the idea is to call out things that are noticeable, right? If I turn on a movie and I see somebody walking down the street and they’re wearing khakis and an Oxford, and a blazer, there’s really nothing about it. I may say, you know, “Oh, they’re preppy,” but I don’t really know. But if there’s something specific, and specifics are good things, call them out. Hair, I’m not necessarily all about saying what color the hair is, or how long the hair is, but hair is, and unfortunately for you and me, hair is one of the things on the human body that indicates current physical status better than anything else.

Bedraggled, tussled, muscled, sweaty, coifed, gelled, hair is such a quick imparter of information. And so I’m always thinking about hair. And I should mention that, and a lot of people don’t know this if they haven’t gone through production. When you make a movie, the very first thing that is shot on every major motion picture is a wardrobe, hair, and makeup test. And there’s good reason for that.

Everybody else, everybody else involved in the making of the movie, is obsessed with that these people are going to look like because that is going to be in the audience’s faces for the entire run of the movie.

John: And in the trailers. So, people are going to make up their mind about whether to see this movie based on the trailer and based on the hairstyle that you have put that actor in.

Craig: And the wardrobe, right?

John: Yeah.

Craig: So sometimes I’m always looking for these areas where screenwriters begin to segregate themselves through lack of choice, and this is one of those areas. We should be completely on top of this and thinking about this all the time. Wardrobe, hair, and makeup. Makeup is not, “Okay, well, she has eye shadow and mascara.” No, makeup is are they tan, are they dirty, do they have a scar, are they aged, weathered, is there a bruise, all that stuff, that great, great stuff.

These things are as important to movies as sound. And so if you’re thinking about how to approach introducing a character without falling down the pit of clichéd or clichéd with a twist, just stop and think about wardrobe, hair, and makeup for men and women.

John: So right now, I fear that a lot of aspiring screenwriter are going, “Oh, no, I have to go back through my script and describe all their hair and makeup and wardrobe.”

Craig: No. [laughs]

John: And that’s not at all what we’re saying.

Craig: It is not.

John: But I think what Craig is calling for is, in your head, you need to be thinking about those things and visualizing those things. And if there are specific details that are going to help inform that character, be specific about those details so that they can be there so they can actually help ground this character in the reality of your situation.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And it may also give you ideas for scenes or for business within scenes that are really appropriate. So two people having a conversation can sort of happen anywhere, but two people having a conversation while they’re trying to fix their hair might be appropriate for your movie. There might be a reason why you’re going to be able to use some of the physical aspects of your character to really help sell a scene and therefore help sell your movie.

Craig: Yeah, I’m going to read you a few of these character intros from the nominated screenplays and now process it through what I’ve just talked about with wardrobe, hair, and makeup.

“Angela’s mother, Jane, 47, sits in the second row of the packed sanctuary, her petite yet chunky frame loaded with enough costume jewelry to furnish a mall kiosk.” Wardrobe. Wardrobe.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Then let’s do some guys. “Here is Jack, 50 but looks 70, unwashed, hair stringy, granular thickness everywhere, forehead barnacled with scars, fingers mangled in a permanent curl as if gripping a ball.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Hair and makeup.

John: Indeed.

Craig: Love it.

John: Can you tell me which movie that last description was from?

Craig: Why do you going to do this to me? [laughs] No.

John: That’s Concussion by Peter Landesman.

Craig: Oh, I didn’t see that one.

John: All right.

Craig: Yeah, that’s why.

John: All right.

Craig: That makes sense.

John: You missed it.

Craig: Yeah.

John: But it’s specific. And that was actually an important specificity for the nature of that movie because what that guy looks like is incredibly important for your ability to understand what is happening to these football players and what’s up next.

Craig: Yeah. And so John’s admonition here is well taken to heart. You don’t want to now go bananas about this, right? But when you’re talking, I’m just telling you what I care about as a reader. And particularly, what I think people that direct movies and produce movies care about as readers. I don’t care how super sexy hot she is. If that comes out of a relationship or the actions of the movie, then that is sexuality expressing itself the way it does in the world. And that’s interesting to me.

But when you’re giving me the news bulletin, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to ask yourself, “Do I need to say anything? And if I do, what’s the hair like? What’s the clothes like? What’s the makeup like?”

John: Mm-hmm.

Craig: It tells more than you think.

John: I think you’re right.

All right, let’s wrap that up and quickly get to our final question of the day which came from Samuel Davis who writes, “I’m currently halfway through my first screenplay. I’ve been marching along just fine until this other idea for a completely different script started creeping in. So I gave it a quick outline. I’m very excited about that new one. So should I write both at the same time? I’ve heard it is good to write two projects at once. I guess my question is, is this normal to have multiple ideas flying and stowing away for later? I feel like I’m cheating on my serious girlfriend script with this hot new idea script.”

Craig: Because you are. [laughs]

John: You are. You totally are, you bad boy.

Craig: That’s what you’re doing, yeah. You’re like, “Oh, who’s this?”

John: All right, so first off, let us say that every writer I’ve ever met has had this situation where the thing you’re writing is fine, but this new idea is so much better. And mostly that new idea you’ll find is better because you’re not stuck in the middle of it. And it’s tempting because you see all the problems with the current script you’re writing and the new idea has no problems because you haven’t started writing it yet.

Craig: [laughs]

John: That is almost always the case.

Craig: This is basically why marriages end, too. [laughs] I think you’re basically describing infidelity of all kinds.

John: Yeah.

Craig: That’s absolutely true. The other thing that happens to me, I don’t know if this happens with you John, but right now I’m on page 94, so I’m steaming towards the conclusion here. And inevitably a certain kind of depression starts to seep in. And I don’t know if it’s the result of just the end of the long journey, but sometimes I think it’s because all of the world of open possibilities is narrowing down until it disappears. Because when you type ‘The End,’ that is the thing.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And when you consider this new sexy idea, Sam, well, there’s the world of possibilities there. Anything can happen instead of all the things that are supposed to happen in this one.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But you got to go through and finish, man.

John: So let’s address this whole writing two things at once. Should you write two things at once? No. You should not write two things at once. Whoever told you that is telling you something wrong.

Craig: [laughs]

John: You cannot put two things first. It’s actually impossible to put two things first. So right now, I’m writing something. I am in first position on this thing. It is most of my brain and time because that is the main thing I’m writing. But there are some things I have to go back and do some quick fixes on. And that is inevitably the life of a working writer is like there’s times where like I’m going to spend two hours so I can fix this thing that is about to shoot or there’s something else coming up that I’m going to need to deal with. But I’m not trying to write two first drafts at the same time because if you try to do that, you will make yourself miserable. And both drafts will be worse for it.

Craig: I can’t even describe what that would be like because I haven’t even considered trying to do it.

John: No.

Craig: It just sounds like madness. Like you, there are times when I have to put what I’m working on aside to go do something else. Like last week, I had to go and tweak a little bit of voiceover for The Huntsman. So, you know, I thought, “All right, this is no big deal. I’ll do this little voiceover tweak. It’ll take me an hour. Then I’ll go to the office and go back to my script.” Nope, that day was done because that was it. [laughs]

John: Yeah.

Craig: It was like gears had shifted, they weren’t shifting back and that’s that. And so I try my best to really just work on one thing at a time.

John: Yeah. And it’s a lovely luxury when you can just work on one thing at a time. And so if you’re at the beginning of your career and you can really just focus in on that one thing, enjoy that. Like it be all consuming while you’re writing it. And then you can get to this other idea afterwards.

Now, there are times when that new idea is genuinely a better idea, so if you’re not very far into that first project, I would say if you’re a person who feels comfortable describing the things you’re working on, tell both ideas to a few friends, try not to color them and make them think one is better and just like ask your friends which one was more appealing to you.

Also, back on Episode 100, I gave my sort of standard advice. If you’re deciding between two projects, write the one that has the better ending because that’s going to be just the better movie overall. It’s so easy to think of good ideas for how things start, it’s very difficult to think of great ideas for how things end. So write the one with the good ending because you will actually finish that one and it’s more likely to be a good script.

Craig: Agreed.

John: Cool. Let’s do some One Cool Things. Craig, oh, I’m so excited. I see this on the document here. I don’t know what it is. But it sounds miraculous.

Craig: [laughs] It is. It is. So this actually comes via my son who came home from school and his science teacher had run this little experiment with the kids in his class and it involved this thing called the miracle berry. So the miracle berry is an actual berry. I don’t know its real name. It’s native to West Africa. And they’ve known about it for decades now. It contains a compound that when they isolated it, they called it miraculin because they can do stupid things like that.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Here’s what miraculin does. So they take miraculin out and they mix it with little potato starch, turn it into a little tablet. You stick the tablet on your tongue, you let it dissolve, it takes about a minute. It doesn’t in and of itself taste like anything.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Here’s what it does. It appears to bind to the taste receptors in your tongue for about an hour and it essentially converts sour and bitter flavors to sweet.

John: All right.

Craig: So what happens is anything that you eat is now suddenly sweet. Sweet things are unbearably sweet. So my daughter and I just did an experiment the other day. It’s amazing. So for instance, tomatoes taste like grapes, but they also taste like tomatoes, but they taste like grapes. It’s freaking amazing. The other thing that it worked great on were berries. Because, you know, sometimes berries can be like tart, you know.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And so people do frequently sugar them. It’s like, you know, like when you get that one magical strawberry that’s perfectly sweet, that’s the way they all taste. All of them, every last one of them, even like the weird hard green one when you use this miracle berry thing, it’s kind of amazing. And then you just go around your kitchen trying different things. Like okay, let me try an onion. Oh my god, it tastes like an apple. Let me try — like we have an orange tree in our yard that makes the sourest oranges on the planet.

John: Yeah, I know what that is. Yeah.

Craig: Oh my god, they were the best tasting oranges ever. In fact, they even warn you. They’re like, look, if you take lemon juice and drink it, it will taste like lemonade but don’t do that because you’ll burn your insides. I loved it. I just thought it was the most fun. You can buy it on Amazon. It’s expensive. Like a pack of these things is like $15 or $20 and maybe get like eight of them. But, you know, it’s worth it just for funsies once. I wouldn’t use it every day, but I thought it was great.

John: It does sort of feel like an Instagram filter for food. It’s just like, you know.

Craig: Yeah. Basically, yeah.

John: Like I want my flavors to be just like a little bit more idealized.

Craig: Yeah, it’s like airbrushing.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It’s flavor brushing.

John: Yeah, indeed. My One Cool Thing is Christians Against Dinosaurs. And so it is a website. Click through, Craig, now. Because I’ll be fascinated to hear what you think about it. It is a site that is describing a Christian point of view against the belief and study in dinosaurs. And I find it fascinating, but I also genuinely don’t know.

Craig: It is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. [laughs]

John: So here’s the thing. It’s like it could be completely real or could be a really brilliant satire parody. And what I find so fascinating is the tension between those two things, it could be both sort of simultaneously. I just found it wonderful and maddening at the same time.

Craig: It’s got to be a parody because they’re linking to a video called “Heavy Metal and Dinosaurs – what’s the connection?”

John: Yeah. But look through the other stuff. It’s done so remarkably deadpan that I just found it —

Craig: Yeah, no, it’s definitely a parody. I’m looking at their sign, “Stegosaurus, not in my name.” Yeah, no, that’s a parody. But it’s really funny. This is the problem, what are they called, Poe’s Law, when you can’t tell the difference between extreme position and its own parody? Teaching others to deny the dinosaur lie and accept the Lord. That is great. [laughs]

John: So it’s really well done. It’s fascinating, if you click through on YouTube and to any of the videos and stuff, you’ll see all of these downloads saying like you’re stupid, you’re an idiot, like this is real. And people believe it and I sort of half believe it. Here’s the thing is: I think that there are people who are liking this who generally do believe it’s real. My suspicion is that the Christians Against Dinosaur site is a parody. And yet, it’s done so perfectly that a person who believes in sort of the biblical story of creation and that dinosaurs don’t fit into that might genuinely ascribe to a lot of these beliefs so I just found it great. And so I invite people to click through and weigh in with your own opinions on the site.

All right. And that’s our show for this week. So as always, our show is edited by Matthew Chilelli. It is produced by Stuart Friedel who does all the things that Craig described in the podcast above about his difficult job, so thank you Stuart. If you have a question for us like the ones we answered, you can write into If you have short things for me or for Craig, I’m @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin on Twitter. The longer things would also be great on the Facebook page. We promise we’ll actually check the Facebook page. So if you have opinions on tipping, let us know. Just leave us your opinions on the Facebook page for that.

Our outro this week comes from Adam Lastname. That’s how it shows up in the feed. But Adam wrote three brilliant things, so we’re going to be hearing three brilliant things from Adam Lastname over the weeks to come. If you have an outro you’d like to have us play on the show, write to and provide us a link and we will gladly listen to it. So that is our show. Craig, thank you so much. Have a great week.

Craig: Thanks, John. Bye.

John: Bye.