The original post for this episode can be found here.
Previously on Scriptnotes.
John August: Subject: Podcasts. Wondering if you’d have any interest in doing a joint podcast on screenwriting?
Craig Mazin: A podcast would solve my “I want to talk about screenwriting, but I’m tired of writing about screenwriting” problem. So, yes, count me in.
John: Bonjour. Et Bienvenue. Je m’appelle John August.
Craig: Je m’appelle Craig Mazin.
John: There’s NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month. I’m strongly considering actually just doing it this year.
John: And there’s an idea I have that is not a movie idea, or at least it’s not an idea that wants to exist first as a movie. And so I’m thinking about actually doing it this year and writing a book.
Bin Lee asks, “When can we hear Stuart’s voice on the podcast?”
Craig: I don’t know. I mean, we could just keep him like Maris, Niles’s wife on Frasier. Sort of a presence.
John: Indeed. Like in Fight Club the whole time through. I’ve always – I’ve actually been Stuart the whole time through.
Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 259 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the season finale of Scriptnotes, we have major announcements about the future of the show that listeners may find exciting and/or troubling. So, if you’re driving a car, please don’t swerve and hit a Pokémon Go player.
You might want until you get to a safe space. We will also be discussing that computer algorithm that says that there are only six plots, which is pretty much a layup. And, Craig, welcome. You are here in person. This was a big show, so we couldn’t do this by Skype. You had to be here live.
Craig: No, I had to be here live. I wanted to be here live. I did, unfortunately, mow down 14 Pokémon Go players.
John: Were they in a parking lot?
Craig: And nothing of value was lost.
Craig: I mean, what? What?
John: So, here’s what we were talking about before you came. It’s like if a Pokémon player dies while collecting Pokémon, do they all spray out like the rings like from Sonic the Hedgehog?
Craig: That would be amazing, because then the amount of murders – Pokémon Go related murders. Because then we would be living in Grand Theft Auto 5.
John: Yeah. It kind of feels like we already are. So, it’s a nice time.
Craig: Actually, that reminds me of my One Cool Thing. Because, as you know, I do believe in the fact that we are. But there’s maybe a way out. So, my One Cool Thing is going to be about the way out of that. But, no, I’m happy to be here. It’s very exciting. I don’t know what season finale of Scriptnotes means, since I believe our new season starts next week.
John: Our new season starts next week. But this is the end of five seasons. So, this is our fifth anniversary we’re coming up on.
John: Which is crazy.
Craig: What you get me?
John: Uh, nothing. I got you some changes. I got you some changes to the show, which is sort of exciting, too.
Craig: I hope they’re good ones.
John: And the reason I was thinking about the season finale concept is that when a television series comes to its series finale, there are certain things that are sort of tropes that are going to happen. And so there tends to be the defeat of a big, bad villain. I don’t know if we have any villains on our show. Do we have any villains?
John: Well, yeah. We have the death of a major character. The removal of a major character. Someone leaves the show. We have a change of venue.
John: He’s not a venue. He’s sort of a world onto himself.
Craig: Right. Good point. Good point.
John: We have meta conversations about the series and sort of how far we’ve come. There’s always that thing. There’s always that thing where you’re reflecting back on sort of all the stuff you did. Or like, hey, do you remember when.
John: So like at the end of a season of Survivor they used to do that thing where they had like all the torches, the torches of the fallen, and they got through all that. Jeff Probst listens to the show, so–
Craig: I know! I know. I think you and I are one of the 12 people that he follows on Twitter, which I think is fantastic. I was for a long time a longstanding Survivor watcher. It is a huge commitment of your life to be a first season to current season Survivor watcher.
John: I’ve watched every season.
Craig: That’s amazing. Admittedly, I – my wife continues, but I fell off somewhere in there. But that show is brilliant.
John: It’s really, really good. And so on that show they would always pass the torches of the fallen. And basically it felt like a huge filler, but it was excuse for showing footage of all the people who used to be on the show who are no longer on the show.
Craig: Well, it’s like in the Hunger Games when somebody dies, and then they show their face in the clouds. And they play sad music.
John: Yeah. But the last thing you always do on a season finale is really set up the next season. So that the wheels are in motion for next season. And like True Blood used to do a really good job of like they’d wrap up all their business like halfway through the final episode of the season, and then like introduce the whole new thing that was going to happen. Sort of tease that next thing.
John: Or in books sometimes they’ll have the first chapter of the next book at the end of the book. The kids’ series will have that.
Craig: Yeah, like when the season – I think two seasons ago on Game of Thrones, the last shot was Arya Stark heading off to Bravos. So, you knew, okay, exciting things would be happening with her in Bravos, which curiously just was kind of a zero in terms of it’s actual – like the one thing I can criticize about what those guys have done character-wise, and I don’t even think it’s their fault, because I think they had to… – It’s like, look, that’s a huge chunk of the books. But, narratively, if she had missed that boat and then hit her head and slept for two years, she’d be right back where she is now.
Well, with little changes.
John: With little changes.
Craig: Yeah. Little changes. She’s got some new skills.
John: So, we are to some degree sailing off to Bravos. Hopefully there will be some growth and some change, but that’s this episode.
And so we’re going to dig into it after we do some follow up. And we’ll start with some boat follow up, though. So, in an earlier episode we talked about magical dad transformation comedies, and someone brought up the Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell comedy, Overboard. And we both, I think, commented that like that movie is really dark when you think about it.
Craig: Yeah. The actual circumstances of Overboard require a man to take massive advantage of a brain-injured woman, gaslight her, total gas-lighting her into believing that. And then kind of employ her as a domestic slave. And then also have sex with her.
Craig: And then in the end convince her to stay of her own volition.
John: So a troubling premise, really. And so we said on the show, someone could easily recut that trailer as a dark kind of thriller. And one of our listeners – because we have the best listeners in the entire world–
Craig: We do.
John: Did this. So, Fredrik Limi, we’ll provide a link in the show notes, he did what’s sort of a David Fincher version of it called Girl Gone Overboard. And it’s nicely done. I found it a little bit long, but I thought he found the really good shots that sort of told that very dark story from her point of view. Questioning like, wait, am I really the woman you say I am?
Craig: Right. Exactly. I wanted creepier music.
John: Yeah. Creepy music is very important.
Craig: We can’t help but criticize everything, right? We’re the worst.
John: We are the worst.
Craig: We’re the worst.
John: We’re the worst.
Craig: This guy did us a favor.
Craig: And we’re like, eh, it’s too long. Change the music.
John: I thought he did a brilliant job selecting out those moments.
Craig: He did. Actually, there were moments that I had forgotten happened, like when he’s pushing her head in the water. And you’re like, “Oh, god.”
Craig: It’s a terrible, terrible premise for a movie.
John: Terrible premise for a movie. Today’s episode is unique in the history of our podcast, because in this episode Stuart Friedel, who has always been a man behind the curtain, a person we refer to but don’t actually invite onto the show itself–
Craig: For good reason.
John: Yes, Stuart Friedel is here because this is his going away. This is his exit interview.
John: Stuart Friedel, the producer of Scriptnotes for five years, is finally leaving the nest. So we thought it’s about time to have him on the show to actually talk about what he’s done, what he’s doing, what he’s going to do. Stuart Friedel, welcome to Scriptnotes.
Stuart Friedel: Thanks for having me.
Craig: Wow. He did that so well. It’s like he’s learned. This is bizarre, because as you know, I still – even though I’m looking at you, Stuart – right now I’m not quite sure you’re real.
Stuart: I’m not either, frankly.
Craig: Good. So we’re on the same page.
Craig: So, I guess we should probably start by finding out why you’re leaving, right?
Stuart: Yeah. That’s a good question. I would say that I’ve hit the critical mass of other projects, so it’s just time for me to pack my bags and hit the road.
Craig: And your other projects are of what nature?
Stuart: TV writing, kids’ TV primarily, which is my – I’d say my life’s work. My passion.
John: So, I think it’s good for us to fill in the backstory and really chart the entire person who is Stuart Friedel, because so far he’s always been this name, or the person who answers the emails, or like sends out the tee-shirts, or gets yelled at when the phone rings while we’re trying to record.
Craig: Yeah. That’s my favorite part.
Stuart: [laughs] Those are all things that I do. This is true.
John: So, Stuart has been my assistant for five years. And I hired you from Disney Channel.
Stuart: You did. Yeah. I was working as the Assistant in original programming development at Disney Channel.
Craig: And how did you even come to find him there and pull him out like a bird stealing another bird’s egg?
John: That’s what it was. Stuart went through the Stark Program, the same graduate school program that I went through at USC. And so when Matt Byrne, when my previous assistant, was time for him to go, he got staffed on the TV show Scandal and is still a big writer on Scandal.
John: We put out the call to Starkies saying, “Hey, this job is open.” Whenever that job becomes open, people scramble for it. So, we don’t sort of put out the call too wide. How did you find out about the job?
Stuart: I was at the time teaching – is a very loose word – but I was instructing a third of a Stark class at nights, The Negotiation Game, which is awesome. And one of co-“adjunct professors” was on a Stark email list that I didn’t know existed. And they were like gossiping about it after class.
And I kind of kept my ear to the ground. We had Chad and Dara come speak to us, and I guess Dana come speak to our class, while I was at Stark.
Craig: All former John August assistants.
Stuart: Yeah. They all gave the advice, like if you have any interest in writing, you know, keep your ear to the ground. And my time at Disney, for this job specifically, my time at Disney was fine. I was definitely at a point where it was like a crossroads. And I was either going to be there for a long time, or not. And for a few reasons I kind of wanted to be in the “not” camp. And so this was like fate. It was the exact right moment. I was at Disney for 365 days on the nose. And I had always said I don’t want to do it for less than a year.
Craig: This means something.
Stuart: Yeah. So it was, you know, kismet.
Craig: Nice. And so then John plucks you away.
Stuart: Yeah. The application process was long.
Craig: Long and arduous.
John: Yeah. So I think during your session I met with like five different candidates, and I had you edit together a bit of the blog – because at this point there was no podcast, so it was mostly about the blog. It was mostly about johnaugust.com. And I had you read a script? What else?
Stuart: Yeah. So I remember the job description was like don’t write a typical cover letter. So I remember writing this two-page cover letter and like going over it. I remember I had line that was like “In the grand Disney tradition, I’m ready to be rescued,” and like all that stuff. I was really proud of it.
Craig: That’s adorable, Stuart.
Stuart: That was true. And then came in for an interview. And first round interview was just meeting. You sent me home with a script and said do notes on this. And it was like this whole prompt. And the last line was, “And proofread it.” Come in with like casting, all this.
And I got here an hour early and I was sitting in the car, and I was like all ready with my notes and my casting. And then it was like, “And proofread it,” and I had totally forgotten to do that. And I remember coming in during my interview and saying like you asked that at the end, and I was like I thought I had gotten through the whole, and forgot that you wanted us to proofread it. And I was like, “I got to be honest,” and I told that story. And I was like, “And while I was reading it, I found one mistake, which was you wrote four-poster bed, but it’s supposed to be four-post bed.” But then I looked up on my iPhone and it actually is four-poster bed.
So, not only do I have no mistakes, but the one mistake that I found wasn’t actually a mistake.
Stuart: And then, for some reason, you didn’t count me out. You sent us home again–
Craig: Yeah, I would have – just that ridiculous story, I would have, absolutely, I would have removed you from my premises.
John: So not only did you not follow instructions, then you were wrong when you attempted to follow the instructions, but at the last minute you scrambled.
Stuart: I owned it. And I admitted it. Hopefully I–
Craig: That’s the worst part. That’s the absolute worst part, is now you’re making me have to care about your problem. I would have had you removed from the premises.
Stuart: Yeah. I mean, that’s what I figured. If I make him internalize it. If I–
Craig: Well, that worked on him.
Stuart: [laughs] Yeah. And then you sent us home and it was like the next prompt was – or the hypothetical. I want to write a book that is the blog as a book, that’s very much like Chapter Three of Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants. And went to Barnes & Noble that day and I read cover to cover at work the entire book. And then you were like, “So what’s the table of contents of my book.” And we went, I think, three notes sessions back and forth.
And then I remember the day that you called me, and I went to the Disney Channel parking garage to take the call.
Stuart: And I got the job.
Craig: That’s spectacular. Now, for people that are thinking about breaking into our business, I don’t know – because I actually never did the typical assistant job. My first job was through a temp agency really. So there wasn’t much of an interview process. It was just, “How fast can you type? Yeah, you seem to wear clothes. You’re fine.”
Is this normal or abnormal?
John: I think it’s abnormal in the sense that most times when you’re hiring an assistant, you’re basically like can you keep track of my calendar and schedule and–
John: Phones, yeah. And that kind of stuff. And I recognized that over the years, my assistants, there wasn’t a lot of that calendar and phone stuff. But there was a lot of like the ability to talk about the script I’m working on, the ability to read stuff and proofread it. The ability to sort of recognize what was important and what was not important.
So, some backstory on my side. Like I’ve been lucky to have this string of remarkable assistants. My first assistant was Rawson Thurber, who has been a guest on the show. Then I had Dana Fox. I had Chad Creasey. And the Creaseys went on to do great stuff. I had Matt Byrne. And now Stuart Friedel.
And so I got to recognize over time that it wasn’t just about the person sitting there being barely level competent. You wanted somebody who could actually do something really good. And somebody who I wouldn’t be annoyed with sitting downstairs and doing their own stuff the whole day.
Craig: That’s the huge part. Because that eliminates almost everyone for me.
John: Yeah. Exactly. You don’t want anyone else in your space.
Craig: No. No, to look at somebody – I do have someone who works with me, and she’s been with me for years. And I can’t do – like if she came to me and said, “I’m thinking of moving on for a reason,” I would just say, “Well, then I’m retiring.” Because I can’t do this again. I can’t meet anyone new. I can’t look at a new person. It’s going to be terrible.
John: The other difference is that I’ve hired a lot of other people sort of in addition to assistants, so I’ve had designers, and I’ve had Nima who does our coding. So there’s been other people who have sort of come through the world. And so you get a sense of who is going to fit in and who is going to be additive in a great way.
Stuart: I remember in the final interview you said like, “I’m not always the best roommate, but in this situation we’re not roommates. I’m the boss. So you just have to be aware of that.” And I think that’s a very–
Craig: Perfectly. I mean, that is accurate. I wouldn’t have said that either. Because, to me, what do you not know that I’m your boss?
Stuart: Right. Right.
Craig: I’m already – you could see the problem with me, right?
John: So I’ll tell you that when I hired you, I really didn’t think you would last five years.
John: I thought you would last one year. And here’s why. I remember telling Mike my husband this. Is I thought like, well, he’s really good. I bet in a year he’s going to go back to kids’ TV, because he’s the only person I’ve ever met who actually genuinely loves kids’ TV. Like you’re not faking it. You really do love kids’ television. And when we come back from a trip, on the DVR we’ll see all the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon shows that you’ve recorded that you’ve actually watched because you keep track of that stuff. You actually know the names of the actors. You can recognize sort of trends and things.
Craig: Well, Stuart, you should be on children’s TV. I mean, people don’t necessarily know what you look like. But you look exactly like the sort of guy I would be thrilled to have my young child watching a la Blue’s Clues.
Stuart: Oh wow. I thought you meant as a child.
Craig: No, no. Steve from Blue’s Clues.
John: He very much has a Steve from Blue’s Clues quality.
Craig: Right. I mean, you look like fun. And you look safe.
Stuart: All right. Cool.
Craig: And you look nice and kind. And you would be – you should make a show for yourself.
Stuart: All right. I’ll take that one to the bank.
Craig: Only if you do it. If you don’t do it, now it’s just tragically upset guy.
Stuart: If I were a kid that lived in LA, there’s no doubt I would have pressured my parents to getting me on at least in the room for those things.
John: Stuart, who is the one kid I see on everything now who has the red hair, who is in the recent version of Wet Hot American Summer, but he was also the pseudo bully kid, but he’s also in Another Period recently? He’s in everything.
Stuart: Yeah. And he was on those commercials as the fairy that flies through that room. I don’t know his name, but you’re right that he is on everything now. He’s not really on many kids’ things though.
John: No. he’s always the kid in an adults’ thing.
John: But that’s sort of – he grows up to be you.
Stuart: Yeah. I had a kid when I was a camp counselor who I really liked, but he was like the punk red-headed kid that was in my cabin. He’s that kid, but this generation’s “that kid.”
Craig: That kid. Yeah.
John: And so I thought that you were going to be leaving about two years ago, also, because when my assistants are working for me they’re always writing stuff, and I never read their stuff until they ask me to read it. And so finally you asked me to read something. And I read it and it was really good.
And it may not have been the very first thing I read that said like, “Oh well, he can really do it,” but like the second thing I was like, oh, that’s really good. I can totally see–
Craig: Stuart can do this.
John: He can do this. And like you are going to get staffed, and then all this stuff was going to happen. And I remember actually talking with a showrunner who called in sort of doing a background check on you. And I was like, well, he’s totally—
Stuart: Oh really? I didn’t know that.
John: The MTV show.
Stuart: Yeah. I know what you’re talking about. I didn’t know that they called.
John: Oh, no, they called.
Stuart: I didn’t get the job.
John: No, you did not get the job.
Craig: What did you say, John?
John: I said lovely things about how talented he is.
Craig: Stuart should be a character on a child’s show. He appears to be an animated Muppet. Yes. Oh, what is your channel? MTV? Oh, no, no, no, no.
Stuart: Glad to hear that that staffing meeting went well, because I thought it went well, and then I was sort of disappointed that I didn’t get the job. But at least if they were calling about me it means I wasn’t crazy.
John: I’m sorry that for the last two years I haven’t told you that the meeting went well.
Craig: What else have you not told him?
John: That’s sort of the bulk of it. So, as Stuart is preparing to leave, I can tell you that there’s a pattern that happens where people’s scripts get passed around without them knowing they get passed around. And so when I started hearing from Stuart that like, oh, someone else read this thing and I didn’t even know they were reading it. When I started hearing those kind of conversations I was like, oh, his clock is ticking. This is all happening here.
And then people come to a point where the number of meetings they have to have and the number of phone calls they have to have is just tremendous. And I was able to sit down with Stuart and say like the most important thing for you to do is to take all these meetings and do all these things. And I need somebody who is here to answer the phones and do stuff. And so we’re at this threshold now. And I’m happy that we’re at this threshold.
And also, you’re–
Stuart: A lot of good stuff is happening.
John: And you’re getting married.
Stuart: Getting married in three weeks.
Craig: I’m so excited. I’m going to be there.
Stuart: Me too. Yeah. I’m pretty stoked.
Craig: Are you going to be there?
John: I’m going to be there.
Stuart: The all-stars Scriptnotes team.
Craig: Absolutely. Is your dad going to be there?
Stuart: My dad will be there.
Craig: I love Stuart’s dad so much.
Stuart: Me too.
Craig: Your mom is great.
Stuart: Yeah. I love my mom also. It’s her birthday today actually.
Craig: But there’s something about your dad. Oh, it is? Happy Birthday, Mrs. Friedel.
Stuart: I’ll pass it along.
John: Congratulations. Indeed. Stuart’s parents and even grandparents would come to live shows, which I just found remarkable.
John: Because live shows can be really filthy. Like, this is a clean episode, but sometimes they’re not clean.
Stuart: Yeah. I have a brother who lives out here. And he in the course of my working here has had two babies. And so I’ve been lucky enough to have four grandparents that will come for those things. And those things also seem to coincide with live episodes.
Craig: And all of your grandparents are alive?
Craig: Wow. Good genes.
Stuart: Yeah, right, it’s kind of crazy.
Craig: Is everyone red-headed?
Stuart: No one. I’m the only one.
Craig: Oh, really?
Stuart: Back to post – like before my grandparents. I’m the only one.
Craig: Then, if the pattern holds, you will also be the only one who dies young.
Stuart: There we go.
Stuart: As a statistician, you understand how these patterns and things work.
Craig: Absolutely. What I just said was mathematically valid.
John: We have questions from listeners and you’re here, so let’s have you answer some of these. Kevin writes, “I wonder, does Stuart – hi Stuart – keep a mental track of the best entries in his opinion in the Three Page Challenge? If so, that could be a great post on your blog, or yearend podcast material.” Stuart, do you keep track of the best entries in Three Page Challenge?
Stuart: Well, first of all, hi back Kevin. No I do not. If you’re saying best as in like most professional, I wouldn’t feel comfortable judging these scripts in three pages for that in and of itself. We were talking earlier about the Stuart Special–
Craig: Oh, the Stuart Special.
Stuart: It’s sort of something that happens–
John: Describe the Stuart Special.
Stuart: So, what has been deemed the Stuart Special is–
Craig: No, it’s the Stuart Special. [laughs]
Stuart: Is something happens exciting and then it’s like “two months earlier, six hours earlier,” you know, the flashback. The tease and then the flashback. And I do not go out of my way to purposely pick those. I think what happens is, so we say you can turn in any three pages of your script. Most people – and by most I mean over 99% of people – turn in their first three pages. And in your first three pages, you should hopefully be writing something eye-catching in some sense.
If it were me, I wouldn’t be turning in my first three necessarily. I would be turning in–
Craig: Right. I’ve always been surprised by that. I’ve always thought that more people would–
Stuart: I think people think it’s a precedent. I think people think like, oh, it’s supposed to always be your first three because they usually pick the first three.
Craig: We’ve only done the first three I think, right?
Stuart: I think we had one. I think we had one that wasn’t.
Craig: One that was in the middle? Okay.
Stuart: But, not only have we never said that, but it clearly says it I believe on the submissions page.
Craig: For sure.
Stuart: At least it has. So I think that people turn in their first three and then a lot of times there’s not something eye-catching there, or just not something to talk about or something exciting.
Craig: You mean, so they’re kind of forcing – they rewrite it to create a Stuart Special?
Stuart: Or, it’s just that those are the ones that wind up getting picked because those are the ones that have something in it that are not first three page moments. And so even though they are “the first three pages” but there’s something happening that’s actually a third-act or a second-act moment.
John: Because they’re actually starting in the middle of some action, so therefore there’s things to discuss that isn’t just like clearly like let’s open up the story.
Craig: Right. That makes sense. But you don’t necessarily pick the ones that you think are “the best.” You’re looking for the ones that you think will give us the most to discuss.
Stuart: Right. And I should be clear that if you are chosen, you are in like at least the 85th or 90th percentile. I am not picking the ones that are not competent. I am picking ones that are – I don’t think these people should be embarrassed to have their pages exposed. I would never purposely embarrass somebody.
And don’t think – like sometimes I would go on like Reddit Screenwriting or something in the early does of Three Page Challenges and see the way that people were talking about ones that got ripped apart. And I felt really bad because I was like I wanted to reach out to those people and say, “Oh, you were so much better than 75 others that I read at the same time that I read yours that I flagged yours for a reason.”
So, I’m not picking the best ones. The best ones – there’s nothing to talk about. Oh, you want to read good writing, I will tell you what professional screenplays you can read that’s good writing. You know, like it’s the one that if – my goal is we’re teaching a class and we’re going to take out that little slide projector thing that puts some pages on the wall and we are as a class going to go through this together and dissect it.
And what three pages of this pile of 1,500 submissions has something in it that the whole class will benefit from?
Craig: That’s the current amount that we have?
Stuart: It’s over 1,500. And by the way, since we switched to entering through the web page – it used to be an email submission, and we had however many more even before that.
Craig: Oh wow.
John: It’s a lot. So, you’re going to miss Three Page Challenges tremendously. You’re going to wake up in the middle of the night going how could I possibly – people will just start sending your Three Page Challenges just so you can enjoy them.
Stuart: Yeah. Yeah. I have no doubt. I mean, I’ve gotten that before. Like, I’ve met people at parties and they hear who I am and they’re like, “Oh, I’m going to send you three pages.” Or, “Oh, I sent my three pages. Can you go read them?” And I’m like, “Well, I probably read them.” My answer is, I never say like, “Yeah, I’m going to go home and read it today.” It’s either like I’ve read it, or I will read it, or, you know, and you don’t get special treatment. And–
Craig: I’m just, you know, I get very frightened when the reality of the podcast enters my vision, you know, because I like to just think that we’re talking and no one is listening to this. So that story makes me nervous. [laughs] I don’t like it. It’s scary.
Stuart: And you guys, and now I’m an old man, I’m settling down and getting married, but in the day when I was going out on Saturday nights and meeting random people–
Craig: Oh, really?
Stuart: Well, you know, at parties. It’s Los Angeles. Go to Los Angeles parties. Then I’d fairly regularly come across people that were listeners and had entered.
Craig: You know what I’m going to ask you now?
Stuart: What’s that?
Craig: Did it ever?
John: Did it help?
Craig: Did the whole, “I’m the producer of Scriptnotes,” did that – did it Stuart?
Stuart: Uh, it most certainly did not.
Craig: I had a feeling. [laughs] It probably does the opposite.
Stuart: It’s a conversation starter for certain people, for sure. And, great, I’m happy to talk about it. If you ever see me, I mean, there’s a gentleman who I’ve seen at Village Bakery in Atwater a few times who is really nice and said hi to me. And I was like, cool, I’ve officially been recognized now.
Craig: Oh nice.
Stuart: First time in my life. And probably only. He’s probably listening to this now.
Craig: Until you get your show.
John: Till now. Next question is from Andrew in DC who writes, “After a few years of development hell, the $200 million movie is finally being made. Who plays John and who plays Craig in the Scriptnotes movie?” So, Andrew proposes Thomas Middleditch for me. Tony Shalhoub for Craig.
Craig: It’s the worst.
John: And Douglas Rain for Stuart. And Douglas Rain being the voice of HAL in 2001.
Craig: This is terrible.
John: Terrible question. So who plays you though?
Craig: Who plays me?
Craig: I don’t know. That’s a tough one.
John: I could see like Paul Giamatti, but you’re much younger than Paul Giamatti.
Craig: That’s the thing. I definitely have the hang-doggy, grumpy, and then vaguely ethnic–
John: Steve Zissis could play you.
Craig: That’s who I want. I want Steve Zissis to play me. You are not played by–
John: I’m not Thomas Middleditch. He hasn’t seen me.
Craig: You’re older and you should be, ooh, there’s those actors that look like you.
John: So, I’m blanking on his name right now. He’s always the villain in things. He’s always a secondary character.
Stuart: Danny Trejo?
John: Danny Trejo is really who I should be.
Craig: That’s who should play John.
John: I’ll think of his name in like five minutes. But he was the villain in Ant-Man.
Craig: You know what? When I was a kid, I don’t know if you guys had them where you lived, but we had the commercials for Hebrew National hot dogs. And the mascot for Hebrew National hot dogs was Uncle Sam. And he said we answer to a higher authority. It was like, okay, god is telling us what the…
And that guy is probably dead by now, but in his prime, that’s who you were.
John: Sounds very good.
Stuart: He may have been, I don’t want to say a One Cool Thing, but I think that – I mean, I’ll find the link again for this episode, but I think we’ve actually linked to that in a previous episode of Scriptnotes.
Craig: To the Hebrew National guy?
John: Corey Stoll is who I was thinking of. Corey Stoll as the Ant-Man villain.
Stuart: He’s great.
Craig: That works.
John: I’ll be Corey Stoll. But who should be Stuart now? Because obviously this person has no idea what you look like.
Stuart: Is it just a voice?
John: Yeah, I guess you’re just a voice.
Craig: No, I mean–
Stuart: If it’s just a voice, it’s Billy West, who is my favorite voice actor.
John: Is he on Futurama?
Stuart: He is on Futurama. And he is on Doug. And he’s on Honey Nut Cheerios commercials. But, if it’s just a voice, I mean, I might as well shoot for the stars.
Craig: Yeah. No, it shouldn’t be a voice. Obviously we get that kid that we were just talking about.
Stuart: That child? That 13?
John: Because in the movie version, he is a child.
Craig: That child? By the way, the best thing is that Stuart is played by an 11-year-old, but we give him all the dialogue of an adult. And we never comment on the fact that this child is producing our show.
Stuart: Louis C.K.’s agent in Louis.
Stuart: I wrote a pilot that I’ve done nothing with called Recessive Genius, about a redhead that wants to be a rapper, and all of his red-headed family members. And so I have a cast list somewhere of all the redheads in Hollywood. We can pull that.
Craig: There’s a good amount.
Stuart: Yeah, there is. I mean, it’s cast-able. Homeland.
Craig: What’s her name?
Stuart: Faye Dunaway?
Craig: Ron Howard’s daughter.
Stuart: Paige. Oh, Bryce Dallas. Sorry.
Craig: Bryce Dallas. Bryce Dallas Howard.
John: Good stuff. Our final question comes in from Mark in LA. He says, “Have you seen the writing credits for the new film Ghostbusters? I almost fell out of my chair when I saw that Ivan Reitman’s name is listed in the writing credits as Based on the 1984 film Ghostbusters, directed by.” So, let’s talk through sort of what the writing credits are, the writing credits block on the new Ghostbusters, because it is a little bit strange.
So, it says written by Katie Dippold and Paul Feig, based on the 1984 film Ghostbusters directed by Ivan Reitman, written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd.
Craig, you are the credits master. Talk us through what’s going on here.
Craig: Well, it is very odd. Typically you will have a “Based on” when there is source material. And that’s the company can sort of say, okay, we’ve assigned you a certain amount of material. So, in this case, certainly when Katie and Paul sat down and made their deals to write Ghostbusters, they were assigned everything. So, I guarantee you they were assigned every prior Ghostbusters, the scripts that have been written, like Lee and Gene had done one, and a whole bunch of people, right?
So, all of that was assigned to them. And also Ghostbusters 1 and Ghostbusters 2, the original movies were assigned to them as source material. So, yes, normally what you’d see is it would say “Based on Ghostbusters,” but it doesn’t have to say that, by the way.
I mean, on remakes typically they don’t bother with that. So, in this one they did. And then they added the credits in. So, Mark is not correct. Ivan Reitman’s name is not listed in the writing credits. The credits are actually accurate. He’s the director. And then Dan and Harold are listed as the writers, which is correct.
So when I saw this, I assumed that what happened was Paul Feig and Katie Dippold went to the Guild and said this is something we want to do. Would you grant us a waiver? It would require a waiver. So, the Guild can – because our credits are governed by our contract, right? So any time we want to do a different kind of credit, and the studio wants to do a different kind of credit, the Board of Directors has to vote to grant a waiver. And so I suspect they went, because they wanted to do this, and the Guild said sure.
John: To clarify, the based on, that whole section is considered the underlying materials credit. So that’s not the actual writing credit on this movie. That is the source material credit. And does the Guild have like final authority on determining what is the source material for the project?
Craig: Yes. So, typically what happens if there’s any dispute about it, then that’s a pre-arbitration and that has to do with the company. But usually it’s pretty well-governed because the contract that we all get is a – we call it a Guild-covered contract. That means the contract is conforming to our collective bargaining agreement. And one of the ways you conform to it is you say I’m assigning you the following material. That now becomes underlying material. So the Guild doesn’t actually have to do after-the-fact choices. It’s just sort of baked in.
But like I said, on remakes – one thing that does happen on a remake is the writers of the original movie actually go in to the arbitration as Writer A, which is an interesting thing. Now, it’s rare that that writer does get credit, because usually on a remake quite a bit changes.
But there have been cases of it. 3:10 to Yuma. And most notably the new – the remake of The Omen. Only the writer of the first movie got credit because essentially they felt that nothing had changed substantially in such a way that another writer should have credit. That’s remarkable. And I don’t know of any other movie like that.
But, so for instance, when Gus Van Sant remakes Psycho word-for-word, the first writer gets credit alone.
John: So in the case of the new Ghostbusters, Harold Ramis’ estate and Dan Aykroyd, they are not getting residuals for this new thing because they are not the credited writers on this new movie.
Craig: Right. So all of the residuals for this movie will go to Katie and Paul. They will be split in half exactly.
John: Because they are ampersand, we should clarify. They are ampersand as a writing team.
Craig: Whether they were ampersand or not.
John: They’re a single writing credit, yeah.
Craig: Exactly. So, if one team, they would share it. If two separates, they would share it. And they are the only ones. It’s possible that Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis had a separate producing kind of thing, but that’s aside from what the Guild does. That’s extra money on top of things.
So, the writing credits are – in terms of who actually wrote the screenplay of the Ghostbusters that’s in theaters now – Katie Dippold and Paul Feig, and that’s it.
John: Very good. All right, many people on Twitter this week wrote in talking to us about these six plots. So, essentially what happened is a bunch of researchers at the University of Vermont in Burlington, they used sentiment analysis, which is where you look at strings of words to determine their emotional content. You set algorithms in computers to do all of this.
And they mapped the plot of 1,700 works of fiction. Most of these are novels, but some of them are plays. And so they track the changes of sentiment from moment to moment. And they build these charts of the overall arc of these different works. And from there, they determined there are basically six categories of works.
There are works that have fall, rise, and fall, like Oedipus Rex. There’s rise then a fall. There’s fall then a rise, like a lot of super heroes. There’s the steady fall. There’s the steady rise. There’s a rise, and a fall, and a rise, like Cinderella. So, we’re basically out of business because the computers have figured out that there’s only six plots.
Craig: Yeah, I mean, look. Everyone knows that Romeo and Juliet is a timeless classic and still works to this very day because it has a steady fall.
John: Yeah, that’s really–
Craig: WTF to the maximum level of WTFs.
John: Because there’s no moments of happiness or joy in Romeo and Juliet. There’s no rise, there’s no love, there’s no flash of love.
Craig: There’s nothing frankly at all except a steady fall? This is the dumbest of all these things. And many of them are dumb. I love the graph. A stupid graph. And then the fact that these… – This is what happens, unfortunately. I love science. You know, I’m a scientist. But, see, I don’t go into labs and start pressing buttons. And I really wish that scientists would not go into novels and start pressing buttons, because what they’re doing is they’re just engaging in a kind of reductive analysis, which anyone could do.
You could also say that there’s really only one plot: beginning, middle, end.
Stuart: Right. There’s arrows. There’s up and down. And in a macro view – we’re not even going to look at the way there’s up-down-up-up-down-down – just in a macro view, look at where the up is, and look at where the down is. There’s only six plots.
Craig: And also, why are the ups and downs now how they define plot? That’s not how I define plot at all.
John: So, Nima who works for us, he was pointing out that essentially there were theoretically eight different plots you could find. But they compressed them down because you could theoretically have rise-rise-fall, or rise-fall-fall, but they compress those down to just rise-fall.
So, even in potential plots, they’re just compressing them down.
Craig: It’s like trigonometry. Side-angle-side. Side-side-angle. Angle-angle-side. It’s the dumbest. Of all of these, this one truly is the dumbest because it is useless. It’s bad science that provides click-baiters something to say. It teaches you nothing. It informs nothing. It doesn’t inform you as a reader. It doesn’t inform you as a writer. It doesn’t help you think about the world in any way. It is the emptiest of noise.
I hate it.
John: [laughs] I knew this would be a simple layup here.
Craig: I do always rise to the occasion. I mean, never once will I ever resist umbrage. When you wave a red flag in front of me, I’m going to do what I do. I’m a simple man. Rise-fall-fall.
John: All right, so it’s time for our second big announcement on the show, about a huge change that’s happening. Which is something that, Craig, you’ve known about for quite a long time, but I’ve deliberately sort of not said anything about it because it’s one of those things where you tell people that it’s going to happen and then everyone is like, “Ahhhh….” And it makes people sort of nervous.
And so now it’s 30 days away, so it’s time for us to say. I am leaving Los Angeles. I am moving to Paris. And so I’m going to be living in the City of Light. I’m going to be a writer there in Paris.
Craig: But not permanently.
John: Just for a year. So, for one year, I will be in Paris. And I’ll be living there. So, it’s always been the plan. This is not in reaction to something. I don’t have like insight about what’s–
Craig: You’re not fleeing.
John: I’m not fleeing. There’s no investigation. I’m not nervous about sort of the – well, I am nervous about the election. It always has been the plan that I’d be gone for the last part of the election.
Craig: Well, Europe seems to have managed to screw themselves up even worse than we are.
John: Absolutely. And there’s a French election coming, too.
Craig: That’ll be brilliant.
John: Really genius. And so the plan has been for quite a long time that my family and I are going to be moving to Paris starting in August and going through next August for my daughter’s 6th grade year of school. So, she’s been at a K-5 school. The schools we want to go to start in 7th grade after that. And so for 6th grade we had to do something.
And so a bunch of years ago Film France took a bunch of screenwriters over to Paris and showed us a bunch of locations that they wanted us to film in. So, I was on a trip with Derek Haas, [Unintelligible], and John Lee Hancock. And John Lee Hancock – and Justin Marks – but John Lee said, “You know what? I’m loving this. I’m going to pull my kids out of school and we’re going to live in Paris for a year.”
And I said that’s a great idea. I’m going to steal it right now. And so that’s been the plan for–
Craig: But he didn’t do that.
John: He never did it.
Craig: No. Because I could have told you that John Lee Hancock does not run his household. Holly Hancock, on the other hand–
John: Yeah. Holly Hancock is fantastic.
Craig: Amazing. And surely said to him, “No.” And that was the end of that discussion.
John: But you’ll notice that now they are single parents because their kids are off in boarding school.
Craig: Not far from here. So they’re visiting them plenty.
John: They’re visiting them plenty. So, anyway, I stole John Lee Hancock’s idea. It’s been the plan for the last five years that we’re going to be moving to Paris. And now it’s finally suddenly here.
And so I want to talk about why you don’t expose that ahead of time, because I didn’t want sort of everybody in Hollywood to know that I was moving because then it’s that weird thing like, well, are you going to hire somebody for a job knowing that they’re not going to be around to deliver the second trip.
Craig: Absolutely. This comes up. I remember actually – not to bring everybody down – but I remember having a long talk with my friend Don Rhymer, who was a working screenwriter for many, many years.
John: He did the Rio movies.
Craig: He did the Rio movies. Exactly. And Surf’s Up. And then he had worked in television for many, many years, like on Evening Shade and other shows like that.
And he got sick. He got cancer. And he was really worried about who do I tell, because I don’t want people to not hire me, because right now I’m happy to work. And he did, by the way, he worked – it was remarkable. His whole cancer odyssey was about four years long and unfortunately did not end successfully. But, the entire time he worked.
Craig: And at some point he was unable to keep it from people. But, it’s a real thing. You don’t want people to suddenly put you in the box of, “Oh, you’re moving to Paris. Well that’s like you’re dead.”
John: Yeah. Women writers often face this with pregnancy. And so our friend, Dana Fox, who was on the show – I’m not sure quite where it was in her development process – but she had a pregnancy that required her to be on bed rest, and yet she also had a tremendous amount of work to do. And she had writers to meet with.
And so she had to sort of keep the pregnancy a secret from the people she was working with so they wouldn’t freak out about her TV show.
Craig: She just pretended to be incredibly lazy?
John: I think she’s fine with me telling you. She faked a back injury to sort of explain why she was having to take meetings at her house rather than at the office.
Craig: In her bed.
Craig: I feel like I want to that now, just so I don’t have to get out of bed.
John: It’s a really good plan.
Craig: It’s amazing.
John: It’s an amazing plan. So, obviously we live in 2016 in a time where I can remotely on anything, and so most of what I do is emails anyway. It’s not going to be significantly impacting my ability to do my work. But it is a real change. And even when I was in Chicago doing Big Fish, or New York doing Big Fish, I was always sort of in the country and in the same time zone.
And so a challenge for our show is that we do the show by Skype, and so that’ll be the same. But we’re also on really different clocks.
Craig: That’s the problem. So, Paris is 10—
John: Depends on what time of year. But, yeah, 10 hours.
Craig: Does it go down to nine when we–?
John: I think there’s some times where we’re at nine, and sometimes where it can go more.
Craig: Based on Daylight Savings. So, that’s a terrible time split.
John: It is.
Craig: It’s nearly flipping AM/PM. So, it’s always going to be one of us either too early or too late. But I’m happy to take the late shift by the way. That’s my jam. I don’t like getting up.
And then the nice thing is, you’re right, we could be on different planets the way we do the podcast normally. But, you know, we have some plans to – that I don’t think will disrupt your… – I mean, I’d like to think because – not because we care about our listeners but because we’re just the way we are—
John: We are the way we are.
Craig: We deliver a consistent product.
John: Agreed. And so you’ve done episodes without me. Like the Alec Berg episode you did, which was terrific. And so there’s already a plan for a solo one that you’re going to be doing very soon. There are writers in the UK and in France who I may be talking with in doing some solo things, too.
We’ll find ways to make it work. You don’t listen to any other podcasts, but if you did, you would know that some of them actually go to like a season format where they’re off a few weeks, and then they’re on for a bunch of weeks. So, Serial does that. And other shows do that. I don’t think we’re going to go quite that far, but there may be some weeks where we’re doing a best-of, or we’re just off. And we’ll let you know if that happens. But I think we’ll be able to keep up sort of like a normal schedule.
Craig: Yeah. I think so. Certainly we’ll have plenty to discuss. I’m not freaked out about it completely. I’m freaked out like 78%. You know, because I’m your child. Daddy is leaving.
John: And Stuart is leaving. So it’s a lot of change.
Craig: But I never believed Stuart was really real. So, that’s not a problem for me at all.
John: Matthew though is staying put. Matthew is still editing our show.
Craig: Thank god.
John: Matthew, you’re listening to this right now. Please – please stay.
Craig: Good. Okay.
John: The other sort of big change and sort of big bit of news is this next year I’ll be doing a lot less screenwriting because I sold a book. I sold a series of three books, which is very exciting.
John: So, this next week, sometime they’re going to announce it. By the time you’re hearing this podcast, it may already be announced. But we’re recording this on Thursday, so I couldn’t be sure that the news is going to be out there. But back when we were at Austin Film Festival and you remember this last year there were those horrible storms and everything. And Melissa was there and my husband Mike was there.
I was talking on the phone with this novelist who had written this middle-grade fiction book that was really good. And we were talking about whether I would adapt his book. We had a great conversation and I asked him a lot about sort of the history of the book and sort of the history of writing and sort of stuff, and over the course of this hour-long conversation I realized like I really don’t want to adapt this book, but I think I kind of want to write a book like this.
I don’t want to be the guy who gets sent all these adaptations, but actually the guy who like writes the original book. And so that was October 30. And then November 1, start of NaNoWriMo, I just sat down and I started writing the book.
Craig: So this is the one that came out of NaNo – I’m not going to say that word, because I hate it. Hate it. It’s a nonsense word. It’s nonsense. This is the one that came out of the National Book-writing Month?
Craig: Fantastic. You may be the only person that has ever made a dollar. I’m a terrible person. I’m a bad guy.
John: That’s fine. You’re not bad at all.
Craig: No, I’m bad.
John: So for people that don’t know NaNoWriMo at all, we actually mentioned it on the air that I was thinking about doing it, and then I did it. It’s this idea where you write every day in November and you can build up to a full book by the end of November. And I didn’t write the entire book then, but I wrote enough of it that like, oh, this feels like the outline of this book.
And so it’s middle-grade fiction. It’s the same genre in general as a Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. It’s very much sort of my childhood and sort of pushed into a fantasy realm. And it was just a delight to write. It was a delight to write fiction. You’ve written some fiction over the years.
Craig: Yeah, not much. I mean, honestly, I’m still deeply on the hamster wheel of screenwriting.
Stuart: Popcorn Fiction.
Craig: Well, yeah, no, I’ve done it. And I have a little secret novel that I work on every now and again that, you know, is mostly for me. But, yeah, no, I can’t tell if I’m envious of you or not. I think I am. Because I’m currently on a – it’s a hamster wheel.
John: So, what’s interesting is we obviously know a lot about how screenwriting works. We know how the screenwriting industry works. We know about Hollywood.
And when I went off and did the Broadway show, I got to learn how all that works. And you recognize: these are things that are the same, these are the things that are very different. These are the gatekeepers. This is the process. And with the book, I got to learn all that again. And I’m still learning it now. So I’m just taking a lot of notes as I sort of see it. But, I’d written this first third of this book, I’d written the proposal for the rest of it. You show it to your agent. Your agent shows it to another agent. You find a really good book agent. You’re very lucky that she says yes.
And then you go out with it, and it’s very much like going out with a spec script. But rather than going to studios, you’re going to the big publishing houses. And there’s this whole conversation about which editor at which house is the right one. And all these discussions and debates.
And then you make your top choices. You go out. And I was very lucky that the place we wanted to do it said yes.
John: And bought it up and bought it for three books.
Craig: And that’s Hustler? Hustler Press?
John: Hustler Press, yes. That’s what it is.
Craig: Got it. Good. Good label.
John: Raunchy middle-grade fiction – it’s really – that’s the future there.
Craig: Well, they put a lot into marketing.
John: They do. So, anyway, I’ll have more to say in the coming weeks about it, and I’ll have stuff on the blog, and there will probably be a second site that’s geared more towards the people who would ultimately be reading this book.
It’s weird writing something that is not sort of for my age to read. It’s a strange thing, too. But I’m really looking forward to all of it.
Craig: Well, that sounds fantastic. And since I have, you know, our daughters are essentially the same age, so I’m sure that my daughter will be reading. In fact, she can be one of your beta readers.
Craig: Or even gamma reader. Is that–?
Craig: Oh that’s right. It goes–
Stuart: There’s an alpha bed.
Craig: Right, so gamma would be like, oh my god, we’re almost about to–
John: Yeah, absolutely. So there’s a whole thing called Advanced Reader Copies Arcs that you send out ahead of time. And our mutual colleague, Geoff Rodkey, is a writer and he’s been incredibly helpful sort of in those initial conversations about like what do I even do. What is the process here?
And so I’ll be trying to sort of keep track of the process. And I may end up doing a second podcast that is just like a six-episode leading up to the book to sort of show this is how you actually do it.
Craig: I don’t have to do anything for that?
Craig: Because then I can just – now I can stop paying attention to that.
John: You can not even listen to it.
Craig: I’m sorry. What were you saying? [laughs]
John: That would be the most Craig thing you could do.
Craig: Got to be me.
John: The last and most crucial thing we need to do today–
Craig: This is the big one.
John: This is the big one.
Craig: You thought that all that stuff was big.
John: That’s all–
Craig: Jettisoning Stuart. Moving to France. Writing a book. None of that matters.
John: Yeah. So some of you listening to the show may go like, well, without Stuart, like what’s going to be here. Or should I polish up my resume because Stuart’s job is now open?
And so we need to hire somebody. Maybe there’s going to be a giant competition, where we’re going to ask our listeners to send in stuff.
Craig: That sounds great, John. Let’s do that.
Stuart: The best Three Page Challenge gets picked.
John: Becomes my new assistant and becomes the producer of Scriptnotes.
Craig: What a great idea.
John: It’s a great idea.
Craig: Or, no.
John: No. Or actually no. But I think we are going to do something very different. And we sort of hid Stuart away for five years, our new producer is not going to be hidden away anymore. It is time for us to actually introduce our new producer of Scriptnotes. We’d like to welcome Godwin Jabangwe.
Godwin Jabangwe: Hi.
John: That’s Godwin Jabangwe!
Craig: That’s perfect.
John: That’s fantastic. Godwin, you are my new assistant. You are the new producer of Scriptnotes. Have you listened to the show ever?
Godwin: Yes. I have. And I love it, obviously.
Craig: Thank you.
Godwin: And I’m really, really excited to be here and to be playing a part in this.
Craig: Well, I already like him better than Stuart.
Stuart: Great, thank you.
Craig: But that’s not saying much.
Stuart: The bar is low.
John: Godwin, some backstory, you are currently at UCLA. You are studying screenwriting?
Godwin: Yes, I am. I just finished my first year. I am going into my second and final year at UCLA. Go Bruins. And I just have to throw that in.
Craig: Of course.
Godwin: And, yeah, I love it. I am excited. I’m from Zimbabwe, so this is like a big deal for me.
John: So you were born and raised in Zimbabwe, and from Zimbabwe you went to–?
Godwin: I went to a small college in Michigan where I got my undergrad in film production. And then I applied to UCLA and somehow they said yes. So, yeah.
Craig: Well, I mean, they obviously saw what – I feel like whatever we saw in him, and really it’s John. I mean, that’s the truth. John, no big surprise, did all the work here. Obviously.
Stuart: Hiring his own assistant.
Craig: I would have also picked you. I would have done it quicker. I would have done it with much less drama. But, no, of course, they saw in you whatever John saw in you. It’s exciting. And I believe that we know your instructors at least are the Wibberleys.
Godwin: The Wibberleys. I took a class with them last quarter. And they are fantastic. If they’re listening, hey.
John: So, the Wibberleys are married screenwriters. They worked on – they did the National Treasure movies. They also worked on the second Charlie’s Angels movie. I met them because they rewrote me on the second Charlie’s Angels movie. And the very first time we had a phone call, the very first time I actually met them in person, was at the Charlie’s Angels premiere. They were seated behind me. And so we just talked.
And they were so cool. And they’ve been great. So, when it became clear that Stuart was leaving, I did put out some small feelers, both to Stark Program which is where I’ve always gotten my assistants, but also to other folks. And the Wibberleys raved about Godwin and they were correct.
Craig: So, not a Stark guy.
John: Not a Starky. First non-Starky.
Craig: Good. Let’s break that tradition.
John: Let’s break that mold, yeah. So, I was able to meet with five fantastic candidates. And there are just remarkably talented people out there. And gave them different assignments than what Stuart had, but a chance to sort of talk through their work, to sort of see how their brains worked. And it’s been a pleasure to have Godwin be part of this.
Craig: So how does this work with Godwin being a student and also doing this job? Tell us how that’s going to- or one of you can tell us.
Godwin: Well, it will be a lot of work. But it’ll be fun work, because what I am hoping to learn and pick up is what I’ll be applying to my schooling. You know, the writing program at UCLA is intense and it’s a lot of work, but I’ve been doing this for a while and I know that I am not – I’m not here to play, either in school or at work. So, it’ll be a fun challenge.
John: Stuart, any advice for?
Stuart: Your classes are at night, right?
Godwin: Yes. I mostly take my classes at night.
Stuart: I mean, honestly, I think you will find, especially with John away, that this is like – sometimes you get detention in high school and it’s a blessing because you get all your homework done. I think you’re going to find that your life is actually kind of a little easier. You’re getting up. You’re going into an office. And you’re just going to do the work that you are going to be doing.
Craig: That’s another good point. So, you’re going to be John’s assistant, but John is going to be in France.
John: Yeah. So one of the things I had to warn him about, all the applicants before they even applied, saying like we’re going to be starting work at 7am LA time, so that we have some overlap of hours.
Godwin: Yeah. So, but–
Craig: Oh man.
Godwin: I wake up early anyway. So I’ll be fine. I can handle it.
Craig: All right. I wouldn’t have taken this job.
John: No, clearly.
Craig: I mean, 7am.
John: It’s early. You’ve seen 7am, but usually on the other side of 7am.
Craig: No. I’ll tell you, this is why – I love production, but the worst part of production is waking up.
Stuart: Oh god.
Craig: I hate it. I hate it so much.
John: For me, the worst part of production is when you’ve done a night shoot, and you’ve done all night, and then you’re racing to finish night shots before the sun comes up. And when you’re cursing the sun for rising, that’s a bad sign.
And then you’re driving home against rush hour traffic. That was Go. And I will never write a movie that’s mostly shot at night again.
Craig: I love shooting nights. Oh my god.
John: I love how quiet it is. But then I hate the end of it.
Craig: So great. I love it. I just love being – because now, yeah, the world has gotten out of your way. There’s just something, I don’t know, calmer at night. But I got a lot of mental problems.
Godwin, I’m very excited. And now as the producer of Scriptnotes, maybe you could finally explain to me what the producer of Scriptnotes does. Because I don’t know.
Stuart: I would love to hear this.
Godwin: I’m looking at Stuart like help me out here. I think creating the transcripts of the show. Making sure that everything is right with each episode. Making sure that it’s uploaded to the website. That it is shared on Facebook. You know, just bringing it to the people.
John: I always forget that Stuart actually has to manually share it on Facebook.
Stuart: Yeah. I think, honestly, I think that the credit I’ve been given is a little generous at times. At the same time, I think that there’s probably a lot of little things that you guys don’t even realize I’m doing to help the machine stay well-oiled.
Craig: I didn’t realize you were doing anything. So, it all goes under the folder of “What does Stuart do?”
Stuart: Yeah. And sometimes I – when I talk to my dad about it I say like, it wasn’t something specific, but we’ll have a conversation at lunch, and then next week that conversation is the fodder for what becomes the episode. As simple as that.
Craig: Well, you know, Stuart, I like to tease you, because you’re adorable.
Stuart: Well, thanks.
Craig: But you’ve done a spectacular job. And I know it’s a lot of work, because I know I’m not doing it. So, we’re going to miss you.
John: We will both miss you very much. You’ve done a fantastic job.
Stuart: Thanks guys.
Craig: You have big ginger shoes for Godwin to step into.
Stuart: Get ready.
Godwin: I’m looking forward to it.
Craig: But you will be available, I assume, as a resource if he calls you?
Stuart: Well, let’s put it this way, if you ever need me, feel free to email me. I will reply to you as quickly as I can. I hope to be too busy to be [unintelligible] very quickly.
John: Yeah, we’re being cagey about sort of what he’s heading off to do. But I think it’s going to be a big, noteworthy announcement.
Craig: It’s not war?
John: It’s not war.
Stuart: It’s as much war as waking up at 7am for production is war. Hopefully. We’ll see. Knock on wood things continue to go well.
Craig: I like this. This is exciting. Perhaps one day Stuart will be our guest.
John: Oh, that would be very exciting, to announce the launch of a certain project.
John: That could be good.
Stuart: I’m coming back.
Craig: That’s right. It’s like coming back to host Saturday Night Live.
Stuart: Yeah. Like graduating, you come back to your old college.
John: See all the people who are still there, yeah.
Craig: I love it.
Godwin: So, one thing, you guys were talking about who should play Stuart. Justin Timberlake.
Craig: Kinda, yeah. Actually, I kind of get it.
Stuart: One of my first days here, John’s daughter told me I looked like Phillip Phillips, who I had never heard of at the time. And I looked him up and I look nothing like this person. And I’m the worst singer in the history of the world. And now I’m apparently being compared to another very good singer, who is significantly better looking than I could ever dream to be.
Craig: I would love to hear you sing.
Stuart: Oh, well, you know, if you guys stick around for 150 episodes, I’ll take out my guitar, and then we’ll delete it before we put it in.
John: It’s time for our One Cool Things. Mine is actually a recommendation from Aline Brosh McKenna, who is our favorite sort of go-to guest. She recommended this podcast called My Dad Wrote a Porno. And what it is is these three guys, three British people, one of whose father was trying to be Fifty Shades of Grey, but he’s like a 60-year-old man trying to write erotic fiction.
Craig: Oh no.
John: So they read aloud the chapters and it is sort of half commentary while they’re reading it. It’s just delightful.
Stuart: That’s fabulous.
John: It’s fantastic. So, the book that they’re reading is called Belinda Blinked.
Craig: Belinda Blinked?
John: It’s just remarkable. So there will be a link in the show notes to My Dad Wrote a Porno.
Craig: Wow. Awesome. My One Cool Thing is a little bizarre, but you know I talked before about how I think that this is not real and that in fact what we think of as reality is a computer simulation. And there are a lot of very fancy physicists who have put this theory forward.
And one of the arguments for it goes like this: if we can create – eventually we’ll be able to create a simulation in which the people in the simulation don’t know that they’re in a simulation and they are fully intelligent. And if that’s the case, what are the odds that some other civilization like us hasn’t existed and made us that?
Okay, so an interesting argument has emerged against this. And the argument basically boils down to pi, the irrational number. Because pi never ends. And the argument is if we’re in a simulation, the simulation must be finite because it is created. If it is finite, you can’t have a number that never ends.
And I think we now have a computer that has calculate pi to the three-trillionth digit, with no repetition of pattern, and no suddenly a trailing bunch of twos. Basically, think of pi as like Truman in the Truman Show sailing on that water. But he never gets to the wall.
So, it’s possible that this might – I’m now saying this is a chance this is real. It’s a slim, slim chance.
John: But the counter-argument would be that there’s some programming that’s happening that’s making us believe that pi is incalculable. Essentially, Nima, our coder, says that’s absolutely true.
Craig: That we are essentially being manipulated in this. But what a bizarre and pointless manipulation. Or is the point of the manipulation to make us think that it’s real? This is the great trick.
John: Exactly. That’s the great trick. The greatest trick the devil ever played.
Craig: Okay, so then whoever is listening now above us, and watching our simulation, must be concerned that we’re onto them.
John: What if this is actually the last episode of Scriptnotes?
Craig: Or the last episode of existence.
John: That, too. Both are tragedies.
Craig: Wow, man. One Cool Thing.
John: We’re going to give Stuart the last word, so Godwin, why don’t you give us your One Cool Thing.
Godwin: My One Cool Thing is something that is happening in Zimbabwe. We have this incredibly brave one man who has stood up and started what can be called the Zimbabwean Spring. And so you should check out the hashtag called #ThisFlag and see how people are finally speaking up in Zimbabwe and it’s about time.
So, I’m really thrilled about that.
Craig: What is the man’s name?
Godwin: His name is Pastor Evan Mawarire. And so—
John: Say that back three times.
Craig: Well, I knew about Morgan Tsvangirai.
Godwin: Tsvangirai. He was an opposition leader. This guy is not a politician. He is not starting a party.
Craig: He’s a religious man?
Godwin: He is just getting the people to get up and—
Craig: Robert Mugabe cannot leave soon enough from this earth as far as I’m concerned. Well, we will definitely check that out. That’s excellent.
Godwin: You should.
John: So, the hashtag is #ThisFlag?
John: Great. Stuart Friedel?
Stuart: Thanks for making me look petty.
Craig: So, his was that entire nation. Mine was about the nature of reality. And tell us, Stuart, what’s your One Cool Thing?
Stuart: Right before we started recording, John said like do you have a One Cool Thing? And my response was it’s 260 episodes. I’ve had over 260 One Cool Things. I just haven’t been able to say any of them. And in the time that I’ve worked here I think I’ve introduced John to some things that I’m proud to have introduced him to, like Nathan for You, and the iced tea that we drink in this office.
But there is one thing that I’m perhaps most proud to have introduced him to. And it is my One Cool Thing. And I’m going to pitch it to you, to all of our – I think it’s going to be helpful to our listeners as well. And that thing is specifically the chicken kabobs at Fiddler’s Bistro on Third Street, right near the Grove. And here’s my pitch.
Craig: That’s right up there with #ThisFlag.
Stuart: Right. Exactly. So, you’ve probably all seen Fiddler’s Bistro. Like you drive down Third Street. It’s just sort of there. It’s unremarkable. It’s just a sign. It’s just there. It’s near the Grove. It’s next to 7-11.
John: It’s part of a motel complex, right?
Stuart: Part of a motel. It’s the bistro in a motel. Exactly. And I remember once a few months ago, or I guess a few years ago, you and Mike made a joke that I had heard before that’s like, “Whoever goes to Fiddler’s Bistro?” And I was like, ah-ha, I have. And it’s awesome.
It is right near the Grove. I hate the Grove. I absolutely hate the Grove. And my least favorite part about the Grove is parking there.
Craig: Yeah. It’s terrible.
Stuart: So, if you go to Fiddler’s Bistro, there is parking on the street. There’s also a little lot and there’s parking right around the corner, so you can park there if you’re going right before the Grove and then walk to the Grove. Leave your car there. Easy.
But the best part are these chicken kabobs. So you get there, you walk in, it is unpretentious. There are a lot of restaurants in Los Angeles that look really fancy and pretentious and their food is not very good. Fiddler’s Bistro is the exact opposite of that.
It caters this motel, so they have everything on the menu – breakfast all day. But, there’s one section that is differentiated, that sticks out, and that’s the kabobs section. And there’s a reason for it. Their chicken kabobs are out of this world.
So, you sit down. First thing they give you is warm bread with this roasted red pepper dip that is fantastic. And then the chicken kabobs. Simple marinated chicken that is so succulent and delicious. You have no idea.
Craig: This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard.
Stuart: Some of the best hummus you have ever had. Really good pickled beets. Great rice. Peppers. Onions. Pita bread. Absolutely delicious. If you live at Park La Brea, you’ve probably seen it 500 times. You never thought to walk in. It fabulous. And if you read the reviews online, you’ll see that it’s either five-star or like two-star. The five-star reviews are all from people that either got the kabobs or this chicken couscous soup that I’ve never tried, but now I have to try.
And the two/three-star reviews are all from people that were staying at the motel that just got regular food and were not terribly impressed. But the chicken kabobs at Fiddler’s Bistro. My One Cool Thing.
Craig: My mind is blown right now by the – I love – I’ve never seen you this enthusiastic about anything.
Stuart: Find something I love, and I—
Craig: Turns out the answer was chicken.
John: Chicken kabobs at one place. So, Stuart brought in the kabobs from there this week. And the hummus was wrong. And there was no red pepper sauce.
Stuart: And the credit card machine wasn’t working. But first time in seven years that I’ve been there that there has been any sort of blip.
John: Everything is falling apart.
Stuart: Now that I’m leaving. Such a forgivable blip, though.
Craig: But how were the chicken kabobs, John?
John: They were fine. But without the red pepper sauce, it’s just not the same. The red pepper sauce is what sort of pushes them over the edge to me.
Stuart: Well, John had this idea that in all my years of going there, I first was introduced to this place by a friend of mine from Stark. Matty C. Matt Conrad, if you’re out there, hi Matt. And Matt lived near me.
Craig: He’s doing shout-outs now. This is unbelievable.
John: I just love that. He’ll be like turn down the radio while I’m talking on the phone.
Craig: When did we become the Morning Zoo?
Stuart: Five years. Five years! Five years!
So, Matt was like, oh, we got to try Fiddler’s Bistro. And I was like, “That place I’ve walked by a thousand times? Why would I go there?” It’s a perfect place to like sit back, relax, and write.
This red pepper sauce is what like – the second they brought that out, I knew I was somewhere special. And when I brought it here the first time for work, John saved some. And the next day I came in and was like, “I use that on my eggs.” And that is a game-changer.
Craig: Oh, the red pepper sauce on the eggs?
John: That’s how you do it.
Stuart: Get it to go. Save some of the extra. Use it on eggs the next day.
Craig: I’m just—
John: You’ve learned so much.
Craig: I’m happy. But, that was pretty great, actually. I got to say.
Stuart: Oh great, good.
Craig: You delivered.
Stuart: Thank you.
John: Well done. That is our season finale, but we’ll be back next week with the start of the new season.
Craig: Which is the most ridiculous thing. I’m going to miss Stuart.
John: I’ll miss Stuart, too.
Stuart: Thank you guys for five fabulous years. I mean, all I’m doing is pushing buttons. You guys are the—
Craig: Yeah, but we love you.
John: You’re the only one here getting paid, so.
Craig: Exactly. That’s not true. I know you are. I know you are, John. I know it. I know it.
John: At some point there will be forensic accounting and you’ll see all the millions that we’re raking in.
Stuart: We’ll show you the numbers. You’ll have a good laugh.
John: The other person getting paid is Matthew Chilelli who edits our show. Thank you, Matthew. And our outro this week comes from Rajesh Naroth. If you have an outro for us, you can write in to email@example.com and send us a link.
Scriptnotes is produced by Stuart Friedel and Godwin Jabangwe. And, yes, we did pick him because he had a good NPR-sounding name. It’s just a fantastic—
Craig: That was the only reason?
John: It’s a reason. Not the only reason.
Godwin: It’s funny you say that, because I have been writing like tweets to NPR for years saying I have the perfect name for NPR. It’s paying off.
Craig: It’s finally paying off.
John: It’s finally paying off.
Craig: Godwin Jabangwe reports.
Stuart: Close enough. It is so phonaesthetically pleasing. It’s like Cellar Door. Godwin Jabangwe just flows so – it’s like Best Ever Death Metal Band out of Texas. You know that song by Mountain Goats?
Stuart: It just flows. Like your tongue is in exactly the right place for the next syllable.
Craig: Godwin Jabangwe. You’re right. It’s like typing the word point.
John: I’ve been looking forward to it all week to be able to say it.
Craig: All right.
John: Guys, thank you very much, and thank you to our listeners for five years. That’s just crazy and remarkable this has been going on for five years. And we look forward to what happens in the next couple years. See you.
- Girl Gone Overboard, cut by Fredrik Limi
- Stuart Friedel on Twitter
- The Peter Stark Program
- Matt Byrne, Chad Creasey, Dana Fox and Rawson Thurber
- Thomas Barbusca
- The Three Page Challenge
- Steve Zissis and Corey Stoll
- One of John’s doppelgängers as Hebrew National’s Uncle Sam
- Ghostbusters (2016) credits on IMDb
- Gizmodo on The Six Plots
- Godwin Jabangwe on Twitter
- The Wibberleys at UCLA TFT
- My Dad Wrote a Porno
- Do irrational numbers like pi disprove humanity being a simulation? on Quora
- Pastor Evan Mawarire on Twitter, and #ThisFlag
- Fiddler’s Bistro chicken kabobs and red pepper dip
- The phonaesthetically beautiful cellar door and The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton
- Outro by Rajesh Naroth (send us yours!)
You can download the episode here.