The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 268 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the podcast we will be looking at montages and why they’re not the great evil they’re often made out to be. Plus, Final Draft has just released version 10.0 of their eponymous app. Will this be the one that makes Craig finally admit he’s loved them all along?
Craig: Yeah. What a mystery that is.
John: So, I think maybe like you’re the Darcy and she’s the Jane Bennet and like all this time she keeps showing up and you keep dismissing her, but maybe she’s really the one you’re meant for.
John: Maybe you’re destined to end up with Final Draft.
Craig: Yeah. I’m waiting for Final Draft to take off her glasses. And then I’ll realize–
John: Yeah, yeah. That’s it. It’s really the glasses that have been the whole problem.
Craig: I just never realized how beautiful your eyes were. [sings] If you leave, don’t look back. Please…
Oh boy. That’s ‘80s Craig. ‘80s Craig is coming out.
John: Don’t sing any more of that, or else we’re going to have to pay for lights.
Craig: God help us.
John: Last week on the program we discussed writers who lived and worked outside of Los Angeles and New York and London. And we had some great people who wrote in for that segment. We also had some people who didn’t fit into that segment, or wrote in late, so we have a bunch of those stories. They’re going to be up on the blog at johnaugust.com, so you can read those. And there’s a few audio ones, so we might cut those together as a bonus episode. We’ll sort of see how it works out. But thank you to everybody who wrote in and recorded yourself talking about your experiences working outside of Los Angeles.
Craig: I like this new – I listened to our last podcast, by the way.
John: Oh my gosh. Let me sit down for a second.
Craig: Yeah, so that’s number one. And, you know, it’s not a bad show. I got to say. It’s just not bad. [laughs] After 260-some odd of these.
I like this new feature where people ask their questions as if they’re calling in.
John: Yeah, so we’re never going to be a Karina Longworth. We’re never going to be a You Must Remember This, which is like highly produced and written and just gorgeous and beautiful. But, we do our own thing.
Craig: Yeah, but Karina herself is highly produced and beautiful. We’re, you know, we’re just two guys.
John: Yeah. We’re just two slobs with Skype.
Craig: Just standing here asking for you to love us.
John: Exactly. One of the people who wrote in last week and sent stuff for us to look at was Rachael Speal. And she’s the one who sent us the pre-teen detective story. So, here’s what she wrote after she listened to the episode.
“As you mentioned, the solving the crime is not the real story. I thought of it more as a coming of age story about a girl living in the hood who is caught between two worlds: the world she lives in, where there’s little chance of success, and where she would like to be successful, etc. I’d call it a mashup of Princess and the Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, with some sharp humor.”
I don’t know either of those things, but great.
“I also thought to tie it into the unrest that’s happening with the police and the black community by giving her a brother who is readily harassed by the police. This would be another source of conflict since she wants to become one of the people who regularly harasses your community.”
That was Rachael’s take on this story that she sent in. Craig, what do you think of Rachael’s take?
Craig: I’ll be honest with you. I’m not a big fan of that. And here’s why. Putting aside that I also don’t know what a mashup of Princess and the Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete is. It sounds like you want there to be sharp humor. And it sounds like what you want to do is reposition this story into an inner city community and that’s fine. No problem with that.
Where I’m starting to get a little worried is you’re attempting to tack on a very serious social issue onto your teen-as-an-adult genre comedy. And those things don’t really live together very well. Either I’m meant to enjoy this as the kind of inevitably adorable child-solves-crimes type of story, or I’m meant to feel like this is a very real story about a very serious problem. I don’t know how you do both at the same time. I think one would just hurt the other.
John: If you look at her question though, she’s not saying comedy at any point. She’s saying coming of age story. So, I think there’s something that she’s getting at which is essentially the police basically shut her down saying, “No, no, nothing was stolen.” And she’s like, no, there really was. Basically her coming of age is basically recognizing that this system is not there to protect her and she has to take the law into her own hands.
Craig: Yeah. I just don’t believe that story. That’s my problem. I don’t – there are certain things – whenever I go in and talk to a studio about something a lot of times they will have a project where they’re saying everything here except the idea is wrong. We don’t like the tone. We don’t even like the genre. We want something totally different.
The first question I ask is: what are the things that are inherent to the concept, that are baked in, that you can’t really walk away from because then you have essentially nothing? And to me if you have a 12-year-old girl solving crimes, I just don’t understand how that could possibly be serious. It could be coming of age. I could see that. But then if it’s coming of age, I don’t see how the coming of age can be intertwined in any way that takes her “job” seriously. You know, having a brother who is saying, “You’re becoming part of this institution that oppresses our people,” is not compatible with, “I’m 12 and I want to solve a crime.”
It just doesn’t – I don’t see how that connects. I just think that both things would end up undercutting each other and you’d end up with the dreaded fish with feathers.
John: I can definitely see that. There’s something about the 12-year-old girl that it’s not Home Alone, but there is essentially like she’s showing up the grown-ups. It always kind of feels like a comedy and it’s very hard to sort of push yourself completely away from what that is.
And so you’d have to make your world very, very, very dark in order for me to believe that this is what it is. And then I’m not sure I’m eager to sign on to seeing your movie.
Craig: I love a good coming of age story. I think that coming of age stories are wonderful because they treat children like the small adults that they are. The sheep movie that I’ve written, even though it’s a whodunit, is really a coming of age story. That was the thing that attracted me to it the most because sheep are grown animals, but they are childlike. So, it was interesting watching theoretical adults go through a coming of age story. And I think that this is an area that’s underserved. I’d love to see a coming of age story set in the inner city, set among child who are of color. That’s interesting.
And I don’t necessarily want to see that muddied by what is essentially a high concept hook. High concept immediately begins to take you one step away from reality. And so that’s my issue here. I just don’t know if these two flavors go together.
John: Yeah. When I was reading this aloud, I almost said Precious instead of Princess, and Precious is an example of an inner city movie where you have this heroine who is facing such insurmountable odds. And there’s nothing about them that is inherently comedic. It’s just grim kind of throughout. And there might be a way that Rachael could do this movie with – there’s a way Rachael could probably write this movie, but the centerpiece of that is probably not going to be this girl junior detective. I mean, there’s something about that that’s not really at the heart of that.
Craig: No. Because it’s trivializing. I mean, it’s hard to say. Any time children do the adult job, it’s kind of trivializing the adult job. And, you know, a movie that takes a stark blinder-less look at a serious problem can’t afford to then also present something else in a way that feels artificial. In any story in which a child does an adult job is almost certainly going to have that artifice to it.
By the way, we have to have Lee Daniels on the show, because Precious is one of my favorite movies. I’m obsessed with that movie.
John: It’s so good.
Craig: Obsessed. It’s so – it is – that is such a great example. When we talk about specificity of voice, I can’t imagine anyone else in the world making that movie.
John: Absolutely true. Cool.
Our next topic is Austin Film Festival. So, Craig, you are headed to the Austin Film Festival, which is October 13 through 20, but there’s no Scriptnotes. Is that correct?
Craig: There is no live Scriptnotes. However, because you are far, far away, what I am going to do is try and pick up at least two – at least two – very cool interviews for us. Katie Dippold will certainly be one of them.
Craig: So I will get a wonderful interview with Katie Dippold, who wrote Ghostbusters and The Heat and Spy. And I’m going to also try and pick up – I might see if I can get Mike Weber and Scott Neustadter, which would be fun. I’m arguing with Scott Alexander of Alexander and Karaszewski about doing it. He’s like, no, it’s my weekend to have fun. I don’t care, Scott.
John: It could take an hour to do this.
Craig: You sit down and freaking talk to me. So, I’ll work on Scott, because he’s the greatest. And those two guys have had just the most remarkable career. They are very rare in that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything of theirs that’s bad.
John: They’re so good.
Craig: Ever. And they work in every different kind of genre. But I’ll be picking up at least a couple of good one-on-ones. So we’ll get something good out of it for sure.
John: Very, very good. And you’re going to be doing a couple different panels while you’re there, so people can see you at least live in person.
Craig: Again, I will be doing my seminar on structure, which is fun and entertaining and hopefully enlightening for you. It always seems to get positive feedback from the group there. And it’s actually one of the nice things about Austin is that they do ask people. So, I’m going to be doing that again, and that’s a good one. The current schedule seems to be incorrect. I think it was my mistake, because I misinformed them about when my flight was leaving.
So, currently it’s listed for Sunday. It won’t be Sunday. I believe it will be Saturday. I will be doing a panel with Lindsay Doran, which should be terrific. And that’s just Lindsay and I talking about what it’s like to work with a producer, what it’s like to work with a screenwriter. How things can go right, which is a rare topic for us. That will be a nice little intimate discussion which I would love for people to come see.
And lastly I will be one of the judges of the final pitch competition thing, to crown the ultimate winner of Austin’s Pitch Festival competition thing.
John: You are a brave, brave man, Craig Mazin.
Craig: Yes. I will be the Simon Cowell of this thing. I should probably know the name of it if I’m going to be one of the final judges.
John: It’s the End of the Pitch Competition, basically.
Craig: I mean, I did – I don’t know if you ever did this at Austin. One year I judged the finals of the screenplay competition. Did you ever do that?
John: Okay. I think I’ve done the pitch competition. I’ve introduced the pitch competition final thing. As I recall, it was in a place that was like far too noisy and people were trying to pitch in like a crowded bar. It was basically the worst possible place for it. I’m sure it’s evolved from that point forward. But it’s a nighttime thing. You’ll get through it.
Craig: Yeah. I’m actually looking forward to it, because it feels like more of a party frankly. I mean, I don’t know how many people are actually pitching to be in the finals, but I can’t imagine it’s too many. The pitches are really short. And then there’s a party. So, I’m down for the party.
John: Cool. If you are not able to join Craig in Austin, there’s a chance to get a little piece of the Austin experience. So, the Austin Film Festival does this PBS series called On Story where they sit down with the filmmakers and writers to talk about the movies that they’ve worked on. So, there’s a new book coming out, it’s coming out in October, so it’s out in time for the film festival. It’s screenwriters and filmmakers on their iconic films. So, basically they’ve transcribed all of the interviews from these different people, so they have Ron Howard, Callie Khouri, Jonathan Demme, Ted Tally, Jenny Lumet, Harold Ramis, and a bunch of other folks talking about it. So, there will be a link in the show notes if you want to see this book that they’ve put together of all of their interviews.
Craig: Those things are terrific, honestly, if you care about what we do.
John: Yeah. Which we do. So, let’s get to some questions from our listeners. And so once again we have audio. I’m so excited to have the audio now. First off we have Eric in Chicago. Here is what he said.
Eric in Chicago: Hi John and Craig. My wife and I are produced screenwriters with one feature released and a second one in preproduction. We’re considering what our next project should be, and we have a script that we wrote several years ago that we still love and would like to pursue producing. But, the catch is the director who asked us to write the script is also claiming ownership of the project because he asked us to write it for a professional athlete who was interested in getting into acting.
He only laid out the barest of premises and we took it from there, developing, outlining, and writing the screenplay. When the athlete lost interest, the director dropped the project and didn’t do anymore with it. We have no contract with anyone and no money ever changed hands. So, who owns the rights?
John: Craig, what do you think? Who owns the rights?
Craig: I do believe based on the circumstances Eric has laid out here that not only do he and his wife currently own the rights, I believe he and his wife always controlled the rights to this screenplay, because no money changed hands. There was no contract. Nobody ever asked Eric and his wife to sign a statement saying that this was a work-for-hire. This isn’t based on underlying material, as far as I can tell. He’s implying that this was a project that was for a professional athlete to act in, but wasn’t about that professional athlete’s life, so that professional athlete doesn’t even have a claim of life rights.
So essentially they wrote a screenplay that is original to them and they own the copyright 100% lock, stock, and two smoking barrels. The only issue for them is that, of course, the fact that you do own something doesn’t prevent somebody from coming along later and saying, “Wait, wait, wait.” I love that the director claimed ownership. I don’t think the director understands what the word claim or ownership means.
However, they may come back if you attempt to sell this and say, “Wait, wait, wait,” at which point it’s customary that they be granted some fake producing title and perhaps a little bit of money or something. But as far as I can tell, you guys own this completely.
John: I agree. I think in the issue of copyright, they’re pretty well set. There was no contract. Nothing changed hands. This director was asking them to write a script on spec, which is basically just like, hey, let’s take a leap of faith together. And then the director jumped off. They still own the script. So, it’s fine.
I agree with you that the reality of this gets made, that director is going to come back and he’s going to ask for something. It will end up being some sort of crazy producer credit. Whatever. You’ll deal with it when the time comes.
The only thing I would say in the general sense is it’s great that you had movies made and a second one in production, going back to your old stuff that you loved and kind of worked on a while back, it’s unlikely I think that you’re going to get that movie made. I would say don’t spend a tremendous percentage of your time trying to get that old movie made. Keep working on the next thing, and the next thing. Because trying to resurrect old, dead projects is just a giant time suck. And it’s not usually the best use of your time and resources.
Craig: That is a great, great point. And maybe the path of easiest and smartest resistance, if resistance can be smart, is if you’re working with somebody who is legitimate and they ask you if there’s any other things that you have. Sometimes they’ll say things like, “Do you have anything in your drawer?” And you can feel free to hand them that. And if they love it, then just say, okay, here’s the situation by the way. These are the facts. But, hey, if you want to figure out how to do this. Now it’s their problem. Now they want to make it. You’re not trying to do anything. And they will handle these other people for you.
And suddenly this problem just goes away.
John: I agree. Our next question from Octavia Barren Martin in Australia. And this is what she said when she wrote in.
Octavia in Australia: Hi John and Craig, as we say in Australia. I’m a screenwriting student here in Sidney, and I’m currently making my second flawed attempt at a screenplay. And I have a question about writing sex scenes. Now, I have a scene that’s not just an excuse for boobs. It’s, you know, instrumental to the plot, but I just want to know how much detail to include.
At the moment I’m kind of vacillating wildly between Lawrence Kasdan’s Body Heat and the deliberately glued together pages of the sexual reproduction manuals that my religious high school kept in their library. Which is best? Thank you. Big fan of the podcast. Cheers.
John: First off, I love Octavia’s voice. And I love the accent. And I’m not quite sure – I’m sure there are people who are actually professional specialists who can tell me what exactly it is that is so special about that Australian accent. It’s not a vocal fry, but it’s like the vocal fry that you hear Australian women particularly do. It’s just kind of great.
So, I just loved hearing that aloud. And if we read it aloud ourselves, we wouldn’t have any of that quality.
Craig: No. Australians manage to shove four or five vowels into the same space where Americans use one. Cry. Cryyyyyy. It’s like, Denyyyyy. Love it.
What a great question, by the way, and it took just a second for me to understand that Octavia was not asking about not five, not seven, but six scenes. No, no, no, not six scenes. Sex scenes. Sex. Sex scenes as we say here.
So, writing sex scenes should be an awkward experience for everyone involved. I mean, writing about sex is – what do they really say – it’s like, I don’t know, dancing about food or something. It’s just hard to do.
And I have written a couple. I don’t really like sex scenes to be honest with you. They take me out of movies. That’s just my personal opinion. I mean, there have been some terrific ones. But writing them is difficult and awkward. I think that the first question you have to ask, Octavia, is what is it that I want the audience to see.
If you’ve decided that nudity is important and explicit sexual activity is important, then be explicit. But then be explicit – my instinct is to be explicit in the way that the camera is explicit. That is to say not flowery. Not “erotic.” But presentational. Because I think that what you’re meaning to say is this is really happening. It is a real experience here. So, let me describe what’s happening.
So, I would probably go more for a “you are there” style and the reader understand that they’re watching a real sexual experience. If it’s meant to be sort of romantic and oh-ah, then I think you probably leave out the parts where you refer to nipples and butts and just speak a little bit more impressionistically. And then hopefully the filmmakers and the producers and everybody will ask for you to clarify, but they’ll get your intent from that.
John: I completely agree in terms of focusing on what we’re actually going to see on screen. That you don’t have to – this isn’t novel writing, so this isn’t where you have to create the actual feeling of what it would be like to be in that moment. This is really like what it would be like to be watching this moment happen in front of you.
The other thing I would say is that I think you and I are both thinking like this is like a 9 ½ Weeks sex scene, or there’s something where it’s a silent sex scene where it’s all about the sex. Like the first Terminator has a really great sex scene in it, and it’s just about the sex. There’s music playing, but it’s just about the sex.
But a lot of sex scenes are actually dialogue scenes. That may be really what you’re going to be focusing on here is like if there’s talking during it, if they’re moving back and forth between positions, but they’re having discussion. If it’s funny. If there’s anything that’s not just the visuals of like these two bodies intersecting, write that part, and then you don’t have to worry so much about all the scene description that’s taking up the space on the page to indicate that this is not just a one-eighth of a page quick sex scene.
Craig: Yeah. I feel like there’s two kinds of sex scenes fundamentally in movies where let’s call them two kinds of consensual sex scenes that you see in movies. One kind is the kind that is a realistic view of sexuality. People may be talking through it. There’s some kind of relationship point that’s occurring. Maybe character changes are happening. Revelations are occurring. It can be fumbling, awkward, adorable. I’m using all these things.
And then the other kind is two people are having sex and you could play Take My Breath Away over it and the camera could slowly drift away towards a fireplace. That second kind, that’s like 90% of sex scenes. So, the Terminator one is a really good sex scene. That definitely falls under the Take My Breath Away/cut to fireplace.
John: 100%. It’s the interlocking fingers. It’s all of those things that I think are now really clichés, but like it was the first time I saw it, so wow, that’s what sex looks like.
Craig: It’s so not at all what sex looks like.
John: It isn’t.
Craig: Sex looks like [laughs] – sex looks like the inside of my shut eyes while I’m trying to get rid of my shame.
Craig: That’s not true.
John: Maybe we won’t talk anymore about that.
Craig: No, my sex life is wonderful.
John: It’s all good. So, my advice for Octavia is just really look at what is the purpose of the sex scene, what are the – again, we’re going to say specificity, but what is it about this sex scene that is different from other sex scenes? And that may be your clue into how to make this sex scene less awkward for you to write and also more enjoyable for the reader to read.
Craig: Hey, Octavia.
Craig: Yeah, Sexy Craig here. Sexy Craig. No faces. Just body parts. I don’t want to look at faces. Tell me more about that book.
John: [sighs] All right. Let’s get on to our big topics of the week.
Craig: That’s a big class sigh.
John: Let’s move onto our big topic of the week. So, we actually have two craft topics this week. I had the first one here. This is because, so I’m busy writing Arlo Finch, so I’m owing them my draft, so I’m cranking through pages and chapters.
So, most of Arlo Finch takes place in what we think about as scenes. So that is you have characters who are in one moment dealing with the things that are right there in front of them. And really most popular fiction that you read is written that way, where characters are in a space, they’re having conversation in that space. And then they are going to leave that space and time and move onto a new place.
When you’re writing that kind of stuff, you often have an omniscient narrator’s point of view, so you can fill in things from the past. You can sort of blur the edges of the present a little bit. But usually you’re kind of in one space in time.
But, that’s not always the way it is in prose fiction. And sometimes you’ll encounter in prose fiction things that have no relation to time or place. They’re not pinned to any one specific moment.
And so an example being Pride & Prejudice, going back to Darcy once again. Most of Pride & Prejudice takes place in scenes, where like you’re in a moment. You’re at this dance and she’s seeing these things happen in this time and place.
But here’s an example from kind of later in the book. She writes: “Nor did that day wear out her resentment. A week elapsed before she could see Elizabeth without scolding her, a month passed away before she could speak to Sir William or Lady Lucas without being rude, and many months were gone before she could at all forgive their daughter.”
So here in the course of two sentences, we’ve gone through months. And you’re filling in a bunch of details that happened, but there’s not like one scene. There’s not one moment that’s happening in those.
That’s prose fiction. But, I think the equivalent that we see in movies is montages, where we’re not so bound to one place and one time. So, I wanted to talk about what montages are and how we can use them effectively in screenwriting.
Craig: You know, there’s an interesting history to montages. The original use of the term montage was really just for editing. So, instead of showing two people in a oner talking and then one leaves the scene, the idea was that you could cut a close up of one person and then a close up of another inside of a master shot and essentially what we call coverage now. And they called this a montage.
And then an editor named Slavko Vorkapic, which may be the greatest name in film history.
John: That’s a great name.
Craig: Slavko Vorkapic came up with this other thing that they started called the Vorkapic which was what we now think of as the montage. A collage of scenes, often set to music, without dialogue, that sped through a longer amount of time in a dream-like way. And he was called upon, you know what we need here, we need a Vorkapic. Get Slavko Vorkapic to do this for us. And he would.
Over time, of course, this just became known as the montage. And unfortunately you and I, children of the ‘80s, ‘70s and ‘80s, we know that the montage became this overused cliché thing that happened in every action movie and every teen comedy where somebody had to get beautiful, get strong, get skilled. And so they did it within 45 seconds set to a terrible ‘80s song.
John: A power ballad usually.
Craig: Power ballad usually. You know, and “You’re the best, around.” I mean, that’s the ultimate, right? The Karate Kid 1. And–
John: But in the South Park Movie, “You Need a Montage.” I mean, it’s absolutely true.
Craig: “You need a montage.” And where it got absurd was that the montage became this kind of lame-o way of doing what’s supposed to be the best part of movies, which is watching the caterpillar turn into a butterfly was reduced down to some 40-second baloney song. And it was just unbelievable. But that’s just an abuse of montage. There are some terrific ways to use montage, and you still see them, it’s just they’re not quite so hammer to the face.
John: Yeah. Let’s talk about sort of why montages get a knock in scripts. I think a lot of times you see a montage, if you see a montage in a movie, sometimes you can sense like, oh you know what, that really wasn’t supposed to be a montage. They were just trying to cut through a bunch of stuff. So, a bunch of little scenes got sort of chopped up into a montage that were never supposed to be a montage. So that’s one thing.
But a lot of times in a script level you’ll see the writer is just basically trying to cheat and rush through a bunch. They’re trying to get their page count down, so they’ll take a bunch of little small scenes and bullet point them as a montage when they’re not really a montage. They’re really just a bunch of small scenes.
The reason why line producers hate montages is they actually take a tremendous amount of time to shoot. Because like you’re going to this location, that location, this location, that location. Well, every time you’re going to a new location, that’s a tremendous expense of time and money for a production.
And so line producers will go through your script and they’ll see a montage and they’ll just shudder because they know that actually is a lot of work. A lot more work than it looks like in the script.
And then, of course, the real problem is they’re just such a cliché. And so so often you’ll see the training montage, the she gets beautiful montage, the whatever to get from one place to another place montage where we’ve seen it so many times that it’s painful to watch it.
Craig: Yeah. You really aren’t allowed anymore to have somebody train in a montage. That’s done. You can’t do it. It’s not that South Park killed it, but South Park simply sang the funeral song. It was already dead.
Craig: So, that you can’t do anymore. Nor can you do – and training montage isn’t just I’m getting strong, or I’m learning how to fight. It is also I’m changing my appearance. Or perhaps the worst of them all, I’m going to try on clothes.
Craig: Whilst my friend – my impotent friend – stands there nodding no, no, no at that hat. And you go, really? And she goes, “Uh-uh.”
John: Yeah. The curtains slide open and close.
Craig: Ugh. And it is lazy. And you’re right. They actually do take an enormous amount of time to do. I mean, we did a montage in – we’ve talked about this one, the one in Hangover 2, where the montage was really a representation of this kind of strange Zen dream recovered memory that Zach Galifianakis’s character was having in which he remembers in these flashy surreal glimpses the night before. Except that the way he did it, he remembered them as children.
So, we had to shoot the crazy montage twice. Once with our actors, and then once with children doing the same things. And talk about an enormous investment for about 90 seconds of movie. They are hard to do.
But that’s okay. I like it when – and we don’t think of them as montages, but when people – characters in movies are experiencing something in a way that is not quite rational. A dream. A memory. They are under the influence of some kind of substance. Then a montage actually makes sense because the montage is essentially presenting what a broken reality should look like.
John: Absolutely. Well, what they’re doing is they’re showing a different texture from the rest of your movie. So, if the rest of your movie is very straightforward, that montage can be really hallucinogenic and it feels different because it’s cut as a montage. That’s one of the reasons why it’s different.
Another example of going to a different texture, like you think back to The Social Network. And that’s a very talky, talky, talky movie. But there’s one real montage in that which is this Henley Regatta scene, where Fincher shoots this boat race as if it’s just some giant sporting event. And it really sticks out and really lets you sort of catch your breath because it’s just very different from the rest of that movie.
The opposite can be true in something like Witness. And so Witness, you know there’s police procedural, there’s thriller, there’s drama, but then they get to this montage where they’re building a barn and it’s happy. It’s a joyous moment. And it sticks out because, well, it’s a montage, and it’s also a very different tone.
And so when you’re shifting textures, that’s often a great use of a montage.
Craig: Yeah. And it follows a certain rule, I think, both of those examples, which is a good rule for you at home to apply to your own potential montage. Is there some kind of interesting information I might be losing if I don’t show this in a montage? I think the answer for both the Regatta and the barn raising is, no.
Then another question is do I feel like I am cheating reality a bit here by showing this in a montage. And, again, I think the answer is no. A race, like a regatta, shows rowers straining to push a boat in water. That will not change. Barn-raising is cutting wood, nailing it together, and raising it. That’s not going to change.
Somebody learning karate, that’s going to change. That’s a long process. It doesn’t happen in an hour. It happens over months. Or years. So, you don’t – and Karate Kid is the greatest movie. It gets a pass. I mean, it’s from the ‘80s and it’s wonderful. But you don’t feel like, ugh, you know, like in real life it takes a year to raise a barn. It doesn’t. It probably takes about a day or two. It’s fine.
So, if you can answer those questions and feel like you’re on safe ground there, then sometimes you want to do a montage. You want to give the audience a break and let music give the experience of pure emotion, which is what music does best, as opposed to a kind of deliberate instigation of emotion which is what dialogue does best.
John: Absolutely. The thing I want to stress about great montages is they really serve the function of scenes. And what do I mean by a scene? Well, scenes have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They have a reason for why they’re there and they have characters in one set of circumstances at the beginning and a different set of circumstances at the end.
And so as long as your montages are doing that process of taking characters from one place to another place, or taking the viewer from one place to another place, that’s probably going to be an effective montage. Or at least it’s a reason for trying a montage.
Look at is this the best way to tell this piece of your story? Are you trying to show a multi-step process? Are you trying to show the effects of something that would be really hard to do otherwise? And one of the things I’ve noticed about montages is that they’re a terrible place to introduce new characters, but they’re actually a great place to sort of stick in new characters who you don’t want the audience to care about.
Any character who sort of shows up in the middle of a montage, they’re sort of immediately discounted. And so we know like, you know what, I don’t have to worry about that person. That person is never going to show up again in an important way.
So, that random cop who shows up? Forget about him. You’re never going to see him again. We don’t need to know his name. It’s all going to be fine. And that’s actually a very useful thing when you’re showing the effects of something happening, so like the cyclone is tearing through the city, you can bring in a brand new character there and have them do something and we don’t care to ever see them again. That’s one of the nice things about montages is that the audience knows not to worry about people who show up while music is playing and big things are flying around.
Craig: Absolutely true. There’s always that – in disaster movies you’ll see some disaster hitting some city where our heroes are not. And an old lady is running scared. And we see her face and she just stands in for like everyone who lives in India is this lady. And, yes, you’re right. It’s like, okay, the montage is attempting to make this vaguely human. Something that montages are not very good at.
One thing to think about if you are on the edge of the knife of this decision, montage or not, is to ask is there one scene that could encompass a moment of change or revelation that would change someone profoundly and permanently. Because if there is, if you can do it in one fascinating moment, if it’s the kind of thing that could happen in one fascinating moment, you owe it to yourself to try that first. See if you can find that before you go to montage, because the very nature of montage is to suggest no one moment is particularly important. But rather there’s this normal progression of moments that get you from A to B.
John: Yup. It’s worth remembering that in the early days of cinema when a character was traveling from point A to point B, a character was traveling from New York to Paris, you would see them drive to the airport, get on a plane, and fly to Paris. You would see the Eiffel Tower. You would see them get in another Taxi and take them to the hotel.
Now we just cut to the hotel in Paris. And we sort of get past that. We sort of shorthanded the montage so we don’t see that. So always ask yourself: if this is a place where we normally would have a montage for this thing, what is the possibility of just doing the blunt cut where we just jump ahead to this new thing where we see the character already in a completely different outfit and a completely different hairstyle and everything has changed. Is there a way the audience can catch up with you that’s going to be kind of worth it to have made that really aggressive jump in time? Sometimes there is.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, you have in Star Wars this moment that could have easily been supplanted by a montage where Obi-Wan is training. And there’s another one actually in Empire Strikes Back, an even longer training sequence. And both of those could have been montaged, and people would have been like what the heck – there’s a montage in the middle of Star Wars? What’s going on?
No, because the truth is you can find those key moments. In Star Wars, the key moment is I’m going to cover your eyes. You have to hit this thing. I can’t do it. Well, you’re going to have to figure out how to do it. And in Empire Strikes Back, it was lifting the X-Wing fighter out of the swamp.
Craig: And so instead of doing this whole long thing, there is a moment. If you can find a moment, dump the ‘tage.
John: Dump the ‘tage. Let’s wrap this up by talking about sort of how you portray montages actually on the page. And so you’ll see different ways of doing it. I’m not usually a big fan of the asterisk thing, because that’s just honestly cheating. Like you’re trying to cram way too much in there too quickly. Especially if you’re trying to move between different locations, just doing like little starred asterisks. That’s no Bueno for me.
But, what I will often see is short scene headers, a single line. We talked through the Ocean’s 11 montage which sort of goes through a bunch of different places as one of the heists is happening. That’s a terrifically well-formatted thing where it’s not sort of building out full scenes for those, but it’s giving you the feeling for what it’s going to be like to watch that.
No matter how you format it, just make sure it feels like it’s accurate to what it would feel like in the theater watching it on the screen. That’s the most crucial thing. That you’re not short-changing the time or the actual sort of weight of the moments in trying to get it down on the page.
Craig: Yeah. You don’t want to just jam this thick list in there. But, you know, there is a middle ground, I think, between breaking out every single location. You can sort of – I think it’s fair to say, all right, I’m going to do something called INT/EXT Various Montage. But if each thing is clearly its own paragraph and you’re not shoving stuff together or overdoing it and really giving it its space so it’s clear to read, I think that that’s an acceptable middle ground.
But, you just have to do it in such a way that you don’t feel like you’re compressing your montage down on the page to – now I’m just cheating on page count. You know, anything that feels like that is that.
John: It is that. Also in favor of getting rid of the scene headers is that sometimes that is actually more true to how it’s really going to feel. Like you’re not really establishing a new location. You’re just in it and you’re moving through it. So, I will do the INT/EXT Various, but when it comes time for production as long as those things are individual paragraphs those will each get their own scene numbers. It will all be fine.
John: Cool. All right. Let’s talk about Craig’s most exciting news of the week, which is that Final Draft 10 has now shipped. It’s available for people to download. You can download a trial version, which is what Craig and I did this morning.
Craig: No, no, I paid for it.
John: You paid for it?
Craig: I’ll tell you why.
John: Tell me.
Craig: Because I’m a paying customer. So I can say whatever I damn well please.
John: Oh, good stuff. I just did the trial version. So, here are sort of my quick impressions. Craig’s quick impressions. If you want to know more about our history with Final Draft, you can go back and listen to The One with the Guys from Final Draft, which was one of our sort of iconic episodes where the people who run Final Draft came and talked with us about their app and sort of their frustrations with us.
John: What I’ll say that I liked about it, because you should always start with what worked. If you’re giving notes on a script, you start with what worked. And here is what worked about it for me.
I think their new app icon is much, much better.
Craig: Wait, hold on. Let’s stop right there. That tells us a lot.
John: It does tell us a lot. I would say actually 80% of the icons in the app are significantly improved. And like this sounds like I’m [unintelligible] praise, but I think the icons were so horrible in the previous builds that they actually are noticeably better.
Craig: Well, just to point out, the upgrade costs $80. So, so far for $80 you’ve gotten better icons.
John: Better icons.
Craig: Okay. And?
John: I don’t have a lot else to pose in this initial thing. So, there are a lot of new features and we’ll talk through the new features. And some people might say like, oh, well that’s worth my $80. I’m not sure that it’s worth it for $80 for me.
What I found as I used it with you, and also as I used it more, is wow this thing is so cluttered. And so we’re going to talk about collaboration which was just a mess for cluttering, but I took screenshots of Final Draft on my 13-inch MacBook that I’m using here in Paris and I could see half a page of actual screenplay because there was so much on the screen. There’s all these ribbons and jewel bars and stuff. And you can hide some of them, but you can’t hide all of them.
So I took a screenshot of that, and then I took a screenshot in what I actually use, which is Highland, to show the difference between these apps and their approaches. It’s like someone in Final Draft’s family was killed by white space and they are just determined to eliminate all white space they can possibly see. Every square inch of the screen is filled with some doo-dad.
Craig: Hello white space. You killed my father. [laughs] Prepare to die. Yeah, this is not good. And I swear to you, I opened it up thinking to myself, well, let’s be as fair as I can. They have somewhat predictably done what they can do. Not what they should do, but what they can do. The easiest thing for them to do is keep their underlying code and just slap a bunch of crap on top of it. This is cluttered.
And most of the crap they’ve slapped on top of it is either useless or doesn’t work well. What they seemingly still cannot do is fix simple things like dual dialogue, which is still a broken implementation in Final Draft. That’s apparently rocket science to them.
Their crap that they’ve given you is all crap that swims in the same filthy water as guru books and structure baloney. Story maps. And story storms. And structure fields. And all this baloney that’s basically just useless graphical representations of slug lines. It’s absolutely useless.
John: So, let’s talk through the bullet points of their new features. Basically when you go to their “What’s New in Final Draft 10,” these are the things they’re singling out. So we’ll just talk through what they actually are so people know what they are.
The first is that there’s a horizontal stripe at the top of the screen which depicts page 0 to 120 of your script. And you can see sort of the scenes laid out in there. I thought this was actually a really interesting idea. I think the ability to get an overview of your whole script that way was fascinating. I thought it was a really bad implementation of it. It took me a very long time to realize you had to double click to get to a place in there. I don’t know why you double click to get to a place.
It’s called Story Map. I would call it Story Stripe, but that’s fine. That’s me. But what’s weird is that it assumes that all scripts should be about 120 pages. And so what I opened up was this TV pilot I wrote, which is 60 pages. So it showed the back half of it as being like black. Like I need to write more pages, I guess.
Craig: God. I mean, how dumb.
John: I couldn’t find a way to get rid of this stripe which was taking up an extra three-quarters of an inch of my screen. And so I just clicked things randomly. I look through the menus. View and Hide. It turns out it’s called Story Map and there’s an icon on the toolbar to do it, but it’s not toggle kind of icon. It doesn’t show you that it’s engaged or not. So, you click it once to show it, and click it again to hide it, but there’s not clear way that that’s how you do it.
So, I’m not a fan of the Story Map.
Craig: No. And things like not indicating whether a toggle is on or off or calling something Story Map when in fact it is a Story Stripe and of minimal value – honestly, I find minimal value. And then doing weird things like locking it to 120 pages indicates just a lack of taste. I don’t know how else to put it. There’s no taste behind this. It’s just ridiculous quasi-functions that fulfill marketing checkboxes. But there’s nothing of value, inherent substance there, that makes my life easier as a writer. Nothing.
They just wanted to be able to say, “We’re shipping something with a Story Map. Do you have a problem writing screenplays? Are you not yet making a million dollars a year as a screenwriter? Don’t worry. We have Story Map. That’s the thing that you’re missing. A stripe across the top of your screen with little gray blobs showing you were slug lines are.”
John: There’s also a Beat Board, which is sort of like the Index Cards.
Craig: [laughs] Here we go again. Beat Board.
John: You can draw these little boxes and put text in them and kind of arrange them. I didn’t find it especially useful. You can also split-screen to have that on one side and your text on the other side to make your screen even smaller. I really had a hard time envisioning anyone using this professionally, because almost any other tool you might pick to do that, be it paper, or be it some other application devoted to outlining – like Workflowy, what we use for our notes – would be a much better choice for really almost anything. So, I found that frustrating.
What I was most curious to try was collaboration. So that’s why I had you download it, and why we played with it. So, once upon a time, Final Draft had this thing called Collabo-Writer, which I don’t know anybody who really used, but they always billed it as a feature. It kind of went away. This is it back. It wasn’t at all what I thought I was going to be getting. Craig?
Craig: Well, there is a current application of this. A software called WriterDuet which is web-based but also desktop based. It allows for real-time collaboration between people over separated computers and IP and all that stuff. Very similar to the way Google Docs works.
So, if you and I both control a Google Doc, or for instance this Workflowy document online, we can both be editing at the same time. We can annotate who changed what and so on.
Final Draft appears to have caught up to everyone else’s terrible version of their good idea. I don’t know how else to put it. Collaboration works as follows: you start a document and then you invite someone to collaborate. That pulls up a code. That person then goes into Final Draft, says I want to join a collaboration, I enter the code. I am then brought, ugh, to a screen that is that document, almost completely obscured by an un-closable window. That is a chat window with my collaborator. And in that chat window, you and I can talk to each other, like the way you would with iChat or something, although oddly they don’t have word wrap in their text entry, so that’s something that I think was solved 40 years ago by UNIVAC, but somehow these guys haven’t mastered it.
John: Yeah. We should say that by word wrap we mean literally if I type longer than one line, the first line disappears, and so I can’t see what was up there.
Craig: I mean, that’s just madness. That’s not even like, oh, we have a problem with our beta. That’s freaking alpha. That’s just ridiculous. And, again, a sign of just no taste or concern.
Regardless, here’s the biggest problem of them all. And this is really where they should have just said, “You know what, everyone? We should be in the business of going out of business. Let’s just close the doors because we’re terrible at this.”
This problem of synchronous editing that everyone else has solved continues to elude Final Draft. Their solution is one of you can edit the document at a time. And then if the other one wants to make a change, their cowriter needs to press a button that relinquishes command of the document and now you get command of the document.
And when I say you have no command, I mean you can’t even put a cursor or highlight a word. You cannot impact the document if you are not the editing member of the collaboration team at that time. That is absurd.
John: Yeah. So, honestly, the built in tools that are on every Macintosh would do a better job of sharing a document. Of honestly sharing this Final Draft 10 document than the actual built-in tools of Final Draft 10. So, if we wanted to edit this document together, what we should do is just share screens. Just use the screen sharing thing that’s built into every Macintosh.
John: And just use messages to do it, because then you could at least put the window behind the screen. It was so frustrating that this is how they chose to implement it. And so while we were doing this, I said like, oh Craig, I’m going to save the transcript of this so we could post it, but then I couldn’t save the transcript. And once I closed the window, it was gone forever.
Craig: Of course. Of course. Which is important for writers who are collaborating. You know, when they’re sharing ideas and stuff, it’s important that they do so in a way that cannot be saved. Because as you know, oh, whatever. You know what, if you want to save something, if it’s that important, put it in the Beat Board. The Beat Board, which literally every of these – these functions are all available, done better, by other people for free.
And so they bundled together poor implementations of other people’s work and they’re charging you $80 for it. There is literally no reason, none, to buy this upgrade, as far as I can tell. If they had – first of all, $80 for an upgrade, it should be a major upgrade. We’ve had this problem before. That’s just off of the rest of the world’s idea of what an upgrade cost should be. This should, I don’t know, it should be a $20 upgrade. It really feels like that. If.
But, there’s no reason. I mean, they didn’t change the file format, so why would anybody upgrade?
John: I don’t know why people would upgrade. I think the one thing that was a new feature which, like Aline uses on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I know they will write alternate dialogue, and then when they put it up on the big board and Aline is doing the final pass they will vote on the dialogue. So that’s a thing she might actually use this feature.
But you know what you can also do for alternate dialogue? In Highland you put it in brackets. In any other application, just put it in parenthesis and show the alternate dialogue right there. You’re going to make your decision. So, Final Draft lets you pick one of your alternate dialogues to actually be in the PDF or in the thing, but that’s not so useful. That’s not a big marquee feature for a major upgrade.
Craig: No, it’s not. And this one is the one that actually angers me the most. Because I like it, and I know I like it because it was my idea. I had the idea to give a screenwriter the ability to write alternate lines but hide them and so just put an icon next to a line that says, okay, there’s four versions of this and you can somehow scroll through them one-by-one as opposed to seeing them all on a list, just to keep the page count and the page size realistic.
And so I called up Kent Tessman who is the developer of Fade In Pro. And he went ahead and implemented that. And charged, by the way, you know what the big charge for that upgrade was? Zero dollars. And he implemented it in a very elegant way where you would select, okay, I’m going to add an alternate to this line, and then you would start typing that alternate and a little number would appear with two arrows on either side of it. 1, 2, 3, 4. And you would just click through the arrows to see the various versions.
Well guess what just should up in Final Draft? Alternate lines that work exactly the same way, even with the little number and the arrows. Wow. Wow. So that’s the one cool thing they did wasn’t even their idea and another developer did it who is an independent developer, sole proprietor, and they – I am saying that it appears to me as the layman that they ripped him off. That’s how it appears to me.
John: I can see that being a very probable situation. What I do want to say about – this is not really sort of full in defense of Final Draft, but in acknowledging the reality of the situation, Fade In used a lot of what Final Draft has built in terms of the structure of how the app works. Down to the point where many of the dialogue boxes are nearly identical. So, I fully want to give credit for Kent for implanting your alternate dialogue idea, but I also want to acknowledge that Fade In would not look like Fade In if Final Draft didn’t already exist.
John: Is that fair?
Craig: It is fair. And, in fact, I have great praise – great praise – for a program called Final Draft from 15 years ago, when it seemed like they were still innovating and the code was current and they were really the best option available for the price. Those days are so long gone. So long gone.
It still appears to me to be bloatware. It still appears to be ugly. They are adding functionality that isn’t actually functionality. It’s simply poorly done support for marketing buzzwords. You can see how they continue to concentrate entirely on the market that they say they aren’t concentrating on. They claim to be the industry standard. They are concentrating entirely on suckering in people who are not in the industry by promising them useless tools that will help them get into the industry. They will not.
And, lastly, and this is the most important thing of all. When Final Draft says they are the industry standard, that is insane. The industry standard is PDF. Everyone – everyone – sends and reads screenplays of all kinds on PDF. No one gets what I would call the source word processing file, whether it is a FDX, or an FDR from Fade In Pro, or a Highland file. Nobody gets that.
So, yes, there are people that use the raw files for scheduling and so forth, which is why basically I think every major software, WriterDuet, and so on and so forth, they all import and export FDX files. They are not the industry standard of anything as far as I’m concerned, except bilking people for poorly written, poorly done, highly marketed software.
John: And that is our first take on Final Draft 10.
Craig: [laughs] I wonder if they’ll come back. I mean, I hope they do. Honestly, because I enjoyed my conversation with Marc Madnick. I don’t he was a great representative or ambassador for his own company, which is probably why I would love to talk to him again, because I would love to hear him sort of explain some of this stuff.
John: Yeah. Here’s where I come down with Final Draft 10. I think if you wanted to buy Final Draft, this is the probably better version than Final Draft 9 to buy. So, for whatever reason you’re stuck in your head that you’re going to buy Final Draft, then Final Draft 10 is going to be a better bet than Final Draft 9. It looks better. Probably, I think, some of it runs better. Friends who have been beta testing say it’s less flaky. It’s certainly, you know, it doesn’t hurt my eyes to quite the same degree. It’s like I can’t see very much of the screen. So, there’s that.
Craig: [laughs] It doesn’t hurt my eyes as much. They should put that on the cover of the box.
John: [laughs] Indeed. You know, they always have like J.J. Abrams or James Cameron saying like, “It’s the industry standard.” So, John August, “It doesn’t hurt my eyes as previous versions.” That’s what it comes down to.
Craig: The parts that I can see.
John: We left off four little bullet points. They have these things called Structure Points. They’re like little markers that show you where your act breaks are in your Story Map.
Craig: Oh god.
John: Great. Headers and footers, you can now put the file name in there, which is useful. That would take Nima, our coder, about 30 seconds to implement in any other application. But great.
Scene numbering. They now let you number – so if you’re adding a new scene between scene 8 and scene 9, that could either be scene 8A or scene A9, depending on what numbering scheme you’re using. You can choose between those two numbering schemes. Great.
Craig: I thought they already had that. In my end, both Final Draft and Fade In Pro both had the ability. Because one of them is more of a UK convention. I think they already had this.
John: The last time I had to do production revisions, and realistically every time I had to do production revisions, I end up manually numbering those things anyway because it’s always so strangely complicated. And you really want to do whatever the AD tells you to do.
Finally, the revisions dialogue box is even more complicated than before. Every time I have to do a set of revisions, and like on Big Fish, I did all of Big Fish the Musical on Final Draft because I started in there and there was just really no way to get out of it. But every time I did it, and I had to open that dialogue box, I’m like oh my god, how do you – like figuring out how you build the new draft and what you want to have revised is just such chaos.
And they added some new stuff there, so god bless you.
Craig: Yeah. Now you can bold some of your revisions which I urge people to never do.
John: Yeah. That’s not a good idea.
Craig: That’s just crazy. And just so you know why. I’m a believer that you should have options when it comes to how you designate what your revision – in fact, that’s another thing. I called Kent and I’m like, hey, I don’t want to just have to use an asterisk to show revisions. By revision level, I want the ability to say I want double asterisks, or I want an exclamation point. Because sometimes that does come in useful for people who are looking at multiple revisions at once to see, okay, that came first, and then that came.
But, bolding – like italics – is something that we use in the actual text of the document to imply creative information. You should never, ever use bolding or italicizing to indicate revisions. That is a terrible idea.
John: Yeah. You should not do that.
Craig: Well, but the good news is they’ve given you the chance to do it.
Craig: Yeah. Because the one thing we know for sure is that they are not in the business of going out of business.
John: 100%. All right. It’s time for our One Cool Things. My One Cool Thing is a book I just finished reading. It’s called Invasive. It’s by Chuck Wendig who is a screenwriter and a novelist who has written a bunch of Star Wars books and other books. He’s also a really good writer about writing. And so I’ve been following his Twitter feed and looking at his blog. He always has just great advice for writers. And so I’d never actually read one of his books, so I read one of his books. Invasive. It’s quite good.
It is a thriller in sort of the Michael Crichton science thriller way where this is about a developed species of invasive ants, these sort of killer ants that break loose and cause havoc. It was well done. And it was fun to read something that feels like a movie, but done as a book. And it was fun to sort of see what that looks like on the page versus how it would be in a movie.
This is a story with a sort of Clarice Starling kind of FBI consultant protagonist and a lot of ants. It’s very squirmy. So I would recommend Invasive by Chuck Wendig.
Craig: That does sound cool. My One Cool Thing was really our One Cool Thing. We were just talking about it. A lot of people sent us this video on Twitter. The Marvel Symphonic Universe. This is a video done by Brian Satterwhite, Taylor Ramos, and Tony Zhou who was, I believe, also the guy that did that visual comedy video that we talked about a while ago. And this seems like this is kind of his thing to do.
Currently, 2.6 million views on the YouTube.
John: So they really need Scriptnotes to push it.
Craig: Yeah. Well, I’m not sure this is a cool thing. I can’t quite tell. But it’s an interesting thing at the very least. Essentially, they ask people on the street in Vancouver, hey, off the top of your head can you sing the theme from Star Wars, and everyone can. Can you sing the theme from James Bond? Everyone can. Can you sing the theme from Harry Potter, and everyone can.
Then they say, “Can you sing any theme from a Marvel film?” And the answer is no. Which was interesting to me because I thought, oh, yeah, that’s something I didn’t realize I didn’t know, but I don’t know any of those. Now, the video then kind of extends this into a critique. And I’m not sure the critique is valid.
I love movie music and I love wonderful themes. I’m not sure it’s valid to just say these Marvel movies have a certain style of music and it’s not at all as good as John Williams. Well, what is? It’s also hard to argue with their choice of style for music because it seems to be working for them and their fans.
But, at least it’s interesting in the sense that I never really thought about the nature of how Marvel uses music in their movies, which is very much closer to sound design than it is to actual classic melodic score.
John: Yeah. I liked the questions that they were asking. I wasn’t so delighted with the answers they were trying to give. The questions were, of course, why can’t you remember a Marvel theme. And what is the role of temp music in effecting sort of the final music in a movie? So, temp music has become pervasive and to what degree are our choices in temp music really dictating what the final thing is going to sound like?
And I thought that was interesting. The final thing is like melody has kind of disappeared in our movies for better or for worse. And so we think of those great movies with John Williams themes and they’re very prominently used. And the reason why you can remember them is because they had repetition. Andrew Lippa, a friend, says you know what the key is to memorable songs? Repetition.
Repetition is the key to memorable songs. You have to repeat things again and again and people will eventually hear that melody again and they’ll expect the melody because you’re repeating it. You’ve got to keep repeating the song again, and again, and again. And that’s absolutely true.
And so the reason why we remember Star Wars, the reason why we remember the Harry Potter theme is because those are used throughout the movies consistently. And Marvel has not chosen to do that. And that’s, for better or for worse, those movies don’t have a musical signature that tells you that that’s what they are.
Craig: Yeah. I completely agree. And I love that, Harry Potter in particular, I love the way that they did make a choice to use that wonderful John Williams theme and allow the tone of their movies to breathe, to give it room to be played over, and over, and over. That in and of itself is a choice.
When you’re making a kind of frantic, high octane action-adventure, a little harder to do. Not impossible. You know, Terminator has a very memorable theme.
John: Which one are you thinking of?
Craig: [laughs] I’m just thinking of [hums].
John: I think they’re both themes from Terminator.
Craig: Oh really? I don’t know that first one. I just know the percussive one. [hums] And so that was a perfect theme for that movie because that movie was about the relentless march of action as instigated by a robot. And [hums] is not a melody per se. I don’t remember the melody. I just remember that percussive rhythm thing.
And, yeah, I can see how movies that are about that then take that to the extreme. And everything becomes very rhythmic. Sometimes when I’m writing an action sequence, in order to kind of get my blood flowing I’ll put on some Hans Zimmer from The Dark Knight. And it helps. It’s not melodic. It’s percussive. Even as melody is playing, it’s the rhythmic percussive nature of it that kind of gets me going. But, I prefer the Danny Elfman theme from the Tim Burton Batman. That’s a wonderful – and that was repeated over and over. And I think everybody can hum – you can hum that one, right?
John: I’m not sure I can.
John: Oh, of course.
Craig: That one, right?
John: That one.
Craig: Yeah. It was wonderful. I like that. But, you see, Batman has evolved and there’s no space for that anymore. Now we need [hums]. That’s basically the theme to the Nolan Batman. [hums]
So, it’s choices right? I feel like I had the same issue last time with Tony which is that he makes these really – I know he’s working with a couple other people here. He makes really interesting observations but is coating them in a jacket of judgment that I don’t think is deserved.
John: Yup. I would agree.
And that’s our show for this week. So, as always, we are produced by Godwin Jabangwe. We are edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro, which is very, very much on theme is by Rajesh Naroth. I should also say that in addition to Harry Potter being a great movie to see, I went to the Universal Studios Harry Potter thing before I left for Paris. It’s really great. Craig, have you been there yet?
Craig: I was at the one in Orlando a number of years ago. The OG.
John: Similar but delicious.
Craig: Yeah. That’s fantastic. They do a great job.
John: So, if you have an outro for our show, you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s also the place to send questions like the ones we answered today.
On Twitter, I am @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. On Instagram I’m also @johnaugust, so you can see all of my photos from Paris if you’re curious on that.
You can find the show notes for this episode and all episodes at johnaugust.com. That’s also where we will have some of the bonus stuff from people who wrote in about getting work while they’re outside of Los Angeles, New York, or London.
You’ll also find our transcripts there. Transcripts are going to be delayed about two weeks now, because the guy who is doing the transcripts is taking a vacation. He deserves a vacation. So, if transcripts are delayed, that’s why. Because we are quality employers who let their people take vacations.
You can find the back episodes at Scriptnotes.net. And also on the USB drives which are now back in stock at the store at johnaugust.com.
And that’s our show for this week. Craig, have a great week.
Craig: You too, John. See you next time.
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