John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is Episode 271 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the podcast, we’ll be looking at ways to buckle down and actually finish writing something. We’ll also be tackling a listener question about autism spectrum disorder and how it might impact a screenwriting career.

Craig, I’m so happy to be back with you on the air. It was lovely to hear you and John Lee Hancock do the episode last week but it’s nice to be back with you in person.

Craig: It’s always nice. You know what? I feel like sometimes it’s nice we get a little bit of a break from each other.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And then we appreciate each other all the more when we return. A brief absence does in fact make the heart grow fonder.

John: Indeed. It’s always so fun when you do an episode without me because you actually do all that work of all the boilerplate stuff and all the segues and transitions. You really can do it, Craig. So it’s very nice. It’s sort of like when Mom goes back to visit the relatives on the East Coast and Dad has to like, you know, drive the kids to school do all of that stuff.

Craig: Right.

John: Look, oh, Dad can actually do that. Dad just doesn’t usually do that.

Craig: Yeah. No, it’s definitely — it’s — I felt like Mr. Mom a little bit, you know, like I can make breakfast for you kids, I can. You know, but then it is exhausting. Although, look, to be fair, it’s just reading. That’s all it is. [laughs] I mean, I’m not like some sort of, you know, brain-damaged monkey.

John: No. Mostly it is reading. And it’s gotten to the point where there is actually boilerplate that we can copy and paste from outline to outline. So it’s nice that we’re this regularized in our systems that we can do these things.

But it was great hearing you and John Lee Hancock because you guys are old friends and so it’s like hearing a conversation between two old friends, talking about the business that I love. So while you were talking, I was down in the south of France. I was actually at a café table in Avignon finishing up Arlo Finch, part of which we’ll talk about today.

But this week was actually really strange because I made a choice, which was that, it was right before the big debate, the presidential debate and I was kind of stressed out by all of the craziness, and so I just left. And so I took all of the apps that I use to obsess about news, I put them all in a folder, put them on the very back screen of my phone including Twitter, and I didn’t look at it or check it for the entire week. So I had no idea how the debate went, I had no idea sort of how the polls were going.

It was actually lovely. But in some ways it was hard, like when I had to announce that the episode was out and available, I had to like not look at Twitter while I was actually putting a tweet out. It was really strange to be using Twitter just to tweet out and not actually read anything.

Craig: Well, I think you actually did a smart thing there. A lot of people are experiencing great anxiety over this election in a way that I don’t think I can recall in my lifetime.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Look, there’s always been some anxiety, people get worked up. I’ve always been kind of a guy in the middle, politically, you know. So I cannot think of a single election prior to this one where I thought, “Oh, my God. The country is at stake.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: In this one, however, it appears that the country is at stake. [laughs] So anxiety is normal but, of course, completely unhelpful.

John: Completely unhelpful. Especially, you know, I’m on the other side of the world, there was nothing that I was going to be able to do other than obsess about it and lose sleep about it. And I had a deadline and this was a great excuse for like, you know what, I’m just checking out, and it was actually terrific to check out. So I would say I’d recommend to our listeners if you feel like you need to check out of this little process for a while, that’s okay and nothing is going to — things could go horribly wrong but like there’s nothing that you’re going to be able to do to affect what’s going horribly wrong if you need to decide to check out for a little while.

Craig: No question. I mean, what we forget, and because we think — we are under this delusion that we can actually affect how other people vote by tweeting and facebooking. And I think maybe the only time in my life I was able to maybe change like four people’s votes was when it came to Ted Cruz.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Because I had personal experience with him. But beyond that, you’re mostly just talking to people that agree with you or talking to people that don’t agree with you. And really the only thing you can do is show up and vote. And I assume that you are going to vote from afar if you have not done so already.

John: If you’re in Los Angeles County, you can register for it and they send you your ballot material. So we actually already got those things and we will be faxing our ballots back in. You actually fax them through a fax service. So it’s not an anonymous ballot anymore because clearly they can identify you or the person who sent that ballot, but I will be delightfully faxing through my ballots in the weeks before the election comes.

Craig: Excellent.

John: So what’s strange though about Los Angeles County, so I don’t know if you’ve seen the voter book yet? It’s so huge. There’s so many referendums and things at this time.

Craig: It’s a phonebook.

John: Especially because of pot legalization. So there’s a lot to read.

Craig: Yeah. No, there always is. And of course, no one reads it. They just show up and begin voting willy-nilly. Perhaps maybe a day or two before, what they’ll do is they’ll get a pamphlet from one of the major political parties saying, “Here’s how we think you should vote.” And, sadly, I think a lot of people just go, “Oh, okay. Well, check, check, check, check.”

John: Yeah. Yeah. That’s how it goes. Or they vote based on what the name of the ballot initiative is. And that’s why naming of things is so crucial because that affects what you think about it. So the same proposal with two different names would pass or not pass based on–

Craig: Right.

John: How it’s titled.

Craig: Yeah. For instance, religious freedom sounds great.

John: Doesn’t it sound so good?

Craig: Yeah, it sounds–

John: People should have religious freedom. We should restore religious freedom. I’m 100%–

Craig: Yeah. [laughs]

John: In favor of restoring religious freedom.

Craig: Right.

John: So it’s really for like — for those people who are like oppressed, those like — those, yeah, absolutely 100%. That’s the one about head scarves, right? That’s what it’s really up for.

Craig: Yeah. No, for sure. I mean, the proper — they had a choice. It was either we can name things religious freedom or no wedding cakes for you, homos. [laughs] They were like, “Hmm. Uh, let’s go with religious freedom. That’s probably — we probably have a better shot.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: Yeah.

John: We do somehow. So listening to the episode that you recorded with John Lee Hancock, I was nodding through a bunch of it but I was yelling at my podcast player for one moment because you guys answered a listener question about background audio tracks for like ambience for when you are writing things.

Craig: Right.

John: And I had immediate experience with that because these last four weeks I’ve had to use those quite a bit because I’ve been writing in a small apartment or like really busy places with a lot of noise around me and I found them to be an absolute godsend. So for writing Arlo Finch, a lot of what I was writing in this section of the book is like very cold and snowy and winter stormy and I needed to be in that head space. But when I got to Paris, it was like 95 degrees without air-conditioning.

And so, what I found to be so incredibly helpful were these three tracks — I’m going to put up links to in the show notes for. They’re all from YouTube and they’re just eight hours of like winter storms or forest ambience, and they were so incredibly helpful in just like being white noise and sort of like shutting out the chatter around me, but also making me feel like I’m in a cold snowy place when I’m actually sweating in a Paris apartment.

Craig: Well, I get that. I mean, you know, neither John Lee nor I write in busy places. We literally are two floors apart from each other in a building where I guess the most noise is the occasional bus, or as all of us know, the sirens. And this will come up, by the way, later when we talk about autism spectrum disorder. But when the fire trucks go by, I put my fingers in my ears and I stop.

John: I always do.

Craig: Yeah.

John: I always do. And I feel like I’m a child when I do that, but you know what, it hurts my ears and I don’t like it. So if my fingers can stop the hurt, I like my fingers to stop the hurt.

Craig: Even if it doesn’t — even if — because I’m inside, it’s not this level of noise where it would physically hurt, but it upsets me. I don’t like it. [laughs]

John: Yeah.

Craig: And so I put my fingers in my ears. But no, I understand how if you are writing in a busy café in France and you’re writing — you know, one thing about novels as opposed to movies is you tend to live in a space for a much longer amount of writing time, you know. Like if there’s a whole sequence set in the winter, you’re going to spending more days in the winter than you might on a movie where maybe there is, you know, three scenes in winter or something like that. So it absolutely makes sense that you would want some kind of white noise to drown out the chatter and I don’t know what the sounds of France, the baguettes hitting each other and accordion music.

John: There is some accordion music. Just in the subway today, we had the guy step in and play his greatest hits on the accordion, which was kind of charming and also really annoying. [laughs]

Craig: Yeah.

John: So — yeah.

Craig: Did you put your fingers in your ears? [laughs]

John: It didn’t quite get that bad. [laughs] Let’s do one more bit of follow-up. This is actually way back to Episode 267, that was How Would This Be a Movie.

Craig: Yeah.

John: The one that we were like, well, this is absolutely going to be a movie was the PTA mom and the crazy married lawyers who were trying to bring her down.

Craig: Right.

John: And we were like, “Well, that’s going to absolutely be a movie,” and it looks like it’s going to be a movie. So Julia Roberts is now set to produce and star in a film based on those events but not the article we read. The film is based around a book which the victim, Kelly Peters, wrote with a New York Times writer under an alias of Sam Rule. The book is called I’ll Get You! Drugs, Lies, and the Terrorizing of a PTA Mom.

So as of two weeks ago, there was no screenwriter on the project but it looks like it could be George Clooney and Grant Heslov from Smokehouse producing the film. So it’s a bunch of familiar people coming together to make a movie perhaps.

Craig: Well, I think that that — I’m actually encouraged by the fact that they aren’t basing it on that article. Not because that article was poorly done. It was brilliantly done. It’s just that I didn’t see an ending in that article that made me think I’d follow this movie from start to finish, I understand how this all works. Perhaps the book offers more of that. And of course, the fact that the book is being told from the point of view of the victim implies a certain different kind of movie as well.

John: Yeah. We’ll see what that is.

Craig: Yeah.

John: I want to cast Brie Larson as the wife and the lawyer. This is — if anyone asks, Brie Larson.

Craig: Okay. All right. But what about Julia Roberts?

John: Julia Roberts is playing the mom, apparently. She’s playing the victim.

Craig: She’s playing the victim.

John: Yeah. Which doesn’t seem to be a great part, but maybe there’s something in the book that sort of shows why that’s a great part.

Craig: Yeah, yeah. That’s the thing. I’m starting to think like there’s a whole other movie here with that woman that we don’t know about.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But I don’t know. I kind of just want to hear about the villains in this one.

John: I love the villains in this story.

Craig: Yeah, yeah.

John: All right. Let’s get to our first main topic which is buckling down. So the last 40 days have been sort of like the most intense writing period of my life. And I guess I’ve done TV show stuff which was intense for other reasons, but this was the most days continuously where I had to write a lot every day. So the book is about 60,000 words. To give you a sense of that, like a screenplay is about 20,000 to 25,000 words and a lot of those are like the characters’ names and INT/EXT and all of that stuff.

So it ends up being a tremendous amount of words and just a tremendous amount of volume to be sort of typing into your computer at a time. So it was such a different thing for me but I felt like we could have this discussion about really any time that you have to just buckle down and actually write something that’s really long. So screenplays, pilots or the TV staff writer who’s sent out of the room to like actually write the draft, that’s really sort of a buckling down situation.

Obviously, a book or a novel, we have people who are starting their projects for NaNoWriMo at the start of November. But even if you’re not a screenwriter and you’re writing a dissertation, it’s the same kind of thing where like you can plan for a long time but eventually you have to sit down and actually write this thing. So I want to talk about how you write really long things and how you sort of get it done, which we haven’t really done. We’ve done a lot of sort of little bits of scene work and we talked about outlines and treatments and sort of other things, but the day-to-day, day after day work of getting one project done, we haven’t really touched on in, you know, these 270 episodes.

Craig: Kind of crazy that we haven’t, considering that it is the thing that people kind of struggle with the most.

John: Yeah.

Craig: I mean, of all the sub header things that we struggle with, getting the work done. And I love your phrase, buckling down, which is exactly what it requires, is the most common problem for all of us and it doesn’t, by the way, get easier. That’s — it’s — you’d think that with the exercise of the muscle there you — that that pain would start to go away. It does not.

John: Yeah. Well, I think what’s tough about it is that so often the experience of being a writer is the experience of like thinking through stuff and figuring stuff out. But the actual verb of writing isn’t necessarily the bulk of your day. And so it’s sort of hard to tell when you’re writing and when you’re not writing. And so only in those situations where something is actually really due, there’s like a ticking clock and you have to get stuff done and there’s just a whole bunch of stuff you have to get done that you really feel it. And so, I want to talk about like those times in your life and some general structures for like how you plan out that work and how you plan for how you’re going to really achieve it and how you’re going to get it done.

So I would start with, it’s really just making it the priority. It’s like, it’s recognizing that there’s always going to be stuff in your life, there’s going to be family stuff, friends, travel, there’s going to be parties. But I remember when I first got to know Lena Dunham, I had met her right after her movie Tiny Furniture and I thought it was great. But then I got to hang out with her a little bit more up at the Sundance Labs and she was co-writing a movie up at the Sundance Labs, which is the winter labs, and while she was up there at the labs she was also starting on this HBO thing which was sort of like something she was thinking through which ended up becoming Girls.

But what impressed me about her was like not just her talent, which I’d already seen, but her work ethic. And so she was the kind of person who would leave a party early because like “I need to go and write” or you know, she would skip out on things because like “I need to go and write.” And she wasn’t just using that as an excuse, she really had to go and write. She’s the kind of person who, you know, would take a vacation to an exotic place but spend a fair amount of that time, you know, in a room writing the stuff she needs to write.

And I’ve always admired those people who can sort of make their writing life a priority. And there’s only certain points in my life where I really felt like I could do that sort of cleanly. And this — and writing the book here was one of those situations where I really could sort of prioritize. I could say, “Listen, there’s all this stuff I know that needs to happen but I need these four hours of the day to be clean so I can write,” and that’s been kind of a great experience to go through.

Craig: Well, part of the challenge is that when we you say, “I need these four hours of the day to write,” sometimes those aren’t the four hours where you’re actually going to be writing, you know. Because one of the problems is sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t even at different times of the day, which is why work ethic is so important.

To me, I try and look at it like this. Work ethic is about making sure that at the end of some reasonable chunk of time you’ve done the right amount of work, whatever that is for you. We all move at different speeds. So I think of it in terms of a week. When this week has elapsed, this much work must have occurred.

That said, there are going to be days where more happens than less. And I have to listen to myself. So like Lena, if I’m at a party and the back of my head’s going, “I kind of feel like I want to write,” leave and write. Listen to that voice because it might not be there the next day.

John: At the same time you have to be aware that writing is honestly going to be one of the — your last choices of like fun things to do. And so it’s showing up even when you kind of don’t want to show up.

My situation here in Paris is my daughter would go off to school and I would sit down and I would write. I would write for a solid hour. Then I’d take a break then I’d go for another hour. And having a routine where like I literally — like, if I didn’t get that 9 o’clock hour worth of work done, I knew that I would be kind of messed up for the day. It did sort of force a — that regularity was incredibly helpful.

So I’m not going to necessarily do this for the rest of my life, but for those periods where I needed to buckle down, that was really good. It was good to recognize that stuff needs to get done. Even if it’s not going to be the perfect stuff, there were days where I could sit down, like I really had a hard time getting it going. But what I could at least do is like synopsize the things that needed to happen in this chapter. I could work through some of the other, sort of, more piddly things that needed to get done somehow.

In screenwriting, I often would sort of do these things where like sometimes there’s a scene I just didn’t really know how to write, I didn’t really want to write. But if I was sitting down for a session to write, I’ll write that other scene. I’ll write that like sort of less important scene, the things that are sort of people walking through doors. So at least something would get done. And so it’s recognizing that there’s always going to be some things that are bit more challenging for you, but you’ve got to sort of focus on getting some stuff done because if you just always wait for the muse to show up, you are going to be waiting kind of forever.

Craig: I completely agree. There is a push and a pull required. Let’s call the muse the push. That’s something from within you that you have an instinct to want to create and want to write. And those times when you feel that push from within, it’s wonderful, but you need a pull. You need something on the outside that is demanding that work come out of you. And that is not — I don’t think anything you can really teach people. I think that is baked in to who they are. It is a huge part of splitting the world between writer and not writer. That writers just have an innate understanding that there’s a requirement and it needs to be fulfilled, like we’re working for a boss who isn’t there.

John: Absolutely.

Craig: Even when we actually have a boss, that’s not the boss.

You know, right now I’m writing a script for Disney. I know who my bosses are at Disney. I know who my producers are. But they’re actually not the people I’m thinking about when I go, “I have to get something done today.” I’m thinking about this just need. And it’s almost like a weird external need that is yet created internally.

John: Absolutely, you’re envisioning this other person of you who’s going to be really upset with you if you don’t get this work done.

Craig: Right

John: That’s a strange thing. You’re trying to please this master who doesn’t exist who is actually you.

So let’s talk about some of the obstacles that are sort of getting in people’s way from finishing things or at least from like really being able to crack the back of the work that they’re doing. And let’s talk through some of the things that are sort of common experiences in our lives that have been in the way of writing.

Craig: Right. So I think perhaps the most common, the king of all obstacles, is the double-sided coin of fear and regret. When we don’t necessarily know it’s happening. It happens so fast in our minds and so subconsciously that sometimes all we feel is just a lack of desire to write. We don’t understand that that is actually a symptom of a process that just occurred in a split second. And in that split second, what’s happening is we think about writing and then we are confronted instantly with, “Am I good at this? Am I doing it right? What will people think? Have I already made a mistake and wasted my time and my energy?” And that cascades to, “I’m no good. I don’t know what I’m doing.” And we don’t hear any of those words. All we get is, “Meh.”

John: Yeah.

Craig: “I’m going to go watch TV.”

John: Yeah, because no one fails at watching TV.

Craig: It’s so true. [laughs]

John: Yeah. It’s absolutely a true thing, because we worry that we set the stakes way too high for the thing we’re about to write. And like, “Oh, if this scene isn’t perfect. If this sentence isn’t perfect, it’s all going to be disaster,” when in fact, it’s not going to be a disaster. You know, every scene and every sentence is going to be rewritten several times. So you’re much better off writing the version of the sentence that is pretty good and moving on. And then, like, being able to go back and say like, “Oh, you know what? I have a better way of doing this.”

But actually starting the process is really key. You know, on a previous episode we talked about how perfectionism and procrastination are really the same thing.

Craig: Right.

John: Is that procrastination is a way of protecting us from fear of being less than perfect. Well, you have to accept that things aren’t going to be perfect right out the gate. That’s why I think it’s so important to, you know, just start writing. And then at a certain point, something often clicks. It doesn’t always click, but it often clicks. It’s like, “Oh, okay, now I get what this is.” And those first things you wrote you’ll fix and it’ll get a lot better.

At the same time, you may encounter problems in — story problems, word problems that you’re not able to sort of justify and like you don’t know how to actually deal with them. But just deal with them as best you can and know that you’re going to have the opportunity to go back and fix them.

Craig: Right.

John: I think that sometimes we sort of — we wait so long because like, “Oh, it’ll come to me eventually how I’m going to solve this problem.” We would, generally, be much better off like moving on, acknowledging that it’s a problem, moving on, and then finding a way back into that problem later on.

Craig: Yeah. We tend to judge our work and progress against completed works, which is a mistake. It’s simply not possible that any half-finished first draft of anything is going to match the standards of completed works. Not possible.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And yet we don’t have any other basis of comparison, right?

John: Exactly.

Craig: It’s not like the Internet has a bunch of half-written first drafts, because they don’t.

John: Yeah.

Craig: For novels or for movies.

John: Yeah. If only Steve Zaillian would like publish like all of his sort of like aborted scripts, everyone would feel so much better. [laughs]

Craig: Well, yeah. I mean, you know, here’s a bad scene that I threw out and I didn’t know it was a bad scene until two weeks later and I’m embarrassed by it and here it is. And I think the solution here is to stop comparing your work to anything because the comparison is useless.

John: Yeah.

Craig: It will not make you better and it will not make the work better, particularly when you’re trying to be honest to your own voice.

John: And I think sometimes on the podcast, we may say things that would lead people the other way. It’s like I do generally think that, you know, trying to break into screenwriting or trying to break into writing, ultimately, you are going to be compared against the people who are doing this professionally for a living. So like, that’s fair at the end of the process. But to hold yourself to that standard in the middle of a sentence is not going to be productive for you or for anybody. So you have to recognize the two things, like allow yourself to be imperfect in this moment and strive for perfection in the finished work. And you can’t do both simultaneously.

Craig: You can’t. And let other people handle the judging business because, first of all, their manner of judging is so foreign to your manner of judging. And based on wildly different criteria. You will be undervalued and overvalued at various times by people. And that’s what they’re going to do. And you honestly can’t — you can’t anticipate it. You can’t game that. The best you can do is just write honestly to yourself and not compare to other people, because inevitably what ends up happening is you subject yourself to the tyranny of the unattainable. There’s always somebody better, there’s always something better, and you’ll just get lost.

Similarly if you’re facing a problem, you know you have a problem in your story, your screenplay, or your novel. Sometimes the existence of it feels so daunting because it was really hard to do the work that got you to the place that you now think is a problem.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But it isn’t so hard to fix it. It just feels so hard to fix it because you don’t know how. And it’s okay to stop and say, “I acknowledge the following. I made a mistake. I’ve wasted time. I’ve wasted energy. I’ve wasted effort. No problem, that is inevitable. So now let me just think about my problem and allow myself to be free to come up with anything. Even if it means tearing everything up. Even if it means that my grand plan to have a novel at the end of a month didn’t happen, right?” And once you free yourself, you’d be amazed how quickly you can solve things. And actually, oftentimes, how rapidly you — the fix is done.

John: Absolutely. Once you get past that sort of sunk cost fallacy, like I’ve done all this work and it has led me to this horrible place, and to try to fix this problem would be undoing other things. Once you sort of let yourself go from those previous things, a lot of stuff becomes simpler.

The other thing to remember is we talk about like you’re comparing it against perfected works you’ve seen. If you were actually to talk to the people who wrote those things, those movies you love, those books you read that you loved so much and you said like, “Oh, well this part was so graceful and effortless, how you did the stuff,” that may have been the author’s most hated and most challenging thing. And maybe the thing that she doesn’t actually love about her book because she knows how much hard work it was to go in there and it doesn’t feel easy and natural to her, but it ultimately worked. And so just because it’s hard work it doesn’t mean it’s going to be a struggle in the end. It may actually be the right thing for you to be having to face through to get to.

An example of my own stuff is Big Fish. The first ten minutes has to set up so much stuff, and that was probably the hardest ten pages ever to write because there’s so many little balls to get moving in the air at once. It took like three weeks to do. A lot of the other script was so much simpler, and yet you wouldn’t know what was easy and what was hard based on, you know, the end result of the movie.

Craig: Yeah. We don’t really have experience of that on the other side of it. As movie goers or novel readers, we don’t get a color coding that shows how much effort went into any particular part. And in fact, because our job as writers is similar to the job of the magician, we’re constantly disguising that effort as best we can. We’re hiding it from people. And if we do it really well, it should all look easy.

John: Yeah, that’s the trick.

Craig: You know, it should look inevitable and easy. And what a shock then that when we sit down to actually write we go, “Wait, this the opposite of inevitable and easy.” And in fact, one of the great obstacles that we face and one of the things that pulls us off the track sometimes is the paralysis of choice because we’re used to seeing things that follow one track inevitably to an end. But when we’re writing, there is no track.

John: 100%.

Craig: We can do anything, and that can be very frightening for people.

John: Absolutely true.

So let’s talk about the actual process of getting those words on the page and sort of how you get it done. So especially when you’re like buckling down, let’s say you have a big thing to write. So it could be a book, it could be a screenplay, it could be your dissertation that’s finally due, you have a lot to do. So the thing you have to recognize is that it’s going to be a marathon of many, many days to write this thing. And so if you try to stay up all night and just power through it, well, staying up all night is going to set you back the next day. So you have to recognize like the amount of work you can do in a day and try to be able to repeat that work day after day, and that way you’ll get through it.

So a lot of times I think that sometimes as writers we’ve been very clever, and so we would just like pull an all-nighter to write that like 10-page paper for a term project. That doesn’t actually work when you’re trying to do a 120 pages or you’re trying to do, you know, a 300-page dissertation. You can’t just stay up all night and power through it. You actually have to plan for how you’re going to do it.

So I like to say it’s like — it’s planning to run a bunch of sprints that ultimately add up to a marathon. And so for me, a sprint is sitting down and I’ll spend about 20 minutes reading through the previous day’s work. Just sort of get a feeling for it again in my head. I may rewrite some stuff while I’m doing it, I’m just changing stuff around. Just sort of get it back under my finger so I really feel like the story is — I’m back in it. Then I’ll set a timer and I’ll write for 60 minutes, and I won’t let myself get up from the desk until I’ve really written for 60 minutes.

Sometimes I run out of juice a little bit during that time, but I still stick at it. And if I don’t have anything great to like add to the scene itself, I’ll just synopsize the next things that are coming up. I’ll sit in that chair for the 60 minutes until I get as much stuff done as I possibly can and then I’ll walk away and take a break.

Craig, do you find yourself doing that at all?

Craig: Yes, although not quite so intentionally. I don’t set a timer or anything like that. I definitely begin by reading what happened yesterday. I give myself as much time. Sometimes I read the whole thing. You know — and I mean, you know, I’m on page 67. Sometimes I sit down and say, “Okay, I’m going to start on page 1,” and I’m going to read up until page 67. I want to — I just want to watch this movie again and feel all of it, and then I’ll be ready to add on one more brick.

John: That’s the great thing about screenplays, I will say, is that there have definitely been times where like I just start back at the beginning and read through, because the experience of watching a movie is going to be starting at the beginning and reading through. I can’t do that every day or I wouldn’t get a lot of work done.

Craig: No, no, no, no, no.

John: For a Monday when I’ve been off that script for a while, it’s not a bad idea.

Craig: Yeah. I used to just sort of read 10 or 15 backwards, you know. And when I was working with Lindsay Doran, I was amazed by her insistence every time that she — so I would — you know, I’d move forward and I’d send her some pages, and every time she would read from the beginning. Every time, which I thought was remarkable, and then I started doing it, too. [laughs] And it actually helped quite a bit. But not necessary — I mean I just think, you know, reading back what you have puts you back in the world of the movie. It certainly helps you connect forward.

And then what happens is I begin. And when I begin, naturally, I will write for a certain amount of time. I don’t actually know how much time. I’ve never looked at the clock. I don’t know. What I do know is somewhere between three and six pages are going to come out. That’s seems about right for a screenplay. Now, novels are different.

John: Yeah.

Craig: But for a screenplay, somewhere between three or six pages are going to come out and that’s what I can do. Now, if you put a gun to my head and said, “You need to write 20 pages,” I could do that. But the goal, as opposed to say writing a term paper, the goal in writing something creative is that it be creative, not hitting a length. So, I know that I am probably best — my optimal page delivery is somewhere between three and six pages. That’s what the day looks like for me.

John: Yeah. So writing the book, my optimal day was between 1,000 and 1,500 words. And like that was a good day’s work. If I was able to stay on that schedule, I knew I could finish the book. I knew everything would be good.

Because books are so much longer, it wasn’t possible to sort of like go back to page one and start rereading the book. It would have taken four hours to do that every day. But what I could do is read through like the last chapter or read through sort of where I’d gotten to in this chapter and sort of move forward from there. So I could remember sort of like where the characters were at, what the world was feeling like.

I can also make sure that I wasn’t repeating language again from earlier in the chapter or from the chapter before, because that’s a thing you definitely notice. In a screenplay, you don’t notice repeated language nearly as much, but in books, the way things are phrased, you kind of can’t keep doing the same things again and again. So I had to sort of be a little bit aware of like things I had just done so I wouldn’t sort of be repeating myself.

So I found myself doing the 20 minutes of sort of recapping, sort of getting back up to speed with it. A one-hour sprint, some time off, another one-hour sprint, some time off, another sprint if I needed to. But that way I was actually getting most of my work done while I was actually sort of sharp and focused in the day. And like the afternoons, I was sort of spent and couldn’t do anything else, but it was nice that I could, you know, sort of really focus on just doing writing stuff during those sort of morning hours. It’s sort of the luxury of this life.

Craig: Well, if we divide our day into writing and then after writing, the after writing part of the day is very, very pleasant if you’ve written.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And if you haven’t, not so great.

John: Yeah.

Craig: So think about that when you’re wondering whether or not you should actually sit down and just do the damn thing at 10:30 or 11:00 or noon or 1:00. As the day goes on, you’re eating up more of your not writing part of the day and you may — now, there are days when you don’t have it and you don’t write. And I’ve learned to forgive myself for those days. That is, you know, it’s natural, I think.

John: Yeah.

Craig: And you hope that those days are balanced out by some of those wonderful days that come out of nowhere where you just — you’re on fire.

John: So some general lessons here. It’s to try to be I think both strict with yourself and also forgiving of yourself, to try to really treat the work like the work. I mean, no one ever sort of like looks at a farmer and says like, “Why are you working so hard, Mr. Farmer?” It’s like, well, the farmer has to work hard.

You are a farmer who is growing words, you’re growing stories, and so a lot of that time is sort of spent in the field with your little story as its growing and making sure that you’re actually spending the time doing it that, you know, writing isn’t just an identity for you but it’s actually a verb. It’s actually a thing that you are doing on a daily basis to get stories told and on the page.

I think sometimes, as screenwriters, because our lives get to be so busy doing all the other stuff, a lot of the stuff you guys talked about last with John Lee Hancock, which is sort of the putting together of a movie and making people feel comfortable and trying make all the stuff work, ultimately though it comes down to like can you tell the story on with those words on the page. And making sure that you protect the space that you need to be able to do that hard work.

Craig: Agreed.

John: Lastly, I’ll put a link in the show notes to some great blog post by Chuck Wendig who’s a really good writer. I had recommended his book, Invasive, a couple of weeks ago. But he writes about writing really well. And so he has a really good blog post, Here’s How To Finish That Effing Book, You Monster. Craig will enjoy it a lot because he’s very foul-mouthed–

Craig: Yeah.

John: About sort of like good advice for sort of like getting through that book or really, any long piece of writing. So I certainly recommend that to anybody who liked this conversation.

Craig: Great.

John: Cool. All right, let’s get to a question from a listener. This is Matthew from Los Angeles who wrote in. We don’t have audio for it. Craig, would you mind reading it?

Craig: I would not mind. It would be my great pleasure.

Matthew from Los Angeles writes, “I am writing to you because I’m in a situation where I’m in need of supportive words or harsh truths. I’m about to graduate from college and begin my entry into the job market. I’d like to become a writer of film and television and I’m fortunate enough to have the advantage of living in Los Angeles. However, I am on the autism spectrum.

“My disability is not to the point that I can’t communicate with people but I do have a noticeable impairment when I’m interacting with others. As I’m a fan of several podcasts that focus on writing and regularly interview working writers, I am well aware that the ability to communicate is essential to the job and that my desire to become a writer may be unrealistic due to my disability. I was wondering what your opinions are on this issue and in a broader sense, hoping you can address how having a disability might impact one’s potential for a career in the film and television industry in general.

“If you’re unable to speak to this issue, I was hoping you could encourage people in the industry to speak out in the same way you did for writers living outside major entertainment cities. I feel that disability often gets overlooked when talking about inclusivity as I often hear more about gender, sexuality, and race. I think it would beneficial to speak about disability as it relates to the industry so a person with a disability, like myself, can manage their expectations and set realistic goals when it comes to working in film and television.”

John: That is a great question.

Craig: Yup.

John: And I love it for so many reasons. First off, he’s asking – he has a specific situation, but there’s a universal question here as well, which is how will the facts of my life impact my ability to achieve my goals? How will the situation I find myself in change how it’s possible for me to get the career I want?

Everyone listening to this podcast has a set of circumstances that makes some things easier or harder so it’s important to look at those conditions honestly so you can anticipate the challenges ahead. So it’s also a really good question because it’s a little bit terrifying. I don’t know how you feel, but there’s a pretty good chance that you or I will say something that will upset someone, so before you email in, when we say something dumb, please assume that we’re trying our very best to answer Matthew’s question and not defend the status quo of the industry or society as a whole.

Craig: I will not be cowed by the tyranny of the offended.

John: All right.

Craig: It’s not that I’m incapable of offending people or incapable of being outrageously wrong. We both know I’m incredibly capable of both of those things. [laughs] But we must proceed fearlessly here if we’re going to have any chance of actually helping anyone, helping Matthew, because, you know, I’m pretty sure that Matthew could probably write the platitude version of this for himself. He wouldn’t need to ask us.

John: So Craig, you are the person who knows more about the DSM, so can you tell us what we are talking about with autism spectrum disorder? Because especially I think we have a lot of international listeners who may be using some of these terms differently, so let’s talk about what we’re talking about first.

Craig: Well, autism spectrum disorder is actually kind of a newish term. We used to have a different — and we call these disorders, even that term, you know, is under scrutiny right now. But we used to say, okay, well, some people had autism and autism was — at least when you and I were growing up as children in the ‘70s, autism was basically narrowed down to a fair — actually a smaller amount of children who had some difficulty with being verbal or severe averbality, difficulty in motor coordination, difficulty with rigidity and thought patterns. Oftentimes, there were associated physical issues like gastrointestinal problems.

We — in the ‘70s, I remember in school there were classes for kids and those classes were called “for the emotionally disturbed,” which is kind of a crazy term, but there was emotional disturbance going on with some of the children with autism. And then as time went on, Asperger’s syndrome emerged and that was kind of a milder version where there were issues with social interaction, again, some verbal issues, eye-contact issues, rigidity of thought. And there’s a lot of symptoms for this.

And then there was this other thing that came along called PPD-NOS, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, which is a very bureaucratic way of saying, “Well, this is sort of autistic-ish or Asperger’s-y.”

John: Here’s a bunch of symptoms and we’ll stick them together.

Craig: Yeah. They’re pervasive so they’re not acute, right?

John: Yeah.

Craig: This is who you are, but they’re not otherwise specified.

Now, I think in — yeah, I’m looking here in 2013, when they went from the DSM 4 to DSM 5, and DSM is the Diagnostic Statistic Manual, it’s the big diagnosis manual for Psychiatry and Psychology. They decided everything — let’s get rid of those distinctions, everything is now called autism spectrum disorder. And so the idea is there is a spectrum of behaviors, and all the way on the extreme end, you have what used to be considered severely autistic and all the way kind of on the more mild end, you have some of the behaviors that would have probably fallen under PDD-NOS.

John: Yeah. So it’s important that we say like these are kicking into varying degrees. So like no two people are going to have the exact same kind of situation with this diagnosis. It’s a spectrum for a reason. So there’s — I have two people in my family who are both on the spectrum and they could not be more different, so it’s important that we don’t like sort of stereotype people based on a diagnosis. Everyone is clearly an individual and there’s — while there can be some consistency of patterns between different things, there can also be huge variations between people.

Craig: Yeah, no question. I mean, this is one of the issues. I mean, I have probably in my extended family more people on the spectrum than I can count. I probably as a child would have been diagnosed with PDD-NOS. I mean, I had like certain behaviors that the doctor was concerned about, a lot of weird finger motions right up against my face, which I found made it easier for me to think and imagine and you see very typical with people on the spectrum. Especially towards the autism end of the spectrum, there can be flapping behavior where their hands flap around or move in strange ways.

So not only is it important not to stereotype, it’s essentially impossible to stereotype ASD. And that, in its own way, is part of the challenge because if you cannot — I mean, let’s take the word stereotype and remove it from its stereotype which is, you know, you’re a racist and you’re categorizing people and just use it in its purest form, you have collected a pattern of behaviors and are now ascribing it to one kind of syndrome.

The question for ASD is not just what is neuro-atypical, but you have to first ask, “What is even neuro-typical?” In short, “What is normal and who gets to define it as such?”

Here’s one of the challenges here with ASD. When you look at most neurological disorders, for instance, epilepsy, there’s really no upside to epilepsy and we know exactly what epilepsy is. And we can stereotype epilepsy, right? We can say, “Okay, well, this is what happens. You have seizures. This kind of electrical pattern occurs in the brain. It can be mild or it can be dangerous. There’s petit mal, there’s grand mal.” We know these things, right? And nobody with epilepsy says, “It’s super awesome having epilepsy.” But unlike those kinds of standard neurological disorders, ASD often correlates with advantages.

Now, this isn’t causal but correlative, right? We know that people with ASD often do have superior visuospatial ability, mathematical ability, and music and art. So many, many years ago, some people were called idiot savants, right? The idiot part was, “Oh, they don’t know how to talk and they can’t look you in the eye and they can’t read faces and they have no emotional quotient and sometimes their hands flap around,” which actually is not idiotic at all, it’s just part of the symptomology of ASD. But then the savant part was, “Oh, he can” — for instance, there’s a famous case of a man who, upon seeing an image of a city from high up, like an entire city for like five seconds, could then be brought into a room and draw that city and all of its buildings nearly perfectly. Well, that’s extraordinary. And you find people with ASD overrepresented definitely in the fields of visual art and certainly in mathematics.

John: Absolutely. But at the same time, again, going back to the other sort of lucid definition of stereotype, you don’t want to stereotype people with ASD. It’s like, “Oh, then you should have some sort of superpower to make up for other issues that they may encounter.” So that’s one of those sort of rare double-edged swords where there could be an expectation like, “Oh, well, there’s something else that you’re really amazing at because of this.” Maybe. That could be great, that could be fantastic, but I don’t want to sort of like fall into the trap of stereotyping people with ASD or people like Matthew. It’s like, “Oh, well, then he’s probably really good at this thing, so he should do this thing instead.”

Craig: 100%. Yeah. There is — you can presume that just as extraordinary ability in the – let’s call it the neuro-typical cohort is rare. Extraordinary ability in the neuro-atypical cohort is rare. It’s just slightly less rare percentage-wise likely than it is in the neuro-typical community. I mean, the other part of the double edge here is that the term itself has benefits and costs. When you say, “Okay, we’re going to diagnose you — give you an official diagnosis of spectrum disorder,” on the positive end, this often will get people the assistance they need, particularly children in educational environments, and it helps people understand how they might function differently than others which gives them, I would imagine, a great bit of comfort and clarity, especially for people who are struggling or taking care of people with severe debilitating symptoms. But on the negative end of things, saying, “Well, you have an autism spectrum disorder” essentially stigmatizes behavior that in some areas on the spectrum I think could just as easily be considered what I would call alternative normal rather than abnormal.

John: Absolutely. What you don’t want to do is sort of stigmatize something that could be perceived as personality. Like you don’t want to sort of medicalize or put a diagnosis around just the way a person is if that just is the way the person is. And that, I think, is sort of at the crux of where I’m going to get to with Matthew and his specific question.

So Matthew writes in and says, “Listen, I really think I want to be a screenwriter. Is that a realistic goal for me?” And I think we could tell him, “Well, based on the information we have, there’s nothing that suggests that it’s not a realistic goal for you.” This was a well-written email into us. We don’t know anything more about your writing ability other than this one email, but this is a better email than a lot of the emails we get in so far.

Craig: Yes. [laughs]

John: You’re just in college, you already have a strong interest in screenwriting, you already are listening to a bunch of film podcasts. You seem to have a real interest in it. But do you have a talent for it? We don’t know that yet. Some people do, some people don’t. But there’s nothing about your specific diagnosis that would indicate to us like, “Oh, you should not even consider pursuing this.” I think you should consider pursuing it and you should look at sort of what’s going to be possible for you in it.

So we had Peter Dodd on to talk about, he was the agent who came on the show. He said like, “Well, why do I sign a client?” Well, 80% of it is the writing. 80% of it is how well does this person write, and you’re going to be writing this script by yourself. And so the person on the other end who’s reading the script, they have no idea of sort of like what you’re like in a room. They’re just looking at your words. And if you can write those words well, if you can write those words really, really well, there’s a chance that you can make it as a screenwriter. So I think a screenwriter is a relatively good way for a person who has some troubles interacting with people, as you described in the email, to consider a career in the film industry.

And there’s also a precedent for like people who are really good writers who are not great around other people. That’s a useful stereotype for you to consider is that like a lot of really good writers have not been the most comfortable around other people.

Craig: Absolutely. Again, I would probably use the word, correlative, not causal and not a guarantee.

John: Yes.

Craig: But there is a correlation here. I mean, one thing about autism spectrum disorder is that it implies a certain amount of internality that your mind is inside and less about connected to the outside or not — or connected differently to the outside, let’s say. And you know, some people may say, well, if you have like, for instance, Matthew, he says, “I have a noticeable impairment when I’m interacting with others.” Now, some people might say, “Well, then how can you be a writer? Because a writer is all about how people interact with each other.” But there have been some incredible writers who weren’t necessarily soaking in emotionality or sentiment. I mean, consider Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie. In fact, their writing really has all the hallmarks in a way of ASD. It’s intricate and it’s mathematical and it’s well-put together and kind of beautiful in its plotting and its rationality. And even the characters are — they are princes and princesses of rationality.

Now, that aside, here’s the best news of all, Matthew. I personally know so many writers in this business who either have been diagnosed with ASD or could easily be so if they bothered to get one. And this has been this way for as long as I’ve been in the business. The Simpsons, famously, especially in the early years when the show was being formed, the principles, the main key writers, the geniuses that made that all work, they were famous for being, well, what we used to call back in the early ‘90s: weirdos, nerds, geeks, strange.

And here’s the beauty of Hollywood, for all of its awfulness, the one thing you can rely on is that Hollywood is a money-eating machine, right? They just want to eat everyone’s money. And anyone that helps them eat other people’s money is their friend and all of the pejoratives that people with ASD can unfortunately hear in their lives, like geek and nerd and weirdo and creep and all the rest of it, in our business, if you are writing material that helps Hollywood eat other people’s money, those words turn to brilliant, unique, genius, authentic, original. You see?

John: Yup.

Craig: And so I think that for you, this should not at all be a problem. You may have other problems. You may not be a very good writer. Right? We don’t know. [laughs] But this, I don’t think is a problem for you.

John: I agree. It’s not a problem.

And I also think the kind of feature screenwriting that Craig and I do, we tend to be able to work more by ourselves. If you’re in a busy TV writing room that’s not The Simpsons, some of those rooms may not be as great for a person who needs to like — there’s politics, there’s all sorts of stuff that sort of has to happen in a room, and sometimes a person who has a hard time reading a room might have more of a challenge. But that’s not the whole business. That is not the only way.

And also, before we sort of wrap up this discussion, I want to talk about the other sort of aspects of the film industry, because I’m sure people who listen to this podcast are not just writers but there’s people who are interested in other areas of filmmaking. I personally encounter directors who I’m certain would be on the spectrum if they chose to be identified.

Craig: Yes, you certainly have. [laughs]

John: But also editors and visual effects artists and cinematographers. The people who are perfectionists, I think there’s — again, it’s not a causal but there’s a correlative thing about those folks and the ability to just really, really dive in on something. I think there’s a natural fit sometimes for people who are on the spectrum to go towards some of those fields.

Now, are those people going to be as likely to be glib producers or casting directors or publicists? Probably not. That’s probably not a skill set that would more naturally tie in to some of these traits, but again, you don’t know. And even when we talked before about sort of like these great writers like Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie who were so mathematical, I don’t want to assume that the way that Matthew’s, you know, ASD manifest, he may have just tremendous emotional insight. Maybe one of those situations where he has a really great gift at being able to see inside people’s–

Craig: Absolutely.

John: Emotional — he may just have tremendous emotional insight. So I don’t want to sort of dismiss those as possibilities either. But as the guy who’s writing in and saying like, “I think I want to be screenwriter and I’m worried about my ability to interact with others,” I would say, “I wouldn’t worry so much about it.”

Craig: Yeah. I’m with you.

Look, your desire to be a screenwriter is natural to you, Matthew. So you follow that desire, just as somebody’s desire to be a cinematographer is natural to them. And yes, there are probably some desires that are more natural to people with ASD than others, but if somebody with ASD really did want to be a publicist, I would put money on them being a terrific publicist. It’s just where does your instinct take you, right? So we can generalize about what ASD does because it is, in fact, a general spectrum of things and Matthew is one point on that general spectrum. But the good news is, if you want to do this, then you do it. And you will not be drummed out of this business because you’re “bad in a room.” You will drummed out of this business if your work is bad and you’re bad in a room.

Here’s a bit of unfairness. There are some people who aren’t great writers but they’re spectacular in a room. And particularly, in the television business, they can kind of wheedle their way from show to show being everyone’s best friend and maybe being a political animal, and they can kind of succeed longer than they should. And maybe that’s not something that is going to happen for somebody with ASD. But is that really the goal? I don’t think so. I think the goal is to be a terrific writer. And, you know, so in that sense, I think you should pursue this with the comfort of knowing that your diagnosis will not be the reason you either make it or don’t make it.

John: Now, Craig, are you aware of any efforts for diversity or inclusivity for people on the spectrum?

Craig: I’m not.

John: Is that something that anyone is like reaching out to try to fill, you know, jobs?

Craig: I have never heard of it. Part of the problem is that — well, I mean, there are certain privacy issues when it comes to health diagnoses.

John: Sure.

Craig: But also, I don’t see anyone looking around the writing community at the very least and saying, “We seem to be really short on people who might be on the spectrum.” We don’t seem to be short with people who might be on the spectrum.

Now, again, that’s anecdotal. I don’t have the statistics. And I don’t know, you know, exactly how to get good statistics on this because we’re talking about a diagnosis, first of all, that’s three years old. So how many people have gotten that diagnosis? How many people have actually had a need to go see somebody to get that diagnosis? We don’t know. And of course, when you talk about a spectrum, the range on that spectrum is so dramatic that I’m not sure asking just, “Are you on the spectrum?” would give you the information you’d really want anyway.

John: Yeah. I think you’re right.

So that wraps up sort of what we know, but there’s a lot we don’t know. So sort of like our question about working outside of Los Angeles, New York or London, if you are a listener who has some insights for Matthew or for anybody who’s like looking at coming into the Hollywood system with a disability and think our listeners should know about it, write in. So write in to, and if we have some other great stories to share with Matthew or people who are facing other situations like that, we will happily share them.

Craig: Fantastic. Good question, Matthew. Thanks for writing in.

John: It is time for our One Cool Things. Mine is really simple. It is a website called the It’s simply–

Craig: I thought you were going to say Wikipedia and I was going to be like, “What?”

John: What?

Craig: We all know about that, John.

John: So Wikitravel is like Wikipedia but just for travel. So essentially, when you pick a city or destination and you type it in to Wikitravel, it tells you like, “Here’s what you do there.” And it’s actually really smart. It’s simple and crowd-sourced. It tells you sort of like — it breaks down like, you know, “Here are the sites, here are the challenges, here are some things to keep in mind about it.” It’s free and open and very publicly done.

So this last week, our daughter was off at a week-long field trip. And so my husband and I decided to go to Avignon in the south of France. And we didn’t know, really, anything about it. So we looked it up in the Wikitravel and it turned out to be great and there were really good suggestions. So we did that, we did [unintelligible] and just really had a great time. So I would just recommend to anybody who’s like traveling to a new place, check out Wikitravel for some good tips.

Craig: You know, I actually have Two Cool Things now because I have one that I need to talk about but yours prompted me. Have you heard of Google Trips?

John: We were just talking about Google Trips today. So describe it for us.

Craig: So I haven’t used it yet, but the idea is that they use an algorithm, essentially, an efficiency algorithm. You say, “Okay, here’s where I am and have this much time. What should I do?” And they basically use an algorithm, base it on your location, even the weather, the time of day, and they’re like, “The most efficient course of action would be for you to go here, see this, spend time doing this, go there, look at that, go here and then come back.” [laughs] I just kind of think it’s amazing. I haven’t used it yet but I kind of want to.

John: Yeah. At first, I thought it was going to be like a traveling salesman problem like they somehow optimized like how you could get to all these different destinations at one time. But it’s more sort of like, “Here’s how to have fun.” It’s Google telling you how to have fun. That’s a scary thing.

Craig: [laughs] Exactly, yeah. Soon we just won’t know how to do anything. All right. Well, that’s maybe One Cool Thing.

Here’s my actual One Cool Thing and it is for our friends at the Writers Guild Foundation. They are holding a Texas Hold ‘Em Poker tournament. That’s going to be on Friday, October 21st, from 6:00 to 11:00. I believe it’s going to be at the Guild, is that right? Yes. It’s going to be–

John: I don’t know where it actually is.

Craig: Yeah. It’s going to be at the — in the library, I believe. And this is a charity event and it is to benefit the Veterans Writing programs, a terrific program that the Writers Guild Foundation does. Veterans Writing Project where they assist veterans who are attempting to break into our business and get writing done. It’s a fantastic cause. And it is $250. $250 — obviously, tax deductible because it’s a foundation. And you know, not paying taxes, John, makes me smart.

John: It makes me so smart, right?

Craig: It makes me smart. I’m brilliant. I’m a genius.

$250 gets you poker chips, it gets you food, it gets you refreshments. And for the first hour, if you’re familiar with how poker tournaments work, there’s $20 re-buys, which is pretty spectacular.

If you do not play poker, that’s okay. You come a little early. At 6:00 PM, there is registration and poker lessons. They’ll teach you how. I have played poker a long time and what I find is that when people show up who have never played poker before, they are the most dangerous players at the table. [laughs] You cannot read them, they do not do what they’re supposed to do, they end up beating you every time. [laughs] So if you don’t what you’re doing, trust me, you’re in better shape than I am. Show up and donate.

So again, that’s Friday, October 21st, from 6:00 to 11:00, and it’s for a spectacular cause, Writers Guild Foundation Veterans Writing Project. Side benefit, if you show up at this thing, you get to hang out with me, awesome, but also Scott Alexander of Alexander-Karaszewski, if you’re familiar with their incredible work. There’s Glenn Gordon Caron, a wonderful guy, Carlton Cuse, you might know his name, Hasson Brant, Winnie Holzman. Are you a fan of Wicked? Winnie Holzman will be there. Simon Kinberg, who writes all movies, Jay Kogen, who is one of the aforementioned founding writers of The Simpsons, Jeff Nathanson, a huge writer, Dan Petrie Jr., if you happen to like Beverly Hills Cop, and I think you do, oh, and Matthew Weiner, if you’re a Mad Men fan. So you have all these big writers there and you could sit at a table, you can take Matthew Weiner’s money.

John: That by itself is the whole goal.

Craig: That’s worth the whole thing.

John: I would fly back just for that. Yeah.

Craig: Yeah. Take it.

John: And that’s our show for this week. So as always, our show is produced by Godwin Jabangwe. It’s edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week comes from Pedro Aguilera. If you have an outro, you can send us link to That’s also a place where you can send longer questions like Matthew’s today. For shorter questions, on Twitter, I am @johnaugust, Craig is @clmazin. I do check my replies even though I’m not actually reading the main feed of Twitter right now, which is kind of fun and delightful.

You can find us on iTunes at Scriptnotes. Just search for Scriptnotes. While you’re there, leave us a comment. Also, while you’re there, you can download the Scriptnotes app that gives you access to all the back catalogue. That’s through It’s $2 a month.

A bunch of people recently have signed up for, so thank you for all you people, premium subscribers. You guys are getting all the back episodes going back to the very beginning, even the bonus episodes, that dirty episode we did with Dan Savage and Rebel Wilson, all sorts of good stuff there.

You can find this episode and all episodes at And you can find the transcripts up about four days later. You can find the links to today’s episode at as well or you could just scroll your app to the links below. And that’s it.

So Craig, thank you so much. It’s nice to be back.

Craig: Thank you, John. We’re back.

John: We’re back. All right. Have a good week.

Craig: You too. Bye.


Email us at

You can download the episode here.