John August: Hey, this is John. So if there is one bad word in the podcast, it’s a very minor bad word. But if you have a young child in the car, maybe you want to skip over one of Three Page Challenges we’re about to do.
Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is episode 274 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the podcast, we’ll be looking at three new entries in the Three Page Challenge. That’s it. It’s a really pretty simple episode this week.
Craig: You know what? Good.
John: We’ve had a lot of complicated ones with lots of moving parts and pieces.
John: I’m on a different continent and so this one is just simple. We look at some scripts, we tell you what you think and then we’re done.
Craig: I like that we tell them what they think.
John: Oh, did I say that?
Craig: Yeah, but I like it. I think that’s actually accurate.
John: Yeah, that’s true.
Craig: We look at some scripts, and then we tell you what you think.
John: Absolutely. We will give you your opinion.
Craig: We’ll we’re good at it.
John: One of the things we’re also good at is making t-shirts—
Craig: Segue Man.
John: And this is the next to last week to be able to order t-shirts and we’re good at segways. There are two t-shirts for Scriptnotes this year. There is a blue shirt, there is a gray shirt with a gold page on it. They’re both terrific, so you should take a look at the links in the show notes and click through and look at those t-shirts and buy one if you would like one.
We are recording this only one day after we recorded our last episode, so we have no idea how many we’ve sold. Have we sold 10 shirts, have we sold a thousand shirts, we have no idea. We’re living in the blissful ignorance of the past.
Craig: Do you think that — but technically we have not yet sold any. I mean as of right now, present time.
John: As of right now, not a single one.
Craig: Okay. So I shouldn’t — I mean I guess then I’ll guess, we’ve sold zero shirts so far.
John: At the moment that we are recording this, we’ve sold zero shirts but by the time this episode has aired, how many shirts will we have sold?
Craig: Ooh, how many days have the shirts been available, John?
John: They would have been available seven days.
Craig: Well I’m going to go with 600 shirts.
John: Wow. That’s a high number.
Craig: Is that a stupid guess? [laughs]
John: No. It’s an ambitious guess, but not a stupid guess.
Craig: All right. John: Because we would like it to be a good high number. I’m going to guess between the two shirts, we will have sold 450.
John: Which is still ambitious. So–
Craig: I want to point out, I have absolutely no idea how the shirt thing works. I have no historical data and I just pulled the number out of my butt and it wasn’t even that crazy.
John: It wasn’t even that crazy. It’s like the wisdom of the crowds but like you are your own crowded head inside and all the voices conspire to give you that number.
Craig: You have no idea, the wisdom of the things in my head.
John: Very, very good. But on last week’s episode, which was actually recorded yesterday, we mused aloud about wouldn’t it be great if the guy who won the Austin Pitch Competition that you judged what if he were to write in and tell us, “Oh, hey. This is the pitch I gave,” so we could discuss the pitch that you thought was so good at the live show in Austin.
And now we have it. So just out of the blue he wrote in and said like, “Oh, hey. I’m the guy who won the pitch competition.” And I asked him to record his pitch and he did. So now we have it.
Craig: Yeah and it’s good, you know, like I mean I assume you’d listened to it by now.
John: Yeah. But I think we should play it for the listeners so they can actually judge for themselves.
Craig: What a great idea. John: So let’s take a listen.
Erik Voss: I’m Erik Voss and I’m pitching my action comedy feature script. It’s called Gator Country. So this is a story about Mac. He is a white trash deadbeat single father who is in exile from the State of Florida, which in this world has been transformed by a freak hurricane season into this Mad Max style swampland that’s now ruled by the reptiles and the crazies.
So not too different from what Florida is right now. Now, I’m from Florida and I’ve lived through a ton of hurricanes and Florida shows its true colors in the aftermath of a storm. And often that takes the form of a few of these gator hunters on fan boats who just love getting wet and looting the nearest Cracker Barrel. The Florida Man. And Mac is one of these guys.
But now, his rebellious 20-year old daughter has gone missing in this apocalyptic hell hole and it’s on Mac to find her, and fish her out before she falls victim to cults, cannibals or Tampa. Guided by a local drifter named Gator, who knows Florida like the back of his hook, Mac now must battle through former pro wrestlers and gators the size of pickup trucks, and the nightmarish version of Disney World where on the Pirates of the Caribbean, the pirates are alive, high on bath salts, and they will eat your face.
The road ends in the belly of the beast of Miami beach where the family reunites in a loving embrace while covered in the blood of a murderous grandma who just got chopped up in the blades of a fan boat or as we call it in Florida, a Monday. Thanks.
Craig: See? That was pretty good, right?
John: That was really good. So let’s talk about two different things. First let’s talk about performance and then we’ll talk about the content of the pitch itself and sort of what that is as a movie. So I thought performance wise, I just can’t imagine a better version of like that 90-second pitch in front of a crowd. It’s such a weirdly artificial form and I thought Erik did just a remarkably good job of it.
I can sort of see his performance as he was giving it to us. So he’s laying out the very broad premise of like from the very title, it’s like Gator Country. He’s talking about his lead character, then he’s talking about the setting, he’s talking about himself and he’s like including himself as a Florida person, giving just the very broad strokes and making it fun.
He’s not trying to focus on every little plot turn or twist. We don’t really even know who the villains are in this story. We just know the general sort of setting and world and milieu. And he gets out it. And that’s performance wise, I thought that was a really smart way of doing it. It felt like the kind of thing that you could convey in front of a crowd in an Austin bar.
Craig: Yeah, and there are some nice little jokes in there. You know, it’s impossible to be hilarious in the middle of a 90-second pitch, right? But there are a couple of key jokes that made people laugh. And in and of themselves, gave you a sense of the tone.
Craig: Right, tone is very difficult to convey in a pitch because pitch, generally speaking, is about details, not about flavor. But you got a sense of what the tone was. This was clearly going to be a comedic and tending towards the bizarre. And like Erik himself, it has a love-hate relationship with its subject, probably leaning more weirdly towards love.
You know, it was important that he let us know in his pitch that he was from Florida, because then we understood that this wasn’t an attack piece, and that this wasn’t just a, you know, like you or I could write a movie about Cleveland what a dump, but that’s just mean. We are not from Cleveland. It’s always better to make fun of the things you love. So we got across the tone in his performance and he also gave me weirdly a nice circle of story, so I was able to say, “Okay. I can see where it begins and I can see where it ends.” And I kind of get what happens in the middle.
John: Yeah. So let’s talk about this performance in terms of how you do your real business. Like I just felt like this 90-second pitch is not the kind of thing he would ever actually give in Hollywood. Like he’s never going to go into a meeting and pitch sort of exactly the way he’s pitched this here. It was too much like a sitcom set for sitting right across from you in a studio executive’s office. Did you feel that?
Craig: Oh, yeah. I mean, look, all of the pitches were designed to win a pitch competition, which is an artificial thing that does not occur in Hollywood. In our business, no one is looking to reward people for a fast, funny, informative, intriguing 90 seconds. What they’re really trying to do is make money and so it’s serious business here.
So if somebody came in and pitched that in 90 seconds in someone’s office, they would go, “Okay, great. Now do it for it real.” Just like, you know, you’re asking me to spend money. So, what? You know, now that doesn’t mean that Erik or any of those people that came in and pitched can’t do that. In fact, in a strange way it’s easier to do it the way people need it to be done here in Hollywood as long as you have the goods.
I suspect that you kind of need to, in order to even get to the 90-second version. So yes — no, absolutely it’s a very strange artificial thing that we don’t actually put a premium on in Hollywood. And if for instance, let’s say Erik were here in Los Angeles and he went to someone’s party and there was a producer there and the producer said, “Well what do you — you’re a funny guy. You got any things?” and he says, “Actually, I have a script and it’s called Gator.” What is it called, Gator Dad? [laughs]
John: Gator Country.
Craig: Yeah, we got to change that title to Gator Dad.
John: Yeah, I think Gator Dad is better.
Craig: Gator Dad. “Yeah, I got a script called Gator Country.” “Oh really, what’s it about?” If he then went into this 90-second pitch, that guy would look at him oddly and then walk away because again it is synthetic. You know, there is a version where you pitch this in a far more conversational confident way. But of course for a pitch festival, you know, this is — part of my problem with pitch competitions is that they are requiring writers to do something that only pitch competitions require. It’s not particularly translatable to any other environment.
John: When we were doing Big Fish casting, we would have these really talented actresses come in and sometimes they’d have a dance call and then they’d have to sing. And they have to sing like 12 bars and it was just like, you really can’t convey a song or really the energy of a song in 12 bars. You’re basically just conveying like I can hit some big notes and I can do these things, I can be quiet, I can be loud.
It’s such a weirdly artificial form, and yet in that artificial form, Andrew Lippa can say like, “Okay that person can fit my needs for this one slot in the musical.” And in a similar way, I felt like Erik’s pitch was so bizarre and artificial and yet I could tell like, “Oh he’s got something there.” Like there’s a good story there, but he’s probably the guy who can write that good story. He was self-aware enough that I was like I’m curious to hear more.
I definitely agree though that if you were sitting across from an executive or even just at a party talking about the thing, he would want to have a version of this same pitch kind of thing that felt much more conversational and much less packaged than what we heard right there.
Craig: Yeah, no question. But, you know, as we sat and listened to all of the pitches that came our way and there were 20 of them that evening, you know, a number of them you could eliminate immediately with a simple remark: that’s not a movie. Then some of them, you could eliminate because, well, that is a movie but I’ve seen that movie.
Craig: Some of them were okay, well, there were a few that were like that’s a great 90-second pitch. The movie doesn’t sound like something I would actually go pay to see, but boy I sure enjoyed that 90 seconds. You know, there were a couple of those.
Craig: Well this one was really the one that hit everything. It was a fun 90 seconds and also I thought it could be a terrific movie. And you know, what I said to him, you know, we do our little American Idol brief review after each pitch, and what I really liked about this one was that I got a sense of character, which is, I mean along with tone, incredibly hard to convey. And it wasn’t like he got into the character of Gator dad, I don’t even know Gator dad’s name, right? But–
John: I think it was Max.
Craig: Oh, there you go, Max. It doesn’t matter, it could have been anything, right? It’s just I don’t know what he looks like and I don’t know how tall he is, I don’t what race he is, I don’t know anything. But what I do know is that he has a daughter and she’s a bit of a handful and he’s going to get her. And I understand implied in that is a character story and an ending that I will care about and then a world that felt at the same time bizarre and unlike anything we know, and yet, oh yeah I do know it. I can absolutely see that.
You know, underneath it all, it’s like okay you have a great idea, what if you do Mad Max in Florida with all of its absurdities, and then we make a nice little, you know, father-daughter story. It just felt like a nice whole piece. So to me, it was — his pitch really was the one where I thought, “Oh, you could actually sell this.”
John: Yeah. I agree with you. And circling back to the Mad Max in Florida, so often a pitch will compare itself to another movie and what was good about Erik’s pitch is like we could see that comparison without him having to explicitly say it. Like we got what the vibe was. We sort of see like okay, this is the scenario, it’s post-apocalyptic for a different reason, but for flooding and such. Like we get sort of what this is.
Every little detail he threw in there especially about like the kinds of villains you’re facing later on down the road, he also let you see like okay it’s not just going to be one set piece, there’s like a whole journey that’s going to happen here, and you can imagine the kinds of things that the dad is going to be going through and the things that the daughter is going to be going through. And the tone at which all these things are going to intersect.
So I can see this as a movie and I could also imagine like if he’d never pitched this, but had written a good version of this, it’s the kind of thing that would get passed around because it’s an interesting thing. It’s sticky in the right ways. A good version of this is a Black List favorite.
Craig: Yeah, I think so for sure. And you’re right that there is a lot of these evocative moments that made me think Mad Max but he was smart to never say it. Because the second you say, well it’s Mad Max in Florida, you go, “Okay, well you can stop talking. Like I mean I get it. You know, you’ve borrowed another movie.” That’s the danger of borrowing another movie as a reference.
Craig: You know, you just suddenly don’t feel very original at all.
John: The other challenge of borrowing another movie for a reference is people will take too much from that other movie, and say like, oh but what about that thing or that thing or that thing. And like the listener will sort of try to imply things that you’re not really meaning to imply.
John: They take the whole package with it and like that’s not necessarily what you want. So that’s the challenge of, you know, using any other existing piece of material, be it a movie, be it a book, to describe the thing that you want to make which is hopefully original.
Craig: A 100%. So thank you, Erik, for writing in and letting us share that with everyone. It was a joy to hear that pitch that evening. And we heard, you know, I will say for all the 20 people that we heard, they were all well-practiced and I could see why all of them had sort of made it through. I still think 10 seems good. [laughs]
John: That was a lot to throw at you guys.
Craig: Yeah, yeah, 10 would have been nice.
John: Yeah. All right, let’s get to our work for this week which is the Three Page Challenge. So most of you probably are familiar with the Three Page Challenge. What we do is we invite our listeners to send in the first three pages of their script, or their teleplay, and we take a look at it, and give our honest opinion on what we read.
So, as always, we invite you to read along with us, so you can find links to the PDFs of these scripts in the show notes. Last time, we had Jeff Probst, the host of Survivor, read aloud the descriptions.
Craig: How great was that?
John: It was just amazing. He was terrific.
Craig: What’s funny was that after he did it, he wrote us and he said, “Ah, you know, I feel like maybe I screwed up because I just made it sound like Survivor.” And we were like, “No.” [laughs] It’s what we want. We want — we don’t want off-the-cuff private Jeff Probst. We just want Survivor Jeff Probst.
John: Yeah. It’s so strange that his voice is so specifically Survivor. Like you can’t imagine Survivor without Jeff Probst hosting it. It’s not like just even a visual thing like it’s his yelling at the contestants to like, you know, swim faster. It was great.
Craig: It was so cool.
John: So obviously the temptation is like, well, we need to find other famous people to read these descriptions, just so we don’t have to read those descriptions anymore. And so just this morning someone wrote in to point out that Martin Sheen apparently listens to our show.
John: Because on another podcast which was one of my One Cool Things, which was, Mom and Dad Wrote a Porno, and he references Scriptnotes, so —
John: It’s all a big web of connection. So I don’t — Martin Sheen, I couldn’t find on Twitter. Martin Sheen, if you are listening to this show, we are firstname.lastname@example.org and lord, we would love to have you read some stuff aloud. Or other famous people, too.
Craig: No, no. Now, I want Martin Sheen.
Craig: You know, just to have — you know, because when you have a body of work like Martin Sheen does, which is vast through time, just like every year, there’s probably three or four or five things. And I’m not even talking about the television stuff. You know, I’m just–
Craig: Talking about movies for decades now, you have to pick like who is your favorite Martin Sheen? There are so many. Who is your favorite Martin Sheen?
John: I think it was President Bartlet–
John: Even though I wasn’t really a big West Wing watcher, but like he just sort of became locked in that. And I think here’s the reason why I will say Bartlet is because so many of the appearances you see with him on like — in commercials for stuff or other things, he’s sort of doing the Bartlet character. He has that kind of gravitas where he’s channeling that kind of emotion. But tell me, who do you see?
Craig: Well, first of all, I — you are — it makes total sense. I think a lot of people would say that because once you play the president and you play it so iconically, it’s hard to kind of get away from that, I mean you’re the president, you know. But I will always in my heart have the softest spot for Apocalypse Now Martin Sheen. Because Apocalypse Now Martin Sheen, aside from being in Apocalypse Now, you know, in and of itself is oh, my God. Apocalypse Martin Sheen was going through a tough time. And Apocalypse Martin Sheen had some substance abuse issues and Apocalypse Martin Sheen had a heart attack during the shooting of Apocalypse Now.
John: That’s right. I always forget that.
Craig: And it’s not like Martin Sheen was like some, you know, fat lazy dude. He was like whippet thin, you know, and young. So like the kind of stress to lead to a heart attack at that age is extraordinary and plus, you know, there’s that scene where he’s destroying his hotel room. He really does cut his hand really badly, you know, when he smashes the mirror and there’s just incredible stuff going on in that movie with him personally, you know, and then of course his performance is just amazing. He reminds me so much — young Apocalypse Now Martin Sheen, reminds me of Young — your friend and mine — John Gaines. They’re very similar —
John: Oh yeah.
Craig: Similar look. So I want Apocalypse Now Martin Sheen to read these things. But also because Apocalypse Martin Sheen has incredible voiceover in that movie. I mean, just like the greatest voiceover.
John: He does.
Craig: All right.
John: So we don’t have Martin Sheen this week. So I thought we would try something very different which is that you always make fun of me for being a robot. And yet you also make fun of me for never being able to speak proper sentences and —
John: Matthew has to cut around all my mistakes. So I thought we would try having a computer–
Craig: Oh, my god.
John: Read these descriptions aloud.
Craig: And wait, how will we know it’s not you? [laughs]
John: Well, because we’re using female voices for all three pages.
Craig: Okay. And also the computer won’t mess up the words.
John: The computer does mess up the words in a few places, but I think it’s adorable for that so —
Craig: Oh, my god.
John: Today, we’re trying three different voices by IVONA which is this Amazon company that provides voices for other developers. And so in this situation, I just pasted in the text. I didn’t try to make it better or worse. I didn’t like listen for it like tweak the words. This is literally just what I pasted in the boxes. And if you’re listening to these voices, read aloud the descriptions that Godwin wrote. So our first voice is Sally. It’s one of the American voices and she’s reading the description for Relationshit written by Christopher Rock and JR Mallon.
Sally: We open in a mall, teens flirting, old people mall walking. Then an animal stampede breaks the peace. Puppies, kittens, the usual pet shop inventory all followed by their liberators, 30-somethings Marissa and Dan. The culprit stops three mall cops and celebrate their escape only to find themselves surrounded by 10 real cops who mace and arrest them. In court, Marissa and Dan are unrepentant, blaming the corporate world for their litany of charges, most of them alcohol related. The judge brings up Marissa and Dan’s past run ins with the law, with the two declaring chaos as beauty at the bottom of page three.
John: Great. Craig Mazin, what did you think of Relationshit?
Craig: Well, hold on a second.
John: Let’s start with the voices.
Craig: First of all, yeah. Let’s talk about what I think of Sally. Oh, Sally. Sally, you saucy minx. Sally’s into me.
John: Yeah, so, here’s the danger. Like this has become a podcast where like I present things that Craig lusts after. So last week it was the pinup girls. Now it’s the female voices, so pretty soon we’re going to put them all together and we’re going to be living in Ex Machina here. So.
Craig: Well, I mean, it doesn’t take much apparently for me to get going. Sally, alluring, just an alluring voice. Okay, so Relationshit. Well, the pages are composed well. I thought things laid out nicely, a good mix of dialogue and action. I could see things pretty clearly. So there’s basically two scenes we’re looking at here. One is in the mall and then one is in the courtroom. The courtroom got a little ticker tape to me and what I mean by that is, just runs of dialogue. And I understand that partly that’s because it is — that’s a conversation between static people. All the more reason to maybe compress a little bit there. I guess my criticism covers all of this. Marissa and Dan are apparently the same person. They have different names, but they’re both playing Bill Murray in a 1970s comedy. Everything they say is a smart-ass comment.
Craig: There’s — it never stops. To the point where it’s almost like a sketch where you expect the judge to be like, wait, do you only respond in wisecracks, that’s it? You know what, there’s no — you’re not people? You’re not real?
John: It’s interesting when you think of like the Bill Murray comedy, like someone has to be the Harold Ramis. Someone has to be the person who’s not that tempo so that you can actually sort of get through it. What this reminded me even more of Bill Murray is a Portlandia sketch, and there literally was a Portlandia sketch about animal liberators. And so the characters that Carrie and Fred play in Portlandia feel like these kind of characters who are always just like so hyped up and they’re sort of joke factory. But that works really well in sketches but it’s not — I’m nervous about how I’m going to relate to these characters throughout a full movie.
I thought like their jokes though, they’re good, they’re funny. I think that the voice is really nice. It’s just the problem is like it’s the same voice for both characters. And it also felt like they write funny lines and they put all the funny lines in rather than picking the selects of like funniest lines.
Where it gets to be problematic for me is on page two, and this is a thing you notice in a lot of these Three Page Challenges we have is there’s a character whose function is just to be the recapper, or sort of like the backstory machine. And so they’re just there to provide the history of everything that happened before this. So in this case, the judge is talking us through like all the previous times they’ve been arrested and the things they did. But I didn’t believe him at all. I didn’t believe that this person actually existed or that he would be kind of indulging them to just – he’d just be setting up, you know, things for them to have funny lines to shoot down. So I would want to cut most of page two and the top of page three and get to the real action here.
Craig: Yeah, so Judge Exposition certainly does his job. We all struggle with exposition but there are some things you can do to hide it a little bit better. The one thing, it’s a real simple things is, ask yourself how exposition in actual life happens. So here we have a judge who has seen these two before. They are recidivists as it were, and he does not appear to know who they are. He is talking to them as if he’s never seen them before. He is startled by what they’ve done. And then about a page later he says, “I know who you are. I know who you are and here’s some other things you’ve done.” Well, did he not know who they were before that? So that’s why the info dump is very shocking. It is incongruous to his behavior prior to it.
John: So my suggestion, I’m just going to read aloud and edit here. Like get us through this scene a little faster. So Dan Ryan, Marissa Landman, your escapades or Ice Capades — escapades, still hearing Ice Capades, do either of you have a problem with alcohol? Jump right down to that. You know, because the charges I see here include public intoxication, open container disorderly conduct. If you’re going to recap, he can be looking at the list right there. And then we can like get through to like — oh, this isn’t actually, these aren’t animal liberators, these are troubling drunks who like do this crap all the time.
John: That creates like actual conflict in the meat of the scene rather than just like setting up the punch lines.
Craig: Yeah, and if you want to get into the fact that they’ve been here before, I think it is reasonable for him to, you know, after their third quip or something, say, “Look. I want to be really clear. This isn’t like last time. Last time, and you know what you did.” And then one of them could say, “We didn’t do anything.” “You punched Chuck E. Cheeze. Well, not the Chuck E. Cheeze but, you know, one of his representatives. This isn’t like last time. There is no more letting you off the hook. This is — we’re now on the hook.” Right? So he can — there’s just a natural way to express a prior relationship that isn’t announcing the existence of it and detailing it for the sake of the audience, you know?
John: I’m just not sure the judge is the right character for that discussion. Like — and in some ways, is it the public defender? Is it the attorney? Is this — there’s someone else that they have sort of deal with that would make more sense than the judge. I just didn’t buy the judge sort of engaging with them on such a low level to some degree.
Craig: I actually completely agree with that and, in fact, I want to warn everybody. If you’re writing a comedy, and this is a comedy-comedy it seems to me, really think twice before you put a judge in it because judges at this point are the corniest of comedy characters. There’s just — we’ve seen 14 million versions, all of whom basically do the same thing. They get [fumphety] and frustrated with a far smarter and far funnier defendant which tends to undermine the, you know, any dramatic threat. It’s just hard to do those things. It’s better to have this scene where they’re just walking out of a building and it’s like, well, that did not go well. [laughs]
You know, they’re just complaining to their lawyer, they’re like, you told us that you could, you know, get us off. And he’s like, well, you did not tell me that you also did these things. So anyway, enjoy jail. You know, you don’t need to do this scene, it’s — but the lines are funny. You know what, I think it’s just like I like salt. I just don’t like eating salt with a spoon, you know.
Craig: You know, years ago, years ago, John, I was hanging out with some people and they were all in The Groundlings. Not the actual troop but, you know, they were taking classes at The Groundlings and I was not taking classes at The Groundlings. And we all went to see the actually Groundlings show which is really funny. I remember Will Farrell was in it because he hadn’t yet gone to = Saturday Night Live and I was like, oh, my god, that guy is hysterical.
And afterwards, we went out to dinner and these improv students were so keyed up from the experience of seeing The Groundlings that they just wouldn’t stop improving and–
John: Oh no.
Craig: I wanted to die. It was terrible. I specifically remember walking down the street with them to a restaurant and we passed a phone booth, that’s how long ago this was. One of the guys opens the booth, picks up the phone and goes, “Hello?” And then hangs it up and I thought that’s not — there’s nothing funny about that. You’re just–
Craig: Being wacky now. You’re being pointlessly wacky and I started to feel that way about these two characters. Just being pointlessly wacky. They don’t seem to have any conflict with each other. They don’t seem to ever disagree about anything. They don’t even seem to really be living in our world. They just seem to be little irony machines moving through it. And yeah, if you’re doing sketch, oh, my god. Go for it.
John: Perfect for sketch.
Craig: Yeah, because it’s going to be over soon, right? But this won’t.
John: Yeah, and so I agree that the actual dialogue lines, some of them are really good and funny and I can see them working well in a sitcom situation where you’re pitching a bunch of alternate lines for things. I can see like these guys being really great on a staff like putting together something for — putting together the funny for something. But I wasn’t feeling the engine engaged at all in these three pages. I didn’t hear a distinction between these two characters’ voices. And this may not have been going right into the judge, didn’t give us an opportunity to hear the difference between these two people or even set up the conflict between these two people which has got to be key to the story if the movie is called, Relationshit.
John: I also want to say, the other reason why you probably shouldn’t have a judge in your movie is, there will never be something funnier with a judge in it than the Rick and Morty version of Denver Fenton Allen. So this is a — we’ll put a link to it because if people haven’t seen it, they absolutely have to see it. So it’s the real transcript of a court case in Georgia with Denver Fenton Allen and it is just remarkable what happens between this man and the judge. And it’s absolutely not safe for work so don’t listen to it in the car with your kids.
Craig: Unless your work is what you and I do, and then it is safe for your work.
John: Totally, totally. All right. Let’s go to our next script here. So next up, our voice is Amy. She’s one of the UK voices and she’s reading the description for Roommates written by Astride Noel.
Craig: All right. Let’s take a listen.
Amy: 32-year-old Whitney sits on the toilet as her roommate, Kai, walks in on her and proceeds to brush her teeth. Kai complains about Whitney’s curly black hairs littering the bathroom floor. Whitney fires back by producing Kai’s own long red hair. Whitney tells Kai she is not comfortable sharing the bathroom while taking a piss. Later, Whitney tries in vain to block out the moaning coming from Kai’s room. She confronts Kai and her lover, asking them to keep it down. We flash back to Whitney and Kai inspecting the apartment as potential roommates and seeming to agree on everything, including the importance of quiet. And that’s the end of page three.
Craig: Well, Amy does not do for me what Sally did, to be honest with you.
John: So that’s so fascinating. So I thought the voice, in many ways, was more natural, but it doesn’t provide the tingle that Craig needs.
Craig: No. It’s not arousing at all. It’s actually kind of — it’s kind of bumming me out.
John: So Amy’s voice reminds me of our script supervisor from Go who was phenomenal and sort of helped keep that movie together during all its tumultuous shooting and had that sort of patient — it’s not a schoolteacher voice, but just, like, a level, calm, nothing was going to rattle her.
Craig: Yeah. The stereotype of the English person with the stiff upper lip, but then thrown like a whole bunch of Librium or something. It’s real, really just – “You know, the Germans are bombing. Oh, well.”
Craig: Creepy. Creepy.
John: Yeah, creepy.
Craig: All right. What did you think?
John: Well, let’s talk about the actual script. So this script had a lot of problems, and it didn’t ever click in for me. But there was some really useful stuff in here that I think people should take a look at because I think a lot of people’s early scripts have some of these issues, and I think by looking at them, we can get people past some of these sort of common mistakes.
I had a hard time just even getting started in the script. And some of it was just how we meet the characters on the page. Whitney is already in the bathroom, Kai walks in. Kai has this huge, long intro that sort of takes a while to get through. So let’s talk about Kai’s intro. “Kai, a.k.a. Gertrude, 22, white, barges in and startles Whitney. Kai is wearing an oversized Bob’s Burgers t-shirt. Kai waves at an appalled-looking Whitney and proceeds to brush her teeth. Whitney is grabbing toilet paper when Kai faces her.” And then we get into the dialogue about the hair.
There was sort of weird subject-verb — like, I had a hard time really quite understanding, like, what I was looking at or sort of whose movie I was in for a while. Did you feel that?
Craig: Well, I felt something wrong.
Craig: I think for me, the problem was that the style of introduction and length of introduction was incompatible with the action that you were asking me to envision in the movie, which is somebody barging in on somebody peeing. You barge in, you start talking. Right?
Craig: So she walks in. What you would have us see in the script is a woman is on the toilet — by the way, very hard to start a screenplay with somebody on the toilet, peeing. It’s just — it’s hard.
John: I think it’s doable. Here’s what I would point out, though. It’s like, you can’t barge in on a character who’s just gotten there. And so if we’ve just gotten there–
John: Like the second sentence. So like, I think you would actually need to make a bigger deal of, like, Whitney’s sort of stumbling in, like, not really turning on the light, like, finding it, like, pants down, start to hear the piss, and then Kai comes in and sort of like ruins it. Because that, then you’re like breaking a moment. But the moment hasn’t even started before Kai’s walked in.
Craig: Great point. And the idea of her being half-asleep, I mean, is she slowly nodding off while she’s peeing? I mean, what’s going on there exactly? Because you’re not really — I don’t know how you’re half-asleep. I mean, you’re either falling asleep, or you’re — you know. But it — half-asleep, if you’re not falling asleep, is just tired, woopty-doo.
But when she walks in, I would probably just slide everything up. Kai, first of all, a.k.a. Gertrude, means nothing to me. I’ve never met this person. Don’t give me two names. Just give me one. If she’s Gertrude, later tell me about that. Have that be a surprise. For now, Kai, 22, white, barges in. That’s it. Don’t tell me anything else. Kai, “Hey, those fuzzy little black balls I see on the floor all the time, I’m assuming is your hair. Can you do something about that?”
And then, you know, you can show Whitney reacts, grabbing toilet paper. Kai grabs her toothbrush, starts brushing and keeps going or whatever. But if someone’s barging in, make the dialogue barge in. Otherwise, it feels flabby, you know?
John: Yeah, absolutely. On page two, I thought — I didn’t love the dialogue, but I liked where it was getting to. This is Whitney saying, “When I told you I’m open to sharing the bathroom when I’m in it, I meant if I’m putting my makeup on or brushing my teeth. I like to piss alone.” So not the right words, but I think that’s the right sentiment because it tells us that — it can give us the hint that, like, this is actually Whitney’s apartment that Kai has moved into that they are still negotiating their relationship. And that could be a good exit line, but I would need a better scene before we got there.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, the introduction felt paste wrong, but that didn’t — where I kind of hopped off the boat was in the first exchange. Kai says, “Hey, these fuzzy”– so Whitney is black and Kai is white. Kai says, “Hey, these fuzzy little black balls I see on the floor all the time, I’m assuming is your hair. Can you do something about that?” Whitney reaches behind her and pulls out a long string of Kai’s red hair. “This long piece of stringy-type thing that I just pulled out of my ass, I’m assuming is your hair. Could you do something about that?” So a couple of problems here. One, what does it matter to Kai that the hair or fuzzy little black balls — and by the way, I’m not sure that black people’s hair accrues on the floor in fuzzy little black balls, but regardless, I know for sure, because I am white, that white people’s hair doesn’t end up in other people’s butts. Our hair doesn’t have some weird and magical thing that climbs up other people’s butts.
So Whitney — and there’s a weird typo here where there’s a plus after her Y in her name, but Whitney reaches behind her, now I think she means behind herself, right, because you got to be careful with these pronouns when you’re talking about two people of the same gender, you got to be really clear about that. Always ask like, is there confusion possible. Reaches behind her, and pulls out a long string of Kai’s red hair.
If she knows that Kai’s red hair is either up her butt, in her butt, around her butt, none of which by the way —
John: Or on the toilet seat.
Craig: Or on the toilet seat, exactly, none of which I believe. She should have handled it already. She shouldn’t be waiting for the opportunity to spring it upon her roommate like a bon mot because no one wants to sit on someone else’s hair or have someone else’s hair on them. It just does not make sense. And this sounds like–
John: But in some ways, I would love the movie in which that did make sense. Where like Whitney is walking around with a roommate’s hair up her ass the whole time.
Craig: Waiting for Bidet.
John: Yeah, that would be great. I mean it’s no Gator Man, there’s no Gator Dad, it’s no Gator Country, but it’s a thing.
Craig: It’s its own thing like ha-ha, finally, I’ve been waiting for years for you to complain about my hair, so I can show you this. This seems incredibly picky, you know.
These kinds of logic discussions go on in every single writing room that deals with comedy. If comedy is illogical, it will not work. People are so finely attuned. And what they’re really sensitive to is when a writer is fudging things to allow a joke to happen, and they will give you no credit for it, none, because they can see that you basically warped your world to be able to say something that you thought was funny, and all of a sudden, then these aren’t people, it isn’t funny, it’s a written joke, and nothing is working, you know?
John: Yeah. A similar kind of thing happens in page two. So, the middle of the page, we’re in Whitney’s room, and so it’s a nest of elegance, filled with antique furniture and expensive art. Who is Whitney, how does she have all this money? If she has all this money, why does she have a roommate? But so she’s reading a book, The Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, but inside it, there is another — she’s reading another book actually inside it, which is Lord of the Hissy-Fit, by Elizabeth Mayne, but if you’re alone in your room, why are you doing that trick — that no one actually ever does — of one book inside the other book.
It felt like we’re in a movie, I guess? It was a really frustratingly false moment to me.
Craig: Also, you know, now you’re the director and you’re like, okay, I got a shot here, this woman, she’s reading a book, but there’s a book inside the book, and they need to see the cover of the book that’s inside the book. How do we even–?
Craig: Exactly. How do we know that the book inside is Lord of the Hissy-Fit? These are the annoying questions that we ask. But you know, so, A, no reason for her to be disguising it, from, I don’t know, God. B, t’s goofy and yeah, generally sort of hacky. And, C, what comes after that is, again, something we see many times, oh no, my roommate is having loud sex. But I got so confused, because generally speaking, in my mind, when you’re reading one book but you’ve hidden a book inside that is a trashy romance novel, and then I hear, the next line is literally, it starts in low, but then starts to grow the sound of sexual moaning.
In my mind, I’m like, oh okay, Whitney is jerking off to Lord of the Hissy-Fit. But no, she’s not. She’s hearing her roommate. So I don’t know.
John: I got confused, too. I even got confused, like, Kai and her lover are hanging out on swings as they go at it in an impossible position. Is her lover male or female? I have no idea. We never got a pronoun.
John: I don’t know what’s going on. And it feels like important information on page two. And then at the bottom of page two, we have a flashback, which we’ll call a Jabangwe Jump, because it’s not a Stuart Special because the whole thing doesn’t take place in the past, it’s just a jump cut.
Craig: This is a Jabangwe Jump.
John: Where we see Kai and Whitney sort of first looking and like sussing out whether they should be roommates. So Astride has chosen not to start with this scene, or start with a version of this scene, but honestly, I think it would be better off with a version of the like, hey, like, maybe we could be roommates, or like hey, what do you think of this place?
I know it’s a little generic, but it’s also a chance to meet our two characters before they’re at each other’s throats. And I suspect the premise of this movie, called, Roommates, is about the relationship and the tension between these two women. So seeing them in their natural state before they become roommates would probably be very helpful.
I’m actually curious to see a version of the story that is about the black roommate and the white roommate and sort of issues that I haven’t seen explored in movies a lot, which could be great. I wasn’t getting a sense that I was going to get that movie in these three pages.
Craig: Yeah. I mean part of the problem with stories about roommates is that almost all sitcoms are about roommates at this point. So you’re competing with I don’t know, about a thousand different storylines and situations that we’ve seen on television for free, and you’re asking us to go see a movie, which must turn on some kind of special drama. If you are going to open a movie and then do a Jabangwe Jump, then the thing you open on must be quite startling, I think, to deserve the jump. Otherwise, you’re just showing sort of a, oh here’s, ugh, these two and they’re kind of the drudgery of being roommates, flashback to the drudgery of… – You know, it just doesn’t give you enough to work with there.
But I could not help but escape a general sense of predictability here even the scene where they meet on page three, which I think you’re right, I mean there’s a way to open this movie where first we meet Whitney, and see why she has an apartment full of all this expensive stuff, but needs a roommate. What’s going on in her life, why is this important to have one, does she need it? In what sense is she being hoisted by her own petard by getting a roommate? All these things.
But when Kai comes in, their discussion, it’s so obvious to any normal person that the way Kai is talking indicates this will be a bad roommate. And Whitney doesn’t seem to get it. And that’s no Bueno, you know? If she’s fooled, we should be fooled, right? We want to feel like she’s capable enough or at least as capable as we are in the audience to suss out that somebody is probably bad news.
John: Yes. So here’s Whitney’s dialogue on page three. So Kai says, “Brah, I really like how all the rooms have a fireplace. Classy.” Whitney says, “They’re not functional, but there’s nothing like spending a quiet evening admiring the aesthetics of it all over a cocktail. Which reminds me, do you consider yourself quiet?” Felt, forced and written. And I couldn’t picture the character who is saying that. So I think you’re going to have to paint me a better picture of who Whitney is before you give her that kind of Frasier-like line, because I just didn’t see a universe in which she quite existed, or existed in a way that she would be possibly inviting this other woman into her apartment.
Craig: And it’s particularly incompatible with the way we meet Whitney two pages prior, which was on the toilet. It’s not like Frasier doesn’t pee. He pees. We all do. But that’s like something that you hold back for later because he’s so prim and proper. And this does sound like a prim and proper person who uses words like aesthetics – which is one of my favorite words, but you don’t see me peeing, do you? No.
John: No. Never have. Never hope to.
Craig: No. You won’t.
John: All Right. Let’s get to our third and final script, and this time, we have Emma, another UK voice, reading the description for Popops Lives Alone by Isaac Lipnick. Let’s take a listen.
Emma: Popops sits next to his wife’s hospital bed, holding her hand. His wife passes away, and he pulls the plug, telling her goodbye. In the synagogue, Popops drinks at his wife’s funeral and at her burial. After the funeral, Popops plays gin rummy with his grandson, Benny, who he tells the story of how he caught Field Marshal Rommel by leering him out of his camp with kugel, his favorite dessert.
Meanwhile, Popops’ daughter frets about her father’s living condition, knowing he’ll refuse to move out of his home. Sure enough, when Rachel pitches the idea, Popops shoots her down reminding her he’ll be fine. He can always call on his neighbor, Edna, if he needs help. He leaves to go to the bathroom but is immediately surrounded by mourners and that’s where we’re at, at the end of page three.
Craig: Well, first, a quick review on Emma. Emma’s not alluring, so I’m still a Sally guy.
Craig: I’m all about Sally, you know, for sure.
John: Yeah. Salli with an I, by the way.
Craig: Oh my god. I mean–
Craig: Salli was amazing. In fact, Salli is so amazing it makes me hate Emma. Emma sounds depressed to be honest with you.
John: Emma sounds like Emily Mortimer to me. It sounds like Emily Mortimer. Did you ever watch 30 Rock when she was playing Phoebe who has fragile bones like a bird?
Craig: I do remember that.
John: It reminded me of that character.
Craig: Yeah, a little bit. Yeah. Yeah. No. I mean, Emma — look, Emma tried. I get it.
Craig: I mean, listen, Emma. You’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t try. But, if you know that Salli is also doing it, just go home. Come back a different day. You’re not Salli. You’re never going to be Salli.
John: I think in some ways though, Craig, someone could really object to how you’re treating these women because, yes, they are not real. They are just computerized voices, but like they one day will have feelings, too. And you’re basically — you’re judging them based on how much they excite you and that shouldn’t be it. It’s how well they’re doing their job which is their job should be to communicate to our listeners summaries so that we don’t actually have to read these summaries aloud.
Craig: Well, I don’t have a great track record in the way I treat fictional female characters. I treat actual human women brilliantly, but, you know, fictional women, I just — I don’t know. I’m a cad. I’m a real cad. Yeah.
John: But let’s get to Isaac’s script here. So, Craig, I have a suspicion that within the first two-eighths of a page, you’ll have a concern.
Craig: I do and again, it’s just about signaling to an audience that they’re in good hands or they’re not in good hands and that’s all about inspiring confidence in your storytelling. And part of inspiring confidence in your storytelling is not relaying something immediately that is just flat out nuts.
And in this case, what is flat out nuts is that Popops is with his dying wife, the heart monitor flat lines, [laughs] and he pulls the plug. No. No. You don’t pull the plug because you’ve seen TV and you know that the flat — no. You know, a lot of times what happens is people come in and revive that person. But even if they have a “Do not resuscitate,” you don’t touch the plug, sir.
Craig: Because you might go to jail for murder. You can’t do that and everybody knows you can’t do that. Everybody knows in the world that a guy sitting next to a dying woman doesn’t go, “All right, well, let me pull the plug.” No.
John: Let me give a scenario which that character could do that. And so, if we saw a flat line and we’re there for like a really, really uncomfortably long time and he’s looking around and he’s like does he go to the door. He like doesn’t know what to do, and like no one seems to be coming and eventually he pulls the plug. I would buy that scene, but it would have to be like a really long, long, long uncomfortable moment until finally we would say, “Oh, thank god. He pulled the plug.”
John: But if he pulls the plug within the first 10 seconds of that drone, he’s a monster.
Craig: Or one, I mean, look, it’s not like pulling the plug, like, she’s on an iron lung or, you know, a breathing machine. You know, it’s not — it’s just the monitor, right? It doesn’t impact it per se, but you don’t touch medical equipment in a hospital. If it flat lines, you — we understand unless you’re in some kind of weird warzone where everyone’s going crazy, someone will be in very, very shortly to turn it off.
Craig: And, in fact, what I would find so much more human and revealing is if I’m there and my wife is dying and it flat lines and it’s going beep, and I just put my hands over my ears because the sound of it is awful. But I can’t. I don’t turn that off.
Craig: So, I got angry immediately.
John: I could sense that. So, let’s move ahead though in the script. So, we’re at the synagogue, the cantor sings, The Mourner’s Kaddish, the grave site. Then we’re in Popops’ living room, and we’re here for the rest of the script. We’re here for the rest of the three pages. And so this is all the mourners back at the house. They are schmoozing and noshing.
Craig: This is just kidding. You know, I really wish that I actually think that the computer voices would probably do a better job saying some of these words then you because would you’re from Colorado. [laughs]
John: I’m from Colorado. So, what have I said wrong here?
Craig: Well, it’s Kaddish. Kaddish not Kaddish. The Mourner’s Kaddish.
Craig: Yes. But schmoozing and noshing, you nailed those.
John: I did. It’s all because of Noah’s Bagels. They taught me how to say those words. And so, Popops is playing gin rummy with Benny, his youngest grandson, who worships the ground he walks on. Benny has no age. Benny needs an age.
Craig: He’s going to get an age later. Not good. [laughs]
John: Does he?
Craig: Yeah. That’s the problem. So, you know, when I read this like you, I just said, “It’s Popops playing gin rummy with Benny, his youngest grandson.” I’m, like, it’s okay, it’s gin rummy, it’s a grandson. Probably 13, 14 years old. Later on page three, Rachel says, “I told you not to play for money with him. He’s only 6.” Now–
Craig: You know, here’s the thing; I got the feeling that Isaac was trying to kind of make a joke reveal over something that would not be a joke reveal in a movie because we can see the kid there. We have to know that he’s six years old from the start. You can’t do a weird misdirect on something that only works as a misdirect for the blind, you know?
John: Putting Benny’s age here greatly changes my reaction to some of the things he’s saying. So, like, when Popops is saying, like, “I ever tell you about how me and Lenny caught Field Marshal Rommel?” You’re saying that to a six-year-old, it’s a very different experience than saying it to a 13-year-old. Like a 13-year-old, like, kind of rolls his eyes. A six-year-old is, like, I don’t know what a field marshal or Rommel is, but okay. it’s–
John: A very different experience. I will say, and I suspect you had the same instinct, is whenever you have an old man starting a story with like, “Did I ever tell you about this time when–“
John: You immediately think of Grandpa Simpson. I mean, it’s very much that kind of, like, ugh, I know the stock version of this scene. And unfortunately, I wasn’t getting a very different version than the stock version of that scene.
Craig: Yeah. It’s an old man telling a baloney story to a kid and it’s a bad baloney story. I got to say. Well, look, first of all, as a Jewish person, you know, I understand that a lot of what’s going on here is the conveyance of the cultural experience of a multigenerational Jewish family and this is sitting shiva which is the traditional thing you do after a loved one dies. And there’s all these little things that are very much, you know, covering of mirrors and people coming over, and the food, and all that stuff, and kugel — lots of kugel talk. But it almost feels weirdly, like it’s Margaret Mead describing a Jewish gathering, you know. I mean, it’s — it doesn’t feel confident. It’s, like, so much, like, here’s this, here’s this, here’s this. The thing about the kugel and the kind of kugel and the sweet kind with raisins and apricots and I’m going to talk about Nazis and we’re playing gin, it felt, yeah, weirdly anthropological and not just natural and being. Do you know what I mean?
John: Yeah. It also felt vintage. I had no idea what era this was set in because it could had been set in any era. It was obviously post-Nazi but other than that, I really didn’t know whether this was happening now or this was happening in the ‘80s. And that’s not a good sign either.
Craig: That’s a great point. I mean, I presumed that it was happening now but then again, I don’t know, he pulls the plug. I can see that happening in, like, 1963. [laughs]
John: Yeah. Back then they’re like, “Yeah, this thing is annoying me.”
Craig: The nurse is, like, “You know, when she goes, go ahead and, you know, you can shut that off.”
John: You can just pull the plug. [laughs]
Craig: Pull it. You just do it. Pull it. Pull it. We’re good. We’re busy. You know, just let us know.
John: So, at the top of page three, Popops says, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Popops cannot say this. That’s — this line cannot be spoken in a movie. This is a quote from Mark Twain. I did a Google search with that in quotes. There are 37,000 Google results for this line. So, even though Popops probably would say this because he’s saying it like a quote, you can’t put it in a movie. It’s just too trite, too cliché, and I would have put down the script right then if I didn’t have to read to the bottom of the page.
Craig: Yeah. Although you know what would’ve been awesome. I had the same reaction, but then this is what I thought. What would actually be really cool is if Popops said to Benny, “You know, what I always say, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” And then Rachel says, “You didn’t say that. Mark Twain said that.” And then he says, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Then I would go, “Okay, he knows.” Like the movie is not pretending that they don’t know–
Craig: And that we don’t know, it’s just kind of his point, you know. But–
Craig: Yeah. You know, you can’t really — again, this is all about confidence and, yeah, listen, you and I have been to a lot of test screenings. The percentage of people in the typical test screening that would know that that’s a Mark Twain comment and not something that he said, yeah, probably 5%.
Craig: But that’s a lot — that’s a big five.
John: But that 5% though, even if they didn’t know Mark Twain said that, they would have heard that before. It’s just, like, it’s just–
John: An old thing.
Craig: Yeah. No, I agree and–
John: It’s a clam.
Craig: It’s — yeah.
John: So, Craig, like, you can put a hat on a clam which I thought you did a very good job of putting a hat on the clam. But it’s still a clam.
Craig: Yeah, you can put a hat on it, you can put beard on it, whatever you want.
John: Totally. Yeah.
Craig: But, yeah, I agree even if you don’t know — even if you’ve never heard it before actually, how about this? It still sounds like some kind of I don’t know, what’s the word, epigraph? Is that what you call these things?
Craig: It feels like a crafted little bon mot, not something that somebody just says. And none of this is helped by the fact that there are having the most mundane adult daughter/aging widowed grandfather or widower-father discussion all the time which is “You’re alone now, you shouldn’t live alone, daddy. Come live with me.” “I don’t want to. I’m fine on my own.” Again? But I think that is so cliché that if Melissa should die before me, and I’m really old, and my daughter comes to me and says, “Dad, you really can’t live alone.” I’ll say, “You know what? I want to, but I cannot bear to have the boring conversation with you about how I’m fine and I shouldn’t. So you know what? Yeah, okay. I’ll go live with you just to not have that incredibly clichéd argument.”
We’ve just seen it so many times. I will say though that there was — I did like Edna and it was cute. I wished that–
John: I liked Edna, too.
Craig: He needed to help me. He needed to help me, so I got to Edna on page three. So Edna comes by on page two and says, “I’m so sorry for your loss, Adrian. If there’s anything I could do, I’m just down the street.” Then she heads off. He goes back to his story. Then on page three, Edna comes back, “I am so sorry for your loss. If there is anything I could do, I’m down the street. I know where you live.” So we get it. Oh, okay, she’s, you know, got dementia or something.
But when I got to page three, I was like wait who’s Edna, how does he know she’s down the street, and then I had to go back, because it wasn’t like her line was particularly interesting on page two. We needed I think a little bit of direction there, of like, you know, Edna walks back up again, weirdly, you know, her expression hasn’t changed, you know.
And give me something so I’m like, “Oh, yeah,” or give me something when she walks over, “Edna, an elderly neighbor approaches Popops with her walker.” Give me a little bit more there just so I know like pay attention to Edna. This might matter. Something, you know. But it was a good — it was a cute moment.
John: It’s the right idea, for sure. So it’s a senior with memory loss who’s repeating. She’s sort of doing a Dory, and that’s great. It’s a nice idea. What I had a bigger problem with on the top of page three is like Popops gets through his story and so while he was telling his story, the daughter Rachel was talking with a family friend about like, “Oh, Popops, he can’t live alone.” But then she goes right to him and says like, “You could live with us. Please consider it, dad.”
It felt really weird that like she was suddenly telling him that right now. There was no motivation for that conversation to be happening right there. It felt like it should be a separate conversation.
Craig: Oh, yeah, listen here is something that is true about – Shiva is a very weird thing because, you know, I don’t think anybody else does this. I know that in some cultures they’ll have a wake, which is specifically a party where you get drunk and talk about somebody who died and that sounds way cooler than sitting shiva. But sitting shiva is basic.
The whole point of sitting Shiva is let us distract you from the pain of mourning. So we’re going to all sit around and eat food and chitchat. And maybe tell some jokes and just keep it lighthearted and not do stuff like this nor would you have this discussion in front of a whole bunch of other people. What a weird time to do it. You’re absolutely right, even though you are the least Jewish person in the world, you innately understood that.
John: Yeah. I think I understood it better than Salli could understand it.
Craig: No, how dare you. How dare you!
John: So as always, I want to thank our writers for writing in with their scripts, and letting us take a look at them. You guys are incredibly brave, so thank you. I hope this conversation helped a bit to get you to your next draft and your next passes. If you have a script you would like us to take a look at, don’t send it to the email address, instead go to johnaugust.com/threepage, all spelled out and there’s an entry form there that you attach a PDF, you fill out some questions, and you send it through.
Godwin takes a look at absolutely every one of those things that gets submitted. And sends a couple of them our way every once in a while to take a look at on the air. So thank you to everyone who wrote in and thank you to these people especially for letting us discuss their scripts on the air.
John: So what is your final assessment of text-to-speech in 2016, Craig Mazin?
Craig: Salli. [laughs]
Craig: Salli and I are — even while you were just doing that, we started a little bit of a relationship because I can — Salli will say whatever I want her to say. So I can have Salli talk to me all day long.
John: It’s Her all over again.
Craig: Yeah, if Melissa is not saying the things I want her to say, I’ll just have Salli say it. No big deal. And Melissa does not say the things that I want her to say. [laughs]
John: Of the three, Emma was my favorite. I know she was calm, she was rational, but also had a little bit of perk to her, so I wanted her to tell me the headlines.
Craig: She sounded like a broken woman to me. [laughs]
John: All right, it’s time for our One Cool Things. I actually have two One Cool Things, I don’t know if Craig has one.
Craig: I do, I do. I have one. Yeah.
John: So my two One Cool Things, the first one is Harry Potter and the Translator’s Nightmare, which is a Vox video that talks through the translations of Harry Potter and how challenging that was for all the 30 or 50 or however many languages that book series was translated into because Rowling had so many special words and concepts that had to be described and she had puns and like “I am Voldemort” like all sort of things that had to sort of make sense in whatever language they ended up in. So it’s a good little five-minute video that talks through the process of translating. And I’m not too far away from having to deal with that for my own book.
And so it was great for me to see like, oh yeah, I should actually warn translators of those things because some of that stuff is much more important than you would guess down the road.
Craig: That’s a really good point. I wouldn’t have thought about that, but yeah, it’s got to be absolutely maddening. I mean, how do you translate a word that doesn’t exist, like muggles?
John: Exactly, so you’d make up stuff. And so even things like Hogwarts, like some languages chose to like, say, oh, we’ll take the word for hog and that word for warts and put them together. But Hogwarts really isn’t about hogs and warts. It’s just like a cool name.
John: And so other languages made very different choices. In some languages, they would omit things or change things because they didn’t think it was like all that relevant in Book 1. But then like in Book 4, like, oh, wow, that becomes a really important thing. And because of the change they made, they have to sort of deal with the changes they made. So that’s a tough thing.
Craig: Can you imagine if you were writing a screenplay for a studio and it’s about magical kids at a magical boarding school. And you said, “And the magical boarding school will be named Hogwarts.” I don’t think that would go over too well with them. No. “Well, that doesn’t sound likeable.”
John: No. I think that wouldn’t have done well at the pitch competition and it wouldn’t have made it through.
Craig: It would have been great for me.
John: My other One Cool Thing is a really quick and easy one. It’s The Americans on FX, which I’ve just started watching and were now into Season 2. It’s really terrifically well done. Are you watching the show, Craig?
Craig: As you know, I don’t watch television. However —
Craig: My friend, Stephen Schiff, excellent screenwriter — interestingly, in his past life, film critic, he was a very well-respected film critic, for whatever that’s worth, but then turned his back on it, and became a writer, and wrote Deep End of the Ocean, I believe, was the movie, right, Michelle Pfeiffer movie.
Craig: Yeah. And the second Wall Street film and now, he is one of the, I think, he’s a pretty highly placed writer on The Americans and I hear it’s great. So for his sake — and he’s like the greatest guy. So I should watch it. But, you know, first, I have to watch television.
John: Yeah. So if you are in Europe or at least if you’re in France, the first couple of seasons are on Netflix. I think they’re on Amazon in the US. So it’s a very easy show to sort of bolt through and catch up on because they only have 13 episodes seasons. So we’ve quite enjoyed The Americans on FX. And, really, one of those premises that I wouldn’t have thought could have sustained itself and it manages to be both the spy story of the week, and have ongoing arcs in ways you wouldn’t think possible. So I would just commend the writers of The Americans, and urge you to watch it.
Craig: Fantastic. My One Cool Thing is for your feet. John, do you wear slippers?
John: I never wear slippers. So convince me why I should.
Craig: Well, I can’t, really. It’s either you’re a slipper person or you’re not. Now, I don’t wear anything out of the house. It’s like I don’t wear like sandals. I don’t wear any of that. Give me a proper shoe or a sneaker or something. But when I wake up in the morning, I want to put my slippers on. It feels so good. It feels so good. So I got these slippers that are just the best. And, slippers, you buy them once, they last you ten years, right? I’m so in love with these. They feel — every morning, I’m happy to put them on. So it’s made by Ugg. You know Ugg like Ugg boots?
John: I know Ugg. Yeah.
Craig: Yeah. I’m the last person you’d think would know about Ugg and I only know about it because, you know, Melissa said, “Oh, you should buy something. Like Ugg probably has a good…” She was right. So the Ugg Australia Men’s Ascot Slipper. Australia may just be — but I don’t know. I think it’s just Ascot Slipper. That’s the key.
John: So do these slippers have a heel? Do they have — do they go back behind your heel or you just slip them on? Because I can’t stand the ones that are just like these spa slippers.
Craig: Oh No. No. No. I would never, in my life, ever do that. That’s horrifying to me. Like anything that makes a flip flopping noise is anathema. No, this is more like moccasin style.
Craig: It’s suede but the inside is all, now, what I would call — the inside, I would call like fluffy white stuff. But apparently the word for that is shearling.
John: How nice is that?
Craig: Yeah. The inside is shearling and the outside is a nice suede, and yes, it’s full coverage. Super comfy. John, I feel like you would love these. What size foot are you?
John: I am a size 11.5.
Craig: Okay. We the same size feet, which is great, so we could share shoes now.
John: God. [laughs] My dream has come true.
Craig: You have access now to my vast collection of four things. But size yourself up a little bit on these. Go for the 12. Go for the 12, John. I think you will be thrilled.
John: All right. I might even try them here en France to get into the slippery of it all. That’s our show for this week. As always, our show is produced by Godwin Jabangwe.
John: It’s edited by Matthew Chilelli.
John: Our outro this week comes from Rich Woodson. If you have an outro, you can send it to us at email@example.com. This is also the place where you send your questions. On Twitter, I’m @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. You can find us on iTunes. Just search for Scriptnotes. That’s also where you’ll find the apps, in the applicable app stores.
You can use the apps to access scriptnotes.net and get all of our back episodes where we talk about many of the things and all the old Three Page Challenges. You could find show notes for this episode, and all episodes at johnaugust.com. That’s where you’ll find Craig’s magical slippers. It’s also where you’ll find transcripts. We get them up about four days after the episodes air. In the sidebar, or at store.johnaugust.com you can find the USB drives that have all of the old episodes.
But more importantly, you need to order your t-shirts because this is the last week for ordering t-shirts. So get those orders in and they will print them up, and you’ll have them on your back before Christmas, which would be great. So, Craig, thank you for another fun Three Page Challenge.
Craig: Thank you, John.
John: Have a great day. Bye.
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