John August: Bonjour et bienvenue. Je m’appelle John August.

Aline Brosh McKenna: Je m’appelle Aline Brosh McKenna.

John: Et vous écoutez l’Episode 282 de Scriptnotes, un podcast sur l’écriture de scénarios et des choses intéressantes pour les scénaristes.

Aline: Ah, très bien. Très bien, Paris.

John: So we are here in Paris. That’s why I’m doing my introduction in French. Aline Brosh McKenna flew all the way over here just to record a podcast.

Aline: Yes.

John: That is the dedication of a true friend. Aline, welcome to Paris.

Aline: Thank you. And I am looking forward to the mocking that I will get from Craig for actually taking time during my family vacation to come here and podcast with you. But, come on.

John: Come on. It’s Scriptnotes. You have to do it for Scriptnotes.

Aline: Priorities. And also – all you and I know how to do together is podcast at this point. We see each other, we just instantly begin–

John: The microphones come out. And we start recording a podcast.

Aline: No matter where we are.

John: It’s really embarrassing, especially when there’s nothing to actually talk about other than filmmaking. Today on this podcast, we are going to be answering some listener questions about cheating reality and bilingual characters, appropriate for being here in French. And we’ll also be inviting a special guest on to talk about the process of adaptation and autobiography.

Aline: Great. That all sounds great.

John: That’s this week. But also something terrible happened this week, which was the death of Carrie Fisher.

Aline: Oh gosh. Quickly followed by the death of Debbie Reynolds.

John: Yes, which is terrible. So, we’re recording this where it’s all sort of brand new news. By the time this comes out, it won’t be new news. But I wanted to talk with you because Carrie Fisher, obviously we know her as Princess Leia, we know her as an actress, but I really thought of her mostly as a screenwriter. That was sort of how I encountered her.

Aline: Yeah. When I first came to LA she was sort of the premier script doctor. And, you know, was very witty and funny and was sort of brought in to make things sort of, as I understood it, wittier and funnier and warmer. But she also obviously had a great presence as an actor.

My favorite Carrie Fisher performance is Hannah and Her Sisters. It’s probably my favorite Woodie Allen movie, and that performance, the subtle competition between her and Dianne Wiest is great. So, yeah, that’s been really sad. And then also for me, as an ‘80s baby, the George Michael thing was devastating. And I spent a day listening to every George Michael song that, you know, back to back. It’s been a weird week.

John: Yeah. I wrote up a little piece about George Michael when I got the news, because just a few days before it happened we were listening to a George Michael song at a café in Italy and it’s like, oh, I wonder if George Michael is still alive. Like it occurred to me like is he still alive. And then two days he had died. And so one of the nice things about all artists, including Carrie Fisher, is that they can physically die but the work that they’ve created lives on forever. And so I’ve been trying to listen to George Michael songs, but also songs from other artists who I might not have thought of recently, just because that’s how you sort of keep them alive.

Aline: Right. And I think of Carrie Fisher as a wit and as a novelist and Postcards from the Edge. But, of course, my son is a huge fan from Star Wars. And so he was very sad and upset when we found out the news and we were waiting to hear when we first heard about the heart attack, we were waiting to hear if she was okay. And he was posting on Facebook about it. So she means something to different generations of people which is great.

John: Did you have a chance to meet her ever?

Aline: I never did. No.

John: So, I met her twice. The first time was at a screening of Big Fish. It was at the ArcLight in Los Angeles and it was sort of our LA premiere. And the lists had come down and Dick Zanuck was nearby and Bruce Cohen was nearby. And this woman came in and she sort of like, she put up the armrests and sort of like curled up on the seat. And it was Carrie Fisher. And she came to watch the movie.

And then a few weeks later, I think, I was at a birthday party that she’d thrown for her friend and met her there. And she was exactly kind of the person you hoped Carrie Fisher would be. And she was generous, and warm, and cool. And like you I sort of encountered her mostly as a script doctor. As a person who was paid a lot of money for weekly work on something.

And I remember I was an intern at Universal and they were discussing bringing her in to do a weekly on this project. And I heard her quote, which just blew my mind that we paid that much per week. And what her job would be. And that was actually very inspiring. Like, I kind of want to be a screenwriter if you can do that. [laughs]

Aline: Yeah. But it’s rare to be a famous actress and sort of screen icon and also be doing that kind of work a day work.

John: There’s a quote I saw this last week about this where in a Newsweek interview they were talking about her working as a script doctor. And they say like do you still work as a script doctor. She says, “I haven’t done it for a few years. I did it for many years. Then younger people came to do it. And I started to do new things. It was a very long, lucrative episode of my life, but it’s complicated to do that. Now it’s all changed actually. In order to get a rewrite job, you have to submit your notes for your ideas on how to fix a script.”

Aline: Oh wow.

John: “So they can get all the notes from the different writers, keep the notes, and not hire you. That’s free work. And that’s what I always call life-wasting events.”

Aline: Can’t say it any better than that.

John: Absolutely. So, we’ve all encountered that situation where you’re brought in to do this work or not do this work, and they mostly want your opinions.

Aline: Right. For free.

John: Some follow up. So, episodes you were not involved with, but maybe you listened to. Back in Episode 277 we discussed film versus reality. Justin in Beijing wrote in to say, “So, listening to the podcast about how film and TV teaches bad medicine, if my friend gets stabbed and my dumb friend pulls out the knife, should I put the knife back in my stabbed friend?”

Aline: What’s your follow up? I’m guessing you should not do that.

John: Yeah. Craig is really our doctor on the podcast. But I’m guessing you should not put the knife back in.

Aline: I’m guessing not.

John: But just yesterday I saw the movie Passengers and that exact moment happens where she pulls the thing that’s impaling her out. And I wanted to say, no, don’t, leave the bolt in.

Aline: Oh.

John: Because you will just bleed more when you pull that thing out. No. Don’t do it.

In Episode 280 we talked about the Reed College protest over Boys Don’t Cry. Did you listen to that episode already?

Aline: No. I’m really way behind.

John: It’s fine. But that was the one where I got really angry, and so actually had like more umbrage in that episode. We got a bunch of good responses about that, and some stupid ones, too, inevitably. But the one that stuck with me most was from a listener named Kate Hadley. And we’ll put a link to her piece up in the show notes.

What I liked so much about her piece is that she was able to focus on some things that Craig and I had not even considered. And one of the issues you have when you have cis-gendered actor playing trans is it sort of perpetuates that idea that a trans person is just playing dress up. That it’s all a disguise. And that it feeds into these terrible bathroom laws and stuff like that where there’s this perception that it’s just a man who wants to get into the women’s restroom. That it’s not a real person with a real identity.

So, she wrote it much more articulately than I just expressed it, but I’d really encourage you to take a look at what she said, because even though she, like I, disagree with the Reed College protest, she really was able to scratch at what I think was underlying that issue over sort of trans representation in film.

Aline: Right.

John: Cool. Last bit of follow up here. Matt wrote in about French titles. And he wanted to clarify – we talked about the Zak Efron movie, which was called something else, but the Australian title was Are We Officially Dating, and it turned out that was the initial script title for the movie.

Aline: Wow.

John: So for the Australian version they went back to the original script title, which was unusual.

Aline: How did they know that?

John: You know, my hunch is it that it may have been one of those sort of foreign rights deals, or that it was a negative pickup in some way, so that–

Aline: It had been circulating with that on it?

John: Maybe so. Or, that some other international entity was a financier in it. So, in their head it was always called this other title. And the American people had changed the title.

Aline: Got it.

John: Aline, what have been the titles of your movies overseas?

Aline: I have no idea. I never look them up.

John: So The Devil Wears Prada would make sense.

Aline: I think it’s basically The Devil Wears Prada in most countries.

John: But I mean some of your things must be – like Morning Glory would be a very different title I bet in different countries.

Aline: I have no idea.

John: Cool. But we also had a follow up from Rodrigo in Brazil. And so if you can read to us what he wrote.

Aline: Sure. He says, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but Brazil’s title for The Hangover is even worse. Instead of calling it Ressaca, which is the regular hangover translation, Hangover in Brazil is called Se Beber, Não Case!”

I really made that up. Made that completely up.

“Don’t Drink and Marry. Brazil has a long list of bad title translations. The best one I can recall is when Teen Wolf got translated to The Boy from the Future, because Back to the Future happened a couple years before earlier. And marketing. Which brings us to a topic I think you never talked about in your podcast. How important is the title of the screenplay and how often does it get changed until it hits the screen? All You Need is Kill, Edge of Tomorrow, Live, Die, Repeat comes to mind.”

John: Let’s talk about that. Titles for screenplays. How important is the title for you when you’re coming up with a screenplay?

Aline: Oh, I think they’re critical. If you don’t have a title – if things are floating around for too long with an untitled, it seems like something is wrong with your idea. You just can’t hone in on what the idea is.

I think that a lot of the genius of Devil Wears Prada was in Lauren Weisberger’s selection of a title. It’s just so evocative. It tells a whole story. You know, it encapsulates the whole movie. And 27 Dresses, that was kind of – that’s the whole movie also.

John: That was your original title.

Aline: That was my original title. Yes. That was the whole idea – the whole idea is the title. So, I think it’s a good – I have worked on things before where I didn’t have a title way into writing it. It’s not a good sign. It’s really not a good sign.

John: I can see that. So, Morning Glory, so she’s a morning TV anchor.

Aline: Yes.

John: But was that always the title or what happened there?

Aline: Yes, that was always the title. That was the one that I worked on with J.J. and I remember – we were talking about it, maybe I had worked on it for like a month, and then the title kind of hit me, and I… – I don’t think that’s a great title because it has a pun in it ultimately.

John: Yeah.

Aline: And also because I didn’t realize that Morning Glory in lots of places in the country means boner.

John: Ha-ha. Excellent.

Aline: Did you know that?

John: I had no idea. But I can see that. It’s like morning wood.

Aline: Morning wood is morning glory. And also there’s a Katherine Hepburn movie. That I did know. But I don’t think it got – like Broadcast News kind of tells you not only what it’s about, but it tells you its sort of take on it, that it should be the news. And one of the problems with Morning Glory as a movie is we never really honed in on like what we were saying about the news business. So, the fact that it has one of those titles that’s a bit irrelevant.

And then I’ve written movies also where people for the life of them can’t remember the title. Laws of Attraction. Or, you know, I Don’t Know How She Does It. Well, I Don’t Know How She Does It is a book, I guess.

John: I Don’t Know How She Does It actually makes sense. Like it feels like something that a character in that world would be saying. And it expresses her underlying–

Aline: It’s a great title for the book. As a movie title, I don’t think it widens out at all. I mean, obviously we would have called it that because it’s the book title. But you need to have something that really is – I mean, I think The Hangover is a brilliant title.

John: Agreed.

Aline: It’s just very simple and very clear. And what you’re looking for is I think something very clear that describes the movie.

John: In Rodrigo’s question he references what was called Edge of Tomorrow, was a Tom Cruise movie when it was released. But originally the title for it was All You Need is Kill, which I think is a great title.

Aline: Great title.

John: But it didn’t test well, or they didn’t feel like it marketed – they were concerned about it. So then Edge of Tomorrow, which felt really like I have no idea what that means.

Aline: Edge of Tomorrow reminds me a lot of Edge of Night, which is a soap opera.

John: It also reminds me of Oblivion, which was the other Tom Cruise sci-fi movie.

Aline: Totally.

John: And so for the home video release they changed it to Live, Die, Repeat.

Aline: Wasn’t technically Live, Die, Repeat was the slogan, but it was like ten times bigger than the title? That was just somebody in marketing saying, “Don’t make me go and release this on home video with the same title. You’re killing me. Can we use this other thing?”

John: It’s challenging because it was a movie that was critically liked. It performed well, I guess. And sort of would otherwise deserve a sequel. But the title didn’t catch people.

Aline: That’s a surprisingly good movie. But I think it needs to be something where – I think a good test for writers is you want to be able to turn to your friend and say, “Oh my god, did you see this yet?” And have it be something which they’re not going to go, “Wait, which one is that?”

I think titles which are like Nowhere Fast, which are sort of like assemblages of vague terms, gerund nouns, or gerund adjectives – Running…

John: Running Water.

Aline: Running Scared. That is a movie, isn’t it?

John: Running Scared is a good one.

Aline: Yeah. Or Being Blank. There’s a lot of. Finding Blanks. And Being Blanks.

I have a script that I’ve been working on for a number of years. It’s this movie that I wrote about my mother and her friend. And it’s about these two French women. And I always refer to it as French Ladies. Because when I was talking to my agent or talking to anyone, French Ladies was what I always called it. But I was going to call it The Best Revenge. That was a title I was using was The Best Revenge. But I never referred to it as The Best Revenge with anyone, with my agent or anyone.

So, I started just calling it French Ladies. And then finally the producers were like, “We should just call this movie French Ladies because that’s the only thing we refer to it as.” And it just sticks to your ear.

So, it’s got to be something that you can turn to your friend and say, “Boy, we should really go see…”

John: Yes. 100%.

Aline: And they won’t go, “What?”

John: Yeah. I’m having a lot of what these days because it’s screener season, so you and I are getting all of the Academy screeners. And so a lot of these are movies I haven’t otherwise seen. And so we get this big list and I’m like I have no idea what this movie is. I’m sure it came out, but I have just no idea.

Aline: You know what’s the best, one of my favorite – well, The Meddler is a great title. And I loved that movie this year. One movie that I loved but the title took a long time to lodge in brain is Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

John: Yeah.

Aline: I kept trying to recommend it to people and saying like–

John: Wilder beasts?

Aline: Something wild. You know, I couldn’t, it didn’t kind of lodge in my brain.

John: That was a previous One Cool Thing. The only reason I know about that is because the Kates recommended it.

Aline: It’s a great movie.

John: I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Aline: It’s a great movie. But somehow the title, Hunt maybe wasn’t a thing that landed in my brain as the thing that it was.

John: Yeah. With my movies, like Go was originally called 24/7. And 24/7 is an interesting title, but it wasn’t the right title for what that movie was.

Aline: That really makes me think it’s about a convenience store.

John: Totally. And it’s not about that. It’s not Clerks 2. But when I came to Go, it was like, oh, that’s what that movie feels like. And that was a title that I took from another pitch that I had set out that had never sold.

Aline: Oh really?

John: Yeah.

Aline: Scavenged.

John: Scavenged. The Nines is a similar situation where The Nines was a short story I had written and it’s like, oh you know what, I’m going to take that title–

Aline: Didn’t The Nines come out close to Nine?

John: Yes. So that was a whole title mess. And that’s another thing worth discussing is that a lot of times you’ll have a great idea for a title and someone else will have already claimed it. So, it’s not a copyright situation. It’s the MPAA has a whole registry – actually, I take that back. I think it may be AMPAS has the registry. No, it wouldn’t be. Which one would it be?

Aline: It’s the MPAA.

John: It would be the MPAA. Has the registry of titles. And so you have to clear your title and make sure that it’s not confusing with another movie that’s out there.

And so The Nines was the first one to register The Nine. And then 9 came out, which was the animated version. There was also Nine the musical. And we were first. And so we had to give permission for those other things, so it becomes a whole negotiation.

Aline: You could have called it John August’s The Nines.

John: Yeah. You could have.

Aline: Like Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

John: Absolutely. Or Disney’s The Kid. There’s ways, you know, the studio title in there to get it done. But, yeah, going back to Rodrigo’s question, titles are crucial and important. And there’s honestly nothing more frustrating when you wrote a movie and you shot a movie under one title, and then it suddenly changes title at the end. You don’t even recognize this thing that you spent all this time working on. And I definitely know friends who have had that situation where like it’s called something crazy. Charlie’s Angels, the second Charlie’s Angels, the script I originally turned in was Charlie’s Angels: Forever. And that was going to be the movie title for a long time. And then they came back to us with a whole bunch of little things that had tested. They tested a bunch of different titles. And Full Throttle was a title just by itself that they tested. And so they decided to call it Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

Aline: But with sequels, I don’t know what the words are after the first part.

John: Yeah. I have no idea what the next Fast and Furious is.

Aline: Oh wait. But isn’t–

John: I’m going to get it wrong if I try to guess.

Aline: I don’t know. It’s all the kids have been talking about. We seem really old and out of right now. Because the trailer just came out a couple weeks ago and that’s all the kids talk about.

John: Your sons are in the other room, and they probably know the real title.

Aline: They know. They know.

John: But we don’t. Chris Morgan knows, but we don’t know.

Aline: Yeah.

John: We have a question from listener Tom Dowler who wrote in. Let’s hear what he said.

Tom Dowler: My question is inspired by Craig’s recent list of very commonly seen yet completely nonsensical medical practices. My wife and I actually keep an ongoing list of things only seen in movies that characters do all the time, yet no one does in real life. And that list includes things like someone sitting alone on the back seat of a car, but is sitting right in the middle of that back seat rather than directly behind the driver or the passenger seats. Or, someone who is stressed walking into a bathroom just to splash cold water onto their face and then star meaningfully into the mirror. Or, someone carrying on a complete conversation while brushing their teeth, but somehow not covering their chin in toothpaste suds or choking on their own spit.

So, my question is this: should we as screenwriters embrace these ridiculous conceits if they help us tell our story and fit in with the Hollywood establishment? Or should we strike out in the name of truth and reality? Do you risk alienating your audience if we present a vision of life which is unlike what they’re used to seeing on screens, even if it more closely matches real life? Thanks very much.

Aline: I mean, to me that’s an easy one. Those things are goofy and they’re kind of the mark of a bad – someone sitting in the middle is probably because it was easier to shoot, and I don’t think that would pull you out as much as sort of weird human behavior. The thing that I’ve noticed more and more that really pulls me out of a movie is Joe Cornish who is a director I worked with for a little bit has this thing where when people are being so serious in a movie that you just want to go over and tickle them.

Like there’s these movies now where everybody is just – it’s so dire. And everybody is saying things like so seriously. And it’s all so portentous. And you want to go and poke people and be like, “You fart. You laugh.” I really so dislike things where one mode of being subsumes every other mode of being. And I think you’ve got to be funny. You’ve got to preserve, even when you’re inside a big budget serioso space opera or action movie, I mean, sometimes those just get so goofy in terms of tone. And people sort of stentorianly explaining to each other the plot and you’re just thinking like – you want somebody to be like, “Do you want to get a sandwich? The cafeteria, ah, they got my favorite thing today.”

Like those glimpses to me of human behavior, the lack of that to me is the silliest, fakest, weirdest thing that will pull me out of a movie more than anything is… – And I’ve really noticed more and more that because we’re in this world where every movie is either Moonlight or some gigantic $250 million movie, it seems like all the human behavior now is being relegated to the tiny movies. And in big movies now people are acting like weird, solemn robots who don’t have bodily functions or senses of humor.

So, I think inhabiting, you know, if you watch Alien and see how many like real human little moments there are of humanity inside of that, that really grounds you inside those characters and that behavior. And I think it buys you permission later to have some big piece of like super serioso exposition or action.

John: What I hear you describing is both a writing concern, basically you’re not creating the scenes in which characters are going to have those sort of real moments and can puncture this veil of seriousness, but also performance and directing. So basically how you’re portraying your world so that people feel alive and present in this. And I think some of that is the writer’s responsibility, and some of that is just the weight of the movie and the weight of the movie machinery around it. So, you talk about these movies where people are being so incredibly serious. It’s as if they understand what movie they’re in. What I always love about Alien, and I’ve said this many times before, is that the characters in Alien think they’re in a movie called Space Truckers. And they have no idea that an Alien is supposed to show up. So they’re not philosophizing. They’re not planning for a horror movie to break out. They’re just being in the movie Space Truckers. And then things go horribly wrong.

But some of what the original question is asking about are things, are shortcuts that we’ve taken for production that are just convenient. And we’re sort of used to them now. They’re conventions. And they really are annoying.

So, he talks about a character sitting in the middle of a backseat, which is of course ridiculous. No one ever does that. People also don’t drive around with their head rests missing, and yet you see that all the time in movies so that you can see into the backseat more easily. A lot of times we’ll remove the rearview mirror so you can have the shot going through the windshield. And you don’t realize that the rearview mirror is missing, but it’s gone in more than half the movies you’ve seen.

Aline: I notice more things that are there because of vanity. Like when people are waking up in full makeup. Just giant eyelashes. I’m really noticing that. And also the constant kissing without teeth brushing. Just people – you don’t even want to – forget kissing. It might even be easier to stomach kissing than speaking. People wake up in the morning and look at each other and have these conversations that it would be like, you would really be shielding yourself. Or you would say, “Wait a second.”

John: So, you guys are doing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. So, when you’re filming those episodes, and you directed episodes, how much are you willing to bend reality? Are you sitting, Rachel, in the middle of the backseat?

Aline: Well, there’s some stuff like that that is just production stuff. But the thing that we’re always battling is the vanity and the touches and the touchups. And they’re always attacking the actors with the makeup brushes and the hair. And that’s a constant back and forth. Especially when we have to go quickly, because those people have a responsibility to do their job. They want to do their jobs. They want to erase every under eye shadow. But Rachel and I both would always try and err on the side of like, well, she’s had a shitty day. She loves a day where she’s not wearing makeup and she’ll always – I’m always getting texts from her saying, “Can I please not wear any makeup in this scene for this reason?” And sometimes she’s even like stretching it, because she just wants to not be doing it.

But, you know, the perfect hair and makeup, you have to – like our show has a certain extra crank over reality. So it’s not a movie where you can – you know, it’s not Kids. We’re not really doing something where people’s hair looks exactly the way it would like Donna Lynne when she’s playing Paula, like clearly someone – her hair wouldn’t look quite that great for the office. So, you’re kind of walking a line where like you need some aesthetics, but not so much that people seem distractingly done.

So, I think for every piece you’re doing, when you’re making it you have to find sort of your level of – but a lot of those things that he’s – I mean, there’s two different things. Things that are bent for production, which you have to do kind of frequently, and shooting in cars is kind of a nightmare, and so things are often kind of wonky. And then there’s stuff where people are just behaving not like humans.

John: Yeah. My last bit of advice would be to recognize when you’re about to walk in to one of those tropes, and if there’s something you can gain out of not doing that trope, or sort of calling out that trope, that could be great. And so, I mean, that tooth brushing thing might be like if you’re movie can stand the joke about the tooth brushing, do that as the joke. Acknowledge sort of the trope of it and move past it. Or like don’t let people have that conversation while they’re brushing their teeth. Or make the other character stop them from having that conversation while they’re brushing their teeth.

Aline: One scene that really stuck with me was in Fun with Dick and Jane, the original one, Jane Fonda sits on the toilet and pees while she’s talking to him. And pees, and wipes, and gets up. And that really always stuck with me in life because it was like, god, you’re never really seeing people peeing in movies, or talking while they’re peeing, or continuing conversations in the bathroom. And I just feel like as a culture we’ve moved away from movies where people pee in toilets while they’re talking, except in these super small movies. But in a big movie now if you did that, it would be–

John: Oh, we get noted to death on that. Because it’s like, you know, we get notes from the studio executive about that’s not going to look really good. I don’t want to see Charlize Theron peeing. And then on the day you get that note, and then there will be the second guessing, and it wouldn’t got shot. Or if it did get shot, it wouldn’t make it through the edit. They’d say like, “What parts did you not like in the movie?” “I didn’t like the part where she was peeing.”

Aline: She was peeing.

John: And then we could cut from that. That’s the frustration. And because these big movies have all that weight and all that responsibility of they have to test well. Anything that people don’t like is going to get nixed.

Aline: Right. And in the context of doing that sometimes you’re straining out human behavior. And, you know, at the end of the day, don’t we still go to movies to see how people behave, should behave? So, I think it’s good to preserve those things and it’s a mark of a good writer that you can inhabit those big moments with the little moments.

John: I would also point out that I think female characters have a much higher standard for what kind of real behaviors we’re excited to see them do on screen, versus male characters. So, like Seth Brogan peeing on screen. Great. You know, beautiful actress peeing on screen? No, we don’t want to see that.

Aline: There’s definitely movies I’m watching where I’m going where is the salon? They’ve been roughing it in the outback for six weeks and her hair looks fabulous.

John: So Passengers is a beautiful movie, and I really enjoyed large parts of it. Chris Pratt, who is a very handsome guy, gets to look really crappy at times, which is completely appropriate and character appropriate. When Jennifer Lawrence needs to look bad, it’s basically like she’s a little shiny. That’s about as bad as they make her look. And, yes, part of it is the sort of romantic comedy fantasy. Like if you were on this cruise ship and you had all this stuff. But did she spend four hours on makeup just to get up in the morning? The suspension of disbelief is really high.

Aline: But I think it’s establishing a language for your movie. Because if you’re making La La Land and there’s this sort of veneer of wish fulfillment about it, and he dialed in the level of wish fulfillment, because they’re not perfect. They don’t look perfect. The movie has edges to it. But for large parts she looks beautiful and is wearing aspirational things. And he looks quite handsome and is wearing aspirational things. But not to a level that pulls you out of the movie. But if you’re making a grittier film, then people need to look like that.

And what is often, I personally find annoying, is when you have actresses in a littler film where they should be grubby and instead they look like they just wandered from the Méche Salon on Robertson, having just gotten their tips done. So, I think that’s more on production though than writing.

John: Yeah. I remember interviewing Winnie Holzman when she was talking about My So-Called Life. And they set up rules for that first season where Claire Danes’s character could only have certain outfits. So basically they picked her outfits and then she would have to repeat outfits, because she didn’t have an unlimited wardrobe, which I thought was actually a very smart idea. A good sort of structure to impose upon yourself. Like we’re not going to go nuts with her wardrobe.

Aline: And that suited the tone of that movie which was a real exploration of her psychology. And I think when you can tell – we always talk about this, how you can tell within 30 seconds whether you’re comfortable in a movie or not. It’s just so instant. And there are those little, you know, humans are so incredibly good at scanning faces and behavior for authenticity. And the minute you see somebody doing something which doesn’t suit the world, which sticks out in some way, it’s very noticeable. But a lot of what he’s also talking about are just like poor writing clams.

And talking to yourself is a thing that writers get stuck with because they’re struggling to get exposition out. And so I think if you’re writing a scene and you’re really super tempted to have someone talk to themselves, just try and think of another way you can do it. Just try and think of another means to get that information out.

A lot of it is you may not need that information to come out then. It may be something that can come out more naturally later, and you can sort of have the character express the emotion that you’re looking for and find out the exact news item in another way.

John: Absolutely. The moment where the character steps in the bathroom and splashes cold water on his face, which is so cliché, and I don’t think people do in real life, find another way to sort of – you can use the look of what he would be doing in that moment to do–

Aline: Have you ever done it?

John: I’ve never done it.

Aline: Never splashed yourself with water. Have you ever, though, looked in the mirror and said, “John August, you go out there and give the best meeting of your life.”

John: Oh, I have looked at myself in the mirror and psyched myself up, but I’ve never actually spoken. So, actually, I’m curious about your opinion on mirrors. I think mirrors are incredibly helpful sometimes when I’m writing dialogue because sometimes I’ll need to look in a mirror and actually have and sort of talk through that conversation, or think through stuff. Somehow looking in a mirror is actually really helpful for me in writing sometimes.

Aline: I don’t do that. To me, the characters are like in a little screen projected in the back of my head.

John: For Big Fish, when I was writing the death scenes and stuff like that, I would look at a mirror and get myself to cry and then I–

Aline: No!

John: And then I would write those scenes. And so it was very, very method. But I would bring myself to tears and get myself–

Aline: This is where Craig makes jokes about your robotic programming and how you have to mimic the feelings of a human by recreating them in your software.

John: Absolutely. All I can say is that algorithm worked.

Final question comes from Brian Sanchez who writes, “I’m a new listener to the podcast and you guys have inspired me to try to write this idea I’ve had in my head for a sitcom, mainly just to see if I can do it. It features a Latino family and I would like the dialogue to ring true to how an actual Latino American household sounds. Growing up with Cuban parents, we constantly switched between English and Spanish in the same conversation. When writing these scenes, would you put the translations in the script, or would this be confusing to the reader?”

Aline: Well, in French Ladies what I did was I translated little things. I mean, I left small sentences that the other character – so if one character spoke and said something that the other character could respond to in English. So, if the French character said, you know, “Let’s go to the café for lunch.” Then the other character would say, “I don’t want to go to the café for lunch,” so that you would hear whatever information you needed to know in English. And so I often did it that way by the responding, the other character would tell us what had been said.

And then for the reading purposes I would say in French, Subtitled, and then just write it in English. That’s mainly what I did. It really depends on who you’re writing it for. And if you’re writing it as something you want to sell to an American TV audience, then – but if you’re sending it to someplace that is a Spanish language place, you could probably do both and you could then subtitle whatever one you… – You know, I’m always impressed in The Americans they super committed to the Russian. Giant long, long, long scenes, very articulate Russian. These are very highly educated people and they must have a ton of people working on that. But they super committed and then you just sit and you read the subtitles. And…

John: I love The Americans. And we watched all three seasons while I’ve been here.

Aline: Four.

John: Actually, I’ve only been through three seasons. Sorry. So don’t tell me what happens next.

Aline: Four is real good.

John: Oh, wait, no, maybe we did watch four.

Aline: Let’s tell everyone what happened now.

John: Let’s spoil things for people. I love to watch that show. And so we’re plowing through the show, I’ll tend to be looking at something on my iPad at the same time, or I’ll be playing a game. And then it gets to the Russian sections and you can’t follow it because you actually have to look at the screen to do stuff.

Aline: Are you that person who watches stuff and then is also doing other stuff?

John: Oh, we’re very much that family.

Aline: Really? So you’re watching a series and you’re also playing a game?

John: Sometimes, yes.

Aline: Wow.

John: I won’t do it for like a movie. But for an ongoing series, especially like things that are talky that you can sort of figure out. So I’m looking up and down to do that.

Aline: Wow. Wow.

John: Yeah. But back to the issue of multiple languages, I would say there’s two things to be thinking about. First off is what does it read like on the page. And so how do you make sure it makes sense on the page. And so italics may be a way to do it. You might just have an introductory note saying like everything you see in italics is actually in Spanish. Some way to do that just so it’s as efficient as possible on the page so you’re not wasting page space.

But really the bigger issue is thinking about what is it going to feel like to the person watching the show. And are you going to expect that they can understand the Spanish or not understand the Spanish? Maybe you’re targeting this for Telemundo where everyone would get both languages and that’s awesome.

Aline: Sure, I mean, Jane the Virgin is a bilingual show. In Jane the Virgin they subtitle it and I’m assuming they just reverse the subtitle or dub it for the reverse. I think anything which is clear and easy to understand.

John: Yeah. So, if you’re sitcom is sort of like Jane the Virgin, I would say like pull some Jane the Virgin scripts and do whatever they do because that’s working quite well for them and they’re in their fourth season.

Aline: They’re in their third season.

John: Yeah. And they’re a good show. Their show is partnered with yours currently, or not?

Aline: No. They are with Supergirl and we’re with Vampire Diaries now.

John: And when are you back on the air? So we’re recording this at the end of December. When is your next episode?

Aline: January 6 we are back on the air with two episodes back to back, eight and nine.

John: Holy cow. I’m so excited.

Aline: Back to back. Yeah.

John: I love your new introduction for the show.

Aline: Thank you.

John: I think I sent you guys an email about it, but I just adore it. And it was such a great choice to go through and sort of reframe the show based on sort of what the nature of the central dramatic question of this season is, which is like I’m just a girl in love. You can’t sort of blame me for this thing, which was actually established in the very pilot episode. It’s the thing that Donna Lynne Champlin says in the pilot.

Aline: Yes. You’re in love.

We – because the premise of the show changes every season, the credit sequence for the first season makes no sense, because the first season is all about, oh what, you’re here, I’m here, what, that’s so weird, that’s funny. And then the second season is really her being like, no, no, no, you love me. You love me. So, it required that.

So, we’re doing a new one, if we get a third season, we’ll be doing another one for that season. And sort of because the premise for the show is rather slender, one of the reasons that to us it seems sustainable was because we were going to take a slightly look at being an obsessive ex every year. And so that’s what keeps it kind of going. And so every year will be a slightly different look that dynamic.

John: Yeah. You’re not The Americans where there’s just a new Cold War bit of espionage you can throw in. It’s not a procedural where every week there can be a new thing.

Aline: It’s kind of unique to our show because if we had stayed in the mode of the first season, we would have run out of steam pretty quickly. And also the trajectory of being obsessively in love with someone is something that has different phases to it. And the first phase is like, what, you’re here, I’m here, that’s so weird. I don’t know why I’m in your Starbucks on the other side of town. And then the second one is like, no, we’ve slept together, and you love me. And so they’re different phases. And when we pitched it we had pitched four completely different phases of her pursuit.

John: Yeah. I was just impressed that you blew up your series so completely in the second season, which was a great choice. So, hooray, congratulations.

A thing we do on the show quite often is How Would this be a Movie. And usually in those cases we’re looking at three different stories in the news and discussing sort of how would you take them and make them a movie. Today we actually have a special case because we have a story, a true story that we can look at and look at sort of how it is progressing towards becoming a movie.

So, I’m going to try to give the very short encapsulation of the idea. But we’re going to hear sort of how it expands and the other ramifications of the idea. This is a story that starts in 1949. Max Schneck was found murdered. It was a scandal covered for months by all the major newspapers here in France. Journalists told the story of a man killed by his supposed lover, who cut him into pieces and traveled through France with parts of his body in his suitcase.

The story of the murder became the basis of a book, The Indestructible Mr. Schneck, written by his granddaughter, Colombe Schneck. She’s a friend of Aline’s. And she’s sitting right beside you. Welcome Colombe.

Colombe Schneck: Hello. Very nice listening to you. And I learn a lot.

Aline: So if you’ve heard those little laughs, those are Colombe.

John: Yes.

Aline: Can I say who Colombe is?

John: Please. Tell us everything.

Aline: So, Colombe’s father and my mother were friends from school, so I’ve known Colombe all my life basically. And Colombe was a journalist and she was on television and then it’s fair to say – and the radio – and it’s fair to say when she got to be about 40 they did what they do in America which is they take women and they remove them. They remove them because they can’t be seen in public. [laughs] And it was a good excuse and opportunity for Colombe to do what she had been wanting to do, which was to become a writer. And it’s just funny for us having known each other since we were born that we both ended up becoming writers.

And so Colombe has written numerous novels, nonfiction books. She’s also on the radio and has had a radio book review show. And she’s now also getting into filmmaking and has been making documentaries. And this book that you’re talking about is a book she wrote, was her second book. Her first book. Her first book. Is that the one that you’re thinking of turning into a movie?

Colombe: Yes. Exactly. This is the first book I wrote ten years ago. And when I wrote it I was kind of innocent. But what it means to write a book about your family. I had bumped, I don’t know, how do you say, into this incredible story in my family. I learned by accident reading a glossy newspaper. I love to read glossy newspapers. Old one. That my grandfather, Max Schneck, was murdered in 1949. At the time was a huge story in all the newspapers. You know, John, you just told us the punchline which I was I think incredible to learn that your grandfather was cut into pieces, was gay. Pieces of his body were traveled by his murderer all over France.

So, for years I kept that story in the – I don’t know how you can keep this kind of secret, because the kind of shame in my family because of that. And one day, I don’t know why you begin to think you can write. It kind of makes a mediation and freedom and say maybe I could do something about that. And I began to write the story of my grandfather with the help of my grandmother. We never talked about it for 40 years.

So, I went to do some research and went to find the newspaper of that time and I found out all this story was fiction. The newspapers made a fiction about my grandfather. He was killed by a man, but it was not his lover. They were both in love with the same woman. He was cut into pieces. He was killed by [[unintelligible 00:38:37]]. But the worst story was as interesting as the fiction story. So, I wrote a book, very simple, very short, about my grandfather and my grandmother, because all the way, all the year I wrote the story I talked to me grandmother about her life, her love for her husband. And I spoke also about my grandmother was kind of a character I didn’t know.

I tried to be sincere and tried to do something. I didn’t know it was a book or nothing. I didn’t know I could write a book. But at the end I read the thing and I thought, well, maybe I could send it to a publisher. And this great publisher published it. It was a success.

But the thing which amazed me – I wasn’t ready for that – is my family wasn’t very happy about it. I thought they would be happy to know the truth. That at least I was writing and publishing a book. And they were very mad at me. And I was very surprised. I thought they would approve.

So, ten years after that, I published many books about my family. I continue doing the bad things. And begin to do some documentary films. One day I talk of maybe it would be interesting to – I had many production house ask me to write to do the film about my first book, and it never seemed right. I didn’t like the way – we didn’t find the good films.

After all ten years, I could make the film myself and write the screenplay and maybe direct it. And that the story would be interesting, is not only the story of my grandfather, but what happened in the family when you write a book about your family.

John: Great. So let’s stop there and let’s all have a discussion about sort of the different ways this kind of story could be told. Because when I first met you, you told me the story. And I thought, well, that is fascinating. And so I encouraged you to pursue the movie and we talked about Sundance Labs, or other ways you could develop this kind of story.

The things that really triggered for me, is like obviously it’s this initial sensational story, but there’s a truth underneath the sensational story. But also the degree to which a scandal in the past has ripples into the present. How you don’t really want the story, the true story, necessarily to come out. And how the very process of investigating the facts, the truth, can rip a family apart. Those are very much the ideas behind Big Fish as well, which is that you have a journalist coming in who is trying to find the truth of his father’s life and ripping things apart in the process. And sort of the conflict in that. What is the writer’s responsibility to the truth versus his or her family?

Those are all great themes. But also I think really difficult and a really challenging sort of first movie to make. Aline, what’s your–?

Aline: What I think is really interesting about it is that there was a secret that was in the family, something she hadn’t talked about, and then sort of by lying around in her house and reading some tabloids she stumbled upon this thing. And it’s almost like this thing reached into the future and made her into a writer. And what I think is interesting is since the book was published in those years, she’s fully become this thing. And I think partly maybe people’s shock was a reaction to there’s also a thing when you become a writer.

Like I ran into my high school boyfriend really early in my 20s and he said, “What are you doing?” And I said I’m a writer. And he said, “You’re a writer?” And then he said, “You tell people that?” And for some reason people find it insulting. And also because when you’re a writer your responsibility is to tell the truth and this was a truth that people don’t want.

And I remember the very first time I met Peter Morgan, who writes primarily nonfiction-based things, we were sitting on a panel together and somebody was talking about the difficulty of working on real life stories. And he said, “We’re assassins aren’t we?” And that really has stuck with me, because I have another friend whose sister-in-law is quite a famous novelist and her rule is if you don’t want me to write about, don’t do it or say it in front of me. Because otherwise it’s fair game.

So, I do think it’s really interesting that this story is the thing that sort of made Colombe a writer. And then she experienced kind of a larger version of what most people do, which is people didn’t want her to be telling her truths. And she’s then gone on to tell stories about the apartment she grew up in and her family’s experience in the Holocaust. And they’re really amazing books. Are any of them available in English, by the way? No?

Colombe: No, it’s French-language published, and German, and Lithuanian.

Aline: Not English yet?

Colombe: Not yet.

Aline: They’re really wonderful books. So, but I think it’s a very good way to approach it. So it’s like a detective story where you’re becoming this thing and you’re following this thing and sort of how it affects everyone you know.

John: But what I find so fascinating is that you are a character in this story. In almost any version of the story that we’re telling, you are the protagonist of the story. You’re the character who changes. Who comes from being a person who is not investigating the past, to starting to investigate the past, and the process changes you and makes you into this thing. So, in any version of the story presumably your grandfather is a character in the story and we’re going to see an arc through there. But it’s so interesting, like Big Fish is obviously autobiographical both to me and to the original author, Daniel Wallace. But we got to be able to hide behind, like, oh, it’s a fictional story. That’s not me. That’s not my name. That’s not who I am.

And this – it’s going to be a process no matter what you do. That character is you and you’re going to be exposing yourself–

Aline: Can you think of a movie like that where somebody has – I mean, there’s All the President’s Men. There’s lots of movies like that. Spotlight, or whatever. But what are movies where the person, the first person, I’m sure there are. I’m thinking about–

John: A movie that I didn’t end up writing, but I ended up sort of circling around was called Born to Run. And was about this journalist who decides to start running. And one of the challenges I really faced is that he was the character in the story, but I didn’t feel like he was a movie character in the story. And so where are your responsibilities? Your responsibility is to yourself, to truth, to the story, and in order to make the best version of the story you may need to change certain aspects of what you really did.

Aline: You’ve already written the screenplay?

Colombe: Yes. And one of the characters in the screenplay, the character who is telling the story, says I’m a thief, because you take story from, you know, from your family, from people around you. But you also are a liar. I’m a thief and a liar. But I changed things to make it as a story, as a good fiction.

So, that writer is a very bad character. And I want to tell about that. But there’s no other way around. [[Unintelligible 00:45:05]] how much he steals from his family life, his wife, his mistress, and put them in a book and his films, like for the arrangement. And how it’s difficult for his wife to see her character in the arrangement of the awful wife. But there’s no other way around it. There’s a way we should all do that. We are all thief and liar. And those are the things of a good writer.

John: But usually we get to hide behind the veneer of fiction and pretend like, oh, no, no, that’s not really you. And, of course, in this situation there’s no way to do that. And so you also face the dilemma of, you know, your family already had the frustration over your book. But a movie is going to be reopening those wounds.

Colombe: It’s a mother/daughter story, so I changed – this is the real lie. This is my imagination and I could put so much more writing and that’s when I have fun.

John: There’s the simplification that can happen, because obviously there’s going to be more characters than you need to do. There are characters who aren’t going to be relevant to this. So, you can do some trimming around there [[crosstalk 00:46:06]].

Colombe: I remember one of my book, I wrote about my family, there’s one character close to my family was a person, a real person, was very unhappy at me because I didn’t put her in the book. She was really like pissed off and furious. And she doesn’t want to speak to me anymore because I didn’t put her in the book. And she felt she was very important in my family. But, I didn’t need her for the story. So, that’s true, we are all liars. We take people and, no, no, yes, this one yes. This sentence, I like it, but I’m going to change it. So, that’s a problem.

John: One of the most frequently asked questions we get on the podcast is I want to do a story about a real life person, and what are my obligations and responsibilities? And it’s obviously messy, because if someone is in your life and you’re portraying sort of who they are in your life, that’s fair game to a large degree. But if you are libeling them, then that can be a real issue as well.

And so, I mean, obviously you’re going to be sensitive to like not making them absolutely monsters. Or, if they’re monsters, not making them do something that is patently false. Or like kill a person that they didn’t actually kill.

But it becomes a real tricky issue.

Colombe: Yeah. When I take a character, pass them around me, and put it in a character in a book, in a screenplay, it’s not the person anymore. It’s a personage. It’s a fiction person. It’s not the person. I don’t feel – maybe I can take a few things, but most of those things come from my imagination. I will change them. I will talk to him and I don’t feel any responsibility for the person. Because that’s not even him anymore.

John: Yeah. I always feel like my first responsibility is to the audience. And it’s the person who is going to be watching this movie and making sure that they can follow and understand the story I’m trying to tell them. And, yes, you have other responsibilities to, you know, the other filmmakers involved and to the people giving you the money, and everyone else. But, I mean, your first responsibility is what does this story want to have happen so you can tell the best version of the story.

Colombe: For instance, for this first screenplay I’m writing about my grandparents, my grandmother [[unintelligible 00:48:04]] I was a great character for a book. She was very, how do you say [[unintelligible 00:48:09]] in English? Cranky. And she was bit panicked. And she was really – she was very funny. She was a very good character. But so I took so many things from her, which I will, but also I put more so I make it more funny, because I need more. You know? I need some humor.

John: So let’s talk about where you are at right now with your process and trying to get this into a movie. Because when I first met you, you’re a novelist who has made documentaries. You have this great story. To me, it seems like a slam dunk. Well, she’s going to be able to do this. But it’s not easy to do this. It’s a challenging step. And probably different – I’m not saying more challenging – but different to try to do it here in France than it would be to do it in the States.

Colombe: Yeah. When you write a novel you do [[unintelligible 00:48:52]] fiction. It’s great because you have all the freedom of the world. You can invent your methods. You can invent the way you write. You go where you want to go. There’s no rules. Which his kind of frightening and difficult sometimes, because you have to invent what you’re going to do.

And when I begin to write screenplays, which I like very much, it’s suddenly you have rules. You have things you cannot do. It’s a more collective process. And I like it very much.

And the problem I had is I put too much talk, too much blah, blah, blah…

John: Just dialogue, yeah.

Colombe: Dialogue. I’m a writer. And difficult to admit. I need to translate this blah, blah, blah into images. So this is the difficulty I had.

As a documentary writer, which is great, documentary film director I like because you don’t have to invent anything, you know. You film and great things happen in front of you. It’s wonderful. It’s like, wow. I haven’t done anything but the person are doing things for me.

This I had to myself. So, this is what the difficult things I had to–

Aline: Translating. That’s a great way to put it. Translating the blah, blah, blah into images is as concise an explanation of what being… – And when I started writing I was also very dialogue-based, because that’s just how my brain works. And I was writings wraps and wraps of dialogue. And I would have to go back and put in action things into the page so that it wasn’t just tons and tons of people talking.

And that’s something I still find that – over time that’s something that’s difficult for writers is to figure out how can I just have this happen without commenting, or announcing, or, you know, it’s a skill you learn. It’s like any of the other things that you learn. But I think it’s very brave and interesting to go from journalism, to fiction, to nonfiction, to documentary films, to fiction films is, you know, she’s made the transition so many times before.

John: Yes. That’s why I’m convinced you’ll be able to do it, because I think screenwriting is like journalism. There’s a lot of structure to it. It’s like fiction writing in that you’re trying to build out a world that doesn’t exist beforehand. It’s documentaries in that you are trying to find a way to tell a story cinematically rather than just with words. So, I have a hunch it’s going to work, but I’m fascinated to see sort of what’s going to happen next.

So, thank you for sharing this part of the process so early on.

Colombe: I don’t know. [[Unintelligible 00:51:15]] New things, you know, when I first went into journalism, or to write a story, I didn’t know how to do it, you know? I just had to do it. And well I shouldn’t think too much about what I’m doing. When I was writing my first fiction book, my first book about my family, I think maybe it’s going to be nothing, or maybe it’s going to be a book. I don’t know. I’m going to do it and we’ll see after. When I did documentary films, it was the same kind of process. Now, I’ve kind of experienced what I’m able to do, the way I’m working, and so I’m less innocent about the way I’m going to do these fiction films. But I still – the truth is I still don’t know.

I can even things and face problems and try to respond to it. I don’t know if this is a good American way to do it. But–

John: Yeah. It’s absolutely the American way to do it.

It has come time for our wrap up segment which is One Cool Things. So, at the end of every episode we talk about One Cool Thing. So, I don’t know if we warned you about One Cool Things.

Aline: I will tell you my One Cool Thing. I have a very good One Cool Thing. So, I’m in Paris and the dollar is quite strong. And then there’s duty free. So, I went to Hermes to buy a scarf for myself and for my mother. So, I–

John: This is the most Aline One Cool Thing ever. It’s great.

Aline: Yes. So I go in to buy the scarf and I’m picking out some ones that I like. And I find one that I like and the woman and I were speaking in French, which is always fun for me to get to use my French. And she’s chatting away in French. And I pick one and she says, “No, that’s not good for you.” [laughs] And I said, “Oh, really? I like this one.” And she says, “No. No, no, no. This is not good.”

And then I am trying not to be bossed around by her, and I’m saying, “No, no, I like this one. Show me some other ones. But I like this one.” She’s just showing me other ones and I’m noticing that that one is scooting away from. It’s just scooting down and into the drawer, never to be seen again. She was just not going to sell me the scarf that she thought did not look good on me.

And so she just kept bringing me new ones, and new ones, and new ones until I found one that I liked as well. And it just was the perfect French experience of buying something, you know, overpriced in the best way and being completely bossed and judged and having their aesthetics imposed on you. And I couldn’t have been happier. By the end we were great friends.

John: Speaking for Craig I have to say like that’s crazy. There’s no way that’s a One Cool Thing. That is actually some sort of like weird – it’s the failure of the commercial system. That’s amazing, and yet I do understand sort of what happened there.

Aline: I absolutely trust her and I know that this was better than the thing I had picked out.

Colombe: One of the cool things I’ve done this year, and this is not far from Aline. For my screenplay, the mother and the daughter are walking in the shop, selling clothes, which is kind of my fantasy. Walking in the story, selling clothes. A family business [unintelligible 00:54:17] store, you know, like we have. So, for a week, I went to a store being a seller to help me to write my screenplay. And I just love it. I just love it. To be able to – it’s like to be in a movie theater. You know?

You hear and you watch the women coming in and they all when they come in the store they all are depressed. That’s what the seller told me. They need something, but they don’t know what they need. So you have to help them to go out from the depression. It’s a depression selling them a dress or scarf or anything.

John: Or a Hermes scarf.

Colombe: Or Hermes, yes. So you look at them and you listen to them. And you help them. So, this week of selling clothes was one of the best things I’ve done this year.

Aline: Wow.

John: Very nice. My One Cool Thing is a book. It’s called Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy.

Aline: Colombe and I ripped out some girly stuff about clothes. Yeah.

John: So it’s a book I read. It’s by Cathy O’Neil. She’s also the host of a podcast I like a lot. I’ll put a link in the show notes to it. But her book is really good. It’s about the degree to which the algorithms behind big data, which are meant to sort of make things more equal and fairer, like for like credit lending or for sentencing for criminal offenses, for getting into college. They have all these computer algorithms, which should make things more fair. Because they’re supposed to be taking race out of it and things. But they end up sort of baking the race and poverty into it. And it ends up making things much, much worse.

And so just a great book, a quick, easy read.

Aline: I have notes on our One Cool Things. I think they’re clams. They’re just too on-the-nose. Yes, all of us. We just did. It was too on-the-nose what we did.

John: Absolutely.

Aline: If I had had the algorithm book and you had had the Hermes scarf that would have been more interesting. Yeah, we’d make different choices.

John: Yeah. We got to do this again. That is our show for this week.

So, as always, our show is produced—

Colombe: Très bien. Merci.

John: Très bien. Our show is produced by Godwin Jabangwe. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week is also from Matthew. If you have an outro, you can send us a link at That’s also the place where you can send longer questions like the ones we answered today. On Twitter Craig, who is not here, is @clmazin. I’m @johnaugust. Aline is not on Twitter. Sorry.

Aline: Oh, you know what? I’m going to do it.

John: Oh, okay. So when Aline has a Twitter handle–

Aline: I’m going to – should I do it? Rachel tells me all the time I should do it.

John: You should totally do it.

Aline: I’m going to do it.

John: Once you have a Twitter handle, we will give you – we’ll put it on the air?

Aline: I’m doing it. Are you sure? Oh, okay, you’re on Twitter and Instagram.

Colombe: @ColombeSchneck.

Aline: Colombe Schneck.

John: Colombe Schneck is also on the Instagram and on Twitter.

Aline: Okay. If I go on Twitter and I don’t like it…

John: It’s fine. She’ll leave. You can leave and protest. Because actually part of the process of being on Twitter is leaving Twitter. [laughs]

Aline: That’s a thing everything does at some point?

John: You have to do it. You have to leave it.

You can find us on Facebook. Just search for Scriptnotes podcast, or on iTunes. Search for Scriptnotes. That’s also where you’ll find the app for listening to the back episodes. You can find the show notes for this episode, and all the back episodes, at That’s also where you’ll find the transcripts. They go up about four days after the episode airs.

We have like 20 of the USB drives left. Very, very few. But you can always get to all the back episodes of Scriptnotes on

And for Aline Brosh McKenna, Colombe Schneck, I’m John August. Thank you very much for joining us on Scriptnotes.

Aline: Au revoir.

John: Au revoir.


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