John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this Scriptnotes. It’s a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the podcast, with the WGA negotiations set to begin, we’ll be doing a deep dive looking at how the Writers Guild attempts to make a deal with the studios on behalf of film and TV writers. Then we’ll be answering listener questions about writing for producers versus writing for the audience. And last steps when finishing up a script. But first, and most importantly, Craig, I am so sorry I got you sick.
Craig: Yeah, you got me sick. I’m pretty sure that you put your virus into the microphone and it came out into my headphones. I don’t know any other explanation.
John: Yeah. It’s sort of magical. Basically because of the power of homeopathy, I put it out there in the world and it got all the way over to you. Like the atoms sort of vibrated all the way over there.
John: But I’m sorry you’re sick. So, on the last episode we were talking about do you try to push through, do you take care of yourself? What are you actually doing?
Craig: Well, what did I say last time? I said that I never learn. [laughs] Well, I still haven’t learned. It doesn’t even matter that I say I never learn. I still don’t learn. Yesterday, I wrote a little bit. Today I’m going to try again. I mean, I’m a little bit – I have some good news, by the way. So, I think I mentioned a couple of podcasts ago that Future Craig might have some good news.
John: All right.
Craig: And I’m not really going to talk about what it is yet, because I don’t know how that works. You know, I don’t want to jump any publicity guns. But in addition to the movies that I’m working on, I do have a miniseries at HBO that we’re going to be doing. We got our–
John: Well that’s great.
Craig: Yeah. So that’s happening. But, of course, all success with me brings a panic. So I’m a little panicked about getting the work I have to get done done. And doing it as best I can. So, the panic actually is probably what led in no small way to a depression of the immune system followed by a sickness. It’s no good. But I’m going to try today. I feel – it’s early sick days, so what I feel is that empty fatigue and vague queasiness.
John: Well, there’s also an anxiety of like is it going to stay this level, or is it going to get worse? And you really don’t know when you’re at this phase. Like, is this what it is? Is it going to pass by? Or is it going to become a full-on sickness? For me it became a full-on sickness. But I’ve had many situations where I’m sort of where you’re at. And it never really fully kicked in.
Craig: Well, I have taken 4,000 Oscillococcinum pills.
John: That should do it.
Craig: Yeah. So I have diabetes now. Because of the sugar. And also I think at this point I’ve probably worked my way all the way up to one-millionth of one molecule of useless duck liver. Feel good about it.
John: That’s good. Do it. Yes.
Let’s do some follow up. So, on our last episode we talked about Kellyanne Conway’s amazing skills at being able to get out of questions. There was another great explainer this past week by Carlos Maza for Vox. So it’s a video. I will put a link in the show notes. But it does a very good job sort of walking through sort of specifically how she’s getting out of some of the situations she’s trying to get into.
Of course, last week we talked about Kellyanne Conway and then like the day the episode came out she had a total fumble and could not get her way out of a seemingly pretty simple situation. So, no one is magic. No sports player does sports 100 percent all the time.
Craig: Oh, John, that was adorable. [laughs] No sports player does sports. You’re the best. By the way, I agree that this Carlos Maza thing is terrific. And something came out – he was interviewing an old classmate of his who is a national debate champion about the techniques that Kellyanne Conway uses. And he zeroed in on something that was sort of an addition to what we were saying. We were pointing out how she will – like the name of her game is to make her evasion as quick as she can, and then immediately go on the offense to make her point.
And he said the same thing, but what he picked on was something I hadn’t really thought about. In her little evasion section, she routinely will pick a key word from the question and she will then recontextualize that key word so that you feel like you have some weird sense that she’s responding to the question. And then she goes off on her tangent.
So if somebody says to her, “Why would the president say something that just patently isn’t true? We know that it’s not the fact that blah-blah-blah.” And she’ll say, “Well, what I know about facts is, or here’s what I know is true…” OK, that’s just a word that she’s linking to make it seem like she’s answering a question. And then she’s off and running in the other direction.
I wonder if part of the reason she’s starting to get trapped now is because people like this and articles like this are laying bare her tricks for everyone. At some point, once you know how they pull the rabbit out of the hat, or how the sports guy does his sports thing, it’s just not that impressive anymore.
John: We can check the transcript. I do think I brought that up last time when we were talking about Kellyanne Conway. But what’s so good about a video is that they can show you sort of the real time transcript of like here’s the word and here’s her repeating the word. Like that subtitle, that [unintelligible] at the bottom of the screen really does help you see sort of what she’s doing. And it’s a trick you can’t do endlessly. You start to recognize how it all fits together.
So, anyway, we recommend this video. A few episodes we talked about Sinbad starring in a movie called Shazam. That movie never existed. And there was a whole discussion about whether this is some sort of weird metaphysical thing that’s happening. Craig really focused on the neuroscience of it. And an actual neuroscientist really backed him up in this article that I thought was very well conceived, basically talking through a lot of what Craig described about it. The things that trigger in the brain for a memory are often sort of the same things that you’re thinking about in conjecture.
So, Craig, talk us through more of the science in this article.
Craig: Well, yeah, I remember specifically we were learning about the concept of familiarity. And that there was essentially a cognitive algorithm in our minds that said, oh, this is a familiar thing. So that when we see something we’ve seen before, we know that we’ve seen it before. And that that sometimes could misfire and this leads to thinks like déjà vu. And really that’s kind of what’s going on if you think about it with these kinds of false memories of a movie. You’re having déjà vu in a sense.
There’s all sorts of deeper – far deeper – theories about this. And people should read the article, because it’s actually quite good. And really there’s a lot of conjecture here. But it really comes down to the concept of confabulation and the way that the brain is constantly filling in missing gaps of information.
We know this from most visual illusions, right, optical illusions are playing off of the brain’s constant work to fill in gaps in between bits of data. We do it all the time. And some of this of what’s going on, this confabulation, may be leading to things like this. So, people should read the article if they have a deeper concern about how are brains are really bad. Honestly, they’re just bad.
John: Well, they’re designed to do very specific things and those specific things are not remember who starred in a movie about a genie back in the ‘90s. That’s not a thing they were designed to do. So, the writer of this article, Caitlin Aamodt, one of the phrases she uses which I’m sure is a phrase used in neuroscience is neurons that fire together wire together.
John: And so often, you know, rehearsing even a fact that something isn’t true strengthens the idea that it is true because those neurons have to work together. So, it was a really well done article, so we’ll put a link to that in the show notes.
My last bit of follow up is actually from 2011. So, on the blog I used to do this series called First Person where I talked about people’s experiences in Hollywood that were different than mine. And one of those people was Allison Schroeder. And I had not realized that this article even existed until one of our listeners pointed it out. So, Allison Schroeder, back in 2011 she was a new screenwriter. In 2017, she is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for Hidden Figures. So, in this article she wrote for me she talked about her experience coming up. And what’s great about it is it’s still completely relevant. She’s talking about the work she’s doing every day. So, I’ll put a link in the show notes to this, an article from six years ago by Allison Schroeder who is now an Oscar nominee.
Craig: How cool is that?
John: It’s really cool. I really liked Hidden Figures, too. So, kudos to her on this success but also the success of her career.
Craig: You know who loved Hidden Figures? My daughter.
John: Yeah, my daughter loved it, too.
Craig: She loved that movie. Loved it.
John: So we saw Hidden Figures as a screener here, because it hasn’t come out in Paris, and we went and did the Women’s March, and so after the Women’s March we got together with some of her friends who were also on the march with us, and we sat in the living room and watched Hidden Figures. It was a great American day.
Craig: That is a great American day.
John: Cool. Let’s get to our main topic today, which is the WGA negotiations. So, this actually comes from a listener, a listener question that came in this week. Listener Mike B wrote in to say, “Do you guys plan on doing something on the current rounds of pre-negotiation outreach meetings that have been taking place for WGA members? A lot of my knowledge of union business comes from discussions that have occurred on your podcast, and I’m sure that’s true for many other listeners. So I ask that you give some consideration to addressing the situation on your show. Your opinions would be appreciated.”
So, Craig, we should do that.
Craig: Yeah. We have a very complicated process. It’s not complicated because the Writers Guild makes it complicated. And it’s not complicated because the companies make it complicated. It’s complicated because the process is essentially governed by federal law. I think a lot of writers don’t quite understand just how intrusive all the laws are regarding management and labor. Labor unions, and the Writers Guild, you know, we’re kind of a special union of a sort, but in general the Writers Guild is no different than any other union in the sense that it has to be federally recognized, federally chartered, and then it has to follow federal labor laws.
In exchange for that, it gets stuff, like for instance the ability to say we represent anybody that’s going to write for the following signatory companies. It can collectively bargain. And the companies in return have to follow certain rules as well. Sometimes these rules help us. Sometimes they hurt us. But they definitely shape the way that we go about doing this. It may seem very formal and awkward to members, but it is essentially the only way we’re allowed to do it.
John: Great. So, before we do our deep dive, we should talk about sort of our background and experience with this, because I was on the Negotiating Committee for the last round of WGA negotiations, so that was back in 2014, and Craig you were on the board at a certain point. You’ve been around these negotiations a lot. So the things we’re talking about, like we’re not on the Negotiating Committee right now, but we just have sort of seen a lot of these processes before. So we’re going to talk in a very general sense, not about what’s going on right now, but to sort of what’s gone in the past and the frameworks for things.
I think we should start with kind of an explain it like I’m five aspect of this, because if you’re not a WGA member, some of this may be just completely weird and new to you. So, we should talk about some basic terminology, just so if you’re coming in completely cold to this, you sort of know what’s going on.
John: So, first off, the WGA is a labor union. It’s the same as a labor union for people who drive trucks, or for people who work in service industries. There are two different branches to the Writers Guild of America. There’s the WGA East, which is the writers east of the Mississippi. There’s the WGA West, which is west of the Mississippi. They’re sister unions. You can kind of ignore the differences for most things. And honestly for this negotiation you can ignore largely. You know, any negotiation that’s going to happen is going to affect both guilds at the same time.
Craig: Yeah. Even though there are two guilds, they by their constitutions have to negotiate this part collectively, because it covers screenwriting and television writing members in the east and the west. And because the west is much, much larger, for this negotiation, for all these negotiations throughout our history, the west essentially takes the lead on the negotiations. On the Negotiating Committee which is the, well, we’ll talk about what they do. There are a few members from the east, I think four, possibly two, not – not that many. And in the end both the Writers Guild Board of Directors and the Writers Guild East Council must vote to support bringing a contract to the membership. There are rules involving that that again favor the west. And then the combined memberships of east and west vote to approve a contact, or also to in different circumstances to reject a contact which I don’t think we’ve ever done, or to authorize a strike.
John: Yep. So we’re not the only Hollywood union, quite obviously. So there’s unions that represent directors, that represent actors, that represent gaffers, below the line people. Everybody – well, not everybody – but most of the people whose names you see going past in the credits are represented by some sort of union. Some of what writers do is a little bit different than other unions, of course. Writers write things that could be controlled by copyright. So, in the United States we have this elaborate process where if we’ve written something on spec we sort of then can pretend it wasn’t written on spec so that the copyright can be transferred to the person who is buying the script.
If you’re writing for a TV show, we have work for hire. So, it allows us to become employees of the signatory companies, which is very useful because it lets us do things like collectively bargain.
John: So, the Guild has a bunch of sort of important functions for writers. So, it sets the minimums. By minimums we mean the minimum you can be paid for doing a certain kind of work. And it seems like, well, who wants to get the minimum, but trust me, the rest of the world wishes they could have minimums. When I was in Spain a couple weeks ago, talking to their Writers Guild, they’re not a real union like we are. And so they’re not even allowed to talk about minimum rates for the work that they’re doing. Not only can they not negotiate. They can’t even discuss on their website what a writer should charge.
So, you know, as a writer, you would have an agent and a lawyer who would negotiate hopefully money above those minimums, but those minimums are the floor, and that’s the base of which your salary grows.
Craig: Yeah. Minimums traditionally have been more important in the television area than in the feature writing area. For a long time most feature writers, and probably still true that many feature writers, are what we call over-scale writers. So sometimes you’ll hear the word scale. That really just refers to minimum. Essentially the scale of minimums. Technically it’s the schedule of minimums. In television, the minimums have always been important because unlike features where our residuals are calculated by how many copies of a movie are sold or rented, in television residuals are calculated with a couple of different kinds of formulas that are based on the minimums.
Although one of the issues that has been coming up lately is that the minimums have become more and more what they are actually paying television writers. So, minimums are an essential part of any union’s work. They are the floor underneath our feet. And if anything occurs to degrade those minimums, then at that point the union starts to lose its effectiveness.
John: Absolutely. So other functions the Guild has. The Guild collects residuals. So residuals are those things we talked about on previous episodes. They kind of feel like royalties. That’s the amount per DVD sold, amount per stream of your show that the writer gets for subsequent reuse of that material, that TV show, that movie after its initial airing. That’s incredibly crucial to the long-term career of writers.
The Guild supervisors the writer’s pension and health fund, which is crucial for the ability to get your health insurance, to have a pension at the end of the day. And, finally, a very unique thing that the Writers Guild does, it determines credit on who should get credit for that movie, who should get credit for that episode of TV. And so we’ve talked in previous episodes about arbitration which is how the Writers Guild determines whose name shows up as Written By or Screenplay By.
Craig: Yeah. For our international listeners, they may be shaking their heads saying, “Wow, a huge part of your union is getting you healthcare, which you should just have.” Because those of us who live fill-in-the-country-here just have healthcare, like they just have roads and water coming out of their faucet. But in the United States, as many of you know, that’s not what we have. Even with Obamacare, which may or may not survive in some form or another, that is kind of basic healthcare. And even that, you know, is ultimately paid for through taxation.
But for what we would consider to be more traditional health plans that have a wider and more beneficial coverage with more choice, it’s a private healthcare system. The way it works it writers earn money and the companies as part of our collective bargaining agreement and on a percentage above that and send it off for pension and health. I believe, this could be slightly off, I believe it’s something like 8.5% at this point. But I could be off on those numbers, so don’t hold me to them. But for each pension/health.
So, John, if you work on an assignment and you get paid $100,000, you get the $100,000, the companies then send $8,500 for health and $8,500 for pension. They send those directly to the plan, if those percentages are correct. Again, I may be off. They don’t do that forever. They will stop. I believe the cap is at 250. So they will pay that extra amount up to you earning $250,000, what they call the cap, at which point they stop. But that’s essentially how our pension and health fund are funded.
The pension plan, like most pension plans, really does work as this enormous pod of money. We have – our pension plan has well over a billion dollars in it. And the idea is that it grows over time through prudent investments and that we – a lot of the money that we make from it really is about earning interest and capital gains. And so it is that kind of pyramid effect. That’s the way pensions work. With health, it’s far more precarious, because it’s really money-in/money-out each year. They take in a certain amount of money. And not every writer qualifies for healthcare. You have to earn a certain amount. I believe currently in our union you need to make a minimum of something like $39,000 in earnings, writing covered earnings, in a year to qualify for the following year’s health.
John: And one factor that is sort of unique to writers is that sometimes writers are sharing a salary because they’re a writing team, so that can influence people’s eligibility for healthcare and other things as well. But that gets to be a little more esoteric. So the money that’s being paid in, well, who’s paying that? Those are our employers. And those are the studios essentially. They’re the signatories of the Guild.
In order to work as a WGA screenwriter, you have to work for one of these companies. And these are the companies who we negotiate with every three years to figure out the contract and what those rates are going to be. So the rates for residuals, how much money is going to health and pension, how we are going to schedule the minimums for the different kinds of work we do. And so together all these signatories are called AMPTP. The Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers. These aren’t producers in a normal sense. It’s a little confusing. But we just call them the AMPTP.
And those are the people we get together with every three years to figure out a new contract. And that process of figuring out the new contract, that’s what’s starting right now.
Craig: Right. So, the AMPTP is a strange organization. It’s essentially, I think it’s a trade organization. And it doesn’t actually represent all of the signatories. It largely represents the major ones. And then the major ones return back to all of their minor members and say, “This is the deal we made. You’re taking it.”
So, we ultimately really find ourselves negotiating with a group of people that largely represent Fox, Sony, Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount, the networks. That’s roughly the big names.
John: Yep. So, I say that the process is starting now, but that’s actually not quite accurate, because the process of figuring out this contract starts years ahead of time. So, it really starts pretty shortly after the last contract was done. Our contracts run for three years, I should preface by saying.
So, the early discussions happen among writers. Generally kind of informal. But it’s private conversations, especially talking with showrunners, other sort of bigger writers to sort of get the temperature of the room to identify what the major concerns are. And to really see if there’s any changes in the landscape that the WGA needs to be focused on as they’re going into the negotiations.
So, I was on the Negotiating Committee for 2014. So some of the things we were hearing is that the change to shorter TV seasons was having a weird impact on writers. It really affected writers, especially for options and exclusivity, which is that if you are hired to be on a show, they will try to hold you under an option for a long period of time for that next season. Well, that wasn’t a big problem if you were on a 22-episode season. So basically you were working the full year. But if you’re working on a 10-episode or a 13-episode season, that was a long time you were being held under option. So that was a thing that was being singled out to us by writers in 2014.
On the feature side, we heard about sweepstakes pitching, where they were bringing a bunch of writers to pitch on a project that may not ever go anyplace. And paper teaming, where they would stick two different writers together who really were not a team, so they could hire them as one writing team for a television show. So those were some of the kinds of issues that were coming up during this early discussion phase of negotiations.
Craig: On the one hand, it would be very easy to negotiate a certain kind of union contract if everybody did the same kind of job in the same sort of place. You could just say, look, what it comes down to is we get paid $12 an hour to work on the line and we’d like to get paid $15 an hour to work on the line. Also, our lunch break is too short. Because we are essentially like freelance employees at the same time, these things come up all the time. And our business is changing so rapidly. We don’t have a factory that keeps doing the same thing. The delivery systems. The kinds of entertainment that we create. The length of the entertainment we create.
I mean, this – for instance, the miniseries that I’m talking about doing. That’s not really something that anybody was doing maybe 15 years ago. If you wanted to tell a story that required a five-hour series in five chunks, I don’t know. Nobody was doing that. That wasn’t a thing. Well, now they do it all the time.
John: Well, they used to do it sort of broadcast networks. Like Aline Brosh McKenna and I will one day do our Winds of War remake, which was a classic sort of miniseries. But I think what you’re describing though is sort of the prestige, The People vs. OJ Simpson, that kind of thing has not existed for a while. And it’s a new thing and it creates real challenges to figure out like what is the business model for writers for that kind of thing. It’s new territory.
Craig: It is new territory. I mean, there was a time when you and I were growing up where networks would make, television networks would make made-for-TV movies. And they would make television miniseries. But then there was a long stretch of time where both of those things went bye-bye completely. And then they start to come back because of new ways of delivering content to people. Similarly, for most of our lives, and for most people’s lives in the United States, television was dominated by the network model of 22 episodes a season. Whereas across the pond in the UK, their seasons were typically more like eight episode, or ten.
Well, we seem to now be moving towards that model because the network model of a season and that many episodes supported by advertising has essentially collapsed into something very, very different, which is a subscription based notion of watching. And we also have the emergence of major new content. I won’t say content creators, but content providers. Netflix and Amazon are two new outlets that are buying up an enormous amount of, well, you could call it TV if you want.
Craig: But some of it’s movies. Some of it’s TV. Some of it’s miniseries. What it really is it’s entertainment that you watch on your television. And all of this is putting enormous pressure on whatever the old models were. And our bargaining and our contract, all of it, it is a mature contract, it is all steeped deeply in the tradition of the time in which it was first conceived which was post-World War II America.
John: I love looking through the minimum basic agreement, which is the big contract that sort of shows like how much you get paid for different things and how everything works, because they’ll have these formats for different kinds of shows. Like no one makes that anymore. Like, you know, if it’s a half-hour show involving horses it has to have this kind of, like this is scale for it. There are really strange things that you can’t imagine are used that often, but they’re still in there from when those things were done more frequently.
Craig: Yeah, I mean, I would have to look it up, but the formula, I was talking about the TV residuals formula. And those residuals formula, there’s two kinds. And one of them I think is called the Hitchcock formula, because it’s based on old Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I think and one of them is Sanchez based on some television show that was maybe from the ‘70s. I mean, it is an old contract based in old, old stuff.
So, unsurprisingly, every single negotiation that we have been through since I would argue 2001 has been about trying to address these industry-breaking and contract-breaking developments that are occurring in our industry. I mean, 2001, that was really the first negotiation that earned us a residual rate for work that was rented over the Internet.
John: Yeah. Whole new things. So whenever there are changes you have to be really mindful of making sure that writers are being paid for those things, so that initial outreach is basically to identify those things.
The second stage is survey. So they basically survey the membership to ask, hey, what’s going on? Are you experiencing these things? Basically trying to get some quantifiable data to match up with the anecdotal data they’re getting from these early discussions. It’s mostly for planning. Basically trying to identify what are the big key issues here that writers are concerned about, that it’s not just like those three guys over there that have this problem, but it actually is a bigger issue for more writers.
So, those surveys happen. And then there’s sort of really internal meetings where they quietly sort of talk through what the priorities are, what the strategy should be, what do they think they want to do in this round of negotiations. That’s where the Writers Guild board, but also the Writers Guild Negotiating Committee, which is a separate group, figure out what their plan is for going into the negotiation.
Craig: Yeah. And it is all done in a sort of vacuum. Until they start to talk to the membership at large, they are doing a strange dance internally. And it’s really the only way they can. They look at the landscape. They look at what they know. And they decide this is what we should do. And that is coupled with a creation of a message. This is why we should do what we should do. And this is why our membership should support us in our efforts to do what we should do.
John: It has an aspect of a campaign. Basically you’re testing some messages, you’re testing to see what is it that we think we want to try to do here. And, you know, in this pattern of demands and in these sort of initial outreach meetings to showrunners and to other members of writing staffs and to individual writers, they’re trying to get a sense of like does this accurately reflect your concerns as we do into this negotiation. And that’s the end of a long process, but it continues throughout the process of these outreach meetings.
Craig: Yeah. And the name of the game, really, for all of these things is to balance yourself where you feel like you have enough of a message where you can get the membership to support you fully. And fully means and if you come back to them and say they’re not giving you the things that we all agree we should get, we should walk? Right? So there’s the strike threat. You need that, but you also need to come up with a message that doesn’t feel like essentially you’re saying there’s no way out for us, we have no options here, all we can do is strike. You don’t want to come up with a message that feels out of touch with the membership, that either feels like it’s underserving the membership or vastly too aggressive. It’s a very tricky thing. And it makes negotiating on behalf of a union very difficult because unlike most negotiations in business, where both parties are working privately and then facing across each other at a table, or similarly in politics where people work somewhat privately and then sit across the table, for unions a lot of this discussion leading up to things is public.
It’s open because union members have a right to freedom of speech, even within their own union. It’s specified in something called the Landrum-Griffin Act. And as a union leader, you’re walking a careful line because you don’t want to give away too much. If you’re bluffing, you don’t want to necessarily bluff both the membership and the companies, but sometimes it’s hard to bluff the companies if you can’t bluff your membership. Very difficult line to walk. It’s a hard gig to do.
John: We should also then now think about the other side of the table here. So, the AMPTP, they’re coming into a round of negotiations thinking like what are we prepared to give. What are we prepared to ask for? What do we want out of this negotiation? And they’re having their own meetings where they’re figuring this out as well. They’re taking their temperature among their members. They’re listening to see what’s happening on the writers’ side. And they’re trying to come up with an approach which will be their initial offer for like this is what we think the contract should be. And sometimes that offer is designed to send a certain message about how the negotiation is going to go.
Craig: Yeah. The actual dance that is done is highly formal. And you will hear people on both sides repeatedly refer to it as Kabuki Theater. Both sides will begin the negotiations the way perhaps two animals start their courtship dance. It’s very ritualized. And not surprisingly, so much of the ritual is that the union is asking for so much and the companies are insisting they can’t afford anything. And then once the dance is done, things get down to it.
I was on the Negotiating Committee in 2004. That certainly was going on then. And it’s gone on every time since. What are you looking for are those larger signals and we can talk about 2007 was clearly a different situation. We were sending a very different signal then. And certainly the response from the companies was a very clear signal as well. But traditionally in negotiations there’s a dance. There’s some more dancing. And then the work happens, often very rapidly and in a much smaller room. A room inside a room inside a room.
John: Absolutely. So, let me get you inside the room for 2014. The actual process of negotiations happens over a period, it was about two weeks in 2014. We were at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, like actually the shopping mall. So the AMPTP has a headquarters there and when the negotiations start there’s a room off to the left which is where the Writers Guild Negotiating Committee is headquartered and we are there and we are talking through stuff. There’s a room where the AMPTP, bigwigs and lawyers, are headquartered and they are talking.
And every once and a while they will say, OK, we’re going to get together. We will go into their room. We will make our points about a specific issue on the table. They will ask some questions. We will then leave the room and it will go through this process several times. That’s the Kabuki part of the whole thing.
But what Craig is referring to is a lot of the actual discussions and like the changes that happen happen in other conversations that are not the whole group, but just between a few key members going off someplace else to discuss through one specific point or a different point. Sometimes they’ll be asking for clarification. There’ll be give and take. And then our leaders will report back to the Negotiating Committee and we will proceed to the next part.
I wrote a whole script while I was in that Negotiating Committee room.
John: Because literally you’re in a room with a bunch of tables. You know, Susannah Grant is behind me and she’s typing away. I’m like, man, if she’s writing something, I got to get down to it. And so it’s a situation where it can be incredibly intense at moments. But then it can just be incredibly like lots of free time.
And so you can chew the fat with people, but you can also get work done. And I took it upon myself to get some work done. It was a really fascinating experience that I don’t necessarily want to repeat again really soon.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, the truth is serving on the large Negotiating Committee, which I think is about 17 members, is thankless and the committee itself is required by our constitution. It is a formality. The truth is you could never negotiate anything with 17 people all in a big room asking questions and bickering amongst themselves because, of course, even within a group of 17 writers who are, let’s just stipulate that they’re all largely aligned. They won’t be completely aligned.
So, inevitably what happens is the larger Negotiating Committee is a group of writers who don’t get to do much and they don’t get to decide much. Really all they’re there to do is hear the reports back from the front lines, give their input, which matters or doesn’t, and then vote at the end.
John: Yeah. So I will say that part of our function of being there is that we tend to be sort of writers that they recognize, and so the reason why Susannah Grant was there, or I was there, or Shawn Ryan was there is like these are the people that they’re hiring all the time. So it was useful to have us on the other side of the table looking at them, just because we are – we can speak with some authority and occasionally like Shawn Ryan would speak about a specific issue that was related to his experience in television.
Me, I said nothing in that big room. The only thing I was there to do was in the writer’s side I could ask some questions about things that were going on that I felt weren’t clear.
John: But that was my function. My function was to be a body there. And I took that as my charge.
Craig: Well, you’re exactly right. That they do choose – I mean, this is a committee that’s appointed by the board, and it’s carefully curated. And the point of having people like you there is we are advertising to the companies that we have our best and brightest. We have our most rational. We are not stocking this committee with writers that they maybe think represent a certain class of employees that they simply could do without. We’re advertising that you can’t do without us because look who’s here.
Craig: But in the end, there are sidebars. And by the way, this is the same thing on their side, too. They have so many people. They have individuals representing each of the companies and then they have their lawyers and then they have their labor specialists. All these people. In the end, there are sidebars. And the sidebars typically take place between Carol Lombardini, who is the Chief Negotiator for the AMPTP, and a couple of her chief lieutenants. And then on our side, David Young, who is our Executive Director, and typically then one, two, or in this case we have three co-chairs of the Negotiating Committee. And this year it’s Billy Ray, Chris Keyser, and Chip Johannessen.
John: Yep. So, at the end of this process, which is very intentionally kept under a cone of silence, like no one reports out what’s happening inside this room. And that, I think, has been well maintained and I think it’s a really smart idea. But at the end of this process hopefully you come to a tentative agreement, which is a compromise that neither side is entirely happy with, but they are saying like this is the best we think we can do. And you go to membership. Then the membership votes on it and hopefully approves the contract and then you’re done. For now. And then three years later you’re going to be going through the whole process again.
Craig: That’s right. And while you’re doing this, there is a certain formal process going on on the parts that are not in sidebar. That’s why sidebar is so important in negotiations. When both sides are presenting their formal requests to each other, and when anybody says anything in the big room, all of it is carefully written down. And those notes are considered essentially evidentiary going forward. If somebody – let’s say David Young in the big room said we are willing to sacrifice blah-blah-blah if we can get so and so. That’s written down.
And they will say, “You said you were willing to…” That’s a thing now, right? So everybody is very careful about how they say what they say in that big room. And in the sidebar all the horse trading goes on and on. Those large room notes are also important because sometimes there’s a dispute after the deal is allegedly determined about what a certain deal point actually meant. And so both sides have their copious notes to be able to present to some kind of independent arbiter in the case of a dispute, or, you know, I think it may even go to the labor department if there’s a dispute.
And, for instance, we had something exactly like that at the conclusion of the 2007/2008 strike. And unfortunately what we thought we had gotten we had not. So, those can happen.
John: So, let’s circle back to where we’re at right now which Mike B’s question. We’re talking about the outreach meeting. So that’s sort of step three in the process. We’re not really into the negotiation yet. We’re still figuring stuff out. So the outreach meeting that Mike B went to, or that, Craig, you went to an outreach meeting last night.
Craig: That’s right.
John: These are chances for the guild leadership to talk with the members about what the plans are and also what the concerns are. And so that’s a good thing. So it’s good for Mike B to have gone. It’s good for Craig to go. If, you know, you’re another writer in the Writers Guild, it’s good for you to go just to sort of hear what is being discussed about the upcoming negotiation. So, Craig, I’m in Paris so I’m not hearing any of these discussions. But what I gleaned are sort of the important issues. The health fund is always going to be an issue because we have, again, we are in a system where we have this private health insurance and you have to keep it solvent, so that’s going to be crucial.
A lot of the concerns are TV concerns. Which seems weird in a way because this is clearly a boom time for television. There’s more TV shows. There’s more TV writers. There’s more TV income than before. But when you actual talk to individual writers, a lot of TV writers are struggling. And it has to do with this weird thing about how TV writers work is that they are writing TV shows and they are also producing TV shows. And they’re doing both jobs. But the Writers Guild portion of it, the WGA is responsible for the writing aspect of that. And writers are being paid minimums for that stuff. But those minimums that they’re being paid for, well that money is also being counted against their producing fees.
This may not be such a huge problem if you’re on a 22-episode season that’s lasting the whole year, but if you’re on one of these short shows, ten episodes, 13 episodes, sometimes you’re writing that episode months, and months, and months before you’re producing that episode. And you’re basically having to work as many weeks as if you were on a 22-episode season, but you’re only being paid for that short show. And that’s creating real issues for a lot of TV writers.
Craig: That’s right. And it seems like what’s really at stake here in this negotiation is an extension of the very issues that you and others were dealing with in our last negotiation, and dealt with somewhat successfully in 2014. And I think the great hope is that additional incremental gains can be made in this area. And this – these kinds of gains aren’t specifically about being paid more. Although, the guild will certainly ask for that, as well they should. And every cycle, I mean, so the DGA made their deal, and it’s a very typical deal where minimums are boosted either 2.5% or 3% on a year-to-year basis over the three years. But it seems like it’s more of an implementation and lifestyle problem where the companies are saying we’re going to pay you the minimums, but we are going to own you for a year and for a bunch of that year – and we’re going to spread that amount of money out over so much time of exclusivity that even if you’re not working for us, you’re not working for anyone else. So, effectively your payment, which would have once paid for four months say of your work is now going to pay for a year of your work. And while technically that’s not violating your minimums, it is essentially violating minimums.
Now, this as I pointed out in the meeting last night is a problem that screenwriters are far too familiar with. We’ve talked before about the pernicious abuse where – this is writers up and down, but really more the middle class and starting writers deal with this the most and in the most egregious way – you’ll be hired to write a screenplay and you will write a script and hand it to your producer. The producer will give you notes and say we can’t turn this in. You have to write it again. And you will maybe write seven or eight scripts. Seven or eight drafts of that script, just so you can send it in.
Meanwhile, if you’re being paid close to minimum, that’s a year of your life? A year and a half? For minimum. And so what does the minimum mean at that point? And so TV writers are now it seems dealing with this sort of stuff that feature writers have been dealing with forever. And so what happens as a result of this? Not only does this negatively impact individual writers, of course, but it also negatively impacts our pension and health fund because the fringes of pension/health are paid on what writers are paid. And if they are paid less frequently, P&H gets less money.
One thing that’s important to understand about pension and health is that it is not as simple as if you qualify, you get healthcare and the money that has been contributed on your behalf will cover your healthcare. It does not work that way. Not at all. The way our system works is we presume that a number of writers that qualify for healthcare are going to over-qualify. They’re going to earn much more, all the way up to that cap I described, the $250,000. Those are the people that are essentially subsidizing things for everybody else.
You may only take $39,000 to qualify for your healthcare, but on average the contributions that come out of that do not cover the typical writer’s year of health costs. So, the more writers we have moving towards the lower end of the scale, the harder and harder it is for pension and health to be solvent. And, of course, there’s also been this ongoing problem of how television writers are paid. On the screen side, it has been very frustrating for my entire career to watch as I pay 1.5% of dues on every dollar I make to the Guild and all of my money is pension and health contributable.
But on the writer’s side, we have showrunners who make millions and millions of dollars, the vast majority of which is paid out as producing fees. They don’t pay any dues on that money, because it’s not writing money. And none of it is what we’ll call fringe-able. None of it gets that P&H contribution. So, the Guild is trying to address these things. And, it is a real issue and they have all sorts of choices about how they’re going to try and get those things, but certainly it is a problem. Part of my function at the outreach meeting last night was to say, correct, hey also in screen we have issues, too. We have to be addressed.
John: Yeah. Agreed. And let’s take a look at the other side of the table, too, because we’re not the only one coming in with an agenda. So what is the AMPTP looking for as they’re going into this negotiation? Well, overall they’d like to keep things in line. They’d like to keep the industry running. They’d like to be able to keep making TV shows and movies. That’s crucial for them. That’s how they make their money.
They’d like to keep things in line with the other deals they’ve already made. So they’ve already made a DGA deal. They’re going to have to make a SAG deal with screen actors after our deal, so they’d like to keep those things consistent. So, you know, their goal is going to be to not go above 2.5% or 3% on those kinds of things that are so similar between the different contracts.
But there are things like these options and exclusivities which are kind of uniquely ours, and so that’s a thing they’ll be looking at too because they want to be able to keep making the best TV shows that we’ve ever made. And in order to keep doing that they’re going to have to be able to make this system sustainable. So, I think they’re going to be looking for ways to be able to keep doing the kind of stuff that they’re doing and not, you know, hopefully decimate a class of writers. They’ll hope.
Craig: Right. Well, they have a vastly different approach, as one might expect, to these negotiations. It’s quite typical that writers, directors, and actors will begin negotiations by pointing out how much money the companies are making off of the work that we do. And the companies typically will say, “Oh no, no, no, you don’t understand. Our business is on the edge of disaster.”
In truth, neither point is particularly relevant. No, of course their business isn’t on the edge of disaster. You and I have punctured this myth a hundred times. We did it a couple of weeks ago.
On the other hand, they are corporations. They exist to maximize profits, so the idea that somehow if they’re very profitable this is a problem for them, I mean, they love that, right? Their whole point is we take in as much as we can and we send out as little as we can. I think the things that they are always thinking about in the back of their minds is what is the benefit of labor peace, what is the value of labor peace, what is the cost of labor peace? Because in the end they do get hit by a strike. And they do suffer some costs for that.
So, they are constantly worried about that. Maybe not worried as much as they should be, or as much as we would hope they would be. But they are.
Craig: And I think they also in the back of their minds are concerned that they don’t create a situation whereby their ruthless pursuit of maximizing profit by minimizing labor costs doesn’t actually dilute and damage their labor pool to the point where they’re damaging their product.
John: Yeah. You look at sort of what’s been possible to happen in TV and in film over the last ten years and the profitability that it has been able to see, that comes from really talented people who are choosing to make this their livelihood. And if they can’t make a livelihood doing this, they go away. And then they’re sort of stuck.
Let’s talk about these concerns and sort of the fear and anxiety around it. Basically what should you tell your mom if she asks you about the WGA negotiations? And I think I would stress that this does feel different than 2014. Like 2014 I wasn’t hearing some of the same conversations. But then again 2014 was a really different year. And I think some of what I’m sensing is that we’re just in such a really strange place as a world right now. We have protests in the streets. We have talk of union busting and right to work laws that may be coming out of congress. And we have all this anxiety over healthcare which dovetails really closely to our own concerns about our health plan. So, I think it’s natural for us to feel some of this anxiety right now.
But I don’t think it’s useful to push that into real fear. Fear is useful for like ginning up action, but it can also lead to some sort of rushed and sort of bad decisions. And I think the reason why we wanted to talk this long explaining is that the process of negotiations isn’t rushed and hasty and sudden and spontaneous. It’s actually kind of planning. It’s a real process.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, it’s normal I think for writers to be concerned about a strike. A strike is a scary thing. We don’t strike very often. We used to. The Writers Guild in the ‘70s and ‘80s struck constantly. And so it was a very unstable time and I think people probably did live in a constant state of some kind of fear. But since 1988, we’ve struck once. Came close in 2001. And that’s the balance that the Guild has to find. We never want the companies to feel like we are refusing to strike under any circumstances because ultimately that is the leverage we have.
On the other hand, I think the companies and at least a few people in the Guild understand that when we do strike, we are essentially pulling a pin on a grenade, hugging them close to us, and letting it explode. We get hurt, too.
Craig: So it’s not something that we’re looking forward to. Essentially a strike – when a strike occurs, it is an indication of a failed negotiation. So I agree with you, the panic and fear are essentially useless. And I hope very much that our negotiators are able to go in there, particularly because they’re – look, there is a deal. We know that there is a DGA deal. Right? There is a certain package and a certain amount.
My basic philosophy is that I hope they get more. They should not bring us back less. It’s pretty simple.
John: So let’s move on to some other questions that are not about the Writers Guild specifically.
Craig: Oh good.
John: Why don’t you start with Conner in Ireland?
Craig: So Conner in Ireland asks, “What do you do after you’ve finished a first draft, but before you start sending it off? Are there any particular things you do to make sure a script is as good as you can make it? Do you have a checklist of things that a character should be doing or saying? Do you map out the plot in each scene and make sure the drama is coming in peaks and troughs? Or, do you just make sure everything is spelled and formatted correctly and just send it out and wait for notes?”
John, what’s your post-flight checklist?
John: So I feel like we did an episode about last looks at a certain point. But it’s an evergreen question. My personal way of going through this is when I’m done with a script Godwin is the first person to read it. He makes sure that it actually makes sense. He checks for mistakes. I leave out words all the time. I’m terrible that way.
He’ll read it. Then I’ll read the same draft and when I say read it, I’ll literally print it out because sometimes I can only catch the mistakes on paper. And I’ll really just try to get a feel for like did I actually accomplish the things I wanted to accomplish? Because sometimes there will be a long period of time between that scene I wrote on page 20 and what I just finished up on page 96. And really make sure that it’s feeling like the same thing the whole time through. That I’m not making really some stupid choices. Or like sometimes I’ll create a character in two places that it’s not really quite the same character. I’ll be doing that kind of sort of idiot check, but I’m not going through to make sure is this scene meeting the character goal of this thing – am I hitting these peaks and valleys? It’s none of that stuff. Hopefully I’ve done my work in the process of writing it that it’s not going to have that sort of fundamental issue.
But I won’t know that until I have somebody else read it. Somebody who is out there in the world.
Craig, what’s your process?
Craig: Very similar. And I agree with you. At this point it’s too late to start asking questions like is this any good? Some people have different ways of approaching how they write things. Some people are much more loosey-goosey. I am very much a planner. So, there won’t be problems like that. However, I’ll forget about Jack who I have here, because she reads things for me the way Godwin reads for you. Let’s just talk about people that are just by themselves. That’s probably most of you. Read it out loud. That’s the best advice I can give you. Read the whole damn thing out loud. You don’t have to read the action stuff. Read the dialogue out loud. And hear and listen. Things will crop up. Little things that are easily fixed. You may sense suddenly that you’re bored. You may sense that you used the same word too frequently. You may sense that something doesn’t quite make sense.
And you’ll make little changes. And then read through the script carefully. And look for those little things. But don’t panic over small, I mean, I don’t think I’ve – typically I will have one mistake in a script. And I really carefully proofread it and I have somebody else, I have Jack who is proofreading for me as well. There will always be one. It’s not the end of the world. It really isn’t. You just don’t, I mean listen, don’t send in a script full of mistakes. That’s a disaster. But just read it out loud. It’s remarkable how much that will do for you.
John: I agree. Some writer, and maybe you’ll remember who this was, their advice was to remove page 17. That in any script you can take page 17 out, and maybe I’ve got the page number wrong, but there’s some sort of classic advice, there’s something early in the script that you just don’t actually need. I think it can be a useful exercise as you’re going through that first draft to just like take a random page out and say like do I really need this. And recognize that your script, even though it’s as good as you can possibly make it at that moment, it’s a flexible document. It can change. It doesn’t have to be – you shouldn’t expect it to be perfect right now. It just has to be the best version of this first draft it can be.
Craig: Writing screenplays is a function of balancing a dozen competing interests that are all functioning in different ways. That’s why we need to do multiple drafts. You fall into a trap if you either expect perfection on your first draft or believe you have attained perfection on your first draft. You have not.
So part of sending screenplays off is also adjusting your own expectations and not thinking so much in a fantasy-like way that what I’m going to do is send this script off and in return applause, tears of joy, and so forth. That’s just not how it works. You always have another draft. And so at some point, send it, just to see what happens.
John: Yeah. All right, that segues very nicely to our second question from Tobias in Sweden who writes, “I read this article on no film school,” we’ll put a link in the show notes, “that argues that instead of writing a story for a reader, newbie screenwriters are often mistakenly writing a movie for a producer. Instead of telling a story, they’re explaining a movie. Can you give some guidance on too much or too little scene description?” Craig, what is your take on this article?
Craig: [laughs] Well, this is an article written by Tom Long who is a screenplay consultant. And I promise that is not why I am annoyed at this article. I’m annoyed at this article because it makes no damn sense. It feels like somebody came up with a vague gimmick for an article and then wrote around in circles. This is what he says. “This is why you shouldn’t think of your screenplay as a movie. For non-established spec writers, a screenplay is a written story that if loved by enough industry folk can then lead to being setup at a studio and hopefully produced in a movie.”
I don’t know–
John: I want to stop right there. That was the point where I wanted to bail on the article.
John: And so this sense that a script written by a newbie writer, a spec script, is a completely different thing than what you and I are doing is just not true. And that is a thing that has to be killed dead. A script is a script. A screenplay is a screenplay. It’s the same thing. And so the script that I write for Disney or that Karen writes for herself, they’re the same thing, and there’s no fundamental difference between those two things. The rules are not different for me or for Karen. It is the same process. It is the same words on the page. We’re all equal when it comes to those words on the page.
So, the idea that a spec script is a fundamentally different beast than the script that I’m turning into a studio is just wrong. And that’s where I fundamentally lost faith in this article. But I kept reading, so. [laughs]
Craig: That’s funny. So did I. So he goes on to say, “Yes, writers should be envisioning their screenplay as a movie, which means writing visually, externalizing actions and conflicts, and applying form and function. However, the story has to be fully executed on the page first.” What? Yeah. That’s what a screenplay is. What is he – what?
John: Some of what he’s saying does match up to things we say all the time. You have to be thinking visually. You have to be thinking about what is it going to feel like to experience this as a movie. So, that’s why I’m often saying don’t think about writing a script. You’re trying to write a movie. The goal is to make a movie.
John: But when he’s getting to – especially as he gets to his examples, I don’t think are selling his point very well. And I don’t think he has a clear logic behind the point. So, people who are listening through to this, you need to click through the article to see the two samples here, because they’re sort of like our Three Page Challenge samples. The little sections of things.
Craig: In reverse. [laughs]
John: Well, yeah. He sort of shows the early version of a scene that had too little scene description. And then like a second version which has much fuller scene description. And I will be generous in saying like if this was the first scene in a movie, then yes, I could see why the second thing would much better set up who the character is and what’s going on, but the second one if it was on page 90 is just completely overwritten for what that moment is. And so I think it’s a useful exercise for people to compare these two scenes, because the second one is – you know, if it’s the initial scene in a movie, I can see why it’s written that way, but it’s not how you would write most scenes in your film.
Craig: Correct. If the scene is in the middle of a movie, and it has to be, because the slug line is EXT. THE GRAVE – SECONDS LATER. So I’m going to just go out on a limb here and say we’re not opening a movie this way. So he says this, “It’s a spec script he consulted on.” And he says, “When I sat down with the screenwriter I explained that the scene confused me on many levels and that I senses there was supposed to be much more here that wasn’t being articulated.”
And so then that writer rewrote the scene per their discussion. If this in fact is a scene from the middle of the movie, I vastly prefer the writer’s original version. And I vastly prefer it because I feel something from it. It actually felt emotional because it was delivering a movie scene to me.
And the second one, I got bored. My god are there a lot of words here. Way too many words. It’s just overwritten. It’s purple. And overdone. And it turns what should be this kind of lovely little moment into a – I don’t know – boring. Boring. And this blows my mind. Blows my mind.
John: Yeah. So going back to the initial question that was asked. I think the amount of scene description is the appropriate amount of scene description for what the scene actually is and where it’s functioning in your script. And so it’s absolutely true that earlier scenes in your script tend to be a little bit denser and fuller because you’re setting up the world, you’re setting up the tone, there’s a lot more stuff to them.
They get a little bit leaner in general as you sort of go through the script. That’s fine. That’s good. I say you got to be thinking about you’re writing a movie and you’re writing a movie that is, yes, a literary document that’s going to be carrying the feeling of the movie. So therefore you do have to do the work to pick exactly the right word in the scene description. But that doesn’t mean you have to write reams of scene description to get that point across.
Craig: Look, I don’t really know what he’s trying to say here. God’s honest truth. I don’t know what this title means: Avoiding a Screenwriting Trap: Tell a Story Instead of Explaining Your Movie. I don’t know what he means by “this is why you shouldn’t think of your screenplay as a movie.” I don’t know why he’s assigning certain kinds of writing to writing a screenplay as opposed to a movie. It’s all the same to me.
I think you and I have the same experience. I just feel like this is just a bad article that misunderstands how we do what we do. And I think the lessons in it are questionable. So, to sum up, don’t read this.
John: [laughs] I think you should read it just to know what we’re actually talking about.
Craig: All right.
John: But don’t take it to heart.
Craig: Don’t take it to heart. Fair enough. Don’t take it to heart. Exactly.
John: All right, it’s come time for our One Cool Things. My One Cool Thing is Greece. So this last week was French Ski Week, so I was on vacation. We went to Greece, sort of last minute decision. Like, you know what, let’s go to Athens and see ancient things. And for whatever reason, Greece was not high on my list and I think it was because I thought like, you know what, Greece is going to be a hassle. And I got this idea in my head like it’s Greece, it’s sort of hard to get there, you can’t take trains there. It obviously had economic crisis. I don’t speak Greek. It seemed like it was going to be a lot of hassle.
And I don’t know why. I was just so wrong. And so I would just encourage people to go see Greece because I really loved it. We spent some time in Athens. Saw the Acropolis. The Parthenon. All amazing. Then we went up to Delphi to see the ruins of the Oracle, the Temple of Apollo there, which was incredible, too.
People in Greece are really cool. Their economy is basically built on tourism, so they’re really good at it. I just really liked it. And so I’d encourage people if you’re headed over the European direction, go to Greece, because Greece was so much better than I was expecting. And really worth it, especially if you have any interest in sort of how civilization with democracy and really crucial aspects of our culture started. Greece is the center of it all.
Craig: Grease is the word.
John: It is the word. No, it’s spelled differently. Sorry.
Craig: Yeah. I was hoping that you were going to be talking about the musical Grease, then I was hoping that you would talk about just the all-purpose lubricant. But I’m happy that you talked about the country because, you know what, they gave us Steve Zissis.
John: Nothing better than Steve Zissis.
Craig: Nothing better.
John: And the new little Zissis of the world. It’s all good.
Craig: My One Cool Thing is one creepy thing but one very cool thing. There is a series of games available for the iPad/iPhone. Again, maybe for Android, but we don’t give a damn about Android. And it’s called Fran Bow. Fran like the girl’s name, and Bow. B-O-W.
And the story is released in chapters. Each chapter is its own game. I think two bucks a game, two bucks a chapter. Fascinating game. Really cool. Very simple controls. You are investigating your world around you and you’re picking up items and manipulating them to solve puzzles. What makes this game fascinating, it is the darkest thing. You play this little girl. She is sweet and so innocent. And she constantly asks sweet and innocent questions of the world around her. Her parents have bloodily butchered. And by the way, this is not a game for children. This is 17 plus all the way.
And she has now been committed to a mental hospital for observation. And they give her pills. And one of the main game mechanics is when she takes one of these pills, the world transforms into this horror show. An absolute horror show. It is disturbing. It is visually gorgeous. The game play itself is the least important part of it. It really is just experiencing the remarkable creepiness of this game. I love it. Fran Bow. Check it out.
John: Well done. So, while you’re on your long flight to Greece, you can play Fran Bow. And you’ll see the glorious wonders of ancient world and the wonders of the iPad. Well done.
John: That’s our show for this week. So, as always, our show is produced by Godwin Jabangwe. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week comes from Kristian Gotthelf.
John: If you have an outro, you can send us a link to email@example.com. That’s also the place where you send longer questions like the ones we answered today. On Twitter, I am @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. Send us your short questions there. That’s always delightful.
We are on Facebook. I do occasionally check the Facebook page, so find us there. Like us. Liking us does something. I don’t know what.
Even more useful though is if you give us a nice review and some five stars on iTunes, because that helps people find the show through iTunes. We are on iTunes. We’re also on Google Play. We’re other places, too, but iTunes is sort of the main catalogue of things.
People often think that iTunes delivers podcasts the same way that people – like you download a song from items. You don’t download podcasts from iTunes. It’s just a catalog. It’s just a bunch of RSS feeds.
Craig: It’s a directory.
John: It’s like old Yahoo! That’s what it’s sort of like.
Craig: Oh my god. I remember when Yahoo! was just a vertical list of websites.
Craig: That’s how old I am.
John: Yeah. My daughter has no sense of what the Internet used to be. I mean, she’s never lived in a time without the Internet, and so just like, well yes, everything was always there whenever you wanted it. We had a situation in Paris where our power went out in our apartment. And so I’m trying to find the fuse box and she comes in and she says, “The Wi-Fi is out, too.” I’m like, well of course the Wi-Fi is out. There’s no power. But it hadn’t occurred to her that like without power we don’t have Internet. And so like, oh no. The worst.
Craig: She thought it was more like, well, the power is out. And the water isn’t working.
John: [laughs] Oh my. So, if your Internet is restored and the Wi-Fi is back up–
Craig: Segue Man.
John: You can come visit at johnaugust.com. That’s where you’ll find the show notes for this week’s episode and all the back episodes. You’ll also find the transcripts for previous episodes. They go up about four days after an episode posts. And you can find all the back episodes of Scriptnotes at Scriptnotes.net. That’s right now the only place where you can find all those back episodes. There’s talk of future USB drives, but at the moment there are none of them, so that’s where you can find them. It’s $2 a month for all the back episodes, the special episodes.
Craig: Come on.
John: The Aline Brosh McKenna specials. Aline was gracious enough to live tweet our most recent episode, so maybe she’ll do that for this one, too. She won’t. She won’t do it.
Craig: You know what happened last night at this screenwriter outreach meeting?
John: Tell me all about it.
Craig: When I got up to speak, [laughs], a woman said, “Sexy Craig.”
John: [laughs] Oh no!
John: That’s so inappropriate.
Craig: No, it was amazing. So I think it’s been so long. I think next week – I’m not going to drop him on you now – but next week Sexy Craig is going to have something to say.
John: Ugh. So a reason enough to tune in or not tune in. Reason enough for me to bring in a guest host for next week to avoid or to have some Sexy Craig.
Craig: You can’t, man. Can’t avoid me. I’m with you.
John: Ugh. Everyone have a great week. We’ll see you next week. Bye.
- Kellyanne Conway’s interview tricks, explained
- On shared false memories
- Allison Schroeder
- Avoid a Screenwriting Trap: No Film School article
- Fran Bow
- John August on Twitter
- Craig Mazin on Twitter
- John on Instagram
- Find past episodes
- Outro by Kristian Gotthelf (send us yours!)
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can download the episode here.