John August: Hey, this is John. So, one of the scripts we’re discussing today has a few bad words, so if you’re in the car with your kids, that’s your warning.

Hello and welcome. My name is John August.

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is Scriptnotes, Episode 305, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the show, it’s another Three Page Challenge where we take a look at scenes written by listeners and see if they follow the rules set forth by the Screenwriters University.

Craig: The laws. The laws of Screenwriters University.

John: Not mere rules. They’re actual laws.

Craig: Law.

John: We’ll also be answering listener questions on vintage screenplays, maturity, Smash Brothers, and writing with a budget in mind.

Craig: Oh, Smash Bros. Smash Bros, just so you know.

John: Smash Bros. Was it Bros?

Craig: Well, it is Smash Brothers, but they abbreviate the Brothers “Bros,” which my son’s generation apparently doesn’t realize stands for brothers. So they all – every kid I’ve ever met calls it Smash Bros.

John: And that’s actually a good shibboleth for Hollywood. If someone says Warner Bros, then they’re not actually in the industry. Because everything with Warner Bros is always Bros, but you say Brothers. You never say Warner Bros. You say Warners, honestly.

Craig: Right. I had a friend growing up whose name was Thomas. That was his given name. But his parents liked to abbreviate it as Thos. Which is the old fashioned way of abbreviating Thomas. And he just started going by Thos.

John: I like Thos. That’s a great name.

Craig: Yeah, Thos.

John: When we get the Three Page Challenges, Godwin actually did pick ones he thought had interesting correlations or challenges to the rules put forth by Screenwriters University, so I wasn’t completely making it up in the intro.

Craig: Good.

John: So, hold tight. Some follow up first. Last week we talked about a new initiative where Sony Pictures would be making available the clean versions of some of its movies. Now, you and I did not have a lot of problem with this. There was minimal umbrage from us. But some people – they had some umbrage.

Craig: Predictably, the DGA.

John: Yeah. So the directors were not nuts about this. The DGA was up in arms about this. And so Sony backed down. So today as we’ve started recording this, we’ll link to a Variety article, but basically it said, oh, you know what, if the director objects, we won’t do it. So, some of those movies will not have the clean versions released into the world.

Craig: They are obsessed, the DGA is, with the authority of the director. And it’s so funny. When I read this I immediately knew it had to be the DGA, because in my mind I thought, well, what if the writer has a problem with it. Nobody cares, apparently, in features. Now, in television, no one would care if the director of an episode had a problem with anything. They’d be like, Piss Off. You know? Oh, my god, but the writer-producer, he doesn’t want it or she doesn’t want it, well, we better not do it.

And in features – this is the most arbitrary, bizarre delineation – it is growing more and more obviously stupid every passing year as I live. I’m just stunned by the, I don’t know, the dumbness of it all.

John: So, I have tremendous sympathy for a director wanting to have his or her work portrayed in the way that was originally intended. I totally get that. And yet when it comes time for a home video release, I think there’s by nature going to be some concessions kind of made. So, for example, if your movie is showing on broadcast television, you know there’s going to be an edit happening there. So I think it’s actually not uncommon for some directors to take their names off of movies or use a pseudonym for the TV edit of things. And I get that. But I also get why you need to do a TV edit of things because it’s broadcast television and you’re putting commercials in there. I just can’t work up significant outrage over this affront.

Craig: Neither can I. Well, you know, look, I love these directors who take their names off of things. Oh, like now somebody is going to turn it off. Nobody cares, for starters. Unless you’re Steven Spielberg and you took your name off, it’s not a news story. Nobody gives a damn.

Second of all, screenwriters working in the feature business, I mean, the people that are constantly telling us, hey, things have to change are directors. And now directors are just shocked. Hey, it’s the same deal with us. You took a check. You did something as a work-for-hire piece. Shut up. Piss off.

I mean, now I’m just angry at directors. Listen, if they came up with a system where the writer and the director, if the writer and director agreed, then they could do it. And if they writer and director didn’t agree, then they couldn’t. I’d be fine. But I’m just so – just the DGA’s cavalier presumption that half of their raison d’être is to promote the creative primacy of the director in features. It’s just so ugly to me. As somebody who has directed and as somebody who writes, I just find it so dumb.

John: Yeah. I’m glad that this topic actually was able to generate a little umbrage from Craig, even if it wasn’t the initial intention of it. Umbrage was found.

Craig: Yeah. It was a secondary umbrage infection.

John: So, previous umbrage to go back to is everybody remembers Patrick. Patrick was that guy who wanted 75% of this writing teams’ money for this feature idea which never went anywhere and it sat around for like 14 years. And so we advised KB when she wrote in that she could go back to Patrick is she really wanted to redevelop that idea, but honestly she should just focus on something else.

Well, KB wrote in and she sent us an audio clip. So, let’s take a listen to what’s new with KB.

KB: I really appreciate you guys dedicating so much time of the podcast to my question. And to give you just a little bit of follow up, my writing partner and I have agreed to let it be for now. I have a big project I’m trying to undertake and I am fully content to just throw myself into that instead of worrying about this other thing. And in the meantime I may very well try to reach out to Patrick and see if 13 years later he is interested in renegotiating with a much more reasonable rate for the work that we all did.

Again, thank you so much for helping us come to a conclusion on this. And I appreciate everything you guys do. You guys are the best.

John: Well that’s lovely. So, I’m glad she’s taking our advice. I’m glad she’s moving on and doing other stuff. And if she reconnects with Patrick, I hope it’s on better terms that are not 75%.

Craig: I would imagine it would be. I mean, time generally does put things in perspective, doesn’t it? And people grow up and move on. And there’s an immediacy to ownership in the middle of things. Also, when there is nothing but potential, I think everybody is probably a little paranoid that they’re going to be that guy who owned Apple along with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and then sold it all away for a handful of magic beans. They don’t want to be that person. But now all these years have gone by. OK, it’s not Apple. It’s not Star Wars. So, let’s all keep it in perspective.

But the one thing that she’s definitely right about is that we’re the best.

John: No question about that whatsoever. So, let’s see if we can be the best for some other listener questions. We’ve got a whole batch to go through. Craig, do you want to take the first one here?

Craig: I do want to take the first one. Daniel, from Los Angeles, writes, “I just finished reading a shooting script of the Sullivan’s Travels screenplay. I noticed the formatting was significantly different than modern production drafts. It was broken down into sequences with each scene heading being a shot description instead of a location. My questions are why did they change old production screenwriting methods into what we have today. And how much can a writer or director manipulate format when it comes to the shooting script?”

That’s a great question, John. And I’m a little worried, because I’m not sure how to answer this one. What do you think?

John: So, I’d actually done a little research on this for a blog post many, many years ago. And so my blog post isn’t fantastic, so I’m going to instead link in the show notes to History of the Screenplay by Michelle Donnelly. She wrote it for Script Lab. But basically as screenwriting developed, it developed hand-in-hand with shooting movies. So, it’s about 100 years old. And originally the first screenplays were just a list of shots. And first off, it was just a list of shots for the director to figure out. Like, oh, these are the shots I need.

And then as you started to have sound, you started to have recorded dialogue, they got more sophisticated. It got a little bit more like a play. But there are many different kind of formats for how they were doing this. What we kind of call now the Master Scene screenplay, which is just to you and me it’s just like a screenplay. It’s the only thing we’re used to. That started around with like Casablanca. That’s when you start to see scripts that kind of look like our scripts.

Now, they become more literary over time. If you think about the original scripts, they really were just like plans for making a movie. The scripts that you and I write now are plans for selling a movie. They’re very much like here’s the vision of the movie and in reading this script you’re supposed to be getting the sense of what this movie is going to feel like. But the initial drafts and probably what the Sullivan’s Travels screenplay was like was kind of more minimalist. And it wasn’t doing some of the standard conventions that we just think about with screenplays now where everything was a scene heading and everything was laid out a certain way on the page.

So, the history of it is interesting. I’m sure there’s probably really good books out there. I haven’t read the books. But right now we’re at a place where there’s a pretty standard screenplay format that most people in western countries end up using.

Craig: And it’s a fairly enduring format, too. It has essentially not changed since you and I began and now we’re on two decades now. And I don’t think it was vastly different prior to that.

Of course, with individual variations. Some writers are idiosyncratic in the way they approach it. But I think you kind of put your finger on what is almost certainly the truth. That back in the days of Sullivan’s Travels and Preston Sturges, my guess is that what happened was the head of the studios said to Preston Sturges, “I need another Preston Sturges film.” And he said, well, here’s an idea I have. And the guy said, “Great. We’re making that movie. Can you get an actor?” Well, here’s an actor. “Terrific. Make it.”

At that point then the screenplay becomes a very internal document. It does not serve the purpose that we have now. A screenplay now either is something that needs to be bought, or if it’s being developed at a studio it needs to be evaluated and signed off on and approved by many, many layers of people. And then it needs to attract actors. And then it needs to attract directors.

And so the screenplay needs to be fully fleshed out and also universally understood, like a Rosetta Stone of a movie, so that all of these disparate elements can come to it and then agree to participate whether they are financial elements or creative elements. So, that makes total sense to me. I’m going to accept that as the right answer, John.

John: Very good. So the second part of his question was are there alternates, or like how much can you push the form. And you and I both see some screenplays that do things a little bit differently. A classic example is some screenplays don’t really use the normal scene headers. Instead they’ll sort of go to slug lines that are a shot or a sequence. And it doesn’t do normal INT/EXT. That’s OK. Ultimately if you do that kind of thing, the line producer down the road is going to assign scene numbers to some of those things, but it will still all work.

As long as what’s on the page is a reflection of what you’re going to be shooting and what people are saying, it’s going to work. But you can’t push it too crazy far. At a certain point, people aren’t going to recognize this as a screenplay and they’re going to have a hard time really understanding what you’re going for. And they’re going to freak out a bit for that.

Craig: Correct. And in fact what you start to realize is that all of the stylistic variations ultimately are superficial. They are almost certainly employed to help the writer just do their job. Scott Silver writes in this kind of funky quasi-format format, but really it’s the format. It’s just that there’s a few stylistic differences. And it helps him do his job. It helps him write the way he writes. Everybody has those little quirks and bits and bobs.

But none of it really does ultimately undermine the functions of the elements of a screenplay. Because people are relying on those. And if they’re not there, they’re going to hand it back to you and say, “Can you put them in there.” It doesn’t really matter if they look exactly the way they do in most screenplays. But we do need some version of them because we need the information.

John: So I’ve written a fair amount of animation, as have you, and in animation, sometimes the scripts look a little bit different. They will number sequences out. And honestly the process of making animation, the script is really important, but the script goes through another process where it becomes storyboarded and that becomes more the shooting template before you actually get into a production.

Craig: Right.

John: In the bonus episodes, I have a really great article with Justin Marks where he talks about Jungle Book. And for Jungle Book he wrote a script and people read his script. But he also had like all these presentations where they had to show through sequences of what things were going to look like. In our conversation it’s clear that it was a much more interactive process of getting that script and the production and sort of what they’re doing – he was writing little bits and pieces all the time. And that tends to be very true in animation. And the kinds of things we’re making are often sort of hybrid animation.

So, I think you’re going to see a little bit more experimentation in certain kinds of screenplays that are designed for like not traditional point a camera at something and shoot.

Craig: 100%. I mean, I’m going through it right now on my Lindsay Doran movie, because it’s a live action movie but it’s Jungle Bookish in that there are a lot of entirely CG-created creatures. And many of their scenes are separate and apart from humans. Those essentially become animated scenes, comped against live backgrounds, but essentially plates.

So, we’ve been doing some previs work there and what I do is I take the relevant pages from the script and I just make a new document. That’s now a sequence document. And I start fiddling around with it, you know. And coming up with ideas and thoughts and adding things in. That’s the freedom that you get from animation. And then that really becomes – all of those sequences ultimately will in aggregate become the screenplay of those sections of the movie. Screenplay is a functional document. And when it ceases to be functional, it’s perfectly fine to transition to a more functional document. There is no need ultimately to worship the original format of that document. If it runs out of usefulness, let it go.

John: Agreed. All right, our next question comes from Varune in Pennsylvania. He writes, “I was wondering how important it is to consider budget size when picking a project from a list of ideas to write. I know you often say write the movie you wish you could see, but when you’re equally interested in say four or five ideas, and they vary from being something that would be low budget or higher budget, which is the one that you realistically as someone who is trying to break into the industry should focus on?” Craig?

Craig: I wouldn’t get hung up on it. There are really very few exceptions to what I just said to you. The issue is this. You may think, well, if I write a higher budget movie, there is a higher barrier to production, therefore there’s less of a chance that this gets made or it gets bought. Well, I’m not sure that that’s true. In fact, studios tend to now make fewer but higher budget films. So, there is this enormous appetite for tent poles and more importantly most of the jobs that are available at studios are to rewrite or work on the development of high budget movies.

Now, that said, there are certain genres where low budget is kind of a plus. If you are a horror fan, writing low budget is probably smarter because there is this tremendous renaissance in low budget horror film. They do extraordinarily well at the box office relative to their budget, and sometimes relative to any budget. And writing a high budget horror movie will probably raise a few eyebrows in terms of what are we supposed to do with this. We don’t really make these.

But mostly I would say don’t get hung up on it because if it’s terrific, then you have done your job. Far better that you write a terrific blank budget movie then a so-so blank budget movie.

John: Agreed. I would also say it’s important to understand what is the kind of budget for the kind of movie you’re trying to make. And so if you’re making a romantic drama but you are writing it in a way that it’s going to clearly cost $100 million, that’s a weird mismatch. So, that’s where you need to be aware of the budget. Likewise, if you’re doing things, the single room horror movie, great. That’s always going to work.

If you have an aspiration to do big comic book movies and you want to write one of those, well, write one of those. Write something that is up to that scale. And it would be a good experience for seeing what it’s like to write that kind of stuff on the page. It’s much less fun than you think it’s going to be. I guarantee. It’s actually really tedious to write those big sequences. But read those scripts and if you want to write one of those scripts, absolutely write it. I think it’s useful, especially as you’re starting out, to not limit yourself to only things you think could get made, or only things that could get you staffed. Write the things that you think you could do great at. Or, you don’t know if you can do great at, but you have the opportunity to experiment when you’re just starting out.

Craig: That’s great advice. It is actually quite boring to write those large, noisy scenes. There’s always, hopefully, some bits and pieces in there that are inspiring to you. That’s why the scene or sequence is there. But the actual choreography of things falling and blowing up is sometimes can feel a bit tedious to do.

By the way, you can always go down and stay interesting. For instance, if you want to write a low budget superhero movie, that would be totally fine. You can write a fascinating $1 million superhero movie because it’s genre-bending. It’s just when you’re going up, that’s where because you’re asking people to spend a lot of money, you probably don’t want to get particularly experimental or artistic about it. You want to live within the pocket of stuff that is popular because you’re saying, hey, I’m expecting you to spend a whole lot of money.

You know what movie comes to mind? I don’t know if you ever read the original script for Hancock which was entitled Tonight He Comes.

John: I did. And I actually got to help out on that movie a little bit.

Craig: There you go.

John: I loved that script. And I absolutely love what Vince Gilligan did with that script as well.

Craig: Yeah, so you know, initially Tonight He Comes, it was that kind of strange thing where the script was a big movie, but it was – it had an indie sensibility. And, of course, over time the sensibility was changed to match the budget. And I actually like Hancock quite a bit, but you can do it, it’s just that it becomes a challenge. Whereas writing down towards a budget I think is always a perfectly reasonable choice.

John: I agree. Do you want to take the next question?

Craig: Sure. James writes, “Do you think it’s easier to write when you are young and stupid?” Ha, James. “In your teens and twenties you believe you know everything. The ideas you have are better than anyone else’s. The plot points are obviously the best way things could occur. In your thirties you realize human behavior is a little more complex. Your earlier plots start to feel a little naïve and unlikely. In your forties, so many of the exciting, interesting ideas become totally implausible. Do you find that your own perspective on writing has changed over the years? How do you make sure that the weight of life experience becomes a launch pad and not an anchor?”

Fascinating question. We have excellent listeners. They’re smart.

John: They are so smart.

Craig: Yeah. The ones that aren’t in their twenties. They’re young and stupid. [laughs]

John: James, it’s less of a question and more of an observation. Naturally, things are going to change over the course of your career. There are things that I loved about being a writer in my twenties because I didn’t – in some ways I was more worried about more things then. I was always worried about screwing up. And I’m much less worried about screwing up now. The advantage of experience is I can recognize opportunities and problems much further in advance. And so I don’t have to write my way into the middle of a scene, or the middle of a movie. And you’re always like, oh wait, that’s just never going to work. Or I should have done this differently.

But I think in some ways, like part of the reason why I went off and did Arlo Finch as a book is because it was a chance to be 20 again and to be like brand new at something. And that’s also really exciting. So, I think there’s no reason why your experience at 40 is going to slow you down as long as you’re continually trying to push into new things and not keep doing the same stuff again and again.

Craig: I agree. I think, actually, James, you’ve kind of found the right dichotomy here. There are plusses and minuses to all of these stages of your life. There’s no question in my mind that after 20-whatever years I’m a better writer now than I was when I started out. Certainly the wisdom that comes with experience is greatly helpful. It speeds things up. It’s a bit like – somebody once told me having a pool doesn’t add value to your house when you sell it, but it makes it sell faster. And I think sometimes age is a bit like having a pool. You probably aren’t going to be better at solving particularly intractable problems, you’re just going to see them a lot faster. So, there is real benefit there. I also think that as you go on in time, hopefully if you’ve had success along the way, there’s a certain comfort level that comes with that.

You naturally will begin to accrue an authority, because you’ve been doing it for a while. It’s only – I mean, it’s human nature. If you’re sitting in a room and you’re 22, the people in that room with you are almost certainly older than you and almost certainly have more experience than you. And that will color the way that they read your work and speak to you. And, of course, the converse is true. If you are older than they are and you’ve been doing it longer than they have been, even if they are technically in a position of authority over you, there’s a natural deference that occurs. It’s earned. And it is reasonable. And as you’re older, when you run into trouble you tend to panic less because it’s trouble you’ve been in before. It’s not your first time in quicksand.

Now, the one thing I will say about being in your 20s is that there is a freedom to the way you write that is glorious. Because you do not see things ahead of you. So you are running fast and wild with no concern whatsoever that you’re going to get smashed in the face by, you know, a boulder trap. Later on you realize it’s nothing but boulder traps. The idea of just stepping on a twig, a thing is released, and a boulder smashes you down. That’s kind of what screenwriting is.

Alec Berg I think said once that he was going through some old stuff and he pulled it out and he was reading it and he thought like, well, it’s not as good as what I write now, but there’s a freedom to it. And he said he missed it. Just a certain abandon.

So, you know, you – we are always where we’re supposed to be. That’s the truth. And I don’t think that as we grow older life experience becomes an anchor. If you start feeling the weight of an anchor, I think it’s probably not so much that your life experience and your age is getting you down, it’s that you have now been doing something long enough to know you don’t want to do it anymore. Which is an entirely legitimate feeling. And there are people who just stop. And look at Dennis Palumbo, our Scriptnotes favorite therapist, who was a very successful writer in television and then in film. He got an Oscar nomination. And then just decided I don’t want to do this anymore. And just stopped and became something else.

That is a voice to listen to. But, yeah, every decade of your life comes with ups and downs. Alas.

John: Alas. That’s how it goes. Let’s do one last question. This is from Reed. He writes, “I’m currently writing a script that is basically a road trip movie with gamers. Super Smash players go on a road trip to a tournament and play Super Smash Bros really throughout the story. As far as the characters in the story, they are all original, but much of the content they discuss and play I don’t have the rights to. I finished the first draft and am preparing to send it out. I’m wondering what people in the industry are likely to say given the nature of the story. Will they laugh at me because I made a rookie mistake? Or is it something they could potentially work around?”

Craig, what do you think? Is Reed going to be laughed at?

Craig: No, he’s not going to be laughed at. I think in this case, though, because it’s so heavily weighted on somebody else’s IP, there’s probably value in acknowledging to people when you send it, hey, I am aware of this. Just so that people don’t go, “Is this guy the dumbest person in the world?” There is a difference between sending somebody a script and saying, “Buy this, make it,” and “Read this, I’m good.”

Reed does need to understand that he has put himself in a very difficult situation. There is no chance that this movie is going to be made without a lot of input and control ceded to the Nintendo Corporation. By and large, they don’t do this frequently. And when they have, it hasn’t worked out very well for them.

So, if he’s aware of that, then I think it’s fine to just sort of say, hey look, this is about the writing.

Now, I have to say, my son went through a Super Smash Bros phase in his life and one of the questions is how necessary is that specific element to this. Can it survive without it? It may not be able to, but it’s something worth at least asking.

The other movie that comes to mind is Fan Boys, which centered on guys on a road trip trying to break into Skywalker Ranch. And it was very Star Wars heavy. But there are so many Star Wars elements that are now essentially doable because they’re part of culture and there’s kind of a fair use thing going on there. So, no, I don’t think they’ll laugh at you. But I think it probably would be good if you somehow acknowledged that you knew.

John: A way I might acknowledge that I knew would be the intermediary title page which is like you have the title page to your script and then after that you have what would be like a dedication page in a book where you might say like Super Smash Bros is a worldwide phenomenon, sold this many things. It’s property of the Nintendo Corporation. It’s not mine. And then the script starts. It’s a way of saying like, look, this is a really big deal. I don’t own the rights to this, but you’re going to read this because it’s a really good script. That’s a way of sort of setting up what you’re going into.

I would also say like, Reed, you wrote a writing sample. We’ve talked about this on recent podcasts. You know, you wrote something that you really wanted to see out there in the world, and if it’s good, people will read it and they might hire you for other stuff. And maybe there’s a way you can swap something else in.

What I found so fascinating about Reed’s question is he’s worried what people are going to think and say. He’s sort of worried about his feelings. Don’t be so worried about your feelings. Write the thing you want to write. And if it’s great, people will respond to it.

Craig: What are these feelings you experience, Reed? [laughs] Oh, I will say though that you’ve given him excellent advice, by the way, of how you described that intermediate page, because there is something very clever about saying this is what it is, this is how many people play it, it is owned by these people. Not only are you acknowledging that you’re very aware of what you’ve done, but you’re also telling them this is huge.

The issue is somebody might pick it up and go, “Well, this is, A, somebody else’s property, and B, who gives a damn about Super Smash Bros?” Well, 80 million people. You know, whatever it is. That number is going to perk them up. They always get excited about that sort of thing. So, very smart.

John: Cool. All right, let’s get on to some new work. Let’s get on to our Three Page Challenges. So, as always, we have a special guest reading our synopses this week. Craig, do you want to set up this guy, because he’s your hero.

Craig: He is my hero. Steve Zissis, my sprit animal, my Greek brother from another mother, star of the dearly departed series, Togetherness, on HBO. And Steve has now kind of branched into his own deal. He’s a proper entrepreneur now. He has set up a new series – and who is that with, that new series? Oh, I don’t know if it’s been announced yet. So I’m not going to say. But he’s got something going on. How about that?

He is the partner of friend-of-the-podcast, Kelly Marcel, and they have a child. So he’s a new dad. And we thought since he was probably up a lot at night he could just do this for us.

John: So thank you, Steve, for reading the synopses. If you would like to read the full Three Page Challenges, there are links in the show notes, so you can open up the PDFs and read along with us. So let’s let Steve take us off with our first Three Page Challenge.

Steve Zissis: Oh Fuck, I’m Invisible, by Wyatt Cain. We open on Vlad and Ilyich, two Russian soldiers, standing guard outside a Siberian military base. They chat about weight loss plans, when suddenly an invisible creature snaps Vlad’s neck and strangles Ilyich. Cut to Dave’s apartment, where Dave watches his roommate, Mandy, through the key hole, waiting for the chance to make his escape. He thinks he’s clear, but then Mandy spots him and regales him with a story of how she finally fucked that adopted chick.

Dave emerges from his apartment, checking the time. He spots, Kalman, his decrepit Polish neighbor. Kalman invites Dave inside to look at his new painting. Dave is too polite to decline. Now, seriously, Dave rushes down the street. He’s accosted by a crazy homeless lady muttering a prophecy about the one who casts no shadow. She follows him. At Leo’s Tacos, Mohammed waits. He sees Dave and homeless lady approaching. Homeless lady in the middle of a prophetic proclamation. With that, we reach the bottom of page three.

John: Craig, what do you think of Oh Fuck, I’m Invisible?

Craig: Well let’s start with the title first. Obviously it is designed to provoke. Oh Fuck, I’m Invisible. Now, these sorts of things when we started out would have just been like, what? But it’s quite trendy now to do this sort of thing. Obviously Wyatt Cain is very well aware that you cannot release a film called Oh Fuck, I’m Invisible, but Wyatt Cain quite cannily also understands that that’s OK. He’s just trying to get his script read. And in a big pile of scripts, the idea here is, oh, somebody might pick up Oh Fuck, I’m Invisible.

It is quickly becoming overdone. I see a lot of this. The cutesy title. But that in and of itself, there’s no judgment there. There was generally speaking here a very solidly put together three pages. There’s some mystery and there’s some confusion, but mostly tends towards mystery, which I like. So, just going through it roughly.

First of all, just the appearance of these pages is correct. If I don’t read them and I just look at them, they look correct. A lovely balance of action and dialogue and the action is rarely more than three lines long. Only once really. So I love that. Very, very good.

A little bit of a problem right off the top, just always worth proofreading here. It’s not really a proofreading thing, it’s more of a think-o thing. We’re EXT. Siberian Military Base. Night. “Frozen tundra. Just bleak, icy bullshit in every direction,” which is hysterical. That’s funny. “The only dot on the landscape –,” Dot on the landscape, “A Russian military compound. Two RUSSIAN SOLDIERS, Vlad and Ilyich (30s), stand guard outside a heavy bunker door.” Well, if it’s a dot on the landscape, how the fuck can I see Vlad and Ilyich? They are dots inside of the dots across the bleak icy bullshit.

So, you want to like move in there. You can establish your exterior. Really, what I think you want is EXT. Siberia. Night. And then the only dot on the landscape—new thing. EXT. Military Base. A Russian military… So that we know we’re jumping in.

They have a little bit of pointless chit chat and then they are killed by an invisible creature.

By and large, it was exciting. It was fun to read. Lots of underlines and capitalizations and italics, which were reasonable because it was something that was kind of shocking. It wasn’t random. There was an invisible man or woman trying to kill them.

There’s an attempt at a transition, which I don’t think would actually work. Pushing in on Vlad’s bulging eyeball and MATCH CUT to an eye peers through the crack of a door. That’s almost certainly not going to work. But, you know, at least his heart is in the right place. I mean, if you just imagine it, it’s just not – either Wyatt hasn’t written his intention right, or he just hasn’t thought it through. One or the other. It’s not quite right.

And I did have to read a bunch here back over and over, because the geography was a little cluttered to me. He’s in his apartment. An eye peers through the crack of a door. I immediately – I don’t know if you did this – I immediately went to he’s at the front door looking out into the hallway.

John: 100%. I got confused on geography quite a few places in here. I’ll just jump in to say like what I love so much about this is Wyatt gets it. From the title forward, like Wyatt understands what he’s doing. And he seems to have probably read a bunch of scripts and sort of knows how this all works. I felt like I was in really good hands tonally throughout the whole thing. Sort of like he knew what we were expecting and he knew how to sort of honor that and push past it in ways that were really smart.

So you start with these Russian guys talking. The first guy is like, “I’ve lost seventeen pounds in six weeks. All I did was cut bread and sugar.” Which is like the weirdest thing to have Russian guards say, but it was just delightful and gave me a really good sense of like what the tone of this was going to be. But then the action sequence with this invisible guy killing them was great. So I loved all of that. Just really, really well handled.

But I had the same kind of like I had to reread a few things that I don’t think Wyatt understood that we could get confused on. So this confusing geography from the front door, but also on page two, Mandy is in the kitchen and Dave is trying to sneak out past. And we hear, “Yo, Dave, you’re up,” and reveal Mandy is in the bathroom, pissing with the door open. But she was just in the kitchen.

Craig: Right.

John: So I got – like wait, what? So here’s how you could make that make sense. So if Mandy was OS at that point, basically she’s walked off camera. So he doesn’t know where she is. He’s probably assumed she’s gone back to her bedroom. Then if that’s OS, then we hear this, he turns back, and then it’s revealed that she was closer by than he thought. But that seems so trivial, but if I had to read this three times to understand it, there’s a problem.

Craig: I completely agree. Those little things are important. It’s annoying. It’s frustrating. Because there’s actually no creativity involved there. You’ve already done the creativity. So Wyatt has imagined this apartment. He knows. He could draw us a picture of the apartment perfectly. And he might even understand that the time lapse between her cooking breakfast and her in the bathroom is a bit elastic. It’s just that we don’t see it. So there’s this annoying busy work that must be done to protect the creative parts. Think of it that way, Wyatt. It’s just you’re protecting all of your brilliance by doing the annoying parts so that we can see it. It’s as simple as that.

But, yeah, and you know, and Mandy, there’s kind of a fun way of revealing that Mandy is a lesbian, or bisexual. And then we’ve got a great little screenwriting convention here. You’re always looking for some sort of propulsive force through things. You know, we don’t like reading scenes where nothing is happening or people are simply floating through. He’s late for something. We don’t know what it is. Classic simple mini-mystery.

He glances at his watch. It’s 12:07. He’s trying to get out. He gets pulled aside by his neighbor. And now he’s even more late. Now, and this is the part where it’s on that think border between confusing and mysterious, he encounters a crazy homeless lady. He is not taking her seriously until she says something that’s not particularly more crazy than the first thing she said, or the first two things she said. And then he decides, oh OK, you’re coming with. That was one point where I actually wanted to see him react. I needed a moment there where I understood that Dave heard something in what she said the third time that wasn’t there the first two times. And even though we can’t tell the difference, he can.

So, I needed a little moment of recognition there.

John: Craig, I think you actually misread that. And I had the same problem here, too. So, Dave says, “That’s great. I actually have to—“

“…about the one who casts no shadow.” So that following, I think it means that she gets up and starts following him.

Craig: Oh.

John: And so if you take that, so take that parenthetical and break that out as an action line. She gets up and physically follows him. Because then his line like, “Oh, OK, you’re coming with.” Basically she’s just started walking after him because then he sees like Dave and homeless lady are approaching in the next scene. So this homeless lady is just like following him.

Craig: Oh OK.

John: And kept talking to him. It makes good scene sense. It just didn’t make sense with the words on the page.

Craig: Yeah, no. So that was just executed incorrectly. Because following shouldn’t be in parenthesis. The problem with “following” is it’s an ambiguous word. People follow each other just with speech. They follow by understanding, whatever. So I thought he meant following, like I get what you’re trying to do, but I’m going to keep talking.

So you do need to put that in action. And then when Dave says, “Oh, OK, you’re coming with,” I think then Wyatt means to say that Dave is like, “Oh, OK, you’re coming with, like you’re not leaving me.” That does require a parenthesis of like (oh shit) you know. We need to know what his attitude is there, because those words on their own are far too ambiguously read for me to get what’s going on there. But I mean, overall these were very good–

John: Good pages.

Craig: Pages. And it’s a fun tone. And certainly makes me want to keep going. I think you put your finger on it. Wyatt seems to know what he’s doing. And we’re in good hands here, so good job.

John: Cool. All right. Let’s get to our next Three Page Challenge. Mr. Steve Zissis, if you would please give us our next entrant.

Steve: TMU, a pilot by Azhur Saleem. London. 1847. Night at the Tabbard Inn. In a lodger’s room, an oil lantern flickers. A leather case slams on the table. Ervin, a small haggard man, frantically grabs his belongings around the room. He lifts the mattress, retrieving reams of paper – mechanical schematics, machinery layouts, anatomical drawings of human body parts.

Ervin folds the papers away into his carry case. He scrawls a message on a sheet of paper, then doubles over, throwing up a thick tar-like substance. As he tries to compose himself, a burly man bursts into the room. The two men tussle, with burly man going for the carry case. Ervin fights back, rescuing what he can of his papers. In a final desperate effort to escape, Ervin leaps out of the second floor window. Burly man expects to see his [unintelligible] dead on the street below, but to his surprise Ervin is gone.

And those are Azhur Saleem’s three pages.

John: All right. I will start off this one. So, I had a lot of notes here. I had a lot of things that I had a hard time following just on the page. I liked overall where this is going. I liked overall the tone we were able to create. It felt overwritten to me. And I felt like every sentence was about one clause too long. And so I want to sort of really just dig in to the words on the page here less than about the plotting that I saw.

So, this starts with a teaser, so this is some sort of pilot for some sort of show. We’re in Bethnal Green, London. First line here: “Hopeless poverty stains the fabric of this borough. Down one squalid street, several silk weavers close up shop.” So those first two sentences we had fabric and silk, which is sort of the accidental parallel and makes it feel like they’re the same thing, but fabric is a completely different thing than silk for how you’re trying to use it. It was poetry doing you wrong there. So, clean that up a bit I’d say.

I would also advise to sort of combine these first two sections. Because it’s meant to be this establishing shot that gets us into London 1847. And then we’re at the Tabbard Inn. But I kind of felt like we were in the same place the whole time. Maybe it’s one tracking shot. Maybe it’s some way to get us to the Tabbard Inn, like follow somebody to get us there. But it was a lot. I had to sort of slog through it.

The other word that got repeated a lot in this opening section was light. So, “The windows glow with a warm light, which peters out on the river of mud squelching through the street.” Not quite sure what squelching means there.

Craig: Yeah. Mud doesn’t squelch on its own.

John: “Above all the noise and clamor, a second-floor window with a solitary light that illuminates one room.” A light illuminates – it was just a little – again, just a little too much. I felt like there were extra words being thrown in there just to sort of be pretty that weren’t actually helping tell any story or get us moving through the scenes.

Craig: Yeah. Yup. Keep going.

John: Keep going. So, we get into the Tabbard Inn. “An oil lantern flickers on a wooden table.” God, we’ve had a lot of light here so far. Let’s get rid of the rest of this sentence and finally get to our main guy. So, this guy Ervin, he’s described as being blustering around the room. He blusters around the room. Not entirely sure what blusters means in this thing.

But there’s some actions in the next paragraph that are really helpful. “He grabs his belongings from around the room. Throws them into the carry case.” Let’s let that be our first encounter with Ervin and then give him the sentence that describes what he’s like. I felt like I had to go through a long description of what he was like before I could see what he was doing.

He’s in the middle of action. Let’s see the action first before we kind of get into it.

Then finally we start to have this encounter with the burly man. I like the burly man’s dialogue. “Don’t kick up a shine now.” That felt great. That felt period. And the action within this was all good. I was curious to see that there’s something kind of Lovecraftian/Steampunky kind of happening here. And that was really interesting. So l liked when we actually got into the action sequence. I just wanted to get there a little bit faster.

Craig: Yeah. Generally I’m with you. I think that these are good pages in terms of what happens. The character, what he’s doing, and the encounter that occurs is perfectly fine. I agree with you that there’s a bit too much poetry. Here’s the danger with poetry. If it’s good poetry, well, your script has a bunch of unnecessary good poetry in it. If it’s bad poetry, oh boy. And there are things here that are just bad poetry. “The windows glow with a warm light, which peters out on the river of mud squelching through the street.” I don’t know how light peters out on a river of mud. If the windows are glowing with a warm light, they’re glowing. And mud doesn’t squelch on its own. Boots can squelch through mud. It just becomes sort of pointlessly ornate. And it starts to undermine confidence in what’s going on.

My bigger problem with the first half of this page is that it’s boring. If I’m shooting it, I’m so bored. So, I have a shot of a street. I have a shot of an inn. This is London in the middle of a sort of nightmarish, Victorian-ish time. And this is a rough part of town. There must be some better way to do this. Is there a rat running? Is there something – what are we following? Can we follow somebody who is leaving a prostitute and maybe she’s trying to get away and he grabs her and yanks her into the bar. And then we come up to see the light. There’s so many dynamic, fascinating, disturbing, funny, terrifying ways that you can do this and you’ve done none of them. You’ve just shown me a street and then shown me a building.

People and action are interesting. Streets and buildings are just streets and buildings. So, I wanted so much more. And remember, this is the first thing we see. The first thing we see. And you are using this to advertise your creativity here. And if it is not meant to be quiet and soft and small, then it must be somehow invigorating, provocative. And I think that given the tone here you want invigorating and you want provocative.

Similarly, when we get inside the inn, I just was missing a sense of direction. You have this image. He’s going through, he’s rummaging through his room. We’ve seen that a million times, so let’s not imagine that that’s interesting. He’s grabbing up all of these papers. Well, we have a mild interest in what those are. One particular image that we’re going to see – a figure suspended in the air. “Holding him aloft, six mechanical cables IMPLANTED into his back. Man and machine fused together…”

That’s something that could be just sitting there in the foreground. And in the background, there’s this man going around. Somebody lifting up a mattress and pulling stuff out is vaguely interesting because we understand he hid it for a reason. But that’s something that might be more interesting if the show is saying we have more to say than just that. Look at this picture. And then he comes up and then he grabs that picture at the last moment. Or maybe he doesn’t grab that one. That’s the one that he grabs in the fight. But make it special. Make it provocative and bizarre. Give us a moment to look at it so we can be looking at that while he’s doing these other things.

There is some good mystery going on. He’s puking up this creepy black substance. And then, of course, this man appears who is sort of Mr. Hyde-ish. And there’s a good fight. I like the way the fight is spread out. There’s a nice use of white space here, which is all terrific. And then here’s what happens. What happens is we see a street and we see a bar and we see room. We see a guy grabbing papers, and then a man comes in. He beats the guy up. The guy throws himself out a window. And then when the guy looks out the window, that man is gone. There is nothing there that is actually quite shocking to me.

The only thing that is shocking to me is the picture that has been drawn. That is the thing where I got, ooh, what is that? Yikes. Even the puking up black stuff. I’m like, OK, I guess there’s a supernatural thing going on here. Maybe that’s the last thing we see.

But, somehow or another this was well written, it just wasn’t well directed. And–

John: I would agree with you. This is an obvious thing to say, but I think the obvious thing might be the appropriate choice here. So, the action of this scene is that Ervin is like panicked and he’s packing up all his stuff to get out of there. So, why didn’t we start with him outside? Like he’s racing back to the Tabbard to get his stuff to get out of there. And so if those opening shots are like we’re following Ervin as he’s frantically trying to get back to his place and get past the prostitute and the guy fucking in the alley. And then get into the place, to get up to his room. He throws open the door. He’s packing up his stuff. And then the guy shows up. Then there’s at least some – there’s a reason why we had those earlier shots. And he’s helped introduced us to the world.

There might have been also just one opportunity for him to say something to somebody, or some other interaction would have happened before we got into this room and started fighting with this guy.

Craig: Yeah. I agree. Also I thought that the arrival of the burly man was a bit anticlimactic – or not anticlimactic, anti-pre-climatic, because his arrival is announced by footsteps. And generally speaking, if I’m in a show here where this guy is puking up weird creepy black stuff, and he’s dealing with man and machines, this man that’s pursuing him, there should be some hint of Something Wicked This Way Comes. Even if that man himself is not supernatural, here’s a tinkling. There’s somebody outside. The prostitute who is laughing with a guy. And the two of them, suddenly they’re not laughing anymore. Do we hear a body outside hit the ground?

There needs to be some exciting way to let us know, oh shit, the bad person is coming. And so there’s just more – there just needs to be more creativity here, I think.

John: I agree with you. The last thing I want to point out is that in both of the blocks of dialogue it’s starting with dot-dot-dot. But there’s no sort of pre-dialogue to get us into there. I don’t understand why there’s dialogue that’s starting dot-dot-dot. So he says, “…No, not yet.” “…Don’t kick up a shine now.” I don’t understand why the dot-dot-dots were there.

So, get rid of the dots.

Craig: Yeah. I’ve never actually done the preceding dot-dot-dots unless there was a trailing dot-dot-dot prior to it. And usually I wouldn’t capitalize the first letter of the first word following a dot-dot-dot because it is a continuation of something. It’s not the beginning of something. So, yeah, but that didn’t – believe me, if everything else was great, I wouldn’t have cared.

John: I wouldn’t have cared either. All right, Mr. Zissis, bring us home. If you could please read us the third Three Page Challenge.

Steve: Four Nineteen, but Ashley Sanders. The year is 2002. On a street in suburban Manchester, parents and their kids leave a birthday party. Owen Millar drives his four-year-old son, Sam, home. At home, Owen feeds his son, bathes him, then puts him to bed. Later, Owen’s wife, Sara, comes home. Takes off her makeup as Owen reads in bed. Through the course of the night, we come back to the time on the clock. 11:47. Owen tosses and turns. 1:12. Sara gets up to go to the bathroom and checks in on Sam. He’s fast asleep. 4:18. A moan from Sam’s room wakes Owen. 4:19. Owen goes to investigate. He opens the door to find two figures standing over Sam’s bed. One lifting the still sleeping child. That’s when we reach the end of page three.

Craig: I really enjoyed this. There is a strange thing that happens I think when stuff is working somewhat well. And that is it can impart a feeling without any individual piece of something telling you this is what you should feel. And overall what I felt was a growing sense of weird, unsettling dread. And I didn’t know why. That’s the best kind of dread. Because that’s actually how dread works.

You start to feel something and you don’t know why, because not one single thing that’s happening in and of itself is demanding of anxiety. And yet anxiety is what you feel.

So, let’s talk a little bit about sort of the first page. We’ll call this the normal life of things. We’re EXT. Suburban Street, Manchester. Please tell us if this is Manchester, United Kingdom, Manchester, New Hampshire, Manchester, Texas. Where are we?

John: Yes.

Craig: Manchester in and of itself is not specific enough. Opening credits and music over “4 TODAY party balloons tied to a garden gate.” I understood that, but I think four should probably be spelled out F-O-U-R, because otherwise it’s 4, number 4 today, what is it 4 Today party balloons? It’s weird to start a sentence with a digit.

John: Yeah. What did you take that as? Were the balloons printed with 4 Today?

Craig: No.

John: Or there were four Today balloons. Four balloons printed with the word Today.

Craig: Today. Like the party is Today. I think? But hard to tell. Generally speaking, what you don’t need to say is something like, “The cars, clothes and haircuts tell us this isn’t present day. CAPTION: 2002” The caption does it. Also, we don’t really call them – captioning is more of something that is imposed upon a movie to indicate this is what these people are saying in another language, or this is what this sign means in another language. Generally we would say Title.

John: Or super.

Craig: Or super. Exactly. Not caption.

John: Here’s my suggestion for that sentence getting into it. I would get that down to, “The cars, clothes, and haircuts tell us we’re in…,” here’s a good use of dot-dot-dot, “Super: 2002”

So you’re letting the page do some of the work for you here.

Craig: Right. I think that’s exactly right. I like actually how mundane this is. It’s so boring, and that’s exactly the right choice. So we have Owen. He’s the dad. And he has his young four-year-old son, Sam. And they’re returning from a birthday party. And now they’re in a – and I like the way also that this was done here. Ashely, our author, has done something that answers a question that we get all the time, which is how do you slug line or scene head scenes that take place in a house but in lots of different rooms and all sort of smushed together. This is how I would do it probably. We’re INT. MILLAR HOUSE. DAY. And then as we move around she just gives us bolded notes for where we are, which rooms we are. And we understand therefore that time is passing. And it is compressed. And there’s no need to over-explain it.

They’re watching dinner. He gives Sam a bath. They’re enjoying it. He reads his son a book. Now he’s alone. Suburban boring life. He’s drinking a beer, standing outside on the patio. His wife comes home. She gives him a kiss. Now she’s getting ready for bed. He’s getting ready for bed. There’s a little bit of a reminder that we are post-9/11. Owen reads a colour supplement in bed. Now I know, by the way, we’re in Manchester, United Kingdom, because it’s colour and supplement.

The front cover is a picture of the Twin Towers, the strap line: One Year On.

John: Strap Line. Yeah. So many things in one sentence revealed it. Yeah.

Craig: It’s the most English sentence in history. Colour Supplement. Strap line.

So in America we will not know what a strap line is, nor will we know what a colour supplement is. Twin Towers would be capitalized because that was a proper noun. And now they’re sleeping, kind of.

So, by this point on page two, either this is intentional or it’s not, but if it’s intentional I am enjoying how perfectly boring this is. It feels intentionally boring. That’s what we want.

And then what happens is Ashley delivers more intentional boredom, but now the dread begins to grow. There are these elements. Each parent wakes up for whatever reason. As mundane as I need to pee. And then goes right back to bed. Every time they move across the landing, there’s a floor board that creaks. Does it mean something? Maybe not. It happens each time. There is a little nightlight. Sam is sleeping. The clock keeps advancing. Keeps advancing. And then at the end of page three, he just again – repetition – the clock changes to 4:19. Owen gets out of bed. He crosses the landing. There’s the creak again. He steps into Sam’s bedroom. And gets an adrenaline jolt like a brick in the face. Very good.

And two figures are standing over Sam’s bed. One lifting the still sleeping child. This is very exciting. And we know from the title that the time 4:19 means something. I felt like this was expertly done, in my opinion. I really enjoyed it.

John: I really enjoyed it, too. So, a few things I would suggest for Ashley. I liked how she moved around the house. I would say for INT. MILLAR HOUSE on page one, rather than DAY say VARIOUS, which gives a sense of like, OK, this is going to be at different times. Or DAY TO NIGHT. Because you ultimately are going into night. So it’s a way of cluing in the reader we’re going to be here for a while, so just go with me.

I thought the Twin Towers stuff was on the nose when I read it, but it totally could work. I mean, nothing else bumped me, so I would totally forgive the Twin Towers stuff. And it does let me know that something bad is going to happen, probably, so that’s useful.

I loved near the bottom of page two, “Sam is spread-eagle in bed, sleeping the way only little kids can.” Absolutely true. Here’s what I liked about Ashley’s writing here. She was observant of normal human behavior in a way that felt like, oh, these are actual people. This is not just people in a movie. And that was great.

So, I loved the suspense I was feeling. Like the suspense of like I know something is going to happen just because of how she’s doing this on the page. And I’m really nervous. And there wasn’t thrum. She wasn’t talking about the music. Just the way it was done on the page, I could feel what the movie was going to feel like, and that was suspenseful. So, really nicely done.

Craig: Really nicely done. And also a little note on the title of the episode. So the series is called Four Nineteen. And this is episode is Episode 1, Sleep and Dream of Home. What a fantastic title. And I’ll tell you, that actually goes further with me than, Oh Fuck, I’m Invisible. Because it’s not gimmicky and yet I’m already somehow nervous. Sleep and Dream of Home. It’s very Neil Gaiman-y. It was all just really well done.

Ashley Sanders can do this and I’m excited for whatever this is. You never know, right? I mean, these things can turn into this wonderful series or not, but she can write. And she can write in this format. So very well done, Ashely. Very well done.

John: One last wrap up note. For both Ashley’s script and for Wyatt Cain’s script, which had title pages on them, they left off the word Written or Written by, so traditionally on screenplays and teleplays you will spell out Written by for this kind of thing, rather than just By or rather than just your name. So do say Written by. Put it on a separate line. That’s sort of the standard format here. And it’s just – it’s nice. There’s no reason to not do that on your title page.

Craig: Agreed.

John: So I would also want to celebrate the wonder of Steve Zissis, so thank you very much for reading these aloud for us. If you have three pages you would like us to take a look at, go to, all written out there. And there’s a form you can fill out. You can attach your PDF. And it will go into Godwin’s inbox. And he will take a look at it. So he picks the ones he thinks are going to be the most interesting, so not necessarily the best, never the worst, and we take a look at them every couple of weeks.

Thank you to all three of these writers for being so brave to share these with us.

Craig: Indeed.

John: All right, it’s time for our One Cool Things. Mine is A Speck of Dust, the new Netflix comedy special by Sarah Silverman. It is delightful. So if you have Netflix, it is there. And you should watch it. I loved Sarah Silverman’s show on Comedy Central. And I was at the taping actually for one of her previous specials, Jesus is Magic, which is just so great. And I haven’t gone back to watch the special, but I feel like if the camera ever pans past me, there are moments during that special where I couldn’t breathe anymore. Like I had to sort of close my eyes and recapture oxygen in my body.

What I really appreciated, though, about this new special, A Speck of Dust, is what a good writer she is. Because she’s, I mean, after doing this for so many years, she’s a really good performer. She knows how to sell a joke, but the very careful ways in which she sets things up and comes back to them.

There’s a moment pretty early on in the show where she does a throwaway line, and then she stops and she goes back and she explains what a throwaway line and why she threw that joke away. And how it’s all going to – basically why you throw some jokes away, because they work better that way. But then she folds that back in to where it’s going. You recognize that it’s all so carefully planned and yet so effortless. It was really remarkably done.

So, I’d really recommend everybody check out A Speck of Dust, by Sarah Silverman.

Craig: If the world were fair, only comedies would receive awards. The level of skill and awareness and specificity and craft that goes into things like this are just remarkable, and she is an exceptionally good performer and writer. There’s no question about that. She really is at the top of her game.

So, my One Cool Thing, is somebody else who is at the top of their game. John, did you watch the BBC Miniseries, Sherlock?

John: I watched the first two seasons. I have not watched this most recent season. I will tell you that I fell off the Sherlock bandwagon, but I think you’re right in the middle of the Sherlock bandwagon, aren’t you?

Craig: Well, I went ahead and binged the whole damn thing because I was on a long flight and it seemed like a good idea. And the truth is there are parts of the show that I absolutely love, and there are parts where I’m like, meh. But my One Cool Thing is Mark Gatiss, who is both the co-creator and co-writer of the series, and also he plays Mycroft Holmes.

John: Oh, I didn’t realize that was the writer. He is so fantastic.

Craig: Yes. He really is – I hope I’m pronouncing his name right. It could be Gatiss. It’s Gatiss. Probably should have done the homework on that. Regardless, these are the people that somehow make me feel so terrible about myself because here he is, he was a performer and writer in a popular comedy troupe in the UK. Then he was running, writing, and occasionally acting in Doctor Who for a number of seasons. Then he does this. And he acts in it. And he does all these other things.

Ugh, I didn’t do anything today.

His portrayal of Mycroft Holmes is phenomenal. I would love a show that’s just Mycroft Holmes. That would be the most amazing series, just the Mycroft series. It’s spectacular.

He also, if you watch Game of Thrones, he also has appeared as Tycho Nestoris, I think the character’s name is. He’s the banker from the Iron Bank of Bravos who sits there–

John: Of course, that’s right.

Craig: And patiently explains to Stannis why they’re not going to back him with cash. Mark Gatiss, just spectacular. And, again, do look at – if you haven’t seen the show, and if you don’t get into it, you don’t get into it. But his portrayal of Mycroft is just wonderful.

John: Agreed.

All right, that is our show for this week. So, as always, it is produced by Godwin Jabangwe. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week comes from Sam Brady. If you have an outro, you can send us a link to That’s also the place where you send questions like the ones we answered today. But the short questions, we love them on Twitter. So Craig is @clmazin. I am @johnaugust.

We’re on Facebook. Search for Scriptnotes Podcast. You can find us on Apple Podcasts. Just look for Scriptnotes. If you’re there, leave us a review. That does help – helps other people find our show.

You can find the show notes for this episode, including the PDFs for the Three Page Challenges at You’ll also find transcripts there. They go up about four days after the episode posts. And you can find all the back episodes at, including the Justin Marks episode I reference today, which is really just terrific.

So, Craig, thanks for a fun episode.

Craig: Thank you, John. I will see you, whether you like it or not, next week.

John: Awesome.