The original post for this episode can be found here.

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

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is Episode 318 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

Today on the podcast we won’t be talking much about screenwriting at all. Instead, we’re going to be looking at writing books and songs and other things with some advice for collaborating with folks outside of our normal expertise. To help us do that we have Aline Brosh McKenna back to join us. Welcome Aline.

Aline Brosh McKenna: I am back in black.

John: So Aline Brosh McKenna is the Joan Rivers of our podcast in the sense that she is a frequent visitor, but also special in a way that Joan Rivers was special to us all.

Craig: Yep.

Aline: Everyone tells me that all the time.

Craig: All day long.

John: Before we get into the meat of the episode we have some reminders. Craig and I will be at the Austin Film Festival at the end of October. We’re going to be doing a live show. We’re also going to be doing a live Three Page Challenge. So for the Three Page Challenge we’re doing at Austin, we have a special little checkbox you can mark if you are submitting a script to the Three Page Challenge that says I will be at Austin and will be in the audience.

So if you’re going to go to Austin and you would like us to consider your Three Page Challenge, you need to go to Attach your script like normal, but then also check the little box that says I will be at the Austin Film Festival.

And so our producer, Megan, will be going through those scripts and picking some great ones for us to talk about live on stage and to invite those screenwriters up on stage with us to discuss what they wrote.

Craig: And we’re pretty nice to them. I mean, we don’t soft pedal anything when we do those in Austin. I don’t think we are any more or less discriminating about our comments, but I don’t want anyone to think that we beat you up or humiliate you in front of anyone. That’s never happened. We’re very nice.

Aline: Have any of those turned into movies or sold screenplays?

John: So, yes. Some of the Three Page Challenges we have looked at have sort of moved up through the ranks. I don’t know if anything has actually been produced yet, but they’ve placed well on Black List things. They’ve gotten people started. So, every once and awhile we’ll get — actually, the last episode somebody wrote in saying the three pages we looked at were instrumental in the rewrite and so therefore they were thanking us for helping out down the road.

Aline: And have you guys ever thought of sending in three pages of your own to see how it went?

Craig: We did it.

John: Craig and I on an early episode we took a look at our first scripts.

Craig: The very first ones.

Aline: But I mean sending it in randomly.

Craig: [laughs]

John: Absolutely. The other one wouldn’t know that it was one of us.

Aline: I think you should just to see if it made it past your producer.

Craig: I think they will. I think they will. Yeah. Not to put down our pool of applicants, but yeah, I think we would make it through. I got to be honest with you.

Aline: I just found an old script from 2000. I mean, I went into the garage and I looked at the titles on the side and I was like, oh my god, I forgot that one. But I found an unsold spec from 2000. And the first 15 pages I was like this is pretty cute, and then it was just shame spiral.

John: Oh yeah.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Have you gone back to redo any of your old scripts? Have you tried to dust anything off?

Aline: You know what? A producer called me like a couple months ago and wanted to some of my old stuff. So most of it wasn’t on a computer anywhere. So, I had to scan it. That was pretty funny. And it had my notes in it. And a couple of those were pretty good. Those were two that had sold and I don’t think he’s going to do anything with them, but you know when people ask me if I have anything, I point them towards things.

John: Well you were so busy writing new things, so tell us about the new things. First off, you have a new season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend happening.

Aline: Indeed.

John: This is season three. So when do we start to see the new episodes?

Aline: Friday, October 13. Friday the 13 we start airing.

Craig: Right around the corner.

Aline: So we’re midway through shooting the season and so I’m pretty tired. But yeah it’s exciting. I can make an announcement here.

John: We’re so excited.

Craig: Oh! God!

Aline: Your friend and our friend, John Gatins, is going to be appearing on our television program.

John: Is he playing a high school quarterback?

Aline: He is not. He is playing somebody really handsome and memorable. And someone sings a song about him.

Craig: Huh. OK.

John: That sounds great. So John Gatins was also in my movie The Nines. I don’t know if that was his last acting credit, but he’s a very talented screenwriter but also a person who can be put in front of a lens without breaking a camera.

Aline: Yes. He has another thing coming up that he’s acting in, but I’m not at liberty to disclose. But I think this is a burgeoning little area for him. I think we should all as we retire look towards these like cottage industries. This leads naturally to what we’re saying.

Craig: Yeah. There’s no surprise here. I mean, John Gatins is an A-list screenwriter who would at any given point swap out whatever he is working on as a screenwriter to do one day on a show with three lines. That’s a fact. He is a — I guess the most frustrated actor. He was an actor. He should have been an actor. He’s a pretty good actor, you know.

Aline: He still seems like a movie star.

Craig: He does. But the problem is he’s got skills. Like he’s got skills — his skill as a writer is extraordinary. His skill as an actor, forgive me John, is not extraordinary. It is good. But it’s not–

Aline: Well he was smart enough to figure that out.

Craig: Yeah. Yeah. But, man, he’s got the bug. You can tell.

John: All right. So we have Aline here not to talk about John Gatins, but to talk about and really to plug her new project. So this is Jane. This is a graphic novel that is the retelling of the story of Jane Eyre. How did this come to be? So first off, we should say — full disclosure — this book is available today as this podcast comes out.

Aline: September 19.

John: That should be the day this episode drops.

Aline: Great.

Craig: Drops.

John: September 19, they’re buying your book. Everybody who is listening to this podcast should pause and buy the book and then listen to the rest of this podcast so we can talk about this book.

Aline: Yes please.

John: What is it and how did it come to be?

Aline: So about six years ago I signed on to adapt a graphic novel called Rust, which I loved, which was published by a company named Archaia. And in adapting that graphic novel I kind of fell in love with graphic novels in general and started just devouring them. And I got infatuated with this artist named Ramón Pérez who did a book called Tale of Sand. And I had had an idea that I thought could be a movie but wasn’t necessarily a movie. And so I started talking to the folks at Archaia, including Stephen Christy who now runs their — Archaia was later bought by BOOM! And Stephen runs BOOM!’s movie department.

So I started talking to them about doing a book. And I really wanted to do it with Ramón. And I was always obsessed with the Bronte sisters’ novels as a kid, particularly Jane Eyre. And what I loved about Jane Eyre was the kind of sensual relationship that the books kind of in three parts, her growing up, her being with Rochester, and after Rochester. And I was always kind of infatuated with — and would go back and reread the Rochester section.

And I realized that was sort of my love template was the sort of remote kind of emotionally constipated difficult dark man. Love stories that I like. I think people who like Wuthering Heights are more into those stories where the love interest is like your sibling, like twinning. But I was always interested in men who were very other.

So I always wanted to do kind of an updated version of that. So I pitched that to Archaia and we got Ramón on board. And then–

John: Can I stop you for a second?

Aline: Yeah.

John: To talk about what a pitch is like to a comic book or a graphic novel house. So, how are you describing it? Was it sort of like going on a movie pitch? This is what it’s going to be and these are the beats of the story? What were you describing it as?

Aline: I don’t know if I can have the most representative experience, because I was working with Stephen and Archaia every single day. So Steve and I talked about it a ton and I wrote an outline for it and I gave it to him. Maybe I wrote like a five or ten-page outline that I gave to him. But, we were sort of dying to work together, so it was like — I think I had less of a screening process than you might normally have.

I will say that every single piece of it took forever. Sending in the outline. Them deciding to do the book. Finding Ramón. Getting Ramón. Making Ramón’s deal. Then waiting for him to be available, because he’s like one of the premier comic book illustrators and he’s always booked back to back to back.

So we had to wait for him, so in the meanwhile what we did was Ramón did a first series of drawings. And basically the book is like the sensual part of Jane Eyre, the Rochester part, in contemporary New York. And it’s a young girl who goes to be a nanny for a rich powerful man who is sort of Bruce Wayne like and gets pulled into his world. And at first it was going to be a little bit more genre spy and have more action in it. And so as we started working on it we thought, hey, this could be a movie. And so we sold it to Fox 2000 with Kinberg attached to produce it five years ago.

John: This is Simon Kinberg?

Aline: Simon Kinberg, yeah. So Simon Kinberg and Genre, his company, we pitched it around. Fox 2000 was the one who bought it. And I worked on it as a screenplay for maybe two years. And I had many different versions of it. As a movie, it was very hard to crack because as you guys know when you put any action intrigue thriller stuff into your script, it’s one of those things, it’s like dropping a tiny spore in a glass and then you come back a couple days later and it’s just covered in mold. Any little bit of action or intrigue that you build to — that you put in the beginning of a script really has to lead to something kind of monumental.

And that collision of that genre with the romance was always very difficult to calibrate. And at some point it seemed like the studio was looking for really just an updated version of Jane Eyre and I had wanted to add this overlay of kind of intrigue and corporate plotting. So, I developed it with them for a couple years. They had an option on the book. And then they fell out of option. And so Ramón and I started working on the book with three or four different drafts that I had written for Fox 2000, all of which were a little bit different.

John: So, to back up here, you have this idea for a book.

Aline: Yes.

John: And you make the deal for the book. But before you actually write the book you’re selling the rights to Fox 2000 and developing the screenplay and there’s still no book?

Aline: No, my god, we’re so far from a book. So we had sample drawings that I brought around with me and I met with everybody. And it’s actually, as you know, great to walk in holding something. So I had these beautiful drawings from Ramón. And so that was part of the sales pitch of it. And in working on the screenplay was sort of developing the book at the same time. And I was waiting for Ramón to be ready, also.

And so there was no book for a really long time and I think the studio started to believe there never was going to be a book. And I have never waited for a man more than I have waited for Ramón. I mean, I was like metaphorically waiting outside his doorstep for a very long time. And then he — when he finally turned his attention to it we kind of sat down, looked to what I had done with the screenplay, and then kind of formulated a story which was actually quite different from the screenplays. Because I had become convinced overtime that the kind of Hitchcocky plot needed to be very streamlined. And it could for a book.

And that’s what was great was like for a movie, especially in the moment that we’re in right now, you can’t really have — I mean, if you look at a lot of the Hitchcock movies they crescendo to a moment of great tension, but not action and not things blowing up, and not nuclear briefcases. And maybe you guys can think of one, but I can’t really think of a movie that has that sort of like Hitchcockian thriller thing but doesn’t build to a big genre — doesn’t then owe a third act where people are shooting each other in armor tanks.

Craig: Well, Get Out sort of I think is a kind of neo-Hitchcock kind of thing.

Aline: Yeah, horror. But that really is like, yeah for sure. And horror is definitely — like Get Out is horror but not very gory. But it’s a little bit more in the world of jump scares and Jane is a little bit more in the world of like Rebecca.

Craig: Right. Right.

Aline: Where it’s a romantic drama with thriller elements — suspicion, those kinds of things.

John: What you’re describing sounds more like what we do in television now, or what you do on limited run television, like a Netflix show can have that sustained build but doesn’t have the expectation of giant set pieces all the time.

Aline: Right. And so as a movie I started to understand why they were nervous about it and what was good about that was having explored that then when we got a chance to go full boar on the book we just were able to throw that aside and really go for the simplicity of the romance. There is an intrigue plot and there is a big twist in the book that I came up with after I saw the first schematic that Ramón did.

Ramón did a book that had partly finished art and then partly kind of sketches. And it’s really beautiful. I have it in my house. It’s gorgeous.

John: So, Aline, what were you actually writing? What was the document that you created that then Ramón would use as he went off to do art? Like what were you handing him?

Aline: Well, in our case because we had so many scripts we kind of started with that. And then he would do like a sketch book that was sort of taking certain bits and pieces of it and then I would respond to him with notes about the story. And then we had a couple of meetings where we went through and at that point you’re kind of — you’re kind of outside of text in a way because you’re in — you’re just in pictures, so you’re kind of making a silent movie in a way, like Ramón is.

You know, he’s really looking to boil down the pictures and it takes a while before you get back to the dialogue part. Because we were just talking about kind of purely visual storytelling. And this was — a lot of the stuff I did before I was working on the TV show. And a lot of what was driving me was before I did the TV show, I think I’ve talked about this here, I had really reached a point with movies where answering to directors is really challenging, especially when you’ve been doing it for twenty some years, and not having control over your finished product. Whether you love the director or don’t like the director, at the end of the day not having final say gets to be excruciating.

And so the book was someplace where Ramón and I were collaborating but his skills are different from mine. But I had final say over the story, so it was kind of like directing in a sense. But like sitting with your DP and they’re coming up with amazing visuals to translate the story. So there was a whole period time where it was really just pictures that were going back and forth. And I would look at the sequence.

And so because Ramón is so busy and because we had taken so long, Ramón finally gave me a pass that had all the images in it and kind of temped dialogue, you know, which you can imagine what that’s like. It was sort of temp dialogue. Some of which had been in the screenplay, but not a lot of it. Some from the beginning had. But then a bunch of it was just like stuff that had been slugged in there to kind of reflect what was happening.

So then I did two or three giant passes where I went through the book and I did dialogue. And what was funny is no one ever gave me a script. I kept asking them, “do you have all of the dialogue in one editable document?” And I probably could have had somebody do it. Instead, what I did was I kind of drew pictures and wrote notes and scribbled on it and drew bubbles. And so we ended up doing that all the way through two or three times to make sure that all the dialogue matched the action. And then there’s a little bit of, you know, at a certain point when we had this deadline Ramón had drawn some things and I wanted to tweak the story a little bit, but the art was already done. So it reminded me a lot of editing where you just got what you got, and then you’ve got to make it make sense, which is always kind of fun and challenging.

So we did a lot of passes through the dialogue once the images were all in there. And he’s very innovative in terms of the way he chooses to tell story. And it’s way, way sparer than a movie is. And there is some voiceover in there. You know, at the end really scrambling and getting drafts back was really fun, and the letterer is incredibly talented. It’s very beautiful. And the woman who did the color with Ramon is very talented. I can give you their names and their Twitter handles.

And so he’s a true artist in a sense that — as writers and directors like, yeah, you know, he’s an artist, she’s an artist. Meh. But like an artist-artist that you think of as a kid. You know, like somebody who picks up pen and ink and makes art. I think he’s a magician.

John: Let’s talk about your use of time. Because this was five years of your life. And so it wasn’t continuous, but it was a lot of your time. And every time there was a new draft there was more stuff to do. And I don’t know the economics of all it, but I’m 90% sure that this was not profitable to you in any useful way.

Aline: It was not, no.

John: But so why do it? Why — was it worth it?

Aline: I really wanted to have a finished product that I could hold in my hand that was mine. As I was saying, I just had had a lot of experiences with movies where I could kind of see my work in the movie if I squinted my eyes and didn’t look too closely and it had been changed so much by the time the movie got made and that’s a tough thing. So I really wanted to do something that I could have the final say over.

And then the other element of it was I always thought I was going to be a novelist as a kid. At a certain point it became clear to me that I was not really like a prose person, like a person who lives to sort of polish prose. And I remember being at a point thinking, god, what am I going to do if I want to be a writer but I’m not like somebody who wants to describe a forest for half a page.

So when I found graphic novels it was kind of similar to when I discovered movies. I mean, obviously I knew movies existed. But when I started looking at them as something I could do, it’s a format I really love because it’s also visual storytelling. But you don’t have to have a director tell you you can’t do what you want.

John: It sounds like you made it through the whole process without ever sort of hitting a graphic novel or comic book script. Because there is–

Aline: There is a more official format for graphic novels and I’m sure you can find samples of it. And they look like treatments and they’re very dense treatments and they’re like for a whole book they’re probably 60 pages. But because I had written multiple versions of the script we kind of started in conversation about that. And the other thing was it gave Ramón a lot more leeway.

And because I hadn’t written a lot of graphic novels, I wasn’t like panel six is this, panel nine is that, panel 12 is this. And I don’t think he would have enjoyed that. I think one of the reasons that he wanted to work with me was because there was a lot of room for him to invent in the storytelling and sort of come up with visual ways to translate the story beats.

John: Craig, you know, you’re going off now to do your TV show for HBO, and is there any part of your experience that is similar to Aline’s in the sense of like you want to do something that is actually just yours, that’s new territory? It’s not something that you’ve done before?

Craig: Well I suppose I would say that foolishly every time I start anything I think of it as mine. The difference here is that it’ll stay mine. And in movies they take it away. So, I just never learned the lesson. I don’t know how else really to write anything anyway unless I just think, well, this is mine. It’ll be mine as long as it’s mine.

But I think the major difference is going to come down the line. I mean, I have had the experience a number of times in movies where I have not worked like a typical screenwriter. You and I have talked about the Screenwriter Plus. So, I end up in editing rooms. And I end up in lots of meetings and talking about budget and planning and all the rest of it. So, I’ve had the experience there, but ultimately in film, yeah, at some point–

Aline: Yeah, I have, too. And I know John has, too. But when you’re in a room and you know somebody else can — you know, ultimately someone else has final say, you will really enjoy being in a situation where you’re the commander of the writing.

Craig: Yeah. Well, I’m definitely the commander of the writing. There’s no question about that. And I think the good news is that our little family that we’re putting together is pretty great. And we’re all very respectful of each other and I think we all want to hear from each other. And so I’m not really actually dwelling that much, frankly, on the specifics of the authority fact, you know? I’m just kind of going about trying to make the best thing I can with these people.

John: I got to visit Aline on set this season to watch them filming a musical number, which was fantastic. And there’s still glitter that I find in my shoes. And one of the things that really impressed me about it is you had sort of a quiet authority as we were sort of sitting in video village watching things. And you would sort of ask me a question or you would sort of make an observation and the director, you were totally respectful to the director and to the choreographer and to Rachel who is doing stuff, but you were mindful of things that they might not otherwise have seen.

And I think that can be a crucial role for a writer on any set, but particularly when it’s your thing. You have a vision of what the overall thing is you’re trying to achieve. I didn’t hear you saying do this, don’t do this, but you were sort of reminding people of what your priorities were.

Aline: The three of us have often talked about how strange it is that there isn’t an onset writer on every project. Because we know the story. We’ve imagined the world before anyone else. So the only reason to cast that person aside is an ego reason. I can’t see any other reason to do it. And the directors that I worked with that welcomed me into the process where I was that Screenwriter Plus were the most confident ones.

So, you know, and a TV show, it emanates from the writing. And that is a cultural — I actually found as a screenwriter I thought a lot more about, hey, how can I get my point across in a tactful way? And in TV you don’t really need to. You just are the person that they’ll go to to ask which pants should they be wearing and what source music should be playing. And what color should this character’s hair be? And you know all those things.

John: Absolutely.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, the weirdness of the delineation in movies is such that they think that the writer is just responsible for whatever they consider to be writing. But the problem is what they consider to be writing is a very narrow view. It’s certainly an incomplete view. And in television, somehow magically, they all understand that writing encompasses everything. We don’t go into these things not thinking about all of this stuff. It is a bizarre business we work in because I think that for everybody else it comes down to questions of title.

Literally. I don’t know why they are so sheep-like in their need for titles and authority that is rigidly defined by titles. But it is why when you are making a television show if you’re the head person on that television show, you need to be called Executive Producer. That’s it. If you’re not, you’re not. Because they need it. It’s the weirdest thing.

And really it should just be writer like in charge.

Aline: Well, because it’s a military operation, you know. It is. And so in those situations they need to know and it really is for practical purposes. You know, on our show from the beginning Rachel and I and Erin Ehrlich, we had three executive producers, but I’m the showrunner which is an extra designation. And you need to have that also because if there’s multiple executive producers, really for all practical purposes, the people on the crew need to know who they can go to to get the fastest answer that won’t change. Because you waste money and time if you’re going to this person and then they change and then it changes and then it changes.

So, having one person who is answering that shirt should be blue; the watch should be black. He should have blond hair. You want to make that one person for practical purposes as much as anything else. And in television that’s the writer.

Craig: Yep.

Aline: And, you know, I just wanted to say movies are in a desperate place creatively right now. I mean, I’ve left my house to go to the movies I think four times this year. And I think one of them is Get Out. We’ve all seen Get Out. Kind of a cut above. And TV is so good right now because it belongs to writers. It’s run by writers. I firmly believe that. And through whatever accident of circumstance made that happen, I’m really hoping that the movie business learns from like if you let the people who create the stories manage the stories, your stuff will be better.

Craig: Although, I have to say if you look at the historical context of these things, you could also point to the ‘70s and say that in the ‘70s, at the height of auteurism, movies were vastly superior to television. There was still the same delineation. The directors were in charge of movies. Writers were in charge of television. And an enormous amount of television was horrendous. Nothing like what it is now.

It seems to me that one of the keys to all of this is what’s happening on the other side of the creative line between us — all of us, directors and writers — and the companies that are asking us to make things. In television right now, because of the multiplicity of formats and the delivery system, I think that the people on the other side are adventuresome and also craving content. They are content hungry. Which means people are getting a chance to try things. And on the movie side, on the other side of this line, the people making movies are frightened. They are very restricted in how much content they want. And they are very limited in the kind of content that they’re willing to pay for.

So, all of that is a squeeze down. It is tempting to say, well, if we put the writers in charge, as opposed to putting the directors in charge, everything would change in film. I think it’s just as easy for people to point to this weekend with It and say, well, there is a director who is in charge and a different person who wrote the script.

Mostly I wish I could just say to the people running the movie studios, the movie parts, the feature parts, that writers don’t need to be in charge of movies any more than directors need to be in charge of movies. Writers and directors together should be in charge of movies. At any given moment on a set, if they decide that the director needs to have the ultimate authority there in that moment. That’s fine. But it’s the philosophy of auteurism that’s the stupidest thing and I think does rot away at a lot of what would have been otherwise been good films.

John: I can definitely see that. And circling back to what Aline was saying about sort of having to have one person in charge, having a militaristic operation, I think the reason why we get to that point is that the stakes are so high. Time is limited. Money is limited. Someone has to make those decisions and there’s all this pressure on it. And I wonder if part of the reason why you wanted to go off and do this graphic novel is because there was no pressure. There were not stakes. It was just basically — for you it was kind of a lark. And if it turned out great, fantastic. If it didn’t turn out great, there’s no skin off your back.

And to me like the Big Fish musical was to some degree that, at least in the early stages. Once it became — we were headed to Broadway, then the stakes were incredibly high. But for years as we were developing that show, the stakes were just like, well, we wrote a song. Like we made a thing. That song was delightful. And it’s a thing that didn’t exist otherwise.

Some of the stuff I do with apps is a similar kind of thing where the stakes just aren’t as high. I don’t have to get somebody’s permission.

Aline: And also you get to derive that beginning, middle, and end of a process of a product, of having something you can hold in your hand. And, you know, the writer girl that I was at 12 years old would be super thrilled to see this graphic novel about Jane Eyre. And rather quite confused by the giant pile of unproduced scripts in my garage. So, you know, you don’t set out to generate a bunch of printed out pieces of paper. You generate to make things. And I think now more than ever people want to make things. And screenwriters who are in a more frustrating circumstance, kind of everyone I know is making some thing.

John: Yeah. We always talk to these aspiring writers who say like, oh, it’s so frustrating as I do these things, and we always try to remind them unlike an actor or unlike a director a writer can just go off and write something, which is fantastic. But I think sometimes we forget that lesson ourselves is that we end up sort of seeking permission to write the things or we might go off and spec our own thing down the road, but usually we’re busy enough writing the stuff for the studios and we’re sort of in that grind.

Aline: But Craig, same thing for you. Or Chernobyl was like, yeah, I’ll do this. And it was sort of a sideline during many years of doing busy screenwriting stuff.

Craig: No, no, not really.

Aline: No?

Craig: No.

Aline: I mean, not on a sideline, but it’s certainly not making you as much money as the other stuff.

Craig: Oh, no, financially it’s nothing at all like that. No. There’s no question about that. But the amount of time that I have devoted to it and the amount of time I’m going to devote to it will probably make it the thing that I have worked the longest and hardest on, actually. I mean, because it’s five scripts. They’re each 60 — well, the last one is a little bit longer. So, think of it as like basically three movies. So it’s three movies worth of scripts and then there’s, you know, all of the prep and then the production and the post. It’s going to be a lot. And then just an enormous amount of research, also.

The nice thing about writing some kinds of movies, and I did about two weeks of research for Identity Thief. You know, I’ve done years of research for this. So, no, this is a pretty serious endeavor for me.

Aline: Can I say you have one of the most eclectic, delightfully eclectic filmographies of anyone I know.

Craig: It’s about to get more. I’m about to achieve levels of, yeah, strange eclecticism. No one would…

Aline: IMDb head scratcher.

Craig: Yeah, I think that’s great.

Aline: Oh, I think it’s great, too. I mean, listen, a lot of the writers and directors that we love from like the ‘30s and ‘40s in particular, it’s like they did everything. They made every kind of movie. George Cukor. They made every kind of movie. William Wyler.

John: As I always say in interviews, my favorite genre of movies are movies that get made. So I will happily write anything that can possibly exist.

Craig: Pretty much. But I think that there is a nice thing that does happen after a while. If you do spend a lot of time doing what you are asked to do, and what you’re being paid well to do, then eventually you do arrive at a moment where you have the luxury of saying I’m going to spend a lot of time now on something that I’m not going to make a lot of money on, but I just care about. I couldn’t have done that before. I just, you know, this is where when people do talk a little bit about the economic realities of starting out in Hollywood now, I am incredibly sympathetic to people who are like, look, this whole business now seems to be designed to be a place where independently wealthy children can begin to work. Because–

Aline: Boy, I really agree with that.

Craig: You know, I couldn’t have done — I had nothing. I don’t think any of us came here with a big bunch of money. And so, you know, I’m certainly grateful to all — I think all of the things that you do prior to something were necessary for one reason or another to get you to what you’re doing at this moment, just as whatever you do now will be necessary for what comes next.

John: Yep. So one of the things I did this last year was just a lark. And so a friend of mine, Sam Davis, was the dance arrangement composer for Big Fish. And so he’s one of these people who can hear a melody and then make it a thousand different versions which is what you have to do for a Broadway musical because you have to be able to fit things to the choreography. It’s a really unique skill and he’s just remarkably good at it.

But he’s also a composer himself. And so I was having lunch with him and I said like, you know, Sam, we should just try to write a song together sometime. That would be really fun to do. And it wasn’t to like be part of anything else, it was just to have something to do.

So he sent me a folder on Dropbox with a bunch of little things he’d written, and just little snippets of melodies. And so if there’s anything here you want to do, take a shot at it. And so this last year I did that.

And so I want to talk through sort of this project I did, and you guys both heard the final version of this, but I don’t think you’ve heard any of how this all came to be. So, I’m going to play a couple little clips to hear what the original stuff sounded like.

So, this is what Sam originally sent me.

[Clip plays]

So that was the original melody he sent me. It’s a waltz. It’s lovely. It feels very emotional, but as I listened to that I felt like, oh, there’s words that can go with those plunking. Does that — Aline, you’re writing songs all the time now. Could you hear where words could go?

Aline: No. My version of songwriting is I get in the room with songwriters and I throw out a bunch of lines and I hope some of them get in so I can get five or ten percent of the songwriting. But I am no more capable of hearing a melody and writing words to it than a child.

John: Craig, you’ve done quite a bit of this recently, too. So, do you hear–?

Craig: Yeah, with Jeanine Tesori, the great, great, great Jeanine Tesori. Yeah, no, for sure. Well, it sounds like he’s not just playing an accompaniment there. He is giving you the melody. He’s giving you the vocals, which is actually a remarkable thing that these people — these musicians — can do.

So, you know, when you sing a song you would never play the melody along with the vocalist, right? You’re accompanying them. But they can just sort of adjust to play it. So, [hums], you can just hear it coming out. And you can hear the way the sentences would be structured. And then the little sort of wistful part as it kind of comes down and hits that funky little minor thing. Yeah. No for sure. It’s begging for it.

John: It’s begging for it. So, what I heard in that main melody was “I want … I want…” And so it felt like an I Want song to me. And so that was my sort of initial instinct is that this feels like it wants to be an I Want song. It probably needs to speed up a little bit, because it’s a little slow for an I Want song. But imagine the faster version of this. Like, OK, “I want … I want bop-bop-bop-bop.” And so like, well, I started with I Want and who is the character who wants something? What do I want to do?

So, a thing which occurred to me as we were auditioning people for Big Fish is that there aren’t a lot of great I Want songs for boys. In the Disney canon you have all the princess I Want songs, so you have “Part of Your World” and that aspirational kind of I Want song is really common for women, but not for boys. So, like, well I want the song with which a guy will audition for a prince role, for prince charming, in a Broadway show.

And so that was my inspiration. And so I said like, OK, well, what is that character — what does the prince — the aspirational prince kind of character like? And so I wrote out all the lyrics and sort of tried to match them to the melody, including a lot of stuff that wasn’t part of that main melody line. So I just had sort of blank stanzas to sort of get us up before we got to that melody.

And so I’ll talk through the next part of that. So I sent this long document through to Sam and he’s like I don’t know what to do with this. I can see where the chorus is, but I don’t know what to do with this. So the next thing I sent through is what I call the Snap Track. And so I just snapped along to the words to sort of give him a sense of like what the meter of it would be. So, we’ll take a listen to that.

[Clip plays — But at night I have dreams that seem more like a calling. Where this lonely apprentice can end this appalling excuse for a nothing life, common life, lesser life, not a life. I want to live. But dreams are for night, and nights are not long when you wake to bake before dawn].

So with that I wanted to give a sense that like, OK, there’s some triplets in there–

Aline: Wake to bake? Oh why, because it’s a baker? Got it. Got it. Because I only think of pot when you say that. Keep going. Ignore me.

John: So I wanted to be able to communicate to him like, OK, there’s triplets here, but we’re still sticking in three. But I didn’t want to sort of poison him with the music I heard in my head, because I definitely had my own melody, but I didn’t want that melody to bleed over to him. So that’s why I kept it snapping.

Craig, you probably — when you’re working with Jeanine, do you have that same situation?

Craig: We did a slightly different kind of thing. The basic way we would start is we would have a long discussion about what we wanted a song to be about. And we were working off of a script I had already written. So we had characters. We had situations. We had the general sense of it, but then we were like, OK, but let’s get to the meat of what this is really about and how this is going to work, particularly because two of the three songs we did are duets.

After we figure out what the song is really about, then I thought what would happen is Jeanine, being the Tony award-winning composer that she is, would write some brilliant music and then I would attempt to just clumsily put words in. But she was like, no, you send me words first. So I would write these poems.

Now, I have no melody or music, but I would kind of form a little bit of a melody in my head, but I would never sing it or anything like that for the same reason that you wouldn’t do it either. You don’t want to unduly get into the head of your composer.

So, I would write these poems basically, lyrical poems out of what the song would be, and then she would read those and then she would then send over kind of like a here’s a thing. And then she would fill in nonsense lyrics sometimes. You know, and da-da-das and just whatever. Just fake words and things like that.

And then by going back and forth, we would find the shape of the song, the A, and the B, and the C. And then I would start really dialing in on the lyrics. But sometimes I would write lyrics and I would send them to her and she’s like I don’t know if this fits. And I would say it does. Let me send it with stress. And so I wouldn’t do the snap thing. What I would do is I would just underline where the stresses were of the words on the beats and stuff. And then she would go, OK, I got it, I got it, I got.

Because sometimes it would get kind of complicated. You know, what we were doing. And she’s very — and thank god for this — she is a stickler about consistency and true rhyming. She’s like no half-rhymes, no slant rhymes. Full rhymes. And if you pull some sort of wordplay in the first verse, I want a similar version of that wordplay with new words in the second verse. She’s rough. But it forced me, it really forced me to concentrate and work as hard as I could to try and machine these things so that they’re nice and tight.

I loved it. I just loved the process of it.

John: I loved this process, too. What was so different about this than any of the stuff I did with Danny Elfman, because I have like seven songs with Danny Elfman, is in all those cases I wrote lyrics and they were in the script and then they went off and Danny just made the song. And so in some cases he would tweak the lyrics. In some cases he sort of left the lyrics as they were. But there was very little collaboration between us.

Like, you know, we might have a dinner where we talk over what the songs were basically about, but there was no sort of direct working together.

Aline: I think our show is different, because there are jokes, there are sketches. So a lot of the songs I have credit on were things where I came up with the joke and the title and a couple lines. So like the concept of it and sort of — but one time there’s a song in last season where I said to Rachel and Jack, oh, they could sing a song called something like “we should definitely not have sex right now.” I went to the bathroom, I went to get something to eat, I came back and they had written almost all of the song. That’s usually more of what happens.

And then when I hear it I’ll contribute some jokes. But I would never — I mean, with comedy songs it’s really — they’re very, very conceptual. They’re like sketches. And they have to have very clean games.

So, I don’t actually — I rarely set lyrics down to paper and send it to them.

John: But a crucial part of your process though is the demo. So once you have the idea of the song, you have to record a demo so that everyone can sort of sign off on it and so people can plan how they’re going to build the episode.

Aline: Yeah.

John: So what is the demo process like for–?

Aline: Adam, Jack, and Rachel, who are the songwriters, often sing their own demos into an iPhone. And then they send them to Adam, and Adam turns them into real demos with demo singers or often Adam. And what I love is Adam was in Fountains of Wayne, so we have numerous, numerous, numerous Adam demos for like Adam singing “Where’s the Bathroom?” which is a Tovah Feldshuh song, and Adam singing Rachel’s songs. And Adam singing everybody’s songs if he can’t get a demo singer in and we’re going really quickly.

And then we listen to the demos and I give notes on the demos. And a lot of times, you guys are more kind of it sounds like immersed in the technical. I refer to it as “I’m the monkey” and it has to make sense to the monkey. Because they’re much more steeped in music, so sometimes the jokes are abstruse or the lyrics are confusing. Or it needs to make sense to me. And then a lot of times my notes are like this needs to be a little bit more visceral, or this needs to be more joyful. Or its adjectival input.

John: Well that goes back to sort of what your discussion was with the artist for Jane, because you’re not drawing yourself. So you have to find a way — metaphors or similes to describe what it is you’re going for, because you don’t want to tell them how to do his job. It’s the same working with a composer. You find you end up describing a tone, a feeling. It’s in this world rather than that world.

Aline: Well, that’s actually a great thing for all writers to learn. It’s going to be applicable to what Craig is about to do. You know, I have multiple department heads. You have to describe what you want to someone and you don’t do what they do. So, you are going to say to the costume person, you know, we need something that looks like this, that evokes this. And they’re going to come back to you with choices. And part of being a good collaborator is letting people do what they’re great at and understanding what they’re great at. And sometimes when we have directors show up on our show, it makes me giggly that they get super camera talkie and they want to talk a lot about–

John: The crane?

Aline: Yes. And technical stuff. And that’s important and that’s wonderful. And I’m going to say that men do that a little bit more, because they want to show you that they know their lenses. It’s as important to be able to express what you’re trying to get emotionally and what’s the story you’re trying to tell. And that’s the same with songs and that’s the same with the book. That’s the same with, you know, if you’re trying to get a story across, it matters what color the mug is. But you don’t need to choose the mug. You need to be able to extract the salient detail and say to the person who is the artisan to say it’s important to me that it’s this.

And I think it’s good to collaborate on things that get made so that you have practice. So even if that’s just taking your iPhone and going to the yard with your friend and figuring out this needs to be blue. It doesn’t matter what color this is, but this needs to be that. And that’s really the key to — because a lot of what drowns artistic endeavors is unnecessary amounts of — confusing amounts of detail. So, you know, learning how to be really specific about what you want out of any process, a song, a book, a movie, a play, a bedtime story, is important. And learning how to communicate that is really important for writers.

John: Yeah. So for the case of this song, the case for “Rise,” what was great is we were able to finally record a real good true demo. So we got in–

Aline: When did you get the rise-rise pun baking idea?

John: Oh, the rise-rise pun came pretty early on. Actually–

Aline: How did it come to mind?

John: So I envisioned that this guy was a baker. So this kid was–

Aline: Why?

John: I’m not quite sure why baker was the initial sort of instinct behind it. So, I did envision like this is a guy who was toiling, but had sort of this fantastical notion of what it would be like to be a prince. And, again, you don’t see people aspiring to be princes. And this is about what it would be like to aspire to be a prince.

So, I saw him as like — I think originally he worked as a blacksmith, but then a baker felt better. And once I was in baker, then it’s like “Rise” became natural. And “Rise” felt like a very sing-able word for where he was going to.

Aline: Are you writing a play to go with this?

John: So I could write a play to go with this. And that’s what’s actually so interesting, so once we got the whole song together and once we recorded a demo, so we recorded a demo with a great Broadway guy named Curt Hansen who is in Wicked and could really do it. Like it was so surprising to hear the song. We only heard ourselves singing it poorly and like the aspirational notes we couldn’t quite get to, and this guy could actually belt it and sort of do the real good version of it.

Once we actually had it, then we had our sheet music, this is from the baker prince. So, eventually somewhere down the road it could become a thing, but I also just want it to be its own thing. I want it to have sort of value in and of itself. It’s a kind of song that people can download and sing or use for auditions. It felt good on those terms, too.

Aline: Can I ask you a question which I may already know the answer to and you can cut this out, but it is a same-sex love story thing possibly?

John: Not intended to be.

Aline: Because there’s not enough of those. There’s not enough of those that are in the genre of like longing wish-fulfillment romance. There seems to be more that are tragic, you know, tragic stories. And I think it would be awesome to have more fairytales about that.

One of my best friend’s husband is the same-sex Pasodoble Gay Games national champion.

John: Fantastic, yes.

Aline: And I’m waiting eagerly for the day that they have same-sex ballroom dancing on Dancing with the Stars. But having same-sex narratives in more kind of traditional “straight” genres I think is a great thing. And if that’s what that was, I’ve already bought my ticket.

John: Yeah. I think you and Craig both asked that question when I sent you the song months ago is like, oh, is this where it’s going to go to? And Rachel I think sort of fell in the same place, too.

Aline: Were we all stereotyping?

Craig: I think inside John’s — he goes, oh, yeah, you all thought that’s where this was going.

Aline: But I think, by the way, I think that could be a very important and compelling thing.

Craig: You know what? Here’s the thing. I don’t like those stories that much. I’m just going to say, because I haven’t had any–

Aline: Fairytale love stories?

Craig: I just find them so boring and cliché at this point. Now, granted, I’m older now. So children really do like them. But I like the tragic crazy stories. You know what’s a great song, to give Jeanine Tesori some credit, but she gets plenty of anyway, she’s a genius, is “I’m Changing my Major to Joan” from Fun Home.

Aline: Of course.

Craig: Which is a great same-sex love song that isn’t tragic. It’s joyous. But it’s not–

Aline: Well, “Keys,” forget it. “Keys.”

Craig: Well, “Keys,” that’s not a love song as much as like an aspirational kid seeing acceptance. But also an amazing song. But I don’t, like I don’t necessarily–

Aline: But I’m saying Frozen, Tangled, you know, I’m saying a fairytale. It’s just a genre that — one of the reasons you may perceive it as being a little tired is because it’s inhabited by the same types of characters all the time.

John: I think my other frustration, so people should go back and listen to our great episode with Jennifer Lee talking about Frozen because there was always such an instinct originally in Frozen that we have to have sort of classic love interests and Elsa has to be a villain and all these things. And once they actually figured out like, oh, it’s about sisters. Oh, they could actually build the whole thing out.

To me, it’s that we never see princess romances from the boy’s point of view. It’s always from the girl’s point of view.

Aline: Totally.

John: And so even if it remains sort of–

Aline: Hetero.

John: Mixed sex, hetero, then to see it from his point of view and sort of what it’s like — we don’t give young men good instruction on how to be noble heroes towards women.

Aline: Well, like the boy Cinderella stories tend to have a lot more genre, Harry Potter, Star Wars stuff going on, as opposed to romantic stakes.

Craig: But there are some. I mean, “Agony” is a great, great song written from the point of view.

John: Absolutely.

Craig: But it’s also a satire. It’s kind of making fun of those songs.

John: It’s spoofing the idea of those things. Yeah.

Craig: Right. It’s true. I think in the old days, in the old classic musicals you would have songs where men would sing these sort of moony love songs.

John: Oh, absolutely.

Aline: Well, Aladdin is–

John: “A Whole New World,” yes.

Aline: Right. But they tend to be a little bit more jaunty and adventure-based rather than romantic and yearning, although that has lots of stuff in it.

John: And it also becomes a duet though. And if it was just Aladdin’s solo, “let me share this whole new world with you,” it would be — it wouldn’t quite land the same way.

Craig: You know what else just came to mind is Andrew Lippa’s “The Moon and Me,” right? Which is a beautiful song and is the most non-traditional romance between a man and an orbiting celestial body. But it is a love song. And it is solo. It’s not a duet. And it’s gorgeous.

So, they’re there. I don’t like them that way. I like them non-traditional.

John: All right.

Craig: That’s my jam.

John: This might ultimately become that thing, but until then it is a song, so if people want to check it out you can look at the lyrics and there will be links to video things so you can see for it at I’ll also put the full track at the end of this episode instead of an outro, so if you want to hear the whole thing you’ll know what we’re talking about.

Craig: It’s a good song.

John: Thank you.

Craig: You’re welcome.

John: So, let’s try to answer one or two listener questions while we have Aline here. Let’s start with a question from Niraj in Allahabad, India. He writes, “I’m an author based out of Allahabad and have been in discussions with a Hollywood production company for optioning the movie and TV writes for my historical fiction novel, Daggers of Treason.”

Craig: Daggers of Treason!

John: “While they’re offering 2% of the starting budget for theatrical releases, their stated rates for episodic serials is abysmally low. 1/5th of the WGA rates. Can you please guide me to how much a non-US or WGA author should expect for a 60-minute serial? And who would help me in procuring a fair deal? I understand I cannot become a WGA member being based in India but would appreciate your help. Regards, Niraj.”

So, where do we start here? I think one of the places we can start is we can be so frustrated with the WGA, but when you’re outside of the US and you look in, it’s like, oh, having the WGA to set minimums is a really nice thing.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, you don’t necessarily not have to have a WGA deal here, Niraj. So, the deal is if you’re writing in India but you’re working with a Hollywood company. Question number one is are they signatory to the Writers Guild or do they have a subsidiary that’s signatory to the Writers Guild? Still doesn’t mean that they have to employ you under a Writers Guild contract. However, what you can ask is that they employ you under the equivalent of a Writers Guild contract.

Now, all these things come down to leverage. How much do they want what you have and how much are they willing to spend on it? Sometimes I think companies will look to places that have burgeoning talent but aren’t covered by the WGA so that they can get better deals. And if these folks there are asking for more money, then suddenly it’s not as attractive a proposition. So you have to kind of gauge the interest level here.

Who can help you in procuring a fair deal? A lawyer. I don’t know where you live, oh, you said Allahabad. I don’t know Allahabad. I don’t know how large of a town that is. But I think if you reached out to a law firm in one of the many enormously large cities in India you will find an entertainment lawyer. India has a massive entertainment industry as we all know.

And the fact that you already have interest from a Hollywood production company I think would certainly mean that somebody would be willing to take your call and talk to you and perhaps represent you. Once that happens, that’s the person you’re going to be asking these questions of. That would be my first move.

Aline: Me too.

John: That’s a great idea. And the other place I might point you to is it could make sense for you to get an LA-based law firm to supervise the contract. You just need to figure out who has been doing this for other projects sort of like yours. And you end up paying them to do that work as well. But I wish you good luck with this.

The next question comes from Mack who writes, “I usually read my scripts on the screen in the screenwriting software, but I’ve heard the printing one’s script and reading it on the physical page offers a new perspective that may help with the rewriting process. So now my script is printed and ready for me to read, but before I undertake reading it for the 15th time I was hoping you could offer some insight on best practices for reading for rewrites.”

Aline, I saw you nodding, so you agree that people should print out scripts?

Aline: Yeah. I don’t do it as much as I used to. I think I’ve developed my skill at looking at a screen as critically as I do at a page, and in TV we’re just moving so quickly that having that extra paper step sometimes is a pain.

But, you know, get your pen out. It depends on what you’re reading it for. But sometimes if you just like change the size of the font on your screen or make it look a little bit different. If I’m proofreading, I read it backwards. Just anything that makes it look new to you. Reading it in a new environment sometimes will do it. There’s nothing for catching typos like sending it to someone. The second you send it for some reason you open it back up and you’ll find six typos.

But anything that makes it look fresh to your eyes is great. And then I would say reading it aloud with or to someone is a great way to go. And Simon Kinberg and I wrote a script together and when we were revising it would read it aloud. And it was really fun. That seems like one of the fun reasons to have a partner, to read it and scribble on it.

John: Craig, are you a printer? Do you print your scripts?

Craig: Yeah. I do. Usually by that point I have gone through them quite a bit, but my basic process once I get to that stage, I really am mostly looking for typos or things that jump out as reading a little weirdly. So I’m reading it aloud a lot as I’m going through and I don’t do the double-sided print thing because I want the blank back of a page on the left side to be there for notes or things that I need to remark on.

And when I do that I just dog ear it so I have a reference. Then I go back through and I make those changes. But, you know, I don’t think I would get too freaked out about this. Everybody has their own speed and their own way of doing things. I’m pretty sure that there are some wonderful writers that don’t print it out. Whatever works for you, Mack. Honestly. Whatever works for you.

Aline: One thing I really thought a lot about with writing in a TV environment as opposed to a film environment is sometimes I found, as a screenwriter, I would overly machine things because I had so much time with it. And so I would tinker with things to make them scan perfectly when actually they play better just the way they splurted out of you.

And in TV, especially when you’re writing comedy, if a room pitches a joke and it works, you don’t change a syllable. So it may not scan perfectly, it may not make sense perfectly, but that’s the comedy milieu in there. And so I find that screenwriters way more than TV writers, just because of time, just tend to overly machine their dialogue and sand off all the rough edges. And I like the idea of sometimes it’s the imperfect perfect thing. So, there’s a lot of like dithering and busy work that is really tempting to do when you’re getting ready to send a script out. And I think sometimes you can ruin things that are lovely because you’re trying to make them perfect.

John: Yeah. I would stress that if you’re going through to read, make sure you’re really reading. And that’s why I think printing is so helpful because you can’t actually fix things while you’re reading it. So, I like to print the script and I go to someplace new. I go outside. I sit at the table. And I’m flipping through the pages because I will see things I don’t see other places and things will occur to me that haven’t occurred while I’m cutting whole little short scenes because I just don’t need them anymore.

And if I were trying to do that on the screen, I feel like I might go through and like make a few little corrections right at that moment, then I wouldn’t be reading anymore. I’d really be writing. And that’s not what your goal is.

Aline: It’s a different mode.

John: Yeah, different mode. All right. Let’s change modes ourselves. It’s time for One Cool Thing. Craig, start us off.

Craig: Oh, I got a good one today if you like puzzles. Do you love puzzles, folks?

John: We all love puzzles.

Aline: Yeah, we’re all puzzlers.

John: After this podcast we’re going off to play games at Aline’s house.

Craig: Well, I’ll tell you, these are brutal but amazing. So there’s a gentleman named Mark Halpin and every Labor Day he puts out a puzzle pack. The puzzle pack consists of many, many individual puzzles. You solve all those individual puzzles, and then there is a meta puzzle that encompasses all of the answers you’ve pulled from the many, many puzzles. And so this Labor Day weekend, David Kwong and I eagerly downloaded this year’s puzzle package from Mark Halpin called When First We Practice to Deceive.

We have completed all of the individual puzzles except for the last one. We’re halfway through that one. They are really, really hard. And they are really, really good. They are super well done. Very complicated. Really, really just tricky. One of them has — one of them looks like it’s a word search. No it isn’t. I mean, it kind of is, but mostly it isn’t. And there’s about five different levels just to that puzzle alone to get to the answer of that puzzle.

So, Mark Halpin offers these for free, but there is a tip jar link on his page. If you do download these, I strongly urge you to chuck him some remuneration. He worked clearly extraordinarily hard on these. And we will put a link in the show notes for you. So, again, that’s Mark Halpin. And his puzzle pack this year is called When First We Practice to Deceive.

John: Very nice.

Aline: Very cool. My One Cool Thing — my favorite TV show right now is Insecure on HBO. And I’m obsessed with Issa and I’m obsessed with the show. And I watch it as it airs, or soon after. It’s the best romantic comedy I’ve seen in a long time, but it’s so much more than that. And I just love it. And it’s so great to have a TV show that I’m excited to watch. And so I think — and I have an ax to grind — but I think sometimes things that are created and written by women and deal with love and relationships don’t quite get the due that like a somber crime drama will get.

And I think Insecure is just an excellent show. And belongs up there in any critical appreciation of the best shows out there right now. So, I highly recommend that, and go to HBO to find it.

John: Cool. My One Cool Thing is a book by Jessica Abel called Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio. And so it’s done in a graphic novel format, or an illustrated book thing. It’s not fiction. It’s all real interviews that she did with the people behind This American Life, The Moth, Radio Lab, Planet Money, Snap Judgments, Serial, Invisibilia.

Aline: Whoa.

John: And so what’s clever is she recorded all these interviews, but then she built it out sort of in a graphic novel format. So she’s having these conversations with people, she’s inserting herself into it. And it’s a brilliant look at sort of how this kind of radio is made. And sort of both how reporters go out to find and really cast the people that they’re going to be interviewing, but then how the stories are found in the edit. And what the edit process is like, which is much more like really like your writer’s room than you would think.

So, they’re reading their scripts, they’re playing their tape, and they’re just digging in on story for hours and hours at a time.

Aline: Wow, that’s so cool.

John: It’s really great. So, I would recommend it to anybody who is interested in radio, but I also I thought there were interesting lessons about how storytelling works for the radio that I think most screenwriters would find fascinating.

Like one of the things about how they pitch these stories is it’s about blank, but what’s interesting is blank.

Aline: Right.

John: And so–

Aline: That’s almost a podcast cliché. It’s about bananas. Everything you didn’t know about bananas. Yeah.

John: So, you know, you have your topic, but then your actual hook is something that is not the topic.

Aline: Your take on it.

John: Yeah. And that’s–

Aline: Hey, before we go, I’m going to sign my book at Barnes & Noble at The Grove.

John: Fantastic, what day?

Aline: And also at Chevalier Bookstore on Larchmont. And the book signing at The Grove is on Sunday, September 24 at 5pm at Barnes & Noble at The Grove.

John: Fantastic. I will be in London so I won’t be attending that one, but I’m so excited to see you and–

Aline: Well then perhaps you can go to the book signing at Chevalier’s on October 1 at 5:30.

John: That sounds great. Hooray! So we’ll have links to–

Aline: Plug. Plug. Plug. Plug.

John: We will have links to Aline’s book and the events which you can go visit Aline and have her sign your book. Also in the show notes you’ll find a link to the song I wrote and we’ll put that on the outro for this week’s episode. Our show is produced by Megan McDonnell. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli.

If you have an outro, a traditional outro, you can send us a link to That’s also the place where you send questions like the ones we answered today.

For short questions, we’re on Twitter. I’m @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. Aline is–?

Aline: @alinebmckenna.

John: Fantastic. She’s on Twitter finally.

We are on Facebook. Search for Scriptnotes Podcast. You can find us on Apple Podcasts at Scriptnotes. Just look for Scriptnotes and while you’re there leave us a comment or a review. That helps a lot.

You can find all the show notes at If you have a Three Page Challenge for Austin, remember that’s

Transcripts go up about a week after the episode airs. And you can find all the back episodes at

Aline, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Craig: Thanks Aline.

Aline: Cheers, you all. Cheers.

John: Cool. See you soon. Bye.


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