The original post for this episode can be found here.

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

Craig Mazin: Ho-ho-ho, my name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is Episode 331 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

Today on the final episode of 2017 we look at what happens when two writers seem to have written something very similar. What are the legal and ethical responsibilities for those writers, but also for everyone talking about those writers? We’ll also be answering listener questions about slug lines, conservatives, and what impact the new tax law will have on writers.

Craig: Hmm, exciting. Everyone get ready in your cars and at home because we’re going to talk about taxes.

John: Taxes! At least as much as we know about taxes so far. We won’t have all the answers but at least point you in the right direction.

Craig: Yeah. I think it’s safe to say that this episode will not have any explicit language.

John: No. It’s going to be a very safe episode. So listen to it with your kids, with your older parents, your grandparents. Do it. Taxes.

We don’t know everything, and one of the things we did not know – this is the follow-up segment – we talked a couple episodes about How Would This Be a Movie, these female inmates who were firefighters, we thought this is absolutely a slam-dunk for a movie, how is this not already a movie? And, of course, it already was a movie.

Craig: Yeah. Obviously. You know, I know probably people think that we would be somehow embarrassed or ashamed by this. Quite the contrary.

John: No.

Craig: Listen, nobody can know everything that’s been made. And I think it’s actually very encouraging and very confirming that we picked something to be a movie and we were right. It’s just we were late.

John: We were late. So, in 2012 there’s a movie called Firelight. It stars Cuba Gooding Jr. It was made for television I think for ABC, or ABC Family. Ligiah Villalobos wrote it, who is actually a former WGA board member. She won the Humanitas Prize for writing this script. So, it’s a movie that’s out there that you can see. The log line on IMDb says, “A group of young inmates are given the opportunity to turn their lives around by becoming volunteer firefighters.”

Craig: Yeah.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Exactly.

John: But I would say, Craig, my prior belief holds, I don’t think this precludes someone from making another female inmate firefighter movie.

Craig: No.

John: This was made for television. And I’m sure it’s great, but I think there’s a big feature version here you could totally do.

Craig: 100%. Look, you can tell the same story multiple times. We certainly know that. We tend to see it with classic works of literature. I mean, we’re on our 4,000-version of A Christmas Carol. But even for these things, these events, they can be told and retold in different ways because sometimes the major difference is money.

If you’re making a feature film, you get more money to spend, make it look a certain way. Just you’re able to tell the story in a slightly different way. And now with all of our different formats, you can also tell stories just using different segments of time. So instead of a TV movie, which I think you said ABC or ABC Family, traditionally broken up by commercials. You can do a version that doesn’t have those kinds of breaks, which definitely impact narrative. You can do a version that’s spread over four episodes. You could do whatever you want these days. So, yeah!

John: You could do the R-rated version of this. The other thing which has changed is basically your perspective. Like who are you telling the story through? Ligiah made very distinct choices about how she was going to tell her story, but you may make different choices.

You look at the difference between All the President’s Men and the new movie The Post, they’re both telling the same section of history but from very different perspectives. So, I say go for it. If you want to write that movie, write that movie.

Craig: Oh, of course. Yeah, there was a BBC docu – no, not a docu. I don’t know if you call it a docudrama. It was about Chernobyl. So BBC, this was a few years ago, did a movie about the Chernobyl incident and I watched it, of course. And they did a fine job. But it was – it was what it was and it was compressed into a certain amount of time and it wasn’t at all the way I wanted to do my version of the story. And at no point did I ever think, oh well, someone has told a part of this story, sort of, therefore I can’t. That’s crazy.

John: I say make that female firefighter. Make Chernobyl. Maybe don’t make a five-hour Chernobyl drama right now, because Craig is just about to start doing that.

Craig: Yeah, that would be stupid.

John: But other than that, everything is open and clear.

Craig: 100%. Go for it.

John: Other follow-up. Sam wrote in to ask, “I have a question about Episode 235.” This person is listening to the back episodes which we applaud. “Craig mentioned on that live show that he was privy to the original Game of Thrones pilot which according to him was deeply flawed. So what was that ‘massive problem’ the creators had and what did they do to fix it? I’m curious what the pitfall was and how to avoid it as I write my own pilot.”

Craig: You know, I’m happy to talk about what I perceived. I’m going to do it carefully because that pilot has been seen by about three people – I think just myself, Scott Frank, and Ted Griffin. And no one else outside of the production or HBO. So I don’t want to get into specific things, because then there will be a hundred click-baity articles about it.

And, Dan and Dave are my friends. And what’s the point? That just seems silly. But I’ll talk about it at least in terms of the spirit of your question which is, OK, what screenwriting problem could there have been and what can I avoid.

The massive problem that I was talking about was I remember saying to them, “You guys have constructed this enormous, tall, beautiful building, but you forgot to put in a lobby with doors. There’s no way in.” The way they had done it, I think because of their closeness to the material, and also their tremendous knowledge of the material, there wasn’t much of a point of entry. You were immediately confused by everything. You were confused by who was talking. You were confused by the relationships between the characters. You were certainly confused by the allegiances and the conflicts.

And so when it was over the overwhelming sense that I think all of us had in the room was there was a lot of quality there but I don’t know what any of it means. And as we talked through things I could see them realizing, “Oh, go d, you didn’t know this? Oh, you didn’t understand that? Oh boy.” And so my general feeling about it was that there was writing to do. It wasn’t just about reshooting or recasting, but it was about writing.

And they did. They rewrote. And they rewrote brilliantly. It’s a great story, by the way, of not just of how brilliant, creative people sometimes need a take two, but also a brilliant story of a company supporting artists, at great risk. And obviously with great reward.

So that was the massive problem that particular day. So if you’re writing a pilot and there’s a lot going on, unless you are OK with people being confused because it’s sort of the chaos of war or something like that, just remember they know so much less than you. In fact, when the show begins they know nothing.

John: Absolutely. The general phenomenon you’re describing is what we often call the curse of knowledge. Is that you as the writer know why everything is there. You know how it is all going to fit together. But it’s that process of forgetting everything you know so if you just started on page one and had no priors, what would you think is going to happen. Or, sort of assume different priors, where a person is going to have assumptions about this kind of a genre but might not know what you’re going to do with it. You have to just be able to wipe all that clean. And working on something for two years probably by that point they’re showing this to you, they had a hard time wiping that all away. And so showing it to trusted people you think are going to be smart about what you have and what you’re aiming for was exactly the right choice.

Craig: Yeah. There’s this dilemma that I’m constantly rolling around in my head and I bet you are, too. And it’s a little game. And the game is too much or not enough. I don’t – nobody wants to pander. Nobody wants to overfeed the audience. Certainly nobody wants to hit the nail on the head or be obvious.

So, we tend to try and craft things in such a way that the audience can play along and they get invested and they can tease things apart and they can draw their own conclusions. But you want them to draw the conclusions you want them to draw. So, then you start to think have I taken too much away? Are they unmoored? Do they not have enough? It’s a little bit like I guess designing one of these escape rooms that I’m so fond of doing. You have to build it in such a way that it can be escaped. Or else it’s just not much fun for the audience.

And I think sometimes we overcorrect one way or the other and I think for writers we probably have a tendency to overcorrect in the direction of supplying not enough because we are constantly getting notes from studios and networks whose default position is “tell everyone everything five different times.”

John: Yeah, the challenge of the notes you get from the studios and from networks is make things explicitly clear but also make everything shorter and simpler. Those contrasting notes of like they’ve read 14 drafts so they sort of know what’s going to happen. And so they keep going, “Could we cut this out? Could we cut this out?” So, that’s why I think so often it’s important to show it to people like you, people who are want you to succeed but are not invested in all of the politics of that particular project.

Craig: Yeah. And that’s why I think those showings are the most terrifying. Because you don’t have to worry about them burying you on purpose. You don’t have to worry about them overpraising you or going easy on you. You know you’re going to actually get the truth, which is hard. It’s hard for everybody, you know?

I don’t like giving it any more than I like getting it.

John: Yeah. All right. Final bit of follow-up questioning comes from Kinsey, which is a great name. “In the recent episode on pitching you guys made a pretty clear cut distinction between pitching features and pitching TV. But considering that platforms like HBO, Netflix, and Amazon Prime are beginning to blur the lines between the two, would you say that studios or producers are now generally more open to the miniseries format? And what distinctions would you make between pitching a classic open-ended TV series versus pitching a miniseries like Craig is doing?”

Craig: Well, I don’t know if either one of us can safely say that producers and studios are more open to miniseries formats than they were two or three years ago. It seems that way, just based on how many are hitting the airwaves.

John: Yeah. I think the evidence is just in how many you see. And they don’t even call them miniseries anymore. Like Scott Frank’s show I sort of assumed was a series, but then it’s like as we talked to him it’s like, oh no, it’s just this is what it is. These are episodes. And I’ve heard that of people going to Netflix is like they’re like, “Oh, it could be ten episodes. It could be four episodes. It’s sort of whatever makes sense for the thing.”

So, yes, there are places who like to have a series so they can come back and do more things down the road, but I think you’re going to see more and more projects like that. The services want people to keep subscribing. So, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have to keep subscribing for that one specific show. They want you to subscribe so that you can see the next thing that they’re going to be able to make.

Craig: Yeah. I think the phrase limited series is probably as descriptive as any. The idea being the purpose of the series is to end. As opposed to a regular series as he’s describing it, which the purpose of the series is not to end. And I would even extend that to something where, OK, technically speaking the purpose of Game of Thrones was to end after seven or eight seasons. That counts as an ongoing series.

I think that they want both kinds. I think if they had their choice they would love someone to come in with an open-ended series that would keep people coming back week after week. That’s kind of the golden goose, right?

John: Yeah. There was a project over at Sony that I was considering doing that was meant to be – I pitched it as a limited series and they said, “OK, yes, maybe, but could we also think about doing it as a dot-dot-dot,” so it wouldn’t necessarily have to finish up and end there, or we could do more anthology-like where it could come back as another season as a different thing. So, I think there’s some openness there.

You know, something that is made strictly for Netflix, they don’t necessarily need to have that ongoing basis because they’re not trying to sell foreign rights off to somebody else. Everything for Netflix just sort of stays inside Netflix.

Craig: Exactly. But you can see that Amazon in their massive purchase of the Tolkien properties, minus I think the properties that people really like, well sorry, now Tolkien fans are going to go crazy. I like The Silmarillion, too. I’m just saying generally.

Anyway, Amazon purchased all of that because they do want an open-ended series. They do want something that is must-see-TV that people talk about and obsess over and tweet over and turn into endless reaction gifs just like they do with Game of Thrones. I mean, it’s a naked attempt to replicate Game of Thrones. And we know this because it’s obvious on its face and it follows the head of Amazon Television saying I really want my own Game of Thrones. So, no mystery there.

John: Nope. All right, let’s get to our main topic. This is something you proposed because it came based on a series on tweets and just set us up.

Craig: Sure. And I pulled this because it happens a lot. It happens a lot, and I want to talk a little bit about why I think it happens and what you at home should be doing if you find yourself in one or the other pair of shoes. So, this started with a journalist whose name is Sarah Sahim. And she tweeted, “I’m never going to pitch anything ever again.” And along with that she included two screenshots. One was a title of an article she was pitching to write to the New York Times and the title was Bertrand Cantat and the toxic masculinity of the “tortured male artist.”

Then she includes a screenshot of the title and sub-header of an actual article by Amanda Hess which I guess appeared in the New York Times. How the myth of the artistic genius excuses the abuse of women. To some assessing an artist’s work in light of his biography is blasphemous, but it’s time to do away with the idea that they’re separate.

Well, she clearly and strongly felt that Ms. Hess’s article was a direct rip-off of her pitch. She went on to tweet, “My heart is f-ing pounding with anger. I lost money because my ideas were handed to a white woman.” And then she asks people to put money in her tip jar. And I don’t mean to demean her whatsoever, because I actually understand how she feels. I think anybody who has ever written anything understands how that feels.

But, here’s another thing I understand because I’m a writer and it’s Amanda Hess’s response. “Hey Sarah, I have hesitated to say anything about this publicly and I’m sorry for the delay. But since people keep tweeting and emailing me, falsely calling me a plagiarist, I felt that I should. I have never met the editor that you pitched. Before I saw your tweet I had never even heard of him. Thousands of people work here. I’ve since learned that the editor works for the Opinion section. I work for the Times’ newsroom. We operate totally independently of one another. My editor in the newsroom, Mary Suh, assigned me this story after she noticed a tweet I wrote in October responding to revelations about actors and directors accused of sexual harassment and worse. She asked me to expand on it and I did.”

And she goes on making the general case that, hey, these aren’t really the same thing at all and I don’t talk about Bertrand Cantat or musicians and I’m talking about film and TV and so on and so forth.

So, here’s the thing. I get how it feels when you think you might be ripped off. John, I think it’s safe to say you and I encounter people complaining about this a lot.

John: Yeah. A couple times a month.

Craig: Couple times a month. Yeah.

John: And we find it in sort of the feature realm, or sometimes the TV realm, but it’s a similar kind of situation. So, Sarah Sahim is a freelancer so she’s a person who is going in to pitch stories to big publications very much like how we’re pitching ideas for a movie. This is a story I want to write for you. Would you pay me to write this? That’s kind of like a feature pitch. You’re going and saying like, “Hey, I have this idea. Do you want me to write up the story for you?” That’s how she makes her living.

And so when she sees this article coming out that feels like, to her, the thing that she was pitching, she’s furious because a job that she didn’t get that she sees someone else wrote that story.

Craig: Yeah. And I get that because we have a natural bias toward our own writing. It’s not necessarily just a bias of favorability. It’s a bias of – I guess I would call it a bias of completion. When we have an idea in our minds, when we write something it is fully fleshed and formed and it is alive and vibrant. And when we read somebody else’s it’s words. And it is easy, I think, to see, OK, I pitched something to someone at the New York Times and then someone else at the New York Times did something that is similar and obviously took from me because how else could they have done it.

Therein is the mistake.

John: Yeah. You’re drawing a causal relationship between a correlation which is that you pitched something and something else existed, but the actual cause behind both of those things was the cultural moment that was the genesis for both your idea and the idea for the story.

Craig: Exactly. So, I wanted to talk about this mostly because I want to – I actually feel for Sarah, and we’re all Sarah. We’ve all been Sarah. And I want to figure out how to kind of come up with a general code to avoid ending up like Sarah did in this situation, which wasn’t great, because people basically saw what Amanda Hess said and then kind of went and turned on Sarah. As is the case on Twitter, relatively little happens with moderation.

John: Yeah. Well, there was a pile-on on Amanda originally, and then Amanda responded and there was a pile-on on Sarah. And we would like there to be no pile-ons. And so how do we get to a no pile-on place in these situations?

Craig: Yeah. And it was particularly rough because they’re both talking about articles about toxic masculinity and now two women are beating each other up in a public forum about who is responsible for it and it all just felt bad. I felt bad for everyone. So how can we avoid this?

So, I came up with a little checklist, John.

John: Let’s do it.

Craig: So, you’ve opened up the paper, you’ve turned on Twitter, you’ve seen something and you go, “Oh no. I believe, I have the feeling, that I have been violated. Someone has broken into my house and stolen something of mine.” Of course, when it comes to writing some houses are a lot alike and maybe they didn’t break into your house at all. So, let’s just stop for a second and ask some important questions on our checklist, even as we’re feeling violated, even as we’re angry. And the most important and first question is “Did this person theoretically take an idea from me or a unique expression?”

John: Let’s unpack those. An idea being the sense of there’s a cultural moment happening there with auteurs and how we’re treating male auteurs is part of the problem. Maybe that’s the general idea in Sarah Sahim’s situation?

Craig: Yeah. I mean, you have a topic. You have a take. You have an issue. These are ideas. These are subject matters. They are not in and of themselves unique expressions. They are not intellectual property. Two different newspapers can write about the same topic and they do every day. So, even if you believe someone has actually read your pitch and went, “Ooh, great idea, but I don’t want to have her do it. I want to do it,” the truth is no crime has been committed other than an ethical one. But in this sense if you believe that that is the nature of what’s happened, you kind of also have to just shrug and say I didn’t own the thing that I’m claiming got stolen. It’s not mine any more than it is hers. I can still write my article. Nothing will stop that.

So if you get to this part in your checklist and you say, OK, they haven’t taken my unique expression. That is they haven’t lifted paragraphs, sentence structure, et cetera, and people have been caught doing that, especially in journalism, then stop. You’re done. But let’s move on.

Next. Is it about specifically a title and words in a title or execution, which is a little sub-chapter, because I think sometimes you see a title, and in this case Sarah looks at a title, right. She had one. Bertrand Cantat and the toxic masculinity of the tortured male artist. Toxic masculinity. Tortured male artist. And then in Amanda’s headline we see artist, and I think maybe OK, is that enough? [laughs] Right?

And sometimes you key in on certain words and you feel like this is meaningful. It is evidence of a violation. It’s not. It happens all the time.

John: Absolutely. This is also the place where I jump in and remind everyone that the feature writers often do not write their headlines, or they may write a bunch of headlines, but it’s ultimately not their choice what the headline is. So, Amanda Hess may have had nothing to do with the headline that was actually assigned to that.

On features and in television, you know, you might have a great title like Asteroid. And this is my movie Asteroid. And someone else sells a script that’s about an asteroid about to hit the planet. Just because it says asteroid does not mean it has anything to do with the movie you wrote called Asteroid. And I can understand the emotional frustration of like, “Oh, but I had this perfect title and now someone else is using this perfect title.” But sorry, that doesn’t mean that they stole your title.

Craig: Exactly. I mean, let’s say for instance you and I independently had an idea. We both wanted to do a movie about the Easter Bunny versus Santa Claus.

John: Sure.

Craig: And I’m sitting there going and, you know, it’s arch, it’s ironic, it’s funny. I’m going to call it Bunny vs. Claus. There is a fairly decent chance that you’re going to do the same. It’s not particularly clever or brilliant. It sort of is what’s there, right? People can have the same idea. People can have the same title. But, if I sell my script after you ran into me at a party and you go, “This is what I’m working on.” And I sip my drink and inside my head go, “Oh, dammit, I better sell mine before this dude sells his.”

And then I sell mine. Yeah, you might be like, what? You stole my….but, no.

John: No.

Craig: So, title is just not enough.

John: I guarantee you there are at least 15 thrillers out there on the market called Escape Room.

Craig: Oh yeah, for sure.

John: Because the idea of an escape room that turns out to be like a, no, you really will die if you don’t get out of it, that’s a fine idea. A bunch of people will write that movie. And that movie can be original in the sense that you’re not basing it off of anything else. But the sense that no one else will ever have that idea of writing a movie about an escape room is crazy. And my frustration when it gets to actual lawsuits, which we will talk about later on down the road, is writers tend to think that they are the only people who could ever have that idea. Like oh my god, I wrote a thriller that’s set in an escape room. That’s not a great idea, but it’s certainly a good idea done properly. But it’s not – you’re not the only person who could have had that idea.

Craig: And you aren’t.

John: You are not.

Craig: Exactly. And that brings us nicely to our next item on the checklist. Is this my original creation or is it something that I’m putting together as a result of a public record or observation of real life? And in this case, it is both, when we talk about the escape room idea. It’s both my original creation, but it is also based on an observation of the real world around me. And similarly when you look at what Sarah was proposing to write and what Amanda did write, they were writing clearly about the world around them and about matters of public record.

At that point you’re done. Stop. Don’t go forward. Do not pass go. You’re not ripped off.

John: 100% agree. So, if you’re basing something on actual events, if you are going back to write a great female inmate firefighter movie, yes, absolutely a valid idea. You can write a great version of that, but you can’t claim that you’re the only person who ever thought about writing about female firefighters because Ligiah wrote it and wrote it great. And we talked about it on the show. So, it’s not an original idea there. All that can be protected is your original expression of that idea.

And so in this case is the characters, is the way the story actually proceeds.

Craig: Exactly. And that is why you can have two articles written by two different journalists at two different periodicals about the exact same topic. And the only way you can show that one author, one journalist, infringed upon the copyright of the other is if they are duplicating unique form – sentences and sentence structure and word choice and word arrangement. Right?

OK, and then lastly, and this is the one that really blows my mind because people fail to check on this time and time again. It happened recently with somebody who was like, huh, I wrote something that’s a lot like Scott Frank’s Godless. Interesting. Well, turns out after Scott Frank wrote Godless. Timing counts. Chronological primacy counts. More often than not, when people make an allegation that someone has ripped them off, more often than not what I see happening is somebody like for instance Amanda coming back and saying, “Uh, guess what? I’ve been working on this since before your evidence that I ripped you off. So technically if there’s any evidence at all of being ripped off, it’s evidence that you’ve ripped off me,” which obviously Sarah didn’t do.

But the point is chronological primacy is crucial. If you don’t have a sense of it, hit pause and figure it out. Find out. And remember this, too, especially when we’re dealing with topic matters. I’ve seen this a lot in the comedy world. A comedian will do a joke. Another comedian will accuse them of ripping – you ripped off my joke. And then somebody else eight times out of ten will show up and go, ah, you both ripped off this guy who was from 30 years ago.

And so there was a joke I think Louis C.K. accused Dane Cook of ripping off, but then Steve Martin had done the same joke about 20 years earlier on The Tonight Show. So, the problem is even if you are chronologically ahead of the person you’re accusing, you may be behind somebody else you don’t even know about. At which point you just got to really think carefully.

John: Yep. Especially something with jokes. It’s like we’re all living in the same culture, so the odds that we’re going to come across similar kinds of things, like we’re going to have online dating frustrations, is pretty much 100%. So, yes, you need to write original jokes, but you also need to be aware that other people are going to be writing original jokes about the same universe that you’re living in.

Craig: 100%. So, let’s talk now about those rare circumstances, because they do exist, where somebody’s rights have been infringed. You go through our little checklist here and you’re like, um, I’m covered. They did in fact lift my unique expression. I was the first person to make this expression. It’s not about idea, or title, or subject. Nor is it about a matter of public record. It’s about my unique expression in fixed form.

So, OK, congrats, you’ve passed the checklist. So what do you do? Should you now publicly accuse that person on social media, John?

John: You should never accuse that person on social media. That is not going to win you anything.

Craig: Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. It is the weak person’s move. It is a person-who-has-no-leg-to-stand-on’s move. If you believe and can prove and have substance to an allegation that someone has ripped you off, you call a lawyer. And you sue them. And, ideally, you win. But going after people on social media backfires almost always with this stuff. Because in the end what you look like – and you’re not – but what you look like is nuts, or ignorant, or petty, or jealous, or stupid, or amateurish. And these words get thrown around willy-nilly on Twitter because people love it. And that’s not who you are. Who you are is somebody who got upset in an understandable way.

So, what you don’t want to do is turn your initial honest and completely understandable emotional reaction into a target that people are pasting on your forehead because you decided to behave in a way that was ultimately self-destructive.

John: I completely agree. So, if you are in this situation, you’ve past through Craig Mazin’s checklist of was I ripped off and you can tick affirmatively on all those things, yes get a lawyer. Yes, I think it’s fine to discuss privately with friends what you’re doing and maybe they can help talk you through some of what’s going on, but going out to the broad wide world of social media saying this thing that happened to me is not going to serve you well.

Now, if you see that there’s a pattern of this kind of thing happening particularly with a certain person or a certain kind of employer, I can see the reason why you might want to speak up for that. The same way you don’t want to stay quiet about harassment and other things, it’s important to not feel like you have to keep everything to yourself, but to go after the individual in something like this, writer versus writer, I don’t see being good for you or for any writer around you.

Craig: Yeah. I think even in situations where perhaps speaking out publicly in advance of some kind of legal action would be called for, I would still want to do so on the advice of legal counsel. So, I’d seek out the help of an attorney and the attorney says to me, “You know, this is something where I think we need to apply pressure from two different avenues. I’m going to file a lawsuit and I want you to go and say to people what’s happened here, because you have stuff to say.” And in that case what you don’t have is somebody tweeting and equating feeling violated with being violated, which are two different things. Particularly when we talk about intellectual property and copyright infringement, it’s a matter of law. It’s not a matter of feeling whatsoever. And there are a lot of people with hurt feelings who have sued and lost or been sued and lost who still walk around with hurt feelings feeling violated. But unfortunately the law was the law and that’s how it worked.

So, if you have legal advice, and I do, I strongly suggest getting it in a case where you honestly believe you’ve been violated and they say that it’s a good idea to go public, then go public. But otherwise I just don’t see the upside.

John: I agree with you. So let’s talk about situations where you’re not filing a lawsuit, you feel frustrated, you don’t feel like maybe you could tick two out of the four checkboxes. What do you do? You’ve got to move past it. And that’s I think a crucial thing is that if you fixate on this one moment where you feel like your idea was stolen but you don’t think there’s a lawsuit, you don’t think there’s any sort of way to rectify the situation, you got to keep moving. Because with this one New York Times story, or with a pitch that you went in with that they end up doing a different movie, you got to keep moving. Because I see writers who get fixated on this one big score, like this one thing would have changed everything for them, and they don’t move forward. They just stagnate on feeling bitter about this one thing.

And that does nobody any good. So, you’re there to write. So, write something else and that’s the power that you have.

Craig: And also take charge of your circumstances. You know, if you believe that your fate is completely determined externally from you, then this is going to hurt even more. But I think if it were me, and it has been, and I see that somebody is doing something that I wanted to do or was doing, my instinct is not to say, “Oh my god, you ripped me off.” My instinct is to say, “OK, A, good news, I’m on the right track. I’m thinking of things that these people are paying other people to write. So, A, good. B, maybe I should reach out to the woman who is writing this article and say, ‘Hey, great minds think alike. Ha-ha-ha. Awesome job. Love your article. Was wondering if I could grab a coffee with you and you could give me some advice, or you can get on the phone and give me some advice, because I’m like you and I’m thinking the same things like you. And I want to write about the same things like you. So, hey, let’s…’” Can we turn this into a positive? And not turn it into an accusatory thing, which ultimately gets you nowhere.

Even in success, what do you get? Nothing?

John: You get nothing. So, I want to talk about the third party involved here. So we talked about the two writers in a situation, but I want to talk about everybody else. Everyone who is seeing this thing on happen on Twitter, or someone comes to you with a story, if you came with just Sarah’s initial story, that instinct to be outraged. Like I can’t believe they’re stealing this thing. My general advice, which I’ve given before, is just be generous. Be generous in your assumptions. Be generous in your assumptions with the original writer. Be generous in assumptions with the writer who claims to be ripped off. That everyone may be acting in good faith, they’re just feeling very different things. And they’re acting out of a place of emotion rather than sort of what the real reality of the situation should be.

So, in talking about both the writers in this situation, but all writers who feel like their work has been stolen from them, be generous in how you’re taking in the situation that they’re presenting. And try to look at people in their best light and not make assumptions that they’ve done something horrible just because one person says so.

Craig: Well there you go. I think that what used to be a worry about jumping to conclusions is now a worry about jumping to alliance or jumping to condemnation. We are presented with a narrative in which a great injustice has been done by a bad person to a good person, which is a very seductive narrative. There’s an entire religion based on it. And we naturally start like rats who have been fed cocaine hit the bar again for more cocaine. And our hearts leap out for the person who has been hurt because we’re empathetic or we’re sympathetic.

And we get in there and I think in our zeal to be good, and to be comforting, we forget that we have completely accepted the notion that another human being is bad. And now that person is easy to kick around because boo them. And then we turn around and now I see people accusing the first person of somehow betraying them.

Whoa, everyone, let’s always as best we can try and get some facts. And if at all possible, at all possible, can we get some information from a third party. You know, it is one thing for someone to say, “This person did this to me.” It’s another thing for a third party, disinterested party, like a journalist to say, “This is what I have learned about what this person has done to this person.” That is just generally more credible. So, let’s just slow down.

John: Yeah. Slow down. Don’t hit that retweet button so quickly. I thought back to a moment that happened earlier this last year. This was a tough, horrible year on just so many fronts, but I remember there was a tweet that came through my timeline where someone said that the Trump White House had replaced the word person with citizen in their explanation of the Bill of Rights. And that’s an outrage. Basically they’re trying to divide us into real Americans versus fake Americans. And so this person on Twitter was outraged about it.

And I was like that’s horrible. And I was about to retweet it. And then I was like, but is that really true? And so I went and I pulled up the page and like it’s true. It said Citizen rather than Person. So then I went to Internet archive and I pulled up that same page from previous years. And it turns out it said Person the whole time through. So it wasn’t a change that had been made. It was just like that’s how it actually said it on that White House page. So it wasn’t Trump who did that.

And so rather than retweet it I tweeted back to the original guy saying like here is what’s wrong about that, and here’s the actual link to it. I think I helped stop that little meme from spreading for about an hour. And I think if we all did that and just took a step back and looked at the actual reality of the situation, do a little research yourself, you might find that the world is not so – the world is outrageous and awful in many ways, but not everything is bad. And not everything is the way it is being presented on Twitter, certainly.

Craig: Yeah.

John: So take a step back.

Craig: This way you get to earn your outrage.

John: Absolutely.

Craig: If you have an impulse to outrage, then train yourself to recognize it, stop, make sure you have earned it, because the thing that you have been presented needs to be tested. OK. Let me check. Let me make sure. Verify. Snopes. Et cetera. Good. Outrage.

John: Outrage. Full outrage.

Craig: Correct. Outrage free-wheeling, unfettered outrage.

John: Sounds good. All right, let’s get to some more questions. Eric in NYC writes, “I read in the New York Times that ‘a deduction that is disappearing is one for fees paid to agents, other outside managers, or headhunters who take a commission on a salary directly from an individual.’ This sounds quite a bit like the deduction that affects working writers, so I wonder why we haven’t heard more about this as the tax bill has been debated. Or perhaps we have and I haven’t been listening close enough. To the best of your knowledge, how does the tax bill affect writers who pay a commission to agents?”

Craig: I have no idea. I mean, the thing to remember about a lot of working writers in Hollywood is that once they hit a certain level of steady employment, and I think this would cover most of your steadily working professional writers, they create pass-through corporations, S-Corps usually, sometimes C-Corps, in order to better take advantage of the byzantine tax laws.

And one of the things that that means is things like agent fees and manager fees become business expenses from your business and they are not a personal expense. So I don’t know exactly if this is true. I don’t know what it means, per se, and I don’t know how it is going to affect a lot of writers.

The truth is, I don’t know what the hell is going on. And you know what? Neither who the ding-a-lings who voted yes on it. Because they didn’t even read it.

John: Yeah. That’s what’s so frustrating. I mean, everything is so frustrating. But I want to be able to provide a good answer saying like if you’re an S-Corp it’s going to affect you this way. If you’re a C-Corp it’s going to affect you this way. If you don’t have a corporation it will affect you this way. So therefore you should arrange certain things certain ways. I would love to be able to provide you those answers. And so once stuff shakes out a little bit more, hopefully the WGA will be able to provide guidance on how this will affect writers moving forward.

But right now we just don’t know. I’ve read conflicting reports about what changes for S-Corps versus C-Corps. It’s all just kind of confusing and murky. Certainly writers tend to have a lot of student loan debt. That gets affected differently. So, it’s a challenging time.

Sorry. [laughs] Yeah, so I would say that the best guidance would be to do things the way things have been going for a while and then listen for changes as stuff comes through. Because it may make sense to make an S-Corp earlier, because the threshold used to be if you were making reliably over $200,000 a year than an S-Corp made sense. Maybe that will drop down lower. I just don’t know.

Craig: I don’t know either. I think this is one where you just have to talk to your tax people. I mean, I’ve been speaking to my tax guy and running various rumors I’ve heard past him and he’s like, “Ah, I wouldn’t do anything right now. We’re still all figuring this out.” So whatever happens, some strategy will be employed, but it also may just be that what is is what is.

I mean, the truth is if in fact the government said nobody can deduct agent expenses anymore, whether it’s a corporation doing it or a person, well, we can talk about that, but generally the conclusion is there is no action item. That’s the law.

John: Exactly.

Craig: Sucks for us.

John: Yeah. It could be more people going without a manager, or making some other choices based on that, but I doubt that would really change that much.

Craig: Who the hell knows? All right, let’s go to Mark in Encino. He says, “I’m curious about your thoughts on the polarization of our country and how it affects writer’s rooms. Many of your showrunner guests have indicated that they’re looking for talented writers that see the world differently than they do. But I can’t help think that most of these showrunners would balk at hiring a new writer who didn’t have a progressive/liberal stance on most issues. I’ve been in too many rooms that are openly hostile toward conservative or libertarian viewpoints and I know some closet conservatives in town who don’t dare speak about their party affiliation for fear of losing opportunities.

“What would you say to a talented, hard-working, intelligent writer in this town who happened to hold conservative views? Bit your tongue and go along with the room? Considering that roughly half the country holds conservative views, wouldn’t it make sense to populate writer’s rooms with a few more conservative voices? I don’t mean to belittle the hard-earned gains of people who have endured discrimination because of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, et cetera, by placing political affiliation within the same sphere of diversity. That said, it still feels like Hollywood is working to keep certain people out, even though the criteria for what makes those people different has changed. Thoughts?”

John: Well, neither of us are staffing TV rooms, but it’s true we’ve had a lot of guests on the show and the thing we hear consistently is they’re looking for writers who are not like them. They want some different voices in there, so that’s why diversity in rooms becomes so important so they’re not an echo chamber of their own thoughts and they can see things outside beyond their little bubble.

So, in general I want to agree with some of Mark’s concerns and this instinct to make sure that you’re not excluding a huge chunk of the population by your choices, but I guess we just have to decide what we mean by conservative, or sort of what those views are. Because your views are like a fiscally conservative take on how we should be doing tax policy, I don’t think that’s necessarily going to hurt you much in your ability to staff in a room.

If your conservative values are going to church every Sunday, I think that’s awesome. And that’s the kind of thing which actually could be an asset in a room because you might have experience about sort of what a very religious life is like. Those are things that I think could be assets for you as you’re going into a writer’s room.

Where I think you’d have a harder time in some of those rooms is if you felt like I don’t think those people should have rights, or I don’t think those people should have healthcare. There’s certain beliefs you could have that would come out naturally in the conversation which could be challenging in a room.

Craig, what are you thinking?

Craig: I’m pretty much right there with you. I mean, look, if the point is that diversity in a room and the principle of different kinds of voices is helpful for writing, then – and you want to take advantage of that, which I think is fair by saying, “Look, I am also different in a way from all of you, so I would have a different viewpoint,” that is absolutely fine and I do think would be welcomed, unless your different viewpoint is intolerant. Because then unfortunately what you’re saying is you need to tolerate my intolerance. And it just doesn’t work that way.

In general, these rooms need to function on tolerance. And so everything up to intolerance I think is fair play. Like you said, libertarianism, a way of viewing taxation, the notion that private interests may be better at doing things than the government, foreign policy, you know, how aggressive should we be? Should we be supporting this or supporting that? That’s all I think fair game. I don’t imagine people getting emotional about those sorts of things.

What they get emotional about is intolerance. And I don’t think that you would find any welcome room in our business if you are harshly intolerant or even mildly intolerant of the things that generally speaking we are tolerant of. We are a community of artists, and artists have always been, I think, more tolerant than most people of these things. And also we have a great tradition, and we have a lot of friends and a lot of coworkers, and a lot of heroes who are not white, who are not straight, who are not gender binary, and all of that stuff.

So, if you can sort of be tolerant than I don’t see any reason why you should be – I think sometimes some people get a little dramatic. Don’t forget, when you say like, “I know some closet conservatives in town who don’t dare speak out about their party affiliation for fear of losing opportunities,” you know, there are always people who are going to come up with some excuse for why they’ve lost an opportunity. Anything other than, oh yeah, it’s super freaking hard to get these jobs. It’s super freaking hard for everybody. And so, yeah, you can go home and say that wasn’t my fault. It was the fact that I’m a Republican. Or you can go home and say these are very, very difficult jobs to get. The odds are against me. I must prevail. I must work harder and go on harder. Isn’t that the whole conservative thing anyway? Right? Not to be a snowflake.

John: Yep.

Craig: There you go. Don’t be a snowflake. [laughs]

John: No snowflakes. All right, Ann writes, “A couple weeks ago my feature script was trending on the Black List site. It’s still trending now. I’ve had an interested production company contact me and I’m meeting with another production house this week. It’s all been very exciting, but I’m grappling with how to handle these meetings. After an hour-long call with one of the LA companies, they said they’d love to develop a project with me one day and asked for any treatments, outlines, or ideas I have. They also sent me a ‘top secret’ script they’re developing and asked for my feedback. I sent my notes. And they said they were very impressive.

“On a second call, the exec said he liked one of my treatments, but felt it needed more plot. And to keep sending him material. I don’t have a manager or an agent and basically I’m wondering about the dos and don’ts of these kind of meetings and relationships.”

Craig: Well, I think Ann it sounds like you’re doing it just fine. It’s always a scary thing when you, after a period of time I presume, where you’re not getting any attention but you’re really struggling to get some, finally get some, then I get it. You sort of tense up and go oh god. I kept asking for people to look at me and now they’re looking at me. What do I do?

Well, it seems like you’re doing it right. I mean, you’re meeting with them. You’re talking to them. You’re kind of being a participant in their lives. You’re sending notes back. These are the sorts of things that don’t really qualify as working for free. It’s more like being a kind of collegial friend of the court. And I think they’ve said basically we’re not up to the point yet where we want to pay you for what you’ve written, but send us more.

And I think maybe at this point other than what you’re doing I would suggest the following. One, express to them your willingness, if it’s there, to work on other things as well. In other words, the thing that you sent notes on, if you can be an active participant and actually be paid to work on that, that would be lovely.

And, two, say hey, you know, if you guys are aware of a terrific manager or agent that you think would be a nice match for me, I’d love for you to make an introduction.

John: Absolutely. So, if these are bona fide producers and they are really working in the town, they’ll have contacts with other agents and managers and stuff like that. And they may be able to bridge those gaps.

I also agree that what you’re doing so far is not spec work. You’re reading something, you’re giving some notes, it’s basically just kind of feeling each other out. That’s fine. Don’t do a ton of it. But it’s sort of like you’re kind of an intern, sort of wandering around through there. And that’s fine. That’s totally normal. Don’t do it for six months.

Craig: Right.

John: Just sort of build out a relationship. That’s great. Take more meetings. Don’t feel exclusive to these people or to anybody. And just keep trucking.

Craig: Yeah. All right. We’ve got something from Daniel in Sydney who writes, “My writing partner and I are working on an original pilot that starts with our hero coming into some notoriety. We currently have outlined two interview scenes with well-known celebrity hosts who run their own shows. It is a bad idea to have celebrity ‘characters’ included in the script? Even if we’re not wedded to the specific celebrities we’ve chosen, and wouldn’t necessitate them being cast if the show were to be made, we found them useful for telegraphing the tone of the interview. And since a Seth Meyers interview is generally understood to be very different in kind to a Joe Rogan interview, et cetera. Or, are we better served coming up with obvious stand-ins for these celebrities, say having our hero interviewed on Later Tonight with Marty Klein? Are we just being lazy?”

What do you think, John?

John: I think it’s fine to use Seth Meyers if it’s just like a one-off scene. Where like Seth Meyers is just interviewing the character and there’s not big, long, elaborate scenes with Seth Meyers. That’s fine. You will see that in scripts where it’s just like they talk to Katie Couric or whoever and it’s just clear that it’s a placeholder person, that you’re not relying exclusively on getting that one person in there. It’s not like it’s William Shatner and he’s in the whole movie playing himself. That’s fine.

It’s also fine to do the second suggestion, which is basically just give us a type. And then if that character does have to recur again then you actually sort of own that character and you can do specific things with that character. So, I wouldn’t get pulled too much by a real person showing up as long as it is clear how we’re using them.

Craig: Yeah. I have to be honest, I do find it a little jarring when I see it in scripts. It does feel – it doesn’t feel lazy. It feels a touch gimmicky. What it does is it disrupts the world that you’ve created. I want to believe that I’m in a world that is my world, but it’s also not my world. And so it’s a special world I’ve gotten to go in to watch this movie. And obviously some topics require this kind of thing. But others don’t. Comedies tend to lean on these things quite heavily and sometimes it can be a little, I don’t know, cheesy.

I do think if you’re going to write somebody to replace somebody, so you don’t want Seth Meyers, but you want a Seth Meyers-like person, change the name plenty. And maybe even change the venue. And maybe even change the time of day. In other words, make it your own thing. It will feel fresher and more connected to that world than either something that’s from our world, like Seth Meyers, or something that feels almost like a parody or knock-off of something from our world, like Later Tonight with Marty Klein.

John: Yeah. I agree with that. And I think it comes back to tone, also. Like there’s a tone of movie and certainly a tone of comedy where you do have those real callouts, where you see real people. And that makes sense, especially if it’s part of a montage of things, like they’re being interviewed a bunch of different places. Just saying like Seth Meyers, blah-blah-blah, that is fine. But in a drama or something else than you’re going to a real person, that always feels weird to me.

And I think I may have complained about this on a previous episode, but I would like to call out for CNN and sort of all the news networks, like stop letting your anchors be in our movies. I think it does a real disservice to your anchors, to your Anderson Coopers, to have them be in our fictionalized stories to provide verisimilitude when the asteroid is about to hit us. Maybe just stop that. I think that could be a good thing for 2018 is if we stopped having CNN in our movies.

Craig: I agree with you. I think it cheapens them. And look, the old school news folks would never do it. And I think a lot of the – I think a lot of people today wouldn’t do it just on principle. It’s one thing I suppose if you want to do, you know, a send up of yourself, or appear in a late night sketch. That’s fine. Everybody understands you’re doing a goof.

But, yeah, when you essentially trade on your own authenticity and authority for cash, it just cheapens the whole thing doesn’t it?

John: Yeah.

Craig: I’m with you.

John: Just stop. All right. One simple question here. Mackenzie from Michigan writes, “I know about the ‘one-page/one-minute’ rule, but my script doesn’t have any dialogue. Is there a separate rule for scripts with no dialogue? Or is it a guessing game on how long it will turn out to be?”

Craig: [laughs] It’s a guessing game. You don’t know.

John: You don’t know.

Craig: It’s the god’s honest truth. The person that will figure it out is a First AD. And they will do so by relying on their experience. So you’ve written this happened, and then this happened. Well, that should take about this much time to shoot. That should take about this much time to shoot. And then this should be this much time on screen.

John: Yeah, the script supervisor will do a report like that, too. So he or she will sit down with a stop watch and literally read through the script and usually in consultation with the director figure out how long would this scene be and just basically add it all up.

So, this is a thing you could do yourself, Mackenzie. You could just go through your script and just really kind of read through it and figure out how long do I really see this playing. Just play the whole movie in your mind, add it up, and you’ll get some sense of what that would actually feel like.

Craig: Correct. That sounds great. We have time for one more?

John: Sure.

Craig: All right. Well let’s go with – this one is a good one. This one will get me all angry. Jesse writes, “I’ve been approached by a director to co-write a script with him and he’s asked what I would charge as a work-for-hire. I’ve heard 2% to 3% of the production budget, but do you know of any resources to find a good starting point? Or have you any suggestions on how to decide on a figure? That would be greatly appreciated.”

John, do you see the big red flag?

John: Ah, yeah, work-for-hire is the problem here. So, work-for-hire is a term – and so all I know Jessie may have just put that in there because it sounds like a big official term, but work-for-hire is a way of working for somebody where they own everything. They’ll own the copyright. You’re basically just writing for them and you have no claim to it whatsoever.

You really don’t want to be doing this right now. If you want to write something with him, great. Write something with that director. That person could be paying you or not be paying you, but don’t sign over everything to that director at this point. That doesn’t feel like a great choice.

Craig: No, it’s a terrible choice. I mean, look, so John and I, when we write we write work-for-hire, but we’re writing work-for-hire for movie studios. And then we have an arrangement with the movie studios via the Writers Guild that says the Writers Guild will figure out the credits. So we have the ability to credit on the movies that we write, even though we don’t retain the copyright. The legal author of everything John and I have ever written for screen is a studio.

What this director is saying to you, if he is saying work-for-hire, the real question I have is why. Why work-for-hire? What does he get out of it? Well, what he gets out of it is you never existed. Your name doesn’t have to go on the movie at all. The author of the movie is him. Because he’s the commissioning author. And then you worked-for-hire. Work-for-hire goes all the way back to the revolutionary period when silversmiths used to hire people to make silver out of the molds that they created and so it was a work-for-hire. You’re not really the author, I am, because it’s my shop.

So this is what ends up happening. So you’re concentrating on how much money you get paid. I’m concentrating on the fact that this guy is potentially getting set to shaft you.

Now, I don’t want to get ahead of my skis here. If this director is saying, “OK, no, it’s a work-for-hire for someone else. We’re both going to be writing work-for-hire for somebody else,” that’s different. As long as you have parity with the director here in terms of credit, and copyright standing, then I’m OK. Then we can move on to the money point.

And on the money point, you know, I don’t really know how to advise here. Because I don’t know what the budget is. Yeah, there are some people out there who say things like 2% to 3%. Some people say 10%. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know. I think that you need some help and really what I think you should say to the director is, “You know how much I should be paid? Half of what you’re getting paid. How about that? Like whatever you want to get paid, I also get paid that. We have perfect parity. That’s what it means to co-write a script.”

John: Yeah. Perfect parity in the sense of the amount being paid to that person as the writer versus the director. I know it can get confusing because if that is the writer-director and he or she has made other movies, they may have previous credits, there may be some reasonable case for why you’re getting less money than that person is. But, a work-for-hire is not the real situation you’re talking about there. You want some sort of contractual agreement where if this movie happens, we are a writing team with an ampersand and this is how it’s all going to work out.

Craig: Yep.

John: I will say I talked to a writer this last year while I was living in Paris who does a lot of basically what Jesse is describing where he goes in and helps writer-directors with their scripts and basically gets no credit and just gets paid by this writer-director to basically rewrite their scripts. That’s not uncommon in Europe. It’s not a situation I would want to emulate here in the US.

I believe in Writers Guilds and writers getting credit for the things they do. And residuals.

Craig: Yeah. And it’s really weird in Europe because they don’t have work-for-hire in Europe, so really what’s happening there is that’s just straight up ghostwriting. That’s somebody essentially taking money to not exist.

John: Yep. That’s what happens.

Craig: I don’t like that.

John: All right. We answered a bunch of questions. We still have more questions. But if you have a question for us, write in to and we will try to get to them on a future show. But now it’s time for our One Cool Things.

Craig, I’m so excited to see yours, so talk us through yours first.

Craig: So, mine is the Nokia Thermo. John, I hate thermometers. I freaking hate them. There’s so many different kinds – here’s the problem with thermometers. There’s the dinky digital kinds, and then you stick them under your tongue, or you lose them and they go, meep-meep, and you have to hold them in your mouth. And you’re never sure if you’re getting them right under your tongue. And especially if you have a kid, are they holding it under their tongue?

And then you can put it under the armpit, but that’s a different reading because the body temperature is different than the blah-blah-blah. And it goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on. I hate them.

And then, you know, when you and I were kids they had the glass thermometers with the mercury that inevitably somebody would drop and then there was deadly mercury on the floor. So there’s that problem.

So, the Nokia Thermo, I love this thing. It is an electronic thermometer. On their website they’re charging $100 for it, but on Amazon I think it’s $80. And, yes, there’s an app. And it syncs with the app. And you can record, oh, Craig’s temperature, and Melissa’s temperature, and Jack’s temperature, and Jessie’s. Yeah, whatever. Whoop-tee-do. That’s not the point.

Here’s what’s fascinating about it. It uses essentially a scan of your temporal artery and your temporal artery is sort of located in an arch across your forehead and then up under your hair. And so what you do is you glide this thing, you sort of place it in the center of the forehead, and it’s got this very – you know that super soft kind of silicon? Yeah, so it’s like being caressed with a whisper. You place that right in the center of the forehead and you just slide it like you’re swiping. You swipe right. You slide it to the right, towards the hairline, and just like that, boop, it’s done and it gives you an instant reading. And it is really accurate because I tested it against a bunch of thermometers and it was just spot on.

And I loved it. And it was fast. So, I’m a big fan of the Nokia Thermo.

John: So, I’m looking at the picture here and I’ve seen this exact thermometer before. So I don’t remember who originally had this, but obviously Nokia makes it now. And I was curious about it. So I’m so glad that you liked it and now that I know you like it we will buy one immediately.

Craig: You’re going to love it.

John: I’m going to love it.

Craig: So much fun!

John: My One Cool Thing is a very good blog post by Justin O’Beirne about Google’s Moat, he calls it. Basically it seems to be obsessed with Google Maps and Apple Maps and sort of how they compare and how they grow over time.

So, his blog seems to be just entirely about digital maps. But this article I thought was especially great because he takes a look at the same areas and how Google Maps maps it and how Apple Maps maps it. And the differences but also some of the new technologies and sort of speculation about why Google Maps is ahead and how they are going to continue to be ahead.

So, it’s really fascinating. A thing I had started to notice but I hadn’t realized that it was just on Google Maps is as you zoom in closer and closer they now show the outlines of buildings. So they always had like the satellite view, but now they very carefully trace the outlines of buildings and they use those traces of outlines to sort of show the larger density within cities.

It’s a very smart bit of both computers crunching things hard, but also designers really thinking about what is the right level of detail to show you at different levels of zoom in. It’s impressive. And he speculates on why they’re doing this and sort of where it’s going next.

Craig: Where is it going next?

John: Well, one of the things that’s so fascinating is if you go into Google Maps and you zoom in really close it shows the outline of the buildings. And it shows where the bay windows are on buildings. So like it’s really detailed. And his theory is that Google is doing this all because down the road when they have cars going around they want to be able to take things to a specific door. Or really know buildings in such detail they can see like someone is going to come out of that door versus that door.

Craig: Right.

John: And so they want to know where all the doors are. And so they have the satellite imagery, they have existing maps, they have their street views. And they seem to be doing a very good job of combining all that data to really know exactly what businesses are where. Basically where everything should be so that if they down the road want to send an autonomous vehicle someplace they’ll know exactly where to send it within like feet.

Craig: That’s fascinating. It’s scary, but it’s fascinating.

John: Yeah. It’s good. Just today I’m in Boulder visiting my mom and we looked out the window and we couldn’t figure out what this one thing was. And it was some sort of like giant enclosure, sort of like how you know practice fields have those big tent enclosures over them. But we couldn’t remember what was there. And so we pulled up Google Maps and like, oh, those are tennis courts because we can see the tennis court.

Craig: Amazing.

John: Everything is at your fingertips at all points these days.

Craig: Everything.

John: Everything. That is our last show for 2017.

Craig: Wow.

John: Craig, there was some good stuff that happened this year, but on the whole I’m just ready to sort of put 2017 aside and be excited about 2018.

Craig: Let me just remind you, let me just be Jewish for a second, John, that’s what we all said about 2016. [laughs]

John: Oh yeah.

Craig: I just want to caution you that we may be fondly remembering 2017.

John: There is that possibility. I think 2016 ended really badly, but 2017 was really bad the whole time through.

Craig: Well, you know, the fun part of this all now is that people can hear us. As the world changes they can go back and listen to what we said before and after these things. And it’s very touching actually and people are like, oh John and Craig seemed so happy right up until the election. [laughs] They were so happy.

John: There was that little extra episode we put out which was like–

Craig: Shell-shocked. Yeah.

John: Everything will be OK.

Craig: Yeah. Well. Yeah. Look, this may get worse before it gets better.

John: That’s absolutely true. Or it may not get better. But we’ll hope it gets better.

Our show is produced by Megan McDonnell. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week is by Matthew and the Children’s Bell Choir of Akita.

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

On Twitter, Craig is @clmazin. I am @johnaugust.

We’re on Facebook. Just search for Scriptnotes Podcast. Look for us on Apple Podcasts or wherever else you get your podcasts.

Show notes are at That’s also where you’ll find the transcripts. They go up within the week. And you can find all the back episodes at, or on the USB drive which is at

Craig, have a great New Years. And I’ll talk to you in 2018.

Craig: Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. See you next year.

John: Bye.


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You can download the episode here.