The original post for this episode can be found here.

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

Craig Mazin: Yes. My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is Episode 360 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

Today on the podcast we’re going to be talking about relationships and how writers let the reader know what’s going on between two or three or more characters in a scene. Then we’ll be looking at three new Three Page Challenges to see how these suggestions might help.

Craig: You said this is Episode 360?

John: Yep. Gone full circle.

Craig: Wow. We have gone full circle. And in five days we will also have a year, five days, five weeks. We will have a year of podcasts.

John: Yeah. The math doesn’t really kind of work the same way. Well, I guess, I think if you count the bonus episodes you could listen to an episode a day and fill a full year.

Craig: Right. Except the leap year.

John: Yeah. We don’t really count those.

Craig: No, we don’t count those.

John: But looking at calendars, I do have some things to put on your calendar for listeners.

Craig: Segue Man.

John: Yes. I have a couple of Arlo Finch things coming up. August 25 I’ll be at the San Diego Festival of Books, talking about Arlo Finch and signing some Arlo Finches. September 22 I will be at the Orange Public Library Comic-Con. So there’s Comic-Cons in other places. So this is the City of Orange. And then the start of October I am headed to Frankfurt, Oslo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen for the German and Scandinavian releases of Arlo Finch.

Craig: Nice.

John: So if you are in any of those cities or countries you can track me down.

Craig: That’s awesome. I kept meaning to get up to Stockholm at the very least because Lithuania, we’re right up there, you know. We’re right there.

John: Stockholm is amazing.

Craig: So like our director Johan Renck and our DP, Jakob Ihre, and then Stellan Skarsgård, they just zip back and forth as they need to. It’s easy for them to go home. It’s not so easy for me to go home when I’m there. But, yeah, so I want to go to Stockholm and Oslo would be pretty great, too. And Copenhagen. I mean, actually they all would be pretty great.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Well, you’ll have a great time doing that. And just out of curiosity when you are on tour promoting Arlo Finch do you try and shorthand it to ArFi? Do you do ArFi? ArFi?

John: Sorry about that loud bang.

Craig: Did you just shoot yourself?

John: I did. I shot myself.

Craig: That question was so horrifying to you that you just – that would have been the most amazing way to end this podcast.

John: Boom!

Craig: Yeah. John? John? John?

John: Episode 360.

Craig: John?

John: I never shorten it down to ArFi. He’s Arlo Finch in every market. That’s the only thing that hasn’t changed. So in France they changed the subtitle of the book to Le Mystere des Longs Bois. But otherwise it’s just Arlo Finch, something about Valley of Fire.

Craig: That French cover for the new book is great.

John: Yeah, it’s cool.

Craig: Love that cover.

John: And you and I will be together doing live shows in the Austin Film Festival. So that is October 25 that that starts.

Craig: Right.

John: And while I’m there that’s actually coincidentally the Texas Book Festival, so I’ll be doing events both for Texas Book Festival and Austin Film Festival at the same time.

Craig: Can we call the Austin Film Festival AuFi?

John: Yes. We can. We will officially change it to AuFi.

Craig: We are going to have a great Austin show this year. Some awesome people are going to be coming. We’re going to pack the stage as we usually do. And we’ve been talking to the Austin folks and I think it’s going to be pretty exciting. And I did not realize this but apparently the live show, they had to turn people away. So, we’re working on maybe a way that we don’t have to turn people away.

John: A bigger venue would be a great thing. So we’ll see if we can get that to happen.

Craig: Correct. Oh, and I should mention to those of you who are thinking about going to Austin Film Festival to participate in the pitch competition.

Apparently there was a little bit of I guess some feedback that the judges last year may have been altogether a little too easy on the contestants. And apparently the request came in that I return to provide a little bit of, I don’t know, a little more of that Simon Cowell je ne sais quoi. So I believe I will be judging the final pitch competition at Austin this year. So, you know, you want to do that, right? You want to be in that. So be in it.

John: Be in it.

Craig: Be in it.

John: Do it. Do it.

Craig: Do it.

John: Do it. Our episode this week is about relationships and Lawant on Twitter actually asked, “I started going through the podcast from episode number one. Do you guys happen to know if there’s an episode going into how you two met?”

And so I was thinking back and in Episode 100 we do talk about the emails that led to the creation of the podcast, but I’m not sure we’ve ever discussed on the show sort of how you and I met, sort of that backstory thing. And I think I have one memory of it, but you may have a different memory of it. So, my memory of it is that you were starting Artful Writer, your blog, and you reached out through David Kramer, my agent, who was also your agent at the time to see if we could get on the phone to talk about setting up the blog. Is that your first instinct of how we met?

Craig: That’s exactly right. I remember thinking that there were certain technical things. I noticed, I believe, that you were using – were you using Word Press for your site or were you using Movable Type? Remember Movable Type?

John: Yeah. I remember Movable Type. Movable Type is I think entirely Pearl-based, and it generated static pages.

Craig: Yeah. It roamed the earth once, like the dinosaurs. And has gone the way of the dinosaurs as far as I can tell.

John: I’m still on Word Press now, but I think I might have been on Movable Type at that point. I remember you asking a very specific question about my little brad logo and how it floated over–

Craig: Yes! You know what it was? I remember, so I had started up this Movable Type blog and I had just a general design, but then there were certain things I was doing to customize it. And I looked at your site and like how the hell – there’s got to be some simple, easy plug-in or something he’s done to make this logo like this. I remember talking to you and you were like, “No, that took hours,” somehow like trimming around the brad and coding it in to float and all the rest. And then I realized that I just didn’t want to spend hours.

But I think that was the first time I ever spoke with you about anything. It was just computer stuff. It wasn’t writing stuff.

John: No, it wasn’t at all. And then I think the first time I remember actually meeting you was at Huntington Gardens. You were there with your family. I was there with my family.

Craig: That was the first time?

John: I think. We may have met in person one time before then, but I just remember it was really weird and random that we were at the same gardens in Pasadena at the same time. And I’d only been there like twice or three times in my life, so it was a rare overlap.

Craig: Yeah, I remember bumping into you there. So that was a long time. But we were just, you know, not friends or anything, we just knew each other and so forth. But then we got involved in this little boondoggle we invented for Fox, but how did that start?

John: I think you probably called me about that, because you’d already started talking with other writers. So, for folks who don’t remember, no one would remember this history, Craig had this idea of trying to make a deal at one of the studios for a small group of writers to get real meaningful backend on their projects. And so he pitched it to me. I said it sounded like a great idea. We brought in a bunch of other writers. Craig and I went and pitched it to a bunch of studios. Fox bought into the idea. And very little actually became of it ultimately.

Craig: Yeah. It was an interesting thing. I remember specifically the genesis of it was I read about what they had done at Warner Bros. John Wells had put a group together at Warner Bros. And so I called John up and said, “Hey, describe this whole thing.” And he did. And it sounded like a pretty good deal. So then I was like well why don’t we do this. And the problem is I think they all went the same way. They all, every version of this has never gone well, whether it was through Sony or Warner Bros. or Fox. I think those are the three places that have done them. It just ultimately never really works. McQuarrie did one like this as well.

John: Yeah.

Craig: Nothing ever comes of them.

John: And I don’t know if we can say definitively why. But I will say one of the challenges is that studio leadership keeps changing, and so it becomes hard to sort of kind of not really even force the deal but sort of like keep the deal active and going when leadership keeps changing.

Craig: It does. And it was I think problematic in part because it required the material to come from the writer. And as we were putting these deals in place the studios’ interest in material they didn’t control kept plummeting. So ultimately you couldn’t really apply a deal like this to any project that relied on underlying property. And, well, that turned out to be essentially all they ever wanted to make.

So that was – there were a bunch of reasons why it began. I think another factor in that is just simply that the writers who qualified for consideration for these kinds of things were so freaking busy and never had a day off, ever. And somebody had always lined up some other thing with them that there was very little time for them to do the sort of work that would lead to success with one of these things.

So, all sorts of reasons why that didn’t work. But you and I went around. I think that was really when we got to know each other. Because we were kind of rowing together in a little canoe. And we made a great little team, I thought.

John: Yeah. I thought so, too. And so when we first started doing the podcast I remember there was some episode early on where I said like, “Well it’s not like you and I are friends outside of this podcast,” and you were really offended by it. And I remember I was like, oh, I hurt Craig’s feelings. And Craig has feelings. And we’ve become much better friends over the course of doing the podcast, but also–

Craig: Do I have feelings? I guess I do.

John: You do have feelings.

Craig: I guess I do.

John: But we weren’t playing D&D at the start. Like all that stuff came.

Craig: No, we have become friends through this podcast. I mean, whether I was legitimately hurt or not. You had a fair point. We weren’t really that close or anything. But our relationship is a function of the work that we do together. That’s how it’s happened. And that’s by the way how relationships must happen, if I may Segue Man myself into our main topic–

John: Go for it.

Craig: Relationships have to be functional. I think sometimes people make a mistake and they think a relationship is just two people who like to chat together or sleep together. That in and of itself is not enough function.

John: Yeah. So in framing this conversation about relationships, I think there’s two challenges screenwriters face.

One is how you get the audience up to speed on relationships that began before the movie started. And so this is trying to figure out like literally letting the audience know how these two people are related. Are they siblings? Are they friends? Are they a couple? Are they ex-spouses? Getting a sense of what are the underlying conflicts that started before the movie started. And really who wants what. That’s all stuff that you as the writer hopefully know and you have to find ways to expose to the audience if it’s going to be meaningful to your story.

The second challenge screenwriters face is how do you describe the changes happening in a relationship while the movie is going on. And so it’s really the scene work. What is the nature of the conflicts within the scene? How are we showing both characters’ points of view? What is the dialogue that’s exposing their inner life and exposing the nature of their relationship?

And they’re very related things but they’re not the same things. So what Craig and I just described in terms of our backstory, that’s kind of the first part is setting up the history of who we are. But so much of the writer’s work now is to figure out how within these scenes are we moving those relationships forward and providing new things to study.

Craig: Yeah. That’s exactly right. The screenwriter has certain tasks that are homeworky kind of tasks. You do need convey information. We have this wonderful opportunity when a movie begins to have fun with that. The audience is engaged. They’re leaning forward in their seat. They haven’t yet decided that this movie stinks. So, you can have fun and tease along or misdirect what relationships are. And then reveal them in exciting and fun ways. And that’s I think really enjoyable for people.

So there’s an opportunity to maybe have – maybe it doesn’t have to be quite busy work when we’re establishing how people relate to each other factually. But the real meat of it, as the story progresses, is that fabulous space in between two or three people. The relationship I generally think of as another character. There’s what I imagine this person like alone. There’s what I imagine this person like alone. But when they’re together there’s that other thing between them. And if you think that sounds a little foofy, well, just consider the word chemistry and how often we use it to apply to actors who must perform these relationships. Because when it’s there what do we describe it as? Sparks, or whatever. It’s that thing in between.

And when it’s not there, there’s nothing.

John: Yeah. Chemistry is fundamentally the mixture of two elements that by themselves would be relatively stable. And you put them together and they create something new. And that’s what we’re really talking about in a relationship is that new thing that is created when those characters are interacting and challenging each other.

So, let’s talk about establishing these characters and I think you’re right to describe at the beginning of the movie the audience does lean in because I think partly they’re trying to figure out who these people are and sort of what slots to put them in. People approach movies with a set of expectations and there are certain kind of slots that they want people to fall into. And they’re looking for like, OK, well what slot are they falling into? And if you are aware of what the audience’s expectations are that can be really helpful.

So, some of the slots people are looking for is, well, who is the hero, the protagonist? Who is the love interest? Who is the best friend? Who is the rival? Who is the mentor? Who is the parent? That’s not to say you should have stock characters, but it’s to be aware that the audience is looking for a place to put those folks essentially. A sense of the relationship geography of the central character and the people around them.

And so be aware that the audience is trying to find those things and help them when you can. And if you need to defeat those expectations or change those expectations be aware that’s a job you’re assigning yourself.

Craig: Right.

John: That you have to make sure that the audience understands this isn’t quite what you think. You think that this person is the father, but he’s actually a step-father who has only been married to the mother for a year. If that’s important, you’re going to have to get that out there quickly so we understand.

Craig: That’s exactly right. And similarly there are times when just like you and the audience, one of the characters onscreen will also not quite understand the nature of the relationship, and so it’s important then to tie back to our perspective and point of view episode. If I’m in the perspective and point of view of somebody who has a basic understanding of what a relationship is, and if I want to subvert that I first must lay the groundwork for their wrong understanding. And create their expectation.

So, in Training Day, we have an understanding because we share a perspective with Ethan Hawke that he’s been assigned the kind of badass older veteran character who is going to train him and be his mentor. And so that’s his understanding. And then the guy just starts doing some things that are a little uh, and he goes eh, OK, and we’re all a little bit like uh. And then it gets much, much, much, much worse. And we understand that we, like Ethan Hawke, completely misunderstood the nature of this relationship. And then a different relationship begins to evolve.

John: Yeah. So, let’s talk about some of these expectations. So Ethan Hawke had a set of expectations going into it. I think so often as I read through Three Page Challenges or moments in scripts that aren’t really working I feel sometimes the screenwriter is trying to do a bunch of work to explain something that could have just been done visually. And so they’re putting a lot of work into describing something that could be done as sort of a snapshot, as an image.

So, I want to give a couple snapshots of things you might see in a movie and as an audience you see these things and you’re like, OK, I get what’s going on here, so all of that work is being done visually and therefore the dialogue can just be about what’s interesting and new and is not establishing these relationships.

So, here’s the first snapshot. You see four people seated at a table in an airport restaurant. They’re all African American. There’s a woman who is 35 and putting in eye drops. There’s a man who is 40, a little overweight, who is trying to get a six-year-old boy to stay in his seat. There’s a girl who is nine and playing a game on her phone.

So, you see these four people around a table, you’re like, OK, they are a family. They’re traveling someplace. That’s the mom. That’s the dad. Those are the kids. That’s your default assumption based on the visual I described. So therefore anything you want to do beyond that, or if you need to clarify exactly the nature of these relationships between people, that there’s like a step relationship or one is actually a cousin, you can do that but that visual sort of gave you all that stuff for free. And so therefore you can spend your time in dialogue on doing interesting things with those characters rather than establishing that they’re actually a family and they’re traveling someplace.

Craig: Yeah. You suddenly don’t need to do things like have a character say, “Mom, or “Son,” or any of those annoying things that people do to hit us over the head with this sort of thing. But you’ve put some thought into how to create a relationship in a realistic way.

The fact of the matter is that many writers who struggle with this only struggle with it when they’re writing. If I take any of those people and bring them to an airport and walk them through the airport and just say you quietly look around and then describe to me the relationships you infer from what you see, they’ll get it almost all right.

John: Yep.

Craig: That’s how it works as humans. Therefore that’s what we need to do when we’re writing. I wish that writers would spend more time in their visual minds, I guess, rather than trying to just begin or stop with words, if they could maybe walk through the space in their heads and experience it. It’s amazing what you see when you do that. And then you don’t have to use dialogue.

John: Yeah. All right, so here’s another snapshot. So, next table over there’s a man and a woman. They’re sitting across from each other. They’re both early 30s in business suits. He’s white. She’s American-born Chinese. He wears a wedding ring which we see as he drinks his scotch. His eyes are red and puffy, maybe from crying. She doesn’t look at him. All her attention focused on the spreadsheet open on her laptop. So that’s the visual we’re giving to an audience at the very start.

We know there’s a conflict there. We know that something has happened. Something is going on. The nature of their relationship between each other is probably fraught. There’s something big happening there. And I think we’re leaning in to see what is the first thing that somebody says. What just happened that got them to this place?

Are they having an affair? Are they business colleagues? Something big has happened there. And you have a little bit of an understanding about their jobs, or sort of that it’s some sort of work travel. So that visual gives us a sense of who those two people are before we’ve had any words spoken.

Again, if you saw those people at the airport you would probably get that basic nature of their relationship and you’d be curious. And so I think the thing about sort of establishing people visually is that you want there to still be curiosity. You’re not trying to answer all the questions. You’re just trying to give a framework so that people are asking interesting questions about these characters in front of them.

Craig: You’re building a mystery. Right? You’re giving us clues. I have clues here. OK, these are the clues you’ve given me and I’m looking at the situation here. OK, I’ve got this man, I’ve got this woman. He’s wearing a wedding ring. He’s drinking scotch. He’s crying. He’s sad. She doesn’t seem sad at all. That’s a huge clue to me. Whatever he’s crying about, it’s not about her, because she’s looking at a spreadsheet. It’s not that she’s looking down nervously and shutting him down. She’s busy. She’s looking at a spreadsheet. This guy seems pathetic. I’m guessing his marriage has blown up and he’s crying about it for the 15th time to his associate who is subordinate to him therefore can’t tell him to shut the hell up.

She meanwhile is trying to get the work done that they need to get done so they both don’t get fired by the boss above both of them. I don’t know if that’s true. And I don’t know if you even thought it through that far.

John: I haven’t.

Craig: Right. It’s just that’s the bunch of clues there. And that’s how fast we start to assemble clues. Here’s the good news for all of you at home. What I just did is something that you can use to your advantage if you want people to get what you want them to get. It’s also what you can use to your advantage if you want people to assume something that is incorrect.

For instance, in the first scenario we see a man, a woman, two kids, they’re all sitting together in the airport, playing on a game. They’re all the same race. They all therefore technically can be related. It feels like a family. And that’s a situation where at some point you could have the nine-year-old, turn, wait, see somebody pass by and then hand 50 bucks to the man and the woman and say, “Thanks. We weren’t here.” And then she takes the six-year-old and they move along, right?

Like what the hell? Who is this little spy? But that’s the point. By giving people clues we know reliably we can get them to sort of start to think in a way. We are doing what magicians do. It’s not magic. It’s misdirection and it’s either purposeful direction or purposeful misdirection. This is the way we have fun.

John: Absolutely. And so the example you gave where they pay the money and leave, it would be very hard to establish the normalcy if you actually had to have characters having dialogue before that. We would be confused. And so by giving it to us just as a visual, like OK we get the reason why everyone around them would just assume they’re a family. But if we had to try to do that with dialogue or have somebody comment on that family, it would have been forced. It would have felt weird.

So, you have to think about sort of like what do you want the audience to know. What do you think the audience will expect based on the image that you’re presenting and how can you use that to your advantage?

Most times you want to give the audience kind of what they’re expecting so the audience feels smart. So they feel like they can trust their instincts. They can trust you as a storyteller. And maybe one time out of five defeat that expectation or sort of surpass that expectation. Give them a surprise. But you don’t want to surprise them constantly because then they won’t know what to be focusing on.

Craig: Right. Then they start to feel like this really is a magic show and they lose the emotional connection to things. So, in the beginning of something you can have fun with the details of a relationship because those are somewhat logical. And you can mess around with that. The more you do it, the more your movie just becomes a bit of a puzzle. And, by the way, that’s how whodunits work. But those are really advertising nothing more than puzzles. And that’s why I recommend all screenwriters spend time reading Agatha Christie. Just pick a sampling of two Poirots and two Marples. And just see how she does it. And see how clever she is. And see how much logical insight and brilliance is involved in designing these things, particularly in such a fashion where it works even though you are trying to figure it out while it’s happening.

John: Yeah. And so it’s not like those characters are realistic, but those characters are created in a very specific way to do a very specific function. And they have to be believable in doing their function the first time through and then when we actually have all the reveals you see like, OK, that’s what they really were doing. And I can understand why everybody else around them had made the wrong assumptions.

Craig: Well, that’s the beauty of it is that you start to realize by reading those whodunits how much stuff you’re filling in that isn’t there. You make these assumptions that that girl must be that woman’s daughter. That’s just a flat assumption you made and at no point was that ever stated clearly and why would you believe that? So, it teaches you all the ways that our minds work in a sense. So, that’s always great. But I think once you get past the technicals of portraying and conveying relationships, then the real magic and the real fun is in watching two people change each other through the act of being together, whether it is by talking, or not talking, or fighting, or regret. Whatever it is, that’s why I think we actually go to see these stories.

I don’t think we go to movies for plots. I think maybe we show up because the plot sounds exciting. We stay in our seat for the relationships. Lindsay Doran has an amazing talk about – did we – that’s going to be my One Cool Thing this week for sure. I mean, I’m sure I’ve said it before, but Lindsay Doran has a Ted Talk she’s done. It’s available online for free. That goes to the very heart of why relationships are what we demand from the stories we see.

John: Yeah. And too often you think about like is this a character moment or is this a story moment. And, of course, there is no difference.

Craig: Right.

John: You have to make sure that the character moments are married into fundamental aspects of story that are moving the story forward. Because if you have a moment that is just like two character having a witty conversation but it doesn’t have anything to do with the actual forward trajectory of the plot, it’s not going to last. And if you have a moment that just moves the plot forward but doesn’t actually have our characters engaging and interacting and changing and their relationship evolving, it’s not going to be a rewarding scene either. So, moments have to do these two things at the same time. And that’s the challenge of screenwriting. It’s that everything has to do multiple things at once.

Craig: That’s why they’re doing them, right? I mean, the whole point is you’re in charge. You can make anything happen. You can end the movie right now if you want. So, why is this happening? And if your answer is, well, it’s happening because I need it to happen so that something else happens, no. No. Stop. Go backwards. You’re in a bad spot.

John: So often I think we have an expectation of what the trajectory are going to be for these characters also. Because we’ve seen movies before, so we know that the hero and love interest will have a fight at some point. They will break up. They’ll get back together. We can see some of these things happening. And that doesn’t mean you have to avoid all those things happening but you have to avoid all those things happening but you have to be aware that the audience sees it coming. And so if the audience sees it coming and kind of feels that you’re doing that beat just because you’re doing that beat, like, oh, now they’re going to break up because of this misunderstanding and, ugh, I saw that happening way ahead of time, that’s not going to be rewarding.

They’re going to have an expectation that attractive people will fall in love. That families will fight and splinter but ultimately come back together. So, all that stuff is sort of baked into our expectation of these stories from the start. So, be aware of that and so if you get to those moments understand what the stock version of that moment is and figure out how you push past that. How do you get to a new moment between these two very specific characters, not the generic archetypes of these characters? What is it about them that makes this scene, these two people being in the scene, so unique and special?

And when you see those things happen, that’s what makes your movie not every other movie.

Craig: It strikes me that nobody really talks about relationships when they’re doing their clunky, boring screenwriting classes and lectures. I mean, I’m sure some people out there do. But so often when I skim through these books they talk about characters and plot. They don’t talk about relationships. And I guess my point is I don’t care about character at all. I only care about relationship, which encompasses character. In short, it doesn’t matter what the character of Woody is until Buzz shows up.

John: Completely.

Craig: Woody, until Buzz shows up, is – well, his character I could neatly fit it on a very small index card. Woody is the guy who is in charge and has sort of a healthy ego because he knows he’s the chosen one. So he’s kind of the benevolent dictator. OK. Boring. Don’t care. That’s why movies happen. We don’t want that to keep on going. What we want is for Shrek to leave the swamp and meet Fiona. Then the characters become things that matter because there in – go back to our conflict episode. Everything is about relationship. They should only talk about plot and relationships as far as I’m concerned. We should just stop talking about character. It’s a thing that’s separate and apart.

I think a lot of studio executives make this mistake when they take about character arcs. I hate talking about character arcs. The only arcs I’m interested in are relationship arcs.

John: Yeah. Shrek is not a character, but Shrek and Donkey together is a thing. Like that’s–

Craig: Right.

John: There’s no way to expose what’s interesting about Shrek unless you have Donkey around to be annoying to him. So you have to have some thing or person to interact with. Yes, there are – of course, there exceptions. There are movies where one solo character is on a mission by him or herself and that’s the only thing you see. But those are real exceptions. And I agree with you that so many screenwriting books treat like, “Oh, this is the hero’s journey and this is the arc of the hero,” as if he or she is alone in the entire story. And they never are. And it’s always about the people around them and the challenges.

Craig: Or an animal.

John: Or an animal.

Craig: You know what I mean? There’s some relationship that mattes. And the only place I think you can kind of get away with learning and experiencing something from a character in the absence of a relationship in a kind of impressive way is in theater and on stage and through song, but in that sense you’re there with that person, the relationship is between – so when Shrek sings his wonderful song at the beginning of “A Big, Bright, Beautiful World,” the beginning of Shrek the Musical which as you know I’m obsessed with, he’s singing it to you in the audience. And you’re with him in a room. So that’s a different experience.

But on screen, then when you watch – OK, great example if I can get Broadway for a second, Fiddler on the Roof opens in the most bizarre way any musical has ever opened. The main character walks out and starts talking to you in the audience, immediately breaking the fourth wall. And he does it occasionally and then sometimes he talks to God. And he’s alone. And then there’s the song If I Were a Rich Man. He’s alone the entire time and he’s singing it to himself and to God, who is not visible.

And when you’re in a theater watching it it’s fun, and it’s great, and you get it. Then you watch the movie, which is not a bad movie at all. I like the Fiddler on the Roof movie, but when that song comes around you’re like what is happening.

John: Yeah. Who is he talking to?

Craig: Why is he? Who are you talking to? Why are you doing this? Why are you standing in a field singing? It’s bizarre. It doesn’t work in a movie. You need a relationship.

John: Yep. You do.

All right. Let’s take a look at the relationships in our Three Page Challenges. So, for folks who are knew to the podcast, every once and a while Craig and I take a look at the first three pages of people’s scripts, sometimes features, sometimes pilots. We’ve invited them to send these things in. These are not things we found online. These are not random things we’re criticizing. People have submitted these first three pages for us to look at.

So, Megan, the Scriptnotes producer, looks through them all and picks some that she thinks are going to be interesting for us to discuss. So if you want to read along with us the PDFs are going to be attached to the show notes, so go to Look for this episode. And you can read along with us.

If you would like to submit your own Three Page Challenge you go to and there’s rules for how you sort of put stuff in. So, again, not a competition. Not a contest. No one wins anything except hopefully listeners gain something from us talking about these brave people who have sent in their three pages.

Craig: Everybody wins.

John: Everybody wins. So, producer Megan McDonnell is actually going to read a summary of the things this time, so we will listen to a summary of the first script and then discuss. So the first script is Convenience by Jonathan Brown.

Megan McDonnell: Dee Brown and Sasha Thomas, both early 20s, avoid speaking as they shop in a convenience store. Sasha insists on undressing the unspoken issue. She’s your best friend. She can’t be so mad over some guy. Dee warns her that they’re being watched, but the cashier just reads a magazine. Sasha asks him to pick a side in their argument, but he stays out of it. Dee makes her purchase and exits. Sasha trails her out.

Sasha scolds Dee for being rude and immature saying it isn’t fair. Dee challenges her. What, that she’s not entertaining Sasha’s pity party or that she always has to be the one that pays at the register? Sasha admits that she didn’t notice whether or not there was someone else in the store. Of course she didn’t. She has a focus problem. They put on hoodies. Dee confirms that they are not friends anymore and she doesn’t care. She pulls out a gun. They put on masks and run back into the store.

John: Craig, talk me through Convenience.

Craig: OK. So, good summary by Megan. We have I think an interesting sort of scenario going on here. I understand that these – I assume that Dee is female. I believe Dee is female. So we have two women, two youngish women in their 20s, and they are both casing a joint. They’re shopping, arguing, and casing a joint and preparing to rob it, which feels like a very sort of Tarantino-y kind of thing. This reminds me of the opening of Pulp Fiction where Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer are having a chit chat in a diner and talking about hopes and dreams and then it ends with them announcing that they’re robbing the place. So that part is kind of cool.

The trouble I had with this ultimately is that it felt a bit rambly. There was a point in here. I think the point is that Sasha has done something to betray Dee. I think maybe stole a boyfriend or something, whose name is John.

John: John.

Craig: That’s a whole lot of words for what is somewhat mundane. And the relationship as we went through didn’t really change. In other words, it stayed on one level which is Sasha keeps yammering to try and get Dee to be OK with things. And Dee keeps pushing back and saying no. But it doesn’t get physical. It doesn’t get quiet. It doesn’t get stony. There’s no change in tactics which I always find troubling. I think in general people are very, very good at changing tactics when they’re trying to get something from somebody. There’s certainly plenty of conflict on display here which I think is a good thing.

Just technical things. There’s a few just odd bits in here. For instance, Sasha says, “You can’t seriously still be mad about it.” And then Dee says, “Seriously? We’re being watched.” So they’re using seriously twice but in different ways. They’re not necessarily echoing “seriously.”

Sasha says, “I’m your best friend. You can’t stop talking to me over some guy.” Nobody says that really like that. It’s a bit cliché. And I’m your best friend is just a weird thing. When we talked earlier about how to get across the specifics of a relationship, there are cooler ways to do that information than just somebody announcing it. We’re missing an apostrophe on “friend’s feelings.”

There’s a bit where they involve Bill who is the clerk in this convenience store. I assume he’s going to be important because he gets a name. The names are really generic. I don’t know quite what to do with these. Dee Brown. Sasha Thomas. Bill Frank. So I’m not sure where we are. I’d love to know also where are we in the world.

And lastly it appears that there’s some duplicated dialogue on page three where Dee says, “Look. I don’t care about John. I don’t care about you.” And then in the next line she starts, “Look. I don’t care about John. I don’t care about you.” I assume that’s not intentional. But a lot of this felt on the nose and exclamatory. And I think there’s a version of this where two people are whispering/arguing with each other in an aisle and we’re trying to suss out what they’re talking about but we can do a better job of uncorking that this is what they mean. And then one of them pulls out a gun and says “Just shut up until we’re done,” and then they rob the store.

I don’t know. It just felt very – this did not feel like an efficient use of the first three pages. What did you think, John?

John: I would agree with you there. So, talking about the relationship here, I think the reason why I didn’t understand the relationship well or didn’t click into the relationship is I don’t have any sense of who these two women are. I don’t – they’re just names. So, “Dee Brown, early 20s, and Sasha Thomas, early 20s, are walking through the convenient store aisles shopping.” That’s all we get for who these two women are.

Craig: Right.

John: And so I don’t have any sense of who they are individually. I’m not given any bits of flavor to help me tell them apart. And so as I’m reading through the dialogue I had a really hard time remembering like, wait, no, who had the affair with who? I couldn’t tell them apart. And their voices are the same. So, there was really no way for me to click in on sort of what I should be looking for.

So, we talk about expectation. I didn’t really have any expectations for them because you’ve given me nothing to sort of grasp onto at the start here. Same with Bill Frank. “BILL FRANK, 20s, the cashier is flipping through his magazine.” Well, there’s a lot of cashiers and I don’t know what kind of person this is. So give me some flavor here so I have some sense of who this person is and what the nature of it is.

Specificity overall – I don’t know what kind of convenience store this is. I don’t know where we are. I don’t have a sense of the season. I don’t have a sense – just visually I’m given very little to grasp onto, so I’m just trying to listen to the dialogue and I can’t actually pull anything useful out of this other than Sasha did something bad. But I don’t know why we’re talking about it now.

Craig: Right.

John: And what is the inciting incident that got us to talk about this moment?

Craig: Right.

John: I don’t know.

Craig: Well, it’s that the writer wanted to. And this is what I mean. Like, you got to come up with better reasons than this. By the way, I love what you just said about seasons. There is this fricking thing – am I aloud to say fricking without violating?

John: Absolutely. 100%.

Craig: Fricking thing where writers just – we talk about default white in screenplays. How about this? Default spring. Writers will write default spring. Because the second you actually get involved in production, somebody somewhere who has to dress these people will say when – what part of year is it? And most writers go, “Oh, uh, May.” No. May is boring. Give me the heat of summer. Give me the chill of winter. Come up with some cool stuff. And maybe if it is May it’s May, but then it’s hay fever. Whatever. Do something so that the weather matters. So that clothes are interesting. So every time the door opens there’s a wind that blows in and knocks a thing over. Use the world.

John: Use the world.

Craig: Use the world.

John: Other things that were just frustratingly unspecific to me, midway through page one, “Fiddles with items on the shelves. Dee continues to look around the convenience store and picks up an item to buy. Sasha follows her.” Picks up an item to buy. Got to pick up something. It’s no more words to actually say what that is that you’re buying. And anything would be more interesting than something to buy.

Craig: Anything. Anything. Like, somebody is stock piling the weirdest item. You know, like just ChapSticks. Just one after another after another after another. But whatever they’re doing everything has to be a choice. You’re absolutely right. And I think so much about what happened to these two girls with each other and their relationship could be helped along by just – is one tall and is one short?

John: Yeah. Give me something.

Craig: Punky haircut? Regular haircut? Give me something. It all felt incredibly bland and generic.

John: I had real geography problems when they left the store. And so I think what’s supposed to be happening is they’re basically doing a loop around the entire outside of the store and they’re coming back in front. But I had no real sense of where I was. So I couldn’t tell if they were still out front, where they were in terms of this. It makes sense to do the loop, but just give me the loop because I didn’t process it.

And I wasn’t ahead of the writer in terms of knowing this was going to be a stick up really. I mean, I assume they were shoplifting or something. So, I was a little excited by the, OK, now they’re going to rob and that’s the bottom of page three. But, I didn’t feel it.

And here’s the thing. If you’re going to do the reversal like, oh, they’re going to actually rob the place, the conversation leading up to that still has to be interesting. So, the thing we talked about with Pulp Fiction is like that conversation in the diner was fascinating.

Craig: It’s great.

John: Before they pulled the gun.

Craig: That’s why pulling the gun was such a shock. It’s not a shock here that they pull a gun because really what I get is two fairly bland, generic people are also doing a fairly bland, generic movie thing which is robbing a convenience with a bland weapon. It’s not even an interesting weapon. They haven’t even bought a can of bug spray and a lighter to use that as a flame torch. You know what I mean? It’s just, oh, here’s the usual gun. And I don’t know, it’s all just so…

One last little bit on that geography. I think sometimes if you want to do something that might be confusing to a reader then just use it to your advantage and say we’re not really sure where they’re going now and then, surprise, they’ve ended up right back at the front. Except this time they pull their heads down and pull out their – you know what I mean? Be impressionistic about it I guess.

John: Last little thing I will say is at the bottom of page three you commented how there’s dialogue that’s repeated. So it could be intentional. But if you’re going to repeat dialogue that way, because sometimes people do say the same thing again, give us something different in how you’re presenting it so that we know that it wasn’t a mistake.

So, the second time, like, “Listen, I don’t care about John.” Underline something. Uppercase some things to make it clear that this is not a mistake. She really is saying the same thing again, just with different emphasis, or really nailing it home.

Craig: Or even a parenthetical. Again. Just so that you’re letting the reader know, yeah, this is purposeful. I didn’t just screw up.

John: Final thing I will say is sometimes a character speaks and then there’s a line of action and the character speaks again with a continued. That can be a powerful thing, but I got confused a couple times here where I thought like we should have switched to the other character. If you’re going to do that, there has to be a real reason for why you interjected there. That there’s more happening after it. There were a lot of cases here where I felt like you should have just kept all that dialogue together and then done the action line, or put stuff in as a parenthetical because there’s a lot of cases of CONT’Ds and stuff that just confused me.

Craig: Yep. All right, well why don’t we move onto our second Three Page Challenge for this episode. It’s Plunder Cove by Paul Acampora and Erin Dionne. So let’s have Megan tell us a little bit about Plunder Cover.

Megan: A beat up car parks near a warn Plunder Cove amusement park billboard. Elliot Marker, 17, and Lilly, 9, gather their belongings from the car, her horse-shaped backpack and his hockey stick. He points out a small snake on the ground and warns Lilly to watch her step. Watching her step is the biggest part of staying safe.

Elliot pries open a hole in the chain link fence and props the gap for he and Lilly to climb through. He calls this their special family pass. They joyfully run through the amusement park and get caught by a guard just inside the wall. Elliot claims that they were just looking for a bathroom for Lilly. She asks why she always has to be the one who needs the bathroom. It’s because she always does.

They plan to meet when she’s done and go to the Merry-Go-Round. She gives him a big hug. He is an excellent big brother.

Craig: OK, John, what did you think of Plunder Cove? This is a pilot for a TV series.

John: So this is one of the most interesting Three Page Challenges I think I’ve encountered in this whole thing, because some of the writing in this was actually really nicely done and really thoughtful and the nature of the relationship between the brother and sister was interesting. The visual world of it was interesting. And yet these writers, it feels like they have not seen any other screenplays. Like they’re coming in from just some completely other universe of writing.

Craig: Yeah.

John: Because they just didn’t seem to have any sense of the standard ways that things are formatted. So maybe we’ll talk about the relationships first and then we’ll go into like OK this is how things actually need to look on the page, because the actual – some of the writing was good and would have been so much stronger with proper formatting.

So, I want to talk about our expectations of these two characters and what’s working and what could work better. What I liked about, so Elliot, age 17, and his nine-year-old sister, Lilly Marker, exit sedan. “ELLIOT, solid and tall, is a little too serious for his age. LILLY is high-energy, no patience, wild hair and untied shoes.” Great. Those are good descriptions of those people. Like I get what those people are. I get what the dynamic is. With that description I’m eager to see what is actually happening.

Then what’s actually happening, they’re sneaking into the park. He uses a hockey stick to pull open the chain link fence. Cool. I got it. I get all this stuff. I get a little sense that the home life is messed up. The mom is always in a box of wine. That the brother is a little annoyed by the little sister, but also very protective of the little sister. I basically got and believed their relationship in these three pages which is an accomplishment.

Craig: Yeah. I liked the wardrobe, hair, and makeup of the character introductions. I mean, look, the – and I’ll ignore the formatting, because truthfully I was thrilled. To be honest with you, thrilled to see something that people had typed that had absolutely no concern whatsoever for normal formatting. Because I just thought, oh good, finally a test of this thing I keep saying which is it doesn’t matter. Well, it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter to me. I’m sure that for other people they might look at this and go, nah, these people don’t know what they’re doing. But for me, they were an enjoyable three pages, so I stopped caring about that other stuff because in the end it doesn’t really matter.

I mean, if they could keep consistent within their own mad system that would be great. So, for instance, “park guy” is a character and he’s not capitalized, but everybody else is capitalized. So there are things like that. But by and large, you know, I got – here’s the truth, after the second page I stopped caring about that stuff and I was just inside of the scene.

So, let me talk about how that works, Paul and Erin. Pretty well. I think, relationship wise, again going back to the let’s not give away stuff that we don’t have to give away, they do this all the time. Right? We have an understanding that this is not the first time they’ve done this. Correct?

John: That is correct.

Craig: Lilly is sort of talking like she’s never done this before. That a lot of these things are new. “The biggest part of staying safe is just keeping your eyes open” is what he’s saying to her. Why is he saying this to her now after they’ve done this a bunch of times? You know? And then why is she asking what’s the other part, and “How come we never use the main gate?” That was the line that implied that they do this a lot.

John: Yeah. And so that exchange actually worked pretty well for me. I would cut out Lilly’s talk back line at the end. So, “How come we never use the main gate?” “We’ve got a special family pass.” He uses the hockey stick to pry it open. I didn’t need her line that says, “Our family pass looks a lot like a hockey stick.”

Craig: Precisely. Because you’ve seen the hockey stick many, many, many, many times. And then when she says, “Why do you always say I need to use the bathroom?” that makes sense, right?

John: Totally.

Craig: Frankly, the first exchange, too, “Watch your step. The biggest part of staying safe…What’s the other part? Dumb luck.” I’d cut that, too. I would just have him pull out the hockey stick and she’s like, “Can’t we – how come we never use the main gate?” “We’ve got a special family pass.” Then I get that.

She’s a little precocious for nine and we’ve seen that character many, many, many, many, many times. But, you know, it’s not the worst of it. And I liked their whole chitchat about the carousel and demoiselle and all that stuff. It felt nice.

I mean, look, there’s absolutely nothing in this teaser that qualifies as a teaser.

John: No. This isn’t a teaser for a TV show at all.

Craig: No.

John: It’s kind of a scene. Here’s what we should say about a teaser. A teaser sets up a question. Sets up a mystery. Sets up this is the start of a journey and it was just the end of three pages. It wasn’t anything.

Craig: Yeah. For this to be a teaser you do this scene and then at the end of the scene you realize they’re ghosts. That’s a teaser. There’s nothing here that goes, whoa, it’s just a lovely, nice little moment and then off they go. It feels like the first scene of an independent film, not a teaser to start you off and make you gripped by a television show.

So, look, in terms of formatting and stuff, honestly Paul and Erin, here’s the truth. You guys write well enough that you probably should give yourself the advantage of writing things in the “normal” format. And you can do that for free. You can do that for free using, well, Highland, there’s a free version of Highland but that’s only–

John: Yeah.

Craig: OK. So there’s free Highland. WriterDuet. There’s a free version of that. Just start there. At least you’ll get a sense of how the format works. But this was pretty well done.

John: Yeah. So a couple things, you know, using the write application will solve most of these problems, the weird way that dialogue was centered rather than blocked properly. If you’re going to do a pilot, that’s fine. Plunder Cove is the title of the series. You put the Episode on the title page. So, Episode One, Merry-Go-Round Broke Down. Teaser would generally be centered over the top of page one of the actual script. And then the application can take care of the rest of the stuff for you.

But here’s why I think it does matter. Here’s why standard formatting, or at least a semblance of standard formatting is if Megan hadn’t picked this as a Three Page Challenge and I was just like skimming through a bunch of them, I would have immediately passed over this because it didn’t look like a screenplay at all. It looked like some person who typed a play once and had never actually looked at it. And people are going to dismiss something that just looks so weird. And it’s not even consistent in how it is done. It’s not like they came up with some other system for how it was all going to be done. It just felt kind of random. And so you want everything to feel deliberate and you’ve made really good choices with words. Make really good choices in how you’re presenting those words so we actually will read your story.

Craig: I would have gravitated toward it. I’m just so bored of like, oh here it comes, INT…

You know, but that’s me. That’s me. I’m nuts.

John: All right. Let’s go to our third Three Page Challenge. It’s Savorless Salt by Mathieu Ghekiere. He’s from Belgium. I looked him up.

Craig: Oh, cool.

John: Megan, take it away.

Megan: Months are ripped from a calendar. Lucas, 10, sleeps. Hannah, 42, looks over a shelf of canned food with homemade labels. She selects a can and as she prepares a meal she’s careful to wipe down the containers. Jeff, 43, rides a stationary bike furiously, earning credits. Dylan, 5, wakes Lucas with excitement. It’s Christmas. Lucas looks at his wall covered in tick marks. He wipes them away with his sleeve.

Over their modest feast, Lucas challenges his mother’s assertion that it is Christmas. It’s been 412 days since last Christmas. Surprised that he’s been counting the days, she counters with an explanation that time is relative and leaves the table in a huff. Jeff encourages Lucas to keep counting and stay curious.

John: And we’re back. Craig, talk me through your experience with Savorless Salt.

Craig: What a strange and interesting title. Well I knew that Mathieu was not a native English speaker pretty quickly in. There’s something very lovely – in a lovely way it’s very backwards, the way that German is often backwards. Where he says, “Every month ends in the trash until December.” He’s talking about a calendar on a wall. “With a black marker every day before December 24th gets crossed.” Meaning every day before December 24th gets crossed off with a black marker. So it took me like three times on that sentence, but I was like, OK, I get it. And this is kind of actually awesome. I love the crazy syntax.

So generally speaking I thought this was pretty fantastic. I was gripped by the description. And I could see the space I was in. I understood, even if it said INT. BUNKER I understood that it was definitely bunker-y. That there was no need for me in the audience as it were to see the word bunker. I felt the bunkerness. I really loved that when we met Hannah she’s doing this interesting kind of ritualistic preparation of canned food. And then we get to Jeff who we, I guess are going to assume is her husband, and he’s biking. And you just infer that he’s generating energy and that the energy is measured in credits. So they have these obligations. And she throws powered bleach in the pot before putting in the vegetables. Lovely little details. I’m fascinated by what’s going on here. Fascinated.

Then I meet the brothers. I don’t know how old Lucas is. I know that his little brother Dylan is five. I’d love to know–

John: Lucas is 10.

Craig: Oh, where is that?

John: At the start there’s a weird scene that is underwritten. So, “INT. BEDROOM KIDS,” again.

Craig: Oh, there it is. Yeah.

John: “LUCAS, 10 years old, is sleeping”

Craig: Right.

John: But that was a situation where like we had no framing around that at all, so Bedroom Kids is reversed but also I don’t – what does that look like? That was an opportunity to show how this space is different than our expectations of what a bunker space should be, or the degree to which it matches those expectations.

Craig: Yeah, probably, Mathieu what you’d want to do is just cut that out. You can see the calendar on a concrete wall if you want. And then if you want to give us little glimpses of the space without drawing attention to people, and then go with Hannah, go with Jeff on the bike, back to Hannah, and then if you want to do the kids again. So just help us out there because I couldn’t remember from that little bloop. It didn’t even register in my brain.

So, his brother jumps on him because it’s Christmas. And in a very small bathroom, “Jeff washes himself with powder and the tiniest amount of water.” Another great little – I feel like I’m learning how whatever post-Apocalyptic nightmare these people live in, or if it’s not, regardless, I’m learning about bunker life. It’s kind of cool.

And then there’s this conversation that happens and Lucas is complaining a little bit that even though it’s Christmas the last Christmas happened 412 days ago. And this disturbs Hannah for some reason. I love the little mystery of this. Why is she upset that he’s been counting the days? She doesn’t like that, but Jeff does like that. Jeff, who is the dad-ish, kind of is pleased about this. And Hannah kind of loses her appetite. She’s having this emotional response to what seemingly is this just happy little family conversation. And smashes her elbows on the table. I’m pretty sure we want hands there. It’s very hard to smash your elbows on the table. Marches off and Jeff basically says to Lucas, you know, promise me you won’t stop counting.

Well, what I love here is I know so much. In three pages I know these people live in a bunker. I know roughly how bunker life works. I know that there’s something really creepy going on with Hannah. I know that the amount of days that they’ve been done there is at issue and that lies have been told. And I know that Jeff likes it and wants his kid to keep doing that because there’s conflict between him and Hannah. To me, that’s great.

So, you know, I say great job Mathieu. I really enjoyed these three pages.

John: Yeah. I was confused in the wrong way about Hannah. So I did up underlining on page three, “Her appetite is gone.” It’s like, well why I write. Because I didn’t see enough stuff there to give me a clue whether I was supposed to know that or not know that. And so, again, it’s being aware of what the reader is going to infer or not infer. I felt like Mathieu suspected I was a little more caught up than I actually was at that moment. So, that moment didn’t quite work for me. But I did like that you’re establishing these characters with a conflict already there.

It wasn’t spending a lot of time like everything is happy and now everything is fraught. This is a family that’s already in crisis even within this bunker context which is good. And that the nature of counting the days is important. I think the problem was, as a reader, I couldn’t imagine any scenario for why Hannah was acting the way she was. And so that left me a little bit frustrated.

Craig: Right. And I get that. I stopped a little bit when – when she lost her appetite I was a little confused by why it happened in that moment and not a little earlier. I think maybe when he makes the counting thing, maybe that’s when she puts her fork down. The losing your appetite also is a little funky one just because Mathieu makes a big deal about how this is a feast and yet it’s not a lot of food, which makes me think that they’re on rations and are hungry a lot. So, but there’s something also a bit scary about Hannah, which I like. The unpredictable emotionality was putting me on edge, and I like that.

John: Yeah. So in our previous episode we talked about point of view and I think one of the things, especially this last scene, could benefit from is a little bit more clear point of view. Because we established all of these characters, but whose point of view are we seeing this dinner scene through? Is it from Hannah’s point of view? Is it from Jeff’s? Is it from one of the boys? And I think making that choice will inform how the scene plays and how we as an audience are reading this moment.

If we’re supposed to be seeing this from Hannah’s point of view, that’s frustrating because we don’t understand Hannah’s point of view. If we’re seeing it from Jeff’s point of view, which seems a little bit more likely, that feels a little bit more grounded. And the boys’ point of view could be equally valid. But I think we need to give the boys a little bit more screen time and weight beforehand and see everything kind of from their POV, which might mean cutting out the Jeff in the shower and stuff like that. Just so we’re really seeing it from the boys’ point of view.

Craig: That’s fair. I think there’s a little bit of confusion in there about who we’re with. But I was impressed by the amount of information that I got without being smacked in the face with it. So, it was interesting.

John: Let’s talk about Mathieu’s English. Because his English is pretty good, but there’s things that he messes up that you’re going to mess up as a non-native speaker.

Craig: Right.

John: And so if he’s really writing this in English rather than French or another language, I think it would serve him well to have a native speaker just do a quick run through and just flip some of the words around so it reads a little bit better as standard English. Because sometimes we stop and we trip on things like, wait, what did he actually mean there? And if it was smooth and effortless it would serve him better.

Craig: No question. I mean I can go through this and practically every single paragraph there is some kind of mistake in English and they are somewhat subtle. We generally call – it’s canned food. We don’t refer to them as metal food cans. We don’t say big pearls of sweat. We would say big beads or droplets of sweat. He’s eyes instead of his eyes. There’s a lot of things like this. She wipes the plastic with a paper cloth. I think in English we would say paper towel.

So there’s all these little idiomatic things. And, by the way, this is something that I had to do, even though I was writing in English for English people, for Chernobyl because it’s essentially a British production and actors and crew were sort of used to reading a certain thing. We just decided we’re just going to go with British spellings and we were going to go with British words to not confuse people. So, for instance, no more flash lights but they have–

John: Torches. Yep.

Craig: So Jane Featherstone read through the whole script and sort of went, no, no, yes, yes, change that. Colour. You know. It was all – and it doesn’t change anything, Mathieu. I mean, that’s the point, is that it’s still your writing, you’re just making it what you actually intended it to be.

John: Yep. All right, thank you again to our three brave entrants to the Three Page Challenge. I guess it was actually four because there was one writing team.

If you would like to read these pages, they’re at Just look for this episode and you can find the PDFs to download. Or if you want to submit your own it’s

It has come time for our One Cool Things. My One Cool Things are these books which you’ve seen in a bookstore, I assure you, if you live in the United States. They’re these sepia toned books that are about local history. So, the first one of these I read was on Larchmont which is the little shopping street in my neighborhood by Patricia Lombard. It was a great history of this weird little shopping street in Los Angeles. But doing research for this new project I’ve been pulling up a lot of LA history. And some of these books are fantastic. Another one I’d recommend is African-Americans in Los Angeles by Karin L. Stanford.

So these books, there’s a company that makes them called Images of America. There’s really a very set template. There’s a ton of photos. Some are really well written, some are not well written. But they’re so fascinating in their very, very, very local history of a place that I’d really encourage you to check them out for wherever you are living right now or wherever you grew up. But if you need to do research on a place, historical research on a place, they are great because they just have a ton of photos of a place that, yes, you could probably find online but you couldn’t find in context. So, I’m going to recommend these Images of America books.

Craig: I picked up one of those for La Cañada, the town where I live in. You know, La Cañada in many ways is an incredibly boring little town. That’s kind of why we like it. But when you read the history of La Cañada you realize it’s always been a boring a little town.

John: Nothing’s changed.

Craig: No. My One Cool Thing is the aforementioned Lindsay Doran Ted Talk. I apologize if it’s been my One Cool Thing before but I don’t care. It’s that good. It’s an evergreen. You should absolutely listen to this. It’s brilliant. It’s not long. It’s 18 minutes and 25 seconds. And in that 18 minutes and 25 seconds Lindsay Doran, who is a brilliant, brilliant producer, legendary producer, manages to convey precisely what it is about movies and relationships that draw us in. And it is such a refreshing antidote to a lot of the garbage advice that I think is handed out, particularly about endings to people, in which endings become loud, stakes-building crescendos of explosions and nonsense cacophony. And miss out on what an ending really is.

And she does this wonderful job of explaining to you through movies you’ve already seen whose endings you may have forgotten what the endings are really about. So Lindsay Doran Ted Talk. Link in the show notes.

John: Fantastic. So that’s our show for this week. Our show is produced by Megan McDonnell. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week is by Michael O’Konis. If you have an outro you can send us a link to That’s also the place where you can send questions like the ones we answer on the show.

On Twitter, I am @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. That’s a good place to go for little small questions about things.

You can find us on Apple Podcasts. Just search for Scriptnotes. While you’re there you can leave us a comment. That helps people find the show. But you can find the show notes for this episode and all episodes at That’s also where you’ll find the transcripts.

We have now seven seasons of Scriptnotes available to download. If you go to you can download them as big files that have all the mp3s. All the related materials. And the bonus episodes. So they are $5 per season if you want to go back through those.

We also have which is $2 a month and lets you load and download any of those episodes of the first 359 that we’ve done, plus the bonus episodes.

So, Craig, thank you again for a fun show about relationships.

Craig: Thank you, John. My relationship with you is better than ever.

John: Better than ever. Thanks Craig.

Craig: Talk to you soon. Bye.

John: Bye.


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