The original post for this episode can be found here.

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

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is Episode 365 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

Today on the podcast we’ll be doing one of our favorite features, How Would This Be a Movie, with new stories looking at McDonald’s millions, a rest home for ventriloquist dummies, and the Tinder hunger games. Plus we’ll be answering listener questions and other bits of stuff that’s left over from Craig being gone for so long.

But, Craig, you’re back.

Craig: I’m back. Feels good to be back in here. We are on our one year of podcasts podcast, which is exciting. I have to say I’m not cut out to be a world traveler. I’m just going to put it out there. I have gone back and forth between Los Angeles and Eastern Europe, which is not an insignificant trip, about – I don’t know, back and forth seven, eight, nine times over the last four or five months. I don’t know how people that routinely do this do this.

John: I have a friend who has a business in Eastern Europe and he just goes back all the time. He just loves being on planes.

Craig: Wow.

John: Doesn’t mind – he’s a citizen of the world. Doesn’t mind jetlag. And that’s just not me.

Craig: Yeah. The planes thing you can kind of make your peace with. The jetlag is just, blech. You don’t get used to it as much as you just no longer fear the unknown. Now you know exactly what to be concerned about. So I know now, OK, fly on Saturday, land on Sunday. Go to work on Monday. Monday will be surprisingly fine. Don’t be fooled. Tuesday you begin to feel a bit sick. Wednesday you want to die. And then Thursday you kind of get back to normal.

John: That’s often how it goes. Plus you’re working very long hours doing your show because you’re there on set.

Craig: Yeah.

John: And it’s not natural light sometimes. It’s all crazy.

Craig: The last week of shooting we managed to fit in some splits, which is when you shoot half-day/half-night, and then full nights.

John: Oh, brutal.

Craig: Including an hour-long drive to and from location to our hotel in Latvia, so we managed to go over the border for that. But I have to say I’m thrilled. 90 days of shooting. An incredible cast. A wonderful crew. Best creative experience of my life. I surely hope that the show turns out as well as we all think it will. And it’s very exciting. Very meaningful and exciting for everybody involved. So, a lovely thing.

John: I’m so excited for you. Cannot wait to see it.

All right. We have so much follow up. So let’s get into our follow up. Two weeks ago you and I talked about the Department of Justice was looking into the Paramount Consent Decree, the decades-old ruling which said that studios could not own exhibitors and vice versa and set a whole bunch of special conditions on those relationships.

Jim in North Carolina wrote in to say, “The flaw in Craig’s support for studios owning theaters doesn’t scale downward. Many smaller communities don’t necessarily have multiple physical theaters. Concentrating ownership isn’t going to support rich ecosystem of films.”

Craig, what do you think of that?

Craig: Well, I don’t know if that’s quite right. I mean, you are always going to have a place for independent cinema and theater houses that run non-studio films and non-studio fare, just as you always have. I mean, right now what we have are very large corporations that primarily show major motion picture releases from big studios, and then we have little ones that show other things. So that doesn’t change. Frankly, when he says – Jim says, “Many smaller communities don’t necessarily have multiple physical theaters,” what do they have? That’s what I would ask him.

If they have something like an AMC kind of chain, or a Regal, or one of these big ones, well then maybe the ownership changes, but the place itself doesn’t. Hopefully it gets better.

John: Well, but I do wonder in that situation, let’s say Disney buys AMC as a whole chain, so that theater now in his small town is owned by Disney. Is that going to limit his ability to see movies from Warners, to see movies from Paramount? There could be some concern there’s just actually some movies may not come to his town because Disney has that theater.

Craig: Well, what I would suggest is that if this ever does change, and the federal government allows studios to own theaters, it can only happen if there is some kind of regulation that requires the carrying of other people’s products, otherwise you are essentially engaging in bundling and monopolistic practices. So, I would think that it’s a bit of a – look, it could happen that we go from all of the regulation that we have to none. But that seems highly unlikely. I think what would happen is a relaxation but not a complete elimination. I can’t imagine a world where the government says we’re going to go from Disney not being able to own a single screen to Disney can own all the screens at once and only show Disney product. That just seems like a rather broad leap. So.

John: Another case came out of Texas this week, so I’ll put a link into this. Dominic Patten wrote it up for Deadline. So this was a case between AMC, the big theater company, and Viva, which was a smaller chain that showed Spanish language versions of big screen releases. And so this was a lawsuit, it was the next round in that lawsuit, between the two. Viva has now gone out of business, but the lawsuit continues.

And I thought it was really interesting. Basically Viva is arguing that there is a significant Spanish-speaking contingency that was not being served by AMC’s screens and that essentially AMC had a stranglehold on the market and was not allowing Viva to compete for the ability to show these movies. And so it’s the kind of thing that the government gets involved with, looking at is this a restraint of trade. Is this something that’s in violation of the consent decrees, I assume.

Craig: Yeah. It’s a really interesting situation. AMC is this big theater chain. And they said, look, we make these deals with studios where we show their movies and then they don’t show that movie maybe next door to us in our competitor. And then the studios say, yeah, this other exhibitor, Viva, they only show movies in Spanish, so that’s not really competition to you. That’s a different thing. And AMC said, no, no, no, it’s the same thing. We’re not showing any of your movies unless you agree to not show them over across the street at a Viva theater.

And their argument was, look, very few – I think they said 7% of the local population doesn’t speak any English at all. In other words, 7% only speak Spanish, therefore really only 7% is what Viva is claiming is the reason they should be showing these things. And the other 93% sitting in the crowd at Viva, so they would argue with bad statistics, could just as easily see the movie over there at AMC in English.

And the judge basically said, no, even if–

John: No!

Craig: No! Even if we suggest that the only people that go to see the films at Viva are the Spanish-speaking people, he said AMC does not explain why 7% of Houston’s population is not a sufficient submarket. I mean, Houston is a big city. 7% of Houston is a lot of people.

So this, frankly, this stinks. I think what AMC is doing here stinks. And we’ll see what happens. These things have a way of eventually settling out, but I don’t like it.

John: Yeah. As a person who was living in France for a year, when I would see US movies or British movies in France I could choose to see them version originale, which would be it’s all in English, I could a version originale sous-titre, which means subtitles, or version originale French basically. So basically I could see it dubbed, I could see it subtitled, or occasionally I’d see it without either the dubbing or subtitles.

Some movies you could see whenever you wanted to see, you could see it with subtitles on. But some movies, like especially Pixar movies or Disney movies, they were only in that first week and only in big markets could you see them not dubbed into French.

Craig: Right.

John: And so it became this complicated thing of like well we have to see Moana first weekend, or actually Vaiana there, because if we don’t see it that first weekend we won’t be able to see it in English. And so languages are a complicated thing. And to say that 7% of a market speaking that language isn’t significant is crazy.

Craig: Yeah. And this is just overreaching greed.

John: So, in last week’s episode that you weren’t here for Kate Hagen came in and she was fantastic talking about video stores. A thing she brought up which I think got sort of a little bit lost in the edit is this idea that, as MoviePass seems to be going away, there’s this idea that arthouse theaters in a market could all ban together and essentially make an arthouse pass. And so with it you could see as many movies at these independent theaters as you wanted to over the course of a month. That seems like a great idea.

So, I would just – if someone is working on that for Los Angeles, please let us know because that seems like a terrific idea.

Craig: I mean, but is it a great idea for the exhibitors?

John: I think it’s a great idea for those one-screen houses, for them to get together and be able to make it all work. That would be great. Obviously there’s concerns about the degree to which independent businesses can work together to do stuff like that, but it does feel like it would be a win for people who want to go see these films.

Craig: I mean, one thing we know for sure is that we were right about MoviePass. Holy cajole is that thing just collapsing. It turns out that offering people something that costs X for X divided by five is not a good business model. Wow. Wow, did that blow up fast.

John: But, you know what? I want to thank all the VC money that went into making films cheaper for people who want to see movies for a year.

Craig: One year.

John: So, one year. But for one year they bought a bunch of people movie tickets.

Craig: That’s right. They subsidized the movie business for a year. It was amazing.

John: Thank you VC money. Keep doing it.

Second bit of follow up, just as my personal follow up, Highland 2.1 came out this week. It’s a pretty major update. One of the things we ended up doing in this most recent build is we have a bunch of international users and, you and I think of screenplays starting with INT and EXT and Cut to and we just have all of these English assumptions about how scripts should work, but those aren’t the natural assumptions.

So we’ve added the ability to customize all of those things for whatever language you want to do. You can set whatever you’d like for those things. And it seems to be very great and helpful. And it’s been really heartening to see like we have a lot more sort of Chinese users and Korean users than we had sort of expected. And they have special needs and the nice thing about being plain text is we can sort of meet those needs. So if you are a person writing in a language that is not English, I would say check it out because it is useful for those things.

Craig: Meanwhile Final Draft still does not have Unicode support. Amazing.

John: Yes. Yep. So, I mean, part of the reason why Chinese users write in to us, and thank god that Megan speaks Chinese and she can answer those support emails, is they’ve been – sometimes they’ve been desperate for a screenwriting app and because we support real Unicode and real sort of Chinese entry on stuff you can use it to write real screenplays in Chinese which is a difficult thing otherwise.

Craig: Indeed. Indeed. Fade In I know supports Unicode. I’m going to guess WriterDuet does because it’s–

John: It’s web-based.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, honestly there’s really no excuse for Final Draft at this point other than the fact that their empire is built on a crumbing foundation of nonsense.

John: Yeah. That tends to be a barrier.

Craig: You know what? New marketing slogan for them.

John: Crumbling foundation of nightmare. Can I use that as a blurb for selling?

Craig: Of course you can. You can do whatever you want, John. You know I can’t stop you.

John: Oh, the other one thing we added in this new version which I think people will find very helpful, because it’s a thing I needed for Arlo Finch is there will be times where you need to number stuff sequentially and stuff may move around but you need the numbers to keep updating to whatever it is, so like chapters it was for me and so I didn’t want to have to number the chapters and then go back through and renumber the chapters. So we added a variable called chapter, or series, or panel, or page, and you can put this in and then whatever the next number is it will just keep incrementing. And it’s incredibly useful for books, obviously, but especially people who are using Highland for graphic novels and comic books, because there you tend to say like this is the page, this is panel one, panel two, panel three. And to have those auto increment is useful. So, another reason to check it out if you have not checked it out.

Craig: Excellent.

John: All right. We talked about the Editors Guild. So we got some feedback about the Editors Guild. We got a lot of great emails. I don’t know if we want to read through all of them, but I thought we might take a sampling of some of what people have wrote in about the Editors Guild. Do you want to start us off?

Craig: Sure. Ann writes in, “Thank you for the excellent discussion of the IA contract in Scriptnotes Episode 363, for which a link was posted on the 2018 IATSE contract forum on Facebook.” Ho-ho-ho. Interesting. “In response to your very astute comment, ‘There’s something rotten at the core of this union,’ I can explain. From its very beginning the real purpose of the IA has not been to represent the interests of its varied members, but instead to guarantee a docile below-the-line workforce to the employers. Please read Class Struggle in Hollywood, 1930 to 1950, Moguls, Stars, Reds, and Trade Unionists by Gerald Horne.”

So we should probably throw a link to that up on here. Sounds like Ann’s got a pretty decent handle on the history here, which I admittedly don’t. She goes on to talk a little bit about something called the Industry Experience Roster. I had no idea this existed. Did you?

John: I didn’t.

Craig: Yeah.

John: It’s basically who you can hire.

Craig: Yeah. It’s like a list of who you’re allowed to hire. This is a – this a roster that’s controlled by a nonprofit that is in turn controlled and funded by the companies, the AMPTP. And it’s a preferential hiring list. It came out of the Red Scare and the Hollywood Blacklist era and HUAC and all that nonsense. And it still exists. That’s insane. And, god, IA is – they got to clean up their house. Somebody has to start a little revolution over there I think.

John: Well, it might be Nicholas. So Nicholas writes in to say that he’s a member of the Art Directors Guild and “personally stand with the IA 700 and their refusal to support the new contract. I’m also appalled at Matt Loeb’s and the other BA’s responses to it. Craig is right that the IA is out of scale. That it can demand better. But that might require some initial sacrifice and few are up for it, least of all the leadership. Capitulation is easy, especially when it can be dressed up as winning.”

“So, Eugene Debs recognized the division of workers in the separate trade craft unions was a divide and conquer strategy and said as much in 1905.” So, again, it is old divisions and old systems in place that sort of keep people from getting to a better place.

Craig: It’s sort of fundamental to the purpose and function of the union, right? The whole idea is that you bring together people who individually do not have much bargaining power and you collectivize them in a way that they do. And it makes sense therefore that if you’re dealing with a bunch of unions that could move as one and coagulate all of their power into a larger fist then you should. And the tricky thing here is what it sounds like we’re hearing is that IATSE did that but kind of as part of a feint to almost take away that power from the unions that they were combining.

You know, the Writers Guild, we have our own little strange thing where we are oddly bifurcated into East and West. I don’t think I can find any reasonable person on either the East or West that isn’t a staff member of the Writers Guild of America East who says, “Yeah, this is a good arrangement. This makes sense.” It’s insane.

John: It is insane. Now, Craig, you may not have read the actual history of sort of why there are two unions. You’ve read that packet?

Craig: Yeah.

John: So there is an explanation for how it all happened.

Craig: There is.

John: And so TV was on one side of the coast. It’s the same kind of reasons that are stupid reasons for why we are not representing animation. We’re making assumptions that we were different kinds of writers and therefore didn’t need the same kind of protections. But we are separate unions. We get along very, very well. We have common interests. We do things together.

Craig: Yeah. Sometimes. And sometimes we don’t. And the double nature of our administration is costly, it’s unnecessarily costly, and silly. And we would be better off if we just stopped and made one. Just as I think all of the unions of IA would be better off if they, I don’t know, looked out for each other and actually acted like a one total union instead of a bunch of unions that are literally being kept apart from each other by the people that run the union itself.

So, this is my once a year plea to get rid of the Writers Guild East and Writers Guild West and just make one Writers Guild. It’s absurd.

John: Yeah. And yet you know how incredibly difficult that would be.

Craig: It’s not that difficult. It’s not.

John: I think it’s more difficult. But we won’t solve that problem today.

Craig: No.

John: Instead I think it’s time we break out our theme music because we’ve not heard it for so long.

I’m actually going to let Craig start with this because this is really a Craig announcement and I’m so excited to be able to share this with the world. Tell us about it, Craig.

Craig: Well, thank you. So you know I’ve been working as part of the credits committee, the screen credits committee for many, many, many, many years. We went through two elections, or I guess we call them referenda. Both of which were successful that made significant changes to the way we administer our credits. Now we have another one coming up and this one is a bit different. What we’ve done now is we’ve essentially rewritten the screen credits manual.

The screen credits manual rewrite has not changed any of our guidelines. It hasn’t changed the rules. Nothing is different in terms of how we administer and distribute credit. The reason we did this is because a lot of the policies that were in place weren’t necessarily listed in that manual and we wanted to list them. There were also some new things that had emerged that simply didn’t apply when the manual was first written, god knows how many years ago, that we wanted to add to acknowledge. And then we also wanted to make certain things more clear. Things for instance like the definition of story and the definition of screenplay and how you assign credit for one or the other. We know, just from practice, that a lot of writers don’t understand it. A lot of participating writers don’t get it. And even a lot of arbiters don’t quite get it.

So we’ve done a really careful job of expanding those areas to help both people that are heading into an arbitration as a writer or people who are heading into an arbitration as an arbiter understand best how they’re supposed to apply contributions to which credit.

So, again, I just want to repeat: this manual that everyone is going to vote on doesn’t change any rules. It doesn’t change any guidelines. It simply makes things more clear. And because one of the requirements of our union is that the membership vote on any change to the manual, even if it’s a punctuation pass, we do have to come to everybody for a vote.

Sometimes the danger of votes like this is that they’re so boring nobody shows up except the cranks, and then suddenly you lose. So, I’m going to be banging the drum to make sure that everybody does take the four seconds to vote online. That will be happening in October.

John: Yeah. I’m very excited. Everyone needs to read it. I’ve read the whole thing. It’s really good. It is just more clear. Craig, I can’t believe you got rid of the language about telegrams. I mean, if I can’t send a telegram then I just don’t know what I’m going to do.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, there was a thing that said basically if you want to get the notice of tentative writing credits by fax or telegram you have to – this is what we’ve been dealing with. So, yeah, we did do a little bit of a cleanup on the telegram situation. There were a bunch of things like that. And, you know, took out some stuff that frankly was just confusing. I mean, there were some things that were kind of explanatory in the old manual that we know we’ve been wrestling with for years because the explanation actually made things less explained. So, stuff like that.

John: It’s also fair to say that this more closely resembles the structure of the TV credits manual?

Craig: I honestly don’t know. I have never read the TV credits manual.

John: So as it was presented to us at the board part of the logic behind it is that it more closely resembles the structure of what people do in the TV credits manual so that you can track through them the same way. Because as a person who has gone through many arbitrations and served as an arbiter many times I did find the credits manual confusing and sometimes redundant. I do think the new document is much better. So thank you for your work there.

Craig: My pleasure. I do know what you mean now. We did do some reordering of things. Again, the substance doesn’t necessarily get any closer to the substance of the TV credits, but the order in which we describe things and talk about things and the nomenclature we use for certain things we did conform so that it didn’t seem like they were two different documents entirely.

John: Very nice. My WGA news is nothing that you actually have to vote on but something you should go attend. So this past Saturday I attended the pilot version of the WGA sexual harassment seminar. It’s run by an outside consultant named Sunitha Menon. She is terrific. But the purpose of the seminar is to talk through what TV and film writers deal with both in terms of sexual harassment in their own workplace, but also what we’re writing as we’re writing for film and for TV. And so it’s sort of a broad discussion of those things, but also some really practical suggestions for what to do when you’re encountering sexual harassment, what to do when you’re a bystander for sexual harassment, and sort of how we can change the culture for writers and sort of beyond writing through awareness and really taking some concrete action.

I thought it was great. There are going to be nine of these presentations all throughout the city, so there will be a listing of when those are coming up. But I really strongly encourage you to go to them because I thought it was great. It’s an hour and a half. It’s fun. So please do go to attend those workshops.

Craig: Are they going to be videoed and perhaps representable to people who can’t make them?

John: There will be some version of that. They did film some of this. But I would say that watching it is good, being there is very helpful because some of what you’re trying to do there is actually have a discussion about what things you would do in a room in these situations, or encountering this thing how would you react. And there is a space for just real – like I asked a question in the room about a very specific and odd thing which had happened to me a couple of times and I just had no idea where I should report this. Like what do I do with this thing? This was a really uncomfortably sexually charged moment, but I’m the only person in it. And it wasn’t really directed at me. So it was great to be actually in that room to be able to ask her, but also just to get the feeling of the room about what is the right thing to do in those situations.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, the reason I ask, I completely agree. It’s always best to be there in person. The reason I ask is that there’s always the danger that you get a self-selected crowd.

John: Oh yeah.

Craig: And the people that need to hear the message the most are the least likely to show up, but they might watch something. So it just occurred to me that, you know, I’m just always thinking like a Cassandra about the worst case scenario and then backing out from there. It’s my nature.

John: It’s your nature. And the thing I should also stress is that the WGA doing these workshops does not at all diminish the actual requirement for our employers to be the ones responsible for our protection in these situations. And so the WGA is not the employer. The WGA is just someone there standing on the writer’s behalf. So this is just hopefully giving people some guidance in terms of what their rights are and sort of what they should think about their responsibilities as they see these things happening around them.

Craig: Perfect.

John: Cool. All right, let’s get to our main feature topic, How Would This Be a Movie. There were so many great choices that were presented to us that I picked three of them, but there were – Megan had a list of like 12 more that were all really good. So, I’m going to pick these three. There’s a little bit of a recency bias. There are things that came across my feed more recently, but they’re all just terrific.

So this first one, here is the setup basically. It’s a Twitter thread I’m reading. A guy, BVD Hai, I don’t really know what his actual name is, he talks about this girl he was talking with on Tinder. They’re just chatting. They’re just texting back and forth. And she’s really busy now, but hey, later this week I’m going to – my friend is DJing this thing. Why don’t you meet up with me at the stage afterwards and we’ll go out? He’s like, great. So he shows up and there are a bunch of other guys at this stage. And it’s really unclear what’s going on. And luckily we have audio of it that we can play.

So he goes there and this is what he hears.

Natasha: Hi everyone. As you may or may not know, my name is Natasha. And I have everyone here today to be on a date with me. Dating apps are very difficult and I said maybe I can bring everyone here in person and see how that goes. So, do you have what it takes to win a date with me? So, we’re going to start the elimination. Half of you people here are in relationships, so those people should leave now. Anyone under 5’10”, please leave as well. No beer bellies. No long beards. No bald guys. No khakis. Or is any less than six inches. You know, you got to go. You got to go. Also, anyone named Jimmy. I don’t enjoy the name Jimmy.

Craig: OK.

John: So, Craig, she does not enjoy the name Jimmy.

Craig: Mm, yeah.

John: This is a two-part How Would This Be a Movie, but let’s pause here and let’s say that this is the whole story. So let’s take Natasha as who she is and she’s done this thing where she’s getting all these people together and she’s going to pick them in person. What kind of movie is this? Where is a movie in this situation?

Craig: God. I mean, I presume that this is some sort of – I mean, she’s making a commentary right on the way men treat women, I guess. I don’t understand what’s happening, so I’m a little confused just in general. I mean, I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt and say she’s not actually a total sociopath. There’s a reason for all this. There’s a point behind it.

Those tend to be terrible bases for movies, right? We want actually somebody to do something that is sincere, or if it’s insincere it’s on a bet or a dare and then it blows up in their face. I guess any time you’re talking about a date you immediately start thinking romantic comedy. So I suppose there is a version where somebody, a guy or a girl, does this and then realizes that actually there was somebody in the crowd that they kind of had a thing with. Like before they go on stage they have a weird moment with somebody where they’re like, oh wow, you’re actually amazing. Then they get up on stage and that person hates them and they have to go get them back. But I’m just already exhausted and annoyed. I don’t want to see it.

Did you ever see, was it called Dogfight? Do you remember that movie?

John: I never saw the movie, but I think I know the premise, which is basically guys pick the ugliest women to go out with. Is that the situation?

Craig: Yeah. There’s a bet. They make a bet. It was an early – River Phoenix and Lily Taylor, who is an amazing actor. And the idea is that there’s a party where a bunch of guys who are on leave from I guess the Korean War or something like that, or Vietnam War, they get into a bet of who can bring the ugliest girl to a party. And you just feel terrible. You feel terrible watching it.

And there is a comment about it, but the person that you immediately identify with and feel for and want to be victorious is Lily Taylor. And there is a certain casual dismissive kind of a bunch of idiot who are drinking go “Here’s an idea,” and then only do they realize – or at least one of them realizes it was a terrible and cruel idea. Here this is so – this is so 2018. It’s so synthetically viral. It’s so purposeful and calculated and cynical. And who am I supposed to identify with here, I don’t know.

John: All right. I want to make the case that there is a movie here, this clean version, this sort of first half of it. So, yes, you could have our heroine be the one who decided to actually do all these things and she goes through the arc and she actually ends up meeting the right guy, or the right guy was the guy who helped her put up this whole thing. I can also really envision the best friend character is the one who was actually messaging all these guys. Like my best friend is fantastic. You need to come meet her for this thing. Basically she’s pretending to be this one and look at all these men who could be right for you. And so somebody is trying to fix up her best friend or her sister. And this is what they’ve come to. And then if you’re those guys in the crowd, if you are interested, how do you start a real relationship when it’s begun under such horrible false pretenses.

There’s a Chris O’Donnell movie, I’m trying to remember the title, The Bachelor or something like that. It was a remake of an older film where there are like 100 women in wedding dresses–

Craig: Oh yeah, I remember the ad for it.

John: I don’t know the full premise for that. But living in a culture of The Bachelor/The Bachelorette, this does feel like a natural kind of thing you could see happen in the same way that we do these elaborate wedding proposals, it feels that sense of like it’s not real love unless it’s sort of this big, giant event love.

Craig: Yeah. Well, you might be onto something that maybe the person to follow is not the person who has come up with this thing or is on stage. There’s a tradition in mass market storytelling where you take a man, a boy, a man, whatever age he is, usually basically a boy in his head, and you propose that this man is an idiot and he is immature and stupid and cruel and thus behaves in a boorish, childish way until the right woman comes along, at which point he must redeem himself in her eyes in order to be an acceptable human being.

This is not a particularly good use of women as they tend to just be these weird angelic props for men-children to aspire to. But the one thing no one has ever had a problem with with those narratives is the premise, which is that men tend to be infantile idiots.

John: Yep.

Craig: We don’t necessarily have the same instinctive understanding of a female premise in that way. We don’t necessarily presume women are infantile idiots. It’s just part of our, again, this is the gendered culture we live in, right? We tend to view young women as somehow, I don’t know, more mature, just by dint of their gender. And there have been movies that have played around with that and confronted that. And I like those movies. Though you get trapped a little bit sometimes in a, oh how do I put it, it’s a trap of realism, right? Because you want to be able to challenge things, but you also want to make sure that as you’re challenging them you don’t leave the bounds of recognizability. Because, for instance, Trainwreck, the Amy Schumer movie, that lived – to me – that lived inside of the bounds of familiarity.

We all know women like that. And they do need to grow up and they do. Just like humans, right? Women are humans. This one, however, I don’t know if there is the familiarity there. So I would be concerned that an audience of women would be watching this going, “Nope, I don’t know her.” This is where we cue the Mariah gif. I don’t know her.

John: I think your point about our gendered expectations of what these kind of characters can do is so true and it reminds me of I saw Eighth Grade, the Bo Burnham movie, and a scene that made me so uncomfortable but as I was uncomfortable I also realized like, wait, I would not be uncomfortable if the teenage boy character was doing this. There is a sequence in which she’s sort of having her sexual awakening and she’s about to experiment with a piece of fruit. And her dad walks in. And it’s a great, really funny button on that scene. But the moments leading up to it were really uncomfortable and it’s because we’re uncomfortable with teenage girl sexuality being a joke.

We’re used to sort of like horny boys, but the idea of a 13-year-old girl being horny was just really uncomfortable to see. And that’s, again, just our gendered expectations of things.

Craig: Was the fruit an apple?

John: It was not an apple.

Craig: Oh, interesting. Was it a pear?

John: It was not a pear.

Craig: Not a pear. OK. I’ll keep thinking.

John: You’ll keep thinking of what fruit could possibly be involved. So, let’s get to the second part of the story which I think is actually genuinely fascinating and troubling in its own right. So, there’s two New York Post stories about the even that happened, but the third New York Post story reveals that the whole thing was a viral video set up by a guy named Rob Bliss. And so Rob Bliss explains sort of what the impetus was behind this and also how challenging it was. So let’s take a listen to a piece of audio. So this audio from Rob Bliss explaining the setup for all this.

Rob Bliss: So I’ve quickly realized holding conversations with all these guys just isn’t going to work. It’s too many of them. So I’ve developed a system. Step one, we message with a guy on Tinder and give him a Twilio phone number. Step two, this programmable phone number is routed through an online database. This central hub can send and receive texts and be logged into from anywhere in the world. Leading us to step three, farming out this texting operation to overseas workers. Over 50 fulltime workers help us to text with guys converting a Tinder match into a Tinder date. And if you were to call any of our numbers they forward to this phone with a voicemail of “Hi, this is Natasha. I’m not available at the moment.“

So I need a meeting location for Natasha and all these guys. That’s why I’ve created a fake EDM event, complete with stage, sound, and our friend, Nick AM. Guys will be told to stand next to the stage and after she says hi to her DJ friend, they’ll go off on their date. They’ll never expect a thing.

John: So we’ll post a link to the video that explains a little bit more, too. But essentially, this Rob Bliss, the whole thing was designed to be sort of a viral stunt. And so Natasha is not really Natasha. She’s not really the person texting them. Basically there’s a fake Tinder profile and when people are messaging him, messaging her, they’re actually messaging 50 fulltime employees around the globe who are carrying on these conversations and then finally inviting them to come to this event.

So, there really is no – while there was a person who showed up there, it’s all a creation. She’s not a real person in a meaningful way. These men have been interacting with strangers who are not the stranger they think they were interacting with.

Craig: What is the point of all this?

John: Well, he’s a viral marketing person. He wasn’t selling any specific thing, he was just selling an event, a thing.

Craig: OK, so hold on a second. Viral marketing means something is being marketed. There’s nothing marketed here. He’s just an attention whore.

John: Sure. Well, I think all viral marketing is attention whoredom.

Craig: Well, for a purpose.

John: He wasn’t selling any specific service. I think he’s basically promoting himself.

Craig: Wow. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate all of this. I don’t like what he did to that – I mean, does the woman that he employed to pose as this, she probably had no idea what was coming her way is my guess.

John: Yeah. So she was involved to some degree and she agreed to be this person here, so she knew some things about it, but she’s taking a lot of flak. And in the moment she’s taking a lot of flak. You can see even in this video that they’re cutting that these guys are really pissed and feel betrayed. There’s a reason why they have big body guards around her because they don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s so many ways this could have gone really, really south.

So this is where it becomes a Black Mirror episode where it’s like you think you’re talking to a real person, but there’s no real person there. And then you show up and it’s this weird Hunger Games situation where basically how desperate are you going to be to be on this. What happens if you show up at one of these things and you’re married? And like there’s now video of you showing up at this thing. It’s really interesting and disturbing. I think there’s a fascinating movie in that. Or there’s a fascinating idea in that of this event gone wrong and sort of what the ramifications of it are.

Craig: I would say all I’d be willing to take from this story is, if I’m writing a movie about something that takes place in New York, I include this character based on this guy to be the scum bucket that you laugh at because he’s so gross. Because this is just gross. This is like the most gross version. Blech. I hate it. I hate him. I hate him.

John: OK. So let me argue on his behalf. I’m just going to pretend to be him right now.

This is what you’re doing every day on Tinder. Every day on Tinder you are swiping on people and sorting them out in two buckets of yes or no. This is meant to demonstrate, it’s basically an art project to show this is what you’re really doing. These are the actual human beings who are getting discarded because of the systems that we’ve set up for dating.

Craig: Yeah. It fails on its face. The argument fails on its face. When you say no to somebody you say no. And when you say yes you say yes. Everybody understands the contract. I go on there, I show you my picture. You don’t it because I’m too fat, too bald, too short, whatever, OK, you say no. But if you say yes there’s also a contract there. Now I’m showing up and I have a feeling. You’ve created a feeling in a man or a woman that somebody is interested in them. That is a very powerful feeling. And then you say not really, I’m rejecting you. Also, I’m doing it simply to create a story that the media will look at so I get attention. It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t even sell soap.

It does nothing except hurt you to make me feel good. Ergo, Rob Bliss is a dick.

John: All right. And so I think the interesting version of this is what if it is to sell soap. What if it is to sell that next movie? Because that’s coming. You know that’s coming.

Craig: It’s also bad. But this is like next level bad. This is pointless. This is like, “Well, it’s bad when people kill somebody because they get angry at them. That’s very bad. It’s worse when someone just randomly walks up to another person and calmly kills them because they enjoy killing people.” Ugh. I don’t like it. I don’t like it. What’s next? God. Something will make me happy now.

John: This will make you happy or creeped out. So this is about Vent Haven. It’s a retirement home for ventriloquist dummies. So this came from a Twitter thread by Monterey Jack. That’s a pretty great Twitter handle.

Craig: Great name.

John: So you definitely want to click through the links in the show notes for these because you will see all of these images of all these ventriloquist dummies that are all together like they’re in a grade school assembly staring directly at you with their dead lifeless eyes. And it’s just a real place. So here’s a situation where there’s not a lot of story threads. This is just a remarkable environment. And so looking through the behind the scenes, the abouts on this museum, you get some sense of what might be there. But I just thought it was a really interesting environment.

So the Vent Haven museum was founded by a Cincinnati native guy named William Shakespeare Berger who is known to his friends as WS. He was not a professional ventriloquist, he just really dug ventriloquist dummies. And so he purchased his first figure in 1910, and he just kept buying more and more ventriloquist dummies.

And so it became sort of a place where ventriloquists, or vents as they are known–

Craig: Vents. Ugh.

John: A lot of times they were, as ventriloquists died their dummies would go to this place and so it’s most of these ventriloquist dummies are the lifeless children of former ventriloquists who are now staring at you from here.

I think WS might be a fascinating character. He outlived his wife, his son, and grandson. Had no other heirs. So, fearing his collection would be divided and lost he set up this foundation to keep this open as a museum you can visit.

Craig: Thank god. Thank god. Thank god that organization is there so you can keep visiting what is as far as I can tell a house full of absolute crap. I don’t understand ventriloquism. Let me just – this is my – I get don’t get this. Ventriloquism has always been an art form that has completely failed to – I don’t even understand why anybody is interested in it. I can say, look, I don’t particularly love a certain kind of music but I could see where other people do. Why would anybody like ventriloquism? What is going on??

John: Oh, see that surprises me, Craig. Because ventriloquism is a kind of magic.

Craig: It’s not.

John: It is. It is.

Craig: No.

John: It has many characteristics of magic. There’s a manipulation. There’s a slight of hand. The ability to make you believe that something has happening that’s not clearly happening. It’s anticipation–

Craig: Oh please. When I was a kid and people would say you can throw your voice. Remember on cartoons somebody could throw their voice and that meant that their voice would actually come out of a different part of the room. That to me was awesome. But that doesn’t actually exist. Ventriloquism is just I just talk like this and then I use a certain thing so instead of saying muh I say neh, so if I want to say like hey man how you doing, I go hey man, how you doing, and then that way – anyone can do it. Literally I think anyone could do it. Anyone. It’s not hard. And then you just do a funny voice. You do a funny voice and you have a little guy and he talks like this.

I’m serious. It should be banned. It should be banned. It’s a rip off. It’s all a rip off. I mean, I’ve seen these guys make all this money. Every time we go to Vegas you see these guys with their stupid puppets making money.

John: Yeah. I think it’s actually quite a difficult skill and I’m going to stand up for ventriloquists here.

Craig: You do that. The vent community is coming for me.

John: I had a ventriloquist dummy.

Craig: Of course you did.

John: I had a Lester dummy.

Craig: Of course you did.

John: so I had Lester, the only notable African American ventriloquist dummy at the time. He was my little guy. So I really tried to learn how to do it, I just couldn’t do it. So if anyone could do it, I certainly couldn’t do it. He wasn’t a great puppet. He just had a string.

But I held onto him through high school, and so sat on the shelf and it was just terrifying the way all ventriloquist dummies are terrifying.

Craig: Terrifying. That’s the other thing is that they’re ugly. There’s like a ventriloquist dummy face, and if you look at this horrifying collection so many of them have it. This weird thing of arched, really high arched eyebrows, eye shadow for some reason on everybody, men, women, boys, girls, doesn’t matter. Weird pointy rosy cheekbones. And then a very long upper lip that doesn’t have a philtrum. So it’s one of the signs of fetal alcohol syndrome. I kid you not. Is to have no philtrum and a long upper lip. So they all have fetal alcohol syndrome. They’re terrifying. And then god forbid you have one of the black ones that was built, I don’t know, in like a time when Jim Crow was considered liberal. They’re so racist. There’s like – even like the ones that are about Irish people are racist. They’re all racist towards everyone. They’re terrible.

And the most you get out of them is a silly voice where somebody does bad jokes. So, anyway–

John: That’s a pretty good ventriloquist voice. So I will say you’re also not acknowledging that many of them are clown-based or clown-derived.

Craig: Ugh.

John: And so it has the most terrifying aspects of clowns and zombies. Clowns and robots maybe. They’re like little robot clowns.

Craig: Right.

John: Who want to kill you.

Craig: Robot clowns. Look, the problem with making it a movie is naturally we want to make a horror movie out of these monstrosities but they’ve done it. Right? They’ve done the dummy horror movie. Great dummy horror movie with Anthony Hopkins. So, it feels a little cliché to make the dummy horror movie. Then you kind of start drifting towards Lars and the Real Girl, where you just want to tell a very sad story about a man who loved ventriloquism and ventriloquism dummies even though he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t do the thing that I’m arguing literally anyone could do.

And so he begins to surround himself with these things and love them. I’m not suggesting anything untoward, but there is some sad Charlie Kaufman universe movie here that could be done.

John: Well, there’s also a version of Pinocchio. So look at Geppetto as a guy who creates a wooden boy who is very much like a ventriloquist dummy. And wishes for it to become real. So that is maybe the thing that can get to a non-creepy movie out of this is that you do bring these things to life, or there’s some reason why these things come to life and save the town or do something. That’s the start of a premise. It’s certainly not a whole movie. And really asks who are the characters. Is it a Toy Story situation where those are your characters and they have very specific roles and they can do specific things? Maybe.

And so what is it like to talk in their own voices? I put this on here as a disturbing image and sort of a movie world but I don’t think there’s a movie here right now.

Craig: Now. Another great Twilight Zone episode as well about this. I just find them horrifying and pointless. I don’t understand ventriloquism. I’m the worst possible person – no one should hire me to write this. That’s for sure. I dispute the premise of ventriloquism as a thing. People go and they sit in a crowd and listen to people tell horrendous jokes. And the problem with the dummies is they force you to make bad jokes. And they just watch somebody sit there and talk through a puppet in front of them. How is that a–?

John: I think it’s a skill. All right, let’s get to the motherlode of all this because when this first came across my Twitter feed I’m like, oh well, yes of course we’re going to save that for How Would This Be a Movie, but Craig is away in Eastern Europe so we’ll wait till it comes up. But then of course then it sells really quickly and then there’s a follow up on it. So this is the Moby Dick of How Would This Be a Movie. So, do you want to talk us through the premise?

Craig: Really simply there was this incredible article that came out in the Daily Beast about a true story and it’s one of those wonderful true stories that happened under our noses and we just didn’t notice. And there’s an amazing reason why.

But basically every year McDonald’s will run this Monopoly contest where you get these little Monopoly game pieces attached to your drink cups or your French fry packs. And my wife I can assure you has played this religiously and was really, really serious about it even though I’d make so much fun of her. And anyone who has played it even in a cursory fashion understands that the big prize comes if you get Boardwalk and Park Place. And you can get Park Place, but you just can’t get Boardwalk, right?

So there are just a few pieces that we understand are being printed that would give you the million dollar prize. That’s the big one. So the question is where is that one piece going to turn up? And what this story basically is about is a guy who was working at this tiny little company that was in charge of security for these pieces who was making I think $75,000 a year who just started pocketing them and then handing them out and then selling them and this turned into this massive conspiracy where literally for years no one could win unless this guy gave them the piece, one way or the other. The mob became involved at some point. And the FBI finally got wise and brought the whole thing down.

And the best part, I think, is that the day the trial began was 9/10/2001. So, the very next day that thing was completely wiped off the front page and no one really spoke about it until this incredible article came out, written by Jeff Maysh, who deserves all the money that has just been shoved in his pocket. Full disclosure. I made a bid for this myself–

John: Nice!

Craig: When this was – so I read this thing the day it came out and then I called up HBO and said, “OK, we’ve been looking for another thing, why don’t we do this? Why don’t we do a five-part on this sucker?” Because to me this thing was – what this is about is America. This is the most American story I can think of. It’s got McDonald’s. This company that sells you crap and you buy the crap, but there’s this little chance, the little piece of the American dream that as you go through your crap you have a little bit of a hope that you could become one of the rich people. Except you can’t. You can’t. The entire thing is rigged. You can never win. And yet you still try, and try, and try, and try, and try.

And I just loved how pathetic it all was. And how the people who won were so greedy and stupid. It’s the most wonderfully American story.

So, I called up CAA and I was like, “Hey, I don’t know what’s going on with this, but you know, HBO.” And they’re like, “Well, we should tell you Robert Downey, Jr. is trying to get it. And there’s 100 people that are trying to get it.” And I was like, “Oh, OK.” So, in my mind I went, nope, not going to get that. And then the next day it turned out that it went to the Good Will Hunting boys, to Affleck and Damon. And wonderful writers, Paul Wernick, and Rhett Reese doing the script. I love those guys.

John: This is I think the third project that some combination of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon has bought of our How Would This Be a Movie. So I know they bought the FIFA scandal, but I think there was one other one that they bought.

So, let’s talk a little bit. The article is great. And it’s certainly worth going through. And I think one of the things I responded to, which I’m sure would have been part of your pitch, is that it’s also just great that it was based around Monopoly because Monopoly is this game of rags to riches.

Craig: Exactly.

John: This could be your chance for fortune. Of course, the history of Monopoly is exactly the opposite of that. It’s meant to be an anti-capitalism game. So, it’s crazy how it all fits together.

But, really want we want to talk about right now is the backstory on how the story got to be written. So Jeff Maysh is the guy who wrote the piece for the Daily Beast. But he had actually been contracted – the story had been brought to him by a person specifically looking for him to write the story that could be sold for a movie, which was a new thing to me. We’re used to these articles selling and they sell for up to $100,000 and someone goes off and tries to make a movie out of this. This was specifically written for the movie and it was brought to him by a producer whose job is taken upon himself to find these interesting things, hire writers to sort of go off, research them, and set them up in major publications. And that’s what he did. And that’s the reason why this really old story surfaced and sold.

So, so often on the podcast we talk about do you need to buy the article, do you need the life rights to these folks, what do you actually need? In this case I think what’s valuable about – and what’s maybe worth the $1 million is that Maysh did months and months of research to put all this stuff together. He not only broke the story in terms of the kind of three-act structure of it, but gave all the details that a person – you or I just going out to work on this as screenwriters would have had a hard time finding.

Craig: Yeah. It was a brilliant idea. This speaks to one of the great benefits we all have now, and I’m now speaking to everybody that wants to be a professional screenwriter. You have the Internet. And I think so often people are terrified to put their work on the Internet because they think it’s going to be stolen. Put it on and stick your name on it. And there’s a billion places to publish these things. And you get attention and you get noticed. And nobody just rolls over you. They come to you. They want the article. It’s very common.

I personally don’t want it. And the truth is I don’t need it. In other words, if I wanted to race Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, I could. I don’t need Jeff Maysh’s article. I can do my own research. This is a matter of public record. And I could do my own McDonald’s story.

The problem is I just don’t want to race those guys. I don’t want to be in that situation. And I think frankly a lot of other places will say we don’t want to be in that situation either unless you have some way of really going fast and getting out there.

Also, I wouldn’t want to do that to Paul and Rhett because those guys are awesome dudes.

Now, it’s also fascinating to see what they come up with because just the fact that they want to do a movie whereas I was thinking about a series, because I was just thinking about more of a slow burn. You know, over the course of a few episodes kind of thing. It’ll be fascinating to see. But, yeah, put your stuff out there and you’d be amazed.

John: Yeah. So this was written as a long feature for the Daily Beast. You could also envision a version of this which was a podcast where he went off and interviewed all those folks and those things are now selling for good money, too, and those become the IP that becomes bigger properties down the road.

Craig: Yeah.

John: When this gets made – I think there’s a good chance it’ll get made. We’ll have Rhett and Paul on to talk about the process and sort of what they found. I think there’s still going to be some significant obstacles ahead. So, the McDonald’s of it all is complicated. McDonald’s, if you’re portraying it on screen you can. It’s totally fair, just like you can make the Facebook movie, just like our friend John Lee Hancock made the story about early McDonald’s. But it’s complicated. And they are a giant corporation and there’s going to be some giant corporation concerns about how they’re portrayed in this whole situation.

There are other real people in there and some of those people if you’re just reporting on stuff that happened that is public record that’s great, but there’s going to be some people in there who are not going to be considered public figures and you’re going to have long conversations with legal teams about how much you can put them in there, how much they need to be fictionalized.

Craig: Yep.

John: What the boundaries are of what you can say about them.

Craig: Yep. There will be long conversations in that regard. But, on the other side of the balance sheet, Fox, and thereby extension Disney is backing Affleck and Damon and Wernick and Reese and they, too, are an incredibly large corporation with a lot of resources. So I think that they will have probably quite a bit of latitude, more than you would think.

Mostly because facts are facts. It’s a really hard thing for McDonald’s to sue over certain things when they’re facts. If they decide they want to create a potential storyline where somebody working for McDonald’s creates some sort of relationship with the Uncle Jerry, the guy that was handling these tickets, then yeah, that’s actionable. But I don’t think they would want to do that. I think they’re going to want to stick to the story as it is, because it’s good.

John: Yep. I agree. The story is good.

All right, so wrapping this segment up, please keep sending us the stories that you find in the news that you think might be a movie and we’ll talk about them on the air sometimes. Three of the ones we didn’t get to today but I thought were worth reading through. A New York Times story by Jacqueline Williams talks about a town of 11 where a mysterious disappearance turned neighbor against neighbor. Definitely worth reading.

This story, which was just heartbreaking and maddening. This is the story of a terrific clarinetist who turned down this great offer to study with this other clarinet master. It turned out his girlfriend had actually turned it down and had sort of basically broken into his email and done it. It will send Craig to 30 on the umbrage scale.

Craig: I’ve seen it. It’s so heartbreaking. Heartbreaking.

John: And lastly we’ll point you to a story about a US judge orders 30-year-old man to move out of his parents’ house. I don’t know that there’s actually a great story there, but as a premise I think is actually kind of fascinating in the sense of the kid who just won’t leave home so you end up having to sue him to get him to leave.

Craig: Yeah. I’m already preparing those papers. My kids are teenagers, but I just want to be prepared.

John: Absolutely. You know, got to have them in there so you can deliver them. Is it like subpoenas or something where you have to have a person deliver it to them in person?

Craig: Oh, I’ll deliver it to them. That’s easy enough. Goes right under the door. Yep. There you go.

John: Our show ran long, so let’s try to do two questions so we get a little bit answered here.

Craig: All right.

John: First question comes from Adam. He says, “Throughout the life of the podcast, most recently in Episode 363, Craig has joked about how he will never become a member of the Academy. Every time he does—“

Craig: Not a joke. That’s real.

John: “I wonder how does one become a member of the Academy? Are there certain criteria? Do you have to be nominated by a member or chosen by a panel?”

I can answer this question. The answer is both. And so you are nominated by members of that branch. So Craig will be nominated by members of the writers’ branch.

Craig: No I won’t.

John: And then a big committee comes together and looks through all those nominations. In some cases there’s cards that get filled out and recommendations. Other cases it’s just like a name on the list. That is a terrifically accomplished writer. It is crazy that that person is not a member of the Academy so we will invite them in.

I will predict on this podcast that within the next ten years Craig will be invited. Whether he’ll actually accept the invitation to the Academy. I predict he will [crosstalk].

Craig: I will accept the invitation. But I say that with full understanding that it’s never going to happen.

John: So this is the trajectory that I think is going to happen. I think Chernobyl is going to be fantastic.

Craig: I hope so.

John: And that will give you some credibility. Now, that’s not Academy stuff, that’s Emmy stuff. And so I don’t want to jinx it, but if Emmys love it that is great.

Off of that, one or two more things happen that are in feature land and that’s it. Because you have a tremendous number of credits and they are movies of – they are–

Craig: Oh, this is fun to listen to.

John: They are movies of professional merit. But they are not necessarily–

Craig: Academy movies. They’re not Academy movies.

John: They’re not Academy movies.

Craig: No, no they’re not. Well, you know my opinion. Only comedies should win Academy Awards. I still stand by this. Only comedies.

John: But when you have a movie that is critically acclaimed and does great they can say like, “Look at this great movie he wrote and all these other movies he wrote that show that he is an accomplished professional writer.” I think that will be the year that you get invited to the Academy.

Craig: Then finally I’ll feel whole as a human.

John: Absolutely. There’s really no validation unless there’s a committee and a procedure to validate you.

Craig: Exactly. Oh, now I feel good about myself. Well, we’ll see. We’ll see about that. I still maintain, Adam, it’s never going to happen.

We have a question from Victor from Maryland. He writes, “I’m an aspiring screenwriter and I was planning on getting my MFA as soon as I’m financially stable enough to avoid as many student loans as I can. I want to focus on screenwriting in my eventual career, but I wanted to get my MFA in Film rather than screenwriting because I would like some experience in every aspect of Filmmaking. I was wondering what you guys feel the value is of this course of action. What things of any could I learn from other aspects of filmmaking that could help me be a more successful screenwriter?”


John: I can answer this. So I did not get my masters in screenwriting. I got it in producing at the Peter Stark Program which is sort of a broad MBA program in film. Victor, I think you’re making a good choice overall. If you’re going to get an MFA, I think it should be broader than just screenwriting. And so while I know folks who teach at MFA screenwriting programs, the folks I’ve talked to who’ve graduated from them over the last ten years, many of them have told me they don’t feel like it was the best use of their time and their money. Because, yeah, they got some scripts written but they didn’t learn a lot about the rest of the industry. They didn’t learn a lot about shooting stuff. They didn’t make contacts with other folks who are making movies. And I think that is going to be crucial for you if you’re going to be spending the tens of thousands of dollars it’s going to take to get an MFA.

So, if you’re going to go to graduate school for it, I would think beyond just screenwriting and think about sort of the nature of the business so that you get to know not just other screenwriters but directors and editors and really get a whole view of how movies and TV are made.

Craig: Yeah. I mean, you could also just not do it, right? You’re not in a position financially to do it right now, as you say. You want to avoid student loans. I completely concur. You should avoid those strenuously. You should assiduously avoid those.

I don’t know if you need to do this. I think that there are all sorts of ways to get the experience that you’re looking for. There are individual classes that you can pick up that are much more cost-effective than entire graduate programs. I don’t know what’s going on, for instance, if you live near Baltimore, but I would imagine there’s probably some decent technical schools that teach simple things like editing, which is an incredibly important skill to have–

John: Oh yeah.

Craig: If you want to be anything. Understanding editing helps you write, helps you direct, helps you act.

Taking an acting class is a brilliant idea, because then you understand how the text actually converts into action and speech. And then reading. Just reading scripts that you like. Watching movies you like. Thinking about them. Listening to our podcast is certainly helpful.

I’m not sure you need the MFA. I got to say, if you are hell bent on it, don’t get it in Maryland. See if you can go to NYU or to USC or UCLA where you might get what I think is probably the lion share of the value of these programs which is connections to other people who are your cohort entering the business, or people that already work in the business. I just don’t know if you’re going to get any value beyond just, I don’t know, feeling like you’re purchasing certainty if you’re taking these classes in Baltimore.

John: Yep. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

All right. It’s time for our One Cool Things. My One Cool Thing is something I did for the first time about two weeks ago. I went to my first flat track roller derby meet/match/game/competition. It was great. And so I went in knowing very little about roller derby other than having seen the movie Whip It.

Craig: Right.

John: And this was like Whip It, but this is flat track so it’s not the bank tracks. You really can just see everything that’s happening. I loved it. I went with my daughter who is 13 and a friend, friend Nima who programs for us, and it was just great. And I just encourage people to go see it because it’s a very cool sport. You pick it up very quickly. Sort of like what the rules are. Everyone who is doing it, like it’s not a big cash money thing. So everyone who is doing that is doing it because they love it. It’s mostly a volunteer organization.

It’s really kid-friendly. So I just really loved it. I also loved that it was all kind of run by women. It was just a very great vibe. So October is the next one here in LA for Angel City Derby. But I just really dug it. So, check it out if it’s happening anywhere near you.

Craig: I think that my daughter would love that.

John: Oh yeah.

Craig: She likes a good bruising, you know. I think she would dig it. I think she would dig it. I’m going to take her.

John: And what was great about it is the women who are doing it are so aggressive doing the thing and yet they’re so cooperative in all of the moments where they’re not slamming into each other. And so the sportswomanship you see there, you just don’t see in other sports. And it was great.

Because the team that I was seeing them compete against traveled from Denver. And like there’s no money to travel from Denver. They’re probably staying on other people’s couches. And they’re doing it because they love it and so it’s just a cool sport and a cool thing to witness. It made me feel better about America.

Craig: Anything that makes you feel better about America right now grab onto. Grab ahold of. Because, boy.

John: Boy.

Craig: Oof. Not pleasing these days. My One Cool Thing is a follow up game to a game that you originally had as your One Cool Thing, and then I had as my One Cool Thing, because I don’t listen to your One Cool Things as you know. Human Resource Machine. Remember that game?

John: It was fantastic. And so I’m going to click through this. I didn’t know there was a sequel. I’m so excited.

Craig: Sequel. It’s called 7 Billion Humans. So it just became available for release on Steam. OK, so there’s the angry part. Steam, what the–? Oh god, I hate Steam. Just let me download the freaking game onto my computer. Why do I have to? Anyway. Anyway, putting that aside, it appears to be essentially a proper sequel to Human Resource Machine, except instead of dealing with one little man that you’re moving around with things you have lots of little people that you’re doing lots of little things with, so they’re sort of stepping up the programming aspect of it.

But they make sure to tell you we’ll teach you everything and they will. So if you dig programming or you want to learn coding, simple coding, starting from scratch like how to just add two numbers together all the way up to figuring out, I don’t know, what the prime factors of any number is, this is a cool game. Well, the first one was cool. I presume this one will be cool. So, 7 Billion Humans.

John: 7 Billion Humans. All right, that’s our show for the week. Our show is produced by Megan McDonnell. Edited by Matthew Chilelli, who is back from Japan. So, Matthew welcome back from Japan.

Craig: Oh great. Welcome back.

John: Our outro this week is by Timothy Vajda. If you have an outro you can send us a link to That’s also the place where you can send longer questions and follow up like what we did today.

For short questions though I’m on Twitter @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. You can find us on Apple Podcasts. Also now on Spotify. Just search for Scriptnotes. While you’re there leave us a comment.

You can find the show notes for this episode and all episodes at So if you want to read any of the articles we talked about that’s where you’ll find them.

You can find the back episodes at We also sell seasons of 50 episodes at

Transcripts for this episode and all episodes go up about four days after the episode drops, so that’s basically the only way I can sort of Google to find things we talked about. So, transcripts are really helpful for our listeners and our readers. But mostly they’re there so I can Google and see what I said five years ago.

Craig: Ah, OK. Fair enough.

John: Very nice. Craig, thank you so much. It’s so good to have you back in Los Angeles.

Craig: Good to be back, John. I’ll see you next week.

John: Thanks.


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