The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August. And this is Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Craig is over in Europe and forgot his microphone. Luckily we have screenwriter, novelist, and TV showrunner Derek Haas here with us to fill in.
Derek Haas: This is my fourth time on the show.
John: Yeah. And we can see why, because your credits include film and television and books.
John: You’ve written Wanted, 3:10 to Yuma, the Chicago Fire television universe.
John: Welcome back Derek Haas.
Derek: Thank you, John. Thanks for having me.
John: And Happy New Year.
Derek: I’m so excited to be here. Happy New Year to you.
John: The reasons why I wanted you on the show is partly because I think because it’s been a New Year people have this goal, this perhaps resolution to do more writing this year. And you do more writing than almost anybody I know. You accomplish more.
Derek: I love to write. I love to write so I’m always saying yes when somebody gives me a challenge. And so I’m excited that people are making those resolutions because I think you can do more. You can have it all.
John: You can have it all.
Derek: You can have a job that you work all day in, and I know it because I’ve done it, and then you can get up early, or you can stay up late and you can write. And you can write for you until you’re writing for somebody else.
John: Very nice. The second thing I want to talk with you about is professional realism, so basically how we portray people’s jobs on screen. And we talked about this in the medical profession but I want to talk about it in other professions as well.
John: Cool. Tiny bit of news and housekeeping. Craig and I are doing a screening of The Princess Bride to celebrate William Goldman’s momentous achievement. So it’s a screening at the WGA Theater on January 27th at 5pm followed by a discussion with me and Craig talking about the movie that everyone has just watched. It is free and open to everybody, not just WGA members. So, I think this is how I understand the door situation is going to work. I think doors open at 4:30pm. WGA members get first seats. Then at 4:45 it’s open to everybody. So, come see us at the WGA Theater where we talk about The Princess Bride.
Derek: Great movie.
John: I like the movie, too. Craig loves the movie.
John: But I think we’ll have some good discussions.
Derek: I remember seeing it for the first time in the movie theater and being blown away because I didn’t know what it was. And then it was so much funnier than I thought it was going to be. And all those characters have stuck around for a long time now.
John: I think I first saw the movie in an after-prom party junior year.
John: Yeah. It’s good. That’s how wholesome my prom situation was.
Derek: I was going to say.
John: Because the after-party is we’re going to watch The Princess Bride.
Derek: Mine was just like that.
John: Just like that. No kegs involved. All right, Derek, you have Chicago Fire and I just have a basic question. How much writing are you doing on an annual basis or weekly basis for Chicago Fire? Like what are your responsibilities writing-wise?
Derek: So I’m the showrunner of Chicago Fire, by myself, and I have two great head writers, Michael Gilvary and Andrea Newman who have been on the show since episode one, or 102 I should say since they didn’t do the pilot. And they are fantastic. So the three of us pretty much manage the day to day of the show, including all of the writing staff. And I write – well, last year I wrote nine of the 23 episodes that we did last year, either wrote or co-wrote. And then this year I’m probably going to write, I think when the time is all said and done I’ll have written five or six.
But generally speaking the scripts will go through my computer at some point. Gilvary and Andrea, when they write scripts I really don’t do a lot on theirs. They know the characters very well and we’re just kind of kismet together, the three of us. And then we also have a writer, Michael O’Shea, who has been on four years. And rarely do we end up having to polish up his scripts. Now, some of the newer writers we might end up doing a polish or helping out on. But I do a lot of writing.
John: So total number of words is still a huge number of words.
Derek: Yeah, I mean, when you think each script is probably 50 pages, 51, right in there, that I do. And then we also have outlines that we write that are 12-page, you know, single-spaced outlines. And then on top of that I write books that are – every two years I come out with a book that’s around 65,000 words. And then there’s the occasional, you know, write a – you know, help somebody out on a movie or one of those kind of things.
This year Dick Wolf asked me to help out on his other new show, FBI, so for episodes eight on I’ve been helping do that one. I’ve written a couple of those.
John: Just as spare time, as your hobby.
Derek: Spare time.
John: All right. So I think there’s a perception though that showrunners tend to be people who say yes or no, or people sort of see the big picture stuff, but you’re actually really getting in there, rolling up your sleeves and typing stuff.
Derek: Yeah. I don’t think that’s true at least amongst the showrunners I know. It’s less of that and more of you are the final arbiter of what’s going to be shot, which means the script, and the casting, and it’s a less of yes and no and more of let me get in there and do the nitty-gritty.
The actors, they like it when the showrunner is writing the show. They’ll look at the script and say, “Oh, this is a Derek script.” So, yeah.
John: Let’s try to offer some practical advice for writers who are getting started on their year’s work. And so we can talk about some macro ideas for getting stuff written and some micro ideas.
So, on the macro level, really like how are you planning your year ahead of writing and your months and then your weeks? But on a yearly level you guys have a sense that there’s going to be 22 episodes of the show.
John: And so you know that there’s probably eight, nine months of solid writing to be done there. And so you know you cannot be planning on – you’re not going to be able to do a feature during that time.
John: 100% of your time is spent doing that.
Derek: Right. So, because of that – I have a rigid structure that I have to do. I mean, the great thing about television and the hard thing about television is that you’re in prep on one episode, you’re shooting one episode, and you’re in post on another. And the train doesn’t stop from June 1st is when we start in the writers’ room ’til the end of April. We have about two months that we don’t work. Well, a month and a half.
And so we’ve written, we’re on episode 14 starts shooting tomorrow of 22. We know we’re going to have 22 this year. So we have eight to go. And I’m already thinking like in my head, oh my god, get one more done. One closer to the end.
We’re confident but not counting our chickens that we’re going to get another season. So I can usually put that – I know that six weeks I’m going to be free and then June 1st it’s going to start over again and we’re going to have a new season to go.
But, I’m also going to write a book this year. So–
John: When will you find time to write the book? Is it before you start your day?
Derek: Yeah. I’ve always done it that way. I get up early in the morning, super early, 5 o’clock a lot of times, and I’ll have an hour and a half that I know before my kids get up that I’m going to have to myself. So if I can get up at five and I’m at my desk at 5:15, which is generally what I do, I’m a pretty good wake up and go kind of thing. I don’t need my coffee or any of that stuff. I’m already thinking the night before what I’m going to do. And then I try to write a thousand words in an hour and a half. Which for me is, I write freehand in a Moleskine book. And if I do four pages writing pretty small – I’ve just got the system down. I know four pages is about a thousand words. It’s about 250 words a page. And I generally try not to complete an idea and even sometimes not complete a sentence so that that next morning when I wake up I can start fresh again.
And then if I write 15 days in a month that’s 15,000 words. So I don’t have to write every single day and the weekends you can take off from doing the book and get my head together. But I already know what I’m going to write, so I’ve started planning that out in October. OK, here’s the beginning, here’s the middle, and here’s the end. I don’t write a full outline for a book. I’d rather just kind of let the writing flow. And that’s how I do it.
John: So you segued from macro to very micro, sort of like the big picture down to the micro. But I want to stop and think about the macro a little bit more because you are on a set schedule that’s being dictated by other folks, and being dictated by production that you have to be in this time. Back when you were just a feature writer how long were you blocking out for writing a feature and how did you deal with problems of being stacked up on work or having like there’s a slot free but then there’s other stuff you need to do? How did you balance that out?
Derek: Yeah, because I always liked writing more than – I know there are screenwriters who get super in their own heads about it and they talk about it as being painful. But I was never that way. I like being behind my desk and writing. So if I could – if we had more than one thing going on it was priority of, OK, they’re expecting this outline in three weeks so I need to work on that. Whereas the other one is expecting a first draft in two months. OK, then I will take my day and I will look at it like a work day. And maybe if I can just say that I’m going to have four solid hours of writing as opposed to just thinking or going out on, you know, walking.
You’re always – as a writer – you’re always thinking. I know you’re like that. You’re at night, at 10:30 at night, and you’re thinking about what you’re going to write the next day. But I can have four hours where I’m just sitting behind my desk and the phone is not going to ring and I put a stop sign outside my door so my kids know don’t come in and bother me, then I can concentrate on that job.
John: So you are looking at – if I can do that four hours a day, if I can guarantee it myself I can get a script done in how many weeks?
Derek: Oh, for a full script would be two or three months. I mean, look, if push comes to shove and you’re up against a production deadline then you can do anything in any amount of time. I mean, you’ve done it and I’ve done it where it’s–
John: I do find that that’s true for features. And so if I need to write a feature in two weeks, you know what, I can get that feature done in two weeks. You cannot do that with a book.
Derek: That’s true.
John: That’s one of the things I’ve really noticed about Arlo Finch is that even though it seems like a book and a movie are similar things, the number of words is just so vast.
Derek: It’s daunting. Right. Yeah, no, you couldn’t write a book in two weeks. Maybe if you were just, you know, going around the clock. I know that Stephen King has his lost years of the ‘80s where he was cranking them out. I couldn’t do that. But for a movie or a TV show I’ve found that writers generally, it’s like putting water in a bowl and it expands to the size of the bowl. So if you tell a writer you’ve got four weeks you’ll get that script in four weeks. If you tell him, man, I need a first draft in four days, wow, suddenly the water expands to the bowl and you get the draft in four days.
It’s never – it’s not going to be your best, but I think also writers freeze up and they get lazy and they say, “Oh, OK, they’re not expecting this first draft for six months,” and then they put it all off. And it’s the same two months that they would have spent on it, but they put it off. And so I don’t think there’s a quality equivalent to how quickly or how slowly you do something.
John: I agree. I think people can – obviously if you’re rushing through stuff you can kind of read rushed writing. And there have been times where I’ve read scripts where it’s like you can kind of feel the whiteboard marker there. You can say like this is the broad strokes of this and you get what that is. It’s harder to say that this is a 30-week draft versus a 12-week draft.
Derek: I couldn’t agree more.
John: So generally in town, you know, for a first draft of a feature eight weeks, 10 weeks, 12 weeks are standard terms. When we were building the Start Button for the WGA those were the kinds of things we put in there for first drafts because that was a common–
Derek: It makes sense.
John: Common default. A thing I’ve had to do more recently is just look at my calendar and print out 12 months and say I’m blocking off these weeks to write this thing because if I don’t do that I can’t.
Derek: Great. That’s smart.
John: The challenge is sometimes I’ll say like, OK, well I should be able to start on this project at that point, but then the rights didn’t come through for that thing. So I’m waiting – I don’t want to start a thing that I don’t know if I can really write.
Derek: Yeah. You’re calendar, it’s tough to match actual dates as opposed to blocks of time. And so once they say go, then you’ve got 10 weeks, but the go might move two weeks or, you know, you try to plan your spring break and all of a sudden that’s when everybody wants to meet, you know, and it’s hard as a writer. Everybody thinks you’re flexible at all times and you’re not.
John: You’re not. There was a project this last year that I did genuinely want to do and it became clear that, I’ll say it, this was a Fox project and Fox couldn’t wait for me because they weren’t sure that they would be around in April when I’d be free.
Derek: Right. Well, that’s, I mean, once you’re as advanced as John is you actually have slots and your agent will say, “He’s got a slot coming up in October,” and studios will move their stuff around for a writer like you. But when you’re just starting out your slot becomes whatever they say it is.
John: But increasingly I think it’s not just writers at a certain level because so many of us are going back between features and television, like if that show does 10 or 12 episodes that person needs to go back on that show. So Megan Amram is going to go back on The Good Place, and so she’s available to do something until The Good Place starts and then she’s not available again. So that’s the challenge.
Derek: Right. That is a challenge. Good for Megan though.
John: Yeah. So let’s try to make advice that’s applicable to most listeners. I would say it’s going to take eight, 10, 12 weeks, but put some edges on that and say like within these three months I’m going to write this script. And to write this script I’m going to have to block off a certain amount of time every day or every other day to get there.
John: A number of pages per day is useful. So three pages, four pages, five pages. You’ll get there. If you’re writing prose, a thousand words I think is a really good benchmark. And I aim for a thousand words a day and if I do that I finish a book. If I don’t do that–
Derek: And a thousand words, that’s not crazy.
John: It’s not as much as you think.
Derek: That’s not crazy. It’s not asking too much. Like I said, I can do it in an hour and a half generally speaking.
John: A thousand words is a short chapter.
Derek: Right. Oh, for me it’s not even a chapter, you know, because I only write 10 chapters.
John: Middle grade versus–
Derek: Yeah. Exactly. But the other thing I think as a writer you can say to yourself is give yourself a time limit for the actual outline or germination of the idea before you start writing, but with a time limit. And then set your dates from there so that part of your say two months you have to write your draft does not include all of the thinking that goes on. Otherwise you’re just going to be floundering. You always use that analogy that I liked about painting the lines over again. You can’t do that and expect to get a draft done in two months. Which is when you write five pages and then instead of picking up page six the next day you go back and you’re writing page one again, and rewriting, rewriting, rewriting, and then starting, you only get to page six instead of to page 10, which is a bad way to do it.
John: And it’s actually much more of a problem in books than in features because it takes an hour to read the book up to that point.
John: In a feature if you have to you can reread it, but you sort of can’t in a book.
Derek: But I’d rather get a draft done and then start the revision process. And even if that means that I’m not correcting things as I go than to keep working on the same 30 pages for a month.
John: Yep. I would say that the first script I ever finished was back when I was interning at Universal. And it seemed like I was working a fulltime job, so how did I have time to do it, but the thing is I had a completely mindless job. I was like filing papers. And it required no brain usage at all over the course of the day. And so I could come home and still have a tremendous amount of creative energy. So I would spend those nights handwriting pages and I would type them up during my lunch break the next day. And I got a lot of done during that time.
Derek: That’s great.
John: And so if you have a kind of BS job, that’s an advantage to that. Because people always ask like, oh, do I need to get a job in the industry, something with connections and all that stuff? Those are great, but it’s very hard to find time to do the stuff you need to do if that’s the kind of job you have.
Derek: You need some thinking time.
John: One last thing I will say is that a thing I’ve done a lot more of over the last couple of years is what I call sprints. And so you have basically a sprint, because you’re trying to get four of your Moleskine pages done in an hour and a half. I have 60-minute sprints. And so I will set 60 minutes, hit the clock, start the timer, and for 60 minutes I will do nothing but write. And what’s nice about the 60-minute rule is it creates boundaries for myself, but also creates boundaries for other people. So if I get a text saying like, hey, can you do this – I can get back to you in 37 minutes. And it clears that off. It’s like putting up little stop signs saying like I’m not gone forever, I’m just gone for the next little bit here.
Derek: I’ve seen you do that on Twitter and there’s no run up to it. You say I’m going to do a 60-minute sprint in two minutes. And I’m like well I would have done it if you give me some notice.
John: I’m trying to be better about that. So I usually do it at the start of the hour and I’m trying to give at least 20 minutes warning.
Derek: Yeah. I’ve seen it. I’ll do it at some point with you.
John: Cool. Let’s move on to topic two, professional realism. So this came up this morning because Sloane Crosley had a piece in the New York Times. She’s the author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake. But she points out that when she was working as a book publicist she would see her job portrayed in films and it was really crazily inaccurate that didn’t resemble reality much at all. And she points to things like The Proposal and the TV show Younger as being good examples of this.
And Derek, I was thinking of you because you have a show that’s all about firefighting. You also have shows about doctors and lawyers and other Chicagoans. So how much are you thinking about the realism of that job versus what your dramatic necessity is?
Derek: Yeah, I read the article after you sent it to me and shout out to Sutton Foster who is a good friend of mine who is the star of Younger and her picture was in the article. And I was laughing to myself because somebody in the industry of publishing was complaining about the portrayal of the way publishers are portrayed. And all I think about is the show successful, is the drama good. And for firefighters we have a big firefighting following. Firehouses around the country watch our show live and then we hear about it on Twitter.
We have a consultant in both paramedic and a fire chief, Steve Chikerotis, and Michelle Martinez who do their best to give us as accurate as they can a portrayal of what it’s like working in a firehouse with the parameters knowing that I’m going to overrule them if the story merits overruling. For instance, a firehouse, if you were typically in it for 24 hours, twenty two of those hours might be boring. We don’t have that luxury to be boring on the show. And so we might fudge how many calls, especially death-defying calls, that one firehouse would show up in a particular day.
Now, when we get to the actual art of firefighting we try to again be as accurate as possible. Here’s a problem John that you may not know. If a firefighter is in an actual fire, you wouldn’t be able to see anything. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Smoke is zero percent visibility. Obviously you can’t do that in a television show. So we cheat that. We make it smoky. We make the fires fierce. But we have to have our firefighters being able to move around, talk.
We actually redesigned the helmets that the firefighters wear so you can see their faces, otherwise it would just be their eyes. It would be like the storm troopers or the pilots in Star Wars, you know. So we designed clear masks resembling more like diving masks and put the breathing apparatus at the bottom so we could see the actors act inside the fire.
But I do think realism helps, you know.
John: So with your experts are you going to them early on in the process saying like what would the reality of this be, or are they vetting scripts later down the road?
Derek: Both. And in fact we talk to them prior to the season about any interesting – they’re still working, well the fire chief is retired now, but had a 35-year career and is one of the most decorated firefighters in Chicago. And then our paramedic still goes out two times a week. So they have 72-hour off and then 24 on. And so in a week she can give us 10 calls that we could use in an episode. But so they tell us anything interesting that they can think of before we start the season. Then as we do an outline they respond to the outline. Oh, actually we’d have three firefighters respond in that area of the fire. Somebody would be on the roof, venting the roof. These kind of things. And then we’ll put them in the script if it works for what we’re doing.
Then they read the script and they’ll comment on dialogue. Just little things you wouldn’t think about that a firefighter might say or a paramedic might say, or something you didn’t know wasn’t available in a firehouse, you know. That kind of thing. And so then they vet the script and then they’re on set. And so if the actors have any questions as they’re performing the duties–
John: Or how to put on this piece of equipment.
John: That kind of stuff. Great.
Derek: Now we’ve been doing it so long, we’re in our seventh season, that most of our actors can tell other firefighters how to fight a fire at this point. Yeah, there’s a learning curve but the consultants are key when you’re writing this kind of a show.
John: So that’s Chicago Fire and there have been other sort of emergency shows like that before. You’ve also down like 3:10 to Yuma. So in a situation like that how are you doing the research to figure out what exactly the mechanics of the town were like, sort of like how stuff would work. And to what degree did you stick to that versus like this is a story and we’re in this universe?
Derek: That was more book reading where obviously we didn’t have as many people that we could talk to. But at the time that we were writing that script the book came out right before, by Stephen Ambrose, that was about the transcontinental railroad and where the two points came together of the railroads. And in reading that book we were doing the research of what a town would look like that had sprung up to satisfy the workers of the railroad, which was where the ultimate third act was going to be in that script. And what we discovered was that these places were pits of people trying to pry railroad workers from their money, so it was gamblers, and whores, and conmen, and those kind of things. And that’s what we ended up using as the spine of the book.
Elmore Leonard had written the original short story, so that was already – he had crafted who the posse was and the sheriff. And then Jim Mangold who directed the movie, who probably could be a historian himself, did a lot of the research once the movie was going.
John: And for Silver Bear, so Silver Bear is an imagined assassin. How much are you limiting yourself to things that would be possible in the real world versus like these are things that happen in books with assassins? What’s the balance there?
Derek: Right. Well, when I first had the idea for the book Michael Brandt and I who – Michael Brandt was my partner for a long time – we went to visit Quantico and the FBI headquarters to do research for a project for Universal. And when we were there one of the FBI, one of our consultants, was talking about how he had been on a contract killer case. And I just remember that contract killer idea. It seemed fake and it’s not. There are people who are hired to kill people.
And so I was just grilling him with questions and that sort of fed my original sensibility of what it would take to be a contract killer. And then I just let imagination take over. And now most of those books when I write them feature cities that I’ve visited and spent a lot of time in and so I can draw real descriptions. I’m trying not to be fake about – in fact, I try not to set anything in a location I haven’t been to, because I don’t want it to be inauthentic.
John: I get that. So let’s talk about why sometimes a person’s job in the real world isn’t portrayed that same way on screen. You talked about the boredom problem. That most people’s real lives are kind of boring and what they’re doing at work is kind of boring. So you can’t just sort of sit in that space because that would be boring. It’s like showing up at a boring party. Nobody wants to be there.
But I think the more important thing to remember is that we are showing a character who has a job. The job is not the character.
John: And so while the job is an important aspect of the character, certainly with challenge it’s a very important aspect of the character, it’s not ultimately what we’re there to watch. And so if it’s a matter of what’s the most interesting for the character versus what is most realistic for the job, as writers we’re always going to pick what’s most interesting for the character.
Derek: And it would be the death of drama if you – in fact, I can feel the complaint from that article because whenever you see screenwriters portrayed in Hollywood on the screen it’s nothing like what our jobs typically are. In fact, Hollywood is nothing like typically–
John: Isn’t it really crazy how unlike it it is?
Derek: Yeah. So I think you’d have that complaint if there were a show about plumbing and you were a plumber. There would be a million plumbers going, “Ugh, we never use a three-quarter wrench when we undo the pipe.” But there’s a reason why we chose that in the…
I don’t know about you, I generally don’t like movies about Hollywood.
John: I like some movies about how. But I take it in general. I enjoyed the, I think it was the Showtime series Episodes, the one with Matt LeBlanc.
Derek: I watched the first season. It was funny. It’s heightened.
John: It’s heightened. It’s realistic and then just pushed into a place where it’s like that’s nuts where you got to, but I get it. And what I think they did is that they recognized what the natural conflicts were and just turned them up to 15. And what the natural absurdities were and just turned them up a lot.
John: Which is fine. The same way that Frasier Crane is not a very good psychiatrist probably. But is an enjoyable character to watch.
Derek: But all you’ve got to do is get 10 screenwriters in a room and realize their Hollywood is totally different from your Hollywood anyway. And I think that’s probably true of somebody else in publishing might watch Younger and be like, “They nailed that. They nailed that.”
John: So, a couple of years ago for Legendary I did a pilot. Did you ever read that pilot? I did a pilot about Hollywood.
John: It was about a fictitious studio. And so it was going to be one of Legendary’s first TV shows and so I wrote it. And we never actually got it set up. And Billy Ray’s show, which was about another studio, a historical studio, got made. But mine was a present day show. And it was really interesting writing about real life because I knew sort of exactly what those conversations were. I knew sort of like what the things around this would be.
But I remember Kelly Marcel had read it. She’s like, “I can’t believe you included that anecdote.” And I’m like what? “Well that’s about those two actors.” I had no idea what that story was. Those same things happen again and it always feels like, oh, that’s an absurd thing that can only happen in a story.
Derek: We’ll get that a lot where I’ll get an email from somebody in the Denver fire department and say, “Oh, did you read about our fund drive?” No, they were doing that also in Chicago, or Miami, or wherever. Yeah, we have to tell people we’re not stealing stories.
John: I can understand why being in the Dick Wolf universe like they’re used to Law & Order where like clearly you can see–
Derek: Ripped from the headlines.
John: Ripped from the headlines, yes. But you’re not ripping from the headlines.
Derek: No, I mean, I will – in the summer when we’re gearing up for the first part of the season I’ll look through the Internet really for interesting calls, what we call calls, or when the bells go off. And I saw in Japan or somewhere there was a woman whose foot had been run over in a revolving door. And I had childhood fear of revolving doors.
John: Oh totally.
Derek: And anytime we can do something that’s suspenseful or – so I saw this picture and I just took the picture, put it in my story folder, and then when we got out and in the middle of the season it was like we need an interesting call. I remembered that picture and we put that in. So, yes, it’s ripped from the headlines, kind of. It definitely jogged my memories of fears I had as a kid.
John: I would say that the last reason why I think our onscreen jobs and real screen jobs don’t match up so nicely is that our conflicts in the real world aren’t as clean. They aren’t as interesting. And so we suppress things a lot. We don’t vent the way that we want characters to able to vent. People don’t express themselves in ways that we need characters to express themselves. And by necessity onscreen we’re winnowing down the number of people who are actually speaking parts. And so you can’t sort of have relationships with 20 people over the course of your job.
Derek: And they don’t resolve as easily as we need in an hour and 45 minutes.
John: Or even over the span of 10 episodes. Most of your conflicts don’t really resolve.
Derek: No. Like I saw somebody out on Larchmont which is close to John and my house who I hadn’t seen in, I don’t know, nine or 10 years. And I didn’t have a problem with that person. Just they faded. When we had kids it kind of went in different directions. And that wouldn’t work very well in a TV show.
John: Yeah. Like who was this person? You didn’t set him up? What is this?
All right, let’s get to some questions. We have listener questions and some of them were from the TV bucket and I figured you’d be the perfect person to answer them.
I’ll start with Paige. Paige writes in, “This is a topic that never seems to be addressed no matter what combinations of words I Google, so I’m hoping to encourage a discussion. When someone gets their first job on a show that ends up getting canceled, how do they make money if they don’t get staffed again right away? I’m truly at a loss about this. I got my first staff writer job last October with about $300 in bank account, having quit my day job. And after 10 episodes of WGA minimums, paying out three reps, and the $2,500 WGA entrance fee, I’m down to almost nothing.
“Obviously this is a very specific situation, but again, is this natural? My reps get very uncomfortable when I mention my financial situation which I find weird. Does everyone in Hollywood have a trust fund? My parents suggest I go back to working in retail, but is that normal? What is normal?”
Derek: That’s a tough one. There is no normal, as John and I were just talking about. Your situation has probably been shared a bunch but then there’s each individual is going to be different. I think, look, if you get a staff job you want to get to the next step. If a show gets canceled nobody is guaranteed anything. That’s the problem.
And TV business is rough. I mean, most shows do not go past season one. That’s just the numbers. And certainly don’t go longer than that. This business is not a long term business. It’s more like a circus. And so you have to put money away. You have to work the other job. My first two years here my wife was working. I thought I was going to have to get a job at Starbucks and ended up squeaking out, getting that one little rewrite that could keep me going until we got a movie going.
But I worked in advertising for four years and saved my money before that. There’s no shame. There is zero shame in working another job while you’re trying to get staffed.
John: Yeah, but to Paige’s question, is it weird that I was on a show that ran 10 episodes and now I’m broke again. And I was staff writing. And I would say that’s not weird. But I’d say what has changed is because there are so many short seasons. Ten years ago she would be on a show that would go 13 or 22 episodes if it didn’t get canceled right away, but hopefully. But scale, while fantastic, scale is the minimum wage that writers can be paid in the guild. It’s not that much money. And so you’ve got to be protecting that.
Also, she says that she’s paying her three reps, so she’s paying her lawyer, she’s paying her manager, and her agent. Her manager is getting 10%. Her agent is getting 10%. Her lawyer is getting 5%. That’s 25% away from the start. She doesn’t seem to have a writing partner, but if she had a writing partner that would be another 50%.
John: Half of that would be gone.
Derek: Plus taxes.
John: Plus taxes.
Derek: No, it’s a tough business when you’re starting out. I think that’s why people make exit plans and end up back in Texas or wherever they came from. And it’s hard. You have to keep both ears open and be looking for the next job. And it’s not your fault it got canceled as a staff writer. You have nothing to do with that. But, again, this business is way much more like a circus than it is like had you gone into the insurance business where you can build a 30-year career in the same company.
No, I mean, this is the same for John, the same for me. Chicago Fire could get canceled tomorrow and then I’m looking for my next gig. And you sock it away when you can, because you know there’s going to be some lean times. And you’re in a boat a lot of people have been in. So, find the next job. Save as much as you can. Work retail if you have to. And don’t worry about all the doubters. And keep at it.
John: Yeah. We have friends who are driving Uber. I mean, just whatever you need to do to sort of keep some liquidity, because that also keeps you able to stay in the game longer. And be available for meetings. Just try to get next staffing.
Derek: Yeah. A lot of people do the bartending and whatever jobs at night so that if you have to go to something you can get there.
John: Do you want to take Alex’s question?
Derek: Yeah, Alex in Brooklyn writes, “How do you typically handle writing dialogue where the characters are cutting each other off, arguing perhaps?” If you just cut the sentence off midline it looks fine on the page, but I find it’s difficult for actors to perform as their intonation tends to come down on that final word when it’s supposed to sound mid-sentence.”
John: Yeah. So cutting people off.
Derek: Cutting people off?
John: Derek, I’d like to ask you a question about–
Derek: How do I cut people off?
John: In your scripts are you a dot-dot-dot? Are you a dasher?
Derek: I’m both. I’m a dasher on cutting people off. But I use ellipses a lot in action descriptions. When I cut someone off, let’s say it’s John and he does a half a sentence and I do the dashes. And then the next person I put in the parenthesis, the Riley’s as we call them, I put “Interrupts.” So it would say Derek (interrupts) “You mean I cut you off?”
Now, what happens when you’re still involved in the production is that the actors will ask you what was the rest of the sentence going to be. And then you tell them and then they do it until they get interrupted. So, you know, they have to find it as an actor. I would much prefer you not put in parentheses the rest of the sentence in your script. Just write it the way it’s supposed to sound and then production is a whole different animal and you can always tell them what the rest of the sentence was going to be.
John: Yeah. So you will see some scripts where they do bracket out the overlaps dialogue.
Derek: I don’t love it. It’s fine.
John: It’s fine. It’s totally a choice. If you do it, do it consistently. It’s not a thing I like to do. What I do like about Alex’s question is pointing out that actors do have a tendency to sort of like drop that last word if they know it’s going to be going that way.
Derek: John’s rule that has stuck with me and Craig says this a lot too for as long as they’ve been on the air is just make it clear to the reader. So you can use brackets. You don’t have to. But you can always talk to the actors. You know, the script as Craig will often say is a blueprint for what you’re doing. It’s not published as set in stone. And so you should be able to talk to the actors and tell them, OK, here’s what I was thinking.
John: Yeah. Mel from Los Angeles writes, “My agent has just negotiated my first TV staff writer contract.” Congratulations, Mel. “So, if the series is renewed for more seasons, the next three years seem pretty clear as far as TV work is involved. I’m also interested in working in features, both original and open writing assignments, as well as creating a TV show one day. At one point do I really need to get an entertainment lawyer? I also have a manager, by the way? In other words, when would that additional 5% commission really pay off?”
Derek: Have you ever been without an entertainment lawyer?
John: I was for my very first job I did not have an entertainment lawyer.
Derek: So when did you decide?
John: I got one when I sold Go. So my first couple jobs I guess my agent just did the deal. They were scale.
Derek: I’ve had an entertainment lawyer the whole time, so I don’t know what the – in fact, I found that the entertainment lawyer is the one who does–
John: Makes the deal.
Derek: A lot of the micro negotiations within the negotiation. So, I would say do it as soon as you can. I think it’s worth it. I don’t know.
John: Yeah. So, I go back and forth, because a lot of writers in Mel’s position where like they’re staff writers, your deal is really boilerplate. There’s not a lot of magic there happening.
Derek: The agent can do it.
John: With a feature deal it can be a little bit more sophisticated and complicated. I would say that for my experience I feel like my entertainment attorney has more than earned his 5% on every single deal.
Derek: Me too.
John: Because he’s negotiating up things. He’s making sure that second step is covered. He’s watching out for eventualities. He’s been fantastic. But for a person who is starting in TV–
Derek: Maybe wait till the next step?
John: Maybe wait till the next job.
Derek: If you go from staff writer to story editor.
John: Or when you’re trying to sell a feature. I think on a feature it’s really clear that they’re going to be able to see some stuff that’s not going to be obvious to everybody else.
Derek: I was thinking about that interrupting question because in the last episode of Chicago Fire we had a woman talking and then the male actor interrupted her by kissing her. It was one of those where it was all heated. And so the director said to, Jesse Spencer is the actor, said to surprise her this time on where you’re going to interrupt her because I want it to be a genuine surprise.
So he goes in for the kiss surprising her and her tooth bangs into his lip and splits his lip. And we had to call lunch for the first time ever on the show. We had an injury that resulted in we had to stop shooting because he split his lip. I said how bad of a kisser are you, Jesse, that you can’t–
John: That’s not good. So, how do you fix a lip like that? Is that a super glue situation?
Derek: I don’t know. I think the makeup people have stuff, so maybe they did.
John: A little styptic pen or something.
Derek: They came back from lunch and got the scene. I know that.
John: That’s nice. So we have a question from Anonymous Anonymous. It’s long. But I think it’s useful. So maybe we’ll split this one up. Why don’t you take the first half?
Derek: “A friend and I have collaborated on a series together. We’ve written a pilot, built a show bible, and broken a three-series arc and want to get it out there. My friend has previously written, directed, and sold a well-received independent feature and has an agent and manager, while I do not. Because of this, his agent and manager are pushing for us to change the Written By line on the pilot to his name only, with both of us attached as Created By.
“When we inquire about the motivation we get one of two common answers. A, if you are co-writers then you are splitting the fees of one across two people. So it’s not worth your time. And, B, we can’t pitch something with two writers attached due to common industry expectations.”
John: “So why should they care if they’re splitting our fees, they’d still get the same cut, right? Is it too cynical of us to think they might be pushing to split us up and then sign separately so they can get twice the deal?
“The second part is more nuanced and something that my friend and I have discussed at length. There are numerous examples of co-writers/co-creators from Lord and Miller, Benioff and Weiss, Coen Brothers, Duffer Brothers, Duplass Brothers, the Wachowskis. So the notion that ‘Hollywood doesn’t like pairs’ feels like bunk. And what they’re really talking about is their inability and desire to market or sell us a pair. Should we hold our ground and maintain the dual writing credit? Are the agents being shady here? Is there a compelling reason why we should follow their advice and change the byline simply for the sake of getting the script into the right hands and the potential for development?”
Derek: OK, was trying to analyze this in my mind. One thing I don’t like is when representatives are trying to change what actually happened, which is if you’re partners you’re partners. If you wrote this together, you wrote it together. Created by is a separate thing anyway. That’s who created the story. Of a TV show it’s generally if there’s an outline. That’s created by. If there’s a screenplay that’s written by. If there’s no outline and it’s just a pilot spec script that’s both. And so if you both did the work you should both have your names on it. And let the rest of the chips fall where they may. I don’t know why that would affect them one way or the other.
The only way where I can see where they’re coming from is when Michael and I were partners and we did television the first time and we got paid on that very first season we got paid the amount of what one person would get paid. We were taking up one spot so to speak in the writers’ room even though we were the creators of the show.
So, when season one ended and I realized I’m getting half of what some of the other writers are getting because we’re splitting our fee I said we’re not doing this as a team anymore. We’re going individual. So you can make more money that way. That doesn’t really affect why you should split this up on the pilot.
John: I don’t get splitting this up at this point. If they come back to you with sort of Derek’s explanation I can kind of see that logic, because I do know of other writing teams who have split up because they just make twice as much money. But I don’t think that’s really the case here. My hunch is that they represent this other guy and they want that person to be the marquee name on this thing that they’re sending out.
Derek: And make sure that the other guy isn’t behind your back – I hate to say this–
John: Yeah. But I think it’s true.
Derek: But they could be talking to the agent and saying, “Look, maybe I can get sole credit on this and we can move it.”
John: Our next question is a screenwriter question. Sean from Canada writes, “Generally speaking, how much work does someone need to do to get a Story by credit? Or is it impossible to generalize about this? And secondly does the amount of compensation match the work hours? For instance, what if two writers have a two-hour story meeting where they hash out the basic plot of the movie, but then one of those writers goes off and puts 200 hours to write the actual screenplay? Would the compensation reflect that difference in time spent working?” Generally.
Derek: I just did a WGA arbitration where I was an arbiter and so I’m familiar with the story credit and the way it works. Now, the very first thing you should know is it’s only about writing. It has nothing to do with the 100 hours you spent thinking about it or the two hours you spent thinking about it. If there’s an outline that you wrote, or you wrote the first draft of the script and that becomes the story of the movie, and I forgot the exact definition – you can look it up in the credits manual – but it’s basically things that aren’t endemic to the final shooting script but are endemic to the story if I’m using endemic correctly in terms of the plot, the character descriptions, those kind of things.
So, it has nothing to do with time. It only has to do with the document. And then generally speaking if the story that is the final shooting script came from that early draft then that merits credit. And you can only have two credited story by writers. So I would assume, or presume, it’s got to be a significant part of the story.
Derek: There’s no percentages on story, but you can only do two. So typically it’s 50/50 or 70/30 if it’s significant.
John: Yeah. So the important thing for Sean to know is that story is written words.
John: It’s how we’re basing it, and so it’s based on either outlines that were written, and so in arbitration we’re reading those outlines, or the underlying material, or we’re reading that first scripts, or other scripts that are providing the story for things. And you can look up the WGA credits manual for exactly what the definition is, because we don’t want to mangle it here.
But that’s what we’re actually basing it on is those words. Now, an interesting thing that does come up is increasingly some of these movies are being broken in mini rooms. And so they’ll put together a room to figure out like we have this piece of property and we’re going to figure out how to make three movies and two TV shows out of this property. And so as a room they’re breaking a story and creating an outline for this movie. That’s not a thing that we’re well set up to deal with.
John: And so we’re encountering situations where it becomes really tough to figure out who deserves story credit when this document about sort of what the story was is really the product of a bunch of people working together.
Derek: I don’t know what the WGA rules on that are, but I was invited into one of those – this is a few years ago now – but we had to sign something at the beginning that said that you, no matter what your ideas are that you’re contributing are now pooled into the first writer’s draft. So that writer, you took the job and you got paid a daily rate to go there, but you got paid knowing that whatever idea you contributed was going into somebody else’s pocket. You couldn’t submit written material afterwards. It was all just talking.
John: Yeah. It was all just talking. Again, if it’s all just talking then that’s not–
Derek: Covered by the WGA. Right.
John: Do you want to take Sara’s question?
Derek: Yeah, Sara in LA writes, “Any advice for working with directors who are new to scripts? My bosses are veteran television commercial directors, but are new to features and working with a writer. Me. I’m trying to find the best way to communicate ideas, get feedback, and develop realistic expectations around the writing process, example first drafts are not perfect.”
John: Absolutely. I think that’s a good question. So whether your bosses are coming from TV commercials, music videos, other short form stuff, they’re probably not used to working with long form narrative. They might not have read many scripts. And so this may all be kind of new to them.
What I would encourage you to do is to not get lost in the micro and the macro things at the same time. Because I suspect they’re going to have very clear visions of how they want scenes to work, how they want certain moments to work, but they may have a harder time envisioning the whole overall flow of the story. And so make some conversations which is just sort of like the big white board. Like let’s make sure we’re seeing the whole journey of this character. Take your hero and just follow your hero through the whole story. Work through it that way. Make sure you’re talking about themes, those topics.
Then when they want to drill down to specific moments and their vision for things, or the color schemes of things, or when she says this or this confrontation, let those be a separate kind of conversation because that I think is going to be the hardest thing for a first time director to communicate with a writer.
Derek: The key that you said is talking. And I couldn’t encourage it more. We have in television something called a tone meeting before every episode where you just go through the script page by page. And if you have cool directors who actually value writers and your writing partner they’ll want to do that with you. And like John said, you can do that any time in the process. You can do that at the beginning, before you do a rewrite. You should. You can do it after the rewrite comes in. Here’s what I was intending. And that’s a two-way street. They should tell you, “Well I was thinking the camera would be low here. Could you write it more so that I can get that sense?”
Great. It’s all about communication and hopefully if you have good directors you can educate them a little bit about what you’re doing and then let them go.
John: Cool. Dan in Australia writes, “I’m currently out pitching a new show. I love this project. It’s the type of thing I’ve always dreamt of making. The first time I pitched it it was electric. I really felt the show as I was pitching it and happily had a great response. In subsequent pitches I’ve noticed that I don’t feel as emotionally connected to the pitch. I guess it’s what an actor must feel like with a play. Any tips on getting yourself to the right spot emotionally for the tenth, or the 20th time you pitch on a project?”
Derek: How do you do it, John?
John: I would say I always have to find something new about the project to be describing that time. So like a new way in. I try not to be so rehearsed that I’m just a robot who performs the thing. And I also try to make sure my pitches invite places for them to offer feedback and really communicate back in so that it really is a conversation. It’s not just a presentation.
Derek: Great advice. It’s funny, my youngest son Augie has gotten into magic. And he loves it. And he practices, like crazy. And he’s 12 years old and he’s probably spent a year now doing card flourishes. And what he forgets is that people are seeing the trick for the first time. And when you go into these meetings, even though you’ve done it eight times, they’ve never heard it. So it’s a performance. You have to pretend this is the first time. And I think the great actors on stage do that. They say, OK, all new audience. I’m doing it. I’ve got to give them my best. Man, you cannot bore yourself. This is your job. So, figure it out.
John: I will say for Arlo Finch I’ve had to do a lot of school visits, and so with those school visits I’m giving a keynote presentation and I’ve now done it 50 times maybe. I’ve done it a ton of times. It’s the same slides, same order, and largely the same jokes. And there have been times where I’ve had to look back at the slide and say like where am I – where am I at in this? But I’m still always like live and present for it. Because there is always something different. There’s always different kids in the front row. There’s always something about the environment and the situation that’s different.
And so key into what’s different about you being in this room with this group. Do your research to know who it is you’re sitting across from and what things they’re going to click into. And so in that initial five minutes of sort of BS conversation about movies and weather and all that stuff you can get some sense of what it is that they’re interested and excited about. And you can tailor some of what you say and some of what you emphasize based on who it is you’re talking to.
Derek: We always said it only takes one. It only takes one yes and you’re off and writing that project, so if, I mean, there’s really not that many buyers anyway. So it’s not like 50 schools. There’s going to be eight or nine times you’ve got to be able to get up for those presentations.
John: One of the things that’s actually the most challenging thing for me pitching is so let’s say I pitch to producers and then we’re going in to pitch for the studio, and so maybe early on I’ve pitched three times to producers, and then you’re going to pitch to the studio. And I know what the producers’ feedback has been and so I want to incorporate that, but also I know I’m talking to these new people, and so I want to both respect what the producer wants but I have to–
Derek: I ignore the producers in the room. I’m just, OK, now I’ve got this buyer.
John: Not even who I’m aiming it towards. Nothing to do with who I’m looking at, because obviously I’m looking at the most important person in the room.
Derek: You just know what their notes were and so you want to say–
Derek: Yeah, if you can give them a nod that they feel good about. My other trick when we were pitching a lot was that you use that five minutes of time where you, you know, how’s the weather, oh my gosh I took a trip to whatever, and don’t you like Sedona or whatever, and then I would say, “OK, before I begin the pitch I just want to tell you,” and I give like four things about the character, or the tone, or the theme. And then I say, “OK, now I’m going to start the pitch.” And they wouldn’t realize that I had already been pitching. You get yourself an extra five minutes and you’ve set the tone of what the pitch is going to be.
John: Absolutely. So, I think that you do get that preamble of let me contextualize the thing I’m about to do before you start, “We open on.”
John: Let’s do one last question. Jude writes, “Do writers have much if any input regarding the music for the scripts they write? Do writers have the opportunity to speak with directors about the kind of music they envision accompanying the script, or do they not even consider mentioning anything like that because it would be rejected out of hand?” What’s been your experience with music and scripts?
Derek: This question comes up a lot. It seems like it’s a super – I’d say put music into your scripts if you feel like it’s intrinsic to the story. It may not end being, you know, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. It could be some other inspirational song. But obviously there have been incredible movies where they wrote the movie specifically for the music. I can think of Baby Driver, Edgar Wright’s last movie. But your chances as an incoming first time screenwriter, not high that you’re going to get the actual music that you want.
No reason not to do it and set the tone of what you want to do. But just know it might change.
John: Yeah. For Go I did create a mix tape that had a bunch of tracks. None of those tracks made it into the actual movie. And I’m not even sure that the buyers or Doug Liman ever listened to that thing. It was important for me–
Derek: It set the mood.
John: For me. So it’s OK to do that. It’s not OK to sort of like say – obviously no one burns a CD anymore, but people used to burn CDs and send it with the script.
Derek: No, don’t do that.
John: That’s gross.
Derek: Don’t do any of the razzmatazz.
John: I guess links are not as burdensome, so if you have a Spotify playlist for it I guess that’s fine. But it would need to be important. I think what’s more crucial is that, as you’re describing the movie that we’re going to see and hear, describe the music if it’s important to what this is going to be. So there have definitely been times in scripts where over thunderous drums we descend upon a thing.
Derek: Yes. That’s great.
John: Fair game.
Derek: We don’t do a lot of source music on Chicago Fire, almost never. We probably in 7.5 seasons used five songs. But there has been at least three times that I’ve said, hey, I want this band playing at the end of the show. And then we just go and try to make a deal. Now, we don’t have a big budget for it the way like Koppelman and Levien have for their show where they are literally thinking out what the ten songs they’re going to play in an episode of Billions.
But, really recently on Chicago Fire I love this band Slothrust, and we have a scene at like a night club, like a happening nightclub, and so I said to our music supervisor right before Christmas I said, “I don’t know what it costs, but see if we can get this Slothrust song Double Down for this scene. I’ll let you know.” I’ll let you know if we got it.
John: Nice. We’ll see. All right, it’s come time for our One Cool Things. My One Cool Thing is this Grover meme that happened this last week. Did you see this?
John: So I’m going to play it for you here.
Derek: OK, sweet.
John: So Derek Haas, do you think that Grover was saying a bad word there?
Derek: Oh, I didn’t hear a bad word. “Move the camera. I think that’s an excellent idea.”
John: That’s exactly what he’s supposed to be saying.
Derek: Oh, it’s like the dress thing? The white dress versus the purple dress?
John: It is. And so you are hearing what he’s actually saying, like that sounds like an excellent idea, but my first time hearing it – and other people’s time hearing it – it sounds like he’s saying the F-word.
Derek: That’s hilarious.
John: In the context. And so I saw this thing and it’s sort of like Yanny and the dress. But it’s actually slightly different. So my One Cool Thing is actually this blog post by a guy named Christian DiCanio who is a linguist who is talking about what is actually happening there.
And so it’s essentially human speech doesn’t break down as neatly as we sort of think it would break down. And so much of what we perceive is really our expectation of what’s supposed to be coming. And so if you read a certain transcription you’ll say like, oh, that’s exactly what he said. You read a different transcription, like oh that’s exactly what he said.
John: It was false just in an ambiguous enough space that you could hear both things equally valid. So I can now flip my head, my ears back and forth. So now you’re going to listen to it again.
Derek: OK. I’m going to listen for the F-word. OK.
Now I can’t go back.
John: Yeah, now you can’t go back. So it’s not quite the dress situation, where it’s actually kind of genuinely spooky. This is just like ambiguous things. And I will say what’s interesting about it as a writer is that we rely on those sort of ambiguous situations for a lot of our jokes. And so there’s things that fall in the gap between things, like the dad jokes. Like my wife wants me to stop stealing the kitchen appliances, but that’s a whisk I’m willing to take.
Derek: Ah, whisk!
John: Whisk. It’s a whisk.
John: Derek, One Cool Thing?
Derek: My One Cool Thing, I have two. I have Two Cool Things. Because I’ve been a fourth time guest I get to have two. The first one is – I was talking about magic earlier. David Kwong, friend of the show, is a wonderful human being and an incredible magician. He’s doing shows in New York in January at the High Line Hotel, which I know a couple of the nights have already been sold out. And he’s doing a matinee and a later show.
I’ve seen the show. It is incredible. It is mind-boggling. I don’t know how he does anything that he does. I never ask. And it’s a fun interactive show because you’re also – it’s kind of the idea of an escape room and magic. It’s called The Enigmatist.
If you’re in New York in January go see David. You will not be disappointed. That’s number one.
Number two, I did not know this, and John you’re so much more technologically advanced than I am that you probably knew this right when the iPhone came out. But forever I was on texts or on emails on my phone I was trying to highlight, you know, you’d misspell a word and you’d just want to correct one letter. And so you’d try to put your finger on it and then it makes the bigger window. And you’re trying to get – and it was always hard to do to get the cursor to line up with the letter you wanted to correct.
And then somebody told me if you hold down the space bar on the text then the cursor comes up above where you are and you can move the cursor into the text and it has changed my life. And I wish I would have known that a year and a half ago.
John: It’s really useful. And also on later model iPhones you can push harder, you can force click, and the whole screen becomes – you can move the whole cursor around with it. I’ll show it to you.
Derek: I have to come over here and get lessons from John.
John: I’m going to show it to you right now and you’ll see sort of what I’m talking about because it’s a little bit confusing.
Derek: Oh, so you don’t have to do it on the – cool.
John: Cool. That’s our show for this week. As always our show is produced by Megan McDonnell. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week is by James Llonch and Jim Bond with special guest vocals by Rebel Wilson.
If you have an outro you can send us a link to email@example.com. That’s also the place where you can send longer questions like the ones Derek and I answered today. For short questions, on Twitter Craig is @clmazin. I’m @johnaugust. Derek Haas is…?
John: Oh, it makes it so easy. And Derek sometimes will answer questions from his listeners. Like Sundays you do that?
Derek: I do it once a week. Sundays. Seven questions. And it doesn’t have to be about the shows, but that is what it ends up being.
John: You should get your questions in early because otherwise I’ll make some sort of prank question and Derek won’t even know I did it.
Derek: And Craig sometimes answers as though he watches the show. And he has never, ever seen a single episode. So, they’ll ask a specific question why did Casey do something and Craig will just make up an answer.
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Derek: Oh, I could make the five timers club next time.
John: Oh my gosh, you get the special jacket.
Derek: Do I get a jacket?
John: You should get the jacket. I remember you actually came when we were doing, I think it was Chicago because you were–
Derek: It was Chicago. I just started Chicago Fire.
John: That’s crazy. Way back when I was doing Big Fish.
Derek: So go look for that episode.
John: Derek Haas, thank you very much for pinch hitting. This was so much fun.
Derek: Always great. Bye.
- Thank you, Derek Haas!
- Join us for the WGA’s Princess Bride screening on January 27th. Seating opens up to non-WGA members 15 minutes before showtime.
- How Hollywood Gets the Publishing Industry Wrong by Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake, for The New York Times
- Is Grover swearing in this video? This is Christian DiCanio’s blog post about it.
- David Kwong’s The Enigmatist
- Holding down the spacebar on a text so you can move the cursor more accurately on an iPhone.
- T-shirts are available here! We’ve got new designs, including Colored Revisions, Karateka, and Highland2.
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