The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Head’s up, this episode will absolutely have some bad language. Not apologizing, just stating the facts.
Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name, ah, is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 383 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Today on the podcast we’ll be talking about the trope of never split the party, and why in fact as a writer you often want to and need to divide the party up. We’ll talk about how to do that and what you gain, plus we’ll be answering listener questions on sequences, working with an author, screenwriter websites, and we have some umbrage fodder to kick off the new year.
Craig, Happy New Year.
Craig: Happy New Year, John. We did it again, by the way. We made it through another loop around the sun.
Craig: I feel super good about it.
John: The longest loop around the sun in my memory.
Craig: It was in many ways the most challenging and yet also rewarding year of my life. It was quite a thing. But there is something nice about arriving at the end because the flat disk that is the earth has managed to kind of do this circle around what I presume is also a flat disk of the sun. And it just gives you a nice feeling of accomplishment even if you specifically haven’t really done anything except stand still on the flat disk that is the earth.
John: Yeah. You made a TV show. That was fantastic. Hurrah.
Craig: I made a TV show. Feels great. We’re trucking along there, getting close to showing it to people which will be fun. Although you know it’s funny, I was talking to – I won’t say who, but a famous filmmaker friend of ours – and we were saying how the dream, the real dream, is to make a television show or a movie and when it’s finally done and it is perfect and you’ve got everything the way you want it, you show it to no one. You just put it away.
Craig: Because it’s like, ugh, it’s the showing of it.
John: I’ll tell you, with The Nines, that movie I made with Ryan Reynolds and Melissa McCarthy, I kind of feel like I did that, because I’m really happy with the movie and no one saw it. So, it wasn’t a deliberate choice to have no one see the movie, it just sort of worked out that way.
Craig: Well that can happy, too. I suppose it’s sort of involuntary lock-away-ness.
John: I’ll tell you that the project I’m thinking about directing next, I originally had envisioned it as sort of an indie feature, sort of more on the Destroyer model, and now I’m just like, you know what, maybe I’ll just make it for Netflix, because Netflix at least it’s out there in the world all at once. Everyone can see it and then you’re done. And that will be Chernobyl. Everyone will see it all at once. Well, they’ll see episode by episode, but the whole world can see it.
Craig: Yeah. The whole world within some reasonable limitation, yeah, can see it. But at least, I don’t know, there’s something about television I suppose that’s, I don’t know why, that’s a little more acceptable to me in this regard. Because it’s like opening weekend. There’s a thing in movies, it’s like you feel like there’s a blade that’s swinging towards your neck.
John: Oh yeah.
Craig: And it’s all make or break. And then in television it’s like, you know, Cheers and Seinfeld, I think, were both like the lowest rated television shows of their debut season. And then, you know, then you kind of come around. But in movie terms, it just feels like you’re always under the gun. So I like this new kind of relaxed TV deal. It’s nice.
John: Yeah. So there will be ratings for your program, and so if people want to support you in 2019 they can support you by watching your show. That would be fantastic. So it’s not like you get extra dollars if people watch your show, but people notice when shows have high ratings, which is great. If people want to support me in 2019 they can pre-order the second Arlo Finch. That’s actually the single biggest thing you could do for me this year would be to pre-order the second Arlo Finch because if all the people who bought Arlo Finch the first go around by pre-ordering the second book it would be on the top of the charts. It would do fantastically well.
Craig: That’s great.
John: Yeah. So that would be great. If people wanted to do that–
Craig: I’m going to do that because my daughter is a big fan. She loved the first book.
John: That’s right. And I didn’t give you the second book. I’ll get you the second book. She’ll like the second book.
Craig: Well, you just cost yourself a sale.
John: No, no, no, you should still buy the book.
Craig: Well, eh, I mean, you know, you’re giving it to me. I don’t know. I don’t get this.
John: How’s this – I will give you a copy of the audio edition which she can listen to, because the same guy did the audio edition, James Patrick Cronin.
John: I just approved the artwork minutes before we started recording.
Craig: Ooh, exciting. I always love it when things like that are happening behind the scenes.
John: Behind the scenes. Some news, so people know about our Princess Bride screening that’s taking place on January 27 at 5pm at the WGA Theater. Some details on how you get into the screening. So this is apparently how it’s going to work. The doors open at 4:30pm. WGA members get in first. They get first choice of seats. And then at 4:45pm it’s open seating for everyone else who wants to come in and see The Princess Bride and then stay for our discussion of the terrific movie that we are going to be looking at that night and celebrating.
Craig: And, John, correct me if I’m wrong but the idea is that we’re going to record our discussion as one of our deep dive podcasts essentially?
John: That is exactly it. And so if this goes well I’d like to do this several times more even this year.
Craig: Great. That’s fun. It’s a way to get me to see movies.
John: Yeah. But also sometimes like some classic movies, too, would a great thing for us to see. I think that’s another goal I would like for us to do this is like we do the Three Page Challenge but we never really look at whole screenplays, and so maybe we’ll pick a screenplay, sort of like a book club thing where you and I will both read the screenplay and we’ll assume that our listeners have read the screenplay, maybe even for a movie that hasn’t been shot. So we can actually look at what it looks like on the page, from a really good screenplay.
Craig: All right. I’m down with that.
John: Cool. We also have another live show to announce. This is breaking news. So, we’ve been trying to do a Seattle show for about as long as the podcast has existed. We are finally doing a live show in Seattle, February 6. Details will be coming soon, but assume that it will be in the evening. We are going to do it someplace at a venue that will be appropriately sized for the people who come in Seattle. We don’t know how many that’s going to be. But I’m doing my Arlo Finch book tour. Craig, you’re flying up just for this. So it should be a fun time.
Craig: Yeah, come on Seattle. Don’t make us look stupid, you know, because I love you. I love Seattle.
John: I love Seattle, too.
Craig: We have family in Seattle.
John: Yeah. So that’s great. I have friends there.
Craig: So come on. I’m just saying to Seattle like, hey, guys, you have a reputation for being super cool, but you don’t want that to tilt over into we don’t care ism, right? You still want to care, like you want to show up. So my goal is 40,000 people.
John: Yep. And while we’re doing our tour of the United States, back when we were at the Austin Film Festival I recorded a special episode of Studio 360, which is a Slate Podcast, and that episode aired this last week and it’s actually pretty nice. It’s sort of a recap of how I got into being a screenwriter. So if you don’t know that history there’s a link in the show notes to an episode of Studio 360 I recorded about my history as a screenwriter.
Craig: All right.
John: Let’s get into some 2019 with something that can really get us going. You’ve been gone for a while.
Craig: Yeah, I know.
John: So let’s get into this. We got a letter from a listener named Mark, and so I’ll read Mark’s letter and then we can discuss what Mark brings up.
John: Mark writes, “I’m baffled as to why you are not railing against the Golden Globe awards. Did you not hear Lady Gaga whining about how hard it is to be a female musician while fondling her $5 million necklace? Did you miss the entire article that the writer may make $218 for a song that makes the artist $34 million? By your silence you are supporting a platform that denigrates writers while promoting the self-indulgent delusions of those who believe they are entitled by the measure of their gender, race, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.
“I really thought your podcast was about earning your way and working to get the skill set necessary to make it happen. Wow. You really had me fooled.”
Craig, I mean–
Craig: It appears we had him fooled.
John: Yeah, Craig, you fooled Mark. I mean, so let’s get into Mark and let’s really take a look at ourselves about–
Craig: What an idiot? I mean, it’s so stupid that I can’t even feel umbrage. I’m almost happy. It’s almost made me happy because I’d forgotten that there can be people this stupid. And, yeah, I’m OK calling Mark stupid. Mark, you’re probably not a stupid person but this is a stupid thing you’ve done. It’s a stupid thing you’ve written.
And the reason I guess primarily that I would say so is because you’ve made this insane logical leap that because you didn’t hear us talking about the Golden Globe awards we therefore support it. By the way, I have no opinion about the Golden Globe awards. I didn’t watch them. But why would anyone presume that if you don’t say something about a topic that, I mean, it’s not like either one of us were at the Golden Globe awards. Neither one of us are a member of the Foreign Hollywood Press Association.
I also didn’t mention something about Yazidi Christians being slaughtered yesterday. That doesn’t mean I support that. That is the dumbest premise for any stupid letter I’ve ever encountered. That’s crazy. Why would anyone think that?
John: Yeah, what I liked about it is it sort of reinvigorated a spirit that I’m trying to sort of feel for 2019 which is that in 2019 I’m sort of done being outraged. I’m not going to let myself get provoked or baited into sort of arguments. That includes Twitter, but also in the real world. I think I kind of felt sort of your calm. I also sort of felt nothing other than sort of a vague like sort of frustration. But I’m just not going to take Mark’s bullshit. I’m not going to be outraged enough to be outraged by it.
Craig: Good for you.
John: And I think this also extends to politics overall. Because I was having lunch with Tess Morris today, who is obviously fantastic and a big friend of the show, and we were talking about politics and upcoming democratic stuff. And I said that I’m not going to sort of sit around and listen to like, “Oh that person is too progressive, or that person is too liberal, or that person is too whatever.” No, no, you can have your own opinion but you don’t get to tell me what my opinion is anymore. And you don’t get to tell me when I should be outraged or should not be outraged.
Craig: Yeah. I haven’t seen something quite this stupid since like 15 minutes ago on Twitter. This is a very kind of Twittery way of talking.
John: Yeah. He did long Twitter. He did long Twitter.
Craig: He did long Twitter. And listen, everybody knows the difference right? The funny thing is it used to be that a guy like Mark would write something like this, you would go oh my god, like I have to combat this point by point. And there are so many Marks out there who do this that you realize like you know what actually I couldn’t possibly rebut all their stupidity, so nah, go ahead. You know what? Mute.
The Twitter mute function has been such a joy for me.
John: Oh, isn’t it so nice.
Craig: Yes. So like in my mind I read this and I’m just like mute.
John: Yep. So you and I both used to have comments on our blogs and I remember when I turned comments off people were like how can you possibly silence the conversation. It was like because I just don’t care anymore. I literally don’t care what your response is to this. This was my opinion and you can have your opinion. But you don’t get to come into my living room and sort of tell me your opinion. And so getting back to the Golden Globes of it all, it’s like I think – oh, I didn’t watch the Golden Globes because I was at your house playing D&D.
John: We didn’t discuss the Golden Globes once. At the very end of the night we said like, oh my god, Phil Lord won for Spider Verse.
Craig: Spider Man. Yeah, Spider Verse.
John: Fantastic. You know what? I did not email him to congratulate him because I had already congratulated him on making a great movie and that’s all that mattered. I am a voting member of the Academy. I don’t give a shit about the Academy Awards. I genuinely don’t. I don’t care who hosts them. I don’t care who wins the awards. I’ve gone to the Academy Awards because it’s nice to get dressed up and go to a big fancy party. And that’s what I wish awards really were is like a big fancy party to celebrate the cool movies over the course of 2018. And then we’d sort of like put down our drinks and go back and make movies for 2019.
But this whole long season of award stuff is just such bullshit. And I’ve been through it before and I’m just not having it this year.
Craig: Good for you. I mean, obviously my position on awards is a fairly consistent position all this time. The notion of awards for art has always been troubling to me. And, of course, look, Mark isn’t making points that haven’t been made before. These aren’t fresh points. Yes, shocker of all shocks, a lot of actors will talk about poor people while they themselves are making a lot of money and wearing expensive things. And also people that sometimes make a lot of money and wear expensive things donate more to charity than Mark could ever imagine donating in his lifetime.
There is always an easy kind of – you could just sort of easily go look at this hypocrisy of the whole thing and I get that. it is easy and it’s sort of fun to punch up I guess at incredibly beautiful rich people who are going on about their beautiful art and so on and so forth. But it’s also a bit boring now I think. Everybody gets it. Like we all understand. If Lady Gaga weren’t also kind of a nice – she seems like a very nice person. I’ve never heard her say or do anything where I felt like, ugh, yuck. She’s not R. Kelly for god’s sake. Shut up Mark, you idiot. [laughs]
Oh, and you know, please stop listening to the podcast. This is also this new thing of like people who have a complaint about the podcast and I’m like well let me get your address so I can send you your refund. You jerk.
John: All right.
Craig: Fun. Fun. I couldn’t even get umbrage over that. I feel robbed.
John: No you couldn’t. I felt a little more umbrage than you did on this. But it’s my own special thing. I need to figure out what that word is, but it’s just that little snap of something. It’s like, you know what, I’m not dealing with that. I’m not having it.
Craig: I ain’t having it.
John: I’m feeling the clap emoji kind of. I’m underlining my words with claps.
Craig: Yeah. I’m trying to hit mental mute as much as I can these days. Just mental mute. That’s the thing. They don’t even know you muted them. That’s the best part.
John: Oh, so good.
Craig: God, I love it. All right, moving on.
John: Moving on, our feature topic today is splitting up the party, dividing the party. It’s that trope that you often see in – well originally in sort of Scooby Doo things. Let’s split up so we can cover more ground and so therefore everyone gets into trouble because they split the party. But it also happens a lot in D&D where it’s that idea of you don’t want to divide up the party because if you divide up the party you’re weaker separately than you are together. And it’s also just really annoying for players because then you’re not – you’re just sort of waiting around for it to be your turn again.
But as I thought about it like dividing the party is actually a crucial thing that we end up having to do in movies and especially now in the second Arlo Finch just so that we can actually tell the story the best way possible. So I want to talk about situations where it’s good to keep characters together, more importantly situations where you really want to keep the characters separated, apart, and why you might want to do that.
Craig: Yeah, it’s a really smart idea for a topic because it’s incredibly relevant to how we present challenges to our characters. And the reason that they always say – and it’s maybe the only real rule, meaning only real unwritten rule of roleplaying games – is don’t split up the party. Don’t split the party is really in response to just a phalanx of idiots who have split the party in the past and inevitably it doesn’t work because as you point out you are putting yourselves in more danger that way. But that is precisely what we want to do to the characters in our fixed concluding narratives because it is the very nature of that jeopardy that is going to test them and challenge them the most. And therefore their success will feel the most meaningful to us.
John: Absolutely. So let’s talk about some of the problems with big groups. And so one of the things you start to realize if you have eight characters in a scene is it’s very hard to keep them alive. And by alive I mean do they actually have a function in that scene? Have they said a line? What are they doing there? And if characters don’t talk every once and a while they really do tend to disappear. I mean, radio dramas is the most extreme example where if a character doesn’t speak they are not actually in the scene. But if a character is just in the background of a scene and just nodding or saying uh-huh that’s not going to be very rewarding for that actor. It’s going to pull focus from what you probably actually want to be doing.
Craig: Whenever I see it it kills me, because I notice it immediately. And it’s so fascinating to me when it happens and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this great video. Patton Oswalt was a character on King of Queens. He was – I didn’t really watch the show, but I think he was a neighbor or something, or a coworker, so smaller part.
So there were many times I think where he was included in the scene in their living room, which was their main set for the sitcom, but other than his one thing to say at the beginning or the end he had nothing to do. And he apparently did this thing where through this very long scene he held himself perfectly still like a statue on purpose in the background. And you can see it on YouTube. It’s great. He’s amusing himself because the show has absolutely no use for him in that scene other than the beginning or the end.
John: That’s amazing. A situation we ran into with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is in Roald Dahl’s book Charlie Bucket gets the Golden Ticket and you’re allowed to bring two parents with you. And so Charlie only brings his uncle, but all the other characters, all the other little spoiled kids bring both parents. And that would be a disaster onscreen because you would have 15 people at the start of the factory tour. And trying to keep 15 people in a frame is really a challenge of cinema and television. There’s no good way to keep them all physically in a frame.
John: And that is a real problem. So what we did is basically everyone could bring one parent and it turned out the original Gene Wilder movie did the same thing. We made different choices about which parent. But then even when you get into like the big chocolate river room I’m splitting up those people and so they’re not all together as a pack because you just can’t keep them alive. You can’t get a group of more than four or five people together and actually have that moment be about something. And so they’re immediately splitting apart and going in different directions just so that you can have individual moments.
Craig: Even inside a group of characters where you haven’t technically split the party in terms of physical location, as a writer you begin to carve out a weird party split anyway because someone is inevitably going to lean in and have a quieter exchange with somebody else, or whisper to somebody else, or take somebody aside, even though they’re all still in the same room, because ultimately it is impossible to feel any kind of intimacy when you do have 15 co-equals all yammering at each other. Or, god forbid, three people yammering at each other and then 12 other people just standing there watching. That’s creepy.
John: Yep. The last thing I’ll say, the problem in big groups, is that there are conversations, there’s conflicts that you can really only see between two characters, maybe three characters, that just would not exist as part of a larger group. You’re not going to have an argument with your wife in a certain public place, but you would if it’s just the two of you. And so by breaking off those other people you allow for there to be moments that just couldn’t exist in a public setting.
And so that’s another reason why big groups just have a dampening effect often on what the natural conflicts you really want to see are in a story.
Craig: Even beyond the nature of certain conversations, there are certain aspects of basic character itself that change based on the context of who you’re around. Sometimes we don’t really get to know somebody properly until they’re alone with someone else. And then they say or do something that kind of surprises us because they are the sort of person that just blends in or shies away when there’s a lot going on. And they only kind of come out or blossom in intimacy.
Quiet characters are wonderful characters to kind of split off with because suddenly they can say something that matters. And you get to know who they really are. By the way, I think people work this way, too. We are brought up to think of ourselves as one person, right, that you’re John. But there’s many Johns. We are all many of us and we change based on how big of a group we’re in and who is in the group. So don’t be afraid to do that with your characters.
John: Yeah. So that ability to be specific to who that character is with that certain crowd and sort of the specificity of the conflicts that’s something you get in the smaller groups. But one of the other sort of hidden advantages you start to realize when you split the party up is that enables you to cut between the two groups. And that is amazingly useful for time compression. So basically getting through a bunch of stuff more quickly and sort of like if you were sticking with the same group you would have to just keep jumping forward in time. But by being able to ping pong back and forth between different groups and see where they’re at you can compress a lot of time down together. You can sort of short hand through some stuff. Giving yourself something to cut to is often the thing you’re looking for most as a screenwriter.
Craig: It is incredibly helpful for the movie once you get into the editing room of course, because you do have the certain flexibility there. You’re not trapped. There is a joy in the contrast, I think. If you’re going back and forth between let’s call them contemporaneous scenes. So they’re occurring at the same time, but they’re in different places, they can kind of comment on each other. It doesn’t have to be overt or meta, but there’s an interesting game of contrasts that you can play between two people who are enjoying a delicious meal in a beautiful restaurant and then a third person who is slogging her way through a rainy mud field. That’s a pretty broad example. It can be the tiniest of things.
But it gives you a chance to contrast which movie and film does really well and reality does poorly, because we are always stuck in one linear timeline in our lives. We never get that gift of I guess I’ll call it simultaneous perspective.
John: Yeah. So I mean a thing you come to appreciate as a screenwriter is how much energy you get out of a cut. And so you can find ways to get out of a scene and into the next scene that provide you with even more energy. But literally any time you’re cutting from one thing to another thing you get a little bit of momentum from that. And so being able to close a moment off and sort of tell the audience, OK, that thing is done and now we’re here is very useful and provides a pull through the story where if you had to stay with those characters as they were moving through things that could be a challenge.
But let’s talk about some of the downsides because there’s also splitting up the party that’s done poorly or doesn’t actually help.
John: So if you have a strong central protagonist, like it’s really all on this one character’s back, if you’re dividing up then suddenly you’re losing that POV. You’re losing that focus of seeing the story just from their perspective. And so the Harry Potter movies, the books and the movies, are all from Harry’s perspective. He is central to everything. And so if they were to cut off and just have whole subplots with Ron and Hermione where they’re doing stuff by themselves it would be different. There’s a way it could totally work, but it would be different. You know, if you’re making Gravity you really do want to stay with Sandra Bullock the whole time through. If you cut away to like on the ground with the NASA folks that would completely change your experience of that movie. So, there are definitely times where it does make sense to hold a group together so that you can stay with that central character because it’s really about his or her central journey.
Craig: Yeah. In those cases sometimes it’s helpful to think about the perspective character as a free agent. And so you still get to split the party by leaving a party to go to another party. And going back and forth. So Harry Potter has the Ron and Hermione party, and he has the Dumbledore party. And he has the snake party. And so he can move in between those and thus give us kind of different perspectives on things which is really helpful.
I mean, I personally feel like any time you’re writing about a group of people, basically you always are even if it’s a really small group, you should already be thinking about how you’re going to break them apart. Because it’s so valuable. It also helps you reinforce what they get out of the group in the first place. Because a very simple fundamental question every screenwriter should ask about their group of friends in their show or the movie is why are they friends.
We are friends with people who do something for us. Not overtly, but they are giving us something that we like. So, what is that? What are they doing for each other? And once you know that then you know why you have to break up the party. And then if they get back together what it means after that has been shattered.
John: Yep. I think as you’re watching something, if you were to watch an episode of Friends with the sound turned off most of the episode is not going to have the six of them together. They’re going to go off and do their separate things. But generally there’s going to be a moment at which they’re all back together in the course of the thing and that is a natural feeling you want. You want the party to break apart and then come back together. You want that sort of homecoming thing. That sense of completion is to have the group brought back together. That is the journey of your story. And so you’ll see that even in like Buffy the Vampire Slayer is another example of like let’s split up, let’s do different things. But you are expecting to see Xander and Buffy and Willow are all going to come back together at the end because that’s sort of the contract you’ve made with your audience.
Craig: Exactly. And that is something that’s very different about recurring episodic television as opposed to closed end features or closed end limited series. You can’t really break up the party in any kind of permanent way. Whereas in film and limited series television sometimes, and a lot of times, you must. You must split up the party permanently. I mean, there’s a great – if you’re making any kind of family drama it’s really helpful to think about this, the splitting of the party concept. I’m thinking of Ordinary People. Ordinary People ultimately is a movie about what happens, you know, the party and whether or not the party is going to stay together. And, spoiler alert, it breaks up. The party splits up permanently and you understand that is the way it must be.
John: You know, Broadcast News. And so if you want to take that central triangle of those three characters, they could stay all working together as a group, but that would not be dramatically interesting. You have to break them apart and see what they’re like in their separate spaces so you can understand the full journey of the story.
John: So let’s talk about how you split up a party. The simplest and probably hoariest way to do it is just the urgency thing. So the Scooby Doo like we can cover more ground if we split up, or there’s a deadline basically. We won’t get this done unless we split up. There’s too much to do and so therefore we’re going to divide. You do this and then we do that. The Guardians of the Galaxy does that. The Avengers movies tend to do that a lot where they just going off in separate directions and eventually the idea is that they’ll come back together to get that stuff done.
John: That works for certain kinds of movies. It doesn’t work for a lot of movies. But it’s a way to get it done. But I think if you can find the natural rhythms that make it clear why the characters are apart, that’s probably going to be a better solution for most movies. You know, friends aren’t always together. Friends do different stuff. And friends have other friends and so they’re apart from each other.
People work. And so that sense of like you have a work family and a home family. That’s a way of separating things. And there’s people also grouped by common interest, so you can have your hero who is a marathon runner who goes off doing marathon-y stuff, marathon people, marathon-y stuff, who goes running with people which breaks him off from the normal – the group that we’re seeing the rest of the time. You can find ways to let themselves be the person pulling themselves away from the group.
Craig: Yeah. There’s also all sorts of simple easy ways where the world breaks the party apart, walls and doors drop down between people. Somebody is arrested and put in prison. Somebody is pulled away. Someone dies. Dying, by the way, great way to break up a party. That’s a terrific party split. Yeah. There’s all sorts of – somebody falls down, gets hurt, and you have to take them to the hospital. There’s a hundred different things.
And I suppose what I would advise writers is to think about using a split method that will allow you, the writer, to get the most juice out of this new circumstance of this person and this person together, which is different than what we’ve seen before. So where would that be and how would it work and why would it feel a certain way as opposed to a different way.
And you can absolutely do this, even if you have three people. I mean, you mention Broadcast News so let’s talk about James Brooks and As Good as it Gets. Once you start this road trip it’s three characters and the party splits multiple times in different ways.
John: Yeah. The reason I think I was thinking about this this week is I’m writing the third Arlo Finch. And the first Arlo Finch is a boy who comes to this mountain town. He joins the patrol and there are six people in his patrol. His two best friends are sort of the central little triad there. But there’s a big action sequence that has six characters. And supporting six characters in that sequence killed me. It was a lot to do.
In writing the second book, which is off in a summer camp, you got that patrol and that is the main family, but I was deliberately looking for ways to split them apart so that characters could have to make choices by themselves and so that Arlo Finch could have to step up and do stuff without the support of his patrol. But also allow for natural conflicts that would divide the patrol against themselves and surprises that take sort of key members out of patrol.
And that was the central sort of dramatic question of the story is like will this family sort of come back together at the end.
And then the third book is a chance to sort of match people up differently. So you get to go on trips with people who are not the normal people you would bring on a certain trip. And that’s fun to see, too. So, you can go to places that would otherwise be familiar but you’re going into these places with people who would not be the natural people to go in this part of the world.
Craig: Yeah. You get to mix and match and strange bedfellows and all that. That’s part of the fun of this stuff. We probably get a little wrapped up in the individual when we’re talking about character, but I always think about that question that Lindsay Doran is lobbing out to everybody. What is the central relationship of your story? And thereby you immediately stop thinking about individual characters. OK, this character is like this and this character – that’s why maybe more than anything I hate that thing in scripts where people say, you know, “Jim, he’s blah-blah-blah, and he used to be this, and now he’s this.” I don’t care.
I only am interested in Jim and his relationship to another human being. At least one other and hopefully more. So, I try and think about the party and the relationships and the connections between people as the stuff that matters. Because in the end mostly that’s what you’re writing.
John: Absolutely true. All right, should we get onto some follow up?
Craig: Why not?
John: All right, do you want to take Daniel in Nashville?
Craig: I do. Daniel writes, “Guys, I know screenwriting scams are all over the place, but I would appreciate some public shaming,” oh, here we go, “directed at this particular one that just popped up here in Nashville. It’s especially disgusting because it’s hosted by something calling itself The Nashville Filmmakers Guild. Breakthrough screenplay competition where the winning screenplay becomes a major motion picture.” Well that’s a promising slogan. Let’s see where this goes.
“They take your money, have a robot read your screenplay,” oh, John, there’s a job in this for you, “real life producers evaluate the algorithm and make the winning screenplay into a ‘real movie.’ There are zero details for how the movie gets made. Worst of all, they will send you a Save the Cat book. Please help me make this go away.”
Oh my god, it’s like someone invented the thing that would make me the most nauseated.
John: So let’s try to do some backstory here. We’ve not done extensive research. We don’t know who is really behind all this. There’s some names on the website. I don’t know how much they’re really involved in it. Craig, you and I have both been to the Nashville Screenwriters–
John: It was a zillion years ago. I think that organization is not around anymore.
John: I had a good time at that Nashville Screenwriters Conference. But this is not that. I think Nashville is great, but my blanket recommendation of don’t enter screenwriting competitions, don’t enter these things that like “we’re going to make your movie” because they don’t. There’s just not a track record of any of these things happening.
And the things that feel more legitimate would be because they’ve been around for a long time or they are with producers who have made real movies. And I’m not saying that the folks involved in this haven’t made movies, but I don’t understand why they would be involved in this project.
Craig: Looking at their website, this is absolutely horse shit in my opinion because of specifically, oh my god, first of all they say, “The hype, the false promises, the gate keepers. The Breakthrough Screenplay Competition is the only competition where you have a chance to turn your script into a fully funded motion picture.” Shut up.
You want to talk about hype and false promises, they love talking about gate keepers. This is what they do. They say “those people are keeping your genius out because they’re stupid or bad or mean or just Hollywood-y, we’re the way in.” No they’re not. No they’re not.
And here’s what happens. When you send your script in, he’s right, it’s a robot. “The American Film Lab Software scores and ranks 78 script elements with an algorithm that analyzes over 3,500 points of data to reach an overall script score.”
Craig: You die in a fireplace, you go to hell. You go to hell and you die. It’s outrageous. It’s outrageous. Dumb. The regular deadline fee is $99. That is $99 too much. And, yeah, they’re not in a guild. This isn’t a union. What a dope. God, it makes me puke.
John: So American Film Lab if you click through their website it’s the same, really beautiful design, but the same folks are behind it. So, yeah.
Craig: Yeah, no, this is all – it has the look, appearance, and whiff of horse shit.
John: Yeah. Nicely designed horse shit.
Craig: Yeah. The website is really quite good.
John: It’s really nice. I don’t want to slack on the website because the website is really well done.
Craig: The website itself is fine, but yeah, I mean, what does this mean? The executive director, so this is the guy in charge, is a guy named Bobby Marko. And please don’t write to these people or tweet at them. Don’t be a jerk. It says, “As a producer, director and cinematographer, Bobby has been fortunate to work on many types of productions with many in the film community.” I think he means with many people in the film community. But, I’ve never heard of Bobby Marko. Have you?
John: I have not. I looked up Derek Purvis. He has some credits, but certainly not things I’ve heard of. So.
Craig: Bobby Marko. I’m looking up Bobby Marko right now. Let’s just do a live look up on Bobby Marko.
John: Because really quality podcasting is about Googling things while you’re recording.
Craig: It’s not good. And listen, I’m not judging people on their credits. My credits are a whole big fascinating pastiche. But it’s not about quality it’s really about access and size. If I’m sending something to a film competition and paying money then I want to know that the people running it are able to provide the access that they promise. Based on the credits that I’m looking at here, we’re looking at essentially shorts that I’ve never heard of.
John: They’re shorts.
Craig: They’re shorts. And so, no. No. It doesn’t cut it. And, listen, I don’t mean to insult. Everybody should be doing what they’re doing. And it may be that the people that are running this thing next week will sell something, write something, create something that is the biggest thing of all time. And I would salute them. But until they do they shouldn’t be taking other people’s money as if they can do stuff for them.
John: Also, I feel like when they do make that thing that is absolutely amazing they won’t want to be taking other people’s money to be doing stuff because they’ll have a career making the thing.
Craig: [laughs] They’ll be a little busy. So, yeah, once again my recommendation is do not spend your money on this.
John: Great. Dave from Los Cruces, New Mexico writes, “Thanks for bringing us the interview with the double ampersand team of Walsh and Jackson and Boyens.” So that was my interview with them after Mortal Engines. “Such an impressive collection of talent. Do you have any comments about the incredibly negative critical response to the film? My wife and I enjoyed it and were surprised by the roasting it got and sad to see it’s a commercial failure. John saw the film prior to the interview and I was wondering if he had any feeling from the audience’s response that it was going to be poorly received.”
So, we ran this over the break as sort of a little extra episode. I think it was Christmas Day this came out. And so I had agreed to do Q&A with them after the WGA screening of it. And so I had not seen it until the WGA screening of it and I kind of didn’t know very much about it other than it was about cities that moved around and ate other cities. And so I watched it and I was like, oh, I don’t really full – I could never fully get onboard with the premise. But, I could also sort of say, OK, you know what, but let’s say I did buy the premise, is this a good version of that movie? And I think the answer is yeah. It’s a pretty good version of that premise of a movie.
And it’s the kind of thing that felt like it was adapted from a YA novel which it was. And it had sort of big epic themes. But as I was watching it and as I sat down with them to ask questions about their process and the thing I had a sense that it was going to get the reception that it got, which was not a big glowing reception.
If you listen to that interview I talk with them about why they got started on it and the long process it took to get it to the screen. And there’s an interesting moment where I ask Peter Jackson about why a big screen versus doing it for streaming. And he’s like, and I think they were all saying like there’s just a thing you can do in a big theater with the sound and sort of the size and spectacle of it all which is amazing, yet Peter Jackson also said like, “But the things I love most right now are streaming, or they’re Game of Thrones kinds of things on HBO.”
And I do genuinely in my heart of hearts believe that this product would have been much better served as a made for Netflix, made for HBO, that kind of big epic scale thing than as it was done as a movie.
But, they made the movie. And I think it’s worth seeing because it actually has some really cool pieces. And I think it’s also worth noting the story challenges they set for themselves. Talk about like a big cast of characters. They’re having to split the party a lot just to get storytelling done. And I hope people will go to it now that it shows up on Netflix and other places and appreciate some of the things that they were able to do, because some of it was really cool.
Craig: I always feel like when you’re talking about people that are incredibly talented, and I’m a huge Peter Jackson fan, and thus by extension a Walsh and Boyens fan as well, that there is a certain inherent – it’s like a fingerprint, right? And it will express itself very frequently in ways that you appreciate, but it is inevitably going to express itself in a way that you don’t.
I can’t think of anybody where I go, “Oh, I’ve liked everything they’ve done.” Because it’s just not going to work that way. So, sometimes I think people get hung up on this stuff and they go, well, oh my god, how could they make something that everyone thinks stinks? Well, A, they obviously don’t think it stinks, and B, it’s the way things work. You know? It’s just part and parcel. You don’t get all of these things if you don’t get that.
John: Yep. You know, I always applaud sort of like the big wild swings of things. And it felt like a big wild swing. And it didn’t connect with audiences and I don’t think it was quite what the project ultimately wanted to be when it was released in 2018. But, I love them and I actually really loved talking with them because they are literally the only double ampersand team I can think of that has stayed together through so many different projects. I know I think at least Philippa listens to the show, so hi. And I thought it deserved better because there’s some really good stuff there.
Craig: I just, you know, you know my whole critics thing. Here’s the thing, Dave from Las Cruces. The real thing is what does it matter? I understand why you’re asking. You’re asking John do you have comments about the incredibly negative critical response to the film. But I kind of want to get underneath your question and sort of explore why you’re asking it in the first place. Because I think sometimes there’s this car crash on the highway thing that goes on where people want to rubberneck at bad reviews, except that they are not car crashes. No one has been hurt or died. It’s just a bunch of critics that didn’t like a thing and it in and of itself doesn’t mean anything.
And even now when you say, well, the movie did not work commercially, it didn’t work commercially yet. It may never work commercially. But then again there have been movies that didn’t work commercially initially and then they just kept making money.
John: Yeah. Kept chugging along. Austin Powers.
Craig: Austin Powers is a great example. Just, you know, it was a video hit. It was a hit after it was not a hit and then it became a hit. So, I just feel like it’s just not a question that’s worth asking in a weird way.
John: Well, I want to get back to he does say that like my wife and I saw it and enjoyed it and were surprised by the roasting it got. And so I know what that’s like, too, because there’s definitely been movies that I saw and then it’s like, oh, I really liked that. Like I’ll see it on a plane and then when I can turn on my phone and I pull up Rotten Tomatoes I’ll see it got like an 18%. I’m like, wait, was I wrong to think that? And so the message I want to give Dave in 2019 is that you are not wrong to love something, or like something, or think it’s better than what everyone else says.
Craig: That’s right.
John: Don’t let other people’s opinions sway your opinions on what is good.
Craig: Yeah. It doesn’t mean a damn thing. It’s not like you’re looking at an X-ray of a tooth and thinking it looks OK and then a whole bunch of dentists are say no that is not a good tooth. You are no more or less valid than anybody else watching a movie or a television show regardless of whether or not they have some column on a website.
John: All right, let’s answer some questions. Do you want to take Kevin?
Craig: Yeah. Kevin writes, “I saw a copy of John’s Big Fish sequence outline. And I wanted to know two things. One, how do you determine how many sequences to put into a script and how do you know how many pages they would take to write? Is this learned over time or do you have an intuition of how much page space they would take? And, two, what is the significance of the rectangular border around certain sequences?”
John: I can answer these questions. So we’ll put a link in the show notes to this, but it’s also just at johnaugust.com/library. You can see most of my old scripts and supporting documents. So this Big Fish sequence outline was something I did early on in the process for Big Fish. Like after I sort of set up the book at Columbia but before I started writing it, because there was like what is this movie going to be because the book is really slender. And I had to sort of describe what things were going to be.
So, in terms of the number of sequences, I don’t know how many sequences there are in a movie. I don’t know how many scenes there are in a movie. A hundred? A hundred scenes maybe? But I will say that you just get a kind of sense of like is this enough story, is this enough things that are going to happen. And so you might guess at sort of how many pages it’s going to be, but what’s more important is like these are the moments I need to tell this story.
So for this Big Fish outline you’ll see that certain sequences have a box around them. Those are for like the fantastical things. So I was just trying to give the people reading this document a sense of like, OK, this is the real world, this is the big fantasy world, so people could see what the mix was between the fantasy world and the real world. So that was that kind of document.
I don’t always do those. I would say it’s actually pretty rare. This project I just did that’s not announced yet I did something kind of like that but that’s because there were very specific sequences that were going to involve a lot of other people, and so I needed to warn people ahead of time that these are some big things we’re going to have to do in addition to the script.
Craig: Finally I think after Chernobyl airs I’ll be able to put all the scripts and outline material and bible stuff up on your website.
John: That would be great. That would be fantastic.
Craig: It’s funny, I was thinking to myself like why is that something that I can easily handover as opposed to all the other stuff and I realized it’s because it was mine. So, I was able to control that process and outlining and scripting the entire way through. I am the only person that was writing it. And in everything else there was always something else. I was rewriting somebody, or production changes and all that crap. So, it just became this like very messy archive of 12 different movies.
So, it’s in a neat package. I’ll drop it off on your doorstep digitally when it’s time. When it’s time.
John: Susannah writes, “I am a writer/producer and I have been approached by the author of two fascinating books to develop and produce into a TV series. I’m going to write the bible and pilot and I’m looking for a writer with TV credits interested in joining me as I have no experience in television, although I have experience in film. The author would fund the development. The question is how should we split the ownership of the IP and what are the rights credits for each one? Should we sign a collaboration agreement or a coproduction agreement? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you so much.”
Craig, where should Susannah even start? So she has this project that exists as books. She’s going to come in and do a bible. I feel some sort of agreement between her and the author is going to be very important to do right now. Because if the author is funding development, so it’s not like Susannah is optioning it from the author. They’re going to have to have some sort of working agreement on how this is all going to go.
Craig: Where she should start is in a lawyer’s office because this is a complicated arrangement. I mean, the author is funding the development, so Susannah is the author commissioning the script as a work-for-hire? In other words will the author control the copyright of the screenplay? Or are you writing a screenplay based on the author’s IP and they have granted you permission to do so and are also paying you to do so, to do so so that you have the copyright on it until such time as you sell it to a studio?
As far as the other writer, it sounds like what you’re talking about is a partnership in which case you would be both have 50/50 ownership of the screenplay, unless you don’t own any of the screenplay at all because the author does. And then I don’t know what to say. This is a complicated one because you’re not doing it the way anybody does things, which should be a red flag in and of itself. So, I definitely recommend that you talk to an entertainment lawyer about this. It will save you a lot of – it’ll cost a little bit of money now and save you a lot of money later.
John: Yeah. And so I would say if this author is successful enough that she can fund development on stuff then it’s entirely possible that she has a lawyer who is going to be preparing these kind of contracts now. It does sort of sound like she’s hiring you to do this and therefore it is a work-for-hire. There’s going to be some control over the rights of something, but you’ve got to figure that out. So, good luck.
Craig: Good luck!
John: Good luck.
Craig: Good luck, Susannah. That’s the way we should end all questions. Shia – Shia? Shia?
John: I’d say Shia.
Craig: Shia, because of Shia LaBeouf. But I feel like it could be Shia. I’m going to go with Shia. Shia writes, “As an experienced but not yet professional screenwriter of eight feature scripts, a dozen short scripts, one feature rewrite, and one produced short, I was told by an accomplished friend that my greatest challenge is that people don’t know I’m here. As I contemplate ways to up my networking game I am strongly considering a website. In the day age of Twitter, Facebook, and IMDb listings do you think they’re helpful?” What do you say?
John: Yeah, so as a person who has a website, I don’t think they’re super helpful. I do think you need – I think some sort of landing page that can have your stuff is probably a good idea, just so that you’re Googleable and if there are things you wanted to show, you have your short. You can have that on there, like the YouTube or the Vimeo clip of that. You can have samples. So some sort of landing page with your name on it is fantastic. As far as a real full on website, I don’t know that it’s going to serve you.
What Craig and I will both tell you is that actually running a website, like a blog where you’re writing regular things and posting, is a tremendous amount of work and time. And so if you’re going to do that just know that it’s a tremendous amount of work and time that you’re not going to be doing other stuff.
Tomi Adeyemi who is the author of Children of Blood and Bone, she had a great website that built a big following before her book came out, and so I think it did help sort of her exposure and as that book became – I mean that book became a giant blockbuster. But it did sort of help her get notice and get traction early on. So, there is some history of that, but not so much for screenwriters I would say. I think it’s more of a book kind of thing.
Craig, what do you think? Beyond a simple website does she need anything?
Craig: Well, you’ve got an accomplished friend telling you about your greatest challenges. Maybe your accomplished friend could, I don’t know, hook you up with somebody here or there. I mean, the truth is that I’m a little nervous because, yes, there are times when you are limited by your inability to get out there I guess you’d say or talk to people or know people, but you’ve written a lot. And the writing should be the thing that opens the doors. And if the writing is not opening the doors I just don’t want you to fall into the trap of thinking that your limitation is networking.
You’ve written a lot. So, at this point you should feel free to question how to network and how to self-promote, but you should also be questioning whether or not you need to refresh some of the material. Write perhaps in a slightly different way. Take a look at what’s kind of inspiring you right now and keep it fresh. So, just don’t forget about the writing part because I actually feel like that’s the part that matters the most.
John: Yeah. There certainly is a moment that happens where if you’re a funny writer Twitter is a great place for being funny and getting noticed for being funny and Megan Amram obviously did that. I don’t think Facebook matches writing especially well. I don’t think Instagram matches writing especially well. IMDb listings, if they’re just showing your shorts, OK, I mean, if they’ve actually been produced. Remember, IMDb is for produced things that people could theoretically see somewhere out there in the world.
So, I don’t know that just digital online networking is going to be your next thing. I think it’s trying to make sure that people who actually are in position to do something with your script get your script and that may be sort of more old fashioned leg work. Or if you’re in a position to be in Los Angeles working in the trenches and meeting folks, you know, handing them the script.
Craig: Yeah. Completely agree.
John: So, one last question. A Gal in LA writes, “I was at a holiday party the other night and met a nice lady who wants to introduce me to a friend who makes made-for-TV movies. They’re looking for female writers to do horror, which is me. The thing is their movies are awful, but I need cash. Do I: 1, pursue the job and hope that people will understand that sometimes we do bad things for money? 2, write under a pseudonym and never speak of it again? Or 3, just say no to Hallmark Horror.” Which is probably not the real brand but I get what she’s talking about.
John: Craig, should someone take a job working for people who make schlock?
Craig: And here’s the deal. First of all, the list of great filmmakers who started in schlock is long and remarkable. Roger Corman has given quite a few filmmakers their start. James Cameron’s first film was Piranha 3 I think, or Piranha 2. And a lot of great–
John: Ron Howard.
Craig: Yeah. A lot of great writers started doing that stuff. So, the point is no one really – look, I’ve worked on a bunch of junkie things and nobody looks at me and says, “You’re a bad person. You’ve done something immoral.” You know what’s immoral? Being able to make money and be a productive member of the economy, generate some tax for the community, and just not doing it because you think you’re above it all.
Until you’re above it all you’re not above it all. And furthermore I would say any time you work with a company and you get paid you learn something. You learn a little bit about how the meatloaf is made. You get a little bit of experience with politics. A little experience with notes. And also, Gal in LA, if you’re good, well, your movie might not be so awful, right? I mean, the writing is kind of important.
John: It is important.
John: Craig, did I ever tell you about my experience writing for porn?
Craig: Uh, no. Hold on. We’re at Episode 383 and…?
John: I don’t talk about it a lot.
Craig: You’ve just now decided that you’re going to tell me you wrote for porn. Hold on. Let me get my popcorn and proceed.
John: So, this is early on, so I’m guessing this is probably ‘96/’97. So I had not been hired to write for anything. I probably had done the novelization of Natural Born Killers, which was the thing that got me free of my assistant job.
I had an agent. And the agent was sending me on normal meetings, but he also sent me to this meeting with this company that was doing porn essentially. It was like CD-ROM porn. And so they would have preexisting scenes from other porn things, but it would be sort of a choose your own adventure thing which you would navigate yourself through a maze. You could make different choices that would you lead you to different porn scenes.
Craig: Was it called Bandersnatch?
John: It was not Bandersnatch, but that would be a great title for it.
Craig: Would be.
John: That Bandersnatch was great, by the way. So we’re going to try to have Charlie Brooker on the show to talk about it, because it’s–
Craig: Yeah, but don’t get derailed from the porn story. So…so you’re writing porn?
John: So, anyway, so I go in and I talk with them and I’m just like – I needed a job. I was looking for things. So they sent me home with a bunch of these CD-ROMs to look at and this wasn’t my kind of porn at all. So I’m watching these things and thinking like, OK, so basically they needed someone to write the scenarios for how you get from place to place. And there would be some filmed bits between the things, sort of green screen stuff to get you through things. And I had one follow up phone conversation with them, but then it ultimately went nowhere.
But I bring up the writing for porn because I did meet with porn producers to write porn segues because I wasn’t above that. That was a thing. And so that would be like writing for videogames or writing for E! True Hollywood Story. Whatever. If someone was going to pay me to write I was not above that. And so A Gal in LA, don’t be above writing for schlocky horror place if you are a person who wants to do great horror because you’ve got to start somewhere.
Craig: You got to start somewhere, man. I mean, I was young, I needed the work. It’s a great phrase. You say, “I need cash,” well shit, do it. You say write under a pseudonym and never speak of it again. Ugh, good luck. It doesn’t matter. The truth is it doesn’t matter. If you’re destined to be a really, really good writer then what’s going to happen is people are going to go on your IMDb page one day and go, “Wait, did you realize that her first movie was Blood Sausage. Nobody even saw it. It was made by some weird company.” No one will even see it, so it doesn’t matter.
John: Yeah. Here’s the other thing. Think about that as like, you know, you get an interesting starting place in your career life. Oh, the journey becomes more clear. Because if you just come out of the gate with a brilliant thing no one knows anything about you. But if you have credits like, oh that.
Sandra Bullock has really questionable early credits. Look at her now.
Craig: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly what I’m saying.
John: Hollywood loves that. Hollywood loves an underdog. So, write that great horror movie for the schlocky place and you’re golden.
Craig: I mean, I do think that Blood Sausage is a pretty decent title.
John: I think it’s pretty good.
Craig: Yeah, as far as titles go. Yeah, for sure. For sure.
John: For sure. All right, it’s time for our One Cool Things. My One Cool Thing is a little video that Entertainment Weekly posted. Sarah Silverman doing her recording for Slaughter Race from the amazing Ralph Breaks the Internet. I love this movie. I love this song. Craig, I put a link there. Actually, there’s a link in your folder. Why don’t you take a listen to it? We’ll listen to it together. We’ll play a little under here.
So this is a song, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Phil Johnston and Tom MacDougall.
So I find that just delightful. And I love seeing Sarah Silverman actually do the voice, because it sounds kind of like her, but then when you actually see her singing in character it is just a tremendous joy. So I loved the movie but you should also check out this video of how they recorded it.
Craig: That’s great. I’m going to look at that movie. God, she’s good.
John: She’s so good.
Craig: She’s just good. Good people are good at stuff.
John: Good people are good. And obviously a very well-written movie. We have Pam Ribon on to talk about it. But I loved the movie, but her performance is just spectacular.
John: And I’m sure Pamela Ribon actually probably played that character in all the rehearsals. So a little Pamela Ribon in that moment as well.
Craig: Yes. Well I always said Sarah Silverman is the perfected Pamela Ribon. Yes, always.
Craig: I have Two Cool Things, because you know what, I’ve been gone for a while.
John: Absolutely. Save them up.
Craig: And the people have been clamoring for my Cool Things. So I have two. The first one is sort of an educational thing only. It’s called This is Your Brain on Pot. This is a website. It is something that the CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, put out. It’s not about pro-marijuana or anti-marijuana. It’s purely scientific. It is the first and only really good thorough explanation I’ve ever seen about what neurologically happens when you get high and how THC actually works in the brain. It’s fascinating.
And they did a gorgeous job showing how it works. Take a moment, whether you smoke pot or not, it’s just interesting I think to see how these things work. It’s like you get to step away from the whole oh-ah of drugs and just look at how medicine of a sort works. Fascinating.
John: So, I would say I think it’s also totally worth checking out. I would say that it makes it feel like it’s the definitive answer on what’s actually happening and the actual research on how marijuana affects you is not great because there haven’t been enough studies. So I think it’s a good conjecture about what they think is happening in terms of uptake and receptors, but I don’t think it’s the full picture. And obviously it doesn’t account for CBD and the other compounds that are in there which are probably doing their own thing.
Craig: That is true. It is not definitive by any stretch. But it’s certainly more information than I’ve ever seen. So I was pretty impressed.
The second thing, this is pretty cool. It’s called TripIt. TripIt.com. TripIt. And there is an app called TripIt. And here’s what they do. You sign up, it’s free. There’s a subscription possibility. Personally I haven’t seen much of a value in it, so I’m happy to use the free version.
And what you do is you register your email address and you could register two or three of your email addresses with them. So now they know if you send them an email who you are. When you book a trip somewhere, for instance John I’m going to Seattle. So I booked a flight I believe on Alaska Airlines and I booked a room at the same hotel you are in. When you book things online like an airfare, what happens next? You get something in your email box, right? You get those little confirmation reservation blah-blah-blah. And then I never know what to do with it.
Well, dig it. Just forward it from one of your email addresses to I think it’s plan or something like that at TripIt.com. That’s it. Just forward. You don’t have to do anything else. Just forward the stupid email that you get. They get it. They see it’s from you. They know it’s your trip. They suck the information out of it and then pipe it in nice beautiful itinerary form into the app on your phone, including reservation numbers, that stupid six letter thing that airlines use.
John: Confirmation code, yeah.
Craig: It’s great. It works like magic.
John: It’s great. So my husband Mike has been using it for six or seven years I want to say.
Craig: Oh my god.
John: Because he’s ahead of all things travel.
Craig: Are you serious?
John: I’m serious.
Craig: Seven years?
John: It’s been around for a very long time.
John: And so I will say that you don’t have to use the app on your phone for all that information. It will also generate a calendar feed so it’ll just show up in your normal calendar as well. And so we have a feed called TripIt which is basically anything that is a travel thing just automatically shows up there.
Craig: I’m not coming back to this show.
Craig: I don’t know, I’m not doing anymore cool things.
John: No, no, it’s good. I never used it as a cool thing before, so it wasn’t like one of those games where like a year later you’re like, “Oh, this is a great game.” It’s like, yeah, I played that game.
Craig: You know what? Maybe what I’ve done is I’ve rekindled a certain spark in your marriage.
Craig: You appreciate something now that he was doing that you realize now is cool.
John: Now it’s cool. It’s quite cool. Going back to the marijuana thing, I’m just going to put in a tiny little rant here. So people who don’t live in Los Angeles or a place with legalized marijuana may not be aware of this, but in Los Angeles all the billboards in Los Angeles that are not for Netflix programs are marijuana/legalize pot billboards. And it’s really annoying.
And so I just want someone, State of California, somebody to sort of say whatever the restrictions are for tobacco have to be the same restrictions for pot because it’s ridiculous how many pot billboards there are right now.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, technically cigarettes are – they kill you. You know, marijuana doesn’t appear to kill you. By the way, I sound like a big pot head. I don’t smoke pot. I don’t smoke pot. I’m just sort of like–
John: But here’s what I’ll say. While I would say that marijuana is not a dangerous substance to the degree that other things can be, we have restrictions on alcohol and on tobacco. I think similar restrictions are – obviously there are restrictions on who you can sell it to. So, you shouldn’t be able to – here’s what I’ll say. I don’t think you should be able to buy a giant billboard for this product if a kid who is walking by it couldn’t buy it. It just feels dumb and stupid to me. And it feels like a weird mismatch of rules and laws.
Craig: Do you think it’s dumber and stupider than that letter that Mark wrote us about the Golden Globe awards?
John: I don’t know. It’s a whole different category of bad.
Craig: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. No. No chance.
John: Anyway, that is our show for this week. Our show is produced by Megan McDonnell, it is edited by Matthew Chilelli who also did our outro this week. If you have an outro you can send us a link to email@example.com. People, you have been sending us amazing outros. We’ve got just some great ones. And Craig you’ve listened to a couple of those.
Craig: Oh yeah. There’s some really good ones coming up.
John: There’s some good ones coming up. But we always need more, so send those in. Ask@johnaugust.com is also the address for when you’re sending these longer questions or follow up things like we addressed today. But on Twitter, I’m @johnaugust. Craig is @clmazin. We’re happy to answer your questions.
I feel bad about the guy I kind of put on shout about sort of the pre-roll language warning thing. That wasn’t my intention. It’s just sometimes I will do the quote-reply to things just so that everyone sees the answer, so I can answer the question once rather than a bunch. But I do kind of apologize. Eh, I kind of apologize for that.
Craig: Kind of.
John: Kind of.
Craig: If you call that an apology.
John: I apologize for putting him on blast when that was not my intention. I was just trying to answer the question once.
Craig: I hear you. I hear you.
John: You can find us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening to this right now. If you’re there, leave us a review. It’ll be a new thing for 2019 is to leave us a little review. Tell people how much you like the show.
You can find the show notes for this episode and all episodes at johnaugust.com. You’ll see in that links to preordering my book. Our Seattle show when we have details about that. The live show for The Princess Bride. You’ll see all that stuff there.
You’ll also see transcripts. They go up about four days after the episode airs. And you can find all of the back episodes at Scriptnotes.net, or you can buy seasons at store.johnaugust.com.
Craig, we’re back.
Craig: We’re back. Yes!
John: It’s good to be back in our zone.
John: Yeah. So we had great temporary hosts, but Craig you are the only Craig.
Craig: I mean, you know what I mean? You feel me?
John: You’re Craig.
Craig: I’m Craig. See you next week John. Bye.
- Join us for the WGA’s Princess Bride screening on January 27th.
- You can catch John on Studio 360.
- “Let’s Split Up the Gang” and “Never Split the Party” are topical TV tropes.
- Watch Patton Oswalt when he’s not being utilized in a big scene.
- Scriptnotes, Ep 381: Double Ampersand with Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens
- Big Fish sequence outline
- Sarah Silverman recording Slaughter Race, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Phil Johnston and Tom MacDougall
- This Is Your Brain On Pot
- You can now preorder the next Arlo Finch
- T-shirts are available here! We’ve got new designs, including Colored Revisions, Karateka, and Highland2.
- John August on Twitter
- Craig Mazin on Twitter
- John on Instagram
- Find past episodes
- Scriptnotes Digital Seasons are also now available!
- Outro by Matthew Chilelli (send us yours!)
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can download the episode here.