The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this Episode 511 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the show we’re looking not just at the story but the story around the story, how framing effects the perception of a movie, and the choices writers have to make. We’ll also look at vaccine mandates for production and answer listener questions about cheesy writing, zombies, and diversity fellowships. And in our bonus segment for premium members we’ll discuss the Black Widow lawsuit and what it means for backend bonuses.
John: Mm-hmm. Craig, it’s August. It’s finally my month. I’ve been waiting all year for this month and it’s my month. A month named after me.
Craig: A month named after you. A month that I think everybody generally agrees is sweltering and miserable.
John: It can be sweltering and miserable. It could also be delightful. It is a month full of stone fruit. And this trip on the east coast has made me remember how much I really do appreciate stone fruit, especially nectarines, which I think are overlooked because they’re just ready to eat. You don’t have to peel them. You don’t have to do anything. You just bit into them and then you throw away the pit. They are delicious.
Craig: Yeah, well, a peach is the ultimate. You don’t like peaches?
John: Peaches are great for – I like peaches, too. But peaches, like you can not peel them, but I just don’t like the fuzzy texture if you are eating a peach peel. Do you like the fuzziness?
Craig: Who peels peaches?
John: I know a lot of people who peel peaches.
Craig: Really? Megana?
Megana Rao: I’ve never heard of that. And I feel strange about it.
Craig: I think he made it up. John just made it up. Maybe people shave their peaches. I mean, I like the fuzzy part. I think it’s nice. It’s sort of a nice warm reminder.
John: It’s extra fiber.
Craig: It’s extra fiber. Do you know, John, there’s a wonderful puzzle word. Puzzle words are words that most people don’t know but they happen to be useful for crosswords and things like that. A puzzle word, it’s the botany word for stone fruit.
John: Oh what is that?
Craig: A drupe.
Craig: Drupe. Drupe.
John: Ah. Drupe.
Craig: A drupe.
Craig: So cherries, nectarines, peaches, etc. Drupes.
John: Oh, yeah, I don’t think of cherries as being stone fruits, but of course they are stone fruit.
John: All this season. So this is basically the summer of stone fruit. It’s a Hot Vax Summer and it’s stone fruit season.
Craig: The two of us talking about this, it’s a bit like the ladies on NPR, the Saturday Night Live sketch.
John: [laughs] Absolutely. Schweddy Balls.
Craig: Shweddy Balls. Mm, good things. Mm, love stone fruit. Mm.
John: Craig, we have some follow up. I’m wondering if you could David from Iceland.
Craig: Sure. He writes, “The Icelandic sagas, which are often considered some of the earliest novels, are usually full of explicit foreshadowing in the form of dreams, dreams that women usually interpret correctly as terrible events that the men who are fated to live those events dismiss either blithely or in desperate denial of destiny. This literary device hangs a sense of dread over the proceedings from the outset while also giving these stories of damp farmers murdering each other a mythic, heightened quality. That is one sense in which ‘spoiling’ the broad strokes of a narrative at the beginning can enhance the story. It frames it, letting the story comment on itself as a story turning happenstance into destiny.”
John: I’m really glad that David wrote in with this reminder, because I really do like that kind of foreshadowing – that foretelling and sort of the sage foretelling of like doom is about to happen. And we see that in a lot of movies. We see that in any story that begins with like “let me tell you how I died.” It’s told by a narrator who is no longer living. Sunset Boulevard. American Beauty. Casino to some degree. I love that as a quality, basically when you know that the narration is not happening in the same time period as the movie itself. Therefore there’s an aspect of foreshadowing just by the fact that this narrator is talking to you.
Craig: Absolutely Correct. And I should add that somewhat happily we’ve got our second puzzle word here coming up, the Icelandic saga. The term for Icelandic saga, the Norse term is Edda, which we love to see in puzzles.
There’s another kind of foreshadowing of this sort that I really enjoy which is the I guess we call it ironic foreshadow, where somebody says this is how it’s going to end, and you think, OK. And it does end that way but in a way you didn’t expect. One of my favorite examples is an episode called X-Files called Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose. And the story involves – Peter Boyle plays a psychic of a sort. He only has one psychic ability and that is that when he meets somebody he sees how they are going to die. And leading aside all the other bits and parts of the story, and spoiler alert – it’s what, 20 years old now – Scully says, “Well have you seen your own death?” And he says, “Yes.”
And he’s lying in a bed and she’s sitting sort of on a chair near the bed. And he says, “Actually when I die we are going to be together in bed.” And she’s like, “Hmm, really? Really Peter Boyle?” And he’s like, “Yeah, I don’t mean any offense, but we’ll be in bed and you’re going to be holding my hand and you’re looking at my face and there are tears streaming down my face.” And she’s a bit skeptical because she’s a skeptic.
And later in the episode, or at the end of the episode, it is revealed that he has committed suicide. And he is in a bed and he’s got that plastic bag over his head, that method of going, with pills and such. And she sits down next to him and she holds his hand and they close in on the bag over his face and the moisture from his breath has turned to little rivulets of water that are kind of rolling down the inside of the plastic as if tears were streaming down his face.
So they told you how it would end, but you really did not know how it would end. And I thought it’s just one of those moments in television storytelling where I just thought that was just so smart.
John: Yeah. It’s really smart. And it’s a very classic technique. It’s a new show, but it’s a classic technique, that inescapable fate.
John: No matter what you try to do you are cursed to live in this. And useful for storytelling because by setting out that sort of expectation or the characters pushing against those expectations you’re really establishing a through line for the audience. The audience is looking for ways it’s going to cue back to what that original statement was.
Craig: Yes. You know, there’s a whole other podcast that we could do just about these old stories. You know, like every culture has this epic tale that they go through. All of them. The Edda and Mahabharata and Gilgamesh and there’s so many and I don’t enough, but I think there’s a podcast where you just do the stories. You just read the stories and you kind of – Song of Roland is considered the first – Chanson de Roland – is the first “novel” in western literature. And it’s like Rocky. It’s like reading Rocky basically.
John: You know, Craig, I honestly think like maybe we could come up with a way in which all stories are essentially the same story and that really create a theory for like how all movie stories should work the same way. It could be stages of like heroes get a call to adventure. I know we could do this.
Craig: Can we make designs?
John: Designs or pivot off like Joseph Campbell. I really think we could sell books on it. I think we could do a lot here.
Craig: It doesn’t work if we don’t have a design. It needs to be not a triangle, they’ve already stolen the snail shape.
John: Yeah. We’ve got to have a shape.
Craig: 20-sided die. Of course.
John: Oh my gosh. Do like a [Hedron] theory of storytelling. It would have to have like 20 plot points and each plot point has to connect, but it has to be at opposite faces that add up to 21, right? Is that how 20-sided dies work?
Craig: It’s an Icosagon, by the way. Dodecahedron is a 12-sided die.
John: Oh, you’re absolutely right.
Craig: The barbarians’ best friend is the dodecahedron.
John: It is. I know. I’m so embarrassed.
Craig: You know, I think the icosagon, I think probably it is that they – well, except, yeah, they would have to add up to 21, right? So nine would be across from 12. 11 is across from 10. Yeah, that makes sense.
John: Yeah. We solved storytelling and math in just one podcast.
Craig: Yeah. Wow.
John: So good. So good.
Craig: Love it.
John: Let’s get to our first topic today and this is coming off of two things that people have written in about. We’ll start with [Olafemme] who wrote in to say, “With Simone Biles’ withdrawal from her Olympic events the Twitterverse has been revisiting a moment from the 1996 Olympics which was Kerry Strug’s historic vault on an injured ankle. It earned the US the gold in the event. I’m old enough to remember the imagery of Strug successfully completing the vault, saluting the judges, then instantly collapsing to her knees in pain, having to be carried off the mat by her team. It was an unforgettable moment of Olympic history and an inspirational story of triumph in the face of adversity.”
Craig, you remember this moment?
Craig: Of course.
John: This was a big photographic moment.
Craig: It was almost like it was scripted.
John: Yes. It was a very narrative moment. It felt like, oh, this is the end of the story. Well, it’s not quite the very end, because there would also be then a celebration after. But this was the final sort of moment of victory here.
John: And then we’re going to get to see her hugging her coach and he’s proud of her. But Olafemme reminds us that “in recent years numerous pieces of information have come to light that have completely changed the context of this story. In particular the facts that her trainer had miscalculated and the US would have won the gold even without Strug performing the vault. And that the very people helping her off the mat, Bela Karolyi and Larry Nassar, were abusive psychologically, physically, and in the last case sexually.
“What seemed like a story about victory has been revealed in truth to be one about the toxic pursuit of victory. How it can be so toxic that we overlook and justify traumatic abuses. I don’t mean to make light of real world tragedy, but I’m fascinated by how a powerful story can be turned on its head this way.”
I like what Olafemme is reminding us that we could tell the story of Kerri Strug and it would be a certain story if we leave out certain facts. But now with the new framing it’s a very different moment.
Craig: Yeah. Our narrative maturity has accelerated, just as a culture. We used to have very, very simple narratives. Morality plays, Aesop’s fables, and the aforementioned Edda, and Mahabharata, and all of that other stuff. And what’s happened over time is – especially the last 30 years, there’s so much culture. So many stories are being told that we’ve gotten wise to all the tricks. Everyone has pretty good story horse sense.
My daughter, your daughter, have watched enough television at this point to probably be able to predict halfway through a typical average episode of ‘90s TV how it’s going to turn out.
Craig: So over the last 30 years there’s been an acceleration of the subversion of narrative, or an interest in exploring hyper-reality. To insist that our narratives cover a lot of uncomfortable things. What we want, of course, is a very simple story on some level. We need Kerri Strug to make that vault in order to win the gold. She is deeply hurt but she makes one last vault, sacrificing herself, her body. And performs it brilliantly. And we win and she’s carried off by the men who inspired her to do so. And then now all these years later we’re a bit more grown up and what we want is the truth. And the truth does not diminish what Kerri Strug did. Nor by the way does the truth of what Kerri Strug did have anything to do with what Simone Biles did.
So, what I like about the way things are going now is that we are apparently grown up enough to face facts and in doing so we don’t lose heroes. Simone Biles remains a hero as does Kerri Strug. We just see the picture fully for what it is and we don’t sacrifice facts at the altar of simple narrative.
John: Now way back in the Austin Film Festival a couple of years ago we talked about the Zola Twitter thread. I’ve seen the movie. I don’t think you’ve seen the movie yet, Craig.
John: But one of the interesting choices that the filmmakers make is it’s largely framed around Zola’s tweets to the degree that which when a line of dialogue is actually from a tweet there’s a little Twitter sound to show that it’s from that tweet. But there’s a moment in the movie, and this is not a spoiler, where it reframes everything from the other girl’s point of view and you see like, oh, there’s a completely different context behind what could actually be happening in these moments which I think is interesting.
Now those are choices that the filmmakers are making. And so the same way we could have made a certain Kerri Strug movie in 1996 and a different Kerri Strug movie in 2021, I’m really more curious about how the outside events really change the perception of a given piece of art. And so let’s not talk about changing the story, but the world around the story changes it, even if it’s the same piece of art.
So not the piece of art, but the frame around it. So with visual arts it’s literally the gilded frame you’re putting around it changes how we see the work itself. Because that’s the thing we sort of have less control over as artists, and we as writers, but we have to sort of be aware of it. Because if we are making a Naked Gun movie that has OJ Simpson in it we have no control over the fact that OJ Simpson was going to be the person he became.
Craig: Right. We just have to keep up. I feel like that’s the important thing. We have to keep up. We can’t go back in time and change the things we’ve done, or made. We have to keep up with culture. We certainly can go back and reevaluate. Here’s a moment where I didn’t even realize that Larry Nassar was one of the people helping Kerri Strug off the mat. That’s just so upsetting. It’s important to go back and look at those things and acknowledge them.
However I think our primary task as artists is to keep up with culture as best we can while we are creating it. And learn. And adapt. It’s crucial.
John: Yeah. And I think part of that awareness is recognizing that generally we’re looking at things from a North American cultural point of view. And that framing might be vastly different in other parts of the world. We’ve talked about how some of our movies see big changes overseas, especially in China. Some of it is political pressure, but some of it is also just cultural understanding. Things that would work a certain way here just don’t come across the same way overseas.
Craig: Yeah. Every culture is at a different place in their narrative growing process, and I don’t even mean to imply that more complicated narrative is inherently better. The French, I think, have always felt that their narrative sense was better than ours, because it was more complicated, more subtle, more French cinema. I don’t that’s true. I don’t think it means it’s better. But if you like that sort of thing then it’s wonderful. The important thing is that the French were making films for the French for their taste. French comedies, on the other hand, are so – generally speaking – I’m going to generalize here are really broad.
So, famously the French loved Jerry Lewis. So even within narratives there’s certain kinds where there’s what we’ll call a grown up, or very mature, complicated point of view on narrative. And then in other genres there’s a bit of a younger point of view. In other parts of the world there’s an appreciation for some of our simpler movies that we make because people are still kind of catching up to all the movies that there are. Not everybody has access to all of the stuff that we’ve had access to. So it is different all across the world and it is different because people are seeing things through their own filters.
One thing though that I try and keep in mind as an active participant in Hollywood is that despite all of the differences that exist across the globe in terms of culture and the way people create and process narrative Hollywood still does kind of change things. People literally learn to speak English from the things we make and do. They are watching very, very carefully. So, it is important for us, particularly for us, to keep up.
John: I think I’ve mentioned on the podcast before one of my favorite movies of all time is the Talented Mr. Ripley. I think it is just phenomenal.
Craig: Amazing. Love it.
John: But on this trip it was the first time I saw Purple Noon, which is the French adaptation, the much earlier French adaptation of the same source material.
John: Vastly different. And absolutely worth watching for just all the places where one movie goes right and one movie goes left. But one of the things that you can make this movie, when Minghella is making Talented Mr. Ripley in – I’m looking up the year – in 1999 versus the original film is that the subtext of sort of why Ripley is doing the things he’s doing and his attraction to Dickie Greenleaf can be more overt. So it’s not just he wants Dickie Greenleaf’s life, but he wants Dickie Greenleaf. And the sexuality is possible just because of the years that had passed between it. And it’s interesting how filmmakers have to be aware of the context in which they make their pieces. Minghella could just make a different movie than he could have made 30 years earlier in France.
Craig: Yeah. And I love those strange evolutions. I think it’s great. There’s a movie out right now, The Green Knight, which is – I haven’t seen it, I’ve just been reading discussion of it so far, but I’d like to catch it in a theater here in Canada. And it is a retelling of an incredibly old and super simple story of Gawain and the Green Knight and, you know, he comes – it’s like Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable with a bit of magic in it. It’s a fable.
And by all accounts the story that is being told in this new version is quite mature. And somewhat profound. So I love that sort of thing. I think it’s great.
John: Now the other prompt for this framing discussion was Stillwater. So Tom McCarthy’s new movie, Stillwater, it tells the story of Bill Baker who is an Oklahoma oil rigger played by Matt Damon, also from Talented Mr. Ripley, and this character travels to Marseilles to visit his daughter Allison. She is a one-time exchange student who is now serving a nine-year prison sentence for killing her lover. If that last part sounds familiar that’s because it’s reminiscent of the situation of Amanda Knox who found herself arrested and later acquitted of a murder in Italy in 2007.
John: So the challenge here is in interviews McCarthy says the story is completely fictionalized because “there’s no similarity in our stories beyond an American student in jail.” And on Twitter and on Medium Amanda Knox herself, who is now a journalist, says kind of, well, “Bullshit.” And it raises the issue that we’ve been discussing a lot on the show recently is sort of who owns a story. And to what degree do we take things from real life in sort of How Would This Be a Movie segments and fictionalize them. And there’s legal implications. There’s moral and ethical implications. And real narrative implications.
And so even if McCarthy and team feel that they are fictionalizing the story every article written about it says Amanda Knox “is perceived as being the Amanda Knox story.”
John: How are you feeling about this situation?
Craig: Let’s talk about just the easy part first, which is the legal part. The deal here is it doesn’t sound like anything illegal is occurring. Even if you were to tell the Amanda Knox story specifically in your own way, if you were basing it on existing news articles and reporting and interviews, public interviews that Amanda Knox herself did, you can do that. And you can even cast an actor and make her look like Amanda Knox. You can put a bunch of makeup on and such. That’s entirely legal.
What you can’t do is defame people, at least in the US you can’t defame living people. So, what you can’t do is imply, for instance, that Amanda Knox is in fact a murderer. Because by all accounts and from everything I’ve read it seems quite clear she was not. And certainly at the very least she was acquitted. That is different than the moral standing question.
So, I think this kind of working out the way it should. I believe that if you’re going to make a movie that is inspired by someone’s life, and in particular inspired by a very traumatic thing they went through, then it’s sensible to talk to them. And it is sensible to listen and to communicate in some way. It doesn’t always work out. Sometimes you talk to people, you communicate with them, and then they stop. Sometimes they stop communicating back. Sometimes they claim you never communicated with them at all. It’s an interesting that can occur. But you do your best to try.
You have to know that the balance is that that person has the exact same pulpit you do. And they can go and say I don’t like this and here’s why. And in this case that’s what Amanda Knox has done. And it sort of works out the way it does and some people get upset, some people don’t, but everybody gets their day in public court, especially now because everybody has a pulpit.
I do think it’s important for us to at least try if we’re really going to be kind of expanding and going in a different direction in particular than what somebody actually lived, in this case sounds like they did, it just seems like maybe you should talk to that person or make enough changes that there isn’t really a concern about it.
John: Yeah. The issue of like they have access to the same pulpit, yes I think Twitter makes some of these things more possible, but the power differential between a giant movie starring Matt Damon and Amanda Knox is significant. In her own essay she cites for so long we were calling it the Monica Lewinsky affair when we really we should call it the Clinton affair. Basically the power differential between who Monica Lewinsky was and the forces against her was so vast that we needed to really think about how we were framing that.
Also Amanda Knox, she is a journalist who can speak up and defend herself, not everyone could do that. And so I’m trying to think of some guidelines we could offer filmmakers to think about when you’re using a person who exists in real life, someone who is going to be perceived as being the character in your story, how do we treat that person the respect? It’s also – you missed out on this conversation, but when we were talking about Cat Person a few weeks back, which was that short story that was–
Craig: Yes, I remember.
John: And then there was a discourse because it really came out that like, OK, it wasn’t about the own writer’s life, but it’s about this other woman’s life and she could speak up and say like, “Hey, this was actually my life, and it feels really strange.” Ownership of that becomes complicated.
Craig: Well, I am going to stick up for the writers of the world here in the sense that we do need to be free to create art. Sometimes art is inspired by life. There are hard rules in place to protect people from being damaged legally. When we say damaged legally it’s not like there’s some number that you hit on a meter and suddenly the legal thing goes up. Those laws are there to reflect our moral stances and our moral points of view. We can always, of course, adjust those laws through legislature and so forth. But I do think that artists need to be free to work.
If we are going to say that people who might be unintended victims or collateral damage of artworks, if that is the rule that we use to not write the work of art we have just eliminated most great works of art, at least when it comes to novels in particular. It’s a really sticky area.
John: It is. But Craig I think you laid out some of the remedies earlier which is that you might look for like what are the things that are absolutely to identify those people and what are the things you could change so that it’s not so clearly one person. So that was the issue with Cat Person is that the original writer could have changed some small details that would have made it more clear, it would have helped distinguish this fictionalized relationship from the real relationship that happened.
Craig: Yeah. But maybe it wouldn’t have been as good.
John: Maybe? Maybe.
Craig: You know, the thing is I was not aware that that story was based on a real person. If the real person hadn’t said this was based on a real person then would I have even known that it was based on a real person? I don’t know.
You know, I’m a little bit more – certainly you’re intention is never to hurt anybody. But if a woman is in an abusive relationship with a man, he abuses her, and he torments her, and then she writes a roman a clef, right, she writes a novel that’s basically inspired by the things that she experienced with that person, she’s supposed to respect him too? Does she have to change things so that we don’t know it’s him? I think there’s the legal line and that’s the line. And the rest you have to kind of just feel. I understand why Amanda Knox is upset. The people I think she should be most upset with are all of the lazy journalists who just keep going, “Look, it’s Amanda Knox,” because that is kind of easy.
But I’m not sure there’s a remedy here beyond just saying hey everybody just to be clear if you think that that movie that is sort of like my life is actually like my life it is not at all like my life, at all. But I don’t think there’s any stricter kind of remedy than that.
John: So we talk a lot about our How Would This Be a Movie and to what degree we would need to get life rights from a person or just use publically available facts to do something. Obviously one of the reasons why you sometimes want life rights is because it’s going to be very difficult to do this work without access to information they have. Or to protect yourself from defamation lawsuits, libel lawsuits that could come up.
John: And there’s reasons why you may want to protect yourself. Even if you think you are in the clear you may still want those life rights because it’s better not to have that lawsuit and have something hanging over you. And to have that person be publically on the side of the film rather than against the film. Those can be very useful things independent of kind of the moral and ethical issues.
Craig: Almost no one is going to go get life rights for a fictionalized version of something. They will get life rights if they are telling the so-and-so story. They’re using your actual name. But if we’re into the roman a clef world where we are drawing from reality but changing some names and doing a parallel fictionalized version of it it would probably not be advisable to go get the life rights. You are essentially opening yourself up to even more trouble I think. Because at that point you’re saying, “Oh yeah, this is definitely you.”
Whereas right now Tom McCarthy and the studio can say, “No, I mean, it’s not her. We’re not telling the Amanda Knox story.”
John: Yeah. So Craig on Saturday I got to go see Mike Birbiglia’s new comedy show.
John: It was delightful. So Mike Birbiglia, a frequent guest on the show, friend of the podcast. And it was my first time having to show proof of vaccination to get into a venue to see his show.
John: And I was just absolutely delighted to show my vaccination card and to be in a space full of vaccinated people. I still wore my mask and I was one of the few people wearing my mask. I kind of felt like more people should have been wearing their masks. Still, I was delighted to be using my vaccination card and be in a space to see Mike do his new show, which is going to be obviously a stage adaptation and is going to be just terrific.
But I wanted to talk about required vaccinations because it’s not just comedy venues like this. It’s actually a big thing in the industry as of the last two weeks. More and more places are requiring crews to be vaccinated. So Netflix led the way. They were the first major Hollywood studio to do it. It’s basically everyone in Zone A has to have proof of vaccination for their productions. Craig, can you talk to me about what Zone A means?
Craig: Zone A, which is my zone on my show, is the zone where you are working with actors. You were working in general proximity to actors. And the reason that is its own zone is because the actors are required at various points throughout the day to have their masks off. They have to act without masks. So all of the people around them need to be masked and tested and evaluated regularly. I myself am tested three times a week. And so far I’ve aced every test.
John: Yes. So you are vaccinated but you are also tested.
John: Because even though the vaccination will protect you from serious disease you could theoretically get a breakthrough infection and I know folks who have gotten breakthrough infections.
Craig: Yes, absolutely. Happily what we’re seeing with breakthrough infections is for the most part it is a mild illness, almost no hospitalizations, and almost no death, thank god. There’s a little bit concern about some of the long haul Covid symptoms showing up in some of those folks, so vaccinations are not a magic shield against being ill. But we’ve always been ill. I mean, we’ve been sick our whole lives with flus and colds. I mean, every year we would get a cold until the last two years, rather nice.
So we’re used to being sick. We’re just not used to having to go into the hospital, get intubated, and die.
Craig: So that’s what the vaccines have accomplished. I’m thrilled that they are starting to require these vaccinations for people working in Zone A. Along with those new rules, the unions also agreed to loosen some things up. For union productions if you are fully vaccinated you don’t necessarily have to wear the mask all the time, I think, or when you’re outside I believe you don’t have to wear the mask.
Craig: So they’re starting to loosen things up. Unfortunately up here in Canada we don’t get the full benefit of those easing of restrictions because quite a few people here in Canada are vaccinated with Astra-Zeneca which the US has not approved. So it’s sort of like it doesn’t count for those rules which is annoying. Because I just read, by the way, I mean the whole thing about Astra-Zeneca was the danger of blood clots, and they’ve just come out with a study no more danger of blood clots with Astra-Zeneca than with nothing.
Craig: So we’ll see what happens next.
John: So as we’re recording this Disney was requiring all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the US to be vaccinated, which is great. And so you have to do it within 60 days. And all new folks have to be vaccinated it looks like before they even start.
John: I’m sure other studios will have the same thing. Google and other places are laying that in. As you said the unions are saying yes it’s OK to mandate vaccines. They have stipulations about who can have access to the vaccine information, but great, that’s good.
For writers we’re in sort of a unique place because you as a writer, and many showrunners, need to be in Zone A because they have to be on set around the actors, but if you’re a writer in a writer’s room, eh, do we need writer’s rooms to be in person right now? WGA came out and said if you are going to have an in-person writing room basically your employer is responsible for protecting your safety. They strongly recommend everyone be vaccinated and that you still need to give the option/accommodation for writers who don’t want to be in-person for services in a writer’s room. And that just makes sense because we are lucky that we don’t have to be in-person to do a lot of our jobs unless it’s something involving the set.
Craig: Yeah. I don’t use a writer’s room, but if I did I would imagine I would love to have it back in person just because there is a certain interpersonal magic that occurs and the ease and speed of communication that Zoom can disrupt. But if it were my room I would say you’re not getting in this room if you’re not fully vaccinated and also you have to wear a mask.
Craig: If everybody is fully vaccinated and wearing a mask then I’m more than happy to sit in a room with all those folks. That would be no problem for me.
John: So for personally and for sort of my own small business we are back in person sometimes. We’re outside as much as we can be. We’re all vaccinated. We’re trying to be safe and smart. On this trip Mike and I have been the two guys with masks in places where a lot of other people weren’t wearing masks, but it just felt like I don’t want to be indoors places without a mask if I don’t need to be indoors without a mask, especially because we’ve had other friends on this trip who have gotten breakthrough Covid-19 infections. That’s just the reality that we’re living in.
Coming back to the city after being on Fire Island we went and got PCR tests, which you can get at any Walgreens. So the drive-through PCR test. But we also got the cheap do-it-yourself kits, the BinaxNOW kits, which are actually surprisingly easy to use and are useful in the sense of something that was promised kind of very early in the pandemic, the test that is not perfectly accurate but shows are you infectious right now, and they’re really good for that, so I would recommend those for folks. And they’re behind the counter at the pharmacy. And they’re cheap.
Craig: Yeah. So just a couple years after anyone who wants a test can get them and they’re beautiful tests.
Craig: So one of the things I’ve read about the Delta variant, which makes it interesting, and I think is part of what’s happening here is that the Delta variant seems to work primarily through the nose as opposed to the lungs. It really wants to get inside your nose. That’s where it does its business. And the nose is in a fully vaccinated person the least vaccinated part of you. There’s just not a lot of blood flow in there, which is weird for anyone who has ever gotten a nosebleed, but it just doesn’t have the same kind of constant flow around.
So when you do get fully vaccinated all those wonderful immune cells are living in the rest of your body, but not so much in the nose, and that’s where Delta is going in and doing a number. Now, eventually what happens is it crawls down your throat and into your lungs at which point the vaccine says, ah-ha, I’ve got this, and then it wins. Which is why you can get sick with Delta but not fatally so, which is good news. But that’s what’s going on.
John: I’ve just decided I’m treating myself as my own Zone A. I’m going to be careful about myself and I’m going to protect myself, because I am my own actor. I’ve got to protect the production and the production is me.
Craig: Yeah. I worry about this all the time. You know, we have hundreds of people working on this show, maybe a thousand, more.
John: And you and I both know so many shows that have had to start up and shut down and start up and shut down. And you don’t want that.
Craig: No. Yeah, we have not had to shut down, which is wonderful, and I’m hoping we don’t. We have a lot of people. So, of course, I think about it all the time. I worry about it all the time. But what I am pretty happy about is that we’re vaccinated. I think basically everybody – I believe everybody in Zone A is vaccinated. And so if something should happen, shutting down is never the thing that should freak you out the most. What should freak you out the most is people getting really sick.
Craig: And to that extent I’m way less nervous about life than I was a year ago, that’s for sure. So thank you science.
Craig: Thank you.
John: I will say that before we started our trip was the first time I got a Covid exposure notification and it’s basically we went to go see a movie in a theater in Koreatown and the next day got a notification that someone had tested positive for Covid-19. It’s like, OK, well we’re all vaccinated. 100% of the people in the theater were wearing masks. And we were spaced out widely. I’m not worried and nobody got sick.
But the advice for what you’re supposed to do next reminded me of the signs you see in restaurants about Covid safety but they’re like six months out of date. I hate the ones that are all about it’s really important to wash your hands and that stuff. I’m like, yeah, washing your hands is important, but by far the most important thing is to be vaccinated and to wear a mask. And the instructions I got from this exposure notification were sort of the same. They were kind of vague about isolation, but didn’t sort of say the actual things we know you really should do. So, frustrating. Like getting tested.
Craig: Yeah. Yeah. Well, our government is struggling.
John: It does struggle at times. But we never struggle with listener questions because we get the best ones.
Craig: Segue Man.
John: And so Megana Rao, if you could come on and share some questions from our listeners with us.
Megana Rao: All right. Dan from Baltimore asks, “I found myself watching a clip from a movie about a particular turtleneck-wearing technology figure and someone in the comments said, ‘This part is so cheesy.’ While I agreed with them it was hard for me to put my finger on exactly what made it cheesy. Was it the acting? The writing? Or was it that the moment itself was unearned? I’ve searched the podcast and maybe I’m using the wrong term, but have you guys ever talked about cheese and how to avoid it?”
John: You know, I don’t know if we’ve really used the word cheese much on this podcast.
Craig: I don’t think we have.
John: But I mean I get it. I know what Dan is describing. And those moments that set up this wincing feeling like, oh, that is so cheesy. And it sort of feels like fake earnest. It feels forced. And so let’s talk about some of the reasons why those things feel forced. And sometimes it is the writing. But sometimes I think it really is the acting and the staging that is what’s making a moment that doesn’t have to feel cheesy feel cheesy. So Craig what’s your instinct on where cheese comes from?
Craig: I think cheesiness happens when the people who are performing or the scene, whatever, any of the things that you’re witnessing feel unaware of the complexities of life. So, you see this a lot on sitcoms for children, although you used to see it a lot on sitcoms for adults, where you’re like, OK, well in real life nothing like that happens like that. That’s insane. It’s like somebody walks into a wall and goes, “D’oh, my head,” and someone else is like, “Oh man, you’re so clumsy.” And they’re like, “I know.” That’s so divorced from the reality of what’s true.
It’s a little bit like what we were talking about earlier, the complexity of narrative, and the maturity of narrative. Cheesiness is the least mature narrative. It’s narrative that is just unaware. A little bit like a hyper formalized and hyper imagined human behavior.
John: Yeah. You’re describing something that feels unnatural. And so it can feel unnatural because it’s just written unnatural, like characters are doing things that they just wouldn’t do, but sometimes the [unnaturality] feels like the motion-smoothing that’s being left on a hotel room TV, which I encountered way too much on this trip. It just feels weird and gross and sometimes it’s because of the staging, because it’s just forced camera movements that don’t make sense, or eye lines that don’t match. It just feels like, oh, this is just not good. We’re staying way too wide for no good reason.
We have a sense of what it is and I think there’s a vicious circle where the kinds of camera work and staging that we see in children’s sitcoms, which is cheesy material, whenever we see that kind of staging in things that aren’t written cheesy it feel cheesy because we’re associated the cheese with it. So you sort of have that sprinkling of parmesan over anything if it’s used in that same kind of blocking and staging and shot selection. It’s strange.
Also, the difference between camp and cheesy.
Craig: Oh sure.
John: Because camp kind of knows that it’s cheesy and it’s leaning into the cheese and sort of celebrating the cheesiness of it, which can be great and delightful.
Craig: Something about cheesiness is connected to indicating. The cheesy material is always over-explaining what it’s about and how somebody feels. Somebody puts their hand out and gestures to a thing and says, “What is this?” It’s so weird.
My sister and I loved Brady Bunch but we knew how cheesy it was. So part of our enjoyment of The Brady Bunch was giggling about how those parents just seemed like they were on drugs because if we had done any of the things those kids did, you know, we would have been screamed at. Any of that stuff.
John: I guess you really are describing the awareness or unawareness of cheesiness is camp versus cheese. And that’s why The Brady Bunch movies are terrific because they are fully aware. They’re doing the same tropes but they’re fully aware that they’re doing the tropes and that’s what makes them work.
Craig: Yes, the movie is aware. And the characters who are the Bradys are not, which is wonderful. I love those movies. The second one is really good. Both of those movies are great. I love them.
John: Love them to death. Megana, what else you got for us?
Megana: OK, Lydia asks, “I’m writing a script right now that has an extensive discussion about zombies and the plan for surviving the apocalypse when it comes, because, well, it is. My characters are discussing the different types of zombies in the existing film universe and how each are better or worse in relation to their ability to survive. I want to call them out specifically. I was going to say Cillian Murphy/Brad Pitt zombies or Romero Slow Pokes. That’s OK right? How far can I go in referencing or quoting without infringement?”
John: My instinct is that I’m nervous for your scene. I’m nervous for your scene because I feel like characters discussing things in other movies is not generally going to work out great, but there’s exceptions. I think Kevin Smith’s Clerks does a really good job of that. But, Craig, I have no issues with referencing Romero zombies versus 28 Days Later zombies. I think that’s all fine. You’re not infringing on somebody to say – you can talk about those things without using those things in a copyright sense.
Craig: You can talk about anything you want. People in movies are allowed to have seen movies. Somebody can sit down in a movie and explain the entire plot of Ghostbusters 2 if they want. That’s perfectly fine. So, there’s no problem here with that. If that’s what you want to do you can do it.
John: Craig, I want to see the movie where someone just explains the plot of Ghostbusters, because that could be phenomenal.
Craig: It would be really funny.
John: I can imagine a version of that that’s absolutely great. And at some point you would cross some line where it’s like, wait, are you actually just – is there enough of a narrative adaptation to it? But it’s still great.
Craig: Are you just reading the script for Ghostbusters?
John: The same way that that Gone with the Wind parody was considered not to be enough of a parody to be its own, to not be copyright infringement.
Craig: Ah, yes.
John: There’s some line you’re going to cross, but if it’s characters in a scene doing it you’re not going to cross that line.
Craig: You can reference every zombie that’s ever been made. You can reference the people who were in it. You can reference the people who created it. No problem.
John: Craig, I think we’re at a fascinating moment right now with also the superhero genre and basically we have the DC Universe, we have the Marvel Universe, but then we have both Amazon’s The Boys and Invincible which are really closely quoting sort of those characters. There’s sort of one-for-one parity between the characters in the DC universe and the characters in these other universes. And it’s just gotten to be sort of weird.
I mean, I don’t think there’s going to be any lawsuits, but it’s strange that we have these ideas of like well what if Superman was evil in both of these shows.
Craig: Yeah. There’s too much. I feel like this is – we’ve gone through these. We’ve talked about this before. There was a time when everything that was on a screen was a western. And there was a time when everything that was on a screen was a car chase movie, or an action movie. And let’s see where this all goes. But Marvel in particular is experiencing so much success that everybody else now – I think people tried to chase them and then most people said, “Well, this is all based on characters, other than Warner Bros. and DC none of us have characters that people know, so yeah, let’s just start inventing characters and commenting.”
And to that extent if they’re good shows, great, fantastic. All for it. But, yeah, we’re getting into levels now.
John: Levels over levels.
John: Megana, let’s try one last question.
Megana: Great. Kevin asks, “My partner applied for a diversity fellowship and admitted to me that he submitted a script we co-wrote together as one of his two samples, but with just his name on it since I don’t meet the qualifications for diversity that the fellowship asks for. That’s wrong, right? I’m not sure what my next step should be or if I should just let it go.”
John: Oh Kevin. Kevin.
Craig: Now, wait, is Kevin’s partner a life partner or writing partner? Probably writing partner is what we’re thinking here.
John: I’m assuming just writing partner.
Craig: OK, it’s just writing partner.
Megana: It’s writing partner.
Craig: Man, if it had been actual cohabitation romance partner.
John: My wife. Yeah.
Craig: Ooh, damn. That would have been rough. But it’s still rough.
John: To stipulate it’s wrong to change the title page to take your cowriter off. That’s just wrong. That’s absolutely wrong. That’s actually–
Craig: It’s wrong and–
John: Legally…yeah. There’s liability. I don’t want to say – it’s not like criminal, but…
Craig: No. But you have considered – what you have done is committed a tort as the law [unintelligible]. That is a civil wrong. You have violated another person’s right in their own shared copyright of that material. You cannot do that. It is wrong. And, yeah, you’re absolutely legally liable. And even worse if Kevin wants to he can just drop the dime on you to the diversity program and they’re going to be like, “Oh yeah, no, you’re out,” because it’s dishonest. And it’s also not fair to everybody else applying for that diversity fellowship.
Everyone is supposed to be applying representing their own work. So, Kevin, your partner has done a very wrong thing and they should undo it.
John: Yeah. So let’s imagine that the question came not from Kevin but from Kevin’s writing partner saying like I did this thing, what should I do. I think the choice is to own up to it, to say, “Hey, I sent this in, my name on it, but it’s actually me and my partner. I need to resubmit the script.” You need to apologize the hell out to Kevin.
There are going to be situations where you’ve co-written a script and one of you is eligible for a thing and the other one isn’t. Ask. There’s going to be some frequently asked questions about like how you submit this, because there’s going to be a way to do this. Most likely the best choice for this, and this happens also with representation, is you need to have something that you wrote by yourself and something you wrote with a partner. That’s representative of your work. But just taking the other person’s name off of it is not cool or kosher. And that just cannot be done.
Craig: Yeah. Generally when you use the phrase “he admitted to me” then you know that he did something wrong. Like John says if he had asked that’s entirely different. You’re allowed to ask permission. And if you grant that permission, fine, that’s up to you. And it’s entirely your prerogative. But, no, what he did was wrong. And as far as what your next step should be, I’d get a different writing partner. I mean, I don’t trust this dude at all.
Craig: And I’ve got to be honest with you. Kevin, there’s so many untrustworthy people in this business. So many liars that the thought of self-inflicting one of them upon your person and your soul is no good.
John: You need to trust your writing partner. You just do.
Craig: You have to.
John: Not only are you sharing a mind space with them, but you are making business decisions together.
Craig: Oh yeah.
John: Your lives are going to be entangled. Don’t do this.
Craig: What does Oprah say? When somebody shows you who they are believe them. Is that Oprah?
Craig: I choose to believe it’s Oprah.
John: I’m sure she said it, even if she didn’t say it originally.
Craig: In Oprah we trust.
Megana: Can I ask you a question? Because Craig said something like if you ask their permission and they give it to you. Can you give your permission to have your credit revoked?
Craig: Absolutely. So this is not a Writers Guild awarded credited. This is your work. And you have control over how your work is reproduced, assigned. And so, yes, they would have to ask permission. There would have to be something written. You would have to sign it. And it basically says in this limited circumstance you are allowed to present this work without my name. But you’d have to really limit that and make sure it’s defined carefully. But that’s one of the rights of copyright is that you can waive it or reassign it, which is what happens when you sell a script to a studio. You reassign it.
John: That’s true. I think there could still be a moral/ethical issue between you and the contest, or the fellowship you’re trying to enter into.
Craig: Oh yeah.
John: I think there’s an issue there for misrepresenting that this is your own work.
Craig: I think that in the case of Kevin and his untrustworthy writing partner if the writing partner had said, “Can I do this,” and Kevin said, “Mm, OK, fine, let’s have a lawyer draw up a little thing, we sign it.” And then the partner does it. The partner is still committing the crime. The partner is misrepresenting something to this program. Kevin has merely created a condition that allows the partner to do the wrong thing.
Craig: This is Judge Mazin. Slam.
John: All right. It is time for our One Cool Things. My One Cool Thing is a place I’ve visited today which is Little Island in NYC. It is a new floating park. I guess it’s not actually floating. It is built on piers. It is on the west side. I just thought it was delightful.
Craig: Oh, look at this thing.
John: I’d read stories about it and it was sort of controversial as it was being planned and people were opposed to it. And Barry Diller provided a lot of money for it, which I don’t really love billionaires, but if you’re going to be a billionaire and you want to build something build a public park that people can go and enjoy and is free for the world. And I really dug it. It’s super pretty and it’s just like this little space you could wander around. They have an amphitheater for concerts and outdoor shows. And I just like when there’s – it reminds me of the High Line.
John: It’s just an outdoor place of joy. And so I would recommend anybody who is visiting NYC or living here to check it out when you get a chance. It’s limited entry, or it’s like timed entry during the weeks. It’s going to keep changing. But if you get there early you can just wander in and it’s just really nicely done.
Craig: It looks beautiful and I’m all in favor of this. We stopped building stuff at some point. All we decided we were going to ever build again were shopping malls and square office park buildings. So New York, all these wonderful buildings there, the whole skyline with the exception – one notable exception as the result of terrorism – it’s essentially kind of unchanged. Like all the great buildings are still there. But where’s the new Chrysler Building? Where’s the new World Trade Center? Where are all these wonderful things?
And so the High Line was an example of something new in New York that felt wonderful and so is this. If they’re going to build things then build these. This is cool. Yeah, I mean, look, Barry Diller is probably not a great guy. [laughs] I mean, based on what I’ve read. But that Little Island looks beautiful.
John: It does. And the photos that you’ll see in the New York Times piece that we’ll link to is with it empty. But it’s actually when it’s full of people, and it’s not crowded, but when it’s full of people, people just love it. And it feels imagineered in the sense that like all the slopes are designed so that an older person could get up them. You can sort of explore. There’s little bell things that kids can play with. So everyone who was there was just really digging it. And so just well done everybody for building this thing.
Craig: I’m sure folks from the wide open spaces in the US like Wyoming are looking at this going, “What?” [laughs] “You spent a quarter of a billion dollars for what? 2.4 acres?”
Craig: That’s New York for you. I love it. Love it.
John: What have you got?
Craig: My One Cool Thing, you know I love an escape room, John.
John: Oh you do.
Craig: The escape rooms are open here in Calgary. And I had the pleasure of visiting twice doing two rooms at Escape Ops here in Calgary. And what I love about Escape Ops, they have four rooms. I’ve done two of them so far. There are two remaining. It is run by Dan and Emily who I don’t know if they’re husband and wife but they’re partners. And they’re also partners. And they love what they do. And they make some terrific escape rooms there. And it just occurred to me that in so many circumstances you need passion and skill. If you find people with passion and skill it is the greatest thing.
If you’ve got passion without skill it’s just sort of noise. And if you have skill without passion it’s boring. But when you have passion and skill like they do you come up with really great things because you care. Because you want them to be wonderful.
So, if you do like escape rooms and you live in here in the Greater Calgary Area go visit Escape Ops and tell them Craig sent you.
John: I love that we’re providing highly localized opportunities of places to visit only if you are in the places that you are.
Craig: Correct. Well, I mean, about the same amount of people live in New York City and Calgary I think. It’s roughly the same. [laughs]
John: They really are. They’re really two capitols of the world.
John: Cool. That is our show for this week. Scriptnotes is produced by Megana Rao. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week is by Caden Brown. If you have 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 we answered today. For short questions on Twitter I am @johnaugust.
You can find the show notes for this episode and all episodes at johnaugust.com. That’s also where you find the transcripts and sign up for our weekly-ish newsletter called Inneresting which has lots of links to things about writing.
We have t-shirts and they’re great. Go to Cotton Bureau. You’ll find them, including the new 10th Anniversary t-shirt.
You can sign up to become a premium member at Scriptnotes.net where you get all the back episodes and bonus segments like the one we’re about to record on Black Widow. Craig, it’s nice to have you back.
Craig: Great to be back, John.
John: And we’re back. So, Craig, this past week Scarlett Johansson or I don’t think she actually sued them this week but basically news broke that Scarlett Johansson is suing Disney over Black Widow saying that the decision to release it through streaming and theatrically cost her millions of dollars that she would have been paid in box office bonuses. This is the first of these lawsuits that I’ve seen publically, but a lot of actors and directors were complaining when Warners was doing similar things. How are you feeling about this and the situation we find ourselves in?
Craig: Well, we can talk about the prospects of this case and we can also just talk about the politics of it which may be more interesting. Legally the prospects seem super questionable to me. As always, I am not a lawyer. What do I know? Except that they did release it theatrically. Unless there was something in the contract that said we have to release it theatrically on this many screens and we cannot release it day-and-date in any other way, I’m not sure what she can do other than say this sucks and you guys are jerks for doing it to me.
Or, you guys suck because you haven’t compensated me the way that for instance Warner Bros. eventually compensated their major talent when they decided to put everything out on HBO Max.
So, is she going to win? At this point, like if Disney showed up and murdered your family I’m not sure you’d win either. I would not want to go up against that crew of lawyers. But this is possibly the beginning of the end of something and the first shot of a war that is about to start.
John: Yeah. I think that’s what makes it most interesting to me. It doesn’t honestly matter that much to me whether she wins or loses. I mean, I don’t think this lawsuit will be especially important, but I think it does signal a split between these two things. Because we have this time before which was like, oh crap, there’s a pandemic, we have to release stuff on streaming. OK, we’re going to compensate these big movie stars to do this.
In this case they didn’t compensate her for doing this, which was a choice. They could have just chosen to give her some extra money or sort of make good on that. It seems like they didn’t do that. I sort of wonder why they didn’t do that.
Craig: Well, they might have.
John: They might have.
Craig: They might have. It may have just not been what she wanted. Right? So then it becomes a negotiation. We don’t know. I don’t know the details behind the scenes here.
John: But so we should back up and say it’s not just big actors and big directors, you and I have box office bonuses built into our contracts. And so for movies that are in production right now, but also moves we’ve had before. If Aladdin had gone to streaming rather than gone to theatrical I would have lost, you know–
Craig: A lot.
John: A lot of money. Major, major money. And I would have been pissed, understandably. And I think in some ways even a little bit more pissed in – if it was just the pandemic and there really wasn’t a choice and they had to release it on streaming I sort of get it. But here they had a choice that they could have just gone full theatrical and there might have been more money to have made. We won’t know.
Craig: That’s the part I disagree with. I don’t think Disney is ever going to do anything that they know is going to cost them money. I think they–
John: But their calculation is different. Because they make money if people see it in the theater, but they also make money if people sign up for Disney+ and keep their Disney+ subscription.
John: And they’re trying to serve two masters there. And we as folks who get box office bonuses are only getting money if it’s successful at the box office.
Craig: 100%. I just think that if Disney thought that they would make more money ultimately for themselves, regardless of what they were going to dole out, by a longer and exclusive theatrical window they would have done it. It is possible that they are also pricing in the long term plan to put everything on Disney+ and just stop putting movies in theaters. I don’t know.
What I do know is that we are living in the echo time. And when Covid happened it impacted a whole ton of contracts that had no concept of what Covid was and didn’t care. So, now we all know. And contracts will look different. That’s for sure.
John: Oh, for sure. I mean, I guess we’re probably living in a force majeure world for a bit, where they can sort of say this is an act of god, we can’t do normal things. And now that this is more normal, we’re not as pandemic, but it’s also not – nothing is unprecedented at this point. We sort of know how to do stuff and we have a sense of what the shape of the universe is like. Yes, our contracts will be different. And I think they will be different in ways that will tend to favor the studios.
Craig: Yeah. Of course. [laughs]
John: Let me make a more obvious point. [laughs] I’m not nervous for Disney succeeding here.
Craig: No. They’re going to be just fine. This is really fascinating because I’m still confused. So much of this subscription based stuff is really hard to tie the income to individual works. They have their baloney theories of how they can figure that out. But Netflix won’t even tell us how many people really watch something. And when they do tell us how they define who watched something, you know, you want to shoot milk out of your nose. It’s the biggest joke in the world.
So if somebody watches something for 20 seconds they watched it? That’s crazy. So, everything is wonky. Nothing is connected to anything real. I have no – it’s just a black box. Nobody knows what’s happening inside of there. And if there were ever a time when the three guilds needed to come together and figure something out here and unify on an issue it was this. That said, they won’t. 100% they will not.
John: [laughs] Oh my gosh. I love how definitive you are on that.
John: I will, god, I don’t know. Are we betting on this? I think – so here’s where I think we agree. I think you and I both agree that if the guilds don’t figure this out it is an existential threat to the nature of residuals and sort of meaningful backend compensation. And not only do the guilds understand this, but I also think the agencies understand this as well. So I think there are a lot of people who have clear vision of how important this is. And what we’re really debating is whether that clear vision will get them to actually take an action that will benefit all of them.
Craig: I wouldn’t count on the agencies. The agencies make all their money from probably 10% of their clients.
John: Like a Scarlett Johansson.
Craig: Correct. But in the case of Scarlett Johansson my guess is that if they were negotiating a new deal for Scarlett Johansson they would know to not build it around box office bonuses. Meaning that there’s a lot of ways to skin the cat when it’s an individual negotiation with a studio. The issue for guilds is they’re there to protect everybody, so there’s this baseline thing.
And in a way the studios love that because they don’t want individuals negotiating too much of this backend stuff. They want to be able to say, well, when it comes to residuals that’s what it is for everybody. What I think will happen is probably there will be some labor action and then the DGA will make a deal. [laughs] That’s just sort of how it goes around here.
John: Well so here’s the point of commonality between all these different parties is the desire to break that black box and actually have some insight into what’s actually happening there. And some of that insight is already happening because Nielsen actually kind of does know who is watching what. So I think the desire to keep all that data secret, it’s just not going to be secret for forever.
Craig: Yeah. And that’s what we really need is some sort of robust third party verification of who is watching what and how long they’re watching it for. And it’s tricky because they’ve got to figure out what watching something means. It used to be very simple. The TV was on for that thing and you watched it. And then it was gone.
John: Or you sold that DVD and that DVD was sold and that became residuals. And it is tougher in this age, I get it, with streaming. But we can figure this out because we figured stuff out before.
Craig: I mean, there’ve been things where I’ve started it watching it and stopped and then like seven months later I’m like, oh, look at that, and I finished it.
John: Does that count as one view or not?
Craig: I don’t know. I don’t know.
John: But we have computers who can count that stuff. And they’re really good at counting stuff.
Craig: The computers will save us, said the computer.
John: Ha-ha. So I think our summary of Scarlett Johansson lawsuit is I don’t think it will probably amount to anything, but I think it is an important step along the way of this discussion about how we move from how we were counting things to how we will count things in the future.
Craig: I agree. I think it will be settled, as these things almost always are, and that settlement will be yet another black box by design. But we are going to have to figure this out and one thing I think we have to be really careful about at this point is no longer fighting blood wars over dying models. We have to figure out – knowing what to fight for is just as important as a willingness to fight. And right now that’s the trick of it. I don’t envy anybody planning strategy for these next negotiations.
John: Agreed. Thank you, Craig.
Craig: Thank you, John.
- Kerri Strug Shouldn’t Have Been Forced to Do That Vault
- Amanda Knox’s twitter thread and Medium article
- Mandatory Vaccinations On Productions An Option Under Return-To-Work Protocols
- Disney to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccinations for All U.S. Staffers
- Netflix To Require Covid Vaccinations For Actors & Other “Zone A” Personnel On Its U.S. Productions
- Little Island by Barry Diller
- Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ Lawsuit Is Game-Changing, But May Be Legally Weak by Eriq Gardner
- Scarlett Johansson Sues Disney Over ‘Black Widow’ Streaming Release on WSJ
- Escape Ops on Calgary
- Get a Scriptnotes T-shirt!
- Gift a Scriptnotes Subscription or treat yourself to a premium subscription!
- John August on Twitter
- John on Instagram
- Outro by Caden Brown (send us yours!)
- Scriptnotes is produced by Megana Rao and edited by Matthew Chilelli.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can download the episode here.