The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 518 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the show it’s a new round of How Would This Be a Movie where we take a look at real life stories and ask is this something we can sell to a streamer? But, in order to film these potential ideas we need to have a crew which is why we’ll look at the possibility of an IATSE strike and the issues involved. We’ll also talk about money and what you should do when you start earning it.
Craig: Spend it. Spend it. [laughs]
John: Spend it all. Spend it all.
Craig: As fast as you can.
John: Wow. We got through that segment really quickly. But we might have a few footnotes.
Craig: Oh, OK.
John: And in our bonus segment for premium members it’s officially autumn so we’ll talk about all things fall, from pumpkin spice to spooky season.
Craig: Pumpkin spice to spooky season. Oh boy.
John: Now Craig we’re recording this on Tudum and so I want to make sure that you’re having a good, joyous celebration of Tudum today.
Craig: Yup. [laughs]
John: Do you know what Tudum is?
John: So Tudum is Netflix’s hopefully annual celebration of all things Netflix. And so just like Disney has their big Disney conference and we have other fan conferences, this is just the Netflix fan conference that they’re trying to put up.
Craig: Why is it called Tudum?
John: Because when you start a Netflix show it goes “Tu-dum.”
Craig: Oh, I thought it went – oh, OK, yeah. So it’s not Dum-Dum. That’s Law & Order. It goes Doom, like that. Happy Tudum. Right.
John: Because Craig you’re making a [makes HBO noise] show.
Craig: I’m more of a [makes HBO noise]. Yeah, so I’m a [makes HBO noise]. I’m Happy Schwang. Why? Why do people do this? John, they’re giving these people money. The networks should be supporting–
John: Because fandom.
Craig: Oh, fandom. I mean, I love fans.
Craig: We need fans. But I want artists to have fans. I don’t want corporations to have fans.
John: Now, Craig, I think you should know that I’m going to be featured on Netflix this coming week. So as you’re listening to this episode I think it will have already aired. I am in the documentary Attack of the Hollywood Clichés.
John: Which breaks down a bunch of movie clichés, everything from she’s pretty when she takes her glasses off, the meet-cute, females running in stilettos. So, this was filmed months and months ago and it was just me filming in this one little place, this one little studio downtown. But a bunch of other actually genuinely famous people are in this thing, too. So if you would like to see me with your eyes and not just listen to me with your ears you can check that out. It debuts September 28th worldwide on Netflix.
Craig: That’s an interesting idea.
Craig: Do they do kind of montages of various things?
Craig: I wish that they would just do a mega-cut of all the people who have ever said, “You just don’t get it, do you?” in movies and television.
John: I don’t want to spoil anything, but that could actually be in this documentary.
John: I don’t know what made it to the final floor. It was two hours of me filming and Megana looked through all the clips they sent through and it was exhausting to sort of go through. So I talk about specific things. I try to defend certain tropes as being like, well, that’s actually what kind of happens. I know I had a long bit about the spit take. I’m curious whether my spit take observation made it in.
Craig: All right. Very good.
John: We’ll see.
John: But we’ve got some follow up. Craig, you’ve been gone for a bit, so this follow up has stacked up.
Craig: OK. Let’s go through it.
John: All right. First we’ll start with Ketchup Doritos. Bo Shim writes, “Bo would like to clarify I do not steak Craig’s Ketchup Doritos. I purchase them for the trailer. They are communal Doritos. We’re lucky I discovered them.”
Craig: That is definitely a recontextualization of what I believe happened. Now I encouraged her to submit this to follow up because I wanted a chance to reclarify they are communal Doritos, but I feel like in a particular day if the Dorito level goes below a certain line then, you know, the problem with communism is what happens when people cheat. And what I’m saying is Bo may be not the best communist I’ve ever met when it comes to Ketchup Doritos. That said, she does purchase them for the trailer. And I am lucky she discovered them. And we haven’t had them in a while and I think she’s just passive-aggressively denying me them because I talked about it.
John: Now, I want to propose a solution, because this is not just a program about problems. It’s about solutions at times.
John: It’s called the Sharpie. And you write with a Sharpie on the outside of the bag Craig or Bo and those become Craig’s Doritos or Bo’s Doritos.
Craig: Couple issues. A, won’t stop theft. In fact, it almost encourages it. So, look, I just keep eating out of Bo’s bag. I still have plenty of Doritos and she wonders what happened. Second, I think what we should do is just put Sharpie lines on the inside of the Dorito bag and initial it this is where I got down to. And then if it goes way below that level then I know that Bo went crazy. That said, I do love her. She is great. And I only said those two things because I’m hoping to get more Ketchup Doritos. [laughs]
John: Our next bit of follow up is also big on Craig. Dave writes, “I’ve heard Craig disparage jigsaw puzzles a few times over the years. This week he went on at length about how much he loves Legos. Aren’t Legos basically 3D jigsaw puzzles?”
Craig: Boy, I sure would like to slap Dave right off the planet. No they’re not. And here’s why, Dave. If I get a jigsaw puzzle there’s exactly one arrangement that works. The rest of it is just me frustratingly trying to jam one piece into another and ruining it. Legos can lead to anything. That’s the point. Of course you can take the Lego box, build the thing that they’ve suggested you build, and that would be fun if you’d like to do it. But you can also then smash it apart and give it to your children and watch them engage in the joy of imagination.
So, Dave, how dare you?
John: Craig, was it called in crossword puzzles where – Sunday puzzles will often have this where it kind of breaks the rules. Is it a rebus when there’s two things in the same box?
Craig: Yup. That’s called a rebus. That’s a rebus.
John: Mike and I were working on a new jigsaw puzzle, a company called Magic Puzzles, that actually has a rebus quality to it, where like the picture you’re looking at on the box I guess is basically being formed, but there’s more edges than you think there should be edges. It’s weird. It feels like it’s breaking a fundamental tenet in an exciting way of how jigsaw puzzles should work. So I think there is a meta puzzle-solving aspect to this puzzle I’m doing right now. I don’t think you’ll care. I’m not going to win you over. I just want to acknowledge that there’s something that people clearly I think took from crossword puzzles that are being transferred back to jigsaw puzzles.
Craig: It’s very well possible that that could be the case. I will look at this jigsaw puzzle. I won’t spurn it. I’ll keep an open mind.
John: Listen to that. We may have actually changed Craig’s mind. Megana, please note the time and date.
Craig: No. I said I would keep an open mind. The changing has not occurred. But the door is open.
John: OK. Well this is recorded in podcast form, so everyone will hear that something may have changed.
Craig: I’m still angry at Dave. I can’t get over what he said. I can’t get over how bad his analogy is. I’m losing it. I’m losing it. I want to find you, Dave. I’m going to find you.
John: Honestly as you were talking about it on that episode about Lego I was going to bring it up, but it was late in the show and I just didn’t want to have that fight.
John: Do you want to talk about firing writers?
Craig: So John in an episode where I was up here doing my thing John and Kelly Marcel discussed the undignified firing of writers, where the writer learns of their sacking from a third party or worse in the trades. Both gave good advice, but John said, and this is obviously not me talking, this is somebody writing in, “John said he couldn’t think of a way of stopping it. I’m a British lawyer so my first thought was add a clause to the contract. ‘All contractual notices whether verbal or written must be given by either party prior to third party publication for the avoidance of doubt. This includes the termination of this written agreement.’ And if you wanted to drive the point home add a financial penalty.”
John, do you think that a studio would agree to that?
John: A studio would never agree to this. So I want to both talk to British lawyer and say I get why that seems like a good idea. And it’s also that’s just never, ever going to happen. And later on in the show we’re going to have a discussion about like, oh, couldn’t I be paid this way rather than the other way. And it’s like I get why you think that could happen, but it’s also just never going to happen. So, it can be two things at once.
Craig: I think you aren’t even being definitive enough. It will never, ever, ever, ever happen. And also it doesn’t even matter if it did. Because if the studio agreed to that all they have to do is pick up the phone and call somebody at one of the trade publications, Deadline or Variety or something, and anonymously just let them know that you’ve been fired. And they’ll publish it. So it just doesn’t matter. There’s nothing that can be done to stop this other than people not being idiots or assholes, which they often are. When writers are – you know what, I’m going to stop saying fired because in screenwriting it happens so frequently. When there’s a changing of the writing guard everybody should act like gentlewomen and gentlemen and gentle people. But they don’t.
The only solution is if people just started acting nicely.
John: Yeah. And the other thing which British lawyer I don’t think is acknowledging is that sometimes it’s really ambiguous where stories are coming from, who is leading the charge. Because it’s not that the studio is saying that someone is fired. It’s just that they start looking for another writer and that gets out as being the person being fired. It’s murky and it’s crappy and people just need to be more upfront about what’s really going on.
John: Agreed. Hey, let’s go to a much simpler topic like IATSE. Craig, can you remind us what IATSE is?
Craig: Sure. IATSE is the umbrella union of all of the trade unions that work on screen and television crafts. So that union covers grips, electric, cinematographers, costumers, set designers. Basically everybody that you see working on a movie or a television show that isn’t driving a vehicle, acting, writing, or directing.
John: Yes. And as we talked about sort of the need for better assistant pay at times we’ve also discussed script coordinators and other folks who work below the line sort of with writers but not as writers are also covered by IATSE.
John: So those folks, too. And those are some of the worst paid people on sets or in rooms are the folks who are working there.
John: They have union protection but they don’t have the kinds of union protections you’d want to have.
John: So IATSE is this big umbrella organization. They basically never have gone on strike, but now they’re talking – they’re asking for a strike authorization vote from members because they’ve reached a point in their negotiation where they feel like they need to consider going on strike. Because the AMPTP, the same people that the Writers Guild negotiates with, is trying to form a new contract with IATSE.
Craig: Correct. The AMPTP currently as far as I can tell, and the AMPTP negotiating group is led by a woman named Carol Lombardini, I think what Carol is doing is basically seeing how far they’re going to go. Because IATSE has never struck it makes sense I suppose for Carol to see if they really have the will or the way. I think that the IATSE of old that never struck in part never struck because there was a certain amount of corruption involved. I’m not alleging that firmly – please don’t sue me – but that’s been the suggestion that I’ve read. Let’s put it that way.
John: I would also say that in my 20 plus years I’ve never felt a groundswell of like oh we should go on strike from IATSE members I’ve spoken with.
Craig: I think in part because that door was always closed. So the Writers Guild talks about striking every three years essentially. We don’t strike every three years, happily. But we talk about it all the time. They don’t. A little bit like the Directors Guild. They just don’t talk about it. It’s not really a thing that’s on the table. But now suddenly it is as IATSE leadership has changed somewhat significantly over the last 10 years or so. So I think Carol is just basically seeing what’s going to happen when they have that vote. I think her presumption is that IATSE will not strike the second after that vote. If I were IATSE I would to show her that it’s absolutely real. Because the one union in our town that can absolutely cripple things instantly and devastatingly is IATSE. And yet they don’t keep going.
Now the potential IATSE strike does not cover all production, even not all production in the US. For instance the IATSE contract with HBO is not currently under negotiation. That’s a separate agreement. So some places will still have production going on if there is a strike. And obviously production that’s going on for instance like in Canada where I am will continue because that’s not IATSE. It’s a different country and it’s a different union. But I think IATSE is doing the right thing here. I think they are being incredibly aggressive and I think that they’re showing that they have the ability to do what they’re threatening to do. And I think that this isn’t like sometimes the Writers Guild has said, as you know, hey we have to vote yes just because it’s a bluff basically. I think everybody in IATSE after all these decades is pretty pissed off and with good reason. They are not treated well. They are not paid fairly. The working conditions are bad. And this has to be fixed. 100%.
John: Well let’s take a look at the working conditions and sort of what’s happening below the line here. We got a couple letters in but Megana if you could start us off with Cautiously Optimistic.
Megana Rao: Cautiously Optimistic writes, “I can’t necessarily complain about what my paycheck looks like, but my days are generally always 12 to 14 hours, or 15 to 17 counting commute. And more often than not we work Fraturdays with an early call on Monday.”
Craig: Let me just interrupt there in case people don’t know what Fraturdays are. There’s generally a 12-hour turnaround when we work. Which means you can’t just bring people in without 12 hours of turnaround, especially actors have these things more than anybody. So if days go long early in the week the call times to start the next day go later and later and later to account for the 12-hour time off, which means by the time we get to Friday sometimes you’re starting at 6pm, not because you’re supposed to be shooting all night but because you’ve been running late all week long, which means Friday really is a Fraturday. It’s Friday/Saturday.
Megana: Wow. So that means that you end your work day at like 6am on Saturday?
Craig: Pretty much. That’s right. By the way, or 9am on Saturday. I mean, Fraturdays are a scourge. And the worst part about a Fraturday is so you finish working on Saturday at let’s say 7am, you go home and you sleep, you wake up Saturday evening. Enjoy your Saturday evening and Sunday sort of because Monday you start at 7 or 8am.
Megana: OK, well Cautiously Optimistic continues, “And there are many others across departments working those same hours and struggling to get by with their wages. Before joining the industry I’d often heard that this is what a typical week looked like and I chose it anyway. I’m passionate about what I do, as are most people I work with. But the time off during the pandemic opened a lot of our eyes to how poor our mental health is while working and what life could be like if we had time to spend with our families and activities outside of work.
“Many are too exhausted to do anything on their off time except try to catch up on sleep. Do you see a possible future in which we can continue to do what we love without the brutal hours and conditions? Or do you think it’s just the immovable nature of the industry and studios will continue to say ‘Safety First’ without committing to any changes that actually improve health or safety for its workers? And how much weight does a showrunner have when it comes to these types of decisions before a show goes into production?”
Craig: Great questions.
John: Great questions. All right, one of the things I like about this email is Cautiously Optimistic is pointing out that the pandemic, which we all sort of went through, and the lockdown, these crews were spending time with their families and it’s like, oh wow, what it would be like to actually spend time with my family. And recognizing that there’s a world in which they’re not working 18-hour days all the time.
This framing is so important is that like it is about pay, but it’s also about working conditions. And really making sure that you are recognizing that people need to have true breaks and true time off to sort of live a normal life and actually see their families. And that’s a lot of what they’re asking for in this negotiation is, hey, if you’re going to make us work into crazy overtimes there has to be a real cost to that so that at a certain point you’re just not going to ask us to do that. You actually are going to have to wrap and go an extra day or go two extra days rather than these insane hours.
Craig: And there is, you know, overtime. What I think is so poignant about the requests that our crews are making is that they do get paid more for those hours past the 12 hours. And they still are saying it’s not good. It’s not good enough. I don’t think that the answer here, it doesn’t seem like what they’re saying is we don’t mind working 18 hours but you’ve just got to up that overtime pay. What they’re saying is we don’t want to do this anymore. It’s not healthy or good for anybody. And the point about commutes is really important, too.
Most crew, if we’re shooting in let’s say Downtown Los Angeles, most crew are commuting in from some distance. And there is a zone, a production zone where you’re not getting paid for that travel. I think it is 30 miles.
John: Yeah. There’s a 30-mile radius around sort of one intersection in Hollywood.
Craig: Yeah. That’s where TMZ comes from. Thirty Mile Zone.
Craig: So what they’re asking for is for Hollywood to say, hey, you know what, a 12-hour workday is a lot. That’s a lot. I mean, 12 hours is more than most people work in a day. Most people work eight hours.
John: It is.
Craig: We work 12 hours when we’re shooting and there are also when I say we there are also groups that have pre-calls and are post-wrap. Transpo, et cetera. Obviously that’s a different union. That’s teamsters. But my point is that I believe firmly that everything that happens after the 12th hour is trouble. It doesn’t feel good for anyone. Everyone is burnt. And it’s a sign that something has gone wrong with the planning or with the execution. And the planning and execution of things that go wrong are rarely because the crews didn’t do something right. It is almost always because the production overscheduled a day or the director is just not competent enough to get the work done during the day, or acts of god. Stuff breaks. Weather. Someone gets sick. Et cetera.
John: Yeah. And so a lot of these things can be addressed in preproduction and planning but decisions have to be made on the ground as well. And there are times where it’s like, you know what, we have to wrap. For safety and for the good of everyone we need to wrap. And in some ways I think Covid testing protocols and all these things have sort of forced some of these safety things a little bit higher up in the chain because there’s reasons why we just can’t actually shoot because we’ve lost this cast member. That is a thing that really happens.
John: Let’s also listen to what Nate had to say.
Megana: Nate writes, “My longest day ever on the clock is 18 hours, which if I were to ask around my peers is the lowest record I would find. I spent the summer working on a feature film that swore beforehand that our days would be kept to ten hours and in service of that expected cap we would just work through lunch. Half of that statement turned out to be much more true than the other, as we only had two days that were even close to ten hours and quite a few more where there was no break for lunch. This is but one example of how in just my eight years in this business I have seen conditions degrade, not improve.”
Craig: Yeah. This is not uncommon at all and Nate your longest day ever on the clock being 18 hours doesn’t beat my record. I hit 20 hours one day working for the Weinsteins on a production. And it was unconscionable. I remember very specifically saying to the crew somewhere around hour 16 if any of you feel like there’s a safety concern about the length of this day or just in general you’re burnt go home and you’re still getting paid. And you know what? No one left. And that’s the part about this that’s so heartbreaking is that crews care so much. They want to do a good job. They want to back the production and they want to deliver. And they want to deliver even though they’re not getting paid what the actors are paid or the director is paid. Their names are not being bandied around. Nobody is interviewing them when the movie comes out. Nobody uses their name in conjunction with it. They just care quietly about their jobs that in that regard it is the most noble approach to what we do. And what happens? They get taken advantage of.
And they must put their foot down. And here’s the thing. So like on our production we really tried very hard to stick to that 12-hour day. Sometimes we’re a little bit under, which is nice. You get to go home an hour early. You still get paid for your 12-hour day. Every now and then we’ve hit 13 hours, or I think once we hit 14 I think. And crews are OK with that. They know like, all right, hey every now and again something happens and we’ve got to try and get this done and we get it done. It’s similar to the lunch thing. You can ask for grace. You can say, you know what, we need five more minutes to go into lunch here just to finish this shot. If we can just finish this shot it would be great for us. Then we can go to lunch.
If you ask for grace every day it’s super annoying. If you ask for it once a week it’s OK. And that’s the problem is that studios take advantage. They just keep pushing, and pushing, and pushing, and pushing. And IATSE absolutely must do something dramatic here to wake people up. And IATSE I would argue should not be worried about oh they’re going to send all their production to the state of Georgia where there’s no union. They’re already doing that. If they could send all of it to Georgia they would. They can’t. So they sent everything everywhere. Right? And they still have to make stuff that’s union-covered and it’s time. It’s time to force the AMPTP to deal with this because in a world where we are defending the rights and concerns and inequities that people of color are dealing with, that women are dealing with, we also have to look very, very hard at the unfairnesses and inequities that we visit upon people who are middle class in our business who are dwindling, who are scraping to get by, who are “blue collar.” And in a town run by a whole bunch of liberals it really does seem like that ought to be a good place to start.
That’s where you start making things better, right now. So, hey, Carol Lombardini, AMPTP, let’s go. Step it up.
John: I agree. The one thing I want to make sure we’re also acknowledging is that these working conditions so important to address, but we don’t often think about them with the kind of more white collared jobs, like script coordinator and other writer assistants, people who are being paid under IATSE contracts. I’m going to point everyone to an episode of The Business with Kim Masters where she talks to a script coordinator about the hours he’s facing doing his job. And the hours and the pay are not good enough. And so as we’re looking at this contract let’s also make sure that we are addressing some of the lowest paid members like our script coordinators because this show is not sort of all built around them, but they are so vital to the process and they’re being well underpaid.
Craig: And generally speaking the more experienced and skilled the crew the faster the day goes.
Craig: So if you drive away skilled people because you’re not treating them fairly or paying them well enough you’ll end up with a whole lot more people without that experience and your day goes slower.
Craig: And you lose money. Just, it’s time. My god, is it ever time. I mean, I remember the first time I was on a movie set and I looked around and I’m like this can’t be real. This can’t be the way it’s done. And is the way that it’s done. And it doesn’t have to be this way. And I want to revisit Cautiously Optimistic who asked how much weight does a showrunner have when it comes to these type of decisions. Depends on the showrunner.
Craig: But I can speak for this showrunner, some. Enough that I could say I don’t want a schedule where we are routinely going over overtime. I want 12-hour days. I want the standard day.
John: I had no power or control over the kinds of productions I was doing as a baby TV showrunner, like a person who should not have been running a show by myself. But as a director I did have a fair amount of control. And as a director doing an indie film, this is a crew and a work setup that I could actually sort of dictate. This is how I want things to go. And I did have some of that. So I think showrunners in television and directors in features can have a big influence on how their sets work and that’s really what we’re asking.
Craig: That’s right. And if you look around as a showrunner and you didn’t have the power but the show is going well, except for the amount of time you’re working, then start complaining. Start complaining. It’s not fair. And we do live in a time where people can’t just bring you behind a closed door and say, “Shut up. This is Evil Co. And we’re going to do the evil thing.” Because I think everybody understands there are options for people who are being told to shut and do the evil thing. So, advocate for your crews where you can, however you can. They want to work hard. They believe in working hard. But, yes, as much as possible let’s try and stick to the good old fashioned already very long 12-hour-day.
John: Yeah. So let’s look at what happens next. So there’s a strike authorization vote happening for IATSE members. That will pass. It’s just a question of what percentage of members will vote for that. And then we’ll see whether IATSE needs to go on strike or if they go back to the negotiating room and they reach a deal. Whatever happens I’m excited to see that at this one moment IATSE and all the other unions are sort of together in terms of looking at this is a situation that needs to change and hopefully the Writers Guild and all the other guilds are backing IATSE. Hopefully IATSE will back us when it comes to the next time for negotiations.
Craig: That’s the thing. IATSE doesn’t need anybody to back them. That’s the cool part about being in IATSE. You walk and it’s over. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if the actors say oh well we would cross the picket line. Well you just enjoy your empty [unintelligible] because we’re not there. Nothing is happening if there are no cameramen, if there are no people that are doing the sets.
John: Craig, can this go back to shooting everything on Zoom again? It’ll be fine.
Craig: [laughs] Zooming. Even then because the editors are in IATSE.
John: Yeah, the editors, too.
Craig: It’s not happening. So, yeah, I think of course the unions should support IATSE, all the unions should stick together in this regard. But if there was ever a union that could just go it alone it’s IATSE.
John: Yeah. All right, let’s move on to our marquee topic, How Would This Be a Movie. So this is where we look at stories in the news or the thing that people have sent in and we think about how could these be processed as a movie or a TV show. Often on the show we cover scandals or major crimes, we talked about the FIFA scandal, that old person heist in England. A lot of the things that we’ve talked about have been optioned and some of them actually come out as movies.
A thing that a couple people sent in was in South Carolina there’s this Murdaugh family and there’s just all these murders, just more murders keep happening. We’re not going to talk about that today but obviously that’s the kind of thing that people would be discussing. But the four stories I want to look at today they span the globe and they’re really different opportunities for the kinds of stories – I don’t know if any of them are going to be a movie or a TV series, but I thought they had interesting things to talk about in the sense of place, a sense of story areas. So that’s why we picked these four.
So we’ll start with Knives Outback: A man is presumed murdered. But in this town of 12 everyone is a possible suspect.
Craig: Love it.
John: This is sent in by Yasuke, a listener. And this story was written up by Mitch Moxley who was writing on Medium, so we’ll have a link in the show notes to this article. Craig, what did you make of this situation and the events in Larrimah, Northern Territory?
Craig: Well it was glorious. So, Australia does afford you these things. There are these vast tracks of Australia that are kind of empty. They’re very scrubby, deserty, and here we are out in the middle of nowhere. And there are, what is it 12 people live in this town?
John: Yeah. Sometimes there’s 12, sometimes there’s 10. I guess maybe there were 12 and now there’s 10.
Craig: I think it says it had started, there was a railroad nearby. The population after the railroad shutdown went from 100, to 50, to 25, and now it’s around 13. And a murder happened. A guy goes missing.
John: Well, yeah, a presumed murder.
Craig: Presumed murder. He goes missing. His dog goes missing. And what makes it interesting is that in true Murder on the Orient Express style everyone hated him. He was a dick. He was the town jerk, which is spectacular. And he had a way of getting involved in feuds, neighbors, and all sorts of stuff. And the feuds got incredibly Australian. What do I mean by that? I mean that he would throw severed kangaroo penises into their yards. Do you know if you’re throwing a kangaroo penis you’re almost certainly in Australia I would argue. Right?
John: Yeah. There’s no many other choices. Unless you were going to a zoo to get a kangaroo that you can cut apart.
Craig: He put a kangaroo, he shoved part of a kangaroo butt through a window where there was a stove, so it would heat up and fill another house with kangaroo butt smell. So anyway the point is he’s also taking kangaroos apart. But I think that the kangaroos oftentimes are just like you can find them and repurpose them for bad neighbor purposes.
Anyway, he’s a jerk. And there are very few suspects. And it does in fact feel to me like a movie. It feels like a wonderful blend of Strictly Ballroom and And Then There Were None. You bring in the investigator from outside, and you try and solve this incredibly tiny crime. It’s like a closed room mystery, except the closed room is a town that’s very big.
John: The great outback.
Craig: Yes. That’s outside.
John: Yeah. So our dead guy is a terrific character. So Paddy Moriarty, the article describes him as a Larrikin.
Craig: Of course he’s a Larrikin.
John: A Larrikin. A shit-stirrer. And he’s a guy who did his morning work and then he would have basically six giant beers at the bar and then he would go home and microwave his dinner.
Craig: And then he would get all Larrikin-y.
John: Yes. He had a great dog. And so I think the dog is really an essential element. It makes it feel like, oh, there has to be a true crime focus, like he could have just wandered off but where is his dog? And he would never have left his dog. So there’s the question of what happened to this man and his dog is fascinating. The possibilities that it was fed to – there’s a crocodile. So of course there’s a crocodile.
Craig: Of course.
John: That did that. Or he was ground up and put into the meat pies.
Craig: Well, OK, so let’s just take a moment here. How great is this. His main – the object of most of his scorn was a woman named Fran, Fran Hodgetts, who ran a meat pie place and if you are a Broadway fan like myself, if you love Sondheim, then you know–
John: It’s Sweeney Todd.
Craig: It’s the plot of Sweeney Todd is that Mrs. Lovett. It’s almost the same name. That’s what I love is that it’s Mrs. Lovett and Mrs. Lovett makes meat pies. So Sweeney Todd kills people and she bakes them into meat pies. But the Australian Bureau of Investigation checked the meat in the pies and were clear to say that the meat was not identified as either human or dog mean.
John: Or canine.
Craig: But they didn’t necessarily say it wasn’t – I think they probably they were like, heh, you know, there was some kangaroo in here.
John: She probably should have mentioned the kangaroo of it all.
Craig: Should have mentioned the kangaroo.
John: So let’s think about this, is it a movie or is it a limited series?
Craig: Movie. Movie.
John: It’s a movie. So you’re going to go with movie. So what do you think are the beats of the story and is Paddy a character who is alive in the story? Are we flashing back to his moments of life? Tell me what your vision is for the movie.
Craig: If I were doing this I would probably have the report of a missing person and then the suggestion that he was murdered. I would be somebody working for the Australian authorities that would go to that town, so I’m the protagonist here. And as I keep digging I find it’s weirder and weirder. And as I do so the character of Paddy would sort of start to kind of talk to me. He would be with me. We would get a sense of just by learning him he would be by my side as a little kind of thought ghost so that we would get the experience of him and the amusement of him. And when I would find things I would be able to turn to him like, “You asshole. Why would you do that?” And then he would be like, “Oh, you know.”
But my job would be to solve the crime. And there would be a solution at the end. There would be an exciting ending. I don’t feel the need to stick to reality here. I’d want it to feel more like a traditional Agatha Christie surprise that’s the person who did it. And in doing so put Paddy to rest. And hopefully along the way feel a little bit for who he was and why he did the things he did. And perhaps, perhaps, a nice theme about loneliness and isolation and how it affects people in the world.
John: I can absolutely see that. And so what you’re describing feels like if it were an Agatha Christie or a Knives Out, you have a central investigator character coming there and it kind of feels like the ghost of Paddy is the – not literal ghost, but the vision of Paddy is sort of the Ana de Armas character who is along with that investigator, helping to do the investigation.
Craig: Like Watson to Sherlock Holmes.
John: Absolutely. That absolutely works. My instinct was that it was a limited series in that the great thing about episodic television is that you have the ability to keep throwing up twists. And so I’m watching Only Murders in the Building right now which does a really good job of feeling like a New Yorker short story, but also a podcast, and having fun as things keep getting revealed. And so it could be that same idea where you have an investigator come to town but it doesn’t limit the storytelling to only one character’s point of view. Because what you’re describing as a movie is we only know what the investigator knows, correct?
Craig: Yes, generally speaking that is correct.
John: And so I think there might be an opportunity to broaden out so we actually get multiple points of view and we’re not sure who to trust within this but you’re seeing more than one point of view on this whole situation.
Craig: That could absolutely work. You know, I’m rooting for movies these days. If I can find one of these stories that feels like it has an ending to it that you could theoretically do in two hours then I’m like pushing for the movie.
John: Pushing for the movie. All right. Let’s go to our next story. This is I was a Hamptons Squatter: How I lived in luxury for free. It was written by Anonymous, but Jeb submitted this because it was a New York Post story. And so this is the tale of I think a young woman who would end up like crashing at these various really expensive Hamptons houses. Very east end of Long Island. And she started out basically being a tutor to these kids, and she would live in the basement. She would get kicked out when they were actually renting out the houses. And she started to realize like oh it’s not that hard to live in one of these places. She wasn’t actually breaking down the front door or anything. She would pass herself off as somebody who should be there and sometimes she was staying at houses that had a full staff. And she was just hanging out there.
Craig, you look at this, there’s not a plot to this at all. It’s really just a situation. Does this situation spark to you as a jumping off place for a movie, a series? What does it say to you?
Craig: Maybe a character. I mean, there’s such a kind of tone deaf sociopathy to this kind of strange essay. The part where I really got angry was when she said that it was OK because once she kind of got there and insinuated herself into this household through lying that the staff, the maids and chefs and people, were happy because they had somebody to attend to. That’s outrageous. It’s like, I mean, yeah, if the whole point is some guy who is some hedge fund jerk is away and I can steal his stuff, OK, but now she made a point of saying how pretty she and her friends were. How they were pretty and white. And how I guess the support staff who I doubt were as pretty and white as she was felt terrific about waiting on her. It’s just outrageous. So I hated her and I hated this story. And I think it could be an interesting character that somebody could be called out about or maybe it could be like a weird scene. But it just felt gross.
John: So I think there’s interesting stuff here to do as a movie. It doesn’t sustain enough to be a series. But that sort of commoditizing white privilege and recognition that like, oh, it’s because I’m pretty and white that I can just pass through here. She is a sociopath, but also reminded me a bit of some of the dynamic in Zola which I loved so much, that Twitter thread, where you’re breaking the social contract of this place but maybe that’s OK because maybe it was a bullshit social contract at the start.
The movie that this reminded me most of was Wedding Crashers where you have these two characters who are showing up at other people’s weddings for their own agendas and sort of coopting them. And I think there’s a way to do that here as well where there’s a character who is coming into this space and recognizing this is all bullshit and I am just going to benefit from it.
Craig: Yeah. I think that the changing nature of culture is such that Wedding Crashers probably wouldn’t fly today. There’s just a general question of consent involved in that and it makes people uncomfortable for quite legitimate reasons.
Craig: So it’s just a different vibe. I’m kind of curious, I don’t know, Megana have you kind of detected a general reaction to this story? Is the social media sphere commenting? Or has this kind of gone unnoticed?
Megana: I feel like it’s gone relatively unnoticed. I haven’t seen any commentary around it. But I think I had a similar reaction that you did.
Craig: Yeah. Maybe it’s better that she gets unnoticed here. [laughs]
John: All right, let’s move on to our next story. So this Jerusalem Supernatural: Meet the Palestinian Man Hunting Ghouls, Ghosts, and Jinn. This was sent in by Jalena. It’s this article by Layla Azmi Goushey in Middle East Eye. There’s not one story here, but it’s basically about this guy who writes up stories of supernatural creatures from Muslim tradition but also general Palestinian tradition. And these are various supernatural creatures, Jinn, and ghouls, and other things that we would call spirits or ghosts. Craig, what did you think of this space as a story area?
Craig: Loved it. Because only really in the west we only hear about Palestinian culture as it exists in the political context of a struggle between Palestine and Israel. That’s what we hear about. That’s all we ever hear about and there’s nothing else. And what I love about this guy, Ahmad Nabil, who is promoting the preservation of Palestinian folklore and also Palestinian imagination is that what he’s putting forward is the part of Palestinian culture that is universally human. That all cultures have these stories, myths. They all overlap. They all intertwine and yet they all have their own little interesting twists. And putting that forward as something worthy is wonderful. And while there is a somewhat religious connection as is pointed out, the Jinn are mentioned in the Koran, so if you do believe in the infallibility of the word in the Koran then you believe that Jinn are real. But in that regard, what is it, 89% of Americans believe angels are real, which I should mention they are not. I just want to talk to you now directly, 89% of America. They’re not real.
But that’s the nature of believing in these things is also quite universal, unless you’re me. So I love this idea. I would hesitate to turn this into a Palestinian Ghostbusters. I don’t think that’s what it is. I think that there’s a really interesting way of approaching this like – I love the stories about children and the way that they interacted with Jinn and the idea of a child and a Jinn and a friendship that could occur could be amazing. And not to deny in the story the reality of what life in Palestine is like, but rather to use this space in the foreground to accentuate what’s happening in the background. That could be special. There could be a lovely movie here.
John: So there’s two filmmakers I worked with up at Sundance Labs who have made films that remind me of what’s unique and special about this. So Ana Lily Amirpour, she did A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, which is fantastic. Put it on your list if you haven’t seen it.
Craig: Awesome. Awesome movie.
John: Under the Shadow by Babak Anvari, also loved, which is about a supernatural thing happening during this bombing raid. And both are terrific. And I think a good reminder that I think these two filmmakers could make this movie because they actually had a connection to the culture and the specific environment they were writing about. So, when we say like we would love to see this movie, I would love just to watch this movie set about Jinn and Jerusalem and this stuff. You or I should not be making that.
Craig: Oh, I don’t know, John. Shouldn’t a Jew be making this movie? [laughs]
John: I think it would be best–
John: I think it’s a great opportunity for filmmakers who have a connection to this place and this culture.
John: To be doing this. Because what it does is it gives you the advantage of making a genre picture that can sort of like play to genre fans and also speak specifically to your experience.
Craig: And teach new things. So I think that while everybody can write everything, when there is kind of a first one in should be someone that is close to it. This feels like a movie that should be written by and made by somebody whose grandmother told them these stories. Somebody like Ahmad Nabil. He himself, I don’t think he’s a filmmaker as well, but he would be a great person to be involved. And you would want people of Palestinian heritage to do this because this is the introduction of the Palestinian Jinn to the regular, what do we call it, the regular audience, the global audience. Let’s call them the global audience.
And it doesn’t have to be in English, by the way. I think people are getting much, much better at watching movies with subtitles. Like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, by the way, which is spectacular and in Farsi. So, yes, what we need here is a Palestinian filmmaker, Palestinian writer-director, Palestinian writer. Let’s start with a writer as we believe that is the most important part. But there is something beautiful to be done here. It doesn’t have to be about a relationship between a kid and their Jinn friend. It could be anything. But I loved the idea of the Jinn. I loved the way they looked. I loved the way they were described. And I love the fact that they are new to me. And that’s lovely.
So, yes, I think this could and should be a movie. Is it going to be made by Universal or Disney? Nah.
John: No. But is it made by A24 or one of those places? Absolutely.
John: Or is it made by – Netflix and all of these places are trying to do local films for local audiences. That could be a great way into it. What I also want to stress is that it’s not the responsibility of this filmmaker to explain all this for a non-Palestinian audience. I think it’s that balance of you’re setting this story within this world and hopefully in telling this story we will all see the universal connections to it, but you don’t need to have the outside westerner who gets explained all this stuff to. I think we’re well beyond that.
Craig: You mean like a character in the movie?
Craig: Oh god no. No, that would be terrible.
John: But that will be a note that you would get. And hopefully it’s less often than you would have ten years ago.
Craig: But tell that note to F off. No. That’s not – no, it should be made within the culture. It should be made from inside the culture. And this is what art does is that then everybody else who is a human being with a heart in their chest can watch it and go I get this.
Craig: And that’s the fun part. That’s what makes it great.
John: Yeah. And I do feel like this is a movie rather than a series.
Craig: Oh, 100%.
John: Agreed. All right, our last choice here is the Tin Man and the Lion. This is a blog post by Brian Ferrari that I’m not even quite sure how I found this. It wasn’t a reader who sent this in. I just kind of loved it. So this is a story set in 1991. It’s this guy basically remembering that he got hired on to a regional tour production of The Wizard of Oz, like a thing that would play at schools and just travel around. And it was The Wizard of Oz and he got cast as – I think he was the Lion, and this other really hot guy was cast as the Tin Man. And so it was their relationship as they sort of went from city to city and it never really got anywhere. But I just loved the detail and, again, the specificity and just sort of remembering like, oh, yes, that was 1991. And this sort of weird band of actors traveling around which I think is always a great environment.
Craig, what did you make of this?
Craig: I mean, I absolutely would watch a six part limited about the insanity that goes on with a traveling children’s theater troupe doing The Wizard of Oz, because everybody knows The Wizard of Oz. And the weird kind of arguments and alliances and back-stabbings, and lovemaking between Tin Men and Lions and good witches and bad witches is just wonderful. Like you know Don’t Think Twice, our friend Mike Birbiglia’s film was kind of a fun introduction for citizens as it were to the world of improv and improv troupes and the way they form a family. And the road trip is sort of the highlight of it. And I could absolutely see something – you know, Mike Birbiglia can do this?
John: Maybe he’d want to.
Craig: Maybe he’d want to. Or maybe he would be like, why, what? I’m not doing that. Shut up, Craig. You know, what, Mike, Mike Birbiglia, why don’t you write in and tell us what you think.
John: Brian Ferrari who wrote this blog post, I don’t know if he’s a screenwriter at all, I mean, he would actually be able to write this kind of story. But even if it’s not this specific story, I feel like this idea – and I agree that a limited series could work really well. But there’s also a tradition of the Christopher Guest movies where it feels like you have this band of misfits who are trying to do this thing and getting to a place. It’s also a Little Miss Sunshine. I think there’s something here and I could imagine a version of this, really this children’s theater troupe trying to do this thing feels like a good story space.
Craig: I mean, it does feel funny. It just feels instantly funny to me. I would be down.
John: Great. So let’s review our four How Would This Be a Movies, or series, which of these are you most excited to see?
Craig: Most excited to see the Jinn movie. But I would also be down for a nice murder movie in the Outback.
John: Yeah. So I think the most literal adaptation that I could see actually happening is Knives Outback. I think the Jinn movie, it may not be one movie. I think we’re going to see some action in that space and I think in the next couple years we’ll see some movies that are dealing with this. But it doesn’t have to be one, because there’s not one story to adapt. It’s like something set in this space.
John: Cool. Great. All right, let’s move on to our last thing we wanted to talk about which is managing money. So this is all jumping off from a Liz Alper Twitter thread. So Liz has been on the show several times, talked about Pay Up Hollywood. She asked on Twitter sort of what piece of financial advice would you give to somebody who has just got their first payday. And I saw you had jumped in on this thread as well with some advice.
So let’s just quickly review some of the things, you know, we’ve had sort of five-figure advice and six-figure advice before. But what kinds of things do writers need to be thinking about when they start getting paid.
Craig: Great. We’ll just go through these and I guess we’ll see if we agree. So first one is once you get staffed in TV look at setting up your loan out. We talked about loan out companies before. This is usually an S-Corp. This used to be something recommended setting up at an executive story editor or co-producer level, but 45* – oh, does that mean Donald Asshole Trump? Donald Asshole tax laws now mean you’re paying taxes on money you never got like the fees that you pay to your agents. That’s, you know, basically if your accountant agrees then this is what you should be doing.
John: Absolutely. So we have a related question here. Brian asks, “I just got paid for this thing at Blumhouse. Couldn’t I do an LLC rather than an S-Corp, because an LLC is cheaper for me to set up?” And the answer Brian is just no. And as I sort of said at the head of the show it’s like there’s a reason why it’s an S-Corp and it’s because it’s an S-Corp. It has to do with what can pass through and what can’t pass through on an S-Corp. Structurally you need an S-Corp and it actually costs some money and it’s kind of a hassle. I had to set up both an LLC and an S-Corp because the S-Corp is for my writing income, the podcast and Writer Emergency Pack and all the software I do is the LLC because they just work–
Craig: Where all my money goes.
John: That’s where I steal all of Craig’s money. All of that has to go through an LLC because an S-Corp can’t have things like inventory. So there’s reasons why structurally it needs to be an S-Corp rather than an LLC.
Craig: Basically Brian the answer to the question is because the accountant said so. You know, at some point you’ve got to just trust your doctor, your accountant, etc. And they’re like, no.
John: Don’t do your own research. Don’t start taking horse de-wormer.
Craig: Don’t go to Google University.
John: Liz then says after you get your S-Corp get a payroll company. They will pay you as an employee and set aside the taxes you have to pay out of your quarterly end of year. And this is true, because you actually have to set aside some quarterly stuff because that’s how it works.
Craig: Correct. Even if you wanted to just make regular installments, estimated payments, you still are advised to get a payroll company because it essentially legitimizes your company as a company. If you aren’t doing it that way then you are opening yourself up to some unpleasant examination from our friends at the IRS.
John: Yeah. So the biggest advice here is save. Put money away for a rainy day, a rainy year, because we are a feast or famine business. Because you cannot necessarily predict when your next paycheck is going to come. And so unlike other folks who are being paid weekly or regularly we just get these chunks and they will disappear at some point. So she’s saying a high yield savings account. Craig, you had some different advice there.
Craig: Yeah. So my set advice for anyone as they start earning money at any age, doesn’t matter how old you are, 16 or 50, is that your first move should be investing. If you have money to save save it in what we call a qualified retirement plan. That’s any kind of plan like an IRA, SEP IRA, ROTH IRA, 401(k), any of those things that are for retirement. The nice thing about those is they force you save them. Meaning you could withdraw them but there would be terrible penalties. You save them and you get them back when you hit retirement age, which I think is 65. And while it’s sitting there you don’t pay tax on it. So if you put $2,000 into a qualified retirement plan you get to remove that from the income you’re paying taxes on that year. And it sits there and grows and grows and grows and grows and grows. And then eventually you get it back.
Now, when you take it out you pay taxes, but that’s OK because it’s grown without having to pay taxes in the first place. So the difference between putting in $2,000 or $1,000 in 1950 and then where it would be in 1990, think about that. That’s basically what I’m talking about. So it’s the best possible investment you can make. You can’t do better as far as I’m concerned.
John: Yeah. So if you are a writer, you’ll be in the Writers Guild, you’ll have a pension. That pension is not enough. That’s not how you’re really going to make it past retirement age. It’s really you putting aside money yourself is what’s going to get you there. And so you have to be thinking about that.
Just anticipating a natural follow up question, hey John and Craig, at what dollar figure do you need to get an S-Corp or should you just be paid individually? I don’t know. It changes every year. But that’s why you talk to other writers who are sort of just now doing it, but also your accountant or your lawyer, because they’re used to all of this and they will know how to handle it because essentially it’s not just the money it takes to set it up. There is some money every year you’re spending to do this. And so ask them because it does change. It’s going to be more than $100,000.
Craig: Yeah. It’ll be some income over $100,000. But because the laws change constantly the advantages change constantly. They’ll let you know. And, yeah, there’s an investment – by the way, the investment that you make to create your S-Corp, which is a few thousand bucks or whatever it is, also tax deductible. Isn’t that fun? There you go.
John: Yeah, fun how it all works out.
All right, it’s come time for our One Cool Things.
John: My One Cool Thing is an article by Damon Krukowski. I’ll put a link in the show notes. But he’s looking at the way that streaming works on Apple and Spotify and how prone it is to gaming and manipulation. So basically if you are an artist who has a song on Spotify and it gets played X number of times you’re supposed to be making some percentage of X. And yes, sort of, but they do it based on this pro-rata number of streams rather than user-centric number of streams. So the math works out so that Craig you could set up to listen to one track 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and all of those things would count to the total number of listens that track got. Whereas if 300,000 people were listening to my track just once it wouldn’t come out the same way. So it doesn’t work basically – streaming residuals or royalties don’t work the way you kind of think they should. And it’s always good to look at what’s happening in the music industry because ultimately that’s what happens in film and television.
So just a really good look at sort of how streaming works right now and how it probably could and should change.
Craig: Yeah. It’s incredibly complicated stuff. It’s always safe to assume when you’re talking about the music industry, the recording industry, that artists are getting screwed. Just start there. Basic given. It’s almost axiomatic. And streaming and every other method of doing this stuff will continue to screw recording artists in part because they are not employees and et voila no union. And this is where the union matters. This ties in perfectly to our discussion of IATSE and the AMPTP. So instead of having to deal with a very powerful union representing every major songwriter and a desire by union to have a tide rising and lifting all boats, they have to deal with four billion individuals who have no power separately. So this is going to continue this way.
John: Yeah. Interestingly though you look at both Apple and Spotify, their business model is based on sort of revealing the number of times each thing was streamed. And so that’s so different than how our streaming television is working right now, because we don’t have any insight into how many times a show on HBO Max or Netflix is currently being seen. So, similar, but not quite the same. And a big focus of discussion as we figure out the future of streaming.
Craig: Well that’s Netflix for you. I mean, they basically just looked at the whatever it was 70-year or 80-year tradition of TV ratings and went, nope.
John: Not going to do that.
Craig: We’re actually not going to tell you who watched it. We’re just going to make announcements. By the way, I don’t know if you noticed this, but every new Netflix show that comes out is the most watched Netflix program of all time.
John: Well, Craig, I think you should know that on Monday the most watched Netflix program is going to be Attack of the Hollywood Clichés.
Craig: Absolutely. Starring John August.
John: Starting at 7am. And you can see me there. And I will get paid nothing more for all your views, but that’s fine. I didn’t write it. I’m just a talking head.
Craig: You’re just a talking head. My One Cool Thing, so we have been talking about our crews, and of course as you are working on a show you get to know folks on your crew. We actually have a couple of overlapping teams because we have so many episodes. We have a couple of different AD teams, so the assistant directors work with our directors. But then they need breaks to prep for upcoming, so we sort of have a back and forth overlap system. And so I was getting to know our new second AD, named Ashley Bell, and she told me about her best friend Lucy Guest.
Now Lucy, Ashley said if you were driving you might crash into a pole. So I’d like you to pull over. Lucy is a super fan, John.
John: All right.
Craig: She is a director. She is a writer. She is also an actor. And she participates in what I understand is a pretty sizable group of women in film and television that operates I believe out of Vancouver. And I guess a lot of them do listen to the show. And Ashley told me that Lucy – I love this – Lucy calls me her second dad.
Craig: Now, you know what? That doesn’t make me feel old at all. I actually love – I think because I was born a dad. I think by the time I was four I was basically a dad even though I didn’t have a kid. Worrying about people falling off their–
John: Yeah, so she’s never met you, but you’re sort of like that dad who has been in prison and you get the phone call.
Craig: I am. I’m her prison dad. Exactly. Yes, every now and then I call her on her birthday and, yeah, that’s about it. So, Lucy, thank you for listening. And I’m glad that I’m your second dad. And you can be my second daughter, because I already have the one. And I love that you and your compatriots are listening to our show and keep on listening. I’ve mentioned on the show many times if you listen, and you do, you know. I forget all the time that anyone listens to this. So, it’s always nice to hear that people are listening. So thank you Lucy to you and all of your friends up there. And thank you to Ashley as well for letting me know.
John: Hooray. And that’s our show for this week. Scriptnotes is produced by Megana Rao. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli.
John: Our outro this week is delightful and it’s by Eric Pearson. If you have an outro you can send us a link to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s also the place where you can send longer questions. For short questions on Twitter Craig is sometimes there @clmazin, but I’m always there @johnaugust.
Craig: I’m in and out like a Jinn. Like a Jinn.
John: Appears and disappears. 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. You can find them at Cotton Bureau. They’re also really comfortable.
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 autumn stuff. So, join us for that. Craig, thank you for a fun episode.
Craig: Thank you, John.
John: Hello and welcome our Scriptnotes premium members. You are here because we want to talk about fall. We want to talk about autumn. We want to talk about the autumn season and sort of the commodification, the commercialization, the celebration of fall that has become I think just a much bigger thing over the last five or ten years. Craig, you feel this, too, right?
Craig: Without question. It was just a season and now look at what happened?
John: And so we’re going to bring on our producer, Megana Rao, for this part because apparently she loves fall. Is that true? Is that accurate?
Craig: Of course she does.
Megana: Yes, I am a Fall Head.
Craig: A Fall Head. Now they have names.
John: So I remember autumn being like OK you’re back to school. And then eventually there’s Halloween, and Halloween happens like the 30th and the 31st. That’s Halloween. And now Halloween starts like September 1. The spooky season. I hear people describing spooky season like it’s the Super Bowl and we’re not allowed to say the word Super Bowl, so we just say the Big Game.
Craig: That’s crazy. Spooky season?
John: Spooky season. I’ve heard it so much. Spooky season and parasocial have become the new words added to my vocabulary.
Craig: Parasocial. That was the one I just heard today. Megana, what is parasocial? Because I was saying it a lot but I realize now I have no idea what I’m saying.
Megana: You guys both defined it two episodes. It’s when you have a relationship with someone who is like a public figure but they don’t know who you are.
Craig: I see. That’s parasocial – so Lucy Guest has a parasocial relationship with me.
John: Yes, she does.
Megana: You’re her parasocial dad.
Craig: I’m her parasocial dad. Aw, OK.
Megana: But we can talk about autumn because I love spooky season. I would argue it starts mid-August.
John: All right.
Craig: You realize you’re a victim of a CVS marketing plan, right? Like somebody back there was like we’ve got to call it spooky season to sell more of these pumpkin buckets.
John: Megana, I want to hear about what you like about it and what is it about the change into this autumn season that is good for you. What do you dig?
Megana: I love Halloween so much. It is my favorite holiday. It’s my favorite time of year. And so the lead up to Halloween is very exciting for me. I already have some decorations on my desk in John’s office. Yes, I’m trying to hold myself back as much as I can because John’s husband, Mike, is not a Halloween fan. But I have just cobwebs and cauldrons and pumpkins.
Craig: Do it.
Megana: Waiting at my apartment, and just like overflowing because I can’t decorate my desk yet.
John: So there’s two somewhat conflicting things that happen in fall though. Because there’s Halloween and spooky season, but there’s also pumpkin spice latte season. There’s a pumpkin bridge – a pumpkin spice latte really kind of goes through to Christmas.
John: That’s really part of the holiday season. So there’s conflicting things here.
Craig: By the way, it’s not pumpkin spice, it’s spice that’s put into a pumpkin pie. Pumpkin has no spice. Pumpkin is the least spicy thing in the world. It’s a mush. It’s a squash. It is a flavorless squash. What we’re really saying is cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg. And that’s–
John: Honestly, it’s eggnog season but eggnog is considered gross. You probably don’t like eggnog, do you?
Craig: Christmas is eggnog season.
John: That’s true.
Craig: And I have a weird relationship with eggnog.
John: Well, I think it falls into your mayonnaise category doesn’t it really? Because it is eggs and cream.
Craig: Yeah. No, but it’s not an emulsion. It’s not eggs and oil. And also I think the eggnog that you get in a store, there’s no egg in it. I think they’ve gotten rid of the egg.
John: There is egg. True eggnog has egg in it.
Craig: Yeah, true eggnog. I’m talking about the stuff at Ralph’s.
John: The stuff you get in the carton actually has eggs in it.
Craig: It does?
John: Pasteurized, yeah.
Craig: Oh, OK. Well it’s not whipped into a freaking goo and it’s sweet. And it’s got a nutmeg kind of similar – it’s good for three sips and then I want to barf. But you know what? We’ll talk about that in winter. This is autumn.
Megana: Right. Let’s get back to fall.
Craig: Let’s get back to fall and the Fall Heads.
Megana: So I have my birthday in the fall. I’m a little Scorpio baby. And I also want to talk about Thanksgiving. And the night before–
Craig: Sorry, got to roll back to Scorpio baby. Because you said that like it meant something.
Megana: It obviously does.
Craig: OK, so this is the whole millennial zodiac crap, right? Like that’s what’s happening here? Is that happening?
Megana: I mean, I can’t help it. I live in LA. I got my hair cut recently and the woman was like when were you born. And I was like what? And she was like you’re just very open to getting your hair cut so I need to know what sign you are. And I was like oh I’m a Scorpio.
Craig: You’re open to getting your hair cut? You went to a hair – the big sign is you’re there. Like I feel like if you walk into a place that cuts hair that’s a huge green light for cutting your hair.
Megana: She was like you’re really fearless with your hair. And I was like I am. And that is a classic Scorpio trait.
Craig: Classic Scorpio. Because scorpions have beautiful hair. Oh my god. Oh my god.
John: But let’s get back to fall. Let’s get back to autumn. And is it a change of wardrobe for you? What else is happening here? Because a thing I do appreciate about this time of year is that it gets dark much earlier and I kind of don’t like that, but I like sometimes being home and it being really dark out. Being dark for dinner is kind of exciting. What are the changes you like about fall?
Megana: Oh, I like the food. I love a stew. It’s not funny. Who doesn’t love a nice hearty stew? Like a lamb stew?
Craig: [laughs] That’s so great. I was just thinking about Jennifer Coolidge in Best in Show. “We both like soup.”
John: Now I want to back you up on the stew quality, because I do remember it was around September/October that the Crockpot would come out and my mom would make a big–
Megana: Ooh, chili.
John: Yeah, that too.
John: So these are foods that you would not eat in the summer because they’re just too damn hot to eat a stew or chili.
Megana: In LA? No way. No way. Yeah, you’ve got to wait until the fall.
Craig: Do you like to sit on a couch and put a blanket around yourself and have a warm mug of something that you put both of your hands on while you sip it carefully?
Megana: Mm-hmm. And I pull my sweater sleeves closer around my–
Craig: There we go. Yup. I want to do another podcast. Here’s my idea for a podcast.
John: Pitch it.
Craig: Megana and I just talk about stuff and we just generation X/millennial. It’s just X-v-Millennial. And we just do it. We just go through it.
Megana: Are you telling me you don’t like sitting on a nice cozy couch with your family around and a hot, warm cup of hot chocolate or tea or coffee, just feeling all snug in your sweater? Millennials just have it figured out and we’re not afraid to admit that we understand what the nicer parts of life are.
Craig: Counterpoint. It sounds hot and itchy. And because I’m generation X my children are almost adults and so they don’t want to be in a room with me. And thirdly I think you’ve just been suckered by advertising. I think–
John: I come back to that, too. I really wonder, what you’re doing is sort of manifest Meg Ryan.
John: It’s a Meg Ryan thing you’re trying to do. Or it’s a Nancy Meyers sort of life that you’re trying to create. And I guess it’s fine, but you didn’t invent it.
Craig: No, they’re trying to become the stock photo Starbucks ad.
Megana: I totally understand where you guys are coming from with that criticism, but let me ask you a question. Have you ever worn a cable knit sweater?
John: Like Chris Evans in Knives Out sweater?
Megana: Exactly. Like a fisherman’s sweater. And cozied up on the couch.
Craig: I wish Bo were here.
Megana: To watch a scary movie on TV.
Craig: I wish Bo were here so she could look at you with horror at the suggestion that I would be wearing any kind of itchy cable knit, wool, hair shirt. Just heating me up.
Megana: But Bo and I have recreated this Nancy Meyers image several times and it has been lovely and enjoyable every single time.
Craig: Absolutely. This is why I think Megana and I need to have a show together.
John: I definitely don’t want to yuck your yum on that. And I do get that cozy sort of like – there’s also a Scandinavian quality to – what’s it called, hygge, where you snuggle up and it’s cozy and it’s warm?
Craig: Ugh. Geez.
John: I get that.
Megana: I also just like being scared. I get scared very easily. And I kind of enjoy it.
John: So Craig a thing you don’t know about Megana is she’s not lying – she’s the most easily startled person I’ve ever met. And so I’ll walk in, I went into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee, and I’ll walk back in the door and she’ll be like, “Ah!” She’ll jump.
Megana: I literally jump out of my seat and sometimes I see him when he comes out of the house and I still jump. I can’t help it.
Craig: Well, OK, to be fair in Megana’s defense she might not be particularly easily spooked, it’s just that John you do look like a ghost. [laughs] You do. You have a ghost look about you.
Megana: No, I mean I do it when anyone comes in. Like Mike startles me. Nima. Everybody.
Craig: All three people you just mentioned look vaguely ghostlike to me. They could be ghosts. They could be spirits. You know, I feel like here’s the problem. If a Jew just sort of ambles in you won’t get scared. If I just sort of shuffle on in you’ll be like, oh, there he is. You won’t be scared.
John: Here’s the dichotomy that I think is so fascinating, is that you both want to be snuggly/cozy, and be terrified in the season. And I think that’s a real interesting tension between the two of those. I think that’s worth talking about with a therapist.
John: Or Craig. Because you guys are going to have your spinoff podcast.
Craig: You can’t pathologize my podcast partner.
John: No, so I think your future podcast will be great and I really look forward to you guys scheduling it somehow and finding a time for Craig to be able to record this.
Craig: What’s going to be weird is when we’re doing it three times a week and then I’m like, oh, sorry, can’t make Scriptnotes this week. I’m shooting, but I did definitely – we did our third episode this week on which version of teal is the most millennial.
John: Thank you both very much and I’ll talk to you next week.
Craig: See you next week guys.
Megana: OK, bye guys.
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