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John August: Hey, this is John. So today’s episode has no strong language, so you should listen to this episode with your kids. Get them in the car. Listen to this episode.
Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 432 of Scriptnotes. It’s a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the podcast we’ll be discussing what screenwriters can learn from watching movies and some techniques for making the most of the movies they watch. We’ll also have more advice from listeners about moving to LA and lots of answers for listeners who have written in with questions. And for Scriptnotes Premium members we’ll have a bonus segment on the Mandalorian and what we thought.
Craig Mazin, Happy New Year.
Craig: Happy New Year, John. We’ve done it again. The calendar has flipped around.
John: It has.
Craig: We’re still here. And by “we” I mean all of us on the planet. Not necessarily a guarantee at the moment. But somehow, so far, we’re still here.
John: We’re down one Iranian general. We’ll see how this all shakes out.
Craig: Yep. But you know what? That’s for other people’s podcasts.
John: Not our podcast.
Craig: No. And in fact I think probably people listen to our podcast to get away from some of that stuff.
Craig: Let’s let them.
John: Craig, what are your goals, resolutions, plans for 2020?
Craig: I’m not a huge resolution guy, mostly because it’s just really a list of things that I hate about myself. That’s kind of the way I look at them. And then really the ultimate resolution is you’re fine. You don’t need resolutions. That said, in the spirit of trying to improve without denying that I’m a good person what I want to work on this year is handling frustration, because I think frustration is something that I feel all the time. Well, I guess frustration usually comes about when you think, right, I know what’s correct and everybody that has authority over me disagrees.
Craig: That’s frustrating. Whether it’s someone giving your notes, or it’s our government, or it’s our union. It doesn’t matter. If somebody is telling you this is the way it’s going to be and you think, no, that’s wrong, it’s frustrating. Which is fine, but I’m going to try and breathe through that a little bit more, because ultimately the frustration doesn’t actually improve anything.
Craig: It just makes me frustrated.
John: Yeah. That’s a good overall goal. So no matter what 2020 brings for you that will be a useful thing for you to always be keeping in mind.
John: It’s sort of a mindfulness kind of thing. It’s being present in the moment to recognize this is what’s going on, this is why I’m feeling this way. I can choose to act on it or not choose to act on it.
Craig: Correct. The frustrating things will continue to occur, no question. And I will feel frustration, but if I’m aware of it then I think I can put it in its proper context. It’s when you’re not aware of these things you don’t even realize what’s happening. You think it’s you and it’s not really you.
John: Yeah. I get that. Like you, I don’t really believe in resolutions, but I try to have areas of interest or things I’m going to try to do more of in a new year. And so long time listeners will remember that years ago I wanted to learn more about Austrian white wines, or archery. And so my thing for 2020 is drawing, because I consider myself actually really bad at drawing.
Craig: I would love to have a contest with you. You’ll feel so much better about yourself.
John: Indeed. So we’ll have a still life drawing competition. And drawing is one of those things I find very difficult to do, but it’s also one of those things I know just with practice you can get much better. So I’m working through it and doing a little drawing every day.
Craig: I’m so bad at it. I’m terrible at drawing. Always have been. I can’t even figure out how to take some image in my mind and even begin to recreate it. When you were a kid did you watch this – there was a show on PBS I think, whatever your local channel was, and there was a guy who would tell a story from a kid’s book and then start painting it?
John: Absolutely. It was amazing. I also remember he could do things with perspective that were just crazy.
John: Connecting lines.
Craig: That guy was incredible. And when he would start to draw the picture the thing that would blow my mind is that I had no idea what he was doing. I’m like, OK, there’s lines there. There’s a circle there. There’s stuff there. And then suddenly–
John: It all comes together.
Craig: Poof. There’s an awesome picture. And I kind of hated him because I knew I could never do that ever.
John: But I also recognize that there’s people who feel that same way about writing. They can’t get the words to work right.
Craig: Thank god.
John: So, we were lucky to have that gift.
Craig: That gives us a job.
John: Yeah. It’s nice. Also I looked back at 2019 and I could not have predicted most of the things that I would be doing in 2019. So there’s a certain hubris to be looking forward to 2020 saying like, oh, these are the things I’m going to be doing this year. I’m going to be writing a bunch. But what will actually happen with it I’m not quite sure.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, future tripping. What’s the point? It does nothing but upset you.
John: All right. Some follow up. Last episode we introduced Scriptnotes Premium. That is the Premium feed for which you pay $5 a month and you get access to all the back catalog. You get bonus segments like the one we’re going to do on this show. You get bonus episodes. We did our Die Hard episode. I also put in the feed a 1917 Q&A I did with the writers of 1917.
John: So we’re doing that. Thank you to everyone who has subscribed to the new service. Some questions we’ve been getting in that Megana has been answering is people ask, hey, I’m already a premium subscriber. Do I need to do anything? And the answer is yes. You actually have to go to Scriptnotes.net and sign up for the new thing, because the old thing will be going away.
Craig: It changed. I mean, sometimes there’s change. It happens. And you know what? People will adjust. There’s an adjustment period.
John: Is it a little frustrating, Craig?
Craig: Not for me. Because I don’t listen to podcasts.
John: No, 2020 Craig is not frustrated.
John: He is frustrated, but he doesn’t ruminate on his frustration.
Craig: Correct. There’s a moment of frustration and then I say, hey there, Craig, cut that out. [laughs]
John: So if you would like to listen to all of the back episodes and the bonus stuff go to Scriptnotes.net. Sign up. Even if you signed up to the previous one you need to sign up for this new one. Once you’ve signed up you can cancel the old thing. You’ll get an email explaining how you cancel the old thing. Part of the reason we’re leaving that old service, it was really confusing. And so there’s actual screenshots that walk you through how to cancel the old one.
Craig: Amazing. I worked really hard on this.
John: [laughs] Yeah. So the old service will be going away in February sometime, but we wanted to keep it enough long enough so people who paid for it–
Craig: Guaranteed you’re going to get an onrush of emails saying what happened? It’s inevitable.
John: It will.
Craig: People are disappointing. Even our fans.
John: So Craig, one thing I’ve done in 2019 which was helpful and I’m definitely carrying it with me into the new year is when I watch a movie I try to take some notes afterwards about what worked in that movie for me. And so this first segment I want to talk through this idea of what we can learn from movies.
So I think so often we’re talking about screenplays or like reading scripts and all that stuff but really what all of us do is we watch movies and we take things from movies. And I want to have a discussion about how to be a little bit more systematic and really thoughtful about what we’re taking from movies as we finish watching a film.
Craig: Mindful viewing of movies. That’s a good idea. Everybody that does what we do uses other movies as examples or inspiration. Sometimes we use them as negative examples.
John: Of course.
Craig: But the movies that we love we tend to really think about carefully. It’s a little bit like what you and I do when we walk through one of these movies.
John: Exactly. And so we did our walkthrough of Die Hard and that was really trying to look systematically at what the movie was doing and how the movie was working. That’s a thing that people can do by themselves with every movie that they watch. And really if you’re aspiring to be a screenwriter, or you are a screenwriter, it’s not a bad practice to get into with everything. So if you watch a pilot of a TV show or you watch a movie, just take a few minutes and really look at how that movie worked. Because when you don’t do that it tends to be only the most recent thing you’ve watched is the only example you have in your head. And if you do it more systematically it will work for everything.
John: So my questions I want to ask myself when I finish a movie is what’s working in it, what’s not working for you in it? If it’s not working why is it not working? Really troubleshoot for yourself what didn’t click for you and why didn’t it click. And what could you have done differently in that movie to make it click?
Really you’re trying to focus on the how questions. How is the movie working and how could the movie be working better if you were to have access to the engine underneath it?
Craig: Yeah. There’s this saying that people put out there about social media. Don’t compare your inside to other people’s outside. And sometimes if we watch movies, particularly ones that we love, and we don’t think about them in a gear-watch-works way then we may suffer from that. We may think, OK, I’m currently sitting here with a pile of tiny little gears and cogs and springs and it’s not a watch. And I just saw the most beautiful watch. I suck.
If you start to really look at it from the point of view of a craftsperson then you can see that they had the same problems and limitations you did. And it’s really helpful I think to start to strip away stuff that isn’t purely writing. Start to strip away the lighting. Start to strip away the music. Start to strip away the performances. And just think about the movements of things that were commanded by text, because that’s what you’re doing.
John: Absolutely. So let’s start at the fundamental. Let’s start at the hero. Let’s take a look at who the hero is in this story and what the function of that hero is. So, as the viewer do you understand who that hero is? What they want? Both on a macro scale, the overall arc of their journey through the story, but on a micro level. On a scene-by-scene, moment-by-moment do you understand what that hero wants? And if you do how is that being communicated? What information are they giving you to let you know what that hero wants?
And that is purely craft. That is the screenwriter’s job is to make it clear what that central character is trying to go after.
Craig: And it’s perfectly reasonable to study how people do that elegantly. So Damon Lindelof and his team did Watchmen which I loved and a lot of people do. And one of the things that I thought was so good about it was what I call non-expository exposition. They were so clever – and that is craft – about making the information release interesting and meaningful beyond just you need to know this. They managed to weave it into other things. Really good lessons learned from that. And I think that when we watch movies it’s fair to look at those really hardcore craft things and say, oh, you know what I’m not going to steal the way, like their movie there, but I’m going to steal their ambition. Like they clearly aspire to do better than the usual. I should, too.
John: Absolutely. Watchmen is a great example for my next question which is how does the hero fit the story. So thinking about what story do you want to tell and which hero is the appropriate hero for telling that story. The fit between hero and world in Watchmen could not have been better. So you had a character whose grandfather was part of this sort of long story, this long struggle, to get us up to this present moment. So she was uniquely qualified to be the central character in the story.
Craig: And you can sometimes struggle when you watch a movie because you’re looking at the wrong person. This is another thing that movies do all the time, we just don’t notice it until we really watch meaningfully. And that is they have us following somebody that isn’t the hero. We think they’re the hero. They’re not the hero.
Sometimes the hero is this side character or somebody we think of as a side character because they’re not occupying this huge space in the story. But the story is really about this smaller – I mean, the most famous example that people kick around is who is Ferris Bueller about? Who is the hero of Ferries Bueller? And it’s Cameron. It’s the friend. Because he’s the only one that has a choice to make. He is the only one who has a problem, who is running away from his problem, who has to confront his problem, and overcome his problem. But he’s not Ferris Bueller. He’s not in the title. Nor is he the guy we watch in the beginning, or the end. It seems like Ferris Bueller is the hero but he’s not. So meaningful watching helps you get there.
John: Absolutely. And finding those situations where the central character of Ferris Bueller is not the protagonist. It’s not the one that actually undergoes the transformation, the journey. So really being deliberate to look at sort of who is playing what role in the story. And once you do that figure out how are they introduced. How are you as a viewer first introduced to these characters? And how quickly do you understand who they are and why you should be interested in them. Those initial scenes of meeting those characters we all know as writers are so crucial. Well, how did this film do it? And ask yourself what are the other choices they could have made and why was this the right choice or the wrong choice?
Craig: Introductions are something that I think writers probably glide past all the time and should not. Maybe it’s because they think their “directing on the page.” As you know I’m a huge fan of directing on the page. I think that’s our job. And I think of movies that are delightful and how often their delight is conveyed to us through an introduction of a character. Like so when we first meet Jack Sparrow in the very first Pirates of the Caribbean movie he’s on this ship, he is a proud pirate, he seems like just one of those plot armored heroes where no wrong can. And then you reveal that his boat is sinking and he literally steps off the top of it onto a deck as it disappears below the waves. That says so much not just about him but about this world, the tone. It’s delightful.
Craig: In the second movie I believe he shoots his way out of a coffin. It’s another just – it’s surprising. So, another excellent thing to keep an eye on for all movies. And sometimes they’re not flashy like that. The introduction of the family in Parasite–
Craig: Spectacular. Just the way that they’re living in a basement sort of, and how their day is consumed by trying to steal wifi. Brilliant.
John: It’s really talk about all these aspects, like who are the right characters for the story, how are we meeting these characters, and do we understand what they want? And Parasite is a great example of how you’re seeing all three of those things in one initial sequence that’s really telling you this is their situation. These are the people you’re going to be watching through the course of the story.
Craig: Yeah. If you’re watching a movie and you feel good at the end of a scene, stop. I don’t mean to say that you should do this the first time you see it. But when it’s time to watch it meaningfully and thoughtfully if the scene works for you stop and then roll back and then watch it again. And just think about the layers and why.
This is so much more important than why – I feel like our culture is just obsessed with people explaining why they hate things. They’re rewarded for it, I guess. It teaches you very little. It really does. I’ll tell you, more than anything when I watch something I don’t like I get scared. I get scared because I think would I have done the exact same thing in that situation? How would I have done it differently? I’m starting to get scared. Better to look at things you love.
John: Looking at any of these characters, a useful metric for me is could I describe this character independently of the actor? Do I have enough information about that character at the start and as the story progresses that I could talk about that character independently of the actor who is playing him? So I think Jack Sparrow is actually a great example. Because we think of him as Johnny Depp, but that character is very, very specific independently of the performance of Johnny Depp.
Same with all the family members in Parasite whose names I don’t know. And so they are such strongly drawn characters that I don’t have to fall back on a description of who the actor was playing them to be able to describe them as what they’re trying to do in the story.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, Disney, the folks who are running Disney very famously they knew they had hired Johnny Depp and when they saw what he was doing and what he looked like and how he sounded and walked they freaked out, because that was not some sort of inevitable thing that travels out of Johnny Depp. That was something specific and different. And it is a character that could be played by another person. It could be.
Would it have been played the same way? No.
Craig: I think he was perfect. I really do. But in some alternate universe someone else is playing it and people also love the movie.
John: Agreed. So we talked about the hero, let’s talk about the antagonist. How does the antagonist arrive in the story? How do they challenge the hero? And in movies that work well the antagonist is so specific to the story and so specific to the hero that it’s hard to imagine them existing outside of that universe. So we talk about this in Die Hard. We talk about it in almost any of the movies we love, they have a villain or a chief character who is challenging the hero who is so specific to that story. So always look for how is that antagonist introduced and how specifically drawn are they to challenge your hero in the story.
Craig: And if it works for you, accept that. You know, you could fall into a trap of trying to fit things into categories and saying, well, sometimes I’ll see people say, “You know, I really liked this movie but it doesn’t follow the rule of blankety-blank.” Correct. It does not. Because that is not a rule. The rule that you just cited isn’t a rule. There are movies where the villain, the antagonist, is the weather. There are movies where it’s a dog. There’s movies where it’s a ghost. There’s movies where it’s fate. There’s movies where it’s the person you love the most.
It’s defined in so many different ways, so start with the fact that it worked. And then say, OK, I’ve just learned a new way of conceiving of what an antagonist is. The word villain, also, a bit of a trap.
John: Agreed. So then we have our characters. Let’s talk about the storytelling of the movie. So, how quickly and how well does it establish who is important and what they’re going after? How does the movie move between storylines? And this I think is the most crucial kind of craft question. Obviously there’s multiple things that are going to be happening. How does the movie decide how to switch back and forth between? Does it limit POV to only things that the hero knows? Or does the audience have omniscient POV? How is it working in terms of telling you its story? And how quickly – going back to the Pirates example – does it set up what its tone and genre are really going to be?
And these are fundamental things. And if the movie is not working you’re going to notice it here.
Craig: Correct. And that’s why it’s so important to carefully watch a movie that is working for you. Because when it is working it is designed for you to not notice any seams whatsoever. You won’t notice cuts. You won’t notice that one scene has changed to another. You won’t notice transitions. It will all seem inevitable and purposeful and of a single whole.
So take the time to now go, OK, but it’s not. So let’s be amateur magicians that are invited to the magic castle and we’re asking the really good sleight of hand guy, OK, slow it down for me. Let me see it bit by bit, move by move. That’s how you’re going to learn.
John: Absolutely. The last bit of technique which I think is so crucial to be monitoring is how does the movie surprise you? Because by this point you’ve watched thousands of movies. You are a sophisticated movie viewer. The movies that succeed are the ones that still manage to surprise you. That you feel like you’re caught up with them and they still have some more tricks up their sleeve. So how do they do that? How did they deceive you in a way that got you to that moment of surprise?
And those are the moments to really go back and really figure out what was the set up that got you to that misunderstanding.
Craig: Setups, payoffs, misdirections, but also just as important clues, hints. We will not feel as satisfied if there were no hints. I was watching, so Knives Out, written and directed by our friend Rian Johnson, which has done extraordinarily well and for good reason. I watched it again and there’s a moment that happens during the reading of the will when the lawyer announces that the old man has left all of his stuff, all of it, to Marta, his nurse. There’s one little thing that happens with one character that is a clue. But you sure don’t know it at the time because it’s a clever clue. It’s a smart clue. And I thought, OK, there’s intelligence at work and there’s also an understanding of how fair play actually improves the misdirection and the surprise.
It is, again, a very calculated, careful crafted bit. And at its best moviemaking is about marrying this really hardcore calculating craft with a kind of inspired wild creative abandon.
Craig: And that’s what good things like Knives Out do.
John: Absolutely. And I think a crucial thing about Knives Out is to remember like, so Rian Johnson is both the writer and the director. That scene is incredibly well directed, but that moment that you’re describing is a written moment.
John: It was very clearly an idea that occurred in the writing stage of this. And so I think it’s also great to have a separate discussion about what works on a directing level, on a cinematography level, on casting, costuming. Think about all those things but as a separate conversation. Really just focus on what is it about the storytelling, about the writing that is working for you so well in this part of the process.
Craig: Whodunits are amazing for this. If you want to really study the craft of surprise and misdirection just watch whodunits. Because that’s all they’re about. I mean, they are about some other things occasionally. I mean, Knives Out has a certain commentary about class and what it means to be an immigrant in the United States and inherited wealth versus earned wealth. All of that stuff is there. But mostly it’s about the machinery of who did it. And that’s what’s so satisfying about it.
John: Well it’s also a meta examination of sort of the whodunit as a genre, because it ultimately is not so much a whodunit.
Craig: Correct. It’s sort of like we know who did it, but whodunit. And I love those movies because they really do instruct you. Comedies, also, I will say comedies are oftentimes–
John: Well, there’s setup, payoff.
Craig: It’s machinery.
John: Yeah, it’s machinery behind.
Craig: Study the machinery.
John: So we’ve watched the movie and now we’re trying to focus on it. Obviously if you have someone there to go have a drink with afterwards you can talk through all that stuff, which is great. But if you’re watching the movie by yourself what I found to be really helpful and I’ve started doing it much more for the last couple months is just one page of notes, bullet points of like these were the things I learned from this movie. And if it’s a movie that I loved, great. These are some things I loved and some things that this filmmaker was able to do in the writing that really worked for me and things I wanted to remember from this.
If it’s a movie I didn’t love, I find that also to be really helpful. This thing they tried to do just did not work, or I was confused by these moments. This isn’t a review. This is like what is it that you can take from this thing you just watched and apply to your own work. And what you said before about when you watch a movie that’s not working you get that moment of fear. Would I have made the same mistakes? And as I look at the movies that didn’t work, yeah, I definitely see some things where I probably would have tried that in that situation, too. So it’s helpful. It’s a chance to sort of have the experience of having made that movie that didn’t work and learn from it without having spent years of your life making a movie that didn’t work.
Craig: How nice is that, right? I mean, it’s hard enough doing these things. So if there’s anything we can do to save ourselves from a trap. By the way, we probably can’t. I mean, if we’re going to fall into a trap we’re going to fall into a trap. But studying other people’s good stuff but help I think but make us better. And if you do see, well, I guess here is how I would put it with the negative things. I do think of these things as relationships. We have a relationship with something. A movie. This is why very, very smart, cultured, tasteful people can have violent disagreements about the same movie. Because it’s not about the movie being good or bad, or you being a good or bad viewer. It’s about this unique relationship that forms between you and it, which is the sum of all of what it is and all of what you are.
So, when we watch these things and we find ourselves in a good or bad relationship, what’s worthy there is it will help us craft something that we have a good relationship with as we write. Because I’ve written things before where I just thought I’m fighting with this thing. I mean, this thing doesn’t want to exist, or it shouldn’t exist, but I’m being paid to make it exist and I am fighting with it. I am at war. And it’s not a good feeling. Figuring out how to have a good relationship with what you’re writing is something that you might be able to be helped to do by thinking about the good relationships you’ve had with other things.
John: Absolutely. One unique thing about the time people are living in now versus when we were starting out is that pretty much any movie you’ve really enjoyed you can read the screenplay of. And so if you have questions about how it worked on the page you can go back and look at those scripts. This is the part where you and I come clean and say we don’t read the scripts. We’re not reading those For Your Consideration scripts.
John: But they’re available there for people to read. And it was very important for me when I was starting to write to read a bunch of those scripts. And so definitely go out and read those scripts if you are new to the craft and learning how it all works.
Craig and I tend to watch movies and we can sort of see the script coming through there. So, obviously we don’t know what the drama was and what changed on the set, but we get a pretty sense of what the storytelling was on the page that led to that movie. But if you’re new to this that’s a great place to start. And so I would recommend watch the movie, read the script, and see how it compares. Or if there’s something that you’ve not seen, reverse it sometimes and read the script, see the movie in your head, and then watch the final movie to see sort of how the filmmakers did the job of converting that screenplay into a movie.
Craig: I mean, really what you’re advising people to do is their homework.
Craig: Do you homework, people.
Craig: This is a job. They don’t just pay you for nothing.
John: And I guess–
Craig: You got to know stuff.
John: In my taking notes on movies that I’m watching now I’m just sort of trying to do my homework a little bit more. I feel like I’ve been letting it slide for a few years and just like watching the movie just as a fan. That’s why I like to watch a movie just to enjoy it, but then afterwards take those notes. I’m not taking notes during it.
Craig: Well that’s a really good way to keep yourself relevant also. I think as people get older sometimes we think of them as losing a step or losing some zip on their fastballs, as we say, but sometimes I think all that’s happening is they’ve just disconnected from the churn of culture and what is relevant and what’s happening around us that is new and different. Because people are constantly kicking over the old stuff.
Like for instance what Rian did with Knives Out. It sort of kicks over the old stuff a bit. And if you’re not paying attention to that you will just make more old stuff. Sometimes I read things, I’m sure you have too, where a studio will say we really like this idea. It’s not quite working. Can you fix it? And you read it and you think, well, I get it. This is a good idea. It feels like it was written 30 years ago.
Craig: It just seems like whoever wrote this stopped at some point and you can’t.
John: Move forward.
Craig: Move forward.
John: On the topic of moving we have some new responses about moving to Los Angeles.
Craig: Segue Man.
John: This is a follow up from Episode 428. Listener Mark was considering moving from NYC to Los Angeles and wanted advice. Craig and I moved so long ago that we did not have relevant advice, but we figured our listeners did. We had three people write in this last week with some good advice. Craig, do you want to start us off with what Eric wrote?
Craig: Sure. Eric writes, “I made the same move seven years ago after living in NYC for 10 years. It was not easy. Here are a few ideas about what made the transition easier in terms of writing and just being. First, get into a writing group. Can’t stress this enough. If you can’t find one, I will either join you or find one for you.” What a nice guy.
“My writing group was responsible for two managers and an agent for me. And it forces you to read scripts, watch movies, write pages.”
John: Let’s pause here. Writing groups are not a thing that I grew up with. They weren’t part of this. But Megan McDonnell and Megana Rao, our Scriptnotes producers, both have sworn by their writing groups because it keeps them accountable. It is people you’re seeing on a regular basis and you’re doing the work and you’re showing up and you’re giving honest feedback and criticism. So, yes on writing groups.
Craig: Writing groups are a good way to socialize yourself as a writer. When you get a new puppy you’re supposed to put it in a room with other puppies so it doesn’t not know other things. I think a lot of writers grow up alone in rooms like little mushrooms. And then they turn a script in and someone says something and they just collapse. Because they haven’t gone through the socialization process. So I agree. I mean, look, unless you really are somebody that is fully functional and self-aware on your own, or you have a writing partner that you really trust and love, this does seem like a good idea.
Eric then adds, “Get a job with value.” Oh, buddy, I love that advice. “Value can be defined many ways. Money. Flexibility. Proximity to industry. Exposure to writing or writers. I freelance edit commercials. And it exposed me to lots of places in the city and lots of creative people who make ads.”
Craig: Good. You know me. Take plan B, make a plan A. “Community. Writing and editing can be extremely lonely. It’s important to have people. Peruse LA Mag for fun events. The Comedy Bureau website was useful for me. LA has amazing free comedy shows every day of the week.”
Well, I would just stay home alone and play videogames, but.
John: Yeah. But he’s saying maybe you should get out.
Craig: Maybe? Maybe I need Eric’s advice. Oh, and just on time Eric suggests, “Mental health, healthcare. SCCC is a great resource.” And we’ll put a link to that in the show notes. Sliding scale therapy. Also Obamacare is wonderful in LA. Sort this out as soon as possible before it gets completely gutted in the case of disaster next November. You’ll be happy you did.” I think that’s probably good advice.
“California Driver’s license. Trust me. Get one.”
John: Yeah, you’re supposed to do it like right away when you move to Los Angeles. No one kind of does, but you should. The same thing about your plates. You’re supposed to change your plates right away, too.
Craig: I think they give you a six-month grace period or something. The reason that I took a little bit of time was because it costs more. So when I came out here with my Jersey license and Jersey plates I was like, oh, that’s interesting. Registration in California, quite a bit more.
Craig: So, you know, but I got there. “Apartment. There are some neighborhoods that are better for writers, newly arrived creative types. Lots written about this. If you cannot figure this out, email me. I will walk you through it. This is important. I don’t want to hear you landed in Reseda or Alhambra. No offense to those places.”
John: That is correct. So, there are places that are way on the outskirts of Los Angeles where you might as well not be in Los Angeles. You’re going to be driving for forever and you’re not really here.
Craig: Yeah. Just stay home at that point. “Coffee shops. There are articles about the best coffee shops to write at. Find them. Read them. Also libraries. Do not write at home. Remember, people need people.”
John: I write at home.
Craig: I mean, I don’t need people. People who don’t need people. Are the luckiest people.
“Patience and humility. LA is a great, inspiring, fascinating, beautiful city. Go on all the hikes and to all the beaches, Mark. Simultaneously, it can make you feel like a complete isolated failure and wreck of a human being and a total hack imposter. Listen to that song It Never Rains in Southern California if you don’t believe me. With lots of luck and labor your fortunes may change. Or maybe they won’t. But all you can do is write. Be patient. Be humble. Be compassionate to your fellow writers and to yourself. Best of luck to you, Mark.”
Eric seems like a very nice guy.
John: Eric is a very nice guy. That was very generous, very giving.
Craig: I would be so upset if he turned out to be a serial killer. I’d be so bummed out.
John: I would be, yeah.
Craig: I would be frustrated. But only briefly.
John: Yes, indeed.
Craig: And then I’d be OK.
John: Kristen writes, “I moved to Los Angeles in 2017 and coming from New York it had been five years since I had last driven. The freeways intimidated my new driver self. Someone gave me the tip to use the ‘avoid highways’ option in Google Maps and it changed everything. While it took me longer to get places I was able to slowly get comfortable with driving and as a bonus I was able to learn the neighborhoods and landmarks in the city that I never would have seen if I’d only stuck to the highways.
“Now over two years in I’m happy to report I am back driving as a highway pro.”
Craig: Well that’s good. I mean, the important thing is that it had a happy ending. Kristen is out there like all the rest of the lunatics, changing lanes too frequently and too quickly on our freeways. So that is good advice, Kristen.
Kate writes, “First, go in with a long haul mindset. While LA is a great place to further your career, it most likely won’t happen overnight. I made the naïve mistake of thinking that my networking skills and all-consuming desire to work in Hollywood would put me on the fast track to a career in writing and producing. So I was not mentally prepared for the opposite to be true. It took months and months of networking to get my foot in the door as an entry level assistant and even longer to form meaningful personal relationships. I’ve since learned that the counterparts to passion and enthusiasm are patience and consistency. All of which are needed to build a career in the entertainment industry.”
Patience and consistency is pretty much spot on.
John: That’s really pretty great.
Craig: I mean, that’s exactly right.
John: But I mean, the four points she has – passion, enthusiasm, patience, and consistency. That will do a lot.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, throw a little talent in there and–
John: Yeah, hey.
Craig: You’re pretty much good to go for decades. “Second, invest time in an activity unrelated to screenwriting. Be it hiking.” Hmm. “Salsa dancing.” Hmm. “Pottery.” Hmm. “Board games.”
Craig: Hey! “Etc. Carve out a few hours each week for something that adds texture to your life and gives your mind a break. Not only will it energize you. It’s what will keep you sane during the ups and downs that you will inevitably face over time.”
John: I agree with her here. And a point I would add is that we were just talking about movies. Before you moved to Los Angeles movies were probably your escape time and that was the fun thing you did. You’re still going to go see a bunch of movies, but that is kind of also your work. So finding something that is not your work is a really good idea. And going back to Eric’s letter, hiking in Los Angeles is actually great and is a thing that you discover pretty quickly. Oh, there’s actually really good places to hike around here. If you don’t have a dog, you sort of get exposure to dogs because there’s dogs everywhere. So getting outdoors is crucial here and that would be a good first thing to do.
Craig: Moving around. Breathing. Seeing things. All good. Having a friend or two, crucial. Yeah, for anybody. By the way, this is – it doesn’t really matter if you want to be in LA, you want to write, or you want to be a plumber in New Zealand. Get outside. Breathe a little bit. Have some people in your life. Don’t be alone.
John: So a thing that I did in 2019 which I had not anticipated doing was I got into indoor bouldering. So that’s climbing in indoor gyms. And I ended up meeting some Scriptnotes listeners there who recognized me from the podcast, or because I was wearing my Scriptnotes t-shirt always, and talking with them. And so one of them said that when he moved to Los Angeles all the friends he first met were at the climbing gym because the climbing gym is a good place to sort of hang out with other people who aren’t drinking and there’s so much down time when you’re climbing. It was a good mingling spot. And again crucially not a screenwriting-focused thing.
So, finding a place to hang out with other people is a really good idea.
Craig: Yeah. And when it’s built around an activity all the pressure of we’re here to meet each other is gone. That’s why networking, just the word alone–
John: Drives me crazy.
Craig: Just gives me spinal shivers. Because I don’t even know what it is. I literally don’t know. Are we all here to exchange ambitions? What are we doing? If we acknowledge that this is networking isn’t that defeating the purpose of the – shouldn’t we just be meeting each other?
Craig: And talking to each other and finding something interesting about each other that does not accrue to our personal benefit?
Craig: That would be nice.
John: It would be nice. Challenging to do. All right, so in addition to all this great listener advice, advice from listeners, we have questions that came in from listeners. The mailbag has been full, so let’s get to some of these questions that have been stacked in here.
Craig: Now we get to give the advice.
John: We do.
Craig: All right.
John: On Episode 428 a listener wrote in saying, “Regarding the email from Derek about being in a mini room and assigned a script. He referenced being asked to write the first draft of an episode that largely made it into what aired, but was then denied credit. Aren’t the companies producing the television shows WGA signatories? Are there fines for violating the WGA agreements that require them to pay for writing? If talking to the business producer doesn’t work it would seem helpful for the writer to be able to go to the WGA for help on this even if you’re not yet in the guild. And if there were fines for signatories for violations, say the amount of the WGA minimum for a TV episode for the infraction, there might be financial incentives to address this upfront and get an agreement on credit worked out.”
So, Craig, a bunch packed together here.
Craig: Yeah, but just the answer to all those questions is yep.
John: Yep. And complicated.
Craig: Correct. Yep in a perfect world. Yeah. You’re not allowed – if you’re a signatory you can’t ask people to do free work like that. And whether you’re in the guild or not if somebody is asking you to work for free on a guild-covered project you have the right to call the guild and say, oh, red flag. And there are penalties. And you can’t do these things. And…
John: Ultimately let’s say that this writer, so Derek went to the WGA saying like they had me do guild-covered work. This is a violation. The WGA then goes after that signatory, but goes through an arbitration process. And so these cases do happen.
Craig: Yep. They can’t just take your word for it. They have to investigate.
John: Yes. And so it’s not a simple matter of there’s a fine and it’s all figured out. It goes through a whole process. But I can tell you as someone who was on the board and I get to see all the documents, that does happen. So yes it does happen. Yes Derek should probably report it.
Craig: Well, it’s really, you know, a question for the circumstances there because there are times when a small justice will not be worth it because a large injustice will be perpetrated against you as a result. I’m not one of those people who says keep your head down and don’t snitch and all that sort of thing. But if there is a situation like this where you think, OK, there’s a great opportunity for me to kind of move onwards and upwards without fighting this all the way to City Hall then maybe that’s the kind of jujitsu way here. I mean, it happened to me on the very first thing I did where there was a credit involved. There was an unfair imposition of credit. And I chose to just let it go and keep on moving and that was the smart decision.
John: Here’s the other thing that’s complicated about this situation is that while the signatory, this company, is the one who is at fault, the actual person who was allowing this assignment to happen is a WGA member.
John: And that is the weird problem here is that taking a complaint of a non-member against a member and having to sort it all out. It is genuinely complicated.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, Disney Television has no awareness whatsoever that the showrunner of one of their shows asked one of the assistants to do a first draft of something. No clue. When they hear about that they’ll go, oh, yeah, no that’s terrible. Can’t do that. Sure. But now back on the ground where all the boots on the ground are and people get hired and fired and let go, it’s just something to think about.
But the think I guess to our listener is the world isn’t insane. Yes. There are rules. And they are broken frequently. Just like the speed limit.
Josh asks, “Is it normal for a literary manager or agent to request material from a writer and then they never follow up? I’ve experienced plenty of silence with cold queries. I don’t even have a problem with it when the material is initially requested from a cold query. However recently I’ve had reps from Verve and other places reach out to me unsolicited and request scripts. Then crickets. I’ve sent a single follow up when I didn’t hear anything and most of those have gone ignored, too.”
So, Josh is wondering what do you do in a situation like this and what does this mean, John. What do you think it means?
John: I think it means that they’re not that into you.
John: Josh, this happens all the time. So, I would say this is probably more the norm than the exception is that someone should just not follow up with you and not get back to you. That’s just going to happen a lot. And so I think you can feel better knowing that it’s not just you. It does happen a lot. They probably read it. It probably didn’t spark for them. That’s OK. But I remember being in your situation.
So, the very first thing I’d written, I had a producer friend who took it into CAA to have them read it and see if they wanted to represent me. And they just never got back to her and never got back to me. I kept waiting. This is sort of pre-email really. I kept waiting for is there going to be a voicemail saying that they read it and that they loved it and whatever. And it just never happened.
Craig: It turns out that life is very simple. And Josh is clearly a thinking person. His gears are spinning here. He’s trying to solve this problem and untie this Gordian knot. But in fact it’s not a knot at all. It’s very simple. People will ask to read something because someone said to them, “Oh, you should read this guy’s thing.” That’s why. And so they do. And then they read it and they go, OK, either we hated it, or we loved it, or this or that, but the point is we think, yeah, probably not interested in representing him at this time based on this. So, yeah. That decision is done. Now what are we having for lunch.
There is no consideration to then go, OK, somebody call him back, make him feel good. That’s it. Just presume it’s a no until it’s a yes. And presume it’s a no until somebody pays you money.
John: Yeah. And thinking about it from the agent who requested your script’s perspective. What email did they send you saying like, hey, thank you for sending the thing, we didn’t really like it.
Craig: Right. Exactly.
John: So the polite thing for them to do is just sort of like just never follow up with you again.
Craig: Yeah. The email would be, “I thought I would like this. I didn’t. You surprised me in a bad way.” [laughs] Yeah, so better to just not send anything. That’s what’s going on there.
John: Gail from New Jersey asks, “I have a question pertaining to China and freedom of speech. Depending on the job field, what an employee says about China in and out of the professional work environment can be detrimental. Do screenwriters go through vetting when writing screenplays for studios? Are there certain ideas or concepts that you think would never be able to happen because it would upset China? Do you feel like this limitation is imposing on your creativity and rights as Americans?”
This is a big topic.
Craig: That’s a big topic.
John: Probably worth its own episode at some point.
Craig: I mean, just a general summary on it. I don’t know if anyone is being vetted per se. I don’t think anyone is being vetted in that regard. But, yeah, are there certain ideas or concepts that you would never be able to do because it would upset China. Yep. No question. Go ahead and try and make some sort of movie about Tiananmen Square and see how far you get. Because Chinese financing is so deeply intertwined with Hollywood at this point. And I’m not even talking about the entire exhibition side of things where if you are allowed into the Chinese theatrical market you can make an enormous amount of money that way.
Does it impose on my creativity? No. I can create whatever I want. If I want to write a book I’ll just write a book about it. Does it impose on my rights? I don’t have a right to have my script bought by anyone. But certainly if I want to work with big studios and big producers in Hollywood, yeah. It’s unfortunately a thing.
John: So I would say to this point I’m not aware of any vetting of screenwriters where like, oh, we would hire them but they’ve had some tweets about China that could be problematic. Could that happen? Yeah. That could theoretically happen. But that’s not happening yet.
John: But I would say China is worth its own discussion about the bigger issues because it’s a tremendous amount of money. It’s a tremendous amount of political leverage. And it’s a thing you touch very carefully as a writer.
Craig: Yeah. You know, I guess I’m kind of lucky in the sense that I’m not really committed to making movies or making television shows that are specifically critical of the Chinese government. It’s just not where one of my interests are.
John: Yeah. But if Chernobyl had happened in China that would be problematic.
Craig: Oh yeah. So there were movies that used to happen. Seven Years in Tibet. And was Red Square, was that about China?
John: Yeah, I think so. That was the one with–
Craig: Richard Gere?
John: Richard Gere, yeah. But the Red Dawn remake was originally China invading and then they changed it to North Korea or some undisclosed country.
Craig: Correct. Because that’s how that goes now. And, yeah, the foreign villain du jour has changed many, many times. There was a long stretch in the ‘70s, and ‘80s, and into the ‘90s where the villain was just some sort of generic Islamic terrorist. Russians used to be villains, then stopped being villains. And are back to being villains.
John: Back to villains. The third Arlo Finch book which comes out February 5th, a large part of it takes place in China. And I did have to be mindful of sort of like I was portraying China in it. So, the Chinese government has a role in it, but they’re not the bad guys in the story. I did have to think about what am I saying about China. And if you’re reading this as a Chinese reader what would you be taking from this.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, the world now is such that governments do coordinate positions online to impact culture. So, you know, Chernobyl sort of snuck up on the Russian government a little bit, both the event and the miniseries. So I didn’t get hit with a coordinated response. But there were some things. And little tiny things where you’d go, wow, just like people saying why are you talking about Ukraine like it’s really a country or place, it’s not. It’s really just Russia and they think that they’re Ukraine but they’re not. And I’m like–
John: Oh, OK.
Craig: OK. Mute. I’ll just mute that. I don’t want to get sucked into that whole thing. Similarly I will occasionally tweet in support of what we should be doing which is recognizing that the Armenian genocide occurred. And I’ll hear from Turks. And they say the same things. It’s out there.
John: Yeah. Our last question is from Rob. Do you want to read it?
Craig: Sure. Rob asks, “My agent tells me that no one spends on feature development. So the only solution is to spec. I have concepts in light treatment form, five pagers, but it seems crazy to invest months of work taking them further without clear interest. To me if there’s enough interest for me to write it that should be enough interest to pay and develop it.” Rob.
“I get why companies want this to be a way, but surely this can’t be the only way.” Would I have even a millionth of Rob’s confidence. How wonderful life would be.
John: Life would be great. Let’s talk through some terms here. Because I’ve heard about this from other writers at probably Rob’s level here. It sounds like Rob is someone who has not been produced but is someone who is getting read a lot, which is great. Rob, awesome. You have an agent now at one of the agencies who signed a deal maybe. That’s fantastic.
So you’re going and meeting with places. You’re kind of pitching ideas and you’re writing up on your own these sort of five-page little things. That’s great. But these places aren’t buying them from you, or they’re not going to pay you in advance to write this script because they kind of don’t have to. Because unless there was competition over one of these things they’re just not going to do it. And there isn’t just wait and see what the actual script looks like.
So you can say like, hey, the smart money would be to pay me to write this so that they can control it the whole time through. That’s not how they see the smart money because they have a limited development budget and they want to spend that on things that they really think are going to get made.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, there is development money, Rob. I mean, your agent is incorrect. They spend millions on feature development. But what John is saying is absolutely true. They spend it on stuff they know they want.
Craig: So you are like a waiter coming up to somebody in a restaurant saying I know you ordered the this and the this. But would you consider the this that you’ve never heard of. I guess maybe. Could I taste it? Nope. [laughs] You just got to buy it. But trust me, because if I have enough interest to cook it you should have enough interest to pay me for it. So, they – look, they used to all the time because they had to make movies. They were starving for movies because of the way the video market worked. The more movies you made, the more money you made. So they needed people to come to them and say what if it was Die Hard in a dog house. And someone would go, great, money, go. Like a little bit the way Netflix works now.
They don’t do that anymore. Putting every movie out is a massively expensive proposition. I was reading about Cats which obviously has not done well at the box office and I think they said the production budget was $90 million. That’s a lot of money because they had to put CGI fur on people and whatever. The marketing budget was $110 million. That’s why they are so careful about what they make. That is why they try and only spend money on the stuff they think they already want.
So you’re coming in there with something new, then in all likelihood you are going to have to hand them not just a script, Rob. That’s not even enough. You’re going to have to give them a script with an actor and a director attached. Because that’s how you’re going to – I mean, I think of like the Dr. Dolittle movie that’s coming out. Stephen Gaghan wrote a script with Robert Downey, Jr. attached and Stephen Gaghan attached to direct. And that’s why there was a bidding war for that movie. Because it was sort of like we’ve done it all. Here it is. You can see it. It’s real. Yes or no?
So, when you say Rob if there’s enough interest for me to write it that should be enough interest to pay to develop it, all I can say is you’re interest has nothing to do with their interest.
John: No. When he’s describing this light treatment form, or this five-pager idea, that was never really a thing.
John: Those haven’t sold.
John: There never was a market for those.
John: So I think that may be a very good way of expressing the movie for you and in some ways Rob it’s awesome that you’re thinking through the movie at that length and in that form rather than the whole 120 pages. Of those five pagers, pick the one that you actually want to write the most, that you would actually pay money to see, and write that as a spec.
Craig: Write it.
John: And then use the agency to help you get that in the hands of people who can actually buy that.
Craig: And if no one makes it they’ll hire you to write something else because they love it. If you really have to write something you write it. You know? You just have to. You do it. It’s when you’re writing it to, I don’t know, prove something or get a job or be paid money. Like I said before, you enter a weird relationship with the thing you’re writing where you’re now kind of like john and prostitute and you don’t want to be that. You want to be – not you, John.
John: It took me a while to get there, but I figured it out, yes.
Craig: The generic purveyor and solicitor. You want to be in love with it. You want to be in love with it. And then nothing will stop you from writing it. And then hopefully people will see that.
John: Yeah. You just said john and prostitute. Where do you think the john comes from?
Craig: In that usage?
Craig: I would assume just an anonymous guy.
John: Like John Doe, yeah.
John: I was Googling this past week for Parson Brown. In the Christmas song like we can dress him up like a snowman and pretend that he is Parson Brown. Parson Brown is actually just an old British term for a John Doe.
Craig: Oh, really?
John: Yeah. So it’s not a specific person. Parson Brown is just–
Craig: So you see a body, like who is that body? Some Parson Brown.
John: Isn’t that crazy?
Craig: British people are fascinating.
John: They are.
Craig: They really are.
John: The strangest thing, those Brits.
Craig: Parson Brown.
John: Parson Brown.
Craig: There’s some filthy Parson Brown lying on the ground as I’m at my cottage. Dispense of him.
John: Nice. It’s time for our One Cool Things.
John: My One Cool Thing is an article by Timothy Lee for Ars Technica entitled I Created My Deepfake. It took two weeks and cost $552. And so this is a guy who decided to take footage of Mark Zuckerberg and footage of data from Star Trek: The Next Generation and swap faces with them. And wanted to see how feasible that was.
Craig: It’s a pretty good idea.
John: It’s a really good idea actually. And the end results are pretty good. They’re not fantastic. They’re not as good as like the Bill Hader ones that we’ve been seeing which are remarkably good.
Craig: Disturbing. Disturbing.
John: So, so good. But it’s a good walk through of the state of the art of the technology right now and sort of how it is done. It takes a lot longer than I would have guessed to do. It’s not a speedy process at all. With a lot of human–
Craig: It will be.
John: It will be. And that’s the thing. It reminds me very much of the early days of Photoshop. I remember Spy Magazine when they would put Sharon Stone’s face on a model’s body and it was like a sci-text machine. It was like $20,000 to do. And now it’s like any kid with Photoshop.
Craig: With a phone. No, it’s terrifying. And there’s going to be some way to kind of watermark things. We’re going to have to figure out how to verify things. Everything, by the way. Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.
My One Cool Thing has the coolest name of all time.
John: Tell me.
Craig: It’s the Vertiflex Superion.
John: I like that very much. Now it sounds like it could exercise equipment, or some sort of new investment thing.
Craig: Or a supervillain.
Craig: Vertiflex Superion has landed on the planet and is going to devour your soul. The Vertiflex Superion is a very small little piece of titanium and I had it stuck between my lumbar four and five vertebrae.
John: Very nice.
Craig: Because I had some disk degeneration. When you sit your spine is somewhat flexed and open. When you stand your spine will curve back a bit to maintain your center of gravity and where it curves back typically L4/L5 is where most of it is. And those vertebrae will tend to start to collapse down. And when they do when you stand they will smush down on one of the nerves that’s exiting your spinal cord, heading down through your lower back, your butt, your leg. And it’s painful.
I’ve been dealing with this for like two years. And the only – so there’s some steroid injections you try. And if those work, great. They did not for me. I mean, they worked great for like two weeks. And then there’s just surgery. And the surgery is a lot. They whack you open and they scrape all the muscle away from the bone. And they chop some bone away. And then they fuse the bones together. And then they stick – and it is a lot.
Or, you can do this thing. Very non-invasive. A little one-inch incision and they put a little tube through and this little piece in. And it opens up and it basically props open your vertebrae when you stand. Very simple idea. It works brilliantly. I have – I mean, it’s really reduced the pain by like 90%.
John: That’s fantastic.
Craig: Which is amazing. Now, here’s the frustrating part. The Vertiflex Superion and basically all things like it, they’re called spacers. Vertebral spacers. They are approved by the FDA. You will be reimbursed by Medicare if you’re on Medicare. The big insurance companies consider it investigational and will not pay for it. So, I paid out of pocket. It is not cheap. And I am annoyed. And so this is for you, AETNA. Or what are we, Anthem? We’re Anthem.
John: Anthem/Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Craig: AETNA is the same way. Anthem/Blue Cross, I would like to say to you, “You guys are nuts.” Because what you’re saying to people and what they said to me was, no, you may not have this done with us paying. Instead you can have something done that is far more expensive. Vastly more expensive. Like ten times more expensive. And more painful. And has a much higher rate of opioid use after. It makes no sense. So, please, Anthem/Blue Cross, based on this anecdotal story of one patient, but they also have terrific results and scientific studies to back them up. Reconsider. The Vertiflex Superion.
John: Now, Craig, it does sound to the casual listener like–
Craig: I’m being paid?
John: No. That you have now become the robot. Because you actually have metal pieces inserted into your body.
Craig: I have a piece of titanium in me. So, to be clear I am not being paid by the Vertiflex Superion corporation or its subsidiaries or whatever parent companies.
John: But you do own a piece of that corporation.
Craig: I do own a piece of that corporation inside of me. Although maybe I’m just licensing it. [laughs]
John: What if they actually implanted that, because it’s feeding directly into your spinal cord.
John: So it could–
Craig: The Vertiflex does talk to me. It tells me things. It has told me to be less frustrated. It does occasionally tell me to murder. [laughs] But we’re working through that.
Craig: Yeah. That’s the one downside to it. Can take over your brain and make you murder people.
John: We’ll hope not though.
John: That is our show this week. But stick around if you’re a premium member because after the credits we will be talking about The Mandalorian and what we both thought. Our show is produced by Megana Rao. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our Adam Locke Norton. Thank you for the disco, Adam. If you have an outro you can send us a link to email@example.com.
That’s also the place where you can send longer questions. For short questions on Twitter Craig is @clmazin. I am @johnaugust.
You can find the show notes for this episode and all episodes at johnaugust.com. That’s also where you’ll find the transcripts.
You can find all the back episodes of the show at Scriptnotes.net. You can also download 50-episode seasons at store.johnaugust.com.
- Southern California Counseling Center
- How I Created A Deepfake of Mark Zuckerberg and Star Trek’s Data by Timothy Lee for Ars Technica
- Vertiflex Superion
- John August on Twitter
- Craig Mazin on Twitter
- John on Instagram
- Outro by Adam Locke Norton (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.