What Do They Want?

Scriptnotes: Ep. 279

John and Craig look at how heroes let us know what they’re after, with or without a song.

We also answer listener questions about how much despair to feel when a movie similar to your spec is announced, getting staffed off of improv groups, and whether we’re wrong about gurus. (We’re not.)


Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 12-19-16: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Revenge of the Clams

Scriptnotes: Ep. 278

John and Craig look at phrases that have been banned from comedy writing rooms, and more generally why making a list of what you will never do can help you figure out what you should do.

We also answer listener questions about character names, life rights and sticking to a genre.


Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 12-08-16: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

The Workaholics list of banned phrases

John Quaintance recently tweeted photos of two whiteboards listing phrases banned in the Workaholics writers’ room. His tweet has been widely shared, and is a mitzvah to all writers.

These phrases are all clams — jokes that aren’t funny anymore and therefore need to die. When you include them in a script, you’re evoking the rhythm of comedy without the content of comedy. They’re not just cliché; they’re hollow.

I asked Godwin to type them up so we could discuss them on the next Scriptnotes, where we look into their origins and ways to write around them.

I’m posting them here so you can read along. You can also download them as a PDF if you’d like a copy for your wall.

___? More Like ___.
Can You Not?
…I Can Explain!
Let’s Not And Say We Did
I Didn’t Not ___
Wait For It…
Just Threw Up In My Mouth.
Good Talk
And By ___ I Mean ___
Check Please!
Shut The Front Door!
Lady Boner
I Think That Came Out Wrong.
Uh…Define ___.
No? Just Me.
Why Are We Whispering?
That Went Well…
Stay Classy
I’m A Hot Mess!
That’s Not A Thing
It’s Science
Bacon Anything
Real Talk
#Nailed It
Awesome Sauce
Thanks…I Guess
Little Help?
Laughy McLaugherson
___ Dot Com
I Love Lamp.
Oh Helllll Naw!
#Epic Fail
Did I Just Say That Out Loud?
Food Baby
Douche (Nozzle)
Soooo, That Just Happened
Squad Goals
I Just Peed A Little
Too Soon?
Spoiler Alert
Um…In English Please
Note To Self
Life Hack
Best. ___. Ever. (or Worst. ___. Ever.)
It’s Giving Me All The Feels.
Garbage People
That Happened One Time!
Well Played
I’m Right Here!
Hard Pass
Are You Having A Stroke?
Go Sports!
Zero Fucks Given
We Have Fun
Who Hurt You?
I Absorbed My Twin In The Womb
I’ll Take ___ For $500, Alex.
Thanks Obama
Wait, What?
Shots Fired
You Assclown
Bag Of Dicks
Hey, Don’t Help.
Debbie Downer
I Can’t Unsee That.
That Just Happened.
See What I Did There?
I’ll Show Myself Out.
Here’s The Line, Here’s You.
___ On Steroids/Crack.
Swipe Right.
White People Problems.
I Could Tell You But I’d Have To Kill You.
That’s Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
I Think We’re Done Here

Fantasy and Reality

Scriptnotes: Ep. 277

Craig and John look at how writers, and screenwriters in particular, impact the way people think about things in the real world. From crime scenes to courtrooms to CPR, we simplify things for storytelling and leave audiences with skewed expectations.

In follow up, Craig invited Final Draft into his life (and office), actors’ accents got analyzed, and more news came out about fake news.

We also be answer listener questions about LA neighborhoods and the gulf between getting read and getting paid.


Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 12-01-16: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Separating scenes in Highland

Jose, one of our Highland 2 beta testers, wrote in with a feature request:

I’d love the ability to print individual scenes, with page breaks after each scene. It can be useful to physically rearrange scenes once printed.

We could add that as a command, but how often would users really want to do that? Rarely-used features are cruft. They make apps more complicated than they need to be, both for users and developers.

Luckily, it’s remarkably easy to do what Jose wants with any Fountain app, including the original Highland.

Step one: Think what it would look like

In Fountain syntax, a page break is simply three equal signs: ===

Meanwhile, scene headers start with either INT. or EXT.1

So in order to put a page break between each scene, you want to replace every instance of INT. with…


…and then do the same with EXT.

Step two: Make it look like that

Within Highland, you can do it with two passes of Find and Replace, choosing Replace All. It’s helpful to copy-and-paste the second part, since Mac’s default find and replace fields only show you a single line.


It took less than 20 seconds in all.

If breaking scenes into individual pages is something you do all the time, it’s easily automated. Here’s an AppleScript to do it: Split Fountain Scenes.

As always, it’s a good idea to work on a copy of the file you can toss after printing.

Highland’s plain-text Fountain format makes little hacks like this easy. For example, another beta tester requested a way to print his [[inline notes]], which are removed by default.

There’s no need for him to wait for us to add a feature. We suggested he simply find-and-replace [[ and ]] with ++. He got the inline notes he wanted right away.

How would you do this in Final Draft or Fade In?

With difficulty. I couldn’t find a way to do it without manually inserting page breaks at the end of every scene. If you figure out a way, let me know.

  1. You can also force a scene header by starting with a period: .DEEPER IN THE VOID. You can find these by searching for a return followed by a period.

Mammoths of Mercy

Scriptnotes: Ep. 276

Writer-director Chris Sparling joins John and Craig to discuss his new film Mercy, and what it’s like to make a movie for Netflix. Then it’s another round of How Would This Be a Movie, with stories including ex-girlfriends, fake news, and permafrost ivory.

Plus we answer listener questions on cosplay, criticism and parallel structures.


Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 12-01-16: The transcript of this episode can be found here.