Flaws are features

Scriptnotes: Ep. 257

Craig and John look at unforgettable villains, screenwriter billions, and a parallel world with two Nathan Fillions. (The last part is not true.)

We also dig into more about magical dad transformation comedies and why there isn’t a female equivalent.


You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 7-8-16: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Aaron Sorkin vs. Aristotle

Scriptnotes: Ep. 256

John and Craig consider a new master class in screenwriting taught by Aaron Sorkin, and a very old Greek word (anagnorisis) championed by Aristotle. Both are useful!

Then it’s a look at what we mean by “originality,” including a very useful litmus test provided by Lindsay Doran.

Reminder that the 250-epsiode Scriptnotes USB drives are now available. Find the link below.


You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 7-1-16: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

New and Old Hollywood

Scriptnotes: Ep. 255

With credits ranging from Captain Phillips to The Hunger Games, plus several stints in WGA contract negotiations, Billy Ray knows as much as any screenwriter about the realities of working writers and the turmoil in the industry. He joins us to talk about his new Amazon pilot, The Last Tycoon, which charts the behind-the-scenes drama at a 1930s Hollywood studio.

From there, we look at how much people get paid for a $200 million movie, the wild success of Warcraft in China, and how great television is doing financially.

The 250-episode Scriptnotes USB drives are back in the store, so be sure to grab one before they sell out.


You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 6-25-16: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

The One with the Kates

Scriptnotes: Ep. 254

John and Craig welcome Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney, the Australian creator/stars of The Katering Show (a previous One Cool Thing).

We discuss the process and economics of making a web series, signing with a US agency, and trying to figure out what comes next.

Thanks to our Scriptnotes fans on both sides of the world for making this meet-up happen.


You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 6-20-16: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

A Writer’s Guide to Allies

On Scriptnotes, we often talk about heroes and villains. In episode 252, we discussed allies, and the different types of relationships between two characters.

What is the point of an ally in narrative?

  1. Characters advance their interests through allies.
  2. Characters learn about themselves through allies.
  3. Characters suffer pain for the wrong rewards.
  4. Allies define the incorrectness of a character’s starting point, and the correctness of their arrival point.
  5. Allies are more subtle and universal than enemies.

In real life, few people have villains that must be vanquished to save the day. But everyone has friends — and friends can be tricky, tricky things.

Allies should theoretically be capable of being heroes — except in feature films, they can’t. Rather —

  1. They need to illuminate the hero without pulling focus.
  2. They need to challenge the hero without becoming the villain.
  3. They serve as a proxy for the audience, asking our questions, sharing our fears.

There’s not much to learn from “we have to stop the evil genius before he blows up the world.” But drama, both in the real world and in fiction, comes from interaction with characters who are theoretically on our side.

Craig had a bunch of examples from Game of Thrones, some of which we didn’t have time to explore on the show. So here’s his complete list.

Marriage of convenience
We don’t like each other, but we need each other

Jon Snow and Tormund

Unrequited love
Jorah Mormont and his Khaleesi

Misplaced faith
Cersei and the High Sparrow
Sansa and Joffrey

The Three-Eyed Raven and Bran
Tywin and Tyrion

Jamie and Cersei Lannister

Disciple and prophet
The Faceless Man and Arya Stark

Manipulator and Manipulated
Littlefinger and Lysa Aryn

Sparring Partner
Tyrion and Varys

Animal loyalty
Hodor and Bran

Bad for each other
Jon Snow and Ygritte

Alpha and Beta
Jon Snow and Sam
Yara and Theon

Robb and Catelyn Stark

Master and slave
Ramsay Bolton and Reek

Bound by honor
Brienne and Sansa

You could argue with any of these categorizations. The point is that characters can be related in many ways other than the simple hero/villain paradigm.

Television Economics for Dummies

Scriptnotes: Ep. 253

Jonathan Groff — the Black-ish writer/producer, not the actor — joins John and Craig to explain the new vocabulary of television and why companies are all about ownership.

Then it’s another round of How Would This Be a Movie (or an episode of network comedy). We tackle Peter Thiel, Swiss banks, psychotic sheep, and absent-minded grampas.

Our track record of predicting which of these ideas will go into development has been quite good. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page or Twitter.


You can download the episode here.

UPDATE 6-10-16: The transcript of this episode can be found here.