Archives

Story and Plot

Not Worth Winning

In light of the dust-up over Coverfly, John and Craig discuss why most screenwriting contests are essentially useless and should be avoided. We then look at destructive fandom and ponder how today’s entitled enthusiasts might have responded to the classics. Plus we answer listener questions about the “gutters” between scenes, whether an employer owns your […]

Infinite Westworld

John and Craig welcome Lisa Joy & Jonah Nolan (Westworld) and Stephen McFeely & Christopher Markus (Avengers: Infinity War) to our annual live show benefitting Hollywood Heart. We discuss worldbuilding, the challenges and delights of serialized storytelling, and the extreme measures taken to keep secrets. We also answer audience questions on villains as protagonists, music […]

Full Circle

John and Craig talk about the way that movies tend to bring their stories full circle, and what that means for writers trying to figure out their story beats. They discuss rhyming, bookending and how properly setting up the central thematic question helps make the answer feel meaningful. We also answer listener questions about putting […]

Limerence

John and co-host John Gatins sit down with Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom to discuss the experience of writing the third season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, from breaking story in hot tubs to adjusting genital-related dances in compliance with Broadcast Standards and Practices. With spoilers aplenty, we discuss the challenges of a TV protagonist’s Act […]

Comedy Geometry

Craig welcomes Alec Berg, executive producer of two current HBO comedies (Barry and Silicon Valley), to discuss balancing productivity and creative energy, “comedy geometry,” and identifying as a craftsman rather than an artist. We also answer listener questions about committing to a genre, the necessity of act breaks, and how much writers actually get to […]

Knowing vs. Discovering

John and Craig consider how much a writer should know before going into a scene, looking at the perks and pitfalls of planning and letting oneself discover. We also discuss taking notes from producers and executives. When should you stand your ground? When should you accommodate? What if it’s an excellent drawing of an elephant […]

We’re Back, Baby

John and Craig reunite to answer our backlog of listener questions. We follow up on what it means to utilize white space on a page, the conventions of musical numbers, the value of a victory lap, and what the hypothetical destruction of Los Angeles would mean for the industry. We also answer listener questions on […]

The One with Stephen Schiff

John is joined by The Americans’ executive producer Stephen Schiff at a live Scriptnotes taping in New York! They discuss grounding an outrageous premise in character, suspension of disbelief, premium act breaks, and writing for a foreign language. We also answer audience questions about New York writers rooms, expert consultants, expecting comparisons, first drafts, and […]

Wait for It

John and Craig discuss suspense and its function in all genres, from thrillers to romcoms. They examine suspense of the known and of the unknown and the techniques available to construct it. We also answer listeners questions about registering scripts with the WGA, how to overcome creative paralysis and unconventional sluglines. Links: The WGA’s page […]

A Cop’s Cop Show

John and Craig give notes on a pilot script by our Homecoming Live Show Winner, Andrew Thalheimer. The Harrows is an hour-long police drama that centers on the relationship between a straight-laced new recruit and his street-wise father after they are assigned to be each other’s partner. In talking through The Harrows, we discuss the […]

Austin Live Show 2017 (AKA Too Many Scotts)

John and Craig talk with uber-screenwriter Scott Frank (Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Minority Report, Logan) about how his feature script Godless ended up as a miniseries at Netflix. We then invite more guests up to discuss what movies can learn from the success of TV: Guinevere Turner (American Psycho, Go Fish) Scott Alexander (Ed […]

Unforgiven

Craig and John take a deep dive into 1992’s Unforgiven, looking at how the David Webb Peoples script works on the page and on the screen.

Well, It Worked in the 80s

John and Craig look at four films from the past and discuss how we could make them today.

Logic and Gimmickry

John and Craig step up to the whiteboard to look at the story logic in our scripts, then examine how tricks and gimmicks can help keep scenes interesting.

Don’t Think Twice

Craig and guest host Mike Birbiglia discuss Mike’s new film, Don’t Think Twice, a comedy about life as an improv performer. The two explore the current state of independent film and the challenges facing aspiring filmmakers.

Anthrax, Amnesia and Atomic Veterans

John and Craig implore screenwriters to think twice before using the phrase “begs the question.” We know it’s a losing battle, but if we learned anything from 300, sometimes those are still worth having.

The Exit Interview

In the season finale of Scriptnotes, John and Craig reveal big changes to the podcast.

Generic Trigger Warning

John and Craig take a look at three new entries in the Three Page Challenge, with scripts tackling kidnapping, dystopia and parkour hackers. We look at both how the writing works on the page, and what the writers seem to be trying to say.

Flaws are features

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

Aaron Sorkin vs. Aristotle

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!

A Writer’s Guide to Allies

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.

Television Economics for Dummies

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.

An Alliance with House Mazin

It’s a craft episode, with Craig and John discussing allies and allegiances in film and television. Enemies are easy; friends are difficult. We talk through the types relationships characters find themselves in, and strategies for making the most of them.

The One with the Austin Winner

Remember the live show in Austin, when we promised we’d read one lucky listener’s script and talk about it on the air? This is that episode.

The One with Lawrence Kasdan

John and Craig sit down with screenwriting legend Lawrence Kasdan to discuss Star Wars, Raiders, The Bodyguard and how he’s shaped some of the most iconic big-screen stories and characters of our lifetime.