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Writing Process

Writing Other Things

John and Craig welcome back Aline Brosh McKenna to talk about writing projects outside the familiar constraints of screenwriting. We discuss the surprises and adjustments involved in the creative processes of different media: Aline’s graphic novel Jane, Craig’s HBO miniseries Chernobyl, and John’s original song, “Rise.” We also dig into why screenwriters sometimes need to […]

How Arlo Finch got his name

I have a very hard time writing a character if I don’t love the name. So I obsess over picking the right one. I’ll spend hours staring in the middle distance, trying out various combinations until something clicks.

A last look at The Leftovers

Boris Kachka takes an in-depth look at how the final episode of The Leftovers was written, shot and edited.

Twelve Days of Scriptnotes

In this very special episode from 2014, Craig and John welcome special guests Aline Brosh McKenna, Rachel Bloom, B.J. Novak, Jane Espenson and Derek Haas to talk about writing books, movies and especially television.

How to Introduce Characters

John talks with Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, co-creators of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, about how they pitched and wrote their critically-acclaimed show.

Outlines and Treatments

John and Craig look at the non-screenplay things screenwriters end up writing, most notably outlines and treatments. We discuss some of the ones we’ve written (with examples), and offer advice on writing your own.

No More Milk Money

Craig and John welcome back Aline Brosh McKenna to discuss what she learned going from writing features to show-running Crazy Ex-Girlfriend — and what’s waiting for her back in movie-land. The three of us came into the business at the height of the spec market, but everything is different now.

Sexy But Doesn’t Know It

John and Craig look at how to introduce characters in a screenplay — and how to avoid being mocked by a Twitter feed for it. We go back through previous Three Page Challenges and several of the screenplays nominated for awards this year to examine trends and techniques.

The premise, or what’s the point?

Michael Tabb takes a deep look at defining the premise of your story, but “premise” might not be the best word for what he’s describing.

Changing heroes mid-stream

As an animated film moves from screenplay to storyboards to scratch reels, you see the story coming to life — and the problems front-and-center.

Scriptnotes Holiday Show 2015

John and Craig welcome special guests Malcolm Spellman, Natasha Leggero, Riki Lindhome and Alan Yang to the third annual Scriptnotes Holiday show, recorded live on December 9th, 2015 in Hollywood.

The Batman in the High Castle

Craig and John discuss epic world-building, and the promises and pitfalls for writers attempting to create fictional universes.

Nobody Knows Anything (including what this quote means)

Craig and John get to the bottom of William Goldman’s famous quotation about Hollywood, which is so often misapplied. Then it’s a discussion of zombie cars, wind-tunnels, blockbusters, and the paradox of choice.

Writers Rooms, Taxes, and Fat Hamlet

John and Craig discuss the trend of hiring multiple writers to work concurrently on tentpole features. Can movies be written like television, and should they?

The One Where Aline’s Show Debuts

Aline Brosh McKenna joins us to talk through the launch of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and what she’s learned since she introduced us to the show nearly a year ago. Brian Lowry of Variety raves that it is “one of the fall’s most promising hours.” We’re not surprised at all.

Features are different

John and Craig look at how writing feature films is fundamentally different than writing television, and how that difference begins at the point of story inception. It’s not just that movies are longer; they’re also built to be unique events, with characters embarking on once-in-a-lifetime journeys. We discuss how to decide whether an idea is better suited for features or series, and lessons learned from properties that have existed in both worlds.

Screenwriter Mark Mallouk on Black Mass

In addition to today’s normal Scriptnotes episode, premium subscribers can find a half-hour interview I did with Black Mass screenwriter Mark Mallouk. We discuss the film’s long journey from book to screen, including how the sudden reappearance of Whitey Bulger in 2011 changed both the script and the production.

PG13: Blood, Boobs and Bullcrap

John and Craig discuss the PG-13 rating, its effects and what screenwriters have to keep in mind when dealing with it. Then it’s a conversation about healthy and unhealthy relationships between writers and their representatives.

Diary of a First-Time Director

John and Craig sit down with Marielle Heller, the writer and director of the acclaimed feature Diary of a Teenage Girl, to talk about the journey of getting her movie made, from optioning the novel to the Sundance Labs through production.

One-Handed Movie Heroes

John and Craig discuss why movie heroes — unlike those in novels or musicals — generally don’t profess internally conflicting views. In reality, our feelings on a topic are likely shades of gray. On the big screen, characters tend to articulate a single point firmly.

How descriptive audio works

John and Craig take a deep look at how descriptive audio for the blind works, with clips from Daredevil and an interview with a woman who does it for a living. It’s a fascinating form of writing, with many of the same challenges screenwriters face.

Nobody Eats Four Marshmallows

John and Craig take an in-depth look at turnaround and reversion, and how screenwriters get their scripts back from a studio.

8 Common Mistakes Made by New Screenwriters

B.J. Novak is all about lists. He asked me to write this one about issues I frequently see in scripts written by beginning screenwriters. 1. Starting with a concept rather than a character We don’t want a movie about a lost relic. We want a movie about Indiana Jones. 2. Being too nice to the […]

Second Draft Doldrums

Craig and John discuss finding your way back to your story — and your enthusiasm — when writing your second draft. Craig has tips and suggestions. John has sympathy and war stories.

The Rules (or, the Paradox of the Outlier)

John and Craig discuss this year’s screenplay Oscar winners, including the success of Birdman’s outside-the-box approach and Graham Moore’s speech.