Scriptnotes Podcast

By John August and Craig Mazin

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Description

Screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin discuss screenwriting and related topics in the film and television industry, everything from getting stuff written to the vagaries of copyright and work-for-hire law.

Episode Date
355 - Not Worth Winning
58:01

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 idea, what the business of big talent-led production companies looks like, and how to maintain momentum after your first sale.


Links:

* Coverfly’s response to accusations in a now-deleted blog post. Here’s a conversation on the Screenwriting Reddit page about it.
* In 2015’s Episode 191: The Deal with Scripped.com, we invited John Rhodes from ScreenCraft and Guy Goldstein from WriterDuet to investigate a data management crisis with Scripped.com.
* Toxic Fandom Is Killing ‘Star Wars’ by Marc Bernardin for the Hollywood Reporter
* Apple has made a deal with the WGA
* Evan in Philadephia recommends Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art for a great explanation of “gutters.”
* JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot is an example of a big production company led by a creative.
* The worst sex in the world is anglerfish sex, and now there’s finally video by Avi Selk for the Washington Post. This video’s upsetting animation shows what the process would look like for humans.
* Bethesda’s Starfield has been announced
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Jeff Mooney (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

Jun 19, 2018
354 - Upgrade
01:07:30

Craig welcomes Leigh Whannell, writer of the Saw and Insidious franchises, to discuss low-budget filmmaking, sequels on sequels, the horror landscape and his new movie, Upgrade.

We also answer listener questions about sharing an agent with your writing partner and the ethics of hiring someone to punch up your own script.


Links:

* Thanks for joining us Leigh Whannell!
* Leigh wrote Saw, Insidious, and, most recently, Upgrade, (here’s the fairly violent trailer).
* I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
* Matthew Lillard’s company, Beadle & Grimm’s Pandemonium Warehouse, is releasing a luxury Dungeons and Dragons campaign called Platinum Edition Dungeons & Dragons: Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, which is available to pre-order.
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* Leigh Whannell on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Matthew Chilelli (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

 

Jun 12, 2018
353 - Bad Behavior
59:09

John and Craig discuss the hot new trend of firing jerks from successful TV shows. Why is it happening now like never before? Is there an important distinction between being “difficult” and being a jerk?

We also follow up on listener suggestions for outlining tools, and answer questions about the landscape of feature comedy, the art of biopic postscripts, shopping agreements, and the etiquette around replacing another writer.


Links:


* A series is in development based on Elif Batuman’s New Yorker article about rental families.
* Some listener-recommended outliners include Workflowy, Gingko, Cloud Outliner, OmniOutliner from Omni Group, Pages, Causality, and good old index cards.
* Some recently fired examples include Roseanne Barr, Jeffrey Tambor, Clayne Crawford, and Bryan Singer
* A question of etiquette regarding replacing another writer
* No Thanks!, a game by Thorsten Gimmler
* Faraway 3, a puzzle game for iOS
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Jon Spurney (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

 

Jun 05, 2018
352 - Infinite Westworld
01:12:50

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 supervision, and research as procrastination.

Recorded May 22, 2018 at the ArcLight in Hollywood


Links:

* Thanks to the ArcLight, Hollywood HEART, and everyone who came out for this Live Show!
* Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan are on the second season of Westworld on HBO.
* Stephen McFeely & Christopher Markus’s Avengers: Infinity War is in theaters now.
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Matthew Chilleli (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

May 29, 2018
351 - Full Circle
56:15

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 one’s work on YouTube, annotating scripts, and arbitration.


Links:

* Our next live Scriptnotes with Jonah Nolan & Lisa Joy (Westworld) and Stephen McFeely & Christopher Markus (Avengers: Infinity War) is TONIGHT, Tuesday, May 22nd at the ArcLight in Hollywood. Proceeds benefit Hollywood HEART, which runs special programs and summer camps for at-risk youth.
* John’s statement on one theater’s choice to cancel their performance of Big Fish over the inclusion of same-sex parents.
* Highland 2 is officially out! This is the New York Times article about our Gender Analysis feature.
* Names on the Globe by George R. Stewart discusses the pronunciation of L.A.
* One space between each sentence, they said. Science just proved them wrong. is a Washington Post article by Avi Selk about whether to put one space or two after a period.
* According to Craig, Fun Home is a good example of a moving bookending.
* The Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman
* Dan Harmon’s Story Circle
* 21 Things to Know Before Losing Your Gay Virginity by Alexander Cheves
* Moodnotes is an app that tracks your mood
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Olufemi Sowemimo (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

 

May 22, 2018
350 - Limerence
58:39

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 2 “rocky shoals,” the nuance of exploring mental illness with comedy, the process of writing surprising musical numbers, and the opportunities of turning the rom-com genre on its head.

Recorded live on May 9th.


Links:

* Our next live Scriptnotes with Jonah Nolan & Lisa Joy (Westworld) and Stephen McFeely & Christopher Markus (Avengers: Infinity War) will be Tuesday, May 22nd at the ArcLight in Hollywood. Tickets are on sale now -- proceeds benefit Hollywood HEART, which runs special programs and summer camps for at-risk youth.
* Some Crazy Ex-Girlfriend context may be helpful for this episode. You can watch it here! Otherwise, here’s the Wikipedia entry.
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 3 (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

May 15, 2018
349 - Putting Words on the Page
57:27

John and Craig discuss the digital tools of the trade. From outline to first draft to production rewrites, screenwriters find themselves facing different challenges. We talk about what works for each of us. We also speculate on what impact Highland 2’s gender analysis tool will have.

Then we answer listener questions about following the “rules” of formatting, from creative scene headers to “hey reader” notes and tips for introducing characters who play important roles later in the script.


Links:

* Our next live Scriptnotes with Jonah Nolan & Lisa Joy (Westworld) and Stephen McFeely & Christopher Markus (Avengers: Infinity War) will be Tuesday, May 22nd at the ArcLight in Hollywood. Tickets are on sale now -- proceeds benefit Hollywood HEART, which runs special programs and summer camps for at-risk youth.
* Frank Oz, in case you’re curious
* Look how fast Highland 2 loads War and Peace compared to other programs!
* Scriptnotes, Ep 125: The One with the Guys from Final Draft
* Welcome to Southern California includes a 1953 pronunciation of “Los Angeles”
* Less by Andrew Sean Greer
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Larry Douziech (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

May 08, 2018
348 - All About Family
59:05

John and Craig partake in another installment of How Would This Be a Movie? Which story is destined for the big screen: The millennial mother with her surprise, Youtube-guided childbirth? The couple that has the same fight for decades? The Japanese families-for-hire?

We also follow up on the logic of multi-cam formatting, Georgia’s success in diversifying crews through training programs, and effective character descriptions.

Tickets are now on sale for our next Scriptnotes Live Show on Tuesday, May 22nd at the ArcLight in Hollywood, with guests including Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan of Westworld.


Links:

* Our next live Scriptnotes will be Tuesday, May 22nd at the ArcLight in Hollywood. Tickets are on sale now -- proceeds benefit Hollywood HEART, which runs special programs and summer camps for at-risk youth.
* How 50 Famous Female Characters Were Described in Their Screenplays by Kyle Buchanan and Jordan Crucchiola for Vulture
* Woman tells incredible story of how she used YouTube videos to carry out waterbirth of own baby she doubted she even had, while alone in hotel room written by Tom Embury-Dennis for The Independent
* The Worrywart vs. the Zen Master by Tom Bowman and Brigid Schulte for Slate
* Japan’s Rent-A-Family Industry, written by Elif Batuman for The New Yorker
* Choir!Choir!Choir! is a choir in Toronto that meets once a week for drop-in singing events.
* QTAKE Monitor is an app that lets you watch shots on set from your own device.
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Nicolas Curcio (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

 

May 01, 2018
347 - Conflict of Interest
01:01:14

John and Craig examine the myriad conflicts of interest that arise in Hollywood, from self-dealing studios to packaging fees to pilot season.

But it’s not just other people with issues. Writers grapple with their own conflicts of interest. We discuss what situations screenwriters might face and how to deal with them ethically.

We also answer listener questions on multicam formatting and elegantly establishing the time period in a historical piece.

Links:

* To win an invite to the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend event on Wednesday May 9th, send your lyrics to “The Other Side of the Velvet Rope” to ask@johnaugust.com
* Amazon Studios is no longer accepting unsolicited submissions
* The Deadline article that outlines the WGA’s proposal to renegotiate the Artists’ manager Basic Agreement
* Dick Zanuck and his credits
* Multicams are formatted differently. This clip of the Big Bang Theory with the laugh track removed shows how different the rhythm of a Multicam can be.
* Swedish company Svenska Biografteatern’s footage of New York City as adjusted by Guy Jones
* Assassin’s Creed Origins
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* AlphaBirds is our fun new word game!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Tim Garcia (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

 

Apr 24, 2018
346 - Changing the Defaults
56:33

John sits down with screenwriter Christina Hodson to discuss race, gender, and representation in Hollywood, and how screenwriters can help correct the status quo with the one thing they can control: the words on the page.

We tackle the nuances of designating race for open-ethnicity characters, the assumption of whiteness, the pros and cons of feature writers rooms and the promise of inclusion riders.

We also answer a listener question about why some movies are timeless and some feel dated as soon as they premiere.


Links:

* Thanks for joining us, Christina Hodson. Her upcoming movies include Bumblebee of the Transformers franchise and Batgirl.
* The Pudding’s Film Dialogue from 2,000 screenplays, Broken Down by Gender and Age
* Premium subscribers can listen to the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend bonus episode with Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom here.
* A pilot announcement that includes this character description: “a girl-next-door type but also with a behind-the-ear tattoo. She can just as easily bro out with the guys as she can be the girliest girl.”
* A guide to WGA dues, courtesy of Stuart!
* Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies
* Female writer friends, like Frances Marion
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Hunter Christensen (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

 

Apr 17, 2018
345 - Love, Aptaker & Berger
57:47

John and Craig welcome Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, the writing team that showruns This Is Us and just made history with Love, Simon.

We discuss their experience of breaking into the industry, writing with a partner, running a hit show, adapting YA novels for the screen, and the broccoli/marinara/pudding meals that got them here.

Links:

* Thanks for joining us, Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger!
* Love, Simon is in theaters now! Isaac and Elizabeth also run This Is Us on NBC.
* Queer Qrosswords rewards your donation to an LBGTQ+ charity with crossword puzzles.
* Taking Twitter off your phone while you’re on vacation
* Not being on one’s phone while waiting for someone
* Headspace guided meditation app
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* Isaac Aptaker on Twitter
* Elizabeth Berger on Twitter
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Travis Newton (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

Apr 10, 2018
344 - Comedy Geometry
56:17

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 keep of their paycheck.

Links:

* Thanks for joining us, Alec Berg! Check out his credits.
* Barry is now on HBO!
* Silicon Valley is in its 5th season on HBO.
* Sharing your wifi password
* The Last of Sheila by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim, directed by Herbert Ross. Here’s the trailer.
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* Alec Berg on Twitter
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Rajesh Naroth (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

 

Apr 03, 2018
343 - The One with the Indie Producer
52:28

John welcomes independent producer Keith Calder to discuss what a producer actually does, how financing and distribution strategies have changed with streaming, and how to approach film festivals as a filmmaker.

We also answer a listener question about which career path to take after being laid-off: climb the Hollywood ladder or bootstrap and just make films.

Links:

* Thanks for joining us, Keith Calder! You can check out his website and wikipedia page.
* Blindspotting comes out this summer. Here is Variety’s review.
* You’re Next and its IMDb page. You can watch it on Amazon now.
* Down Under trailer and IMDb page.
* LiarTown: The First Four Years 2013-2017 by Sean Tejaratchi.
* Eco-Cha Tea Club
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Keith Calder on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Luke Davis (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

 

Mar 27, 2018
342 - Getting Paid for It
59:00

John and Craig delve into the business of screenwriting from money to managers to medical plans.

We answer listener questions about collecting unemployment, registering as a corporation, firing a rep, quitting your day job and handling the anxiety that comes with such an uncertain career path.

Links:

* Alto’s Odyssey
* An ambiguously threatening advertisement for British pork from 1984
* Champions on NBC, created by Charlie Grandy and Mindy Kaling, directed by Michael Spiller
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Rajesh Naroth (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

 

Mar 20, 2018
341 - Knowing vs. Discovering
56:26

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 that’s been eaten by a snake?


Links:

* The Little Prince’s elephant inside a snake, not a hat.
* Alto’s Odyssey
* Everybody Wants to Be Famous by Superorganism
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Superorganism (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

Mar 13, 2018
340 - What's the Plan, Anyway?
58:03

John and Craig speculate what Luke Skywalker’s plan might have been in the opening of Return of the Jedi. They consider heroes’ plans generally, the allowance we grant as an audience for opening sequences and the foul taste of “logic ketchup.”

We then engage in a long-awaited Three Page Challenge, focusing on scripts that play with point of view.

Links:

* We Dare You To Explain Luke’s Plan To Rescue Han In ‘Return of the Jedi’ by Mike Ryan for Uproxx
* Three Pages by Jay Emcee
* Three Pages by Erno van der Merwe
* Three Pages by Sarah Paradise
* What the Font? site and app
* Weird Al Yankovic’s Hamilton Polka
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Matthew Chilelli (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

Mar 06, 2018
339 - Mostly Terrible People
01:08:32

 

John and Craig evaluate another set of exceptional news stories for their fitness for the big screen in this week’s How Would This Be a Movie?

We consider stories about counterfeit debt collectors, the worst roommate ever (beside’s Craig college roommate), the girl who posed as a grown man online and began exhibiting genuine symptoms of toxic masculinity, a family that fights to preserve their daughter after she’s been declared brain dead, and a cruise ship that descends into anarchy.

We also follow up on the mystery of MoviePass with a listener that has seen a new film each day for months. Did we judge this model too quickly?


Links:

* Applications are being accepted for the Sundance Episodic Lab
* Millions Are Hounded for Debt They Don’t Owe. One Victim Fought Back, With a Vengeance by Zeke Faux for Bloomberg
* Worst Roommate Ever by William Brennan for New York Magazine
* What Does It Mean to Die? by Rachel Aviv for the New Yorker. John also mentioned this story about Jon-Erik Hexum by Gareth Davies for the Daily Mail.
* Teen Girl Posed For 8 Years As Married Man To Write About Baseball And Harass Women by Lindsey Adler for Deadspin
* A Carnival cruise in the South Pacific descended into violent anarchy by Avi Selk for The Washington Post
* Bridge Constructor Portal
* A Very Fatal Murder
* The Good Place on NBC.
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Rajesh Naroth (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

 

Feb 27, 2018
338 - We're Back, Baby
56:07

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 rules of awards voting, what to consider when writing a proof-of-concept short for a feature, and what to do when a deadline approaches and the script just isn’t good.


Links:

* WGA members, you can update your diversity details at my.wga.org. Don’t forget to “publish.”
* John on Brian Koppelman’s podcast, The Moment
* Common musical number types include the argument song (“Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” from Annie Get Your Gun, “Sue Me” from Guys & Dolls, “People Will Say We’re in Love” from Oklahoma!), the scheme song (“A Little Priest” from Sweeney Todd, “I Want the Good Times Back” from The Little Mermaid stage play), the philosophy song (“Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid), the If Only song (“On my Own” from Les Miserables, “Memory” from Cats, “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music), and the Eleven O’Clock Number (“Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy, “Being Alive” from Company) and the sidekick song (“Hakuna Matata” from the Lion King, “The Travel Song”).
* Marty McFly’s victory lap
* Awards scripts are available on Weekend Read
* “The Bittersweet Beauty of Adam Rippon” by Richard Lawson for Vanity Fair
* The Room: Old Sins
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Matthew Chilelli (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

 

Feb 20, 2018
337 - The One with Stephen Schiff
45:57

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 how to write a period piece when history is full of spoilers.


Links:

* Stephen Schiff currently works on The Americans. Its final season premieres on March 28th.
* Thank you, McNally Jackson Independent Booksellers for hosting our live show!
* Google Ngram Viewer
* Bookstore staff recommendations, which led John to The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* Outro by Matthew Chilelli (send us yours!)

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

 

Feb 13, 2018
65 - The Next 117 Pages
01:01:09

John and Craig talk about everything that comes after the oft-discussed First Three Pages, speculating on the kinds of issues they’d spot if they were looking at full scripts.

They also answer listener questions on topics ranging from proper spacing protocol to novelists rewriting their screenplay adaptations.

This episode originally aired on November 27, 2012.

LINKS:

* Scriptnotes T-shirts are available for one more week, including some old favorite styles, like Gold Standard and Midnight Blue!
* You can catch John at one of his book tour stops, or listen to Launch to keep up with him on the road.
* “The exception that proves the rule” on Wikipedia
* Stuart’s post, Learning from the Three Page Challenge
* Brining
* Cook’s Illustrated
* Ticket to Ride for iOS
* German-style board games on Wikipedia
* The Scriptnotes Listeners’ Guide!
* The USB drives are available!
* John August on Twitter
* Craig Mazin on Twitter
* John on Instagram
* Find past episodes
* INTRO: Folger’s “Peter Comes Home for Christmas”
* OUTRO: Train Song by Feist and Ben Gibbard on iTunes

Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

Feb 06, 2018