Scriptnotes Podcast

Scriptnotes Podcast Podcast

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.

429 - Cleaning up the Leftovers
John and Craig use Thanksgiving break to finally answer some long-gestating listener questions, ranging from writing television with act breaks to keeping your drafts organized. Plus we’ll look at two moves by the US Justice Department and their impact on screenwriters. In this week’s bonus segment, we do a meme! We’ll compare and reflect on our beliefs at the start and end of the decade. Links: Scriptnotes Holiday Live Show Assistant Townhall Extra Episode Assistant Townhall Full Livestream Justice Dep...

429 - Cleaning up the Leftovers
John and Craig use Thanksgiving break to finally answer some long-gestating listener questions, ranging from writing television with act breaks to keeping your drafts organized. Plus we’ll look at two moves by the US Justice Department and their impact on screenwriters. In this week’s bonus segment, we do a meme! We’ll compare and reflect on our beliefs at the start and end of the decade. Links: Scriptnotes Holiday Live Show Assistant Townhall Extra Episode Assistant Townhall Full Livestream Justice Dep...

Extra - Assistants Townhall
John moderates the first Assistants Town Hall with panelists Liz Alper and Jamarah Hayne from #PayUpHollywood, Allison Begalman from Young Entertainment Activists, and employment attorney Jennifer Kramer. The panel examines the current conditions for assistants in Hollywood, the need to determine an accurate livable wage, and next steps for assistants and employers. We also open the floor to questions from assistants and viewers from the livestream. This recording is an abridged version of the event, if you...


428 - Assistant Writers
John and Craig talk about best practices for assistants who write and how to properly credit support staff. We also touch on the state of WGA negotiations on both the studio and agency front, as well as a look ahead to the AMPTP deal. In our bonus segment, we’ll make our final ruling on cats. Links: Buy tickets for our Live Show Thursday, December 12th with Kevin Feige, Lorene Scafaria, Shoshannah Stern, and Josh Feldman! Professionalism in the Age of the Influencer, read the full text of John’s speech Wa...

428 - Assistant Writers
John and Craig talk about best practices for assistants who write and how to properly credit support staff. We also touch on the state of WGA negotiations on both the studio and agency front, as well as a look ahead to the AMPTP deal. In our bonus segment, we’ll make our final ruling on cats. Links: Buy tickets for our Live Show Thursday, December 12th with Kevin Feige, Lorene Scafaria, Shoshannah Stern, and Josh Feldman! Professionalism in the Age of the Influencer, read the full text of John’s speech Wa...

427 - The New One with Mike Birbiglia
John and Craig welcome back writer/comedian Mike Birbiglia (Sleepwalk with Me, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend) to discuss his one-man show “The New One.” When writing about yourself, how much has to be true? What responsibilities do you have to friends and loved ones? Then it’s a new round of the Three Page Challenge, where we look at the first three pages in listeners’ scripts. We also address Akiva Schaffer’s concerns on movie screeners and try our first-ever bonus segment after the credits. Links: Three Page...


426 - Chance Favors the Prepared with Lulu Wang
John and Craig welcome writer-director Lulu Wang (The Farewell) to discuss not explaining things and the recipe for creating your own luck. We also answer listener questions on reactive protagonists, finding friends in LA, and Chris McQuarrie’s Twitter thread. Links: The Farewell Chris McQuarrie Twitter Thread A Lot Of Old Sitcoms Don’t Hold Up. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” Does. by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong God Warrior Remains a Beloved Meme, But Marguerite Perrin Isn’t Afraid of Dark-Sided Stuff Anymor...

425 - Tough Love vs. Self Care
John and Craig discuss when writers should practice tough love vs. self-care. Inspired by Chuck Wendig’s blog post, they examine how real-world issues impact writers’ ability to get work done — but how they can also be used as an excuse for procrastination and laziness. They offer a checklist for helping decide whether it’s time to be harder or easier on yourself. We also follow up on the Austin Film Festival, fan backlash, and show-runner tips for championing assistant pay, especially during the holiday se...

424 - Austin Film Festival 2019
Craig hosts Scriptnotes Live at The Austin Film Festival with guests Ayanna Floyd (The Chi, Empire), Liz Hannah (The Post, Mind Hunter), Nichelle Tramble (Truth Be Told, The Good Wife), Malcolm Spellman (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Empire), David Mandel (Veep, Curb Your Enthusiasm), David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (Game of Thrones). They discuss the power of television, writing for the binge model, and the value of telling stories you want to watch. We also play a Craig and David Kwong puzzle on movie q...


423 - Minimum Viable Movie
John and Craig discuss how to figure out if a given idea can work as a movie. What are the minimum requirements for story and vision a writer should consider before starting on a screenplay? We also invite Megana Rao and Bo Shim to follow up on our discussion of low assistant pay. Plus follow up from the WGA and video game industry awards, and a look ahead to the Austin Film Festival. Links: Austin Film Festival Schedule Taylor Swift Tiny Desk Concert on NPR What Is the Time Signature of the Ominous Elec...

422 - Assistants Aren’t Paid Nearly Enough
John and Craig tackle the issue of assistant pay in Hollywood. Last week they called for assistants to share how much they were getting paid and the impact of those wages. They received a record number of responses highlighting the inequities in the industry. Using these emails, they take a look at the biggest issues with current pay and the challenges ahead. We also discuss videogame writing, spec features, and thesauri. Thank you to all of the Hollywood assistants who wrote in for this episode! Links: H...

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421 - Follow Upisode
John and Craig follow up on things they’ve discussed in the previous 420 episodes, so you might want to listen to those first. We check in on getting an agent, copyright law, the future of the industry, post-2016 election reflections, assistant pay, and much more. Links: Scriptnotes, Ep 5, Copyright and Work for Hire Real-Life ‘Terminator’: Major Studios Face Sweeping Loss of Iconic ‘80s Film Franchise Rights by Eriq Gardner Copyright Section 203 Friday 13th Screenwriter Wins Rights Battle by Eriq Gardne...


420 - The One with Seth Rogen
John and Craig welcome writer/actor/producer/director Seth Rogen (Superbad, Knocked Up, Good Boys) to the podcast. They discuss Seth’s writing process, evolving with a creative partner, and the cinematic origins of 420. Seth then joins them for another edition of How Would This Be a Movie? looking at stories ranging from corruption, cattle mutilation, and geriatric thieves. Links: 420 origins according to Wikipedia ‘Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth’: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence by Bra...

419 - Professionalism
John and Craig discuss topics ranging from the Emmys to elections, professionalism to patronage, along with the state of #MeToo. We also answer listener questions on credits and ask for your thoughts on potential changes to our premium subscriptions. Links: The Emmy Award Winners Congrats Craig! WGA Election Results She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey Why I Quit the Writer’s Room by Walter Mosley Professional Writing and the Rise ...


418 - The One with David Koepp
John and Craig welcome legendary screenwriter David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Death Becomes Her, Carlito’s Way, Mission: Impossible, Spider-Man and Panic Room) to talk about adaptations, embargoes, books and the modern blockbuster, which David has had an outsized role in shaping. We also cover exposition in science fiction and how action writing has evolved over the last twenty years. Links: David Koepp Alex Billington on embargoes. Cold Storage by David Koepp Spark Email App Freedom App The Intelligence Tra...

417 - Idea Management
John and Craig welcome back Aline Brosh McKenna to tackle the issue of idea management. What do you do with all those half-formed ideas and how do you decide which ones to pursue? They share best practices and their approach to middle-of-the-night inspiration. We’ll also discuss how screenwriters quotes are determined and answer some listener questions. Links: For anyone experiencing issues with the app, please try signing up for premium using this link! Email [email protected] with any questions. The Sha...

416 - Fantasy Worldbuilding
John and Craig welcome Alison Luhrs, a senior narrative designer at Wizards of the Coast to talk about fantasy world-building as a profession. It is a great conversation about what is probably a lot of listeners’ dream job. We also follow up on the WGA elections, John’s decision to cast a blind actress, and the universality of ice-cream truck wars. Links: The Shadows Casting Call John is looking for a 15-year-old blind actress for the lead role — please help by sharing this link with anyone who might be a ...


415 - The Veep Episode
John and Craig welcome Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Mandel, two of the executive producers of HBO’s award-winning comedy series Veep. They discuss the writing process from blue-sky brainstorming to the final edit, how the show has evolved over the seasons, and striking the right tone during an unpredictable political climate. We also take a look at why unlikeable characters are important for conflict and what we can take away from the ending of Seinfeld. Links: Veep Julia Louis-Dreyfus David Mandel John A...

414 - Mushroom Powder
John and Craig host How Would This Be a Movie with four stories in the news covering ice-cream truck wars, female rangers, con-artists, and deadly in-laws, imagining how they could become feature films. We also answer listener questions about narrators, personal crises, and song titles. Links: The Shadows Casting Call John is looking for a 15 year old blind actress for the lead role — please help by sharing this link with anyone who might be a good fit! Bonus Episode, Chernobyl Podcast Scriptnotes Ep 50, ...

413 - Ready to Write
John and Craig tackle the question, “How do you know when you’re ready to write a given script?” They propose a list of details a writer should know before diving in, and look at why starting too soon can be a recipe for failure. (So can waiting too long.) We also discuss the WGA’s “refusal to negotiate” myth and answer questions about rewrites vs polishes, and whether writing a bad script could put you on a Do Not Hire list. Links: Myth of No Negotiation Deadline’s “Exclusive” on John’s Blogpost John Mil...


412 - Writing About Mental Health and Addiction
John moderates Breaking the Stigma, a panel on addiction and mental health with guests Gemma Baker (creator of CBS’s Mom), Dr. Corey Waller (specialist in pain, addiction and emergency medicine), Dr. Holly Daniels (specialist in eating disorders and mental health issues), and journalist Zachary Siegel. We discuss how addiction and mental health issues are portrayed in film and TV, more authentic ways of telling these stories, and how writers and creators can take care of their own mental health. Special tha...

411 - Setting it Up with Katie Silberman
John and Craig welcome screenwriter Katie Silberman (Set It Up, Isn’t It Romantic and Booksmart) to discuss writing a two-hander, practicing dialogue, and how she got her start in Hollywood. We also follow up on ‘liked, not love’ and answer listener questions on character development. Links: We’re hosting a panel on Addiction & Mental Health organized by Hollywood, Health & Society Wed, July 31, 2019, 6:30 PM – 9:30 PM PDT. Watch the Facebook livestream starting at 7:15pm PDT. WGA West Unveils Officer Boa...

Wikipedia Movies
ohn and Craig host a new round of How Would This Be a Movie. Instead of three stories in the news, this time they tackle three articles from Wikipedia to look at what you get using just those facts versus using a more detailed article. We also answer listener questions about real-life subjects, showing your work and applying the Mazin method to television. Links: Addiction & Mental Health Panel organized by Hollywood, Health & Society Wed, July 31, 2019. Follow along with the live-stream here at 7:15pm PDT...


409 - I Know You Are, But What Am I?
John and Craig discuss whether and how heroes can understand themselves. Is self-awareness an intrinsic aspect of a character, or something they achieve over the course of the story? Both heroes and villains are often wrestling with their identity. We look at why it’s more difficult (and sometimes more rewarding) to explore these issues in screenwriting than prose fiction. Then it’s time for another round of the Three Page Challenge, followed by listener questions about meddling actors and producers. Thanks...

408 - Rolling Dice
John and Craig tackle eight topics ranging from WGA negotiations to overlapping dialogue, to John’s new agency. We also follow up on Better Sex, Chernobyl, and Craig’s solo episode. Scriptnotes Episode 406, Better Sex with Rachel Bloom Verve Talent and Literary Agency and John’s Tweets. Find Chernobyl scripts here! Watch Chernobyl, listen to the podcast here. WGA Financials Dots, Dashes, and Parentheticals Scriptnotes Episode 403, How to Write a Movie Aladdin Rodecaster Pro Sound Board Russian Doll John Au...

407 - Understanding Your Feature Contract
John and Craig are joined by attorney Ken Richman and Laurie Espinosa of the WGA West for a detailed discussion of screenwriting contracts. They look at what to expect, where you can negotiate, and what to watch out for. Follow along with the example contract on the episode page or here. Links: Example Contract Try the newest release of Highland 2.5. Order your Scriptnotes 400 shirts, sweatshirts, and tanks (Light) and (Dark)! John August on Twitter Craig Mazin on Twitter John on Instagram Outro by Alex Wi...


406 - Better Sex with Rachel Bloom
John and Craig welcome back longtime friend of the podcast Rachel Bloom (co-creator and star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) to discuss how sex and sexuality are portrayed on both the big and small screen. They cover ways to approach sensitive topics in a writers room and the moments we still haven’t seen on screen. Links: Rachel Bloom’s Realistic Sex Interview Sex Education TV Series Moan: Anonymous Essays on Female Orgasm with foreword by Rachel Bloom How to Draw a Horse Dig it! on the App Store Hello from the ...

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405 - Live at the Ace Hotel
John and Craig host comedy titans Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy), Ben Falcone (The Boss, Tammy), Kourtney Kang (Fresh Off the Boat), Rob McElhenney (Always Sunny in Philadelphia), and Alec Berg (Barry, Silicon Valley) onstage to discuss writing jokes, what they look for in a writing partner, and the heartbreak of movie endings. We also record our first ever Scriptnotes commercial and introduce a new game called ‘Bot or Not.’ Recorded live from the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. Thanks to Hollywood...

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404 - The One with Charlie Brooker
John talks with Charlie Brooker (creator, writer, and executive producer of Black Mirror) about his groundbreaking series and the opportunities and challenges of writing an anthology. We also touch on the nature of reality, the difficulty of reflecting culture while you influence it, and experimental storytelling. Our live show is in two days on June 13th, buy your tickets now! Links: Scriptnotes LIVE this Thursday, June 13th at the Ace Hotel with Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone, Alec Berg, Rob McElhenney, ...

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403 - How to Write a Movie
In a Scriptnotes first, Craig hosts a solo episode presenting his general theory on screenwriting. He covers the central dramatic argument, the ‘why’ behind plot points, and of course, provides some umbrage on common script diagrams. Good luck, and go torture your heroes! Links: Scriptnotes LIVE on June 13th at the Ace Hotel with Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone, Alec Berg, Rob McElhenney, and Kourtney Kang, buy your tickets here! Aristotle’s Poetics José Fernández Lava, Pixar Short Finding Nemo Order your ...

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402 - How Do You Like Your Stakes?
John and Craig discuss stakes, how to create them and what that means for your character. They also talk a little about Aladdin, the Game of Thrones ending, and of course, the agency stuff. Don’t forget to join us for our live show in Los Angeles on June 13th with special guests including Alec Berg (Barry, Silicon Valley), Rob McElhenney (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Kourtney Kang (Fresh Off the Boat). Tickets are going fast! Links: Scriptnotes LIVE Buy your tickets here! Order your Scriptnotes ...

401 - You Got Verve
John and Craig introduce a new segment: The Scriptnotes Pitch Session! They listen to five listeners’ 90-second pitches and share their feedback on substance and style. We also discuss the implications of Verve signing the WGA agreement and get special insight on an important creative decision in Chernobyl. Join us for our live show in Los Angeles on June 13th with special guests including Alec Berg (Barry, Silicon Valley) and Rob McElhenney (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Tickets are going fast! Links...


400 - Movies They Don't Make Anymore
John and Craig welcome back writer/director Chris McQuarrie (Valkyrie, Jack Reacher, the last two Mission: Impossibles) to celebrate the 400th episode with a new round of ‘This Kind of Movie.’ Given our success saving the romantic comedy, we focus on other movie genres that aren’t getting made anymore and discuss how to bring them back. From sports comedies to erotic thrillers, we examine the classics of each genre and find ways to approach making these films today. Links: Order your Scriptnotes 400 shirts...

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399 - Notes on Notes
John and Craig talk to an audience of development executives about the experience of getting notes as a writer. They cover why these conversations kick in our fight or flight responses, how to frame notes through story, and ways to motivate writers towards a creative vision. We take questions from the audience and discuss ‘the bad pitch,’ likable characters, and how to stay friends with a writer after a breakup. Links: Episode 99, Psychotheraphy for Screenwriters Episode 394, Broken but Sympathetic with Ma...

398 - The Curated Craft Compendium
John and Craig present a special clip show with craft-focused segments hand-picked by Aline Brosh Mckenna. We’ll start by asking ‘Where to Begin?’ in Episode 174 and explore how to enter a story. Then we’ll discuss establishing setting and perspective in episode 45. Finally we’ll take a look at voice and the four rules to creating authentic dialogue. Links: Scriptnotes, Ep 174 Hacks, Transference, and Where to Begin Scriptnotes, Ep 45 Setting, Perspective, and Terrible Numbers Scriptnotes, 37 Let’s Talk ...


397 - The Sound Episode
John and Craig welcome back Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center, Straight Outta Compton) to talk all things sound: how it works on the page, on the stage, and in the mixing room. Andrea shares her experience working with sound for her upcoming directing debut, The Kitchen. We also follow up on WGA developments and deep dive Craig’s feelings on matzah. Links: WGA Lawsuit #WGAMix led by screenwriter Daniel Zucker Mad Max Fury Road Clip Can You Ever Forgive Me? Clip The story of the “Nerds” musical article by...

396 - Big Numbers
John and Craig talk big numbers, from the latest developments in the WGA/agency situation, to the announcement of Disney+ and the final installment of the Star Wars non-ology. We also answer listener questions about writers who aren’t in the guild and how to spend your time writing. Links: Timelapse of the Entire Universe by John Boswell Disney+ News The Rise of Skywalker teaser What It’s Like to Grow Up With More Money Than You’ll Ever Spend Anita May Rosenstein Campus of Los Angeles LGBT Center The Lab...

395 - All in this Together
John and Craig explore the challenge of creating a movie with a group of heroes and multiple points of view. They’ll discuss options for structuring competing storylines, when to check back in with characters, and managing personal versus group stakes. We also answer listener questions on a bunch of topics including things Craig tweets! Links: Accepting recommendations for updating the Listener’s Guide Arlo Finch Book Tour – Meet and Greet at The Briar Patch in Bangor, Maine on Thursday, April 11 at 5pm Ra...


394 - Broken but Sympathetic
John and Craig welcome back Can You Ever Forgive Me? director Marielle Heller to discuss the challenge of creating a hero the audience can root for while also establishing that the character must change. We also answer questions from listeners about conflicting notes, meet-and-greets, and true-life stories. WGA Video Explaining ATA Negotiations Can You Ever Forgive Me? A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Scriptnotes 212, Diary of a First Time Director with Mari Heller Schlage Locks American Crossword Passw...

393 - Twenty Questions About the Agency Agreement
John welcomes WGA negotiation committee members Chris Keyser and Angelina Burnett to answer listener questions on what’s happening and what to expect. They offer insight into the history of the issues and new tools the Guild is rolling out for staffing season. We also follow up on the Disney/Fox 2000 merger, why we won’t be saying ‘baby writers’ anymore, and upcoming meeting dates for the WGA. Links: The Disney – Fox Merger Upcoming WGA Meetings and Voting Info Ask a Native New Yorker by Jake Dobkin Patr...

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392 - The Final Moment
John and Craig examine the final moment in movies, what they do and why they change so often. We also take on vaccines, corruption, and extreme weather in another installment of ‘How Would This be a Movie’ and follow up on important upcoming meetings for the WGA. Links: Aladdin in theaters May 24th! Chernobyl first episode on HBO May 6th. Unvaccinated Boy Got Tetanus, and Ohio Teen Defies Parents and Gets Vaccine. Trump Grounds Boeing 737 Planes Extreme Avalanches in Colorado and Bomb Cyclone Storm Humble...


391 - When It's All Said and Done
John and Craig welcome back Aline Brosh McKenna to talk about what she learned producing four seasons of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Aline shares the importance of trusting your gut, building school spirit, and empowering the voices around you. We’ll also talk about Emma Thompson, agency-affiliated producers, and more. Links: Emma Thompson’s open letter to Skydance. Episode 175 Transcript A Very English Scandal Birdcage 2 Instagram #jackwawa New Highland 2 videos and tutorials We’re hiring a coder! If you’re int...

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390 - Getting Staffed
John and Craig proudly welcome back former Scriptnotes producer Megan McDonnell to tell her journey from film student to getting staffed on her first television show. We then review a batch of Three Page Challenge submissions, covering how to keep your audience engaged, build tension, and earn interesting characters. Plus, follow up on the WGA and recent Bones ruling. Thank you to our Three Page Challenge participants, and special thanks to Megan McDonnell for all of your work on Scriptnotes! Links: The B...

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389 - The Future of the Industry
John and Craig invite back Chris Keyser, co-chair of the WGA’s 2019 Agency Agreement negotiating committee, to discuss the issues. Specifically, they look at the difference between “packaging” and “packaging fees,” and the impact of agencies acting as writers’ employers. John then welcomes Michelle Satter to introduce Co//ab, the new online community from Sundance. Michelle shares how they’ve made Sundance digitally accessible and what she looks for in applicants to its prestigious labs. Links: WGA Agency...


388 - The Clown Stays in the Picture
John welcomes Matt Selman, executive producer of The Simpsons, for a deep dive look at the three-year process of developing a single episode from initial idea to the finished product. We discuss the role of the writers room, the table read, producer notes, animatics, and the impact computer animation has had on The Simpsons workflow. Set in the 90’s, “The Clown Stays in the Picture” spoofs high concept comedies, artist narcissism, creative insecurity, and the magic of movie-making. Links: The Simpsons, Sea...

Scriptnotes, 387: Seattle Live Show 2019
John and Craig head north to host Scriptnotes Live in Seattle. They welcome Emily Zulauf to discuss the process of pitching projects at Pixar, creating stories with heart out of pure misery, and when to admit you “don’t have it” and start over. We also hold our own Open Writing Assignment and play a game with the audience to create two new movie pitches. Then we answer questions about theme and why you should move to LA. Thank you to the Northwest Screenwriters Guild and TheFilmSchool for hosting us! Links:...

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Extra: The Agency Agreement
John and Craig offer a special reminder to guild members to attend one of the upcoming WGA Agency Agreement meetings. Links: Scriptnotes, 347: Conflict of Interest RSVP for a meeting WGA Agency Agreement Meeting: Saturday, February 9 at 10:30 am at Writer’s Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills WGA Agency Agreement Meeting: Wednesday, February 13 at 7:30 pm at Sheraton Universal by Universal Studios WGA East NYC Meeting: Tuesday, February 12 John August on Twitter Craig Mazin on Twitter John on Instagram Find pas...


386 - The Princess Bride
John and Craig host a live show at the WGA Theatre with a deep dive look at The Princess Bride. They discuss how the “abridged” structure brings us only the best parts of the story and what this means for the characters and world: less exposition and more time for the fire swamp, R.O.U.S., and the pit of despair. From the frame story to the myth of the Dread Pirate Roberts, The Princess Bride shaped decades of screenwriters but would be inconceivable to produce today. William Goldman’s 1973 cult classic del...

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385 - Rules and Plans
John and Craig discuss when and how to break screenplay orthodoxy, from experimental formatting to narrative misdirects. They also examine why it’s important that your characters create, communicate, and break plans. We also address follow up from our Raiders of the Lost Ark deep dive, and respond to questions about shared and international writing credits. Links: The Seattle Live Show is on February 6th! You can now preorder Arlo Finch in the Lake of the Moon or come to the launch event on February 9th. S...

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384 - Plot Holes
John and Craig dive into plot holes: why they happen, how to fix them, why not to fix them, and how to turn them into opportunities. We also respond to listener questions on outlining, servicing many storylines, and what screenwriting challenges go under-appreciated. Links: Join us for the WGA’s Princess Bride screening on January 27th. The Seattle Live Show is on February 6th! You can now preorder Arlo Finch in the Lake of the Moon or come to the launch event on February 9th. Scriptnotes, Ep 383: Splittin...

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383 - Splitting the Party
John and Craig talk about the trope of “Never split the party,” and why, as a writer, you often want and need to divide up your characters to better explore relationships, propel the story forward, give actors something to do, and simply fit everyone in the frame. We also follow up on screenwriting scams, sequences, websites, and liking things that others don’t. Links: Join us for the WGA’s Princess Bride screening on January 27th. You can catch John on Studio 360. “Let’s Split Up the Gang” and “Never Spl...

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382 - Professional Realism
John welcomes Derek Haas (Chicago Fire, 3:10 to Yuma, 2 Fast 2 Furious) to talk about writing accurate portrayals of different jobs, and when to sacrifice reality for storytelling. They also share their time-management strategies in honor of those New Year resolutions to get writing done. We also answer listener questions about the necessity of entertainment lawyers, how to keep your energy high pitch after pitch, Story By credits, and how to stay alive after that first staff writing job ends. Links: Thank...

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381 - Becoming a Professional Screenwriter
John welcomes Tess Morris, Christina Hodson, Nicole Perlman, and Jason Fuchs to discuss their paths to becoming a professional screenwriter. They track the progression from glass bead day jobs to navigating general meetings to planning inconsistent finances to actually calling oneself a writer and even getting paid. We also answer audience questions about career longevity and leaving writing behind. Links: Thank you, Tess Morris, Christina Hodson, Nicole Perlman, and Jason Fuchs! T-shirts are available her...

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380 - Double Ampersand
John sits down with Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens to discuss their new film Mortal Engines, and their approach to writing as a team, worldbuilding, and rewriting through production, because one does not simply walk into Mordor. We also answer audience questions about the difference between ideas for television and movies, and working through dialogue out loud. Links: Thanks to Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens! Mortal Engines is in theaters now. Mortal Engines is based on the bo...

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379 - Holiday Live Show 2018
John and Craig welcome Pamela Ribon (Ralph Breaks the Internet, Smurfs: The Lost Village), Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Into the Spiderverse, The Lego Movie), Zoanne Clack (Grey’s Anatomy) and Cherry Chevapravatdumrong (Family Guy, The Orville) to discuss writing animated features, breaking into television, and how to disappoint your parents. We also rescue another genre, the big-screen holiday comedy, by playing a game about movies of Christmas past. Then we answer audience questions about useful notes and ...

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378 - The Worst of the Worst
John and Craig examine why and how writers need to make bad things happen to their characters, and the ways in which hero suffering differs between features and television. We also answer listener questions about WGA jurisdiction, becoming a signatory, timing a script for television, and why all scripts aren’t available online. Links: Tickets are on sale for the Holiday Live Show! The Team America: World Police puke scene, with some bad language The opening of Finding Nemo Aslan’s sacrifice in The Lion, t...

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377 - The Second Draft
John is joined by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (The Invitation, Ride Along, the upcoming Destroyer) to talk about the second draft, offering some practical tips for the first big rewrite. We also answer listener questions about getting scripts to actors, how to label characters with job titles, and the cooler way to describe a montage. We’re also still trying to make “re-quel” happen. Links: Tickets are on sale for the Holiday Live Show! Thanks for joining us, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. Episode 244: The In...

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73 - Raiders of the Lost Ark
Craig and John spend the entire episode discussing and dissecting Raiders of the Lost Ark, looking at both its structure and scene work. This amazing and iconic 1981 film established so much of what we expect of out movie heroes and set pieces -- but a lot of what it does would have a hard time getting through modern studio development. Five-minute exposition scenes! Nazi monkeys! Helpless heroes at the climax! And yet it works so well. There are great lessons to be learned for screenwriters in every genre....

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376 - Commencement
John and Craig discuss commencement, the official moment to start writing. It can be easy to get pressured into free producer rewrites, starting to write before a deal is done and other pitfalls of blurry boundaries, so the WGA is introducing the Start Button, designed to help writers define their timeline and let the Guild be the bad guy. We also answer listener questions about procedural television, binge-watching, and crossing the line in dark comedy. Links: Signed Arlo Finch bookplates are available wi...

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375 - Austin 2018 Three Page Challenge
John and Craig review three Three-Page Challenge entries with the help of Lindsay Doran (producer of Stranger Than Fiction, Sense and Sensibility, Nanny McPhee, Dead Again) and Jewerl Ross (manager and founder of Silent R Management). They then invite the writers up to discuss the notes, including the importance of geography, setting up relationships, and the danger in feeding kittens to sharks. We also answer listener questions about “emotional math,“ breaking rules, the evolution of screenwriting and tryi...

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374 - Real-World Villains
John and Craig investigate actual villains in this installment of How Would This Be a Movie? From the eerily prescient writer of “How to Murder Your Husband” to the dark comedy of Jacob Wohl, sometimes reality provides the character — now you just need an actual story. We also look at the craft behind writing for ensemble, plus follow-up on the end of FilmStruck, “No Writing Left Behind,” specifying character race in scripts and the hopeful resurgence of family-friendly Christmas movies. Links: FilmStruck...

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373 - Austin Live Show 2018
John and Craig invite Wendy Calhoun (Station 19, Empire), Phil Hay (The Invitation, Ride Along), Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel), and Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman, Ice Age: Continental Drift) to join them onstage for a discussion about the death of the writing middle class, why we get bored during a film or episode of television, and the consequences of handing over unpaid writing. We also play a game called “Why is Craig So Mad?” Recorded live from the Driskill Ballroom at the 2018 Au...

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372 - No Writing Left Behind
John and Craig discuss the dangers of leave-behinds. The “writing before the writing” is an important part of the craft, but giving it away for free is bad for everyone. We also answer a listener question about character wants versus needs, and why that distinction has become such a guru staple. Links: Hope to see you this weekend at the Austin Film Festival! You can also catch John at the Texas Book Festival and the Boulder Book Store Event No Writing Left Behind The Confidence Gap by Claire Shipman, Ka...

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225 - Only Haters Hate Rom-Coms
John and Craig talk romantic comedies with screenwriter Tess Morris, whose film Man Up is unapologetically part of the genre. We discuss what distinguishes rom-coms from other comedies, and why they get singled out for disdain and death-of articles. Also this week: Amazon Storywriter, overused dicks, and follow-up on Whiplash. This episode originally aired on November 24, 2015. Links: Amazon Storywriter and Fountain Scriptnotes, 224: Whiplash, on paper and on screen Tess Morris on IMDb and Twitter, and Man...

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371 - Writing Memorable Dialogue
John and Craig have a dialogue about dialogue. They discuss how thinking about memorizing lines can help write them, and how to service quieter characters in a scene. We also answer listener questions about adapting plays for the screen, creating a different experience for your reader than your viewer, and whether to trust sketchily worded release forms. Links: The Arlo Finch series trailer is live! Chunking How Shrek 2 has been redubbed for the UK market by Leslie Felperin for The Independent You Might ...

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370 - Two Things at the Same Time
John and Craig look into simultaneity and how to visually articulate two things happening at once with the temporally-limited medium of written word. We also explore how simultaneity can ramp up tension, fracture narrative and play with expectations. Then we apply what we’ve discussed to three new entries in the Three Page Challenge. Links: Become a premium subscriber in time for our bonus Q&A episode. Submit your questions here. T-shirts are available here! We’ve got new designs, including Colored Revisi...

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369 - What Is a Movie, Anyway?
John and Craig welcome Franklin Leonard to weigh in on the current definition of “movie.” In the age of streaming, this distinction is not only important for audiences and awards, but has a meaningful effect on how writers are paid. We also take umbrage with Awards Season as a Hollywood fixture, and follow up on a five year-old prediction about iPads in movie theaters. Links: Scriptnotes, Episode 108: Are two screens better than one? addresses the fear of iPads in theaters Become a premium subscriber in ti...

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368 - Advice for a New Staff Writer
John welcomes Alison McDonald (American Dad!, Nurse Jackie, the remake of Roots) and Ryan Knighton (In the Dark) to talk through the basics of the TV writers room, covering how they got in, how much to talk, how to make a living, what to wear and what’s for lunch. In follow up, we look at disappearing digital purchases and the further fallout from Les Moonves. We have new Scriptnotes T-shirts available -- Colored Revisions! Thanks to Alison, Ryan now knows about magenta. Links: T-shirts are available here!...

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367 - One Year Later
Aline Brosh McKenna joins John and Craig to discuss the progress made in the year following the Weinstein revelations. Have the systems for reporting and preventing sexual harassment improved, or are we still just dealing with hurricanes? We also follow up on The Academy’s decision to nix the Popular Film category, the IATSE agreement, missing movies, and Craig’s distaste for ventriloquism. And Final Draft teaches us that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Links: The Academy decided against addi...

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Extra: WGA Elections 2018
John and Craig discuss their choices for WGA Board Elections and misinformation about proposed revisions to the Screen Credits Manual. Links: WGA East Elections Jonathan Fernandez Patti Carr Patric Verrone Betsy Thomas Travis Donnelly Dante W. Harper Eric Heisserer Deric Hughes David Slack Ashley Gable Spiro Skentzos VJ Boyd Deborah Amelon WGA Sets Referendum On Proposed Changes To Its Screen Credits Manual – Update The USB drives! John August on Twitter Craig Mazin on Twitter John on Instagram Find pa...

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366 - Tying Things Up
John and Craig cover endings, both for craft and for business. First they articulate the importance of the denouement and the social contract it fulfills with the audience. Then they discuss what happens to a writer’s work after their death. We also follow up on pitching, and introduce a new segment: Change Craig’s Mind. This week: Ventriloquists! Links: You can listen to John & Craig on another podcast: Jordan, Jesse, Go! You can check out our episode with Mindy Kaling, or our episode with Susanna Fogel ...

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365 - Craig Hates Dummies
John and Craig are back at it with another installment of How Would This Be a Movie? They consider the story of a competitive mass Tinder date, a retirement home for ventriloquist dummies and the McDonald’s Monopoly heist. We also revisit John’s WGA Corner for updates, follow up on the conflict within IATSE, and get a great sense of Craig’s passionate beef with ventriloquism. Links: Studios Back In Antitrust Spotlight As AMC Chain Loses Key Court Ruling by Dominic Patten for Deadline Class Struggle in Ho...

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364 - Netflix Killed the Video Store
John welcomes Kate Hagen to talk about missing movies and the role that video stores play in archiving film history, preserving access to all movies and creating a sense of community. They discuss some of the barriers to films getting digital distribution, from limited music licenses to struggles with chain-of-title when companies fail. We also discuss what it is to be a script reader, write coverage and clash with a boss’ taste. And we follow up on Moviepass and its legacy. Links: Thanks for joining us, K...

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363 - Best Popular Screenwriting Podcast
John and Craig pack this business-centric episode with big picture conversations about guild negotiations, changes to the Oscars, the Disney/Fox merger, the Paramount Consent Decree, and the tragedy that is being unable to stream The Flamingo Kid. Links: Scriptnotes is now on Spotify! The Austin Film Festival is coming up on October 25th! Changes are coming to the Oscars, including a new category for “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film.” IATSE is not backing its Editors Guild in asking for a reason...

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Extra: My Abortion Story
In this extra mini-episode, John and Craig discuss John’s abortion article. We’ll be back with a normal episode on Tuesday. Links: My Abortion Story blog post...

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362 - The One with Mindy Kaling
John sits down with writer/actor Mindy Kaling (The Office, The Mindy Project, Champions) to talk about her origin story, her big break as Ben Affleck, what it’s like to simultaneously showrun and star in a sitcom, and the nature of half-hour comedies. We also answer a listener question about point of view and its relationship with genre and medium. Links: Thanks to Mindy Kaling for joining us! Champions is available to watch on NBC.com. You can watch a recording of her play, Matt and Ben, written and perfo...

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361 - From Indie to Action Comedy
John welcomes Susanna Fogel and David Iserson to talk about making their new movie, The Spy Who Dumped Me. They discuss the transition from TV and indie film to blockbuster, the collaboration involved in crafting a comic action sequence, and the fun of production overseas. Susanna and David explain the advantages of spec scripts (this was one), and what it’s like writing with a partner. Links: Thanks to Susanna Fogel and David Iserson for joining us! The Spy Who Dumped Me is in theaters now. David’s much-a...

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360 - Relationships
John and Craig discuss the importance and basics of developing relationships in storytelling. Characters are nothing without relationships, like Woody without Buzz, Shrek without Donkey, John without Craig... We then test these ideas about relationships against a fresh set of Three Page Challenges. Links: Arlo Finch covers look different around the world. You can catch John at the San Diego Festival of Books on August 25, at the Orange Public Library Comic-Con on September 22, at the Texas Book Festival o...

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This Feeling Will End
In this Scriptnotes Extra, Craig and John discuss the melting dread they experienced this morning and hopefully offer some succor. You can download the episode here....