John August and Craig Mazin

Scriptnotes Podcast

John August and Craig Mazin discussing things screenwriters talk about.
Scriptnotes Podcast

Description

John August and Craig Mazin discussing things screenwriters talk about.

Categories

TV & Film

Episodes

Clueless

Mar 31, 2020

Description:

John and Craig analyze the iconic 1995 comedy Clueless. A contemporary adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma set in Beverly Hills, Clueless follows protagonist Cher as she tries to do ‘good’ through make-over montages and match-making attempts. We discuss how the movie sets up the characters in the first ten minutes, why Cher’s voiceover works so […]

What We’re Up To

Mar 24, 2020

Description:

John and Craig share their tips for working from home, from writing sprints to taking walks. We also talk about how the recent shutdowns have affected Pay Up Hollywood, support staff, and what we’re doing about it. Finally, we hear from Scriptnotes guests and friends about how they are managing this challenging time. Longtime listeners, […]

Stop Counting Pages (and Touching Your Face)

Mar 17, 2020

Description:

John and Craig debunk the ‘rule’ that one page of screenplay equals one minute of film. They advise screenwriters on what this could mean for the industry and look forward to a future that moves beyond pages. We also follow up on our discussion of professional readers (00:02:02) and suggestions for giving your friends feedback. […]

Readers

Mar 10, 2020

Description:

John and Craig talk about readers — both the friends you’d ask to look at your draft and the folks who professionally analyze scripts. They cover unions, state laws, and why companies should value good coverage. We also follow up on how to credit improv in scripts, share #PayUpHollywood feedback, and explain if/come deals. Stay […]

Beyond Bars

Mar 3, 2020

Description:

John moderates a panel discussion on the criminal justice system, incarceration and how to write about them. What’s real, what’s myth, and what stories need to be told? Guests include incarceration policy experts Aly Tamboura and Lovisa Stannow, writer Zach Calig of For Life, and documentarian Dan Birman (Me Facing Life). Then in our bonus […]

How to Grow Old as a Writer

Feb 25, 2020

Description:

John and Craig talk about how to grow old as a writer, specifically how your relationship with your art and craft can evolve with time. Then we discuss tips for general meetings (00:26:13), and answer listener questions about character quirks and improv. Finally, in our bonus segment for Premium Members, Craig discusses his acting debut […]

How to Listen

Feb 18, 2020

Description:

John and Craig talk dialogue. How characters speak is an optimized version of real speech — but if you optimize too much you risk making your characters feel artificial. We listen to clips of real conversations to pick out patterns and tendencies you can incorporate to help improve written dialogue. Then we dive into the […]

Other Things Screenwriters Write

Feb 11, 2020

Description:

John and Craig discuss the other stuff screenwriters write, from beat sheets to scriptments and everything in between. The differences are sometimes subtle, but each can have value — in the right circumstance. After that, they dip into the mailbag (24:23) for questions on TV bibles, writing while traveling, and using “I” in titles. Premium […]

Political Movies

Feb 4, 2020

Description:

John and Craig welcome back Liz Hannah to talk about her upcoming Netflix movie, All the Bright Places, and Hollywood’s often-frustrating reliance on IP. Particularly with non-fiction stories, has Hollywood warped journalistic ambitions? All of which serves as setup for another round of How Would This Be a Movie? (00:41:54), where we look at the […]

The One with Noah Baumbach

Jan 28, 2020

Description:

John talks with writer-director Noah Baumbach about his film Marriage Story. With script in hand, we discuss his writing process, handling overlapping dialogue, and how to find balance in a two-hander. We also answer a listener question about LA vs. New York apartments (01:05:16), and the challenge of making boring things interesting. In our bonus […]

Ambition and Anxiety

Jan 21, 2020

Description:

John and Craig discuss the difference between ambition and anxiety, and how writers can find a balance. We also follow up on agency developments and a new study that shows the live-action Aladdin is good for your health. Then we host another round of the Three Page Challenge, this time focusing on establishing the setting. […]

The One with Greta Gerwig

Jan 14, 2020

Description:

John and Greta Gerwig (writer/director of Little Women and Lady Bird) discuss adaptation, ambition and authorship. With the screenplay in front of them, they look at specific scenes in Little Women and explore how its non-linear timeline changed how the movie works. We also answer listener questions on writing for the page and starting a […]

Learning from Movies

Jan 7, 2020

Description:

John and Craig discuss what screenwriters can learn from watching movies. They cover techniques for making the most of the movies they watch and the questions you should be asking afterward. We also share more advice from listeners about moving to LA and lots of answers FOR listeners who’ve written in with questions. And for […]

Bonus – 1917 Q&A with Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns

Jan 6, 2020

Description:

In this bonus episode for premium subscribers, John hosts a Q&A with Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairnes to discuss their new film 1917. They discuss writing a war film without exposition, turning psychology into behavior, and portraying emotional processing in real-time. They also answer audience questions on having a separate technical script and the challenges […]

Bonus – Die Hard Deep Dive

Dec 25, 2019

Description:

John and Craig celebrate the holidays and our premium subscribers with a special episode on the 1988 Christmas classic: DIE HARD. Die Hard created a new template for action movies, heroes, and villains, establishing tropes still seen in theatres. We discuss both structure and story to examine what screenwriters can take away from this film […]

Holiday Live Show 2019

Dec 17, 2019

Description:

John and Craig welcome Kevin Feige (President of Marvel Studios), Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World), and Shoshannah Stern (This Close, Weeds, Jericho), to discuss creating an early aughts period piece, working with co-writers, and making genre movies out of comic books. We also introduce Scriptnotes Premium and play […]

From Broadway to Hollywood

Dec 10, 2019

Description:

John and guest host Aline Brosh McKenna welcome writer/showrunner Tim Federle (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series) to talk about his path from Broadway to Hollywood and how he came to create his first TV show. Along the way, we discuss TV musicals, LA vs. New York and pitch decks. We also follow up […]

Cleaning up the Leftovers

Dec 3, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Scriptnotes, Extra: Assistants Town Hall

Dec 3, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Assistant Writers

Nov 26, 2019

Description:

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. […]

The New One with Mike Birbiglia

Nov 19, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Chance Favors the Prepared with Lulu Wang

Nov 12, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Tough Love vs. Self Care

Nov 5, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Austin Film Festival 2019

Oct 29, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Minimum Viable Movie

Oct 22, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Assistants Aren’t Paid Nearly Enough

Oct 15, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Follow Upisode

Oct 8, 2019

Description:

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 […]

The One with Seth Rogen

Oct 1, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Extra – What’s it like to win an Emmy?

Sep 24, 2019

Description:

John and Craig discuss Craig’s experience winning an Emmy this week.

Professionalism

Sep 24, 2019

Description:

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 […]

The One with David Koepp

Sep 17, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Idea Management

Sep 10, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Fantasy Worldbuilding

Sep 3, 2019

Description:

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 […]

The Veep Episode

Aug 27, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Mushroom Powder

Aug 20, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Ready to Write

Aug 13, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Writing About Mental Health and Addiction

Aug 6, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Setting it Up with Katie Silberman

Jul 30, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Wikipedia Movies

Jul 23, 2019

Description:

John 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 […]

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

Jul 16, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Rolling Dice

Jul 9, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Understanding Your Feature Contract

Jul 2, 2019

Description:

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 here. Links: Example Contract Try the newest release of Highland […]

Better Sex with Rachel Bloom

Jun 25, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Live at the Ace Hotel

Jun 18, 2019

Description:

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 […]

The One with Charlie Brooker

Jun 11, 2019

Description:

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 […]

How to Write a Movie

Jun 4, 2019

Description:

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 […]

How Do You Like Your Stakes?

May 28, 2019

Description:

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 […]

You Got Verve

May 21, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Movies They Don’t Make Anymore

May 14, 2019

Description:

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. […]

Notes on Notes

May 7, 2019

Description:

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 […]

The Curated Craft Compendium

Apr 30, 2019

Description:

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 […]

The Sound Episode

Apr 23, 2019

Description:

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.

Big Numbers

Apr 16, 2019

Description:

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.

All in this Together

Apr 9, 2019

Description:

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: […]

Broken but Sympathetic

Apr 2, 2019

Description:

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. Links: WGA Video Explaining ATA Negotiations Can You […]

Twenty Questions About the Agency Agreement

Mar 26, 2019

Description:

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 […]

The Final Moment

Mar 18, 2019 1:02:15

Description:

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 […]

When It’s All Said and Done

Mar 12, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Getting Staffed

Mar 5, 2019

Description:

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 […]

The Future of the Industry

Feb 26, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Scriptnotes, ep 388: The Clown Stays in the Picture

Feb 23, 2019

Description:

The original post for this episode can be found here. John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August. And this is Episode 388 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Craig is off in London working on Chernobyl, but luckily I have Matt Selman here to fill […]

The Clown Stays in the Picture

Feb 19, 2019

Description:

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. […]

Seattle Live Show 2019

Feb 12, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Scriptnotes, Extra: The Agency Agreement

Feb 7, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Scriptnotes, Ep 385: Rules and Plans — Transcript

Feb 6, 2019

Description:

The original post for this episode can be found here. John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August. Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin. John: And this is Episode 385 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the podcast we’ll be talking about the […]

The Princess Bride

Feb 5, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Rules and Plans

Jan 29, 2019

Description:

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.

Plot Holes

Jan 22, 2019

Description:

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.

Splitting the Party

Jan 15, 2019

Description:

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, […]

Professional Realism

Jan 8, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Becoming a Professional Screenwriter

Jan 1, 2019

Description:

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 […]

Double Ampersand

Dec 25, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Holiday Live Show 2018

Dec 18, 2018

Description:

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 Worst of the Worst

Dec 11, 2018

Description:

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 […]

The Second Draft

Dec 4, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Nov 27, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Commencement

Nov 20, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Austin 2018 Three Page Challenge

Nov 13, 2018

Description:

John and Craig review three new 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 […]

Real-World Villains

Nov 6, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Austin Live Show 2018

Oct 30, 2018

Description:

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 […]

No Writing Left Behind

Oct 23, 2018

Description:

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.

No Writing Left Behind

Oct 23, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Only Haters Hate Rom-Coms

Oct 16, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Only Haters Hate Rom-Coms

Oct 16, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Writing Memorable Dialogue

Oct 9, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Writing Memorable Dialogue

Oct 9, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Two Things at the Same Time

Oct 2, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Two Things at the Same Time

Oct 2, 2018

Description:

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 […]

What Is a Movie, Anyway?

Sep 25, 2018

Description:

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 […]

What Is a Movie, Anyway?

Sep 25, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Advice for a New Staff Writer

Sep 18, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Advice for a New Staff Writer

Sep 18, 2018

Description:

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 […]

One Year Later

Sep 11, 2018

Description:

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 […]

WGA Elections 2018

Sep 6, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Tying Things Up

Sep 4, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Craig Hates Dummies

Aug 28, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Netflix Killed the Video Store

Aug 21, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Best Popular Screenwriting Podcast

Aug 14, 2018

Description:

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 […]

The One with Mindy Kaling

Aug 7, 2018

Description:

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 […]

From Indie to Action Comedy

Jul 31, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Relationships

Jul 24, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Where Movies Come From

Jul 17, 2018

Description:

John and Craig welcome Liz Hannah (screenwriter of The Post) to explore where movies come from, be it real life, storytelling social media sites, or all-powerful comic book IP. How do these story sources affect the writer’s relationship with the material and with the audience? We also follow up on the meaning of “Jackman Shot” […]

Point of View

Jul 10, 2018

Description:

John and Craig discuss the power of point of view in scripts and how the choice of which characters have storytelling power changes how we experience a movie. Point of view has a meaningful role in creating mystery, expanding scale, elevating characters, and energizing a story. We also answer listener questions about “Jackman shots,” renaming […]

This Title is an Example of Exposition

Jul 3, 2018

Description:

John and Craig debate and defend one of the most-maligned elements of screenwriting: Exposition. How do you tell an audience what they need to know without being labeled a hack? We offer tips for getting viewers up to speed without them realizing they’re getting fed exposition. We also follow up on screenplay competitions, the psychology […]

Writing Animated Movies

Jun 26, 2018

Description:

John welcomes Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Homeward Bound) to talk about her experience writing animated features, from the parallel processes of writing and production to her paltry paycheck for Beauty and the Beast. They consider the blurring lines between live-action and hyperrealistic CGI, as well as the history of animation […]

Not Worth Winning

Jun 19, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Upgrade

Jun 12, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Bad Behavior

Jun 5, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Infinite Westworld

May 29, 2018

Description:

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

May 22, 2018

Description:

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

May 15, 2018 58:38

Description:

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 […]

Putting Words on the Page

May 8, 2018

Description:

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” […]

All About Family

May 1, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Conflict of Interest

Apr 24, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Changing the Defaults

Apr 17, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Love, Aptaker & Berger

Apr 10, 2018

Description:

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. […]

Comedy Geometry

Apr 3, 2018 56:16

Description:

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 […]

The One with the Indie Producer

Mar 27, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Getting Paid for It

Mar 20, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Knowing vs. Discovering

Mar 13, 2018

Description:

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 […]

What’s the Plan, Anyway?

Mar 6, 2018

Description:

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 […]

Mostly Terrible People

Feb 28, 2018

Description:

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 […]

We’re Back, Baby

Feb 21, 2018

Description:

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

Feb 14, 2018

Description:

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 […]

The Next 117 Pages

Feb 7, 2018

Description:

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. […]

Call Me by Your Name

Jan 31, 2018

Description:

John and Aline welcome Peter Spears, producer of Call Me by Your Name, to discuss how the film came to be, from optioning the novel through its long development and multiple roadblocks. Through the lens of Call Me by Your Name, we discuss the difficulties of preproduction for an indie film, the process of securing […]

Introducing Launch

Jan 24, 2018

Description:

John and Craig introduce Launch, John’s new podcast about making a book. Over the course of six episodes, the series tracks the process of writing and shipping a novel, from idea to printing. The first two episodes are available today, with new episodes coming each Tuesday. Not to worry — Scriptnotes isn’t going anywhere. We’ll […]

Worst Case Scenarios

Jan 17, 2018

Description:

John and Craig ponder worst case scenarios that might usher the end of screenwriting as we know it. What are the odds that screenwriters lose work because an economic crash keeps movies from getting made? That screenwriting gets outsourced? That human screenwriters are replaced by AI? That film as a medium gets replaced? That the […]

The End of the Beginning

Jan 10, 2018

Description:

John and Craig tackle that tricky stretch of screenplay between crystalizing what the story is going to be and the protagonist actually embarking upon it: the end of Act 1. We also answer listener questions about writing for new media, why working outside of a WGA contract hurts everyone, what people want when asking for […]

Wait for It

Jan 3, 2018

Description:

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 […]

We Had the Same Idea

Dec 27, 2017

Description:

John and Craig offer advice to those who suspect their work has been stolen, providing a checklist to help determine if a claim has merit and suggestions for how to best proceed if it does. We also answer listener questions about taxes on agent commission, being a conservative voice in a writers’ room, and using […]

A Cop’s Cop Show

Dec 20, 2017

Description:

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 […]

Five-Star Podnerships

Dec 13, 2017

Description:

John and Craig discuss showrunning, remaking existing IP, staffing, and fan behavior with Julie Plec (Vampire Diaries, The Originals), Michael Green (Bladerunner 2049, American Gods, Murder on the Orient Express, Logan), and Justin Marks (Jungle Book, Counterpart). In light of the big Fox/Disney merger, we contemplate which other podcasts we should consider teaming with to […]

Pitching Television, or Being a Passionate Widget

Dec 6, 2017

Description:

John and Craig share their insight into pitching for television. How is it different that pitching features? How do express your passion for the project? How do you avoid being a Willy Loman pitching to a Willy Loman? (Sometimes you don’t.) We also follow-up on the conversation about sexual harassment, with a focus on how […]

Mergers and Breakups

Nov 29, 2017

Description:

John and Craig explore the possibilities and consequences of Disney’s potential purchase of Fox film and television studios. What might prevent the sale? What does each side stand to gain? To lose? What could it mean for writers? Then, it’s another installment of “This Kind of Scene,” in which we dissect the mechanics of an […]

Austin 2017 Three Page Challenge

Nov 22, 2017

Description:

John and Craig review four Three-Page Challenge entries with the help of Daniela Garcia-Brcek (Literary Manager at Circle of Confusion) and Cullen Conly (Literary Agent at ICM). We then invite the writers up to discuss the notes. It’s not just craft, though. Our special guests give us a behind-the-scenes look at the realities of representation. […]

(Adjective) Soldier

Nov 15, 2017

Description:

Craig and John open the overflowing listener mailbag to tackle questions on everything from montages to life rights to passive heroes. Plus, we have a definitive answer on whether to number minor characters. (Don’t.) We also finally address a major controversy: Craig’s missing cover of “Killing the Blues” from Episode 109. It exists, and you […]

All of It Needs to Stop

Nov 8, 2017

Description:

John and Craig revisit the discussion of sexual harassment in Hollywood, and how to support writers facing it. While the media spotlight is on the predators, it’s the day-to-day bullying and bad behavior that may have a more pernicious effect. Then it’s another round of How Would This Be a Movie, looking at stories in […]

Austin Live Show 2017 (AKA Too Many Scotts)

Nov 1, 2017

Description:

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 […]

The Post-Weinstein Era

Oct 25, 2017

Description:

John and Craig welcome Daley Haggar and Dara Resnik to examine the potential impacts of the Harvey Weinstein revelations on Hollywood. What should have been done? And what should happen next to foster a safer, saner and more inclusive industry culture? We also explore gender dynamics in a television writers room, discuss ways to address […]

Scriptnotes Voice: Snitching on Sexism

Oct 24, 2017

Description:

Daley Haggar shares her experience in the writers room. Originally posted on Lenny Letter. Email us at ask@johnaugust.com You can download this Scriptnotes Voice here.