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Scriptnotes 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.
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Now displaying: 2012
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Aug 9, 2012

John and Craig talk critics, and how trying to anticipate their reviews can cause paralysis.

It's funny how the screenwriter only seems to get mentioned in negative reviews. Well, not funny, actually. Frustrating. And possibly statistically verifiable, so listen in if you're looking for a research project.

Also this week: Craig's insomnia, traffic apps, bake-offs done better, and capitalizing on a big star attachment. Plus fun things you can do in the shower!

All this and more in this slightly-delayed Scriptnotes!

LINKS:

UPDATE 8-14-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Jul 31, 2012

Craig and John look at the results of the WGA screenwriter survey, which found widespread reports of bake-offs, prewriting and other shenanigans.

If there's any solace to be found, it's that it's not just you. Things are frustrating for the vast majority of screenwriters.

After some follow-up discussion about the low percentage of women screenwriters, we get to the meat of this week's podcast: round two of the Three Page Challenge, in which we look at the first three pages of listener-submitted samples. If you have a chance, read the PDFs ahead of time. You can find them in the links.

Big thanks to Sarah Nerboso, Jesse Grce and Austin Reynolds for inviting us to talk about their work on-air.

Also discussed this week: groin injuries, Japanese documentaries, earworms, and John's feel-free-to-use motto: "Ikea: For Now, It's Fine."

LINKS:

UPDATE 8-2-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Jul 24, 2012

Craig and John tackle a question screenwriters ask themselves at every stage in their careers: of all things I could write, which thing should I write?

For working screenwriters, these questions are complicated by rights and money and personalities. But for the aspiring screenwriter, the choice is just as daunting. A screenplay is a huge undertaking, involving months or years of work. Each script carries an opportunity cost: choosing to write this project means not writing something else, or at the very least pushing it further back.

While the variables are different in every case, John and Craig offer some framework for answering the question.

Also this week, John discusses the death of Richard Zanuck, who produced three of his movies. From listener questions, we look at pitch-fests, illegal acts, and shows about your buddies.

And in cool things, Craig talks e-cigarettes while John has mixed opinions on the Nexus 7.

LINKS:

UPDATE 7-26-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Jul 17, 2012

Craig and John skip Comic-Con so they can discuss annoying and unproductive habits of development executives, along with advice for working with screenwriters.

The back half of the podcast is devoted to the first-ever three page challenge, in which we critique listeners' samples and offer suggestions. If you have a chance to read the samples before listening to the podcast they're in the links below you'll get more out of it, but we try to summarize things so that it's useful even without the text.

Let us know what you thought of this experiment (on Twitter @johnaugust and @clmazin) so we'll know whether to do a round two. We received more than 200 entries for the challenge more than enough, so please don't send any more. If we do another pass, we'll pull from what we have.

Our thanks to everyone who wrote in, and especially to Ajay, J. Nicholas and Bryan for letting us talk about their stuff online.

Also discussed this week: standing desks, music theory, laptop speakers and inflated podcast numbers.

LINKS:

UPDATE 7-19-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Jul 10, 2012

It's two parts craft and one part business as Craig and John discuss the alarming earnings report coming out of the WGA, plus a deeper look at setting and POV.

For feature screenwriters, it's hard to find a silver lining in the WGA's report on 2011 earnings. Numbers are down significantly, both in total dollars and the number of writers earning anything at all.

2011 earnings chart

Of course, you don't have to be employed to write a script, so we spend the rest of the show talking about two crucial aspects of screenwriting: choosing effective settings and deciding on POV.

Setting is both a macro and micro decision. Early on, you need to figure out where your movie takes place. Everything about your story will be impacted by the world you choose. Then as you write individual scenes, you look for environments that provide opportunities and challenges for your characters and for the director. Film is a visual medium, so smart screenwriters consider what settings will suit a big screen.

Perspective, or POV, is about figuring out which characters have storytelling power in your movie. Which characters can anchor a scene without the hero? Which characters can do voiceover? The choices you make greatly effect audience expectation, so it's worth thinking about at the very start.

Finally, we talk about the Three Page Challenge. On an upcoming podcast, we'll be critiquing three pages (and only three pages!) from listeners' scripts. If you want to participate, visit johnaugust.com/threepage for details.

LINKS:

UPDATE 7-12-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Jul 3, 2012

John and Craig look at how to write satisfying third acts. That doesn't necessarily mean a happy ending, but rather one that feels earned.

If the first 10 pages of a script establish a contract between reader and writer give me your undivided attention and I will make it worthwhile the last 10 pages are where that contract is paid out. This is where screenwriters generally need to spend much more time, yet it's often hurried and rushed.

Looking at the headlines, Craig fills us in on Hayden Christiansen's lawsuit against USA Network's Royal Pains and what it means for screenwriters. (Expect to be signing new forms.)

We also discuss a listener's lament that studio execs have learned all the wrong lessons from the success of Avengers (and the failure of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter).

All this and vocal fry in the new installment of Scriptnotes.

LINKS:

UPDATE 7-6-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Jun 26, 2012

This week, John is a bit under the weather, so Craig takes over moderator duties as they tackle four listener questions:

➤ When you spec a script based on a producer's idea, who owns it?

➤ And on that topic, do producers ever really buy an idea?

➤ How much divine intervention or other coincidence can a movie support?

➤ How do pen names work for screenwriters?

In follow-up, Clive Barker is writing but not directing that Amazon Studios project. John regrets the error. And in verb-related news, metal can't pound, but it can pound flat, oddly enough.

All this and two cool things in this week's Scriptnotes.

LINKS:

UPDATE 6-28-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Jun 19, 2012

This week's episode finds Craig and John answering questions about agent etiquette, business cards and those troubling rewrites that unravel everything.

From there, John goes on a small tirade about weak verbs and Dungeons and Dragons-style scene description. Good writing: It's not just for novelists.

There's some language geekery as well, with a look at the hidden micro-classes of verbs that prevent a reasonable speaker from saying things like, "Whisper Tom the joke."

All this and more in the 42nd installment of Scriptnotes.

LINKS:

UPDATE 6-21-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Jun 12, 2012

On the 41st Scriptnotes, John and Craig discuss screenwriting software, knowing when to start, and the Game of Thrones finale. But before moving on to new business, they update us on two topics of podcasts past.

Last we heard about Disney and Amazon Studios, there was a vacancy atop the former, and the latter had decided to become a WGA signatory. Now, Disney has hired Alan Horn as chief, and Amazon has announced its first project but with no mention of the writer.

After they weigh in on these new developments, John tells us about the pros and cons of writing his most recent script in Scrivener, which opens up into a larger discussion about where screenwriting software seems to be heading.

Craig and John then adress a common frustration of beginning screenwriters: How do you know when you're ready to move from the planning phase onto page 1? Diving into a script too quickly is a recipe for second-act problems, but overplanning can be just as dangerous. Where's the sweet spot? What must you know about your story before you start, and how much familiarity is overkill?

They then move onto a listener-requested discussion of the Game of Thrones season finale, plus this week's two One Cool Things.

Rawson Marshall Thurber, enjoy this Google alert made specially for you, courtesy of episode 41 of Scriptnotes.

LINKS:

UPDATE 6-14-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Jun 5, 2012

Craig and John talk about Craig's decision to abandon his once-bustling blog, while John weighs the pros and cons of comments and community.

How important is feedback? The Scriptnotes podcast gets overwhelmingly positive reviews 99% are five stars but how much of that is helpful or constructive?

We also go into follow-up about The Death of Screenwriting (as a career) and announce the first-ever Scriptnotes Live podcast, coming this October at the Austin Film Festival.

LINKS:

UPDATE 6-7-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

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