For their 25th podcast, John and Craig tackle listener questions.
How does a screenwriter option a novel he wants to adapt? John has optioned two novels
one through a studio, and one on his own while Craig recently optioned his first. In each of these cases, we found the psychological aspects to be just as important as the legal ones.
When can a writer say he "wrote" a movie
particularly if there are other credited writers? John and Craig disagree a bit here, with John trying to draw the distinction between "worked on" and "wrote."
Finally, should an aspiring writer focus on television or features? The answer from two feature writers may surprise you. Or not: television is pretty damn good these day.
UPDATE 2-22-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
John and Craig open up the listener mailbag to answer questions about formatting lyrics, foreign dialogue and title trademarks. We also dive in to discuss overall deals, which are common in television but quite rare among feature writers.
Also this week: The launch of the plain text screenwriting format Fountain, and John's love for the all-singing, all-dancing, Superbowl-sized NBC network promo.
There's also brief discussion of some sporting event that happened two Sundays ago.
UPDATE 2-16-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
After last week's depressing reality-check, Craig and John float back to the lands of joyful possibility with a look at theme, or central dramatic argument, or whatever you choose to call that narrative glue that helps hold a story together.
Theme, like structure, is one of those screenwriting terms that entrances newcomers and annoys veterans. Or at least it annoys John.
Generally, when you're talking about theme, you're trying to answer the question, "What is the story really about?" Your plot might concern a spy and stolen nuclear missiles, but the intellectual/emotional heart of the story is whether any man be trusted. Or whether all good acts are selfish. Or if men and women can be friends. (Nora Ephron's Bourne Identity.)
Also discussed: John's love for OmniFocus + Siri, braindead tasks, and cancer
but only briefly, because this will be a happy show, god help us.
UPDATE 2-9-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Following up on their conversation about "five figure advice" for newly-employed screenwriters, Craig and John discuss the changes and challenges that come when writers start making six figures
that is, more than $100K per year.
High-class problems? Sure. Not many aspiring screenwriters will reach that level of success, or sustain it. But in our experience, it's shortly after having "made it" that many writers find themselves flailing financially, because it's such a different experience than living paycheck-to-paycheck.
At what should point should you form a loan-out corporation? Should you pay off your student loans? Do you need disability insurance? How about a 401K? And how do you set up a line of credit at a Las Vegas casino?
Esoteric topics to be sure, but if you gather together a group of working screenwriters, this is what they'll eventually be talking about
the career rather than the craft. Ultimately, a lot of what we discuss this week applies to anyone working for themselves.
Also touched on this week: the difference between casting TV and features, and The Cinema School in the Bronx.
UPDATE 2-1-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Craig and John discuss the screenwriter's role in casting, then segue to the New York Times profile of producer/executive Lindsay Doran and her approach to story.
Doran argues (persuasively) that successful movies are often less about whether the hero wins or loses, but rather how his achievements are measured. For example, a character's victory is much more satisfying when there is someone to share it with
the real moment isn't the game-winning touchdown, but when the quarterback kisses his wife afterwards.
She's not pitching happy endings, but rather positive outcomes. It's an interesting way to look not just at how we tell stories, but also which stories we tell.
We also touch on the advantages of mentally casting your movie as you write, writing (or rewriting) for the cast you are given, and the delicate art of making someone think he came up with an idea on his own after you plant it in his head.
This and more mind-control tips on the 21st episode of Scriptnotes.
UPDATE 1-26-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
John and Craig take an in-depth look at how screenwriting credits are determined. In some ways, credit arbitration is a luxury problem
the movie you wrote got made! but it's one of the most controversial, contentious and misunderstood parts of a screenwriter's career.
Ideally, you're the first, last and only writer employed on a movie. For Go and The Nines, that was the case. In situations where more than one writer works on a movie, figuring out who deserves credit can become an ordeal.
Most non-animated Hollywood features are written under a WGA contract. Part of that contract specifies that the WGA ultimately determines who receives screenplay and story credit (which collapses into "written by" credit if the same writer receives both). This week, we take a look at the rules, principles and guidelines, and offer advice for writers who find themselves facing a credit arbitration.
Plus, a quick visit to CES.
UPDATE 1-18-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Craig and John take a look the week's news, including the WGA nominations, Warner's shift to a 56-day video window, the folly of SOPA and the launch of Bronson Watermarker.
Along the way, we discuss Hoda Kotb, Marcus Bachman, and how great HBO Go is. (Really, it's great, and other studios should follow its lead.)
All this and more in episode 19 of Scriptnotes.
UPDATE 1-11-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Craig and John look at the year ahead, from resolutions (we don't have any) to reunions (20th!). Along the way, we discuss archery, piano and left-hand weakness.
The bulk of the episode is a discussion of Charlie Kaufman's BAFTA speech about screenwriting and screenwriters, artistry and artifice. Which of us comes down on the side of self-examination and the purity of intentions? The answer may surprise you!
UPDATE 1-9-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Craig and John explain what producers do
at least, what they're supposed to do and discuss the myriad subclasses of producers that litter the opening titles of many movies.
Which is the more impressive credit
producer or executive producer? In film, it's the former. In TV, it's the latter. But whatever the title, producers are integral to getting a movie or TV show made.
Craig feels producers can be either anxiety buffers or anxiety conductors. John breaks down four essential roles you find producers filling:
Some producers can fill multiple roles (like diplomat-creative), but you'll often find these qualities spread out among several people on a production, regardless of the size.
Who's that fat cat, and how did he afford such a fancy cigar? Find out on episode seventeen of Scriptnotes.
UPDATE 1-4-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.
Craig and John plug a book by their very first sponsor and discuss elective brain surgery, before tackling an exhaustive but illuminating list of questions from listener Daniel Barkeley.
They're residual questions about residuals, which seems very meta:
Thirteen conversations about a few things, on episode sixteen of Scriptnotes.
UPDATE 12-15-11: The transcript of this episode can be found here.