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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: November, 2011
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Nov 29, 2011

Craig and John take a look at awards-season screeners before diving deep into a discussion of how residuals work and why they're so important to screenwriters.

Plus, a visit from Craig's cleaning lady, who thinks he's insane.

Near the end of our discussion on residuals, I give some actual numbers on an actual movie. Percentages are abstract; money is money.

I chose Go because I had the most data on it, going back to 1999. It's also useful because the movie was only moderately successful at the box office.

As you can see in the charts below, residuals taper off over the years but that long tail still adds up:

go residuals

Keep in mind, there's a possibility that residuals could spike if another home video medium takes off digital downloads or rentals, for example.

I went into the podcast thinking I could easily reverse the math to figure out how much the studio has made off the movie, but as Craig points out, it's more complicated than it appears at first. Most home video is calculated as 1.5% of 20% of gross earnings, so in order to get an accurate number I would need to sort out how much of Go's residuals are coming from home video (and not television licensing).

But we can still get a sense of minimums: Go brought in at least $30 million in the aftermarket, and likely much, much more.

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UPDATE 11-30-11: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Nov 22, 2011

John and Craig tackle reader questions about self distribution, pseudonyms, separated rights, and studios' feelings about international versus domestic box office.

They also explain the fallacy of equating effort in with value out, discuss why the WGA should address sweepstake pitches and coverage for videogame writers, and offer a Kentucky-born 21+ cure for the common cold.

This and more on the thirteenth Scriptnotes.

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UPDATE 11-27-11: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Nov 16, 2011

Craig and John discuss musicals, split time lines, split personalities and the human brain.

How does your inner-screenwriter affect how you see plays? Why is writing the second act of a screenplay such a slog? And is hearing voices in your head an asset as a writer? All this and more in the twelfth episode of Scriptnotes.

We spend a good chunk of time talking about the iconic musical Follies, and while there are some good screenwriting lessons to learn, no one will judge you if you skip forward to our discussion of brain books (17:30) or second-act malaise (20:30).

If you haven't Liked us and you like us, consider Liking us: facebook.com/scriptnotes.

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UPDATE 11-18-11: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Nov 8, 2011

When you read articles claiming every Hollywood movie loses money, an obvious question arises: "Why do they keep making them, then?" In this installment, John and Craig explain how the film industry spends and makes money.

It's a big and complicated topic. You could easily spend a semester studying it John did but this overview should give you a sense of how it all works.

The most important thing to understand is that each film is accounted for separately. Studios charge distribution fees that earn money for the company without paying down the investment in each movie. That's how Theoretical Pictures can turn a profit even when each of the last 20 films it has released shows a loss.

Because we're throwing a lot of terms around this episode, here's a handy cheat sheet:

John couldn't remember the name of it (The Paramount Decree) but it's worth reading up on the 1948 court decision barring studios from owning movie theaters. Not only is it a fascinating anti-trust case, but it greatly influenced how the modern film industry works.

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UPDATE 11-17-11: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Nov 1, 2011

Craig and John go through the mailbox to answer listener questions. Can great actors save bad writing? What happens when writing partners split up? Are flashbacks always a bad idea? Should a young British comedy writer move to America?

All this, plus discussion of Halloween, Screenwriting.io and dressing up dogs.

We have a Facebook fan page: facebook.com/scriptnotes. Like us, follow us and force your interests into your friends' feeds.

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UPDATE 11-7-11: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

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