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.


  • Scriptnotes, 387: Seattle Live Show 2019

    Feb 12 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 hostin...more

  • Extra: The Agency Agreement

    Feb 07 2019

    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 Instag...more

  • 386 - The Princess Bride

    Feb 05 2019

    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...more

  • 385 - Rules and Plans

    Jan 29 2019

    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 Feb...more

  • 384 - Plot Holes

    Jan 22 2019

    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 3...more

  • 383 - Splitting the Party

    Jan 15 2019

    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” an...more

  • 382 - Professional Realism

    Jan 08 2019

    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. L...more

  • 381 - Becoming a Professional Screenwriter

    Jan 01 2019

    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 a...more

  • 380 - Double Ampersand

    Dec 25 2018

    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 bas...more

  • 379 - Holiday Live Show 2018

    Dec 18 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 usefu...more

  • 378 - The Worst of the Worst

    Dec 11 2018

    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...more

  • 377 - The Second Draft

    Dec 04 2018

    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...more

  • 73 - Raiders of the Lost Ark

    Nov 27 2018

    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 ...more

  • 376 - Commencement

    Nov 20 2018

    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 ...more

  • 375 - Austin 2018 Three Page Challenge

    Nov 13 2018

    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 screenwrit...more

  • 374 - Real-World Villains

    Nov 06 2018

    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: ...more

  • 373 - Austin Live Show 2018

    Oct 30 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...more

  • 372 - No Writing Left Behind

    Oct 23 2018

    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...more

  • 225 - Only Haters Hate Rom-Coms

    Oct 16 2018

    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 Twit...more

  • 371 - Writing Memorable Dialogue

    Oct 09 2018

    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...more