John August: Bonjour et bienvenue. Je m’appelle John August.
Aline Brosh McKenna: Je m’appelle Aline Brosh McKenna.
John: Et vous écoutez l’Episode 282 de Scriptnotes, un podcast sur l’écriture de scénarios et des choses intéressantes pour les scénaristes.
Aline: Ah, très bien. Très bien, Paris.
John: So we are here in Paris. That’s why I’m doing my introduction in French. Aline Brosh McKenna flew all the way over here just to record a podcast.
John: That is the dedication of a true friend. Aline, welcome to Paris.
Aline: Thank you. And I am looking forward to the mocking that I will get from Craig for actually taking time during my family vacation to come here and podcast with you. But, come on.
John: Come on. It’s Scriptnotes. You have to do it for Scriptnotes.
Aline: Priorities. And also – all you and I know how to do together is podcast at this point. We see each other, we just instantly begin–
John: The microphones come out. And we start recording a podcast.
Aline: No matter where we are.
John: It’s really embarrassing, especially when there’s nothing to actually talk about other than filmmaking. Today on this podcast, we are going to be answering some listener questions about cheating reality and bilingual characters, appropriate for being here in French. And we’ll also be inviting a special guest on to talk about the process of adaptation and autobiography.
Aline: Great. That all sounds great.
John: That’s this week. But also something terrible happened this week, which was the death of Carrie Fisher.
Aline: Oh gosh. Quickly followed by the death of Debbie Reynolds.
John: Yes, which is terrible. So, we’re recording this where it’s all sort of brand new news. By the time this comes out, it won’t be new news. But I wanted to talk with you because Carrie Fisher, obviously we know her as Princess Leia, we know her as an actress, but I really thought of her mostly as a screenwriter. That was sort of how I encountered her.
Aline: Yeah. When I first came to LA she was sort of the premier script doctor. And, you know, was very witty and funny and was sort of brought in to make things sort of, as I understood it, wittier and funnier and warmer. But she also obviously had a great presence as an actor.
My favorite Carrie Fisher performance is Hannah and Her Sisters. It’s probably my favorite Woodie Allen movie, and that performance, the subtle competition between her and Dianne Wiest is great. So, yeah, that’s been really sad. And then also for me, as an ‘80s baby, the George Michael thing was devastating. And I spent a day listening to every George Michael song that, you know, back to back. It’s been a weird week.
John: Yeah. I wrote up a little piece about George Michael when I got the news, because just a few days before it happened we were listening to a George Michael song at a café in Italy and it’s like, oh, I wonder if George Michael is still alive. Like it occurred to me like is he still alive. And then two days he had died. And so one of the nice things about all artists, including Carrie Fisher, is that they can physically die but the work that they’ve created lives on forever. And so I’ve been trying to listen to George Michael songs, but also songs from other artists who I might not have thought of recently, just because that’s how you sort of keep them alive.
Aline: Right. And I think of Carrie Fisher as a wit and as a novelist and Postcards from the Edge. But, of course, my son is a huge fan from Star Wars. And so he was very sad and upset when we found out the news and we were waiting to hear when we first heard about the heart attack, we were waiting to hear if she was okay. And he was posting on Facebook about it. So she means something to different generations of people which is great.
John: Did you have a chance to meet her ever?
Aline: I never did. No.
John: So, I met her twice. The first time was at a screening of Big Fish. It was at the ArcLight in Los Angeles and it was sort of our LA premiere. And the lists had come down and Dick Zanuck was nearby and Bruce Cohen was nearby. And this woman came in and she sort of like, she put up the armrests and sort of like curled up on the seat. And it was Carrie Fisher. And she came to watch the movie.
And then a few weeks later, I think, I was at a birthday party that she’d thrown for her friend and met her there. And she was exactly kind of the person you hoped Carrie Fisher would be. And she was generous, and warm, and cool. And like you I sort of encountered her mostly as a script doctor. As a person who was paid a lot of money for weekly work on something.
And I remember I was an intern at Universal and they were discussing bringing her in to do a weekly on this project. And I heard her quote, which just blew my mind that we paid that much per week. And what her job would be. And that was actually very inspiring. Like, I kind of want to be a screenwriter if you can do that. [laughs]
Aline: Yeah. But it’s rare to be a famous actress and sort of screen icon and also be doing that kind of work a day work.
John: There’s a quote I saw this last week about this where in a Newsweek interview they were talking about her working as a script doctor. And they say like do you still work as a script doctor. She says, “I haven’t done it for a few years. I did it for many years. Then younger people came to do it. And I started to do new things. It was a very long, lucrative episode of my life, but it’s complicated to do that. Now it’s all changed actually. In order to get a rewrite job, you have to submit your notes for your ideas on how to fix a script.”
Aline: Oh wow.
John: “So they can get all the notes from the different writers, keep the notes, and not hire you. That’s free work. And that’s what I always call life-wasting events.”
Aline: Can’t say it any better than that.
John: Absolutely. So, we’ve all encountered that situation where you’re brought in to do this work or not do this work, and they mostly want your opinions.
Aline: Right. For free.
John: Some follow up. So, episodes you were not involved with, but maybe you listened to. Back in Episode 277 we discussed film versus reality. Justin in Beijing wrote in to say, “So, listening to the podcast about how film and TV teaches bad medicine, if my friend gets stabbed and my dumb friend pulls out the knife, should I put the knife back in my stabbed friend?”
Aline: What’s your follow up? I’m guessing you should not do that.
John: Yeah. Craig is really our doctor on the podcast. But I’m guessing you should not put the knife back in.
Aline: I’m guessing not.
John: But just yesterday I saw the movie Passengers and that exact moment happens where she pulls the thing that’s impaling her out. And I wanted to say, no, don’t, leave the bolt in.
John: Because you will just bleed more when you pull that thing out. No. Don’t do it.
In Episode 280 we talked about the Reed College protest over Boys Don’t Cry. Did you listen to that episode already?
Aline: No. I’m really way behind.
John: It’s fine. But that was the one where I got really angry, and so actually had like more umbrage in that episode. We got a bunch of good responses about that, and some stupid ones, too, inevitably. But the one that stuck with me most was from a listener named Kate Hadley. And we’ll put a link to her piece up in the show notes.
What I liked so much about her piece is that she was able to focus on some things that Craig and I had not even considered. And one of the issues you have when you have cis-gendered actor playing trans is it sort of perpetuates that idea that a trans person is just playing dress up. That it’s all a disguise. And that it feeds into these terrible bathroom laws and stuff like that where there’s this perception that it’s just a man who wants to get into the women’s restroom. That it’s not a real person with a real identity.
So, she wrote it much more articulately than I just expressed it, but I’d really encourage you to take a look at what she said, because even though she, like I, disagree with the Reed College protest, she really was able to scratch at what I think was underlying that issue over sort of trans representation in film.
John: Cool. Last bit of follow up here. Matt wrote in about French titles. And he wanted to clarify – we talked about the Zak Efron movie, which was called something else, but the Australian title was Are We Officially Dating, and it turned out that was the initial script title for the movie.
Aline: Wow.Scriptnotes, Ep 282: The One from Paris — Transcript