Here at No Film School, we’ve been big fans of John August and Craig Mazin’s Scriptnotes, "a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters," since the beginning. After more than seven years (!) of weekly podcasts, Scriptnotes recently released its 365th episode.
That means, for only $1.99/month or less than $25, you can access the Scriptnotes archive, listen to one Scriptnotes podcast a day, and soak up over seven years of screenwriting knowledge in just one year’s time. Plus, you can double-up your listening pleasure on Tuesdays when new episodes arrive to stay on track during your year-long journey to becoming a better screenwriter.
If you can’t wait to listen to the best episodes, can’t fathom the idea of listening to 365 podcasts, or can only spare two bucks for one month of access at the moment, here are my 12 must-listen episodes from the archives, in chronological order:
Many new screenwriters get hung up on following screenwriting formulas, trying to hit certain beats on specific page numbers, because of some nonsense in a screenwriting book. The reality is there is that there is no secret formula. John and Craig break down the myths behind screenwriting gurus and their books. Save your money and listen to this episode.
So much of this episode has become de facto in my screenwriting, but I still remember listening to John & Craig’s excellent suggestions for both cosmetic cuts and major story edits. This episode is perfect for absolute beginners scared to cut anything as well as being a great refresher for seasoned vets staring at their 140-page bloated drafts.
John & Craig break down the entire film of Raiders of the Lost Ark. This episode is a classic, revealing why Raiders works so well. After you finish listening to this episode, jump ahead to Episode 247: The One with Lawrence Kasdan for the inside scoop from the screenwriter himself.
'Raiders of the Lost Ark'Credit: Paramount
First of all, this episode features the "Joan Rivers of Scriptnotes", Aline Brosh McKenna. So you know it’s going to be awesome. More importantly, John, Craig, and Aline talk about the importance of finding your own voice and working your voice into your scripts, not chasing someone else’s voice that is hot at the moment.
Letting go of a script is hard. Letting go of a dream is even harder. John & Craig offer advice on how to handle both situations.
As screenwriters, many of us work out our problems on the page. But sometimes, we need help understanding our own psychology and why we do the things we do, like procrastinate and beat ourselves up. Special guest Dennis Palumbo, a former screenwriter (now psychotherapist) brings a unique and refreshing perspective on the behaviors of screenwriters. This may be the best Scriptnotes episode of them all, and easily one of the most recommended.
One of the best script breakdown episodes. John & Craig are joined by Aline Brosh McKenna to break down the Disney hit Frozen, and if that wasn’t enough, Frozen writer and co-director Jennifer Lee joins the discussion, too. This is a fascinating story about the journey of Frozen from initial concept to final film.
Groundhog Day is one of the best-structured stories on screen ever. John & Craig do a fantastic breakdown of this story and why it works so well.
Aline Brosh McKenna returns for her 8th guest appearance on Scriptnotes, solidifying her title as the Joan Rivers of the podcast. More importantly, Aline, Craig and John tackle one of the hardest parts of writing a script—the second half of the second act. If you find yourself stuck at a similar point in your story (and at some point, you probably will), this is the episode for you.
All great stories have conflict. John & Craig walk through the different types of conflict screenwriters can use in their scripts, and point to excellent examples in the screenplay for Whiplash to emphasize their points. Also, check out Episode 224 when John & Craig take a look at specific scenes from Whiplash on the page and the screen to show how the writing translated into the final film.
'Whiplash'Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
For any screenwriters living outside of LA, naturally, this episode is a must-listen. But what makes this episode an absolute classic is that the guest, Ryan Knighton, a screenwriter who doesn’t live in LA and writes screenplays for filmmakers like Ridley Scott, is also blind. Ryan’s personal story is one you will never forget.
This episode was so good, I can still remember where I was when I first heard it: on a run through the wooded neighborhoods of Sandwich, Massachusetts one morning in July while visiting my wife’s family. Screenwriting is so much more than the dialogue. Everything else is what makes the story jump off the page and look like a movie in the mind’s eye of the reader. John & Craig pull examples from seven distinctive scripts to show a variety of styles to bring the non-dialogue elements to life.
You can listen to the most current 20 episodes of Scriptnotes for free, or you can subscribe for $1.99/month to access the full archive and begin your quest to cram seven years of Scriptnotes podcasts into 365 days. If you need more episode recommendations, check out this listener crowdsourced guide to the first 300 Scriptnotes episodes.