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Hollywood Screenwriting with Screenwriter John August
Today on the show we have Hollywood screenwriter, director, producer, podcaster and novelist John August. He is known for writing the hit Hollywood films Go, Charlie’s Angels, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Frankenweenie, the Disney live-action adaptation of Aladdin and the novel Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire. Here are some of trailers of his work.
He hosts the popular screenwriting podcast Scriptnotes with Craig Mazin, maintains an eponymous screenwriting blog and develops screenwriter-targeted software called Highland 2.5 through his company, Quote-Unquote Apps.
Enjoy my conversation with John August.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- John August – Official Site
- John August – Scriptnotes Podcast
- John August – YouTube
- Highland 2.5 (New UPDATED Verison)
- Industry Jump
- BlackBox – Make Passive Income From Your Footage
- $1 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: FREE AUDIOBOOK
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Alex Ferrari’s Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
REAL-WORLD STREAMING FILM EDUCATION
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Hollywood Film School: Filmmaking & TV Directing Masterclass
- Filmmaker in a Box – Learn How to Make an Indie Film – 18 Hours+ of Lessons
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
- Filmtrepreneur® Podcast
- Bulletproof Screenwriting® Podcast
- Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
Alex Ferrari 3:00
But today's guest is the legendary screenwriter, John August. But he's not only a screenwriter, he's also a legendary podcaster. His podcast on screenwriting, called script notes has been around since 2011. And it is pretty amazing. It's a great, great podcast and listen to as well. Now if you guys don't know who John August is, he wrote films like big fish frankenweenie Corpse Bride, Charlie's Angels, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dark Shadows, Charlie's Angels to the awesome film go. And more recently, he worked on Aladdin. The new Disney release just came out. And he also rewrote Iron Man, he was a rewrite one of the rewriters on Iron Man, the original movie that launched the Marvel Universe. So you know, John's career is doing okay, let's just say he's doing okay. But seriously, I wanted to get him on the show, to talk about his craft, how he works, how it's to work with big directors and their processes like Tim Burton. He's worked with multiple times. Like I said, he worked on big fish, one of my favorite Tim Burton movies ever. And I wanted to get into his process. And we also talked about the software that he created for screenwriters called Highland and there's a new version about out called Highland 2.5, which we'll be talking about that as well. And we get into the weeds, about screenwriting about the business. And I really felt that this would transcend both podcasts. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with John August. I like to welcome the show John August the legendary John August. Thank you so much for being on the show, sir.
John August 4:46
Alex Ferrari 4:47
You are, as they say an OG in the podcasting space. Without question, when did you actually start your podcast?
John August 4:55
Well, we're on episode 405. We just recorded that last night. So it's 630 Seven years, a long, long time.
Alex Ferrari 5:02
And what made you start podcasting? When like nobody was podcasting?
John August 5:06
You know, I started a blog when nobody was blogging to I've just always, you know, I always look to see what the next thing is. It's interesting to me and I see people doing the thing, and I want to do it. And so I started to listen to a bunch of tech podcasts. And I was getting really tired of sort of how the grind of the monologue of doing a blog for screenwriting and so I turned to Frank Mason, who was doing a blog like it. And so like, let's just have this be a conversation. So we started a weekly conversation that script notes, and it's gone really well.
Alex Ferrari 5:37
It's been going ever since very strong. So now I wanted to ask you, how did you first get into the business?
John August 5:44
I started I went through film school, I went through USC film school, and graduated from that I'd written a script that people liked. It was not a movie was ever gonna get made, but sort of got me started meeting around town. first project I had hired to write on was an adaptation of how do we fried worms, a kids book of Ron Howard's company, and I just kept working. And first of all it got made was go back in 99, so 20 years ago, and just kept going.
Alex Ferrari 6:13
That was a very complex script. If I remember a complex movie, there was so many story plots, jumping back and forth. And we remember when that came out was, it was definitely a 90s movies such as Doug Liman 90s film without question, how did you enter we've so many plots, and like matching them all together and stuff at the end, like,
John August 6:31
It started, it started as a short script for short film, which is just the first section of it. And then I had all these other characters in there, I knew what they were doing the rest of that night. And rather than try to fill out the whole story from my day, and I just make it longer, I just restarted the story twice, and could sort of follow the same night from different characters perspectives, you see how they overlap. And luckily, you know, Pulp Fiction came out a year before that. And so people had an understanding, like, okay, that's a real thing you're allowed to do in movies. And it was, yeah, God bless that. But let us do some very specific things. Because so often, you see movies that are struggling, because, you know, the audience wants the next thing to happen. But the story needs something else to happen. And this could be very tight, because the storylines that stick very close together.
Alex Ferrari 7:17
Now, how many screenplays Did you have written when you sold your first one, because I always tell people don't just have one. Don't write, don't sell, sell your first screenplay generally.
John August 7:27
You know, I hadn't sold a written script until go, which was pretty far into it. So I'd written four things before I had one that sold. But two of those things I'd written I'd been paid to write, they were adaptations of existing books. So I was very lucky, it started very quickly for me. But your general advice, I think is correct is that you don't put everything in, don't assume that the one thing you're working on right now is the thing that's going to break through for you. Because you just don't know, and you're still learning your craft, you can't anticipate all these things are gonna happen. That said, you know, write the movie you wish you could see because that's the movie that you're going to actually stick by and finish and really be able to, you know, stay home on Friday nights to work on
Alex Ferrari 8:12
And you came up in the 90s so the the the screenwriting marketplace was a little bit different back then the
John August 8:20
There were there was really respect sales there would be like, you know, a million dollar spec sale for you know, an original script and that has basically gone away and so that was different it was it was a boom time there were there clearly were things that were happening there the same way that there's a boom time right now for television. It's just it's shifted a lot.
Alex Ferrari 8:38
Yeah, cuz because back then, I mean, you would get these Joe Astor house Shane Black deals that were just like two $3 million for him. It was like a lottery almost. And and someone like Astra house, he, I think he made more money on movies that never got made that
John August 8:53
but I mean, that's always been true of screenwriting, though, is that, you know, there are a lot of screenwriters who get hired a lot, and they work a lot. But, you know, most movies are developed don't get made. And so that is a frustration of screenwriting is that even me like I have a pretty good track record, but most of the things I've written have not been made. And that's a real frustration.
Alex Ferrari 9:14
And you've actually been hot. And these are things that you hired to do
John August 9:16
Hire. So I'd like 12 produce credits, but I have at least 30 scripts that I've written just for pay and most of them are just kind of frozen in 12 point courier just because, you know, either the underlying rights or just whatever didn't come together the right way to make those movies.
Alex Ferrari 9:32
Yeah, it is a frustrating part of the whole the whole game and, and there's multiple reasons for that. It could be REITs or something like that, or just studio changes.
John August 9:43
Obviously, you never found the right director or there was a competing project that was too similar. lots of reasons why things don't happen.
Alex Ferrari 9:50
Now, you've collaborated with the legendary Tim Burton on multiple occasions. What is the collaboration process like with Tim Burton?
John August 9:59
It's clever. Between a screenwriter and director is different every time and sometimes it's a really close bond. And I'm there every moment. So I go, I was there for every frame, we shot. And I was in the editing room a lot, I was there for the whole thing with Tim, it's not that I'm with Tim, I'm very much like a department head in my department, his story. And so I'm the person who's coming up with the script, delivering the script. And then I largely go away, I'll be there through pre production through table read, I'm there to help for anything that needs help. But like during production, I have no function in it. I'll see early cuts, I can give notes on that I can give feedback. But it's that's just not how we work. He treats. You know, all his partner heads really, really well. And so calling out what you know, sees his vision delivers costumes that will suit what he needs to do the cinematographers do the same thing. But I'm, I'm a different department head for temporary movies
Alex Ferrari 10:50
Do you actually do like when you're actually collaborating with, with stores? Do you just he's just like, here's this, here's the book, get me something.
John August 10:57
But does he give you notes, because back and forth. It's more the former CIO, which is unlike most directors, but it's really just, this is the overall vision, give me something that matches the vision. So Charlie, the Chocolate Factory is a good example of that he had signed on to direct it, it was really starting from zero on a script. And we could tell, he could say, like, I want everything from the book, and as much as you need to make sense. And I could approach them from my whole memory of how much I love that book, and sort of what was special to me about that book, and then write it really anticipating the things that he would love. And so, you know, walk his father being a dentist, and the orthotic headgear, and like just the moments, I knew that Tim Burton could knock out of the park. But there were probably less than an hour's conversation, during the whole process of just like this, I will be making it very clear that like, you know, I'm writing a script and Tim's making a movie and it'll, it'll work.
Alex Ferrari 12:01
And that's a very unique scenario. Now, normally, directors are really,all inside your business
John August 12:08
Yeah, normally, you're really sort of grappling over every scene in every every beat. And that's not Tim's basic way of doing things. He's, you know, I think I've really learned from him is that he prepares meticulously, and so he has big notebooks of how he's going to do every scene. And he's sketching, and he's painting, he's figuring out what it is. But he's figuring out how to make the movie inside his head. And he doesn't. He doesn't necessarily need to work with me as a writer in terms of doing that. He's trusting me to sort of like, provide the words and he's gonna revive the, all the other things it takes to make a movie.
Alex Ferrari 12:46
I mean, you wrote one of my favorite Tim Burton movies ever big fish, which I think it was it was such a brilliant, brilliant movie and, and very Tim Burton, he but not in the same sense. Does that make sense?
John August 12:57
It does well, and that was a script I'd written before Chairman sign on. So I just read it. I read a book that I loved very much, I convinced the studio to buy me the book. And I wrote it without any directors on board about any producers on board as wrote the movie. I wish I could see, originally, Steven Spielberg had signed on to direct it, he was on for about a year and never really happened. And then when he dropped off, Tim signed on. And so we didn't have a lot of conversation about, you know, the story, the movie or sort of what individual things meant to him. He just he wanted to direct that script is the only things that change once Tim sign on board are really for budget and schedule things just like things that were in the script, it just we just couldn't make. And so then we discuss how we were going to do that. But it wasn't a, you know, you think there's gonna be these, you know, 12 hour sessions, we're really just ball over everything. And that's just not Tim's way.
Alex Ferrari 13:48
Now, you, you you have a recent film that just hit the theaters, a small little film called Aladdin, small indie project, yeah. small indie project by startup. And, you know, I was when I first heard they were, well, of course, this is remaking everything they have in their, in their arsenal or in their backlog. But when I heard about a lot, I'm like, Wow, that's a really unique challenge, because the original is so engrained in our head and specifically that Robin Williams performance. How did you tackle that remake? Like, how did you go into that process? Knowing that there's this Honestly, this shadow? I'm sure Will Smith had the same problem, the shadow of that Robin Williams was casting on the project, at least from my point of view?
John August 14:31
Yeah, I approached it from so I'd have to rewind the clock a lot and sort of come into my universe once before and it's like, oh, no, I'm not gonna touch that. And then Disney did the Cinderella remake, which I thought was fantastic. And what I love so much about the Cinderella remake is it took the same story. Basically, it just gave the characters human motivations rather than cartoon motivations, that they really had to do things that flesh and blood people would do not animated characters would do. And then it Reasons had to be different. And so as I approach the story from that perspective, I was looking at, well, Jasmine, so Jasmine as a character, you just can't bring that animated character through the live action movie because she will seem so helpless and weak and frustrating to watch. And so, you know, the idea that Jasmine is trying to learn how to rule this kingdom is interesting. That's a fundamental shift I could make from the very first pitch the dynamic between Genie and Aladdin, I really saw them more as as bros as like a house, like you've never had a friend like me. And so what is it, it was more sort of a kind of a Seth Rogen II kind of dudes hanging out kind of vibe with them rather than the Robin Williams cocaine uncle kind of thing. And when, when you from the early pitches, like that's really the vibe I was going for. And so I knew that whoever was playing the gene, it wasn't real at that point. But it was hopefully going to be will or somebody like well could didn't have to play in the same lane, they could do his own thing, that there wouldn't be that assumption that you'd have to have the same kind of manic energy at every point, it could be a different thing. So that, you know, the characters were going through much the same story, but the reasons for how they were doing it were working a lot differently, Jafar is another good example is that he can't be as moustache totally hidden, he needs to be seen as a viable sort of physical threat and not just, you know, obviously to learn from the first moment he shows up.
Alex Ferrari 16:32
Right, exactly. And that's what makes a good protect what makes a good antagonist, generally speaking, is not the, the twirling mustaches has been, shouldn't really be what we write anymore. Now, Charlie's Angels, which was a monster hit when it came out. The first one for people was when people that weren't around then Charlie's Angels have a very big deal when it came out. And that was, that was your first kind of like, blockbuster monster hit right out of the gate. Yeah, it
John August 17:01
was the first one that I had sort of really come on board, you know, at the start and sort of helped build from build up from the bottom. And that was, again, an example of, you know, taking all the things I loved about the original and recognizing, okay, so how do we do this as a movie? How does the things I love about this as a series? How do we do this in two hours? What are the audience expectations of how a story like this wants to tell itself into in two hours, probably, than big fish are rival each other for the most difficult things I've written because in Charlie's Angels, you have three protagonists, each of who needs their own plot lines, his own personal plot lines, you have a villain, you have a twist, you have all the sort of normal action, movie action, comedy, things that need to happen. So every scene has to do a lot of work to service very many things. And so making that all work together in the puzzle pieces fit was really tough. But we approached it, mostly from a sense of, what do you want this movie to feel like? And so I really wanted to get that sense of being incredibly proud of the girls for sort of what they've done, which you don't think about an action movie, but these women are really, really good at what they do. But they're giant dorks when they're off the job. And so that's what makes them feel human and relatable is that they are, you know, they're goofy and flawed and ways that you can sort of key into they're not perfect.
Alex Ferrari 18:20
Yeah, like, you don't want to have a beer with Rambo, like generally, okay. No, no,
John August 18:25
I mean, and comedies are never about cool people. comedies are about dorks. And so we had to find a way that they could be great at their job and also be dorks you know, off the job.
Alex Ferrari 18:35
Now, what was it like, you know, being kind of like the belle of the of the ball after Charlie's Angels hits in town, because anytime there's a big hit the screenwriter and the director, they they kind of get twirled around for a while, while you're hot. While the spotlights on you. What's that expressed? Like? What was that experience? Like? Because I know a lot of people listening would love to know
John August 18:54
what I mean. It's nice to be offered projects where you don't have to chase everything. Whereas sometimes it's just a little calm, say like, Hey, would you want to do this thing? That's great. You also really are constrained by time. Like, there's only so many things you can do the only the only things you can say yes to and the more things you say yes to you're really saying no to other things. And it was tough to balance what people wanted me to do for them. And those opportunities I was getting versus the things I wanted to do for myself and finding you know, what was actually, you know, provide value to me creative satisfaction to me. And it didn't always make the right choices. I ended up like, you know, taking projects that seems cool, but sometimes never happened. And so there's some gaps in my resume where I was working a lot just those movies didn't happen and a lot of my job as a screenwriter ends up being kind of like a stock picker. I have to pick the movies that that I want to do but that I also think will get made because it doesn't do me a lot of good if I got paid to write a movie that never became a movie.
Alex Ferrari 19:53
Yeah, I know a lot of high end. You know, big time screenwriters that have one, maybe one credit to them, and they're like, but they're working for 10 years Oh, yeah, yeah, it happens all the time. Now, you also said at the beginning, you said that you kind of start off fast for you. What was the first break? Like? What was that first thing that happened? Because even in the 90s, it was still hard to break in without question.
John August 20:14
No. And I think this is, you know, a pattern I've noticed, you know, among my friends, but also, I've had a whole slew of assistants who've grown up to be, you know, big writers. And there becomes a moment at which something you've written is getting passed around without you're actively trying to get it passed around where someone reads things, and passes them as like, oh, should we this is really good. And that happened for me with the script that I wrote in film school was a romantic tragedy called here and now, and I read it now, I don't think it's especially good, but the writing is good. You can read and say, like, Oh, I don't necessarily want to make this movie. But like, the writer is actually probably pretty good and are worth meeting that got passed around a bunch. And just, you know, it started with friends at my level. So just, you know, people I was in class with people who were assistants, other places, would pass it around to their bosses would read it. And eventually, it sort of got some buzz to it. And that was what enabled me to go into a producer who said he wanted to think about optioning. I said, That's fantastic. But I really need an agent, can you help me find an agent, and that producer helped me find my first agent, and sort of get me more of those meetings, you end up doing sort of this waterbottle tour of Los Angeles where you just meet, you know, you know, producers and studio executives, and just talk about stuff.
Alex Ferrari 21:32
Now, um, what are some of the biggest mistakes you see in screen and screen that screenwriters make when they first starting out?
John August 21:40
There's this focus on make ability, marketability, chasing what's currently popular, and that's never going to work. Because first off, everyone can sort of feel that you're not your heart's not really into that movie. That like, just because that Western opened big that there's gonna be a whole run on westerns, it goes back to that kind of lottery chicken mentality. And that, like, there was a time where scripts would sound like, you know, suddenly, you're a millionaire. Because that script sold for a bunch. That's not the time we're living in, really, you need to be writing scripts that you deeply believe in, it's a movie that you would pay $15 to see opening weekend, it would means that much so if that's a giant blockbuster, or a tiny art film, right, that movie you wish you could see because that's the thing people will read and say like, oh, he or she really, you know, I really see something special in this, I really see a connection to this, I want to meet this writer, because mostly, you're gonna make your living as a screenwriter by being hired to do stuff.
Alex Ferrari 22:41
Now, what do you want to I'd love to hear your opinion on this, you know, the studio system has changed so dramatically since the 90s. Or in the 80s, where a movie like go could get made. But in today's world, the studio would never even think of making a film like go are an independent film. Not independent film, but just like a little bit.
John August 22:58
Go was basically independent film is an independent film that got bought out right before we started shooting. So it really was in India.
Alex Ferrari 23:04
But But like, you know, the studios aren't taking many risks anymore. It's all these big blockbuster, everything's tentpole, what do you feel about that, as far as you know, just for the creativity of, of unique stories, unique voices? in those stories? What do you think? No,
John August 23:22
there are still plays that are making those things. So it's not Disney, it's not Columbia, but there's still the annapurnas, the May 24, I think we still have a really vibrant indie film community. And so those movies are happening, and it's still getting seen, I think the biggest shift that we're seeing is that more of those movies are ending up on Netflix, on Amazon, on Apple on places that aren't, you know, that aren't, you know, going into a big giant movie theater and seeing it there. I love the big screen movie experience, I still want to keep making those movies, but I have to be realistic that there's certain kinds of movies for which most people are expecting to see it, you know, through a streaming service. And maybe we should just acknowledge expectation and make those things for those markets. Because that's where you're going to see, like, always be my maybe worked really well for Netflix. And that's everyone could watch it. And it'd be part of a cultural conversation, because it was so successful there on Netflix, if it had come out and done the traditional, you know, platform in New York, Los Angeles and have to expand out from that. I don't know if it would have worked. So I think that's just where we're at right now.
Alex Ferrari 24:30
What do you think of the whole streaming service phenomenon? The Netflix effect as they say like it is it is literally lifted this little small company completely changed the way the Hollywood does business?
John August 24:40
Yeah. I mean, for certain kinds of projects, you know, they are a huge dominant player. And, you know, as someone who's writing things, you always want more buyers, you always want more places where things can go that's that's just the reality. So it's it's amazing to have in there as another big studio but The downsides are, you know, it used to be you'd make a movie and it would exist out there in the world. And you could always find it or there was a DVD thing. There's just a sense that like there was a movie with a physical thing. And now that it's just bits on a streaming service, and you just don't know what's going to happen to it, it's great that everyone in the world can see your movie. But in some ways, there's so much there that it's very hard to sort of point somebody to your movie and get them watching it. It's hard. Honestly, the, the aftermarket for a movie is so much smaller. Now, just because it is showing up on streaming services. There's no, there's residuals, but they're not the same kind of residuals that writers got used to.
Alex Ferrari 25:41
Now, what is your approach to structure? And how and how do you structure your scripts in general, like do you outline,
John August 25:49
I'm not a big outliner. But I have a very good sense generally, when I'm starting writing of what the important beats are, and most importantly, where I'm headed. So it's like a road trip, like, I obviously know where you're starting. But you gotta have a really good sense of like, where you want to end up, and you can take some different routes to get there. But you have to have a good sense of like, Okay, this is getting me towards where I want to be. So I'm, you know, it was New York, Los Angeles, I could go by the Grand Canyon, or I could go by Mount Rushmore, I had to make some choices, but I will get to that place where I'm going, so I have a good sense of the big, you know, pitstops along the way, as I'm, as I'm getting there, I'm not a huge believer in, you know, page 30, page 60, page 19, or these are the big moments we have to hit. All movies, begin, all movies have a middle point, and they have an end, just naturally, everything has a beginning and an end. But I don't believe in sort of that strict, you know, ideas, I'd like you know, that a three act structure has to hit exactly these moments. Do like, there's
Alex Ferrari 26:48
a lot of these rules that you hear about, like, you know, make sure there's not a lot of action. Like you need a lot of a lot of whitespace on the script and proper formatting. And, of course, that's part of the process. But how truly important like, if you have, if you have one typo on your script, are you is your thing going to get thrown out. That's that stuff that they tell people and I always felt like, Look, if it, if you threw Pulp Fiction down, you know, if you're a typo or two, they're gonna let you go.
John August 27:17
here's the here's what I think is true about that, though, is that the commitment to read a script is a pretty severe commitment, you're asking for an hour or two hours of somebody's time, and really, their focus and attention. And so you have to make them believe it's really gonna be worth their time to finish the script. And so if you're giving them any excuse to put it down, then you've shot yourself in the foot. So that's why, you know, you know, check them one last check for typos. One last check for like, is this really the best way through this scene? Did I mess up these characters names? Like, is it, those last things are those last looks are very important, because, you know, it could be somebody only look, so you want to make sure that all that stuff is done, right? In terms of what it looks like on the page, you know, I make Highlands two, which is a really good screening app, and most of them can do the basic formatting stuff for you. That's not an issue. But you're still gonna have to make choices about you know, how dense you want your page, like, how do you make it inviting for someone to get all the way through that page and flip it and go to the next one. And I'm a person who doesn't like big law, he texts of chunk a bit chunky blocks of text, because I just know sometimes as a reader, I'll start skimming, and you just don't want people to start skimming on you.
Alex Ferrari 28:30
So the so tighter the better. As always, as they say,
John August 28:34
yeah, I mean, you don't, don't put more than you need, but you are the only person who can know what you really need.
Alex Ferrari 28:40
Now, what advice do you have for building interesting characters? Because I think there's, you know, there's character, there's character driven movies and plot driven movies. Would you agree on that?
John August 28:52
To a certain extent, to some extent, there's certain certainly movies where the unique character conflicts are not what makes you buy a ticket for a movie?
Alex Ferrari 29:01
It's like looking like Indiana Jones James Bond,
John August 29:04
basically, yeah. But I mean, Indiana Jones without Indiana Jones himself and serve his unique thing wouldn't work. Right.
Alex Ferrari 29:11
Right. In another way, the plot wouldn't move if you threw another character there. It has absolutely. It's an Indiana and
John August 29:15
same thing with James Bond, you kind of maybe do Bourne Identity, kind of what I mean, but I mean, even in his blankness Jason Bourne is a fascinating character, because you're leaning into C because you don't know who he is, you know, he is and you don't know who he is. But you're fascinating to find out. So you're on the journey with him.
Alex Ferrari 29:32
So what advice do what do you have advice you have for building interesting characters?
John August 29:37
Well, I think it's tailoring the right character for the world and the story you want to tell. So basically, you have to have a sense of what is the point of the story that I'm telling you like what is, you know, be it sort of more a plot engine or be it a world you're building? You know, figure out what that central question is that thing that the movie is grappling with and figure out who is the most interesting person to be driving the story to be carried through the story, you know, who is either best prepared for it or at least prepared to go into this story. So, Indiana Jones, he's uniquely well qualified to be in a story. But Groundhog Day Bill Murray is uniquely disqualified to be in that movie. That's what makes it so fascinating. You could do that same plot mechanic with nearly any other person on earth. But this grumpy weatherman is a really great fit for the story you're trying to tell.
Alex Ferrari 30:30
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And was there ever a movie like Groundhog's Day prior to Groundhog's Day that did that?
John August 30:46
There were movies that? Yeah, there were movies that there appeared time? Yeah, that was not first thing. So I mean, Rashomon goes back to the same moment three times. So yeah,
Alex Ferrari 30:56
but yeah, I guess it's
John August 30:58
not quite as time loop is quite the same way. But like, that idea is not new to Groundhog Day. But soon, and that's an important thing to stress is like, there are no ideas that are groundbreaking, the new it's execution that matters. And it was the execution of that, you know, that time loop thing which could have been in any Twilight Zone, but the comedic bands with a very specific character with a very specific moral lesson has to learn. That's what makes Groundhog Day Groundhog Day.
Alex Ferrari 31:23
Is there any film that you can think of in recent history, or even in your lifetime that you saw, like, Wow, that is completely original, that is completely do I've never seen or heard anything like that?
John August 31:35
I don't, I don't like the final movie nearly as much as the script. But Natural Born Killers for me was as a script, something that was it was just so inventive with form. And it doesn't all translate into the final movie. But it was the first script I remember reading where I finished it just off the back to page one and started reading again, because like, it would just suddenly become a sitcom kind of for no reason. But it would be it would just, it would just change its form. And it would, it seemed to be aware that it was that we were in a time of, you know, post post modernism there just like the boundaries between media forms were eroding. And so Tarantino's original script for that I thought was so groundbreaking and original, that I loved it.
Alex Ferrari 32:17
I would love to see that version produced. Like if he actually
John August 32:20
Got to be, it'd be amazing. It'd be fantastic.
Alex Ferrari 32:22
And I'm a fan of the of the movie either. I've read, I saw the movie first before I read the script. But then when I read the script, I'm like, Oh, this is completely different. Completely different situation. It was, it was remarkable. When you in like, who is like one of your favorite like your favorite screenwriters like Who do you look at and go, man?
John August 32:40
Well, everyone in my generation who started writing when we did, I mean, we all look up to James Cameron for his ability to write action on the page. And so you know, many of us are still kind of consciously or subconsciously, AP and sort of what he's able to do because it was Middle East, but fantastic. And it really gave me a sense of being present in that moment for the action that's happening. Nora Ephron her ability to sort of just illuminate characters from within. And so and just and just have a really good sense of like, how the ball passes back and forth. James L. Brooks, again, a great example of a writer who can, you know, make people feel grounded and real in their place in their world. But he's also telling you a story. He's, he's, he's constructing University, it's going to force them as the characters to make choices. So I mean, just to pick three off the top of my head, those are three that would go back to now,
Alex Ferrari 33:33
we touched upon this a little earlier to today, but the protagonist, the archenemy, the antagonist, the villains have there is a problem there's a disease of bad villains out in cinema. What do you What advice would you have for to create a really good villain and can give you an example of two or three like insanely good villains you like? Well, that's the depth that those villains had, you know? Oh, let's
John August 33:57
think about it. So obviously, the best villains don't understand that they're villains they every villain is a hero. And so sure, that's villains think that they're doing what needs to be done. And they have they have very good reasons for why they're doing it. Whether the moral reasons or other reasons. Some villains I've especially loved till this one's character in my play warrant, and I don't like when I'm messing up the title, the George Clooney movie?
Alex Ferrari 34:24
Yes, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. No, he talking about Yeah. Yeah,
John August 34:27
I'm playing my clip. She's fantastic in that she is. She's weak in really fascinating ways. I love that she's, you know, she's ballsy and tough, but she's also vulnerable in ways that you don't often see the villains and so I thought it was a brilliant characterization there. And Tony Gilroy, I think if I'm not mistaken, so are there other villains I love? I mean, one of my favorite movies of all time is aliens and the alien Queen you don't think of it as being a character But its motivations are so clean and pure. And that's a movie that's all constructed around sort of the horror of motherhood. It's it's Ripley, as Ripley as a mother, really. She wasn't expecting a surrogate mother to news. And you know, the end Queen as the evil version of that mother are just, they're brilliantly balanced between the two of them. And so I think in the movies that I love, you see that that is exactly the right villain or antagonist to challenge this specific hero or protagonist in the story.
Alex Ferrari 35:30
So like America mirror image, like a mirror image of like, so I always use Batman and the Joker like they literally polar opposites, and they're perfect for each other. Yeah.
John August 35:42
I mean, the Joker is a fantastic villain and all Sabrina carnations, it's whether it's a he's a force of pure chaos or a force of just just twisted love. There's, there's lots of ways to play a joker, I think it's easy, you know, iconic for all those reasons. I do a series of books called Arlo Finch. So they're middle grade fiction, or Harry Potter age fiction. And it's been fascinating like trying to find the right villain for that because the central character is a 12 year old boy who's like, nervous about the answers. This is a big planner is the sort of, you know, always a little bit leery of the world outside there. And finding the right villain opposite him has been fascinating. So I needed to find a character through who was. Arlo ended up creating his own villain. And so quite accidentally, like he was trying to do the right thing, but ended up sort of creating this madman who end up coming back after him. And so when characters and when antagonists and protagonists have that causal bond between the two of them, I think that's especially meaningful, Superman has that with Lex Luthor, because you know, Superman, absolutely, you know, got absolutely hurt Lex Luthor as a kid. Those things are great. In big fish, the protagonist, antagonist relationship is between the Father and the Son. And so they, they're each other's villain, and each other's hero in time. And that's a fun way to look at it, as well.
Alex Ferrari 37:07
Now, as far as the protagonists, what makes a good like, what makes you want to jump on board with that protagonist and go on that journey, because there's also some weak weak motivations. And so many so many screenplays and also movies that I see just like, man, I don't care about that guy. Like, I don't want to go on this journey. I don't care about this person. Or it's just so flimsy. The reasoning, this just kind of like, someone just threw something in there just to get it to the next step. What's your What's your opinion? What's the
John August 37:38
motivation, you're talking about? motivation, you're really just a synonym for want. And like, all characters want things but the protagonist of the movie, we want what the protagonist wants. And if we don't want what the protagonist wants, then we don't care, we won't follow that person in the movie. So it's establishing really early on what it is that the central character wants, needs and fears. So we understand why we're going on this journey with the character. And for movies, it's really like, is this a journey that we're willing to spend about two hours with this character and see them go from this point, to that point, there'll be a big transformation. That's what makes movies so different than TV shows is that movies are about a one time experience. It's the characters profoundly change versus a TV show, they're not going to change a lot by the end of the episode. So you're, you're looking for, like, who is the right character, who can change who can protagonist over the course of two hours to get to a really meaningful, emotional place that they couldn't have got to earlier on? And that's, you know, it's looking that along the way for how do you, you know, put choices in front of the character, this character so that we see why he or she is doing what they're doing and can never go back to the places that they were before.
Alex Ferrari 38:53
I wanted to touch on something and I think you're uniquely qualified to answer this, because a lot of a lot of not only filmmakers, screenwriters as well, they and I was I was guilty of this as well, early on my career that you're trying to kind of hack your way into Hollywood, you're trying to hack your way into getting an agent or getting in through the back door or using this technique or this, this this little secret that you heard someone say once, can you kind of just debunk that and understand like, you know, you do need quality, but there is right place, right time, right product, you know, without without question. Yeah.
John August 39:30
I mean, you need, you need to be a good writer, you need to be lucky. And you can work on becoming a good writer, and you can work on being on getting lucky by making sure that your stuff is out there where people can find it, because no one's going to stumble across your script if they have no way to find your script. So a lot of the questions that I'm getting it's like, oh, I, I want to send with the script over somebody but I'm worried about if you get stolen or something like that. getting past those fears is the first thing you have to do because you want anybody under the sun who wants to read your script. To read your script, because you never know, who is the person to spark for in the right way that will, they'll start the ball rolling into the next thing. I wasn't a big part of any writers groups, but I know a lot of people who are working right now who, you know, start on the early levels, who have found it the accountability of being in a writers group and having every week to show up with like, this is the new thing I wrote, this is the thing I did. He's great. And then as some people develop some traction, it's a way to sort of get your stuff out there into the world. So especially if you're in Los Angeles, joining a group of good writers whose opinions you like and trust, who can really contribute to that group is probably a good idea as well.
Alex Ferrari 40:43
Do you have any advice for people trying to just, you know, play the Hollywood game, if it's lack of a better word is there I mean, is there any,
John August 40:52
I mean, there's always there's always been a Hollywood game, the rules change some degree, but like, but you can spend all your time just playing that game, and you'll never get anything made. And that's, that's the issue. So, I mean, it is important. I mean, there's, there's a social aspect to what we do, and that you have to be able to you think like, Oh, I'm a really, if you're a good writer, then it shouldn't matter that I can't sort of like, pitch in a room. But now you've got to build pitch in a room, it's part of the sport that you're you're you're playing, you've got to learn how to be able to sort of this like, function add up, you know, cocktail party, and, you know, and make that chitchat stuff, because that will be an important function of it all. And understanding and with those social skills, as you're starting to work on stuff, understanding the notes you're getting, and sort of what's behind the notes, and how to sort of, you know, figure out what you actually need to do versus what you should ignore that those are all important skills, and they're hard to cultivate until you actually are just doing them and you're gonna be stressed out at times. That's just the reality.
Alex Ferrari 41:55
Now, how do you deal with notes because I mean, you you working at the the highest levels in Hollywood, and you're dealing with, you know, a lot of studios and student executives and directors and lack of a better term egos, as well actor's wants and needs. So how do you deal with notes coming in from you at all, at all angles?
John August 42:13
You know, it's that balance of being humble and sort of like, understanding that, like, this is a collaborative thing that you're trying to do. And so you're going to have to be able to, you may have your one perfect vision for how this is supposed to be, but like that one revision is useless if they can't make that perfect vision if they can't see the movie that's in your head. So it's hearing what they're saying, processing in ways that makes sense to you trying to echo it back and do the things that make sense. So you can come to a consensus about the same kind of movie you're trying to make. It's tough. And I would say that one of the I know it's a crisis, but one of the real challenges facing screenwriting right now is that it's still kind of playing by the way, it's always played where there's, this is conservatism. There's this, play it safe aspect, there's this, you know, you're here. Yeah. And there's much less fear in television, there's much less fear and sort of like the, the good television being made. And the writers are just being able to make the why they
Alex Ferrari 43:14
why is that because the budgets are massive, as well.
John August 43:17
But they are, I think this is a recognition that that ultimately, there's gonna be differences of opinions. But the writer who's responsible for that whole series, you got to gotta listen to what she's saying, and that she may actually know what she's talking about. I'm not saying it's perfect, and like network TV is still a drag. But the folks I know who are working in television now are finding. Even when they get noted, they're getting noted to like, let's make this smarter rather than let's sand off the rough edges.
Alex Ferrari 43:51
Now, you're talking about pitching earlier, do you have any tips on pitching because pitching is a completely different skill set to walk in? It
John August 43:58
is it takes, it takes a lot of practice. I mean, the spirit for a pitch though, is you have to think about imagine you just saw a movie you absolutely loved and you had to convince your best friend to go see that movie. And so you wouldn't pitch every beat of it. You would pitch the world the principal characters what it's about, you'd get us into it and but then you would sort of shorthand some things along the way. And most importantly, you really share your enthusiasm for it. That's not just you're not just going through a list of bullet points that it really feels like you are selling the movie, not just telling the movie.
Alex Ferrari 44:33
Now what what is your daily writing routine? Like?
John August 44:38
So I'm here in my office. I am usually out here by 9am. I'm here nine to six, but I I'm 20 feet away from my house so i can i can wander back in. I know that. Yeah. So I can I can go in and out pretty freely. I tried to get three hours of writing done a day and so I usually do those sprints and so people who follow me on twitter See, like, I'm say about to start a right sprint who wants to join me, I usually start a spread at the top of the hour. So like, at 10am, I'm starting this. And that means for 60 minutes, I'm doing nothing but writing. And in Highland two, we have a little timer function. So it, it starts counting my words I do within that hour so and then when the hour is up, then I can step away. But like during that hour, I'm not googling things, I'm just focusing on getting words on paper, or deep,
Alex Ferrari 45:26
deep work deep, right? And,
John August 45:28
yeah, I'm really, really writing. And then if I do three of those a day, I'm getting enough done that things will get finished. For a book, I'm hitting at least 1000 words a day for a script, that's three to five, maybe seven pages,
Alex Ferrari 45:44
you'll finish if you if you get that much done. And there is kind of like a disease of distractions that we have to deal with as just human beings in general. But as writers as creatives, it's so brutal, because you have little things you have little notifications, all that stuff, the concept of deep work. I don't know if you read that book, deep work, which is it's amazing book about just what you can get done if you actually just Yeah, yeah, you know, any tips on how to deal with, you know, what you do? block everything out? Yeah, I
John August 46:14
used to this app called freedom, which like blocks connection. And that's great. If it works, I found just, you know, actually starting the timer, and just like saying 60 minutes is enough for me, like, it'll keep me on task. But everyone's different. So recognizing that what works for somebody else may not be the right solution for you. But there probably is a solution for you. And this is, this is my version of it. The other thing I will say is that I've never been one to write in sequence. And so I will write whatever seeing appeals to me to write that day. And so I let myself freely hop around. Because when you're making a movie, when you're editing a movie, you're going to be doing that naturally anyway. So just don't give your self the excuse of like, I don't really know how to do this next scene, they're like, well, then don't do that scene, do the other scene that you need, that you actually have the energy to do, because there's times where I feel like writing a big action sequence. And there's times where I just want to have, you know, some happy bantery dialogue between some characters, recognizing what you want to write that day is an important part of it.
Alex Ferrari 47:12
And how do you get through writer's block? Or do you have you ever suffered through writer's block?
John August 47:17
I've had very little of that sort of classic image of like, the writer of the typewriter and pulling it out and probably a bit like, the montage of that the paper balls. I don't have a lot of that. I do have procrastination, I have this self doubt of like, is this even the right idea? Is this even worth it? deadlines can help? No, take it taking a step back and really looking at why I want to write a project can help. No, this is not a thing I've I generally do. But I know friends who at the start of a project will write themselves a letter saying like, this is why I'm so excited to write this thing. They'll seal it up and like set up there. And so then whenever they need that they can rip over themselves like, Oh, that's right, this is the thing that I've done. That is why I started doing this. One thing I tried to do with the starter project is make a playlist in iTunes of these are all the songs that remind me of this movie. So the songs that could be in the movie, but it just feel like it. And so I can get myself emotionally back in that space of like, Oh, that's right, this is what the movie feels like. So in those times where it's hard to get started, I can at least get my brain moving in the right direction.
Alex Ferrari 48:28
Did Did you ever feel even early on or even later on in your career? That imposter syndrome that self doubt that you had to had to break through? What did you do to break through that because I know so many artists, if not every single artist ever has dealt with that at one point in their career.
John August 48:46
But it's a byproduct of something that's very necessary to do, which is fake it till you make it like fake like you know what you're doing until you actually are doing the job. And then everyone's like, oh, you're doing the job. But, but the imposter syndrome, he says the natural sort of, you know, progressive. Wait, I was faking it. And now I don't believe I actually know what I'm doing. And at a certain point, you realize, like, I do know what I'm doing or actually do you know, I have the answers to these questions. It never entirely goes away. And I think there's something actually lovely about imposter syndrome is that as I've moved into new areas, and so as I did my first Broadway musical, as I started writing software, as I started writing songs, in podcasting, I didn't always exactly know what I was doing. And it's kind of great to be a beginner because it gives you the excuse to be, you know, to make mistakes and is, you know, also reminds me of like what it's like to be young. So I think part of the reason why even having done this for 20 plus years, I still have a good connection to sort of like what it's like to start is because I am always starting new kinds of things. I'm always, you know, being new in a place and I know how exciting but how disorienting That can be,
Alex Ferrari 50:01
it is terrifying to start something new sometimes, especially as you get older, as you get older, you become less fearless. I mean, when you were young, you would do things that you were, we did stupid things, let's be honest.
John August 50:12
And I have to acknowledge that, like, I had the privilege of like, I started making a good living pretty early on. So, and I saw that I didn't, I wasn't risking everything at every moment to try new things. Like, I could always kind of fall back on what I've done before. And so not always going to have that. But generally, people who are just starting out, like, if you're in your early 20s, you just move to Los Angeles, you're kind of used to living on ramen so like, you can you can take some bigger risks in your 20s, you should.
Alex Ferrari 50:40
Now, I wanted to ask you really quickly about subtext because it's something that's also another virus that goes throughout screenplays, writing on the nose, and so on any insights you have on how you write subtext?
John August 50:54
No, I don't think if you're thinking about writing subtext, you're probably doing it wrong. Like subtext should be just, it's all the unspoken things that are happening between two characters, or the feeling that you're trying to communicate without actually saying those words. If you're worried that writing is too on the nose, that people are sort of speaking in their subtext, maybe you're right, but maybe you're also just being too hard on yourself, maybe just, I'd say, take a break, listen to how some actual people talk in the world around you and realize that subtext is always happening. There's always some shading being given on any things that people are saying in the real world. Movie dialogue is a slightly optimized version of real speech, it's sort of think about it, it's like a movie dialogue is what people would say they had an extra 10 or 15 seconds between the ball being hit back, like they just hit it back a little bit better than they otherwise normally would. Right? And we forgive him of that, it's when that things feel so crafted that then it becomes kind of arch. And either it's great. And you're you're Aaron Sorkin, or it feels really worth it. So it's really said, genre expectation.
Alex Ferrari 52:04
Now, let's talk about Highland for a little bit, you have this amazing piece of software called Highland, which is a screenwriting piece of screenwriting software. And now you have a new version coming out. So can you tell everybody about the software, and what the new things are in 2.5?
John August 52:18
So Highlander originally came about because that situation I'm sure you've encountered to where you get a PDF of a script, and you need to edit something like edit a PDF? Yes. So back in the day, we'd have to retype it. So the original Highland was just an app to meltdown, a PDF, so can take a PDF and make it an editable document again. And so we had that. And it's like, you know what, this is raw text, I wish I could just stay in this raw text and not have to deal with all the bullshit of final draft. Because final draft was a genius program, when all we had was Microsoft Word, we had to write scripts in Word. And so like the power dropped seems just like a godsend. But all of the metaphors, the final draft are very 1990s. And that you have I mean, it kind of still looks like it's in the 90s. But like that, you have to tell final draft, what every single element on the page is like, Oh, this is a character name. This is a parent article. This is dialogue, this must be a transition, that you have to just keep hitting that dumb TAB key or the reformat thing to tell is like, no, this is what I'm trying to do. And so when I started working with that raw text, I was like, well, this is actually just so much better. If I could just go back from this raw text, and then get a nice looking, you know, PDF at the end of it, I'd be delighted. And so we made the app to do that. So it's just, you're just typing it like you would type an email, but it understands what you're doing. So it understands that like, oh, that uppercase word that has another line below it. That must be a character name and some dialogue. Oh, there's parentheses, I bet that's apparent that I call that line ends in to colon, I bet that's a transition. And it just our computers are smart if we can figure out what this stuff is. And so the app began as a way to do screen writing and that really plain text way. And then we just, I added in the things as a writer that I wanted most in an app. And so things like as a screenwriter, you're always there's little bits of text that you don't have a place for but you don't want to lose them. So you're cutting them, I would, I'd make a scratch file and paste it over in the scratch file because they ever needed that thing again, in Hyland, you just drag it over to the side, there's a little thing called a bin it just sits in your bin. So it's more like editing, you know, video where it's like, you have a bin of all your little clips and you just like bring stuff back in. I want to take those metaphors ran through the the big thing we did with Highland 2.5 was adding in revision mode. Because as a screenwriter, you're often working, you know, as you're going from one draft to the next draft, you want to put those little stars in the margins to show like what's changed. And if you ever done that in final draft or any of these other apps, it's incredibly complicated. You're just like, you know, it looks like you're landing in space shuttle when you try to turn on that mode. And I was like, it should not have to be that way. So in, in Highland 2.5 is it's a little easy to flip a switch and tell what color you want to be like it just does it and so we hit All the complexity behind under the hood. So it's just really simple. And you just start typing and he's like, oh, as long as the switch is flipped, everything I typed now is gonna be blue, and there's gonna be stars in the margins,
Alex Ferrari 55:11
You would think you would think that would be already there. It's just so simple.
John August 55:15
Yes. But no, no, another app was doing it that way. And even like, Track Changes in a word, if you ever had to do that, Oh, my God, that's complicated. You can mess up a document so badly. So we just wanted it to be simple and simple in a way that people would actually use it. And so that's what we were able to do with this
Alex Ferrari 55:32
Very cool. And then you started Highland in general, just because he was like, I just can't take this and
John August 55:37
I want a better thing. I'm going to be in an app for you know, eight hours a day, it should be a beautiful app that I'm really comfortable in. So I'm, you know, my company makes it but I'm also the principal beta tester for it. Because every day I'm launching a new build that has some small things fixed or changed. I'm seeing like, what if it did this? What if it did that, and it can't crash, because I'm writing all the stuff in it. So it has to be rock solid, so that I can use it every day. So it's a unique challenge for my designer for my coder. But, you know, I want the app that works best for me and happens to work best for most of the people I end up showing it to,
Alex Ferrari 56:14
And how long has it been around.
John August 56:16
So Highland shoe came out last year, almost a year ago. And we had small revisions, but this 2.5 releases a big release a big set of changes for restorative for everyone, I should say like, one of the fundamental things we did differently in Highland versus other apps is in Word in a final draft, there's that sense of like, what you see is what you get. So like, you're always typing in sort of final form of things. in Highland, you work in an editor and the preview, and you sort of see what what it's like, it's like a renders out sort of what the final version is. And it's just, it ends up being a much faster workflow, you're not fiddling with little bits of things, because you're just focused on the words, not the formatting around it.
Alex Ferrari 56:58
Very cool. I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I ask all of my guests,
John August 57:01
Alex Ferrari 57:02
What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?
John August 57:08
I'm gonna restate what I said earlier in the podcast is that focus on writing that thing you wish existed in the world. And so really, for any artists, but like, so for a screenwriter, write the script of the movie you wish you could see. And that's the one you'll finish. That's the one you'll keep fighting for. If that's the one you're bringing be enthusiastic, and that enthusiasm will really be seen in the work itself. So just last night, I was talking to guys like, I really want to do this big mythology project, but I'm worried it's going to be a market for Mecca. My god. What that's that's ridiculous. You really want to make this right, this movie. So you should write this movie, like, Why? Why are you standing up here talking to me, like, go off and write that movie? So people, I think, have a sense of needing to ask permission and don't ask permission, just write the thing you want to write. The best thing about writing is it's free. Like, you don't have to have a crew, you're not the camera, you don't have to anything just like just just do
Alex Ferrari 58:02
The copy of Highland, a copy of Highland and
John August 58:05
Free it's free download on a Mac App Store. There's really nothing in your way.
Alex Ferrari 58:10
Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?
John August 58:15
Which book let's see, well, Charlie, the Chocolate Factory, which I read in third grade, we had this assignment where we had to learn how to write proper letters, where it's like dear person's name and date in the corners, a couple paragraphs and sincerely, and I wrote my letter to Roald Dahl who wrote Chocolate Factory we said all the way over to England. And he sent me a postcard back. It was like a foreign postcard With that said, Dear john, that was the first time that I realized like, oh, authors are actual real people and probably thinking like that, maybe that could be an author and so so I wouldn't say like, I love the book. I'm not saying it's like, the single greatest piece of literature but like, my connection to it really did start me on the journey.
Alex Ferrari 58:57
Now what what was that like when you got the call, or you got the the final approval to redo the chart, you know, to write it,
John August 59:04
It was amazing. But I sat down with Tim that first time to talk through it, like I brought my car because I still have the postcard for the road or something back. So it felt like, you know, it felt very movie like about like, no, this circle had been completed.
Alex Ferrari 59:18
Yes, that circle of life, if you will, almost. Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
John August 59:27
I would say that I had a lot of things that for years, I said, like, Oh, these are my bad habits. And I started to just recognize it. They're just my habits. It's just like, it's how I work. It's how my brain works. And so I procrastinate I, you know, make some things harder for myself that I necessarily need to but that's just, that's just who I am. It's just just those are just my habits. And when I stopped looking at them through a negative lens, just like that's, that's how I that's how I do it. Things got better.
Alex Ferrari 59:57
Now what did you learn from your biggest failure?
John August 1:00:03
I'm trying to think what my biggest failure would be. I know, I would say I learned a little more humility and sense of, you know that, in wanting to control everything and wanting to sort of have dominion over like a whole project and sort of getting to work a certain way. There are always gonna be things I couldn't control. And that, you know, you can't control how people react to a thing, and you can't control how stuff works. And so all of you can try to make it to try to do is make sure the daily process of working on the thing is meaningful to you. Because that doesn't mean it's always gonna be a joy or be happy, but that you feel like, Okay, this is this is worth my time that I'm putting into it. Because also you don't know that you're gonna have anything at the end of it other than the time you put into it.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:02
And what is the biggest fear you had to overcome when writing your first screenplay?
John August 1:01:10
Weirdly, like kind of the format. Because the screenplay format is just really weird. We first started looking at it, it looks, it looks just sort of arcane. So I kept worried I'd have to make some fundamental mistake, which would make my thing unfilmable. And I didn't really quite get over it until we were in production on go. And I was like, Oh, yeah, that's when I write I wrote, we just shot it, and it's done. It's fine. So like, that, the translation of these words on paper, and that's seen that's down in the camera, that it could really happen. So it was that fear that like, is sort of an imposter syndrome to like, they're gonna find out that I really don't know what I'm doing.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:49
And three of your favorite films of all time.
John August 1:01:53
So I think we talked about some of our so aliens is right out there. So good. I mean, just, I mean, alien, the movie is fantastic. But to make a slight well, to a masterpiece, alien. Yeah. And, again, that's a case of recognizing what the source material is, but also what you want to say. And you know, what unique thing you have to bring to a piece of material. So it's not a remake, but it's, you know, every sequel has to ask, ask the question, like, why are we doing this again? And it answered it really, really well. clueless? Me Hercules movie is just amazing. It's so smartly done. And it's, you know, it's a remake of a sort of adaptation of ama. And so it had really good bones underneath it, but it was just so amazing and specific. And then talented, Mr. Ripley, just because it's a movie that like, I can't believe gotten aid in the studio system. Yeah, cuz it's expensive. And it's weird, and it's dark. And it's love it. I love it to death. So those are the three of my favorites. And where can people find you and the work, your podcasts, all that kind of stuff. So I have a website such as john adams, calm on Twitter. I'm at john August, Instagram match on August script notes you can find through jobs calm, or we're on iTunes or wherever you get podcasts.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:10
John, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you.
John August 1:03:12
Absolutely a pleasure for me too!
Alex Ferrari 1:03:14
Thank you so much for dropping some good knowledge bombs on the tribe today. So thank you again.
John August 1:03:18
Alex Ferrari 1:03:20
Again, I want to thank john for being on the show and just being so honest and straightforward about his process and his stories about the business. Thank you again, john, so much. If you want to get links to his software, links to his podcast and anything else John's doing, please head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/331. And if you're listening to the bulletproof screenwriting podcast, those show notes are at indiefilmhustle.com/bps049. Thank you again for listening guys. And just have a great weekend and I cannot wait for next week to come for you guys to see what I have been cooking. So the anticipation is just in there. I can't wait to release this to everyone. So it's coming. It's coming. Winter is coming. Thank you guys again, so much. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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