Baby Health in Winter Scriptnotes, Ep 453: Getting Back to Set Transcript

Baby Health in Winter

The original post for this episode can be found here.

John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.

Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.

John: And this is Episode 453 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Now, usually on this podcast we’re talking about writing, but today we are focused on the goal of our writing which is to make film and television programs. Ever since the pandemic began production has been at a dead stop, but now the industry is starting to make plans for getting back to set.

Craig: Yes indeed. We want to have an in-depth discussion on why it’s so challenging to reopen film and television production. And to do so we thought we should welcome back two of our OG guests. Is the G also for guests? I mean, they’re not gangsters. I think we’re going to welcome back two of our O guests.

John: O guests. Our first O guest, Aline Brosh McKenna. Welcome back to the program, Aline.

Aline Brosh McKenna: That’s me!

John: You are the screenwriter extraordinaire. You are also the co-creator and showrunner of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Most excitingly we’ve just been able to announce your feature directing debut. Aline what is this movie that you’re directing?

Aline: It is a movie for Netflix. It is called Your Place or Mine. It is being produced by your friends Jason Bateman and Michael Costigan at Aggregate.

Craig: Excellent.

Aline: And Lauren Neustadter and your friend Reese Witherspoon at Hello Sunshine. And it stars Reese Witherspoon. And it is a comedy of the romantic variety.

John: I can’t imagine why you would be doing a romantic comedy. Aline, congratulations. I’m so excited to see you directing a big feature-feature film.

Craig: Well done, Aline.

Aline: Thank you. Thank you very much. I’m excited.

John: Our second guest also directs big feature-feature films. His name is Rawson Marshall Thurber, writer and director of Dodgeball, We’re the Millers. Last time we heard from him he was down in Georgia where they had just stopped production of Red Notice, the big movie he was shooting with Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot. But now you’re back in Los Angeles, Rawson?

Rawson Thurber: Yep. Got back on Friday.

John: So I want to talk to you about, you know, stopping production, thinking about restarting production. Both of you are sort of thinking about features, but Aline you have experience in television as well. So, I want to get into all the decisions and complications of trying to get back into production not knowing what’s going to happen next with the pandemic.

But, first, we have some follow up. Craig, previous episodes we talked about the secret mission that you were on that took you away for an episode of Scriptnotes. We can now reveal what your secret mission was.

Craig: So, we were working on the quarantine episode of Mythic Quest which is now available – I think it became available last night like around midnight or something via Apple+ TV, AppleTV+. I should know, because I’m on it.

John: You should know, because you’re an actor on this show.

Craig: I’m an actor on their network. I think it’s AppleTV+. The point is it’s the Apple thing. I think it’s great. And I’m not the guy that likes to pump up his own stuff, you know. I’m not like “I did a thing and it’s great.” I didn’t do this thing. I didn’t write it. I act in it briefly. But I think they did a gorgeous job and it’s beautiful. Made me cry. It made me laugh. It was all of those wonderful things. And it touches on the quarantine experience I think in the most authentic way.

It was really crazy to make it. It involved putting cameras on mounts in front of a lap top using Zoom and the camera and a special microphone. You have to do all this yourself. You have like a DP going, “Great, tilt down for me.” So then you go over and you tilt down with this not accurate mechanism and then somebody else goes, “Great, can you move your laptop a little so we can see the camera that you just tilted?” And then it involved these Rube Goldberg inventions.

It was all bananas. And it works great. So, I honestly hope everybody sees it. If not for anything other than the excellent writing by Rob McElhenney and Megan Ganz and David Hornsby. And the brilliant performance of Charlotte Nicdao who just breaks your heart. She’s so good.

John: Now, you were already in production on the second season when the pandemic struck, so this episode takes place in a gap between the two seasons?

Craig: Yeah. So they were in production for about two days. And then they shut down. It’s just the way the timing worked out. So this episode takes place in between season one and season two. Meaning that when season two arrives season two will be post-pandemic.

John: So it’s very much like the British model of having Christmas episodes that don’t quite take place in either timeline?

Craig: Right.

John: The pandemic is our Christmas is really what we’re coming down to.

Craig: It’s Pandemic-Mas. But I just think it’s really great. And people seem to be loving it. So, I’m very pleased with that because, I mean, they worked so, so hard. I mean, I’m in three scenes and those were really hard to do. To do all the scenes and then edit it and do all the mix – everything had to be done remotely. It was just bananas. So hat’s off to the Mythic Quest crew. They did an incredible job. And I hope people do see that episode.

John: Absolutely. I have two little bits of news here before we get into our main topic. First is I’ve gotten involved with these groups that work with foster kids, especially blind foster kids for research I was doing for this movie I hope to be directing at some point in the future. To help them out I am raffling off a 60-minute one-on-one writing session on Zoom, where we can talk about your script or your book or anything. The proceeds go to help these amazing foster charities. So there will be a link in the show notes for that, but it’s part of #FosterChallenge. If you just Google that hashtag you’ll find me.

Second off, this past week it was announced that Prince William and Kate Middleton, their best friends had a baby. They named their baby Arlo Finch, which seems impossible.

Rawson: What?

Aline: Did you get to the bottom of this?

John: No. And that’s why I’m bringing this up on this episode because I feel like somebody listening to this show must have some insight into why this couple named their child Arlo Finch. Because it seems like too great of a coincidence that they’re naming it after the hero of my trilogy novel series.

Rawson: That’s actually true?

John: It’s actually true. His name is Arlo Finch Bear.

Craig: Arlo Finch Bear.

John: Yeah, the husband’s last name is Bear which is a remarkable name anyway.

Craig: Oh no, I think his first name is Bear. It says Bear McClane.

John: Oh, Bear McClane. Well, very good. So his name is Arlo Finch Bear McClane.

Craig: Yes, so I guess it’s like he has two middle names because he’s fancy and English?

John: Yeah.

Craig: Arlo Finch Bear.

John: So, somebody listening to this program must have insight into the British aristocracy and can give me an answer on how this child was named Arlo Finch. Because there have been some other Arlo Finches born and the people have written to me saying like, “Oh, we just really loved the name so we’ve named her Arlo Finch.” But for a fancy British couple to name it, it just feels like too remarkable to go unexamined.

Craig: We’re going to solve this.

Aline: I mean, does this have to do with your close personal ties to the royal family?

John: I don’t think so. I know some people who know some people in the royal family, but they don’t know the right people in the royal family. So someone listening to this program will know.

Aline: Amazing.

John: So if you do know why you need to tweet at me or email me at ask@johnaugust.com. So that is the second most pressing thing for us to address in the podcast today. The most pressing though is let’s talk about production and getting back to set.

Let’s start with we had to leave set and maybe Rawson you could kick us off, because you were in the middle of production on Red Notice when you had to shut down. What were those last days and hours like as you were making the decision to pull the plug?

Rawson: Yeah, it was a very, very strange experience. We were day 38 of a 70-day shoot, so just a little past halfway. And we’d been tracking the pandemic for quite some time, not really sure how it was going to affect us or if it was. And we originally had a big opening action sequence set in Rome. We’d scouted it. Second unit was about a week away from shooting in Italy and then the outbreak happened in Italy. And we had to pull the plug there. And then we started scouting London. And so I was trying to rewrite the opening while we were shooting. And then we were going to shut down and go to London to scout.

At that point we weren’t really thinking that we would have to stop shooting domestically. So it was already a daily conversation, sometimes even an hourly conversation for weeks leading up to day 38 in which we pulled the plug I think after a Thursday shoot. We finished a sequence and our producer, Bo Flynn, and Dwayne Johnson gathered the entire crew together and let them know that we were going to take Friday off and reassess over the weekend. I think Netflix was huddling up at that point to figure out what they were going to do with all their productions.

And so when we left it was a very strange way of pausing, because most of us were pretty sure we weren’t coming back Monday. But I don’t think any of us really thought that it would be months, and months, and months, and months before we got back. So it was a strange way to end summer camp I suppose.

John: Now, Aline, through all of this you don’t have a TV show shooting right now, but this easily could have happened while you were doing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend where you would have had to just walk away from everything. And put yourself in that position. Imagine if this is happening. What are the conversations and who are you consulting with as showrunner about the decision to stop?

Aline: Well, it’s interesting. You know, as they say the best predictor of the future is the past. And none of us, including the somewhat old people on this podcast, we just have never been through this before. So, one of the really odd things about that experience was like who to ask. Who has the answer? And nobody does. And the answer is evolving. And the information has been evolving.

I’ve tried to not check my mail/computer/whatever constantly because you can sort of drive yourself mad waiting for the breakthrough. But, yeah, I mean, I think because your first responsibility is to protect the people who you are working with. That obviously comes first. And so that call seems like you have to stop. And the ramifications are enormous on a production in every single way.

You know, with a TV show you would be mid-episode on several things. So, it would affect not just what you were shooting but what you had shot, what you could shoot. It’s going to interrupt a lot of episodic storytelling. Because as Craig said on Mythic Quest they’re going to stick something in the middle. But do you address it? What timeline do you go to? Do you go backwards? Do you go forward? There are huge implications story wise. But it must have been really hard Rawson in that moment even to know who to consult. Because with such an evolving stream of information.

Rawson: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think for us we knew it was serious and I think it was about, at least initially, about just hitting pause for a second while we all had the conversations that we needed to have. But it was very, very weird. Ending a show like that, ending a shoot like that, you’re saying goodbye to your AC and your boom guy. And hair and makeup. Everybody. And you don’t know if you’re going to see them on Monday or if you’re going to see them in two weeks.

And then suddenly this entire group of people that you’ve been working 16 hours a day with for sometimes five, six days a week, you’re talking to all the time and they’re just kind of gone. It’s a very strange way of doing things.

John: Right when it happened I thought it was like, oh, it’s going to feel like a snow day or a blizzard where everyone has to go away and then everyone is going to come back. And it’s become clear like not everyone is going to come back in the same way.

Rawson: No.

John: And you’re going to have to basically reassemble a new production.

Rawson: Yeah.

John: But before we get into that production side let’s think about for folks who may not know how movies are made so clearly, or television shows, there’s the writing and preproduction and that is a thing which has probably been the least impacted. Because what we do as writers that hasn’t really changed that much. We’ve talked on the program about virtual writer’s rooms and the impact that that’s had. And it’s been weird but it’s not been catastrophic. That stuff is still happening. Pitches are still selling. All that stuff is being done on Zoom but it is happening.

Post-production like Craig was talking about with Mythic Quest, it’s possible. It’s really difficult, but it’s possible. People can work on those things on their home computers. Even animation can still keep happening. Chris Nee was on the podcast to say like weirdly animation on the stuff that she’s been working on continues.

But production is a special beast because it’s actually a physical act where people need to come together to do a thing. And that’s what is so challenging. They can’t all be sort of weird bottle episodes like what Craig did for this Mythic Quest pandemic. We’re going to have to find a way to get back to the set and back to something approaching a normal production flow.

So, Craig, do you want to talk us through sort of like the things that as we talk about reopening businesses in general, the things you’re looking to do? And then we can talk about why those are so challenging with physical production on sets?

Craig: We’ve been talking amongst ourselves anyway. I mean, everybody that works on stuff has been hearing rumors about how things are going to work. And there’s basic guidelines that we can kind of carry through from just regular life, so we know we want to repeat those. The easiest one is the fewer people the better. I mean, so when you’re talking about anything you’re talking about a lot of people. Any production is a lot of people. Way more than you think. I mean, the first time you walk on a set as a writer you go, “Why?” Later you find out. And then the first time you’re directing a movie you go, “Where are more people? I need more people. But don’t ask me anymore questions. Just do your jobs.”

So, they’re going to have to figure out how to break the crews down into skeleton crews, sort of essential crews, which you can do. And we know because we do this all the time when we have to. Classic example weirdly enough is nudity. When sometimes we’re dealing with nudity on sets you just break it down to the absolute fewest amount of people who need to be on the set so that it doesn’t turn into some weird peepshow.

So we know how to do this, but we also know that when you do it things go slower. So, right off the bat there is a cost that is going to have to get folded in. And one question that we as creators certainly are going to be confronted by is are we going to get the same amount of time we need to make the same product given that it’s going to take more time to make the same product?

So Rawson had a 70-day schedule. He’s shot 38 days. Will he only have 32 days given to him when he gets back?

Rawson: I can answer.

Craig: And do you have an answer to that?

Rawson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I do.

Craig: What is it?

Rawson: Well, I think the math right now we think is about one extra day per five.

Craig: OK.

Aline: So that’s about 20%. Yeah.

Craig: That sounds right.

Rawson: We’re going to go back to our dear friends at Netflix and say, “We know it was 32, but we think it’s maybe 40.”

Craig: Yup. And that is a very significant increase in costs for them.

Rawson: Absolutely. Massive.

Craig: So that’s something that we’re going to – I think for projects like yours it makes sense to just sort of bite the bullet. For projects that are yet to be shot that’s where it gets a little dicier because then there’s a new normal of, well, this is what it costs to shoot a day. And the amount of money we had to give you hasn’t changed. So, shoot less.

Rawson: Yup.

Craig: So that’s one thing that we’re going to be dealing with. Obviously from a medical point of view people are going to need to be tested. Currently the tests are not particularly reliable. And also they take time. So, just because you test negative in the morning does not mean that you are not completely infected by four pm. So that’s going to be tricky. And then there’s physical isolation from each other. The most cramped, intimate space on a film or television set is the makeup and hair trailer. And that is going to look different.

And all of this is going to slow things down and gum stuff up until such time as there is a reliable vaccine or really effective treatment that reduces the danger of COVID to nothing more than the common cold.

Aline: One thing I think they’re doing, or they must be doing, or they should be doing is all these departments will have I think probably very good ideas about how they can reduce the number of people and still do the job at the level they would like it to be done. You know, all these different departments have expertise in their own areas and so they will be able to say, “Hey, I think we can economize here on smaller number of people. Or here are the best practices.” Because each department just has a really deep sense of expertise in their own area. So how do you deal with props? How are props disinfected? How are they transported?

How many shopping trips can you do away with on costumes? And all the folks in those departments will have ideas and thoughts. Because people want to get back to work. I think everybody will be presenting their best ideas about how to be safe, because everyone wants to go back to work but everybody wants to be safe.

John: Yeah. Let’s talk about if this were a general business. Sort of the general practices for opening a business. You would say, OK, the people who can work from home work from home. And we talked about that with preproduction and post. Some of that can really be done from home. A real question about how much of the production office work can be done from home. Those are the people who are sort of organizing the paperwork and all the stuff that has to happen. Some of that can be outsourced but some stuff you do need a physical body there to do.

Social distance. Keep people apart. Yes, to some degree you can. But you can’t social distance hair and makeup. There’s things that really can’t be social distanced. But we can close break rooms. Sort of like close craft service. We can do some of that stuff.

We tell businesses that they should tell employees to stay home if they’re sick. And so they have paid time off. The challenge of our industry and production is that we are kind of gig work. And you don’t call in sick to things. So changing those standards.

Obviously masks are going to be important and a lot of people on a set can wear a mask. Most people on set can wear a mask. But not the actors who are in a scene. So how are you going to protect those folks who can’t wear a mask during those moments?

Craig: Yeah. There’s also an amazing new excuse or strategy for poorly behaved actors who feel like throwing tantrums. Because there were certain kinds of tantrums you could throw and you’d have to really throw a big one that really stops stuff. But now you can just say, “My throat hurts. I’m not coming out of my trailer. My throat hurts.”

John: “I’ve got a tickle.”

Craig: Yeah.

John: “And it could be because I don’t like this dialogue.”

Craig: I can think of one actor in particular who is sort of famous for this kind of behavior. And he, I’m sure, is looking at COVID and licking his chops at the thought of COVID-ing a production during the middle of a tantrum.

Aline: Jesus, Craig.

Craig: Yeah.

Aline: That’s intense, man.

Rawson: And you’re not going to say who? Name him or her right now.

Craig: I’m not going to do that.

Rawson: Oh, come on. Boo.

John: Write it on a slip of paper and hold it up for the video.

Craig: I could do that.

John: All right.

Rawson: I want to see that.

John: Other guidance you would give for a business is to try to keep stable groups. And so if the same people are always around each other that’s safer than if people are constantly coming in and out of the group. But unfortunately in productions we’re always adding in people.

Rawson: Tom Hanks?!

Craig: [laughs] By the way, Tom Hanks, the one guy that can’t get away with it because he’s had COVID.

Rawson: Fair point.

John: He’s already gone through it.

Rawson: If that’s true, right? If the antibody thing works.

John: It feels like the antibody thing is–

Craig: It’s true.

John: It’s likely the case. But people should keep their bubbles kind of small and unfortunately on sets people are constantly coming in and out of production. The people you need for a day may not be the same – you might not have the same cast and crew day to day.

A sitcom with a really contained cast and crew is probably an easier, safer bubble to maintain than a giant production like Rawson’s.

Rawson: Yeah, I think just speaking for me and my production, it’s such a strange character, right? This sort of post-pandemic pre-vaccine pocket of trying to make your – or continue making your film. It’s a real strange challenge. And for us, well one thing I’m actually looking forward to is kind of a quieter set with less people. I know that’s like a very, very small silver lining. But it can get really cluttered and really full for no apparent reason. So the idea of shooting as though you are shooting a love scene for the entire show seems kind of strangely refreshing. So I’m looking forward to that in a small way.

Aline: Rawson, do you think it will effect scheduling? Like shooting outside is probably going to be the chances of transmitting outside are lower. And then certain types of scenes. So maybe people are also looking at schedules to realize, well, we’re shooting outside here so we can have a few more people here. And then here. So, yeah.

Rawson: That’s absolutely the case. We have a couple big scenes still to come. We have this giant 500-extra – or used to be 500-extra – masquerade ball kind of scene where Dwayne and Gal do this sort of really fun sexy dance number together. Kind of old school Hollywood style. And we don’t know how we’re going to do it, or if we can. And so I think it’s a combination of new methods and procedures of shooting, but also just speaking on the writing side of changing the script.

Aline: It takes place outside on a giant football field. And the dance is sort of like a square dance. Everyone is six feet away.

Rawson: Six feet apart.

Aline: So it’s sort of like, yeah, one of those. Or one of those courtly old fashioned dances.

John: Like a line dance.

Rawson: Yeah, a line dance.

John: A line dance would do it.

Rawson: A line dance. Nothing sexier than a line dance. I think we all know that.

Craig: So hot.

Rawson: But, yeah, it’s a sincere challenge to try to figure out how to execute it. And there are a lot of really good early ideas about how to do it.

Craig: There’s always going to be people that need to be jammed together to do this stuff properly. And what I do get worried about is there is a general macho attitude when it comes to production which is, oh, did you break your leg? Well, just here put some bungee cords around it and do your job. Nothing stops production. That’s kind of always been the case. The show must go on.

This has stopped production. When it returns I can easier see some people going, yeah, I don’t wear seatbelts. Do you know what I mean? We don’t have it. Let’s go. Let’s make a movie. There can be a kind of philosophical pressure.

And then what happens is the loosest arrangement becomes the normal arrangement, because everybody just kind of says, “Oh, they’re not doing it over there.” And then people are like, “OK, I guess we don’t have to do that stupid, annoying thing anymore.” And it can cause real trouble.

Even in prep, just writing in that stupid van is dangerous.

John: Yes.

Craig: You know?

Aline: Well, might I also say right now with the nature of the disease is you’re not endangering just yourself. You’re endangering others. And that’s a thing that some people are struggling to metabolize in the general public is the idea that the mask is for others. But I think, you know, sets are cooperative and they’re communal. And I think and hope that people will understand that you’re looking to protect other people. And your actions are not just, you know, so it’s not like I’m just going to go out and break my leg. I can walk it off. This is really – look, in an ideal world this sort of strengthens people’s sense of interdependency and community and all that. But that really is what it is, you know?

Craig: We’re going to have to pay people if they’re sick. That’s the most important thing.

Aline: Ah-ha.

Craig: We cannot get away with saying to people, “You need to tell us if you’re sick, because if you are you can’t work. Also, if you don’t work you don’t get your hours.” We can’t do it. Because they’ll lie. And I don’t blame them. They need to support themselves. And they should live in a system where they get paid, even if they catch a deadly pandemic, in order to protect all of us. That’s something that I just feel Hollywood has to do. Because if it doesn’t it’s just asking for trouble.

John: Now, let’s talk about as Aline was mentioning the people who in different departments are specialists. They are incredibly good at their one area of expertise. And within that area of expertise they can cover for each other if they needed to. So, if the head of the makeup department were to become sick or couldn’t come in to work that day, that person’s job could be covered. They’d make it work.

But there’s certain people on a set who are irreplaceable. And so the director – Rawson, if you got sick you would shut down. If one of your big actors got sick you would shut down. You would reschedule to the degree you could reschedule. But you would have to shut down. So, that’s a real challenge that production faces is that certain individuals if they’re gone everything just stops. And the challenge for that is not only how do you get the production running but how do you get insurance for that production. How do you get a bond on that production so that you can make it financially worthwhile to sort of keep going?

I’m sure that’s part of the discussions that you’re having on Red Notice is figuring out sort of how do you cover this on an insurance level and who is on the hook for if you do need to shut down again.

Rawson: Yeah. Absolutely. Those discussions are happening with our producing team and certainly Netflix. I mean, that’s something that’s going to come top down from the financiers in terms of the insurance side of things. But you’re exactly correct that, you know, everybody is important and safety – everyone’s health is incredibly important. But there is a difference between a PA waking up with a fever and staying home. You can keep shooting. But if number one, two, or three on the call sheet is ill, I mean, that’s a catastrophic issue.

Aline: Well, the testing – presumably the testing will get a little faster, getting the results more quickly. Because if someone gets a test and it takes five days to get the results back that’s a huge challenge in terms of presenting–

John: The challenge though is if Dwayne Johnson does test positive and you have to stop production that is—

Rawson: Who pays for that?

Craig: It’s a disaster. So then the other option that some people have been talking about is quarantining everybody together before the shoot begins. And just saying we’re showmancing together, all of us. And nobody leaves the compound.

John: Yeah. So let’s talk about some of the different solutions that are being proposed and so what you’re describing is sort of the Tyler Perry scenario. So, Tyler Perry has his own film studio in Atlanta and he essentially can just move everyone to this former military base, shoot for several weeks, and everyone test before they go and they basically are locked down on this sort of basically like an island to shoot there. It’s not realistic for many scenarios, but it’s realistic for the things that he wants to shoot.

So, you can see his being able to do that. You can also imagine some true indie films that are sort of very small cast and crew who could do it that way as well. So, that works for certain kinds of productions. It does not work for Red Notice.

Craig: No.

John: It doesn’t work for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Craig: No. If you’re international or if you’re stage-bound here in Los Angeles it doesn’t make any sense. If you’re making Lord of the Rings it could work. I mean, if you’re going somewhere that has sort of proven itself to have managed COVID very effectively, like New Zealand, and you’re already going to be isolated because you’re in the woods, the forest, and your own sets. In those situations it’s camp movie anyway, right? Then I think it’s possible.

I mean, Aline, as you’re thinking ahead to directing your film have either you or Netflix started to have discussions about how it might work?

Aline: I’m not at that phase yet. And so I think there will be other things that roll out before. And so really people like Rawson are sort of on the frontlines. People who were in the middle of shooting, in active prep. And we will learn a lot about how things need to be from how they’ve been. But in that process I just – it’s very important to protect everyone as much as possible with the information that we have. And, you know, I wonder if some of those decisions that are made around the size of scenes and the scale and scope of things, you know, you can always go back to certain types of scenes and say how can I scale this back. It’s just, you know, Rawson is making a big action movie with lots of people in it. My piece is a little bit more self-contained.

But it’s a community that really exchanges information extremely well, right? Because crews move around and people will be already have been informing each other. So I think by the time I’m getting there we will have a lot more information on what some of the best practices are.

You know, one of the things about quarantining for a long stretch of time that I think about is one of the barriers to entry that we’ve discussed before for either I’m going to say women, but it’s also parents of young children is it’s a challenge to leave a child for a huge chunk of time, especially if you’re heavily involved in the day-to-day. Breastfeeding, or, you know. So that’s a challenge. I think for some directors that will be a real tough proposition is to be like 70 days or whatever. If it’s a big, huge movie, yeah.

John: In terms of the kinds of projects we might be picking, over the last two weeks I’ve had conversations with all the streamers about this one project I’ve been going at pitching. And the last five minutes of those conversations have all been about producibility. Basically like, oh, is this a thing that we could actually make? And the thing I’ve been pitching is uniquely well-suited for sort of a we’re on sound stages and we could do it like the Mandalorian where we have virtual sets. It is a very producible kind of thing. And that’s been an interesting thing for these streamers to hear about is that it’s very makeable in this environment. It’s not huge crowd scenes. It’s much easier right now to do a big space movie than it would be to do The Bourne Identity, where you have to have a lot of real locations and a lot of real physical interactions with things.

Craig: The Mandalorian is perfect, right? Because Mandalorian you have virtual sets and theoretically you can have an entire season with puppets and people in masks.

John: Yeah.

Craig: In fact, season two may just be all Mandalorians and multiple base [unintelligible].

Rawson: Standing six feet away from each other.

Craig: Correct. They’ve got a full mask. It’s cool.

Rawson: It’s fine. They’re good.

Craig: Yeah, they’re good.

John: Yeah. So the thing I’m pitching has tremendous amount of – there would be a tremendous amount of preproduction in it, too, and previsualizations of stuff. So, all that work could be done before we’d actually have to sort of turn cameras on and start shooting.

Aline: Can I ask a question that’s off the script a bit?

Craig: What?

John: Not Aline.

Aline: How do you guys feel about the depiction of the world in a world where we all know COVID happened? Because that’s the thing I’m—

John: Let’s talk about it.

Aline: That’s the thing I’m interested in. If you’re watching your sort of delightful piece are you going to be distracted by people wearing masks which we’re going to be wearing for a long time? Are you going to be – look, I mean, we don’t generally script people going to the bathroom and washing their hands, but washing their hands is a whole thing. And someone was telling me that in the weeks leading up to this pandemic the number of men at the sinks had like exponentially risen.

I mean, our behaviors are going to be different. Like, when I watch a scene in a movie or television show where people blow out the candles it’s a horror scene now. And so I just wonder going forward when you watch somebody in something that is set after the pandemic and they shake hands for instance, which is something I was not a fan of before, but now is sort of – will have a different meaning.

What do you guys think in terms of storytelling and like Rawson are you going to adjust anything? Are any of you adjusting anything in anything you’ve written for that?

Rawson: I haven’t yet. But most of the things I’m working on after Red Notice aren’t sort of contemporary pieces anyways. So, I haven’t really had to address that mentally.

Aline: You’re doing a lot of period films over there? You’re doing your restoration comedy?

Rawson: No, I’m doing – I’m more – yeah, more like sci-fi fantasy, future stuff.

Aline: Got it. Got it.

Rawson: So it’s not quite the contemporary—

Aline: Or just everybody will slug it for last year. You know?

Craig: There is that. There is that. I mean—

Rawson: But I mean is it also – do you think that’s what people want when they’re watching a piece of entertainment, right? Do they want to be reminded of the pandemic? Do they want to see people wash their hands? Or do you turn that on to forget about that stuff? That’s another question.

Craig: I think it’s a trap. It feels like a trap to me, honestly.

Rawson: It’s a trap!

Craig: It feels like a creative trap. First of all, we’re not going to be wearing masks forever. We will go back to shaking hands. We will be hugging again. We’ll be packed into restaurants and bars and all the rest of it. It’s inevitable. It will either happen because there is an excellent vaccine or treatment, or we all get it.

But sooner or later the world will return. And so this will become a very topical moment. It will be a thing that happened for a bit. So, I can definitely see people setting things in this time. And also I think it’s reasonable to start to feather in people in masks in the background and stuff like that.

Look, I mean, the show that I’m writing right now is about America after a pandemic. And the only thing, when we had our sort of kickoff conversation the only thing that I said to HBO that I wanted to just consider is that people are much smarter about pandemics now, which is good news for us. We don’t have to explain as much. They get it. The nature of the pandemic is different. But, yeah.

Aline: Well, the other thing I think is interesting, kind of a side note, is when we were kids we grew up in a lot more of a monoculture, right? Everybody watched the same TV show that night. And that really has dispersed. But now this is not just the country, this is the world. And that’s why you’ll see like jokes about banana bread. Jokes about I’m an introvert/I’m an extrovert. There’s a lot of things that sort of everyone is having a common experience in a way that we haven’t had in a very long time. And I wonder about the effects of that also on—

Craig: Well it’s like after WWII there were movies about WWII. But, most of the movies were not about WWII. Because you sort of wanted, you know, like—

Aline: Right.

Craig: Get back into the swing of stuff. Look, odds are that traditional procedural television is going to give us some sort of NCIS: COVID show, right?

Rawson: Yeah. Unfortunately.

Craig: That’s inevitable. There’s going to be stuff like that.

John: Well, so, two different points here. Thinking about – I haven’t asked Derek Haas about sort of the Chicago shows, but the degree to which the Chicago shows – Chicago Fire, Chicago Med – acknowledge COVID-19. Or even if they don’t have an episode about it, does it take place within their universe? And my guess is it probably does take place within their universe, even if it’s not exactly right there.

A thing I’m writing right now is a relationship comedy. And a reality which we’re still kind of grappling with the central couple of this would have gone through the lockdown and quarantine together. And so that would change their relationship and are we going to acknowledge that or not acknowledge that within the course of discussion that sort of happens in the movie. That would have been a factor. Just like they would have gone through WWII or these things, even if it’s not about WWII. They went through this time and it was important.

So, when this first started I thought like, oh, it’s going to be like 9/11 and how on Friends they would sort of like passively acknowledge that it happened but never actually address it again. I think it’s a longer period of time, and so I think we’re going to have to – the audience is going to be expecting like, OK, if this couple was alive or was together during this time, this family was together during this time, it would not be the first time they were all in a house together. They would have gone through quarantine.

Rawson: I think there’s going to be a lot of readers unfortunately in Los Angeles who are going to have to put up with 16 zillion different romantic comedy lockdown where they went on their first date and then the pandemic happened and then they had to co-quarantine.

Aline: There absolutely will be baking sourdough in that case.

Rawson: I mean, oh my god. Just please – if you’re listening just hear my voice.

Craig: That’s the title. Sourdough.

Rawson: Please don’t write those scripts. Please.

John: All right. So as we’re recording this we’re on a Friday. On Monday there’s supposed to be some state guidance about what the state would like Hollywood productions to do. That will be important, but I think much more important is what studios and financiers decide to do. And really what the guilds decide to do. And the guidance of the guilds have their members about what is safe and what is not safe. Because it doesn’t matter what the state says. If actors don’t feel comfortable being on set—

Craig: Yup.

John: If the crew doesn’t feel comfortable being on set production is just not going to happen. And I’ve been talking to showrunners this past week, July is floated out a lot about sort of studios are thinking about, OK, July might be a time to get started.

Craig: August.

John: Could slip to August. Yeah. But they’re starting to make plans for that. Some of the things I’ve heard a couple times, and I’m curious if you guys have been hearing this, too, is a shift to French hours?

Craig: Mm-hmm.

John: Generally how film sets work is that you shoot half your day – if it’s a 12-hour day you shoot up to lunch. You have an hour for lunch. Then you shoot after lunch.

If you shoot French hours you shoot straight through the day. And lunch just becomes a walking situation. Like you grab lunch along the way.

Craig: Shorter day.

John: A shorter day, which is awesome. But also not having to get people together for lunch—

Aline: So that would be a case where you go pick up a box lunch somewhere?

John: Yeah.

Craig: I have yet to meet a director that doesn’t yearn for French hours. I have yet to meet any filmmaker that doesn’t.

Rawson: We’d been shooting French hours on Red Notice every single day.

Aline: Nice.

Rawson: It’s the greatest thing of all time.

Craig: Absolute joy. So, the question is—

Rawson: I can’t go back. I won’t go back.

Craig: Well, unfortunately we are all at the mercy of crews when it comes to that. The crew has to agree to do it. And I don’t know necessarily why crews are against it. Because it seems like, well, you’d be able to get home faster and your day is shorter. And honestly lunch sucks. It does. It sucks. Everything just stops and then cranking the thing back up again is a nightmare.

Aline: Well, some of those are more physically demanding jobs where you might really treasure that physical break.

Craig: Yes.

Aline: But when I’m directing I still eat at 9, 12, and 6. I’ll just go get food or order food or whatever. Because set hours becomes like you’re eating breakfast at 5: 30pm.

Craig: Six in the morning. Yeah.

Aline: And that throws me off so tremendously. So I always eat at normal hours.

Craig: Well, really it just comes down to when you have a lunch break you don’t know what’s happening. So if the idea of keeping people safe is in some way controlling interaction, really hard to do during lunch. And food preparation. And people standing over their food and all that stuff. Who knows?

Yeah, for sure if you are a Steadicam operator and you’ve been shooting all morning someone else is going to have to come in. Because you’re not Steadicam operating 10 hours straight.

Rawson: Yup.

Craig: But for almost everybody else, I mean, god, I would love it.

John: There’s a lot of downtime on sets where as you’re moving between stuff there’s a chance where you could go to get the food that you need to go get.

Craig: Let’s put it this way. Smokers smoke. Right? So that means there’s always chances to take little breaks. But I personally – I hope that French hours happen. I mean, they’re a delight.

John: Now, some of the other repercussions of all this is once production starts ramping back up it will probably be slow to start. But then there’s a bunch of things that were in production that need to get back and finish, like Rawson’s movie.

Rawson: Yes please.

John: But there’s also a bunch of pent-up demand. There’s like a bunch of stuff that’s being written right now that will need to shoot. And I do think we’re going to get slammed for crews. I think it’s going to be very hard to put together a crew to shoot the stuff that we need to shoot. Because there’s going to be too much demand on those people. And some of those people will not become available because we don’t know that schools are going to be back in session.

So, a big chunk of the work force might be out because they don’t have anyone to take care of their kids. So I hope we’re all anticipating that it’s going to be tough to get crews when we do sort of get back up to sort of full speed here.

Craig: Stage space I think will be even harder.

Rawson: Yeah.

Craig: I think stage space is going to be the real – because stage space is already brutal. Because there are places where people want to shoot, because the tax breaks are there. So good luck finding stage space in the UK. Have fun.

Rawson: Very, very hard.

Craig: And even Georgia which is obviously a huge hub of production. Like all those spaces are being taken up. Crew, there’s a lot of crew in Southern California. I think if you’re shooting here you’re probably in pretty good shape. Because there’s a lot of people that are really skilled who don’t get enough work because of the way that production has fled. But even here stage space is going to be horrendous. It’s going to be Broadway like in the fight over who gets to be on a space.

Aline: I was thinking about Broadway queues the other day and people who had their shows in a queue and how that’s all going to be thrown up in the air and start again. Yeah.

Craig: Broadway is a whole other disaster. I feel so bad for everybody in that business.

Aline: It’s heartbreaking.

Craig: Yeah. It’s really, really bad.

John: And Rawson your movie is for Netflix so you already have a distribution platform there. But we really do not know what is going to happen with the future of movie theaters and sort of getting movies back into theaters. I do believe we will get back to that place. Will it fully return? I don’t know if it’s going to fully return. The things that are still slated to come out, you know, theatrically this year, we don’t know. We don’t know if the Oscars are going to happen. We don’t know sort of any of that stuff.

But I don’t want to say it doesn’t matter, but in terms of production I don’t know that it matters so much. I do think we’re still going to make a lot of these productions of this size and this scale whether or not they’re going to be showing on those big screens or not. So, I’m not so nervous about that.

Aline: Well, there will be also a release bottleneck as you said once we get up and shooting. There will be a release schedule bottleneck.

John: Oh yeah. There will be.

Aline: My son is a very, very avid moviegoer. He saw 105 movies in the movie theater last year.

Rawson: Oh my god.

Aline: And this is his number one recreation activity. So, he’s already like really keeping up with the news about sanitizers, mask, dividers, whatever he has to do. There really isn’t anything that will replace for him that experience of going to a theater. But I do think we’re going to have, you know, obviously we’re going to have a dearth and then a flood.

Craig: Yeah. Yeah.

John: It’s going to be wild.

Rawson: Absolutely.

John: All right. It is time for our One Cool Things. It is time for us to talk through the things we want to recommend to our listeners out there. Mine is weirdly pandemic-y which I don’t think would be a good recommendation, but I’ve actually really enjoyed it. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is this terrific book set within an outbreak and then 20 years after an outbreak. It falls within pandemic fiction but it’s just so really well written. I’m greatly enjoying it. So, I would check out Station Eleven.

If you’re going to buy Station Eleven I really encourage you to buy it from your local bookstore. If you’re in Los Angeles our local bookstore is Chevaliers which has just reopened. So get your books from there.

I’m going to be doing a special event for Chevaliers with other middle grade and YA author, sort of a virtual book signing, so I’ll have details about that. But support your local bookstores. We’re also going to be making sure to put up links to Bookshop.org for any books we’re recommending on the podcast, so you can buy them through your local bookstore rather than a giant retailer/reseller.

But there is one thing about Station Eleven which is also interesting is they had just started shooting. They were two episodes of five into shooting a miniseries based on Station Eleven.

Craig: Ah.

John: And what a weird thing to have a pandemic shut down your pandemic episode.

Rawson: Yeah.

John: And they will of course need to make the decision about within the world of this show did COVID-19 happen or is this – it’s so complicated. The meta levels of all this is so tough. But even as I’m reading the book I’m thinking like, oh, well people wouldn’t react that same way now because we’ve been through this situation. So that’s a weird case where the audience is going to be coming in with much more information than the characters in the story would have.

Craig: All right. Well, my One Cool Thing is so not cool and also the coolest thing ever. It’s cool and uncool at the same time. The Miracle Sudoku Solve. So, there is a guy named Simon Anthony who is he a member of Britain’s championship Sudoku team? Of course he is. And he will solve Sudokus, these really intricate, difficult Sudokus on YouTube. So he just records it and you can watch it.

And if you think that watching solve Sudoku is probably boring, I would think so. I mean, if it’s a regular one, yeah. But this is not. He gets one. He gets the special Sudoku that’s written by a guy named Mitchell Lee. Constructed, I should say. And you guys are familiar with the rules of Sudoku?

John: Yeah. So the numbers one through nine arranged in boxes. And basically you cannot have the same number in any row or column.

Craig: Yeah. So it’s a 3×3 grid. There are three boxes wide, three boxes down. And then inside each of those boxes is another 3×3 grid. So, inside of a box you can’t repeat a number. It’s one through nine. And then in the columns and the rows through the boxes you can’t repeat. And then what they do is they give you a bunch of numbers to start with and you have to deduce all the other numbers and where they go.

And, you know, it’s not my favorite. I’ll be honest with you. It’s not really solving the way I like to solve. However, he gets a special one. In this one there are a few other constraints. If any two little boxes that are separated by a knight’s move, you know, the little L shape, or a king’s move, meaning in any north/northeast around it those can’t contain the same digit. And the other rule is that orthogonally adjacent cells can’t contain the same digit, have to be contained consecutive digits, or something like that.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Here’s what matters. He explains all that and he goes, now, let’s take a look at the puzzle. And he hasn’t seen it yet. And it comes on the screen and we can see it, too. And it is a Sudoku grid with exactly two numbers filled in. Just two. A one and a two.

John: And a two.

Craig: That’s it. And he solves it. And people have been watching this–

John: Yeah, but Craig what’s important is he doesn’t think he can solve it and he’s convinced he’s not going to be able to do it.

Craig: Absolutely.

John: And then you watch the process of discovery as he does it.

Craig: Yes. He says, well, I’m going to try this for a minutes and then I’m going to stop this video and call Mitchell Lee and yell at him. And what happens over the next 25 minutes is as close to Rocky as puzzle-solving gets. And the joy that he experiences as he starts to unravel how this thing works is remarkable. I think at this point something like 700,000 people have watched this video of a man solving a Sudoku and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Because he himself is an utter joy of a human being. And you are watching somebody not only figure something out but experience joy. And it’s so nice to experience authentic joy. To see somebody have that in real time is wonderful. Especially these days.

So we’ll throw a link in the show notes if you have not already seen Simon Anthony solving Mitchell Lee’s Miracle Sudoku.

John: Now, Craig, that’s also a very good setup for our bonus topic for our Premium members which is going to be about puzzling and puzzle-solving. Because you and I discussed previously – people have to be a Premium member to figure out our previous discussion and our disagreement. And Aline has strong opinions on puzzling as well.

Craig: Ah, yes, of course.

Aline: OK.

John: Aline, what’s your One Cool Thing?

Aline: So, for those of you who live on my side of town remember when you would drive up to the Target on La Brea and when you were driving back on the side street there was a food for homeless people. There was a big – remember that?

John: Oh yeah.

Aline: So that’s the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition. They moved east and it’s now just called the Hollywood Food Coalition. And they serve that community. They do an amazing job. It’s a place that we have volunteered with the kids a few times. And it’s one of the places that I like to donate. And I have donated to the Los Angeles Food Bank since this has started. I think, you know, obviously this is disproportionately affecting people who have economic challenges and food is super important.

And it’s now just called the Hollywood Food Coalition. And I sent you the link to that. And in thinking about this I set up a monthly donation to them. They’re just a great organization. And when we do come back – they are still open – when we do come back if you’re looking for a place to take your kids especially to volunteer and hand out food, it’s a great one.

John: Cool. Hollywood Food Coalition. Rawson, do you have a One Cool Thing to share with us?

Rawson: I have Two Cool Things if you don’t mind.

Craig: What?

John: Please.

Rawson: I know. Glad everyone is sitting. The first one is semi-pandemic-y, just depends. It’s called the Wakanicci Robe. It’s the perfect robe. David Walton, this fabulous actor, and some friends created the perfect robe for me. And I have one and I love it. And if you’re padding around the house—

Aline: What is happening? Rawson, I need a picture. Wait a minute, I am also Googling this, but also we need a picture of Rawson in this.

Rawson: I’ll send you one.

Aline: OK.

Craig: Ooh.

Aline: Wakanicci.

Rawson: Wakanicci.

John: OK. Wakanicci.

Rawson: That sounds right. It’s an excellent robe. Highly recommend. It’s a bit pricey, but well worth it.

Aline: Amazing. Am I the only person ever to have recommended clothing on One Cool Thing up until this point?

Rawson: I was wearing it and my wife Sarah said, “That’s great. Do they make it for women?” And I said–

Aline: No.

Rawson: I said no. And she said, “Well then it’s not the perfect robe.” And she walked off. And I was like, damn. But apparently–

John: Rawson, I feel like we’ve discussed this before. I think robes are terrible. Robes are one of those things that feel like they should be comfortable–

Craig: I wear a robe every morning. Every morning.

John: That should be comfortable but are never comfortable.

Craig: No, they’re amazing.

Rawson: This might change your mind.

Craig: I love a robe.

Aline: Oh my god. I have to force myself to take the robe off sometimes at noon. Like, wait, I had a Zoom and I was like can I pull off this brown chenille robe as like some sort of cool wrap dress. And the answer was no.

Craig: I love a robe. I’m buying this robe right now. By the way, I also love that there are two sizes to this robe. The Nicci or the Waka. Nicci is men’s t-shirt large and smaller. The Waka is men’s t-shirt extra-large and larger. I mean, how great is that?

Rawson: You’re going to love it.

Aline: I’m only going to refer to Rawson in the future as Wakanicci.

Rawson: I can dream.

And then the other one, I saw this great documentary. I’m sure you’ve all seen it already. It’s a little bit, a few years old. But I saw it on Netflix and it’s called Winter on Fire. And it’s about the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014. And it’s 90 minutes long.

Craig: It’s awesome.

Rawson: And it is fantastic. I’m so glad you saw it, Craig. It’s heartbreaking and inspirational and riveting. And just one of the most intense experiences I’ve had watching television on the couch in a long, long time.

Craig: Poor Ukraine. It’s just they can’t catch a break.

Rawson: They can’t. Right?

Craig: They can’t.

Rawson: And I didn’t really understand, like with all the Ukraine stuff that happened 18 months ago or a year ago now, I didn’t quite understand what was really going on. And this documentary Winter on Fire, which was recommended to me by my friend [Nathan Middleton], it was stunning. And if you watch it at the very, very end there’s this moment where it looks like all hope is lost for protestors, our brave protestors. I think it was 93 or 94 days they were out there in the cold. And there’s this one man – one guy – who stands up and grabs the microphone and says this one thing. And it changes everything. And it’s unbelievable. Winter on Fire.

Craig: Yeah. It’s pretty great.

John: Cool. That is our show for this week. As always, Scriptnotes is produced by Megana Rao. It is edited by Matthew Chilelli. Our outro this week is by Michael Caruso. If you have an outro you can send us a link to ask@johnaugust.com. That’s also the place where you can send longer questions. But for short questions on Twitter Craig is @clmazin. I am @johnaugust. Aline, you are?

Aline: @abmckenna on Twitter.

John: Rawson Thurber?

Rawson: @rawsonthurber both on Twitter and Instagram, although I’m not really on either very much. Say h.

John: Hi. We have t-shirts. They are great and you can find them on Cotton Bureau. You can find the show notes for this episode and all episodes at johnaugust.com. That’s also where you’ll find the transcripts. And you can sign up to become a Premium member at Scriptnotes.net where you get all the back episodes and bonus segments like the one we are about to record.

But for everyone else, Aline, Rawson, thank you so much for coming back.

Rawson: Thank you.

John: You are original guests and it’s nice to hear from you again.

Aline: We are O. It’s actually @alinebmckenna. I’m an idiot. It’s @alinebmckenna.

John: Excellent.

Craig: And for whatever it’s worth the Wakanicci has been purchased.

Rawson: Yes! Craig, when you get it you have to send me a picture, or post it. I’ve got to see it.

Craig: Of course.

Rawson: And I’ll send you mine.

[Bonus segment]

John: And we are now in the Bonus Segment. So, I was talking with Craig earlier this week and I don’t know if it’s because of Miracle Sudoku that we were talking about this, or we were talking about jigsaw puzzles and Craig doesn’t consider jigsaw puzzles worth anything worthwhile at all.

Craig: Garbage.

John: Doesn’t consider them actually puzzles.

Craig: No.

John: I think you describe them as broken pictures?

Craig: Yeah. You’re just fixing a broken picture. That’s all you’re doing.

John: And arguably Sudoku is kind of just fixing a broken set of numbers. There’s not a narrative thread to it.

Craig: No, that’s not right. There’s a logical deduction to fill in things that are not there. Which is similar to a crossword puzzle. The problem with jigsaw puzzles is it’s all there. You’re just like, well, I need a piece that looks like this that fits here. Sort. Sort. Sort. Oh, here it is. It’s like just putting a vase back together. I don’t really understand. There’s no logic to it.

John: So, Aline and I are the founding members of the Hancock Park Puzzle Exchange. And so she and I each had jigsaw puzzles which we had solved with our families, and so we swamped them. And so the only time I’ve seen Aline during this whole lockdown has been at a distance when I went to her house to exchange some puzzles on her doorstep.

Rawson: My wife is all about puzzles. She’d like to join if that’s possible.

Aline: I’ve got some good ones.

Craig: They’re not puzzles.

Rawson: They are, Craig. They are.

Craig: Just saw jigsaw. Just say jigsaw pictures. Just say cut up pictures. [laughs]

John: Let’s talk about Aline. Ignore Craig for a moment.

Craig: Sure.

John: What makes a good jigsaw puzzle? Because you’ve done a ton over this outbreak.

Aline: You know what? What I like is that everybody in my family enjoys doing them, so it’s something you can do together. And it’s one of those activities that you can do and you can chat. My younger son who is a big puzzler, just overall a big puzzler, and has puzzled with Craig many a time, he loves them. His brain is spatial so that is interesting to him. And I think it works for people if you have different kind of visual brains. Colors. Shapes. So it’s a nice relaxing activity.

And the kind of puzzles that Craig and I do, or you know, the more cerebral puzzles are not as good for chit-chatting. And what’s nice about jigsaw puzzles is it’s something that you can put on music. You can talk. It bridges a number of age groups.

John: You can zone out on them.

Aline: You can zone out.

Craig: There’s no puzzle-solving that you could interrupt.

Rawson: Oh, Jesus.

John: So, I enjoy a jigsaw puzzle for the reasons that Aline is stating. It’s only using a very specific part of your brain and therefore the rest of your brain is available to do other things. And so you can have conversations. You can sort of be in a space together. We sort of got back into jigsaw puzzles because when we would visit my mom in Colorado we’d bring a puzzle so we could all be focused on a table together and be together without feeling like you have to talk at every moment. It just gives you a point of focus.

Aline: It’s particularly good if you have sons. Because, you know, there’s all these studies about how boys are easier to talk to if they’re doing something. And so it puts less pressure on the talking. So, we’ve had some nice chats. I also do it sometimes when I’m talking on the phone. So, it’s funny. I try and move things from Zoom to phone so that I can mainly do laundry, which I do a lot. I try and move those meetings so I can multitask. But puzzles are also good for – I actually find it easier to concentrate on what I’m talking about on the phone when I’m doing something that engages my brain a little bit.

John: Rawson, talk us through it.

Rawson: I’m sure this is poor form on the puzzle side, but I’m not a big puzzler or whatever Craig would call it.

Craig: Picture-er.

Rawson: Picture-putter back together.

Craig: Oh that. Yeah, picture repair.

Rawson: Yeah, picture repair. I’m not a big jigsaw guy.

Craig: Repairer.

Rawson: And like I said I’m sure this is poor form, but what I like to do is wait for my wife, Sarah. She’ll work on a puzzle for a couple days and there’s maybe 12 pieces left. And then I like to come in and just—

Aline: Oh no!

Rawson: And just kind of put the final pieces in.

Aline: Oh no! Rawson!

Rawson: It gives me a great sense of accomplishment.

Aline: Oh my god. That’s like the equivalent of eating the last piece of cake, man.

Rawson: [laughs] Oh, you know, I’m a simple man. I’m a simple machine.

Craig: Wow.

John: So, hearing Craig talk on endless episodes and endless One Cool Things about different puzzles that he likes and why he likes different puzzles and hyping different things, I’ll say that during this interregnum where I’ve been doing a lot of puzzles I’ve come to appreciate levels of mastery of puzzles. Really good puzzles versus terrible crap puzzles.

And so the one we’re doing right now is absolute crap. And we should probably just abandon it. The pieces are too small. They don’t fit together precisely. It’s not interesting. There are big patterns where like this is all purple somehow. You’ve got to fill this in together. And that’s not rewarding. The great puzzles, and I’m going to put a link in the show notes to a Kickstarter that’s happening right now for Max Temkin who does Cards Against Humanity, he has these three puzzles that he’s been doing which are like the artwork is fantastic and designed to be a puzzle. It wasn’t like an existing piece of art that they cut up into puzzle pieces. This was made to be a puzzle.

And then the actual cut lines are designed to precisely fit this so that things don’t fall on one side of the line or the other. So everything fits exactly the way it should fit.

Aline: There’s a great article about how puzzles are made. It’s actually very intricate and very difficult. It was in the New York Times and I’ll send it to you. But one of my challenges is you know when you do a chunk and then you want to move it?

John: Transfer it.

Aline: Some puzzles won’t – well the pieces are too slidey.

Rawson: Would the hardest version of the jigsaw puzzle be just like black that’s cute or white that’s all one color?

John: All black or white. Where you don’t have any visual information and you can only work on sort of what the shape of the pieces are.

Craig: In a way that is the best jigsaw puzzle. Because it goes–

John: That’s the equivalent of Sudoku with nothing there.

Craig: Yeah. It’s the purest. It’s the only interesting thing about a jigsaw puzzle is that—

Aline: Craig, how do you feel about ventriloquists solving puzzles?

Craig: If they get their dummy to solve it. Like, wow, what a weird conflagration of non-talents.

Aline: What are other fun things that people think are fun that you don’t like?

Craig: Other than jigsaw puzzles, ventriloquism and mayonnaise, I think that’s probably – those are the three. I’m generally like, you know, I’m cool.

John: [laughs]

Craig: Just repair—

Aline: Is it really annoying when people are like, “What about aioli? What about–?”

Craig: Oh, it’s brutal. And I’m like, oh no, we don’t have that. What we have is Russian dressing. That is mayonnaise. That is.

Aline: Mixed with ketchup.

Craig: Correct. Aioli is mayonnaise. Russian dressing is mayonnaise. Spread is mayonnaise.

Aline: You’re not having it. Are you ranch? Do you like ranch?

Craig: No.

Aline: Interesting. I don’t either.

Craig: No, I don’t like ranch. I don’t like sour cream.

Rawson: I’m so glad I’m here for this.

Craig: Yeah.

Aline: I love sour cream. But you know what? Craig and I grew up in New Jersey around the same time. He’s a little younger than me. We didn’t have ranch.

Craig: No. Ranch didn’t exist.

Aline: No. Your creamy dressing was a blue cheese dressing with like big chunks of blue cheese in it.

Craig: Which I wouldn’t eat either.

Aline: Yeah.

John: So Rawson is just young enough that he doesn’t remember a time before ranch dressing.

Rawson: I do not.

John: But I remember when ranch dressing was actually a fairly new thing you’d get. There would be a packet of like dry mix that you would have to mix up yourself to make ranch dressing.

Craig: Because it was patented by the Hidden Valley people.
John: Yeah.

Rawson: Is that right?

John: They are the only ranch dressing.

Rawson: Jesus.

Aline: What?

Craig: Yeah. There is an actual Hidden Valley Ranch. That’s where they made ranch dressing.

John: This discussion of ranch dressing is the whitest thing that’s ever been recorded on a podcast.

Craig: It’s pretty white.

Rawson: And that’s saying something.

John: It’s remarkable.

Craig: It’s pretty freaking white.

John: It’s remarkable.

Craig: Well, the jigsaw puzzles were already sending us down–

John: Yeah. We were in that zone.

Craig: We were in the white tunnel pretty deep. Yeah.

John: Oh, Rawson and Aline it is so good to see both of you. I miss you dearly.

Rawson: Likewise.

Craig: We miss you guys. But I love seeing you.

Aline: Yay.

Rawson: All right. Stay safe everybody.

Aline: Stay safe is the new goodbye.

John: Everyone stay safe.

Craig: Stay safe.


Email us at ask@johnaugust.com

You can download the episode here.

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