Archive for May, 2017

“I write in layers. so there’s the first draft, second draft, but somewhere near the end—the final layer, I look at every word I use and I think is there a word that will work on an emotional level…something that’ll keep you awake that means exactly the same thing? So here’s an example, if I said to the audience, say one of the two words—they both mean about the same—that’s the funnier one.  Which is funnier pull or yank?
Dilbert creator Scott Adams
Interview on The Tim Ferriss Show

Adams says that people choose yank over pull because yank has what he calls as “two levels of funniness built into the word”—the “y” and the “k.”

“So I will consciously make a choice to get rid of a more accurate word to put in a word that has more of a programing control. You want people to have an experience because that’s what they’re going to remember. They’re not going to remember what word choice you use.”
Scott Adams

Bonus #1: From his blog post Writing Funny  Adams says what he looks for in topics is “at least one of the essential elements of humor”:


Bonus #2: The Day You Became a Better Writer blog post by Scott Adams.

Bonus #3:

Scott W. Smith

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“This is certainly the fastest that a podcast has accrued that big of an audience, no matter how you cut it.”
Nick Quah on S-Town

I’m not sure a screenwriter has hit the network TV talkshow circuit since 2007/08 when Juno brought Diablo Cody fame. But S-Town podcast producer Brian Reed was interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel earlier this month. One more indication of rapid changing times in the digital world.

Who would have bet a year ago that a podcast set in Woodstock, Alabama would capture the nations attention? If William Faulkner were still alive he might take that bet (if he’d had a few drinks). Flannery O’Connor might have even taken that bet sober. Because those two writers knew that dark Southern Gothic tales can be powerful.

For at least a season the torch of mythical Southern storytelling belongs to Reed, a Jewish New Yorker. And along the way he’s helped make sundials cool again. And the results could cause the rising generation of content creators to rethink what they’re creating.

As I type this S-Town currently sits atop the iTunes charts of podcasts in the United States. It’s lived there (or around there) since its release in April. The New York Times called it a blockbuster after 16 million episodes were downloaded in its first week.

Reed will tell you he didn’t have dreams of wild success with this podcast, but it’s not like he got lucky either. He’s part of This American Life where he came up learning from Ira Glass, and the S-Town producer was the co-creator of Serial which was the jolt that the podcasting world needed in 2014 to say, “There’s a new sheriff in town.”

Recently I was asked what media consumption podcasting has replaced—I said all of it. Which was a little bit of an exaggeration, but it’s true to say that listening to podcasts all pretty much totally replaced listening to CDs and the radio, the TV doesn’t go on for days in a row at my house, and this three-day weekend I couldn’t even find one movie I was interested in investing time and money into. But podcasts—I’d say I’m at around 10 hours a week consuming.

That’s why I think Chris Giliberti’s Forbes article  Reasons 6 Why Podcasting Is The Future Of Storytelling is worth your read.  But here’s his shorthand list:

  1. Investment is increasing
  2. Content is improving
  3. Talent base is growing
  4. Distribution is expanding
  5. The connected car is here
  6. Virtual Reality is on the way

Everyone knows what a brutal business the film industry can be. Just yesterday I heard report that film schools are graduating more people each year than work in the entire film industry. meaning that everyone working in the industry would have to quit their jobs for the new graduated to find work in the film business. I doubt that’s totally true, but it’s tough racket.

I think that podcasting will become a way for storytellers of all sorts to get traction in the film and Tv world. If you can tell a compelling story and build and audience via podcasts you can not only earn a living, but I believe there’s a better chance to find film/tv success than just hanging out at Starbucks trying to finish that script your working on.

And when Jimmy Kimmel calls, please send me a thank you note.

Scott W. Smith

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Yesterday’s posts was inspired by the The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith. But before he started that podcast he had other outlets where he interviewed various screenwriters. Here are a few more links to posts where I pulled them from some of Goldsmith’s interviews.

‘Keep Your Head Down’ 

Screenwriting Quote #169 (Christopher Nolan)

Filmmaking Quote #14 (Robert Benton)

Preparing for an Oscar-Speech (David Seilder Style)

Aaron Sorkin on Theme, Intention, Obstacles

Meet Your First Audience

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Since I’ve been blogging about podcasts all week I thought it was fitting to end on a podcast with a screenwriting emphasis—The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith. It’s currently ranked #10 by iTunes in US Film/TV podcasts.

Here are several links to quotes I’ve pulled from various podcasts over the years with Goldsmith interviewing various screenwriters.

Jordan Peele on ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’

Screenwriting Quote #196 (Jon Favreau)

Aiming for Small Scale Success First

Screenwriting Quote #195 (Bob Nelson)

A Perfect Bad Idea (and Oscar-winner)

The Wite Out Test

Earn Your Ending

Shoebox Screenwriting


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As of May 2017, podcasting now takes up more media consumption in my life than reading newspapers/online articles, watching TV or watching movies.

With the proliferation of smartphones and cars that now allow downloading of podcasts some are calling this the golden age of audio. In 1938, as Laura Hillenbrand pointed out in her book Seabiscuit, 40 million people listened to the horse race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. This was during the depression when television was in its infancy, and radios were cheap and ubiquitous.

Even with the added competition of cable TV and the internet over the years radio has been a survivor. Podcasting and podcasting app aggregators like Stitcher now lead many to believe that the digital demand makes podcasting a growth platform.

But the future of podcasting is still a big question mark. On June 17, 2015 The New York Times ran an article titled Podcasting Blossoms, but in Slow Motion. The writer, Farhad Manjoo, asked, “Is podcasting in the middle of a long boom or a short bubble?” A 2015 Edison Research report showed that podcast listeners went up 2% from the pervious year and now reach an estimated 46 million people.

Manjoo also made this observation, “Gimlet is betting that high production values will win the future of podcasting. Gimlet’s shows also suggest that podcasting can foster new kinds of programming that might never have taken off in traditional radio.”

I’ve long appreciated the storytelling ability of radio greats Garrison Keillor (Prairie Home Companion) and Ira Glass (This American Life), and in 2014 with both the success of Serial podcast and the launch of Gimlet Media it sure looks like podcasting is more than a fad. And a place for storytellers to find an audience.

Time will tell if it’s back to the future. It was almost 100 years ago when radio dramas in places like Schenectady, New York and Cincinnati, Ohio began airing full stage plays with actors and original one-act plays written for a radio audience.

Scott W. Smith 



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Once his podcast company Gimlet Media was up and running CEO Alex Blumberg realized there was a difference between starting a company and running a company. It’s almost like finishing a marathon and the next day starting an ironman race. Much endurance and stamina is needed.

Running a startup business is not a 9-5 job. The wild success of the Serial podcast developed by Blumberg’s former employer This American Life brought new respect to podcasting and raised the production bar.

Gimlet Media started with two podcasts (StartUp and Reply All) and it became clear listening to season one of the StartUp podcast that all employees were pushing themselves to exhaustion. PJ Vogt, one of the hosts of Reply All, said seriously “I don’t need to have a personal life this year.” His co-host Alex Goldman added, “We cannot keep the pace of going the way we’re going.”

Investors were pushing for growth. More shows, more advertising revenue. More advertising revenue, the more the company was worth. Remember “moderate growth is enemy.” Mistakes are also the enemy of any startup. Part of their small team of people included some who were young and inexperienced. “Mistakes want to get made,” Blumberg said reflecting on an early blunder.

Within the first year of its launch Gimlet Media had viewership 10 times what was projected. They were pioneering native advertising where the advertising looks and feels like the non-advertising content that surrounds it.

But this got Gimlet Media caught it what Blumberg called “the wrong side of native advertising” when the mother of a 9-year-old they interviewed thought her son was being interviewed for This American Life instead of an advertising spot for Squarespace. A Tweetstorm ensued with comments aimed at Gimlet, “When we blur the lines between marketing and journalism to the point of where people are misinformed that’s just lying.”

Gimlet has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and prides itself on transparency. So they owned their mistake and gave a public apology, and it led to a clarification of their native advertising policy which you can find on their website. No one said starting a company with a small group of people was going to be easy. (To see native advertising done correctly see the Open for Business work Gimlet’s creative team did for ebay.)

Related posts:
Power Your Podcasts with Storytelling (Part 1)
Power Your Podcasts with Storytelling (Part 2)

Scott W. Smith

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