It’s not a hot take — it’s in the screenplay structure

Hello, I’m Sarah James, and I went to film school. In addition to my extremely necessary MFA in Screenwriting, I’m also a comedy writer and editor. The Writing Cooperative has graciously given me a space once a month to show off some phrases I learned in film school, when I went to film school.

I hope to use a movie or TV show each month to highlight a different screenwriting concept. Will I succeed, or will I just ramble for too long about movies I liked? You tell me.

I went to film school.

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Aubrey Plaza & Kristen Stewart in ‘Happiest Season’ (Hulu — Fair Use)

When Happiest Season dropped on Hulu, Twitter discoursed with a fervor usually reserved for cats that are scared of cucumbers. Most of the hot takes boiled down to: Kristen Stewart (Abby, yeah, I had to look it up) should have ended up with Aubrey Plaza (Riley.) …

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Frasier (NBC Universal, Fair Use)


After running out of money to finish his Ph.D. in German Literature, millennial Frasier Crane moves home to Seattle. Even though he’s leaving because the Boston neighborhood he gentrified five years ago is now being further gentrified out of his price range, he tells everyone at Cheers he needs to go take care of his elderly father. (He also tells them his dad doesn’t mind paying his cell phone bill — the family plan means it’s actually cheaper.)

Unemployed in Seattle, Frasier starts an advice podcast and coins his famous catchphrase — “I am in a headspace to receive information about your struggle.” …

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Photo by Deon Black on Unsplash

The first thing I noticed were her eyes — piercing, oceanic blue, lined with long and luxurious lashes that seemed to kiss together as she blinked. The second thing I noticed were her lips — visible.

My heart tumbled to the linoleum. There was only one reason a woman such as her came into an establishment such as this with those ruby red lips exposed for the world to see: she wanted attention, and not the “between the sheets” kind I longed to give her.

I had no choice but to approach her, because it was literally my job. “Ma’am,” I said, bracing myself for the inevitable viral scene that was to come, “You can’t come in here without a face mask.” …

An interview with the author of ‘Dumb Jokes For Smart Folks’

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Left: Jessica Delfino, Right: Dumb Jokes for Smart Folks (Photos Courtesy of Jessica Delfino)

In her new book DUMB JOKES FOR SMART FOLKS, Jessica Delfino combines her original takes on puns, riddles, and wordplay with deep meta dives into the classic joke form to deliver laughs for anyone who digs a good “mom joke.”

I had the chance to talk to Jessica about her joke writing process, what makes a joke funny, and how motherhood has inspired her sense of humor.

Sarah James: I’ve never spoken to anyone who’s written a joke book. I wouldn’t even know how to start doing that. What does that process look like?

Jessica Delfino: Well, my joke book is a little different. When you think of a joke book, you might think of knock-knock jokes or something like that, but my book is [based on] the idea of reclaiming “dad jokes.” Everyone’s heard of dad jokes. Dads are the funny ones, they’re light, and they’re silly and goofy, and moms are the mad ones, we’re angry and we’re tired. …

An interview with the writer and director of Poor Greg Drowning

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Left: Jeffrey Scott Collins. Right: Poster for Poor Greg Drowning (Images Courtesy of Jeffrey Scott Collins)

Writer/director/producer Jeffrey Scott Collins recently released his first feature film, Poor Greg Drowning, a grounded comedy in the vein of I Love You, Man.

I had the chance to talk to Jeffrey about his soul crushing years in finance, the challenges and rewards of directing your own writing, and Poor Greg Drowning’s daunting road to release.

Sarah James: What’s your background with writing? How did you get started?

Jeffrey Scott Collins: As young as I can remember, I was always either writing or making little short films. I remember my mom had this fifty pound VHS camcorder (laughs), and at the age of five I was using that and making these little short films. So I was always just kind of writing and creating up until high school, and then in high school I did a cinematography class with my friends. …

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Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

I used to suffer from horrible insomnia. Night after night, I’d find myself staring at the ceiling as the hours ticked by, unable to find peace. I tried everything from counting sheep to Ambien and found no relief. Then one night, in an exhaustion-induced fugue state, I downloaded Tinder.

It would be the solution to all my problems. Before I had dated men I knew socially or met through mutual friends — mature, responsible guys with “jobs” and “hobbies” and “therapists.” But the men I found on Tinder were immature, emotionally stunted, defensive, and still convinced they could do better than me! …

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Photo by Ilias Chebbi on Unsplash

Once a week, without fail, there’s a murder in my small seaside town. And once week, without fail, my partner Josh rolls in the station with some hare-brained scheme of how we’re going to catch the guy who did it.

Here’s a few of his most recent schemes: impersonating a member of the armed forces to trick a suspect into trusting us, impersonating a member of the clergy to trick the suspect into confessing, and impersonating a member of ABBA and releasing a new single whose lyrics are a confession and hoping the suspect sings along to it. …

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Photo by Joy Real on Unsplash

Q: What is the Winners’ Cemetery?

A: Good question! The Winners’ Cemetery is a cemetery for winners, unlike most cemeteries, which are primarily for losers.

Q: Who decides if someone is a winner?

A: The people buried here decide, by being winners and not losers.

Q: Is every single person buried in the cemetery a winner?

A: No! In 1924, local whiskey bootlegger and failed boxer Sherman “Nail Hands” McGee snuck onto the cemetery’s South Lawn, where he proceeded to fall into an open grave ironically intended for his rival, Nathaniel “Hammer Hands” Johnston. McGee died instantly, and the powers that be decided it was easier to just cover him with dirt.

Critics say McGee’s presence taints the Winners’ Cemetery, but we like to think that if everyone is a winner, no one is. …

Teens can be terrifying.

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Photo by Ethan Johnson on Unsplash

Gen Z. On one hand, you want them to buy your products, because that’s how you make money, but on the other — AHHH!! They’re just so scary. What if, while you’re trying to market to them, they make fun of your slip-on sneakers? “Hey Grandma, too arthritic to tie a lace anymore?” is just one of the hurtful things these lawless, godless teens can shout at you, with no regard for how you are only 36.

Even though these fashionable, attractive teens (how are they all so fashionable and attractive?!!) are objectively terrifying, they make up a growing share of consumers. …


sarah james

sarah is an editor at slackjaw. her writing has appeared in reductress, splitsider, the toast, and more.

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