Writers Roundtable: John Krasinski, Bo Burnham, Tamara Jenkins, Peter Farrelly, Eric Roth | Close Up



welcome to close-up with the Hollywood Reporter brightest I'd like to introduce amber Jenkins hi poor Schrader John Krasinski Peter thoroughly Eric Roth and Bo Burnham I'm gonna plunge you in the deep end you've all agreed to take on an assignment and that assignment is writing a film about Donald Trump where do you start what's the challenging who's feeling brave and what's to go first Tamara wait okay we're writing something about Donald Trump and where do you start and what was it how you gonna do it what's the challenge well where you started you immediately asked for 10 times as much money as they bortion on the table you know I always drive by on the way to the airport it says Trump pavilion it's a very low slung building on the way to the airport from Manhattan to the airport and it's a really really sad desolate looking Billy a bit building that says Trump pavilion and it's a nursing home and I don't know I think that that would be a really striking first image it looks like it's the most forgotten nobody cares about it place yet it has the Trump name maybe I'd start with that my first my problem would be is I can't keep trying to find something Shakespearean about it I can't and I don't find much humor in it so there's I mean you could certainly play him as the fool but I don't think he's quite Falstaff so why is it not Shakespeare what makes something Shakespearean I think Shakespearean characters seem to somehow be aware of their fate in some way and I don't think I don't find him aware of it mostly anything except for his own ego you know do you agree that Peter you know my movie has a lot of parallels it took takes place in 1962 – what's happening now and I've thought about this I knew someday somebody's gonna ask me something like this and no matter how I answer this I'm gonna lose half the crowd and this is a movie that I want everybody to see because it's about both sides so I don't want to weigh in on this because I think it it could actually hurt you know what I've been working on for the last two or three years whichever way I went the other half is going to say so faith you're saying I've been thinking about this a long time but I'm not gonna well answer it no I'm sorry yeah if my answer is am I saying it right now is not gonna help anything but the movie will so I'd rather not weigh and I'd rather have people watch the movie then kind of figure it out how would you do it it's a obviously a huge question I'd be really interested in the circle of people around one person I always like movies that are about a person that you never see so maybe it's a sort of diving into anyone who's around him or whether it's staff or political or otherwise and obviously like Peter saying the political aspect of it is such a hotbed that I'd actually want to I always try to tell the human story certainly that's what a quiet place is about and you know if you told me that I was gonna do a horror movie three years ago I would have said you were crazy so I just said why don't I tell a family draw drama and trojan-horse it as a as a horror movie so I always looked for the human aspect of it well I could give you an interesting you know I always been offered three times to do a Hitler movie really yeah and each time I bought because I felt like I was gonna humanize him and then I saw a movie called downfall and realized I was completely wrong had been wrong from the moment I started you know he can be human but also be type of human being that shows all sorts of dimensions you know that you might not you know I mean I want to be part of Paul if humanized a lot of villains in your movie people who might seem like villains would you do the same with Trump and do you ask yourself morally and my right to do this I wouldn't do it for me it's a mental health issue it's like you know choosing to live in a polluted space or to drink polluted water just not enough time left in my life to get involved with Trump in and his world how about you both at the risk of being a one-trick pony I would be interested maybe not in the future but in a short about him as a child I have wondered about his relationship with the with his father what he was like as a five older a six-year-old but the issue with just anything in regards to Trump in the arts that I find is that like the weapon that doesn't seem to work or just be exciting to me is satire he is self satirizing so an approach to a story with him I want it to be natural and cold and boring and show the sort of quiet moments that he shares and not the sort of pyrotechnics of what he is as a person because he trying to spin that he's already spinning at a rate that's so fast there's nothing else to do so he's he like he is his own art instillation his own performance of himself you know so I don't know what I could spin other than to like wonder who that five year old blonde boy was and what his dad was telling him but again that is deeply humanizing him and trying to excuse what he's doing as being implanted by daddy which i think is not to remember when Kari southern was thought to be implausible and now we're living in tear each other's work yeah exactly it's true okay cause yeah there's something that you pessimistic about the future well I mean look anybody who is optimistic hasn't been paying attention it's pretty clear what's going on I think we've made our choice as a species and it's just a question of how long it takes to play out agree disagree thank you oh but if you pessimistic why what is the purpose of right here well it's like Camus said I don't believe I choose to believe and we're at a point now where there's no reason to hope but you can't choose to hope and you can choose to write and it's probably one of the few things left you have control over even when somebody else is directing what you write yeah I would I would agree with that I'm enamored with words and the sound of words and what things should feel like and director could fuck it up I guess I mean maybe they will but they can't take that away from me in a sense you know in other words at that moment of like reading I mean to me it's like such a joy to read yeah so and maybe I'm a throwback folks I don't know if the words words are irrelevant now maybe you know well I'll throw in my plug for first reformed where's the premise the film that begins when a young man seeks counseling from a reverend because he does not believe it's right to bring a child into this world and that sort of sets the story in motion and that's not a question we would have been asking for 25 years ago but my kids as well as their friends do ask this question now my wife could no longer live with me I left the military I was lost and Reverend Jeffords feel abundant life he came in this position at first a foreman Here I am and welcome I can promise you that whatever despair you feel about bringing a child into this world cannot equal the despair of taking a child from it my movie touches on that a tiny bit too and that it's about a contemporary couple who were on a course of trying to have a baby and odds are against them because they're in early middle age and they've waited too long and they're sort of reproductively challenged in each of them and there's a line in the film where she says you know our friends said you know that having a baby is a selfish act and that it's immoral to have a baby you need to sign these what are you doing are we really doing this we insane no we're not insane we're normal well this is not normal this is the opposite of little sure it's even ethical remember what Marty said baby he's an immoral act Marty is an idiot overpopulation climate change rising neo-fascism take your valium yes why in the case of the film there's an irrational desire to procreate that has nothing to do with thinking or making the right choice at least in terms of this couple they're humaneness is kind of propelling them and there's nothing logical about it that's probably writing as well I think the creation of writing is the same way I think you'd do it because it's just in you and it needs to be done and that's how we process the current not because it's necessarily productive not because it's necessarily gonna solve anything and not that it's necessarily about exactly what's happening in that moment but the stillness that is necessary to write the act of silencing yourself silencing yourself own and silencing everything and to bring yourself to a table to actually stop to think to bring words there's something wholly about it it's so much to me that you wrote a movie about silence yes what prompted you we're living in a very noisy world yeah what prompted set and this is a different writing screenplay that really has almost no dialogue very different and terrifying no it was one of those things that came as a spec script to me as an actor first and the spec script had the idea the idea was fantastic this idea of a family living silently to protect themselves from creatures but we had just had our second daughter and so I was legitimately holding a three week old baby reading about a family of what would you do to protect your kids I've never had this before I connected to this material more than anything I've ever connected to before because I was living it I was living those days you know anybody who has kids knows that you're actually checking their breathing and you're checking to make sure they're alive and healthy and happy and all those things and I said if I could rewrite the script I could bring this to be the best metaphor for Parenthood that I could you know that I had experienced at least and I went down and I pitched my wife I said I think I I think I can rewrite this script and make it about our kids it's a love letter to our kids and she's like the one about creatures killing everything yeah yeah and she was actually the one who said then you have to direct it because I pitched her in about three hours and she said you have to go direct the movie – which turned out to be a good idea hmm Thanks my wife we scared of screwing up your own screenplay absolutely yeah because I mean to me it was a high wire act and I'm sure everybody can agree there's something about the high wire act that's so much more appealing than the easy one and so I was terrified of sound being not only a main character but the main character but I was also so excited by it and was really nice to be a part of a movie for me that on set it was unraveling its ability to be successful every day so what I mean by that is the first time we shot the scene of the family walking to the bridge I could actually hear crew members saying wow the wood sounds so amazing you realize that they hadn't listened to their environment in years so we we sort of everyday found little hints as to why the movie could be did you go to any writer for advice and with all of you if they're right who's ever given you a great note or a great piece of advice right school I had John Irving as per week ha and it was a fantastic thing but I remember him telling me this one thing that stuck with me which is you know he writes six seven eight nine hundred page novels he says he'll never begin a novel until he knows the last sentence Wow exactly the opposite way that I write yeah that's the way I work that's why I work man I can't write it unless I know the title really yeah I'm with you I need the title names of the characters and I need to know the beginning seen in the last scene one movie that I've written I think I've written like 20 something except from eunuch got change dancing and because the Twin Towers yet uh put back up you know I'm saying he decided to do that you know I had an interesting situation where the first reformed I wasn't quite sure how to end it you know the possibility of the rescue point ending with body parts and less explosions in slow motion and then I had put in the Diary of a country priest in need where it falls out of frame and I can't Jones an old friend of mine who runs the New York Film Festival I gave him the script and he said to me or you win for the country pre standing I thought you were headed for the or dead indeed and as soon as he said it I said boom say no more say no more I know I know exactly and I change the ending into the or that ending but if you can find somebody who can just say that one thing that's a lucky moment I never know my ending and I feel like I've been doing it wrong and so long but I have a few secret weapons like my husband's a screenwriter and he and in pain yeah and Joe Taylor or great screenwriters I'm married to one of them and I feel like actually my husband's probably married to Alexander but those guys when you give them your screenplay and it comes back to you with lines running through it and a lot of sort of distilling with the one big idea what is it no idea it's not usually big it's always very incremental and I'm not a big person it's always very small ideas and that and accumulate details that then reveal people and characters will tell you but I can't speak too much to my overall process of work I'm very early in the into my career or late into my career if this goes poorly but for me when I write it did I kind of have to work inside out it has to work moment to moment before I even start to extrapolate from a scene to figure out that it can work over a feature length like it has to breathe it's right I just sort of have to dive in and start writing it in my movie eighth grade which is about a young woman at the end of eighth grade who's recording YouTube videos and then the sort of life that's happening around those videos the the initial impulse for the script in the start of it was watching videos of young kids online speaking about themselves and talking about their life and just transcribing those monologues and because I found the way that these kids express themselves to be so visceral and meaningful to me and sort of existed in like really sharp contrast to the way I had seen young people be portrayed on screen which was perfectly articulate perfectly in command of their own narrative and for me what it means to be alive right now is to be out of control of your narrative to be constantly trying to be your own storyteller your own biographer your own filmmaker and failing to do that and these kids were doing it so beautifully and viscerally that I just was watching these videos thinking if this were a performance in a movie it would be incredible and and to see the life that this person was living outside of this video and what they're expressing however it was similar or different would be engaging to me can you be me brave and if you could just see yourself how I see you which is how you are how you really are how you always have been my god you wouldn't be scared either so I kind of start pretty granularly I have to sort of feel like I can feel the moments of the film working before I can then pop out and you know take out well then those videos in the first place I'm from the Internet I sort of got my start in the Internet I go to the internet for a lot of the things your 3d printed human I am fairly the Internet is a well of humanity if you dig past the surface of it you know all you sort of see on the Internet is like the trending viral videos which are usually corporate made and talk show appearances and music videos but if you search something on the internet and sort of buy upload date you see that it's like the most pure exchange of material between the public and us so I'm going online searching middle-school advice and seeing videos with ten views of a 13-year old girl in her bedroom doing a 10-minute soliloquy about her own life in real time and it was just so engaging and and why was engaging to me was it was so clear that these kids were trying to sound like the cultural representations of themselves they have seen it they're trying to sound like good characters and movies and they were failing to sound like that and I wanted to do a story about one of those kids I wanted to do a story about being alive where it's almost the main stress of the main character was that the movie of her life wasn't interesting because I do think that's what it means to be alive right now especially young and online where you have attempted to make it a boy instead of a girl no I mean there's a lot of answers to why it was why it was a girl I mean one is that I didn't want to make a nostalgic story I didn't want to make a movie that was about my past experience so it being a girl sort of I couldn't project my own experience onto her I sorta had to just humble myself and listen to her truth also the real answer is I watched hundreds of these videos the boys tended to talk about video games and the girls talk about their souls I mean it just like truly is happen and I for whatever reasons maybe culturally the girls were just asked to go deeper quicker which i think is true but um do you ever feel especially for the not 20-something writers hit you ever feel out of touch with the zeitgeist I feel like I'm 92 years old all the time it's changing sofa I thought I was pretty yep and then I found out that iPhone has ten versions and I was like which one's mine for I used to think we were going through a period of transition but now I realized we've entered a period of constant transition I got to say I think I felt vital of writing stars born and that's not that I didn't feel vital writing other movies you know in some recent but it put me into a different mindset I think it wasn't my more traditional sort of training of what is the theme of this piece why am I writing this and all those questions it was more sort of thrown into the morass if you will and as a good morass and and I think the movie does reflect the zeitgeist you know and I wasn't really it's not that I was unaware of it but that it wasn't something that would motivate me do you write songs or anything I don't sing my own songs thank you why well cuz like almost every single person that I've come in contact with in the music industry has told me that my nose is too big and that I won't make it your nose yeah your nose are beautiful it's a traditional story that's been remade since the Johnny gain of ocean that's right how did doing remake in classical film revitalize you well I think it was twofold one was Bradley Cooper who had a point of view of wanting to do it first person so that you had an intimacy to it which remains even though I'm not sure how much is really improvised I mean I think early on I I could see that set pieces were not going to be sort of the way of the day which is more traditional to way I wrote and so we tried to write out serve conversational dialogue that felt improvisational you know in many cases sometimes it was but it also was this kind of less you know get a bar and put on a show in an odd way because they said here we go we're gonna start doing rock concerts you know and what does it feel like to do that and we had you know a number of pretty well-known artists come and watch the things as about as close as you got you know so he really captured that also speaking of zeitgeist I was saying earlier that I hope romance and romance stories are always right the fracks if we lose that and I think we're out of but I was just saying I don't know the last time I saw a classic romance you know it's like it feels like people are afraid to do that type of beautiful honest story yeah I guess romance vanished from society you're asking me I feel like my movie has my is about a marriage and there's something you know it's not a traditional romance and it's not romantic but it's about a kind of a love story and you know the Intrepid nests of this couple surviving through this obstacle course of what they're doing so I don't know I feel like love stories come in lots of different packages but maybe tragedy you–you'll movies a tragedy it is Shakespeare in that sense has disappeared why well I think I'm not sure it's quite true because I think a good love story will always have a probably a heartbreaking ending I mean at least and at least you know an ending that people's dreams are not quite fulfilled so there's a bitter sweetness bittersweet quality but I think for me it was different because I think it did have the tropes you needed to have for this particular movie then and I've written probably I'll say at least two love stories Benjamin Button and Forrest Gump right in some way and I was trying in that those cases to be as imaginative as possible I wasn't trying to stay with the more normal or norms of love stories you know on the other hand I do have a love story I'd like to write a novel or a movie that is completely normal in that sense I mean like the way we were normal you know I'm saying so I'm not sure the reason for that I mean others he he needed to go to lala land right to get people and to see that movie right probably if you had the real emotion with the real story you'll probably succeed I would think I think they're just probably not there look Howard Lee about doing it's not branded and all those things you know I just thought that there was no lead-up in the movie to certain oh yes yes like when she comes to his concert I love that there was no I don't know you didn't milk it long yeah it was it was like as soon as the song ended he was like come out I want you to sing yes we talked about that yeah it was so it felt so real rather than let's see Bradley do six songs and then realize she just do that it's very dirty I the tribute to Bradley it's a Ramaiya film well no field not even so well known that you'd like to remake foreign film classic Hollywood film hmm I get terrified by that well we we that's all we do I mean you're picking and choosing you don't actually originate anything you just go through this huge buffet of cinema and and make your own plate and even though all the elements are out there at this endless Chinese buffet everybody's plate is different yeah there is very cross like I noticed in our this movie that I did and yours which is in arts we have you know southern cops bad guys who are not nice to you know black people in 1962 at all and then on the way back just when you think they're out of the woods they get pulled over by another cop and y'all got here it goes it's gonna be the bad one it turns out to be a nice one he's a decent guy who's just noticed something about the car and he's saying make sure you're okay and it's a relief and it's also a feeling of you know not all cops are bad you know and they weren't bad back then there's good cops and bad cops and you I love in your story the senior girl who takes her underarms and is a nice person you know she's just a really good person I kept when it first came along I thought I don't have her turn yeah because that would be if you did do that then to me it's like it's not real because there's not just bad people and yes Horace there's some nice people and I love that that that was very satisfying for me to have that girl come into it and truly it's those nicer elements that actually do pull the tragedy down I think realistically because the tragedy of life is that there is actually love to be had there is goodness to be had in the world and when it feels just the entire world is conspiring against everyone in every moment it's like oh well just you know lie down and don't get up but don't you think part of it is from whatever your own sense of yourself is in other words and I guess I think I write from a place of loneliness oddly and and a little bit of depression so my things would necessarily have serve I guess a tragic element to it I mean even if I don't want it to is that true because you know the line that the natural mode of the of the comic mind is tragedy and vice versa I'm very tempted to to write something with and with a comic and optimistic ending be more ironic I think I like what you were saying about depression and writing I wonder if anybody else at this table I mean I've certainly feel connected to you know depression and it's always driving me and to like sitting there by myself and writing and I yeah well I mean I began on spec I'm still writing on spec I think I've only had a handful of paid jobs in my life so I walked in the door seeing this as a form of therapy and I still do and so of course you're gonna get into what are the things that are motivating you and the first script taxi driver was loneliness you know boom and you find a metaphor a taxi cab mmm take a plot and running through the metaphor and sorry I wished many times that I could be a better employee because certainly money to be made but I've tried a number of times and have you ever been fired yes well did not not so much fire it is you handed the first draft you get no notes you get paid for your rewrite and the phone doesn't ring I guess that's kind of telling you that what they think of your dress I'll give you a good example I was fired that's C twice but the one I remembered I knew is coming because I won't mention the personality but the personality very narcissistic and I knew at one point he was not gonna want to see me in that mirror and sure enough he didn't you know that was the end of that direct so you mean directly yeah directly yeah why rats I don't have the math for it I don't know the math mind or the patience I guess I did I did when I was in college I won some student shorts and stuff but beyond that is it frustrating working with directs to change your work no not when they make it better they made I was about to say yeah we both agree depend on depend on which what direction is going we make it better you take credit for it yeah exactly loud and clear I really started directing because we'd been and we finally had a bloody meat and and we saw it we were like no that's not that's not our movie women our names are but we put our brother-in-law's names on and I remember my agency you crazy you don't you have zero credit take get a credit it's a studio film I said I'd rather die with no credit just have that as my as my only credit and the next movie that we were which was dumb and dumber when we went in the room they said it was directing so we are and they're just no one questioned it when you say we you're referring to my brother yes but now you'll on your own making films lie well I mean honestly the truth is my brother had a tragedy in his immediate family a big one and he had to step away he was he needed time and so at that moment I ran into the guys who told me this story it's about a guy with a sixth grade education the italian-american bouncer was racist driving a black concert pianist with five doctorates through the deep south and it's them gradually realizing they actually have something in common you kidding me this is the home run I love this story and so I just jumped into it how was that salty have you ever considered becoming a food critic no not really why should money in it I'm just saying you have a marvelous way with words when describing food salty so vivid one can almost taste it believe me you know it would this movie it would have been better if my brother were involved I'm telling you the truth he always makes things better I miss working with him yeah I did four scripts with Scorsese and on the fourth one I could tell this would be the last one because I was really thinking like a director now when there were two directors in the room and was calling himself a writer retained my friendship with Mari and didn't know him well my life but the friction I can feel the friction in the room what's the best note you've been given – what's the worst note I was at the Sundance lab when I wrote my first movie and I had the slums of Beverly Hills and it was a work in progress script and you know the way it works is that Hollywood screenwriters come and they read this script and then you do a kind of like mentor session where they tell you what they think and this man he was a male screenwriter incredibly successful financially sat me down and he said well you can't start a movie with a girl getting fitted for a bra you can't waste five pages with a girl getting that first I was like nobody recalled me and a writer and said hey by the way I have an idea for you but I've learned from watching people's work and I'm the one I always remember is when we were writing something about Mary we got to by which we it was a old script by Ed Dekker and John Strauss by the way that's great we rewrote them my brother and I know they were old friends of us and ours so we knew that story but anyway we're rewriting it we're on page probably 45 50 and we hit a wall and the wall was well you know she's gonna end up with Ted it says we knew it and I couldn't go on I was like this it we spent like a week or two looking at each other like why do you make it the whole everybody knows they're gonna end up together and during that week I happen to watch bottle rocket which is Wes Anderson's first movie and I'm watching it and it opens up where the you know they break him out kind of break him out of a mental institution and they you know Owen has a five-year plan that's what we're gonna do first year we're gonna Rob you know mom-and-pop stores second here we're gonna move into us you know banks now for five years we're gonna have enough money to retire and they set off to start robbing places and the first night they stopped at a motel and Luke Wilson sees the chambermaid falls in love with her and they don't leave they just let it go that way they let the story and I could show you they didn't sit down and say hey what if it's about a bunch of guys would want to do robberies and I'd fall in love with a chambermaid you could see that they found it right and I remember why does she have to end up with Ted and I got my brother so you gotta watch this movie and we learned from it I say shouldn't have to end up with Ted from that point forward all the guys we were fair to them we wrote like we didn't know we honestly didn't know who she'd end up with until page of hundred well we had fooled ourselves and the audience we where it was gonna get Brett B Brett Farve and she was gonna get him and at that point we said hey wait a second no let's give her Ted I mean no you know we've already done it how about Ted it'd be a nice surprise and you know it was just a really good lesson and this force gives you good notice I seem to remember them saying you can't have the guy you know joking himself off yeah we've got a lot of resistance to that you know that it would be nc-17 and and and we said no no no because they said you know our is if it's for titillation it's nc-17 if it's for humor it's our and we had to fight I have to say bill mechanic stood up on that one and this is we were in a meeting who then with the head of used a head we're in a meeting and we've gone probably a couple months where they said you gotta cut this well you're not cutting it please don't make us cut this we think give it a chance but we'll shoot we'll have a way if it doesn't work because it could have easily not worked could have been a disaster where we get out of it get rid of it and move on they kept no no you're wasting money you know do it finally I looked at bill one day I said no how many movies you guys making this year he said right and he said twenty-two I said how about make 21 let us make one [Laughter] and I swear he looks as he is all right let him do it let him let him go and that was it we never heard another peep I do that exact thing but silently so less is more right the absolute thing I happen to write like 180 page screenplays right and I'm trying to think how do I use almost all of them almost all have not always anyway there's a famous story about it John Huston Sartre writing Freud he turned in his draft it was like 180 pages that's a thought stud in the drove started to turn in the draft and Houston said spectacular but it's just way too long so we'll get somebody that see how we cut it and Sarge's him I'll take care of it he left and he came back with the 224 so the point being I don't know I don't know the answer so I'll give you a more recent I'm not sure I did the right thing but on dune I which you know this gigantic thing I wrote like about a 200 page draft you know and she's the head of studio said this is never gonna work which didn't you talking about the the new wall brand-new law it's in the name Villeneuve is coming out in March and they eventually got somebody short and it's like I just I can't buy I know I feel strongly that the additive process is much more creative than the subtractive one and so if you could have a first draft that works at 70 pages yes you know you're gonna have a first draft that works at 90 pages and it's just gonna get better and the same thing with the editing process at some point you say to the editor let's make a cut of the film with just the stuff that's good see how long it is maybe it's 45 minutes long 55 minutes long you put the bad stuff on then see how much of the rest we have that and put in and now you're thinking in an additive way rather than or subtracted way when you're always thinking subtractive Lee how could I make this shorter how would I cut it down it's not good for your creative process it's a mardian as I told you I was we're talk in the other room I'm working with now on something and he encourages me as long as possible you know we have like 90 tiny little new movies in the thing what are you looking at him with chose the flower moon it's a little bit yet so I guess you know in their summer 10 seconds summer half a minute or whatever they are but he encourages you more and more more you know and then we will decide what it look like when we get in that thing would you call that original script what was your approach to rewriting it what changed and you know the famous William Goldman line you have to lose your darlings what did you lose it's interesting I lost a few things but when I got the spec script like I said the idea was was there but it was very much moral horror movie as I was reading I started knowing what I would do with it as if I could really make this a family drama and really push this idea of family and and get into the detail of that and so that's really what I started with and changed so for instance the opening of a movie didn't exist in this script you met the family on the farm and I just felt you have to meet the family before all this and then after and it's just little things like that that I I knew right from go again with the three week old in the room she was typing for me and it's funny I think that one of the things that's hugely beneficial for me about being an actor first is I've learned from all my heroes that I've worked with that collaboration is king and the best idea wins no matter who it's from and so I do take that approach there's a real benefit to me directing the things that I'm writing because I'm directing as soon as I start typing and then when you get on set I remember Sam Mendes actually told us on a way we go my and I it was like halfway through shooting and we asked him a question about our characters and he said well I have an idea but to be honest you guys are the characters now at some point in the movie process these characters become yours than mine and I thought that's so smart and so that goes for the whole crew and so actually the ending of our movie was our producers idea there was a much more it was a much different ending and he said not to give it away but I'm giving away but he said I really think Emily needs to shoot the monster and I remember thinking that's insane I'm not doing that I was so against it and bizarrely I was driving to work the next day and was listening to a podcast an old podcaster not podcast at the time but it was an interview with Steven Spielberg in the early 80s and someone said to him why is your generation of directors different why are you moving away from making and he basically said I'm paraphrasing and butchering it but he basically said why can't we make art films that you can also eat popcorn – I'm not going to shy away from making people happy and making them enjoy you know really exciting movie moments – and I thought oh my god that was my sort of wake up moment to this idea that shooting the creature at the end of the movie isn't isn't actually abusing this sort of artistic take that I had on it it was actually fueling it in a whole different way that I wasn't aware of but change to the end you can change the akan meaning of something when the ending was reshot the fatal attraction Glenn Close was turned into a real villain and she was very upset about that has anybody said to you we have to change this ending in a way that you feel alters the meaning of what you're doing the creature was very upset hardcore Eagleman and Mel Mike made me change the ending and maybe be a woman who's the head of the studio and I swore at that moment that would never happen to me again and I didn't but and but my favorite change was on cat people they ended with the protagonist shooting the monster and the house burning down and I hadn't said what what if instead of shooting the monster he fucks it and then puts it in a cage and built a shrine to it perfect with my story that you know the ending was maybe a little too similar uplifting and I had a similar struggle you John a little bit where I felt like oh do I need to end it like some cool you know teenage Scandinavian movie where she you know you chops the head off a fish and drowns herself whatever gave me and but to me it's do you just choose what's meaningful for yourself and I try not to meta analyze it too much in the in the world of okay what does this mean in light of movies and in light of other narratives is where is this person landing what do they feel what feels honest and meaningful to me I get a little in my head when I start to try to think about it in like the pantheon of other films that stopping him so that his particular influenced you in your work woman under the influence in Cassavetes just like the energy that he has has been clearly created on set I mean Jen arounds and Peter Falk just like the spontaneity of that action and the way people speak to each other which feels like they are not only surprising you the viewer they are surprising themself moment to moment yeah the operative is which feels like because John's work was much more calculated and less improv they probably should have people think yeah the verdict for me is the sort of seminal movie and I saw it really late I think I was 19 or 20 the first time I saw it and there was something that I connected to about I grew up very Catholic and so there was something about that but then there was also this idea of redemption that to me felt more spiritual than actual religious teachings there was something about watching an actual parable rather than reading about a parable or studying a parable to watch someone be able to do that and have it be like we said a little dirtier and not not violins at the end of this is all beautiful but to end the movie on a phone call that you don't know what's gonna happen so every single thing that I sort of loved about movies was encapsulated in that one movie that I was just did it blew me away why don't you do something wild something wild really inspired me in a huge way it blew my mind it was look one of those movies that Jonathan Demi 1986 and when it when I saw it I just God that it felt like rock and roll it felt great the music the look the the characters you know that's why I fell in love with Jeff Daniels you know as does that I was begging them to use and you know that was years later but I think he gotta have this guy he's unbelievable but I like that you know the diss it just had such a fun happy cool feeling to it and in fact for years every time I was gonna do another movie I'd watch it again just to get that feeling again and someone recently asked me they said what do you you know we have a lot of road trips on our movie and I don't you know I didn't consciously do that and I thought something wild you know there's something about being on the road and in America that makes me happy all the shelves that are purely American if they're kind of filmmaking that does not belong in America I'm Paul you know I'm gonna talk to you about that I don't assume you read Paul's book he wrote one the seminal books about film history called transcendental style in film and now and when we first met 20 years ago I asked you about that influence on taxi driver and here you are not making first performed which is clearly influenced by those who breasts on Theodore Drummond in March of 1969 I was a film critic for the LA Free Press I went over to the lily theatre for screening a pickpocket and I reviewed it and in that 75 minutes it's a short film two things happened that changed my life one was I realized that there was a bridge between my spiritual life and my film life and was a bridge of style not a bridge of content and the other thing I realized is that in fact there was a place for me in the film business other than a critic and two years later I had written the book and three years later I'd written taxi driver which is back and then 50 years later those two seeds which travel in that petri dish came and wound up and I made first informed so I'm done it was when we met because when I saw taxi driver I said oh wow it's Buress on but with all the non dramatic bits thrown out you know so strongly American urban version of breasts on do you agree that style and content to different yeah I do think they're different I think that at least for me Styles should come out of it should come second but style presents itself to you as your you know the story informs the style it's I don't like super stylized yeah films but I like when they I mean duh form and content worked really well together like but personally I'm I like to move with the story and the humans and I you know when you were sitting like with your favorite you weren't saying what's your favorite what is the role I was sitting here and like so many of them but then the one that always I returned to in a kind but it's almost from a writer's perspective is Dog Day Afternoon because it's brilliant and it's so immediate and it's so the exact thing about dropping characters into action without any backstory and then finding your way through it and figuring out why you're there when you find out when you're there without being you know explained why they're robbing the bank you know that's what he did in his me yes I love that they started it's already we're off to the races yes like you know and yet you quickly catch up you catch up you know just little hints he's funny actually I wrote the whole backstory I know where the creatures came from how they all you know ended up in this place and you're talking about advice that I'd or something like that and it wasn't note but my first script was promised land that I wrote and Focus Features did it and we went into this marketing meeting and I was super new to the whole business but certainly the aspect of writing and at the end of the marketing meeting there was this amazing guy Jack Foley still also among the best accents I've ever heard and I remember just leaving the room I turned to Jack and I said what's the biggest misconception in the movie business and he didn't even hesitate he said that audiences are stupid and he seemed very frustrated by it and he said nobody wants anything delivered to them you know sugar-coated on a spoon they actually really want to work they're frustrated that you're not making them work and without a doubt when I was writing the script I literally thought oh that story and said alright Jack you better be right and so I basically took out all the backstory and what I thought was if I could pull off the magic trick of having the entire backstory in one set which is my office downstairs my workspace the entire back story is on that board and my whole idea for it was I don't want the audience to be ahead of the family the family doesn't know what's going on and if you're ahead of them you won't care about them and so you can only get this information as the characters are getting this in from and it was really really fun to do well you did that too and yours tomorrow it opens in the middle of yeah and then there's the flashbacks remember thinking was that the right just you're trying to figure out where to have that yeah that but the other thing about Dog Day Afternoon is that it's it's just so it's just truly character driven it's just how will these humans respond to these circumstances and they all respond in their own way and it's so beautiful also the believability of introducing wild storylines and just saying like go with it you know I mean that when you find out why he's doing all this yeah there's no amazing yeah it's beautiful yeah from your own experiences writing is that one piece of advice you'd give to a starting writer uh-huh do it I like the other connect no no I don't know I mean I don't really like to speak and maybe I will someday I don't really like to speak in the second person very much I know what works for me I mean what I there's a specific struggle for the first post yeah yeah truly I feel like there is a definite specific struggle of being young and creative now that I think it's bleeding to all of us but certainly for young creative people there's a because of the mediums because of social media becomes the internet the sort of creative process is kind of collapsed in on itself and you know part of writing something long-form is about retreating and disappearing and and not engaging with people to engage in your creative process but you understand what you mean about the collapsium well the line the line between writing something testing it out seeing how it's going to be received revising it is collapsed into a single moment when because someone is an idea for a film or a book or anything they're gonna maybe they'll tweet out a little bit of it and see what the reception is there's a constant sort of temperature taking in every moment there's also a want to really capture whatever is happening in the current moment when our culture is aging like milk and so you know the moment you capture now is completely you know gone by your next dentist visit or whatever it's like that's someone's writing this down part of it is so and it's what I really loved about your film and first report it's feeling like there's a little bit like that zeitgeist for me is actually of the moment is letting go of the current moment letting go of trying to desperately clamor for what's so obvious well I can tell you am i writing more recently as I think I'm braver that I'll go to really substrains directions the other day I was really realizing I'm younger than that now that's a line for the Dylan song alright of course I was much older as older than that the end then I'm language in Ephesus fights to a younger writer oh I don't know I don't have the arrogance to really know anything I mean I'm the only thing I always tell people I guess when you're doing these screenwriting things is if you get in trouble change the weather and as a younger writer the younger I did the lessons that I have gotten from writers older than me was from their work you know I think the work provides the lessons much more than the commentary by the artist on the work I actually don't like to even hear authors speak because I don't like noxious people talking about themselves you want Obama you know and I would find the rights the most interesting people I've got what about you tell me I need to read I'd like to read really nerdy things about writers like where they write what their room looks like like just third sort of dorky daily thing what time I guess I'm always sort of I'm always trying to steal you know ideas that other people have about like Twyla Tharp I read a book about her and her creativity process and she does this thing where she writes ideas down on index cards and just throws them in a box and it became this thing that when I was writing the screenplay because I feel like sometimes I'm writing something and then I get an idea for something else because I'm actually doing the writing and I don't know where to put it and I used to put it in the margins of things but then I would never know where they were so I took this technique of just writing things and sticking it in the box and eventually I dig through and I was like oh yeah that was a funny idea or a piece of dialogue or a detail or it's a kind of ADHD approach which works for me but what I tell young writers is don't confuse screenwriting with writing screenwriting is part of the oral tradition it's not part of the literary tradition degree you have to tell your story you know it's not about the words it's about the telling and of course young writers are so afraid to tell their story because they're afraid that isn't gonna work well that's the point of talking oh yeah yeah it's a really bastardized form I mean screenwriting you're not a novelist you get to use dots and dashes in a pot you know uh ellipses and you're not even finished it's the one awful fool of you but it's really or other piece of writing well that's about to blow up you say let's put this in the in the pod let's save this piece of writing no leader huh yeah my you did a beautiful job with it brief interviews actually the the story in brief interviews my David Foster Wallace forever overhead was actually what inspired my movie was it's it's a twenty-three or seventeen page story about a 13 year old boy just just jumping off a diving board you know it's like Oh thirty minutes or one minute of action basically told over 17 pages and I read it and thought I think you know I think mine are more about images I'm not trying to be pretentious but it was I mean like a mccord the cow on the beach some of the dream sequences and things that don't mean anything just but they seem to still inhabit our lives and the imagery I think I think maybe that's what transcends for me for me I think it's the shifts that I remember most weirdly I I don't I love words and I love the phrases and how people tell stories but I remember how I felt so in sixth grade I remember the visual of our teacher dropping to kill a mockingbird on our desk I remember thinking this is thick like mocking burden I actually specifically remember having one of it probably I'd had some before but a seminal conversation with my dad about to go Mockingbird and he revealed that it was his favorite book and there was something about his admiration the teacher his interest in the fact that I was connecting to this story as a sixth grader and I really wanted to talk about it and I remember that open to a hold or of truly it changed my life I mean my dad was always so open and amazing but my dad was the the type of person who would ask me their opinion about everything and make sure that you always had your own opinion and that book really started that and it was huge for me Tamra I always never know if it's Franny and Zooey or Franny and Zooey but I always anytime I see it in a bookstore even though I've read it a billion times I flip it open and I just get this kind of and I I think I also like this sort of I like the shimmer between the sadness and the comedy of it and I like that tone and the humanity of it and the sagging bookshelves and the mother's smoking outside the shower curtain and I like her you know at the restaurant with and sleeping on the couch and reading pilgrims progress and I just find it comforting I like the bravest books like for me are the ones that are the honest like porno a complaint looks like you know I always tell people I've actually had I was writing with a guy once this is this will piss you off but I'm ready with this guy and we had the scene this guy said oh man you know my grandmother's gonna see this movie Isaac you give a shit what your be important always complete if you had to think what your grandmother would make you really pissed me off but anyway my mates there's something about Mary the ones where someone had to like you know when Ross you know put that in and it's you know he didn't give a shit yeah you know those kind of books like you know into the road John Barth it's the same thing it's just like so nasty in it and Lolita lalita's never made you know if they care about that stuff so the brave ones really got me by the way I just read a really good book and it's kind of a non sequitur there there have you heard this by Tommy orange yeah in the American a Native American yeah it's it's excellent I just have to say that that's this guy first novel it's impressive really impressive Peter just loaded to the elephant in the room which is political correctness you know I mean our job as a few elephants to be fair yeah there are people who say you know you you can't do that you shouldn't do that and and trigger alerts and all of that and depth it's not it's not here and and there is damage to real people and my understanding is when you first conceived a taxi driver you wanted this to be with an African American character and show that point of view well the danger is you are sending a racist message no I was making a racist it's a racial script you only killed black people because when you're kind of low on the totem pole you're looking for people who are lower and and that's why these kind of kids are racist and then now Mike over at Columbia the head of Columbia he he just said there will be riots there will be violence in the theater if we do this and we knew he was right so we took the main PIM character and made him like leave no Harvey Keitel and that was a case where in a novel that would not have been irresponsible but in a crowded theater it was irresponsible so I know there's no hard fast rules right so there is a line between you know political incorrectness and actually being morally responsible yeah I mean III have sympathy for the conversations that are happening right now obviously there's a sort of core issue at the center of the country right now and I think oftentimes people point to the symptoms when we all sort of know where the tumor of this thing is that all these things are maybe these over corrections are emanating from but there's obviously a yeah there's a lot of elephant in the room right now as there should be maybe there were elephants there the entire time maybe for the first time people like me are being pointed at the other people pointing at the entire time representational you know we are talking about hopefully encroaching a diverse group of storytellers that are not necessarily represented by the people around this table fully and that has to be acknowledged and I think what I understand is that I felt like when the sort of election happened it felt like this sort of tale was really wagging the dog and it felt like this was a cultural failure of our country and so I understand the impulse even if it's an overcorrection for people to go okay let's tear apart every part of our culture and see where this all started is that our stories is that our archetypes is it our representation and arts and I understand that and I think it's slightly unfair for us to expect the solution to these inequities to be perfectly fair that's where I think it gets you know it's people throwing up and all of a sudden it goes a little too far the other way and it's and it's and it's panic so I try to listen in the best way I can I'm frustrated I'm certainly having conversations that are different in private that I'm having in public but I don't know I'm just trying to be open and listen to it and I do think as much as it may overly criticize certain things I think the overall mentality is is leading to much more diverse exciting art that I'm excited to see so I'm happy to be a part of it I wish we could continue with that but all time is not I won't have all of you enormously to take part in The Hollywood Reporter close-up writers thank you John Krasinski fairly thanks for watching The Hollywood Reporter

45 thoughts on “Writers Roundtable: John Krasinski, Bo Burnham, Tamara Jenkins, Peter Farrelly, Eric Roth | Close Up

  1. I feel like Jenkins never gets a chance to speak for a long length of time. Doesn’t help when she’s cut off by the interviewer either.

  2. Let's have a show about art…..first question POLITICS. Get off the trump train and go back to talking about ANYTHING else

  3. There is a very unintentional subtle message in the beginning. When asked 'where to begin' someone says: is abortion on the table? Basically what that person is assuming is that abortion is a simple way to guarantee that people we don't like don't be born at all 🙂

    I know I'm reading too much into this and that was supposed to be a joke, but there is something there.

  4. Man these old liberals are so full of themselves and self-righteous with their stupid noses turned up. John and Bo just humbly bowed out of infusing their own politics and focused on the art. Man I'm glad boomers are dying.

  5. Jesus, Bo Burnham is a very smart guy. His comedy is very clever and funny but still quite silly. Seeing him sit down and talk intelligently you can see what a smart guy he really is.

  6. The writers: talking about the brilliance that goes into their writing
    Stephen Galloway: What about you at the other side of the table who wasn’t talking, let me interrupt the current speaker to get your perspective on an entirely different subject

  7. okay everyone throwing their hands up for the one time Tamara got interrupted but let's not ignore the fact that if he hadn't said "tamara what do you think" a few times throughout the rest of the round table she probably wouldn't have gotten a word in between those old farts yammering on the whole time.

  8. What a shitty way to start an interview/roundtable. I fucking hate Trump just like all of these Hollywood nerds, and I even think it's a good question: But as the opening question?

  9. I utterly disagree with Paul Schrader. You don't choose your beliefs unless he is using that word in a different way he intends. When I became an atheist, there was no choice. I heard the facts and agreed with them and then the belief (or lack thereof) followed.

  10. This would be a nightmare to be stuck in a room feeling the need to make conversation with these ridiculous people. Disconnected from mankind and not unable to relate to any thought they have. Even "Jim" is apparently drugged by these buffoons.

  11. The only comedians that recognize that Trump does self satire that I've seen are Norm Macdonald and Bo Burnham. Both geniuses

  12. Someone needs to tell this indignant Hollywood stars that no one cares about their political views. Just shut up. Good Lord.

  13. Trump is such low hanging fruit at this point, that the first question was a trump question just tells me that media outlets have run out of ideas to be original. Idk i dont like trump either but to constantly bringing him up in every aspect of media just seems lazy.

  14. Should we have a conversation about art and technique and form and mastering an incredibly complex craft? Nah we'll just start with a question about Trump.

  15. I swear to GOD, is it that hard to include more people of COLOR??! That should be a requirement for EVERY VIDEO.

  16. By 2:27 I've determined I despise this interviewer. But based on the comments, the whole video is worth watching, so I'll dare to continue.

  17. 0:56 did he just say "is abortion on the table?"??? I don't care who you are, that's disgusting.
    I'm no fan of trump but this dude has zero moral high ground lol.

  18. I like John Krasinski and Bo Burnham as entertainers.
    But the rest of this is drivel.
    Faux-intellectuals.

  19. 2:09 writer of Green Book literally "both-sides" racism.
    Kinda wish Spike Lee was on this panel so he could straight up verbally murder this jackass.
    (also glad Spike Lee's NOT on this because he doesn't need this shit)

  20. The thumbnail for this clip looks like John Krasinski is the computer predicted baby of Bo Burnham and Tamara Jenkins

  21. I would much rather hear industry experts talk about the industry as a whole than talk about their own work. I think there were so many other films they could have referenced, but they kept coming back to their own movies and it felt borderline narcissistic.

  22. God I hate this guy. On all the roundtable videos with this interviewer people want him gone. This goes back years. Interrupting the guests and asking stupid questions is not how to do a good interview.

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