Sors immanis (Fate – monstrous) et inanis, (and empty) rota tu volubilis, (you whirling wheel) status malus, (you are malevolent) vana salus (well-being is vain) semper dissolubilis weekendum, (and always fades to the weekend).

Amazing article on the making of Goodfellas.

The truth behind glamorous Instagram pictures (thanks, J).

Weird VHS-style Simpsons opening (thanks, J):

The Warriors recreate that last subway ride home.

Screenplay writing explained in 7 infographics (thanks, J2).

Great guide to losing weight (thanks, T).

Facebook dolts who think Onion stories are real (thanks, T).

A foolproof guide to creating great ads

Read this till your eyes bleed.

Lovely new Honda ad

Good old PES. Never lets you down.

Another writers talk (more good stuff).

Last week I went to the Sublime Primetime TV writers talk at the Writer’s Guild Foundation.

Attendees included Alec Berg (Silicon Valley), Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge – won an Emmy today!), Joshua Brand (The Americans), Christine Nangle (Inside Amy Schumer), Semi Chellas (Mad Men), Matthew Weiner (Mad Men), Stephanie Gillis (The Simpsons) and Elliott Kalan (Head writer, The Daily Show with John Stewart).

My notes:

They all left a lot of room for improvisation, and improving the writing during filming. But when you try to improve a B- gag, you can end up with 12 B- jokes instead of one. But what’s the point when you can only have one? Weiner got his start doing this for sitcoms.

Jane Anderson writes on her own. This apparently has made her skin rather thin as she has not been inured by the merciless bantz of writers rooms.When asked if she considered anyone while writing she said she really gives a shit about what the New York Times TV reviewer might think. Matthew Weiner said he didn’t care about that reviewer because his writing was such a mess that he could never tell if the review was good or bad – it seemed like six different reviewers’ paragraphs sewn together. He went on to say that the Mad Men writers only ever tried to impress the actors, because that’s where they’d get the first external feedback.

Jane Anderson said that it was great working with Frances McDormand because she bought the rights to the book long before it became famous, then they developed the script together. It meant she had two important things: free rein and confidence. They all talked about how great those two things were.

Matthew Weiner said they wrote everything they thought up for Mad Men. It all went up on the screen and there were no no other plots. He also mentioned that the writers wrote the end of Season Five into a corner by having Don Draper fired from his own agency. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but he had no idea how they were going to clear up that plot line. Then those writers left and Matthew had to do it all on his own.

Elliot Kalan said he loved it when big things happened when The Daily Show was on hiatus. “His attitude was ‘Ha ha! Fuck you, we don’t have to cover this’. This helped him to enjoy disasters.

Christine Nangle said she often wrote things that she thought were funny then, weirdly, newspapers started reading way more depth into her sketches than she had intended. For example, the following was called ‘The most cogent expression of how man never listen to women’:

So there became an odd expectation that they should catch the zeitgeist, but Amy said they should just continue writing whatever the fuck they wanted.

Matthew Weiner took seven years to sell Mad Men. He said this proves he has no instinct for what people will like. Then again, he had the luxury of knowing that everything they wrote would get filmed. He thought this was a rare and wonderful position to be in. Elliot Kalan agreed, mentioning a time when he came up with an idea that involved having Neil DeGrasse Tyson talking about the moon. Later that day Neil was in the studio, filming the gag for the evening’s show.

The last and most significant word goes to Matthew Weiner, when discussing negotiations: “You cannot let them use the love of your work against you, because all of us would do it for free.

Amen to that.

More on the evening here.

I sat on the roof and watched the day go by. I see the likeness in his smile and the way he stands. Makes it all the weekend.

Paint with Donald Trump (thanks, R).

Real Alan Partridge (thanks, T).

Sounds of Taxi Driver (thanks, J):

Gifs of Oakland barbershops (thanks, J).

All the best Key and Peele sketches (thanks, T).

Annoying commuters in 8-bit (thanks, W).

Charlie Kaufman has made a new film, and it’s animated (thanks, T):

Some amazing table tennis (thanks, T):

Tarantino’s original wish list for Pulp Fiction cast (thanks, J).

Great Michael Mann interview (thanks, J2).

Nice ad for the London Arms Fair

‘Don’t be evil’ is a very low bar.

Google’s corporate motto is ‘Don’t be evil’

According to Wikipedia, the Google employee Paul Buchheit, the creator of Gmail, said he “wanted something that, once you put it in there, would be hard to take out”, adding that the slogan was “also a bit of a jab at a lot of the other companies, especially our competitors, who at the time, in our opinion, were kind of exploiting the users to some extent.”

Many of you might well think that Google has indeed been ‘evil’ during its existence – often by ‘kind of exploiting the users to some extent’ by collecting information surreptitiously for financial gain. But what surprises me more about the whole DBE thing is how great it sounded fifteen years ago, and how it took me fifteen years to think a bit harder about it, finally realising that it’s a pretty weak aim.

Don’t be evil? Funny that it even needs saying, given that the alternative is saying that your corporate motto is ‘be evil’, or at least ‘be evil sometimes’. How have we reached a stage in global society where we applaud people simply for not being evil? Have the corporations who have not made this statement accepted that they are inevitably going to be evil? Why is the default position, one that needs to be corrected with a statement, ‘be evil’?

Part of the reason this has piqued my interest is the existence of ‘Ethical Investment’ in my life. When my financial adviser first asked me about where I’d like to invest, I told him that I only wanted to put my money in ethical funds. He was somewhat surprised, offering a reaction along the lines of ‘on your head be it’. As it turned out, those investments seem to have gone quite well, but I can’t help thinking that it is fucking insane that people have to make a deliberate choice to invest in companies that don’t indulge in, say, human rights abuses, or trade arms for the purposes of making money.

It seems that being ‘evil’ (I know the meaning of that word is entirely subjective, but I think there are one or two things it denotes that we can generally agree on) is indeed some kind of default modus operandi for much of the corporate world, and by extension those that support it. It’s just that way things are and we should be fine with that because it’s somehow and somewhat unavoidable.

Well, there are alternatives. You and I and Bill Gates (still has plenty of money in fossil fuel companies) can choose to clear that low bar that seems oddly too high for much of the world.

Come on… Don’t be evil.

Lead, Follow or get out of the way

We had an excellent guest speaker in the office last week.

Jack Amiel is the showrunner for HBO show The Knick (podcast interview here). If it has yet to reach your shores, it’s kind of a graphically bloody much better version of Grey’s Anatomy set around 1900 with a main character who is a racist drug addict played by Clive Owen.

Oh, and it’s shot by Steven Soderbergh.

Those of you who listened to the Robert Rodriguez stuff from a couple of weeks ago might like to know that Steven operates in much the same way: he is the camera operator, DOP, editor, director and exec producer, so when he shoots he only captures exactly what’s needed for the edit in his head. This saves the show around 35% of its budget each year, allowing them to spend more on massive, authentic sets with ceilings (very unusual).

Jack was very pleasant, funny and entertaining. He started in the world of sitcoms and told us how different shows have entirely different geneses. For example, Friends writers worked until 5am, while Everybody Loves Raymond‘s writers worked from 9 to 5. Roseanne had a writers room of 12 TV writers and another room of 12 stand up comedians to add more jokes. Apparently everything we’ve enjoyed in the world of American sitcoms was basically invented by Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball’s then-husband. He dispensed with live shows and came up with the multi-camera format which every show followed until the single camera format began to make an impact in recent years. He also invented the repeat/rerun.

Jack then told us an excellent story of how he pitched a script ‘exclusively’ to two producers. When the pitch was over the producers didn’t hang up properly and then proceeded to take several more calls from other writers who were pitching the same project. Jack and his partner listened to all this then sent an email saying they weren’t interested because they didn’t feel they could do it justice. They then heard the two producers receiving the email and panicking, saying they had to offer Jack and his partner the gig right then and there, which meant Jack had to hang up so the producers could get through to him with the offer (which Jack still declined).

Another fine story: Jack was talking to a director on set when a crew member came up and asked if she wanted the cameras set up left or right for the next scene. ‘Left,’ she said immediately. Jack then expressed amazement that she would know the answer to that question so quickly. She replied that she had no idea where the cameras should be for the next scene, and didn’t even know what the next scene was, but if you hesitate you lose the crew. She then looked up what the next scene was and realised she wanted the cameras set up on the right, so she got Jack to scribble some changes on the script and went back to the crew member. ‘Look at this,’ she said. ‘Jack’s made all these damn changes, so know we’re going to have to set up the cameras on the right’.

But the most interesting stuff was about Soderbergh. Apparently he ‘retired’ because he felt he had made too many good films to have to go cap in hand for funding. The straw that broke the camel’s back came with Behind the Candelabra, which no one would fund, despite the inclusion of Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. So now SS owns his own Red camera and can shoot faster and cheaper than anyone, and better than almost anyone. Apparently he heard about The Knick in June a couple of years ago and said, ‘Right, I’m going to start shooting this on August 22nd. I really hope I’m going to be shooting something you (HBO) are going to own’. The title of this post is how Jack described Steven’s working method.

He also keeps a strictly closed set. This became funny when one of the actresses playing a nurse asked if her dad could come to the shoot, only to be told that it was closed to all. SS didn’t budge, even when (or perhaps because) the actress explained that her dad was Bono.

Check out The Knick. Grow the balls of Steven Soderbergh. Furnish the planet with greatness (thanks, Jack)..

So hey, let’s be friends. I’m dying to see how this one ends. Grab your passport and my hand. I could make the bad guys good for a weekend

People draw their ideal sex dolls (thanks, J2).

James Brown’s miso soup commercials (thanks, J):

Barbie Instagram (thanks, G).

All fictional characters meet in Hell’s Club (thanks, P):

McDonald’s secret menu (thanks, J2).

Fun in Apple stores (thanks, C).

Oops… I put this up a day early. I’ll add other stuff tomorrow if it appears.

Chris and John’s B-sides

Hey Ben,

Me and Chris were going through some old stuff and we found the book that got us into Fallon.

However, it wasn’t our ad-book that got us the job,
it was a slapdash book of C&J nonsense that accompanied the ad-book.

We’d been stuck at TBWA\London and nobody wanted our sweet asses based purely on the ads we’d made so we made a second book.

We get a lot of junior-middleweights coming to us who are “a bit stuck” so we’ve put it on our site because some people might find it useful.

Or they might think it’s self-indulgent balderdash.

Either way its up there.

Fuck it.


Fuck it, indeed.

Or have a look.