The Nines audio commentary

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If you’re going to see The Nines this long weekend, you’ll be in a movie theater. You’ll have the benefit of a giant screen, good sound, and fellow patrons with which to partake (and debate) the film. There’s nothing like watching a movie with a crowd: it’s participatory and immediate.

One of my favorite moments of the Sundance premiere was listening as progressive waves of audience members realized that a story Hope Davis begins telling in Part One is, in fact, not a story at all. Hearing the little gasps, those who hadn’t yet caught on became more vigilant, wondering what they were missing.

It was a reminder that we make movies for an audience, not merely a consumer.

Yet there are some things a movie theater can’t provide, aspects which only work on DVD. The pause button, for example. Subtitles. Audio commentary.

podcast coverBut in the age of iPods, there’s really no reason why audio commentary has to be relegated to DVD. That’s why Ryan Reynolds and I recorded one last week for The Nines which is now yours to download. (47MB, right-click to save to disk)

This isn’t an original idea, by the way. Kevin Smith recorded an in-theater commentary for Clerks II, though I can’t find confirmation he released it into the wild. (Someone in the comments section will know.)

If you’re considering downloading it, here are some guidelines, ground rules and helpful hints:

  1. Trust me: don’t try to listen to it without the movie. It’s not that it’s full of spoilers; it simply won’t make sense.
  2. Don’t try to listen to it on your first viewing.1 The movie is confusing enough. Hearing me blather on about some esoteric detail will increase the bewilderment, not lessen it.
  3. There are two versions: an m4a and an mp3. (Right-click to save to disk.) If you’re on an iPod or iPhone, you want the m4a. It’s half the size and sounds great. The mp3 should work in your Zune.
  4. The commentary track is set up as a podcast, with four chapters. “Intro” plays before the opening titles start rolling, so you may want to listen to this and hit pause. “Music Begins” plays right as the Newmarket and Destination logos appear. We mention the Destination logo, so you’ll know if you’re in the ballpark.2
  5. If you’re using iTunes, you should be able to simply drag the file into your library and sync. Otherwise, do whatever four-step process it takes to load it.
  6. Be respectful: If you’re listening to the commentary, sit away from other people, so they’re not hearing it. Yes, that’s just common sense and common courtesy, but I thought I’d point it out.
  7. I speak quickly, and mumble occasionally. That’s me. It’s also Ryan in Part Two, for an extra meta-level.

I’d like to underline points 2 and 6. Please don’t ruin the movie for yourself or others.

Because you’ll ask, this commentary will likely also be on the DVD, along with other special stuff.

The files are relatively small, so the server should be able to handle the load. But if anyone feels inclined to set up a mirror, or seed a torrent, go for it. Leave a link in the comments. And let me know if you end up using it.

  1. Yes, I’m basically saying, “See the movie twice!” But if you’re listening to an audio commentary track, you presumably find the movie interesting enough (or befuddling enough) that you want to see it a second time or third time.
  2. If you’re off a few seconds, it doesn’t matter much. This ain’t Dark Side of Oz.

The Nines opens Friday

I feel like I’ve done so much publicity on it that everyone probably sick of me talking about it, but here’s the direct appeal:

My movie THE NINES opens this Friday, August 31st, in Los Angeles and New York.

Please come see it. And if you can’t, keep reading to find out how to get it to play near you.

In LA, it’s exclusively at the Nuart (on Santa Monica, just west of the 405). In New York, it’s at Sunshine Cinemas on Houston. You can find maps (and a lot of other information) at the official site: lookforthenines.com.

nines posterFor those who haven’t been paying attention, or who need to convince friends to accompany them: The movie stars Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy, along with Elle Fanning, David Denman, Octavia Spencer and Dahlia Salem. I wrote and directed. We premiered at Sundance, and will be competing in Critics’ Week at the Venice Film Festival next week. I’m really proud of it, and happy that it’s gotten great reviews (we’re 100% on Rotten Tomatoes so far).1

All that’s left is to sell tickets.

If you’re friends with filmmakers, you’ll know that they always plead for you to see their movies opening weekend. And you do, to be supportive, though you know in your heart that your $9.00 won’t make the tiniest bit of difference in that film’s multi-million dollar weekend.

But with The Nines, your buying tickets actually matters. A lot.

Because we’re on just two screens, it’s all about the per-screen average this first week. With a great per-screen average, we can plan for a more aggressive expansion. With a less-than-great per-screen average, it will be much more difficult.2

It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that two tickets can push us over a certain threshold, and convince Landmark, Laemmle’s, or Pacific to give us better screens, be it a week or a month from now. Put it this way: You might prefer to see The Nines at The Arclight. Or in San Francisco. Or Vancouver. But the best chance of that happening is if you buy a ticket for it at The Nuart or The Sunshine, this weekend.

And the very best tickets you can buy are for the special screenings we’re holding on Friday night.

  • LOS ANGELES
  • Nuart Theater on Santa Monica (map)
  • Friday, August 31st
  • 7:30 p.m. After-show Q&A with John August, Melissa McCarthy and other cast/crew
  • 10:00 p.m. Introduction by John and Melissa
  • NEW YORK
  • Sunshine Cinemas on Houston (map)
  • Friday, August 31st
  • 8 p.m. Special guests Ryan Reynolds and producer Bruce Cohen

Tickets for these and all shows are online:

At Moviefone
At Movietickets.com

(In both cases, you may need to provide dates and zipcodes; the sites seem to overrule URLS with cookies.3 For LA, try 90046. For NYC, try 10002. August 31st is the opening day.)

If you’re not able to make it — or if you live in one of the 2,000 markets in which it’s not playing — but want to support us anyway, I can tell you off-the-record that a ticket sold is a ticket sold. They don’t count heads. And those under-attended Sunday matinees need love, too.

There will be at least two more bits of Nines-related news this week before the opening. I leave for Venice on Saturday, which should preclude checking back obsessively. But probably won’t.

  1. This will change.
  2. Anticipating the natural follow-up question: No, I’m not sure what those benchmarks would be — it’s not a single answer. The distributor needs to feel confident in committing new money for prints and advertising; the exhibitors need to want to show it; the entertainment press needs to point out how well the film did on two screens, on Labor Day Weekend, no less.
  3. My kingdom for a true permalink.

Is it risky to spec something in the public domain?

questionmarkLately I’ve been adapting novels and shorts stories that are in the public domain and I’m worried that some producer I query could just forget about me and hire someone else to adapt the same novel after my query letter puts it in their head it would make a good movie.

Now I know stealing ideas rarely happens and there isn’t anything I can do to protect my rights on a story in the public domain, but if a producer I query decides to adapt the same novel I have, without using my script, well then my script is pretty much dead in the water, right?

Basically I was curious to find out if you think I should stop worrying and pitch these adaptation, or should I focus on pitching the other two scripts I’ve written (which are based on true stories I control the rights to) and then pull out my adaptations once I forge a working relationship with a producer?

– Rob
Ohio

Would it suck if a producer, upon reading your query letter (or hearing your pitch), decided to go off and use the same public domain material as the basis for a different writer’s script? Yes.

Is it likely? Not really.

Let’s say you wrote an adaptation of some lesser-known Christopher Marlowe work. Say, “Dido, Queen of Carthage.” The producer is unlikely to know anything about the story, so if your pitch (or query) is interesting enough that he wants to know more, he’ll read your script. At that point, you’ve succeeded in getting a producer to read your material, and that’s the whole point of pitches and queries at this stage in your career.

Sure, you hope he loves it and wants to produce it. But that’s all dependent on his reaction to your writing. If he likes your writing, and he likes the idea, you’re golden. If he doesn’t like your writing, his loss.1

Either way, I think it’s unlikely that your script would suddenly kindle an interest in a long-ignored literary property. I’m sure there are cases where that’s happened, but it feels like the exception, rather than the rule. So if the best script you have available is an adaptation of a public domain piece, by all means show it around.

  1. As a reminder, I assume that everyone writing in with a question is a fantastic screenwriter. This is an absurd postulate, but lets me sleep better at night.

Trailer competition, second update

Just so you know, the radio silence around the trailer competition is not for lack of interest or intent. Stuff got very crazy, very quickly, and we had a hard enough time getting the real trailer finished up. (Plus there was other stuff going on.)

We have all the clips ready to go, but we’re going to delay the launch until sometime early in September. That will give people — the New York and Los Angeles people — a chance to see the movie. And it will give us about five seconds to breathe.

Because I’m a curious geek, I threw all the trailer competition footage into Apple’s new iMovie 2008. The good news is that the application seems optimized for MP4 footage — it was really simple to throw the clips together. The bad news is that the program is almost unusable, at least for anything beyond the most basic vacation footage.

Some frustrations:

  • It freezes the last frame of every clip. My workaround was to use half-second dissolves on every cut, which is incredibly hacky and unacceptable.
  • Only the roughest volume changes are possible.
  • You can’t split audio from video.
  • The spacebar works differently than any Quicktime application. It doesn’t play/pause. It jumps within the clip.
  • It uses a text-selection metaphor for grabbing footage, which is innovative but really imprecise.
  • The “handles” for marking the edges of clips work differently depending on which mode you’re in. It’s bewildering.

I really wanted to like the program. It demoes well. But it’s a disaster.


Press Day

Today was press day for The Nines, which meant six solid hours of talking about the movie. And it was fine. I conducted all of my interviews sitting next to Melissa McCarthy, so it was a good excuse to exercise our pact of mutual appreciation.1

Nines postersThe event was held at The Four Seasons. While driving there on Burton Way, I passed a construction site, and muttered under my breath about when the fuckin’ Nines posters were going to get plastered on every available plywood surface.

And then I saw one. It was enough to make me start believing in that book The Secret.2

This picture is actually from St. Andrews at Hollywood Blvd. So there are at least two places in LA to see the wilding posters.

secondlifeNear the end of the press junket, we held a roundtable in Second Life, which was actually held in the SL re-creation of my house.3

Lest anyone doubt that it was really me at the other end of the keyboard, here’s photographic proof. It was frustrating only because the questions came too quickly. I wanted to answer all of them, but by the time I’d finished one response, five more had gotten stacked up.




  1. Ryan and I have a similar covenant, but the world is pretty sick of it after the last publicity barrage. So we left him to fend for himself. And I slandered him, repeatedly.
  2. That and a disbelief in the laws of science, logic or the fallacy of egocentrism. So, seeing the poster, plus those three things.
  3. It’s on Metaversatility island, if you want to stop by.