The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: I am Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Scriptnotes, Episode 224, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
On last week’s episode I misidentified it as episode 232, and so some listeners thought I travelled through time and they’d missed episodes. And they’ve not missed anything. We are now back on track, we’re on the 224 train.
Craig: I feel like we lost a lot of work there. I mean, that’s 10 episodes that just disappeared.
John: Yeah, it’s like one of those things where — Heroes used to do this a lot, where they would jump back and forth in time and like sort of like whole timelines didn’t exist. And those were some really great episodes. I thought that the Shonda Rhimes episode we did was phenomenal. But I guess that’s just not in our timeline anymore.
Craig: It’s gone. You know, Melissa was a big fan of Lost. She watched all of Lost, every episode, all the way to the end. She loved the end, by the way. She’s one of those people that just cried and cried. She thought it was great. And you know, me, I don’t watch TV. So you know, every now and then, I’d walk by, I’m like, “What’s going on with Lost?” You know, I’d watch like five or six minutes of it. And I’d say, “What’s happening?” And she’d say, “It’s too complicated, you wouldn’t understand. They’re in a flash sideways.” And I was like, “That’s it. I’m going to go — I’m going to go play a video game. I’m out.” [laughs]
John: Yeah. I loved Lost. I loved just sort of all the weird twists and turns they took. And I think they got unfairly slammed for like, people said like, “Oh, they broke the rule, that they were not supposed to be in limbo and like this wasn’t limbo.” But the no limbo rule is really sort of for the initial, what the island was, not that any season couldn’t talk place at limbo and so the reveal that part of it was limbo, was not fair.
Craig: Oh, that’s all whirring and clicking noises to me. [laughs] That’s how I feel what’s going on. But you know what we should do?
John: What should we do?
Craig: We should get Damon Lindelof to come on our show.
John: We should absolutely do that. So that will be a goal for 2016.
Craig: I don’t even think — it’s not that much of a goal, I mean. We’ll just go —
John: Damon is actually a friend.
John: So it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.
Craig: Damon, get on the show. I’m just going to tell him, “Get on.”
John: Damon Lindelof listens to the show so I bet he would even be happy to be on the show.
Craig: Yeah. Let’s go. Actually, I love — I mean, he’s — talk about a great insight into what we do. He’s written a bunch of things about final episodes. When the last episode of Breaking Bad came out, he wrote this really interesting essay where he kind of put to bed his own weird relationship with the final episode of Lost and how it made people feel, and all the rest of that stuff. It would be really interesting to talk to him about that because he is a really smart guy, and he’s got such an interesting and familiar-to-me relationship with feedback and criticism and, you know, all that stuff. So we’re just going to order Damon to be on the show.
John: He will absolutely be on the show. I was talking with him about Season 2 of the Leftovers which I’ve really been enjoying. And he was warning me before it happened, like “Oh, and there’s this one thing that’s going to happen. It’s going to be like a big social media flashpoint,” and you know, the difference is I now can anticipate and see that coming and sort of try to be not even ahead of the story but sort of responsive to where I know the conversation is going to go and he was absolutely correct. And so when it happened and the next morning as people started having their think pieces about what happened on the previous night’s episode, he could be part of that conversation and not say dumb things.
Craig: Yeah. You know, he really loves to be part of that conversation and —
John: But he’s not on Twitter anymore. He’s very deliberately — he steps in when he needs to and steps out when he doesn’t want to.
Craig: I see. I see. Well, I mean, he’s a very interesting guy that way. He really is — I think he is interested in being an active participant in the discussion about his own work which I think is really interesting. It’s not — it’s like another job on top of your job and — now, I know that there are a lot of people that, well, they follow, you know, my new role which is just go somewhere for two weeks and come back and it’ll be fine. But he’s in there, you know.
Craig: I like that he thinks about these things. He’s very — it’s an interesting thing. So, okay, we’re forcing Damon to do the show.
John: It has been decided. Today on the episode, we will be talking about two scenes from Whiplash, both how they function on the page and how they function on the screen, and why they are so wonderful. So this is sort of a follow-up to the episode we did with two scenes from Scott Frank. Actually, that’s I guess one scene we looked at from Scott Frank.
John: And people loved that episode where we really dug into what Scott was doing on the page and how it worked and why it worked. And so we’re going to be doing that with two scenes from Whiplash.
Craig: Great. And Damien Chazelle, by the way, also a super nice guy. And I believe I’m going to force him to be on the show as well.
John: I got to interview Damien Chazelle for a film independent thing —
Craig: I remember that.
John: A year ago. And he was just the best. And in that conversation we talked about how those scenes shifted from what he wrote to shooting it to editing it. And we’re going to see some of the results of that in today’s episode.
Craig: You know what’s interesting is that, of the four of us, you, me, Damon, and Damien, three of us have something in common. One of us is not like the others.
John: Did you all go to Princeton?
John: All right. I don’t know what that is.
Craig: Damien, Damon and I are all from New Jersey.
John: That’s amazing.
Craig: What a great state.
John: It is a great state, the undersung state.
Craig: Undersung. Although I’m sure some people will be like, “Yeah, well, I liked Whiplash.”
John: Yeah? No one else has done anything good out of New Jersey.
Craig: The other guys did Hangover 2 and Tomorrowland.
Craig: F them.
Craig: F Jersey.
John: This is also a great moment for us to bring up the issue of Fs because this will be an episode where we are talking about scenes from Whiplash and there are some F words in it. So in the later half of this show, you may not want your kids in the car to be listening to the episode because they will hear J.K. Simmons say the F-word.
Craig: Yeah. If you’re in a car and it’s moving, unfortunately, you are going to have to push them out.
John: Yeah, that’s fine. I mean, that’s pretty much parenting. It’s knowing when to push your kids out of the car.
Craig: That’s the key.
John: We have actual news, so if you missed us at Austin because you were not in Austin for the Austin Film Festival and you were saying, “Oh no, why do we not get to see John and Craig live?” Well, if you live in Los Angeles, you will get to see us live. We are doing another Scriptnotes holiday show. It’s long-rumored, but it’s actually going to happen on December 9th. It will be in Hollywood, California across from the ArcLight.
Our guests for the show include Malcolm Spellman, Natasha Leggero, and Riki Lindhome from Another Period. They’re the co-creators of Another Period and they are phenomenal and funny. Malcolm Spellman was a previous guest. He is a producer on Empire and writer and an all-around funny person.
We may have some other guests too that we’ll be announcing soon. But it’s important that we announce this now because tickets go on sale on Tuesday, the day this episode comes out. So they are $20. As always, all proceeds benefit the Writers Guild Foundation and you can go to the Writers Guild Foundation website in order to purchase your tickets for this show. It has always sold out, so maybe don’t delay too long.
John: And talk to your friends and come to see us live and in person.
Craig: I think these will move pretty quickly. Malcolm is one of our more popular guests. Perhaps our most popular guest and — because he is one of the key writers on Empire, which is a big, big show, I think people are going to want to hear from him about that. And then, although I don’t know Riki Lindhome’s work, I do know Natasha Leggero as a stand-up comedian. She is incredibly funny. I mean, you may be familiar with her from some of the Comedy Central roasts, but that — I always feel like that doesn’t give people a true sense of who a comedian is. And her work is really, really good. She is just smart. She’s smart. I think she’s one of the funniest people out there. So I’m really excited to meet Natasha and Riki and talk about their show.
John: And you’ll probably even watch one episode of their show before this begins. That’s not a promise, but it’s a thing that other hosts might do.
Craig: I mean, if there’s like a summary somewhere? [laughs] No. No.
John: Because you’ll really get a good sense of the tone or what’s unique about it by reading a summary of the show.
Craig: [laughs] Isn’t it great when people ask questions and it’s so obvious they just read a summary. No, I will absolutely familiarize myself with the material. And frankly, it’s going to be — I’m looking forward to familiarizing myself with it, because I know at the very least that Natasha is super, super funny. And if she’s working with Riki, I can only imagine Riki is really, really talented, too. So I’m excited about that. I’m going to watch that. But yeah, you guys should pick up your tickets quickly. And you know, usually, we have some sort of extra pizazzle in there at some point.
John: Yeah. There’s some pizazzle coming, we just don’t want to quite announce it to the world yet.
Craig: Barack Obama.
John: Come one, you spoil everything.
John: We have follow up from our live show in Austin. In the live show we talked about Zola and whether the Zola movie could happen, how much of that Zola story was real. So if you don’t remember, that was the story of the Hooters waitress who goes on a wild trip to Tampa, I believe, and craziness ensues. And so we talked about sort of what was possibly real, what was not real, how much her Twitter account was just really good writing versus actual reality.
Well, Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post did a long story on it and did some fact checking and found out that so many of the facts actually check out. And so I’ll put a link in the show notes to that. But basically, a lot of that happened. Nobody got shot in the face, no one died, but a lot of the other stuff happened. And, there’s some disagreements about sort of who did what, when, and where, and how. But most of those people are actually real people. And they — that was their life over a course of some chaotic weeks. And Caitlin also does more follow-up in sort of the parts that happened after Zola’s Twitter story about how Z and Jess and all that stuff resolved
Craig: If you recall from the Austin show, my instinct was, if you’re going to make a movie about this that it should be about the strange confluence of a viral news story with — in conjunction with what’s actually really happening. As I read this, I feel it even more because, you know — yeah. So apparently, she made up the part about somebody getting shot in the face. And that’s good because you don’t want murders. That’s difficult. But here’s what I look at, I see that Jessica is 20 years old. I see that she has a daughter, a baby. And I see —
John: And she’s lost custody of the baby already.
Craig: No surprise there, considering that she is engaging in prostitution. And a greater concern is that she appears to be getting trafficked. And then you read about this guy who’s just a bad, bad man. I mean, when you read these stories on the internet, it’s like “Oh, haha, Z. You crazy nut.” No. Z is also Rudy, also Akporode Uwedjojevwe. That’s right, Akporode Uwedjojevwe.
Craig: And he is an awful human being. He is a bad, bad man who deserves to go to prison, as far as I’m concerned, forever, because he is a human trafficker. And it’s not funny. None of this is — I mean the thing is, Zola’s story attracted everyone’s attention because it was so — it was written in such a breezy, funny, catty, confident style. This is not good. I hate that all of this happened. I hate that is happens at all. That’s where I’m fascinated by people’s casual like, “OMG, Zola’s so crazy.” And in fact, what’s going on, which is a series of terrible crimes. And somewhere down the line is a baby. I hate it. I just hate it. I hate that these things happen. And so I’m fascinated by how social media grabbed on to this and looked at it and decided to have fun with it, almost.
Craig: It’s not fun for me.
John: So someone on Twitter asked what we meant when I said “taking agency,” like we have a character who takes agency. What does that term even mean? And I answered back that the ability to take agency is the ability to have control over the outcomes of things, the ability to take actions which can propel you forward. And so often in stories you see characters who either don’t take agency or basically have no agency at all. They could not affect the outcome whatsoever, and it’s very frustrating to be in their stories.
I think one of the differences between the Twitter account of Zola and sort of how she told the story is that character that she described for herself seemed like she had a lot of agency, she could actually affect the outcomes. And so she’s the one who’s like creating the profiles and she’s doing all that stuff and when the decision to like — like let’s start trapping, she could do that. And so she would cast herself as a character in her story who could make some of these decisions. And some of these decisions were just to run away, but those were decisions she was able to make.
When you look at this actual real-life account, you see that both the Jessica character and Zola had probably less agency in that situation than would be believed. And that’s the difference between a protagonist that you want to watch in a movie and somebody you kind of shy away from because you see how desperate their real plight is.
Craig: Yeah. The term “agency” comes up all the time. And it’s something that is most salient when people are looking at stories and saying, “Well, wait a second, this character may be making decisions, they may be doing things, they’re not passive, but are they being creative? Are they being inventive? Are they the person that is kind of master-minding what’s going on? Are they — are they solving in their minds?” This is what we think of as agency. And you’re right, I think that Zola, a.k.a. Aziah Wells, definitely paints herself with more agency than she has. But, you see, this is what we’ve talked about before, it’s this curse of narrative.
When we read these things and we read her account, we’re like, oh, my god, this is an underdog woman who’s a stripper. But she doesn’t care, she’s proud of who she is. And so she’s going to go along and do something that’s perfectly legal and fine. And then things go bad and she keeps her head, she keeps her wits, and she comes out alive. That’s somebody I root for. There’s agency and narrative. And then there’s villains. And the villain is just like a villain, you know. and he’s a bad guy, and he ends up in jail. And there’s this woman who’s weak and doesn’t have any agency. And so we lose respect for her and we — and we gain respect for Zola because she’s not like that.
But in reality, crimes are being committed and there’s terrible victimhood here. And I — and it’s so — this is what I talk about when I — the narrative sickness that we have. We can’t seem to get past our narrative biases to see how much pain and misery is going on here. And this guy, I mean — ugh, god, you see the mug shot of this guy, you look in his eyes and you’re like, “Oh, yeah, you’re a bad guy. I can see it in your eyes. You got — you got bad guy eyes.”
John: He does very much. All right. So what we’re going to talk about in this week’s episode is Whiplash. And specifically, two scenes from Whiplash involve characters with — taking a lot agency but also conflict. And the backbone of any one of these stories that we want to tell is characters in conflict. And Whiplash is a very specific example because it’s just these two kind of sociopaths who have this really complicated relationship over the course of the movie. And the characters are — that you’ll be hearing repeatedly in the show — Miles Teller is the actor who plays Andrew and J.K. Simmons is Fletcher.
So the two scenes that I’m going to be playing for you guys, none of them involve actual drumming or sort of the meat of what this story is which is these intense sessions with a band. So the two scenes I want to focus on first is a family dinner, which is one of the few times where we see Andrew’s character outside of this elite music education school that he’s at. And the second one is a conversation that happens at a jazz club very late in the story, in sort of a third act.
So if you haven’t seen Whiplash at all, some of this won’t make a tremendous amount of sense, but you’ll probably be able to follow along with what’s going on because we’re really focusing on what is the writing on the page and how does that manifest on the screen.
Craig: So should we watch it now?
John: Yeah, let’s do it. So let’s take a look at the first scene from Whiplash. This is a family dinner scene. So this is Andrew coming home with his father played by Paul Reiser. And it is first starting off at a kitchen and then we’re moving to a dinner table scene where we have a big family around a dinner table. So we’re going to play the audio for it. You’ll get a sense of what’s happening here and then we’re going talk about both the scene at it’s written on the page and what it was actually shot like. So let’s take a listen to that first.
Man: Yikes, what did you do to your hand? Is that from drumming?
Father: So how’s it going with the studio band?
Andrew: Good. Yeah, I think he likes me more now.
Father: And his opinion means a lot to you, doesn’t it?
Man: Want to grab the shakers?
Man: Jimbo, overcooked. I can barely chew this.
Man: He just left.
Woman: So how is the drumming going, Andy?
Andrew: Yeah. It’s going really well. I’m the new core drummer.
Group: Hey, yeah. Yay!
Man: Tom Brady!
Woman: Did you hear yet?
Father: No. What happened?
Man: Travis got named this year’s MVP
Father: That’s fantastic, Travis.
Woman: And Dustin] is heading up Model UN, soon to be Rhodes Scholar and who knows what all else. And Jim, teacher of the year. I mean, come on, the talent at this table, that is stunning. And Andy, with your drumming.
Man: It’s going okay, Andy?
Andrew: Yeah, I mean it’s going really, really well. Actually, I’m part of Shaffer’s top jazz orchestra which means it’s the best in the country. And I’m a core member so I’ll start playing in competitions and actually I just found out I’m the youngest person in the entire band.
Man: How do you know who wins in a music competition, isn’t it subjective?
Man: Does the studio get you a job?
Andrew: No. It’s not an actual studio. It’s just the name of the ensemble. But yeah, it’s a big step forward in my career.
Man: Well, I’m so glad you figured it out. It’s a nasty business I am sure. Oh, hey, are you going to tell them about your game last week? Living up to your title?
Man: I scored a 93-yard touchdown.
Man: School record, school record, school record.
Father: That’s great. That’s fantastic.
Andrew: It’s Division III. It’s Carlton Football, it’s not even Division II. It’s Division III.
Man: You got any friends, Andy?
Man: Oh, why is that?
Andrew: I don’t know. I just never really saw the use.
Man: Oh, who are you going to play with otherwise? Lennon and McCartney, they were school buddies, am I right?
Andrew: Charlie Parker didn’t know anybody until Joe Jones threw a cymbal at his head.
Man: So that’s your idea of success, son?
Andrew: I think being the greatest musician of the 20th Century is anybody’s idea of success.
Father: Dying, broke, and drunk, and full of heroine at the age of 34 is not exactly my idea of success.
Andrew: I’d rather die drunk, broke at 34, and have people at a dinner table talk about me than live to be rich and sober at 90 and nobody remember who I was.
Man: Ah, but your friends will remember you. That’s the point.
Andrew: None of us were friends with Charlie Parker. That’s the point.
Man: Travis and Dustin, they have plenty of friends and plenty of purpose.
Andrew: I’m sure they’ll make great school board presidents someday.
Man: Oh, that’s what this is all about. You think you’re better than us?
Andrew: You catch on quick. Are you in Model UN?
Man: I got a reply for you, Andrew. You think Carlton football is a joke? Come play with us.
Andrew: Four words you will never hear from the NFL.
Woman: Who wants dessert?
Father: And from Lincoln Center?
John: All right. So Craig, had you seen that scene since you saw the movie?
John: No. So first impressions?
Craig: Well, it’s interesting. I love this movie. I remember not liking this particular scene that much. I loved certain parts of it. I remember thinking that there were some transitional bumps. So you know, what we have obviously is we have an insecure guy who is getting beaten up by one father at school. And now, he’s coming home and attempting to crow and build himself back up .And he’s struggling a little bit with his own father. And then with his uncle who is a dick. And so he becomes hostile.
But the — you know, there were some spots where — little transitional spots where I thought, “I’m not quite sure — I’m not sure why this conversation is flowing the way it did.” There are sections that were great and then there were a couple spots that I want to call out and sort of say, “Hmmm.” And I want to look at the pages because I’m wondering if that’s — if it’s different on the page.
John: Yeah. So let’s take a look at it. So if you want to read along with us, I will have these links in the show notes. Basically, there’s two PDFs. So this is the Whiplash dinner that we’re looking at. And so the scene starts on page 48, it’s actually scene 49. So INT. NEW JERSEY — JIM’S HOUSE — KITCHEN. EVENING. Jim grabs a platter from the stove, Andrew by his side. Jim asks, “How is it going in studio band?” Andrew says, “Good. I think he likes me more now.” Jim says, “His opinion means a lot to you, doesn’t it?” Jim looks at Andrew, almost accusatory. A moment. “Yeah? Grab the shakers please.”
So let’s look at what this little snippet of scene does because it feels like the kind of thing, like, “Oh, you could just take that out.”
Craig: No, you can’t.
John: No, you can’t. Because what this is setting up is that even though you have left the school, you have not left the school. And that this movie is about Andrew and Fletcher. And so the very first thing the father asks is, “How’s it going?” And Andrew answers, “Oh, other daddy likes me now.” And —
John: That’s crucially what this movie is about, is this really fucked up relationship between these two characters. And you have to remind the audience that even though we’re not in that physical space anymore, it’s still about that.
Craig: Yeah. The character of Andrew’s father, Jim, will become exposed as something of a weakling. And so you have a situation where a boy-man, Andrew, is looking at his own father and thinking, “You’re not special. You’re not strong. You’re not interesting. And in school, I have this other father who is strong and special and interesting but abusive.” And watching him ping pong between these two is remarkable. And so here, Jim is kind of — it’s interesting, he’s saying — when he says, “His opinion means a lot to you, doesn’t it?” And there’s that pause and then Andrew looks at him and says, “Yeah.” There’s — in the text, you see it says, “Jim looks at Andrew almost accusatory,” got it, “a moment. Then Andrew says, ‘Yeah.'”
But what could have gone in parenthesis in front of the “Yeah” is defiant, right? I’m glad, you don’t need it. You know, Damien is directing his own movie, he knows what’s going on here. But there is a defiance there which is “Yeah, not just his opinion means a lot to me. His opinion means more to me than yours.”
Craig: And you get it. It’s all there, which is, this is what we’re going for. And you know, when you’re writing, you may ask yourself, “How much am I supposed to say?” Remember that sometimes what we have to say is “Yeah.” Real simple. Love it.
John: Yeah. So there are moments in this scene that’s to come where — which are very written. Where you definitely sense like, okay, you can sort of feel the writer’s hand there a bit. But so much of Whiplash is just responding to what it actually feels like to be in that moment. And “Yeah” was exactly the right thing to say there.
So let’s move into the dining room. So INT. JIM’S HOUSE — DINING ROOM. NIGHT. Seven people seated at the table. Jim and Andrew, Andrew’s Uncle Frank, Aunt Emma, and 18-year-old cousin Dustin. To Jim, “Jimbo, overcooked. I can barely chew this thing.” Jim laughs along. Andrew watches. There’s an undercurrent to the joking. The power dynamic between the brothers is clear. He just laughs.
So this is all we’re going to ever see of this family again. They’re never going to be around us again. And so I remember when I talked to Damien Chazelle about this scene at this Director’s Forum, I was like, “There must have been a lot of pressure to cut this scene.” He said, “Absolutely.” Because like it’s a lot of actors to suddenly bring in. It’s a whole new location. You’re shooting around a table which seems like “Oh, that should be really simple.” It’s actually really complicated to shoot around a table. It takes so long because you’re matching eye lines.
But he thought it was really important to see Andrew outside of the school and sort of have Andrew try to define and defend himself. And we’re about to move into that section.
Craig: Yeah. Well, first of all, you bring up this fascinating thing that people don’t know. And that is, what’s hard to shoot and what’s not? Shooting around a table is brutal. It’s absolutely brutal. And it is entirely about eye lines. So the eye lines are also angles. Every time somebody moves their head to look at somebody, that’s a new angle.
So you have Andrew in this point looking at his father, looking at his uncle, looking at his cousins. Those are all angles. You have his father looking at everybody, looking at his brother, looking at Andrew. Everyone is looking at everybody, it’s endless. Anyway, the point was very well directed, very well done. And it was all about the choices of who looks where and when. I love the way that Damien does this.
We need to learn something about Uncle Frank’s relationship with Jim. And all he gives us is, “This is overcooked.” But he’s like being jovial about it, “It’s overcooked. I can barely chew this.” And then his brother Jim, Andrew’s father, just sort of like sheepishly laughs. And then Uncle Frank says, “He just laughs.” And Jim keeps laughing. It’s the most — it’s the most wonderful alpha dog/beta dog moment and you get everything. And you know, and you can see in the scene, that Andrew is watching and he hates it. He hates it because his father is a beta dog and he doesn’t want to be one. He wants to be the ultimate alpha. This entire scene is about masculinity. Bad masculinity. It’s really fun.
John: I want to circle back to what you said about shooting around a table because we’ll put up links to these clips as well. We’ll put them on YouTube or some place so people can see them. And what you’ll notice now that we’ve said it is that when Travis comes into the scene, he doesn’t take a seat at the end of the table which would probably be the natural place for him to sit. Instead, he sits right beside his brother. It’s basically so you don’t have to establish a new eye line for everyone around that table to look at each other.
So Travis gets to share a two-shot with his brother and doesn’t have to have his own separate eye line for everything, for everyone to look at him down at the end of the table. That saved them probably eight hours of filming to have him sit in that chair rather that at the end of the table.
Craig: I’ll tell you what else it saved them, production design. Because if he’s sitting at the end of the table, I got to see the other part of that room. And then I got to dress it and what does that look like? Ugh. No, smart.
John: Because who is important in this scene? Well, Andrew is important in the scene. Like Andrew is the heart of everything in the scene. And so the only people who need really careful coverage are people who are going to spar with him directly. So his father is the second most important character in that scene because his father is this character we’re going to follow out through the rest of this movie.
The other guys, they’re not so important. All they’re there to do is to set up stuff for Andrew to hit back. And that is why we’re not getting into huge amounts of depth about who these other people are. The aunt is just a woman who says some lines and that’s how it should be. Because if the aunt talked about what she did in knitting today or sort of what this other thing that happened in the world is, it wouldn’t help us tell the story of Andrew.
Craig: Right. And just as we did with Scott Frank’s pages, let’s just keep note in our minds of how much has gone by here. We’re only about a half-a-page in and I know — I know how Andrew thinks about his father. I know that Andrew and his father are locked in a battle of wills that Andrew is winning. I know that Uncle Frank is the alpha dog to Jim. And I know that Andrew knows this and hates it.
John: And so let’s — first line from Aunt Emma, “And how’s your drumming going, Andy?” So first off, she’s saying Andy rather than Andrew. So she’s diminishing him. “Your drumming,” it’s like, oh, it feels like something a little kid does. So she’s not taking him seriously. So she’s trying to engage with him but she’s just, you know — you can very definitely see his reaction to what that is.
And actually, in the scene description he says, “Andrew put on the spot hesitates. But then excited, ‘Well, actually it’s going really well. I’m now the core drum,’ the door opens.” So he started to be able to define himself and then Travis walks in.
Craig: Right. Now, here is the little area where I got a little nervous. And even in the scene, I remember even watching the movie I felt this, which is like I’m feeling a little bit of a disconnect. I know what’s happening here. I know that they’re going to be basically diminishing what he does, “Oh, your little drumming thing.” You know?
But what I was nervous about was a disconnect from their attitude and what I think would be real. At least one of them would have some moderated opinion here. He’s going to the equivalent of the Berklee School for Music. That’s kind of what’s implied in the movie, it’s — or Juilliard. I mean, it’s the top of the top. He’s already achieved something fairly remarkable by going there. It seemed not to match up for me in terms of reality that every — I mean, even Aunt Emma would be like this. I would have much preferred Aunt Emma to pipe in and say, “Well, no, it’s a very good school.” And then Uncle Frank mows her down. But I got a little worried there.
John: So let’s — this will be a situation where we’ll look at the difference between what’s on the page and what is actually in the film or what made it through the cut. There was a little bit more, I think, along what you’re asking for there in the written pages. So — but also it was distinguished between like, if you are a violin prodigy at Juilliard, people are going to perceive you one way. Whereas, if you play drums, they’re going to perceive you a different way. And so I think, singling out the drumming is a useful way of thinking about it because we don’t think of drummers being musicians in the same way.
Craig: I guess, but he is — it’s jazz. Like, if he were trying to drum in a band, I totally get it. But jazz, everyone, I think, views jazz as the academic version of music. It’s the fanciest for drummers, I think, even more so than classical music, so I don’t know. It’s just felt a little — it just felt a little broad. Yeah, I thought it was a little broad.
John: So let’s take a look at Aunt Emma’s next block here. “And Dustin heading up the Model UN, soon to be Rhodes Scholar, who knows what? And Jim, teacher of the year. I mean, look at the talent at the table, it’s stunning. And Andrew, with his drumming.” And so she’s trying to include Andrew in the conversation about how remarkable everyone is and singled out Andrew as well but it’s not working. And you can definitely see Andrew’s reaction. And that’s Uncle Frank’s next line, “Yeah, you said that was going okay, Andy.” That sense of like, you know, “Oh, we didn’t forget about you. We are going to circle back to you.”
Craig: Right. And so here, we’re getting it. I mean this is — we now know what’s going on, which is Uncle Frank, alpha dog, is going to boast about his boys. Emma is going to boast about her boys. The boasting has been over the top, for me at least. [laughs] And it’s interesting, because — I don’t want to seem like I’m down on the scene because I love the other scene. I love this movie. But there was something a little pushed about the bragging. Where it goes, though, once we get past the push about the bragging, I got very, very happy.
John: Yeah. So this is the section that got cut out. And so I want to focus on this. So I’m looking at the bottom of page 50, top of page 51. Uncle Frank asks, “So does the studio help you get a job?” Andrew says, “It’s not that — the studio, it’s just the name of the ensemble. And yes, it’s a big step forward in my career.” So he does say that in the movie.
John: Uncle Frank says, “I’m just curious how you make your money as a drummer after graduating.” That’s a reasonable question, I think, for that uncle to ask. Andrew glances at his dad wondering if maybe he’ll chime in, in his defense. But no, dad stays meek and quiet. Aunt Emma, trying to be helpful, “I saw a TV commercial for credit reports where a young man was playing the drums. You could do that.”
Craig: I’m glad they cut that one out.
John: Yeah. “Yes. Or the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, but the credit reports gig is a wonderful backup.” And so this is the first time where he’s actually just being a dick in the scene. And that’s an important thing to remember is that you have to think about who your character is in that scene. And Andrew is a dick. And we’ve not had a chance to sort of see how much of a dick he is because he has always been out-dicked by Fletcher. And this is a chance to see him actually being the asshole that he kind of deeply is in his heart. And we have to have some new characters to show that with.
Craig: Yeah. He’s also internalizing what Fletcher has done to him. He is copying. He is copying his teacher’s voice. He is copying the cruelty in his teacher’s voice. Now, at this point it’s warranted. We’re actually rooting along with Andrew. And what’s interesting about this scene, my favorite part of the scene, is what’s going to come next which is when Andrew stops being rootable for. So at first I get it. Now, I understood why they cut the TV commercial line up because it made Aunt Emma too dumb. And it was too much in the direction of what I already thought was a little bit too much in the direction of.
But Andrew says in the script, “Yes, it’s a big step forward in my career.” They skipped a couple of lines. And Uncle Franks just goes, “Well, I’m glad you have it figured out. It’s a nasty business, I’m sure.” Then he says to Travis, “Okay. You got to tell them about your game last week.” It was really pushing pretty hard. I would have — I would have loved for one of the kids to sort of pipe in on their own, because again we got back to “I love bragging.” [laughs] “Kids, talk more about you.” It just felt a little — it felt a little broad again.
John: Yeah. Yet we need to be able to get to moments where we can reveal Andrew just like how much of a dick Andrew can be. And so we need to find a way to get to a place where Andrew feels pushed enough that at least to his way of thinking it’s reasonable to go after these doofuses and sort of point them out. So he’s saying, “He plays for Carlton. It’s Division III. It’s not even Division II.” So basically like — he’s essentially saying like, “How dare you compare what he’s doing to what I’m doing?” Or not even really compare what we’re doing together because like he’s playing at like the amateurs and I’m playing in the pros and the difference then.
Ultimately, where this is all going to is allowing Andrew to state the question which we’re going to see again in the follow-up scene is what is he actually doing this for? What is the goal of being in the school? And the Charlie Parker story is what he’s going to get to here.
Craig: Yeah. When he announces it’s Division III, that’s the moment where — and aim for these moments, folks, when you’re writing these conflicts via discussion conversation — that’s the drop your fork. So everything has been survivable barbs. When he says it’s Division III, that’s a flat out insult. He’s literally saying you play for a lame team. It’s not real football. Stop bragging. You suck. I’m good.
Now, interestingly, there’s a line that’s in the script that’s not in the movie. And I want it to be in the movie. So in the script, Andrew explains, “He plays for Carlton. It’s Division III. It’s not even Division II.” Then you see silence. Shock around table. Then Andrew says, “The tilapia is delicious by the way.” And Uncle Frank, in parenthesis, (I’ll get you back for that), “You got a lot of friends, Andy?” Now, this moment, the tilapia line is cut out, so —
John: I’m happy the tilapia line is cut out. You want the tilapia line back in?
Craig: I do. And here’s why. Because I need a moment for Uncle Frank — I need to see Uncle Frank get angry. I don’t see him get angry in the scene. I see him get angry here because Andrew is being a real snot. He’s trying to like say, “There, I just dropped a bomb. But now moving on, tilapia, everyone. I’m in control of this discussion.” And I want — and I want Uncle Frank to go, “No you’re not. No, I’m in control.”
John: The tilapia felt sitcom to me. It felt too punch line. There’s something about how specific the word tilapia is that it just — it made it too clear to me that Andrew knew he was being a dick. And that he was peacocking in front of everybody else where it wasn’t — I didn’t think he was quite ready to be at that place yet.
Craig: Well, I would say to you that the language there is not what I’m in love with. Let’s change — I mean, let’s rewrite, Damien. We can change that to whatever. What I’m in love with is the fact that he thinks he just got away with it.
Craig: And that Uncle Frank, I need — the moment that I like the least in the scene is where Uncle Frank says, “You got a lot of friends, Andy?” It comes off as a non-sequitur. It doesn’t come off as mean. It doesn’t come off as revenge. It doesn’t come off as a challenge. It almost comes off as vaguely conversational and kind of odd. So I needed that moment where I saw Uncle Frank make a decision to go, “Okay. Let’s go.” And that is a specific response to what you just did.
John: Yeah. So from this moment on, this scene plays as if it’s a fight between Andrew and his uncle. Of course, it’s really about his father and of course the other, you know, cousins there as well will chime in. But it’s really about this sort of, like, Andrew when he sort of feels like he’s backed into a corner will come out stabbing and slashing. And that’s just the basic nature of him. And it’s important, I think, for us to see it at this point in the movie that he actually is this kind of character. And that, you know, the hard worker we saw earlier on has become a bit of a sociopath. And I think it’s an important sort of change to see
So when he talks about, you know, people know who Charlie Parker is because of all these things that happened. And that he’s not worried about dying broke, drunk, and full of heroine at 34. Like, that’s sort of his fantasy. And that’s an important thing for us as an audience to see. And it’s the kind of thing that in less capable hands, the character would just say it to somebody or would just say to the girlfriend or to somewhere else. But Damien has created a scene that gets him to say this. And I think that’s the important part of the scene.
Craig: Yeah. I love that this is a thesis statement about who I am and who I want to be that is presented in the guise of “I don’t want to be you. See, you, you people are all Division III. And I am going to be great. You’re all concentrating on Model UN and Division III. That’s fake and fake. I’m going to be real.” And it’s so much more interesting hearing someone articulate what their vision is for themself if it’s done in opposition to somebody else as opposed to just sharing a thought. I completely agree. I love that this is phrased in conflict.
And then a wonderful relationship thing happens here where Jim, his dad, chimes in in support of Uncle Frank and makes a point that frankly is important and valuable. This is where Damien, I think, does something brilliant because Andrew is sparing with Uncle Frank and making pretty good points. Points that, frankly, I agree with. Until Jim points out that Charlie Parker, Andrew’s hero, died broke, drunk, and full heroine at 34. And that’s true. And this is what we talk about a lot, that the argument of your movie has to be something that can actually be argued.
Craig: And here’s the good argument right there.
John: Absolutely. You know, to be able to put those words in people’s mouths to really state what your thesis is is so crucial. Now, later on, on page 52, there’s stuff that got cut out here. And you could totally see why it got cut out here. So Andrew does say in the movie, “No. None of us were Charlie Parker’s friends. That’s the whole point.” And here’s what got cut out. “Well, there’s such a thing as feeling loved and included. I prefer to feel hated and cast out. It gives me purpose.” Jim says, “That’s ridiculous. You don’t mean that.”
But the movie does jump back in to say, “Travis and Dustin have plenty of friends. I’d say they have plenty of purpose.” So we cut out those three lines and I’m so happy that those lines got out because Andrew saying, “I prefer to feel hated and cast out. It gives me purpose.” I don’t believe that the character actually understands that yet or is able to articulate it in that way.
Craig: I agree. It is too revealing. It involves too much self-awareness. And in a strange way, if you’re aware enough to say that then you’re aware enough to change. Because actually, the truth is when Jim replies, “That’s ridiculous. You don’t mean that.” I agree with Jim. That is ridiculous and you don’t mean that. So I’m glad that that isn’t there. But I love this when Andrew says, “I’d rather die broke and drunk at 34 and have people at a dinner table somewhere talk about it than die rich and sober at 90 and have no one remember me.” That’s the movie. Right? He’s literally just told you, this is the argument of the movie.
And what’s wonderful about this movie and why I think it had an extended life beyond what you would expect from a small independent film is that that question is worth discussing. It’s the kind of thing people walk out of the movie theater, go somewhere, have a cup of coffee or drink, and debate it.
Craig: Because it’s actually worth debating. It’s really interesting. But it’s also where you start to see that Andrew, because he is saying it to his father and literally saying, “I’d rather be what I want to be than what you’re going to be.” It’s where Andrew starts to turn from “I’m making a point that you can all agree with” to “I’m becoming a bad person in front of you. I’m becoming cruel now.” And this is where it escalates.
John: Yup. Also very notable that the scene ends as filmed with Jim’s line, “And from Lincoln Center.” But the scene as written goes on quite a bit longer. So there’s an extra sixth-eighths of a page. It says, a moment of silence, Andrew looks at his dad, his dad just looks right back. A simmering anger in his eyes, Andrew turns to the others and slowly says, “In 1967, a scientist named Laszlo Polgar decides to prove talent isn’t about what you’re born with but about conditioning. He has three kids Susan, Sophia, and Judith and he gets them practicing chess for hours and hours before they could even talk. Fifteen years later, Susan and Sophia are the two top female players in the world. And Judith is on her way to entering the history books as the greatest female chess master of all time.” And so Andrew says this thing and — okay. But that wasn’t the scene we were just in. And I’m really glad that got cut out.
Craig: Yeah. It is the kind of thing that you probably don’t know until you know, you know. So we have the benefit of seeing the scene. And I think we all do this. There are times when we think, I know what to do here. I know how to drive this home. Because you put yourselves schizophrenically into each character as you write each line. And so I ping pong around as I’m moving through and I get back to Andrew and I can feel how frustrated he is at what his father just said. And I want him to deliver the killing blow.
Craig: And what I think is wonderful that Damien found is that, in fact, the killing blow that should be delivered, the one that’s more dramatic is the one from Andrew’s father. That is, in fact, the moment where Andrew gets up and walks out. And we understand his relationship with that man is now essentially severed. That he’s — because what Jim had said to him is, “You can’t do it.” And what’s fascinating is that’s exactly what he’s hearing from Fletcher, “You can’t do it.” They’re both — they have both now found an agreement for different reasons. And so brilliant choice to end, “And from Lincoln Center?” because what leads into it is Andrew saying something very, very mean to Travis. Because Travis is actually being —
Craig: You know, I mean look, that was insulting and unnecessary. It wasn’t like Travis was tooting his own horn, his dad was doing it for him. And he says, “You think Carlton football is a joke? Come play with us.” And Andrew says, “Four words you will never hear from the NFL.”
John: And that’s a closer line. Like, the scene really can’t continue after that line. It does feel like that is the button on the end of the scene.
Craig: Well, it’s almost the button because you’re like, “Oh, yeah. He just dropped the mic.” And then his father walks over and drops a bigger mic. “And from Lincoln Center?” Like who is it that you think you are all of a sudden? You can say that you want to be great but you’re not. You’re just you right now.
John: Yeah. I did not actually connect the “And from Lincoln Center?” to the NFL as well as you did. And so it always felt like a bit of weird floater for me that the Lincoln Center line there. Particularly because there are cuts early on the scene to talk more about Lincoln Center.
John: And so it’s not the ideal out for the scene as it was finally staged. I could imagine an out which is something that Jim says. I agree it should be Jim’s last line there to cement what the conflict is, it’s going to keep going forward in the movie after this dinner table scene. But I just loved this scene.
Craig: Well, this is — by the way, this is what critics never understand. So let’s talk about the ticky tacky argument that must have gone on in the editing room. That last line I think is terrific because I think it’s really important for the character and I think it’s important for the relationship for Jim to point out “You aren’t great yet. And so maybe be a little less arrogant.” But the area that sets it up is buried in some stuff that isn’t working. So that stuff has to go. So you sometimes make a trade. And what was working so — what was working at 100 percent is now only working at 80 percent because you’re trying to get rid of something that was only working at 10 percent.
Well, down the line, someone watches this movie, and I say this all the time, they watch it with the belief that everything is intentional and it’s not. And they may go, “I don’t know. That scene just ended with, it could have been better. It just could have been better a line.” Well, ugh, you don’t understand. There are compromises, there must be compromises because not everything is going to work, and even the things that do work sometimes get a little reduced. I still love that line.
John: Yes, I do think though if Damien had known in shooting it that like he was going to be cutting out the other stuff, he would have found a way to make Jim’s last line work better because he would have also known it was the last line of the scene, so it was just feels like a bit of a weird floater to me. Or just some other moment of eye contact between them that could have just done the same job.
John: Yeah. Still a great scene. So let’s take a look at another one that involves our two main characters, our protagonist and antagonist, Andrew and Fletcher. And this is a quite late in the story. So Fletcher has been dismissed from the school. Andrew sees him at a jazz club. And so the video clip which we’ll link to will show sort of the whole sequence which is basically Andrew spotting Fletcher as Fletcher is finishing up a piano solo. It’s the first time, I think, we’ve seen Fletcher actually perform, as just not conduct, but actually perform, and they ultimately will get together and sit at a table and have a conversation.
So you will remember this conversation we see in the movie because it’s where Andrew asks the question, “Where is the line?” Basically asking the question going back to the Charlie Parker story, if someone hadn’t thrown that cymbal at his head, would he have become Charlie Parker? And that’s the thesis that — not just trying to state, it’s like without that cymbal being thrown at his head, he would never have pushed himself to become Charlie Parker that we know. Andrew asks the question, “Well, where is that line?” Where do you push too far that Charlie Parker just walks away?
And so let’s start listening at the end of the sort of a long monologue from Fletcher where he’s talking about this idea of Charlie Parker and his frustration with society.
Fletcher: There are no two words in the English language more harmful than “good job.”
Andrew: But is there a line? You know, maybe you go too far and you discouraged the next Charlie Parker from ever becoming Charlie Parker?
Fletcher: No, man, no because the next Charlie Parker would never be discouraged. The truth is, Andrew, I never really had a Charlie Parker. But I tried. I actually fucking tried, and that’s more than most people ever do. And I will never apologize for how I tried.
Andrew: See you later.
Fletcher: Hey, Andrew, listen, I have no idea how you’re going to take this, but the band I’m leading for JVC, the drummer is not cutting it. Do you understand what I’m saying?
Fletcher: I’m using the studio band play list. You know, Caravan, Whiplash. I need somebody who really knows those charts.
Andrew: What about Ryan Connolly?
Fletcher: All Connolly ever was to me was incentive for you.
Fletcher: Tanner switched to pre-med. I guess he got discouraged. Hey, take the weekend to think about it.
John: Obviously the clip will show the whole sequence as we go through it, and there’s really great stuff in the head of this scene, but I really want to focus on the end of the scene and the discussion, the decision between the two characters, and the choices they’re having to make as they go through the end of the scene. So let’s take a look at, if you’re looking at the pages, at the top of page 88 is where we’re starting with Andrew’s question of, “But do you think there’s a line, you know, where you discourage the next Charlie Parker from becoming Charlie Parker?” This is, again, stating the thesis of the film. Fletcher says, “No, because the next Charlie Parker would never be discouraged.”
Andrew takes this in a moment, and here’s stuff that got cut. And again, I think it’s so useful to see what was on the page versus what was actually shot. Andrew used to ask, “And you, are you back to playing now?” Fletcher used to say, “Not really, here and there. The playing never interested me. I never wanted to be Charlie Parker. I wanted to be the man who made Charlie Parker. The kid who discovers some scrawny kid, pushed and prodded him, shaped him into something great, and then said to the world, check this out, the best mother fucking solo you ever heard.”
Andrew asks, “Where is Charlie Parker then? Sean Casey?” The name hits Fletcher. Fletcher looks at Andrew, who immediately regrets bringing the name up. Why? Because even after everything, the sight of Fletcher hurting affects him. There’s more stuff here. So basically we go through the whole Sean Casey of it all who’s the kid who committed suicide. We skip all that stuff out, and instead we just leave it with Fletcher reflecting on, “I never had my Charlie Parker,” like he doesn’t even say that he was trying to create it, not trying to be it, he makes it clear that he was trying to have a student who would be a Charlie Parker, and he never did.
And instead Damien just let’s — sort of the eye contact and the look between them tell more of that scene.
Craig: Yes. It’s really a very smart excision. First, of note is that in the dinner scene, we talked about this question, is it better to be great, or is it better to die you know, 90, and sober, and rich?
And that is a great argument worth having, and people had it. And then the gift of this movie is that it gives you another one. And it’s this one, which is must you forge greatness and fire, or is there a way to create greatness with love and support? And can in fact love and support backfire, can in fact forging someone in fire backfire? And great topic, and well worth debating. And the movie doesn’t answer the question for you which I think is terrific. In fact, Damien, I met Damien at a discussion that was moderated by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and I think the topic was essentially ambiguity. What do we do about this, and how intentional is all the rest? It was a really interesting discussion.
So you have that, that’s a challenge there. And then the thing is, Fletcher has certainty. There is no debate in Fletcher’s mind. In his mind, it’s almost tautological, we would call this, begging the question in philosophy structuring your argument in support of an answer by assuming that the answer is part of the argument. But that’s the way he is. No. The next Charlie Parker would never be discouraged.
Now the rest of what happens here is understandable. We are always trying to guess how much the audience needs to get the point. And in this case, I think Damien wrote a lot of really interesting things to make us get this point that Fletcher was never about being supportive and teaching a group of kids to play some songs. He was always about finding that person who needed the cymbal thrown at his head, throwing the cymbal at his head, and creating the next great thing.
But the truth is, as good as the acting is in this moment, and as good as the dialogue is later on, all you needed was for Fletcher to go from the top of 88, “No, because the next Charlie Parker would never be discouraged,” all the way down to the bottom of 88. “The truth is, I don’t know if I ever had a Charlie Parker,” regret, “but I tried,” and that’s it. We get it. Perfect. Perfect cut.
John: Yeah, “I tried,” and “I will never apologize,” I think that’s the crucial thing, too, is that we should sort of back up and talk about sort of what information the characters have going into this. So Andrew testified against Fletcher basically, did agree that Fletcher had done bad things. There was an investigation and Andrew had cooperated with that investigation. Andrew knew that Fletcher had been let go from the school.
What Andrew doesn’t know is whether Fletcher knows that he was part of the process because he should have been kept out of it. So he has a lot of questions about Fletcher. Does Fletcher know what I did? And so the top half of that scene you’ll see there’s a little bit more of that sort of like probing. And what didn’t make it into the final cut was really more of those questions about sort of like what actually happened and sort of how much does this guy actually know about what my role in this was.
Most of that got dropped out of the actual cut, so that what it seems like this scene is doing is for these two characters, it’s like these two warriors who meet off the battlefield, and actually can have a conversation about like, “Oh, hey, remember that war?” to some degree, and that’s what the scene seems to be about.
What I think is so smart about it is that this is actually a misdirection yet again, because it seems like Fletcher is being totally honest about what he’s trying to do, and sort of like he’s sort of coming clean about sort of how he’s built and how he’s wired. But as we go into the next beat here, you see he wants something from Fletcher. And what it seems like he wants is, kid, you’re really good, please play in my band. So as written on the page, as we go outside, Andrew and Fletcher exit, they stand for a second, look at one another in awkward silence. Andrew says, “Nice seeing you.” Fletcher nods. Beat. Andrew turns, about to head off when, “Look, I don’t know how you’ll take this. The band I’m leading for JVC, our drummer isn’t cutting it. Do you understand?” “No.” “I’m using the studio band playlist, Whiplash, Caravan. I need a replacement who already knows those charts inside-out.” Andrew looks at him. You can’t be serious.
So it’s turning the tables where it seems like Fletcher is extending an olive branch, he’s saying, like, hey, you really are that good. He’s trying to put the past behind them, and more importantly, he’s validating Andrew who’s not had any validation as a musician for a long time here.
Craig: Yeah. Fletcher is a master of the mind game. And in this case, what Damien is doing is he’s having Fletcher mind game us in the audience as well. Because what Damien understands is we are connected to basic narrative understanding, and we believe we’re watching Rocky, and we believe Rocky needs to win at the end, even though of course, Rocky loses, but we need Rocky to at least make a good showing, right?
So Andrew has quit, he is done. I think his father is happy about this. And Fletcher gives him this speech that’s really just, well, it’s a discussion about his philosophy. They’re no longer teacher and student. There’s no power and balance. In fact, in a weird way, Andrew has the power because he’s come to watch this guy play. Assumingly he’s getting paid. And Fletcher says, “All I ever wanted was to find Charlie Parker.”
So now, they walk outside, and now Fletcher goes, hey, my drummer isn’t cutting it. Now, you and I both know as creative people that when someone comes to us and says, “Hey, my writer, they’re not cutting it,” there is a little dopamine blast that goes on in our brain, which goes, oh, so this is about me. Maybe I’m the one you want. And it’s very, very attractive.
So even though Andrew doesn’t quite understand it at first, when he gets it, you can see the dopamine, you can see that release. And then Damien’s really smart because Andrew says, “What about Ryan Connolly?” who was the drummer ahead of him — the seat ahead of him. And Fletcher says, “What about him? All he was was your incentive.” Like, I think, don’t you get it, idiot? You’re going to be my Charlie Parker. I think you could be my Charlie Parker. And it’s this juicy, juicy bait on the end of a hook. And Andrew just bites.
John: Yes, he does bite. So the relationship between these two characters is described as sort of like a really fucked up love story. And I think this is one of the scenes that’s sort of most fucked up about it where this is like, well, what about those other girls you were sleeping with? Like, oh, they didn’t mean anything to me. I was only thinking about you this whole time.
And that’s essentially what Fletcher is saying to Andrew is that these were just bait to sort of to get you to work harder. And that’s why they were never anything to you, they never meant anything to me. You are the only person who could possibly do this thing. And that’s incredibly attractive to this kid who really wants to be Charlie Parker. He really wants someone to tell him he is Charlie Parker, and that he’s not just good but he’s like once in a lifetime great. And so this is exactly what he needs to hear, exactly when he needs to hear it, and Fletcher knows it.
And so it’s interesting that Fletcher does say, “We’re rehearsing next Thursday, why don’t you take the weekend to think about it?” And in the script, on the page, Andrew thinks about it and says, “I don’t need to.” But this is a line that was scripted. I’m sure they shot it, but it’s good you shoot it because then you cannot use it. In this case, they did not use it. It lets the cut be the answer where you see, you know, you end the scene on a question mark, and then the far side of the cut is the answer which is basically like I’m so excited, I’m going to do this thing.
Craig: Yes. So on the other side of the cut we see Andrew opening his closet and pulling out his old drums. So we get his answer, we know his answer. What’s fascinating about Fletcher’s appeal here is that he doesn’t mean any of it. He’s lying. He is lying in order to set Andrew up, to punish Andrew, because he believes Andrew is the reason he got fired. He’s being vindictive, there is nothing about what he’s doing here that is true to any notion that Andrew could be the next great one. He doesn’t believe that at all, which sets up this remarkable ending, where Andrew becomes that, in spite of, and yet, also because of.
And that’s why the ending of the movie is so fascinating because it’s not like Fletcher’s plan really was to do that. It happened because Fletcher was awful, and this kid came out of that cruelty as great. And then, of course, the great question of the end of the movie is, what now?” Are they friends now? I don’t think so.
John: Oh, I don’t think so at all.
Craig: Yeah. I think that Andrew moves far beyond Fletcher, who returns to a life of obscurity, and that’s the greatest tragedy of all. But also, the question is, Andrew, who ends up in his moment of glory, playing all of his blood and sweat all over the place, what will happen to him? His father is shut out completely in a shot that is almost a direct lift of Diane Keaton having the door closed on her at the end of The Godfather. So his father is gone. He’s cut strings there. He’s gone far beyond Fletcher. He doesn’t need him anymore. Now what happens to this guy? Does he end up dead at 32? It’s a fascinating movie. And this scene is another great example like the Scott Frank scene of people fighting without fighting.
Craig: It’s terrific.
John: So we only focused on the end of the scene, but we’ll have the pages up for the whole scene, and the video for it. And I would strongly encourage people to look at both the scene as shot and the page, and really compare them in real time because what you’ll notice is that I think because Damien is the writer/director, he felt file with actors making huge changes to how they were saying those lines of dialogue as long as they were getting the effect across. And one of the most notable things I noticed was, tense changes, and so a lot of things that were written in the present tense in the script are spoken in the past tense in the movie, and it totally makes sense. It all tracks.
What you have to be really mindful of if you’re in production is if you have two characters who are speaking to each other, and you’re cutting those as singles, lines of dialogue might not make sense anymore because people are speaking in different tenses. So are they talking about a theoretical future, or are they talking about a thing that happened in the past? In many cases, especially J. K. Simmons has changed a lot of what those tenses are, and it totally works in the course of the movie, but you have to know your text really, really well as the writer and the director to feel comfortable with an actor making all those changes.
Craig: No question. And I think that he did that thing that some writers fail to do, which is transition successfully from the guy who wrote the script, to now I’m the guy directing the script. He treated the script the way he should, which I think was very respectfully, but also with flexibility. And he did a terrific job. I really enjoyed that movie.
John: Yes. So that was two sequences from Whiplash. Thank you, Damien Chazelle, for writing your great movie. We’ll have links in the show notes for the script pages, and also links out to the video clips so you can see what the scenes actually look like when they were shot. Craig, it’s time for One Cool Things. What is your One Cool Thing this week?
Craig: Well, today, my One Cool Thing is in my frequent category of neurological advances, but this one is amazing. This one actually could change a lot. So one of the problems with treating brain illness, whether it’s cancer or other kinds of disease, is that there’s something called the blood brain barrier, and the blood brain barrier is a mechanism that protects the brain from being affected by whatever the hell you throw into your body at any given moment.
Obviously, we know that some molecules go through the blood brain barrier, that’s why they work on us like you know, heroin, but a lot don’t. And this becomes very frustrating because a lot of pharmaceuticals are really big molecules, and they just don’t go through that barrier at all. So what ends up happening, when you’ve got something, for instance, a cancer in the brain, and you want to treat it with chemotherapy, you can’t because the chemo won’t get through the blood brain barrier.
So what these folks have done in Canada, led by a guy with the best name ever, Dr. Todd Mainprize.
John: Love it.
Craig: Yeah, if this works, Todd will get the main prize. So Todd Mainprize and his team in Toronto have come up with this remarkable concept where they introduce a particular chemical into the blood, and then they use ultrasound to expand that chemical as it’s moving through the blood brain barrier, and open up tiny little tears in the blood brain barrier that they can then get medicine through. And it’s really targeted, and it’s just kind of amazing.
And if it works, well, you’re going to see major reduction, I think, in terminal brain cancers. I think this could be truly amazing. And of course, when they try and take a cancer out of somebody’s brain, it’s invasive, you know. Sometimes the surgery itself is permanently debilitating. So I don’t know. I mean this is a crazy one, but it could work, it could really work and it would change the game. So very excited, congratulations Dr. Todd Mainprize. You have the main prize of today. You are my One Cool Thing.
John: Very cool. My One Cool Thing is called what3words, and it is a system for mapping the entire surface of the earth and providing coordinates that are actually described by three words. And so what they’ve done is essentially they’ve taken the entire surface of the earth and broke it into 57 trillion squares that are about three-meters by three-meters, and so that’s really quite small. But 57 trillion seems like a huge number, but it’s actually a number that could be described with a combination of any three words. And so the computer system is actually assigned a word to each of those squares on the surface of the earth, so you are able to then say like I am at alpha dog hypotenuse, and that is where I am. And it is really a fascinating system, and it makes sort of similar to like providing a URL or sort of a short code for any place in the real physical world, and it seems like a really ingenious system for doing that. So I’m going to link out to what3words.com which will show you how they’re doing it, and provide interactive maps so you can actually figure out where you are, and what the words are for the place that you are currently at. So it really is quite clever and I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before now, but it seems very smart.
So our live show on December 9th will take place at Tides Vivid Snail. And literally you can download the app and put in Tides Vivid Snail and it will give you directions to that specific venue.
Craig: That’s so much better than like an address. So much better.
John: Yeah, and why this hasn’t happened before? I don’t know, but it seems like a really, really smart idea. So a friend of ours who works in mapping sent this through and it seems just like a very clever way to do things.
John: What’s interesting is that three-meters by three-meters square is small enough that like our house has a bunch of different squares, and so like if I’m out in the office, that’s a different square than the kitchen is. And so it’s a really very specific thing.
Craig: Yeah, three-meters by three-meters, that’s basically 10 square feet. That’s amazing.
John: Yeah. And it’s fascinating that you could actually think about mapping all the surface of the earth to that, but of course you could. So we have the technology now to do that. So I’m excited by this as a possibility.
Craig: We got to figure out how to use this for D&D because we’re basically D&Ding the world now because it’s becoming a grid —
John: Absolutely. Everything is on a square grid. Our grid that we’ll play at on Sunday, it will be five-foot squares, but this is similar to that.
Craig: Similar. All right, very good, very cool.
John: All right. That is our show this week. Our outro this week is by Kim Atle. If you have an outro you would like us to use, please send us an email at email@example.com with a link to your outro. firstname.lastname@example.org is also the place to send question to us. We love to answer questions, and we’ll do so in a future episode. If you have short questions for me, or for Craig, I am on Twitter, @johnaugust, Craig is @clmazin. You can find our show on iTunes. We are just Scriptnotes. Search for Scriptnotes. That’s also where you’ll find the Scriptnotes app which lets you get to all the back episodes of Scriptnotes.
To register for the back episodes of Scriptnotes and to get special episodes like the Drew Goddard episode, just go to scriptnotes.net.
A reminder that we have USB drives with all the back episodes as well, so you can get all 200 episodes of the show before now on USB drives shipped to your house, which is handy. Lots of people have been using those. A reminder that our live show is January 9th and you should get tickets. They will be at the Writers Guild Foundation website, wgfoundation.org, and we look forward to seeing so many of you there.
John: Great. Thanks for a fun episode.
Craig: Thank you, John.
John: All right, bye.
- Buy your tickets now for the 2015 Scriptnotes Holiday Show on December 9th with guests Riki Lindhome, Natasha Leggero and Malcolm Spellman
- The true story behind ‘Zola,’ the epic Twitter story too crazy to be real
- Whiplash on Wikipedia
- Whiplash, family dinner scene, and the PDF
- Whiplash, jazz club scene, Script vs Screen, and the PDF
- Sunnybrook doctor first to perform blood-brain barrier procedure using focused ultrasound waves
- Outro by Kim Atle (send us yours!)