This Week You Will Go Behind the Scenes of:
- a well-known composer/actor
- a big comedy set
- a favorite drug
Luckily this week’s contributions of scbo0212 and Ruck Cohlchez aren’t threatened by greedy producers. Send articles throughout the next week to ploughmanplods [at] gmail, post articles from the past week below for discussion, and Have a Happy Friday!
As we enter the first days of a writers’ strike, The New Yorker‘s Michael Shulman reports on the misery of recent television writing room
How did it come to this? About a decade ago, in the era of “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Veep,” TV writing seemed like one of the coolest, best-paying jobs a writer could have. As with the talkie boom of the nineteen-thirties, playwrights and journalists were flocking to Hollywood to partake in the heyday of prestige TV. It was fun. […] But, in the intervening years, the profession has devolved. Streamers are ordering shorter seasons, and the residuals model that used to give network writers a reliable income is out the window. The ladder from junior writer to showrunner has become murkier, with some people repeating steps like repeating grades, and others being flung to the top without the requisite experience, in order to meet demand for new content. Studios are cutting writing budgets to the bone by hiring fewer people for shorter time periods, often without paying for lower-level writers to be on set during production, which makes it all but impossible to learn the skills necessary to run a show. On “Roar,” [writer Liz] Flahive said, “we had to fight to budget for writers to prep and produce their episodes,” and some of her writers had never been to the set of shows they’d worked on, “which is astonishing to me.”
Filmmaker Magazine‘s Ryan Swen interviews sports documentarian Jon Bois:
We’re really honored that people think of them as films, but at the same time, I’d understand anyone who thinks they aren’t. Dorktown features lack a lot of things that virtually all films have in common, the funniest of which is that neither Alex nor myself ever even pick up a camera. We don’t even know how to use a professional film camera. That seems like a pretty foundational component of what a film even is in the first place. So, while I did kind of quietly approach these things as films as I made them, proclaiming them to be films from the outset would have just felt silly. “Documentary” seemed less ridiculous and more accurate. But people did begin describing them as films, they were logged as films on sites like Letterboxd and, before long, it seemed that the consensus was that, yep, these were films! I think the audience is the best judge of that, so that’s good enough for me.
At Crooked Marquee, Craig J. Clark looks back at the towering film contributions of Ryuichi Sakamoto:
Before entering the film world, Sakamoto was one of Japan’s biggest music stars as one-third of techno-pop pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra. Between 1978 and 1983, the group released seven top-ten albums, sold out concert venues, and toured Europe and the United States. Sakamoto was ready to break out on his own, however, when iconoclastic director Ōshima called with an offer to star in his next film. Sakamoto’s one condition was that he also be allowed to compose the score, which Ōshima readily agreed to. He even consented to Sakamoto’s request for three months to work on the music, a luxury that paid off handsomely as the main theme he came up with for Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is one of his most recognizable works. “I still get asked to play it even today,” he said in a 2010 interview for the Criterion release of the film, adding that “it’s still a mystery to me why that piece alone gained such wide acceptance.”
The Washington Post‘s Wesley Lowery brings a behind-the-scenes look at Roy Wood Jr.’s set at the White House correspondents’ dinner, from the comic’s personal history with journalism to last-moment joke edits:
While Wood waited to go on the second, smaller stage, his phone pinged with the latest version of the set. A few jokes — one about President Biden not having enough Senate votes to gain approval to take a nap, another about how the various Donald Trump investigations are like different strains of THC edibles — proved to be too complicated for such a short set. The only possible groaner, a joke about school shootings, clearly worked with the improv audience but, Wood reasoned, needed to come later in Saturday’s set, once the audience had grown to trust him a bit. He was still hoping to find space for a quick Dianne Feinstein joke. “Needs more Tucker,” Norm Aladjem, his manager, remarked once we’d all made it outside of the club. “Definitely needs more Tucker,” Wood agreed.
At Esquire, John McDermott spotlights the growing number of former addicts trying to scare people off an unchecked and underestimated drug – caffeine:
There is perhaps no mind-altering substance as tightly woven into the fabric of daily life than caffeine. Nearly 80 percent of adults in the U.S. consume caffeine, in some form, every day. Coffee is the primary caffeine-delivery mechanism for many people—two thirds of American adults drink it every day—and many consider it an indispensable part of daily life. T-shirts and, naturally, coffee mugs exclaim, “Not before I’ve had my coffee” or “But first, coffee,” as if the travails of everyday living are impossible without a morning cup of joe. For some, coffee even serves as a handy substitute for having a personality. Whether it’s new mothers who think they should have a priority line at Starbucks; snobs who traffic exclusively in organic, sustainably grown fair-trade beans; or Zoomers sharing their insane coffee concoctions on TikTok, conspicuous coffee consumption is a cultural signifier. Entire human interactions—the coffee date, the coffee break at work, the post-dinner mug—revolve around its ingestion.