Let's all go to the lobby. Let's all go to the lobby. Let's
go to be Hello and welcome to movies versus capitalism and anti capitalist movie podcast. I
am Frank Capello and I am Rifka Rivera.
We're very excited for today's episode very excited to share our conversation about sorry to bother you with probably one of the best living anti capitalist filmmakers today boots Riley Yeah,
it's a good one, get ready. We're gonna talk first.
But as always, first you have to just listen to us talk. You know, sometimes I've seen some, like some reviews and comments from people that are like, and most of the reviews are very, very nice on, you know, on the on the podcast players, but I've seen a few that are like, I came here to listen to a movie conversation. And these two people just talked about shit for the first like, 10 minutes one star? Yeah,
we like this. We'd like to talk at the top. No, we really liked this format. Because I think it allows beyond talking about the movie, we made a choice that part of our intention in this podcast is also to talk about that intersection of capitalism and media and current events. So this has allowed us to talk about the strike to talk about really important things on top of the movie. So I, I defend and stand by and say yes to our choice. So
I absolutely also agree, and this is a good this is a good topic that we're talking about today, we're gonna talk about the the streaming platforms, the Netflix's the Hulu's, the Disney pluses of the world, because it should be no surprise to everybody that, you know, in the wake of the writers strike and the actor strike. And along with a lot of other factors that we'll discuss, all of these streaming platforms are raising their prices. So Netflix just announced that it's raising the prices of both of its ad free plans, the cheaper one will go from 999 to 1199. The other one is going to go from 1999 to 2299. Hulu raised the price of its servers by 20%. Over the summer by 1499 to 7099, HBO Max going up $1. Disney plus going up a couple of dollars after already raising its prices $3 In this past December. So we wanted to talk about this specifically because I think I think the way that some of this will get framed is that, you know, because the greedy writers and actors asked for living wages and to not have all of their likenesses stole by artificial intelligence that like, you know what, these teams just had to raise the prices. But that is that is so far from the truth of what is happening. The truth of what is happening is that, you know, for close to a decade, these companies were just running on basically like debt and vibes, just debt and vibes. They're just just like we're gonna just, we're just gonna borrow, borrow, borrow, you know, interest rates are zero money is basically free. Were these giant tech media companies. So we can just borrow all of this money.
I could say it in my head. It's like a it's like, an Adam McKay movie and like, and, you know, the pitches like, she'll tell Jackie Jackie will tell Sam and it'll just build and will make so much money and like, by the end, you're like, Yeah, sounds good. And they throw Wallstreet throws money at it never has to see any receipts. And that's kind of how I envisioned this business plan went down. I
think that's it. I think that I think that is like exactly what happened for the most part. And
then some guys in the boxers, like, you know, there's like spinning in the chair throwing money up in the air like, are crazy ideal. Now we rule the world, send rockets to space,
this thing called Netflix, you can watch TV on your computer, give them $8 billion. But yes, that was sort of the model that all of these platforms were operating on, you know, in, in the advent of streaming, you know, all of these legacy media companies, and some of these new media companies, basically, were all like, oh, shit, streaming is the future. So they, you know, the last decade has basically been like a content arms race for all of these companies to just like, amass these giant libraries of content to produce to produce to produce to produce more and more and more and more, and then one day, eventually we will be profitable. And, I mean, there's also some speculation that these companies were producing so much because they knew that the you know, the media contracts that they had with the unions with the WGA with sag with the Directors Guild, they knew that at a certain point, labour was going to come back at them and be like, Yo, you guys are like seriously ripping us off. And we need to renegotiate because we are not protected in this new media landscape. So these companies were like, Great well, while while labor is cheap, while Money is cheap, and we can borrow it, like just a mass and just keep producing. And, you know, it's all kind of come crashing down. So according to Axios, the number of new original scripted series has shrunk this year after hitting a record high in 2022. Because now these companies are actually under pressure to produce profits. So like, the main instigator of this is, you know, the last couple of years of inflation of the Fed raising interest rates, so making money not free to borrow, essentially. And all of these media companies essentially, you know, basically like seeing a potential recession on the horizon. That's why we've also seen a bunch of layoffs at a bunch of these big legacy media media companies, because everyone was like, oh, we gotta tighten the belt. So let's fire people and, you know, do all the cost cutting strategies. And so now, between between that between, just like the state of the economy itself, between labor finally getting its do in this new media landscape, these companies are slashing their production budgets, they're not going to be making as much. And now they're also raising their, their membership prices. And I the last thing I wanted to note, according to Indiewire, Netflix and Hulu are the only two major streaming services that made a profit by the end of 2022. By contrast, peacock Disney plus HBO Max Paramount plus reported billions of dollars in losses. So like 2022, was the last gasp of this new media shitshow. And now all of these companies are faced with the reality that like, oh, we have to run an actual business that makes money and can actually pay the people who generate the value a living wage. So I just wanted to like, talk about this, because I don't want it to get twisted in any way, shape, or form that this is like the fault of the writers or the actors, or anyone else that actually works on these projects.
Forgive me, I'm gonna have to go right back to the top here. Did you say premium plan is increasing? I didn't even know there was a premium plan
for Netflix. Did you just not listen to anything else? I said, you were just like, I just like
there's ads there. Have there been? Has there been an ad version? You said ad free? Has there been a version with ads that I was just not even privy to? Have they done that already on Netflix? Oh, yeah,
I think like pretty much all of these services now have dual tiers one where you see ads, and one that is ad free, you're still paying for both, but just like one is, you know, more expensive than the other. Okay.
Just taking that in. That's, It's so wild. So wild.
Yeah, it's wild. I actually, I think I mentioned this on the pod at some point. But I few months back was at a friend's birthday. And someone there worked at one of the big streaming platforms. And they were saying, you know, you know, if the writers and actors get what they want, and that means that we just can't make as much stuff as we used to. So actually, they're hurting themselves, because then there won't be as many jobs for them. So like, if they get the they get the wages they're asking for they're going to be less jobs to pay those wages. And I absolutely pushed back. And I was like, Well, sounds like y'all have an unsustainable business model that needs to be rectified. And, and adapt to a modern economy where everyone is able to be paid and have their needs met. And maybe like, I don't know, even you guys make money or something.
I think you're you're getting to an interesting point, though, which is about the longevity of of this movement. And this consciousness that has been, obviously it was there before the strike, but has come up through the strike is, I mean, I don't agree with this person. But I think what they're pointing out is, without even larger systemic change, you could potentially get what we're asking for and be punished. Like, yes. And that, that that is the threat and and potentially a real threat. It's not a threat that we should mean, it's not a threat. It's an existential it's existential in the sense that okay, but the other option is what, have robots take over our jobs, and we don't have jobs? Either way. It doesn't work. But I think what it's pointing to is that there is there's still a bigger, there's still more once we get it's not like the actors needs are met. It's it's done. There has to be a continued effort to fight. This is capitalism, right? Like this is the fight against capitalism is that like, I think what we're seeing here with the how much prices are going to increase, unless there's a change in the bigger system and the way that we figure out to make art and media. We're going to keep coming up against threats like that. That could be very real. That's
exactly right. And To put a finer point on that these companies have basically been running on fictional business, they've been running in a, they've been running in a fictional media ecosystem where they can just, you know, basically keep treading water, keep borrowing money and keep not being profitable. And what has happened is now like the fictional businesses that these companies have been running is now has now met the reality of like the media business. So it's like all of these companies running on fiction have now met reality. And yeah, and now they have to change now they have to adapt now they have to actually create a sustainable business model, which is so
funny, because I feel like the attack on any kind of revolutionary thought around changing systems is that's fictitious, and that that's to what's the utopian. Yeah, to like, plan, you've actually proving the fact that fiction works. It's, you know, I'm thinking about our Wizard of Oz episode. And the basics of that was like, we learned about just how much money is made up, you know, how much these things are someone makes up the way it works. And I'm just thinking about, in a very basic sense, isn't imagination war that we're at often, and and this is where I think the intersection of art is really, really important. And and I know there's amazing writers, Adrian Marie Brown, who speaks to this many people activists to speak to this idea, but like, we need to expand our ability to imagine and throw away the rules with abandon the way that these kept the way the elitist capitalist class does the way they tap if they there were no rules, there aren't rules, what would it take? I'm thinking about this in the upcoming elections to like, what does it take to just let go a little of the fear and start to say, well, if I decide that I want to put my money towards a new system, and you decide and you decide maybe we can start to make it happen like that is the purpose of organizing is that we're trying to just increase our ability to believe in alternatives and therefore buy into act towards alternatives.
That's such a good point, like the ruling class, the corporate class, and the politicians that work for them. They make up stuff, they make up shit for themselves all the time. They just run on fiction and bullshit. But then as soon as you propose something, you know, like, Medicare for all, something that would actually like materially meet people's needs. They're like, well, that's unrealistic. Yeah. Come on. That's Come on. We only deal in things that it can actually happen here. More bombs, please. More. But yeah, yeah. All right. Cool. Well, that's, I think all we wanted to hit on that, because we want to get to our interview with boots, Riley. But
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Alright, we're gonna take a quick break. We'll be right back with our conversation about sorry to bother you with boots Riley. Okay, we are so excited to be joined by boots. Riley boots is a director, screenwriter, musician, activist, and organizer. He's the lead vocalist of music groups, the COO and streetsweeper Social Club, and he is the writer and director of the TV series. I'm a Virgo and the 2018 feature films sorry to bother you, which we will be discussing today. Boots Riley, welcome to movies versus capitalism.
All right. Thanks for having me. I never I've never listened to the podcast but have seen the title many times and thought I should listen to that. And now this will be the first one that I'll listen to. Probably won't listen I'll check out the first few seconds to make sure voice sounds good. And then I'll listen to whoever was last week.
You know, we appreciate that honesty I would have, we would have been able to pick up if you were bullshitting us, right.
So boots before we jump into talking about the film, I just wanted to ask how you're feeling now that WGA has won a contract? We've been talking a lot. We've been following a lot of the organizing, we're still following what's going to happen with sag. But just curious, I know that you've been following it as well, how you're feeling about the contract? Yeah.
Well, I mean, I think that there are a lot of things that people said couldn't even be touched, right, that we were told, was impossible, like anything about AI. And matter of fact, when you look at other industries, when there should have been a labor reaction to certain technologies that made it worse for the working class, there wasn't an organized labor response to it, at least in the US. And we were always told a matter of fact, we're, you know, the argument against organizing itself is that robots are going to replace us right. And so we should be happy about that. We should be happy to accept whatever we want. And that meanwhile, that argument has been happening since the late 50s, at least, right. Sure. And there has been a, you know, to the extent that there has been a shrinkage of the US, of jobs in the US, manufacturing jobs in the US, since the 70s. There has been many studies shown that, as that shrinkage was happening, meaning companies moving overseas or moving to other countries for cheaper labor, that there were various times that that militant strikes could have stopped that, right. And similarly, so. So I'll walk back my assessment that it hasn't happened before, you know, longshoremen, they shut down things, you know, at the drop of the dime comparatively to everyone else, right. There's been many decades when the when the companies, the shipping companies have said, Look, we could do this automated. And longshoremen are like, well, you won't be making any money during that whole time, you know, that you try to switch over to an automated port, and have shut it down. And so that's why it's not totally automated. So, I would say that this, what we were doing here was in line with that around AI, but but for the most recent part of history, we've been just technology has been rolled out and rolled over us, we're going to just monitor everything you say, and do and you're not going to like it and right as we think pieces as you want, we don't mind. Right. You know, and then in this case, we push back on that. And so there's some protections there that weren't being had before, I would say that there were significant gains around that we wouldn't have gotten without such a fight. And more than that, even and I would have to say because this is where some of my interests lie beyond that actual fight is that a lot of people were inspired to fight and that inspiration to fight is what got UPS bosses to cave in. All those sorts of things. The the assessment of where the working class is in their readiness is changing a lot of the
fight right? Yeah, the UAW now as well the auto workers for sure. Yeah, definitely. It was awesome watching you know, just such a visible because, you know, it's Hollywood's such a visible labor battle take place in front of Soma, you know, like, I felt like the eyes of the country. Were all watching what was going on in Hollywood. I think, for a lot of people that were like, Oh, shit, you can do this. You can just like stop working and demand better pay and working conditions. We that's incredible. So yeah, we're stoked that the WGA got their contract and you know, waiting for sag to get theirs. Yeah.
Oh, yeah. I'm eager to jump into talking about the film because there's, you know, it's all about organizing. And so I'm sure this theme will come up and we can talk about it more deeply. So, we are talking about sorry to bother you, written and directed by you are second writer director to come on and talk about their film. We had Patricia Resnick talk about nine to five, so Oh, yeah, it was a really cool conversation. But it's fun. It's normally we're critiquing a film with a guest, but we're gonna be talking about your work. And the film stars with Keith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yun, Jermaine Fowler and Danny Glover. The budget was reportedly 3.2 million crews to Terry Crews I
mean, Armie Hammer. That's right. You forgot to wrap that in as well. Well, everybody
in that. Yeah. Everybody's amazing and hard hard with. Yeah.
Yeah. All right. Voices of David Cross and Patton Oswald. Yeah.
It'd be a whole lot. Definitely. They were the first to on board.
I was reading that. Yeah.
So the budget was reportedly 3.2 million it grossed over 18 million worldwide. Well,
I don't want to. I don't you don't know. I do want to correct you. And we actually spent 4 million on it. And with marketing, no, no, four. Yeah. 4 million and, and US domestic box office was 28. Oh, damn. Okay. Yeah. You know that, that that that tally is from earlier on? Yeah. Gotcha. All right. That is online. But you gotta
take this up with the people at Box Office Mojo. Yeah, they were actually correcting it here. So yeah, the official correction. Yeah,
maybe it was that the worldwide was 28 bucks. Okay, I'm saying but let's just say 38
You seem really hung up on how much your movie made for an anti capitalist. Because
I have to convince I have to convince investors to put money into my next movie. So absolutely. I don't want the wrong numbers going out there.
So sorry to bother you follows the down on his luck, cashes green, played by Luke Keith Stanfield, who out of economic desperation takes a job at a local telemarketing company regal view. After cashes is instructed to put on a white voice during his calls. He skyrockets to success at the company eventually becoming a power caller. At the same time his co workers be an organizing their workplace and forming a union as cash is rises through the ranks and learns more about the nefarious business of regal views corporate elite putting him between management and his comrades.
So a little bit of historical context for when this film was released, released domestically, I think on January 28 2018, is that correct? Boots?
Sounds No. Hey, January 20. No, that was a that was when it was at Sundance.
That's when I was at Sundance. Okay, cool. All right. But still the same. We're still the same time period 2018. So
came out in June 28 T. Gotcha in theaters.
So during this time, in case our listeners have forgotten Donald Trump, the President of the United States. In January Amazon opens its very first Amazon Go the first completely cashier less grocery store in Seattle, Washington. In February a mass shooting occurs at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, becoming the deadliest high school shooting in US history. In March, the Republican led Senate passed a bill to loosen bank regulations set up by the Dodd Frank Act in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. In May the Supreme Court upholds a law preventing employees from filing class action lawsuits against their employers over pay and hourly disputes. In September, the US Senate held confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which included testimony from Christine Blasi Ford who had accused him of sexual assault and in November's midterm elections. The Democrats win control of the House of Representatives including new comers Rasheeda Talib, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio Cortes fucking that feels like 50 years ago. That's crazy. You Yeah, so boats, the first thing we usually ask our guests is, why did you choose this movie for us to watch, but we get to do this again, we get to ask you, why did you make this movie? You
know, I just I sat down. And it was I just wrote the first scene, right? And I had an idea of what the movie? Why did I want to make a movie like this, that's pretty much what all of my work talks about, right? Which is, has to do with people figuring out where their power is, and has to do with people figuring out how to engage with the world in personal ways, but showing that the more that we engage in a larger way that you know, that, you know, it has an effect on our personal lives. So my my work has always been that right. And, and humor. I didn't even know I was using humor in my work till a friend of mine told me like three albums in Right. Like, like, Oh, you do that funny stuff. And I was like, what? Do you know?
What did you What did you What did you think you were doing before someone pointed that out to you?
You know, I knew that there were to me, like, that's what like, you know, lyricism was which was like, what they would call punch lines, which often was highlighting contradictions. And, you know, from my background, in you know, being in a radical organization, a lot of the people that taught me were folks They were just, they were good good at talking to people. They were, they were full of optimism about how things could happen, right? And so their way of being, you could say would be funny, right? And, you know, it'd be because they point out this contradiction and ramp it up. And that would be the funny thing that happens. And so, to me, a lot of the punch lines from, like, a lot of my favorite rappers were just that you say this thing, and you think they're gonna go here, but they skipped over large bodies of thought, and come to this other thing that just makes you be like, Oh, shit, that's tight. So, you know, I also have friends who do music, and they're all about anger, right? And it's all about, I won't say all about, but mostly about anger, that's the main thing, like, these things are going on. You should be enraged, you should be upset. And, you know, that's kind of a punk aesthetic, that kind of comes through, sometimes even to hip hop. And but what I knew from organizing, trying to get people involved in things was that that was a thing that made people go to sleep, like, I'm fuckin mad, I can't do anything about it. I'm so mad, I'm gonna, you know, I'm gonna like zone out, and I'm not coming to I'm not gonna come help support this thing. I'm not going to be part of this strike. And part of that had to do with what we were saying was the possible answer. How could we change it? And so I knew all of that had to be wrapped up in it. And so that added to the aesthetic of my my music, which was trying to be hopeful through talking about what can be done. And the way that power works, and optimistic in terms of seeing the absurdity of it was not just, you know, showing the absurdity of something shows you that it doesn't have to be that way. Right?
Well, there's so many things you said that I want to touch on. First, I think just hearing the simplicity of starting with looking to tell a story of a character who's finding their power, seeing how they can find their power and their relationship to power. Because in this rewatch, I was so connected to just how we are all caches screen, how we've all had the moments under capitalism, where we feel like an incompetent asshole doing a job. But we get to what I love about films and what I love about art, and that we get a chance to practice you know, by by watching caches, we get a chance to practice going through and making decisions about where we want to align our power, what power we have. So that was really moving. And I think this film does it remarkably well. One thing that came up when we were talking with Patricia about nine to five was how those characters felt. So even though she started writing it about with the idea of I want to write about labor, that in the writing of it, she wasn't thinking she shared that she wasn't thinking about politics, in the characters, you're just thinking about the politics as you shared, like, not thinking about the humor, just the humor is inherent in the music. And in the truth of it that I felt that also applied to this film, the humor, it was so funny, especially now in this rewatch, in a way that I wasn't laughing the same way in 2018, maybe, maybe it's just become so much more real that it also makes that juxtaposition more absurd. But also the politics of these characters to felt very much like there wasn't. We've seen films where you can feel they're trying to write politics and the politics are not inside of the characters just inherently in their nature. We're all political beings, like it's not something outside of us. So I love films that capture that that just by our rehearsal of being inside walking with them being getting the chance to be cash getting the chance to be Detroit, getting the chance to try and squeeze we are understanding that we're all inherently political human beings we don't have to try to be and therefore politics is for everyone.
Definitely. Something else you
mentioned boots is how like a story like this or at least in your storytelling in the way that you craft your your worlds and using absurdity and using the like the extremity of contradiction and using absurdity to point out those extremities I was also resonant to something that Patricia said because she was talking when she was originally developing nine to five with Jane Fonda that Jane Fonda was like I want to make a movie about like secretaries and their labor struggles but it's got to be a comedy because I think that'll be more palatable. And I think that'll help get the message across better. And I don't know if you think about it as like as that like linearly, like, you know, comedy is the best vehicle for the stories that I'm telling or it's just that this is this is your style, this is your tone. No,
no, I think it's, I think it's that, okay. If you were to analyze something, you'd be leaving big parts of an idea out to point out and to highlight certain big contradictions like, you know, whether you're talking about how capitalism works, or even just talking about how a motor works. You are you are talking about your, your choosing things that you think are important, juxtaposing them. And by doing that, you are heightening the contradiction, right, in order to, to show that you are showing that contradiction. And now in, in tragedy, it's usually, you know, also this heightened contradiction that, you know, you're focusing on this one thing in someone's life, and drama, you know, you know, that's there. But more so, in comedy, that's what you're also doing, as you know, what I was, as I was saying before, it's heightening the contradiction. And that's this absurdity. And to me, it just flows freely. Because, you know, if I'm going to show what's absurd about life, that to me, that's me showing, that's me analyzing what's there. And that's going to come out as, as comedy. And for me, it's also you know, it's a lot of work to edit the comedy out of life, it's a lot more work, it's a lot more unnatural. You know, when I see something that has no comedy, it doesn't feel like life. To me, it feels like someone is trying to paint this picture and not not that I don't enjoy it, enjoy things that aren't comedies. But to me, there's so much that comes in the natural way people talk in the ways people think that is just comedy and and I think it just depends how you were trained. Some people were trained to not to not think of that as cinematic. And obviously, we're always leaving something out. But I'm drawn to those things because they seem more human. That part that that's funnier. While I was writing, sorry to bother you, I I got to certain points where I was like, Okay, I'm telling people this story. But when I when I make music, for instance, I'm putting I'm doing it with certain music that makes people feel a certain thing. Right. And that has to do with the ideas. It's not just the words. It's not just the knowledge of what I'm talking about. It's it's this certain thing that's between the words that's between the ideas is this visceral feeling, which is why the music works. And so I started thinking about that with the film like, how do I do things that make people feel it viscerally. Right. And so some of those things are things like surprises, like the garage door opens, or, you know, something like that, and kind of keeps you on your toes or something's happening. And when I came to this, I, this understanding that I needed to follow what I do with music and put that into the the script was when I was writing the part for Danny Glover's character, Langston, when I was 24, after we put out our second album, uh, you know, I started, I got to what I thought was a midlife crisis, and was like, I've been a fucking artist for my whole adult life. What am I doing with myself, and I didn't really have a high esteem for artists at the time. And so I quit. And we started an organization called the Young comrades. But I was good at sales already. So I could work one day, every two weeks at a telemarketing place. It was actually tele fundraising. So I had those experiences from from that long story short, the organization collapsed. And by then I had gotten a new respect for art and what it could do, but so the the talk about the white voice was something that I had actually learned. And I was just going to have that in there and be part of it was that
something that's like someone had explicitly told you or you just kind of like picked up on
your you've, you figure it out? And contrary to like, what a lot of people commented that it's about code switching, when actually Code switching is often live in your face. And a lot of the ways it's talked about is like to make someone feel safe, that although you're black, you're not the black person they were afraid of, in this case, I was actually trying in the real life. and even in the film, I was actually trying to, I was trying to deceive the callers by making them think that I was white. Right. So that's a little different than code switching. But anyway, so yeah, it was something I picked up on. And, and everybody that was not white that did well also did that right. So I just want to put, I wanted to vocalize that. And as I was writing it, I was like, Well, this is me telling people about it. And you know, maybe even it could be funny if someone does like a nasally voice or does something like that. And you know that that's not just telling people about it. But I was like, how do I make people feel this part of the idea where it feels disembodied, and there's something that feels kind of wrong about it, and that you don't quite put your finger on. And matter of fact, yeah, people can write whole papers about why it's needed and what in what cases and all that, but there's something about the feeling, and I start, that's what made me start thinking about what I do with music, and I was like, Okay, I got to do this thing. And so then I wrote, overdub by white voice, and right then it made me think of the movie differently and go back and add certain things in. And that was also because at that time, too, I had been reading the conversations, which is a book of transcribed conversations between Michael and Dachi and Walter merge. And are you familiar with Walter merch, know what Walter merch was part of the group of folks that came up here to Northern California from LA with Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and he is the first person to call himself a sound designer. But he edited you know, he's the editor on Apocalypse Now and on Godfather,
the whole, like American zoetrope,
create all of that stuff, and, you know, wrote Thx 1138 all that. Right. And, you know, he, how do I put this in a nutshell, I can't, but it's, you can edit it. Okay. It, you know, he talks about how film, you know, was an invention. And, and that, obviously, and, and that, that, that, that even Edison didn't think was going to be that big. He thought that record sound recordings were going to be bigger, because, you know, it wasn't, at the time when it came, it was like a novelty, like, you know, because people had seen photos of themselves. And people had seen themselves in mirrors, and they'd seen it, but But what they hadn't heard was their own voice. So people were really taken aback by hearing their own voice. Yeah. But, you know, he talks about the culture needing to be right at the right time for a certain invention, I'm going to bring this about around to music, he you know, and who knows whether this is right or not, but it inspired me, he said, you know, the reason why films film was able to take off as an invention is because the narrative form was able to be used, it wasn't just the three act play thing, it was able to keep people on because it was able to cheat change scenes vastly, and change tones. You know, like, it wasn't just this, this, this one thing. And the reason why people were ready for that is because, you know, and again, this is his, what he puts forward is because classical music had already started having these had had these suites and different sections that had different emotions and, and kept people along for the ride because of that, right? And, and had organized it in that way, in a lot of ways. narrative films, took on that same thing. And so and so he talked about how musical notions really worked in film, and this is an I was like, okay, cool, so I'm just gonna use what I think about in music for that same thing I
gotta say, that's, like, what I'm hearing you say is that like, you, you you have a very, like, organic approach to your creativity. Like, you know, I'm sure you're doing like outlining and structuring, but like, it sounds like you write from a place of like, you know, I have this organic thought I have this feeling I have this image I have to have on it feel I have the sound in my mind and like this, like I don't know what the story is, but I know that this part is in it, which I find very interesting because on this rewatch, I was really like, I was really blown away by how well how well structured this movie is, and how many different ideas and threads it covers. In a very short amount of time. I mean, just like just to go from the top like cash as like this disaffected youth who like you know, Like a lot of youth in America doesn't know what he wants, doesn't know who he's supposed to be doesn't have any meaning in his life rising through the ranks of this, you know, of this, this evil corporation that we all know is evil from the jump, but like we learn more and more about it, and then watching him rise to the ranks. And then you know, it very easily could have been a story about you know, person gets job, a corporation finds out Corporation is evil, and then you know, and then leaves but then you also weave in the story of labor, organizing and unionization. And then it creates this secondary conflict between him and his co workers and his, his partner, Detroit. So it was really like I was, and then, you know, obviously, we get to the horse sticks at the end. But I was really impressed by how many different threads this all was brought together by and I'm curious, was there ever a version where like, there wasn't a unionization effort, it was just the story of cashing this telemarketing company? Or did you always know that, like, there had to be some labor organizing happening here? Well,
there was a, maybe in my mind, before I started writing a much simpler version of the story. And in that simpler version of the story, it was going to be that that the rapping scene happened, and that's when he realized what he had done wrong, and he had not been part of the strike. And it was gonna be cuz I'm, I was thinking budget when I thought of the story, right? So I was like, okay, it goes from that, to that he has to ride his bike across the city, to be at the, at the strike line by a certain time, and he does it and then that's the thing. And that was in my head, like when I had like, you know, the, the bullet points of the story. But, you know, you just kind of paint yourself into a corner, and then figure out how to get out of there, and then just turn so but by the time I got to the party, I heightened the world so much, that I was like, okay, that wrap part is not going to be enough. Like, he's already selling slaves. Why is that going to, you know, I'm saying, like, so I was there with a problem. I was like, fuck this, you know, like, I could have still done it. And it would have worked technically, right. Like, a lot of people would have been like, Oh, it did this. But, you know, I was like, oh, okay, I've made this made the world as heightened as it is. Because, you know, when I'm writing that first scene there, which is exactly how I sat and wrote it, and what made me inspired to write the rest. It wasn't this absurd world. It wasn't this, it wasn't, but But I started thinking about how stories often just have this one thru line, and they kind of don't feel true as true. Because, you know, what people are expecting, what people are accepting about the rest of the world, that those people are in, is very much whatever the rest of the world has been told to them from movies from other movies, right. But definitely, there were, you know, simpler versions of it, but it just didn't, you know, and I think that that's where, from, from writing lyrics, like, there's verses where people are like, Oh, I got this, I got this great starting line, and I got this great ending line, and I say, this thing in the middle, and we're good, right? And there's 1000s of songs like that, and may be me not wanting to do songs like that is what made my musical output not so good. I'm not saying it's a great way to do it, you know, like, there are some people that go in, and they they make, you know, 10 albums per year, and out of those, they have maybe just as many good songs as I would have had, you know, but that's just not the way I work. So I'm always like, Fuck, I gotta fix that line. I gotta, you know, I want that whole verse, to be feeling like something.
I love that I think that's really inspiring, for I write as well, and I'm thinking about something I'm working on right now. And I think that's inspiring to think that it's okay to get yourself into trouble, because some of the joy is figuring out how to get out of that trouble. And that you can layer your work. I mean, I can start to complex and then I have to layer down but when you you know, you can start with one layer. And I think it's really relatable to have that feeling when you're like I couldn't hear it would be fine. But I just figured something else out and I have to keep Oh, great another year of like working on this piece, but I think I think it makes you can feel that level of layers in this work. I'm really curious because this was 2018 It is 2023 Personally, that feels like as Frank mentioned 100 years ago, like I feel like 2018 Given how much we have gone through weird that this is literally pre pandemic or post pandemic. What
let's make it even further is that I finished writing the first draft in 2010. Wow, damn. I said, I said 2012 a lot when we first put it out, because I didn't want people to feel like it was too old. But
yeah, exclusive. Yeah. And so yeah, when I wrote it when I wrote it, like, obviously Obama was in office. But the world is still the same, actually, in, in, in the broad strokes that we're talking about, you know, somebody posted online the other day, this New York Times story about how people are living in their cars. And they were like, oh, sorry, to this, like, sorry to bother you. Like he boots Riley predicted the future? And I'm like, No, that's what was happening at that time. And for decades before, you know,
yeah, I wonder because it, at least in my experience, were you watching it? It was, it's not that it doesn't feel like those things weren't happening. It feels like the Absurdism is not is less absurd. Now. I think the way you know, the conceits that are used in the TV shows that this world I was just watching like this feels just like the world. It doesn't even I wouldn't even describe this necessarily as surreal. Capitalism, it feels like real to me.
Yeah. And here's the thing is that what I did realize is that, and somebody can correct me if I'm wrong, but I've looked before and look since, like, unless there was a movie about homelessness, they didn't have any homeless people in it. Sure, right. So when he drives to work, that first time that homeless camp he goes by, was like, Right, Up the road from my house, that was not, that was not production design, or anything that was just us driving by the woods street complex. And that has changed that particular one. Everybody got ran out of there, like earlier this year, and not because there were places for them to live. But just because developers got together and have gotten a fake neighborhood organization called neighbors together. I mean, it's fucking crazy. They that the, the owner of the bay alarm company, you know, this could be in my movie, the owner of the bay alarm company, who's also a giant real estate developer has founded and funded an organization called neighbors together that are, you know, talking about the crime rate, and campaigned to get rid of the eviction moratorium and to get rid of the homeless encampments. And they've got a black spokesman who you know is takes all the pictures right? And
they've got a quaint little name like neighbors together we talked about this all the time about how like all the worst lobbying groups always have names that's like love and peace forever group and it's really like an oil lobby or some shit. i That's such a good point about like, the world building you do in the film right from the jump is so important and it like it's, it's not commented on but you're right, like there's not a lot of, there's not a lot of poverty that gets portrayed in film as backdrop to the world which is which is the world that we live in. It's like it's all around us, especially if you live in a city it is like it is baked into the context of how we live every single day, but it is so rarely portrayed honestly, it made me watching that opening scene of cash driving through his neighborhood made like reminisced Children of Men just in the way that like Koran just like has all of this just violence and poverty that is just that is just window dressing. It's just setting and it's like it's not commented on it's not it's not part of the story. It is just it creates the tone it creates the world
and it's funny because I think that's what made people call it dystopian is me actually showing Oakland
Wow, this is so I forgive me I'm like it's landing on me how this is I think we just need to like hold here for a moment. This is such an important point. It's so fucked up. Because we this is the whole point of the show right? We are taught subconsciously continually through our media how to see the world and you can go through New York right now and like as a born and bred New Yorker, you know and anywhere you are you know when you have to just navigate to get to you could put on that tunnel vision that you see cashes trial on in the film that you have to you know, but that the fact that these films are raised the world as we know it, but continually tell us this is a real this is realism. This is the real world is brainwashing the fuck out of us. Wow. And
on this on this same on the like the counter Part of this in sorry to bother you, I gotta say I think like my favorite I don't know if I'd call my favorite but the thing that I was so blown away by in this rewatch was just the concept of the worry free Corporation and worry free workers. So for anyone who hasn't re watch this movie seen this movie, this is going to be the thing that people point to and like 10 years in they're like, oh, shit boots, Riley called it, when would these this shit start to exist where basically, it's legalized slavery, people sign away their lives to worry free, and in turn, they are giving the means of subsistence the most basic means of subsistence to contract their entire lifetime to work. Well, it's
also not also not even new in the United States. I mean, it's very prevalent throughout, you know, a large part of the 20th century even right, surely company towns, yeah, company towns, and it had been being talked about. And but but yes, again, that's the heightening of contradictions, showing it in places where it normally wouldn't be and having people not be appalled by it in the movie, which is normally what happens after people have gotten used to it. So it shows that it's been there for a while.
It's an incredible plot device, it's an incredible invention. I think like succession just did something similar in their final season, that a whole concept called Living plus. So I think this is like, I think you really hit on something. And I hate to say it, but I would not be surprised if we saw something like this in the real world. In the coming decades, people just like so beaten down by the economic system that they're willing to guess like sign over their life to an Amazon or to, you know, some other giant corporation, just just so that to not have to fucking worry about having to pay your bills.
You know, I definitely have been in places where I've in places in my life where I've thought about that, you know, you kind of wish that you didn't have to worry about those things. And so here's the thing. I do wish that we had a world where we didn't have to worry about those things. But the question is, where do the where does the wealth from that labor go?
Right? So yeah, and who democratically controls it?
Yeah, exactly. And so, yeah, and so that's a lot of what we get sold are things that there's no reason why people Yeah, of course, people like, oh, housing. Yeah, I want that, you know, the question ends up being is, who ends up controlling all that stuff, and therefore has power in the world. You know,
one thing I definitely just want to hit on is I, I loved caper land, in this pottery kiln. I love that just also within, within the office space. We also we've covered office space on this podcast, too. So there's just so many that brought me into that space, but you, you capture this thing about work today and worker environment of you don't need health care, you don't need money, you're getting good vibes, like the whole, we were, like, come around and give you a drink. thing. Like that's, that's this new economy. I just think that scene captured it so well with the, you
know, it's it's funny, because I knew some folks that actually were trying to organize Google that's not not I mean, since the movie, right? And they failed. And, and one of the reasons that it didn't happen is because one of the managers was like, Hey, I'm your friend. Should I be able to come to these meetings too? And people like, yeah, Phil's our friend. Right? This is a different thing. He should be able to come to these meetings. And that's not the person's name. I don't know. But Phil like was like, Hey, this is you know, we don't need this we don't need this union. You know, you know me that that like literally taking Friday, you know, and and, yeah, of course a couple years later, everybody's like, what What the fuck did we do? Why? Why did we let Phil into the meeting?
I was just gonna say it hits two there were those really like what so I think there are some things that are not subtle, appropriately. So in this film, messaging wise, which I also appreciate, but the subtle moments of like that scene when cash is just goes into the VIP section. It's awful. Yeah. Comes out and lies about and that was a I love that.
I love that's what that's one of the parts that I look at him like Oh, because I know so when I wrote it, I put 10 by 10 room. And I didn't think about like I didn't you know 10 by 10 sounds small. But you know, and but we're going so fast and production designer Jason because Vardy is amazing. And just firing off so many things and we're going like, cuz that scene almost got cut a bunch of times you can imagine, like how many things we have in the movie that producers are like, Why the fuck do you need this we need to save money, we need something to cut, cut that scene cut the bottle opening cut the you know, all these sorts of things. And so that was one that was always on the chopping block. And then we had like a two hour period to do it. And it had to be done while we went over here and came back. And I come in, I'm like, damn, 10 feet. 10 by 10 is big, you know, like it was supposed to be
supposed to print really crap.
And so we had to shoot it in these weird ways to kind of get across that it still worked.
I'm so happy that didn't
get cut. In my mind how it would have been without
that scene I think I wouldn't have bought cash is his journey. Like, to me that was the most complex scene. That's like,
you see that? Yeah, you see what, what, what allegiance is important?
Yeah. And that we all have I think that's the the psychology of we all trick ourselves in little ways into the live capitalism of you know, this is enough. Yeah, I like this. This is fun.
And his whole arc is so it's it. It lands so perfectly, because he gets like we said pitted between the organizers and the management. He's seeing the success for the first time in his life. That's something that we all any human on Earth has, like felt that feeling of like, what the fuck am I doing? Why doesn't anything I do matter. And for him to get the taste of it for the first time operating within this incredibly destructive industry. It's just it's so smart. And then and then at the end when I like, there's whenever I was like, I was like, Oh, you turn them into a horse at the end? Because like, he did scab for a while. Yeah, he you know, he did kick off. Nobody, nobody,
nobody gets out of this life alive. Right? You know, we are just what we're what we go through. And so you organize from where you're at. And you don't try to you can't try to be pure about that.
All right, boots. Well, this is this has been so much fun. This is a party episode where we give awards to this movie. So you're gonna get all these awards as the writer director, our first award is called Best politics goes to the character with the best politics in the movie, I would say probably squeeze Stephen Ian's character. I mean, he's like the lead organizer. He's the one radicalizing his co workers. He does try to like hit on Detroit. Behind cashes back but cash is scabbing at that point, but yeah, I think maybe squeezed best politics.
I know that it's cheating, our awards that we gave, but I'm going to cheat. I mean, I was I think it's so I love that in this it's very clear that the good guy the best politics is the Union as a whole. If I had to pick an individual, it might just be because I love troit the most I think I would give it Detroit because there's just a clarity and, and a humanity and like that artists soul and still choose on the ground. As a left, I like experimenting, exploring. There's like a fluidity to choice politics that I love. So I'm going to give it to Detroit. Boots you get to give you get to award yo
you get to pick to okay, this isn't just you listening to us talk
to be clear. Squeezed, is flirting with her before he starts Oh, that's true, you know, but that doesn't I just want to be clear about that. Because I want to make people I want to look for chances to make people messy. Right. And also, all of these characters are me. So except maybe Steve left? I don't know. But But yeah, that's the only way, you know, for me to, to be able is like there are parts of me that argue with each other right? Artists, the the artists, the, the, the organizer, the person trying to figure out, you know, if, if anything that I'm doing even matters, you know, and so, you know, that that allows for some some natural tension. You know, someone you know, it's interesting because with Tessa, we had to have these conversations. And obviously, she's, she's playing it as if her idea of doing what she's doing with art is the best answer. Right. And, and it's easy for an actor to get to that point, right. But, but for me, when I'm arguing with myself, I don't I didn't have it be with that. Her arguing that what she's doing what she says at one point what she's doing with her art is the same as what squeezes doing. And I don't agree with her. I don't agree with that. And maybe ironically, since I've made sorry to bother you, I agree with her more. Right? But before that, you know, like, in the sense that people have told me, Hey, we were trying to org during the strike way we were trying to organize this thing. And we play and we weren't sure which way people were going to go. We hadn't watched sorry to bother you. And everybody voted to strike, you know, things like that. Like, I had dozens of things that happened like that, since then, and so maybe I would agree with her more. And in that sense, because I figured out how to, you know, directly make something that's useful for for organizers. So I don't know, I think you would go between squeezed in Detroit, right. But but not with the the art that she was making, you know, or not with what she was trying to do with that. And, and that came out at what I had her doing came out of me hanging around the performance art scene in San Francisco for a while. And you know, what I had happened, there was actually something that has happened in various performances. Okay,
I will count it as no, no, that's good. I will count that as an abstention. Okay. Our next award is worst politics goes to the character with the worst politics in the movie.
I mean, Steve left,
right. Gotta be Steve lift at least. Yeah. And I don't think there's anyone anything worse than the CEO turning humans into horse people for
that? Yeah. I mean, and then you could also say, at various times, caches, you know, makes decisions that are just as bad but you know, it's at different points in the movie. So
we try to approach this from like a societal perspective, like Steve Lyft has done the
most dough. Yes, for sure. Okay. Yes.
All right. And then our last award is, that'd be interesting to hear from you. Best Supporting characters slash spin off goes to the supporting character that you would actually want to watch a movie about.
I mean, I wanted to know more about squeeze. I'd like a squeeze origin story. I thought Squeeze was a fascinating character. I love Steven noon. So yeah, I think squeeze or in this is really small. Another moment I loved was the moment at the gas station. Where cashes comes doesn't have the pennies and the woman at the gas station. I want the woman at the gas station story. Oh,
whoa, yeah. I would go with a sequel to what happens with the Aqua sapiens. We've got a new species on planet Earth. They are trying to like fight for personhood, or like, you know, whatever. They're trying to secure their rights. There's something they're also like, incredibly powerful. So like, is there some sort of like Aqua sapien insurrection? Like are the Aqua Sapiens leading the revolution? i There's so much that we could do with them there.
So it's interesting, because Annapurna, you know, like, a permanent macro, we're kind of like, what's up, there's all these ways we can keep doing this, and especially with streamers now, so they were like, Let's, let's do a TV show. I was like, I'm doing other stuff. So I don't know, when I have, would have time there was like, what if it was animated? You know, because also I was like, well, whatever it was, it would be something with the aquasafe. And the thing about doing that, because Sapiens, we really only had one of them, right? And we had to change the tattoos and change the head and change the hair patches. Right. So, you know, that's, that's what took a long time with that. So I was like, wow, you know, we'd have to make a bunch of those probably to really get things done. So it was like, Okay, let's do it, animate it, but I was like, I really wouldn't have time to write it. And, you know, I, I let them pitch me different people, you know, that would do it. And it was like, very few people have the same passions. I do the same analysis of the world and the same passions, that would be allowed to show run a show. I would say that and maybe that will change soon, hopefully. Also, it's kind of hard. Like, do you let this just become some sort of like, hey, we can do a show. Like the reason why my stuff I think that is good is because not just because of the politic or the idea but because I really want it to happen. Right as opposed to I'm glad I got this gig.
Well, that's refreshing to hear. It's like you have a real, real clarity in what you want your art to look like and to sound like and to feel like and an unwillingness to compromise, which I think like so much so much art gets watered down, I would
love to take that compliment that I have. But there's there's compromises happening. Sure, sure, all all the time, but it's just, I already have so much that by the time I'm compromising down to here, it seems like I haven't compromised at all.
This has been such a delightful conversation. Before we wrap up, we like to ask our guests how they as artists, as people, in their daily lives, strive to practice your values, those can be labor values, anti capitalist values, you
prepared me for that question? And, you know, I think I'm at an impasse, because I tried to make all my work about those values, right. And so, and that work ends up taking a lot of time, so and I try to try to use the platform that I have to help out campaigns that are that, you know, I think are worth while, but I also try to, you know, I'm trying to make work that organizers can use. And so that's the only way I can really claim, you know, so yeah,
I Well, it's incredibly important and to like to resonate what you know, people have reached out to you over the years telling you about how your film has inspired them. I know I have a bunch of comrades who all point to sorry to bother you. And they're like, Damn, that's like one of the most important movies that came out in the last few decades. So I think you're I think you're fucking doing a man. So thank you. Thank you so much for your work. You
want to tell everybody I think a lot of people that have seen sorry to bother you have not seen. I'm a Virgo. And so I want people to to see it. So check it out if you haven't seen it. Awesome.
But it's thank you so much for your time. I
appreciate it so much. Thank you. Thank you all so much for listening. Make sure to follow us on Instagram and tick tock and if you want to support the show and get access to our premium episodes, you can go to M VC pod.com to find all of that info. for next week's
movie we will be watching Amy Heckerling masterpiece The teen comedy satire, clueless