Monday, August 23, 2010

Studio Notes on INCEPTION

I submitted this originally to the New Yorker but they never responded so what the hell? I'll run it here. No spoiler alert necessary because there's nothing in here that's not already in the trailer. And hopefully by now, most of you will have seen the movie anyway.
Memo to Christopher Nolan:

From: Wendee Geldorfman-O’Day
Studio creative junior executive

Re: Rough cut of INCEPTION

Dear Christopher,

First let me say you have made an amazing film, maybe the most amazing film this studio has produced since SEX AND THE CITY 2. We’re all very proud of it and glad we could be there to help guide you in its development.

Having seen the rough cut I have a few thoughts and questions I’d like to share with you.

There was no music and the color didn’t match. That’s because it’s a rough cut, right? If not, you may have overlooked these elements.

Good news: Our research has shown that people in your target audience do in fact dream. So heave a big sigh of relief.

Less good news (but not bad news): I must admit I found some of your film confusing. And it wasn’t just me. My intern, Chloe-Caitlin was also befuddled in parts. And Chloe-Caitlin just finished tops in her class at the Texas A & M film school so you know she’s sharp as a whip. In maybe a sentence or two, could you tell me just what is going on? Sometimes a filmmaker can get too close to his masterpiece and virgin eyes can be most helpful. The one thing that is virgin about Chloe-Caitlin is her eyes.

What threw us the most was this dream within a dream device. We believe you would have a much stronger movie if you didn’t cut from one to the other. In other words, do all of dream one first, then dream two second, and dream three third. This would help us track the story and honestly, there were times I’d be watching something, it would get real exciting, and then whoosh! You take me somewhere else. And now I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happened. Is this really the reaction you want?

When you think about it, the running time is a wee bit long. Do you really need all three dreams? I mean, we get it after two. Just think about it. That’s all I ask. And maybe prepare an alternate cut just for fun.

Point of clarification: In the sequence where they’re flying weightless in the hotel hallway – that’s one of the dreams, right?

I worry that some of the dreams don’t look realistic enough. For example: Leo DiCaprio is in my dreams a lot. But he’s always naked. Any chance we could reshoot a few scenes to incorporate that? Chloe-Caitlin agrees.

Now if you want to go more surrealistic, I think you could lift that whole winter action sequence dream (sorry, but it’s very FOR YOUR EYES ONLY) and replace it with something more groundbreaking. Are you familiar with the Aha video? A girl goes into a comic book. I’m sure our animation department can spare a few weeks. It’s not like they’re making Bugs Bunny cartoons anymore. And I would even use that Aha song.

Marketing idea: That portable machine that allows people to enter other peoples’ dreams -- could we have a few of those at some of the major cineplexes? I think it would be fun for the moviegoers to experience just what it’s like to enter their friends’ dreams.

Question: Was that the girl from JUNO? She looks familiar. Chloe-Caitlin can’t place her.

When Juno, or whoever she is (she’s not the daughter from MODERN FAMILY is she?) agrees to be on Leo’s team it is never specified how much he is going to pay her. I think we need to know this to enjoy her role in the film.

And finally, the title. I worry that INCEPTION is too ambiguous. Chloe-Caitlin had to look up the word. And again, this is a girl who got into Texas A & M. When you think of “inception” – unless you’re a Roads Scholar – you think of what? Birth control. I fear we’ll lose the Catholics. And the south.

So what about this instead? WHO’S THAT IN MY HEAD? There’s something very elegant about WHO’S THAT IN MY HEAD? And it tells you exactly what the movie is about. It’s like HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS. Had they gone by its original title -- MINIMIZATION, I don’t think it would have been the home run that it was. At best it would have been an infield single or even fielder’s choice depending on the official scorer.

I’m taking the liberty of having our art department draw up some one sheets of WHO’S THAT IN MY HEAD? I know it’s a radical change but don’t say no until you’ve seen the T-shirts.

Bad news: I have no more suggestions. Ha ha ha. Again, all of us here, not just interns, are very excited about your film. The word genius is overused so I won’t use it. But I look forward to the revised cut incorporating all these minor changes and believe from the depths of my bones that you don’t only have a remarkable film on your hands, you have a franchise! Summer 2011 – WHO ELSE IS IN MY HEAD? Christmas 2012 – NOW WHO’S IN MY HEAD? And summer 2014 – FRED, IS THAT YOU IN MY HEAD? Are there three sequels? Well, one can dream.

-- Wendee


prestidigitator said...

awesome! :)

Rebecca said...

I second the Leo naked idea.

Brian said...

It's actually a shame this satire is so spot-on (a compliment to Ken, a dig to Hollywood).

When I came out of "INCEPTION", I had too major thoughts:

1. "That was one of the most complex screenplays I've ever seen at the movies - fantastic!"

2. "There is probably, and literally, only one person in the world - Christopher Nolan - who could have gotten that screenplay made..."

...and not because it was brilliant, but because he had already made Warners a batpile of money.

And I, too, like Ken, began imagining the "studio creative development" meetings that would have ensued if anyone else had tried to sell this exact same screenplay: "No audience will ever understand this - it must, of course, be simplified. And would just one CGI talking animal hurt? I mean, it is about dreams, right...?"

The shame in this, of course, is that most screenwriters have been thorougly trained not to even try for complexity/richness in their stories.

And the audience, apparently, has been trained not to demand it.

And we get what we get at the multiplex.

Ian Sokoliwski said...


The possibilities are endless. :D

Anonymous said...

GUESS WHO'S COMING INTO MY HEAD? - about interracial dream sharing.

Sandisan said...

I didn't post a comment on the "what do y'all like and dislike about this blog" so here's my chance: THIS. I like this. This kind of post makes my day.

And yes. Naked Leo would be just sooperfantastico. And um, if JGL wanted to drop trou as well, I wouldn't be disappointed.

Ian said...

As Brian said, your satire is spot on, which is why it's both funny and lamentable. There are far too many Wendees and Chloe-Caitlins making decisions these days. They're not always as dim as Wendee (the "roads" scholar) but most of them have the depth of Pringle. Imagine the reception this script would have gotten if it had come from an unknown (it would have gone straight to landfill). If you'd like to see what Christopher Nolan was up to when he WAS an unknown, check out the DVD of his first, no-budget film, "Following." It's a little rough around the edges, but pretty terrific nonetheless.

Mike said...

Wow, if this satire is as accurate as I'm afraid it is, can I just say...I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry. I can't imagine that people who put together entertainment that I enjoy have to put up with this shit. It breaks my heart.

What's worse is that I've seen some of those suggestions in the reviews that didn't like the movie. (These are, not surprisingly, from critics I tend not to respect.)

As far as the nudity, though, more than one person who I do respect said something like "Anybody who was married to Marion Cotillard and dreams about her in designer dresses and never, ever naked is a protagonist I can't quite identify with." And I give them that.

emily said...

The New Yorker passed? The Snobs!

They must have their own Wendee Geldorfman-O’Day reading submissions(possibly doubling as cartoon editor).

Brilliant as usual Ken.

Unknown said...

Chloe HAD to be from A&M? I would have gone with Utah, myself. Otherwise brilliant post.

Scott (Class of '99)

l.a.guy said...

In fairness to the New Yorker, I think this is way too funny to be published in their magazine.

A. Bucketlist Short said...

I’m waiting for D. McE’s PBS series, Honey I Strunk the Kids.

I agree with Emily, this is definitely New Yorker caliber Talk of the Town stuff. And I have a feeling I’d agree even more with Emily naked. So insightful, so wry,Ken, so Roads scholarly. Personally I think the New Yorker’s had it in for Hollywood ever since the legendary editor William Shawn was forced to admit that he couldn’t tell the difference between his son Wally and Linda Hunt. Sorry but it needed to be said. I know from whence I speak. My sister-in-law has had dozens of pieces published in the New Yorker. Unfortunately they were those little line drawing fillers you see at the end when a column is not quite as long as it needs to be for symmetry. But still….

And since I've now got Emily in my head, tomorrow we’ll be comparing and contrasting the virtually interchangeable Emily Proctor and Poppy Montgomery.

But now I’ve got to get back to Laura Dekker, that 14-year old Dutch girl who’s been circumnavigating in my head ever since this morning’s announcement that she hopes to be the youngest person to ever sail solo around the world. Now my head keeps asking me how long a Dutch kid like that can go without sex? And don’t tell me you’re not thinking about it now too. I tried to get my head out of the toilet, by on the kid’s 38 foot boat her head is the toilet.

Unknown said...

Did you hear that Emily? Once A. Buck Short gets rid of his undies he'll be sooooo agreeing with you...

Christina Writes said...

Three Men And A Baby...In My Head!

Ken Watanabe and Leonardo dCaprio have moved in together, along with Ellen Page's character (who will obviously have to be recast; I'm thinking Clooney). A baby is dropped off at their apartment. They can't find a sitter for the next the baby comes too! Put it all togther and you've got a sexy Stand and Deliver!

bevo said...

Made my day with this parody.

It also added some perspective because I thought my bosses were real shitheads (actually Dr. Shitheads because they all have PhDs in Higher Education Administration, the pretend degree).

Nothing compares to Wendee and Chloe-Caitlin.

Mike said...

That was hilarious. Thanks, Ken.

Anonymous said...

This was funny, but.....

I subscribe to your twitter feeds to help your numbers, I read your blog, do you have to knock my alma mater? Texas A&M might actually have a film school, somewhere, probably in the steam tunnels under the campus, and if it does, you know that it would beat the hell outta the one from that other small school in Austin...

Anonymous said...

Three things about Inception that should be noted...

1) Leonardo has finally escaped looking the same age he was in 'Growing Pains'.

2) How long after 'Third Rock From The Sun' did Joseph Gordon-Levitt's voice finally break?

3) Tom Hardy.

4) I'm straight.

Johnny said...

This kind of post is exactly why I read your blog. Thanks, Ken!

Christina Eliason said...

omg, painful and awesome.

mrswing said...

I'm looking forward to the XXX-parody Guess Who's Cummin' In My Head, starring Sasha Grey.

Mac said...

Love it. Chloe-Caitlin lives.
I got notes back on a draft recently and one of them was, "(Censored), who works in our office, read the script and thought it needed to be funnier. She's done a lot of work with a local comedy improv group, so she knows what she's talking about."
You think you're going nuts until you read posts like this - and then, with a sigh of blessed relief, you're reminded that it's just business-as-usual.

KPB said...

Leo naked? *shudder*

Michael in Vancouver said...

That was New Yorker-worthy. But more people will read it here. A great read, will be forwarding the link!

Unknown said...