The Talk Show

21: Looper, with Rian Johnson and Adam Lisagor


  my favorite sentence i saw written about

  it was Anthony lanes review in The New

  Yorker and just what does the sentence

  that got me it just said what happens if

  you hit you in the face and take off

  would be pissed if it doesn't then gave

  it and yeah I can't really landed

  punches really tried so i guess i'd be

  ok i am here and what we call it

  sandwich studios sure what ya never

  grabbed never come up with a name for it

  well I'm diagonally studios that looks

  to the ring to it here in beautiful Los

  Angeles California it is a twenty-fourth

  of october and I've got two very special

  guests with me i have ryan Johnson

  writer and director of looper smash-hit

  time-travel sci-fi movie and friend of

  the show a longtime friend of the show

  Adamle score i will i should point out i

  think also upfront is that I've warned

  all of you on previous episodes that you

  were too obscene looper by now

  the show will be very spoiler riffic you

  should keep it up on your ipod to listen

  to later if if you haven't seen the

  movie and shame on you for not having

  seen that are who has an ipod anymore

  well iphone i don't know i have an ipod

  do you really yeah because I like to

  have my whole music collection the

  classic is the only one that's got that

  much capacity so boom

  ok I didn't alright I will do what you

  gotta say you can say that again saying

  I have nothing to say except iCloud well

  but that's really we don't need nobody

  don't my client has a 25,000 song

  limited for someone with the music

  collection as studly as mine that

  actually presents a problem you do love

  music and this is something i wanted to

  actually ask about as well in relation

  to the so it's been a it's been how long

  now since the movie came out spend like

  3-4 weeks now and you've done you you've

  done quite a number of interviews and

  press for it and you and I've tried to

  absorb all of it i mean we

  its weak just because I wanted to not

  talk about stuff that you've talked

  about as impossible there that's the

  thing there's only so many things you

  can ask about

  the movie you know it's true but button

  there are a million facets of the

  process of making the movie i think i'm

  alright do you like talking about hello

  i would I gather you do because I

  listened to your commentary and and I

  can get a sense for what you like

  talking about because you didn't have

  anybody prompting you just had your

  movie to respond to feel so naked before

  you but I'm excited about this to be

  fair we are naked right and you think

  that is one of the event requisite in

  which students that's kind of where it

  gets its name music it's like I know

  what that means but yeah yeah um well

  that's a good place to start that was

  one of the things that you've done and I

  I i don't know if it is unprecedented I

  don't know if you've stolen the idea

  from somebody else but you have issued a

  what would you call it a commentary

  track you know standalone and the

  intention is the movie is obviously it's

  still in theaters it's not out it's not

  for the DVD it's not for the blu-ray

  intentions you loaded up on your ipod

  Adam get in the theater for the second

  time you watch the movie you sit there

  with your headphones on and you've got

  writer-director ryan Johnson talking to

  you throughout the movie like you're

  watching a DVD with the commentary it's

  pretty it's pretty so pretty great and I

  listened to it without without the movie

  like I thanks man

  does anyone know i mean like as i slide

  business this is a battle ok this is I

  have to explain myself I I i went back

  and saw the movie a second time

  okay um and I wanted to take notes

  during it so I didn't want to sources of

  information competing gadget and then I

  went home after I watched the movie and

  I put the commentary on by itself

  without the movie and a challenge it

  challenged me to do something I didn't

  expect that would be doing which is

  trying to recreate the movie in my head

  right through it right which with a

  visually strong movie like this is

  easier to do because it's not

  wall-to-wall dialogue and long takes and

  everything it's a lot of really

  well-composed stuff which is what angry

  which is what you do know

  so what I want to get back to the

  commentary stuff as well but i wanted to

  first I want to start out by

  congratulating you on something I i

  thought was even more impressive by then

  the in theater commentary which is that

  on opening night of the movie

  yeah you did you did something that was

  a lie i found so impressive and it was

  that in la here we we have a we have a

  theater a movie theater that's the best

  theater in town is called the arclight

  scott stadium seating you can reserve

  your seat and everything and always go

  for a row j johnson yeah yeah and the

  ushers are they all wear these kind of

  embarrassing purple banded collar short

  sleeve button-down share what you know

  button button up shirts and I've always

  wanted to like find one of these shirts

  to be a halloween i now have one in my


  ok but i would love to borrow thank you

  for offering and so what you did is you

  you without you know giving up the gag

  you posed oh and these officers

  introduce the movie every single

  screening of a movie they got in front

  of the audience to say thank you for

  coming to the arclight you're going to

  be watching such-and-such movie please

  silence your cell phones & Ryan did this

  in front of an expecting audience and

  one of your friends videotape yeah video

  and it was amazing it was a pretty

  impressive and I don't know how many

  people knew that it was you then and

  there now that's one of the nice things

  nobody knows what directors look like so

  right here there are a couple people

  snickering bed yeah well it was such a

  lie i feel like it was just it's a

  perfect emblem of yours that the spirit

  of the love of movies that you have and

  what you put you put into

  that experience now you've gone through

  three times with releasing a feature

  film is it's always so kind of giving

  that you want to put everything you have

  into the audience's enjoyment of movie

  that's that that's what that's what

  struck me about that my kissing your ass

  that's a very kind way of putting that

  and I appreciate that it was a fun thing

  for me to do that so that's a very kind

  of flattering way of putting it

  another thing that the ushers do as they

  were in tag ya around their neck with on

  a lanyard that says therefore the name

  of their favorite movie

  yeah you know I borrowed one from

  somebody i forget what his favorite

  movie was it was not my favorite thing


  so maybe I Terminator 3 and maybe the

  rise of the machines you go

  yeah so that was fun

  um I learned a lot about stuff that I

  the the technical stuff behind the

  process of making the movie from your

  commentary just like things like the I

  mean you talked a bit about your choice

  in lens flare and and your lens choice

  and shooting a more anamorphic format

  and everything

  yeah here's a question why why do

  anamorphic lens flares work for you and

  what do you mean like why is that

  exactly what do you think it says about

  about the frame

  well if you get that purple blues yeah a

  little streak

  well I mean it's really distinct to

  anamorphic lenses it's it's something

  it's something that doesn't look like

  anything else and I like it when it

  feels organic and the frame usually when

  when there is a light source in the shot

  that you can see that it's actually

  coming from

  so when there's a there's a lot of the

  instances in the movie there's like a

  helicopter with the you know the light

  coming right in the camera or there's a

  scene between Joe and Paul Danos

  character where they're in the kitchen

  and the whole thing is designed to be

  lit by this refrigerator that's open and

  the bear refrigerator bulb in there and

  there's a really distinct Flair that's

  coming off of that in one shot it

  crosses processes eyes

  yeah we lined it up just right so that

  you could kind of so because the whole

  thing is he's

  always spilling his guts out and Jose

  kind of sitting and you're trying to

  read what how Joe's reacting to what

  she's gonna do and was going to do and

  the idea of like a mask across his eyes

  but I yeah yeah I know for me it i think

  it looks cool

  first and foremost I think it it also

  has a very comforting sort of reminds me

  of early Spielberg movies and you know

  close encounters an ET and there's

  something about it that just feels like

  a movie to me it's interesting that it's

  become something that people are are

  familiar with you know from I know JJ

  Abrams uses it quite a bit but a just a

  little just a little bit yeah

  is it i'm curious is it something that

  you you talking in the commentary as

  well about a couple of effects shots

  that you actually used fake lens flare

  and well sounds or artifacts well it

  would know what we did was for the

  helicopters which were cg helicopters

  and they I i had had a bad experience

  with CG helicopters on the brothers

  bloom we had a full daylight shot where

  helicopters had to go through and we had

  to create that we can't afford real

  helicopters we had to create cartoon

  helicopters and to me they always are

  how hard we worked on them they always

  look like cartoon helicopters so I've

  been very frustrated I knew there were a

  lot of flying vehicles and this one our

  advantage was they were all gonna be at

  night and I had remember it's i had seen

  the extras on the blade runner like

  boxset where they showed the development

  of the flying cars and they showed a

  pass of the the effects pass before they

  added in those really distinct of flares

  those lights are coming off the cars and

  they looked terrible it look like what

  it was an optical comp but then when

  they put those flaring lights on

  suddenly forgave all the ills and it

  looked awesome and so that's what we did

  with these and so those r cg but and

  then there were a couple instances where

  we had to we shot something that had

  lens flare but then we had to like pay

  down the wire or something across the

  lens there and then the

  effects guys have to repaint the lens

  flare but you're trying and I you I

  think the trick is you try and keep it


  I gotta work sucks i used to work in

  effects and I did invented backlit ones

  there's no it's not fun

  I'm so what what i was going maybe get

  at was well okay so you wouldn't had

  lens flares necessarily that weren't

  organic which is a good thing

  yeah um OH speed is another thing I

  noticed about what helps sell the like

  the cg vehicles or the like the blade

  runner type optically comped flying cars

  is that sound design that that you add

  that makes it all the sudden a real

  object rather which you can you used

  great automotive sound design quite

  literally in this movie

  yeah like even in the trailer early on i

  think there was a the first trailer i

  saw which is more of a teaser had some

  you know future car stuff that you just

  sounded unlike any any automotive sound

  design weekend we had a great sound

  designer Jeremy person who had worked

  actually we found him because we first

  talked to skip leave say who works with

  the Coen brothers and who that's kind of

  and he's kind of like a and I kind of

  worship that guy his the his work in the

  Cohens movies was kind of the first time

  I started really paying attention to how

  sound was used as a storytelling device

  integral to the film and so I we found

  Jeremy through skip and Jeremy had

  worked a lot with skip and and jeremy is

  a tremendous sound designer and he I

  think what he did was he took his cue

  from the visuals he took you know and

  from kind of the feel of the whole world

  we're creating which was a very grounded

  feel so you hear a lot of or you know a

  lot of mechanical kind of worrying and

  kind of you know stuff that sounds like

  it's coming from a real engine is as

  opposed to space-age but I think that's

  because the visual visually all the

  stuff in our movie looks like real

  engines and so he was just yeah those

  kilobyte to me has a sort of millennium

  falcon starting up its yeah well that's

  what I mean the first Star Wars was kind

  of you know that was that was a big

  touchstone in terms of I still think in

  terms of sci-fi movies that's when you

  know it's kind of that one of the most

  convincing world that's that's ever been

  created i think because everything feels

  so lived in and so mechanical and so I

  think they I'm either they either they

  reused it or I'm I've lived last 30

  years of my life and alive but at that

  my kid net that Millennium Falcon

  mechanical starting value was reused in

  Raiders for the airplane that jock trial

  that's funny jumps in the river if they

  didn't we use it then it's I always

  thought it was an in-joke because it

  sounds almost identical but it says how

  mechanical the Millennium Falcon was a

  spaceship that you could reuse the sound

  for a 1937 prop plane right well it's

  funny to I remember it at in film school

  at USC doing they showed like a

  breakdown of the of sound effects in the

  sequence where he was escaping from with

  the idol in the very beginning right

  that's the one where they reuse that

  Falcon sign when he starts the plane

  yeah when they and they talked about how

  when that the boulder was rolling down

  they close Mike the wheels of their VW

  van on the gravel driveway and just got

  the mic right up close to it and that

  create that were kind of rolling stone

  against own type type field or when Indy

  is holding onto the pit and the doors

  closing he starts to like it

  the divine kind of starts tearing loose

  you know that's that you can hear the

  bite of an apple in there to hear that

  camp as it's coming loose and so yeah

  yeah it'sit's um but the sounds I mean

  that you know besides just the sound

  effects for the the sound design is a

  really integral part of the story

  telling and um so many the musical and

  i'm just going to shift over to this

  stain get on chance to shift somebody uh

  you're going to see I'm going to

  cleverly tie it back into the sound

  design and wait so many of there are so

  many mechanical elements in the music in

  the in the score that your composure

  need your cousin correct Nathan uses in

  the score does doesn't go the other way

  at all did

  are there any musical elements that are

  used in the sound design um not really

  because they're kind of working and more

  or less working separately and there's

  sun because of the way Nathan works we

  actually ended up getting oftentimes in

  the mix to the point where we would have

  to choose between one or the other

  because the music and the sound design

  work and doing the same thing and so so

  no there there there yet but you know

  their stuff in the sound design that's

  very musical like there's a kind of

  tonal beds that Jeremy will lay and that

  will just be like the ambient sound in a

  room but they'll have they'll be

  performing the same function as music

  we're locally grown we have they been

  laying down a drone that gives like a

  feeling of uneasiness or attention or

  you know but also there's like a lot of

  percussive missing your editing style

  and yeah it feels like over and over

  across the three movies you see these

  moments of impact that are just expertly

  achieved with cutting and sound

  I mean the bet the probably the best

  example in this movie is just the

  blender but the you know the blunderbuss

  going off the first time you see it it's

  so impactful and it's and it's paired

  with that just that frame of a cut when

  the figure appears and then yeah yeah

  are you

  do musical background oh no not really i

  died tool around on a couple instruments

  but i'm not really but my favorite

  editing is all you know the same way

  that was talking about sound design with

  the Cohens for me you know Scorsese is

  is where it begins and ends in terms of

  everything if you watch is ending its

  it's all musical it's not you know it's

  not continuity it's nights it's just

  purely purely jazz and based on rhythm

  and kind of you know it's got it's got

  its own kind of music to it so so that's

  I don't know that but the the places

  that I really kind of learned anything

  from watching that very integral to like

  you're heading with where a musical

  instrument you'd be good at

  oh yeah that's right now we also i

  should say we have a very talented very

  talented editor them that worked with

  Bob you say it was a rigid just you know

  we ended up getting along really really

  well just having a good working

  relationship with the first time work

  yeah first time working with him yeah

  Adam you said you were talking to you i

  love the adjective percussive for the

  sound design and one that really stuck

  out to me that really just got me so

  unnerved was Sarah chopping the wood

  mm and the sound of the acts hitting the

  wood block

  ah and percussive exactly was just over

  and over and over again and I was so

  when you listen carefully you can hear

  some apple crumb yeah but i would

  someone interrupted the diamond and

  they're racking and then there's this

  horrible horrible violent acts hitting

  the wood over and over again a it makes

  you wince and it's that something Jeremy

  Delta at first I thought as a too big

  but then I realize now that actually

  especially for dialogue scene like that

  that's kind of just backstory that she's

  telling it's a really nice kind of

  violent way of keeping you on your teeth

  on edge during it and she really busted

  herself up doing this she did actually

  she is it's hard this swing an ax and

  we'd after a bunch of takes of that her

  shoulder was was actually really messed

  up and

  and for the rest of the shoot she

  actually had a really hard time holding

  stuff like anytime she had to hold a gun

  with that arm

  remember we had like a our prop guy

  actually holding the end of the gun that

  was out of frame at one point because

  she couldn't support person for for long


  no oh let's see so i guess if we could

  go back to like the automotive stuff you

  you had constraints budgetary

  constraints that led you to you and he

  talked about this in your commentary a

  little bit but that led you to go with a

  certain era of cars for you know that

  we're just cars in the world in 2044 m24

  yeah um but you're able to justify it

  other than budgetary ways talk about


  yeah well you to you know anytime now I

  watch a science-fiction movie that it

  has not a huge budget and the first

  thing I look at is how did they do the


  I mean anything that's new that's in the

  future because that's the expensive

  thing that you can't get around it's

  like that's then that's the thing that

  is guaranteed to change no matter what

  your take on the future is the cars are

  going to be different now

  married 20 years from now than they are

  now and and there are you know it's

  always interesting look like if you look

  at with a get wizard that the one with

  the show with the even hot Gallic attica

  attica did the way the approach that

  they took with the retro but a very

  specific kind of retro card that you

  don't see very often it was like all the

  specifically like these European retro

  cars therefore into your eye and they

  like an art deco yeah yeah yeahs says so

  anyway so you have the the approach we

  took because we knew we are creating

  this grounded broken-down society was to

  say okay well it's like the yank tanks

  and Q about like people had to make

  their cars last for 20 30 years and so

  so yeah we took with that in that way

  we're able to take cars from now and

  then just age them way down

  and make them look like i've had new

  engines kind of put into them and and it

  seems like not even just now it was like

  it was maybe 10 and 15 years ago some of

  the animals yeah it feels like like the

  way you talk about gattaca referring to

  that arrow like the Art Deco era of to

  take its the production design cues

  yeah I kind of think that your movie

  kinda took a lot of cues from the

  nineteen nineties like for a lot of the

  the wardrobe choices and you know just

  like with the hairstyles even and I i

  like i like the idea as the character

  edge ft animals character Abe talks

  about when he's making fun of jo Jung

  Joos ty yeah his cravat and he calls it

  a graphic at it you never heard it never

  mind that i'm going to say it that way

  from the rabbit

  um is that that these things are

  cyclical right and so you kind of have

  to imagine that this world of 2044 2044

  yeah has already gone through the whole

  back to the seventies and eighties and

  nineties and exactly 40 50 60 all well

  there's also there's a man you know if

  he if you know if you were in whatever

  if you were in the sixties designing a

  film that was going to be said in the

  our future of 2012

  you know if you look at this right here

  in 2012 you know we were in 2012 and my

  watches from the fifties you know and

  and you most of the stuff that were

  wearing you could have seen on somebody

  20-30 years ago I think that it's a i

  don't know i died i wanted to the same

  way that good period stuff good period

  design doesn't draw just front like a

  movie set in 1963 a big mistake is to

  have everything in the person's bedroom

  beef circa nineteen sixty-three define

  stuff from the four days and from the

  three and stuff that would be handed

  down and thrift thrift shop stuff so

  taking that as you approach the future

  seem to make a lot of sense but one

  thing I thought to with the choice of

  the cars

  and aging them even to is it laid this

  backdrop of what the economics the

  economy of the u.s. in money 44 without

  anybody ever talking about it or

  mentioning it and it was this palpable

  sense of methods things have not gone

  well the next 30 years

  yeah the the miata is the hottest car

  yeah and and the only successful people

  seem to be gangsters red team's in the

  criminal world

  yeah there you go my dad drove my dad

  drove me out and making 90 and it was

  the most futuristic thing you ever see

  ya then

  well I like the idea of it being it's

  funny though I realized forget if I talk

  about this in the commentary and talk

  about macgruber

  yeah yeah and yeah pretty taxing joke

  yeah as macGruber where they like you

  think it's gonna be a hot sports car and

  they reveal to me odda and I saw that

  while we were editing for the first time

  where time but you didn't every mazda

  miata signage on the car now anyway gate

  I know it is yeah I don't know if we got

  clearance because we actually there was

  a futuristic car that Bruce drove in a

  sequence that got cut

  actually that was a this crazy concept

  mazda so i think we had were working

  with in 2044 into money 70 whatever yeah

  yeah yeah so my favorite future car of

  all time is probably in woody allen's


  oh yeah if you can tell it's it's

  plywood held together with strap as well

  be a Oscar Meyer Weiner yeah let me take

  one quick let me take a quick break and

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  okay can we go back to like just going

  through period you know cyclical period

  and culture and anachronism and you are

  a person who you've either like you

  you're sort of planted in in a lot of

  different periods in time 33 your

  story-telling there's tons of it and

  brothers bloom obviously in brick all of

  the style the storytelling and the

  dialogue and everything it all comes

  from a period of of story you know

  storytelling from what the would you say

  the forties

  i well it's been a man ham it so its


  okay 30 do you feel like you're a you

  ever feel like you and your watches from

  the fifties do you ever feel like year

  of a different time and place into you

  do you I'm not to say an old soul or

  something stupid like that but do you

  ever feel like you know I don't know I

  feel like I feel like I feel like this

  is the moment that we're in this is the

  time that we're living and I feel like

  one of the things that's exciting about

  right now is especially i don't know i

  did especially the fact that culture has

  become so how exactly phrase this I did

  you know it feels right now like the

  idea of like everything from the past is

  up on the surface seriously and

  instantly accessible and remixes ball

  and only the best from every period of

  every culture and absolutely absolutely

  it's more accessible than ever and so

  for me that's that's not that that's

  entirely of this moment you know the

  fact that we're drawing from all over

  the place

  you know Indian mixing styles and errors

  completely indiscriminately and now even

  the gig look at the furniture in this

  room you know look at that next to that

  next to that you look at that you know

  the the design it's kind of just taking

  whatever works and for me with

  filmmaking like I think it's the same

  thing really it's it's all about

  whatever is going to serve the story

  best it's all about what's going to get

  at the heart of what I'm trying to talk

  about the best and for each of these

  movies that there's a different reason

  that they have those kind of

  anachronistic things and them

  yeah but it's never because out of a

  sense of nostalgia for an area or a

  sense of what pining for an era it's

  always and because that specific thing

  makes me feel a certain way and so

  that's that communicates something

  that's very important to me right now in

  this moment I look at wes anderson's

  movies in in that light yeah with the

  way he just decided you know does

  production design and chooses artifacts

  as object yeah so carefully from all

  throughout time you know through all

  throughout the 20th century anyway I'm

  in a movie like tetrault I'm bombs you

  see ben stiller's character Chaz running

  his whole his whole investment operation

  with like you know 19 circa nineteen

  eighty-three Apple to ya next to you

  know late nineties cinema display right

  over this from a text standpoint of your

  technique or an apple nerd yeah you kind

  of geek out over that stuff but I i feel

  like i've heard him talk about that

  before and he said exactly what you have

  which is he just responds to the objects

  that make the most sense

  exactly about being necessarily you know

  specific to period

  yeah because he's creating a modern

  world like you you know where you are

  but it's a world where the people in

  that world have taste and there's an

  immediacy and that like Moonrise Kingdom

  which i think is you know masterpiece I

  think it's absolutely you know

  my very favorite movies of the year

  definitely but I you know he i don't

  know he so many of the stuff in the so

  many of the individual objects in there

  could be considered an acronym cystic

  the whole thing is built to and then

  with such as and Sarah day that it busts

  through that wall and takes it so far in

  that direction that suddenly everything

  and it is incredibly vital in stand it

  hits you with an immediacy they're all

  every object you see is an object that

  you had as a child yeah and evoke

  something that just that gets you right

  there in the moment where you're

  standing it doesn't smack of nostalgia

  at all it has a vital necessity to it

  that uh yeah that's extraordinary

  yeah those are you know I was gonna say

  the other I mean I don't know the other

  interesting thing with them i guess this

  is kind of a kind of a tangent but uh I

  don't know essentially i always did I

  think that there's talking about

  west/andersen specifically makes me

  think of the idea of i think that in a

  lot of cases people tend to think that

  director premeditate his style the way

  that you would choose an outfit to put

  on in the morning and because it's

  specifically directors have very

  distinct styles like Tim burden or west

  anderson it's very easy to look at their

  movies and think you know or i guess to

  a lesser degree with what you're saying

  with the period stuff with the films of

  that done

  it's easy to look at them and think you

  know why did you make that choice those

  um obviously made this set of choices in

  order to and and the truth is I don't

  know what that like I can only speak for

  myself I may be very surprised if you

  talk to Wes Anderson if he wasn't just

  that it's really the equivalent speaking

  in your voice you know it's not that

  it's very little that's premeditated it

  so it's almost like when you're talking

  to somebody your natural accent of your

  voice is not something you're

  consciously controlling you're just

  trying to communicate as clearly as

  possible what's on your mind and you're

  speaking in a way that's natural to you

  if it's insulting when somebody's

  just otherwise because it's almost like

  if you're speaking your natural voice

  and they say why are you doing that dumb

  voice right now we're ahead

  are you doing a dumb idiot impression

  else well and also that you can see

  though how its I know you you can see

  that it's and if i call it it's

  insulting someone's being insulting and

  calling you dumb but it's it's also

  something is very it's almost counter

  instinct Schewel to look at the film and

  and I talked about it and he quit you

  know it's hard to communicate the degree

  to which the some feeling of the film is

  the process of a time that thousand tiny

  little decisions to the point where

  there is something very and you weirdly

  you know the cumulative about it and

  where lay the the direct product of

  what's inside that they are solely

  mystic pros yeah completely as opposed

  to a determined one in that way

  yeah um so you're right we could go back

  to your the you feeling like you're a

  man of your tub this time in place is

  really exciting which I had this time

  and is overall at you what you said was

  you're a tiny little girl this time in

  place and this and it's exciting that we

  can't get to it we have access through

  to through whatever archival technology

  or whatever it is we have access to all

  the best of of of all times and cultures

  and everything if you were to explain

  extrapolate that project into the future

  you're going to be making movies and

  telling stories for 10 20 30 years

  bless you sir ok so do you ever think

  about what its gonna be like to you know

  what what it was gonna be like to make

  these kinds of movies or whatever

  stories were gonna be telling in in the

  future and you mean adding mean likely i

  mean like in the way that you feel like

  we've you like if you could call it like

  a singularity or something or unity

  right now and do you think but I like I

  I kind of like I look at that in a sort

  of a relative sense and think that maybe

  all 20 years ago they thought they had

  reached unit is some sort of a unit and

  sure they did ya

  absolutely so I think it's important

  though to always feel like it you know

  and I mean I i think that it's no I

  think it's incredibly important to to

  feel like the moment you're in is the

  most exciting moment hologram is in

  there i think that I'm i hope that in

  the future all you know will do i'll

  still feel that way I guess maybe I'm

  not understanding your question no

  youyou answer to what degree do you

  think the tools that he the that you use

  for that we use you know you and

  everybody all the thousands of people

  have helped you make your movies yeah to

  what do extent do you embrace those

  tools it and think that they influence

  how the final product comes oh yeah

  now there are probably mean it's really

  to the point where what you create is

  inseparable from the tools that you use

  to create at least as a film yeah at

  least from my perspective as a director

  but my experience of a film is very

  different than you know for me for me

  looper is is either different to take an

  example of the most recent movie for me

  you know when I look at looper it's so

  much of it it's not my experience of it

  has a very manageable so much to do with

  my memory of making it and the

  experience I had with the people around

  it and that means the camera that we use

  that means the type of equipment we use

  the rigs that we use the lights that we

  just that that all that is baked into

  that film for me but thats that you know

  not for the audience obviously so

  sometimes maybe sometimes even a on an

  unconscious level

  yeah maybe yeah I decided about that

  stuff about how the audience response to

  technological choices that they never

  ever going to be thinking about

  consciously you hope that they do ya

  there there's a you know

  yeah you'd idea i guess you hope that

  they do all you can do is and obviously

  that's your also choosing your tools

  based on what feels good for you in

  terms of how it's going to look at the

  end product for example from me I that's

  the reason that shoot on film is that I

  think it looks you know it looks like a

  movie to me it looks

  it looks good it looks it feels the way

  that I want you know my stuff to feel I

  guess all you can do is make that for

  yourself and hope that they're that

  connection on with Delhi some people in

  the audience same way and it gives

  something even for argument's sake of

  there was absolutely no visual

  difference between digital and film i'm

  not saying that's true but again for

  argument's sake the fact that you are

  shooting filming and you get a sense

  internally that there's real you know of

  film rolling through the camera and

  probably makes your experience of

  directing it different in the LA you

  know it would impact the the final

  outcome as well yeah yeah i would guess


  it also looks a lot better where I I

  don't think I'm ever in co will notice

  that the way what i did was i was in


  yeah that I have access to shoot on

  filter I mean maybe I don't know who

  have access to it it's not what do i do

  you say that because like a highway all

  of the part of the pros and cons of

  using resources go into the production

  yeah I don't prioritize that one hot

  very highly

  I don't know what I would choose

  something else the thing that's a

  personal choice and it's also where

  you're coming from now I mean you're

  coming up where you're shooting digital

  all the way up that

  yeah that that's true and not that were

  far separated and age or anything but i

  probably my experience my early

  formative experiences of cinema ar-ar-ar

  maybe a little bit different from from

  yours and that you like I'm or I'll

  always kind of personally jealous of

  people who can feel the quality of

  celluloid over because i can't really

  yeah you can't do and you see a film

  shot digitally really and I'm pretty I'm

  generally kind of astute about media

  stuff planned but that's something that

  I was pretty pretty blind too

  that's interesting huh maybe I don't

  know maybe maybe you could teach music

  now I got nothing that i now need to me

  it's night and day to me I see a movie

  shot digital and it can be very well

  shot and can you know it's it did but I

  you know I don't know it's very it's

  very rare very rare except for went well

  I don't know

  there although a lot of times stuff the

  challenge film these days is so baked

  and treated in the DIA and so messed

  with it's hard to you know Andy can be

  hard to decipher sometimes but I don't

  know anyway I'm the point is not i guess

  to tip to put down another medium the

  point is just to say that i like the way

  the film looks I think it's the best

  looking thing out there did you want

  maybe it is something that is

  specifically tuned into I don't know but

  I'm not to me i did it makes a


  did you or did you see that documentary

  and I haven't seen ya haven't seen it

  yeah yeah I don't know I I it's tough

  it's i guess and to some degree i guess

  i don't know you could you can make the

  argument that it's like the audiophile

  talking about mp3's vs AIFS and

  listening to him and what the difference

  is a night that's it's like we were

  talking we be a prominent kick around

  maybe if we had more time whenever we

  talk about the master too but that's the

  explanation that I've seen PT Anderson

  give was that if I'm gonna shoot film

  and that's why he shot 65 millimeter was

  then i might as well go all the way and

  I really should film shoot the biggest

  film i can get my hands on right even if

  the camera is the size of a you know


  yeah film looks like a movie to me

  digital looks like video to me it just

  unite and I don't know I know that

  that's anyone else's experience but now

  it's mine and so I'm gonna make those

  choices for my own films and them and

  kind of Labor discussion

  yeah it's kind of boring or e-mail or a

  right up here we just took a panorama

  picture of you guys actually digitally

  haven't used that feature who wants oh I

  was the best of that it is really

  fantastic that

  yeah okay awesome so if we were

  triangulated right now if we each take a

  panorama we can pretty much get 360 yeah

  so I going back to the tools you use

  this is a tech podcast I mean generally

  speaking they taught you know you talk

  about other stuff movies but the people

  largely the people who listen to it are

  probably fascinated by the tools you

  know what tools of whatever trade ya so

  but there's a lot of going back inside

  the movie there are a lot of there's a

  lot of tech in inside the movie you know

  the ending of the movie did you did you

  spend a lot of how much thought

  proportionately speaking did you put

  into like imagining all these that this


  I know like four for AI or minority

  report offers Spielberg is something

  else greatest pianist and that you know

  came up with every gadget did you do a

  lot of brainstorming reason no no thats

  the head on that now III is interesting

  because i didn't write the movie from

  like a world building perspective I

  guess I was just I was mostly just doing

  everything I could to make the story

  work and so I wasn't thinking really of

  how the world was going to look and so

  so when it came time to actually design

  the world it was less about digging into

  what future tech will actually seemed

  like it was more about you taking that

  picture got in that it was more about is

  more just evaluate what will work for

  the story and and honestly taking a very

  simplistic approach to the tech and the

  film also seemed right because I figured

  there was so much else we are asking the

  audience to absorb and spend their

  brainpower figuring out with the time

  travel and the looper stuff in the TK


  the last thing we needed was a ton of

  tech that the audience had to kind of

  like when sad and say oh what is that

  the crazy thing doing how does that work

  even if that's fun for me it just wasn't

  what the movie was about so you know we

  got cell phones that kind of fold out

  and are cool that we have we got

  hoverbikes it can look like triumph

  motorcycles and there's not a ton of you

  know hopefully there's nothing you can't

  glance at and figure out what it is is a

  invisible keyboard

  yeah that actually like the controller

  because the library the idea that

  there's a that you're actually

  manipulating something in 3d space right

  that that that i did--like i like time

  like that you know in children of men

  that game that the kid yeah that's right

  in there with the yeah and I also

  thought it stuck out to me that unlike

  minority report which everybody looks

  super cool but everybody points out

  would be physically exhausting because

  your arms name of your tongue have your

  time right out of your tom cruise before

  anybody else your shoulders would fall

  off and we're present in looper the the

  touch technology looks like something

  you could sit there and like I do like

  work at ten hours a day and an

  ergonomically safe i like the one that

  old old Joe's almost called him old

  Bruce that's not play snap Elena was

  good that old Joe's wife uses in the

  display that she kind of vacation / your

  fingers everybody's turning off yeah he

  wasn't even glass it was now it's just

  putting their hand from a storytelling

  perspective one of the things that I

  thought was interesting is that a lot of

  time travel movies it's now like today

  when the movies being made vs where

  you're going so back to the future

  it was nineteen eighty-five in 1955

  right i'm in looper there is no now the

  only two years

  really there's there's a little montage

  where you go through them but you're

  talking 24 tease in the 27th ease and

  and 24 teams are effectively now like

  and you get into that mindset where now

  is 2044 right and the tech is a lot more

  grounded and and you don't spend we

  don't spend a lot of time in the 27th

  ease but when we do that's where there's

  the way more whiz-bang star ever read ya

  in Shanghai to which is it like its

  search engine so ya futuristic city and

  begin with

  yeah i mean it it i mean it made sense

  to me to have are you know to have our

  present-day be near future just because

  I figured it was either that or we

  create an alternate present day and

  that's a little more complicated

  to me it was just easier to wrap your

  head around the notion that ok since 30

  years from now so some things are


  the big thing being that time travel is

  used in this way with these guys which

  it would then pain in the ass if we had

  done the present day and had to have it

  be something that was like underground

  but actually around today like that just

  where required a lot of machinations

  that would have taken up screen times

  now ya made sense

  um so you've you've you've talked a lot

  of other interviews about the UH the

  theory of that the the way that time

  travel operates and and i found it

  interesting i was listening I want when

  I saw the movie again I don't know we

  know when I listen to your commentary

  again you said something about how when

  you're writing that scene between young

  and old Joe in the diner how Bruce is so

  dismissive of that whole line of

  questioning and see Lawrence and is it

  something you said you know where it is

  used against me

  no not at all used against you you said

  Bruce is more interested in what's

  happening inside his head than

  explaining the time-travel stuff

  yeah I feel a lot like Bruce in that it

  right now in that I you know I've cut I

  can't wrap my tiny brain around a lot of

  the time travel stuff i am confused when

  when we see the tool alternate realities

  unfolding in you know yeah um some way

  more interested in what's happening

  inside Bruce's head and I'm Way more

  interested in what's happening in your

  head like this

  we've been talking about it and process

  of making making the movie um someone of

  that I feel like I'm there's two types

  of people watching these kind of movies

  and there's people that are so smart

  that they get caught up in all those

  details in the mission them the

  machinery of the time travel and I'm one

  of the lucky people that's not smart to

  get caught up in it so I just let it all

  fall away and i enjoy the stories are my


  you built the world you're the architect

  so you get your kind of both

  yeah yeah but at the same time that's I

  don't know they did a dead the

  you know the mechanics of time travel or

  something that they're kind of fun after

  the fact but I'd I don't know man i'm

  frankly and I guess if it you know that

  to me that's almost like added it's

  almost like bonus content if i go see a

  time travel movie i'm either going to

  enjoy it or not enjoy it based on

  whether it was a good story and whether

  i was into it and whether it took me

  someplace that I cared about whether it

  was funny weather was entertaining

  basically and then and completely

  secondary level afterwards all then

  think about and the time travel well

  this made sense that didn't make sense

  and i'll try and like pick it apart like

  that and so I guess that's the level on

  which it operates from me and they get

  the time travel

  what if it's ever a priority between

  keeping the momentum of the story up and

  stopping for 20 seconds to explain

  something so that somebody won't wonder

  about in the car ride home i'm going to

  keep the momentum of the story up to me

  that's just where my where my priorities

  lies it as it doesn't necessarily tell

  her you know

  yeah it probably create some like little

  bit of tension that propels the move you

  forward anyway there's enough you know

  just yeah like the right amount of

  mystery not too much I hope so and it

  you know yeah you always hope so and you

  always odd in the other answers you just

  you try your best you know you just try

  your best and yeah I always get right

  I'm sure there's stuff that I probably

  should have explained more deeply and

  the thing and or stuff that I've

  explained too much but all you can do is

  kind of trust your instincts and ride

  that line between keeping things moving

  and keeping things explained it so good

  i think it's almost more important to

  make it feel like it makes sense then

  that it

  let's say it's like it makes absolutely

  that's all that's important and that was

  you know watching time travel movies

  preparing to write this that was a

  really liberating thing that I realized

  is your it really is like doing a

  the magician doing a trick you know

  you're not creating something that and

  the other thing is I mean that you have

  time travel is a time travels is putting

  in the genre of science fiction

  the truth is time travel in this works

  some people to hear this but time travel

  is not a science for the scientists time

  travel is a fantasy element time travel

  is like Harry Potter stuff its magic and

  unicorns and dragons that you have to

  treat it storytelling was on that level

  where you create a little box that it

  exists in and make sense and inside that

  little box here and never going to be

  able to explain it or ground it to an

  extent to where somebody can actually

  analyze it with real-world logic and and

  say yes that was airtight that makes


  meta koriians in the corner there you go

  um what I mean you've answered this

  question hundred thousand times to isn't

  terms of all the long list of time

  travel movies that you appreciate or

  research you know watched his research

  for writing this

  yeah um when somebody says to you back

  to the future as well not you know blah

  blah blah Terminator blob and future but

  does that desire to ignite a positive

  response in you like the yeah this is

  good that all these reference points

  came out in the movie or is it is it

  like what me and I made by only screw

  you old man idea as tremendously good

  because they're you know because those

  are great pieces of people are seeing

  that in there you know that's that's a

  huge tremendous compliment you know I

  supposed to blah blah insert bad time

  travel movie name here blondes yeah

  that's that would be bad but you know

  and I didn't you know did I think that

  it would because of the story was not

  about time travel because the story was

  about the characters dealing with this

  situation I absolutely was not above

  using an audience's knowledge of the

  genre in order to shortcut over as much

  as I possibly could and and so and so

  far from it in terms of you know saying

  i built my own thing I didn't I stood on

  the night i took anything i could and

  not only in terms of using them as

  storytelling things

  using them as things I knew the audience

  would be familiar with so that I could

  you know so that i could shortcut over

  not having to explain it like like the

  fingers disappearing you know that's

  exactly what i was going to jump to in

  the way that you can pass a message to

  your future self which is by writing

  it's scaring them you know taking an ax

  blade and yeah writing a message into

  your skin so that the scar shows up on

  their future self

  yes the young Joe and I love that you

  see young Joe with a bloody bandage yeah

  i got a text message I don't want to add

  texted there's a gag there to that I i

  know i said i warned everybody about

  spoilers but it's too risky angry so

  deep into it it's too good of a guy who

  never said that but yeah that you know

  that's just a really gruesome version of

  The Back to the Future Polaroid you know

  and i think that in that's it that's a

  conceptual thing that we're all just

  culturally aware of because we grew up

  watching that movie and that's

  absolutely the same way that old Joe

  trying to change things by finding you

  know this problem and eliminating it

  instinctively we know that from watching

  terminator movies growing and that's I

  wanted to absolutely no use that and I

  wonder this is like this this is

  stretching pretty far but a by putting

  Bruce Willis in your movie is that its

  own cultural reference point it i mean

  actually actually it's more like I

  watched your movie the first time was

  the first time I saw it and I and I see

  Bruce and I've seen 12 monkeys and I'm

  the end without I caught myself thinking

  is Bruce Willis from the future

  yeah thank you very well you know I

  think they've been going to spend time

  with his very last one yeah and it's

  very possible

  oh it is watches from the fifties don't

  go figure

  oh is it now Anna um yeah that which is

  your favorite back to the future

  yeah let's let's get right down to it

  you get to brass tacks there's one cause

  there's only one rational answers to

  that question

  god I think I know what you're going to

  say but it's probably different answer

  them you're kidding no I don't think I

  think it's an easy answer

  ok so it is there is only one out how

  can you say anything but one are you

  going are you a to apologist we go over


  no not that i don't like to i think is a

  great movie been number 11 remember one

  thing about ya kisses his mom

  oh my god yeah well it's also a number

  one news mom kisses him but either way

  yeah number one is you know it really it

  to make a really handfasted dama knology

  if number one is a you know if number

  one is a like a great tune like someday

  my prince will come

  number two is kind of a riff on that

  yeah exactly yeah yeah but there's

  something about and I was just like a

  perfect movie and it's just perfectly

  constructed 224 me who I just got so

  excited by the world that created the

  the future world that it created in the

  end that I that made me that almost

  single-handedly made me want to make

  movies you know yeah yeah yeah it made

  my cinematographer steve gadlin's also

  like my best friends too is when I first

  met him he was still a senior in high

  school and he had shot with a new we're

  going to be friends because he had just

  with the video camera and his little

  brother and his friends had shot back to

  the future to like it recreated just

  like the kitchen the whole thing yeah

  the way that those kids do with the

  Raiders Steve had done somehow it back

  to the future two and he loves em yeah

  and if he still doesn't really you're

  gonna hear is that when you're a kid you

  recreate any of your favorite

  yeah i actually have told the story

  before in some interviews but I I

  actually almost burned down my parent's

  garage trying to recreate the DeLorean

  fire tracks into the future and it was

  there i was a really stupid notice

  because I tried to do them by i figured

  i would soak little strips of toilet

  paper and gasoline obviously and lay

  them out behind the car but to soak the

  strips of paper and gasoline i poured

  gasoline into a Styrofoam plate and soak

  them and of course the styrofoam

  dissolves and basically becomes napalm

  know and so I let these things up they

  look great but I stamped on them to put

  them out and accidentally stepped back

  into the napalm and that ignited and was

  stuck to my foot and meanwhile the

  garage which somehow is filming this

  inside the garage

  schwoz was feeling with black smoke and

  it was it was a big mess that

  yeah when when childhood love

  moviemaking combines with our next I

  wrote techniques and I definitely for a

  class project I definitely blew up the

  US embassy in Beirut like to recruit you

  know to reenact to reenact that

  disastrous loud yelling a truck full of

  explosives into a model only crap you

  were your another level I look down and

  down so the John and I were talking

  about this a little bit earlier I how

  that the looper had this additional

  element that sort of took it in turn it

  like added on top of the what you


  whatever you thought the movie was going

  to be and that was the TK element right

  the supernatural and you include that

  element in a very organic way it doesn't

  seem supernatural and until it until

  shit gets real

  yeah yeah you know and what I kind of

  think of is like the third level iiia I

  don't normally think about act in movies

  in act structure or whatever but I felt

  two different you know plateaus share

  like two different kicking it up a notch

  and rare and the first one was the the

  montage of Joe got becoming old Joe yeah

  the second one was the first time that

  said musician you know and and the sound

  design that piercing scream there that

  that supernatural element was very

  exciting and unexpected and see like

  what just happened


  I love how you there's like the extreme

  telekinetic supernatural element and

  then like the most base stupid

  yeah side which is that it's mostly guys

  floating quarters above their introduced

  like an hour earlier

  yeah Phil minutes just there and I and

  it's there for one reason is it is to

  pick up chicks

  it's like they already in the same book

  and I think of like I played poker and

  casino is a lot and then like there's

  two types of poker players there's the

  kind to learn to like it is with an

  apples yeah they roll the chips with

  their knuckles and I played enough that

  i probably could have learned but i

  always thought that was a terrible thing

  to learn because then you sit down and

  you realize what this guy plays poker at

  but that's what it seemed like the order

  thing was with the tk's was that you

  just did not even thinking about it like

  the big people who can do it just sit

  there and an aide rotate a quarter to

  three inches above their palm and

  they're not even thinking about it but

  yeah energy and to try to pick up chicks

  well there's a somewhat arbitrary and I

  think rather stupid rule of thumb in

  screenwriting that you're not supposed

  to ask the audience to buy one more than

  one big thing that there's probably a

  name for there's something but you know

  I'm just from a screenwriting class

  point of view it's something that's

  probably it is something is tricky it's

  problematic i think that you know i did

  i'd i tried to it attempted obviously

  and i think that you know there are

  people that I've talked to are heard

  from where they were it didn't work for

  that reason we're like that's more than

  one thing you're asking me to buy why

  was that in there but for me it did was

  first was really necessary just because

  I wanted Sid to not just be a

  theoretical threat

  I didn't want him to just be someone who

  could grow up to be evil because he's

  super smart or something i wanted that

  threat of the future to be manifest in a

  very concrete and affecting way in the

  present so I wanted the danger of the

  future to be not just something

  intellectual but something actually

  right there threatening your life and

  and that seemed like a way of doing that

  but it did require you know planting

  this other big thing in the first act of

  a movie when we're already setting up

  this one incredibly big thing and so my

  pressure was to throw it away said to

  plant it by at the beginning when your

  heads wrapped up in the time-travel

  stuff to just toss this little thing out

  there and at the end of it when the

  time-travel stuff is gone away that's

  when we raise this thing back up that

  was the approach i took it was very

  effective effective i want to thank our

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  anyone who asks him how to make great

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  advice and you took a sip

  you didn't flip it not in slurpin take

  to hear the slurping smile delicious

  here's here's one here's one more thing

  that I've been wanting to talk to you

  about since our mutual friend roan and

  brought it up on Twitter

  yes and that is he kind of challenge you

  a little bit and said Ryan you're doing

  all this generous stuff talking about

  all these different parts of the movie

  that in maybe in another time the

  audience wouldn't have access to the to

  the author's thoughts right

  and let's make no mistake it's very

  generous of you and but being a movie

  maker of 2012 means you can give that to

  your audience and um have you like have

  you thought about metering how much

  you're giving to the audience very much

  you know that a lot about it okay to

  lose him now I don't know I thought a

  lot about I don't have a shit you know

  an opinion I I an hour i should say i

  don't have like a you know conclusion

  about it something I've given a lot of

  thought it's hard because I'm you know I

  am very much out there on Twitter mostly

  these days and a very president and I

  try to be like part of the conversation

  respond to people and that's something

  that I do just because i enjoy doing it

  something i was doing before people were

  even really watching movies I just like

  you know being part of that big

  conversation that's going on and it's

  hard because when people ask you

  questions about your movie you know you

  there are several things that happen

  first of all you don't want to seem like

  you're being a being kind of like an

  aloof jerk by saying that sunday so

  whatever she wants to do you think

  yeah exactly but there's also something

  that comes from a worse place than that

  where you think if i don't answer people

  are going to think I didn't think about

  this and I don't have an answer and the

  truth is I do so I want to you know I

  want to respond so people know that I

  you know because because I also when

  it's when it's phrased in terms of it

  being a quote-unquote plot hole or I you

  know even even though we got some really

  we would King got some really great you

  know reviews where the week I can't

  complain at all in terms of the critical

  response you would occasionally read the

  review where would you know kind of

  dismiss the logic as you know you think

  too closely about this it doesn't make

  sense but the building

  and the thing is I thought very closely

  about it for two years of my life and it

  all makes sense and it's hard to not do

  it when somebody engages you in a forum

  where you can talk where you can reply

  to it it would require just a Herculean

  effort not to i think but it's something

  that I am I don't know it does for the

  next 1i guess I'mI'm i don't know i can

  really see the merit and not responding

  i can really see the meriden doing

  whatever I would need to do to to kind

  of disengage a little bit I guess what

  do I know what do you think I think of

  it isn't like an editorial choice kind

  of if you think about the whole world of

  your movie as as one artifact in to

  which you're contributing right now

  ya think if you choose not to answer the

  questions then you're editing your

  editing on out of debt of that artifact

  that artifact separate from looper them

  the movie that people has a starting to

  finish and but you can't ignore the

  right now the artifact takes on a

  different form being you know having

  exposure to conversation the artifact

  being a massive conversation that yeah

  the national conversation or the

  artifact being every release of of this

  the original Star Wars trilogy that ever

  existed in every piece of packaging and

  every toy beeping a part of the movie

  right air and I'll kinda like thinking

  about it that way to yeah it is it Anna

  is it and is it is there value in

  letting it exists on its own label

  sticker itself and even if that means

  short-term they're going to be people

  who you know see it once don't give it

  much thought and say this damn makes

  sense because of this or that but maybe

  they see it on DVD on gian anh brain

  chip 50-foot 10 years from now and say

  oh actually this and this yes that's

  interesting you have been having the

  patience to let it take root and let it

  do its own thing rather than trying to

  immediately patch it yourself is is

  there are married in an absolutely i

  think there is i mean i am speaking as

  somebody who racked it reacts

  defensively constantly throwing you know

  it's all things I see merit in in not

  making decisions based on defensive is

  and yeah yeah yeah i don't know i'm sure

  i honestly I'm still figuring I think it

  at Camp isn't any doubt the time travel

  movie invite that sort of feedback to a

  much greater Lenny movie you're going to

  invite criticism of characters decisions

  shell and that in the end if the movie

  and would in a way that you didn't want

  going to get complaints no day at a time

  travel movie invites like this whole

  second level of I don't know

  fantasy metaphysics yeah yeah yeah its


  yeah you're you're you're you're

  operating in that tricky gray area of

  where science meets fiction and and

  you're inviting all sorts of yeah

  there's a gotta be there is a small

  number of people who have very strong

  opinions about what would happen if you

  traveled back in time and get yourself

  and regardless of those assholes i think

  permanently generous of you to have been

  contributing to the conversation

  including coming and being with us today

  mmm yeah thank you very much I mean this

  is a real thrill is that they're done

  the following podcast is brought to you

  by field notes brand notebooks in

  connection with our limited edition

  made-in-the-usa pocket memo books for

  fall the Traveling Salesman edition for

  more information please visit field


  my philosophy is that because I've been

  so tied in with traveling sales for so

  many years

  my dad and I might both my sons are

  traveling salesman i really think that

  the travelling salesman is probably the

  inspiration for our country the way it

  is now because they're industrious

  people they they work very hard they

  don't take no for an answer and to me

  that's that's what we are today in this

  country and the traveling steals the

  salesman is still there there in

  television or on radio there on the

  internet and they're still there are

  traveling their ways they aren't

  traveling door-to-door much but I guess

  you're still there and it's been it's

  been a real trip to travel along with

  them these many years that's Ron solberg

  author of The Wiz bangs of oohs and aahs

  America salesman their lower lives and

  laughs which is an incredibly thorough

  guide and fascinating history of

  traveling sales in this country we got

  the chance to sit down with Ron recently

  for an interview to talk to him about

  the profession and some of the stories

  behind those who criss cross the nation

  before us so Ron thanks so much for

  joining us you you actually have a

  background in traveling sales yourself

  he said well I really got started

  working my for my father in southern

  Minnesota he was my boss and when i was

  attending college and make a little

  money to go to college and so he hired

  me as one of his traveling salesman and

  I went door-to-door both in communities

  and in farms and was selling brushes and

  what waxes and insecticides during the

  summer months and actually was making

  pretty good money a hundred-dollar day

  was considered to be pretty good and I

  got about fifty percent of that so I was

  making maybe fifty to sixty dollars a

  day on those hundred dollar days so

  you're currently a teacher and i think

  i'd read in your book that your father

  was also a teacher as well wasn't he

  he was he was a stranger in Minnesota

  and this would be in the 1930s and he

  actually started selling these canning

  products for you can-can pickles and

  things and he was selling that door to

  door but he went into four brushes

  and he realized he was making more money

  selling for brushes in the summer than

  he was teaching in the other nine months

  of the year so he made the logical move

  to switch back to to fuller brushes and

  he was a he was a boss get about 15 guys

  working for him in southern Minnesota

  and I was one of those guys during the

  summers at least he was he was terrific

  I'd get down and I couldn't make a sale

  and for the life of me and I come back

  to them and say dad I I just I really I

  can't do it the doors are being slammed

  in my face is well let me help you any

  he come back with me and walk

  door-to-door and he was super he he had

  away and it's hard to even explain it

  but he taught me to be a good salesman

  and the trick really was a volume is the

  number of stops to make

  if you make certain number of stops for

  instance in a community you're going to

  be going to make the hundred-dollar day

  if you panic in farmers are bigger

  buyers at least they were at that time

  because they didn't get to the

  department stores in other places and so

  you didn't have to make as many stops at

  farmers but if you made those stops

  that's a three to four stops in the

  country in an hour you probably would

  make make a pretty good day for yourself

  do you know approximately how many years

  he sold for I don't know he must have

  been selling for brushes and and the

  field manager for maybe 30 years 20 to

  30 years we finally retire down to

  Arizona he couldn't get out of the sales

  business so he he went to selling maps

  to schools so in the end in the sense he

  can was returning to his roots because

  he he was going back to the school but

  as a salesman i went along with them to

  kind of see how he did it and you know

  he was using super salesman just was

  getting into the the history of it what

  are the origins of the Traveling

  Salesman the earliest sales people in

  Europe they call them monitor banks and

  Monta bank actually translates into

  somebody who would stand on it on a

  platform and promote a product kinda

  like you see in a carnival barker or

  something to that effect and so it was

  stationary wasn't a traveling salesman

  although they would travel as

  group from place to place kinda like

  early patent medicine people would they

  have their patent medicine shows and

  bring their shows around just in America

  but they were doing that in Europe and

  developed differently in the states in

  because in Europe the enterprise

  themselves were selling the they had

  rights to sell their products in

  particular areas in in this country the

  salesman went out and sold away from the

  enterprise they might sell clocks or 10

  where but they could make it roam the

  country they didn't have they didn't

  have any particular territory that they

  were locked into and so that was kind of

  a difference the travelling salesman in

  America really traveling and of course

  you had a different situation or two

  with with being a wide-open country and

  and people were located in different

  areas in fact one author is called it

  the the introduction of the everywhere

  community because in a sense the

  travelling salesman was was bringing the

  the goods and services from the city's

  out east boston and other is to to the

  farms and settlements that were farther

  west they were they were several things

  they weren't just salespeople they were

  also newspapers in fact that was an

  important role that these traveling

  salesman had an early times they were

  carrying news with them they would

  Johnny Appleseed for instance was very

  much involved in warning settlers as to

  maybe some some Indians or sort of on

  the warpath agency and they would tell

  them you know you've got some problems

  coming down the road here so this is

  really travelling salesmen were more

  carriers of news and advice so they had

  multiple multiple functions and with

  those early salesman what what were they

  selling exactly or rather what was the

  most like prevalent thing or things that

  they were selling book salesman were

  probably the most common salesman and

  sales women in in the 19th century one

  of the finest book salesman of all time

  was parson whims eat his primary product

  will buy it was Bibles but actually he

  wrote his own things

  some say he's kind of equivalent to

  current reports for National Enquirer

  and some of the others because he would

  tend to fictionalize the the people of

  his day like George Washington for

  instance he wrote a story about George

  Washington cutting down the cherry tree

  and and telling his dad it was you can

  read it and is that complimented him for

  for being honest and that's fiction it

  didn't really happen but actually what

  did happen is probably Williams is on

  sun did something very much like that

  but I don't think he admitted to stay at

  that he had done it but he wrote a lot

  of books and they were very popular

  people really enjoy them and what's kind

  of interesting about the web's book the

  the book about George Washington about

  being honest it was one of Abraham

  Lincoln's favorite favorite books i

  believe that he had like the book so

  much that of course his campaign theme

  was on a state and he probably got it

  from person rims and the story about

  George Washington so these things get

  kind of passed on and in strange ways

  but book sales can be involved in

  another way uh it's called subscription

  subscription sales they would go

  door-to-door with a portion of a book

  with some illustrations and text and

  there were a lot of blank pages and they

  would go door-to-door and say we're

  selling this book are you interested and

  they said yeah I'd like to buy that book

  and so they put their write their name

  in the back of the book and they go to

  the neighbor and say you know your

  neighbor down there said that they'd

  like to have this book maybe you would

  too and so the neighbors oh my gosh it's

  endorsed by my neighbor slops I'll sign

  for it and of course they didn't have to

  publish a book at a time because they

  knew just how many books are going to

  sell Mark Twain got involved in that

  that kind of process his early books

  were sold by subscription publishing one

  of the most successful subscription

  published a salesperson was a woman and

  she was criticized for for doing this

  women shouldn't be doing that sort of

  thing they should be going out in public

  and and knocking on doors and and and

  she got so mad about it that she wrote a

  book about that defending her position

  that that she should be able to do that

  just like anybody else just because

  she's a woman shouldn't restrict

  come from that profession but it's very

  very important way of selling books and

  in the 19th century there's that that

  sort of stereotype they're not to answer

  your door because they're gonna give you

  this hard sell and they're going to try

  and make you buy something but in those

  early days when these people were so

  kind of like rural and way out and in

  these distant areas i was it something

  like more positive because the strangers

  coming to your door and he's going to

  talk to you and he's also gonna bring

  interesting things from the outside


  yeah it was for many different reasons

  one of the kind of traveling salesman is

  called the Arkansas traveler and the

  Arkansas traveler actually person was

  probably in arkansas traveler not just

  because he sold books in Arkansas but

  the characteristic of the Arkansas

  traveler was that he would speak with

  people who are really out in the boonies

  and people who really don't talk to

  anybody they were there to get away from

  life i guess we get away from from other

  people and so he had to ingratiate

  himself with these people to sell these

  items and so what he did is he brought

  his violin and instruments with him and

  he would invite the these people to join

  him in music and of course that really

  really attracted them and that was

  typical the Arkansas traveler also a

  traveling salesman or collectors

  collectors of music you have a couple of

  traveling salesman who were selling

  nursery items they were not out there to

  sell the items as much as they were

  collecting the music of of america and a

  couple of museums ones in Missouri and

  the other windows down in North Carolina

  that has a collection of massive amounts

  of music of the time this should be

  nineteenth-century america and of course

  in the case of the music can reverse the


  whens was there to contribute is music

  but these traveling sales people were

  there to collect the music of the people

  other people did other things their

  storytelling was big and they the people

  knew that when the salesman came along

  here a lot of stories to tell

  you were jokes i can see why people were

  attractive they knew that this is sort

  of an entertainer who was coming around

  and in the process they buy some things

  from the entertainer the travelling

  salesman would come in a lot of

  different colors and brands and purposes

  fact and one the travelling salesman was

  collecting the music is Boston you know

  you're not doing much selling frankly

  get your trading your your goods in this

  case nursery items for music you're not

  you're not really bring in much revenue

  but that wasn't is his thing in your

  book you've dedicated a whole section to

  Johnny Appleseed and you said you

  consider him a legendary traveling


  that's not something you usually think

  of when you think of these this iconic

  folk hero

  why do you consider him a traveling

  salesman for several reasons Johnny

  Appleseed covered a lot of territory he

  started out in the east coast and in

  went all the way up to Indiana and he

  was spreading the word about very very

  important product with the apple today

  it's pretty common but at the time

  people didn't have access to sweeteners

  and certainly alcoholic beverages an

  apple compatible Jack and it's also a

  preservative and and perhaps the most

  important element of the Apple was that

  it intended to serve as boundary the

  trees served as boundaries to the

  property because these people were

  settlers end and they were just claiming

  their piece of land and they could claim

  land bye-bye ringing their territory

  with these apple trees so Johnny

  Appleseed is really helping them settled

  as well but he's also a missionary he

  was so he was passing on information

  about the Swedenborg and religion which

  is kind of in a really equal to his

  isn't interested in in the people that

  he was talking to and the the college

  there in urbana is actually there

  because of Johnny Appleseed he he was

  able to persuade a friend of his to

  donate property to to the college that

  they could put that the educational kind

  of facility up and build it is a very

  interesting person i think that the the

  real story about Johnny Appleseed is far

  more interesting

  and really unusual than the legends that

  have grown up around and disney and

  others have tended to fictionalize much

  what he was but he was he was truly an

  inspiration there are certain sales

  techniques or things that we now

  consider like sales staples that you

  write about that you were born from the

  heyday of traveling sales like the

  warranty in the money back guarantee

  well in terms of the warranty or the

  money back guarantee

  marshall field's was an early innovator

  and of course it was very very popular

  and that was the cornerstone of his

  early business here in Chicago the the

  title of my book has words was banging

  in it and of course that was a word that

  he called his his people with bangs his

  traveling salesman of the other thing is

  giving away samples and of course a lot

  of started to you as door openers and i

  use samples when I was selling for

  brushes I'd pastry brushes and vegetable

  brushes and and the bottles of perfume

  and I say if you talk with me for just a

  moment of give you this pastry brush of

  this vegetable brush and that doesn't

  sound like a big deal today but it was a

  big deal and frequently these these door

  openers became products one of the most

  amazing stories i think is with the SOS

  pad it was a he was selling out for the

  for the kitchen cookware control

  beginning door open so he was talking to

  his wife and he's what can i do to get

  the door open to sell my goods and she

  said well when we when we do something

  with us a pad that maybe a steel wall

  and maybe it has soap in it and give

  that away and maybe the doors will open

  one of course they did but the the kind

  of funny part of this was that he said

  well what what what are we going to call

  this thing and she's a lot of imma call

  an SOS pads into the SOS pads would save

  our saucepans and so his wife in that

  case was his partner in and putting that

  together Wrigley started out selling

  soaps and he's giving away Styx ago and

  of course we now know that the

  government far more popular and

  is soaps and what's interesting about

  that he took a step took it a step

  further but by mailing out samples to

  people with telephones and chris is

  early 20th century so he used it the

  addresses of people with telephones as

  his the potential customers avon

  products started out as he was selling

  books and he needed a door opener and so

  he worked with I think a relative who

  was a pharmacist and he said can I put

  something together that maybe would open

  the door and they concocted some

  perfumes and things and of course now we

  know that the perfumes and cosmetics

  became far more interesting to the

  customer than the things he was trying

  to sell the name is kind of interesting

  the reason is called Avon is because he

  lived in New York and he lived near a

  river that look very much like

  stratford-on-avon in England where

  Shakespeare from so that's that's where

  they got the word Yvonne and you know

  other bits it's serendipitous how things

  happen we have a traveling salesman la

  who of course we know and now is the

  potato chip man discovered that Chef

  coincidence names crumb out in saratoga

  and the story goes that Vanderbilt came

  in the very wealthy railroad man came in

  and ordered some potatoes and the chef

  delivered them and vanderbilt said you

  know this is this is not good and so

  chrome went back and invented the potato

  chip and called the saratoga trip

  initially it was just a regional thing

  he was discovered by leigh and he bought

  a bunch of this bag it up put in the

  trunk of his car and store the store

  saying I've got something here that I

  think you'll be interested in course we

  know today that free delay is you know

  begin in the potato chip business and it

  what's I think so important about these

  salespeople the very best sales people

  take advantage of the moment they they

  they see something and they say my gosh

  this is this is something that will sell

  favorite story i have is a learned about

  it when i was working with this is

  really great salespeople one of them had

  been out to Colorado and he was skiing

  with his wife they were going from one

  peak to another to go to to another

  slope and they were going to be taking

  this cable car from one location to the

  next and my they were trying

  transversing this valley small plane

  came down and clip the cable and the two

  or three of the cable cars in front of

  this this insurance it salesman crashed

  into the valley across it they were

  killed and but he was left dangling up

  there above the valley with his wife and

  in the process sold insurance policies

  to the people who were in that car again

  each other these people see the

  opportunity and they they take advantage

  of it they just did and they aren't

  necessary taking advantage of people in

  most cases i think they're they're

  giving people something that they maybe

  didn't realize that they wanted in the

  first place

  one of the favorite stories that i have

  is the man who was actually from this

  particular area went to college in April

  the gates

  his name is better million gates he did

  wasn't born a better million but that's

  what they call them later gates

  eventually would sell barbed wire for

  the people in dekalb in fact help

  university northern illinois university

  is probably there because of the barbed

  wire business and because that's where

  barb wire was invented in to count but

  he started selling barbed wire and he

  was called been a million because he

  would he would bet on anything he

  started his first sailing west and he

  has so some farmers who had cattle who

  were roaming all over the place across

  this way had the cowboys because they

  had to continue to corral these

  cattlemen and know where they work and

  you so i can keep the scandal right

  there there's three very wild cattle but

  I can keep them there and and they said

  they can't do that he said I betcha I

  can of course he's throwing the barbed

  wire around these cattle and they were

  ready to go anywhere eventually was so

  successful selling barbed wire that he

  went in the steel business Republic

  Steel and it's probably his biggest

  venture was a oil company that we didn't

  know now is Texaco

  that was his company so very wealthy

  that he was so wealthy that he actually

  did for Carnegie steel business across

  Carnegie we know is probably was one of

  the wealthiest people of all time in and

  in America but that's how wealthy this

  guy was the gates for something else I

  mean he was very successful and he knew

  what he wanted to do and he took

  advantage of the moment just like so

  many of these is very good salespeople

  do with those success stories do you

  think there's a process of like that

  process of learning to walk toward the

  door and kind of meet all kinds of mix

  of people does that help and and does it

  further their career in the end

  ultimately and end is learning to sell

  have some sort of benefit in general do

  you think i've seen articles written

  about this that sales training can help

  people in almost any location

  except you're a monk or somebody that

  set a computer all day and we need to

  talk to anybody but I think there's some

  basic principles that you learn just

  going door-to-door one of them is

  there's formulas the formula i mentioned

  to you that you you have to make so many

  stops in an hour in town and i think it

  was i think the the formula was eight

  stops our if you go slower than that

  you're not selling if you're faster that

  you're not selling so it stops an hour

  in the country it was four stops an hour

  so it's formulas that you learn and

  there's also the idea that optimism

  persistence is so important and I mean

  that's kind of an intangible but but it

  is important and I think the very best

  salesman our friends to the people that

  they sell to Johnny Appleseed was a

  friend to his people

  there's so many examples where they

  didn't see them just as salespeople but

  they were friends and I think it goes as

  far as to talk about some of the

  television personalities like Ron Popeil

  he comes across to you as a friend I've

  got something I want to share with you

  give me a moment and

  I'll tell you about it because it's

  really pretty good bargain and only 999

  a month for and i'll give you something

  extra with that i'll give you a cookbook

  or whatever it is they they know the

  people are talking to in there they're

  like friends and the moment as a teacher

  I can't call it the teachable moment but

  the it's a sellable or the sales moment

  when there's a moment when you say yes i

  know that this is something you could

  use one of the quotes is the last one to

  say something you know the cell is the

  buyer so you wait until the customer

  says something you don't talk over the

  customer you you let the customer

  finally say something and person that

  says something last is probably the one

  who's winning

  I should say is is buying in this

  particular case there are techniques and

  some of it is more art than science but

  a lot of it is things that you can tell

  people you should be doing it this way

  for instance one salesman very

  successful says you gotta have a gimmick

  his gimmick was jewelry he had some very

  fancy jewelry watches and things that

  people isn't really that's very

  interesting and so they would become

  interested in him as an individual's a

  way that's what you got there that's

  entry that was his his thing

  how did your book wound up happening how

  did how did with bangs get written and

  what was the process there

  I'm a history teacher and i was asked by

  the Newberry Library to put together

  some us appliance on a

  turn-of-the-century sales activity or

  labor activity in chicago and i decided

  to focus on merchandising and marketing

  and and as I was doing that I realized

  that this is this inches to a lesson

  plan it's a book so seven years later I

  ended up completing this book about

  traveling salesman it was some of the

  most rewarding times that I've ever had

  combed the stacks of the library

  Congress and the new

  Barry librarian in fact that's where I

  found this journal this Bible salesman

  am Jones was a journal

  I don't know that anybody ever seen it

  it was I had a handle it with gloves

  because it was very fragile probably one

  of the first things i find it with this

  is this is unbelievable

  maybe this is something that's written

  by a traveling salesman you know a

  hundred-plus years ago and it told me

  his techniques and everything else and

  so one thing led to another I realized

  that such a wonderful rich rich field

  and i had the opportunity to do is serve

  as a researcher in that library Congress

  home their stacks for everything they

  had visited museums i visited the parson

  whims museum and virginia and i went

  through their stacks they had a lot of

  information about personal whims and I

  don't want it was just there's so many

  not wonderful resource is the patent

  medicine capital of the country which is

  marshall michigan at the turn of the

  century early 20th century there were a

  hundred plus patent medicine businesses

  in marshall michigan talk to a lot of

  people there and we knew a lot about the

  patent medicine business and that was

  that was thrilling to to get in touch so

  they're just a number of resources being

  able to talk to people being able to go

  to museums libraries and some of said

  well you became sort of a traveling

  salesman show again by kind of traveling

  around and selling my ideas or at least

  buying idea that goes from others you

  have a whole section about humor that's

  based around the travelling salesman in

  your book

  how did that come about some historians

  believe that you can tell more about the

  life of a Salesman by reading the humor

  of the day then than almost anything

  else because some of the humor that I

  have collected goes back under 50 years

  and it's funny today as I think it

  probably was the day that the salesman

  first uttered it a lot of jokes about

  themselves they like to make fun of

  themselves and so many that so much of

  humor is a farm farmer salesman my

  favorite story is the Traveling Salesman

  came up to the door

  r and as he was knocking in the farmers

  door life comes to the door and he

  notices a three-legged picture i would

  speak with it wouldn't like running by

  you said before I sell you something

  I've got to ask you about this

  three-legged figured what's with that

  and want to see that pig is very special

  well i think i can see that it's got

  three legs and I wouldn't like they're

  well it does more that pig our daughter

  is failing math and that pic to your

  daughter she's straight A's

  well thatthat's that special but it will

  what about the three legs

  there's more this house was on fire that

  pig comes in rescues us and today we're

  here because that pig got us out of the


  well that's that special but what about

  the three lights there's more we were

  destitute we didn't know where our next

  dollars coming from the pig nose that

  goes the backyard is all vines oil

  ok alright alright special p tell me

  about the three legs well I pic like

  that you can't eat all the words it's

  great you mentioned at the start that

  all of this historical traveling sales

  is wound up coming around and now kind

  of there are glimmers of it on TV in the

  internet and you specifically you

  reference that the grocery store chain

  jewel here in Illinois but that's sort

  of a good example of what goes around

  comes around that kind of idea in sales

  the drill teeth company has started out

  in Chicago actually doridori you went

  door-to-door selling coffee and tea and

  things and it was an innovation at the

  time because at that point if you want

  to get coffee and tea you go to store

  and it probably in a barrel

  it wasn't very fresh and so he was able

  to deliver some fresh food door to door

  out of his wagon and of course one thing

  led to another and it became a grocery

  store he actually the the founders of

  jewel T work or relatives they were

  eventually acquired by the grocery store

  business move fast forward to do about

  that perhaps 20 years ago and the

  introduction of

  peapod and what happened was of course

  people now started going to the grocery

  stores picking out the items for you and

  in delivering them to you so that you

  get the fresh products needed nap to go

  to the store and get them yourself you

  know where they got those items from

  jewel T they actually shop jewel T to

  pick up the groceries to deliver to the

  people so it came full cycle you know

  you go from door to door to the grocery

  store and back started our and it's

  that's that's so typical of of of the

  way this thing goes it it comes out in a

  different way but it's still

  door-to-door sales and stillbirths

  sounds so that's a that's a that's kind

  of the story of travel

  the priest eating podcast was brought to

  you by field notes brand notebooks

  specifically in connection with a

  limited edition pocket memo books for

  fall the Traveling Salesman addition

  this edition features the 3-pack of made

  in the USA field notes each with a dark

  and rich french paper pop down cover and

  embossed logo and gold text inside the

  Traveling Salesman addition you'll find

  like green paper with ledger lines great

  for tracking expenses sales mileage or

  any other data you gather on the road

  for more information please visit field