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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Fri 10
Jun
2011

It’s Definitely Real: Syrup Shoot, Day 1

Syrup First I saw a bunch of trucks. Yesterday I asked the producer where exactly I might find this location; like, would I need an apartment number? And he laughed at me, because, no, I could just look for the trucks.

Here is me meeting the director, Aram Rappaport, for the first time without a Skype connection. I am grinning like a kid on Christmas morning because of all the trucks. And the people carrying stuff. And the trailers with names on the doors that say SCAT and SIX* and SNEAKY PETE.

Inside the building, four rooms were dressed as Scat & Sneaky Pete’s apartment and the rest were for monitors and thick cables and busy people and electrical equipment worth more than my house. It was so authentic I didn’t realize this at first. I don’t know what I thought; maybe that we were passing through someone’s disheveled bedroom en route to the warehouse with the wooden sets. But then it was gently explained to me.

When writing, I tend not to imagine physical details very precisely. I get a strong feeling for personalities and emotions, but what stuff looks like, that doesn’t really bother me. Here were those vague, floating impressions given weight and detail. It was freaking amazing.

Here I am in Scat & Sneaky Pete’s living room.

A lot of people were very busy carrying stuff and testing things and then filming began. I watched this on a monitor in another room, with a set of headphones to hear what people were saying. It was without doubt the most surreal experience of my life. I’m not sure I can explain this any better than to simply say that a whole bunch of highly talented people began to recreate with astonishing fidelity stuff I once dreamed up. It was hard to shake the feeling that they were doing it just for my personal benefit. Like I had a terminal illness and this was my Make-A-Wish. The very first scene filmed was the one where Scat bursts into Sneaky Pete’s bedroom and says, “I have an idea.” I guess this was chosen for sensible logistical reasons, but, boy, was it eerily perfect.

It was also my first look at Shiloh Fernandez, outside of “Red Riding Hood” trailers, and holy hell, he is wonderful. He said lines and they magically became way better than they sounded in my head. He was Scat sprung to life. (People call him “Scat” even when he’s not acting, which reinforced my feeling that I had invented him.)

Sneaky Pete is different, because in the book he’s Asian and in the film he’s Kellan Lutz. He has the silent shtick but for different reasons, so he’s more like a new character, rather than a hallucination made material. Throughout the day I felt this difference between stuff that was different from the book, which was merely fearsomely cool, and stuff that was the same as the book, which was like having my brain excavated.

I have a lot more respect for actors than I did twelve hours ago. They deliver a line with the exact same feeling ten times in an hour while being bombarded with instructions on where to stand and exactly how far to lean forward and can you do that with your left hand instead of your right and by the way the entire crew is waiting for you to get this exactly right so no pressure. It makes me feel like a chump because when I get tired or lose interest during my job, I just go get a snack or check my email.

I have more respect for the sheer volume of time and talent that is poured into creating a few seconds of good cinema. It seems kind of appalling to me now that I can dash off a couple lines with no regard for lighting or sound or framing or whether the camera operator’s knees can actually bend that way. (The camera operator is basically a circus strongman wearing a Transformer. The physical demands of what this guy does for ten or twelve hours in a day I cannot comprehend.) So much of what I do I actually leave up to you, the reader. A film needs to fill all that in, so around my words people are pouring in new ideas, making it expand as it solidifies.

At the end of the day, I met Shiloh and Kellan and found them to be incredibly friendly and charming. I feel so grateful to these guys for not sucking. I should probably think of a better way to express that. What I mean is: you know when you have an awesome dream and you try to explain it to someone? And as it’s coming out of your mouth you realize this actually sounds incredibly lame. These guys are making the dream sound awesome.

I seriously can’t shake the feeling that I’m talking to Scat.

Tomorrow there’s the first scene with 6, played by Amber Heard, which I can’t wait to see because 6 is very dear to me and god help Amber if she screws this up. Actually I’m just really excited. I’ve had a few sleepless nights about how this is going to turn out but now I’m blissing. It won’t be just like how I imagined, of course, or an exact reproduction of the book; neither of those would make good movies. Instead there is a spirit here that feels exactly like what I was trying to capture almost 15 years ago, and a bunch of incredibly dedicated, smart people from the director down working harder than I ever have to make it happen.

(* “Six” is wrong, of course. It’s 6, the number. I pointed that out to the the producer, trying to be funny, and he assured me it would be fixed as soon as possible, but maybe not right away because everyone was so busy. So then I felt like an asshole.)

Comments

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shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 1288 days ago

You rock man! Tell Amber Heard I think she's the most beautiful woman in the world, and deliver it in a manner that she's never heard before. Thanks. And pun intended!

Machine Man subscriber Thomas Rice (#952)

Posted: 1288 days ago

That's awesome Max. :)

Jenifer (#1868)

Location: Suwon, South Korea
Quote: ""I'll try everything once. If I like it, I'll try it again.""
Posted: 1288 days ago

Wow. This is so exciting! I can't wait to see it.

Machine Man subscriber Joel Pearson (#2145)

Location: Canberra, Australia
Posted: 1288 days ago

Wow, it really is happening. That's so cool, getting a movie made after only 3 books published, that is freakin' awesome :-)

I remember being enthralled in Syrup many years ago, never did I think it'd be a movie.

David Fawcett (#5468)

Location: Melbourne
Quote: "Caveat Emptor"
Posted: 1288 days ago

Fantastic news Max! Well done!

Emily (#609)

Location: New York
Quote: "When in doubt, fuck it. When not in doubt, get in doubt!"
Posted: 1288 days ago

Max,

Thank you so so so much for being this detailed about the process. Not only is it important to me because I am really stoked about Syrup being a movie, but also because I am a young filmmaker whose only experience so far has been college movies with a crew of Me. Which is exhausting and I generally just feel like I'm not doing it right. Hearing about an Actual Professional Shoot is A) like CANDY, B) deeply informative. For example, I feel so validated to know that professional actors also mostly have to deal with issues like where to stand and how far to lean forward and how long to pause. These kinds of issues have always plagued me and I always wondered if I was somehow doing it wrong but this reassures me that maybe not.

Anyway I am really really excited to hear more about this, especially during this creative/financial drought of mine (haven't made a movie in literally a year, which is simply dreadful).

So happy for you and this whole thing!

Jamie Cucci (#5401)

Location: Chicago, USA
Posted: 1288 days ago

You do realize every author now sees you as the person they want to be, right? You're like the John Nike (the one that didn't get his face all busted and stuff) of the Fiction section (oh, and without all the killing).

Well you deserve every second of it! Congratulations!

Jak (#2464)

Quote: "The Straight-Jacket makes it hard to type."
Posted: 1288 days ago

This is crazy amazing.
Didn't they just announce the casting like a month ago?

I wonder what the can design of Fukk is going to look like. Any way could sneak a peak and get us a picture of it?

Lynne D Perry (#5100)

Location: Penfield, New York
Quote: "Resistance to Linux is futile. You *will* be assimilated."
Posted: 1287 days ago

Tres bien on the blow-by-blow account of your experience, Max!

Love that you have the flexibility to watch your story evolve through others eyes and appreciate that.

You know, as I was reading your account and chewing on every juicy word, I was also thinking... this accounting of your book being made by your blogging about it could actually end up being made into a another book! "Filming Fukk" or something, lol!

Have you considered how you are going to spend all those royalty payments yet!?!?!? Or is that still a twitch too surreal?

You rock. Have a great weekend, Max!


Farley (#4503)

Location: Vancouver
Quote: "The world is your oyster, but you are allergic to shellfish."
Posted: 1287 days ago

This is awesome! I want a blog for every single day of the shoot... and post-production!

Machine Man subscriber Barrie (#5111)

Location: Blackheath Australia
Quote: "So be it, mergatron!"
Posted: 1287 days ago

Max, what a well-deserved wet dream come true.
Well done. Summer in New York yet.
Can't wait to hear more blow by blow descriptions.

Machine Man subscriber Stuk (#4278)

Location: UK
Posted: 1287 days ago

This sounds fantastic! I really enjoyed Syrup, and looking forward to seeing the end film result.

I was wondering, is the drinks company going to be Coca-Cola, and is the drink still called Fukk? Seems unlikely that Coca-Cola would allow their name to be used in something like this, and Fukk is just so rude!

Machine Man subscriber fredzfrog (#2368)

Location: Moe
Quote: "Fredzfrog"
Posted: 1287 days ago

Wow! Can't wait to see 6's appartment... That'll be a highlight for me.. A glorious mish mash of ill conceived construction brought to life in glorious technicolour

stanley becker (#5283)

Location: black hole
Quote: "DON"T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER!!"
Posted: 1287 days ago

Interesting journal - great enthusiasm on your part, Max - I look forward to further reports from the front Yours S.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 1287 days ago

11 Jun 2011

THE WIZARD

Has anyone seen the 1986 film starring Fred Savage called "The Wizard"? It was one of the classics from my childhood. I wasn't born when it came out, but surely enough it made it to my television and VHS collection. I watched The Wizard for the first time in probably 15 years...

The premise is Cory, played by Fred Savage, kidnaps his autistic brother and takes him to California. While on their way, it is discovered that his brother is a "wizard" at videogames. They decide to enter him into Nintendo's contest to win $50000.

The movie was produced by Nintendo. It highlights a ton of Nintendo games. They used the movie to unveil Mario 3, which is rated the best Mario game of all time. The "power glove" makes an appearance too, which now that I think about it, may be the precursor to the Wiimote.

Anyway, I realized about halfway through the movie that I was watching it on my Nintendo Wii, on Nintendo Wii's Netflix Channel, with Nintendo's wiimote in one hand, and Nintendo Power in the other, next to my wife named Zelda*.
Coincidence? I think not.

-Adam

*the scene described is highly exaggerated, the only true part was that I was watching it on my Wii; but at the time of my epiphany, it felt like all those things were true.

Brittany O. (#1688)

Location: Montana
Quote: "My love calls me Boom..."
Posted: 1287 days ago

Congrats Max! That is totally awesome.

Adam- thanks for the trip down memory lane. I loved that movie!

Jack Brownfield (#5166)

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Quote: "So long, and thanks for all the fish."
Posted: 1287 days ago

Congratulations!

Keep us posted about the filming!

Machine Man subscriber Roger (#1653)

Posted: 1287 days ago

Whoa, Scat and Pete's apartment is more colorful on-set than I imagined in my head. I always just kinda pictured the basic "white walls with a single sofa and makeshift coffee table planted in front of a crappy old TV, and maybe a dying plant in the corner somewhere" scenario. Kudos to the crew.

Swkoll (#5394)

Location: USA
Quote: ":)"
Posted: 1287 days ago

Awesome!!! Keep us posted!

syrup6 (#1224)

Location: Arkansas
Quote: ""Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion" - Kierkegaard"
Posted: 1287 days ago

lovelovelove! so excited for you! did your family get to come out with you? how much of filming do you get to be there for?

Caleb Crotzer (#1461)

Location: California, USA
Quote: "Breathe!!"
Posted: 1286 days ago

That is so awesome! I can't wait to see it!
So, how did you go about approaching Coke for the marketing deal and advertizing campaign? Or did Sneaky Pete beat you to it?
But really, are they involved? Or did Pepsi outbid them?

Joe (#2270)

Location: Campbell, CA, USA
Quote: "I'm subverting the system from the inside. I think."
Posted: 1286 days ago

Maybe you could try to get Coke to pay to have it be about Pepsi, bidding against Pepsi paying for it to be about Coke. Anti-product placement, the next frontier.

Machine Man subscriber SRD (#2889)

Location: Ogden, Utah
Posted: 1286 days ago

A couple things. 1) This looks like killer fun. I am often apprehensive about my favorite books being made into movies because they almost always fuck it up. This looks like they are doing it right, though. 2) I checked out the iMDb page for this flick and noticed one of the character's names was 3. I am going to assume that this is @. And lastly 3) Is there gonna be some kinda paperback tie-in of Syrup with the movie poster on the cover, like what they did with I Love You Beth Cooper only, y'know, the movie DOESN'T suck?

I think that's all... yeah.

Machine Man subscriber SRD (#2889)

Location: Ogden, Utah
Posted: 1286 days ago

Also: How come our Senators never piss as each other like that IN SESSION?! Sure, they get on cable news and act likes horses asses all the time, but rarely do they snipe at each other on the floor or in hearing rooms. They are too busy making out with each other. The ULTIMATE body of government to watch is, and always has been, the British Parliament. Those guys are awesome.

Machine Man subscriber SRD (#2889)

Location: Ogden, Utah
Posted: 1286 days ago

Sorry for the triple post, but I just realized that my comments were meant to be in the post above this one. My bad.

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