Sat 11

Perfect Day

Syrup I woke at 3:35am and couldn’t find sleep so decided to get up and walk 30 or 40 blocks to location. At dawn, Manhattan was astonishingly still. City That Never Sleeps? I thought. More like City That Never Gets Up. This seemed funny because it was my fifth day in a row with less than four hours sleep. I’m basically only functional thanks to to the adrenaline of having my book turned into a movie. I walked through the Flower District, which is what I assume that street with nothing but flower shops is called, and Madison Square Park, where I once saw an outdoor film, and, without warning, found myself in Union Square, staring at the bookstore where I gave my first ever book reading from Syrup in July 1999.

(Edit: I am mixing up my locations. In the comments, Nic Woolf informs me that my first reading was at Astor Place, not Union Square. I think this is right. Union Square was where my first agent, Todd Keithley, had his office when he sold Syrup to a publisher.)

Today began in pure joy, with no trepidation about what to expect. I knew it was going to be awesome and just felt happy to be exactly where I was.

In the morning, we shot some footage of Scat being dragged into a corporate office:

I then had my costume fitting for my cameo role on Tuesday. But I am skipping right over that because I want to talk about what happened in the afternoon. And please forgive for indulging in detail, but I want to get this all down, because it is so very important to me.

The afternoon was Amber Heard’s first scene. I hadn’t had the opportunity to see Amber in anything much before, and what I did see, she was not very 6-like. Aram, the director, had sworn to me that she was perfect for this role, but I was still anxious, because, like I mentioned yesterday, 6 is special to me. I was bracing myself for the inevitable realization that she was not going to be portrayed just like I had imagined.

We were shooting at the top of the Met-Life building, where thick mist turned what should have been a glorious vista over Central Park into an otherworldly diffuse light that was actually far more interesting.

I didn’t know what the hell we were doing here, because when I wrote this scene it was set in an office corridor.

In it, 6 is fuming about a character trying to usurp her (named @ in the book, Three in the movie). 6 fumes a lot in Syrup. It is a core part of her. And what I was most afraid of was an actress interpreting this as a weakness. A flavor of helpless frustration, instead of honest anger. This is important to me not only because it goes to the heart of who 6 is, but also because the way women are demeaned in the workplace for showing emotion drives me fucking insane. (Latest example: here.) 6’s dismissal of male expectations of female behavior is one of her best qualities.

So anyway. Amber Heard turns up. She is blond. I struggle a little with that. But I’m prepared to go with it. It’s a very severe blonde. Then they set up the scene and Amber starts pacing. She radiates fury and is fearsome and so, so 6.

Then she and Scat exchange a series of lines that I first wrote in the book and reworked into their current form over five drafts and four years. Writing those drafts involved more bullshit than I can possibly describe. For a long time I wrote all day and ate dinner then went back and wrote more, seeing my family for a grand total of about thirty minutes a day, in the service of those drafts. And after enough of this, I decided it was all for nothing, because it was probably never going to be produced.

This scene looks astonishingly beautiful, because instead of the simple office corridor I imagined, it’s taking place in this striking corporate-industrial cavern. And watching this, where everything was either exactly as I imagined or else better, which I had given up hope of seeing, just broke me. I cried. Later, when I went out to call Jen and tell her what had happened, how all that shit hadn’t been for nothing, I cried again.

I’m sleep-deprived. I’m a little weepy about everything. But I will never forget this day.


This is where site members post comments. If you're not a member, you can join here. There are all kinds of benefits, including moral superiority!

Michael (#1790)

Location: New Jersey, USA
Quote: "Roses are red; Violets are blue; in Soviet Russia, poem writes YOU!"
Posted: 4258 days ago

Awesome. I can't wait for this movie to be released. I'm going to force everyone I know to see it.

Machine Man subscriber Ben (#3924)

Location: Alberta, Canada
Quote: "I don't wanna ride the elevator."
Posted: 4258 days ago

I get to say GO MAX and I get to do it first, WOOT.

Glad to hear your enjoying yourself making your movie come to life Max. Happy for you.

Machine Man subscriber Ben (#3924)

Location: Alberta, Canada
Quote: "I don't wanna ride the elevator."
Posted: 4258 days ago

DAMMIT Michael, way to post before I push enter, lol :)

Michael (#1790)

Location: New Jersey, USA
Quote: "Roses are red; Violets are blue; in Soviet Russia, poem writes YOU!"
Posted: 4258 days ago

Hahahaha If I could delete my comment I would so you could have first

Machine Man subscriber Alan W (#1427)

Location: Spokane, Washington
Quote: "Corgis are like potato chips"
Posted: 4258 days ago

Not First!

... or even second.

Anyway, great to hear Max. With every one of these I get more excited to see the movie, which will probably not be out for 2 years.

I actually have no idea how long a movie like this takes. I only hear about the ones like LOtR which was like, what 10 years?

Please keep the updates coming!

Nic Wolff (#5470)

Location: NYC
Posted: 4258 days ago

First: I remember being at a reading of yours at a Barnes and Nobles but I think it was the one on Astor Place that is now gone. Second floor, sort of at the top of the escalator. Was it the same tour?

Second: when I was in high school – so we're talking about the late 1980s – what you call the Met Life building was of course the Pan Am building. A classmate of mine had a job at a secretarial school down on, I think, the eighth floor, and had discovered that by taking the elevator to the 58th floor and then the fire stair, we could gain access to the Sky Club – which was the VIP lounge for passengers using the rooftop heliport, but which had been closed since a helicopter crash in 1977.

So naturally the Sky Club became our after-school hangout. Since Grand Central, underneath the Pan Am building, was the nexus at which my schoolmates gathered en route to school and dispersed on the way home, it was just natural for us to meet daily to sneak up the fire stairs into the lower level, then up the long escalator to the top floor – and then up the narrower, longer escalator to the control room and the roof, where the grills above the huge air-conditioning vents created a winter oasis of warmth.

Anyway, the point is that unless I'm absolutely mistaken, I know exactly where that second picture was taken: the windows ahead face east – the spire of the Chrysler Building is just across Lexington Avenue – and those to the left face north, up Park Avenue to the Upper East Side. I'll be fascinated to see how the view is used in Syrup: The Movie!

Kate Nancarrow (#825)

Location: Stratford, Gippslandia
Quote: "veni vidi velcro ~ i came, i saw, i stuck around"
Posted: 4258 days ago

Aaaaahhhhhh, sweet, sweet, sweet Mr Max Barry! That's a wonderful tale you just told. So proud of you! I remember buying your first book, in the city of Melbourne, at the Dymocks that used to be on Bourke St. and wondering if that 'Maxx' was the Max I knew from school days....I absolutely loved the book AND the extra X - I remember absolutely knowing that you had your tongue firmly in thy cheek. Such lovely moments you're sharing with us - I'm completely feeling your wonderment and awe. It's coz you write so well, like.
Clever boy-o! Much love to you & your lovely family.

Perrorist (#3640)

Location: Central Coast, NSW
Quote: "No flow, no go."
Posted: 4258 days ago

I'm definitely going to see the movie and I've yet to read the book (but I did read Jennifer Government and I lead a busy life).

phil taffs (#5433)

Location: East Brunswick
Quote: ""He who laughs and runs away lives to fight another day" Bob Hope"
Posted: 4258 days ago

Weepy? Max you're just a little Syrupy...

lu77 (#5471)

Location: melbourne
Quote: "everything is simple, nothing is as straight forward as it seems."
Posted: 4258 days ago

Max, I never really put into words the castration of female emotions before i read what you put up there, but it entirely encapsulates the problems I've had in the workplace, and the reason I identify with characters like 6 so strongly.

I'm so glad that Hollywood has seen the light to let her be her as well, both for you and for your audience.

Jonny Rueda (#3383)

Location: New York, NY, USA
Quote: ""I am far away from everything I took for granted""
Posted: 4258 days ago

Man! I am so fucking happy for you! Looking forward to see the movie!!!
And I am pretty sure that after this movie is out Jennifer will be free and reshoot!

I am a big fun, so I can say that I am proud of you!


Machine Man subscriber Hyper (#4612)

Location: Texas, USA
Quote: ""A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read. " --Mark Twain"
Posted: 4258 days ago

Sounds perfect!

So, if I am living in Korea, how and when will I get to see this in theaters? Will I have to make a quick trip to Australia? lol.


Machine Man subscriber Michael Harrell (#2372)

Location: Olathe, KS
Quote: ""Every day we must persevere. For we are engaged in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress."Adapted from the masthead of "The Economist""
Posted: 4258 days ago

Enjoy the moment, you can sleep anytime. I feel your excitement and joy through you writing as usual thanks. Have a super high and capture it in words for us all.

I love NYC in the morning. So glad you saw it. From 4a to 7a is great.

Take as many moments to breath it all in as you can, sounds like you have tripped the activation enegy threshold to commercial success in films. Glad you got a good team doing it the way you envisioned. Have a great day Max!

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 4258 days ago

I was going to write another metablog, but...

It's quite remarkable to see another person's dream come true.To start off small and perservere through struggles and frustrations(what ever happened to the Jennifer Govenment movie anyway?)...and to see David beat Goliath, the small guy take on the big guy and win...What I really want to say is "Way to go, Max!" Way to go!

And after all these years of reading this blog(and meta-blogging on it on the occasion), I feel like I get to have a very small part in this victory. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.


Steve (#2499)

Location: Michigan
Quote: "Max Barry's writing rocks. And he didn't even pay me to write that."
Posted: 4258 days ago

Really appreciating your details of the experience. Have a very real sense of it, and can only imagine the thrill. Keep soaking it in and sharing what you can!

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 4258 days ago

@Nic Woolf: Ahh, you are correct. Updating blog.

I've been telling people it was Union Square for about five years.

Machine Man subscriber Roger (#1653)

Posted: 4258 days ago

I get the feeling Max will be seeing bright lights and hearing choirs of angels before all this is over. :P

Machine Man subscriber sean kearney (#3037)

Location: Denver, CO
Quote: "[email protected]"
Posted: 4258 days ago

Very exciting, Max!

Thanks for bringing us into this amazing experience. I can't wait to see the movie and started terracing the book today.

Machine Man subscriber Bushra (#36)

Location: Fremont, California
Quote: ""
Posted: 4258 days ago

Very cool Max!

stanley becker (#5283)

Location: black hole
Posted: 4258 days ago

Good portrayal of a working day - resonates of the pain of giving birth and the relief of conception - by the way Max, what is the camera you are wielding, I like to know these things. Yours S.

Matthew (#16)

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Quote: "Unicorn on mountain top. Wind blowing through mane."
Posted: 4258 days ago

6 = blonde
@ = 3


Joanna (#5296)

Location: Seattle, WA
Quote: ""The wise man despises no one. Instead, he watches him closely and tries to discover the roots of what he sees." (Gogol, Dead Souls)"
Posted: 4258 days ago

I am really happy for you! And very excited about the movie, too. :) It's really cool to hear all about how involved you are in the process and how it's coming together. It will make seeing the final product that much more magical for us fans. :) Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!

Jack Brownfield (#5166)

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Quote: "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
Posted: 4258 days ago

Sound awesome! I guess the @ thing wouldn't really work in dialogue, but still....

Mathew (#5377)

Location: USA
Posted: 4257 days ago

Max, Congratulations on the movie and while I do not begrudge you your success I will admit that I am jealous as hell.

Machine Man subscriber branden (#2100)

Location: northern california
Quote: "...and this is how you betray me!?"
Posted: 4257 days ago

I am very excited that Syrup is coming to the screen! I was late to the Max Barry game and so missed it's original catapult into the literary scene, but there's no way I'm missing the theatrical debut. Inspired by this and yesterday's post, I re-read Syrup again yesterday. I only planned on starting, but even on my third read-through, Syrup still had me glued to the novel, keeping me up way past my bedtime. I'm eager to see how they update the novel not only for what works in film, but also with modern trends and products.

Also, I'll try not to be that guy who points out every subtly different minutia between novel and film. But, it'll be fun to see how the filmmakers bring to screen the clever wordplay of the novel.

Gregory (#1530)

Location: Forest Hill
Quote: "I think therefore I am, I think"
Posted: 4257 days ago

Mate, I am so happy for you.
And to think of you in your car, looking over Dights Falls, at lunchtime all those years ago!
Well done pal.

Brittany O. (#1688)

Location: Montana
Quote: "people are kind of overrated "
Posted: 4243 days ago

Why is it that fancy Hollywood types thing that woman leads must be blonde. I always loved 6 for the fact that she was a brunette.
I also think Kellan will be just fine. There was a picture posted online of him and he works great as that character in my mind...

Comments are now closed for this post.