Charlie Brooker on Black Mirror | The BFI + Radio Times TV Festival 2019

Charlie Brooker on Black Mirror | The BFI + Radio Times TV Festival 2019


– This session’s gonna be a
lot about the future of TV but let’s start from the very beginning, where and when did
Black Mirror come about? How did the idea develop? – We’d just done Dead Set,
which was a, can you hear me? – [Audience] Yes. – Just wanted human contact. I don’t know why I said that. We’d just done Dead Set, which was a show, it’s like a zombie epic for Channel 4 and they said, have you
got any other ideas and I’d always wanted to do a show that tells the unexpected-esque
or Twilight Zone-esque and we discussed it and then we discussed it with Channel 4, it
was originally gonna be eight half hours written by
lots of different people, I think that’s fair to say
and the technology aspect came in sort of relatively
late, didn’t it? – Although it was always there, it was sort of a modern day Twilight Zone, so talking about modern themes, I think technology was
always gonna be one of them but then I think when we
started to explore it, you’re sort of like, oh my
god, there’s so many things here that feel influenced
or things have changed so dramatically through technology, we should sort of embrace
that a little bit more. – Yeah and I remember
at the time because I’d been reading a lot about the Twilight Zone and Rod Serling, who
created that and wrote most of the episodes, and he
was influenced by things that were going on in
society at the time and I remember thinking, well, what
would we be talking about now and one of the things was like terrorism and things like that and at the time, there were lots of sort of
adverts for Apple products that were full of people
having a really happy time and as soon as I see anything like that, I get really fucking
suspicious and scared because I don’t know if you’ve seen Soylent Green, have you seen Soylent
Green, it’s a very good film but there’s a bit in it
where an old guy goes to be euthanized and turned into
food, which is a spoiler, sorry, and just before, they
take him into a place and they show him a film of
beautiful things happening and nature and it’s
all very happy and then he gets killed and eaten
and Apple adverts reminded me of that film. (audience laughs) And so, I thought, that’s a good, there’s a good vein to
mine, can you mine a vein? – So, are you saying
terrorism doesn’t scare you? – Well, yeah– – Nothing else scares you
but an Apple ad for a phone? – 24 has sort of cornered the market in terrorism, haven’t they? – Okay, yeah. – So, you know, that
had been done, whereas– – That would require too much discipline, so we’re not gonna do that. – Being spooked by the App Store, that hadn’t been done. – Okay, great. – So, yeah. – But making an anthology, I guess, I mean, to me it just
seems so overwhelming because you’re not just making
a normal conventional series, you’re making essentially
separate films at the same time. – Yeah, it’s stupid, isn’t it? – (laughs) But also,
for Channel 4 back then, it was quite hard for
them to market in terms of trying to show people
what the show is really going to be like if
there’s an ongoing theme but they’re all quite different, was that a concern to you back then? – We were blissful ignorant at that point. No, I mean, we found it
difficult to sort of describe what the show was going
to be ’cause you can say, this is a modern Twilight
Zone and this is a show and it’s going to address
technology in the modern world but until you start
having films and stories, you sort of, you know, it’s unknown, so they didn’t quite know
what it was and we didn’t quite know what it was
and I suppose it’s taken us to this point where we’ve
got a stronger sense now of what we’re trying to do
with Black Mirror and how wide ranging, in terms of
genres and tones it can embrace. So, yeah, I mean, it’s
hard to market something when it’s in it’s infancy but
particular an anthology, yeah. – Well and the very first
episode was advertised as a straight thriller, like as
a straight political thriller. – I thought you were
gonna say as a rom com. (everyone laughs) – No, it turned out to be
the erotic drama of the year but no, it was advertised
very much as a straight, I think they even ran
adverts in the cinema or something like that that
made it look like it was going to be about terrorism
and about somebody kidnapping a princess, but
it’s a very difficult show to bring people to tune
into on a weekly basis. So that was one of the
things we noticed immediately when we went to Netflix,
that makes much more sense as a place for anthology
shows ’cause you don’t have, you’re not beholden to
ratings on a weekly basis. – Describe how you come
up with the ideas from when it’s sort of like an
acorn to when it becomes the overall process, is
it from a conversation you have between you two about how, what haven’t you done before, is it something that you sort of know, you have a concept, then
you knock it down the road and then maybe return to it later? – I like that, knocking
it down the road thing. I like that. I mean, they vary, don’t they? – Yeah. – All the genesis of them
are all very different. – Sometimes it’s genuinely,
we’re just having a conversation and an idea just, I’ll suddenly start going (gasps). – Like a fit. – Yeah and I notice– – And I’m happy. – You never call for medical assistance when that happens, you just
sit there rubbing your hands, hoping that I’m having
a seizure and (chuckles) or sometimes it’s like,
quite often there’s two ideas that have been knocking
around and they collide, so San Junipero was one of those, where there was sort of two separate ideas that we’d been kind of worrying away at and couldn’t quite, quite
often that’s the other thing is quite often you go, I know, I’ve had this idea, I can’t quite work out how to make it work and
suddenly you think of what you should do that
would be a better thing to do like White Bear was an example of that where it was a very different
story and then suddenly this other thing
suggested itself and then, sometimes we go, what haven’t we done? We haven’t done a musical
or we haven’t done a, we keep going, oh, we
haven’t done a Western and then we go, oh, a fucking Western. – Please tell me you’re
going to do a musical, that would be brilliant. – Well, you know, you never know. You never know but well, we
discuss genres we haven’t done. Hated In The Nation was one where we went, we haven’t done a detective
story, for instance, so sometimes that is
a useful way of going, what’s the Black Mirror version
of a haunted house story? What’s the Black Mirror
version of a period drama and things like that and that often kicks up a lot of ideas. – Yes, but it’s, as
you say, it’s often all these thoughts at the
same time and hopefully they all collide into one because, yes, you could do a genre
we haven’t done but unless you’ve got something interesting
or thematically new to say, you shouldn’t be doing it. – Which I don’t. (Annabel laughs) – And then when you write
it, what’s the process then, is it kind of like you write a script so then you have a feedback session, is that how, how does that develop? – First we discuss the story, I mean, now, I’m much more disciplined than I was. I used to be one of those people who was, I can’t plan anything,
I just write the script, I’ll just write it, that’s the only way, what an idiot I was ’cause
basically I’d end up having to rewrite the entire script. I mean, I still do but
at least I’m now deluded into thinking I’m following
a plan from the start. So we’ll come up with a whole, like I’ll go off and write up the story, probably like three,
four pages, depending, sometimes longer, then we’ll discuss it, then we send that off to Netflix, then we discuss it again with them, then I start writing the script. So now it’s a lot more and
then I’ll start changing it and apologising (laughs). – No, it depends, doesn’t it? It depends on, some of
the episodes have taken years and some have
taken weeks to develop. Sometimes, you can spend months in a room breaking the story, like
Hated In the Nation, the one Charles just referred to, it was incredibly complex
and lots of things going on and you’re trying to follow a procedural but at the same time
there’s so many different themes going on and plot
points and all of that, often the skill is in trying to streamline and to strip out ideas and just to hold on to the core elements and that’s, I think, can take the longest time. – Is that why you were always telling me to cut bits out, yeah? Often, that’s what happens
is we sort of sit there and discuss things and
you’re quite a fierce critic of every idea I have (laughs), do you know what I mean,
like in a good way, in a way that’s like,
like you’ll sort of go, well, I don’t know that that, you know, you basically will go, you
can do better than that, pretty much, do you know what I mean? – But you can. – But I can’t, that’s the tragedy of it and that’s why often
the episodes are so sad and I’m heartbroken all the time. – But it’s something that you, you have to have a relationship
for a very long time so you’re able to
understand each other and know each other where you
can make improvements for. – Like mutual disrespect, we don’t mind telling each other we’re shit, yeah, that’s healthy. – I think that’s always one way. (Annabel laughs) – Yes, no, I suppose it’s a familiarity, working with each other a long time, that no one’s precious,
I think, in our meetings. So there is that sort of candid, I’m not sure that’s right
and then a bitter argument and then some compromise. – Yeah, we usually sort
of agree on things and generally when there’s
a sort of disagreement over a story point,
usually I’m sort of going, but I don’t know what else to do, what else should I do,
there’ll be a point where I go, well, what do you want to happen? What do you want to have
happen, I don’t know, the cupboard’s bare, mate. (Annabel laughs) So sometimes it’s just,
you can get so sort of stuck in a story, you can’t
see and sometimes then the thing to do, I’ve done
this a couple of times with different, maybe I
did it with Hang the DJ, I did it with a couple
of them where I give up. I certainly did with Hate
in the Nation as well, I gave up, ugh, I can’t
do it and I went off and wrote something else
and then it sat in a drawer and then sort of came back
to it and suddenly you go, oh, I’ll just cut out all
the shit bit and usually that’s what works and
you’re quite good at seeing the bigger picture, I can
get quite sort of stuck in my furrow. – But that is your job as the writer. – To get stuck in a furrow? – Yeah, to hold on and to be worried and– – Like a Shire horse (laughs)? – I never thought of you
as a Shire horse, but okay, I can run with that. – I’ve got the biggest screen I think I’ve ever seen in my entire
life, so I thought we might use the opportunity
to have a look at a clip. We’re gonna start off with San Junipero, when Yorkie and Kelly meet at the bar for the first time. I mean, what an episode. Were you surprised that
the story resonated with the public so much? – I was relieved because it was the first, the first one written for Netflix and it was probably our first
overtly uplifting ending and so, I was quite worried
that people would go, well, I’m not having this, I don’t want this, ’cause I remember, I used to be a bit like
that if I’d watched the Twilight Zone and it didn’t leave me with a sort of gnawing sense of dread, I was like, oh, this
is not what I came for. – You found it unsettling? – I found it a bit unsettling. – Any happy ending is unsettling. – Yeah, well, I guess it’s like somebody going to a dominatrix and she just makes them a cup of cocoa or something, it’s not why you’re there. (audience laughs) So, in that respect, it was deliberately pushing the boat out
and seeing if we could do something like that
and it was interesting, I remember when we were discussing it, we thought one of the things that people might discuss
was the fact that it was actually a story with,
again, it’s a spoiler, elderly people and they’re having sex and it’s about their sex
lives and their loves lives and stuff and no one ever,
ever comments on that actually, which is interesting, it’s
a very universal story, no one ever says, well, that’s
quite unusual, isn’t it? No one sort of says that. – I think they still don’t
quite make the connection. – ‘Cause we don’t show
older people doing it. – Enough. – Enough generally. – In the show. – In the show. – Yeah.
– Yeah. – Well, she’s not able, is she, that was the whole point. (Charlie laughs) That’s why she had to go back. – Keep it light (laughs). – Me? Bloody hell, no, I do,
one thing I do love, I mean, you’re right, it’s
not really why it’s love but I do love the fact that in that film you have two elderly women who have got a personality and a sexuality
and it’s totally raw and it’s not often you see that in drama, so that was one of the elements. – ‘Cause you never see that in drama, ’cause I think, I mean,
I’m gay and I think it’s something that’s so well written in where it’s not a central
hook about them being LGBT, it’s kind of a subtle
reference point into it, it’s just a normal love story. – Oh no, totally. The whole point is about being
able to go back to a time where these two old women
suddenly felt alive again because they were in an
environment and an era that they understood, it was the 80s and they understood the
music and the references and so they felt alive
again but the added bonus, of course, was that it was
being relived in a time when all of the prejudices that would have existed at that time
now have been removed, so they were able to
live their live again, which is a wonderful, simple idea. – Are the episodes that
have a happy ending, are they easier to write than ones that are having a sad ending or is it very much the other way around? – I mean it really, it really depends. I think it’s difficult to probably, there’s not that many episodes we’ve done with a happy ending, so it’s sort of– – So, that answers the question, it’s very difficult. – Hang the DJ has got a happy ending and USS Callister has got a
triumphant ending, I would say and so, I suppose it’s probably trickier, you’ve got to make sure that you’re not, I think a happy ending
only doesn’t work when you don’t feel it’s earned or you just go, well, that’s bloody typical, isn’t it, oh, god, who cares? So, I guess if you’ve put
the characters through the ringer and then they
have a sort of triumph then that feels earned, I guess, I don’t know, I’m kind of feeling my
way into happy endings. That sounds like a weird… (audience laughs) phrase somebody says on their first trip to a massage parlour. (audience laughs) Sorry and I don’t know, also, we didn’t want it
to just be the show where every ending, it’s always depressing because that would be really, really, really, really predictable. – And I guess that sort of causes a bit of a complication in trying to work out the order of each episode for each series, ’cause when it was on Channel 4, it’s like, you’re dropping one by one, I think people can pace
it in terms of expecting if they’re gonna be quite sad
or quite unfortunate endings but when you’re dropping
a whole series at once, there’s a bit more of
a concern that it’s got that right sort of feelings
or the right order, is that bit of a real
challenge to go and work out which goes where? – We do have debates. – Yeah, but I mean, that’s in
the development stage as well, so before the working out of
the running order on Netflix, you do not want to be
predicable, as Charlie said, and if everything is, you know, bleak, I mean, Jesus Christ,
who wants to watch that? – That’s our lives. (Annabel and audience laugh) – So we are aware of that
in the development stage and then, but I mean, I
think increasingly on Netflix people can go to the films
that they are drawn to and don’t necessarily have to watch them all in the same order
or all of them at all. That’s the wonderful
thing, that they can exist as single films and if
people don’t want to watch the one about the pig, they don’t have to. – Or unless we should
force them to watch that and it only unlocks the
other episodes after you’ve watched that 97 times. (audience laughs) That would be funny (laughs). Netflix don’t tell us like how
many people have watched it, so for all we know, it could be three, but they do sort of,
they have told us that in between seasons three and four, people learnt that it
was an anthology show, so when it came to the most
recent season that went up, people were watching them
in any order they wanted. They were doing kind of
what you’re meant to, which is you look at the
list of episodes and pick the one that appeals to you
the most based on the title and the little screenshot. When people say, which
one should I start with, I say, do that, I’m not
fucking choosing for you. (audience laughs) – Black Mirror is a show
that very much talks about our relationship with
technology but I think it’s not necessarily, it more or less, I think, pinpoints more about how
humans interact with technology or use it for a way that it might not have been intended. I always see it that the technology’s not necessarily the problem,
it’s humans using it for their own ends that might be like an unintended consequence. Do you share that point of view? – Yeah, I think we do. I mean, I would say, I get
sort of sulky when people characterise it as the
show that’s people going, oh, our phones are bad
and the internet is bad. I mean, obviously, we
sometimes do a bit of that, but sometimes we’re taking the piss a bit, so in the end of Playtest,
I thought it was hilarious that we literally had an
episode where somebody’s killed by a mobile phone but no one seemed to pick up on the tongue-in-cheek
black humour of that, they just thought, oh my god,
look at those miserable Brits. (audience laughs) We don’t tend to do, for instance, stories about a sinister
corporation that’s like pushing some technology on the population, we don’t tend to do that because, a, I don’t really understand
what that story is, it’s hard to get a foothold on it, it’s quite boring and also
it’s not as interesting, I think, as watching someone
mess their own life up, thanks to an app. – I think it’s also the
case that evil corporations don’t know that they’re
evil themselves as well, they think they’re doing something for the best of intention. – Yeah, I was going to say,
something like Nosedive, a film we did with Bryce
Dallas Howard about sort of satire about status
anxiety in the modern world. The technology there is slightly more, it does depend on each
episode but in Nosedive, the technology is very
foregrounded because it is the device that she’s being a slave to, that is controlling her world and so, yes, it’s human weakness
a lot of the time but when you have technology
that is designed to be that addictive and designed to be the drug that rewards you for
the social engagement, technology is playing a
significant role there and it’s hard for Bryce in
that scenario to resist. So, I think it depends on each film. – Speaking of segues,
we might as well watch a clip of Nosedive. This is when– – That’s slick. – That felt like the One Show. (everyone laughs) Bryce Dallas Howard here
as Lacie is at the airport and her flight’s delayed
and she’s introduced, well, she meets Michaela
Coel, who’s fantastic. So, so good. I mean, there’s one thing
that I got from watching that which is, I think our
relationship with social media, it can be more deeper in
terms of the negative effects of it than I first realised from that, from watching Nosedive,
I think my relationship with social media’s changed. From the show itself, do
you think your relationship with social media has changed? – I don’t know, the origin for Nosedive was, it was an idea that we’d had awhile back where originally it was going to be like a Brewster’s Millions story
about the idea was that someone was being blackmailed into, it was gonna be in a reputation economy where you had maximum
five stars and there was gonna be someone who was
being blackmailed into reducing their reputation
to zero in 48 hours. This was the idea, it was
going to be like a comedy movie that we’d wanted to do
and then I realised that once he’s pulled his pants down and pooed in front of a primary school
in the first five minutes, there’s nothing else you
can do apart from have him drive around to other primary schools. (audience laughs) Cause the idea was going to be– – Sounds good. – It does sound, actually,
not that I put it like that, that is a season. (audience laughs) Where’s he gonna go next? He’s got the Ofsted list. (audience laughs) And the point was gonna
be that he becomes, he can’t because as his rating goes down, he becomes a folk hero,
like a Charlie Sheen sort of character and blah, blah, blah but we’d done The National
Anthem, which involved sort of similar territory, so really, then we started thinking about Uber, so really the origin for
that I think came more from like Trip Advisor
and Uber than it did so much from social media
but it certainly has, there’s parallels there
if people take their, take a sense of self-worth. It’s hard not to feel wounded
if somebody unfollows you or blocks you or something like that, so it’s certainly commenting on that but there’s probably episodes,
in a way, like Be Right Back is an episode which probably
says something slightly different about how we
are on social media, which is more to do with how
authentic you actually are when you’re on there, where it’s about a
character who is sort of resurrected from their social
medial platform effectively and she’s very lucky, Hayley
Atwell was really lucky in that ’cause he comes back and the
problem is he’s a bit bland and nice and actually, if
you’re writing that now, he’d probably be a Pepe
the Frog meme or something, do you know what I mean, or he’d be like, I don’t know what he’d be. – You’re saying it’s dated. – I’m saying that something that came out several years is dated, yeah,
I know, I’m sharp (chuckles). – But I find that Be
Right Back so fascinating because I think it has a
relationship in terms of grief and it has a relationship
in terms of trying to let go from your past
because if I’m going through my phone, I’m
constantly seeing memories of things I’ve been in or
friends I’m no longer keeping in contact with
or exes or so forth and then that can sometimes
make me linger more in the past and blocked me from moving on and that’s very apparent in Be Right Back. – Yeah, no, I think that’s
one of the overriding themes of the piece, how do
you mourn and how do you grief in a world in which everything is present, everything can be omnipresent
and what used to be a very contained box of
photos of someone who died under the bed now is there,
facing your every moment, so how do you move on and yes, it’s very much a film
about grieving, yeah. – Although that came about
because I’d just become a dad and I was like– – You were grieving. – I was grieving my life. – Your bachelorhood. – (laughs) And I was looking
at social media about 3:00 AM one night in between feeds and I thought, what if all these people
were dead and everything they were saying was just being generated by an algorithm, how would I know? Also, would that be sort of comforting? Would I mind (chuckles),
if I’m never gonna go outdoors ever again? – He really took to parenthood. – Yeah, I did, it was a brilliant excuse to never go outside ever again. – Great. – Yeah. Also, it slightly adheres
to another sort of, sometimes when we’re coming up with ideas, it’s quite good if you could actually, in a strange way, do
the same story without any technology at all. So you could do Be Right Back and it could be a supernatural story
about somebody being resurrected from old love letters or something like that and you could, I think that hopefully
makes the stories feel fairly timeless or
there’s something about it where it’s not just
resting on the technology and I think that hopefully means that even though that was a whole
seven years ago now that episode came out,
you could still watch it and not be appalled. It’s not like they’re
driving steam trains around and wearing stove pipe hats and communicated through tapestry. – Hmm, but I do remember with Nosedive, which was the first episode
we put out in season three and the first season for Netflix, we were really worried
because of the way it looks, and it’s set in America
and that people would think it’s quite light and a
little bit thin, you know? Because it just looks
so, sort of bubblegum and yet people were
horrified by it and I think and I love that the show can do that. That you take something that
looks sort of picture perfect, the big American movie
and yet at it’s heart, people just can see Bryce as a slave and having no control
over her life and just desperately in this
spiral chasing something that doesn’t exist. – There’s also so many
different episodes that I think talk about like, public
perception towards things, for example, Hated In
the Nation is very much by trolls by Twitter and people deciding who they want to go and like and dislike or who they want to be
killed by a bee, spoiler, but also we have The National
Anthem that was about basically people being and
the media being involved in this sort of honey trap, as it were, that was sort of leading
them thinking that, oh, wouldn’t it be funny
and hilarious to see if the prime minister fucks a pig but then they’re subject to it and they see it and they see how horrible it is. Do you sort of see that
social media is a good thing ’cause this is what I
sort of sense from that is sort of, I realise
that sometimes it’s got much more of a devastating consequence than I first thought, then
I first think or believe. – I think it’s like with anything, sorry, I think it’s like with anything in that it’s a powerful new tool
and so and I sometimes liken social media to having,
it’s like the human race has grown a new limb, basically, and so, it’s sometimes very useful ’cause it means you can hold a canned
ham while you operate a two handed can holder to open it, I sense this analogy is not the best. (audience laughs) But it’s like having
an extra limb which can be very handy for some
things but equally sometimes you can be clumsy with it
’cause you’re getting used to it so you flail around and
you knock things over. So in many respects,
with any of these things there’s a plus and a minus, so it’s very– – What’s the can? – The can, oh, forget the can, it was a terrible analogy. No, the can wasn’t part of the analogy, the extra limb was. – Oh, okay. – Yeah, I brought a can in to try and make the analogy clearer and I fucked it up. (audience laughs) – Yes, the answer is yes and no, isn’t it? I mean, boringly, in that public shaming is an
innocent person wrongfully named and shamed is,
of course, a bad thing, is a bad thing? Yeah, it’s a bad thing and then, social media being able
to take powerful Hollywood moguls into account is
a good thing if it’s mobilised people but maybe
we’re powerless to speak, so, you know, there’s not an easy answer. – Well, one thing that
did get a big reaction during Christmas was Bandersnatch, segue, we’re gonna show a clip. This is when Colin and Stefan are on LSD. Was that LSD that they were on? – We don’t think we specified. – Okay, well, there we go. – Yeah, it was. – Before and basically we
are all subject to a choice. I mean, tell me about
the process about how Bandersnatch was being
made ’cause I can sense it was such a complicated feat. – Why, do we look broken? – Ha, ha, no. – It’s a piece of piss. (everyone laughs) They were actually on
that ledge, by the way. They were actually sitting, it’s slightly terrifying that they were, they had like a harness
on but they were sitting, they had to sort of go
slightly over the edge of a balcony so they were
genuinely quite nerve wracked while doing that. It was sort of, the whole thing was quite a complicated undertaking. – Yeah, in a world in which
you can have infinite stories, again, it’s the skill of trying to decide which are the right ones
just in the game itself. How do you try and create a cohesive whole and how do you manage
those and give people meaningful decisions but at the same time not take the story off
into such divergent ways that it all becomes arbitrary? – But I remember seeing a
behind-the-scenes feature of a giant map that
sort of got started with the very first choice about
Frosties or Sugar Puffs, then it got wider and
wider and wider and wider, were there some times where
you were thinking to yourself, okay, where are we, what are we doing? – Everyday. – Literally, like I was using Twine, which is this interactive
fiction coding thing to write it and I kept, that
was a slightly lonely process where for a few weeks I think I only made sense to myself and I’d
occasionally send you emails going, I don’t really know
what this is and I kept adding bits and it would get
more and more complicated. I think the thing that we
did and it was incredibly, what was weird is that
you’d have an idea and if you added it, A, you
could add it because normally when you’re doing a story, you think, well, what’s the character gonna do here and you have to make a
choice and so as Annabell was saying, it’s about
simplifying it and whittling it down, with this, in a
way, it would grow sideways, you’d sort of add a bit
and it’s like you’ve built a new wing of your house
that you have to then furnish and upholster everything
and sort of paint it and let it out, and I could
carry on, carpet it and so it got more and more complex and the other thing was that we had, we realised, I think, fairly early on that one thing we wanted to
do ’cause I’ve played a lot of computer games, it
will come as no surprise to– – To anyone. – To you and also, I’d seen in the 90s, I was a video games
journalist and I’d played some interactive movies when
everyone said CD-ROM was gonna be the next
big thing and we were all gonna live in the
fucking Lawnmower Man. (audience laughs) And usually what would happen is, they were disappointing
because, in a computer game, if you’ve got a character, the character can become
inconsistent very quickly, so, Red Dead Redemption 2, I was playing, so the main character, he goes
and has a tender conversation with his long lost love in an early scene and I was playing and I thought,
oh, that’s quite well done, that scene, for a cut
scene, that’s not bad and then it gives me control
of the character again and I turn around and
accidentally road my horse into a pig and then got off
for no reason and shot it. Right and I thought, suddenly, actually, hang on a minute, now this
character is a guy who (chuckles) shoots and murders a pig on
his ex-girlfriend’s doorstep? How is that gonna be
factored, so he becomes not a character, he’s just a sort of avatar. So we hopefully got around
that by making Stefan the main character is
separate from your decisions, so he doesn’t just act on your decisions, he is actively trying
to fight against them and what that does is
it removes him from you, so it makes him a separate character, and that’s, I think, a tricky thing that
interactive stories have to do, have to find a way of bridging
that little narrative gap. – Were there any ideas
that you just thought, because the possibilities
are sort of endless, were there any sort of
ideas that you thought, no, we just can’t do, this
is getting too mad now? – That I wanted to do that we couldn’t do, we cut some bits out as well. – Yeah. – What bits did you cut out? – We cut out a bit where he kills, there’s a scene where he
kills people on the doorstep. – You mean filmed and then– – Yeah, yeah, yeah and there were bits, there were some scenes we
had to cut out for time and it was getting too complicated. I wanted it to unlock achievements like an Xbox does, like literally, so if you got a certain ending, it would– – I didn’t. – I did want it to do
that, I maintain that would have been a good idea. (audience laughs) There was a central puzzle. The one thing that frustrates me, there was originally a
central puzzle that was built into it that was
just confusing to people and it’s a bit annoying
because what it meant was, it was always designed
you’d have to see things about two or three times
and then you’d understand the meaning of a phone number. We sort of put a version of it, a very simplified version down one path whereas originally it was
central to the whole thing and that might have given
you more of a sense of, right, I finished now,
do you know what I mean? So, that was probably the
main thing that I think, oh, I didn’t quite nail
that, if that makes sense, but I’m always picking fault and things. – I mean, it’s interesting
making an interactive film on a streaming platform
because Netflix carries films and TV, it does not yet
have games and we are introducing a film that you
hope people are gonna have an emotional engagement
with the characters and enjoy the narrative but we’re
giving this extra layer of another story-telling tool, in a way, that this idea of being
able to make a decision and you don’t want it to feel like a gimmick, you don’t want it to feel, you know, who gives a shit which decision I make and so you’re trying
to sort of build it in so that that interactivity just gives you a richer experience and
complicity that you are actively making a decision,
that you’re forcing your protagonist to be involved in, is making you more complicit and hopefully should make you feel more, not hopefully, should make you feel more
wretched and more involved in the process and I suppose, what’s the one key TV term, leaning in, is that what it is? Not passive viewing but
active viewing and that, it’s just interesting to explore how much a viewer feels more
complicit and whether that’s enabling the story and
enriching the story. One of the key things we
wanted, we did was to not stop the action through the film, so in a clunky way, you could
have had the choice point come up and everything stop and you know and it just cut to black or whatever and the two choices be
there and I think you would have really disengaged
and not allowed yourself to feel it like a film, so we worked really hard, not
just at simplifying the story but the interface and
making it feel all one awful experience. (Charlie laughs) – And it’s also the case
that I find so amazing and mesmerising but also
baffling is when you’re sort of facing the very first choice, it’s about breakfast cereal and I remember sort of sitting there being
like, oh my god, fuck, ahh and then, by the end you’re like, chop up or bury the body and you’re like, oh, okay, bury the body. – Fine, yeah, chip chop,
that’s how it works. – You should speak to someone. – Yeah. (audience laughs) It’s interesting that
we thought, we did think ’cause some of the decisions
were slightly forced on us because of technical reasons, so originally and Netflix
kept tweaking things and improving them as we were going, so originally it was like, well, you can have a maximum of,
you have to have at least a minute of footage before a choice point and the choice points
have to be 10 seconds long and this and that and we
were like, 10 seconds, that’s an age, that’s like forever but when you keep the edit going and actually people were saying, oh god, it feels like no time at all. As soon as you see this
sort of fuse ticking down it felt quite quick. The first choice in there, the Frosties and Sugar
Puffs choice is in there slightly to, a, it’s to
teach you how to do it but also it’s slightly
taking the piss out of those sort of 90s interactive films
where somebody would go, do you want the blue key or the red key and he’s literally
standing there with these two boxes of cereal. That was the other thing
I wanted to put in. So the payoff for choosing,
if you chose Frosties, say, the payoff was gonna be
that later on when you hit Dad with the ashtray and kill him, it was gonna cut to a shot of Frosties getting splattered with blood (laughs) or Sugar Puffs, depending
on what you’d chosen but it turns out, Kellogg’s aren’t keen. (audience laughs) Nor are Quaker or whoever
makes Sugar Puffs, equally unkeen on having their product associated with patricide. (audience laughs) – Kicking themselves now. – I know. – What I loved also is
just that Netflix released some of the stats for
what people had chose and 60% of the people had chose Frosties. – I know. – Which is, yeah. – Well, of course. Sugar Puffs are like the
little polystyrene chips you get in a packing crate, aren’t they? – I know, lovely. – And then there was 52.9% of Brits wanted to throw tea over the
computer compared to 55% of the rest of the world,
so us Brits are a bit more sort of protective of
wasting tea, I guess? Did any of the stats surprise you? How much did you see about what people had actually chosen? – They did show us quite a lot. I was surprised at the number of people who decided to chop the
body up versus burying it ’cause we thought more
people would choose bury. I mean, a lot of it,
also, it is interesting, a lot of this was very
experimental in that we, a, we were encouraged
to experiment and try and do different things, so it does quite a lot in
the background as well, you know, like memorise,
it knows which bits you’ve seen and it will show you an
edited version of something, so it’s tracking all sorts of things but what was it, the chopping
up was surprising one. I was surprised by the
number of people who ended up going down the
Netflix path rather than what we called the White Bear path, so there’s a point where
you choose something to put on his monitor and if
you choose the Netflix logo, it gets very fourth wall breaking. Now originally, that was
gonna be held back and wouldn’t possibly see that
on your first go round. I slightly wonder whether
we should have withheld it but on the other hand, more
people went down there, I think, on the first
go around and I’m like, hmm, maybe that wasn’t, maybe
we should have, I don’t know. – Yeah, but I think that’s
because not many people, not everyone who watched
it realised the White Bear was an Easter egg and so… – No and they thought
Netflix was like the menu, get me out of this, stop it, I wanna watch Stranger Things. (audience laughs) – Would you data in terms
of an idea to sort of, for future storylines in that way because it’s so experimental
and you’re sort of subject to a lot of this information for the very first time, is it
something or do you think it just gets in the way
of the creative process? – You know what? (Annabell murmurs) Well, I was just gonna,
sorry, I was just gonna say actually, it’s interesting
feedback to know that what people did and didn’t do,
so it helps you work out, ’cause you try and guide
people towards making certain decisions and some
things were very clearly, like accept the job, I
think most people chose that the first time around
because we cued you up to think that was the right thing to do. I don’t know that we were (laughs), I was just thinking, I
was just remembering how, do you remember once I wanted, when we did Playtest, I
wanted it to be able to say, I wanted Playtest, the third season, I wanted it to, if you’d watched it once, if you watched it a second time, it would be different and it
would break the fourth wall and he would be told he was
in an episode of Black Mirror and I even asked if you
could do it so it could work out where someone
was from their information and it would say, I know
you’re watching this in London. (audience laughs) Or Budapest or wherever
you are ’cause I thought that would be scary. I think, in retrospect, it would be scary on many levels. (audience laughs) Yeah, but that would have been fun. I just remembered
something else we cut out that I wanted to put in. There’s a bit where he puts in– – Why would you do this? – ‘Cause he wanted to put in a VHS. – Here’s all the mistakes we cut out. – No, this is a fun thing. This is a fun one. There’s a bit where he
gets a VHS of a documentary and he puts it on and
watches it and I wanted it to be able to, do you remember, we was like, oh, it
would be great if you had an option of two tapes
to put in and one of them has got a film on it and you
can watch the whole film. (audience laughs) So we licenced a 90
minute film or something and he put it in and it
would be the whole thing or you could back out at
any time or you could just, we’d shot Finn sitting there
watching the whole film. I really liked the idea of that. – Yeah, who doesn’t wanna
do that for two hours? (everyone chuckles) – But seeing that the whole
thing was so complicated, do you see this sort of
interactivity taking off, ’cause I know that there’s
been (muffled speech), have you tried that one,
that one’s just been out? – No. – No, okay, but there’s, I mean, like– – You can’t kill him, apparently. So I thought, what’s the point? (audience laughs) – But there’s been loads
of people who are saying this is gonna be the
future of TV and this is how it’s all going to be done
but as it’s so complicated, is that a thing? – It’s not the future of TV, is it? It’s a thing and it’s fun if you can find a fun, interesting way of
using that interactivity but it’s not the future. – Well, it’s not the future. – It’s not the future. – It’s an element of the
future but it’s not the, yeah, ’cause you couldn’t, a,
there’s that narrative problem where you and b, yeah,
it’s complicated and also and sometimes you just
wanna sit there and stare at something. – What do you see the future of TV being? It’s quite, I know, it’s
quite a profound question, really, isn’t it? – You mean in terms of
shows or in terms of? – Just in terms of maybe
the shows or the technology? Do you see normal TV dying ’cause I think what’s so interesting,
particularly with you Charlie is that you focused TV
right from screen, right, when you were doing it in
the basement and you both worked together on that
and then seeing how it’s been now to Netflix and
this entire new sort of global streaming giant thing, is there a direction you
see it all heading in, in which like we’re
all gonna be subject to essentially watching
these big global hits and normal TV will fizzle out
or is it a bit hard to say or hard to predict? – I don’t know if it’s gonna be, I think it will end up feeling a bit like the transition from analogue to digital in that you sort of won’t
really notice it’s happening. It’s like quite quickly you
don’t really watch much, I certainly, I had an
odd experience a couple of months ago where I was
watching something on TV like live, actual, like
broadcast television, I saw an advert and I thought, oh, I haven’t seen an advert in ages. I just hadn’t seen an advert in months because I just don’t– – Were they Frosties? – (laughs) It was because
I watch everything on a catch-up service
and I sort of missed it. I was like, oh, they used to have jingles and everything, do you remember, back in the old day, do
you remember that, kids? I think they’ll end up
sorting everything by length, actually, that’s what I end up doing and you’ll be able to customise it, so you go, (sighs) oh, it’s
10:00 and I’m really tired, been dealing with the kids all day, what can I watch that will
sedate me for 28 minutes? I think that will be a category. – That’s the dominatrix bag. I think, you know– (Charles and audience laugh) I think there will always be the appetite for the quirky, small, you know, comedy. If people make good shows
and people find them, then whether it’s major as far as they are dominating the
market, they will have to make those sort of shows,
so I think I’m not worried that we’re gonna be awash
with huge, American series, long running series, I
think that we’ll decide what we want to watch and if
we all want to watch things, people will make it. – And in terms of Black
Mirror, is there anything that you can say about
the upcoming series at all or any detail or anything specific? – No. (audience laughs) – We can’t. – It’s coming, which is great. – There’s some more. – Yes. – Some more coming— – They’re good, I hope we can say that. – It doesn’t really count
if we say that, does it? – Well, we might sound arrogant, that’s what I’m saying. – Okay (laughs). – So, I’m gonna be arrogant
and say I think they’re good and they’re all different from the things we’ve done before. – What else can we, we can’t. This is the problem, it’s
a really difficult show because I could sit here
and tell you everything that happens in them
and it would just be– – Please do. – It would be rubbish. It would be rubbish,
it would just spoil it, ’cause isn’t part of the
fun that you don’t really know what it is and then you get involved in the conversation about,
oh, I didn’t like that one, that one was good, that
one was a bit bleak, what the fuck was going on in that one? (audience laughs) That’s sort of half the fun. – Was that a spoiler? – No, although that’s how I think of them. (Annabell laughs) What’s going on in that one? – Because, of course, with
the series you just drop it, you don’t do any big, Bandersnatch
was just without fanfare, maybe the trailer dropped
a day before it came out and then with the previous series, you give a clue or a trailer but you don’t give that much warning. Why is that, is it just because you think, well, there’s no point trailering it because that would
reveal too much details? – We’re amateurs. (Charles laughs) We’re just a bit disorganised. – It’s basically that, it’s incompetence. – Yeah. – Laziness, we’re lazy. No, I think, it’s also, it’s hard– – Very hard to tease something, you know, that doesn’t immediately give it away, so we try not to do very much. – We quite often, whenever
there’s been trails, we have conversations
where we are basically the killjoys because
there’ll be somebody else who’s cutting the trail and they’ll go, here’s the first cut of
a trail and we’re like, yeah, you can’t show the bit with the, you can’t show, I’m trying to think of a, you can’t show the bit with the doohickey because no one’s meant to
know about the doohickey and basically we end up
telling them to cut out all the interesting shots in the trailer and they end up with
like somebody staring, I mean, they do a bloody good
job actually, considering but it’s really difficult. I just remembered something else. (audience laughs) – Great. – Right, which is, do you remember, the attention to detail you have to have to stop spoilers going out, do you remember, was it Hang the DJ or one of those episodes
we discovered it was translated into a different and like, in one of the territories it went out with a different title and the
title was something like, They Are In a Simulation. (audience laughs) And you’re like, don’t do that. It’s like calling Seven,
It’s Her Head in the Box. (audience laughs) And so since then, I was like,
what are they calling it? So that’s why we didn’t let
them translate Bandersnatch, do you remember, the French wanted to call it Le Bandegrip. (audience laughs) – Yeah, spoiler. – No, I know, no, they’re
not allowed to do that. – Okay. – That’s a tricky one
because it’s like they, in a weird way, Bandersnatch
was ’cause it was about someone who was slowly
losing their mind while doing a complex problem,
that was mirroring what was going on at all
levels of the production, in many of the
conversations, genuinely many of the conversations that
happened in Bandersnatch were playing out in our
office a lot of the time. – And we were all forced to play along. – Alright (laughs). I do find that, things like Metalhead
that I find frightening or with Men Against Fire actually, which is a particular chilling episode and the Waldo Moment, there’s
lots of them actually. They’re often the ones that
tend to be a bit more earnest, the ones that are probably
the most personally scary to me ’cause I quite often
worry about society collapsing and us all having to fend
with sharpened sticks and my tip is, if that
happens, go for the eyes. (audience laughs) First, ’cause I reckon, if
you go for the eyes first, you debilitate someone and
then you can finish them off. You certainly can without
breaking the show, it’s like if Game of Thrones said, we’re gonna do an episode that’s sideways and it’s just all like
this, it’s all side-on as though you’re watching it
in two dimensions sideways. No one would stand for it and
no one would watch it again and no one would have a
clue what was happening whereas we can sort of break the world, so we can do a black and white episode or yeah, we can do an interactive
episode or what have you, so yes, I guess. – Yeah, I’d still watch
Game of Thrones though, I just want to say. – What, sideways? – Yeah. – For how long? (audience laughs) – Two days? (audience laughs) I could do it, I be everyone here would. (audience laughs) – What, if it was sideways? – Yep. (audience laughs) – What’s the matter with you people? Of course you wouldn’t, shut up. You would not watch it if it was sideways. – Dragons look the same
wherever I’m looking. – I don’t mean like on it’s side, I don’t mean like turned
counter clockwise 90 degrees, I mean literally sideways,
so it’s like two dimensional, you can only see a strip of light. – You can’t see a dragon? – No, it’s a strip of light, sideways. – Oh, forget that,
forget that, forget that. (audience laughs) – When writing, I mean sometimes, well, Jordan Peele did say that he partly cast Daniel on the back, he saw him in Fifteen Million Merits and that was where he got on his radar, so that was– – [Both] That’s flattering. – I think, I’ve noticed
increasingly when writing and this goes back
slightly to San Junipero, that was probably, being a
guy, often my first default would be like, who’s the character, oh, it’s a bloke called,
I don’t know, he’s Bob, he’s a bloke and when I did San Junipero, I was really nervous
writing this because it was about these two women and I thought, I don’t really know, am
I gonna get this wrong? I don’t know, so all I could
do was kind of write it as you just put yourself
into somebody’s shoes and write what you would
and that actually solves the problem ’cause of
course, everyone is the same, so what were you worried
about, you fucking idiot? Now I’ve noticed that
sometimes it’s helpful to, a tip I give writers now,
which I think is probably quite useful, I don’t know if this is just a patronising tip, but
if you basically put in characters that are of
different ethnicities and sexualities and backgrounds
generally and you specify that as the character name, oddly, it makes that person much
more specific from the start and it sort of means that
in the casting process, you set the sort of things in stone, so you probably are, hopefully,
creating a more diverse show and not in a sort of
wanky, box ticking on I, fucking clever, look at me sort of way, but in a way that hopefully
makes it less boring and means you’re having
to think a bit more about all the characters. So, sometimes when you’re writing, you sort of picture a person
you’ve seen in something else and sometimes, that’s the other thing, it helps solidify that, it becomes a less generic
person in your head. So, sometimes you sort
of picture somebody. Sometimes you picture an
actual established actor ’cause that helps and you
get their speech rhythms and stuff like that. More often than not, you
sort of picture a vague, composite of somebody that’s probably been dredged up by an algorithm in your head. We’ve all got one of them. – But, it’s all about how the
actor responds to the script and the material as well and sometimes, often you have, our
casting director, Jina Jay, gets in loads of amazing
actors and the read, you’d be surprised how
different the reads can be for a scene and then you
know instinctively whether someone’s totally
understood the character and we’re very lucky that we
always go with the person who’s understood the material the most. – Well and that’s a good point, actually sometimes when you see like an audition from somebody, sometimes it’s like, oh
wow, that is the character, as written, they’ve stepped off the page, blah, blah, blah,
sometimes it’s not at all what you pictured, but what they’re doing is more interesting or is better and so, those two things can happen.

12 Comments

  • soulfoodie1

    April 25, 2019

    Was there! very much enjoyed Charlie Brooker's witty comments

    Reply
  • Grey Sky

    April 25, 2019

    I never understood how this show has haters.

    Reply
  • Dan Collins

    April 25, 2019

    *Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones on…

    Reply
  • donturnoverthegabe

    May 1, 2019

    the questions are so dumb tho lol

    Reply
  • csinszka

    May 5, 2019

    watching this from budapest and i'm not scared. not. at. all. thanks brooker!

    Reply
  • musti

    May 15, 2019

    yessss fam. i love it wen dis guy speaks.

    Reply
  • Av!ad

    June 5, 2019

    Black Museum is the best episode

    Reply
  • Kevin Singleton

    June 8, 2019

    Who directed this interview? The interviewers face is more important than the talent lol? Can’t even see Charlie brooker

    Reply
  • Steven Lewis

    June 11, 2019

    I want to see a Robocop style Black Mirror! Do it Charlie. Do it!!

    Reply
  • Matheus Velozo

    June 13, 2019

    From 10:56 to about 11:30 was basically Brooker foreshadowing the fan reactions there would be popping up right after they saw the 5th season. I mean no more cups of cocoa! We want more of that gnawing sense of dread in Black Mirror, Brooker!

    Reply
  • Luigi Deathstare

    June 19, 2019

    The camera angle isn’t great, is it

    Reply
  • cheekyboy5000

    June 23, 2019

    Charlie Brooker is a genius, and does not get enough credit.

    Reply

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