Today on the show we have the showrunning writing duo of Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit. They are responsible for bring iconic character Pikachu to the big screen. The film starred Ryan Reynolds.
Ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son, Tim, to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth Detective Pikachu. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to work together, as Tim is the only human who can talk with Pikachu, they join forces to unravel the tangled mystery.
Easily one of my favorite projects they worked on is the Netflix show One Day at a Time. On that project they got to work with the television living legend Norman Lear.
This comedy-drama is inspired by Norman Lear’s 1975 series of the same name. This time around, the series follows the life of Penelope, a newly single Army veteran, and her Cuban-American family, as they navigate the ups and downs of life. Now a nurse, Penelope is raising two strong-willed children.
When faced with challenges, Penelope turns to her “old-school” mother, and her building manager, who has become an invaluable confidant. The series offers a contemporary take on what life looks like in both good and bad times, and how loved ones can help make it all worthwhile.
On television, Hernandez and Samit have written for, The Tick, Super Fun Night and 1600 Penn. They were named in Paste Magazine’s list of the top 28 comedy writers of 2018. In 2019, Samit and Hernandez signed a long-term deal with 20th Century Fox Television to develop, write and produce animated and live-action series
We discussed how they got their big break, how they approach the craft, the world of the writer’s room and much more. Enjoy my conversation with Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit.
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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome the show Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit How're you guys doing?
Benji Samit 0:15
Dan Hernandez 0:16
Doin alright! Doin alright!
Alex Ferrari 0:16
Thank you so much for coming on the show, guys. I I I'm so glad that we were just talking beforehand. That Dan, you're you're the other Cuban. I know, in the business. People always shocked to hear like, I'm Cuban. And they're like, you're Cuban. It's always fascinating. When I'm on set, I'll just start busting out some Spanish and people were like,what is going on?
Dan Hernandez 0:42
Well, yeah, it's it's sometimes it takes people by surprise. Or you know, I think that you know, there's more there's, there's quite there's more of us than I think people realize given. Phil Lord is Cuban.
Alex Ferrari 0:57
Oh, yeah. There's a bunch. Yeah,
Dan Hernandez 0:58
There's you know we're kind of will infiltrate slowly.
Alex Ferrari 1:02
Listen. Yeah, no matter no matter where you are in the world. There's always we're everywhere. Like, in Germany, like a friend of mine was in Germany. Like they just walked by like is that salsa music and that there was a full blown salsa club right in the middle of Berlin or something like that. So we are we are everywhere in elephant infant trading. I like that word, infiltrating the business little by little. So guys, first foremost, how did you two meet? And how did you guys get started in the business? Because you've been pretty much working together. Almost the entire time. Right?
Benji Samit 1:32
Y'all? Yeah, we, you know, we, we went to college together. We met in college. We went to Brown in Rhode Island. And, you know, we started we we started working on like, plays and stuff and theater together. And and yeah, I mean, it's we've been together ever since of you know, it's been we graduated over 15 years ago now. And yeah, just keep riding together.
Dan Hernandez 2:00
Yeah, I can't seem to shake each other.
Alex Ferrari 2:02
I've tried to get rid of it. But I just can't.
Dan Hernandez 2:05
Yeah, I've tried many times. I actually didn't mean to wear this shirt. today. I just dropped my daughter off at preschool. And I just grabbed the first one. But it wasn't premeditated. But yeah, we did made it brown. And we yeah, we just really quickly realized that we had a shared taste, I guess for the things that we liked and the things that we didn't like. And I think so often having that taste is the first step towards a successful partnership. And so once we had that sort of foundation, it just, we started working on some theater things together, we started working on some writing projects together, and we just never stopped. We just kept going and go. So really, since 2006 Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 2:54
So what was that thing that Spark Spark did for each of you to be in this ridiculous business?
Benji Samit 3:01
I mean, to be in this business, I grew up in LA so I've always been sort of surrounded by and tangentially touching it and you know, like, my mom has written some things. My dad worked in entertainment in various ways. And so there was always a part of my life and you know, I love movies. I love TV. And you know, I think I think I always knew I wanted to do something with you know, like a lot of people that grew up in LA so many of them are just like I want nothing to do with like so many of my friends that I grew up with do not live in LA anymore. But I've just like I love it here. I want to be here. I want to keep doing this. So yeah, it was it was an easy decision for me.
Dan Hernandez 3:49
My path was a little more circuitous because I'm from Fort Lauderdale, Florida originally
Alex Ferrari 3:54
Stop, stop stop it. I'm from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was raised in my in the Fort Lauderdale area and I we could I mean I went I was originally it was in Sunrise, but then I was born in plantation my parents my parents are still I just I literally just got back from Fort Lauderdale so I'm sorry guys everyone listening I apologize it's rare enough to see a Cuban it's rare enough to meet another Cuban in the business let alone another one from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Benji Samit 4:27
I mean the odds are when you meet a Cuban they're from South Florida.
Alex Ferrari 4:30
I know it's very rare to even meet a Cuban from South Florida right.
Dan Hernandez 4:35
I grew up in actually I grew up across springs in Margate.
Alex Ferrari 4:38
Dan Hernandez 4:39
Like are you I say Fort Lauderdale because because the deep Yeah, you know, like depending on who you're talking to. It's like I'm from Miami.
Alex Ferrari 4:47
I always say Miami I just say my I'm from Miami because it's like Fort Lauderdale. Isn't that where the spring break movies were shot like an 85.
Dan Hernandez 4:54
Probably you had a cruise that left there once Yeah. But right the Venice of America,
Alex Ferrari 5:02
It's the Venice of America. Wow, I've never heard that.
Dan Hernandez 5:06
That is true. That is their nickname. If you look on like the, you know, like the city staff.
Alex Ferrari 5:13
Dan's just shaking his head. He's like, can we just move it along?
Dan Hernandez 5:16
Before filming from the Venice of America, I never could have imagined myself in the movie because I thought I would be on a, I don't know, like a glass bottom tour boat, or something. But I always loved writing and I always loved performing and acting and so Brown I did a ton of theater, you know, a lot of performance, a lot of writing. And I always was interested in TV writing and rewriting, but it felt like something amorphous that, yeah, it didn't feel like an actual career. It felt like some sort of intellectually, I thought, well, I guess that's something that people do. But how do you even begin to pursue that? Who are the people that pursue that? And then when I read Benji, I realized anybody could do it honestly, it was actually meeting Benji and becoming friends with him that changes exactly your my life. Because for Benji, who was much more familiar with
Benji Samit 6:22
LA, because it's my hometown, like, Sure, the big scary place that it is for so many people. I could sort of break down for Dan and be like, no, just come to LA. Like, we'll go, we can crash at my mom's house. And we did and we should.
Dan Hernandez 6:39
Meeting Benji, who had a more practical knowledge of like, how do you even begin to pursue a profession of TV and movie writer that really made me feel comfortable to give it a shot and and that was the beginning of that journey?
Alex Ferrari 6:55
Now, you guys were involved with a project that's very dear to my heart, which is one day at a time, which it is it was sad to see it go. I was a huge fan of it. And again, going back to the whole Cuban vibe that they that they made him Cuban, and they put them in Oka where's that Echo Park? In which is like, it's like the Venice of LA, but
Dan Hernandez 7:20
Alex Ferrari 7:22
Exactly. That go echo parks the Echo Park of LA. But it was it was such a such a fun show. How did you guys get involved with that show?
Benji Samit 7:31
Yeah. So I mean, the the show runner event show, co showrunner was Mike Royce, who great talented writer, Vick from, you know, for years and years and years. And we our first job as staff writers was on another show that he ran 1600 pen. And so we hit it off with him. We had a great time working with him. It was really, it was an amazing show to work on all the writers like it was just such a great writers room for a first show. And then, you know, fast forward a few years later, Mike got paired up with with Gloria Calderon kellett who we didn't know but they were working on this yet Cuban American show together. And Mike Luke, when they started staffing the show, Mike was like, I know a great human that we can have on the show and it's a guy
Dan Hernandez 8:31
Yes, Benji is an honorary Cuban. Yes. But yeah, I think that because we'd had a good experience with Mike on 600. When he asked us if we would be interested in coming in on one day at a time. I was particularly interested because it felt right that on some level for me that I should be on the ground floor of a big Cuban show, maybe the only Cuban show that, you know, I had seen in a while. And I was really you know, Gloria, and I ended up being the only Cubans on the staff. There were other Latino people, but we were the Cubans on the staff for the first two seasons. And then the third season, Jeanine Brito join us who's amazing, half Cuban half Icelandic. Just just
Alex Ferrari 9:19
How does that how does that happen?
Dan Hernandez 9:22
Pretty good. But but for the first two seasons, it was just for me and I felt like part of what my contribution was was trying to bring vers similitude and authenticity to the stories that we were telling and and we did realize that and you probably know this better than anyone is, you know a Cuban growing up in Los Angeles or San Diego has a very different experience or McKeown going up in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Obviously, we all started, you know the same spot in the Caribbean But you know, that just diaspora has it just leave, you have different experiences. And so I think that I was sort of the East Coast representative of what that experience was. And I tried to and, you know, my, it so happens that my family, like the family, one at a time is extremely liberal, which is sort of a typical. So I did feel like there was, but not all of them, but my direct family. So I felt very close to the Alvarez family in that sense, which I did think it was, it was, it was really interesting to write a Cuban family that was progressive, and that was working on issues and really trying to, like, work out where they landed on a bunch of topics that were tough. And, and, and not always obvious to talk about. So I'm really proud of the work that we did on that show. And I was really happy. And of course, the opportunity to work with Norman Lear. Yeah, was a huge, I mean, I mean, what, what a gift that was.
Alex Ferrari 11:04
So I mean, so there was something I saw every episode. And I remember watching it, I'm like, my god, this is very much like a throwback to the 80s and 90s, when they would do the deep episode, the episode that tackles something deep, like you wouldn't see that with a lot of the current day, even things in the last decade, you wouldn't see those kind of like, tackling like racism and tackling, like really tough things that shouldn't really be in a 30 Minute Comedy, but you guys did. How was it like doing? Like, how was it like, trying to was that like, in the beginning? Like you guys, like, no, no, we're gonna do this old school, we're gonna we're gonna tackle things that aren't being tackled.
Benji Samit 11:45
You know, I think partially, it was, you know, when you have the show that's coming, originally from the mind of Norman Lear. And, you know, he's still there for this new version. And like, that was, I mean, for decades and decades and decades, like that was such an important part of his work on TV like he had, he was responsible for so many amazing sitcoms that were more than just silly jokes and gags and things like, extremely funny, but, you know, actually using the medium to, you know, try and, yeah, give a lesson and something you try to do some good with, with what we're doing. And so that was sort of a guiding principle and ethos, it was important for Mike and Gloria as well. And all the writers to to try and carry that legacy forward and, and sort of do a classic, you know, multi cam sitcom with a live audience that really, you know, it's it was like putting on a play every week, honestly. And yeah, it was just a great experience
Dan Hernandez 12:55
Using the template that Norman had established over the course of his illustrious career. It really trying to not shy away from that and not being worried that it would come off as old fashioned or something. That was, that was important to all of us to try to capture up to, and to try to live up to what is the modern interpretation of that? And, and because it was this cubic family to say, well, there's a bunch of stories within this mode of sort of storytelling that we haven't seen before. Yeah, because it's it's just different culture. It's culturally specific now in a way that we just haven't seen a lot of these stories told through that Norman Lear lens. And that was that was what we really tried to do and and I feel we were pretty successful most of the time.
Alex Ferrari 13:52
What was the I mean, you working with obviously a living legend? What was it? What was the biggest lesson you took away from work with Norman?
Dan Hernandez 14:00
Hmm, it's a great question. Norman was, I mean, Norman is a big believer in if you get the right person for the the role, that there's a lot of trust that needs to happen between the writers and the actors. And that's why he's pretty rigorous about his his audition process. And he's pretty rigorous about if he doesn't think that the actor has the spark of what he really is looking for, even if it's a good performer or a famous performer. He doesn't he's not interested in that he can't. He doesn't. He doesn't engage with that. He really is thinking about what is the part what am I trying to accomplish? What is that spark that I see in this performer
Benji Samit 14:47
Well, it's yeah, it's finding the actor that can that can transform that what's on the page to the next level where like, you know, you could have the best script ever but at the actor doesn't click with like, it's, it's just not.
Dan Hernandez 15:02
And that may sound facile on some level, like you should get a good actor for a party. I guess what I'm trying to say is it's beyond. It's beyond town. It's like an almost indescribable,
Benji Samit 15:16
Like, a spiritual connection to the part.
Dan Hernandez 15:19
He really, I think that's why in the, in his, you know, the for I was gonna say the old days but, you know, to ancient but it is in the past, Norman often went to Broadway to look for performers who could carry a dramatic load as well as a comedic load. And Justina Machado was a Broadway performer. She's an amazing, I mean, she's an amazing actress. I mean, Rishi is rearrange our living legend, he got, you know, all of that. So, and then you have someone like Stephen Tobolowsky, who is just just such a professional and such a craftsman and such a technician and so thoughtful in the way he does everything. And the whole cast and, you know, the, I mean, is the fella, Marcel, like, you know, Isabel has now gone on to start her own show. So there clearly was something there. And of course, togher now stepping into the role of Schneider, you know, that was that was. And so in order to kind of get the alchemy, right, Norman really put an emphasis on chemistry, and that sort of it factor that that, you know, over the course of decades, he can recognize, I think, in a way that other people, you know, we'd all be so lucky to work long enough to be able to discern that in someone based on an audition, because sometimes these audition tapes the best, you know, not every not all the best actors shine on a video. Right. You know, and so sometimes it's going beyond the audition tape itself, or the performance on the addition, and seeing some quality or some move or some physicality that feels right. And Norman is amazing at identifying those things. It's it's really something we we really tried to take away from working with him.
Alex Ferrari 17:13
Yeah. And not and Norman still at it, man. I mean, he just, yeah, he's got projects left and right. Still, he's still getting things developed. He's still getting things produced. How old is it?
Dan Hernandez 17:23
He's almost 100. I mean, he's 98. And he's a nine, but he's an actual genius. I mean, that thing, that you meet a lot of smart people in your life, and you meet many talented people, but the amount of actual genius level people that you encounter is pretty small, I would say in this life. And so when you do encounter it, it's like, Oh, right. This is an actual person. This is a person that is exceptional. There's no one that knows more about a TV comedy that probably will ever live, I would go so I would venture to say,
Benji Samit 18:05
Well, yeah, no, I mean, he's been through it all. We were talking to him. And yeah, he was talking about how like, he, when he went to, to college, like he was like, studying radio, and they heard rumors of this thing called TV that was gonna come out. And I'm like, so then he started doing that. And he's still doing that. And, yeah, like, it's just talking to him is unlike anyone else. We've ever Yeah, it's not. There's no comparable person, because he's seen it all. Truly, He was there. He's been
Alex Ferrari 18:41
He's the oracle he's the Oracle.
Dan Hernandez 18:44
But he also knew every single person, you know, you can say, hey, Norman, tell us about you ever meet Orson Welles? And he's like, yes. And in fact, I did meet Orson Welles. My you know, like that, here's my Orson Welles story. I mean, and you could say
Benji Samit 19:00
He is still so sharp and remembers all of these things. And like, yeah, he goes to work every day. And he just he lives for this stuff. And like that's, it's really
Alex Ferrari 19:10
I just started watching. Yeah, just started watching the Rita Moreno documentary on Netflix the other day, and she was just talking about oh my god, that the guy can Marlon Brando. Thank you, Marlon Brando. And like, she's like, oh, yeah, this and that. And this and you're just in there. Like, what?
Benji Samit 19:31
You know, how many slides means that one day at a time, it's just heard regaling us with stories of all that.
Dan Hernandez 19:37
And Rita is also a genius. I mean, that's, that's, I mean, we've encountered a few performers in our time that I think are the transcendent talent is so remarkable that it's actually kind of breathtaking to see it. Express and Rita is one of them. We were fortunate enough to work with Robin Williams, briefly. And that even in the you know, week or however many days it was that we work with Robin, it was like, oh, that's why Robin Williams as Robin was because what he's capable of doing is so beyond anything that we've ever seen even even on a show that wasn't ultimately a hit, but that didn't change the the watching his craftsmanship watching the way he approached a scene watching away he even approached to take in between Tet, you know, yeah. So what Benji and I have tried to do throughout our careers is try to take those lessons from these really, really talented people, genius, loving people and take, you know, 15% of that as a lesson for ourselves. Going forward, and in our own work as best we can.
Alex Ferrari 20:48
Now I wanted to go back real quick. What was the what was that breakthrough? What was that thing because I'm assuming you guys didn't just say, Hey, we're gonna start writing and then the money just started boatloads of money started coming in and opportunities start flying in. That's the way it works in Hollywood. You say you're a writer, and then opportunities just show up. Right? That's the way it works.
Benji Samit 21:04
Mm hmm. Yeah, no, no. Yeah, no, it was just a whole lot of the hustle. You know, we, we were out here in LA. And we were sort of focusing on at first, just like writing features. And, you know, we got, you know, a small agent to finally read one of our things, and he sent it to a few places. And we, you know, pretty soon after graduate, like, in the first couple years, like we, we optioned a feature. And we're like, oh, this is the thing, if suddenly it's gonna get made. But now that all fell apart. Mm. Like, there was another like, we got hired to, to write, like, the straight to DVD movie that never got me. And so like, this was when we're, you know, 25. And any, any gig sounds like a great gig. And then, you know, so yeah, we sort of thought like, oh, everything's happening, but then no, nothing was happening. And so then we were like, well, let's keep doing movies. But let's also try doing TV because there's this whole other side of the industry that we love that's here. So we started writing, some pilots and, and those started going around, and eventually we started getting some attention there. But again, like it wasn't overnight, okay. Like, even once we started getting to the point of like, having showrunner meetings like we weren't getting the jobs yet. Like, just like, we were suddenly at a place where like, oh, yeah, we're doing showrunner meetings now. And, you know, that went on for a while, like we met on dozens of shows, or like a dozen shows, probably, before we got our first staff job on on 1600. Pen.
Dan Hernandez 23:01
Yeah, I think that, you know, I think there were a couple of things going on. I think that we were fortunate to get a small agent when we first started out. But you also do realize why these big agencies are the big agencies and and you know that there is an access issue. So that is a bit of an uphill struggle. But on the other hand, our first agent did an amazing job of getting us read places, we probably would not have been read just through hustle and through tenaciousness. And and I think it helped that because I'm Cuban, we qualify for a lot of these diversity positions on these shows. And so we were ended up getting read by a lot of places that I think probably wouldn't have read writers at our level. Otherwise, which was really great for us because I people did start to see there was something there. Even if we weren't quite ready to get some of these jobs, there was enough promise that people did take the meeting with us and we did get in rooms with really high level people that we probably at a pretty young age. It still took a long time to some luck to get that first gig. But I think it was all now and looking back on it. And I occasionally meet people who are sort of in similar situations now looking back on it when you have 12 showrunner meetings that is a sign that something is right in what you're doing even if those meetings don't ultimately ended a job you can sort of say okay, this is seems to be pointing the way towards eventually hopefully someone is gonna say yes, but in the moment it felt more like why is anyone saying yes we keep having these near
Alex Ferrari 24:46
I'm pretty I'm pretty enough Why doesn't anybody want to date me?
Dan Hernandez 24:50
Yeah. You know, I chose that we're, you know, like waiting me is the next year I was like, we could have wanted to have a So it was disappointing at the time. And but it forced us to continue to refine what we were doing, it could force us to, you know, work harder on our material, because we did feel like we were knocking on the door. And because we had made the rounds, and all these people were lucky to part is I went to high school with Josh Gad, the actor, and he is a friend. And he was very close. My also, my wife went to the same high school, and she actually was closer with him. He was a senior, we were freshmen. So she was great friends with him. One of my best friends was great friends with him. And when we moved out here, we were able to connect, and we became friendly. And Josh said this before anything, Josh said, Well, you know, if I ever get a TV show, I want you guys to work on it. And we said, okay, yeah, sure, sure. Yeah, that'd be great. Sure. And then he went to New York, and he did a show called Book of Mormon. And then he got outed for Tony, which he should have won, in my opinion. And then he came back, and he had a show. And he was like, Hey, guys, I want you to read for my ship. So that was it. But even that was,
Benji Samit 26:13
That alone wouldn't have been enough. But like all of the other meetings that we had had on other shows, it got us on the, you know, radar on the radar of the NBC executives that were in charge of 60 minutes. They knew who we were they it was it was sort of like all the stars aligning, right.
Dan Hernandez 26:31
So it was it was preparation, it was luck. It was hard work. It was it was timing, all of those things. And and that's why I often say to younger writers or artists, no one's journey can really be replicated. It's not, it's not possible can because if you ask any writers or Hey, how did you get your big break? You're going to hear a crazy roundabout shaggy dog tale of Yeah, well, I knew a guy who did a thing and that, oh, I met a guy or I was an assistant. And then I did that, you know, it's just it's not. Everyone's so different. Right? Right. That's how our story came about, and how we got that first gig.
Alex Ferrari 27:11
Yeah, and for everyone listening just because it you knew Josh, that's no guarantee you would have gotten if you guys were just working at in and out and just like, hey, I want you guys to be a writer that probably wouldn't have worked out, you guys
Benji Samit 27:22
Because we knew Josh, there was actually some hesitancy, right. Other like from the showrunner and the creator, like, they didn't want necessarily to have like the actors, buddies, like, in the writers room, dictating what the actor should and shouldn't do. Like, here, I sort of had, it was kind of an uphill battle. And
Dan Hernandez 27:47
Well, you know, we learned a lesson important Hollywood lesson, which is our agent at the time said, you're taking this meeting with the other creators of the show. It's just a formality. And what we learned is that anytime anyone tells you something, it's just a formality, it means it is not a formality. teetering on the edge of disaster. Barry, I have a spidey sense for that phrase. Now, anytime someone tells me it's a formality or it's a layup. I'm like, Oh, okay. That means
Benji Samit 28:18
That I also think, you know, like some of the some of the failed showrunner meetings from when we were younger, gave us the tools to know how to then handle that meeting, that formality meeting where like, some of the questions thrown at us, we actually were prepared for in a way that we weren't when we were 25. And so it's sort of like, yeah, looking back at it, it's like every moment of our journey, like, helped, there was a reason that happened. And it it's yeah, it's
Dan Hernandez 28:51
Well sometimes it is making a decision to learn something, you know, so we would occasionally be in at the beginning of the show in meetings where they would ask you a question like, What would you change about the show? Or what's the worst part of the show? And I think the natural inclination, especially when you're young is to equivocate? And be like, No, it's fine. You know? No.
Benji Samit 29:11
You feel like us, like a baby writer? Like what? What how are you going to tell a showrunner how to like, fix their, their show, or you know what the issues are? But like, they don't want to hire a baby writer that just tells them that they're right. They want to hire someone who is going to give ideas to make the show better. Yeah.
Dan Hernandez 29:32
So after that happened a few times, we together made a decision that it was like if anyone ever asks us a question, like what is the worst part of the show? Or what would you change about the show? We're going to be completely honest. The next time that this comes up, and it so happens that that question was one of the sort of major questions in the 1600 pen interview and we just were honest, and ultimately approved to be the thing that got us the job. So sometimes the agents sort of discerning. Okay, what is there a lesson to be taken here? What did we do wrong? You know, but when Greg Daniels in my sure asked you like, hey, what's the worst part of Parks and Rec? And you're like it when you're 25? It's hard to be like, well, let me tell you, Greg Daniels. Yes, we just weren't there emotionally. I think that if, if, you know, going through that experience really prepared us for the future. And yeah, and help set the setting.
Alex Ferrari 30:31
Now, one thing I'm always fascinated about is because I've never been in a writers room, because I've never done television in that way. How do you break an episode? Like, what is the process in the writers room to breaking an episode?
Benji Samit 30:45
I mean, it varies between show to show show runner to show runner. But I would say the the sort of most common way that it's done is, you know, we have big discussions, those first few weeks of a writers room is really just talking like, getting to know each other and our personal stories, personal stories that may relate to what the show is about getting to know just talking about who our characters are this or that. And slowly, through those discussions, Episode, ideas start to come up. We're like, oh, yeah, it'd be funny if there was an episode where this happens, you know, like one day at a time. The first episode we wrote is the one where, where she was on hold for the entire episode. Contract the VA, and it's like, oh, on hold, and let's like, just a moment of like, oh, it'd be funny to do an episode where she's on hold the whole time. And everyone's like, yeah, that sounds funny, putting on the board. And so you sort of have like, a list of ideas of episodes. And it's up to the showrunner then, to be like, alright, alright, now, let's actually talk about that episode. And then it becomes more of a discussion of like, okay, well, what's going to happen in that episode, start to arc it out in loose terms. And, you know, just with the group, slowly filling it out to the point where it's like, you sort of have an idea of pretty much seen by seeing what the episode is what the ACT breaks are. And at that point, the the writer who's been assigned to do that episode actually goes off to start writing an outline. But much of the, you know, of the of the breaking of the story just happens in a sort of natural way with the whole group.
Dan Hernandez 32:28
Yeah, and I think sometimes you may think that you've got a great idea for an episode course of conversation, you find it evolves into something slightly tangential, or just an element of your initial idea sort of survives, or becomes the, the springboard toward what the episode is really about. So you have to have a little bit of openness to changing things and not being prescriptive about
Benji Samit 32:56
You can't be too attached to anything, when you're going into these discussions, like it really is just like, let the discussion take us where it has to go. And, and a good showrunner can sort of, you know, find that line of, you know, to freewheeling a discussion versus like keeping some sort of shape of like, where we're going, not losing sight of the episode and sort of a whole freewheeling thing.
Dan Hernandez 33:26
And now that we're showrunners, you know, you also have to be judicious and saying, This is really funny, but it doesn't sell on our characters, right? This is a really cool idea. But where do you go from there
Benji Samit 33:42
Right are there enough actual storytelling beats for it to sustain an entire episode? Or is this really just like a guy? So yeah, is this a gag
Dan Hernandez 33:51
Or kit does it link up thematically with the other stories that you're telling? Because normally in an episode, you usually have an a story and a B story? Sometimes?
Benji Samit 34:02
Or if it's like, you know, this idea is good. It's not a whole episode. Oh, what about that other episode idea that was on the board, maybe we can combine them together into one episode together. So like, it's yeah, you sort of just have to stay aware of like, everything that's been said in the room. And, you know, be willing to steer it in certain direction.
Dan Hernandez 34:25
If things could be quite technical. Really, I think that the baby is something that people don't it's hard to understand how technical it can be, unless you're actually sitting in a room and seeing how, how the episodes are put together, because there are certain things that you need, you know, the inciting incident the the ACT breaks, really strong and all of the you know, that there is a formula, and you can mess with the formula, but basically the formula is the formula and understanding sort of What is the bedrock of an episode of television that allows you to go off in different directions or to or to do something different in order to subvert that expectation in a way that's, that's unexpected, but the core of it really isn't that different than what Norman was doing, or what they were doing in, you know, avocado or something like it really is. It's it's, yeah, especially
Benji Samit 35:29
Yeah, comedy, is comedy, the things the things that make people laugh have always been the same. And like you can you update it, you modernize it, but at the court, the same stuff,
Alex Ferrari 35:39
Right! That you look at, you look at, you know, the Three Stooges, I still crack up. I mean, anytime someone gets smacked in the head with a with a wrench, and there's no actual bodily harm, right? It's funny, the banana is slipping on a banana peel. Funny, farts, farts funny.
Dan Hernandez 35:59
I think there's just something innate in the human character that certain things amuse us. And I think also one thing that I find helpful, and maybe this is just the way that my brain works is I, I couldn't tell you like the quadratic equation, I couldn't tell you the chemical bonds of sodium, but I can tell you what happened in a random episode of The Three Stooges, you know, some bit that they did, or I can tell you some random line from an obscure movie that and so a lot of times, they'll say, we need a bit like this, we need a moment, like Groucho singing, hello, I must be going, you know, we need something that captures the spirit of those things. So it's almost there's a shorthand that I think of which is okay, we need something that plays the role of this comedic moment, or this emotional moment, or, you know, an emotional moment within the craziness that that really lands I think, often referenced this before. But, you know, when Wayne and Garth in Waynesboro, they're lying on the top of God's car looking at the stars, and Garth is missing the Star Trek tune. It's actually a really beautiful quiet moment within the within the the craziness of of that story, but it's actually one of the most important moments of the movie because you see their hopes and dreams of these guys. And it's not I mean, yeah, there are jokes in it, but they're actually really speaking their truth in that moment. And so sometimes you say, Okay, we need like a Wayne and Garth moment that's specific to our show. But it captures the feeling and the spirit of oh, this person is speaking their truth. They're struggling, they're struggling sorts, something that they probably aren't going to achieve. And we really want them to achieve it, even though it's unlikely. And so that those are almost like the component parts that you then try to build it that I don't know if everybody does it that way. But that's on my
Alex Ferrari 37:55
Yeah. Which is, which is really interesting, because I found that a lot of bad comedy doesn't understand that there has to be a human story underneath. Like you watch coming to America. He really is looking for love. I mean, there's a lot of craziness that happens along the way. That's super funny. But there's that thing that's driving the story where it's not just gag after gag after that, then then you're basically doing Saturday Night Live, you're just doing you know, skits gets gets gets get where a lot of is that fair?
Benji Samit 38:24
Yeah. 100% you need to, you know, have that core emotion that you can connect to as an audience member, or else yeah, you're just watching silly stuff, which can sometimes be funny. But to sustain you for a long period of time, especially like when you're going to a movie like oh, you can't last hours without having some something to connect to emotionally.
Dan Hernandez 38:50
And I think it's it's it's something that I do you think you refine over time. I think that the tendency for young comedy writers is to just focus on funny and gags,
Benji Samit 39:02
Being as outrageous as possible.
Dan Hernandez 39:05
And there is value in that. But now having done a lot of things and written a lot of things, it's much more clear that the things that sometimes it's seeing things that don't work and seeing things that do work really are illuminating. So the things that I feel that I've been the most successful that we've written all I have a core emotion that's very pointed or very moving or aspirational or whatever, that there's some real emotional stakes. That is the bet is that just supports it. It allows you to be as crazy as you want to be because we you care. If you don't care, then everything is just a wash. It's all at the same sort of bomb.
Alex Ferrari 39:53
Right! It's like you look at something like boar at and, you know, that was obviously very, like outrageous and went over, in my opinion might have gone over the top a little bit too much in some of those scenes, but there's still that emotional thing. There's the thing that's driving more like you feel for Borat when he's trying to to kidnap Pamela Anderson.
Benji Samit 40:17
There's so much emotion and depth to to Sasha's performance. Oh, were they like, amazing. It was if it was an actor that was not doing that, like, oh, yeah, people would turn it off in five minutes. Like, this is disgusting. This is terrible. This is stupid. But like, you can't help but care about this guy. Because everything he's so he's so coming from an earnest place. Yes. And so hard. And there's a real emotional thing where you're just like, oh, like, I get what he wants, I agree with him, I want him to get that he's just going about it. And he's not just like, doing this stuff, just to provoke reaction,
Dan Hernandez 41:02
Forgives a lot of bad behavior. And that's, I think, been true of comedy from, you know, time immemorial. But I mean, even something like there's another version of it, which is like Kenny powers on he's found him down where he's doing really bad things. He's saying really bad things. But because Danny McBride as a performer, he's so he's just like an open wound. He's just so it's so obvious that he is emotionally fragile and broken, that you see the the, the genesis of all of the pain and all of the behaviors that are that are generating out of this person that is doing all this stuff, but you on some level, you're like, oh, but he is he's not a bad person, really. He's just so insecure, and so traumatized by whatever it is, in his past that he is now expressing it in this way. That is, of course inappropriate and very funny. But there, you know, not every performer has that thing. And writing can help with that sometimes, if but there are certain special performers who you're kind of just on their side, even when they're doing bad stuff. And so often, it's because they give you a glimpse into a different they give you a glimpse into it interiority,
Alex Ferrari 42:29
Humanity. Yeah, humanity
Dan Hernandez 42:31
Is there even if they couldn't express it as a character themselves, you see it, you recognize it for what it is, which is vulnerability, which is pain, which is humiliation, which is whatever, and those are really powerful emotions. There was really visceral emotion
Benji Samit 42:46
If you were if you were to read a lot of the Yeah, like, like Danny McBride, Kenny power like that those lines on paper, if you're just reading the script, you're like, I don't know about this character, like, right, okay. But then you see a performer who can translate it to the next level. And it's so it is an interesting thing. You know, when we talk to writers that are still trying to, to, you know, find success, it's like, you can't, you can always write even, you can always write that character, like, you know, it's sometimes it takes an actor to make that happen. And so like, even if you see in your head, or you feel like, you know, like, I know, in my head that when an actor does it this way, if you'll see the emotion behind these lines, but like, these are the lines, but if it's like a spec script, that is just like going out to the test, like people cannot read it the way with the delivery that's necessarily in your head. And so, you know, it is a complicated thing, where like, sometimes people are like, well, how come I can't write like that in my script, and then like, this one went on to be successful. You know, but you know, there's all these rules of what I can write, it's like, you just sort of have to, like, yeah, there are different rules for different stages of writing. And they when you're first starting out, like, you need to write something that the a wide audience is able to read it and and see what you're trying to do.
Dan Hernandez 44:23
That doesn't necessarily mean you have to pander, it just means that it has to be written, clearly, right? I suspect that if you read the script of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless line, you would be like, This is amazing. It's brilliant, even though it's really weird, but I think the reason you might feel that way on the page is because it's very clear What's Happening. Happening is super articulated. It's super explained. You get it is illustrated, and the emotion that it's dealing with is universal to every I almost every single person has experienced that exact emotion. And so it's not just So that's an example of it. It is super specific. And obviously, it's in his brilliant voice, Charlie Kaufman. But what he's actually writing about was actually expressing is something that anybody could understand. I wish I could just forget about this person, right? It's so visceral, and it's so human, that it's, it does so much work for you, because you don't have to go far afield to imagine what that feels like. And so it sells so much of the, the idiosyncratic things about that movie, and then you obviously see it performed at it's even better. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 45:38
Right. And that movie so crazy that if it didn't have that, so that that connection, that emotional thread that we could all connect to quickly, you'd be lost. Because it's hard movie to it is a hard movie to follow. But it isn't a hard movie to follow at the same time. But if you didn't have that, you would you would literally be you'd be lost.
Dan Hernandez 45:57
Would I think and I think that that's where some of stroke off, it's like synecdoche. Er, you know, I think is a much I liked that movie. And I thought it was really cool. But it is a more heady and sort of right intellectual experience that is a little bit harder to digest. I think for someone that's not really focused on it and write a decision to digest it because you're kind of going with this writer whereas even something like adaptation, it's very Oh, yeah, but but again, that the heavy emotionality of that movie is actually pretty accessible, loving, and it's really well articulated. And so so that's what I think Benji means, which is like, if you are going to write something really weird, you let people in, find the way that that people are letting by that piece of material really shy? Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 46:55
So which which brings me to Pokemon Detective Pikachu. Brilliant title.
Dan Hernandez 47:04
Yes, of course,
Benji Samit 47:05
I'll take it.
Alex Ferrari 47:11
And then let's bring it back to Pikachu. No. So when I first like, I think,
Benji Samit 47:16
To eternal Sunshine that has Pokemon in it would be
Dan Hernandez 47:19
Alex Ferrari 47:20
It is true. It is. It? Is it is it is the it is the Eternal Sunshine of the Pokemon universe. There's no question. There's absolutely no question.
Benji Samit 47:31
It's our guiding principle.
Alex Ferrari 47:34
So did you guys it was out an original spec? Would you guys brought in on that? How did you guys get involved with that project?
Benji Samit 47:39
So you know, that's one where we had we'd actually worked with the producers on a different movie, like a year or so prior. And it's one of those things where like, it's the movie we were doing before was a great movie. We're really excited about it. One of my favorite scripts that we've written, it seemed like, Oh, this is gonna get produced. It was gearing up. We were talking casting. And then, you know, we get a call one day like, oh, actually, the producers are leaving for another studio. So the whole, all their projects are dying. This one. And so it was like another one. It was the biggest disappointment of our career. And it felt like a huge failure. But when we look back now, it's like, oh, no, that was a key turning point for us. Because we wrote the script with these producers. They loved working with with us, it was a great process. And then, you know, yeah, they, they took a job for another studio, like okay, every you know, there's a good opportunity for them. Like you can't blame them for that. And it's unfortunate that the project died, but they liked us and they wanted to work with us again. So a year later, when suddenly they're developing this hack to Pikachu. We're now on the list of writers that they want to bring in, you know, they're sort of like, who are the who are the biggest nerds we know. And that was that so like the the actual concept of Detective Pikachu it was based off. It was actually a video game. It was at the time we wrote the movie. The Detective Pikachu game was only available in Japan on the Nintendo DS. So like it wasn't even in English. We had like a rough translation of the game script. Yeah, but yeah, like they brought us in because we're nerds who knew about Pokemon? Yeah, you know?
Dan Hernandez 49:45
Yeah, I think that what was helpful for us is we were maybe a little bit too old to be in the the full craze of the first generation of poker, but we were in high school right now. When it first came, we were also young enough to be totally familiar with it, and to play the games and to have opinions about the world to have Pokemon that we'd like to be pretty familiar with at least the first few generations of Pokemon. Now there's multiple generations, you know, 1000, you know, like 1000 Pokemon. So you. And you know, if you meet a little kid, they can rattle off every single one. You know that that took a little bit of training up for us? Sure, but at least for the original few generations, we knew them pretty well. And we're familiar with them. And so I think that one advantage that we had going into that project is, we had opinions we had you said, you know, no, we should use this book about because he's funny, or this Pokemon has more of a cinematic personality, as opposed to one that maybe is cooler in design, or in principle, but doesn't really have a defined voice that is going to translate to a movie.
Alex Ferrari 51:03
What's the what's the what's the meme guy? Original Pokemon? The Mime? Is that an original?
Dan Hernandez 51:09
So he Yeah, Mr. Mime was a Pokemon. Not a very popular poker. Shocking, because he's weird and creepy, and sort of a typical of the other Pokemon. But the things that made him kind of weird and unpopular, actually, were exactly the things that we needed for the movie because Mr. Mime had a way of expressing himself that some of the other poker but didn't you could actually have a human conversation with Mr. Mime, as opposed to
Benji Samit 51:40
Yet also it was, you know, there was an element of like, choosing which Pokemon were the most cinematic, like one thing we could build movies, right, right. When we're telling a noir detective story, hey, you know, you're gonna want to have an interrogation scene. I think it was the director, Rob, who was like, Wouldn't it be funny to do an interrogation scene with the mind of the mind? Talk? And we're like, Yeah, and so then, of course, when we were writing that scene, you know, this was us being like, alright, well, how are we going to get answers from a from a mine Pokemon? Oh, can we mind torturing him? So that's, like, of every crazy idea that we had when we were writing that movie. That was definitely one of the craziest ones. And that was when we were like, for sure they're cutting this like, there's no way Oh, no. My torture in the movie. And, you know, not only did it stay in it was like the trailer home.
Alex Ferrari 52:49
It was it was
Dan Hernandez 52:51
We were pretty surprised.
Benji Samit 52:53
We were like, wow, that made it all the way through every every draft.
Dan Hernandez 52:59
So I think that was an example of just having some familiarity having having an approach into this world that is, you know, obviously very popular, but for people that are didn't grow up with it, or who are kids, it's how do you let those people in on this world as well? And how do you make it equally satisfying for hardcore fans? But also,
Alex Ferrari 53:24
Benji Samit 53:27
The other. I mean, the other challenge was that like, Yeah, we had to make it satisfying for for random people in the general public, who didn't know anything about Pokemon, but making it satisfying for Pokemon fans was also nerve racking because this was a different kind of Pokemon. So like, you know, when we set out to write it, like The Pokemon Company was, you know, pretty clear, like, you know, in this world of Brian's city, like, there's no trainers, there's no battles, there's no Pokeballs sort of, like, all of the defining characteristics of what makes a Pokemon story. You know, so like, when they were like, okay, yeah, so do Pokemon, but with no pokey balls. And it's just like, it's almost like robots doing Star Wars with no force. No, no, lightsabers, lightsabers, none of that. No Jedi.
Dan Hernandez 54:19
Just like so. You're kind of going, huh? And so, what do we do here?
Benji Samit 54:24
You know, so it was it was a little scary when we first Yeah, sat down, we're like, do do the fans actually want this? You know, what they like? So many of them probably just want to see the classic Pokemon story of ash, like told in a movie like, right, what is this different kind of movie that we can tell but it actually, you know, as we were writing it, it became kind of freeing that we didn't have to, you know, rely on decade's worth of backstory and you know, worry about like, well, if this character this way, it'll make people angry here, you know, like the the normal problems of adaptation didn't really apply. Apply because yeah, it was like, it was its own side universe where, you know, yes, it's part of the world and like it's all of the Pokemon creatures that people love, but able to see a different spin on
Dan Hernandez 55:22
It was freeing, ultimately, which is not something that we expected to begin with. And it was a good lesson that sometimes maybe it is better to sort of explore a pocket of the world that hasn't been explored before, rather than go and tell a story that has been told over and over and over and over again, that everyone has their own emotional connection to and their own expectation of what how that story should be told. And what's important to highlight in a story like that. So right, that was a good lesson for us and something that we are going to try to take for.
Alex Ferrari 55:59
Yeah, it's kind of like, you know, seeing the origin story of Spider Man, I'm like, Guys, we all know how Spider Man was created. We all know how Batman was created. We don't we don't need this anymore. Let's move it a lot.
Dan Hernandez 56:08
Which I think is one of the reasons why spider verse was such a revelation. Right, let's get here. Let's explore let's you know, hey,
Alex Ferrari 56:16
Let's get spider ham in there.
Dan Hernandez 56:18
You know. So I think that that's what fell. So I mean, in addition to the visuals, which are stunning, but just from a story point of view, it was it was, didn't feel the need to tell that story. Again, it really was able to range far afield from where any other Spider Man story had had gone before. And I think that that's what made it feel so fresh. That's what made it feel so funny. To have serious spider man next to Spider him. It seems like it shouldn't work. But within that film, it's perfect. It works brilliantly. It was. So that's, that's a good example of okay, let's tell a different kind of spider man story. And I think that that's a good challenge for anyone setting out to adapt, you know, something that is pre existing piece of material or characters that we're familiar with, even if it's not IP, per se, like Pokemon Star Wars, whatever. But even if it's degree night, you know, yes, I think that has existed for centuries. How do you tell that story in a way that is modern, that is fresh? And those are those are the stories that you know that there's something about the story that works to begin with? Because it's still with us, after hundreds of years, and all in some of these cases, Robin Hood? So now it's okay, what do we what do we do with this thing? How do we explore something that hasn't been explored before? Those are exciting moments as a screenwriter, I think
Alex Ferrari 57:52
Now, did you? Did you work with Ryan Reynolds? Was he involved at all in the writing process? Because I know he wasn't Deadpool a whole bunch?
Benji Samit 57:59
Yes. So he, at the stage where we were writing at the very beginning, he wasn't involved. Like we didn't, we weren't even writing for. Like, we were just sort of creating this character and writing the movie. And, you know, it was after they had that final script, and they brought him on board like, Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, Ryan, goes into the recording booth. And he's so brilliantly funny that I saw lines che so like, we're watching the movie. And we're like, we didn't write that joke, but I love it.
Dan Hernandez 58:31
So when you work with Ryan, yeah, someone who is so quick and so funny and, and has a great writing voice himself, you know, he's able to come up with this material that really works for himself. And not every actor is able to do that, as you can imagine, but he is he's able to say, I'm going to try this or I'm going to try so yeah, I don't know, I just, he knows he knows what you know, what works, what works for him and the kinds of things that he thinks are funny, which so happens, most people just date it. So before really fortunate, made us look good. A lot of the time when he would say something really funny, and we're like we didn't write that, but we'll take credit for having a credit. But, but I think, you know, the part that I am proud about is that we wrote a character that he really liked, and that that he felt like he could the foundation was there so that he could then run with it and do his thing, which is what you want.
Benji Samit 59:38
And coming from the world of TV where everything is collaborative. Like we don't have that sort of same preciousness that maybe other feature writers might have have. Like, that's not the exact word I had. Were like, you know, on one day at a time or any other sitcom we've written on like, we've got jokes in every episode, not just the ones with our names on them and you know the ones with our names on them. You know, everyone else from the writing staff has jokes in there, too. It's like, it is a collaborative thing. And, and we like that
Dan Hernandez 1:00:07
It's been useful to have that foundation in writing movies, because you just have to be flexible. And you have to not be like, No, it's y'all, especially these big sort of IP driven move.
Benji Samit 1:00:21
Like, there's, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen for that, like, that's just a nature project, you know, these are corporate owned properties, like there's they, they, they're bigger than just you, the writer of the movies. So, you know,
Dan Hernandez 1:00:38
How do you navigate that? How do you try to make everybody happy? That you know what you're doing? Yeah. That you have an opinion. You know, I think it's easy sometimes in those situations to say whatever you guys want. But sometimes it's actually more beneficial to a project, as the writer just say, Well, hold on, let's slow down for a second. Here's why we decided to do it this way. And to have a really good thought out reason. And sometimes people go, Oh, you know what, you're right. Or Oh, you're right. I didn't think about it that way. And so these big projects, gaining momentum of their own, and sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees, but we were fortunate, the Pokemon at a turning out as good as it did, because we love it.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:24
And then you also jumped on another big property, which is Addams Family, which is huge. You know, it's been around forever. And so many people know that. I mean, everyone knows the song. Everybody knows the character's mind. By the way, my daughter's obsessed with Addams Family right now. Like they're obsessed with it. And I told him, like, you know, there's like, there's live action movies, just like they're like, What? They're like, there's live academic, yes, we'll get the live access as well. How do you like, I mean, that thing, I mean, that property, those stories, I mean, have been told again and again and told well, in other in other films, I had Barry Sonnenfeld on the show a while ago, and we talked about, like, how he had to deal with Addams Family, the first one. So how did you guys approach? You know, telling the story of the second the animated version?
Dan Hernandez 1:02:12
Well, I think that similar Lee to Pokemon, you know, we had a really, we had a real sense of these characters. Sure. I think that in the case of the love, deep affection for those characters, I think because of those live action movies, and then going back and watching the old shows, and the old reading the Old strips, you know, but I think that when you have characters like the Addams Family, unlike a Pikachu, whose personality can only be so defined, right? Yeah, each of them is extremely define and habit for decades.
Benji Samit 1:02:45
Yes. So it made the writing, like, it's rare to structure a starting a script where, right, you instantly on day one, know exactly the voice of every one of your characters. And like, What a joke would say, well, like, what's a good Gomez joke? What's a good mortician? We didn't have to create any of that, like that is set in stone. We know people, you know, people know and love these characters. We just have to do justice to those voices.
Dan Hernandez 1:03:14
Right. So I think that, you know, the Addams Family, too. And the animated series is a little bit different than the live action because they I think they are a more ad kids. So it's then saying, Okay, well, what's a story that honors the Addams Family tradition and isn't pandering and isn't dumbing down but also, is something that is emotionally accessible to to younger people that they can really look into and understand. And so then the question becomes, okay, yes, it's great that these characters are sort of fine. But we've also seen them in a lot of different circumstances over the years. And so it's like, what's left? That we haven't seen them do a million times before that we haven't explored fully in this case. One of the premises of the movie is is, is Wednesday, actually, a member of the fat and Addams Family by blood by birth or not. And that was a so it then became a question of, well, what makes an atom's what is an atom's? What? Is it a birth thing? Isn't an attitude thing? Is it nature? Is it nurture? Both of which I think the adversary would not like. So that was the genesis of of where that story idea came from. And then, like Benji said, the characters are so define that part for us was relatively easy, because we felt pretty confident to write in the voices of these characters now. Not everyone can. Not everyone likes doing that. Right,
Alex Ferrari 1:05:00
Right, they want to create their own thing, right?
Dan Hernandez 1:05:02
Right, they want to create their own thing. And it just so happens that we actually enjoy doing both. Sometimes we enjoy creating original new characters. And sometimes it's really fun to take somebody else's character for a spin, and get to try out some things that you wouldn't normally, you know, I never thought I would get to write Joe mess, jokes, characters in all of anything. So it was a lot of fun in that respect. And it also felt like, he didn't really feel like work, because so much of the work had been done for us, really, the bulk of the work was in the plotting. And in the, in the, the structure and the execution of that plot, as opposed to How's Gomez gonna act here? What's funny, a little faster? And then, you know, because this is animated, you can expand the range of what is possible for these characters physically.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:57
In cousin it. Yeah, like, cousin.
Dan Hernandez 1:06:00
You know? Yeah.
Benji Samit 1:06:02
Fester, slowly, transforming into an octopus creature is like, it's one of those things where it's like, in live action, you don't really do best in animation.
Dan Hernandez 1:06:15
It's like, Yeah, let's Yeah, we can do that. As long as it feels consistent with the faster that we know. And in this case, especially the, you know, that the kids are now familiar with. And we've been really fortunate that kids love. Yeah, I mean, they love the movie. And the first one, they left worrying for us to get to hear from people. My kid has already watched it five times.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:41
My daughter is obsessed with Wednesday, like obsessed with Wednesday. She's like, she's like, Wednesday is the coolest character.
Dan Hernandez 1:06:48
And she, she, my I have I have a four year old daughter, we just the other day, she she watched the movie for the first time. And she loved it. And she loved Wednesday and like, Yeah, I mean, for me, that was exciting. Because it was like, the first thing that we've written that my kid could watch, right? Yeah, it was thrilling in its own. She was she was very proud.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:11
Dan Hernandez 1:07:13
So that's how you, I would say that's how we approach something like house family, which is, you know, every project has its own idiosyncratic share on it. And you kind of have to be adaptable and tailor kind of what is required of you, as a writer to what the project is, and what the ultimate goal of each of those projects
Alex Ferrari 1:07:35
Now and obviously you were listening to the MC Hammer song on loop while you were writing this write the Addams Family
Dan Hernandez 1:07:40
We gave it a spin. not listen to it.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:47
Now, I'm going to ask you a few last few questions asked all of my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?
Benji Samit 1:07:58
I won't say that like, that is sort of what I was talking about earlier of like, the the moments of defeat and the low points, right. In hindsight, are actually every single thing is it is it is a path towards victory in the end or you know, it is a stepping stone. Like you you look at it as like this is the end. But really, in hindsight, you will see that like that was a that could have been a key pivotal moment, and to not, and just sort of like allow yourself to remain open to that possibility even and try when we're in the moment now. I think we're now a little better, because we now have this career that we can look back on of this happening again. And again, it's like when a bad thing happens, we can now sometimes say, well, like, maybe it's for the best because we made a good relationship here. And we can still turn it into like it's not the end. It's not as like doom and gloom as it may be was early on in our career.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:03
Yeah, it's great advice. Um, what is the what what advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into TV or into the film business today?
Dan Hernandez 1:09:15
I think you know, like I said, there isn't one path that is the path. So you should disabuse yourself of the idea that you can replicate anyone's journey or that what you're doing is the way you have to do things or what the way someone else did it. It's just not true. I think that the part of it that will always remain true is having something that you can a piece of material that you can share with people where you say where you reach a point where you can say, if someone doesn't like this, I'm okay with that because I feel like I executed what I wanted to execute the best I could possibly executed knowing 50% or more people who read anything that you write, including us will just not like it for whatever reason. So you have to get comfortable with rejection, you have to get comfortable with judgment of things sometimes that are very personal to you. But my opinion is that if you write material that really is unique to your point of view, whether that is a personal ethnic point of view, cultural, societal class, whatever, some amazing experience that you have some point of view or philosophy that you have that is unique, like Larry David, you know, you. So when you when you can do something, when, when what you have written, really is a calling card into the shorthand of your being and your personality and the way that you look at things. That's the material that that inevitably is noticed, and is passed around and is well received. And so don't chase trends don't chase things that you think that you ought to do. Alright, fleabag, right. Like that was a play that she wrote, but it would be hard to say, Okay, I'm gonna write a fleabag, that I don't think it really works like that, I think that probably she had something inside of her that she needed to express and through, you know, because she's brilliant, you know, like that. It served, you know, in wound its way until suddenly, she is Vinny Wallbridge, you know, right. And fleabag is fleabag. But everyone I think has that thing inside of them that is extremely personal and extremely neat. That doesn't mean it mean, it needs to be super serious or heavy, it just has to be from you and you alone. And once you have that piece of material, then you can and it takes time, right, you may not hit on that piece of material, the first time out, or the fifth time out, or the 10th time. But if you make a little progress each time, now you're able to share that material with others. And the feedback that you're going to get is going to start to get better and better and better. And as if it gets better and better, better. The range of people who read it and the opportunities that are going to come your way are going to be are going to just expand. So I would focus on that first and foremost, and then start to strategize about the nitty gritty of okay, who How do I network? How do I get a name, right how to write. That's all good and important. But it doesn't really mean that much. It's not as high yield unless you have that that entry ticket. That is your script that
Alex Ferrari 1:12:45
Your voice, your voice.
Dan Hernandez 1:12:47
Again, that's like read a brand step. It's like yeah, but I think it's actually a little more nuanced than that. I wouldn't say the script that Benji and I wrote that got noticed by some of these people was a brilliant script, certainly not by our current standards. But what it was, was a true strip to who we were and the time that we wrote it. And I think that that came through in such a way that they were like, Okay, maybe this script itself isn't perfect
Benji Samit 1:13:13
We were not trying to emulate anything else, we were just writing ourselves on the page. And I think that's what excited people and, and sort of.
Dan Hernandez 1:13:22
So there's a difference between like a perfect script, and a script that is getting across a point of view and a person, especially in television, it's like if I read something that's not perfect, but it's really interesting, or I think that the brain behind it is really interesting. Nine times out of 10, I said, let's, let's talk this person, let's see what, what they're about. Because especially when I'm running a show, I don't need everyone to be the best at writing the show that I'm in charge of. They don't they don't need to that I don't need their own personal material to be so perfectly brilliant that that, you know, there's no criticism, but what I do need is to say, I think this person thinks in the right way, they have the right prerequisite amount of you know, technical writing ability. And if they're a cool person, and I like how they, you know, they are like if we vibe, I can teach them how to write how I want them. Sure, sure, sure. So I think that that's that yeah, that would be my first
Alex Ferrari 1:14:24
And last question. Kind of like rapid fire three screenplays that every screenwriter should read. Or three pilots, three pilots and every screen I should read.
Dan Hernandez 1:14:33
If you're a dramatic writer, you should read the pilot of the shield. Yep. It's unbelievably good. And it's just a special it's just a special script. It just does some things that are shocking and even to people who watch it now it's it's unexpected. It's just not what you think it's going to be so that that would be one for drama.
Benji Samit 1:15:01
You have one, one for comedy. Trying to think
Dan Hernandez 1:15:12
The pilot of I mean, I'm just thinking of scripts that I think you're you may be surprised the pilot of Glee is essential. It's, it's truly, it's nearly flawless. Actually, just in the way that it uses voiceover in the way that it uses the integration of the songs. And the characters are clearly defined a lot of characters in a period of time. It's very funny. It's really funny. In many ways, the high watermark of that show is for me, at least, it's really damn good. So that's a pilot that jumps out at me as as a really something to study and to like, just dig into what makes this thing work. And then as a movie, it really can't go wrong with Wayne's World, it's, it's really, really, really special. Yes, there are amazing performers of the heart of it. But if you really strip it down to its basic components, it is an underdog story that is perfectly articulated, and every step of the way, feels truthful. And it feels real to and the stakes, while in the wider sense of the world are pretty low. To them. It means everything. And sometimes that's, that's a hard actually pretty hard work to hit, which is like they're gonna lose their public access show.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:38
That's the world that's everything.
Dan Hernandez 1:16:40
For Wayne and Garth. That is the world. Yeah, that's their world. That is the one area in which they feel special. Right? One area in which they are anything coming from a rural coming from this town where there's not much in front of them. But what they do have is Wayne's World. And when you try to take that away from them, it is an existential crisis. And you do understand like, what are waiting guards without Wayne's World and and so there's a lot to really study and there's all kinds of craziness in the movie, but the core emotions, the friendship at the heart of the movie, the idea of small town, the idea of having a dream, all of it is in that screenplay, and I just think it's remarkably good.
Alex Ferrari 1:17:28
Well, guys, thank you so much for your time and thank you for being on the show. It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Thank you for making Addams Family. Thank you for making Detective Pikachu. My daughters are very happy about that. Continued success to both of you guys and keep doing what you're doing, guys. We appreciate you.
Benji Samit 1:17:44
Well, thank you so much.
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