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Scrapping episodes, Emma Stone’s hatred of her elf role, and Jonah Hill’s questionable Icelandic accent: Cary Joji Fukunaga takes us inside the making of his Netflix series ‘Maniac’

Monday September 24 th 2018

Maniac 4 Michele K. Short Netflix finalMichele K. Short/Netflix

  • “Maniac” director Cary Joji Fukunaga told Business Insider about the challenges of making his trippy new show for Netflix.
  • He also explained why Emma Stone hated playing the elf character, and why he and Stone almost went to Netflix to see if the screening giant would not release all the show’s episodes at once.

 

Warning: Spoilers below if you haven’t seen all episodes of “Maniac.”

Cary Joji Fukanaga has built his career looking at the darker side of society. Whether it’s the life of a young Mexican gang member who rides atop a train to seek a new life in the United States (“Sin Nombre”), or the 17-year-old case two detective can’t get out of their heads (“True Detective”), he brings to all his stories incredibly engaging characters and a dazzling visual style.

And in his latest project, the 10-episode Netflix series “Maniac,” we get all of that, but a little dark humor as well. The show follows two strangers (played by Emma Stone and Jonah Hill) who meet at a facility that’s doing a pharmaceutical trial. We then follow their hallucinations on the drugs, which involve the two doing everything from playing a Long Island couple, to Hill embodying a tattooed gangster with long hair, and Stone as an elf.

The entire show, created by Patrick Somerville (and very loosely based on a Norwegian TV series), shows off Fukunaga’s incredible visual eye but also examines mental illness, drug dependency, and family.

Business Insider spoke to Fukunaga (the day it was announced he would be directing James Bond 25) about the challenge of writing the show (especially since he had never seen the original), why they almost dubbed over Jonah Hill’s Icelandic accent in one episode, the reason Emma Stone hated playing an elf in another, and why Fukunaga would not come back to direct if “Maniac” got a season 2.

Jason Guerrasio: Was “Maniac” an interest because it’s completely different in tone than what you’ve done previously?

Cary Joji Fukunaga: Yes. Definitely. I think the idea of delusions and opening up the genre pallet even wider to do something with a more humorous tone, all of that made it attractive. 

Basically what happened was Anonymous Content optioned the Norwegian show. I never ever saw it, I just basically knew what the format was. The idea was I can make a bunch of worlds, I can get any actor I want, and I thought “let’s make it a two-hander.” I knew I wanted Emma for sure, but I wasn’t sure who would play the other one. And the night that I met with Emma to talk about the show, that I had no idea yet [what it] was going to be about, she brought up Jonah and I kind of did at the same time, and we decided to call him up and go see him. And we did. That same day. 

maniacNetflix

Guerrasio: Really? That day?

Fukunaga: Yeah. And he was like, “A show where you have no idea what’s going on yet other than it’s going to be a bunch of delusions? Okay. Sounds good.” [laughs]

Guerrasio: Is it true that you and Patrick pretty much scrapped half of the episode scripts three weeks before production was to begin? 

Fukunaga: That’s a little of a misrepresentation, basically we threw out a lot of different episodes along the way trying to hammer out what this thing was. I think part of collaboration is we both have to be happy with what we’re doing. So there were things I would throw out there and he would throw out there. We would put them up against the wall. We would even write entire episodes and then scrap them. So I can’t tell you how many episodes that were written that aren’t there. Some of them were other worlds, some of them were shifts in plot that went pretty wild, but then we honed in on this version. Especially for the latter half. 

Guerrasio: Is there one of those scripts that looking back you are bummed you didn’t do?

Fukunaga: There was one that was about Emma and Jonah’s characters living together for 80 years. And I really like the idea of exploring what that kind of partnership was like. And we put it in a very stoic setting. But we never fully fleshed out that idea. It was just something in concept I really liked. 

Guerrasio: And for that I would imagine they would have had to have been in make-up to make them look older?

Fukunaga: Yes. We had that conversation and the prosthetics component of that was hundreds of thousands of dollars, so that immediately put the breaks on that. 

Cary Fukunaga Eamonn M McCormack Getty finalEamonn M. McCormack/Getty

Guerrasio: Watching this show I felt it’s one you don’t want to binge because, especially in the middle episodes, they are almost like vignettes that you need a day or so to digest. Was that in your head at all while making it? Making an anti-binge show?

Fukunaga: No. But Emma and I did have conversations about this. We wondered if we should campaign to not have all the episodes released at once and should we talk to [Netflix CCO] Ted [Sarandos]. We went back and forth about it and ultimately we thought the thing about Netflix is you can either binge it take time to watch it.

There is an argument that if “True Detective” was released all at once it wouldn’t have been as much of a conversation. I think that’s a very valid argument for that show. You’ll never know if that would be the difference in terms of the conversation that happens around each episode. But I do think that it’s something nice that as episodes come out they are about that episode rather a whole. And then by the end looking at it as a whole and having had all these conversations you come to the conclusion that this is what this show is. But, on the other hand, it is crazy that millions and millions of people, bigger than most countries, are going to have access to this show. That in itself is mind blowing. 

Guerrasio: I was really wowed by Jonah’s performance, were you even surprised by the kind of range and vulnerability he brought to this?

Fukunaga: The Icelandic ambassador character was a long one in the making. We knew that he was going to be Icelandic but didn’t know how Jonah was going to play it. And we really didn’t have time to discuss it. I had the idea for white hair but voicing-wise, when he came up with the voice I was like, “I don’t know, maybe we will dub him.” There was a moment where we had a conversation [about to] dub his voice with a real Icelandic person. And Jonah didn’t know if he could do an Icelandic voice. It’s a tricky accent to pull off and that’s why we wrote in all that stuff that his mother was all these different ethnicities so he couldn’t be pinpointed to once accent. So Jonah was just having fun with it because he thought, whatever, they are going to dub me after. And then halfway through shooting that episode he said to me, “You got to keep my voice.” And I said, alright. 

Guerrasio: But even the “option a / b” stuff in the last episode. That’s some of the best work he’s even done, I feel. 

Fukunaga: It was important to us that that part of his character was not a joke. The way his family treated him could be a joke but not he himself. This is why we also moved the show out of a mental hospital, as it’s set in the Norwegian show. I don’t know Jonah’s process, he’s not necessary method, but it’s close to it in really trying to feel what the character is going through. It’s a very dark depressing character, so it was definitely a challenge for him to inhabit that for so long. 

Guerrasio: Which characters did Jonah and Emma like playing the most?

Fukunaga: I don’t know, honestly. But I can guarantee you Emma’s favorite character was not playing an elf. When we were first brainstorming I said, “How about an elf or a vampire?” And she said, “No. Nothing that’s not real.” She doesn’t like not real things. 

Maniac 3 Michele K. Short Netflix finalMichele K. Short/Netflix

Guerrasio: That’s funny because she’s really great in that episode.

Fukunaga: She can do anything. Just personally, that’s not her taste. She’s never seen “Lord of the Rings,” she can’t get into things that aren’t real. So Patrick and I thought, well, doesn’t that make sense for the “Confrontation” drug? Something she really doesn’t enjoy? So we wrote that mildly into the character. And when she did the scene she was just like [gritting his teeth] “Cary, I’m doing this for you!”

Guerrasio: In episode 9 you do a single-shot scene of Emma’s character, who is a CIA agent in that episode, killing a bunch of guards in a hallway? What was the motivation behind doing a “oner” there.

Fukunaga: That was efficiency. One of the reasons to do that oner in “True Detective” is because there’s no way in the schedule that we can shoot this in a real action sequence. It would be a bad version of it. So a oner actually, if you have the time to get the choreography down, is just more efficient. For “Maniac,” we shot that whole thing in less than half a day. 

Guerrasio: Wow! But what about Emma getting down the choreography for it? How long did that take?

Fukunaga: She had like a couple of hours. She’s not doing anything extremely “Aeon Flux”-like. But she’s a good dancer, she understands her body. She hurt her wrist doing it in one of the takes. I don’t remember what take we ultimately used. But there’s no place to do a splice to cut together, so she just had to kind of get through the whole thing. 

Maniac 2 Michele K Short Netflix finalMichele K. Short/Netflix

Guerrasio: And is Jonah just riffing through that whole thing?

Fukunaga: Yeah. There were a few lines we wrote, but things like “I killed many men,” that’s just him. 

Guerrasio: So are you interested in doing a Season 2 if Netflix does one?

Fukunaga: For me, I like to do one and move onto something else. I’d be very happy if another season were to happen, but I think they were just thinking about this as a limited season and if there’s an appetite for another one then I think Patrick would be happy to take it up and do it again. But not with me. 

Guerrasio: Last question. You spent almost three years developing and writing “It,” you were going to direct it but left the project over creative differences. Have you seen the movie yet?

Fukunaga: [Laughs] I feel bad saying I haven’t, but I haven’t. I just think it’s no longer mine anymore so it’s like I will watch it one day, I’m not opposed to it. 

Guerrasio: On an airplane or something?

Fukunaga: Exactly. A place where I’m a captive audience.

 

These $300 Sennheiser headphones are the perfect gadget to help you make movies with your smartphone

sennheiser film Sennheiser

  • Sennheiser’s $300 Ambeo Smart Headset is a pair of earphones that also has a powerful binaural mic — meaning it can capture 3D sound through a microphone in each ear. In other words, the audio capture is in stereo, reproducing exactly where the sound was coming from. 
  • Sennheiser teamed up with director Roxanne Benjamin to produce a thriller short film called “Final Stop,” which was recorded using an iPhone and Sennheiser’s Ambeo Smart Headset. 
  • When viewed with a pair of stereo headphones, the film is a great example of how you can get professional-quality film and audio on a consumer-level budget — you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on video and audio equipment to produce a thrilling and immersive experience. 

If you’ve ever jumped into the weird world of ASMR on YouTube, you’ve probably come across someone using a binaural microphone. Put simply, it’s a microphone that can record 3D audio — sound that really seems to be coming from anywhere around you when you play it back. 

However, recording and reproducing spacial, binaural audio can be expensive and difficult. If you want to give the viewer/listener the feeling of being in a room, you need to position the microphone (or microphones) in the correct fashion, and you might need some pretty expensive recording equipment. 

Sennheiser’s $300 Ambeo Smart Headset is an attempt to alleviate the issues that come with 3D recording. The headphones double as a binaural recording device. Each earbud has a microphone that picks up audio all around the wearer — which means when you listen back to the recording, it sounds like you’re standing right where the audio was recorded, and you hear things right where they happened. 

After briefly testing out the headset in an ‘experience’ room that Sennheiser set up, I was impressed with how accurately the device was able to replicate the sound of what I had just experienced in person with my own two ears. 

As long as you keep the phone’s camera pointed in the direction you’re looking, the audio comes out sounding spot-on. The headset also has active noise cancelation, and an amplification feature that provides real-time sound monitoring and amplified audio of what’s happening around you. While these features can be a fun novelty in daily use, there’s a very promising real-world application that Sennheiser recently showed off: amateur filmmaking. 

sennheiser ambeo headsetSennheiser

The German audio company teamed up with director Roxanne Benjamin to produce a short film, titled “Final Stop.” Watch the full film by Roxanne Benjamin here. It’s best (and recommended) to wear stereo headphones while watching. 

The short thriller was recording using an iPhone, and the audio was captured through an Ambeo Smart Headset that was worn by the cameraman. The result is a film shot with gear you can carry with you in a backpack, but that has truly immersive sound. 

Throughout “Final Stop,” viewers are subjected to various creepy sounds that, when coupled with the positional audio, sound like you’re really experiencing them. Stereo audio is able to provide an enjoyable listening experience when it comes to music, and is perfectly fine for watching films and TV, but true binaural audio is on a whole different level of immersion. Things that happen behind, above, or next to the cameraman are reproduced exactly as he would have heard them. 

The fact that the film was made on an iPhone is also impressive. It’s long been said in filmmaking that who’s behind the camera matters more than what kind of camera you use, and mobile cinematography has started to grow a following  in recent years as phone cameras have improved.

But this film has effectively shown that by coupling a smartphone you probably already have, and a $300 audio device from Sennheiser, you could have the tools — if not the cast and crew — to make a reasonably immersive film on the cheap. 

While the price point might be a bit high for someone who just wants a pair of quality headphones, and the market for 3D audio might not quite be there yet, I came away seriously impressed by this headset. The Ambeo Smart Headset certainly isn’t for everyone — and it’s not marketed for everyone. But if you want a portable, discreet, and easy way to record 3D audio of what’s happening around you, it gets the job done — and impressively so. 

comScore Announces Official Worldwide Box Office Results for Weekend of September 23, 2018

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 23, 2018 /PRNewswire/ – comScore today announced the official worldwide weekend box office estimates for the weekend of September 23, 2018, as compiled by the company’s theatrical measurement services.

New comScore logo (PRNewsFoto/comScore, Inc.)

As the trusted industry partner for real-time box office reporting, comScore is the only theater-level movie measurement and analytics company providing insights across the world’s largest markets, covering 95 percent of the global industry gross. Using comScore’s suite of movie products, customers are able to analyze admissions and gross results from around the world.

comScore’s Senior Media Analyst Paul Dergarabedian commented, “Warner Bros.’ horror hit ‘The Nun’ scares up another $45.65 million at the global box office for a worldwide total to date of nearly $300 million.  Notably, Jack Black in Universal’s ‘The House With A Clock In Its Walls’ opened this weekend at number one in North America with $26.85 million and in just 15 territories for a global total of $29.95 million.”

The top 12 worldwide weekend box office estimates, listed in descending order, per data collected as of Sunday, September 23, are below.

  • Nun, The – Warner Bros. – $45.6M
  • House With A Clock In Its Walls, The – Universal – $29.9M
  • Predator, The – 20th Century Fox – $24.0M
  • Golden Job – Multiple – $23.2M
  • Johnny English Strikes Again – Universal – $17.2M
  • Simple Favor, A – Lionsgate – $15.6M
  • Crazy Rich Asians – Warner Bros. – $11.6M
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Paramount Pictures – $9.2M
  • L Storm – Multiple – $9.0M
  • Great Battle, The – Next Entertainment World – $8.9M
  • Incredibles 2 – Disney – $8.8M
  • Ash Is Purest White – Shanghai Film Group – $5.9M
  • The top 12 domestic weekend box office estimates, listed in descending order, per data collected as of Sunday, September 23, are below.

  • House With A Clock In Its Walls, The – Universal – $26.9M
  • Simple Favor, A – Lionsgate – $10.4M
  • Nun, The – Warner Bros. – $10.2M
  • Predator, The – 20th Century Fox – $8.7M
  • Crazy Rich Asians – Warner Bros. – $6.5M
  • White Boy Rick – Sony – $5.0M
  • Peppermint – STX Entertainment – $3.7M
  • Fahrenheit 11/9 – Briarcliff Entertainment – $3.1M
  • Meg, The – Warner Bros. – $2.4M
  • Searching – Sony – $2.2M
  • Life Itself – Amazon Studios – $2.1M
  • Unbroken: Path To Redemption – Pure Flix – $1.3M
  • Full details regarding the global domestic and international box office results are listed in the table below.

    *Territory is a movie studio term for regions of the world consisting of various countries.

    © 2018 comScore – Content in this chart is produced and/or compiled by comScore and its Box Office Essentials and International Box Office Essentials data collection and analytical services, and is covered by provisions of the Copyright Act. The material presented herein is intended to be available for public use. You may reproduce the content of the chart in any format or medium without first obtaining permission, subject to the following requirements: (1) the material must be reproduced accurately and not in a misleading manner; (2) any publication or issuance of any part of the material to others must acknowledge comScore as the source of the material; and (3) you may not receive any monetary consideration for reproducing, displaying, disclosing or otherwise using any part of the material.

    About comScore
    comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR) is a trusted partner for planning, transacting and evaluating media across platforms. With a data footprint that combines digital, linear TV, over-the-top and theatrical viewership intelligence with advanced audience insights, comScore allows media buyers and sellers to quantify their multiscreen behavior and make business decisions with confidence. A proven leader in measuring digital and set-top box audiences and advertising at scale, comScore is the industry’s emerging, third-party source for reliable and comprehensive cross-platform measurement. To learn more about comScore, please visit comScore.com.

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    SOURCE comScore

    Cisco Declares Quarterly Cash Dividend

    Thursday September 20 th 2018

    SAN JOSE, Calif., Sept. 20, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) announced that earlier today its Board of Directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.33 per common share to be paid on October 24, 2018 to all shareholders of record as of the close of business on October 5, 2018.

    Cisco’s previous quarterly dividend of $0.33 per common share was paid on July 25, 2018. Future dividends will be subject to Board approval.

    About Cisco
    Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide technology leader that has been making the Internet work since 1984. Our people, products, and partners help society securely connect and seize tomorrow’s digital opportunity today. Discover more at newsroom.cisco.com and follow us on Twitter at @Cisco.

    RSS Feed for Cisco: https://newsroom.cisco.com/rss-feeds

    Cisco and the Cisco logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Cisco and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and other countries. To view a list of Cisco trademarks, go to: www.cisco.com/go/trademarks. Third-party trademarks mentioned in this document are the property of their respective owners. The use of the word partner does not imply a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company.

    Press Contact:

    Robyn Jenkins-Blum
    +1 408 853 9848
    rojenkin@cisco.com

    Investor Relations Contact:

    Carol Villazon
    +1 408 527 6538
    carolv@cisco.com