Matthew Weiner here, I have a film ARE YOU HERE coming out this Friday. I wrote the script 9 years ago so obviously this didn't happen over night, the movie is about a lot of issues that are close to my heart and i knew i couldn't give up on it. ARE YOU HERE is about things that were on my mind: friendship, drugs, medication, family and our relationship with nature-- but the most important thing to me was to explore these four flawed characters and how lucky we are to not be alone.

I am really excited to be here and answer your questions about any of my projects, your projects, the creative process, and the weird state of the world today.

Check out the ARE YOU HERE trailer

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful questions and incredible compliments. I wish I had time to answer all of them. Hopefully next time. Go see ARE YOU HERE this weekend, I would love to hear what you think. And to all you aspiring writers out there, the best advice I ever got was: keep writing, that means you have to find a way to make rejection feed your dreams. And dont forget to live or you will have nothing to write about. Good luck!

Comments: 354 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

Arsenio-Billingham151 karma

Which character was the most difficult to write off either on The Sopranos or Mad Men and why was it Chauncey?

PS thanks for doing this huge fan!

Matthew_Weiner140 karma

Chauncey, for all we know, is already on another series. We have reached out to his people.

omgpies60 karma

Mr. Weiner, thank you so much for doing this AMA! Mad Men is my favorite show of all time. I find that it always moves me, no matter how many times I revisit it. I’m looking forward to your movie as well!

First, after such extensive experience in television, was there anything that truly surprised you about working on a full-length film?

Second, I recently asked /r/madmen recently what everyone’s favorite Mad Men credits song is. Do you have a favorite -- either because it’s a great song or because it felt perfectly placed?

Third, after Mad Men is complete, what’s next?

I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us!
Basket of kisses,

Matthew_Weiner98 karma

Ok, every song is there for a reason and some are more emotional to me than others. I write to music and I even had a file in my iTunes for years filled with songs that I hoped I would be able to use in my then non-existant TV show. Off the top of my head, "You Only Live Twice" was something that i considered for the pilot and eventually constructed an entire season around (Season 5). So that is a big one. I also still have strong feelings about "On The Street Where You Live" in the pilot and "Where is Love" in "The Gypsy and the Hobo". Oh! I almost forgot, I once saw Nellie McKay play "Christmas Waltz" on a ukulele and that inspired the whole episode of that name.

logicatch55 karma

Hi Matt, how involved are you in putting together each "Next Week on AMC's Mad Men..." promos at the end of each episode? Personally, I think it's great that they show so little because I like going into each new episode fresh, but they have become somewhat infamous for their lack of information. Are you personally responsible for picking out which loud door slam to use or selecting innocuous lines that, taken out of context, will sound incredibly cryptic to the audience ("What?!" "This is big news!" etc)? I like to think you get a little chuckle out of producing the vaguest promo possible. 

Matthew_Weiner92 karma

We have a great promo department and I kind of made their life very difficult by not allowing them to use anything substantial from the show. I think if you like the show, you will watch the show, and I dont want to ruin anything. I would rather not have a promo at all and have you listen to the song at the end. That said, I love that people love them, they always make me laugh and they were parodied on The Simpsons. That's my greatest dream come true.

joethetipper55 karma

  1. What are some key things you learned from David Chase in your time on The Sopranos that you took into account when you started Mad Men, i.e. how to run the writer’s room or break a season arc?

  2. Did your son always want to act before you cast him in Mad Men? What are your thoughts/concerns on his pursuing a career in a notoriously cutthroat industry?

  3. Can you talk about the different skill sets needed to tackle a feature film (Are You Here) versus a television series (Mad Men)?

  4. It’s (fairly) well-known that you said you wanted to write Mad Men because you were in your thirties and thinking, “Is this it? Why am I not happy?” What were you wanting to explore when you wrote Are You Here?

  5. Are You Here has not been well-received by critics so far. Are you surprised by this? Do their criticisms hold any merit with you? What will you do differently the next time you direct a feature?

Thank you so much for being here and doing this!

Matthew_Weiner93 karma

  1. David was a great boss and The Sopranos was already a huge success when I got there. I tried to emulate his management style in every way possible but eventually every show has its own way. But, running MAD MEN, the first season, was terrifying and I would have listened to anyone.

  2. My son was drafted at the suggestion of one of the writers. He then auditioned and after much questioning seemed to be interested. I still dont know if he knows what happened, but he has been a great addition to the show and thinks I gave him good material :)

  3. I have answered this question everywhere. Look for it :)

  4. Great question. I used to have a ton of friends, especially one or two close ones who I did everything with before I was married. besides losing these relationships I noticed that some of them had not moved on in their lives. I wondered what had held us together all that time, had I outgrown them? Or was there something deep that I had lost? I also was alarmed at what I found to be a state of being that allowed us to avoid all real feeling. I was trying to figure out how and why that happened. And in making ARE YOU HERE, I found an answer to all these problems which was recognizing how lucky we are to be here. and not be alone.

  5. Most of the reviews out there are not of the final version of the film, but they are hard to shake. I do think some critics are reviewing a film they think it should be instead of what it is. It's not a broad comedy. And it has some heavy moments. But I'm not keeping track of the reviews. I've been reading old newspapers for the last seven years on Mad Men. Good reviews of anything are few and far between. Go see the movie and judge for yourself. That's what I expect from any audience. That's why I do the kind of stories I do.

redlennon52 karma

My wife and I are huge Beatles and Mad Men fans so we were blown away when Megan pulled out Revolver and played Tomorrow Never Knows. Thank you for that amazing scene in television.

Have you had the opprotunity to meet Paul or Ringo and do you know if they are Mad Men fans?

Matthew_Weiner100 karma

Thank you so much! And yes, I have been lucky enough to actually have a conversation with Paul McCartney, it was pretty amazing and hard to talk as you might have imagined. You actually have a physical experience whose face you know better than your own. He was really cool and he told me that he loves and watches the show and said that when The Beatles first started, they wanted to look like those Ad Men and that executives at that time seemed really cool and aloof. That's why they wore suit and tie in the beginning. I think that is what he said, I was totally freaking out that he had seen the show!

ConuardoShankman49 karma

Hi Matthew! I have a serious question and a less serious question.

Serious question: How (if at all) do you think Mad Men would be different had it aired on HBO as initially considered instead of AMC?

Less serious question: Who would come out on top in a brawl between all current and former employees of SCD&P (and earlier iterations)?

Thanks for Mad Men!

Matthew_Weiner170 karma

Serious Question: HBO has an insatiable appetite for nakedness and violence so there would have been a lot more of that. That may sound like a missed opportunity for some people but I have enjoyed the restrictions of basic cable. I think it has made the show strangely more sexy by implication and it was never going to be violent. The hero takes a nap in the first 15 minutes of the pilot.

Less serious question: The group from the earlier season had the reach and the rage but the later group has Stan and Ginsberg. Facial hair always wins.

MarijuanaMajority46 karma

You've written marijuana into several of the episode storylines in "Mad Men," and it features in your new film as well. Do you support its legalization?

Matthew_Weiner113 karma

Yes I do, of course a lot of what I write about is drug abuse so we should expect the same problems that come along with legal alcohol. We should also expect gigantic corporate manipulation of the product...

downcolorfulhill40 karma

Matthew, I'm a huge fan. Thanks for doing this AMA.

1) If you had the chance to write another series set in a different period, which would you choose?

Matthew_Weiner67 karma

Thank you so much! I am very partial to the French Revolution era and I love Victorian San Francisco... got any ideas that go with that?

Not_Tilden_Katz35 karma

I am addicted to Mad Men. I binge watch it over and over again. There is no other show I can watch this much but Mad Men paints such a rich tapestry of the 60s that I find myself lost in it. So I have a couple questions for you :

  1. How much control / input do you have over the set designs, costumes and music? Do you have other people who handle all this for you? I would imagine it takes quite a team to pull it all together

  2. I am so obsessed with the show I’ve made a Mad Men playlist. After every show this season I downloaded a song from the episode – my favourites being Only Daddy Who Could Walk The Line, This Will be Our Year and I’m a Man. Do you have any suggestions of favourite songs from the 60s or songs you would like to have had in the show or other suggestions that I can add to my playlist?

And finally – how can I stop my Mad Men addiction? I’m afraid to ever tell anyone how many times I’ve watched it end to end.

p.s Can't wait to see the new film - I love your writing.

Matthew_Weiner47 karma

  1. Very talented skilled artists in the top of their field do all the jobs you mentioned. You will see their names in the credits. That means yes, I am lucky to be the last word on what you see on the screen but I am merely acting as a super informed audience member to select from the choices they give me and the ideas they want to express. The great thing is, they read the scripts and come back with amazing things.

  2. I think one of the cool things about picking music for the show is I can use music from any period. I suggest you branch out and start looking at things from earlier periods. Just like today, people listen to the music from their childhood. Try and imagine what Betty Draper's favorite song was in high school!

Go outside and run around, it is a beautiful day.

Franco_DeMayo34 karma

How great was it having the last name "Weiner" as a child?

Matthew_Weiner84 karma

The pronunciation is "WHY-NER", not that you cant make fun of that too. I didn't get bullied that much, but definitely teased about my name. Luckily, I developed a cruel sense of humor with which I would eventually make a living. I also had a lame hand-me-down girls bike that completely eclipsed my funny last name...

Icanrightgood31 karma

Mr. Weiner, I'm a huge fan of Man Men. It's given us characters that won't soon be forgotten in the television world.

1.)How do you create such profound characters, regardless if they are recurring or just in one episode?

2.)Also, how do you ensure you write dialogue that is in line with the language of the 1960s?

Matthew_Weiner43 karma

  1. thank you for saying that, I have a talent team of writers that helps me create everything, but the basic rule is to be specific. No character is ever named "Officer #1" or "Client". We try to base them on people we know and give everyone an exit and an entrance so you can get a good actor.

  2. Some of the dialog just comes out and Allison Mann, our head of research, scours the world to make sure it is right. Some of it I have metabolized from books and movies and my mother.

The-condawg29 karma

Why should we see ARE YOU HERE?

Matthew_Weiner145 karma

Because you know a lot of things in life are funny and sad, and a couple of your favorite actors are playing real people with real problems and because you will see that you are not alone in your belief that the world is complicated and alienating right now. And because you dont want to see the 9th comic book movie of the summer.

flirtydodo29 karma

What's your issue with mothers?

Matthew_Weiner81 karma

I try not to judge any of my characters but...some people shouldn't have children.

MyMephisto24 karma

Hi Mr. Weiner, love the show. Has the show stayed true to your vision all the way through writing/filming, or have some story lines/characters changed from initial concept?

Matthew_Weiner72 karma

A lot of things have changed. When I wrote the pilot I had no idea Joan would be anything but a small part. Then I met Christina Hendricks. I walked home from her audition in New York and started smiling thinking about her and Elisabeth Moss walking down a hallway together. I have never let them really become friends as characters because I dont think they would, but the respect has grown between them and that was a surprise. I also never anticipated that Don would rely or depend on Pete. The characters grew up as I did and there are 85 hours of the show so far and 7 to go. A lot of things have yet to happen :)

houlihan8522 karma

What's your favorite cheap liquor? I mean like comes in a plastic bottle cheap.

Matthew_Weiner30 karma

There was a mixed drink when I was in college from Haulbein I think called Dr. Funk. It was sort of like a Mai Tai and we used to joke that it should come with two advil taped to the side. Much like the women of the Mad Men era enjoy quick shot of vanilla extract.

NorbitGorbit18 karma

Which nerd references have you stuck in your shows that people haven't caught onto yet?

Matthew_Weiner41 karma

There are a lot of dirty lines said in a clean context, you will have to look for them yourself. And I mean really dirty.

Arsenio-Billingham18 karma

You’ve worked often with actors known for their dramatic chops such as James Gandolfini, Jon Hamm, and Elisabeth Moss. What was it like working with comedic actors like Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler, and Zach Galifinakas for Are You Here?

Matthew_Weiner36 karma

Believe it or not, i have been lucky that most of the actors I have worked with have real comedic chops. You cannot teach people to be funny, they either have it or they dont, but it has been my experience that most funny people can really make you feel. James Gandolfini may not have gotten a chance to do a lot of comedy, but he was really funny and I find Tony Soprano to be one of the funniest characters.

Owen, Amy and Zach can all do drama and I think that when you see ARE YOU HERE (opening this friday ;)), you will see how easily they move between broad comedy and realistic drama.

beernerd11 karma

When you wrote Are You Here, who did you originally imagine playing the lead roles? I can't imagine Amy Poehler and Zach Galifianakis were even on the radar back then.

Matthew_Weiner31 karma

You are right, they weren't. Honestly, in my mind, I pictured Chevy Chase and John Belushi.