My short bio: Author of best-selling book CONSOLE WARS and executive producer of Seth Rogen's film adaptation. Writer of Oral Histories and Conversations for the HOW DID THIS GET MADE podcast. Currently working on new book about virtual reality.

My Proof:

Comments: 97 • Responses: 38  • Date: 

pradeepkanchan22 karma

Which movie research was most bizarre that featured on HDIGM?

blakejharris29 karma

Hmmmm...great question!

I'd probably say BLOODSPORT. Because even after I got in touch with Frank Dux (the "real-life inspiration") there was always an element of trying to figure out how much of what he said was actually true (and how much I believed that he believed these things to be true). So that was interesting--especially a midnight phone call in which he explained that this was all a conspiracy ordered down by Oliver North--compounded by the fact that the day our piece went up, Sheldon Lettich (the film's director, and who Frank slammed a few times) reached out with a very different story.

Basically what I love most about these pieces is that going in I almost never have any idea where the research is headed. And that was especially true with BLOODSPORT!

gideonidoru-13 karma


blakejharris6 karma

Which film? I believe I spoke with or at least reached out to the director of every film we've done:

FlippitySkippity11 karma

Have you ever met Paul, Jason, or June? If so, what are each of them like when the mikes go dead?

blakejharris23 karma

I talk to them frequently, but--since I'm based in New York--I actually never met them in person until last weekend for the live show of THE AVENGERS (1998). They're very much like the personalities on the podcast, with the asterisk that Jason is much less angry and abrasive in real life. One thing they all have in common (which is definitely not true of most celebrities I know and have interviewed) is that they're all sincerely very curious people. You know, I could imagine a scenario where people in their position would think this series of Conversations and Oral Histories is "good for the brand" but that was never the objective. The series stemmed from their deep curiosity to learn more about this movies and the personalities involved. So in short: they're great. And no offense to Jason and June (who I both love), but Paul is sincerely the nicest celebrity I know.

But don't just take my word for it. Here's a line from Nick Kroll that I had to remove (for space) from my oral history of THE LEAGUE

Nick Kroll: "Genuinely though, Paul is one of the most thoughtful and generous people I’ve ever met. He was always the one who organized a coffee truck or food truck from the cast to the crew on long days. I know it may sound cheesy, but it's a small gesture that actors can make to the rest of the crew who work much harder than us to say thank you. And Paul was always the one to spear head it."

FlippitySkippity4 karma

I know what you mean. Both Paul and Jason feel so genuine, even though Jason talks about dongs and ejaculation 90% of the time. Do you know a lot of celebrities?
Edit: no negative vibes towards June though.

blakejharris8 karma

Definitely no negative vibes towards June, she very well might be my favorite of the bunch!

Most of the celebrities I know are those who fall into the same category as June/Jason/Paul and Seth/Evan: folks who act (or do comedy) but also write their own stuff and tend to be "makers." I suspect that's because of some unspoken but fundamental appreciation for storytelling. I think it also helps a lot that I wrote a very accessible book about a topic that many remember fondly from their childhood.

FlippitySkippity3 karma

Also, how did you get involved with the podcast? Did they reach out to you?

blakejharris14 karma

I actually reached out to Paul last summer. I essentially said that I was an enormous fan of the show, thought all three of them were clever and hilarious, but that they never actually answered the damned question of how these movies got made! I suggested that they bring on someone to do just that. I offered my services but said, sincerely, that even if they wanted to go in another direction (or wanted to use a revolving door of writers) I hoped that they took the idea and ran with it. Because ultimately I am a fan of the show, and this was just a way to enhance the experience.

MsNewKicks9 karma

Blake, how do you feel about the current generation of consoles? I was born in the 90s so I remember the console wars and how they felt very different from each other. To me, XB1 & PS4 feel interchangeable with the exception of a handful of exclusives.

blakejharris6 karma

I'm in the same boat as you. I don't think it's just nostalgia that makes me yearn from those days of choosing sides and embracing a light-hearted rivalry. I understand why that's not as much the case (the industry has become, well, "an industry" and the cost of the hardware and software dwarfs that of the 90s), but I guess what surprises me is how often I feel in the minority for having this opinion. I mean, I guess that makes me a metaphorical war-monger, but I love a good rivalry in any format. Be it among sports teams, shoe companies, top-level chefs or what have you. I love a good story and rivalries help create that.

Even so, liking stories isn't a good enough reason to root for (metaphorical) conflict. But what I think does count as a good reason is that--to my core--I do believe that the true winner of console wars is the consumer. Heightened competition leads to innovation and that's a good thing.

All of this said (and given our similar feeing about this current console error), I'm sure it won't surprise you to say that's one of the reasons that my next book is about virtual reality. The competition is certainly NOT like it was during Sega/Nintendo, but there's a very interesting dynamic at play that's been spurring all types of incredible innovation.

The_DestroyerKSP2 karma

I'm probably too late here, but, your opinion on a PC?

blakejharris6 karma


coffeesforlosers8 karma

I'm in school to become a journalist, and the most difficult thing for me is interviewing people. With Console Wars, I'm sure a lot of interviewing had to happen, so how did you make it work? How did you keep all the information in order? Thanks!

blakejharris14 karma

That was definitely the most difficult part. Especially for me because unlike you (and good for you, by the way) I hadn't trained in any way for that. My background, to that point, was as a failed screenwriter (and day job of commodity trader).

So I'll start off by saying: I completely sympathize with your difficulty and I appreciate that you realize it's hard and consider it a priority (you'd be shocked by how many journalists don't care much about first hand information).

As far as advice goes, the number one suggestion I have is to put yourself into the mind of the person you're reaching out to. If you were them (and keep in mind there level of prestige and whatever you've heard about their personality), what would it take for you to make the time for an interview. You should always be honest--that's critical, I believe, in developing a rapport--but it's about appealing to their curiosity and presenting them with why you think it's worth them spending the time.

So with Tom Kalinske, for example...I knew he'd be one of the main characters in the book and I also knew that I didn't have any impressive writing credits to share with him. So before reaching out, I wanted to first speak with others who had been at Sega. I found some folks on LinkedIn or by tracking down contact info of those mentioned in old articles. I was able to build up a small base of information and contacts so that by the time I reached out to Tom he at least knew I was someone willing to do some legwork (and I was more knowledgeable for it).

Ultimately though, I think the best advice I can give is that it's okay to hear "No." Especially early on. My mentality with Console Wars was to reach out to as many people as possible. And if only 5% of people said "yes" at first, then hey that was better than 0% (the actual number was probably closer to %15).

As far as organizing the information, I kept a file on each interview subject. I referenced them when writing the chapters but--to be honest--what really helped me remember everything best and retain that information in a handy way was transcribing the interview myself. It sucks to do that--it's a huge time commitment--but the upside was that those interviews really stuck with me. Another good trick was to BOLD anything that I particularly thought would be perfect for the book so I didn't forget.

coffeesforlosers4 karma

Thanks so much for answering! Hearing "no" is my main issue right now, and also what discourages me the most, so I really appreciate you telling me to stick with it.

blakejharris5 karma

My pleasure. I am grateful to those who helped guide me, so happy to pay it forward. What "kind" of no are you getting? I mean, I know it varies, but generally have you noticed any sort of recurring reservation on their part?

coffeesforlosers4 karma

Just people not replying to emails, phone calls, so it's more of being ignored than being specifically told no, haha. No one just knows who I am right now, so it makes them nervous about talking to me.

blakejharris8 karma

Totally. Been there. A couple more pieces of advice (both of which you probably already know on some level, but might help to have reiterated). 1. Leverage and momentum go a lonnnnngggggg way. So I'm sure if you had a link to send those folks (saying like, here's my interview with "John Smith") that can be helpful. 2. One good way to get those link-worthy pieces, is to align yourself with a publication (whose name is more powerful than yours). Duh, right? But it's true. And you'd be surprised how open (and at least responsive) a publication can be if you offer to work for free or to do work they'd rather not deal with.

blakejharris6 karma

Hey all, thanks for all the great questions! I need to run (we're recording a special interview-based episode of HDTGM for tomorrow), but I'll check back here intermittently throughout the day. If for whatever reason I missed your question, you can always feel free to reach out on twitter (@blakejharrisnyc) and I should be able to reply there.

Oh, and unrelated but potentially life-changing: if you haven't tried a virtual reality headset, try to get a demo of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR (or another) ASAP!!! It's just...beyond words.

LightsCameraRegret6 karma

If you could guest on HDTGM, what movie would you want to do?

blakejharris13 karma

Dammmmmmmmmnnnn. That's a great question. I guess my top choice would be the first movie that ever made me realize that big-budget movies could suck: LAST ACTION HERO.

If not that, it would probably be something from the 90s that I loved as a kid but, upon further review, is rife with absurdity. Like ROOKIE OF THE YEAR or THREE NINJAS

LightsCameraRegret6 karma

Second question! What's a "bad" movie you will defend passionately, no matter what everyone else says? (Unless its the same answer as rookie of the year or three ninjas)

blakejharris15 karma

Another great question. It's actually one they did on the show. I sincerely believe that Demolition Man is an incredible movie and I'm not even much of an action movie guy. I think the dystopia depicted in that film is extremely clever and perhaps the most accurate prediction of the future we saw in the 80/90s. The idea of corporate conglomeration (i.e. Taco Bell winning the "Chain Wars") and the increased control of political correctness/speech (fined for what you say, even in private spaces) is wonderfully executed...not to mention the prediction that Arnold Schwarzenegger would get into politics!

porkchopsss5 karma

How was your experience with Tom Kalinske when you were working on Console Wars? Did he end up becoming a friend afterwards?

blakejharris4 karma

Absolutely. One of the best compliments I received on Console Wars was Mike Fischer (the American guy in Japan) saying that Kalinske was captured so perfectly on the page that he thought "Blake J. Harris was just a nom de plume for Tom Kalinske." That meant so much because I felt my job was really just to recreate this incredible guy and his anything-is-possible personality on the page.

Although an over-simplification, I'd break the book writing process down to two phases: Research and Writing. I spent about 2 years primarily focused on research and a year focused mostly on just the writing. During the research period I spoke with Tom (either in person or by phone) usually every month or so. Then during the writing we remained in constant contact (mostly by e-mail).

One important thing I learned after writing Console Wars (when I was looking for new topics to write about) was that since books take so long to research and write, I'd prefer to research and write about those who I admire. So Tom was absolutely perfect in that regard.

porkchopsss5 karma

Movie about Console Wars? (It's me, tofuprod btw :) And do you need help? :) My body is ready :)

blakejharris8 karma

We are and it's coming together great. I've been co-directing it with my talented screenwriting partner Jonah Tulis (@jonahtulis) and, like the feature, it's being produced by Seth, Evan and Scott!

dd1zzle4 karma

Hey Blake! Few questions:
Regarding the Oral History, what's your process is to find the people involved with the movies? Do you just look up a cast member on yellow page and work from there?
Who is one person who you wish you could interview for the Oral History?
Have you listen to Arianna Grande's new album yet? If so what your favorite track?

blakejharris6 karma

Hey! First off, thank you for helping to set up this AmA! It really has been an honor for me to work with Paul, Jason and June, so I love talking about the process.

Typically my first step is a visit to IMDBpro, which is pretty much the same as IMDB except it will sometimes list the reps for those involved. Unfortunately though there usually isn't contact info for those involved in the HDTGM movies (mostly because the movies are older, I'd guess, less so than a correlation with the quality of the films). So it's tricky. Each tracking-down-experience has been unique. In the case of Hell Comes to Frogtown (and which I mentioned on the mini) that came together because I found a previous interview Randall Frakes had done and that writer/interviewer was willing to help me out.

So it can be a hard, wayward process. Plus there's also the fact that I'm basically asking these people to talk about their most embarrassing creative moments, so that can be tough. But luckily it's been getting a little easier as we've gone along because these folks (or their reps) can read our previous pieces and see that they truly are celebrations (and not mockeries).

One person I wish I could interview? From the pieces we've done, I really wish I'd been able to speak with Shaq. Particularly about Kazaam. We came very close, but the timing didn't work out. I also wish I could have spoken with James Bridges (the director of Perfect) but he passed away years ago.

As for Arianna Grande, I've got some disappointing news for you. For whatever (weirdo, bizarre) reason, I don't listen to music for fun. So I don't think I've listened to a non-soundtrack album since I was in college over a decade ago.

joelschlosberg2 karma

Have you or the HDTGM crew tried to get on Shaq's podcast?

blakejharris4 karma

No, but that's a really good idea. Stealing it! :)

LordDaccat4 karma

It's been quite awhile since we heard anything about the Console Wars movie. Are you able to share any information on it's development?

blakejharris6 karma

Yes, and I'm sorry it's been so long. That's mostly my fault as I've been full-force working on the new virtual reality book (and stuff is happening so amazingly fast in that space!). We're almost done with the doc, in post, but pretty close to a complete film. And the feature is something we've always been developing in tandem with Seth, Evan and Scott so while the scriptwriting hasn't officially commenced, our thought has always been that progress for the book and doc is progress for the feature. Keep in mind that Seth and Evan got involved before the book was ever even written, we've developed a great rapport and they knew the world of this story better than anybody else. Oh, and they extended the film option with Sony in November last year, so everyone is still psyched about it and thing are moving forward!

Cocinar3 karma

How much lead time do you get from the HDTGM guys to do your investigations?

blakejharris5 karma

Never enough! Usually about a week before the mini-episode (so two weeks before the podcast will air). So those double live shows can actually be very helpful for me, as there's usually more prep time for me before the eps will air.

pradeepkanchan3 karma

Have you done any in person interviews where booze is involved and the subject reveals more than required?

blakejharris7 karma

Ha! Yes, I have. And I think I'm in the minority with this, but it's generally my belief that people should only be quoted about what they want to share. It's their lives and their thoughts. So if, the next day, they feel uncomfortable about something they said, I generally have no problem accommodating that

BigNikiStyle3 karma

Did you have a dog in the Sega/Nintendo race back in the day? If so, what is your favourite 16-bit game?

As a Sega Genesis kid growing up, your book was just so interesting to read. I still have the last 100 pages or so to go, because I can't quite bear to read about how badly Sega bungled things at the end. My tear-stained Dreamcast has a place of honour in the man cave to this very day.

Thanks so much for writing such an interesting book! Can't wait for the movie!

blakejharris4 karma

Thank you, BigNikiStyle! As a writer and someone who was obviously very invested in these characters, it was sad for me to write the last part of the book. Though, I will say, that despite the shame of how it ended, it was a happier ending than I originally expected.

I'm 33. My first console was an NES. My younger brother and I desperately wanted the SNES, but our parents didn't like how it wasn't backwardly compatible. So they got us a Genesis and we both proudly fought for Team Sega. I loved Sonic 2 like crazy, but probably my favorite were the sports games. NHL '94 and NBA Jam especially.

Make sure that dreamcast stays in your man cave for a while. What a great console and what a goddamn shame how that all ended.

Shocky1783 karma

Does the name Mr.Ceruzzi ring any bells and did you go to Horace Greeley High School?

blakejharris3 karma

Very much so! We wrote a musical together. He's incredible. Did you go to HGHS?

Shocky1782 karma

Yes, I do he currently teaches my Sr. Lit course. He is one of the most incredible teachers. I know he was the one who told me about your book and he cannot wait for the movie to come out.

blakejharris4 karma

Wonderful! I actually had Mr. C during his very first year. He was great then...but new enough we were able to persuade him into letting us watch episodes of Seinfeld when we were good :)

What are you guys currently reading in Sr. Lit?

Verbz2 karma

I'm late to this but I have read every one of your HDTGM articles Blake. I love the approach you take towards the interviews. It seems to be pretty fun. Obviously it's often prickly to bring up some of these movies with these guys. Anyone you look back and say "I'm glad that movie failed, that person is a dick"? Obviously the easier and less fun question, anyone in particular you look back and wish they had a better shot?

blakejharris2 karma

Hey Verbz, sorry for the delayed response. That's a really good (and intriguing) question. My response, however, probably disappointing. I racked my brain to think if there was anyone that rubbed me the wrong way during my interviews for this series, but I really don't think so. Mostly because it takes some degree of courage to speak with someone about something unsuccessful (especially years after, when you're not doing press for it or anything). So I think on some level I greatly respect anyone who's chatted with me for the HDTGM pieces. In terms of who I best connected with (and wished the best) it would probably be Sheldon Lettich. Though, in fairness, he's had a long successful career as writer and director so it's not like things went badly for him. But I really admired his reaction to the Frank Dux piece and how after I explained where I was coming from, he was more than happy to make give me over 3 hours of his time and tell me so many great stories. I think (being a writer) I also really connected with Aaron Latham, though once again that's someone who has had a very successful career.

Verbz1 karma

Thank you for your thoughtful answer Blake. Almost exactly as I figured. It's hard to dislike someone that is willing to put forth the effort. Though Frank seems like he plays fast and loose with the truth and that can get old pretty quick. I felt the compassion for Sheldon in your piece. He seems like a normal person trying to do his job surrounded by egos and liars. Latham was interesting in his almost gonzo approach. Now if only we had some real answers on Sleepaway Camp & Gooby. Thank you again Blake, I'll keep reading if you keep writing.

blakejharris2 karma

Deal. I'll happily keep writing, thank you for reading.

Interesting thing about Frank is that I definitely grew suspicious of his stories very early on, but sometimes (at least this is the feel I occasionally get when conducting interviews) people just really want to feel heard. So even if the details of what he said weren't true, I felt there was some truth to his words. Could all just be in my head, but either way, I really did enjoy my time spent speaking with him and do wish him the best.

The_Only_Griff2 karma

I love HDTGM. I keep waiting to see you guys do The Glimmerman. Is that on the cards, or what?

blakejharris1 karma

Sadly, I don't know. Although I'll sometimes discuss options with them, I generally prefer not to know what's coming next so that when the gang selects, it's like that red ball comes down in Minority Report and I spring into action...

The_Only_Griff1 karma

Fair point. Either way, I love the show and you guys do a great job.

blakejharris2 karma

Thank you! But I will say, for whatever its worth, that Paul 100% really does take heed of listener suggestions...

Supernova61 karma

I love Console Wars! I read it fully every month and it gets better and better! Seriously great job. One of my favorite books. However, I've always wanted the movie adaption, but no news has been released on it. So my question is, is there any news you can tell us regarding the Console Wars films?

blakejharris2 karma

You've really re-read it several times? That'a amazing, I'm touched.

Everything is still moving ahead great with the films, but I don't have any particularly juicy pieces of info to share unfortunately. Here's the mini-update I posted yesterday earlier in the thread...

Yes, and I'm sorry it's been so long. That's mostly my fault as I've been full-force working on the new virtual reality book (and stuff is happening so amazingly fast in that space!). We're almost done with the doc, in post, but pretty close to a complete film. And the feature is something we've always been developing in tandem with Seth, Evan and Scott so while the scriptwriting hasn't officially commenced, our thought has always been that progress for the book and doc is progress for the feature. Keep in mind that Seth and Evan got involved before the book was ever even written, we've developed a great rapport and they knew the world of this story better than anybody else. Oh, and they extended the film option with Sony in November last year, so everyone is still psyched about it and thing are moving forward!

Supernova61 karma

Wow, thanks! Keep at it, I am beyond excited for when it eventually comes out! (I always did imagine James Franco or Seth Rogen as Steve Race...)

Thanks for responding and the awesome AMA! You just made my (birth)day, man. :)

blakejharris2 karma

Happy to do so. And, more importantly, happy birthday to you! You can celebrate with this bonus Mel Brooks interview too if you wish :)

El_Bard01 karma

Who would be your top choice to track down and find out how a particular movie got made? I know in the live show for Solar Babies they talked about how awesome it would be to be able to ask Mel Brooks about that movie.

blakejharris4 karma

Ask me that question again in 24 hours...

Son_of_Atreus1 karma

Seriously? Solar Babies is such a weird film, I'd love to more about it.

BadTimeSkeleton1 karma

Is investigating bad movies more fun than investigating good ones?

blakejharris2 karma

I don't think so. Telling great success stories is my favorite thing to do (i.e. An Oral History of The League) BUT the problem is that there's not always (or even often) intrigue, vision and drama in success (especially when sooo many stakeholders are involved like with the Marvel movies) whereas there is intrinsic conflict and collision whenever things go wrong.

I know this is my AmA, but question for you: which do you prefer to read? And how much does your familiarity with the movie factor in to your level of enjoyment?

rcrmilligan1 karma

Hi Mr. Harris, thanks for doing this! I'm a big fan of Console Wars and HDTGM. Do you make convention appearances? I'm one of the directors of a 2-day retro game convention that takes place on November 5th-6th in Syracuse, NY and draws thousands of attendees from New York and beyond. We're searching for special guests and we'd love to have you. If it's something you'd be interested in, what's the best way to contact you with more information?

blakejharris1 karma

Sounds interesting. Shoot an e-mail over to info[at]blakejharris[dot]com That'll get to me. And so glad you enjoyed CW and the HDTGM pieces!

jda4941 karma

Console Wars is one of my favorite books of all time. Will you do any other style books like that for the Video Game medium?

I think your style of presenting history in a story would be wildly fascinating if it followed the rise and fall of Hideo Kojima / Konami relationship.

Keep up the amazing work!

blakejharris2 karma

Thanks, jda! Really appreciate the kind words.

There were several videogame (and non-videogame) stories that I was thinking about working on next, but all of that was pretty much blown away when I tried Oculus' DK1 headset. I was blown away by the potential of virtual reality and the incredible story of how this revolution started. So that's what I've been working on and, of course, videogames (and the industry) are a big part of the story. Have you tried any of the recently released headsets?

PS Your idea for the rise and fall of Kojima is a great one. Definitely something I'd be very eager to read :)

jda4941 karma

Thank you for your reply.

blakejharris1 karma

My pleasure!

wfza11 karma

I've never heard of your book Console Wars. But gaming is implied so you have my interest. I'm not trying to be a dick, but...

Why should I buy it?

blakejharris1 karma

Before buying the book, I'd definitely consider checking out some of the freely available excerpts. There was on one Grantland, Kotaku, Slash film and a couple of other sites (You can check them out in the Excerpt section here:

But generally speaking, whether or not you'd like the book probably has less to do with if readers like videogames than the kinds of stories they enjoy. This is very much a behind-the-scenes, character-driven story. It's about people--yes, people who run videogame companies--but ultimately it's about them, their ideas and their underdog story of trying to slay Goliath and transform videogames from toys into mainstream entertainment.

jkraus1501 karma

What influence the Console Wars while you were making the book?

blakejharris1 karma

So many things. Other writers, especially Ben Mezrich, who I think is a master of telling behind-the-scenes business stories that can be enjoyed by any audience. Game of Thrones too was a big inspiration in terms of style; weaving history with action and pitting all these different "families" in a landscape where each believes they deserve to be king.

Also, out of habit, I like to keep the TV on when I'm writing. So while writing Console Wars it was pretty much a constant loop of Psych, The League, Seinfeld, Family Guy, Happy Endings and The West Wing. All of those kept me going (and, as you might imagine, had already inspired me as a writer).

Iced Coffee too, that was a major influence ;)

SoSaysAT1 karma

In your bio you mention that you are writing a book on virtual reality. Have you used the Oculus Rift or Holo Lens yet? Do you think these two creations are the "thing" that finally makes the VR dream a reality, or are we still years away?

blakejharris1 karma

Great question. I've used the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and Samsung's Gear VR (the $99 mobile headset) and they continually convince me that VR is finally here. I mean, it's going to get better and better, but the gaming content and some of the experiences are already mind-blowing. What's always interested me most is the social aspect--two people in different physical spaces hanging out in a virtual space--and we're still a few years away from that. So I wouldn't say that VR is a "reality" already, in the sense that it's all arrived, but it's definitely come much further than just a dream or proof-of-concept.

I actually haven't yet tried the HoloLens, though I'm hoping to do so at E3. I've heard great things though! One small distinction though that's worth noting is that the HoloLens is actually AR (augmented reality), which often gets grouped together with VR but is pretty different. This is definitely an oversimplification of that difference, but might be the easiest way to see AR and VR in action.


I'm obviously very passionate about this topic and as with Console Wars want this book to be compelling to those familiar with the topic as well as those who aren't, so please don't hesitate to ask me any questions!