We're Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, the showrunners of Black Mirror. Ask us anything. As long as it's not too difficult or sports related.
Black Mirror taps into our collective unease with the modern world and each stand-alone episode explores themes of contemporary techno-paranoia. Without questioning it, technology has transformed all aspects of our lives in every home on every desk in every palm - a plasma screen a monitor a Smartphone – a Black Mirror reflecting our 21st Century existence back at us
Answering your questions today are creator and writer, Charlie Brooker and executive producer Annabel Jones.
EDIT: THANKS FOR HAVING US. WE HAVE TO RUN NOW.
How is it transferring a show from being a pure British one to an American/British mix? Any noticeable differences?
It broadens the kind of stories you can do. San Junipero set in the UK wouldn't have been so evocative of the era, for instance. We did actually discuss it -- could we set it in Brighton in the 80s we wondered -- but a sort of notional California just seemed right.
"White Christmas" is an honest-to-goodness screenwriting course on its own - the plot weaving and structuring blew me away. Is there a way you structure your episodes before you write them? Or do you sometimes just have an idea and start writing without knowing where it's going and realize you've finished writing something incredible?
Thanks for everything, Charlie!
That's sickeningly kind of you. White Christmas was three loose ideas I'd had knocking around tied together with a bit of tinsel. I was quite surprised that the final script made sense.
Annabel has just pointed out that actually there were weeks and weeks of debate over the framing device. It was v satisfying to come up with a framing device built from the individual strands.
Is there any truth to the theory that you wrote an entire episode based around this picture?
(Slightly NSFW, I guess)
Sadly no. But that's the DVD cover sorted, for the day it never comes out on DVD.
the day it never comes out on DVD
It'll be uploaded to the grain though, yeah?
Grain won't record copyrighted material
what is the story behind it then? surely it's too much of a coincidence
no idea! we literally just saw it now.
Was "Heaven is A Place on Earth" the partial inspiration for San Junipero or did someone just do an incredible job sourcing music for the soundtrack??
I can't recall when it came into the process, but I was running and it came up on a Spotify 1987 playlist I'd put together. And I sort of went "FUCKING HELL THAT'S PERFECT". But not out loud. And then I couldn't relax until I KNEW it was cleared.
Also The Smiths' "Girlfriend in a Coma". Wonder why you picked that one
Ditto "Livin' in a Box"
when can we expect season 4 to appear?
We're about to start shooting one so as soon as we've finished that bit and shot another five, and then given them all a good polish. 2017 almost certainly, in other words.
Damn, IMDB has the date of release as January 1, 2017.
That's impossible, fuck.
Hey Charlie (and Annabel)! Big fan from the show, even went back to watch "Screenwipe" since I also love that kind of stuff. I was wondering if you ever thought about fucking up with the audience? Like having different ends or scenes depending on the day of the week someone is watching, or maybe deleting scenes after a few days and watching people freaking out about it on twitter?
Have thought about that with Playtest (wanted to do a 'Nightmare mode' for people watching it a second time -- with different fourth-wall breaking scenes). But it was just too logistically complicated. We may revisit the idea tho.
My husband and I rewatched Playtest last night and it seemed with each escalation of the nightmare there was a subtle buzz in the background music. Did each buzz of his phone in the last half tenth of a second of life escalate the simulation?
The sound of the phone (and the interference) pops up in the soundtrack from time to time....
In this season we have noticed a few Easter eggs in some of the episodes. Can we expect future episodes to have crossovers?
Which Easter eggs did you notice? There's one (in one former ep) that no-one's ever found...
There is this one
And also the mention of Shous playtest in the same ep.
Yep that's one. And the Shou one. And there are a couple on the EDGE magazine covers. But there's still one no-one's found in White Christmas.
Damn, I wish I was here when this was live. Is the Easter Egg the song 'The Thieving Magpie?' The composer Rossini was locked in a room by his producer to ensure he produced the work before the first performance.
Edit: Wait, I think I got it. When the policewoman goes to Potter's cell there's a White Bear logo ono the cell plate, suggesting Potter could get sentenced to White Bear.
BINGO -- yes that's the one. In fact the White Bear logo was plastered all over the place in that episode -- on the cops' paperwork and stuff like that -- but I don't think any of that was visible in the final cut, apart from that one on the cell door.
YOU WIN SOME BISCUITS AND SHOES.
Here's everything we've noticed so far.
Still missing the White Christmas one we're thinking of...
Was there ever any concept/story that you passed on or didn't follow through with because it was too depressing?
Big fan of the show by the way, just finished it today!
In an early draft of White Christmas Oona Chaplin's character (Greta) had a kid -- there was a scene in which 'Cookie Greta' saw 'Real Greta' reading a story to her son, and then realised she'd never hold or truly 'be with' her kid again. But it was so totally bleak it overpowered everything else so we GOT RID OF THE KID.
(She was called Greta because there were two of her and 'Greta minds think alike'. Ha. Ha.)
Fucking hell can you imagine an episode of Black Mirror that they turned down because it was too depressing?
I can tell the ones that are fucking depressing and they still did them.
Cheer up grumpybones
Have you considered splitting 2016 wipe or will it just be a feature length?
Is there anyone you'd like to write and/or direct for Black Mirror?
EDIT: because someone asked this over at /r/blackmirror and it's one I'd like answered: is there any chance of the upvote and downvote sounds from Nosedive being available as ringtones?
2016 Wipe will be a nightmare.
HERE ARE THE RINGTONES -- Netflix have just copied-and-pasted them in here -- use wisely
Did you expect "San Junipero" to be a big deal not only within the LGTBQ community but for everyone? I mean, every social network is going nuts with Kelly and Yorkie, you must know that.
We've been delighted by the response to it. We see it as a universal love story -- the fact it's about two women is both significant and insignificant. Significant in that they [SPOILER ALERT!] get married in 1987, which wasn't possible at that time in reality, and that kind of chimed in with the whole theme of reliving your life and exploring possibilities afresh. And insignificant in that it's a love story between two people. So it's been great to see a positive reaction from across the board.
Did you take any inspiration from the Community episode "App development and condiments" in writing Nosedive, or did you and Harmon both arrive at the same concept from similar inspirations?
And will you be gracing our telly screens in person again anytime soon?
Haven't seen that episode - no honestly - though a few people have mentioned it subsequently. The original idea for Nosedive was knocking around for a while (though in somewhat different form, more as a sort of Brewster's Millions tale). Was a bit worried when someone tried to launch Peeple during our production (thought it might be marketing for a comedy show or something)
Why is this entire series based around the premise, 'What if Phones, but too much?'
That line appears in Hated in the Nation. We're actually pro-technology, promise. The show isn't anti-tech -- we LOVE all the product and UI design. It's not waving a fist at the iCloud. It's a mix of human stories and sometimes funhouse twist-in-the-tale stuff. The people who think it's grumpy are the grumpy ones. Boo to those people. Booooo.
Annabel just said "really?" as I typed that.
I'm loving Series 3. I was wondering if you were ever tempted to drop in a darker ending for San Junipero? Or was it always your intention to tell a much happier story in comparison to the majority of the other Black Mirror episodes?
By the way, San Junipero is hands down one of the most beautiful pieces of television I've ever seen, so thanks for that!
It was the intention to vary the tone of the season. The ending just came out that way because we loved the characters and wanted to gift them a happy ending.
Firstly thanks for making one of the most captivating and thought provoking series of the last decade or so, secondly based on the below can we assume that all the episodes take place in the same universe or were these easter eggs placed in the show for fans?
Things picked up on from 'White Christmas' - One of the usernames at the start was I_AM_WALDO - Song from Fifteen Million Merits - 'Hot Shot' TV show from Fifteen Million Merits was seen on TV - Pregnancy test was seen in Be Right Back
Shoutout to /r/blackmirror !!
They take place in the same psychological universe, certainly. There are sometimes explicit links, eg in Hated in the Nation, Blue worked on the Rannoch case (he was Victoria Skillane's boyfriend, mentioned in White Bear).
What's Chris Morris up to?
He's behind you.
Charlie, since you have a great track record with satire, absurd humor and very very dark humor, I was wondering when/if you would ever write for Doctor Who?
Was asked a while ago and it was really annoying as was just too busy, which was sadder than anything in any episode of Black Mirror.
What is your writing process like, do you plan methodically or just jump straight in?
Depends on the story. San Junipero, jumped straight in. Hated in the Nation, planned for AGES.
Hated in the Nation is my hands down favorite and extremely underrated (according to the BM sub at least lol!)
No two people can agree on their favourites, it seems. We've seen all of them labelled worst and best. Suppose that's the nature of an anthology, you judgmental monsters.
Hated in the Nation was an awesome movie. I would have paid to see that in a theatre ! =D
Come on then, cough up.
Was there a conscious effort to make the cast so diverse (gender-, race- and nationality-wise) or did it just happen?
Oh, and thanks for the series, it's great. Five stars from me:)
Bit of both. Certainly the experience of writing it is more interesting if you're following different people.
To Annabel: What is it like working with Charlie? Is his vision as fundamental to every episode as we are led to believe, or do the many concepts in Black Mirror come from a bigger variety of writers?
Painful. But yes all the ideas come from his twisted head. He is standing over me making me write this.
I watched San Junipero last night and it amazes me how someone can think up a story so complex and layered, but still exists in such a compact and neat hour long piece of television. My question is how do you create a world like that, is it a long process? Is it frustrating at times to try and make things fit together? I'm a huge fan of the program and I think it deserves a whole load more of attention. Thanks !
Sometimes it's quick, sometimes it isn't. I wish I knew how to make them all quick!
Have you ever considered taking one of the concepts from an episode and turning it into something more? Black Mirror has always worked very well as an anthology, offering glimpses into a world that isn't as far away as we think, but some episodes could work well as a series. The Entire History of You, for example, has a very interesting framework with the idea of memory, and a lot that could be explored there. My favorite moment was during the fight towards the end, where when the woman without the Grain attempted to call the police, she was hung up on. Not only is this extremely relevant to us as a society right now, but it highlights how easily technology can divide us, and that's something that could be explored in a lot more depth.
Black Mirror has always had a divide between grounded episodes set in a modern day environment, such as The Waldo Moment or The National Anthem, and more high concept sci-fi episodes such as Fifteen Million Merits or Nosedive. Which do you find more fun to work with and why?
- There have been ideas for 'expanded' versions of some of the stories. I have an idea for a sequel to White Bear for instance. Sometimes the tech (or something similar to it) shows up again in other eps if there's an irresistible story to be told.
- They're both fun in different ways. High concept is fun because you're dreaming onto the page; grounded is fun because you're writing a sort of documentary nightmare.
I've binged watched the episodes recently (even 3), loved them. I've been having the difficulty lately of explaining the show to friends. How would you explain it, and what episode would you suggest they start out with?
We wouldn't explain it - -we'd just hit 'play' and shut the door.
Where did the final speech come from on Fifteen Million Merits? (Twas a delicious moment that made me excited in ma belly!:~P)
That was written in one big gulp, sort of stream-of-consciousness. There was a chunk of it cut out in the final version - it actually doesn't quite make sense if you listen closely. BUT NO-ONE HAS EVER NOTICED BECAUSE DANIEL KALUUYA KNOCKS IT OUT OF THE FUCKING PARK.
I think that the senselessness makes it better, more real, less manufactured. :~)
Charlie, will you ever cameo in an episode?
Probably not. I am in Dead Set though, very briefly, as a zombie. So is Annabel. Annabel is the zombie at the end watching the TV in the shop window.
What was it like working with Dan Trachtenberg?
HE IS A MONSTER. No, he's fantastic. Really fun guy. Actually geekier about videogames than any of us. He insisted on the Bioshock ref, for instance. And we fed him loads of Dairy Milk Oreo bars so he owes us.
Hey Charlie and Annabel, great fan of your show! Is there any reason for the gamer guy on San Junipero to keep showing up in this episode?
He pops in to different eras (which are like different 'rooms' running concurrently) to play the games from that year. (that's why he says "golden age, right") CB got v obsessed over the arcade games.
How do you like your toast?
Slightly underdone. And with LOTS of Marmite. How do you like yours?
Do you have any screenwriting advice?
Read 'On Writing' by Stephen King and 'On Film-Making' by Alexander Mackendrick.
Just try to power through the first draft. it'll be shit, you can rewrite it later (you WILL rewrite it later)
ONCE YOU KNOW WHAT THE STORYLINE IS, write the first draft standing up. You waste less time because it's slightly uncomfortable.
Probably loads of other advice but that's off the top of me head.
Are we going to see a 2016 Screen Wipe? We all need a 2016 Screen Wipe.
We're doing a 2016 Wipe -- it'll be a laugh riot.
Do you guys find it at all ironic that your show is presented in a format the captivates peoples attentions for hours of the day, somewhat similar to your portrayal of technology in the past seasons?
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