'PEN15' captures middle school in all its glory
From the Mon broadcast center at K P. See this is the frame, I'm John horn on today's show. Netflix has not been able to show its movies and wide the echo released before they stream on the site. But Martin Scorsese may force a change in that pattern. Then when the cope raiders stars of the Hulu series Penn. Fifteen first pitch their adult comedy about life in middle school. They were met with a fair amount of resistance. We got a lot of nauseous. I don't wanna go back there. Please stop, please. Stop talking about that. Yeah. My kids are in middle school. I don't wanna think about that. Great. Totally understand. Thank you for your time. All that coming up today on the frame. Welcome to the frame, I'm John horn, Roma took home three Oscars, but it didn't win the trophy for best picture, and it sure sparked a big debate this award season. The Netflix film directed by Alphonso Cuaron was not embraced by theater owners as well as some academy voters because it landed on the streaming site right around the same time. It was offered to exhibitors it's called a day and date release. Typically theater owners want exclusive rights to a movie for several months before it starts appearing on streaming platforms and on DVD. But now Netflix might be thinking about going back to that traditional release pattern. I spoke with the Hollywood reporter senior film editor Rebecca Keegan about an upcoming net. Flix film directed by Martin Scorsese. The movie is called the Irishman. And she started with what Netflix learned from Roma. Flicks had held fast to this day and date release strategy until this past award season when they. They introduced a very small theatrical window a three week window for Roma in one week windows for a couple of other films. That is not a big enough window that it won them any fans among theater owners who still really see the company has kind of public enemy number one. As do many traditional lists in the business who who feel that the obstacle exhibition is a big part of what makes something a movie. So there are a couple things now that are at stake. There is the question of what filmmakers and filmmakers like Martin Scorsese want in terms of how their films are exhibited. And then there's the whole question of whether or not Netflix failure to be able to release Roma in a material way in theaters hurt its Academy Award chances for best picture. Well, it varies with the filmmaker. Of course. But when you're talking about a director like Martin Scorsese who is ultimately such a traditionalist. You know, he's still shoots movies on film. He is a lover of classic film square. Sese? He feels very strongly that he likes his movies to be seen in a movie theater. And so with filmmaker like this, it's very very important. It was also important to help Alfonso Koran even after he'd won his three Oscars. He talked about the importance of the theatrical exhibition experience, so most of these sort of top tier filmmakers want their movies in theaters, and you have reported as have some other people that the fact that Roma did not have a real theatrical release might have actually irked some Oscar voters, and they penalize the movie by not voting for it for best picture to have that. Right. That's right. I mean, some of the academy members ice spoke to said they deliberately put Roma last on their preferential ballot for best picture because they wanna penalize the business model by which Roma was released. Now, you can sort of take issue with that. But for some of these people, they see Netflix has really an existential. Get and it's not just theater owners. That are a little bit uncomfortable with the Netflix model their people like Steven Spielberg who had an opinion about it. What is Spielberg pushing for? We'll spill Berg has historically objected to net. Flicks. He says that they're movies should win Emmys that they're basically made for television movies. He's now behind the scenes pushing for a rule change at the academy that would require a theatrical release of a certain window four weeks is what I'm hearing from my sources in order for movie to be eligible for an Oscar those currently a rule that was passed in twenty twelve the doesn't require any kind of exclusive theatrical release at all. So the Irishman is obviously a big bet that Netflix has made with Martin Scorsese, but it's not the only name brand filmmaker that they're in business with other other movies where they might be looking at some sort of the ethical release before a movie appears on the streaming service. Yeah, Netflix has a lot of very promise. Saying awards movies in the works. They've got an untitled movie from Noah baumbach movies from a D Reese, Steven Soderbergh. David michaud. I mean, these are filmmakers who have had a lot of awards recognition in the past. And I would expect their movies to be of a particular quality where if Netflix wants to be in the awards game. They will do some version of what they did for Rome. What which is to give a movie a theatrical release of some type. So it's one thing for Netflix to say, we wanna do a theatrical release. It's another thing for Martin Scorsese to say, I want my film to have a theatrical release. What are the theater owners saying because ultimately they get to decide what movies are and are not exhibited in their chains. That's right. And the chains have a lot of power for a release of the type that I am hearing Martin Scorsese wants for the Irishman. You need the chains to buy an AMC regal and the others the chains. Want a couple of things they want Netflix too. Have a much bigger theatrical window than it did with Roma. They also were saying that they will report box office to calm score. Which is the company that we all get our box office information from one of the things that was controversial about the way Netflix handled Romo was that. It did not report box office. And it did not allow the theaters where it was playing to report box office AMC and regal say we don't play that way. If you're showing in our theaters we're going to report box office. And I don't know if it's an insult to people who drink or people who sale, but Netflix has been spending money like drunken, sailors. Is there anything that would prevent them from buying theater chain and just doing a work around where they have their own theaters. And don't have to worry about exhibitors. There was a period where net looks was said to be looking at landmark but last December that chain sold to the Cohen media group. But certainly Netflix has a history of buying what it wants if you look just at the billboards that it bought and you. Used heavily to promote Roma net. Flicks is happy to write a check to solve a problem. Netflix does not only spent a lot of money making the Irishman. But also bought a very prominent ad in the middle of the Academy Awards broadcast. How important was that step? Well, it was definitely an expensive ad if you look at ABC was charging two to three million for thirty seconds spots. That was a sixty seconds spot. And it was definitely the company announcing big broad intentions for this Martin Scorsese movie. So maybe come a year from now we'll be talking about the Irishman either in or out of the Academy Award race. I guess the movie has to be good. I so we'll see what happens there. Stay tuned. Coming up on the frame, the creators of the painfully awkward and hilarious TV series and fifteen. Welcome back to the frame. I'm John horn. Thanks for joining us. If I asked you to list the times of your life that you look back on Finally I'd venture to guess that middle school would not be high up there. I certainly remember all the bullying that I suffered. And I won't even mention what French class was like the new Hulu series. Penn. Fifteen doesn't put any polish on the awkwardness of those years, but it is still very funny. My Erskine and Anna concl- are the co creators writers and stars of the series. They're both in their thirties. But they play thirteen year old versions of themselves in the show their friends and classmates in this series on the other hand are played by teen actors Erskine and conquer met in college studying theater at NYU's Tisch school of the arts. They say they I bonded when they were hiding in the bathroom they'd been assigned to come up with something about Bertone breakf- for that day and neither had anything to offer. When the two came by our studios, recently, we talked about how their friendship. Later turned into a creative partnership. Here's Anna concl-. I think not moment is really more. Are you terrified I'm terrified and connecting through that. And and as time went by. There was definitely just a similar point of view. We're both over sharers. We both on comedy and inside things and our trauma and shame. And that was a relief to meet somebody else. Like that. And it felt so funny. Maya so funny tie, an honest. And so yeah, it was immediately like coping she would be my friend. What was the first meaningful thing you did after school where you were collaborating? I guess the first thing we did was web series that you know, after school. Everyone is always trying to come together to create work and make work, but it's really difficult to motivate yourself to get to that point been saying that we were going to do it every year after school, and you're busy, and you're trying to pay your rent. That's you know, you're trying to just get by. And we made little videos before the web series. Is it's called project reality. It's funny. You say that because. Oh, we found some project reality. This is B Beverly Hills. Let's listen to project reality, I think we're gonna double your view count right now. I'm currently, and I'm Tyler we were born and raised in Beverly Hills, the easy life Agusan, really pretty always. Life gets pretty boring when you're partying and living. It off still we really really hard. And finally, we realized fashioned. Wait me too. So we decided to brisk all give up everything we knew and move to our very own apartment and a rally area. All by ourselves to West Hollywood. I want to go. Yeah. We haven't seen that in so long. You haven't heard that you watched that one? The least I think out of Rome. Well, let me give you some props because it is actually very funny, and I do see in some ways the seeds for Penn fifteen of this the way that you work together. The idea of what you think is funny closeness to actual true-life that you're starting to explore. So how do you go from there to Penn fifteen? I mean, I think product reality in the web series. And and we feel like, you know, it's far from what we had hoped it to be what we really put everything behind it. And that was the first lesson in as people that are more perfectionist and having Zaidi. Sorry. My aunt, but I'm not ashamed. Okay. Great and of of going like. Like not allowing ourselves to continue to be paralyzed by not being good enough, essentially and project reality our mantra was like, okay, nobody has to watch. This. Can we do this for ourselves to express ourselves as something that we feel pulled to do writing producing acting? Maybe won't like it, maybe won't work, maybe whatever. But I wanna make you laugh and you wanna make me laugh. Let's do this. Yeah. And I think even Penn fifteen had the same motivation behind it of this is an experiment. We have no idea if this will work will it work to have a speed thirteen year olds around real thirteen year olds and exploring the topics we want to explore we're talking with my earth's going to conquer Khankala about their series. Penn. Fifteen was that critical that beyond the idea for the series that you would play the characters it wasn't. I think we were very open to the idea of having other adults played these characters I think we felt very strongly that. It was our Mayan. Anna weren't going to be played by kids because the concept was something. We wanted to push obviously we wanted to play versions of ourselves. And that would be a great vehicle for us. But we were so passionate about the idea that we were wouldn't you say we were content with mean in terms of the content that there were things that you wouldn't feel comfortable having young actor say or do or think or. Yeah. Yeah. 'cause they're kind of along for the ride there there. But we we really tried to be aware of how like when we used body doubles. And how we directed it. How the directors drafted it? So that everybody the environment itself was very safe. And that in a way, we hope to even though I know we're pushing things a bit visually that like the audience at times could sit back and rest easy that like, oh, that's an extreme close up. That's a body doubles hand. That's just the idea that it could be that we hoped put people at ease a little, and I just think that the idea of having a Dulce playing these thirteen. Eighteen year olds if you had a real kid playing that role. It would say we wanted to show, you know, R rated moments and be we wanted to have the audience be able to have enough distance through viewing this adult that they could relate to and and be able to laugh at it because it's traumatic and seeing a kid go through it would be far less funny. I think when you are in seventh grade everything that happens feels like it. It's the worst thing that could possibly happen. It's very hard to have any perspective on the moment. When you're toll tes, you can look back and go what was I thinking? But when you're in that moment, you don't have that for Spencer death. It is and it's horrible. And it's soul-crushing it's heartbreaking and all those things that go with it. When you have the perspective of age. How does that change the way that you want to reflect upon what these characters don't have the perspective to understand? I mean, something that you're touching on that. We thought was really funny was. Is the idea that the littlest thing can feel like your world is crashing. And for my character. For example, like her hair is in the front of her face being out of place and being obsessive about that that there's something sad. But that's also really funny. And yeah, there was sort of in the finding of thong. That's the popular girls thong in or seeing the thong. You know? Like, I remember that being a moment when I was thirteen and seeing that someone how to through their cheats, going like, something just changed inside me. Swearing a thong. Oh my God. No way. Even just the scene with my dad where he's teaching me how to play drums on a laundry basket. So start playing. Okay. Just don't say it like that. I I can say like anything, guess you. Can you just shut up for a second? Because I was about to play in. You're messing Mia. Just come on. I remember going to this carnal place of of pure anger and frustration that my dad was telling me how to hit the drums. Let me show you. What to do if you care for me how you gonna play for everyone? I don't because professional. Steely Dan cover band dad, and but never will be if they don't know how to practice. Fine. It's because of me. Fine. I I looked at your wrong. The scream that ice cream is is probably a real scream that I screamed with my parents, and my brother edited this part of the show, and he said he had PTSD watching that both of your characters have a lot of crushes some mostly unfulfilled. But it does seem to be about a love story about the two of you and about how trauma brings people closer together. So I wanna play a clip from early in the season where you find out that my you've been named use the ugliest girl in school. Frigging freak. Like. On me you. By the you just means beautiful unicorn then. Yeah, you you you are you just then? Yeah. You are no not understand like, I'm the ugliest girl in school. They get that in your skull. Like love me is the biggest insult like that's what it means. Then I guess, you know, I've been insulted the greatest it's a beautiful scene. But it's really I mean, it's I mean on crime. But it's it's real. I mean, it's what anybody that age goes through mostly girls because boys don't talk about their feelings at that age. But I'm going to ask you about that scene him. Why was so important in the series, and what it reflects about the intention of what you're trying to create here. I think that the feeling of what happens when you are feeling like a reject in your life in any capacity that I think we both can relate to then. And now, and what gets you through it. And and I think Mayan I were both kind of blessed with a friend at that time, and that that Sylla's our friend that we got to lean on to feel like we were capable of getting through it. And I think had I been alone. I don't know what path I would've taken it would've been a different path when things got really dark and hard at times, which you know, that's life. And so we want to honor that. Coming up more of my conversation with Maya Erskine and Anna Khankala about their Hulu series and fifteen. You've seen the movie San Andreas, right? Not only beaches. Stick of Honey, I've got some bad news for you. When the big one hits the rock won't save. You want to know how to get ready for the next major quake? I'm Jake Margolis science reporter and host of TV CC's new podcast the big one your survival guide prepare yourself. Listen in apple podcasts. Welcome back to the frame. I'm John horn. Let's return now to my conversation with Anna conqueror, and by Erskine there, the co creators and stars of the Hulu series Penn. Fifteen they're both in their thirties. But they play seventh grade versions of themselves in the show. My earth can explain how she got into the middle school mindset that costume definitely informs me the hair informs me the way, I hold myself informs me. But then the more we started to do these scenes the more we realize, oh, well, I mean, this was always the idea in our heads. But that the thirteen year old in yourself is very much alive and strong, and so going to these places going to these traumatic moments felt almost too easy and cathartic and yeah. And I also I work really well off of Anna. So anytime I was with her. We we made it a mandate that are first seen. We film together was with each other. Because we were so info. Formed by each other's work. Yeah. That was really helpful. And I think too, you know, it was sort of a scary realization when. Yeah, I like you said that those those insecurities that are so exacerbated at that age were so close to the top and just not needing to reach too far. And and for me like my hand over my stomach the truth is is that as an adult that is truly what I wanna do at all times, I truly want and that's sad. You know, like, I truly want to like hunch over and hide in moments when I'm not feeling my best, and you just learn that like that's not totally acceptable, and you need to like COPA little bit better. You know? But it doesn't those feelings at least for me like realizing those never really went totally away when you were thinking about what the series meant. And how you're kind of pitching it around. It's the kind of thing where you would typically get pushback. It's like do they have to be like that? Do they have to do that? They have to talk about these things. What were the conversations you had with people as your? The series out to make sure that they were on the same page with you. And what were the typical things you heard in rejection that maybe even convince you that what you're doing was. Right. Well, even before we started pitching because before we pitched it we had a fifteen minute pilot presentation that we filmed as an experiment, and even before that we went around talking about the idea to executives, and they would just, you know, say I just don't know how this is gonna work. This is an appropriate. You gotta have all adults play the kids or it should be all kids. The idea of you to with kids. I don't see how that's gonna work or you should have a bunch of celebrities played the guest stars who come in as their middle school selves. And we got a lot of that reservations were understandable. And then we're in such beginning stages. Try to describe new to no direct horribly. We're gonna do the shots. You know? Everyone's like what? But he rang him out. And then when we would pitch it, you know, we only pitched to three places, but. Definitely one of them. We got a lot of. I'm nauseous, I don't wanna go back there. Please stop, please. Stop talking about that. Yeah. My kids are in middle school. I don't want to think about that. Great. Totally understand. Thank you for your time. Episode three you guys talk about masturbation and about the shame that goes with that. And then how if you actually figure it out? It's not that shameful and could be a really good thing. So when you're thinking about the things that happen. But also that are instructive for people who might be watching. What were the kinds of messages that you want to make sure that you are representing? Yeah. I mean, I think that that episode was sent an and, you know, many episodes throughout came from conversations of like, what's my secret like what are secrets, and we have the luxury that like Maya knows my secrets, and I know hers, and so it came from that place of okay? This is a scary thing to share we have each other in real life. Let's do it. You know? And that's another reason why not get these stories is somebody else 'cause it was like pretty intense at times going through and funny and fulfiling and all those other things that we were so lucky for but. Yeah, I mean, my was so brave to. To to do that. And I was so grateful to her that you were willing to like go there promise pervert. Swear, you won't tell me. I swear, you swear, tastes swear. Yeah. I felt very strongly, and I'm thankful to you as well for supporting me in it of just sharing that story because I felt so alone. And I still to this day feel alone in it because no one talks about it. And you know, I just wanted to normalize the conversation around it and like in real life. I in my middle school years. I wasn't masturbating. But there's a rumor that when no I wish I was I was missing out kidding. There was a rumor that went around about me that I was and I was like I felt crippled. I felt but also I was harassed. I mean as a lot of us are for it. Shame. Oh, yeah. Like there were signs put up there were like I was a sled and then with guys it was like funny. It was fodder. So it was really exciting to me. Maya was so honest and funny with it also that like she was willing to make it real and funny. I mean, this is the last thing there are obviously physical things you do to make sure that you're young actors aren't put in situations that they might be uncomfortable. There's a kissing scene or I think noble were there any scenes emotionally where they felt they needed to have some guidance or were they had ideas about how kids their age might react in that situation. We tried to talk through things a lot probably, and you know, that aid like no one wants to talk through things. Right. Such weird. I felt like their parents. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I remember even there's just. The scene where Taj cross who's an amazing actor he plays Sam. He he's supposed to look at my character. As if he's falling in love with her, and I had to pull them aside and have a conversation before to just make sure he felt comfortable with it. He understood it it was just acting. And he was so wise and history. Like, I got a it's good. Pretend I did it. And I was like I'm so sorry. You're looking at my face, please. Imagine someone else that is in your class, and you know. Erskine? Anna Khankala are the co creators and stars Penn. Fifteen son Hulu now, thank you so much for coming on my gosh. Thanks. Thank you. Unfold Chen, and that is it for this week. The frame is produced by Oscar Garza, Darby Maloney. Monica bushman Jonathan Shiffling. Julia Paskhin an entree Gutierrez. Our engineer is Valentine Rivera. I'm John horn have a great weekend. We're back here on Monday. You've gotta be kind of any Edrich full.