86 Comments

Plot Twist: You were actually the Lyft Driver all along and he's driving your car

Expand full comment
author

Holy shit! That's gold, Chris. I'm going to adapt Ride/Share and pitch it as A Night on Earth meets Identity. My only concern is that by the time the strike is over, the studios will insist that writers finance their own films.

Expand full comment
Jul 16, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

I’m in for my 2 cents. ;)

Expand full comment
Jul 16, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

Here’s my take. An alien space craft comes to Earth. The door opens. It’s a ton of dinosaurs. There were super intelligent dinosaurs, but they left the planet before the meteor came. Now that the coast is clear, and they’ve traveled the universe, dinosaurs have returned and they want their planet back.

Expand full comment
author

This is gold! It's Contact meets Jurassic Park.

Expand full comment

If this becomes a movie, can the dino-pilot please be Jeff Goldblum? 🦖

Expand full comment
author

If it's not Jeff Goldblum, what are we even doing with our lives?

Expand full comment
Jul 17, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

The world should be so lucky!

Expand full comment

That's exactly where I went when thinking about how I would write the story!

Expand full comment
Jul 16, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

Great minds! 🦖

Expand full comment

I've heard at least 5 ideas worse than this already today, and I've only been up for like 3 hours. Let's do this!

Expand full comment
author

Sometimes a low bar is the only thing you need for a green light.

Expand full comment
Jul 16, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

Ha Ha Ha! Right on.

Expand full comment
Jul 16, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

This is classic Estrin -- the reason I subscribed in the first place. I love these spontaneous off-the-wall conversations because they are so true and just so bonkers. Thanks Michael.

Expand full comment
author

Thank you, Sharron! Hearing a reader call something "classic Estrin" is a really good feeling.

Expand full comment

Classic Estrin sounds like the first wave of a line of drugstore colognes. Kinda like when Old Spice came out with all those new scents, but they still kept making the original for the nostalgic set. Since we're in marketing mode, I'd consider flipping the name and calling it Estrin Classic. Then you could have Estrin Clean, Estrin Heat, Estrin Sport, and Estrin Ocean.

E S T R I N

I'll mockup some logos. Who do we know that makes cologne and is super bored right now?

Expand full comment
author

This is hilarious, Meg! And you’re right, switching to Estrin Classic opens up a world of marketing possibilities. Old Spice better look the hell out. If you feel like, I’d love to see a mock-up for one of the Estrin colognes.

Expand full comment

Oh boy... you're poking the creative sillybear in me. I'm on it!

Expand full comment

1. I studied theater in college and "acted" for years. Pretending to be someone else on stage, I can do. But I CANNOT fake people out in real life. I've never been able to pull off pranks, barely manage to execute surprise parties, and suck at hide-and-seek (I always want to reveal myself before they find me.) Ok, one time my brother, boyfriend-now-husband, and I printed off like a hundred pictures of my mother's face in various sizes and taped them to photographs all over the house. Then when she came home, we all waited for her to notice, and I didn't break. But that's only because I had backup and she's oblivious.

2. I'm sick of hot people. If his movie gets made, I want the REAL (alien) humans to all be completely normal looking people, with squishy bodies, and hair where hair is supposed to grow, and warts, and asymmetrical facial features, crooked teeth, and wonky ears. Then the REAL humans take the planet back from the "hot" aliens.

3. We're the microscopic organisms that some higher life form is growing in a petri dish.

4. Alf.

5. The Breakfast Club with the original cast.

Expand full comment
author

Your real people pitch is 🔥🔥🔥It has heroes we can root for, and the villains the studio will insist on. Green light all the way!

Expand full comment

We’re not the aliens, we’re the virus and we’ve been infecting earth and all it’s inhabitants for centuries. Seriously, though. We kinda just leave a path of destruction and waste products in our wake

Expand full comment
author

We're bad news, BUT we make really good music! I can't quite remember the name at the moment, but there's a sci-fi novel about how we don't have much to offer the galaxy, except for really good music. Everything is basically fine, but then, wouldn't you know it, the record companies seek to enforce their copyrights across the universe and all hell breaks loose.

Expand full comment
Jul 17, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

We really are pretty good with the music thing!

Expand full comment

Lol the record companies always ruin everything

Expand full comment
Jul 16, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

Exactly so, Lyle. At both the personal / individual level and at the corporate / governmental level. All guilty. I am constantly working on becoming more conscious of my impact, but I can't bear imagining how it will end...

Expand full comment

Another classic!

Question: how the heck do you remember these conversations? I had a weirdly awesome conversation with a stranger the other day but I can barely remember all the goodness. And how much editorial liberty do you take with the story?

Expand full comment
author

Thank you, David! There's a short answer to your question and a really long answer to your question.

On the memory front, I've always been really good at remembering things I hear. I suspect this is because I've always struggled with vision challenges and learning disabilities. I didn't learn to read until a few years after my peers, and when I finally did learn to read, my eyes struggled to track (going from left to right without skipping lines, words, and letters), and I'd often run out of gas after about 10 minutes of reading. I worked with an educational therapist and eye doctor several time a week from about 3rd grade to high school, but I also used audiobooks as a learning aid (this was way before audible, so I actually became a member of Recording for the Blind). I think my experience really helped me develop my audio memory skills. That said, it also helps that I write down what I heard as soon as possible. I used to carry a small notebook, but I had trouble reading my own writing. Then smart phones came out, and they were a huge breakthrough for me.

As for taking liberties with the story, the answer is yes! That said, most readers would be surprised by where I use poetic license. Mostly, I subtract stuff that just doesn't fit, or does fit, but sorta bogs us down. When I add stuff, it's almost always mundane stuff that sorta molds it into a proper scene because life doesn't usually unfold with a proper beginning, middle, and end. While I wouldn't put these stories forward as journalism, they aren't fiction either. They're mostly true, like 90% true, and usually the parts you think are fiction, are true, whereas the parts you just sorta skim past are made-up to make the piece work as a story.

If you're curious, I spoke with Jillian Hess about both of these topics for Noted. https://open.substack.com/pub/jillianhess/p/contemporary-notes-alex-dobrenko?r=1fqhx&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

Expand full comment

Love how this ended! How would that franchise turn out?

Expand full comment
author

I think it could be endless. Everyone time some species gets evicted from the planet they thought belonged to them, they must return to their real home planet and evict the squatters. Think intergalactic musical chairs??

Expand full comment
Jul 16, 2023·edited Jul 16, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

Or perhaps the guys pretending to be the real humans are aliens themselves 😳

Expand full comment
Jul 16, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

We could do an entire series and call it Stargate SG-2

Expand full comment

We’re having a spontaneous writer’s room on Substack. Who needs Netflix?

Expand full comment

I'm not a writer. I need something to watch while I knit and give snarky commentary.

Expand full comment

Did the driver finish writing the scripts?

Expand full comment
author

I hope so! But with the WGA and SAG currently on strike, all green lights are currently set to red.

Expand full comment

Life is hard when you're a writer.

Expand full comment
author

It's rough out there at the moment, but hopefully both of these strikes will end soon.

Expand full comment

What’s causing them?

Expand full comment
author

It's a complicated question. On the writer side, the fight is mostly about residuals for streaming, work opportunities (most shows have smaller episode orders, so they need fewer writers, and artificial intelligence (the AI can't write a script yet, but it can write a treatment and the minimum fee for adapting existing material is lower than the original minimum, so a studio could easily use AI to cut a writer's fee by about 25%). The actors have a similar issue with AI, although I'd argue they're closer to the front lines there because studios have already used AI to generate images of actors and their voices, without compensation. Actors are also demanding better residual payments for streaming. But there's also a bigger picture here. Hollywood is facing a moment of structural change that's similar to what Napster did to music and what Amazon did to books. Consumers love streaming, no doubt about that. But the streaming model just isn't as lucrative as the cable tv / theatrical model that Hollywood is built on. So while labor is getting squeezed, there's also a lot of disruption on the business side, which makes it very hard to figure out how these strikes will be resolved and what will come next.

Expand full comment

1. All the time, I’m under a neighboring comedy star. Early in my online writing run, I pretended to be a park psychic. I gave fake readings for two hours before getting a visitor intense enough to inspire a move.

2. There’s a fine core rendered clumsily. Despotic human empires have a successful sci-fi history. 40k, moon nazis, etc. His setting just needs some flavor, with a hook for action scenes. Maybe samurai? They could have laser swords. Hell, the guy running the human empire could be a samurai, but a jerk.

3. A tenth of us are, in secret. Our plan is almost complete.

4. Edge of Tomorrow is beast. I read the manga it’s adapted from an a lark, good time. My favorite alien invasion book’s The Three Body Problem, but that wasn’t the question. My favorite invasion game’s Destroy All Humans, but that’s not the question. For shows, I have to go with (kinda spoilers) Gurren Lagaan.

5. I recall a tweet to the effect of remakes being a much better effort for flawed media with flavor or a spark than classics. To that end, Equilibrium. It has a look, an action hook, and we can even recycle the lead. Just let me rewrite it, and hang a poster on the wall on what the word “emotionless” means.

Expand full comment
author

I tried to read The Three Body Problem, but I felt like I needed to know a lot more about Chinese history (a class from undergrad 20 years ago, just wasn't enough). Honestly, it's one of those books that I'd attempt again if I found a podcast where they broke down the cultural and historic references with each chapter. Sort of a listen-along experience.

Also, hell yes for a samurai jerk! Maybe that can be your next book!

Expand full comment
Jul 16, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

D'oh! Film "Not Safe For Work" which is Boogie Nights meets His Girl Friday/Columbo? OK, obviously I'm way behind in current tv & movie viewing.

Expand full comment
author

Hopefully, that'll happen one day!

Expand full comment

I moved from Chicago to a small town for a job and convinced many that I was in a witness protection program. I was, at least for a brief time, a man of mystery.

That show idea is stupid and i hate stupid. Itc really ruins most things, but Americans have a healthy appetite for it this what we are.

Can i get a 3rd season of Patriot?

Expand full comment
author

I love the idea of someone who is not in the witness protection program moving to a small town and hinting that they are in the witness protection program just to create an air of mystery about themselves.

Expand full comment

4. My favorite- and something he could incorporate into his movie idea- is the “Monsters on Maple Street” Twilight zone episode. It makes us ask the same questions as the driver’s movie. Who are the aliens? Are they amongst us? Are humans really the bad guys all along?

Expand full comment
author

Chances are, if your idea doesn't harken back to a Twilight Zone episode it probably isn't a very good idea. That show really laid the groundwork for everything that came after it.

Expand full comment

1. Every time I’ve gone to work or sat in a meeting.

2. Yup. Green light - it’s not my money.

3. Sure. Absolutely. Gragfbyn.

4. Anyone remember “V”?

5. Gomer Pyle, USMC. Steven Lang as Sgt. Carter.

Expand full comment
author

I like your philosophy behind giving the green light. It's not my money, go for it. Question: how do we get you a job in development? You'll be a very popular executive!

Expand full comment

1. I pretend to be an emotionally stable person every day. It's exhausting.

3. An alien, to any other alien, is an alien. So I found that whole roundabout very amusing.

4. Edge of Tomorrow is INCREDIBLE. I was just talking with my wife about it yesterday. #simulation My favorite space exploration/aliens franchise is the original Mass Effect video game trilogy. Take the best aspects of Star Wars and Star Trek, mash them together, and have humans play the roles of both heroes and villains at once. Incredible stuff.

5. I want an updated Mission Impossible TV show. With modern and near-future technology. That'd be incredible. And, while I'm sure I'd hate it, I once I heard the idea of remaking the original JAWS. Since Hollywood can't help itself, I wouldn't mind hatewatching the present-day update.

Expand full comment
author

To be honest, I'm kinda surprised they haven't remade JAWS already. There are so many low-budget movies about killer animals (sharks, gators, etc.) and they do really well. You'd think that there would be an appetite for remaking JAWS with an A-list cast and director.

As for Edge of Tomorrow, I don't know if it's my favorite Tom Cruise movie, but it's a damn good movie. When I saw it in the theater, I loved it because I wasn't quite sure how it was all going to land, and that's always a good feeling, especially in a world with lots of formulaic films.

Expand full comment

Agreed, I'm pretty shocked. It's a fairly straightforward formula: A-list director, three A-list stars, lots of terrible CGI.

My wife was pregnant with our daughter during the summer and fall of 2015, and we had cable back then. All the various HBO channels were rotating through Edge of Tomorrow, Mad Max: Fury Road, and John Wick. We watched all of them dozens of times. Incredible year.

Expand full comment
author

If the kid absorbed even a fraction of that media while in the womb, you’re gonna have a real bad ass on your hands.

Expand full comment

She did. We're paying for it now. Hopefully society's villains pay for it later.

Expand full comment

Mass Effect rules.

Expand full comment
Jul 17, 2023Liked by Michael Estrin

Just bought the paperback and so excited to read it! How was I not aware until now that this existed it’s like you have to tell us this stuff 10000 times!

Expand full comment
author

Yay for buying the paperback! Thank you, Anne! I hope you enjoy it! And yes, this is a perfect illustration of why you need to keep telling people stuff like this.

Expand full comment

I have always had this unnerving feeling inside of me that us humans are not of this world. The way we live is so vastly different than all the other animals here there's gotta be a reason why. I think some aliens messed with some monkey genetic code a couple million years ago and that's what led to what we have now. Uber drivers with movie ideas.

Expand full comment
author

Your unnerving feeling is a helluva backstory.

Expand full comment