Episode 7: Inside Black Mirror interview with Charlie Brooker

Netflix has finally released the trailer for Black Mirror: Bandersnatch!

But wait… what’s a Black Mirror Event?

Nobody knows, but looks like we’ll be finding out at about 8am GMT tomorrow… that trailer looks pretty darn analogue, so the 1980s nostalgia is going to be strong.

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To help with the Season 5 anticipation, here’s an interview I did with Charlie Brooker in October, around the release of behind-the-scenes book Inside Black Mirror. Scroll down below the YouTube video for the full transcript of the episode.

We talk about how the increased speed of technological innovation would change the earliest episodes, which were made in 2011; the eerie predictions the show’s become known for; and, er, what else Charlie’s been watching, when he’s had the time.

Transcript:

Charlie Brooker: If you were doing The National Anthem now, the 24-hour rolling news networks would probably be a lot less significant than social media is today.

Suchandrika Chakrabarti: Welcome to Freelance Pod. My name is Suchandrika. Chakrabarti and I’ll be your host.

Freelance Pod is all about how the internet has changed the world of work. On each episode I’ll speak to a guest about freelancing; side-hustles; the gig economy; jobs that weren’t possible before the internet; and how moving from the analogue to the digital age has revolutionised the way we work.

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So we’ve got a new Black Mirror coming out tomorrow. Netflix has released a trailer for the new Black Mirror ‘event’, Bandersnatch, and it looks like it’d be a kind of computer-game-themed-set-in-the-80s film, possibly the Choose Your Own Adventure, we don’t know yet, but will probably find out about at about 8am GMT tomorrow, when new Netflix series usually drop. So we’re looking forward to that.

I thought, in anticipation of Black Mirror Season 5 starting, that you’d like to hear this interview I did with Charlie Brooker, back in October. It was around the release of the book, Inside Black Mirror, which is a behind-the-scenes look at the show and how it’s been made, from 2011 up to Season 4.

I spoke to Charlie over the phone about how technology has changed work and life, how it impacts on  how he makes the show, and, yeah, it’s it’s good fun. We had a laugh, and he even tells me which TV shows he’s been watching. So it might give us some insight into Bandersnatch and the rest of Season 5. Who knows, but this may will help with your anticipation. Enjoy!

CB: Fire away!
SC: All right, so how how is this year been so far?
CB: Yeah, it’s been alright, isn’t it? I mean, I mean obviously the world is a massive trash fire, but other than that it’s good.
SC: If you made The National Anthem now, what would be different?
CB: If we made it now?
SC: Yeah, like this year, or this week?
CB: Well, for one thing, we probably have to outdo it being a pig because people would assume that this was based on the scurrilous, probably untrue rumour about David Cameron that was in that book. So we’d probably have to make it a completely different… challenge, so to speak. It’s hard to know because because it was such an outrageous suggestion at that time, and now the world has got progressively more surreal.

SC: So going back to all the old episodes for the book, what has struck you as things that have worryingly become real since 2011?
CB: Well The National Anthem’s one!
SC: No! That’s alleged! Please! There are legal things around this!
CB: Well, we don’t know, he almost certainly didn’t…
SC: Thank you for remaining legal.

CB: The Waldo Moment was one that turns out to be, yeah, worryingly prescient. But lots of them. I mean, like there’s been lots of stories recently about drone bees potentially pollinating flowers. I saw a story the other day about a company offering sex robots based on deceased lovers, which is sort of Be Right Back, which was an episode where there was a sort of AI chatbot thing that was based on the dead people, where I’ve seen that aspect of it potentially coming to light that I hadn’t really anticipated at this point. So the 3D flesh becoming as a so I mean, almost all of them seem to be in some way coming true.

Here’s one that I thought I really thought was miles off. Crocodile, in which they can sort of tune into your mind’s eye as it were and see what you’re recalling. And I was looking at a story the other day where some researchers have come up with something worryingly similar to that so all bets are off.

They can look into our minds now, they can look into our minds Yeah, I’m sorry they can. They could just download your innermost thoughts and fears and just use them as a screensaver, for a laugh, on their phone. I don’t know who the ‘they’ are, but yeah.

SC: But you read it somewhere.
CB: That’s what they can do, now. So, I think you could pretty much start any any conversation, couldn’t you, in a pub? You could say whatever, you could you could claim anything and say, “You now what ‘they’ can do now?”
SC: And they’d say it’s very Black Mirror actually, which is a weird compliment.
CB: Yeah, well, everything’s gone very Black Mirror at the moment. It’s all free publicity.

SC: Sitting down with people you used to work with to make a book about a really futuristic TV show, what really worked for you, and what made you think, this is really odd?

CB: It’s strange. One of the things I really like about the way the book is laid out, is that we all had individual chats with Jason [Arnopp]. And sometimes it was me and Annabel on our own, and sometimes it was both of us together. And then he was sort of talking to other people some via email, some over the phone some in person, and so what happens is you get a sort of conversation.

It’s interesting that people’s memories slightly alter, and so we left some of that in the book where it’s like, you know, one person  would go. “Oh, I think we were going to design this to be like a green fridge with knees, or whatever, and somebody else goes, that’s not true at all!

So it’s interesting how people’s reflections of how things worked out are somewhat different. Then you realise how much hopefully people looking through this will see how many people are involved. It’s easy for us looking back to forget how many different iterations everything went through, all the way in between the page and the screen, and how decisions you make during the making of it sort of massively affect how something feels at the end of the day.

So quite often there’d bits where I’d go back and go and look at look at some sort of early design  and go, yeah, I’d forgotten about that. That’s sort of terrifying when somebody reminds you of huge chunks of it you can’t remember. It is weird. And you just forget, you know, because I suppose the viewer sees the final version, but working on the show, you’re aware of all the stages in the creation of it.

But, actually, after a while, you forget about all of that, it becomes the final product, so it’s quite interesting to sort of go back in time and and look at the various struggles and challenges that went on.

SC: Seven years isn’t that long,  but when you’ve been making something like this show, it’s a lot of experience, and also, I feel like technology has sped up over the last decade so much more.

CB: Yup.

SC: It has, hasn’t it?

CB: It really has.

SC: What do you do with that? How do you say one step ahead of it? Does going back over the old episodes remind you of how easy or how hard it was?

CB: I mean, in a way, in a sense, it’s easy because because technology is becoming so miraculous, it means we can kind of show our gizmos and gadgets within the show doing fairly impossible things. And as long as it feels grounded, you kind of buy it. So, on that level, because the public in general is prepared to accept technological miracles now, that makes our job easier, and we have a sort of rule on the show that we don’t we don’t ever show anything magic. So there has to be a sort of explanation as to how it’s working.

And that’s a rule we sort of bend occasionally. In Be Right Back, it’s quite silly how she brings the actual sort of robot version of him to life, by putting nutrients in the bath. I think we’re still several decades away from that, or I hope so.

But, yeah, definitely. I mean, we are living in a period of dizzying sort of technological change, you know you get kind of whiplash, psychological whiplash, from keeping up with it. I don’t think there’s anything particularly that you look back and go well, that’s massively dated. Obviously, there’s the actual interfaces of things.

If you look at The National Anthem, now something like that is a snapshot of 2011, which is sort of when it was set. If you were doing The National Anthem now, the 24-hour rolling news networks would probably be a lot less significant than social media is today. That would be a big change, actually. Yeah, we haven’t done anything yet where I’ve looked back and it’s like looking at somebody riding a fucking steam train have been trained, anything that that looks massively outdated.

SC: Speaking of the fact that nothing’s magic, everything’s explained, I always think of Black Mirror when I watch The Good Place. So I just think they deal with exactly the same issues, but with them is kind of magic or belief. Do you watch that show? You had Mike Schur work on Nosedive.

CB: I know! And I haven’t seen it because I’m behind! It’s one of those things where, annoyingly, I the twist for the first season spoiled for me. Somebody told me so I was like aaargh! So, I haven’t, so now it’s like it’s at what point do you start climbing the mountain? They’re now on Season Three, and when you’re on the outside of season three it’s like, at what point do I… you know?

SC: It’s quite it’s quite an easy watch.

CB: That’s what I’ve hard, I should…  because literally everything I’ve heard about it makes it sound like something that is absolutely totally up my street.

SC: It’s quite fun. Have you watched Bodyguard?

CB: Not yet. I haven’t seen Bodyguard either! I’m o far behind on everything. I’ve only seen one episode of Killing Eve.

SC: Oh, that’s really good!

CB: I know, yeah. Have you seen Barry? I was watching Barry, which I really liked.

SC: I’ve not seen that.

CB: That’s really good. Similar to Killing Eve. Sorry, we’re talking about other shows now! I was watching Better Call Saul, which I love. Sorry, I just thought for a moment I’d list some other programmes!

SC: Listening back to that interview with Charlie Brooker has got me even more excited about Season Five of Black Mirror dropping tomorrow on Netflix. So like other Black Mirror fans out there I’ll be sitting in front of my laptop with Netflix ready to go at 8am GMT tomorrow, and let’s see what we get!

If you’d like to get involved in the conversation, I’d love to hear from you, so please do follow Freelance Pod on Twitter and Instagram. You can also join the Facebook group, and you don’t have to be a freelancer to get involved.

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Thanks for listening. Goodbye!

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Suchandrika

I like the comma in American headlines, I think England needs it.

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