Talking Giraffe Movie

Some people don’t test well. I totally get it. If you point a camera at me and ask me to name a Supreme Court decision I disagreed with, I will probably blank too. (Well, not really — the one that illegally installed Bush in the presidency is rarely far from my mind.) Maybe Sarah Palin is a wonderful executive, smart and canny, capable of inspiring others to their best work, able to negotiate complex networks of ever-shifting political alliances and directing huge forces of manpower and economic strength. Who knows? I don’ stats

Here’s the thing:

When I go to apply for a job, that is, when I go to a studio to pitch an idea for a movie, I am expected to, at the very least, have some basic understanding of what I’m talking about. If I pitch an idea for a movie about, say, a talking giraffe, the studio folk have a reasonable desire that I be able to explain to them why a movie about a talking giraffe is a good idea, and a reasonable expectation that I deliver that explanation in a coherent fashion.

If I can’t give a compelling argument for why the Talking Giraffe Movie will be a four-quadrant smash, I don’t get the job.

If I go to the studio people and say something like "Talking Giraffe, tall, big movie, long neck, animal, a mammal really, long purple tongue, long box office lines, ‘Mommy Mommy, let’s go see the Talking Giraffe Movie!’ Kids love Giraffes, the horns, on the head, little tufts of hair on top, I spoke to an elderly woman in a nursing home once and she told me her one regret in life was that she had never seen a movie with a talking giraffe, and the smell of the popcorn in the lobby, the excitement of movie-going! A giraffe, talking! Isn’t that what it’s all about?"

If I do that? I don’t get the job.

No, in that pitch meeting, I am required to supply specific data that will back up my claims. I am required to say something like "Several of the most popular movies of all time have prominently featured talking mammals, including 101 Dalmations, The Lion King, The Jungle Book, Shrek and Pinocchio." I am also required to supply a credible plot, one featuring dynamic, interesting characters set on relatable, compelling trajectories, and be able to cite, again, other hit movies where characters like mine and plots like mine have succeeded in the past. That is, I am required to say something like "Talking Giraffe Movie is Gone With The Wind meets Titanic meets The Sound of Music."

Otherwise I don’t get the job.

Are curve balls thrown at me during these meetings? Absolutely. Let’s say I’m stating what I feel are the strengths of Talking Giraffe Movie and the studio executive says "Does it have to be a giraffe?" The answer is, of course, "Well it couldn’t very well be Talking Giraffe Movie if it’s not a giraffe," but I can’t say that — the stuido person’s role in the meeting is to test the commercial soundness of my pitch, and if he or she has misgivings about the idea of a talking giraffe, I am required to, first, explore the possibilities of some other talking thing (a car, a chair, an orphaned boy) and then work through all the different possibilities until the studio person is brought to the ineluctable conclusion that a talking giraffe is, indeed, the soundest commercial choice for this project.

Otherwise I don’t get the job.

While discussing various hit movies, the studio person might detect some amount of cynicism in my pitch, as though maybe Gone With The Wind with a giraffe on an ocean liner in the Alps is merely a soulless, pandering formula I don’t really believe in, that is, my pitch is just a spiel to get me a job, and that I don’t really have what it takes to actually deliver a hit. That studio person might throw in an oblique question like "Can you name for me a movie that has a great script, but isn’t a hit?" A question like this might completely throw me, make me focus on the questioner’s hidden motives rather than the actual question itself, and, this far through the process, with so much on the line, I might conceivably draw a blank.  And that happens, and I think of five wonderful examples while I’m walking to my car.  But, if, while I’m still in the office, I give an answer like "Movies, you know, box office, money is essential to a strong box office, and music, Star Wars, editing, dialogue, montage, happy ending, and you know, effects, special, and I’ve seen a lot of movies, I’m not some guy who’s never seen a movie, where I come from we would have movies all the time, growing up on the shores of Crystal Lake where we would catch bluegills from our little Sunfish sailboat, Saturday nights at the Bijoux, I don’t know what you’re implying, and you know they’re not really moving pictures, they’re actually a long succession of still photos shown in rapid succession, so box office, with a script, and yes, let’s shoot this puppy! Action!"

If I do that?  Sorry, I don’t get the job.


53 Responses to “Talking Giraffe Movie”
  1. clayfoot says:

    Yeah, I’m hard pressed to name specific Supreme Court cases without a cheat sheet or Wikipedia. Lawyers, judges, and other law school graduates may know SCOTUS cases by ‘X v. Y’, but I don’t. It was unfortunate interview question. It makes Palin look unnecessary foolish, makes Couric look unnecessarily petulant, and still doesn’t reveal Palin’s positions on important SCOTUS decisions.

    • charlequin says:

      And yet, I kind of doubt that it would really have been seen as a major gaffe had she been able to accurately describe such a court case despite being unable to name it. I could rattle some off by description pretty easily (say, the recent eminent domain decision, or the decision ruling that capital punishment is not cruel and unusual).

      Basically, it’s the sort of thing that a person moderately versed in politics can talk about without sounding like an idiot, even if they can’t technically answer the exact question.

      • sorceror says:

        That’s exactly what Biden did in response to the same question: he described a court ruling he disagreed with.

        • Todd says:

          And maybe you agree with Biden’s answer, and maybe you don’t, and maybe his answer is flawed and maybe it isn’t — it’s still an answer, it’s not some kind of vague word-salad recitation of catchphrases.

        • quitwriting says:

          Biden is a Juris Doctor. A lawyer. I’d expect him to know the name of the case, too, but that’s me. Palin should’ve been able to do a credible job explaining what she’s talking about. Instead every time I see her, she’s turning the questions around as “Oh no you didn’t just attack me about nothing!” and then babbling incoherently. What she shows me is that she’s not quick on her feet and therefore is probably slow on important decisions as well.

          Palin is clearly the wrong choice for VP and the wrong choice for America.

          • sorceror says:

            Biden is a Juris Doctor. A lawyer. I’d expect him to know the name of the case, too, but that’s me.

            Perhaps he does, but decided not to bother mentioning it because he realized that it would mean nothing to the vast majority of his audience.

    • craigjclark says:

      Even so, when she was asked which newspapers and magazines she was in the habit of reading before she was tapped to be the vice presidential candidate, she clearly should have been able to give a straight answer. Even if the answer was “I read the Anchorage Star-Press and People Magazine,” that would have been preferable to the extremely evasive “all of them, whatever ones have been put before me over the years” answer she did give. Because the only conclusion I can draw from that is that the real answer is “none of them.”

      • clayfoot says:

        Agreed. I would have just lied and said The Washington Post, New York Times, and… whatever the local paper is called around here, when really I get everything from the radio or the web, now.

      • Todd says:

        Which would have been a reasonable answer as well — hell, I don’t “read papers,” and I’m two years older than she is. People get information from all sorts of places, and governors probably especially so. The odd thing about the response, to me, is that Palin was a journalism major, and the question was about what she had read in the past — you’d think that she’d have at least some kind of story about a moment involving a newspaper or magazine that made her want to select that major. Hell, if you asked me what movies influenced me as a writer before being selected for my first studio gig, I’d have ten different answers, they’d be spilling out of me.

        • quitwriting says:

          Do recall we came down on Bush pretty hard for not reading newspapers. I recall that being a major point of contention. I think it may have been buried under the murderous pretzel incident.

          • Anonymous says:

            Hey, I remember exactly which newspaper I read about the murderous pretzel incident in: It took up a full page of La Repubblica, complete with a diagram of the accident scene and a sidebar on the history of the pretzel. Then I went online and read about it in the New York Post and the Times. It even made The Economist that week.

            If you ask me the name of every newspaper and magazine I’ve read in my life, I can tell you. Maybe it’s because I’m a journalist, or maybe it’s the reason I became a journalist. I suspect the latter.

            So, yeah, I come down pretty hard on any politician who doesn’t read newspapers or their online equivalents. How does Sarah Palin learn about what’s going on in the world? From Rush Limbaugh?


            • Todd says:

              I’m sure what was going on in her mind was “Uh-oh, what do I say? This is some kind of test, if I say The Wall St. Journal that will alienate somebody, but if I say Redbook I might look shallow, if I say The New York Times I’ll lose my base…” The interviewer was simply trying to find out what kind of person she is, and she responded like Nathan Thurm.

            • quitwriting says:

              I wasn’t defending her, to be honest. I want her to answer questions. Tonight’s debate showed she’s got a great ability to avoid answering a question directly. She reminds me of Senator Alex Shrub, from Vice City Florida. (Yes, I did just cite a fictional character. From a video game.)

      • quitwriting says:

        I said earlier to some friends, I would’ve accepted “I don’t read newspapers, I get my news online like everyone else since 2001.” That would’ve been acceptable. But that rambling “anything and everything” speech was just… unacceptable.

    • papajoemambo says:

      I find it hard to believe you don’t remember “BUSH vs GORE” ,or “PEOPLE vs LARRY FLYNT”.

      I’m not even American,and I know those were American Supreme Court cases, and I’m not expecting to be first runner up for Commander In Chief.

      As a proud GOP’er, are *your* standards that low?

      • Anonymous says:

        I remember decisions with which I disagree, but I don’t remember them by the names of the cases, especially when it gets into less famous litigants.

        Proud GOP’er? Who, me? I’m a registered Libertarian. And this year, all of the candidates (including the Libertarian nominee) are made of fail, as far as I’m concerned.

        • papajoemambo says:

          Even so – at least you could have mentioned those particular decisions you had disagreed with instead of naming the decision that you were asked to exclude.

          This is the thing, the way that I see it: Katie Couric is not known for the “HardBall” she plays – the woman doesn’t engage in the kind of “Gotcha” game that the Palin handlers are attempting to oust themselves of responsibility with. Saying “nobody can answer that kind of question” or “you’re speaking out of context” (which is what McCain tried to say when he was acting as Big Daddy Coming To The Rescue in the second interview) is just another way to avoid answering because you don’t know what to say – not because she doesn’t know what she believes (Palin was pretty clear about what she believed concerning American involvement in Afghanistan), but because she believes that, by saying what she believes, she might not hit the talking point correctly or alienate more voters. She’s just lying with her responses in those instances or she’s filling in dead space when she isn’t able to remember What She’s Been Told to Say.

          My apologies, concerning my assumption concerning your politics – I had thought that in previous messages you had stated otherwise.

          • clayfoot says:

            Agreed; Palin really blew that whole interview. NPR is saying this afternoon that a bunch of these gaffes are all from one interview, when Palin went to see the UN (because, why, again?) in New York. Palin was (obviously) completely unprepared, and CBS got a bunch of them on tape, then spread them out over several nights.

            Even though I agree Palin’s responses were pathetic, I fault Couric for asking the wrong questions. What I really needed Couric to do was, say, name important SCOTUS decisions, then ask Palin her position on those decisions. Would have been so much more useful, and given me so much more to dislike about Palin, instead of feeling vaguely sorry for her.

        • clayfoot says:

          Stupid LJ! That was totally me.

      • quitwriting says:

        The biggest case in American law that gets trotted out every single election cycle is a Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade. Everyone knows that one. EVERYONE.

        • papajoemambo says:

          Thing is, she was asked to name one BESIDES “Roe vs. Wade”and she said “I’m sure there are a lot of them… Roe Vs Wade, for one…”.

          There are at least three I can think of offhand, not the least of which being the hanging chad kerfuffle that resulted in the Bush vs Gore decision, that she could have commented on as a member of a TEAM that’s “interested in government reform”.

    • malsperanza says:

      Aside from not knowing specific court decisions (with or without names), she seems unclear about the role of the VP in government.

      “…As a vice president, if I’m so privileged to serve, [I] wouldn’t be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.”

      Setting aside all the other things a VP does (courtesy of the current guy’s expansionism) is that it breaks ties in the Senate. Legislation overturning a court decision may come to a tie vote. New legislation can be initiated by the Executive branch, and presumably a VP might be involved in that. Not to mention that the Senate confirms SC appointments. You don’t have to have gone to law school to know these things. 6th grade civics class generally covers them, although not, apparently, in the Wasilla public schools.

      I saw nothing petulant in Couric’s question, unless it’s petulant to expect a candidate for the vice presidency to have more knowledge and better ideas about the role of government than a 10-year-old. It’s dubious to accuse Couric of petulance because Palin couldn’t answer a question of fundamental importance with even minimal credit.

      I just wrote a rant about the GOP, but it’s discourteous, so I’ll post it to my own LJ.

  2. sailortweek says:

    In an effort to be the informed voter, I tried to wacth that video…2 minutes in and I thought about how this lady is making more than I do. I begin to get pissed. I would have thrown my coffee cup acrossed the room, but then I would have lost my coffee.

    Your entry really hit the nail on the head. If you don’t mind, I’m sharing it with some lj friends. I’m trying to figure out how this woman is good for politics. She couldn’t answer any of the questions given to her! Coherent or not, she had no idea what the interviewers were asking her. Does she think this job is to sit there, look pretty, and wait for McCain to “buy the farm”?

    It scares me and angers me to no end that this lady clearly does not comprehend the job she is gunning for. I take that kind of thing (way too) personally.

    edited for spelling errors…sorry

  3. adam_0oo says:

    Speaking of Palin, you forgot to mention Madagascar, what with the talking giraffe.

  4. I don’t get the job

    Wouldn’t it be

    I shouldn’t get the job?

    • Todd says:

      Like I say, I’m trying to keep the question of actual qualifications out of it. Maybe she’s a brilliant governor who would do a terrific job of running the US in a time of great danger and uncertainty, and maybe Talking Giraffe Movie would be a surprise smash hit that would rewrite the rules for talking animal movies for all time. But the world would never know, because there’s no freakin’ way I’d get that job.

      • mimitabu says:

        and really, you ultimately shouldn’t get the job, at least insofar as one countenances probability and studios have limited funds. it’s not fair to go broke gambling on talking giraffe movie when someone else is working tirelessly to sell amazing subversive movie. if soulless action thriller about cars that no one sees doesn’t get made, that’s fine, but blowing vast resources on halfbaked ideas isn’t fair. however, talking giraffe movie still might end up the greatest (and most profitable) movie ever if people gamble on it. it’s just a question of probability.

        and when the gamble concerns stuff like going to war, destroying the economy, repealing all the gains of the civil rights and women’s movements, the probability game of job interviews really comes into focus.

      • schwa242 says:

        That kind of sums up my feelings about her after the interview. Everyone used it as evidence that she is dumb. It’s a possibility, but not really evidence to me. What it does at the very least is show me that she is not good at thinking on her feet under a stressful situation, such as trying to look good to the American public. And if you choke like that when talking one-on-one to friendly Katie Couric, then I don’t want you in line for presidential succession.

  5. zodmicrobe says:

    There is absolutely no way anybody in her position shouldn’t be able to rattle off five or six decisions from the Supreme Court off the top of her head. Brown v Board of Ed? Bush v Gore? Lawrence v Texas? Bowers v Hardwick? (The last two apply more to me as a gay dude, so I know them well. But Sarah has a gay friend, doesn’t she? Somewhere?)

    Also, not that it matters: Dred Scott? Miranda v Arizona (you know those rights you get read when you get arrested?) US v Nixon?

    • Todd says:

      But again, obviously what’s going through her mind is not “Hmm, Supreme Court decisions I’ve disagreed with” but “Uh-oh, this is a test, isn’t it? What do I say, what is she expecting me to say, oh no, I’m not saying anything, I’d better say something, this is going to look really awkward if I don’t say anything, what was it the McCain people told me to say,” etc.

    • To be fair, the question was what decisions did she disagree with, aside from Roe v. Wade. Most of those bigger-profile cases (Brown v. Board, Miranda) are such indisputably GOOD decisions she couldn’t throw them out there, something as bad as the Dred Scott decision is so obviously bad decision mentioning it would be inane, and Bush v. Gore quite clearly resolved in a fashion she had to dig as per her party. It does actually filter down the list of likely answers (at least for someone who clearly doesn’t bother staying up on SCOTUS news).

      Still incredibly dumb response, obviously. She seems wired to throw up bullshit word clouds in response to every potentially difficult question instinctively. It’d be funnier if there weren’t so many people that actually liked her. Barf.

  6. obijuan says:

    I just saw this in an article on CNN:

    — SNIP —
    Palin said Tuesday that she’s different.

    “I think they’re just not used to someone coming in from the outside saying, ‘You know what? It’s time that normal Joe Six-Pack American is finally represented in the position of vice presidency,’ and I think that that’s kind of taken some people off-guard,” she said in a radio interview with conservative host Hugh Hewitt.
    — SNIP —

    Oh my stars, she just made your point for you.

    I would think after 8 years of President Bush taking “disengaged” to previously unseen levels, the American populace would realize that putting another “average American” in the White House is probably a bad idea.

    It boggles me to think that we (as a people) aren’t demanding that only the best and brightest among us be allowed to hold office, and instead focus on things like race, gender, religious affiliation, and fashion sense. Instead of demanding the highest standards of our potential leaders, we’re setting the expectation bar so low enough so that all it will take is a GED and the ability to parrot talking points to get elected.

    It’s little wonder our country is a screwed up as it is. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

  7. mcbrennan says:

    Like I said in one of my dozens of blog posts the other day, about three months ago the Supreme Court slashed the Exxon Valdez damages verdict from $5 billion to $500 million, which was a devastating blow to thousands of Alaskans, and as commercial fishermen, Palin and her husband were eligible to collect, although they didn’t elect to do so (one suspects they just forgot). There’s a recent decision, with real-world impact in the state she ostensibly governs, and she didn’t have to know the name of the decision to talk about it, but she couldn’t even manage that. Which suggests either she’s staggeringly ignorant or she crumples under the slightest pressure–and somebody needs to tell her and the right-wing that Katie Couric is indeed the “slightest pressure”. An actual tough journalist? A hostile foreign leader who doesn’t think she’s hot? Doom.

    • Its an act, all the beauty queens do it to appear non-threatening.

    • popebuck1 says:

      and somebody needs to tell her and the right-wing that Katie Couric is indeed the “slightest pressure”.

      Not that they’d believe it. There was one bozo yesterday who was trying to argue that “So, what magazines and newspapers do you read?” was TOTALLY an unfair “gotcha!” question, rather than the kind of softball question you’d expect to get from Parade magazine.

      The Republican core has totally drunk the Kool-Aid on this one. It’s really scary. They’re completely divorced from reality.

      • mcbrennan says:

        I shudder to think what she’d say if Barbara Walters asked her what kind of tree she would be.

      • And I love the ‘gotcha’-questions defense in general. I thought asking difficult questions that actually put politicians on the spot as opposed to offering up pre-screened easy-to-answer softballs was, like… credible worthwhile journalism? I actually can’t remember what that looks like though, maybe I’m wrong.

        • popebuck1 says:

          Also, I love how they say they’re the rootin’-tootin’est tough guys in the world, the ONLY ones who can save us from Osama bin Laden and Vladimir Putin – but how can they do that if they wither in the face of questioning from Katie Couric?

  8. I am very sold on your talking giraffe movie.

  9. It’s an honest shame Palin didn’t manage a stammering meltdown tonight. I was really hoping for a complete mental derailing at some point. No such luck.